Monday, March 31, 2008

Mapping the Imagination

Budza listens to an audiobook in the morning before school, and we’re now listening to Peter Pan. I am usually drinking coffee, reading the paper, packing a lunch, and only half listening, but found myself listening to, and smiling at, this passage:

I don't know whether you have ever seen a map of a person's mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child's mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island, for the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose. It would be an easy map if that were all, but there is also first day at school, religion, fathers, the round pond, needle-work, murders, hangings, verbs that take the dative, chocolate pudding day, getting into braces, say ninety-nine, three-pence for pulling out your tooth yourself, and so on, and either these are part of the island or they are another map showing through, and it is all rather confusing, especially as nothing will stand still.

It got me thinking of phrenology and maps of the inside of heads, and wondering what maps of the imagination itself there were. And Google found me this book by Peter Turchi.

Getting lost in this book is so easy, enlightening, and downright fun, any reader exploring it should take Saul Bellow’s advice: ‘Perhaps, being lost, one should get loster.’”
— The Ruminator Review

I don’t need it, but I need it, if you know what I mean. And I have a coupon from Porter Square Books burning a hole in my wallet anyways.Getting "lost-er" sounds like just what I need...

P.S. I have just discovered that Radiogirl blogged about this book and three others a few weeks ago. You can read her post and learn about other cool "maps of the imagination" books here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Crafty Day for Wizards

What better remedy after a long morning trying to locate records for the tax man than to run to the craft store for supplies to open our own wizard's mint? Budza's BFF, the Divine Miss M., came over around one o'clock, and after I came back from our wonderful art supply store, Play Time Crafts, in Arlington Center, laden with Fimo, glitter, spell bottles with corks, phoenix feathers and lengths of wooden dowel for wands, they started rolling out metallic Fimo clay and making their own currency. There was a yard of sparkling green felt and some gold curtain rope to make money bags, and some parchment paper for making their own spellbooks. Miss M. is very good at writing Viking runes, and she says it's because she's already memorized the Hebrew aleph-bet.

We had a good time finding projects in The Book of Wizard's Craft, by Janice Eaton Kilby (Lark Books 2001), "in which the Apprentice Finds Spells, Potions, Fantastic Tales, and 50 Enchanting Things to Make." We can't wait to make the shrunken mandrake heads, but need to locate some alum first. Miss M. finally went home with a spell jar full of fairy wings and phoenix feathers, an emerald green felt reticle full of newly minted Queen M. money, a book of spells, a sparkly wand, and a feathered owl mask (feathers from our feather duster, quite a nice effect). What is great about Kilby's book is that it's the rare kids' craft book of things you can make (low cost, things you might actually have on hand) that you also WANT to make. My husband got apples and alum from the store, so tomorrow we might make the Mandrake Shrunken Heads.

Some great sites to check out for your own crafty wizard day:

Foe Viking runes, check out The Runic Journey, at

T.H. White's The Book of Beasts, online at the University of Wisconsin. Good text for Magical Creatures 101.

Online exhibit at the University of Illinois website of alchemy books from 1500-1964, with lots of great woodcuts that would look way cool printed on some fake parchment paper.

Huge Alchemy web portal here.

There was a Merlin Festival in Wales in 2007, but I've been unable to find details for a 2008 festival. If I do, I'll post it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Brains on Legs

Budza and I are listening to a LibriVox recording of Edgar Rice Burroughs's A Princess of Mars, the first in his long-running series about John Carter, Confederate veteran/gentleman adventurer. For those who only know Burroughs as the creator of the pre-Disney Tarzan, Carter is

an omnipotent gentleman teleported to Mars, finding an outlandish society of ape-, tree- and lizardmen, red-, white-, yellowmen, brains on legs, strange bastions and curious apparatuses, where the strongest survives and women are needy beauties to be saved. How can something be so platitudinous and at the same time so imaginative and enthralling?

Ape-, tree-, and lizardmen? Brains on Legs? Sold to the young man in the front row! In fact, when I got to the part about brains on legs, I said to the Budza, "YOU could have written this."

I am not too concerned about the needy-beauties aspect of it; Budza appears deeply uninterested in that, and none of the women in his life, from his BFF to his teacher to his doctor to his 83-year-old grandmother are the needy types. Besides, it's the 1912 version of needy beauties--the novel appeared in six installments in the pulp magazine All-Story. It does seem, to judge by the plot summary up on Wikipedia, that the Martians don't wear clothes. This is where the audio aspect of it comes in handy.

But guess who owns the movie rights to a project with the working title John Carter of Mars? Pixar. We are so there.

You can download the MP3 files of A Princess of Mars and its many sequels from SFFAudio, maintained by Scott Danielson and Jesse Willis. You have to look around for age-appropriate material, but there are great links...I am looking forward to exploring their huge list of online audio links, especially the archived radio shows over at Digital Eel's Radio Tales of the Strange and Fantastic.