A Tale of Two Cities

Yes, it's terrible, but I really think Dickens himself, with his sharp sense of humor would appreciate this t-shirt.

Finished February 25, 2010

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . ."

I wonder if when Charles Dickens penned those immortal words he knew what an impact his novel would have on millions throughout the years… I’ll never understand why people dislike this splendid novel. It baffles me. I suppose maybe it’s that old “I-have-to-read-this-for-school-therefore-it-must-suck” syndrome… The first time I read this was in junior high, I’ve read it a couple of times since then (always of my own will) I think this may have been one of the novels that secured my passion for history (not that this is an historical document by any means) simply that Dickens showed that the things we read about in history text books were far more than a present day historian’s analysis… Maybe things didn’t happen this way with the diabolical Defarges, poor Dr. Manette, and the heroic Sydney Carton, but it still takes you out of that little box that boring textbooks tend to put you in. It personifies events like the French Revolution and gives one room to imagine the enormous impact it had on the world.

If you read it before and disliked it, try it again, maybe you’ll see the soul of this story, unlike when it was assigned for literature in high school. Although thoroughly Dickensian in its main content, it certainly doesn’t end like most of his stories do, but it’s a thoroughly beautiful novel.

*See if you can get through the scene when Sydney whispers “A life you love…” without crying, I never have.*


The Old Curiosity Shop

Finished February 18, 2010

This one always takes a lot out of me to read, I suppose because of how much hardship goes on throughout the story. It’s a novel of strong imagery without being too flowery and it contains one of Dickens’ most terrifying villains (Daniel Quilp). To do it justice, I’ll merely include Dickens’ own words.

“The town was glad with morning light; places that had shown ugly and distrustful all night long, now wore a smile; and sparkling sunbeams dancing on chamber windows, and twinkling through blind and curtain before sleepers’ eyes, shed light even into dreams, and chased away the shadows of the night.”

“It’s like a book to me,” he said- the only book I ever learned to read; and many an old story it tells me. It’s music, for I should know its voice among a thousand, and there are other voices in its roar. It has its pictures too. You don’t know how many strange faces and different scenes I trace in the red-hot coals. It’s my memory, that fire, and shows me all my life.”

“But as they drew nearer the ruined walls, the moon rose in all her gentle glory, and, from their venerable age, garlanded with ivy, moss, and waving grass, the chid looked back upon the sleeping town,deep in the valley’s shade: and on the far-off river with its winding track of light: and on the distant hills; and as she did so, she clasped the hand she held, less firmly, and bursting into tears, fell upon the old man’s neck.”



It's Singles Awareness Day. Yes I'm aware it's a bit counter-cultural but I refuse to celebrate the more well-known holiday which falls on February 14th. Even when I wasn't single I refused to celebrate the wretched holiday... So there we go. A few things which I consider noteworthy happened today:

1. I had a S.A.D. party which turned out sorta... well, sad
2. Pastor Bob, Pastor Rob, Jeremy, Chris, Brandon, Kellen & Steve played a perfectly amazing cover version of the Turtles' "Happy Together" for their S.O.s at church today
3. My brother bought me a bouquet of flowers which is the highlight of my year thus far

In honor of the end of this holiday, I leave you with the lyrics to a song that sums up my entire love life:

Love you didn't do right by me
You planned a romance that just hadn't a chance and I'm through
Love you didn't do right by me
I'm back on the shelf and I'm blaming myself but it's you

My one love affair didn't get anywhere from the start
To send me a Joe who had winter and snow in his heart wasn't smart.
Love You didn't do right by me
As they say in the song...you done me wrong

My one love affair didn't get anywhere from the start
To send me a Joe who had winter and snow in his heart wasn't smart.
Oh Love You didn't do right by me

As they say in the song...you done me wrong
Yes Mr. Love, you done me wrong

Nothin' says "love" like a little Hyde.


A Thousand Words

My photographs each hold facets of myself in them. Whether they’re simply nature shots, sports photography or photojournalism… everything I shoot has something about it that just makes sense to me. My work ranges from moody to whimsical, but it’s mostly contemplative. Here are a few of my early scenery shots I just found in some old files on my computer…

1. A shot of the French Quarter, LA

2. Standing under Huntington Beach Pier, CA

3. Pumpkins and gourds. Fall in Oak Glen, CA

4. Sunset in Cambria, CA

5. A freezing day at the Grand Canyon, AZ


Hard Times – For These Times

Finished February 8, 2010

Coketown. A fictitious manufacturing town given its life and breath in Dickens’ 10th novel. Everything about this story screams of the injustice and bitterness which pervaded Victorian England. Partly a social commentary, partly a personal history, partly allegorical… Dickens showed what comes of society when all people care about are “facts, facts, facts”: moral decline, loss of love and hope, and the corruption of people’s souls.

How interesting that the industrial Coketown not only turns out too much smoke and not enough compassion, it also serves as the setting where the no-nonsense Mr. Gradgrind “manufactures” Louisa and Tom (among other children). The former becomes a beautiful but emotionally repressed woman and the latter a “whelp” who cares only for himself. Despite the fact that there are a great many characters worth noting, Louisa and Tom always make the greatest impression on me. One of Dickens’ early descriptions of Louisa seems to encompass a great deal of my personality especially in one respect: her devotedness to her brother.

Dickens viciously attacks the industries that caused so much misery to millions of people (including himself), but out of this violent passion, comes a simply brilliant piece of literature. Many readers consider Hard Times the uncharacteristic “black sheep” of his major novels, because it was mainly written to raise sales of the “Household Words” periodical… However, don’t judge the book by those feeble arguments, look close and behold the sharp wit of a true master.


Oliver Twist

Charles Dickens' mug, on a..... mug. I MUST own one of these.
Finished February 3, 2010

This novel never ceases to affect me deeply. I think in order to get a firm grasp on the gravity of this story; one should certainly read John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, seeing as it bears a few similarities (and its name The Parish Boy’s Progress alludes to Bunyan’s own novel). True to it’s predecessor (Pilgrim’s Progress), it’s a story that really highlights mere religion versus the true love of God. The quote from Nancy when she meets with Rose towards the end is heartbreakingly true: “Why ar’n’t those who claim to be God’s own folks as gentle and as kind to us poor wretches as you…?” Dickens poses a simple question that rings as true today as it did in his day, why can’t Christians (myself included) show the love God would have us show to everyone? I wish I knew.

In Fagin’s final scene I am always brought to tears reading Oliver’s sincere plea to allow him to lead the criminal into a prayer. This young character also shows what Dickens deemed to be a true quality of a Christian, one who not only forgives those who’ve done them wrong, but who wants to share God’s love with them in life’s bleakest moments. Far from being a story full of sunshine and laughs (though there are some very humorous parts), Dickens second novel is dramatic and sometimes gruesome, but fascinating nonetheless.