Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why I Hate Pretty Much Everybody In *The Hunchback of Notre Dame* (Especially the person who owned it first)

I don't remember when I got this book, but it must have been a bargain grabbed at a book sale or something.

I finally read it. And wondered how Disney managed to make a movie out of it, the plot consisting entirely of seduction, attempted rape, torture, mass slaughter, and hanging witches. (Answer, ascertained by a visit to IMDB: Disney took the title and list of character names and created an entirely different plot. I hate Disney.)

Pretty much everybody in this book is loathsome.

Claude Frollo is of course the villain and so perhaps I am supposed to hate him, but he's evidently been quite a kind man up until this point, taking in the deformed Quasimodo when everyone else wants him burned as a demon. Now, smitten by Esmerelda's dancing, he can apparently only think of two options: raping her or murdering her. I'm not saying it's impossible for these two characteristics to exist in the same person, I'm saying Hugo never explores why or how.

I rather liked Gringoire for quite a long while--he had all the best lines. "And then I have the good fortune to spend all my days from morning to night in the company of a man of genius--myself--and it's very pleasant." Weak, yes, but amusing and not bad-hearted. But walking off with the goat and leaving Esmeralda in the clutches of Frollo, that was just too weak.

Phoebus of course is despicable, and meant to be.

One feels like one ought to cheer for Esmeralda and of course I don't approve of her fate, but honestly, the girl is as dumb as a gargoyle. She has lived her life on the streets; she has all the worst of Paris as her closest friends and associates; and yet she still believes after months of no contact that the lecherous Phoebus must be truly in love with her and will gallantly come to her aid. Even for sixteen, that's pretty dense. (Difference between Phoebus and Frollo: Phoebus is handsomer and has more practice.)

That pretty much just leaves Quasimodo, who is of course a noble soul. Not that it does any good. In this book all love is unrequited, except perhaps Gringoire's fondness for the goat. Let's not inquire.

According to Wikipedia, Hugo wrote the book to draw attention to Gothic architecture. Well, the architecture was fine.

The truly maddening thing about this book that I did not realize until I started it, was that it was formerly owned by a high school student, who made notes for class in a large round hand in the margin. Notes like, "This is an example of irony," and "not brave" and "metaphorical." Yes, thank you, I have a *much* better grasp of irony and metaphor now.

I never get those second-hand books where someone wise and profound has written in the margins and it changes my life.

(Note: this post may possibly be the result entirely of the incoming storm system. However, Victor Hugo has been dead a long time and can't be hurt by this. I quite liked *Les Miserables*.)

(Second Note: Apparently the Disney version was partly based on Hugo's own rewrite of the novel as an opera. Guess he wound up hating everybody in it, too.)

Sunday, June 21, 2015


We finished school.

I'm proud of us. Last year we crashed and burned at the end of June with a month left. We had lost too much time moving, and when DOB's mysterious malady (let's be alliterative if we can't get a diagnosis) struck again in May without warning, it all just got to be too much.

So to finish this year, to *finish* the work we set out to do, on top of starting a business and all the rest of life ongoing, well, that's really something. And considering that this year saw the twins doing formal lessons for the first time, thus doubling the student body, that's really, really something. In a dramatic denouement, my red planning binder collapsed under the strain on the next to last day.

I am neither in the all-life-is-learning camp, nor in the just-school-all-year-round camp. I like to have a goal, and then I like to take a break. (Sure, all of life is learning, but there are days in life when one binge-reads fantasy novels or lies on the grass by the lake, and I don't intend to try to quantify what exactly is being learned.) I might take breaks through the year if I lived in a different climate, but the Pacific Northwest was crafted for the specific purpose of having summer break.

Some days I've probably pushed too hard at getting done for getting done's sake, but I think most of the time we've managed to stay in the moment and learning. Some days we cut our losses. The twins didn't get a lot of math this year, but I'm rather ambivalent about formal math that young. Some days we didn't do a lot of writing, but we always did some. We read some great books together.

One principle I am coming to believe in is that, if you don't have a lot of time and energy, focus what you do have on something challenging. It's better to do two tough books than five easy books. I hope to keep that in mind planning for next year.

I'm especially proud of the way Duchess and Deux have stepped up to doing their own work on their own steam. And I'm enjoying the way Dot and Dash revel in the stories we've read together.

DOB is doing a little better this summer--the whatever-it-is is still lurking in the shadows, but a careful balance of rest, exercise, air conditioning and protein seems to be keeping it at bay. He hasn't had to give up driving yet, at least. I'm hoping to pick up the pace at work a bit--I haven't quite been making the 15 hours I hope to work yet, although I'm finally increasing my billable hours as we get things better organized and more handed off to our assistants. As usual, there is way too much to cram into summer vacation.

And, of course, it's time to start planning for next year . . .

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Proper Nouns

There are many ways in which I fail at being a good modern parent, ranging from seldom insisting on baths to never once having done a craft off of Pinterest.

However, probably the most important is in teaching children proper names for body parts from earliest ages. You know, *those* body parts.

This is really important for their proper development and safety and what-not, or so countless articles and other, more successfully modern, mothers tell me. Nonetheless, I continue to fall behind on this count.

There are reasons for this.

One is that I tried once, and I got so tired of hearing about *that* body part that I never wanted to proceed to others. "Hey, that comes up as high as my (body part)!" "Watch out, you bumped my (body part)!"

Another is that I am still pretty dicey on anatomical details myself. I mean, I know a lot of names and I know the general area, but it's kind of like trying to remember the difference between Estonia and Latvia. This shocking ignorance has not prevented me from reproducing four times and having a lot of fun in the bargain. So it can't be completely necessary for a good life.

I'm a lawyer, not a doctor. My kids may not know where their spleen or other, more interesting, body parts are, but they can dissect a verbal ambiguity in ten seconds flat, much to the bewilderment of their peers.

So, kids, if you want to know the names for body parts, consult the anatomy diagrams in the science dictionary. If you want to know about your rights and duties with regard to your insurance, I'm happy to help.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Quoth the Raven

After many years of wondering how I would know a raven if I saw one, as opposed to a crow, I have finally learned. And discovered that our yard is ruled by a raven.

The difference is simple to spot: crows always flap; ravens glide. Now that I know the difference, it seems obvious and I feel as if I should go apologize to the majestic bird for muddling him with his lesser cousins.

He likes to sit on one of the stubby branches of the fir tree at the bottom of the yard, the few that are left after a predecessor in title from some other part of the company valued sunlight over trees.

We still have plenty of crows, too. They like the compost pile and tend to spread it. Actually the raven may help them. I'll have to watch more and learn his habits.