If you're a person who reads regularly, then you know the feeling of getting into a slump. You may be in one right now, especially if you've had a busy Holiday season. Here are some of the ways we get back into reading when we've been slacking!
Julie – If I’m in a slump, it usually because I’m busy and my mind is whirring about other things. I find that this is not the time to attempt the medieval works, Faulkner (I started blogging about why I couldn’t read As I Lay Dying before, but I couldn’t make myself read enough of it to make it work, and if you like the guy…fine…he just can’t find much of a resting place in my brain…I’m willing to blame myself) or Moby Dick for the hundredth time. Page five of MD and I skip to the end. So, if I’m stuck in a rut, unable to concentrate, I go to my comfort zone and hang out with old friends in familiar places. I can dive in, relax for a few minutes and then return to whatever soul sucking mess I have going on in the real world.
I stick to old favorites, sometimes going all the way back to children’s literature. The Mary Russell series is favorite, Jane Austen, and Poe if I’m feeling up to being an adult. But sometimes, I just pick up Alice in Wonderland, or Winnie-the-Pooh or The Princess and the Goblin. In crazy times, I tend to go for a setting where I’m happy, Regency England, the Hundred Acre Wood, or even the creepy bridal suite in Ligeia. But as the Wise Man said in Labyrinth, “Sometimes the way forward is the way back.” There’s no shame in a wise retreat.
Uncle Morty and the rest of the Sacred Chickens team would like to share their reading resolutions for 2019. We hope you're making your own literary resolutions and Happy New Year!
Your Uncle Morty has no specific books in mind. However, he does plan to read a good number of biographies in the coming year to help him contemplate his upcoming project: Mortimer After, A Deathography. So if you have any memoirs or biographies to recommend, please feel free to make suggestions here or on the FaceBook page.
Uncle Morty seems to have a lot of times on his hands since he departed the land of the living, and he spends much of that time writing (especially when asked nicely). So, over the years he's figured out a few tips and tricks about writing along the way, and he'd like to share them with us!
By the way, your Uncle Morty can always use original material. The living around here are always pestering the dying nightlights out of him to work on their silly blog. As such, he has created a writing exercise. Feel free to share your results with us. We may publish them so your Uncle Morty can actually RIP once in a while. This exercise can be used with your own work too. Use it to enhance dialogue. (When you get to Step 2 you’ll see how that works.)
Because it is Christmas Day, the Team at Sacred Chickens is taking the day off, as we hope you all are have been able to do, to enjoy time with friends and family. However, we just wanted to post a little something to wish you all a Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas! We hope you saw our post yesterday and are reading your favorite Christmas books right now!
Merry Christmas Eve! Since it is that time of year, the entire team at Sacred Chickens would like to share with you some books that put us in the holiday mood! Enjoy your eggnog and happy reading!
This Christmas, Julie's reading.......
Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
By Louisa May Alcott
If I’m trying to get into the Christmas spirit, I always find myself slipping backwards into my childhood, and for me that means diving back into old favorites, since I spent a great percentage of my childhood deep inside the pages of books. For me the spirit of Christmas is wrapped up in two books, Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom. Each of these books has a Christmas scene that has somehow wrapped itself around my brain to form a pattern of what Christmas should look like with stockings in the morning and a dance in the evening. Of course, no real Christmas could match up to such expectations, but I enjoyed Rose’s Christmas vicariously.
There are, as with any books of a certain age, problematic portions of the books where a younger reader would benefit from discussion and knowledge of historical context, but as I reread the books now, I find Alcott’s thought processes even more interesting. At the time of publication, the book Eight Cousins scandalized many parents because Rose’s Uncle Alec taught her anatomy and forbid her from wearing corsets. Like Little Women, the two books display Alcott’s unconventional wisdom about how women should behave. So each time I read the books, I not only get a Christmas feeling, I get to think about how grateful I am that things have changed and I’m not wearing a corset while opening gifts around the tree.
Uncle Morty and Jupiter want to wish everyone happy times during the holidays whether that means staying in bed with the covers pulled up, watching anime until you puke, hiding in the closet with your pet possum, or eating your grandma's sweet potato casserole and taking a nap.
If you want to spend the holiday reading good books, check out all the reviews here and pick something out for yourself or someone else.
By the way, Uncle Morty is very pleased with his animated self. If you need to animate someone or something, contact julie@sacredchickens for information about our artist, Carmen Jones. She does great work for reasonable prices.
Your Uncle Morty has been listening in and once again some of the living are making him shake his bony old head in disbelief. Some of you think maybe there are no good choices to vote for. You think you won’t bother. What difference does it make?
Look at it like this. You live in a rickety, rackety, clickety clackety falling down apartment. You and the other residents are kind of ticked that you’ve had a series of bad landlords but you’ve never pulled yourself together to do anything about it.
Tales from the Other Side
With Uncle Morty
Some of you have been asking about your Uncle Morty’s condition. How? You ask. Why?
No offense, but the flesh-covered are dense, stuck in the material world like flies buried in Jello. I’m not sure I can really explain my condition to you. As to how? It’s complicated, technical and a little boring when you get right down to it. Why?Let’s just say I might have crossed a few metaphysical boundaries here and there while I was embodied. I might have broken a teensy rule or two on the other side too. Anyhoo…my bad luck is your learning experience. I’ve decided to publish a few tidbits of conversations from the other side.
Here begins Morty’s transcription of messages from beyond.
On old age and dying – Francine; disembodied, age 89
“I always thought getting older would be like building a mountain, a mountain of experience and wisdom. By the time you’re eighty, there you’d be at the top, perched like a white-robed guru. Younger generations would ascend the stones of your life to hear your words. The right way to feed babies, to handle a difficult husband, to work, sew, get up and feed the calves in the morning, gather the eggs, still get your pack of rascals on the school bus. Until I was in my forties, I honestly believed there was something solid ahead. Some perch from which reality would seem reasonable and I would know the answers.
The joke was on me. Reality shifted. Not one amongst that lot makes bread, or gathers eggs, none of ‘em would know how to butcher a chicken if their life depended on it. Seems like the babies are a whole new species the way they cater to them now. If you don’t like a husband…leave him. Instead of teaching them, I sometimes envied them. They taught me how to email and fiddle with the TV remote. I realized there was no path. No mountain.
Instead of building a mountain, I pieced a quilt. No pattern. A crazy quilt. And it may not win a prize or fetch $500 like granny’s old wedding ring quilt did when Anne sold it to go back to school after she left Danny, but it was pretty. I have to say it. There was my husband Frank’s old pajama shirt, there was Anne’s Easter dress I made out of that cheap blue calico. That patch on the corner was a piece of the gown Granny wore at the hospital the day before she died. All in all, it wasn’t bad, that quilt. In my old age, I laid myself down on it and touched this bit of flannel, that bit of calico, the linen from the suit that June wanted for graduation.
The babies crawled around the corners of it on the one end and the dead tugged, tugged, tugged at it from the other.
The teenagers, the adults? Those rascals couldn’t care less what you know or what wisdom you have to impart. If you’re lucky they’ll occasionally ask you now and then if you’re comfortable, there on your old quilt. Any rate, you’ve come to realize it doesn’t matter much anyway. Reality is wearing thin. Let them learn their lessons same way you learned yours. Let them piece their own quilts.
Eventually, babies yanking on it from one end, the dead from the other, one day you know for sure there’s nothing under that old quilt but air. And you know which set will win the tug of war. The voice of your dead mother sounds closer in your ear than the babies laughing.
Granny finally says, “Time to get on over here. Wrap that quilt around you and come on. It’s a cold walk over, but we’ve got a place for you at the table and we’re tired of waiting dinner.”
Mortimer Richard Wolcott is, quite frankly, not very forthcoming with his bio. We're not even sure if that's his real name. His work during his embodiments is not something he'll willingly share. However, his deathography is somewhat clear, at least from the time he showed up at Sacred Chickens Farm for a Halloween Party and never left. He is occasionally pressed into service to help write the blog and you can search the archives here for his wisdom.
He enjoys hanging out with cats, the occasional cocktail, and dispensing sarcastic remarks to the living.
Your old Uncle Morty is old and tired and dead, though not without the empathy that remains in the empty brain and abstract heart of anyone who has ever worn a suit of flesh. His previous embodiments leave him still puzzling as to why the living seem to value the miracle of being human so very little. Even when they can be led to believe that they themselves might have some intrinsic value they seem always unlikely to give that benefit of the doubt to others. I will give you a few scraps of reasonable advice that I myself found when I walked among the living. It was expressed by two of the best men I have ever known, Kilgore Trout and George MacDonald.
Now you may protest, “Uncle Morty, Kilgore Trout wasn’t real! He was a character in books. He was made up.” And so on.
All I can say is that being true matters more than being real. And if humans could grasp that they might be a good bit better off than they are. (And you may not know of George MacDonald at all…but he was both real and true.)
If you’ve never read God Bless You, Mr, Rosewater, you should. Even if you have, maybe you should look at it again, especially right now. It’s the story of a rich man who moves to a small town in Indiana to care for the plain and “useless” people there, through all of their troubles, depression, alcoholism, ugliness, and squalor, in big ways and small by simply not judging them and giving them what they need on a day to day basis, and also by making sure their volunteer fire department is extremely well-funded – more on that later. In short, Eliot Rosewater, did not measure the worth of the inhabitants of the run down and sad town of Rosewater as a percentage of someone else’s profit.
At any rate, here’s Kilgore Trout elucidating the beauty of Eliot Rosewater’s social experiment, his treatment of everyone no matter how “worthless” as a human being, someone who needs love and attention:
The problem is this: How to love people who have no use?
In time, almost all men and women will become worthless as producers of goods, food, services, and more machines, as sources of practical ideas in the areas of economics, engineering, and probably medicine too. So—if we can’t find reasons and methods for treasuring human beings because they are human beings, then we might as well, as has so often been suggested, rub them out.
Americans have long been taught to hate all people who will not or cannot work, to hate even themselves for that. We can thank the vanished frontier for that piece of common-sense cruelty. The time is coming, if it isn’t here now, when it will no longer be common sense. It will simply be cruel.
And here’s the bit about the fire department, explained by Kilgore Trout:
Your devotion to volunteer fire departments is very sane, too, Eliot, for they are, when the alarm goes off, almost the only examples of enthusiastic unselfishness to be seen in this land. They rush to the rescue of any human being, and count not the cost. The most contemptible man in town, should his contemptible house catch fire, will see his enemies put the fire out. And, as he pokes through the ashes for remains of his contemptible possessions, he will be comforted and pitied by no less than the Fire Chief.
Trout spread his hands. “There we have people treasuring people as people. It’s extremely rare. So from this we must learn.”
Here’s much the same thing from another perspective in a quote from George MacDonald.
On the rich young ruler
I do not suppose that the youth was one whom ordinary people would call a lover of money. I do not believe he was covetous, or desired even the large increase of his possessions. I imagine he was just like most good men of property: he valued his possessions-looked on them as good. I suspect that in the case of another, he would have regarded such possession almost as a merit, something he deserved. Like most of my readers, he would probably have valued a man more who had some means, and valued him less who had none. Most people have no idea how entirely they will one day alter their judgment, or have it altered for them, in this respect. How much better for them if they alter it themselves.
An interview with Uncle Morty
As some of you may know, Uncle Morty, is Sacred Chickens’ best loved (and…okay…only) blogging skeleton. He mysteriously came to stay with us after a Halloween party a few years ago and somehow never left. Morty doesn’t like to talk about himself too much. He’s been a little close with his history, although he does occasionally dispense his wisdom in the form of a blog post or a pithy saying. But for the first time, he’s agreed to sit down and talk about himself.
Q: The first thing I really must ask is why you have a tendency to talk about yourself in the third person? Some people find it a little disconcerting. Maybe even off putting.
A: Well, your Uncle Morty hasn’t had a very comfortable relationship with himself since he lost his suit of skin. Without a heart beating inside these old bones and a head full of matter and electricity, Uncle Morty hasn’t exactly felt like a “self.” He experiences consciousness in a much less physically unified way you or your readers. It’s difficult to explain for him to explain exactly what he means across such a wide existential gulf. But if you think it will help insure that your readers are not “put off,” the poor delicate flowers, your Uncle Morty, excuse me, “I” can try to use the first person more often in my writing. Of all people, I understand that concessions must be made to the flesh.
Q: Question number two is something that I’ve never really been comfortable enough to ask you and even now I’m not sure how to phrase it. Ummm…can you help the reader understand your “condition”…I guess what I’m trying to say is…
A: I get what you’re trying so eloquently to say. (For those of you reading who may not know your Uncle Morty so well…please infuse the previous sentence with a healthy dose of sarcasm). Quit pussy footing around. I’m dead. That’s my condition. I’m not really permitted to go into the metaphysics of my state (nor would you have any hope of understanding the technicalities involved.) But I will say this: it’s certainly not a reward. I prefer to think of it as not exactly a punishment either. It was presented to your Uncle Morty as an opportunity – a sort of correction if you will.
And before you ask…I would prefer not to answer questions about my previous embodiments at this time. I will dispense such information on a need to know basis. And I sincerely doubt that anyone will need to know anytime soon. I would hate for the information to be...misapplied.
Q: I wasn’t actually trying to be nosy about your previous life. So let’s change the subject back to your current…errrr….existence. How did you end up here at Sacred Chickens farm? No one at the party can exactly remember asking you. Not that we weren’t happy to see you, of course. It was Halloween, after all.
A: The Universe has a strange way of working itself out, doesn’t it? And by that I do not mean that it has a plan. Merely that it has a strange way of working itself out. You may take that as you like. I do love bonfires and marshmallows by the way. That was delightful. Although the beer and condiment selections left something to be desired.
Could we please move on to the next question?
Q: What do you see in your future? Anything you want to accomplish?
A: Well, I’m coming off a difficult period physically, literally losing my head for a bit, as you well know. I think it’s definitely time for Uncle Morty to begin sharing his wisdom again. I’m also thinking of starting an advice column for the living and perhaps writing my Automortography. Also, I’d love to update my wardrobe and spend more time meditating. My favorite hobby, startling people, will take a bit more social effort (and possibly skill) on your part. In the meantime, perhaps I’ll take up knitting.
Incidentally, if anyone craves Uncle Morty’s advice or simply to share a story with him...errr... me, please send your clearly stated fears, problems or opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org with Mort-uary in the subject line.
Q: Anything else you want to say to the readers?
A: The same advice I always give to fleshlings. Don’t be Dead while you’re Alive. Be Alive. You’ll be resting your bare skull on a guest room pillow and being asked to write blog posts soon enough.