The Joy and Sorrow of Mistletoe

I’m a huge fan of folklore and the history behind traditions. Here’s what I dug up on Mistletoe, everyone’s favorite kissing plant.

It turns out that Avengers fans will recognize their favorite villain in the mistletoe story. Yes, Loki is responsible for more mischief. But, we’re ahead of ourselves. First let’s go the the number two power in the Norse universe (and one that seems to be absent in the Marvel films): Frigga. Like Odin, she could also see the future, but was less doom and gloom about it.

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“Frigga Spinning the Clouds” by John Charles Dollman

She gave birth to her son, Balder, on the winter solstice. He, being the god of light and truth, fits the season well as the days slowly grow longer leading up to the summer solstice. However, she also received a dream that her son would die. She asked all manner of things in the world to swear an oath to never hurt Balder. This was easy because he was the popular type, with a sunny disposition. (Yes I know, you can hate me now.)

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The Marvel version of Balder

The one she passed up was mistletoe. Accounts vary. Some say that mistletoe was too young and immature. Another version says that is was too small and inconsequential. Needless to say, this turned into Balder’s Achilles Heel.

The gods, being the ones to push things to the limit, decided to test Balder’s invulnerability. They hurled all sorts of weapons at him, including Thor’s axes. None harmed him. Loki sidled up to Hod, the blind god of darkness. Loki had fashioned a dart (some versions say an arrow, but mistletoe is tiny, so I buy the dart version). He helped Hod aim and shot it toward Balder, striking the god right in heart.

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Balder being Killed by Hod and Loki

At this point the story splits into a happy ending and a sad one. Let’s do the sad one first.

Balder died and went to Niflheim. The goddess Hel promised to return Balder to life if every living thing shed a tear for him. Loki again twisted the knife by assuming the form of the giantess Thok. In this form, he refused to cry, dooming Balder to remain in Niflheim forever.

The gods saw through Loki’s deception. The trickster transformed to a salmon to escape. And he almost slipped away. Except his brother, Thor, nabbed him. Loki was then bound in a cave with venom dripping on his chest until Ragnarok.

Now the happy ending.

After being struck by the mistletoe dart, Frigga cried over her fallen son. She cried so much, that mistletoe took pity and formed milky white berries to represent her tears. Her crying also restored Balder to life. Frigga made the plant a symbol for love and she promised to bestow a kiss on any who passed under it.

You pick the ending. Either way, there’s a lot more to this tiny plant than a seasonal amusement.

Tim Kane

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Teacher Sterotypes in Writing

As a teacher myself, I get pissed off by the repetitive sterile behaviors writers give teachers in books and films. It seems that almost every educator is a “nice guy” out to help the students. Trust me, this is certainly not the case.

A good example came from a book Wonder where the teacher said, and I quote, “Settle down class.” I’m sure you’ve heard this hundreds of time as I have from other films and books. I’ve never uttered that phrase in class. Ever. Mostly because it’s completely ineffective. It’s what new, right out of university, teachers say because they want to be the students’ friends. Hell with that. I’m not twelve. The kids have enough friends. But only one teacher. I say, “Sit down and give me your attention.” This usually works. I don’t mean to be a hard ass, but every time I ease off on the kids, they go bananas and cause trouble.

Another thing I see in far too many films and novels: the teacher half sitting on the edge of his desk. This is a casual folksy style of teaching that says, “Hey, listen to me. I have some great stuff to teach you.” Nuh uh. This doesn’t work. The kids ignore you and keep doing anything but pay attention. Besides, I’ve tried it and it’s damn uncomfortable.

I’m guessing, and this is long shot, that most people that write about teaching have never taught. Not really. A seminar to adults does not compare to little kids or amped up teens.

Uber teacher Amy Squirrel

Uber teacher Amy Squirrel

The best film that depicted teachers was Bad Teacher. There are plenty that could care less about the students. Others that go overboard in zealous one-up-manships. School is a dramafest, for the students and the teachers. If only writers could capture this.

Tim Kane

Post Writing Lazy Funk

I’ll admit, writing in nanowrimo was extreme. Yet now I can’t get the motivation to push my butt from the couch to the computer. Yes I know it’s the holidays, but that can’t be the excuse. It’s like I’ve got this funk where I just want to chill. I could argue that it’s my body recovering, but I sense that’s just an excuse.

Blogging is the first step. Pushing myself to put more words down. Next, I have to put in the time. Even if it’s sitting in front of the computer screen for an hour with noting happening. I have to do it. Escape the lazy writing funk.

Has this happened to anyone else?

Tim Kane

Top Ten Authors Portrait Challenge

People who read almost always can name influential authors, but can we spot them in a line up? Here’s the test. I’ve picked the top ten authors from the Best 100 Authors site (link at end to prevent cheating). What follows is simply a picture and a number. Can you correctly guess all ten?

Number 1

William-Shakespeare-26-April-1564-23-April-1616-celebrities-who-died-young-29620599-525-700

Number 2

96h07/fion/3340/exp1576

Number 3

DostoevskyF_0

Number 4

tolkien250

Number 5

Leo-Tolstoy-9508518-3-402

Number 6

220px-Ernest_Hemingway_in_Milan_1918_retouched_3

Number 7

Austen(1870)

Number 8

george-orwell

Number 9

steinbeck

Number 10

MARK_TWAIN_001CfAi

Think carefully.

Then wait a moment before scrolling down for the answers.

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Answers:

  1. William Shakespeare
  2. Charles Dickens
  3. Fyodor Dostoevsky
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien
  5. Leo Tolstoy
  6. Ernest Hemingway
  7. Jane Austen
  8. George Orwell
  9. John Steinbeck
  10. Mark Twain

Here’s the link to the Best 100 Writers

Tim Kane

Change or Perish

I recently watched the flick Bad Teacher which included a short rant by one character about how opera is dying. And he was right. This art from will die out, but not because people aren’t learning to love it. It’s because it refuses to adapt.

Let me step back and explain my own experiences with this art form. My dad, bless his soul, loved opera. And he loved it loud. Every Sunday morning on speakers almost as tall as me. I guess most kids had their parents blast Rolling Stones or AC DC. Me? I got Mozart and Beethoven.

That’s not to say I hated it outright. I did play a supernumerary (think “extra”) in a production of Tosca. There’s this one aria that still haunts me this day. I loved being under the stage and hearing it each night. Yet this opera was written over a hundred years ago. And those by Mozart and Beethoven are even older. My point, maybe opera needs some significant new blood to revitalize it.

Think about it. How many operas can you name? The only ones that come to mind are Barber of Seville and the Ring series by Wagner. It probably doesn’t help that both of these were performed by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.

rabbitofseville

I think the main problem is that opera is seen as pure and elite. I know that’s how my dad viewed it. Those who love it see the art form as superior to others. With that attitude, how are you ever going to adapt? With fewer young folk into it, opera will die out. Plain and simple.

But that’s a good thing.

Once it’s dead, it’s free. People can dive back and lift those wonderful melodies up again. What would opera sound like if mixed with hip hop or electronica, or even good old rock. I know this is sacrilege, but this might be what it takes to bring it back to life. What does it say when the most interesting opera performance I’ve seen in a while came from Fifth Element?

Taking this idea to heart, don’t hold any of your own art forms as sacred. Have a key idea or character in a story? One that seems so vital the writing couldn’t survive with out. Kill the character or idea. Then see what happens. Maybe you’ll bring it back in a new and exciting form.

Tim Kane

Scare the Bejezes Out of Your Kids This Christmas

I’m all for a little scare to the little ones, but when I learned of Krampusnacht, even I needed to temper it a bit. Turns out there’s a Germanic myth surrounding St. Nicholas. (I have German heritage, so I feel obligated to give it a go). Turns out that St. Nicolas would visit houses on the eve of his sainthood, December 6th (read, his death). So we’re off to a morbid start.

st-nicholas-the-angel-and-the-devil-by-josef-lada

In anticipation of this visit, the household would leave out their shoes. If the children in question were good, then St. Nicholas (and I suppose the angel) would slip some candies in the shoes.

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This is all good. Kids get to mack out on treats. Everyone’s happy. Oh, did we forget the devil being led by chains behind the angel. Well, he has a purpose. If the kids were naughty, then he would chase them around (and possibly torture them) until they promised to be good.

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Apparently, if you refused to repent, then he’d stuff you in a basket and take you to hell (no confirmation if this is the origin of “hell in a handbasket”).

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St. Nicolas seems fine with all this. In fact, the Krampus serves as his personal chauffeur.

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This is an amazing print by Phineas X. Jones for the Krampus.

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“Krampus” by Phineas X. Jones. 12″ x 12″ 6-color Screenprint. Ed of 34 S/N. $25

I’ll leave you with a “cute” postcard of the Krampus sailing off into the sky with some (I’m hoping naughty) babies.

krampus-evil-face-christmas.w654

Tim Kane