Friday, September 26, 2008

I Can Haz Pratchett

I have to be honest with you, folks: I'm less giddy than I was about the Gun Blog .45. This week is starting to feel like I'm gaining a gun and losing some friends, what with THR disintegrating and people choosing sides. As much as I enjoy guns and shooting, they're still just cold steel tools.

On the other hand, as cold steel tools go, the Gun Blog .45 is a pretty neat one, and just because I'm feeling a little low about my friends suing each other doesn't mean I want my money back. Tomorrow morning I'm going to take the jaunt on over to White Hall (Motto: "Now 25% more bucolic!") and pick up the pistol from my dealer, and I can't wait. I'd go tonight, but he's going to be out of town and I'm going to be on call. Still . . . . swag. Ya gotta like that.

Today was our second and last day of parent-teacher conferences, which went as expected. That is to say, we had numerous meetings with parents who support their children at home and thus raise happy, functional kids whose teachers really have no pressing need to speak to their parents. That is also to say that we had some free time because the parents we really need to work with couldn't be bothered to get here. (Don't get indignant unless the shoe fits, folks. I'm a parent myself, and the main reason I always make time for conferences is that my kids are capable of such breathtaking acts of academic evil.)

The big bright spot of the day was the book fair:

* I picked up a novel called *Sold." It describes the life of a young Nepalese girl sold by her desparate parents to a brothel. It's dark stuff, but I think it'll turn out to be interesting. I'm sure the preceding sentence will also provide many interesting Search Term Safari opportunities.

*I also got a pretty cool children's book about Walt Whitman, with a lot of fragments of Whitman poems scattered through it and the full text of his more famous verses in the back. There was just something about it I really liked, and I have a soft spot for Whitman. Sean is closing in on 19 months, and he's starting realize that books aren't just fun to eat, so I have (probably naive) visions of reading this to him.

*Last and most, I got two of the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett. These are set on Discworld, but they deal with a wannabe-witch who doesn't necessarily encounter all the classic beloved Discworld characters. They're intended for younger readers, I think, but Pratchett can't help who he is, and the humor is a little too abstract for my students. They're a little like reading one of the crossover comic books--same universe, no real effort made to exclude any of the "old" characters, but it's not exactly the same setting nonetheless. I read what I think is the first in the Tiffany Aching series on the planes to and from the Para-USA weekend: *The Wee Free Men.*
Briefly, Tiffany lives on a part of the Discworld called "The Chalk." It resembles southern England and Wales to an eerie degree. Tiffany wants to be a witch when she grows up, but of course, witches are hated and blamed whenever bad things happen, and Tiffany's family has a fairly successful dairy and sheep farm. Tiffany has a rare talent for cheese. Tiffany's grandmother, Granny Aching, may or may not have been a witch when she was alive. Certainly she knew how to bring dead ewes back to life, and she had what could only be described as a magical relationship with her sheepdogs, Thunder and Lightning, but she was just an old lady who slightly frightened everyone and lived in a wheeled shepherd's hut up on a wold.
Tiffany discovered in that first book that another universe, one in which dreams and stories were real, was touching the Discworld's universe and spilling real monsters and faerie folk into the real world. She further discovered that she has the gift of First Sight (almost everyone has Second Sight, but First Sight is the power to see what is really there, rather than what your mind tells you should be there) and Second Thoughts (what teachers call metacognition--the ability to think about your own thinking.) These, it turns out, are the abilities that make witches so powerful . . . . but is she really a witch? It's so hard for her to know.

My favorite part of this series is the Wee Free Men, the Nac Mac Feegle. These tiny blue Pictsies are about six inches tall, with incredible strength, speed, and stamina, and few ever see them, which is all right because almost nobody who does see them lives to tell about it. They have outrageous Scottish accents and a rigid code of honour based on drinking, fighting, stealing, drinking and fighting, drinking and stealing, and fighting and stealing. They will head-butt any creature from a housecat to a Headless Horsemen (The key is for a witch to look him in the eyes he hasna got, so the Nac Mac Feegle can immobilize him by giving his horse a face full of dandruff) and fear only one monster: the Attorney-At-Law. They fear the magic inherent in having their names written down, particularly on warrants and subpoenas and Lists of Charges. Their magical swords glow a bright blue in the presence of lawyers. Their motto is "Nae quin! Nae king! Nae laird! Nae Master! We willna be fooled again!"

If that doesn't make you want to read a book, I can't help you.


Anonymous said...

What do you mean 'wannabe witch'?

But yes, Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men make up one of the best series ever.

Jeff Pulice said...

"That is also to say that we had some free time because the parents we really need to work with couldn't be bothered to get here."
We had out Back To School Night last week. I started each period by looking around and saying, "well, I don't need to see any of you here- where are the parents I need to see?!"
Also: do you ask for questions while everybody's still sitting there, beg for questions, insist on questions, get no questions- and then, after everybody's left, some little fatslapper sneaks in to ask a question?

Anonymous said...

The cows shooting backwards through the meadow cracks my ass up.


Anonymous said...