Back in January, the gothic-horror writer Lucinda Elliot nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award. I thank her sincerely for the honour. The long delay in putting up the acceptance post stems in part from a breakdown in my defences against manic-depressive illness. Things have been a bit rocky this year and the approaching equinox is only making things worse. (For those who may not know, manic-depressives are often sensitive to changes in the length of the day. This alters most rapidly near the spring and autumn equinoxes disturbing everyone’s brain chemistry to one extent or another and causing serious mood swings in the susceptible.)
As part one of the award “ceremonies” Lucinda has posed the following questions:
1) Born where? Were you brought up thereabouts?
I was born in Gosport, Hampshire and destined for repeated uprooting. My father was in the Navy at the time so we were soon off to his next posting in Rothesay on Scotland’s beautiful Isle of Bute. A couple of years later we landed in Plymouth where we lived not far from Plymouth Hoe. A couple more years and my parents had returned to their hometown of Kirkby-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire. They managed an old miner’s pub called The Limeburner’s Arms located just a few miles from Sherwood Forest.
The establishment was eventually renamed The Countryman Pub and Dining. If you are curious, you can visit the pub’s website. The place was nothing like so grand in the 1950s.
Not long after my brother was born (in the pub), Britain’s dire post-war economic situation prompted my parents to emigrate to Canada so I did most of my growing up in Southern Ontario.
2) Least favourite subject at school?
Without a doubt, French. I love the English language and as your typical arrogant youngster saw no reason to learn a “second rate” language like French. Later, of course, I wished I had paid more attention.
3) Most hateful character you can think of in classic literature?
I think my own unstable character and chaotic life experience prevent me from seeing characters in literary works in such black and white terms as “hateful” or “good.” I learned young that one man’s poison is another man’s meat. There is always more than one way to look at a person’s behaviour. Here is an example everyone will recognize. Most people see Robin Hood as “good” because he gave money to the poor. I see him as a likeable thieving scoundrel who made a name for himself by doling out other people’s money (an early example of socialist thinking). Prince John looks “evil” to most because he raised taxes and insisted people pay them. I see him as a sound administrator who was trying to raise money for improved roads and bridges (infrastructure) that would genuinely benefit everyone. He was also raising the tax money needed to keep those roads safe from likeable thieving scoundrels like Robin Hood!
4) Most embarrassing memory you care to reveal?
I suffered most of my embarrassing setbacks as a child. As an adult, being a manic-depressive made anger or acute anxiety my usual responses to situations where I looked foolish. Of those childhood experiences, attending my elementary school graduation ceremony as the only person in casual shirt and pants would be a standout. Everyone else had sensibly donned his or her “Sunday best.” I was socially clueless and never one for telling my parents anything!
5) Guilty pleasure in the way of a terrible film you love?
Where to start? As a lover of science fiction, there are any number of cheesy SF flicks that would qualify. How about “Battle Beyond the Sun.” In this Soviet “classic,” the tomato-shaped aliens eat the cucumber-shaped aliens by stuffing them into a hole in the tops of their round bodies. I’m not sure if the director (a young Francis Ford Coppolla for this inserted scene) was a devout vegetarian promoting the cause or just trying to be bizarrely sexually suggestive.
6) Are you bossy?
Yes, I am, but I have mellowed with age. (Now read the next question.)
7) How often a week do you travel by a. Donkey b. Camel c. Elephant d. Farm cart e. Shanks Pony
This has to be a trick question made especially for British eccentrics! Shanks Pony? Older North Americans never walk any farther than the bottom of the driveway (to put the garbage out or curse the paperboy for leaving the newspaper too far from the door).
8) Favourite poem?
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley
The opening two lines are a perfect description of clinical depression. In fact, in my darker periods, I refer to depression as “The Pit.” I like to imagine that Henley wrote the line “Beyond this place of wrath and tears” especially for irritable manic-depressives.
9) Favourite author?
As someone who reads and enjoys all kinds of books, I suppose you could say I have favourites in various categories. Here are a few. My favourite science fiction / science-fantasy author is undoubtedly Gene Wolfe. The man is in a class all by himself. I will add John Buchan on the adventure novel side. I enjoy Milan Kundera’s literary novels. Anthony Storr would be my choice for favourite writer on creativity.
I could go on, but you know, “favourites” is a game for maximizers and I am definitely an optimizer. I like to range far and wide rather than narrow in on just a few highly-prized authors. When I come across someone special, I will read a number of that author’s books, but I am soon off on another track following the scent of some idea that looks useful, or seeking greater understanding of something or other.
10) Are you a romantic (in either the Byronic or vaguely modern sense of the term?)
No, I am not a romantic in any sense of the word and have few romantic characteristics. I find the modern world quite wonderful and enjoy living in it. I am not excessively sentimental; that way leads to serious depression. I strongly prefer civilization to nature. Prolonged exposure to the natural world is mind-numbingly boring. It has its moments, but I spent 16 years living on the edge of the wilderness and found having an intellectual life essential to keeping me afloat. One has only to look at conditions in isolated aboriginal villages and remote forestry and mining operations to see that romanticizing nature is foolish.
As for the more casual definitions of romantic: I have never been particularly amorous. As a conservative, I see being impractical as counter-productive and something to be overcome with sound thinking. What are brains for if not to make us more effective? I have absolutely no desire to go back to more-primitive ways of thinking or doing things. In fact, I aggressively resist anyone who tries to push us back into the ridiculously romanticized past. I believe in progress. I want to make the modern world even more modern and leave the primitive past even farther behind us.
11) Are you prepared to give a deserving cause (in this case, one Lucinda Elliot) a donation? If so, fill in attached form … Do you find it annoying when charities send what looks like a survey, but it’s really a way of trying to embarrass you into donating? I’d much rather they asked at once and directly myself, and I always send it back saying I might well have donated if they had made a straightforward request, which is the truth. What do you think?
Here in Canada, mail solicitations try to induce guilt by sending stickers, pens, and calendars. I do not believe in “causes” and simply ignore anything that comes in the mail. Charity fraud is rife and even in legitimate charities, salaries and other overhead eats up much of the donated funds. It is common for a charity to spend more on advertising alone than they give to the “cause.” Many small charities are nothing more than a form of salary-by-donation for the organizers. If we could find more-productive employment for these people, society would derive a bigger benefit from their efforts. I do make donations where there are substantial partners (such as corporations, large stores, and chain restaurants) with a reputation to uphold. I also give to local schoolchildren when they are raising funds for activities and trips.
As part two of the award “ceremonies” here are eleven random facts about me:
1) By the time I was twenty-one I had lived at sixteen addresses in three countries on two continents. Locales included seven towns or cities, three English counties, one Scottish county, two counties in Ontario, and one regional district in British Columbia. For good measure, I spent a year on a farm and another twelvemonth in an old stone pioneer house, both in Southern Ontario.
2) I hate moving.
3) Green is my favourite colour. When I was a boy, I spent a surprising amount of time imagining what things that were not green would look like if they were. This turned out to be a harbinger of equally useful things to come.
4) I once lived right across the street from a working coalmine.
5) At age six, as a rambunctious shockingly independent passenger on a liner, I nearly fell overboard in mid-Atlantic. I treated the resulting post-traumatic stress disorder with Mars bars. (It worked.) Like my fondness for green, this business of going overboard also proved indicative of what would follow.
7) Since 1990, I have read over 125 biographies. I sometimes read more than one biography of a particularly interesting person in the belief that multiple views allow me to perceive the truth that lies somewhere between them.
8) In November of 2008, I went on a diet and by July 2011, I had shed 96 pounds. When I started, I wore size 2XL shirts and 48” pants. When I finished, I had worked my way down to size small shirts and 34” pants. This tremendous effort had the wonderful side effect of making me look ten years older. At age 61, people finally stopped saying I had a baby face. I won’t mention the remarks about certain dried fruits.
9) I sleep far less than a normal person. For years, I would sit up in the wee hours of the night and drink tea while listening to international broadcasts such as Radio Netherlands, Radio Sweden, Radio Australia, Radio South Africa, and Deutsche Wella.
10) Motion sickness is my bane so I never visit amusement parks. As a young man, I made the mistake of riding an indoor roller coaster at Disneyland. Afterwards, I was so pale that several people asked if I was sure I was going to be alright. I lied and said I was certain I would live.
11) I had my heart broken at the tender age of twelve. I have suffered from acute pigtail phobia ever since.
The Liebster Blog Award Origins
Blog awards can have interesting histories. The Liebster Blog Award seems to have begun in Germany around 2010, but I was unable to find anyone who knows for certain. Perhaps because of the language barrier, this award’s origins remain shrouded in mystery. We do know that liebster is a German word with a range of meanings and translates best in this context as “favourite.” The original rules were simple: list five things about yourself that others may not know and pass the award on by nominating five of your favourite blogs with less than 3000 “readers.” Presumably, the word reader refers to views. The intent is clear enough: nominate newer blogs that are just getting off the ground.
Liebster Blog Award Original Rules
- Reveal five interesting things about yourself that others may not know.
- Nominate five worthy blogs for the award. Nominated blogs should be newer ones with not a lot of followers or visitors.
- Pass on the rules.
Liebster Blog Modified Rules
Somewhere along the way, a person or persons unknown hugely expanded the Liebster award’s scope.
- Reveal eleven things about yourself that others may not know.
- Answer eleven questions posed by the person who nominated you.
- Devise eleven questions for your own nominees.
- Nominate eleven more blogs (each with less than 200 followers) to receive the award.
- Pass on the rules.
As you can see by the earlier portions of this post, I received the nomination in its expanded form. I have honoured the first two rules, but I am choosing to revert to the original spirit of the award in what follows. I will skip devising eleven questions for my nominees and reduce my nominations to just a few. Nominees are free to follow the original or the expanded set of rules as they see fit.
Have a look at these new and / or interesting blogs:
Note: I have chosen to restore this award’s plainer original badge rather than use the large pink one on Lucinda Elliot’s blog.