Daily Archives: November 20, 2017

Bookshelf Battle Cast – Episode 002 – “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens – Stave 2 – “The First of the Three Spirits”

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Dang, 3.5 listeners.  Old Scrooge is going through some serious shit.

In Stave 2, the Ghost of Christmas Past visits our favorite crusty old prick.  Scrooge is tortured to see how happy he used to be, how much hope and promise his life once held, and how he lost sight of that happiness in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

#1 – The Ghost of Christmas Past is an odd looking mannish sort of creature, with flames glowing out of his head.  He carries a hat that looks like a candle snuffer, a little piece of metal that in the olden days, people would put over a candle to put the light out.

Is the past like a candle?  Intangible – you can’t really hold it without experiencing the physical pain of the flame.  Similarly, thinking about the past can bring about some good.  There are beautiful moments that shine like a candle flame.  However, there are sad moments, regrets, things we wish we had done differently.  If we reach out and try to make those memories real in our minds, we are burned, just as if we touch the candle.  The past cannot be changed and yet we often wish it could be, because we grow older, we realize how all the mistakes we made add up and how if we had just made different choices, our lives would have turned out better.

Are there any choices you currently face that might have an impact on your future?  Think as yourself as Scrooge in the future, observing your actions right now with the help of the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Would your future self have any advice to give? What would it be?

#2 – Fezziwig was Scrooge’s former boss.  This is a case where Dickens exceeds at “show, don’t tell.”  In Stave 1, we received a rather dour discussion of Scrooge’s counting – house.  Ice cold, grim, Scrooge working on business until the very last second of the day, excoriating his clerk for the slightest error.

Was such heavy handedness necessary?  After all, we learn that Scrooge’s old boss, when Scrooge was a young man, was Fezziwig.  Fezziwig too was rich, yet he managed to get his business done and still find time to play.  In modern parlance, “Fezziwig worked hard and played hard.”

Whereas Old Scrooge cursed his clerk for wanting Christmas off, Fezziwig bars the doors of his office, has everything moved to create a dance floor, and brings in fiddlers and dancers and food and fun, inviting Scrooge and other employees to quit work early and dance the night away.

Is Dickens trying to teach us about having a balanced life?  Is it possible to work hard and play hard and be successful at both, or must one give way to the other?

#3 – Scrooge was once engaged.  Alas, his fiancee grows weary over the fact that Scrooge spends more time chasing money than he does doting upon her.  This seems to be an issue in relationships.  Couples often fight over money, which means one spouse must work more to obtain it, but then they often fight over quality time, which means a spouse must work less to gain it.

How can couples work together to achieve a balanced relationship, one where there’s enough money and enough time to be happy together?  Is such a notion possible?

#4 – Clearly, the past pains Scrooge.  He thinks about his old life in the countryside, his sister, his old boss and work friends and parties, his lost love.  The past cannot be changed and yet regrets have a tendency to eat away at us.

To get older is to be peppered with constant spoilers.  To be young is to have all of life ahead and to be comforted by beliefs that things will get better.  To be old is to be aware of how things turned out yet to have no comfort in thinking that things will get better as there is much less time left.

How can we live our lives so as to be regret free?  Is that possible?  If we have regrets, how can we learn to live with them so that they don’t weigh us down?

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REBLOG: A Very Hardass Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving?  Try Complaints-giving with my grumpy Uncle Hardass:

https://bookshelfbattle.com/2015/11/21/things-that-really-frost-my-ass-thanksgiving-edition/

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Bookshelf Battle Cast – Episode 1 – “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens” – Stave 1 – Marley’s Ghost – Discussion and Study Questions

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Huzzah, 3.5 readers!

The Bookshelf Battle Cast lives!  Yes, on this fine blog, I’ll be reviewing pop cultural happenings, attempting to be funny, and telling you all about my adventures as a magic bookshelf caretaker, yeti fighter and so on.

The podcast will be very different.  I am very, very far from being the world’s greatest vocal talent, so I’ll be playing it straight.  Each episode, I’ll be reading a piece of public domain literature.  After you listen to me read it in my mush mouth voice, stop by this incredible blog for a discussion and study questions.

FYI – apologies.  I’m new to this.  There were some technical difficulties.  I said I’d let my spokeswoman tell you all about who I am, but for some reason, Garageband did not like that file.  It became a big production to try to re-record the podcast, so I’ll try to figure out that for the next one.  Forgive me people, I’m learning as I go.

Oh well.  Check out what my spokeswoman would have said here:

In Stave 1 – “Marley’s Ghost” we begin with a classic line in literature – “Marley was dead to begin with.  Scrooge pops the joyous bubble of his nephew and local charity collectors, only to be warned by the ghost of his fellow usurer Jacob Marley that if he doesn’t change his ways, he’ll be a ghost too, forced to trudge the world with chains attached to him, lamenting the life he wasted on counting coins instead of helping the less fortunate.

STUDY QUESTIONS:

#1 – Dickens really, really, really wants the reader to know up front that Jacob Marley is dead, engaging in humor to insist, almost to a ridiculous degree, that he’s dead.  What’s the point of that?

#2 – Scrooge’s nephew states to his uncle that there are things that exist that bring him no monetary profit, but they make his life better just the same.  Christmas, says the nephew, is one of those things.  Is the nephew a positive thinker, a man who knows how to build spiritual wealth, or do you side with Scrooge, i.e. the wealth in your piggy bank is all that matters?  Can you think of some things that don’t bring you a monetary profit but still enrich your life?  Would you give those things up in order to make more money?  Can money buy happiness?

#3 – The charity collectors attempt to separate Scrooge from some of his dough, arguing that men of means have a duty to provide aid and comfort to the poor.  Scrooge counters with the claim that he supports prisons, union workhouses and so on (through taxes) and thus doesn’t owe the poor anything else.  What say you?  Are taxes enough, or should people with bucks to spare share them with the poor as well?

#4 – Jacob Marley is a ghost.  Chains and cash boxes and other monetary related devices are attached to him.  He must drag them around wherever he goes.  Further, Jacob spent his life never venturing past the counting-house, collecting money and ignoring the plight of the poor.  His punishment, like the punishment of the many souls Scrooge sees outside, is that in death, he must wander the world, seeing all the things he could have experienced and enjoyed in life, but now is unable to do so because he’s dead.

Will you be a ghost one day?  That’s a bigger discussion.  You will be old one day though…and your body will eventually give out on you.  When you’re old and gray and your knees fail, your body gives up and it exhausts you to walk more than five feet, what will you wish you had done in your youth?

CHALLENGE: Make a list of things you want to do before it’s too late to enjoy them…then DO THEM!  Picture your afterlife as a Jacob Marley-esque ghost, forced to drag chains and wander the world.  What would you like to see and do so that, if you ever become such a ghost, you can be happy knowing you got to do those things when you were alive?

Thanks for listening, 3.5 listeners.  The second stave will be out as soon as possible.

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