The Greatest Holiday Ever… I call it the Birthday.

The Greatest Holiday Ever… I call it the Birthday.

Out of all the holidays that cover our calendars and motivate us to schedule a time to get together with friends and family to eat food and cake there is one holiday that I love more than any other. The nice thing about this holiday is that it’s not a set day, well I mean it is but it’s a general holiday that branches all across the year. It’s the holiday I call the birthday, and I’m not referring to just mine. Other holidays mean very little to me. Giant bunny rabbit day… who cares. Chubby old guy in a red suit that spends an entire night breaking and entering into all the homes of children that believe in him day… could care less. Single awareness/buy flowers and chocolate for a loved one day… yawn.

But give me the day a friend, family, or loved one was born and I will make sure that if we are not celebrating together on that day that I will at least raise a glass in their honor. I’m a firm believer in celebrating the “grand entrance onto this planet” day, because in my experience it’s our friends that make our stroll down Life Boulevard worth it. My life is eminently better because of the people I have in it. Birthdays celebrate life, namely the lives that I care most about.

I have met the occasional individual that is overly anti-birthday. Now I’m not sure if this is specifically their birthday, other people’s birthday, or if it’s just birthdays in general. Usually when I try to talk to these people about this they run away from me with their fingers in their ears while yelling, “I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you. La lalalalalalalalala!” They are not always the best conversationalists, well at least the two that I’ve tried talking to weren’t. I’m sure it’s not completely their fault, but it does make me a little sad.

There are even some birthdays that we make official holidays… well governments do anyway. In the US it appears that there are a few official “birthday” days for a few long dead folk that apparently someone somewhere thought deserved national observance. Some of these nationally observed birthdays include Robert E Lee, Lincoln, Washington… actually that’s it. I could only find those three. There is also Queen’s Birthday as a holiday in a few places around the world. It looks like that’s it though. You know what I think the governments should do, everyone should get their birthday off as a paid holiday. It would be one of those laws that I think everyone would show up to vote for. And no matter how bad the politicians mess up, there would always be that light at the end of the perpetual black hole that is politics. It’s something all people everywhere deserve.

In the realm that is birthday splendor and cheeriness there are those people that you don’t know, that usually carry with them a halo of fame and appreciation. They may be gone, or they might still be around and kicking for the next one to seven decades. The point being that they are people that you hold a place for in your heart, or mind, or empty shell where some people claim your spirit resides. Regardless of you existential beliefs there are some people’s birthdays that we choose to remember and celebrate in our own personal way.

Some birthdays I choose to celebrate include:

  • Elvis Presley – January 8
  • Audrey Hepburn – May 4
  • Douglas Adams – March 11
  • Winnie the Pooh – October 14 (that was when he was first published)
  • Groucho Marx – October 2
  • Frank Sinatra – December 12
  • Terry Pratchett – April 28

That’s right today is Terry’s birthday, which is a touch responsible for the subject matter of today’s Smirk. I’ve been thinking of a few things I could do for my celebration of Terry’s “I’m glad you were born” day. I was contemplating making it a Rincewind day and just run away from everyone and everything today. I would just wait for someone to say my name and then just start running away from them as fast as I could. As appealing as this idea was I realized that there was a very good chance that I would not get much work done and that I would be a rather sweaty smelly mess by the end of the day. Well that and I’d probably have to go in for a psyche evaluation.

Another thought was to Weatherwax my evening and run up and down my driveway with a broom in an effort to get it started. That idea lost its appeal when I went outside and noticed that it was lightly snowing. Besides there was the concern that if any neighbors saw me doing this they might show up at my door step with a signed petition asking me to go in for a psyche evaluation.

I then thought about calling my friend Kyle to come over and watch Hogfather with me. My only concern there is that he’s already threatened a Pratchett intervention when he found out that the last 5 books I’ve read were all Discworld novels and inviting him over for a Pratchett birthday moment might be just the thing to push him to making that threat a promise. I was willing to risk it, but turned out he was working. So instead, I chose to celebrate Terry’s birthday by enjoying a glass of brandy and listening to some Thomas Tallis while reading out of my first edition hardback copy of Good Omens. It was a perfect Pratchett celebration.

Who are some of your birthday celebrations?

Image Sources:
Google Images, key words: happy birthday, fingers in hears, Terry Pratchett, and glass of brandy.

The Greatest Holiday Ever… I call it the Birthday.

Published Surprise

Friday morning was a good morning. Not because it was Friday, although it did help, but because of a fabulous little message that a new, yet dear, friend from Australia posted on my Facebook page. One of my Terry Pratchett inspired Smirks was posted in the April issue of Discworld Monthly, a free monthly on-line newsletter about Terry and his novels. It’s a very groovy yet surreal moment to discover you’ve had something published, but more than that is not to know you’ve been published until one of your friends has read the piece that was published in the work that published your piece and then tells you about it. I hope that made sense.

The article was made up of excerpts from the Smirk I wrote back in January entitled The Disc… A World of Literary Cameos (click here to read the original Smirk). I sent a copy of it to the editor a few days after I posted it, you know, just in case, and that was that. A few months later… hey! That’s me!

The Discworld Monthly has been around since 1997. In fact next month will be its 13th anniversary. A big, yet early, congrats and well done to them. It was created with the goal of keeping fans informed about the latest happenings in the Discworld and Terry Pratchett Fan Communities. I happened across it about a year ago. Then about five to six months ago I took the plunge and just subscribed to have the newsletter e-mailed to me every month instead of having to remind myself to check out the site each month or so.

My recommendation… if you are a Pratchett fan, and I know a number of you are, definitely check out the Discworld Monthly, and sign up for the newsletter. It’s a great treat for me each month receive an e-mail newsletter devoted to all things Pratchett.

There is also a Discworld Monthly Facebook group. So by all means check it out and join the group. And for those thinking about checking it out, there’s even a link to the new Going Postal trailer, which looks grand.

Thanks again to Heather for letting me know I was in this month’s issue. It’s a lovely way to start one’s day.

To those that checked out the newsletter, what did you think?

Image Sources:
Google Images, key word: Discworld.

The Greatest Holiday Ever… I call it the Birthday.

My Pratchett Perspective on Terry's Alzheimer's

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been three weeks since that crusty eyed morning where I decided to check my messages right after waking up and found a message from one of my readers (thanks Erin) with Terry Pratchett in the subject line and a link entitled Terry Pratchett: my case for a euthanasia tribunal.

As I read the piece I started thinking about it, the big “it”… the “what is it all about” kind of “it”. I mean I know that the situation is sad for both groups of people, the first group being the adoring fans, and the second group, still adoring fans mind you, but family and friends that know him as not just the author, but the person as well. Having personally witnessed what Alzheimer’s does to a family member, there is certain amount of laughter associated with the heartache. My mother said that when it got really bad you had to laugh to keep from crying.

I laughed because it was funny that my grandpa had forgotten what words he considered were bad and kept trying to teach them to my grandma. There is something magically endearing about a little old man trying to teach his wife (she had had a stroke) how to say “oh hell.” He would even encourage her. “Come on Nora, say damn it. Daaammn it.”

When I got to the end of the Pratchett piece I had to ask myself, if it was possible to find a smirk in all of that. Was this even the type of thing that deserved my style of commentary? After thinking about it for a good… however long it take to eat a bowl of cereal, I opted to go with my gut feeling. And, in the words of the always eloquent Foul Ole Ron, let me just say, “bugrit.”

I think as fans, when we first learned of Pratchett’s condition, we took in the full scope of what that all meant. The loss of Terry would be enviable. It was almost as if we started morning the loss of a great man who is still here with us. On a plus note, I still have a number of books to get through still before I even finish the all of the Discworld books for the first time. So, at least I have that going for me. Not to mention, I’m sure he’s still writing more Discworld stories for our eager minds to consume so that we can regurgitate laughter and joy all over anyone who might be in the same room with us as we read it work.

On thought is that it… well, it does help one prepare a bit. I mean sure personal expiration is the only guarantee we have in life, but there’s a kind of appreciation I have in knowing that it’s on its way, as opposed to the opposite end of the spectrum as with Adams unexpected end. No “so long”, no “fish”… it was just a headline that no one was really sure was real or not from the first few times of reading it. Terry’s announcement, I think, has helped prepare us, well, helped me prepare for “it.” His “it”, not my “it”. My “it” at this point is the type of “it” that would result in me exclaiming a loud “she” before the “it”.

I’m not sure why, but Rincewind has always reminded me of Pratchett, the man, not the author. I’m not sure why either. I don’t know the man at all. I mean I know what he looks likes, but I’d probably not recognize him if I bumped into him on the street. Not unless someone else was there to point it out for me. When it comes to Terry Pratchett, I know the man is an author. Oh, and because of an interview I read in the past year, I know that he loves playing Oblivion. He’s English… I’m clear on my facts in that regard, but I’m not sure about much more. Things like, when his birthday is. Who he thinks would win in a fight between an Alien or a Predator, or what he did before he did what he does now.

I’m not a very good fan am I? Maybe it’s just that I’m not a traditional stalker type fan. Ahh the stalker fan… so I had this friend whose name sounded like the name of a type of dog, but for her sake was spelled differently. She was a huge Dean Koontz fan. I mean huge. So one day, she just so happened to find herself at a Koontz book signing, which was a result of some her getting two days off from work, finding a sitter for her child for that time, getting a plane ticket to California, booking a hotel room close to the book store he was going to be at, and getting to the book store by 3AM so that she would be one of the first in line to meet him.

Out of all the things she could have said to him… the conversation broke down something like this, “I am one of your biggest fans.”
“I celebrate your birthday.”
“My birthday. What do you mean?”
“Yes. Every year. I bake you a cake and everything.”
Dean then writes down some notes and says, “That gives me an idea. Would you be ok with me using some of that in the book I’m currently working on?”

It was the phone call I got after this had happened where she told me about the above conversation, and then screamed in a bouncy, overly excited tone, “I’m going to be in a Dean Koontz book!” I tried telling her that this was not really a compliment. She failed to see how it could be anything other than one.

No, I’m much more of a lighthearted, “Thanks Terry” kind of fan. Sure it would be groovy to meet him, but if I don’t, it’s ok. As for my Terry aka Rincewind perspective, it’s just how I see it. He’s always seemed to me to be a bit of a reluctant hero. That is until the capital “A word” became a chapter in his life. And like those moments when Rincewind becomes fed up enough that running stops becoming the first choice of action. A choice was made to face it head on, which seems exactly what he’s doing now.

He a vocal Alzheimer’s awareness poster child and his donations, as well as his open dialogue towards assisted death, is that Rincewindian stand. Granted, it might not end all that well for him, but as he goes through his journey it is going to help an entire world of people whether he expected it to or not. It’s the type of thing a knight might do, though it’s probably best not to tell him that.

I could romanticize about the literary nobility and juxtapose it with reminiscent alter ego characters that may or may not exist. In the long run I don’t think it’s going to be all that useful. Perhaps it’s just a bunch of fluff in the imagination of a life I don’t know. What I can say is this, if there is one thing I’ve learned from Pratchett’s work, it’s the fascination of life, his fascination with life. Even Death is fascinated by the human experience called life.

As he said in the closing of his Richard Dimbleby lecture, “If I knew that I could die, I would live.” I think the world has a bit of Pratchett left in it. I like to think that part of life is about giving. We have volumes of gifted wit and wisdom from that man. I’ve gotten a few emails from readers who talked about how Terry’s books had gotten them through the harder times of their life. Giving them some comfort, hope, and even more so, giving them laughter when they didn’t think they had any left in them.

In some future day, when the headlines yell that Death has finally come for the old knight, I expect that before shaking hands he’ll wait for Terry to finish his brandy as they both listen to Thomas Tallis play on Terry’s iPod. Then after the official game for his soul is played. Then, regardless who wins, they’ll head to the desert, because it’s his choice.

I really don’t see an end though. As Pratchett has continually suggested, that’s the thing about belief. It keeps giving life to those you believe in, long after the headlines tell you they’re gone.

Any thoughts you’d like to share?

Image Sources:
Google Images, key words: Death, Terry Pratchett, Foul Ole Ron, and happy phone call.

The Greatest Holiday Ever… I call it the Birthday.

The Disc… A World of Literary Cameos

I have much love, adoration, reverence, befuddlement (mainly because I don’t think that word is used enough these days) and gratitude for the writings of one Mr. Terry Pratchett, of the Sir variety. I remember when I was first introduced to his work. I was sitting in my college dorm room reading along and the next thing I knew I was laughing out loud, so much so that I began a bit of literary rewinding. Once I got done laughing, I’d turn back a page, began rereading the section, and then start laughing all over again.

I’m certain that my appreciation of this man’s writing will be addressed on more than one occasion, but today I wanted to talk about one of the things I love most about the Discword series, and that is all the literary cameos you get from book to book. There are over 30 books in this series now, and that’s just it, the core of all these books is the Discworld. Then you have all these stories about the people that live there.

There are books about the reluctant and cowardly hero Rincewind. There are books about Death and his granddaughter. There’s Sam Vimes and his band of misfit coppers, The City Watch. There are books about the Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax and the other witches on the Disc. There are so many more characters too. They are personalities that you either partially, mostly, or completely identify with, because they either remind you of yourself, or someone you know… or someone you hope to someday know… or in some cases hope to never know.

Regardless, you find yourself connecting with these people, and because there is more than one story about them, usually, you get to know them better and better. Cheering them on every step of the way. Even if what they are attempting something that is one chance is a million… but it just might work.

So in getting back to my main point, one of the things I love about reading the Discworld books are all the cameo appearances from characters you’ve met in other books. There you are, reading along about something happening in Ankh-Morpork and all of a sudden there’s a member of the City Watch chatting with the hero of the book. And there you are, giving a mental nod or wave to Nobby Nobbs, because, Hey! You know him.

And how could we forget the eclectic collection of cameo appearances by the one and only Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, and all the Dibbler egos, or cultural counterparts, found on each Discworld continent. There is Cut-Me-Own-Hand-Off Dhblah from Small Gods, and Al-Jiblah from Jingo. Also, Disembowel-Meself-Honourably Dibhala of Interesting Times fame. I’m sure there’s more, I still have a few more books to get through, and I am looking forward to finding out. It’s like running into an old high school friend while you are visiting some random city. Sure it’s a bit of a surprise and the conversation is usually short and in passing, but you are genuinely pleased to have seen them.

Such is the case with these literary cameos. The appearance may not last that long, often it’s a sort of hi, hello, how are you, and then back to things as normal. That part of its magic and appeal thought. The Disc is a whole world of characters and personalities that keep popping in every now and again for a short visit just because they happen to be in the area, and most of the time you’re not even expecting them. Well, at least initially that’s the case.

Now, it’s just part of the process. Part of the experience that is reading a Discworld novel. I might occasionally ask, “I wonder who it will be this time?” when I start reading a book I haven’t read before… or haven’t read for a few years, but it doesn’t late long. They show up when they do, whoever they may be.

So, to all you readers that have read one, some, most, or all the Discworld novels, I’d like to think that you, like me, take comfort in the knowledge that someone you know will be dropping by to say hi. It’s a thought that always brings a smile to my face every time I crack open a Discworld book. Well done and thank you sir, er, I guess Sir Terry… Pratchett. It’s always a pleasure.

What are some of your favorite Discworld cameos?

Image Source:
Google Images, key words: Terry Pratchett, Discworld, and Disworld Death.