The Final Encyclopedia

The Final Encyclopedia
I’ve been re-listening to the audiobook version of Gordon R. Dickson’s “The Childe Cycle,” recently, and I’m currently on “The Final Encyclopedia (TFE). It’s probably my favorite though it really is difficult to chose as every story in the Cycle has amazing characters and elements. That’s probably why I usually think of it as a complete set of works rather than individual books.

I’m not sure how old I was when I read my first book from this collection (probably around junior-high), but I know which one it was. It was “Dorsai!” Dorsai! is practically a pamphlet compared to TFE - 7 hours in audiobook compared to over 30 hours - but it’s the lynchpin of the set. The main character of Dorsai! is Donal Graeme and it’s also the story that introduces Kensie and Ian Graeme, his uncles, that for all the brevity of their appearances have a massive influence to the overall arc of the Cycle.

Lost Dorsai
I can’t begin to describe how influential these books have been to me, but one of the main things that’s been running through my mind is the concept of the Final Encyclopedia, itself. In the books it’s described as a futuristic repository of the sum of all human knowledge (as imagined in the early 80’s). A tool that would allow humanity to unlock it’s true creative potential.

In the main, I think Dickson was right. The Internet in its current form is essentially what he was describing the Final Encyclopedia to be; a tool that a scholar can use to bring whatever knowledge he or she doesn’t already have immediately to hand. And - despite what detractors would say - I think we’re using it to essentially accomplish what it was ultimately used for in the books; the further evolution of humanity.

This is an amazing time to be human.

Anne McCaffrey (1926 – 2011)

I just heard that Anne McCaffrey has passed away. I’ve read dozens of her books over the last 30 years and they’ve helped shape the person I am, today. I remember looking at the cover of “Dragonflight” in my Dad’s library as a boy and immediately knowing it was a book I wanted to read. I’m so glad I did. That book lead to the rest of the original trilogy which lead to the Dragonsong trilogy, which lead on to book after book about Pern. From there seeing the name “Anne McCaffrey” on the spine of a book was enough for me to want to buy or borrow it. Decision at Doona, The Ship Who Sang, The Crystal Singer, Restoree, and so many others. I can’t count the hours that I’ve enjoyed reading her books. She was definitely one of the greatest and most prolific Science Fiction writers. She will be missed.


Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix (DVD) #2

Wow. I took my son to see this in the Theatre, last year, and watched it with him, again, when the DVD was first released, but either he and my daughter are much more distracting than I realized, or I just wasn't paying attention the first two times I saw this movie. I remember being a little disappointed at the changes that had to be made to accommodate the transition to teleplay, but being pretty happy, over all. Well, finally after watching it the way I really like to watch moves (i.e. totally alone with absolutely no distractions) I have to say this movie is just fantastic. Yeah, there were some harsh cuts and changes, but it still carried the emotional punch of the book. That's saying something. I was a tearful mess pretty much from the point where the Order arrived to fight the Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries. At times I found myself almost at 5 hankies. When Sirius was killed, and again when Voldemort possessed Harry and Harry was reliving the loss of all his loved ones. I feel like I've been through a wringer. I enjoyed it, though. I really, really enjoy these stories.

Whew. That was almost cathartic. I feel more calm and relaxed and ready to sleep than I have in months (I'm a bit of an insomniac).

Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix (DVD)

In the beginning of the movie, when Harry goes to 12 Grimmauld Place and is reunited with the Weasley's and Sirius had me worked up a bit. This is a hard time for the character of Mrs. Weasley. She has so many loved ones basically putting themselves in the line of fire, and knows that it'd be wrong to try to keep them out of the fray. Sirius, as well, is such a tragic figure. Reuniting with Harry makes him the happiest he's been in years, but it's only for fleeting moments. 3 hankies

I knew this was going to be a difficult movie for me to watch.

Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire (DVD) #2

The duel with Voldemort and the return to the school. You've seen it, and if you haven't you should. The echoes of Harry's parents coming out of Voldemort's wand, Cedric begging that Harry take his body back, Cedric's father wailing over the body of his son. This was the point where the books got really, really good, and really, really sad. One probably has something to do with the other.

Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire (DVD)

I'm watching "Goblet of Fire," and the story just got to the point of Harry and Cedric touching the Triwizard Cup and being transported to the grave of Tom Riddle Sr. Just knowing what's about to happen to Cedric is enough to make me weepy (1 hankie), but the thought that the end of this movie - good as it is - is going to put me through the wringer is enough that I'm actually pausing the movie. I'll finish it, later, but right now it's just more than I want to go through.

I do this a lot. I have a copy of "There Will Be Blood" that I bought a few months ago but still haven't watched. I know it's going to completely derail me so I keep putting it off.

Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban

Sirius Black is another of my favorite characters from the Harry Potter stories. His difficult adolescence was made easier by his friends, only to have one friend betray another two to their death and frame him for it. It's a heartrending story. Still, I did OK until the movie got to the point where the group of them were caught off-guard by the full moon outside the Shrieking Shack. The way that Sirius pleads with Lupin to try to focus - to try to retain some part of his humanity - moved me. 2 hankies

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets (DVD)


Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone (DVD) #2

"Gryffindor wins the House Cup!"

Good lord, I'm such a pushover. 1 hankie

Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone (DVD)

I'm such a sucker for this story. I got weepy when Hagrid was confronting the Dersley's at the beginning. Not because of what was going on, in particular, but because I know all the backstory and outcomes, already. 1 hankie

Stephen King's "On Writing." (Audiobook)

I first bought this as a book on tape when we were living in Chicago and I had driven back to Arkansas for a couple days, leaving the wife and kids in Illinois. I bought this for the drive back and ended up sitting in our apartment's parking spot for half an hour before I turned off the car so I could finish it. I've loved Stephen King books since junior high, and this one is amazing. It's an autobiographical look at the craft of writing.

I bought the digital download version of this, again, today from The guys on macbreak weekly mentioned it, this week, and rather than try to find an actual cassette player, I just went ahead and bought it, again. It's worth it.

In the book he describes finding out that his first book's paperback rights had sold for $200,000 when he was still teaching for about $6,000 a year. He then goes on to describe how, when he explained the news to his wife, she broke into tears. That, of course, made me break into tears. 2 hankies

Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix (Wii Game)

I guess I have to finally publicly disclose my love of the Harry Potter books. When the first movie came out, I'd never heard of the books but my wife and I were completely taken with the movie. So I decided to buy the books available at that time (1, 2, & 3) and see what I thought. I read a few pages of the first book and put it down. I never put books down. I usually will finish even bad books by force of will if for no other reason. This was a kids book, though, and at the time those few pages read like a children's book to me. I just didn't see how a 500 page Dr. Suess book was going to keep me entertained.

Fast forward a few years. The kids and I are back in Arkansas and we're grocery shopping and I see a DVD bundle of the first four Harry Potter movies. I picked them up, and we just
loved them. At this point, wheels started turning and I thought to myself, "these are movies based on novels. If the movies are this good, there has to be something more to the novels than I assumed..." So I went back and gave book one another go. Loved it. Moved on to Chamber of Secrets and ended up going onto amazon to order books 4, 5, and 6 (which were all that were available at the time). I was hooked.

Well, now I've read the whole series and I even have the magnificent Jim Dale read Audiobooks for the whole series. I've read each book twice and listened to them twice, as well, over the years, so I'm pretty conversant with the story. And, yes, there are points in the story arc that make me cry (especially in the last two books).

(Finally all this preamble pays off...)

Today, I was playing the Order of the Phoenix Wii game that we bought last year but never got around to playing until I started, yesterday, on a whim. Today, I got to a point in the story where Harry'd just had his vision of Mr. Weasley being attacked and he and Ron warn the Headmaster then are sent on to Grimmauld Place. Well, the first thing you see when all the cut-scenes finish is the living room of Grimmauld Place and standing there are... Lupin and Tonks. Thinking of Fred Weasley and Sirius Black usually makes me teary, but every time I bump into Lupin and Tonks in the stories I just lose it and really start crying. I'm crying as I type this. The fact that they found each other, were so good for each other, had a child together yet were only together for a such a brief time before Harry lost them both... well, it really rips me up. Two lovable characters that absolutely didn't deserve the fate they got. 4 hankies (seriously)

(I made a tactical mistake when looking for an image to use with this post - I followed a link to YouTube with "Lupin Tonks" search criteria. There are some very lovingly made and touching fan videos out there, and they absolutely tore me apart...)

NZ Book Council

This is a bit of an odd one. Follow me closely, if you will.

I was reading this article on

Now, I love to read and I'm as curious as the next ape, so I follow the link and check out the site. It's an interesting site, though I don't know how effective the gimmick will actually be. I try to read a poem by T. S. Eliot but instead get a message saying "It's not available in your area." I guess this makes sense since I'm not in New Zealand. Now, the site has me in full-screen mode, though, and my eye catches "encourage your friends, click here" at the bottom and I'm hurrying along and just assume that's the way to exit full-screen mode so I click. It's turns out to be a mailto link opening an email document saying "Make yourself look busy. Start reading a book." and "Take back some of your leisure time. Click this link." With the URL for the site below.

Ok, now here's where it gets a little esoteric. Their zeal for reading advocacy made me well up with tears.

I'm seriously a pushover, aren't I? 1 hankie