Suggestion Saturday: November 17, 2018

Here is this week’s list of blog posts, comic strips, and other links from my favourite corners of the web.

The B Word via bloggerbythesea. This was an interesting blog post about what it’s like to live with chronic back pain.

Pocosin. It’s been a while since I shared a science fiction story with you all, but this was a good one. It was also the inspiration for the picture included in today’s post.

Managing Holidays When Relationships Are Complicated (Part 1) via FindingGracie. When part 2 of this series comes out, I’ll give you all a heads up. It’s sure gotten off to a good start.

Why Walkable Cities Are Good for the Economy. As someone who was lucky enough to spend various parts of my childhood in rural, suburban, and (somewhat) urban areas, I have to say that walkable neighbourhoods will always be my favourite places to live. At one point, my family lived in such a rural area that we had to drive for an hour to get to the nearest mall! I can’t tell you all how many times I’ve been grateful to live close to lots of shops now that I’m an adult. It makes life so much easier.

Why Doesn’t Ancient Fiction Talk About Feelings? Wow, this was a good read.

Guest Blogging: Dos and Don’ts via alisonverhalen. The social norms surrounding guest blogging are still being solidified from what I’ve observed, but I’d argue that these rules are a good place to start.

From The Healthiest People in the World Don’t Go to the Gym:

Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without even thinking about it. This means that they grow gardens, walk throughout the day, and minimize mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.

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The World Needs More Blogging

Before I dive into today’s topic, I’d like to make this clear that this post was written as a gentle nudge for people who’d have the time and energy to dedicate to blogging if they knew about the individual and societal benefits of doing such a thing

It is not meant to be a commandment for our friends who don’t (or no longer) have the emotional bandwidth for such a thing. If this describes your life, take care of yourself. I hope things improve for you soon.

Everyone else, keep reading.

Yesterday, one of the blogs I follow shared a link to a site called Parent Hacks.

Asha Dornfest wrote a post there recently about the ways people connected online in the 2000s. Blogging was much more common back then, and it was rarely if ever done for profit.

Instead, people formed communities in the blogging world based on their interests and experiences for the sheer joy of it.

Google did (barely) exist back then, but it wasn’t the best way to find new sites to read. Instead, you met folks through links on other sites or by clicking on their username when they shared an interesting comment on a site you both followed.

I remember following links from the blogs I was already a fan of then to new sites that introduced me to folks who lived in places that were nothing at all like the small, midwestern town where I was growing up. Some of them lived halfway across the world. Others had life experiences that I knew nothing about, and they were gracious enough to explain what it felt like to be them.  This process of getting to know strangers over the Internet lead to some beautiful friendships (and even a few marriages, from what I recall).

It also made the Internet a better place to visit, and I’ve been saddened by the slow disappearance of this culture since then.

Asha wants to bring this sense of community back to the Internet, and she’s especially calling on former bloggers to help:

Our blogs could once again be that, writ large, distributed across geographical, political, racial, religious, ethnic and gender lines. No silos, no algorithms. Just real people sharing real stories so other people can read and comment and feel a part of those stories and be reminded about what connects us. Incubating community without a specific agenda beyond sharing of ourselves and connecting people.

Her post specifically talked about rebuilding the United States, but I think this should be something that’s done across the world. The Internet has too often been used for negative purposes. Luckily, this same tool can be used to bring people together instead.

The hashtag that Asha invented for this movement is #netpositiveblog. I will be using it on Twitter, and I hope you’ll all check it out as well.

Need Help?

If anyone reading this needs help figuring out how, when, or what to blog about, I’d be happy to offer you some tips whether you’re a returning blogger or a brand new one.

I’ve been blogging for more than fifteen years now across various platforms, and I have a few tricks tucked up my sleeve for everything from coming up with consistent ideas for new topics to connecting with the wider writing community in general.

Armistice 100: Thoughts on World War I

Photo description: a field full of poppies.

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

In commemoration of this, I’m using today’s post to talk about what my ancestors were doing during that war and share a touching video that was filmed by a former soldier who returned to his old battlegrounds about a decade after he’d originally fought there.

I’ve chosen not to include the names of my ancestors in this post for privacy reasons. If you’re peering at your family tree and wondering if we’re related or if our ancestors might have known each other, I’d be happy to share more details in private.

Mom’s Side of the Family

All of the great-grandparents on my mother’s side of the family were infants or children when World War I began. They were born to various German Mennonite farmers who lived in the midwestern United States, so none of their fathers or other male relatives were soldiers.

This meant that not only did all of my great-great-grandfathers survive the war and remain with their families, they also were able to provide basic food and shelter to their loved ones for the entire duration of it. While some of their fellow church members were imprisoned for refusing to fight, I believe those ancestors might have been given exemptions due to the large families they needed to support and the vital roles they played in producing food for the nation in general.

World War I wasn’t a pleasant experience for anyone, but my mom’s side of the family seemed to have much better experiences with it than many people did back then.

Dad’s Side of the Family

Trigger warning: abuse

I know less about my father’s side of the family, especially during these years. Those ancestors were all still living in Germany at the time, and many of them were rarely if ever willing to discuss their pasts for reasons that will soon become clear.

One of my paternal great-grandfathers was a soldier during World War I. He was shot in the leg and, according to family legend, used spider webs to pack the wound. Spider webs were traditionally used in many cultures to treat wounds back then. They are said to contain anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties. The vitamin K in spider webs may also help reduce bleeding.

Even with the help of this home remedy, the infection he developed in that wound was so serious that he nearly lost his limb. Since this happened more than 20 years before antibiotics became available, I’m honestly surprised that he survived…much less kept his leg!

That is the only story I know from that portion of his life. He took everything else with him to the grave. While his body survived the war without any catastrophic injuries, his mental health was severely affected by the things he experienced during those years. He became physically and emotionally abusive and remained that way for the rest of his life.

This great-great-grandfather died long before I was born, but I still saw the damage he caused lingering on decades after his death. I share this not to speak ill of the dead but to be honest about the true costs of war. Sometimes it’s horrific.

Today I can’t help but to wonder how the lives of his descendants would have turned out differently if he’d either never been through that trauma or lived in a time when he could have gotten real help for the things that plagued him before he became abusive.

The Spanish Flu and My Ancestors

To the best of my knowledge, none of my ancestors contracted the Spanish Flu in 1918. There are no reports of deaths from it in our genealogical records and no stories about anyone being sickened by it either so far as I’m aware.  That surprised me a lot given how many people were affected by it worldwide. My great-grandparents and their relatives were all very lucky in this regard.

Colour Footage of the Western Front & Northern France

I’ll be ending this post on a cheerful note. The video below is titled And in the Sky the Larks: 1920s Colour Footage of the Western Front & Northern France.

It was originally shot in 1928 by a man named Charles W. Bridgen who had been a L. Corporal in the 7th London Battalion. He survived battles in Ypres and the Somme. About a decade later he returned to visit those places in peacetime. The resulting footage is hauntingly beautiful. There are even some shots of a wedding that took place in one of the spots he was filming in.

I’d like to thank my dad for sharing it with me recently. It was a touching tribute to what must have been a very meaningful trip for Mr. Bridgen.

What Were Your Ancestors Doing During World War I?

I’d sure like to hear any stories your families might have passed down about them.

 

Suggestion Saturday: November 10, 2018

Here is this week’s list of blog posts, comic strips, and other links from my favourite corners of the web.

Cats Don’t Work Without Internet. Could it also be argued that the Internet doesn’t work without cats? I’d say yes.

The Room via SDJackson85. . This one is for a certain sibling of mine who reads this blog and loves doing construction projects on his home. May he never stumble across anything like this during a future project. Ha!

Books I Want to Read via bjornlarssen. My new friend, Bjorn, wrote this last week in response to something I wrote at the end of October. How cool is that? He included a link to my post at the end of his, so I didn’t feel the need to do it again here. Definitely go check out his post, though. He has excellent taste in books.

The First 10 Thoughts I Had: USA via Fushiee_. If you live in the United States or have ever travelled there, this is a must-read.

Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read. Honestly, this is something that has mildly irritated me for a long time. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who forgets most of the novels I read.

From A Brain Scientist Who Studies Alzheimer’s Explains How She Stays Mentally Fit:

And she realized early on that puzzles and games weren’t the answer because they tend to focus on one very narrow task. The result is like exercising just one muscle in your body, Langbaum says. That muscle will get stronger, but your overall fitness isn’t going to change.

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5 Stories That Need a Prequel

Last week I was scrolling through the list of new ebooks at my local library and stumbled across a title that made me grin. Marilla of Green Gables: A Novel by Sarah McCoy was written to tell the story of Marilla Cuthbert’s life before she and her brother became the permanent guardians of Anne Shirley.

As a lifelong fan of Anne of Green Gables and the many sequels to that tale, I’ve often wondered why Marilla was such a stiff and proper woman when she first met Anne. L.M. Montgomery only gave a few hints about Marilla’s childhood, and most of them were vague.

While I wait for a copy of this prequel to become available at the library, I thought it would be interesting to list some other books that would benefit from a prequel to explain things in them that their original versions never got around to describing in full detail to the audience. Some of them I’ve discussed on this site in the past, while others are brand new these types of posts.

There are mild spoilers to follow in this post for certain titles, so reader beware.

1. Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

This first book in the Earth’s Children series began with a five-year-old child named Ayla getting lost in the woods after an earthquake killed her parents about 30,000 years ago in ice-age Europe. It probably would have been unusual for parents to be travelling alone with such a young child, and it would have been unthinkable for someone so young to survive long at all in the woods by herself.

It bothered me when this series ended without any resolution for who the main character’s original people were or why her parents were travelling alone with her when they died. Based on how many different tribes she met as an adult and how small and interconnected the human population was in general in this universe, I would have expected someone to remember hearing something about a young family disappearing without a trace a decade or two before.

Well, either that or Ayla was actually the daughter of time-travelling scientists who hadn’t made contact with ancient humans at all before their untimely deaths. But if that theory is true, why would they take a child on such a dangerous trip without at least bringing a few more adults along to help look after her and gather data about what life was really like back hen?

2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Since Ransom Riggs is still writing and publishing new portions of this series, I hope he will eventually dive into the history of what life was like for Miss Peregrine and other Peculiars before they were forced to hide in time loops.

I’d imagine that there is a massive difference between having to relive the same day over and over again for decades to avoid being eaten by Hollowgasts (a violent monster species in this universe) and choosing to do so.

It’s hard to imagine what life was like for the Peculiars before their lives were constantly put into terrible danger. I’d like to think they had peaceful and creative existences at one point in their history.

The development of the current plot line in these books has been fantastic so far. I’d simply like to see the same attention paid to how all of this began in the first place. If that ever happens, this might become my favourite young adult series of this century.

 

3. Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill.

There are a lot of things I have to avoid saying about this book in order to avoid giving away any spoilers for it.

Freida, the main character, had spent her entire lifetime being groomed to be the perfect wife for a man she’d never met. She was raised in an environment that was very similar to a boarding school or other institutional setting. Along with her classmates, she lived, studied, exercised, and relaxed within the same four walls.

The audience quickly learned that all women in this society are raised in these school but that none of the men are. While I can’t give you any details about why this society was set up that way, I will say that I really wish we could have a prequel to this tale that explained more clearly when and how men and women were separated this way.

There was so much ground left to cover on that topic by the time I finished this novel. It could more than fill out the pages of a full-length prequel.

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Once again, the main character of this book grew up in a boarding school sort of place that had strict

rules about what their students were allowed to do. Unlike Only Ever Yours, these characters had no idea what their fate would be when they grew up.

All they knew was that they were special for reasons their instructors never went into detail about.

Just like in the previous section of this post, I can’t go into many details about what was really happening in this universe other than to say that all of those adults weren’t feeding, educating, and protecting hundreds of children out of a sense of goodwill for our species. There were dark reasons for their actions that eventually began to come to light, but never to the degree I would have liked them to.

This was the sort of social experiment that I really thought should have been fleshed out in greater detail. If it were to actually happen in real life, there were be a lot of people who were vehemently opposed to it every step of the way.

Realistically speaking, how did the folks who created this system deal with the protestors? Did they keep it top secret, or did they find more violent ways to suppress the opposing side?

A prequel would be the perfect place to show how the idea for this school first took root and why it was allowed to continue.

5. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist. 

Yes, I know I’ve blogged about this one before. It’s been so long since my last mention of it that I simply had to bring it up again since this is the sort of story that haunts me long after I’ve finished the final scene.

For those of you who haven’t read it yet, The Unit is about a futuristic version of America where women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 60 who haven’t met specific milestones like getting married or having children are forced to donate their organs and other tissues to people who need them. Yes, this included organs that one can’t live without like the heart.

What frightened me the most about this world was how realistic it felt. Forced organ donations are already known to be happening in certain parts of the world today. While it still feels unrealistic for it to occur in North America where this tale was set, I would have loved to know how such a system was sold to the population at large in a fictional version of the United States.

Would the general public have believed that these people were dying willingly to save strangers? Had this group of people been so dehumanized that average folks no longer thought of them as fellow human beings? I had so many questions about how this system had been sold to society in general that were never answered. A prequel would be the perfect way to finally know how and when the protagonist, Dorrit Weger, and all of the other people sent to The Unit were marked as dispensable without anyone fighting to save them.

What stories do you wish had a prequel?

The Best Fitness Advice I’ve Ever Received

There is so much conflicting information floating around out there about fitness, nutrition, and various types of exercise. Today I’m going to be talking about the best fitness advice I’ve ever received. I’m not a doctor or other medical provider, so this post is not written in order to give health or medical advice to… Read More

Suggestion Saturday: November 3, 2018

Here is this week’s list of blog posts, articles, and other links from my favourite corners of the web. There were a lot of news articles this week because I kept stumbling across great ones. The Not so Invisible Problem via tjtherien. This post is several years old, but the problem it talks about still hasn’t been… Read More

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5 Funny Short Horror Films You Should Watch This Halloween

One of the things I love the most about Halloween is seeing all of the creative things storytellers do with common horror, science fiction, and fantasy tropes at this time of the year. There’s something about the Halloween season that seems to bring out the best in writers, filmmakers, and other creators. The films in… Read More

Suggestion Saturday: October 27, 2018

Happy Halloween! Here is this week’s gigantic list of blog posts, comic strips, stories, and other links from the scariest corners of the web. I’ve labelled the links that include gory content. If you have other questions about what a specific link contains, feel free to ask. Imagine the Sound of This, but in the Night.… Read More