Friday, March 21, 2008

A Confirmed Francophile

So, we went to France. See, my mother-in-law went on her mission to Northern France, and since Thora's parents were visiting their grand-daughter here in the UK, they thought to pop over the Channel to visit her old haunts. I suggested, since we were going through all that trouble to visit the French Republic, we should visit one of the greatest cities in the world (which is to say Paris).

You see, I am, as most of my friends know a Francophile (and a Bonapartist to boot). I have spent my life defending the French language, French people and, most especially, the French military establishment. I have defended them from people who claimed that the Scots hate the French (clearly being unaware the Scottish alliance with the French is what kept Scotland independent for so long). I have defended them from people who claim that the real French flag is white, and against all of the usual slurs against the French people. I have never understood it, but I think it derives from the fact the French government has often disagreed with the policies of the American government. More like though, people are just ignorant. Anyway, suffice it to say that I have long been a lover of the French. I have studied the language, on my own for the most part (since my Hebrew studies didn't leave me much extra time). So, I jumped on the chance to visit France.

It was a splendid experience. I have often heard that the French are arrogant and off-putting of foreigners and especially Americans. I do not believe a word of it. I found the French to be pleasant and friendly, totally lacking the British reserve. The British are unfailingly polite, but not always very open. We had experiences where we were lost in Lille, and a woman took us into her own home, in order that Thora's mother could call her friends. She offered Lydia chocolate and was in general very friendly. I tried to speak French, with a fair amount of success. Nobody commented on my French, and indeed went out of their way to draw me in to conversation. I often had to say to Je ne comprends pas, but all in all we were able to communicate very nicely. In fact, my French got such a workout that I feel that my skills at speaking French have been upgraded from en petit peu (a very little bit) to en peu (a little bit), which is great progress.

In Paris we visited many wonderful things including the Louvre, which was as wonderful as I expected. Of course, of great importance to me was Les Invalides, and especially the Tomb of Napoleon the First, Emperor of the French and King of Italy. As I said before, I am, and long have been, a Bonapartist, for reasons which are difficult for me to articulate. One of the nicest things about visiting France was realizing that I was no longer the only one in a hundred mile radius who thought positive things about Bonaparte. It was an empowering experience (empowerment is a dangerous word, I know, but it was pretty cool all the same).

The other important thing I wish to mention is the visits to the French cathedrals of Notre Dame and Saint Denis, both of which were wonderful and beautiful. It reminded me of my love of the Middle Ages and of the Masons who built these churches. Saint Denis is the resting place of the kings of France, and is a holy place. It was a fascinating place to visit, since it was a monument to monarchy in France, a monarchy which did not end prettily in France, but it was still holy. Charles Martel, Pepin the Short, Louis XIV, and XV are all buried there, as well as Louis XVI and what is left of Louis XVII. Regrettably, Thora wasn't able to be there with me, because Lydia wasn't feeling well, but it was still a wonderful experience.

The trip was all in all wonderful. There were a number of stories which I would share, but which I will leave to Thora, such as being ten feet from the President of the French Republic and the various woes of travel. For myself it suffices me to say that I entered France a Francophile and left it further confirmed in my Francophile-ness. I will continue to defend France with a renewed vigor and from my own experiences. In short-- Vive la France!

I am back online. For those of you who do not read my wife's posts, I received a fine fellowship from The Ohio State University, and so will be studying there. My wife and I are very happy. Thank for everyone's prayers. I should be able back to writing soon. For one thing I have to write that post about my ambivalence towards the SCA, among other things. However, that will have to wait until next time.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

At The Bottom of the Barrel

So, I just heard back from Yale University. No dice.

Which leaves me very humbled. Three months ago, I was certain of my ability to do graduate work. I applied to six graduate programs, including some of the top programs in my field, confidant in my ability to be chosen as one of their candidates. I had a Masters degree from Oxford, good recommendations, a decent statement of purpose, and I was applying to schools where I thought I had a good fit with the faculty.

Now I am not sure why I was so confident. I only got into the two schools I considered my safety schools, and was denied funding at one of them, which hurts more than a reject, in some ways. Perhaps I chose the wrong road. I don't know what else I could have done, though. It goes without saying that you are never as good as you think you are, but it still hurts to be told it.

Ah well. All my hopes rely on one school, essentially.

Pray for me.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Tribute

So, I woke up this morning and went to my usual websites. When I visited the Daily Illuminator at Steve Jackson Games' website, I was saddened to discover that E. Gary Gygax, one of the initial designers of the first role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, had died. I felt moved to say a few words in his honor.

I don't know why I am so affected by his death. I don't think I've read anything he has written. I only rarely play Dungeons and Dragons, and have never played any edition he authored.

However, he and Dave Arneson designed this game, and so spawned the hobby of adventure game, specifically of role-playing. Without Gary Gygax, as other writers on other sites have pointed out, there would be no role-playing, up to and including games such as World of Warcraft and its ilk. I don't do much online role-playing, but I do play pen and paper games, and without Dungeons and Dragons I would not be able to.

So, I felt that it was only right and proper that I set down a tribute to the man who, however indirectly, brought me Rokugan, Theah and Mythic Europe. I owe my acquaintance to Bubba Hall, Aleksander Veiltender and Mirumoto Takoni to the doors he opened. Time spent with my friends, time spent with my books, time spent in my imagination.

So I raise a parting glass to a man I never knew to thank him for the many hours of enjoyment and reflection which he has given me. I wish him Godspeed on his journey, and the hope of a glorious resurrection.

Game On!