Monthly Archives: April 2014

Excerpt from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain ~~Annihilation~~

The Connecticut Yankee has alienated himself from the Church and is facing attack by many thousands of knights. Together with his ever-faithful Clarence, he has 52 young cadets to support him, but they have made deadly preparation for the onslaught.

 

picture-ConnecticutYankee-TwainOne thing seemed to be sufficiently demonstrated: our current was so tremendous that it killed before the victim could cry out. Pretty soon we detected a muffled and heavy sound, and next moment we guessed what it was. It was a surprise in force coming! I whispered Clarence to go and wake the army, and notify it to wait in silence in the cave for further orders. He was soon back, and we stood by the inner fence and watched the silent lightning do its awful work upon the swarming host. One could make out but little of detail; but he could note a black mass was piling itself up beyond the second fence. That swelling bulk was dead men! Our camp was enclosed with a solid wall of the dead – a bulwark, a breastwork, of corpses, you may say. One terrible thing about this thing was the absence of human voices; there were no cheers, no war cries: being intent upon a surprise, these men moved as noiselessly as they could; and always when the front rank was near enough to their goal to make it proper for them to begin to get a shout ready, of course they struck the fatal line and went down without testifying.
I sent a current through the third fence, now; and almost immediately through the fourth and fifth, so quickly were the gaps filled up. I believed the time was come, now, for my climax; I believed that that whole army was in our trap. Anyway, it was high time to find out. So I touched a button and set fifty electric suns aflame on the top of our precipice.
Land, what a sight! We were enclosed in three walls of dead men! All the other fences were pretty nearly filled with the living, who were stealthily working their way forward through the wires. The sudden glare paralyzed this host, petrified them, you may say, with astonishment; there was just one instant for me to utilize their immobility in, and I didn’t lose the chance. You see, in another instant they would have recovered their faculties, then they’d have burst into a cheer and made a rush, and my wires would have gone down before it; but that lost instant lost them their opportunity forever; while even that slight fragment of time was still unspent, I shot the current through all the fences and struck the whole host dead in their tracks! There was a groan you could hear! It voiced the death pang of eleven thousand men. It swelled out on the night with awful pathos.
A glance showed that the rest of the enemy – perhaps ten thousand strong – were between us and the encircling ditch, and pressing forward to the assault. Consequently we had them all! and had them past help. Time for the last act of the tragedy. I fired the three appointed revolver shots – which meant:
“Turn on the water!”
There was a sudden rush and roar, and in a minute the mountain brook was raging through the big ditch and creating a river a hundred feet wide and twenty-five deep.
“Stand to your guns, men! Open fire!”
The thirteen gatlings began to vomit death into the fated ten thousand. They halted, they stood their ground a moment against that withering deluge of fire, then they broke, faced about and swept toward the ditch like chaff before a gale. A full fourth part of their force never reached the top of the lofty embankment; the three-fourths reached it and plunged over – to death by drowning.
Within ten short minutes after we had opened fire, armed resistance was totally annihilated, the campaign was ended, we fifty-four were masters of England! Twenty-five thousand men lay dead around us.

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‘Bonfire’ released by Third Eye Blind

A little early in spring, a bonfire ring
She’s shivering alone
I bumped into you somehow
But you can wear

My duct-taped vest
It’s a party best
It’s really all I own
Everything’s changing now

And I am high like a star that’s flying
Cassiopeia
Everything’s changing now

She said it’s alright
She said no don’t die alone
There’s no goodbyes

Lightning comes and lightning goes
And it’s all the same to me
Let it in
Cuz I want you so
I can hardly breathe or release
Into one thousand pieces
I have broke into
Over you
The chain will soon be gone,
I keep burning on and on and on

If nothing else I am myself
That’s all I have to give
Everything’s changing now

Oh we could live like kings
If we take a risk
Or we could live in doubt
Everything’s changing now
Oh now
Come on, come on

And lightning comes and lightning goes
And it’s all the same to me
Let it in
Cuz I want you so
I can hardly breathe or release
Into one thousand pieces
I have broke into
Over you
The chain will soon be gone,
And I keep burning on and on

This, this is, this is the last time, its the last time
This, this is, this is your goodbye
This, this is, this is the last time
This, this is, this is your goodbye

Some girls will break you down
Just to see you come undone
Everything’s changing now

Maybe you and I are cursed
Maybe you and I are one
And that’s the universe
Around, around she drags you

Lightning comes and lightning goes
It’s all the same to me
Let it in
Cuz I want you so
I can hardly breathe or release
Into one thousand pieces
I have broke into
Over you
We’ll stop the flames at dawn,
I keep burning on and on and on
I really love you!

Did you get what you wanted?
Did you get what you wanted?
Did you get what you wanted?

 

picture-UrsaMajor-ThirdEyeBlind_Bonfire

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Excerpt from “A Soldier of the Great War” by Mark Helprin ~~Hammer~~

picture-SoldieroftheGreatWar-HelprinSquads of men veered off to ledges and tables on different levels, but Alessandro, being near the end of the line, went as high as it was possible to go, to a platform of clean rock a hundred meters above the quarry floor. He and a dozen other men were taken to a forest of iron stakes, which served many purposes. They made fissure lines for the eventual separation of the slabs, provided bases and pivots for cables, cranes, and hooks, and, in a fanciful sense, they killed the virginal marble just as harpoons kill a whale before it, too, is cut into slabs.
“Take this one,” a sergeant instructed Alessandro, guiding him to a stake that was waist high. “Work on it until you lose so much blood that you faint.”
“I beg your pardon?” Alessandro asked.
“Fainting is a pleasure, and, don’t worry, we carry you down.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Your hands. The skin will come off your hands.”
“Why not use gloves?” Alessandro asked.
“You’re better off facing it directly,” the sergeant said. “If you use gloves it takes longer, you’re more exhausted because you’re not yet fit, and you tend to succumb to infections more readily. And a glove will stick to the tissue underneath the skin.”
Alessandro found the sergeant’s account hard to believe, thinking himself strong enough to drive this and other stakes without much injury to his hands. “It all depends on control of the hammer,” he told the sergeant.
“Exactly. The more the shaft moves, the faster you come apart. Grip the shaft hard,” he said as he left.
Alessandro looked at the iron stake. The head was partially flattened and exfoliated, but its disintegration had been checked as if the stress of the hammering had hardened it.
He swung the hammer, and when he connected with the stake he heard a lovely metallic ring that joined the fast-moving chorus on the cliff face. The first strokes were pleasant, as were the following dozen or two, even though ten minutes of labor pushed the stake in only a few millimetres.
Because he knew he couldn’t rest he started a slow and deliberate stroke that he hoped would protect him. After half an hour the skin of his palms and fingers was pink and blistered. Had he or anyone else been doing this in the garden, he would have gone inside for lemonade.
He stopped. The blisters were not painful, but they covered the inside of his hands. As he was looking at the stake and hoping for the best, the sergeant returned with another sergeant in tow. Now Alessandro became acutely aware of the pistols at their sides.
“Why stop now?” the new sergeant asked.
“Blisters,” Alessandro said, knowing their answer and that they would give it with utter dispassion.
“Not a reason for stopping, a blister or two.”
“My hands are like water skins.”
“The bar has hardly moved.”
“All right,” Alessandro said. “If it has to be,” and he knew it did.
The blisters didn’t break until he had struck the stake twenty times or more, and when they did break, the fluid kept the pain from him for another twenty blows.
“Keep on,” the sergeant ordered.
When his hands had dried and the handle was hot, each bell-like ring rolled up the loose skin that had been hanging from his palms and tore it so that eventually it all fell to the ground. In fifteen minutes his hands were the color of a rose, and in half an hour they had started to bleed, to exude viscous white fluids, and to crack apart.
The air itself hurt his harrowed fingers and palms. To grip something solid was out of the question, to hold a heavy object, quite insane, to swing a sledgehammer, unimaginable – and yet he did, for he knew that when he had bled enough he would faint and they would carry him down.
He surprised them with how long he kept going, and they had to step back because the blood flew in distorted parabolas that made thickening lines upon the rock floor. At times it appeared to be raining in a dense windblown cloud whose underside had turned red as it passed over a raging fire. The sergeants waited for Alessandro to fall. He didn’t fall. Instead, he struck as hard as he could, for he had come to believe that he was holding s piece of the sun in his hands, and that he would use it to cleave the rock as Guariglia had severed his own leg. His muscles tightened and then relaxed, his arms flew out before him as flexibly as elastic bands, and the head of the hammer struck the top of the stake with costly precision. The stake was driven down until it disappeared flush into the floor.
Alessandro’s clothes were soaked with sweat and blood, and his eyelashes were stuck to his eyebrows by drops of blood that had blown against his face like raindrops in a squall. He dropped the hammer and turned to the two sergeants. “Is that the procedure?” he asked, and fainted dead away.

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Excerpt from “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley ~~Life~~

picture-Frankenstein-ShelleyOne of the phenomena which had peculiarly attracted my attention was the structure of the human frame, and, indeed, any animal endued with life. Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery; yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries. I revolved these circumstances in my mind and determined thenceforth to apply myself more particularly to those branches of natural philosophy which relate to physiology. Unless I had been animated by an almost supernatural enthusiasm, my application to this study would have been irksome and almost intolerable. To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death. I became acquainted with the science of anatomy, but this was not sufficient; I must also observe the natural decay and corruption of the human body. In my education my father had taken the greatest precautions that my mind should be impressed with no supernatural horrors. I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition or to have feared the apparition of a spirit. Darkness had no effect upon my fancy, and a churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm. Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay and forced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel-houses. My attention was fixed upon every object the most insupportable to the delicacy of the human feelings. I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted; I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain. I paused, examining and analysing all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me—a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so many men of genius who had directed their inquiries towards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret.
Remember, I am not recording the vision of a madman. The sun does not more certainly shine in the heavens than that which I now affirm is true. Some miracle might have produced it, yet the stages of the discovery were distinct and probable. After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.

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Excerpt from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams ~~Answer~~

picture-HitchhikersGuide‘Seventy-five thousand generations ago, our ancestors set this program in motion,’ the second man said, ‘and in all that time we will be the first to hear the computer speak.’
‘An awesome prospect, Phouchg,’ agreed the first man, and Arthur suddenly realized he was watching a recording with subtitles.
‘We are the ones who will hear,’ said Phouchg, ‘the answer to the great question of Life . . .’
‘The Universe . . . ‘ said Loonquawl.
‘And Everything . . .!’
‘Shhh,’ said Loonquawl with a slight gesture, ‘I think Deep Thought is preparing to speak!’
There was a moment’s expectant pause whilst panels slowly came to life on the front of the console. Lights flashed on and off experimentally and settled down into a businesslike pattern. A soft low hum came from the communication channel.
‘Good morning,’ said Deep Thought at last.
‘Er . . . Good morning, O Deep Thought,’ said Loonquawl nervously, ‘do you have . . . er, that is . . .’
‘An answer for you?’ interrupted Deep Thought majestically. ‘Yes. I have.’
The two men shivered with expectancy. Their waiting had not been in vain.
‘There really is one?’ breathed Phouchg.
‘There really is one,’ confirmed Deep Thought.
‘To Everything? To the great Question in Life, the Universe and Everything?’
‘Yes.’
Both of the men had been trained for this moment, their lives had been a preparation for it, they had been selected at birth as those who would witness the answer, but even so they found themselves gasping and squirming like excited children.
‘And you’re ready to give it to us?’ urged Loonquawl.
‘I am.’
‘Now?’
‘Now,’ said Deep Thought.
They both licked their dry lips.
‘Though I don’t think,’ added Deep Thought, ‘that you’re going to like it.’
‘Doesn’t matter,’ said Phouchg. ‘We must know it! Now!’
‘Now?’ enquired Deep Thought.
‘Yes! Now . . .’
‘All right,’ said the computer and settled into silence again. The two men fidgeted. The tension was unbearable.
‘You’re really not going to like it,’ observed Deep Thought.
‘Tell us!’
‘All right,’ said Deep Thought. ‘The Answer to the Great Question . . .’
‘Yes . . . !’
‘Of Life, the Universe and Everything . . .’ said Deep Thought.
‘Yes . . . !’
‘Is . . .’
‘Yes . . . !!! . . . ?’
‘Forty-two,’ said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.

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“A Boy Named Sue” released by Johnny Cash

My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn’t leave much to ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don’t blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me Sue.

Well, he must o’ thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a’ lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I’d get red
And some guy’d laugh and I’d bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain’t easy for a boy named Sue.

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,
My fist got hard and my wits got keen,
I’d roam from town to town to hide my shame.
But I made a vow to the moon and stars
That I’d search the honky-tonks and bars
And kill that man who gave me that awful name.

Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
And I just hit town and my throat was dry,
I thought I’d stop and have myself a brew.
At an old saloon on a street of mud,
There at a table, dealing stud,
Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me Sue.

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
From a worn-out picture that my mother’d had,
And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
He was big and bent and gray and old,
And I looked at him and my blood ran cold
And I said: “My name is Sue! How do you do!
Now you’re gonna die!!”

Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes
And he went down, but to my surprise,
He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear.
But I busted a chair right across his teeth
And we crashed through the wall and into the street
Kicking and a’ gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.

I tell ya, I’ve fought tougher men
But I really can’t remember when,
He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile.
I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss,
He went for his gun and I pulled mine first,
He stood there lookin’ at me and I saw him smile.

And he said: “Son, this world is rough
And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you’d have to get tough or die
And it’s the name that helped to make you strong.”

He said: “Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you do.
But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I’m the son-of-a-bitch that named you Sue.”

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
And I called him my pa, and he called me his son,
And I came away with a different point of view.
And I think about him, now and then,
Every time I try and every time I win,
And if I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!

 

picture-BoyNamedSue-Cash

 

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Excerpt from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain ~~Cave~~

picture-TomSawyer-TwainThe children groped their way back to the spring. The weary time dragged on; they slept again, and awoke famished and woe-stricken. Tom believed it must be Tuesday by this time.
Now an idea struck him. There were some side passages near at hand. It would be better to explore some of these than bear the weight of the heavy time in idleness. He took a kite-line from his pocket, tied it to a projection, and he and Becky started, Tom in the lead, unwinding the line as he groped along. At the end of twenty steps the corridor ended in a “jumping-off place.” Tom got down on his knees and felt below, and then as far around the corner as he could reach with his hands conveniently; he made an effort to stretch yet a little farther to the right, and at that moment, not twenty yards away, a human hand, holding a candle, appeared from behind a rock! Tom lifted up a glorious shout, and instantly that hand was followed by the body it belonged to—Injun Joe’s! Tom was paralyzed; he could not move. He was vastly gratified the next moment, to see the “Spaniard” take to his heels and get himself out of sight. Tom wondered that Joe had not recognized his voice and come over and killed him for testifying in court. But the echoes must have disguised the voice. Without doubt, that was it, he reasoned. Tom’s fright weakened every muscle in his body. He said to himself that if he had strength enough to get back to the spring he would stay there, and nothing should tempt him to run the risk of meeting Injun Joe again. He was careful to keep from Becky what it was he had seen. He told her he had only shouted “for luck.”
But hunger and wretchedness rise superior to fears in the long run. Another tedious wait at the spring and another long sleep brought changes. The children awoke tortured with a raging hunger. Tom believed that it must be Wednesday or Thursday or even Friday or Saturday, now, and that the search had been given over. He proposed to explore another passage. He felt willing to risk Injun Joe and all other terrors. But Becky was very weak. She had sunk into a dreary apathy and would not be roused. She said she would wait, now, where she was, and die—it would not be long. She told Tom to go with the kite-line and explore if he chose; but she implored him to come back every little while and speak to her; and she made him promise that when the awful time came, he would stay by her and hold her hand until all was over.
Tom kissed her, with a choking sensation in his throat, and made a show of being confident of finding the searchers or an escape from the cave; then he took the kite-line in his hand and went groping down one of the passages on his hands and knees, distressed with hunger and sick with bodings of coming doom.

 

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