Category Archives: A Dude’s Guide To The Awesome!

In Memoriam: Sir Terry Pratchett

The sun is a little less brighter today. The sky a little less blue. The spring blooms a little more drab. Sir Terry Pratchett is dead.
At age 66, Sir Terry died yesterday after a long battle against early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the debilitating dementia, Sir Sir Terry PratchettTerry managed to continue writing books, each one of them filled with the righteous anger and sparkling wit that first drew him to the attention of his adoring reading public all those many decades ago.This man quite literally changed for the better how I view the world. I have him to thank for my ability to look at the most mundane thing and possibly find something magic within. His sense of humor is so deeply intertwined with my own, I’m surprised when I find something funny and realize he didn’t actually produce it. He was strong, friendly, supportive, angry at all the right people and causes, loving and more productive than almost any writer alive.

I realize that not many of you might know of Sir Terry, but he was, in my opinion, the finest English-language satirist of all time. His crowning achievement was the 40-books-full Discworld braid. It wasn’t a series, because the books weren’t necessarily designed to be read in any certain order. But they weren’t all stand-alone books either as each one used characters from other books. It was like life: Messy, busy and chock full of more amazing things than most people could find with both hands, a map and a GPS.

There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.

On the surface, the Discworld looked a lot like pre-industrial England, had a social structure of about the same, with lords and ladies and serfs and all, and resembled just about every single fantasy novel that had ever been written prior to Sir Terry beginning his work. You see, he enjoyed nothing more than taking the tropes and cliches of fantasy literature and subjecting them to the burning eye of daylight. He liked to rip away the cover of darkness, find the pomposity lurking underneath the silliness, and begin poking at it with very large, pointed sticks.

It was several books in to his Discworld braid that Sir Terry began to realize that the Discworld didn’t have to content itself with skewering only fantasy tropes, when there were so many cliches, so many horrible wardrobe choices, so many appalling people right outside his window that deserved to be finely skewered and roasted over the slow-burning coals of satire.

And it all started with the Discworld. A flat disc or a world, the round Discworld rested atop four gigantic elephants, which, in turn, stood astride a humongous turtle that swam through the depths of space. As silly as that seems, it once was one of the theories of what the actual Earth actually looked like. I like it much better when it’s serving as home to the characters that made these books come alive.

I have no use for people who have learned the limits of the possible.

There was a wizzard (spelled correctly. If you don’t believe me, just look at the man’s pointy hat.) who couldn’t do magic because one of the eight great spells that created the universe has set up camp inside his head and is blocking all lesser spells from getting in.

A clothing wardrobe named Luggage, with hundreds of horrible little legs, a snapping lid with a penchant for closing on the fingers (and toes and entire arms or legs) of the unwary, and a surprisingly lively love life for something that’s supposed to follow its owner around and give out fresh clothing.

A young girl who saves her brother and single-cast-iron-pandedly holds off an invasion of faeries. Although she did have a little help from a tribe of loud, unruly, frequently drunk, frequently cursing blue men of incredible strength. And each of them less than two inches tall.

And, of course, DEATH. The personification of death on the Discworld looked astonishingly like our idea of death: skull face, bony fingers, long black robe, large scythe. All the trimmings. But DEATH had an unusual fondness for the humans of Discworld, which, sadly, often didn’t turn out all that well.

The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head.
And then there was the tribe of mice who became intelligent and learned to talk once they ate garbage from the dump out back of the Unseen University, the Discworld’s preeminent school of magic. The mice would travel from town to town, breaking into homes and messing up the place. In each town, though, a young boy and cat would appear and offer to chase the mice away for a payment. Once the job was finished, the boy and the cat, who, after a delicious encounter with one of the mice, suddenly found himself able to speak and think and was far less hungry, would meet up with the mice and split the loot.

As much as I loved Sir Terry and his work, as much joy and wonder and wisdom and laughter as I found within the pages of his books, I wouldn’t be writing about him here if it weren’t for one thing. Sir Terry created some of the most amazing young reader books ever written.

The Wee Free Men (starring the aforesaid blue men) and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (starring the aforesaid intelligent mice, intelligent cat and a boy) were a revelation when I read them out loud.

See, when the Spawn of Our Loins were young, I used to sit with them for an hour every night and read to them from whatever book caught my eye or theirs. I would read them out loud, often using outrageous (and outrageously bad) accents. But it was with these two books that I really hit my stride. We all laughed so hard we had to stop and catch our breath nearly every page.

I urge you to please, if you have youngish children, or even kids who just love a good read, go out and get copies of these books right now. I’m frequently asked for recommendations for kids to read. No matter the gender of the child, I will recommend these books by Sir Terry and I’ve never heard one complaint, only thank you and please tell me there are more.The world is a better place for Sir Terry’s having been in it, and a poor one for him having left. But he did leave behind a legacy of laughter and love and wisdom that will stand the test of time and be delighting readers for centuries to come.

And you can get in on the ground floor of that. Go buy one of his books. Read it. Laugh and you can thank me later.

So much universe, and so little time.

March 13, 2015 8:21 am
Written by: Richard E.D. Jones

 

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Help Choose Year’s Most Amazing Wildlife Photo

Screw the thousand words. Some of these pictures are worth a set of encyclopedia all by themselves.

Mostly because I had a son who always wanted to see more pictures of an learn more about the animals of the world, I’ve had a soft spot for amazing wildlife pictures.

'Shoaling Reef Squid' by Tobias Bernhard
‘Shoaling Reef Squid’ by Tobias Bernhard

Apparently, I’m not alone.

For the past 50 years, the fine folks over at the National History Museum in United Kingdom have collected together some of the best examples of wildlife photography every year. This leads to the selection of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year and a truly stunning gallery exhibition.

This year, the Natural History Museum is allowing you (and, oddly, me) the opportunity to help choose the People’s Choice for best wildlife photograph of the year.

'Feel Safe' by Juan Carlos Mimó Perez
‘Feel Safe’ by Juan Carlos Mimó Perez

Vote for your favourite image from the WPY 2014 People’s Choice collection.

Our jury has chosen 50 of the best images from the 2014 competition shortlist. Which one captures your imagination?

Browse the images in this gallery and select the Vote button to make your choice. Choose carefully as you only have one vote.

Voting closes on 5 September 2014. The winning image will be revealed in October.

Share your favourite with @NHM_WPY on Twitter using the hashtag

'Shoulder Check' by Henrik Nilsson
‘Shoulder Check’ by Henrik Nilsson

#MyWPY and you could win a copy of 50 Years of Wildlife Photographer of the Year: How Wildlife Photography Became Art, published by the Natural History Museum.

I’ll be honest with you dudes. I just spent an hour or so flipping through the gallery with my mouth hanging open in astonishment. These are some freaking awesome pictures, dudes.

My major problem with them is that I enjoyed them all so much I had an exceedingly difficult time choosing which one I should vote for.

StargazerEventually, though, I settled on one that just seemed to speak to me.

Okay, not exactly speak to me, but it certainly had a striking visual that just made me stare. And stare. Eventually, though, I blinked and lost the staring contest.

Seriously, dudes, if you’ve got some time and want to feed your brain and your sensawonder a bit, head on over to the gallery and look for your favorite.

Also, a very happy birthday to my father-in-law, The Italian. He’s the man behind the best, most-flavorful spaghetti sauce in the world and I’m a very fortunate man to have him in my family.


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Lego My Movie*

Build your own world.

That’s what I love about Lego bricks. You grab a bunch of plastic slabs of all sizes and shapes, start smacking them together and you can make, well, anything.

Of course, most of what I made consisted of large plastic brick-shaped things of varying thicknesses that I pretended were something else because I’m not really all that good with creating stuff out of interlocking plastic bricks. Still, I understand that there are people who are pretty good at that sort of thing.

They’re probably the ones who got hired to help make The LEGO® Movie. Yes, there really is such a thing. And, to tell the truth, it looks AMAZING!

It’s not an hour and a half of little dudes and dudettes sitting around looking for the yellow brick. No, not that one. The one with the six bumps. No, that one has a square end on both sides, you idiot. I’m talking about the one with the slanted off- Yes. That one. The one you were sitting on the whole time.

Because, frankly, that would be stupid.

This The LEGO® Movie is a whole lot better looking than that second paragraph back. I started laughing out loud several times during the trailer and that’s always a good sign. And Batman is funny. Really funny. Who’da thunk it?

As a parent, I’m giving ya’ll this heads up so you also can be ready to withstand the barrage of “WANTWANTWANTWANT!” when the movie finally comes out. This way you’ll know what the little dude is screaming about and you might even be just as geeked up to see the show.

I know I am.

*That’s two. . . two pop-culture references in one.**
*And that was a third.***
***That one was just a postscript. No references about it. Sorry. Don’t know why I included that one. Or this one, really. Guess I just got on a roll and couldn’t stop myself. You know? Yeah, right. Probably not.


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