Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fantastic Writing

At this moment my wife is sitting in the living room watching Lord of the Rings. I tried watching it when it first came out, but fell asleep, and have had no further interest in watching the others. I also fell asleep watching the first Harry Potter movie, and have not wanted to see the others.

Fantasy as a genre in literature and movies has never interested me much. It seems far too easy to just make up stuff that doesn't make sense, starting from almost any premise or situation, and just keep writing until you have enough to make a book or a movie. For instance:
The Gargon of Morillaland has absconded with the magic Feuerstalk and taken it across the river Fluss, leaving the little people of Imp Valley in mortal danger of attack by the fearsome Giganticus. According to the Scroll of Profesius, only the long-awaited Mesheah, a descendant of the legendary Gutmensch, has the power to overcome the Curse of Gewhilakers that prevents the Impantile Army from traversing the mighty Fluss to confront Gargon and recover their beloved icon, but to date there has been no sign of Mesheah making an appearance.
Lawdy! What's they gwine to do???

I could write another 3000 pages and make millions on the movie rights. Will I? Ummm. I don't think so.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Here is some news from theSuperhuman Achievement department.

There's been an interesting development in connection with Across the Years, the race I love so much and help to present at the end of every year. We learned that we will be honored by the participation of Greek ultrarunner Yiannis Kouros (who now lives in Australia), inarguably the greatest ultrarunner who has ever lived, one of those miraculous people whose successes are so outstanding that they may never be matched.

It's difficult to explain to non-runners the magnitude of this man's running accomplishments. He owns every world record from 50K up to 1000 miles, some of them by margins so vast it seems doubtful that anyone will ever approach them. His web site says he presently holds 134 world records. He wins every race he enters, always by phenomenal amounts, and has done so since the first time he ever ran an ultra.

Whenever he enters a race, the other runners accept that Yiannis will be the winner, and feel honored just to be in the same race with the man.

At age 49 Kouros is still extremely active as a runner, although he also does other things. In late November he broke his own six-day record at a race in Australia, beating the runners who was in second place by 132 miles. Think about that one for a while!! Imagine being a world class competitor at superlong distances and running your heart out for six continuous days to keep ahead of the other world class competitors who are hot on your heels -- but being beaten by a margin of 132 miles. On a standard 400-meter track, where this race was held, that means the second guy was lapped 531 times by Kouros.

These days most of the records that Kouros sets out to conquer are his own, many set when he was much younger. Kouros wants to come to our race to round out his big most recent world record setting year by breaking the record for 300 miles (about 2.5 days), and then just cruise. Given that last year's winner John Geesler has set his own goal of 350 miles for the race, Yiannis will have someone to push him from behind for a change.

Yiannis is now married, has a couple of children, has a degree in history, has been an ardent poet since childhood, is a composer and singer with a couple of albums out (I believe Greek popular music), has written a couple of books, paints, travels, lectures on physical fitness, has made some movies, and rarely sleeps more than three hours a day.

To describe him as the Michael Jordan or the Babe Ruth of ultrarunning would be to greatly undervalue his accomplishments. He's way better than that. Meeting and running in the same race with him will be more like meeting a Beatle. There has never been a runner like him, and may never be again. And he's coming to run in our race.

We'll have a webcam going during the race. We've already tried and tested it. The race goes from 9:00am December 29, 2005 to 9:00am January 1, 2006. Come join us virtually!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Eye Sea Warts

... or maybe the title should be Icy Wards.

When I hear or speak words, I see them spelled out in my head. Similarly, when I read I tend to see the letters in individual words, so that when called upon to read out loud, I rarely mispronounce words, unless I am outright unfamiliar with them.

Until recently, I have always supposed everyone does likewise. Upon inquiring of some other literate people, I was surprised to find that no one else I asked sees words.

Yesterday I heard my favorite NPR commentator Daniel Schorr use a word I have seen written but have never used myself, nor ever heard pronounced: "colloquy", which is a conversation or a dialogue, particularly one that is formal or written down.

I was surprised to hear him say it with the first syllable accented, for until yesterday I had heard it in my head with the accent on the second syllable, as in the word "colloquialism." Nonetheless, I saw the spelled-out word flash up in my head as with a red flag, because I knew the word's meaning, but its pronunciation turned out to be different from what I expected. (Many listeners probably know neither.)

A quick check of an on-line dictionary verifies the venerable Mr. Schorr's pronunciation to be spot on.

At the same time I considered it to be a delightful coincidence that it was that particular word that would serve to demonstrate my apparently anomalous tendency, in that it gave me an opportunity to develop this blog entry on the topic, a blog itself being essentially a form of colloquy.

As I am writing this, I hear in my head Daniel Schorr's precise and fatherly voice reading it back to me. (Dream on!) Will my quirkiness never cease?

I'm glad we had this little colloquy.