Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was the daughter of the University of California, Berkeley anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber, and writer Theodora Kracaw. She was born October 21, 1929, and died on Monday, January 22, 2018. Her writing has always challenged me and enthralled me.

Le Guin’s worlds are rich and varied, nd seem so real that you feel like you would know them if you were suddenly transferred there. Her characters are complex, and often seem to be trying to figure life out. She creates many characters of color, which are, or at least were, not usual in science fiction. Her later works especially reflect how women react with the world, when so much of science fiction is from the male point of view.

If you have never read her before, probably her most accessible work for a newcomer is the young adult Wizard of Earthsea, about a young wizard, Ged, who lives in a world with no major land masses but rather only islands. He is very talented, but has to learn the lessons of life the hard way, including accepting his shadow side.

Probably her most famous adult novel is Left Hand of Darkness, which explores the themes of sexuality on a distant planet where the inhabitants are androgynous. We learn about them gradually as the outsider studying their culture does.

One of her most ambitions works is Always Coming Home, which is a multimedia novel, including with the story a tape of songs and poetry from the novel’s world. Set in Northern California, the tale recounts the history of several peoples in the distant future. The society is peaceful, and matriarchal.

Le Guin has written short stores, novels, nonfiction works, poetry, book reviews, and screenplays. If you have never read her, do check her out. When she died this week, we lost a special storyteller.

Quotes by Ursula Le Guin

You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.

Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I’m going to go fulfill my proper function in the social organism. I’m going to unbuild walls.

As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul.

The creative adult is the child who has survived.

We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.

The light is the left hand of darkness.

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight on the empty sky.

Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren’t real, but they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books.

I do not care what comes after; I have seen the dragons on the wind of morning.

To be oneself is a rare thing, and a great one.

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.

Besides, when you say you’re a feminist it annoys the bigots and the old farts and the prissy ladies so much, it’s kind of irresistible.

There are no right answers to wrong questions.

What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.

What goes too long unchanged destroys itself.

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As someone who has loved Peanuts for a long time, I would be remiss if I didn’t celebrate Ludwig van Beethoven on his birthday. As Schroeder reminds us each year, Beethoven was born on December 16 in the year 1770. Beethoven is the predominant musical figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras. He showed talent at an early age, and was taught originally by his father, who was a court singer and alcoholic. Hoping his son would be another prodigy like Mozart, Johann worked him very hard. Indeed, he was actually abusive to the child. At the age of 10, Beethoven withdrew from school to study music full time with Christian Gottlob Neefe, the newly appointed Court Organist. As his father’s alcoholism worsened, young Johann took over as the breadwinner for the family. He was only fourteen. He studied off and on in Vienna, where among others, Haydn, and Salieri taught him. At the time, he was known mainly as a virtuoso pianist.

Turning to composing, he debuted his first symphony in 1800. It was also about this time that he realized he was going deaf. One of his best-known symphonies debuted in 1804. It was to have been dedicated to Napoleon, who at first was seen as a savior of the French, ending the reign of terror. But when he took the title of emperor, Beethoven struck out the dedication and called the Eroica, or heroic symphony. Also during this time, he composed operas, concertos, sonatas, and others. His very famous Symphony No. 5, was first performed in 1808. Before he could finish his tenth symphony, he died on March 26, 1827.

Do listen to some of his inspiring music today. You can find many, many on YouTube, including three of his symphonies here.

Quotes by Beethoven

What I have in my heart and soul – must find a way out. That’s the reason for music.

The vibrations on the air are the breath of God speaking to man’s soul. Music is the language of God. We musicians are as close to God as man can be. We hear his voice, we read his lips, we give birth to the children of God, who sing his praise. That’s what musicians are.

Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.

Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.

I wish you music to help with the burdens of life, and to help you release your happiness to others.

Life would be flat without music. It is the background to all I do. It speaks to the heart in its own special way like nothing else.

Then let us all do what is right, strive with all our might toward the unattainable, develop as fully as we can the gifts God has given us, and never stop learning

What will be the judgment a century hence concerning the lorded works of our favorite composers today? …  Then, let every man do that which is right, strive with all his might towards the goal which can never be obtained … For life is short, art eternal.

Music can change the world.

You ask me where I get my ideas. That I cannot tell you with certainty. They come unsummoned, directly, indirectly – I could seize them with my hands – out in the open air, in the woods, while walking, in the silence of the nights, at dawn, excited by moods which are translated by the poet into words, by me into tones that sound and roar and storm about me till I have set them down in notes.

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St. Nicholas Day

More widely commemorated in Europe than the States, we celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6. Nicholas was born sometime in the late third century C.E in the village of Patar, which was located on the southeastern coast of modern-day Turkey. He lost his parents at an early age to an epidemic. Taking seriously the command in the Bible to “sell all you have and give to the poor,” he spent the wealth left him in good deeds to the less fortunate. While still a young man, Nicholas became Bishop of Myrna. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Many stories and legends have grown up around Nicholas and his generosity. Many know the story about how he put dowry money in a shoe so poor girls could marry. If the story is unfamiliar to you, you can read it here.  It is thought that this story, at least, is likely true.

Another story tells that after his death, he appeared to a slave boy and brought him home.

The Saint Nicholas center tells us: “Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and much more. He did many kind and generous deeds in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint. … [He is ] patron of a great variety of persons-children, mariners, bankers, pawn-brokers, scholars, orphans, laborers, travelers, merchants, judges, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, children, sailors, victims of judicial mistakes, captives, perfumers, even thieves and murderers! He is known as the friend and protector of all in trouble or need”

Nicholas died on December 6, providing us the background legend that became Santa Claus.

Quotes about Christmas

While winter is white and cold and human hearts are warm, Christmas must continue to be the universal festival of peace and good will, the sacred season of love, the holiday of kindness.—Unknown

Which Christmas is the most vivid to me? It’s always the next Christmas.–Joanne Woodward

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.–Bob Hope

When the song of the angel is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost–
To heal the broken–
To feed the hungry–
To release the prisoner–
To rebuild the nations–
To bring peace among brothers and sisters–
To make music in the heart.–Howard Thurman

We worry about finding just the right gift, hanging just the right decorations, sending the right card. So many times I say I wish I could slow down, scale back, and reclaim the true meaning of Advent. The reality, though, is that I am the only one preventing that from happening.–Susan Hines-Brigger

We should try to hold on to the Christmas spirit, not just one day a year, but all 365.–Mary Martin

Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas. All else is outward display–so much tinsel and decorations. For it isn’t the holly, it isn’t the snow. It isn’t the tree not the firelight’s glow. It’s the warmth that comes to the hearts of men when the Christmas spirit returns again.—Anonymous

Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it “white”.–Bing Crosby

Three phrases that sum up Christmas are: Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, and Batteries not Included.—Unknown

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Mark Twain

Called by many “the Father of American Literature,” Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri. Clemens was born two months prematurely and was in relatively poor health for the first 10 years of his life. After the death of his father when he was eleven, he worked at several odd jobs in town, including printer’s apprentice. In 1857, 21-year-old Clemens began learning the art of piloting a steamboat on the Mississippi. A licensed pilot by 1859, he soon found regular employment plying the shoals and channels of the great river. It was a happy time in his life, but came to an end with the beginning of the Civil War, when most commercial voyages on the river stopped.

In 1861, he and his brother headed west. They stopped in Nevada where Clemens tried his hand at silver mining. When he failed to strike it rich, he returned to journalism, this time as a reporter. It was during this time that he became Mark Twain. In 1864, he moved to San Francisco and worked for various newspapers. When his short story “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” was published and widely circulated in 1865 by the Saturday Press of New York, Mark Twain became a nationally known humorist. His more well-known works followed soon afterwards, Innocents Abroad, Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn.

Mark Twain’s last 15 years were filled with public honors, including degrees from Oxford and Yale. Probably the most famous American of the late 19th century, he was much photographed and applauded wherever he went. Indeed, he was one of the most prominent celebrities in the world, traveling widely overseas, including a successful ’round-the-world lecture tour in 1895-’96, undertaken to pay off his debts. He died on April 21, 1910, and is buried in Elmira, New York.

Quotes by Mark Twain

Life is short, Break the Rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably And never regret ANYTHING That makes you smile.

Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.

Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.

It’s better to be an optimist who is sometimes wrong than a pessimist who is always right

Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.

The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.

The trouble with the world is not that people know too little; it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so.

To be great, truly great, you have to be the kind of person who makes the others around you great.

Great things can happen when you don’t care who gets the credit.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

Focus more on your desire than on your doubt, and the dream will take care of itself.

There is nothing so annoying as having two people talking when you’re busy interrupting.

Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

Our lives, our liberty, and our property are never in greater danger than when Congress is in session.

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

Just because you’re taught that something’s right and everyone believes it’s right, it don’t make it right.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

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Good Grief Day

Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip was born on November 26, 1922, and today we celebrate him and his creation. The original comic ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000. It continues today in many papers as reruns. All told, 17,897 strips were published. At its peak in the mid to late 1960s, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of around 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages. Not bad for a strip which debuted in only nine papers.

Schulz’s original strip had been called Lil Folks, but when it was picked up for syndication, United Features Syndicate changed the name to Peanuts, named after the peanut gallery in Howdy Doody. Schulz was not thrilled with the name change. Instead, he wanted to call the strip “Good Old Charlie Brown.”

I loved Peanuts growing up. My favorite character was always Snoopy in all his guises – the World War I flying ace. Joe Cool, and the author who never gets published. However, Charlie Brown is the one we always think of. The poor, hapless loser speaks to all of us, at least at certain times.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, which had its first broadcast in 1965, did not thrill network executives. They expected it to be shown once, and then disappear. Their pessimism stemmed from various concerns. The special cast children to play the voices of the characters and included a monologue for Linus in which he quotes the Bible. Instead, it won an Emmy and went on to become a beloved classic.

Schulz received the National Cartoonist Society Humor Comic Strip Award, the Reuben Award, the Elzie Segar Award, and the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award. Peanuts cartoon specials have received a total of two Peabody Awards and four Emmys.

Quotes by Charles Schulz

Be yourself. No one can say you’re doing it wrong.

Just thinking about a friend makes you want to do a happy dance, because a friend is someone who loves you in spite of your faults.

Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.

Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest. It’s all about the friend who comes and stands by your side in bad times.

There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people… Religion, Politics, and The Great Pumpkin.

I am not concerned with simply surviving. I am very concerned about improving. I start each day by examining yesterday’s work and looking for areas where I can improve. I am always trying to draw the characters better, and trying to design each panel somewhat in the manner a painter would treat his canvas.

Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’

In the Book of Life, The answers aren’t in the back.

I think I’ve discovered the secret of life – you just hang around until you get used to it.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it sure makes the rest of you lonely.

It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly, a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

In life, it’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with.

Exercise is a dirty word. Every time I hear it I wash my mouth out with chocolate.

It’s better to live one day as a lion than a dozen years as a sheep.

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Margaret Atwood

Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born November 18, 1939. She is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, and environmental activist. Most know her from her novels, however. The Handmaid’s Tale has recently boon in the news as Hulu recently ordered a television series based on the book, which premiered in late 2016. Many see the novel as politically relevant today, and it is certainly her best-known work. The story takes place in the near future when society has collapsed, and most women are infertile. Handmaids are fertile women assigned to households of the ruling elite theocracy in order to bear children for them. It is not an easy read.

Probably her next best-known work is the MaddAddam Trilogy, a series of three novels, Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and Maddaddam that deal with life after an ecological catastrophe.

Margaret Atwood mainly writes what she calls speculative fiction. She distinguishes it from science fiction, in that her novels concern themselves with things that could happen if current trends in our world would take a certain turn, or go to their logical conclusion.

One of her earlier novels, Alias Grace, was made into a series in Canada and is currently showing on Netflix. It is historical fiction, based on a true story, about a young maid accused of murder, who cannot remember what happened. A young doctor tries to help her remember to prove her innocence.

Atwood’s writing, in all her chosen genres, has always been clearly connected to global and personal politics; it particularly focuses on themes of environmental degradation, women’s roles in society, and the power dynamics of social organization.

Atwood has won an impressive array of awards for her writing, including the Nebula Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Booker Prize.

Quotes by Margaret Atwood

Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.

Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.

You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.

The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.

When I was young, I believed that “nonfiction” meant “true.” But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth — there may be several truths — but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.

Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, “It can’t happen here.” Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.

“Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. … “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said.

All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.

Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.

War is what happens when language fails.

Happiness is a garden walled with glass: there’s no way in or out. In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.

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Neil Gaiman

Neil Richard Gaiman, an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre, and films, was born on November 10, 1960. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you might recognize his name. I have mentioned him in various ways in multiple entries.

Neil Gaiman writes mostly in the fantasy field, but his style is wide ranging, from the sweetest fantasy to horror, and from preschool to adult. He began his fiction career with the graphic novel series, The Sandman. It tells the tale of the ageless, anthropomorphic personification of Dream. It is full of the mythology of many races, as well as literary allusions.

Along with Terry Pratchett, he wrote Good Omens, which is a story about an angel and a demon and the ending of the world, which doesn’t sound amusing but manages to be.

Myself and others were first introduced to his work from the miniseries Neverwhere about a world underneath London, peopled by all sorts of interesting beings.

But my favorites of his works are The Graveyeard Book for middle readers about a boy brought up by ghosts in a cemetery. Also, Anansi Boys about an ordinary young man who finds out he is the son of a god. American Gods asks the question “What happened to the gods that came to the new world with the settlers?” He also wrote arguably the best Doctor Who story of the new era “The Doctor’s Wife.”

There are so many more. He has won the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. His books and stories have also been honoured with 4 Hugos, 2 Nebulas, 1 World Fantasy Award, 4 Bram Stoker Awards, 6 Locus Awards, 2 British SF Awards, 1 British Fantasy Award, 3 Geffens, 1 International Horror Guild Award and 2 Mythopoeic Awards.

Do check him out. He is worth your time.

Quotes by Neil Gaiman

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.

You’re alive. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything.

THE MAGIC AND THE DANGER OF FICTION IS THIS: it allows us to see through other eyes. It takes us to places we have never been, allows us to care about, worry about, laugh with, and cry for people who do not, outside of the story, exist. There are people who think that things that happen in fiction do not really happen. These people are wrong.

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.

The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.

Read. Read anything. Read the things they say are good for you, and the things they claim are junk. You’ll find what you need to find. Just read.

A world in which there are monsters, and ghosts, and things that want to steal your heart is a world in which there are angels, and dreams and a world in which there is hope.

Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.

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King Tut Day

November 4 is the day we remember the boy king Tutankhamun because, on this date in 1922, Howard Carter discovered his tomb.

Tutankhamun was born circa 1341 B.C.E.. His father was likely Akhenaten, who had forbidden the worship of many gods in favor of worshiping one, Aten, the sun disk. This had led to much social unrest in Egypt of that time. Following a 17-year reign, he was gone, probably forced to abdicate, and died soon after. His nine-year-old son, Tutankhaten, took over around 1332 B.C.E. He married his half-sister Ankhesenpaaten, who was the same age as he was. The couple had two children, one a miscarriage, and the second stillborn.

Advised by his regent Ay, Tut undid the reforms of his father and reinstated the Egyptian pantheon. The action settled things down, and he seems to have ruled peacefully for about ten years until he suddenly died. The current thinking is that it was from infection from a broken bone, but no one really knows what happened. Tut was buried in a smaller tomb, likely because his own was not ready. However, shortly after his death, General Horemheb seized power and immediately set about wiping Tutankhamun’s name from the official records, He virtually disappeared from history until his tomb was discovered all those years later.

Because of the unexpected death of the young ruler, the tomb was apparently assembled hastily. The antechamber was piled high, in disarray, with gold-covered furniture and dismantled chariots. The annex was full of more gold covered furniture, jars of precious oils and ointments and also food and wine. The burial chamber contained the gold covered shrines and coffins of Tutankhamun.

And finally, for an irreverent look at King Tut, check out this video by Steve Martin from Saturday Night Live.

Quotes about King Tut, Egypt, and Pyramids

When I die, now don’t think that I’m a nut, don’t want no fancy funeral, just one like old King Tut.–Steve Martin

You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions. Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not. ‘Have you found joy in your life?’ ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’–Morgan Freeman

From the heights of these pyramids, forty centuries look down on us.–Napoleon Bonaparte

They say the Pharaohs built the pyramids Do you think one Pharaoh dropped one bead of sweat? We built the pyramids for the Pharaohs and we’re building for them yet.–Anna Louise Strong

The pyramid shape is said to hold many secrets and amazing properties. One of them is a sense of wonder.–Vera Nazarian

The pyramids, attached with age, have forgotten the names of their founders.–R. Buckminster Fuller

Today the traveller on the Nile enters a wonderland at whose gates rise the colossal pyramids of which he has had visions perhaps from earliest childhood.–James Henry Breasted

History fades into fable; fact becomes clouded with doubt and controversy; the inscription molders from the tablet: the statue falls from the pedestal. Columns, arches, pyramids, what are they but heaps of sand; and their epitaphs, but characters written in the dust?–Washington Irving

Pyramids, cathedrals, and rockets exist not because of geometry, theories of structures, or thermodynamics, but because they were first a picture- literally a vision-in the minds of those who built them.–Eugene S. Ferguson

Ancient astronauts didn’t build the pyramids. Human beings built the pyramids, because they’re clever and they work hard.–Gene Roddenberry

Build your own pyramids, write your own hieroglyphs.–Kendrick Lamar

A country, after all, is not something you build as the pharaohs built the pyramids, and then leave standing there to defy eternity. A country is something that is built every day out of certain basic shared values.–Pierre Trudeau

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Kublai Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

Those words, which begin the poem “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Coleridge Taylor, have always fascinated me. Since September 23 is Kublai Khan’s birthday, I decided to write about him today.

The grandson of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan was born in Mongolia in 1215. He was a general and an administrator when his brother died in 1260 when he named himself Great Khan and took control of the empire, which at this time stretched from the Caspian Sea east to the Pacific Ocean. After a civil war with another brother, Kublai eventually emerged victorious in 1264. Ariq Böke surrendered in Shangdu (also known as Xanadu) to Kublai. Kublai moved the capital to near modern-day Beijing, where he was a mainly benevolent ruler, setting up an administrative structure in keeping with local customs, improving infrastructure, implementing religious tolerance and introducing paper money for economic transactions.

Always fascinated by Chinese culture, in 1267 he set out to fulfill the dream of his grandfather and unite China, by subduing the Song Dynasty in southern China. It was a long campaign and involved learning new kinds of warfare, but by 1279, all China was under his control. However, this caused problems, since if he acted like a barbarian foreign conqueror, the Chinese would reject him, but the more he set things up on the Chinese model, the more he alienated his Mongol base. Consequently, the Yuan dynasty that he set up did not long survive his death in 1294. By 1368, they had gone back to Mongolia, but their legacy of a united China remained.

If the stories of Marco Polo are true, he met the Great Khan on his travels.

There don’t seem to be quotes by Kublai Khan, so here are some from his grandfather Genghis. I think they were much of a kind.

If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you

If you’re afraid – don’t do it, – if you’re doing it – don’t be afraid!

The strength of a wall is neither greater nor less than the courage of the men who defend it.

Not even a mighty warrior can break a frail arrow when it is multiplied and supported by its fellows. As long as you brothers support one another and render assistance to one another, your enemies can never gain the victory over you. But if you fall away from each other your enemy can break you like frail arrows, one at a time.

An action committed in anger is an action doomed to failure.

I hate luxury. I exercise moderation… It will be easy to forget your vision and purpose one you have fine clothes, fast horses and beautiful women. [In which case], you will be no better than a slave, and you will surely lose everything.

A leader can never be happy until his people are happy.

Conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.

There is no good in anything until it is finished.

Even when a friend does something you do not like, he continues to be your friend.

One of the joys of travel is visiting new towns and meeting new people.

Heaven grew weary of the excessive pride and luxury of China… I am from the Barbaric North. I wear the same clothing and eat the same food as the cowherds and horse-herders. We make the same sacrifices and we share … our riches. I look upon the nation as a new-born child and I care for my soldiers as though they were my brother.

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Roald Dahl Day

Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916, in Wales, to Norwegian parents, Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Dahl. He was named after the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen. He was educated in British public schools, which by the sounds were not much happier than the school attended later by his character Matilda. In World War II, he became a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force. After headaches bad enough to make him black out, he was sent as an attaché to the United States, where he helped promote British war interests.

After the war, he married actress Patricia Neal. The couple had five children, in a marriage that lasted thirty years. During this time, he became a writer. Though he also wrote tales for adults, he is mainly remembered for his children’s books. Dahl’s books are not subtle. There are the good guys – the child or children and a sympathetic adult – and the bad guys – most of the other adults. Children’s book critic Amanda Craig has said, “He was unequivocal that it is the good, young and kind who triumph over the old, greedy and the wicked.”

In 1961, Dahl published the book James and the Giant Peach. The book met with wide critical and commercial acclaim. Three years later, he published another big winner, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is my own personal favorite of his stories. Other popular stories are Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Witches, The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), and Matilda. He also wrote the screenplay for Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang. Dahl died in 1990 at the age of 74.

On September 13, schools take part is The Dahlicious Dress up Day, which helps support Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity. They provide financial aid and other assistance for seriously ill children.

Quotes by Roald Dahl

Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world. (Matilda)

Bunkum and tummyrot! You’ll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that. Would Columbus have discovered America if he’d said ‘What if I sink on the way over? What if I meet pirates? What if I never come back?’ He wouldn’t even have started! (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator)

You should never, never doubt something that no one is sure of. (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. (The Minpins)

Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable. (Matilda)

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. (The Twits)

“Anyone can ask questions,” said Mr. Wonka. “It’s the answers that count.” (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator)

Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything. Those buildings. These lights. This whole city. Somebody had to dream about it first. And maybe that is what I did. I dreamed about coming here, but then I did it. (James and the Giant Peach)

I’ve heard tell that what you imagine sometimes comes true. (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you. (The Witches)

A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men. (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place, you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall. (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

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