Lance Brett Hall

Stories Make Meaning. How Do We Make Stories?

Category: Culture

Happy 454th Birthday, Bill.


Today is the traditional date of Shakespeare’s birthday. I almost did a double take when I saw this news item from the BBC last week:

Kyrgyz mayor dons fake beard to tour city in disguise

The mayor of Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek says that he sometimes tours the city in disguise so that he can see people’s problems first-hand.

This is a plot device used by Shakespeare in Henry V, Act IV, Scene 1, when he asks Sir Thomas Erpingham, Lend me thy cloak, Sir Thomas. He then goes around in his own camp to find out what’s really going through his soldiers’ minds.

And people say Will doesn’t have anything to teach us anymore.

“St. Barbara’s Branch”, by Martin Greif


Yesterday’s Advent Calendar entry was a lovely, simple winter picture called Wintersonne“, “Winter Sun”. Today’s treat is a wonderful poem by Martin Greif (1839 – 1911). I admit, as an American Protestant, I had no idea what a St. Barbara’s Branch is. There’s not even an English Wikipedia entry, here are a few sections from the German article:

You Can’t Get Rid Of The Babadook


Warning: this post contains spoilers!

One of the many, many reasons I love Halloween is that it reminds me to watch a scary movie.

Horror isn’t usually my genre of choice. In the big picture, I love having a time of year when it’s all right to be spooky, to be scared, and to be cleverly morbid before we Give Thanks, and then celebrate Christmas.

In years past, Megan and I have fixed shortcomings in our movie knowledge, like watching The Exorcist. This year, she and I watched The Babadook.

By the Ice Machine of a Los Angeles Hotel


Megan and I are in Los Angeles this week for her research.

I saw this when I went to get ice:

Wrapped bouquet of flowers on top of a trash can

For a long time, I’ve wondered about images and storytelling. It seems like a big question: “Can an image tell a story?”

We talk about a story as a series of events unfolding in time: there’s a problem, an obstacle to solving that problem, and a solution to that problem. It’s rare and difficult to find all three present in the same static image.

Once in a while, though, there’s an image that’s so strong, that the mind can’t help filling in all the possible stories: Who gave the flowers? Why? Was it an apology? Why didn’t the recipient want them? Why did they end up discarded by the ice machine… with the plastic wrapper still on?

The mind is built for stories, and when it has a sense that there should be one, it starts to wander.

(Hat tip to my old friend Tom for inspiring the title.)