Magic Mushrooms

fantasia-disneyscreencaps.com-1733

The Daily Prompt word-of-the-day is Mushroom

There are two literary references to mushrooms that immediately come to mind: the mushroom upon which sat the Caterpillar in Alice Through the Looking Glass and the basket of mushrooms given to Frodo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring.

I was young when I read both stories and was bothered by the fact that magic came in the form of a mushroom. At the time, I did not like mushrooms and thought that biting into one was too high a price to pay for fantasy. I certainly could not see why the hobbits were so greedy for them. A nice, tasty basket of strawberries would have been more agreeable. However, in the hands of Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane, the mushroom motif made more sense.

I had a book of fairy tales that showed illustrations of little creatures such as mice, rabbits, fairies, and brownies sitting on or under mushrooms. There were even tiny mushroom houses. Those pictures indelibly linked mushrooms with magic in my mind. At one time, I wanted to live in a little mushroom (but not eat it.)

I wonder why mushrooms are so cute. Walt Disney animated them in the movie Fantasia. Perfect. One of my favorite sequences. I wonder why that is.

(Note to self: Think about the magic of mushroom–but not the ones from Grace Slick. Those are scary.)

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Clark and the Great Honk

Car Show

The Great Honk was pleased. He eased himself down the side street and slipped into his assigned place. Quietly he opened his door and popped his hood. The crowd milled around him; no one noticed he was…

“Late again. That’s the third time in three years.”

The Great Honk swore under his breath. There was Clark the cat holding a clipboard in his paw, standing in front of him. Rats!

“Don’t tell me you were stuck in Lodi again,” said Clark. “What was it this time? Carburetor? Fuel pump? You know all contestants must be in working condition. No junk cars allowed at the show.”

“No, no, there was no car trouble,” the Great Honk protested. “I swear that everything is in working order.”

“Then why are you late? It was Lodi, wasn’t it?”

The Great Honk nodded.

“Good grief! Was it hitchhikers?”

At this the Great Honk looked indignant.

“Of course, not! I never do hitchhikers…except for this one young couple; the girl was so cute with her long black braids. But other than that, no.”

“Well, then, what is it?” asked Clark.

The Great Honk sighed and rolled his headlights heavenward.

“The meat market,” he said.

“WHAT?”

“To be precise, The Lakewood Meats & Sausage German Dakota Style House Made Sausage in Lodi.”

“I don’t believe it! You are late because of sausages?”

“Not just any sausages—the best sausages ever! Ambrosia in a pig casing! Here, I’ll prove it.”

The Great Honk started his motor. Exhaust began pouring out of the tailpipe.

“Just take a whiff of that,” he cried.

Clark went to the back of the truck and sniffed tentatively.

“Hmm…is that smoked pork I smell, with a touch of jalapeno?”

He sniffed again.

“I’m starting to detect a whiff of bratwurst—no, make that weisswurst. You had weisswurst!”

“Oh, yes. And bangers and beer and links and pretzels!”

Clark stood back and tapped his clipboard.

“Well, I can understand why you got stuck in Lodi, but you are still late.”

“Please don’t disqualify me. I’ve traveled all the way from Sacramento for this show. There must be something…say, if you look behind my seat, you’ll find something rather interesting.”

Clark eyed the Great Honk with suspicion. He reached behind the front seat, pulled out a small basket, and peeked inside. There, in a luscious display of porcine pulchritude, were sausages of every kind: beef bratwurst, smoked pork and beef bratwurst, bangers, and links, crowned with regal ropes of weisswurst.

The Great Honk blinked his headlamps.

“There’s more than enough to share with a friend,” he said.

“You are aware, aren’t you, that bribing a judge can get you disqualified,” said Clark sternly.

The Great Honk sputtered.

“I only meant…why, no, I never suggested…that is…oh, bother!”

Clark tossed aside his clipboard and dived into the basket.

“It’s a good thing I’m not a judge,” he said.

“I thought you were.”

“Nope,” said Clark, smacking his lips and licking his paws.
“Then why the clipboard?”

“Oh, I just like carrying one around. You never know when it will come in handy.”

 
Daily Prompt: Honk

The Daffodils’ Riff

Daffodils copyI wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
William Wordsworth 1807

 

Ever since Wordsworth immortalized the dance of the daffodils in verse, the little flowers have taken their dances seriously. They consider it their responsibility ensure “the bliss of solitude” that fills a poet’s heart with pleasure. So every year, the daffodils hold a contest among themselves for creating the best riff on the original dance of 1807.

As the years have gone by, the riffs have changed to reflect the times; nonetheless, the original movements of the dance viewed by Wordsworth must be included. For the most part, the contestants have adhered to the rules with few exceptions. (There was the scandal of the “petal malfunction” in 2004, but it’s best to leave that in the past.)

In 1940, there was a dispute over the waltz, inspired by the Disney movie Fantasia. Some of the judges felt any waltz steps would make it seem like the daffodils were trying to mimic the flowers in the film. Daffodils, as every knows, never idolize or imitate anyone. In the end, the waltz was abandoned for five years, after which time it was considered free from any comparison to Fantasia.

There are four judges each year. They retain their posts until they die, wilt, are plucked up, mown over, trampled upon, or are eaten by gophers. If a judge gets too crabby (which rarely occurs), it is quietly poisoned, and another judge takes its place. Overall, they are a cheery group.

This is the time of year when the contestants are practicing their riffs for the upcoming spring of 2018. Rumor has it that the movie Hidden Figures has inspired a number of new and unusual moves. It should be an interesting exposition.

Daily Prompt:Riff

Curious Cats Do Strut

Matisse-Cat

The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Strut . Friday’s are the days l like to write about authors and books connected to the prompt. Today’s word reminded me of two writers, a poet, and a singer/songwriter. The first offering is by T. S. Eliot and the second is by Brian Setzer. I hope you enjoy their works.

Rum Tum Tugger by T. S. Eliot ~ Cats

The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:
If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he’d rather have a house.
If you set him on a mouse then he only wants a rat.
If you set him on a rat then he’d rather chase a mouse.
Yes, the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any call for me to shout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He’s always on the wrong side of every door,
And as soon as he’s at home, then he’d like to get about.
He likes to lie in the bureau drawer,
But he makes such a fuss if he can’t get out.

Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any use for you to doubt it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious beast:
His disobliging ways are a matter of habit.
If you offer him fish, then he always wants a feast.
When there isn’t any fish, then he won’t eat rabbit.
If you offer him cream, then he sniffs and sneers,
For he only likes what he finds for himself;

So you’ll catch him in it right up to the ears,
If you put it away on the larder shelf.
The Rum Tum Tugger is artful and knowing,
The Rum Tum Tugger doesn’t care for a cuddle;
But he’ll leap on your lap in the middle of your sewing,
For there’s nothing he enjoys like a horrible muddle.
Yes the Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat–
And there isn’t any need for me to spout it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there’s no doing anything about it!

Stray Cat Strut by Brian Selzer ~“The Stray Cats”

Black and orange stray cat sittin’ on a fence,
I ain’t got enough dough to pay the rent.
I’m flat broke, but I don’t care.
I strut right by with my tail in the air.

Stray cat strut, I’m a ladies cat.
I’m a feline Casanova, hey man, that’s that.
Get a shoe thrown at me from a mean old man.
Get my dinner from a garbage can.

Don’t go crossing my path.

I don’t bother chasing mice around.
I slink down the alleyway looking for a fight,
Howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night.
Singin’ the blues while the lady cats cry,
“Wild stray cat, you’re a real gone guy.”
I wish I could be as carefree and wild,
But I got cat class and I got cat style.

(Note to self: My sister recently pointed out how many expressions we get from cats: cat nap, pussyfoot, hightail it, scaredy cat, curiosity killed the cat.)

Dancing King

WaterBuffalo

“The best things happen while you’re dancing…”

Life at Cabela’s

“So, Mrs. Satterwaite, where did you meet your husband?”

“I met him at a roadhouse—you know the one out on Patterson? It burned down several years ago.”

“Of course. Velma’s.

“Yes. Anyway, as I was saying, my girlfriends and I usually went dancing on Saturday night, and one night we decided to go to Velma’s. Mr. Satterwaite was there that night with some of his friends. I remember thinking how handsome he was when suddenly he walked over to our table and asked me to dance.”

“How thrilling!”

“Oh, it was, it was! And he was an incredible dancer. But so fresh.”

“How so?”

“He asked me what my name was. When I told him, it was Virginia, he said, ‘Well, I’ll call you Virgin for short but not for long.’”

“He didn’t! It’s a good thing your name wasn’t Hortense.”

“Isn’t it, though? I would have left him then and there, but he was such a beautiful dancer. He was just like Fred Astaire with Frank Sinatra looks. We started dating after that during the winter months.”

“Why just the winter months?”

“I broke up with him every summer because I wanted to go traveling. That went on for three years until one day in April, he asked me if I was going to break up with him again. I told him I probably would. He said, ‘Would you like to get married instead?’ I said that sounded fine, so we were married the following November. He danced beautifully at our wedding.”

“Do you still go out dancing?”

“Are you kidding? Now we just hang out at home.”

Daily Press word of the day:Dancing

Trivial Kindness

Kleitsch-Autumn

“There are no trivial acts of kindness; they are all of them quite large. However unobtrusive they try to be, they cannot conceal their magnificence. But do not praise them overmuch lest their humility makes them disappear altogether.”

Master Altman ~ The Book of Rhino

Martian Neighbor

The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Neighbors. This calls for a poem by Craig Raine about our Martian neighbors.

 

Devin-Village

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings–

They cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek with pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on the ground;

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.

Modelt T is a room with the lock inside–
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anythings missed.

But time is tide to the wrist
of kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to supper
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone’s pain has a different smell.

At night, when all the colors dies
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves–
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

Craig Raine 1979

Clark and the Identity

Horses-Mobius

The sound of footsteps behind him interrupted Clark’s morning constitutional. It was Mole.

“Clark,” Mole panted, waving a piece of paper. “I’m so glad I caught you. I have a trigonometry problem that has me stumped.”

Clark took the paper from Mole’s hand.

“Hmm,” he said, after a few seconds. “It looks like a matter of identity. The tangent squared has an identity involving secant squared. If you use that, it should do the trick.”

“What’s an identity?” asked Mole.

“In mathematical terms, it’s equivalent expressions; that is, one can be substituted for another without getting arrested by the math police. Identities are very handy. When one expression proves difficult or impossible to manage, one can often use another, if together they form an identity.”

“Sort of like synonyms?”

“Well, not exactly. Substituting a synonym in writing can subtly change the meaning of the text. Identities are virtually one and the same, like ideological extremes.”

Mole looked puzzled.

“Explain, please,” she said.

“It’s like this,” said Clark. “Imagine a neutral point which favors neither side of an issue and a line going through the point. People then line up on either side of the point according to their opinion about the issue. The distance they are from the neutral point represents their commitment to the rightness of their opinion and the wrongness of the opposing opinion.”

“I get the picture. The closer people line up to the neutral point, the more accepting they are of different opinions. But don’t lines extend into infinity? I can see people on either side heading into greater and greater extremes without an end.”

“That would be the case, except when the line begins to curve. I think that is what happens in the case of ideologies. On either side of the neutral point, the line eventually curves and the two extremes end up touching each other. They become an identity, two sides of the same coin. Political opposites eventually become fused together, back to back.”

“How dreadful! You become your enemy!”

Clark shrugged.

“It’s only one cat’s opinion, but as an observer of real world phenomena, I have seen enough evidence to conclude that it is true.”

“Does that mean that people can’t have different opinions or viewpoints about things?”

“Oh, no, difference is not the problem—it’s the extremity that bends the line into a curve. Once the two extremes touch, they become an identity, bound together by hatred. Moreover, because they are back to back, neither can see the other’s reflection in themselves.”

“So how can one keep from going around the bend?”

“My recommendation—and mind, it’s only a recommendation—is to always make sure you can reach across the neutral point and shake hands with one another in mutual respect, courtesy, and understanding. Now, do you think you can solve that trigonometry problem?”

“Oh, yes. Thank you.”

Clark finished his morning constitutional.

Expectations

 

Kleitsch-Older NedI do not write poetry. However, once in a while I like to share another writer’s great verses. The following was written by Thomas Hardy in 1926.

He Never Expected Much

Well, World, you have kept faith with me,

Kept faith with me;

Upon the whole you have proved to be

Much as you said you were.

Since as a child I used to lie

Upon the leaze and watch the sky,

Never, I own, expected I

That life would all be fair.

My childhood expectations were different from those of Thomas Hardy, for which I am thankful. They changed soon enough in adulthood so I am glad my childhood was unencumbered by the World according to Hardy. Not everyone is so fortunate.

World, I am not amused with you right now.

(NOTE: A leaze is a pasture.)

 

 

 

Tontine

Waterhouse-Diogenes

I am currently reading The Tontine, a two-volume novel by Thomas B. Costain, published in 1955. Two brief facts: Thomas Costain was born in Ontario, Canada in 1885 and died in New York City in 1965. A tontine, according to Webster’s dictionary, is “an annuity scheme in which subscribers share a common fund with the benefit of survivorship, the survivors’ shares being increased as the subscribers die, until the whole goes to the last survivor.”

That is the only quote I am providing because The Tontine is a destination, not a journey book. It’s a page-turner in the sense that one keeps reading to see what happens; but it is not a page-stopper in that there are no memorable spiritual or philosophical gems over which to ponder. Costain wrote in a similar manner in The Silver Chalice and The Darkness and the Dawn; it’s straightforward storytelling without any stops along the way for a cup a tea at an old mill.

The Tontine, however, takes a diversion into another country with two of the characters. I am not too keen on diversions; I don’t know how much information about a new setting and new characters I should retain for future reference. If something about the diversion is central to the plot, I will have to go back and re-read it, something I don’t like to do with a destination book. It is a non-preferred activity.

A tontine itself is an interesting concept for a story. One knows from the beginning that there will be only one survivor; the question is whom will it be? In reading about a tontine, one must settle in for a decades-long story. If the storyteller is skillful (as Costain is), the reader will make an emotional investment in his or her favorite character and will want to see them win.

(Note to self: I don’t think George R. R. Martin would do well with a tontine—he kills off so many characters, it’s not worth caring about them.)

(Note to self: That is an uncharitable remark. The chemo must be getting to me.)

That is all I have to say about The Tontine. Why belabor the point?