Elegance

Rococo

What a knack there is to that
Acting like a born aristocrat
We got elegance, if you ain’t got elegance
Y
ou can never ever carry it off.
(Excerpt from the song “Elegance” by Jerry Herman from the musical Hello, Dolly!)

Elegance is defined as the quality of being graceful or stylish in appearance or manner. I wonder how important it is to the human race. Are people more likely to value others for how elegant they consider them? Can elegant people carry off behavior that non-elegant people cannot? Are some people naturally elegant? Can elegance be acquired?

I refuse to imitate elegance in order to be socially acceptable. I expect to be valued for qualities such as honesty, integrity, kindness, and good table manners. When I am in public, I take care to avoid any behavior that makes other people uncomfortable; I don’t shout, burp, throw things, or overturn apple carts in the hope that my efforts are enough be agreeable. I was at a nice restaurant one time, dancing on the dance floor, when a woman, for some reason, lifted her top, exposing her breasts bouncing around in time to the beat. I don’t do things like that. To attempt to be elegant is, for me, an exercise in disingenuousness. I have not been born with outward elegance, and I’m not going to fake it.

On the other hand, elegance is also defined as the quality of being ingenious in function and/or design. I love that kind of elegance. I rejoice in the elegance of a mathematical proof. If someone finds an elegant solution to a complex problem, I kiss the hem of his or her garment. An elegant thought process is enough to herald the Rapture. That’s the kind of elegance I can sink my teeth into.

(Note to self: Can one sink one’s teeth–figuratively speaking– into the elegance of ingenuity? Re-read Nisbett’s book Intelligence and How to Get It for some ideas.)

But, on the other hand, what do I know? I suspect that being elegant is related to being beautiful. It may be that elegance, like beauty, is a superficial quality that a select few are born with. Or not. I am going to have to think about it. Perhaps I will formulate an elegant hypothesis and proof. I would love that!

Daily Prompt:Elegance

Advertisements

Saints and Aints

Homer-Beach Boys

(Rhino Between the Lines)

“What does it mean to be saintly?” asked Amalia.

“It means to be like a saint,” Elbert replied.

“What’s a saint?”

“What! Don’t you know what a saint it?” said Skandar. “I thought everyone knew that.”

Amalia shrugged.

“A saint is a holy person, someone real religious. They pray and fast all the time and do good works.”

“How can they survive if they fast all the time?”

“Well, they don’t do it all the time; they just do it enough so everyone knows they are saints.”

“If course,” said Elbert, “people usually aren’t considered saints until after they’re dead. You have to look at how they lived over their entire lifetime.”

“Then are some people born saints? I mean, how do you know? Can someone not be born a saint and turn into one later on?”

“I guess so,” said Wilfred. “You see, there are saints and there are ‘ain’ts’. If at first you ain’t a saint, you could become one later if you work at it. On the other hand, you could start off like a saint and end up like an ‘ain’t.”

Amalia laughed.

“That’s funny,” she said. “Which would you rather be?”

“Right now, I would rather be an ‘ain’t’,” said Skandar, “’cause I smell fresh-baked buns. That puts a fellow off fasting for a while.”

“Do you have to fast to be a saint?”

“Well…it does help,” said Elbert, “but I think you can make up for it by doing extra good works.”

“Great! I will share my buns with all of you,” said Skandar. “Just make sure you record it somewhere so people will think I’m a saint.”

“You ain’t a saint just because you share a bun or two,” said Wilfred. “You have to do something good every day for the rest of your life. You would have to share your buns everyday until you die.”

“All right, I will. Wilfred, Amalia, and Elbert, you may have whatever buns life sends my way.”

“So, you promise to give away all your buns?” asked Amalia. “You won’t save any for yourself?”

“I won’t need to,” said Skandar. “Saint Amalia, Saint Elbert, and Saint Wilfred will all share their buns with me.”

Daily Prompt:Saintly

Old Sole

Route 66 Car

I have been young, and now I am old, old enough to tell my story, old enough to have a story to tell. When I was young, I saw my life running along a familiar route; but now I see that I have been traveling along a curve of unique and unexpected twists.

Age, with all its wrinkles, dings, and scratches, has at least one advantage over youth. Age wears the Patina of accumulated years, years which give an old soul greater perspective based on experience. I know the road. It’s worn me down a bit, but I ain’t dead yet.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. What about the thousands of words a picture inspires? I think they would be interesting to read.
The Book of Rhino

Performing Selves

The Daily Prompt is the word Sparkle. For some reason, it reminded me of something Susan Cain wrote in her book Quiet regarding the rise of the Extrovert Ideal.

Around the turn of the twentieth century…America had shifted from what influential cultural historian Warren Susman called a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality—and opened up a Pandora’s Box of personal anxieties from which we would never recover.

In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private. The word personality didn’t exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of “having a personality” was not widespread until the twentieth.

But when they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining.

“The social role demanded of all in the new Culture of Personality was that of a performer,” Susman famously wrote. “Every American was to become a performing self.”

Personally, I do not mind all the “performing selfs” out there. What I do mind is my expected participation in the performance. I will sparkle in no one’s play.

My ship is sailing to Byzantium. It may even have landed there. But I am not going to live in the city. I will build myself a little hut on the shore and watch the waves.
The Book of Rhino

Driftwood House

Medea Still Rages

This is a Snippet from the play Medea, written in 431 B.C. by Euripides. In the play, Medea, the daughter of the king of Colchis, has been deserted by her husband Jason for another, younger woman. Sound familiar? *sigh* There is nothing new under the sun.

Medea

Ladies, Corinthians, I’m here.
Don’t think ill of me. Call others proud.
In public, in private, it’s hard to get it right.
Tread as carefully as you will,
“She’s proud,” they’ll say; “she won’t join in.”
What human being looks fairly on another?
They’d sooner hate you than know you properly,
even before you’ve done them any harm.
And when you’re a foreigner: “Be like us,” they say.
Even Greeks look down on other Greeks,
too clever to see the good in them.
As for me, the blow that struck me down
and eats my heart I least expected.
My lovely life is lost; I want to die.
He was everything to me–and now
he’s the vilest man alive, my husband.

Of all Earth’s creatures that live and breathe,
are we women not the wretchedest?
We scratch and save, a dowry to buy a man–
and then he lords it over us; we’re his,
our lives depend on how his lordship feels.
For better for worse: we can’t divorce him.
However it turns out, he’s ours and ours he stays.
Women’s cunning? We need all of it.


Set down with strangers, with ways and laws
she never knew at home, a wife must learn
every trick she can to please the man
whose bed she shares. If he’s satisfied,
if he lives content, rides not against the yoke–
Congratulations! If not, we’re better dead.

(Translated by Thomas Cahill in his book Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea. Why the Greeks Matter  © 2003 by Anchor Books, registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Image by Alphonse Mucha: Medee 1898)

I recently came across this passage in my reading and was astounded that a drama from ancient Athens is as contemporary as today’s headlines. Small wonder that women are expressing their outrage over men’s sexual misconduct. Apparently it has been going on for centuries.

*another sigh* Really?

Salute to Gremlins

“It must be the gremlins.”

That was my father’s explanation for any unexplained and unacknowledged mischief around the house. It could be the reason why a nude photograph of U. S. Representative Joe Barton wound up on Twitter. Oh, of only his constituents could be persuaded to believe that’s what happened! It was the gremlins!

However, Rep. Barton has owned up to his conduct, stating that he had “sexual relationships with mature adult women” while he was separated from his wife. What I find interesting about this statement is that he qualifies that the women with whom he had a sexual relationship were mature adults. That is not by accident or the work of gremlins. I call it the “Roy Moore” effect. Rep. Barton wants people to know that he did not have anything to do with underage girls. These were women—mature, adult, wrinkled, saggy, grey-haired—sorry, I exaggerate. The key point is they were NOT GIRLS! They were not cute little mogwais; they were gremlins.

Ah, youth! That is really the big deception about it. All the cute little mogwais eventually turn into ugly-looking gremlins if they live long enough. Gremlins are reputed to be dangerous and mean. I think I would be too, if I suddenly found I was no longer valued because I had a few grey hairs and wrinkles. I, too, might go on a mischievous-making rampage. A gremlin may as well live down to expectations, right?

So I’m going to acknowledge Rep. Joe Barton’s indirect salute to mature adult women. Long may they live!

(Note to self: No matter what, don’t go on a rampage. It’s inconsiderate and a big waste of time.)

Daily Prompt:Gremlins

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

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

The Great No

Waterhouse-Knight Lady

“You are at the moment the virgin schoolmistress…prim, clinging to conventions, completely ignorant of the world. My dear Cordelia, beneath that schoolmistress is a passionate woman eager to escape…to life. If you are going to fight…fight. But you will soon see how much stronger I am than you. Come, let me take your coat. You look flushed and overheated. My dear love, Cordelia, you are going to be so happy…We both are.”

Sir Jason Verringer The Time of the Hunter’s Moon by Victoria Holt

Smooth words, seductive words, enticing words design to flatter and manipulate, but for a woman who has found her “no” they are a discordant clash of sounds. In the case of Cordelia, she did not have her “no”; Sir Jason brushed aside her protests, her anger, and her indignation like so many flies around a honey pot. The reason? Cordelia was secretly flattered. At one point she confesses to herself that she wishes Sir Jason had swept her into the bedroom and forced her against her will. One doesn’t get too far with a “no” in a divided frame of mind. Later on, Cordelia and Sir Jason talk about the attempted rape. Cordelia tells him how greatly he insulted her.

“Insulted you? On the contrary I have paid you the highest compliment a man can pay to a woman.”

ARGGH! At this point, I put the book aside and looked up information on Victoria Holt, thinking this was probably a male writer. It wasn’t. Victoria Holt is the pen name of Eleanor Hibbert, a prolific novelist (1941–1993) of historical fiction, Gothic fiction, and Romantic fiction. What was she thinking in writing this? Double ARGGH! If impressionable girls are devouring this kind of sop, what chance do they have of finding their “no”? Yet, how important it is for everyone to find it!

With the right kind of “no”, the most euphonious of lies can be changed into a cacophony of noise, exposed for what they really are. The right kind of “no” is not always spoken; sometimes it’s just a look. And how does one find their “no”? In my experience, the right kind of “no” doesn’t start with the mouth; it originates in the heart and mind. Here’s to the wonderful, powerful No.

Daily Post Cacophony