Quote Challenge ~ “Mellifluous”


A new WOTD from a new source: Mellifluous from Cyranny’s Cove.  I have just moved into a new home so all my books are in boxes. It took me a while to find the book that would provide a quote on the WOTD, but I got it. After much huntering and gathering, I found the word in my old reliable friend, Anthony Trollope. In the scene below, a rich widow has been accused of absconding with the family jewels.

It must be owned that poor Lizzie did receive from Mr. Benjamin’s hands some of that punishment which she certainly deserved. This acute and learned gentleman seemed to possess for the occasion the blandest and most dulcet voice that was ever bestowed upon an English barrister. He addressed Lady Eustace with the softest words, as though he hardly dared to speak to a woman so eminent for wealth, rank, and beauty; but nevertheless he asked her some very disagreeable questions.

“Was he to understand that she went of her own will before the bench of the magistrates at Carlisle, with the view of enabling the police to capture certain persons for stealing certain jewels, when she knew that the jewels were in her own possession?”

Lizzie, confounded by the softness of his voice joined to the harshness of the question, could hardly understand him, and he repeated it thrice, becoming more and more mellifluous.

“Yes, said Lizzie at last.

Anthony Trollope ~ Can You Forgive Her?

It’s popular in movies and television to show lawyers going after people on the witness stand, busting their chops in all manner of righteous indignation. It’s become so formulaic (“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”) that a little mellow cross-examining is practically unheard-of. But wouldn’t that be refreshing for once?



Quote Challenge ~ “Retrospective”


The Daily Post WOTD is Retrospective. The word retrospective got me thinking about authors who reminisce. I floated around Freeman Dyson, G. K. Chesterton, H. L. Mencken, and eventually landed at Kurt Vonnegut. So here is my quote on the WOTD from his writings.

“It may be that the most striking thing about members of my literary generation in retrospect will be that we were allowed to say absolutely anything without fear of punishment. Our American heirs may find it incredible, as most foreigners do right now, that a nation would want to enforce a law something which sounds more like a dream, which reads as follows:

‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’

“How could a nation with such a law raise its children in an atmosphere of decency? It couldn’t—it can’t. So the law will surely be repealed soon for the sake of the children.”
Kurt Vonnegut ~ Palm Sunday

Oh, the wonderful Mr. Vonnegut nails it as usual; I smell his feet (which means I really get him.)

Quote Challenge ~ “Archaic”


The Daily Post WOTD is Archaic. What an appropriate word! I am baking bread today, an activity that could be considered archaic. Even among bread-makers, my methods might be considered old-fashioned because I do all my mixing and kneading by hand. A mixer with a dough hook may be easier on the muscles, but it cannot feel the texture of the dough. For me, the way the dough feels is important because (1) dough has feelings that should be respected, and (2) it tells me how much flour to incorporate. It’s a little-discussed fact that too much flour forced into a “sponge” by a machine makes the bread tough and cranky.

(Note to self: When a machine forces too much of anything into me, it makes me tough and cranky, too.)

I considered all this while I was thinking of a book from which to quote. I decided on a passage from That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. The setting is a room in a cottage where a young woman named Jane is helping Mother Dimble prepare a bedroom for a newly married couple.

“In Mrs. Dimble’s hands the task of airing the little house and making a bed for Ivy Maggs and her jailbird husband became something between an game and a ritual. It suggested to her literary memory all sorts of things out of sixteenth-century epithalamiums: age-old superstitions, jokes, and sentimentalities about bridal beds and marriage bowers, with omens at the threshold and fairies upon the hearth. It was an atmosphere extraordinarily alien to that in which she had grown up. A few weeks ago she would have disliked it. Was there not something absurd about that stiff, twinkling archaic world—the mixture of prudery and sensuality, the stylised ardours of the groom and the conventional bashfulness of the bride, the religious sanction, the salacities of the Fescennine song, and the suggestion that everyone except the principals might be expected to be rather tipsy? How had the human race ever come to imprison in such a ceremony the most unceremonious thing in the world?”

One of the things I find interesting about this passage is the rather archaic view that Mr. Lewis has of marriage and the marriage bed. That Hideous Strength was published in 1945 when C. S. Lewis was still a bachelor. He writes about marriage from a position of research and observation, not personal experience.

I compare his view of marriage with that of H. L. Mencken who also tackled the subject in the state of bachelorhood. His book In Defense of Women was published in 1918, twelve years before he married. Both men rely rather heavily on archaic generalizations and stereotypes in presenting their theses.

Anyway, my bread sponge has risen beautifully and is demanding my attention. Have a very lovely day.

(Note to self: The word archaic reminded me of the movie “The Stepford Wives”, but since that is a movie and not a book, I won’t quote from it. My bread reflections gave rise—pun intended—to an Essential Question that I will have to pose in the future.)

Clark and the Disappearing Limit

The Limit

The Daily Post WOTD: Disappear is the inspiration for this short story about Clark the Cat who solves life’s problems using Calculus.

Clark the Cat was enjoying his weekly dose of Feynman when Ashley burst into the room.

“Clark!” she cried. “The limit has disappeared, and now Stumpie says it doesn’t exist!”

Clark put Feymann aside and pointed to a nearby chair.

“Sit,” he said, “and tell me all about it.”

“Well,” said Ashley, “it all began when I was up on a ladder against the side of my house. I was hanging mothballs and Mylar balloons for the bats. Stumpie saw me up there and began to pull the base of the ladder away from the house at a rate of two feet per second.

“Naturally, I yelled at him to stop. The top of the ladder was falling at an alarming rate with me on it. Stumpie only laughed. He said that even if I did fall, it wouldn’t hurt because he can’t find the limit as the distance from the base of the ladder to the house approaches twenty-five feet.”

“Why twenty-five feet?” Clark asked.

“Because that is the height of the ladder.”

“I see,” said Clark. “This poses an interesting but not unlikely problem. First of all, don’t take anything Stumpie says to heart. He is a stump of good intentions but limited perspective. In Stumpie’s position, nearly all limits seem to disappear. However, in your case, your limit did not disappear—it merely turned into a vertical asymptote.”

“A what?”

“A vertical asymptote—that great and glorious vision to which all truly spiritual limits aspire. To a limit, a vertical asymptote is the stuff of legends, steeped in mystery and magic. Why, some of their most famous fairy tales are based on the idea of a vertical asymptote. Take the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack’s beanstalk is a symbol of a vertical asymptote.”

“Well, I never,” said Ashley.

“Of course, you never,” replied Clark. “You, after all, are a human and as such are not privy to the secret lives of limits. None of us are. We can only befriend and admire them as outsiders.”

“That’s all well and good, but what do I do about Stumpie?”

“Let him be. One cannot prove the existence of a limit to stumps like Stumpie by logical means; to do so would only force limits into an existence of our creation, not theirs. However, I do recommend avoiding any and all ladders when he is around.”

Rebellious Life at Cabela’s


“Did you know that Jason Bull had a heart attack?”

“No! Really? How do you know?”

“I read it online. I just had to know about the season finale. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I missed what he was saying on his cell phone because the background music was so loud.”

“Don’t be embarrassed. I had the same problem myself.”

“What do you suppose the trouble was?”

“I suspect it was the work of the Music Rebel.”

“The Music Rebel? Who is that?”

“The Music Rebel? That is the person who thinks that his or her music is the most important music in the world. You may have encountered the music rebel at a stop light when your car vibrates with the sound of some deeply base music emanating from the over-priced stereo system in their vehicle. They justify the thousand of dollars they have invested by inflicting their music on the ears of innocent passersby.”

“The Music Rebel, you say. Hmm…I once had an encounter with neighbors who spent their evenings in a hot tub. Neighbors in a hot tub are usually of no consequence, but these particulars neighbors used the occasion to indulge in all sorts of gossip about their sordid affairs. Being who I am, I did not want to hear their silly talk so I turned up my stereo loud enough to drown out their silly chatter. I suppose in own my way, I am a Music Rebel.”

“What music did you play?”

“Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto Number Two with Gary Graffman.”

“Rachmaninoff? with Gary Graffman? That scarcely constitutes rebellion, unless it is rebellion against bad taste.”



Burning Through Life at Cabela’s


The Daily Press WOTD is Tantrum. My response to the prompt is a play on the word.

The scene opens with a married couple sitting at breakfast. The husband Greg is a bull moose; the wife Marina is an attractive cow. Greg is sipping his coffee and staring out the window while Marina is reading the newspaper.

Marina: Hmm…it says here in an article by the Associated Press that Larry Harvey is dead at age 70.

Greg: Who is Larry Harvey?

Marina: You know, dear; he is the co-founder of the Burning Man festival. You remember; it’s that annual tantrum that humans have at Black Rock desert in Nevada.

Greg (shaking his head): Not a clue. An annual tantrum you say? What? A bunch of humans get together and throw a fit?

Marina: I suppose that is the best way to describe it. Thousands of them gather to dance naked, painted, or costumed—according to the particular taste of the individual—and bang drums and occasionally each other. If that isn’t a tantrum, I don’t know what is.

Greg: And what does that have to do with Larry Harvey and a burning man?

Marina: Well, dear, the highlight of the festival is a large figure set ablaze—the Burning Man. Larry Harvey launched the event in 1986 when he and a friend burned a wooden man on a beach in San Francisco. It just took off from there. It says here in the article that friends and family toasted Harvey on Saturday as a visionary.

Greg: So then this Harvey guy was the Burning Man?

Marina: No, dear, he started the Burning Man festival.

Greg: But you said his friends and family toasted him.

Marina: That is a different kind of toast, although I believe many of the participants do get toasted.

Greg: So Harvey himself did not get toasted, but he let his friends toast him. I say, that’s rather rough. Still you say he was not the Burning Man?

Marina: No, he was never burned, but he did get toasted. Whether he ever toasted himself, the article does not say.

Greg: Well, it all sounds like silly human behavior to me. I prefer to do my own toasting. It would really fry my toast if somebody did it for me. Perhaps that is why the humans have an annual tantrum; perhaps they are getting toasted without their consent.

Marina: I don’t think so, dear. The Burning Man festival would not be so popular if people were getting toasted without their permission; the whole point is to celebrate individual freedom.

Greg: What about the Burning Man? Does he want to get toasted? Is there any consideration given to his needs and wants? If anyone has cause for a tantrum, I should think it would be him.

Marina: Yes, dear.

Quote Challenge ~ “Notable”

Ivan-Waves at Night

The Daily Post WOTD is Notable . To find a quote for this word, I went to Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.

“Your race had shown a notable incapacity for dealing with the problems of its own rather small planet. When we arrived, you were on the point of destroying yourselves with the powers that science had rashly given you. Without our intervention, the Earth today would be a radioactive wilderness.”

“Now you have a world at peace, and a united race. Soon you will be sufficiently civilized to run your planet without our assistance. Perhaps you could eventually handle the problems of an entire solar system—say fifty moons and planets. But the stars are not for man.”

The speaker is Karellen, an alien being from another galaxy whose race has taken over the management of Earth. His words remind me of a favorite quote from Theodore Dreiser from his novel Sister Carrie:

“Our civilization is still in a middle stage, scarcely beast, in that it is no longer wholly guided by instinct; scarcely human, in that it is not yet wholly guided by reason. On the tiger no responsibility rests.”

When I first read Childhood’s End, I had to admit that Karellen and his pals had a valid point about the humans of Earth; we really are a tiger at times. Nevertheless, it really fries my toast that a group of outsiders would tell us Earthlings what do to as if they were the boss of us. As it says in The Book of Rhino, I would rather be tossed about in my own turbulent sea than safely secured to someone else’s anchor.

Quote Challenge ~ “Authentic”


The Daily Post WOTD is Authentic.

In his book My Generation: Collected Nonfiction, William Styron discusses authenticity in writing. He recalls a discussion he had on the subject with Hannah Arendt.

“I told her that someday I hoped to write about Auschwitz—I had in mind, specifically, a Polish Catholic survivor of that camp, a young woman named Sophie, whom I had known in Brooklyn after the war—but I was troubled by how authentic my rendition might be. What did I know about midcentury Europe in its torment and self-immolation?

She scoffed lightly at this, countering with this question: What, before writing Nat Turner, had I known about slavery. An artist creates his own authenticity; what matters is imaginative conviction and boldness, a passion to invade alien territory and render an account of one’s discoveries.”

I felt relieved and heartened after reading this because I was having my own struggle with authenticity in writing The Book of Rhino. Rhino is set in the Middle Ages in England; if I used the actual language of the time, it would read like The Faerie Queen, and while the latter is a delightful poem, it is slow-going. Even a book like Ivanhoe is a little off-putting because of all its thees and thous.

So thank you, William Styron and Hannah Arendt, for encouraging my invasion into alien territory. What I have discovered makes the journey well worthwhile.

(Note: This is in response to a quote challenge to myself.)

Parallel and Polya


Golden Ratio

I usually do not post on Thursdays, but when the Daily Press WOTD is Parallel, I can’t resist commenting. My inner mathematician demands it.

I recently tried to construct a regular pentagon inscribed in a regular hexagon inscribed in a circle with a compass and straight edge. The circle and hexagon were easy; but the pentagon proved impossible without using a protractor. (If anyone out there knows how to do it, please let me know.)

Part of the construction involved a sub-construction of parallel lines, and dang! if I could not remember! I got fairly fussed about it because parallel lines are simple, one of the first things a geometry student learns to construct. Therefore, I did what I do with any problem I need to solve—I paced about the room and stopped occasionally to stare out the window.

(Note to self: George Polya did not include this step in his problem-solving process, but he should have because it helps.)

Eventually the trees and rocks outside my window jogged my memory for the construction of parallel lines. I drew my figure and showed it to the world outside my window. Everyone was happy.

Quote Challenge ~ Introduction


The Daily Press WOTD is Glimmer.

Denny, the ceaseless reader tagged me for a three-day quote challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed participating. People throughout the centuries have been thinking, saying, and writing quotables, (if that’s the word I want), and I love sharing them.

I decided to continue this challenge by once a week finding a quote that relates to the Daily Press Writing Prompt. It’s a good mental exercise and a way to share samples of great writing with others.

In order to make it a true challenge, I decided that I would only quote from books I have read or are currently reading; I would not search for a quote on the Internet. I also decided that if the quote did not contain the exact word-of-the-day, I would include a justification.

Now for the initial challenge. The WOTD is Glimmer. It just so happens that the word glimmer makes several appearances in a book I am currently reading—Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. I think the battle cry of Ulrica is fitting to quote.

Whet the bright steel,
Sons of the White Dragon!
Kindle the torch,
Daughter of Hengist!
The steel glimmers not for the carving of the banquet,

It is hard, broad, and sharply pointed;
The torch goeth not to the bridal chamber,
It steams and glitters blue with sulphur.

Whet the steel, the raven croaks!
Light the torch, Zernebock is yelling!
Whet the steel, sons of the Dragon!
Kindle the torch, daughter of Hengist!

So cried Ulrica, Saxon princess turned slave, as she brought down fire, death, and destruction upon the castle of her Norman captors. Poor woman! Hers is a sad and haunting tale, one best not told to children.

Note: Hengist is the Saxon leader who invaded Britain in the fifth century. The Saxons in Ivanhoe considered him the first Saxon king of England and honored his name. Sir Walter Scott implies that Zernebock is a Saxon god of death and the dead.