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.

Quote Challenge: Day Three


The Daily Post WOTD is Haul. I thought of U-Hauls and of moving and of carrying things away. I considered quoting from Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried, but that chapter is rather sad (actually the entire book is rather sad, and I prefer not to do sadness on a Friday morning.) Instead I am sharing a quote about the sorns from Ransom.

Two things about our world particularly stuck in their minds. One was the extraordinary degree to which problems of lifting and carrying things absorbed our energy. The other was the fact that we had only one kind of hnau: they thought this must have far-reaching effects in the narrowing of sympathies and thoughts.

C. S. Lewis ~ Perelandara

A tip o’ the hat to Denny at the ceaseless reader.

Quote Challenge: Day Two


The Daily Post WOTD is Frigid. It reminds me of Christina Rossetti’s poem “Winter: My Secret.” Here is the first stanza.

I tell my secret? No indeed, not I:
Perhaps some day, who knows?
But not  today; it froze, and blows, and snows,
And you’re too curious: fie!
You want to hear it? well:
Only, my secret’s mine, and I won’t tell.     

This poem is from her first volume of poetry Goblin Market and Other Poems published in 1862. It caught my attention when I first read it because it describes how I am with respect to telling my own secrets.

A tip o’ the hat to Denny who blogs at the ceaseless reader.

When One Should Not Compromise the No


Michael Fishing

“I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions, which I shall not choose to answer.”
Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice

The Daily Prompt is Compromise  which reminds me of Shaun White at the Olympics.

Derailing a Press Conference
In the 2018 Winter Games, Shaun White won his third gold medal in snowboarding. He deserved it. His winning run was amazing; it was poetry on the half-pipe. He gave a news conference afterward on what it was like to win a third gold medal. It was going along well until a reporter asked him about allegations of past sexual misconduct. Awkward. White was prepped and primed for questions about the Olympics, his medal run, snowboarding, his competitors, and suddenly he was faced with an off-topic question. He cobbled together an answer that some people judged as unsatisfactory. But who could blame him? His mind was racing down one track when it was blindsided by a reporter on another. In my opinion, Shaun White’s problem was that he attempted to answer the question in the first place. He needed to realize that not all questions deserve an answer, especially the ones that are off topic.

Diverting a Class Lecture
Students are adept at asking off-topic questions. They do it to divert the lesson from a boring subject to one that is more interesting. I used this tactic myself to great effect. Once, at the beginning of a class on business law, I asked the teacher about his stint in the navy. What followed was an entertaining fifty-minute monologue about life on a navy ship. It was hilarious. A wise teacher would have recognized what I was attempting and would not have been distracted. (On the other hand, perhaps the teacher was just as bored by business law as we were and was glad for an excuse to change the subject.) The point is: Not all questions need to be answered.

Delivering a Sale
Phone solicitors use questions as a selling tool. They want to know all sorts of things about you, trying to get you to compromise your privacy. What was your energy bill last month? How much do you pay for homeowners’ insurance? What is your social security number? Do you wear boxers or briefs? (Okay, I made up the last one.) Whatever the questions, phone solicitors know if they can get you to answer, then they have a chance at selling you something. However, one is not under any obligation to answer their questions.

Dissembling an Opinion
Donald Trump seems to have learned this lesson since he became president. He provides all sorts of non-answers to the many questions reporters lob at him. Of course, that then becomes the story.

  • Donald Trump refuses to answer questions on immigration.
  • The President ignored repeated questions about Rob Porter’s wives.
  • BREAKING NEWS! When asked if he planned to release his 2017 tax return, Donald Trump looked out the window.

At each press conference, I can sense the reporters’ frustration as their questions go unanswered. I feel sorry for them; after all, they are human, they have a job to do, but they are going about it the wrong way. Pestering Trump with off-topic questions only strengthens his resolve not to answer them. There is a way to get people like him to answer questions, but it involves emotional manipulation, something I consider unethical.

Declining an Answer
I stumbled on the power of emotional manipulation accidentally when I was a teacher, sort of like Andrew Fleming and penicillin. Actually, it was more like discovering how to split an atom. It was a powerful, yet dreadful tool. It was like Ice-Nine in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle. Once I used it the first time, I just could not use it again. That is why if anyone wants to know how to get people to answer off-topic questions, I will not answer. Not every question deserves an answer. I do not compromise my no.


Yarn Tree

Hands are really wonderful things, when you think about it. They can do all sorts of handiwork like knitting and sewing. They craft birdhouses and beanies and benches in the park and are conveniently attached to the body. They are handy anytime we need a hand.

Handiwork can be an intimate thing as experienced hands guide younger hands in the act of creation. Hands joined with other hands knit heart to heart together in a shared process. It’s no accident that the defining image of The Sistine Chapel Ceiling is the hand of God stretching forth to touch the hand of Adam. We recognize the power of touch, hand joined to hand.

But as wonderful as hands are, they are also terrible. They contain both the power of creation and the power of destruction. Hands can devise weapons; hands can be weapons, used against fellow creatures to inflict pain and terror. Why do hands do that anyway? Don’t they know any better? Could it be that there are hands that have never joined with another hand in love, compassion, or mercy?

I think we need to take care of our hands and treat them with respect. We should make sure that every new hand that comes into the world is knit together with another hand, one that will guide it and nurture it. Teach it the artisan crafts. Show it how to make things, beautiful things for the benefit of others. Let every hand learn by example the healing touch. I am sure there are enough old hands out there that know a thing or three about such handiwork. Let them teach; let us learn.

Daily Prompt:Knit

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

Curious Cats Do Strut


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.)

Clark and the Anticipation

Clark was just settling down to a challenging math problem when Skunk burst into the room.

“Clark! You’ve got to help me,“ he gasped. “Mole is in trouble!”

“What? Slow down. What kind of trouble?”

“Oh, terrible, terrible trouble! Mole is in a boat two miles from the nearest point on the coast. She is trying to get to a shelter three miles down the coast and one mile inland, but her strength is nearly gone. She needs to know where to point the boat so that she makes to the shelter in the least amount of time.”

“Okay, okay,” said Clark. “Do you know how fast she can row and how fast she can walk?”

“Yes,” answered Skunk. “She can row at three miles per hour and walk at four miles per hour—that is, if she has any strength left. Oh, this is just terrible! I should never have let her go.”

Clark made no reply; his paws were already flying across a sheet of paper, making calculations. Skunk danced from one foot to the other in anxious anticipation. After a few minutes, Clark threw done his pen.

“Done,” he said. “Now, how will you communicate this to Mole?”

“This way,” said Skunk, grabbing Clark by the arm. He hurried him down to the beach. He climbed a small rock and pointed out to sea. Clark jumped up next to Skunk and saw a small boat bobbing on the horizon. Skunk lit a lantern and waved it over his head. An answering light came from the boat.

“Now,” said Skunk. “Where should she row?”

“Mole needs to row towards a point one mile south from here, got that?”

“But how will I know where a mile is?”
Clark thought for a minute.

“Run for six minutes as fast as you can. Do you know the song ‘Boomdiada’?”

“Is that the one that starts, ‘I love the mountains and the rolling hills’?”

“Yes, that’s it. Sing that song…uhm, eighteen times, repeating the ‘boomdiada’ at the end. That should take you one mile.”

“Got it,” said Skunk, as he leaped from the rock and began running down the beach. Clark followed him, singing to himself.

Approximately six minutes later, Skunk stopped and began waving his lantern. A faint light shone from the tiny boat. A minute or two later, Clark was at Skunk’s side.

“While we are waiting for Mole, would you please tell me what she was doing in a boat two miles from the coast?” asked Clark.

“Oh, you know Mole. She read the story of the owl and the pussycat going to sea in a pea-green boat and just had to try it for herself. Whatever it was she anticipated she would find, it was not what she found.”

“Er…what did she find?”

“That it’s a silly thing to launch yourself out on a boat when you haven’t the faintest idea what you are doing! I mean, really!”

Skunk continued to wave his lantern as he fixed his gaze on the boat.

“Oh, do you think she is getting any closer, Clark? I don’t know; she looks as far away as ever.”

Clark did not answer. Instead he started singing.

“I love the mountains and the rolling hills. I love the flowers and the daffodils. I love the fireside when the lights are low. Boomdiada, boomdiada, boomdiada, boomdiada.”

At first Skunk looked startled; then he, too, started singing. Together Clark and Skunk sang the Boomdiada Song one hundred and thirty times. After each chorus, the tiny boat was a little bit closer to shore, closer and closer until they could see Mole, tired but triumphant, pulling on the oars. Skunk dropped his lantern as he and Clark plowed into the water and dragged the boat onto the beach. Sturdy arms lifted Mole from the boat and set her gently on the sand.

“Mole! Mole! I am so glad you are alive!” Skunk was near to tears. Mole smiled weakly.

“Hullo, Clark,” she said. “Glad to see you. How’ve you been? You look well.”

“What do you mean, how has he been?” Skunk yelled. “He’s been great! I’ve been great! The whole world is great, except you, Mole, who just had to go out on a boat. What were you thinking?”

“Well,” Mole sighed. “Whatever I was thinking, the anticipation was a lot more fun than the action. Clark, thanks for helping Skunk. You probably saved my life.”

Clark licked his paw and smoothed an ear; then he patted Mole on the head.

“Remember the words of Spock.”


Daily Prompt:Anticipate