Friday, April 18, 2008


"Compose thyself!" she muttered quietly, and tried to stop her fingers from jumping madly all over the computer keyboard.

"If you insist on composing without thinking, you will be left with only little tatters of dependent clauses, all leaning haphazardly against one weak verb-subject frame. Is it then so important that you get the prompt pounded and stretched and shaped into some semblance of a blog entry before you go to work? It's Friday. It's five o'clock in the morning. Most people are sleeping. Or drinking coffee with brown sugar and hazelnut creamer and slowly coming to grips with the reality of the day."

But I see the situation looks hopeless. If I were a gardener I'd be hacking at the soil to make a soft spot, planting new lilacs, burying them snuggly between the roots of last years decomposing wild roses; if I were a cook, I'd be sprinkling garlic salt onto an omelet, composed of golden eggs, green bell peppers, and sweet, yellow onions; if a musician, composing, with narrow intensity, one smile-giving, newborn motif, walking it up and down the piano keys, feeling where it finds the freedom to break out into forte. Instead I spew forth words, no matter that my composition will only be fit for the compost, food for tomorrows posts.

Composer, compose thyself."

The Sunday Scribblings Prompt was "Compose"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Father Brown--Quotes from Chesterton's Stories

Thursday Thirteen

One of my favorite detectives is Father Brown. G.K. Chesterton modeled him after one of his friends, a real priest. Of course he changed him for the fiction stories, or in his own words he

"permitted myself the grave liberty of taking my friend and knocking him about, beating his hat and umbrella shapeless, untidying his clothes, punching his intellectual countenance into a condition of pudding-faced fatuity and generally disguising Father O'Connor as Father Brown."

I've taken thirteen of my favorite passages from Father Brown Stories. Enjoy them.

1. The winter afternoon was reddening toward evening, and already a ruby light was rolled over the bloomless beds, filling them, as it were, with the ghosts of the dead roses."

2. ...a car of splendid speed, great elegance, and a
pale green colour swept up to the front doors
like a bird and stood throbbing.

3. A large, neat chauffeur in green got out from the front, and a small, neat manservant in grey got out from the back, and between them they deposited Sir Leopold on the doorstep and began to unpack him...

4. "A radical does not mean a man who lives on radishes,"
remarked Crook, with some impatience; "and a Conservative
does not mean a man who preserves jam.
Neither, I assure you, does a Socialist mean a man
who desires a social evening with the chimney-sweep.
A Socialist means a man who wants all the chimneys swept
and all the chimney-sweeps paid for it."

5. "But who won't allow you," put in the priest in a low voice, "to own your own soot."

6. The green gaity of the waving laurels, the rich purple indigo of the night, the moon like a monstrous crystal, make an almost irresponsible romantic picture...

7. He sparkles from head to heel as if clad in ten million moons; the real moon catches him at every movement and sets a new inch of him on fire.

8. Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes down and down.

9. And it seemed as if, on that particular morning, a swarm of total strangers had been buzzing in his ear with more or less unenlightening verbal messages; the telephone seemed to be possessed of a demon of triviality."

10. As is common under the lurid Quietude of that kind of light,
what colour there was in the landscape gained a sort of
secretive glow which is not found in objects under the full sunlight; and ragged red leaves or golden or orange fungi
seemed to burn with a dark fire of their own.

11. The door was thrown open with violence and a woman with a wild mop of red hair rushed to meet them, as if she were ready to board the car in full career... "Come into the inn," she said with extraordinary abruptness..."There's been a murder done."

12. In the broken sunlight from behind,
the tree-tops in front of them stood up
like pale green flames against a sky
steadily blackening with storm,
through every shade of purple and violet.

13. "Surely," said Father Brown very gently, "it is not generous to make even God's patience with us a point against Him."

Chesterton, G.K., " The Flying Stars", "The Insoluble Problem", Father Brown Mystery Stories, Dodd, Mead & Company, Binghamton, N. Y. 1962.

Parents of Grandparents are Still Parents

I never imagined that when I became a grandparent myself, I would still have to turn to my parents occasionally for counsel. Nope. I thought that surely by then I would have life all figured out and be entrenched behind the "giving advice" side of the table. Wrong. For no matter what I learn, there is always that vacancy caused by something I haven't learned yet, and I have to call to ask. Now I don't mind asking, because it gives us a chance to talk and I love talking to them, but I'm just amazed that I still don't know everything they do. Somehow they are a few years ahead.

Take this year's income tax, for instance. We sold a rent house on installments last year, and the math looked daunting, so I just counted it as a rental and avoided the issue, but I knew that sooner or later, if the house stayed sold and didn't come back in another life as a repo, I would have to deal with the dreaded amortization schedule. I called Dad.

"What? You've been counting it as a rental? No, you don't want to do that at all. You'll be losing money on the deal. Don't you have a record of when he paid?"

"Well, yes, I have the bank deposits, so maybe I should just download an amortization schedule from the web..."

"If he paid every month and didn't skip any, you could, but with him being late, you have to figure it yourself."

"Figure it myself ?" My fear of math overwhelmed me and I blanched and collapsed quietly back into my chair. Fortunately, he couldn't see me through the phone so he just went confidently on.

"Here's the formula. Write it down. It's twelve percent interest. That's easy. Take the balance that he owes times point 12. Then divide that by 365. Then take that times the number of days since he last made a payment. That's the interest. Subtract that from whatever he paid and apply the rest to the principal."

It sounded a little complicated, but hey, I can follow a formula. So I did. Pencil and paper. In my little log book. Twelve times for twelve months. Find the interest for the year and the principal to report as capital gains. Plug it all into my computer tax program and voila! I ran the errors check, and was rewarded with a no errors message.

Thanks, Dad.

Last night when I called Mom to get the buyer's social security number, she told me that Dad had just saved a calf and its mother. Seems he went to check on them, found the cow in trouble, went back for a rope, pulled the calf and saved them both. I wasn't surprised.

Dad is 81 years old.

The phone rang. It was my son.

"Hey Mom, I forgot my music for the choir tonight and I have to conduct a number, so could you or Dad meet me halfway with it so I won't be late. It should be on the coffee table or on the piano there or somewhere in the front room."

"Sure. I'll bring it all. We'll meet at the usual gas station. See you in a bit."

I guess he's about thirty years behind me.

The Sunday Scribblings Prompt was "Family"

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Senior Recital

I guess I'll call him Elijah because in singing he reminds me of the prophet. (Not that Elijah ever wore a tux, but his booming voice surely rang out fearlessly over the hills of Judea.) Last night we, the family and friends, sat at the music hall in room 101, and listened to our son's senior recital. And we were proud of him.

The song is an Italian one, taken from the opera, Le Nozze di Figaro, by Mozart. In this part the Count Almaviva is scolding the court page after having consigned him to military duty. He is also explaining to the spoiled young man what his new life will be and won't be like in the army.

I've heard "Elijah" practicing through the years, so the piece was familiar to me. In the background, playing the grand, is his voice instructor. They both did a marvelous job. Elijah sang a dozen songs in German, Italian, French, and finally, English. His voice was tired when it was all over, but he made it through this milestone and was thrilled that he may now resume his regular chess matches with another one of his professors--there had been a moratorium on them until after this senior recital--and spend a little more time relaxing with songs that require less thought, and with pursuits that are less stressful.

I'm going to post another couple of clips. The first is in German (Die beiden Grenadiere) and the second in English. It is from a Shakespearian poem, but of course you'll recognize that from all the hey nonny nonnys.

I know that's a lot of video if you don't know him...but hey. Family reads this blog too, and many of them live too far away to attend, so I guess it's a proud mom's privilege.