Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

A giant statue of Chinese warrior hero Guan Yu

September 24, 2016

giant-war-god-statue-general-guan-yu-sculpture-china-9

This 190-foot tall, 1,450-ton [*] statue represents Guan Yu, a heroic general and warrior who lived during China’s Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD).   His famous Green Crescent Dragon Blade weighs 150 tons [*].  For comparison, the Statue of Liberty is 111 feet tall and weighs 225 tons.

Guan Yu was so fierce and righteous that he is worshiped as a god.  This statue, one of many in China, was erected last summer in the Chinese city of Jingzhou in Hubei province.  There is an even larger statue, 292 feet high, in his home town of Changping in Shanxi province.

He was a character in the famous Chinese historical novel, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which became the basis of many a Chinese movie and video game and is said to be one of the favorite reading of Mao Zedong.

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The Want of Peace by Wendell Berry

August 29, 2014

All goes back to the earth,


and so I do not desire


pride of excess or power,


but the contentments made


by men who have had little:


the fisherman’s silence


receiving the river’s grace,


the gardner’s musing on rows.



I lack the peace of simple things.


I am never wholly in place.


I find no peace or grace.


We sell the world to buy fire,


our way lighted by burning men,


and that has bent my mind


and made me think of darkness


and wish for the dumb life of roots.

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Sita Sings the Blues

January 26, 2013

Nina Paley created this lighthearted animated feature film in 2008.  It mixes events from the great Indian epic The Ramayana, with historical commentary by Indian shadow puppets, blues songs by Annette Hanshaw and scenes from Paley’s own life.

I enjoyed it a lot, although it doesn’t do justice to The Ramayana.  The epic is longer than the Christian Bible or all the Star Trek episodes that have ever appeared on TV or in the movies, and I have never attempted to read the whole thing, but I greatly enjoyed William Buck’s translation and abridgement.

There’s something very sunny and good-natured about the Indian epic, as compared to the Iliad and the Odyssey, at least in the translations I’ve read.  In the Greek epics, the gods are all-powerful but indifferent to human welfare except for certain individuals who happen to gain their favor.  The siege of Troy follows a tragic script established by the gods that no individual can defy.  In the Ramayana and Mahbharata, in contrast, the gods are well-disposed to human beings, but subject to absent-mindedness and a propensity to make binding commitments they later regret.

The Ramayana’s war between the demons on the one hand and the humans, monkeys and bears on the other is caused by the willfulness and pride of a single individual, the demon king Ravana.  At the end, Rama slays Ravana, but then mourns his death.  With his 10 heads, 20 arms and 20 legs, nobody was so perfectly demonic as he was, Rama laments.  You don’t get this in the Greek epic, as when Odysseus kills Penelope’s suitors.

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A Christmas Sermon by Robert Louis Stevenson

December 23, 2012

This was written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886.

Christmas is not only the mile-mark of another year, moving us to thoughts of self-examination: it is a season, from all its associations, whether domestic or religious, suggesting thoughts of joy.  A man dissatisfied with his endeavors is a man tempted to sadness.  And in the midst of the winter, when his life runs lowest and he is reminded of the empty chairs of his beloved, it is well he should be condemned to this fashion of the smiling face. 

Classic-Festive-Christmas-Living-Room-DecorationNoble disappointment, noble self-denial are not to be admired, not even to be pardoned, if they bring bitterness.  It is one thing to enter the kingdom of heaven maim; another to maim yourself and stay without.  And the kingdom of heaven is of the childlike, of those who are easy to please, who love and who give pleasure.  Mighty men of their hands, the smiters and the builders and the judges, have lived long and done sternly and yet preserved this lovely character; and among our carpet interests and twopenny concerns, the shame were indelible if we should lose it. 

Gentleness and cheerfulness, these come before all morality; they are the perfect duties.  And it is the trouble with moral men that they have neither one nor other.  It was the moral man, the Pharisee, whom Christ could not away with.  If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong.  I do not say “give them up,” for they may be all you have; but conceal them like a vice, lest they should spoil the lives of better and simpler people.

 Click on A Christmas Sermon to read the whole thing.

Click on Robert Louis Stevenson Website for background on the author of Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s turkey recipes

November 22, 2012
F.  Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

1. Turkey Cocktail: To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of angostura bitters.  Shake.

2. Turkey à la Francais: Take a large ripe turkey, prepare as for basting and stuff with old watches and chains and monkey meat.  Proceed as with cottage pudding.

3. Turkey and Water: Take one turkey and one pan of water.  Heat the latter to the boiling point and then put in the refrigerator.  When it has jelled, drown the turkey in it. Eat.  In preparing this recipe it is best to have a few ham sandwiches around in case things go wrong.

4. Turkey Mongole: Take three butts of salami and a large turkey skeleton, from which the feathers and natural stuffing have been removed.  Lay them out on the table and call up some Mongole in the neighborhood to tell you how to proceed from there.

5. Turkey Mousse: Seed a large prone turkey, being careful to remove the bones, flesh, fins, gravy, etc.  Blow up with a bicycle pump.  Mount in becoming style and hang in the front hall.

6. Stolen Turkey: Walk quickly from the market, and, if accosted, remark with a laugh that it had just flown into your arms and you hadn’t noticed it.  Then drop the turkey with the white of one egg—well, anyhow, beat it.

7. Turkey à la Crême: Prepare the crême a day in advance.  Deluge the turkey with it and cook for six days over a blast furnace.  Wrap in fly paper and serve.

8. Turkey Hash: This is the delight of all connoisseurs of the holiday beast, but few understand how really to prepare it.  Like a lobster, it must be plunged alive into boiling water, until it becomes bright red or purple or something, and then before the color fades, placed quickly in a washing machine and allowed to stew in its own gore as it is whirled around.  Only then is it ready for hash.  To hash, take a large sharp tool like a nail-file or, if none is handy, a bayonet will serve the purpose—and then get at it!  Hash it well!  Bind the remains with dental floss and serve.

9. Feathered Turkey: To prepare this, a turkey is necessary and a one pounder cannon to compel anyone to eat it.  Broil the feathers and stuff with sage-brush, old clothes, almost anything you can dig up.  Then sit down and simmer.  The feathers are to be eaten like artichokes (and this is not to be confused with the old Roman custom of tickling the throat.)

10. Turkey à la Maryland: Take a plump turkey to a barber’s and have him shaved, or if a female bird, given a facial and a water wave.  Then, before killing him, stuff with old newspapers and put him to roost.  He can then be served hot or raw, usually with a thick gravy of mineral oil and rubbing alcohol. … …

11. Turkey Remnant: This is one of the most useful recipes for, though not, “chic,” it tells what to do with the turkey after the holiday, and how to extract the most value from it.  Take the remnants, or, if they have been consumed, take the various plates on which the turkey or its parts have rested and stew them for two hours in milk of magnesia.  Stuff with moth-balls.

12. Turkey with Whiskey Sauce: This recipe is for a party of four.  Obtain a gallon of whiskey, and allow it to age for several hours.  Then serve, allowing one quart for each guest.  The next day the turkey should be added, little by little, constantly stirring and basting.

13. For Weddings or Funerals:  Obtain a gross of small white boxes such as are used for bride’s cake.  Cut the turkey into small squares, roast, stuff, kill, boil, bake and allow to skewer.  Now we are ready to begin.  Fill each box with a quantity of soup stock and pile in a handy place.  As the liquid elapses, the prepared turkey is added until the guests arrive.  The boxes delicately tied with white ribbons are then placed in the handbags of the ladies, or in the men’s side pockets.

via Lists of Note.

Your Name by Hugh Mitchell

October 7, 2012

This poem is inspired by the 104th Psalm.

Your wind has wings which leap the mountains
sing with joy across the prairie sod.
We name you God but naming is too small
for everywhere Your light falls into the lives we live
and know and do not know.

Your ocean has its waves and tides
which cat-like creep upon the land and then subside
as the sun star settles into its bed of night.
We do not make the oceans rise or fall
or call the stars into their blooming.

We do not set the earth to quaking in its frame
or move the mountains from their place of joy and pain
or release the streams
and send them plunging into green valleys.
You do.

You are the One who kindles the rainbow
sends it longing and leaping through mountain passes.
You make the grasses lush and long and sweet and green
and feed the cattle
grow the grain that we reap and bake into our bread.
It is you who brings the rain,
the snow, season’s slow turning.

How is it that we think we know your name?
You are the everywhere beyond all names.

Hugh Mitchell’s chapbooks of original poems include Animal Guides, Light in the Grove, and, just released, Seeds in Winter, from which “Your Name” is taken.  His work has been published in Comstock Review, LLI Review, and RIT Signatures.  He won a contest called “Disarming Images,” which resulted in him reading his poem “Alamagordo” on a program with Gary Snyder.

Mitchell has been a leader in the Sierra Club in the Rochester, N.Y., area and in New York State, beginning in 1970 in an effort to save Genesee Valley Park.   Many of his poems reflect on nature and speak of his effort to find metaphysical answers.

Write to him at 147 Hillside Ave., Rochester, N.Y., 14610, for permission to copy, republish or anthologize his poems.

[11/29/12]  I have fixed the mistake in line 21.
I mistakenly typed “It is you who brings the ruin.”

Sunday Back by Hugh Mitchell

September 30, 2012

Sometimes I wish Sundays were back
and I on my knees
my back bent again below a golden altar
where a white robed God sat
in all His high glory and sureness.

The Reverend’s stone church spire
which once inspired so much awe
now brings only swift regret
for all the time spent on knees
when outside those dark church aisles
the yard was fringed with maple leaves
in brightest dress: browns, greens, yellows,
red leaves blowing in the unbound breeze
and the muffled cries of normal children
floating, disembodied
through stained glass and chanceled dust.

But what is left?
Doubt.
Clouds of uncertainty drift through day.
No surety at all.

Sometimes I wish Sundays were back
and I, a child again
whispering muffled prayers
in cupped hands raised to a dusty god.

Hugh Mitchell’s chapbooks of original poems include Animal Guides, Light in the Grove, and, just released, Seeds in Winter, from which “Sunday Back” is taken.  His work has been published in Comstock Review, LLI Review, and RIT Signatures.  He won a contest called “Disarming Images,” which resulted in him reading his poem “Alamagordo” on a program with Gary Snyder.

Mitchell has been a leader in the Sierra Club in the Rochester, N.Y., area and in New York State, beginning in 1970 in an effort to save Genesee Valley Park.   Many of his poems reflect on nature and speak of his effort to find metaphysical answers.

Write to him at 147 Hillside Ave., Rochester, N.Y., 14610, for permission to copy, republish or anthologize his poems.

 

Zadie Smith’s 10 rules for writing fiction

September 22, 2012
  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books.  Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. Zadie Smith

    When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

  3. Don’t romanticize your “vocation” . You can either write good sentences or you can’t.  There is no “writer’s lifestyle”.  All that matters is what you leave on the page.
  4. Avoid your weaknesses.  But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing.  Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
  5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
  6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups.  The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
  7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.
  8. Protect the time and space in which you write.  Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
  9. Don’t confuse honors with achievement.
  10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it.  Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

The Guardian of London, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules for writing fiction, asked 28 other fiction writers, including Zadie Smith, for their own rules.

Click on Ten rules for writing fiction and Ten rules for writing fiction (part two) for all their replies, plus Elmore Leonard’s rules.

Click on Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing fiction and Henry Miller’s 11 commandments for writers for more rules.

I spent 40 years in which I wrote nearly every working day, and got paid for it, and, in retirement, I still feel the urge to write.  Hence this blog.  But I doubt if I ever had the ability, and I am sure I never had the commitment, to be a Zadie Smith, Elmore Leonard, Kurt Vonnegut or Henry Miller.

“Dear Earth…”

April 22, 2012

Max Kapp was a Universalist minister who served a number of churches, including First Universalist Church of Rochester, N.Y., from 1938 to 1943.  He taught theology at St. Lawrence University and held positions in the Universalist Church of America and later the Unitarian Universalist Association.  But he was known for his sermons, meditations and poetry.  Here is a sample of his poetry.

For what my eyes have seen these many years
and what my heart has loved
and often I have tried to start my lines:
“Dear Earth,” I say,
and then I pause
to look once more.
Soon I am bemused
and far away in wonder.
So I never get beyond “Dear Earth.”

Click on Max Kapp for his entry in the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biolgraphy.

Hard Life with Memory by Wisława Szymborska

March 4, 2012

Wislawa Szymborska

I’m a poor audience for my memory.

She wants me to attend her voice nonstop,

but I fidget, fuss,

listen and don’t,

step out, come back, then leave again.

She wants all my time and attention.

She’s got no problem when I sleep.

The day’s a different matter, which upsets her.

She thrusts old letters, snapshots at me eagerly,

stirs up events both important and un-,

turns my eyes to overlooked views,

peoples them with my dead.

In her stories I’m always younger.

Which is nice, but why always the same story.

Every mirror holds different news for me.

She gets angry when I shrug my shoulders.

And takes revenge by hauling out old errors,

weighty, but easily forgotten.

Looks into my eyes, checks my reaction.

Then comforts me, it could be worse.

She wants me to live only for her and with her.

Ideally in a dark, locked room,

but my plans still feature today’s sun,

clouds in progress, ongoing roads.

At times I get fed up with her.

I suggest a separation. From now to eternity.

Then she smiles at me with pity,

since she knows it would be the end of me too.

via The New York Review of Books.

The late Wislawa Szymborska was a Polish poet who won the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Click on Miracle Fair and A Word on Statistics for two of her other poems and more links.

Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments for writing

February 26, 2012
  • 1.  Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  • 2.  Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”
  • 3.  Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  • 4.  Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  • 5.  When you can’t create you can work.
  • 6.  Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  • 7.  Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  • 8.  Don’t be a draught-horse!  Work with pleasure only.
  • 9.  Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day.  Concentrate.  Narrow down. Exclude.
  • 10.  Forget the books you want to write.  Think only of the book you are writing.
  • 11.  Write first and always.  Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Click on Lists of Note for more lists.

Click on The Reality of Henry Miller for an appreciation of Henry Miller by Kenneth Rexroth.

Click on Henry Miller wiki for his Wikipedia biography.

Click on Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing fiction for another writer’s rules.

Miracle Fair by Wislawa Szymborska

February 3, 2012

The commonplace miracle:

that so many common miracles take place.

The usual miracles:

invisible dogs barking

in the dead of night.

One of many miracles:

a small and airy cloud

is able to upstage the massive moon.

Several miracles in one:

an alder is reflected in the water

and is reversed from left to right

and grows from crown to root

and never hits bottom

though the water isn’t deep.

A run-of-the-mill miracle:

winds mild to moderate

turning gusty in storms.

A miracle in the first place:

cows will be cows.

Next but not least:

just this cherry orchard

from just this cherry pit.

A miracle minus top hat and tails:

fluttering white doves.

A miracle (what else can you call it):

the sun rose today at three fourteen a.m.

and will set tonight at one past eight.

A miracle that’s lost on us:

the hand actually has fewer than six fingers

but still it’s got more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:

the inescapable earth.

An extra miracle, extra and ordinary:

the unthinkable

can be thought.

~ Wislawa Szymborska ~

Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1996, died Wednesday.

Click on Wislawa Szymborska: Nobel-prize winning poet dies at 88 for her obituary in the Los Angeles Times.

Click on Wislawa Szymborska spoke the inner thoughts of many people for a memoir in the Chicago Tribune.

Click on A Word on Statistics for one of her other poems.

Click on Wislawa Szymborska – Poetry for her listing on the Nobel Prize home page.

Robert Bolt on the rule of law

October 3, 2011

The following is from Robert Bolt’s 1960 play,  A Man for All Seasons.

Robert Bolt

WILLIAM ROPER: Arrest him.
SIR THOMAS MORE: For what? … …
MARGARET MORE:  Father, that man’s bad.
THOMAS MORE:  There is no law against that.
ROPER:  There is! God’s law!
THOMAS MORE:  Then God can arrest him. … …
ALICE MORE: (exasperated) While you talk, he’s gone.
THOMAS MORE:  And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law.
ROPER:  So now you’d give the Devil the benefit of law!
THOMAS MORE: Yes.  What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
ROPER:  I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
THOMAS MORE:  (roused and excited)  Oh? (advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil himself turned round on you—where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? (he leaves him)  This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast—man’s laws, not God’s—and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?  (quietly)  Yes, I’d give the Devil himself the benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

I love those lines, and I loved the play.  I saw both the stage and movie version, and liked the stage version better.  I think Robert Bolt’s Thomas More character is a great example of the way to live, even though he talks like a 20th century agnostic such as Bolt rather than the 16th century Catholic that he was.

Click on Bolt, Robert Oxton for Bolt’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

A poem by Rumi

June 19, 2011

Rumi

Your old grandmother says,
“Maybe you shouldn’t go to school.
You look a little pale.”
Run when you hear that.
A father’s stern slaps are better.
Your bodily soul wants comforting.
The severe father wants spiritual clarity.
He scolds, but eventually
leads you into the open.
Pray for a tough instructor
to hear and act and stay within you.
We have been busy accumulating solace.
Make us ashamed of how we were.

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Abou ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt

May 8, 2011

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”
The vision raised its head,
And, with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still, and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow-men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again, with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And, lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest!

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A Word on Statistics by Wislawa Szymborska

February 26, 2011

Out of every hundred people,
those who always know better:
fifty-two.

Wislawa Szymborska

Unsure of every step:
almost all the rest.

Ready to help,
if it doesn’t take long:
forty-nine.

Always good,
because they cannot be otherwise:
four — well, maybe five.

Able to admire without envy:
eighteen.

Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.

Those not to be messed with:
four-and-forty.

Living in constant fear
of someone or something:
seventy-seven.

Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.

Harmless alone,
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.

Cruel
when forced by circumstances:
it’s better not to know,
not even approximately.

Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.

Getting nothing out of life except things:
thirty
(though I would like to be wrong).

Balled up in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eighty-three, sooner or later.

Those who are just:
quite a few, thirty-five.

But if it takes effort to understand:
three.

Worthy of empathy:
ninety-nine.

Mortal:
one hundred out of one hundred –
a figure that has never varied yet.

(translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak)

via Caterina.net.

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Sestina d’Inverno by Anthony Hecht

February 9, 2011

Here in this bleak city of Rochester,
where there are twenty-seven words for “snow,”
not all of them polite, the wayward mind
basks in some Yucatan of its own making,
some coppery, sleek lagoon, or cinnamon island
alive with lemon tints and burnished natives,

 

and O that we were there. But here the natives
of this gray, sunless city of Rochester
have sown whole mines of salt about their land
(bare ruined Carthage that it is) while snow
comes down as if The Flood were in the making.
Yet on that ocean Marvell called the mind

an ark sets forth which is itself the mind,
bound for some pungent green, some shore whose natives
blend coriander, cayenne, mint in making
roasts that would gladden the Earl of Rochester
with sinfulness, and melt a polar snow.
It might be well to remember that an island

was blessed heaven once, more than an island,
the grand, utopian dream of a noble mind.
In that kind climate the mere thought of snow
was but a wedding cake; the youthful natives,
unable to conceive of Rochester,
made love, and were acrobatic in the making.

 

Dream as we may, there is far more to making
do than some wistful reverie of an island,
especially now when hope lies with the Rochester
Gas and Electric Co., which doesn’t mind
such profitable weather, while the natives
sink, like Pompeians, under a world of snow.

The one thing indisputable here is snow,
the single verity of heaven’s making,
deeply indifferent to the dreams of the natives,
and the torn hoarding-posters of some island.
Under our igloo skies the frozen mind
Holds to one truth: it is grey, and called Rochester.

No island fantasy survives Rochester,
where to the natives destiny is snow
that is neither to our mind nor of our making.

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Sturgeon’s Law

August 29, 2010

Ninety percent of everything is crud.

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