Sunday, September 29, 2013

188 Quiz Answer

In Shakespeare’s play “The  Tempest,” we are asked to picture a magical island on which we find a man named Prospero, who lives there with his daughter, Miranda.  He has a servant named Caliban, a wild sort of partially human creature who believes the island should really belong to him, so he spends a good deal of his time creating problems for Prospero. 

Dear Blogger-type friends:  It looks like the question this week is a bit too difficult.  Sorry.
We had a nice response for Robert Frost last week; few correct answers this week.  I’ll shift gears and come up with something more manageable for next Sunday.  Hope to see you then.  --Berowne 

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "L" is for "Lem")
Here’s this week’s Berownial quiz question:

Some people get everything handed to them.

There I was, working at the same crummy job for the past twelve years and getting essentially nowhere, when I learned that my old army buddy Earl had a relative who suddenly up and died.

If that sounds like a tragedy, it wasn’t much of one for Earl; the deceased was an uncle he really didn’t know very well.  However, due to the intricacies of inheritance law it seems that Earl was next of kin and he learned that he now had a house, along with a cash inheritance.

What a break that was!  After his wife left, he found he was a single parent trying to raise a sixteen-year old daughter, Milly, in what I believe are referred to as straitened financial circumstances – i e, not much in the way of actual dough.

He couldn't conceal a shock when Earl saw what he had inherited.  It wasn’t just a house; to a guy who had been living in a small apartment it was a mansion.  Three bathrooms, he kept saying to himself.  And each of the numerous rooms in the place seemed as big as his former apartment.  It wasn’t a just a break; it was a red-hot miracle.

To top it all off, it came with help.  There was a hired man named Lem who had been with his uncle for years, and in his will the old man had specified that whoever inherits his house should keep Lem on; this would be a plus because he knew the place so well.

Well, Earl thought that was fine.  He proposed to have the gardener/handyman do the necessary work while he concentrated on learning about fine wines and how to live like an alleged upper-class gentleman.

But there was a fly in the Pouilly-Fuisse.  Lem turned out to be difficult.  Oh, he’d do the work, but only with an avalanche of grumbling and by making it clear that whatever there was to be done could wait till tomorrow, or maybe like next week.  He showed little respect for Earl, though he was, of course, his boss.

From time to time Lem claimed that the old man had told him he would be inheriting the place - it was supposed to be his.  Earl just put up with this, thinking it’s the sort of thing people have to get used to once they’ve inherited a mansion.

But then things got even uglier with Lem – who was already ugly to begin with.  He had had his eye on Milly, the daughter of the house, for some time.  She reported to her father that he had made some “suggestions” to her, not all of which she had understood but was pretty sure they were unpleasant.

That tore it.  Lem had to go.

When I heard Earl’s story, I couldn’t help thinking it reminded me of one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays.

Which play?

(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

187 Quiz Answer

Robert Frost: “The Road Not Taken”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "K" is for "Keystone")
When you try, really try…

When you do your best…

When you make a decision based on the best evidence available, and everyone thinks it was a poor decision and you are therefore roundly condemned for it – well, that’s pretty hard to take.

Don’t tell me it was an important occasion.  I knew that.  A get-together of the entire clan, all of ‘em, something that hadn’t happened for years.  And they were all waiting for me.

I was on my way, nonchalant, speeding along in my old jalopy, known affectionately to members of my family as “The Wheezer” because of the odd wheezing noise it makes when I shift from first to second gear (so I try not to do that too often).

I was carrying important cargo.  It was Grandpa Pittinger’s birthday and, as I said, the whole famdamily was in attendance.  Grandma Pittinger had ordered a special cake.  It had cost a fortune and I had been commandeered to go into the Big City to pick it up. 

It was huge (there are a lot of relatives) and on the way back it was sitting up front on the passenger’s seat, enjoying the view.

I had ten miles or so to go when I ran into a metaphorical brick wall.  I pulled up and stopped (the brakes working rather well for a change).

Truth is, I didn’t know these roads all that well.  It was never a problem because all I had to do was wait till I saw the signpost “Keystone Road” and then turn on it to take me to the Pittingers.  But some joker had uprooted the post and tossed it into the bushes.  So I uttered an earthy remark because I was now faced with a road that had suddenly become a couple of roads.  Question: which was Keystone Road?

I analyzed the situation.  One road looked as though it had more traffic on it, which would seem to mean it probably went to the next town.  So, on purpose, I took the other one.

Well, I guessed wrong.  After grotesquely wandering all over creation, I finally arrived with the cake, over an hour late, everyone glaring at me.  I explained about the missing signpost and that I had taken the road less traveled by.

Surely they should have seen it was not my fault, but they kept up with the glaring thing throughout the whole birthday celebration.

As for the weekly Berownial quiz, the above bit of whimsical fiction might remind you of one of our famous poets.  What’s his name?

(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

186 Quiz Answer

Ophelia, in the play “Hamlet,” by Shakespeare, is a young noblewoman of Denmark, potentially the wife of Prince Hamlet.  After she learns of her father’s death, she appears wildly before the King and Queen, who realize that she has gone mad.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "J" is for "Journalism")
I suppose you’re aware of the state of journalism these days.

Fact is, the situation of newspapers in our time is pretty bad: the number of papers that have gone through bankruptcy and closure keeps rising.

I chose this rather desperate era to spend four years getting a Journalism degree, planning on having a prestigious career with a handsome salary.  After graduation, I spent roughly another four years trying to find a job.

I came to realize that my father’s suggestion – that I go into veterinary dentistry – may not have been so wildly insane as I had originally thought.

I finally landed a position with a small newspaper in northern North Dakota.  It was a freebie - no charge for the paper, they gave it away in grocery stores. 

I became the sports editor.  No matter how much you love sports, no matter how easygoing you are, sitting in open stands covering high-school teams in temperatures that ranged from “moderate” - four below - to “chilly” - twenty below - made you start thinking how nice and warm the conditions seemed to be for employees over at Wendy’s.

But enough of those problems.  Things changed.  The big news is that there was a contest held for the state’s Journalist of the Year.  I’m pleased to report that I won.  They wanted someone to represent northern North Dakota and I was evidently one of the few journalists there who wasn’t frozen solid.

But seriously, this was a big deal.  I didn’t get much in the way of currency but as the winner I was sent to our nation’s capital, which as I understand it is in Washington, D C.  I know you’ll find this difficult to believe but I wound up covering a press conference in the famous Oval Office.

The Prez and the Veep were discussing something important and I was busy taking notes so that it would look like I understood what they were talking about.  Then the most incredible thing happened.

The beautiful daughter of one of our most important political leaders came bursting into the room.  She, of course, is known throughout our land.  She is always held up as a model for today’s youth: quiet, dignified, proper.

But on this occasion she was raving – she seemed to be what I believe is known as “of unsound mind.”  She was disheveled; you might almost say bedraggled.  And she proceeded to sing some very raunchy songs, highly inappropriate in such a setting.

Well, it was all hushed up, which is why you probably never heard of it.

 The above is all foolishness.  But as for the weekly Berownial quiz, there’s something in it that might remind you of a Shakespeare play.

Which play?

(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

185 Quiz Answer

“Life of Pi” is a motion picture about an Indian boy named Piscine Molitor Patel, known as “Pi” (who was named after a Paris swimming pool, a piscine).  Pi survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "I" is for "incredible.")

Here’s this week’s Berownial quiz question, short and sweet. 
Well, short anyway.

In a famous film Mr. Parker, who is dangerous - dangerous enough to make you cringe - co-stars with a kid named after a swimming-pool.  Their incredible relationship blossoms, in a way, as they commit one blunder after another while trying to survive after a shipwreck..

But I digress - what’s the name of the film?

(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

184 Quiz Answer

Answer: One of Charles Dickens's best-known characters, Wilkins Micawber is a melodramatic, basically kind-hearted and rather foolish gentleman, a friend of young David Copperfield.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "H" is for History)

Here’s this week’s Berownial quiz question.

In my study of history, one institution that always fascinated me was the debtors’ prison.

This setup, a jail for folks who can’t pay their debts, has been around since ancient times.  In 19th-century England, it was a big deal.  It shows how something quite illogical, something that makes little sense, can stay in existence for centuries.

I mean, look at it this way.  Time-travel with me back to about 1850; good Queen Victoria is on the throne, which is quite appropriate since it was the Victorian era.

Let’s say that in London there’s a chap who is having a rough time, financially.  His credit card is maxed out, etc., and he doesn’t know where his next tuppence is coming from.  He is, in short, a debtor.

So in he goes, into the lockup.  What’s illogical, of course, is that while he was outside he could at least work to pay off his debt; inside he can do nothing but sit there.  So he does, sometimes for years.

To top things off, he is charged for his room and board while he is in the cooler – and of course he can’t pay for that either.

As a humanitarian gesture the authorities would at times allow the families to join the debtors, so you’d have a father, the missus, and several little kiddies all crammed into one small cell.

The writer Charles Dickens knew all about this system.  His father, who had the same last name, was arrested and sent to debtors’ prison when his son was twelve years old.  The disgusting aspect of these jails is often described in Dickens’s novels.

All of which brings me to one of my favorite fictional characters.  I think many of us have met him in real life.  He’s the one who is great with rhetoric; he’ll stand there and orate about the state of the country and its future, and he’s eager to tell of the projects he’s working on that are going to make wads of dough, but he’s never been able to hold a steady job or make a tolerable living.  He’s always trying to borrow money or figuring out ways to avoid creditors.

But, funny thing is, I sort of like the guy; he’s entertaining and he doesn't pout - he somehow he manages to stay good-humored.  (I have to admit I want him to stay out of debtors’ prison.)

In addition, he never gives up hoping.  He assures his wife: “Something will turn up.” 

What’s his name?

(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)
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