Sunday, September 28, 2014

239 Quiz Answer

Marie Antoinette had a rustic retreat built in 1783 in Versailles.  It was a private place for the Queen and her closest friends.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "L" is for "Laura")

I’ll call her Laura.

(Though that was definitely not her name.)

The thing to know about her is that she had everything.

Especially money.  Huge amounts of the happy cabbage.  If she wanted something, she bought it.  She couldn’t think of any good reason not to.

You might be surprised to learn that Laura rarely visited the houses of the top fashion designers; instead, those top designers came to her place. 

And the place she lived in was too much.  An incredible house; the word “mansion” is inadequate to describe it.

Naturally she had a staff of gourmet chefs routinely turning out masterpieces of l’art culinaire.  She could have, had she so desired, a complete meal of nothing but fabulous desserts.  But the trouble is, when life itself is nothing but desserts there’s a fly in the crème caramel: it gets boring.

She knew, vaguely, that there was such a thing as poor people, with barren lives, and she had even heard that such types strongly resented her and her profligate ways.  But she didn’t allow it to worry her too much. What was important for her was that her existence was getting monotonous.

So she had a great idea.

She was tired of her sumptuous lifestyle, tired of opulence – it was all artificial.  She wanted to live real life, the way real people lived.  She believed that farmers and peasants and such were happily enjoying a more authentic existence close to the earth.

Well, as we mentioned earlier, when she wanted something intensely she bought it.  So she decided to buy real life. 

She had architects design a bucolic farmhouse, saturated with rusticity, on her property.  She had top designers create simple peasant costumes for her. 

She had a small private meadowland with a lake, a nearby grotto and a stream that turned a huge mill wheel.  There was no mill; the turning wheel was just for show.

Laura went whole-hog – yes, she had some of those too because she had farm animals brought in.  She enjoyed milking the cows, carrying her Sevres porcelain milk-pail with her.

You might think all this could endear her to the general population, but the opposite was the case.  Poor folks heard about her bucolic adventures and thought she was mocking their wretched existence.  Her remark about brioche was probably never made. 

A few facts.  Fact number one, her name wasn’t Laura (but you knew that).  Fact number two, who was she?

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

238 Quiz Answer

Birnam Wood, a forest near Birnam in Perthshire, Scotland. In Shakespeare's play 'Macbeth', Macbeth is told that he will only be defeated when Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. Later, his enemy's army comes through Birnam Wood and each soldier cuts a large branch to hide himself, so that when the army moves on it looks as if the wood is moving.

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday:"K" is for "Karma")

I wrote the following more or less adequate scenelet, thinking it might remind you of a well-known play.  What play?

I call it the big R.

That’s for Remembering.

And that’s what I try to avoid because it belongs to the dim borderlines of the past; it implicates me in what I have done. Instead, I think of now. I think of my new life.

Living in a castle now.  Just imagine.

Such style.  Such elegance.  In a way I feel almost like a parasite, living in a castle and forgetting all about the big R, the Remembering.  It’s my wonderful new life.  It's karma.

The problem is, anyone can take a castle. So let me assure you: this is more. It’s a fortress.

And a fortress is – what is the word I want? Unassailable? Impregnable? Yes, that’s it! Impregnable! Safe. Secure.

That’s what I thought. That’s what I believed. Until...

The day came that I glanced out toward the horizon, as I do every day. I saw nothing. Nothing different. There are trees out there, masses of them, not much else.

Then the Thing happened. The thing happened that could not happen.

In the long twisted history of man, in the explosive millenia since humankind first emerged from that alluvial mud, surely such a thing has never before taken place.

All those trees, they - began to move!

They moved toward me!

I thought for a while that my mind too was in a state of collapse. Hallucination, illusion, surely that must be it! But my mind was not broken; it was clear. I had thought, I had cerebration, I had reason. I could see and understand what was happening.

Even though it could not be happening.

But there they were, all those trees moving as one body, progressing slowly but inexorably toward me.

However, I was in my impregnable fortress.  Safe.


The answer will be posted Saturday.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

237 Quiz Answer

“High Hopes”
Just what makes that little old ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can't
Move a rubber tree plant
But he's got high hopes
He's got high hopes
He's got high apple pie
In the sky hopes
So any time you're gettin' low
'Stead of lettin' go, just remember that ant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant
Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant

(Also for ABC Wednesday: "J" is for "Japery")
Chairman: Our next speaker is Berowne, the noted scholar-philosopher and Professor of Insect Analytics at U.L.A., the University of Lower Alabama.

He will speak today on his favorite topic: “Our Friends the Insects.”

Berowne: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  People often ask me, why did you get so interested in insects?

Well, the answer is simple: they’re fascinating.  For one thing, they’ve been around a long time; it is estimated a hundred thirty million years or so.

It’s natural to be interested in creatures that were spoiling picnics a hundred and thirty million years ago. 

I refer to them as formicidae, and they include wasps, ants and bees.   Let’s examine one of these small beasts carefully.  Could I have the first slide, please?

You’ll notice his remarkably thin waist.  I understand this comes from the situp exercises he performs almost every day.

Pay special attention to his antennae; they are elbowed.  Think of it.  He has elbows on his antennae.  Scientists to this day do not understand the purpose of this; possibly he isn’t too sure of it himself.  

Next come the mandibles, lower down, which allow him to chomp away at just about everything.  It’s the male of the species who has mandibles; the female has womandibles.


These creatures are capable of carrying many times their own weight, though complaining all the while.  Scientifically speaking, they are animals who are eu-social, which means they like to live with, hang out with, others of their kind.

We, you and I, are also animals who are eu-social; we like to hang out with others, though not so much with formicidae.  

Now.  To deftly change the subject, let’s say you’ve been working for the same corporation for the past thirty years – seems like seventy, doesn’t it? – and you’ve retired. 

In previous years the company would give a gold watch to a retiree, but the economy being what it is they instead decided to give you this:  

It wasn’t a gold watch but that’s okay because it looked great in your living-room.

It never occurred to you that your friends the insects might cause a problem.  You were sure that tiny formicidae would never be able to harm such a huge plant.

Well, you were wrong. J              

While reading the foregoing japery, you may possibly have been reminded of a popular song of a few decades ago.

What was the song?                                          

(The answer will be posted Saturday.)


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Berowne's 236

(Also for ABC Wednesday: "I" is for "International")

Men cluster to me like moths around a flame
And if their wings burn, I know I'm not to blame

Falling in love again
Never wanted to
What am I to do?
Can't help it.

Love's always been my game
Play it how I may
I was made that way
Can't help it.

That was Marlene’s song, her signature song.

She had been a Berlin showgirl, struggling to make something of herself, and all she had achieved in the thirties was a position in a vaudeville group named “The Girl Kabarett,” when she hit it big in a movie.

Marlene – surely you don’t really need the last name – starred in the internationally successful film “The Blue Angel,” the story of a cabaret singer who pretty well destroys a respectable school teacher, and Hollywood called: Come on over and do some of that for us.

But she was German, and it was the thirties, and the Nazis were in power, so she did what you might expect.

Except she actually did what you might never have expected.  Marlene Dietrich was strongly anti-Nazi right from the beginning.  She came to the U S and became an American citizen.  She wrote:

In “Blue Angel,” she sang the song she became known by.  It became “Falling in Love Again,” in America, but her version went like this.

Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß
Auf Liebe eingestellt

I am from head to toe with love involved.

 Denn das ist meine Welt.
Und sonst gar nichts.

That’s about my world; there’s not much else.

Das ist, was soll ich machen,
Meine Natur

That is, no matter what I do, my nature.

During the war Marlene traveled everywhere, selling war bonds like crazy, visiting wounded American soldiers and so on.  She was an international star and she had traveled a long way from a tiny part in the vaudeville group “The Girl Kabarett.”
Blog designed by Blogger Boutique using Christy Skagg's "A Little Bit of That" kit.