Thursday, April 19, 2018

On this date April 19 in the year 1824, Lord Byron (whose real name was George Gordon) died of a fever. He was persuaded to take part in the Greek War of Independence by an Irish sea captain. He joined the cause in Greece, training troops in the town of Missolonghi, where he died just after his 36th birthday.

After his death Byron was mourned by both the British and the Greeks, to whom he had become a hero of the war. To this day, the name ‘Vyron’ the Greek form of ‘Byron’, continues to be a popular boy’s name, and a suburb of Athens is called Vyronas in his honour.

Lord Byron's heart was removed from his corpse and buried in Greece, and the rest of his remains were shipped back to England.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Epitaph to a Dog

March 25 commemorates the start of the war of Greek Independence in 1821. It coincides with the Greek Orthodox Church's celebration of the Archangel Grabriel appearing to Mary and telling her that she would bear the son of God.

I am sharing a favorite Lord Byron paper to mark the day.

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
Boatswain, a Dog
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18th, 1808

When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one -- and here he lies.

Lord Byron

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ides of February

An ancient Roman fertility festival, Lupercalis, observed annually on February 15 was turned into a Christian feast day. Pope Gelasius set its observance a day earlier in honor of a kindly Bishop executed on February 14, 270 AD. Valentine helped his jailer Asterius' blind daughter. It's said before his execution, he asked for a pen and paper from his jailer and signed a farewell message, "From Your Valentine".

There is no actual record of Valentine's Day before Chaucer's poem in 1375. Parliament of Foules links the tradition of courtly love to the St Valentine's feast day. “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” - he wrote and maybe invented Valentine's Day as we now know it.

In 1868 Richard Cadbury introduced the first box of Valentine's candy. Cadbury's "fancy chocolates"- or assortments as they are now called - were sold in decorated boxes. Elaborate chocolate boxes were much prized as they could later be used as trinket or button boxes. Chocolate box designs ranged from superb velvet covered caskets with bevelled mirrors and silk lined jewel boxes to pretty boxes with pictures on the lid.

Valentine’s Day can be a reminder that you’re not in a romantic relationship, whether you’re single or pair bonded. Looking back on past relationships there were times I felt connected to my partner but those same moments weren’t shimmering images in their mind. This idea of shared intimacy puts a lot of pressure on us whether we’re feeling lonely in love or simply alone.

I find joy in simple pleasures. Taking time out to relax and play a game of Scrabble with someone who is my equal. This and other activities can be done on a shoestring budget. Take a walk or leisurely bike ride together in a pretty neighborhood. If you live in a reasonably safe city, hop on public transportation and get off at a random stop where you’ve never been; wander around and explore!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Fallen Heroes

When Ure Hero Falls - Poem by Tupac Shakur

when your hero falls from grace
all fairy tales r uncovered
myths exposed and pain magnified
the greatest pain discovered
u taught me 2 be strong
but im confused 2 c u so weak
u said never 2 give up
and it hurts 2 c u welcome defeat
when ure hero falls so do the stars
and so does the perception of tomorrow
without my hero there is only
me alone 2 deal with my sorrow
your heart ceases 2 work
and your soul is not happy at all
what r u expected 2 do
when ure only hero falls

I've had many heroes during my 40+ years on this planet.
Each time someone put atop a pedestal, falls back down
to Earth it is shattering.

Individuals like this give wings to our ethereal souls, despite our
inability to literally fly or leap tall buildings in a single bound.
When our role models' hamartia is revealed, our own abilities are
reevaluated and placed on the chopping block.

A disciple is not above his teacher, how can I then hope to attain positive
character traits so ascribed? Or defeat my demons, by mimicking,
when they themselves weren't able to escape something dark or painful?

I'm learning to accept that having disappointed or shown a side I did not care for
doesn’t take away from what they originally brought to the table for me.
Just because I may not like everything about a person, doesn’t take away from that which I love.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Visit From Krampus

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

Stuffed animals were nestled on either side of my bed;
While smores flavored coffee beverages danced in my head;
Both wearing new PJs from Ma and Pap,
Sissy fell asleep in her Santa Claus cap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tripping o'er our last can of Who-hash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a luster of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But Santa's shadow with claws and a snear
Reddish hair donned his chin, so wiry and thick
I knew in a moment- This can't be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
To his antlered companions I heard him exclaim:

"Then let us go and be terrible. Burn, smite and bother
These subjects of Odin, who deny the Yule father.
And without their belief Mother Earth will wither
As do we, without our Winter Solstice dinner."

Leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
Holding onto naughty children and my neighbor Frank too-

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Krampus came with a bound.

He was covered in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of sticks he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a schoolmaster opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! His iron rucksack, how scary!
His long tongue tasted the air for naughty children to ferry.
He cared not what race, wealth or parent's position.
He feasted on sons and daughters of harlots to politicians.

His claw picked a bone from between ghastly teeth.
Smoke, it encircled his horns like a wreath.
With a wink of his eye and 180 degree twist of his head
Krampen gave me to know, I had nothing to dread;

Pulling Thor's chariot with legendary might
I heard him exclaim ere they drove out of sight-
"Yuletide is here; make no mistake,
Krampus is coming, not to give, but to take."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why Write?

MONEY- If money is your aim there are many venues, genres and niche markets to choose from but all in all the most lucrative of these, a novel, is a bit
like winning the lottery. This does not defame the artist in any way but like all other endeavors, hard work is essential, while chance tips the
ball over the net or back at you. Still the odds are better than at any casino because there are many factors which you can control. These include
but are not limited to the quality of your writing, finding the right market or publisher for your work, and the art of self promotion.

FAME- Writing is immortality. The things we say or think about may be around for a while, maybe even passed down for generations, but writing remains.
The Rosetta Stone found by Napoleon's army, ancient cave paintings and The Diary of Anne Frank are just a few examples. What's more the written word
gives us a chance to evaluate our past, present and future objectively. Be it positive or negative, acknowledgement increases relevance. To ignore
something is to make it inconsequential. So take the good with the bad; the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.

LOVE- But the greatest of these is love. A labor of love is its own reward. What inspires me to write is being swept away by the writing of others followed
by a desire to recreate that sensation for someone else. The thrill of the hunt, weak in the knees and out of breath due to a brain scrambling kiss, spanning
the depths of human emotion from deepest regret and humility to pentacles of triumph, all this and more within the pages of a book. In his screenplay Shadowlands
William Nicholson created a quote for Jack Lewis' book loving student, "We read to know we're not alone." I believe we also write to know we're not alone.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

!Happy Halloween!

Sunday night I went to a screening of The Exorcist at Church & State. Before the film began a bloke with an Irish brogue told us the story of Stingy Jack. I found it entertaining and so I am sharing it here.

The Tale of Stingy Jack and the Jack O' Lantern

Jack O'Lantern legend goes back hundreds of years in Irish History. Many of the stories, center round Stingy Jack. Here's the most popular story:

Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who took pleasure in playing tricks on just about everyone: family, friends, his mother and even the Devil himself. One day, he tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree. After the Devil climbed up the tree, Stingy Jack hurriedly placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. Unable to touch a cross, the Devil was stuck in the tree. Stingy Jack made the Devil promise him not to take his soul when he died. Once the devil promised not to take his soul, Stingy Jack removed the crosses, and the Devil climbed down out of the apple tree.

Many years later, Jack died, he went to the pearly gates of Heaven and was told by Saint Peter that he was mean and cruel, and had led a miserable, worthless life on earth. Stingy Jack was not allowed to enter heaven. He then went down to Hell and the Devil. The Devil kept his promise and would not allow him to enter Hell. Now Jack was scared . He had nowhere to go, but to wander about forever in the dark Netherworld between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil how he could leave, as there was no light. The Devil tossed him an ember from the flames of Hell, to help Stingy Jack light his way. Jack had a Turnip with him. It was one of his favorite foods, and he always carried one with him. Jack hollowed out the Turnip, and placed the ember the Devil had given him, inside the turnip. From that day onward, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a resting place, lighting his way as he went with his "Jack O'Lantern".

On all Hallow's eve, the Irish hollowed out Turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets. They placed a light in them to ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away. These were the original Jack O'Lanterns. In the 1800's a couple of waves of Irish immigrants came to America. The Irish immigrants quickly discovered that Pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out. So they used pumpkins for Jack O'Lanterns.

The Irish brought the tradition of carving pumpkins into Jack O'Lantern to America. But, the original Jack O'Lantern was not a pumpkin. Pumpkins did not exist in Ireland. Ancient Celtic cultures in Ireland carved turnips on All Hallow's Eve, and placed an ember in them, to ward off evil spirits.