An Opening Sentence to Remember

I am beginning reading Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice this week. I plan on posting my commentary and thoughts about the book, as time and occasion permit. If you would like to join me in my reading adventure, I am reading chapters one through nineteen this week. Today, I have decided to focus on the novel’s opening line.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” (page 1, chapter 1)

The opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice is quite an attention grabber. It introduces the idea of marriage and the part money can play in the process of marriage. The reader knows from the start that the story will probably involve one or more women vying for the hand of a rich man. The speaker of the first sentence seems to have an underlying motive. The speaker is most likely a woman, eager to marry off her daughter to some rich gentleman. Thus, the speaker attempts to convey her words as “a truth universally acknowledged” to either motivate the man to seek a wife or to motivate the daughter to seek a rich husband. Either way, the first sentence introduces the reader to Austin’s witty style and also to a central idea of the novel.

What do you think of the opening line? Is it successful and meaningful?

-M.M.

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Dickinson, Short and Quickenson

Emily Dickinson (a poetess of some local renown, I’ve hear tell) wrote some of the most densely packed poems I have ever come across. They are rich in meaning, though judging by their length, one would never suppose it. I respect her for her precise word choice and clever use of punctuation and symbols. After studying several of her poems, I deemed to write my own. Though no where near as mature or deep in nature, I feel they get my point across.

 

Much to Say and None at All

 

Much to Say and None at all,

The sticky Shell is shrinking,

Time uncovers Cracks within,

Hollow Foundation’s thinking.

 

 

 

Too Long is Thought

 

Too long is Thought,

And short is Time.

When reversed,

-Behold- a rhyme!

 

 

What’s your favorite 4-liner poem?

 

-M.M.

Snape, a Raisin, and Comic Relief

Sometimes life is too full of the drab, the dull, the dank, the dark, the damp, and the dusty. Sometimes we need a little pick-me-up. We need a little miracle called laughter.

Prior to the release of the final Harry Potter book, fountains of theories about the reason Snape killed Dumbledore popped up on the internet. Each theory came back to one central question: What was Snape’s motivation? Did he do it because Dumbledore asked, or was it merely his final act of betrayal?
Years after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I composed a short, humorous scenario to explain Snape’s actions. Now, in times of unsolicited sadness or inexplicable melancholy, I turn to this simple poem to make me smile.
It is based off of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” (which is highly ironic template for a source of comic relief).

The Raisin (A Harry Potter Parody)

 

Once upon a midnight dreary, he was napping weak and weary,

Oh so done with pesky students- What a dismal chore!Startled by a sudden tapping, at the dungeon door a rapping,

The teacher wide awake came snapping, briskly to the dungeon door.

“ ‘Tis late for students to be prowling out upon this floor.

It must be this, and nothing more.’”

 

Opening the door a crack, wary of a sneak attack,

He was quite taken aback, to see a certain something he had never seen before.

‘Twas a puny hopping raisin, it bounced inside; it was amazin’,

Thought he, Someone’s charmed this raisin, to try to fright me to the core.

He passed his hand through greasy hair, Is this all or is there more?

Of course there is- there’s always more.

That’s when the raisin started singing, streams of verse toward heaven winging,

Tiny voice so clearly ringing, singing things he would remember always evermore.

“You’re dreadful as a potions master, and your hair is a disaster,

Your brain is really not much faster, than a baby dinosaur

Ever heard of soap before? You lazy, snooty, hooked-nosed bore.

And I’m not done, there’s so much more. . .”

 

Then the professor interjected, as is now to be expected,

And to the raisin he directed, “What are all these insults for?”

The raisin commenced in quick succession, to continue his quick procession,

Of insults brash with no discretion, while hopping on the dungeon floor.

As time passed he couldn’t take its hopping songs on dungeon floor.

No longer could he just ignore.

 

“Crazy raisin quit your dance, and answer me perhaps, perchance,

Who sent you here to taunt and prance- who sent you to my door?”

Never a beat the raisin skipping, in his tiny voice came slipping,

In betwixt some jumps and flipping, came the answer, “Dumbledore.”

In his rage the teacher swore that he would ‘kill that Dumbledore. . .’

The rest is hist’ry, evermore.

 

 

-M.M.

More Than A Story About Spoons

I took it upon myself to write a piece illustrating a personality trait I admire. A sort of parable, if you will. See if you can figure out which trait I am talking about.

 

Ere Ves Rep

 

A mountain of a wall.

Intimidating. Thick.

A behemoth and leviathan.

Polished, black, and slick.

 

“Ere Ves Rep! Ere Ves Rep!”

Came the Captain’s call.

A call to work. A call to work.

Soldiers one and all.

 

The Captain’s orders clear enough:

The wall must be undone.

Commencing in the morning,

The soldiers and the Sun.

 

“We have not tools to do the task.

Lo, Battle loometh soon.”

“Have ye none?” the Captain asked.

“We each but have a spoon.”

 

“Ere Ves Rep! Ere Ves Rep!”

Came the Captain’s call.

The task must be completed,

Though the means are small.

Like one-thousand feathers,

Against a wall of brick,

The men did battle with the wall,

Polished, black, and slick.

 

“Fruits have we not and ne’er shall have,

If we continue thus.”

One soldier said unto his Lord,

“I speak for all of us.”

 

“Ere Ves Rep! Ere Ves Rep!”

Came the same reply.

And all throughout the army’s camp,

The men all pondered “Why?”

 

The Sun returned for seven days,

And still the men scraped on,

Pushing forward with their might,

With motivation wan.

 

Progress little had they made,

And every soul confessed

As the moon set down the night,

The outlook grim at best.

 

“Ere Ves Rep! Ere Ves Rep!

At dawn the Captain’s call.

And at His voice, the wall did crack,

And crumble down and fall.

 

“Ere Ves Rep! Ere Ves Rep!”

A victory to all,

Who tackle the impossible,

And heed the Captain’s call.

 

The words “Ere Ves Rep” in reverse spell “Persevere.”

 

-M.M.

No Need for Calculophobia

 

If I say the word ‘calculus’, most people I know disappear behind a mental shield as if to say, “Ahhhh! Confusing word! Don’t hurt me!” but calculus really isn’t that scary. Silly waves of arithmophobia can be easily overcome with some simple explanations. As Hermione once said, “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).

Back to calculus. A long, long time ago there was a Greek guy named Archimedes. We’ll call him Archie. Archie lived back in the time before life was exciting, so to keep himself occupied, he did math. He started with a square. He gave himself a pat on the back when he learned that he could multiply the length times the width and find out a square’s area. Soon, Archie had graduated to bigger and better shapes- Octagons and Hexagons and Nonagons of all sizes. Then he hit a bump in his mathematical frolicking.

The circle. How could he find the area of a shape with no flat sides? He was stumped for a while, but he decided to start working at the problems. He took a circle and drew a hexagon inside of it. He thought to himself, “Well, Archie, you know that the area of the circle must be more than the area of the hexagon.

Then he drew another hexagon, this one larger than the circle. “Well, now I can find the area of this hexagon and I know it must be larger than the area of the circle.”

So now Archie had a range. He knew the area of the circle existed somewhere between the area of the hexagon inside the circle and the hexagon outside the circle. He was happier, but still wanted a better answer. He decided he could use a shape with more sides and create a closer approximation of the area of a circle. Archie calculated the areas of octagons, nonagons, and crazy-name-a-gons of which you have never heard, inside and outside of the circle. Eventually, after hours and hours of what he considered highly entertaining math, Archie’s approximation became so close to the real answer that  it didn’t really matter that he still didn’t have the answer. The difference between his range and the actual value became negligible. Thus, calculus was born.

Calculus allows you to figure out things (such as the area under a curvy line) that ‘normal’ Algebra or Geometry don’t allow. By getting so close to the answer that the difference becomes negligible, Calculus allows math-gurus everywhere to solve problems that don’t have a simple way to arrive at a solution.

So the next time someone mentions the word ‘calculus’, don’t shrivel up inside your comfort shell and quit listening. It’s not as scary as it seems.

Isn’t that cool? I think it is.

-M.M.

Writing Tips for the Author of a Bored Audience

Jeremy said, “One of the most difficult aspects of writing is crafting sentences that really engage the reader.”

Jenny, a close friend of Jeremy’s, disagreed. “No. It’s really not that hard. All you have to do is make it more interesting.”

“But that’s my problem, making it interesting,” said Jeremy.

“Exactly,” said Jenny.

Let’s see what can be done to make this small bit of writing a tad more exciting, shall we? First, let’s add some background. Characters floating in an empty space in your mind is hardly intriguing. Let’s have Jeremy trying to write an essay at a desk. Let’s make Jenny another kid in the class. Second, let’s change ‘said’ to something more expressive. Possibly an action. (This is a good idea as long as it keeps the flow of the writing; too much can be distracting.) Create some action. Show what the characters felt rather than telling how they felt. You can add interesting details into your writing using this technique.

Staring at the blank page on his desk, Jeremy remarked, “One of the most difficult aspects of writing is crafting sentences that really engage the reader,” speaking more to himself than anyone else.

Jenny, to Jeremy’s right, tossed her bouncing blond curls. “No. It’s really not that hard. All you have to do is make it more interesting.”

“But that’s my problem, making it interesting,” Jeremy sighed.

“Exactly,” replied Jenny nonchalantly  as she turned back to her own essay.

Make sure you proofread for mistakes. Subtle mistakes can weaken a reader’s trust in what you have to say. (Blonde with an ‘e’ is for girls and blond without an ‘e’ is for boys.) Also, experiment with deleting phrases. Sometimes saying more is less. If you don’t need to say who said something- don’t. Experiment with punctuation. A dash and a comma are similar devices with completely different effects on the writing.

Staring at the blank page on his desk, Jeremy remarked, “One of the most difficult aspects of writing is crafting sentences that really engage the reader.”

Jenny, to Jeremy’s right, tossed her bouncing blond curls. “No. It’s really not that hard. All you have to do is make it more interesting.”

 Jeremy sighed,”But that’s my problem- making it interesting.”

“Exactly.”

 

 

I hope these small tips help you in your future writing. It takes a long time to become a successful writer, a process I am realizing I am just beginning.

Until next time,

Adieu.

-M.M.

Collecting Words

Among other things, I collect words. New, unusual, or uncommon. Used, broken, or left out on the curb. Words that do more than say- words that describe. This week I wrote down words that I found intriguing, novel, and/or needed a refresher on. They are as follows:

pedantic: (adj.) 1. ostentatious in one’s learning     2. overly concerned with minute details or formalisms, especially in teaching.

ubiquitous: (adj.) 1. existing or being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresent

mutability: (adj.) 1. liable or subject to change or alteration     2. given to changing; constantly changing; fickle or inconstant

quotidian: (adj.) 1. daily     2. usual or customary; everyday     3. ordinary; commonplace

querulous: (adj.) 1. full of complaints; complaining     2. characterized by or uttered in complaint; peevish

unguent: (n.) 1. a less common name for ointment

diatribe (n.) 1. a bitter or violent criticism or attack; denunciation

 

Whether you knew these words already or not, it doesn’t hurt to review. One of the things I love about the English language is its seemingly bottomless spring of new words to discover. (Of course, if you can’t find a word that’s rambasclerous enough for you, you can always make one up.) ‘Tis a beautiful thing discovering new words.

If making up words from scratch isn’t quite your style, you can tweak a well-established word. Some of my favorites include, but are not limited to:

Happinesslicious

Lasterday

Whobody

Frozeing

 

A while back I wrote a poem which was and is complete and utter nonsense. I believe it originated from a confused thought about the story of Chicken Little and the sky falling. I twisted words to make them rhyme, and the effect was rather entertaining. (This one is definitely best read aloud.) And yes, the word is peoples-es (like peoples’s).

 

Crispy or Grilled?

 It’s raining like the Dickens.

The sky is full of chickens.

They squawk and they cry.

As they fall from the sky,

The peopleses faces are strickens,

Dodging plummeting chickens’ kickens.

If I had a big pot,

I’d catch me the lot,

And my fingerses I would be lickens.

 

 

Do you have any favorite made-up words?

How about any words you discovered this week?

If not, why not?

The world is full of words to be collected if you but keep you eyes and ears open.

 

 

-M.M.

The Tale of Spaghetti Pizza

As I have mentioned before, I am a huge fan of children’s literature. Last year I had an idea for a short story-poem about Spaghetti Pizza. I finally took the time to write it down. I hope you like it.

 

 

The Tale of Spaghetti Pizza

 

The day that Mr. Noodle died,

The whole of Weville mourned and cried,

And citizens began to fear,

Because the future wasn’t clear.

For Mr. Noodle’s factory,

-The Pizza Pasta Saucery-

Was the heart and life of town,

And all the people therein found.

 

The papers spread the news abroad,

Dead Noodle’s will was rather odd,

And would be read at half-past three,

In the square by Mayor Shmee.

The town assembled in the square.

The folks all hoped to win their share.

The Mayor Shmee, a rotund man,

First cleared his throat and then began:

 

“The will of Mr. William V.

Arthur Noodle:” (read by me)

States, “To the folks of Weville West,

I bequeath my very best,

Dough producing factory.

Please accept this gift from me.

The West folks gave a mighty cheer,

And all the East folks strained to hear.

“And to the folks of Weville East, a gift from me,

To you I give my Saucery.”

The cheer erupted, shoutings rose,

The Town Square meeting reached its close.

 

Each half of Weville went to work,

Except for little Maisy Merk,

She went to the park across from the square,

With all of the children to meet and play there,

While all of the grown-ups slaved away,

Hour by hour and then day by day.

And soon the East was sick of their sauce.

(Would eating some noodles be such a loss?)

And folks of the West each meal thought “Gee,

I do miss tomato sauce, Yes-sir-ee.”

 

But each was too proud to bow down to trade,

The East even put on a Sauce-themed parade.

The West, in response, threw a Dough Festival,

With crust and bland noodles for West-siders all.

 

Yet still the kids met to play in the park,

From Breakfast to lunchtime until it got dark,

Most kids, like their parents, refused to trade,

Except for Miss Merk and Timothy Tade.

And there in the mist that cool summer’s day,

Maisy and Timothy shared anyway.

Together they ate their brand-new lunch food.

Each took a bite. They smiled as they chewed.

Spaghetti Pizza was born in the sun.

And soon other children had joined in the fun.

 

The parents found out, and boy, were they mad!

They hoped this new food-stuff was only a fad.

It wasn’t a fad and it started to grow.

People thought, “I guess I’ll give it a go.”

So Spaghetti Pizza wore down the prides,

Of the people of Weville- East and West sides.

 

And round Mayor Shmee decided to host,

A carnival fair for what he loved most-

For sharing and caring and shouting “Hurrah!”

For the uniting power of Spaghetti Pizza.

For friendship for family and humility,

And Mr. Noodle’s old food factory.

 

-M.M.

The Girl at the Window

There stands the girl: strong, brave, and thoughtful. She gazes out the window taking it all in- the sunset, the warmth, the forest, the shadows- the multitude of tiny details which, for snatches of seconds, steal away her attention. A light breeze rustles across her dress and toys with loose strands of her hair. What she wants more than anything is to be happy. This is her beginning. But first, she must make a choice.

Perhaps she should continue to stay within the bounds she knows: the wood, the stone, the comfort, and peace of home. She could raise a happy family here. But if she does choose to stay, she might grow old in the rocking chair by the fire and never experience the adventure of living outside the lines. Maybe the outside world is a beautiful place where flowers bloom and the air is fresh and your worries leave you behind. Maybe there is peace out there too.

Perhaps there is also sadness outside, maybe even tragedy. Are the words they speak out there as kind as the words of home? Is there a way to be happy outside the weathered door? Maybe it is impossible to find joy in the wide world.

But no, the girl shakes her head, that cannot be so. How can the sunset be so radiant if happiness is unavailable out in the wild world? How do the animals chirp and cheep so cheerfully? Maybe there is hope in the world.

Perhaps there are others out there, outside the wooden window frame. Maybe they want to drag others into sadness and ruin. Maybe they want to help and serve others. Maybe they need to be with someone else because they feel lonely. Maybe the girl can make a difference in the world.

So what should she do? She can stay and hope that someone finds her, or she can leave and hope that she finds someone. Or maybe while she is out, someone will come looking for her and she will miss them and, thereby, the adventure and happiness of a lifetime. Regardless, the choice looms ever nearer.

The girl watches the sun set, slowly sinking into the horizon. There is a world out there. She turns away from the window and draws the violet velvet curtains closed. There is peace in here too. Then the girl has a realization. She smiles and looks up toward the sky. Whatever she chooses, she will be happy, she decides, because only she can determine her happiness. And with peace in her mind, the girl, escaped to her dreams.

 

-M.M.

 

Two Ways to Eat a Pie

In 2007 Disney came out with a charming movie called Ratatouille. In the movie, a critic named Anton Ego comes to the restaurant. The following is his conversation with the waiter:

Anton Ego: After reading a lot of overheated puffery … you know what I’m craving? A little perspective. That’s it. I’d like some fresh, clear, well-seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?
Waiter:  With what, sir?
Anton Ego: Perspective. Fresh out, I take it?

Perspective.

Writers, and all artists on a larger scope, are always in hot pursuit of a new angle, new direction, or a new spin on something that others will pause to take a moment to enjoy and ponder. That is what creativity is all about right- taking a mundane idea and personalizing it with your own personal stamp of perspective. Being yourself is the easy part. The hard part is finding people who are willing to take the time to look through your glasses, listen to your thoughts, and believe in your art. Your perspective.

There are two types of people who will appreciate your art: 1.) those who will obsess over you for a small period of time and then get sick and move on and 2.) those who will appreciate everything you do for a lifetime and enjoy your contributions to art one piece at a time. Of course, the later is what artists hope for, but I fear that the former is much more common. We are all guilty of obsession occasionally. Obsession is how we decide whether we love or dislike something. Dipping one toe into the water is not enough to decide if you want to train for the Olympic team for the next twelve years.

So today I offer a bit of Perspective.

Well-seasoned Perspective.

 

Two Ways to Eat  a Pie

 

There once were twin brothers, who were given twin pies,

Complete with whipped-cream on top.

Each felt the rush as he feasted his eyes,

On the crispy, criss-crossing pie top.

 

The first twin dug in with gusto and zeal.

He snarfed down the  pie in a blink.

He slumped in a moan as he started to feel,

The ache of not pausing to think.

 

All through the day and into the night,

He lay on his bed feeling sick,

And wishing with all of his mind and his might,

He hadn’t eaten so darn quick.

 

The second twin brother took his sweet time,

And made his pie last all the day.

He savored it slowly, so sweet and sublime,

And it never got in his way.

 

All through the day and into the night,

He smiled in knowing that he,

Had taken the time to eat that pie right-

A slice at a time, happily.

 

-M.M.