Sunday, September 23, 2012

What a long time we've been!

My, my, my. What a ghost-town this place has become. A ghost-town like the ones you could find all over Europe after the Bubonic Plague. Empty, empty, empty with an echo all about like an empty well.
Now that I have thoroughly depressed the spirits of everyone present, we may continue in tolerable comfort.

The reason for our long absence could be stated in many ways, but I shall revert to the age-old custom of pointing fingers--a very good custom and one I don't see any sense in erradicating--and vow that it was all The Gentleman's fault. Y'see....he has been ill.

Very ill.

So ill I don't think it likely he'll ever recover.

Of course it hasn't been a terrible illness. The Gentleman has quite enjoyed convalescing and--rather than go to Bath or the Seaside and have done with it--The Gentleman vows to himself to be an intolerable Bunburyist just so that his sweet Nursie shall be near him.

Oh yes. That was the trouble all along. His nurse. You see, she happened to have dark eyes, and he soon discovered that dark eyes are sweeter and more troublesome than eyes of any other shade because they don't tell all right away--one must stare at them for some time before ferreting out all the secrets. And the longer The Gentleman looked at his Nurse's eyes, the sicker he got till his case was quite deplorable.

We--The Nocturnal Why and myself--have successfully avoided The Gentleman's illness. I do not think it a contagious infection--at least not immediately, though I am by no means assured we both shall not fall beneath it's dark finger sometime in the future.

If you must have it spelled out, The Gentleman has a.... disease of the heart. It makes that precarious organ flutter and patter and gallop whenever Nursie is around...which is convenient because said Nurse must stay about longer to take his temperature and coddle him and pat him on the shoulder with a "poor little bunny" or  two which The Gentleman likes better than ever so much toast and jam and hot cocoa.

His heart complaint extends past moments when Nursie is around and causes him to be absentminded, to never pay heed to his clock, and to hold his phone--glued to his ear--to ease the pain in that troublesome area of the heart whenever Nursie is absent. I am afraid there is no cure for this illness but eternal attachment to Nursie. Her presence seems to excite the poor patient, but calm him too, and the pain returns immediately upon her departure so that we are all in an uproar and wish to goodness she'd stay so The Gentleman would stop having relapses.

There is no use consulting a physician. He'd only sigh and mention something called "twitterium-pationicum" which--if you care to Google it--is a malady most often caught by young folk in conjunction with the Spring, but felt at all times of the year by those of a warm-blooded, warm-hearted nature.

The Nocturnal Why and I do all we can to comfort The Gentleman....and for now you--and we--must excuse him from posting on this blog. It is all the poor chap can do to refrain from hallucinations of glorious illness to would not be much interested--nor enlightened--by his blatherings. ;)

           ~The Cock-Eyed Optimist

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This Week's "Greats"

Here are some posts/videos that I found this week and thought I'd share with our readers. :)

Ann Voskamp's words on grace.

Wyatt Fairlead's "Who Chose the Classics?"

Until later......

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Grapevine--Society's Terror

Telephone. We've all played the game before as kids--you know, the one where you sit down in a circle and whisper something entirely random in the ear of the person next to you. Usually (if your speech has been suitably garbled) by the time the whisper gets back to the head of the line it sounds nothing at all like what you started with:

"I said 'Pink elephants wear pajamas', not 'Pink cheetahs hug their mamas!'" and you laughed as if it was the funniest thing the world over. Which it is not. But we don't quarrel with a five year old's sense of humor. Hopefully they'll grow out of it.

The older I grow and the more time I spend with people, the more I realize how The Grapevine is only a huge game of Telephone. It can work in two directions.

"The direct and the...indirect. Of course the indirect would be less direct than...the direct but..."

 (Pardon the intrusion of Roman Holiday into a perfectly serious post. ;) The Grapevine--that kidney of Society, that organ that filters every little bit of Social blood--can either make you look like a dunce or a diva. There's seldom an in between. You know it's happened to you:
You mention an off-the-cuff piece of news to a friend. Something small like, "I think it would be so much to fun to have a ball sometime this fall."
Two weeks later you meet a friend of a friend of a friend who bounds up to you, clasps their hands and exclaims: "So I heard you're planning a huge dance party for November!"
You start flicking through your mental Dewey Decimal system trying to figure out how such a thing could have been planned without your knowledge. Then you realize. Someone's been your unofficial, unsolicited Officious Solicitor and now the whole world is ready for your Mega Dance Party invitation.
On the other hand, if you were to admit that you struggled in a certain relationship with a family member to another friend and that friend was to blab, give it two weeks. You'll have a sympathetic Rumor Monger hammering down your door with reams of advice as to How To Stop Hating Your Grandmother.
"My grandmother? What on earth do you mean?"
"Don't be such a sly little thing. I heard that you were having a hard time loving her--that you sometimes felt that you wanted to scream when she asked you for the eighteenth time in an hour what day of the week it was."
"First and foremost, you are incorrect and dramatic. I do not hate my grandmother. is none of your business, third, at this moment in time I come closer to feeling vindictive emotions for the girl who told you all of this than I do for my poor, world-weary grandma!"
That would be my general opinion of The Grapevine in its worst capacity. Essentially, it can easily become a whirlpool of gossip and hearsay. Messages are garbled and lost and changed and can come out to the people on the other end entirely transformed into something not even remotely resembling their original form. There is that danger, but as a Cock-Eyed Optimist, I can't be entirely dismal about The Grapevine. I've found it to be extremely useful in numerous ways when all and sundry keep their tale-bearing tongues in check. James tells us to be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger." It's a good piece of advice and one that would revolutionize The Grapevine and every other part of Society. :)
Prayer requests are quickly and expertly related. Needs are filled. Plans are made and finalized. It can be a hilarious, helpful and good-humored leg of Society....provided no one cuts the telephone lines and sends a wrong message.
As Society's operators, lets try to keep the Telephone a useful tool--not a clammy-tongued parasite. :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Have a Sneeze.

We mentioned to The Gentleman that it was time for his post on a very sort of Pollen-ish day last week. The Gentleman looked at us and sneezed and wheezed and choked; eyes red and bleary and voice hoarse.
"What?" he managed to squeeze out.
It was a Spring-ish "what", well-fleshed with pollen and all that. We decided to leave him alone. He will be writing a post as soon as he gets over his extreme (ahem) joy (ahem) at it's being Spring again. Until then, have a tissue and a face-mask and hide from all this yellow powder! :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Those Awkward Moments...

Dear World,
     I am alike a certain literary character in that  I dearly love to laugh. "What does The Cock-Eyed Optimist like to laugh at?" you might wonder. I love to laugh at people and their oddities and inconsistencies. I never laugh at that which is good and noble, but those things that are a little ridiculous you might find me chuckling over. (Read: you most definitely will find me chuckling over)
The Nocturnal Why is a social-butterfly in that she cannot live without So-ciety. I am a hybrid--I love people dearly, but I am also content to amuse myself. When I am in a group of people (and perhaps it's just the writer in me) I love to study them and try to make out their character.

This odd practice has lead to several humorous observations. Poor people--their little sham-performances are not lost upon me. :D One of the funniest--and yes, I've done it before--is the use of nick-names, slang, and otherwise imperfect titles when you refer to a book, author, etc. to sound smart.

A person who has once been embarrassed by referring to Les Miserables phonetically (Less Miserables) will from that day hence call it "Les Mis"--as chummy as you please. It little matters if you haven't the foggiest idea who Jean Valjean is; you can pronounce the title and sound "in," if you will.

Another common tactic for those who like to sound well-read (even if they aren't particularly so) is to speak of authors by their last names. Think about it: A person who goes around saying "Charles Dickens" sounds as if they just got done swallowing A Tale of Two Cities for high-school English class. A person who refers to "Dickens" in an off-the-cuff, self-assured manner has made himself master of the name and all Society bends knee. But "Dickens," "Austen," and "Lewis" are on the lower end of the importance spectrum. It is even better if you can parade your "Dante" or "Hugo" or "Chesterton", for precious few people get truly familiar with those great authors.

I think it rather amusing too when a person tries to repeat a famous quote, intending to repeat it verbatim and hashing it terribly, only to end with: "Well, I'm paraphrasing!" :D

Another Social Masquerade I love to watch is two near-strangers recognizing one another at a social function outside of their usual stomping-grounds. The body-language is hilarious. There is the accidental catching of the eye. The back straightens. A few more looks are stolen by each party. If the two acquaintances are both of a reticent nature it may go no farther. But there are some who have Social consciences. These will continue to steal side-long glances and pretend they want punch that they might get a better view of their acquaintance. What on earth are they wanting to assure themselves of? There simply cannot be another person in America with such flaming red hair and a nose that big, I'm sorry.
But their little charade goes on. Both parties circle the room like sharks, veering off in the opposite direction when the other sees them. The web of nonchalance grows more intricate. The circle grows tighter, the glances more frequent. Having assured yourself that that the person is indeed who you took him to be from the first, the moment is fast-approaching when this loitering cannot continue. You are now a mere 5 feet from each-other. With a last turn you find yourself face to face with your acquaintance, both of you red-cheeked, hot, and damp from the exertion of Pretending. If you are really good you will have remembered this acquaintance's name and the fact that their mother was ailing from a paper-cut the last time you met. (Which was two years ago.)

You inquire after the mother.

You exchange incidental remarks that you will feel stupid for on the way home.

You make fierce, dogged conversation on random subjects such as...hummingbirds--a topic neither of you have ever thought of in the whole course of your lives, but that lent itself to the situation in such a way that you could kiss the buzzing bird and revere it for all eternity.

You sip your punch and stare hard at the other side of the room, pretending you are much enthralled with watching something--anything.

The conversation dwindles. You both stare at the same nothing pretending it is something and hoping your partner will not guess anything.

You both glance back at the same moment and find twin discomfort and awkwardness in the others eyes.

You laugh--too loudly.

You say good-bye too warmly.

You leave, too red.

It is an old drama, and one that I hate repeating myself. What is it that causes people to act in these silly ways?

Self-consciousness. Yes. That old dragon. I find one glare from his glimmering golden eyes will set my blood rushing, as I know it does to the person who has mispronounced Les Miserables or the amateur who goes about calling authors by their last name, or to those two actors in that play of Not-Noticing.
The consciousness of Self.

Self--that other dragon who comes in so many forms it can always catch the average person unawares. It has often occurred to me that self-consciousness is just a backward form of vanity. We sit there thinking about how much other people are thinking about us. It causes embarrassment and awkwardness where there need be none.
We probably wouldn't worry about what people think of us if we could know how seldom they do.  ~Olin Miller
That quote hits home because it is so true. That's why I laugh over the little social charades and all the sham performances--when all is said and done you can be assured that you think of yourself far more than anyone else does.
“People may flatter themselves just as much by thinking that their faults are always present to other people's minds, as if they believe that the world is always contemplating their individual charms and virtues.”
― Elizabeth Gaskell
 We ought to slay the dragon Self--it's an old worn out beast who clings to us because of our sheer perversity in giving him credence. Think about it: how many little pretendings and silly affectations would disappear if we thought less of ourselves and how we might sound, and focused instead on making one or two intelligent remarks?

You might cheat me of one of my treasured laughs, but I'd donate it, tax-free. ;)


Friday, March 2, 2012

Anglorum est valde aliena lingua.....

First off, I'd like to introduce myself to you all. :) I'm The Nocturnal Why , sister of both The Cock-Eyed Optimist and the Gentleman. Fancy that, huh? ;)  I love to sing, play piano, debate the randomest things at night with my sister (whether I'm right or wrong), and I love to laugh. 

The English language.

Yes. It is a *very* broad subject...
but have no fear. I'm no linguist and will not be giving a long drawn out lecture. 
It's just that recently, I have been picking up on some very odd and funny things about our native tongue. 
Check out this for instance:

"There is no egg in the eggplant,
No ham in the hamburger
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England,
French fries were not invented in France.

We sometimes take English for granted, but if we examine its paradoxes we find that:
Quicksand takes you down slowly,
Boxing rings are square,
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

If writers write, how come fingers don’t fing?
If the plural of tooth is teeth,
Shouldn’t the plural of phone booth be phone beeth?
If the teacher taught,
Why hasn’t the preacher praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables,
What the heck does a humanitarian eat?
Why do people recite at a play,
Yet play at a recital?
Park on driveways and
Drive on parkways?
How can the weather be as hot as hell on one day
And as cold as hell on another?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language where a house can burn up as it burns down,
And in which you fill in a form
By filling it out
And a bell is only heard once it goes!

English was invented by people, not computers,
And it reflects the creativity of the human race
(Which of course isn’t a race at all.)

That is why:
When the stars are out they are visible,
But when the lights are out they are invisible.
And why it is that when I wind up my watch
It starts,
But when I wind up this poem
It ends."

I first heard this poem years ago through a forwarded email, but it does state some very interesting facts about our beloved language. One thing you may like to know about me is I am "a latina scolaris".

(That's "a latin scholar" for all you out-of-towners;) And learning a new vocabulary has made me draw parallels and differences between those two languages. For example: In my point of view,  Latin is way more complicated--you have one single word "ago" that means "do, drive, act or treat". Another thing...
I don't believe English nouns can be classified as far to the extent as Latin ones.(Five declensions, three cases, and three genders!) Then again, in English the letters "ough" can be pronounced about five different ways, depending on the word! Here's a quote by Bill Bryson on this same topic:

English grammar is so complex and confusing for the one very simple reason that its rules and terminology are based on Latin, a language with which it has precious little in common.”

But please don't take me wrong. I am not down-ing either language. I have grown to love the awesome tool and challenge languages can be. And I'm sure there are far more mind-boggling tongues in the world, as well. :) Now for an intermission of a few fun clips that came to mind while brainstorming this post. :)

{"Why Can't the English?" from My Fair Lady}

{A short clip from the "I Love Lucy" episode, The English Tutor}

Ah. There. It's fun to be reminded how quirky, confusing, and fun our vocabulary is! :) If you've enjoyed this post, hop over here for more interesting notes on the English language.

And a quote to close with:

"To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up."
 — George Orwell 
 In conclusion, I'd like to say that I love this crazy, confuzzling, amazing language, and am so glad that I grew up speaking it! :D Hopefully this hasn't been too sporadic and random, and you were a bit amused by reading this post. Until next time!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

America the Beautiful

Hey everybody!

As this is my first post on this blog, I'd like to start things off properly by thanking you all for reading (and hopefully following ;) this new project, and I'd also like to thank my sister, The Cock-Eyed Optimist, for her work in setting up this blog, and for inviting me to be a part of it as well. I look forward to this collaboration, and I hope that you all, as friends and readers, will enjoy (and feel free to comment) on the various post and subjects that we will discuss on these pages.

There. I guess that was as good a start as any, so now I will continue on with the rest of my post.

With a presidential election coming up at the end of this year, alot of people are evaluating and taking stock of the different aspects of our country. From the candidates in the primaries, to news anchors on TV, to local newspapers, to average people like you and me, there is alot of discussion going on, and alot of opinions swirling around. We all have things we love about our nation, that we think are important and worth preserving, and we also see things in our nation that concern us and that in some cases, we take a stand and fight against, and hope to see an end of.

In today's society, I think that we as Christians, can look at what America was founded as, and what she has been in the past, and see that in many areas she has changed- and not necessarily for the better. On many days I get a new message in my inbox related to some new legislative threat to freedom, or another frontier where America's Christian heritage is being attacked, or another round of debt in the federal government, etc.
Sometimes it can be a bit discouraging when we as Christians look with a Biblical worldview at different aspects of our culture and see some significant problems and issues.

I guess what I'd like to talk about today, is what happens next in one of those moments when we are yet again confronted with an area where our nation is definitely not walking in the Lord's truth. Do we get mad? Do we give up? Do we become bitter? Do we spiral into despair? Do we burn ourselves out attempting to bring change?

I've heard people talk about other great civilizations- Babylon, Rome, the Mayans, etc., and point out how though these were once great and materially prosperous cities and empires, there are now not much more than tourist attractions or ancient tales in a history book. These nations were impressive, mighty, etc., but they did not have the Lord as their foundation and defense. It is true that a wicked and God-less nation will not be blessed by the Lord, and it's also true that no matter how materially strong or successful a nation is, it is only built on shifting sand if it's not built on the Lord's truth, and yes, it's true that in many ways, America has strayed and fallen away from the Biblical principles that she was founded on. These things are all true, but what is our response as Christians to this?

As I said before, I think it can be easy to look around at our culture today and become discouraged by the evil that is out there. I think it's right to be disturbed by darkness having a foothold in our nation. But instead of these realizations casting us into hopelessness and putting yokes of fear and bitterness on our backs, I pray that we would be inspired to fight for our nation's heart and tell our countrymen of the wonderful message of hope and peace and God's love toward them in the Gospel.

See, in many ways, I think our country could be compared to a teenager searching for their identity. I wouldn't say that America is in the strongest place of clarity and direction and purpose, and in many ways, I'd say that she doesn't feel too good about herself when she looks in the mirror. In the story of the nation of Israel, we see how things can go when a country is in this sort of place. She can start to look around at her peers. She can think, "Maybe I need what they've got to feel good about myself; to feel worth something". She can start to model and posture after her peers in hopes of finding meaning in their styles, trends, false gods, socialized medicine, etc. In a desperate attempt at finding love and fulfillment, she can be tempted to latch on to any number of false systems, practices, and beliefs, that will ultimately bring about the exact opposite of what she truly needs.

What would you say if all this was describing a young girl that we all knew? Would you berate her? Would you mutter and shake your head? Would you yell insults and accusations, and remind her of how bad off she really is?

Or would you seek to love this girl? To have compassion on her, to tell her of a God that loves her, enough to die for her sins, Who wants to wash away her guilt and shame, and present her as a spotless bride to Himself. Who will speak to her heart the purpose and meaning and comfort that she has been looking for all along in all the wrong places.

See, I don't think this hypothetical teenage girl, and our conflicted, confused nation are all that different. And what's more, I know that more than a new president, more than legislative victories, more than a booming economy, our nation needs Jesus Christ.

As we look at our country today, and as we are used by the Lord in the battle against evil and the stand for good and righteousness in America, I pray that He would fill our hearts with love for our great nation and hope for the good of America and the glory of God in America. That we would overflow with true joy and the good news of the Gospel, and that we would tell America that there is Someone Who loves her. That He has great plans for her, and that in Him she is indeed beautiful.

"O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! "