Monday, August 23, 2010

Hot time in Fort Collins

Yesterday I drove to Fort Collins to see my younger son play in a band at the Bohemian Nights festival. The drive was aggravating because I was forced to keep the car's speed below 59 mph. Any faster and the steering wheel shakes violently. I must either get the alignment fixed or start doing exercises to strengthen my grip.

The day was a scorcher. The temperature climbed to the high 90s. I made my way through the thousands of sweaty revelers to the Library Stage, which I was relieved to find next to the library. (Ironic names are always a danger in a college town.) After checking the relative positions of the sun and a nearby shade tree, I put posterior to some shady ground that would remain shady throughout the afternoon. I was ready for the show.

The prologue to any concert with electric instruments (or, in my son's case, an authentic wooden fiddle equipped with an electric microphone gizmo) is the obligatory fifteen minutes of tedium wherein worried-looking sound technicians try to get all the equipment powered up and sound balanced (first photo). Then the band finally steps up and starts cooking (middle photo). In the case of yesterday's concert, the cooking was literal. Under the stage lights, the temperature was about 120 degrees Fahrenheit (nearly 50 degrees Celsius).

Stringed instruments drift out of tune with the heat. Guitars go flat. My son's fiddle goes sour in its own peculiar way: the highest string -- the solid metal E string -- goes flat; the lower strings, of wound construction, go slightly sharp.

Toward the end of the concert my son was called forward to take a solo (last photo). You can see the concentration on his humid brow as he works to compensate for his frying fiddle's wayward strings.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Don't give me a home where the buffalo roamed

I took the long way to the library on Saturday and passed through some of the prairie land surrounding the state reservoir. As the top photo indicates, this land encompasses many acres of undisturbed nature. I like to look out over the expanse of wild grass and imagine that I have returned to the days of the great buffalo herds.

It is a blessing to have nature in the wild a mere fifteen minute walk from my house, so I hope that the state never gets so strapped for cash that it decides to sell the land to developers. The world doesn't need another trendy subdivision. (Come to Buffalo Ridge Estates! Golf where the buffalo roamed!)

I also enjoy nature when it is cultivated and orderly. On my walk I passed a park with the large and carefully tended flowerbed shown above.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Colorado Blue Spruce

I walked to the library this morning. I hoped to have an insight along the way or some blogworthy experience. No dice. The only thing of interest was this Colorado Blue Spruce. As the unretouched photo shows, the tree's needles are glaucous (a fancy word meaning bluish-green). In fact, this tree is as conspicuously glaucous as a blue spruce gets.

Its scientific name is Picea pungens 'Hoopsii'. Picea (pitch) refers to the tree's resinous sap. Blue spruce sap was formerly used as chewing gum by Native Americans. They now prefer Trident, I believe. Pungens (sharp) refers to the tree's pointy needles. 'Hoopsii' refers to the Hoops Nursery in Germany where this cultivated variety of the Colorado Blue Spruce originated.

This concludes the Uneventful Saturday Morning Review.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

G.V. Desani sample

It seems to me that my discerning readership would benefit from a taste of the richly comic writing of G.V. Desani, from his 1948 novel All About H. Hatterr.

Early in the book, the irrepressible H. Hatterr seeks the advice of his bookish Anglophilic pal Banerrji on dealing with his dhobin (Indian washerwoman) who has conceived a crush on him.

'Damme, Banerrji,' I confided in my pal, 'I am in a hell of a trouble!'

'Is in the morning the pharoah's spirit really troubled, as the Good Book says? I am deeply sorry.'

'Damme, old feller, you don't understand! I am in a hell of a mess. A woman is enamored of me!'

'I don't mind, Mr H. Hatterr. Good luck to her. Whereas, I deplore and deprecate sensual Leda-and-Zeus love, I am wholeheartedly for romance. Is her name Priscilla, or is it Daphne? Is it a boy and girl affair? I am anxious to know if you could concur with the bard Walt Whitman, and sing to her, As I lay my head in your lap, camerado? In other words, do you reciprocate her kind regards?'

'I loathe the very sight of her. I have told her so.'

'Undaunted? She has my sympathy. On her part, excuse me, it might be a genuine Darby and Joan feeling. If so, Mr Robert Bridges rightly protests, Quit in a single kiss?'

'Damme, Banerrji, a woman of her age ought to know better! I place her nearer sixty than fifty.'

'Does she suffer from a morbid fascination of the male-sex anatomy? Is she an Elephant?'

'Kindly explain that interrogation, old feller. I have lived a sheltered life.'

'Well, Mr H. Hatterr,' said my pal, 'as an Indian, and a Hindu student-gentleman, I am deeply attached to the ancient classics. According to the sages, all women can be summed up and recognized under four species. In other words, the Lotus, the Art, the Sea-Shell, and the Elephant. These are the four sorts of Woman. The Lotus-woman is A1 vintage. She has a face as pleasing as the Moon. She is lovely as a lily. She launches a thousand ships, as Mr Marlowe says. Her complexion is fine and her eyes are beautiful. In fact, the lady is worth washing in asses' milk. She is dainty, like a rose. She eats little and sleeps lightly...'

'Thanks for the enlightenment. You know what a heavy sleeper my wife is, don't you? And she is no rose either.'

'I am gradually coming to her, Mr H. Hatterr. Let me now sound you on the Art-woman. She is middle height, her body has the scent of honey, and she is a light sleeper as well. The Sea-Shell, on the other hand, is hard-hearted, fault-finding, and she prefers scarlet colour to any other. Her sleep is also disturbed. Lastly, may I refer you to the Elephant-woman? Excuse me, I don't like her. She has male contours. She is narrow of hip, broad of shoulder, and her voice is tenor. She is short, stout, and a glutton. Her walk has no lithe grace of a serpent. Instead, she rolls her hips. She sleeps very soundly, as you said, and perspires a great deal.'

'Thank you! My perspiring, hip-rolling, and soundly sleeping wife thanks you! Where I come from, man, we recognise only two kinds of Woman. The good and the rotten. This dhobin woman is rotten.'


Hasten to the bookstore and buy this wonderful book before it goes out of print again!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

All About H. Hatterr

I am reading the brilliant work of comic fiction All About H. Hatterr published in 1948 by G.V. Desani (1909-2000). In the book, the character H. Hatterr tells of his rough and tumble search for Enlightenment, employing a richness of expression -- from Shakespearean cadences to pop philosophy to Hindi street slang -- that rivals the linguistic ingenuity of S.J. Perelman at his most fanciful. The wordplay is dizzying.

In his detailed criticism of his estranged wife, the "waxed Kiss-curl", H. Hatter makes reference to a bill passed by the British Parliament in the 1770s:

"All women of whatever age, rank, profession or degree, whether virgins, maids, or widows, that shall impose upon, seduce, and betray into matrimony any of His Majesty's subjects, by scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, high-heeled shoes, bolstered hips, shall suffer the penalties of witchcraft, the marriage standing null and void." (Spanish wool was a kind of rouge.)

I searched the Internet and found that this bill crossed the Atlantic and became law in the State of New Jersey during colonial times. Later, the language of this bill was appropriated (and somewhat softened) at the time of the Civil War by Cocke County (Tennessee) Representative J. H. Randolph, who appended a facetious amendment to a bill to protect the property of married women during the Thirty-Fourth General Assembly in Memphis:

"Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, That all women of whatever age, rank, profession or degree, whether virgins, maids or widows, that shall from and after the passage of this act, impose upon, seduce, and betray into matrimony any male subject in the Confederate States of America and particularly in the State of Tennessee, by means of scents, paints, cosmetics, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, high-heeled shoes, or bolstered hips shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined in the Sum of One Hundred Dollars and imprisoned at the discretion the Court trying the Cause."

With the addition of several cosmetic surgeries to the list and an upward adjustment of the fine to account for 150 years of inflation, this bill would be ready to submit to the U.S. Congress.

Hummingbird Moth

This evening, as my younger son and I were walking home from a nearby Mexican restaurant, we spotted a diminutive hummingbird hovering above a flowerbed. But the creature had antennae! My son conjectured that we were looking at a moth. He dug into his pocket for his iPhone and took the blurry picture above.

My son was correct. According to Whitney Cranshaw, Specialist in Entomology (Colorado State University Cooperative Extension), we had spotted a "hummingbird" moth (family Sphingidae), also known as a "sphinx" or "hawk" moth. (A glamour shot of the moth, courtesy of Mr. Cranshaw, is provided above.) This moth is a retiring fellow, waiting until the quiet dusk to do its nectaring.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Georgetown Loop

Last Sunday I took a ride on the Georgetown Loop narrow-gauge railway. The vintage steam engine pulls three tourist cars: one of them covered and the other two open to the drizzling mountain rain. I was in the first open car. Although I got cold and wet, I remained cheerful.

Robert Burton's book The Anatomy of Melancholy guided me to focus on things that drive away melancholy:
- Good food (an organic tofu burger at the Happy Cooker restaurant in Georgetown)
- Good surroundings (fresh mountain air and the beautiful forest valley)
- Good exercise (a relaxing walk to visit an abandoned silver mine)
- Good company (cheerful friends)