Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to family, friends, and random readers!  

May we all feel as Ebenezer Scrooge felt on discovering the joy of Christmas:

"I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!'' 

Monday, December 22, 2014

You Are Here

I took a walk in a nearby park on Friday.  The Parks Department had just opened a series of bike trails and provided an instructive map.

It is a comfort to know where you are.  I would like a map like this.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I Like Lichens

Today I took a leisurely hike in the Mathews/Winters Park near Golden and took time to admire the various lichens on the rocks.

Wikipedia, in its ungainly way, informs us that lichens are complicated thingies:  "A lichen is a composite organism that emerges from algae or cyanobacteria  (or both) living among filaments of a fungus in a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship. The whole combined life form has properties that are very different from properties of its component organisms. Lichens come in many colors, sizes, and forms. The properties are sometimes plant-like, but lichens are not plants."

Green lichens are so prevalent that many of the boulders have a greenish hue.

Individual lichens come in many colors: pale green, yellow-green, white, black, dark green, and orange.

Toward the end of my hike I spotted this rock covered with many strange lichens.  Or are they mosses?  Or marine creatures that have lost their way?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Earliest Writing by Ashley Sterne

Today I ran across the following letter to the editor by Ernest Halsey (1876-1939).  The letter was written in 1907, several years before Halsey adopted the pen name of Ashley Sterne and began contributing humorous quips and articles to London Opinion magazine.  The letter displays flashes of the Ashley Sterne flair for comic denunciation and his chauvinism in favor of British composers and corresponding antipathy toward German or "Hun" composers.

Both his powers of comic denunciation and his musical chauvinism grew stronger after the Great War.  Twelve years later, in Pan magazine (January 1919) he published an Ashley Sterne article called "Why Hun Music?"  It began: "In the programme of a recent vocal recital at the Aeolian Hall the recitalist – a foreigner – had, I see, the remarkable taste to include a series of songs by modern Hun composers, including two specimens by the Archbishop of Cacophony, Richard Strauss."

Halsey was a friend of the promising British composer William Hurlstone (1876-1906), who had died of illness the previous year.  The letter gave Halsey an opportunity to honor Hurlstone's memory.  

From Musical News (August 17, 1907):

British Works at the Promenades

To the Editor "Musical News"

Sir,- I heartily concur with Mr. Cyril Winn in his remarks on the omission of Mr. Charles Macpherson's Suite "Halloween" for the forthcoming Promenade Concerts, and at the same time I am wondering why no work of the late Mr. Hurlstone is included in the syllabus.  Of the works by this composer which are available for orchestra I may mention the Variations on a Hungarian Air (originally, I believe, played by Dr. Richter at a Halle Concert), the Suite "The Magic Mirror" (scenes from "Snow White and the Seven Little Dwarfs"), and the very fine Fantasie – Variations on a Swedish Air.  This latter was produced at a Patrons' Fund Concert (at which, by the bye, Mr. Henry Wood was present), and received another hearing at a concert of the London Symphony Orchestra in February 1906, under Mr. Charles Williams, so it has not been altogether neglected.  But it seems to me extraordinary that such works as these are not more readily taken up by conductors of our big orchestras on their own initiative.  The merits of these and other works, e.g., Mr. W. H. Bell's fine "Walt Whitman" Symphony and "The Canterbury Tales," Mr. Gustav von Holst's "Suite de Ballet" in E flat, to mention the first three works that come to mind, are sufficiently apparent to the veriest tyro, and should require no fillip from the musical Press or the the influence of those "in high places" to obtain frequent hearings.

I am not looking forward to the ceaseless performances of the Overture to "Tannhauser," Prelude to Act III. of "Lohengrin," that hardy perennial the "Peer-Gynt" Suite, and the overdone and clap-trap "1812" Overture; but I am anticipating with pleasure the production of the British novelties, with a pang of regret that the better-known Wagner, Grieg, and Tschaikowsky pieces have not given place to revivals of some, at least, of our own composers' works that have already met with approval from Press and public alike.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Go to the Birds and Consider Their Ways

I took a walk today to the nearby reservoir.  I passed a few geese along the way and took their picture.  I admit that the picture is unimpressive.  I couldn't even get them to form a straight line.

When I got to the reservoir I saw a great gaggle of geese leaving shore and paddling out into the reservoir.

After passing a great colony of gulls that were standing on a thin sheet of ice, the geese formed a long brown band that stretched part way across the reservoir.

The gulls formed a separate but equally impressive band of white.  Most of the gulls were taking a nap.

Go to the birds, thou stressed-out corporate drudge, and consider their ways!  They enjoy company and they value a midday nap.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Leonard Merrick The Epic of the Heavenly Cook

I have just spent three hours googling the Internet to find a comic short story by Leonard Merrick (1864-1939), a largely-forgotten writer of novels and short stories in the early 20th century.  I had read the story earlier this year and wanted to read it again to savor the elegance of its initial exposition.

However, as I remembered neither the title of the story nor the characters' names, I had a devil of a time finding it.  But at last success!  The story is called "The Epic of the Heavenly Cook."  First published in 1925, the story was later collected in the 1932 anthology My Funniest Story.  I am not sure of the story's copyright status, so I will just give the first few pages as a taste of Merrick's ironic style.

The Epic of the Heavenly Cook

At a date when Parisians had good bread and manners, and there were still artists in Montmartre, a young man sat dining in the Cafe of the Heavenly Cook, and he called to the waitress: "Bring me a word, please."

"A what, monsieur?" said she.

"I want a monosyllable to rhyme with 'rose' and mean 'after hesitation, but tenderly'," he told her, impatient at the delay.

She neglected his order, but he found merit in the waitress.

The incident blossomed to acquaintance and ripened to romantic passion, on the young man's side.  Henceforth he went often to the little restaurant, begging of the dainty waitress another monosyllable that he never got.  While not averse from compliments and odes, Clementine, who was the daughter of the proprietress, knew her worth too well to say yes to an unfledged poet.  Especially as, when he did get a slim volume out at last, he was as hard up as ever, and the publishers repented their pluck.

Now, soon afterwards, the unavoidable necessity for paying his way compelled the suitor, whose name was Archambaud Blicq, to forsake poesy in Paris for employment in Rennes, where he had a cousin prospering with a department store; and our knowledge of the world would have led us to say that his exit from the scene would be the end of the matter.  But it was not.  For once we should have erred.  Strange to relate, the episode was to bear fruit twenty-five years later.

Twenty-five years later, an elderly gentleman, sauntering in the sunshine of the quays, chanced to pick from a box of dilapidated books, marked "4 sous each," a slender, soiled volume, with a broken back, "By Archambaud Blicq," which was not distasteful to him in parts.  Being an eminent journalist, with a column to write and nothing to write about, the elderly gentleman wrote a highly sentimental article about the broken-backed volume the fairness of its promise and the fustiness of its fate.  "What were the sufferings," he wondered wistfully, "of this Unknown, whose gifts, whose dreams, whose aspiring mind are revealed to me by accident long after his gallant hopes and bitter tears have " etc. etc.  And the praiseworthy publishers, having refreshed their memory and ascertained there would be no royalties to pay, took a sporting chance and advertised a new edition of the thing.

This time it let them down less harshly.  In strictly limited circles people mentioned the work.  Even among a few eccentrics, "Archambaud Blicq" became a transient cult.  And next, an out-at-elbows hack, with vague memories of Blicq, laboured for a square meal by contriving a biographical sketch, in which he narrated intimate falsehoods of his "lost comrade."  Labouring to the limit of his capabilities, he "deplored the fact that an unrequited attachment for a girl of singular beauty the Clementine of the odes who had been the daughter of a widow keeping a restaurant at Montmartre, had so wrought upon his comrade's mind that the ill-starred youth had destroyed himself in the Seine."

That he had dramatically broken his heart and committed suicide delighted his admirers.  The publishers were pleased with him, too.  They felt that Blicq had done all he could to forward sales.  And now the most ardent of the eccentrics were eager to identify the restaurant to lunch where the lover had languished, to pose where the poet had prayed.

Meanwhile, time had been proceeding with Clementine.  She had lost her mother, and found a husband, and content with the exchange, reigned cheerfully in the restaurant by his side.  Save for her figure, she was not without some faint resemblance to the dainty waitress of long ago.  What is called a "fine woman" by people who can't have too much of a good thing.  Her amplitude put no restraint upon her energies, and no patronne of the quarter bustled to more purpose than Madame Pidoux, or boasted a livelier turn for profits.  Pidoux acted as chef.  His taste inclined to women of liberal circumference, and in his loving eyes Clementine was no less fair than efficient.  A successful marriage.

At the hour of dejeuner one morning, Clementine, alert behind her counter of the Cafe of the Heavenly Cook, noted the entrance of two strange and inquisitive looking ladies.  In lieu of seeking seats, the ladies approached her, and the elder said, "Pardon, madame, if it is within your knowledge, would you be so amiable as to inform us whether this is the restaurant where monsieur Archambaud Blicq used to dine?"

"Monsieur what?" asked the fat matron shortly.

"We inquire about Archambaud Blicq," said the younger, in reverent tones.

[And so forth through the various comic developments until Archambaud Blicq himself, now a middle-aged shopkeeper and family man, chances to visit the Cafe of the Heavenly Cook.]

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Quiet Day Hiking

My younger son and I took a hike on the Apex trail system (specifically the Apex, Hardscrabble, and Pick n' Sledge trails).  As usual he found it a very easy hike but was a good sport about it; I found it a moderately challenging hike.  When I reach my goal of losing 30 pounds, it will be an easy hike for me, too.

The trails in the shadows were covered with a half inch of snow.  Sometimes the snow rested on smooth ice, as I discovered by the usual method of losing my footing and falling down.  Trails in the sun were slightly muddy but not a problem.

I had difficulty finding opportunities for nature photographs today.  The most pleasant scene was when I was surrounded by spruce trees.  But it's hard to capture the sense of being surrounded with a photograph.

My son and I startled a young deer.  By the time I got my camera out, the deer was nearly out of camera range.  Here is the best I could do.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Hiking with Reptiles

I took a short hike today on Dakota Ridge trail.  I was coming down the hill when I heard a fizzing sound, like gas escaping from a pipe.  I stopped, looked around, and spotted a little rattlesnake coiled beside the trail.  Its head was about as thick as my thumb.

I moved forward for a closer look.  (This did not make the snake happy.  It continued to fizz.)

Despite the grainy picture, I think I can see about eight rattles on the snake's tail.

As I was walking up Rooney Road to return to my car, I stopped by the Jefferson County Dinosaur Center to see facsimiles of two other reptiles.  The second one had a goofy smile.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ashley Sterne Lens

Owing to important family matters and a difficult workload of writing end-of-year performance reviews, I have neglected the blog of late.  I was pleased to discover a tidbit from Ashley Sterne last night on the Hathi Trust site.

Here is one of Ashley Sterne's Verbum Snap fillers that he wrote for Kodak early in his comic career.  Two of his puns below relied on his readers having a reasonable acquaintance with literature.  (Citations provided below.)


(from Kodakery, December 1913, Vol. 1, No. 4. p. 10)

If you put a meat skewer through the hole bored in the front of a camera, and then push hard, you will feel something smither.  This is the lens, and the bits of it that fall out are known as smithereens.  It is the lens that projects the picture onto the sensitive plate (see Gems from Shelley – "The Sensitive Plate") and enables objects photographed at a distance to appear in their proper proportions.  Hence the expression "Distance lens enchantment."  Lenses are very tiresome to make as they are so refractory. – Verbum Snap


From the 1799 poem "Pleasures of Hope" by Thomas Campbell (1777-1844):
 'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view,
 And robes the mountain in its azure hue...

The poem "The Sensitive Plant" was composed by Percy Bysshe Shelley and published in Prometheus Unbound and Other Poems in 1820.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Apologies to the UPS Man

Last Thursday when I came home from work, I noticed a package outside my front door.  I went out to pick it up and almost wrenched my back.  The package was the size of a large Cheerios cereal box, only a bit longer, and contained a block of tool steel weighing 117 pounds. 

I understand that my son needs such things for his business.  But what a nasty burden for the UPS man to lug up the stairs to my front door!  The warning tape on the package seemed like a comic understatement.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Last Autumn Pictures

I went out late this afternoon to snap a few pictures of the autumn colors in the nearby park.  The leaves are falling fast, and everything will likely go to ruin by next weekend. 

This is a melancholy time of year.  As the Stephen Foster song says, "All de world am sad and dreary."  Nevertheless, for a few more days there is still a sad, sweet beauty to enjoy at sunset.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fiery Tree

The autumn colors are intense this year.  Here is a photo of a neighborhood tree so bright that it appears ready to burst into flames.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Return to Roxborough

Today I went back to Roxborough State Park for an afternoon hike.  The familiar red rocks of the Fountain Formation greeted me at the parking lot, although the left-most rock looked a bit grumpy.

I decided that I needed a strenuous hike today.  This sign recommended the Carpenter Peak Trail.

I walked past the gray cliffs of the Lyons Formation sandstone and wondered what the three stone objects in the foreground signified.

The following structure was obviously a paleolithic naval destroyer.  Its green wake was bubbling up from the rear.

I began climbing toward Carpenter Peak and enjoyed the autumn pastels: green, yellow, orange, rose, and purple.  At this point I fell in with an Englishman named Pete.  As we went up the trail we had a pleasant conversation about the usual topics of interest to men in their sixties: the need to stay fit in one's older years, retirement finances, the paucity of rich widows, etc.  He also offered an interesting perspective on Scottish independence, comparing Scotland with Texas.

I arrived at the top of Carpenter Peak, which was strewn with boulders.  There was a nice view of the Continental Divide.

As I retraced my steps down the peak, the trail was lit by sunlight through the trees.

After I cleared the trees, I heard a raspy screech and then spotted a blue bird on the wing.  I snapped this blurry photograph.  Based on its round head and the black patch around its eyes, I believe this may be a Western Scrub Jay. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Book of the Courtier

I found some good advice about growing old gracefully in the second section of a Renaissance book called The Book of the Courtier by Baldesar Castiglione (1478 – 1529), Count of Novillara.  As I aspire to a "green and lively old age," I shall try to profit from its wisdom.

Castiglione's book is composed of a series of conversations concerning what is required of a courtier.  In the excerpt I have given below, the speakers are Juliano de Medici (My Lord Magnifico), Messer Federico, and Lord Morello.  Federico takes the position that a true courtier must be a man in his mature middle years.  Morello disagrees.

Here Federico begins to develop his argument.  He asserts that a courtier must be skilled in the musical arts, but music making by old men is "unseemly and unlovely."

Federico said, "But discretion must needs be the spice of everything, for it would be quite impossible to foresee all the cases that occur; and if the Courtier rightly understands himself, he will adapt himself to the occasion and will perceive when the minds of his hearers are disposed to listen and when not.  He will take his own age into account: for it is indeed unseemly and unlovely in the extreme to see a man of any quality old, hoary and toothless, full of wrinkles playing on a viol and singing in the midst of a company of ladies, even though he be a passable performer.  And the reason of this is that in singing the words are usually amourous, and love is a ridiculous thing in old men, albeit it is sometimes pleased among its other miracles to kindle frozen hearts in spite of years."

Then the Magnifico replied: "Do not deprive old men of this pleasure, messer Federico; for in my time I have known old men who had right perfect voices and hands very dexterous upon their instruments, far more than some young men."

"I do not wish," said messer Federico, " to deprive old men of this pleasure, but I do wish to deprive you and these ladies of the pleasure of laughing at such folly.  And if old men wish to sing to the viol, let them do so in secret and only to drive from their minds those painful thoughts and grievous troubles with which our life is filled, and to taste that rapture which I believe Pythagoras and Socrates found in music. And even although they practise it not, by somewhat accustoming their minds to it they will enjoy it far more when they hear it than a man who knows nothing of it.  For just as the arms of a smith, who is weak in his other members, become stronger by exercise than those of another man who is more robust but unaccustomed to use his arms, in like manner ears practised in harmony will perceive it better and more speedily and will appreciate it with far greater pleasure, than others, however good and sharp they be, that are not versed in the varieties of musical consonance; because these modulations do not penetrate ears unused to hearing them, but pass aside without leaving any savour of themselves; albeit even the beasts have some enjoyment in melody.

"This then is the pleasure it is fitting old men should take in music. I say the like of dancing, for in truth we ought to give up these exercises before our age forces us to give them up against our will."

Here my lord Morello replied with a little heat: "So it is better to exclude all old men, and to say that only young men have a right to be called Courtiers."

Then messer Federico laughed, and said: "You see, my lord Morello, that they who like these things strive to seem young when they are not, and hence they dye their hair and shave twice a week.  And this is because nature silently tells them that such things are proper only to the young."

All the ladies laughed, for each one of them felt that these words fitted my lord Morello; and he seemed rather stung by them.  Messer Federico soon continued: "But there are many other ways of entertaining ladies that are proper to old men."

"What are they?" said my lord Morello. "Telling stories?"

"That is one," replied messer Federico.  "But as you know, every age brings, its own thoughts with it, and has some peculiar virtue and some peculiar vice.  Thus, while old men are ordinarily more prudent than young men, more continent and wiser, so too they are more garrulous, miserly, querulous and timid; they are always scolding about the house, harsh to their children, and wish everyone to follow their way.  And on the contrary young men are spirited, generous, frank, but prone to quarrel, voluble, loving and hating in an instant, eager in all their pleasures, unfriendly to him who counsels well.

"But of all ages, that of manhood is the most temperate, because it has left the faults of youth behind and has not yet reached those of old age.  Being placed then at the two extremes, young and old must needs learn from reason how to correct the faults that nature implants in them.  Thus, old men ought to guard against much self-praise and the other evil habits that we have said are peculiar to them, and to use that prudence and knowledge which they have gained from long experience, and to be like oracles consulted of all men; and in telling what they know, they ought to have the grace to speak to the point and temper the gravity of their years with a certain mild and sportive humour.  In this way they will be good Courtiers, enjoy their intercourse with men and with ladies, and be always welcome, without singing or dancing; and when need arises they will display their worth in affairs of importance.

"Let young men use this same care and judgment, not indeed in copying old men's ways, for that which befits the one would not at all befit the other, and we are wont to say that overwisdom is a bad sign in the young, but in correcting their own natural faults.  Hence I greatly like to see a youth, and especially when handling weapons, who has a touch of the grave and taciturn; who is master of himself, without those restless manners which are often seen at that age; because such youths seem to have a certain something in them above the rest.  Moreover this quietness of manner has in it a kind of impressive boldness, because it seems the result not of anger but of judgment, and governed more by reason than by passion.  This is nearly always found in all men of high courage, and we see it also among those brute animals that have more nobility and strength than their fellows,as in the lion and the eagle.

"Nor is this strange; for an impetuous and sudden movement, which without words or other signs of wrath abruptly bursts with all its force at once from the quiet that is its contrary, as it were like the discharge of a cannon, is far more violent and furious than that which increases by degrees and grows hotter little by little.  Therefore they who talk much and move about and cannot stand still, when they have an enterprise on foot, seem thus to exhaust their powers; and as our friend messer Pietro Monte well says, they act like boys who sing from fear when they walk at night, as if to keep up their courage by their singing.

"Again, just as calm and thoughtful youthfulness is very praiseworthy in a young man, because the levity which is the fault peculiar to his age seems to be tempered and corrected, so in an old man a green and lively old age is to be highly esteemed, because his stoutness of heart seems to be so great as to warm and strengthen his feeble and chill years, and to keep him in that middle state which is the best part of our life."

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Consolations of Autumn

Today I hiked part of Lookout Mountain's Chimney Gulch trail.  (I would have hiked it to the top, except that I lost time walking into Golden to buy some sunscreen.)  The wildflowers are almost all gone.  However, autumn brings some consolations in the form of late blooming weeds, leaves changing colors, and cactus fruit.

The yellow blossoms below belong to the rabbitbrush plant.  Its latin name ericameria nauseosus warns of its nasty smell.  For the sake of scientific inquiry, I took a sniff today.  Stinks.

Leaves turning from green to red are always pleasing to view.

And my favorite autumn picture today was of red cactus fruit.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hiking the Grubstake Loop

The Grubstake Loop trail within Apex Park is one of my favorite trails.  After you have plodded up miles of sunny open terrain, you begin the Grubstake Loop and are rewarded by a forest trail at the top of the mountain.  Also, the highest part of the Grubstake Loop is often a promising place to see deer, as it was today.  Take a look at this doe with the startled ears.

Here is a deer I photographed in the shadows.  The image is almost a silhouette.

Today was a great day for deer but not for other animals.  I failed to photograph an illusive species of blue bird that I have been pursuing, whiffing on three attempts with the camera.  My photograph of a lizard with striking jagged markings was also a flop, yielding nothing but a blur with legs.