Saturday, February 28, 2015

Snow Tubing

The California branch of the family is visiting this week. 

My daughter-in-law had never slid (slidden? slod?) down a snowy hill.  To rectify this deficiency, a bright blue sliding tube was procured for her use.

My older son showed her the proper tubing technique.

After some coaxing and assurances, my daughter-in-law took a try.

My younger son tubed next and had a fast, bouncy ride. 

Finally, I was persuaded to take a turn.  It was a thrilling ride for me as I spun around and shot down the slope backwards.  I am sure that I was the happiest 63-year-old on the hill.

Friday, February 27, 2015

New Belgium Brewery Tour

Both sons, my daughter-in-law, and I took the 90-minute New Belgium brewery tour this afternoon.  The tour was led by Derek, an outgoing young man who was unfailingly affable and knowledgeable, absolutely the best tour guide I have seen.

There were five beer tasting stations during the tour.  The sample beers ranged from New Belgium's flagship beer Fat Tire to some rather peculiar niche beers, including a chocolate-and-chile beer offering a deceptively sweet start followed by a burning finish and a sour beer called La Folie that would have deranged my innards if I had dared to take more than three sips.

I am ambivalent about New Belgium's beers, but I can wholeheartedly recommend their marvelous beer tour.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Johann Peter Hebel Unexpected Reunion

I ran across the following story by German writer Johann Peter Hebel (1760-1826).  The story is taken from an English translation of Hebel's stories called The Treasure Chest.

I have long been interested in how dislocations of time affect love (and have written several short stories exploring this subject).  I hope that my blog readers find as much enjoyment with this 200 year-old story as I do.

Unexpected Reunion

By Johann Peter Hebel

At Falun in Sweden, a good fifty years ago, a young miner kissed his pretty young bride-to-be and said, ‘On the feast of Saint Lucia the parson will bless our love and we shall become man and wife and start a home of our own’. ‘And may peace and love dwell there with us’, said his lovely bride, and smiled sweetly, ‘for if you are everything to me, and without you I‘d sooner be in the grave than anywhere else’. ‘When however, before the feast of Saint Lucia, the parson had called out their names in the church for the second time – ‘If any of you know cause, or just hindrance, why these two persons should not get joined together in holy Matrimony’ – Death paid a call. For the next day when the young man passed her house in his black miner’s suit (a miner is always dressed ready for the funeral), he tapped at the window as usual and wished her good morning all right, but he did not wish her good evening. He did not return from the mine, and in vain that same morning she sewed a red border on a black neckerchief for him to wear on their wedding day, and when he did not come back she put it away, and she wept for him, and never forgot him.

In the meantime the city of Lisbon in Portugal was destroyed by an earthquake, the Seven Years War came and went, the Emperor Francis I died, the Jesuits were dissolved, Poland was partitioned, the Empress Maria Theresa died, and Struensee was executed, and America became independent, and the combined French and Spanish force failed to take the Gibraltar. The Turks cooped up General Stein in the Veterane Cave in Hungary, and the Emperor Joseph died too. King Gustavus of Sweden conquered Russian Finland ,the French Revolution came and the long war began, and the Emperor Leopold II was buried. Napoleon defeated Prussia, the English bombarded Copenhagen, and the farmers sowed and reaped. The millers ground the corn, the blacksmiths wielded their hammers, and the miners dug for seams of metal in their workplace under the ground.

But in 1809, within a day or two of the feast of Saint John, when the miners at Falun were trying to open up a passage between two shafts, they dug out from the rubble and the vitriol water, a good three hundred yards below the ground, the body of a young man soaked in ferrous vitriol but otherwise untouched by decay and unchanged, so that all his features and his age were still clearly recognizable, as if he had died only an hour before or had just nodded off at work. Yet when they brought him to the surface his father and mother and friends and acquaintances were all long since dead, and no one claimed to know the sleeping youth or to remember his misadventure, until the woman came who had once been promised to the miner who one day had gone below and had not returned. Grey and bent, she hobbled up on a crutch to where he lay and recognized her bridegroom, and more in joyous rapture than in grief, she sank down over the beloved corpse, and it was some time before she had recovered from her fervent emotion. ‘It is my betrothed’, she said at last, ‘whom I have mourned these past fifty years, and now God grants that I see him once more before I die. A week before our wedding, he went under ground and never came up again’. The hearts of all those there were moved to sadness and tears when they saw the former bride-to-be as an old woman whose beauty and strength had left her, and the groom still in the flower of his youth; and how the flame of young love was rekindled in her breast after fifty years, yet he did not open his mouth to smile , nor his eyes to recognize her; and how finally she, as the sole relative and the only person who had claim to him, had the miners carry him into her house until the grave was made ready for him in the churchyard.

The next day when the grave lay ready in the churchyard and the miners came to fetch him she opened a casket and put the black silk kerchief and red stripes on him, and then she went with him in her best Sunday dress, as if it were her wedding day, not the day of his burial. You see, as they lowered him into his grave in the churchyard she said, “Sleep well for another day or a week or so longer in your cold wedding bed, and don’t let time weigh heavy on you! I have only a few things left to do, and I shall join you soon, and soon the day will dawn’.

‘What the earth has given back once it will not withhold again at the final call’, she said as she went away and looked back over her shoulder once more.

(Translated by John Hibberd)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Ashley Sterne A Page for the Pets

I found this short Ashley Sterne article in Judge magazine (1927, Volume 93) on Google Books and assembled nearly all of it from snippets.  The article was originally published in Passing Show. 

Reference is made to lunar caustic.  This is another name for silver nitrate, which has the property of staining the skin black.

A Page for the Pets

When a few weeks ago I very kindly answered in these columns a number of letters from fair readers who had sought my advice on certain harassing problems connected with spring-cleaning, I did not anticipate the somewhat astonishing sequel which has now evolved.

For of late my daily post has included several missives from children, of ages (judging by the calligraphy) varying from a few hours to the earlier teens, all craving light and guidance on the many perplexing questions that from time immemorial have puzzled the juvenile mind.

Here before me lie your letters, you darlings, and now let me explain away all the difficulties which are worrying your dear, curly heads.

BOBBIE (aged 3) – From the tone of your letter, Robert, you seem to be a perfect little beast, and I refuse to have anything to do with you.

ERNIE (aged 1 1/2) – So you want to know why the back of Uncle Henry's watch flies open when you puff it?  Ah, Ernie! many older heads than yours have puzzled over this, though the explanation is really quite simple.

When you exhale, the force of the breath impining upon the back of the watch acts as a kind of ellipsoidal fulcrum, and Nursie has probably told you that pretty fairy story of Fechner's Law which enunciates that the intensity of a sensation varies directly as the logarithm of the stimulus.

Thus you see that you have really established a dear Parallelogram of forces, which, acting by catalysis on the molecular components of the watch-metal, causes the co-efficient of expansion to be modified inversely as the square of the pressure applied.

Naturally the back flies open...

[A missing paragraph begins the response to Eric, a young boy curious about why the sea is blue.]

... presuppose that you were acquainted with the elements, at least, of chromatology and spectrum analysis. 

You go on to say that when you put some sea-water in your little bucket, it wasn't blue at all, and you were very disappointed.  I'm surprised at you, Eric.  You must pull yourself together.

WILLIE (aged 5)  -- I can't say for certain what makes your Dadda's tumtum stick out so in front.  Possibly he belongs to several of those estimable eleemosynary organizations, the members of which meet periodically over substantial dinners to discuss the provision of very meager sustenance for the half-starved.

LIZZIE MARIA (aged 7) – What a pretty name!  Y-e-e-s, I like your photograph – parts of it – very much, but it is a pity about those freckles on your plump little cheeks.

All the same, I think it's very, very rude of big sister to call you Spotted Dick.  Have you tried sandpapering your freckles, or washing your face in lunar caustic?

As to your pug nose, a clothes-peg worn on it night and day would probably have the desired effect of ultimately converting it into a Roman.

MABEL SYLVIA (aged 11) – If you wish to give Mums an acceptable birthday present, why not knit her a little egg-cosy?  The following recipe will make an egg-cosy sufficient for two eggs:

1st row – 12 purl.  Carefully tell over each purl, every one apart, to make sure you haven't inadvertently cast one before swine, and then proceed.

2nd row – 6 plain, 6 colored.

3rd row – 6 treble, 6 mezzo-soprano.

4th row – Chain, then set to partners, and finish off with a small purl button.

Remember, Mabel, that all dropped stitches should be picked up and not left to make a litter on the floor.  Keep them in your work-box.  They will come in handy one day for darning the egg-cosy.

EUSTACE HUMPHREY BASIL (aged 12) – Congratulations! and I'm glad you've had such a topping day for it.  You are quite right, the "pretty lady" is undoubtedly your Momma, and equally certain the "silly-looking guy with the idiotic grin, who is making uncouth burbling noises" is your Pop.

– Ashley Sterne in Passing Show  


This volume of Judge magazine also had one of S. J. Perelman's early comic articles. 

The article is written in a George Ade vein, tricked out with Perelman's own zany, rapid-fire allusions.  The reader will note the comic inversion of King Lear's complaint: "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!"  Harry Richman was a popular American entertainer.  Fay Lanphier was the 1925 Miss America.  I have no idea what the "Frisbee effect" refers to.

This is the beginning of the article.

Wanted – A Real Pal

Well, my little feathered friends, before I break into the routine I should like to embroider today's text with a little quotation from the works of the immortal Bard of Avon (Harry Richman) which reads somewhat as follows:  "How sharper than a thankless snake it is to have a toothless child!"  And now, if the ushers will kindly lock the doors and pour kerosene over the audience, I think I can supply a match.

Well, once upon a time there was a young bird by the name of Frisbie, but his misfortune did not end there.  This Frisbie effect had a pan (or kisser, to use the more refined term) which made Medusa look like Fay Lanphier.

In Bleak Mid-Winter

Today was an unseasonably warm day.  I stirred and betook myself to the Cherry Creek reservoir for an afternoon walk.

The February scenery is relatively colorless but interesting in its own austere way.  No insects buzzed. No birds sang.