Simple Pleasures

Pleasure is a gift that cannot be easily forced. You think you’re all set for some kick-ass pleasure but there is no guarantee, and the more complicated the anticipated pleasure is the more likely something will hinder its advent. “I spent all that money and I’m not having fun!” Typically there are no refunds.

The simple pleasures which come unexpectedly and which cost little or no money are the ones I am fond of. They arrive out of the blue and can make a portion of your life a joy. I’ve compiled a list:

  1. Unexpectedly meeting and conversing with someone you’ve never met when affinities and analogous experiences reveal themselves.Commonly known as “clicking” with someone.
  2. Taking a walk when the temperature is pleasant and the humidity is low immediately after a brutal heat wave (I’m waiting for this one!).
  3. Savoring a food or prepared dish which you thought you wouldn’t like.
  4. Getting the dishes done and cleaning the sink area and counters, rendering them spotlessly clean and ready for the next meal’s preparation.
  5. Making a seemingly hopeless room or corner of a room navigable.
  6. Taking a dump which requires minimal wiping. Also that ineffable all’s-right-with-the-world post-defecation feeling.
  7. Reading a book about which you were dubious and finding it to be a work of genius, or at least very entertaining. Ditto with movies.
  8. Ditto with a piece of music, whether listening to it or playing it.
  9. A favorable diagnosis or report from a doctor.
  10. Finally catching a bothersome and wily mouse in a mousetrap.
  11. Getting a close view of a particularly beautiful butterfly, or even having one land on your outstretched hand.
  12. Making the acquaintance of a plant or mushroom which you had doubtless walked by many times before and identifying it to species or at least connecting it with its common name.
  13. Expelling snot (when nobody is looking) using the “air-hankie” technique, or more genteely into a handkerchief; a subsequent pleasure is breathing more freely afterwards.
  14. Taking a shower on a hot day. I like to dry only my face and walk around naked and let evaporative cooling do its thing. Ben Franklin used to do this, and if it’s good enough for Ben, it’s good enough for me.


These are off the top of my head; anyone have any additions?


Two Colorful Organisms

So many species, so little time! I’m glad that there are field biologists out there documenting them — within a few decades many will be gone forever.

I filched this squid photo from PZ Myers’ Pharyngula blog; every Friday Myers presents a photo of a cephalopod:

Squids and octopuses fascinate me. They remind me of imagined denizens of a planet far, far,away.

There was exciting news for fanciers of amphibians this week. A Bornean toad which hasn’t been seen since 1924 (and thus was presumed to be extinct) has been seen by a team of scientists from a Malaysian university. They found several of the rare toads up in the trees somewhere in Western Sarawak.

The Rainbow Toad (Ansonia latidisca) must be the most colorful toad in existence; it’s psychedelic, man! Take a look:


John Carty, Fiddler

My blog is hosted for free at I’m grateful for that, but unless you pay extra you can’t include sound files or videos in a post which are on your own computer. I can upload photos, though. There are workarounds; Youtube videos can be “embedded” in a post, and you can link to another site which has soundfiles. Back when I was hosting my own site (those were the days) I could rip tunes or songs from my collection of CDs and a player would play back the music from within the post.

I’m a fiddler and one of my very favorite Irish fiddle players is John Carty. He’s an inspiration for my own playing, although I’m reasonably certain I’ll never play as well as he can. Carty is a master of the subtle variations, never playing the same tune or passage the same way twice. Three reels:


A few years ago I was at an Irish music gathering in St. Louis. Musicians from all over the country were there. The venue was a large pub/restaurant with many nooks and crannies where clusters of musicians could have impromptu sessions. I was wandering around, sitting in for a while at one session, then trying another. I happened upon several musicians sitting in a restaurant booth; I’m not shy — I got out my fiddle and joined in, even though I didn’t know many of the tunes being played, but I’m pretty quick at picking up a tune from scratch. I looked at the fiddler sitting across from me and it was John Carty! I looked at the woman to my left who was playing flute and she was famed Irish flautist Joanie Madden! “Oh, man”, I thought, “Am I ever out of my league!” They tolerated me, though, and didn’t chase me off.

Even if you are unfamiliar with Irish music, follow the link below and listen to a few short clips of John Carty’s fiddle playing. It’s simply elegant and virtuosic. His rhythmic sense is impeccable, and see if you can discern the subtle variations. Your report will be due Wednesday morning, and I do grade on the curve (just kiddin’)

John Carty Clips


Freddy the Pig

I’ve been blogging for over seven years, but the posts from the first six years have been lost due to hard drive failures and an improvident lack of a back-up strategy. Ah, well, I have an up-beat nature; I consider those old posts to be rough drafts and the stories live on in my head. Joan Ryan saved most of the photos on a series of CDs and I am profoundly grateful for that. The upshot is that I’ll be retelling some of those stories — surely my writing skills have improved during the past seven years!

I have a vague memory of writing a post years ago about the Freddy the Pig series of children’s books written by Walter R. Brooks during the twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties. Brooks died in 1958. Rather than re-write a description of the series, I recommend that you read the concise and accurate Wikipedia entry:

Freddy the Pig

Go ahead, follow the link! It’ll just be five minutes out of your life. Reading the entry will make reading the remainder of this post more comprehensible and interesting.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s my family lived in a suburban neighborhood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Once a week a Bookmobile would park for a few hours not far from our house. I loved Bookmobile Days and always carried home an armload of books. It wasn’t long before I discovered a good selection of the Freddy books. By this time the books had fallen out of favor and were all out of print, but I didn’t care. The books had strongly moral plots, talking farm animal analogies of common human dilemmas and conflicts, along with much humor and drama. The copious pen-and-ink illustrations by Kurt Wiese were masterfully drawn. I loved those books.

Many years later I had two young kids of my own. I had mentioned to a friend my memories of reading the Freddy books. One day my friend presented me with a copy of one of the early books in the series, Freddy the Detective. I read the book aloud to my kids and they were excited by the story.

“Daddy,are there any more books like this?”

I checked out internet used book vendors such as Before long I had accumulated about a dozen more Freddy books. Many were discarded library copies from all over the country. Walter R. Brooks’ creations had certainly fallen out of favor if libraries were culling them!

I have fond memories of reading those books aloud to my kids. We even named a pet rat we had at the time after one of the villains in the series, Simon the Rat.

The Freddy books belong to that rare literary category, children’s books which are entertaining and absorbing for adults as well as for children.

Freddy was certainly a smart and versatile pig. At various times he was a detective, a cowboy, a pilot, and a politician.

He also wrote poetry at times; here’s an example:

Thoughts On Teeth

The teeth are thirty-two in number.
You’d think so many would encumber
The mouth, but they fit neatly in
Below the nose, above the chin,
Behind the lips, a double row,
So strong and sharp, and white as snow.
To keep them shining, clean and bright,
Your scrub them morning, noon and night.
The teeth are used in chewing steaks
And pickled pears and angel cakes-
A list of all the things they chew
Would reach from here to Timbuctoo.
Think of all the tons of food
Which in your life your teeth have chewed!
Though birds lack teeth and cannot chew
Their victuals up like me and you,
Gizzards, it’s generally conceded,
Do all the chewing that is needed.
A gizzard no cause for discontent is:
Birds never need to see the dentist.
The use of toothpicks is thought rude
And should in public be eschewed.
To animals, both pigs and men,
Teeth only seem important when
They’re not around. If you have not
Got ’em, you miss them quite a lot.
So keep your teeth, don’t let them go;
Replacements cost a lot of dough.

from “Freddy and Simon the Dictator”

One more porcine poem, this one untitled:

While I croon a verse
In praise
Of the universe.
The universe is quite good-sized,
And is, I think, well organized,
Containing as it does, a slew
Of stars and planets. Comets too
Occasionally whiz about
And dodge and circle in and out
Among the clustered nebulae.
They scare the dickens out of me,
But I suppose they know their stuff
And are expert and quick enough
To keep from bumping or colliding
With other worlds. But I’m residing
At present on the planet, earth,
And it does not arouse my mirth
To see these reckless comets fly
Around as if they owned the sky.
It’s much too dangerous in a crowd,
And really shouldn’t be allowed.
Yet tho there’s nothing to prevent
Bad manners in the firmament,
The heavenly bodies, generally,
Are well behaved and courteously
Avoid all quarrels and disputes-
Tho when they have them, they are beauts.
As to the universe’s size,
It’s rather large than otherwise,
Containing stars and galaxies
And satellites of all degrees.
And some are dim and some are bright,
But all are lighted up at night,-
Mostly along the Milky Way-
A quite remarkable display.
Some scientific fellows hope
By peering thru a telescope
To chart the heavens and name each star
Of all the billions that there are.
More sensible I think it is
Just to sit back and let them whiz
Along on their accustomed track
Around and round the zodiac.
For since they are not bothering me
I think it’s best to let them be.
And that is all I have to say
About the universe today.

from Freddy and the Spaceship

In recent years there has been a resurgence in the popularity of the Freddy books. They have been re-issued by Overlook Press and there are even web-sites devoted to Freddy:

Freddy the Pig’s Home Pen …uh, Page!

I think the Freddy books were a crucial factor in my spotty (at the time) moral development.


Are Some Tree Species More Intelligent Than Others?

Along Hampshire Street here in Quincy there are several magnificent European Linden trees (Tilia cordata, or Little-leaf Linden). Such an appealing species, with their heart-shaped leaves and small round pendant seeds, each one shaded by an oval bract. These trees seem to know that growing too close to a power-line will result in chain-saw butchery by the electric company crews. The trunks lean away from the lines, grow above them, then lean back. Are they perhaps sensitive to electromagnetic fields? Perhaps I’m being too anthropomorphic, but this seems like some sort of vegetable intelligence.

Here is a photo of the particularly massive base of one of these lindens. The tree is probably about eighty years old.

This is a photo of another very tall linden which cannily avoided the power lines:

I’ve long been puzzled that our native linden,Tilia americana, is seldom planted as a street or yard tree on this continent.

They are most often known as basswood trees; the locals call them “Linn” trees. It’s a beautiful and fast-growing tree with larger leaves than those of the European species. Years ago, back when our kids were young, I would venture down into the bottomland woods during the winter with a five-gallon bucket and a shovel. I remember six-year-old Adrian, our daughter, accompanying me on one of these jaunts. The little basswood saplings were easy to identify: the terminal buds are bright red and can be seen from a distance.

Over the course of a few years I transplanted about eight of the saplings. The last time I saw them they averaged about sixteen inches in diameter. Wistfully, I wonder how they are doing these days.

An aside: If you ever happen to be around one of the Tilia species, one which is young enough that it has branches not far above your head, and it’s the middle of May, you will be treated to one of the most delicious odours to come from any tree flower, rivalled only by the odour of the blossoms of the native wild apple. Bees like flowering Tilias; the whole tree will be abuzz. The bees won’t sting you, as they are too busy!

At the other end of the tree “intelligence” scale are the moronic soft or silver maples. The species has a tendency to grow out limbs right over a house’s roof. The wood is brittle and branches will snap off and destroy a roof if chain-saw surgery isn’t done as a preventive measure. There are two miserably contorted specimens right out in front of my apartment house. I can imagine their dim thoughts as they grew towards the power lines:

“Duh — they’re just wires! Let’s just engulf those wires — what could possibly go wrong?” What eventually went wrong was that the power company chain-saw crew came along and butchered those poor feckless trees. Now they are the tree equivalent of cripples. I wish someone would cut them down and plant lindens in their place!


Suburban Grass (No, not that kind)

Here is some fine prose and poetry from long-time commenter and collaborator Joan Ryan. The dialog between God and St. Francis which precedes Joan’s material is of unknown provenance; evidently it has been knocking around the internet for years. I wonder who wrote it?

GOD: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colours by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But, it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do they really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make them happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it – sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS : No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD : Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS : Yes, Sir.

GOD : These people must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It’s a natural cycle of life.

ST. FRANCIS : You better sit down, Lord. They have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore.

As most of you know, Brentwood, formerly Maddenville, is a largely German community, and the term “Scrubby Dutch” is accurate right down to each tidy postage stamp front lawn. The sound of the hired lawn services for the more privileged is a signal for retirees and yuppies with puppies alike to sprint to their sheds, break out the weed whackers and Torros and mow like crazy. Lord knows, we can’t have our lawns looking unkempt.

During the last three weeks I have literally gone bonkers because my mower was in the shop. What will the neighbors think? Will I get fined by the city? At first I paced like a prisoner with an ankle bracelet. I could not go far from the house, even to water the flowers because of the intense heat, and was humiliated by my wild and wooly front lawn. Finally I decided to weed a little in the back yard, where the crabgrass killer and fertilizer are not employed. I can only afford to look good from the front. I yanked the more egregious weeds, like nut grass and crab, but also during this time, I re-discovered that old bromide that weeds are really just flowers growing where we don’t want them.

Today, the lawnmower was finally fixed. Braving (Well, it was not brave, but totally foolhardy) the 100 plus heat, I charged out and laid waste to both unruly lawns. I was feeling pretty proud of myself. But…be careful what you wish for. I find myself kind of missing the weeds. Nothing to photograph. No butterflies bouncing around the backyard. The rabbits, who were satisfied with the clover, are now looking pretty predatorily at my petunias. A blackbird or grackle or some species that looked like a Boeing 707 compared to my usual sparrows, actually uprooted and flew away with a small marigold a few weeks back. Trust no critter in a trimmed lawn.

Who knew I’d discover I had need for weeds? These feelings of uncomfortable nostalgia, along with the hilarious send up of our suburban lifestyle in the above dialogue between God and St. Francis which someone sent me, inspired this atypical (because it’s non-snarky ) verse below. I have my velvet Zoysia front lawn back as well as it’s stepchild, the more scrufty back yard. But something seems to be missing. Be careful what you wish for.

The Broken Lawnmower

Three weeks of rain mixed well with sultry heat
The yard a tangled jungle, weeds galore,
Wild strawberries invade my tidy turf
Small milkweed tendrils sprout where none before.

At sneaky snail’s pace, leaves the size of dimes,
Sly Creeping Charlie used to snake along.
Now multitudes of leaves replace each one
Their tiny notes have grown into a song.

Wild violets here are once again untamed.
Leaves sprout like fountains, small and pale and green.
And timid purple flowers crest their waves
Where formerly they would have been unseen.

Then, power mower, cured of balking blades
Their nemesis returns to battleground.
Soon not a single flower can be seen.
Decapitated blades of grass abound.

My Dream Auteur

It is a truism that accounts of other peoples’ dreams tend to be boring. I’ll restrain myself and later in this post I’ll recount a particularly striking dream scene, stripping it of the mundane context.

Have you ever wondered just what part of your brain concocts dream story-lines? I imagine a writer-director, an auteur if you will, sitting in one of those canvas director chairs. I imagine that he looks a bit like Quentin Tarantino. He chuckles inwardly as he observes my puzzlement at the twists and turns he has concocted for a particular dream. This auteur has ample material to draw upon: the contents of my memory. My auteur isn’t malicious or unduly terrifying, for which I am grateful.

I’ll cut to the chase. I found myself driving a red Ford Explorer down a narrow alley. The truck didn’t seem to have a Neutral or a Park indicator on the ring surrounding the steering column. The brakes didn’t work. I just wanted to find a place to park the vehicle and then find the owners, a couple I had known in Knox County, MO.

I ended up right at the edge of an eighty-foot cliff with a small river or large creek flowing down at the bottom. I finally found Neutral but the key refused to allow me to turn off the engine. I tried to engage the emergency brake but it evidently was broken and ineffective.

Then the Explorer plunged over the edge and hurtled down towards the river. “Oh, no!” I exclaimed. The vehicle hit the water, righted itself, and began floating downstream. As I said, my dream auteur is merciful and I wasn’t injured, not even stunned, and the Explorer seemed undamaged. Eventually I hit a shallow portion of the river, the tires regained traction, and I found a place where I could get back on the road. The remainder of the dream doesn’t need to be recounted.

So now I know what it might feel like to drive a vehicle over the edge of a cliff.

Indulge me, kind readers, as I concoct a metaphorical fantasy.

I’m imagining that my brain has been enlarged to the size of a small office building. Various neural structures are represented by rooms containing filing cabinets. I decide to take a stroll through the building. In the lobby I encounter my dream auteur sitting in his canvas chair.

“Hey, Larry, how’d you like that Explorer’s plunge into the river?” He couldn’t suppress a sardonic smile.

“Scared the piss out of me, for sure!”

“Well, you have to admit that no person or vehicle was harmed during the making of that dream!”

I continue my exploration. Why, here’s the Word Room! Every word I know neatly filed away in alphabetical order in a series of cabinets. A gray cabinet contains the words I just kinda know, words I usually figure out from context, many of them French.

The next room has a brass plaque over the door: Proverbs,Catch-phrases, and Cliche´s. I had no idea that I know so many of them!

I wander on down the hall and come to the Image Repository. Just millions of images: photos, still scenes from movies and TV, images of places I’ve been and people I have known or even only briefly met — just about anything visual which has caught my attention during the past 57 years. One wall of the room was filled with cabinets full of video sequences from movies and TV shows. Some of them were entire TV shows I saw when I was a kid. I found one cabinet filled to the brim with cartoons.

Another wall had “Natural History” painted on it in an antique script up near the ceiling. Images of every plant, mushroom, liverwort, and lichen I’ve ever seen were all neatly filed away. One small drawer was labeled “Fish, Molluscs,etc.” Another cabinet was labeled “Insects, Arachnids, etc.” Yet another cabinet was labeled “Tetrapods” — birds, mammals, amphibians, etc.

A large adjacent room contains cabinets chock-full of every piece of music I’ve ever heard, some of it fragmentary, including the hundreds of fiddle tunes I know.

I wander back out into the hallway. I encounter a harried-looking bald-headed man, short of stature and seemingly in a hurry to get someplace.

“Who are you?” I asked him.

“I’m the curator; I’m at the beck and call of that damned auteur of yours, Larry. You wouldn’t believe how much work it is to gather up images and sounds for those dreams he comes up with, not to mention the daydreams you seem to be prone to! Gotta go…”

“Wait! I have just one more question. Why can’t I access these archives myself?”

“Oh, that would never do. Your waking conscious mind can only hold so much information at once, and much of that information is survival stuff which you need to be able to function effectively in the world. You know how sometimes you just can’t recall a name, a tune, or some other type of information?”

“Yeah; it happens all the time.”

“And then after a time the piece of information just suddenly appears in your mind? That delay gives me time to search the archives; when I find the information, a name or whatever, I toss it up through the membrane into your consciousness. Otherwise you would spend half of your life in fruitless archive searches. I’ve been trained to search the archives — just leave it to me. It’s my job.”

The curator scurried off — he reminded me of the White Rabbit in Alice In Wonderland.

I’d better end this metaphorical story and allow my mind to regain its normally inscrutable neural state. Interesting tour, I must admit, but I need to get some sleep. Sweet dreams, I hope!


Excerpts From A Commonplace Book

Conservative and Liberal, Republican and Democrat — these words have been drained of all but shreds of meaning. I like to read just about any essayist, as long as they:

  • Actually have real thoughts and conclusions
  • Don’t succumb to mindless ideology, often found at the loony fringes
  • Don’t obtusely ignore the lessons of history.
  • Avoid pointless self-aggrandization while vilifying other writers.
  • Acknowledge personal limitations; a little self-deprecation always helps.

Okay, now that I’ve eliminated three-quarters of the internet’s torrent of words, allow me to introduce a writer whom I found to be perceptive, well-educated, and a damn good writer. His name is George Scialabba. This essay (in PDF format) deals with a wide range of subjects, including depression and political philosophy. The link:

Divided Mind

For several years George Scialabba has been making entries in a commonplace book, just a growing notebook where short passages and sentences can be recorded for future reference. I’ve cherry-picked a few of my favorites from his commonplace book, leaving out the French and Latin entries, as I’m monolingual.

  • It would be subversive of all human civilized society if the female population … were imbued with the idea that they might safely indulge in unchaste intercourse without fear of any of the consequences such intercourse entails upon them.

    Sir George Jessel, Master of the Rolls, 1880, depriving Annie Besant of custody of her daughter because of her authorship of a birth control pamphlet.

  • Mental work, labor in the higher regions of the mind, is one of the most strenuous kinds of human effort. The quality that above all deserves the greatest glory in art is courage; courage of a kind of which common minds have no conception. … To plan, dream, and imagine fine works is a pleasant occupation, to be sure. It is like smoking magic cigars, like leading the life of a courtesan who pleases only herself. The work is then envisaged in all the grace of infancy, in the wild delight of its conception, in fragrant flowerlike beauty, with the ripe juices of the fruit savored in anticipation. Such are the pleasures of invention in the imagination. The man who can explain his design in words passes for an extraordinary man. All artists and writers posses this faculty. But to produce, to bring to birth, to bring up the infant work with labor, to put it to bed full-fed with milk, to take it up again every morning with inexhaustible maternal love, to lick it clean, to dress it a hundred times in lovely garments that it tears up again and again; never to be discouraged by the convulsions of this mad life, and to make of it a living masterpiece that speaks to all eyes in sculpture, or to all minds in literature, to all memories in painting, to all hearts in music — that is the task of execution.

    Balzac, Cousin Bette

  • One who knows that “enough is enough” always has enough.

    Tao Te Ching

  • Dr. Bourbon said, “You know, boy, these young kids come out here from the east, read Cassirer and Buber and all that stuff, they’re pretty darn sure of themselves. They think they’re mighty good. ‘Taint always so. I always make it my rule, beware of intellectual arrogance. Now take me, I’m a scholar. That’s what I’ll be hung for. But those boys, know what they are?”

    “No,” said Walker.

    “Critics!” said Bourbon in some disgust. “That means they can go around spoutin’ their own opinions all the time as much as they want, without ever havin’ to check a fact. Needn’t use the library ever.”

    Malcolm Bradbury, Stepping Westward

  • Liberty is so much latitude as the powerful choose to accord to the weak.

    Judge Learned Hand

  • … The man
    Who sold his country is here in hell; the man
    Who altered laws for money; and a father
    Who knew his daughter’s bed. All of them dared,
    And more than dared, achieved, unspeakable
    Ambitions. If I had a hundred tongues,
    A hundred iron throats, I could not tell
    The fullness of their crime and punishment.

    Virgil, Aeneid, Book VI (trans. Rolfe Humphries)

  • The meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights

    J. Paul Getty

  • “I hate a stupid man who can’t talk to me, and I hate a clever man who talks me down. I don’t like a man who is too lazy to make any effort to shine; but I particularly dislike the man who is always striving for effect. I abominate a humble man, but yet I love to perceive that a man acknowledges the superiority of my sex, and youth, and all that kind of thing. … A man who would tell me that I am pretty, unless he is over seventy, ought to be kicked out of the room. But a man who can’t show me that he thinks so without saying a word about it, is a lout.”

    Violet Effingham in Phineas Finn by Trollope

  • English visitor (after Lincoln apologizes for the condition of his boots): “Why, sir, in England a gentleman never blacks his own boots.”

    Lincoln: “Indeed. Whose does he black?”

  • A long life may not be good enough, but a good life is long enough.


  • Oh, what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practice to deceive!
    But when we’ve practiced quite a while,
    How vastly we’ve improved our style!

    Jim Holt

  • How many charming talents have been spoiled by the instilled desire to do “important” work! Some people are born to lift heavy weights. Some are born to juggle with golden balls.

    Max Beerbohm

  • Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.

    John Wayne

  • The horse that farts will never tire.
    The man that farts is the man to hire.

    New Hampshire proverb

Well, I’m tired of cutting and pasting. Here’s the link for the complete commonplace book — there are some real gems in it!

George Scialabba’s Commonplace Book


A Visit From Germanic Relatives

It’s been five years since I’ve seen my son Tyler. My first grandchild Franziska was a mere babe at the time. Why so long? They live in Germany, where Tyler works as a computer programmer. They stopped by for a visit today and we went out for lunch. So nice to see them!

I have a regrettable tendency to forget to take family photos, but this this time I managed to take a couple (though Tyler had to remind me):