Saturday, October 1, 2016

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul and Mary -- The Colonel Carries On #51

by Art Stickers and Sylvan ("Syl-Syl") Sylph

Epigraph: “War clouds are gathering. A hard rain will soon fall.” --Victor Davis Hanson

My most trusted advisor tells me that meditations on African proverbs are as wearying for others as they are fascinating to me. So I’m giving them a rest this post. How about a friendly face instead?

If this is a Seventies TV star, I don’t know that.

“A perfect command of contract drafting skills lets the drafter put things so clearly that neither human ingenuity nor judges can make the words mean something else.” --A. Wright Burke, M.Phil.

“The cardinal virtues of contract drafting are accuracy, clarity, and concision. Accuracy makes the contract mirror the deal. Clarity makes the contract as readily understood as its nature allows. Concision is all the brevity that accuracy and clarity permit.” --Id.

“The contract drafter can express the parties’ intention only when they have one.” --Id.

Paul Simon has a good song on his new album. The song is “Wristband.” You can catch it on YouTube.

He also had a good one on his last album. The song was “Rewrite.”

“Find your own Calcutta.” --St. Teresa of Kolkata

“Half the harm done in this world is done by people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; it just doesn’t interest them.” --after T.S. Eliot

Dives (pronounced “dye-veez” or “dee vace”) is rich and lives bigly, ignoring the beggar Lazarus at his gate, whose sores dogs lick. Lazarus and Dives both pop their clogs, and Dives finds himself in a place of flaming torment. He sees his ancestor Abraham at a great distance, and Lazarus resting in Abraham’s bosom. Dives begs Abraham to send Lazarus to Dives with a little water. Abraham responds in part (KJV): "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence."

My question is, why would anybody want to go from Abraham’s bosom to the place of fire and torment?

Speaking of fiery torment, here’s someone’s idea of a Balrog:

One artist’s conception of the Balrog known as Durin’s Bane.

In “The Lord of the Rings,” Sauron’s (first syllable rhymes with “how”) physical appearance is arguably never directly depicted. But that of the Balrog called “Durin’s Bane” is, however obscurely.

Gandalf and the Fellowship of the Ring encountered Durin’s Bane when they were trying to cross the Bridge of Khazad-dûm in the Mines of Moria, deep inside the Misty Mountains. It was dark.

The Balrogs were angelic beings, fire spirits, originally good, created before before the making of the world, corrupted by Melkor, capable of taking physical bodies that could be destroyed, shape-shifters who could move "unclad in the raiment of the world," i.e., invisibly. When their physical bodies were destroyed, they survived bodiless.

Tall and menacing, with the ability to shroud themselves in fire, darkness, and shadow, Balrogs had claws like steel and were armed with fiery whips “of many thongs” and long swords of fire. They could not readily be vanquished. Only dragons rivaled them in ferocity and destructiveness.

At the end of the First Age, when the side on which the Balrogs fought was overthrown, the victors attempted to cleanse Middle-Earth of evil powers, but overlooked the deepest pits, "caverns at the roots of the earth," into which the Balrogs fled, hiding there for millennia.

As the battle on the bridge over the abyss approaches, the Balrog appears, "like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater."

In the battle with Gandalf, the Balrog uses the characteristic many-thonged whip of flame and the long sword ("From out of the shadow a red sword leapt flaming"). Mark these words: "They could see the furnace-fire of its eyes from afar."

Whence the name “Balrog”? Tolkien had his own invented languages for the peoples of Middle Earth, but he surely knew that the Norse 'bál' means 'fire,' and that an epithet of the Norse god Odin was 'Báleygr,' or 'fire-eyed,' a likely reference to his warlike nature. Lose the vowels, and you have “BLGR,” one letter-shift away from "BLRG." Knowing all this, your life will be better, believe me.

New topic: constrained writing. Constrained writing is a literary technique in which the writer is bound by some condition that forbids certain things or imposes a pattern. Examples: sonnets, tweets, limericks, haiku. One or more novels have been written without using the letter “e” or without using the same word more than once. Back before the dinosaurs left, telegrams were ten words or fewer for a fixed price, so people tried to keep them short.

Famous telegrams were, from quick memory: “Peccavi!” -- Latin for “I have sinned,” but in context it meant “I have exceeded instructions and conquered the entire province of Sindh!” Once a reporter telegraphed Cary Grant on Grant's birthday: “How old Cary Grant?” Grant responded: “Old Cary Grant fine. How you?” There’s of course the Jewish telegram: “Start worrying. Details to follow.”

I’m not a producer or consumer of Tweets, but I love to be helpful, so here are a handful of (stolen) tips on compressed writing:

Use word shortcuts, like “w/” for “with” and “Luv” for “Love.”

Drop vowels. Let “clssrm” do for “classroom.”

Drop contraction marks. Let “cant” do for “can’t.”

Don’t use “and.” Use the + sign instead.

Okay, enough edification. One new form of literature is “Twiction,” a blend of “Tweet” and “fiction.” My cleverer readers will have figured out that it means fictions of no more than 140 characters.

“Give an example!” you holler. With scant thought to copyright, here goes:

“He closed the door behind him and walked out to the point of the crag on which the cabin stood. ‘Let's see 'em send me J Crew catalogs now!’"

Another: "Cory gazed absently at the rain sheeting against the window. 'It's not the fiddling I miss so much as  the knowledge that fiddling was possible.'"

Reader submissions welcome:

The Bulwer-Lytton contest each year is named for the author of the novel that actually began “It was a dark and stormy night.” The thing is to write the first sentence of a terrible novel. There are categories. This year’s winner in “purple prose” was as follows:

“She was like my ex-girlfriend Ashley, who'd stolen my car, broken my heart, murdered my father, robbed a bank, and set off a pipe bomb in Central Park—tall. —Rachel Nirenberg, Toronto, Canada

The best in the detective category was this one:

"Even from the hall, the overpowering stench told me the dingy caramel glow in his office would be from a naked bulb with a baked-on ten-thousand-cigarette nicotine layer, hanging from a frayed wire in the middle of a likely cracked and water-stained ceiling , but I was broke, he was cheap, and I had to find her."
--William "Barry" Brockett, Tallahassee, Florida

Changing gears again in preparation for getting out of here, three apopemptic items (“apopemptic” means, roughly, “sendoff,” or “bye-bye”):

“General Washington exposed himself to British volleys because he knew that while generals are replaceable, valor is not. There is no substitute for valor.”

“I gained nothing from supreme enlightenment. That is why it is called supreme enlightenment.” --The Buddha (attr.)

“I’m writing a book. I’ve got all the page numbers done.” --Stevern Wright

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