Saturday, April 27, 2013

Holmes' Pipe

I was feeling a bit nostalgic today for the sumptuously described setting of Sherlock Holmes' apartments, in particular his well used, hand carved pipe.  I don't know what it is about pipes that is so romantic.  Smoking them certainly isn't.  While it gives a man (or a woman) an air of sophistication and vintage charm, it also makes them smell awful, and there's nothing romantic about that.  (Pipe smoke does smell better than cigarette and cigar smoke, but it's still not pleasant to a non-smoker's nostrils.)  But perhaps it is just that sophistication that makes them a thing of beauty.  I smoked a pipe for a very short time, and while smoking it was unpleasant, just having it in my hand or my mouth was relaxing.  I could close my eyes and find myself in Holmes' sitting room, lounging in his favorite armchair by the fire, listening as he played on his violin.  I was holding a piece of the imagined past between my lips.  I still have the pipe and I still pretend to smoke it, just for the calming effect, and when I need an accessory for a Steampunk outfit.

The Lonely Alchemist

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Quote for Thought


The little poets sing of little things:
Hope, cheer, and faith,
small queens and puppet kings;
Lovers who kissed and then were made as one,
And modest flowers waving in the sun.

The mighty poets write in blood and tears
And agony that, flame-like, bites and sears.
They reach their mad blind hands into the night,
To plumb abysses dead to human sight;
To drag from gulfs where lunacy lies curled,
Mad, monstrous nightmare shapes to blast the world."
-- Robert E. Howard

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Word Wednesday: "moribund"

This is a word authors of Gothic fiction loved to sink their teeth into!  Moribund means "at the point of death."  Many a pale, wan heroine of a Gothic romance as been moribund until the moment when her dashing love comes to liberate her from whatever oppressive captor or fever of the mind is holding her hostage.  Guaranteed this has never happened in real life, but at some point in our lives, it is everyone's fantasy to have the object of our affections bring us back from death's door with a kiss.  Well, maybe not quite death's door.  I'm not sure I want to get that close...

The Lonely Alchemist

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The saintly detective, Father Brown

Imagine you are an average person. (If you are reading this blog you're probably not, but put aside you academia and book-begotten knowledge for a second and pretend.) Say I ask you, "What do you think of G. K. Chesterton?"

You would probably answer: "Who the hell is that? Is he running for the Illinois Senate seat?"

As you are who you are, I'm sure you know what I'm taking about. The genius creator of Father Brown, one of the most adorable and oxymoronic detectives in literature. I feel that Father Brown (and his side-kick Flambeau) are totally under-appreciated in today's society. They may not be able to pull rabbits out of a hat like Sherlock Holmes, or entertain like Hercule Poirot and his precious mustaches, but they are just as intelligent, and, dare I say it, more intellectually provoking. In each Father Brown tale I find a new perspective on society or religion that shakes up my beliefs in the order of the world. Let me just say that for a priest, Father Brown is quite a questioner.  Though his adherence to the Catholic Church can be sometimes frustrating, especially for an atheistic reader, he demonstrates more wisdom and willingness to set aside his vows than any Catholic I have ever met.

Nowadays, readers want to be entertained. No doubt that is why Twilight and Harry Potter are so popular. They are jammed full of juicy romance, danger, magic, and pop culture heroism. Father Brown is devoid of all these things. It is instead painted in the colors of tolerance, patience, obedience, unassuming gentleness, and peacefulness. Chesterton's stories are not so much detective stories as they are tales of human failings and forgiveness. Father Brown is the incarnation of "the forgiveness of sins."

So, I challenge you: read a Father Brown story this week. Don't take it at face value. Question every statement the author makes and ask yourself, "What am I supposed to see here that my comfortable little sensibilities are blocking out? What can I learn from this fascinating old man?" The doddering priest will not let you down.

The Lonely Alchemist

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Word Wednesday: "Zenzizenzizenzic"

Today's word is a headache inducer.  I hope you never ever have to use it, both because it is ludicrous and shouldn't have been invented, and because I hope you never have to do math complex enough to necessitate the use of this word.  The word is zenzizenzizenzic and it means "a number raised to the 8th power."

I apologize for hurting your brain.  Now go back to your day.

The Lonely Alchemist