Archive for June, 2014

I was doing a little research on an obscure poetic form, the Hsinku, today.  I found two sources that were somewhat helpful in understanding it beyond the basic definition I’d been given by the South Arkansas Poets of the Pines chapter of PRA: “Line count 4, syllable count optional; Lines 2 and 4 rhymed; line 4, twist or surprise ending based on subject.”

The first source is a translation from an address by the innovator, Dr. Fan Kuanling, of this Neo-classical Chinese form.  Apparently Hsinku also involves an element of oil painting, although I have no idea how the two actually interplay.  In my ignorance, I limit myself to the poetic form and hope more information will come with time.  Dr. Fan gives this definition:

“What is Neo-classical poetry? Neo-classical poetry is written in verse; a modernization of ancient Chinese poems.  Basically four lines each poem. There’re foot rhymes on both the second and fourth lines. But rhymes can be in a natural sense of music. To copy ancient sayings and verses are not encouraged.

The entire address, including his own example of the Hsinku, can be found here.

My second source was Nathaniel Hellerstein’s blog, Paradox Point, in which he mentions his first experience with Hsinku and Dr. Fan, himself, in 1993.  Hellerstein includes a group of his own compositions.  One, in particular, prompted me to write a response in form.  The original renders praise to the clam for being the creator of the pearl.  (I looked it up–although the preponderance of pearls come from oysters, they occasionally develop inside mussels and clams as well.)  My response, and my first Hsinku, follows.

Why praise the clam?
Little Reactionary secreted nacre
thoughtlessly. Pearl: choice creation
unchosen by its maker.

 

Black Pearl and shell by Brocken Inaglory (I know. It’s not a clam. But it’s gorgeous!)

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Fire in the Bones: William Tyndale - Martyr, Father of the English BibleFire in the Bones: William Tyndale – Martyr, Father of the English Bible by S. Michael Wilcox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Fire in the Bones, Wilcox presents a brief, readable account of William Tyndale’s experience in making the first English translation of the Bible. As an LDS scholar, Wilcox draws occasional parallels between and connections with Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the LDS Church. This may enhance the reading of those interested in these areas. It would be a shame, however, if readers interested in the book solely as a history of William Tyndale, the Bible, and the Reformation, or even the political climate in Western Europe during the 1500s allowed these references to interfere with the enjoyment and information available in this book. None of these subjects (LDS or otherwise) are treated exhaustively; each is addressed as it pertains to Tyndale’s efforts to give common English readers a Bible from which they could seek knowledge of God for themselves.

Early in Tyndale’s endeavors, he made the audacious assertion: “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou dost.” This was his response when discussing with “a learned man” the Catholic Church’s positions that English was a language unworthy of Biblical translation and that easy access to scripture would provide too great an opportunity for doctrinal corruption. While there is no avoiding the tension between Catholicism and Lutheranism, and the varied positions of reformers within each camp, Wilcox does a good job of not vilifying the Catholicism. Considering the point of view he takes, that of a proponent of Tyndale, this is not an easy task. Wilcox tends to focus on individuals, sticking to the facts rather than searching out and ascribing dubious motives. He does discuss tenets of the religions and contentions that existed at the time, but he avoids making judgment calls on the veracity of either Catholic or Protestant belief systems.

Wilcox skillfully renders a picture of the life and times of Tyndale, opening the reader’s eyes a little more to the complexity of the political atmosphere in the 1500s. I found myself better informed not only about the generation of the English-language Bible and William Tyndale (and others involved in his efforts) but also of the foundations of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the development of the English Language, English history, and the history and beliefs of Catholicism and Protestantism.

For those interested in further reading, Wilcox provides a 2-1/2 page Bibliography.

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A recent writer’s conference in Little Rock allowed me to check out a couple of local restaurants.  My friend and I arrived in town Thursday evening and wanted something quick and tasty and our Urbanspoon led us to

Layla’s Gyros and Pizzeria

Layla's Gyros & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Located in a strip mall, this small greek “diner” has exactly what I look for in an ethnic eatery: great food, great people, and great prices.  In fact, this was the best Greek food I’ve ever had.  My friend, Tamara, had the Goat Plate.  Her first time eating goat was a triumph.  Not only did she enjoy the food, she ate it efficiently.  According to our server (who I think was also the owner), you’ve got to use your fingers.  There’s just no way to get the meat off those goat bones with a knife and fork.  He congratulated Tamara for doing it the right way and we giggled over folks who work too hard at being polite.  [Yes, I was laughing at myself.  I will admit to attempting the knife and fork approach.  It was too much trouble, though, and I resorted to the more appropriate finger method.]

My choice was the Mubarak Plate.  Delish!  And there was so much, the doggie bag I took back to the hotel provided lunch for the next 2 days (with the addition of a salad)!  Gyros and Shawarma are old favorites, but I had never had Kifta Kabab or Kibbeh before.  I was very pleased with my introduction to these dishes.

We had to order Baklava for dessert and I’ve never had better.  It was a bite of pistachio-laden, honey-coated heaven.

Layla’s also has a small selection of grocery items available.

 

Brave New Restaraunt

Brave New Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I have to say that this is probably the strangest location for a restaurant I’ve seen.  I can understand a unique, whimsical setting–an old warehouse, a boat, the top of a UFO-like building–but this one was downright confusing.  If we had not read in Urbanspoon that it was hard to find, we certainly would have thought we had the wrong address.  Don’t be deceived by it’s location on the second floor of a nondescript building in the middle of a nondescript business park.  This place is fabulous.  After riding the elevator up and following signs posted down a dull, industrial hallway, we were met with a cool, inviting dining room boasting a beautiful, riverfront view.  If the restaurant owners’ intent was to surprise, they succeeded, and their success didn’t end with the atmosphere.

Goat Cheese Mousse

Goat Cheese Mousse

We started our meal sharing an appetizer of Goat Cheese Mousse.  My husband called in the middle of this course and I had to rush him off the phone.  I wanted to make sure I got my fair share!  As you can see, the mousse was so tempting we forgot to take pictures before diving it.  Delightfully light and tangy, the perfect way to wake up the taste buds for our entrees.

Mixed Grill

Mixed Grill

Scallop

Scallop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entrees were preceded by 5-Onion Soup for Tamara and a dinner salad for me.  Tamara ordered the Pinenut-Encrusted Salmon.  I chose the Mixed Grill.  We each also had a Scallop.  My favorite elements of this meal were the scallop and the quail.  This was the second best scallop I’ve consumed.  No criticism intended here.  I have eaten many scallops in my life; I’ve only afforded two the honor of “consummation.”  (The other was presented by Sepia.)  BNR’s scallop had a lovely buttery texture, sustained by a perfectly weighted sauce.  It was one of those dishes that require you to save a bit with which to end the meal.  The Mixed Grill was very good.  It was ample enough that I had to take some home with me.  It was at home the following day (after a reheat) that I found the delight in that adorable little quail, and learned a life lesson about eating really good food.  I was lunching on my leftovers with, I suppose, the attitude of “I’ve lost the opportunity to relish the fresh-made essence of this food” when I took a bite of the quail.  It was not my first bite; in fact, it was the last.  And it nearly made me cry.  It was that moment when all the elements of a dish come together to create a near-spiritual experience.  I know that’s a little over-the-top.  But seriously, I was left wondering what this little fella would have tasted like in the restaurant, freshly prepared, in a setting that allowed my attention to be on the food rather than on whatever stupid TV show I happened to be sitting in front of.  Ah, the marriage of the musky warmth of the stuffing with the wild, gamey richness of the bird!  I cursed myself for not paying attention earlier, but that didn’t stop me from savoring that one final morsel.  When I return to Little Rock and BNR, I believe the choice will be between Stuffed Quail and Trout with Spinach & Crab.

I did not take a picture of our dessert.  It was gone before I realized I had neglected it.  Tamara and I shared a Chocolate Crème Brûlée.  It deserves a comment as well.  When I think of crème brûlée, I imagine a light custard, the perfect end to a somewhat heavy meal particularly on a warm evening.  This dish was not that dish.  The carmellized sugar crust was slightly thicker than expected.  The quality of the chocolate used in its preparation was evident; this wasn’t a melted Hershey bar.  Rich and strong, not too sweet and only slightly bitter.  The texture was much heavier than I am accustomed to in crème brûlée , like a dense yet not heavy cross between a flan (the kind my friend makes, not the milky pudding thing you buy in plastic containers in the refrigerator section of the grocery store) and ganache–velvety, but without the near-liquid aura or somewhat gelatinous texture of your average flan or crème brûlée.  (Or maybe I just have never had a really good CB before?)

 

I look forward to another trip to Little Rock.  The problem I foresee is wanting to try something new when I have already discovered places I want to return to.  I suppose there are worse dilemmas.

 

Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas, is hosting the William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism through July 7, 2014.  I snapped a few shots of my favorites while I was visiting.  (I used my cell phone, so don’t expect perfect renderings.)  Of course, photos never do a work of art justice.  I hope you get enough of an idea of what is on exhibit that you will take the opportunity to view them in person.  Crystal Bridges augments the Paley collection with a few modern works of their own, so this is the only time you will be able to see all of these works in one place.  In a few weeks, the exhibit will be divided and the paintings and sculptures from the Paley collection will be returning to MoMA.

In his New Republic article, Adam Kirsch agrees–and disagrees–with Jeremy Paxman on the relevancy of poetry.

It raised some questions in my mind that I would LOVE to get a discussion going on.

  • What makes poetry “relevant”?
  • What does “relevancy” mean?  Popular?  Important?  Applicable?
  • Must poetry be “accessible” to be relevant?  To whom?
  • Should the poet write to the average reading level or attention span in order to be relevant?
  • Must poetry appeal to the masses (be commercial) to be relevant?
  • What elements of poetry exactly does relevancy involve?
  • Is it possible to have universal relevancy?  Is relevancy relative?
  • Do the universal themes feel relevant or must the subject be current political and social trends/philosophies?
  • Does relevance involve technique as well as topic?
  • Must one adopt current popular styles (such as slam or rap) to be relevant?  Does employment of traditional styles (sonnet, epic) increase irrelevancy?
  • Should the poet really be concerned with relevancy?

 

Last weekend (June 6-7) I attended the Arkansas Writers’ Conference in Little Rock.  The conference celebrated its 70th year in 2014.  It was small, but there were some worthwhile elements, including 15+ presentations, 35 contests, and a visit from Governor Beebe.  I missed out on the last two items in that list, but I did glean some useful information from the speakers I attended.  Here are a few of my favorites.

“There are no ‘special snowflakes’ in publishing.”  (Sandy Longhorn)

The Published Poem: How to Write It, How to Get It Published, Sandy Longhorn

One of Longhorn’s main points is to do your research, find out submission requirements, and follow them!  You may have written THE great American novel (poem, essay, short story, screenplay), but that does not give you a pass in the publication process.  At the conference, Longhorn discussed poetry publication specifically.  Poets begin publishing in literary and regional journals and she suggests identifying potential matches in Poets & Writers Tools for Writers section and indices of Pushcart Prize anthologies.  When you’ve reached the point when you are ready to publish a book-length work, Sandy suggests checking out Small Press Distribution for likely fits.  Regardless of where you choose to submit, remember to follow the guidelines.  Not only is it a sign of respect, it also lets the publisher know you are willing to work with them throughout the process.

Longhorn also suggested some useful books for those who are still honing their skills:

E-Publishing Tips & Tricks for Beginners, Heather Sutherlin.

Walking beginners through the steps of epub, Sutherlin brought up some points worth noting including the unnecessary isbn, a brief discussion of DRM, ACX, and the importance of checking chapter breaks, headings, table of contents, etc., for all formats in which you are publishing.  Along with this, she discussed different available tools for formatting ebooks, particularly KDP/KDP Select, Smashwords (she wasn’t a fan), and a newcomer to the game, Draft 2 Digital (she was a fan).  David Gaughran provides a good, unbiased comparison of the two on his blog.  (This was published in August, 2013, and according to Heather, D2D has made some improvements.)

 Impulse + Structure = Productivity  (Phillip H. McMath)

Three speakers discussed characterization.  Tamara Hart Heiner gave a severely abridged version of her talk, managing to squeeze enough information about Establishing Voice with Multiple Main Characters to make me regret that circumstances beyond her control had forced her to condense 45 minutes into 15.

Jan Morrill gave a hands-on (my favorite kind!) workshop on Interviewing your Characters.  The concept seems pretty self-explanatory and simple, but I found it useful and intend to use the method again.  Some of the keys to success:

  • Before you being, write down several questions you want to ask.
  • Envision an interview setting in which your character will be comfortable.  (Writing down the description may help you get in the spirit of the thing and give you a nice warm-up besides.)
  • Carry on a conversation.  Ask your question, and listen to the answer.  Don’t try to force your character’s response.  Ask further questions based on answers rather than sticking adamantly to the agenda.
  • Record the conversation without lifting pen from paper or fingers from keyboard.
  • Don’t censor or edit.

The Seven Characters Needed to Tell a Story, Del Garrett

Garrett opened with the assertion that a Hero is a reactant character, one that needs something to react to.  He emphasized strong development of the villain.  His seven characters fulfill the demands of the Hero’s Journey structure and include:

  • Hero (protagonist)
  • Sidekick
  • Villain
  • Minion
  • Damsel in distress
  • Mentor

[Yes.  There are only 6 listed.  I got a little distracted, apparently, and my notes are incomplete.  Sorry.]  Something to remember–that “damsel” does not have to be a female or feminine, nor does the hero have to be male/masculine.  These are roles, but how they are filled is up to the author.  Garrett also suggested a couple of books:

 

“If you were the last person on earth, could you get the lid off that pickle jar?”  (Cara Brookins’ dad)

 Building Your Dreams, Cara Brookins

Brookins presentation was definitely of the motivational ilk, a “genre” I’m not particularly fond of.  But her approach to dream-come-true-ing is rooted in hard work, hard experience, and hope.  Because of this, she turned out to be one of my favorite speakers.  I’m not going to retell her story, but if you get a chance to hear her, take it.  I will share a few of the nuggets from her talk.

  • Dream big.  I admit, I hate this line.  But add to it a purpose and it moves beyond pie-in-the-sky positive thinking.  Wimpy dreams are the stuff of fearful hearts.  Be honest!  Set real goals, things you really want, not goals you know you can reach because you are afraid of failure.
  • Your effort must match your goal.  Recognize that you are going to have to work extremely hard to make that big dream happen.  It may shock you when you first realize what building your dream will take; it will certainly require more than you originally expected.  Don’t let it overwhelm you.
  • “Use a Sharpie.”  Be committed.  Set the goal, face the reality of the effort required, and do it!  Be all in.  No pencils allowed.  Once you have a dream/goal, exhaust everything in you to reach it.
  • “Your future is an achievement, not a gift.”

One of the great things about writers’ conferences is the opportunity they provide to move a little further from the fantasy of writing and a little closer to the reality of it.  Brookins’ and the other presenters at ACW 2014 did a great job of making that happen.

Entry

Entry

A recent trip to St. Louis, MO, provided me with the opportunity to visit the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.  Not being Catholic, my first question was “what differentiates a Cathedral from a Basilica?”  According to catholiceducation.org, a Cathedral is “the chief church of the diocese, the bishop’s church.”  It does not have to be magnificent or highly decorated; the key component is the Bishop.  A basilica, on the other hand, refers fundamentally to a form of Roman architecture.

“When the ancient Romans spoke of a basilica they were referring to a large, high-ceilinged hall with three long aisles. The Romans used basilicas as courts, public meeting areas, and even as indoor markets — an early form of our shopping malls. In the fourth century, after Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, many bishops modeled their churches and cathedrals on the Roman basilica, setting up the altar at the far end of the hall.”  (catholiceducation.org)

 

 

A Catholic basilica moves beyond architecture by virtue of papal identification of the site/building as having “unusual historical significance,” or as being “especially sacred because of the presence of a relic or relics.”  On April 4, 1997, the Saint Louis Cathedral was made a Basilica by Pope John Paul II.  The Cathedral’s huge mosaic installation (one of the 3 largest in the western hemisphere, if I understand correctly) is one of the things that makes this building so treasured.

I was somewhat uncomfortable entering this sacred space with a camera and wearing street clothes.  However, as neither was prohibited in the Basilica’s Code of Conduct, I quieted my qualms and crossed the threshold with appreciation for the willingness of the Church to share this astoundingly beautiful building with the public.  Truthfully, the only camera I had was on my phone.  These photos are by my husband (Cleeo W. Wright) who, although his non-phone camera is not set up for architectural photography, is much more capable than I am.  If you enjoy this peek and would like to see more but can’t make it to St. Louis, the Cathedral website has a virtual tour.

Narthex

Narthex

Narthex detail

I have fought a good fight. I have kept the faith.

 

Nave

Nave with domes

Central Dome

Central Dome and West Transept

Symbolic of  the Power of God's Love

Symbolic of the Power of God’s Love

 

 

East Transept and Pulpit

East Transept and Pulpit

West Transept

West Transept

Blue Rose Window

Blue Rose Window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a couple of pictures of the Baldacchino, a domed structure that covers the main altar.  (The Cathedral website has some good shots from angles we couldn’t achieve)

Baldachino

Baldachino

Baldacchino, west side

Baldacchino, west side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few examples of the mosaics:

Mosaic Arches

Mosaic Arches

Mosaic Ceiling

Mosaic Ceiling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child

Mosaic Detail: Stars

Mosaic Detail: Stars

Mosaic Detail: Sun

Mosaic Detail: Sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Altars, Aisles, Pillars, Statues

Hall with Statue

Aisle with Statue

Arch with Altar

Arch with Altar

Mosaic hall

Mosaic Aisle

Mosaic Pillar

Mosaic Pillar

Altar

Altar