Nefarious

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is NEFARIOUS.

Nefarious, flagrantly wicked or evil, has its origins in the Latin nefas, meaning crime, from ne (without) and fas (right, or divine law). Synonyms being wicked, iniquitous, evil, wrong, villainous, and vicious.

Years ago the heroes were the good guys, standing for the right. Editors went for good role models. Villains were nefarious. Driven by greed or on a power trip, these vicious types wanted to dodge the law in order to control, steal, kill, destroy. Times have changed: today’s “flawed heroes” may dodge the law, thwart justice, control, steal, and kill. Think Philip Marlowe. They may be liars, drunks and brawlers; still, we should root for them because they have some ultimate good in mind. But forget the role model angle.

Now for a haiku that has nothing to do with literature, but all to do with a villain. Dedicated to those in my family who lost the battle to smoking-related cancers.

lung cancer
nefarious villain
the ashtray overflows

Seven Word Limit?

Posted to CG2 – Jan 13, 2023

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word this morning is LIMIT

Here’s an interesting question WordPress posed on this subject back on Oct 22, 2015. I’ll just tweak my response and you can share your opinion in the comments. Did you answer this question back when it was posed?

“Khalil Gibran once said that people will never understand one another unless language is reduced to seven words. What would your seven words be?”

My first thought: Poets need words! How could a writer like Gibran subject himself to a seven-word limit? This idea would have put him out of business in an hour.

They say we use our few most common words for the greater part of our speech, but I doubt that me, you, he, she, they, is, am, are, yes and no, this and that, wouldn’t go far in communicating. It would help if the whole world understood the same nods, head shakes, and gestures. But I’ve learned from international hockey games that where we North Americans yell “Booo,” Russians whistle. Unhappy fans all stamp their feet, I believe.

And which language? We English believe we have the international language, so of course they should be our words. The folks in China may well dispute this and want to give us their seven words. Then we’d have an argument which would defeat the purpose of international harmony.

I’m a bit cynical in my old age. Writers may rhapsodize about universal love and harmony, but reality is a whole ‘nother ball game. I think of John Lennon singing “All we need is love,” while carrying on an extra-marital affair, divorcing his wife, abandoning his family. Love has to be directed or it can be destructive. The breakup of the Beatles, to quote Sir Paul, “was like a bitter divorce.” No “Love, love, love.”

Re: those seven words. Maybe we could skip nouns and verbs and go for adjectives? Awesome! Wonderful! Yuck! Cool! Gross! Sweet! Terrible! Weird! Teens come close to that already.

Thinking we earthlings could understand each other better if limited to seven words – even if we all spoke the same seven – is a whimsical dream, methinks. I wonder if Gibran could have stood this restriction himself for even a day? Could you?

Image: Pexels — Pixabay

Here’s To Friends!

New Year’s Eve seems to be a time for paying tribute to our dear old friends, maybe because of Bobby Burns’ poem that’s come to be a standard New Year’s Eve song:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And the days of auld lang syne?
... We'll drink a cup of kindness yet
For the sake of auld lang syne.

I came across an enjoyable poem by Edgar Guest where he pays tribute to a dear friend. Here’s part of it:

To An Old Friend

When we have lived our little lives
and wandered all their byways through,
when we’ve seen all that we shall see
and finished all that we must do,
when we shall take one backward look
off yonder where our journey ends,
I pray that you shall be as glad
as I shall be that we were friends.

When we have met all we shall meet
and know what destiny has planned,
I shall rejoice in that last hour
that I have known your friendly hand;
I shall go singing down the way
off yonder as my sun descends
as one who’s had a happy life,
made glorious by the best of friends.

From his book,  Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

Mumbling Main Characters

Cookie Thief!

Mrs MacTavish walked into her kitchen after a short nap and surveyed her cooling racks. “Oh no,” she screeched. Someone was here while I was napping and stole half a dozen cookies!” She wrung her hands together. “Who could have done such a thing?”

Mrs Mac had been up early this morning. At least for her it was early, though some people wouldn’t think so. She’d baked three dozen gingerbread cookies to serve to her friends who were coming to tea this afternoon. Most of the cookies had come out delightfully round and plump, but a few of them looked a little too eccentric to serve to her friends. She’d set them aside on a separate cooling rack, thinking to offer them to Mr Mac when he came in for lunch.

She might not have begrudged the loss of the odd ones, but the thief had stolen six of the best. The ones she planned to serve with pride this afternoon, especially to show Jenny Lyons that she could bake cookies that looked just as nice as Jenny’s always did.

Furious, Mrs Mac looked around for some clue. Ah! There in the flour she’d dusted on the floor by accident. She hadn’t got around to sweeping it up because she’d misplaced her dustpan yesterday while she was cleaning house. I’m misplacing things so often these days, she thought. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m getting dementia!

Now, right there in that floury spot she saw one clear footprint. She bent down and examined the tread pattern carefully. The upper part was an interesting chevron pattern, something like her husband’s work boot. But this was smaller, so it couldn’t have been him. She was glad for that. He was a hard man to reprove, her Mac.

The missing cookies bothered her but it bothered her even more that someone had entered her kitchen and taken them without her hearing the door. Her hearing was getting worse, she knew. Maybe I should buy a hearing aid, one of those fancy contraptions like Mary Fraser just got herself? Nope. I’m saving my money for a trip to London in the fall. My cousin Nancy went last year and had a grand old time or so she said. Of course Nancy would, even if she hadn’t. She’s that sort of person.

If my story is A Day in the Life of Mrs Mac, this would work. If my story is The Missing Cookie Caper, this excerpt gives you way too much unnecessary info to digest – pardon the pun.

Mumbling Protagonists

I downloaded an e-book a week ago anticipating a cozy mystery. However, the age 60-plus main character does so much ramble-thinking it may as well be a memoir. She’s constantly comparing this-that-and-the-other or considering her family and her / their situation, or rehashing a dream she had. To me it feels like she’s mumbling to herself straight time. The mysterious deaths are lost in the fog. She sounds like an air-head because her mind wanders everywhere.

Doing a critique for a new writer yesterday, reading his Chapter One, I got the same feeling. Some nice metaphors. Just way too many.

Charles Dickens was a lover of metaphors, similes, personification and such – and he used them well.
The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.

People then had no media but the local raconteur and the printed page. Folks had time to read and obviously loved vivid descriptions. Today’s editors want Tight and Terse; readers don’t want a lot of metaphoric rambles, however colorful they be.

Still Young at Seventy-Three

Well, I’m not seventy-three yet, but I hope I can still maintain an interest in life, even well past that milestone — as I’m sure Mr Guest did.

OLD AGE

by Edgar Guest (1881-1959)

I used to think that growing old was reckoned just in years,
but who can name the very date when weariness appears?
I find no stated time when man, obedient to a law,
must settle in an easy chair and from the world withdraw.
Old age is rather curious, or so it seems to me;
I know old men at forty and young men at seventy-three.

I’m done with counting life by years or temples turning gray.
No man is old who wakes with joy to greet another day.
What if the body cannot dance with youth’s elastic spring?
There’s many a vibrant interest to which the mind can cling.
It’s in the spirit Age must dwell, or this would never be:
I know old men at forty and young men at seventy-three.

Some men keep all their friendships warm and welcome friendships new;
they have no time to sit and mourn the things they used to do.
This changing world they greet with joy and never bow to fate;
on every fresh adventure they set out with hearts elate.
From chilling fear and bitter dread they keep their spirits free
while some seem old at forty, they stay young at seventy-three.

So much to do, so much to learn, so much in which to share!
With twinkling eyes and minds alert some brave both time and care.
And this I’ve learned from other men, that only they are old
who think with something that has passed the tale of life is told.
For Age is not alone of time, or we should never see
Men old and bent at forty and men young at seventy-three.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co