Dolphin spotting with Captain Casper the sea dog! 

From Scotland with the Wee White Dug, a tale of adventures in the Highlands, including the Pump Room and Spa Exhibition in Strathpeffer, a view of Castle Leod (seat of Clan Mackenzie), the Touchstone Maze honoring Scotland’s historic sites, a Moray Firth cruise with Dolphin Spirit Inverness, enchanting music at Embrace Gifts shop along with wood carvings at Victorian Station, the Eagle Stone of The Pictish Trail, and more. Just further proof, as if we needed any, that your Scotland trip deserves quality time in Inverness-shire and at least a glimpse of the Northern Highlands.

Scotland with the Wee White Dug

Today I’m going to share with you an eclectic mix of Victorian spa town in the Scottish Highlands and a dolphin spotting adventure on the Moray Firth.

Last Saturday after an early breakfast at our B&B near Portmahomack, we set off along the NC500 route between Tain and Dingwall to make the 34 mile journey to Strathpeffer. Strathpeffer lies a few miles west of Dingwall.

The village sits in a wide mountain valley or strath. Leafy, and surrounded by mountains it has the look of an Alpine village to it.

Arriving in Strathpeffer is like stepping back in time. The Victorians have left an instantly recognisable imprint on the architecture of the village. You half expect to see elegantly dressed ladies, strolling down the street on the arm of top hatted gents with mutton-chop whiskers.

The Victorian Station

When we arrived at the station a cute little shop calledEmbrace…

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Original Poetry: Inspirator

As it gets colder in the northern hemisphere, though we are over the hump of winter solstice, I thought I’d share a little figurative fire to brighten your holiday. I first drafted this poem from field notes written as an exercise at the nature writers’ conference I attended at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in October 2016. Here are some excerpts.

Happy New Year. And Happy 100th Birthday to the National Park Service.

Inspirator

by C. L. Tangenberg
Giddy beige feathers of tall, 
unnamed fronds perched at a tilt, 
sprout their crowns in fanned-out spikes,
forging two beings into one: fire 
and ashy aftermath.

Two heads' lengths above 
these frozen flames, 
the color starts.

Green, rounded leaves of 
chartreuse underbellies and grey-
green backs, or faces—I can't 
tell which—huddle in discarded 
half-arches, craft of the stone mason 
who made too many, just in case. 
A half-hearted bow only 
at their very tops, partly 
praising a fractional work. 

On ground farther back, 
a grander stage presents 
the proud, living burns of 
orange-tipped yellow dancers. 
Some like to sway more than others, 
some feel the fueling wind. 

A tree not yet bronzed 
stands apart, flushed with 
a green, pre-fire readiness, 
and here, at the edge of its 
leaf clusters, starts to catch.

Beside, with lifeless pallor, 
bored out, burnt out, by burning 
beetle fever, the fire of hunger—
too-soon wintered, emaciated, 
desolate—ash trees jealously 
watch their flaming neighbors.

And foraging over all heads,
some unseen spirit slurps up 
and bloats full with grey smoke
from all this combustion below, 
from above, with the yellow-
white smoke of sunlight. 

The wind roars like a terrible
conflagration, and the grey, 
not white, smoke is winning. 

Stone-piles at my feet see up 
to the short spray of grasses,
hints of feathers on higher fliers,
and my shadow. 

Blown quiet, I walk 
most unhurried, 
back, into no fire.

 

leaf-sky-black-white-crop-auto-contrast-less-bright

Image by C. L. Tangenberg, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, autumn 2003

Who might you be otherwise?

“I was reflecting, in the first place,” replied Dantès, “upon the enormous degree of intelligence and ability you must have employed to reach the high perfection to which you have attained. What would you not have accomplished if you had been free?”

[The abbé replies] “Possibly nothing at all; the overflow of my brain would probably, in a state of freedom, have evaporated in a thousand follies; misfortune is needed to bring to light the treasures of the human intellect. Compression is needed to explode gunpowder. Captivity has brought my mental faculties to a focus; and you are well aware that from the collision of clouds electricity is produced—from electricity, lightning, from lightning, illumination.”

– from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Vol. 1, Ch. 17, “The Abbé’s Chamber”


True or false?

On Teaching Exploration: The Pigeon Paper

Learning, writing, birds, otters, details, and soul. A reblogged post.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

by Jan Priddy

z pigeons.jpg (c) 2016 photo by Dinty W.Moore

In my college writing class I assign “The Pigeon Paper.” This is a short expository essay written to address a one-word topic—write about “squash” or write about “salt”—a paper completed in ten days. The first year it was about pigeons—hence the name. We began the assignment by brainstorming what we knew individually about pigeons and considering different structures for an expository paper (comparison, chronology, description); overnight each of us researched and the next day we brought in research and each proposed three potential topics and approaches; then we had a few days to complete a draft for peer editing in class, and a final draft of the paper was handed in the following day.

Long before I began teaching, I had faith both in assignments and research. I believe writing creates learning, because it forces us to examine our knowledge in the…

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Five-Phrase Friday (24): Book Menu 2016

Books I most want to read for the first time this year:

  1. Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) – the memoir of a Danish coffee-plantation owner, and sole manager after separation from her husband, in Kenya from 1914-1931; I’ve seen the film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford many times and loved it.
  2. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – “a work of strange, scary loveliness,” it is the prequel to Jane Eyre, with spoilers if you haven’t read Charlotte Bronte’s book first, which I have.
  3. Poems New and Collected by Wislawa Szymborska, Clare Cavanagh (translator) – a hypnotic poet. I still have to get my hands on this one, so I’ll use my birthday money.
  4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – This is a need perhaps as much as a desire.
  5. Let Me Off at the Top!: My Classy Life and Other Musings by Ron Burgundy / Will Ferrell. Hopefully a sufficient counterpoise to all this seriousness. I started the Author’s Note to this one last week, after getting the book from my brother for my birthday. I only got through half a page before I started laughing out loud. People’s names alone are hilarious. Read the summary penned by Ron himself at the above link.

I’d also like to finish all of the books I’ve been reading since last year–Middlemarch by George Eliot, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth; and all of the books I started last year but never returned to–Don Quixote by Cervantes, Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins, Emma by Jane Austen, and, yet again, Diana Gabaldon’s novel Outlander. I’m more than half way through the first three, so, like, . . . any day now. We’ll see.

One reason I read so slowly is that I tend to read the classics with pen in hand, especially if it’s a copy I own that I can mark up. I like to communicate literally with books, writing marginalia on them and occasionally responding aloud. Literature lives, and breathes, and speaks. So I talk back.

As a student and teacher of literature, writing, and ideas, I also take notes. That means often re-reading large swaths of text in order to capture key insights, delightful writing, story element details, and other treasures.

I’m not much for pop fiction, so this is the reading life I have. If that means I may not get through much of my Goodreads to-read list, then so be it. I’d rather read thoughtfully, learn things, and savor ideas, images, and language than simply devour millions of words, only to pass them unabsorbed.

But I’ve always been a ruminant scholar; I chew my literary food. Some may find this process (or this metaphor) tedious, if not disgusting. Being partial to reading and writing poetry makes the approach work pretty well for me.

Along with typical time management challenges, I suppose dealing with intermittent brain fog and blurry vision may slow the pace a bit, too.

What kind of reader are you?

 

Five-Phrase Friday (9): “Slings and Arrows…”

“. . . of outrageous fortune!” (Hamlet, the “To be, or not to be” speech): These we suffer.

First, let me say this week’s English phrase celebration covers all of my blog’s major focus areas: language play, animals, Outlander, free speech, reading, comedy, poetry, grammar, creativity, education, TV, and even Shakespeare! This post has it all–something for each reader. So enjoy!

Ordinarily I don’t condone name-calling, even in jest (unless you really know that the person can take it). But since it’s William Shakespeare we’re talking about, and since many words he used in his insults have fallen into disuse lately, what the heck! Let’s have some fun.

This week’s phrase-praising post deals in threes by looking at (1) bawdy insults featured in Shakespeare’s plays, (2) Outlander TV show insults identified by episode, and (3) a review of Five-Phrase Friday grammar lessons–your favorite!

Several online sources deal with Shakespearean insult creation, but MIT provides a succinct set of lists in three columns for your three-step, mix-and-match pleasure. They call it the Shakespearean Insult Kit.

How it works: Take an adjective from column 1, one from column 2, and a noun from column 3, put them together, and ‘zounds! Your own tailor-made Shakespearean insult.

This week’s collection of phrases comprise some of my favorite bawdy-leaning combinations from the kit.

Grammar Alert! Hey, look at that. Did you notice in that sentence the omnipresent type of word highlighted in previous Five-Phrase Friday (FPF) posts? FPF 4 and FPF 6 use or mention it, and FPF 8 uses it in one of the featured phrases. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to use a lot of these in my writing, especially my poetry. Final hint: This grammatical element shows up every week in another way as well.

Now, as for these insults, delivery is key. Each line must be shouted or growled aloud, convey real or mock anger/disgust at the target (be it animate or not), and follow the word “Thou” or “You,” just as one might with modern-day provoked and provocative name-calling. Relish the triumvirate of insulting results:

1. “Thou beslubbering reeling-ripe strumpet!”

2. “Thou mewling rump-fed codpiece!”

3. “Thou ruttish swag-bellied lewdster!”

4. “Thou frothy guts-griping pignut!”

5. “Thou gleeking knotty-pated canker-blossom!”

Bonus #1: “You cockered sheep-biting moldwarp!”

Bonus #2: “You spongy pox-marked nut-hook!”

Okay, now shake it off if you felt any of that being directed at you, go to the MIT kit, and fire back with gusto! (I can take it, I promise.)

With a nod to wild(and domesticated)life, other words I like in the kit use animals in part or whole:

bat-fowling, goatish, barnacle, beetle-headed, boar-pig, bugbear, currish, coxcomb, flap-dragon, flirt-gill, fly-bitten, harpy, hedge-pig, horn-beast, maggot-pie, malt-worm, pigeon-egg, ratsbane, venomed, toad-spotted, wagtail

Oooh, I like that last combo: “You venomed toad-spotted wagtail!” Or how about “Thou currish beetle-headed ratsbane!”? Now that’s a hybrid mutant!

Grammar Note: You may notice in some of these a type of word similar to the one hinted at above in the “Grammar Alert!” These words from column or group 3 fall distinctly into the noun category. What is the name for this type of noun?

And how are these insults typically used? Some high schools and colleges use exercises with these examples in English class units on Shakespeare to help students read the Bard’s works with greater awareness of the comedy, more fun, and, thus, more positive motivation. I divided one of my classes into two teams for a shouting match once–very funny! (I wonder what our extreme PC college culture has done to this tradition.)

Also, my favorite TV show Outlander demonstrates the use of similar insulting words, sampled here in tripartite order for your experimental three-step dance:

clarty (ep105)
mendacious (ep109)
muckle (ep112/ep114)
rutting (ep108, ep109)

ill-formed (ep115)
foul-mouthed (ep109)
stripe-backed (ep109)
whey-faced (ep105)

bugger (ep107)
coof (ep107)
scold (ep109)
welp (ep110)

For an invented example, the melange “You muckle whey-faced coof!” samples one word each in order from ep112 “Lallybroch”/ep114 “The Search,” ep105 “Rent,” and ep107 “The Wedding.”

Of course, our protagonist Claire prefers her own 20th-century insults not fit for general consumption, and then there’s all that Scottish Gaelic stuff. . . . All in good time.

Do you Outlander fans know which character(s) spoke each word in the insult? Quiz next week.

No, really. Next Friday I’ll (1) confirm the character and scene for each word in the above insult, (2) present select lines from Outlander for my phrases, and (3) unveil the answers to today’s 2 word-type questions.

For those who just can’t get enough 18th-century Scottish/English epithets and lewdness, curse your way over to either of these Outlander-related posts on my blog:

By the way, you can vote for your favorite movies, music, TV shows, and players for the People’s Choice Awards 2016 starting this week.

Cheers, you itinerant pretty-minded logophiles!

Does the Atheist have a Theory of Mind? (a pressed post)

Does the Atheist have a Theory of Mind?.

Are atheists “all there,” or are they somehow cognitively impaired? In other words, do you have to be stupid or crazy not to believe in God or gods? This excellent scholarly essay by Thomas Coleman III, originally posted on Scientia Salon, explores and answers that question.