Reviews for The Ballad of Odo the Hero
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 5/12/2015
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

Remember how, a while back, I took five books that happened to be shelved together in my room, took the second sentence from page 108 of each of them, and dared you to incorporate each of those sentences into "Flos Florum"? Well, since that time, I have, as is my wont, acquired some new books, two of which are now shelved amongst the five in question. Therefore, I make you a one-time, never-to-be-repeated offer: If you wish, you may substitute either or both of the second sentences on their pages 108 (which I have enclosed below my signature) for any of the other sentences that may be causing you trouble. Yes, I know, I'm too generous for my own good, but what can a fellow do?

* * * * *
"Soon the continent would be an impregnable garrison of Yeerk forces."

"I felt her causing me to focus and concentrate."
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 3/2/2015
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

This month's reminder comes from Beatrice Stevenson Stanoyevich's "Anthology of Jugoslav Poetry: Serbian Lyrics". Why? Beats me. I'm well aware how unlikely it is that you've ever said to yourself, "You know what always makes me want to rush off and finish 'Flos Florum'? Serbian lyric poetry!" But it was available, and it was numbered, so here you go. Enjoy.

* * * * *
“The Vila” (#108):

Under the clouds there’s nought to me
So handsome as a falcon bird.
A falcon I did wish to be,
And my wish by God was heard.
High to the clouds I flew,
And over the clouds too;
Then to a nut-tree shot I down.
Under the tree a vila sleeping,
Or else some being strange to me –
Oh, God Himself, and He alone, can say,
But she was fairer than the fairest summer day.
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 2/1/2015
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

One great tradition of pseudo-religious hokum pays tribute to another in this month's installment of "The Malachy Reminders". You know those "Bible Code" books you see at Goodwill sometimes, about the people who try to predict the future using equidistant letter sequences in the Torah? Well, that inspired me to look for the Malachy mottoes as ELSes in the Vulgate, and then send each Malachite all the Bible verses that contributed to spelling out his or her particular motto. Of course, this plan had to be modified somewhat when I learned how absurdly the odds were against finding a specific sequence of even 10 letters in a random text when 26 letter options are involved - but, fortunately, the necessary modification was quite ready to hand. After all, they were Hebraists who had started this whole game, and, if they didn't bother with vowels, why should I?

Below my signature, then, you will find a verse of the Latin Bible that, when only every consonant in the Vulgate is read, spells out "FLSFLRM", together with its classic Douay-Rheims translation. If that doesn't inspire you to finish "Flos Florum", I frankly don't know what will.

* * * * *
et videatis filios vestros et FiLioS FiLioRuM vestrorum usque in tertiam et quartam generationem et sit semen vestrum benedictum a deo isræl qui regnat in sæcula sæculorum

(Tobit 9:11: “'...And may you see your children, and your children’s children, unto the third and fourth generation; and may your seed be blessed by the God of Israel, who reigneth for ever and ever.'”)
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 12/26/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

I suppose it was inevitable that, sooner or later, someone named Qoheleth, looking around for numbered lists to base reminders around, would light upon the 504 "Reflections" of that great epigrammatist who seems to have taken "there is no just man upon Earth" as his motto. Below my signature, therefore, are the appropriately numbered thoughts of the 2nd Duc de La Rochefoucauld - and, if they seem unnecessarily dour and cynical for the time of year, feel free to take that as one more impetus to finish "Flos Florum" before next month's reminder rolls around.

* * * * *
108. The head cannot long play the part of the heart.

219. In war, most men face enough peril to preserve their honor, but few ever wish to face enough to bring about the success of the plan for which they face it.

330. One forgives as one loves.

441. In friendship, as in romance, one is often made happier by what one doesn’t know than by what one does.
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 11/25/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

It occurs to me that, for a challenge ostensibly focused on a former primate of Ireland, the Malachy Challenge has seen precious little Irish influence recently. Over the course of the past year, we've had reminders built around Japanese poetry, English lexicography, Libyan monks, Arabian religions, and FF authors from all over the place, but the only contributing son of Erin I can think of was Albéric O'Kelly de Galway - and that was just two-twenty-sevenths of the Miniature Reminder, and he was really Belgian, anyway.

In the interest, therefore, of giving St. Malachy's homeland its due, this month's reminder consists of a suitable selection of Irish sayings from Selwyn Gurney Champion's classic collection of "Racial Proverbs". I can only hope that this correction of a long-standing oversight will inspire re-attention to a long-awaited work, and that "Flos Florum" will be suitably enriched through its author's contact with the wit and wisdom of the Emerald Isle.

* * * * *
108. Two-thirds of help is to give courage.

219. There’s no want like the want of fire.

330. The law of heredity runs through the cat’s eyes.

441. A man’s will is his life, if he avoids evil.

552. A proverb can’t be contradicted.

663. The three sweetest sounds are the rattle of a quern, the low of a cow, and the cry of a child.
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 10/25/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

G. K. Chesterton, discussing the dangers of relying on reason alone without a solid base of mysticism to build on, reminded us that, "Poets do not go mad, but chess-players do." So, since I certainly don't want you going mad before "Flos Florum" is finished, it seems sensible to balance last month's chess-themed reminder with a poetry-themed one. Below my signature, therefore, I enclose the appropriately numbered poem in Emily Dickinson's "Life" sequence, in the hopes that it will stave off morbidity and occasion a wholesome artistic paternity. No need to thank me; I'm just doing my job.

* * * * *

I took my power in my hand
And went against the world.
’Twas not so much as David had,
But I was twice as bold.

I aimed my pebble, but myself
Was all the one that fell.
Was it Goliath was too large,
Or only I too small?
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 9/25/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

If there's one thing that's satisfying in chess, it's trouncing your opponent in 25 moves or fewer. To be sure, that doesn't happen often - especially not at the master level - but it had happened often enough by 1960 that Leonard Barden and Wolfgang Heidenfeld were able to put together a book containing 161 numbered "Modern Chess Miniatures". Your reminder for this month therefore consists in the score of the appropriately numbered game from this book, together with the hope that the writing of "Flos Florum" will be brought to a similarly swift conclusion.

* * * * *
GAME #108 (Wallis v. Horseman; Nottingham, 1954):

1. N-KB3 – N-KB3
2. P-B4 – P-Q3
3. P-Q4 – QN-Q2
4. N-B3 – P-K4
5. P-K4 – P-B3
6. B-K2 – P-KN3
7. O-O – B-N2
8. P-KR3 – O-O
9. B-N5 – PxP
10. NxP – N-B4
11. B-B3 – R-K1
12. R-K1 – Q-N3
13. N-N3 – B-K3
14. P-K5 – NxN
15. KPxN – NxR
16. PxB – BxBP
17. QxN – RxRch
18. QxR – QxNP
19. B-R6 – B-K3
20. N-K4 – P-Q4
21. Q-N4 – Q-R8ch
22. B-Q1
Black resigns.
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 8/25/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

How many questions are there to be asked about Islam? Millions, probably - but, when the Italian journalists Giorgio Paolucci and Camille Eid sat down with Fr. Samir Khalil Samir in 2002 to get some idea of how Christianity's desert-born rival really works in the modern day, they managed, with astonishing thoughtfulness, to limit themselves to precisely 111. Obviously, this had to become a reminder theme sooner or later - and so, this month, I offer you the 108th of their "111 Questions on Islam", together with Fr. Samir's reply. Probably this will not cause the Archangel Gabriel to descend from Heaven and present you with the complete and uncreated text of "Flos Florum" - but we can always hope, can't we?

* * * * *
Q. 108: Can the experience of migration contribute to modifying the traditional vision and prejudice of Muslims toward Christianity and Christians?

A: A widespread misconception in Islamic countries is that the Christian is a believer who did not reach the fullness of faith, which can be achieved only through adherence to Koranic teachings. Christians have to overcome stereotypical identification by Muslims that developed over centuries. Muslim immigration to Europe is a great chance to help demystify some commonplace fears and prejudices and foster better understanding of Christianity and of Christians.

In Europe, the Muslim immigrant can realize that there are other religious experiences apart from that of Islam, with which it is possible to coexist in a milieu of freedom and pluralism. A maturation of different potentials can take place, including living as believers even without the “guarantees” offered by a confessional state. Muslims can learn that politics can be separated from religion, that the state can serve the common good, that reason is not the enemy but a friend of faith, and that modernity is a historical opportunity to measure the truth of one’s faith in the world. It is wrong to identify Christianity with the West, even if the Christian faith is one of the most important foundational elements of the West.

In this context, the testimony that Christians are required to give is decisive. Some aspects of modern-day Western life, such as widespread ethical relativism, a mistaken conception of freedom that is confused with the possibility of doing whatever one wants without any moral reference, and the commercialization of the human body, confirm Muslims in their judgment of Western society as corrupt and decadent.

I believe that these aspects of Western culture must be addressed with far more criticism on the part of Christians, because they are significant indicators of a society that has removed God from its reference points, and that considers religion as an ornament to be displayed in a sort of parlor room of values: something interesting, and perhaps original, but irrelevant to one’s life. When Muslims criticize Western society for its dissolute habits, and consider it a society that has renounced God, they indirectly urge Christians to question themselves on the meaning of their own presence in this society, on the worth of their testimony, and on the weight of faith in the environment in which they live.

For Christians, immigration can represent a challenge to overcome centuries of inaction. In past centuries, many European Christian missionaries went to Muslim countries. Their preaching, however, was forbidden or substantially neutralized by the strong cultural and social pressures of Islam, and this prevented millions of Muslims from ever knowing of Christianity – and I mean knowing of it, not converting to it. Today, in an opposite demographic movement, millions of Muslims come to the Europe whence the Christian missionaries came. Yet Muslims find a society in which Christianity is absent or approaching extinction. Many Muslim friends of mine who came to Europe express their disappointment; they thought they would find Christianity firmly established in the West, and the society permeated by Christian values and ideals, but they found only light traces of it.

Perhaps the presence of so many Muslims can act as a stimulus to reawaken Christians from their dormant faith practices. The Muslim presence in Europe, like that of the Christian immigrants coming from the Third World (who often give a more dynamic witness to their faith), can encourage Western Christians to spiritual renewal.
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 7/23/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

Well, it's that time again. Time to pull out the Philokalia, find a numbered list of spiritual texts, and send the appropriately numbered ones off to the Malachites for their enjoyment, edification, and, hopefully, inspiration. Our author this time is Thalassius the Libyan, an abbot and friend of St. Maximus Confessor's whose only known legacy is the Four Centuries (i.e., lists of 100 texts) on Spiritual Love that he wrote for a certain priest named Paul. Ponder, enjoy, and then get cracking on "Flos Florum" again.

* * * * *
108 (2nd Century, text 8): You were commanded to keep the body as a servant, not to be unnaturally enslaved to its pleasures.

219 (3rd Century, text 19): There are four prevalent passions that God in His wisdom sets one against the other. Distress checks sensual pleasure; the fear of punishment withers desire.

330 (4th Century, text 30): In excising gluttony, beware lest you seek the esteem of others, making a display of the pallor of your face.
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 6/23/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

You know what's fun about Morse code? You can string all the dots and dashes in a phrase together, move the letter divisions around a bit, and produce a completely new phrase that has nothing whatsoever to do with the original. Whether doing this with your assigned motto is at all likely to inspire you to finish your story anytime soon, I have no idea, but I believe in leaving no stone unturned.

So: "FLOS FLORUM" ..-..-..-...-..-..-.-...- "I'D DO SIX - I, OR IO"

(Thus Philodice, realizing a bit belatedly that, in offering to take on twice as many impossible tasks as Psyche had, she might have been biting off more than she could chew, and thinking, well, that's what sisters are for.)

Qoheleth chapter 1 . 5/23/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

Perhaps you're familiar with crostic puzzles? You know, the ones where you're given a series of clues to various words and phrases, and each letter in the answer represents a letter in a quotation, and the initial letters of all the answers together spell out the author of the quotation followed by the book from which it's taken? Well, that's what I've decided to do for this month's reminder, only with a twist. Because this is the Malachy Challenge, I'm just going to tell you that, if you correctly fill in all the clues below my signature, and then put the letters in the answers in numerical order from 1 to 190, the quotation that will appear is taken from Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy; instead of spelling that out, the initials of the answers will spell out the name of a Malachite together with his or her assigned motto. In all other respects, however, what we have here is a perfectly ordinary diagramless crostic - just the thing to get your mind active and percolating and ready to work on "Flos Florum" some more. Have fun.

I. Poet Paz: 86-72-43-17-131-159-6

II. Win 13 hearts (3 wds.): 9-123-45-150-118-19-158-156-105-42-49-180

III. Silverbergean skyscraper: 66-133-30-144-15-77

IV. Electroplating center: 13-115-89-29-141-178-61-112-167

V. Blood-letting: 22-119-60-47-70-69-44-185-74-39

VI. Bowhead (2 wds.): 50-31-63-88-109-148-190-76-91-179

VII. Cast aspersions on: 1-147-35-4-130-59-126

VIII. Sittid: 25-152-121-145-171-87-125-33

IX. Angkor's people: 94-99-153-162-110

X. Like Mary's sorrow: 40-58-138-71-95-164-28-107-177

XI. Drained of vitality: 128-117-90-100-139-154-163-102-157

XII. Tree-trunk tissue: 79-64-155-136-160

XIII. Sappho's former crush: 80-189-184-14-137-36

XIV. Peeved: 166-173-181-56-83-132-140

XV. Bosco's pupil: 32-104-53-146-97

XVI. Disinters: 134-103-129-182-81-75-37

XVII. Start over: 55-84-168-73-174-114

XVIII. Canines (2 wds.): 187-113-169-67-78-27-98-5

XIX. Millennium Falcon co-pilot: 170-151-8-122-46-116-93-135-188

XX. Bereft of evidence: 111-41-16-23-52-7-38-65-48-108

XXI. City on the Ishikari: 18-120-106-82-96-62-92

XXII. Flute's role: 2-20-24-161-3-54

XXIII. Terse prophet: 143-175-10-51-12-165-149

XXIV. Peerage editor: 186-21-11-142-176-68-85

XXV. Marigold measurer: 124-183-26-57-127-34-101-172
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 4/23/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

You may recall the dismay that greeted the announcement, a few years back, that Pluto would no longer be considered one of the major planets of the solar system. The truth is, however, that Pluto joined a very vast and distinguished company of celestial bodies when it was reassigned to the minor planets. Currently, there are over 300,000 bodies so designated that orbit our sun, more than a few of which have been immortalized in literature - and, wouldn't you know it, each of them has a "minor planet number". In the interest, therefore, of giving these unsung glories of nature their due, I have decided that your reminder for this month will be a quote involving the asteroid Adalberta, which is minor planet #330 (that is, 111x2108). Hopefully, this will provide you and "Flos Florum" with some small measure of inspiration - because small, as every lover of minor planets knows, is very often beautiful.

* * * * *
“[The little prince] cast a look around him at the planet of the geographer. It was the most magnificent and stately planet that he had ever seen.

“‘Your planet is very beautiful,’ he said. ‘Has it any oceans?’

“‘I couldn’t tell you,’ said the geographer.

“‘Ah!’ The little prince was disappointed. ‘Has it any mountains?’

“‘I couldn’t tell you,’ said the geographer.

“‘And towns, and rivers, and deserts?’

“‘I couldn’t tell you that, either.’

“‘But you are a geographer!’

“‘Exactly,’ said the geographer. ‘But I am not an explorer. I haven’t a single explorer on my planet…’”
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 3/23/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

This month's reminder may seem, at first, to be a mere list of meaningless numbers. But don't be fooled: it is, in fact, a new and (I think) exciting twist on a game that has provided hundreds of hours' enjoyment to families on long car trips and employees in tedious meetings. I call it "Homily Bingo".

The rules are simple. As you doubtless know, the Catechism of the Catholic Church contains 2,865 numbered paragraphs of doctrine, which is enough for each Malachite to have 25. I have therefore taken 25 appropriately numbered paragraphs and arranged them in a random order below my signature to produce your own personal Homily Bingo card. Your job is as follows: First, look up each paragraph in the CCC and jot down a few words that will help you remember what it says. Next, transcribe these summaries to a 5x5 card, in the order I've listed them. Finally, find a Catholic church in your area where sound doctrine is regularly preached, and pay close attention to the homilies every Sunday. When you hear the priest allude to one of the doctrines summarized on your card, check off that square; if you can fill out a row, column, or long diagonal before any other Malachite, you win. ("Win what?" "The game." "No luggage? No toaster oven?" Nope. Sorry.) And who knows? Maybe you'll even hear something that will inspire you to finish "Flos Florum".

* * * * *
B column, top to bottom: 330; 2206; 1329; 1107; 885.

I column, top to bottom: 2328; 2217; 2550; 2439; 1662.

N column, top to bottom: 108; 663; 1218; 1995; 996.

G column, top to bottom: 1884; 552; 441; 219; 2661.

O column, top to bottom: 1551; 774; 1440; 1773; 2772.
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 2/22/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

Whereas I have all these people who have either put alerts out on my work, added it to Favorites lists and/or C2s, or both; and, Whereas it behoves me to do something nice for them in return; and, Whereas all of them have author ID numbers, some of which have appropriate remainders when you divide them by 111; therefore Be it resolved, that your reminder of "Flos Florum" for this month consists in a passage, personally chosen by the author, from the works of MintChocolate188 (4170711111x37573108). Enjoy.

* * * * *
“She runs into the bathroom, shedding her backpack outside the door, tears streaming down her face. She dislodges the loose blade from her mother's razor, mumbling insults to herself. She digs the sharp metal deep into her fragile skin and slides it forward, not even wincing at the pain. This was almost a daily routine for her, but did anyone notice? No. Did anyone ever care? No. She rips the blade out of her blood-stained skin, repeating the sequence multiple times up her arm, moving to the rare free space between scars of previous times. Tears streak down her face, but she isn't crying from physical pain, oh no. She was crying from all of the abuse she has suffered over the fifteen years she has been alive. Her mother and father, who were drunks, the kids and teachers at school, who teased her and beat her. The police who, no matter how many times she has called them, refuse to believe that anything bad is happening. And, most of all, herself. The, in her eyes, worthless little girl who can't run away, can't defend herself, and isn't strong enough to deal with the mental pain, so she takes it away with physical pain. Tears and blood begin to mix in the sink as she releases both of the liquids from her body. She sinks to the floor of the bathroom, waiting for the blood flow to stop. She sees empty bottles of alcohol hidden behind a footstool next to her and glares through the hazy tears. Bringing her bleeding hand down, she smashes them in anger, frustration, and self-pity. Pulling the shard of glass out of her hand, she hurls the larger pieces at the wall. They stick inside the wall, before shattering into little glass sparkles and raining back down to the floor. Her long, ragged hair falls in front of her face as she curls up in a ball, bringing both of her hands to her face. Blood drips down into her eyes, making everything have a red hue, before it gets washed away by her steadily flowing tears. She sniffles a couple more times before slowly crying herself to sleep, all the glass, all the blood, and the dislodged razor scattered around her. Of course she would have to clean it; of course she would be beaten and screamed at for staining the floor red. She is almost every day of her life, but, by now, she's gotten used to it.”
Qoheleth chapter 1 . 1/22/2014
Dear SuGaRLiLy:

When a man spends nearly half a century compiling a Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases; when he explicitly states that the purpose of this work is "to facilitate the expression of ideas and to assist in literary composition"; and when, moreover, he arranges this work under 1,000 numbered heads, each representing some basic idea expressed in the English language - then, clearly, it is only fitting that his work should be the theme of a Malachy Challenge reminder. So: if you're having trouble coming up with an overarching theme for "Flos Florum", perhaps you might care to use any or all of the following as prompts: Period (#108 in Roget's Thesaurus); Crossing (#219); Pulverulence (#330); Vision (#441); Obliteration (#552); Bane (#663); Compromise (#774); Insolence (#885); Clergy (#996).

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