The Lady or the Tiger ?

Frank Stockton - Author of The Lady or the Tiger

The other day I got to thinking about choice and how it seems that sometimes we have it and at other times we have no choice at all. And how I've proclaimed—talking out of both sides of my mouth— "I'm a free man; it's a free country and I'm free to choose whatever I want," as well as " I really had no choice." Or in another version: "You leave me no choice!" (which sounds like a threat out of a B movie or since they've stopped making A movies out in the dream factory it could come from any new A movie). Then, sailing into my mind, like a paper airplane, came the recollection of a tale I read way back when, one that has rattled in my memory ever since.

The story is The Lady or the Tiger? and it was penned by a moustachioed Canadian called Frank Stockton about a century ago. It purports to be about choice, and maybe a few other things. As the story goes, there was a king in some far-off, semi-barbaric kingdom who built a great arena in which his brand of justice could be displayed. Now, this king had, as you might expect, a "semi-barbaric " daughter and she fell—well, I won"t give it away. You can experience the story for yourself. It's a haunting tale that used to be required reading in the barbaric days of the last century. Here's a condensed version I recorded recently with some friends.

Give it a listen and then read the rest of the post...

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I just had a chance to take a look at this book of poems I wrote which has birds coasting across its cover and which sports the title, A Renegade of Birds. A good title, though a bit inscrutable.

But about the poems themselves: if I hadn't written them myself I would think they're not so bad. But you know when you've been inside an idea or a feeling or a bundle of words for a while—that you hope to hell might express something coherent and maybe even meaningful—you can lose the ability to see the bloom that once was on it and you wonder whether the thing is worth anything at all. And you get a musty taste in your mouth and a disgust towards the whole business. At least I do.

Then again, as a bum I used to know would say when he felt philosophical: "You never know." Yeah, somebody might see something in these poems. Yeah. You never know.

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Revolution in the Sky

There, there again—black against the blue—

the same two sky birds at it;

the wide-winged hawk aloof,

loafing on the wind, above the roof-peaks,

proud of the fear his shadow stirs

scraping over the open-hearted hills;

and pecking, poking at him the crow

(if it is a crow) careless of how

he looks or sounds, raggedy,

harassing his unflappable majesty,

nipping at his underbelly, driving him out

of his cerulean realm. The brass of the bird!

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