Friday, December 31, 2010

Ah, ’tis a bra brit moonlit nit tonit...

...and I’m of a mind this year not to settle for pale imitations of “Auld Lang Syne” but to go with Bobby Burns’s original version.

And after you have listened to it, you may read about it until you’re blue in the face right here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Unaccustomed as I am am am to public speaking speaking speaking...

I want to thank Lord Yorkshire Pudding of Pudding Towers, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England (for readers from other planets, that’s in the U.K.) for giving this blog an award that allows me to display the following one-of-a-kind objet d’art:


I think.

I mean, I wouldn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth or anything, but even as I gratefully and humbly accept this award for Best Blogger in his street in Canton, Georgia I can’t help remembering that just one short year ago, at the end of 2009, Lord Pudding named me Top American Blogger of 2009.

Lo, how the mighty are fallen. Or at least not riding as high as in days of yore.

Still, any award is better than no award, so in the spirit of hands-across-the-sea camaraderie, hail-fellow-well-met bonhomie, and the peace-on-earth-good-will-toward men congeniality currently but only temporarily in vogue, I say a simple, heartfelt “Thank you.”

I now relinquish the microphone phone phone, with one parting shot question estion estion:

Who died and left Pudding in charge of end-of-year gala award banquets?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Poems that really make you think, or 2010 (and maybe even rhymeswithplague) as Father William

The following is from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia:

“You Are Old, Father William” is a poem by Lewis Carroll that appears in his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). It is recited by Alice in Chapter 5, “Advice from a Caterpillar" (Chapter 3 in the original manuscript, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground). Alice informs the caterpillar that she has previously tried to repeat “How Doth the Little Busy Bee” and has had it all come wrong as “How Doth the Little Crocodile". The caterpillar asks her to repeat “You are old, Father William”, and she recites.

Like most poems in Alice, the poem is a parody of a poem then well-known to children, of Robert Southey’s didactic poem “The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them”, originally published in 1799. Like the other poems parodied by Lewis Carroll in Alice, this original poem is now mostly forgotten, and only the parody is remembered. Carroll’s parody “undermines the pious didacticism of Southey’s original and gives Father William an eccentric vitality that rebounds upon his idiot questioner”. Martin Gardner calls it “one of the undisputed masterpieces of nonsense verse”.

[End of Wikipedia passage]


Here’s the poem:

You Are Old, Father William
by Lewis Carroll


“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head --
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

“You are old," said the youth, “As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door -—
Pray, what is the reason of that?”

“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment —- one shilling the box -—
Allow me to sell you a couple?”

“You are old,” said the youth, “And your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak -—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”

“In my youth," said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose -—
What made you so awfully clever?”

“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,
Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs!”


Call me odd if you like, but I do not think of this as only a nonsense poem. Of course it makes us laugh, but I also view it as a parable that can benefit us all, if we have ears to hear.

If ever a year stood on its head, turned a back-somersault in at the door, finished the goose, or balanced an eel on the end of its nose, it has been 2010. And, yes, I am thinking specifically of the British and American elections as well as the current state of the British and American economies.

Only some of those phrases, however, apply to your correspondent. As for other phrases in the poem, such as “old,” “hair become very white,” “grown uncommonly fat,” and “awfully clever” -- well, the jury is still out. But even if the jury returns an unfavorable verdict, your correspondent remains absolutely convinced that he possesses an eccentric vitality that rebounds upon his idiot questioners. In his defense, however, and as an indication of his great humility, please note that he does not say, “he and he alone.”

Lewis Carroll (pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832 - 1898)

“The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo.”

When Father William rhymeswithplague 2010 is long forgotten, past victories or defeats have faded into obscurity, and the triumphs and tragedies of everyday living have worked themselves into the fabric of our respective lives, may we all find in 2011 less difficulty in managing our flamingo.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

“What a pretty wolf little Stinkface has become.”

Although Christmas is over for another year, my Boxing Day gift to the readers of this blog is Daniel Pinkwater reading his Christmas tale, “Wolf Christmas,” on National Public Radio (6:10).

For those of you who would rather read than listen, a transcript is also available at the same link.

We received three inches of snow on Christmas afternoon and evening, the first time the Atlanta area has had snow on Christmas day in over a century (if you don't count a few flurries back in 1983). The white stuff started falling around 11:00 a.m. and continued for nearly twelve hours. This amazing and wondrous state of events has nothing whatsoever to do with Boxing Day, little Stinkface, Uncle Louie, Aunt Fang, or Daniel Pinkwater.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don’t worry, Dorothy. Rahm Emanuel will be mayor soon....

I saw this picture on Sam’s blog and had to have it on mine (blog envy, thy name is rhymeswithplague). You may be asking, “Sam who?” and you have every right to do so. But that’s for me to know and you to find out.

In other news, the spirit of Christmas seems to have taken the day off. But, just like General Douglas MacArthur, he will return.

I’m counting on it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The new math

10,000 × 10,000 × American pi (3.08745538) = E pluribus unum

Check your work here and also here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Quelle est cette odeur agréable?

Here is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City performing “Whence Is That Goodly Fragrance Flowing?” (4:47)

That archaic, somewhat stilted-sounding English title is a translation of the words of the traditional 17th-century French carol “Quelle est cette odeur agréable?” that John Gay incorporated into his Beggar’s Opera in 1728.

Some might think that banks of violins and cellos are the very definition of schmaltz -- can anyone say Mantovani? -- but I think this is one of the most gorgeous pieces of music I have ever heard. Mrs. RWP, though, says it is not her cup of tea.

Here are the English lyrics as translated by A. B. Ramsay:

1. Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away?
Never the like did come a-blowing,
Shepherds, in flow’ry fields of May!
Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away?

2. What is that light so brilliant, breaking
Here in the night across our eyes?
Never so bright, the day-star waking,
Started to climb the morning skies!
What is that light so brilliant, breaking,
Here in the night across our eyes?

3. Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away,
Run ye with eager footsteps vying!
Worship the Saviour born today.
Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away.

If you simply must have the original French lyrics, click here. You may note that several English translations are available; the one I have shared with you is the one sung by the choir in the video clip.

As usual, I am one of the last to get the word. One list I saw shows that this song is available on more than 50 classical recordings. But even though it has been around for several centuries, I had never heard it until last Thursday evening when Dawna T. sang it accompanied at the piano by her sister, Lisa K., during their Family Christmas Concert at a church in Marietta. (I was part of the concert too. I accompanied Dawna on “The Perfect Rose,” her son Michael on a cello solo of “What Child Is This?” and Lisa on “O Holy Night.” Lisa wore an emerald velvet gown; Dawna wore a purple one. I was resplendent in a black tuxedo.)

The lyrics, of course, refer to the infant Christ, the baby Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. What struck me as ironic (nay, downright humorous!) is that the odeur agréable that so mystified the songwriter was a barnyard stable filled with cows, sheep, donkeys, and (let’s face it) manure. So the actual odeur must have been anything but agréable at the time. Comparing Christ’s presence to the fragrance of a rose has been quite common through the centuries, though, and has resulted in such songs as “The Perfect Rose,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” and, of course, from now on in my own mind, “Whence Is That Goodly Fragrance Flowing?”

I think I will go back and listen to it again.

No Rosicrucians were harmed in the creation of this blogpost.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Condoleezza Rice 1, Katie Couric 0

Here is a very interesting video clip, a very interesting video clip indeed.

I never saw it on TV. Did you? Perhaps the fact that it is a little over six minutes long prevented its ever being broadcast by the mainstream media in the 30-second-sound-bite world we have become.

[Oops! I made a language boo-boo. By leaving out a few words and speaking in a sort of shorthand, I actually just asked, "Did you never saw it on TV?" when what I meant to say, obviously, was "Did you see it?" A thousand pardons.]

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When with the ever-circling years comes ’round the age of gold

December has been busy, and for all intents and practical purposes, I seem to have stopped blogging. Not forever, I hope. But definitely for this week. Life is busy, life is full.

Last week we attended the Georgia Ballet’s presentation of The Nutcracker. Two of our grandchildren were in the performance. As always, it (and they) were exquisite. Our grandson had a solo in Act I as the Toy Soldier, and was part of a trio of teenage boys in Act II who danced as the Cavalier’s Attendants. Our granddaughter was a soldier fighting with the mice in Act I, an Umbrella Girl in the Tea portion of Act II, and one of Mother Ginger’s children.

Our weekly staff meeting at the church took place Monday from 11:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Afterward, I rehearsed with the pastor, who will be singing a solo in next Sunday morning’s service. While I was gone from home, Tim B., my son’s friend, performed a random act of Christmas kindness for Mrs. RWP and me. He sent two of his workmen over to move our furniture and re-stretch the carpet throughout our house, which had started to resemble the Sea of Galilee on a stormy day. It saved us a chunk of money and made our home much more attractive (translation: less tacky).

Last night Mrs. RWP and I attended (brought homemade cupcakes to, actually) a Christmas party for the residents of Hope House, a group home for mentally-challenged adult men. Currently there are five residents: Greg, David, Mike, Randy, and Nick. A good time was had by all. As if by magic, food appeared in abundance, as did many gifts. Officially, the party was a project of the UMW (United Methodist Women), but a goodly number of UMM (United Methodist Men) were in attendance as well. Mrs. RWP’s cupcakes were to die for: German chocolate with cream cheese icing, with either red sprinkles or green sprinkles sprinkled (what else?) over the tops.

Tonight my presence is required at a rehearsal of a musical program at which I will be the person at the piano. Some old friends of mine, David and Lisa K. and Dawna and Daniel T., are presenting a Family Christmas Concert at Grace Community Church in Marietta. Out of the blue, Lisa sent me a Facebook message last week asking whether I could participate in the program. When I say “Out of the blue” I mean that the last time I had any communication with Lisa was seventeen years ago when she sang at my daughter’s wedding. So it was a pleasant surprise. Both Lisa and Dawna, who are sisters, have beautiful trained voices. David plays the trumpet and conducts a jazz orchestra. I think Daniel sings as well. The last time I saw these two couples, they jointly had no children and Lisa was expecting her first child. Now there are nine children altogether, four Lisa’s and five Dawna’s. Time flies when you’re having fun. Lisa’s oldest, John, is quite the trumpet player himself, and Dawna’s Michael is an accomplished cellist.

Thursday night is the musical presentation itself. I hope to see Dick and Martha S. (Lisa’s and Dawna’s parents) there as well. Dick was at one time either a violinist in or the conductor of -- I can't remember which -- the symphony orchestra in Helena, Montana, and Martha played the viola. A few years ago Dick and Martha both suffered broken backs when the deck at their house collapsed and they fell fourteen feet to the ground. Martha is also a breast-cancer survivor. It will be good to see them again.

Sunday morning at our church we are having a Service of Lessons and Carols, so I am busy rehearsing for that as well. I will be playing the familiar Ukrainian Carol (Carol of the Bells), singing a solo, accompanying the pastor’s solo, and playing for all of the congregational singing (of which there will be a lot more than usual), and generally making a nuisance of myself.

I have to put up our tree somewhere in there in my spare time. Also, we have not bought one single Christmas present yet.

Those are but some of the reasons why, for all intents and practical purposes, I have stopped blogging. But for someone who has stopped blogging, I think I just acquitted myself pretty darned well.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What can I say? It’s that time of year again...

A couple of posts back you heard Christina Rossetti’s poem “In the Bleak Midwinter” sung by the Gloucester Cathedral choir. The tune, known as CRANHAM, was written by Gustav Holst in 1906.

A different musical setting of the same text was written more recently by Harold Darke, and in 2008 it was voted the greatest Christmas carol of all time in a poll of choral experts and choirmasters. Here it is:

“In the Bleak Midwinter” (musical setting by Harold Darke), sung by Kings College Choir, Cambridge (4:18)

I think both versions are absolutely beautiful.

Here are some more numbers by the Kings College Choir from their 2008 Christmas concert. If you don’t have 24 minutes, 59 seconds right now to listen to all of them at one sitting, choose a favorite or two and come back later for the rest:

“Once In Royal David’s City” (4:29)

“Sussex Carol” arr. by Philip Ledger (1:55)

“The Holly and the Ivy” arr. H. Walford Davies (2:45)

“Angels From the Realms of Glory” arr. Philip Ledger (2:50)

“What Sweeter Music” John Rutter (4:06)

“The First Nowell” arr. David Willcocks (4:31)

“O Come, All Ye Faithful” arr. by Stephen Cleobury (4:23)

I hope you enjoy the Kings College Choir as much as I always do. But even if nobody listens to them but me, I will still be happy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

C.Q., C.Q., calling all Albanians, C.Q., C.Q.

When I was 14 I heard my cousin Philip, who was 19 or 20, say into his ham radio microphone, “C.Q., C.Q., calling C.Q.” and I asked him why he did that. He answered that saying those two letters sounds just like saying the English words, “Seek you, seek you” so the phrase is used to elicit a response from another ham radio operator out there in the ether or great beyond or whatever it is. The last part of that sentence beginning with the words “out there” are my words, not his.

Live and learn.

Which brings me to my reason for this post.

I am still living, and I have this desperate need to keep learning.

My mother-in-law died in Orlando, Florida, in 1986 at the age of 79. She was born in Fier, Albania, in 1907 and lived there until 1926, when she married my father-in-law and came to the United States. When my children (who are now in their forties) were small, she used to say a little rhyme to them as she played with them. I should have asked her to write it down for me, but I was young and foolish.

Which is where you come in.

Any and all Albanians who happen to be reading this post, I need your help. Can you tell me what she was saying, what it meant (if it meant anything), or if it was just a nonsense rhyme? It seems to start off loosely based on numbers (see table at end of post). Since I don't write Albanian, I can give you only a phonetic rendering:

Oona-mahna, doota-mahna, tray-a-roni, karsa-koni, lain-see, plain-see, bahna-bahna, chooka-dahna, (something), (something), poopsie, KROOPSIE!

It’s sort of an Albanian equivalent, I think, of playing pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man, make me a cake as fast as you can.

Any help you can give me with the missing parts and the actual Albanian spelling will be greatly appreciated.

For everyone else, here for your reading pleasure and edification is a short course in learning how to say numbers in Albanian. Included is my own rough pronunciation guide:

0...... zero (zare-oh, roll the r)
1...... një (n’yeh, like a Spanish n with a tilde)
2...... dy (dooh, short oo as in book, but book (bukë) means bread in Albanian)
3...... tre (treh, roll the r)
4...... katër (katter)
5...... pesë (pess)
6...... gjashtë (g’yahsht)
7...... shtatë (shtaht)
8...... tetë (tet)
9...... nëntë (nahnt)
10.... dhjetë (thee-yet)
11.... njëmbëdhjetë (n’yeh meh thee-yet)
12.... dymbëdhjete (dooh meh thee-yet)
13.... trembëdhjetë (treh meh thee-yet)
14.... katërmbëdhjetë (katter meh thee-yet)
15.... pesëmbëdhjetë (pess meh thee-yet)
16.... gjashtëmbëdhjetë (g’yahsht meh thee-yet)
17.... shtatëmbëdhjetë (shtaht meh thee-yet)
18.... tetëmbëdhjetë (tet meh thee-yet)
19.... nëntëmbëdhjetë (nahnt meh thee-yet)
20.... njëzet (n’yeh zet)
21.... njëzet e një (n’yeh zet eh n’yeh)
22.... njëzet e dy (n’yeh zet eh dooh)
23.... njëzet e tre (n'yeh zet eh treh)
30.... tridhjetë (trih thee-yet)
40.... dyzet (dooh zet)
50.... pesëdhjetë (pess thee-yet)
60.... gjashtëdhjetë (g’yahsht thee-yet)
70.... shtatëdhjetë (shtaht thee-yet)
80.... tetëdhjetë (tet thee-yet)
90.... nëntëdhjetë (nahnt thee-yet)
100... njëqind (n’yeh kind, last syllable rhymes with sinned)
101... njëqind e një (n’yeh kind eh n’yeh)
102... njëqind e dy (n’yeh kind eh dooh)
111... njëqind e njëmbëdhjetë (n’yeh kind eh n’yeh meh thee-yet)
125... njëqind e njëzetepesë (n’yeh kind eh n’yeh zet pess)
200... dyqind (dooh kind)
500... pesëqind (pess kind)
1000... një mijë (n’yeh mee)
1,000,000... një milion (n’yeh meel-yahn)

There now, wasn’t that simple?

I didn’t think so either.

This has been another fascinating post from rhymeswithplague.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

As Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls might have said...

Picture it: Dublin, 1742. (Hint: You’re supposed to click there.)

If you want to read all about Dorothy Zbornak, Rose Nylund, Blanche Devereaux, and the aforementioned Sophia Petrillo, click here.

If you would rather read about George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah, of which “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” (the musical number in the link at the top of this post) is a part, click here.

And if you live in New Zealand and your name is Katherine DeChevalle (or if you create drawings and paintings using various media no matter what your name is or where you live), I especially direct your attention to the section entitled “Word-painting” in the link in the previous paragraph. The rest of you can also check it out if you like.

Speaking of painting, the following painting depicts either George Frideric Handel or Sophia Petrillo:


I won’t keep you in the dark. The person pictured above is none other than:
THIS is Sophia Petrillo:


I can see how you might get them confused.

This post has been presented for your musical, artistic, and spiritual edification on the Second Sunday of Advent, 2010.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One of the main reasons I love December...

...is this song , sung by the choir of Gloucester Cathedral in Gloucester, England.

The main thing to remember about Gloucester is that it is pronounced glawster and that it is in glawstersher and not, as many Americans think, Glaowchester in Glaowchestershyre. The English are strange in other ways too: they pronounce Leicester as lester and Thames as temz, they hold their knife in one hand and their fork in the other throughout their meal, and they smush their peas into their mashed potatoes.

Just about everything a person could want to know about the song (“In the Bleak Midwinter”) is in this article.

Just about everything a person could want to know about Gloucester Cathedral is in this article.

Just about everything a person could want to know about the city of Gloucester, England, is in this article.

If you want to know about anything else, you’re pretty much on your own. Give people a fact and they learn one new thing. Teach people how to find facts themselves and they will never stop learning.