Monday, July 30, 2012

Questions to ponder while waiting for the next Olympic event to begin

What might have happened if:

Two roads hadn’t diverged in a yellow wood?
They all lived unhappily ever after?
Jack hadn’t been nimble?
Jack hadn’t been quick?
Jack hadn’t jumped over the candlestick?
Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was black as pitch?
Rapunzel hadn’t let down her hair?
Peter Piper quaffed a quart of quintessential quince?
A body didn’t meet a body comin’ thro’ the rye?

These are just a few of life’s great unanswerable questions.

I’m sure you can think of others.

But we do know the answer to that last question, don’t we? If a body didn’t meet a body comin’ thro’ the rye, we would not be able to hear Alma Gluck singing “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” on this 1914 recording (1:44).

Indeed, we might not be here ourselves.

And if you just can’t get enough of Alma Gluck, here she is on a 1915 recording, accompanied by violinist Efram Zimbalist, singing “Old Folks At Home (Swanee River)” (3:14).

I just can’t imagine someone not getting enough of Alma Gluck.

We now return you to the Olympic event in progress.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Home of Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys, plus an unprecedented moment in the history of sports

(Photo © Copyright by Chris Downer on April 17, 2010, and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) Licence)

This photo is part of a montage [mon-tahzh; Fr. mawn-tazh] of photographs of Sheffield, Yorkshire, England that includes photographs by Nigel Chadwick, Paul Harrop, Graham Hogg, and Neal Theasby as well.

Rumour has it that everyone in Sheffield is thinks he is a big wheel.

In other news, 86-year-old Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (the former Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary) of the House of Hanover Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Windsor Windsor-Mountbatten picked her nails in public while (Brit. whilst) the team of Great Britain entered Olympic Stadium.


Ho hum.

That is not the real news.

The real news is her hat. Never before in her entire 60-year reign has Her Majesty etc. ever been seen wearing such a trivial chapeau. For her it has always been either dazzling crowns or great big wide-brimmed picture hats, just as it was for her mother before her, the late, lamented Queen Mum (the former Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and widow of King George VI, the former Prince Albert, Duke of York).

Change is always good, though, especially when mixing with the hoi polloi.

Barack Obama is the exception that proves the rule.

Friday, July 27, 2012

All eyes were not glued on London

Mine were glued on Mrs. RWP.

Today is her birthday, so instead of staying home and watching the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics from start to finish, we went out to Longhorn’s for dinner. She had the shrimp and I had the rainbow trout. We both had the baked sweet potato. While (Brit. Whilst) there, we did manage to catch part of the ceremonies on the big-screen telly in the bar area from our table, which was clear across the room on the other side of the restaurant.

My personal favorite of the few glimpses we had: The descent of multitudinous (and quite Disney-esque) Mary Poppinses like paratroopers into the stadium.

By the time we returned home, the parade of nations was in full progress. I’m just sorry to have missed the entertainment portion of the big show for the first time since 1964.

I expect, though, that I’ll become better informed about what transpired through (a) the news media and (b) the kind efforts of my blogging friends who are closer to the action.

Rule Britannia! Britannia rules the (air)waves, for the next fortnight, at least!

[Editor’s note. Yorkshire Pudding came to mind when the announcer announced, “Alex Turner and his band, Arctic Foxes, I mean Arctic Monkeys, from SHEFFIELD!!!” This hands-across-the-sea moment would never have happened if I hadn’t started blogging. --RWP]

Monday, July 23, 2012

Putting Descartes before the horse


René Descartes (1596 - 1650) is perhaps best known for the philosophical statement “Cogito ergo sum” (French: Je pense, donc je suis; English: I think, therefore I am), found in part IV of Discourse on the Method (1637, written in French but with inclusion of “Cogito ergo sum”) and §7 of part I of Principles of Philosophy (1644, written in Latin).



The horse is perhaps best known for the famous equine question, “Wither thou goest?”

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Navel maneuvers*

Why do I blog?

Someone once asked Flannery O’Connor why she wrote and she replied, “Because I’m good at it.”

I hope I’m good at blogging, but that’s not why I blog.

After discovering that people have stopped posting at several of my regular reading spots and wondering what might have happened to the bloggers, I finally realized why I continue to post here a couple of times a week.

I blog to prove I’m still alive.

An audience is nice to have, but it isn’t really necessary. I’m just as happy talking into thin air.

Receiving cogent, interesting comments is always a plus, but they aren’t necessary either.

Having official followers is a boost to one’s ego, I suppose, and an enrichment in one’s otherwise drab life, but like I said before, well, you know.

[Editor's note. A former English major, I do know that it should be as I said before, but today I’m throwing caution to the winds. --RWP]

Oh, and one more thing. I’m not proving it to you. I’m proving it to me.

As long as something new appears here occasionally, it means I’m still alive and kicking. Still breathing. Still turning oxygen into carbon dioxide.

It’s all anyone could ask, really.

* Also, especially British, manoeuvres.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

As William Shakespeare once said,....

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.”

It happens to be the opening line of Sonnet 116, but that is irrelevant for purposes of this post. Only English literature majors care.

As you are surely aware if you have read this blog for any length of time, I am always looking for interesting and unusual things to bring to your attention.

This time I just may have outdone myself.


Page 1 -- Thesis

There’s this guy named Béla Fleck (well, his full name is Béla Anton Leoš Fleck and according to Wikipedia he is named after Hungarian composer Béla Bartók and Czech composers Anton Dvorak and Leoš Janáček, which proves that anything is possible). He was born in 1958 and grew up to be, of all things, a banjo player. Strangest of all, he was born not in Alabama but in New York City.

He formed a group called Béla Fleck and the Flecktones that has won Grammy awards for Best Contemporary Jazz Album and Best Pop Instrumental Album.

This is Béla:

(Photo by tom m., 2007, on Flickr and used here in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)


Page 2 -- Antithesis

Then there’s this other guy named Kongar-ol Ondar, a Tuvan throat singer who was born in 1962.

He is considered a living treasure by the Republic of Tuva and has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman (2:59).

I bet you didn’t even know there was a Republic of Tuva, and yes, I just split an infinitive. (Again, only English majors care.)

This is Kongar-ol:

(Photo by Bill Loewy, 1993, used here in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.)


Page 3 -- Synthesis

Apparently, banjo players and pseudo-banjo players, whatever their singing style, seek their own level. In the fulness of time and as luck would have it, Kongar-ol Ondar appeared with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones on albums called Outbound, Live at the Quick, and Jingle All the Way. He has also released an album of his own called Back Tuva Future.

Curiouser and curiouser.

You do know what’s coming next.

For your listening and viewing pleasure, here’s “Ah Sho Dekio” featuring Kongar-ol Ondar with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones (3:14). I urge you to watch it, as you may never see anything like it ever again.


Page 4

Finally, here’s every Alabaman’s idea of a dream date:

(Photo by Julianne Macie, 2010, used here in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

The girl is Abigail Washburn and Béla ended up marrying her. As Shakespeare also once said, “All’s well that ends well.”

And as Shakespeare never once said, Ah sho hope you liked this post.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Flash: Unfinished business finished.

Back in June, I gave you 22 links to the letters A through V in Shooting Parrot’s entries for Round 10 of the ABC Wednesday meme.

That was four weeks ago, and I can now finish what I started finish what he started give you the remaining four links for the letters W through Z.

Here they are:

23. W is for Edward Watkin (20 June 2012)
24. X is for Xenophon (27 June 2012)
25. Y is for Irvin Yeaworth (4 July 2012)
26. Z is for Abraham Zapruder (11 July 2012)

Nothing is more satisfying than completing a project.

And nothing is more depressing than ending it with the Zapruder footage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Don’t say I never gave you anything.

My New Zealandish friend has brought to my attention -- very subtly, of course -- that no competition, giveaway, or offer to buy a round of free drinks (called a “shout” in her country) accompanied my recent milestone of having written a thousand posts on this blog.

I am about to remedy that.

For your amusement and use, here is some html code that you can include in a future celebratory one thousandth post of your own:

$div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"$$ $a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ufzFtypZ_I4/T_rStK341hI/AAAAAAAACxI/vfZd-cRHDzo/s1600/1000.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left:1em; margin-right:1em"$$ $img border="0" height="333" width="400" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ufzFtypZ_I4/T_rStK341hI/AAAAAAAACxI/vfZd-cRHDzo/s400/1000.jpg" /$$ $/a$$ $/div$$

Before you can use the foregoing, however, it requires a few changes. Everywhere there is a single dollar sign ($), substitute a left caret. Everywhere there is a double dollar sign ($$), substitute a right caret.

You’re welcome. It was nothing. [Editor’s note. Well, actually, it required a little work. When I included the carets, I produced the art that appeared here. But I didn’t want to produce it again in this post; I wanted to give you the code so that you could produce it. Figuring out how to show you the code did tax my brain for a little while.--RWP]

I’m afraid, though, that you’ll have to buy the round of drinks on your own and toast me in absentia.

But after all (he hastened to point out), you now have a few extra dollars, don’t you?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How green is your valet?

A friend I have never met, a woman who lives in the Southern Hemisphere and whose painting of grapes adorns my kitchen wall, has asked readers of her blog to pass something along to you. I said, “Consider it done.”

Hence, this post.

The subject, friends, is paper towels.

Thirteen billion pounds of paper towels are used each year. (The statement is in the passive voice, so it is impossible to know exactly by whom all these paper towels are used, but it simply cannot be helped.)

If each person used one paper towel per day less, 571,230,000 pounds of paper could be saved each year.

These are awesome numbers.

In the little presentation I am about to, er, present, the number 12 also figures prominently.

Here is the little presentation (4:28). Please watch.

Now that you have wasted a precious four minutes and 28 seconds of your life that can never be recovered, can you tell me how the numbers 11 and 10 are also a part of that video?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It was a tough fight, ma, but I made it.


This is my 1000th post. It took me only two months shy of five years to arrive at this milestone.

Here is the view from the top of Mount Everest. The photo was taken by Barry Bishop, an American mountain climber, in 1963:


Barry Bishop wasn't the first to scale Mount Everest. That feat was accomplished ten years earlier by Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay. Barry wasn’t the first, and he wouldn’t be the last. Still, being on top of the world felt good.

Today I know exactly how Barry felt.

Okay, maybe not exactly.

As Scarlett O’Hara once said, however, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Okay, she was a fictional character. I get that.

Please don’t rain on my parade just yet, because being on Cloud Nine is a rare experience. Let me enjoy it while I can.

The descent will begin soon enough.

Monday, July 9, 2012

One more post and this blog will have 1000 posts. I feel like quoting G. K. Chesterton.

So I will.

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
--G. K. Chesterton

Praise Him.

God, I mean, not G.K. Chesterton.

The part of the quotation that reminds me most of blogging is “the grown-up person does it again [and again and again, I might add] until he is nearly dead.”

Still, it can be rather exhilarating.

That passage from Chesterton makes me want to show you as well St. Francis of Assisi’s song, Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, written in 1224:

“Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon
for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
By You Most High, they will be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.”

[end of quotation]

The Devil, they say, is in the details.

Sometimes God is too. Especially when He says, “Do it again.”

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Here in the lull between America’s Independence Day (July 4) and France’s Bastille Day (July 14)...

...you might want to read Ann Coulter’s explanation of the differences between the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

If you do (and I hope you do), come back here and leave a comment if you’re so inclined.

In other news, I hereby forgive myself for overlooking Canada’s Dominion Day on July 1 -- it has been called Canada Day since 1982 -- although it was a perfectly understandable thing to do; Canadians have a history of overlooking it themselves.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The smoking gun?

Forget about President Obama’s birth certificate. The courts have already ruled on that.

But what about his social security number?

Near the very bottom of today’s Drudge Report (a website created by Matt Drudge) was this very interesting link.

As Red Riding Hood once said to the wolf (and only those who have been paying very close attention will understand this), “What big plans you have, Grandma!”

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

R.I.P. Andy Griffith (1926 - 2012)

His first foray into acting was in the role of Sir Walter Raleigh in The Lost Colony, an outdoor drama in Manteo, North Carolina.

He famously explained American-style football in a hugely successful comedy album.

He quit his job teaching high school music in Goldsboro, North Carolina,and moved to New York City, where he auditioned for the lead in No Time For Sergeants and got the part.

He starred in such films as No Time For Sergeants, Onionhead, and A Face in the Crowd.

Younger viewers of television remember him as a lawyer named Matlock, the fictional version of one Bobby Lee Cook who practices law in Summerville, Chattooga County, Georgia.

But I suppose most people remember him as Sheriff Andy Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show, which opened every week with a whistled version of this song.



Only the most obtuse among you will think this is a photo of Andy Griffith. It is not. It is a photo of Bobby Lee Cook.

Short blogging break

...while we are in Alabama for a few days.

Being in Alabama is a full-time job in and of itself and requires all the strength I can muster.