Thursday, November 28, 2013

Taking up the gauntlet

Our cyberfriend Lord Pudding of Pudding Towers, Sheffield, York, England droned on waxed eloquent about bridges recently, starting with Jeff and ending with Edale, Derbyshire. In a comment, expatriate Brian in Catalan promised to “take up the gauntlet” soon and post a picture of a bridge also.

I have decided to enter the fray join in the fun.

Here is the main thoroughfare over the Etowah River between my home in East Cherokee and downtown Canton:


As you can see, we take our lives in our hands every single time we go shopping. It’s dangerous, yes, but living on the edge is what Mrs. RWP and I do best.

Actually, I’m not telling the truth. That bridge is really in Sarawak on the island of Borneo. But I had you going there for a minute.

We interrupt this post to wish every single reader of the rhymeswithplague blog -- whether you leave comments or just lurk -- a Happy Thanksgiving Day, even if you live in a country where today is not officially set aside as a day for giving thanks.


And if you do not have an abundance of turkey today, may you have instead an abundance of joy, and hope, and peace, and love.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blackjack is not just a card game in Las Vegas

Not that I would know anything about such things.

Moving right along...

Today -- November 25, 1963 -- is the 50th anniversary of the funeral of President John F. Kennedy.

Blackjack (or, more accurately, Black Jack) was the name of the horse that, riderless and with a boot turned backward in the stirrups, followed the caisson bearing the casket of President John F. Kennedy during his funeral.


Black Jack performed a similar role in the funerals of President Herbert Hoover, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and General Douglas MacArthur.

As horses go, one might say that Black Jack reached the pinnacle of his profession.

If you would like to know more about him, read this.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

One man’s opinion

The media here are making much of the fact that this week marks 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Tomorrow (Friday) is the actual anniversary, but yesterday (Wednesday) President and Mrs. Obama and President and Mrs. Clinton participated in a ceremony in which all four of them placed a huge wreath at President Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. After the wreath was in place, a trumpet player played Taps, during which period all four of the presenters placed their hands over their hearts. Then they walked over and shook hands and chatted briefly with members of the Kennedy family (mostly nephews and nieces, I think) who were present. The senior member appeared to be Ethel Skakel Kennedy, widow of Robert Kennedy (the President’s brother). The only member of President Kennedy’s immediate family who is still alive is his daughter Caroline, but she could not be present because she flew to Japan last Friday to begin serving as U.S. ambassador there. Her absence reminded me of how Jacqueline Kennedy always made sure her children were out of the country during assassination week; one year John Jr. was sent to India as I recall.

It also struck me that although the assassination was a great tragedy for the entire nation, only two of the five living occupants of the Oval Office took part in the ceremony, and both of them are Democrats. Jimmy Carter, although also a Democrat, is 89 years old now and no longer running for office. The other two living former presidents are Republicans -- George Herbert Walker Bush (“Old 41”) and his son, George Walker Bush (Number 43) -- and they aren’t running for office either.

It would have been the decent thing to do to invite all five. It is my belief that the others were not invited. Every single thing our current President does and every single thing either of the Clintons does appears to be based on some perceived political gain among the electorate. Mrs. Clinton is likely to be the candidate of the Democrat Party for President in 2016, and President Obama has never stopped campaigning even though he is a full year into his second and final term.

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most. The whole nation lost a president, not just Democrats.

Monday, November 18, 2013

So tell me, if you can...

What do Dame Sybil Thorndyke (below) ...













...and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (below) ...



















...have to do with this lovely lady?


She is Anna Lee, the actress who played Sister Margaretta in the film version of The Sound of Music. Sister Margaretta is the nun who said of Maria, “I’d like to say a word in her behalf: Maria ... makes me ... laugh!”

After The Sound of Music, Anna Lee spent the years from 1978 until 2003 playing the role of family matriarch Lila Quartermaine on the American television soap opera General Hospital. She died at the age of 91 in 2004.

I know you are just dying to find out more about Lila Quartermaine. Do pay close attention, because you may be tested later.

Lila Quartermaine (née Morgan; previously Tolliver), the matriarch of the wealthy Quartermaine family, was the wife of Edward Quartermaine. Lila often served as the rational party and peacemaker in the constant Quartermaine squabbles, and was adored by pretty much everyone she came in contact with.

Lila Quartermaine came to Port Charles with the rest of her family in 1978 when Dr. Alan Quartermaine, her son, decided to stay at General Hospital and bought a house in town. In 1981, Lila’s first husband Crane Tolliver paid her a visit. He had proof that his and Lila’s divorce was not legal, and therefore her marriage to Edward was illegal and all the Quartermaines were illegitimate. He teamed up with Susan Moore, Lila’s son Alan’s former mistress (and Jason’s mother), to blackmail the Quartermaines. Susan backed out, and Crane killed her. Crane himself died shortly after. Lila legally married Edward in 1983.

In 1986, Alan’s wife Monica and her lover Sean Donely bankrupted the Quartermaines and Monica threw all of them out of the Quartermaine Mansion, which she owned. The family moved in above Kelly’s Diner, but Lila did little complaining. Instead, she founded her own business, called Pickle-Lila, which made a delicious relish that swept the country. This venture put the Quartermaines back in the black. In 1989, when Edward disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle and was thought to be dead, Lila did not appear to be fazed as she preferred conversing with his portrait, which actually talked back to her. Lila was reunited with Edward in 1991, when their daughter Tracy discovered him playing beach bum in the Bahamas.

In 1992, Lila took a bad spill and was badly injured. She opted not to have surgery, and therefore had to use a wheelchair the rest of her life. In 1993, Lila took on a personal assistant, Brenda Barrett. When the teenager’s sister, Lila’s grandson Ned Ashton’s lover Julia, left Port Charles, Lila invited Brenda to live with them. In 1996, when Lila’s grandson Jason Quartermaine was stricken with permanent amnesia after a car crash, Lila reached out and Jason bonded only with his grandmother and his sister Emily. Jason, wanting to distance himself from the family, later took the name “Jason Morgan” as a tribute to her.

Ned Ashton asked Felicia Scorpio-Jones to write Lila’s memoirs. Lila told Felicia about love letters Edward had sent her during World War II. Lila had given them to her cousin for safekeeping. In the process of writing Lila’s memoirs, Luke Spencer and Felicia uncovered a family secret. They found out that Edward had killed Lila’s fiancé and married her instead. Lila, however, revealed the truth. She said that Eliot had forced himself on her after discovering that Edward had been sending her love letters he signed as Eliot. So, Lila had hit him over the head with a fireplace poker, killing him. Luke and Felicia agreed to keep the truth a secret.

Tracy’s 2003 return to Port Charles delighted Lila, until Tracy revealed that Skye was not really a Quartermaine. Disappointed, Lila kicked Tracy out of the mansion. She returned not long after with her teenaged son Dillon Quartermaine in tow.

2004 saw many changes to the Quartermaine family. The Port Charles Hotel, which the family had owned for many years, caught fire and burned to the ground trapping Edward, Alan, Monica, Tracy, Jason, Emily, Skye, and Dillon inside. The whole situation caused Edward to have a near-fatal heart attack. Ned and Reginald were left to try and keep Lila away from the television, worried that the news would kill her.

One evening in July of 2004, Lila told Edward before going to bed that she loved him. She then died peacefully in her sleep. The entire family and town were shocked at her passing. The family continued to bicker as they dealt with their grief. The Quartermaines and the rest of Port Charles came together to say goodbye to Lila at her funeral. Even old friends Lee and Gail Baldwin, Lucy Coe, Kevin Collins, Robin Scorpio, and Amanda Barrington all returned home for Lila’s funeral and many of her family members spoke of what a wonderful person she was. Emily then took over as family peacemaker and always encouraged Jason to have more contact with the Quartermaines, as a favor to Lila.

In 2012, as the family sang before Thanksgiving Dinner, the ghost of Lila appeared with the ghost of Edward.

All of the above information comes from a website dedicated to the character Lila Quartermaine. Her adventures pale in comparison to the exploits and shenanigans of other characters on General Hospital.

Don’t worry. I was just kidding about testing later.

Oh, and here is the answer to the question at the top of the post. When Anna Lee (who was born Joan Boniface Winnifrith in 1913 in Ightham, Kent, England) was christened, Sybil Thorndyke and Arthur Conan Doyle were her godparents.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A laugh a day keeps the doctor away

[Editor’s note. The following was written by Matthew Belinkie and appeared on www.mcsweeneys.net (Timothy McSweeney’s) on April 24, 2007, as “An Update On The Problem of Maria.” --RWP]


FROM: The Reverend Mother
TO: The Nuns

My Sisters,

As you know, our little convent has been plagued in recent months by “the Maria problem.” I must say, in all my years serving the Lord, this is the greatest challenge I have ever faced. It is like trying to hold a moonbeam in your hand.

Nuns have described Maria as “a headache,” “a demon,” and “capable of outpestering any pest.” Yet, when I put out a box to collect anonymous Maria-related complaints, many of them seemed relatively minor:

.....• “She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee.” We are not
....... Franciscans, but surely we can agree that a youthful
....... heart often expresses its love of the Almighty through
....... delight in nature. Besides, it’s spring; it’s like the hills
....... are alive!

..... • “She’s always late for everything except for every
....... meal.” As a novice, Maria may simply be unaccustomed
....... to the regimented life the convent demands. By the
....... way, the implication that she is fat is simply uncalled
....... for.

..... • “Underneath her wimple she has curlers in her hair.”
....... Sisters, we all know that Maria sports a rather
....... unflattering pageboy bob, with nothing resembling a
....... curl upon her head. Whoever submitted this slander
....... must search her soul.

On the other hand, I must admit Maria makes me uncomfortable. Once, she mentioned that brown-paper packages tied up with string were among her favorite things. That doesn’t seem normal, does it? Plus, her five-octave range is positively unnerving.

So what can be done? I have been conducting frequent meetings on the subject with the most senior nuns, and a number of options have been proposed:

.....• KICK HER OUT. Vetoed. These walls were not built to
....... shut out problems; we have to face them.

.....• FEED HER LESS. By limiting her rations, we may deny
....... her the energy to do things like waltzing on the way to
....... Mass or spinning around on mountaintops with her
....... arms outstretched.

.....• ADMINISTER FREQUENT, SAVAGE BEATINGS. I am
....... shocked at the number of times this was suggested.
....... For shame, sisters. I know it can be truly frustrating
....... when she will not stay and listen to all you say, but we
....... are nuns! Nuns!

.....• LOAN HER OUT AS A NANNY TO AN ECCENTRIC
....... NAVAL HERO. I don’t really understand this plan. How
....... is this going to make her a better nun? If anything, I
....... feel that putting her in close proximity to children will
....... exacerbate her own childish tendencies.

Sisters: I will consider our course. In the meantime, let us pray for a solution to this seemingly insoluble problem of Maria. We must have faith that we can climb every mountain, ford every steam, follow every rainbow, ’til Maria either stops being so annoying or falls in love with someone and gets married. I sincerely hope that the time soon arrives when we can turn our attention to more pressing matters. For instance, I hear the Nazi Party is quite popular nowadays?

Yours in Christ,
Reverend Mother

P.S. The voting to select a word that means Maria has been completed. The winning word is “Flibbertigibbet.”


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

“Every painting is a voyage into a sacred harbour.” --Giotto di Bondone (1266-1337)

Our little Havanese dog Jethro was born on June 19, 2004, and lived until May 31 of this year. Here is my all-time favorite photograph of him, taken when he was about three years old:


We gave the photo to our painter friend Joyce Yarborough last year and now we have an all-time favorite (and so far only) 11x14 oil painting of Jethro as well:


We think Joyce captured Jethro perfectly, working from the photograph. She said that when she painted the floral hassock he sort of blended into the background, so she took the liberty of changing the color to dark green.

We love the painting.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Joyce Yarborough.

For the record, we don’t think Blogger does justice to it.

[Editor’s note. In a comment, Adrian says Jethro “is a bit pink” and wonders whether I took the photo of the painting “in something strange like tungsten.” I took the photo of the painting with my iPhone in my kitchen, but it was a bit shady at that hour of the day. Here is a another photo of the painting that I took when there was more natural daylight.


Is that better? At least the pinks have gone away and have turned to beige. --RWP]

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Well, whaddaya know! I’m Johann Sebastian Bach!

Yes, I am.

A little bird online test called Which Classical Composer Are You? told me so.

Unfortunately, it also told me what being Bach meant:

“You are Johann Sebastian Bach. The smartest person you know, you don’t suffer incompetence easily and are more than willing to tackle difficult projects yourself rather than trust them to others. Highly intellectual, you crave order, discipline and structure – let’s be honest, you probably have your picture next to “perfectionist” in the dictionary. Unfortunately, your brilliance is likely to go largely unappreciated by those around you, and you’re going to have to wait for future generations to recognize your genius.”

So being Bach is not a compliment, exactly.

But they pretty much nailed it.

Which classical composer are you?

To find out, click on the blue link near the top of this post. Then, if you dare, paste the gory details into a comment.

[Editor’s note. So far, readers have reported that they are Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. And one reader reports that he wrote “Tiptoe Through the Turnips” for Tiny Tim, England’s greatest, setting the standard for those who love Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. Apparently this reader is unaware that Tiny Tim was actually Herbert Khaury of New York City, the son of a Polish mother and a Lebanese father. He was about as English as the Dalai Lama. --RWP]

Monday, November 4, 2013

Music for a quiet evening

I am partial to piano music.

These particular compositions sound deceptively simple but are quite difficult to play accurately.

Here’s Arthur Rubenstein playing Frederic Chopin’s beautiful Nocturne Opus 9, No. 2 (5:05). Unfortunately you will not be able to see Arthur Rubenstein, but you will be able to follow along in the sheet music.

And here’s Vladimir Horowitz in Vienna playing Impromptu in G flat major D899 No. 3 by Franz Schubert (7:31).

And here’s...well, that’s enough for now.

Sometimes a taste is better than a mouthful.

“Music Hath Charms” by Harrison Fisher, American illustrator (1877 - 1934)