Saturday, December 27, 2014

Where there’s life, there’s hope

My boyhood friend Fred Stone, with whom contact had been lost for decades but was re-connected a couple of years back when his niece, June, referred him to a post I had written about Mansfield, Texas (*waves furiously in the direction of Yorkshire Pudding of Sheffield, England) and whose three wives (two of them ex-) have all been named Judy, inspiring him to name his boat (he lives beside a rather large lake) Judy, Judy, Judy so that all who refer to it sound exactly like Cary Grant (my,what a long sentence this is becoming) , sent me an email stating that he was alarmed at the decline in the number of my postings for 2014. I shot back a reply admitting that the decline in posts per annum had taken me by surprise as well.

All of which I have told you (my high-school English teacher, Mr. D. P. Morris, despised sentence fragments, but it simply cannot be helped -- well, I suppose it could but I simply don’t have the time, energy, or inclination this morning -- and since (a) he has been dead for Lo! These Many Years and (b) fashions in language do change over time it also simply doesn’t matter (*waves again in the direction of Yorkshire Pudding of Sheffield, England, a former English teacher)) as a way of saying that since it is now December 27th and Mrs. RWP and I are leaving tomorrow to spend a few days with our daughter’s family in Alabamistan, there may not be time (or energy or inclination) to produce another post before the end of the year.

Thus it is that you are reading this, my 100th post of 2014. I realize that this number pales in comparison to my former annual posting rates of 194 in 2013, 220 in 2012, 220 in 2011, 184 in 2010, 206 in 2009, 228 in 2008, and even 43 in 2007 (because I didn’t begin the blog until September 28th that year) . One hundred is a good round, three-digit number that has the added feature of not being 99, which would have depressed me greatly. So near, and yet so far, as it were.

I also realize that this post doesn’t really say anything, but that simply cannot be helped either. Truly, considering the source.

I do wish all of you a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year.

P.S. -- My first resolution for the New Year shall be to try to use fewer parentheses in 2015.

You know, for auld lang syne and all.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

It’s Christmas! Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis et vidimus gloriam eius gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiae et veritatis

Say what?

It’s Latin. I’ll say it again:

Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis et vidimus gloriam eius gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiae et veritatis.

It’s only The Greatest Story Ever Told, the fourteenth verse of the first chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John.

Here it is in English:

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we saw his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) , full of grace and truth.

A former associate pastor of mine, Wayne L., says there are two kinds of people in the world (okay, he said in the church, but stay with me, people. I’m improvising here to include everybody) , Grace people and Truth people.

Grace people think they are full of love and good will and kindness and that Truth people are too mean-spirited and harsh and combative and inflexible. Truth people think they are full of knowledge and accuracy and irrefutable facts and that Grace people are too compromise-y and weak and permissive and gullible.

Grace people think if only the Truth people could see the light and be Grace people, what a wonderful world it would be. Truth people think if only the Grace people could see the light and be Truth people, what a wonderful world it would be.

According to my friend Wayne, both groups are wrong. He reminded us that John 1:14 tells us that Jesus Christ was full of grace and truth. The real problem in society today, therefore, is that Truth people need to exhibit more Grace along with the truth, and Grace people need to proclaim more Truth along with the grace. That’s the only way any of us have any hope of ever being like Jesus -- we must, like Him, have them both. We must be full of grace and truth.

Here endeth the lesson for December 25th.

We now return you to today’s programming, already in progress.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Words, words, words, words, eating goober words. Goodness, how delicious, eating goober words.

I know it’s nearly Christmas and all (and even Kwanzaa, and Chanukah is about over) , but today I want to tell you my very favorite word.

About a week ago, Yorkshire Pudding of Sheffield,England (that’s in the U.K., you know) had a post in which he allowed as how some of his favorite words were mellifluous and nincompoop and pamplemousse (French for grapefruit) and scythe, but his very favorite word (he spelled it “favourite”) is Yorkshire, which he called “a beautiful proper noun that cascades from the mouth like the heavenly sound of angels singing in paradise.” It is difficult to compete with a retired teacher of English.

Adrian in Scotland commented that marmalade is best but he also likes discombobulate and chauvinistic, Peace Thyme Garden and Weather Station confessed that she has always loved the sound of the word cacophany, Jan Blawat likes scrumptious and Lee likes phenomenon.

Things grew more interesting when Hilltophomesteader who homesteads on a hilltop in southwestern Washington state said she likes eclectic, eccentric, frazzle, soliloquy and lots of others but she doesn’t care for words like larvae, pupil and staid. She also said that for a whole week her favorite words were lugubrious and gormless.

Librarian chimed in with persnickety. Figures.

Brian the ex-pat in Catalan mentioned whistle and whisper.

Helsie down in Brisbane likes mateship.

Hilltop said if foreign words were allowed, she has always loved to mutter dummkopf under her breath. I then revealed that dummkopf was one of my father’s pet names for me. At least I think it was one of his pet names. I'm going to continue telling myself that.

My favorite word? That’s difficult. I like so many. Boondoggle. Onomatopoeia. Indispensable. Caterwauling. Gargantuan. Indecipherable. Pusillanimous. Indefatigable. Perfunctory. Insurmountable. Yorkshire Pudding reminded me that swallowing dictionaries can cause indigestion.

But I have finally reached a decision. My very favorite word in all of English is (drum roll, please) : gazinta.

Gazinta.

Yes, you are familiar with it. You’ve probably said it yourself many times.

As in “Nine gazinta 27 three times.”

Maybe my father was right.

Your assignment for 2015 is to become familiar with the phrase “elegant variation.”

And a very merry Christmas/Kwanzaa/Chanukah to you too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sometimes it’s okay, even advisable, to change horses in midstream

Today is the birthday of Catherine of Aragon (1485) , Ludwig van Beethoven (1770) , Jane Austen (1775) , Margaret Mead (1901) , Liv Ullmann (1938) , Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917) who is known in Sri Lanka as Sri Lankabhimanya (The Pride of Sri Lanka) , and even William “The Refrigerator” Perry (1962) , defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, so-called because he was about as big as one:















but I have decided to ignore the many blogging possibilities calling to me from that list and take today’s post in a deliberately different, more seasonal direction:


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It’s [] my party [] not my party (pick one) and I’ll [] laugh [] cry [] yawn (pick one) if I want to

Here are 23 maps with accompanying text that will help explain to Americans and non-Americans alike what the heck has gone on politically in the U.S. for the past two hundred years:

23 maps with accompanying text that will help explain to Americans and non-Americans alike what the heck has gone on politically in the U.S. for the past two hundred years

Take a few minutes and learn something. Click on the link.

I found the information fascinating (and something even rarer nowadays, accurate) , but then I am weird.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions

Somewhere in this house, in some box, some closet, some room, some cabinet, possibly even some garage, is something I needed to make my next post. That something is a folder containing Songs of the South, a collection of all the song parodies my friend Tom and I wrote over the years for our annual AT&T office Christmas parties. The post I envisioned would have followed my last post so nicely, too, especially since I mentioned in a comment that for one of our AT&T office Christmas parties I had composed a song called “Up To The Fourth Floor NYNEX Went, Lots Of Money For Training Spent” which we, the assembled AT&T gang, sang to the tune of “Up On The Housetop Reindeer Pause, Out Jumps Good Old Santa Claus.”

Alas, it apparently is not to be.

I can’t find the dadblamed folder.

I just know you would have been rolling in the aisles. You would have loved, I’m sure, a song from the year Robert Allen, AT&T’s Chief Executive Officer, decided to acquire the National Cash Register Corporation to bolster our stock. It was called “Bob Wants To Buy A Company So We Can All Get Rich, (Just Last Week He Purchased NCR, But They’d Rather Fight Than Switch)” which we sang to the tune of “The Holly and The Ivy.”

Or not. I suppose one had to have been there.

If I find the folder, I’ll certainly let you know. Until then, you’ll just have to use your imagination.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

In which I am inspired by my previous post to write an entire nautical parody of “That’s Amore” (a song made famous by Dean Martin), to wit:

That’s A Moray

When you wade in the sea
And an eel bites your knee, that’s a moray
When your rammed in the gut
Or get nipped in the butt, that’s a moray

Ships sail by, toora-loora-loo
Toora-loora-lye, and you hope they will note you
Kelp may rot, totta-totta-tot
Totta-totta-tot, you just pray it will float you

When the man-o’-war drool
And you feel like a fool, that’s a moray
When in pain in the surf
In some sea creature’s turf, that’s not love

When you know you can’t swim
Yet you find you are swimming signore
Scusa me, but you see
Back in old Napoli, that’s a moray

(Note. That is not a moray, that is a Portuguese man-o’-war.)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

When you wade in the sea and an eel bites your knee, that’s a moray

Words to live by.


(Photo used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Up, up, and away...

This is our 18-year-old grandson, Matthew, in rehearsal.


He floats through the air with the greatest of ease, this daring young man sans a flying trapeze.

Peter Pan, eat your heart out.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

What a difference a day makes...

...24 little hours (with apologies to Dinah Washington (2:31)) .

Before:













After:


Entrance area before (taken in December 2013 complete with dead leaves):




















Entrance area after (with leaves already beginning to replenish):













Only the front of our house has stacked stone. The other three sides are the new creamy yellow with white trim. The original color, by Duron, was a light beige called Beach Basket. The new color, also by Duron, is called Light Honey.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

And so it begins...

Today our house is getting its first paint job since 2003.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Another letter from Howard Griffin

I shared with you recently a letter I received in 1958 from my Texas neighbor, author John Howard Griffin. Howard had become blind because of a plane crash while in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific in 1946. His parents, Jack and Lena Griffin, moved from the city of Dallas out into the country, and it happened that they bought a farm on our lane. We were four families in all -- the Bragues, the Hugginses, the Griffins, and the Brocketts. Howard Griffin met a local girl, Elizabeth Ann Holland, and converted from Presbyterian to Roman Catholic in order to marry her. They had four children together before he suddenly regained his sight in 1957. In what had formerly been a barn at his parents’ place, Howard kept a writing studio equipped with a typewriter and a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Sometimes he would drop by to chat while out riding his horse or walking with his beautiful collie dog.

Today I want to show you a letter Howard wrote to my mother in 1956 shortly before he regained his sight. I found it among her things after she died and have kept it all these years:


.................................................................Mansfield, Texas
.................................................................August 28, 1956

Dear Mrs. Brague,

We have just been visiting with Mrs. Brockett who told us the news of your forthcoming operation. Sitting out here in my studio tonight, working until very late, one thought keeps tormenting me. It is this:
I wonder if you have any idea what an inspiration you are to your neighbors, and how truly devoted to you we are? - even though people sometimes find great difficulty showing these things, or expressing them.

You have many silent rooters for your health and well being. Not just those in my immediate family - no; I am sure I speak for everyone whose llife in any way touches yours, even casually. Many a prayer goes up for you that you perhaps do not suspect. The good that you do all of us by your example is more far-reaching than you imagine. I hear it spoken of frequently by the townspeople.

I do not mean this to be a somber letter, nor do I wish to give you the embarrassment of an answer - so just tuck it away in your memory as a bit of information that needed saying. We have boundless admiration for your gallantry and courage - and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be told those things which all of us feel but which few of us take the trouble to express.

We are very certain that the many and powerful prayers that are being said and the many and powerful wishes that are being formed for you augur well for the success of this operation; and that you have nothing to fear. I am certain of it, which is one of the reasons I am sitting here writing you this clumsy note.

I have sent out word to the Carmelite nuns - those wonderful women who spend their lives in prayer for others - to remember you especially at this time, as I did when you were hospitalized before. And I thought you might like to know that in convents all over this country and Europe your name is being spoken by people who ask the blessings of health and happiness for you, Bobby and Ted.

.................................................................Yours sincerely,

.................................................................Howard


A little over a year later, on October 4, 1957, my mother died of abdominal cancer at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Fort Worth. I was 16. She was 47.

Howard died in 1980 at the age of 60.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Minimal, thanks, and you?

Here are two poems by William Carlos Williams:

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.


This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


Besides these two poems I also want to share with you an email I received about a woman whose computer password was “MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofySacramento” and when asked why she chose that particular password she replied that the instructions said it must have eight characters and at least one capital. I personally think Indianapolis or Tallahassee is funnier than Sacramento but that may just be me. Also, for all readers outside the U.S., Sacramento is the capital of California, Indianapolis is the capital of Indiana, and Tallahassee is the capital of Florida, but if you pass this story along I suggest that you say Helsinki.

Why, yes, I am feeling much better. Why do you ask?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Air Force Blue

(Photo taken at Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas, 1961)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Quiz post-mortem, or If you want me, just whistle

Out of my vast potential readership of 7.2 billion people on planet earth and a few on Uranus, a grand total of two people entered yesterday’s quiz. Thank you, Mary Z in Tennessee and Reamus in Southern California. Well, at least it wasn’t a complete bust.

To review, the question was to identify who said the following, and when, and why:

1. “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.” The correct answer is Gerald R. Ford on taking the oath of office as President of August 9, 1974, after Richard Nixon resigned. 100% of male respondents answered correctly. 100% of female respondents didn’t answer at all.

o 2. “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” The correct answer is Ann Richards, then treasurer of the state of Texas and keynote speaker at the 1988 Democratic National Convention (she would not become Governor of Texas until 1991) , referring to then Vice-President George H. W. Bush. Both respondents identified Ann Richards as the speaker but neither one got the occasion, although Mary thought it was in reference to George W. Bush (the son) .

3. “We’re going to take from the haves and give it to the have nots who need it so much.” Mary didn’t answer. Reamus said Dan Quayle (George H. W. Bush’s Vice-President) . The correct answer is President Lyndon B. Johnson speaking in 1964 of his Great Society programs.

4. “One, if by land, and two, if by sea; and I on the opposite shore will be, ready to ride and spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm.” Both respondents said Paul Revere, which may or may not be correct -- we don’t know exactly what he said. The answer I had in mind was poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote the lines in “Paul Revere’s Ride (The Landlord’s Tale)” in 1860, 85 years after the actual 1775 ride.

5. “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!” Mary correctly identified the speaker as Prissy, in the movie Gone With the Wind. Reamus said Humphrey Bogart. Prissy was played by Butterfly McQueen. Humphrey Bogart wasn’t in Gone With the Wind but he was married to Lauren Bacall, which has to count for something.

6. “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” These words were correctly identified by 100% of our entrants as the final utterance of American Nathan Hale before he was hanged by the British during the American Revolution.

7. “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” Both Mary and Reamus said Admiral Dewey (it was not) ; Reamus said the Battle of Mobile Bay (it was) . Admiral Dewey was at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War, where he said, “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” At the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War, Admiral David Farragut uttered the lines in question.

8. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Both respondents correctly identified the speaker as FDR and the occasion as his first inaugural address in 1933.

9. “Nobody’s perfect.” Mary left no answer. Reamus said he and many others had said it. The answer I was looking for was actor Joe E. Brown to actor Jack Lemmon at the end of the movie Some Like It Hot.

10. “All right, Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my close-up.” Both contestants correctly identified actress Gloria Swanson. Reamus wasn’t sure which movie it was and Mary said the movie was the original A Star Is Born. Close, but no cigar. The movie was the original Sunset Boulevard.

Mary, Reamus, and I have had a wonderful time wasting time with this quiz. I only wish that more of you had chosen to do so. I’ll think about that tomorrow. After all, as Humphrey Bogart once said to Lauren Bacall, tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Who said that? (A post-American-election quiz)

...And when? And why? (No fair peeking or Googling. You will receive extra points for creativity. Some questions may have two answers; pick the most accurate one.)

1. “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.”

2. “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

3. “We’re going to take from the haves and give it to the have nots who need it so much.”

4. “One, if by land, and two, if by sea; and I on the opposite shore will be, ready to ride and spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm.”

5. “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!”

6. “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

7. “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

8. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

9. “Nobody's perfect.”

10. "All right, Mr. Demille, I'm ready for my close-up.”


[Editor's note. Any similarity to anything I have ever said or written in the seven-year history of this blog is purely coincidental. --RWP]

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A portmanteau post

[Editor’s note. According to dictionary.com, a portmanteau word is a word composed of parts of two or more words, such as chortle (from chuckle and snort) and motel (from motor and hotel) . The term was first used by Lewis Carroll to describe many of the unusual words in his Through the Looking-Glass (1871), particularly in the poem “Jabberwocky.” Other authors who have experimented with such words are James Joyce and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Since this post combines parts of two previous posts of mine (one from October 2013 and one from October 2012) , I have dubbed it a portmanteau post. --RWP]

Here is part of Burt’s Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville, Georgia, which Mrs. RWP and I visited when Bob and Linda (my stepbrother and his wife) visited Georgia last year:


This post is for all you city people who never lived on a farm, and all you highly educated folks out there who probably think you’re better than everybody else but still could learn a thing or two.

The following poem by James Whitcomb Riley, which hearkens back to a simpler time and a more agrarian society, may be just what the doctor ordered:


When the Frost is on the Punkin
by James Whitcomb Riley (1849 - 1916)


When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then the time a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here —
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries — kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below — the clover overhead! —
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...
I don’t know how to tell it — but ef such a thing could be
As the angels wantin’ boardin', and they’d call around on me —
I’d want to ’commodate ’em — all the whole-indurin’ flock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.


If I had to pick my favorite part of that poem besides the frost and the punkin and the fodder and the shock, it would have to be the rooster’s hallylooyer.

According to that Wikipedia article, Riley’s chief legacy was “his influence in fostering the creation of a midwestern cultural identity and his contributions to the Golden Age of Indiana Literature.” I don’t know about you but I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Indiana Literature, let alone a whole Golden Age of It. It seems we all can still learn a thing or two.

James Whitcomb Riley was not one of the great poets, but he is an interesting one nonetheless. Back in the day, we had to read that poem in school and also his “Little Orphant Annie” with the warning at the end of each stanza that “the Gobble-uns’ll git you ef you don’t watch out!” -- I thought you might like it as Halloween approaches.

If you feel you just can’t get enough of James Whitcomb Riley*, here is a link to 449 of his poems (he wrote more than a thousand, the majority in dialect) that should prove you wrong.


*here’s a shout-out to Pam Doyle, otherwise known as Hilltophomesteader, who (a) lives somewhere in southwestern Washington state and (b) has gone on record as really liking James Whitcomb Riley. Hi, Pam!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Letter to a young man

I have in my possession a three-page typed letter from one Howard Griffin, a neighbor of mine in Texas, that he handed to me along with a book, The Collected Letters of Ludwig van Beethoven, the week I graduated from high school in 1958.

If the name Howard Griffin -- or as he is better known and his letterhead states, John H. Griffin -- seems familiar, it may be because he went on to write Black Like Me in 1961. He had also written The Devil Rides Outside in 1952 and Nuni in 1956, but Black Like Me is what brought him to the attention of a larger public.

It is a bit long, but I wanted to share this letter with you that was written to a 17-year-old boy from a man in his late thirties, married with children. I have kept it now for 56 years.


.................................................................May 17, 1958

Dear Bobby,

.....This is perhaps an unwanted intrusion of advice, but at this time in your life, and out of my respect for you, there are a few things I wanted to tell you. Although I have had little contact with you, I have been concerned about you for many years; certainly because it is rare to encounter a first class mind, and you have one. You also have something even more important, a sensitivity and creativity that can make that mental equipment fruitful. Perhaps you yourself do not even recognize this yet.

.....Such people have a problem which few others understand or even know exists. I know that you feel alone in this for certainly you have felt the beginnings already. It is a subtle thing, perhaps too subtle to formulate. Without false humility, you recognize that you have superior equipment, and you also recognize that you have a grave responsibility to use that equipment fruitfully, not to waste it by following the crowd and becoming ordinary; and again not to waste it in fruitless experimentation or in seeking to gratify your ego by demanding that you yourself prove what great minds have already proved. Understanding first principles is correct; seeking to re-establish them becomes a presumption on which many fine minds fritter themselves out.

.....Our civilization has a dangerous tendency to brand everything which is not “average” as “abnormal.” Our colleges are permeated with a spirit of standardization that seeks to make men “average.” It is evident that to be average and to be truly normal are vastly different things. Seeking true normalcy does not mean following a standardized pattern, it means fulfilling one’s potential.

.....This, highly simplified, is the problem you are beginning to know. It will grow more acute. This is what makes for loneliness. It is terribly easy these days to lose sight of this, to be driven toward what is “average” rather than what is truly “normal.” To be normal requires all of the intellectual and spiritual virtues, to be average requires nothing more than a deadening acceptance of social standards which petrify the soul and compromise the intellect. It is basically the difference between expediency values that fluctuate according to what is convenient and acceptable, and absolute values based on what is immutably right (regardless of convenience or rationalized acceptability.)

.....You will go one of two ways now. You will either go toward normalcy (in the philosophical sense) where soul and intellect remain wedded and in close contact with reality, where your gifts will be liberated and given full sway to grow and enrich the world. Or you will, for want of an example of the proper encouragement (or because splendid and sterile minds will lead you that way) go toward what is average, no matter how brilliant it may appear to be. In this realm, the mind learns to rationalize to its own satisfaction rather than submit itself humbly to truth or reason. In this there is a separation between soul and mind, a divorce. In this we learn to act from motives of social approbation (even under the guise of morality) rather than from motives of love for higher values. In a word, we become dedicated to ourselves rather than to higher values. This produces a certain brilliant sheen -- we see it constantly for it is very fashionable; it is the superb mind which has become gluttonous and presumptuous; which feeds on itself rather than on reality. It is one of the great obscene tragedies that can happen to a man. All is done, in this instance, for the good of the man rather than for the good of a higher value.

.....This, in a word, will be your great temptation. You could easily go that way. We hunger for approval, all of us. Perfection in a given field, mastery of a given art, dedication to a given value -- these are hard things, rightfully so. No man has ever dared enter these worlds, whether scientific or artistic, without trembling and dread; for this means self-renunciation on a heroic basis. There is great private loneliness. A man has to seek his way in these realms utterly alone, maintaining complete independence of spirit insofar as the world’s opinions are concerned and at the same time, complete humility and respect for the value to which he is dedicating himself. This way ultimately leads to greatness and must eventually benefit the world. The other way, the way of the brilliant average leads to more immediate satisfactions, but also to grave frustrations unless the person completely deadens his soul against reminders of “what might have been.”

.....The only ultimate freedom, therefore, comes in voluntary slavery to a higher value.

.....This will be your big problem, as it is the problem of all men, and especially of highly gifted men. To see it clearly is half the battle. This does not mean that we should rebel -- rebellion is a form of egotism. This means that, as Pascal said, we must live among men and yet live alone, and that we must sacrifice ourselves out of love for them and the higher value; that our creations, scientific, scholastic or artistic do them more good than our preachments. The saint has always taught more by his example than all the tomes of theology. True normalcy, in its final analysis is synonymous to true sanctity in arts, sciences or scholasticism.

.....Symptoms that we are going the wrong way, even while persuading ourselves that we are going the right and dedicated way are these: if we have contempt for lesser men; if we feel arrogance for them then we are merely deluding ourselves. The motive for our actions then is one of hatred or repugnance, fleeing into another world to escape the vulgarities of this one. No, we must be drawn to that other world by love. That is the essential difference.

.....Another grave mistake, commonly made because men must blunder toward their own truths without too much guidance and help, is to think that dedication to a higher value implies “rising above reality.” In perfecting our tastes, we often tend to mistake values and to see as ugly what God created as good. We develop a certain contempt for that which is animal in man and for that which is of the earth. This is often carried to such extremes that it becomes a total delusion wherein “high type” men feel themselves “dragged down” by their very natures. This again is an enormous presumption -- it is not being spiritual, but in reality it is having contempt for God’s creation of man and nature. In moments of supreme tension, pain and death, men have always seen clearly the error of this tangential refinement -- they have seen that they have missed everything by refusing to go into the essences of all things, no matter how humble; by refusing to have affection for all elements of living. The saints have always known that it is good to have hunger and to eat, to have fatigue and to rest, to have work and then to have the good relaxation of pleasure. The other attitude is so obviously foolish and wrong, it hardly seems worthwhile to mention it, but it is too commonplace and dangerous an error not to be forewarned against.

.....You will, no matter what you do or where you go, feel the downdrag of lesser values espoused by most men. All I hope to do in this letter is to help you see this one fact clearly, to recognize it and not be dismayed by it. That is the average. What is important is not to be average, for the average is full of vanity and compromise and temporal logic. What is important is to be normal. The difference is ultimately simple -- it lies in whether one has a greater receptivity to merely pleasure dispensing values (as the average) or whether one has a greater receptivity to happines dispensing values (which indicates true normalcy) . It is possible that pleasure dispensing values can also be happiness dispensing values -- and this is safe and good. When pleasure dispensing values are not happiness dispensing values, then the choice must always be made; and this choice will depend on the depth of true culture possessed by the person who makes that choice.

.....I hope these observations will make you less lonely when you face these decisions. We must have faith that if we work hard enough, respect mastery, dedicate ourselves selflessly enough, some result will accrue, even though that result may not be clear to us. As Beethoven said in the book I am giving you: “Let your motive be the deed and not the result.”

.................................................................Cordially,

...................................................(Here he wrote “Howard” in black ink)

.................................................................John Howard Griffin

P.S. No need to embarrass yourself acknowledging this letter. If I can ever help you in any way, call on me.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I got the horse right here, the name is Paul Revere

Because my last two posts (the stage-name quiz and the answers) dealt mostly with people in theater, I decided to use the headings “Guys” and “Dolls” for the two lists. Clever, eh, wot? *bows to receive applause from adoring public.

That reminded me that when Mrs. RWP and I went to a Red Lobster Restaurant for the first time many years ago, we giggled that instead of the words “Men” and “Women” on the rest room doors the signs read “Buoys” and “Gulls” -- I know. We are easily amused.

And that reminded me that at an elementary school in Kansas this week, the administration instructed the teachers not to call the children “boys” and “girls” any more, but “Purple Penguins” instead. I’m presuming the school mascot for team sports is a purple penguin, but it could be a saber-toothed tiger for all I know.

And that reminded me of what radio-personality Garrison Keillor has said for years is his favorite joke: One penguin says to another, “You look like you’re wearing a tuxedo” and the second penguin replies, “What makes you think I’m not?”

Pa-dum-dum. Rim shot on the snare drum. With a cymbal crash afterward.

Hey, folks, it’s Saturday morning and I can do only so much.

Blog reading is like betting on a horse race. You go with your heart and you take your chances.

Can do. Can do. (1:32)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Now it can be told: Robert Brague is the stage name of Huckleberry Hound

With apologies to Gertrude Stein, a rose is not a rose is not a rose is not a rose. Not always, anyway. Some roses are Gypsies and some roses are Dinahs. You read it here first.

The quiz in the last post was not exactly earth-shaking. Out of over seven billion people on planet Earth, we received entries from three players -- one in Scotland, one in Yorkshire, and one in San Diego, California. Out of the 20 people you were invited to identify, two players identified only one, and the third player identified nine. If this had been a test in school, the scores would have been 5, 5, and 45 unless the teacher graded on a curve.

Unfortunately, we cannot wait for the rest of you to decide to play.

Here are the answers to yesterday’s quiz:

Guys:

1. Anthony Dominick Benedetto (Tony Bennett)
2. Benny Lubelsky (Jack Benny)
3. Bernie Schwartz (Tony Curtis)
4. Herbert Khaury (Tiny Tim)
5. Archibald Leach (Cary Grant)
6. Maurice Micklewhite (Michael Caine)
7. Marion Morrison (John Wayne)
8. Arnold George Dorsey(Engelbert Humperdinck)
9. Leslie Lynch King, Jr. (President Gerald R. Ford)
10. William Jefferson Blythe III (President Bill Clinton)

Dolls:

1. Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe)
2. Lucille Fay LeSueur (Joan Crawford)
3. Vivian Mary Hartley (Vivian Leigh)
4. Eleanora Fagan (Billie Holliday)
5. Joan Alexandra Molinsky (Joan Rivers)
6. Ruby Katherine Stevens (Barbara Stanwyck)
7. Rose Louise Hovick (Gypsy Rose Lee)
8. Caryn Elaine Johnson (Whoopi Goldberg)
9. Frances Rose Shore (Dinah Shore)
10. Marguerite Annie Johnson (Maya Angelou)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A rose by any other name looks better on a marquee

Time for another quiz.

I don’t think I have done this before, but if I have, well, I’m going to do it again.

Lots of people in show biz use their real names (Gwyneth Paltrow and George Clooney come to mind) , but some have been persuaded to use names other than the perfectly good ones they were given at birth.

Can you guess who the following people are or were? Some are easy and some are not. No fair Googling. I’ll admit to throwing you a couple of curves.

Guys:

1. Anthony Dominick Benedetto
2. Benny Lubelsky
3. Bernie Schwartz
4. Herbert Khaury
5. Archibald Leach
6. Maurice Micklewhite
7. Marion Morrison
8. Arnold George Dorsey
9. Leslie Lynch King, Jr.
10. William Jefferson Blythe III

Dolls:

1. Norma Jean Baker
2. Lucille Fay LeSueur
3. Vivian Mary Hartley
4. Eleanora Fagan
5. Joan Alexandra Molinsky
6. Ruby Katherine Stevens (Hint: My father’s favorite actress)
7. Rose Louise Hovick
8. Caryn Elaine Johnson
9. Frances Rose Shore
10. Marguerite Annie Johnson

The answers will be in my next post!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Obamacare For Dummies, or Am I my brother's keeper?

My step-sister-in-law in Texas sent me an email that boils down the 10,535 pages of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) , which some people call Obamacare, into four sentences:

1. In order to insure the uninsured, we first have to uninsure the insured.
2. Next, we require the newly uninsured to be re-insured.
3. To re-insure the newly uninsured, they are required to pay extra charges to be re-insured.
4. The extra charges are required so that the original insured, who became uninsured, and then became re-insured, can pay enough extra so that the original uninsured can be insured, which will be free of charge to them.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is called “redistribution of wealth” or its more common name, SOCIALISM.

Depending on your point of view, this is either a very good thing or a very bad thing.

I am suddenly reminded of something I heard President Lyndon B. Johnson say way back in nineteen-sixty-something: “We’re going to take from the haves and give to the have-nots who need it so much.”

Again, depending on your point of view, this is either a very good thing or a very bad thing.

Time may march on, but some things never change.

Monday, October 6, 2014

I haven’t posted to my blog in 10 days and the world has not come to an end

Fortunately, nothing really noteworthy has happened except that (a) ebola has come to the United States, (b) ISIS/ISIL continues to endear itself to the world, and (c) the U.S. midterm elections are a mere four weeks away, so in this post we’ll just ramble.

Ready? Let us begin.

I made several new friends in the past year -- a gastroenterologist, a urologist -- no psychiatrist yet, but that may be next.

My PCP (translation for non-U.S. readers: primary care provider, which is what used to be called a family doctor, which is what used to be called a general practitioner, which is what used to be called...oh, forget it) has taken me off iron pills because my hemoglobin is now 15, my hematocrit is 42, and my ferritin is 70-something. I’m officially no longer anemic.

My urologist said that the analysis of the 24-hour collection of my urine a few weeks back (in a big, wide-mouthed orange plastic container that could hold a couple of gallons, for those of you who just have to know every last detail) shows that everything is normal. He has scheduled me for a CT scan with and without contrast in one year.

Our oldest son turned 50 a couple of weeks ago. He didn’t want any big hoopla but consented to having a small family gathering at a local restaurant where a jazz group plays on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. When we walked in they were playing Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and it really took me back. At our table were the honoree, his wife, his two children (aged 17 and 14), his parents-in-law, and us, his honest-to-gosh parents, Mr. and Mrs. RWP. A good time was had by all, especially after dinner when he joined the jazz quartet for about 20 minutes with his soprano saxophone. I especially liked “Watch What Happens” even without Sarah Vaughan (2:36).

Last Thursday I appeared on the local telly here in Atlanta as part of a choir on a two-hour program about the Redback Church Hymnal, a southeastern U.S. phenomenon that uses shaped notes, or, more accurately, shape notes. Our choir (there were two) had three separate segments and sang ten songs altogether. Here’s proof I was there, a photo of a telly screen taken by my friend Margaret Gray Turner of Cartersville, Georgia:


One of my grandsons is playing college-level baseball now:


...and another was chosen by his friends to represent the Junior Class at his high school’s homecoming football game:


...and another enjoys being in the band:


...and another, who began taking dance lessons when he was three (he’s 17 now) , was just named to “All State” level for the 2014-2015 school year. Sixteen dancers (eight boys and eight girls) were chosen out of 140 very talented students who auditioned statewide. (Sorry, no photo available.)

Mrs. RWP is nearly finished with the first afghan of six she plans to crochet for the grandchildren. Just in time too for the eldest (the baseball player) as the temperature dipped to 36 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday morning and I hear that college athletic dorms are pretty drafty (that’s a little pun for Reamus if he happens to be reading this, and I hope the rest of you got it too) .

The leaves, they are a-falling, and the temperatures, they are a-dropping, because October has arrived. Summer is past and gone. The swimming pool in our subdivision is closed. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. Time flies when you’re having fun (and even when you’re not) .

Well, kiddies, I think that’s enough rambling for today and I do hope we’ll be talking again soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

British accent? What British accent?

As the hillbilly said, they ain’t no sech of a thang as a British accent.

The hillbilly would be, um, right.

There are at least 17 British accents.

If you don’t believe me, watch this (5:19).

Actually, I lied. I ain’t never knowed nary a hillbilly to say no sech of a thang. I wuz jest a-joshin’ ya.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

No matter how they change her, I’ll remember her that way

In four remarkable posts, the lovely Vagabonde (who lives only a few miles from me over in Marietta) has described the liberation of Paris in August 1944 through the eyes of one who was there -- herself. She was four years old at the time.

You may be amazed at what you read and see.

Recollection: The Liberation of Paris in August 1944 (part 1)
(posted August 24, 2014)

Recollection: The Liberation of Paris in August 1944 (part 2)
(posted September 1, 2014)

Recollection: The Liberation of Paris in August 1944 (part 3)
(posted September 9, 2014)

Recollection: The Liberation of Paris in August 1944 (final part)
(posted September 16, 2014)

You should take the time to read all four posts. You may learn a few things you never knew.

In other news, our firstborn turns 50 years of age today. When he was born, disposable diapers did not exist. They were not invented until our third child came along. All diapers were cloth, which necessitated the buying of a plastic lidded diaper pail to keep soiled diapers in until we could wash them and hang them out to dry and collect them from the line and fold them into neat stacks. What I'm trying to say, and not doing a very good job of it, is simply this: No matter how we changed him, we’ll remember him that way.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Question of the day, or You take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in Washington D.C. afore ye

Is it “a bra brit moonlit nit to-nit” or is it “a bra Brit moonlit nit to-nit”?

I trust that you see the difference.

The vote regarding Scottish independence yesterday was 44.7% YES, 55.3% NO. Just for comparison, here are the percentages of the popular vote candidates received in recent U.S. presidential elections:

1980 - Jimmy Carter 41%, Ronald Reagan 50.8% (third-party candidate John Anderson 6.6%)

1984 - Walter Mondale 40.6%, Ronald Reagan 58.8%

1988 - Michael Dukakis 45.7%, George H.W. Bush 53.4%

1992 - George H.W. Bush 37.5%, Bill Clinton 43% (third-party candidate Ross Perot 18.8%)

1996 - Bob Dole 40.7%, Bill Clinton 49.2% (third-party candidate Ross Perot 8.4%)

2000 - Al Gore 48.4%, George W. Bush 47.9%

2004 - John Kerry 48.3%, George W. Bush 50.7%

2008 - John McCain 45.7%, Barack Obama 52.9%

2012 - Mitt Romney 47.2%, Barack Obama 51.1%

In other words, yesterday’s Scottish Referendum resembled most closely the 1988 and 2008 American presidential elections, when George H.W. Bush defeated Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis 53.4% to 45.7% (1988) and Illinois Senator Barack Obama defeated Arizona Senator John McCain 52.9% to 45.7% (2008).

Of course, in the U.S. the popular vote is only the first step. The electoral college determines who actually won the election, except in years when the U.S. Supreme Court determines who won the election. So far there has been only one of the latter.

If the Scots had had a third choice (besides YES and NO) as Americans did in the candidacies of John Anderson and Ross Perot, what would that third choice have been? That is, how would the ballot have looked?

1. YES
2. NO
3. __?__

I look forward to your responses.

While you’re thinking about your answer, here is Deanna Durbin singing “Loch Lomond” from the 1940 film It’s A Date (3:09).

Monday, September 15, 2014

On this occasion of Prince Harry’s 30th birthday

...yahoo.com is breathlessly reporting to the world that Prince Harry is not his real name.

If you’re not shocked, I suppose yahoo.com thinks you should be.

Harry’s real name is Henry Charles Albert David.

Here endeth the reading from yahoo.com -- the remainder of this post is of my own making.

Eight kings of England were named Henry and two were named Charles, but they were not part of the House of Windsor-Mountbatten neé Windsor neé Saxe-Coburg-Gotha neé Hanover.

However, Charles (the current Prince of Wales, whose full name is Charles Philip Arthur George) is Harry’s father; Albert was (a) what the family called King George VI (Harry’s great-grandfather) and (b) Queen Victoria’s husband (Harry's great-great-great-great grandfather) ; and David was what the family called King Edward VIII (Harry’s great-great uncle) .

[Editor’s note. Whoopi Goldberg’s family called her Karen, but that fact has nothing to do with this post. --RWP]

On this auspicious occasion, I thought I would share with you the full names of several current and former members of the British royal family.

Prince William (the Duke of Cambridge) is William Arthur Philip Louis. His little son, thanks to Kate Middleton, is George Alexander Louis.

William’s and Harry’s father’s siblings are Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise (the Princess Royal) , Andrew Albert Christian Edward (the Duke of York) , and Edward Antony Richard Louis (the Earl of Wessex).

Isn't this fun???

William’s and Harry’s grandmama, Queen Elizabeth II, is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary.

George VI was Albert Frederick Arthur George.

Edward VIII was Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David.

George V was George Frederick Ernest Albert. His wife (Queen Mary) was Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes.

Edward VII was Albert Edward. His wife (Queen Alexandra) was Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia.

Queen Victoria was Alexandrina Victoria. Her husband (Prince Albert) was Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel.

I find all of this utterly fascinating.

And now for the big finish, the pièce de résistance, the sine qua non.

William’s and Harry’s grandpapa, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip is -- wait for it -- Philip.

All of this must mean something, but I’ll be darned if I know what.

Carry on, monarchists.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dinosaurs of the world, unite

One way to tell you’re becoming a dinosaur is when changes occur in the language and you do not keep pace with them. In fact, mes amies, you are downright determined to keep to the old (translation: correct) ways.

Dinosaurs, as we all know, eventually become extinct and no trace of them is left on planet Earth except the occasional fossil found by an enterprising paleontologist.

Which reminds me that my daughter reported this conversation with her 13-year-old son the other day on the drive home from school:

“Mama,” said the 13-year-old, “is it possible to know when a pterodactyl goes to the bathroom?”

“I have no idea,” my daughter said. “Is it?”

He replied, “No, ma’am...because the P is silent.”

Which proves that although language may change, 13-year-old boys never do.

However, language changes so slowly that no one notices what is happening until suddenly no one speaks Anglo-Saxon any more. Except J.R.R. Tolkien, of course, and he is dead.

My current pet peeve (and I hope it is occurring just in America and not throughout the entire English-speaking world) has to do with the past tense of the verb (or rather, the infinitive) to sneak.

Forty years ago the dictionary said the past tense of sneak is “sneaked”.

Twenty-five years ago the dictionary said the past tense of sneak is “sneaked non-standard snuck”.

Ten years ago the the dictionary said the past tense of sneak is “sneaked informal snuck”.

Today, dictionary.com says the past tense of sneak is “sneaked or snuck”.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

At one time, correct word usage was determined by what educated people said. Nowadays, you don’t have to be educated. Anything goes.

I for one will never say snuck. Accordingly, I will soon be extinct myself.

One more thing: Despite what millions of Americans say every single day, drug is not the past tense of drag.

It’s dragged, people. Dragged.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Changes

What’s better than an old Queen-sized bed?

A brand-new Queen-sized bed, of course!

And what’s even better than a brand-new Queen-sized bed?

I’ll tell you what is even better than a brand-new Queen-sized bed.

A brand-new King-sized bed, that’s what.

So we had one delivered yesterday!

The only problem is that in addition to buying a brand-new King-sized bed we also had to buy a brand-new King-sized mattress and a brand-new King-sized mattress cover and brand-new King-sized sheets and pillow cases and a brand-new King-sized bedspread with multiple matching and contrasting pillows, and brand-new matching curtains and valences as well.

Here is the new bed (the curtains had not yet been put up) :


As a result, I am currently suffering from that old Italian disease, mafunzalo. If I wanted to go somewhere on an exotic vacation like, say, the Canary Islands, I would have to swim to get there.

When your funzalo, remember what Dolly Levi’s suitor, Horace Van Der Gelder, said in Hello, Dolly!: “Money is like manure; it doesn’t do any good unless you spread it around.”

[Editor’s note. Dolly’s late husband, Ephraim Levi, also used to say that very thing, and when Horace said it, Dolly knew it was a sign that they should marry (Horace and Dolly I mean, not Horace and Ephraim) . But I digress. --RWP]

In other news, the eldest of our six grandchildren left last week for his first year in college about an hour and a half from home. He will be followed in each of the next five years, not necessarily to the same college, by our remaining grandchildren until, finally, in 2020, there will be no more grandchildren of ours leaving for college.

Mrs. RWP has decided to observe this great migration by crocheting one afghan a year using the new school colors of each grandchild. She is about halfway through the first one at present. Here is a close-up view of the left half of the work in progress (the right half is a mirror image of the left half) :


As Rosanne Rosannadanna used to say on Saturday Night Live, “It’s always something.”


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Somewhere, Edward Gibbon is making notes

JEFFERSON (1776): We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

LINCOLN (1863): It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

FDR (1933): The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

JFK (1961): Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

REAGAN (1981): In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

REAGAN (1987): Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

CLINTON (1998): I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

OBAMA (2014): I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Inquiring minds want to know: How green was my valley?

Thanks to (a) John F. Kemeny, the 35th President of the U.S.A., (b) Yorkshire Pudding, the most pixilated pixie ever, (c) the wonderful internet, and (d) the comments section of my last post, I have now been made aware of the Brague National Park in the Côte d’Azur region of southeastern France. I already knew about the Brague winery and the Brague River, but to learn of a national park is, how do you say, an extra added bonus (an uber-redundancy if there ever was one) .

And not only that, I have also just learned that the Brague River includes the Brague Valley River Walk. Take time to read the charming description of its loveliness by someone whose first language was definitely not English. If you ever go there, remember to “walk downhill progressively until the river of which the path goes along the left edge of the river” and to “enjoy numerous landscapes and cool areas” and to ”follow the way, passby the House of the nature. Take left the track, and the road which leads to Valbonne by the Graveyard”.

Leaving aside the fact that anywhere Yorkshire Pudding is would be, by definition, a cool area, I think one should always walk uphill conservatively and downhill progressively. Unless it’s the other way round. I can never keep that straight.

I am also confused as to whether it is “Feed a cold, starve a fever” or “Starve a cold, feed a fever” and I would appreciate any help I can get from you wonderful people out there in the dark a reliable source.

Because a lot of what you can find on the internet isn’t true, especially if it’s in Wikipedia.

Most of all, I think Yorkshire Pudding should print down a copy of the directions for the Brague Valley River Walk (9.8km, 3 hrs) and hie himself, camera in tow, off to that particular Gallic hinterland, and then publish a blogpost that would highlight for all of us some of those numerous landscapes and cool areas.

Don’t you agree?

Friday, August 22, 2014

No, never would I leave you at all

Many years ago I read the book Man and the Computer by John Kemeny, a professor of mathematics who later became president of Dartmouth University. Near the beginning of the book he wrote, “The computer is incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Man is unbelievably slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. The marriage of the two is a force beyond calculation.”

It is a statement that sticks in the mind.

Fast forward (now there’s an obsolete phrase) to today.

You can learn the most amazing things on the internet. You can also learn (contrary to popular opinion among the intelligentsia) the most amazing things on television. If you combine watching television with searching the internet (a sort of marriage as well) , the result can also be a force beyond calculation.

Case in point.

Mrs. RWP and I were watching the highly educational television program Judge Judy this afternoon, and I remarked that the defendant in one case looked a lot like Robert Goulet.

“Whatever happened to him?” asked Mrs. RWP.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I can’t remember whether he is still alive.”

Because I don’t like to leave loose ends hanging, I decided to do the only sensible thing and find out. I went to the computer and googled “Robert Goulet” and discovered that Robert Goulet is not still alive. He died in 2007 about a month before what would have been his 74th birthday.

What absolutely floored me in the article I was reading was that early in his career Robert Goulet had been a member of the cast of the Canadian version of Howdy Doody and not only that, he starred opposite -- wait for it -- William Shatner.

Would I lie to you?

Yes, Virginia, there was a Canadian version of Howdy Doody. It ran on CBC from 1954 until 1959. Instead of a host named Buffalo Bob, however, it had a host named Timber Tom (sounds more Canadian, eh?) . Robert Goulet played the part of Trapper Pierre; William Shatner played the part of Ranger Bob.

As Jack Paar might say, I kid you not.

Talk about being gobsmacked.

One other thing. In one of Robert Goulet’s biggest hits, “If Ever I Would Leave You” from Camelot, he promised he wouldn’t leave us* in springtime, summer, winter, or fall (2:11) .

He lied. He left us in the fall. October 30, 1977, to be exact.

I know, I know. I’m easily entertained.

Man and the computer.

John Kemeny would be so proud.


*okay, it was Julie Andrews

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fifty years ago this week (August 26 to be exact)

The Perfect Nanny
by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman


Wanted: A nanny for two adorable children

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts
Play games, all sorts

You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings, give us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets

Never be cross or cruel
Never give us castor oil or gruel
Love us as a son and daughter
And never smell of barley water

If you won’t scold and dominate us
We will never give you cause to hate us
We won’t hide your spectacles
So you can’t see
Put toads in your bed
Or pepper in your tea

Hurry, Nanny!
Many thanks

Sincerely,
Jane and Michael Banks

The rest is, as they say, history.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Go with the flow, or Thou knowest not what a day may bring forth

In my email this morning there was a message from Snowbrush that was so inspiring I want to share it with you. Here it is:

Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life.

As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the Nova Scotia back country.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn’t stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt bad and apologized to the men for being late.

I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man. And as I played “Amazing Grace” the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head was hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen anything like that before, and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”

Apparently, I’m still lost...must be a man thing.

(Photo from robmarilyn2012.blogspot.com)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Show biz is my life

When I sign on to my computer, it happens that yahoo.com is the first page I see. On that page today was the link “9 Things You Should Know About Kelly Ripa” but I was not tempted to click on it.

No way, José.

I don’t know what things Yahoo thinks I should know about Kelly Ripa, but in my opinion here are the nine most important things anyone needs to know about her:

1. She is annoying.
2. She is annoying.
3. She is annoying.
4. She is annoying.
5. She is annoying.
6. She is annoying.
7. She is annoying.
8. She is annoying.
9. She is extremely annoying.

Perhaps that is unfair.

Let’s try that again (and these are my thoughts, not Yahoo’s) :

1. A recent quote attributed to Kelly Ripa: “Botox changed my life.”
2. She thinks she is funny but she isn’t.
3. She thinks she can sing but she can’t.
4. She is no Kathie Lee Gifford.
5. She is from New Jersey.
6. She is married to actor Mark Consuelos.
7. She met her husband in 1995 when they co-starred on the television soap opera All My Children.
8. She co-hosted “Live!” with Regis Philbin.
9. She is extremely annoying.

Perhaps that is still unfair. I’m sorry, but it’s the best I can do. Millions of Americans disagree with me. Can I help it if they’re wrong?


That is not Kelly Ripa (or Kathie Lee Gifford or Mark Consuelos or Regis Philbin) . That is Ruth Warrick in 1973 as Phoebe Tyler on All My Children.

If this post makes no sense to my international readers, it’s probably just as well.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

I probably should not post before I’ve had my morning coffee.

Plus, I am old and getting more curmudgeonly all the time.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Atheists, take a 10-minute break. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

Today my friend Light Expectations out in southern California posted the words of Psalm 8 from the Old Testament on her blog.

Here they are.

Psalm 8 is worth reading and pondering all by itself, but I could not help thinking of Tom Fettke’s magnificent choral anthem based on it, “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name”.

Here is the choir and orchestra of Hyde Park Baptist Church of Austin, Texas, with “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name” (6:10) .

I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to sing and shout and laugh and cry and jump up and down and run around outdoors and throw my hands in the air and lie prostrate on the floor all at the same time.

Electric guitars and drums just don’t affect me that way, but first sopranos hitting that high Bb and second basses hitting that low Eb and all those “Alleluias” do it every time.

Somebody tell the atheists they can come back now.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

August in French is août

...and it isn’t pronounced ay-out or ah-oat or even oot.

It’s pronounced ooh.

As in:

Ooh, it’s hot.
Ooh, school is already back in session.
Ooh, we desperately need rain.
Ooh, aren’t you thankful for central air conditioning?
Ooh, the grass is dying.
Ooh, the birds are thirsty.
Ooh, in six months we’ll be wishing it was hot.

Ooh.

It comes between zhwee-ay and seh-tome(br).


Roger, over, and ay-out.














P.S. -- For an amazing lesson in things French, I recommend this post by Vagabonde.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gaza is child’s play compared to World War II

There has been much in the news lately about what is termed Israel’s “disproportionate response” to the firing of 3,000 rockets by Hamas from the Gaza Strip into Israel over the last four weeks (my numbers may not be accurate) .

Disproportionate response? Really?

Here’s food for thought from a website called nucleardarkness.org:

“On August 6, 1945, the Japanese city of Hiroshima was destroyed by a nuclear weapon, an atomic bomb dropped by the United States. Three days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki; five days after that, Japan unconditionally surrendered to the United States, bringing an end to World War II.

“The atomic bombs killed several hundred thousand people, many instantly in the nuclear fire, many later with burns, injuries and radiation sickness, and still many others, over the years, with cancers and birth defects. These deaths continue to this day. Like most of the cities bombed in World War II, the majority of the inhabitants were women, children and the elderly.

“Before the war began, bombing cities was considered an act of total barbarism; there were no “conventional bombs” and it certainly was not considered “conventional” to target civilian populations for mass destruction. But this ideal was shattered early in the war, and eventually all sides engaged in mass bombing raids against cities and civilians.

“After the Nazis conducted their massive bombing raids against London, the British retaliated by developing incendiary bombs, fire-bombs designed to burn down cities. British and American bombers dropped these bombs on five German cities, killing hundreds of thousands of German civilians in Hamburg, Dresden, Kassel, Darmstadt, and Stuttgart. In March, 1945, the U.S. fire-bombed the city of Tokyo, killing at least 100,000 people.

“By the time the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, 50 million people had already died in World War II. The bombing/murder of civilian populations had occurred so many times that it was no longer even regarded as unusual. This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of the war, and it set the stage for the Cold War and the nuclear arms race that followed.”

And among those 50 million, let us not forget, were six million Jews in ovens and gas chambers.

That’s the thing about war. Eventually you do what is necessary to bring it to an end. On his television program last Saturday, Mike Huckabee reminded Americans that at Hiroshima and Nagasaki 50 people were killed for every life that was lost at Pearl Harbor.

In another era Theodore Roosevelt said, “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” Sometimes you can’t walk quite so softly, and sometimes it actually is necessary to use the stick.

Might may not make right, but might is often what is required to bring violence to an end.

When viewed through the long lens of history, the outcry against Israel this month, particularly from some quarters of the U.S and the U.K., seems to be pots calling the kettle black.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Waxing philosophical as the dog days continue to wind down

So near and yet so far.

In just under two months this blog will be seven years old. I wonder if it’ll make it.

I wonder if I will.

We have no promise of tomorrow, or even of today. All we have is this moment, and this one, and this one, a constant breathing in and out of earth’s atmosphere (78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide) until we don’t do it any more.

Just think, that stuff in our lungs is 78% nitrogen, the liquid form of which was once used to remove a couple of warts from my fingers. I watched them turn black (the warts, not the fingers) over a period of a few days, then rubbery, and finally peel off, leaving no trace of their former nastiness.

According to some people, human life is like that. We are, and then we are not, and all trace of us is gone.

I beg to differ.

We live on in the faces of our children and grandchildren. We live on in the lives of those with whom we have come in contact. We even live on in old blogposts. We live on in ways we cannot fathom. Matter may disappear but it is converted to energy. E equals mc squared and all that. Our minds are too finite; we cannot take it in.

But we live on.

I’m counting on it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

It was like pulling teeth, sort of

Except that it wasn’t. That is a poor analogy.

Now it can be told. Not that it couldn’t have been told before, but I simply chose not to share the information.

For nearly two weeks I have been doing battle with a very large kidney stone, or perhaps I should say a very large stone in one of my kidneys. (It’s the stone that was large, not the kidney. I mean, I may have a large kidney, I don’t know, but that is not pertinent to the story.)

Depending on various expert estimates, the stone was 5-6mm, or 8mm, or 10mm. It weren’t goin’ noplace on its own, ducky.

As of this evening, finally, all the pain is gone, due to the fact that I went into the hospital today and the kidney stone is now gone.

Kaput.

Blasted to smithereens.

I did not undergo the perhaps more-familiar Extra-corporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL) , a procedure in which a kidney stone is blasted from without with sound (a sonic wave) in an attempt to break it into smaller, you should excuse the expression, chunks, which can pass more easily through the ureter into the bladder.

I underwent the perhaps less-familiar ureteroscopy.

My ureteroscopy today was not from without. It was most definitely from within. It involved inserting a tube with a laser and a camera into Mr. Peepee in an attempt to touch the stone (with the laser, silly, not with the camera) and dissolve it (the stone, silly, not the laser).

The procedure, I am happy to report, worked. I would have had to wait five more days to get the sonic-blast ESWL because I take low-dose aspirin daily for my heart condition, and a person has be off blood-thinners for a period before ESWL is tried. Then, if that procedure failed (and it does, 15% of the time) , I would still have had to undergo the laser ureteroscopy anyway, which is almost always successful. So I opted for the Less Is More (also known as the Why Prolong The Agony? approach.

I feel normal again.

Not that any of you ever really knew what “normal” might look like in my case. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

There are eight million kidney stone stories in The Naked City.

This has been just one of them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Full disclosure

My friend Michelle (All Consuming) left a comment on my Neils post that made me think that she thinks that I wrote the poem myself.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

People my age (there are still a few of us around) would recognize “Neils” immediately as the refrain of the song “Smiles” with the word smiles replaced by the word Neils.

“Smiles” was written in 1917 by J. Will Callahan and Lee S. Roberts.

It was recorded by Benny Goodman in 1936. Judy Garland sang it on “Jack Oakie’s College” radio program on April 6, 1937, when she was a teenager, two full years before she uttered the immortal words, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”

Here’s proof (2:30) .

I thought it was a pretty clever thing to do on my part, but I don’t want to mislead any young and impressionable readers like All Consuming.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Neils

There are Neils that make us happy
There are Neils that make us blue




















There are Neils that steal away the teardrops
Like the sunbeams steal away the dew.



















There are Neils that have a tender meaning
That the eyes of love alone can see

















(Photo by Andy Roo 2009, CC by 2.0)

But the Neils that fill my life with sunshine
Are the Neils that you gave to me.












To give all semi-famous Neils their moment in the sun, here they are in one place.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The days dwindle down to a precious few

I would like to blog more often, really I would, because I thoroughly enjoy reading your comments. However, this year my rate of posting has dropped off significantly from former years. I really have no explanation for it, other than that the perpetual motion machine that is moi is finally beginning to slow down. Eventually it will come to a stop, and then there will be no more scintillating posts emanating from this address.

In 2012, one of my more prolific years, my output (in terms of blogposts) for the first seven months of the year was:

January 2012 - 24
February 2012 - 18
March 2012 - 16
April 2012 - 20
May 2012 - 17
June 2012 - 17
July 2012 - 15

but 2014 looks like this so far:

January 2014 - 10
February 2014 - 6
March 2014 - 12
April 2014 - 8
May 2014 - 8
June 2014 - 9
July 2014 - 5

so, in anybody’s book, there has been a definite and observable reining-in of rhymeswithplague gray matter.

Perhaps I shall go the way of the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon. If you don’t fancy extinct birds, knock yourself out looking at the pictures in this list of extinct mammals.

[Editor’s note: In the preceding paragraph, the word “perhaps” is not needed. --RWP]

I hope we as a species will be around for a long time yet, but my own individual participation in this great experiment known as Life On Earth has only a few years left, at best.

As the French say, “C’est dommage.” (It’s a pity.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Early morning, pre-coffee thoughts

Every little movement has a meaning all its own.

Except when it doesn’t.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Except when there isn’t.

Everything will turn out all right in the end.

Except when it won’t.

It’s always darkest just before the dawn.

Except when the day is even darker.

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease. (Genesis 8:22)

Strangely comforting, yet there is that unsettling subordinate clause at the beginning that clearly implies that should the day ever come when the earth no longer “remaineth,” the rest of the sentence will be inoperative.

Exercise, exercise, watch me do my exercise. Up, down, up, down. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.

All right, now the other eye.

Monday, July 14, 2014

douze... treize...quatorze juillet est ici!

...so let me wish you:

Happy Bastille Day!

I was going to post a picture of the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe or Notre Dame Cathedral or a portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte or Louis XVI or Robespierre or somebody, but the thought of having to choose just one takes too much effort in this Georgia heat and humidity. I found an interesting crossword puzzle with a Bastille Day theme but it was copyrighted, so ix-nay on at-thay as well.

Nevertheless, whatever you’re doing this quatorze juillet, do it with gusto befitting the day. (Hey, I made a little rhyme!)

Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

And Crêpe Suzette for everybody!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Post-Independence-Day thoughts, 2014 (inspired by thousands of Central American children crossing our southern border into Texas and Arizona)

Many years ago, when speaking to a gathering of the Daughters of the American Revolution, President Franklin D. Roosevelt shocked his audience by beginning his address with the greeting, “Fellow immigrants.”

Daughters of the American Revolution aside, we used to be proud that we were a nation of immigrants, but some Americans today would rather not be reminded. Some Americans would rather lock the doors and never allow another person to enter.

I ask them a question: Who tried to keep your ancestors out?

Nobody, that’s who.

Some people, if they had their way, would rewrite the poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty to read as follows:


The New New Colossus
(with apologies to Emma Lazarus)


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Stopper of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide rejection; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. “Spare me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Do not send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I douse my lamp beside the golden door!”



Emma Lazarus, and my ancestors, and theirs, must be weeping in their graves.

Friday, July 4, 2014

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

(end of document)

P.S. - Thank you, George III. We could not have done it without you.































P.P.S. - Or Thomas Jefferson.