Monday, June 30, 2014

Witty parody is not the same as clever but ultimately horrifying, not at all

In her blog a couple of weeks ago, Frances Garrood mentioned that “Naming of Parts” by Henry Reed was her favorite war poem. I had never heard of either Henry Reed or his poem, so I looked them up. I learned that Henry Reed (22 February 1914 – 8 December 1986) was a British poet, translator, radio dramatist and journalist. The first paragraph about him in Wikipedia says:

Reed was born in Birmingham and educated at King Edward VI School, Aston, followed by the University of Birmingham. At university he associated with W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Walter Allen. He went on to study for an M.A. and then worked as a teacher and journalist. He was called up to the Army in 1941, spending most of the war as a Japanese translator. Although he had studied French and Italian at university and taught himself Greek at school Reed did not take to Japanese, perhaps because he had learned an almost entirely military vocabulary. Walter Allen in his autobiography As I Walked down New Grub Street quoted Reed as saying “He intended...to devote every day for the rest of his life to forgetting another word of Japanese.”

“Naming of Parts” is actually Part I of a six-part poem entitled “Lessons Of The War” (the six parts were published separately over a period of several years) . One site calls it “a witty parody of British army basic training during World War II” but after reading all six parts I disagree. I found it clever but ultimately horrifying. Francis, as I said, called it her favorite war poem.

My favorite war poem (by which I mean my favorite poem about war, not a poem about my favorite war) has always been a tie between “The Blue and The Gray” by Francis Miles Finch (see this post) and “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae (see this post). The first is about the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the second is about World War I (1914-1918) , but both are really more about the aftermath of war than war itself.

I have decided to link to the six parts of “Lessons Of the War” individually so that you can tackle the poem at your own pace and decide for yourself how witty, clever, or horrifying it is.

Here they are:

LESSONS OF THE WAR
Part I. “Naming of Parts”

Part II. “Judging Distances”
Part III. “Movement of Bodies”
Part IV. “Unarmed Combat”
Part V. “Psychological Warfare”
Part VI. “Returning Of Issue”

After you have waded through plodded through finished reading the entire work, I would love to hear what you think.

What I think, in case anyone is interested, is that the lessons of war are many, and we have learned none of them. Or maybe that we must learn them over and over, because we keep forgetting.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The incredible shrinking country

Ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages, our guest blogger today -- okay, it’s a link to a transcript of a part of his daily radio program yesterday -- is none other than the one, the only, Rush Limbaugh.

At least read it before dismissing it out of hand entirely.

It’s the least you can do while I try to gather what’s left of my wits about me.

Comments, anyone?

Monday, June 23, 2014

I’ve got tears in my ears from lyin’ on my back in my bed while I cry over you

The title of this post is the name of a real song written by a man named Harold Barlow in the 1950s or -60s and recorded by the team of Homer & Jethro, who also sang, “Mama, Don’t Whoop Little Buford” which begins:

Mama, don’t whoop little Buford
Mama, don’t pound on his head
Mama, don’t whoop little Buford
I think you should shoot him instead

...which, oddly, makes me think of the girl bear at Walt Disney World’s Country Bear Jamboree attraction -- I cannot remember if it was Bubbles, Bonnie, or Beulah -- who sang, “Every Guy That Turns Me On Turns Me Down”.

In other news, while lying on my back in my bed around 6:30 this morning with my ears dry and my eyes not yet open, I composed the following lines in about a minute:

Words have meaning
(Words can cut like knives) --
Actions have consequences
(Actions fill our lives) --
Fear has torments
(In a book we’re told) --
Heaven has comforts
(Also streets of gold).

The words came first, the Dickinson-esque punctuation later.

I can’t think of a time when it has ever happened the other way ’round.

In still other news, today is the 45th anniversary of IBM’s great Unbundling announcement on June 23, 1969, when the company announced that it would price and offer many types of software and services separate from its hardware.

I’m sure this post means something. If you know what, please tell me.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sepia Saturday?

On that other social medium, Facebook, every Thursday is called Throwback Thursday and people post old photographs. I don’t know how it started; it just is. Well, even though (a) this is not Facebook and (b) it is not Thursday, I shall now post an old photograph too.


This photograph of Mrs. RWP and me was made 51 years ago in November 1963. We had been married for six months. I think we look starry-eyed and deeply in love, but some people have told us over the years that we look glum and moody and solemn, and that our faraway looks seem to say, “What have I gotten myself into?”

That was certainly not our intention. The photographer had told us not to show our teeth “because people will get tired of looking at teeth over the years” and being the compliant type, we, er, complied.

President Kennedy’s assassination was but a week away. The birth of our first child was ten months away. We lived in Bellevue, Nebraska, where I was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base (Strategic Air Command Headquarters) and did not know that our future would include three children; six grandchildren; stays in Poughkeepsie, New York, and Boca Raton, Florida, and Marietta, Georgia; artificial knees (2007, her) and a heart attack (1996, me).

And except for the fact that ours isn’t finished yet, now you know (as Paul Harvey used to say) the rest of the story.

To see what we looked like on our wedding day and 47 years later, you only need click on this post from 2010.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A day like all other days, except...

First, today happens to be Friday the 13th. Second, today is also a full moon, the Strawberry Moon, to be exact. Third, today is also the day when Private/Sergeant (pick one) Bowe Bergdahl, former prisoner of war/deserter (pick one) captured by the Taliban, who played soccer with him/kept him in an iron cage (pick one), returned to U.S. soil from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. He is now in San Antonio, Texas, at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston.

Everyone knows -- at least everyone who is superstitious -- that Friday the 13ths are unlucky. Everyone also knows -- perhaps a different set of “everyones” -- that during a full moon more babies are born, more crimes are committed, the tides are higher, and more loonies are out and about, doing their thing.

Which reminds me to say, “Welcome, Lord and Lady Yorkshire Pudding, to our shores!”

As always, my timing is impeccable.

Moving right along, it is therefore with joy and pride/fear and trepidation (pick one, er, two) that I am now able to present to you a link to an article by Kimberly Dozier in The Daily Beast wherein two letters that Bowe Bergdahl wrote from prison and that were delivered by the International Red Cross to his parents have been made public today for the first time.

The article contains fascinating stuff, not least of which is Bergdahl’s innovative spelling. I was under the apparently mistaken impression that one had to have graduated from high school to be able to join the military, but perhaps spelling is not taught in our schools any more. Wait, I believe I remember reading that Bowe Bergdahl was home-schooled. As a little girl named Alice once said, “Curiouser and curiouser.”

I’m sure we'll be hearing much more about Private/Sergeant Bergdahl and the Taliban in the days ahead, Friday the 13th or no.

Stay tuned, come hell or high water.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

How’s that again?

When both Elephant’s Child and Hilltophomesteader said in their comments on the previous post that they had never heard of raising an Ebenezer, I thought about a recent experience of mine.

The other day I went into Belk’s Department Store in Canton, and while I was standing at the cash register making a payment on my account, I saw in the middle distance a rack of what looked like seersucker suits in the men’s department.

I asked the sales clerk, who was not a child by any means but a woman of perhaps 45 years, “Are those seersucker suits over there?”

“What?” she said.

“Are those seersucker suits over there?” I repeated.

“What?” she said again, with the same blank look on her face as before.

A light bulb went on in my head. She had no idea what I was talking about. “Do you not understand the word ‘seersucker’?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

“You’ve never heard of seersucker?” I asked, not believing my ears.

“Never,” said the sales clerk.

“It’s a type of lightweight, puckered cloth used to make clothing that people wear in warm weather,” I said. “I must be really old. I didn’t realize the word had passed out of use.”

So it is with great joy that I can now announce that the word ‘seersucker’ has not passed out of use. I present with pleasure an article I found online today, “National Seersucker Day Comes Back to Congress, Thank God”.

If you don’t want to do the due diligence, I will summarize. Our illustrious U.S. Congress stopped bickering over their usual differences long enough to agree on something truly important. They formally re-instated National Seersucker Day, which had been a bipartisan Capitol Hill tradition between 1996 and 2012 that somehow was abandoned in 2013. This summer, therefore, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, members of the U.S. House of Representatives will wear seersucker on Wednesdays, and members of the U.S. Senate will wear seersucker on Thursdays.


God’s in His heaven; all’s right with the world.

Or not.

That has yet to be determined. I think the bill is still in committee.

But at least I am not an old codger whose vocabulary, not to mention style, is passé.

I am as au courant as the headlines in your daily newspaper.

It is that lady sales clerk who needs to get a grip. I don’t know how she ever got a job in the clothing department.

Maybe she should raise an Ebenezer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Here I raise my Ebenezer

In my Memorial Day post on May 26th, I mentioned that the name 1LT Edwin Steven Brague Jr. is engraved on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

From Ridgewood, New Jersey, Lieutenant Brague was 23 years old in 1967 when the helicopter he piloted crashed during hostilities in Quang Tin, South Vietnam. One of the commenters on that May 26th post was a Gerry Brague, whom I did not know. Gerry said that he was Steven Brague’s cousin and that Steve’s dad, Ed, had been his oldest uncle. Gerry also said he would love to find out if we are related in some way.

Elizabeth said she had a good feeling about this turn of events.

Gerry and I subsequently exchanged a couple of emails and some family information, and although there are a couple of gaps in the information on his side and also on mine, it appears that Gerry may be my third cousin, once removed. It is possible that our common ancestor is Ebenezer Brague, but we can’t tell because of the gaps. Ebenezer might be Gerry’s great-great-great-grandfather (three greats) and my great-great-grandfather (two greats). Ebenezer Brague was born in 1770, probably in Connecticut, married Elizabeth Brandon, and moved to Ulster, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, in 1812. Counting Ebenezer as generation 1, I am in generation 5 through Ebenezer’s and Elizabeth’s son William, and Gerry is in generation 6, possibly through one of Ebenezer’s and Elizabeth’s other two sons, Charles F. or Horace. Gerry’s dad, who is in generation 5, may be my third cousin, which would make Gerry and me third cousins, once removed.

A lot of this is speculation and guessing, since there are -- all together now -- gaps. But it has been fun. Perhaps we’ll never know for sure.

In the meantime, listen to the magnificent Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra performing “Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” (6:12) , which includes the line “Here I raise my Ebenezer.”

I do not share the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra’s theology, but their music is top-notch.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to find out what an Ebenezer is and why someone would raise one. As always, should you or any of your team be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This post will not self-destruct in five seconds.

As a result, you can listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra perform “Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” over and over.

But only if you want to.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Irretrievably Flawed

Facebook readers are often invited to take little quizzes to find out things about themselves that will then be revealed to Their Waiting Public. Some people consider these little quizzes fun. Some consider them a complete waste of time. Some consider them a nuisance. Some consider them an indispensable part of their Facebook experience (this last group, which does not include me, also play Farmville, Candy Crush Saga, and Angry Birds).

Depending on the answers, these quizzes are supposed to be able to reveal certain things about you, such as:

What car should you drive?
What do your eyes mean?
What is your gift?
How long will you live?
What kind of dog are you?
What should be your theme song?
Which founding father are you?
What kind of essential oil are you?
Which TV mom are you most like?
Which Downton Abbey character are you?

Full disclosure: I succumbed to temptation and took one of the quizzes out of curiosity. I turned out to be Dowager Countess Violet, the character portrayed by Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey.

Live and learn.

The newest little quiz making the rounds asks, “What two words describe you?”

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. All the answers that have been displayed to date have been self-flattering and complimentary. For example:

Selflessly Caring
Unconditionally Loving
Exceptionally Big-Hearted
Unbelievably Sweet

Who wouldn’t want to take a quiz that puts one in a good light? And who then wouldn’t post the results for all the world to see? Hardly anyone, that’s who.

Here are a few characteristics the quiz does not mention:

Incredibly Self-Absorbed
Alarmingly Reckless
Embarrassingly Flatulent
Mind-Numbingly Stupid
Totally Inconsiderate
Unapologetically Ill-Mannered

If you ask me, this particular quiz is Irretrievably Flawed.

And I won’t be holding my breath waiting for Version 2.0, either.

But I continue to wonder, though, what do my eyes mean (other than that I can see)? I suppose a person is told that blue eyes mean one thing and brown eyes mean another and green or hazel eyes mean something else entirely.

Unfortunately, I will never know.

I am Stubbornly Recalcitrant.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

In case you’re wondering what all the brouhaha is about

...in the case of the exchange of American Bowe Bergdahl for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, Yahoo published an article today by Edward Morrissey that first appeared in The Week that may shed some light on the subject.

But the real news hereabouts is of a twofold nature:

Firstfold First, new reader Gerry Brague, who may be a relative of mine (we’re still working out the details) , sent me the following photograph of a bottle of wine, Chateau de Brague Bordeaux Superieur 2001, for which I am grateful:


Okay, the bottle is leaning a little, or perhaps it was the photographer, but never mind. The interesting thing to me is that the small print reveals that the Chateau de Brague winery is in Vérac, which is in the Gironde (Aquitaine region) in southwestern France.


This is the Bordeaux region, which makes sense, but la fleuve Brague the river Brague is in southeastern France in the Côte d’Azur region, near Cannes and Nice. So I am confused. Perhaps there are (or were) Bragues all over France.

Nevertheless, in spite of the spelling of our surname, my dad always insisted that his ancestors came from Wales.




















Not that kind.

But it’s a great segue into the second part of the twofold news hereabouts. This week, Mrs. RWP’s cousin's son, Jim Holmes (for the genealogical purists among you, Jim is Mrs. RWP’s first cousin once removed, not her second cousin), took first place in the the 41st Cape Fear (North Carolina) Blue Marlin Tournament when he caught this 821-pound whopper. Jim is squatting in the Côte d’Azur region of the photo:



C’est tout pour le moment. Au revoir.