Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Not gold, frankincense, and myrrh, exactly, but it will have to do

If you had told me a month ago, when my BPTFTY (Blog Posting Total For The Year) was 64, that someone or something would light a fire under me (metaphorically speaking) and that one month later I would be composing my 77th post of 2016, I would have told you that you had bats in your belfry, that you had resonance where your brains ought to be, that you were nuttier than a fruitcake, that you were wrong, wrong, wrong, kemosabe.

Yet here I am doing that very thing.

No explanation is sufficient, but in December I have been posting almost every other day. Will wonders never cease?

You may be saying to yourself or even shouting at your computer screen, what difference, at this point, does it make? (1:08)

Your objection is duly noted and is being referred to the Rules Committee for future consideration.

So, anyway, whatever the reason, I have become quite prolific blogwise as we approach the end of another trip around the Sun on planet Earth. Who knew?

Here are three pictures to give you a flavor of what December 2016 hereabouts has been like:

Our Front Door:


Our church during Advent, complete with Chrismon tree and interim pastor:



and last, but most definitely not least,

A North Georgia sunset during the final week of Christmas shopping:


and just think, there are still four days left!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

In the bleak midwinter

...miracles can happen (4:18).

It's going to be 70 degrees Fahrenheit around here tomorrow (Christmas Day). That in itself is a sort of miracle.

Happy Christmas (or whatever you celebrate around this time of year, or don't) from our house to your house, regardless of the temperature.

Friday, December 23, 2016

I'm dreaming of a straitjacket*

I think I'm finally losing it.

Yesterday Mrs. RWP and I watched the 1954 film White Christmas on one of the movie channels, and more or less constantly ever since -- even upon waking up in the middle of the night and again this morning -- the final two lines from the song "Sisters" has been playing over and over in my head, in the voice of Rosemary Clooney singing harmony with herself:

Lord, help the mister who comes between me and my sister,
And Lord, help the sister who comes between me and my man.


I'm not even kidding. The really strange thing is I don't have a sister and, as God is my witness, I don't have a man.

I noticed in that movie that the character played by Bing Crosby is named Bob, and Bing's brother in real life was named Bob. Not only that, the character played by Rosemary Clooney is named Betty, and Rosemary's sister in real life was named Betty. I wonder if that was done on purpose or if it was purely coincidental.

I spotted the pre-West Side Story George Chakiris in there too as one of Rosemary's backup dancers. I am nothing if not observant.

Anyway, here it is two days before Christmas and our shopping and gift-wrapping is finally done. We didn't send out Christmas cards this year, so let me take this opportunity to thank Blogland friends Lowell and Peggy T. and Michelle and Ken J. (they will recognize themselves but the rest of you can just scratch your heads) for sending Christmas cards to us.

Mrs. RWP will be making two hashbrown casseroles to take to Christmas morning breakfast at our son's house one town over. Our daughter-in-law's mom and stepdad from Tennessee, our other son's family, and our daughter's family all the way from Alabamistan will be there too, 16 people in all. That last contingent will be spending a couple of days at our house afterwards before returning to the Land of Banjos of Mass Destruction.

Then Christmas will be over and everything will be back to what passes for normal.

I can only hope.

May you all have the merriest of Christmases, the happiest of Hanukkahs, and whatever else your hearts desire.


*not just like the ones I used to know, as I've never known any in my entire life. Just thought you ought to know.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Decisions, decisions (and then we're through)

According to Wikipedia, Anguish Languish is "an ersatz language constructed from English language words, created by Howard L. Chace, who collected his stories and poems in the book Anguish Languish (Prentice-Hall, 1956)." It is not really a language at all, but rather "a homophonic transformation created as a work of humor."

For example, this sentence:

Moral: Under no circumstances should little girls stop to talk with strangers.

might be written in Anguish Languish as:

Mural: Yonder nor sorghum stenches shut ladle gulls stopper torque wet strainers.

In fact, the aforementioned Mr. Chace did that very thing at the end of his story "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" (a rewrite of "Little Red Riding Hood" in Anguish Languish).

Chace once said that "the chief raison d'être [of Anguish Languish] is to demonstrate the marvelous versatility of a language in which almost anything can, if necessary, be made to mean something else."

Lest you think it's a piece of cake, I assure you it isn't. It's harder than you think to write stuff in Anguish Languish. For example, when I was creating "Blew Chrimma" a few posts back I had much difficulty deciding between several possibilities to represent the line "decorations of red on a green Christmas tree":

Which one of the following do you prefer?

1. Dick orations a bread tonne agreed Chrimma stray
2. Gecko ration sub bred done aggrieved Chrimma's three
3. Darker Russians sub bread dawn egg grain Chrimma's tray
4. Dicker ashen shove rid honor grebe chemistry
5. Some mixture of the above (show example).
6. Some invention of your own (show example)

Vote in the comments for the one you like best.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The third time is supposed to be the charm

So here goes, with my deepest apologies to composer Mel Torme:


A Chrimma Thong
by Mail Tore May


Jest knots roosting buy a no pan far,
Chuck froze Nippon nature knows,
You'll tight cure-alls bean sum buy acquire,
End foe stress top lack ask emotes --

Ovary buddy no zit turnkey end sum missal tow
Alp tomato* session bride;
Tinny tuts wither rise awe log low
Wool finite heart two slip tune height.

Juneau dads ant a sauna sway
His looted loss sub toes zing hoodies onus lay,
An debris mudder's childish gown twos pie
Two sea a friend dear rally no had deaf lye.

An sew eye muff ring dish ample frays
Took kiss firm wonder nightie too;
Awl doe wits bin shed mini dimes, mini weighs,
"Myrrh reek Chrimma stew ewe!"

*you have to pronounce it the American way, to-MAY-toh, because to-MAH-toh just doesn't work.

In closing, and with my deepest thanks to all of you for indulging my maddening seemingly unending occasional forays into this strange passion of mine to explore what it is possible to do with the English language, here's Nat King Cole's iconic version of the genuine article (3:15).

Friday, December 16, 2016

Eins, zwei, drei, vier...246 already?

Jawohl! (which is to say, Yes, indeedy, my little munchkins).

Therefore, please join me in a hearty "Herzlichen-gluckwunsch-zum-geburtstag, Ludwig!"

If you're confused, simply click on the link above to reach an archived post of mine from 2009 and everything will suddenly become clear.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The fun continues, plus Karen Carpenter

In my last post (well, not my last post, I hope, but the one immediately preceding this one) I shared with you my latest creation, the song "Blue Christmas" rewritten in Anguish Languish. You can re-visit it here if you like. There are probably hundreds of you scurrying to do that right now. I'll wait.

Today, the fun continues with my new latest creation, another song of the season rewritten in Anguish Languish. This one, by the songwriting team of Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, was first sung by Judy Garland to Margaret O'Brien in the 1944 movie Meet Me In Saint Louis (I am not making this up), but my favorite version is this one by Karen Carpenter (3:57). It's really worth listening to, and expresses my wish for each and every reader of this blog.

Here's my own version:

Hob yo shelf armory ladle Chrimma,
Lecher art bee lied,
Firm meow awn
Art rubble swill bee outer cite

Hob Joseph a marry ladle Chrimma,
Bake do you'll tied guy,
Firm meow awn
Art rubble swill beam isles a why.

Ear wee ah raisin newel din daze,
Harpy ghoul din daze sub your.
Face gulf rends hoar deer two wuss
Gaza ne'er two wuss one s'more.

Trudy ears
Wee awl web beat to Gaza,
Heifer fade shall ow
Hangers hiney stirrup ponder eye-esque pow,
An dab Joseph Amharic ladle Chrimma meow.


Unintentionally, the second stanza seems to have taken on a decidedly ANZAC accent.

Perhaps I shall stop now.

Then again, perhaps not.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sum wear Elvish whooshes yew a Murray Chrimma.

Eye lava blew Chrimma width aught yew,
Isle bee sew blew chest thin king awe bough chew.
Gecko Russian sub bread dawn agreed Chrimma stray
Won me nor think deer, riff ewer naught tear width may.

Aisle lava blew hard take, that's sir ten,
An win doze blew hard take starter tin,
Yule bead dew inn awe rite width yurt Chrimma sub wight,
Butt aisle lava blew, blew Chrimma.

Yule bead dew inn awe rite width yurt Chrimma sub wight,
Butt aisle lava blew,
Blew, blew, blew Chrimma.


You have no idea how much fun this was, and all without benefit of alcohol or mind-altering substance of any kind!

'Tis definitely the season to be jowly, er, jolly.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Names are interesting things. I have written about them before, or, rather, Billy Ray Barnwell has.

Today I heard a new one. While sitting in front of this very computer screen with the television set in the room turned on and tuned in to The People's Court, I watched a case in which the plaintiff's name was Mahogany Pondexter.

I thought this was a significant enough event to blog about.

Tells you a lot about how boring and mundane my life is.

If Putz in Utah were still around, and I'm not saying he isn't, he would probably be laughing.

On a happier note, today is the 19th birthday of one of my grandsons, Noah, who went to Kenya last summer. His parents invited us to dinner last night at their house. Noah's father, our second son, has become quite the cook. He has found cooking to be a creative and relaxing way to leave the stresses of the daily workplace far behind.

He said so himself.

I do find it interesting that Mrs. RWP's father ran restaurants in Philadelphia and North Carolina.

Last night Noah's father prepared this:


which he called Chicken Breast stuffed with Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, Asparagus Spears and Smoked Gouda Cheese, served with a side of Brown Rice tossed with Rotella and Feta Cheese.

As Sally Anne Howes and a couple of children sang in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in a different context altogether, it was Truly Scrumptious! (3:20).

That's enough of the Initial Capitals on Every Important Word for one post.

If you are vegetarian or vegan, try to imagine the look and flavors of the meal without the chicken.

Life isn't really so bad after all, especially when you consider the alternative.

No matter what your name is.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I don't want to think about Pearl Harbor today.


These two lovely ladies happen to be relatives of mine. They are, from left to right, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter.

I am blessed.

Here are some more lovely ladies (my granddaughter is on the right).


Both photographs were made a few days ago after the annual Christmas program at the school my granddaughter attends.

Two thousand years ago a man named Paul wrote to the Christian believers in the city of Philippi, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." **

He was right.

-------------------------------------

**or something similar. These words happen to be from the New International Version Bible. The King James Version says, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Actually that's not what he wrote either. What he actually wrote was "το λοιπον αδελφοι οσα εστιν αληθη οσα σεμνα οσα δικαια οσα αγνα οσα προσφιλη οσα ευφημα ει τις αρετη και ει τις επαινος ταυτα λογιζεσθε" but I don't want to quibble. Paul was still right.

Friday, December 2, 2016

WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM TO BRING YOU A VERY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Latin is not dead; it's just hiding.

Yes, this post involves Latin, but do not leave just yet. Indulge me for a moment.

There is a story in the book of Luke in the New Testament that is commonly called "the rich man and Lazarus" in which a beggar named Lazarus is pretty much ignored by a rich man during their lives. Eventually they both died (as Gomer Pyle might say, "Surprise, surprise!") and Lazarus went to "Abraham's bosom" (not heaven exactly, but the abode of the righteous dead in Hebrew culture) and the rich man went to Hades, where he was tormented.

I'm not going to torment you with the story. You can read it here if you want to. Or not.

Knowing my readers as I do, I could almost predict who will read the story and who will pass on the opportunity. As my Albanian mother-in-law used to say, "Do what you please."

The reason I mention it at all is that I have wondered something for years, and it's this:

Why do some churches refer to this passage as the story of Dives and Lazarus? I mean, the rich man's name is not mentioned. The only proper names in the story are Lazarus, Abraham, and Moses. Where do they get Dives? Have they added something to the story that really isn't there?

I know it's not an earth-shattering problem, but it has puzzled me for a long time.

And now, after many years of wondering, I have learned the answer.

The answer, my friends, is not blowing in the wind, it's in the Vulgate.

Say what?

In the Vulgate, the version of the Bible that a man named Jerome translated into Latin from Greek way back in the fourth century, I discovered that dives is the Latin word for rich man. It's that simple.

Mystery solved.

You don't have to believe me, though. Being the thoughtful blogger that I am, I will enable you to see for yourself. Here is the first part of the story in 1611 King James Version English with the Latin of the Vulgate shown after each verse in italic font:


There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. (Homo quidam erat dives, qui induebatur purpura et bysso, et epulabatur quotidie splendide.)

And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, (Et erat quidam mendicus, nomine Lazarus, qui jacebat ad januam ejus, ulceribus plenus,)

And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. (cupiens saturari de micis quæ cadebant de mensa divitis, et nemo illi dabat: sed et canes veniebant, et lingebant ulcera ejus.)

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; (Factum est autem ut moreretur mendicus, et portaretur ab angelis in sinum Abrahæ. Mortuus est autem et dives, et sepultus est in inferno.)

The story continues, but I'll stop now so that you won't be bored to death.

I did find a couple of other interesting things that made me go "Hmmm," though. Later in the story the rich man asks Father Abraham to send Lazarus that he may "dip (intingat) the tip of his finger (extremum digiti sui) in water (in aquam ) and cool (refrigeret) my tongue (linguam meam)".

Fascinating! Dip is intingat (the root of our English word intinction) and finger is digiti and water is aquam and cool is refrigeret and tongue is linguam.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus cool is actually refrigeret in Latin! Who knew?

So here is the conclusion of the whole matter, courtesy of your intrepid correspondent. Latin is not dead at all. It's right here with us, hiding in plain sight in many modern English words and peeking out at us if we just have eyes to see.

Here's Betty Furness from a 1955 commercial for Westinghouse to tell you all you need to know. (2:06)

We now return you to the program in progress.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fifty-three years ago today


President and Mrs. Kennedy had breakfast in Fort Worth and later in the day rode in a motorcade through downtown Dallas.

Then the world as we knew it ended.

I was a 22-year-old airman, married for six months, and working in Strategic Air Command's underground command post at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

A year earlier I had completed twelve weeks of training to become a computer programmer, but when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in the fall of 1962 we enlisted folk who worked in the underground were formed into details to move lots of furniture on dollies up many ramps to the main Headquarters building so that the Battle Staff of twenty-some generals could live in the command post for the duration of the crisis. No one knew how long that might turn out to be. We were in the middle of moving furniture up and had not yet begun the equally formidable and muscle-wrenching task of moving other furniture down when a Chief Master Sergeant appeared and asked, "Does anyone know how to type?"

Since I could type quite well (about 120 words per minute) and I also thought this might be a way to get pulled off the furniture-moving detail, I ignored the little voice saying never to volunteer for anything, and said, "I can."

He said, "Come with me," and for the next 18 months I worked as a clerk-typist in Colonel Shirey's office along with Captain Bendorf, Major Something-or-other, and civilian Ginny Milacek. I also could take shorthand, which proved helpful. After the Cuban crisis had passed and the underground had been reconfigured again -- I was not recruited to help this time -- Colonel Shirey's office was moved to just off the Command Staff Balcony. Every day I had a full view of the two-story-high maps and data projected on the walls as well as the screens and consoles on the main floor below. One of my assigned duties was to clean up the balcony area after each use. In the spring of 1963 I went back to Florida to marry Mrs. RWP, and when we returned to Nebraska I had already moved out of the enlisted men's barracks into a small apartment just outside the back gate of the base, on a street of houses near the Missouri River. We lived so close to my work that I could easily go home for lunch and often did. At some point that year, Ginny quit to get married and another civilian, Irene, replaced her.

On November 22, 1963, I said to Irene, "See you in a bit," and I went home to have lunch with Mrs. RWP as usual. When I walked back into the office, Irene said, "The President has been shot." This was such an unimaginable scenario that I replied sarcastically, "Yeah, what else is new?"

"I'm serious," she said. "Look down on the floor at the consoles." I went to the edge of the glassed-in balcony and peered into the command post below. All the officers were gathered in groups around several communication centers, trying to learn as much as possible as rapidly as possible. It wasn't chaos, but there was a tense, deadly serious air about the scene. Irene hadn't been kidding.

The phone rang on my desk. It was Mrs. RWP telling me what she had just seen and heard on television from Walter Cronkite. "I know," I said, "I found out when I got back to the office." I mentioned that things were uncertain at this point and that I may have to remain on base overnight, but as it turned out I was able to go home at the end of the regular work day. The next few days were a very sad time for Americans, most of whom watched not only the state funeral but the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald on live television by Jack Ruby in the Dallas Police Station.

My lasting memories of that week include the motorcade above, Mrs. Kennedy walking in black behind the President's casket, and the moment caught by UPI photographer Stan Stearns that broke the nation's heart:


Eventually I did become a computer programmer again, but that is a story for another time.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

Loose ends from last month

My plan to embed the video of my two grandsons' duet in their high school band's portion of the marching band competition in Pell City, Alabama, died aborning, nipped in the bud before the bud ever had a chance.

The problem, at least in part, was that the video was made on an Apple phone and my computer uses a Windows operating system. Apparently never the twain shall meet. More specifically, getting the file to migrate successfully from its Apple home to its destination on my Windows system is the fly in the ointment. I mailed the file to my email successfully, or so I thought, but then could not open the attachment. So I could not add it to my blogpost.

Sorry.

If you know how to do it, you're a better man (or woman, as the case may be) than I am, Gunga Din. If you want to try to explain it to me in terms I can understand, the comments are now open. If you think there's no reason an Apple video cannot be opened when sent to an email on a Windows system, I repeat: the comments are now open. If you think I'm a stupid old fool, please keep your thoughts to yourself.

Moving right along, I can still put plain old photographs into my blogposts even though at times some of them simply refuse to be rotated.

Here we are with our granddaughter after a performance at her school of Thornton Wilder's Our Town in which she played the role of Emily:


Here she is with her mother and a sugar-free cupcake, complete with candle, that our granddaughter made for her father's birthday:


And here is our son preparing to eat his sugar-free cupcake, apparently complete with candle. For the record, I have no idea where he gets his zany, madcap sense of humor/humour:


Saturday, November 12, 2016

There is always method in my madness

During the run-up to the recent American presidential election, certain bloggers from the U.K. who shall remain nameless would occasionally make a comment about the ultimate winner's surname, which is Trump in case some of you have forgotten. Apparently in England that word (Trump) means what my mother used to refer to as "breaking wind" and what much of current-day America calls "fart" (an Anglo-Saxon word that is not in my vocabulary, the technical terms being "flatulence" or "passing gas" or "tooting").

Who knew?

Anyhoo, it got me to thinking (how novel) about the chapter on names in my book Billy Ray Barnwell Here: The Meanderings of a Twisted Mind which you can access in its entirety by clicking on a link in the sidebar over there to the right.

So, to make a long story short and not to beat around the proverbial bush one second longer than necessary, I have decided to show you yet another chapter of that book, Chapter 7 to be exact, right here at rhymeswithplague in the hope that someone somewhere will be tricked encouraged to read more of Billy Ray's outpourings for him- or herself.

Anyone who does will learn very quickly that Billy Ray has a mind of his own that is not at all like mine. He writes very long, run-on sentences that can be downright exhausting. That was done on purpose. I set out to write a book that ignored all the rules of writing, and I think I just may have succeeded.

I'm pretty sure I haven't shown you this before but I could be wrong.


Chapter 7

Billy Ray Barnwell here, Mama always said fools rush in where angels fear to tread, but here goes anyway, some people have unusual names, don’t you think? for example the principal of the high school I attended back in Not Grapevine Texas was named Willie Pigg, he had a daughter named Barbara Ann and a son named Billy Dale, you’re prolly saying what’s wrong with that? well don’t look now but their initials were B. A. Pigg and B. D. Pigg, why would anyone do that to their children?, and back around World War Eye as the famous bandleader Lawrence Welk would say there was also a Governor of Texas named Jim Hogg, he and the lovely Mrs. Hogg had a daughter they named Ima, that’s right folks, Ima Hogg, and legend has it there was also a Ura Hogg but that has been emphatically denied, I have heard that in her old age Miss Ima Hogg reigned supreme as the grande dame of Houston society sort of like Alice Roosevelt Longworth the daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt did up there in Washington D.C. with her little pillow that said if you can’t say something nice about someone come sit by me, but I don’t know whatever became of Miss Ura, if indeed there ever was a Miss Ura, I guess the jury is still out on that one. In the service I had a friend named Jim Parsley and I knew of a guy whose last name was Turnipseed and I worked with a Marsha Lamb, I don’t know what it is with animals and vegetables, oh and my first grade teacher back in Pawtucket Rhode Island, as the famous newspaper columnist Dave Barry says I am not making this up, was Miss Edith Wildegoose, I still have her wedding announcement that Mama cut out of the newspaper to prove it, yes I was born in Rhode Island but only because I wanted to be near my mother and she happened to be there at the time, but just as soon as I could convince my family, we moved to the South, well that’s a little joke but it’s not entirely untrue, I was six years old and pre-asthmatic when the doctor told my parents I would prolly do better in a drier climate, and since my father thought he might find work in the aerospace industry, we sold our furniture and packed up our clothes and left our third-floor apartment at 61 Larch Street and our landlord Mr. Lee Vitale pronounced Mr. Leave-a-TALLY and the Misses Irma Chisolm and Yvonne Schack at the Pawtucket Day Nursery and also Mrs. Mullins who taught me for one whole week in public kindergarten before I was moved into the first-grade class of the aforementioned Miss Edith Wildegoose at Hancock Street Elementary School and moved to Fort Worth Texas on a train, a trip that took three days and two nights. I can hear some of you saying Texas isn’t the South, it’s the Southwest, well it seceded if that’s any qualification, but getting back to odd names, let us not forget Tom Bledsoe, and Mama said she knew a girl back in Philadelphia named Violet Roach, and when I finally got around to taking Latin in college the teacher who taught me all about conjugating the verbs and declining the nouns and adjectives so that I finally understood Mama’s little joke and also realized that my uncle wasn’t saying “so messy phooey” at all, he was saying the principal parts of the verb to be in Latin, was named Elizabeth Beaver. I have heard that when people began using surnames several hundred years ago they might pick a nearby geographical feature like Hill or Field or Rivers, or their occupation like Carpenter or Taylor or Cooper which means barrel maker, or an identifying physical characteristic like Long or Short, we won’t delve into that any further, or an animal name like Wolf or Fox or Byrd, but why someone would choose Beaver or Roach or Wildegoose is beyond me, and it’s not just animals either, some names just sound right and some do not, take colors for example, we all have friends named the Whites or the Blacks or the Browns or the Grays or the Greens but do we have friends named the Yellows or the Purples or the Oranges or the Beiges? no we do not and in the great overall cosmic scheme of things there’s prolly a very good reason why we do not, and some people go out of their way to try to be cute, for example that guy who wrote the book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had characters in it named Truly Scrumptious and Caractacus Potts, of course those people were not real, but I think trying to be cute can create a burden for the child, for example George Lear who created Lear Jet airplanes named his daughter Crystal and so far so good but her middle name was, are you ready for this?, Chanda, that’s right, Crystal Chanda Lear, and my friend John Cornelius told me the other day he used to know a girl named Candy Machine but he may have been pulling my leg. Girls seem to have to bear the brunt of parental inventiveness, for example I know a family named Musselwhite where the sons are named Fred and Wayne but the daughter’s name is Fredonia, and I know another family named Furbush where the son’s name is Carl, common enough, but the daughter’s name is Tranquilla. Fredonia Musselwhite and Tranquilla Furbush and both of them are Caucasian, so you can stop giggling and rolling your eyes about the Sha’niquas and Champaydrons in your local African-American community. Two of my all-time favorite names are Ninnie Threadgood and Fannie Flagg, one is real and one is made up, in fact the one that is real made up the one that is made up, maybe we could start a contest and you can guess which is which, just send your postcard entries to me, Billy Ray Barnwell, care of General Delivery, Not Grapevine Texas, say either “Ninnie Threadgood invented Fannie Flagg” or “Fannie Flagg invented Ninnie Threadgood,” whichever one you think, we could have a drawing for the big prize, maybe a year’s supply of fried green tomatoes or something, this could be big, really big, but getting back to names, we all know families who fixate on a particular initial, for example I know a D group, Don, Doris, Darryl, and Dawn and I know a J group where the children are Jonathan, Jennifer, Jessica, Jeremy, Jason, Justin, and Julia, but the parents, go figure, are David and Sabrina. I also know a woman with a beautiful name, Amalfi, who told me her father was visiting in Italy and saw a highway sign that said Amalfi and he said if he ever had a daughter he was going to name her that, I told her if he had gone to Atlanta instead we would be calling her I-285 today, either that or Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. Amalfi’s sister Sammie has a total of 21 names because her father happened to be the pastor of a small church and when his wife became pregnant every woman in the congregation suggested a name for the new addition and since the pastor and his wife didn’t want to show favoritism or hurt anyone’s feelings they used all 21 names, Amalfi can rattle them off without blinking an eye but I can never remember what all of Sammie’s names are, the whole concept is so overwhelming, so whenever I see Sammie I just make some names up and say Hi there, Sammie Imogene Esmerelda Hildegarde Florence Ophelia Desdemona Eleanor Bess Mamie Jacqueline Ladybird Thelma Betty Rosalyn Nancy Barbara Hillary Laura, well you get the picture, and we all have a good laugh, Sammie doesn’t mind, but one thing she does do is she gets married a lot, she has been married several times in what I believe is an unconscious attempt to have enough last names to bring the scales into balance. Then there’s the case of everyone’s favorite violet-eyed actress, the famous Elizabeth Rosamund Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky, I don’t know what her reason is, and let’s not even attempt to understand Zsa Zsa Gabor who is from Hungary and has been married so many times her wedding dress is prolly drip-dry. Speaking of Hungary, foreign names are a world unto themselves, for example people from India all seem to have names like Praline Lolafalana or Bajeeb Bagoshbaghali, don’t you think? and we have all heard about names that are prolly just jokes, you know the ones, let me write phonetically here, fuh-MOLLY, oh-RON-juh-LO, luh-MON-juh-LO (female, orange jello, lemon jello), it just gets worse, my step-uncle, that would be my stepmother’s brother, married a woman named Ovaline and I always called her Ovaltine, behind her back of course, and years ago when a friend of mine married his wife Udella, no kin to Udella Mabry, three little kids I know began calling her Umbrella, behind her back of course, maybe it’s something in their DNA, like I said earlier the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree, and on that disturbing note this is Billy Ray Barnwell signing off.


[Editor's note. Something else that prompted this particular post was the fact that we ran into Amalfi and Sammie at lunch yesterday at Captain D's seafood restaurant. We hadn't seen either of them in about eight years. Here's Amalfi, who is nearly 90, with Mrs. RWP:


And here's her sister Sammie, who informed me she is 93 (she looks 60), has 19 names (not 21), and that it is their sister Peggy who has been married so many times, not her.


Keeping it real, folks, keeping it real. --RWP]

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

We shall not cease from polling, and the end of all our polling will be to arrive where we started and reach conflicting conclusions.

My apologies to T. S. Eliot.

I thought about W. H. Auden's poem "The Unknown Citizen" yesterday. I knew I had shown it to you before, so I checked into Ye Olde Blog History and discovered that I showed it to you in May 2008 and again in September 2012. Presidential election season in the U.S. both times. And since it is U.S. Presidential Election season once again, election DAY in fact, it is altogether fitting and proper that I show you Auden's poem again as a commentary on the incessant polling and daily rush to announce yet another set of polling results that have been hallmarks of 2016 in my country:

The Unknown Citizen
by W. H. Auden


(To JS/07/M/378/
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)


He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.


Last time around I added the following comments of my own:

"I wish I could explain adequately why I like this poem so much, but I have never been able to find the exact words. Perhaps it is the sly way Auden thumbs his nose at the notions, current then (1939) and only intensified with the passing of time, that humans exist for the benefit of the state, that individuals must decrease and the collective must increase, that external measurements are all that matter, that we can learn the most important things about a person through a conglomeration of statistics.

"In my humble opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

"I said in 2008 that this poem makes me simultaneously melancholy and hysterical (not as in funny, but as in alarming), and my opinion has not changed. The ideas that there is a “right number of children” and that it is laudable not to interfere with one’s teachers’ education and that one can hold “the proper opinions” and that what ought to be one’s strongest belief can so easily be overturned by those in power (“When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went”) make my blood run cold. I find it most ironic that more and more people find the world described in Auden’s poem perfectly normal."

The comments section is now open.

Friday, November 4, 2016

I can put my eye back in now

In my last post I revealed that I had won Frances Garrood's clean limerick contest and would be keeping an eye out for the small mystery prize she was sending my way.

It arrived today, all the way from Jolly Olde You-Know-Where.


Here are some closer views:

Top:

Middle:

Bottom:

Thank you, Frances! I love the tea towel! It definitely fills a void in my life too, as I was in London in 1969 and neglected to buy a souvenir.

Note to self: I am simply going to have to learn how to orient photographs properly so that my friends don't get stiff necks from looking at my blog.

Domine dirige nos indeed.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

And the winner is...ME!

It's true. While many of you were sleeping, I was winning a contest.

Author and blogger Frances Garrood, who lives in Wiltshire in the U.K., said yesterday she was "offering a small mystery prize for the best limerick on the subject of...writing limericks." Something snapped in my brain. Resolving to keep it clean, I tossed one off and submitted it:

A blogger whose real name is Bobby
Said, "Limerick writing's my hobby.
I don't know which is worse,
The smell of my verse
Or the people queued up in the lobby."

Frances loved it, so I submitted another one:

A limerick writer, Nan Tucket,
Put all of her works in a bucket.
But next to George Harrison
Hers paled in comparison;
'Twould be rude to divulge where she stuck it.

Frances said, "Even better! You're on a roll today, aren't you?"

I said, "I'm trying, Frances, I'm trying!" and Frances said, "Well, keep on, RWP. I'm enjoying them."

Whereupon she promptly retired for the night.

Not me. Four time zones to the west, I kept writing:

Though writing a limerick is easy,
Especially the type that are sleazy,
It's hard to refrain
From becoming profane
And a struggle to keep one's tone breezy.

...and writing:

The problem, dear reader, is textual.
Whether to be intellectual
And be thought a prude
Or succumb to the lewd
And write something thoroughly sexual.

...and writing:

A contest with limericks? Curses!
Composing those damnable verses
Fried my brain to a crisp,
"Call a doctor," I whisp-
ered, "and two psychiatric ward nurses."

...and then I went to bed too.

Today I awoke to discover that I had been named winner of the contest. Frances did not single out a particular limerick. I think I overwhelmed her with sheer volume.

I am retiring undefeated as the champion of writing clean limericks about writing limericks. And I am keeping an eye out (it's only an expression) for that small mystery prize.

P.S. - I hasten to add that limerick writing is not my hobby at all. I just said that in the first limerick because I needed something to rhyme with "Bobby". But the real champion appears to be Garrison Keillor of National Public Radio fame. Watch the last few minutes of his final News From Lake Wobegon (17:22) from last July's final Prairie Home Companion show with him as host.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A little of this and a little of that

I found some old family photographs in an envelope and tossed them onto the bed in the spare room. In olden times this photo might have been called Still Life: Blue and Yellow Quilts with Photographs.


All of the photos except my passport photo were taken way back when in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, probably between 1925 and 1948. My passport photo, which I showed you a couple of posts back, was made much more recently in Boca Raton, Florida, in 1969. This also may sound like way back when to some of you younger readers, but it really isn't in the overall scheme of things.

The following photo is definitely from the 1920s. My dad, Ted Brague, the youngest of the five Brague brothers, is on the left. His brother Dan, the fourth Brague son, is on the right. The fellow in the middle is an unidentified friend. You must deal with the fact that the photo is cattywampus on your own; no one ever said that reading a post by moi would be easy. The preceding sentence illustrates perfectly the use of the semicolon.


Mrs. RWP and I find ourselves in deepest Alabamistan once again after a long absence. Yesterday afternoon we sat in the sun in the high school football stadium in Pell City watching a marching band competition. It was worth it; not only were our two grandsons featured in a trumpet and mellophone* duet of "Desperado" during their school's performance, their band received Superior ratings and were named Best Band in Class (AAA). We were also treated to two trains passing by during the afternoon just behind the opposite-side stands, one a very, very, very long freight train and the other an Amtrak passenger train enroute from New Orleans to Atlanta, a rare sighting in today's world unless one lives in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor where Amtrak trains are as thick as thieves pandas in China kookaburras in Australia.

When we get back home I shall attempt to show you a video of the band's performance. As it will be my first attempt in nine years of blogging to embed a video in a post, I fervently hope it will appear right side up.

T.T.F.N.

*A mellophone is the instrument a French Horn player uses during marching season. It looks like a trumpet with a larger bell and produces a lower, mid-range (and therefore mellower) sound.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A peek into antiquity

...by which I mean nine years ago, which is several lifetimes as lifetimes are counted in blogworld.

This blog began on September 28, 2007, so as of today (September 27, 2016) I have been blogging for nine years. Tomorrow -- what some might call my ninth anniversary -- is in actuality the first day of my tenth year of blogging. It is just this sort of attention to detail that keeps you readers coming back for more.

Unless it's my acerbic wit and sparkling personality.

Yeah, right.

Whatever it is that keeps you readers coming back for more, I am truly grateful and will never take any of you for granted.

That being said, here's that peek into antiquity that I promised up top:

My first post

The celebrating may now begin.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tempus certainly does fugit, irrespective of whether you're having fun

Today is our oldest son's birthday. He's 52.

Impossible. I myself am only 38.

Isotopes have half lives. Why can't we?

I'm hoping my half life will have been around 57, but that is neither here nor there.

Here is a photo of my son and his wife taken this past June at Panama City Beach in Florida. The water behind them is the Gulf of Mexico.
















And here I am two months before my 38th birthday. If you must know, the year was 1969. This photo was made for the first passport I ever obtained, and despite what they say about passport photos, I consider it to be the best photo ever made of moi.









If all goes well and I keep breathing, I will turn 76 in March.

Tempus fugit, indeed.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Tri-weekly, try weekly, try weakly

I am blogging less lately but enjoying it more -- wait, that's not really true. I am blogging less than I used to, and I suppose my advancing age has something to do with it. I am now somewhere between "beginning to slow down" and being overtaken by the "general malaise" that President Jimmy Carter used to talk about back in the '70s. Since I am also in my 70s now -- halfway through them, in fact -- I cannot claim to be the man I once was. Take my hair, for instance. Too late. Most of it is already gone. And my skin, my skin, the largest organ in my body and also in yours, has morphed into something unrecognizable. I am reminded of the old joke about the old man who decided to streak through his neighborhood and as he passed the bus stop one old woman said, "What was that?" and another old woman said, "I don't know, but it definitely needed ironing."

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Wondering whether I am enjoying things more now that I am doing them less. Some fellow once said, "Burt Reynolds puts his pants on the same way I do, one leg at a time" and some other fellow said, "That may be true, but he gets to do it more often." If you substitute the name of the hunk du jour for Burt Reynolds you will undoubtedly agree that the second man was a truth-teller.

Digressing seems to be what I do best.

I do think that I enjoy blogging as much as ever, but I just don't seem to get around to doing it as often as when I was in my prime had more energy could actually remember that a fair amount of time had passed since my last post.

So I'm blogging today, more because it fills up time and space than that I have something scintillating to say.

The truly cruel among my readership will now say, "It has been ever thus."

Until next time, I remain
Yr intrepid reporter,

Rhymes With Plague

Friday, September 2, 2016

A still photograph tells you very little, really


The blue dot is me, or rather, it is where I live. See it there, just above Atlanta?

The storm system is Hurricane Hermine, the first tropical hurricane to make landfall in Florida in eleven years. In 2005 we had Dennis, Katrina, Wilma, and Rita. The year before that we had Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. You may not remember most of them, but surely Katrina rings a bell. Then, for eleven years, nothing. Well, there was "Super Storm Sandy" in 2012 that caused major damage in New Jersey and New York but its eye stayed at sea for most of its existence.

As a result, the weather people on television were going bonkers last night, way too bonkers, over a tropical storm that didn't even achieve hurricane status (sustained winds of 74 mph) until a few hours before it hit the mainland. Hermine is a Category 1 hurricane. By way of comparison, Katrina was a Category 5 hurricane.

Here are the categories of hurricanes:


Still, winds of 74-95 mph are nothing to sneeze at.

Last night Hermine came ashore. I took the photo of the Doppler radar this morning.

The first thing I noticed, being a resident of the southeastern U.S. and fairly familiar with hurricanes, is how small the eye of the hurricane has become, which usually means the storm is dissipating and on its way to becoming merely a tropical storm again.

But am I in danger? Is Atlanta about to get soaked? Do I need to batten down the hatches in anticipation of some high winds?

The answer is: It depends on which way the storm is moving, and you can't determine that from a still photograph.

If the storm came ashore from the Atlantic and is moving to the northwest (the upper left corner of the photo. for the geographically challenged), Atlanta and environs could be in for some very bad weather. Fortunately for us, however, the storm came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, near Tallahassee, and has been moving to the northeast (the upper right corner of the photo). Therefore, kiddies, it is not Atlanta but the eastern coast of the U.S. that may receive lots of water and wind soon. Another possibility is that the storm will go back over water and strengthen again in the Atlantic. Where it may go then is anyone's guess. It is enough to make the most seasoned weather forecaster go bonkers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

There's always time for football, I mean soccer, I mean football, or Hull City, eat your heart out

Atlanta is an alphabet soup kind of town. We are home to NFL*, MLB**, MiLB,*** NBA****, WNBA***** and MLL******teams, not to mention PGA******* and LPGA******** events. Twice we have been home to NHL********* teams as well, but the Flames left us to go to Calgary and the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and changed their name to the Jets. Not enough ice here, I suppose.

*National Football League
**Major League Baseball
***Minor League Baseball
****National Basketball Association
*****Women's National Basketball Association
******Major League Lacrosse
*******Professional Golfers Association
********Ladies Professional Golf Association
*********National Hockey League

But now, in addition to all of those, we will become in 2017 a MLS********* town as well.

**********Major League Soccer

Yes, it's true! The team is called Atlanta United -- do I hear echoes of Manchester? -- and here is its emblem:
I left the pièce de résistance until last -- a three minute and 22 seconds fly-through of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, currently under construction, which the Atlanta United Football Club (soccer) will share with the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League.

Monday, August 22, 2016

One solitary life

This post has been one hundred ten years in the making. It's about my Dad, who was born in 1906 and died in 1967. When I say "Dad" please do not make the mistake of thinking that I am referring to my biological father, about whom I know very little, only his name, his place and year of birth, and his place and year of death. Other than those few facts, my biological father has always been a non-entity to me, what our old blogging friend Putz used to call "an ignoble enigma."

No, this post is about the man who married my mother when I was five and raised me from then on. He was my Dad. Sometimes I loved him, sometimes I hated him, sometimes I feared him, but at long last I have come to respect him as a man who tried to do the best he could in spite of his many flaws. The reason is simple: I have a few of those too.

I apologize (British: apologise) in advance for the orientation of a couple of the photographs. I have worked diligently to get them to cooperate but to no avail, alas. If you are reading this post on a smart phone or an iPad you should be able to manage the problem simply by rotating the device, but if you are reading this post on a desktop computer it might prove a bit more difficult unless you stand on your head.

I'm not sure, but I think this may be Dad as an infant in Tomah, Wisconsin, in 1906. This picture was made available by my cousin Barbara Brague Bradley who lives in Arizona, so it might be her father (my uncle Art) instead, but it looks so much like another photo I used to have (but have misplaced) of my Dad in his christening gown that I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Dad was always the blondest of the Bragues.


Dad was the youngest of five boys. There was also a baby sister, but she died in infancy. Here are all the brothers after the family had moved from Tomah to La Crosse, Wisconsin, on the Mississippi River. If you start at the top left and go clockwise, the brothers are arranged in order by age: Art (the oldest), John, Leo, Dan, and my dad, who went by his middle name, Ray, but was sometimes called Ted. Because my uncle Art is wearing his Army uniform and served in France, this photo must have been made around 1917 or 1918. My dad would have been 11 or 12 at the time. Dad's real name was Clifford R. Brague but when he was young he signed his name Ray C. Brague, inverting his first and middle names, and most people knew him as Ray. I never heard him called Ray. By the time he came into my life he was always called Ted.









I forgot to tell you that I don't know how to crop photos either. If you look closely, you can see my cousin Barbara's fingertips, out of focus, at the upper right.








In the next photo, made a couple of years later, the brothers are joined by their parents (my paternal grandparents), Edith Lillian (Johnson) Brague (1877 - 1938) and Elmer Ellsworth Brague (1866 - 1949). They are still at the house in La Crosse, but Art was no longer in the Army and Leo had enlisted in the Navy.









Around 1921 the Brague family moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where they remained for many years. My grandparents and all of my uncles are buried there. Most of the grandchildren, though, have scattered to the four winds.








Here is my Dad at around thirty years of age with his parents in Cedar Rapids. By this time Art had four children of his eventual six (Dick, Shirley, Peggy, Isabel, Sandra, and Barbara), and John had three daughters (Trudy, Elaine, and Daveen). Leo married but never had children. Dan, father of two small children (Donald and Evelyn), died of a brain tumor in 1936 and my grandmother died in 1938. My dad enlisted in the Navy when America entered World War II and left Iowa behind forever.


This post is getting a bit long so I have decided to split it into two parts. Perhaps I will have solved the upside-down photo problem by the time Part Two is published. Hope springs eternal in the human breast. For now, you don't have to stand on your head (unless you really want to, of course).

Thank God for small favors.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Tale of Two Billys

If there is anything people are less interested in than poetry, it's probably poetry about poetry. (The alliteration in the previous sentence is -- wait for it -- palpable.) Nevertheless, this post contains five poems about poetry by two poets, both named Billy, who were born four days apart 75 years ago. One is famous and one is not famous at all except in a very small circle of bloggers. At the end of the post their identities will be revealed.

1. The Trouble with Poetry

The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night --
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky --

the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.

Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.

But mostly poetry fills me
with the urge to write poetry,
to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame
to appear at the tip of my pencil.

And along with that, the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.

And what an unmerry band of thieves we are,
cut-purses, common shoplifters,
I thought to myself
as a cold wave swirled around my feet
and the lighthouse moved its megaphone over the sea,
which is an image I stole directly
from Lawrence Ferlinghetti --

to be perfectly honest for a moment --

the bicycling poet of San Francisco
whose little amusement park of a book
I carried in a side pocket of my uniform
up and down the treacherous halls of high school.


2. Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.


3. The Thing About His Poetry Is

The thing about his poetry is
it just lies there, flat as the proverbial
pancake, it doesn’t lift off the page
like a rocket bound for some distant
world, it doesn’t make your brain want to
soar into the blue. The herons are

never flying in his poetry and no stars
are ever mentioned; he wouldn’t recognize
a constellation if one hit him square
in the face. Your heart with rapture
never fills, there are no fields of
daffodils with which it can dance, in fact

dancing itself is pretty much
frowned upon in his economy,
it’s all business with him, cut and dried.
If his poetry were the financial section
of the newspaper there would always be
a bear market without the slightest hint

of hope, and in spite of all this
the public can’t get enough of him,
his books are all best sellers and
he’s making money hand over fist
even though the thing about his poetry is
it just lies there, flat as the proverbial

pancake.


4. Poem, Untitled

The page is blank, like my life.
All sorts of subjects flit through my mind
On the way to somewhere else
But not one settles down, makes itself
Comfortable, takes root, or starts to grow
Upward toward the light that arches
High above, beckoning all things to
Itself, not a single one.

The page is empty, like my brain.
I want to write a poem
But nothing comes to mind,
Only a formless maelstrom,
Swirling like one of the
Hundred million galaxies
Out there in the cosmos,
Moving toward the light.


..................................5. The Writer

....................With words alone, he paints
....................from the palette of his mind,
.........................mixing,
.........................blending,
.........................combining
.........................hues and tints
....................until he sees the exact shade
....................he wants.

....................With words alone, she chips away
....................rough edges of meaning,
.........................chiseling,
.........................hewing,
.........................gouging
..............................the solid rock
....................until the long-sought shape
....................emerges.

....................With words alone, she pins and drapes
....................original ideas
....................over the naked manikin page,
.........................tucking in a bit of material
.....................................................................................here,
....................snipping off
....................a dangling thread
there,
....................dropping thoughts
....................as easily as hemlines.

....................With words alone, he composes
....................irresistible music,
.........................charming,
.........................seducing the ear,
.........................searching for a particular chord,
....................the one right sound his words must make
....................for echoes
.........................to linger.


Notes:
(1) Billy Collins*, from The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems, Random House, 2007.
(2) Billy Collins*, from The Apple that Astonished Paris, University of Arkansas Press, 1996.
(3) Billy Ray Barnwell**, from Chapter 33 of Billy Ray Barnwell Here blog.
(4) Billy Ray Barnwell**, from Chapter 33 of Billy Ray Barnwell Here blog.
(5) Billy Ray Barnwell**, from Chapter 33 of Billy Ray Barnwell Here blog.

*William James Collins, born March 22, 1941, poet laureate of the United States, 2001-2003.

**nom de plume of blogger Robert Henry Brague, born March 18, 1941. These three poems were not written in the style of Billy Collins. At the time I composed them, several years ago, I had never read anything by him.

I suppose a case could be made that by juxtaposing three of my poems with two by Mr. Collins I have reached new heights in insolence, impudence, and arrogance, not to mention downright chutzpah.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fine, thanks, and you?

Lots of words today but no pictures.

My back went out (translation: into muscular spasms) about a week ago and recovery has been slow (translation: virtually non-existent). For the first time in our married life except for the times when I happened to be away on business trips I slept in a different bed from Mrs. RWP last night. It finally dawned on us that the mattress in one of our other bedrooms is firmer than the one in our room. Getting out of bed or even just turning over has been excruciating. For the record, changing beds didn't seem to help. Our chiropractor, who used to say "Ice is nice" for lower back pain, has changed his tune and is now telling us that recent studies recommend using cold for crisis pain and heat for chronic pain. Accordingly, not knowing whether mine is chronic or crisis and not knowing exactly what to do, I have been alternating between 15-20 minutes of ice pack and 15-20 minutes of heating pad. Some days it helps and some days it doesn't. Maybe I'm just making things worse.

It has now been about four months since the surgery on Mrs. RWP's left eye and two months since the surgery on her right eye. Her vision continues to fluctuate, probably because the eyes are at different stages of healing. The surgeon said this would happen, but Mrs. RWP finds it a bit disconcerting. Ever since April 15th I have been putting various kinds of drops into first one, then both, of her eyes. These have included Prednisolone 1% ophthalmic solution (a steroid), Vigamox, Oasis Tears Plus (non-prescription), and strangest of all, serum teardrops made from her own blood. Three times now we have made the trek into Atlanta so that the nice people can extract seven or eight vials of of her blood at a time and centrifuge the bejeebers out of it in order to separate the red blood cells from the serum. After a couple of hours they then give the clear stuff back to us in ten or eleven little bottles. The surgeon said using this stuff will help Mrs. RWP's eyes recover faster because it contains her very own antibodies. Each time we go, the bill is $200.00 and it is not covered by Medicare Part D since the drops do not contain any pharmaceuticals.

Today my grandson Matthew leaves Kenya for home after an eleven-week stay. His dad tells me it will involve about 18 hours of flying and 30 hours of travel overall. He will be home for one week and then depart again for his second year at university. He is one busy fellow. I may have mentioned this before -- I can't remember -- but I find it interesting that our three visitors to Kenya this summer -- Matthew, Noah, and Nicholas -- have had completely different itineraries. One flew from Atlanta to New York to Dubai to Nairobi. One flew from Atlanta to Amsterdam to Nairobi. And one flew from Atlanta to London to Johannesburg to Nairobi. And boy, are their arms tired.

Yesterday, as we were sitting in the wing chairs in the sitting area of our bedroom and talking on speakerphone to a friend from church, suddenly a mama deer and a little spotted fawn came into our back yard and stopped not ten feet from our bedroom window. After a few seconds of "freeze time" during which we exclaimed our "oohs" and "ahs" and pondered getting a camera, they turned and left the same way they came. We live in the middle of a large housing development and I have never seen deer in our subdivision before, let alone at our window. It was a moment to remember.

This post is all discombobulated, but it cannot be helped.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Lijf goes on, dai after dai

Last evening, in the space of half an hour or so, the thunder roared and the lightning flashed and the rain poured down and poured down and poured down some more until my rain gauge contained 2.5 inches of the stuff. That is what we used to call in Florida "a light shower."

Maybe it was all that thunder and lightning and pouring rain, I don't know, but this morning I woke up thinking about the Bible that John Wycliffe translated into English from the Latin Vulgate in 1382.

I know. I'm weird.

Anyway, I thought I would share with you the first three chapters of Genesis from the Wycliffe Bible. It takes a little getting used to, but it is plainly recognizable as English, once you figure out that a u might be a v, a y in the middle of a word might be either a short i or a long i, and a y at the beginning of a word might even be a g. There might be an extra e at the end of some words. Hence, heuene and erthe becomes heaven and earth in today's English.

It's fascinating to behold and to consider how much the language has changed in six hundred years. It is still recognizable, but often barely, such as lyuynge is living and halewide is hallowed (the word "sanctified" was used instead in the King James Version of 1611). I enjoyed that the Lord God formede man of the sliym of erthe in Chapter 2 instead of the more familiar dust of the ground, but dust does appear in Chapter 3.

Some words are gone completely now -- clepide (called) and feller (more subtle) are examples -- and some take a little extra work to figure out, like conseyuyngis (conceivings) and hosebonde (husband) and myddis (midst).

Have some fun. Come in out of the rain. Try reading Wycliffe for yourself:

CAP 1
1 In the bigynnyng God made of nouyt heuene and erthe.
2 Forsothe the erthe was idel and voide, and derknessis weren on the face of depthe; and the Spiryt of the Lord was borun on the watris.
3 And God seide, Liyt be maad, and liyt was maad.
4 And God seiy the liyt, that it was good, and he departide the liyt fro derknessis; and he clepide the liyt,
5 dai, and the derknessis, nyyt. And the euentid and morwetid was maad, o daie.
6 And God seide, The firmament be maad in the myddis of watris, and departe watris fro watris.
7 And God made the firmament, and departide the watris that weren vndur the firmament fro these watris that weren on the firmament; and it was don so.
8 And God clepide the firmament, heuene. And the euentid and morwetid was maad, the secounde dai.
9 Forsothe God seide, The watris, that ben vndur heuene, be gaderid in to o place, and a drie place appere; and it was doon so.
10 And God clepide the drie place, erthe; and he clepide the gadryngis togidere of watris, the sees. And God seiy that it was good;
11 and seide, The erthe brynge forth greene eerbe and makynge seed, and appil tre makynge fruyt bi his kynde, whos seed be in it silf on erthe; and it was doon so.
12 And the erthe brouyte forth greene erbe and makynge seed bi his kynde, and a tre makynge fruyt, and ech hauynge seed by his kynde. And God seiy that it was good.
13 And the euentid and morwetid was maad, the thridde dai.
14 Forsothe God seide, Liytis be maad in the firmament of heuene, and departe tho the dai and niyt; and be tho in to signes, and tymes, and daies, and yeeris;
15 and shyne tho in the firmament of heuene, and liytne tho the erthe; and it was doon so.
16 And God made twei grete liytis, the gretter liyt that it schulde be bifore to the dai, and the lesse liyt that it schulde be bifore to the niyt;
17 and God made sterris; and settide tho in the firmament of heuene, that tho schulden schyne on erthe,
18 and that tho schulden be bifore to the dai and nyyt, and schulden departe liyt and derknesse. And God seiy that it was good.
19 And the euentid and the morwetid was maad, the fourthe dai.
20 Also God seide, The watris brynge forth a `crepynge beeste of lyuynge soule, and a brid fleynge aboue erthe vndur the firmament of heuene.
21 And God made of nouyt grete whallis, and ech lyuynge soule and mouable, whiche the watris han brouyt forth in to her kyndis; and God made of nouyt ech volatile bi his kynde. And God seiy that it was good;
22 and blesside hem, and seide, Wexe ye, and be ye multiplied, and fille ye the watris of the see, and briddis be multiplied on erthe.
23 And the euentid and the morwetid was maad, the fyuethe dai.
24 And God seide, The erthe brynge forth a lyuynge soul in his kynde, werk beestis, and `crepynge beestis, and vnresonable beestis of erthe, bi her kyndis; and it was don so.
25 And God made vnresonable beestis of erthe bi her kyndes, and werk beestis, `and ech crepynge beeste of erthe in his kynde. And God seiy that it was good; and seide,
26 Make we man to oure ymage and liknesse, and be he souereyn to the fischis of the see, and to the volatilis of heuene, and to vnresonable beestis of erthe, and to ech creature, and to ech `crepynge beest, which is moued in erthe.
27 And God made of nouyt a man to his ymage and liknesse; God made of nouyt a man, to the ymage of God; God made of nouyt hem, male and female.
28 And God blesside hem, and seide, Encreesse ye, and be ye multiplied, and fille ye the erthe, and make ye it suget, and be ye lordis to fischis of the see, and to volatilis of heuene, and to alle lyuynge beestis that ben moued on erthe.
29 And God seide, Lo! Y haue youe to you ech eerbe berynge seed on erthe, and alle trees that han in hem silf the seed of her kynde, that tho be in to mete to you;
30 and to alle lyuynge beestis of erthe, and to ech brid of heuene, and to alle thingis that ben moued in erthe, and in whiche is a lyuynge soule, that tho haue to ete; and it was doon so.
31 And God seiy alle thingis whiche he made, and tho weren ful goode. And the euentid and morwetid was maad, the sixte day.

CAP 2
1 Therfor heuenes and erthe ben maad perfit, and al the ournement of tho.
2 And God fillide in the seuenthe dai his werk which he made; and he restide in the seuenthe dai fro al his werk which he hadde maad;
3 and he blesside the seuenthe dai, and halewide it; for in that dai God ceesside of al his werk which he made of nouyt, that he schulde make.
4 These ben the generaciouns of heuene and of erthe, in the day wherynne the Lord God made heuene and erthe,
5 and ech litil tre of erthe bifore that it sprong out in erthe; and he made ech erbe of the feeld bifore that it buriownede. For the Lord God had not reyned on erthe, and no man was that wrouyte erthe;
6 but a welle stiede out of the erthe, and moistide al the hiyere part of erthe.
7 Therfor the Lord God formede man of the sliym of erthe, and brethide in to his face the brething of lijf; and man was maad in to a lyuynge soule.
8 Forsothe the Lord God plauntide at the bigynnyng paradis of likyng, wherynne he settide man whom he hadde formed.
9 And the Lord God brouyte forth of the erthe ech tre fair in siyt, and swete to ete; also he brouyte forth the tre of lijf in the middis of paradis, and the tre of kunnyng of good and of yuel.
10 And a ryuer yede out fro the place of likyng to moyste paradis, which ryuer is departid fro thennus in to foure heedis.
11 The name of the o ryuer is Fyson, thilke it is that cumpassith al the lond of Euilath, where gold cometh forth,
12 and the gold of that lond is the beste, and there is foundun delium, that is, a tree of spicerie, and the stoon onychyn;
13 and the name to the secounde ryuer is Gyon, thilke it is that cumpassith al the loond of Ethiopie;
14 forsothe the name of the thridde ryuer is Tigris, thilke goith ayens Assiriens; sotheli the fourthe ryuer is thilke Eufrates.
15 Therfor the Lord God took man, and settide hym in paradis of likyng, that he schulde worche and kepe it.
16 And God comaundide to hym and seide, Ete thou of ech tre of paradis;
17 forsothe ete thou not of the tre of kunnyng of good and of yuel; for in what euere dai thou schalt ete therof, thou schalt die bi deeth.
18 And the Lord God seide, It is not good that a man be aloone, make we to hym an help lijk to hym silf.
19 Therfor whanne alle lyuynge beestis of erthe, and alle the volatils of heuene weren formed of erthe, the Lord God brouyte tho to Adam, that he schulde se what he schulde clepe tho; for al thing that Adam clepide of lyuynge soule, thilke is the name therof.
20 And Adam clepide bi her names alle lyuynge thingis, and alle volatils, and alle vnresonable beestis of erthe. Forsothe to Adam was not foundun an helpere lijk hym.
21 Therfore the Lord God sente sleep in to Adam, and whanne he slepte, God took oon of hise ribbis, and fillide fleisch for it.
22 And the Lord God bildide the rib which he hadde take fro Adam in to a womman, and brouyte hir to Adam.
23 And Adam seide, This is now a boon of my boonys, and fleisch of my fleisch; this schal be clepid virago, `for she is takun of man.
24 Wherfor a man schal forsake fadir and modir, and schal cleue to his wijf, and thei schulen be tweyne in o fleisch.
25 Forsothe euer eithir was nakid, that is, Adam and his wijf, and thei weren not aschamed.

CAP 3
1 But and the serpent was feller than alle lyuynge beestis of erthe, whiche the Lord God hadde maad. Which serpent seide to the womman, Why comaundide God to you, that ye schulden not ete of ech tre of paradis?
2 To whom the womman answerde, We eten of the fruyt of trees that ben in paradis;
3 sothely God commaundide to vs, that we schulden not eate of the fruyt of the tre, which is in the myddis of paradijs, and that we schulden not touche it, lest perauenture we dien.
4 Forsothe the serpent seide to the womman, ye schulen not die bi deeth;
5 for whi God woot that in what euere dai ye schulen ete therof, youre iyen schulen be opened, and ye schulen be as Goddis, knowynge good and yuel.
6 Therfore the womman seiy that the tre was good, and swete to ete, and fair to the iyen, and delitable in bi holdyng; and sche took of the fruyt therof, and eet, and yaf to hir hosebande, and he eet.
7 And the iyen of bothe weren openid; and whanne thei knowen that thei weren nakid, thei sewden the leeues of a fige tre, and maden brechis to hem silf.
8 And whanne thei herden the vois of the Lord God goynge in paradijs at the wynd after myddai, Adam and his wijf hidden hem fro the face of the Lord God in the middis of the tre of paradijs.
9 And the Lord God clepide Adam, and seide to hym, Where art thou?
10 And Adam seide, Y herde thi vois in paradijs, and Y drede, for Y was nakid, and Y hidde me.
11 To whom the Lord seide, Who forsothe schewide to thee that thou were nakid, no but for thou hast ete of the tre of which Y comaundide to thee that thou schuldist not ete?
12 And Adam seide, The womman which thou yauest felowe to me, yaf me of the tre, and Y eet.
13 And the Lord seide to the womman, Whi didist thou this thing? Which answerde, The serpent disseyued me, and Y eet.
14 And the Lord God seide to the serpent, For thou didist this, thou schalt be cursid among alle lyuynge thingis and vnresonable beestis of erthe; thou schalt go on thi brest, and thou schalt ete erthe in alle daies of thi liif;
15 Y schal sette enemytees bitwixe thee and the womman, and bitwixe thi seed and hir seed; sche schal breke thin heed, and thou schalt sette aspies to hir heele.
16 Also God seide to the womman, Y schal multiplie thi wretchidnessis and thi conseyuyngis; in sorewe thou schalt bere thi children; and thou schalt be vndur power of the hosebonde, and he schal be lord of thee.
17 Sothely God seyde to Adam, For thou herdist the voys of thi wijf, and hast ete of the tree, of which Y comaundide to thee that thou schuldist not ete, the erthe schal be cursid in thi werk; in traueylis thou schalt ete therof in alle daies of thi lijf;
18 it schal brynge forth thornes and breris to thee, and thou schalt ete eerbis of the erthe;
19 in swoot of thi cheer thou schalt ete thi breed, til thou turne ayen in to the erthe of which thou art takun; for thou art dust, and thou schalt turne ayen in to dust.
20 And Adam clepide the name of his wijf Eue, for sche was the moder of alle men lyuynge. And the Lord God made cootis of skynnys to Adam and Eue his wijf, and clothide hem; and seide, Lo!
22 Adam is maad as oon of vs, and knowith good and yuel; now therfore se ye, lest perauenture he putte his hond, and take of the tre of lijf, and ete, and lyue with outen ende.
23 And the Lord God sente hym out of paradijs of likyng, that he schulde worche the erthe, of which he was takun.
24 And God castide out Adam, and settide bifore paradis of lykyng cherubyn, and a swerd of flawme and turnynge aboute to kepe the weie of the tre of lijf.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Television, schmellivision (American edition)

A. Things I have never seen and probably never will [see]:

The Walking Dead
Game of Thrones
Mad Men
Half-time at Super Bowl XXXVIII (the wardrobe malfunction)

B. Things I have seen bits and snippets of in passing and wish I hadn't:

My Big Fat Fabulous Life
Sister Wives
Naked and Afraid
Breaking Amish
Duck Dynasty
Bar Rescue

C. Things I liked at first but grew weary of rapidly:

Flip Or Flop
Property Brothers
Love It Or List It
Friends
The Big Bang Theory
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Project Runway

D. Things I'm glad have gone away completely:

Maude
Honey Boo-Boo
Newlyweds: Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey

F. Things I wish had never come along in the first place:

Live! With Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford
Live! With Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa
Live! With Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan
Today With Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb
Keeping Up With the Kardashians

G. Things I wish could have lasted forever:

Downton Abbey (this one's British, actually)
Wide, Wide World (not to be confused with Wide World of Sports)
Omnibus with Alistair Cooke on Sunday afternoons (showing my age)
The Carol Burnett Show
All In the Family
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Rose Bowl Parade from Pasadena, Callifornia

How about you?

Monday, July 18, 2016

'Round and 'round he goes, and where he stops nobody knows

A few years back a woman named Mary Humphrey who raises goats in Ohio left a few comments on my other blog, the one that is a Rolls-Royce. When she happened to mention the breeds of her goats, I said they sounded like a law firm. In the following list, can you spot the breeds of goats and also the one real law firm?

1. Harpswell, Hemswell, Blyborough & Willoughton

2. Saanans, Alpines, Nubians & Boers

3. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern

4. Gobel, Lipitas, Shackelford & Ogletree

5. Herrera, Rosenblum, Petrovsky & Mock

6. Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Beane

7. Lamborghini, Ferrari, Dusenberg & Tesla

8. Bentley, Bentley & Bentley

9. Christ, Marx, Wood, & Wei


Stumped?

Number 8 is the law firm. It's in Marietta, Georgia. A fourth Bentley joined the firm in 2014. He has not yet been made a partner, so they have resisted changing the name to Bentley, Bentley, Bentley & Bentley. For many years an actual Bentley automobile sat in front of their building as the only indication of what might be inside.

Number 2 are the goat breeds.

Number 1 are villages in England that Yorkshire Pudding mentioned in his blog recently. If you don't know who Number 3 are, well, shame on you. Number 4 are just some random names I threw together. Gobel reminded me of both George Gobel, an American comedian, and Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's buddy. Ogletree's used to be a grocery store near my home in Cobb County, Georgia. Number 5 are former managers of mine at IBM, two in Boca Raton, Florida, and two in Atlanta, Georgia. Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Beane (Number 6) was an early name of Merrill Lynch, an American stock trading company that eventually became the wealth management division of the Bank of America. Lamborghini etc. (Number 7) are luxury automobiles, unlike Bentley, Bentley & Bentley (Number 8), which is, as you know, a law firm. This brings us to Number 9: Christ, Marx, Wood & Wei.

In 1970, Ira Levin, who had written Rosemary's Baby earlier and would later write The Boys From Brazil and The Stepford Wives, wrote This Perfect Day, a dystopian novel of the future. It opens with a children's playground rhyme that mystified me when I first read it but by the time I finished reading the book it became perfectly understandable. Reviewer Jo Walton called This Perfect Day "unputdownable" and I agree. Forty-five years later I can still recite from memory the children's playground rhyme:

Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei
Led us to this perfect day.
Marx, Wood, Wei and Christ
All but Wei were sacrified.
Wood, Wei, Christ and Marx
Gave us lovely schools and parks.
Wei, Christ, Marx and Wood
Made us humble, made us good.






Lest you think I am prone to flitting from subject to subject, I will close now.

Better to keep one's mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Talk about closing the barn door after the horse is gone.




P.S. -- This is definitely not George Gobel.


P.P.S. -- I still think Saanans, Alpines, Nubians & Boers sounds like a law firm.