Sunday, July 16, 2017

My hero

My preceding post included a photo of Ryan Seacrest, a graduate of Dunwoody High School in Atlanta who became a radio personality, television host, and producer who gained celebrity for his associations with American Idol, Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, E! Live, and most recently as co-host of Live With Kelly and Ryan. He is, I guess, a pop culture icon. I say guess because pop culture is not my area of expertise.

I mentioned that my heart surgeon looks younger than Ryan Seacrest.

Kylie, a new reader of this blog who lives in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, left the following comment: "What i want to know about your surgeon is not if he looks younger than Ryan Seacrest but does he look as good?"

I certainly am not the one to ask. I have no idea. I know of no authoritative scale by which the attractiveness to females of one male over another can be measured. I suppose -- write this down -- that beauty or handsomeness is in the eye of the beholder.

So here, for Kylie and anybody else who might be wondering the same thing, is my hero, The Man Who Put The Stents In My Coronary Arteries:

You tell me!

For the record, Ryan Seacrest is 42 (in yesterday's photo from 2013 he was 39) and my doctor, according to his bio at the hospital, is 48.

Friday, July 14, 2017

It's all over but the shouting

I'm back at home from my adventures in angioplasty, which felt more like MY ADVENTURES IN A*N*G*I*O*P*L*A*S*T*Y!!! (with sincere apologies to Hyman Kaplan).

I spent two days in hospital with some very nice people that I hope I never need to see again, including an amazing cardiac surgeon who looked all of twenty years old but must have been about fifty. Just a kid*.

I came home Thursday afternoon with five stents in my coronary arteries that weren't there when I left on Wednesday morning.

It certainly isn't all about me, me, me but if you look closely you will find that the first three paragraphs of this post still managed to sneak in the personal pronoun eight times.

How thoroughly self-centered of them.

All things either having returned to more or less normal or having been significantly altered forever, depending on how you look at it, the period of recovery and rehabilitation now begins.

If you want to know more about angioplasty, click here.

Until next time, Seacrest out.

(Photo by Glenn Francis, 2013, used in accordance with the terms of GFDL)

*Ryan Seacrest, pictured above at age 39 in 2013, looks older than my cardiac surgeon. There's that darned personal pronoun again.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Remembrance of things recently past: Graduation 2017

We traveled to Alabama to attend the high-school graduation of our oldest grandson there (not our oldest grandson of all, but our oldest grandson there).

Here are a few scenes of that day for posterity my vast reading audience's personal perusal and pleasure (alliteration lessons available for a small fee):

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Turn around and the year is already half over, or time flies even when you're not having fun

The May-June-July Follies have been rather eventful this year even though your correspondent has been blogging less. In this post I will confine myself to the local follies scene as international follies are in a class by themselves and cannot be explained adequately by anyone.

Number Four Grandchild graduated from high school with honors, fifth in his class of nearly two hundred. Come fall we will have four grandchildren attending four different colleges in three different states, with two more grandchildren close behind.

All our chickies were gone at one point. Number One Son's bunch went to Michigan, where, among other activities, they saw three of the five Great Lakes and crossed from the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula on a very big bridge. Number Two Son's bunch went to Guatemala where, among other activities, they climbed to the top of a volcano and narrowly avoided being affected by an earthquake. Only Daughter's bunch went to Baltimore, Maryland, where, among other activities, they rode in a water taxi from the Inner Harbor to Fort McHenry, the site of the battle with the British in 1814 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The old folks, a.k.a. Mom and Dad, a.k.a. Nana and Grandpa, stayed home. They did not go to market, have roast beef, cry "Wee, wee, wee" all the way home, pass GO, or collect $200. Nevertheless, their time was not uneventful.

Dad/Grandpa had adventures of his own. A semi-annual cardiologist appointment revealed that it was time for another stress test, it having been four or five years since the last one occurred. Your correspondent allowed as how he didn't care if he never saw another treadmill. The cardiologist pointed out that there are nuclear stress tests now that involve having a radioactive isotope injected into one's veins to speed up one's heart rate in lieu of the aforementioned treadmill and then one's being surrounded by an MRI-like machine for a few minutes, during which time a geiger counter-like apparatus checks out one's heart. One protested feebly but ultimately agreed to such a procedure.

One got home from this procedure to discover that a medication, isosorbide mononitrate (Imdur, a vaso dilator), had been called in to one's pharmacy. One was a bit alarmed, as one's newest buddy in the medical field, an ophthalmologist in the next county, has been injecting bevacizumab (Avastin) in one's right eye monthly since March, the purpose of which is to shrink, not expand, the blood vessels in one's eye as a treatment for what is called "wet" macular degeneration. It seemed to one (moi) that the Imdur and the Avastin might work at odds to one another.

Subsequently a heart catheterization (British, catheterisation) was recommended and your brave correspondent reluctantly agreed to be subjected to this barbaric procedure also. They didn't like what they found. One was informed that the large artery that enters the heart at the bottom is 80 to 90 per cent blocked, plus there are several smaller blockages that require insertion of "three or four" (forsooth) stents, and heavy blood thinners will be necessary for at least a year.

The heart guy stopped the presses at this point until he could confer with the eye guy. Said conference has now been completed and the verdict is that everything is just hunky-dory for the stent insertions to proceed. I am now waiting to hear from the heart guy's office as to when to report for duty the resumption of the interrupted procedure.

Wish me well. It seems Number One Son's bunch are not the only ones in the family crossing a big bridge.

(Photo by Justin Billau, used in accordance with CC-BY-2.0)

Crossing a big bridge and narrowly avoiding being affected by an earthquake have a lot in common. In light of this astounding revelation, please rise for the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Can I tie everything up in a neat bow, or what?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Say whaaat???, or Much ado about almost nothing

Something is rotten in the state of communication.

Three times in one day -- twice in print and once on the radio -- I encountered ignorance in our midst.

As one who spent many years editing other people's work, I was definitely irked.

Let me explain.

In our county's weekly newspaper, The Cherokee Ledger (there's a daily paper as well, The Cherokee Tribune, but it costs money and the Ledger is free), I read two separate sentences in a lengthy story about a woman who is seeking political asylum in the U.S. that stopped me cold:

1. "In Venezuela, [the woman] voted against Hugo Chavez and her name is listed on a blacklist as a trader," the [family] said." (emphasis mine)

2. [Her husband] said, "The other reason it's dangerous is she is a Venezuelan (ex-patriot) who's lived in the U.S. for fifteen years. If she's deported, she most likely won't make it out of the airport." She most likely will be picked up by the military police, kidnapped, tortured or killed, [her husband] said. "We simply cannot send [her] back to Venezuela , because she will die," he said. (emphasis mine)

In spite of the newspaper reporter quoting -- QUOTING -- the family and the husband as saying those things, I'm as sure as the day is long that the words "trader" and "ex-patriot" never left their lips. The words the reporter or the editor back at the office missed, mes amies, are obviously traitor and Venezuelan expatriate, and the parentheses were definitely the result of wrong-headed thinking. That last clause is an example of the pot calling the kettle black.

Lovers of the English language around here live in a constant state of consternation. My teeth ache from being clenched so much.

This post has been in draft status for so long that I have forgotten the third example that I heard on the radio. If I remember it, you'll be the first to know.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

I heard it through the grapevine

At the little Methodist Church we attend, the last Sunday of every month (except December) is Fellowship Lunch Sunday when everyone is invited to stay after the service and eat a meal together in the Fellowship Hall, a meal consisting of whatever edible goodies the congregation have brought with them. In your part of the world such an event might be called a Pot Luck or a Covered-Dish Dinner, but we call it a Fellowship Lunch.

You're invited even if you haven't brought anything. There's always plenty to go around. Methodists are funny that way. Some people bring the same thing every month, especially if their contribution has received compliments in the past, and some people bring something different each time. Patsy always brings a casserole, Nina can be counted on for meat loaf, Randy always brings his strawberry shortcake, and so forth. In recent months Mrs. RWP has joined the desserts crowd and brought a cherry dump cake several times, a scrumptious delight that contains cherry pie filling, yellow cake mix, crushed pineapple, butter, shredded coconut, and chopped pecans. One struggles to maintain one's girlish figure at events like these.

This month my talented wife decided to make something different involving apple pie filling and angel food cake mix. These were the only ingredients in the new recipe that she found. Not one to settle for merely what a recipe says, she decided to add some California raisins:

No, not those! She reached into the pantry and pulled out these:

But in the end she decided not to add raisins after all and used pecans instead.

Can you figure out why?

No? Look a little closer:

As Shakespeare once said, though, all's well that ends well.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mamma mia! My mother was an Aryan!

It's true! But it's not what you may be thinking. She was Jewish. How can this be?

I will tell you.

Poking around on the internet can prove very interesting. I found the college yearbook for the year my mother graduated from West Chester (Pa.) State Teachers College. Her photo appeared on page 114 of the 1930 edition of The Serpentine, West Chester's yearbook.

And right there, next to her photo, was this description:

234 Wyncote Road, Jenkintown, Pa.
Swimming; Bowling; Y.W.C.A.; Montgomery County Club; Student Teachers' Club of Chester; Archery.

I know for a fact that the list of her activities is incomplete, because among her souvenirs I found a pin from the Mask and Wig Players, the college's drama club.

Seeing Y.W.C.A. (Young Women's Christian Association) is a little surprising considering that she was Jewish, but it probably had something to do with another of her activities, swimming,

I never heard anyone call my mother "Rufus" but apparently her college friends did. I do remember both her brother and her sister calling her "Ruthie Puthie" or "Roothie Poothie" or however it is spelled. No matter. She was "Mama" to me.

PRIMARY indicates that her major at the State Teachers College was primary education. She wanted to teach young children. Clear enough.

That leaves ARYAN, which almost made me drop my teeth.

Really? ARYAN?? As in white supremacists and Nazis and the like?

Absolutely not.

A little more poking around revealed that there were several literary societies at West Chester, and the one my mother belonged to happened to be called ARYAN. There was another called HERODOTUS, and there were others. These clubs had existed at the college for many years, long before the unfortunate turn of events in the world that gave the word an entirely different meaning. Actually, it originally meant "noble" in the ancient Vedic literature of India. If you want to learn more about Aryans, click here. If not, we stand adjourned until the next regular session.

page 114 of 1930 Serpentine

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Equal time, or Remembrance of Things Past (part 17,643.5)

In the previous post, I showed you a map of Dallas County, Texas, with the city of Coppell highlighted in red. In this post, I show you a map of Tarrant County, Texas, with the city of Mansfield highlighted in red. The largest city (by both population and area) in Dallas County is Dallas. The largest city (by both population and area) in Tarrant County is Fort Worth. Local residents now call the entire area "the Metroplex" but the rest of the world, thanks mostly to the airline industry, call it DFW. The entire Combined Statistical Area now covers 20 counties and has over seven million residents.

I lived in my yute in both Mansfield (population then, 1,200; now, close to 70,000) and Coppell (population then, 600; now, more than 40,000).

What follows is from the section headed "History" in the Wikipedia article, "Mansfield, Texas."

The first wave of European settlers arrived in the rolling Cross Timbers country of north central Texas in the 1840s. Primarily of Scotch-Irish origins, these pioneer farmers came for the most part from southern states, following the frontier as it shifted west of the Mississippi. They entered an area where Native Americans had been living for thousands of years. The Comanche posed a serious threat to the settlers, and in 1849, the U.S. Army established Fort Worth to protect the farms along the sparsely populated frontier.

The area southeast of the fort (and of the Trinity River) was well protected and presumably fairly well settled by the early 1850s. In one well-documented case, eight related families migrated to the area in 1853 from Illinois. Three of the four Gibson brothers in this group established homesteads about 4 miles (6t km) northwest of present-day Mansfield. This settlement, which became known as the Gibson Community, included a school and a church building by 1860.

When R.S. Man and Julian Feild arrived around 1856 and built a grist mill at the crossroads that was to become the center of Mansfield, the beginnings of the community probably existed in the oak groves bordering Walnut Creek (originally called Cedar Bluff Creek). The Walnut Creek Congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church had organized itself in 1854. Members met in each other's homes, so it is suspected that there was a cluster of houses in the area.

In 1856, Julian Feild purchased 540 acres (2.2 km2) in the Mansfield area. Man and Feild completed their three-story brick grist mill sometime between 1856 and 1859. The mill, which produced flour and meal, was the first built in North Texas to utilize steam power and enjoyed patronage as far south as San Antonio and as far north as Oklahoma. The location of the mill in southeastern Tarrant County perhaps reflects the advanced state of wheat cultivation in the area and the ready availability of wood to feed the mill's steam boilers. Feild opened a general merchandise store at the same time as the mill, located across Broad Street. He built a log house for his family, which also served as an inn for travelers and customers. By 1860, the nucleus of the future city existed. The first post office was established that year, with Julian Feild as postmaster.

During the American Civil War, the Man and Feild Mill supplied meal and flour to the Confederate States Army, hauling it to Shreveport, Louisiana, and Jefferson City, Missouri. As was common practice, the owners tithed ten percent of the mill's production to the Confederacy. The small community around the mill was unique in Tarrant County in that it prospered throughout the Civil War. "Feild's Freighters", assembled in ox-drawn wagon trains, went as far as Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where a part of the Indian Wars raged in the southern plains in the late 1860s and 1870s. The prospering community which had grown up around the Man and Feild mill took on the name of "Mansfeild", a combination of the names of the founders. Repeated misspellings over the years resulted in the acceptance of the conventional spelling of "Mansfield." The town incorporated in 1909, continuing to be a hub for the surrounding farmland.

(end of History of Mansfield section from Wikipedia)

Times have changed. "The surrounding farmland" today includes Dallas (1,241,162), Fort Worth (833,319), Arlington (375,600), Plano (269,776), Garland (233,564), Irving (225,427), Grand Prairie (181,824), McKinney (143,223), Mesquite (143,195), Frisco (128,176), Carrollton (125,409), Denton (121,123), Richardson (103,297), Lewisville (101,074), almost 50 smaller cities with between 10,000 and 99,999 inhabitants ( Allen, Azle, Balch Springs, Bedford, Benbrook, Burleson, Cedar Hill, Cleburne, Colleyville, Coppell, Corinth, Crowley, DeSoto, Duncanville, Ennis, Euless, Farmers Branch, Flower Mound, Forest Hill, Forney, Glenn Heights, Grapevine, Greenville, Haltom City, Highland Village, Hurst, Keller, Lancaster, Little Elm, Mansfield (wait, we're already talking about Mansfield), Midlothian, Mineral Wells, Murphy, North Richland Hills, Prosper, Rockwall, Rowlett, Sachse, Saginaw, Seagoville, Terrell, The Colony, University Park, Waxahachie, Weatherford, White Settlement, Wylie), and almost 150 even smaller towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants (don't worry, I won't list them all), and even a few unincorporated villages and wide spots in the road, including Peaster, the birthplace and childhood home of Robert E. Howard, creator of the character Conan the Barbarian.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Remembrance of things past (part 17,643)

Today, June 6th, is not only the 73rd anniversary of D-Day in 1944 (young readers should google it) but also the 59th anniversary of the marriage of my dad, Clifford Ray ("Ted") Brague, to Mildred Louise Williams Houston, my stepmother, in 1958.

The wedding took place in the little Methodist Church -- note that I did not say United Methodist Church; that entity did not come into being for another ten years when the big Methodist Church, which itself had been a merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church in 1939, merged in 1968 with the much smaller Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) -- in Coppell, Texas, way up in the northwest corner of Dallas County. Back then, Coppell was a village of about 600 people with not even one traffic signal. Now its population is estimated to be more than 41,000 human beings and an unknown but surely formidable number of cats, dogs, and other assorted pets. There are lots of traffic signals. The marriage between my dad and my stepmother lasted three months shy of nine years, when my dad succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 60 in March 1967. My stepmother eventually married again to John Wesley Fuller and lived until 2004, passing away at the age of 89.

On that same day in 1958, June 6th, Claire married Dr. Doug Cassen on As the World Turns, a television soap opera loved by my mother when she was alive and also by my new stepmother. It was probably the only thing they had in common.*

I do not know why I remember such things. I just do.

*besides my dad, of course.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A parting gift for the faithful few

Here I am playing part of the old hymn "Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us" on an out-of-tune piano at the Bargain Boutique, a non-profit "upscale resale shop" (their words) in a shopping center in Cumming, Georgia, where all items are donated. Sales help to fund Whispering Hope, a resource and pregnancy center for expectant mothers where clients can spend Mommy Money and Daddy Dollars earned by attending classes offered by the center.

We visited the shop this past Thursday and my friend Sylvia C., who manages the store, asked me to play something on the piano. She decided to record me after I had already played the first portion of the hymn, so all she managed to capture in the clip was the chorus. Also, she stopped one second too soon and missed my final note, a low E-flat. But you can see me reaching for it.

On that note (pun not intended), I now bid all of you a fond but hopefully not final adieu. If I had had my wits about me I would have played "God Be With You Till We Meet Again."

It has been fun and I hope it will be fun again.

Until then, you're simply going to have to fend for yourselves.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Wake me up before you go-go

Well, that was quick.

I really am taking a blogging break, but I wanted to get one last post in before I ride off into the virtual sunset.

Mrs. RWP has finished the fourth of the six afghans she wants to crochet for our grandchildren as they go off to university. Here are our six in 2005:

In 2014, Elijah (the eldest, the dark-hared boy in the back row) received this red and black afghan:

In 2015, Matthew (the tallest of all) received this blue and white afghan:

In 2016, Noah, who is standing next to his brother Elijah in the photo, received this black and gold afghan:

I may have shown you these before. If I do say so myself, my photography does seem to be improving with each passing year.

This week, as I mentioned, Mrs. RWP completed this red and white afghan for Sawyer:

Here is my latest still life, "Afghan With Dogwood Blossom":

What's that? You say you would like to have a closer look to see it better? Your wish is my command:

This piece is not blown glass. It was hard-sculpted by glass artist Hoa Tan in the Hans Godo Frabel studio in Atlanta.

That leaves two more afghans to be created; one for sweet Ansley, who is our dancer/singer/actress; and one for little Sam, who is not so little any more but a member of his school's golf team and leader of the trumpet section in his high school band.

Maybe my brain is empty now.

Let the sabbatical begin.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hanging it up temporarily

Since this particular period is turning out to be a busy season for Mrs. RWP and me in what is called real life, I have decided to step away from Ye Olde Keyboard for an indeterminate amount of time. I do plan to return at some point, and hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. But since it is also true that the best-laid plans o' mice and men gang aft agley (as they say in Hungarian), maybe I will and maybe I won't. While I am away, mind your manners, play nicely with the other children on the playground, and listen to what the substitute teacher says.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The jury is still out, or what is writing anyway?

“Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig,”
—Stephen Greenblatt

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
—E.L. Doctorow

“All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer

“Writing is very hard work and knowing what you’re doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote

“Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick

“Let’s face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron

As I said at the top, the jury is still out. Many people have tried to explain what writing is -- not writing as in producing fluid cursive-style letters instead of printed ones made mostly with straight lines, but "writing" as in getting stuff out of your head and down onto paper. You do see the difference, don't you?. Good. I knew you would. Those last few sentences sound better in the voice of Mr. Rogers.

In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, writer Anne Lamott has made a remarkably valiant effort to tell us about writing. Here are some examples:

“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

“E.L. Doctorow said once said that 'Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.' You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won't really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we'll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won't wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.”

“If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act -- truth is always subversive.”

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

“I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.”

“This business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?”

“Remember that you own what happened to you. If your childhood was less than ideal, you may have been raised thinking that if you told the truth about what really went on in your family, a long bony white finger would emerge from a cloud and point to you, while a chilling voice thundered, "We *told* you not to tell." But that was then. Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on.”

“Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don't drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor's yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper.”

“But how?" my students ask. "How do you actually do it?" You sit down, I say. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. So you sit down at, say, nine every morning, or ten every night. You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on the computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child. You look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the paper again. Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind -- a scene, a locale, a character, whatever -- and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind.”

“My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.”

“You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn't nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.”

“I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mentioned this to my priest friend Tom, he said that you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.)”

“The society to which we belong seems to be dying or is already dead. I don't mean to sound dramatic, but clearly the dark side is rising. Things could not have been more odd and frightening in the Middle Ages. But the tradition of artists will continue no matter what form the society takes. And this is another reason to write: people need us, to mirror for them and for each other without distortion -- not to look around and say, 'Look at yourselves, you idiots!,' but to say, 'This is who we are.”

“If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, this is how you spend your days--listening, observing, storing things away, making your isolation pay off. You take home all you've taken in, all that you've overheard, and you turn it into gold. (Or at least you try.)”

“I don't know where to start," one [writing student] will wail. Start with your childhood, I tell them. Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can. Flannery O'Connor said that anyone who has survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life. Maybe your childhood was grim and horrible, but grim and horrible is Okay if it is well done. Don't worry about doing it well yet, though. Just get it down.”

Only people who have made it this far in this post are writers, or at least they are people who want to be writers, who are trying to be writers. I hope something someone said in this post resonates with you. I hope this post has helped to move you (no, move us) a little farther down the road.

If not, I can only tell you what Walt Whitman said in his "Song of Myself":

Do I contradict myslef?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

If you don't believe you contain multitudes, did you know that Mr. Rogers was both a Navy seal and a Presbyterian minister? Yes. He was.

OOPS! STOP THE PRESSES! It has just come to the attention of your editor that Mr. Rogers was not, repeat, NOT a Navy seal. That turns out to be an urban legend with no basis in fact. But I'll bet he still contained multitudes and was someone's very good neighbor.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Leaving the equinox, heading toward the solstice

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of Spring, though in our part of the world the daffodils are long gone and the azaleas have faded into memory. But the magnolias are blooming early this year and we await the arrival of the pink mimosa. New life abounds. Calves and lambs are filling the pastures. It is most definitely Spring.

Perhaps Tennyson said it best in Locksley Hall:

"In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;
In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love."

Some wag (not I) wrote, "Ah, Spring, when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of what the young ladies have been thinking about all winter."

Be that as it may, I discovered a wonderful poem by Robert Lax (1915 - 1970), who was known in particular for his association with the 20th-century Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton. The poem was first published in The New Yorker magazine on May 5, 1940, and it appeared recently on the Writer's Almanac site:

Greeting to Spring (Not Without Trepidation)
by Robert Lax

Over the back of the Florida basker,
over the froth of the Firth of Forth,
Up from Tahiti and Madagascar,
Lo, the sun walks north.

The first bright day makes sing the slackers
While leaves explode like firecrackers,
The duck flies forth to greet the spring
And sweetly municipal pigeons sing.

Where the duck quacks, where the bird sings,
We will speak of past things.

Come out with your marbles, come out with your Croup,
The grass is as green as a Girl Scout troop;
In the Mall the stone acoustics stand
Like a listening ear for the Goldman band.

At an outside table, where the sun’s bright glare is,
We will speak of darkened Paris.

Meanwhile, like attendants who hasten the hoofs
Of the ponies who trot in the shadow of roofs,
The sun, in his running, will hasten the plan
Of plants and fishes, beast and man.

We’ll turn our eyes to the sogging ground
And guess if the earth is cracked or round.

Over the plans of the parties at strife,
Over the planes in the waiting north,
Over the average man and his wife,
Lo, the sun walks forth!

I can't quite put my finger on why, but something about this poem simultaneously reminds me of Sidney Lanier's The Song of the Chattahoochee and T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, even though neither one covers the same subject matter. I just find certain synapses firing in my brain.

Meanwhile, out there in the real world, life goes on, or not. People are born; people die. Roads are built; bridges collapse. One day our time here will end as well. Until then, enjoy the never-ending changes that accompany our planet's orbit around the sun as best you can.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Carpe diem, or Further evidence (if you needed any) that I am slipping

Star Wars Day, May 4th -- as in "May the Fourth be with you" -- came and went unheralded and unnoticed.

Cinco de Mayo, May 5th, anniversary of Mexico's victory over the French in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla against lopsided odds, came and went unheralded and unnoticed.

Ah, but May 6th! What would you like to know about May 6th? Here's everything Wikipedia has to say about it:

May 6 is the 126th day of the year (127th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 239 days remaining until the end of the year. This date is slightly more likely to fall on a Wednesday, Friday or Sunday (58 in 400 years each) than on Monday or Tuesday (57), and slightly less likely to occur on a Thursday or Saturday (56).


1527 – Spanish and German troops sack Rome; some consider this the end of the Renaissance. 147 Swiss Guards, including their commander, die fighting the forces of Charles V in order to allow Pope Clement VII to escape into Castel Sant'Angelo.
1536 – The Siege of Cuzco commences, in which Incan forces attempt to retake the city of Cuzco from the Spanish.
1536 – King Henry VIII orders English-language Bibles be placed in every church. In 1539 the Great Bible would be provided for this purpose.
1542 – Francis Xavier reaches Old Goa, the capital of Portuguese India at the time.
1659 – English Restoration: A faction of the British Army removes Richard Cromwell as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth and reinstalls the Rump Parliament.
1682 – Louis XIV of France moves his court to the Palace of Versailles.
1757 – Battle of Prague: A Prussian army fights an Austrian army in Prague during the Seven Years' War.
1757 – The end of Konbaung–Hanthawaddy War, and the end of Burmese Civil War (1740–1757).
1757 – English poet Christopher Smart is admitted into St Luke's Hospital for Lunatics in London, beginning his six-year confinement to mental asylums.
1782 – Construction begins on the Grand Palace, the royal residence of the King of Siam in Bangkok, at the command of King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke.
1801 – Captain Thomas Cochrane in the 14-gun HMS Speedy captures the 32-gun Spanish frigate El Gamo.
1835 – James Gordon Bennett, Sr. publishes the first issue of the New York Herald.
1840 – The Penny Black postage stamp becomes valid for use in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
1857 – The British East India Company disbands the 34th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry whose sepoy Mangal Pandey had earlier revolted against the British and is considered to be the First Martyr in the War of Indian Independence.
1861 – American Civil War: Arkansas secedes from the Union.
1863 – American Civil War: The Battle of Chancellorsville ends with the defeat of the Army of the Potomac by Confederate troops.
1877 – Chief Crazy Horse of the Oglala Lakota surrenders to United States troops in Nebraska.
1882 – Thomas Henry Burke and Lord Frederick Cavendish are stabbed to death by Fenian assassins in Phoenix Park, Dublin.
1882 – The United States Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act.
1889 – The Eiffel Tower is officially opened to the public at the Universal Exposition in Paris.
1902 – Macario Sakay establishes the Tagalog Republic with himself as President.
1906 – The Russian Constitution of 1906 is adopted (on April 23rd by the Julian calendar).
1910 – George V becomes King of the United Kingdom upon the death of his father, Edward VII.
1915 – Babe Ruth, then a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, hits his first major league home run.
1916 – Twenty-one Lebanese nationalists are executed in Martyrs' Square, Beirut by Djemal Pasha.
1916 – Vietnamese Emperor Duy Tân is captured while attempting to call upon the people to rise up against the French, and later being deposed and exiled to Réunion island.
1933 – The Deutsche Studentenschaft attacked Magnus Hirschfeld's Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, later burning many of its books.
1935 – New Deal: Executive Order 7034 creates the Works Progress Administration.
1937 – Hindenburg disaster: The German zeppelin Hindenburg catches fire and is destroyed within a minute while attempting to dock at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Thirty-six people are killed.
1940 – John Steinbeck is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Grapes of Wrath.
1941 – At California's March Field, Bob Hope performs his first USO show.
1941 – The first flight of the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.
1942 – World War II: On Corregidor, the last American forces in the Philippines surrender to the Japanese.
1945 – World War II: Axis Sally delivers her last propaganda broadcast to Allied troops.
1945 – World War II: The Prague Offensive, the last major battle of the Eastern Front, begins.
1949 – EDSAC, the first practical electronic digital stored-program computer, runs its first operation.
1954 – Roger Bannister becomes the first person to run the mile in under four minutes.
1960 – More than 20 million viewers watch the first televised royal wedding when Princess Margaret marries Anthony Armstrong-Jones at Westminster Abbey.
1962 – Martín de Porres is canonized by Pope John XXIII.
1966 – Myra Hindley and Ian Brady are sentenced to life imprisonment for the Moors murders in England.
1972 – Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan and Hüseyin İnan are executed in Ankara after being convicted of attempting to overthrow the Constitutional order.
1975 – During a lull in fighting, 100,000 Armenians gather in Beirut to commemorate 60th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
1976 – An earthquake strikes the Friuli region of northeastern Italy, causing 989 deaths and the destruction of entire villages.
1983 – The Hitler Diaries are revealed as a hoax after being examined by experts.
1984 – 103 Korean Martyrs are canonized by Pope John Paul II in Seoul.
1994 – Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and French President François Mitterrand officiate at the opening of the Channel Tunnel.
1996 – The body of former CIA director William Colby is found washed up on a riverbank in southern Maryland, eight days after he disappeared.
1997 – The Bank of England is given independence from political control, the most significant change in the bank's 300-year history.
1998 – Kerry Wood strikes out 20 Houston Astros to tie the major league record held by Roger Clemens. He threw a one-hitter and did not walk a batter in his fifth career start.
1999 – The first elections to the devolved Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly are held.
2001 – During a trip to Syria, Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope to enter a mosque.
2002 – Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn is assassinated following a radio-interview at the Mediapark in Hilversum.
2013 – Three women missing for more than a decade are found alive in the U.S. city of Cleveland, Ohio.


1405 – George Kastrioti, better known as Skanderbeg, Albanian national hero (d. 1468) (probable date)
1464 – Sophia Jagiellon, Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach, Polish princess (d. 1512)
1493 – Girolamo Seripando, Catholic cardinal (d. 1563)
1501 – Pope Marcellus II (d. 1555)
1574 – Pope Innocent X (d. 1655)
1635 – Johann Joachim Becher, German physician and alchemist (d. 1682)
1668 – Alain-René Lesage, French author and playwright (d. 1747)
1680 – Jean-Baptiste Stuck, Italian-French cellist and composer (d. 1755)
1713 – Charles Batteux, French philosopher and academic (d. 1780)
1714 – Anton Raaff, German tenor (d. 1797)
1742 – Jean Senebier, Swiss pastor and physiologist (d. 1809)
1758 – André Masséna, French general (d. 1817)
1758 – Maximilien Robespierre, French lawyer and politician (d. 1794)
1769 – Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany (d. 1824)
1769 – Jean Nicolas Pierre Hachette, French mathematician and academic (d. 1834)
1781 – Karl Christian Friedrich Krause, German philosopher and author (d. 1832)
1797 – Joseph Brackett, American religious leader and composer (d. 1882)
1800 – Roman Sanguszko, Polish general (d. 1881)
1827 – Hermann Raster, German-American journalist and politician (d. 1891)
1836 – Max Eyth, German engineer and author (d. 1906)
1843 – Grove Karl Gilbert, American geologist and academic (d. 1918)
1848 – Henry Edward Armstrong, English chemist and academic (d. 1937)
1851 – Aristide Bruant, French singer and actor (d. 1925)
1856 – Sigmund Freud, Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst (d. 1939)
1856 – Robert Peary, American admiral and explorer (d. 1920)
1861 – Motilal Nehru, Indian lawyer and politician, President of the Indian National Congress (d. 1931)
1868 – Gaston Leroux, French journalist and author (d. 1927)
1869 – Junnosuke Inoue, Japanese businessman and central banker, 8th and 11th Governor of the Bank of Japan (d. 1932)
1870 – Walter Rutherford, Scottish golfer (d. 1936)
1871 – Victor Grignard, French chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1935)
1871 – Christian Morgenstern, German author and poet (d. 1914)
1872 – Willem de Sitter, Dutch mathematician, physicist, and astronomer (d. 1934)
1872 – Djemal Pasha, Ottoman general (d. 1922)
1879 – Bedřich Hrozný, Czech orientalist and linguist (d. 1952)
1879 – Hendrik van Heuckelum, Dutch footballer (d. 1929)
1880 – Winifred Brunton, English-South African painter and illustrator (d. 1959)
1880 – Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, German-Swiss painter (d. 1938)
1883 – Alberto Collo, Italian actor (d. 1955)
1895 – Júlio César de Mello e Souza, Brazilian mathematician and author (d. 1974)
1895 – Fidél Pálffy, Hungarian soldier and politician, Hungarian Minister of Agriculture (d. 1946)
1895 – Rudolph Valentino, Italian actor (d. 1926)
1896 – Rolf Maximilian Sievert, Swedish physicist and academic (d. 1966)
1897 – Paul Alverdes, German author and poet (d. 1979)
1898 – Konrad Henlein, Czech soldier and politician (d. 1945)
1902 – Harry Golden, Ukrainian-American journalist and author (d. 1981)
1902 – Max Ophüls, German-American director and screenwriter (d. 1957)
1903 – Toots Shor, American businessman, founded Toots Shor's Restaurant (d. 1977)
1904 – Moshé Feldenkrais, Ukrainian-Israeli physicist and academic (d. 1984)
1904 – Catherine Lacey, English actress (d. 1979)
1904 – Harry Martinson, Swedish novelist, essayist, and poet Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1978)
1905 – Philip N. Krasne, American lawyer and producer (d. 1999)
1906 – André Weil, French mathematician and academic (d. 1998)
1907 – Weeb Ewbank, American football player and coach (d. 1998)
1911 – Guy des Cars, French journalist and author (d. 1993)
1913 – Carmen Cavallaro, American pianist (d. 1989)
1913 – Stewart Granger, English-American actor (d. 1993)
1915 – Orson Welles, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 1985)
1915 – Theodore H. White, American historian, journalist, and author (d. 1986)
1916 – Robert H. Dicke, American physicist and astronomer (d. 1997)
1917 – Kal Mann, American songwriter (d. 2001)
1919 – André Guelfi, French race car driver
1920 – Ross Hunter, American actor and producer (d. 1996)
1920 – Kamisese Mara, Fijian politician, 1st Prime Minister of Fiji (d. 2004)
1920 – Marguerite Piazza, American soprano and actress (d. 2012)
1921 – Erich Fried, Austrian-German author, poet, and translator (d. 1988)
1922 – Camille Laurin, Canadian psychiatrist and politician, 7th Deputy Premier of Quebec (d. 1999)
1923 – Harry Watson, Canadian ice hockey player and coach (d. 2002)
1924 – Nestor Basterretxea, Spanish painter and sculptor (d. 2014)
1924 – Patricia Kennedy Lawford, American socialite, activist, and author (d. 2006)
1924 – Denny Wright, English guitarist, composer, and producer (d. 1992)
1926 – Gilles Grégoire, Canadian politician, co-founded the Parti Québécois (d. 2006)
1929 – Rosemary Cramp, English archaeologist and academic
1929 – Paul Lauterbur, American chemist and biophysicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2007)
1929 – John Taylor, English bishop and theologian
1930 – Sonia Rykiel, French fashion designer (d. 2016)
1931 – Willie Mays, American baseball player and coach
1932 – Ahmet Haxhiu, Kosovan activist (d. 1994)
1932 – Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath, English lieutenant and politician
1934 – Richard Shelby, American lawyer and politician
1937 – Rubin Carter, American-Canadian boxer (d. 2014)
1938 – Jean Garon, Canadian economist, lawyer, and politician (d. 2014)
1939 – Eddie C. Campbell, American singer and guitarist
1939 – Chet Allen, American child actor (d. 1984)
1940 – Alexandra Burslem, English academic
1942 – Ariel Dorfman, Argentinian author, playwright, and academic
1942 – David Friesen, American bassist
1943 – Andreas Baader, German terrorist, co-founded the Red Army Faction (d. 1977)
1943 – Grange Calveley, English animator and screenwriter
1943 – Milton William Cooper, American theorist and author (d. 2001)
1943 – Wolfgang Reinhardt, German pole vaulter (d. 2011)
1943 – James Turrell, American sculptor and illustrator
1944 – Anton Furst, English-American production designer and art director (d. 1991)
1944 – Masanori Murakami, Japanese baseball player and coach
1945 – Jimmie Dale Gilmore, American country singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and producer
1945 – Bob Seger, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
1946 – Grier Jones, American golfer and coach
1947 – Alan Dale, New Zealand actor
1947 – Kit Martin, English architect and author
1947 – Martha Nussbaum, American philosopher and author
1947 – Ljubomir Vračarević, Serbian martial artist, founded Real Aikido (d. 2013)
1948 – Frankie Librán, Puerto Rican-American baseball player (d. 2013)
1950 – Jeffery Deaver, American journalist and author
1950 – Robbie McIntosh, Scottish drummer (Average White Band) (d. 1974)
1951 – Samuel Doe, Liberian sergeant and politician, 21st President of Liberia (d. 1990)
1952 – Gerrit Zalm, Dutch economist and politician, Deputy Prime Mi
nister of the Netherlands
1953 – Alexander Akimov, Ukrainian Chernobyl worker (d. 1986) 1953 – Tony Blair, British politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1953 – Michelle Courchesne, Canadian urban planner and politician, Deputy Premier of Quebec
1953 – Ülle Rajasalu, Estonian politician
1953 – Graeme Souness, Scottish footballer and manager
1953 – Lynn Whitfield, American actress and producer
1954 – Tom Abernethy, American basketball player
1954 – Dora Bakoyannis, Greek politician, 120th Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs
1954 – Angela Hernández Nuñez, Dominican author and poet
1954 – Ain Lutsepp, Estonian actor and politician
1955 – Nicholas Alexander, 7th Earl of Caledon, English politician, Lord Lieutenant of Armagh
1955 – Tom Bergeron, American television host
1955 – John Hutton, Baron Hutton of Furness, English academic and politician, Secretary of State for Defence
1956 – Lakis Lazopoulos, Greek actor and screenwriter
1956 – Roland Wieser, German race walker and coach
1958 – Randall Stout, American architect, designed the Taubman Museum of Art (d. 2014)
1959 – Andreas Busse, German runner
1959 – Charles Hendry, English politician
1960 – Lyudmila Andonova, Bulgarian high jumper
1960 – Keith Dowding, English political scientist, philosopher, and academic
1960 – Roma Downey, Irish-American actress and producer
1960 – John Flansburgh, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
1960 – Aleksei Lotman, Estonian biologist and politician
1960 – Anne Parillaud, French actress
1961 – Oleksandr Apaychev, Ukrainian decathlete and coach
1961 – George Clooney, American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
1961 – Tom Hunter, Scottish businessman and philanthropist
1961 – Gina Riley, Australian actress, producer, and screenwriter
1962 – Tom Brake, English politician
1962 – Brad Izzard, Australian rugby league player
1963 – Alessandra Ferri, Italian ballerina
1965 – Leslie Hope, Canadian actress, director, producer, and screenwriter
1968 – Worku Bikila, Ethiopian runner
1968 – Lætitia Sadier, French singer and keyboard player
1969 – Jim Magilton, Northern Irish footballer and manager
1970 – Roland Kun, Nauruan politician
1971 – Chris Shiflett, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
1972 – Martin Brodeur, Canadian ice hockey player
1972 – Naoko Takahashi, Japanese runner
1974 – Bernard Barmasai, Kenyan runner
1974 – Daniela Bártová, Czech pole vaulter and gymnast
1975 – Alan Richardson, English cricketer and coach
1976 – Dean Chandler, English footballer
1977 – Christophe Brandt, Belgian cyclist
1977 – Marc Chouinard, Canadian ice hockey player
1977 – Mark Eaton, American ice hockey player and coach
1977 – Chantelle Newbery, Australian diver
1978 – John Abraham, American football player
1978 – Fredrick Federley, Swedish journalist and politician
1978 – Aleksandr Fyodorov, Russian bodybuilder
1979 – Gerd Kanter, Estonian discus thrower
1979 – Jan Erik Mikalsen, Norwegian composer
1980 – Brooke Bennett, American swimmer
1980 – Ricardo Oliveira, Brazilian footballer
1980 – Matthew Whiley, English cricketer
1983 – Dani Alves, Brazilian footballer
1983 – Ingrid Jonach, Australian author
1983 – Gabourey Sidibe, American actress
1983 – Trinley Thaye Dorje, Tibetan religious leader, the 17th Karmapa Lama
1983 – Fredrik Sjöström, Swedish ice hockey player
1984 – Anton Babchuk, Ukrainian ice hockey player
1984 – Juan Pablo Carrizo, Argentinian footballer
1985 – Tanerau Latimer, New Zealand rugby player
1985 – Chris Paul, American basketball player
1986 – Goran Dragic, Slovenian basketball player
1987 – Dries Mertens, Belgian footballer
1987 – Aljona Malets, Estonian footballer
1989 – Dominika Cibulková, Slovakian tennis player
1990 – José Altuve, Venezuelan baseball player
1990 – Caitlin Yankowskas, American figure skater
1991 – Valerio Frasca, Italian footballer
1992 – Brendan Gallagher, Canadian ice hockey player
1992 – Takashi Usami, Japanese footballer
1994 – Mateo Kovačić, Austrian-Croatian footballer


698 – Eadberht, bishop of Lindisfarne
850 – Ninmyō, Japanese emperor (b. 808)
1002 – Ealdwulf, Archbishop of York, Abbot of Peterborough and Bishop of Worcester
1187 – Ruben III, Prince of Armenia (b. 1145)
1236 – Roger of Wendover, Benedictine monk and chronicler
1471 – Edmund Beaufort, English commander (b. 1438)
1471 – Thomas Tresham, Speaker of the House of Commons
1475 – Dieric Bouts, Flemish painter (b. 1415)
1483 – Queen Jeonghui, Korean regent (b. 1418)
1502 – James Tyrrell, English knight (b. 1450)
1540 – Juan Luís Vives, Spanish scholar (b. 1492)
1596 – Giaches de Wert, Flemish-Italian composer (b. 1535)
1631 – Sir Robert Cotton, 1st Baronet, of Connington, English historian and politician, founded the Cotton library (b. 1570)
1638 – Cornelius Jansen, Dutch-French bishop and theologian (b. 1585)
1708 – François de Laval, French-Canadian bishop (b. 1623)
1757 – Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton, English politician, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (b. 1683)
1757 – Kurt Christoph Graf von Schwerin, Prussian field marshal (b. 1684)
1782 – Christine Kirch, German astronomer and academic (b. 1696)
1840 – Francisco de Paula Santander, Colombian general and politician, 4th President of the Republic of the New Granada (b. 1792)
1859 – Alexander von Humboldt, German geographer and explorer (b. 1769)
1862 – Henry David Thoreau, American essayist, poet, and philosopher (b. 1817)
1877 – Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Swedish-Finnish poet and hymn-writer (b. 1804)
1882 – Thomas Henry Burke, Irish civil servant (b. 1829)
1882 – Lord Frederick Cavendish, British politician, Chief Secretary for Ireland (b. 1836)
1902 – Bret Harte, American author and poet (b. 1836)
1905 – Robert Herbert, English-Australian politician, 1st Premier of Queensland (b. 1831)
1907 – Emanuele Luigi Galizia, Maltese architect and civil engineer (b. 1830)
1910 – Edward VII of the United Kingdom (b. 1841)
1919 – L. Frank Baum, American novelist (b. 1856)
1939 – Konstantin Somov, Russian-French painter and illustrator (b. 1869)
1949 – Maurice Maeterlinck, Belgian-French poet and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1862)
1951 – Élie Cartan, French mathematician and physicist (b. 1869)
1952 – Maria Montessori, Italian-Dutch physician and educator (b. 1870)
1959 – Maria Dulęba, Polish actress (b. 1881)
1959 – Ragnar Nurkse, Estonian-American economist and academic (b. 1907)
1961 – Lucian Blaga, Romanian poet, playwright, and philosopher (b. 1895)
1963 – Theodore von Kármán, Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, and engineer (b. 1881)
1963 – Ted Weems, American violinist, trombonist, and bandleader (b. 1901)
1963 – Monty Woolley, American raconteur, actor, and director (b. 1888)
1967 – Zhou Zuoren, Chinese author and translator (b. 1885)
1970 – Alexander Rodzyanko, Russian general (b. 1879)
1973 – Ernest MacMillan, Canadian conductor and composer (b. 1893)
1975 – József Mindszenty, Hungarian cardinal (b. 1892)
1980 – María Luisa Bombal, Chilean writer (b. 1910)
1983 – Ezra Jack Keats, American author and illustrator (b. 1916)
1983 – Kai Winding, Danish-American trombonist and composer (b. 1922)
1984 – Mary Cain, American journalist and politician (b. 1904)
1984 – Bonner Pink, English politician (b. 1912)
1987 – William J. Casey, American politician, 13th Director of Central Intelligence (b. 1913)
1989 – Earl Blaik, American football player and coach (b. 1897)
1990 – Charles Farrell, American actor (b. 1901)
1991 – Wilfrid Hyde-White, English actor (b. 1903)
1992 – Marlene Dietrich, German-American actress and singer (b. 1901)
1995 – Noel Brotherston, Northern Irish footballer (b. 1956)
2000 – Gordon McClymont, Australian ecologist and academic (b. 1920)
2002 – Murray Adaskin, Canadian violinist, composer, conductor, and educator (b. 1906)
2002 – Otis Blackwell, American singer-songwriter and pianist (b. 1932)
2002 – Pim Fortuyn, Dutch sociologist, academic, and politician (b. 1948)
2002 – Bjørn Johansen, Norwegian saxophonist (b. 1940)
2003 – Art Houtteman, American baseball player and journalist (b. 1927)
2004 – Virginia Capers, American actress and singer (b. 1925)
2004 – Philip Kapleau, American monk and educator (b. 1912)
2004 – Barney Kessel, American guitarist and composer (b. 1923)
2006 – Grant McLennan, Australian singer-songwriter and guitarist (b. 1958)
2006 – Lorne Saxberg, Canadian journalist (b. 1958)
2007 – Enéas Carneiro, Brazilian physician and politician (b. 1938)
2007 – Curtis Harrington, American actor, director, and screenwriter (b. 1926)
2009 – Kevin Grubb, American race car driver (b. 1978)
2010 – Robin Roberts, American baseball player, coach, and sportscaster (b. 1926)
2012 – James R. Browning, American lieutenant, lawyer, and judge (b. 1918)
2012 – James Isaac, American director and producer (b. 1960)
2012 – Jean Laplanche, French psychoanalyst and author (b. 1924)
2013 – Giulio Andreotti, Italian journalist and politician, 41st Prime Minister of Italy (b. 1919)
2013 – Severo Aparicio Quispe, Peruvian bishop (b. 1923)
2013 – Michelangelo Spensieri, Italian-Canadian lawyer and politician (b. 1949)
2014 – Wil Albeda, Dutch economist and politician, Dutch Minister of Social Affairs (b. 1925)
2014 – William H. Dana, American pilot, engineer, and astronaut (b. 1930)
2014 – Jimmy Ellis, American boxer (b. 1940)
2014 – Billy Harrell, American baseball player and scout (b. 1928)
2014 – Antony Hopkins, English pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1921)
2014 – Maria Lassnig, Austrian painter and academic (b. 1919)
2014 – Farley Mowat, Canadian environmentalist and author (b. 1921)
2015 – Novera Ahmed, Bangladeshi sculptor (b. 1930)
2015 – Denise McCluggage, American race car driver and journalist (b. 1927)
2015 – Jim Wright, American soldier, lawyer, and politician, 56th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (b. 1922)
2016 – Patrick Ekeng, Cameroonian footballer (b. 1990)
2016 – Reg Grundy, Australian businessman (b. 1923)

Holidays and observances:

Christian Feast Day:
- Dominic Savio
- Evodius of Antioch (Roman Catholic Church)
- François de Laval
- Gerard of Lunel
- Lucius of Cyrene
- Petronax of Monte Cassino
- St George's Day related observances (Eastern Orthodox Church):
----Day of Bravery, also known as Gergyovden (Bulgaria)
----Đurđevdan (Gorani, Roma)
----Police Day (Georgia)
----Yuri's Day in the Spring (Russian Orthodox Church)
----May 6 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
Earliest day on which Military Spouse Day can fall, while May 12 is the latest; celebrated on Friday before Mother's Day (United States)
International No Diet Day
Martyrs' Day (Gabon)
Martyrs' Day (Lebanon and Syria)
Teachers' Day (Jamaica)
The first day of Hıdırellez (Turkey)

[end of Wikipedia article]

There should be something in there for everybody. If you can't find something to celebrate or comment about, it's no one's fault but your own.

And for those who have to know absolutely everything, there are only eleven days left until Udo Lindenberg's birthday.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Fame is fleeting; obscurity is forever.

That statement is supposed to have been uttered by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821).

The picture of Mrs. RWP and me that I posted the other day elicited seven comments on my blogpost from readers (we few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters). It also garnered 83 "Likes" on my Facebook page, a pleasant and unexpected surprise. Wait a minute, aren't all surprises by definition unexpected? I do not know and I guess I do not care, another sign that I am really slipping really am slipping (see what I did there to avoid a split infinitive). There was a time when the question whether "unexpected surprise" is redundant would have sent me scurrying to the bookshelves, if not the Internet, for the answer. Now it is not worth the effort to find out, but the pedant in me tells me that it is redundant, so forgive me if I have assaulted your sensibilities today.

Where was I?

Oh, yes -- basking in my newfound fame, local-social-media-wise. Not that it will last. Everyone's "fifteen minutes of fame" (a phrase made, er, famous by Andy Warhol) has shrunk in our day to fifteen seconds. Hardly does the spotlight fall on you/me/whomever before it moves on to something else. The public (British, obsolete: publick) are a fickle lot. I will take comfort in the fact that my fame, however fleeting, was only newfound and not ill-gotten.

Here are some thoughts on fame from days gone by:

Gaius Sallustius Crispus (c. 86–35/34 B.C.), Roman historian, said (only in Latin, of course), "The fame which is based on wealth or beauty is a frail and fleeting thing; but virtue shines for ages with undiminished lustre."

Lord Byron (1788 - 1824) said, "Fame is the thirst of youth."

Horace Greeley (1811 - 1872), the man who famously said "Go west, young man!" said, "Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character."

Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886) wrote two poems about it:

Fame is a bee
by Emily Dickinson

Fame is a bee.
It has a song --
It has a sting --
Ah, too, it has a wing.

Fame is a fickle food
by Emily Dickinson

Fame is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate
Whose table once a
Guest but not
The second time is set.

Whose crumbs the crows inspect
And with ironic caw
Flap past it to the Farmer’s Corn --
Men eat of it and die.

Here, back in the present, I hope Caitlyn Jenner and the entire Kardashian family take note.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I think I'm entering my second childhood

...or maybe my third.

I have a new favorite song. It got inside my head recently and just keeps playing. If it gets inside your head, I bet it will keep playing there too, over and over and over.

It's about a word. Not just any word either, but the most remarkable word I've ever seen! Here's Big Bird from Sesame Street to sing it for you (3:58).

There. Now it's inside your head.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Since the photo over there to the right is nearly seven years old, I thought you might like to see what we look like today.

Here we are, Mr. and Mrs. Rhymeswithplague, outside our church on Easter Sunday morning:

Mrs. RWP is as beautiful as ever. I may be a bit longer in the tooth, but I am still hanging in there. Either my head is shrinking or my ears are growing.

Robert Browning probably summed it up best: "Grow old along with me! / The best is yet to be, / The last of life, for which the first was made."

We are not throwing in the towel just yet. We hope to be around for a while longer yet.

Stay tuned.

(Editor's note. I definitely am slipping slowing down, though. I let April 18th go by without once mentioning Paul Revere's 1775 ride or even Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and I let April 19th go by without mentioning the Battles of Lexington and Concord in our little spat with George III or even Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1837 poem "Concord Hymn" -- you know, the one that begins "By the rude bridge that arched the flood, / Their flag to April's breeze unfurled, / Here once the embattled farmers stood / And fired the shot heard 'round the world". I shall try to do better by you in the future. --RWP)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

How doth the little busy bee*

What an incredible amount of time I waste on the computer.

But if I had not been poking around on the computer this morning, April 19th, I would not have thought to google "April 19th" and then click on the article in Wikipedia about April 19th, or found the very long list of events, births, and deaths that occurred on April 19th in history, or seen the smaller section at the bottom of the article entitled "Holidays and observances", and my eye would not have happened to fall on the bulleted item "Bicycle Day" which intrigued me enough to explore further.

Nor would I have discovered, if I had not clicked on the bulleted item "Bicycle Day" that the article it leads to is entitled "History of lysergic acid diethylamide" which gave me enough pause to stop and say "Whoa!" or at least think it. I don't think I said it out loud.

Anyhoo, here, for your reading pleasure and enlightenment, without further ado, is the section on Bicycle Day *waves to All Consuming from the article "History of lysergic acid diethylamide" in Wikipedia:

"Bicycle Day"

On April 19, 1943, [Albert] Hofmann performed a self-experiment to determine the true effects of LSD, intentionally ingesting 0.25 milligrams (250 micrograms) of the substance, an amount he predicted to be a threshold dose (an actual threshold dose is 20 micrograms). Less than an hour later, Hofmann experienced sudden and intense changes in perception. He asked his laboratory assistant to escort him home and, as use of motor vehicles was prohibited because of wartime restrictions, they had to make the journey on a bicycle. On the way, Hofmann's condition rapidly deteriorated as he struggled with feelings of anxiety, alternating in his beliefs that the next-door neighbor was a malevolent witch, that he was going insane, and that the LSD had poisoned him. When the house doctor arrived, however, he could detect no physical abnormalities, save for a pair of incredibly dilated pupils. Hofmann was reassured, and soon his terror began to give way to a sense of good fortune and enjoyment, as he later wrote...

"... Little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux ..."

The events of the first LSD trip, now known as “Bicycle Day”, after the bicycle ride home, proved to Hofmann that he had indeed made a significant discovery: a psychoactive substance with extraordinary potency, capable of causing significant shifts of consciousness in incredibly low doses. Hofmann foresaw the drug as a powerful psychiatric tool; because of its intense and introspective nature, he couldn’t imagine anyone using it recreationally. Bicycle Day is increasingly observed in psychedelic communities as a day to celebrate the discovery of LSD.

The celebration of Bicycle Day originated in DeKalb, Illinois, in 1985, when Thomas B. Roberts, then a Professor at Northern Illinois University, invented the name "Bicycle Day" when he founded the first Bicycle Day celebration at his home. Several years later, he sent an announcement made by one of his students to friends and Internet lists, thus propagating the idea and the celebration. His original intent was to commemorate Hofmann's original, accidental exposure on April 16, but that date fell midweek and was not a good time for the party, so he chose the 19th to honor Hofmann's first intentional exposure.

(Original work by Yttrium Ox, used in accordance with CC-by-SA 3.0)

(end of Wikipedia excerpt)

This is not a psychedelic community -- at least I don't think this is a psychedelic community -- but I thought a certain segment of this non-psychedelic community might enjoy learning about or, if you were already aware of it, reading about Bicycle Day. It was a new one on me.

I will now share with you the wisdom of the ages on this Bicycle Day as filtered through my own finite, mortal mind in the form of a new proverb I just invented:

"Individual journeys may come to an end, but the road goes on forever."

It's not as good as the one in the 1983 movie High Road to China in which a guru told Tom Selleck, "The ox moves slowly, but the earth is patient," but it will have to do.

Until next time...

*for those who care or wonder, the title of this post is from the following poem by Isaac Watts:

Against Idleness And Mischief
by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skilfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labors hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labor or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Let the games begin

Today, friends, we will be playing Atlanta Traffic Bingo.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

(Editor's note. I found this on Facebook this morning. It may not float your boat (British, be your cup of tea), but I find it uproariously funny. --RWP)

Monday, April 10, 2017

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Today is my mother's birthday. Ruth Elizabeth Silberman Brague would have been 107 years old today.

Unfortunately, she died at the age of 47 when I was but 16. I am going to show you a few photographs of her from long before I entered the picture. I was born in 1941, a month before her 31st birthday. These pictures are all from the 1920s and 1930s. I do not have specific dates for any of them.

In my all-time favorite picture of her, taken around the time she graduated from West Chester State College in 1930, she wore a black dress and a long necklace made of what looked like mahjongg tiles linked together. It has somehow managed to become lost. This one was taken a few years later: :

Here she is with her mother and sister:

Here she is with her brother Jack. He called her Roothie-Poothie. He became Dr. J. DeWolf Silberman, M.D., and set up practice in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania:

Here is my mother with her sister Marion, probably in New York:

And here she is with her parents, my grandparents, Rosetta and Nathan Silberman, possibly on the boardwalk in Atlantic City:

Long-time readers of this blog may remember some of these photos as I included them in posts in 2010 and 2013, ancient history as time is counted in the blogging world.

Some years ago I wrote the following sonnet. I was remembering two small oval-framed photographs of my mother's grandparents, Max and Sarah Nussbaum Silberman, taken around the turn of the twentieth century, that I once saw in my uncle's house. I wish I could show them to you as well, but I cannot. Perhaps you will think of some old photographs of your own relatives as you read it.

On Being Shown a Photograph of an Ancestor
by Robert H. Brague

Those things speak most that never say a word,
Like eyes that meet on streets when strangers pass;
The loudest cries so often go unheard,
Like silent prayers reflected in a glass.
Though never have we spoken, there’s a bond
That shatters my veneer, my thin disguise;
You look beneath the surface and beyond,
And all of time is frozen in your eyes.
Departed generations in between,
Like links of chain from viewer to the viewed,
Peer over Heaven’s edge, survey the scene,
Hold their collective breaths, and don’t intrude.
While thoughts of love, and death, and DNA
Swirl through my brain, they bow their heads and pray.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Odds and ends

1. Some back-formations drive me bonkers. Others, not so much. When you're around me, therefore, please say orient, not orientate. Converse, not conversate. Reveal, not revelate. Crown, not coronate. Don't make awkward new verbs out of good nouns (orientation, conversation, revelation, coronation) when perfectly good verbs already exist that express what you want to say (the aforementioned orient, converse, reveal, crown). Here's more on the subject by an Irishman named Stan Carey.

2. My all-time favorite (British, favourite) helpful household hint is found, appropriately enough, in a book entitled Phyllis Diller's Household Hints. Remember her? Zany, wacko comedienne. Is that word still politically correct? I suppose not. If we must say flight attendant instead of stewardess, I guess we should abandon comedienne and say joke teller. Maybe we already have. I'm always one of the last to know.

Here's Phyllis's hint: If you let your children write their names in the dust on your dining room table, don't let them write the date." That has to be the best household hint ever.

Phyllis wrote several books along the way. Here are some of them:

I'm as sure as I can be (although I have been wrong on occasion) that you can't get enough of Phyllis. Here she is doing her schtick (and, let us not forget, earning a lot of money) as a guest on Liberace's program back in the 1960s (8:45).

And here she is playing the piano with Liberace (gasp!) on the same program (2:56).

Finally -- and you really should listen to this -- here is Phyllis Diller at the age of 94 in January 2012 (she turned 95 in July and died in August that same year) singing "Smile" (3:04). Although she doesn't have a great voice, anyone who still wants to sing at 94 should probably be paid attention to.

3. Another writer, Lewis Grizzard, who wrote humor (British, humour) columns for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for many years, also tried his hand at books. It is my considered opinion that the best things about Lewis Grizzard's books were their titles. I was never enamored (British, enamoured) of what lay between the covers. Here (wouldn't you know) is a list of some of his titles:

Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You (1979).
Elvis Is Dead and I Don't Feel So Good Myself (1980).
Won't You Come Home, Billy Bob Bailey? (1980).
Don't Sit Under the Grits Tree With Anyone Else But Me (1981).
They Tore Out My Heart and Stomped That Sucker Flat (1982).
If Love Were Oil, I'd Be About a Quart Low (1983).
Shoot Low Boys, They're Ridin' Shetland Ponies (1985).
My Daddy Was a Pistol and I'm a Son of a Gun (1987)
When My Love Returns From the Ladies Room, Will I Be Too Old to Care? (1987).
Don't Bend Over in the Garden, Granny, You Know Them 'Taters Got Eyes (1988).
Chili Dawgs Always Bark at Night (1989).
If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I'm Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground (1990).
Advice to the Newly Wed . . . & the Newly Divorced (1990).
Does a Wild Bear Chip in the Woods? (the book is about golf) (1990).
You Can't Put No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll (1991).
Don't Forget to Call Your Mama, I Wish I Could Call Mine (1991).
I Haven't Understood Anything Since 1962: And Other Nekkid Truths (1992).
I Took a Lickin' and Kept on Tickin' and Now I Believe in Miracles (1993).

4. Finally, here from a long time ago (the 1950s) is a violin duet by Jack Benny and Gisele MacKensie (2:24). The voice at the beginning calling it legendary is none other than Walter Cronkite. If those three names don't ring a bell, I feel truly sorry for you.

Until next time, I remain your faithful correspondent.