Sunday, June 20, 2021

Calling all Druids: It's the June Solstice and you know what that means

Go to Stonehenge and get naked.

All non-Druids should disregard the previous sentence.

At 11:56 p.m. EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) today, June 20th, which is actually 3:56 a.m. GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), June 21st, summer will officially arrive in the Northern Hemisphere, even though in Australia it is now winter.

Where I live, in Canton, Georgia, USA, there will be fourteen and a half hours between sunrise and sunset (what might be called Day) and only nine and a half hours of what might be called Night, give or take a bit of twilight (dusk and dawn) at either end. In places farther north it stays light even longer. I sort of remember living in Poughkeepsie, New York, back in the 1960s and summer daylight didn't end until around 10:30 p.m., if I remember correctly. There is always the possibility that I am hallucinating. Above the Arctic Circle there will now be 24 hours of daylight for a while.

As most of you know, our Earth is tilted on its axis, 23 and a half degrees off of vertical. This causes all sorts of interesting phenomena to occur, not least of which was the establishment of the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

In a 2019 article at, writer Matt Rosenberg elaborated on these very Tropics:

"The Tropic of Cancer was named because at the time of its naming, the sun was positioned in the Cancer constellation during the June solstice. Likewise, the Tropic of Capricorn was named because the sun was in the constellation Capricorn during the December solstice. The naming took place about 2000 years ago, and the sun is no longer in those constellations at that time of year. At the June solstice, the Sun is in Taurus, and at the December solstice, the sun is in Sagittarius.

"Geographic features like the equator are reasonably straightforward, but the Tropics can be confusing. The Tropics were marked off because they are both places within the hemisphere where it is possible to have the sun directly overhead. This was an important distinction for ancient travelers who used the heavens to guide their way. In an age when our smartphones know where we are at all times, it's hard to imagine how hard getting around used to be. For much of human history, the position of the sun and stars was often all explorers and traders had to navigate by."

So now you know. My work here is done, at least for today. There's always tomorrow.

I feel that this post is missing something, but I refuse to show you any pictures of naked Druids.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Does the name Yoknapatawpha County ring a bell?

Yesterday would have been my brother-in-law's 90th birthday if he hadn't died when he was 84. Two days before that would have been my mother-in-law's 114th birthday if she hadn't died when she was 79. Earlier this month would have been my step-sister's 80th birthday if she hadn't died when she was 62 (I think). I miss them all.

All I'm really saying, I think, is Time Marches On. One by one we shuffle off this mortal coil, we strut and fret our hour upon the stage and then are heard no more, to quote from a couple of Master Will's works.

To complete that last fragment, life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I don't know whether I'm waxing eloquent or I'm mired in depression. Possibly both. But Someone Else (not Master Will) said I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, so there's that.

This kind of rambling in blogging is the "stream of consciousness" style of writing that James Joyce was so fond of. It came almost automatically to Gertrude Stein, rose is a rose is a rose; a sparrow in the grass, alas; and so forth.

All but my most loyal readers might be put off by all this folderol, but if you come here, it goes with the territory.

More proof of my advancing decline, I suppose. I get more like the late, lamented Putz every day. Most of you don't know who I'm referring to. I don't actually know if he is late, but he is very much lamented in these parts, him with his odd spelling and innovative punctuation.

I must close now as the men in white coats are coming. I feel it in my bones. <<< >>> <<< >>>

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

In case Tasker Dunham doesn't read replies to comments he leaves

...I have reproduced below, for all to see, the salient part of the comment he left on my preceding post.

Yorkshire mentioned again! I hope you don't think you're in with a chance of becoming an honorary Yorkshireman.

I thought it a bit snarky and possibly a not-so-thinly-veiled insult. Here is what I replied:

Tasker, you obviously missed this post of mine from 2016 including its comments stream.

It's all right. I forgive you. Lao-Tze (not Confucius) said 'a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step' and that's enough for me.

It is true that through my father's maternal grandmother, Bloomy Jane (Cleveland) Johnson, I may be descended from a Yorkshireman. But even though our family is related distantly to President Grover Cleveland, there is no truth to the rumor (British, rumour) that the Clevelands are descended from Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of King Henry VIII.

She was one of the lucky ones (think 'divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived') in that not only was she not beheaded, her marriage to the king was not even consummated. She was summarily dismissed after about six months. She could have been the mother of a Duke of York if only she had stayed. You can read all about her in the link if you like.

Here she is as painted by Hans Holbein the Younger in 1539.
Tasker Dunham (and others), don't tread on me.

Monday, June 14, 2021

George Gershwin’s brother Ira

...wrote the lyrics for Porgy and Bess and one of the songs is called "It Ain't Necessarily So" (which happened in the film version to have been performed by Sammy Davis, Jr.). And while you may agree or disagree with the idea that "the things that you're liable to read in the Bible, it ain't necessarily so", it is indisputable that the things that you may have been taught in school and the things that you might be told by news anchors nightly and even the things you may see with your very own eyes are also not necessarily so.

A few cases in point.

Today, June 14th, is Flag Day in the United States -- at least it used to be. Most oldsters learned way back in grammar school that it was on this day in the year of our Lord 1777 that Betsy Ross of Philadelphia presented the first American flag to George Washington. Here is one painter's depiction of the scene:

It turns out that it never happened. It is a myth. There are a number of websites you can google that will disabuse you of that particular notion.

Next, and more or less on the same subject, and also strangely appropriate for Flag Day, it has been taken as an article of faith in certain circles for many years that the design of the first American flag (which is depicted correctly in the painting) was based on George Washington's family coat of arms, which dates back to the year 1346 in jolly olde England Yorkshire. You can see it and read all about it HERE.

You guessed it. Also a myth.

Finally, in current news, here is a photograph of the leaders of the G-7 nations who met together this past weekend in Cornwall, England:

The seven nations in the G-7 are Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S.

So why are there nine, count -em, nine (9) people in the official photo?

Because it ain't necessarily so, that's why.

The nine participants at the G-7 meeting were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Joe Biden of the U.S., Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the U.K., French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the front row; and European Council President Charles Michel, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the back row.

To recap, Betsy Ross, myth; Washington's coat of arms the basis for the American flag, myth: and seven nations in the G-7, myth.

The old gray world, she ain't what she used to be.

But Happy Flag Day anyway!

Saturday, June 12, 2021

How to have a plethora of gardenias annually

Step 1: Plant a small gardenia bush.

Step 2: Do nothing.

Step 3: Wait.

Step 4: Let nature take its course.
Step 5: Wait some more. Continue to do nothing.
Step 6: Wait even more. Eventually you will be rewarded with a plethora of gardenias.
Here's the plethora from a slightly different angle:
Step 7: The multitudinous blossoms née plethora will eventually wilt, fade, turn brownish, and drop off the bush. But the fragrance with which your garden has been filled is worth all the mess.

Step 8: Wait a year and repeat the sequence beginning at Step 2.

The photographs in this post were taken over the course of about a week and a half.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Many times when I think about my Dad...

...the memories are not pleasant, so I am glad when good memories float up to the surface instead.

Bcause my Dad was born in 1906, he grew up in the era of silent movies and early talkies. When he reminisced, it was about Francis X. Bushman and Tom Mix and Hoot Gibson and Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford and Buster Keaton. Sometimes he would launch into singing old songs like "Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile" or "K-k-k-Katy, beautiful Katy, you're the only g-g-g-girl that I adore; when the m-m-m-moon shines over the cow shed, I'll be waiting at your k-k-k-kitchen door" or "Knick-knack, paddy whack, give a dog a bone; this old man cane rolling home."

That last one is actually the refrain of a counting song that begins "This old man, he played one, he played knick-knack on my thumb with a knick-knack, paddy whack, etc." and the verses continue with 2 (on my shoe), 3 (on my knee), 4 (on my door), 5 (on my hive), 6 (on my sticks), 7 (up in heaven). 8 (on my gate), 9 (on my spine), and 10 (once again), at which point you can start over at 1 if you like.

Because my Dad was in the Navy during World War II (he enlisted in 1942 at the ripe old age of 35), he tried to teach me how to tie various kinds of knots such as the square knot. I invariably made a granny knot instead and didn't really master the square knot until about a year ago, accidentally, when a light finally came on in my brain. More knots he tried to teach me include the hitch, the half-hitch, the clove hitch, the bowline, the bowline on a bight, and others too numerous to mention. I say he tried to teach me because I rarely achieved very much success under his tutelage. I'm sure he was very disappointed in me at times (the feeling was reciprocated) but he did seem to enjoy hearing me play Minute Waltz by Frédéric Chopin (pronounced SHOW-pan) on the piano.

My dad was also a numismatist and a philatelist. As Dan Rowan used to say to Dick Martin on Laugh-In, you can look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls. His collections were supposed to have made their way to me, but my stepmother had to sell them to get money to help pay for his medical bills. He died of pancreatic cancer in 1967.

I have the rather strange feeling that I have told you all of this before. If so, then I have just told it to you again.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

I forgot to tell you

...that Dill, the little boy in To Kill A Mockingbird who came to Maycomb, Alabama, from Meridian, Mississippi, every summer to stay with his aunts and who spent his days playing with Jem and Scout Finch, was based on a real person whose name you will probably recognize. His friendship with Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird, continued into adulthood. As a matter of fact, she helped him conduct interviews with people in Kansas that led to the writing of his own best-selling non-fiction novel (as it was called) about a family of four that was murdered, In Cold Blood.

Yes, friends, the Finch children's friend with the big imagination was none other than author Truman Capote.

"Why is this important?" you may be asking. It isn't, really. I just don't like to leave loose ends dangling. I don't like to leave any stone unturned. I like to tie up every package in a neat bow. Most of all, obviously, I like to speak in clichés and hackneyed phrases.

For 55 years, To Kill A Mockingbird was thought to be the only literary work Harper Lee ever produced. Then a manuscript called Go Set A Watchman was found in a box in her closet. It was first thought to be a sequel to Mockingbird since Scout was now an adult, Atticus was older, and Jem had died. Not so. Go Set A Watchman has been determined to be the first draft of the book that later, after much rewriting encouraged by Harper Lee's editor, became To Kill A Mockingbird.

I lived in Texas, not Alabama, so I didn't know Harper Lee or Truman Capote, but I did live two doors down from John Howard Griffin who wrote Black Like Me. I lived three doors down from the mother of the CEO of Gulf Oil, Ernest D. Brockett, Jr.; his mother, Janet Brockett, was my algebra and geometry teacher in high school. Years later, in Georgia, my children would know both Travis Tritt (country singer) and Ty Pennington (celebrity carpenter on HGTV) in high school.

It's a small world, really. Six degrees of separation are often five more than necessary. For example, on an autumn evening many years ago, at a restaurant called Mandarin East on 57th Street in New York City, I sat five feet away from Angie Dickinson and Burt Bacharach. It doesn't get much better than that!

My Dad would probably have said, "That and 25 cents will buy you a cup of coffee," and the high price of a cup of coffee today is a sobering indication of just how long ago it was that he probably would have said it.

More on him in my next post.

<b> Calling all Druids: It's the June Solstice and you know what that means</b>

Go to Stonehenge and get naked. All non-Druids should disregard the previous sentence. At 11:56 p.m. EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) today, ...