Friday, December 14, 2018

News flash: Kennedy's secretary may have been named Lincoln, but Lincoln's secretary was not named Kennedy

In the previous post, I showed you a photograph of Evelyn Lincoln, John F. Kennedy's secretary, chiefly because of something Judy Garland as Dorothy said to Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow in The Wizard Of Oz way back in 1939:

With the thoughts you'd be thinkin'
You could be another Lincoln
If you only had a brain.

Then Graham Edwards who lives on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and no longer spends half the year in New Zealand like he used to said in the comments that there was not a Mrs. Beethoven. I assured him that there was indeed a Mrs. Beethoven, Ludwig's mother, but that the family name, being Dutch, was not Beethoven. It was Van Beethoven.

It does not follow as the night the day (as Polonius said to Laertes), but it's how my mind works.

Therefore, I am now including a link from the Snopes website that debunks or at least explains in detail that a lot of the things a popular list claims are similarities between John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln are simply not true or not amazing coincidences.

FACT CHECK: Lincoln and Kennedy Coincidences -

If you read it in full, you will discover at last who Lincoln's secretaries (there were two) really were.

I think I shall not mention Ludwig van Beethoven again in 2018, although his birthday is two days hence and in other years I devoted posts to him. That I am telling you this in a post about Abraham Lincoln's secretaries merely adds to the mystique surrounding moi -- if not in the salons of Paris, at least in places like the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and beauiful downtown Sheffield, Yorkshire, England and the northwest corner of Iowa and several locations in Australia.

Recently I read an article about what will happen when Queen Elizabeth dies and Prince William becomes king. It made no mention of Prince Charles whatsoever. You talk about strange, now that is strange. I think it must have been written by a millenial.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

I could be another Lincoln

Being by nature a procrastinator, I failed to blog about St. Nicholas on December 6th (although I have done so in other years) and Pearl Harbor on the 7th (although I think I have done so in other years), and if I don't get on a stick, I will miss Beethoven's birthday as well (note to U.K. readers: "get on a stick" is an American colloquialism meaning "busy").

Some things cannot be helped.

Although others certainly can, but I will not list them at this time.

Thanks be to God.

This is another rambling post from moi, stream-of-consciousness, wide-ranging, free-wheeling, whatever you want to call it.

Some sort of post is needed, but I do not feel up to the task.

Harold Arlen's famous lyrics from The Wizard of Oz come to mind:

I could while away the hours
Conferrin' with the flowers
Consultin' with the rain
And my head I'd be scratchin'
While my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I only had a brain

I'd unravel every riddle
For any individ'le
In trouble or in pain

With the thoughts you'd be thinkin'
You could be another Lincoln
If you only had a brain

Oh, I would tell you why
The ocean's near the shore
I could think of things I never thunk before
And then I'd sit and think some more

I would not be just a nuffin'
My head all full of stuffin'
My heart all full of pain
I would dance and be merry
Life would be a ding-a-derry
If I only had a brain

Gosh, it would be awful pleasin'
To reason out the reason
For things I can't explain

Then perhaps I'll deserve ya
And be even worthy of ya
If I only had a brain

Riddle of the day: Who is this woman and how is she connected to this post?

Monday, December 3, 2018

As usual, Michael Spencer says it best

Some of you know that I read and like a Christian blog called that was begun in 2000 by a man named Michael Spencer. He was its chief architect until he died of cancer in April 2010. Michael was a Baptist, but probably different from most Baptists you may have known. He taught English and Bible at a Christian high school in Kentucky. He liked beer and minor league baseball. His wife Denise converted to Roman Catholicism. He often preached in a Presbyterian church and attended an Anglican church. He had a way with words. He always got to the heart of the matter with clarity and the ring of truth. His blog continues today under the auspices of a Lutheran from Indiana, Mike Mercer, who spent many years as a hospice and hospital chaplain. Mike Mercer has kept Internetmonk going, but I do miss Michael Spencer.

Yesterday having been the first Sunday in the liturgical season called Advent (and also, incidentally, the first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights), Internetmonk reprinted today a post Michael Spencer wrote in December 2007.

The Mood Of Advent

Read it; it might change your mind about those Bible-thumping Baptists.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

From the archives: First night of Hanukkah, er, Chanukah, er, the Festival of Lights

At sundown tomorrow night -- or, for some of you in places like Australia and New Zealand where it is already tomorrow, at sundown tonight -- the eight-day Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah begins. Hanukkah (or Chanukah, or however you choose to spell it) marks the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of Antiochus IV (around 165 B.C.).

It commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil" that held enough oil to last one day but burned for eight. According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil. Each evening during Hanukkah, another candle is lit on the menorah until, on the final day, the entire menorah is lit.

The re-dedication of the temple is described in the book of First Maccabees in the Apocrypha, which writings are accepted as canon by Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, but not by Protestant churches. (Your trivia fact for the day: Protestant Bibles contain 66 books; Catholic and Orthodox Bibles contain 73 books.) The "miracle" itself is not mentioned in First Maccabees, but the eight days are.

The dreidel, a four-sided top, is used for a game played during Hanukkah. Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), and ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for the Hebrew phrase "נס גדול היה שם" (Nes Gadol Haya Sham, reading from right to left, of course) which means "a great miracle happened there."

I am indebted to Wikipedia for much of the information in the preceding paragraphs.

(Photo by Roland Scheicher, 1 August 2006)

No matter what anyone might have told you, Hanukkah is not "the Jewish Christmas."

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to tell you that my mother was Jewish (non-practicing) and my father was Christian (lapsed Methodist). I was raised Christian and have never attended a synagogue, but for years I struggled with my own identity. I wondered whether I was Christian or Jewish or half-Jewish, whatever that meant, and whether there could even be such a thing as "half-Jewish." In 1962, Mrs. Lydia Buksbazen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, whose husband Victor headed the Friends of Israel missionary organization, told me, "Hitler would have considered you Jewish."

So basically, if my great-grandfather Max Silberman and my great-grandmother Sarah Nusbaum had not emigrated to America from Germany in the mid-nineteenth century, we might not be having this conversation, because Adolf Hitler loaded all the Jews (like my mother), half-Jews (like me), quarter-Jews (like my children), and even eighth-Jews (like my grandchildren) into boxcars and shipped them to extermination camps. (To give credit where credit is due, my other set of great-grandparents, Solomon Aarons and Rachel DeWolf, were also Jewish. They emigrated to America from England and either Holland or Belgium, respectively. In the 1890s Max and Sarah's son Nathan married Solomon and Rachel's daughter Rosetta and became my grandparents.)

This year, the eight days of Hanukkah run from sundown Sunday, December 2nd through Monday, December 10th. Therefore, please do not wish your Jewish friends a “Happy Hanukkah” around December 25th, long after it has ended. They will certainly appreciate the thought but they may look at you strangely.

[Editor's note. This post has been edited and expanded from posts published in previous years. --RWP]

Friday, November 30, 2018

Day by day by day by day by day in an eclectic and unpredictable fashion

I read recently that a blog is a kind of online diary. Maybe some blogs are, perhaps even most are, but mine isn't. Mine is a conglomeration, a hodgepodge of things that interest me or have caught my attention, things that bubble up to the surface from my unbelievably deep and fertile mind (it is to laugh), and yes, I suppose it does even serve as an online diary occasionally.

In the Wikipedia article entitled 'Diary' there is this amazing sentence:

The word "journal" may be sometimes used for "diary," but generally a diary has (or intends to have) daily entries, whereas journal-writing can be less frequent.

That is just preposterous. The "di" in diary is the Latin word for day, as in dies irae (day of wrath), and the "jour" in journal is the French word for day, as in Bon jour. A little poking around and we discover that our English word journal originated around 1325-75 as Middle English and was derived from the Old French journal (daily) which came from Late Latin diurnalis (diurnal). And we know that diurnal means during the day and nocturnal means during the night. So to say that a journal differs from a diary in that a diary has (or intends to have) daily entries, whereas journal-writing can be less frequent, is simply not true.

(It is interesting to note that the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly, which is written in Italian, includes the soprano aria 'Un bel di' which is usually translated as 'One fine day' so 'di' seems to be the Italian word for day as well, except that when I put the phrase 'one fine day' into Google Translate and asked that it be translated into Italian the result was 'un bel giorno', not 'un bel di', which fact reminds us that the Italian Buon giorno and the French Bon jour are related. But I digress.)

But what about The Ladies' Home Journal?, you may be asking. LHJ is a periodical that was launched in 1883 and published monthly for a very long time, even twice a month for a while, though now it is published quarterly. It's a journal, isn't it? It says so right there in the title.

I simply disregard your Ladies' Home Journal example by citing the ever-popular The Wall Street Journal, a daily newspaper. Also, do not try to confuse me with the facts as my mind is made up.

Is there no end to this bickering? Can't we all just get along?

For those of you who think I just quoted something Rodney King of 1991 police brutality fame said in 1992, I did not.

Rodney said, "Can we all get along? Can we get along?" and I said, "Can't we all just get along?"

They are not the same thing. Not at all. They are differnt.

You may have gathered that I have nothing of import to say today, but here's an interesting little treatise to read while you're figuring out what to do with your day. You really should read it; you might read something Frederick Douglass or even Ghandi said.

Getting back to our original topic, a blog is neither a diary nor a journal. It is a log. The word blog is short for Weblog. If more people used apostrophes (note that I did not say apostrophe's) correctly I would call it a 'blog, much in the same way my English friend Doug B. always wrote 'bus instead of bus because it is short for omnibus. You read it here first.

Before you go, listen to soprano Anna Netrebko sing 'Un bel di' from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (4:57) to a whole stadium full of music lovers. I like to watch Anna Netrebko. She is, how you say, zoftig, which is neither French nor Italian.

Now run along and play, and don't be negative.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Find-A-Grave is not reliable.

There, I said it and I'm glad.

I am the amateur genealogist in our family. My Family Tree Maker file has nearly 3,500 names in it what with all the aunts and uncles and in-laws and offspring and second cousins three times removed and all. I admit it. I do enjoy learning about relatives and even relatives of relatives. It's like a sickness, an itch that can't be scratched.

So I dig through online census pages and as many free things as I can find. I'm often tempted to break down and spend actual money to be able to look at old newspaper obituaries and ship passenger manifests and other stuff of which I am not even aware, but so far I have resisted the urge. I am nothing if not thrifty. Frugal. Okay, cheap.

In the meantime, it's an engaging hobby, but I have found that the site Find-A-Grave has bad information mixed in with the good and it's impossible to tell which is which unless you already know the truth.

Case in point: There's some accurate information about my stepmother, Mildred Louise Williams Houston Brague Fuller, such as her date and place of birth, date of death, and place of burial, and even a photograph of her headstone, but then it goes off the rails with erroneous information about her parents. Find-A-Grave says Mildred's parents were Charles Erasmus Williams and Maud Lee Gamewell, and that is just plain wrong, Wrong, WRONG. I knew her father, Russell Sterling Williams, Sr., personally and his second wife, Virginia, whom he married after his first wife, Pearl Cannon, died. I happen to know for a fact that the mother of Russ's 11 children was Pearl Cannon. Russ and Pearl's offspring were Cleo and Mildred and John and Margaret and Kenneth (who died in infancy) and Russ, Jr., and Marvin and Billy and Faye and Freddie and Sue. I knew all of them except Kenneth. How can Find-A-Grave be so right at times and then so wrong at other times? And what is even more important, how can researchers trust what they find if they also find information they know is not true?

Furthermore, while it is apparently very easy to enter erroneous information into Find-A-Grave, it is very difficult to get it corrected. I stay exasperated.

Another case in point: I found information about my biological father, who is buried at a certain cemetery in New Jersey. Find-A-Grave's page has his written information correct, but the photograph of his supposed grave is not his at all; it is actually another person with the same first and last name but a different middle initial, with different birth and death dates, and who -- if you do a little digging (no pun intended) -- is buried in a different cemetery in a different town.

My stepmother Mildred is probably unique in that all three of her three husbands are buried around her. Find-A-Grave, however, lists a fourth husband out of the blue that none of us have ever heard of, an obvious mistake.

I wish people who think they are helping would do a little more research and verify their information before they publish it for the world to see.

And I hesitate to pay money to access information when the free information cannot be trusted to be accurate.

Would you?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A different sort of Thanksgiving post, or "Not baaaad," Tom said sheepishly

The photograph above was taken by Neil Theasby of Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, who granted me permission to use it.

When I saw all those sheep, I thought of a verse in the middle of Psalm 100:

1 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

That is one crowded pasture. Actually those sheep are not in a pasture at all but more of a fenced corral on a public footpath where Neil happened to be taking one of his daily three-hour walks through the countryside, taking photographs all the while.

Neil is somewhat weird. You and I, of course, are not.

I also noticed that there were black sheep and white sheep in the photograph. Historically the phrase 'black sheep' came to mean bad, disapproved, rogue, cantankerous, and so forth. says a black sheep is 'a person who causes shame or embarrassment because of deviation from the accepted standards of his or her group' and refers readers to the words pariah, outcast, prodigal, reject, and reprobate.

I think this is very unfair to categorize sheep in this way. Different should not have derogatory connotations. Differences are just that -- differences.

If we are the sheep of His pasture, then He must be our shepherd. Psalm 23 declares that He is:

'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters; He restoreth my soul'.

According to one of his disciples named John, Jesus had quite a lot to say about sheep. Here is Jesus speaking in John's tenth chapter:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

Later in the same chapter Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). Other writers of the New Testament refer to Jesus Christ as the great shepherd (Hebrews 13:20), and the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). A few years ago I was inspired by these and other verses to write the following poem and even set it to music:

1. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, cares for His sheep
He gave His life for them freely when He came.
His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him
And He calls each one by name.

... He calls His sheep by name
....He calls His sheep by name.
....The Lord is my shepherd,
....He bore my sin and shame,
....And He calls His sheep by name.

2. Jesus, the Great Shepherd guides us each day
Making us eager to do His blessed will,
And though we may falter along life's way
He is calling us, calling us still.

....He calls His sheep by name
....He calls His sheep by name.
....The Lord is my shepherd,
....He bore my sin and shame,
....And He calls His sheep by name.

3. Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, soon will appear,
He'll bring crowns of glory that cannot fade away.
With the archangel's voice and the trumpet of God
He will shout on that glorious day.

....And he will call His sheep by name
....He will call His sheep by name.
....Today and forever, eternally the same,
....He calls His sheep by name,
....He calls His sheep by name.

I bring this post to a close with an interesting observation I heard recently: The devil knows our name but calls us by our sin. The Lord knows our sin but calls us by our name.

Thanks be to God.

At least I took your mind off turkey.

Be a lamb now and run along.