Sunday, August 31, 2008

Speaking of Ruth...

Her last three posts are worth a plug from me. The comments afterward are also worthy of your perusal.

First, she wondered about the meaning of Communion in “Eat My Body, Drink My Blood.”

Then, she wondered whether Jesus might have told a lie in “Sinless, but not a Perfectionist.”

And for the third part of her trifecta, she topped it off with a beautiful photo and a quotation from Robert Browning, both of which cause the rest of us to wonder, in “Thought for a Sunday.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Ruth Hull Chatlien of Illinois!

If bandleader Lawrence Welk were still around, he might have added, “Wonderful! Wonderful!”

Friday, August 29, 2008

Chapter 4 of Ruth's story

My blogger friend Ruth Hull Chatlien up in Illinois posted Chapter 1 of a story (as yet untitled, but I’m suggesting “If You Play Your Cards Right”) a few days ago and invited other bloggers to add chapters in a sort of play-it-forward fiction meme. Some have taken her up on the challenge and more than one version of the story is currently underway. It’s a definite challenge, but I decided to play.

I chose to add to this version:

Chapter 1 (by Ruth at ruthchatlienblogspot) is at the bottom of Ruth's main page.
Chapter 2 (by Sherry at afeatheradrift)
Chapter 3 (by Jeannelle at midlifebyfarmlight)

After you have read the first three chapters, read my Chapter 4 below (the narrator's voice is Ruth, and I want to say here that I've never written -- or done anything else -- as a woman before). Or you can read Chapter 4 first and work your way backwards to Chapter 1. Or you can jumble the chapters up and read them in random order, but I don’t really know why anyone would want to do that. Or you can skip them altogether and just wait for the next post to come along.

If, after reading the story so far, you are moved to write a Chapter 5, feel free. Just include a link in your blog to this post and one to Ruth's blog as well.

Are you sure Penelope Ashe started this way?


by Robert H. Brague (rhymeswithplague)

Feigning sickness, I left the zoo a couple of hours early, and anxiously headed north in my five-year-old, dark green Honda Accord. Ninety minutes later, having successfully navigated my way through the rush-that-left-early-to-beat-the-rush-hour traffic on the Interstate, I parked my trusty steed in the lot marked “SHORT-TERM PARKING” at Milwaukee’s airport and hurried into the terminal, nearly breaking a heel in the process. A quick glance at the big board overhead in the lobby told me that the next flight from L.A. would not be arriving for another hour. I breathed a little easier, found a sandwich shop, and ate someone’s idea of a nourishing meal.

As I left the restaurant and began to make my way to gate B-25 (I confess, I couldn’t help thinking, “Bingo!”), a well-dressed, grey-haired man in a dark suit, flanked by two uniformed airport security guards, exited an area marked “MEN” midway down Concourse B. We passed like ships in the night. I made a mental note that he looked dignified and downright senatorial, but at the same time, a little like a trapped animal. I couldn’t help wondering where his journey might be taking him. Mine took me further into the bowels of the airport.

Elliott’s plane, gleaming silver in the afternoon sunlight, was just pulling up to Gate B-25 as I arrived there and the telescope arms of the access ramps extended from the building, spider-like. Elliott was one of the last to leave the plane, and he was by himself. When he saw me waving, his blank face turned into a huge smile as he walked briskly toward me and took me in his arms. He kissed me like he meant it, and his hands managed to find places even my chiropractor seemed to have missed. I was thankful that the other passengers had already headed for the baggage claim area; I’m sure the warm blush I felt on my cheeks would have glowed even brighter under their gaze. “Not now,” I whispered in Elliott’s ear, “there will be plenty of time for that later.” Almost reluctantly, he took my hand in his and we walked together toward the baggage claim area.

Elliott fidgeted as we walked down the concourse into the terminal and I could tell he wanted to tell me something. Before he could form the words, however, the baggage claim area came into view and a murmur in the crowd at the carousel rose into what sounded like cries of alarm. “Oh, no,” he said, dropping my hand and running on ahead, leaving me to catch up with him on my own.

Slowly making its circumnavigation around the baggage carousel along with all the suitcases, trunks, garment bags, golf clubs, and water-skiing paraphernalia required for two hundred people to enjoy a Southern California vacation was a large metal cage surrounded by a crate of wooden slats that allowed its occupant or occupants to breathe. “Oh, my God,” someone said. My sentiments exactly, I thought.

How Elliott managed to convince the immigration authorities in Los Angeles to waive the usual period of quarantine and let him bring his surprise with him all the way to Chicago’s Northside Zoo himself is indicative of and a tribute to Elliott’s rather formidable powers of persuasion, which he had also used successfully on the officials of the airline. And what a surprise it was! Inside the crate was a sight I never expected to see: two young Komodo dragon lizards, each weighing perhaps twenty pounds, were hissing and spitting and exploring their new surroundings with their long, yellow tongues.

Since Elliott wanted to get the animals to the Zoo as quickly as possible, it was relatively easy for him to convince me to let him load the crate in the back seat of my Honda Accord. Though I agreed, I wanted no part of this expedition myself. Elliott’s tongue in my ear could be quite pleasurable on occasion, but a pair of curious Komodo dragons trying to reach me with their long, yellow tongues from a stinky cage in the back seat of my own car was not something I was ready to experience. Handing him my car keys, I told him, “Don’t worry about me; I’ll be along later.” As I turned to walk back to the terminal I didn’t care if I ever saw Elliott or his precious Komodo dragons again.

When I reached the terminal entrance, watching my only means of transportation grow smaller until it disappeared in the distance, I tried to figure out how I was going to get back home. I don’t carry credit cards, and I knew I didn’t have enough cash in my billfold to buy a plane ticket. I could afford a bus ticket, though, but not a taxicab to the station to boot. What was I going to do? Seeing a police car parked at the curb, I walked over to it and explained to one of the two officers standing next to the vehicle that I had been stranded unexpectedly. I asked if they could possibly give me a ride to the nearest Greyhound bus station.

“Well, Miss, it’s a bit unusual,” he said, “but I guess we could do that. I hate to see a damsel in distress. As a matter of fact, we were going in that general direction ourselves.” I tried to look grateful, but inside I was seething at Elliott’s total lack of consideration for me. “There’s just one thing,” the officer continued. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to ride in the back. With him. I’m sorry.” The officer opened the back door of the squad car, and I saw a well-dressed, dignified, grey-haired man wearing a dark suit, looking positively senatorial as he smiled at me and patted the seat. He seemed strangely reptilian, too, reminding me of the two passengers in the back seat of my own dark green Honda Accord, speeding at this very moment toward Chicago. I had no options left. I climbed into the back seat of the police car.

My well-dressed traveling companion pulled a deck of cards out of his coat pocket, lay them on the seat between us, and said, without introducing himself, “Would you care to join me in a game of gin rummy?” I didn’t, but he was already dealing the cards, and I’m a sucker for a good card game. I suddenly thought of my long-ago dream, and in the back of my mind I could almost hear my father’s voice -- or God’s -- saying, “You know, Ruth, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” As the officer in the driver’s seat turned the key in the ignition and pulled away from the curb, I breathed a sigh of resignation and tried to forget about Elliott, at least for the moment. Eager to see my hand, I picked up the cards.

(end of chapter 4)

Who is this woman and why is she holding a fish?

Here’s a hint: In 1984, she was both first runner-up and Miss Congeniality in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mother Goose: omniscient frequent-flyer or airborne busybody?

Somewhere in the dim, distant past I learned the following little poem:

Monday’s child is fair of face;
Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
Wednesday’s child is loving and giving;
Thursday’s child works hard for a living.
Friday’s child is full of woe;
Saturday’s child has far to go.
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

My first observation is that this poem is obviously very old because the word “gay” used to mean something besides what springs into many people’s minds nowadays. In fact, our old friend Wikipedia says the poem first appeared in print in Harper's Weekly on September 17, 1887.

My second observation is that Sunday is not really the Sabbath day. Ask any Jewish or Seventh-day Adventist person who is serious about his or her religion and he or she will tell you that the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. Christians began calling Sunday “the Lord’s day” very early. In fact, the apostle John wrote in the book of Revelation, chapter 1, verse 10: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.” No mention of the Sabbath.

My third observation is that good old Wikipedia has an interesting article on the origins and versions of this poem, and rather than telling you myself, you can go read it here.

Before I begin sounding like a cross between old-time gossip columnist Louella Parsons (“My next exclusive!”) and one of the Puritan divines droning on (“Twenty-fourthly,”), let me ask you two questions: Do you know on what day of the week you were born? (I was born on a Tuesday.) More importantly, did Mother Goose have you pegged? (In my case, I certainly hope so; I need all the grace I can get.)

And then, of course, there is one little problem. Since the real Mother Goose -- if there was a real Mother Goose -- is said to have lived in the seventeenth century, she couldn’t have had anything to do with this poem.

In unrelated news, Jethro is getting groomed today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday ramblings #6

Yes, it’s Tuesday again, but the outrageous rains of Tropical Storm Fay are beating against my window as I write this, and my widdle head doesn’t function at top level in extremely high humidity. Therefore, for this one Tuesday only, I refer you to my three immediately previous posts, “Now that the Olympics are over,” “WWACD?,” and “It’s Sunday. Let’s do something religious.”

I think the subjects of these three posts are wide-ranging and disparate enough to qualify as “ramblings.”

Please peruse them at your leisure.

Here are your vocabulary words for the week: bourgeois, plebian, patrician, vulgar, Vulgate, sesquipedalian, arthropod.

Be prepared, when tested, to give a definition of each word.

We can only hope and pray that by next Tuesday, Fay will have moved on.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Now that the Olympics are over

and the CLXXIXth Olympiad of 2608 is fading into history, we can all return to our busy lives until the CLXXXth Olympiad takes place just four short years from now in the year 2612. It is mind-boggling to realize that these games have been held for 712 years, ever since the first one was held in Beijing, China, back in 1896. Rumors of even earlier games in an ancient country called Gris persist, but have never been verified. Many of the competitions from the first hundred years or so of the modern games have fallen by the wayside, of course, especially since physical contact sports were outlawed by Our Great Leaders in 2392 in favor of more cerebral and artistic pursuits. You may also recall that feats of individual strength and endurance were dropped almost a hundred years later in 2488 because of objections raised by the Comprehensive Report of the Joint Commission of the International Alliance of the Weak and the Worldwide Congress of Losers, Simpletons, and Cowardly Persons.

We congratulate the latest stars in the Olympic heavens:

1) Auk Dingo of Tasmania, who won a coveted Tin Medal for Uninterrupted Navel Gazing. Auk established a new record of 83 hours, 17 minutes by outlasting the second-place finisher and winner of the Recyclable Plastic Medal, the formidable Ludmilla Ubetchurlifwithgrouchomarxova from the Georgian-Tibetan-Andorran Federation, the newest member of the Neo-Sino-Soviet bloc, who had held the old record of 83 hours, 16 minutes.

2) Miguelo Felpi of tiny Nord Amerik, who won an unprecedented seventy-three medals at the games. Miguelo, who handily swept past all other competitors in every event in the Dumpster Diving Division at the magnificent new Garbage Cube, told this reporter that his inspiration came from having learned that one of his remote ancestors had once achieved a measure of success in something called “swimming.”

3) Pinchuk Quadrilahmagong of the Gulag Archipelago, who cleaned the floor, toilets, and urinals of the Grande Stadiume’s Platinum Level’s men’s room using only a toothbrush, a box of paper towels, and sheer determination, thereby winning for himself not only the admiration of thousands but also a handshake from Our Glorious Leader, who wore gloves for the occasion. Pinchuk was awarded the most sought-after prize of the games, the Rubber Ducky with Double Plunger Clusters. These games marked only the third time in Olympic history that spectators have been allowed to continue to use men’s toilets and urinals on the Platinum Level of the Grande Stadiume during the competition, giving them a sense of ownership and a level of participation in the games not seen heretofore.

And so we bid a fond adieu, an adios, an au revoir, an auf wiedersehen, and, yes, even a sayonara to the games of the CLXXIXth Olympiad, and wait with ’bated breath for 2612, when, because of the constantly shifting patterns of global climate change, the summer and winter games will be held simultaneously in Waterloo, Iowa, the largest city in what's left of Nord Amerik. Two new sports, Corn Detasseling and Cow Milking By Hand, will be added into the mix of fascinating events you can expect to be watching at the next games.

See you in four years in Waterloo.


Continuing with yesterday’s theme (It’s Sunday; let’s do something religious), I had what for me was a very strange experience listening to the radio recently. We are now well into the 21st century, and in the Atlanta area, at least, that means one hears advertisements from churches smack-dab in the middle of news and talk-show programs. You know, where you go straight from Neal Boortz, Libertarian apologist, to “Hello, I’m Bryant Wright, and I’m the pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church.” One minute you’re listening to Clark Howard, Consumer Advocate, tell you how to spend wisely and live well, and the next minute a new voice is saying, “...this has been a message from David Cooper, pastor of the Mount Paran Church of God.”

Well, old Doctor Bob Jones, Sr., founder of Bob Jones University, did once say many years ago, “There is no difference in the sacred and the secular. All ground is holy ground, and every bush is a burning bush,” but there’s still something a little jolting about suddenly hearing a commercial for a church in the middle of, say, Sean Hannity’s program. It’s just bizarre.

I may be a little too comfortably ensconced in my little corner of the evangelical world, but I was surprised one day recently to hear, just after Scott Slade had concluded the hourly news update, a pitch for the Episcopal Bookstore at The Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. I mean, I’m aware there are such things as Christian bookstores -- Family Bookstore used to be Zondervan, for example, and what is now called Lifeway used to be the Southern Baptist Bookstore -- but I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing as an Episcopal bookstore. Imagine that! It made me want to run right over there and buy one of those WWACD bracelets (and, no, they weren’t mentioned in the commercial).

You know, What Would the Archbishop of Canterbury Do?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It’s Sunday. Let’s do something religious.

I thought I would provide you with a few links to some sites I frequent. Inclusion of a site in the list does not in any way imply that I necessarily agree with every last detail of the blogger’s doctrinal stance. Some of the blogs are “all religious, all the time” but some are not. In some cases, the comments are often just as interesting as the original posts. I find all of these blogs to be thought-provoking and well-written. If you’ve never visited any of them, give them a try sometime. Some have more of an “academic” bent than others (hermeneutics, anyone?), but all are interesting. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

1) Jesus Creed is the home of Dr. Scot McKnight, a professor at North Park University in Chicago, Illinois. I believe North Park is affiliated with the Evangelical Free folks, a denomination we don’t encounter much in the South. The posts are always carefully constructed and the comments represent a variety of points of view. A lot of book reviewing goes on here. Dr. McKnight’s closest friends call him “old one-T.”

2) Internet Monk. Michael Spencer, a Southern Baptist who lives in Kentucky, is the internet monk, or iMonk for short. He has a lot to say and is always a very interesting read.

3) Jesus Shaped Spirituality is also by Michael Spencer. Michael has been undergoing quite a religious upheaval personally in the last year or so because his wife, Denise, is in the process of converting to Roman Catholicism.

4) Jesus The Radical Pastor is the blog of John W. Frye out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Challenging and thoughtful. John is the author of a startling book entitled Out of Print, which is about the sudden disappearance of words, then books, from the Bible.

5) The Deacon’s Bench is the place where Roman Catholic deacon Greg Kandra ponders the world. Greg, who is married, lives in Queens, and serves the Diocese of Brooklyn, has been a writer and producer for CBS-TV for 26 years. He became a deacon last year. A Roman Catholic deacon, it turns out, is a bit different from a Baptist one.

6) Credenda Agenda is written mostly by “the Dougs,” Douglas Jones and Douglas Wilson. They concentrate on issues affecting classical Reformed Theology, but they once devoted an entire issue of their online magazine to Flannery O’Connor, a favorite of mine.

7) Ben Witherington is a professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury College (Methodist) but that doesn’t make him dry and uninteresting. His last three posts have been about Eric Liddle (of Chariots of Fire fame), Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel fame), and Biblical and Impressionist Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (of Art Institute of Chicago fame). I lose track of time in this blog.

8) Verum Serum bills itself as “An Eclectic Christian Blog Run By Two Guys From O.C.” -- Orange County, California, that is. John and Scott comment on current goings-on in both the secular and sacred arenas.

These sites are where I spend a lot of my time when I’m not blogging or checking out your blogs. Next time you’re sitting around wondering what to do, check one of these out. You might be glad you did. You might also learn new phrases such as “Federal Vision” and “New Pauline Perspective.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

I have received another award

and it’s called (you should pardon the expression) the Kick-ass Blogger award. This is the second time this month I’ve received this particular award. It looks like this:

This time the award came from Ruth Hull Chatlien who lives in Illinois, and who, if her blog’s name means anything at all, is -- by her own admission -- given to having visions and making revisions. I don’t know whether those are separate or related activities. She is, after all, both an Episcopalian (who could fall into a trance unexpectedly whilst attending the monthly meeting of the Altar Guild) and a professional free-lance writer, by which I mean people pay her money for her linguistic prowess). Or perhaps she just has visions and then revises her visions, and then revises the revisions of her visions. I’m a bit unclear on how that works. But I do thank Ruth for the award.

In her presentation address, I mean paragraph, I mean sentence, Ruth allowed as how my posts “are witty and often historical.” I think she meant “hysterical” and just forgot to go back and revise it. You really should go read her blog, Ruth’s Visions and Revisions, because her writing always provides food for thought, and her photographs -- especially of flowers -- are wonderful.

Here are the rules, which I somehow managed to ignore the last time I received the award:

1) Choose five other bloggers that you feel are “Kick Ass Bloggers.”
2) Let them know that they have received an award.
3) Link back to both the person who awarded you and also to
4) Visit the Kick Ass Blogger Club HQ to sign Mr. Linky and leave a comment.

For those who are wondering, Kick-Ass is a compliment and means, roughly, “first-rate.” I’m limiting my nominees to four, and three of them, who really know their way around an English sentence*, live in England, which may be the reason:

1) Daphne, who, even though her Dad is a Communist (I know, I was shocked too), writes a really interesting blog. For example, I learned that her mother still swims in the ocean at the age of 84.

2) Andy, the Yellow Swordfish chap who gave me my first Kick-Ass Blogger award. He maintains that he is English, not British, and we all would benefit from learning the difference. He is married to...

3) Jay, who has JPOCD (Johnny Depp Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and is therefore subject to all the horrible symptoms of The Depp Effect. She also takes care of two dogs named Princess and Pirate who, we can only hope, are not similarly afflicted.

4) My fourth nominee is a three-way tie between Pat (an Arkansas stamper), if for nothing else than one very shiny truck and a triple-layer day lily; Jeannelle of Iowa, who is a new mother-in-law and a dairy farmer’s hard-working wife who occasionally channels a cow named Freckles at the end of a long day; and a woman in Oregon named Vonda who not only lives on The Little Egg Farm even though it is one egg short of a real farm, but is also following in the tradition of both F. Scott Fitzgerald, who introduced the world to East Egg and West Egg in The Great Gatsby, and Betty MacDonald, who introduced the world to Ma and Pa Kettle in The Egg and I. All three of these bloggers brighten my day.

I know, I know, that’s six, not four. Shhhhhh. If you don’t tell anybody, I won’t.

*By “really know their way around an English sentence” I mean they write words like favourite and organised and practised and manoeuvered and don’t think the words look even the least bit odd.

Hmmmm. Nothing historical in this post. My apologies, Ruth.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Eat, eat, it will do you good!

My father-in-law (his picture is a couple of posts back) owned a restaurant when he was younger, and each and every time I sat down at his table, he would say to his family and guests, “Eat, eat, it will do you good!” When I married into an Albanian family (and, yes, it’s true that you marry the whole family), I had no idea of the taste treats that awaited me. The other day, I was commenting to Pat (an Arkansas stamper) about some Albanian dishes, and I decided to expand the comments into a whole post.

For those who are geographically challenged, Albania is a small country northwest of Greece and due east of the heel of Italy’s boot, across the Adriatic Sea. For those who have no interest in Greece or Italy, let alone the Adriatic Sea, my condolences. I will keep you in my prayers.

Some Albanian dishes are similar to Italian ones, some are similar to Greek ones, and some are completely and uniquely Albanian.

The secret of Mrs. Rhymeswithplague’s mother's spaghetti sauce was that she put chicken thighs, drumsticks, and breasts -– skin, bones, and all -- into it. Her mother also made kos (homemade yogurt), byrek (the Albanian equivalent of Greek spanakopita, a spinach pie that includes feta cheese and eggs and sauteed onions in layers of homemade phyllo dough), and -- my personal favorite -- avgolemono (a wonderful creamy egg lemon soup, also Greek, into which some people also add chicken).

Mrs. Rhymeswithplague makes some of the the world’s best avgolemono (ahv-go-LEM-uh-no) and byrek (byoo-REK), if I do say so myself. The creamy soup is difficult to make because, she says, it’s very easy for the eggs to curdle if you don’t drizzle the soup into the egg mixture properly and then you wind up with Chinese egg-drop soup on your hands instead. She doesn’t make kos -- she prefers to buy yogurt from the supermarket -- but she has made a tavë (TAH-va), which is okra, tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, and onions baked in a pan. If one desires, it can also include potatoes and chunks of beef. Scrumptious! One of Mrs. Rhymeswithplague’s childhood favorites was a mixture of kos, dill, cucumbers, and garlic that one dipped into with pita bread. I’m also told that when guests came to one’s home, one was expected to offer them a spoonful of jelly and a small amount of whiskey.

I did a little research using an English-Albanian online dictionary and discovered that byrek means “pie” and tavë means “pan.” So much for exotic-sounding names.

Some other words and phrases one might hear around an Albanian dinner table include:

Pi ujë (pee wee), drink water
Bukë (book), bread
Qumështe (KYOO-mesht), milk
Do bukë? (dough BOOK?), do you want bread?

and after the meal:

Barku me cep (BAR-koo mih SEP-uh), my belly has corners (the Albanian equivalent of “I’m stuffed” or “I’m full” or “I couldn’t possibly eat another bite.” In Korea, I’m told, to show one’s gratitude for a meal, one belches loudly.)

Here, in my opinion, are the three most important Albanian phrases to know, so that someone (one’s spouse, for instance) can send you a private message when other people are within earshot:

3. Do veç nevojtora? (dough VETCH nuh-vy-TAW-duh?), do you have to go to the bathroom?

2. Shumë para (shoom puh-RAH), too expensive.

and, as David Letterman would say, the number-one most important Albanian phrase to know:

1. Hapi syri, mbylla gojë (oppy SOODY, BYOO-leh GOY), open your eyes and shut your mouth.

Of one thing I am sure: I ate, and ate, and it did me a world of good.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday ramblings #5

For some reason, I woke up today thinking of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. He wasn’t in my dreams that I know of, just there in my head as I sat on the side of the bed, trying to get my bearings. He was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Rochester, New York, and is buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. For many years he had a television program on Tuesday nights, eventually drawing an audience of thirty million people. He even won an Emmy, and reruns of some of his programs still find their way onto EWTN and TBN. Since there is a Wikipedia article on just about everything, it turns out there is one about him, too. I’m much too lazy today to post a photo of him, so if you want to see one, you can check out the article here. It is really quite interesting.

Bishop Sheen said many memorable things in his lifetime. For instance, when a heckler asked him a question about someone who had died, Bishop Sheen said, “I will ask him when I get to heaven.” The heckler replied, “What if he isn't in Heaven?” and the Bishop said, “Well, then you ask him.”

Along the same line, another man told Bishop Sheen he did not believe in hell. The Bishop replied, “You will when you get there.”

But the one I like best was included in a newsreel clip in an old CBS-TV hour-long documentary called The Strange Case of the English Language. In the clip, Bishop Sheen had been asked to give the opening prayer at the New York State Assembly in Albany, and when he stepped up to the podium microphone he said, “Friends, I’m not going to pray for you today. There are three things every man must do for himself: Blow his own nose, make his own love, and say his own prayers.” Then, indicating he would pray with them instead, he launched into his prayer with the words, “Let us pray.” Think about that the next time you happen to be sitting in church and the person up front says, “Let us pray.” You’ll have a hard time just sitting there passively listening to what the other person is saying, I’ll wager.

The Strange Case of the English Language also demonstrated how questions about gender can sometimes trip a person up by showing President Lyndon Baines Johnson affirming that “Uncle Sam will keep her word.” And there was a funny segment where Harry Reasoner, the host, discussed how the placement of adjectives can change the meaning of a sentence. He pondered at length where the word “only” might best be inserted into the sentence “I punched Walter Cronkite in the nose,” as follows:

1. Only I punched Walter Cronkite in the nose.
2. I only punched Walter Cronkite in the nose.
3. I punched only Walter Cronkite in the nose.
4. I punched Walter Cronkite only in the nose.
5. I punched Walter Cronkite in the nose only.

The older I get the more amazed I am at the odd things that have managed to worm their way into my long-term memory storage banks. For example, here’s a little ditty, a jingle, that is either humorous or sacrilegious depending on which side of the bed you woke up on; it is sung to the tune of an old Pepsi-Cola commercial:

Christianity hits the spot,
Twelve apostles, that’s a lot;
The Holy Ghost and the Virgin too!
Christianity’s the thing for you.

What gives me pause is something a little more sobering that Bishop Sheen once said. I discovered it in my little computer search this morning: “Everything we do, whether good or evil, goes down into our unconscious mind... So at the end of every human life there will be pulled out of our subconscious or unconscious mind the record of every thought, word and deed. This will be the basis of our judgment.”

Now there’s a truly scary thought. He didn’t even need to add, “Let us pray.”

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Equal Time Clause of the Marriage Contract

...clearly indicates that, when one has dedicated an entire post to one’s mother and shown you an old photograph of her with her parents, the only fair, decent, and equitable course of action is for one to follow it with an entire post dedicated to one’s spouse’s parents and show you an old photograph of them.

It was taken in November 1930 when Ksanthipi and Dhimitri (for those were their names) were celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary, having been married on Albanian Flag Day in 1926 in the Albanian Orthodox Church in Fier, Albania. The couple had recently moved from Atlantic City, New Jersey, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

When they became American citizens, each of them changed their names, anglicizing them to James and Carrie. At the time of this photo, Dhimitri had already become James but Ksanthipi had not yet become Carrie. Ksanthipi had also recently learned that she was pregnant with her first child; Mrs. Rhymeswith-
plague’s brother was born the following June. Dhimitri and Ksanthipi K. (Jim and Carrie C.) were married for nearly 57 years. They are buried near Orlando, Florida, where I met their daughter in 1961. My wife’s mother took credit for our marriage from the very start, saying she had caught me with her spaghetti and meatballs.

I laughed, but I didn't argue. Her daughter, of course, had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea?

This is a photo of my mother, on the right, with her parents. It was taken sometime between 1928 and 1931. I don’t know the locale, and there is no one left to ask. It may have been on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where my grandparents often went. It may have been on a ship on a cruise to somewhere. It may have been at a favorite vacation spot, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where the family vacationed every summer to escape suburban Philadelphia’s heat. I really don’t know. Everyone seems dressed to the nines, a far cry from today’s beach attire. Everyone also seems in a pensive mood.

In 1938, three years before I was born, my grandmother died at the age of 61. My grandfather lived until 1970 and died at the age of 95 years, 9 months. My mother’s older sister and two older brothers all lived into their eighties, but my mother died too young at the age of 47 in 1957. Last October I wrote about that day in this post.

[Update, 8/17/2008. After writing the phrase “a cruise to somewhere” and sleeping overnight, I suddenly remembered this morning that among my mother’s souvenirs was a dinner menu from the S. S. George Washington and that one of her happiest memories was having taken a “cruise to nowhere” from New York City that went out into the Atlantic in the direction of Bermuda but made no port calls; it was just several days at sea before returning. Perhaps the photo was taken on board that ship, but I don’t recall my mother’s ever saying that her parents went on that voyage too. Something deep down in my heart of hearts tells me the photo must have been taken on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. I have no idea why they are all dressed up. Perhaps they aren’t; perhaps this was what people normally wore when they went out into public in those days. But notice everyone's spiffy shoes! Aren’t they the cat’s meow?]

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday is the new Tuesday

Oops! A thousand pardons! I got so carried away with posting about Freckles the Cow that I forgot to post any Tuesday ramblings this week. And it’s Thursday already. So these “Thoughts on Thursday” will have to serve, belatedly, as my “Tuesday ramblings #4” in disguise.

Here are two series of numbers. Can you guess what they represent?

A. 3,3,2,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,4,0

B. 8,6,2,1,7,5,7,3,2,3,5,8,2,4,6,4,2,5,7,2,4,4,3,5

I thought not. Well, don’t burst a capillary; I’ll tell you. Series A is the number of readers’ comments received on this blog on each of its first 24 posts. Series B is the number of readers’ comments received on this blog on the most recent 24 posts. Since the blog has been in existence for almost 11 months, I have calculated that at this rate my readership will equal that of the The New York Times in the year 802,701 A.D., which just happens to be when the Time Traveller from H. G. Wells’s 1895 novella, The Time Machine, will be discovering those nice Eloi and those nasty Morlocks. It is also when there will be absolutely nothing left that’s fit for The New York Times to print. If you’re not familiar with The Time Machine, here’s a link to the appropriate Wikipedia article, which includes a fascinating summary of the plot. If you’ve never read the book and you never intend to and if you did you would want to read it without being told the plot in advance, please refrain from clicking on the link to the Wikipedia article!

And now we go from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Mrs. Rhymeswithplague’s favorite blog, The Pioneer Woman, is written by a woman in Oklahoma who regularly channels (her word) both Lucille Ball and Ethel Merman. It is divided into sections called “Confessions,” “Cooking,” “Photography,” and “Home/Garden,” and the author commonly receives such staggering readers’ comment figures as 287, 418, and the like. On each post. It’s enough to make me want to (pick one):

(a) cry,
(b) give up altogether,
(c) puke,
(d) try even harder,
(e) all of the above.

The correct answer, class, is (e), although I hasten to add that my choices don’t suggest themselves all at the same time. Usually. So if you just have to go see what The Pioneer Woman's blog is like, I have conveniently hidden, I mean included, a link to it somewhere earlier in this paragraph, and I will try to understand.

I would also like to tell you that I intend to keep plugging away, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after...well, you get the picture, until I’m old and gray. That’s what I would like to tell you, but unfortunately I’m already old and gray.

As they say, it’s the thought that counts.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Freckles the Cow

(This is a generic picture of your average, anonymous Holstein cow, with thanks to Wikipedia. This is not Freckles.)

Jeannelle of Iowa (not to be confused with Eleanor of Aquitaine), author of the blog Midlife by Farmlight, has gone and done it now. “Gone” because she has taken a leave of absence from her blog to participate in the activities of her son’s wedding week, and “done it” because she has left her blog in the capable hands, er, hooves, of none other than Freckles the Cow (for some reason, that reminds me of Chuckles the Clown of The Mary Tyler Moore Show fame, but never mind). Freckles, who calls it a bloog, began blooging today.

On her first post, Freckles linked to an article in Wikipedia describing the proud history of the Holstein-Friesian breed; cleared up the differences between a heifer, a cow, a bull, and a steer; and included another link to a detailed diagram and explanation of the four stomachs with which her species has been blessed. We can only look forward with great trepidation, er, anticipation, to what the future holds for us from Freckles.

I left a comment, and since my words belong to me, here it is:

Dear Freckles,

You have done all humankind a great service today, and I salute you. So many members of my species have never had a clue as to the differences between a heifer, a cow, a bull, and a steer (something every heifer, cow, bull, and steer learn at MOOberty [Editor: and ignore at their peril]). You may be the first in all bloogdom to let my people MOO with something akin to real, useful knowledge.

As a MOOsician, I also appreciate the fact that All Cows Eat Grass and Every Good Bull Does Fine. You should know that one of my species’ favorite MOOsical compositions is Ludvig van Bullthoven’s MOOnlight Sonata.

In addition, although I have known for years and years (having grown up in the country) that you and your companions have four stomachs, I would never in a MOOlion years have known that they are the Rumen, the Reticulum, the Obasum, and the Barack Abomasum if you hadn’t blooged today. MOOny thanks for sharing this enlightening bit of information.

You are doing Jeannelle proud. As I said, I salute you. I feel privileged to be able to look forward to MOOch MOOre of your blooging.


If you’d like to read other things Jeannelle has written or keep up with Freckles this week, simply click on this link to Midlife by Farmlight or the one over there in the sidebar.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm all, like, you know, totally tubular?

There was once this, you know, dialect of English? Out in California? In the eighties? And it was, like, totally awesome? And because it was, you know, spoken, like, mainly by, you know, seventeen-year-old girlfriends of nineteen-year-old surfer dudes, it was called, like, you know, Valley Girl? And every, like, declarative sentence? Would end on a, you know, rising inflection? And nobody ever, like, “said” anything? It was, like, totally “I'm all” and “he’s like” and “she goes”? And everybody, you know, was, like, blown away? With their own coolness?

I was suddenly and inexplicably reduced to Valley Girl speech yesterday when I discovered, quite by accident -- I had simply typed in “yellowswordfish” to catch up on the latest at my new English friend Andy’s blog over there across the pond -- that I have been named a (you should pardon the expression) “kick-ass blogger.” Me. Moi. Old rhymeswithplague himself.

Oh. My. God. It was, like, totally awesome.

I have never been considered “kick-ass” at anything, by anybody, with the possible exception of playing the piano and typing* (not at the same time, of course) -- I”m more the geeky, nerdy type -- so to be singled out in such a fashion at the advanced age of 67 totally, like, you know, blows me away, dude.

Nor am I into the crudities of modern English speech -- in fact, I feel more and more like the Victorians who preferred that a chicken leg be referred to as a “limb” -- so I entered “kick-ass” into a dictionary search and learned the following from Webster’s New Millennium™ Dictionary of English, Preview Edition (v 0.9.7), Copyright © 2003-2008 Lexico Publishing Group, LLC:

Main Entry: kick-ass
Part of Speech: adj
Definition: 1. aggressive, forceful. 2. very effective.

As I am very much the peaceful sort and cannot possibly be considered aggressive or forceful in any way, shape, or form, I accept this award within the confines of the second definition. Andy of England, not to be confused with Jeannelle of Iowa (the writing of which always makes me think of Eleanor of Aquitaine), considers my blog to be very effective. Maybe even aggressive and forceful. Okay, with apologies to my pastor and the entire church congregation, KICK-ASS!

Here's the award:

One might think, it having come by way of England (not Britain; there's a difference), that the award might have morphed into the only slightly more refined sounding Kick-Arse Blogger award, but no. One would be mistaken.

And speaking of one, one of the rules is to link to the blog that presented you with the award, so go to Yellow Swordfish and knock yourself out. A second rule is to include a link to the originator of the award, someone with whom I'm (totally) unfamiliar named mammadawg, so I will. Or, more accurately, I just did.

Yellowfish is a joy to read. His wife has JDOCD (Johnny Depp Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and they have two dogs named Princess and Pirate.

Just so you understand what an Anglophile I am, and how honored I am to have received this award, I shall now toss in, for good measure, links to three of my earlier posts, Happy Birthday, Lilibet!, The celebration continues, and This just in from our London correspondent... and I’m guessing I shall soon find out whether Andy and his JDOCD wifey are fans of the monarchy.

Our language is constantly changing. One day Valley Girl is in; the next day it’s out (with my deepest apologies to Heidi Klum Seal). As my twelve-year-old grandson might say of my having received this award, in his currently-fashionable-among-pre-teens, neo-Gansta-Rap way, “It’s tight, yo.”

*I won’t lie to you. When I went to work for IBM, secretaries from around the building came by my cubicle one day just to see me type 125 words per minute.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

And speaking of the 2008 Olympics,

which I did in my last post (“Lest we forget, part 2”), I want to introduce you to Verum Serum, an interesting website that bills itself as “an eclectic Christian blog run by two guys from O.C.” (that’s Orange County, California, for you non-bicoastal types). John and Scott have posted a very interesting column called “Ten Things To Remember About China (As You Watch The Olympics)”. My recommendation is that you read it carefully and ponder it for a long while afterward. A very long while.

It occurred to me the other day that since China’s population (1.3 billion) is more than four times that of the United States (just over 300 million), that’s enough people so that two people from China could hold down each American while two other people from China beat each American senseless. Or worse. Simultaneously. Not that that would ever happen, of course.

You’ll have to pardon me, my xenophobia (not to mention my paranoia) is showing. But it’s enough to give one pause.

Still, they can sure put on a mean opening ceremony. If you like being a faceless little cog in a great big impersonal machine, China may be just the place for you.

Lest we forget (part 2)

First, see “Lest we forget” (my post of August 6th).

Today was Nagasaki.

And now, even as Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush are photographed together in Beijing, China, at the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics, Russia has invaded the Republic of Georgia.

George Santayana was right: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905.) Santayana also said, “There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.” (Soliloquies in England, “War Shrines”, 1922.)

Perhaps Mr. Putin just has a different way of enjoying the interval. And a short memory. I choose not to speculate about Mr. Bush because his time remaining is short.

God help us all.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The dog days of summer and other topics

We are now deep into the dog days of summer, as they are called, the period from July 3rd through August 11th. It is too hot and I am too exhausted to write at length about them (the aforementioned dog days of summer) -- I would much rather sit under a shade tree and drink sweet iced tea or, better yet, stay inside my air-conditioned abode -- but since (a) it is important that you know something about them (the aforementioned dog days of summer), and (b) the Wikipedia people have done such a smashing job of writing about them (the aforementioned, oh forget it), you may read all about the dog days of summer to your heart ’s content at this link to a very interesting article in the online (but not necessarily authoritative) encyclopedia known as Wikipedia.

Since one thing often leads to another, perhaps your interest will be piqued, as mine was, by the phrase “precession of the equinoxes ” in Wikipedia ’s “Dog Days ” article. If you have the slightest inclination to learn more about the precession of the equinoxes (and they are aforementioned, coincidentally) but didn’t click on the link over there, you can click on it here. You might as well spend some of the dog days enriching your mind. The spirit ought to be willing, even when the flesh is weak.

This, by the way, is how one learns new things -- by searching, by reading, by expanding one ’s horizons (to keep the astronomy theme going), by being curious. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but finding out, as Mrs. Rhymeswithplague often says, brought it back.

What an interesting phenomenon, almost as interesting as the precession of the equinoxes! This post started with dogs and ended with cats!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lest we forget

Sixty-three years ago today, August 6, 1945, a U.S. airplane named Enola Gay flew over the city of Hiroshima, Japan, and dropped an atomic bomb, wiping out a major portion of the city and killing thousands upon thousands of human beings in an instant; many thousands more died as a result of the resulting radiation. This act, the first of its kind in the history of the world, hastened the end of World War II, but it seems to be yesterday’s news. I neither read nor heard a single word about it on this year's anniversary.

Three days later another U.S. airplane named Bockscar did the same thing to the city of Nagasaki, hastening the end of World War II even more. Japan promptly surrendered and the long war was over; the papers were signed in the presence of General Douglas MacArthur aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Germany had surrendered several months earlier.

I mention these events only because they should never be forgotten. Millions of Americans who weren’t born until a decade after the Viet Nam war ended are now preparing to cast their votes for a new president. World War II must seem like ancient history to them, the way World War I seemed to me to have happened around the time the Egyptians were building the pyramids.

My dad was born in 1906, the youngest of five brothers. Two of his older brothers served in the military during World War I. By the time America entered World War II, my dad was almost 36 and probably didn't have to go. But he enlisted in the Navy, leaving his job at the Dearborn Brass Works in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a bunk at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois, and eventually was assigned to duty on a Patrol Craft Escort vessel as a machinist’s mate. He had wanted to go into the submarine service, but he was too old. His shipmates, many of whom were half his age, called him “Pop.” He was even older than the captain of the ship, and he was 39 when he was discharged after the war ended. He talked about being in the Navy every single day of his life until his death in 1967. It was a big deal to him. Sometimes he would have nightmares in which bodies floated to the surface of the ocean after depth charges were dropped to destroy enemy submarines. Sometimes he would wake up screaming.

Out of a population of 131,000,000 at the time , America suffered 400,000 deaths in World War II. Other countries suffered much worse. Yugoslavia, with a population of 15,000,000 in 1939, lost over 1,000,000 of its people. Poland, with a population of 39,000,000 in 1939, lost over 5,600,000 of its people, 3,000,000 of them in the Holocaust. Worldwide, World War II was humanity’s deadliest war with over 72,000,000 lives lost. These astounding figures are in a Wikipedia article entitled “World War II Casualties” that includes a table showing country-by-country losses broken down by military, civilian, holocaust, and “other.” The article also contains a detailed description of individual battles. It doesn’t mention my father.

Not to minimize our current troubles, but World War II makes Iraq look like some minor backwater skirmish.

I'll try to post about a more pleasant subject next time.

[Update: In the comments section, Ruth C. states that the Soviet Union had horrific losses too, and she is certainly right. The sad table in the Wikipedia article I mentioned indicates that out of a Soviet Union population of 168,500,000 there were more than 23,000,000 deaths, or 13.7 per cent of the Soviet population. China probably had nearly as many; its figure of 20,000,000 deaths is an estimate. But the country with the highest rate of death in World War II, stated as a percentage of its total population, with 16.7 per cent, was Poland. (By contrast, and to put it in perspective, the U.S. deaths in World War II were about one-third of one per cent of its population.) As Ruth says, may we never see another global war again.]

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuesday ramblings #3

If Tuesdays continue to come around so frequently, I may have to change these Tuesday ramblings to Every-other-Tuesday ramblings, because today I have very little on my mind. So let’s talk about television.

I grew up so long ago that we had only three channels in Dallas-Fort Worth (an area now called the Metroplex) -- WBAP-TV (NBC), WFAA-TV (ABC), and KRLD-TV (CBS). I know that seems impossibly primitive to you younger whipper-snappers. And even more unbelievable, the three channels came on the air about two in the afternoon and signed off about ten or ten-thirty at night; the rest of the time there were only “test patterns” that eventually gave way to a snowy nothingness. This may not be entirely accurate, but it’s the way I remember it.

Not that anybody cares, but I remember watching The Milton Berle Show on Tuesday nights (You can trust your car to the man who wears the star, the great big Texaco star!); and Mama starring Peggy Wood, Judson Laird, and a very young Dick Van Patten on Friday nights; and The Red Skelton Show; and, for some reason, Broadway Open House with Jerry Lester and a big, dumb, buxom blonde named Dagmar (maybe I was sitting up late with Dad). I remember Pinky Lee; and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie (Kukla and Ollie were puppets, but Fran was a real person); and Soupy Sales with his huge doggie friends, White Fang and Black Tooth; and Jimmy Nelson and Farfel singing (but only Farfel moved his mouth) “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle’s makes the very best...chaw-klit.” I remember Ding-Dong School with Miss Frances from Chicago; and Beanie and Cecil, the Seasick Sea Serpent. On Saturday nights there was Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, and, yes, even Marguerite Piazza; on Sunday nights there was What’s My Line?with Dorothy Kilgallen and Bennett Cerf and Arlene Francis and a weekly guest panelist, moderated by “your host,” the very properly attired John Charles Daly. Dorothy liked to ask unusual questions; one of her favorites was, “Is it bigger than a bread box?” A few years went by and eventually there was Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons (with which I identified completely -- wrong decade, right poverty level); and Dick Van Patten again on Eight Is Enough.

Nowadays there are hundreds of channels and most of the programs are not fit for human consumption. Let’s call them what they are: Trash. I will not watch lewd and lascivious programs or listen to four-letter words in my house. So we watch other stuff. TLC, the home of what was once must-see TV, Trading Spaces, has other programs: Little People, Big World and What Not To Wear and the 21st-century version of Eight Is Enough, a show that ought to be called Eight Is Way Too Many. Its real moniker is Jon and Kate Plus Eight, and I must confess to you at this point in the proceedings that I get very upset at the way Kate sometimes treats Jon. The Bravo people have given us ice princess Heidi Klum on Project Runway (it can get a little raunchy, but it’s mesmerizing). HGTV (Home and Garden Television) has My House Is Worth What? and If Walls Could Talk and House Hunters and Curb Appeal and Property Virgins and Color Splash with David Bromstad. My blogger friend Ruth in Illinois has advised me not to make so many long lists, but I get started and I just can’t seem to stop. HGTV has even more home fix-it and home decorating and home flipping shows, often starring people who used to work on Trading Spaces -- can you say Vern Yip and Carter Oosterhouse? The Food Network has Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray (or it had her until Oprah started producing her program) and Bobby Flay and lots of other up-and-coming gourmet chefs, if you like to watch food. The Animal Planet lets us keep up with more dog shows than the law should allow.

We don’t watch anything involving nannies or wrestlers or tattoo artists. We’re not interested in the private lives of pop-culture icons who are past their prime (Ozzie Ozbourne, Hulk Hogan, and Gene Simmons come to mind) or of pop-culture icons who are not, or people who work on cars and motorcycles, or people who can’t wait to tell us the latest rumors and gossip about celebrities and politicians. We used to watch Atlanta Braves baseball games a lot, but the team is not what it used to be.

So more and more lately we do the only logical thing. We turn off the TV set and play a game of Scrabble or Skip-bo or Phase 10, or take Jethro for a ride in the car.

Perhaps it’s because of television that I have so very little on my mind.

Thank God for blogging.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Don't forget the Lost Colony and Virginia Dare...

We saw this flag several times last week while we were away on vacation. It is the flag of the state of North Carolina. Because I am of above-average intelligence [he said modestly] and very swift on the uptake, I knew even without being told that the letters “N” and “C” on the left side of the flag mean North Carolina. But did you see the two dates on the flag? The date May 20, 1775, appears on one gold banner and another date, April 12, 1776, appears on a second gold banner. Why are the dates there? What happened on those dates? I didn’t have a clue.

So I did a little research and here’s what I learned. On May 20, 1775, the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence was supposedly signed in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. But whether such a document ever existed is disputed. No original document exists and there were no newspaper accounts of it at the time. The first printed copy didn’t appear for many years, but it is said to have been the first declaration of independence in the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution. And on April 12, 1776, the 83 delegates present at the Fourth Provincial Contgess in Halifax, North Carolina, adopted the Halifax Resolves, which authorized North Carolina’s delegates to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to vote for independence. This was the first official action by a colony calling for independence.

If you want to know more about these documents, click on the links in the previous paragraph to see the full texts and discover what else Wikipedia has to say. Or you could even ignore Wikipedia and set out on your own search.

My wife’s family moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina when she was a child, and because she was required to take North Carolina History in school, she knew about both of these documents. In Texas, we learned instead about Texas Independence Day on March 2, 1836, and the Battle of the Alamo, and the defeat of Mexican General Santa Anna (or Ana) at the Battle of San Jacinto, and the fact that Texas is the only state that can divide itself into as many as five states if it wishes. I can tell you about Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston and Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, but until now I couldn’t have told you one thing about the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence or the Halifax Resolves. My education has been sorely lacking.

Is there something in your state’s history that everyone in your state knows but few people elsewhere may have heard of?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Two! Two! Two awards in one!

I’m probably one of the few people old enough to remember a commercial for some kind of product that was supposed to do away with bad breath and taste like candy at the same time. I forget the name of the actual product, but the commercial went, “It’s two, two, two mints in one” and then one person would say, “It’s a breath mint!” and another person would say, “No, it’s a candy mint!” and, wouldn't you just know it (shades of Madison Avenue), it turned out to be both! A candy mint AND a breath mint! Two! Two! Two mints in one!

That old commercial came to mind this week when I received not one but two blog awards from Jeannelle in Iowa, author of a blog called
Midlife by Farmlight.

It’s the only blog I know of with a post that begins, “I was scraping cow manure in the barn a few minutes ago and...” or a post with minute-by-minute photographs -- detailed photographs -- of the birth of a calf, a post about how to tell the difference between male and female rows of corn, a post explaining what “rogue” corn is, a post about the author’s summer fling -- I believe she called it a “tryst” -- with a John Deere riding lawn mower, or where you can see pictures of stained glass windows from a Lutheran church built in the 1870’s while receiving an ongoing education in the Latin names of wildflowers of the midwestern prairie. Midlife by Farmlight is one of my favorite blogs, and I’m honored to have received these awards from Jeannelle.

The first one is the Brillante [sic] Weblog award and looks like this:

The second one is the Thinking Blogger award and looks like this:

I have nothing prepared [dropping sheets of paper], but I want to thank my agent, my hair stylist, my chauffeur, all you wonderful people sitting out there in the dark -- oh, wait, that last part was Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, which was named the Best Picture of 1950 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. One story of why the Academy Award is called an Oscar is that Bette Davis said the rear view reminded her of her ex-husband Oscar and the name stuck (this story is not the officially authorized version). When Sally Field received her Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Norma Rae she exclaimed, “You like me! You really like me!” I know how she felt. For those of you have been asleep for the past 80 years, here’s what Oscar looks like:

Not to be outdone, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences promptly came up with its own flashy award. Here’s an Emmy® statuette like the one Susan Lucci of All My Children fame finally won after nineteen years of trying:

So there are Tonys, Grammys, People’s Choice Awards, Golden Globes, CMA (Country Music Association) Awards, more awards than you can shake a stick at. But I no longer care about any of those. Who needs an Oscar? Who needs an Emmy? I have received Two! Two! Two blog awards in one!

If ever a week were brillig, if ever there were a time when slithy toves ought to gyre and gimble in the wabe, if ever the borogroves had a right to be mimsy, if ever the mome raths could outgrabe with impunity, this is that week and time.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! I'm chortling in my joy!

My deepest apologies to Lewis Carroll.

I must think for a little while before naming the next recipients. I’ll try to be brillante.

Friday, August 1, 2008

God’s country (part 2 - the photograph)

I didn’t take the photo in today’s and yesterday’s post myself, so I am not able in good conscience to post it today on SkyWatch, but I am related to the person who did take it, and I was there when it happened, so I ought to know.

The photograher was my son. I was sitting about six feet away from him on a pontoon boat in the middle of Lake Lure, North Carolina, when he captured this unforgettable view. Fifteen of us in all had taken a two-hour cruise (I wish I could say “a three-hour tour” to make you think of Bob Denver and all the gang on Gilligan’s Island, but that just wouldn’t be true). There were six in our family plus a forty-ish couple from Michigan, another family of six from Macon, Georgia, and the captain/narrator of our voyage, a local summer resident whose lives the rest of the year in Tampa, Florida.

The brown haziness in the photograph is due partly to the fact that a small forest fire, apparently caused by lightning earlier in the afternoon, was burning high up on another part of Sugarloaf Mountain, out of sight on the left. We had seen it up close earlier on our cruise. The local folks were doing their best to put it out; we saw a helicopter outfitted with a large bucket suspended from a rope come to fill the bucket with more water from Lake Lure, then fly back to drop the water on the fire. So there was quite a bit of smoke in the sky, but it made the photograph take on an interesting quality that I am unable to define.

We were in Buffalo Bay in the middle of the lake when my son took the picture. Our guide said Lake Lure was over a hundred feet deep at that point. Then he let our grandson, soon to be twelve, take the helm or wheel or throttle or whatever it was for about five minutes, to his and everyone else’s delight, as we began the trip back to the north end of the lake. Whether it was a grand, generous gesture on the guide’s part or merely trolling for a big tip, I’m not sure, but it certainly made Matthew’s day.

I’m sorry I couldn’t put this on SkyWatch, but maybe some of you will tell a few friends, and they’ll tell a few friends....

[I wanted to post a picture here of the cast of Gilligan’s Island, but all the ones I found were copyrighted, the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley and all that, so you’ll just have to picture them all in your mind’s eye: Gilligan, the Skipper, Ginger, Mary Ann, and -- who could forget? -- Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell, III.]

Test from phone

Now is the time for all good men to blah blah blah Well, what do you know! I did it! From my phone! For the first time! Live and learn,...