Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday ramblings number whatever

Sometimes I think I’m living in an alternate universe. If there are people who make things happen and people who watch things happen and people who wonder “What happened?” -- and today there are stockbrokers on Wall Street who fit all three categories -- what do you think I was doing earlier today? I’ll tell you what I was doing earlier today: I was watching a country singing star named Jewel teach Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb (now there’s a name you don't hear every day, unless you watch NBC, and then you actually do) how to yodel on the telly (I threw that in for the readers across the pond). There. I said it and I’m glad. Let us move on.

Besides the current mess in Washington about bailing out Wall Street or the big banks or the stupid holders of subprime mortgages (you can tell I’m really involved in this -- or maybe that’s called denial), the past few days have seen major changes for our family.

One member of our immediate family (MOIFA) began taking the bus to work yesterday. Atlanta is in the third week of a gas shortage that began around the time Hurricane Gustav decided to visit our fair shores, followed soon afterward by Hurricane Ike (remember when hurricanes all had girls’ names?). By “gas shortage” I mean that over 80% of the gasoline stations in our region have no fuel at all for days on end, and waiting lines of 45 minutes are common at the few stations that do manage to have gas to sell. Since moving back to the Atlanta area three years ago, MOIFA’s commute has been 40 miles into the city every morning and 40 miles back every afternoon. That is not unusual around here; it is called life in Atlanta. But what had been a 50-minute trip three years ago has been getting longer and longer; recently it has been taking our MOIFA at least an hour and a half each way, and sometimes longer. With the recent spike in gasoline prices to over $4.00 per gallon, MOIFA has been spending $400.00 per month just to get to work and back home again. So MOIFA decided that enough was enough and purchased yesterday a month’s worth of round-trip bus tickets for $94.00, which means that our MOIFA will be saving over $300.00 per month in transportation costs. Add to that the fact that Atlanta’s Clean Air Commission has a policy of refunding three dollars per day if you ride the bus 20 days each month for three months, and MOIFA will eventually collect a $180.00 refund from the CAC people and be able to buy almost two more months’ worth of bus tickets. On top of that, our MOIFA’s round-trip drive to and from the bus stop is 16 miles instead of 80. Less stress. Less cost. Less time. A win-win situation. Of course, there is the little matter of having to leave the house much earlier, which means having to go to bed much earlier, and also the part about the bus dumping into a train station, where MOIFA will get a transfer and take the train the rest of the way. A major life-style change, to say the least. But we’re hoping it still turns out to be a win-win situation all around.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to bore you, but it was a story that needed telling.

Another member of our immediate family (MOIFB) recently accepted a job in another state, so this week was packing and moving time. We had a final goodbye breakfast yesterday at the International House of Pancakes followed by final hugs and kisses and stifled tears. Then we waved goodbye as MOIFB, MOIFB’s spouse, and MOIFB’s children got in their car and drove away, and we watched the car grow smaller and smaller in the distance until we couldn’t see it any more.

It’s been quite a week. We haven't heard news of any changes affecting MOIFC yet, but the week is still young.

All in all, it’s enough to make you want to yodel at the telly.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My new best friend, Spam

Now that I am a veteran blogger (1 year tomorrow) and have made lots of new friends out there in cyberspace (you know who you are), I want to tell you about the best computer friend of all, my buddy, Spam.

Spam sends me more e-mails than anybody else. He apparently knows me better than I know myself. He provides cures for health problems I never knew I had and wants me to move in wider circles socially. He wants to help me get a job and tells me about great investment opportunites. He really has my best interests at heart. If it weren’t for my new best friend, Spam, I might never have known that:

1. Someone wants to buy all the broken gold I have.
2. The FBI wants to recruit me to help prevent terrorist attacks.
3. My colon will be cleansed if I try the new, Hottest Diet Supplement.
4. If I am fat, I can easily get sexy and skinny.
5. Someone wants to put $1500 in my account if I will provide a confirmation.
6. I can get financial aid for college.
7. Craigslist needs workers.
8. I can get a free Blackberry.
9. White singles are interested in meeting me.
10. I can get really cheap car insurance.
11. Black singles are interested in meeting me.
12. I can make money 5 Easy Ways on eBay.
13. Someone has a crush on me.
14. Rhonda wants me to look at her pictures.

I wish my new best friend, Spam, would go jump in the lake.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Blame it on Jeannelle*

Rindercella And The Prandsome Hince

Once upon a time in a coreign fountry
there was a geautiful birl, whose name was Rindercella.
Rindercella had a mugly other
and two sisty uglers.
Also in this coreign fountry
there was a prandsome hince
and the prandsome hince was going to have a bancy fall.
Rindercella’s mugly other
and her two sisty uglers went out
and bought dancy fresses for the bancy fall
but poor Rindercella couldn’t go
because she had nothing but rirty dags.
So on the night of the bancy fall,
Rindercella’s mugly other
and her two sisty uglers
put on their dancy fresses
and went to the bancy fall.
And since poor Rindercella couldn’t go
she cat down and sried.
Suddenly, her gairy fodmother appeared
before her and
touched her with her wagic mond
and turned her into a peautiful brincess
and then gave her a kig boach
and hix sorces so Rindercella
could go to the bancy fall.

So off went Rindercella.
When she got to the bancy fall
the prandsome hince met her at the door.
He had watched her come up
in her kig boach and
hix sorses from a widden hindow.
Rindercella and the prandsome hince
danced all night long and
the prandsome hince lell in fove
with Rindercella.
When the prandsome hince was
just about to quop the prestion,
Rindercella heard the moke of stridnight
so she turned, staced down the rairs and
when she got to the stottom blep
she slopped her dripper.

The next day the prandsome hince
went all over his coreign fountry
looking for the geautiful birl
who had slopped her dripper.
When he got to Rindercella’s house
he tried it on her mugly other,
but it fidnt dit!
He tried it on her two sisty uglers
but it fidnt dit.
And he tried it on Rindercella
and it fid dit!
So they were mappily harried
and mived lappily ever after.

Ee Thend!

Now, the storal of the mory is this: If you ever go to a bancy fall and want to have a pransom hince loll in fove with you, don’t forget to slop your dripper!

This priceless version of an immortal story was part of the act of the late American comedian Archie Campbell, whom you may remember from his days on Hee Haw. Those two words, Hee Haw, are a phrase that until today I thought would never appear in my blog, but it just proves that one never knows what the future may hold.

If Archie were still alive (he died in 1987), he could also entertain us with his hilarious rendition of The Pee Little Thrigs or my personal favorite, Beeping Sleuty.

These unique retellings of familiar fairy tales were created by using “spoonerisms,” which are a trick of language named after the very real verbal foibles of one William Archibald Spooner.

*This post sprang into existence fully grown, like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, upon reading Jeanelle of Iowa’s comment on yesterday’s post. I had mentioned that Mrs. Rhymeswithplague said to tell you she has become a blogger widow, and Jeannelle said to “tell Mrs. Rhymeswithplague that we’re appreciative of her putting up with your hogging blobby.....I mean, blogging hobby!” Send all poison pen letters to Jeanelle, c/o Iowa, USA.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

And they said it wouldn’t last (second edition)

In three more days, this blog will be one year old. And since at times it required me to work like a dog, I feel compelled to tell you that it will be seven years old in dog years. I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly, but the experience of blogging has been great. I now have cyberspace friends in Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas, Oregon, France, and England. I have had conversations with Dr. Scot McKnight and Michael Spencer, the “internet monk,” on their blogs. Who woulda thunk? Mrs. Rhymeswithplague, reporting from another perspective, has asked me to tell you that she has become a blogger widow.

In my third post on September 30, 2007, long before I learned how to include photographs or link to other posts, I wrote this:

And they said it wouldn’t last

This blog is now in its third day and still going strong. Will it reach its third week, its third month, its third year? Nobody knows. I will say this about myself: I am by nature a procastinator. I tend to put things off, delay the inevitable, wait until the last minute. But this work style of mine always produced superior results in my particular workplace. Of course, it drove the bosses crazy. The pressure I created for myself all by myself seemed to give me just the right incentive to excel. Oh, and work fascinates me; I can sit and look at it for hours (I’m kidding, sort of). I retired from the daily grind seven years ago. My work was of the mental kind, not the physical kind, but I came home each day exhausted and the long commute didn't help. When I retired, I said to my wife, “I don’t want to see a sunrise or a rush hour for at least six months.” And pretty much, I didn’t. I tend to have high highs and low lows. I've learned to control, or at least deal with, mood swings to a certain extent, but at one time my life, internally at least, was a little like a roller coaster. Did I just describe manic-depressive, which these days people call bipolar? And some might even call me obsessive-compulsive. Like my old work buddy who used to rearrange things on my desk just to see how long it would take me to put things back in order, at just the right angle, in parallel lines. Really.

So I’m elated that the blog is in its third day. I said above that nobody knows how long it will last. That’s not true. God does. Jehovah God, Yahweh, YHWH, I am that I am, and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ha-Mashiach), and the Holy Spirit Who indwells me, the Paraclete, the One called alongside to help, the One who Jesus said is with you and shall be in you. The Triune God is from everlasting to everlasting and knows the end from the beginning; He knows exactly how long my blog will last.

So now some of you think I am a kook and some of you are quietly praising the Lord. And some of you not so quietly. I’ll try not to make the blog all about me, me, me, though. After all, He must increase, but I must decrease.

(End of September 30, 2007, post)

So here we are, almost a year later. On reflection, I can see that much of the blog has indeed been about me, me, me. I still need to realize that I must decrease and that He must increase. I have pointed you away from myself much of the time, true, but perhaps not in the right direction.

On that note, I have decided to point you to an absolutely wonderful post today by my Illinois friend, Ruth Hull Chatlien. To read it, click here. It definitely points all of us in the right direction.

And since half of my renewed goal is to make the post less about me, me, me, I am just going to let the anniversary date slip by without further mention.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How sweet the sound

I probably flatter myself, but I’m beginning to think of myself as the Ed Sullivan of the blogosphere, or at least my little corner of it, bringing to my faithful audience day after day, week after week, a wide spectrum of subjects to ponder -- but enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do YOU think of my blog? (That’s supposed to be a funny; I’m not expecting you to answer.)

Today’s guests are no Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and they’re no Luciano Pavarotti either, but what they do they do very well, in my opinion. And what they do is combine two musical genres, gospel and blues, in a very engaging way. I think they’re worth listening to. If you have not heard them before, permit me to introduce you to The Blind Boys of Alabama, today’s featured group.

Here they are singing “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “The House of the Rising Sun” with a brief glimpse of Don Imus, on whose program they were appearing. I’ve decided not to include a link to an article about Don Imus because the one I found in my research for this post had enough internal links in it that if you ever started clicking on them you would never find your way back to this post.

If gospel/blues (as they say in the red states) or blues/gospel (as they say in the blue states) turns out not to be your cup of tea, I’ll certainly understand. But this is the real thing -- soul music as it was meant to be sung. Perhaps it’s not virtuoso musicianship, but it’s about as authentic as it gets. For all you readers who live outside the south, the Blind Boys of Alabama are the real deal, the genuine article.

Monday, September 22, 2008

An almost perfect day

Today seems to be an almost perfect day so far around here. The sun is shining; fall is in the air; a brisk walk would be invigorating, I’m sure, if I could pull myself away from this computer long enough. The hummingbirds may all have left for warmer climes, but the mockingbirds are still singing in the lilac bush. (Actually, we don't have a lilac bush -- we do have mockingbirds -- but I remember a song with that title (mockingbirds, lilac bush, etc.) from around 1946 or so; it is one of my earliest recollections. I heard it on an old wind-up Victrola that played 78-rpm recordings and distributed the sound through a very large horn-type apparatus or appendage. For you younger readers, it was nothing like an iPod.)

This day in history is interesting as well. I recommend for your reading pleasure The Writer’s Almanac, which you can reach by clicking the underlined phrase The Writer’s Almanac in this sentence (the first occurrence, not the second), or by scrolling down until you see that phrase under the heading “Websites I like to visit” in the sidebar on the left, or by typing “writersalmanac.publicradio.org” in the box at the top of the page and then pressing the little box that corresponds to “GO” in the game of Monopoly (do not collect $200). So much for the mechanics of reaching “The Writer's Almanac.”

When you get there, if you’re not reading this post on Monday, September 22, 2008, click on “Prev” under whatever date is displayed until it reads “Monday, September 22, 2008” because I consider this to be an almost perfect reading to go along with this almost perfect day.

First, there is a wonderfully clever poem by Clive James called “Windows Is Shutting Down” that had me giggling. Then there is an interesting (to me, at least) write-up about this week being (I know, I know, the subject of a gerund should be in the possessive case; call me rebellious) the anniversary of the invasion of Britain in 1066 by William the Conqueror of Normandy, and its resulting effect on the English language. Today is the birthday of someone I never heard of, and it’s also the anniversary of three other events that every American schoolchild learns about. On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation that took effect on January 1, 1863. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed the bill that created the Peace Corps. In 1776, Nathan Hale was hanged by the neck until dead. All in all, a very good day. Almost perfect, in fact (unless your name is Nathan Hale).

Can you remember, without peeking, his famous last words? (Readers in the U.K. are not expected to know, but will get extra credit if they do.)

I must stop using so many parentheses.

Who knew?

Last spring when I went to my semi-annual cardiological exam, it was preceded, as always, by going to a lab and having blood drawn so that a number of things could be checked. My cardiologist told me that my cholesterol had dropped significantly. “Whatever you're doing,” he said, “keep doing it.”

I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing differently from previous time periods. My wife put her finger on it a couple of days later.

Around the first of the year Mrs. Rhymeswithplague had had an artificial knee installed, and the strong pain medication she took for a while -- sometimes several times a day -- needed to be taken with food. Needless to say, a big weight gain was not what she wanted. So I spread peanut butter on one-half slice of multigrain bread, and she ate that with the medicine, during the day and in the middle of the night as well. To keep her company, I would eat the other half-slice of bread with peanut butter on it.

That is the only dietary change we had made. And goodness knows I was not getting a great amount of exercise. A few weeks after my cardiological exam, I read in a magazine that peanut butter is a natural lowerer of cholesterol.

So if you’re having high-cholesterol problems, you might try that, silly as it seems. It worked for us. According to the magazine, it doesn’t matter whether you use creamy or chunky.

We have continued to eat a breakfast of peanut butter and sugar-free jelly or preserves on multigrain bread, with hot, decaffeinated green tea, two or three times a week, even after my wife no longer needed to take the pain medication.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A picture is worth a thousand words

Steve, who left a comment on yesterday’s post, suggested that lots of pictures would be better than Wikipedia’s prose. I agree.

At this website, created by someone in the Physics Department of Durham University in the United Kingdom, some of the diagrams even move.

The first diagram illustrates that the sun would always be directly above the equator if Earth’s axis were not tilted. The second diagram, which unfortunately is stationary, shows that Earth’s axis is tilted off vertical by 23.5 degrees (something we are all supposed to have learned when we were ten). The third diagram illustrates what I was trying to say, and saying so poorly, in yesterday’s post.

The northernmost point on Earth that receives the direct rays of the sun at midday (that is, the sun is directly overhead at midday and the rays are perpendicular to the surface of Earth) is called the Tropic of Cancer. The southernmost point on Earth that receives the direct rays of the sun at midday is called the Tropic of Capricorn. If you live north of the Tropic of Cancer or south of the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun is never directly overhead.

If you want to know more, you’ll have to find out for yourself.

This topic may not be exhausted, but I am.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sumer is igoin out

Lhude sing cuccu!

On Monday, September 22, 2008, at 15:44 UTC (more on this below), the autumnal or fall equinox will occur in Earth’s northern hemisphere. Strange as it may seem, the vernal or spring equinox does not occur simultaneously in Earth’s southern hemisphere, although spring will begin at that time in Earth’s southern hemisphere. No, the terms “autumn” and “spring” in relation to equinoxes is based on whether the sun is crossing the equator from north to south or from south to north. According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, the equinox that will occur on September 22 is known as the fall or September or autumnal or Libra or Virgo or southward equinox, as opposed to the other one (there are two per year) that is known as the spring or March or vernal or Aries or Pisces or northward equinox.

If you have a burning need to know even more about an equinox, here is another interesting paragraph from the Wikipedia article:

“On a day that has an equinox, the center of the Sun will spend a nearly equal amount of time above and below the horizon at every location on Earth and night and day will be of nearly the same length. The word equinox derives from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox (night). In reality, the day is longer than the night at an equinox. Commonly, the day is defined as the period that sunlight reaches the ground in the absence of local obstacles. From Earth, the Sun appears as a disc and not a single point of light; so, when the center of the Sun is below the horizon, the upper edge is visible. Furthermore, the atmosphere refracts light; so, even when the upper limb of the Sun is below the horizon, its rays reach over the horizon to the ground. In sunrise/sunset tables, the assumed semidiameter (apparent radius) of the sun is 16 minutes of arc and the atmospheric refraction is assumed to be 34 minutes of arc. Their combination means that when the upper limb of Sun is on the visible horizon its center is 50 minutes of arc below the geometric horizon, which is the intersection with the celestial sphere of a horizontal plane through the eye of the observer. These effects together make the day about 14 minutes longer than the night at the equator, and longer still at sites toward the poles. The real equality of day and night only happens at places far enough from the equator to have at least a seasonal difference in daylength of 7 minutes, and occurs a few days towards the winter side of each equinox.”

All righty, then. Let's push on.

In honor of Ruth Hull Chatlien’s new Bulova watch, which her husband Michael gave her as a fiftieth birthday present (hers, not his), I would like to turn now to the subject of Coordinated Universal Time (which is abbreviated UTC even though it looks as though it ought to be abbreviated CUT and which in French is known as Temps Universel Coordonné which looks as though it ought to be abbreviated TUC but is still referred to as UTC), which Wikipedia says is International Atomic Time (TAI, not IAT) with leap seconds added at irregular intervals “to compensate for the Earth's slowing rotation” which sounds a bit alarming because a slowing implies an eventual stop but apparently is of no great consequence. I would like to, but I dare not, as the Wikipedia article on the subject is confusing enough to make your head spin and have an equinox of its own, depending on your axial tilt.

It must suffice to report to you the fascinating information that the Earth’s rotational speed is very slowly decreasing due to tidal deceleration, causing the mean solar day to increase in length, which requires the occasional insertion of the aforementioned leap second by people who know exactly how and when to do it.

Perhaps Ruth should link to them so that she will know when to adjust her new Bulova watch.

Update: I left out a really important fact about UTC or CUT or TUC or TCU (no, that's Texas Christian University): It's the same as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), the time at the Royal Observatory in England, the time along the Prime Meridian, zero degrees longitude. So the autumnal equinox will occur in the United States at 11:44 Eastern/10:44 Central, as they say on television, on Monday.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

There are contests and then there are contests

While we here in America are once again involved up to our eyeballs in the race for President of these United States -- you know, that thing that consumes us every four years -- other parts of the world have contests of their own going on. And, as you can see from that photo up there, sometimes there are trophies at stake. For example, consider these contestants in France:

The earnestness of Senator Joseph Biden and Governor Sarah Palin pale in comparison to these two rivals. But what in the world are they doing? Whistling? Possibly, but no. Spitting, maybe? Bingo! Yes, spitting! But what are they spitting?

The photo below shows the judges, hard at work, doing what judges do -- judging:

And here’s a clue about the spitting:
I don’t even want to think about what the judges are measuring. Tobacco juice? Yeccch! But wait! Up there by the judges’ stand! There’s another clue! You have to be able to read French, though:

Now it can be told! The secret is out! This is the World Championship Prune-Pit Spitting Contest! And young Heloise and Abelard there are vying to become the Prune-Pit Spitting Champion of the World, or at least the vicinity of Ste. Livrade sur lot, Lot-et-Garonne, Aquitaine, France.

We should seriously consider incorporating this contest into our presidential race. I can see it now. In this corner, ladies and gentlemen, the Democratic contenders, Senator Barack Obama and Senator Joseph Biden. And in the opposite corner, the Republican contenders, Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin. And may the best prune-pit spitters emerge triumphant!

(All photographs in this post were taken by Michel Soultane, also known as Papy Biou, author of the blog Le monde comme je l’aime, and are used with his permission.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday Wambwings

Okay, all you tewwific weaders, I admit to being a bit of a cwazy wabbit at times, but I weawy can’t help sounding wike Elmer Fudd today because Tuesday, the day I usuawy wite my wambwings, has alweady wetweated wapidwy into histowy. Uh-oh, now I’m beginning to sound a wittle wike Gilda Radner doing Baba Wawa. I cannot keep that up for more than two sentences, sorry.

Sunday afternoon I went to a Stud Party. Not what you're thinking. Our church choir holds a Stud Party whenever someone in our church is having a new home built. We take our Bibles and felt-tip pens to the framed-in-but-not-yet-sheet-rocked house and write Scripture verses on the studs that will eventually be behind walls in the house. The trick is in making it relevant; what you put and where you put it is very important. For example, Deuteronomy 28:6 seems appropriate by the front door (You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out). Psalm 51:7 is better near the bathtub (Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow). Afterward we gather in a big circle and sing songs and pray. Great fun and very spiritual at the same time. I recommend it.

On Monday, Mrs. RWP and I made a 60-mile round trip in our gas guzzler so that our favorite dental hygienist could clean our teeth. I nearly canceled the appointments at the last minute because the price of gasoline skyrocketed by about $1.00 a gallon around here this weekend in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike’s effect on oil refineries in Texas and Louisiana. I don’t know why, but this makes me think of “the butterfly effect” -- you know, a butterfly stirs up the air while crossing my backyard and eventually there is a typhoon off the coast of China. We are all interconnected in ways we don’t realize. I scrape together some gas money and take a little car trip and my dentist gets to go skiing in Colorado this winter. My new white smile reflects more brightly into the atmosphere and the temperature goes up a couple of degrees in Zanzibar. Al Gore said so, and it’s all our fault. Mine and yours. Mostly yours.

My oldest son will be 44 this Saturday. I don’t see how this is possible since I am only 38 myself. Actually, I lied. I’m not 38. But in hexadecimal, I’m 43. I will not speak or write further about hexadecimal notation unless there is a huge clamor for it from my readers and public demonstrations in every city. Send your cards, letters, and petitions to Down With Decimal, c/o General Delivery, Not Grapevine, Texas. No phone calls, please.

This is short, but as I can’t think of anything else to write about at the moment, T.T.F.N.*

*Ta Ta For Now (Tigger in Winnie the Pooh)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Can’t you understand plain English? (Part 2)

Fæder úre, ðú ðe eart on heofonum,
Sí ðín nama gehálgod.
Tó becume ðín rice.
Gewurde ðín willa
On eorþan swá swá on heofonum.
Urne dægwhamlícan hlaf syle ús tódæg.
And forgyf ús úre gyltas,
Swá swá wé forgyfaþ úrum gyltendum.
And ne gelæd ðu ús on costnunge,
Ac álýs ús of yfele. Sóþlice.

Yes, this is English too. Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon, which was spoken in the British Isles from around 450 A.D. until around 1100.

By 1384, English had changed into what is now called Middle English, the language of Chaucer, but some of the old Anglo-Saxon characters were still being used:

Oure fadir þat art in heuenes halwid be þi name;
þi reume or kyngdom come to be.
Be þi wille don in herþe as it is doun in heuene.
yeue to us today oure eche dayes bred.
And foryeue to us oure dettis þat is oure synnys as we foryeuen to oure dettouris þat is to men þat han synned in us.
And lede us not into temptacion but delyuere us from euyl.

In the Wycliffe Bible of 1390, the Anglo-Saxon characters were replaced by the letters “th” but the “i” and “y” were still pretty much interchangeable, as were the “u” and “v”:

Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halewid be thi name; thi kyngdoom come to;
be thi wille don in erthe as in heuene;
yyue to vs this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce;
and foryyue to vs oure dettis, as we foryyuen to oure dettouris;
and lede vs not in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel. Amen.

By 1611, English had developed into the familiar language of the King James Version of the Bible:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.

The miracle is that English has not changed all that much since 1611.

Here it is; you knew it was coming. The Lord's Prayer in Anglo-Saxon, complete for some strange reason with desolate landscapes and eerie music.

You're most wolcum.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Can’t you understand plain English?

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages:
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmers for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.

It is English, you know. Fourteenth-century English. It’s the first eighteen lines of the Prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Here’s a translation of these eighteen lines into modern English, made in 1949 by Theodore Morrison. It’s found in The Portable Chaucer (Viking Press, 1949, p. 61):

As soon as April pierces to the root
The drought of March, and bathes each bud and shoot
Through every vein of sap with gentle showers
From whose engendering liquor spring the flowers;
When zephrs have breathed softly all about
Inspiring every wood and field to sprout,
And in the zodiac the youthful sun
His journey halfway through the Ram has run;
When little birds are busy with their song
Who sleep with open eyes the whole night long
Life stirs their hearts and tingles in them so,
On pilgrimages people long to go
And palmers to set out for distant strands
And foreign shrines renowned in many lands.
And specially in England people ride
To Canterbury from every countyside
To visit there the blessed martyred saint
Who gave them strength when they were sick and faint.

Both versions, by the way, are written in iambic pentameter. You know, tah-DUM tah-DUM tah-DUM tah-DUM tah-DUM. To make true pentameter rhythm, you have to say Canterb’ry. Or Caunterb’ry. Veddy English, ay wot?

You can blame this post on Ruth Hull Chatlien, who mentioned in a post of hers on Saturday that she will never forget the first four lines of the Canterbury Tales in Middle English and that she used to know 18 lines of it, which she was required to memorize for a class in college. I thought it only fair to inflict it on the rest of you.

Here is the piéce de resistance, (or as the French would say, the pee-ESS-da rih-zis-TAWHNSS): an audio version of the eighteen lines in Middle English, complete with a rather bizarre phonetic rendering of what you are hearing. (My own phonetic renderings, of course, are not the least bit bizarre.)

Plus here’s a little something extra (a lagniappe, as it were) for making it all the way through this post: the Canterbury cathedral (photo copyright Sacred Destinations, 2007).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Words fail me...

and anyone who knows me can tell you this is downright odd. The reason? Another award has come my way, not for writing this blog, but for my commenting ability. Ruth Chatlien, who is still holding forth at Ruth's Visions and Revisions, has decided to name me a “Super Commenter.”

Here’s the award:
I am honored, although the honor is diluted somewhat by the fact that Ruth gave this particular award to quite a few other people at the same time. She presented a “Super Commenter” award to every single person who commented on a recent post of hers, and I counted 39 comments in all. But Ruth made six of them herself, and another commenter made seven, and at least two more commenters made two each, which puts the actual number of winners at somewhere around 25 or 26. The last time so many people took the stage for an award was probably at this year’s Daytime Emmy Awards when the award for Outstanding Daytime Drama award was announced. In terms of sheer numbers, my co-winners and I are right up there with the entire cast and crew and writers and producers of General Hospital or All My Children or Days Of Our Lives or The Bold and The Beautiful or whatever soap opera’s turn it was to win this year.

But I am not unthankful. Any award beats no award, hands down, any day of the week. And this particular award is even psychedelic. My award-winning comment was not flowery and was actually rather short, so I think I must have made the winner’s circle by the skin of my teeth. I could point to other comments of mine that were much more deserving. But Ruth is an equal-opportunity awarder, and I am proud to display this new award with the others.

My dog Jethro, now he’s a super commenter. Just ask Ruth’s dog, Smokey.

Friday, September 12, 2008

La cabane au fond du jardin

That may sound very romantic and may even mean “the hut at the bottom of the garden” (which is what the photographer, my French blogger friend Papy Biou, calls this structure -- in French, of course -- on his blog, Le monde comme je l’aime), but to me it looks like something quite different.

I grew up in Texas years and years ago without benefit of indoor plumbing in our house. We had four rooms and a path, and to me Papy’s hut at the bottom of the garden looks exactly like our outhouse at the edge of the pasture. It was a building with which the members of our immediate family were intimately, and I do mean intimately, acquainted. An outhouse, for you younger readers, was the place to go when you had to go, in rain or shine, in snow or sleet or dark of night.

For those who care about such things, there are some small but distinct differences to be noted between a hut at the bottom of a garden and an outhouse at the edge of a pasture. For starters, one is a potting shed and the other is more of a potty shed. Or, to put it in mathematical terms, a potting shed is to the bottom of the garden as a potty shed is to the bottom of the gardener. And this definitely looks like a potty shed to me. Form follows function, as the architects say. It may even have been lifted from its old Texas home and transported to Papy’s garden, for all I know.

Ours, though unpainted, was the Cadillac of outhouses; it was furnished with not one, not two, but three seats (if you can call a hole ten or twelve inches in diameter a seat). We never availed ourselves of any multi-evacuating opportunities, however, because we were a prim, proper, and thoroughly Puritanical family.

Another difference is that a hut at the bottom of a garden is built on solid ground and probably houses garden tools and that sort of thing, but an outhouse at the edge of a pasture is built over a very large hole or trench that acts as a repository for what in town would be carried away by the municipal sewer system. Occasionally we would pour lime into it. Our particular hole or trench was about eight or ten feet deep to start with and took several years to fill up. Then my dad simply dug a new trench a few feet away and moved the outhouse, using the dirt from the new trench to fill up the old trench.

The buildings are similar in one way, though. Whether you enter a hut at the bottom of a garden hut or an outhouse at the edge of a pasture, you need to keep a sharp lookout for snakes and spiders.

Papy, your photograph definitely brought back pungent memories. And I do mean pungent.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001

(Photographs above from “Days of Terror” at nymag.com)

(Photographs above from www.theblackday.org by navexpress)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Papy Biou has returned!

No, that’s not Papy. First of all, Papy is a man and that’s a woman. Papy Biou is a Frenchman whose blog, Le monde comme je l'aime, is one of my favorites. He took a long vacation in July and August to replenish his supply of wonderful photographs. Now he is back, and he has granted me permission to post some of his photographs on my blog. As I said, he takes wonderful photographs. (I don’t know anything about photography, but I know what I like.)

One of the photos he took while on vacation was of this woman with an accordion or concertina or whatever it is. I’m not interested in who she is. I’m not interested in where she is or what she is wearing. I’m not interested in the way the light and the shadow play on her face. I’m not even interested in what that thing is called that she is holding in her lap. But I do want to know one thing. The only really important question is:

Did she make it through to the next round?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesday ramblings # 7 (or #8 if you count last week)

I was surfing the internet in my usual fashion the other day, reading a little bit here and a little bit there, jumping around all over the place, when I happened to read a comment on a blog in the United Kingdom that made me curious. So I clicked on the commenter’s profile and discovered a guy named Alden Smith in New Zealand -- he calls himself “tillerman” and is really into yachting (one of his blogs called Simply Sailing is worth a look) -- and I jumped to a blog of his called Stream of Consciousness and found a little something extra in the sidebar -- an excerpt from “Ode on Intimations of Immortality” by William Wordsworth, formatted thusly:

Our birth is but a sleep
and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us,
our life’s Star, Hath had
elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory
do we come, From God,
who is our home:

Odd, I thought. This was just enough Wordsworth to wet your whistle if Wordsworth is a wordsmith whose words you welish, er, relish, so I thought I would show you the entire stanza (lines 59 through 77 of the 208-line poem) from which the excerpt was, well, excerpted:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

I’m sorry that I don’t know enough about the minutiae of blogging to be able to show the stanza with the indentation Wordsworth intended -- somehow everything always gets pushed over to the left margin -- but it’ll have to do for now. I think you will agree, though, that the stanza says a mouthful and gives the reader quite a bit on which to chew.

That’s enough Wordsworth. Any more Wordsworth (for example, I thought about including “I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud” with its “And then my heart with pleasure thrills and dances with the daffodils”) would have been just a little too much Wordsworth.

Speaking of chewing, we drove over to the local pet shop this morning to replenish Jethro’s dog food supply. The whole place was shut down, closed, kaput -- lock, stock and barrel -- without so much as a “by your leave” or directions to their new location, if any. Three weeks ago all seemed well and normal, and now, today, nothing. As soon as we returned home, I surfed some more on the internet and found that the next nearest establishment that sells the kind of dog food we buy is about fifteen miles away. Oh, well, what’s a little gasoline (petrol for you U.K. readers) compared to the health and well-being of my doggie? We buy Eagle Pack Holistic Select Lamb, Rice, and Oatmeal formula (also a mouthful), which is fortified with chondroitin and glucosamine and all sorts of other stuff that’s supposed to be good for Jethro’s coat, bones, joints, eyesight, and, for all I know, his bark and his bite as well. It’s a bit more expensive than the stuff they sell at the local supermarket, but it’s what Jethro had been eating for two years when we acquired him from his previous owner, who recommended that we continue giving him the food he was used to.

Also, while we were out and about today discovering the downturn in the local pet shop economy, we bought an American flag, a pole, and a mounting bracket. Until now we haven’t owned one, although both of our families flew the flag on holidays when we were young. We decided we wanted to fly one this Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that resulted in nearly 3,000 lives lost in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A legend remembered

Exactly one year ago today, one of the great tenor voices of our time, perhaps of all time, died. I’m speaking, of course, of Luciano Pavarotti, Italy’s gift to the world.

In case you don’t follow opera, one of Pavarotti’s signature arias was “Nessun Dorma” from the opera Turandot by Giacomo Puccini (or as his friends called him, Jim. I’m kidding, I’m kidding! But another Italian composer of grand opera, Giuseppe Verdi, is actually Joe Green in English).

Since Pavarotti’s death, he is all over YouTube. In case you never heard his magnificent voice, here is a younger, trimmer Luciano Pavarotti singing "Nessun Dorma" in 1990 with Zubin Mehta directing the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and here is Luciano Pavarotti singing “Nessun Dorma” in 1994 with Zubin Mehta directing the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. For some strange reason, this version has Spanish subtitles..

Here is Pavarotti singing “Granada” at an Eiffel Tower concert in Paris in 1998. Zubin Mehta is nowhere in sight. This time the maestro is American conductor James Levine. And here, later that same evening, from that same Eiffel Tower concert in Paris in 1998, is Pavarotti singing “Nessun Dorma“ in one of his most emotional renditions.

One of Luciano Pavarotti’s last public performances was at the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, in 2006, but there was a catch. It was revealed later that he was lip-synching. The entire orchestra and the conductor were just pretending. At first, Pavarotti had turned down the invitation to sing at the games because he felt he would not be able to sing well in the cold, outdoor, night air. But the organizers of the opening ceremonies persuaded him to record his performance in the studio a few days earlier so that he could represent Italy and Italian culture at the games’ opening ceremonies.

Happy listening!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The last of life, for which the first was made

On Thursday evenings when Mrs. Rhymeswithplague and I aren’t otherwise committed, we like to eat out with a group of old friends at a local family-style (translation: cheap) restaurant. And when I say “old friends” I mean OLD friends. This started out as the senior group, as in senior citizens, from our church way back before we ourselves were included in that category. The participants have changed over the years as people have moved or died or become home-bound with the frailties of age or disease. The diners in the current group range from 62 to 90 years of age. Except for Patrick, Esther’s brain-damaged, 40-year-old son whom we all love and who always attends with his mother, I am usually the lone guy in the group now, unless Wayne comes with Sharon. Lewis and Anne are both gone. Jeanne’s Hugh died in June. Moffie is at home with Bob, who has Alzheimer’s. Audrey is at home with her Bob, who has Parkinson’s. Several ladies are widows. Face it, old age ain’t for sissies. We hope to be active as long as possible.

Anyway, Audrey has invited the group for dessert tonight, so we are planning to gather at a different restaurant to be nearer Bob’s and Audrey’s house. As we haven’t seen Bob for several months, we’re looking forward to this evening.

Robert Browning said it best in “Rabbi Ben Ezra” and I think it applies to friends no less than to husbands and wives:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith ‘A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!’

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Student’s Guide to my Labor Day poem about Tab Hunter

No Tuesday ramblings this week, but here’s a Student’s Guide to my Labor Day poem about Tab Hunter instead:

A Student’s Guide To My Labor Day Poem About Tab Hunter

Notes 1 through 4A refer to the title of the post; notes 5 through 6 refer to the title of the poem, and notes 7 through 17 refer to the body of the poem:

1. Walt Whitman: American poet (1819 - 1892). Here’s a Wikipedia article about him.

2. Robert Louis Stevenson: Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer (1850 - 1894). Here’s a Wikipedia article about him.

3. Rudyard Kipling: English author and poet (1865 - 1936). Here’s a Wikipedia article about him.

4. Hollywood: According to Wikipedia, a district in the city of Los Angeles, California, situated west-northwest of Downtown Los Angeles. Due to its fame and cultural identity as the historical center of movie studios and movie stars, the word “Hollywood” is often used as a metonym of cinema of the United States.

4A. Metonymy: Not to be confused with synecdoche.

5. Tab Hunter: See Wikipedia article and official fansite.

6. His 2005 Memoir: Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, published in Hardcover at $24.95 originally but currently available used for $0.41 at amazon.com

7. “When lilacs...bloom’d”: First line of a poem by Walt Whitman (see note 1) written as an elegy to the recently assassinated Abraham Lincoln, entitled “When lilacs...bloom’d”. Another of Whitman’s poems, “O Captain! My Captain!”, was also written shortly after Lincoln was assassinated -- he really liked the dude -- but the latter poem always makes this writer think of Mike Hampton, a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves baseball team, about whom he has thought of writing a poem called “O Hampton! Mike Hampton” but he hasn’t done it because it would need to end with “On the deck Mike Hampton lies, fallen cold and dead” and his writing is not that macabre -- yet.

8. “laid him down with a will”: Meant to remind the reader of the first stanza of “Requiem” by Robert Louis Stevenson (see note 2):

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie,
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

9. Judy Garland: See Wikipedia article.

10. Her daughter Liza: Liza Minnelli. For how she would like you to see her, see her website. For a more recent photo of her and a little about her life, see Wikipedia article.

11. “And Tab Hunter, home from the hill”: Meant to remind the reader of the second stanza of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “Requiem”:

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

12. “Nothing new...under the sun”: Meant to remind the reader of the words attributed to King Solomon in chapter 1, verse 9, of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” The phrase “under the sun” appears 27 times in the twelve chapters of the book of Ecclesiastes.

13. “East may be East and West may be West”: The first line of the poem “The Ballad of East and West” by Rudyard Kipling (see note 3) is “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

14. “But ever the twain shall meet”: See #12.

15. “And fans still deny Elvis Presley’s dead”: Self-explanatory.

16. Anna Nicole: Oh, forget it.

17. “moth and corrupting rust”: Meant to remind the reader of the words of Jesus Christ as quoted by the apostle Matthew in chapter 6, verses 19 through 21, of the book of Matthew in the New Testament: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Time does not permit us to elaborate on the subject of lilacs (bushes with lavender-colored flowers, which color is sometimes used in reference to homosexuals and homosexuality), labor (about which much is also written in Ecclesiastes), or America’s Labor Day (the first observance of which occurred on September 5, 1882).

But maybe there’s time for a little rambling here at the end. Today was my parents’ wedding anniversary. It also is the anniversary of the formal surrender of Japan to the United States on the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay in 1945. It is also the anniversary of the Great Fire of London that destroyed most of the city in 1666.

Monday, September 1, 2008

With deepest apologies to Walt Whitman, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and the entire Hollywood film colony...

Let’s have a little Labor Day fun:

On Learning That Actor Tab Hunter Is Alive, Is 77 Years Old, And Admits In His 2005 Memoir That He Is Gay

When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
The brides were bred and the grooms were groom’d,
’Twas time for the corpse to be exhum’d,
For He laid him down with a will.

The fifties and sixties all up and fled,
Ms. Judy Garland is long since dead,
Her daughter Liza’s been multi-wed,
And Tab Hunter’s home from the hill.

There's nothing new that’s under the sun,
One career’s gone and another’s begun,
Old age and youth alike can have fun
(The word is out on the street).

One has to get something off one’s chest,
One generally knows what one loves best,
For East may be East and West may be West,
But ever the twain shall meet.

The grooms still groom, still the brides are bred,
And fans still deny Elvis Presley’s dead,
And Anna Nicole to her husband said,
“Just lay you down with a will.”

So life goes on, as it surely must,
Except for those who have turned to dust.
The rest attract moth and corrupting rust,
And Tab Hunter’s home from the hill.

<b>As Robin once said to his BFF...</b>

"Holy place names, Batman!" Here's a list of holy-sounding place names that I threw together. Can you identify the ones ...