Friday, May 29, 2009

M’aidez! M’aidez!

Or, as we say on this side of the pond, HELP!!!

There is a minor glitch or problem or something funny (funny as in peculiar, not funny as in ha-ha) going on with the Live Traffic Feed thingy over there in the left margin of my blog, and I would appreciate any advice you can give. Until recently, if I clicked on “Options” in the Live Traffic Feed thingy and then on “Ignore my browser,” by golly, it worked and ignored my browser as advertised, meaning it did not add “Canton, Georgia” to the list every time I come to my own blog.

Lately, though, the LTF thingy seems to be suffering from short-term memory loss. Or maybe that should be long-term memory loss.

I am certainly not ashamed of being from Canton, Georgia, but I would prefer not to have the traffic counter fill up with multitudinous references to my place of residence. And I would prefer not to have to keep saying, “Ignore my browser” over and over. I would rather see a list of other people who have dropped by.

Several months ago, my son added a Local Area Connection icon on my desktop and I began “enabling” local area connection before signing on the Internet and “disabling” local area connection after leaving the Internet. As long as I used dial-up, my son said, this hadn’t been recommended because every time I signed on to the Internet back then I was using a different TCP/IP address. But after switching to high-speed Internet, if I understand it right, I now use a single TCP/IP address no matter when I sign on and therefore my desktop is more vulnerable to hacking, viruses, worms, and general nastiness because it is connected all the time. Having a Local Area Connection that can be disabled when I’m not using the Internet lessens the likelihood of getting zapped by the bad people in the world.

All went swimmingly for several months. Lately, however, every time I sign onto the Internet and go to my blog, the Live Traffic Feed thingy has started saying “Canton, Georgia” and I have to tell it repeatedly to ignore my browser. This never used to happen. If I told it to ignore me, it ignored me until I told it to stop ignoring me. Logging off now seems to reset the darned thing.

Nothing has changed at my end of things that I know of. I am one very confused blogger. If my browser is suddenly deleting cookies of some sort that I need, it must have started doing it on its own because I don’t remember telling it to do anything like that.

Does anyone have any idea what is happening or why? I will consider any reasonable suggestion, short of shutting down my blog, that fixes the problem.

All this clicking nonsense is getting downright ridiculous.

On the hottest afternoon in Georgia in seven years, the seventy-second floor of the tallest building in Atlanta was hardly abuzz with activity. A pimply-faced boy slowly pushed a squeaky mail cart down a hall. Somewhere a telephone rang. A receptionist put down her cigarette, cleared her throat, and began to talk.

“Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Houyhnhnm, and Yahoo....Miss Gulliver speaking. How may I direct your call?” said the receptionist into the mouthpiece of her silver telephone.

Glrbfq fnjx kqdmsl, wqvx,” said the telephone.

“Certainly, sir. I’ll put you through to Mr. Brobdingnag,” said the receptionist. “Please hold.”

Across the hall, another perfectly coiffed receptionist picked up another ringing telephone and said, “Jersey, Holstein, Ayrshire, and Guernsey. May I be of assistance?”

Kfwscy ljvdn qwerty uiopn?” said the telephone.

“Ms. Guernsey is not in the office today, ma’am. Would you care to speak to Ms. Ayrshire instead?” said the receptionist.

Arthur Pilkington ripped the sheet of paper out of the typewriter, crumpled it into a ball, and threw it in the general direction of the wastebasket. He stood up and went into the kitchen and made himself a Harvey Wallbanger, even though it was only ten o’clock in the morning.

Another morning, another wastebasket already half full. It was going to be a long day.

Well, enough of that. I tossed off that chunk of immortal prose in a matter of minutes (could you tell?) to make the following point:

I’m beginning to hate clicking on links. Everybody and his brother puts links in posts, me included. No self-respecting member of the blogging community could possibly post anything without links in it.

We do it because we can.

Perhaps we’re all going to Hell in a handbasket.

Now go and check out those links.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Geography lessons old and new

In my day, we learned geography the old-fashioned way. For example, if I wanted to know more about the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez or Sea of Cortés; locally known in the Spanish language as Mar de Cortés or Mar Bermejo or Golfo de California), the body of water that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland, I might read an article in an encyclopedia or study a map like this one:

Today, thanks to the astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, students can see the real thing.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

Here’s another bit of geography no one ever taught me in school:

Give up? The fine print says it’s a photo of NASA’s Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Hubble Telescope seen in silhouette side by side in solar transit on May 13, 2009. That means the big yellow blob in the background is the sun, 93,000,000 miles away. The photo was taken from Vero Beach, Florida, on May 13, 2009. Atlantis and Hubble are at an altitude of 375 miles (600 km)above the surface of the earth; they zipped across the sun in 0.8 seconds. Click on the photo to get a closer view.

I repeat, we’ve come a long way, baby.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Faces of 2009

If you can’t put the names with the faces, you really need to get out a bit more....

Here are two that have been around a little longer, in happier days:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

M is for Multitudinous

Some people take photographs of sunsets.

Some people take photographs of flowers.

Some people take photographs of animals.

Others take photographs of churches, or tombstones, or battleships, or antique automobiles.

Me, I play with words.

Therefore, as a public service to those of you who would rather write than switch, including Dr. John Neenah of Linna, Wisconsin (or maybe it’s Dr. John Linna of Neenah, Wisconsin), who sits around making up his own words, I am providing a list of perfectly good words, free of cost, for your reading and writing pleasure. The Merriam-Webster people have done the same thing, but you have to turn a lot more pages.

A: anthracite, appendectomy, arthritis, axiomatic, abalone, aeronautical, aphrodisiac, Afghanistan, acetylsalicylic, alliterative, amniotic, Appaloosa, aquamarine, asthmatic, Amenhotep, authoritarianism, ambidextrous, avoirdupois, autumnal, arduous, awkward, azure, acrimoniously, Arapaho.

B: bituminous, blithely, barbiturate, Bostonian, blacklisted, benchmark, barbaric, Bhutan, bodily, Bosphorus, brittle, backfire, burro, bystander, Byzantine.

C: corpulent, crestfallen, crowded, Capricorn, charlatan, crapola, Charlemagne, cinnamon, clarification, Corpus Christi, chaotic, cushion, cyanide, California, cyclical, cuddly.

D: dehydrated, dastardly, deciduous, dingo, Dramamine, daffodil, debutante, drunkard, Dubai, dazzling, dimwitted, dabbled, dyslexic, disarmingly, dynamite.

Other words come to mind, too, like felonious, heliocentric, pterodactyl, quotidian, Rashtafarian, sanctimoniously, tintinnabulation, and Zinfandel, but they occur much farther along in the alphabet (farther along, we’ll know all about it; farther along, we’ll understand why). Since it is a bright, sunny, Sunday afternoon (cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine; we’ll understand it all by and by), I think I will stop posting and go lie down for a nice, long nap instead.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Life happens

As John Lennon once noted, life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.

It was true then, and it’s true now.

As people in Georgia say, the only good thing coming out of Alabama is I-20. As people in Georgia say, the reason all the trees lean westward in Georgia is that Alabama sucks. As people in Georgia say...well, let’s just say that people say a lot of things in Georgia.

I am writing to you today from somewhere in deepest, darkest Alabamistan because that is where I happen to be. Life, as I said, happens. So far, I have not encountered anyone with a banjo on his or her knee, but I will keep looking.

This will surprise those among you who know how private a person I am, but I will now divulge a little about my family. Mrs. RWP and I have three grown children, A, B, and C. Let’s call them Agamemnon, Byzantium, and Clytemnestra. Each of them found the perfect spouse, X, Y, and Z. Let’s call them Xylophonia, Ypsilanti, and Zirconium. As luck, fate, time, and several very active libidos would have it, these three happy couples (A-X, B-Y, and C-Z) have two children each, making a total of six of the most perfect, brilliant, talented, handsome, beautimous grandchildren in the entire world who just happen to be mine, er, ours.

C-Z’s oldest child, LMNOP, will be ten years old tomorrow and we have come to help celebrate that happy event. He has crossed an important boundary in life. He is now into double digits.

As are, I trust, you all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A very important day in the history of mankind

May 19 is the 139th day of the year (140th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 226 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1935, T. E. Lawrence, known to the world as Lawrence of Arabia, died in Britain.

On this day in 1994, Jacqueline Lee (“Jackie”) Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, the wife of the 35th president on the United States, John F. Kennedy, died in Manhattan.

On this day in 1971, Ogden Nash, an American poet, died.

On this day in 1864, Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American author who wrote The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, died.

On this day in 1536, Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, was beheaded.

But enough about death and sadness. Let’s talk about something happier.

On this day in 1946, André the Giant, a French professional wrestler, was born.

On this day in 1941, Nora Ephron, an American screenwriter (can you say Sleepless in Seattle?) was born.

On this day in 1861, Dame Nellie Melba, an Australian opera singer, was born. She was not named a Dame until some time later, probably after she had taken a few singing lessons. Her operatic career was so successful that a dessert, Peach Melba, was named for her. Peach Nellie just didn’t have the proper ring to it.

According to Wikipedia, on this day in 1962 a birthday salute to U.S. President John F. Kennedy took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The highlight was Marilyn Monroe’s rendition of Happy Birthday. Either Wikipedia is wrong about the date or this is very strange indeed, because President Kennedy’s birthday wasn’t for another ten days. Perhaps he planned to be sailing in Hyannisport. Perhaps Marilyn Monroe’s presence was required on a movie set. Perhaps Madison Square Garden was already rented out by someone with more pull.

But all of those events fade into insignificance when compared to the chief reason May 19 is a very important day in the history of mankind. The chief reason May 19 is a very important day in the history of mankind is that on this day in 1963, forty-six years ago, Mrs. RWP and I were married in a little church in Orlando, Florida.

Although it is our policy never to allow photographs of ourselves to be published, on this happy occasion we will make an exception.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I (heart) Peggy Noonan

God bless her. Her column in today’s Wall Street Journal
says it better than I can.

Reading it brought to mind the famous essay “Politics and the English Language” that George Orwell wrote in 1946. Here is a summary, by Wikipedia, of George’s points. If you are interested, you can Google the title of the essay and read the whole thing for yourself.

The point of Peggy Noonan’s column is not President Obama’s policies or his appointees or even current attempts at health-care reform, the point is that if the values Americans have held dear for more than two centuries go to Hell in a hand-basket, language such as Peggy Noonan and George Orwell decry will be one of the reasons.

Maybe only former English or journalism majors really care. And just so you know, the way to tell whether you are a former English or journalism major is to read Peggy Noonan’s column and see whether it brings to mind the famous essay “Politics and the English Language” that George Orwell wrote in 1946.

As undoubtedly another former English major once said (and if he or she wasn’t, he or she should have been), “Eschew obfuscation; espouse elucidation.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Speaking of stars and planets,...

which I was doing in the previous post, jinksy is not the only one who could benefit from a remedial course in astronomy. So, as it turns out, could I. While I’ve been quietly growing older, all sorts of new things have been discovered, astronomy-wise, and it’s high time we talked about some of them.

Bet you thought our solar system consisted of the sun and nine planets with an asteroid belt thrown in to make things interesting.

As Tonto used to say to the Lone Ranger, “Wrong, kemosabe.”

There is a musical composition called “The Planets” by a man named Gustav Holst, but I won’t dwell on it. You could read about it here if you like, and even listen to five of its seven movements, and it would be time well-spent, but it has nothing to do with the actual solar system.

Let’s take a closer look at the actual solar system. If you click on the link in the previous sentence, you will find more than enough to keep you reading and thinking for a very long time, including galactic tide and the hypothetical Oort cloud (both of which sound like plots for new Star Trek movies) and Haumea and Makemake, which are not towns in Hawaii. And all of what you will find in just that one article is occurring in our own back yard, astronomically speaking. There’s a whole universe out there waiting to be explored.

And after you have read and absorbed, if you can, all of that fascinating information, you might want to look at this photograph taken by the Hubble telescope because colliding galaxies put "Twinkle, twinkle, little star" into the proper perspective. Then ponder what astronaut Frank Borman broadcast back to earth from Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve, 1968, when, while all of us watched live pictures for the very first time of earth rising above the moon’s horizon, he read from the book of Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth....”


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mica, mica, parva stella... (How insanity begins)

I certainly don’t want to bore you, nor do I want, heaven forbid, to become so enamored of my own posts that I wind up talking to myself, but in order to understand this post you must first read every last word of this February 5th post, including the comments. Sorry, but it can’t be helped. After that, we can continue.

I’ll wait.

There now, wasn’t that a fascinating read? I hope you learned a lot of new facts -- well, perhaps not new exactly, but new to you -- such as (a) Charlemagne (742-814) is considered to have been the father of Europe, and (b) the full name of the current Prince of Wales is not, as Princess Diana would have had us believe, Charles Arthur Philip George.


Fast-forward (now there’s an anachronistic term if I ever heard one) three months. After a three-month interlude of absolute quiet on that particular post, jinksy (a blogger from England who has 80, count ’em, 80 followers) posted a comment in which she described Carolina in Nederland thusly: “She’s a star. Which just goes to show she is from another planet, for sure...” (Ruth Hull Chatlien, you will remember, had suggested that Carolina’s father might be from Neptune).

My mind working the way it does, I immediately thought of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

You know, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and all that. Just about everybody knows that Mozart wrote “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

Except he didn’t. You can search Wikipedia’s article on Mozart until the cows come home (Jeannelle, are you listening?) and you will find nary a mention of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

According to this Wikipedia article, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is one of the most popular English nursery rhymes. It combines the tune of the melody “Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman”, known in France since the 1760s, with an early nineteenth-century English poem, “The Star” by Jane Taylor. The poem, which is in couplet form, was first published in 1806 in Rhymes for the Nursery [Editor’s note. Not to be confused with Rhymeswithplague for the Nursery. -- RWP], a collection of poems by Taylor and her sister Ann. It is often sung to the tune of the French melody “Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman” (earliest known publication 1761) [Editor’s note. Anything a Wikipedia article says twice is true. --RWP]. The English lyrics have five stanzas, although only the first is widely known.

So what did Mozart do? The article states that Mozart wrote twelve variations for piano on the melody. His composition is called, predictably enough, Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”, now catalogued as K. 265/300e in the Köchel-Verzeichnis. It sounds an awful lot like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and now you know why.

Isn’t that special?

I know a woman whose name is Jane Taylor, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t alive in 1806. One of my neighbors is named Richard Burton but his wife is named Sarah, not Elizabeth Taylor. I wonder if Jane and Elizabeth are related. The person who grooms Jethro is named Karen Carpenter. Remember her? I even know someone named Jane Grey. Lady Jane Grey (not the same person) was queen of England for nine whole days in 1553 before being beheaded by Queen Mary in 1554, but not, apparently, before writing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” using the nom de plume Jane Taylor with her sister Ann, who lived until 1806, if I read Wikipedia correctly. After a while, all those Wikipedia articles start to run together. People named a drink after Queen Mary; it’s made with vodka and tomato juice. I guess they had their reasons. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Andy Rooney wrote this paragraph. For the record, I don’t know anyone named Andy Rooney except that old guy on 60 Minutes.

(The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by French Romantic painter Paul Delaoche, 1833.)

I enjoy reading about the history of the British monarchy. You can read all about Lady Jane Grey here, including the fact that Jane refused to name her husband Dudley as king, but offered to make him Duke of Clarence instead. I don’t think it was this Dudley, however, and I thought Clarence was that angel who got his wings at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life.

But, I can almost hear you asking, why does it say “Mica, mica, parva stella” up there in the title of this post? Well, Mica, mica, parva stella is the first line of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in Latin, and you can find that version in the Wikipedia article along with the French words of “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman” and Lewis Carroll’s well-known parody from Through The Looking Glass that he put into the mouth of the Mad Hatter, “Twinkle, twinkle, little bat, How I wonder what you’re at, Up above the world so high, Like a tea-tray in the sky.”

Any similarity between the Mad Hatter and any blogger you know, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

And by the way, jinksy could benefit from a remedial course in astronomy. For your and her information, a star is not a planet and a planet is not a star. In our atmosphere, stars seem to twinkle. Planets do not. Outside of our atmosphere, neither stars nor planets twinkle. Not that I’ve ever been there.

(Image by Shutterstock)

Incidentally, and also for your information, reading a post that includes “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in Latin, an 1833 painting of the 1554 execution of Lady Jane Grey, a reference to the planets in our solar system, and a link to Dudley Do-Right is how insanity begins.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For Mother's Day: The Sunday Funnies

Anybody out there remember Art Linkletter?

He’s still around, about to turn 97 in July. In his day he may have been more popular than Ralph Edwards and Bob Barker and Bill Cullen combined. Or maybe I just have a bad memory.

I always liked the interviews with children that Linkletter did on his television program, House Party. Someone sent me a 7-minute video clip of some of those interviews the other day. We should thank a very nice lady named Carolyn for preserving the precious moments of laughter we are about to share. And we must also warn a certain other very nice lady in Arkansas (Pat, I’m talking about you) to prepare for the possibility of a Pond Spell.

Without further delay, then, here -- complete with an introduction by Bill Cosby -- is:

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

Friday, May 8, 2009

Humpty Dumpty, Babe Ruth, and six degrees of separation

The drawing on the left is an illustration made by John Tenniel in 1871 for the original edition of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. Here are a few lines from Chapter 6:

“There’s glory for you!” [said Humpty Dumpty].

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’” Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t -- till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’”

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’” Alice objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master -- that’s all.”

(End of quotation)

This famous literary conversation came to mind recently when I happened to google “Babe Ruth.” I know what you’re thinking, and you're wrong.

Steeee-rike one.

I wasn’t looking for Babe Ruth, the baseball player:

According to Wikipedia, George Herman Ruth, Jr. (February 6, 1895 – August 16, 1948), also popularly known as “Babe”, “The Bambino”, and “The Sultan of Swat”, was an American Major League baseball player from 1914–1935. He is one of the greatest sports heroes of American culture and has been named the greatest baseball player in history in various surveys and rankings. His home run hitting prowess and charismatic personality made him a larger than life figure in the “Roaring Twenties”. He was the first player to hit 60 home runs in one season (1927), a record which stood for 34 years until broken by Roger Maris in 1961. Ruth’s lifetime total of 714 home runs at his retirement in 1935 was a record for 39 years, until broken by Hank Aaron in 1974.

You’ll need to guess again.

You’re still wrong. Steee-rike two.

I wasn’t looking for Baby Ruth, the candy bar either:

Baby Ruth is a candy bar made of chocolate-covered peanuts, caramel, and nougat, though the nougat found in it is more like fudge than is found in many other American candy bars. The bar was a staple of the Chicago-based Curtiss Candy Company for some seven decades. Curtiss was later purchased by Nabisco, and after a series of mergers and acquisitions, the candy bar is currently produced by Nestlé. The creators of Baby Ruth, the candy bar, claim it was named for the daughter of President Grover Cleveland, not for Babe Ruth, the baseball player. But the creators launched their candy bar in 1921, at the height of the popularity of Babe Ruth, the baseball player, twenty-five years after Grover Cleveland stopped being president, and many years after his daughter had died. In the original flavor, U.S. edition, the ingredients listed by weight in decreasing order were sugar, roasted peanuts, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated palm kernel and coconut oil, nonfat milk, cocoa, High-fructose corn syrup and less than 1% of glycerin, whey (from milk), dextrose, salt, monoglycerides, soy lecithin, soybean oil, natural and artificial flavors, carrageenan, TBHQ and citric acid (to preserve freshness), caramel color.

No, I was looking for something else. What I was looking for -- and this may come as a shock to some of you (do I hear Steee-rike three?) -- was Babe Ruth, the British rock band from the seventies:

Here’s how Babe Ruth, the British rock band, looked in 1975. The members, from left to right, were Alan Shacklock, Dave Hewitt, Jenny Haan, Ed Spevock, and Steve Gurl.

Babe Ruth, the British rock band, hasn’t even existed for a couple of decades, but back when it did, one of their albums went gold in Canada. They were more successful in the U.S. and Canada than in the U.K., and I’m wondering whether any of you readers in Canada or the U.K. or even here in the States remember this band. (I must admit that I had never heard of them, but then rock music was never my thing.)

Here comes a second shock: Alan Shacklock and Dave Hewitt are both friends of mine.

At some point the Shacklocks and the Hewitts moved to Atlanta. Alan and his wife, Lee, joined our church in the early nineties and so did Dave and his wife, Mary. Mary sang soprano in the choir.

Here’s shock number three: Alan, who once produced an album for Meat Loaf, directed our church choir for more than a year. I will wait while you pick yourself up off the floor.

He didn’t look anything at all like he did in 1975. For one thing, he didn’t have any hair. None at all. His head was shaved. Dave Hewitt looked more like his 1975 self, except that he was older and his hair was quite a bit shorter. Dave played bass guitar. Alan played one of those electronic keyboard synthesizer thingies. Alan even had a title while he was at our church: Director of the Celebrative Arts. A few years later he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he now divides his time between producing recordings once again and teaching guitar in the music department at Belmont College.

Alice was wrong and Humpty Dumpty was right. You can make words mean different things. The proof is Babe Ruth.

Now if I could just find a connection between Meat Loaf and Kevin Bacon, I might decide there’s something to that “six degrees of separation” nonsense after all.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hail, hail, the gang’s not all here

Carolina in Nederland is just back from a three-week hiatus during which time she was caring for her newborn foal, Evie. Well, actually, Evie is Naloma’s foal, not Carolina’s. Carolina was more of a midwife.

Sam Gerhardstein of Columbus, Ohio, has taken a little hiatus of his own to undergo retinal surgery. Get well soon, Sam. Blogland isn’t the same without you.

Michael Burns, having left Dateland, Arizona, and Deming, New Mexico, behind, is once again out on the open road with La Coachacita (his RV) having another one of his don’t-you-just-love-everything-about-America moments, about which he fully intends to write if he ever lands in one place long enough.

Personally, I haven’t a clue what jinksy, a.k.a. Penelope Smith, is doing. Probably holed up with her keyboard in a dark, musty room somewhere in the UK, looking around for new subjects to write poems about. Good luck, jinksy.

Jeannelle of Iowa (not to be confused with Eleanor of Aquitaine, the mother of Richard the Lion-hearted) is undoubtedly driving various tractor behemoth thingies around her unbelievably humongous dairy farm, at least 73 acres of which she recently planted with corn, leaving God-only-knows-how-much room for the Holsteins, unless she made her escape and is roaming around old barns and deserted schools and charming churches and quaintly worded tombstones with her camera at the ready.

Mary over at Annie’s Goat Hill is busy making all kinds of scented, handcrafted soap and nursing kids (the four-legged kind) and capturing the marketable assets of Saanans, Alpines, Nubians, and Boers (which is not, by the way, a law firm).

Richard Lawry of Mena, Arkansas, has more than enough to keep him busy lately replacing glass all over town in the aftermath of the F3 tornado that ripped through Mena on April 9th. Richie, you are one of the good guys. You get a pass.

When Ruth Hull Chatlien isn’t getting another book published or planting squash, cucumber, and basil seeds or taking stunningly beautiful photographs of her gorgeous flowers or sketching a little something incredible in her sketchbook or tossing off a quick vest or two on her knitting needles in her spare time, she sits quietly by her window and looks out at birds.

Yorkshire Pudding of Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, has become completely confused since returning from a quick Easter vacation to Hong Kong. Case in point: He intended to spend a quiet evening at home enjoying the poetry of Arthur Hugh Clough but wound up in a cinema instead watching a perfectly dreadful film about someone named Brian Clough, who apparently was a manager of an obscure British football team. YP was so upset that he walked the two miles back to his home in the pouring rain.

Ian (a.k.a. Silverback), who spends half the year in Florida, and Daphne, whose father was a Communist, have traipsed off to London for a couple of days to watch a friend of theirs perform in the thea-tuh, leaving Daphne’s husband Stephen with no one but Froggie to keep him company.

When last heard from a week ago, Vonda out in Oregon had a sick baby and was just sitting there on her little egg farm listening to the rain and the wind and watching the flowers grow. If she was also hoping that her chickens would lay a few eggs, she never mentioned it.

Tracie down in Florida reports that a lot can happen in the six months after a woman cleans out her purse.

Dr. John Linna of Neenah, Wisconsin, claims daily that Pigeon Falls, a little town where the trains still run, dragons fly, and life is back to normal, is in his basement. I always thought this was a figment of his very fertile imagination until a woman named Melli published photographs that prove it is true.

Mr. David Barlow of Ephraim, Utah, is still up to his antics, but I try not to notice. His friend, Loren Christie, who doesn’t know where she is, likes shacks.

Pat is definitely in Arkansas.

This has been an odd day. A very odd day indeed.

I’ll try to get to the rest of you another time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We interrupt this blog to bring you an important announcement from rhymeswithplague headquarters

tap tap this thing on???

*clearing of throat, followed by ear-splitting feedback from microphone*

Good morning.

I am not a camera.

Do not come here hoping to find professional-looking close-ups of exotic insects or the vegetables in my garden or the maple tree in my front yard or the azalea blossoms under my bay window. Do not expect to see the gorgeous sunsets we enjoy daily here in my neck of the woods; they probably look very much like the ones in your neck of the woods. You won’t find snapshots of assorted small children smiling prettily into the camera lens accompanied by captions documenting the rapturous opinions of an adoring older relative. You will look in vain as well for any pictures of my own handsome self, except for the small one at the upper left, taken when I was two.

It ain’t gonna happen.

Neither will you find photos of me and the missus on horseback rounding up our multitudinous cattle in midwinter or our herd of wild mustangs in summer, the ones the U.S. government reimburses us for feeding. You needn’t search any time soon for my completely illustrated procedure of how to make my great-grandma’s gooseberry pie, beginning with the killing and cleaning of the goose (take one cup of sugar, insert photo, one stick of butter, insert photo, use a serrated knife, insert photo). What we do in and around the privacy of our own home, dear reader, ain’t nobody’s bidnis but our own. I know this may come as a shock to some of you, flying as it does in the face of our show all, tell all, bragging, boasting, overblogged, overtwittered, over-blackberried, over-iPhoned society, but it simply can’t be helped. As Walter Cronkite used to say, that’s the way it is.

Instead, I hope you will find, as newcomer Robert Brault -- my goodness, we share three-fourths of a name -- recently did, a “charmingly eclectic” little blog, which he also said he prefers to a “disarmingly dyslexic” one.

If you want your life to be an open book, fine. More power to you. But mine is not. I’m not planning to give you a peek at members of my family. I may write about them from time to time, but show them to you? Never! (In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that in the past I have included old photographs of a few relatives who have long since departed this world. That was then. This is now.) As a famous coffee cup once said, “Just because I’m paranoid doesn't mean they’re not out to get me.”

So when a photograph appears on my blog, it will be because I searched online and found one that fits well with something I have decided to write about.

It will be because I am more a man of words than images.

It will be because I am an admirer of the alphabet, a lover of language, a veritable wizard with words.

Or it might just be because there are no digital cameras or scanners on the premises, and if there were, I wouldn’t know how to operate them, and everything I just said in this announcement is nothing but sour grapes.

Have a blessed day.

*turns and walks out of camera range, if there were a camera*

This has been a special announcement from rhymeswithplague headquarters.

We now return you to the blog in progress.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Top 10 things I would never have known if I hadn’t installed the Feedjit Live Traffic Feed (A trip down memory lane)

10. There is a place in Azerbaijan called Baku, Baki, and someone from there landed on my post Bury my heart at Wounded Knee by searching for “thomas hudson- u my heart.” Odd.

9. There is a place called Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire in the UK.

8. Someone from Louisville, Kentucky, landed on my post Christmas: It’s more than a baby in a manger by searching for “organ music in worship, don hustad, billy graham.” This may appear to make no sense at first glance, but trust me, it does.

7. Someone from Sofia, Grad Sofiya in Bulgaria landed on my post From the archives: The one, the only, Anna Russell by searching for “la cantatrice squealante.” Ah, yes, the unforgettable opera by Michelangelo Occupinti, its famous aria, “Canto dolciamente pippo,” sung by Miss Russell, a uniquely talented, though non-Bulgarian, performer. She gave me her heart and I made her miserable. And vice versa.

6. Someone from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, landed on my post English, How She Is Spoke by searching for “Cameron Carpenter picture drag.” This makes no sense at all, as the words Cameron, Carpenter, picture, and drag appear nowhere in the post or its comments. Of course, Philadelphia arrived from altavista, which may be part of the problem. Altavista is, after all, the home of babelfish, which has produced some memorable translations in its time, including this one.

5. Someone from Lahti, Southern Finland landed on my post Everything you ever wanted to know about May Day but were afraid to ask by searching for “finland may day.” This one makes perfect sense to me. They love me in Helsinki.

4. Someone from Baltimore, Maryland, landed on my post Hyde Park, Mon Amour? but the Feedjit thingy didn’t mention what Baltimore was searching for.

3. The most-visited posts on my blog attracted people interested in The Waltons and Flannery O’Connor’s peacocks, and, for some unknown reason, if those people live in middle eastern countries, presidential libraries. Someone should notify the Department of Homeland Security immediately.

2. xiombix, O'Dasor De, and bAREeYEDsUN are all the same blogger.

1. Feedjit is a blast. I love it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I think I’m having a flashback

For those of you too young to remember him, here’s “Tiny Tim singing Tiptoe Through the Tulips” on Laugh-In in 1968.

And here he is in front of a crowd of 600,000 people at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 singing “There’ll Always Be An England”.

And just in case you are now having trouble deciding which voice you prefer, here, depending on your point of view, is either a tour de force or the coup de grace, Tiny Tim singing an unforgettable duet -- with himself.

Or you could just read this article from Wikipedia.

After reading the article, now you know, as Paul Harvey used to say on the radio (a quaint device of the twentieth century), the rest of the story.

Once again I am indebted to Yorkshire Pudding of Sheffield, Yorkshire, England for inspiring a post.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee

This funny-looking, odd little man was proof of the old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” long before anyone had heard of Susan Boyle.

This funny-looking, odd little man was an American author, poet, short story writer, and novelist who was born in 1898 and died in 1943. His name is Stephen Vincent Benét.

He won two Pulitzer Prizes, one in 1929 for John Brown’s Body, his book-length narrative poem of the American Civil War, and the other, posthumously, in 1944 for Western Star, an unfinished poem on the settling of America. Two of his short stories are also very well known, The Devil and Daniel Webster, which won an O. Henry Award, and By the Waters of Babylon.

My favorite composition of his, however, is the poem “American Names”.

American Names
by Stephen Vincent Benét

I have fallen in love with American names,
The sharp names that never get fat,
The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims,
The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat,
Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat.

Seine and Piave are silver spoons,
But the spoonbowl-metal is thin and worn,
There are English counties like hunting-tunes
Played on the keys of a postboy’s horn,
But I will remember where I was born.

I will remember Carquinez Straits,
Little French Lick and Lundy’s Lane,
The Yankee ships and the Yankee dates
And the bullet-towns of Calamity Jane.
I will remember Skunktown Plain.

I will fall in love with a Salem tree
And a rawhide quirt from Santa Cruz,
I will get me a bottle of Boston sea
And a blue-gum nigger to sing me blues.
I am tired of loving a foreign muse.

Rue des Martyrs and Bleeding-Heart-Yard,
Senlis, Pisa, and Blindman’s Oast,
It is a magic ghost you guard
But I am sick for a newer ghost,
Harrisburg, Spartanburg, Painted Post.

Henry and John were never so
And Henry and John were always right?
Granted, but when it was time to go
And the tea and the laurels had stood all night,
Did they never watch for Nantucket Light?

I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.

I want to thank my English blogger friend, Yorkshire Pudding, another funny-looking, odd little man whose actual name I still do not know, for having inspired this post.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A cause for concern -- but not for alarm

This interesting story just in.

Everything you ever wanted to know about May Day but were afraid to ask

Here is a photo taken in 1907 of May Day festivities in Maryland.

More information about May Day than you ever thought possible can be found in this article from Wikipedia, including May Day’s relationship to Walpurgis Night and Morris dancing and the May Queen and the Maypole (not to be confused with the Walpole) and even International Workers’ Day.

For example, what happens in Finland? “In Finland, Walpurgis Night is, along with New Year’s Eve and Midsommar, the biggest carnival-style festivity, taking place in the streets of Finland’s towns and cities. The celebration is typically centered on plentiful use of sparkling wine and other alcoholic beverages...From the end of the 19th century, this traditional upper class feast has been co-opted by students attending university, already having received their student cap. [Activities] include the capping of the Havis Amanda, a nude female statue in Helsinki, and the biannually alternating publications of ribald matter called Äpy and Julkku by students of the University of Technology. Both are sophomoric...”

One can only assume the article means both publications of ribald matter, not both students of Finland’s University of Technology.

In Scotland, at St. Andrews, some of the students gather on the beach late on April 30 and run into the North Sea at sunrise on May Day, occasionally naked. This is accompanied by torchlit processions and much elated celebration.

In Hawaii, May Day is also known as Lei Day.

If you read too far, you will learn of many lewd and lascivious connotations surrounding the celebrations of May Day as well, but I’m not going to help you find them. You’ll have to ferret them out for yourself. Instead, I leave you with this example of Morris dancing.

It must have been really difficult to find six men named Morris.

Note. It is also noteworthy to note that yelling “May Day” is not an international signal of distress. Yelling “m’aidez” (“help me” in French) is an international signal of distress.

P as in Predicament, B as in Barbiturate, O as in Ophthalmologist

Somewhere in the back of my mind I think we may have talked about this before, long ago perhaps, but we're going to talk about it again....