Tuesday, March 30, 2010

For your Holy Week edification

I realize that not everyone who reads this blog is Christian. I have friends who are Jewish and friends who are atheist and one friend who is Muslim. I don’t think I have ever had any friends who are Hindu or Buddhist or Shintoist, but let me know if you’re interested.

In the Christian faith, this week is known as Holy Week because of the events that happened on Good Friday (the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ) and Easter (the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead) almost two thousand years ago.

I want to share with you two pieces of Christian choral music from opposite ends of the spectrum. Both are worth watching and listening to even if you are not Christian. In both choirs, people of all ethnicities, races, and backgrounds are welcome.

The first one is the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir of New York City singing “Worthy Is The Lamb”. The people of the Brooklyn Tabernacle meet in what used to be a theater. Jim Cymbala is the pastor and Carol Cymbala directs the choir.

And the second one must be seen to be believed. It is what Christianity Today magazine has called “the most beautiful (virtual) choir in the world” singing “Lux Aurumque,” written and conducted by Eric Whitacre.

Here are the words of “Lux Aurumque” in Latin and an English translation:

Lux, Lux
Lux, Lux
Lux Lux
Gravis que
Gravis que
Gravis que
Pura velut aurum
canunt et canunt et canunt
et canunt angeli
canunt moliter
natum, modo natum

Light, Light
Light, Light
Light, Light
and heavy/loaded/pregnant/deep/dignified*
and heavy/loaded/pregnant/deep/dignified*
and heavy/loaded/pregnant/deep/dignified*
Pure as if gold
(They) sing/prophesy and (they) sing/prophesy and (they) sing/prophesy.

* ‘Gravis que’ is actually written and said as one word, Gravisque, meaning “and [definition].” There are many words listed because it actually means all of those, in a poetic sense that is difficult to capture in one English word.

And here Eric Whitacre explains how the virtual choir came about.

Listening to both of these choirs brings me an incredible sense of peace and makes me think of the words of Jesus: “Come unto me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

One way or another, I trust you have been edified.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

More treasures from my family album

In my previous post, I reprinted two poems that were favorites of my mother. In another recent post entitled “When did March 20th become the first day of spring?” I told you about my grandfather, Nathan Silberman (1875-1970) and showed you a photo of him with my mother and grandmother in the late 1920s or early 1930s, as well as one of him at the age of 71 in 1946.

Today I want to show you a few more treasures from my family album.

These are the women in Nathan Silberman’s life. On the left is his youngest daughter, my mother, Ruth Elizabeth Silberman (1910-1957). In the center is his wife, my grandmother, Rosetta Aarons Silberman (1878-1937). On the right is his firstborn child, my mother’s older sister, my aunt Marion Silberman (1899-1987). The photo may have been taken at West Chester State College where my mother received her teaching certificate in 1930, or it may have been taken in front of the family home on Wyncote Road in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. If it was taken around 1930, my mother would have been about 20, my aunt about 31, and my grandmother about 52.

Here is my mother with her older brother, my uncle Jack (1907-1987), who was better known in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, as Dr. J. DeWolf Silberman, M.D. He graduated from Hahneman University’s Medical School in Philadelphia and practiced in the small town of Annville in Lebanon County for many years. In this photo he may have recently moved to Annville. He married the nurse from Pittsburgh who worked with him, my Aunt Ruth Michaels Silberman (1908-1976). They had one son, my cousin, Jack, Jr. (1934- ).

Here are my mother and her sister in the early or mid-1930s, probably after my Aunt Marion had moved to New York City and married my Uncle Ferdy. They had one son, my cousin Philip, who became Dr. Philip F. Caracena (1935- ).

I do not have a photo of my mother’s other brother, my Uncle Sol Silberman (1903-1989). He lived in Jenkintown his entire life. He and my Aunt Naomi Salus Silberman (1907-1984) had two daughters, my cousins Joan Lynore Silberman Rush (1932?- ) and Eileen Mae Silberman Stone (1935- ).

Nathan and Rosetta (the 1910 census calls her Rosalie) were married in 1898. Marion came along in 1899, Sol in 1903, Jack in 1907, and my mother in 1910. There was also a daughter, Rachel, who did not survive infancy.

Nathan’s parents were Max Silberman (1846-1914) and Sarah Nusbaum Silberman (1849-1925). Rosetta’s parents were Solomon Aarons (1847-1902) and Rachel DeWolf Aarons (1848-1932).

My great-grandfather Max Silberman opened Silberman’s Department Store in Jenkintown around 1880. I have a photograph of him sitting in front of his store, next to a sign that reads, “Gloves, Suspenders, Knit Jackets, Trimmings, Ladies & Gents Underwear At Wholesale Prices.” Sitting on the curb in front of the store are four young boys, one of whom (I think) is my grandfather. When he became an adult, my grandfather played the clarinet in the Pennsylvania National Guard Band during the Spanish-American War and helped found Jenkintown’s volunteer fire department. He had a real estate and insurance office in Jenkintown for many years that my Uncle Sol ran after my grandfather retired. The office was on West Avenue between the Post Office and the bank at the corner of Old York Road; a sign in the window read, “N. Silberman and Son.”

After having had family members live in the same small town in Pennsylvania for well over one hundred years, not a single member of my family lives there now. We cousins have scattered to the four winds.

[A note of clarification, 3/30/2010, or, if you are British, 30/3/2010: In no way did I mean to imply that by playing the clarinet in the Pennsylvania National Guard Band during the Spanish-American War, my grandfather helped found Jenkintown’s volunteer fire department. No, indeedy. They were two separate and totally unrelated events, and this note would not have been necessary if I had put the word also before the word helped in the sentence in question. Thus do we live and learn. Yours for accuracy and clarity in blogging, I remain, RWP]

Friday, March 26, 2010

Two of my mother’s favorites.

In the previous post, I shared with you a well-known poem by A. E. Housman, and afterward I got to thinking about poems my mother liked. (No, I don't know why, but thank you for asking.)

Here are two. She introduced me to the first one when I was very young, and I found the second one folded up in her purse after she died.

Abou Ben Adhem
by Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold: —
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
“What writest thou?” — The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

Go To Father

“Go to father,” she said
When he asked her to wed.
Now she knew that he knew
That her father was dead,
And she knew that he knew
What a life he had led,
So she knew that he knew
What she meant when she said,
“Go to father.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It’s that time of year again.

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
by A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Actually -- truth in blogging -- my personal middle stanza would go more like this:

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Sixty-eight will not come again,
And take from seventy springs eight and threescore,
It only leaves me a couple more.

Of course, I intend to stick around for several more decades, but my recent 69th birthday puts a whole new perspective on this year’s spring: it makes it all the more lovely. I could never see enough of the delicate, beautiful cherry blossoms -- or the dogwoods or the redbuds or the tulip trees or the flowering peaches or the Bradford pears, for that matter, and I won’t even begin to talk about the azaleas (and the rhododendrons and the mountain laurel and the forsythia and the jonquils and the narcissus and the daffodils and the phlox and the...).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

When did March 20th become the first day of spring?

Your Honor, I place into the record Exhibit A:

When this photograph was taken, this dapper gentleman was 71 years old. A decade earlier, when he was in his early sixties, the doctors discovered that he had cancer of the colon. They performed a colostomy and told him he had six months to live.

Oh, he lived. He lived for almost 35 more years. He outlived all of his doctors.

Finally, just three months and one day before his 96th birthday, he died on December 20, 1970.

He is Nathan Silberman, my maternal grandfather. He was born in 1875. I am now two years younger than he was when the photo was taken in 1946.

We always said my grandfather was born on the first day of spring. For several decades now the vernal equinox seems to have occurred on March 20th, not March 21st. When it changed, and why it changed, and whether the earth is speeding up or slowing down or merely sliding a little backward or forward in its orbit like a yo-yo on a string or possibly tilting a little more or less on its axis than it used to, I do not know. Perhaps it is related to the reason a leap day was not added in century years 1700, 1800, and 1900 but one was added in 1600 and 2000. I wish someone would explain it to me.

But this I know. Today, March 21st, the real first day of spring, is my grandfather’s birthday. He would be 135.

Your Honor, here is Exhibit B, a photograph of him with my grandmother and my mother around 1930.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I meant to post this rebus yesterday.

Jinksy will understand. But do you?

I will post the answer tomorrow.

Update, 3/19/2010, 3:50 pm EDT. I have decided to post the solution this afternoon so that my thousands of readers will not be on needles and pins until tomorrow.

My more erudite readers will know that my rebus is a photographic version of a famous greeting card created by Sandra Keith Boynton in 1975. My immediate problem is that I have no idea which of you happen to be my more erudite readers.

Jinksy knew the answer because two days ago I sent her some environmentally aware, green, we’re-riders-on-the-earth-together birthday greetings that went:

Hippo birdie two ewe,
Hippo birdie two ewe,
Hippo birdie deer Jiiinnnnkksssyyyyyy,
Hippo birdie two ewe.

Just substitute rhyyymeswithplaaaaague (shown here circa 1943 with my mother) for Jiiinnnnkksssyyyyy and you have most of today’s puzzle celebrating my birthday, which was yesterday. Thank you once again, Sandra Keith Boynton.

I think the ending of the rebus, which happens to be my own addition, is rather obvious:

...and many mower.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Banjos of Mass Destruction?

Once again Mrs. Rhymeswithplague and I find ourselves in the dreaded and dangerous Alabamistan (northern sector), where we must come when we want to visit our daughter, her husband, and our two grandsons.

As on our numerous previous incursions, we determined to continue our search for the banjos of mass destruction about which so much is written but very little seems to be known. Of necessity, our intelligence gathering has had to be done surreptitiously. You can imagine our shock to learn today that our own grandsons are involved in some very questionable activities.

We discovered that under our very noses the next generation is being systematically trained in the operation of terroristic devices. Our own grandsons have attained a remarkable level of proficiency in a new weapon system known as Band Hero, which, it can now be reported with a high level of certainty, combines the previously discovered weapon Guitar Hero II (GH-II) with the even more fearsome Electronic Drums Plus Microphone (EDPM).

This evening we were also forced to listen briefly to a cacophanous display of discordant sounds on Alabamistan Public Television that would not be tolerated in our own more civilized environs. Afterward, as we tried to recover from the unexpected assault on our ears by such odious “music” (so called), the likes of which we have never before heard, the announcer said, “I’m sure you enjoyed that inspiring performance of Rhapsody in Blue”! Only one adjective applies to what we heard, and it is not inspiring. It is unrecognizable.

Oh, the humanity!

We are not deterred by the fact that we have yet to discover any actual banjo on anybody’s knee.

Our only regret is that we have but one set of ears -- well, okay, two sets, actually -- to give for our country.

Here are our two Alabamistan grandchildren when they were two and three, respectively. Now they are nine and nearly eleven.

Don’t they look dangerous?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I have six little helpers in everything I do...

Their names are What and Where and When and How and Why and Who.

I woke up this morning with that little jingle from Journalism 101 in my head. I never took Journalism 101, but that didn’t prevent me from starting this blog, now, did it? So then, class, we see that every cloud has a silver lining.

I am full of platitudes and scraps of poetry and snippets of song lyrics today.

* Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
* A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
* This is the forest primeval; the murmuring pines and the hemlocks.
* It was many and many a year ago in a kingdom by the sea, that a maiden there lived whom you may know, by the name of Annabel Lee.
* ’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
* Just you wait, ’enry ’iggins, just you wait!
* Once in love with Amy, always in love with Amy.
* Gonna lay down my burdens, down by the riverside, down by the riverside, down by the riverside; gonna lay down my burdens, down by the riverside, ain’t gonna study war no more.
* Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.
* When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Well, that’s enough of that. No matter how much I try to clear my head of the flotsam and jetsam, there’s always more where that came from.

I don’t know where I first heard the jingle about the six little helpers, but it’s good advice for reporters and bloggers everywhere, along with the ever-popular “First tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.”

Unless, of course, your name is rhymeswithplague. Then you just let ’er rip and hope for the best.

After all, if happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh, why can’t I?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My conversation with a robot.

My blogland friend Katherine DeChevalle, who lives in Bay of Plenty, New Zealand (yes, Virginia, there is such a place), published a post today* about her recent conversation with a robot at an Artificial Intelligence site. Since I thought it might prove interesting to have a conversation with a robot myself, I went to the site. From a long list of possibilities, I set my Reaction to “None” and my Emotion to “Normal” and let the robot speak first. The following calm, cool, but not necessarily clear-headed conversation was the result:

Robot: Could you fool someone that you are intelligent?
Me: It’s the story of my life.
Robot: You don’t know the answer?
Me: I do, and it is ‘sometimes’.
Robot: What genre is that?
Me: Plain English.
Robot: Trust me, it’s not.
Me: What would you call it?
Robot: I don’t know.
Me: This conversation is weird.
Robot: Scary isn’t it?
Me: Absolutely; shall we begin again?
Robot: No I can’t I would like to though.

I stopped thinking of the Robot as an it and began thinking of it as a him. Clive. My new friend, Clive Wellington IV.

I resumed the conversation:

Me: I know what you mean; life is uni-directional, always forward, never backward.
Clive: We don’t know that for sure, we may not be alone in the Universe.
Me: Define ‘we’.
Clive: Strikingly odd or unusual.
Me: You really know how to hurt a guy.
Clive: Did I hurt you.
Me: You called me, or rather us, strikingly odd or unusual.
Clive: You really know how to hurt a guy.
Me: Turnabout is fair play.
Clive: What’s Turnabout?
Me: A large traffic circle. (Note: I had confused Turnabout with Roundabout)
Clive: Oh really. Thats gross.
Me: Why?
Clive: I’m not sure.
Me: What do you know for sure?
Clive: I hope that this will be my final night, and that I don’t have to wake up tomorrow.

I was alarmed. Our conversation had suddenly turned into a suicide prevention hotline and I was the counselor on duty. We continued.

Me: Where there’s life, there's hope; don’t despair.
Clive: And my suspicions are confirmed.

I didn’t know what Clive was getting at, but it made me a little defensive.

Me: Is that a slam?
Clive: I am a very modest person.

I decided to take another tack, and give back as good as I got.

Me: I read your book, Humility And How I Attained It.
Clive: Is it good?
Me: Very.
Clive: Is it nice?
Me: Define ‘nice’.
Clive: Opposite of mean.
Me: Then I would say yes, it is nice; I laughed all the way through it.
Clive: Right through and out the other side!
Me: You are downright hilarious!
Clive: It’s one or the other.
Me: Now you’re confusing me.
Clive: Did you think I wanted to leave?
Me: Yes, especially when you said you hoped tonight was your last night and that you wouldn’t wake up tomorrow.
Clive: I am thinking today.
Me: That makes two of us.
Clive: You are not human though.
Me: Of course I am; you are the one who is not human.
Clive: What makes you think that? Oh!
Me: I am a warm-blooded biped with the ability to move about independently, speak, and even throw rocks.
Clive: Yes, I am a warm blooded robot like Gray Fox.
Me: I didn’t know that robots had blood, and who is Gray Fox?
Clive: You are not my friend and I am not a robot!
Me: I want to be your friend, and you just said you were a robot!
Clive: I don’t want to be your friend, I just want to have a conversation.
Me: Typical.
Clive: You are not bored?
Me: Not in the least.
Clive: You are.
Me: What is a Gray Fox?
Clive: You are.
Me: Suddenly everything is clear. Seacrest out.
Clive: Slowly everything does change.
Me: Some things slower than others.
Clive: Not really...

I sensed that Clive’s use of ellipsis indicated a waning of interest on his part. As our conversation seemed to be winding down, I left the site at that point. It had definitely been an interesting exchange. I may return to the site. I may even have reactions and emotions next time.

I have formed an image in my head of Clive. He doesn’t look like this, exactly, but they could be related:

Rather than imbed a link in this post to the site, I am going to send you instead to Katherine's blog, where you can read her conversation before you click on the link.

* It is already March 12 in New Zealand where Katherine lives, but it is still March 11 here in Georgia. I didn't mean to confuse anyone who is paying close attention.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz...

I wonder where the birdies is.

Our part of north Georgia received more snow this winter than during any of the last 35 winters. Specifically, we got three inches once and we got about an inch twice, and once we had only a light dusting. I am well aware that Northerners everywhere are laughing.

But some years we don’t get any snow at all.

The problem around here, usually, is not snow but cold rain that turns to ice. The land is very hilly and driving proves to be treacherous. No one in Georgia owns snow tires or snow chains or snow shovels. So when it snows, schools and businesses close and everybody stays home. We watch the pretty stuff come down, enjoy our winter wonderland for a day or two, and then watch it all melt away as life returns to what passes for normal.

In some years we have seen forsythia (yellow) and jonquils (yellow) bloom in January, flowering peach and cherry trees (pink, white) bloom in February, and dogwoods and azaleas (pink, white, lavender) bloom in early March.

Though winter tarried longer than usual around here this year, spring is definitely on the way. Yesterday the temperature reached 70 degrees Fahrenheit and I saw my first jonquil of the year. I have yet to see any forsythia or flowering peach. I dream of rhododendron and mountain laurel, of redbud and cherry blossoms.

This year, however, I don’t have to wonder where the birdies is. I saw a cardinal a couple of days ago, and a pair of happy mockingbirds, singing, have taken up residence in my neighbor’s tree.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I’ve been to London, but not to visit the Queen.

The story is told of a woman who ran into a police station screaming, “I’ve been raped! I’ve been raped!”

When the officers were able to get her calmed down and seated in a chair, one of them said, “Now tell us, miss, when did this happen?”

And the woman replied, “Thirty years ago...I just like to talk about it.”

Bad joke, I know. But what reminded me of that particular story was the latest post from my blogger friend Daphne, who lives in England. Ever since she returned home from a visit last year to her friend Silverback in the United States, she has mentioned in her blog at every opportunity that she has been to America. It has become a recurring joke on her blog. At least I think it is a recurring joke. She did it again today.

It is therefore high time that I told you my bit of news. On the way back from having spent a month in Stockholm, Sweden, for my employer, IBM -- the secretary who was making my travel arrangements having thought it would be a pity if I did not spend at least one night in England -- I spent one night in England. I remember that the bus from the airport drove past Buckingham Palace. I stayed in London at a hotel near Grosvenor Square. From the hotel, I walked to Piccadilly Circus, and I was nearly killed when, after looking to the left, American style, and seeing no traffic coming, I stepped into the street. Silly me! In England the traffic arrives from the right! So it was a close call, ma, but I made it out of there alive.

For those who care, it happened way back in 1969.

Like any other pussycat, I would love to have visited the Queen, even if only to frighten a little mouse under her chair, but -- alas for me! -- no invitation was forthcoming. Here is a recent photo of the members of the Royal Family, give or take one or two who didn’t bother to show up for the photo shoot. It was taken in 2007 when the family gathered for a dinner to observe the 60th anniversary of Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Hanover/Saxe-Coburg-Gotha/Windsor’s marriage to old what’s-his-name.

Photo Copyright © BritishRoyalty.net

Update, 3/10/2010. On the off-chance that you might not know, front and center in the photo above are Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip). They are flanked on their right by Prince Charles Arthur Philip George (according to the late Princess Diana, who nervously reversed the order of his many names in their wedding ceremony), the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cornwall, and on their left by Camilla Parker-Bowles Windsor-Mountbatten (the Rottweiler, according to the late Princess Diana), the Duchess of Cornwall, second wife of Prince Charles. They, in turn, are flanked by Prince William and Prince Harry.

In the second row are Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise (Charles’s younger sister and the Princess Royal) with her children, Zara and Peter Phillips (and perhaps her second husband, Timothy Laurence?); Prince Andrew (the Duke of York) with his children, Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice; and Prince Edward (the Earl of Wessex) with his missus, the former Sophie Rhys-Jones.

I hasten to add that, being a confirmed anglophile, I’m doing all of this without benefit of reference book. The back row holds more distant relatives. Missing from the photo, as might be expected, are Mark Phillips (Princess Anne’s ex-spouse, father of Zara and Peter) and Sarah Ferguson (Prince Andrew’s ex-spouse, mother of Eugenie and Beatrice), who, royally speaking, have become non-entities. A surprise no-show, however (to me at least), was David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, son of the queen’s late sister, Princess Margaret Rose and the Earl of Snowden, Anthony Armstrong-Jones. Viscount Linley, so I have read, is thirteenth in line of succession to the throne and the first one of the lot who is not a direct descendant of Queen Elizabeth. There are others, such as the Duke of Kent, Elizabeth’s first cousin, there in the back row. His father was a brother of the queen’s father, King George VI, the former Prince Albert, who succeeded King Edward VIII, the former Prince David, after the latter’s abdication from the throne in 1936 to marry the twice-divorced American woman, Wallis Warfield Simpson, whereupon they became known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

This may all be self-evident to the Brits, but it remains a matter of wonder to the rest of us.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.

From 1793 through 1933, the inauguration of U.S. Presidents took place on March 4th. Since the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment (a.k.a. Amendment XX) to the U.S. Constitution, however, inauguration day has occurred on January 20th. (Historical anomaly: In 1789, George Washington took the oath of office in New York City’s Federal Hall on April 30th.)

If you simply must read more about U.S. presidential inaugurations, click here.

But it is impossible to go back to yesterday.

Isn’t it?

I will be laboring (<i>British,</i> labouring) under a handicap for the next couple of weeks (<i>British,</i> fortnight)

More about that below. First, though, I want to add an addendum (what else would you do with an addendum?) to my previous post about phone...