Saturday, December 31, 2011

Even more poems by Robert H. Brague

I didn’t plan to end the year on a somber note, but these poems have been telling me for some time now that they desire a larger audience. I did put them on the blog back in 2007, but most of you weren’t coming here then. Although I wrote these poems in 1975 and 1976, I think they still resonate as we begin 2012.

..........Sonnets for the Space Age, circa 1976 Robert H. Brague


.......Technology has shrunk our modern world;
.......No room today for the miraculous.
.......In space a big blue marble has been hurled,
.......And astronauts report the marble’s us.
.......Computers speed man’s progress on its way
.......Without regard to race or sex or creed;
.......The federal grant’s the order of the day
.......Without regard to truth or cost or need.
.......So equal opportunities abound
.......(Minorities don’t ever fall from grace);
.......And new solutions, almost daily found,
.......Are rushed to cure the ills of Adam's race.
.......But seldom now does prayer storm Heaven’s gates:
.......Inside, the Lord sits patiently and waits.


.......There was a time when life was slower-paced
.......And one could get to know his neighbor well.
.......Today each moment’s precious, none to waste.
.......Man’s much too busy hurrying toward Hell.
.......And like a lemming, jostled by the crowd,
.......He thrashes wildly with the drowning men;
.......He downs his drink and laughs a bit too loud,
.......And dashes out into the night again.
.......So helter-skelter, racing madly on,
.......He wears a mask to try to hide the lies;
.......His painted smile denies that time is gone,
.......But something doth betray him ’round the eyes.
.......Exhausted, spent, he plunges past the goal
.......To gain the world and lose his sacred soul.


.......Polaris is a missile and a star,
.......The one deployed on restless submarine,
.......The other keeping vigil from afar
.......While nebulae and comets roam between.
.......Much nearer Earth, the evanescent moon
.......Maintains her distance from our planet’s face.
.......Perhaps she senses conflict coming soon,
.......The Armageddon of the human race.
.......So warily she orbits overhead.
.......A quarter-million miles into the void,
.......She too keeps guard. We talk of peace instead,
.......Let our guard down. With warheads unemployed,
.......While newsmen speak of cabinets and kings,
.......Calamity is waiting in the wings.


.......Three heavens stretch above Earth’s little pond:,
.......The daylight blue; the midnight’s starry host;
.......Incalculable distances beyond
.......These two, the one that modern men fear most.
.......(For if there is a Heaven they should gain,
.......A Hell to shun the day they pause to die,
.......Then all their science simply can’t explain
.......How in the merest twinkling of an eye…)
.......So, flippantly declaring it absurd,
.......Men laugh until their laughter turns to tears;
.......But Saul of Tarsus visited that third
.......And dared not speak of it for fourteen years.
.......If not till set of sun come out the stars,
.......Why balk at glories waiting behind Mars?


.......No sooner had the missiles disappeared
.......Than waves of bombers rose up in their stead.
.......When all debris and rubble had been cleared,
.......We found almost a hundred million dead.
.......And some who lived were maimed, and some were charred,
.......And some no longer see, or hear, or walk;
.......And many, although outwardly unmarred,
.......No longer smile, no longer even talk.
.......For laughter is a thing of bygone days
.......When children played at imitation war.
.......Today most people stare with hollow gaze
.......Rememb’ring times, once real, that are no more.
.......When men cried, “Peace and safety,” all was lost.
.......We were not ready for the holocaust.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Today does not exist in Samoa

See that little red circle on the globe?

That’s Samoa.

Today does not exist in Samoa.

I’m telling you the truth.

Well, yes, the sun will come up and all that, but even though yesterday was Thursday, December 29, 2011, today is not Friday, December 30, 2011, in Samoa. It is as though it never happened in Samoa.

You don’t believe me? Read this article from The Christian Science Monitor.

See? You should believe me when I tell you things.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Putz is back, if only temporarily!

[Editor’s note. The following comment appeared on one of my recent posts. It is from our old friend Putz, who has stopped blogging. I decided to promote it from comment to full post status. With ruffles and flourishes, and wiping a tear from my eye, I give you, in all his Utarn glory...Putz. --RWP]

i really shoud blog this,><>we were having a wonderful christmas and last night's pageant was fabulous<<>> i was the christmas star this year<><>no lines to read, most of them read by our 5 year old, and then on today, yes christmas day we were at mike our son{barlow buzz} in gunnison for christmas day dinner where we supplied the ham, wonderful when all of a sudden my daughter ran in with her hearing dog<><>now you have to understand that she is unmarried and this is her companion><><><><>rthe dog had been ferously kicked by a pony<><><>head was kicked backwards on his head and was out like a light<><>><><>now us mormons are probably kooky because my daughter wanted me to bless this dog with concecrated oil whic i did and blessd him to heal quickly, when my daugher in law says, he has a broken neck, he cannot live for much longer<><><>well when the vet looked at him, and you can go to the bank on the truth of this<><><>he said there is a little spot on his face by his nose that is bruised but other than that there is nothing wrong with this dog<>><<>what about the neck and he said terriers have very flexable necks and 2 days later he is running around<>><>the head did not swell and that was the only thign the doctor said to look for<>><>so a christmas miracle<>>><><>also what vet would leave his family for a dog on christmas???????

[Editor’s note. Now that’s the old Putz I remember! What a great story! Doctors always attempt to explain away miracles, you know, especially Christmas ones...terriers have flexible necks, that’s a good one! --RWP]

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fast away the old year passes, fa ra ra ra ra, etc.

As 2011 turns before our eyes into 2012, here, for your entertainment pleasure, is something really weird involving Vivian Leigh, Robert Taylor, World War II, and a Chinese soprano singing “Auld Lang Syne” (4:43).

Over and over and over.

This is probably politically incorrect, but shouldn’t she be saying “Auld RANG Syne”?

Which reminds me of a joke told to me by a 93-year-old woman who happened to be the mother of an eye surgeon who happens to be my son’s father-in-law:

After conducting a thorough eye exam on a Chinese gentleman, the ophthalmologist said, “Sir, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you have cataracts” to which the Chinese man replied, “No, doctor, I no have cataracts. I have Rincoln Continentals.”

Moving right along, the above photograph of a 1969 Cadillac in a corn field makes me think that the manufacturer has changed its motto from “Creating a Higher Standard” to “If you build it, they will come.”

It also makes me think of Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but that is an entirely different post.

So before I get carried away completely with silliness (I can hear some of you saying, “Too late”), let me just wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful year throughout 2012, the Mayan calendar ending next December being thought by some to indicate that the end of the world will occur next December notwithstanding.

Ring out the old, ring in the new! Or as that Chinese soprano would say....

Sunday, December 25, 2011

To all of my friends in Blogland, here’s...

...not mud in your eye,...

...not looking at you kid,...

...not even Johnny (with apologies to Ed McMahon),...

no, here’s the young Elvis (2:38) to help you make it through the season.

Though if you need the young Elvis (or any of those other people) to help you make it through the season, you’re (a) probably worse off than anybody thought and (b) definitely living in the past.

I’m just sayin’....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear!

No, I’m not talking about this.

I’m talking about this (3:26).

Who needs the Lone Ranger, Tonto, or the strains of Rossini’s “The William Tell Overture” when you can have President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Christmas address to the nation!

How times (and presidents) have changed since 1981.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Oy to the world!

Some things are just too funny to ignore!

You’ll plotz*! (4:43)

*A Yiddish word that according to means to collapse or faint, as from surprise, or excitement, but according to it means to split, crack, burst, or explode (as with laughter, I hope).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The shortest day of the year

...or, conversely, the longest night of the year, has arrived.

The winter solstice occurred at 5:30 a.m. UTC today. That is, the axial tilt of our planet’s polar hemisphere is farthest away from the star that it orbits.

And by “our planet” I mean Earth. Terra firma. Any inhabitants of other planets who happen to be reading this, I refer you to Emily Latella.

And if you are a Neo-Druid -- I’m not, by the way -- this might be of interest to you as well:

(Photo of sunrise at Stonehenge taken by Mark Grant on Dec. 22, 1985. Released under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hanukkah thoughts

(Photo by Roland Scheicher, 1 August 2006)

This year, Hanukkah begins at sundown today -- Tuesday, December 20th -- and ends on December 28th. Next year, Hanukkah will begin on December 8th and end on December 16th. The year after that, Hanukkah will begin on November 27th and end on December 5th. Therefore, Christians and others, please do not wish your Jewish friends a “Happy Hanukkah” long after it is past. They will appreciate the thought but they may look at you strangely.

My wish for you at Hanukkah (and always) is simple:

May your dreidels always land on gimel.*

*My thanks go out to my friend Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe in the U.K. for this good wish.

Also, a little gelt wouldn’t hurt.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A matter of great national importance

I want to set the record straight.

The rumor (or rumour, if you’re in a British Commonwealth country) is untrue.

Contrary to popular and even unpopular opinion, I am not moonlighting over at, which thought may have crossed your mind if you happen to have read the article “Why are people from the Netherlands called Dutch?” there. Now you know, Carolina.

But that is not the matter of great national importance, except, perhaps, to the Dutch.

An even more important question than “Why are people from the Netherlands called Dutch?” (sorry, Carolina) is this one from the motion picture My Fair Lady in which Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins asks “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?” (4:54).

The music is by Frederick Loewe and the lyrics are by Alan Jay Lerner. For those of you who never click on video links, here is a transcript:

Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historically fair.
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Why can’t a woman be like that?

Why does every one do what the others do?
Can’t a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do everything their mothers do?
Why don’t they grow up, well, like their father instead?

Why can’t a woman take after a man?
Men are so pleasant, so easy to please.
Whenever you're with them, you’re always at ease.

Would you be slighted if I didn’'t speak for hours?

Of course not.

Would you be livid if I had a drink or two?


Would you be wounded if I never sent you flowers?


Well, why can’t a woman be like you?

One man in a million may shout a bit.
Now and then, there’s one with slight defects.
One perhaps whose truthfulness you doubt a bit,
But by and large we are a marvelous sex!

Why can’t a woman take after a man?
’Cause men are so friendly, good-natured and kind.
A better companion you never will find.

If I were hours late for dinner would you bellow?

Of course not.

If I forgot your silly birthday, would you fuss?


Would you complain if I took out another fellow?


Why can’t a woman be like us?


Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Men are so decent, such regular chaps;
Ready to help you through any mishaps;
Ready to buck you up whenever you’re glum.
Why can’t a woman be a chum?

Why is thinking something women never do?
And why is logic never even tried?
Straightening up their hair is all they ever do.
Why don't they straighten up the mess that’s inside?

Why can’t a woman behave like a man?
If I was a woman who’d been to a ball,
Been hailed as a princess by one and by all;
Would I start weeping like a bathtub overflowing,
Or carry on as if my home were in a tree?
Would I run off and never tell me where I’m going?
Why can’t a woman be like me?

[end of transcript]

Poor old Professor Higgins.

He’s clueless.

I say “Vive la différence!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Roll over, Beethoven

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827) Composing His "Missa Solemnis", 1820, Josef Karl Stieler

...and tell Tchaikovsky the news. (3:36)

My, how times have changed.

Happy birthday, Ludwig.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another poem by Robert H. Brague

..........................December, 1972

............Peace on earth, good will toward men.
............They’re bombing North Vietnam again --
............B-52’s lost this week total ten --
............Peace on earth, good will toward men.

............It came upon a midnight clear,
............That glorious song of old,
............Yellow-skinned children huddle in fear
............Against the wind and the cold
............And wonder what new horror
............Will the midnight blackness bring,
............And the whole earth gives back the song
............Which now the angels sing.

............Has Johnny talked to Santa Claus?
............They’re talking about a bombing pause.
............Inaugural plans are proceeding well;
............Pat will wear yellow. War is hell.
............Do you think man has an immortal soul?
............Do you think they’ll blackout the Super Bowl?

............Silent night, holy night,
............Napalm gives a lovely light;
............Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
............How does it feel to destroy a child?

............Peace on earth, good will toward men.
............They’re bombing North Vietnam again --
............B-52’s lost this week total ten --
............Peace on earth, good will toward men.

[Editor’s note. The impetus for this poem was an evening newscast on television. The reader -- I can’t remember whether it was Harry Reasoner or Howard K. Smith -- was just finishing a story about the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping with the words, “Peace on earth, good will to men.” He paused ever so briefly to indicate he was done, then launched (a little too nonchalantly, it seemed to me) into his next item with the words, “They’re bombing North Vietnam again.” I noticed the strange juxtaposition of topics, as well as the end rhyme, and his next sentence just compounded the effect: “B’52s lost this week total ten,” or something similar. The poem just kind of took off on its own after that. Pat Nixon did indeed wear yellow in January to the inauguration of her husband’s second term as President. Originally I wrote, “Pat will wear pink” because I liked the alliteration better, but I was struck by the horrifying coincidence of the interest in the color of Mrs. Nixon's dress and the color of the skin of the children waiting for the bombs to fall, and I changed it. --RWP]

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thirteen shopping days until Christmas

...and I think we’re finished with our shopping except to obtain more wrapping paper and ribbon. The merchants are reporting flat sales this year as people deal with this depression recession unexpected economic situation in which we find ourselves.

But let’s keep the main thing the main thing. Christmas is not about the merchants, it’s about the birth of Christ.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is called “Bethlehem Morning” and here is a young Sandi Patty singing it in 1988 (4:17).

That song bears listening to again, but it isn’t 1988 any more. Here is a more recent rendition of the same song by the same singer, a bit heavier now, parenting with her second husband a blended family of eight children, and apparently singing more slowly now also as this clip is nearly a whole minute longer (5:10).

Here are the lyrics:

Lift up your heads
No need to mourn
His hand is stretched out still
For unto us a child is born
His promise to fulfill
Jerusalem! He cried for you
He did not come to us in vain
His loving arms are open wide for you
And he will come again

Bethlehem morning
Is more than just a memory
For the Child that was born there
Has come to set us free
Bethlehem sunrise
I can see Him in your eyes
For the Child that was born there
His spirit never dies
His star will never grow dim
And it's a brand-new dawn
A new Jerusalem
And we will reign
We will reign with him

Bethlehem morning
Is more than just a memory
For the Child that was born there
Has come to set us free
Bethlehem sunrise
I can see it in your eyes
For the Child that was born there
Is the King of kings
And the Lord of lords
And He will come again

Sandi Patty is known for being able to hit high notes. She has said, “To be honest, my range has changed a bit over the years but my mom says it’s about four octaves (F below middle C to high F above double high C). Really, singing high is just like screaming on pitch.”

Years ago, Mrs. RWP and I used to listen to Atlanta radio station WPCH (Peach Radio, of course, it’s Georgia) in the car on the way to church back in the days when Peach still aired Christian music for two hours on Sunday mornings. On one particularly memorable Easter Sunday, we heard the following song for the very first time. Recounting the experience of Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, it has remained my very favorite Sandi Patty song:

“I’ve Just Seen Jesus” sung by Sandi Patty and Larnelle Harris (6:30).

I think, for the Christian, every day is Christmas and every day is Easter.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Speaking truth to power

We interrupt your Advent observance to bring you an important message.

Here is Nigel Farage speaking truth to power on November 16, 2011 (2:39).

Here he is again on November 26 (3:11).

Here he is back in February speaking in the European Parliament (1:24).

Nick Farage may not be a polite man, but he says things that need to be said.

Such frankness and forthrightness is heard here in the U.S. too, with one stark difference. The Democrats say terrible things about the Republicans, and the Republicans say terrible things about the Democrats. But they speak only to representatives of the media, and only on occasions when those with whom they differ are not present. Here in the former colonies, our politicians never seem to speak to one another, face to face, except perhaps once every four years after the new candidate of the David party and the new candidate of the Goliath party have been chosen. Then they participate in what we quaintly refer to as a quadrennial presidential debate.

On the floor of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, the unwritten rule all too often is one from our kindergarten days: “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.” And so very little of substance gets accomplished. The members of the British House of Commons may start their harangues with the words, “The right honourable gentleman,” but they are not polite. Nigel Farage is lacking in certain social graces, but he speaks truth to power.

Good for them and good for him. If the emperor is not wearing any clothes, someone needs to inform the people who came to watch the parade. In the land of the blind, as you know, the one-eyed man is king.

There is hope here in the former colonies. The message that something is rotten in the state of Denmark (figuratively speaking) is slowly being heard. Even the most politically comatose among our citizenry are beginning to realize that something has gone awry. Even what one radio talk-show host calls “the mooching class,” by whom he means many of the people who were mesmerized by Barack Obama in 2008 and voted for Hope and Change, are beginning to realize that something is off-kilter. The fact that a Marxist is leading the pack does not resonate with them, however.

Here is, in my opinion, America’s equivalent of Nick Farage, only more polite, in a speech from 2009 (9:46).

And here he is again, speaking in 2010 (3:36).

If we pay more attention to him, maybe David will actually bring down Goliath in our 2012 elections.

Because Newt Gingrich is also speaking truth to power. In America, the power resides in the hands of the people who vote in elections.

(Photo by Matthew Gargano, 2011)

Friday, December 9, 2011

My 869th post

The number 869 has special meaning to me. During World War II, my dad was a machinist's mate on the U.S. Navy vessel PCE-869. The letters PCE stand for Patrol Craft Escort, which type of ship escorted patrol craft (duh!) and hobnobbed with sub (for submarine) chasers. In later years my dad had nightmares in which human body parts floated to the surface of the sea after he and his shipmates set off depth charges. (From Wikipedia:
“A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) weapon intended to destroy or cripple a target submarine by the shock of exploding near it. Most use explosives and a fuse set to go off at a preselected depth in the ocean. Depth charges can be dropped by either surface ships, patrol aircraft, or from helicopters. The depth charge has now largely been replaced by anti-submarine homing torpedoes.”)

Dad joined the Navy in 1942 and was on the PCE-869 from 1943 to 1945. His last months before receiving an honorable discharge were spent at Quonset Point Naval Station in Rhode Island. He was 36 years old when he enlisted, older even than the captain of his ship. Everybody on board called him “Pop” because most of them were young whippersnappers not yet dry behind the ears, too big for their britches, all of 18 or 20 years old. He didn’t mind; in fact, he rather liked it.

When I found the photo of Dad’s ship, the site also had a place for a list of the crew. There was only one name listed, Father Frank Toste. I googled his name only to learn that he died in July of this year at the age of 86. (World War II did end 66 years ago, after all, and my Dad would be 105 if he were still alive.)

Father Frank Toste, from what I gather, was a fascinating fellow. He was born March 20, 1925, in Providence, Rhode Island, and died July 6, 2011, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He entered the priesthood in 1960, was teacher of Drama and Drama Department Head at Notre Dame High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut (1960 - 1965); Assistant Headmaster and Department Head of the Theatre Department at Saint Peter's High School in Gloucester, Massachusetts (1965 - 1970); and Founder and Department Head of the Drama/Communication Arts Department Teacher in all areas of Theatre within the Department including Film and Television at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School in Peabody, Massachusetts (1970 - 1990). He then retired to Cocoa, Florida, but returned to the north in 2010. He had done graduate work in Theatre at Ohio University (1983) and graduate work in Filmmaking at UCLA (1983), received a Master of Arts in Drama from Harvard (1991), and was a doctoral candidate in Filmmaking at the Union Institute in Cincinnati (2000). To me, the most interesting paragraph in his obituary was:

“Always an avid stage and screen participant, Father Toste received certificates in Cinema from the School of Cinema/Television at the University of Southern California and the Feagin School of Drama and Radio in New York City. He was most proud of his affiliation with the film, ”Love Story,” in which he had a speaking role and met the co-stars of the film, Ryan O’Neil and Ali MacGraw. Fr. Toste was also an Equity Actor and a technical advisor for the long-standing television series M.A.S.H. and appeared in “Oliver’s Story,” and was on stage at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly. He was a long-term member of the Screen Actors Guild.”

I read in another place that he was Technical Advisor on M.A.S.H. for the character of Lt./Capt. Father Francis J. Mulcahy as played by William Christopher.

Ever the ’net surfer, I then discovered that some of Father Toste’s former drama students from Peabody had posted comments on Facebook about their favorite teacher. One of the threads asked people to relate, if they remembered, some of the funny things he was always saying. Lots of people responded. What blew me away (UK readers: American for “astonished me”) was that one of the quips they remembered was something I heard my Dad say many times:

“I see,” said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.

I know. Groan. Lame joke. But it must have been considered hilarious back in the day, and I could just picture my Dad and his shipmates interacting daily in the confined passageways of the PCE-869. I don’t know who said it first, my Dad or the young man who became Father Frank Toste or somebody else, but for a moment, I was a kid again and my Dad was close.

Some of us who are living and breathing can still remember the service of our fellow countrymen so many years ago and we are grateful. Father Frank Toste, the only one of Dad’s shipmates whose name I know, I honor you and the entire crew of the PCE-869 today.

[Editor’s note. A few hours after finishing this post, I suddenly realized that I know the name of one other sailor from the PCE-869 as well: Leroy Behrens of Round Rock, Texas, in whose living room I sat in September 1958 with my Dad and new stepmother on a trip from Coppell, Texas, that deposited me in the dormitory at Southwestern University at Georgetown, Texas. It had been 13 years since Dad and Leroy had seen each other, and they talked much about their days in the Navy. They never saw each other again. --RWP]

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How green was my Libya

The current total number of those little flag-thingies I have saved from the visitors list is 141, the latest one being the flag of the Cayman Islands:

That’s one you don’t see every day.

It’s amazing how similar some flags are.

For example, the flag of the United States:

and the flag of Malaysia:

are very similar.

Or compare Poland’s flag:


with Indonesia’s:
............................................._____ (This dadblamed line should be one line higher to indicate the bottom of the flag -- white on white is hard to see -- but how to make it go there must remain one of life’s unsolved mysteries)

Then there’s Ireland and Italy...

and Yemen and the Netherlands...

and Belgium and Romania...

and Serbia and the Netherlands...

and Australia and New Zealand...

I wouldn’t say the confusion caused by all these similarities is insurmountable, but it certainly puts the vex in vexillologist.

So, dear reader, if you declared yourself to be a sovereign nation and wanted to design a flag for the new Republic of You, what would it look like? (Give colors, emblems, and so forth, and keep it clean, please!)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Get ready for your 15 minutes of fame

Listed below are the names, gender (if known), and location on planet Earth (if known) of the select subset of the species homo sapiens who have become followers of this rhymeswithplague blog. You are:

1. Frances Garrood (female, United Kingdom)
2. Punk Chopsticks (female, Malaysia)
3. ica (female, Jakarta, Indonesia)
4. Bimbing Adj (male)
5. aku lupa namaku (female, Bali)
6. susan t (female)
8. talita (female, Brazil)
9. an.hoyt
10. Julianne Chatelain (female)
11. Grace Nelson (female)
12. Sharad Kishore (male)
13. Harfis (male, Medan, Indonesia)
14. ankita lal (female)
15. True Crime Story: "Fighting the Devil" (Jeannie Walker, female, New York, USA)
16. Brackers (male, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)
17. Mas Huri (male)
18. Theanne and Baron (female, Florida, USA)
19. HarFi$ KouMan (male, Medan, Indonesia)
20. Émile Couture
21. Harfis
22. Glenda (female, Southeast USA)
23. Talli Roland (female, London, UK)
24. Achi (male, Chungli, Taiwan)
25. Kasakin Alexey (male)
26. Denix (male)
27. Kold_Kadavr_flatliner (male, Kansas, USA)
28. Nathanael Fields (male)
29. cakapbisa (male)
30. Liberty Forrest (female, Northamptonshire, UK)
31. John Gray (male, Trelawnyd, Wales, UK)
32. Jewels (female, Ontario, Canada)
33. Masia Mum (female, London, UK and Ibi, Spain)
34. Brian (male, Tortosa en Catalonia, Spain)
35. Snowbrush (male, Oregon, USA)
36. Marinela Reka (female, London, UK)
37. babyuser_88
38. Crazed Nitwit (female, Seattle, Washington, USA)
39. Harper
40. Katherine DeChevalle (female, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand)
41. Nedine Says (female, USA)
42. tony (male, Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, UK)
43. shadows (female)
44. bARE-eYED sUN
45. SIMPHONY (female, Argentina)
46. Brad the Gorilla (male, Seattle, Washington, USA)
47. mahouny,pacoss (a.k.a mahmout cinan, male, Turkey)
48. ahmed ishtiaque (male)
49. Buford Pickleberry (male, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)
50. Loren Christie (female, New York, USA)
51. penny (a.k.a. Penelope Smith a.k.a Jinksy, female, UK)
52. Pat - Arkansas (female, Jacksonville, Arkansas, USA)
53. Egghead (a.k.a Vonda, female, Oregon, USA)
54. Lula's daughter (female)
55. Carolina (female, Netherlands)
56. Richie (male, Mena, Arkansas, USA)
57. jhull8 (female)
58. jesik contreras (female, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia)
59. ВашаДаша (female, Саратов, Russia)
60. Mimi Foxmorton (female, Syracuse, New York, USA)
61. mukidmallick
62. Chris
63. leidy_a_h0313
64. prettycutiefab_sei
65. gavinboggitt (male?)
66. reneevizmanos (female?)
67. Hollie Thompson (female)
68. kiarasherwoood
69. eparfett-smith
70. anna martinez (female)
71. kapil4friend
72. alexislundgren (female)
73. Josimara lindinha
74. sswaroopa sanap
75. AmyLovesPandas
76. Ken (male)
77. Mirriam (female)
78. Angua.von.U
79. cathywicked (female)
80. A Lady's Life (female, British Columbia, Canada)
81. Jeannelle (female, Iowa, USA)
82. Pam (female, Georgia, USA)
83. (no identity whatsoever)

There are a few mysteries. If you are a sharp-eyed reader you will note that the sidebar says there are 86 of you, but I have been able to find only 83 of those little thumbnail photographs. Either Blogger is wrong or something is rotten in the state of Denmark-Blogstein. Some of you may have died (in which case, you are not reading this). Some of you who are still alive may have abandoned me long ago (in which case, you are not reading this). Some of you who are alive and who comment more or less regularly are conspicuous by your absence from the list. Some, like Buford Pickleberry and Brad the Gorilla, haven’t published a post of their own in two or three years.

I still miss Dr. John Linna of Neenah, Wisconsin. R.I.P., Dr. John.

All in all, you are a varied and diverse lot. And if some of you feel like enlightening me further concerning your gender or your whereabouts, I am interested in learning.

There is one other thing.

I salute you.

Photo circa 1930 from from Hulton-Deutsch Collection / Corbis

Saturday, December 3, 2011

This evening’s program

...will begin shortly. First, though, a little housekeeping is necessary.

The management requests that you turn off all electronic devices and that you place your cell phone in vibrate mode. As always, and as a courtesy to our artists, flashbulbs are not permitted during the performance. Texting is strictly prohibited. If you persist, an usher will relieve you of your play-pretty and you will be able to retrieve it at the box office after the program after producing three forms of proper identification. Persons who insist on talking loudly during tonight’s performance will be taken to the lobby and spanked. Later, upon returning to their vehicles, they will discover that all the air has been let out of their tires.

One last reminder: Ladies, please remove your hats.

With that out of the way, please sit back and enjoy this evening’s program (4:17)....

Friday, December 2, 2011

If you’re happy and you know it, say “Honolulu”

According to an article in today’s online edition of the Daily Mail, Men’s Health magazine has named America’s ten happiest and ten saddest cities.

Men’s Health admits that the diagnosis is “more statistical than psychological.” The saddest and happiest Americans were determined by calculating suicide and unemployment rates in 100 cities across the country. Then the percentage of households that use antidepressants and the number of people who report feeling down all or most of the time were factored in.

Voila! Before you could say “Emmett Kelly” the results were in. Mesdames et messieurs, ze rezultz of ze research show zat ze ’appiest cities in America are:

1. Honolulu, Hawaii
2. Manchester, New Hampshire
3. Fargo, North Dakota
4. Omaha, Nebraska
5. Boston, Massachusetts
6. Madison, Wisconsin
7. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
8. St. Paul, Minnesota
9. Burlington, Vermont
10. Plano, Texas

and ze saddest ones are:

1. St. Petersburg, Florida
2. Detroit, Michigan
3. Memphis, Tennessee
4. Tampa, Florida
5. Louisville, Kentucky
6. St. Louis, Missouri
7. Birmingham, Alabama
8. Miami, Florida
9. Reno, Nevada
10. Las Vegas, Nevada

Poppycock! Balderdash! Your honor, I object. Zare There are at least two flies in the ointment. First, Men’s Health magazine may have used the wrong criteria for determining sadness and happiness. Second, Men’s Health magazine may have used the wrong 100 cities. There may be happier Americans and sadder Americans who weren’t even considered. There may be other flies in the ointment as well, but these sprang to mind.

Furthermore, “happy” and “sad” are determined by individual persons, not by panels of researchers in magazines. For example, two of my grandchildren were born in St. Petersburg, Florida, and another two were born in Birmingham, Alabama, and those were among my happiest days ever. On the other hand, I can think of many places I would rather be than North Dakota (or Nebraska or New Hampshire or Massachusetts or Wisconsin or South Dakota or Minnesota), especially with winter coming on.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A poem by Robert H. Brague

................................The Writer

....................With words alone, he paints
....................from the palette of his mind,
.........................hues and tints
....................until he sees the exact shade
....................he wants.

....................With words alone, she chips away
....................rough edges of meaning,
..............................the solid rock
....................until the long-sought shape

....................With words alone, she pins and drapes
....................original ideas
....................over the naked manikin page,
.........................tucking in a bit of material,
....................snipping off
....................a dangling thread
....................dropping thoughts easily as

....................With words alone, he composes
....................irresistible music,
.........................seducing the ear,
.........................searching for a particular chord,
....................the one right sound his words must make
....................for echoes linger.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

This past Sunday evening, the first Sunday in Advent, Mrs. RWP and I sat down with ten other families in our church’s fellowship hall and made Advent wreaths. The one we made looks not unlike the one in the photograph above if you take away everything red or gold. Then each family lit one purple candle and our pastor led in several prayers to which we responded, “Lord, have mercy” and we sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and after our pastor spoke for a little while we all repeated the Lord’s Prayer together. It was a sweet time.

We were encouraged to take our Advent wreaths home with us and on succeeding Sunday evenings during Advent to light two candles, then three (the third one, pink, represents joy), and so forth, until the evening the Christ Child is born.

“Ho hum,” you may be saying. “Same old same old. So what?”

So what is that it is not same old same old for us. This is the first time in both of our 70+ years that either of us has ever observed Advent. We both have been Christians for most of those years, but we attended churches that considered observance of Advent unnecessary, superfluous, meaningless, an empty tradition.

We have discovered that we disagree. We find it beautiful and inspiring, with the emphasis in exactly the right place -- anticipating with hope and joy the coming of the Redeemer.

Here is an essay (it happens to have been written by a Roman Catholic writer) called “The End of Advent” that is worth reading. It first appeared in 2007.

This year, let’s not be so eager for the Christmas goodies (I can almost hear the seagulls in Finding Nemo crying, “Mine! Mine!” as they dive for fish) that we miss Advent.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us (in more ways than one)

...we have a whole month of stuff like this (3:44) to look forward to.

I dislike “The Little Drummer Boy” (advocates salvation by works) and “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (doesn't mention Bethlehem in 6 B.C. even once) and the barking dogs version of “Jingle Bells” (links general non-religious midwinter activities with University of Georgia football fans everywhere), but I especially abhor renditions of “O Holy Night” by the untalented. This one, however, is a definite put-on and had me laughing so hard I had tears rolling down my face. But it could have been real. That is the really scary part. Only later did it occur to me that enjoying it so much might be sacrilegious.

In case you too are wondering, I have installed lightning rods over my little portion of Blogland.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Who are you thanking?

Listen. Watch. The Lincoln Minster School Choir makes it clear (2:26).

The song “Now Thank We All Our God” (a translation from the German “Nun danket alle Gott”) is a Christian hymn that was written circa 1636 by Lutheran pastor Martin Rinkart (1586–1649) in Eilenberg, Saxony, Germany. It was translated into English in the 19th Century by Catherine Winkworth.

Martin Rinkart came to Eilenburg, Saxony at the beginning of the Thirty Years War. The walled city became the refuge for political and military fugitives, but the result was overcrowding, and deadly pestilence and famine. Armies overran it three times. The Rinkart home was a refuge for victims, even though he was often hard-pressed to provide for his own family. During the height of a severe plague in 1637, Rinkart was the only surviving pastor of four who had served Eilenberg, and he conducted as many as 50 funerals in a day. He performed more than 4000 funerals in that year, including that of his wife.

Still he could write:

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

In tough economic times, in times of political unrest and terroristic threats, in war, famine, pestilence, and even the face of death, can we do less?

[Editor's note. Just for the record, I wrote this post a day or two before this presidential faux pas occurred. President Obama should have been reading my blog. -- RWP, Nov. 26, 2011]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A penny for your thoughts

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

Wikipedia has this to say about the Mayflower:

“The Mayflower was the ship that transported the English Separatists, better known as the Pilgrims, from a site near the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, (which would become the capital of Plymouth Colony), in 1620. There were 102 passengers and a crew of 25–30.

“The vessel left England on September 6, 1620 (Old Style)/ September 16 (New Style), and after a grueling 66-day journey marked by disease, which claimed two lives, the ship dropped anchor inside the hook tip of Cape Cod (Provincetown Harbor) on November 11/November 21. The Mayflower was originally destined for the mouth of the Hudson River, near present-day New York City, at the northern edge of England’s Virginia colony, which itself was established with the 1607 Jamestown Settlement. However, the Mayflower went off course as the winter approached, and remained in Cape Cod Bay. On March 21/31, 1621, all surviving passengers, who had inhabited the ship during the winter, moved ashore at Plymouth, and on April 5/15, the Mayflower, a privately commissioned vessel, returned to England. In 1623, a year after the death of captain Christopher Jones, the Mayflower was most likely dismantled for scrap timber in Rotherhithe, London.

“The Mayflower has a famous place in American history as a symbol of early European colonization of the future United States. According to popular history, English Dissenters called Pilgrims undertook the voyage to escape religious persecution in England. The story of the Mayflower as symbol of religious freedom is a staple of any American history textbook.”

I’ve saved the best for last.

Here is a list of the passengers.

Now here’s that penny...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Old songs are good

...but sometimes new ones are even better.

Here’s a new Christmas carol by a man named Donald Moore. He wrote it in 2010.

“Carol of the Star” (2:39)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Here are our old friends, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

...singing another of my favorite Christmas carols. This one is from Poland, and it is called “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly.” (4:10)

Listen closely to the words, as they apply all year ’round, not just at the Christmas season...

They even apply on Thanksgiving Day when you’re stuffing yourself with turkey.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I know I’m rushing the season

...but I think every day should be Christmas.

I love the poem “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Christina Rossetti (1830 - 1894).

I love the tune called CRANHAM.

I love that CRANHAM was composed by Gustav Holst (1874 - 1934) during the time he lived in Cranham, a village in Gloucestershire, England, in a house now known as Midwinter.

I love that Rossetti’s poem has been set to Holst’s tune.

I love the sound made by the choir and congregation of Gloucester Cathedral (3:29).

I love that even though Israel is a land of warmth and palm trees and that the three wise men or magi or kings or whatever they were are always pictured as riding on camels across arid deserts, Christians in northern climes have managed to project their winter weather patterns into the Christmas story.

I love that Jesus was probably born in March or April, since spring -- the time lambs are usually born -- was the only time of year that shepherds stayed in the fields all night to assist the ewes rather than herding the flocks into the sheepfolds, and that early Christians chose to observe the birth of the Savior in December because they were less likely to be detected while the Roman Empire was celebrating Saturnalia.

If you love any of these things, even though it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet, click anywhere on this post.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Riddles science has not been able to solve

Why Putz types with his fists and elbows instead of his fingers.

Why there is (are?) both chocolate and vanilla.

Why the San Francisco Forty-niners coaches moved rookie Bruce Miller from defensive lineman, the position he played during his entire collegiate career at the University of Central Florida, to offensive back.

Why Kim Kardashian married that basketball dude and then divorced him after only 72 days of wedded bliss.

The effect of wellch Welsh poetry on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.

How The Learning Channel gets away with broadcasting programs like Sister Wives and Hoarders and American Muslims and Say Yes to the Dress and Cake Boss.

Whether the person who put the tribbles in the quadritriticale was related to the person who put the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder.

Why Frances Garrood, English writer, isn’t richer and even more famous.

Monday, November 14, 2011


...and I mean vERY fEW read this blog.

Another quarter has been heard from, and when I say another quarter I mean Putz. The Putz. Mr. David H. Barlow of Ephraim/ Manti/Tooele (pick one), Utah.

His blog, I would say, is an acquired taste. Much like mine. Much like yours, probably.

On October 31st, Putz entered the following qwertygram (and it was quite good) into our little contest:

........quiz wizz erneszt rutgerts totally yaps under icky
........octopusses putting albatrosses summerially destroyed
........forever, joking karl laughs zealously creating vibes
........BADLY near manchester

but then, strangely and for no good reason that I could discern, he became embarrassed and decided to withdraw from Blogworld altogether because an English writer named Frances Garrood had also submitted a qwertygram. Putz left another comment on my blog:

........oh oh oh no i have just embarassed myself by publishing
........a comment below someone as famous as frances, the most
........well know author in all of england{at least to me she is} will i ever live this down with all my miss spelling ........grammatical fopahs and mouth wide open with my foot it<><><>that does it, i am through talking through
........posts blogs and comments<><>goodby world

and he returned to his own blog and posted the following:

Oct 31, 2011
goodby world, see ryhymes with bob for reason

which I’m pretty sure regular readers of his blog but not of mine probably found very puzzling. He has posted nothing since, except to join Carolina and Jinksy in voting “yes” to the question of whether I should start my pole dancing career as soon as possible and post photos of my pole dancing actions.

Until now.

Yesterday, in a comment on his own post, Putz said:

when i say goodbtworld see bob for a reason, it might very well be his train of thought lately.,,.,.this wellch poetry seems to appeal to very few normal people><<>.,vERY fEW nORMALA peopLPLEPLE


I must confess that this has left me perplexed. On the one hand, Putz accuses you, my readers, of not being nORMALA peopLPLEPLE [sic] but on the other hand he turns around and says he is intrigued with some of my newest commentors, many of whom, I hasten to point out, actually seemed to enjoy my wellch [sic] poetry post.

Honestly, there is just no pleasing some peopLPLEPLE people.

But I say let bygones be bygones. Let’s all hie ourselves over to Putz’s blog and leave comments encouraging him to return to our cold (I do not say cruel) corner of Blogworld, because he is sorely missed.

And if you should find Putz’s blogging style difficult to follow at times, keep plugging away at it. It has a way of growing on you. Eventually it will even make sense.

P.S. -- I have decided that what Putz meant is that ALL of you are perfectly normal, but that TOO FEW of you, only 84 at present, follow my blog. Also, I would point out that miss spellings and grammatical fopahs do not make a person either normal or abnormal, just intriguing.

If I am wrong, I do not wish to be corrected.

And if you ask me, the only one around here who isn’t normal is quiz wizz erneszt rutgerts.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Your feet sure do show it ’cause they’re Longfellows*

Lots of bloggers are blogging today about Veterans Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in the U.K. and I thought I would do something different, something to get your mind off yesterday’s post, something a little more suited for the parlors of ladies and gentlemen everywhere -- poetry!

Not just any poetry, mind you. Esoteric forms of Welsh poetry.

Yes, you read that correctly. Esoteric forms of Welsh poetry.

[Editor’s note. That asterisk at the end of the title of this post is there to remind me to tell you that when I was young we had a little ditty reserved for those special moments when someone would be talking and inadvertently make a little rhyme. We would chant: “You’re a poet and don’t know it, but your feet sure do show it ’cause they're Longfellows” and then we would laugh and laugh. --RWP]

I discovered a blog the other day called Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and on it a post called I Gymryd Anadl. It introduced me to the toddaid, a type of Welsh poem. In case you didn’t know it, there are many types of Welsh poems.

Poking around in Wikipedia, I also found an entry called Traditional Welsh Poetic Meters where I learned that the traditional Welsh poetic meters consist of twenty-four different types of poetic meter, called Y Pedwar Mesur ar Hugain. They are all written in cynghanedd of varying degrees of complexity.

Say what?

Although called “traditional,” they were compiled -- and later redefined at least once -- in the Late Middle Ages and omit some of the older forms such as the englyn milwr. Only a few of them were widely used by the professional poets (Beirdd yr Uchelwyr), and the use of some of the more complicated ones is confined to occasional poems of technical virtuosity dating to the end of the Middle Ages.

I know you miss the englyn milwr as much as I do, and also the Beirdd yr Uchelwyr.

As I was saying, there are twenty-four traditional Welsh poetic meters. You just know I am now going to tell you what they are:

1. Awdl-gywydd
2. Byr-a-thoddaid
3. Cadwynfyr
4. Clogyrnach
5. Cyhydedd Fer
6. Cyhydedd Hir
7. Cyhydedd Naw Ban
8. Cyrch-a-chwta
9. Cywydd Deuair Fyrion
10. Cywydd Deuair Hirion
11. Cywydd Llosgyrnog
12. Englyn Proest Cyfnewidiog
13. Englyn Proest Cadwynog
14. Englyn Unodl Crwca
15. Englyn Unodl Union
16. Gorchest Beirdd
17. Gwawdodyn Byr
18. Gwawdodyn Hir
19. Hir-a-thoddaid
20. Rhupunt Byr
21. Rhupunt Hir
22. Rhupunt Hwyaf
23. Tawddgyrch Cadwynog
24. Toddaid

See how erudite we are becoming?

We will ignore the first 23 of the traditional Welsh poetic meters, however, and examine only the last one, number 24, the Toddaid.

Thanks be to God.

A toddaid is a couplet (two lines) of uneven length, often written in quatrain (four-line) form. In each couplet, line one contains ten syllables and line two contains nine syllables. The rhyme is internal (occurring at a place other than at the end of the line). Specifically, the fifth syllable of the first line must rhyme with the fourth syllable of the second line in each couplet. When the toddaid is extended into quatrain form (two couplets), there must also be an end rhyme in the final syllables of lines two and four.

Isn’t that simple?

Let’s review.

Here is the pattern for the couplet, where each character represents a syllable and the capital letters represent the syllables that rhyme:


Here is the pattern for the quatrain form:


Got that?

By now, following the pattern, anyone (even you) should be able to write a toddaid.

Therefore, give it the old college try and then show your fellow victims readers the result in the comments section.

Oh, one other thing. Since I am a caring and compassionate person, I hereby suspend the requirement that the toddaid be created in the Welsh language. For this little exercise, we will use English. Teacher’s pet Carolina in Nederland is the sole exception. She may write her toddaid in Dutch if she likes, but she must then translate it into English, making sure to maintain the required number of syllables and the rhyme scheme.

Here’s a toddaid of my own:

[Editor’s note 2. Are you kidding? I ain’t got no time to come up with no fool toddaid. As for the example of one that appeared on that I Gymryd Anadl post:

For we must not hide from the coming day,
locked away, far from the living earth;
The whole of humanity must be joined,
and each value the coin of rebirth.

it has the correct number of syllables in each line as well as the required end-rhymes of the second and fourth lines, but it does
NOT contain either of the required internal rhymes in the couplets (well, it does, but not in the syllables indicated), so it is technically not a toddaid, I don’t care what I Gymryd Anadl says. --RWP]

[Editor’s note 3. If this post doesn’t drive away those dadblamed devotees of pole dancing (notice the alliteration, class), nothing will. --RWP]

[Editor’s note 4. Do not grumble and complain about today’s writing assignment. Just remember, I could have asked you to write cynghanedd of varying degrees of complexity. --RWP]

[Editor’s note 5. Writing a toddaid is an act done on purpose. No one has ever inadvertently written a toddaid, not even people with big feet. --RWP]

[Editor’s note 6. I believe I have set a new personal record for editor’s notes in a single post. --RWP]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The voters have spoken

(Photo by Elislike, used under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

Note. My personal code prevents me from doing anything illegal, immoral, or fattening. This squeaked in under the wire.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vote early and often

Yesterday I was a poll worker (and not, as my daughter-in-law’s mother thought, a pole dancer) here in Cherokee County once again. Although I served at the Macedonia precinct last November, this time I was assigned to the Dixie precinct, which is called that not out of some lingering allegiance to the old Confederacy but because a dirt track called Dixie Speedway where stock cars race is nearby. Altogether, Cherokee County is divided into 44 precincts for its 214,346 residents.

The turnout was light and there were only two items on the ballot:

1. Should Cherokee County allow alcohol sales on Sunday?
2. Should the existing one-cent Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax designated to be used for maintaining existing schools and building new ones (E-SPLOST for short, as in Education Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax) be extended for ten more years?

I’ll tell you how I voted.

I voted NO on the Sunday alcohol sales, not because I am a teetotaling prude who isn’t willing to let other people have a little fun and the freedom to do what they please but because, well, here’s the way I see it: If our local drinking/drunk population is either so financially strapped or so perennially looped that they can neither afford nor stay upright long enough to hie themselves over to their local neighborhood package store on a Saturday and purchase enough demon rum hard stuff libations of the bubbly sort to last them until Monday, things are far worse in this country than any of us thought. Besides, package store owners are an overworked bunch and deserve at least one day off each week like everybody else.

I voted YES on the E-SPLOST because, well, just because. When my children were in school they were the beneficiaries of the foresight of previous voters, and I would like to do my part to help provide the best possible education for future generations of Cherokee County schoolchildren.

Next year we will have at least three and possibly even five elections (if runoffs are necessary), including a presidential preference primary in March, a Republican and Democratic primary to choose the respective parties’ candidates in July, and the general election for President, Senators, Congressional Representatives, and I don’t know what all, in November.

I promise you this, my fellow citizens. Unless I am in a hospital, a jail, a cemetery, or otherwise unavoidably detained, I promise you that I will continue to be a pole dancer poll worker to the best of my ability each and every time the opportunity arises.

May God bless the United States of America.

[Editor's note. This just in. With 100% of the precincts reporting, Sunday alcohol sales were approved by a two-to-one margin (66 per cent to 34 per cent), and the School Sales Tax was also approved by almost the same margin (63 per cent to 37 perent). The sad part is that only about 6,000 people went to the polls in Cherokee County yesterday (I’m including the cities of Canton and Woodstock), compared to more than 40,000 who participated in the November 2010 election and more than 93,000 who participated in the 2008 election when we were selecting a new President. I guess the rest of the populace didn’t care one way or the other whether liquor was sold or taxes were continued or children were educated. --RWP]

Monday, November 7, 2011


What’s that thing called that, when you pour hot liquids into it they stay hot and when you pour cold liquids into it it they stay cold?

Oh, yes, that’s right. I remember now.

A vacuum flask.

Not a Thermos.

Thermos is a trademark. More about Thermos later.

There are lots of brand names that have become genericized (is that a word?) to the point that we call the general item by a particular manufacturer’s appellation.

We say Kleenex™ when we want a tissue.

We say Saran Wrap™ when we mean clear plastic stuff that sticks more to itself than to the things it’s supposed to be covering.

We say Scotch tape™ when any old adhesive thingy would do (except maybe Saran Wrap™).

We say Pringles™ when we mean potato chips.

We Hoover™ the floor even if we’re using an Electro-Lux™.

Here in the southern U.S., the word “Coke™” is used by many to mean any carbonated cola drink, not just the ones produced by the Coca-Cola™ company, which is headquartered in Atlanta because its product was invented here. In Georgia, it’s an article of faith that only Coca-Cola™ is acceptable and that only Yankees drink Pepsi™. I worked with a fellow who once walked out of a restaurant in Pennsylvania when he couldn’t get a Coca-Cola™.

There are lots of examples of the misuse of trademarks, but let’s get back to Thermos.

You’ll notice I didn’t say Thermos™ (with the little trademark indicator).

There’s a reason for that. It’s because the general public won. Keep reading.

According to Wikipedia, the vacuum flask was invented by Scottish physicist and chemist Sir James Dewar in 1892 and is sometimes referred to as a Dewar flask, or Dewar bottle, after its inventor. The first vacuum flasks for commercial use were made in 1904 when a German company, Thermos GmbH, was formed. Thermos, their trademark for their flasks, remains a registered trademark in some countries but was declared a genericized trademark in the U.S. in 1963 as it is colloquially synonymous with vacuum flasks in general. (emphasis mine).

I’m looking forward to the day when I become colloquially synonymous with blogs in general.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The tipping point

Today, people in the northern hemisphere find themselves at the midway point between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice (you people in the southern hemisphere find yourself somewhere else). With fall half gone and winter not quite here yet, last week’s big snowstorms in the northeastern part of the U.S. notwithstanding, some of us don’t know whether we’re coming or going, weatherwise. We’re between Scylla and Charybdis, between the devil and the deep blue sea, between a rock and a hard place, climatalogically speaking.

It’s a delicate balance. One is never sure how to dress, for example. Today's high temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit but tonight’s low is expected to be in the 20s. Our sasanqua camellias and encore azaleas are still blooming their guts out profusely today but they could all be dead by tomorrow.

For that matter, so could we. We could lay our heads on our pillows tonight and just not wake up in the morning.

No one likes to think about death and dying, but it happens to us all. One day you’re here and the next day you’re not, just like the contestants on Project Runway. At some point in every person’s life cycle, there comes a time when it’s all downhill from there. Or uphill, depending on whether you're a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full sort of person. That time, that place from which there is no recovery, is called the tipping point. [Editor’s note. Okay, so maybe it’s not, but work with me, people, I’m trying to sound profound here. --RWP]

I’m sure you younger people don’t waste a minute thinking about your eventual demise and just want to get on with the partying, but for us old codgers the thought of it (our eventual demise, not yours) occupies more and more of our waking hours.

I want to see my grandchildren grow up, get married, and have children of their own. If it were possible, I’d like to see my great-grandchildren grow up, get married, and have children of their own as well. But it’s just not possible, unless the scientists make some really great advances quickly.

I am hoping to be around for the U.S.’s semi-quincentennial celebration in 2026. I’ll be 85 then. By the year of our country’s tercentennial in 2076, though, the likelihood of my being here to help celebrate is slim to none since I would be 135 years old.

Some of you reading this may make it. Take Punk Chopsticks, for example. She’s a 17-year-old girl who once lived in Brooklyn but now lives in Malaysia who reads this blog. In 2076 she’ll be, let’s see, divide by 7, carry the 4, a mere 82 years old.

I’m 70 now and grateful to have lived this long. I hope to be around for quite a few more years. My grandfather lived to be nearly 96 and I want to beat his record.

But I could go to sleep tonight and not wake up tomorrow, and so could you.

I’m not trying to be morbid, just realistic.

Each and every last one of us has a tipping point.

The earth gets to go around its orbit over and over and over. You and I get to go around ours just once.

Make it count.

And Punky, if you’re still here in 2076, raise a glass for me. You’ll recognize my glass. It’ll be the one that’s half-full.

[Editor’s note. Reader Elizabeth S. from England expanded my words “make it count” in her comment and said just what I was trying to convey: “Make it count. Shout it from the rooftops. Live every moment with abundance,never fail to tell people how much you care about them, to appreciate this beautiful, amazing world and the astounding people within it, each with significant, special, individual stories to tell, to build meaningful memories in the hearts of both yourself and those who will be left behind and to celebrate every precious, valuable second as though it was your last. Make it count.” Thank you, Elizabeth. --RWP]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, er, write a qwerty

In a comment added to his own blogpost that started all the activity in my preceding post (over 30 comments at this point, some of which are -- full disclosure -- my own), Dr. FTSE suggested a new game. Specifically, he wrote:

“Now then folks, for your next homework...a 26-line poem where the first word of each line starts with the QWERTY reverse order if you like.”

First of all, may I suggest that that is two games, or three, or four, as we now have the following options staring us in the face:

1. A qwertygram (a 26-word passage using the familiar QWERTY...VBNM pattern.
2. A reverse qwertygram (a 26-word passage starting at the other end of the familiar QWERTY pattern and working backward; that is MNBV...YTREWQ.
3. A qwertoem (a 26-line poem in which the first letter of each line starts with the QWERTY letters).
4. A reverse qwertoem (I think you have enough information by now to figure out what this is by yourself).

Class, if any of you need need to leave the room for a few minutes to clear your head, do it now. We will wait for you.

While they’re gone, the rest of us will listen to this (2:27).

There now, wasn’t that fun? You there, in the back, stop rolling your eyes.

Some seem to be taking longer to clear their heads than others. While we’re waiting for the stragglers, let’s listen to that song again, sung this time in a more laid-back style by Perry Como with backup singers that could be the Lennon Sisters. It is guaranteed to remove all tension from your body for the rest of the day.

Okay, now that everyone has returned, we will continue.

We have a fifth option!

“Wait a cotton-pickin’ minute,” you may be saying. “I’ve had quite enough of QWERTY.” Maybe you are sick unto death of QWERTY. Maybe you wish you had never heard the word QWERTY. Maybe you wish never to hear the word QWERTY again. Be careful what you wish for! Remember Philip Nolan!

Anyway, as I was saying, we have a fifth option, and it is DVORAK!

Not Dvořák the Czech composer. I’m talking about Dvorak the computer keyboard. Here is the layout:

Yes! That’s right! QWERTY ain’t the only keyboard in town!

So let’s review.

We have eight options in all, four with a QWERTY keyboard and four with a DVORAK keyboard.

The pattern for a qwertygram or qwertyoem is QWERTYUIOPASDFGHJKLZXCVBNM.

The pattern for a reverse qwertygram or reverse qwertyoem is MNBVCXZLKJHGFDSAPOIUYTREWQ.

The pattern for a dvorakgram or dvorakoem is PYFGCRLAOEUIDHTNSQJKXBMWVZ.

The pattern for a reverse dvorakgram or reverse dvorakoem is ZVWMBXKJQSNTHDIUEOALRCGFYP.

Knock yourselves out. Just identify in your comment what it is that you have created, a qwertygram, a reverse qwertygram, a qwertoem, a reverse qwertoem, a dvorakgram, a reverse dvorakgram, a dvorakoem, or a reverse dvorakoem.

In case anyone is counting, I have coined four words in the past two days: qwertygram, qwertoem, dvorakgram, and dvorakoem.

There are padded rooms in mental institutions for people like me.

Monday, October 31, 2011


My friend Jinksy who lives in England told me about an interesting challenge this morning over at This Is Getting Very Silly (Dr. FTSE’s blog).

The challenge is simply this (though few things are ever very simple):

When you can’t think what to write, here’s a neat way to beat writer's block. Just look at your keyboard, then write a 26-word passage that makes sense, using as the first letter of each word the letters on your keyboard taken in order, left to right, top row to bottom row.

If you can do that, writes Dr. FTSE, you can do anything.

QWERTYUIOPASDFJKLZXCVBNM is the pattern on my keyboard, but if your keyboard is different, use your pattern.

My contribution, possibly the opening lines of my smashing new best-seller, The Adventures of Quentin and Kevin, was:

Quentin, waxing eloquent, raced toward Yvonne’s upstairs, inconsolable over Penelope's abominable situation despite Friday’s germs hovering jauntily. Kevin languished, Zen-like, xenophobically coveting Veronica’s Norwegian behind mightily.

Oops, the N and B seems to have exchanged places when I wasn’t looking. Oh, well.

Emboldened, I decided to try again. My second offering was an excerpt from my other potential blockbuster, Nothing Makes Sense Any More:

“Quit whining,” Edward reluctantly told Yakima’s ubiquitous imbecile, Percy, “only people at Seattle drink filthy gin.” Hoping, John kissed Loretta. Zany xylophonist Charles visited bassoonists near Manhattan.***

Basically, what this challenge proves most is that there’s no fool like and old fool (I’m talking about me, not Dr. FTSE).

But I would love to see what deathless prose you can come up with! Put it on Dr. FTSE’s blog, then copy your offering into a comment here on this post.

Now, get busy!

***Belatedly, I see that my second offering (the one that started “Quit whining...) is a little botched in the O and P area. If I change the name Percy to Oliver and delete the word “only” the result is a true qwertygram (a word I just invented):

“Quit whining,” Edward reluctantly told Yakima’s ubiquitous imbecile, Oliver, “people at Seattle drink filthy gin.” Hoping, John kissed Loretta. Zany xylophonist Charles visited bassoonists near Manhattan.

And if we combine my original qwertygram (Quentin, waxing...) with the one from Frances Garrood in the comments, we have the beginnings of a truly intriguing story:

Quentin, waxing eloquent, raced toward Yvonne’s upstairs, inconsolable over Penelope’s abominable situation despite Friday’s germs hovering jauntily. Kevin languished, Zen-like, xenophobically coveting Veronica’s Norwegian behind mightily.

Quentin was easily rendered tipsy. Yvonne understimated Ian’s orange punch. Andrea, senseless, dropped floorwards. Gavin held Jennifer, kissed, laughing zanily (xxx). Caroline’s vodka befuddled Nathan’s mother.

Wow, in just two paragraphs we have been introduced to Quentin, Yvonne, Penelope, Kevin, Veronica, Ian, Andrea, Gavin, Jennifer, Caroline, and Nathan’s mother. Nathan, however, is nowhere in sight.

I have changed the working title of my novel to Caroline’s Vodka. It has a certain ring to it, like Angela’s Ashes.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Question of the day

Now that the rules for succeeding to the British throne have been changed to let birth order take precedence over gender (that is, girls will now precede their younger brothers instead of being pushed to the back of the pack), I am dying to know one thing that wasn’t mentioned in any of the news stories:

Is the decision retroactive? What I mean is, does it affect the living, or only the future-born?

Specifically, what I’m getting at is this. If something horrible should happen to Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry (I mean besides being related to the Duchess of Cornwall), will the next monarch be Prince Andrew or Princess Anne? Has the Princess Royal, Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise Windsor-Mountbatten Phillips Laurence, vaulted from tenth in line to fourth? If so, would that mean her children, Peter Phillips and Zara Phillips, have also leapfrogged ahead of not only Andrew but also the Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice? Or was all this trouble gone to for the sole benefit of the offspring, if and when there are any, of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the recently wed William and Kate? Most importantly, should Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, produce a documentary film about it? And if he does, would anyone except his wife, the former Sophie Rhys-Jones, care?

I am undoubtedly one of millions hundreds probably around a dozen people on this planet who will not be able to sleep until these questions are answered.

Daphne, Elizabeth, Ian, other Ian, Y.P. et al, I’m counting on you to clear up the mystery.

(Photo by Agência Brasil and used under the Creative Commons License Attribution 2.5 Brazil)

Test from phone

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