Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What is so rare as a day in June?

Above is a photograph of the sophomore class of Jenkintown High School, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, from the 1926 JHS yearbook. In other words, this is the Class of 1928 when they were in the tenth grade. (For non-U.S. readers, high school covers four years, grades 9 through 12, and the classes are known as freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.) The photograph also appeared as the illustration for the month of June in a 1975 pictorial Centennial Calendar that was issued to commemorate the first one hundred years of the Jenkintown School District.

Jenkintown, a Philadelphia suburb in Montgomery County, came into being around 1790. I have no idea how Jenkintown educated its youth prior to 1875. My guess is there probably was a school, but not an official School District.

An aunt who lived in Jenkintown sent me one of the calendars when it was published, but I managed to lose track of it over the years, helped along by several family moves. About a year ago, thanks to the internet, I was able to obtain another copy from the Old York Road Historical Society for six dollars.

I was very happy to get it, too, because in the front row, third from the left, the girl wearing the dark dress is my mother, Ruth Silberman, eighty-five years ago, at age 16.

If you click on the photograph you will see the people's faces better and be able to read their names. I remember hearing my mother speak of her friends Jeannette Creamer (pronounced KRAY-mer, first row, fourth from left), Helen Keiser (second row, third from left), and Norman Land (back row, fourth from left). Norman later worked at the U.S. Post Office in Jenkintown, and I met him there on a trip to Jenkintown from Texas with my mother in 1955 when I was 14.

In my next post, I shall show you something even rarer than a day in June.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

All former redneck farm kids will love this.

[Editor’s note. The following is not original with me. I received it in an email from my friend Carolyn Scott. --RWP]

Dear Ma and Pa,

I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled.

I was restless at first because you get to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m., but I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing.

Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there’s warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie, and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food, plus yours, holds you until noon when you get fed again. It’s no wonder these city boys can’t walk much.

We go on ‘route marches,’ which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it’s not my place to tell him different. A ‘route march’ is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks.

The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don’t bother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don’t know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don’t move, and it ain’t shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don’t even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain’t like fighting with that ole bull at home. I’m about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. I only beat him once. He joined up the same time as me, but I’m only 5’6’ and 130 pounds and he’s 6’8’ and near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,

Monday, June 27, 2011

Geographical oddities

We learned in our last session, class, that there was once a Farther Pomerania but there was never a Nearer Pomerania. Today we will learn about several other geographical oddities.

The country of Mongolia was formerly known as Outer Mongolia. There is no country called Inner Mongolia, but there is an Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China. The natives call it Öbür mongγol (in Mongolian cyrillic script: Өвөр Монгол) from the Mongolian öbür mongγol, where öbör can mean south, inner, front, bosom, and breast. I am not making this up.

There are both Outer Hebrides islands and Inner Hebrides islands off the coast of Scotland. The word is pronounced HEB-rih-deez, not HE-brides. HE-brides are what New York will soon be having plenty of, as the New York State Legislature legalized gay marriage just this week.

Here are the Outer Hebrides:

and here are the Inner Hebrides:

(Maps copyright by Wikipedia user Barryob, used by permission under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

I have decided not to show you any New York Hebrides.

In Marietta, Georgia, where I used to live, there is a Roswell Road and also a Lower Roswell Road. People refer to Roswell Road as Upper Roswell Road all the time to distinguish it from Lower Roswell Road, as though the word Lower in Lower Roswell Road did not distinguish it enough, but the words Upper Roswell Road do not appear on any map or street sign. In Cherokee County, Georgia, where I now live, there is a Union Hill Road and a Lower Union Hill Road, but not an Upper Union Hill Road. The people in Cherokee County, however, never refer to Union Hill Road as Upper Union Hill Road. In this respect, the people of Cherokee County have more smarts than the people of Marietta.

Another geographical oddity in Georgia is the naming of roads between towns. In Marietta, for example, there is a road called Canton Highway that goes toward Canton and in Canton there is a road called Marietta Highway that goes toward Marietta. They are two ends of the same road, but they do not meet. Instead, there is a middle stretch of the same road called Holly Springs Parkway that joins the two end sections together. This sort of phenomenon, with the exception of naming the middle section Holly Springs Parkway, happens all over north Georgia. Cumming Highway in Canton is called Canton Highway in Cumming. Dallas Highway in Marietta is called Marietta Highway in Dallas. This is all well and good, and even charming in a mundane, unimaginative way. But even though in Roswell the road to Alpharetta is called Alpharetta Highway, people in Alpharetta call their end of the road Atlanta Highway. Alpharettans just have to be different.

If I may be permitted to insert a personal anecdote, many years ago Mrs. RWP and I attended Mt. Paran, a large church in Atlanta. A few years later, because the church was growing, a second campus was purchased in Marietta and named “Mount Paran North.” Several years later, we began attending a church in Roswell and so did quite a few other people from the Atlanta church when gasoline prices began to climb and travel grew costly. Eventually our little church experienced enough growth to build a new, larger facility. On the dedication day of the new Roswell church, Dr. Paul L. Walker, the longtime senior pastor of Mt. Paran, was the main speaker. I was, as usual, playing the piano. As Dr. Walker arrived on the platform before the service began, he recognized me and was surprised to see so many friends from the old days. I couldn’t resist. “Just think of us as Mt. Paran Farther North,” I quipped. I hadn’t thought of that in years until putting together this post.

In his cartoon strip Li’l Abner, cartoonist Al Capp created a Lower Slobbovia but not an Upper Slobbovia. However, Lower Slobbovia was sometimes called Outer, Inner, Central, Upper, or Lowest Slobbovia. Here is the Slobbovian national anthem:

We are citizens of Slobbovia
(Oh, that this should be happening to us!)
We are giving you back to the Indians
(But they are refusing, of cuss!)

PTUI on you, Slobbovia!
We are hating your icebound coast
Of all the countries in the world

But of all the soul singers in the world who sing about geographical places, we definitely are loving this one (2:48) most.

So ye take the High road, and I’ll take the Low road, and I’ll be in the Outer Hebrides, or possibly Alpharetta, afore ye.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Where is Pomerania anyway?

[This post is a logical extension of the preceding post, in which I happened to mention in passing that the Seven Years’ War is known in Sweden as the Third Pomeranian War. --RWP]

According to Wikipedia, Pomerania is “a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East. It is inhabited primarily by Poles, Germans and Kashubians.”

Kashubians? Never heard of ’em. Back to Wikipedia I went.

Kashubians and Slovincians (the latter regarded themselves merely as Lutheran Kashubians) speak Kashubian and Slovincian, respectively. Slovincians are grouped with the Kashubians as Pomeranians. Similarly, the Slovincian and Kashubian languages are grouped as the Pomeranian language. Pomeranian influenced the formation of such Polish dialects as Kociewski, Borowiacki, and Krajniacki, and several expressways in Chicago. Everything in this paragraph is true except the part about the expressways in Chicago. I made that up.

The Kashubians even had their own flag:

Notable Kashubians include Józef Borzyszkowski (1946- ) historian, politician, founder of the Kashubian Institute; Hieronim Derdowski (1852–1902) poet, humorist, journalist; Jan Drzeżdżon (1937–1992) novelist; and Swantopolk II (1195–1266) powerful ruler of Eastern Pomerania. Apparently no notable Kashubian was powerful enough to convince the Kashubians, Slovincians, and Pomeranians to include a few more vowels in their language.

Speaking of Pomerania, Eastern Pomerania was also called Farther Pomerania but Western Pomerania was never, ever, called Nearer Pomerania. Nearer to or farther from what, I have no idea.

The city of Szczecin is the main urban center in Western Pomerania. If you know how to pronounce Szczecin, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din. Click on that link to read Rudyard Kipling’s poem in its entirety, or click on this link to see the trailer for the 1939 movie Gunga Din starring Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Fontaine, and, in the title role, Sam Jaffe, who many years later played Dr. Zorba on the TV series Ben Casey. None of this has anything to do with Pomerania.

Here is a scene in Szczecin. After you have seen it, you will be able to say truthfully that you have seen a scene in Szczecin:

The name of the entire region is derived from Old Slavic po, meaning “by/next to/along” and more, meaning “sea”. Thus “Pomerania” is literally “seacoast”, referring to its proximity to the Baltic Sea.

Finally, here is a rare glimpse of typical daily life among the people of Pomerania (3:11).

It has taken all the gumption and personal resolve I could muster and every fiber of my being to refrain from including a picture of a dog.

This has been another educational post from Rhymeswithplague University, your online window into all things worthy of your attention.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Synapses of the world, unite!

According to the statistics section of my blog, I have written 763 posts (not counting this one) since September 28, 2007. This made me think, naturally, of the French and Indian War.

Do not look at me like that with those rolling eyes. It makes perfect sense.

The French and Indian War lasted from 1754 until 1763 -- note those last three digits, 763, which are the same as the number of, oh, forget it -- and was also known as the Seven Years War, even though if you subtract 1754 from 1763 you will get, let me see now, nine years. This is both confusing and completely unrelated to the fact that September, which is the ninth month of the year, was in fact the seventh month of the Roman calendar (in Latin septem means “seven” and septimus means “seventh”) until 153 BC, when the beginning of the year was changed from Kalendas Martius (1 March) to Kalendas Januarius (1 January), but that is neither here nor there. Well, actually it was there, but it’s not any more. Another story I have read explaining the reason September became the ninth month instead of the seventh is that two months were inserted into the Kalenda calendar to honor Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, namely July and August. The Romans, usually so thorough, apparently figured they had done enough damage and decided not to rename September November, rename October December, rename November Undecimber, and rename December Duodecimber. If you don’t have a clue what I am talking about, clicking here will help.

According to our old friend Wikipedia, the war (we were talking about the French and Indian/Seven Years War, remember?) was also known in Sweden as the Pomeranian War, in India as the Third Carnatic War, and in Prussia and Austria as the Third Silesian War. This is approximately as confusing as calling Constantinople Istanbul, calling Bombay Mumbai, calling Hot Springs (New Mexico) Truth or Consequences (New Mexico), and dividing Ruanda-Urundi into two separate countries and calling one Rwanda and the other Burundi, but it is not quite as confusing as calling the old Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic Belarus or calling Burma Myanmar or calling the Hellespont the Dardanelles. If you are really into Greek mythology, my mentioning the Hellespont should bring to mind the legend of Hero and Leander, in which Hero was female, Leander was male, and a lot of swimming was involved. Just like last weekend in the UK. If only Leander had worn an orange hat and a wet suit, perhaps he would not have drowned but would have received a free pair of flip-flops like Daphne did. (Again, clicking on the links will help you understand.)

I have no idea where this post is going. Nor do I know where it came from. Ditto as regards that last paragraph.

The human brain is a funny thing. Not funny ha-ha but funny peculiar. If you don’t believe me, look at this:

I will quit while I am a head ahead.

If you don’t think I am ahead, kindly keep your opinion to yourself.

Until we meet again, please continue sending good thoughts my way and I will do the same back atcha, good buddy (CB* talk for reciprocate). If you have not heretofore been sending good thoughts my way, there is no time like the present to begin.

Or you can entertain yourself by watching this (2:42).


* by which I mean Citizens’ Band radio. My incurable itch unquenchable thirst for knowledge, however, has led me to discover that CB can mean quite a number of things. Why, just in composing this note I learned that in the UK back in the seventies there was a singing group called Laurie Lingo and the Dipsticks and that Providence, Rhode Island, is known to American truckers as Barftown. Where else, I ask you, would you ever learn such useful and fascinating information? --RWP

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar...

Last Wednesday, Mrs. RWP and I hopped into our 11-year-old car that we have driven for more than 260,000 miles and added another 1,000 miles to the odometer to visit relatives in eastern North Carolina (500 miles there and 500 back). We spent one night in Raleigh (pronounced Rahly by the locals even though I grew up saying Rawly; perhaps our English readers can enlighten us as the place was named after Sir Walter Raleigh) visiting with cousin Amy. Next day we popped in on cousin Nancy and her husband Ronald in Smithfield for a short visit. Finally we arrived at our ultimate destination, the town of Clinton, where Mrs. RWP’s brother and his wife live, to help them celebrate his 80th birthday.

An interesting fact about Clinton, North Carolina, is that it is within spitting distance of Spivey’s Corner, where the National Hollerin’ Contest has been held on the third Saturday in June each year since 1969. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), we could not attend the 2011 version as we had to leave Saturday morning for the day-long trip back to Canton so that I could play chimes/piano/pipe organ (our Yamaha Clavinova is very versatile) at our church on Sunday. I was mildly disappointed and thought of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” Mrs. RWP, on the other hand, was very happy.

You know I’m going to include a video clip.

Here it is.

As the 2003 winner said, “I want to thank the Lord because without Him none of us would be here.”

A final comment: The background in the photograph of the birthday cake is a tablecloth crocheted by the honoree’s mother at least sixty years ago. We have one just like it at our house.

Now that and the fact that our brother has reached 80 are things worth hollerin’ about.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wrap your head around this, if you can.

To say that the email I received recently from my daughter-in-law’s father, a retired eye surgeon, was interesting or intriguing or impressive is woefully inadequate.

Stephen Wiltshire is mind-boggling, truly unbelievable, nothing short of phenomenal.

He also is autistic.

Words fail me.

See for yourself (5:22).

Read more about Stephen here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day 2011

Today is Flag Day in the United States, about which more here.

I am not going to get into the controversy over whether Betsy Ross of Philadelphia did or did not design and sew the first American flag in 1777. If she did, she did it here. And if she didn’t, she didn’t do it here as well:

(Photograph by English-language Wikipedia user Coolcaesar on August 30, 2007)

Today I am thinking of a specific flag, the one that was flying over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, one night in 1814 when a 25-year-old American lawyer named Francis Scott Key, aboard a British ship where he and others had gone to negotiate the release of prisoners, observed the bombing of the fort by the British navy during the War of 1812 (which was still going strong in 1814).

That flag, now in tatters and displayed in dim light to prevent further fading and deterioration, is at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Sometimes we wonder about a person, “What was he or she thinking?” Well, we know exactly what Francis Scott Key was thinking aboard that British ship because he wrote down his thoughts for posterity:

The Star Spangled Banner
by Francis Scott Key

Oh, say, can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh, thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The flag is very large. Here is how it appeared in 1914, one hundred years after Key penned the stirring words that became our national anthem:

And here, not to scale, is the man who penned them:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Today is Pentecost Sunday

...and I can think of no better way to observe it here in Blogland than to introduce you to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, which holds forth in New York City in a church that used to be a theater. The pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle is Jim Cymbala, and his wife Carol directs the choir.

In Christianity, Pentecost is considered to be the birthday of the Church because it is the day the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus Christ descended to earth and filled the disciples of Jesus. “I will not leave you comfortless,” Jesus had said. “I will come to you.” The word Pentecost (from Greek words that mean “fifty days”) occurred fifty days after Christ’s resurrection from the dead at Easter and ten days after his ascension into Heaven. The immediate effect of the descent of the Holy Spirit to believers was their ability to speak in languages they did not know.

I can think of no more unlikely institution in the world (from the world’s point of view) than the church, no events more unlikely than Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost, and no more unlikely choir (again, from the world’s point of view) than the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

Here are three video clips of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

“Worthy Is The Lamb” (5:38)

“Thou, O Lord, Are A Shield For Me” (5:47)

“I’m Amazed” (5:15) with guest singer Jason Crabb.

The last two clips happen to include subtitles in Portuguese. I have no idea why. But it is Pentecost, after all.

Pentecôte, painted in 1732 by French Neoclassical painter Jean II Restout (1692 - 1768)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thank God for small favors

Read this.

Then watch this (5:13).

For those of you who never follow directions, I will now explain what you have just not read and what you have just not watched.

Firstly, you have just not read “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll with accompanying illustrations by John Tenniel. In its inimitable style and no lack of detail, Wikipedia says that “The Walrus and the Carpenter” is “a narrative poem by Lewis Carroll that appeared in his book Through the Looking-Glass, published in December 1871. The poem is recited in chapter four, by Tweedledum and Tweedledee to Alice. The poem is composed of 18 stanzas and contains 108 lines, in an alternation of iambic trimeters and iambic tetrameters. The rhyme scheme is ABCBDB, and masculine rhymes appear frequently. The rhyming and rhythmical scheme used, as well as some archaisms and syntactical turns, are those of the traditional English ballad.” (If, like me, you looked up Wikipedia’s article on Through the Looking Glass at this point, you have discovered that the full title of the work is Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There and that Lewis Carroll is the nom de plume of one Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and that he wrote it as the sequel to his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was published in 1865. And if, also like me, you are able to distinguish tetrameter from tetracyclene but have no clue about the traditional English ballad and have no wish to find out, God bless you, Sir or Madam, as the case may be.)

Secondly, you have just not watched “The Walrus and The Carpenter” scene from the 1951 animated film Alice in Wonderland from Walt Disney Productions. It begins innocently enough, with a shot of Alice with Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but soon it bears about as much resemblance to the original version as Marilyn Monroe bears to Mary, Queen of Scots. Furthermore, the phrase “Calooh! Callay!” is included in the animated version, and that phrase is actually part of “Jabberwocky” and not “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” The animators also stole a part of evoked the Pied Piper of Hamelin legend when they had the Walrus play a flute to entice the baby oysters into following him.

Thirdly, it is entirely up to you which version you like best. Even if you prefer Tim Burton’s 2009 version starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, I will say nothing. I am not the culture police. No cartoon or twisted-sister version (Tim Burton, are you listening?) would be possible without the original, of course, but who is to say who is the more talented? Not me, that’s who.

Fourthly, any connection in your mind between this post and the illustrations at the end of my recent post about cabbage is purely intentional.

Fifthly, you should be grateful that you live in the twenty-first century and are reading this post in the air-conditioned comfort of your own home instead of living in the seventeenth or eighteenth century and listening to a sermon from a Puritan divine down at the local Congregational Church, because if you were, you would not be nearing the conclusion at this point but would be forced to sit there in austere surroundings on a hard wooden bench for another two or three hours without any padding whatsoever except what your own derriere could provide, trying to stay awake and feign interest until the Puritan divine had reached Thirty-sixthly.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I Yam What I Yam And That’s All That I Yam

Reader David Barlow, otherwise known as Putz, who lives in Manti/Ephraim/Tooele (pick one), Utah, has suggested that now that we have explored cabbage, we should explore spinach. Actually, what he wrote was:

“delightful, simply delightful post on cabbage, a most appealing vegatable<>>>now why don’t you do a post on spinack”

Despite the facts that (a) he didn’t begin either of his sentences with a capital letter, (b) he ended his first sentence with the rather strange punctuation mark <>>>, (c) he didn’t end his second sentence (which, as all former potential Jeopardy contestants know, was in the form of a question) with any punctuation at all, (d) he misspelled vegetable, and (e) he also misspelled spinach, calling it spinack, I have decided to follow his suggestion after a fashion.

I say “after a fashion” because I have no intention of doing a post on another vegetable at this time, but I tell you what I will do, I will include ten links that will enable you to create your own post on all things spinack spinach.

Here they are:

1. Spinach -- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2. Ultimate Spinach -- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

3. Basella alba -- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

4. Spinach -- FarmVille Wiki -- Seeds, Animals, Buildings, Events

5. Red Spinach -- FarmVille Wiki

6. Spinach juice -- Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki

7. Creamed Spinach (a recipe)

8. Spanakopita (a description)

9. Spanakopita (a recipe)

10. Popeye the Sailor Man

In the first link alone, you will learn that spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia, that in 1533 Catherine de Medici (queen of France) so fancied spinach that she insisted it be served at every meal, that there are three basic types of spinach (savoy, semi-savoy, and flat/smooth leaf spinach), that spinach is packaged in air or nitrogen gas to extend its shelf life, that the United States is the world’s second-largest producer of spinach with 3 percent of world output (following the People's Republic of China, which accounts for 85 percent of output), and that the top spinach-producing U.S. states in 2004-06 were California (73 percent), Arizona (12 percent), and New Jersey (3 percent) with 12 other states reporting production of at least 100 acres.

If you have 100 spare acres just lying fallow and plenty of time on your hands, you can become a statistic in the next edition of Wikipedia’s article on spinach. If you don’t have any acres but still have plenty of time on your hands, you can play Farmville, make some creamed spinach, learn how to prepare spanakopita, or bone up on all things Popeye.

In any event, knock yourselves out. I can’t do all the work all the time, you know.

Until next time, I will be stompin’ at the semi-savoy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Anything someone says three times is not necessarily true.

In my last post, I showed you some startling (or perhaps not-so-startling) statistics -- one and a half sentences into a post and already I’m starting with the alliteration -- about cabbages wordiness in government documents.

Turns out I have helped to perpetuate a hoax.

Reader and first-time commenter Dan Thoms, a graphic designer who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, graciously supplied a link that exposes the truth of the matter.

This is the link.

As someone said, “Live and learn.”

Live and learn. Live and learn. Live and learn.

The Wikipedia article on cabbage contains 4,082 words. Here are some of them:

Cabbage is a popular cultivar of the species Brassica oleracea Linne (Capitata Group) of the Family Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae) and is used as a leafy green vegetable. [Editor’s note. Please notice that Wikipedia does not say that cabbage is a leafy green vegetable, only that it is used as a leafy green vegetable. Hmmmm. --RWP]

It is a herbaceous, biennial, dicotyledonous flowering plant distinguished by a short stem upon which is crowded a mass of leaves, usually green but in some varieties red or purplish, which while immature form a characteristic compact, globular cluster (cabbage head). [Editor’s note. I couldn’t have said it better myself. --RWP]

Cabbage was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans; Cato the Elder praised this vegetable for its medicinal properties, declaring that “It is the cabbage that surpasses all other vegetables.” [Editor’s note. Only he probably said something like “Brassica oleracea Linne alia vegetabilis surpassitorum est.” --RWP]

The largest cabbage dish ever made was on 19 December 2008 in the Macedonian city of Prilep, with 80,191 sarmas (cabbage rolls) weighing 544 kg (1,221 lbs). [Editor’s note. Evidently, them sarma had karma. --RWP]

In 1653, in a publication called A Complete Herbal, Nicholas Culpepper wrote, “Cabbages are extremely windy, whether you take them as meat or as medicine, as windy meat as can be eaten, unless you eat bag-pipes or bellows, and they are but seldom eaten in our days; and Colewort flowers are something more tolerable, and the wholesomer food of the two.” [Editor’s note. No comment. --RWP]

Boiled cabbage has become stigmatized because of its strong cooking odor and the fact that it causes flatulence. [Editor’s note. Ditto. --RWP]

In European folk medicine, cabbage leaves are used to treat acute inflammation. A paste of raw cabbage may be placed in a cabbage leaf and wrapped around the affected area to reduce discomfort. Some claim it is effective in relieving painfully engorged breasts in breastfeeding women. [Editor’s note. I’m only telling you what Wikipedia says. --RWP]

The top ten producers of cabbage and other brassicas as of June 2008 were People’s Republic of China (36,335,000 tons), India (5,283,200 tons), Russia (4,054,000 tons), South Korea (3,000,000 tons), Japan (2,390,000 tons), Poland (1,375,900 tons), Ukraine (1,300,000 tons), Indonesia (1,250,000 tons), United States (1,171,350 tons), and Romania (1,120,000 tons). Total cabbage production in the world in 2008 was 69,214,270 tons. [Editor’s note. Source: “Food And Agricultural Organization of United Nations: Economic And Social Department: The Statistical Division.” Food and Agriculture Organization. --RWP]

The time has come to close this post, and I will do so with a saying that was common in Texas fifty years ago:

“Two heads are better than one, as long as one of them is not a cabbage head.”

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The problem in a nutshell.

Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust, but verify.” Someone sent me these statistics in an e-mail. I trust they are true. If they are not, don’t tell me.

.....Document................................................No. of Words
The Lord’s Prayer........................................................66
The Ten Commandments...........................................179
The Gettysburg Address............................................286
The Declaration of Independence...........................1,300
The U.S. Constitution with 27 Amendments...........7,818
U.S. Government regulations on the sale of

Friday, June 3, 2011

You can’t tell the players without a program.

CNN anchor and possible Regis Philbin replacement Anderson Cooper is the son of Gloria Laura Morgan Vanderbilt, whom Wikipedia describes as “an American artist, author, actress, heiress, and socialite most noted as an early developer of designer blue jeans.” Her mother was Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, whose identical twin sister Thelma was the mistress of the Prince of Wales. I am not making this up.

In addition to his auspicious beginning, Anderson Cooper has an older half-brother whose father was Leopold Stokowski, whom Gloria married in 1945, five years after he appeared along with Mickey Mouse, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and a whole host of animated co-stars that included ostriches, alligators, and hippopotamuses hippopotami in Walt Disney’s 1940 film, Fantasia. By “he” I mean Leopold Stokowski, not Anderson Cooper, who wasn’t born until 1967. In the interest of completeness and accuracy in reporting, I also need to tell you here that Leopold Stokowski was born in 1882, Regis Francis Xavier Philbin was born in 1931, Kathy Lee Gifford (née Epstein, her husband is Frank Gifford, a Hall of Fame former American football player and American sportscaster) was born in 1953, and Kelly Maria Ripa Consuelos, who met her husband Marc Consuelos when both were acting in the soap opera All My Children, was born in 1970. If you need to ask why (why I’m telling you these things, not why Kelly Ripa was born) you simply haven’t been paying enough attention to this celebrity-obsessed culture of ours.

You probably don’t have any idea who these two people are either.

(AP Photo by Jeff Christensen)

FYI, they are Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, the winner and first runner-up, respectively, of the latest season of American Idol. He is 17 and hails from Garner, North Carolina. She is 16 and hails from Rossville, Georgia. If for any reason he is unable to complete his reign, she will take over his duties. American Idol is a scholarship pageant. Oh, wait, I’m thinking of something else.

This is why you read my blog. Where else would you find such fascinating, not to mention useful, information?

In other entertainment news, assisted suicide advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian died today at the age of 83.

Just in case you think I’m insane, I want to tell you that there are some real nuts running around out there. For example, and with the help of the aforementioned Anderson Cooper, meet William Tapley.

One thing is sure. Little Gloria is happy at last.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Take it away, Stephen Wright!

I like to reminisce with people I don’t know.

I was once walking through the forest alone. A tree fell right in front of me and I didn’t hear it.

Right now I’m having amnesia and deja vu at the same time.
I think I’ve forgotten this before.

My neighbor has a circular driveway. He can't get out.

It doesn’t matter what temperature the room is, it’s always room temperature.

I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

I had a friend who was a clown. When he died, all his friends went to the funeral in one car.

How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?

All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my hand.

When I die, I’m leaving my body to science fiction.

I used to have an open mind but my brains kept falling out.

I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn’t park anywhere near the place.

Is it weird in here, or is it just me?

Here’s more. (6:16)

And even more. (4:19)

I’m beginning to understand the concept of too much of a good thing.

<b> Mundane is also a word</b>

My blogger friend Rachel Phillips is currently in the midst of a series of posts (three so far) about a trip she took with her friends Liz...