Saturday, July 30, 2011

It didn’t work

Thinking of Christmas didn’t help. The heat and humidity are still very much with us.

Plus a little Gullah goes a long way....

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dey Find Out Dat Mary Been Speckin, or How to Stay Cool In This Heat

I’m reaching way back/deep down (pick one) into my literary shelf/bag of tricks (ditto) and bringing forth/dredging up (whatever) a post from two and a half years ago for your reading pleasure and edification today.

It is the Christmas story in the Gullah language of coastal Georgia and South Carolina, about which you will be reading shortly. There is method in my madness, though -- during these hot, sweltering, yea, verily, even scorching summer days (Brother Dave Gardner would say at this point, “Can I get a glory?”), I thought that if we contemplate the Christmas story in whatever form long enough we might fool our subconscious minds into thinking the white stuff on the ground outside our windows is snow and not popped popcorn.

Without further ado, I present, from December 2, 2008:

De Gullah Nyew Testament

When I first read the Christmas story in the Gullah language ten or twelve years ago, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I thought it might be a parody of the dialect Joel Chandler Harris used in his Uncle Remus tales, or perhaps a not-so-subtle putdown of the way some poorly educated people speak, or perhaps a ridiculing of Ebonics, which was all the rage at the time. I also thought that many African-Americans might find it insulting, demeaning, not politically correct, or even racist.

But what you are about to read is not Ebonics, not a parody, not a putdown, not meant to ridicule. It is not meant to be insulting, demeaning, politically incorrect, or, heaven forbid, racist. It is a portion of the New Testament in the Gullah language, which is spoken by descendants of slaves along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts. I will have more to say at the end of the readings.

Here is part of Chapters 1 and 2 of the Gospel According to St. Matthew in Gullah:

De Good Nyews Bout Jedus Christ Wa Matthew Write

Jedus Christ Bon

18 Now dis yah wa happen wen Jedus Christ bon. Jedus modda Mary been gage fa marry Joseph. Bot, fo dey git marry an Joseph cyaa um fa lib wid um, dey find out dat Mary been speckin. An dat been de powa ob de Holy Sperit wa mek dat happen. 19 Now Joseph wa been gage fa marry Mary, e been a man wa waak scraight wid God, an e ain been wahn fa see Mary come ta no open shame. So Joseph mek op e mind fa paat wid Mary an keep um hush op. 20 E beena study haad bout wa e gwine do, wen de Lawd sen a angel ta um een a dream. De angel tell um say, “Joseph, ya wa come out fom King David fambly, mus dohn be scaid fa marry Mary. Cause de chile wa e speckin, dat wa de Holy Sperit mek happen. 21 E gwine hab son, an ya mus gim de name Jedus, cause e gwine sabe e people fom dey sin.”

22 Now all dis happen so dat wa de Lawd done tell de prophet say gwine happen, e happen fa true. E say, 23 “One nyoung ooman dat ain neba know no man, e gwine be wid chile. E gwine hab son, an dey gwine call de chile Emmanuel.” (Dat mean fa say, God right yah wid we.)

24 So wen Joseph wake op, e done wa de Lawd angel chaage um fa do. E gone an marry Mary. 25 Bot Joseph neba tetch Mary til e done hab e son. An Joseph name de chile Jedus.

De Man Dem Fom de East Come fa Woshup Jedus

1 Now Jedus been bon een Betlem town, een Judea, jurin de same time wen Herod been king. Atta Jedus been bon, some wise man dem dat study bout de staa dem come ta Jerusalem fom weh dey been een de east. 2 An dey aks say, “Weh de chile da, wa bon fa be de Jew people king? We beena see de staa wa tell bout um een de east, an we come fa woshup um op.”

3 Wen King Herod yeh dat, e been opsot fa true. An ebrybody een Jerusalem been opsot too. 4 E call togeda all de leada dem ob de Jew priest dem an de Jew Law teacha dem. E aks um say. “Weh de Messiah gwine be bon at?”

5 Dey tell King Herod say, “E gwine be bon een Betlem town een Judea. Cause de prophet write say,

6 ‘Betlem een Judah lan, ya sompin fa sho
mongst dem oda town dey een Judah.
Cause one ob ya people gwine be a big rula.
E gwine rule oba me Israel people,
same like a shephud da lead e sheep.’ ”

7 So King Herod sen fa de man dem dat done come fom de east fa meet wid um, bot e ain tell nobody bout de meetin. Den Herod aks dem man fa tell um de zact time wen dey fus see dat staa. 8 E tell um say, “Oona mus go ta Betlem an look roun good fa de chile. Wen oona find um, mus come back an leh me know, so dat A kin go mesef fa woshup um op too.”

9 Atta dem man yeh wa de king say, dey gone on, an dey see de same staa dat dey beena see wen dey been back een de east. Dey folla dat staa til dey git ta de place weh de chile been, an den dat staa ain gone no foda. 10 Wen de man dem fom de east see dat staa dey, dey been too glad. Dey been glad til dey ain know wa fa do. 11 Dey gone eenta de house, an dey see de chile dey wid e modda, Mary. Den dey kneel down fo de chile an woshup um op. An dey open op dey bag an tek out de rich ting dey beena cyaa long wid um fa gii de chile. Dey gim gole, frankincense, an myrrh.

12 Now den, de Lawd come ta dem man een a dream an waan um, tell um say, “Mus dohn go back fa tell King Herod nottin.” So dey gone noda way back ta weh dey come fom.

[End of excerpt from Matthew from De Gullah Nyew Testament, copyright ©2005 SIL Institute]

And here is part of Chapters 1 and 2 of the Gospel According To St. Luke in Gullah:

De Good Nyews Bout Jedus Christ Wa Luke Write

Luke Tell Theophilus Wa Dis Book Taak Bout

1 Deah Theophilus, plenty people beena try fa write down all de ting dem wa we bleebe fa true, wa done happen mongst we. 2 An all wa dey done write down, dis de same ting wa de people dem dat been wid Jedus wen e fus staat, dey done tell we. An dey beena preach God wod. 3 So, Honorable Theophilus, A figga since A done beena study bout dem ting good fashion fom de time dey fus staat, A oughta write um down fa ya step by step fom staat ta finish. 4 A da write fa mek ya know all de trute consaanin dem ting wa dey done laan ya, fa leh ya know dat all dis wa dey laan ya bout done happen fa true.

De Angel Tell Zechariah E Gwine Hab Son

5 Same time wen Herod been king ob Judea, one Jew priest name Zechariah been dey. E been one ob de priest dem ob Abijah group. An e wife name been Lizzybet. Lizzybet blongst ta de fambly ob de head Priest Aaron too. 6 Zechariah an Lizzybet beena waak scraight wid God. Dey beena keep all de Law ob de Lawd an do ebryting e tell um fa do. 7 Bot dey ain hab no chullun cause Lizzybet ain been able. An now dey bof been ole.

8 One time wen Abijah group beena wok een God House, Zechariah beena do e wok dey, da cyaa out de priest judy. 9 Now den, wen de priest dem wahn fa pick one ob um fa go eenside God House fa bun incense, dey write all de priest dem name down, fole de paper an pick one. Dis time yah Zechariah name come out fa bun de incense. So e gone eenside de Lawd house fa do e wok. 10 Same time de incense beena bun eenside God House, de whole crowd wa been dey beena pray outside een de yaad. 11 Den een God House, Zechariah see a angel dat de Lawd sen. Dat angel stan fo um pon de right han side ob de alta, weh Zechariah da bun de incense. 12 Wen Zechariah see de angel, e been opsot. E mos scaid ta det. 13 De angel tell um say, “Mus dohn feah, Zechariah! De Lawd done yeh ya pray, an e ansa um. Ya wife Lizzybet gwine hab son. Mus name um John. 14 Ya gwine be glad fa true wen e bon, an a heapa oda people gwine be glad cause e bon! 15 Dat chile gwine be a great man een de Lawd eye. E mus dohn neba drink no wine or nottin wa mek a poson dronk. An e gwine be full op wid de Holy Sperit eben fo e bon. 16 E gwine mek a heapa Israel people come ta de Lawd dey God. 17 E gwine go head ob de Lawd an hab scrong sperit an powa, jes like de prophet Elijah, wa done tell God wod. E gwine mek de fada dem haat ton ta dey chullun. An e gwine mek de people dat ain do wa God wahn, memba God an ondastan wa right fa do. E gwine mek de Lawd people ready fa de time wen de Lawd gwine come.”

18 Zechariah aks de angel say, “How A spose fa know wa ya say gwine happen? A done ole, an me wife, e ole too.”

19 De angel ansa um, “A Gabriel. A da stanop fo God, da saab um. E sen me fa come tell ya dis good nyews. 20 Bot listen yah! Dis ting wa A done tell ya, dat how e gwine be wen de right time come. Bot cause ya ain bleebe me, ya ain gwine be able fa taak. Ya ain gwine crack ya teet til all wa A tell ya done happen.”

21 All dat time dey, de people outside beena wait fa Zechariah. Dey wonda hoccome e stay so long eenside God House. 22 Wen e come out, e ain been able fa taak ta de people, so dey figga fa true e been hab wision eenside God House. E jes beena mek sign wid e han, an e ain able fa say nottin.

23 Wen e time been op fa wok een God House, Zechariah gone home. 24 Atta wile, e wife Lizzybet been speckin. An Lizzybet hide eenside e house fibe mont. 25 E say, “De Lawd been good ta me fa true an bless me fa be wid chile. Now e done tek way me shame so dat people ain gwine look down pon me no mo!”

De Angel Tell Mary E Gwine Hab Son

26 Wen Lizzybet been speckin, een e six mont God sen e angel Gabriel ta Nazareth, a town een Galilee. 27 God sen um ta one nyoung ooman name Mary. E ain know nottin bout no man yet, bot e been gage fa marry a man name Joseph, wa been one ob King David kin people. 28 Dat angel come ta Mary say, “How ya da do, Mary. De Lawd done bless ya fa true! E da trabel longside ya!”

29 Wen Mary yeh wa de angel say, e beena trouble tommuch, an e study e head fa try fa figga wa dat mean. 30 De angel tell um say, “Mus dohn be scaid, Mary, cause God heppy wid ya. 31 Ya gwine be wid chile. Ya gwine hab son. Mus gim name Jedus. 32 E gwine be great. Dey gwine call um de Son ob de Mos High God. An de Lawd God gwine mek um king fa rule jes like e ole people leada King David. 33 Jedus gwine hab tority faeba oba de fambly ob Jacob. E gwine rule oba um faeba an eba!”

34 Mary aks de angel say, “A ain neba been wid no man. So hoccome a gwine hab chile?”

35 De angel ansa um, “De Holy Sperit gwine come ta ya. De High God dat great mo den all, e gwine sen e powa pon ya fa do dis. Cause ob dat, people gwine call dis chile fom God wa ya gwine hab, de God Chile, God own Son. 36 Fodamo, Lizzybet, wa kin ta ya, e wid chile. Eben dough e way too ole fa hab chullun, e een e six mont. Now ebrybody tink say, Lizzybet ain able fa hab chile. Stillyet, e gwine hab son. 37 Cause dey ain nottin dat God ain able fa do.”

38 Mary tell um say, “A ready fa saab de Lawd. A ready fa saab um jes like ya done say.” Den de angel gone lef um.

Mary Go fa See Lizzybet

39 Soon atta dat, Mary git ready. E mek hace an gone ta a town een Judea een de hill country. 40 E gone ta Zechariah house, an e hail Lizzybet. 41 Wen Lizzybet yeh Mary boice, e baby eenside um jomp roun. An Lizzybet been full op wid de Holy Sperit. 42 E raise e boice loud, tell Mary say, “God da bless ya mo den all oda ooman, an same time e bless de chile wa ya da cyaa! 43 A ain feel wody fa hab dis great ting happen ta me, dat de modda ob me Lawd come wisit me. 44 Cause same time A yeh ya boice, dis chile wa A da cyaa, e jomp roun fa joy. 45 Ya bless fa true, Mary, cause ya bleebe de Lawd gwine do all dat e done tell ya!”

Mary Praise de Lawd

46 Mary say,
“Een me haat A da praise de Lawd.
47 God wa sabe me done mek me haat glad fa true.
48 E done memba me, e humble saabant!
Fom now on, all people gwine say A been bless fa true.
49 Cause God wa got powa oba all ting, e done do great ting fa me.
E name holy fa sho.
50 E da show mussy ta all dem wa feah um,
fom one generation ta de nex.
51 E done show de great scrent een e aam.
E done scatta dem wa proud an mek um ron way.
52 E done pull down de mighty king dem fom off dey shrone,
an gii tority ta de humble.
53 E done gii plenty good ting ta dem wa hongry.
Bot e done sen way de rich. E ain gim nottin.
54 E done hep de Israel people, wa da saab um.
E ain fagit e promise.
55 E keep e wod wa e gii ta we ole people. E show mussy ta Abraham
an all e chullun faeba!”

56 Mary stay dey wid Lizzybet bout shree mont. Den e gone home.

Lizzybet Hab Son John

57 De time come fa Lizzybet fa go een, an e hab son. 58 E neighba dem an e kin yeh say de Lawd done hab mussy pon Lizzybet. E gim chile. An all dem rejaice wid um.

59 Eight day atta de chile been bon, dey come togeda fa circumcise de chile. Dey been gwine gim name Zechariah, like e fada. 60 Cep e modda Lizzybet tell um say, “No! E name spose fa be John.”

61 Wen Lizzybet say dat, de people tell um say, “Bot ya ain got no kin people name John!” 62 So dey mek sign ta e fada Zechariah fa aks um wa e wahn de chile name fa be.

63Zechariah mek sign ta dem, aks fa sompin fa write pon. Den e write down say, “E name John.” All de people been stonish. 64 Same time Zechariah boice come back, an e staat fa taak. E da praise God. 65 All de neighba wa yeh Zechariah been scruck. Dey taak bout dis ting, an de nyews git roun all oba Judea een de hill country. 66 An all dem wa yeh dis ting, study bout um say, “Wa dis chile yah gwine be?” Cause fa true de Lawd powa been dey pon um.

Zechariah Praise de Lawd

67 Zechariah, John fada, been full op wid de Holy Sperit, an e tell God wod. E say,

68 “Leh we praise de Lawd, de God ob de Israel people!
Cause e done come fa hep e people. E done set um free.
69 E done sen we scrong poson wa gwine sabe we.
An dis Poson blongst ta de fambly ob David, de ole people leada wa saab God.
70 God own prophet dem, dey promise fom way back.
71 Dey say, ‘Dis poson gwine sabe we fom we enemy.
E gwine sabe we fom de powa ob all dem people wa hate we.’
72 God hab mussy pon we, jes like e been tell we ole people.
E stillyet memba de greement wa e esef done mek wid um.
73 E promise we ole people leada Abraham an mek a wow.
74 E say e gwine sabe we fom we enemy dem
so we ain gwine be scaid fa saab um.
75 We gwine be God own people, da waak scraight fo um
all de time we lib.
76 Me chile, dey gwine call ya de prophet wa taak fa de Mos High God.
Cause ya gwine git de people dem ready
fa de time wen de Lawd gwine come.
77 Ya gwine tell e people say God gwine paadon dey sin,
an dat how e gwine sabe um.
78 Cause we God feel wa we feel,
an e mussyful an do we good.
E gwine mek de light ob sabation fa shine pon we
like de sun ob day clean broad.
79 Dat light gwine shine pon all de people wa lib een de daak shada ob det.
E gwine hep we waak a peaceable way.”
80 An wiles de chile John da grow big, e da come close ta God mo an mo. E beena lib een de wildaness til de time come fa wok mongst de Israel people.

Jedus Bon

1 Een dat time, Caesar Augustus been de rula ob de Roman people. E mek a law een all de town een de wol weh e hab tority, say, “Ebrybody haffa go ta town fa count by de head an write down e name.” 2 Dis been de fus time dey count by de head, jurin de time Quirinius de gobna ob Syria country. 3 So den, ebrybody gone fa count by de head, ta e own town weh e ole people been bon.

4 Now Joseph same fashion gone fom Nazareth town een Galilee. E trabel ta de town name Betlem een Judea, weh de ole people leada, King David, been bon. Joseph gone dey cause e blongst ta David fambly. 5 E gone fa count by de head, an Mary gone long wid um. E gage fa marry um. An Mary been speckin. 6 Same time wen dey been dey, time come fa Mary gone een. 7 E hab boy chile, e fusbon. E wrop um op een closs wa been teah eenta scrip an lay um een a trough weh dey feed de cow an oda animal dem. Cause Mary an Joseph beena stay weh de animal sleep. Dey ain been no room fa dem eenside de bodin house.

De Shephud Dem Go fa See de Chile Jedus

8 Now some shephud been dey een de fiel dat night. Dey beena stay dey, da mind dey sheep. 9 Den one angel ob de Lawd appeah ta um. De night time done lightnin op jes like day clean broad. Cause ob dat, de shephud mos scaid ta det. 10 Bot de angel tell um say, “Mus dohn feah! A hab good nyews wa gwine mek ebrybody rejaice. 11 Cause A come fa tell oona, ‘Right now, dis day, a Sabior done bon fa oona. E Christ de Lawd. An e bon een David town!’ 12 A gwine tell oona wa oona gwine see dey. Cause ob dat, oona gwine know A done tell oona de trute. Oona gwine find de chile wrop op een closs wa been teah eenta scrip, an e been leddown een a trough.”

13 All ob a sudden, a heapa oda angel fom heaben been longside dat angel. Dey all da praise God, say,

14 “Leh we gii glory ta God een de mos high heaben.
Leh dey be peace ta dem een de wol wa hab God fabor!”

15 Den de angel lef um an gone back ta heaben. An de shephud dem say ta one noda, “Leh we go ta Betlem fa see dis ting wa happen oba dey. De Lawd esef done sen e angel fa tell we.”

16 So de shephud dem mek hace an gone ta Betlem fa look. Wen dey git dey, dey find Mary an Joseph an de chile. An dat chile been leddown een a trough. 17 Atta de shephud shim, dey done tell ebrybody bout de chile. Dey tell um all wa de angel done say consaanin um. 18 An all de people wa de shephud dem tell been stonish. 19 Mary memba all dis ting an study bout um. 20 De shephud dem gone back ta dey fiel. Dey da praise God. Dey da rejaice tommuch fa all dey done see an yeh. All wa de angel done tell um, e stan jes like e say.

Dey Name de Chile Jedus

21 Eight day atta de chile bon, e been time fa circumcise um. Dey name um Jedus, jes like de angel done been gim fo e modda Mary been speckin.

[End of excerpt from Luke from De Gullah Nyew Testament, copyright ©2005, SIL Institute]

If you are interested in reading more, the website contains the entire New Testament in Gullah online.

I do not know what your reaction to the foregoing passages in Gullah might be. If you live in the north or midwest or western parts of the United States, you may find it difficult to believe that anyone talks like that. If you live in the south, however, you may have heard people talking that way. If they were speaking English, it would be considered substandard, or perhaps a dialect. But it is not English.

The goal of an organization called Wycliffe Bible Translators is to provide Christian scriptures in everyone’s “heart language,” the language of their childhood, the language of learning to say prayers and numbers. People certainly can learn other languages in which the Bible has already been translated, but the Wycliffe Bible Translators say that people seem to grasp the Bible best and hear it most clearly in their first, or heart, language.

Read this 2005 article from the Los Angeles Times to understand how some Gullah speakers feel about the Gullah Bible.

As for me, I still have mixed emotions. The part of me that used to want to laugh now wants to cry, and the part of me that used to want to cry now wants to laugh.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bad Author! Bad Author!

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents -- except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

The above deathless prose (not) was the first sentence of the 1830 novel Paul Clifford by Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, not to be confused with Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton, Governor-General of India, or Edward Bulwer, British Army officer.

Bulwer-Lytton (25 May 1803 – 18 January 1873) was an English politician, poet, playwright, and prolific novelist. Immensely popular with the reading public of his day, he wrote a stream of bestselling novels which earned him a considerable fortune. He happens to have coined the phrases “the great unwashed,” “pursuit of the almighty dollar,” “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and the famous opening line “It was a dark and stormy night.” These are not necessarily good things.

Since 1983, the English Department of San Jose State University in California has sponsored an annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the worst of all possible opening sentences for the worst of all possible novels.

In case you have lain awake nights wondering what sort of sentences could possibly have won the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest in years past, here are the grand-prize-winning sentences for every year from 1983 through 2010.

Hold on; we aren’t through yet.

In case you have also lain awake nights wondering whether you have the wherewithal, the moxie, and the great reserve of long-hidden talent (or lack thereof) necessary to become a winner in future contests, here are all of the winning entries, runners-up, and dishonorable mentions from every category in the 2011 contest. They were announced a couple of days ago.

I figure after wading through all of those, you will have a higher tolerance for my own writing here at rhymeswithplagueville.

And if you actually took the time to read every last word in the links and actually liked what you read, let me just say that not only are you between Scylla and Charybdis, between the Devil and the deep blue sea, between a rock and a hard place, but you also will be -- now and forevermore, or at least until next year’s winners are announced -- between Cheryl’s mind and Urgh the howler monkey’s bananas.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Here’s the latest quotation making the rounds on Facebook:

“I could end the deficit in 5 minutes,” Warren Buffett told CNBC. “You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP*, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.”

I hope it’s genuine, but even if it isn’t from Warren Buffett, it’s still a darned good idea.

*Gross Domestic Product, as opposed to GNP (Gross National Product) or NNI (Net National Income) or a number of other economic factors.

For a list (three lists, actually -- take your pick) of countries by GDP (nominal), click here. Our old friend Tuvalu is 190th of 191 countries on the third list. I’m just sayin’....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How Green Was My Vili

I love it when a plan comes together.

Hot on the heels of my recent post (July 22nd) about the nation of Tuvalu in which I mentioned the names Pukasavilivili and Tepuka ViliVili (islands in Tuvalu) and Mikheil Saakashvili (the third and current president of Georgia -- not my Georgia, the other one) comes word that the once highest-ranking member of the United States military died on July 23rd at the age of 75.

His name: General John M. Shalikashvili.

It’s nothing short of poetic, a kind of gift falling out of the sky, post-wise.

General Shalikashvili was the first foreign-born soldier to reach the rank of four-star General in the U.S. Army. He was Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO) from 1992 to 1993, and was appointed Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff by President Clinton in 1993. He served in that capacity until his retirement from a 38-year military career in 1997.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, to Georgian refugees, he came to the United States in 1952 at the age of 16 and attended high school in Peoria, Illinois. His father, Prince Dmitri Shalikashvili (1896- 1978), had served in both the army of Imperial Russia in World War I and Germany’s SS Waffengruppe Georgien during World War II. Other ancestors of General Shalikashvili include Prince Ivane Shalikashvili, Prince Ioseb Shalikashvili, Princess Mariam Andronikashvili, Princess Ekaterine Guramishvili, and Prince Tadeoz Guramishvili. In Georgia (not mine, the other one), adding “vili” at the end of your name is apparently the key to success.

Here he is with two other people you will recognize, President Billclintonvili and his wife (the current U.S. Secretary of State), Hillary Rodhamclintonvili in 1993.

According to Wikipedia, the retired general was an advisor to John Kerryvili’s 2004 Presidential campaign, and in 2007 penned an op-ed in the New York Times calling for a reversal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. A similar op-ed by him appeared in the June 19, 2009, Washington Post. The policy was reversed July 22, 2011, the day before his death, when a certification that repeal would not harm military readiness was sent to Congress by President Barack Obamavili, Secretary of Defense Leon Panettavili, and Admiral Mike Mullenvili, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Monday, July 25, 2011

My new favorite Youtube clip this one of impressionist Jim Meskiman reciting Clarence’s dream speech (from Shakespeare’s Richard III) as himself and 29 other people (3:46).

Trivia Item of the Day: Jim is the son of Marion Ross, the actress who played Mrs. Cunningham, mother of Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) on the television series Happy Days from 1974 to 1984. Here she is at the 1992 Emmy Awards:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Today we are all Norwegians

Our hearts go out to the people of Norway.

Here are 120 horrifying photos of yesterday’s events in the city of Oslo and on the island of Utoya. Seven people lost their lives in the bombing and at least 84 young people died as a result of the shootings.

A single individual is said to be responsible.

Update: As of 2:00 p.m. EDT, 7/23/2011, the death count from these two events is reported to be 98. --RWP

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mystery photo

Can you identify the following object?

It is not a raindrop. It is not a splatter of any kind, so don’t even go there. This is a family blog. It is not a species of jellyfish. It DOES have something to do with the geography quiz in the preceding post, however.

Give up?

Okay, I’ll tell you. This is an aerial view of Funafuti (foo-nah-FOO-tee?), an atoll that forms the capital of the island nation of Tuvalu. It had a population of 4,092 in the 2000 census, making it the most populated atoll in the country. According to Wikipedia, it is a narrow sweep of land between 20 and 400 metres wide, encircling a large lagoon 18 km long and 14 km wide, by far the largest lagoon in Tuvalu. The land area of the 33 islets aggregates to 2.4 km², less than one percent of the total area of the atoll. There is an airstrip, a hotel, and administrative buildings, as well as homes, constructed both in the traditional manner, out of palm fronds, and more recently out of cement blocks. Sites of interest include the remains of United States aircraft that crashed on Funafuti during World War II, when the airstrip was used by the U.S. forces to defend the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands.

The largest island is Fongafale (fon-guh-FAH-leh?). The island houses four villages, including Vaiaku (vah-ee-AH-ku?), seat of the Tuvalu government. The capital of Tuvalu is sometimes given as Fongafale or Vaiaku, but the entire atoll of Funafuti is officially the capital.

There are at least 33 islands in the atoll. The biggest is Fongafale, followed by Funafala. At least three islands are inhabited, which are Fongafale, the main island in the east, Funafala in the south, and Amatuku in the north. The names of the islands are:

Fale Fatu (or Falefatu)
Fualefeke (or Fualifeke)
Papa Elise (or Funangongo)
Te Afuafou
Te Afualiku
Tengako (peninsula of the island of Fongafale)
Tepuka Vili Vili
and at least 5 other islands.

I am not making any of this up.

The Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu is located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls. Its population of 10,472 makes it the third-least populous sovereign state in the world, with only Vatican City and Nauru having fewer inhabitants.

And now, if you should ever run into someone from Funafuti or Fongafale or Falefatu or Funafale or Tepuka Vili Vili or even Pukasavilivili (possibly Mikheil Saakashvili, the third and current president of Georgia -- not my Georgia, the other one), you can truthfully say that you know what the flag of Tuvalu looks like:

This post cannot hold a candle to Yorkshire Pudding’s firsthand accounts of Cambodia and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) or Silverback’s recent vacation in Northern Ireland with Daphne and Steven or any of Helsie’s posts made while tootling about both Australia and England, but I do what I can.

Three guesses who this is, and the first two don’t count.

1. Amelia Earhart
2. Yorkshire Pudding
3. Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, whose flag looks this:


Trivia Item of the Day and The Reason I Decided To Write This Post: The domain name “.tv” is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for the islands of Tuvalu. Except for reserved names like,, and others, any person may register second-level domains in tv. The domain name is popular, and thus economically valuable, because it is an abbreviation of the word ‘television’. The domain is currently operated by dotTV, a Verisign company; the Tuvalu government owns twenty percent of the company.
In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name “.tv” for $50 million in royalties over a 12-year period. The Tuvalu government receives a quarterly payment of US$1 million for use of the top-level domain.

(Woman on Funafuti, 1900. Photo by H.C. Fassett)

She’s come a long way, baby.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The humiliation continues...

The answers to the geography quiz in the preceding post are: 1-United Arab Emirates, 2-Nigeria, 3-Ghana, 4-Pitcairn Islands, 5-Ethiopia, 6-Algeria, 7-Niue, 8-Jordan, 9-Netherlands, 10-Andorra, 11-Turkey, 12-Madagascar, 13-Samoa, 14-Turkmenistan, 15-Eritrea, 16-Kazakhstan, 17-Greece, 18-Paraguay, 19-Cook Islands, 20-Iraq, 21-Azerbaijan, 22-Mali, 23-Brunei, 24-Thailand, 25-Central African Republic, 26-Gambia, 27-St. Kitts and Nevis, 28-China, 29-Netherlands, 30-Northern Ireland, 31-Serbia, 32-Belize, 33-Germany, 34-Switzerland, 35-Kyrgyzstan, 36-Guinea-Bissau, 37-Colombia, 38-Brazil, 39-Slovakia, 40-Republic of the Congo, 41-Barbados, 42-Belgium, 43-Romania, 44-Hungary, 45-Argentina, and 46-Burundi.

Wikipedia’s list of national capitals has a grand total of 249 entries. In fairness and full disclosure, I must tell you that the list includes territories and dependencies, non-sovereign states including associated states, and entities whose sovereignty is disputed along with the probably more familiar sovereign states. So far we have covered only the ones starting with A and B.

National capitals that start with C are Cairo, Canberra, Caracas, Cardiff, Castries, Cayenne, Charlotte Amalie, Chisinau, Cockburn Town, Conakry, and Copenhagen.

National capitals that start with D are Dakar, Damascus, Dhaka, Dili, Djibouti, Dodoma, Doha, Douglas, Dublin, and Dushanbe.

National capitals that start with E are Edinburgh, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, and Episkopi Cantonment.

National capitals that start with F are Flying Fish Cove, Freetown, and Funafuti (which happens to be the capital of Tuvalu. I know. I never heard of it either.)

We could continue like this all the way from G through Z, but I think I will just let you have a look for yourself.

Why should I be the only one feeling stupid?

An anomaly in Wikipedia’s list is that Jerusalem appears twice, once as capital of Israel and once as capital of Palestine. There are two rather lengthy explanatory notes: (1) Jerusalem Law states that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”, and the city serves as the seat of the government, home to the President’s residence, government offices, supreme court, and parliament. United Nations Security Council Resolution 478 declared the Jerusalem Law “null and void” and called on member states to withdraw their diplomatic missions from Jerusalem. The United Nations and all member nations maintain their embassies in other cities such as Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, and Herzliya (see the CIA Factbook and Map of Israel). The Palestinian Authority sees East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. (2) Palestine has observer status at United Nations General Assembly and maintains a permanent observer mission at the UN Headquarters. The unilaterally declared State of Palestine received diplomatic recognition from around 100 countries. The proclaimed state has no agreed territorial borders, nor effective control on the territory which it claims.

For the record, my favorite world capital is Ulaanbaatar, the capital of (what else?) Mongolia.

Tell me you knew that one. I dare you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A capital offense, or where in the world is Carmen San Dirhymeswithplague?

I thought I knew something about geography, but a list of the capital cities of the world left me humbled. Of the first 46 cities from a list arranged alphabetically (which turn out to be all the ones starting with A or B), how many can you match to their countries without having to resort to looking them up?

1. Abu Dhabi
2. Abuja
3. Accra
4. Adamstown
5. Addis Ababa
6. Algiers
7. Alofi
8. Amman
9. Amsterdam
10. Andorra la Vella
11. Ankara
12. Antananarivo
13. Apia
14. Ashgabat
15. Asmera
16. Astana
17. Asunción
18. Athens
19. Avarua
20. Baghdad
21. Baku
22. Bamako
23. Bandar Seri Begawan
24. Bangkok
25. Bangui
26. Banjul
27. Basseterre
28. Beijing
29. Beirut
30. Belfast
31. Belgrade
32. Belmopan
33. Berlin
34. Bern
35. Bishkek
36. Bissau
37. Bogotá
38. Brasilia
39. Bratislava
40. Brazzaville
41. Bridgetown
42. Brussels
43. Bucharest
44. Budapest
45. Buenos Aires
46. Bujumbura

I managed to come up with slightly more than half. I hang my head in shame.

The answers will appear later, as if by magic.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gaudeamus Igitur, Iuvenes Dum Sumus

One by one my old classmates are passing away. There were 43 of us in all who graduated together in the spring of 1958, having completed 12 years of public school. Many had been together from the beginning. I joined them in the second year. The first to go was Bruce H., a young Methodist minister who drowned trying to rescue others during a flood. The latest is Robert H., who was getting ready to go home from hospital following successful back surgery when he suffered a massive heart attack last Friday afternoon and died.

In between, there have been:

Patricia K.
Judy G.
Patsy C.
Vonnie F.
Ben N.
Guy A.
Diane H.
Joe S.
Lura Lee C.
Judy W.
Marshall T.

Still among the living:

Pat H.
Pat B.
Darrell R.
Johnny H.
Johnny D.
John G.
Barbara E.
Brenda S.
Roland C.
Jimmie R.
Glynn E.
Kim O.
Bobby A.
Margaret N.
Bobby Ray S.
Faye R.
Judith C.
Mary Jo T.
Sharon S.
Morreta Ann H.
Charles Lee M.
Alene B.
Louise M.
Kent W.
Johnny A.
Sonja S.
Glenda F.
Betty H.
Jerry W.
Mary S.
Danna V.
Elmer W.
Linda H.
Dianne P.
Martha S.

I think that’s just about everybody. I may have left out a name or two inadvertently. If you bother to count, though, you will discover that the list contains more than 43 people. I included a few people in there who never graduated. Still, they were part of the class for many, many years and are included in the get-togethers to this day.

In April 2010, I blogged about our school days and our town here.

And if you are really a glutton for punishment, after you have finished reading all the foregoing you can read about the title of this post here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


On the way home from picking up Jethro this afternoon, I saw a sign attached to a fence and it was calling my name. I wanted to turn the car around and go back and take a picture of it to put on my blog, but Mrs. RWP wouldn’t hear of it.

It’s your loss, but there is more than one way to skin a cat. I may not be able to post a photograph, but thanks to my vast grasp of written English and my not-yet-vanished short-term memory, I will just tell you about it instead.

The sign read:


Friday, July 15, 2011

A New Perspective on Alabama (NPA)

Neighboring states often have a friendly rivalry with one another. In Georgia, a favorite saying is, “The only good thing coming out of Alabama is Interstate 20.” A favorite riddle is, “"Why do all the pine trees in Georgia lean toward the west?” (Answer: Alabama sucks.) Even I have been known from time to time to mention searching for BMDs (Banjos of Mass Destruction) when visiting our neighbor. This is all meant in good-natured fun, of course.

Alabama, I apologize.

In fairness, I don’t know where the guy singing “I’m Alabamy Bound” in the previous post hails from, but the Carter Family were definitely not from Alabama. They were from Virginia originally and then migrated to Tennessee. Alabama can take neither the credit nor the blame for them.

Some of the finest music I have ever heard was performed in Alabama. I am including in this post portions of two concerts by the A Capella Choir of Jacksonville State University, near Anniston, from the years when Bayne Dobbins was the choir director. The clips are both a bit long, so I know you won’t listen to everything, but I do recommend that you listen to the first few minutes of both of the following clips:

1. From the 1986 Spring Concert, “Hallelujah” from The Mount of Olives by Ludwig van Beethoven (the entire choir), and “I Waited For the Lord” by Felix Mendelssohn (a duet for two sopranos).
2. From the 1987 Christmas Concert, the arrangement of “Joy to the World” by Handel-Kuykendall (the best arrangement of that carol that I have ever heard), used as the processional.

The sharp-eyed among you may notice that two of my children are listed in the programs. As it turns out, my future son-in-law was listed too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The evisceration of the heart of the gospel

e·vis·cer·ate [v. ih-vis-uh-reyt; adj. ih-vis-er-it, -uh-reyt] verb, -at·ed, -at·ing, adjective

–verb (used with object)
1. to remove the entrails from; disembowel: to eviscerate a chicken. 2. to deprive of vital or essential parts: The censors eviscerated the book to make it inoffensive to the leaders of the party.

I know it’s only Monday and much too early in the week to be up in arms, but I am nonetheless. This time I’m ranting about, of all things, an otherwise lovely rendition of a song that was intended to uplift, encourage, and inspire.

The song is “I’ll Walk With God” from the operetta The Student Prince, written by Sigmund Romberg in 1924. You may remember the 1954 film version that starred Ann Blyth, Edmund Purdom, and “the singing voice of Mario Lanza” (Mr. Lanza did not appear in the movie; Edmund Purdom, who never sang a note, was lip-synching to Mr. Lanza in the same way that Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle was lip-synching to Marni Nixon in My Fair Lady).

Or rather, the song should have been “I’ll Walk With God.” Instead, it became “I Walk With God” in a Sunday-morning performance on February 21, 2010, by the choir of the Crystal Cathedral of Garden Grove, California (where Robert Schuller was pastor for so many years) with tenor Brian Vu in the Purdom/Lanza role.

A minor change, you say. But wait. There’s more. Much more.

I have an idea. First, watch and listen to “I Walk With God” by the choir of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California (where Robert Schuller was pastor for so many years), featuring tenor Brian Vu.

Pretty good, you say. What’s wrong with that?

Just about everything. Now listen to “I’ll Walk With God” from the soundtrack of The Student Prince, the 1954 film based on the operetta by Sigmund Romberg, featuring the voice of Mario Lanza.

Did you notice the changes?

Here, graciously provided by yours truly, are Exhibit A and Exhibit B:

Exhibit A. The Crystal Cathedral version:

I walk with God from this day on.
His loving hand will lead me on.
I pray to Him this humble plea:
Help me, Lord, come closer to me.
I walk with God, all day, all night.
Why should I fear while He’s on my side?
His love will stay forever,
And He’ll forsake me never.
He will not fail me.
I’m weak, but my Lord is strong.
He watches over me all day long.
I walk with God, He takes my hand.
I talk to God, He understands,
Hears ev’ry word I say to Him,
And He knows what’s in my heart as I pray.
Lord, guide my steps and lead me on,
And I’ll never walk alone since I walk with God!
I walk with God from this day on!

Exhibit B. The original version:

I’ll walk with God from this day on;
His helping hand I’ll lean upon.
This is my prayer, my humble plea:
May the Lord be ever with me.
There is no death, though eyes grow dim.
There is no fear when I’m near to Him.
I’ll lean on Him forever,
And He’ll forsake me never.
He will not fail me as long as my faith is strong,
Whatever road I may walk along.
I’ll walk with God, I’ll take His hand.
I’ll talk with God, He’ll understand.
I’ll pray to Him, each day to Him,
And He’ll hear the words that I say.
His hand will guide my throne and rod,
And I’ll never walk alone while I walk with God!

To my feeble mind, Exhibit A is filled with all the positivity and lift-oneself-by-one's-own-bootstraps mentality for which Rev. Schuller and his old friend Norman Vincent Peale are famous. Exhibit B seems to show a much more humble approach. The worst change, in my opinion, is that “I walk with God, all day, all night. Why should I fear, when He’s on my side?” has replaced “There is no death though eyes grow dim. There is no fear when I’m near to Him.”

In the fifteenth chapter of a book called First Corinthians, a man named Paul wrote the following nearly two thousand years ago:

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (First Corinthians 15:12-22)

So what I’m saying, or trying to say and doing so poorly, is this:

You can walk with God all day long, and know that He’s on your side, and know that you are weak and He is strong, and know that He knows what’s in your heart when you pray, and ask Him to guide your steps, and announce to the world that you walk with God from this day on, and if everything you say applies to this life only and you miss the part about there being no death (or, put another way, even though death -- humankind’s last enemy -- exists, it is swallowed up in the victory that Christ obtained for us when God raised him from the dead), you are of all men (or women) most miserable.

Exhibit A is filled with religion, arrogance, self-sufficiency, and pride. Exhibit B is filled with trust, humility, and hope.

A small difference in the lyrics, perhaps, but a significant one.

My rant is ended.

The really sad part is that someone must have thought the changes were an improvement.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lost in wonder

It turns out that my young friend Tim, whose practice of using all lowercase letters (except for deity) I mentioned in a previous post, is not irrevocably wed to that idea.

Here is a post he wrote about a year ago that uses conventional English.

I think it is a fitting link for a summer Sunday.

I left the following comment on Tim’s blog:

Another superb post, Tim.

I was Methodist until I was 20, and now, after so many years elsewhere, I am helping with music in a small Methodist church once again. Reading your post, I found myself thinking of Charles Wesley’s wonderful hymn, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of Heav’n, to earth come down,
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling:
All Thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit
Into ev’ry troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit,
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning,
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith as its beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return, and never,
Nevermore Thy temples leave:
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray, and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish then Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see Thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in Thee:
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in Heav’n we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

To help you cool off on this hot July day, here are enough Lutherans to fill an auditorium singing it at the end of a Christmas program (3:17).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Early morning thoughts

I awoke this morning in the usual way, with Jethro licking my face. After performing my daily ablutions, I took him out on a leash so he could do his version of the same. It was raining lightly, and he was in no hurry to come back in. Fortunately,
I was able to walk between the raindrops for the most part. Somewhere recently I read, “Humans and animals gaze at each other across a vast gulf of mutual incomprehension,” and it is true more often than not, I suppose.

Jethro and I have developed a little routine. On the way outdoors, he stands on his hind legs by the patio door, puts his front feet on the wall, and throws his head back so that I can attach the leash to his collar. Then he licks my nose. On the return trip, he stands there patiently with the leash still attached (the other end is slung over the doorknob), waiting for me to wipe all four of his paws clean with a turquoise towel. When I finally unclip the leash, he’s off like a shot to the master bedroom to spend time with his real favorite, Mrs. RWP.

I fill his water bowl and put 3/4 cup of Eagle brand Holistic Select dog food, the Lamb and Rice variety, into his food bowl. When Jethro hears the dry dog food rattling in his bowl, he runs back out of the bedroom, pitter-pat, pitter-pat, to partake of his breakfast.

I am just a means to an end.

I don’t know who is master and who is servant.

Wait. On second thought, yes I do.

Mutual incomprehension, my eye.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Just another day in La-La Land

Before joining Facebook, I had no idea my friends were so weird. James C. likes Merle Haggard and RIP: Caylee Marie Anthony (2005 - 2008). Steve M. likes University of Miami and Michelle Bachman. Erin M. likes Skype and Gerber. Art H. likes Winnie the Pooh. Cindy G. writes that hot pink neon nail polish goes a long way in lifting a person’s spirits. Angela S. writes that her eldest child just asked her if he needed to brush his teeth before he fixed himself some ice cream. Sharon S. wants everyone worldwide to turn the porch lights on at 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday for Caylee Marie Anthony. Tom H. writes that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Carolyn S. is Blessed and Highly favored and SO thankful to Yahweh/God :).

I am not making any of this up.

As my mother used to say, “Everyone is crazy except me and thee, and even thee is a little bit crazy.”

At least my friends in Blogworld are all still normal.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

crooked letter, crooked letter, i

I have a young friend named Tim -- he’s 42 and that’s young from my perspective -- whose blog I read from time to time, usually just after he has announced on his Facebook page that he has a new post on his blog. He probably announces it on Twitter also but I don’t do Twitter. I’m not saying I’ll never do Twitter because (a) never is a long, long time and (b) the scripture does say “Boast not thyself of tomorrow because thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (KJV), but for the foreseeable future (say, the next 60 years or so) I have no intention of ever doing Twitter. Blogging is one thing, and Facebooking is another, but doing Twitter definitely makes a person part of what are termed “the chattering classes” and I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the chattering classes.

Stop laughing.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was reading Tim’s blog when i suddenly realized that tim does not capitalize the beginning of any sentence or any personal pronoun that is in the first person singular or any proper name except that of deity, so i thought if it’s good enough for tim it’s good enough for me. i mean, after all, rhymeswithplague is spelled without a capital letter and following tim’s lead would be the next logical step down the path to weirdness.

his heart is in the right place, i’m sure. i mean, i get it. tim and i are both Christian men and so we are both aware of what the apostle john wrote in the thirtieth verse of the third chapter of the fourth book in the new testament:

“He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease.”

in fact, i said this very thing in the third blogpost i ever wrote nearly four years ago.

i’m wondering, though, whether tim and i are really achieving our desired purpose by deciding to refer to ourselves in this unorthodox way, because from time immemorial or at least as far back as there have been english teachers, sentences have started with capital letters and the personal pronoun in the first person singular has always been capitalized, and a proper noun has been capitalized as well out of simple common courtesy, so this sudden shift has quite the opposite effect, i think, from the one intended; that is, by separating oneself from the thundering herd, by being different, one is specifically calling attention to oneself rather than away from oneself, wouldn’t you say?

or maybe that is tim’s point. we, by which i mean tim and i and all Christians, are exactly like everyone who isn’t Christian except for one thing, and that is that we want Christ to increase and ourselves to decrease. the problem, though, in taking matters into our own hands is the same one faced by orders of nuns who still wear habits that originated in the 16th or 17th century, namely that when said orders adopted their habits they wanted to look like modest peasant women of the 16th or 17th century, but in a few years the clothing styles changed. in more recent times we went through the flapper era of the nineteen-twenties and the mini-skirted era of the nineteen-sixties, and even though Christian women tried to dress modestly and stylishly simultaneously, nuns all stood out like sore thumbs because they still looked like peasant women of the 16th or 17th century. correction, make that modest peasant women of the 16th or 17th century. i mean, they might as well have been wearing big signs that said “look at me; i'm holier than thou.”

the best-laid plans o’ mice and men, not to mention orders of well-meaning nuns, gang aft agley.

so, as yul brynner used to say on days he dressed up in gold lamé outfits that were too baggy for words and went barefoot besides, is a puzzlement.

which leads me to two conclusions that i have modestly named Rhymeswithplague’s First Law and Rhymeswithplague’s Second Law:

(1) the purer the motive, the more ridiculous the manifestation.

(2) writing in all lowercase letters in order to appear humble may not achieve the objective one desires, BUT DOING THE OPPOSITE AND WRITING EVERYTHING IN CAPITAL LETTERS IS NOT THE ANSWER EITHER.

sorry, i didn’t mean to shout at you.

now that i have had time to reflect on it, i think this will be the end of my little foray into lowercasehood.

Monday, July 4, 2011

’Round Blogland

Every once in a while, whilst kayaking through Blogland, I find something I want to share with you. For example, for a good time, call 706-555-9372 and ask for Stella click on any of the items in blue below:

1. Direct from Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, here are some new ways of looking at the world. Literally.

2. The Bob B. who wrote this email isn’t me. I don’t care where you get your oil changed. But if I ever do become Putz’s twin, this is probably the way the transformation will begin.

3. Here’s the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness, and unless you have 20/15 vision like my amazing daughter who can read signs a mile away (I’m exaggerating only slightly), you will definitely have to click on the pyramid to read it.

4. Read this one only if you absolutely LOOOVVVE baseball (Reamus, this means you) or heartwarming stories involving several members of one family who play the same sport.

5. I really enjoy fiction in the form of a good short story and here’s one I enjoyed more than usual. To my way of thinking, a good short story is one that makes me wish it were not fiction.

6. Try as I might, I could not find a video clip called “ ’Round Blogland” to insert here. However, I did find “ ’Round Midnight” with Ella Fitzgerald doing the lyrics (3:17) and if that is not “pure jazz” enough for you, here is Thelonious Monk, the composer of “ ’Round Midnight,” giving us his wordless version on the piano (2:59). On this Fourth of July, you won’t get any freer than that.

I guess that’s enough kayaking for one post.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Though April showers may come your way, they bring the flowers that bloom in May.

Here is the photograph for the month of April in that 1975 Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, School District Centennial Calendar that I told you about in my last post.

Clicking on the photograph should give you a closer view.
I apologize for the blurriness, which resulted from my inability to keep my hand steady while taking a picture with my cell phone.

The man sitting in the chair at the left is my maternal great-grandfather, Max Silberman (1845 - 1914), who was born in Germany and came to America as a teenager. He opened Silberman’s Department Store in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, in the late 1870s or early 1880s. The sign on the wall next to him reads, “Gloves, Suspenders, Knit Jackets, Trimmings, Ladies & Gents Underwear At Wholesale Prices.” The woman standing next to him is probably my great-grandmother, Sarah Nusbaum Silberman (1849 - 1925), who was also born in Germany. I have seen only one other photograph of her, taken when she was much older. (If it is not my great-grandmother, it might be Max’s sister, Caroline, increasing the possibility that the next person in the picture is their brother, Henry.)

See the four young boys sitting on the curb in front of the store? The second boy from the left is, I think, Nathan Silberman, my grandfather, the son of Max and Sarah, who was born on March 21, 1875, and died on December 20, 1970. If that boy is not my grandfather, he sure looks a lot like my youngest grandson, Sam. As an adult, my grandfather played the clarinet in the Pennsylvania National Guard Band during the Spanish-American War and helped found Jenkintown’s volunteer fire department. Later he owned a real estate and insurance firm in Jenkintown for many years; my Uncle Sol Silberman continued to run it after my grandfather retired. The office was on West Avenue between the Post Office (where I met Norman Land) and the bank at the corner of Old York Road (where my cousin Philip worked during his college years). On the window in gold letters were the words, “N. Silberman and Son.”

I believe that Max, Sarah, Nathan, Nathan’s wife Rosetta Aarons (1878 - 1937), her parents Solomon Aarons (1847? - 1902) and Rachael DeWolf Aarons (1847? - 1932), and even Max’s parents, Jacob (1813 - ?) and Fannie (1823 - ?) Silberman, possibly along with other relatives of mine, are all buried in Adath Jeshurun Cemetery in Philadelphia, but I’m not sure.

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

[Editor’s note. In no way did I mean to imply that by playing the clarinet in the Pennsylvania National Guard Band during the Spanish-American War, my grandfather helped found Jenkintown’s volunteer fire department. No, indeedy. They were two separate and totally unrelated events, and this note would not have been necessary if I had put the word also before the word helped in the sentence in question. --RWP]

[Editor’s note #2. Perhaps it also would be more accurate to say he played clarinet in the band, not the clarinet, unless it was a very small band. --RWP]

[Editor’s note #3. If the Silberman and Nusbaum families had not emigrated to the United States, their descendants would probably have been killed in a World War II concentration camp, and you would not be reading this post. --RWP]

This song (3:04) is a metaphor for happy endings everywhere.

<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...