Friday, September 30, 2011

Potayto, Potahto, Tomayto, Tomahto

Just as there is only one Cher and only one Elvis (but truth in blogging compels me to tell you that there actually are three Elvises -- Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello who was born Declan Patrick MacManus, and Elvis Stoyko the ice-skater from Canada; I do not say that there are multiple Chers), there was also only one Ella and only one Louie. In case you are unfamiliar with them, they were Ella Fitzgerald (1917 - 1996) and Louis Armstrong (1901 - 1971).

Here they are collaborating on “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” (4:18), a song written by George and Ira Gershwin (who were born Jacob and Israel Gershowitz) for the 1937 film Shall We Dance where it was introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as part of a celebrated dance duet on roller skates.

Israel Gershowitz (Ira Gershwin) should not be confused with Israel Balin (Irving Berlin). Did you know that Jack Benny’s real name was Benny Kubelsky and Tony Curtis’s real name was Bernie Schwarz? Or that Marilyn Monroe was Norma Jean Baker and John Wayne was Marion Morris? But I digress.

I do apologize for the unflattering caricatures of Ella and Louie in the video clip. I do not apologize, however, for the music.

Speaking of a celebrated dance duet on roller skates, here are the one and only Fred and Ginger (1:01). At least this time Ginger didn’t have to do everything backwards and in high heels. Here they are in a more traditional role without the wheels (2:27).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

You say potato, I say 馬鈴薯

As I begin my fifth year of blogging, what better way to pique (not peak) your interest than by being thoroughly and completely incomprehensible?

Please do not be so rude as to mutter under your breath, “Why should today be any different?”

According to Wikipedia, “Chinese, the Chinese languages, or the Sinitic languages (汉语/漢語 Hànyǔ; 华语/華語 Huáyǔ; 中文 Zhōngwén) is a language family consisting of languages which are mostly mutually unintelligible to varying degrees.”

Good, then, we’ll use Chinese.

Actually, there is method in my madness (as opposed to my madness being completely random).

Many of you know that I have another blog called Billy Ray Barnwell Here that was the vehicle to get my unusual book of the same name before the eyes of an adoring public. When I set the blog up, I encouraged people to leave their comments on the topmost post rather than on the individual chapters because this would make it easier for Billy Ray Barnwell to respond.

All was going smoothly until March 28, 2010, when someone named 宥軒 said, and I quote:


I suspected 宥軒 was not a real reader at all and that his or her comment was pornography because a lot of pornographic Chinese comments were showing up on the internet around that time. So I ignored it.

After a year, though, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I decided to find out what 宥軒’s comment said. On April 18, 2011, Billy Ray Barnwell left a comment of his own:

“More than a year has elapsed since the preceding comment showed up, and curiosity, which as we all know eventually killed the cat, finally got the better of me, so using an online translator, I now know who my visitor who speaks Chinese is and what he or she said. Ready?

Yu-Hsuan Chang Hwa said ... small chat room chat room chat room 080 chat Peas dream element erotic chat areas Mimi Mimi Habib color paste gold bottle adult video adult net exchange area close relative Jinping Mei Matsushima Feng rape free videos Bobo Bobo map area to see beautiful women boxing online network wave wave line upstream of the online game network map area beautiful big breasts video network playing a woman playing a woman playing a woman Look at the film live porn video live free adult erotic video Barbie film Kao Habib kinky color screen Hung Yeh Ha free game porn free porn video movie Hung Hung Yeh Yeh Yeh Hung-color forum free live films making film school girl sex video beautiful couple friendship chat room Peas

and all I have to say to Yu-Hsuan Chang Hwa is A you have problems and B you definitely could use a good shrink, probably in more ways than one.”

So it was not real pornography; it was just silly. I did learn, however, that people in China use the word Peas instead of quotation marks.

Something very odd has happened, though. Neither Yu-Hsuan Chang Hwa nor anyone else, Chinese or otherwise, has ever left another comment on Billy Ray Barnwell Here. And that’s a shame, too, because it is a Rolls-Royce.

Where else but here on rhymeswithplague could you read silly Chinese pseudo-pornography and see a photograph of a 1979 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II on the same post?

It’s a portent, a harbinger, a foretaste of things to come.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cartoon time

Well, hello again, boys and girls! It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Won’t you be my neighbor?

Oh, wait, that was a different show.

Children today watch Spongebob Squarepants and The Fairly Oddparents and lots of other idiotic cartoons, but in my day the pièce de résistance among animated series, the one we couldn’t wait to see, even when we grew older, was (wait for it, here it comes):

Rocky & Bullwinkle!

Just in case Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle Moose may have slipped under your radar, here in four parts is an episode called “Goof Gas Attack”:

“Rocky and Bullwinkle: Goof Gas Attack - Part 1” (7:24)

“Rocky and Bullwinkle: Goof Gas Attack - Part 2” (7:02)

“Rocky and Bullwinkle: Goof Gas Attack - Part 3” (7:04)

“Rocky and Bullwinkle: Goof Gas Attack - Part 4” (7:03)

So there you have it, not only something hilarious from yesteryear that was able to tickle the funny bones of children and adults alike but also more evidence that helps explain why I am the way I am.

All right, class, your test today consists of the following question:

Whose voice, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, was used for the character Captain Peter Peachfuzz? (Hint: Near the end of his career, he appeared in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Mary Poppins.)

And now, if you are very quiet while teacher is grading your papers, perhaps next time you can watch Dudley Do-Right.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Warning! Warning! No diabetic persons allowed!

If you haven’t met your sugar intake quota yet for today, spend the next fifteen minutes watching these clips:

"Till the End of Time" (1:40)

"Melodie D'Amour (2:25)

"May You Always" (2:53)

"Harbor Lights" (2:21)

"Here Comes My Baby Back Again" (2:34)

"Star Carol" (3:00)

The Lennon Sisters were a singing group consisting of four siblings: Dianne (born December 1, 1939), Peggy (born April 8, 1941), Kathy (born August 2, 1943), and Janet (born June 15, 1946). The group were a regular on the weekly television program, The Lawrence Welk Show, for many years. The original quartet were the eldest four in a family of twelve siblings. In 1992, younger sister Mimi replaced second sister Peggy who retired. Oldest sister Dianne (DeeDee) has now retired as well. The current group, which still appears in Branson, Missouri, and at Welk resorts, consists of Mimi, Janet, and Kathy.

Do the math. The original four -- Dianne, Peggy, Kathy, and Janet -- are now 72 (almost), 70, 68, and 65 respectively. This would seem impossible, but it is true. Here are Kathy and Janet talking to Kathy Lee Griffin and Hoda Kotb on the Today show in 2009. They don’t look like women in their sixties to me, but perhaps they have paintings in their cellars that tell a different tale. (For the literary-challenged, that was a reference to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.)

One thing is certain. The Lennon Sisters are a far cry from the likes of Madonna and Britney Spears and Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse.

Oh, one other thing is also certain:

Your system may not be able to tolerate any more sugar for at least a week.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Equinoctial Hodgepodge

I am old and getting older every day, and I can’t remember whether I showed you these photographs before. It may have something to do with today’s being the autumnal equinox, but then again, it may not. If I did show the photographs to you before, please be advised that I am about to show them to you again.

Here are 17 members of the Class of 1958 of Mansfield High School, Mansfield, Texas, at the class’s 50th-year reunion in 2008. Forty-some of us received our diplomas together on a May evening 53 years ago, but some have died and some, like me, weren’t able to attend the reunion. I can name every single person in the photograph. If you click on the photograph, though, you can see them better -- Linda Lee Harrison and Johnny Paul Howard and Roland Cope and Ona Faye Russell Roberts and Patsy Joan Hudson and Glenda Vincent Franks and Johnie Mac Day and Darrell Rayburn and Judith Crawford and John Galloway. and Alene Bratcher (standing) and Patsy Darlene Rawdon and Barbara Ann Pigg and Carol Daugherty and Brenda Sue Harrison and Sally Bratton and Jimmie Sue Raines (seated).

(Click photo to enlarge it)

And here, from either the fall of 1954 or the spring of 1955, is the Mansfield High School Tiger Marching Band, a motley crew if there ever was one. I can’t even begin to name everyone in this photo, but I do remember many of them.

(Click photo to enlarge it, then click on the enlargement to enlarge the enlargement)

At the left is the band’s founder and first director, Miss Sally Pearce of Rochester, New York. Trumpet was her major instrument, but she had come to Texas to get her master’s degree at TCU in Fort Worth and write a thesis about The History of the Double Bass Viol (which she also played). She organized the band the year I was in seventh grade and stayed with us for three years (I was in ninth grade when the photo was taken). She was succeeded by a Mr. Thomas McDonald of Arkansas who also became the choir director at the local Methodist Church where I was organist. After two years with Mr. McDonald, the band’s director during my senior year was Mr. Richard Weir, who would get so angry on the practice field that he would curse out loud and kick people’s behinds. I don’t suppose he could do that today.

In my junior year, the band finally acquired brand-new uniforms to replace those ancient black ones, which not only had looked like police uniforms but also were already quite well-worn by the time we acquired them. Our new uniforms were a sight to behold: gold jackets, black trousers with gold stripes down the sides, and tall black hats with white plumes and silver chain chinstraps.

Unfortunately, we looked better than we sounded. Mansfield’s band in those early days had about 45 members, and during our halftime shows at the Friday night football games, if even a few band members were absent no one in the visitors’ stands could tell what our formations were supposed to be. Everyone in the home stands always knew what our field formations were supposed to be, because we could make only two: A big M for Mansfield and a football with laces down the middle.

The saxophone section in the lower right of the photo were all members of the class of 1958, as were the three people behind them. In front are Diane Phillips and Marshall Tyson and Bruce Hornell, and behind them are Johnie Mac Day (he’s also in the reunion photo in the middle of the back row, wearing a red shirt), Jerry Willis and another Judith, Judith Glaze. It pains me to have to tell you that Marshall, Bruce, and Judith are all dead now. Bruce was the first member of our class to shuffle off this mortal coil. A Methodist minister, he drowned during a flood while trying to help rescue people.

I can’t quite make out the sousaphone player behind Judith, but standing next to him is none other than your correspondent at age 14.

One other person in the reunion photograph is in the band photo as well. John Galloway, the tall fellow third from right in the back row of the reunion photo, is near the left end of the middle row in the band photo.

All my memories are a far cry from this band, the JSU (Jacksonvile State University) Marching Southerners (12:44), in which two of my children marched during their college years. The clip is from 2010.

To conclude our time together, let us all sing "Marching to Pretoria"....

Now go make an egg stand on its end.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Speaking of Edward Lear (which we were doing in the preceding post), in addition to the nonsense poetry and limericks for which he is famous, he was a gifted painter.

Here are two of his creations:

Not too shabby, eh?

According to Wikipedia, Edward Lear (1812 - 1888) was the 21st child of Ann and Jeremiah Lear. From the age of six he suffered frequent grand mal epileptic seizures, bronchitis, asthma, and in later life, partial blindness. He also suffered from periods of severe depression which he referred to as “the Morbids.”

Edward Lear was known to introduce himself with one of his long names, “Mr. Abebika kratoponoko Prizzikalo Kattefello Ablegorabalus Ableborinto phashyph” or “Chakonoton the Cozovex Dossi Fossi Sini Tomentilla Coronilla Polentilla Battledore & Shuttlecock Derry down Derry Dumps” which he based on Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos.

You just know I had to look that one up.

Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos was a book published in 1825 that contained a game in which players had to read the snippet for each letter of the alphabet as fast as they could without making a mistake. Alternatively, several players could read the snippets in a staggered manner. The snippets for each letter contain tongue-twisting mock-Latin names whose content is cumulatively appended at the end of each new letter snippet. The book is based on Chrononhotonthologos, which in turn was based on Henry Fielding’s Tom Thumb. The book was embellished with sixteen elegantly coloured engravings and sold for one shilling.

The following is the snippet for the letter O:

ODDS NIPPERKINS! cried Mother Bunch on her broomstick, here’s a to-do! as Nicholas Hotch-potch said, Never were such times, as Muley Hassan, Mufti of Moldavia, put on his Barnacles, to see little Tweedle gobble them up, when Kia Khan Kreuse transmogrofied them into Pippins, because Snip’s wife cried, Illikipilliky! lass a-day! ’tis too bad to titter at a body, when Hamet el Mammet, the bottlenosed Barber of Balasora, laughed ha! ha! ha! on beholding the elephant spout mud over the ’Prentice, who pricked his trunk with a needle, as Dicky Snip, the tailor, read the proclamation of Chrononhotonthologos, offering a thousand sequins for taking Bombardinian, Bashaw of three tails, who killed Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos.

And you think I’m strange.

Still, we mustn’t be too hard on Mr. Lear. There are, after all, those paintings.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The lands where the jumblies live

The silence is deafening.

No one, no one at all, not one single person left a comment about the poem in the preceding post.

My cyberfriends have abandoned me, all of them gone off,
I suppose, to greener pastures where bloggers exhibit fewer signs of mental instability.

I have to face it. I am talking to myself. Well, I enjoyed my poem even if nobody else did.

In other news, Elizabeth’s blog is broken, kaput, out of order; Reamus has moved again; and Katherine in Kiwi Land made a post about cockroaches and also one about grey house spiders but managed to separate them with one about how to prepare prawns a la TLVD.

I have no idea what TLVD is. Googling the term gave me the following choices:

1. Thang Long Vo Dao
2. Transient Left Ventricular Dilation
3. Tu Luc Van Doan
4. TLVD, a company in New York that has been providing what it calls Design, Interactive, and Motion Graphics services since 2001, specializing in development of branded advertising and interactive experiences.
5. Boomerang Toverland

And that was just on the first page.

I don’t think Katherine meant any of those.

Nonsense poetry has a rich history. Do the names Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear spring to mind?

They should.

Here’s someone reciting one of my favorites:

“The Jumblies” by Edward Lear

and here it is in printed form.

I think I know what happened to all of my cyberfriends.

They went to sea in a sieve.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Faster, faster...

Thanks to Jinksy, author of the poem in my sidebar, I learned today of a blog called Imaginary Garden wherein Laurie makes writing suggestions and poets follow them. Laurie’s most recent suggestion had been to write a poem of eight lines in one minute and include the word “allegro.” It sounded like a fun exercise, so I did, immediately, on Jinksy’s blog in the comments. Then, when I went over to have a look at Laurie’s blog, I discovered she meant that I should display my poem on my own blog and include a link to Imaginary Garden.

Consider it done.

I once had a dog named Poco à poco
Because its dimensions were little by little;
The neighbors all thought its owner was loco,
Which I helped along by drooling my spittle;
Some afternoons I’d sit nude in the garden
And watch my tomatoes to see how fast they grow;
When neighbors came out they’d say, “Oh! Beg your pardon!”
And ask God to make my tomatoes allegro.

[Note. I shall now give you a rare peek at the process of editing and the art of rhymed poetry. If I had had a bit longer to construct that poem, it might have had a few different words, more consistent rhythm, and might have ended up looking like this:

I once had a doggie named Poco à poco
Because its dimensions were little by little;
The neighbors all thought that its owner was loco,
Which thought I helped foster by drooling my spittle;
Some afternoons I would sit nude in the garden
And watch my tomatoes to see how fast they grow;
When neighbors came out they’d say, “Oh! Beg your pardon!”
And ask God to change my tomatoes allegro.

Or perhaps:

And pray that my lovelies would ripen allegro.

Oh, well. Some things apparently cannot be improved by time or editing. --RWP]

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fascinating Friday

I am fascinated by many things.

Right now I am fascinated by all those little thingies on the right side of my blog.

The number of Followers creeps ever higher and although it moves slower than molasses it is all the way up to 79 at present. I think some followers have stopped dropping by but their little photos are still displayed and will continue to be until the followers become non-followers officially. As the Eagles once sang, you can check out any time, but you can never leave (7:15).

The Most Recent Visitors To My Blog list continues to amaze. I have now saved 136 of those little flag doohickies, the two latest ones being Tuvalu and Palestinian Territory.

The Feedjit Live Traffic Map is beginning to show more and more visitors from Asia. Only a few visitors arrive from South America, though, and little red dots on the African continent are rare indeed. Hawaii and New Zealand sometimes disappear altogether, dropping off the map entirely, as do the Philippines from time to time. Feedjit is fickle and marches to its own drummer.

I have kept a poem by Jinksy and a quotation from Carolina’s blog in place for over two years just because I enjoy reading them. Just so you won’t tire yourself out from all the scrolling up and down with your mouse, here are both of them:

1. Jinksy’s poem:


Dreams of youth
become faded with age
like bright flower petals
that dim as they dry
between interleaved paper
meant to preserve them.

And yet those pale petals
live on in the mind
to bloom again,
as memory recalls
the hour of their plucking.

-- Penelope Smith in napple notes, 5/13/2009. Used by permission.

2. Carolina’s quotation:

"I find it fascinating to see how the flowers of Nectaroscordum siculum bulgaricum unfold."

-- Carolina in Nederland in Brinkbeest In English, 6/10/2009.

Today, I am adding another quotation under the heading Words to Live By (Or Something) just because I can and also because I am fascinated by it and here it is:

3. “In the latest taxonomy the Patellogastropoda have become an unranked taxon as a separate clade.” --from an early version of the article “Limpet” in Wikipedia.

There. I did it and I’m glad. And although the statement is scientifically accurate it strikes me as very funny. If it doesn’t strike you as very funny there is probably something wrong with you.

Patellograstropoda are limpets. More specifically, the limpets shown below are Patella vulgata on a rock surface in Wales.

(Photo from Wikipedia Commons used by permission under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

The fact that patella also is how your doctor refers to your kneecap is interesting, but not fascinating enough to explore further.

However, if I may quote from Wikipedia again, “A clade is a group consisting of a species (extinct or extant) and all its descendants. In the terms of biological systematics, a clade is a single branch on the tree of life. The idea that such a natural group of organisms should be grouped together and given a taxonomic name is central to biological classification. In cladistics (which takes its name from the term), clades are the only acceptable units. The term was coined in 1958 by English biologist Julian Huxley.”

I end this post with what you’ve all been waiting for.

Ladies and gentlemen, a clade diagram (or cladogram):

Oh, and this (2:46). Can you identify the lovely ladies?

[Three of the lovely ladies are Greta Garbo, Lana Turner, and Grace Kelly. But who is (or are) the other one (or two)? I really want to know; I don’t have a clue. --RWP]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Excuse me. Do you have the time?

[Warning! Warning! Semi-religious, non-denominational post ahead... --RWP]

Clocks are everywhere. The ten-dollar word is ubiquitous. Clocks are in coffee makers, microwave ovens, bedside radios, kitchen stoves, telephones, computers. Clocks are on top of buildings. You name it, it probably has a clock. I wear a small one on my wrist. A much larger one that chimes every fifteen minutes and also shows me the phases of the moon stands in my living room.

Humans have a deep-seated need, evidently, to keep track of time. But we can’t, really, because we are inside it. We can only measure the part of time we personally experience. Human beings measure time in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, seasons, years, decades, centuries, millenia, and eons. A very long time we call “ages and ages.” Computers go in the other direction: milliseconds, microseconds, nanoseconds, picoseconds, femtoseconds (a femtosecond is a quadrillionth of a second), dividing time into ever smaller and smaller pieces.

Time has been passing for a very long while. It was passing before we got here and it will probably continue to pass long after we are gone. No one knows for sure. But individually you and I are a small part of something much bigger than ourselves.

God knows how to keep track of time. He invented it and He is outside it. Before time began, there was a timeless eternity, and long after time ends there will be a timeless eternity. There is a timeless eternity going on right now.

It’s always now with God. He does not experience a past or a future. We -- His creatures -- are the only ones who do that. God experiences time in the same way He experiences place, all at once, simultaneously. There is no here or there with God. There is only everywhere. There is no yesterday or tomorrow with God. There is only everynow, everywhen. Theologians (and fools like me) use words like foreknowledge and predestined to try to describe what they (I) mean but those words are simply inadequate. God knows what will happen in the future (whether He causes it or allows it or merely witnesses it is subject to debate) because He has been there already.

Human beings are finite. We have a beginning and we seem to have an end. God, on the other hand, is infinite, without beginning or end. He always has been. He always will be. He doesn’t move at the speed of light. It’s too slow. He moves at the speed of thought. That’s even faster than a femtosecond.

I can fathom a Being without end. It is more difficult to try to fathom a Being without beginning.

Three years ago I wrote a post about C.S. Lewis’s famous mystical limpet. You ought to read it sometime.

But only if you have the time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

As long as we’re remembering...

let’s go back to a happier time.

World War II.

Here’s “Tangerine” performed by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Bob Eberle, and Helen O'Connell (3:15)

Here’s “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” performed by The Andrews Sisters (2:22)

Here’s “Moonlight Serenade” performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra (3:25)

Here’s “Pennsylvania 6-5000” performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra (3:13)

Here’s “I'll Never Smile Again” performed by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Frank Sinatra, and the Pied Pipers (3:11).

Did you know that World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history? Over 60 million people were killed. I could give you a country-by-country breakdown, but I won't.

During those terrible years, while the dead were dying, the living were doing what they do best:


Life is full of both heartbreak and ecstasy. It can be terrifying, and it can be wonderful. There are times of laughter, and there are times of tears. We try to put the terror and the tears out of our minds and remember the happy times.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that often times things did not happen the way we remember them.

But my mother used to counter all looks of incredulity with “Vas you dere, Charley?”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago today

(Photographs above from “Days of Terror” at

(Photographs above from by navexpress)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A reason FOR and a reason AGAINST converting to Roman Catholicism

No, I am not converting to Roman Catholicism. But I thought you might be interested in seeing the following two items.

1. FOR: Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI at Ground Zero, New York, 20 April 2008, reproduced below.

“O God of love, compassion, and healing, look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions, who gather today at this site, the scene of incredible violence and pain. We ask you in your goodness to give eternal light and peace to all who died here — the heroic first-responders: our fire fighters, police officers, emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel, along with all the innocent men and women who were victims of this tragedy simply because their work or service brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion to bring healing to those who, because of their presence here that day, suffer from injuries and illness. Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

We are mindful as well of those who suffered death, injury, and loss on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Our hearts are one with theirs as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world: peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the earth. Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events. Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that the lives lost here may not have been lost in vain.

Comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all.”

2. AGAINST: What can be yours for only 229 euros.

I don’t know, though. On second thought, these may be two reasons FOR converting.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Well, that was certainly anticlimactic

...but it gave me three posts, four if you count this one.

If you were expecting something else, something more anteclimactic (if that isn’t a word, it should be), I’m sorry if you experienced a letdown. No pun intended.

If I were sorry every time someone was disappointed in something I did, I would be sorry most of the time.

I started to say I’m much better at the arts than at the sciences, but better is not the right word. Let’s just say I’m much more interested in the arts than in the sciences, and it was only fair to give the other side of my brain equal time.

Mission accomplished.

This week I read The Road, a 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy that was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Wikipedia calls it “a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey taken by a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed much of civilization and, in the intervening years, almost all life on earth.” I read it in a single day, and it was interesting in a depressing, I-hope-this-never-comes-to-pass kind of way. It wasn’t clear what the cataclysm was, but a lot of ash was involved, possibly radioactive ash from worldwide nuclear war or violently-spewed-into-the-sky ash from worldwide volcanic eruptions or just the general chaos fomented upon the rest of us by the more riot-prone sections of the general public (the jack-ashes).

Last week I read The Help, a 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett about African American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s. According to Wikipedia, “[t]he novel is told from the point of view of three narrators: Aibileen Clark, a middle-aged African-American maid who has spent her life raising white children, and who has recently lost her only son; Minny Jackson, an African-American maid whose back-talk towards her employers results in her having to frequently change jobs, exacerbating her desperate need for work as well as her family’s struggle with money; and Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, a young white woman and recent college graduate who, after moving back home, discovers that a maid that helped raise her since childhood has abruptly disappeared and her attempts to find her have been unsuccessful.” It took me two days to read The Help, almost as long as it took to read that sentence from Wikipedia. I consider Wikipedia’s use of the word “exacerbating” to be elitist.

There could not be two more different novels than The Road and The Help. The only similarity, to my way of thinking, is that both books have two-word titles. What if it were against the law to read anything but books with two-word titles? I’ll tell you what. You could read The Robe but not The Gospel According to Peanuts. You could read Quo Vadis but not One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. You could read Mein Kampf but not And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. You could read Little Women but not Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. You could read...well, you get the picture.

Perhaps I am beginning another of my sporadic reading cycles. Only time will tell. I have been known to go years and years without reading anything at all and then try to catch up all at once in a sudden reading frenzy.

I’m funny that way.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Helen O'Connell from the 1940s and and she’ll tell you the same thing (2:38).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoracic Thursday

Read this.

And this.

And this.

And this.

And this.

This post fulfills the requirement levied by the Official International Association of Bloggers (OIAB) on that part of The Greater Blogging Community known as Bloggers With Artistic, Literary, Or Photographic Inclinations (BWALOPI) to present to their readers something having to do with science at least once a year. Posts in which the call of the Secretary Bird is said to be “The Typewriter Song” do not count, especially if Jerry Lewis is involved.

I wanted to end this post with a video of The Harlem Boys’ Choir singing “I Got a Thorax, You Got a Thorax, All God’s Chillun Got A Thorax” but we will have to make do with this.

Long live BWALOPI (not to be confused with BWALAPI, Bloggers With Artistic, Literary, AND Photographic Inclinations)....

Monday, September 5, 2011

The rare song of the Secretary Bird

Here is a rare photograph of a Secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) in the wild, taken by Yoky on 25 June 2008, at Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

Hearing the song* of the Secretary bird is even rarer.

*song (sɒŋ), n., [Old English sang; related to Gothic saggws, Old High German sang; see sing] 1. (a) a piece of music, usually employing a verbal text, composed for the voice, especially one intended for performance by a soloist; (b) the whole repertory of such pieces; (c) (as modifier): a song book. 2. poetical composition; poetry. 3. the characteristic tuneful call or sound made by certain birds or insects. 4. the act or process of singing: they raised their voices in song. 5. for a song at a bargain price. 6. informal (Brit.) on song performing at peak efficiency or ability. songlike, — adj. (from The New World English Dictionary)

Today the readers of the rhymeswithplague blog have an opportunity that usually occurs only a few times in the lives of very few people, the opportunity to hear the song of the Secretary bird. Count yourselves among the fortunate.

Click here (1:51).

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I’m showing my age, but...

Here’s one of my favorite singers singing one of my favorite songs....

If you’re the type who never clicks on links, it’s Bette Midler, and the song is “The Rose.” A woman named Amanda McBroom wrote the music and the lyrics in 1977, and it wound up in a film based on the life of Janis Joplin.

If you are one of the five people on the planet who don’t know this song, or if you couldn’t make out what Bette was singing in the video, here are the lyrics:

Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed;
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed;
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless, aching need;
I say love, it is a flower
And you, its only seed.

It’s the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance;
It’s the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance;
It’s the one who won’t be taken
Who cannot seem to give;
And the soul afraid of dying
That never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed that, with the sun’s love,
In the spring becomes the rose.

We now return you to the cacophony that is 2011.

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

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