Monday, October 31, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, get busy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Question of the day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

56 shopping days until Christmas

...and the main thing to remember is:

Christmas is not your birthday.

The inimitable Putz (and I mean that sincerely) and his family out in Utah perform the Christmas story in their home every year on Christmas Eve. This week he posted the script of his family’s delightful re-enactment (in three parts) on his blog for all the world to see. As an early incentive for your own observance of the holiday, I now present you with links to it them the three parts. If it is not exactly St. Luke’s version, I strongly suggest that, in keeping with the spirit of the season that all too soon will be upon us, you pretend not to notice.

Part 1 - the actual script of the barlow christmas pageant.

Part 2 - christmas is coming goose is getting fat.

Part 3 - continuation 3rd part, christmas story enhanced.

I find I do have one thing to say:

Thank you, Barlow family!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I knew that!

Here are the answers to yesterday’s quiz:

1. Wonder Bread

2. Cassius Clay (He was from Louisville, Kentucky. Because he said things like “I am the greatest!” and “Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee” he was known as The Louisville Lip.)

3. He is us. (The cartoonist was Walt Kelly.)

4. Good night, Chet. (Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were news anchors on NBC-TV.)

5. When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.

6. Maynard G. Krebs (The television program was The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. The Skipper was on Gilligan’s Island.)

7. Pants on fire.

8. The American way.

9. It’s Howdy Doody time. (Buffalo Bob Smith asked the question at the beginning of every program and the kids in the peanut gallery would shout out the answer.)

10. Oh, my! (from The Wizard of Oz.)

11. Over 30. [Editor’s note. Reader Snowbrush in Oregon has pointed out that the admonition not to trust anyone over 30 is not attributed to Bob Dylan but to Jerry Rubin. He is correct. I knew something didn’t sound right about this question but couldn’t put my finger on it. Jerry Rubin was one of the Chicago 7 along with Abby Hoffman, Tom Hayden (a future husband of Jane Fonda), and others who were jailed at the time of the disturbances surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. If you don’t remember that time, count yourself among the fortunate. Bob Dylan was a person who wanted to sing very badly, and he did. --RWP]

12. Joe Namath (and they weren’t stockings, they were pantyhose.)

13. A little dab’ll do ya.

14. On Blueberry Hill. (Fats Domino and Pat Boone both had hits with this song.)

15. Mary Martin (She also starred on Broadway in South Pacific and The Sound of Music, and she was the mother of Larry Hagman, who played J.R. Ewing on Dallas.)

16. John, Paul, George, Ringo

17. Who wrote the book of love?

18. Cause I eats me spinach. (I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.)

19. Smile, you’re on Candid Camera. (with Allen Funt and Fannie Flagg. One of them wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and was a former Miss Alabama.)

20. Melt in your mouth, not in your hand.

How many did you get right?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Boomer generation quiz

This one has been around the email circuit a few times now, but on the off chance you have never seen it, I’m including it in my post today.

There are 20 questions. The average score is said to be 12.

Needless to say, I got all 20 right. And that is odd, because I am not even a Boomer. (Note to the clueless: A “baby boom” occurred in the U.S. in the post-World War II years, when births exceeded three million annually from 1946 through 1964. Hence, children born during that period are referred to as “the boomer generation.” I was born in 1941.)

Good luck, youngsters!

1. What builds strong bodies 12 ways?
A. Flintstones vitamins
B. The Buttmaster
C. Spaghetti
D. Wonder Bread
E. Orange Juice
F. Milk
G. Cod Liver Oil

2. Before he was Muhammed Ali, he was...
A. Sugar Ray Robinson.
B. Roy Orbison.
C. Gene Autry.
D. Rudolph Valentino.
E. Fabian.
F. Mickey Mantle.
G. Cassius Clay.

3. Pogo, the comic strip character said, “We have met the enemy and...
A. It’s you.”
B. He is us.”
C. It’s the Grinch.”
D. He wasn’t home.”
E. He’s really me and you.”
F. We quit.”
G. He surrendered.”

4. Good night, David.
A. Good night, Irene.
B. Good night, Gracie.
C. Sleep well.
D. See you later, alligator.
E. Good night, Chet.
F. Until tomorrow.
G. Good night, Steve.

5. You’ll wonder where the yellow went...
A. When you use Tide.
B. When you lose your crayons.
C. When you clean your tub.
D. If you paint the room blue.
E. When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.
F. If you buy a soft water tank.
G. When you use Lady Clairol.

6. Before he was the Skipper’s Little Buddy, Bob Denver was Dobie’s friend...
A. Stuart Whitman.
B. Randolph Scott.
C. Steve Reeves.
D. Maynard G. Krebs.
E. Corky B. Dork.
F. Dave the Whale.
G. Zippy Zoo.

7. Liar, liar...
A. You’re a liar.
B. Your nose is growing.
C. Pants on fire.
D. Join the choir.
E. Jump up higher.
F. On the wire.
G. I’m telling Mom.

8. Meanwhile, back in Metropolis, Superman fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and...
A. Wheaties.
B. Lois Lane.
C. TV ratings.
D. World peace.
E. Red tights.
F. The American way.
G. News headlines.

9. Hey, kids! What time is it?
A. It’s time for Yogi Bear.
B. It’s time to do your homework.
C. It’s Howdy Doody Time.
D. It’s time for Romper Room.
E. It’s bedtime.
F. Time for The Mighty Mouse Hour.
G. Scoopy Doo Time.

10. Lions and tigers and bears...
A. Yikes!
B. Oh, no!
C. Gee whiz!
D. I’m scared!
E. Oh, my!
F. Help! Help!
G. Let’s run!

11. Bob Dylan advised us never to trust anyone...
A. Over 40.
B. Wearing a uniform.
C. Carrying a briefcase.
D. Over 30.
E. You don’t know.
F. Who says, “Trust me.”
G. Who eats tofu.

12. NFL quarterback who appeared in a television commercial wearing women’s stockings...
A. Troy Aikman
B. Kenny Stabler
C. Joe Namath
D. Roger Staubach
E. Joe Montana
F. Steve Young
G. John Elway

13. Brylcream...
A. Smear it on.
B. You’ll smell great.
C. Tame that cowlick.
D. Grease ball heaven.
E. A little dab’ll do ya.
F. It’s a dream.
G. We’re your team.

14. I found my thrill...
A. In Blueberry muffins.
B. With my man, Bill.
C. Down at the mill.
D. Over the windowsill.
E. With thyme and dill.
F. Too late to enjoy.
G. On Blueberry Hill.

15. Before Robin Williams, Peter Pan was played by...
A. Clark Gable.
B. Mary Martin.
C. Doris Day.
D. Errol Flynn.
E. Sally Fields.
F. Jim Carrey.
G. Jay Leno.

16. Name the Beatles.
A. John, Steve, George, Ringo
B. John, Paul, George, Roscoe
C. John, Paul, Stacey, Ringo
D. Jay, Paul, George, Ringo
E. Lewis, Peter, George, Ringo
F. Jason, Betty, Skipper, Hazel
G. John, Paul, George, Ringo

17. I wonder, wonder, who...
A. Who ate the leftovers?
B. Who did the laundry?
C. Was it you?
D. Who wrote the book of love?
E. Who I am?
F. Passed the test?
G. Knocked on the door?

18. I’m strong to the finish...
A. Cause I eats my broccoli.
B. Cause I eats me spinach.
C. Cause I lift weights.
D. Cause I’m the hero.
E. And don’t you forget it.
F. Cause Olive Oyl loves me.
G. To outlast Bruto.

19. When it’s least expected, you’re elected, you’re the star today...
A. Smile, you’re on Star Search.
B. Smile, you won the lottery.
C. Smile, we’re watching you.
D. Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.
E. Smile, the world sees you.
F. Smile, you’re a hit.
G. Smile, you’re on TV.

20. What do M & M’s do?
A. Make your tummy happy!
B. Melt in your mouth, not in your pocket.
C. Make you fat.
D. Melt your heart.
E. Make you popular.
F. Melt in your mouth, not in your hand.
G. Come in colors.

I’ll reveal the correct answers in my next post!

[Editor’s note. Reader Snowbrush in Oregon has pointed out that the saying in #11 is not attributed to Bob Dylan but to Jerry Rubin. He is correct. I knew something didn’t sound right about that question but couldn’t put my finger on it. Jerry Rubin was one of the Chicago 7 along with Abby Hoffman, Tom Hayden (a future husband of Jane Fonda), and others who were jailed at the time of the disturbances surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. If you don’t remember that time, count yourself among the fortunate. --RWP]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


This is my 842nd post. Ever. It has never happened before and it will never happen again.

842 is an interesting number. 8 is 2 cubed, 4 is 2 squared, and 2 is, well, 2. As in “tea for” and “on the aisle” and “if by sea.” It is how many it takes to tango and how many heads are better than one, unless one of them is a cabbage head. 842 just missed being a perfect square, the product of 29 times 29 being 841.

In the year 842, lots of interesting things happened.

In Europe, Charles the Bald and Louis the German signed a treaty on February 14th.

Cerball mac Dúnlainge became king of Osraige.

The Oaths of Strasbourg, an alliance of Louis the German and Charles the Bald against emperor Lothar, were sworn and recorded in the vernacular languages.

Ramiro I succeeded Alfonso II as king of Asturias.

Uurad was succeeded by Bred, then Ciniod as King of the Picts.

Charles the Bald married Ermentrude.

In the Byzantine Empire, three year old Michael III succeeded Theophilus (emperor) as emperor of Byzantium.

In Asia, the reign of caliph Al-Mu'tasim, the caliph of Abbasid, ended on January 5th with his death, and the Uyghurs left the Mongolian plateau.

Emperor Saga of Japan (b. 786), Alfonso II of Asturias (b. 759), Theophilus, Byzantine Emperor (b. 813), and Liu Yuxi, Chinese poet, philosopher, and essayist (b. 772), all died.

Where else could you learn such fascinating information?

Oh, yeah -- Wikipedia.

Page 2.

Charles the Bald was extremely prolific, producing 14 children with his two wives. He and Ermentrude, daughter of Odo I, Count of Orléans, had nine:

1. Judith (844–870), married firstly with Ethelwulf of Wessex, secondly with Ethelbald of Wessex (her stepson) and thirdly with Baldwin I of Flanders;
2. Louis the Stammerer (846–879);
3. Charles the Child (847–866);
4. Lothar (848–865), a monk who became Abbot of Saint-Germain;
5. Carloman (849–876);
6. Rotrud (852–912), a nun who became Abbess of Saint-Radegunde;
7. Ermentrud (854–877), a nun who became Abbess of Hasnon;
8. Hildegard (born 856, died young); and
9. Gisela (857–874).

and after Ermentrude died in 869, Charles married his second wife, Richilde of Provence, who was descended from a noble family of Lorraine, in 870. They had five more:

10. Rothild (871–929), married firstly with Hugues, Count of Bourges and secondly with Roger, Count of Maine;
11. Drogo (872–873);
12. Pippin (873–874);
13. A son (born and died 875); and
14. Charles (876–877).

One more thing: It has been suggested that Charles the Bald’s nickname was used ironically and not descriptively; that he was not in fact bald, but rather that he was extremely hairy.

As Paul the Golden-Throated used to say, and now you know the rest of the story.

Monday, October 24, 2011

On the other hand, there are times when swearing is definitely appropriate

Here is a famous (in the U.S., anyway) scene from The Carol Burnett Show (4:57) in which Tim Conway destroys his castmates during a “Mama’s Family” sketch by refusing to let the scene continue until he can finish a story about a circus elephant.

For the benefit of any Nederlanders and Enzedders and Yorkshirians out there (you know who you are) who might not know, Tim’s habit of inserting unscripted material during tapings of Carol’s shows before a live audience became legend.

I thought a good laugh might help you start your week.

And, yes, the fellow on the other end of the couch is Dick Van Dyke.

Here’s a scene of Tim with Harvey Korman (2:48). Although it is probably mostly scripted, it is every bit as funny as the first clip. In fact, I find it downright hilarious.

Thus spake Zarathustra.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

If you show me your Nook, I'll let you see my Kindle

My reading continues.

After finishing The Road and The Help, I decided to read Angela’s Ashes, which won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Frank McCourt (1930 - 2009). I liked the Irishness of it, but it turned out to be naughty in places.

After finishing Angela’s Ashes, I started Run With the Horsemen by Dr. Ferrol Sams of Fayetteville, Georgia, and I also have his Whisper of the River at the ready. But I interrupted reading the novel to read a little volume of his entitled The Widow’s Mite that contains eight short stories, my favorite kind of reading. With short stories, the commitment of time and energy is less and the satisfaction of having completed one is more frequent.
I highly recommend two volumes of short stories in particular,
A Good Man Is Hard To Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge, both by another Georgia author, the one and only Flannery O’Connor (1925 - 1964). A third and much more diverse read is Clifton Fadiman’s anthology, The World of the Short Story: A 20th Century Collection. But I digress.

The stories in The Widow’s Mite turned out to be quite funny but also quite naughty in places.

I am going to ask you a question, but I don’t want you to answer me (that is called a rhetorical question, kiddies). Why do we call descriptions of sex organs or sexual activities or anything remotely having to do with sex -- “adult”? The preoccupation with that part of our lives (pleasurable as it is) seems more adolescent than adult to me. Maybe I’m a prude (don’t answer that either) but here’s what I say: Have as much sex as you like, just don’t talk or write about it or take pictures of it. But if you do, please refrain from posting them on your favorite social networking site for all the world to see.

I think what I really object to most in books is the coarseness of the language. Hearing it is bad enough, but must I see the words in print also? I know that many people use words regularly that I find objectionable, and I’m all for freedom of speech, but if I ruled the world the first thing I would do is encourage (I do not say force) people to find some way to expand their vocabularies. Slang will take you only so far. There are many other descriptive words that have more than four letters and aren’t even Anglo-Saxon.

Television programming is no better. Our time in front of the television of late has been reduced to watching cooking shows and home improvement shows and shows about real estate and priceless antiques and veteran after returning veteran surprising his or her children and we must not forget extreme home makeovers for what seem to be deserving families and feats of athletic prowess in more sports and between more teams than you even knew existed.

That’s another reason we've taken to reading.

It’s a vicious, never-ending cycle, and somebody has to do it.

Just be careful, little eyes, what you see. But I find that I’m much too old for Bert and Nan and Flossie and Freddie.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mission Impossible, or It’s my parody and I’ll cry if I want to

Good evening, Mr. Phelps.

According to the dictionary I checked, a parody is a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing. Those pomes in the preceding post were all parodies.

Let me refresh your memory. The parodies began:

A. “In Kiwi-land did...”
B. “Alas, poor...”
C. “Nothing could be...”
D. “Whose drugs...”
E. “anyone lived...”

Here, all jumbled up, are the authors of the works I parodied:

1. Robert Frost
2. E. E. Cummings
3. John Gluck, Wally Gold, and Herb Weiner
4. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
5. Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson
6. William Shakespeare

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is twofold: First, tell me the titles of the works I parodied. Second, match the authors to the genuine articles.

The sharp-eyed among you will note that the preceding post contained five parodies but I listed six authors or author-groups. The extra one is not extraneous. It belongs with this post. Can you tell me why?

A final test: Name the people in the photo below.

This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poetry night

[Note. The Mills Brothers used to sing, “You always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all.” It is not my intention to hurt anyone with the verses in this post; I’m just having a little fun. But just in case I overstepped the mark somewhere, I ask your forgiveness in advance. These are very likely the first of more that may be coming later. Or maybe not. I can’t really say because I don’t know. Inspiration can’t be turned on and off like a faucet, you know. If you would like to be included in future poetry nights, let me know! Also, if you definitely do not want to be included, let me know that too! But I hope everyone enjoys the pomes (I do not say that they rise to the level of poems) and knows the originals and maybe even will saunter over to check out someone’s blog for the first time. --RWP]

In Kiwi-land did Katherine
A veritable hive create
Where Ralph, a bureaucrat, doth grin
And worms do worm and spiders spin
And tankers leak and artists win
And bees do pollinate.

Alas, poor Pudding, I knew him, Elizabeth,
Though not very well.
A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy;
He hath made me laugh a thousand times;
And now, an awful smell
Pervades his site
(To die, to dream, perchance to sleep):
The man’s become enamored of a sheep.

Nothing could be finer
than to muck for Carolina
in the morning.
Naloma, Willem, Evie too,
(her horses) do what horses do
at dawning.
If I were a stable-boy for only a day,
I’d grab a rake and here’s what I’d say:
Nothing could be finer
than to muck for Carolina
in the morning.

Whose drugs these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To fill my stash with stuff for Snow.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go so Snow can sleep.
And miles to go so Snow can sleep.

anyone lived in a pretty putz town
(with up so floating many bikes down)
he blogged his didn’t denied his did
children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
crossing guard’s great but blogging’s a bummer

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Responsible leaders everywhere agree...

We don’t need any silly two-party political system. All we really need is:

Trust us.

[Note. These three very similar photographs all appeared in yesterday’s edition of the Drudge Report. Although they were used to illustrate three different news stories, I could not miss the subliminal message; it spoke volumes to me. --RWP]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

There’s no business like show business

If God should ever decide to save the world through tap dancing, this just might do the trick (4:14).

I mean, it’s impossible to get into trouble and tap dance at the same time.

Think of all the wars that would be prevented, all the crimes that would never be committed, all the rapes that would never occur, all the tears that would never be shed.

Just don’t hold your breath.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hail to thee, blithe spirit, bird thou never wert

Good morning, dear hearts and gentle people.

Just when I thought I was making progress, Shooting Parrots left the following comment on my previous post:

“You may be keeping up with the posts target, but your sentence ratio has just fallen dramatically.”

While what he says may be true, talk about raining on someone’s parade.

But that’s okay, D.H. and G.P., because I am a bigger person than to take umbrage over something so inconsequential in the overall scheme of things.

Speaking of which, contemplating the overall scheme of things (the past, the present, the future) can prove quite daunting, and some are better at it than others. I am certainly no Pollyanna, but I am not a doomsday prophet either. I prefer to listen to happy music from days gone by unencumbered by scenes of a post-apocalyptic future.

Alas, it was not to be. I found this clip (2:15). Bob Crosby is probably spinning in his grave. (For those of you who care about such things, bandleader and singer George Robert “Bob” Crosby (1913 - 1993) was the younger brother of singer Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby (1903 - 1977).)

Nevertheless, and be that as it may, let us gird up our loins and march with confidence toward the Emerald City.

There. My sentence ratio is back on track, and my paragraph ratio has shown marked improvement.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Do not write run-on sentences they are hard to read

It is already the 11th of October and I have written only five posts so far this month, I am still keeping up (more or less) with my average of one post approximately every two days but somehow it feels like life is going faster and faster and I am blogging less and less because for instance this morning at eleven I need to be in a town fifteen miles away at our church’s weekly staff meeting with the pastor and it is already a quarter to nine and here I am sitting in front of the computer in my bathrobe, I didn’t hire on to be “staff” I hired on to be “pianist” but then the church hired a youth pastor who unfortunately is no longer there and that is a story in itself which I won’t go into just now and then it acquired an associate minister, note that I do not say “hired” in her case because the woman volunteered her time after having just retired from a ministerial career in the mountains of North Carolina and upon moving to our area contacted the local district superintendent to see whether a small church might like to have the services of an unpaid associate minister and she has since taken over responsibility for visiting the ill and the homebound, and voila!, just like that, we had a “staff” which is now required to have weekly meetings and which also includes the church’s administrative assistant who has been there since long before I arrived, and although my official title is “pianist” I also choose the hymns every week along with a prelude, offertory, and postlude, the titles of which all have to be given to the administrative assistant by Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning so that they can be printed in the weekly bulletin, I have also sung several solos, put together the Nine Lessons and Carols program at Christmas, transposed music for a teenaged player of the euphonium, accompanied a cellist, and currently I am trying to find time to work with the children’s department volunteer (who is not part of the “staff”) to teach a handbell arrangement of “Away in a Manger” to the children for this year’s Christmas program and also to teach the children to play the handbells in the first place, I don’t know what else may come along, I know this post doesn’t say much of a substantive nature but it does boost my total for the month.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

An overtly (or not so much) Christian post

I love good a cappella singing. For those of you who are neither musical nor Italian, a cappella is an Italian phrase meaning “in the manner of the chapel.” And if you are not aware of how music was performed in Italian chapels, what a cappella means to the modern musician is “unaccompanied.”

No organ. No piano. No violins. No trumpets. No flutes. No saxophones. No big brass band. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.


Also, for the younger generation, absolutely no guitars. No drums. No electronic keyboards. No, not one.

What is left?

Human voices. What a concept.

Snowbrush is now saying, “just like in the Church of Christ back in Mississippi, which I left for a great many reasons, none of which have to do with a cappella singing.”

The thing about a cappella singing is that when it’s good it is really good, and when it’s bad it is really bad.

I found some that, in my humble opinion, is really good.

Here is a Mennonite choir called Altar of Praise Chorale singing in 2010 a song called “Who Am I?” that was written back in 1965 by a man named Rusty Goodman (3:43).

They may not have super-professional, highly-trained voices (in the operatic sense), but they know how to do a cappella. They blend. Their consonants are impeccable. They stay on pitch. Regardless of what you think of the lyrics, give it a listen.

If you find that you like neither the words nor the music, just enjoy the scenery.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ironic points of light

I have this cyberfriend, Snowbrush from Oregon by way of Mississippi, whom I have never met. He is an atheist and I am a Christian. Sometimes he says cruel things about God and Christ and Christians (he would call them true things). It’s all right. He is still my friend. We just happen to disagree on a number of things. Snowbrush and I are the non-Irish, non-political version of Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill, sort of.

When I saw his latest post, I thought about a poem written by
W. H. Auden after Hitler invaded Poland more than 70 years ago:

by W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fifty-four years ago today,...

...on October 4, 1957, a Friday morning, at around 7:45 a.m. Central Daylight Time, my mother died in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. She was 47.

I was 16. I was at home alone getting ready to leave for school. I had been a Senior for about a month. My dad had left the house about 6:15 that morning to ride in a car pool to work at the General Dynamics aircraft factory, about 34 miles away, with three other men from our community. I may have the mileage wrong. Dad had worked there for ten years. I think the car pool stopped by St. Joseph’s on the way home from work Wednesday afternoon so that my dad could have a short visit with my mother.

I had not seen her since the preceding Sunday afternoon because she had wanted me to concentrate on my school work. We did not own a car and depended completely on others for transportation. There was no public transit between our rural community and downtown Fort Worth, which I think was about 14 miles away. Someone had taken my dad and me after church to the hospital for a visit. Mama had been there for about a month at that time, and her condition was worsening. When I was seven or eight years old, she learned that she had breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy of her right breast and the removal of lymph nodes from her right side and armpit. In those days people said if you lived five years after cancer surgery, you were cured. After seven years had gone by, Mama’s abdomen began to swell and more cancer was discovered. The doctors at St. Joseph’s inserted an irradiated gold needle into her abdomen -- I’m unclear as to what was really going on, whether it involved cobalt or some other form of early radiation therapy -- but she was unable to tolerate it, so they stopped the treatment and said she had about a year of life left.

I was dressed and waiting for Mrs. Brockett, a teacher who lived on our lane, to come by and take me to the high school, which was two miles away. The telephone rang about 7:30; I picked it up and said, “Hello?”

A female voice said “Mr. Brague?” and since my dad had gone to work and I was the only Mr. Brague around I said “Yes.” The voice identified herself as someone from St. Joseph’s Hospital and said, “If you want to see your wife you need to get here soon because she’s not going to last very much longer.” I said, “I’m her teenaged son. You want to talk to my dad.” I gave her the telephone number where he could be reached at General Dynamics and hung up the phone.

Everything after that is a blur.

I didn’t go to school that day. I don’t remember that I talked to Mrs. Brockett but I must have. I sat there weeping and remember being especially devastated that I hadn’t seen my mother for five days and that she died alone. After an hour or so a couple of neighbor women came in and began sweeping the floors and dusting the furniture and washing the dishes. My dad came home about midday, I think, though I have no idea how he got there.

Mama had decided a few months earlier to have a closed-casket funeral service because she had lost so much weight from the disease and didn’t want people gawking at her. My father and I did not go to the funeral home or any wake on either Friday night or Saturday. Mama’s funeral was Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. at the Methodist Church in Mansfield. I do remember that Rev. Ernest Piott spoke and Mrs. Ruth Sprinkle Morris, Doug’s wife, sang “Lead, Kindly Light” and the Albert Hay Malotte version of “The Lord’s Prayer.” I don’t know who played the organ, probably white-haired Miss Cora Galloway, who had retired and whose place I had taken a couple of years earlier.
I know Mama is buried in the Emerald Hills Cemetery in the town of Kennedale, and I know I went there that Sunday afternoon, but I cannot remember going or being there.

Mrs. Sally Huffman, the lady I called my “other mother,” told me later that she had almost called me Thursday after school to see if I would like to go to the hospital that evening to visit Mama, but something came up and she didn’t make the call.

I still wish she had.

When I returned to school on Monday (because my dad insisted that life must go on and we mustn’t take excessive time grieving), people were talking about something called Sputnik that had happened on Friday. I had no idea what they were talking about.

If I have written of this before, please forgive me. There are some wounds that time does not heal.

by Emily Dickinson

My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If immortality unveil
A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Too funny!

Even though the following (a) isn’t original with me and (b) has been around the block a few times already, it is too good not to share again:

Excerpts From a Dog’s Diary vs. Excerpts From a Cat’s Diary


Day number 180

Day number 181

Day number 182
1:30 pm - oooooooh. bath. bummer.


DAY 752 - My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture...tomorrow I may eat another houseplant.

DAY 761 - Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded. Must try this at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair...must try this on their bed.

DAY 765 - Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body in attempt to make them aware what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear into their hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was...not working according to plan.

DAY 768 - I am finally aware of how sadistic they are. For no good reason I was chosen for the water torture. This time however it included a burning foamy chemical called “shampoo.” What sick minds could invent such a liquid? My only consolation is the piece of thumb still lodged between my teeth.

DAY 771 - There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event, however, I could hear the noise and smell the foul odor of the glass tubes they call “beer.” More importantly, I overheard that my confinement was due to my power of “allergies.” Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.

DAY 774 - I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The bird on the other hand has got to be an informant, and he speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my activities. Due to his current placement in the elevated cell his safety is assured. But I can wait. It is only a matter of time.

--Author Unknown

Sunday, October 2, 2011


While England is sweltering in the hottest October day ever recorded, we here in the Hew Hess of Hay, at least in the north Georgia part of it I call home, are shivering. Normal beginning-of-October morning temperatures here are in the 60 to 70 degree (Fahrenheit) range, but this morning we awoke to high 30s and low 40s.

It undoubtedly has to do with global warming and I just know it’s all George Bush’s fault.

<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...