Friday, November 30, 2012

Let me make one thing perfectly clear...

I am not a crook.

No, wait, that wasn’t it.

Oh, yes, now I remember.

Anastasia was not, as I mistakenly said in a comment on the last post, a Princess. She was a Grand Duchess.

Try not to forget that. We will be testing later.

After I mentioned Anastasia, commenter A Lady’s Life of British Columbia, Canada, mentioned singer Pat Boone’s rendition of the song “Anastasia.” Thank you, A Lady’s Life, and as Little Red Riding Hood may or may not have said, “What a strange name you have, Grandma.”

Bringing up Pat Boone has opened a tremendous treasure-trove of trivia (note the alliteration) that we have not hitherto mined.

Did you know that Pat Boone is the great-great-great-great-grandson of the early American explorer Daniel Boone?

Did you know that Pat Boone is a cousin of actor Richard Boone who starred in the television series Have Gun, Will Travel?

Did you know that Pat Boone’s wife Shirley is the daughter of country-singer Red Foley, whose 1951 recording of “Peace in the Valley” was the first million-seller gospel recording in history?

Did you know that Pat Boone’s daughter Debby (the one who kept singing “You Light Up My Life” over and over again until we all wanted to fwow up) is married to Gabriel Ferrer, the son of actor José Ferrer and singer Rosemary Clooney?

Did you know that, according to Billboard magazine, Pat Boone was the second biggest charting artist of the late 1950s, behind only Elvis Presley but ahead of Ricky Nelson and The Platters, and was ranked at No. 9 — behind The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney but ahead of artists such as Aretha Franklin and The Beach Boys — in its listing of the Top 100 Top 40 Artists of 1955–1995?

Live and learn. For example, I never knew there was a group called Ricky Nelson and The Platters.

Here is that test I warned you about:

Anastasia was:
1. A song sung by Ricky Nelson and the Platters
2. A princess
3. A showgirl
4. A Grand Duchy, like Luxembourg
5. Ingrid Bergman
6. All of the above

You get extra points if you can identify the building behind Richard Nixon in the photograph at the top of the post.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Here is a goofy picture of Pat Boone:

(Photo by Gage Skidmore, 2011)

...but it is not nearly as goofy a picture as this one, which is of two people who are definitely not Pat Boone:

Since the drinks have been poured, a toast is in order.

Accordingly, I propose the following toast:

Here’s to the dwindling days of our lives
And the hope that you’ll always remember
The day I composed this ridiculous remarkable post:
The thirtieth day of November.

Let me also make one other thing perfectly clear.

I have not been hitting the sauce. This is the way I normally am
am normally am have been for as far back as I can remember.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION DEPARTMENT, MINUS FIVE, TIMES TWO: One of the things I can still remember from the dear, dead days almost beyond recall is having attended, as a high-school student, a State Convention of the Future Teachers of America at North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas) in Denton and dancing the night away to the live music of the NTSC Jazz Band and their squeaky-clean boy singer, one Pat Boone. This memory pre-dates by about three years my 1958 appearances on American Bandstand with Dick Clark in Philadelphia.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Feel the love

The Russian word Правда (transliteration: Pravda) means Truth. So if you read something in Pravda, it must be true, right?

As Carolina in Nederland might say, “Hold your horses!” As dirt farmers in Georgia might say, “Wait one cotton-pickin’ minute!” As anti-Soviets everywhere might have said, “Nothing in Pravda is true.” As Pontius Pilate once said, “What is truth?”

On today’s Drudge Report is the following link:

PRAVDA: Obama ‘re-elected by illiterate society’... article which, if you read, you may find very interesting. It was written by one Xavier Lerma, about whom I know nothing, except that his web address is xlermanov dot com -- lermanov, as in Nicholas Romanov (last czar of Russia) or Vladimir Ulyanov, a.k.a. Vladimir Lenin, another Russian you might have heard of.

All I’m saying is Xavier probably ain’t from Puerto Rico.

As that goofy girl in a current television commercial says, “They can’t put anything on the Internet that isn’t true.” (When her friend asks, “Where did you read that?” she replies, “On the Internet.”)

In the old days, I suppose including a link to Pravda would put me on J. Edgar Hoover’s watch list and I could expect to be thoroughly investigated and publicly humiliated by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Fortunately, times have changed, but probably not that much. I hasten to add that in the old days there was no such thing as a link or a blog or an Internet.

That article is a lot truer than you might think, and I ain’t no stinkin’ communist.

You read it here first.

(Photo from the Romanov Collection, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.)

P.S. -- For a slightly more erudite take on Mr. Xavier Lerma and his opinions, read this.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Screwtape writes to Wormwood regarding Thanksgiving

In addition to being the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, November 22, 1963 was also the day British writer C. S. Lewis died. Lewis wrote many excellent works, among them The Screwtape Letters. Here is an excerpt that is appropriate for today:

Screwtape Gives Thanks

My Dear Wormwood,

It is that time once again when your patient, along with all those living in his country, set aside a day to give thanks. It is a deplorable idea, this “giving thanks,” and one that a team assembled by Our Father Below has been working diligently for some years to neutralize. Great strides are being made, and we have hope that one day soon we will turn this “day of thanksgiving” into just another excuse for fulfilling of selfish pleasures and of coveting what one does not already possess or need. Until that day, it is your responsibility, as it is for all junior tempters, to keep your patient from truly having a thankful heart. Fortunately, recent research has turned up methods which appear promising on this front.

The very act of being thankful is reprehensible to those who followed Our Father Below from the depths of the Enemy’s territory into the glorious realm where we now abide. By giving thanks, one is admitting a need for someone or something. And that admission of need leads to no longer being self-sufficient. It was on this point that the Enemy pressed Our Father, leading to the glorious march into Hell where we none of us needs be thankful to anyone. If I am thankful, it is not because I have been given anything. It is because I have found the power to take what I want when and where I desire.

How do you keep your patient from being disgustingly thankful? Here are some procedures laid out in the latest Tempters Training Manual, written by yours truly.

1. Keep your patient from ever seeing he is dependent on anyone else. Self-reliance, Wormwood, is the key to self-destruction. Be sure to point out those around him who are self-made men, those who never need receive anything from another. Professional athletes are good examples, as are movie and television stars. Never mind that these people are some of the neediest humans alive. Your patient need only see their public persona and be made to believe they have achieved success by their own efforts, not with the help of others. Awake in your patient the desire to never be in debt to anyone. Your colleague Gluberfest has made great strides with what is now referred to as “humanism,” encouraging the notion that, if they try hard enough, each human can achieve their own level of greatness. Keep your patient thinking that he needs no one to help him achieve his own greatness, and you will keep gratitude at bay.

2. Greed is an excellent defense against being thankful. Coveting what one does not have keeps one from being appreciative of what he does have. If your patient begins to say, “I’m thankful for the food I have,” let him see an advertisement for something even better. The reason we encourage those in advertising (some of our greatest recruits to Our Father have been placed in the field of advertising, as you know, or as you would know if you paid attention to what you have been taught) to show very large portions of food is to make any other portion look miserable and, as an effect, make the one seated before the smaller portion feel miserable. How can one give thanks for a single serving when a double serving would, obviously, be so much better?

3. To go along with greed, we have painstakingly made the day after their giving of thanks the number one shopping day for humans in your patient’s country. Advertisements will clutter the newspaper and TV all day on Thursday, promising great enjoyment if one will only venture forth in the early hours of Friday. Of course, there is nothing available on Friday your patient could not buy the next Wednesday, if he really needs to buy it, but it is the thrill of the hunt, Wormwood, that we are going for. Make your patient see that he must have something right away, and he will not bother being thankful for what he has. If you play this right, he will even despise what he has today in the hopes of obtaining something greater tomorrow. This is an endless cycle that will continue when we possess that one in Hell.

4. Distraction cannot be discounted as a weapon against thanksgiving. The busy-ness of cooking, eating and cleaning can, with skill, be used to keep humans from stopping, even for a moment, to say thank you for what they are cooking, eating, and cleaning up after. Crying children, argumentative relatives and nagging spouses can all supply much delight to you if you apply them correctly to distract your patient from being thankful.

5. Finally, there is the discontent with those things your patient is supposed to be thankful for. All food, for instance, is not universally enjoyed. If your patient does not care for carrots, be sure that there are plenty of carrots on the table. And then have the person who brought the carrots speak up loudly to say how she worked hours peeling and slicing and cooking the carrots, and how offended she will be if your patient does not eat at least two helpings of carrots. Take this home, Wormwood, and not only will your patient expel any notion of thanksgiving, but he will embrace hatred of the carrot-bringer with great vigor. If you can do this, your fun will have just begun.

I do want to say that I am thankful in my own way. I am thankful that I am not like you, a junior tempter with little hope of climbing to my level. I am thankful that Our Father seems to have better things to do these days than to inflict torment on me. And I am thankful for the warmth of my office, fueled with the souls whom I led into Our Father Below’s kingdom by keeping them from being givers of thanks.

Your affectionate uncle,


Forty-nine years ago today

...the day started off so well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

You have an unhealthy interest in trivia if...

1. You can name all eight of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands.

2. You know what ontogeny recapitulates.

3. You can name every U.S. president, his years in office, his vice-presidents, and every British monarch starting with Alfred the Great.

4. You know the first 17 numbers in the Fibonacci series by heart and are working on the first 100 decimal digits of Pi.

5. You know what John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley have in common beside the fact that they are all dead.

6. You know all the words to every song in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.

7. You know how to say “Goodbye” in more languages than you have fingers and “Thank you” in more languages than you have toes.

8. You know how to sing “O Sanctissima, O Piissima, Dulcis virgo Maria, Mater amata, Intemerata, Ora, ora pro nobis” in Latin and you are not even Roman Catholic. Also “Panis Angelicus.”

9. You know all the halogens in the periodic table of elements.

10. You can name the twelve apostles, the twelve tribes of Israel, the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the eight labors of Hercules.

Okay, maybe you don’t have an unhealthy interest in trivia, maybe you are just smart, but you definitely need to get out more.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Another reason why “Jesus wept” is in the Bible this video clip, How To Throw An Elegant Adult Baptism (1:42), which includes the words “baptee” and “boobalicious.”

Leslie (the woman speaking) is deadly serious throughout.

The “baptee’s” outfit, a short white strapless dress and black cowboy boots, does not portray well the purity of which Leslie speaks, in my opinion.

This exhibition of wretched excess combined with unbelievably poor taste can be explained only partially by the fact that it is a segment of a program called Big Rich Texas. The rest of it cannot be explained at all.

If Jesus were still in His grave, He’d probably be spinning in it.

But that’s just my opinion too. What’s your reaction?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Life as we know it is over

There will be no more Ho Hos, no more Ding Dongs, no more Twinkies, no more Wonder Bread (motto: “Helps build strong bodies 12 ways”).

Hostess Bakeries is (are?) closing its (their?) doors and laying off 18,500 workers.

Here are the gory details.

In other, less important news, the U.S. is about to jump off the fiscal cliff, and Israel is mobilizing troops near the Gaza border after a deluge of rockets from Hamas.

But we know what the real news is, don’t we?

It’s none of those things, actually.

The real news is that actress Lindsay Lohan will portray Elizabeth Taylor in a movie.


Here is one of the most incredible musical instruments I’ve seen in a month of Sundays (4:31).

It took a while before my brain figured out that I was seeing an animation and not a real musical instrument.

Because it sure looks real.

Real pterodactyls. Real lobster claws. Real zombie fingers.

Perhaps you figured it out immediately.

Maybe I’m just thick.

Don’t answer that.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Martin Luther King and Judge Judy both hit the nail on the head

In 1963 Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”

He was right. Many wrongs needed to be made right in America.

Now, nearly 50 years later, some things definitely have changed and some definitely haven’t.

And even though the color of a person’s skin is of absolutely no consequence whatever to me, I suppose some may call me racist for showing you what you are about to see.

I’m going to show it to you anyway.

Click here to see several reasons why our country is going down the drain (7:07).

There are almost too many to enumerate.

You can draw your own conclusions as to who is a victim and who is a perpetrator of the problems we still face. In your deliberations, remember to consider everything -- the judge, the plaintiff, the defendant, the bailiff, and even the audience, the television producers, and the country itself.

You are judge and you are jury. Posterity awaits your verdict.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The final tally still not known a week after the election because absentee votes and provisional votes are still being counted in some places.

But the very latest results are:

Barack Obama - 62,600,051 (50.6%)
Mitt Romney - 59,123,945 (47.8%)
All other candidates - 1,961,276 (1.6%)

So the total vote (at this point) was nearly 124,000,000 and not 120,000,000 as originally reported.

You wanna know what I think?

Here’s what I think:

A million here, a million there, pretty soon we’re talking a significant number of people.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

All 51 races from bluest (“most democrat”) to reddest (”most republican”)

I’m hoping that by now you are all aware that the U.S. doesn’t have “a presidential election,” it has 51 presidential elections (each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, better known as Washington, D.C.) and each one is important because of our Electoral College approach to choosing our president.

In president-choosing years, ours is an indirect democracy in which each state chooses a slate of electors who will meet in their respective state capitals on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December (this year, December 17th) to do the actual choosing of the next president. The slates vary in size from 3 for the District of Columbia (because it has a single member in the House of Representatives and two Senators in the Senate) to 55 for California (because it has 53 members in the House of Representatives and two Senators in the Senate). Each race is distinct, unique, and separate from all the others. The total national popular vote is ignored completely.

This is the reason that although Al Gore in 2000 and Richard Nixon in 1960 received more popular votes nationally than their opponents (George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy, respectively), they did not win the presidency. Also, the electors are supposed to vote for the party they were elected to vote for, but there are no hard and fast rules. In reality, the electors can vote for whomever they darned well please. This has made for some interesting elections in the past.

Here’s an interesting table from Nate Silver’s column in The New York Times. His predictions regarding the late unpleasantness the 2012 U.S. Presidential election were more accurate than any other pollster in the country.

I’m hoping that the chart will become larger (and hence easier to read) if you click on it. If it does not, get out a magnifying glass.

[Editor's note. Apparently the chart does not enlarge here in my post. Forget the magnifying glass. You can see the chart much better here. --RWP]

From Nate Silver’s interesting perspective, it was Colorado, not Ohio, that put Barack Obama over the required 270 electoral votes.

To my great surprise, Nate Silver’s chart also indicates that my state, Georgia, was the second-least Republican state in 2012 (North Carolina was the least, barely falling into the Romney column). Perhaps the once-solid Democratic South that turned into a solid Republican South with the Johnson-Goldwater election of 1964 is closer than ever to being not as solid as a lot of people might think.

In the meantime, let’s hear it for Nate Silver!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11, 1918

(Photograph of French poppies by Papy Biou, 2008)


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

[Editor’s note. This poem was written by John McCrae (1872-1918), a Canadian physician who fought on the Western Front in 1914. He was then transferred to the medical corps and assigned to a hospital in France, where he died of pneumonia while on active duty in 1918. He wrote the poem in 1915 while he was serving in Belgium. --RWP]

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Quote of the day

Lt. Col. Ralph Peters (retired) speaking to Neil Cavuto of Fox News on the resignation of General David Petraeus as CIA Director:

“The timing is just too perfect for the Obama administration. Just as the administration claimed it was purely coincidence that our Benghazi consulate was attacked on the anniversary of September 11th. Now it’s purely coincidence that this affair -- extra-marital affair -- surfaces right after the election, not before, but right after, but before the intelligence chiefs go to Capitol Hill to get grilled. As an old intelligence analyst, Neil, the way I read this -- I could be totally wrong, this is my interpretation -- is that the administration was unhappy with Petraeus not playing ball 100% on their party-line story. I think it’s getting cold feet about testifying under oath on their party-line story. And I suspect that these tough Chicago guys knew about this affair for a while, held it in their back pocket until they needed to play the card.

“I don't like conspiracy theories, I may be totally wrong, but the timing of this, again, right after the election and right before Petraeus is supposed to get grilled on Capitol Hill, it really smells.”

Friday, November 9, 2012

Maybe he’ll stop posting about the election soon.

One can always hope.

An interesting phenomenon in the late unpleasantness was that fewer voters went to the polls in 2012 than in 2008. Here are the statistics:

Barack Obama received 69,492,376 votes (53.0%).
John McCain received 59,946,378 votes (45.7%).
Other candidates received 1,703,390 votes (1.3%).
Total 2008 vote for president: 131,142,144

Barack Obama received 60,899,564 votes (50.4%).
Mitt Romney received 57,961,119 votes (48.0%).
Other candidates received 1,889,137 votes (1.6%).
Total 2012 vote for president: 120,749,820

In round numbers, 8.6 million fewer votes were cast for the Democratic candidate and 2.0 million fewer votes were cast for the Republican candidate. Minor party candidates, however, received 0.2 million more votes this time around.

In 2008 the U.S. population was estimated to be 303 million. In 2012 the U.S. population is estimated to be 313 million. So we have 10 million more people and 10 million fewer voters.

What does it all mean?

Your guess is as good as anyone else’s.

But this is also a fact: If all 2,015,000 missing Republicans had voted for Mitt Romney, Barack Obama would still have won the election.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Let’s hear it for the also-rans!

My fellow Americans (and others), U.S. voters had a choice of far more than two candidates in the late unpleasantness.

Because the candidate of the Democratic Party received 50.3% of the popular vote and the candidate of the Republican Party received 48.1% of the popular vote, I’m sure many of you have lain awake wondering who received the other 1.6% of the popular vote.

I’ll tell you who, because that’s just the way I am.

The candidate of the Libertarian Party was Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico.

The candidate of the Green Party was Jill Stein, a medical doctor from Massachusetts.

The candidate of the Constitution Party was Virgil Goode, a former U.S. congressman from Virginia.

The candidate of the Justice Party was Rocky Anderson, the former mayer of Salt Lake City.

“Never heard of them,” I hear you saying.

Well, have you ever heard of Roseanne Barr?

Roseanne Barr, running as the Peace and Freedom Party candidate with running mate Cindy Sheehan, received over 40,000 votes, and was on the ballot in California, Colorado, and Florida. She was a write-in candidate in 20 other states as well.

(Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, August 4, 2012)

As they say in the infomercials, “But wait! There’s more!”

A total of 417 people filed a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission to run for President in 2012. Most did not appear on the ballot in any state in the general election on November 6.

My fellow Americans (and others), here is a very interesting list:

1. Parties with ballot access to 270 or more electoral votes:

Libertarian Party
Green Party
Americans Elect
Constitution Party
Justice Party

2. Parties with ballot access to fewer than 270, but more than 50 electoral votes:

Party for Socialism and Liberation
American Independent Party
Peace and Freedom Party
Socialist Workers Party
Socialist Party USA

3. Parties with ballot access to fewer than 50 electoral votes:

America’s Party
Objectivist Party
American Third Position Party
Reform Party USA
Socialist Equality Party
Grassroots Party
Prohibition Party

4. Parties with no ballot access:

Boston Tea Party
Freedom Socialist Party
Modern Whig Party

(end of list)

In conclusion, my fellow Americans (and others), I have just one more thing to say.

Is this a great country or what?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

For people living on Mars who may not have heard are the results of the 2012 Presidential Election in the United States:

Popular vote (unofficial): Obama 60,899,564 (50.4%); Romney 57,961,119 (48.1%)

Electoral vote (the one that really counts, with 270 required to win) currently sits at Obama 303 (blue), Romney 206 (red), with Florida’s 29 votes “leaning” toward Obama 49.8% to 49.3%

The nation remains in gridlock. In the Senate, where 33 out of the 100 seats were up for election and 51 are required for a majority, the Democrats increased their number from 53 to 54. In the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats were up for election and 218 are required for a majority, the Republicans dropped from 242 to 234 but retain their majority.

Basically, nothing has changed.

I suppose the most important sentence in this post is this one:

The nation remains in gridlock.

[Editor’s note. The numbers in this post are as of 1900 hours, Eastern time, November 8, 2012. --RWP]

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Forty-two new facts a day keep the doctor away

This past week, more than 9,000 voters passed through the little corner of Cherokee County’s early-voting world where I was assigned. We were one of five such locations where the local citizenry could come to cast early votes in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. All told, at least a third of our county’s 134,000 or so registered voters have already cast their votes. The other two-thirds will have to endure long lines next Tuesday at Cherokee County’s 42 precincts.

I will now tell you the names of all 42 voting precincts in Cherokee County, Georgia.

In alphabetic order, they are:

1. Air Acres
2. Arnold Mill
3. Avery
4. Ball Ground
5. Bascomb
6. Bells
7. Booth
8. Bradshaw
9. Bridgemill
10. Canton
11. Carmel
12. Clayton
13. Conns Creek
14. Deer Run
15. Dixie
16. Freehome
17. Hickory Flat
18. Hightower
19. Hillside
20. Holly Springs
21. Kellogg
22. Liberty
23. Little River
24. Macedonia
25. Mountain Road
26. Neese
27. Oak Grove
28. R. M. Moore
29. R. T. Jones
30. Rosecreek
31. Salacoa
32. Sixes
33. Sutallee
34. Teasley
35. Toonigh
36. Union Hill
37. Univeter
39. Victoria
39. Waleska
40. Wildcat
41. Woodlands
42. Woodstock

There now, wasn’t that special?

At least three of the precinct names -- Salacoa, Sutallee, and Waleska -- are words that have meaning in the Cherokee Indian language. No, I do not know what they mean.

Some of the names -- Little River, Mountain Road, Conns Creek, Hickory Flat, Woodlands, Oak Grove -- reflect the geography of our area. Some of the names -- Deer Run, Wildcat -- tell you about our wildlife.

One of the names, Dixie, has been deemed politically incorrect for some time by powers that be in distant places. We don’t care. We Cherokee County residents are rarely swayed by the opinions of others. This independent trait is reflected in the names of two other precincts, Freehome and Liberty.

We used to have a precinct named Lickskillet, but we don’t any longer.

And I have no idea who R. M. Moore or R. T. Jones are or were.

I suppose I should try to find out.

I thought you would want to know these things.

[Editor’s note. I’m pretty sure R. T. Jones is Georgia’s own Bobby Jones, the golfer, but R. M. Moore is still a mystery. --RWP, 4 Nov 2012]

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...