Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine

Today is New Year’s Eve. Doddering old 2013 is on its last legs and will soon be replaced by a brand new year, 2014. Accordingly, we have just the thing for your listening and viewing pleasure while you attempt to navigate this always-treacherous transitional period. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to:

A Festival Of Auld Lang Syne Performances

Our first number will be on the musical saw with accordion accompaniment, plus there is a bit of the human voice. From 2006, here is someone named Nicki Jaine on both the saw and the vocal, accompanied by Roy Ashley on accordion, with Auld Lang Syne #1 (2:43).

Next, we travel through both time and space to Detroit, Michigan, in the year 1987 to hear the young Aretha Franklin and Billy Preston sing a Motown version of our festival theme, Auld Lang Syne #2 (2:07). For some unknown reason there is a brief appearance by comedian David Brenner at the end of the performance.

As we continue to mellow and chill and let the old year slip away, here with Auld Lang Syne #3 (4:52) is saxophonist Kenny G -- you may skip this video only if you majored in jazz saxophone in college and feel that Kenny G sold out for commercial success.

To close our Festival we reach all the way back to 1953 and the old master himself. Here are Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians with what must surely be the schmaltziest version ever recorded -- Auld Lang Syne #4 (2:10), complete with chromatic runs.

Our Festival is now at an end. If we have done our work properly, your transition from 2013 to 2014 will be a smooth one. You may now return to your normal life, where you are free to choose any kind of music that helps you get through your day.

Now go forth and multiply get one for the Gipper hold your head up high.

Lord, for my sake, teach me to take one day at a time.

Monday, December 30, 2013

When you come to the end of a perfect year

...let me know, will ya? Because it will definitely be a first.

This year was definitely less than perfect from my own personal perspective, dealing as I did with (among other things) a seven-month-long bout with shingles; its evil twin, post-herpetic neuralgia; the death of a dog; a week-long hospital stay that included an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, two blood transfusions, and the medical team of Thelma and Louise; and finally, in December, an out-patient procedure that involved my swallowing a camera and walking around all day wearing a monitor that continuously blinked yellow, green, and blue, which prevented me from entering a grocery store or a schoolyard or a commercial establishment of any kind for fear that I would be mistaken for someone with a bomb and tackled to the ground. As Jack Paar used to say, I kid you not.

Other than that, Ma, 2013 was a year like all other years, except (as Walter Cronkite said on many occasions) “YOU ARE THERE.”

But the world is bigger than my own personal interaction with it. Our own national treasure, humorist Dave Barry, has captured the year 2013, at least from an American perspective, in his own inimitable style in this column, which I heartily recommend to you. It is impossible in some places to discern Mr. Barry’s words from events that actually occurred.

I am facing yet another medical procedure on January 10th, after the completion of which it would be just fine with me if I never had to visit a gastroenterologist ever again.

Interesting fact #17,643: MoviPrep has absolutely nothing to do with attending the cinema, unless you are a gastroenterologist, and then in only the most tangential way.

You are now ready for 2014.

Interesting fact #17,644: If you lived in the American South, you would need to have ham hocks, hog jowl, blackeyed peas, and some form of greens (turnip or collard preferred) at the ready for your New Year’s Day dining pleasure. Don’t ask why. Some things are just self-evident.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Golden gifts all around, barkeep

I know I already gave you a poem for Christmas, but I wanted to give you something else as well.

I thought about letting you listen to National Public Radio’s Daniel Pinkwater reading his Christmas tale, “Wolf Christmas” (6:10), but I already did that on Boxing Day in 2010.

I thought about digging up yet another unpublished poem of mine to show you, but that would be overkill, and besides, I don’t have another unpublished poem of mine to show you except “Pu-tu-no-gu-tu-da-ron-lilla Bay” which besides being unpublished is unfinished. In fact, it may never see the light of day.

What to do?

“Oh, woe is me,” I thought. “Alas, and also alack!”

If you really think I thought that, I have some swamp land in Florida that you might be interested in buying, or perhaps a nice bridge in Brooklyn.

Then, as is more often the case than many of us care to admit, something serendipitous occurred. Fortuitous, even. I happened to read the blog of Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe and encountered an excerpt from Laurie Lee’s “Cider With Rosie” for the first time in my life (I know, my education must have been sorely lacking) and was enchanted. So, rather than doing all the hard work necessary to repeat it here, I’m giving you as an extra-special second Christmas gift:

This link to Elizabeth’s post.

You’re very welcome.

In other news, we received 4.25 inches of rain yesterday and the temperature has fallen from a balmy 71° Fahrenheit to a chilly 25° (also Fahrenheit) expected tomorrow morning.

I guess you can’t have everything.

Friday, December 20, 2013

What to give my blogger friends for Christmas?

Almost exactly thirty-eight years ago -- I was 34 at the time -- a poem formed in my mind and I wrote it down. If memory serves, I was thinking that day about how much I had enjoyed Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses when I was a boy -- “The Land of Counterpane” and “Oh, How I Love To Go Up In A Swing” and so on. I couldn’t think of a title for my poem, so I stuck it in a folder and promptly forgot all about it. A couple of months ago I found it, and I thought it might make a nice Christmas present this year from me to all of my cyberfriends out there in the blogosphere.

Just give me a fire, and a frosty night,
.....A book, and a big stuffed chair;
And let me read to my heart’s delight
.....In the glow of the firelight there.

For whatever it be, whether ships at sea,
.....Or Arabian jewels rare;
A planet in space, or an auto race,
.....Or a girl with golden hair;

Or African jungles, or frozen North,
.....Or snarls from a lion’s lair;
One by one, gems sparkle forth
.....Like candles on the stair.

Be it circus clown, or a Wild West town,
.....Or a dancing Russian bear;
Like a flag unfurled, ’tis a wider world
.....To be found in the pages there.

Inventors and heroes; explorers and kings;
.....And saints who knelt in prayer;
And hundreds of other exciting things
....That are fiendish and fine and fair.

So if you would let your soul take flight,
.....Oh, there’s nothing that can compare
With a cozy fire on a frosty night,
.....A book, and a big stuffed chair!

...............................................--Robert H. Brague
..................................................19 December 1975

Friday, December 13, 2013

How to go from the sublime to the ridiculous in one post

The last post -- a cello-piano duet of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” -- was sublime.

This one is ridiculous.

In keeping with the season, sort of, here is “Cluck of the Bells” (1:21) by a choir that is pure poultry in motion.

I also want to send a shout out to two real chickens named Arietta and Mary in Tauranga, New Zealand, as well as my heartfelt apologies to Ukrainians everywhere.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Five minutes, thirty-four seconds of gorgeous

There’s a group called The Piano Guys that normally consists of four guys who play the piano. Sometimes, though, the make-up of the group apparently changes.

For your listening pleasure and edification, here is one of the guys on piano and one of the guys on cello -- I don’t know where the other two guys are -- playing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (5:34).

This one you may definitely want to listen to more than once. It’s that good.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Let’s have a Ding! Dong!

Today is St. Nicholas’s Day and tomorrow is Pearl Harbor Day and the day after that is probably something else. It never ends. There is always something to commemorate.

To tell the truth, though, I’m beginning to grow weary of posting.

This li’l ol’ blog of mine is nearing 1,300 posts and I can feel myself slowing down.

I can feel myself beginning not to care any more.

I can feel myself getting ready to toss in the towel.

Maybe I am just coming down with a case of the mid-December blahs.

Fortunately, I know the cure.

As Eric Idle once said to John Cleese, “Let’s have a Ding! Dong!”

Here’s “"Ding! Dong! Merrily on High!” by the choristers of Kings College, Cambridge (2:39).

Listen to it as many times as it takes to brighten your mood and put a smile on your face.

One year I had to listen to it 142 times.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

From the archives: Quelle est cette odeur agréable? (December 20, 2010)

Here is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City performing “Whence Is That Goodly Fragrance Flowing?” (4:47)

That archaic, somewhat stilted-sounding English title is a translation of the words of the traditional 17th-century French carol “Quelle est cette odeur agréable?” (rhymeswithplague handy pronunciation guide: Kell eh set oh-dur ah-gray-ah-bluh?) that John Gay incorporated into his Beggar’s Opera in 1728.

Some might think that banks of violins and cellos are the very definition of schmaltz -- can anyone say Mantovani? -- but I think this is one of the most gorgeous pieces of music I have ever heard. Mrs. RWP, though, says it is not her cup of tea.

Here are the English lyrics as translated by A. B. Ramsay:

1. Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away?
Never the like did come a-blowing,
Shepherds, in flow’ry fields of May!
Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away?

2. What is that light so brilliant, breaking
Here in the night across our eyes?
Never so bright, the day-star waking,
Started to climb the morning skies!
What is that light so brilliant, breaking,
Here in the night across our eyes?

3. Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away,
Run ye with eager footsteps vying!
Worship the Saviour born today.
Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away.

If you simply must have the original French lyrics, click here. You may note that several English translations are available; the one I have shared with you is the one sung by the choir in the video clip.

As usual, I am one of the last to get the word. One list I saw shows that this song is available on more than 50 classical recordings. But even though it has been around for several centuries, I had never heard it until last Thursday evening when Dawna T. sang it accompanied at the piano by her sister, Lisa K., during their Family Christmas Concert at a church in Marietta. (I was part of the concert too. I accompanied Dawna on “The Perfect Rose,” her son Michael on a cello solo of “What Child Is This?” and Lisa on “O Holy Night.” Lisa wore an emerald velvet gown; Dawna wore a purple one. I was resplendent in a black tuxedo.)

The lyrics, of course, refer to the infant Christ, the baby Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. What struck me as ironic (nay, downright humorous!) is that the odeur agréable that so mystified the songwriter was a barnyard stable filled with cows, sheep, donkeys, and (let’s face it) manure. So the actual odeur must have been anything but agréable at the time. Comparing Christ’s presence to the fragrance of a rose has been quite common through the centuries, though, and has resulted in such songs as “The Perfect Rose,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” and, of course, from now on in my own mind, “Whence Is That Goodly Fragrance Flowing?”

I think I will go back and listen to it again.

No Rosicrucians were harmed in the creation of this blogpost.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Taking up the gauntlet

Our cyberfriend Lord Pudding of Pudding Towers, Sheffield, York, England droned on waxed eloquent about bridges recently, starting with Jeff and ending with Edale, Derbyshire. In a comment, expatriate Brian in Catalan promised to “take up the gauntlet” soon and post a picture of a bridge also.

I have decided to enter the fray join in the fun.

Here is the main thoroughfare over the Etowah River between my home in East Cherokee and downtown Canton:

As you can see, we take our lives in our hands every single time we go shopping. It’s dangerous, yes, but living on the edge is what Mrs. RWP and I do best.

Actually, I’m not telling the truth. That bridge is really in Sarawak on the island of Borneo. But I had you going there for a minute.

We interrupt this post to wish every single reader of the rhymeswithplague blog -- whether you leave comments or just lurk -- a Happy Thanksgiving Day, even if you live in a country where today is not officially set aside as a day for giving thanks.

And if you do not have an abundance of turkey today, may you have instead an abundance of joy, and hope, and peace, and love.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blackjack is not just a card game in Las Vegas

Not that I would know anything about such things.

Moving right along...

Today -- November 25, 1963 -- is the 50th anniversary of the funeral of President John F. Kennedy.

Blackjack (or, more accurately, Black Jack) was the name of the horse that, riderless and with a boot turned backward in the stirrups, followed the caisson bearing the casket of President John F. Kennedy during his funeral.

Black Jack performed a similar role in the funerals of President Herbert Hoover, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and General Douglas MacArthur.

As horses go, one might say that Black Jack reached the pinnacle of his profession.

If you would like to know more about him, read this.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

One man’s opinion

The media here are making much of the fact that this week marks 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Tomorrow (Friday) is the actual anniversary, but yesterday (Wednesday) President and Mrs. Obama and President and Mrs. Clinton participated in a ceremony in which all four of them placed a huge wreath at President Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. After the wreath was in place, a trumpet player played Taps, during which period all four of the presenters placed their hands over their hearts. Then they walked over and shook hands and chatted briefly with members of the Kennedy family (mostly nephews and nieces, I think) who were present. The senior member appeared to be Ethel Skakel Kennedy, widow of Robert Kennedy (the President’s brother). The only member of President Kennedy’s immediate family who is still alive is his daughter Caroline, but she could not be present because she flew to Japan last Friday to begin serving as U.S. ambassador there. Her absence reminded me of how Jacqueline Kennedy always made sure her children were out of the country during assassination week; one year John Jr. was sent to India as I recall.

It also struck me that although the assassination was a great tragedy for the entire nation, only two of the five living occupants of the Oval Office took part in the ceremony, and both of them are Democrats. Jimmy Carter, although also a Democrat, is 89 years old now and no longer running for office. The other two living former presidents are Republicans -- George Herbert Walker Bush (“Old 41”) and his son, George Walker Bush (Number 43) -- and they aren’t running for office either.

It would have been the decent thing to do to invite all five. It is my belief that the others were not invited. Every single thing our current President does and every single thing either of the Clintons does appears to be based on some perceived political gain among the electorate. Mrs. Clinton is likely to be the candidate of the Democrat Party for President in 2016, and President Obama has never stopped campaigning even though he is a full year into his second and final term.

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most. The whole nation lost a president, not just Democrats.

Monday, November 18, 2013

So tell me, if you can...

What do Dame Sybil Thorndyke (below) ...

...and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (below) ...

...have to do with this lovely lady?

She is Anna Lee, the actress who played Sister Margaretta in the film version of The Sound of Music. Sister Margaretta is the nun who said of Maria, “I’d like to say a word in her behalf: Maria ... makes me ... laugh!”

After The Sound of Music, Anna Lee spent the years from 1978 until 2003 playing the role of family matriarch Lila Quartermaine on the American television soap opera General Hospital. She died at the age of 91 in 2004.

I know you are just dying to find out more about Lila Quartermaine. Do pay close attention, because you may be tested later.

Lila Quartermaine (née Morgan; previously Tolliver), the matriarch of the wealthy Quartermaine family, was the wife of Edward Quartermaine. Lila often served as the rational party and peacemaker in the constant Quartermaine squabbles, and was adored by pretty much everyone she came in contact with.

Lila Quartermaine came to Port Charles with the rest of her family in 1978 when Dr. Alan Quartermaine, her son, decided to stay at General Hospital and bought a house in town. In 1981, Lila’s first husband Crane Tolliver paid her a visit. He had proof that his and Lila’s divorce was not legal, and therefore her marriage to Edward was illegal and all the Quartermaines were illegitimate. He teamed up with Susan Moore, Lila’s son Alan’s former mistress (and Jason’s mother), to blackmail the Quartermaines. Susan backed out, and Crane killed her. Crane himself died shortly after. Lila legally married Edward in 1983.

In 1986, Alan’s wife Monica and her lover Sean Donely bankrupted the Quartermaines and Monica threw all of them out of the Quartermaine Mansion, which she owned. The family moved in above Kelly’s Diner, but Lila did little complaining. Instead, she founded her own business, called Pickle-Lila, which made a delicious relish that swept the country. This venture put the Quartermaines back in the black. In 1989, when Edward disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle and was thought to be dead, Lila did not appear to be fazed as she preferred conversing with his portrait, which actually talked back to her. Lila was reunited with Edward in 1991, when their daughter Tracy discovered him playing beach bum in the Bahamas.

In 1992, Lila took a bad spill and was badly injured. She opted not to have surgery, and therefore had to use a wheelchair the rest of her life. In 1993, Lila took on a personal assistant, Brenda Barrett. When the teenager’s sister, Lila’s grandson Ned Ashton’s lover Julia, left Port Charles, Lila invited Brenda to live with them. In 1996, when Lila’s grandson Jason Quartermaine was stricken with permanent amnesia after a car crash, Lila reached out and Jason bonded only with his grandmother and his sister Emily. Jason, wanting to distance himself from the family, later took the name “Jason Morgan” as a tribute to her.

Ned Ashton asked Felicia Scorpio-Jones to write Lila’s memoirs. Lila told Felicia about love letters Edward had sent her during World War II. Lila had given them to her cousin for safekeeping. In the process of writing Lila’s memoirs, Luke Spencer and Felicia uncovered a family secret. They found out that Edward had killed Lila’s fiancé and married her instead. Lila, however, revealed the truth. She said that Eliot had forced himself on her after discovering that Edward had been sending her love letters he signed as Eliot. So, Lila had hit him over the head with a fireplace poker, killing him. Luke and Felicia agreed to keep the truth a secret.

Tracy’s 2003 return to Port Charles delighted Lila, until Tracy revealed that Skye was not really a Quartermaine. Disappointed, Lila kicked Tracy out of the mansion. She returned not long after with her teenaged son Dillon Quartermaine in tow.

2004 saw many changes to the Quartermaine family. The Port Charles Hotel, which the family had owned for many years, caught fire and burned to the ground trapping Edward, Alan, Monica, Tracy, Jason, Emily, Skye, and Dillon inside. The whole situation caused Edward to have a near-fatal heart attack. Ned and Reginald were left to try and keep Lila away from the television, worried that the news would kill her.

One evening in July of 2004, Lila told Edward before going to bed that she loved him. She then died peacefully in her sleep. The entire family and town were shocked at her passing. The family continued to bicker as they dealt with their grief. The Quartermaines and the rest of Port Charles came together to say goodbye to Lila at her funeral. Even old friends Lee and Gail Baldwin, Lucy Coe, Kevin Collins, Robin Scorpio, and Amanda Barrington all returned home for Lila’s funeral and many of her family members spoke of what a wonderful person she was. Emily then took over as family peacemaker and always encouraged Jason to have more contact with the Quartermaines, as a favor to Lila.

In 2012, as the family sang before Thanksgiving Dinner, the ghost of Lila appeared with the ghost of Edward.

All of the above information comes from a website dedicated to the character Lila Quartermaine. Her adventures pale in comparison to the exploits and shenanigans of other characters on General Hospital.

Don’t worry. I was just kidding about testing later.

Oh, and here is the answer to the question at the top of the post. When Anna Lee (who was born Joan Boniface Winnifrith in 1913 in Ightham, Kent, England) was christened, Sybil Thorndyke and Arthur Conan Doyle were her godparents.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A laugh a day keeps the doctor away

[Editor’s note. The following was written by Matthew Belinkie and appeared on www.mcsweeneys.net (Timothy McSweeney’s) on April 24, 2007, as “An Update On The Problem of Maria.” --RWP]

FROM: The Reverend Mother
TO: The Nuns

My Sisters,

As you know, our little convent has been plagued in recent months by “the Maria problem.” I must say, in all my years serving the Lord, this is the greatest challenge I have ever faced. It is like trying to hold a moonbeam in your hand.

Nuns have described Maria as “a headache,” “a demon,” and “capable of outpestering any pest.” Yet, when I put out a box to collect anonymous Maria-related complaints, many of them seemed relatively minor:

.....• “She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee.” We are not
....... Franciscans, but surely we can agree that a youthful
....... heart often expresses its love of the Almighty through
....... delight in nature. Besides, it’s spring; it’s like the hills
....... are alive!

..... • “She’s always late for everything except for every
....... meal.” As a novice, Maria may simply be unaccustomed
....... to the regimented life the convent demands. By the
....... way, the implication that she is fat is simply uncalled
....... for.

..... • “Underneath her wimple she has curlers in her hair.”
....... Sisters, we all know that Maria sports a rather
....... unflattering pageboy bob, with nothing resembling a
....... curl upon her head. Whoever submitted this slander
....... must search her soul.

On the other hand, I must admit Maria makes me uncomfortable. Once, she mentioned that brown-paper packages tied up with string were among her favorite things. That doesn’t seem normal, does it? Plus, her five-octave range is positively unnerving.

So what can be done? I have been conducting frequent meetings on the subject with the most senior nuns, and a number of options have been proposed:

.....• KICK HER OUT. Vetoed. These walls were not built to
....... shut out problems; we have to face them.

.....• FEED HER LESS. By limiting her rations, we may deny
....... her the energy to do things like waltzing on the way to
....... Mass or spinning around on mountaintops with her
....... arms outstretched.

....... shocked at the number of times this was suggested.
....... For shame, sisters. I know it can be truly frustrating
....... when she will not stay and listen to all you say, but we
....... are nuns! Nuns!

....... NAVAL HERO. I don’t really understand this plan. How
....... is this going to make her a better nun? If anything, I
....... feel that putting her in close proximity to children will
....... exacerbate her own childish tendencies.

Sisters: I will consider our course. In the meantime, let us pray for a solution to this seemingly insoluble problem of Maria. We must have faith that we can climb every mountain, ford every steam, follow every rainbow, ’til Maria either stops being so annoying or falls in love with someone and gets married. I sincerely hope that the time soon arrives when we can turn our attention to more pressing matters. For instance, I hear the Nazi Party is quite popular nowadays?

Yours in Christ,
Reverend Mother

P.S. The voting to select a word that means Maria has been completed. The winning word is “Flibbertigibbet.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

“Every painting is a voyage into a sacred harbour.” --Giotto di Bondone (1266-1337)

Our little Havanese dog Jethro was born on June 19, 2004, and lived until May 31 of this year. Here is my all-time favorite photograph of him, taken when he was about three years old:

We gave the photo to our painter friend Joyce Yarborough last year and now we have an all-time favorite (and so far only) 11x14 oil painting of Jethro as well:

We think Joyce captured Jethro perfectly, working from the photograph. She said that when she painted the floral hassock he sort of blended into the background, so she took the liberty of changing the color to dark green.

We love the painting.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Joyce Yarborough.

For the record, we don’t think Blogger does justice to it.

[Editor’s note. In a comment, Adrian says Jethro “is a bit pink” and wonders whether I took the photo of the painting “in something strange like tungsten.” I took the photo of the painting with my iPhone in my kitchen, but it was a bit shady at that hour of the day. Here is a another photo of the painting that I took when there was more natural daylight.

Is that better? At least the pinks have gone away and have turned to beige. --RWP]

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Well, whaddaya know! I’m Johann Sebastian Bach!

Yes, I am.

A little bird online test called Which Classical Composer Are You? told me so.

Unfortunately, it also told me what being Bach meant:

“You are Johann Sebastian Bach. The smartest person you know, you don’t suffer incompetence easily and are more than willing to tackle difficult projects yourself rather than trust them to others. Highly intellectual, you crave order, discipline and structure – let’s be honest, you probably have your picture next to “perfectionist” in the dictionary. Unfortunately, your brilliance is likely to go largely unappreciated by those around you, and you’re going to have to wait for future generations to recognize your genius.”

So being Bach is not a compliment, exactly.

But they pretty much nailed it.

Which classical composer are you?

To find out, click on the blue link near the top of this post. Then, if you dare, paste the gory details into a comment.

[Editor’s note. So far, readers have reported that they are Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. And one reader reports that he wrote “Tiptoe Through the Turnips” for Tiny Tim, England’s greatest, setting the standard for those who love Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. Apparently this reader is unaware that Tiny Tim was actually Herbert Khaury of New York City, the son of a Polish mother and a Lebanese father. He was about as English as the Dalai Lama. --RWP]

Monday, November 4, 2013

Music for a quiet evening

I am partial to piano music.

These particular compositions sound deceptively simple but are quite difficult to play accurately.

Here’s Arthur Rubenstein playing Frederic Chopin’s beautiful Nocturne Opus 9, No. 2 (5:05). Unfortunately you will not be able to see Arthur Rubenstein, but you will be able to follow along in the sheet music.

And here’s Vladimir Horowitz in Vienna playing Impromptu in G flat major D899 No. 3 by Franz Schubert (7:31).

And here’s...well, that’s enough for now.

Sometimes a taste is better than a mouthful.

“Music Hath Charms” by Harrison Fisher, American illustrator (1877 - 1934)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hokay, ze organ, she ’ave, ’ow you say, arrived at my ’ome.

An’, eef I do say so myself, she is, ’ow you say, lookin’ good.

She no sound too shabby either.

I am on a natural high today. I ’ave no need of, ’ow you say, illicit drugs or artificial stimulants of any kind.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I’m having an organ transplant

...and I’m really excited about it.

In my case, this is the organ:

...and it’s being transplanted from Milton, Georgia, to our digs in Canton, Georgia, a distance of fourteen miles.

Did I mention that it’s free?

I kid you not.

Actually, this is not the specific instrument -- this photograph was taken by a man named Jeff Schuler in, I presume, the privacy of his own home and uploaded to Flickr several years ago -- but it is the same model, I think, as the one we will be getting.

My new old friends, Ashley N. and Jesse M., an engaged couple, were first-time visitors to the church this past Sunday and we happened to sit at the same table in the fellowship hall during the monthly covered-dish lunch following the church service [Editor’s note. First-time visitors to our church are not required to bring covered-dish lunches with them. There was more than enough food for our visitors. --RWP]. As we got acquainted, Ashley suddenly asked, “Do you know anyone who wants an organ? It’s free.”

And the rest is, if not quite history yet, now in the works. Mrs. RWP and I went to see and listen to the instrument Monday afternoon, and we liked it. So, voila!, as they say in Paree, ze organ, she ees ours.

Now all we have to do is find someone who will move it from its current home to its new home for something less than an arm and a leg.

And until it is safely ensconced in its new home, I must continue to remind myself not to count, ’ow you say, ze chickens before zey are ’atched.

Photo by Kim Pardi, 2005, on flickr, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

From the archives (November 1, 2010): When October goes

Barry Manilow has never been my favorite singer, and I have heard him when he was in better voice, but there’s something about this particular clip that reaches way down inside me and turns me inside out.

When October Goes (4:50)

I get the almost-a-cliché metaphor about a person’s lifespan (“Oh, it’s a long, long time from May to December, and the days grow short when you reach September” and so forth), and the leaves have turned red and gold and many of them have already fallen, and flocks of geese are in the air making their way south, and my mother died in the month of October in 1957, so this time of year always makes me a bit melancholy, but still...Barry Manilow?

There’s a little quiver in his voice -- and, yes, it may even be fabricated for effect -- and he’s a little “pitchy” (translation: out of tune) in places, but when he sings this song he somehow seems on the verge of losing his composure altogether. Maybe that’s what I’m responding to viscerally, I don’t know, the fact that we’re all in this thing together and we’re all putting on some sort of act and we’re all always dangerously close to losing control and letting everybody see how we really feel, and we certainly wouldn’t want to let that happen. Would we?

But still...

Barry Manilow?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

No comment

Our Neighborhood Watch Captain, Bob Anderson, forwarded the following e-mail to every homeowner in our subdivision today.

Advisory: Cherokee Sheriff's Office Warns of Thefts From Vehicles

The Cherokee Sheriff’s Office is urging citizens not to leave valuables, specifically purses, in their vehicles while parked in public parking places. On Monday there were five separate incidents in which suspects broke the window out of parked cars and took purses from inside the vehicle. Four of the locations were pre-schools and one was at a Veterinarian’s office. Four of the locations were in Cherokee County and one was within the city limits of Holly Springs. Hickory Flat United Methodist Church, Mt. Zion Church, The Goddard School, Bridgemill Veterinary, and Primrose daycare were the locations of the thefts.

Investigators believe the same suspects are responsible for all the thefts. It is also believed the suspect is able to break the window, steal the items and leave the area within a matter of seconds. We currently have no description of the suspects but it is believed they are driving a silver four-door passenger car [emphasis mine]. Anyone who has any information about these incidents or sees something or someone suspicious in these types of locations are urged to call 911.

Lt. [name withheld]
Cherokee Sheriff’s Office

[Editor’s note. Okay, I’ll comment anyway. There must be ten thousand silver four-door passenger cars in Cherokee County, but somehow I feel guilty by association. We pass two of these places every time we go to the grocery store. I just know that strangers will now be peering into our windows to see whether we are the culprits. Oh, for the days when we could just drive down the road and enjoy the scenery.--RWP]

[Editor’s note 2. I also must comment about the fact that Lt. [name withheld so that Yorkshire Pudding doesn’t get any crazy ideas] says “Anyone are urged....” --RWP]

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Photo of the day

Christening of Prince Charles* at Buckingham Palace, London, 1948.

Back row, left to right: Lady Brabourne, Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip), His Majesty George VI, Honourable David-Bowes Lyon (maternal uncle of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret), Earl of Athlone (brother of Queen Mary and spouse of Princess Alice), Princess Margaret (sister of Princess Elizabeth).

Front row, left to right: Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven (mother of Lord Louis Mountbatten), Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), Prince Charles, Her Majesty Queen Mary (mother of George VI, great-grandmother of Prince Charles).

Notably absent from this photo is the wife of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth (the former Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and maternal grandmother of Prince Charles).

*full name: Prince Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor-Mountbatten (1948- )

You were expecting maybe a different photo?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Carry me back to Plano, Texas

...dat’s whar de cotton an’ de corn an’ taters grow.

No, wait, that was Old Virginny.

Speaking of old, my stepbrother and his wife drove into town from Texas one day last week. It was the first time we have seen each other in eight years. They had decided to take an autumn vacation and drive around the southeastern U.S. for a few weeks and we were their first stop. Well, their second, really, because they spent their first night in Meridian, Mississippi.

On Friday, as much of the family as we could get together on short notice went out for dinner at a very nice restaurant in Kennesaw.

On Saturday, we went up to Big Canoe in the mountains to spend some time with my oldest son’s family. We went to a place called Burt’s Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville where people were pushing around wheelbarrows full of pumpkins and gourds and Indian corn and butternut squash and acorn squash and lots of other things. We also went to Amicalola Falls, the highest waterfall in Georgia at 729 feet (222 m). We had planned a picnic and a trip to some apple orchards in Ellijay as well, but Mother Nature decided to give our area some much-needed rain, so we cut short the gadding about and returned to Big Canoe for the afternoon.

On Sunday, our visitors departed for their next stop, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They also plan to visit North Carolina’s Outer Banks and Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park/Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway before heading across Kentucky and Tennessee back to good old Big D.

Here is part of Amicalola Falls:

and here is part of Burt’s Pumpkin Patch:

I hope it is not another eight years until we see them again.

Until then, we’ll just have to be satisfied with singing “Big D, Little a, Double L, A, S” along with Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews at Carnegie Hall (5:45)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sometimes it pays to have good peripheral vision

Here is a lovely vocal offertory featuring a young woman named Courtney Cumberland, who sang it at Due West United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia, on October 6, 2013. The piece is “Pie Jesu” from John Rutter’s work, Requiem.

“Pie Jesu” at Due West Methodist Church, Marietta, GA, October 6, 2013

Here is a translation from the Latin:

Merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus, merciful Jesus
who takes away the sins of the world
Grant them rest, grant them rest,
Lamb of God, Lamb of God, Lamb of God, Lamb of God
who takes away the sins of the world
Grant them rest, grant them rest, everlasting, everlasting rest

I do not know Courtney Cumberland or the man playing the piano. However, I do know the man playing the soprano saxophone at the right edge of the screen. Sometimes you get a glimpse of his profile.
He is my son.

Now you can go back and watch that video again.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Remembrance of things past (part the second)

It occurs to me that I already wrote part the second three and a half years ago. It was called “My dog has fleas, and other remembrances.”

You may read it now if you like.

As a result of that post, a friend from my school days, Fred Stone, contacted me and we began an e-mail correspondence. Eventually, Fred and his wife Judy came to Georgia to gather genealogical data about some of Fred’s ancestors in a cemetery about an hour from my home, and they spent a couple of days with Mrs. RWP and me along with their five-year-old great-grandson. It was a lovely visit, and Fred presented me with a book on the history of Mansfield that has been published by the Mansfield Historical Society. Judy presented us with a lovely handmade quilt to give to our granddaughter. Judy is Fred's third wife, and it so happens that his first two wives were also named Judy. Because of this interesting fact, Fred named his boat Judy, Judy, Judy and even though his fellow boating enthusiasts probably thought Fred was channeling Cary Grant when he named his boat, he wasn't. Fred’s first wife Judy was the niece of Sally Huffman, an old friend of our family. Judy didn’t call her aunt Aunt Sally, however. She called her Aunt Sister and so did all of Aunt Sally’s Sister’s other nieces and nephews. This was not the most unusual thing people did in that family, however. They also had another aunt named Gertrude whom they all called Pete. In 1961, Gertrude/Pete sent me a carrot cake through the mail when I was in U.S. Air Force basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, which made me the most popular guy in the barracks for about half a day.

As a result of that same post, I was also contacted by Bart Bull, an American writer who had gained a bit of notoriety with some of his magazine articles. Bart had moved to Paris and was using the name Boule Bartier there. Bart’s/Boule’s mission in life, at least as far as corresponding with me was concerned, was to prove that John Howard Griffin, a neighbor of mine in Texas and author of the book Black Like Me, was not the formerly blind person he had claimed to be. Bart contacted me after recognizing the name Foy Curry in my post as one of the persons who made the news in the 1956 Mansfield School Desegregation Incident. Why he was reading my post in the first place remains a mystery to me, unless he was sitting around Googling the word Mansfield one afternoon when he could have been out strolling on the Rue de Madeleine.

I don’t know why I’m telling you about Fred and Judy and Judy and Judy (actually I didn’t tell you one single thing about the second Judy) and Aunt Sister and Pete and Bart Bull, so I will close for now.

If you want to mail me a carrot cake, please send it to Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. The authorities there will, I’m sure, forward it to me without delay and I’m confident that I will get it eventually.

If you want to contact me concerning the 1956 Mansfield School Desegregation Incident, please find another hobby.

If you have a problem with the continuity or lack thereof in this post, you can always go read someone else’s blog instead.

Thus ends the updated version of The Story Of My Life (part the second).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Remembrance of things past (part the first)

It occurs to me that I keep showing you odd bits of stuff like that film of San Francisco in 1906 but never tell you much about myself.

Today I will tell you much a little about myself.

Of average height and average weight, I am a 72-year-old man who spent the last week in September in a hospital where a great deal of poking and prodding and sticking with needles and photographing of my innards and receiving a couple of pints of blood and a few other things too horrible to think about took place. And that was just at the admissions desk.

I was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, (it’s the smallest state in the union, and it’s in New England) because I wanted to be near my mother, and she happened to be there at the time.

We lived in a third-floor apartment of a house at 61 Larch Street and my pediatrician was a Dr. Kachichian. I attended the Pawtucket Day Nursery while my mother, who had received a teaching certificate from West Chester State College in Pennsylvania, worked at the Coats & Clark Thread Factory. My teachers were Miss Irma Chisholm and Mrs. Yvonne Schack. A Portuguese woman in the neighborhood would sometimes take care of me as well and give me apple pie and pastrami for breakfast.

One day at recess, while two children were playing on a seesaw, one jumped off and the other, a black boy named Peter, fell and hurt himself. His arm was bleeding, and I noticed that his blood was red just like mine. I decided on the spot that people are alike on the inside and it is only on the outside that we are different.

When I was about four or five, a man wearing a white sailor uniform began visiting my mother occasionally. My mother called him “Ted” and so did I. Eventually he moved in permanently and my mother told me to call him “Daddy” from then on.

I went to Hancock Street Elementary School to Mrs. Mullins’s kindergarten class, but after four days she took me to first grade. Apparently Pawtucket Day Nursery had done its job well, because I was answering all the questions and telling all the other children the answers. My teacher in first grade was Miss Edith Wildegoose.

(Here I am in the spring of 1947 as a student in Miss Edith Wildegoose’s first grade class. I was six.)

In August 1947 we moved from Rhode Island to Fort Worth, Texas,
on a train. It took three days. We arrived on one of the hottest days in the history of Fort Worth, Texas, and walked several blocks from the Texas & Pacific Railroad Station to the Majestic Hotel, which was inaptly named, carrying our luggage. One day, while leaving the hotel to get something to eat, I saw a hotel employee whose skin was so black it was almost blue, who had the whitest teeth and the whitest jacket I had ever seen, sweeping little black things off the sidewalk into little piles in the gutter and setting them on fire. The little black things turned out to be live crickets, and the smell was beyond awful. I was scarred for life in that instant.

A few days later we moved to a boarding house in the Arlington Heights section of Fort Worth. Mrs. Cash, who owned the boarding house, spent her days telling everyone who would listen that her close relative, actress Faye Emerson, was married to Elliott Roosevelt, the son of the President. The phrase “six degrees of separation” had not yet been invented, and actor Kevin Bacon was not born until 1958, but Mrs. Cash was eager for all to know that she was associated with the rich and famous.

My parents eventually rented a small post-war bungalow on a horseshoe-shaped street (2332 Chandler Drive East, on the other end of the horseshoe from Chandler Drive West) and I was enrolled into Mrs. Wolfe’s second-grade class at Oakhurst Elementary School.

I was not to experience urban life for long. In the spring of 1948, we moved again to a three-acre plot two miles from a little town that boasted a one-block-long business district with a traffic signal at both ends. I was to live there for the next ten years.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The good old days may not have been all that good

{Editor’s note. This post is an oldie but goodie from my archives. It appeared on this blog in slightly different form on April 7, 2010. --RWP]

According to an e-mail I received, this nearly-nine-minutes-long film was made in San Francisco, California, just four days before the great earthquake and devastating fire of 1906 that destroyed most of the city. Apparently someone attached a camera to the front of a cable car. Sound was added much later, but if the film is genuine it is truly an amazing “slice of life” from more than one hundred years ago.

Kick back and enjoy a cable car ride in San Francisco in 1906 (8:49).

Somewhere, this man is singing:

(Photo of Tony Bennett by Dwight McCann, originally uploaded to Wikipedia in October 2006, used in accordance with Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution License)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Game on

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1789, states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The first amendment did not take into account Barack Obama.

The current occupant of the White House has issued executive orders with abandon that ignore the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Congress. In the current government shutdown, he seems to many to be trying to inflict as much pain and inconvenience on ordinary citizens of the United States as possible to further his political agenda.

Close the Statue of Liberty, check. Close Independence Hall in Philadelphia, check. Close the World War II Memorial on the mall in Washington, D.C., check. Close military grocery stores but keep military golf courses open, check.

Someone also disclosed that religious services on military installations would not be allowed for the duration of the shutdown.

“Oh, yeah?” said the collective citizenry, through their elected representatives.

The House of Representatives yesterday, by a vote of 400 to 1, approved a resolution to allow religious services on military installations during the government shutdown.

I am particularly pleased that the resolution was introduced by Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.), himself a U.S. Air Force chaplain and Iraq war veteran.

Matters of the budget are one thing. Matters of religious liberty are something else entirely.

On this issue, We the People 1, Barack Obama 0.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

I think I may be getting a little bit snarky in my old age

Exhibit 1: The 20-something granddaughter of some old friends of mine posted the following on Facebook: “Jared and I cannot decide whether to a) spend a day in Cinque Terre or b) half day in Florence and half day in Pisa. Any suggestions? The traditionalist in me says I have to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the copy of Michaelangelo’s David, but then I googled Cinque Terre. I should have decided by now, but it’s so hard when I want to do everything!” and while their young friends were making suggestions I posted the following: “I believe this is what is called a first-world problem....”

Exhibit 2: The 20-something daughter of some old friends of mine posted the following on Facebook: “anybody who works in the [name of city] area wanna bring me some chocolate? i’m sleepy and it’s so slow at work! need something to keep me awake!” and while her young friends were trying to pinpoint exactly where she was so that they could bring her some chocolate I posted the following: “Give a girl a chocolate and she’ll have chocolate for a day. Teach a girl to bring her own chocolates and she’ll have chocolates for a lifetime. I'm just sayin’....”

It occurs to me that a) we probably do not need a third exhibit and b) if I insist on hanging out on Facebook I should hang out with people my own age.

I started to call this post “Facebook makes me snarky; Blogger makes me constipated” but I decided that Elephant’s Child would say that is too much information. Then I thought of calling it “I don't give a tweet” but I decided that Snowbrush and Yorkshire Pudding would engage in some word substitution and try to make me say something I wasn’t saying at all.

Perhaps I have just come up with that third exhibit.

Friday, October 4, 2013

October 4th

On October 4, 1777, Gen. George Washington’s troops launched an assault on the British at Germantown, Pa., resulting in heavy American casualties.

On October 4, 1822, the 19th president of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, was born in Delaware, Ohio.

On October 4, 1957, James R. Hoffa was elected president of the union known as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

On October 4, 1957, the Space Age began as the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, into orbit.

On October 4, 1957, my world came to an end.

On October 5, 1957, my life went on.

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” --Isaiah 53:3-4

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Don’t blame me, it’s all Yorkshire Pudding’s fault

You remember Yorkshire Pudding, or Lord Yorkshire Pudding as he likes to be called, of Pudding Towers, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, in the United Kingdom, don’t you? That Yorkshire Pudding. He had to go and publish a list of the ten most-read posts in the history of his eight-year-old blog. Then Carol in Cairns in Far North Queensland down in Australia asked me for a list of my own personal top ten favorite posts from my own blog -- not quite the same thing, but equally scary to contemplate.

The problem is that I don’t have a top ten favorites list of my own posts, and trying to come up with one would require me to read all 1,260-something posts I have written since September 28, 2007 (because my memory may be good, but it ain’t that good, for crying out loud).

What I can do is ask Ye Olde Blogger to provide me with the sort of information that Ye Olde Yorkshire Pudding came up with and then pass it along to Ye Olde Carol and all Ye Olde wonderful people sitting out there in the dark you.

It beats racking my brain to come up with yet another brand-new, fascinating post, especially when my hemoglobin levels are supposed to be going up, not down.

Perhaps this one will have a fascination all its own. And in the far-off future the anthropologists -- if there still are anthropologists -- will have a field day slogging through all this stuff.

I don’t know how Yorkie got ten. Blogger will show me only five.

The five most-read posts of all time (well, the past six years) on this blog are:

1. And now, for a complete change of pace (Sep. 13, 2010)
2. A B C D goldfish? L M N O goldfish! (Jan. 20, 2011)
3. I always loved The Waltons (Jan. 30, 2009)
4. Lazy Day (May 8, 2012)
5. Flannery O'Connor writes of peacocks (May 9, 2008)

My five most-read posts of the past month include three that were written within the past month -- I won’t show you those because they're all right over there in the sidebar -- plus the “A B C D golfish” one, plus this one that wasn’t in the earlier list:

It looks even more like Cair Paravel from this angle (June 29, 2008)

And the five most-recently accessed posts on this blog -- like while I was typing that sentence -- are:

1. Fast away the old year passes, fa ra ra ra ra, etc. (Dec. 27, 2011)
2. Guillermo y Catalina (July 22, 2013)
3. Great job, T.J.! (July 4, 2008)
4. And they said it wouldn't last (Sept. 25, 2008)
5. From the archives (April 10, 2008) (July 3, 2013)

It seems to me that there is absolutely no rhyme nor reason to what readers of blogs are looking for.

But Carol and anyone else who wants to, knock yourselves out pouring through the links in this post!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Déjà vu

(from the French, literally “already seen,” the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been experienced in the past.)

If ever you are in the hospital because you have been passing clots of blood profusely out through your rectum, so many and so often that you think you might be about to die from what is called “bleeding out,” and if after several days you slowly begin to recover to the point that the doctors can move you from a clear liquid diet to a bland diet and eventually to a high-fiber diet, pray with all your might, even if you are an atheist, that the last meal the kitchen brings you prior to your being discharged will not include a bowl containing black cherry gelatin with blueberries in it.

I’m just sayin’....

I do not think we will be speaking more about my hospital stay. I have heard, though, that it is common for people who have had problems with their innards to give their visitors an organ recital.

Just to keep the record intact, here’s one for you (2:22).

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My new Best Friends Forever

...in no particular order, are:

* Nurses Eva (from Jamaica) and Vickie and Joy (from the Philippines) and Penny (from Kenya) and Matt;

* Nursing Techs Lillian (from Kenya, Luo tribe), Cleo (from Kenya, Kikuyu tribe), Juliet (from Bangladesh), and Jamie;

* Lab Techs Vincent and Jamie (a different one) and Lindsey and Pam and Melissa (about to be a grandmother for the first time -- twins, a boy and a girl);

* The whole crew in the GI lab including two Nicoles and two anesthesiologists (Doctors H. and B.) and a few others I didn’t have time to get to know;

* Doctors K. and H. and M. and another Dr. K. (from India) and his physician’s assistant Dennis;

* All the volunteers who wheeled me around.

I’m sure I have left out some names.

I knew I was going to have a grand adventure the first night I arrived when I was greeted with the following board on the wall of my room:

I am not even kidding. That is an unretouched, non-photoshopped, original photograph.


My nurse was Thelma and my tech was Louise.

I decided not to give them my car keys.

Thelma didn’t need car keys as she was a trip all by herself. Seventy-two years old and come out of retirement to do some more nursing two nights a week. Wife of a retired Wesleyan Methodist minister. Sharper than a tack.

I went to the Emergency Room at noon on Sunday, Sep. 22, was admitted a few hours later, and was discharged in mid-afternoon on Saturday, Sep 28. I had lost a lot of blood before I was admitted and more afterward. I had an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, and a CT angiogram; and I received two units of blood while there. The diagnosis was gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), duodenitis (inflammation of the duodenum or small intestine), diverticulosis (not -itis, but -osis) in the lower intestine.

I also have anemia temporarily while my hemoglobin levels return, it is hoped, to normal (the hemoglobin should be 14 and mine is 8.7).

They say I will be fine; I just have to stop having so much fun.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

So two cannibals are talking to each other...

...and one of them says, “I hate my mother-in-law,” and the other one says, “Then just eat rice.”

*pa-dum-pum* (rim shot on the snare drum)

I have not had access to a computer for nearly a week. The reason will be revealed before you finish reading this post.

But thank you for being concerned enough about me to wonder in the comments section of the preceding post where I was.

Where was I?

I’ll tell you where I was.

Since noon last Sunday until a couple of hours ago I have been in the hospital/in hospital/at hospital (pick your favorite).

*collective gasp or bored yawning, as the case may be*

More to come.

(P.S. -- I began blogging six years ago today.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Oh, be careful, little ears, what you hear

Blogger tells me I have 1260 posts and 126 followers. My quickly-disappearing mathematics skills are still intact enough to be able to determine that this blog has -- let’s see, divide by 5, carry the 7 -- one follower for every ten posts.

I think the time has come for you to do some of the heavy lifting. Out of all 1260 posts at rhymeswithplague, tell me which 10 you would like to have associated with your own exalted self. I know, I know, this assignment will require you to do quite a bit of reading over the next few days, but my faith in you is complete.

And no fair picking the last 10 posts.

This should separate the sheep from the goats.

No, no, Blogger, I said “separate the sheep from the goats.”

Still not right.

Readers, Blogger is having a problem with her hearing, so I don’t think I would be able to trust anything she tells me about your choices.

I'm just going to have to cancel the assignment.

Friday, September 20, 2013

If you have something in the middle of a whole lot of nothing, what have you got?

I want to talk today about French Polynesia.

It has a flag* and everything:

...and according to wikipedia, some important atolls, islands, and island groups in French Polynesia are Ahē, Bora Bora, Hiva ’Oa, Huahine, Mai’ao, Maupiti, Meheti’a, Mo’orea, Nuku Hiva, Raiatea, Taha’a, Tahiti, Tetiaroa, Tupua’i, and Tūpai.

I kid you not.

Island paradises all, probably.

The capital of French Polynesia is Papeetē on the island of Tahiti, but the largest city, according to wikipedia, is Fa’a’a....

Say what?



Then why have I, the legendary rhymeswithplague, never heard of it?

Chalk it up to a faulty education, I suppose.

Clicking on Fa’a’a in that wikipedia article took me to another article entitled Faaa.

Faaa, without the accompanying apostrophes.

The mind, it reels.

And asks continually, why? Why? WHY?

But no explanation is ever forthcoming.

I am interested in history and exploration, and the following paragraph was my favorite part of the article:

“European communication began in 1521 when the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, sailing in the service of the Spanish Crown, sighted Puka-Puka in the Tuāmotu-Gambier Archipelago. Dutchman Jakob Roggeveen came across Bora Bora in the Society Islands in 1722, and the British explorer Samuel Wallis visited Tahiti in 1767. The French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville visited Tahiti in 1768, while the British explorer James Cook visited in 1769. In 1772 The Spanish Viceroy of Peru Don Manuel de Amat ordered a number of expeditions to Tahiti under the command of Domingo de Bonechea who was the first European to explore all of the main islands beyond Tahiti. A short-lived Spanish settlement was created in 1774. Some maps still bear the name Isla de Amat for Tahiti, which was named after Viceroy Amat in the 18th century. Christian missions began with Spanish priests who stayed in Tahiti for a year. Protestants from the London Missionary Society settled permanently in Polynesia in 1797.”

Unless it was this photograph of the building that houses the seat of government, the Assemblée de la Polynésie française or, as the islanders call it, Te âpoora’a rahi o te fenua Māòhi:

(2007 image by veromortillet used in accordance with GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

Hey, except for the sign out front it could be an A-frame in Sevierville, Tennessee:

(2007 image by Brian Stansberry used in accordance with GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

But it isn’t.

No, French Polynesia boasts scenes like this:

(2007 image by PHG under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

...and this:

(2006 photo by Scott Williams used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

...and this:

(2005 image used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

They sure beat mowing the lawn on a hot afternoon.

Ah, French Polynesia, the land of James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific; the land (though not exactly) of French planter Emile De Becque (as portrayed by Ezio Pinza) singing “Some Enchanted Evening” to U.S. Navy Nurse Ensign Nellie Forbush (as portrayed by Mary Martin) ; the place called home by the likes of painter Paul Gauguin, Tarita Teriipia (third wife of actor Marlon Brando), Cheyenne Brando (daughter of Marlon and Tarita), Tuki Brando (Cheyenne’s son, a model who is “currently the face of Versace menswear” according to wikipedia), and writer Robert Louis Stevenson.

But perhaps you are a winter person, a lover of ice and snow, bobsledding, skiing, one-horse open sleighs. For you we will now all link arms and join in a round of a grand old wintertime song:

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa’a’a Fa’a’a Fa’a’a!
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa’a’a Fa’a’a Fa’a’a!

So, I ask again: If you have something in the middle of a whole lot of nothing, what have you got?

Possible answers:

A. French Polynesia
B. Another fascinating post from rhymeswithplague.

The correct answer is B.

*This post was inspired yesterday afternoon when I found the flag of French Polynesia in that little Feedjit Live Traffic Feed thingy over in the sidebar after someone from Mahina (the third largest city in French Polynesia after -- class? -- Fa’a’a and Papeetē) visited my blog. That flag became the 163rd flag in my little collection of flags of the nations of the world that have visited my blog.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Anybody who likes The Eagles is okay by me

There is a news item out of Charlotte, North Carolina, today about
a woman who stabbed her roommate because he wouldn’t stop listening to music by The Eagles.

Shame, shame on her.

I like The Eagles.

Very much.

I think everybody should listen to The Eagles.

Therefore, the rest of this post will feature music by The Eagles.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

* "Hotel California" (6:28)

* "You Can’t Hide Your Lyin’ Eyes" (6:25)

There’s lots more, of course, but I think that thirteen minutes of The Eagles should be enough to get you hooked for good.

If you have a roommate, though, hide all the knives.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It’s all downhill from here

And so the long descent begins.

Having reached the heights, there is no place to go but down.

Having conquered the peaks, nothing but valleys remain.

Sara Teasdale said it better than I can, but from a woman’s perspective:

by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

I must have passed the crest a while ago
And now I am going down--
Strange to have crossed the crest and not to know,
But the brambles were always catching the hem of my gown.

All the morning I thought how proud I should be
To stand there straight as a queen,
Wrapped in the wind and the sun with the world under me--
But the air was dull, there was little I could have seen.

It was nearly level along the beaten track
And the brambles caught in my gown--
But it’s no use now to think of turning back,
The rest of the way will be only going down.

Every year, as summer begins to wane and an early autumn coolness fills the mornings, a strange thing occurs. Instead of becoming invigorated, I become melancholy. Wistful. Lonely. No, not lonely exactly, because I do have a wife and children and grandchildren.
I don’t know the right word to use to describe my state at this time of year, but when the leaves begin to fall, it happens like clockwork.

Sooner or later I remember, and then it makes sense.

My mother died on the 4th of October, many years ago.

Once I can identify the reason for the feeling, I manage to get on with my life. But until then, I like to read Sara Teasdale.

If this post makes any sense at all, it’s not my fault.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away

Some of my longtime readers may remember the time a couple of years ago when I suspected my hearing might be going because I thought my wife had asked me to get her a “a Q-tip” when what she had really said was “a few chips.”

Well, something similar happened this morning after all this time of doing so well in the auditory department. While looking at Facebook, Mrs. RWP suddenly turned and asked me the oddest question: “Why did the cow buy Dr. Dobson?”

Now I like riddles as much as the next person, but that one made no sense, no sense at all. “What?” I said.

“Why did the cow buy Dr. Dobson?” repeated my wife of, lo, these many years.

(Photo by Daniel Schwen, July 2007. Used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

(Photo by Focus on the Family, November 2007. Used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

My mind was reeling with the possibilities. Not.

“I have no idea,” I said. “Why?”

My wife said, “Because he wanted to get a long little doggie.”

I immediately recognized the punch line of an old joke that I probably read in Boys’ Life magazine when I was nine years old, and my brain -- remarkably agile for its age -- also knew at once that Mrs. RWP had not asked, “Why did the cow buy Dr. Dobson?”

She had asked, “Why did the cowboy get a Dachshund?”

(Photo by Igor Bredikhin, 2006. Used in accordance with GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

Of course! Because he wanted to get a long little doggie! It all suddenly made sense.

My brain also figured out that I probably need to call the Roto-rooter man to come and clean out my ears. Except that it’s probably too late for the Roto-rooter man.

For those of you in other parts of the world who do not understand the joke, the following may help. Cowboys in the American west called (and still call) calves “dogies”; there is even a song from the old cattle drive days called “Whoopee Ti-Yi-Yo, Git Along, Little Dogies” that was recorded by the likes of Roy Rogers, Marty Robbins, and even Walt Disney’s Goofy.

Click here if you think I am lying to you (2:01).

By mentioning Goofy, I bring this post back around to myself.

Have a pleasant day.

Oh, yes, and one other thing...

As the railroad signs used to say, stop, look, and LISTEN.

P.S. -- If you can think of a good answer to the question “Why did the cow buy Dr. Dobson?” I would love to hear it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Courtroom horror

I don’t want to turn into Johnny One-Note here -- this is not, after all, an anti-abortion website -- but in the comments section of my post “Putting a comma where it doesn’t belong is not some life-ending tragedy” (September 11) , a reader in San Diego who calls herself LightExpectations left a link to a column by a woman named Andrée Seu Peterson that I wanted to give all of you the opportunity to read. Hence, my post today.

Ms. Peterson wrote the piece back in April of this year during the murder trial of Doctor Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia -- admittedly old news now -- but some things are never old news. Some things are as current as the air you breathe (no pun intended).

It’s not easy reading, but here’s “Courtroom Horror” by Andrée Seu Peterson. As the column’s subtitle says, “The shocking part of the Kermit Gosnell trial isn’t only what’s illegal.” Ms. Peterson manages to write in an engaging and even whimsical style about a thoroughly non-whimsical subject.

If you really like to read about horror and gore, though, turn to Wikipedia’s article on Kermit Gosnell.

It will keep you up at night.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Into each life some rain must fall

My cyberfriend David Barlow of Ephraim, Utah, -- Putz to you -- had a scary experience on Labor Day weekend when several members of his family went hiking in Little Wild Horse slot canyon.

Slot canyons can be dangerous places, especially when rains cause sudden severe flooding, because there’s no way to escape the water. For example, in Antelope Canyon, Arizona, eleven tourists were killed in 1997 by a flash flood; and in 2008 a couple drowned in Utah despite wearing wet suits.

When Putz’s family were caught in a flash flood in Little Wild Horse slot canyon on Labor Day weekend, they lived to tell about it.

Here are Putz’s own words from his blog, in his own inimitable style:

“my family went on the memorial day [sic] holiday to wild horse slot canyon in goblin valley utah>><>me, my wife karma, tony and his wife, and their kids braydo. owie and hannah with 2 h’s to n’s and two a’s and dan on whos blog you will find all the pictures of this horrific event <><>it was an eight mile hike><>i made it to the beginning of the slot canyons 3 miles and decided to wait>><>well i was happy to talk to all going up and asked all where they traveled from>><>well we had barely fifteen minutes of light rain, so i went and stood in the wash to escape the wetness and i hear this loud noise<><>i had no idea what it was <><>><>was this comming from the center of the earth?? no<><>as i backed away the water 6 feet tall came through the rock so i stepped out of the wash and watched a river being created<><>the two nice single girls asked where my party was><<>I HAD NO IDEA,.,.they decided to wait with me until i knew for sure the fate of my party<><>offered me a beer to calm my nerves ><><>well they tried to talk about trivial things because they were sure i had just LOST my wife in a slot canyon drowning accident<><>4 hours later my party plus two extra children appeared, a four year old and a 6 year old being caarried out by my son and my daughter in law and thre grand kids walking on their own appeared and recounted the stories of having water splash down in gummlets, i mean gimlets and filling up the slot canyon as they ran in the two feet of water screaming to the end with water increasing as they ran<><>i found out that the two kids who were extra were giving their parents a break {one of them had the hand of her father, but he lost the grip when he himself fell in the torrents<>><><>in fact all said they never had so much fun in their life<><>i wonder why danger is also fun< but they said it was,.,.I ACTUALLY HAD FUN ALSO TALKING TO EVERYONE , about 40 people going up and back about their adventures and helping them over the slick rocks.,>”

Here is a post from Putz’s son Daniel’s blog that includes several still photographs and a seven-minute video of Putz’s sons and grandsons sloshing through the canyon and escaping with their lives (7:34).

A few days later, when it had time to sink in, Putz posted again:

“1--//////////////'''SURVIVED________________________________________________________________________________________________A LOST SLOT CANYON FLASH FLOOD________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________MY SIXTY NINE YEAR OLD WIFE SURVIVED A WILD HORSE SLOT CANYON FLASH FLOOD------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------MY 10 YEAR OLD GRANDSON SURVIVED A RAIN INDUCED FLASH FLOOD___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________my SEVEN YEAR OLD GRANDAUGHTTER AND HER MOTHER FOUGHT THE ELEMENTS IN A WILD HORSE SLOT FLOOD FLASH_____________________________________________________________________________________________________MY OLD 30"S AND 40" BOYS SURVIVED GALENTLEY A SLOT CANYON FLASH FLOOD____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________we are all living to tell about it”

What a grand re-entry into blogworld Putz has had after an absence of several months! Scary, yes, but grand nonetheless.

Just reading Putz (admittedly an acquired taste) is a grand adventure in itself. I’m glad he's back, and especially that all of his family are safe.

<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...