Friday, May 31, 2013

Life is full of shocks, but some shocks are more shocking than others

In 1948, when I was seven, our family’s little red Dodge pickup rolled into Mansfield, Texas (Pop. 774), for the very first time. We stayed for ten years. The most prominent building in town, just past the one-block-long business district that sported a traffic signal at both ends, was a structure known as Memorial Hall. It was a six- or eight-sided auditorium whose roof rose to a single-peak, very much in the Chatauqua style of an earlier era.

As far as I knew, Memorial Hall had been there forever. Later I learned that it had replaced the original building on the site -- a three-story, steam-powered, brick grist mill that had been built around 1859 by Ralph S. Man and Julian Feild. The community that grew up around Man’s and Feild’s Mill became Mansfield (people don’t quibble about changes in spelling out where the deer and the antelope play) and the rest is, well, history. There was no Mansfield Historical Society in those days, so the mill was torn down in the name of progress without so much as a by-your-leave or a bronze marker to commemorate the town’s beginnings. The name of the new structure -- Memorial Hall -- sufficed.

Here is an old photograph of the mill the town’s founders built:

And here is the Memorial Hall that replaced it:

In 1956, when I was 15, the Memorial Hall was torn down and replaced by still another structure, the brand-new Mansfield Municipal Building. At its dedication, I played the piano and my picture appeared in the local newspaper. If that sounds vaguely familiar, the reason may be that I posted about it here.

This week, an old friend (Fred Stone, MHS class of 1959) sent me a copy of the latest issue of the Mansfield News-Mirror (Volume 127, Number 20, May 15, 2013). It contained a shocker for yours truly.

The Mansfield Municipal Building, scene of my show-biz debut in 1956, has been torn down. It’s gone, disappeared, kaput. Under a front-page photograph of a pile of rubble was this caption:
“A backhoe sorts through the rubble of the Station House on Friday morning. The former City Hall, library and police department was built in the 1950s but had not been used for several years. The city sold the building to Monty and Kim Slawson, who plan to build a Mellow Mushroom restaurant.”

The accompanying article, “Making way for change: Station House Demolition,” read as follows: “A chunk of Mansfield history quickly turned into a pile of rubble Friday morning as a backhoe demolished the Station House, which had once served as City Hall, the library, police department and jail.

“Built in 1956, the building had been vacant for several years until it was bought by Monty and Kim Slawson of Mansfield, who plan to build a Mellow Mushroom restaurant at the busy southeast corner of East Broad and Main streets. Demolition of the Station House is the first phase of construction, Kim Slawson said.”

And then, almost as an afterthought:

“The area was the original site of the Man and Feild mill, owned by Ralph Man and Julian Feild, the founders of Mansfield.”

My life has come full circle. It has lasted long enough to witness the rise and fall, the ascent and demise, the birth and death of a major public building in my home town. These days Mansfield finally has a Historical Society, but who cares about preserving history when there is money to be made from selling pizzas?

Nobody, that’s who. I do hope some sort of historical marker will eventually be erected at that corner, but I’m not holding my breath.

It’s a little sad to realize that a building for whose dedication I provided music when I was 15 years old has been torn down as old and useless in my 72nd year. The article said it “had been vacant for several years.” I’m sure some people probably think the same thing about me.

In Atlanta, where I’ve lived since the mid-1970s, people got together and raised several million dollars to save and restore the Fabulous Fox Theater. It’s too late to save the Man and Feild grist mill, the old Memorial Hall, or the Mansfield Municipal building that served as City Hall, library, police department and jail. I wonder how many years will pass before someone decides something in Mansfield (estimated 2012 population: 59,831) is important enough to save. When that happens, I just hope it doesn’t turn out to be Monty and Kim Slawson’s pizza joint.

P.S. -- I know I’m being a little rough on the people of Mansfield. After all, the one-block-long business district is still intact. One of the buildings now houses the Mansfield Historical Society. And there may actually be a bronze marker on that corner now. I'm not really sure; I haven’t been back in a long time. I was just responding with my gut reaction to the news article Fred sent. I just wish that the Man & Feild grist mill was still there, or the Memorial Hall, or even the Municipal Building. But tear them all down so that Mansfield’s teens of tomorrow (projected 2017 population: 70,019) can eat pizza at a Mellow Mushroom? In my feeble mind, it does not compute.

Of course, we all know that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.

Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

And the winner of the Mystery Couple puzzler is...

Yesterday I posted this photo:

...and asked you two questions:

Who are they? And why did I put them on my blog?

We had hundreds dozens several four entrants.

And the winner (cue trumpet fanfare) is:

Not Mary Z who said, “Vernon and Irene Castle? Arthur Murray and wife?” because even though one of her two guesses is correct she didn’t address the “Why?” part of my puzzler. I did inform Mary Z. that Arthur Murray’s wife’s name was Katherine.

Not Hilltophomesteader who said, “Ah, you and Mrs. RWP look so utterly charming, gliding and swaying together as cheek to cheek you dance to the music in your hearts on your recent anniversary. My but you make a lovely couple! No wonder you’ve been married all these years - cemented together by such a great love....(You said ‘the best answer’...not necessarily the ‘correct’ answer, yes?)” because even though she obviously knows how to butter up a judge she didn’t really address the “Who?” part of my puzzler. Hilltop was definitely a contender, though, unlike this person.

Not Shooting Parrots who said, “The chap looks like David Niven, but Tin Eye tells me it is indeed Vernon and Irene Castle.” not only because he didn’t address the “Why?” part of my puzzler but also because he used Tin Eye when the rules clearly stated “No fair cheating by using the intricacies of modern technology to find out. Either you know the answer or you don’t.” Shame on you, Shooting Parrots.

Not Yorkshire Pudding, film pioneer, who said, “I know virtually nothing about dancing but I would say that that is a picture of Vernon and Irene Castle. My suggestion as to why they are in your blog is because you and your lady Ellie have decided to change your names to Vernon and Irene. Vernon Brague has a sophisticated ring to it - unlike the common sound of ‘Bob’ Brague. Janitor? Trucker? Once renamed you will waltz through the streets of Canton like Ginger and Fred (another unsophisticated name).” which, though it is rather the opposite of buttering up the judge, was the only one of the four entries that really addressed both parts of my puzzler. I replied to Pudding thusly: “Vernon and Irene Brague doesn’t carry near the sophistication of, say, Nigel and Penelope Brague or even Clive and Pamela Brague. But as one should be grateful for what one has been given, we have no plans to change our names.”

But as we must have a winner, a winner we shall have.

The winner, the only entrant who answered both parts of my puzzler, is none other than Lord Yorkshire Pudding of Pudding Towers, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. He was wrong, however, as to the reason I posted the photo of Vernon and Irene Castle.

Receiving honorable/honourable mention and the Creative Writing bouquet of virtual daisies is the one and only Ms. Hilltophomesteader of Somewhere In The Western Portion Of The State Of Washington, Sixty Miles From The Coast.

The other entrants are urged to continue honing their problem-solving skills and to continue entering future contests, reading the rules very carefully. If at first one doesn’t succeed, one should try, try again.

You may remember that the prize was a year’s supply free.

Of what?

Why, happy thoughts, of course.

I have changed my mind -- I hereby declare everyone officially a winner, and here are five happy thoughts from a blogger named Gary to start you off. I’m afraid you’ll have to find the rest yourself. I lied.

I thought the second half of my puzzler -- why did I put a photograph of Vernon and Irene Castle on my blog? -- would have been obvious to regular readers of this blog who ought to know by now are constantly amazed at apparently have no clue about how my mind works.

It seemed the only logical thing to do -- it followed as the night the day -- after I showed you my poem, “The Rather Odd Story Of Iris McGee” which begins:

In a house at the edge of a deep, dark wood,
Near the place where Irene’s castle once stood,...

Well, it seemed obvious to me.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mystery couple

I have two questions for you:

Who are they? And why did I put them on my blog?

No fair cheating by using the intricacies of modern technology to find out. Either you know the answer or you don’t.

The person with the best answer will receive a year’s supply free.

A year’s supply of what is for me to know and for you to find out.

I will also be the sole determiner of how much constitutes a year’s supply.

Consider yourself warned.

On your mark, get set, go.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The miracle worker and the miracle herself

In just a few days, it will have been 45 years since Helen Keller died. Born on June 27, 1880, she became both blind and deaf before the age of two. Her early childhood is well known thanks to the play The Miracle Worker and the several films that were made based on it. Miss Keller died on June 1, 1968, not quite four weeks before her 88th birthday.

Helen Keller had a wonderful friend and teacher named Anne Sullivan.

Here, in rare newsreel footage from 1930, Anne Sullivan explains, well, you'll see (2:58)....

After Anne Sullivan died in 1936, Polly Thompson became Helen Keller’s teacher and interpreter to the world. Here they are together in later years (3:06).

Helen Keller was a great inspiration to many, many people and remains so to this day. Those to whom she is not should be ashamed of themselves.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Showing you that poem about Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout yesterday made me think of... old poem of mine that never saw the light of day. It has been in a drawer for a very long time, by which I mean since the 1990s. I’m not even sure it is finished. For better or worse, here it is:

The Rather Odd Story Of Iris McGee
by Robert Henry Brague

In a house at the edge of a deep, dark wood,
Near the place where Irene’s castle once stood,
There lived a young woman named Iris McGee.
She washed clothes on Mondays from seven to three;
On Tuesdays she ironed, then opened her mail;
On Wednesdays she waxed all the floors without fail;
On Thursdays she dusted and made up her bed;
On Fridays she painted the living room red;

On Saturdays, wearing a white wedding gown,
She drove a green tractor six miles into town,
Ate lunch at the deli and bought some new shoes,
Attended a concert, and paid union dues,
And waved at the townfolk, who thought her quite odd.
On Sundays that rained, she would think about God.
On Sundays with sun, she would sleep until eight,
Then go to her garden and swing on the gate;

She’d talk to the squirrels and prune a few trees,
For these were traditions among the McGees.
Now Iris, not one to break with tradition,
Was the twelfth in her family to hold the position
Of “Ringer of Bells and Singer of Blues”
At the church two blocks east of the place she bought shoes.
She loved ringing bells, but the blues made her cry,
So she thought and she thought till she thought she knew why:

The bells gave her joy but the blues made her sad;
The blues made her cry but the bells made her glad!
So one Sunday, early, she told them the news:
She’d gladly play bells, but she’d sing no more blues.
It caused a great stir when the church heard about it,
But she said, “Sing the blues? I most seriously doubt it!
I can’t sing sad songs when my joy is so full!
I’m off to the belfry the bell ropes to pull!”

She climbed up the staircase and started to play,
And the townfolk said, “Iris is happy today!”
They started to hum and they started to smile,
And at the bus station they stood single file
With never a murmur at having to wait
For a bus that was always a half-hour late
(It took them to jobs in the next county over
Where they packed jars of honey from local-grown clover),

And even the corner policeman was singing,
For Iris McGee was again at her ringing.
For Iris had told them, “This day you must choose.”
And never again did the townfolk hear blues.
She rang all the bells till no more could be found;
She rang them each day until joy did abound,
And the townfolk, with laughter and joy their hearts brimming,
Left off riding buses and took up team swimming.

The moral of this poem might be “It is possible to have too much of a good thing.”

Or it might be “My mama done tol’ me, when I was in knee-pants, My mama done tol’ me, Son, a woman’ll sweet talk and give ya the big eye, but when the sweet talkin’s done, a woman’s a two-face, a worrisome thing who’ll leave ya to sing the blues in the night.” (Don’t send your complaints to me, send them to Johnny Mercer.)

Or the moral of this poem might be “Never try to make sense when you can leave your readers thoroughly confused.”

For a complete change of pace, read this.

Or perhaps you’d prefer to stare at a swatch of Yves Klein blue for a while.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout

...famously would not take the garbage out.

I know it’s hard to believe, but I was unaware of this fact/poem/ song/whatever it is until Shooting Parrots created a post today about its author, Shel Silverstein.

As my good deed for the day, I decided to share both the poem and Shooting Parrot’s post with you.

In addition, here are two cartoons from one of Shel Silverstein’s books, Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book (if you need to, click on each cartoon to enlarge it):

To see a picture of Mr. Silverstein and learn a bit more about him, click here.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Nobody ever ’splained it to me before...

Here is a clever summarization that I found on Facebook of the news briefings by Jay Carney, press secretary to President Obama, during the last two or three weeks:

Apparently President Truman was wrong all those decades ago. Apparently the buck doesn’t stop here.

Or perhaps during this very interesting month of Benghazi-gate, IRS-gate, and Associated Press telephone records-gate, Jay Carney should have changed his name to Jay Blarney.

I rarely believe anything Jay Carney or President Obama says any more. If the president didn’t know, he certainly should have known. It reminds me of a scene from the movie Cool Hand Luke:

What we have here, allegedly, is “a fail-yuh to communicate.”

If some people had their way, the two photographs in this post would be interchangeable.

And if the president truly didn’t know, this country is in far worse condition than I thought.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

This year Mother’s Day and my father’s birthday fell on the same day

My father was born on May 12, 1906. Last Sunday -- May 12, 2013 -- was Mother’s Day in the United States. Dad would be 107 years old now if he hadn’t died at the age of 61 in 1967.

My father was older than Mother’s Day. Wikipedia says that the modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia. She then began a campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States. Although she was successful in 1914, she was already disappointed with its commercialization by the 1920s.

That Wikipedia article also includes these fascinating bits of information:

“As the American holiday was adopted by other countries and cultures, the date was changed to fit already existing celebrations honoring motherhood, such as Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom or, in Greece, the Orthodox celebration of the presentation of Jesus Christ to the temple (February 2nd). Mothering Sunday is often referred to as “Mother’s Day” even though it is an unrelated celebration.

“In some countries the date was changed to a date that was significant to the majority religion, such as Virgin Mary Day in Catholic countries. Other countries selected a date with historical significance. For example, Bolivia’s Mother’s Day is the date of a battle in which women participated.

“Ex-communist countries usually celebrated the socialist International Women’s Day instead of the more capitalist Mother’s Day. Some ex-communist countries, such as Russia, still follow this custom or simply celebrate both holidays, which is the custom in Ukraine.”

There now, wasn’t that, er, fascinating?

But I was speaking about my father.

Dad was the youngest of five boys, which probably drove him a little crazy, which probably played a part in driving me a little crazy too. His father’s name was Elmer Ellsworth, which didn't help. His mother’s name was Edith Lillian; Elmer called her Lil. The boys were Arthur Everett (Art), John Henry (John), Leo Ellsworth (Leo), Daniel Eugene (Dan), and my father, who was Clifford Ray but was called Ted, which didn’t help either. In his younger days he was known as Ray Clifford, which also was undoubtedly a contributing factor.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a little crazy.

I recommend it.

Grandpa Elmer was born in 1866 in Pennsylvania and died in 1949 in Iowa at the age of 82, just before my eighth birthday. I had never met him but I remember being very upset, crying buckets of tears that he had died before we ever had the chance to meet.

Grandma Lil was born in 1877 in Minnesota and died in 1938 in Iowa at the age of 61, three years before I was born. I never met her either, but I never cried buckets of tears for her. Go figure.

It strikes me now for the first time that my father and his mother both died at 61 years of age, which I had never noticed before.

As none of this is probably of any interest to anyone but me, I will stop now.

After all, I promised at the top of my blog to do my best not to bore you, and I always keep my promises.

My mother was not from Bolivia, but her battle began the day she married Dad and didn’t end until the day she died.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Quote of the day (and maybe week/month/year)

My thanks go out to bloggers David and Nancy French for the following morsel from 23-year-old Survivor contestant Eddie, describing what he’d do with the money if he won the $1 million prize:

“If I do win the million dollar prize I want to open, like, a dog kinda like shelter kennel playpen area, like attached to a bar. Like, those are my two favorite things. I like dogs and I like bars, so if I can open a bar, and, like, you just bring your dog there, that would be unbelievable.”

Readers, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

To see a picture of Eddie, click here. The scary part is that Eddie looks normal.

This just in: Eddie didn’t win.

Monday, May 13, 2013

No fairy tale, this

Once upon a time there was a Mommy and a Daddy who had two little girls in quick succession and another child on the way. Shortly after a third little girl was born, the Mommy had a little talk with the Daddy that resulted in the Daddy’s paying a visit to his doctor’s office for a little snip-snip-snipping that was designed to make a vas deferens, er, vast difference in the Mommy’s and Daddy’s need for any future family planning counseling.

Unfortunately, the Daddy did not heed the nice doctor’s advice to refrain from his favorite activity (the Daddy’s, not the doctor’s, although it might also have been the doctor’s, albeit with a different Mommy) for at least six weeks.

Lo (and behold), much to her surprise, the Mommy found herself once again with child. So much for the efficacy of modern medicine, especially when Daddies disregard what their doctors tell them.

The fourth child, born 11 months after the third daughter’s entry into the world and 10 months after the Daddy’s visit to his doctor’s office, turned out to be a little boy. Before the crown prince joined the three little princesses, the Daddy paid another visit to his doctor’s office for another round of snip-snip-snipping, which this time proved successful. There were no more crown princes or princesses.

Sixteen, seventeen years passed.

The crown prince, the pride and joy of his Mommy and Daddy (especially his Daddy, whose virility/lack of self-control was legend among the family’s circle of friends), announced that he was gay. The Mommy and Daddy and all three of the princesses were very sad. The Mommy in particular flat out refused to believe it.

Ten or twelve more years passed, bringing us up to the present day.

This particular family is real, not fictional, and well-known to your correspondent. The eldest daughter has always been a very quiet person, but the other five members of the family have an opinion on anything and everything and have never shown the slightest reluctance to share it with one and all. Only the delicate story I shared with you at the beginning prevents me from saying that this family, by and large, lets it all hang out. Yes, they do. On Facebook even. Especially on Facebook.

A few days ago, the crown prince (I’ll him “Ethan Smith”) posted on his own wall a comment that he had written on someone else’s wall in response to that person’s ‘retracting his homosexuality’ and joining a group called “Black Hebrew Israelites.” Ethan had written, “You can deceive yourself all you would like about your sexual orientation, that is your prerogative, but you cannot change the reality of it. I personally find it sad that you’ve joined a truly interesting group to follow and now have to alter your state of being just to find self-worth. But I digress. To each his own; just don’t preach this bogus religious scapegoat as a means to degrade the LGBT community.” Ethan then said he would appreciate the support if readers agreed with his comment.

Several people responded, among them Ethan’s mother (I’ll call her “Mary Lou Smith”). She said, “People can change. Some people choose the lifestyle and they can choose not to be in that lifestyle.”

Ethan replied, “Being homosexual is not a choice. If someone ‘decides’ to be any sexuality other than how they feel is deceitful to not only themselves but to everyone around them.”

Mary Lou replied, “I don’t agree...I know people that have been gay and then been straight or vice versa; they are bisexual but decide to go one way...not all homosexuals are the same...”

Ethan then said, “I think you really need to have a better comprehension on what constitutes a sexuality.”

I couldn’t help thinking that this conversation should have been held in the privacy of their own home and how downright sad it was that they were having it on Facebook.

At this point, someone else (I’ll call her “Barbara”) joined the conversation and said, “I have never known anyone who has changed their sexuality and have found peace and happiness.”

Ethan replied, “Me neither, Barbara. That’s why certain states have even gone so far as to ban ‘conversion therapy’ because it’s wrong and incomprehensibly destructive.”

Another person (I’ll call him “Derek”) then wrote the following lengthy comment:

“Mrs. Smith, hopefully you can lend me a hand to better understand the bible. You’ve made it clear that you are so knowledgeable when it comes to homosexuality so I’m sure you have plenty of knowledge in so many other aspects of Leviticus as well. Because of you, when someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/ polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev.24:10-16)? Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20:14)?

Thank you for serving to remind us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging. I look forward to your responses to these questions that I have been seeking answers to.”


The last time I checked, Ethan’s mother, Mary Lou, had not rejoined the conversation.

As a conservative Christian, I firmly believe that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) but also that we must learn how to rightly divide the word of truth (Second Timothy 2:15). We should study to understand to whom something was written, and by whom, and when, and where, and why. Could it be possible that some things are intended only for a particular people at a particular time in history, and other things are intended for all people at all times in history? What a concept! The trick, I think -- perhaps challenge is a better word -- lies in knowing which are which. I can’t help thinking that Derek and Ethan may know some things that Ethan’s mother needs to learn, and that Ethan’s mother may know some things that Derek and Ethan need to learn.

Moral: As this is not one of Aesop’s fables, there is no moral. Also, as this is not a fairy tale, there is no “and they all lived happily ever after” either. Not yet, anyway.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Boys and girls, if you’ve seen this before...’re about to see it again. If you haven’t seen it before, you actually may learn something useful.

Apparently the words “Made in [wherever]” on clothing tags or on packaged items can be downright misleading. To determine where the things you buy were manufactured, all you need to do is check the first few digits of the numeric code that appears under the now-ubiquitous barcode symbol:

In some places this number is called an EAN and in other places it is called a UPC, so let’s check what Wikipedia has to say:

“An EAN-13 barcode (originally European Article Number, but now renamed International Article Number even though the abbreviation EAN has been retained) is a 13-digit (12 data and 1 check) barcoding standard which is a superset of the original 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC) system developed in the United States. (Note. UPC barcodes do not show the leading zero. A UPC barcode that starts with 7 would have a country code of 070 – 079.)”

Are all hearts and minds clear? Let us move on.

Here is the current list of country codes:

00 – 019: U.S. and Canada
020 – 029: Restricted distribution
030 – 039: U.S. drugs (see U.S. National Drug Code)
040 – 049: Restricted distribution (MO defined)
050 – 059: Coupons
060 – 099: U.S. and Canada
100 – 139: U.S.
200 – 299: Restricted distribution
300 – 379: France and Monaco
380: Bulgaria
383: Slovenia
385: Croatia
387: Bosnia and Herzegovina
389: Montenegro
400 – 440: Germany (440 code inherited from old East Germany on reunification, 1990)
450 – 459: Japan
460 – 469: Russia
470: Kyrgyzstan
471: Taiwan
474: Estonia
475: Latvia
476: Azerbaijan
477: Lithuania
478: Uzbekistan
479: Sri Lanka
480: Philippines
481: Belarus
482: Ukraine
484: Moldova
485: Armenia
486: Georgia
487: Kazakhstan
488: Tajikistan
489: Hong Kong SAR
490 – 499: Japan
500 – 509: United Kingdom
520 – 521: Greece
528: Lebanon
529: Cyprus
530: Albania
531: Macedonia
535: Malta
539: Ireland
540 – 549: Belgium and Luxembourg
560: Portugal
569: Iceland
570 – 579: Denmark, Faroe Islands and Greenland
590: Poland
594: Romania
599: Hungary
600 – 601: South Africa
603: Ghana
604: Senegal
608: Bahrain
609: Mauritius
611: Morocco
613: Algeria
615: Nigeria
616: Kenya
618: Côte d’Ivoire
619: Tunisia
621: Syria
622: Egypt
624: Libya
625: Jordan
626: Iran
627: Kuwait
628: Saudi Arabia
629: United Arab Emirates
640 – 649: Finland
690 – 695: China, The People’s Republic
700 – 709: Norway
729: Israel
730 – 739: Sweden : EAN/GS1 Sweden
740: Guatemala
741: El Salvador
742: Honduras
743: Nicaragua
744: Costa Rica
745: Panama
746: Dominican Republic
750: Mexico
754 – 755: Canada
759: Venezuela
760 – 769: Switzerland and Liechtenstein
770 – 771: Colombia
773: Uruguay
775: Peru
777: Bolivia
779: Argentina
780: Chile
784: Paraguay
785: Peru
786: Ecuador
789 – 790: Brazil
800 – 839: Italy, San Marino and Vatican City
840 – 849: Spain and Andorra
850: Cuba
858: Slovakia
859: Czech Republic
860: Serbia
865: Mongolia
867: North Korea
868 – 869: Turkey
870 – 879: Netherlands
880: South Korea
884: Cambodia
885: Thailand
888: Singapore
890: India
893: Vietnam
896: Pakistan
899: Indonesia
900 – 919: Austria
930 – 939: Australia
940 – 949: New Zealand
950: GS1 Global Office: Special applications
951: EPCglobal: Special applications
955: Malaysia
958: Macau
960 – 969: GS1 Global Office: GTIN-8 allocations
977: Serial publications (ISSN)
978 – 979: Bookland (ISBN) – 979 formerly used for sheet music
980: Refund receipts
981 – 983: Common Currency Coupons
990 – 999: Coupons

Boys and girls, be the first one in your school to collect them all.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

“Three square meals” is a first-world idiom and definitely not synonymous with “our daily bread”

On September 16, 2008 -- nearly five years ago -- I showed you the Lord’s Prayer in Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon, which was spoken in the British Isles from around 450 A.D. until around 1100:

Fæder úre, ðú ðe eart on heofonum,
Sí ðín nama gehálgod.
Tó becume ðín rice.
Gewurde ðín willa
On eorþan swá swá on heofonum.
Urne dægwhamlícan hlaf syle ús tódæg.
And forgyf ús úre gyltas,
Swá swá wé forgyfaþ úrum gyltendum.
And ne gelæd ðu ús on costnunge,
Ac álýs ús of yfele. Sóþlice.

Next I showed it to you in Middle English, the language of Chaucer, when some of the old Anglo-Saxon characters were still being used:

Oure fadir þat art in heuenes halwid be þi name;
þi reume or kyngdom come to be.
Be þi wille don in herþe as it is doun in heuene.
yeue to us today oure eche dayes bred.
And foryeue to us oure dettis þat is oure synnys as we foryeuen to oure dettouris þat is to men þat han synned in us.
And lede us not into temptacion but delyuere us from euyl.

Then I showed it to you in the English of the Wycliffe Bible published in 1390. The Anglo-Saxon characters had been replaced by the letters “th” but the “i” and “y” were still pretty much interchangeable, as were the “u” and “v”:

Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halewid be thi name; thi kyngdoom come to;
be thi wille don in erthe as in heuene;
yyue to vs this dai oure breed ouer othir substaunce;
and foryyue to vs oure dettis, as we foryyuen to oure dettouris;
and lede vs not in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel. Amen.

...and in the familiar English of the King James Version of 1611:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.

I ended my September 2008 post by saying that the miracle is that English has not changed all that much since 1611.

I was wrong. Here is what purports to be the Lord’s Prayer in something called The Message:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best — as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

Part of me wants to applaud, but part of me wants to throw up. Think of it! No “Hallowed be thy name” or “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” anywhere in sight. Certainly nothing about guilt or debts or trespasses. Furthermore, “three square meals” is a first-world idiom and definitely not synonymous with “our daily bread.”

Wikipedia calls The Message, which was created between 1993 and 2002 by a man named Eugene Peterson, “a contemporary rendering of the Holy Bible” and adds, “Though The Message is often considered a paraphrase, it is not explicitly; The Message was translated by Peterson from the original languages. Thus, it is a highly idiomatic translation, and as such falls on the extreme dynamic end of the dynamic and formal equivalence spectrum.”

All righty, then. Highly idiomatic. Extreme dynamic end of the whatchamacallit. Indeed.

I just don’t think I’m quite ready yet to drop “Give us this day our daily bread” or “Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory” and perhaps most especially, “Amen.” After all, there are several other contexts in which one might say, “Yes. Yes. Yes.” Other bloggers (Snowbrush and Yorkshire Pudding, perhaps) can fill you in on those scenarios.

In 2011, still another version of the Bible was published called the Common English Bible. In it, the Lord’s Prayer is certainly not King James English but neither is it the radical change of The Message :

Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
Give us the bread we need for today.
Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

Perhaps that is a good starting place for the modern reader.
Only time will tell. But I still miss the kingdom and the power and the glory and the Amen.

Language is always changing. If some reader finds this blog five hundred years from now, this entire post will probably seem like Anglo-Saxon.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Say what? (Q and A edition) with intermittent comments by your roving editor

[Someone sent me the following factoids in an e-mail message. They may or may not be true, but they certainly help to pass the time. I’ll let you do your own research. --RWP]

Q: Why do men’s clothes have buttons on the right but women’s clothes have buttons on the left?
A: When buttons were invented, they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Since most people are right-handed, it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left. [Easier than what? Comparisons that are unfinished simply won’t do. It’s rather like saying it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. --RWP] Because wealthy women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons on the maid’s right! And that’s where women’s buttons have remained since. [This does not explain why wealthy men were not also dressed by maids, a perfectly delightful idea if you ask me. --RWP]

Q: Why do ships and aircraft use ‘mayday’ as their call for help?
A: This comes from the French word m’aidez meaning ‘help me‘ ’ -- and is pronounced, approximately, ‘mayday.’ [This one is definitely true. We mentioned it the other day in our May Day post, which was published not on May 1 as you might expect but on April 30. Go figure. However, in New Zealand, m’aidez is pronounced, approximately, ‘meedee.’ --RWP]

Q: Why are zero scores in tennis called ‘love’?
A: In France, where tennis became popular, round zero on the scoreboard looked like an egg and was called l’oeuf (French for ‘egg’). When tennis was introduced in the U.S., Americans mispronounced it ‘love.’ [I may be wrong, but I think someone is pulling our collective legs. Still, there is the incontrovertible fact that zero is sometimes referred to as ‘goose egg.’ Also, it is indeed fortunate that France was where tennis became popular, because in Italy a round zero on the scoreboard looked like a pizza. --RWP]

Q: Why do Xs at the end of a letter signify kisses?
A: In the Middle Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfill obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous. [This does not explain why Os at the end of a letter signify hugs. Maybe it has something to do with either eggs or pizza. -- RWP]

Q: Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called ‘passing the buck’?
A: In card games, it was once customary to pass an item called a buck from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal. If a player did not wish to assume the responsibility of dealing, he would ‘pass the buck’ to the next player. [It would be all too easy here to make a comment involving the homonyms ‘doe’ and ‘dough’ so I will contain myself. --RWP]

Q: Why do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast?
A: It used to be common for someone to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink. [It is now common for someone to try to kill an enemy by constructing an improvised explosive device (I.E.D.) using a pressure cooker, some vaseline, and a few other ingredients. --RWP] To prove to a guest that a drink was safe, it became customary for a guest to pour a small amount of his drink into the glass of the host. Both men would drink it simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he would only touch or clink the host’s glass with his own. [Remember, the pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true. --RWP]

Q: Why is someone who is feeling great said to be ‘on cloud nine’?
A: Types of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud. If someone is on cloud nine, that person is floating well above worldly cares. [Who does the numbering? And why are there only nine types of clouds? Why not twenty-three? So many questions, so little time. --RWP]

Q: In golf, where did the term ‘caddie’ come from?
A: Mary, Queen of Scots, went to France as a young girl. When Louis, King of France, learned that she loved the Scots game called ‘golf’ he had the first course outside of Scotland built for her enjoyment. To make sure she was properly chaperoned (and guarded) while she played, Louis hired cadets from a military school to accompany her. Mary liked this a lot, and when she returned to Scotland (which turned out to be not a very good idea in the long run), she took the practice with her. In French, the word cadet is pronounced ‘ca-day’ and the Scots changed it into ‘caddie.’ [To this day, Mary, Queen of Scots, is referred to in some quarters as a ‘mulligan.’ Speaking of quarters... --RWP]

Q: Did you ever wonder why dimes, quarters and half dollars have notches (milling), while pennies and nickels do not?
A: The U.S. Mint began putting notches on the edges of coins containing gold and silver to discourage holders from shaving off small quantities of the precious metals. Dimes, quarters, and half dollars are notched because they used to contain silver. Pennies and nickels aren’t notched because the metals they contain are not valuable enough to shave. [My face contains no metals at all, and yet it is valuable enough to shave. --RWP]

Q: Why are many coin banks shaped like pigs?
A: Long ago, dishes and cookware in Europe were made of dense orange clay called ‘pygg.’ When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became known as ‘pygg banks.’ When an English potter misunderstood the word, he made a container that resembled a pig, and it caught on.

[As Ethel Barrymore once said, “That’s all there is; there isn’t any more.” Any more and you might be tempted to make a pygg of yourself. --RWP]

Friday, May 3, 2013

Say what?

“A stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces. Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother’s face; from the prison of her flesh we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth. Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father’s heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone? O waste of loss, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this most weary unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When? O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.”

--Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel (1929), p. 3

I think old Tom may have been onto something (as opposed to on something).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I know what let’s do! For old times’ sake...

...let’s watch that video of Susan Boyle auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent (5:50) one more time....

It wasn’t all that long ago, actually. Her audition took place on April 11, 2009. So a little over four years ago, no one had ever heard of that little collection of villages in Scotland.

But since then, a lot of water has gone over the dam/under the bridge (pick one).

To take just one example, the phrase “Boston massacre” now has an entirely new meaning that has absolutely nothing to do with March 5, 1770.

To take another example, we have (and by “we have” I mean that David Letterman has) unearthed, finally, one of those dreaded Banjos of Mass Destruction (BMD) (4:24) and that starts with B and that rhymes with P and that stands for (let’s say it together, class):

POOL (4:58).

The common thread running through these videos should be obvious by now: Ways to make one’s parents proud.

Is the world in a downward spiral, or what?

To clear your head of that depressing prospect, why don’t you take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity and watch this video of a great deal of falling water that involves neither a dam nor a bridge, while (British, whilst) simultaneously brushing up on your French, listening to the strains of Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries (some of that classical music that Hilltophomesteader hates so much), and ending with a lovely orchestral rendition of “Over the Rainbow” that includes an actual rainbow (4:09)?

Putz would have loved this post. Blogland misses him.

<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...