Wednesday, July 31, 2013

England swings like a pendulum do, bobbies on bicycles, two by two.

On The Writer’s Almanac website a couple of weeks ago I read that in 1940 Woody Guthrie wrote the folk classic “This Land is Your Land” because he was growing sick of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” Mr. Guthrie must have had an extremely low tolerance level, because the rest of the world has been listening to “God Bless America” for 75 years now. Woody had been listening to it for only two.

Moving right along, yesterday my son-in-law called me to ask
“a very important question that we knew you would know the answer to.” It turned out that he and my daughter wanted to know who sang “King of the Road.”

Naturally, I told him that it was Roger Miller (who composed it and was the first to sing it and had an enormous hit with it, although many people recorded it later) and my son-in-law said, “Your daughter thought it was Arlo Guthrie and I didn’t have any idea who it was.” Well, it wasn’t Arlo Guthrie. As I just explained, it was Roger Miller.

My daughter and son-in-law didn’t know this either, but I have a sort of six-degrees-of-separation relationship (although it’s really only three) with Roger Miller. His sister married Vernon Hornell, a neighbor of mine in Texas. Vernon was the older brother of Bruce and Mary Grace and little Erick (whom we called “Putt-Putt”), and almost every Sunday from 1948 until 1958 I rode with the Hornell family to Sunday School at the local Methodist Church. We rode in a dark blue 1938 Buick until it fell apart, and then we rode in a 1957 two-tone Oldsmobile.

Arlo Guthrie, in case you were wondering, was Woody Guthrie’s son. You can read all about them here (Arlo) and here (Woody), if you like.

If you’d rather read about Roger Miller, be my guest. Wikipedia calls him “an American singer, songwriter, musician and actor, best known for his honky-tonk-influenced novelty songs.” Wikipedia says about his early life, “Roger Miller was born in Fort Worth, Texas, the third son of Jean and Laudene (Holt) Miller. Jean Miller died from spinal meningitis when Roger was only a year old. Unable to support the family during the Great Depression, Laudene sent each of her three sons to live with a different one of Jean’s brothers. Thus, Roger grew up on a farm outside Erick, Oklahoma with Elmer and Armelia Miller.”

Note that there is no mention of a sister, just Roger and two brothers, from which I gather that either (a) Laudene continued to raise a daughter herself or (b) the “sister” of Roger’s that Vernon Hornell married was actually Elmer’s and Armelia’s daughter, Roger’s first cousin, with whom he was raised in (of all places) Erick, Oklahoma. All things considered, though, I think it was foreordained that Roger Miller’s sister or first cousin or whoever she was would marry Vernon Hornell if she was raised in Erick, Oklahoma, because you will recall that Vernon had a little brother named Erick (whom, as I told you earlier, we called “Putt-Putt”).

Don’t look at me that way. Stranger things have happened.

But if you’d rather just listen to Roger Miller sing, here’s
“Dang Me” (4:13) complete with an interview by Dick Clark on American Bandstand, a commercial for Clearasil, and Roger’s imitation of a dial telephone. And here’s Roger’s signature song “King of the Road” (2:26). And here’s the shortest but perhaps the sweetest, “England Swings Like a Pendulum Do” (1:55). When you hear Roger talk, you are not listening to a Texas accent. You are listening to an Oklahoma accent.

I do regret to inform you that early in their marriage Vernon Hornell’s wife, whoever she was and wherever she was raised, was killed in an automobile accident.

In doing research for this post, I learned that Roger Miller died in 1992 at the age of 56, and I also found the obituary of his mother, Laudene Holt Miller Burdine. She died on October 10, 2001, in Scott County, Arkansas, at the age of 87 years, 9 months, and 4 days. The obituary notice said she was the widow of both Jean Miller and C.B. Burdine, and that one son, Roger Dean Miller of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and one daughter, Joni Claudene Sims Hornell of Forth Worth, Texas, [emphasis mine] preceded her in death. She was survived by two sons, Harold Duane Miller of Ridge Crest, California, and Wendell Jean Miller of Hanford, California; one daughter, Elizabeth Ann Sims of Denton, Texas; 16 grandchildren; 25 great-grandchildren; one great-great-granddaughter and a host of nieces, nephews and friends.

So it turns out that Vernon Hornell’s wife probably wasn’t raised in Erick, Oklahoma, after all. I mean, her last name wasn’t Miller, it was Sims, so she probably wasn’t raised by Elmer and Armelia Miller, unless Armelia had a child from a previous marriage, plus there’s the fact that Laudene had still another daughter whose surname was also Sims who survived her.

Roger Miller is the only Country & Western artist ever to win a Tony award (for Big River, a 1985 Broadway adaptation of Mark Twain’s literary classic, Huckleberry Finn, for which Roger penned the 20-song score). He also won more Grammys than any other recording artist, and the record remained unbroken until Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame posthumously around 1995.

There’s more, lots more, in an article entitled “Thirty or More Things You Should Know About Roger Miller.”

What any of this has to do with either Woody Guthrie or Arlo Guthrie is anybody’s guess.

Oh, I do want to say one other thing.

God bless America.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Feedjit is at it again

Someone who lives in Krasnoznamensk, Moskva (Moscow) whose visit to my blog caused a little Russian flag to appear in the Live Feedjit Traffic thingy over there in the sidebar was directed today by Feedjit to my post of June 16, 2012, entitled “I ain’t never went to no Barcelona” after entering the following into a search engine:

apollo mission first man on the moon silver coin 1$ cook islands 2009

You can search my post all day long (go ahead, do it) and never find a single one of the items in which our new friend, the one in Krasnoznamensk, Moskva (Moscow), is interested.

Why do you think this sort of thing happens?

It’s enough to make me want to speak Australian.

See, now that is how confusion starts. That is not the Australian flag.

This is:

I have been named a tall poppy

...and the 101st National Living Treasure of Australia by Carol in Cairns (here’s proof) but as a new adopted Australian I am not supposed to revel in the fact.

Unaccustomed as I am am am to public speaking speaking speaking (can’t someone do something about that reverb? -erb? -erb?), I do want to say a great big “Thank you” to Carol -- did I mention that she is in Cairns? -- and, by extension, to all those wonderful people out there in the dark of the Great Land Down Under. I shall try to be worthy of your trust.

*takes seat, waving to Helsie in Brisbane*

I suppose now I will have to try to work words like “billabong” and “Great Barrier Reef” and “dingo” and “Tasmania” and “koala” and “skivvies” into my everyday vocabulary.

If you click on that link up there in the first paragraph, you can see the names of all 100 of Australia’s National Living Treasures. I recognized eleven. How many do you recognize?

Shame on us.

Monday, July 29, 2013

First there is nothing, and then there is a deep nothing, and beyond that there’s a deep blue.

Lord Pudding in Yorkshire reports that he is blue at the prospect of turning 60 in the fall, and Carol in Cairns (which is in Far North Queensland, you know) is reflecting on turning 50 soon, saying, “I have raised my son on my own and he is finishing school this year, so what about me now?” (I can’t tell whether she is feeling blue too or merely being petulant.)

But where does that leave me, your ever-faithful correspondent, at 72 and 1/3, I ask you? Very blue? Over the hill, even?


If I were going to be blue, I would want to go whole hog and be Yves Klein Blue (4:45). (Warning: There may be a bit of nudity in that clip.)

On the one hand, you can be very hot Yves Klein Blue as in this rock band of that name from Australia (4:09). (Warning: There may be a bad word or two in that clip, but the lyrics go by so fast it’s really difficult to tell.)

On the other hand, you can be very cool Blue Yves Klein as in this jazz offering (5:41). (Warning: There may be a bit of nudity in that clip too, but most of it is chiseled in stone.)

There really are no other choices. Just very hot Yves Klein Blue or very cool Blue Yves Klein.

Oh, wait, there is also Far North Queensland...

...where Cairns is several other shades of blue (click to enlarge):

(Image by Frances76, published in accordance with the GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2)

I have no idea what this post means.

But it doesn’t have to have meaning.

It just is.

[Editor’s note. In the void -- the deep, blue void -- created in our corner of Blogland by the sudden and unexpected hiatus that began on 5 May last of Katherine de Chevalle, our artist friend in New Zealand (her blog is called The Last Visible Dog), this post is presented in the fervent hope that she will soon return to these environs to instruct us more properly in the visual arts so that all of us, in turn, can extricate ourselves from our deep, blue malaise. --RWP]

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I don’t care which language you say it in...

¡Feliz cumpleaños! (Spanish),

Joyeux anniversaire! (French),

Buon compleanno! (Italian),

С Днем Рождения! (Russian),

Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag! (Dutch),

Grattis på födelsedagen! (Swedish),

祝你生日快樂! (Chinese),

जन्मदिन मुबारक हो! (Hindi),

Chúc mừng sinh nhật! (Vietnamese),

Boldog születésnapot! (Hungarian),

Feliç aniversari! (Catalan),

Feliĉan naskiĝtagon! (Esperanto),

or even English, please join me in wishing Mrs. RWP a very...

(Chocolate chip cookie by Kroger Bakery)

Friday, July 26, 2013

My new favorite poet Billy Collins, who was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 until 2003. He knows whereof he speaks, at least in the poem below. Reading it became all the more touching poignant frustrating when I discovered that Mr. Collins is exactly four days younger than moi, having been born on March 22, 1941.

by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

(end of poem)

On some days, I could have written that poem myself, except for one thing. Make that two things. I will never, ever, forget how to swim or how to ride a bicycle. Want to know why? It’s because I never learned how to swim or how to ride a bicycle in the first place.

There is absolutely nothing as refreshing as confessional journalism.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Truth in advertising

A fixture for many years on Atlanta radio, first on WRNG-AM (Ring Radio) and then on WSB-AM (Welcome South, Brother), was Ludlow Porch, the radio persona of a man named Bob Hanson. Ludlow Porch was a one-of-a-kind, laid- back humorist -- engagingly folksy like Arthur Godfrey, only funnier -- who once claimed that he had a Brazilian cousin named Carmen Veranda.

Ludlow enjoyed life to the full. He threw “Wacko Parties” once a year for his listeners, and the tickets went quickly. Each party was attended by hundreds and hundreds of people. Many of the wackos who called his program assumed false identities of their own. I remember a woman named Kitty Litter, and a fellow who called himself Sheriff Milton Crabapple (Milton and Crabapple are both suburbs of Atlanta) who sounded just like Walter Brennan. Another guy did a spot-on imitation of Ted Koppel, the anchor of Nightline from 1980 until 2005, right down to his wavy red hair. The fun kept people coming back to Ludlow’s radio program every day for years, although outside of Georgia I suppose nobody ever heard of him. Mrs. RWP and I attended one of the Wacko Parties with two people from my office, and we all had a blast.

Image by Parker Smith

At one point in his career Ludlow opened a restaurant, the Blue Ribbon Grill, and the place is still in business after 25 years. In its early days, he made a commercial for it that ended with the words, “You gotta eat someplace and we need the money,” and it became their corporate motto. Here’s proof.

That commercial by Ludlow was my all-time favorite for years, but this week I saw one on television that just may top it. It features Johnny Bench, the former catcher for the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. Johnny urges us to buy Blue Emu Cream,
a pain reliever he claims to have used for years, by saying, “It works, and you won’t stink.”

I think these are two classic examples of truth in advertising that are hard to beat. Do you know of any others?

While you’re thinking, watch Ludlow’s cousin, or her twin sister, sing “Chica Chica Boom Chic” (2:30). It is fairly representative of movies people watched in the 1940s, but I think it is probably not an example of truth in advertising.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The baby’s name? My money is on......

Elimelech Tiglath-Pileser von Kreutenhausen Ray Jay Johnson.

You can call him Elimelech or you can call him Tiglath-Pileser von Kreutenhausen or you can call him Ray or you can call him Jay or you can call him Ray Jay or you can call him R.J. or you can call him R.J.J., but you doesn’t has to call him Johnson.

Lest you think I have lost my marbles, does anyone remember this guy (0:37)?

Image by Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters

Monday, July 22, 2013

Guillermo y Catalina Prince William and his Kate, el duque y la duquesa de Cambridge, are known in Spain, have welcomed this evening a bambino a papoose un niño pequeño, that is, the most darling little boy in the history of the entire world, to hear the folks in the media tell about it. The still-namesless waif weighed in at
8 lbs., 6 oz., and simultaneously made a grandmother out of
the late Princess Diana, a step-grandma out of the Duchess of Cornwall, a grandpa out of the Prince of Wales, and a great-grandmum out of another simple English girl, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Rumour (note British spelling) has it that another family, Middlebrooke or Middlesex or something, is also peripherally involved.

The hoopla has already begun.

It is being reported that the inhabitants of the British Isles have gone on a huge bender, purchasing three million bottles of champagne for the occasion.

We may not be hearing from Yorkshire Pudding, All Consuming, klahanie, or Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe for some time.

And eventually we will learn whether the new little prince is a Carlos, a Felipe, an Arturo, or a Jorge.

Don’t believe everything you read

...because the newspapers and the online stories often get it wrong.

Take today, for example, the day the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton, is expected to give birth to another heir to the British throne.

In an online story earlier today, I read a caption under a photograph of Prince Charles, Prince William, and the aforementioned former Kate Middleton that said, “When the Duchess of Cambridge’s baby is born, it will be the first time in history that three generations of direct heirs will be in waiting while the sitting sovereign is fit and well.”

That is obviously not a true statement.

Even confining oneself to the British Isles (which is always difficult to do), it happened before during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901), when Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, the future Edward VIII, was born on June 23, 1894, to the future George V (born June 3, 1865) and his wife, Mary of Teck. George, a grandson of Queen Victoria, was the son of the Prince of Wales who would become Edward VII (born November 9, 1841) and his Alexandra.

Edward VII would reign from 1901 until his death in 1910, George V would reign from 1910 until his death in 1936, and Edward VIII ascended to the throne in 1936. Of course, he left it in 1936 as well (more on this below).

It (the three heirs scenario) could even be said to have happened twice because on December 14, 1895, eighteen months after Edward VIII was born, George and Mary had another son, Albert Frederick Arthur George, who became George VI when Edward VIII abdicated on December 11, 1936, to marry the woman he loved, the twice-divorced American, Bessie Wallis Warfield Simpson Spencer.

Of course, George VI (who was known as Prince Albert) was never considered “the heir” to the throne because he was a second son, just as Prince Andrew is Prince Charles’s younger brother and Prince Harry is Prince William’s younger brother. But Prince Albert (“Bertie” to his family) did become a future monarch, just as his brother (who was known as Prince David) did.

So I guess what I’m saying is this:

Don’t believe everything you read in a photo caption either.

I should also alert you to the fact that if history is any indication, the name given to William’s and Kate’s imminent progeny will probably not be the name under which he or she will be known when and if he or she ascends to the throne. After all, not only did Prince David become King Edward VIII and Prince Albert (“Bertie” to his family) become King George VI, the current Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, could become Charles III or Philip I or Arthur I or George VII (I’m betting on George VII), if and when he ascends to the throne. And William could become William V or Arthur I (or II) or Philip I (or II) or Louis I, if and when he ascends to the throne.

Except for having to look up the birth dates, I have written all of this post from memory. Am I an Anglophile or what?

Yes, I am.

P.S. -- It also happens that three of George III’s descendants who became future English monarchs were alive during his reign (1760 - 1820). They were George IV (born 1762), William IV (born 1765), and Victoria (born 1819). The sitting sovereign was hardly fit and well, however. From 1811 until his accession, George IV served as Prince Regent during his father’s final mental illness. And since George IV and William IV were brothers, not father and son, and Victoria was the daughter of yet another brother, they represented only two generations, not three.

Perhaps this is too much information for the current crop of journalists to take in.

As Ed McMahon might say...

Heeeere’s Chopin!

...or to be more exact, Frédéric François Chopin, or to be even more exact, Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin (as he is known in Poland -- he was Polish after all, even though he spent much of his life in Paris).

The painting is an 1835 watercolor portrait of Chopin at 25 by then-16-year-old Maria Wodzinska (1819-96). According to my source, the artist and her sitter became engaged the following year but never married each other. The portrait is described on page 137 of Tad Szulc’s book Chopin in Paris as “one of the best portraits of Chopin extant -- after that by Delacroix -- with the composer looking relaxed, pensive, and at peace.”

Here is the Delacroix portrait, which to my mind makes him look not relaxed, pensive, or at peace. I will leave it to you decide which portrait you prefer, Ted Szulc’s opinion notwithstanding:

...and here is the only known photograph of Chopin, made a few years later than the portraits, possibly in 1848 or 1849:

Please note, All Consuming across the pond, that in none of these images does Chopin sport a beard. Also please note, everyone else, that the three images look nothing alike. They could be three different people for all I know.

In keeping with an earlier post of mine that contained the last words of 38 presidents of the United States, I must tell you now that on October 17, 1849, after midnight, a physician leaned over Chopin and asked him whether he was suffering greatly. “Not any more,” Chopin replied. He died a few minutes before two o’clock in the morning. It is believed he died of tuberculosis. He was 39 years old.

More to the point (and according to Wikipedia), over 230 Chopin works survive, although some compositions from early childhood have been lost. All his known works involve the piano, and only a few range beyond solo piano music, as either piano concertos or chamber music. Believe it or not, he composed:

59 mazurkas,
27 études (twelve in the Op. 10 cycle, twelve in the Op. 25 cycle, and three in a collection without an opus number),
27 preludes,
21 nocturnes,
20 waltzes,
18 polonaises, including one with orchestral accompaniment and one for cello and piano accompaniment,
5 rondos,
4 ballades,
4 impromptus,
4 scherzos,
4 sets of variations, including Souvenir de Paganini,
3 écossaises,
3 piano sonatas, and
2 concerti for piano and orchestra, Op. 11 and 21

He also composed a fantaisie; an Allegro de concert (possibly the remnant of an incomplete concerto); a barcarole; a berceuse; a bolero; a tarantelle; a contredanse; a fugue; a cantabile; a lento; a Funeral march; a Feuille d'album; a krakowiak for piano and orchestra; Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” for piano and orchestra; fantasia on themes from Polish songs with accompanying orchestra; a trio for violin, cello and piano; a sonata for cello and piano; a Grand Duo in E major for cello and piano on themes from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera Robert le diable, co-written with Auguste Franchomme; and 19 Polish songs for voice and piano.

For even more details about the works of Chopin, click here if you dare.

If you have made it this far, you will now be treated to a few of Chopin’s pieces, and you will be able to follow along in the sheet music, if you can, as you hear the notes being played.

Here is Fantaisie Impromptu(5:08).

Here is Etude Op. 25, No. 1 (Aeolian Harp) (2:13).

Here is Waltz Opus 64, No. 2 (3:44).

Well, that’s enough already with the sheet music.

Here is the young pianist Yundi Li playing a favorite of mine, Nocturne Opus 9, No. 2 (4:40).

I saved the best for last. It’s the pièce de résistance. Here is the not-so-young Vladimir Horowitz playing Polonaise Opus 53 in
A Flat Major

Playing Chopin can be bardzo trudne, I mean très difficile.

This stuff ain’t easy, Clyde. Not by a long shot.

Only the pros can make it look that way.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The dictatorship of the proletariat, or How Green Was My Valley?

Here is a map produced by Blogger showing the distribution of this blog’s readers by country. Dark green countries indicate higher numbers, medium green countries indicate lower numbers, and light green countries represent the lowest numbers of all.

Specifically, according to a list that accompanied the map, here are the 10 highest countries in terms of readership of this blog:

United States..........1044
United Kingdom.........92

I have no idea when this snapshot of my blog was taken (today? last week? last month?) or what period of time the figures are supposed to cover (a day? a week? a month?), but one clear fact emerges nonetheless:

Outside my own country, I’m a hit in the former Soviet bloc!

I mean, I really am! Add together Russia (161), Ukraine (48), Poland (24), and half of Germany (38/2 = 19) and the total comes to 252, leaving France (167) and the United Kingdom (161) and everyone else in the dust.

The map surprises me, however, because I frequently see the flags of Canada, New Zealand, Indonesia, India, and even those of Italy, Mexico, Norway, Argentina, Viet Nam, and the Union of South Africa in that Feedjit Live Traffic Flow thingy in the sidebar. Where are those readers? Huh? Huh?

Perhaps Blogger’s algorithm is a bit faulty, producing flawed results.

But until we know that for sure, our advertising director has suggested that we reconsider where we will be spending our advertising dollars, not to mention our travel/vacation dollars, in the future.

After all, the squeaky wheel ought to get the oil.

To help you get the sour taste of dry business charts and statistics out of your mouth, here, from 1941, in ever-popular black and white, is the motion picture How Green Was My Valley, complete with subtitles in Spanish (1 hour, 54 minutes, 13 seconds), and I’m not even kidding.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Here, just because, is Claude Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie (The Engulfed Cathedral) (5:09).

*la·gniappe [lan-yap, lan-yap]
1. Chiefly Southern Louisiana and Southeast Texas. a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; bonus.
2. a gratuity or tip.
3. an unexpected or indirect benefit.

Origin: 1840–50, Americanism; < Louisiana French < American Spanish la ñapa the addition, equivalent to la feminine definite article + ñapa, variant of yapa < Quechua**: that which is added

**Quech·ua [-wah, -wuh]
noun, plural Quech·uas (especially collectively) Quech·ua for 2.
1. the language of the Inca civilization, presently spoken by about 7 million people in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.
2. a member of an Indian people of Peru speaking Quechua.

I must say I am surprised to learn that the origin of lagniappe is not French but Spanish, by way of the Inca civilization. If you ask me, it’s downright Pizarro bizarre.

Here’s Claude Debussy.

Here’s Francisco Pizarro.

And here, for those of you who are still with me, is a little something extra***.

***Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, op. 66 by Frédéric Chopin (5:14)

P.S. -- If you watch that last video and think you hear “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” in the middle of it -- you’re right!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It’s that time of year again.

The dog days have returned. Here are some weird stories to help you get through them:

1. Mental Disorders Demonstrated by Winnie the Pooh Characters

2. Florida Man Found In California Motel Awakens With Amnesia and Speaking Only Swedish


I have decided that it’s much too hot to do any more research.
I think I’ll just gaze at the night sky instead.

Et tu, Brute?

A couple of weeks ago, just in time for our 237th Independence Day celebration on July 4th, a website published the last words of 38 presidents of the United States. Here they are:

1. George Washington -- “’Tis well.”
2. John Adams -- “Thomas Jefferson survives.”
3. Thomas Jefferson -- “No, doctor, nothing more.”
4. James Madison -- “Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear.”
5. James Monroe -- “I regret that I should leave this world without again beholding him.”
6. John Quincy Adams -- “This is the last of earth. I am content.”
7. Andrew Jackson -- “I hope to meet each of you in heaven. Be good, children, all of you, and strive to be ready when the change comes.”
8. Martin van Buren -- “There is but one reliance.”
9. William Henry Harrison -- “I understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”
10. John Tyler -- “Perhaps it is best.”
11. James K. Polk -- “I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you.”
12. Zachary Taylor -- “I regret nothing, but I am sorry to leave my friends.”
13. Millard Fillmore -- “The nourishment is palatable.”
14. Franklin Pierce -- unknown
15. James Buchanan -- “Oh, Lord God Almighty, as thou wilt!”
16. Abraham Lincoln -- “She won’t think anything about it.”
17. Andrew Johnson -- “Oh, do not cry. Be good children and we shall meet in heaven.”
18. Ulysses S. Grant -- “Water.”
19. Rutherford B. Hayes -- “I know I am going where Lucy is.”
20. James A. Garfield -- “Swaim, can’t you stop the pain?”
21. Chester A. Arthur -- unknown
22. Grover Cleveland -- “I have tried so hard to do right.”
23. Benjamin Harrison -- “Are the doctors here? Doctor, my lungs...”
24. William McKinley -- “Goodbye, all, goodbye. It is God’s way. His will be done.”
25. Theodore Roosevelt -- “Put out the light.”
26. William Howard Taft -- unknown
27. Woodrow Wilson -- “When the machinery is broken... I am ready.”
28. Warren G. Harding -- “That’s good. Go on, read some more.”
29. Calvin Coolidge -- “Good morning, Robert.”
30. Herbert Hoover -- unknown, but here are the last words he is known to have written, a get-well message to Harry Truman, who had hit his head on the bathtub after slipping in his bathroom: “Bathtubs are a menace to ex-presidents for as you may recall a bathtub rose up and fractured my vertebrae when I was in Venezuela on your world famine mission in 1946. My warmest sympathy and best wishes for your speedy recovery.”
31. Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- “I have a terrific headache.
32. Harry Truman -- unknown
33. Dwight D. Eisenhower -- “I want to go. God take me.”
34. John F. Kennedy -- “No, you certainly can’t.”
35. Lyndon B. Johnson -- “Send Mike immediately.”
36. Richard Nixon -- “Help.”
37. Gerald Ford -- unknown
38. Ronald Reagan -- unknown

Since Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama are still with us, their final words have not yet occurred. Adding these five men to the list seems to bring the number of U.S. presidents to 43. That is not correct, however. Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States. The difference is that Grover Cleveland served as U.S. president twice, but since he uttered his final words only once, he appears only once in the list above.

If you would like to see any of the 38 Presidents in the list, or if you would like to learn why they said what they said, click here.

In the title of this post are the last words of Julius Caesar, who was assassinated in 44 B.C. on the Ides of March.

In case you were wondering, I identify most with the last words of presidents Richard Nixon and Calvin Coolidge.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Putz is gone, Katherine de Chevalle is on hiatus, and I’m not feeling too well myself

Our old friend Putz is not really gone, as in gone gone, as far as I know, although he sometimes seems gone even when he is here, if you get my drift. I have every reason to believe he is still working as a school crossing guard and tooling around Tooele, Utah, not living on the planet Kolob as he would like us to think. But having posted only once in all of 2013 he appears to be gone from Blogworld, at least for the time being.

Speaking of the time being, Katherine de Chevalle down in New Zealand has also taken a little hiatus of indeterminate length -- she calls it a Bloggus Interruptus -- because, in her own words, “I have a lot of painting to do for my exhibition and am also working on getting my art website looking good and up-to-date.” As the head of the parole board said to H.I. “Hi” McDunnough (Nicholas Cage) in Raising Arizona at the end of every one of his parole hearings, “Well, okay then.”

Daphne over in Leeds, whose Dad was a Communist, hasn’t posted since May 19th, the day Mrs. RWP and I observed our 50th wedding anniversary. I miss Daphne’s wit and her love of swimming and her work in patient roleplay with medical students and her inclination to travel through Europe at the drop of a hat. Her mother, who lives next door to her, was beginning to have some health problems in her late eighties and I do hope all is well with both of them.

Ian, who also lives in Leeds, stayed in England last winter instead of spending his usual six months a year in Florida, and it seems to have dampened his enthusiasm for blogging. His photographs are always marvelous, but he has posted less and less often lately. It would be worth your while to take a little time and check out his few posts in 2013.

Our old friend Carolina in Nederland has posted only five times since the beginning of the year, and has said absolutely nothing since the middle of April. If I may say so, dat is niet goed.

Reamus hasn’t been heard from since the first day of Baseball’s spring training back in February, but he may be traveling around the country in his new La Coachasita, the old one having given up the ghost somewhere in South Dakota last summer. One never knows, but one will find out eventually.

Pat (an Arkansas stamper) was getting ready for stamp camp around the end of May. Surely the camp has ended by now.

Vonda out in Oregon seems to have given up her Little Egg Farm and gone to making souvenirs for the tourists to buy. As Ezio Pinza said or rather sang in “Some Enchanted Evening” in South Pacific, “Who can explain it? who can tell you why?” (The next line, as I recall, is “Fools give you reasons; wise men never try.” For the record, when I mentioned Ezio Pinza I was speaking of his role as Emile de Becque in the stage version of South Pacific. In the movie version, Rossano Brazzi never sang a note. His part was dubbed by the Metropolitan Opera star, Giorgio Tozzi. And even though Mitzi Gaynor did her own singing as Ensign Nellie Forbush in the film version, she was not Mary Martin. But I digress.)

Where was I? Oh, yes.

Dr. John Linna of Neenah, Wisconsin, a retired Lutheran minister, died on February 15, 2010. He had a town, Pigeon Falls, in his basement and told us many strange and wonderful things that happened there. Every Sunday he shared nuggets of wisdom with us from his own personal treasure-trove. I still like to go back there and read his posts, even though there are some typographical errors. Maybe you will too.

Doctor John was one of a kind. Come to think of it, they don’t make ’em like Buford Pickleberry any more either.

In summation, some people say “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and other people say “Out of sight, out of mind.” I guess for every proverb there is an equal but opposite proverb. You will have to decide for yourself which is true, and ultimately land on one side of the fence or the other.

I do hope each of you had a pleasant Bastille Day yesterday, and that it was filled with, well, you know, liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Friday, July 12, 2013


l. René Descartes, 1637:

I think, therefore I am.

2. Joyce Kilmer, 1913:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

3. The Little Engine That Could, 1930:

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I--think--I--can, I--think--I--can, I---think---I---can, I----think----I----can, I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.

4. Jemima Luke, 1841:

I think, when I read that sweet story of old,
When Jesus was here among men,
How He called little children as lambs to His fold,
I should like to have been with them then.

I wish that His hands had been placed on my head,
That His arms had been thrown around me,
And that I might have seen His kind look when He said,
“Let the little ones come unto Me.”

Yet still to His foot stool in prayer I may go;
And ask for a share in His love;
And if I thus earnestly seek Him below,
I shall see Him and hear Him above.

But thousands and thousands who wander and fall,
Never heard of that heavenly home;
I wish they could know there is room for them all,
And that Jesus has bid them to come.

In that beautiful place He has gone to prepare
For all who are washed and forgiven;
And many dear children shall be with Him there,
For “of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

I long for the joy of that glorious time,
The sweetest and brightest and best,
When the dear little children of every clime
Shall crowd to His arms and be blest.

5. Rhymeswithplague, 2013:

I think if I ever decide to stop blogging I would not announce it in advance like Katherine de Chevalle did. I would probably show you a poem, perhaps this one:

The Day is Done
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882)

The day is done, and the darkness
....Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
....From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
....Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
....That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
....That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
....As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
....Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
....And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
....Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
....Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,
....Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
....And to-night I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,
....Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
....Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
....And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
....Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
....The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
....That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
....The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
....The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,
....And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
....And as silently steal away.

...and then I would simply stop posting. Silently steal away, as it were. I do wonder sometimes, though, how long it would take anyone to notice.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The 44th running of the Peachtree

Billed as the world’s largest 10-kilometer road race (that’s 10,000 meters or 6.2 miles, folks), the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta has been held every Fourth of July since 1970. Approximately 110 runners participated in the first one. In 1975 there were over 1,000 runners, and by 1980 more than 25,000 people participated. Golly gee whillikers, Mabel! Like Topsy, it just grew. (This is a reference to a minor character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom's Cabin and not to an elephant electrocuted by Thomas Edison in 1903. For those of you who are confused, join the club.)

This year more than 55,000 runners officially registered for the Peachtree, plus a few thousand more ran unofficially (that is, unregistered) just because they couldn’t stay away.

This year also, for the first time ever, a Rhymeswithplague ran in the race.

My second son, at the ripe old age of 47, decided to apply for one of the coveted slots a few months ago and was accepted. (A note to all the unofficial participants: Only official participants receive the equally-coveted official T-shirt afterward.)

Here are a few zanies from the 2006 race (click on photo to enlarge):

Licensed under the licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0 (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Well, the race IS held on the Fourth of July, after all, so a few Statues of Liberty are to be expected.

And here is a runner’s-eye-view of the 2007 race (click on photo to enlarge):

Licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0 ( Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license).

In recent years, both the Men’s and Women’s Divisions have been dominated by runners from Kenya and Ethiopia. No U.S. man has won since 1991 and no U.S. woman has won since 1995. Still, it is a fun way to spend the morning of Independence Day. Or so I’m told. I certainly will never find out on my own.

Here is my son (on the right) and his neighbor before the race:

My son, the young Mr. Rhymeswithplague, finished with the following electronically-timed stats:

Official time: 1:00:45
OverAll Place: 14474 of 55714
Gender Place: 9970 of 28032
Age Division Place: 1217 of 3307

Not bad, I would say, for someone who (a) is 47 years old and (b) began running for the first time in his life just a few short months ago. Needless to say, Mrs. RWP and I are extremely proud of him.

And here is my son (on the left) and his neighbor after the race:

I don’t know whether their faces are registering joy, relief, or sheer pain. Did I mention that my son is 47?

To read more about the Peachtree Road Race, all you have to do is click here.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Until today...

...this was the only Andrew Murray with whom I was familiar:

Yes, it was. This Andrew Murray (1828 - 1917) was a South African writer, teacher, and Christian pastor who authored over 240 books, including:

Abide in Christ
Absolute Surrender
Be Perfect
Divine Healing
God’s Will: Our Dwelling Place
How to Raise Your Children for Christ
Humility: The Beauty of Holiness
Let Us Draw Nigh
Like Christ
The Deeper Christian Life
The Lord’s Table
The Holiest of All: An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews
The Master’s Indwelling
The Ministry of Intercession
The Power of the Blood of Christ
The Prayer Life
The Spirit of Christ
The True Vine
The Two Covenants
The Secret of God’s Presence
Thy Will Be Done
Waiting on God
With Christ in the School of Obedience
With Christ in the School of Prayer
Working for God!
Humility & Absolute Surrender

...and I have read many of them.

There are a lot of Andrew Murrays. Wikipedia lists 17 prominent ones. They are (or were):

1. Andrew Moray (justiciar) (died 1298), or Sir Andrew Murray of Petty, Justiciar of Scotia
2. Andrew Moray (died 1297), or Sir Andrew Murray, leader of the Scots during the Scottish Wars of Independence, son of the above
3. Sir Andrew Murray (1298–1338), Scots general of the 2nd Scottish War of Independence, Scottish head-of-state (Guardian of Scotland) twice; posthumous son of the above
4. Sir Andrew Hunter Arbuthnot Murray (1903–1977), Lord Provost of Edinburgh
5. Andy Murray (born 1987), Scottish tennis player
6 Andrew Murray (boxer) (born 1982), Irish professional boxer
7. Andrew Dickson Murray (1812–1878), Scottish botanist and entomologist
8. Andrew Murray (campaigner and journalist) (born 1958), campaigner and member of the Communist Party of Britain
9. Andrew Murray (children’s writer) (born 1970), English children's writer
10. Andrew Murray (doctor) (born 1980), Scottish doctor, runner and author who works for the Scottish Government
11. Andrew Murray (golfer) (born 1956), English golfer
12. Andrew Murray (ice hockey) (born 1981), Canadian ice hockey player
13. Andrew Murray, 1st Viscount Dunedin (1849–1942), Scottish politician and judge
14. Andrew Murray (minister) (1828–1917), South African religious minister, missionary, and author
15. Andrew Murray (physiologist), lecturer in physiology, University of Cambridge
16. Andrew Murray (politician) (born 1947), Australian politician, former member of the Australian Senate
17. Andy Murray (ice hockey) (born 1951), Canadian hockey coach and former player

Starting today, however, and for some time into the foreseeable future, especially in the world of sports, and most especially on a small, obscure island known as the United Kingdom, you can forget about all the other Andrew Murrays except number 5, the one displayed in bold type in the preceding list.

If you don’t know why, you must be living on another planet.

Since Yorkshire Pudding has captured the moment so well,
you might as well click here and get it over with.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

From the archives (April 10, 2008): A short story

I wrote the following short story several years ago. It is mostly autobiographical, but some parts are fictional and certain names have been changed. Today, in honor of what would have been my mother’s ninety-eighth birthday, I am posting it here on my blog.



I can still see you saying it, Mama, hurrying to get it over with, hoping they didn’t hear too clearly. They never did. You knew they wouldn’t; you made sure they wouldn’t. Sometimes it came out different, your ear searching for the right sound: “Zimmerman,” you would say, or “Sellman,” or “Simmon.” I liked that one best. It made me smell hot cinnamon toast and taste the sweet persimmons from our yard.

I can still hear your eyes, Mama. Looking outward, seeing inward, they were the frightened eyes of a doe fleeing the hunter. But you were quick, you’d glance down, and they never saw. You always made sure they never saw.

But I did.

I saw and I heard, and I wondered why you were afraid, why you were so reluctant to reveal your maiden name. It seemed a fine name to me, a perfectly fine Jewish name. I liked the sound it made inside my head: Silberman. Bells chimed when I thought of that name. On our solitary visit to Pennsylvania when I was fourteen, when the telephone rang in your brother’s house and Uncle Jack who was really Jacob answered it with a cheery “Dr. Silberman,” I could hear in his voice a torrent of bells.

You told me never to say it to anyone, and you gave me other orders, too. “If someone wants to know what you are, say German,” you told me. “And never say Uncle Sol, call him Uncle Paul,” you said. Though I didn’t understand, the look in your eyes told me not to question, and I obeyed. Later, when I had heard of Auschwitz and Buchenwald and Dachau and Treblinka, I realized that you had private horrors and unspoken fears of your own. What happened, Mama? Did you plan to tell me someday? Was I too young? If you were waiting, Mama, you waited too long.

The cancers entered your body, crowding your life away, and as they advanced you receded. From a hundred and eight pounds at peak health, you were less than seventy at the end. I was sixteen years old when you died all those Octobers ago, all those eons ago.

Three eons after you were gone, I heard a pianist play a piece
by Claude Debussy at a recital at the university, a piece called
La Cathedrale Engloutie, and in the swelling chords, the rising waters, I recognized the choking cancers growing also until, like the cathedral in the legend, you too were engulfed.

In the months and years before, in the dust and heat of the dry Texas sun, far from your early Philadelphia years, you were afraid. You were Jewish and afraid. But not me. I was a Methodist. Every week you sent me with the neighbors into town to attend Sunday School, and no one ever knew that you were Jewish, that I was half Jewish. It was our secret. Yours and mine and his.

I was twelve when I overheard the two of you arguing in whispers about a picture in a locket, a picture I never saw because he tore it to pieces that day. I knew then that he wasn’t my father at all. But you never knew I knew. It was our secret from each other. “Leave him alone,” you would cry whenever he hit me, “he never asked to be born.” All three of us understood the message of your cry. When he began to try to tell me, after you were buried, all the color drained from his face when I said calmly that I had known for four years. He never touched me again. Eight months later he married a widow with four teenage children and life, as some people say, went on.

You had me, Mama, you loved me, and you kept me. And I know now that you were only trying to protect me, to spare me some of the hate in the world. You shouldn’t have been so afraid, Mama. Jesus said that we would know the truth and the truth would make us free. I read in a book that Louis XVI once asked Blaise Pascal to name one proof of the existence of God and Pascal answered, “The Jew, Your Majesty, the Jew.” You didn’t have to be afraid, Mama. Oh, they try to destroy us. The pharaohs tried, the Romans tried, the Inquisitors tried, Hitler tried, people are still trying today, but no one will ever destroy the Jew.

Once I came home from Sunday School, Mama, and asked you whether the Jews crucified Christ. Turning slowly toward me, your eyes widening, you said, “We were taught it was the Roman soldiers.” I know now it was neither Jew nor Roman soldier. It was all of us, Mama. All mankind in every century nailed Him to the cross, and He died for the sins of the whole world. You tried to take away my Jewishness, Mama, but my Messiah has come. Don’t you see, Mama? I wasn’t converted. Only Gentiles, goyim, are converted. I was completed. “Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us,” wrote Saul of Tarsus, a Jew. The exodus from fear can finally begin.

After the second funeral, I wrote to Aunt Miriam to learn more about my real father. “Ruth met him in New York,” she wrote. “He was a musician, a French-Canadian. He joined the Army and disappeared. We think he went to Panama when the war came. “What’s important, Billy, is not what he was, but what you are.”

You had two secrets, Mama--at least two. Awful secrets, as cancerous to your soul as the disease that wracked your flesh. How many more secrets there were I’ll never know.

Persimmons and eons, Mama. Cinnamon, persimmons, and eons. I love you, Mama, across the eons. “Dust thou art,” says the Bible, the Torah, “and unto dust shalt thou return.” Not you, Mama, not you. You’ll never be dust. You’re a Madonna in a cathedral. An emaciated Madonna in an engulfed, eternal cathedral. Even now, I can hear the bells chiming.

<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...