Thursday, January 30, 2014

In the bleak midwinter

...thinking about Vagabonde’s photographs of Callaway Gardens from last April is what keeps me going until Spring rolls around again.

Have a look

Gorgeous, isn’t it? And there weren’t even any dogwoods in blossom to make the scenes of spring in Georgia even more beautiful.

Vagabonde hails from France originally but now lives with her husband in Marietta, Georgia -- just a hop, skip, and jump down the road from Canton. She travels extensively and wields a mean camera.

I’m so glad.

Winter Olympics notwithstanding, one can look at ice and snow for only so long.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity

This is a view from my back door looking south.

This is a view from my back door looking east.

This is another view from my back door looking east.

We didn’t get half an inch of snow. We got three inches of snow.

That is not really the problem.

The problem in this part of the world is ice.

Snowjam 2014 has hit North Georgia, and it is very reminiscent of Snowjam 1982.

Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of cars were abandoned yesterday on local roads and highways after hours of getting nowhere fast. Many, many people walked for miles to get to their homes. It took 6.5 hours for one of our sons to drive his car eight miles. Our other son left his car in a bank’s parking lot and walked the last four miles to his house. Lots of people spent the night in their cars or in school gymnasiums.

This morning the temperature is 9 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind chill factor is below zero.

Our daughter’s family in Alabama fared no better.

As Atlanta’s WSB radio station used to say, Welcome South, brother.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

North Georgians can now die happy

Snow began falling about 11:00 this morning.

The roofs are now white.

The sidewalks are now white.

The grass in our yard is now white.

It is now 1:30 in the afternoon.

The snow continues to fall.

We may receive as much as half an inch with drifts approaching one inch.

Traffic has come to a complete halt.

All the schools have been closed.

All of us are stocked up on milk, bread, and toilet paper until this monster storm ends.

We feel a close kinship with the residents of Chicago, Illinois; Flint, Michigan; and Minot, North Dakota.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Canton, Georgia - Winter 2014

Here is a scene from the Rhymeswithplague Family Quadrennial Winter Games held this week in Canton, Georgia, USA:

Actually, I lied. That is a photograph of a crevasse on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antartica that was taken by Brocken Inaglory in 2001 (and used here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license).

But to residents of north Georgia it feels like Antarctica here today. The low temperature this morning in Canton was 8 degrees Fahrenheit (-13 C) with a wind chill factor that made it feel around zero (-18 C). In Anchorage, Alaska, the temperature today was a comparatively balmy 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 C).

Here is a map showing the location of the Ross Ice Shelf:

The sharp-eyed among you may notice that Adélie Land, the French-claimed sector of Antarctica, is not shown on that map. For your information, Adélie Land lies between Victoria Land and Wilkes Land.

Here’s proof of my assertion:

(Map generated from Antarctica by Lokal Profil, 2008, and used here under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.)

Your last bit of trivia for the day is that Adélie penguins, which Elephant’s Child and Katherine De Chevalle both mentioned in their comments on the previous post, are common along the entire Antarctic coast, not just in Adélie Land.

Here’s hoping that it warms up soon.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It was a day like all other days, except you weren’t there

On January 19th, I didn’t blog about Robert E. Lee on his birthday.

On January 20th, I didn’t blog about Martin Luther King, Jr., on the observance of his birthday, which actually occurs on January 15th but is not observed until the Federally-sanctioned holiday (usually a Monday to give Federal workers a three-day weekend) that occurred this year on January 20th.

As Pat (an Arkansas stamper) might say, January 21st is also a day.

On this date in 763, the Battle of Bakhamra between Alids and Abbasids near Kufa ended in a decisive Abbasid victory.

On this date in 1525, the Swiss Anabaptist Movement was founded when Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, George Blaurock, and about a dozen others baptized each other in the home of Manz’s mother in Zürich, breaking a thousand-year tradition of church-state union.

On this date in 1535, following the Affair of the Placards, French Protestants were burned at the stake in front of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris.

On this date in 1720, Sweden and Prussia signed the Treaty of Stockholm.

On this date in 1793, after being found guilty of treason by the French Convention, Louis XVI of France was executed by guillotine.

On this date in 1840, Jules Dumont d’Urville discovered Adélie Land, Antarctica.

On this date in 1861, Jefferson Davis, who would become the President of the Confederate States of America, resigned from the United States Senate.

On this date in 1887, 465 millimetres (18.3 in) of rain fell in Brisbane, a record for any Australian capital city.

On this date in 1908, New York City passed the Sullivan Ordinance, making it illegal for women to smoke in public, only to have the measure vetoed by the mayor.

On this date in 1925, Albania declared itself a republic.

On this date in 1941, sparked by the murder of a German officer in Bucharest, Romania, the day before, members of the Iron Guard killed 125 Jews.

On this date in 1948, the Flag of Quebec was adopted and flown for the first time over the National Assembly of Quebec. The day is marked annually as Quebec Flag Day.

The Wikipedia article that contains all of the preceding information also lists hundreds of famous and not-so-famous persons whose births or deaths occurred on January 21st. Perhaps you will recognize some of them.

Just thank your lucky stars I did not publish a post yesterday. If I had, you might have been subjected to a poem called The Eve of St. Agness by a Mr. John Keats (1795-1821) which is almost as long as the list of births and deaths for January 21st.

I dare you to read it.

Who is this man? (Helpful hint: It is not Jefferson Davis):

Monday, January 13, 2014

De gustibus non est disputandum

Today we will consider two pianists from two different centuries, with two completely different styles.

One was brought up in the age of television. One was not. Both are extremely talented, but their performances could not be more different.

For one thing (and this is no small matter), one played quite a bit faster than the other when performing the composition we will hear today. Who knows? Perhaps temperament affects tempo in ways the composer never imagined.

The one who grew up in the age of television incorporates a great deal of flair and showmanship into his playing, tossing his head and arms and torso about so that even an untutored member of the audience will clearly understand how impassioned he is. The other one plays equally passionately (if not as rapidly) but the passion emerges from his fingertips at the place they touch the keyboard.

One seems to have watched a lot of Liberace. One clearly has not.

Here they are, each playing the same composition:

Vladimir Horowitz plays Chopin’s Polonnaise Op. No. 53 in A-flat Major (7:25)

Lang Lang plays Chopin’s Polonnaise Op. No. 53 in A-flat Major (6:20)

Both performances are spectacular, just in different ways.

Vladimir Horowitz was married to Wanda Toscanini, daughter of famed conductor Arturo Toscanini. Lang Lang accompanied singer Katherine McPhee at the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C., on May 24, 2009.

You can read more about Lang Lang (1982- ) here, and you can read more about Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) here.

It was written about Horowitz that “for all the aural excitement of his playing, Horowitz rarely raised his hands higher than the piano’s fallboard. His body was immobile, and his face seldom reflected anything other than intense concentration.”

That could never have been written about Lang Lang. It has been written about Lang Lang that he “successfully straddles two worlds – classical prodigy and rock-like superstar.”

You are free to prefer either performance, because -- as we all should know -- in matters of taste, there can be no disputes.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

In which the author learns that not all ideas are good ones

This being my 1300th post and all, and fancying myself to be a musician of sorts, I thought I’d try to elevate the tone of the blog by incorporating quotations from classical composers.

Boy, was that a bad idea.

Shakespeare put these words into the mouth of Lady Macbeth:

“Glamis thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be
What thou art promis’d. Yet do I fear thy nature,
It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way.”
--from Macbeth, Act I, scene V

Lady Macbeth was wasting her time hanging around with the thane of Cawdor. If she had been married to a classical composer instead, she wouldn’t have had to worry about his nature being too full of the milk of human kindness.

Here are a few examples of things classical composers have said about one another:

1. “Listening to the Fifth Symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams is like staring at a cow for 45 minutes.” --Copland

2. “I like your opera -- I think I will set it to music.” --Beethoven

3. “What a good thing this isn’t music.” --Rossini on Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique

4. “He was a six and a half foot scowl.” --Stravinsky on Rachmaninov

5. “All you need to write like him is a large bottle of ink.” --Stravinsky on Messiaen

6. “It is the most insipid and base parody on music.” --Tchaikovsky on Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov

7. “It’s beautiful and boring. Too many pieces finish too long after the end.” --Stravinsky on Handel’s Theodora

8. “The musical equivalent of St. Pancras Station.” --Sir Thomas Beecham on Elgar

9. “Wagner has beautiful moments, but awful quarters of an hour.” --Rossini on Wagner

10. “A tub of pork and beer.” --Berlioz on Handel

11. “The audience expected the ocean. Something big, something colossal, but they were served instead with some agitated water in a saucer.” --Louis Schneider on Debussy’s La Mer

12. “He likes what is coarse, unpolished, and ugly.” --Tchaikovsky on Mussorgsky

13. “A composer for one right hand.” --Wagner on Chopin

14. "He gives me the impression of being a spoilt child.” --Clara Schumann on Liszt

15. “All Bach’s last movements are like the running of a sewing machine.” --Bax on Bach

16. “What a giftless bastard!” --Tchaikovsky on Brahms

17. “Handel is only fourth rate. He is not even interesting.” --Tchaikovsky on Handel

18. “If he’d been making shell cases during the war it would have been better for music.” --Saint-Saëns on Ravel

19. “I liked the opera very much. Everything but the music.” --Britten on Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress

20. “He’d be better off shoveling snow than scribbling on manuscript paper.” --Richard Strauss on Schoenberg

21. “Bach on the wrong notes.” --Prokofiev on Stravinsky

I’m really surprised at how these classical composers attack and devour one another. It’s almost enough to make me take up rock and roll.

I’m joking.

So much for attempting to elevate the tone of the blog.

Something certainly creeps in this petty pace from day to day, but it is not the milk of human kindness. That seems to have curdled long ago.

(Photo of St. Pancras Railway Station, London, 2012 copyright by User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

There’s no place like home...there’s no place like home...there’s no place like home

As of today -- January 7, 2014 -- this blog has been in existence for 2294 days. It began on September 28, 2007. This is my 1,299th post.

For those of you who are only visiting this planet, once a post has been published Blogger keeps a record of how many times it has been viewed. The count is cumulative; it does not begin over at the start of each new year.

I was surprised to discover the other day that fifteen of my 1,299 posts have been viewed more than a thousand times. It is worth mentioning that a person’s decision to view a post may have more to do with its labels than its contents.

Today I’m not going to do all the heavy lifting. I’m just going to tell you the 15 titles, when they were published, and the number of views. If something in the list tickles your fancy and you want to read more, simply go to the Blog Archive in the sidebar and click three times (on year, month, and title of post).

Here, in reverse order, are my 15 most-viewed posts. Just for fun and perhaps to pique your interest or make you scratch your head, I have included the labels:

15. My 869th post
(Dec. 2011 -- 1,084 views -- Father Frank Toste, Leroy Behrens, PCE-869)

14. It looks even more like Cair Paravel from this angle
(June 2008 -- 1,087 views -- no labels!)

13. Electoral College for Dummies
(Nov. 2008 -- 1,149 views -- electoral college, Mission Impossible)

12. Quote of the day (and maybe week/month/year)
(May 2013 -- 1,184 views -- Survivor 2013, what to do with a million dollars)

11. I don’t know Nick the bartender from Adam’s off ox
(June 2010 -- 1,214 views) -- Adam's off ox, Gomer Pyle, Sheldon Leonard)

10. Mica, mica, parva stella... (How insanity begins)
(May 2009 -- 1,378 views -- Dudley Do-Right, It's A Wonderful Life, Lady Jane Grey, Lewis Carroll, Mica mica parva stella, the Mad Hatter, Twinkle twinkle little star, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

9. “Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe”
(Jan. 2009 -- 1,399 views -- "The Raven”, Edgar Allan Poe)

8. What’s your sign?
(March 2011 -- 1,566 views -- Southern signs)

7. Welcome, sweet Springtime, we greet thee in song!
(April 2010 -- 1,635 views -- "Welcome Sweet Springtime", Andy Griffith Show, Barney Fife, Don Knotts)

6. I meant to post this rebus yesterday.
(March 2010 -- 1,946 views -- Happy birthday)

5. Lazy day
(May 2012 -- 2,057 views -- no labels!)

4. Flannery O'Connor writes of peacocks
(May 2008 -- 2,361 views -- Flannery O'Connor, peacocks)

3. I always loved The Waltons.
(Jan. 2009 -- 3,667 views -- The Waltons)

2. A B C D goldfish? L M N O goldfish! O S A R...C M?
(Jan. 2011 -- 8,018 views -- cursive writing, D'Nealian Script, handwriting, Palmer method, Spencerian Script)

And the most-viewed post ever on rhymeswithplague is:

1. And now, for a complete change of pace, here’s...
(Sep. 2010 -- 16,765 views -- Alfalfa, Ellen DeGeneres, Gladys Hardy)

You can go home now. It was always in your power to do it.


Monday, January 6, 2014

No, I do not have OCD. Why do you ask?

Mr. R. L. Anderson, our Senior Class sponsor back in 1958, used to say, “He that tooteth not his own horn, his own horn getteth not tooted.”

Words to live by.

Accordingly, before the year 2013 fades into oblivion/obscurity/ history (pick one), I want to share some rhymeswithplague blog statistics with my readers.

In 2013 I wrote 194 posts on this blog, a rate that is almost one post every two days. Specifically, I blogged at the rate of one post every 1.8814432989690721649484536082474 days (thank you, trusty calculator).

Of those 194 posts, the 10 most-viewed ones are listed below. [Editor’s note. I do not claim that these are my 10 best posts of 2013, only that they are the most-viewed ones. This may have more to do with their labels than their content, but still. --RWP]

1. Quote of the day (and maybe week/month/year) (May 14th -- 1184 views)

2. If you have something in the middle of a whole lot of nothing, what have you got? (Sep. 20th -- 440 views)

3. Maybe Nellie Olsen was really a sweet girl (Sep. 1st -- 285 views)

4. We’re not quite done yet (Jan. 5th -- 281 views)

5. What goes around, comes around (Feb. 26th -- 223 views)

6. I think I felt the earth move (Sep. 4th -- 218 views)

7. Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives, or Thoughts On My Seventy-second Birthday (Mar. 18th -- 216 views)

8. Introducing Mr. Roy G. Biv (Aug. 10th -- 195 views)

“Every painting is a voyage into a sacred harbour.” --Giotto di Bondone (1266-1337) (Nov. 12th -- 190 views)

10. 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 19 (May 17th -- 183 views)

I realize that these numbers may be miniscule in comparison to what first-tier bloggers might report. Still, they are my numbers and are shared here in the spirit of camaraderie.

My next post will contain even more information gleaned from Blogger about this blog.

I know. You can hardly wait.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I don’t remember, I don’t remember, the house where I was born

...because our family moved around a bit. In fact, by the time I was seven years old I had lived in two different houses in Rhode Island, one in New York, and two in Texas. So I cannot identify on that level with either the poem below by Thomas Hood (British poet, 1799 - 1845) or the one after that by Franklin P. Adams (American writer, (1881 - 1960).

I Remember, I Remember
By Thomas Hood (1799 - 1845)

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon
Nor brought too long a day;
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!

I remember, I remember
The roses, red and white,
The vi’lets, and the lily-cups--
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,--
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!

I remember, I remember
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now ’tis little joy
To know I’m farther off from Heav’n
Than when I was a boy.

I Remember, I Remember
by Franklin P. Adams (1881 - 1960)

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born;
The rent was thirty-two a month,
Which made my father mourn.
He said he could remember when
His father paid the rent;
And when a man’s expenses did
Not take his every cent.

I remember, I remember
My mother telling my cousin
That eggs had gone to twenty-six
Or seven cents a dozen;
And how she told my father that
She didn’t like to speak
Of things like that, but Bridget now
Demanded four a week.

I remember, I remember--
And with a mirthless laugh--
My weekly board at college took
A jump to three and a half.
I bought an eighteen-dollar suit,
And father told me, “Sonny,
I’ll pay the bill this time, but, Oh,
I’m not made out of money!”

I remember, I remember,
When I was young and brave
And I declared, “Well, Birdie, we
Shall now begin to save.”
It was a childish ignorance,
But now ’tis little joy
To know I’m farther off from wealth
Than when I was a boy.

Does Hood really say in the first stanza that he wishes he had died as a child? Does he explain why?

Is Adams’s poem a bit more serious than it may appear to be at first reading? In what ways?

What memories or comments do these poems evoke from you? I would love to hear your reactions.

<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...