Saturday, August 30, 2014

Somewhere, Edward Gibbon is making notes

JEFFERSON (1776): We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

LINCOLN (1863): It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

FDR (1933): The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

JFK (1961): Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

REAGAN (1981): In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

REAGAN (1987): Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

CLINTON (1998): I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

OBAMA (2014): I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Inquiring minds want to know: How green was my valley?

Thanks to (a) John F. Kemeny, the 35th President of the U.S.A., (b) Yorkshire Pudding, the most pixilated pixie ever, (c) the wonderful internet, and (d) the comments section of my last post, I have now been made aware of the Brague National Park in the Côte d’Azur region of southeastern France. I already knew about the Brague winery and the Brague River, but to learn of a national park is, how do you say, an extra added bonus (an uber-redundancy if there ever was one) .

And not only that, I have also just learned that the Brague River includes the Brague Valley River Walk. Take time to read the charming description of its loveliness by someone whose first language was definitely not English. If you ever go there, remember to “walk downhill progressively until the river of which the path goes along the left edge of the river” and to “enjoy numerous landscapes and cool areas” and to ”follow the way, passby the House of the nature. Take left the track, and the road which leads to Valbonne by the Graveyard”.

Leaving aside the fact that anywhere Yorkshire Pudding is would be, by definition, a cool area, I think one should always walk uphill conservatively and downhill progressively. Unless it’s the other way round. I can never keep that straight.

I am also confused as to whether it is “Feed a cold, starve a fever” or “Starve a cold, feed a fever” and I would appreciate any help I can get from you wonderful people out there in the dark a reliable source.

Because a lot of what you can find on the internet isn’t true, especially if it’s in Wikipedia.

Most of all, I think Yorkshire Pudding should print down a copy of the directions for the Brague Valley River Walk (9.8km, 3 hrs) and hie himself, camera in tow, off to that particular Gallic hinterland, and then publish a blogpost that would highlight for all of us some of those numerous landscapes and cool areas.

Don’t you agree?

Friday, August 22, 2014

No, never would I leave you at all

Many years ago I read the book Man and the Computer by John Kemeny, a professor of mathematics who later became president of Dartmouth University. Near the beginning of the book he wrote, “The computer is incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Man is unbelievably slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. The marriage of the two is a force beyond calculation.”

It is a statement that sticks in the mind.

Fast forward (now there’s an obsolete phrase) to today.

You can learn the most amazing things on the internet. You can also learn (contrary to popular opinion among the intelligentsia) the most amazing things on television. If you combine watching television with searching the internet (a sort of marriage as well) , the result can also be a force beyond calculation.

Case in point.

Mrs. RWP and I were watching the highly educational television program Judge Judy this afternoon, and I remarked that the defendant in one case looked a lot like Robert Goulet.

“Whatever happened to him?” asked Mrs. RWP.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I can’t remember whether he is still alive.”

Because I don’t like to leave loose ends hanging, I decided to do the only sensible thing and find out. I went to the computer and googled “Robert Goulet” and discovered that Robert Goulet is not still alive. He died in 2007 about a month before what would have been his 74th birthday.

What absolutely floored me in the article I was reading was that early in his career Robert Goulet had been a member of the cast of the Canadian version of Howdy Doody and not only that, he starred opposite -- wait for it -- William Shatner.

Would I lie to you?

Yes, Virginia, there was a Canadian version of Howdy Doody. It ran on CBC from 1954 until 1959. Instead of a host named Buffalo Bob, however, it had a host named Timber Tom (sounds more Canadian, eh?) . Robert Goulet played the part of Trapper Pierre; William Shatner played the part of Ranger Bob.

As Jack Paar might say, I kid you not.

Talk about being gobsmacked.

One other thing. In one of Robert Goulet’s biggest hits, “If Ever I Would Leave You” from Camelot, he promised he wouldn’t leave us* in springtime, summer, winter, or fall (2:11) .

He lied. He left us in the fall. October 30, 1977, to be exact.

I know, I know. I’m easily entertained.

Man and the computer.

John Kemeny would be so proud.

*okay, it was Julie Andrews

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fifty years ago this week (August 26 to be exact)

The Perfect Nanny
by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman

Wanted: A nanny for two adorable children

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts
Play games, all sorts

You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings, give us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets

Never be cross or cruel
Never give us castor oil or gruel
Love us as a son and daughter
And never smell of barley water

If you won’t scold and dominate us
We will never give you cause to hate us
We won’t hide your spectacles
So you can’t see
Put toads in your bed
Or pepper in your tea

Hurry, Nanny!
Many thanks

Jane and Michael Banks

The rest is, as they say, history.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Go with the flow, or Thou knowest not what a day may bring forth

In my email this morning there was a message from Snowbrush that was so inspiring I want to share it with you. Here it is:

Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life.

As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the Nova Scotia back country.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn’t stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt bad and apologized to the men for being late.

I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man. And as I played “Amazing Grace” the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head was hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen anything like that before, and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”

Apparently, I’m still lost...must be a man thing.

(Photo from

Monday, August 18, 2014

Show biz is my life

When I sign on to my computer, it happens that is the first page I see. On that page today was the link “9 Things You Should Know About Kelly Ripa” but I was not tempted to click on it.

No way, José.

I don’t know what things Yahoo thinks I should know about Kelly Ripa, but in my opinion here are the nine most important things anyone needs to know about her:

1. She is annoying.
2. She is annoying.
3. She is annoying.
4. She is annoying.
5. She is annoying.
6. She is annoying.
7. She is annoying.
8. She is annoying.
9. She is extremely annoying.

Perhaps that is unfair.

Let’s try that again (and these are my thoughts, not Yahoo’s) :

1. A recent quote attributed to Kelly Ripa: “Botox changed my life.”
2. She thinks she is funny but she isn’t.
3. She thinks she can sing but she can’t.
4. She is no Kathie Lee Gifford.
5. She is from New Jersey.
6. She is married to actor Mark Consuelos.
7. She met her husband in 1995 when they co-starred on the television soap opera All My Children.
8. She co-hosted “Live!” with Regis Philbin.
9. She is extremely annoying.

Perhaps that is still unfair. I’m sorry, but it’s the best I can do. Millions of Americans disagree with me. Can I help it if they’re wrong?

That is not Kelly Ripa (or Kathie Lee Gifford or Mark Consuelos or Regis Philbin) . That is Ruth Warrick in 1973 as Phoebe Tyler on All My Children.

If this post makes no sense to my international readers, it’s probably just as well.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

I probably should not post before I’ve had my morning coffee.

Plus, I am old and getting more curmudgeonly all the time.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Atheists, take a 10-minute break. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.

Today my friend Light Expectations out in southern California posted the words of Psalm 8 from the Old Testament on her blog.

Here they are.

Psalm 8 is worth reading and pondering all by itself, but I could not help thinking of Tom Fettke’s magnificent choral anthem based on it, “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name”.

Here is the choir and orchestra of Hyde Park Baptist Church of Austin, Texas, with “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name” (6:10) .

I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to sing and shout and laugh and cry and jump up and down and run around outdoors and throw my hands in the air and lie prostrate on the floor all at the same time.

Electric guitars and drums just don’t affect me that way, but first sopranos hitting that high Bb and second basses hitting that low Eb and all those “Alleluias” do it every time.

Somebody tell the atheists they can come back now.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

August in French is août

...and it isn’t pronounced ay-out or ah-oat or even oot.

It’s pronounced ooh.

As in:

Ooh, it’s hot.
Ooh, school is already back in session.
Ooh, we desperately need rain.
Ooh, aren’t you thankful for central air conditioning?
Ooh, the grass is dying.
Ooh, the birds are thirsty.
Ooh, in six months we’ll be wishing it was hot.


It comes between zhwee-ay and seh-tome(br).

Roger, over, and ay-out.

P.S. -- For an amazing lesson in things French, I recommend this post by Vagabonde.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gaza is child’s play compared to World War II

There has been much in the news lately about what is termed Israel’s “disproportionate response” to the firing of 3,000 rockets by Hamas from the Gaza Strip into Israel over the last four weeks (my numbers may not be accurate) .

Disproportionate response? Really?

Here’s food for thought from a website called

“On August 6, 1945, the Japanese city of Hiroshima was destroyed by a nuclear weapon, an atomic bomb dropped by the United States. Three days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki; five days after that, Japan unconditionally surrendered to the United States, bringing an end to World War II.

“The atomic bombs killed several hundred thousand people, many instantly in the nuclear fire, many later with burns, injuries and radiation sickness, and still many others, over the years, with cancers and birth defects. These deaths continue to this day. Like most of the cities bombed in World War II, the majority of the inhabitants were women, children and the elderly.

“Before the war began, bombing cities was considered an act of total barbarism; there were no “conventional bombs” and it certainly was not considered “conventional” to target civilian populations for mass destruction. But this ideal was shattered early in the war, and eventually all sides engaged in mass bombing raids against cities and civilians.

“After the Nazis conducted their massive bombing raids against London, the British retaliated by developing incendiary bombs, fire-bombs designed to burn down cities. British and American bombers dropped these bombs on five German cities, killing hundreds of thousands of German civilians in Hamburg, Dresden, Kassel, Darmstadt, and Stuttgart. In March, 1945, the U.S. fire-bombed the city of Tokyo, killing at least 100,000 people.

“By the time the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, 50 million people had already died in World War II. The bombing/murder of civilian populations had occurred so many times that it was no longer even regarded as unusual. This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of the war, and it set the stage for the Cold War and the nuclear arms race that followed.”

And among those 50 million, let us not forget, were six million Jews in ovens and gas chambers.

That’s the thing about war. Eventually you do what is necessary to bring it to an end. On his television program last Saturday, Mike Huckabee reminded Americans that at Hiroshima and Nagasaki 50 people were killed for every life that was lost at Pearl Harbor.

In another era Theodore Roosevelt said, “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” Sometimes you can’t walk quite so softly, and sometimes it actually is necessary to use the stick.

Might may not make right, but might is often what is required to bring violence to an end.

When viewed through the long lens of history, the outcry against Israel this month, particularly from some quarters of the U.S and the U.K., seems to be pots calling the kettle black.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Waxing philosophical as the dog days continue to wind down

So near and yet so far.

In just under two months this blog will be seven years old. I wonder if it’ll make it.

I wonder if I will.

We have no promise of tomorrow, or even of today. All we have is this moment, and this one, and this one, a constant breathing in and out of earth’s atmosphere (78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide) until we don’t do it any more.

Just think, that stuff in our lungs is 78% nitrogen, the liquid form of which was once used to remove a couple of warts from my fingers. I watched them turn black (the warts, not the fingers) over a period of a few days, then rubbery, and finally peel off, leaving no trace of their former nastiness.

According to some people, human life is like that. We are, and then we are not, and all trace of us is gone.

I beg to differ.

We live on in the faces of our children and grandchildren. We live on in the lives of those with whom we have come in contact. We even live on in old blogposts. We live on in ways we cannot fathom. Matter may disappear but it is converted to energy. E equals mc squared and all that. Our minds are too finite; we cannot take it in.

But we live on.

I’m counting on it.

<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...