Thursday, February 28, 2019

The perplexedness/bemusement/fascination/dumbfounderment continues unabated

After telling me in a comment on the last post that her mother's and her mother's siblings' names were Romaine, Morton, Harlan, John, Gloria, Douglas, Geraldine and Allegra, reader Pam D. (who blogs as hilltophomesteader) wondered if actor Mahershala Ali's parents got his name from the bible.

The short answer is yes, but let's make a whole post out of Pam's inquiry.

First, it is interesting to me that the names of Pam's relatives are Romaine (as in lettuce), Morton (as in salt), Harlan (as in Kentucky Fried Chicken's Colonel Sanders), John (as in Fitzgerald Kennedy), Gloria (as in Swanson), Douglas (as in Fairbanks), and so forth.

Mnemonic Devices R Us.

Second, in this great poker game called life, I'll see Pam's mother's and mother's siblings' names and raise them a notch or two with the names of my stepmother and her siblings: Cleo, Mildred Louise, John D. (as in Rockefeller), Willie Margaret, Russell Sterling, Marvin Edward, Billy, Marian Faye, Fred, and Bonnie Sue.

Third, and back to the main topic, actor Mahershala Ali's name is not actually Mahershala, it's Mahershalalhashbaz. It says so right in the wikipedia article about him: “Ali was born Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore in 1974, in Oakland, California, the son of Willicia and Phillip Gilmore. He was named after Maher-shalal-hash-baz, a biblical prophetic-name child, and raised a Christian by his mother, an ordained minister. During his college basketball career, he went under the first name of Hershal. In 2000, he converted to Islam, changing his surname from Gilmore to Ali.”

So far, so good.

I'm wondering, though, why, in its shortened form, he dropped the "l" that was part of the "shalal" just before the "hashbaz". Odd. It's rather like if your spouse's name was Barbara and instead of shortening it to Barb like everyone else would, you shortened it to Bar. Oh, wait, President George H.W. Bush actually did that.

What's a consonant or two between friends? No big deal.

Maher-shalal-hash-baz, a transliteration into our alphabet of the Hebrew words מַהֵר שָׁלָל חָשׁ בַּז (remember to read from right to left), means "Hurry to the spoils!" or "He has made haste to the plunder!" and is the second mentioned prophetic-name child in the biblical book of Isaiah:

"Moreover the Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man's pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz. And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz. For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria. " (Isaiah 8:1-4)

The name Maher-shalal-hash-baz, then, is a reference to the impending plunder of Samaria and Damascus by the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser III (734–732 BCE).

The prophet Isaiah's first son, Shearjashub, is mentioned in Isaiah 7:3. Jewish and Christian commentators traditionally note that this first son's name is also prophetic – meaning "the remnant shall return" – but no account of why, when or how this son was named is given in the Book of Isaiah.

Maher-shalal-hash-baz is often counted the longest name (and word) used in the Bible, though a possible longer name-phrase, "Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom", is found in Isaiah 9:6 :

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6), which in Hebrew (again, a transliteration) is Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom.

I couldn't begin to tell you why, but all of the foregoing vaguely reminds me of a hilarious old Monty Python bit in which Eric Idle as an English vicar expounds on a verse from Genesis, "My brother Esau is a hairy man, but I am a smooth man." -- at least I think it was Eric Idle. It might have been John Cleese.

I guess that's enough perplexedness/bemusement/fascination/dumbfounderment for one post (with thanks to reader Graham Edwards who supplied the adjectival form of the phrase; I merely converted the adjectives into nouns).

Until next time, keep your powder dry, or as they said in World War II, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

A final plea to parents everywhere: Please do not name your child Tiglath-Pileser as he (or she) will be scarred for life.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Unicorn, Behemoth, and Leviathan

...are not the names of the Andrews Sisters. They were Patty, Maxene, and LaVerne. If you want to go down that particular rabbit trail, the McGuire Sisters were Chris, Dottie, and Phyllis; the Gabor Sisters were Magda, Zsa Zsa, and Eva; and the tennis-playing Williams Sisters are Serena and Venus.

Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland were also sisters, but they didn't get along very well. The original Ann Landers and the original Dear Abby, advice columnists at rival newspapers, were also sisters named Esther and Pauline. They called each other "Eppie" and "Po-Po".

Enough, already.

Back to the topic at hand, I awoke today with those three words in the title on my mind. I have no idea why. They are all terms found in the King James Version of the Bible, the translation of which from Greek and Hebrew manuscripts was accomplished in the year 1611. English has changed a bit since then.

In various modern translations (I could tell you which ones specifically, but I assume you don't really care), unicorn has become wild ox, wild goat, buffalo, and rhinoceros; behemoth has become hippopotamus, and leviathan has become (take your pick) sea monster or crocodile. On a personal note, I had always assumed leviathan was a whale, but no one who is anyone important agrees with me.

Moving right along, my mother used to say when faced with skepticism, "Vas you dere, Charlie?" which I have learned can be traced to a vaudeville comedian and early radio performer named Jack Pearl, who used it with his Baron Munchausen character, whom he introduced in The Ziegfeld Follies Of The Air radio program in 1932. The rest is history

Actually, everthing is history, unless it is mathematics. You and I will be history someday too. I doubt very much that we will be mathematics.

Speaking of history, here are the names of the winners of the top five categories (best director, best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, not necessarily in that order) at last night's 91st Academy Awards presentations in Los Angeles, which I didn't watch:

Alfonso Cuaron
Olivia Colman
Rami Malek
Regina King
Mahershala Ali

I never heard of any of them. In my mind, they are already history.

While the rest of you pursue world peace and personal happiness and cheaper prices for food, clothing, and gasoline/petrol, I content myself with getting to the bottom of truly useless information.

As ever, I remain (I hope),

Sunday, February 17, 2019

I like to be in America! O.K. by me in America! Everything free in America! For a small fee in America!

One habit Mrs. RWP and I have developed is stopping every Sunday morning on the way to church to have a sausage, egg, and cheese croissant with hash browns (potatoes) and coffee at our local Burger King. Usually there are old songs being piped throughout the establishment (to help us digest our food, I suppose, or to hurry us along to make room for other customers).

A couple of weeks ago I heard "That's The Way (Uh Huh, Uh Huh) I Like It (Uh Huh, Uh Huh)" and was sure it was being performed by either Creedence Clearwater Revival or Hall & Oates. When I looked it up on my widdle smartphone, however, I was completely wrong. It was by KC & The Sunshine Band. That particular stop for breakfast inspired my later post about Creedence Clearwater Revival and their song about them old cotton fields back home.

You take inspiration where you find it.

This week the song that lodged in my brain at Burger King was Paul Simon singing "Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard" from 1972.

You know I had to look it up. According to my source (don't look now but it starts with a W), the song is about two boys ("Me and Julio") who have broken a law, although the exact law that has been broken is not stated in the song. When "the mama pajama" finds out what they have done, she goes to the police station to report the crime. The individuals are later arrested, but released when a "radical priest" intervenes. The meaning and references in the song have long provoked debate. In a July 20, 1972 interview for Rolling Stone, Jon Landau asked Simon: "What is it that the mama saw? The whole world wants to know." Simon replied, "I have no idea what it is... Something sexual is what I imagine, but when I say 'something', I never bothered to figure out what it was. Didn't make any difference to me."

In all these years I have never imagined that the song was about "something sexual"; I always thought it was about a transaction involving the sale/purchase of illicit drugs.

Live and learn.

P.S. -- I grew up in the country. If Paul Simon had grown up in my part of the world and knew the kind of people I knew, his song would probably have been "Me and Julio Out In The Cornfield" or "Me and Julio Down By The Stock Tank" or "Me and Julio Up In The Hayloft"...I'm just sayin'.

P.P.S. -- Any thought you may have of me and Julio interacting in any way whatsoever is a complete figment of your overwrought imagination.

P.P.P.S. -- A considerate blogger would probably include here a youtube clip of the song in question, but in the interest of audience participation I am going to let you find it yourself.

P.P.P.P.S. -- In conclusion, I leave you with a completely unrelated trivia factoid of the day. When Dick Van Dyke left the Broadway cast of "Bye, Bye, Birdie" to start his television series, he was replaced by Gene Rayburn who is most remembered today as the host of several incarnations of Match Game on the telly. Mr. Rayburn's understudy in "Bye, Bye, Birdie" was Charles Nelson Reilly, who also spent many years on Match Game.

Friday, February 15, 2019

What a difference a hundred years can make!

Here are some of the songs people were singing in the year 1918:

Rock-A-Bye Your Baby (With A Dixie Melody)
I'm Always Chasing Rainbows
Oh! How I Hate To Get Up in the Morning
Hello Central, Give Me No Man's Land
At The Darktown Strutter's Ball
Over There
Battle Hymn of the Republic
Hail! Hail! The Gang's All Here
Somewhere in France is the Lily
The Old Grey Mare
Liberty Loan March
If He Can Fight Like He Can Love (Good Night, Germany)
K-K-K-Katy (Stammering Song)
God Be With Our Boys Tonight

I know ten of these songs. I have never heard of five.

Here are The Top 50 Songs Of 2018 complete with extended descriptions and soundtracks.

I don't know any of them. I recognize the names of only a couple of the performers but could not tell you what they sound like.

All in all, I much prefer the 1918 songs.

Conclusion: I am an old geezer.

Monday, February 11, 2019

As Betelgeuse once said to Rigel, "You can't be Sirius!

When I was a young lad in Texas 70 years ago, my Dad introduced me to the glories of the night sky. He showed me The Big Dipper in the constellation Ursa Major (Big Bear) and how to draw a line through two of its stars to find Polaris, the North Star, which was at the end of the handle of The Little Dipper in the constellation Ursa Minor (Little Bear). He showed me how to look an equal distance beyond Polaris to find Cassiopeia, which according to Wikipedia "was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century Greek astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations today. It is easily recognizable due to its distinctive 'W' shape, formed by five bright stars. It is opposite the Big Dipper."

It is not really "opposite" the Big Dipper, but I know what Wikipedia was trying to say. My Dad said it better.

Speaking of my Dad, he also showed me Orion the Hunter, easily identified by the three stars in his belt; and Sirius, the Dog Star; and Leo the Lion; and red Antares in Scorpius (which really does look like a scorpion if your imagination is good enough).

He showed me Venus and Jupiter and Mars. He showed me the Milky Way. Anybody who does that can’t be all bad.

The Milky Way was easily visible in those days and stunning on the dark, flat plains of Texas. Today it cannot be seen from our urban and suburban areas because of all the man-made light near the ground.

Later I learned that Orion's right shoulder was the star Betelgeuse and his left knee was the star Rigel. I say "left" and "right" assuming Orion is facing toward us. If he is facing away from us, Betelgeuse is his left shoulder and Rigel is his right knee. I’m just saying.

(Image from

This week I had a huge shock. I took my dog out for her last nightly walk before bedtime, looked up into the sky and saw bright Sirius, and glanced to the right to see my old friend Orion. There was Betelgeuse on his shoulder. There was Rigel on his knee.

I couldn't see his belt.

The macular degeneration in my eyes has reached the point that the only way I can see dimmer stars like the ones in Orion's belt any more is to look slightly to the right of them and pick them up in my peripheral vision, which isn't nearly as satisfying.

It's just more evidence that I am slowly going the way of all flesh.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Earworms R Us, or Take two Creedence Clearwater Revivals and call me in the morning

When I was a little bitty baby
My mama would rock me in the cradle
In them old cotton fields back home

It was down in Louisiana
Just about a mile from Texarkana
In them old cotton fields back home

Oh, when them cotton bolls get rotten
You can't pick very much cotton
In them old cotton fields back home

It was down in Louisiana
Just about a mile from Texarkana
In them old cotton fields back home

When I was a little bitty baby
My mama would rock me in the cradle
In them old cotton fields back home

It was down in Louisiana
Just about a mile from Texarkana
In them old cotton fields back home

When I was a little bitty baby
My mama would rock me in the cradle
In them old cotton fields back home

Oh, when them cotton bolls get rotten
You can't pick very much cotton
In them old cotton fields back home

It was down in Louisiana
Just about a mile from Texarkana
In them old cotton fields back home

When I was a little bitty baby
My mama would rock me in the cradle
In them old cotton fields back home

Oh, when them cotton bolls get rotten
You can't pick very much cotton
In them old cotton fields back home

It was down in Louisiana
Just about a mile from Texarkana
In them old cotton fields back home

(Photo by Calsidy Rose, 2007, used in accordance with the terms of CC BY SA 2.0)

First of all, by way of full disclosure, my mama never rocked me in no dadblamed cradle in no cotton fields back home, to use the vernacular. Mama was a city girl from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was in Texas only under protest. Mama rocked me in a cradle in a third-floor walk-up apartment in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Second of all, that photo was taken south of Lubbock, Texas, in 2007 and my home was several hundred miles to the east where the land is black, not brownish-red.

Third of all, Louisiana is not just about a mile from Texarkana. Texarkana is a city that straddles the Texas-Arkansas border 35 miles north of Ida, the first community you reach in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, when driving on Interstate Highway I-45.

Fourth of all and finally, in spite of what anyone else may tell you, the above deathless lyrics, sung over and over ad infinitum, are permanently imprinted in the hippocampus of many an American of a certain age. The song was recorded by several artists over several decades, including Leadbelly, Johnny Cash, the Beach Boys, Phil Harris (I think, at least I distinctly remember hearing him sing it on the radio, probably live on either Jack Benny's or Bing Crosby's program), and -- probably most famously -- by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Public domain photograph of Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968). L-R: Tom Fogerty, Doug Clifford, Stu Cook, and John Fogerty

According to our old friend Wikipedia, "Creedence Clearwater Revival...was an American rock band active in the late 1960s and early 1970s which consisted of lead vocalist, lead guitarist, and primary songwriter John Fogerty; his brother rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty; bassist Stu Cook; and drummer Doug Clifford. These members had played together since 1959, first as The Blue Velvets, and later as The Golliwogs. Their musical style encompassed roots rock, swamp rock, and blues rock. They played in a Southern rock style, despite their San Francisco Bay Area origin, with lyrics about bayous, catfish, the Mississippi River, and other popular elements of Southern United States iconography, as well as political and socially conscious lyrics about topics including the Vietnam War. The band performed at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Upstate New York.

"The group disbanded acrimoniously in late 1972 after four years of chart-topping success. Tom Fogerty had officially left the previous year, and John was at odds with the remaining members over matters of business and artistic control, all of which resulted in subsequent lawsuits among the former bandmates. Fogerty's ongoing disagreements with Fantasy Records owner Saul Zaentz created further protracted court battles, and John Fogerty refused to perform with the two other surviving members at CCR's 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"Creedence Clearwater Revival's music is still a staple of US radio airplay; the band has sold 28 million records in the United States alone. Rolling Stone ranked them 82nd on its Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list."

I would guess that Jessye Norman is much farther down on anyone’s list, somewhere between Leontyne Price and Robert Goulet.

For those who care to have their hippocampuses stroked and other parts of their brain scrambled beyond recognition (I'm joking), here is Creedence Clearwater Revival singing "Cotton Fields" (2:58).


Friday, February 1, 2019

Alphabet soup

Before he spoke at the UN, LBJ put on new BVDs PDQ.

Say what?

We live in an acronym-loving world that is getting worse all the time. Everybody (well, maybe not everybody) recognizes SONAR and RADAR and LASER and GPS and FDR and JFK and UNICEF and BBC and GE and GM and IBM and ATT and hundreds of other shortcut ways of communicating via speech and writing. We recognize them instantly. In this age of Donald Trump we have come to know FBI and CIA and MI5 and even MI6, fun concepts all. An especially fun one is DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average). A not-so-fun category includes SJW (social justice warriors) and STD (sexually-transmitted disease).

Here are a few medical acronyms that I have heard (and heard and heard) on television lately:


Three of these are in commercials from pharmaceutical companies and one is from the Dr. Phil show.

Give up?

They mean pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, traumatic brain injury, and metastatic breast cancer (note use of the Oxford comma).

And don't forget the ever-popular ED (erectile dysfunction).

I think there is more going on here than just a clever way to speed up communication. I think we human beings want to avoid unpleasant topics, want to pretend they don't exist, can't bring ourselves to say the actual words out loud because they scare us more than we like to admit.

Changing subjects, sort of, what is it with the pharmaceutical giants marketing directly to us yokels out here in television land? Why do they tell us to ask our doctor about their products? Why don't they go directly to the medical community themselves? Since when do the patients tell the physicians what medicines they need to prescribe?

Is a puzzlement.

If you ask me, this post is rather Andy Rooney-esque.

I miss him.

Before signing off, I would like to send birthday greetings to my good friend Mr. Rinaldo R. “Len” Gallucci of Bainbridge, Georgia, who will be 96 tomorrow.

<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...