Saturday, November 30, 2019

Post-Thanksgiving reflections

This past Thursday, November 28th, the fourth Thursday in November, was Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Canada's Thanksgiving Day occurs on the second Monday of October, which fell this year on October 14th. Ours used to vary between the fourth and fifth Thursdays in November when people referred to Thanksgiving as occurring on the last Thursday in November. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt, our 32nd president, it was nailed down to the fourth Thursday of November by Congress in 1941. I do not know if other countries observe a Thanksgiving Day, but if your country does, tell us about it and its origins in the comments.

America's first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Lucky thing, too, as Squanto, a local native American (formerly known as an Indian) who taught the settlers from Europe how to plant and raise crops, died in 1622. In 1789 our first President, George Washington, issued a proclamation concerning a day of thanksgiving, and Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, issued another proclamation in 1861. In other words, it's a long-standing tradition here, even though for many it is merely a day for family get-togethers, big meals, and marathon watching of football games on television.

My blogger friend Linda asked what we were thankful for besides the usual stuff people say. I replied that I am thankful for indoor plumbing including flush toilets and hot and cold running water, because I grew up without them. I am thankful that we no longer live in a state that had 30-degrees-below-zero temperatures and icicles that reached from the roof to the ground. I am thankful for food in the refrigerator and a car that runs. I said that I was thankful that my children and grandchildren are in church and not in jail.

When my blogger friend Emma asked us to name things we were thankful for, I left the same list but added that although I did not put it on anyone's blog, I am also thankful for the air I breathe and the warmth of the sun. I am thankful for blue sky and green grass. I am thankful for the wonderful wife and companion who has walked beside me for 56 years. I am thankful for my little dog, a Chihuahua-Terrier mix whose name is Señorita Juanita Rosita Conchita Abigail, Abby for short. I am thankful for good health and for enough money to put gasoline (British, petrol) in that car.

I'm thankful for many things I cannot put into words.

And of course I am thankful for you.

What are you thankful for? Keep in mind that if the editor (that would be moi) considers any part of your answer to be rude, lewd, lascivious, or as appealing to one’s prurient interest or political leanings it will not be published.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Freddish and my reality

In this very interesting article in The Atlantic magazine about Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood fame, he is reported to have been very careful about how he spoke to children and what he said to them. People who worked with him on his television program dubbed his approach "Freddish" and eventually produced a pamphlet entitled "Let's Talk About Freddish".

According to the pamphlet, there were nine steps for translating something into Freddish:
  1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street. ​​​​​​
  2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe.
  3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in “Ask your parents where it is safe to play.”
  4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of “ask”: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.
  5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be “will”: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.
  6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.
  7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.
  8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” “Good” represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.
  9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.
Few of us are that scrupulous, but it should give us all pause and food for thought.

My dad didn't talk like Mr. Rogers. Sometimes he called me "Dummkopf" when he was particularly exasperated.

I ended up being named valedictorian of my graduating class. I think he was more surprised than anybody.

Sometimes, out of the blue, he would show me his hands and say, “The Navy trained these hands to kill”. Sometimes, for no reason at all, he would talk about the Medes and the Persians, or Ur of the Chaldees. Sometimes, as if to remind himself that a tirade may have gone on too long, he would quote Jesus Christ, "Whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea".

It was hardly ever a beautiful day in my neighborhood.

If you had asked me back then if I loved him, I would have said, "No". I feared him. Today I think I can say that I love him. I have definitely forgiven him. With the passage of the years, especially after I had children of my own, I came to understand what he was trying to do (raise me to be a good man, point me in the right direction). He did the best he could with the tools at his disposal. He was honest, hard-working, and very difficult to live with.

If you think old Rhymeswithplague is a bit loopy at times, perhaps you can begin to understand why.

Even though it is almost six minutes long, I hope you will watch this video clip of the 1997 Daytime Emmys when Fred Rogers received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the 10 seconds of silence he gave us, I thought about my mother and one or two other people. I did not think about my father.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

I learn a new word, which leads to other thoughts, which I use frequently, includes a "word of the day" every single day (naturally). A few days ago the word of the day was oppidan. I had never heard of it.

adjective [op-i-duhn]
of a town; urban.

I think I have a better-than-average vocabulary. I know words like defenestrate and quotidian. I know that the accent on the word indefatigable comes on the third syllable, not the fourth. Oppidan was a new one on me.

My education is sorely lacking in many ways, some more obvious than others, but we won't go there just now.

The people always explain their word of the day. Here is what they said about oppidan:

Oppidan derives from Latin oppidānus “of a town,” from the noun oppidum “town.” Oppidānus didn’t just describe any town, though: it was used of towns other than Rome, which was referred to as urbs “city,” specifically the capital city of Rome. Due to this distinction from Rome, Latin oppidānus could have the pejorative connotation of “provincial, rustic.” The adjective form of urbs was urbānus “of the city,” source of English urban. Another city-based adjective English gets from Latin is municipal, from mūnicipium, a town whose residents had the rights of Roman citizens but which otherwise governed itself. Oppidan entered English by the mid-1500s.

We've all heard the old saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away".

My dad used to say that an onion a day keeps everyone away.

Here's what I think. I think a new word a day keeps the cobwebs away.

The older I get, the more I think it.

Where I live is not urban, suburban, exurban, or rural. It is certainly not oppidan in the sense of provincial or rustic. I live at the very edge of what Atlanta's city planners refer to as urban sprawl. I like to say that eastern Cherokee County, where I live, is very much like the hem of the garment of the high priest in ancient Israel as described in both the 28th and 39th chapters of the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, because as you go around the hem of the high priest's garment there's a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, and as you go around eastern Cherokee County there's a farm and a subdivision, a farm and a subdivision. We have heavy traffic on our roads, and we have horses and cows between our subdivisions. Well, we don’t, but you get what I’m saying.

Were you familiar with the word oppidan?

Remember, it's a sin to lie in the comments.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Keeping the wolf from the door, or The past is not dead, it's not even past

It was 20° F (almost minus 7° C) here this morning. The birdbath was a solid block of ice.

Winter is making an early appearance this year. The door from our kitchen to our patio is a bit drafty, which we never notice unless the air is cold. Last night I used hand towels to plug the door frame. It's easy peasy. All you have to do is fold three or four hand towels in half vertically, then take a table knife from the kitchen drawer and use it to poke them into the gaps from the top of the door to the bottom. It works like a charm. I also pushed something across the bottom of the door as a barricade against the winter air. The windows in this house are okay without help from me.

Something else we do every winter around here is put duct tape over every electrical outlet that is not being used.

I do not live in a hovel, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. It's much better than my childhood home out in Texas, where every time it rained we had to use every pot and pan and bowl in the house to catch the leaks from our corrugated tin roof.

I'm not kidding. It still amazes me after all these years that sometimes I don't know it is raining unless I look out the window because we can't hear the rain hitting the roof.

Things were very primitive in my old home, which consisted of four rooms and a path.

If you don't know what that means, get an old person who grew up in the country to tell you.

I must end this post or I will become depressed, but you get extra points if you spotted the quotation from William Faulkner.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Today is November 9th

...which reminds me that another thing that differentiates the U.S. from much of the rest of the world is the way we write the date.

Let me explain. Today, as I started to say, is November 9th in the wonderfully positive year of 2019 (I'm hallucinating about the qualities of the year) and we in the U.S. would write this on our slates (anybody remember slates?) as 11/9/2019 and not be reminded of anything. The rest of you, for the most part, would write it as 9/11/2019 and not be reminded of anything either.

But an American seeing 9/1l on a page is suddenly reminded of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 when nearly 3,000 people died and two very large and prominent buildings in New York City came crashing down, all 110 stories of them.

We write dates as mm/dd/yyyy and you write dates as dd/mm/yyyy.

There are other things that separate us.

We drive on the right side of the road and you drive on the left side.

We either simplify or mangle spelling, depending on one's point of view, by writing favor, honor, neighbor, maneuver, theater, center and so forth. You write favour, honour, neighbour, manoeuvre, theatre, centre and so forth.

We say to-MAY-to and you say to-MAH-to.

We never mix peas and mashed potatoes together on a plate and you do it all the time.

I could go on and on.

We are different, and yet we are so very much alike.

Here are some things that unite us.

We both put our trousers on one leg at a time. (Note. I once heard a chap say, “Burt Reynolds puts his pants on the same way you and I do” and the second chap said “Yes, but he gets to do it more often.”)

Moving right along....

If someone pricks us, we bleed (Shakespeare pointed this out as well).

We laugh, we weep, we mourn, we dance.

There is nothing new under the sun, drones in the sky notwithstanding.

This post is as jumbled as most of the ones I write.

You should be used to it by now.

Tell me in the comments some other ways we are different and some other ways we are alike. Remember to keep it clean as this is a family blog.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

If your nose runs and your feet smell, you're built upside-down

I don't think I have used that line as a post title before, but if I have, well, I just used it again.

The line is not original with me. Some comedian said it years and years ago, and when I heard it I filed it away in my brain for future reference, like E=mc2.

Speaking of comedians, George Carlin used to have (I say used to because he is no longer with us) a routine called "The Seven Words You Cannot Say On Television" that was either hilarious or vile depending on your upbringing. Nowadays those words can be heard frequently on television, read frequently in books and newspapers, seen frequently on all sorts of social media sites except this blog, and heard coming out of the mouths of people with poor vocabularies everywhere except possibly in church.

I always thought George Carlin was funniest when he was doing things like pointing out that we drive on parkways and park on driveways.

But I don't want to talk about George Carlin. I want to talk about Spike Jones and the City Slickers.

If somehow you missed Spike Jones and the City Slickers (a novelty band from back in the 1940s and 1950s), your education was sorely lacking..

Let's remedy that. Here's The Man On the Flying Trapeze (3:06). Once you hear it, you will never forget it.

For those of you who never click on links, here's a fairly accurate (I do not say perfect) transcript of the clip:

Ohh honce I was wappy uh, once I was sappy, uh
Sap I was wunsy no, no
Once I was happy, but fow I'm norlorn, uh
Lorn I fow now, uh, sigh on lie nigh, uh
Nylons are free, no, no, now I'm forlorn

Like an old goat, oh no, not a goat, that's an animal
Like an old coat that is tornered and tat, uh, teetered and torned
Uh, tattered and tipped, uh, tap with a toupee, uh, ripped

Left in this wide world to sleep and to snore
Uh, to weep and to mourn
Betreaned by a jade in her means
No, bemeaned by a trade for some jeans
No, bejeaned by a teen with some jade
No, betrayed by a maid in her teens

He floats by his hair, ooh, not by his hair that would hurt
Speaking of hair, a man came up to me today and said
"Doodles, your hair is getting thin"
And I said, "Well, who wants fat hair?"
That's a killer!

He floats through the air with the aidest of grease
With the latest of fleas, uh, with plates full of cheese
No, no, with the birds and the bees, uh, he can't miss

The manning young dare, uh, the daring young mare
He's not a horse, that's silly, he'd break his neck
The fanny young Dan, the danny young fan
He's an awful old ham, uh, he's a young fellow 'bout my age

You know, a funny thing happened
A man came up to me and said
"Doodles, Doodles, did you leave home?"
I said, "I left home"
He said, "Did you put the cat out?"
I said, "I didn't know he was on fire!"
That's a killer!

The daring young man on the flapping tripeze
Uh, treezing triflaps, uh, trying flip flips, uh, flipping triflop
Uh, flapping trivalve, horizontal bars

His grations are axle, no, his actions are horrible, no
He's very good, all girls he doth please
But, my wuv he hath lollen astay
No, the dove's in the hayloft away
No, I'm on the road to Mandalay, no, hey hey hey
No, now, did you hear about the owl that married a goat?
They had a hootenanny.
That's a killer!

He's the man on the flying trapeze

(end of song)

You can find lots of other Spike Jones versions of songs like You Always Hurt The One You Love, Cocktails For Two, Laura, and so forth online.

But your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to go learn as much as you can about Mischief Night, Guy Fawkes Day, and Bonfire Night, and then talk about them on other people's blogs, maybe this one.

I'm kidding.

Sort of.

This post will self-destruct in five seconds. (No, it won't, however much you may wish it would.)

I will be laboring (<i>British,</i> labouring) under a handicap for the next couple of weeks (<i>British,</i> fortnight)

More about that below. First, though, I want to add an addendum (what else would you do with an addendum?) to my previous post about phone...