Monday, March 19, 2018

Eating humble pie, or When what one is sure is absolutely right turns out to be absolutely wrong

Mrs. RWP and I spend a great deal of time doing two things.

It's probably not what you're thinking.

The two things we spend a lot of time doing, besides eating and sleeping, is playing Words With Friends (a Scrabble-like game) on our smart phones and watching the BUZZR channel on television.

We used to get television via cable, but when the cable company raised its rate by five dollars a month every January for several years in a row, we finally said "Enough!" and switched to satellite. In the U.S., two of the major satellite providers are DirectTV and Dish Network. We have Dish Network. It has a channel called BUZZR that is rather like GSN (the Game Show Network) in that most of the programs shown are game shows from decades ago.

It may be yesterday's junk food, but it is better than today's junk food. We have never watched, and refuse to watch, many of the programs being offered nowadays, programs other people seem to enjoy, like The Walking Dead, Game Of Thrones, and House Of Cards. Thanks, but no thanks. And many so-called comedies today are just plain offensive. As Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, once said, "Vulgarity is no substitute for wit."

So we watch BUZZR.

Sometimes we watch shows from the 1970s and 1980s such as Match Game (with host Gene Rayburn and celebrity panelists Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, Richard Dawson, Fannie Flagg, Betty White, and others), Tattletales (with host Bert Convy), Trivia Trap (with host Bob Eubanks, before he hosted The Newlywed Game), Beat the Clock (the later iteration with host Monty Hall), Now You See It (with host Jack Narz), and Family Feud (with several different hosts, most prominently Richard Dawson who kissed all the women).

I have never cared for Family Feud because it does not deal with right answers and wrong answers but with the most popular answers. For example, when contestants were asked to name something one might see at the North Pole, the most popular answer was "penguin" and we all know, or should, that penguins are not found in the Arctic.

But I digress.

We also watch even older, black-and-white shows from the 1960s and even the 1950s such as What's My Line? (with host John Daly and celebrity panelists Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, and Arlene Francis), I've Got A Secret (with host Garry Moore and celebrity panelists Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer, Henry Morgan, and Bess Myerson), To Tell The Truth (with host Bud Collier and celebrity panelists Tom Poston, Faye Emerson, Peggy Cass, Kitty Carlisle, a very young Merv Griffin, and a very young Johnny Carson), the original version of Beat the Clock (with host Bud Collier), and even obscure ones like The Name's The Same (with host Robert Q. Lewis and celebrity panelists like Abe Burrows and Meredith Wilson).

I can hear some of you saying, "Who?"

Be that as it may, I forge ahead with my fascinating post.

I'll be getting to the reason for this post shortly. Any time now. Hang in there.

It occurred to me this week while I was watching an episode of Beat the Clock from 1953 that that program was 65 years old. I probably watched it live on a 12-inch screen in my parents' house when I was 12 years old. It further occurred to me that if modern technology had been around in 1953, I could have watched people and game shows from 65 years earlier, from 1888. That thought blew me away, as the young folks say, even though I'm pretty sure there were no game shows in 1888.

Anyway, on What’s My Line? recently one of the contestants was a young man with dark hair who signed in as Tom Eagleton and the occupation or “line” the panel was supposed to determine was district attorney of St. Louis, Missouri. I said, "Oh, look! There's a very young Tom Eagleton!" and explained to Mrs. RWP that Tom Eagleton later became Senator from Missouri and a few years after that he was selected by Hubert Humphrey to be his Vice-Presidential running mate on the Democratic Party's ticket in 1968 but was removed from the ticket a short time later and replaced by Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine when it became known that Senator Eagleton had suffered from bouts of depression throughout his life, resulting in several hospitalizations that had been kept secret from the public. The Humphrey-Muskie ticket went on to lose to Richard Nixon in November.

Go to the top of this post right now and read the title of this post again. Don't forget to come back and continue reading.

People sometimes tell me what a phenomenal memory I have and how many facts I have at my disposal, but this time my memory failed me and the facts were a bit skewed. One day later, when I went to my trusty computer to learn more about Senator Eagleton, I discovered that in this particular instance I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Senator Tom Eagleton of Missouri was indeed picked to be the Vice-Presidential candidate on the Democratic Party ticket but it wasn't by Hubert Humphrey, he wasn't replaced by Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, and it didn't happen in 1968.

It turns out that Senator Tom Eagleton of Missouri was selected by George McGovern to be his Vice-Presidential running mate in 1972, and he was replaced by Sargent Shriver, John F. Kennedy's brother-in-law. Interestingly, the McGovern-Shriver ticket also went on to lose to Richard Nixon in November.

Lo, how the mighty are fallen. Not Eagleton or Humphrey or Muskie or McGovern or Shriver. Not any of them.


Oh, the shame! Oh, the humiliation!

And although some of you may even be thinking "It's about time he had his comeuppance," humble pie can be quite tasty, actually, when it is swallowed whole and accompanied by a nice cup of hot coffee.

Here are some American politicians of yesteryear. I'll let you decide who is most depressed. My answer appears after the photos.

My vote for most depressed goes to the American public.

On a happier note, yesterday was my 77th birthday!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

My head hurts, or I dare you to read the link in this post all the way through, or a little light reading as the equinox approaches

Did you ever wonder how Kepler differed from Copernicus?

Me neither.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) had a certain view of things having to do with the sun, the moon, the earth, and the planets. Then along came Johannes Keppler (1571-1630) with a slightly different view of things. It's all made clear (or not) in the following article from Wikipedia:

Kepler's laws of planetary motion

Basically, Kepler's three laws are:

1. The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci.
2. A line joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time.
3. The square of the orbital period of a planet is directly proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit.

So, basically, it's as simple as 1, 2, 3.

Yeah, right.

Here is an illustration that makes things ever so much clearer:

As I was saying, yeah, right.

But perhaps the most disturbing statement in that article is this:

the semi-latus rectum p is the harmonic mean between rmin and rmax

I fervently hope someone invented a laxative for that.

To me, the most interesting thing I learned from reading the article is that the eccentricity of the orbit of the Earth [that is, it is elliptical, not circular as Copernicus had thought] makes the time from the March equinox to the September equinox, around 186 days, unequal to the time from the September equinox to the March equinox, around 179 days.

If you read the entire article and your head has stopped spinning, now that you have had your horizons expanded (as it were), please join me in singing Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (4:44), not once, but twice, complete with instructions on personal hygiene and planning your day.

Finally, which came first, the chicken or the egg?



Thursday, March 8, 2018

Speaking of poetry (and shouldn't we always be?)

I was poking around on the internet the other day, and I ran across this article from the October 2014 issue of The Atlantic magazine:

The Joy of the Memorized Poem

It's a bit long, and I don't know who among you will take the time to read it, but I am hoping that Yorkshire Pudding will, and All Consuming, and Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe too, read it all the way to the end.

Anyone who loves "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by William Butler Yeats will enjoy it.

And even if you never heard of him or his poem, I hope you will still read the article.

It's that good.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

One of these things is not like the others

There's an old joke about an English teacher who knocked on a door and a little boy opened it. "Is your mother home?" the teacher asked, and the little boy replied, "She ain't here, she has went to the store." The teacher then asked, "Well, is your father home?" and the little boy replied, "He ain't here neither, he ain't never here no more, mister, my parents got a divorce." Astonished at what he was hearing, the English teacher said, "Son, where's your grammar?" "Oh, that's easy," replied the boy. "She's upstairs taking a bath."

I'm here to reveal at last that the little boy's grammar was not upstairs taking a bath. It was out and about and trying to drown its sorrows. I found the following list on Facebook, proving that once in a while Facebook can be funny, instructive, and actually good for something:

A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.

A bar was walked into by the passive voice.

An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.

Two quotation marks walk into a "bar."

A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.

Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.

A question mark walks into a bar?

A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.

A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.

A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.

Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They converse. They depart.

A synonym strolls into a tavern.

At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar -- fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.

A run-on sentence walks into a bar it starts flirting. With a cute little sentence fragment.

A figure of speech walks into a bar and ends up getting literally hammered.

An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles heel.

The subjunctive would have walked into a bar, had it only known.

A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.

The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense.

A dyslexic walks into a bra.

A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.

An Oxford comma walks into a bar, where it spends the evening watching the television getting drunk and smoking cigars.

A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.

A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget.

Alliteration ambles into a bar, alone as always, aiming at alcohol.

An ellipsis walks into a bar...

An exclamation mark storms into a bar!

I hope you enjoyed those as much as I did. Did you spot the one that was not like the others?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

We grow too soon old and too late smart and it's all downhill from there

I am four days older than the man who wrote the following poem. In about three weeks (Lord willing and the creeks/Creeks don't rise) we both will be observing our 77th birthdays. He became poet laureate of these United States; I have achieved little of consequence. I don't know how old he was when he looked back in time and wrote this particular poem, but it is a good one:

On Turning Ten
by Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

P.S. -- This blog turned ten last September 28th. If I had known about the poem then I would have included it in my blogaversary post.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, life goes on

2018 headlines I never expected to see back in 1968:

Cryptocurrency Mining Is Impacting The Search For Alien Life

Trans Woman Breast-Feeds After Hospital Induces Lactation

I have others, but I will spare you.

If you ask me, and I know you didn't but that doesn't deter me one bit, much of what passes for journalism today has morphed into The National Enquirer. For readers outside the U.S., The National Enquirer is a tabloid one finds displayed near cash registers in supermarkets. It bombards people waiting in the check-out lines with such attention-grabbing headlines as "Woman in Alaska Gives Birth To Moose" and "Three-Headed Girl Wins Pole-Vaulting Competition" and "Lady Gaga Tells All: My Nightmare Date With Tom Cruz" in fonts of the size usually reserved for presidential assassinations. I am not even kidding. There is no way one can avoid seeing The National Enquirer and other publications of its ilk unless one shops with one's eyes tightly shut.

Be that as it may, and I'm changing subjects now, I used to think I was a fairly well-read person, someone who kept current with important happenings in the world, not one to let grass grow under his feet, and so forth. I was wrong. The little bit of which I am aware is so overwhelmed by the vast amount of information out there it makes one's my head swim. Not to belabor (British: belabour) the point, but what brought this realization (British: realisation) to the forefront of my beleaguered befuddled bewitched, bothered, and bewildered mind was learning recently that two semi-profound statements made by two different acquaintances of mine, statements that have resonated with me through the years and raised my acquaintances several notches in my estimation, have turned out not to have originated with them at all but were first said by others, namely:

1. During a discussion back in the early nineties about the quality or lack of quality in the work being produced by our department, a colleague of mine, Larry A., said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly." It caught me off-guard and I thought it was brilliant. Only recently have I discovered that it was a quotation from G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936).

2. A pastor of ours, Don M., said in a sermon 30 or so years ago, "Some people will never know that Jesus is all they need until they get to the place where He's all they have." Again, bingo! It resonated. It stuck with me. It turns out that Don was paraphrasing something said decades earlier by Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983), a Dutch woman whose family protected Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Her story of her ultimate capture and the years she and her sister spent in a German concentration camp were described in a book (and eventually a motion picture) called The Hiding Place.

The point I'm trying to make is not what a numbskull I am -- I may well be a numbskull but it's not the point I'm trying to make -- but that unless one is saying something so well known that most people recognize the source (Shakespeare, the Bible), one should probably attribute one's words to their originator whenever possible. I don't mean that you need to go around saying, "As Richard Nixon once said, 'I am not a crook' " or “As John F. Kennedy said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country’.” Nor am I advocating that you take an encyclopedic approach either, as in "Tall oaks from little acorns grow, which was alluded to as early as 1374 by Geoffrey Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde (“as an ook cometh from a litel spyr”), more recently by Thomas Fuller in 1732 in Gnomologia (“The greatest Oaks have been little Acorns”), and even poetically by D. Everett in The Columbian Orator, 1797 (“Large streams from little fountains flow, Tall oaks from little acorns grow.”)” — that would not be just silly but downright infuriating as well.

No, friends, I’m simply saying don’t let others think something is your own creation when you know it originated with someone else. For example, whenever I say, “Money is like manure. It doesn’t do any good unless you spread it around” I always mention that it is a line from Hello, Dolly!

Because honesty is the best policy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Separated at birth?



rhymeswithplague and friend

Czarina Alexandra Romanov, Trilby (a fictional character), and Her Royal Canine Highness Abigail of Canton all have their suspicions.

In a parallel universe, this post having been published on February 14th, it might have been titled My Funny Valentine. Here's Linda Ronstadt singing that very song, complete with its rarely heard verse (3:17). I'd like to think she's singing it to me.