Sunday, March 1, 2015

Douglas Adams, paging Mr. Douglas Adams

Here are the answers to the poetry pop quiz in my last post and a few more answers thrown in for good measure:

1. “I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died” by Emily Dickinson.
2. “Fable” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
3. “Dream Variations” by Langston Hughes.
4. “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou.

The answer to the question “Where’s Waldo?” (which was asked in the title of the poetry pop quiz post) was 2 (Ralph Waldo Emerson) . He was there all the time.

The answer to the question “What is The Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?” (which wasn’t asked at all) is 42.

42 is a domino game played mostly in Texas.

42 is the age of the youngest president of the United States (and it was not John F. Kennedy) .

42 is the number that baseball player Jackie Robinson wore on his jersey throughout his Major League career.

In Lewis Carroll's Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Rule Forty-two is “All persons more than a mile high to leave the court”. Specifically:


At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his notebook, called out “Silence!” and read out from his book, “Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.

Everybody looked at Alice.

“I’m not a mile high,” said Alice.

“You are,” said the King.

“Nearly two miles high,” added the Queen.

“Well, I sha’n’t go, at any rate,” said Alice: “besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.”

“It’s the oldest rule in the book,” said the King.

“Then it ought to be Number One,” said Alice.


I must say, I quite agree with Alice.

According to a woman named Connie Robertson in A Dictionary of Quotations (1998, p. 447) , Voltaire once said, “England has forty-two religions and only two sauces.”

42 is a lot of things. For just some of them, click here.

It will make your head swim.

This post is the blogging equivalent of the Theater of the Absurd, a term that can be traced (sort of) to “The Myth of Sisyphus” by Albert Camus, which was written in -- wait for it -- 1942 .

It is only fitting, therefore, that we end this post with the song “Mairzy Doats” which was written in 1943. Here is little Janet Lennon, youngest of The Four Lovely Lennon Sisters, singing it on The Lawrence Welk Show in 1957 (1:39) .

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pop quiz, or Where’s Waldo?

Here are four poems for your perusal.
Please tell me who they’re by. (Refusal
To comply with my request will make me sad.)
I am a poet too, you know.
(Not one of mine is shown below
Because mine go from bad to verse;
Trust me, they get worse and worse.)
Tell me the poet,
And for extra credit,
Tell me the title too.
All four poets are American.
Ready? You may now begin.
(Go, my children, go and sin no more make me glad.)


1.
I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air -
Between the Heaves of Storm -

The Eyes around - had wrung them dry -
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset - when the King
Be witnessed - in the Room -

I willed my Keepsakes - Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable - and then it was
There interposed a Fly -

With Blue - uncertain - stumbling Buzz -
Between the light - and me -
And then the Windows failed - and then
I could not see to see -


2.
The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel;
And the former called the latter “Little Prig.”
Bun replied,
“You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.
And I think it’s no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I’m not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry.
I’ll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track;
Talents differ: all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.”


3.
To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me -
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening...
A tall, slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.


4.
The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.


P.S. -- Please do not cheat. Either you know the answers or you don’t. The correct answers will appear in my next post.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Loquacious twit

No, not me, silly. W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan fame.


Gilbert














Sullivan
















Since reader Kate in Tauranga, New Zealand, found the words of I Am The Ruler of the Queen’s Navy from H.M.S. Pinafore very droll, I thought she and others of you might also enjoy these tongue-twisting lyrics from The Pirates of Penn’s Aunts Penzance:

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,
(bothered for a rhyme)
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.

I’m very good at integral and differential calculus;
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

I know our mythic history, King Arthur’s and Sir Caradoc’s;
I answer hard acrostics, I’ve a pretty taste for paradox,
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous;
I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,
I know the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes!
Then I can hum a fugue of which I’ve heard the music’s din afore,
(bothered for a rhyme)
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.

Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
And tell you ev’ry detail of Caractacus’s uniform:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

In fact, when I know what is meant by “mamelon” and “ravelin”,
When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I’m more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by “commissariat”,
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery –
In short, when I’ve a smattering of elemental strategy –
(bothered for a rhyme)
You’ll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee.

For my military knowledge, though I’m plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.


Whew! I rest my case.

I could never write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform, but I can tell you that Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore was probably Jewish -- just like Lady Rose’s new husband in Downton Abbey.

I mean, why else would Gilbert have made her sing, “Sweet Little Buttercup, Oy!”?

Here is William Penn without his aunts:


Friday, February 20, 2015

Eminently qualified

My English blogging friend Neil T., whose cyberspace moniker is Yorkshire Pudding, has made noises of late that his beloved Yorkshire should have a vote for independence just as Scotland did recently. I suggested that if the new nation he longs for becomes a reality he might be named Chancellor of the Exchequer or perhaps even Minister of Public Education since he has a 30-year career as a teacher of English in his résumé. However, his heart is set on being The Lord High Executioner.

Don’t be so fast to say, “Preposterous!” because this is not such a far-fetched idea. Your honor, I believe Yorkshire Pudding is eminently qualified for the position. In fact, Gilbert and Sullivan presented us with an impressive precedent in H.M.S. Pinafore:

When I was a lad I served a term
As office boy to an attorney’s firm
I cleaned the windows and I swept the floor
And I polished up the handle of the big front door
He polished up the handle of the big front door
I polished up that handle so carefully
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy
He polished up that handle so carefully
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy


As office boy I made such a mark
That they gave me the post of a junior clerk
I served the writs with a smile so bland
And I copied all the letters in a big round hand
He copied all the letters in a big round hand
I copied all the letters in a hand so free
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy
He copied all the letters in a hand so free
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy


In serving writs I made such a name
That an articled clerk I soon became
I wore clean collars and a brand-new suit
For the Pass Examination at the Institute
For the Pass Examination at the Institute
And that Pass Examination did so well for me
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy
That Pass Examination did so well for he
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy


Of legal knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the partnership
And that junior partnership I ween
Was the only ship that I ever had seen
Was the only ship that he ever had seen
But that kind of ship so suited me
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy
But that kind of ship so suited he
That now he is the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy


I grew so rich that I was sent
By a pocket borough into Parliament
I always voted at my party’s call
And I never thought of thinking for myself at all
No, he never thought of thinking for himself at all
I thought so little, they rewarded me
By making me the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy
He thought so little, they rewarded he
By making him the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy


Now, landsmen all, whoever you may be
If you want to rise to the top of the tree
If your soul isn’t fettered to an office stool
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea
And you all may be Rulers of the Queen’s Navy
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea
And you all may be Rulers of the Queen’s Navy


Given this incontrovertible evidence, Your Honor, I submit that Yorkshire Pudding's 30-year career as a teacher of English is the perfect credential for his being named The Lord High Executioner in the saucy new nation of Worcestershire Yorkshire.

Don’t you agree?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

But can you sing it with a rose between your teeth?

I promised to blog about the state song of New Mexico and I am a man of my word.

Wikipedia says that “O Fair New Mexico”, the state song of the U.S. state of New Mexico, was officially selected in 1917. It was adopted as the state song by an act of the New Mexico legislature, approved on March 14, 1917, as signed by Governor Washington E. Lindsey.

Wikipedia then tells us two almost unbelievable bits of information. First, the author, Elizabeth Garrett, was the daughter of former Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett, the man who killed Billy the Kid. Second, the musical genre of “O Fair New Mexico” is classified as a tango.

I learn something new every single day. Today I learned two things.

Here are the lyrics of “O Fair New Mexico”:

1. Under a sky of azure, where balmy breezes blow,
Kissed by the golden sunshine, is Nuevo México.
Home of the Montezuma, with fiery hearts a glow,
State of the deeds historic, is Nuevo México.

Chorus:

O, fair New Mexico, we love, we love you so
Our hearts with pride o’er flow, no matter where we go,
O, fair New Mexico, we love, we love you so,
The grandest state to know, New Mexico.

2. Rugged and high sierras, with deep canyons below;
Dotted with fertile valleys, is Nuevo México.
Fields full of sweet alfalfa, richest perfumes bestow,
State of the apple blossoms, is Nuevo México.

(Chorus)

3. Days that are full of heart-dreams, nights when the moon hangs low;
Beaming its benediction, o’er Nuevo México.
Land with its bright mañana, coming through weal and woe;
State of our esperanza, is Nuevo México.

(Chorus)


I must confess that when I think of New Mexico, fields full of sweet alfalfa and orchards full of apple blossoms do not leap to mind. Sorry. Rather, I think of deserts and pottery makers and Carlsbad Caverns.

But just to prove that the state song is indeed a tango, here is an audio file of “O Fair New Mexico”. Unfortunately, it includes one of the worst saxophones I have ever heard in my life.

Friday, February 13, 2015

No bit of trivia is too trivial for this here blogger

Today’s word is friggatriskaidekaphobia.

Actually, it isn’t, but I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

For today’s post I am indebted to our old pal friend nemesis Wikipedia and also to Ms. Patricia Schado of Jacksonville, Arkansas, who wrote the following comment on my previous post:

I was born in Texas (I don’t know a word or the melody of the Texas state song.) I have lived in Arkansas since 1950 and have absorbed the melody and a few words of our state song and, sorry to say, they mean nought. My home was in New Mexico from 1940-1950. I will spare you the recounting of the beautiful state song of New Mexico, the melody and all the words of which are forever etched into my brain and soul.

I know a passive-aggressive challenge when I see one, and if the melody and all the words of the beautiful state song of New Mexico are forever etched into Ms. Schado’s brain and soul, they need to be etched into ours as well, n’est-ce pas? No bit of trivia is too trivial for this here blogger, no ma’am, no sir, no way, Ho-zay (as they also probably say in the great and sovereign state of New Mexico).

With that having been said, let us proceed.

Before we get to New Mexico, however, we must pause in Ms. Schado’s honor and consider her current state of residence, Arkansas, which boasts not merely one but four state songs. I kid you not. They include a state anthem (“Arkansas”) , the lyrics of which I find charming; two state songs written for the 150th anniversary of Arkansas statehood (“Arkansas (You Run Deep In Me)” and “Oh, Arkansas” , both of which were also named official state songs by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1987) ; and a state historical song (“The Arkansas Traveler” , which has at least five different sets of words, one set of which begins "I’m bringin’ home a baby bumblebee, Won’t my mommy be so proud of me!") .

Everything in the preceding paragraph is true, and I urge you to check out the highlighted links for yourself to get the full effect.

As the head of the parole board said to Nicholas Cage in Raising Arizona on more than one occasion, “Well, okay then.”

Moving right along, let us hasten on to our stated topic, New Mexico’s state song.

Oops, I see by the old clock on the wall that we have run out of time for today and we will have to wait until next time for New Mexico. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

In Japanese, Ohio means good morning

American children used to sing songs when sitting around campfires on evenings when they were camping in the woods with their parents or Boy Scout troops or Campfire Girls organizations. Sometimes they would sing “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” or “Do, Lord, Oh Do, Lord, Oh Do Remember Me” or even “Kum-bay-yah” but those are not relevant to this post. Perhaps children still sing songs around campfires when they aren't gorging on S’mores or being forced by their parents to play Mexican train dominoes or sulking because they can’t recharge their electronic devices, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Here is a song I remember that used to make us chuckle:

What did Delaware, boys,
What did Delaware?
What did Delaware, boys,
What did Delaware?
What did Delaware, boys,
What did Delaware?
I ask you now as a personal friend,
What did Delaware?

She wore her New Jersey, boys,
She wore her New Jersey
She wore her New Jersey, boys,
She wore her New Jersey
She wore her New Jersey, boys,
She wore her New Jersey
I tell you now as a personal friend,
She wore her New Jersey

What did Idaho, boys,
What did Idaho?
What did Idaho, boys,
What did Idaho?
What did Idaho, boys,
What did Idaho?
I ask you now as a personal friend,
What did Idaho?

She hoed her Maryland, boys,
She hoed her Maryland
She hoed her Maryland, boys,
She hoed her Maryland
She hoed her Maryland, boys,
She hoed her Maryland
I tell you now as a personal friend,
She hoed her Maryland

What did Ioweigh, boys,
What did Ioweigh?
What did Ioweigh, boys,
What did Ioweigh?
What did Ioweigh, boys,
What did Ioweigh?
I ask you now as a personal friend,
What did Ioweigh?

She weighed a Washington, boys,
She weighed a Washington
She weighed a Washington, boys,
She weighed a Washington
She weighed a Washington, boys,
She weighed a Washington
I tell you now as a personal friend,
She weighed a Washington

How did Wiscon-sin, boys,
How did Wiscon-sin?
How did Wiscon-sin, boys,
How did Wiscon-sin?
How did Wiscon-sin, boys,
How did Wiscon-sin?
I ask you now as a personal friend,
How did Wiscon-sin?

She stole a New-brass-key, boys,
She stole a New-brass-key
She stole a New-brass-key, boys,
She stole a New-brass-key
She stole a New-brass-key, boys,
She stole a New-brass-key
I tell you now as a personal friend,
She stole a New-brass-key

What did Tennessee, boys,
What did Tennessee?
What did Tennessee, boys,
What did Tennessee?
What did Tennessee, boys,
What did Tennessee?
I ask you now as a personal friend,
What did Tennessee?

She saw what Arkansaw, boys,
She saw what Arkansaw
She saw what Arkansaw, boys,
She saw what Arkansaw
She saw what Arkansaw, boys,
She saw what Arkansaw
I tell you now as a personal friend,
She saw what Arkansaw

How did Flora-die, boys,
How did Flora-die
How did Flora-die, boys,
How did Flora-die
How did Flora-die, boys,
How did Flora-die
I ask you now as a personal friend,
How did Flora-die?

She died in Missouri, boys,
She died in Missouri
She died in Missouri, boys,
She died in Missouri
She died in Missouri, boys,
She died in Missouri
I tell you now as a personal friend,
She died in Missouri

Where has Oregon, boys,
Where has Oregon?
Where has Oregon, boys,
Where has Oregon?
Where has Oregon, boys,
Where has Oregon?
I ask you now as a personal friend,
Where has Oregon?

She took Oklahom, boys,
She took Oklahom
She took Oklahom, boys,
She took Oklahom
She took Oklahom, boys,
She took Oklahom
I tell you now as a personal friend,
She took Oklahom

Why did Califon-ya, boys,
Why did Califon?
Why did Califon-ya, boys,
Why did Califon?
Why did Califon-ya, boys,
Why did Califon?
I ask you now as a personal friend,
Why did Califon?

She phoned to say Hawai-ya, boys,
She phoned to say Hawai-ya
She phoned to say Hawai-ya, boys,
She phoned to say Hawai-ya
She phoned to say Hawai-ya, boys,
She phoned to say Hawai-ya
I tell you now as a personal friend,
That’s why Califoned.

What did Mississip, boys,
What did Mississip?
What did Mississip, boys,
What did Mississip?
What did Mississip, boys,
What did Mississip?
I ask you now as a personal friend,
What did Mississip?

She sipped a Minnisota, boys,
She sipped a Minnisota
She sipped a Minnisota, boys,
She sipped a Minnisota
She sipped a Minnisota, boys,
She sipped a Minnisota
I tell you now as a personal friend,
That’s what Mississipped.

(end of song)

If there are other verses, I don’t know them. But I do wonder whether any of you outside the U.S. can recall similar songs from your childhood that featured your own locales, you know, like “There’ll Be Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs Of Dover” (England) and “I Always Blubber When I Think Of New South Wales” (Australia).

If that last one is not an actual song, it ought to be.