Friday, August 28, 2015

Who Needs a Rooster?

Thought for the day:  In ancient times, cats were worshiped as gods; they have not forgotten this. [Terry Patchett]

It's hard to believe, but next month, it'll be six years since we rescued our kitties from the shelter. Or to be more accurate, maybe they rescued us... because those little critters sure have added lots of grins and giggles to our lives.

Dash, our calico, was just a little bit of a thing when we brought her home, and she's still kinda petite. That little princess has us wrapped right around her bunny-soft little paw.


Dot, our gray tabby, is the younger of the two, but she quickly grew to become the larger. And the more vocal, too. (She's our pushy cat.) Now I wish I'd named them something like Tinkerbell and Tankerbell to reflect the differences in their sizes. Or since Dash is the zany explorer, and Dot the more staid and gabby queen, maybe, Lucy and Ethel, to reflect their personalities.

What can I say? No matter what we call them, they are a teensy bit... spoiled.

Ever since she was big enough to get onto our king-sized bed, that's where Dash has spent almost every night. Usually somewhere on top of me. On my stomach, on my chest, on my neck, on my face. Doesn't matter, because she doesn't usually stay in one place for very long. See, she likes to... hop around. Explore. Crawl under the covers, lie still for five minutes, and then ta-DA! pop back out. Knead me with her paws, and lick me with her tongue. Lots of head-butting, purring and nose-kisses, too. My favorite is when she climbs up on the headboard and jumps down on my face...

And I... let her. Which is why she still does it. Dot, on the other hand, may occasionally join us on the bed, but when she does, she's a bit more polite about it. Just lies close to my side, and stays there most of the night.

But as anyone who has a cat well knows, what a cat always does or always likes is always changing. Their favorite place to nap is never constant, and the food they gobble one day is the same food they turn their noses up at the next. They follow a strict routine for a while, only to change it for a whole new routine. I guess they're trying to keep us on our toes.

Mostly, the cats used to leave Smarticus alone during the night, but recently, Dash has been sharing some of the love with him, too. (He calls her The Stomper.) I'm used to her waking me up before the butt crack of dawn every day, but recently, after she woke me up, she pranced over to Smarticus to say hello to him, too. She only went over to him a couple times before concentrating her efforts on me, but nonetheless, what popped into my sleepy head as she bounced back and forth between the two of us was, Hello, muddah! Hello, faddah! (Which is totally ridiculous, because our cats have always called us Mama and Papa...with the accents on the second syllables.)

Anyhow, that old Allan Sherman song bugged me for the rest of the day, so natch, I did what any weird cat-owner writer would do... I wrote a parody of the song. Of course.

And here it is:

Hello Muddah, hello Faddah.
Here I am now, right beside ya.
Time to open up your eyes now;
Get your butt out of that bed and fix me chow now.

 I tried bouncing on your belly;
You're so fat, it feels like jelly.
You were so still, thought you were dead;
So I did CPR by jumping on your head. 

Come on, Muddah, time is ticking,
And your face I now am licking.
I must meow loudly in your ear,
Because if you don't get up soon, I'll starve, I fear.

With my claws, your cheek I'm gripping,
And my nose on you is dripping.
Come on, let's play and have some fun;
In only three more hours, we'll see the rising sun. 

Please get up, oh muddah, faddah, please get up, don't be a bother.
Starting your day's such an endeavor; sometimes it takes me forever.
Please get up, I promise I will be your friend and love you 'til the bitter end,
So why this cruel wait to get food upon my plate? 

Hurry, hurry, dearest muddah,
One foot down, and then the other.
I will lead you to the kitchen;
It is almost five o'clock, so quit yer bitchin'.

Wait a sec! What's that you're pouring?
Same as yesterday? How boring!
Pardon my French; it smells like crap...
It's time for me to join dear Faddah for a nap.

(Gotta love 'em!)

It occurred to me that the Allan Sherman song was out in the early sixties, so some of you may not remember it. Heck, some of you weren't even born yet! (sigh)

So here it is, in all its silly glory:

Okay, ready to hear the results of last week's giveaway for the nifty-neato package of Shakespearean Insult Bandages? (Insert drum roll here.) The winner is the lovely Pixel Peeper, who left this gem: The advantage of intelligence is that you can easily play dumb. The opposite is a bit more difficult. [Kurt Tucholsky] Dontcha love it? Clever... but not offensive. So, Ms. B, if you would be so kind, email me your mailing address, and I'll get your little care package off in the mail. (If you don't still have my address, you can use that handy-dandy email me badge in the sidebar.)

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Cats are the ultimate narcissists. You can tell this because of all the time they spend on personal grooming. A dog's idea of personal grooming is to roll on a dead fish. [James Gorman]

Friday, August 21, 2015

Takes One to Know One!

Thought for the day:  Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. 

Remember when kids used to yell that old sticks and stones chestnut at each other on the playground? Oh, and how about this one:  I'm rubber, you're glue; what you say bounces off me, and sticks on you. And let's not forget: I know you are, but what am I? (Nanny, nanny, boo boo!)

Yeah, as kids, some of us got our kicks by hurling silly insults at other kids, some of which made absolutely no sense, but we all had an arsenal of snappy, equally silly things to say in response, too. Part of being a kid, I guess. And nowadays, it seems to be part of being a politician, too. I mean, really. Think about it. A lot of today's politicians seem to get an awful lot of childish pleasure out of talking trash and calling each other names, and with about as much maturity as we used to show on the playground. It's either a case of arrested development, or an attempt to distract us from the fact they aren't actually doing anything or communicating like actual grown-ups. Some of our politicos may, indeed, be poopy-heads, but it would be nice if they all put their smelly heads together every once in a while so they could attack some of today's pressing issues instead of attacking each other.

But ya know, if they must insist on flinging mud and insults at each other, the least they could do is be more creative about it. Why should they limit themselves to calling each other stupid or liar, when insults can be... entertaining. Amusing. Classy, even.

Winston Churchhill  {wikipedia]
Now, Winston Churchill had a real knack for issuing classy insults. Like these gems:

He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.

A modest little person, with much to be modest about.

He had an inordinate talent for comebacks, too, like when equally witty George Bernard Shaw wrote these words to him: I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend ... if you have one. 

Churchill responded: Cannot possibly attend the first night; will attend second ... if there is one.

Oscar Wilde  [wikipedia]

People like Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain are fairly well-known for their deliciously clever insults, but you might be surprised by the sources of some of these witticisms:
  • I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.  Clarence Darrow
  • He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.  William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)
  • Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?  Ernest Hemingway
  • Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it.  Moses Hadas
  • He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know. Abraham Lincoln
  • I've had a perfectly lovely evening. But this wasn't it.  Groucho Marx
  • I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.  Mark Twain
  • He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.  Oscar Wilde
  • I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here.  Stephen Bishop
  • He is a self-made man, and worships the creator.  John Bright
  • I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial.  Irvin S. Cobb
  • He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others.  Samuel Johnson
  • He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.  Paul Keating
  • He had delusions of adequacy.  Walter Kerr
  • There's nothing wrong with you reincarnation won't cure.  Jack E. Leonard
  • He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.  Robert Redford
  • They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.  Thomas Brackett Reed
  • He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent work, he overcame them.  James Reston (about Richard Nixon)
  • In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.  Count Charles Talleyrand
  • He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.  Forrest Tucker
  • Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?  Mark Twain
  • His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.  Mae West
  • Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.  Oscar Wilde
  • He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts ... for support rather than illumination.  Andrew Lang
  • He has Van Gogh's ear for music.  Billy Wilder
  • Don't think I don't know who's been spreading gossip about me. After all the nice things I've said about that hag. When I get hold of her, I'll tear out every hair of her mustache. Tallulah Bankhead, referring to Bette Davis

Movies can be a source of wildly creative insults, too. Here's one of my favorites:

I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!

Okay, so that one wasn't exactly classy, but it is funny. [For those of you who don't already know, that line came from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.] 

What's your favorite insult line from a movie?

People like Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain are well-known for their witty insults, but you may find the sources of some of these insults to be somewhat surprising:

William Shakespeare [wikipedia]

If your brains were dynamite, there wouldn't be enough to blow your hat off.  [Kurt Vonnegut, Time Quake]

In my mind, Martha, you are buried in cement right up to your neck. No... right up to your nose... that's much quieter.  [Edward Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf]

I never saw anybody take so long to dress, and with such little result.  [Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest]

He would make a lovely corpse.  [Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit]

The man is as useless as nipples on a breastplate.  [George R.R. Martin, A Feast for Crows]

And a couple from Shakespeare, the ultimate master of slings and arrows:

Thou art a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred pound, filthy worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver'd, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical rogue, one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mungril bitch. [from King Lear]

I desire that we be better strangers.  [from As You Like It]

I could go on with lots more Shakespearean insults, but instead, how about a giveaway? Yeah, how about your very own box of classy Shakespearean barbs? And not only that, this box of insults actually helps heal some wounds...

Yep. Adhesive bandages that both deliver a classy insult, and soothe your boo-boos. Is that cool, or what?

I simply couldn't resist buying them when I saw them at the Fernbank Museum gift shop. Bought two boxes, so now I'd like to give one of them to one of you. If you're interested, just hit me with your best shot. Um, not literally. Not interested in being whacked with sticks and stones here... just sock it to me with an insult, and include it in your comment. I'll pick out my favorite barb next Thursday, and will let y'all know on Friday. And I'll include a little something else in that giveaway package, too. Not sure what just yet, but I'll come up with something. And if none of you has any interest in possessing such a (ahem) valuable item, sobeit. (I mean, there are eighteen whole bandages in that box!) At least you can't say I never tried to give something away. Can't call me cheap. (I'm frugal, people. Frugal!)


Oh, and lest you think I take the power of hurtful words lightly, I don't. I come from a generation of kids who collected cards containing funny insults. I repeat... funny. Our insults were funny, sometimes clever, and rarely mean in tone. Not as clever as Churchill or Shakespeare, but pretty darned good for a bunch of kids. And a lot better than what a bunch of grown politicians use these days. I DO believe words can hurt... even more than sticks and stones.

Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But words have also hurt me;
Though sticks and stones can make me bleed,
Some words, like ghosts, still haunt me.
Cutting words can leave deep scars
On minds and hearts so tender;
Cuts and bruises are quick to heal,
But words we'll long remember. 

                                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

    Be careful with your words. Once they are said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Power of Music

Thought for the day:  ♪♫ Wild thing, you make my heart sing... ♪♫
[courtesy of Helmut Kraus]

Music is a lot more than a melodious string of notes. At its best, it has the power to transport us, to rekindle memories, to uplift us, and to fill our souls. It can connect us to other people and to special moments in time, and can often communicate feelings far better than words alone. As I'm about to show you, music also has the power to transform lives.

Some of you may remember the post I wrote a couple years ago about a remarkable group of young musicians, which originally ran with the title The Sounds of Hope. For those of you who missed it the first time around, or simply don't remember it, I'm gonna  run the original post again in its entirety. Then I'll give y'all a brief update about this group, and will share a new video that shows, once again, just how amazing the powers of music can be. (For those of you who do remember it from the last time around, feel free to say blah, blah, blah as you skip down to the update.)


Thought for the day:  Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.  [Plato]

You're never too old ... or too young... to enjoy music.

The enjoyment of music respects no boundaries; it's pretty much universal. No age limit, either. Even newborn infants respond to music, and most of us continue to respond to it until we draw our very last breath.

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.  [Confucius]

It can be uplifting, rousing, soothing, sublime, or profane, and has the uncanny ability to reach inside our hearts to touch us on a primal level.  As Leo Tolstoy said, Music is the shorthand of emotion.

Remember the song My Way? Written by Paul Anka, and originally performed by Frank Sinatra, it was an okay song. Not the best, not the worst, but in the hands of violinist Andre Rieu, this ordinary tune becomes sublime:

No doubt, Mr. Rieu is a talented musician who makes magnificent sounds come out of that priceless instrument of his. My guess is he came from a comfortable background and benefited from a good education. Maybe a private tutor and top-notch music teachers. Perhaps not, but that's my guess.

The question is: How can a child who's mired in abject poverty make music? Time for a story...

Just outside Ascuncion, Paraguay's capital city, lies one of the largest landfills in Latin America. That's also where 25,000 people live in the slum city of Cateura. Day after day, tons of garbage get added to the landfill, and day after day, the men, women, and children of Cateura traverse mountains of garbage, and sift through it for whatever they can salvage. For that is the story of their survival: they eke out a living by recycling garbage from that landfill.

And yet... and yet... orchestral music is alive and well in the slum of Cateura. In the midst of crippling poverty, there are instruments for the children to play... instruments fashioned from salvaged garbage. Empty oil drums become cellos and violins; water pipes and spoons become flutes; packing crates become guitars; and bottle caps, buttons, and spoons turn a pipe into a clarinet. Garbage is transformed into instruments of hope.

                                        Play the music, not the instrument. [unknown origin]

                                                        Care to witness a musical miracle?

Pretty amazing, huh? Favio Chavez, director of Cateura's Landfill Harmonic Orchestra, said, The world sends us garbage. We send back music. And tell ya what, when those youngsters play My Way, the song gains new meaning. Their way, indeed...

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. [Berthold Auerbach]

Music is moonlight in the gloomy side of life.  [Jean Paul Richter]

Music in the soul can be heard by the universe. [Lao Tzu]

The whole universe may not hear their music, but thanks to donations from all over the world, these children of hope will be the subject of a documentary next year. They'll also be touring the United States... and playing their unique instruments that were built with garbage, hope, and a lot of love.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.  [Martin Luther]

                                                  [Images courtesy of morguefile]


UPDATE: In March, a 84-minute documentary feature film about this amazing group premiered in Austin, Texas, and since then, it has been shown at many film festivals, and has racked up many awards. Would you like to see a trailer?

This group even has a Facebook page now, in which you can keep track of them, and see where the film will be showing next... and where they're scheduled to be playing next. For the past two years, they've had the honor of playing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra... and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra had the privilege of playing with them.  In July, these students played for the Pope.

I'd say music has made a profound difference in their lives, wouldn't you?
And here's the video that prompted me to write this post. Naomi Feil, the founder of Validation Therapy, is trying to communicate with Gladys Wilson, an Alzheimer's patient, who has been virtually non-verbal for the past fifteen years. The focus of Ms. Feil's form of therapy is on what she calls a reciprocated communication of trust. She says it is often possible to communicate with people suffering from cognitive impairments and dementia to a much deeper degree and emotional level than once thought possible. See what happens when she, a Jew, communicates with her patient by singing songs that were once dear to Ms. Wilson's heart. By singing Christian songs...

 May we all be blessed with a friend who knows the song in our hearts, and can sing it back to us if we forget the words. 

                       You don't have to know how to carry a tune to make a joyful noise.
                                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, August 7, 2015

On the Track to Adventure

Thought for the day:  Warning: the light at the end of the tunnel might be an oncoming train. 

[source: morguefile]
We saw plenty of trains last Saturday, but thank goodness, not a single one of them was coming at us through a tunnel. They were all sitting still, and on display at the Southeastern Railway Museum, which also happened to be hosting a bunch of antique trucks and tractors that day. AND we could climb up and walk through most of those old trains! Cool, huh? There's something romantic about the notion of traveling by train. Not the bazillion miles per hour bullet trains of today, but the old, slower-moving, steam-spewing trains with the fellow in the back waving a lantern from the caboose.

Since y'all couldn't join us that day, how about the next best thing... pictures? With, um , just a few words thrown in by me, of course...

There were quite a few steam locomotives there, but I won't bore you by showing you pictures of all of them. I'll just bore you by showing you a picture of one of them. This is the General II, which looks identical to the more famous General of Civil War fame, which is located at another museum in Kennesaw, Georgia.

The time will come when people will travel in stages moved by steam engine from one city to another, almost as fast as birds can fly, fifteen or twenty miles per hour...  [Oliver Evans, 1800] I wonder what this pioneer of steam engines would think about today's much-faster-than-a-bird speeds of travel.

There were also a number of steam-powered tractors there. Those things are HUGE!

This is an overview of one of the kitchens on a military train used from approximately the twenties until the forties.

What was that old saying from the Civil War? Something about the Army traveling on its stomach... 

And the other one... something about military food being the real spoils of war...?

Okay, so maybe the emphasis in cooking for the troops was more on quantity than quality. This 16-burner coal stove could sure handle the quantity part quite well. Can you imagine how hot it must have been in that train car when the cooking was going full steam ahead?

Yeah, these signs about humping always crack me up, too. (I wonder if there are also signs that say something like, Please hump here.)

In case you're wondering what it means to hump in railroad lingo, that's when an engine pushes a car, or block of cars, up a man-made hill... which is called a hump... so at the top, gravity can take over. The car(s) then go down the other side of the hill, and are easily shunted to the proper track and/or resting place.

Although that hump sign doesn't have anything to do with what consenting adults can do aboard a train, there have been a number of laws over the years aimed at regulating human behavior while riding the rails. For example, in Wisconsin, it was once illegal for people to kiss on a train, and in Seattle, Washington, if a woman dared to sit on a man's lap without placing a pillow between them, she would automatically face six months in the slammer. A bit harsh, don't you think? But this was even worse: in Alabama, putting salt on a train track was once punishable by death! Rhode Island was a bit more merciful; throwing pickle juice at a trolley was only a misdemeanor. In Chicago, Illinois, a law prohibited eating in a place that was on fire, but after considerable discussion, an amendment was added to that law in 1912, making it permissible to eat while in a steam train's dining car. Ready for my favorite? In Texas, an old law dictated that when two trains met at a railroad crossing, each had to come to a full stop, and neither could proceed until the other one had gone. (Huh?)

[source: morguefile]
Time for a joke:

Two somewhat inebriated fellas were having a very difficult time walking uphill on a railroad track.

Between huffs and puffs, the first one said, "This is the longest staircase I've ever seen."

The other replied, "The stairs aren't too bad, but I really hate these low banisters!"

I especially enjoyed going through some of the old Pullman cars. Tell you what, for their day, that must have seemed like luxurious travel. Some of the compartments were fairly spacious. The seats converted into beds, and some of the compartments even had a sink and commode. For family travel, some had an adjoining room with additional beds, usually bunked.

But as I gazed into these compartments with my imagination in overdrive, I couldn't help but remember a story I read some years back:

Mr. Pullman received a letter of complaint from a train passenger regarding a horrific infestation of bed bugs. In return, the passenger received a very nice letter of apology, thanking the man for letting them know about it, and assuring him that the matter would be taken care of immediately. Unfortunately, also in the envelope with that letter of apology was a hand-written note from Pullman to his secretary, advising her to send this SOB the bed bug letter. 

This is a 1915 Harvester, a 4-cylinder, 19 1/2 horsepower, Model F, one-ton truck. It is one of only ninety-nine trucks manufactured by the International Harvester Company in Chicago that year. Notice anything unusual about it? The radiator is located behind the engine.

Those of you who work crossword puzzles have probably come across the old Reo vehicles a time or two. Well, this is a 1912 Reo truck. Trucks like this were often referred to as High Wheelers because of those large wagon-like wheels. No wonder trucks of that vintage were called horseless carriages. 

This early fire truck makes it pretty obvious how much of a challenge it used to be to put out any large fires. Looking at the fire hoses and pump assembly, it was a very physically challenging job, as well.

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.  [Will Rogers]

Okay, I don't know if this blog post is on the right track or not, but I'm not gonna just sit here. Time to go. That's right.

                                                             This is... THE END.

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.