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Carnation Milk & Swanson Turkey . . .

The company that makes Carnation Evaporated Milk did not offer $5000 for the best slogan beginning with Carnation Milk is best of all . . . , nor did the company ever make such an offer, neither in the 1940s nor at any time before or after the 1940s. The company also did not award a woman $1000 for a submission that they loved but could not use for advertising. Snopes gives many examples of doggerel supposedly submitted to Carnation for the contest. Click here for the story as told by Snopes.com. The simple—and I really do mean simple—verse that I learned sometime in the decade of the 1940s is:

No tits to pull,
No hay to pitch,

Just punch a hole
In the son-of-a-bitch.

Now I would like to share with my legions of readers a tale entitled, What I had for breakfast this morning. This may seem to be a stretch from the Carnation ditty, but please trust me—the stories are related, so read on.

I enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast this morning. I dined, alone of course, on roasted carved turkey with stuffing, carrots, whipped potatoes and brown gravy at 5:00 AM on this chilly December morning in south central Texas. My meal was beautifully displayed in a plastic shell with dividers between each of the various components, then covered with clear plastic sheathing and enclosed in a nicely decorated sealed cardboard box.

The box included the information that, if kept frozen, the meal could safely be consumed up to December 25, 1911 and I assumed that included Christmas day. Speaking strictly for myself, I believe that such items can safely be consumed centuries later—if kept frozen. However, pay no attention to anything that I say when speaking strictly for myself—I could be wrong.

In addition to the graphics the box gave directions for cooking, either in a conventional oven or a microwave oven, along with a plethora of nutrition facts including the fact that the meal constituted fully one-third of my daily value of sodium—bummer!

It also gave a brief but concise history of the Swanson Classics, entitled A Menu of Mouthwatering Memories, from its beginnings in 1954 through the year 2007. Swanson claims the title of The Original TV Dinner—based on my limited one-time experience with Swanson Dinners, I have no reason to doubt that claim, nor do I doubt its  claim for palatability and safe consumption if kept frozen—so far.

Thanks to Swanson’s turkey, my breakfast was a resounding success—a piece of cake so to speak, and I penned the piece of doggerel below to commemorate that success. I apologize in advance for any misery that may be caused by exposure to it, whether from the ode per se or by any consumption of any Swanson product by one or more of my readers related to their having read this posting. In fine, I am not recommending this product to anyone. I’m simply recounting my experience of a Swanson turkey breakfast on a chilly day in south central Texas—and simply is the operative word.

Ode To Swanson’s Frozen Turkey Dinner

No turkey to kill,
No gravy to make,
No ‘taters to peel,
No bread to bake.

No table to clear,
Nothing to freeze,
No dishes to wash,
I’m free as a breeze.

A fine turkey breakfast
And I’m on my knees,
Giving thanks to Swanson,
For meals such as these.

I have already apologized for foisting off the burden of my Ode To Swanson’s Frozen Turkey Dinner to my legions of unsuspecting readers, but I feel compelled to reinforce that apology through repetition—mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Posted by on December 23, 2010 in Family, Humor, kitchen appliances, television

 

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Second letter to Larry, my brother (1919-1983) . . .

Dear Larry,

Next month will mark the twenty-seventh year that has passed since that October day in 1983 when you, as Shakespeare has so poignantly observed, “shuffled off this mortal coil.” As you probably are aware, I did not attend your funeral, but I can make no apology for that—when the call came with the news, I was en route to Washington’s National Airport to take a flight to Miami for an assignment that was critical to my job with the U.S. Customs Service.

I had prepared for the flight for several weeks and could not afford to miss it. I’m sure you understand—the bills were still arriving with monotonous regularity—I know it’s trite to say, but I needed to be able to “put food on the table and shoes on the baby’s feet.” Please know that I was there with you in spirit—I thought of little else on the flight to Florida.

I’ve written letters to two of our sisters, Hattie and Jessie, and I plan to write to Dot and Lorene, our other two sisters, and possibly in the future to our mother, our father and even to the stepfather our mother unwisely allowed into the family in 1942. All are gone now, but I trust and would like to believe that you are in communication with them. I have serious doubts that the stepfather is available—he may be somewhat lower on the metaphysical level of existence than the others.

I would like to couch this letter in terms of us remembering certain times when we were together. My memories are still just as fresh as they ever were, and I hope yours are also—I would not want to talk about happenings that you may not remember.

I remember vividly the fishing trip you took me on when I was about four, perhaps five years old. We lived at the old Box place in Vernon, Alabama, and we went fishing in Yellow Creek near the house. My float went under and I snatched the hook out of the water and snagged it on an overhead branch. I thought I had a really big fish until you reached up to remove the hook—I was really disappointed, but at least you had a good laugh.

You were at home on leave from President Roosevelt’s CCC—the Civilian Conservation Corps—a respite from helping build in Utah what you described as“ roads that started nowhere and ended nowhere.” The family had a homecoming party that included a washtub filled with ice and beer. Someone left a partially filled can on an inside table and I drank some of it, and a short while later I stood on the top step of our front porch and barfed it up in view of the entire family. Shades of child abuse!

Do you remember taking me on a rabbit hunt on a snow-covered day just a year two later when I was in the first grade? We were living on Eleventh Street South in Columbus, Mississippi and you were home, once again, from Roosevelt’s CCC. We only found one rabbit that day, but that one generated memories that are burned into my psyche—memories of the rabbit, a nylon stocking and a bedpost that will always be there. A click here will refresh your memory and will create a memory for any potential viewer of this letter.

Do you remember when I was living with you and your wife Toni and your two boys in Suitland, Maryland and I broke my right leg sliding in to home plate in a ball game? I had a full cast from my toes to mid-thigh, with a forty-five degree angle at the knee, and you bought a set of crutches for my use. Long before the cast came off, I used one of the crutches in an attempt to kill a pesky bee and broke it—the crutch, not the bee—the bee escaped unharmed. In spite of my pleas, you refused to replace the crutch, saying that what I did was dumb, that it’s impossible to buy just one crutch and you told me to manage with the remaining crutch—I managed.

I wrote a long-winded story, more than a bit fictional, of that broken leg, a tale that was told and can be found here. The tale tells how I and my Little League team won the national and international championship that year.

You bought me my first bicycle, a beautiful item that needed only the pedals, seat and handlebars installed to make it complete, but you made me disassemble it right down to the wheel bearings which I cleaned and repacked with the special grease you used on your fleet of trucks. I followed orders with some resentment, but I realize now that your method contributed to the bike’s longevity and to my safety. Click here for the full story of my first bike, first kiss and first train ride.

You may have put this memory aside, but I remember coming home late one evening and you were seated in the living room with a half-full pint of whiskey, and Toni was crawling around on her hands and knees on the floor, groaning and moaning and mumbling. You explained that you had caught her at a place where she should not have been, with a person she should not have been with. You said she had swallowed a lot of sleeping pills and that you would take her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped out after she went to sleep. Toni was mumbling something over and over that sounded suspiciously like he hit me, but I couldn’t be sure—it could have been my imagination.

Being a young fellow of at least average intelligence, I took my leave and returned to the apartment in Suitland that our mother and our sister Dot were renting from month-to-month, and stayed there until things quieted down. We never discussed the incident after that evening—I don’t know whether you took her to the hospital or to a doctor. I’m guessing that she did the same thing with the pills that I did with the beer I drank at that party some ten years earlier. That would probably have rendered a trip to the hospital or to a doctor unnecessary.

The outcome of that incident was a temporary breakup of your family. Toni and the boys went to her mother’s place in New York City, and you and I returned to Mississippi. I have no knowledge of your activities or whereabouts for several years, and just four years later in 1948 I was reunited with you and your family in El Paso, Texas as the result of our stepfather casting me, our mother and our sister Dot aside in Midland, Texas and we managed to negotiate the 300 miles to El Paso on a Greyhound bus.

That refuge was broken up a short while later—our mother and sister returned to Mississippi, your wife and sons took a plane to New York City, and you and I pursued her—our pursuit first took us to Dallas where we met the Greyhound bus you thought she may have taken from El Paso. You said she may have taken the train and we could meet the train in St. Louis. We failed to meet the train in St. Louis because we spent the night in jail in Valley Park, a suburb some 20 miles west of St. Louis. We continued on to New York City and stayed with Toni and the children in her mother’s apartment in Greenwich Village for several weeks, and finally from there back to Mississippi. If your memory is faulty in this instance and you have access to the Internet, click here for the full story of our trip across the continent to New York.

Do you remember the sleeping arrangements in your mother-in-law’s apartment? It was a two-room affair with a tiny bathroom, and we slept, cooked and dined in one large room—pretty crowded but far better than our room in the Valley Park jail. I was accustomed to such luxurious surroundings from years spent in places that either had no bathroom or the bathroom was somewhere down the hall and shared with others.

As for our sleeping arrangements, I remember that the two boys shared a baby bed, and each night we placed the top mattress of the only bed on the floor for you and Toni, and I slept on the bottom mattress on the bed near the window.

I’m sure you remember the night when an intruder threw a leg over the sill of the apartment’s only window! Although we were on the second floor of the building, someone managed to climb up and enter through the open window. The shade was pulled down—yes, windows had shades in those days—and when the intruder straddled the window sill the shade rustled and you awoke and shouted and threw a shoe at the window. One loud curse and the burglar was gone. We never knew exactly how the person climbed up to the window. Evidently the intruder survived the drop, because there was nobody in sight when we finally got up enough nerve to raise the shade and take a look outside.

We finished the night with the window closed, and without the occasional breezes that slipped into the apartment. We had a really uncomfortable night. Nope, no air conditioning in those days, and no fan. I hadn’t slept well before the incident, and it certainly didn’t reduce my insomnia for the remaining nights in that apartment.

I remember you and Toni arguing one morning and you telling her that we were leaving and that you were taking the two children with you. I will never forget Toni running downstairs to the sidewalk, screaming for the police, and returning with two of New York’s finest. The officers said that you and I could leave and take our personal things with us, but nothing else—you were ordered, under the threat of arrest, to not attempt to take the children away from their mother.

You left the apartment before I did, and as I was leaving Toni told me that if I ever needed anything to call her. I never saw her or talked to her again—I know that she remarried, but I never knew her married name or her whereabouts, and to this day I do not know whether she has also shuffled off this mortal coil—if still alive today she would be about 86 years old. I would like to believe that she is alive and well—I have never wished her anything other than well, and whatever the event, I still wish her well.

I doubt that you ever saw the picture I’ve included in this letter. It’s from a 35-millimeter slide, probably taken in the mid-1970s—I’m guessing 1975 because there were some other slides that showed our 1975 Oldsmobile 98—it looks new, and we bought it in that year. The slide was scanned in and printed by Cindy, your niece that lives, loves and works in Alexandria, Virginia. Unless my memory fails me, the black-and-tan hound was named Bugler, and the little Cocker Spaniel in the lower right corner was named Useless.

Larry, there are many things I would like to discuss with you, but this letter seems to have legs. Let me chop them off for now, with the promise of returning soon with a whole new set of reminisces. I trust that you and any potential viewers of this letter will understand my feelings and my reasons for taking them back in time. Some of my memories are pleasant, and I enjoy speaking of them. Not all are pleasant, of course, but in this world of Yen and Yang we must take the good with the bad, and learn to smile with the one and frown with the other.

From your only brother, the only member of our family still standing—all the others are gone.

Mike

Postscript: Regarding the names of the two dogs in the image above, my memory did indeed fail me. My niece in Arkansas, my brother’s daughter, e-mailed me on 9-5-10 to say that the black-and-tan-hound was named Sam and Bugler was his pup, and the Cocker Spaniel I presented as Useless was named Puny. Thanks, Deanna, for straightening the names out for me.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Ode to a cheesecake . . .

In the winter of 2009 during the heavy snowstorms in and around Washington, D.C., an incident occurred in Alexandria that generated several postings on Word Press. Pending their annual Chocolate Party my son-in-law, the one that’s married to my daughter that lives, loves and works in Virginia, buried a huge cheesecake in their backyard flower garden under two feet of snow, an interment necessitated by the lack of storage space in their refridgeraterrefrigereter—refrigeretar. Oh, damn it, in their icebox!

Click here to read my daughter’s explanation of the unprecedented backyard burial.

I composed a rather brilliant poem—well, somewhat brilliant—well, at least it rhymes—and used it to comment on the incident. That comment, unlike the cheesecake arisen from the grave, remains buried under an avalanche of postings by my daughter. I am resurrecting it, bringing it up from and out of the Stygian darkness of the nether world of comments and into the bright light of day for others to enjoy.

Because I took the liberty of borrowing a few words and phrases from several prominent writers and using them in my poem—horribly fractured, of course—I humbly offer my abject apologies to the preacher John Donne, to the poet Joyce Kilmer, to my favorite author Henry David Thoreau and to my daughter in Virginia, the author of An apology to the wood anemone.

I also apologize to visitors to my blog—I apologize in advance for wishing a pox on those that do not visit, and a double pox on those that visit and fail to comment on my postings. Finally, I apologize for making so many apologies—I cannot help myself—it’s something I cannot control. I apologize often in an effort to dodge or divert or at least minimize criticism—it’s in my nature—mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa maxima.

Please note that I freely admit that I apologize far too often, but I am thankful to report that it’s one of only two faults. In addition to the fault of copiously apologizing, I am also modest to a fault. Sans apologies and modesty, I would be perfect!

Ode to a cheesecake

Breathes there one with soul so dead
That never to one’s self hath said
Methinks that I shall never see
A word so lovely as anemone.

Offed from my tongue it rolls
Sadly as the bell that tolls
Not for thee and not for me
Nor for the lovely anemone.

But for the cheesecake in its bower
Not ‘neath trees nor plants nor showers
Nay, ‘neath snowstorms full of power
Lying beneath the snow for hours

In wait for the chocolate party
To be eaten by goers hearty.

But wait, what’s that I see
Beside the cheesecake ‘neath the snow
The anemone arises ready to go
With the cheesecake to the table

Petals eight to be divided
‘Mongst the diners so excited
A ‘nemone to see.

They smell the petals
They hear the bell
They’ll come to know
As time will tell

If snow and cheesecake
Sounds their knell
Or leaves them alive
And well.

— H.M. Dyer (1932-     )


I neglected to give credit to Sir Walter Scott for his poem The lay of the last minstrel in my Ode to a cheesecake—credit is now given. I also neglected to say that I loved your poem An apology to the wood anemone—well done! Your cheesecake arising from the snow is reminiscent of Thoreau’s Walden in which he tells of a golden bug that in the spring gnawed its way out of a table after being entombed in the wood for many years.


 
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Posted by on May 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Rogue cops and rubber hoses . . .

Picture this:

A lad of 16 years jailed on suspicion of being involved in auto theft, kidnapping and murder—completely innocent, of course—being bullied by burly bulky bastardly bastions of the law—I do really love alliteration-–and threatened with a rubber hose. Click here to learn how such an unsatisfactory situation developed.

In mid-afternoon of that Sunday following our arrest and incarceration, two very large men came into the room that held the two strap-iron cells occupied by me and my brother. They introduced themselves as plain-clothes detectives and started asking questions. After a series of questions relating to our lack of identification, our hot-wired car and the rifle bullets they found in my pocket, one of the men—the larger one–unlocked the door to my cell, entered and locked the door behind him—yeah, like I was going to flee and fly out to freedom and become one of the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives, with my mug shot featured prominently in every post office in the nation.

I was standing while he was outside, but when he entered I sat down on my bare metal bunk. That was a defensive measure. I believe I felt that should he decide to hit me, I would at least have only a short way to fall before hitting the steel wall behind me or the concrete floor. I could be wrong, of course—I may have sat down because of the sudden weakness my knees developed, and I mean that in all seriousness.

He held a piece of black rubber hose in his right hand. The hose was short in length, thick in diameter and long in menace, and he kept slapping it into the palm of his other hand, staring at me intently all the while.

If anyone reading this thinks I wasn’t scared, think again—I was scared witless, filled with fear that approached the point of something that rhymes with witless. I was a 110 pound 16-year old and he was a really big man, six feet tall and counting, weighing well over 200 pounds—a goodly portion of that weight was centered in his overhanging stomach, but his weight distribution detracted in no way from the fear that I felt, fear generated by his size and by the menacing length of rubber hose he wielded.

Believe me, reader, had I been guilty of any one or all of the several wrong doings of which we were accused, I would have promptly admitted that guilt. Had it been possible I would have cheerfully laid it all off on my brother—yep, I would have squealed like a pig and perhaps made a deal with the cops, or at least plea bargained my way out of what I considered to be a really bad situation. Frankly, I figured that my brother had gotten me into a big mess and I owed him zilch—none of this was my fault—I mean, like, hey, brotherly love has its limits.

The detective finally stopped slapping his hand with the hose, probably because it was beginning to hurt. He knew that he had my undivided attention, and then he held the business end of the hose close to my face and asked some really stupid questions, to all of which I gave some really brilliant answers:

Do you know what this is?

Yes, sir.

Do you know what I can do with this if you lie to me?

Yes, sir.

Did you boys steal that car?

No, sir.

Did you boys kidnap someone?

No, sir.

Did you boys kill someone and dispose of the body?

No, sir.

Have you answered all our questions truthfully?

Yes, sir.

See, I told you his questions were stupid and my answers were brilliant!

The detective ended the conversation, and taking his rubber hose with him he stepped out of my cell, locked the door and started questioning my brother, but he did not enter my brother’s cell. Evidently my brother, a World War II veteran almost twice my age, had been around the block before—he told our inquisitors in firm tones to not bother threatening him with the rubber hose, that he had been threatened with far more than that in World War II combat and survived, that he had told the truth about everything and that all they had to do was make a few phone calls to prove it and finally, that they could delay our release but could not prevent it.

In his telling my brother used some really salty language, some of which was related to the detectives’ parentage, including the legality of their births and their relationships with their mothers, and lots of other language that brought their sexual proclivities and practices into question.

Hey, my brother spent six years in the U.S. Navy, the last four of which were spent overseas in combat zones during the big war—that’s the way sailors talk. I expected the two detectives to beat him senseless, even to the point of his not recovering and spending the rest of his life as a tomato or a cabbage or a stalk of celery perhaps, but no, they listened to his tirade without responding. After he wound down with his remarks, they left the area without comments, and we never saw them again.

I find it difficult to believe that they were intimidated by my brother—I believe that they were amused and perhaps even respectful of his actions. My brother was much older than I but he was not much bigger, and I must admit that while I was shocked by his remarks, I really admired his stance in the face of bigger men with all the power of law at their disposal.

We were held incommunicado for 23 hours, just one hour short of the 24 hours the law allowed before formal charges and booking were mandated. The so-called authorities either made enough phone calls on Monday morning to prove our innocence, or perhaps had simply tired of the cat-and-mouse game they had played with us for 23 hours.

Whatever the reason, they released us, offered nothing that remotely resembled an apology and told us to get out of town and not come back. Other than the handful of rifle shells there was no need to return any possessions to us—the only things we possessed were the clothes we wore. The few dollars we had went for the burgers, and they kept any amount that remained, and I wisely refrained from demanding the return of my rifle cartridges. There was no need to return the keys to our car—we never had any—the starting lock was gone and the starter was hot-wired to the fog lights, and were soon on our way.

After a brief stop in St. Louis in a futile attempt to borrow gas money from my stepfather’s sister—click here for that story—we continued to New York City and stayed there for several weeks, then traveled to Mississipi where I was promptly shipped off to a farm in Alabama to live with a first-cousin and her family—a life very similar to that of an indentured servant. Click here for that posting.

More on my life on the farm and why I left it can be found here.

This story is all true, embellished a bit perhaps in the telling, but it’s all true and there’s nobody around either to disprove it or substantiate it—by now all the participants have departed for other realms. My fervent hope is that my brother and the cops involved in our short stay in Valley Park, Missouri traveled in opposite directions when they departed their lives on earth. I readily acknowledge that there in no way to confirm their paths, but I would like to believe that my brother ascended to his next life and the cops descended to theirs.

That’s my wish and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to both!

PeeEss: We were never told that we could ask for an attorney and were not Mirandized, but that is understandable—the year was 1949 and the Miranda law did not exist—it was still seventeen years into the future, 1966. Click here for information on the Miranda warning.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Ode to a cheesecake . . .

Below is a recent post from my daughter’s blog at cindydyer.wordpress.com. The posting features a poem,  An apology to the wood anemone. Her poem pays tribute to a beautiful flower, one she thought was long dead but survived last winter’s record snowfalls in Alexandria, Virginia. Not only did it survive—it appears to have thrived following its burial under snow throughout the fierce snowstorms last winter.

This is her tribute to the wood anemone:

An apology to the wood anemone

Lovely eight petal wood anemone
please accept my apology
More plants, I surely did not need any
but your price was reduced to a hundred pennies
Relegated to your preferred shady spot
remembering to plant you, I most certainly did not
Lost in the shuffle of spring and summer
as the King of Texas says, “what a bummer!”
you braved well over two feet of snow
yet still come spring, you put on a show
Please accept my apology
lovely eight petal wood anemone

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

______________________________________________

Her posting continues:

I must preface my father’s poem by explaining why he felt the urge to wax so eloquently about a cheesecake. In February we hosted a very scaled back Chocoholic Party for friends—aptly renamed the “Cabin Fever with Chocolate Party.” It was scaled back from our annual soiree because of the unprecedented piles of snow in our area, obstructions that resulted in limited parking for guests from outside the neighborhood—our annual party usually brings in 35 or more chocoholics, so ample parking is necessary! This year, our guests needed to be able to walk to our house through some 30 inches of snow!  As for the cheesecake, earlier in the week we bought a huge one from Costco during our rounds to gather food for this semi-potluck party. I was sitting at the computer working a few days before the party when Michael came downstairs—a brown wrapped package in one hand and a shovel in the other—and unlocked the patio door. I watched him, wondering if he was going to dig a path through the almost three feet of snow to the back gate (and why?). He dug a hole into the snow bank just outside the door and buried the package. I then asked, “What in the world did you just bury?” “Cheesecake!” he exclaimed. “There wasn’t any room for it in the refrigerator and since the party is just two days away, I figured it would keep.” And it kept—such a resourceful man—I think I’ll keep him.

My poem, An apology to the wood anemone, inspired my father to write his own poem, a work related to my Apology. Bravo, bravo, King of Texas! His comments to my original posting include his wonderfully crafted poem, Ode to a cheesecake.

Here are my comments to my daughter’s posting of her poem:

In advance of posting this comment, I humbly offer my abject apologies to the preacher John Donne, to the poet Joyce Kilmer and to the author of An apology to the wood anemone . . . It’s not my fault—it’s in my nature—it’s something I cannot control. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa maxima.

Ode to a cheesecake

Breathes there one with soul so dead
That never to one’s self hath said
Methinks that I shall never see
A word so lovely as anemone.

Offed from my tongue it rolls
Sadly as the bell that tolls
Nor for thee and nor for me
Nor for the lovely anemone.

But for the cheesecake ‘neath its bower
Nor ‘neath trees nor plants nor showers
Nay, ‘neath snowstorms full of power
Lying ‘neath the snow for hours
In wait for the chocolate party
To be eaten by guests so hearty.

But wait, what do I see
Beside the cheesecake ‘neath the snow
The anemone arises ready to go
With the cheesecake to the table
Petals eight to be divided
Among the diners so excited
A ‘nemone to see.

They smell the petals
They hear the bell
They’ll come to know
As time will tell
Whether snow and cheesecake
Sounds their knell
Or leaves them alive
And well.

H.M. Dyer (1932-     )—All rights reserved.

I neglected to give credit to Sir Walter Scott for his poem ‘The lay of the last minstrel’ in my ‘Ode to a cheesecake’—credit is now given. I also neglected to say that I loved your poem,  An apology to the wood anemone. It is well crafted and exceptionally well done!

Your anemone arising from the snow in the spring is reminiscent of Thoreau’s “Walden,” in which he tells of a golden bug that in the spring gnawed its way out of a table after being entombed in the wood for many years.

_____________________________________________

See more of my father’s pondering, hypothesizing and philosophizing, musings, comments, lectures, diatribes, royal reflections and revelations, essays, memoirs, biographies and autobiographies, tall tales, fables, childhood memories, yarns, jokes, poems, political and social commentary, and my favorite of his topics—excellent grammatical lessons—on his website, thekingoftexas.wordpress.com.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2010 in Books, Humor, poetry, Writing

 

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

In his search for reality, Decartes systematically doubted everything his senses perceived, and finally concluded that the one thing he could not doubt was the fact that he doubted—hence this statement—Cogito, ergo sum—I think, therefore I am. Decartes reasoned that he was not an illusion, that he was real, and from that position he concluded that life and the world around him was real.

Don’t laugh—for centuries men argued on how many angels could stand on the head of a pin—seriously! And for centuries men argued about which of these came first—the chicken or the egg. They eventually abandoned the angels-on-a-pin argument, but finally decided that the chicken came before the egg.

They reached their decision by reasoning that the first chicken began life as a chicken, a being endowed with its ultimate chickenness (so to speak). It was created perfect by its creator and therefore is not moving toward perfection. It’s safe to say that a chicken, any chicken regardless of its pedigree, will never become anything more than a chicken, no matter how hard it might try. It will, of course, ultimately change its shape and form dramatically, but it will never improve on its chickenness.

The egg, by its very nature, is imperfect and is moving toward perfection, and unless it stumbles on the road to perfection and is eaten, whether fried, scrambled, hard-boiled or raw, or perhaps dies from natural (or unnatural) causes, it will ultimately achieve perfection—it will become a chicken. Ergo, in the beginning, the time of the big bang, the time of creation, the time in which the creator created the heavens and the earth and everything thereon (and rested on the seventh), there was neither chicken nor egg.

Had the egg come first, it would have presented the paradox of perfection arising from imperfection. The heavy thinkers of their day couldn’t possible support that one. A contradicting argument (if one needs one) would be that every chicken egg ever laid and to be laid, whether past, present or future has within itself the seeds of perfection, the potential of becoming a chicken. It needs only to be nurtured with the proper degree of heat for the proper number of days, and voila!—a perfect chicken emerges, albeit it very small as are all newborns, relative of course to the size of the parents.

The greatest potential for perfection in life resides in a far different sort of egg, an egg that forms the human embryo and requires fertilization, a pleasurable transaction which guarantees that human life as we know it will continue throughout eternity, or at least as long as the big bang continues—ah, not that big bang—I refer to the continuing expansion of our universe throughout space, an expansion that some believe was caused by a tremendous event called the big bang.

Unless my failing memory fails me the chicken, along with flora and other fauna, was created on the fifth day, the same day on which that famous existential couple, Adam and Eve, were created—existential in the sense that they took sole responsibility for giving their lives meaning and for living those lives passionately and sincerely (note the emphasis on passionately). In the words of the late Paul Harvey:

“And now you know the rest of the story!”

The very first perfect chicken, through a process provided by its creator, produced the first imperfect egg. The chicken obviously had to come first in order to start things, to produce the egg, an imperfect something that ultimately becomes a perfect chicken, and the process continues to this day and will continue on through eternity, or at least as long as chickens lay.

Got it?

I know, I know—the first imperfect egg came from a perfect chicken, so on the surface it would appear that imperfection can come from perfection, but that doesn’t count on the first time—hey, give the early thinkers a bit of slack!

Beware! Dumb joke approaching (I’m tendering an apology in advance, so be nice):

“It’s not the fault of that apple on the tree—it was that pear (pair) on the ground.”

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 30, 2010 in Humor, Writing

 

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A letter to Laura . . .

This posting was prompted by a comment made by a viewer on one of my previous postings (see at https://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/letter-to-the-editor-san-antonio-express-news-obama’s-reeling/).

The original posting was prompted by an apostrophe placed in the surname Obama. It was meant to form a contraction, “Obama is,” an other-than-normal contraction and somewhat misleading. Obama’s is the possessive form of a singular noun, and the apostrophe thus implies that the president possesses a reeling, whatever that might be. “Obama’s reeling” was the heading of a letter to the editor of San Antonio’s Express-News, the only daily newspaper (and fading fast) in the seventh most populous city in the United States. The subject of the letter was Massachusetts’ recent  election to fill the Senate seat held by the late Senator Edward Kennedy. The race was between a Democrat and a Republican. Would anyone want to hazard a guess as to which candidate won?

You’re right!

I felt that this venue was more appropriate than replying directly to the viewer’s comment on that posting—any reply I made would have been buried and would have rarely, if ever, been exposed to the brilliant light of a separate posting.

As an incidental but closely related thought, I recently encountered this phrase on a blog: “I’d have,” meaning “I would have . . .” I consider “I’d” to be an improper contraction, and ambiguous even if it were proper—it could also mean “I did have” or “I should have,” etc. Would anyone want to hazard a guess as to whose website it was on?

You’re right!

And now on to Laura’s comment and my letter to her:

From: (http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk.html#1)

William Strunk, Jr. (1869–1946).  The Elements of Style.  1918

II. ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE

1. Form the possessive singular of nouns with ’s.

Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

Charles’s friend

Burns’s poems

the witch’s malice

This is the usage of the United States Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press.

Note: (The italics and bolding in Strunk’s rule above are mine).

This is Laura’s comment on my posting:

“The Chicago Manual of Style agrees with Strunk and White re: forming the possessive of a proper noun ending in S by adding an apostrophe and S. Also, I’m wondering if you meant “feign” and not “fain,” which doesn’t seem to fit neatly in your sentence. — Laura.” (http://terriblywrite.wordpress.com)

Letter to Laura . . .

Hi, Laura,

Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the comment. Please note that I approved it exactly as you posted it—I’m sure you are aware that I could have edited the comment to fit my taste, and had I chosen to do so I could have deleted it in its entirety. You, however, cannot edit your comment after it is posted, nor can you edit my reply—that leaves me free to change, rebut or delete any comment that is less than complimentary. I chose to let your comment stand as submitted in order to expand my response via this posting.

As used in that sentence, the phrase fain to know means if one desires to know, or is inclined to know or is willing to know (desirous, inclined and willing are three of fain’s many definitions). Had I used the word feign, it would have meant pretend to know. I know that fain is archaic and sparsely (if ever) used in today’s writings, but I do not feel that I misused it in my posting. As for my choice of a word “which doesn’t seem to fit neatly” in the sentence, I am satisfied with its fit and its neatness—nay, I’m more than satisfied—I am proud of both attributes.

On your trek through a flourishing crop of words in the process of nitpicking, you managed to harvest only one nit, and that one nit apparently prompted you to rate the posting with a negative thumbs down. I say apparently because I can’t be sure that the thumbs down is yours. However, this I know with certainty—yours is the only comment on the posting, and of the five votes existing at this time four are mine, so I must surmise that the thumbs down vote is yours.

A grammatical note—I realize that the graphic for the voting process shows only one thumb up and one thumb down. I use the plurals (thumbs up and thumbs down) because I cannot remember ever hearing someone giving someone a singular thumb up or thumb down—sounds a bit naughty.

Yes, I vote on my own postings, and I always give myself a thumbs up vote—to do otherwise would be self-defeating, so to speak. Please let me know whether the lone negative vote is yours, and if it is not I will willingly—just willingly, not humbly—tender a public apology.

I give nothing less than excellent ratings to any posting, whether items posted by me or by other bloggers (I suspect you would agree with me that consistency is a desirable trait). I strive mightily to adhere to the adage that says, “If you can’t say anything positive, don’t say anything.”

As an aside, I believe the practice of one voting on one’s own posting is widespread, a belief that is supported by a comprehensive poll of several (three) bloggers. Such actions are simply the result of writers tooting their own horn, a perfectly normal and common practice that is neither prohibited nor restricted by rule or law.

As regards your statement that The Chicago Manual of Style agrees with Strunk:

I do not agree with your statement, nor do I trust or agree with anyone or anything related to Chicago, whether that person or thing be animal, vegetable, mineral, publication or president. I visited the Chicago Manual of Style online, but went no farther than the second page (the result of a search phrase) because I was unwilling to subscribe and pay for the “privilege” of going farther. However, the results of my search (admittedly brief) appear to contradict your contention that the Chicago Manual of Style agrees with William Strunk’s The Element of Style, circa 1918. In fact, the Chicago Manual of Style appears to leave a fair amount of choice for ways to show the possessive forms of words ending in ess—Strunk offers no alternatives and states that we should “Follow this rule whatever the final consonant.”

Check it out at http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/search.epl. I used the search phrase possessive of words ending in s and it returned eight entries dealing with that subject.

Here are the first two entries:

7.21:   Words and names ending in unpronounced “s”

To avoid an awkward appearance, an apostrophe without an s may be used for the possessive of singular words and names ending in an unpronounced s.

The following is a personal note, intended to clarify the term unpronounced: The ess is pronounced, but it takes the sound of ze, the twenty-sixth (and final) letter in the English alphabet.

7.23: An alternative practice

options outlined above may prefer the system, formerly more common, of simply omitting the possessive s on all words ending in s

Those entries do not show agreement with Strunk—they show that there are alternatives that may be used to “avoid an awkward appearance,” and they give the option of “simply omitting the possessive s on all words ending in s” in stark contrast to Strunk’s imperative to “Follow this rule whatever the final consonant.” Two of the examples given are Charles’s friend and Burns’s poems, both wrong and neither in complete agreement with the Chicago Manual of Style.

Laura, I spent some time on your site at http://terriblywrite.wordpress.com. I enjoyed my visit, and had you provided a counter for votes similar to the one I use on my blog, I would have rated your work excellent. You are quite thorough and successful in your quest to find errors in the writings of others, and you effectively use humor in pointing out the errors albeit, in my opinion, humor tinged with a certain measure of contempt for the inept writer.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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