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Food for thought: When it’s time to pay the bill . . .

Food for thought: When it’s time to pay the bill . . .

The following obituary appeared in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph of Sept. 16, 1958:

A great poet died last week in Lancieux, France at the age of 84. He was not a poet’s poet. Fancy-Dan dilettantes will dispute the description “great.” He was a people’s poet. To the people he was great. They understood him and knew that any verse carrying the by-line of Robert W. Service would be a lilting thing, clear, clean and power-packed, beating out a story with a dramatic intensity that made the nerves tingle. And he was no poor garret-type poet either. His stuff made money hand over fist. One piece alone, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, rolled up half a million dollars for him. He lived it up well and also gave a great deal to help others. “The only society I like,” he once said, “is that which is rough and tough—and the tougher the better. That’s where you get down to bedrock and meet human people.” He found that kind of society in the Yukon gold rush, and he immortalized it.

I recently spent considerable time on the web, absorbed in the poetry of Robert W. Service. Click here for that site. On its surface, his poetry is just as rough and tough as the society he professed to love, the society he found in the Yukon gold rush. However, if one chooses to look below the surface of his writings, a moving current of his belief in the Deity and of life after death will appear. That current is apparent and can be found in the final three lines of his epic poem, The Reckoning. Click here for more works by Robert W. Service.

The Reckoning

It’s fine to have a blow-out in a fancy restaurant,
With terrapin and canvas-back and all the wine you want;
To enjoy the flowers and music, watch the pretty women pass;
Smoke a choice cigar, and sip the wealthy water in your glass.
It’s bully in a high-toned joint to eat and drink your fill,
But it’s quite another matter when you
Pay the bill.

It’s great to go out every night on fun or pleasure bent;
To wear your glad rags always and to never save a cent;
To drift along regardless, have a good time every trip;
To hit the high spots sometimes, and to let your chances slip;
To know you’re acting foolish, yet to go on fooling still,
Till Nature calls a show-down, and you
Pay the bill.

Time has got a little bill—get wise while yet you may,
For the debit side’s increasing in a most alarming way;
The things you had no right to do, the things you should have done,
They’re all put down; it’s up to you to pay for every one.
So eat, drink and be merry, have a good time if you will,
But God help you when the time comes, and you
Foot the bill.

I hope, and I would like to believe, that if I pay my bills as I go through life—pay them conscientiously on time and in full right up to the time I depart this realm for another—I will arrive with the maximum score possible to be considered for entry into heaven, with no unpaid bills, a credit score over the top and an impressive record of doing unto others as I would have them do unto me, a record of shunning the bad and embracing the good (the image at right is a self-portrait, taken at some time in the future).

In reference to the line in The Reckoning that reads, The things you had no right to do, the things you should have done, I am well aware of the things that I’ve done that I had no right to do, and of the things I did not do that I should have done. Armed with that knowledge, in the time I have left in this realm I will strive mightily—nay, desperately—to do none of the things I’ve done that I had no right to do, and to do all of the things I should have done and did not do.

Got it?

And just one more thought:

I am brazen enough to speculate that some, perhaps many—oh, let’s face it—all of us, not only those that may stumble upon this post—all of us would profit in the long run by establishing and adhering to the plan I’ve outlined above. At the very least it wouldn’t hurt to try, and even if we fail we would perhaps earn points for making the effort—perhaps, and again perhaps not.

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

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Posted by on December 10, 2010 in death, Family, friends, funeral, Humor, poetry


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Florida find—lifeless legs in landfill . . .

The following item was taken from the above URL :

ORANGE PARK, Fla. (March 26) — A 24-year-old unemployed restaurant worker was charged Friday with murder in the slaying of a 7-year-old Florida girl whose body was found in a Georgia landfill after she disappeared walking home from school, authorities said. Jarred Mitchell Harrell was charged in the death of Somer Thompson, who went missing Oct. 19. Her lifeless legs were discovered two days later in a landfill about 50 miles from Orange Park.

Lifeless legs?

Is the word lifeless used for alliterative  reasons, or perhaps used as filler to complete a newspaper column? If legs are found, regardless of where, when, why, who or how, any reader with even the paltriest particle of perceptive power will know that the legs are necessarily lifeless. Please note the foregoing lined-out phrase—it includes a four-word alliteration (paltriest particle of perceptive power), but it is unnecessary, just as is the word lifeless, the adjective used to describe the legs found in a Florida landfill.

Something else is missing from the article—was the body dismembered? At first read, one may safely assume that the girl is dead based on the word murder and the term lifeless in reference to the legs, but must we also assume that the body was dismembered? The article states only that the lifeless legs were found. Was the dismemberment of the body omitted, perhaps, in deference to the emotions of the deceased’s family? In that case, the authors of the article should have refrained from using the term gruesome in this sentence: They sorted through more than 225 tons of garbage before the gruesome find.

Quality journalism does not require such assumptions to be made. To quote Detective Joe Friday’s signature statement from Dragnet, a long defunct television show: We just want the facts, ma’m—just the facts.

A corollary to the adjective lifeless, as used in the above article, is the use of the adjective dead as applied to a human body. We never read or hear that The live body of the missing man was found today. What we read or hear is that, The missing man was found alive and well today. Conversely, we read or hear that, The dead body of the missing man was found today. Note the lined-out word in that sentence—was it needed to let the reader know that the missing man was found dead—not alive, but dead? Of course not—the word body is sufficient information.

For some of the years (too many) that I toiled in the work force, one of my co-workers was a woman for whom English was a second language. She frequently accused me of neet peeking. Well, I am not a nit picker.

I am a fault finder, and I will energetically exercise that attractive attribute to the best of my ability. Please note the three alliterative phrases in that sentence—all are unnecessary but all are self–fulfilling and space–filling (writers are sometimes paid according to the number of words used).

Enough said!

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


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32 Czars & counting—we need one more . . .

Our government now has 32 czars, each charged with oversight of a different segment of life in the United States. These positions are filled by people selected by unknown means, but some of whom admittedly know nothing about the segment over which they hold sway.

I suggest that President Obama appoint a Phart Czar. Were I the president, my selection would be a former vice-president—Al Gore.

Al Gore is one of the major causes of global warning. He is consistently, in the words of the bard, “hoist with his own petar.” Some of the bard’s analysts suggest that the phrase is a play on words and refers to the fact that the persons mentioned are lifted aloft by their own flatulence (see explanation below). In Al’s case, he is lifted by his own hot air, primarily generated by his pompous proclamations concerning global warming.

For now, the former vice-president seems to be a necessary evil, about which little can be done—it’s just something we will have to tolerate. Perhaps his appointment to the position of Phart Czar will add a bit of weight to a couple of his lightweight awards—the Oscar awarded by Hollywood and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here I must digress for a moment and offer my thanks for a site that is a great source for writer’s tips—check it out at

The information that follows was gleaned from that site:

Here is how the expression is used in Hamlet (III, iv, 206-208):

For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petar, an’t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon.

A “petar” was an explosive device. It got its name from the French verb pêter, which means “to break wind.” The Old French noun pet means “fart.” Shakespeare was making one of his earthy puns here.

Another major cause of global warning, other than Al Gore—one that can be addressed and perhaps eliminated, or at least reduced—is the methane gas emitted by animals. This is the vast amount of flatulence produced by livestock, primarily cattle (cows). In 2005 the United State’s livestock population, including cattle, was almost 96 million—this would include horses, mules, sheep, swine and other lesser animals (lesser in size, not necessarily in the amount of methane expelled into the atmosphere). Of all the animals, those in the know tell us that cows are the worst offenders (I don’t know how that was determined, and I’m not sure that I want to know).

Our country needs a Phart Czar, one who can evaluate the situation, determine methods of controlling such emissions, and exercise control over such emissions by implementing those methods. The Czar’s duties would include intensive measurements of emissions collected from various breeds of cattle. It could be that Jerseys (cows, not people) emit more methane than the Holstein breed, for example. Armed with that knowledge, the Phart Czar could concentrate on reducing the Jersey population (cows, not people), or perhaps if deemed necessary, eliminating the breed through attrition (of Jersey cows, not people).

However, I believe that our major problem is not necessarily with the lower order (so-called) of animals. A corollary problem is methane—flatulence—produced by the higher order (so-called) of animals. That order is the human race, and that problem should be addressed immediately.

To my knowledge no effort has been made to measure the contribution to the atmosphere of methane generated by the herds of humans in our country—in concentrating on animal production we may have completely overlooked our own contributions. The estimated population for the United States in 2008 was almost 304 million human pharters, more than triple the number of livestock in the nation.

Who knows? Our collective contributions to global warming may approach, equal or even surpass that of livestock.

This should be the Phart Czar’s immediate concern—to determine the depth of the problem and make recommendations to reduce the output of something which, apparently, is detrimental to our health and to our future.

Who would have thought that such a normal function of our bodies could be harmful? Certainly not I. In fact, there is a little ditty that many of my generation learned at our mother’s knee and frequently recited over the years. It’s one that the U. S. Air Force officer who established the Wellness Clinic at Wilford Hall Hospital used as the opener in all his speeches promoting the program.

It goes like this:

Beans, beans, good for your heart,

The more you eat, the more you phart,

The more you phart, the better you feel,

So let’s eat beans every meal.

This would be the most sensitive part of the Phart Czar’s job:

Any analysis of the problem must—I repeat, must—include race. The amount of flatulence, as well as its olfactory and auditory effects, is in large part influenced by diet. Some foods promote the production of methane—examples are beans, onions, diary products (especially milk) and let’s not forget one of the worst culprits—broccoli. There are those among us who eat far more beans, broccoli, dairy, etc., than do other segments of the population and therefore should be so judged and subjected to intense scrutiny and evaluation, and corrective action taken as deemed necessary.

Of course, over time through on-hands management, diligent investigation, development of corrective measures and prompt application of those measures, the Phart Czar may find that other foods and other segments of the population may generate as much, or even more, methane gas. No one, including vegetarians, pescotarians, etc., can be exempted—all must be scrutinized and evaluated.

I also suggest that significant stimulus money be provided to persons and companies involved in the study of enzymes (some of which may reduce unwanted digestive issues). In theory at least, new enzymes could be developed that would significantly reduce or even eliminate flatulence, both in humans and in the so-called lower classes of animals. As we all know, flatulence is involuntary and therefore not the fault of the animal, whether human or otherwise—it’s the bacteria in the animal’s colon—they are the culprits—perhaps under the direction of the Phart Czar, a new strain of bacteria could be developed, one which could continue to make its necessary contributions to life without producing methane gas.

One can only hope and dream.

There is, of course, a downside to the complete elimination of methane emitted by living beings—some of us, and perhaps some of the animals, are not strongly disinclined with the conditions which presently exist.

And finally, this is why we need another czar—a Phart Czar:

According to Al Gore, time is of the essence.

As an aside, I recommend that those who invest in the stock market take a careful look at Beano, a product that is said to counter, or at least reduce, the effect of beans in the production of methane in humans. It may be found that by the simple introduction of Beano into beans and other foods, either in the growth process by injecting Beano into the seeds or in the preparation of beans for retail to the public, both uncooked and cooked—a good place to start would be in the vast numbers of restaurants, particularly fast-food restaurants—that feature beans in virtually every dish offered to the public. One of the bean side dishes offered with many entrees is an ultra-delicious culinary delight—it’s called re-fried beans, an item that should be considered particularly suspect for its contributions to the cumulative deleterious effect of flatulence discharged into our atmosphere.

The makers of Beano claim that it counteracts the adverse effects of beans on the human digestive system (for some of us but not all), and offer compelling testimonials to its favorable action. I predict that Beano will in the future change the lifestyle of many people, perhaps propelling (so to speak) some into the rarified air of millionaires, provided that investors get in at the bottom (so to speak) and invest in the product. However, I must in the interest of full disclosure reveal that the product does not work for me.

It makes me phart.

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


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