Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Oliver Bit Song, or I feel another bad spell coming on

A, you're ad horrible,
B, you're (sob) dutiful,
C, you're recruiting full itch arms,
D, you're ad doll link and
E, you're egg sight ink and
F, Europe furthering my harms.

G, you'll a god to me,
H, you're so Avonlea,
I, you're divan eye eye dough lies,
J, we're lack chalk and chill,
K, you're soak hiss a bull,
L, you're the lob lye tin my highs.

M, N, O P,
I could go on all day,
Q, R, S, T,
Half a medic lease peeking
You're "O.K!"

U maid moll icon pleat,
V, you're soap berries wheat,
W, X, Y, Z

Hits Fonda wonder shrew
Duh half abet witch ewe
Too tall ewe wet chew me tomb he.

If you made it this far, you are a truly loyal reader of this blog, having gone the second mile with moi. Accordingly, you deserve to hear the original version from 1948 sung by Perry Como and the Fontaine Sisters and see some beautifully crafted letters at the same time (2:24).

Here they are in the early 1950s on Perry's television show:

I have always thought the sister on the right looks like both Kathryn Murray (the ballroom dancer and Arthur Murray's wife) and Kitty Carlisle (panelist on the TV game show To Tell the Truth and wife of playwright and theater director Moss Hart). Better than mere doppelgängers. Dreiergängers!.

Well, that's enough wandering down memory lane for one post, I think.

I'm sure you agree.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Lunar landing, January 2017

I was standing at my kitchen door a couple of days ago enjoying what was left of the snow, took this picture with my phone, and captured the moon approaching the branches of our neighbor's poplar tree.

It reminded me of something.

Was it Perry Como singing "Catch A Falling Star And Put It In Your Pocket" from 1957 (2:30)?


Was it Kate Smith singing "When the Moon Comes Over The Mountain" from 1931 (3:21)?


Ah, now I remember.

It reminded me, sort of, of my poem "An Afternoon Encounter" except that my poem was about the sun and an oak tree, not the moon and a poplar.

An Afternoon Encounter
by Robert Henry Brague (1941-)

The winter sun is tangled in an oak
And, white with rage, she struggles to break free.
His icy boughs clutch tightly, try to choke
This one who strayed too near, this enemy.
How fortunate the oak to trap this prize!
What luck just now to catch so rare a prey!
How unexpectedly his victim lies
Imprisoned in his snare at close of day!
But blushing now, embarrassed at her plight,
And fighting on, the sun at last is freed.
Disheveled, she limps homeward for the night
To nurse her wounds. One wound begins to bleed.
The sun, retreating, leaves a crimson stain
And wraps herself in clouds to ease the pain.

Close, but no cigar. They say close only counts in horseshoes.

If you'd like to try your hand at a 14-line sonnet about the moon and a poplar in the style invented by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, a first cousin of both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, the second and fifth wives of King Henry VIII (remembering to use the rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg and iambic pentameter), be my guest.

The comment section awaits.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Snowy sunrise

It snowed in north Georgia last evening, the first snow of this winter, beginning around 8 pm. It was still going strong when we retired around 11:30 for the night. This morning, I looked out the glass door that separates our kitchen from our patio and this is what I saw:

Seeing the blanket of white on the ground and the evergreen trees on the hill and the way the sun was peeping around the edge of the house behind us, reflecting off our birdbath while the rest of the back yard remained in shadow, made me think -- I don't know why -- of this poem by Thomas Hood:

I Remember, I Remember
by Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

I remember, I remember,
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon,
Nor brought too long a day,
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!

I remember, I remember,
The roses, red and white,
The vi'lets, and the lily-cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,—
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember,
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!

I remember, I remember,
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from heav'n
Than when I was a boy.

Source: Poets of the English Language (Viking Press, 1950)

This is certainly not the house where I was born. I didn't have a brother. Maybe it was the line about the little window where the sun came peeping in at morn, which it does at certain times of the year here but not at others in that window of sky between the two houses. Maybe it was the fir trees dark and high (though ours are pines) with their slender tops close against the sky. I don't know. But for whatever reason, my day began in a decidedly literary fashion.

No telling what I will post when I see the first daffodil. It may make you want to wander lonely as a cloud but it will probably make me think of Puyallap, Washington, where between the years 2012 and 2016 not only have the daffodils faded but Mount Rainier seems to have disappeared as well.

Keep 'em guessing, that's what I say.

Friday, January 6, 2017

A story for Epiphany (from the archives: January 6, 2010)

The Three Magi: Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar, from a late 6th century mosaic at the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy. (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Once upon a time there was the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, AT&T, or Ma Bell to you, and within Ma Bell there could be found Bell Labs (her research and development arm), Western Electric Co. (her manufacturing arm), and lots of little Bell Operating Companies (BOCs) (her legs for getting telephones to and collecting lots of money from the general public), 24 to be exact, including two that were wholly owned subsidiaries:

1. New England Telephone
2. Southern New England Telephone (wholly-owned subsidiary #1)
3. New York Telephone
4. New Jersey Bell
5. Bell of Pennsylvania
6. Diamond State Telephone (Delaware to you)
7. Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone of Maryland
8. Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone of West Virginia
9. Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone of Virginia
10. Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone of Washington, D.C.
11. Southern Bell
12. South Central Bell
13. Ohio Bell
14. Cincinnati Bell (wholly-owned subsidiary #2)
15. Indiana Bell
16. Michigan Bell
17. Illinois Bell
18. Wisconsin Bell
19. Northwestern Bell
20. Southwestern Bell
21. Mountain Bell
22. Nevada Bell
23. Pacific Bell
24. Pacific Northwest Bell

There were lots of other telephone companies too, like giant General Telephone and itty-bitty Blue Ridge Telephone Company and others scattered all over the country, but they were independent and had nothing to do with Ma Bell, AT&T, or the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.

But the big, bad Federal Government said to AT&T, “No, no, no, you are a monopoly and you must divest yourselves of all of those operating companies on January 1, 1984.” So AT&T, Ma Bell to you, looked into her open grave and said, “Children, it is time to stand on your own two, er, 48 feet, sort of.” And even though Ma Bell kept her research and development arm (Bell Labs) and her manufacturing arm (Western Electric Co., though its name had been changed to AT&T Technologies), she gave away her 24 children to seven umbrella companies called Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs), and Ma Bell was no more. Some of the RBOCs thrived and their stock soared and some of the RBOCs slowly went down the tubes. The seven RBOCs were:

1. NYNEX (NY for New York and NE for New England and X for eXchanges)
2. Bell Atlantic
3. BellSouth
4. Ameritech
5. SBC Communications (S for Southwestern and B for Bell)
6. U.S. West
7. Pacific Telesis

One of the RBOCs, Southwestern Bell, retained its old identity through the transition and continued performing one of its primary functions, producing and distributing the yellow pages.

Years went by. AT&T opened PhoneCenter stores all over the country, and then decided to close them. Cellphones were invented. In 1995, Bell Labs and Western Electric (though its name had been changed again, first to AT&T Information Systems and then to AT&T Network Systems) were spun off into a new company, Lucent Technologies, and began interacting with such entities as AT&T-BCS (Business Communications Systems) and AT&T-GBS (General Business Systems) and AT&T-LBS (Large Business Systems) and AT&T-GBCS (whatever). More name changes occurred and rival companies called MCI and Verizon and Sprint and Vonage and Skype and magicJack sprang up and flourished, or not, with ever cheaper and ever more lightweight plastic throwaway phones. Southwestern Bell began a joint venture with BellSouth called Cingular to market cellphones, eventually BellSouth was swallowed up by Southwestern Bell, and the name Cingular eventually changed to AT&T Mobility. AT&T opened up retail stores again but didn’t call them PhoneCenters. The more things changed, the more they seemed to remain the same.

The RBOCs merged and expanded and changed shape and AT&T decided to get out of the telephone manufacturing business altogether. Southwestern Bell bought AT&T, changing its own name to AT&T in the process, and moved the new AT&T’s headquarters from New Jersey, where it had been that state’s largest employer, to San Antonio, Texas, and then to Dallas, Texas, from whence it shall come to judge the quick and the dead. No, wait, that’s something else. Lucent Technologies, which had been Western Electric Co. long ago, and then AT&T Technologies, and then AT&T Information Systems, and then AT&T Network Systems, disappeared into was bought by a giant telecommunication company in France named Alcatel and moved its headquarters to Paris.

There is no end to this story; it will go on and on, and no one knows whether the new AT&T, which is for all intents and purposes really the old Southwestern Bell, will live happily ever after, but the moral of this story on this Epiphany is this:

Some men are so busy making money and inventing gadgets and being entrepreneurial and following their own stars that they no longer have time to seek Him, but wise men still do.

[Full disclosure: I went to work for Western Electric Co. on Feb. 25, 1980, and retired from Lucent Technologies on March 1, 2000. My monthly pension is currently paid by Alcatel-Lucent.]

Addendum, January 6, 2017: My monthly pension is no longer paid by Alcatel-Lucent, the American arm of Alcatel, a French global telecommunications equipment company, headquartered in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, because in late 2016, Alcatel was merged with, acquired by, subsumed into (pick one) Nokia, a Finnish multinational communications and information technology company founded in 1865 and headquartered in Espoo, Uusimaa, in the greater Helsinki metropolitan area. The monthly pension I receive is now paid by it/them/whomever. I also receive another monthly pension from International Business Machines (IBM), an American multinational technology company headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States, with operations in over 170 countries, but that is a topic for another post.

Addendum number 2: Don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The jury is still out on whether a thing of beauty is a joy forever

My mother used to say things like "Pretty is as pretty does" and "Beauty is only skin-deep". Those sayings may be true, but it is also rumoured that ugly goes all the way to the bone.

I think that Leonardo da Vinci captured the quandary nicely in his famous painting Mona Feldman:

Sunday, January 1, 2017

'Round and 'round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows

(sculpture, head of Janus in Vatican museum, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Janus am I; oldest of potentates;
Forward I look, and backward, and below
I count, as god of avenues and gates,
The years that through my portals come and go.

I block the roads, and drift the fields with snow;
I chase the wild fowl from the frozen fen;
My frosts congeal the rivers in their flow,
My fires light up the hearths and hearts of men.
--Henry W. Longfellow

Old things need not be therefore true,
O brother men, nor yet the new;
Ah! still awhile the old thought retain,
And yet consider it again

The souls of now two thousand years
Have laid up here their toils and tears,
And all the earnings of their pain,--
Ah, yet consider it again!

We! What do we see? each a space
Of some few yards before his face;
Does that the whole wide plan explain?
Ah, yet consider it again!

Alas! the great world goes its way,
And takes its truth from each new day;
They do not quit, nor can retain,
Far less consider it again.
--Arthur Hugh Clough