30 September 2007

Shakespeare and Seasons

Beautiful words and beautiful pictures, they just needed to be put together.


That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Aunt Ruth

I didn't appreciate her then
when forced on someone to care for me.
But when she was long dead, I became a Jew
And made the promise of Ruth
on the Bema with that name
Moved by things taken for granted:
Socks perfectly white
bleached into submission every night
Fresh squeezed juice with every dawn
Dresses ironed to perfection
Birthday angel food cake beaten by hand.

She raised someone who didn't want to be there.
And I only knew her in her middle years
A barren woman who loved me more than I did her.
How do you pay back a roof or a place to be
From a woman once young enough to give me an Uncle Don.
Aunt Ruth read condensed books when she read at all
but bought me Alcott rather than unwanted dolls
And Great Books for graduation with a quote by
Hume on the dedication page.

She didn't live a happy life.
There were too many reasons to complain
She never learned to say thank you for favors done
They didn't exist when she had to clean up after everyone
while no one understood her pain
but then again, I must have loved her
I took her name, when she was gone.

29 September 2007

Me Me Meme

Linda over at Are We There Yet tagged me with the Desktop Meme. Instruction are to copy your desktop as is (no cheating) and post it to your blog. See instructions below my desktop.

Now you all know that I love genealogy, doing research, and solving mysteries. You can't see my research links simply because they are all classified into folders by subject on my favorites. On the desktop there is my grandfather's family, my Family Tree program, and all of my mystery, logic, and find it games.

If you like mysteries, I will suggest a mindbender that goes by the name of "Safecracker". There is even a cheat sheet on the web to keep you from throwing the computer at the wall. Azada and Dream Chronicals are easier, but nicely complicated, and the rest are simple find it puzzles and three or mores that act as nice, fast brain candy.

My Desktop Free View Instruction:

A. Upon receiving this tag, immediately perform a screen capture of your desktop. It is best that no icons be deleted before the screen capture so as to add to the element of fun.
You can do a screen capture by:
[1] Going to your desktop and pressing the Print Scrn key (located on the right side of the F12 key).
[2] Open a graphics program (like Picture Manager, Paint, or Photoshop) and do a Paste (CTRL + V).
[3] If you wish, you can “edit” the image, before saving it.

B. Post the picture in your blog. You can also give a short explanation on the look of your desktop just below it if you want. You can explain why you preferred such look or why is it full of icons. Things like that.
C. Tag five of your friends and ask them to give you a Free View of their desktop as well.
D. Add your name to this list of Free Viewers with a link pointing directly to your Desktop Free View post to promote it to succeeding participants.

Now rather than give this to someone, any visitors who want to do theirs, just provide a link in the comments section so we can all play voyeur. Others taking part include:

maiylah’s snippets
My Memoirs
Coffee 2 go
Are We There Yet?
Mother's Home
It's A Blog Eat Blog World

28 September 2007

Don't Ask For Directions

For almost a century, it had been known that there was this great honking blob of land between Europe and China. The best of the 16th century navigators had tried everything they could think of to find a Northwest Passage, southern strait, or a navigable river through an istmus without success. Oh you could sail down and around, but that strait found by Magellen was a real ___________ (fill in your favorite Portuguese profanity) to navigate. If you are in California and ask for directions to Cabrillo, you just might get lost because on the 27th of September in 1542 Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was looking for a way to get through the North American continent and found a big bay that just might lead to a cross country passage. No such luck, he had just found San Diego. He continued up the coast hunting for the mythic strait without success before giving up and going home.

As a result there are lots of Cabrillos dotting the geography from South to North:

Cabrillo National Monument at Point Loma (nice Lighthouse) - San Diego County

Cabrillo Marina - Chula Vista, San Diego County

Cabrillo Beach - Los Angeles, Los Angeles County

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium - San Pedro, Los Angeles County

Cabrillo College - Santa Cruz County

Point Cabrillo - Mendocino County (another nice Lighthouse)

Many, many schools and social groups. One of the best is the Cabrillo Civic Clubs founded by Californians of Portuguese descent.

Over 450 years later, Juan might be a bit more successful. Thanks to global warming, the Northwest Passage soon may be navigable.

27 September 2007

Stolen Foodie Meme

Found at Trav's Thoughts who got it from Songbird's. She swiped it from Exceedingly Mundane, who got it from Magnolia Mom, who got it from... well as you can it is up for grabs

1. How do you like your eggs? - Scrambled or poached in Eggs Benedict

2. How do you take your coffee/tea? - Coffee and Green Tea Straight no mixers, Earl Grey in the morning cream and sugar.

3. Favorite breakfast food: Oatmeal - The real thing. None of this fake instant paste.

4. Peanut butter - smooth or crunchy? - Smooth

5. What kind of dressing on your salad? - Blue Cheese both wet and dry crumbled

6. Coke or Pepsi? - Rarely Coke with fresh squeezed lemon

7. You’re feeling lazy, what do you make? - OJ/Banana/Vanilla Yogurt

8. You’re feeling really lazy. What kind of pizza do you order? Pepperoni & Sausage.

9. You feel like cooking. What do you make? Roast Chicken, Pilaf, Broccoli for Dinner, English Trifle or Bread Pudding for dessert.

10. Do any foods bring back good memories? - Fresh Orange Juice

11. Do any foods bring back bad memories? - Liver

12. Do any foods remind you of someone? - Zucky's Number 6 Sandwich (Basically a triple decker Dagwood type with Egg Salad, Corned Beef, and Turkey)

13. Is there a food you refuse to eat? - Liver see above

14. What was your favorite food as a child? - Spaghetti

15. Is there a food that you hated as a child but now like? No

16. Is there a food that you liked as a child but now hate? No

17. Favorite fruit and vegetable: Oranges & Broccoli

18. Favorite junk food: Potato Chips

19. Favorite between meal snack: Don't eat between meals

20. Do you have any weird food habits? Sweetened condensed milk straight from the can. Very rare and it makes me really sick. :-)

21. You’re on a diet. What food(s) do you fill up on. I've been on a diet since 1956 - Water

22. You’re off your diet. Now what would you like? Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce

23. How spicy do you order Indian/Thai? Call the Fire Department

24. Can I get you a drink? Don't mind if I do... Single Malt Scotch on rocks or Gin and Tonic

25. Red wine or white? - Red

26. Favorite dessert? - Bread Pudding

27. The perfect nightcap? Water

One Singular Sensation

On this date in 1983, A Chorus Line became the longest-running Broadway musical to date, when its 3,389th performance broke the record previously held by Grease. A Chorus Line opened July 25, 1975, closed on Broadway in 1990, and was seen by more than 6.5 million people. Now after 16 years, it is back on Broadway.

In case there is anyone alive who hasn't seent either the live musical or the movie, the story is a simple one: A behind-the-scenes look at dancers auditioning for a Broadway show who slowly reveal the life histories that turned them into the dancers now trying to get a job. At the time, it seemed searing and original with themes that included age, sex, abuse, homosexuality, and racism. While the issues covered may now sound like a show on afternoon TV, they still have power, the dancing is magnificent, and the music remains one of the best scores written for a show.

26 September 2007

200 Years and Counting

These days very few people keep diaries or journals. The result is history lost. Every human being is responsible for 200 years of history. This may seem an outrageous claim, but take a moment to think. My grandmother was born in 1880. She passed away in 1969. From her I heard stories about her parents, particularly the great grandfather who fought in the Civil War. My youngest grandchild is likely to live well past 2080. From me he will hear all the family history and pass them along to his children. Stories not shared are stories lost. Even the most dedicated genealogist can only fill in facts and figures. They cannot recreate a lost piece of family history.

It is easy to say, "My children aren't interested". Write it all down anyway. About the time they get very interested, you will be gone and they will be kicking themselves that they never asked the questions that now are driving them up a wall. "I don't have children, why should I keep a journal". There are libraries all over the planet with shelves devoted to genealogy and there are people reading them for a flavor of how real people lived. Missing diaries are missing lives.

Writing is too difficult. In an age of blogging, this objection almost seems silly, but I'll make it easy for you. Simply gather and label every picture you own. At some point in the future, no one will have to ask, "Who is that person with mom?". Next gather every document you own relating to births, deaths, and marriages and put them in one safe place. This means that no one in the future will have to pay to recreate these documents. Finally write a simple list of years from the day you were born until the present. Then write a note for every year either that you remember or that was told to you. The notes do not have to make sense to anyone else, they are for your use to jog your memory of events.

Go to your nearest stationary store and browse. Virtually every one has something along the lines of "grandmother remembers". Buy it, take it home, gather your notes, and fill in the blanks. You do not need to do a formal genealogy if that isn't your interest. That can be left for someone else, but they will need the stories and clues you leave behind.

25 September 2007

Finding Jessie

Since I put up the Ellis Island post, some commenters have expressed interest or asked questions about how to start family trees. Just for a feel of how to start, I'm putting up two old columns: Finding Jessie and 200 Years and Counting. I hope newer readers like them.


This is a love story, an adventure tale, and a mystery. It is not your usual boy meets girl, though that is here, nor love of family, though that is here as well. It is not swashbuckling though a long ocean voyage was involved, and don’t call Miss Marple because no one gets murdered by the third paragraph, even though there are several deaths. This is a personal genealogical journey, a how to investigation, and the way a hobbyist’s obsession can turn into a love affair.

By Scottish tradition, I was named after my father’s mother. On my birth certificate is my name, Janet Jamieson Durward White. This is where all genealogical research starts. What do you know? Now backtrack. What other information is on this little piece of paper? Mother born in 1918 in Kansas, Oklahoma (yes there is a Kansas in Oklahoma, but that is another story). Father: Robert White born in 1918 in Wishaw, Scotland. I decided to concentrate on the Scottish line because of simple curiosity.

My parents were divorced when I was quite young, and though I spent time with my father, the contact with his family virtually ceased in my early teens. What names I knew teneded to be first names: an Aunt Effie, a cousin Mary Margaret, and brief visits to my grandfather. Without surnames, the slate is very blank. I had my new computer and the barest of information: Grandfather: William Hunter Gibson White (a faded, pipe smoking, lover of horse racing whose house I managed to nudge off it’s foundation in an early learning to drive experience). He was a handsome, white haired image from my youth whom I had last seen in 1960. I wasn’t present when he died in 1971. Then my grandmother: Janet Jamieson Durward (no image at all because she died some time before I was born).

Trying to reconstruct memories almost 40 years later was difficult since my father was now deceased. Being a researcher by trade, I made some leaps of faith ... when in doubt ask questions of anyone you think might know the answers, and don’t be afraid of looking stupid. Polite stupid people get help. Armed with that new computer, the search began by joining a major server and fining their genealogical group to post a first “HELP!” message. I learned about GENUKI (the mailinglist for people interested in the United Kindom). GENNAM (a mailing list where you can post surnames), the RSL (a mailing list and search location on the net); FHC’s (an incredible service provided by the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints); The National Archives for the United States (to get immigration records); and the NRH (the depository of official records for Scotland). Even better, a really nice person in Scotland just happened to be going to the NRH and offered to find information on my grandparents. One letter to the national Archives giving them an approximate ten year range for immigration (I knew my father had entered the States as a young child) brought my grandfather’s arrival certificate, ship’s passenger list, declaration of intent, petition for citizenship, and oath of allegiance. The first of many surprises: My grandmother’s nickname is Jessie. She’s Janet on one paper and Jessie on another. She and the children arrived a year after my grandfather on a second ship, he on the Cameronia and she and the boys on the Letitia. He had come alone to live with his sister in 1925 before bringing his family over in 1926.

The nice man in Scotland reports in with another surprise, Janet “Jessie” has even more to her name: Janet Jamieson Turner Durward, and I have now acquired the names of great grandparents and find out that Jessie’s father died in a railway accident. There is not only a death certificate but an FAI (Fatal Accident Inquiry). The appropriate certificate numbers are requested from NRH and in less than two weeks I have birth certificates for father and grandparents, plus another Scottish contact offers to look for and finds the newspaper articles on my great grandfather’s death. This explains the remarriage of my great grandmother now appearing on my grandparents’ wedding certificate.

This genealogy stuff is a snap! And, pride goeth before fall. California has a death index by date and in short order I have my grandfather’s death certificate from 1971. From the citizenship papers I know Jessie died somewhere between 1934 when they were issued and 1944 when I was born. Unknown is the actual date because my dad died in 1981 and while living refused to talk about his mother except to say she died around Christmas and proceeded to get drunk at that time of the year, every year, year after year. This was one of the banes of a fragile childhood, and in many ways I wasn’t just seeking a genealogical chain, but trying to recapture the man who had been my father. While he was living I never received a Christmas present. They always arrived sometime in January. There is something hidden here and no one to ask even the stupid questions.

The county of Los Angeles is no help. After checking out every Janet or Jessie White on the death index, they report that there is no record of one born in Scotland dying somewhere between 1934 and 1944. To top it off, the cemetery where my grandfather was buried had no record of a Janet or Jessie White. Why did my father and uncle choose to bury him in a small place in Glendale when all other members of the family that I could find were at the much larger, “Forest Lawn”? Where was Jessie? Little did I know that this would be a five-year search and become one of the most emotional experiences of my life. In the interest of speed, I opted for a semiprofessional, “hobbyist”, willing to track down my family members at the NRH in Scotland and steadily built up several lines back to before 1800, but still no “real” information on what because obvious. For some reason in 1925 Scotland, all the brothers in a large family and their wives and children just packed and moved to the United States. what happened to all the other White brothers in California and to the sisters and their families. What had happened to Jessie?

It was now all starting to come together. I’m posting regularly to Genuki, Gennam, RSL, and visiting my local FCH (Notice that I’m tossing around the initials like a pro). The wives and children are becoming numerous in my chosen computer program, but they are just names and dates, and Istill haven’t found my grandmother nor made any contact with any still living descendants in my search. Based on the information gathered another leap of faith ... two speculative messages: “Does anyone have any information on a White/Beveridge or Durward/Mclaren marriage at the turnof the century?” This was because of an odd memory of an overheard conversation where my grandfather is saying “Mac ...” while talking about what I thought was an old friend and then seeing that one of Jessie’s sisters is married to a McLaren. One of the witness names on the citizen ship papers is Beveridge, but a Clara not an Effie as I remember from my early years, but I now have information that Maggie White married a Beveridge. Wahoo!!!!!

A Mclaren reports in. That is my great uncle, and he is still living in Dalkeith, Scotland. Here is the address!!! I write a letter, trying not to sound too presumptuousand including the line being traced as known with the requisite self addressed, stamped envelope in the hope of a reply. Then wait, and wait, and wait. Genealogy is often big moments followed by interminable waits. What comes back is not a letter, but a packet. My hands are shaking as I open it and pictures fall out. This wonderful “cousin” has delved into his attic and in my hands are pictures of my grandfather in his 30s, my father as a smiling boy of 10, and unknown cousins with inscriptions on the back. All of these were sent back to Scotland in the late 1920s or early 30s. In my grandfather’s beautifully schooled handwriting on the back are names of the cousins (Effie Owen and Jenny and Effie Calderwood) and bit of a hint, of the changes on a picture of himself: “These are my work clothes (suit and hat). Much different than what I wore in the coal pits.” But there was no picutre of Jessie, just one of my father and uncles with their Aunt Maggie in a doorway. Instead there is a memorial pamphlet for a funeral for January 3, 1935. Janet Jamieson Turner Durward died on December 29, 1934. Her pall bearers were her husband, her three sons and two of her husband’s brothers. She was a member of Eastern Star and Daughters of Scotia. She was interred at the same small cemetery where her husband would be buried almost 40 years later. Now why did they not know she existed? Why is there no record in the State of California. What happened to Jessie?

Back to the computer. I now have names to post courtesy of the photographs. On the net at “Genealogy’s Most Wanted”, I post the names of the Calderwood girls and get a reply. “I think this is my Aunt Effie.” A late night phone call from an elderly lady saying, “I’m Effie Calderwood and my father was really interested in genealogy. We have what he got together here somewhere, I’ll send you a copy. On the subject of Jessie, “I was only a child, but it was a long illnes ... I’m not sure, I’ll ask my sister, Jenny.” Another packet in the mail. “Interested in genealogy?” ... 30 years of research handed to me on a silver platter for their part of the family, but Jessie was still missing. Enclosed is a letter from Jenny. “I remember that she died at Los Angeles County Hospital, pernicious anemia, I think”. “I rember Uncle Willie would sit by her bedside and hand feed her what he had cooked.” I call the hospital and ask for archives only to find out that they destroy hospital records once they are seven years old. I hit the net again and prevail on the person who has already visited that small cemetery in Glendale to visit it again now that I have a death date, a story, and a plea. They come through. They have a Jeannette White who died on that date and was buried on the correct date. Another lesson learned. Bureaucrats make honest mistakes in spelling and dates and then proceed to set those mistakes in stone by making them part of the “Official Record”. It was a county burial because the family was impoverished due to the depression, buried in an unmarked grave by the County of Los Angeles in a place separate from her husband who died in 1971 whose grave is also unmarked and unattended. Why did my father and his brother just“dispose” of their father even though they were financially able to do more. I contact Los Angeles County Records with the “wrong” spelling. They have the death certificate and with a credit card exchange, they will send it to me in two weeks.

And now, as Paul Harvey would say, “The Rest of the Story”. This is where mere names and dates become people. In 1907 when she was only seven, Jessie’s father had died in in a horrific rail accident. The family was left impoverished following death and there were several daughters who seem to have taken the death hard and made life decisions for good or ill very rapidly afterwards. Finances improved when the mother, Jane Turner Durward remarried the janitor of the local school, Mr. Torrance, in 1917. The eldest girl Isabella was already married and when her sister, Elizabeth, had a child out of wedlock in 1915 before marrying Mr. McLaren in 1919, the childless Isabella took the child to raise separate from Elizabeth’s later five children. Sometime in 1915, William White started courting Jessie Durward. He was a coal miner and she was a car conductress. He was 23 and she was 19. They had known each other all of their lives because various cousins in the same area of Scotland had lived close together, courted, and married. In 1917 on the 17th of August according to the rites of the Unified Free Church, they married at School Lodge (the tied house belonging to Jessie’s new stepfather), Main Street, Wishaw. They would live with the family for at least the first year because my father was born in this home in May of 1918. In fairly short order, the family expanded with David in 1920 and William in 1922.

The economy of Scotland is going downhill in a great big hurry. A description of mine conditions at the time sounds appalling to our modern sensibilities and even as a Colliery Fireman, William’s wages were not good. The Great Strike will happen in 1926. Seeing the inevitable, William and his brothers James, Stephen and Robert will opt in 1925 to join their sister Maggie in Los Angeles. In preparation, William and family visit various cousins including Elizabeth and James McLaren, the parents of the James McLaren who remembers playing with his cousin, Rabbie, while the adults say good-bye and who would more than a half century later send me the cherished packet of pictures. Jessie would stay in a house near Glasgow while William settles in the U.S.

A year later Jessie comes to her new home, but she isn’t well. More and more, the boys come into the hands of Maggie White Beveridge, while the two men worked at the nearby Firestone factory. William would come home and cook the blood rich liver according to the medical advice of the times. Jessie slowly became totally bedridden while her husband worked and Maggie cared for the boys. William fed her, hoping against hope that his Jessie would recover. There is no doubt that he loved her deeply and what is more, his generous, open handed sister did not begrudge the care she gave to her nephews along with her own son and daughter. William followed through with his application for citizenship, dutifully listing his wife and children even while knowing in June of 1934 that his wife was fading. They lived in an enclave of Scottish folk who had immigrated about the same time. They were friends and relatives of the Beveridges, Calderwoods, Owen, Murray, Anderson, Simpson and all those other Whites. The great depression had hit and while he was working, jobs were scarce and low paying. (If you don’t like the wages, there are hundreds to take you place.) On December 18, 1934, Jessie was taken to Los Angeles county Hospital. Her condition steadily worsened into Bronchial Pneumonia on December 24 and cardiac failure brought the end on December 29. Her sons are 16, 14, and 12. They would all become accountants and alcoholics though my father and Uncle David finally recaptured their lives.

At sixteen only a few months after her death, Robert would enter the Army, finally becoming a Chief Warrant Officer before retiring at only 37 and spend the next 25 years as a tax accountant. David would stay at home for a few more years, serve a stint in the Army during WW II, and then go to work as a corporate accountant. Willie, the youngest, would quite simply become a bum, brilliant, charming and funny, but my last memory of him is as an elderly (at only 40) thin and toothless man. William White would never remarry. He never again talked about his lost wife to his sons, and those sons became ever more alienated until they buried him in an unmarked grave in 1971.

In 1997, I kneel on the grass. There is no marker. I’ve been directed here by the cemetery office staff who know such things. In my hands are my smiling, carefree father at age 10; pampa in 1928 in his new suit hopeful of a new beginning; and a pamphlet that says a woman died December 19,1934 when she was only 40. For no reason I can quite explain, tears run down my cheeks as I mourn for a man who has lost his beloved, the boys whose loss of a mother would blight their lives for the next 40 years, and a family that had been shattered, put itself back together and not only survived but thrived in later generations. I had found Jessie only to say good-bye to the grandmother that I had never met but whom I came to loveas well. These flowers are for you.


The Falling Tower Of Babel

There was a recent Associated Press article on languages disappearing from the earth. One of the consequences of our flat earth where someone sitting in End of the Road, Alabama can play bridge with someone in Who Knew It Was There, Romania, is that local dialects, patois, and pidgens start to disappear. Then whole languages begin to go away as the generation coming up no longer wants or needs to speak the language of their elders.

We are fast approaching a time when there may only be five or six languages spoken by huge populations. We are already down to less than 20 languages spoken by more than 50 million each. In many ways, this may be a good thing. What can be bad about being able to communicate easily with everyone you meet? Unfortunately, it means the loss of a totally unique heritage and with it many of the myths, folk tales, religious practices and wisdom of the past. English is well on its way to becoming a universal language: The "Public" language of all business. When it is combined with one or two other major languages, you will soon be able to go around the world easily without having to resort to a translator.

There is now a whole career field dedicated to preserving the world's endangered languages, particularly those of indiginous native populations. Language is one of the binders that holds a society together, but there may come a time when there are no longer speakers of the original language. At least they will be recorded, written, and preserved. These scientists will have to work fast. There is only one speaker of Amurday and three each in Magati Ke and Yawuru.

There may never be another "Porgy and Bess" simply because the language in it, while transformed to clearer English for the benefit of the audience, was based in its pronounciations and tonality on Gullah, an American patois drawn from African, Portuguese, and English words and isolated on the Sea Islands of the Carolinas. It was used by Debose Heyward in his story "Porgy". The history of this great Ameican operatic piece is fascinating. Gershwin went down stay with Debose and actually lived where he could hear the Sea Island language. While there are still many Gullah speakers and strong efforts being made to ensure its survival, it clearly shows that while communication is a good thing, the price you pay for the loss of a language might be very high.

Bess Yo Is My Woman Now, "Porgy and Bess"

Gullah Festival Weekend

24 September 2007

Gathering Things Together In A Kit

"Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines:
for our vines have tender grapes."

Song of Soloman 2:15

When I first read this week's word and before hopping down to the definitions, I was already thinking Kit Carson, Kit and Caboodle, baby animals, and first aid or survival kits. Even Kit the car and David Hasselhoff trickled to the surface of my brain, not to mention my ex-husband whose hobby was and still is model airplanes that he builds from scratch without a kit because he was and is a frigging engineering genius. Then I took a gander only to find out that Mo had mentioned all of them in some fashion. What to do? What to do? It's a mission to come up with something just a little bit different. So I sat down and had a good Pooh Bear thunk about it.

Finally, I decided that since a little fox is a kit, everyone might like getting acquainted with "The Little Foxes" and ended up finding one of the most remarkable sites yet, Brigham Young University reference material on The Little Foxes, Lillian Hellman, red baiting in the 1950s, the destructive power of greed and suspicion, and the context of the play set in the post Civil War south, plus cousin marriage and incest in law. It was simply too long and too good to not pass along the whole thing rather than just write based on the information contained in the syllabus. When you have a chance, simply check out all the links above as good places to visit, but save a good bit of time for the BYU piece.

Having used kit in as many ways as possible, I now will close with the all too unbelievably silly Rowan Atkinson (better known to some of you as Mr. Bean) playing "The Invisible Drum Kit"

20 September 2007

Wandering Minds Want to Go

Hello All. Just a bit of fair explanation, you are not expected to read the whole of what is on this page. I just thought it might be fun to show you how one of the articles I write comes into being, and some of the fascinating places on the web that I found for the information necessary to do it. All of the indented, colored portions are excerpts found that normally would have been used in conjunction with material from the bookcases. Credits for where the original source material was found are given.

First, the history part. At This Day In History there were all sorts of possibilities for today, but the one that started a bee in the bonnet was the assassination of Garfield by Charles Guitteau. Now we have all heard of Booth or Oswald, but "Guiteau"... hmmmmmmmmmmmm, as Sherlock would say, "The game is afoot". I'm fascinated about what frustrations with political power would lead to this most horrendous of acts by someone who hardly even gets a paragraph in most history textbooks.

In 1881 just four months into his term, on July 2, Garfield was shot by a crazed assassin named Charles Guiteau. Guiteau claimed to have killed Garfield because he refused to grant Guiteau a political appointment. Garfield sustained wounds to his back and abdomen and struggled to recover throughout the summer. Though it appeared he would pull through in early September, the autopsy report revealed that the internal bullet wound contributed to an aneurism that ultimately killed Garfield on September 19.
Now where had I heard the name "Guiteau" - Why Stephen Sondheim of course - Huh? I have the soundtrack of "Assassins" because I love Sondheim. Even though it won a Tony in 2004 for revival, its original production was considered one of his "failures" (Sondheim fails the way most people would hope to breath), so it is off to Wikipedia for some background on the show.
Assassins is an American musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, based on an idea by Charles Gilbert, Jr. It uses the premise of a murderous carnival game to produce a revue-style portrayal of men and women who attempted to assassinate Presidents of the United States; the music varies to reflect the popular music of the eras depicted. First opening Off-Broadway in 1990, the Broadway revival of Assassins won five 2004 Tony Awards.
Well that's not exactly brimming with information is it? I did take a side trip to look up the Wikipedia Sondheim article for a nice coffee break and grist for the mill of a later piece. Anyway, break over, so we head for one of the most priceless places on the web if you love musical theater: All Musicals to get the full Synopsis of Assassins. Click on the letter "A" ... well YOU click on the letter A, the full synopsis of the libretto with a list of all the songs and lyrics is only a few thousands words or so. You will like the visit and you can do this for any musical in their vast collection, not to mention buying CDs, finding posters ... well I digress. Digressing is one of things I do best.

Assassins opens in a fairground shooting gallery, with calliope music playing. Amidst flashing lights, we see a series of male target figures, dressed in the fashions of the past two hundred years, trundle by on a conveyor belt. The fair's prize shelf, in addition to the usual array of stuffed toys and souvenirs, includes a sexy life-sized female doll, money, elaborate scrolled documents, books, newspapers, and fancy jars of colored liquid. The Proprietor stands behind the counter.
Now I have the song for Guiteau, so I drop by You Tube to see if it's there, but they only have a local theater production and the values are a little muddy, but digressing again, I sit and listen to the Ballad of Guiteau and then the dramatic concluding song with it's remarkable "Something Just Broke" and "Everybody's Got a Right to Dream". If you like cold chills, listen to it down at the bottom. No matter how much you may dislike a political leader, nothing is worth the lyrics in "Something Just Broke". I may use the lyrics again when I write about Kennedy since that is the original placement in the musical.
Something just broke.
Something just made a little dent.
Something just broke.
Only for a moment,
Something got bent.

Something just left a little mark.
Something just went a little dark.
Something just…went.

Something to be mended.
Something we’ll have to weather.
Bringing us all together,
If only for a moment.

I’ll remember it forever.

Nothing has really ended,
Only just been suspended.
Cause something just stirred.

And I thought…

Something just woke.
Something just spoke.
Something I wish I hadn’t heard.
Something bewildering occurred.

Fix it up fast, please!
Till its just smoke.
Till its only something just passed,
Nothing that will last,
Nothing but the moment,
Just an awful moment.

But something just…

Oh, I hope it someday will be mended.

Only one thing remains once the rewrite of all this material is done, a nice little trip to google for a good biography and the images for Guiteau. Daily Gusto has a wonderful write up on the show and biographical information on Guiteau. Daily Gusto is a wildly colorful blog on every subject on the sun. You can backtrack to the home page for all the categories.

Broke and alone, Guiteau turned to a time-honored moneymaker: religious hucksterism. He toured the country preaching a weird, garbled faith and charging Christians for listening. ... Guiteau sucked up to the most prominent politicians of the day. After regularly preaching a stump speech for Ulysses S. Grant, he threw his support to James Garfield. But instead of writing a new speech for Garfield, he just inserted Garfield's name at the end of his long speech recounting Grant's battle victories.
And that is all it takes. One sentence in A little Day in History and a few hours following bread crumbs from place to place. Then hit: PUBLISH POST

19 September 2007

Why I Love Manic Monday

Yesterday was "Manic Monday" a creation of the spectacular MO of It's A Blog Eat Blog World. Mo is a cat lover, entrepreneur of The Wren's Nest, and star every Wednesday evening of The Mo Show on blog radio.

Even if you hate "all join in the meme" assignments, you will probably like Manic Monday as much as the 35 - 40 blogs do that currently participate, with more coming on every week. The rules for Manic Monday are simple. Every Friday, Mo puts up a single word with all of it's dictionary definitions. Based on that word everyone writes a post connected by definition or association with that word. As you make the rounds, you simply don't have a clue as to what people will do. The surprises can be astounding as to where a single word can take a writer.

For instance, this Monday created posts in the following areas:

Crisp Fall air might seem a cliche, but it produced posts on hiking in Scotland, sorghum production in Georgia, and a walk in a Eucalyptus grove in California among all the geographic posts. Food would be another familiar association, so we had Rice Crispy Treats, crisp oatmeal topping, a couple of apple crisp recipes, Crispy Creme doughnuts, apple harvest, and dieting. (After all that food, you needed to diet).

There were sports figures, movie stars, singers, trumpet players, guitars and lots of You Tube samples of same. All of these came with personal stories and opinions. History had some submissions including the uniforms of the Navy, Army, and Marines, several parental remembrances both sad and joyful, teenaged angst and chemical burns to produce peeling skin. There was even one delightful and funny blog about writers block on the subject of nothing crispy to say.

The people who participate are an eclectic mix - a complete stew of the broad spectrum of humanity from the heavenly to the profane, professional writers to stay at home mom's with a computer connection to the outside world. All of them set aside any preconceptions they might have about each other in their dedication to produce an entertaining group project.

All of the above happens every week as a gift to bloggers. You don't have to come up with a post of your own. One day a week, Mo hands you the present tied with a bow of an idea, all connected by a name on a Mr. Linky chart at the bottom of Mo's submission. Add your own and then just click around the world reading what the power of imagination and one word can do.

Come join the fun.

18 September 2007

Awwww Gee You Shouldn't Have

For his blogaversary Bobarama has created two more wonderful awards, and the one and only Linda over at Are We There Yet has very generously passed one along to me. Now how she has time to blink much less write truly sweet things is beyond me. Among her multiple full time activities: Raising children (teenagers yet!), dispatching emergency vehicles, keeping up with current music and playing same, rock concerts, trips to historical places, and writing about it all daily in one of the most interesting blogs you could visit. I hit exhaustion and need a good nap in order to continue about half way down the page every day.

The first of these new accolades is the Best Kept Secret & Breakout Blogger Award -We all have a Best Kept Secret blogger or two we visit regularly — a blogger with great style and wit and warmth who hasn’t been discovered yet. Here’s our chance with this award to say, ‘Wow. Check
out this blogger!’

Please check out those who have been named for this honor so that they don't stay a secret for long.

The Best Kept Secret Blogroll

I have one blog to nominate here that is not only a secret, but completely different from what you might expect a blog to be. I just didn't know where else to put it. There are five guys in Texas who absolutely look the way you would expect a Texan to look. At first glance you're not sure if they belong leaning on a fence, gathering down at the general store, or turning up the volume for a country song while ridin' along in their trucks. Looks can be deceiving, though they might be all of those things. They are the five wonderful photographers of the Texas Church Project. As an act of pure love they are taking pictures of the old churches of Texas, many now totally abandoned and in danger of disappearing. If you like evocative pictures or history, roam around the gallery. If you are a photographer, check out the technical page, and if you are fortunate enough to live in Texas consider a visit to the October 27 exhibit in Waxahachie.

The second award and the one Linda was kind enough to give me is the Breakout Blogger. This award casts a spotlight on bloggers who are just beginning to draw lotsa attention — the equivalent of a song with a bullet on Billboard’s Top 100 chart. Lotsa good posts. Lotsa good buzz. These bloggers are going places in a hurry.

Breakout Blogger Blogroll

The first of these goes to Shelly Tucker of This Eclectic Life. Eclectic doesn't even beging to describe Shelly's blog. You will find humor, contests, charitable projects, and wonderful posts about anything that happens to cross her mind which is a very busy place in deed.

Corey of The Mitchell Blog deserves an extended visit particularly from any of you single ladies anywhere near Michigan looking for that rarest of beings "The truly nice guy". Corey writes about everything from politics to music to sports to movies to just whatever is happening in his world. It's a good calming, gentle read by an intelligent and thoughtful man.

The third goes to a blog I just discovered by accident a couple of days ago Dog's Eye View. I'll let her "About Me" speak for her so that you can see what a fascinating person she is: I have a "dog's eye view" of the world as I rely on the eyes and intelligence of my Leader Dog (dog guide) Willow, a female, yellow (liver-nosed), Labrador Retriever to lead me through the chaos of my life. I also have a yellow (liver-nosed) pet Lab, Stella, who is a crazy, happy, never-ending bundle of energy. I have two Physics degrees, and a great love of astronomy (despite my inability to look up at the night sky and see anything but darkness). Other loves include crochet, music, photography, books, and writing. Her alternate blog is Starryeyed Gurl Her blog is simply amazing and filled with wonders.

I hope if you have the time you'll check out these fantastic blogs and pass along the link love to your favorites as well. Now if the nominees would just wander on over to the Awards Page at Bobbrama's for the instructions and code it would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you again Linda. You are a constant source of intelligence, joy, and humor.

14 September 2007

The Naked Civil Servant

Another Manic Monday rolls around, and crisp is such a nice little word. Synonym for Potato Chips, the nip in the air of an autumn evening, the crunch of a cracker, or celery exercising your teeth. I could have done any of them, but my first reading of the word made me laugh and as a result, you all get:


Witty, ascerbic, and flamboyant author, bon vivant and reconteur, Quentin Crisp was the author of the classic and eccentric "The Naked Civil Servant". The award-winning film version of the book made him an instant international celebrity. He also wrote numerous books and articles about his life and his opinions on style, fashion, and the movies.

Born Denis Charles Pratt, Crisp was often compared to Oscar Wilde, he was famous for his witty remarks for all occasions as written in articles or performed in his one-man show, "An Evening with Quentin Crisp". He was acclaimed around the world where he spread a unique philosophy by giving advice to the audience members about how to find their individual style and live a happy life.

Crisp charmed everyone and became a symbol for the rebel in society while writing several books and reviews and appearing in many movies (most notably playing Elizabeth I in Sally Ann Potter's "Orlando"). He died on the eve of touring his one-man show in England in November 1999.

Somehow in originality and the ability to make others laugh, he reminds me of our own beloved Mo of Manic Monday.

Some Quotes From Quentin Crisp

There is no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn't get any worse.

If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style.

Men get laid, but women get screwed.

The British do not expect happiness ... they do not want to be happy; they want to be right.

The trouble with children is that they're not returnable.

The young always have the same problem - how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.

The woman did not fly to extremes; she lived there.

Sting & Quentin Crisp - Englishman In New York

Middle Name Meme

Imma (Alice) over at I was Born To Create has tagged me with the Middle Name Meme. For each letter you must list a quality that applies to you as a person. Now most memes don't usually present a real problem, but as it happens I have two middle names. I often say I was attacked by the Scots while too young to defend myself. One has seven letters and the other has eight for a total of 15 letters. Rule four says I have to tag as many people as there are letters in the name. I could end up the most hated woman in the blogosphere, but here goes.


1. You have to post these rules before you give the facts.

2. Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of their middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had.

3. When you are tagged you need to write your own blog-post containing your own middle name game facts.

4. At the end of your blog-post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

5. Don’t forget to link back to the person that tagged you in the beginning.

--------------- Durward Jamieson

Ditzy - Truly off beat sense of humor

Urbane - Love of many things that can only be found in a big, big city.

Rural - Split personality, spent summers with cousins in the middle of nowhere.

Wacky - See D above. I actually will wade in fountains if there is one handy.

Affectionate - This is only a problem when two children, three grandchildren and three cats try to sit in my lap at the same time.

Rusty - All physical creaks and groans are blamed on lack of an oilcan not age - *See Tinman in Wizard of Oz

Dutiful - Compulsive. If I say I'll do something, it gets done.

Jittery - Only about heights. Even movies that look down off of sky scrapers make me dizzy and ill.

Argumentative - well I call them "discussions". See "O" below.

Maternal - I have two absolutely perfect children. Sorry you got shortchanged but mine are simply the best ones available.

Intriguing - If you like surprises, ask what I'm thinking. It is usually something very odd ... even surprises me sometimes.

Excitable - Hate surprises, want to know exactly what is happening. Kid before Christmas morning about anything up and coming - I want it NOW.

Sensible - I realize this contradicts D & W above, but even when doing really silly stuff, I take care of the basics.

Opinionated - Eat and breath politics and I have an opinion about everything.

Nosy - Mentioned on blog previously - Insatiable curiosity about ideas, events, and history not gossip.

I now tag ALL of the following. Feel free to ignore or do as you like:

Claire at A Little Piece of Me
Lisa at Grrrrrls
Shelly at This Eclectic Life
Enigma at Watergate Summer
Linda at Are We There Yet
Mags at Miss Maggie Moo Talks 2 U
Tisha at Crazy Working Mom
Grace at Echoes of Grace
Rock Chick at Life Is Rantastic
Mimi at Mimi Writes
Empress Bee at Muffin 53
Kai at The Buzz Queen
Bridget at Miles To Go Before I Sleep
The Teach at Work of the Poet
Stine at Mother's Home

08 September 2007

Colin Powell & Ben Franklin on Terrorism

In this month's GQ, there is a long interview with Colin Powell. The single best quote in the whole article is as follows:

Q: Your hero General George Marshall, when he was secretary of state, oversaw the creation of amazing new institutions and doctrines—NATO, the Marshall Plan—to deal with the global threat posed by Soviet Communism. Now that we’re faced with new global threats, what type of creative responses would he and his wise men be devising?

A: To some extent, he faced a more dangerous threat, and it was an easier one to work with. There was one identifiable enemy that was on the other side of an identifiable terrain feature. It was state versus state. They were able to put in place state-based structures.

Q: Isn’t the new global threat we face even more dangerous?

A: What is the greatest threat facing us now? People will say it’s terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves. So what is the great threat we are facing?


As we take note of the Sixth Anniversary of September 11, we should also take note that fear of terrorism, even the "war on terrorism" is giving it more importance than it deserves. Only we can change the United States of America. Only we can sacrifice our freedoms to fear and political intrusion.

Good ol' Ben knew what he was talking about when he said, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." A very good motto for us in this day and age of more and more government intrusion on our lives for the sake of "security" and fear of "terrorism". There is only one small problem with this noble quote: Franklin may never have said it.

This statement was used as a motto on the title page of An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania. (1759) which was attributed to Franklin in the edition of 1812, but in a letter of September 27, 1760 to David Hume, he states that he published this book and denies that he wrote it, other than a few remarks that were credited to the Pennsylvania Assembly, in which he served. The phrase itself was first used in a letter from that Assembly dated November 11, 1755 to the Governor of Pennsylvania.

Researchers now believe that a fellow diplomat by the name of Richard Jackson is the primary author of the book. With the information thus far available the issue of authorship of the statement is not yet definitely resolved, but the evidence indicates it was very likely Franklin, who in the Poor Richard's Almanack of 1738 is known to have written a similar proverb: "Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power."

“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as ye are dead & rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing”, Ben Franklin.

06 September 2007


Yesterday I mentioned that Pavarotti had done so much to popularize opera by exposing the general public to "the greatest hits of" and by his willingness to both work with popular artists and sing all forms of music.

One of the outcomes of his work with young artists was the opening of the door to great singers who otherwise might never have seen an opera stage or achieved the popularity that they now have. Growing out of the "The Three Tenors" of Pavarotti, Carreras, and Domingo came "Three Mo' Tenors" (Actually six rotating singers). If you have not seen them in concert or on PBS, at least pick up a CD. They do everything from Rock to Opera and they do it well.

For a taste of their music visit their webpage for concert information and the You Tube links below.

Three Mo' Tenors Promo

Three Mo' Tenors Webpage

Farewell To Magic

Often when a great singer shares their gift, you will say, "What a beautiful voice!". When Pavarotti sang, you were stunned into saying, "What glorious music!". The absolute perfection of his highest notes, the total clarity was a miracle that in all probability will not be heard again this side of heaven.

Even more than the voice, was the generosity of his spirit. Whether he was singing with still unknown young opera singers, sparring with U2 or Elton John, or being one third of the most remarkable trio ever ... The Three Tenors, he brought a popularity to a form that only a small percentage of people ever experienced before. He gave them opera as wonderful fast food with the hope they might come back for a full banquet.

Pavarotti With Bono - Miserere

Pavarotti With James Brown - It's a Man's World

Pavarotti With Barry White - My First, My Last, My Everything

And of course his signature aria: Nessun Dorma from Turandot

04 September 2007

Bach to Bach

If music composition were a baseball game, Johann Sebastian Bach would be able to play any position on the field while being a heavy home run hitter, the Babe Ruth of the 18th century. Quite simply, he could write anything brilliantly. Even more he did it in such a way that it would translate from one century to the next and one instrument to another and still sound great in a new form.

Bach was the master of every classical music form during the first half of the 18th century, except opera. He wrote brilliant keyboard pieces, engaging ensemble works, profound church music and learned technical items. His particular genius was the fugue. He wrote 48 preludes and fugues for harpsichord, gathered into a two-part publication called ``The Well-Tempered Clavier'' (referring not to a keyboard in a good mood, but a keyboard that's been tuned a certain way; the collection contains two preludes and fugues in each of the 24 keys). This set Is revered by scholars, musicians and Bach lovers, but five hours of harpsichord fugues may be heavy going for beginners.

So what's a fugue? Think Row Row Row your boat on steroids. It is theme upon theme in overlapping sequence that always sounds great both as a single line and when layered on top of each other. J.S. Bach has never been surpassed as a composer of fugues, winding themes around each other in an intricate musical puzzle.

You have all heard the most famous fugue in virtually every old horror film and as the entry theme for phantom of the opera, Probably Bach's most famous fugues were written for the organ. The most familiar of all organ works, in fact, is Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. This version is the first You Tube. The second is exactly the same piece brilliantly updated for a new audience.

If this is the first time you have heard Bach, come on in the water's fine and you just might pick up a few recordings or spend an evening at your local symphony.


Having come to computers late in life, all of the technology never ceases to amaze me even while I'm screaming at Bill Gates for being responsible for the destruction of my sanity.

There are people out there who have really studied and then created some remarkable websites. One of the most fascinating is Plantage by Amanita Design from the Czech Republic. They are winners of several "webby" awards and well worth a visit.

I'm sorry they don't have a logo or still I could copy to get a feel for the site, but just take a zen break and click on the link for Plantage.

Hunt and Pick

As many of you know, I spend a great deal of time just rambling around the net to see what there is to see with subjects that interest me or to do research for others who just want answers without the thrill of the hunt. If you like art, I've found a great site to share. It is the Web Gallery of Art. Again this is one of those great educational sites or just a place for the pure pleasure of the beauty there. There are hundreds of paintings from museums all over the world and each can be enlarged so that you can see the detail.

When you go to the home page there will be music. If you are one of those who don't like music other than what you choose, just hit the "escape" key and it will turn off. On all the other pages, you can choose to play or not play the selection they have chosen to go with the time period of the paintings on those pages. The artists are listed in alphabetic order, just pick a letter of your favorite, or you can go to a page and select all the artists from a given period in art.

As it happens, I adore El Greco. Most of his paintings are a mesh of wild colors and dramatic views on religious themes or lush studies of scenery such as his "View of Toledo", but throughout his life he also painted pictures that almost look like modern realism. So here are two portraits of that type painted in the 1500s. Doesn't the "Lady In Furs" look as if she is going out for a formal evening tonight?

03 September 2007

Manic Monday - Labour

Manic Monday is easy this week. My grandfather, William Hunter Gibson White, left Scotland at the time of the great strike in 1926. He had been a mining oversman for many years and was a descendant of miners. With the recent deaths of men in coal mines here, I wanted to share the testimony of his great grandfather about the difficulties in mining coal. This helped to end the use of women and children in the coal mines:

Testimony of William Hunter, Mining Oversman, Arniston Colliery before the Commission on Children's Employment in Mines and Manufacturies. First Report 1842 from Parliamentary Papers 1842(381).XVI.I pp 453-454

"I have been 20 years in the works of Robert Dundas, Esq., and had much experience in the manner of drawing coal, as well as the habits and practices of the collier people.

Until the last eight months women and lassies were brought below these works, when Mr. Alexander Maxton, our manager, issued an order to exclude them from going below, having some months prior given intimation of the same. In
addition to the exclusion of females, no boys will hereafter be permitted to be
brought under 12 years of age, and not then, unless they are qualified in the
reading and writing: They require to be examined prior to going below.

Boys of 14 years of age perform their duties with greater care and quickness. The improved mode of railing roads and ventilating economises time, and men now find they have no one to depend on but themselves, go more regularly to work, and take nearly as much money with one or two boys as when the whole family went below.

In fact, women always did the lifting or heavy part of the work, and neither they nor the children were treated like human beings, nor are they where they are employed. Females submit to work in places when no man or even lad could be got to labour in: they work in bad roads, up to their knees in water, in a posture nearly double: they are below till the last hour of pregnancy: they have swelled haunches and ankles, and are prematurely brought to the grave, or, what is worse, lingering existence.

Many of the daughters of the miners are now at respectable service. I have two former mine women in families in Leith, and who are much delighted with the change.

In honor of my grandfather and the men who recently lost their lives, here is the Merle Travis song: "Dark as a Dungeon" and the first photograph taken of my grandfather in the states with the message on the back about the way he could now dress with the mines behind him:

"This is me sitting at the door. I am ready for work, a great difference from coming home in dirty pit clothes. Tell Mac I will write him shortly. I have had little time to myself yet; having had so many places to go."