Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Tennesee, Headed Toward North Carolina

Frequently pictures taken from a moving vehicle don't turn out very well, but I thought this one taken by our very own Patti Anne was interesting.  This picture was taken on the afternoon of  Dec 23rd, on our return from Kentucky.  It's on I-26, and by the looks of the sky I'd say it's in Tennessee, somewhere past Erwin, but not quite in North Carolina yet.  The area between Erwin, TN & Asheville, NC is an area of not very much other than an interstate highway cutting through the mountains.  It's quite scenic.  By the time we were past Asheville the clouds were completely gone, and it turned into a bright sunny day.  The calm before the storm.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pre-Christmas Kentucky Trip

Merry Christmas, everybody!

We took a quick pre-Christmas trip to Kentucky to see the folks. 

I took this picture from my brother's property.  My father lives in the house in the lower right corner.  My brother & father essentially share a drive way, and it is quite steep.

The small house just to the left is where my Grandparents spent their final years, after they sold their place on Montgomery Creek to one of their sons.  The house is currently owned by an uncle who has spent the last couple of years in a nursing home, so it has been unoccupied for awhile. 

A little further down the road & you can't quite see it because of the trees, my aunt has a large house.  She is elderly and someone stays with her all the time now.  I visited her while I was there, and she seems pretty weak, so I'm kind of worried  about her.  A first cousin & her family lives right next door, in a house my aunt & uncle used to live in before they built the "new" house. 

Across the small valley is what used to be the main road through Knott County - it runs along Troublesome Creek.  Around the curve of that road is Hindman Elementary school, where I went to first & second grade. Up on the hill across the road is a cemetery where my grandparents and some other relatives are buried.  Less than a mile down the road is the cemetery where my mother is buried.

I guess it's home.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Avoiding Sleep Rhyme Time

I thought up these little rhymes last night, while trying to avoid going to sleep. 

1.  I wish

I wish
I were a fish.
I'd swim around
Without a sound.

2. If I were a fish

If I were a fish
I'd bet I'd be a sturgeon,
I'd swim here and there
and make things right,
I'd be a sturgeon surgeon.

3. Old Squirrel

I saw a thin and sickly squirrel
Limp across our field.
I surely thought he'll soon be dead
of age, or perhaps killed.

For neighbor cats troll this field
to look for things to eat.
An old, thin, and sickly squirrel
provides a bit of meat.

It trudged slowly toward a tree,
For him a cruel place,
Thin and weak, painfully tired,
To stare death in the face.


editorial note - I'm just having fun with this, I know it's very doggerel-ish, and I could do much better with the last stanza of the squirrel poem if I put my mind to it. I also know that field and killed don't really rhyme, but I'm from Kentucky & living in North Carolina, so you have to make allowances for accents and stuff.  It's been pointed out to me that words like ten and tin, pen and pin etc are actually pronounced differently.  I can't prove that, but that's what other people have told me.  On the other hand, I easily hear the difference between "right" and "rat", but apparently sometimes when I say it people from up north have trouble figuring it out.  But I'd never try to rhyme those two words. 

Enough of this, time to get to work.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Examination of a Bad Joke

Introduction

This is an examination of a bad joke.  I know it's a bad joke because I thought it up not too long ago, and I've never thought up a good joke in my life.

The Joke

Q:  If E.T. were very religious and landed in Italy, what might he do?
A:  Phone Rome.

Cultural Background Required

In order to grasp the intricacies of this joke, you need to have certain levels of knowledge.

First, you need to be able to at least read and understand English, and an ability to speak it would be even better.  If you're reading this, chances are you meet that requirement. 

Second, you need to know who E.T. was.  This of course was a movie about an extra-terrestrial (an alien from outer space), who found himself marooned on Earth for awhile.  He was a gentle sort and it was a nice movie.  It would help immensely if you've seen the movie, but that is not absolutely required.

Third, you need to understand Western cultural traditions enough to know that a very religious alien who found himself in Italy would probably try to contact the highest echelons of the Roman Catholic church.  Those people reside in the Vatican, in Rome.

Fourth, you'd have to know that after the movie, in North America at least, all kinds of bumper stickers and signs sprang up for awhile with the slogan "E.T. - Phone Home".

Fifth, in English, Rome rhymes with home, thus the punchline, hilarious or not.

Why This Works in English

This works in English precisely because Rome rhymes with home, so an English speaker may find some spark of humor in that, assuming they have the cultural background listed above.  In two other languages I'm somewhat familiar with, German and Russian, it doesn't quite work.   That is because the German word for Rome (Rom), does not rhyme with their word for home (das Haus or zu Hause or something like that).  You run into the same problem in Russian.  In Russian, Rome is Rim (or something similar) and home is "doma", or maybe "glavnaya", probably depending on if you're taking about a physical place or state of mind.  I'm not fluent in either language, so I don't really know.  But in neither language does their word for Rome rhyme with their word for home, so they fail miserably to hark back to North American bumper stickers popular before most people alive today were born. 

In Conclusion

This is not a good joke, but it requires a deceptive amount of knowledge and specific cultural experience to even begin to groan.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Lack of Topicality in this Blog

I'd like to start by saying that I'm pretty sure topicality is a word.  It's one of the many words that I don't use very often.

This little blog churns on with it's occasional posts, almost always blissfully ignoring any current events.  Politics, holidays, scientific discoveries, virtually everything is eligible to be ignored in this blog by yours truly.  It's not something I have to work at, it just seems to come natural. 

It's not that I am unaware.  I know for example, that in parts of Europe and in certain churches, December 6th is an important day.  I know that 69 years ago on December 7th, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor drawing the USA in to WWII, and I know that like most things in history, the events leading up to the attack were more complicated than most school history books will tell you - it was a surprise attack, but it wasn't out of the blue.  I know that 30 years ago on the evening of  December 8th John Lennon was murdered in New York City.  Any of these would have been good topics for a topical blog post.

I am also aware of the current domestic debates concerning extending some tax cuts and extending employment benefits, immigration reform and possibly repealing DADT.  I've followed the wikileaks news, and my first thought on that is that the Army PFC who provided the information will probably spend a good long time - perhaps the rest of his life - in prison, so I hope he thinks it was worth it. (OMG an opinion!)

One of the neat things I know is that a person who calls himself a liberal in the UK is quite different than a person who calls himself a liberal in the USA, and that is certainly worth a paragraph or two, because it's fascinating how two words spelled the same and pronounced the same mean two very different things by people who supposedly speak the same language.  But it's not so strange when I think about it - I've been in England, and I know with a certainty that what they call pudding and what we call pudding are not at all the same things. 

It's perhaps a simplification, but I believe a UK liberal would fit in nicely with the USA Libertarians.  In the USA the libertarian party is somewhat (to put it mildly) right wing, especially when it comes to fiscal priorities, but libertarianism as an overall political philosophy is not necessarily right wing at all.  In fact it can be extremely left wing.

See, I know all this crap.  I been edumacated good, by some of the more mainstream state supported institutions.

Normally I don't write about this stuff.  I was thinking about why that is.  Why don't I dive in and take on the issues of the day? I suppose it's because I just don't want to.  Not a great reason, but the only one I can think of.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thinking warm thoughts

Our love was like a burning ember
It warmed us as the cold wind blow
We had springtime in December
And grew our roses in the snow.

(Thank you Emmylou Harris & Ricky Skaggs)

It is really, really cold out.  Not only is it cold, but the wind is blowing.  Pickles the dog doesn't seem to care one way or the other, but for the humans in the house, it's an issue.

Where did those warm November days go to?  And when will they return?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The World is Round

I've spent a long time reading 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I'm nowhere near done.  I blame this on the new glasses I got a little while ago.  I have to wear these things almost all the time, and by evening, when is which I do most of my reading, I just want to take them off.

So I've taken a bit of an unintentional hiatus from reading this book. 

I have no idea how the book will end, but the first part has been interesting.  It may very well land somewhere on my "Kafka" scale, an informal listing of books that are difficult for me to understand.   But maybe not.  My big fear with my "Kafka" scale is that I won't be smart enough to realize I don't understand.

My favorite part of the book so far is when Jose Arcadio Buendia discovered that the world is round.   Every year or so a group of gypsies passed through the very isolated village of Macondo, and basically put on a show, displaying earthly wonders (like ice) and other delights for a fee.  Sr. Buendia was very impressed by and recieved something of an philosphical education from one of the more mystical of these gypsies.  One year he bought some instruments from this gypsy (sorry, I cannot spell his name from memory) and began studying the sky.  After a year or so he came to the independent conclusion, without the aid of an education, books, knowledge of history, or space travel, that the world was round. 

This is humorous because he pretty much reinvented the wheel, putting in a tremendous amount of effort to learn something that had been part of the overall body of common knowledge for centuries.   Christopher Columbus was acting on the theory when he sailed west with the idea of finding a water route to the east, and I'm sure Columbus wasn't the first to conclude that the world was round. 

But it is also fascinating.  If we didn't have the body of knowledge, if we weren't literate, how many of us would realize or even give the shape of the world a second thought.  When you stand on this planet no matter where you are the ground is below your feet and the sky is above your head - it looks flat (and frankly I've always wondered about that, but only because I know the world is round).  To be uneducated and living in the middle of a large land mass and come to any other conclusion is remarkable.  There was something to Jose Arcadio Buendia.

I'm looking forward to finishing this book at some point.