Just a few.
• Brainteaser solution. The August one is here.
• Emerson truncated. In my August 4th podcast I mentioned that twenty-some years ago I had collaborated with Coolidge impersonator Jim Cooke and his wife Patricia Busacker to produce a CD of American poetry with Jim reading the male poets and Patricia the females. I added that:
It wasn’t much of a success, partly because of an embarrassing blooper in one of the readings; but we had fun doing it and a few copies of the CD survive if you’re interested.
Some emailers have been asking about the nature of the blooper. It’s in Jim’s reading of Emerson’s ”Concord Hymn.” The last two lines of the poem, addressed to the heroes of Lexington and Concord and to the spirit of liberty that moved them, are:
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
The last two words there, ”… and thee,” got dropped somehow from our CD.
• Micro-embarrassment. Also on the blooper front: In my September 15th podcast I committed the following:
So there are two hurdles to be jumped for … Biden to be impeached and convicted: One, get the full House to vote impeachment; then two, get all the Senate Republicans to vote for conviction, plus two or more Democratic Senators.
You need two-thirds of the Senate for conviction, so my ”two or more” should be ”eighteen or more.” The number of listeners who have emailed in to remind me of this is now, late on Sunday, heading fast towards ℵ0.
Am I embarrassed? Of course, properly so. I’ll take consolation where I can find it, though. My embarrassment is the merest microscopic mote compared to what Rep. Lauren Boebert is enduring this weekend.
• The things people ask. An emailer wants to know if I have a favorite constellation. Uh …
I don’t actually know my constellations that well. The Big Dipper? Sure: It looks like its name and points to the North Star. (From which latter fact you can use it to tell the time.)
Cassiopeia? Yep: the big W, hard to miss; and you get extra points for being able to spell it. Orion? It really does look like a guy aiming a bow, once you’ve practiced a bit. The belt helps in locating it.
Beyond that, I’m vague. I’m sure I’d know the Southern Cross if I saw it, but I live in the wrong hemisphere.
How many constellations are there, anyway? I asked Google. Good grief!—there are 88 officially recognized. I would have guessed twenty-something.
Scanning that list, I think I’ll adopt Norma as my favorite. (1) The Norma constellation contains a right angle. (2) To see it from the U.S.A. you have to go to Florida in springtime, a trip I wouldn’t mind making. (3) Norma is one of my favorite operas. (4) The Norma constellation contains the Great Attractor, a point in space to which our galaxy and tens of thousands of neighboring galaxies are being drawn. (That may sound like a problem for our descendants a few billion generations from now; but Dark Energy will likely spare them from a Big Crunch.)
• Stones still rolling. In last week’s podcast (Sept. 8th) I commented sarcastically on the Rolling Stones having a new album out. A listener:
I know, this story paints me as a mere callow youth, but here it is.
Way back in about 1996, I was station manager at my campus radio station. Once, going through stuff that accumulated in the studio and offices over the years, I came across a picture book about the Rolling Stones from about the mid to late 1970’s. Toward the end was this line: ”Believe it or not, the Rolling Stones have been around since 1962, and may still be around into the early 1980’s.”
Back in the mid-1990’s, the Stones still doing their thing, I thought that was hilarious. In 2023, I don’t know what to think.
What to think? The next item may hold a clue.
• Life’s stages. Arguing with Alfred, Lord Tennyson in my August Diary, I wrote that:
Life has stages. The only religion to spell this out explicitly, so far as I know, is Hinduism.
I then gave the four life stages as recommended by Hinduism’s ashrama ideal.
A Jewish reader easily trumped that:
Hinduism ain’t got nothing on Judaism, at least in terms of numbers. Talmud, Tractate Avot, 5:22, circa AD 200:
”[Judah ben Tema] used to say: At five years of age the study of Scripture; At ten the study of Mishnah [the basic part of the Talmud, the simple laws]; At thirteen subject to the commandments [i.e., Bar Mitzvah]; At fifteen the study of Talmud [that is, the more advanced portion of it, the logical debates]; At eighteen the bridal canopy; At twenty for pursuit [of livelihood—some interpretations have this as ’subject to criminal penalties’]; At thirty the peak of strength; At forty wisdom; At fifty able to give counsel; At sixty old age; At seventy fullness of years; At eighty the age of ’strength’ [Psalm 90:10: ’The days of our years are threescore years and ten; And if by reason of strength they be fourscore years’]; At ninety a bent body; At one hundred, as good as dead and gone completely out of the world.”
Thank you, Sir.
Then there’s the Confucian prescription, which I’ve mentioned myself more than once; but while Confucianism is certainly an impressive ethical system, is it really a religion? That question has been debated by scholars at great length for hundreds of years. If that kind of thing interests you, by all means dive in to the debate. Just don’t ask me for an opinion.
• Pronoun pronunciation. Many, many emails have commented on my attempts to pronounce ”y’all.” I particularly liked this one:
Since you apparently struggled with ”y’all,” I was concerned you might not be familiar with the plural form: ”all’y’all.”
I hope this helps you avoid another faux pas.
I hope so too, Sir. I think I’ve reached my credit limit on … whatever is the plural of ”faux pas.”