My Old Kentucky Homesite

Archive for January, 2010

Read the Book While You See the Movie

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/10/2010

Every now and then I get tired of being curmudgeonly, so I  try to take a few hours off from grumbling. This is tougher to do than you’d think, because sometimes the only way I know I’m really alive here in Lexington is to feel cranky.

But on these mellow occasions, I do make an attempt to relax my mind, not burdening it with any cantankerous details whatsoever. That may be easy for some of my butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-heads fellow Kentuckians, but it’s no easy task for me. Still, tomorrow is my birthday, and I’m gettin’ old.  So, just for tonight, I didn’t want to have to rev myself up to my usual level of orneriness.

Instead, my wife and I spent some time reminiscing about the good old days. The good old days — which, really, weren’t that great unless you liked French-cut canned stringbeans — were back when only birds tweeted, back before anyone who wasn’t a pie-maker ever thought about a blackberry, back before “iPod therefore iAm.” We certainly had no such thing as Google, where every factual error in the world can be summoned within seconds. In those days, people found information by reading books. I’m not kidding. We turned pages with our — yuck! — fingers.

Of course, that’s an outmoded procedure nowadays, but my wife and I are kind of outmoded ourselves. So, even though each of us can do esearch with the best of them, we still often find ourselves racing to our bookshelves whenever we’re hungry for tidbits of information. You can’t teach an old dog new nitpicks. That’s why it takes us about a week and a half to get through a 90-minute DVD.

To be more precise about the reason it takes us so long: It’s because we’re Lookies.

The original Lookies were a couple of friendly question-mark-shaped children in the 1950s who urged kids to nag their parents for the World Book Encyclopedia. Their motto, as I remember it, was: “We never guess; we look it up. ‘Cause we’re the Lookies!”

I’ve been a Lookie all my life, and so has my ladylove. Years ago, when we first combined living quarters, we sat our two reference collections down and promised that we’d show no favoritism. But now, ages later, we still don’t trust each other’s books.

“What does ‘heuristic’ mean?” she might ask, peering at me above the top of her magazine article.

“I’m not sure. Let’s look it up.”

“Use my dictionary.”

“Mine’s better.”

“Well, it’s my word.”

Our Lookitude really flourishes, though, when we’re watching a film. As we were earlier today.

“What city is that?” asks my wife, while the camera pans down on the opening shot.

“I’m not sure it matters to the story,” I answer, scanning Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, an edition of which I always grab before pressing Play. You never know what kind of film-knowledge emergencies might come up.

“Of course it matters,” she says. “It’s not just some vague place. We’re supposed to recognize those buildings. What does the book say? I see palm trees. It’s probably Miami or L.A., don’t you think?”

“There’s a street sign,” I point out.

“I missed it. Stop and hit reverse. Let’s see it again.”

Meanwhile, the film’s narrator is telling us, “The sun rose that morning over …”

“Stop that damn thing for a minute!”

“C’mon,” I complain. “He just said it was Minneapolis.”

“I don’t care what he said, but I think you’re hearing things. There aren’t any palm trees in Minneapolis. Even you know that, right? Go look up ‘palm’ in my botany encyclopedia.”

“Maybe it was an unusually warm summer,” I suggest. “Let’s just watch the movie.”

My wife leans over and grabs the remote from my hand, frantically hitting pause. “Wait a second. Wait a second. What else took place in Minneapolis? I’m thinking of something but I can’t zero in on it.”

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show,'” I say.

“Oh, yeah, right.” We both sing “Who can turn the world on with her smile? Who can take …”

“You know when Mary Tyler Moore really made me smile?” My wife tosses her imaginary hat into the air as she gets up to walk over to one of our 3,000 bookcases. “I wanna find something in Total TV. Just bear with me a second. Go pee or something”

“I don’t have to. Can’t it wait till after the movie?” I ask.

“This is gonna drive me crazy through the whole thing. When we were singing about Mary Tyler Moore, it reminded me of when she was married to Dick Van Dyke. And I suddenly can’t remember their last name. Aha! Here it is! Petrie!”

“Yeah,” I say, “like the dish we used to make gunk in during high school biology. Now you’ve got me curious. Who’s that dish named for? You think it’ll be in one of the desk encyclopedias?”

“I bet it’s in mine.”

“Mine’s better. Hold on, while I check in my office.”

“I’ll go look in mine.” Both of us call out, almost simultaneously, “J.R. Petri, German bacteriologist.” Then, as she heads back to the living-room, she hollers, “OK, I’m ready to watch the movie now.”

“No, no. Not yet,” I holler back. “I wanna see something. I’m checking Nobel Prizes for Medicine in The World Almanac.”

“What year?”

“I don’t know. I graduated from high school in ’65, so it had to be before that. Just shut up and let me do some serious research here.”

About fifteen minutes later, I march into the living-room, triumphantly.

“Did you find out if he won a Nobel Prize?” my wife asks.,

“No, I got sidetracked. But y’wanna hear something weird! We were just talking about Dick Van Dyke, and I was looking up awards given out in 1965, right?” She nods. “Well, guess who won the Miss America Contest in 1965!”

“No clue,” she says.

“Guess.”

“I can’t. Now you’re holding the movie up.”

“Vonda Kay Van Dyke!” I say. “Isn’t that a strange coincidence?”

“What the hell kind of name is Vonda?”

“It’s a variant of ‘Wanda’ and it means ‘wanderer.’ I knew you’d want to know, so I looked it up.”

“Where?”

“In What to Name Your Baby.”

“What are you doing with that?”

I shrug. “It was on sale at Barnes and Noble. I couldn’t resist. You never know what kind of information …”

“That reminds me,” she says. “Remember ‘The Wanderer’?”

“Yeah, yeah. I figured you’d ask so I looked in The Encyclopedia of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Dion sang it in 1962.”

“Not that wanderer,” she says. “A different wanderer. I was thinking of some opera character. Where’s my opera handbook?”

“I’ll go look in mine, too,” I suggest.

Five minutes go by.

Siegfried,” she calls. “By Wagner,” I respond. “The Wanderer is Wotan,” she calls. “Leader of the Norse gods,” I answer.

“Yeah. By the way, my stylebook right here says not to confuse ‘Norse’ with ‘Norwegian.”

“You know who I picture when I think about Norwegians?”

“Garrison Keillor,” she answers.

“Hey, that’s amazing,” I shout. “Minnesota.”

“Minneapolis!” we both cheer.

Finally, having come full circle — at least for the time being — we head back to the couch to unpause the movie. And to breathe a sigh of relief after a job well done.

Nobody ever claimed that being a Lookie was gonna be easy.

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Posted in Books & Bookshops, Google, Old Movies | 7 Comments »

Homesite Puzzler #1: My Old Kentucky Poem

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/07/2010

Sitting in the emotional chill of this cold, snowy Kentucky night, I was moved to write an epic about my spiritual journey from New Yawk to Lexington. But I’m no poet. So I’ve stolen lines from others, and cobbled them into the following (very) free verse.

My challenge to readers is: For each numbered line, can you identify its author and the work from which it’s taken?  I will post and update results at the bottom of this page, giving credit to those who have gotten correct answers. Partial points will be rewarded for identifying only an author but not a work, or vice versa.

[Note: To give everyone a chance, please limit yourself to no more than three identifications per comment – although you may post multiple comments.]

Lines Lifted on Thinking of New Yawk during a Snowy Kentucky Evening

1. The great big city’s a wondrous toy.
2. I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it,
3. Turning and turning in the widening gyre
4. when the world is puddle-wonderful;
5. Flung roses, roses, riotously with the throng
6. Who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
7. Through caverns measureless to man;
8. And sang to a small guitar,
9. To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells,
10. the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick.

11. Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
12. I’d like to teach the world to sing.

13. But that’s all shove be’ind me – long ago an’ fur away.
14. The head must bow and the back will have to bend.
15. This is the forest primeval:
16. You can hear dear Mother Nature murmuring low
17. Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
18. Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies,
19. Never know nothing, and never know much.
20. The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
21. Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything,
22. For they’d none of ’em be missed – they’d none of ’em be missed!

23. But I have promises to keep.
24. No man is an island, entire of itself,
25. Who never to himself hath said,
26. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light;
27. Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
28. And don’t look back – something might be gaining on you.”

[Correct Answers: 1. Srsny; 2. Srsny 3. Yunshui; 4. Linwood (author), Srsny (work); 5. Kirk M; 6. Srsny; 7. Yunshui; 8. Linwood; 9. Srsny; 10. Kirk M; 11. Srsny; 12. Evie; 13. Kirk M; 14. Kirk M; 15. Srsny; 16. Srsny; 17. Srsny; 18. Linwood; 19. Kirk M; 20. Linwood; 21. Linwood; 22. Yunshui; 23. Linwood (author only); 24. Evie (author), Yunshui (work) Godless Randall (special mention); 25. Srsny; 26. Evie; 27. Kirk M 28. Kirk & Srsny (and a special mention for each)]

Posted in From Bad to Verse, New to Kentucky, Puzzles and Games | 44 Comments »

Is There a Colonel in the House?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/06/2010

Take a few minutes to try to figure this one out before reading any further.

What do Ann-Margret, Hunter S. Thompson, and Winston Churchill have in common?

The answer is: They’re all Kentucky Colonels.

Some other famous KC’s are or were

  • Omar Bradley (whose Kentucky rank was a demotion from his national one),
  • both Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (“happy Mammoth Cave Park Long Loop trails to you”),
  • Pope John Paul II (His Colonelness),
  • Muhammad Ali (“float like an admiral, sting like an army ant”),
  • Tiger Woods (who prefers privates), and
  • Mae West (“Why don’t you come up and see my bourbon some time?”).

What got me thinking today about Kentucky Colonels was, of course, my previous post. Harland Sanders was probably the most famous K(F)C of all.

But my thoughts didn’t spring only from my recent writing. Ever since I moved to Kentucky in October, wise-ass friends have been asking me, “When are you going to become a Colonel?”

I’m not big on honorifics. Even “Mr.” is too formal for my taste. When people call me “Mr. Wallberg,” my first thought is that they’re talking to my father. My second thought is that they’re nuts, because my father has been dead for more than thirty years.

But “Colonel” is different, because – outside of its actual military use – it’s hilarious. How can anyone take seriously a title associated primarily with a person who fried chicken for a living?

And that’s why I’d like to be a Kentucky Colonel. The comic value would be enormous. If I were a Kentucky Colonel, I could probably get laughs from humor that’s even more lame than my usual drivel. “Colonel” would surely come in handy on those occasions when the only joke I can think of is the one about the twelve-inch pianist. And apparently, I’m not the only comedian who has thought of that, because Betty White, the Smothers Brothers, and Phyllis Diller are all famous KC’s.

So why didn’t I ever try to become a New Yawk Colonel? Well, in order to be a Colonel in New Yawk, you actually have to be a colonel. Obviously, that’s not the case here in Kentucky, where Barry Manilow, Marie Osmond, and Bob Barker have all been named “Colonel.” The only use they’d be to the real military is if someone were needed to smile the enemy to death.

Anyway, today I visited the official Web site of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. I figured I could just fill out a form. “Yes, please make me a Kentucky Colonel, and rush me my official string tie.” But it turns out that “[t]o obtain a Kentucky Colonel Commission, an applicant must be recommended by an individual who holds a Colonel Commission.”

Uh-oh. I guess I’ll have to try getting a recommendation. Naturally, I flipped around the site to find a list of Colonels I knew. True to the state’s educational standards, the roster is alphabetized in order of first names. It’s like iTunes, except that the only song available is “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Anyway, I’m putting out the call to Johnny Depp, Jeff Foxworthy, Whoopi Goldberg, and Ashley Judd. (Sorry, but old sorting habits die hard.) And, of course, I’d be grateful to any veteran chicken-fryer who might want to recommend me.

In the meantime, readers of this corn are encouraged to call me Kernel.

Posted in New to Kentucky, Useless Lists | 7 Comments »

No Wonder Tso Outranks Sanders

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/04/2010

I don’t like poultry. Usually, the only ways I’ll even consider eating it are if it’s (1) hidden under tons of gravy and stuffing, (2) covered by a slab of parmesan and a couple of ladles-worth of tomato sauce, or (3) “buffalo”-spiced with a bleu cheese dip. And I’ll make no bones about the fact that it must be fileted. Even under those circumstances, there’s still gotta be some decent wine or beer to wash it down.

So it came as a big surprise to my wife yesterday when she said “Let’s do fast food tonight,” and I suggested that we ought to at least once try the state’s signature dish.

“And what’s that?” she asked.

“Kentucky Fried Chicken. From Kentucky. Kentucky Kentucky Fried Chicken. Or, if you’re too lazy to pronounce actual English words: KKFC. That’s not to be confused with KKKFC, which doesn’t serve anything but white meat.”

“Very funny. You hate chicken,” my wife said.

“But it’s the only food with Kentucky in it’s name,” I answered.

“What about bourbon?”

“Bourbon’s not a food. Well, maybe it is here. But I was thinking of something you actually put on a plate.”

She shook her head in disbelief. “Do you mean to tell me that you’d eat Kentucky Fried Chicken but you won’t eat the chicken that I make? Aren’t I from Kentucky?”

She had me there. However: “Yeah, but you never said that your chicken was Kentucky-fried. Anyway, you’re not a colonel. And you don’t offer me a choice of sides.”

“You’re sure that’s what you want? We could get Chinese takeout, or pick up baba ganoush at the Middle Eastern place.”

I was adamant. “Asian? We’re gonna take our palates halfway around the world? I’ve been living in Fayette County for three months now, and I’m finally in the mood for some local cuisine.”

Eventually, I prevailed. Sad to say, though, the Kentucky Kentucky Fried Chicken I bought in Lexington was no different than anyone else’s defrosted fried fowl. It was greasy, but tasteless. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more when I had it last, nearly forty years ago on a weekend visit to Massachusetts. I’m pretty sure that yesterday’s mashed potato gravy was left over from then. The quality of the food made me want to do something with my finger, but not lickin’.

My wife noticed me making faces during my meal. “I knew you wouldn’t like it,” she said.

“Is it conceivable that the Kentucky Fried Chicken made in New England is better than the stuff made here?”

“It’s a national chain. It’s the same everywhere.”

“Well, maybe it’s tastier in the sea air,” I suggested.

She rolled her eyes, although not in batter. “Look,” she told me, “next time you decide you want fowl named for something, let’s not pick such a broad category as a state. We could get a dish that’s named specifically after you personally.”

“And what would that be?” I asked.

“You know,” she said. “Jerk chicken.”

Posted in Food and Drink, New to Kentucky | 10 Comments »

Pssst … Some of Us Don’t Care What Jesus Would Do

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/02/2010

For the second time this week, the Lexington Herald-Leader ran an article about the Pew Forum’s poll on religiosity. Today’s version of the article appeared in the silly “Life + Faith” section. The poll may have been newsworthy once, but devoting valuable newshole to it twice moves the rag’s editors into the realm of opinion. Isn’t it bad enough that the LHL devotes two full pages to nonsense each week? How come there’s no “Life + Reason” section?

Looking at the charts again, I was struck that Pew confined itself to four areas only: (1) the importance of religion in your life; (2) how often you pray; (3) how often you attend religious services; and (4) with how much certainty do you believe in “God” ? The last question, to be more accurate, should have used the phrase “your god,” but Pew cooked the books. In any case, 83% of Kentuckians believe in “God” with absolute certainty. Sadly, that incredible percentage was only the tenth highest in the nation; the citizens of nine other states are even more smugly sure that their superstitions are correct.

However, what Pew cunningly failed to ask was: Do you think it’s right to persecute or kill people who don’t believe in your god with absolute certainty?

That question might clarify Americans’ stance on religious fanatics of all stripes. How do you feel about the devout Muslim who tried to kill a Danish cartoonist for portraying Muhammad in an unsympathetic light? What’s your opinion about the pious Christian who murdered an abortion doctor? If you had lived in an earlier era, would you have supported the Crusades? How about the Inquisition, or the Protestants’ wars on Catholics, or the Blood Libel against Jews? Would you have favored the burning of witches? Of infidels?

Similarly, Pew might have asked: Do you believe with absolute certainty that any criticism of your worldview is “hate speech”? Do you agree with Bill O’Reilly that anti-Christian talk and writing are examples of it? If so, then how about anti-atheist talk and writing; is that also “hate” speech? (If not, why not?)

Not surprisingly, the main story in today’s “Life + Faith” section was called “Sharing the light in 2010.” The paper’s “faith bloggers” offered ideas on how to make the world a better place. The answers ranged from “Be a little more Christlike each day” to “Fear God, and keep his commandments” to “Fall in love with Jesus.” In other words, “become Christians.” Only one preacher responded with a sweet but generic call to – in essence – treat each other nicely. His answer might have been improved by adding: “and avoid sanctimoniousness.”

You can follow a long line through history of people who wanted to make the world a better place, often by ramming their god or gods down the throats of others. Gods take many forms; they’re not always supernatural, anthropomorphic beings. Sometimes they’re -isms, or particular states, or even ethnicities. But whatever their peculiar manifestations, they’re always trotted out by the bloodthirsty bullies, under the guise of “making the world a better place” – with at least 83% absolute certainty. Those Evildoers who have told their followers how to MWBP have always had their own agendas and their own ends in mind. Pick your favorite villain of the past or present: He or she fits the pattern.

Perhaps the only real way to make the world a better place is for all of us to be wary of those who claim to know how to do so.

Posted in Freedom from Faith | 12 Comments »