Thursday, May 31, 2012

Funny Friday

Continuing the theme of tobacco, following on from yesterday's World No Tboacco Day . . .

Q:        What's the difference between the 1960's and the 2000's? 

A:        In the 2000's, a guy goes into a shop and says "Give me a box of condoms!" ... and then whispers to the shop assistant, "Oh, and slip in a packet of cigarettes, too." 

Two monks from different monasteries were old friends who shared a great fondness for cigars. 

Once each year when they had a chance to visit, they would pray together and, of course, light up.  Eventually, however, they became concerned that there might be some sin in their habit and they each resolved to ask their respective superiors for guidance. 

When they met again, one was puffing away. 

“But the head of my monastery told me it was a sin,” protested the other. 

“What did you ask him?” said the first. 

“I asked him if it was all right to smoke during evening prayer and he said, ‘No.’ ” 

“Well,” said his friend as he blew a perfect smoke ring into the air, “I asked my superior if it was alright to pray during our evening smoke and he said it was just fine!”

A chicken and an egg are lying in bed. The chicken is leaning against the headboard smoking a cigarette, with a satisfied smile on its face.  The egg, looking a bit pissed off, grabs the sheet, rolls over and says, "Well, I guess we finally answered THAT question." 

Corn Corner:

Q:        You are in a boat in the middle of the ocean with a packet of cigarettes and no lighter to light them.   You don't have anything else with you in the boat? How will you do it?

A:        Take one cigarette and throw it in the water. That will make the boat a cigarette lighter.

(Boom boom tchh).

World No Tobacco Day and Blowing Smoke up One's Arse. . .

Today, 31 May, is World No Tobacco Day, hence the posting of the following item.  I try to avoid lengthy items during the week but hopefully it will not be too long a read.

While watching a past episode of Law & Order: SVU (one of my fave TV shows), the hardbitten, older female ADA said to the defence lawyer “Don’t blow smoke up my arse, counsellor . . .”

This started me wondering on the origin of the expression.

In doing some research on the topic, I also became aware that there are a number of suggested meanings for the term.

Some notes and comments follow.

I used to think that the expression “to blow smoke up someone’s arse” meant to praise excessively and insincerely.

The Urban Dictionary gives the following meanings:

To lie, for selling a line of nonsense to an otherwise naive or unsuspecting rube.

Complimenting a person merely to gain something in return.

Giving a gratuitous and insincere compliment, possibly to deceive. (Can be my, your, his, or her ass, but probably not plural, as in their asses.)

All have the sense of false flattery, insincerity and an ulterior motive.

An explanation that is frequently offered for the origin of the phrase is that it comes from the days when tobacco smoke enemas, the blowing of smoke into the rectum, was an accepted medical procedure. I kid you not.

Europeans began using tobacco as a medicine not long after its introduction from the New World.

Tobacco smoke was used by western medical practitioners as a tool against cold and drowsiness, but applying it by enema was a technique appropriated from the North American Indians. The procedure was used to treat gut pain and to resuscitate victims of near drowning. Liquid tobacco enemas were often given to ease the symptoms of a hernia.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"I've Learned"

I was supposed to attend the birthday celebration of my sister in law, Pip, in Canberra last weekend but a bout of septicaemia stopped me travelling. (Some iv antibiotics started fixing that although a daily shot is still happening). Sorry Pip.

Those attending were invited to read a poem or short piece, their own or someone else’s, about friendship, birthdays or time. My contribution was going to be a piece by Omer B Washington called “I’ve Learned”, an item I posted in Bytes about a year ago.

My wife, who had read it before, suggested that it is worthwhile enough to post again . . .

I’ve Learned

 - Omer B Washington

I've learned that you cannot make someone love you.
All you can do is be someone who can be loved.
The rest is up to them.
I’ve learned that no matter how much I care,
some people just don’t care back.
And it’s not the end of the world.
I’ve learned that it takes years to build up trust,
and only seconds to destroy it.
I’ve learned that it’s not what you have in your life,
but who you have in your life that counts.
I’ve learned that you can get by on charm for about fifteen minutes.
After that, you’d better know something.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t compare yourself to the best others can do,
but to the best you can do.
I’ve learned that it’s not what happens to people,
It’s what they do about it.
I’ve learned that no matter how thin you slice it,
there are always two sides.
I’ve learned that you should always leave loved ones with loving words.
It may be the last time you see them.
I’ve learned that you can keep going
long after you think you can’t.

I’ve learned that heroes are the people who do what has to be done
When it needs to be done
regardless of the consequences.
I’ve learned that there are people who love you dearly,
but just don’t know how to show it.
I’ve learned that sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry,
but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.
I’ve learned that true friendship continues to grow even over the longest distance.
Same goes for true love.

I’ve learned that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to
doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.
I’ve learned that no matter how good a friend is,
they’re going to hurt you every once in a while
and you must forgive them for that.
I’ve learned that it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others.
Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.
I’ve learned that no matter how bad your heart is broken,
the world doesn’t stop for your grief.
I’ve learned that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are,
but we are responsible for who we become.
I’ve learned that just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love each other.
And just because they don’t argue, it doesn’t mean they do.

I’ve learned that sometimes you have to put the individual
ahead of their actions.
I’ve learned that two people can look at the exact same thing
and see something totally different.
I’ve learned that no matter the consequences,
those who are honest with themselves get farther in life.
I’ve learned that your life can be changed in a matter of hours
by people who don’t even know you.
I’ve learned that even when you think you have no more to give,
when a friend cries out to you,
you will find the strength to help.

I’ve learned that writing, as well as talking,
can ease emotional pains.
I’ve learned that the people you care most about in life
are taken from you too soon.
I’ve learned that it’s hard to determine where to draw the line between being nice
and not hurting people’s feelings and standing up for what you believe.
I’ve learned to love and be loved.
I’ve learned…

Monday, May 28, 2012

Noah and Ark


Some quotes from Noah and the occupants of the Ark:

“Maybe I shouldn’t have brought the termites.”

-          Noah

“Pleased to meet you, George, my name’s Arthur.”
-          One unicorn to the other aboard the Ark

Alternative version:

“Help!  One of the unicorns just fell overboard.”

One day, God speaks to Noah. "Noah", he says, "I want you to build another Ark."
"What, like the last one?" asks Noah.
"Yes," replies God, "Except this time, I want it to have 14 decks."
"And shall I lead all the animals into it, two by two, like last time?' asks Noah.
"No, this time I only want you to lead fish into it".
Noah is a little puzzled. "Just fish?" he asks.
"Yes," says God. "In fact, just carp."
"Just carp? Why carp?" Noah quizzes.
"Well," says God, "I've always wanted a multi-storey carp Ark!"

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Quote: Anne Frank


“I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

 -           Anne Frank

Annelies "Anne" Marie Frank (12 June 1929 – early March 1945) lived most of her short life in or near Amsterdam, Holland.  Being Jewish, she and her family were subject to the Nazi persecution after the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War 2.  From July 1942, when Anne was 13, she and her family went into hiding in hidden rooms of the building where her father, Otto, had a business.  Others were later also accommodated. On the morning of 4 August 1944 the group was betrayed and they were transported to concentration camps.  Anne and her sister Margot died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen.  Otto Frank survived Auschwitz, the only one of the group to survive, and was later given Anne’s diary which she had maintained during the years in hiding.  It had been retained by one of the workers in the building, Miep Gies, who had hoped to return it to her.

Reader Comment:


An email from Byter Leo:


Do we know what happened to the Colonel and to the other photographer Frank Filan?

Robert Moore:

Moore became a bailiff at the Montgomery County Courthouse, a job he held into his 80s.  He became a well-loved character anbd was full of stories he told.

His son, also Robert, enlisted in 1966 and served in Vietnam, where he was seriously injured by a mine.  He nonetheless survived.

Wife Dorothy had a stroke and was also not expected to live but she came out of her coma, albeit with the mind of a 2 year old. Her husband drove a great distance top see her regularly.  About a year after the stroke he walked into the room and she said “Hi, Bob, how are you?”  Her memory had amazingly come back.  Doctors were unable to explain it.

In later years Dorothy battled cancer and their daughter, Nancy, battled MS.  Dorothy died in 1981 aged 71.  Nancy died in 1984 from injuries susatained in a motor vehicle accident when her car slid on ice into the path of a truck.

Robert Moore was a secret alcoholic, believed to stem from mental turmoil caused by the axe murders of his  uncle, aunt, four cousins and two visiting children in 1912 when Robert was 7.  The axe murders, still an unsolved crime, tormented the Moore family.  It split the town into two camps with accusations and innuendo by each against the other.  That lasted for years and young Robert, having lost his playmates, also had to cope with the murders, the ongoing discussion and the continued fear.

Nancy shared his drinking. 

Eventually diabetes forced him to curtail his drinking and he lived to see the birth of his great-grandson.

In 1990 he took a position of honour in the community sendoff as the local area’s Red Oak's Guard unit, the 1168th Transportation Company, headed off to fight in the Persian Gulf in December 1990.

Not long afterwards he suffered a stroke and died in 1991.

An honour guard from Offutt Air Force Base provided a 21-gun salute at the cemetery, where Moore was buried between his wife and parents, 80 yards uphill from Nancy's grave and just in front of the long headstone for the six Moores who were slain with the infamous axe.

Robert Moore and Earle “Buddy” Bunker, who took the Pulitzer award winning photograph, became firm friends.

Robert Moore spent four decades in the Army and National Guard, retiring in 1963 as a brigadier general. He spent five years on active duty during World War II, first leading troops in battle in North Africa and then starting a combat command course for officers at Fort Benning, Georgia.  In civilian life he was still frequently referred to as “General Moore”.

Frank Filan:

Newspaper report 23 July, 1952:

Frank Filan, whose dramatic picture of Japanese bodies on blasted Tarawa won him a Pulitzer prize in 1944, died last night of a brain tumor. The veteran of 22 years with the Associated Press was one of the nation's top news photographers. Filan had scores of brushes with death. He made 16 amphibious landings during three years in the Pacific as a war cameraman. On Tarawa he got his prize winning shot under enemy fire with a borrowed camera. His landing craft was sunk approaching shore. Filan wasn’t worrying about his equipment going down with it, he was carrying a drowning Marine to shore.  In the ten days hell he rescued many more wounded Marines under fire.  It earned a commendation from Admiral Chester Nimitz for his inspired devotion.  It’s sad that Filan died at 47.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pulitzer Prize for Photography 1944

There were two awards in 1944, “Homecoming” by Earle L Bunker and “Tarawa” by Frank Filan.



Pulitzer Prize for Photography

Earle L Bunker of Omaha World Herald

In 1943 when WW2 was at the halfway mark for the US, having entered the war in 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbour, Lt Col Robert Moore came home after 16 months away.  He had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for leading his battalion against Field Marsal Erwin Rommel’s Panzers in North Africa.  Home was the town of Villisca in Iowa, a small town in middle America, n80 kilometres southeast of Omaha, with less than 1,100 people.

Earle “Buddy” Bunker was a photographer with the Omaha World Herald had been assigned to cover Colonel Moore’s return home.  He waited 24 hours for the train to arrive and took his photograph as Col Moore, having stepped off the train and having dropped his bags when he saw his wife and daughter, embraced his 7 year old daughter Nancy.  Col Moore’s wife Nancy stands nearby, sobbing into her hands.

According to one commentary on the photograph:

“The image is so generic as to represent a whole nation. There is no face to identify the subjects. No flag to tug at your patriotism. No identifying mark other than family love. It could be - and it was - the return of many war heroes across the country and across the world.”

The photograph was chosen by Kodak in 1956 as the best human interest photo from the last 25 years.

Bunker remained with the Omaha World Herald until his death in 1975, aged 63.

Tarawa Island

Pulitzer Prize for Photography

Frank Filan of Associated Press

Tarawa Island

Tarawa is an atoll in the central Pacific Ocean.  During World War 11, Tarawa was occupied by the Japanese  and, beginning on November 20, 1943, it was the scene of the bloody Battle of Tarawa. On that day United States Marines landed on Tarawa and suffered heavy losses from Japanese soldiers occupying entrenched positions on the atoll. The Marines secured the island after 76 hours of intense fighting. Of 3,000 Marines, only a few hundred survived the battle.  Almost all of the 4,000 Japanese defenders were killed.

Frank Filan (1904-1952) had entered military service in 1929 and for three years covered the war in the pacific as an Associated Press photographer.

His Pulitzer prize winning photographs, “Tarawa Island”, shows the post-battle damage of one of the fiercest battles in the Pacific, leaving the entire island in utter destruction.

The jury which awarded the shared Pulitzer to Frank Filan commented:

“Mr Filan’s picture, taken under extremely difficult conditions, depicts the awful carnage of Tarawa in gruesome detail.  It is not a picture for weak stomachs, but in its stark realism, it tells a true story of war at its ugliest.  Mr Filan was with one of the first Marine assault waves to go ashore at Tarawa.  He lost his cameras and he almost lost his life in the undertaking.  Weighted down with his equipment in the surf, Filan went back to  help a Marine who had been shot.  Under heavy fire, he managed to assist the wounded man ashore and probably saved his life.  In the process, he was submerged several times when he stepped into bomb craters beneath the surf, and his equipment was ruined.  It was not until the third day on Tarawa that Filan was able to borrow a camera from a Coast Guard photographer and take his pictures.”

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mary and Her Lamb

(Risque content)

In 1820, 14 year old Mary Sawyer of Sterling, Massachusetts took pity on a lamb that had been rejected by its mother.  She looked after it and, as is common with animals had fed and reared by humans from birth, the lamb fixated on her.  It followed her wherever she went.  At the urging of her brother, she let the lamb follow her to school, the Redstone School, which had been built in 1798.   When it was Mary’s turn to recite something at the front of the class, her lamb followed her as she made her way forward.  This caused mirth and commotion with the other students.  Sound familiar?

Years later Mary recalled the incident:

"Visiting school that morning was a young man by the name of John Roulstone, a nephew of the Reverend Lemuel Capen, who was then settled in Sterling.  It was the custom then for students to prepare for college with ministers, and for this purpose Mr. Roulstone was studying with his uncle. The young man was very much pleased with the incident of the lamb; and the next day he rode across the fields on horseback to the little old schoolhouse and handed me a slip of paper which had written upon it the three original stanzas of the poem..."

Those stanzas were as follows:


Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go;
He followed her to school one day
That was against the rule,
It made the children laugh and play,
To see a lamb at school.

And so the Teacher turned him out,
But still he lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
Till Mary did appear;
And then he ran to her, and laid
His head upon her arm,
As if he said ' I 'm not afraid
You '11 keep me from all harm.'

'What makes the lamb love Mary so?'
The eager children cry,
‘Mary loves the lamb, you know,'
The Teacher did reply;
‘And you each gentle animal
In confidence may bind,
And make them follow at your call,
If you are always kind.’

Sarah Josepha Hale

Although John Roulstone presented Mary with the poem, he wrote only the first four lines at most.  The next 12 lines, which are more moralistic and less childlike than the first four, were composed by Sarah Josepha Hale.  Many believe that Sarah Josepha Hale was responsible for writing the entire poem, based on what John Roulstone told her from his observation of the incident.

The poem was published as an original poem by Sarah Hale in 1830.

Mary Sawyer married in 1835 but never had children. She died in Somerville in 1889. 

Mary Sawyer's house, located in Sterling, known as the “Mary Had a Little Lamb House”, was destroyed by arson in 2007.

A statue representing Mary's Little Lamb stands in the town centre.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Funny Friday


A little boy is excited because the circus has come to town. They had a parade with a band and animals and clowns! Oh, the clowns were fabulous! He was so excited that he got a ticket right away.

The show began and there were stunts and people on the high wire and trained animals. Then out came a tiny car and out from it poured a endless stream of clowns who did the funniest things you ever saw. It was absolutely hilarious. Then all of a sudden the clowns stopped and started looking around, all puzzled. They searched high and low and still they kept going. Finally one clown stopped and addressed the audience, "we seem to have lost our horse and we need help finding him. Would the person in row 32 seat H please stand up?" The boy notes that he is in that seat so he stands up! The clown says, "Ah! We've found the horse's ass, now we need to find the rest of the horse!"

The audience roars with laughter and the boy turned beet red. He tore from the tent in humiliation, mostly because he didn't know what to say! He decided that would never happen to him again. He pulled out his most recent copy of Boy's Life and found an ad for a book for snappy comebacks, so be bought it. It arrived and he proceeded to memorise it in its entirety. He had the local librarian borrow similar books that he also memorised.

As he grew up, he practised his snappy comebacks, but was he ready? No! He went to a college that allowed you construct your own major, so he majored in Snappy Comebacks. He studied Moliere, Shakespeare, Henny Youngman, Phyllis Diller, all the greats. He earned his major. Was he ready? No. He went on to get a PhD in snappy comebacks. Was he ready? No. He started publishing papers presenting a full taxonomy of snappy comebacks, classifying them by type, cultural reference, social import and final impact. Was he ready? Yes.

He returned to his home town and waited for the circus. When it arrived, they had a parade with a band and animals and clowns! Oh, the clowns were fabulous! He got a ticket right away for the same seat.

The show began and there were stunts and people on the high wire and trained animals. Then out came a tiny car and out from it poured an endless stream of clowns who did the funniest things you ever saw. It was absolutely hilarious. Then all of a sudden the clowns stopped and started looking around, all puzzled. They searched high and low and still they kept going. Finally one clown stopped and addressed the audience, "We seem to have lost our horse and we need help finding him. Would the person in row 32 seat H please stand up?" The boy notes that he is in that seat so he stands up!

The clown says, "Ah! We've found the horse's ass, now we need to find the rest of the horse!"

And he says in a loud, steady voice, "FUCK YOU CLOWN!"

The above item is what is known as a shaggy dog story, a long involved story that ends without any point, sometimes a pun or an anti-climax.  Another example is the item posted two weeks ago about the monk and the strange sound. 

The first recorded use of the term is in 1937 when the following appeared in Esquire magazine:  Esquire magazine, May 1937: "One of the more sporting ways of finding out which ones are not [sane] is to try shaggy-dog stories on them."

The term is believed to have originated from a story where a young boy enters his dog into a contest to find the shaggiest dog.  He wins the local contest, then the regional contest and so on, winning bigger and bigger contests.  Eventually he makes it to the world championship for shaggy dogs.  When the judges had inspected all the dogs they said to the boy about his dog “He’s not so shaggy.”

It may not be funny but that is the point.  A shaggy dog story story builds an expectation that is either not met or is met in an unexpected way.

Corn Corner:

Two old men, one a retired professor of psychology and the other a retired professor of history, had been talked into taking a holiday by their wives.  Whilst sitting on the porch of the hotel watching the sun set, the history professor said to the psychology professor, "Have you read Marx?”  The professor of psychology replied "Yes, I think it's the wicker chairs."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Quote: Alvin Toffler


“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

-       Alvin Toffler

Compare with: 

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

-     Charles Darwin

Alvin Toffler (1928 - ) is an American writer and futurist – scientists and socials scientists who specialise in systematic prediction of the future, both as to human society and in general as to life on earth.  He is known for his works on digital revolution, communication revolution, corporate revolution and technological singularity, the development of greater than human intelligence through technological means. 

Toffler’s early works focused on technology and its impact through effects such as information overload, a term popularised by him in his 1970 book Future Shock.  His hypothesis in that book was that people have a limited biological capacity for change and that when that capacity is overwhelmed, people end up feeling disconnected, stressed and disorientated – future shock.  When there is too much information and too much change, people will have difficulty understanding an issue and making decisions. 

“Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.”

Makes sense to me and is probably even more true today than in the past, although kids today seem to grow up with constant technological change and accept it as the norm.  They don’t seem to suffer from it, although my perception may not be correct and my observations may not apply universally.

Later works examined social change, the increasing power of 21st century military hardware, weapons and technology proliferation, and capitalism.

Some other Alvin Toffler observations:

Change is not merely necessary to life - it is life.

It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.

One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we'll need a new definition.

Our technological powers increase, but the side effects and potential hazards also escalate.

Quote: Ralph Waldo Emerson


Monday, May 21, 2012

Unusual Houses: The Nautilus House


The Nautilus House is a residential dwelling in Mexico City that was built in 2006.  I love it.  I want one.

According to one blurb on the house and its design:

The owners are a young couple with two children who, after living in a conventional home, wanted to change to one integrated to nature. The land, with upward topography, is limited to the south, north and east by high buildings. The west adjoining provides a wide view of the mountains. The architects and designers were instructed by the owners that they wanted the house to feel like an internal inhabitant of a snail, like a mollusc moving from one chamber to another, like a symbiotic dweller of a huge fossil maternal cloister. This home social life flows inside the Nautilus without any division, a harmonic area in three dimensions where you can notice the continuous dynamic of the fourth dimension when moving in spiral over the stairs with a feeling of floating over the vegetation.

According to another commentary:

Upon entering the Mayorga’s home, one must first pass through the main entrance – a door set inside a large stain glass wall – into the living room where the plant covered floor is separated by long narrow pathways that run alongside an artificial stream. The hole punched doors located in the rear of the main space lead to two small cavernous rooms for the boys, while the master bedroom sweeps across the back of the structure.

The glittering shell-like paint frames the tongue shaped furniture protrusions that grow from the surrounding walls. Each element has been carefully chosen to coincide with the organic theme of the building, and as Senosian [the designer, Javier Senosian – Otto] describes, “This home’s social life flows inside The Nautilus without any division, a harmonic area in three dimensions where you can notice the continuous dynamic of the fourth dimension when moving in spiral over the stairs with a feeling of floating over the vegetation.”

A notable eco-factor of this unconventional home is that it’s constructed of a sprayable ceramic called Grancrete. This material is stronger than concrete, fire resistant and provides good insulation in both hot and cold climates. The spiral shaped design, material and construction methods used to build The Nautilu make it earthquake-friendly and easy to maintain.

This Bio-Architecture reminds us that we too are organic beings, and maybe what we all need is to get a little more down to earth.

The constructed house: