Archive for the April Category


The breadth of the title of this essay might lead you to believe that it is a formidable undertaking.  But when taken by its individual parts it is not necessarily so formidable operation.  Let us take the pissant part to start. 

The word pissant is far from a vulgarity.  It identifies a living creature who has been condemned to blindness for all of its life.  The pissant is a gnat-like creature who seeks warmth, either from animals or from the human skin.  In terms of insects that fly, it ranks at the bottom of the aviary creatures.  My belief is that it ranks somewhere between the troublesome gnat and the bedbug.

Pissants exist in droves rather than in singularity.  As far as I can determine, the pissants have no function in this life.  Perhaps the main function is as an adjective used by such people such as my mother to describe a preacher as being a pissant one.  Bear in mind that my mother was a religious person but pissantry was a common part of the rural speech pattern.   My mother used “country speak” for much of her discourse.

At this point, I have told you all I know about pissants and pissantries.

The second part of this title has to do with politicians.  I would not want you to believe that all politicians are pissants.  But when push comes to shove, professional politicians all exhibit overt signs of pissantry to casual observers such as myself.  Nowhere is this tendency toward pissantry more evident than it is in the current negotiation over whether or not there will be a government shutdown.  Simply put, I suspect that professional politicians who regard decency as a fact of life will come to an agreement to avoid a government shutdown.

When the Tea Party people are added to the mix and tend to bind the hands of the Republican Speaker of the House, he has very little alternative but to accommodate them.  I am dictating these lines on Friday, April 8, which is the Ides of March or some other mythical creature but at midnight tonight the government will run out of money and will shut down.

The Tea Party folks are undisciplined and amateurish.  They are new to this game and they are headstrong in the power that has been allotted to them.  But they are a formidable force of the American electorate for one good reason.  Under the American system, we have primaries devoted only to one party or the other.  For example the primary vote involving the Republican Party is reserved for Republicans.  The same is true of the Democratic vote.  There is no crossover vote.  The primaries are held at unconventional times of the year and only the greatly interested tend to vote in them.  From this, the Tea Party people derive their strength.

For example, Dick Lugar, the senior Senator from Indiana, has been a stalwart on defense and foreign relations for many years.  But this year Senator Lugar is facing a challenge from the Tea Party that reflects on his voting patterns.  In the western part of this country, we have Orrin Hatch, who has been a Senator from Utah for as long as I can remember.  But Orrin Hatch is tacking to the right so as not to offend the Tea Party challengers.

Coming back to pissantry, there was an occasion when Dick Lugar proposed a bill that seemed to displease the former administration of George W. Bush.  When it came time to vote, Dick Lugar did not stand by his convictions but rather he voted against his own bill.  That signifies to me a preposterous degree of pissantry.

As you know, the Representatives in the House are forced to seek election every two years.  It now is clear that Speaker of the House John Boehner is tacking to the right to avoid a challenge in the next election of 2012.  This means that Boehner is standing on shaky ground as he negotiates the settlement having to do with not requiring the government to shut down this evening.

At this point it is quite clear that ideology is intruding its ugly head into this process of shutting the government down.  If the Tea Party representatives had their way, they would shut the government down merely to show their displeasure with the democratic process of funding the government.  As an added thought aside from shutting the government down, the Tea Party people would love to reverse every aspect of the social liberalism such as the right of women to control their own bodies.  In effect, they wish to do away with the Roe v. Wade decision and would define females as second class citizens.

The Tea Party and a high proportion of the Republicans want to control women’s bodies by failing to fund Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood has been one of my favorite charities because it has to do with much more than abortions.  It also has to do with women’s health issues, particularly poor women.  If there is no Planned Parenthood, we will have more unplanned babies and hence more abortions.  The stupidity of this rider to the negotiations is atrocious.  But that is where we are, and Obama and Harry Reid are trying to do their best to lead us on an adult level of conversation.  I might add parenthetically that I am afraid that Obama will enjoy another period of ballessness and will admit the rider on the ban on Planned Parenthood. 

In summarizing my views about politicians, after a long period of observation since 1928, I conclude that not all politicians are pissants but as time has gone on, fewer and fewer of them escape this definition.  If I were asked, “Are all politicians pissants?” I would have to say that with rare exceptions, that is the state of the record.

Now we deal with cupidity.  Cupidity as defined by the dictionaries has much to do with the acquisition of wealth.  It is the acquisition of wealth by any means necessary.  The dictionary definition is, “an inordinate desire for wealth: avarice and greed.”  It is now clear that the Republicans, particularly as represented by the Tea Party people, wish to impose their will on the rest of the American electorate.  Obviously I contend that their desire for wealth also extends to the political spectrum.   Are all politicians guilty of cupidity?  Some are and some are not.  When push comes to shove, I would say that more often than not, politicians, particularly when they face a primary challenge, are much more inclined toward cupidity.

In this formidable essay, I have the feeling that we have not been fair to the pissants.  We lump them together with politicians and cupidity which gives the pissants a bad name.  And it follows forthwith that I formally apologize to all respectable pissants who may in the future buzz around my head.  I know that pissants are blind, but then, so am I.  So we are starting from the same place.  If you detect a degree of cynicism about politicians in my writing, you are probably right.  The American political system is screwed up beyond all recognition.  Perhaps if the American political system can be reconciled, which I doubt will ever happen, pissants and Uncle Ezra’s blindness may be addressed at that time.  But don’t hold your breath.


April 8, 2011
Essay 542


Kevin’s commentary: Read another of Pop’s essays concerning pissants here.

In any event, I’m not seeing any way around the current system short of appointing Ezra Carr as supreme dictator of these United States, which I feel is a position that he may not take. Perhaps he has learned from the recently-ex-Pope that taking positions of extreme power when you are rather advanced in age is a poor idea. But hopefully he has not.


It goes without saying that your Uncle Ezra has no to investigate the subject of the language that Americans speak.  Yet while I lack the academic credentials, as a wordsmith from my essay writing I have an abiding interest in words.  In this case, there are four words that have fallen into disuse that I wish to memorialize without any hope that they will again be in common discourse.

The first word is “yonder.”  My mother and father spoke perfect “country speak” which always included the word yonder.  Yonder could refer to heaven, up there in the clouds.  It could also refer to a far-off place.  But as time has moved on, we find the use of the word “yonder” diminished.  I am sort of attracted to the word “yonder” for sentimental reasons I suppose.  And from time to time as my contribution toward not letting that word die, I will try to work it into my essays.  I will do so in the hope that yonder will survive until I go up yonder in the clouds to enjoy my heavenly rest.

Now we come to another word that has fallen into disuse.  The word is “hush.”  My grandmother frequently included the word “hush” in her vocabulary.  More than anything else, it was used to quiet children who were crying.  It was also used to tell children to be quiet.  And then there is the other term called “hush money.”  When someone witnesses a crime and is bribed to stay quiet and to say nothing, that term is called “hush money.”   The word “hush” has largely disappeared in recent years.  Perhaps the best example comes from the 1935 opera by George Gershwin called “Porgy and Bess.”  One of the major songs from that show is called “Summertime.”  There are two lines which go as follows:

Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good lookin’

So hush little baby, don’t you cry.

Since that show appeared, we find that the word “hush” has most often been used to describe “hush money.”  But if I had my way, and I don’t have my way much to speak of, the word “hush” would be a frequently used word.


Now, let us move on to a word that was used by my father.  He spoke purely “country speak” with some major mispronunciations.  He rarely if ever used curse words.  About the worst things he ever said had to do with the use of the word “bloody.”  If the tappets in his inline engine became noisy, as they frequently did, he would go on about those “bloody tappits.”

Aside from the fact that he bemoaned the tappets making a loud sound, he also used the word “bosh.”  The dictionary definition of bosh traces to Turkish roots some centuries ago.  Actually the definition, according to the dictionary, is as follows: foolish talk or activity : nonsense —often used interjectionally.

For all intents and purposes, my father would have been baffled by the origins of the word.  He merely used that word to describe something that was preposterous.  More than anything else, he would use that word to describe something that was patently awry and was not to be believed.  My earliest recollection of his use of the word “bosh” has to do with his description of what Herbert Hoover had to say following his election in 1928 about the economic conditions in this country.  When Hoover would make a speech telling us that it would be brighter tomorrow, my father, who was out of work for several years during the Depression, would say something like, “What Hoover says is all bosh.”  More than anything else, the modern equivalent would be rendered as “BS.”


The final word that has fallen into disuse is the word “purgative.”  “Purgative” has been replaced by the word “laxative” which has several variations.  I suppose that purgative brings forward memories of purgatory, which has fewer and fewer believers and adherents.  I know that “purgative” is not a pleasant word but what the hell, there are other unpleasant words in the language of the Anglo-Saxons.  But I suspect that the possibility of “purgative” making a comeback is somewhere between nil and zero.

There you have four words that have fallen into disuse.  There is “yonder,” and there is “hush,” and “bosh” and “purgative.”  Modern usage of the Anglo-Saxon language does not appear to contemplate their return.  But be that as it may, I still miss the word “yonder” and I still have some sentiment for the word “hush.”  I see no clear prospects for the word “bosh” to return to the language of the Anglo-Saxons.  But I will always remember that word as being associated with my father and if nothing else than for sentimental reasons, I tend to favor its return to our language.  And finally the word “purgative” has been adequately replaced by the word “laxative.”  With that, I would say that this visit to the language of the Anglo-Saxons is therefore completed.  And so I leave you with the thought that somewhere in the future I may again meet you up yonder in the skies.



April 20, 2011

Essay 544


Kevin’s commentary: More on purgatives here. Other installments of Pop’s thoughts on the language of the Anglo Saxons here, here and here. I wonder how many of these there will end up being. I shudder to think what these lists of related articles are going to start looking like once I get back to, say, 2002 essays.

In any event, I feel like you still hear “yonder” in the South sometimes, and I’m frequently guilty of hushing my friends. Can’t say the same for bosh or bloody, which both sound British to me. Bloody is particularly odd, because I think of Brit-speak and country speak as opposites.


According to historical facts, this country declared its independence from the English monarchy some 235 years ago.  But judging from the comments about a wedding taking place on Friday of this week, it would be hard to discern that we were at last free of the constraints of the English monarchy.

From what I can gather, the grandson of the current Queen of England is scheduled to take his marriage vows on Friday of this week.  For a high proportion of the western world, this is basically a non-event.  In this country it is as though July 4, 1776 never happened.  Nearly every news broadcast brings us up to date on the preparations of the Queen’s grandson for his wedding.  I will admit to a great degree of prejudice in this matter.  As everyone would know, I am an American; more than that, I am an American of Irish ancestry.  It baffles me endlessly that we should become so concerned about the marriage of the Queen’s grandson.

There is, for example, a television program that comes on at six o’clock in the morning in this country.  It is run by Joe Scarborough, the former Congressman from the northern part of Florida.  All of this week until the wedding takes place, Scarborough has taken the entire cast of his crew  to England so that we would miss absolutely nothing about the ceremony.  Other performers also seem to have gone gaga over the prospects of having the Queen’s grandson take the vows of marriage.

I am perfectly content to live side by side with our former masters as long as they stay on their side of the Atlantic and we stay on our side.  In some respects I have great admiration for the blokes and mates who have constituted the less-than-royal makeup of the British Empire.

As these lines are being dictated on Tuesday, I cannot wait for Friday to arrive.  On that great and glorious day, the Queen’s grandson will claim his new wife and we will be free to go back to worrying about the Syrians, Libyans, Iraqis, and Afghans.  It could probably be argued that taking a break from the serious business such as is taking place in Libya and Syria is perhaps a good thing.  But I would argue that both problems remain and that our failure to deal with the serious problems of this world is something that we can no longer afford.

But no matter how it is cut, I will look forward to Friday evening of this week when I know that the Queen’s grandson in England is safely in the arms of his newly beloved spouse.  I wish them the best but I would hope that news of their marriage would be a thing of the past for American broadcasters.  And those broadcasters ought to be reminded from time to time that we are not subjects of the British monarchy.  And so it is that come Saturday with the dawn’s early light, there is hope that this affair will have reached its climax and we can go back to the business of the world.



April 26, 2011

Essay 546


Kevin’s commentary: It was one of the most-watched events in human history. It was notable only for the silly hats of the royalty. I caught the highlights the next day on the internet and, hats aside, consider even that five-minute skim to have been wasted time.





Those of you who are familiar with the literature of the Bible will recognize the title of this essay as a corruption of a verse from Proverbs.  Specifically the verse comes from Chapter 16, Verse 18.  That verse in its unexpurgated form holds that pride goes before a fall.  Because this essay is being dictated on April 21, 2011, I have elected to use the Biblical form of speech for its title.  Before I am finished, I hope to leave you with a thought or two about falling.

This essay is being dictated on Thursday, April 21 which is, according to the Christian calendar, the date of Maundy Thursday.  Words have meanings and in trying to determine what Maundy Thursday might mean, I did a bit of investigation.  As it turns out, Maundy Thursday might have something to do with the Eucharist.  Or, if that is unsatisfactory, it may have to do with the washing of feet as performed by Jesus as it has been recorded in the Bible.

There are other explanations of what Maundy means but I believe that those two are colorful enough to satisfy my curiosity and those of my readers.

The fact that this essay is being written has to do with an incident during March of this year which involved a fall.  I will contend here that pride had nothing to do with that swan dive or a duck dive in my own kitchen.  I have no intention of contradicting the Bible but in this case I believe that pride had nothing do with the events that I will attempt to revisit for you in this essay.

On March 30, Miss Chicka was using the oven to broil a piece of fish.  The oven in this house puts out a superior blend of heat so that before long the room was filled with warmth.  As a matter of fact, it was so filled with warmth that it set off the smoke detector located in the hall outside the kitchen.  There was no smoke at all.  It all had to do with warmth.

At the very instant when the smoke detector made its shrill sound, I was entering the kitchen in search of my chair.  The smoke detector demands that action be taken immediately.  Nonetheless I began to search for my chair in anticipation of eating a sumptuous lunch.  However, in the confusion caused by the smoke detector, my feet became entangled in the lower rungs of the chair and as a result I took a duck dive onto the floor and hit my head on Miss Chicka’s refrigerator.  I am told that I was unconscious for perhaps as much as 5 or 7 seconds.  The rescue squad in this town is always on high alert and in a matter of moments cops and the rescue squad appeared in my kitchen.  I awoke from my period of somnolence promptly and, when asked by one of the rescue workers about going to the hospital, I laughed it off.  In point of fact, laughing it off is not necessarily a bright maneuver.

On the evening of the incident and on the following day, my temperature exceeded 100º.  On Friday, April 1st, I became concerned about the high temperatures.  On that occasion, I sought help from the Urgent Care Center run by the Summit Medical Group in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.  I reported that during this encounter with duck diving, I had hit my head on Miss Chicka’s refrigerator.  Immediately a CAT scan was ordered and it disclosed that I had fluid accumulating around the brain area.  The physician who treated me in the Urgent Care Center is a bright fellow and he told me in no uncertain terms that I was headed for the hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

And so it was on Friday evening, April 1st, I headed for Overlook Hospital in an ambulance.  Things don’t always go as planned.  I had thought that I would go to the Urgent Care Center to see about my high temperatures and in fact, wound up in an ambulance headed toward Overlook Hospital.

Apparently brain injuries are treated with the utmost care.  That was certainly true in my case.  The fluid on the brain stabilized and I was released on the following Monday.  On Tuesday of the succeeding week, the neurosurgeon told me that after another CAT scan there was no evidence of fluid on the brain.

But I am here to tell you that this injury provided a great opportunity for the medical profession to exhibit its wares.  After leaving the hospital, in the space of a few days I kept appointments with at least nine specialists who offered opinions about whether there was anything wrong and commented on the contents of my head.  So it is that from start to finish, and I am still not finished with the medical appointments.  I lost three weeks or more of exercise.  I dislike losing the exercise but it was made fairly clear to me that exercise would not be in the best interest of my little brain.

As I said earlier in this essay, I have no intention of disputing the contents of the Old Testament of the Bible which has endured for perhaps 3,000 years.  But in this instance, I must assume that it had nothing to do with my duck dive in the kitchen.  It had to do with my feet becoming entangled in the lower reaches of my chair.  There is no correlation between excessive pride and getting your feet entangled.  Perhaps when the Bible was written, the chairs or stools would not entangle one’s feet.  I am not an expert on stools or chairs of ancient times, nor am I an expert on Maundy Thursday.

So you see, this essay is my contribution to the celebration of Holy Week according to the Christian and Jewish calendars.  My Jewish friends celebrated Passover this week and now the Christians will celebrate Easter.  The only two left out in the cold are the Muslims and the non-believers.  But I take no offense whatsoever.

So this essay is to let my readers know that I am back in business and that in fact, fluid on the brain in my case demonstrates that I still have one.  I can only say that such an arrangement seems equitable and fair to me.  But I would dispute the Bible injunction that pride goeth before a falleth.  In fact, pride goeth before keeping your mind on what needs to be done to find your chair and to become seated.  Perhaps that verse in the Bible should read, “Pride goeth before sitting down.”  I will try to find an influential clergyman to try my new thought on him.  I suspect that the clergyman may tell me to leave things as they are: that, simply put, pride goeth before a falleth.



April 21, 2011

Essay 545


Kevin’s commentary:

So the thing about Pop is that the man is invincible. As of the time of posting this he’s just recently gotten over a double case of the flu and pneumonia at ninety. Similarly, my grandmother on my father’s side has also cleared the 90-year mark and is chugging along quite well. I take this either to mean that hitting the big 90 mark should be no problem for me, or that such luck is not sustainable and I should anticipate shuffling off the coil in around forty to fifty years.

I’ll give the fridge in the kitchen a very stern look next time I see it for positioning itself so inconveniently.




This essay pivots on the origin of a popular folk song written in 1835 called “Kathleen Mavourneen.”  Like many Irish people and the world at large, I had long assumed that “Kathleen Mavourneen” was the epitome of Irish folk music.  The word “mavourneen” is an ancient Gaelic word for “my darling.”  The name Kathleen is a long-established female Irish name.  So I was proceeding under the assumption that Kathleen Mavourneen is about as Irish as a song could be.

The trouble started when I attempted to lift a line from “Kathleen Mavourneen.”  Facts are facts.  I have no trouble when it comes to the prose department.  But when it comes to poetry, I am a complete strike-out.  Even worse are those cases in which the poetry is set to music.  I haven’t the faintest clue as to setting a poem to music.

And so it was that I set out to unravel the mystery of a line from “Kathleen Mavourneen.”  I believe the line in question happens in the second verse.  Here is the line that set off this story about being self-mystified: “The lark from her light wing the bright dew is shaking.”  As a straight factual matter, I am completely unable to write poetry such as the story of the lark in the morning.  All things considered, I think it is fair to say that I am not a poet.  Prose gives me no problem at all, but poetry is more than I can handle.

For years, I have been singing and humming and buying records of the song “Kathleen Mavourneen”, including the reference to the “lark in the morning.”  Finally, at this late stage in my life, I looked into who wrote the music and the words to that wonderful song.  I hoped that the author would be someone named O’Flaherty or Dennis Sullivan or some such Irish person.  But as it turns out, the music to “Kathleen Mavourneen” was written by a fellow named Frederick Crouch.  According to Crouch, he opened the mail one day in 1835 to discover a poem called “Kathleen Mavourneen.”  And so he set to work to provide the music for these wonderful words.

The words were sent to Crouch by Mrs. Julia Crawford.  About the only saving grace is that her maiden name was Cavan, which of course is a county in Ireland.  So perhaps she had some Irishness in her background.  There is a debate at this late date that the lyrics were provided by a woman named Marion Crawford.  Time has passed and at this date, I am unable to determine with finality, the identity of the lyric writer.  But I assume that either Marion or Julia wrote the lyrics to Kathleen Mavourneen.  Further study of this debate might turn up the idea that Marion and Julia are the same person, but I cannot state this at this time.  So let us put this matter to rest with the thought that the lyrics to Kathleen Mavourneen were written by a woman named Mrs. Crawford.

The point that I must make clear is that the both the music and the words came from English authors. Specifically they did not come from Irish authors.  How such a situation exists baffles me to this day… But nonetheless the words and the music are supplied by English authors.  And so it is that 165 years later, this essay was produced in the title of “Upon Being Self-Hoodwinked.”

We know very little about Mrs. Crawford except her maiden name was Cavan and she was English who used the British postal system to send the words to Crouch.  There is no record that Mrs. Crawford ever was in the Emerald Isle.

Now as for Crouch, he was a colorful and prolific character.  He was born in 1803 and lived for more than 80 years.  During his lifetime Crouch, the composer, managed to acquire five wives.  The indications are that he was not a bigamist but rather he acquired the wives one at a time.  That is only the beginning.  Along with the five wives, the biographers say, Crouch fathered 27 children.  In those days it must have been that composing music was a lucrative profession to support such a family.

Composer Crouch, we now learn, lived in England until around 1850, at which time he set sail for America and wound up in California.  So in sum and substance the composer and the lyricist for “Kathleen Mavourneen” apparently never set a foot on Irish soil.  How the two of them could have produced a beautiful Irish folk song is beyond me.  But boys and girls, if we like it or not, these are the facts.

Both Mr. Crouch and Mrs. Crawford were not Irish but rather they came from England which had had its foot on Ireland’s neck for 850 years.  And so it is that I have enjoyed the words and the lyrics to “Kathleen Mavourneen” for more years than I can remember.  But I must conclude, as the title to this essay states, that your Uncle Ezra was self-hoodwinked.  If all of the self-hoodwinked mysteries turn out as well as the story about “Kathleen Mavourneen” we should have more of them.

Always remember as you go forward to ponder this beautiful song, how did composer Crouch find time to father 27 children?  And none of them were produced from a union of Mrs. Crawford and composer Crouch.  From this time forward, I will think about those 27 children instead of enjoying the music to “Kathleen Mavourneen.”



April 28, 2011

Essay 547


Kevin’s commentary: Read more of Pop’s thoughts on this song and its background here. Also, I wonder if my grandfather struggles with poetry because he doesn’t read enough of it. Poetry is, after all, usually fictional or at least not literally true or directly informative in the way that Pop would prefer to have his literature. It’s possible that he writes it off in the same way he writes off fiction. I am surprised that his English-major daughter has not chastised him on such a practice, if it were the case, in the many years since her graduation.