To calculate a person's age, one takes the current year (2019, for example) and subtracts the year of birth (1958, for Michael Jackson). Had he lived, Jackson would now be 20191958 = 61 years old.
Two decades ago as the year 2000 approached, someone noticed that computers typically truncated the date. To save memory space, years were often represented by merely their final two digits. It was feared that in the new millennium, Jacko's age would not be computed as 20001958 = 42 years but rather as 0058 = negative 58 years. Planes would fall from the sky.
Signing up for email 20 years ago, I attempted to select the trendy-sounding t2k as my address @yahoo.com. However, somebody else had already claimed it. I was required to append more characters to come up with an acceptable t2k_us.
Last night NBC rebroadcast the September 17 season premiere of Amy Poehlers sitcom, Parks and Recreation.
In this episode, her character Leslie Knope promoted the local zoo with cute faux ceremonies for the animals, such as birthday parties or graduations. There was a wedding for Tux and Flipper, a pair of newly acquired penguins. But then someone pointed out that both penguins were male.
(Some fundamentalists, convinced that homosexuality is a deliberate sin against God's law that only willful humans can commit, refuse to believe that God could have created gay penguins. But apparently He did. And penguins mate for life.)
The Society for Family Stability Foundation, accusing the zoo of endorsing gay marriage, demanded that Leslie separate the penguins, annul the marriage, reimburse the taxpayers for the cost of the wedding, and then resign.
She did none of that; instead, she transferred the birds to a zoo in Iowa, where gay marriage is legal.
During the commercial breaks, the writer in me couldnt resist sketching out a serious speech for Leslie.
On the second day before the holiday, our hockey announcers wanted to express the number 9 in the Twelve Days of Christmas format. But no one was sure what the ninth gift was supposed to be. Nine lords a-milking? Probably not. Two members of the production staff looked it up on the Internet. One found nine ladies dancing; the other found nine drummers drumming. I had not realized that there are different versions.
On the first day before Christmas, I went online myself and learned more about this song.
Jimmy's text begins: The fearful abounding at this time in this country of these detestable slaves of the Devil, the Witches or enchanters, hath moved me (beloved reader) to dispatch in post this following treatise of mine, not in any wise (as I protest) to serve for a show of my learning and ingenuity, but only (moved of conscience) to press thereby, so far as I can, to resolve the doubting hearts of many: both that such assaults of Satan are most certainly practiced, and that the instruments thereof merit most severely to be punished.
He adds: To make this treatise the more pleasant and facile, I have put it in form of a Dialogue. I myself often choose to frame my writings as an imagined conversation between two people.
Then in 1611 the King James translation of the Bible was published, replacing the Hebrew words for idolaters, mediums, sorcerers, and ghost whisperers with the English word witch. In Hebrew, there was no such word. That's according to Salvatore Prisco, an emeritus professor of humanities from Hoboken.
Dr. Prisco continues, An example of this usage can be found in 1 Samuel, chapter 28, in which the King James Bible has Saul going to the witch of Endor to contact the spirit of Samuel, while the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin versions have Saul visiting a woman with a divining spirit. She hardly acts the role of a witch. The King James Bible conditioned Puritans and Anglicans alike to be obsessed with demons and witches, thus prolonging a medieval mind-set among common folk.
In America, the Salem witch trials would begin in 1692.
Thanks a lot, Jimmy.
Betty White understands what Nikita meant.
I finally got around to watching the October 29 episode of the NBC comedy 30 Rock, in which the much younger Tracy Jordan hopes he will outlive Betty. Nice try, Jordan! she retorts. But I am going to be at your funeral. I will bury you.
The allusion was to a famous remark by Nikita Khrushchev, premier of the Soviet Union. As a Communist, Khrushchev believed what Karl Marx taught: in the same way that feudalism was replaced by capitalism, eventually capitalism will be superseded by communism.
At a reception at the Polish embassy in Moscow on November 18, 1956, Khrushchev spoke to Western diplomats about the idea of peaceful coexistence. Whether we exist doesn't depend on you. If you don't like us, don't accept our invitations, and don't invite us to come to see you. Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.
We will bury you! Paranoid Americans took this as a direct threat. I remember that politicians like Barry Goldwater exploited our fears. Time put a belligerent Khrushchev on its cover, a hydrogen bomb exploding behind him. He was depicted as dangerously aggressive, an arrogant bully who planned to utterly destroy America and bury us under the earth.
Even as a young boy at the time, I realized We will bury you meant We will attend your funeral, not We will cause your funeral. Khrushchev was predicting that America would collapse of its own accord, due to internal faults like class warfare and immorality, while the Soviet Union would survive. In Marxs view, the Western economic system inevitably dies a natural death, and the proletariat is the undertaker of capitalism. Khrushchev was merely saying, When you are dead and ready for the grave, the Soviet Union will be there to do the burying.
DEC. 17, 2019 MIND YOUR PAEONS AND SPONDEES
Is there a word for a mismatch between the rhythm of a melody and the natural rhythm of the lyrics? Consider these lines by British poet Ray Davies. When spoken, the stress usually falls on every second syllable, as in iambic tetrameter.
They're from You Really Got Me, the first hit of his band The Kinks, released six weeks after his 20th birthday back in 1964. But the corresponding tune approximates fourth-paeonic dimeter, with the stress falling on the fourth and eighth syllables.
Together with the bold five-note guitar riff on the title, those hanging ninth syllables give the music a weird charm. Here, listen. YOUR side. AT night. When the Kinks first performed the song, Davies has said, people actually took notice. They realised we had something original.
DEC. 15, 2019 SIX SIXFOLD DOUBLES
My father was once a bookkeeper. The word bookkeeper famously boasts three consecutive double letters.
But when veteran puzzlemaker Peter Gordon composed the November 17 Sunday Crossword for the New York Times, he came up with six consecutive double letters. And he did it six times! The trick was not limiting himself to a single word.
Just for fun, I've shoehorned his six multi-word combos into a semi-sensible sentence. It's about unemployed opera singers, recently laid off and in need, who've had to find something else.
Jesus wasn't satisfied with the responses. What about you? he asked his disciples. Who do you say I am?
Peter replied confidently, You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.
But what is a messiah, exactly? What does it mean to be God's offspring? Surprisingly, despite fundamentalists' belief that the Bible is without error, the divinely inspired Good Book gives us conflicting answers to the key question: Who was Jesus?
DEC. 9, 2019 I HEARD FROM LEON (NOEL)
Leon asked, Remember my college dormitory? (Dirty room.) My roommate and I each had snooze alarms. (Alas, no more Zs.) We liked to figure out anagrams; sometimes the solution hits you right between the eyes. (They see.) Ken Levine posted at least a dozen freaky anagrams on his blog no, make that twelve plus one. (Eleven plus two.)
Anyway, I decided to become a geologist after that queer shake. (The earthquakes.) But on a big test, I forgot a decimal point. (I'm a dot in place.) So then I became an astronomer. (Moon starer.)
And then came the 2000 Presidential race, Al Gore versus George Bush. (He bugs Gore.) An election frequently ends in animosity. (Is no amity.) There was some dispute about the election results. (Lies! Let's recount.)
I was into ham radio, so I taught my bride the Morse code. (Here come dots.) She and I went to a casino, but we went broke playing the slot machines. (Cash lost in me.) My father-in-law took it in stride; he's a Presbyterian. (Best in prayer.) On the other hand, his wife was a typical mother-in-law. (Woman Hitler.) Now I'm penniless and lost in desperation. (A rope ends it.)
DEC. 6, 2014 WAY UP HIGH, SUDDENLY HERE AM I
Watching NBC's production of Peter Pan got me thinking. I imagined I was a youngster attending a live stage performance, with no prior knowledge of what was about to happen.
The play starts a century ago in a conventional way, with characters conversing in English accents about domestic matters. Then a strange boy enters through a window and tells strange stories about his home in a strange place called Neverland.
Remember that yield sign warning of non-stopping traffic from the left? On the map above, I've depicted said traffic as a big black arrow entering the underpass. It's hidden from my yield sign because of the huge embankment that holds up the Interstate. I must carefully creep up to the four white triangles. There I make not a yield but a full stop. I lean forward over the steering wheel and look to my left, as far as I can. Seeing nothing so far, I then hit the gas to proceed double-time into the traffic circle before I'm clobbered by a not-yet-visible oncoming truck.
It would be safer if all of the green circle could see all of the red one through the underpass. The highway engineers should have made the embankment shorter and built the bridge longer. However, doing so would have cost slightly more of our tax dollars.
Youve heard of the Viking explorer and real estate salesman known as Eric the Red. To entice settlers from Iceland to move to his new project, he named it Green'land. Later his son, Leif Ericsson, also became a famous explorer.
You may not know about the rest of Erics family. He had two daughters, Helga Ericsdottir and Freydis Ericsdottir. There was also another son, Rudy Ericsson, who was called Rudolph the Red because of his resemblance to his dad.
After Eric the Red and his family established a settlement on Greenland in the year 986, his son Rudy sent for his new wife to join him. However, when she arrived, she discovered she had been the victim of her father-in-laws false advertising. This land wasnt green. On the contrary, it was covered by a huge glacier. And the weather was even more inhospitable than it had been back home.
Rudy tried to convince his bride that Greenland wasnt as gloomy as she thought. Youll see, he said. Conditions will improve once the rainy season is over.
Rainy season?! she exclaimed. This stuff falling from the clouds isnt rain. Its frozen!
No, its rain, he reassured her.
Its sleet and snow!
But her husband was insistent. Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.