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ArchiveJULY 2020


JULY 31, 2020

The golden retriever in the background is merely watching.

Why isn't he trying to retrieve the flying disk?  Because he understands the concept of private property.  The Frisbee belongs to the German shepherd!

This image recreates an incident that's part of this month's 100 Moons article.



Paul M. Curl and Jay Evans used to operate an automobile dealership known as Curl-Evans Chevrolet in Richwood, Ohio.  Jay's grandson Wayne writes on Facebook, “Originally, it was located at Pop's Pure Oil (I think it may now be a NAPA store).”  I remember the Pure Oil station as being around 120 North Franklin Street in my day, while the NAPA store is at 209 North Franklin.

Later, Curl and Evans built a new location at the corner of Franklin and Oak Streets.  Wayne says his grandpa subsequently sold his portion to Paul, so it became just P.M. Curl Chevrolet.  “I'm not sure how well they got along at the end.   He said Paul took two vacations a year; each one was six months long.”

Not many years later, Paul decided it was time to retire.  He sold the dealership to my father, Vernon M. Thomas, who thereby became a business owner.  Our family moved to Richwood in late 1952. 

This snapshot from 1956 shows Margaret and Paul Curl on the left and my father on the right.

What did the dealership look like when he bought it?  “Bob Connors” passed along a couple of color photos that Kay Armstrong Unverzagt shared on Facebook.

Kay writes, “I wanted to post these pictures of my uncle's garage in Richwood before it became Thomas Chevrolet.  I guess I was a little too young to take pictures of it back then but of course my cousin had these.  I do remember those police cars.  My son liked the Power Glide sign in the window.”

I remember being fascinated as a boy by that neon sign.  It promoted the two-speed automatic transmission introduced in 1950 for upper-level Chevrolet models — the first automatic available in a low-priced car.

By 1953, the showroom had been rearranged.  The front door, with its decal promoting GMAC financing, now was protected by a metal awning.  Most importantly, there was a new name on the building, which would survive until 1964.



One hundred years ago today, H.L. Mencken wrote an article in the Baltimore Evening Sun calling the Republican candidate for President, Warren G. Harding of Marion, Ohio, “a numskull like the idiots he faces.” 

Click for clips from The Daily Show

Mencken held a dim view of the intelligence of the electorate.  He called voters “quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental.”

According to him, the whole thinking of the “boobocracy” is based on emotion — mainly “dread of what they cannot understand.”

In a nationwide race, “all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre,” he wrote.  “The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. 

“As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.

“We move toward a lofty ideal.

“On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”



“Which is heavier, 16 ounces of lead or 16 ounces of feathers?”

Neither, silly.  Each weighs one pound.

“So they do.  But how about this:  Which is heavier, 16 ounces of coal or 16 ounces of gasoline?”

Actually, in that case there is a difference.  Coal is measured by weight; a short ton of coal weighs 32,000 ounces.  However, gasoline is measured by volume; a gallon of gasoline contains 128 fluid ounces. 

As it turns out, 16 oz. of coal (one pound) weighs 16 ounces ...
but 16 fl. oz. of gasoline (one pint) weighs only 11½ ounces.




In a new old story, many accomplishments of former leaders are claimed by the new leader.  One of his supporters goes door to door Multiplying Miracles, boasting of very great triumphs.  Some of them might even have happened, though one is mean and vengeful.


JULY 9, 2020   

With his supper, my father loved fresh sliced tomatoes, so he had half a dozen plants growing outside the kitchen window.  Here he proudly displays the first yield of the season.

It's round slicing red big organic ripe homegrown beautiful a tomato.

That last sentence is certainly colorful, but why is it also so weird?

It includes too many adjectives, but more to the point, they're jumbled.  A rarely-taught rule of English grammar requires that if multiple adjectives modify a single noun, they must precede it in a certain very specific order according to these nine categories:

article   opinion   size   age   shape   color   origin   material   purpose

I didn't know that was a rule, but everyone fluent in English has unconsciously internalized it.  The colorful sentence ought to be rearranged to read:

“It's  a  beautiful  big  ripe  round  red  homegrown  organic  slicing  tomato.”  Yum!


JULY 4, 2020    TO __ WE SING

Discussion of Black Lives Matter has recently returned the National Anthem to the national conversation.  Folks are again recalling NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the Anthem and declared, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”  Other folks have toppled a statue of the National Anthem's author, Francis Scott Key, an attorney who defended slaveholders' rights to human property.

The words were by Key, who owned slaves himself, but I've heard that the melody is also questionable.  Why?  Because it comes from an old British drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven.”

That title always puzzled me.  Assuming the name “Ana-creon” to be pronounced like “Hannah Kreeon,” I couldn't imagine how it could fit the anapestic rhythm of the tune.

However, I never investigated the mystery — until now.  It turns out the knack is to put the accent on the second syllable while eliding the letter e from the name as well as from “heaven.”

Who was Anacreon?  An ancient Greek poet.  While others celebrated myths and histories, he wrote about everyday themes such as love and parties.

Twenty-three centuries later, about 1766, London gentlemen formed a music club.  Two dozen erudite fellows met once a month in a coffee house at Rowley & Leech, a wine merchant.  The festivities typically began at 7:00 with a concert.  One notable guest was Franz Joseph Haydn.  At 10:00 everyone retired for a late supper.  Afterwards, they returned to the concert room and joined in their official Anacreontic Song, an origin story written by members Ralph Tomlinson and John Stafford Smith.

To Anacreon in heav'n, where he sat in full glee,
    A few Sons of Harmony sent a petition
That he their inspirer and patron would be,
    When this answer arriv'd from the jolly old Grecian.

In his reply, the old poet from Mount Parnassus promoted both the goddess of love and the god of wine: 

“Voice, fiddle and flute,
   No longer be mute!
      I'll lend ye my name, and inspire ye to boot.
And besides, I'll instruct ye, like me, to entwine
      The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's vine.”

However, up on Mount Olympus, the king of the gods snobbishly objected.

The news through Olympus immediately flew,
    When Old Thunder pretended to give himself airs.
“If these mortals are suffer'd their scheme to pursue,
    The devil a goddess will stay above stairs.”

In the English idiom of the day, the last line means “no immortals, not as much as one goddess, will remain up in heaven.”  But Zeus was too late.  The mortals were experiencing joy, which in those days rhymed with “cry.”

Hark!  Already they cry
   In transports of joy,
      “A fig for Parnassus!  To Rowley's we'll fly,
And there, my good fellows, we'll learn to entwine
      The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's vine.”


Because the verses required a wide vocal range, the leader sang them solo.  The others repeated his final two lines, swinging their glasses from side to side and then fraternally joyning hands for the last of the six choruses.

After the official song, the merriment continued with at least another hour of “songs, catches, glees, puppet shows, and everything that mirth can suggest.”  In this James Gillray caricature, they're still braying at 3:42 in the morning, “whilst snug in our Club-room, we jovially 'twine / the myrtle of Wenus with Bacchus's wine.”

The Anacreontic Society outgrew the London Coffee-House and relocated to the Crown and Anchor Tavern.  Unfortunately, ladies had begun to attend, so the members had to clean up their revelry.

In disgust they began resigning one by one.  By 1792 the club had disbanded.  However, their signature tune survived.  Across the Atlantic, in 1799 it gained new words (including an image of George Washington using his sword as a lightning rod) and was sung during the re-election campaign of President John Adams.  In 1805 Francis Scott Key set “When the Warrior Returns” to the same popular melody.

Key used it again (along with some of the same words) for “Defence of Fort McHenry” in 1814.  Known as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” this song became even more popular.

Regrettably, it has taught us to venerate the banner.  We place our hands over our hearts and swear allegiance to the flag.  We fix our eyes worshipfully upon it while singing the words of a slave owner.  In parts of the country, unreconstructed descendants of slave owners counter with a different flag.

Is it time to move on from banner idolatry?  Is it time to move on from Key's militaristic song with its glaring rockets and bursting bombs?  If so, may I suggest another English melody to which new American words were written, in this case in 1831.  It is worthy of being a free nation's anthem.