Lucre

This is not something I expected to say at this point in my life, but I’m moving to a different state for my job. Again. This time, not my idea. Also, not my choice of locations. But it’s all good, as the saying goes. I’ll still be employed; I know not everyone can say that. And, we’ll be kinda close to close friends we’ve hardly seen in the last dozen or so years. It will be an adventure.

The new location is the middle of Missouri, which will be a first for me; I’ve always lived on the east coast. All of our children and grandchildren are on the east coast, and most of our siblings and our parents. We are expecting this to be a temporary location for us, so we will just rent a place. While we’re there, we plan to enjoy the sights and activities, and especially the visits with our friends. It really was the visits with friends that convinced us. Plus, the whole keeping the salary thing was important, too.

Actually, maybe the salary thing was really important. That little nest-egg we were growing in the stock market is a bit smaller than it was when we discussed retirement options back in the Fall. We haven’t had to tap into it, though; again, not everyone can say that. But we were pretty happy with the numbers we had when 2020 began. Less so, now that it’s half way through. Every year, July comes along and feels like the first half of the year went so fast and yet so slowly. But this year really takes the cake. And smashes it in your face.

Just some regular lucre, saving for a rainy day.

In any case, it’s really all about lucre. Money. Dinero. Benjamins. Dough. Why would anybody just up and sell a house they love, move away from family and friends to a town they’ve never even been to before, 10+ hours from their grandchildren? And at what point is it no longer lucre, but filthy lucre? Really, we all need money to pay the bills, whether it’s for needs or wants, and whether we get it from trust funds or government programs or the old fashioned will-work-for-pay kind of arrangement. So, at some point, it’s simply lucre. But there’s a line that can be crossed, and it’s filthy on the other side.

Is it a dollar amount? I mean, your favorite NFL quarterback will earn between $610,000 and $53,000,000 this year. Because that’s the salary range for all NFL quarterbacks in 2020 (not just the starters). Is that filthy? Are they all greedy so-and-sos? Or only the top 10%? What about the guy who would kill you for the cash in your pocket? It’s probably a whole lot less, and the quarterbacks aren’t killing anyone. Some other crimes, maybe, but not usually murder…. Calm down; it’s just a joke. Mostly.

If you go through the self-help section of the bookstores and libraries, you’ll find lots of books by millionaires telling you the secrets to become a millionaire. That doesn’t seem very greedy. Of course, they’re making money selling the books, so maybe a little greedy. Are the wealthiest 1% the ones who have crossed into filthy territory? or only if they support the wrong political candidate? or is it the business that they’re in? Is selling pot in states where it is legal just lucre, but where it is illegal, it’s filthy? Alright, I don’t think I’m narrowing this down very well. For now, I think I’ll be fine as long as I have a legal, legitimate job with a salary that doesn’t exceed $53 million. Unless my agent can get me more. Or at least a signing bonus that’s not big enough to be filthy, but maybe just a little scuffed up…

Consecrated

When I see or hear this week’s word, I always think of the hymn, “Take My Life and Let It Be”, by Frances Ridley Havergal (1874). The first verse is:

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Something or someone set apart or dedicated to the service of a deity is how the word is defined, and that’s the way it’s used in the hymn. This verse is really about the author dedicating her time to God, and in the verses that follow, she dedicates her body, mind, will, words, wealth and love. It’s one of those hymns where you really have to sing all the verses, since you wouldn’t want to give your body to God, but not your mind. Or to give your wealth but not your will.

From the sacred/semi-sacred section of the shelves.

Among the books in the accompanying photo is Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot. It is the now familiar story of five missionaries who were killed in 1955 in the Amazon jungle by the very people they were trying to reach with God’s word. They had made contact and received encouraging responses, and landed their small plane on a sandbar in the river near the settlement. After some days, there were no more radio updates to their wives and families. Concern grew, hope faded. They had all been killed. Two or three of the women (and children!) were able to actually continue the missionary work to the very people who had killed their husbands or brothers. The last hymn the five men sang before going off to their death was “We Rest on Thee”, by Edith G. Cherry (1895), which includes:

When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with thee, through endless days.

This is the challenge of the idea of being set aside for a sacred purpose, as these men were. Do we accept that their deaths were the intended purpose? Or do we shake our fists to heaven, shouting, “How could you do this?!” It’s okay to be set aside for a sacred purpose in our hometown, where it’s safe. But to be sent thousands of miles from home to be killed by those you have come to serve, well that’s not as easy to accept. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Unfortunately, we can only prove that once.

Though I quoted only a small amount of two hymns by two different authors, I do see a similarities in what is quoted. Both reference time and eternity twisted together. The first refers to moments and days and “ceaseless praise”. The second actually uses the oxymoron, “endless days”. The second adds another twist in that it is speaking of victory in death, which is not just the proof that we were fit to live, but also the chance to rest with God forever, just on the other side of death.

Kogai

The Japanese have a word for a hairdressing tool which is probably also a dagger which is part of a sword mount. It also means protege. This blog has considered some words with odd combinations of meanings before, but with kogai, we may have a winner.

Fancy knife which is neither kogai nor even Japanese. But it posed nicely.


There’s the often repeated “fact” that Eskimos have 23 different words for snow. Or 50. Or more. The point is that words can represent what is important to a culture. It would be unlikely that a language used only by a people living near the equator had even a single word for snow. But maybe they have a few words for hot. Something for dry heat, for example, like you would find in Arizona, or your oven. And another for humid heat, so no one would say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity,” because there’d be a special word for that kind of heat.

So somebody, or maybe a bunch of folks, started designing and making sword mounts with integrated dagger-like hairdressing tools so they had to make up a new word for it, right? Nope; they used a word they already had. They called it a protege, because that basically means a child being mentored by an adult, which is kinda like a dagger on a sword mount, right? I’m no Japanese language scholar, but that’s probably as good a theory as any other.

But wait; there’s more! Masamichi Kogai is the former CEO of Mazda; he is now the Chairman of the Board. And kogai also means small shellfish. You might think that would translate directly into English as “shrimp”. But you’d be wrong. An Asian island country must have dozens of words for shrimp. But apparently, kogai is not one of them.

In closing, some of us may remember that during the early 90’s, the Mazda 323 was called the Protege. Coincidence, Mr. Kogai?

Unusurped

There is certainly diversity when it comes to taste in Art. My own opinions may be relatively strong, but that’s not what this post is about. Okay, other than to say that the Birmingham Art Museum is my favorite, and Dallas is probably my least favorite. But that’s all I have to say about that. And there are forms of Art that I don’t even know about. One that was new to me, at least as a style or genre, is “Assemblage”. This is basically the obvious word meaning.

An example which is pertinent to today’s post is by artist Jimmy Descant, and it is called “Yah-Ta-Hey, Unusurped”. And while “assemblage” may perfectly describe the style, the name of this piece is, well, opposite of that. It is a swastika-like shape made from crutches screwed onto a small piece of plywood. Once the main shape was created during a live event, audience members placed scraps of cloth on the piece, representing problems they were releasing from their lives.

A piece of my own art, created by improving someone else’s art (hopefully unusurped).
“Into Beauty” Photography c. 2017



Unusurped, meaning something that has not been illegally seized or taken (yes, a bit of a double-negative), is an odd choice to include in the name of such a piece, but you might not notice that after the “Yah-Ta-Hey” part. In any case, I’ll post the URL to the video, if you want to watch the process/performance. My favorite part is when he begins by tossing the crutches up and they come down on his head. Perhaps he had not thought that out as thoroughly as he should have.

The idea of the scraps of cloth representing problems being released reminds me of some New Years’ Eve church services I’ve been to, where the problems/sins/struggles of the outgoing year are written on a paper and destroyed, so that they are not carried into the new year. It’s an excellent concept, no matter how it is represented. I’m a big fan of leaving last year’s troubles behind. Or yesterday’s. Having a separation between days (called “night”) is a great way to get a new start. Every new day is a second chance or, maybe a second ten thousandth chance. The point is to start over, but not at the beginning. Starting with pretty much all the good things, but leaving the bad ones behind. What is there not to love about that plan?

They say that art imitates life, and that life imitates art. And even though I said I wasn’t going to express more about my taste in art, I’m going to say that I would not want “Yah-Ta-Hey, Unusurped” in my house, or even make a trip to a museum to see it. But I like the way it ends: with a fresh start. Which is also odd, since it’s at the end.

Jimmy Descant Live Assemblage “Yah-Ta-Hey, Unusurped”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi3IM179N3Y

Jowl

If you were to google the word, “jowl”, you would likely find the first page or 20 to be filled with information on reducing the saggy skin that hangs down on the side of some folks jaws. You’d also see a definition or two, a reference to dog jowls, and maybe some recipes involving hog jowl, a/k/a “jowl bacon”. What?! They make bacon out of pig faces? Why haven’t I heard of this before?

Having grown up outside of Philly, I only know one food made from pig faces: scrapple. Unfortunately, some scrapple includes liver, which makes it taste way to much like, well, liver. And I mean that in the most not-a-good-thing way. Additionally, it is often eaten by Eagles fans with ketchup, which is not my preference. Scrapple is pork scraps (face meat, at least in part), cooked with cornmeal and spices, then cooled in a loaf shape, then sliced and fried like bacon. The surface is crispy, and the inside is still soft. I eat it with a little maple syrup, while most everybody else at the table is reaching for the ketchup.

My wife and I visiting Sonny’s, my favorite BBQ restaurant chain (headquarters in FL).

Having lived in Georgia for about 14 years, and another 14 in Virginia, I don’t think I’ve ever had jowl bacon. Apparently, it’s an ingredient in a popular New Year’s Day special dish in the South, called Hoppin’ John. Primarily made with jowl bacon or ham hocks, black-eyed peas, and collard greens, served on/with/in rice. Eating pork on New Year’s Day represents hope of an abundant year ahead, while the peas are to bring good luck and the greens bring the money. Unfortunately for me, black-eyed peas and greens also bring distinctive flavors I usually try to avoid.

When we first moved to Georgia, there were several culinary differences that were pretty noticeable.

  1. Sweet tea/unsweet tea, and plenty of it: this is not as big a deal anymore, as many chain restaurants serve sweet tea. But in most of the world back then, if you asked for sweet tea, you might get a genius answer like, “we have tea, and we have sugar, so….”.
  2. BBQ: there was barbecue everywhere. And it’s not just sliced meat with Arby’s sauce or burgers on the grill, for you uncultured swines. It would be smoked pork (or beef brisket, if you’re from Texas), with a secret recipe sauce (ie. not Kraft). The pork would most likely be pulled, chopped, or ribs. And everybody else does it wrong.
  3. Mexican: almost as many Mexican restaurants as BBQ restaurants, and they all had dedicated servers that only went around refilling tea glasses (“Sweet or Unsweet?”) and chips and salsa bowls.
  4. Southern: Cracker Barrel didn’t go further north than Virginia, back then, and I still haven’t seen a restaurant in the North serving “one meat, two vegetables” in cafeteria style. When my sister came to visit, she thought she was supposed to get one of everything. The cashier had to call over the manager to work that out.
  5. Hot sauce: any kind, every kind, no such thing as too much.
Here I am in front of Virgil’s in NYC. Don’t be fooled by the entrance: it’s huge and wonderful.

Back then, it was harder to get good cheese steaks or even pizza in Georgia. Not so much anymore. People like good food, and they like the food they grew up with. So good, regional food tends to find its way into new places. One of my favorite BBQ restaurants is actually Virgil’s, in New York City. And guess what you can buy in Georgia, now: scrapple. But the locals wouldn’t eat it with ketchup, so just pass the jug of hot sauce.

Pincers

Today I took a few minutes to increase my laptop performance by a little exercise we’ll call “reducing open browser tabs from 90 to 50”. A reboot was also involved, but between the two, it seems that the “Not Responding” message has gone away, if only temporarily. Before the cleanup, it was happening every few minutes. Seriously that bad.

But to be honest, I have at least 5 books that I’m actively reading, plus a couple or more that I’m listening to, and all the work issues that have to be fresh in my mind at every moment. Maybe my mental performance would be improved by some brain cleanup, but I’m not comfortable with the reboot part… It’s really to the point where it’s impossible for me to pay attention through an entire article on the benefit of focus.

On the positive side, I’m not a surgeon. Or a pilot. Or running a large country or an international health organization. A little lack of focus is not so harmful or even noticed, most days. Plus, do you really get more out of a book you finish than if you only read the first two-thirds? That’s not rhetorical–I really don’t know.

Seedlings I’ve started: the tall ones in the center are tomatoes, peppers are on the far right (just planted the seeds today), and on the left is stevia, which I thought would be fun to grow.

Now that it’s spring (or so the calendars indicate), I’ve started getting ready for the garden. In fact, I’m much more motivated to start the seeds than I am to weed and care for the plants once they are all the way out back in the garden. Lazy much? Plus there are the bugs, including the ants and stag beetles, with pincers in the front, or earwigs, with pincers in the back. But those guys are only armed to protect themselves. The real villains are the ticks. They are literally blood-sucking parasites. Even when they don’t give you diseases.

But we have deer ticks around here, and they can carry Lyme disease, and that is really bad news. Not only does it cause aches and pains and various other body issues, but it also causes “difficulty concentrating”. That’s just what I need. Or, maybe I’ve already got it.

Special

Something I read the other day really struck me. “Thoughts are things”. At least part of the point being made is that thoughts are not meaningless, but that every achievement begins with a thought, an idea, a dream. And that once we truly accept this, then we can use our thoughts to drive achievements, rather than negativity, complaints, excuses, etc. The quote is found in Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

The book is often quoted, if not recommended, by business and self-improvement authors and speakers. There is certainly a very useful truth in focusing our thoughts on achieving value rather than whining and complaining. Interestingly enough, Hill’s book was published in 1937, during the Great Depression. The concept of turning thoughts away from dwelling on problems and in the direction of fixing them must have been timely encouragement. The secret to success revealed in this book was originally revealed to Hill by none other than Dale Carnegie. Thomas Edison had also confirmed the secret and its truth. In fact, Hill studied over 500 millionaires to corroborate the central ideas he shares.

Several books influenced by Napoleon Hill and/or his ideas.

Well, that’s what he says. Apparently all the evidence that he knew, spoke to, and received wisdom from these folks was lost in a fire. He claimed to be a lawyer, but was not. He was accused of and/or arrested for fraud a number of times. Even much of the money he earned from Think and Grow Rich was lost to his second wife in their divorce, as it turns out that she had quite a hand in the manuscript. Actually, she was really his third wife if you count his marriage when he was 15, which ended in annulment. As we say in the South, now ain’t that special.

So, why am I bringing up such negative thoughts about a guy who wrote about positive thinking? In fact, Norman Vincent Peale (pastor, author of The Power of Positive Thinking) highly recommended Think and Grow Rich, as does John Maxwell (pastor, author, leadership guru) and many others. My point is that even a rogue can speak truth and wisdom. Or, someone with great wisdom can still make lots of mistakes. It is no more possible to be wrong 100% of the time than it is to be right 100% of the time. And maybe the person you disagree with the most only differs from your views a small percentage of the time, or to a small degree. This may be worth considering before pouncing on a “friend” on Facebook.

As it turns out, although Hill claimed to have interviewed/studied over 500 millionaires in order to write his book, it may be more true that well over 500 millionaires have studied Hill and his book. That’s another thing to think about.

Engraving

Arthur Nash found himself in possession of a sweatshop in Cincinnati right after World War I. As a strong believer in the Golden Rule, he could not see himself running such a business, but couldn’t simply walk away, either. There were about 30 workers, and it was hard to know whether it was worse to keep them working for pennies or jobless. He determined that he would bring their pay up to a fair wage, and went off to manage other affairs, expecting the business to die within months, then just sell off the equipment.

But after a couple months, it turned out that the grateful workers had increased productivity much beyond the expense of the wage increases, and the factory was producing three times it’s previous business. Within just a few years, the 30 workers had grown to thousands, and the business was worth millions. Nash continued to operate with the Golden Rule as his guide, and it only continued his success. But his health was degrading, and he turned the business over to the board in 1926, and he died only days later. The business was only about 7 years old.

Block print (left: wood and Gorilla tape, right: random paint and printer paper)

Two items related to businesses such as A. Nash Company are money and stock. These are both printed via engraving. Metal plates are engraved, then using special ink and a somewhat involved process, paper is left with the ink from the indentions in the engravings (not the raised part). Other methods of printing usually transfer the ink from the raised portion, such as the block print example I’ve included with this post. Many of us learned to create a printing block in Art class with a linoleum block. My quick-and-dirty effort was similar to that, but it was Gorilla Tape on a scrap piece of plywood, cut with an Exacto knife. Instead of ink, I used some paint we had close at hand.

The cutting and “weeding” (pulling out the scraps) took way longer than I had planned for, and my design was a bit detailed for the size I made it, but otherwise I’m not disappointed. I had chosen an Art Deco style because it seemed like a good choice for a block print. As it turned out, Art Deco would have been developing about the time Arthur Nash was building his business, so that works.

In an interesting twist, in late 1929, W.E. Fox & Co. bought over 2 million dollars worth of A. Nash Company stock from Nash’s family members to take over complete control of the company. Altogether, Fox & Co held about 4 million dollars in Nash stock at the time of the stock market crash on October 29 of that year. I see nothing indicating that the Nash company survived the depression that followed.

Bonnibelle

Way back in 1927, Jesse Bell founded Bonne Bell cosmetics, which was named after Bell’s 4 year old daughter, who was named after a character (“Bonnie”) in a book (and silent movie) by Emerson Hough called “The Man Next Door.” In the story, Bonnie’s western ranch family relocates to the sophisticated east coast, and you can imagine the drama and humor that arises. But 1916 drama and humor (or 1923 for the movie). It sounds a bit like it may have influenced “The Beverly Hillbillies”.

Getting back to the Bonne Bell company, whose first big product was the “Ten O Six” skin care formula, introduced in 1933, and you could actually buy it in a gallon glass jug. Now the product line is called “Formula 10.0.6”. Another popular product came much later when they introduced their first of over 800 flavors of Lip Smackers in 1973 (it was strawberry). I remember my sister having a flavored lip gloss that was Bonne Bell, and I remember there were soda flavors like Dr. Pepper. The Lip Smackers and Bonne Bell brands were sold in 2015, but the lip products are still being sold, and the new owners are probably still coming up with new flavors.

Some “logos” mentioned in the text.

But as a first name, Bonnibelle is unusual, if non-existent in the US. I’m not sure it’s even all that common in Scotland, where it originates. It means pretty, or fine. We used to sing an old Scottish song with the line “the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond”. We were taught that it meant the banks of the lake were beautiful. And I don’t know if there is a French connection, but “belle” is French for pretty. So if your name is Bonnibelle, whatever you do, you’d better look good doing it. For your parents’ sake, at least, since they chose the name.

Of course, here in the US, we don’t pay much attention to the meaning of names. We named our daughters names that mean “lives in an ash tree grove” (though we never did that), “a place of linden trees” (wait, is there a theme? ), and “unheeded prophetess” (scratch the tree theme). But trust me, we chose each of the names because at least one of us liked the way it sounded. Nothing deeper than that. For our sons, we chose a family name for one, and a movie character for the other. Still not very deep…

So, is it true that, as Shakespeare’s Romeo said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”? That is, names don’t mean very much, if anything? And yet, we are so attached to our names, and companies are obsessed with names. The original Coke formula may be valuable, but the Coca Cola name is absolutely the company’s most valuable asset. In 2005, the SBC company bought AT&T, largely to replace their own name. We can “make a name for ourselves”, or we can “ruin our name”.

Many countries actually have lists of disallowed names. Like “Harriet” in Iceland, or “Spinach” in Australia. Here in the US, there are no such restrictions, except maybe for trademarks, which would explain why there aren’t a bunch of Coca Colas and AT&Ts running around on the playground.

Suttee

On September 4, 1987, Roop Kanwar was burned alive on her husband’s funeral pyre. He had died the day before, at the age of 24. Roop was only 18. They had been married less than a year.

The funeral was attended by thousands of mourners/spectators. Dozens of people were charged with various crimes, including murder and “glorification of sati”. However most charges were dropped, and the rest ended in acquittal. Roop was India’s last known sati, or suttee. Either word is used to mean both the act of a widow sacrificing herself on the funeral pyre of her husband, and the widow who does so.

The practice had been outlawed a number of times through the centuries in India and other Hindu countries, but the “Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act” enacted in 1987 in response to Roop’s death seems to be the most successful. But this is a religious/cultural tradition, and sometimes laws are inadequate. As recently as 2009, Indian police had to stop 60-year-old widow Sharbati Bai from committing sati on her husband’s funeral pyre.

Fire table on my patio. Not for funeral use.

How did this tradition start? And what is its appeal to women, both young and old? It could be that it was started as a way to prevent unhappy wives from poisoning their husbands. Really, that’s one of the theories. Or, maybe it was more honorable for the widow than the possibility of becoming destitute. It could even be a way to keep the gender balance, since women have been outliving men everywhere in the world throughout history.

Even outside the Hindu culture, we sometimes hear of a surviving spouse committing suicide, which seems pretty similar. Of course, it hasn’t always been clear that the sati was completely voluntary. Restraints, drugs, and even violence are known to have played roles in some cases and suspected in many others. And although it may seem that Roop was a young widow at 18, the age of consent for brides in India had been 10 until 1891, when it was raised all the way up to 12. Even then, the law was not strongly enforced.

There used to be a cigarette ad aimed at women, saying, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” In this case, that might be a little too accurate use of the word.

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