Tuesday, May 31, 2005

An old person of Buda

While I was searching for the story of the yellow butterflies and then for more information on Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews (most of whose books are still in copyright, evidently), I found manybooks.net, a variation on the Project Gutenberg model. manybooks scans the covers of the volumes transcribed, which is a great service. Edward Lear wrote:
There was an Old Person of Buda,
Whose conduct grew ruder and ruder;
Till at last, with a hammer,
They silenced his clamour,
By smashing that Person of Buda
Manybooks.net offers that old tearjerker "Just David" (Eleanor Porter).

Monday, May 30, 2005

Yellow butterflies

There's no parade. There are no wreaths and flowers placed on the water to float away. There are no bugle calls. This will record yet another attempt to track down the story that used to be read on the radio every year, probably by some newspaper reporter or writer of sentimental stories after the Great War and before the Second World War. Every once in a while somebody remembers it, but nobody can tell me anything about it. A small boy was always followed by clouds of (yellow?) butterflies. When he grew older, he went away to serve his country. He didn't return. His body was never identified. When his grieving parents (or perhaps just his mother) visited the Tomb of the Unknown, perhaps for its dedication, there were butterflies in the air all around it. They knew that their boy had come home. A paraphrase of this story found on line is included in what is said to be a speech given in 1995 by Robert J. LeMay in observance of American History Month and reported to have been told to Lemay by one Colonel Riley. He calls it "Yellow Butterflies" and it's pretty much as I recall it, though without a good source. He claims it to be a true story. It's also found listed as an 11-minute dramatic monologue, unaccredited. Perhaps it is the book by Mary Raymond (Shipman) Andrews (published 1922 by Scribner). Yellow Butterflies is in the UTCAT and at least one copy is on the open shelves. Having spent a lot of time in places with shelves and shelves of sentimental books from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, I find it surprising not to remember reading any books by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews. She was very good at titling her books; they must have sold well.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Gardens of the past

Gardening in South Texas is a look at the days when people did what it took to keep the soil acid and bombed the bejoobers out of any pests. At least one common flower is called by a hurtful name. This book, originating with the San Antonio garden club and published by Naylor, went through several editions, under two titles. The cover is handsome and so is the book design in general, including the typography. Apparently Naylor declared bankruptcy somtime in the 'seventies (1977?). Thank you, Austin Public Library, for not (yet) deacessioning this book.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Now in season

The loquats are gone. The figs have not yet arrived. The fruit in season is the lantana berry, preferably ripe, drawing mockingbirds, cardinals, and squirrels. We're trying to beat the creatures to the tomatoes as they ripen.

Friday, May 27, 2005


No matter how often instructed to return with no more than three, K. just can't resist the blandishments of Vulcan. Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve are vanity productions, with a completely wasted Bernie Mac, allowed just two funny monologues. Andy Garcia probably had the worst role, but soldiered away. Bad as 11 was, 12 was worse. There was some volume of SCTV, the one with cabbage and the planet Zontar, including footage from the Zontar movie. And this was my first viewing of Breakfast at Tiffany's in any form. We always seem to miss it at the Paramount. Women at the cocktail party were wearing hats and gloves. The cat upstaged the actors in a great many of the scenes. I never saw Buddy Ebsen in anything besides movies from the 1930s (Broadway Melody movies and others), where he was usually a dancer; in this movie he was excellent. The movie reeks of the period in which it was made. The TC I've ever read is In Cold Blood as it was first published, in The New Yorker. K. has read Breakfast at T's. The movie was directed as a series of vignettes. Employee of the Month probably never saw theatrical release. It's crude, sick, and laugh-out-loud funny at times, before it veers completely off track in the last ten minutes or so, with Matt Dillon and Steve Zahn on the dark side again.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ominous admonition

"Apply to underarms only." And this is not intended as a warning or "advisory." It constitutes the directions for use. What happens if the product is applied elsewhere? One shudders to think. And one is not alone in perplexity.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"Pretty good all right"

This was such a common expression. A search on the Web for both it and a string incorporationg "alright" resulted in discovery of just one reference: the transcription of a conversation in English from Fort Apache (Cibecue) in Arizona, date not noted, in which this phrase of approbation is recorded several times. It's on-line course material for Indigenous Perspectives I: concepts of humor, a distance-learning project of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Where does this expression come from? A movie? We heard it among Navajos and Zunis, and then there's the on-line example from Arizona Apacheland. Is it peculiar to New Mexico and Arizona? I can't remember what we were talking about that brought it up.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Still alive in the 'sixties

At the library, among the books picked up was Grace Before Ploughing, a short series of very brief recollections from his childhood by John Masefield. The sketches were not personal, but record memories of the nearby canal, still using tow animals, the gypsies, small traveling circuses, and the like. He knew his square mile or two of ground exactly as well as we did: every square inch and a ways up into the trees as well. There wasn't time to see whether any of his novels remain on the shelves or whether they've been deaccessioned along with so much else. In particular it would be interesting to see how the sea-faring novels read and to revisit The Box of Delights and The Midnight Folk if possible.

Monday, May 23, 2005

A green old water fool

In a memoir an author speaks of singing old songs, and mentions two: "The Bulldog on the Bank" and "Three Jolly Fishermen." The first was a great favorite of ours, and we used to beg the grown-up men to sing it over and over again, each time in a lower register:
Oh, the bulldog on the bank
And the bullfrog in the pool.
The bulldog called the bullfrog
A green old water fool.
It has taken days to come up with the other one. First came the beginning of the tune, then the principle of the refain, then the name of the city, then the names of the fishermen, and only at last the verse that's the point of the whole thing. How could this song have been forgotten and why did it take so long to recall it? Now that all has been confirmed via the Web, we've resolved to check the accuracy of other recollections of lyrics this way in the future.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


We quite enjoyed Sahara, which often filled the screen and had its funny moments also. In the sometimes unflattering closeup shots, it was evident how many of the principal actors had not had teeth veneered, filed, or straightened, unusual for this day and age. I was only looking because I've noticed lately how many people have unnaturally blue-white chompers, so odd in hue that they might be expected to glow in the dark. It was fun to see that secondary roles had been so well cast (e.g., Glynn Turman, Delroy Lindo, Bill Macy). The famous mud mosque of Djenne was depicted, though probably only as a model. Two little boys seated alone in front of us had been squabbling before the picture-show started. When one had spent close to five minutes bouncing up and down in a very loudly squeaking seat, K. leaned forward and said, "If you don't stop that, I'll have you removed." What, exactly, had been said I didn't learn until we were leaving, but it did work. Would "vaporized" have been more effective than "removed"?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

On affixing clothes to lines

Just as my grandmother used to say "looking glass" instead of "mirror," she used "clothes pegs," not "clothes pins." When we went to Breed (can't help thinking of it as Everett) for clothesline, we didn't find exactly what we wanted, which was entirely cotton line of a certain thickness, settling for a thinner cotton-and-polyester blend. We hadn't checked our stock of pins, so bought some there, both spring-clips and the old kind from which kids used to make butterflies and dolls, described on the package as "round slotted clothespins." I knew right away that the latter were probably not American-made, because the heads were entirely rounded, not flattened on top. And they're from China. I haven't checked them against the ones we have, but they appear to be from a different wood, also. The wood has been polished or sanded, which is unusual. The spring-clip items are also from China and are an inferior product. The wood is thinner, the clips are smaller, and the springs have no strength. I think I remember that clothespins of both types used to be made mostly in Maine and Michigan, sometimes by the same outfits making matches. The identity of such companies wasn't located in a quick Google search, but there was a reference to attempts by the Reagan administration to impose import quotas on foreign-made clothespins, perhaps something to follow up. A vendor of "antique laundry accessories" identifies as chamber pots (we used to call them "thundermugs") what are really diaper pails. The stock is enamelware, both white and granite in assorted colors.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Unsolved mystery

It must be an immature something-or-other that's out there eating lantana berries, both green and ripe. No book consulted, however, aids in its identification. It's clear, though, that these berries are a treat right now for many, many birds and creatures.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

To travel hopefully

In a review of a book recounting the author's attempt to replicate Robert Louis Stevenson's "Travels with a Donkey," it was reported that RLS is the one who said "To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive." The reviewer does not acknowledge any other attempts to replicate this trip. Dervla Murphy apparently traveled with a mule in Ethopia, not with a donkey in the Cevennes. The Austin Public Library has deaccessioned a lot of her books. The book reviewed is To Travel Hopefully (Christopher Rush). My Stevenson donkey tour shares a book with The Silverado Squatters, bought at the original Half Price Books, which shared a building with a Jack Brown dry-cleaning plant.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"Please do not discard"

That was printed on the large mailer. Not "urgent." Not mimicry of a telegram or of first-class mail from the government. So it was kept and opened. A simple and unadorned request worked very well. At least here. Elsewhere?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


It's time to look for new line. The markets used to have it in the laundry and housewares aisles, but there's been no luck so far. Items that shrink can't be hung out when it's too hot, or at least not in direct sun, but outdoors beats indoors drying most of the time, whether done on racks or in a clothesdryer. We'll run it from the old T-bar to the low limb of the pecan. It's getting really hard to find non-spring clothespins also. It'll take a excursion to the hardware store (probably Breed, formerly Everett, or else up to Northwest Hardware on Far West, or else the current Hardware Store location, or else Harrell's, or else Callahan's) and a refresher on knot-tying.

Monday, May 16, 2005


These are what wrapping paper and wallpaper usually have. I'd never put up anything so permanent as wallpaper, but wrapping paper has always been one of those cheap luxuries. Having vowed to use all on-hand paper before buying more, I find that it's best not even to frequent those aisles in the supermarket and drugstore and to stay away from those places of temptation, stationery departments in bookstores. Since Winns has been gone there've been no more acquisitions of remnants. It's a shame that the designers of wrapping paper for outfits like Hallmark never receive credit for their work. Matisse bought lengths of textiles and used them again and again in his paintings.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


The stockpiled Greatland screen house from Target is now standing on all fours, ready to shelter from the sun and to bar mosquitoes. It'll stand until a limb falls through it or a connector breaks or a rod bends or a storm blows it away or tears it to bits. Each iteration is a bit different; all are made in China. All four transoms to the outdoors have been opened and are propped by chopsticks with pencil erasers on the ends so that they don't slip. Summer with a capital "S" approaches.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Dialogue straight from the book

The Chron didn't have it right. When we double-checked we found that Bride and Prejudice is still in town, way, way up there, at the current Arboretum movie place. This is a movie that deserves the big screen. There's nothing television-like about it. Should it be alarming that we recognized at least a half-dozen of the actors? It was worth the trek. Maybe it's time to read the book again. Of course, there was no kissing. The Darcy is reported to be a star in New Zealand. He was good-humored amid all the flamboyance. We laughed a lot. K. attended grudgingly, but enjoyed it even more than I. When there's time, we'll check out this smorgasbord of reviews. The place where we grabbed a bite before the movie was called Fire Bowl Cafe. Salmon piping hot served with soba was a good preliminary. The workers there were all very young and all very pleasant.

Friday, May 13, 2005

"The British are plumbing! the British are plumbing!"

It started out, as everything does, appearing to be a simple problem. But when the trap pulled out, the tail of the lavatory came along with it, and the clog wasn't even in the trap. And tapping on the pipe had put a hole in it. So Nick of Union Jack Plumbing very kindly made room for us in his busy schedule. Not only is the clog cleared; not only is the damaged pipe replaced; not only has a new tail been fitted: now there's more hot water coming from that tap than there's been in decades. And our flowers were admired also.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

But you're wrong

Every month there's mail from some yearbook or directory company, claiming that I graduated from Bethel High School in Connecticut and that my personal information is needed, and urgently. How did an error like this occur in somebody's database? There couldn't possibly be duplicate names. Now at last it's time to locate Bethel, Connecticut. Poor students! The high-school home page gives prominent space to "Together Everyone Achieves More." Just look at the first letter of each word. Inspring, isn't it? P.T. Barnum was not born in Bridgeport, where his estate is, but in Bethel.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


In Mr. Scarborough's Family, which K. is re-reading, this word is used several times. I knew generally what it means. What the associations are, we haven't found, but I recall the word being used in argument in criminal cases and also perhaps theologically, in connection with sins or the confession of them. In any case, this is not a word seen very often.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Commercial marriage

Ford dealers pioneered in joining together to support Texas-specific commercials. "Ford IS the BEST in TEXas." Anybody can remember that jingle. Chevy and Dodge pickups are promoted this way, also, and to the Spanish-speaking audience. A new one is a Ford promotion now airing in prime evening telenovela time that features Pablo Montero. He even addresses the audience directly. We remember him with Aracely Arámbula in Abrázame Muy Fuerte.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Out there

We're seeing the first hummingbirds, naturally all unidentifiable, viewed from the back and probably female, attracted most strongly to the ancient potted kalanchoes from old Mrs. H. Other firsts of the season are the caterpillars on the fennel and a good close-up of a warbler, this one a female yellowthroat, obligingly close and unusually still. The poppies going strongest are Shirley poppies called Angel's Choir, some very ruffled and many with picot edges.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Soaked but happy

We were so worried that nobody would turn out for the conjunto festival that we went on over as soon as we heard the first bit of music. Stalwarts and diehards were already there, soaked to the skin and muddy to the ankles. Teams moved the bleachers in away from the edge of the roof. Despite everything, with a short break for one of the worst of the storms between Los Texas Wranglers and Santiago Jimenez, all went forward. Los Fantasmas del Valley played earlier than scheduled and Los Pavo Reales were additions to the program. Beer was not being sold. Rides were running only intermittently, during breaks in the weather, but Mighty Thomas has many that look new. Spongebob Squarepants must not have wanted to get his costume wet. This music makes good and happy dreams.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Just bought one

Whew! The day played itself out too late for it to be worth buying two tickets, so we have just one souvenir booklet and fan for this year's Heritage Society house tour. Three of the houses on the tour are old chesnuts open over and over again, for one occasion or another. One of them has been altered in that ugly way, with the inappropriate porch (easy to tear off sometime) and the destruction of original masonry with a divided stairway approach and the wistaria that's as old as the one on the Capitol grounds. The bungalow on Hargrave would have been interesting, though. Is the Heritage Society embarking on drastically shortened annual tours? Only a check of the archives will confirm whether this one is just a half or a third of the customary number of buildings open. The end of this day marks a milestone, though without our annual stroll. Tomorrow will be totally nonconstructive.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Excrescences, literally and figuratively

These replace the house known as "Roy's Taxi." The name was appropriate because it was Roy's green and because decades of non-productive graduate students lived there, driving Roy's cabs to keep body and soul together and often parking a cab right there. The house that made way for these uglitudes was architecturally distinguished and extremely pleasant inside, but the City didn't deem it important enough to be saved. The structure nearing completion is larger by far than the mansions considered large enough by Stacy and his family when Fairview Park and Travis Heights were developed.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Not quite drowned out

The last show on tonight's bill at Fiesta Gardens was Jaime y los chamacos. "Yolanda" was beautifully audible, with balanced sound, through the windows until the taxpayer-funded police helicopter came roaring over. We did get to hear most of the set, though: lots of hits, plus a cover or two, including a "Coco rayado" that didn't compare with Ruben Vela's original. Everything was shut down pretty promptly at eleven o'clock. There's all the difference in the world between the virtuosity of the accordion and percussion of a group like this and whoever opened the bill. The toes are still tapping.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


On both the yellow and the orange asclepias, there have been enough blooms that we'll soon have lots of seeds.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Raining flowers

The long tassels of pecan flowers are beginning to fall. They're heavier than oak flowers and pollen and for that reason don't blow so far.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Settling down?

W. and C. think now that they'll wash up in Aibonito. The house in Vermont has been sold, but they'll still house-sit and work there during summers and then sit out winters in Aibonito, which turns out to be a neighbor of Barranquitas. It may call itself the Switzerland of Puerto Rico or pride itself on its refreshing climate, but it's still over 90 degrees there today, this early in the season.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Truncated tour

We seldom miss the annual Heritage Society house tour, though last year was one of those times (Enfield?). This year there are only seven houses. It would take digging out old tour literature to confirm it, but this seems to be about half as many as the usual number. I wonder why. Travis Heights has no shortage of houses from all eras, certainly no fewer than Fairview Park or close-in East Austin. Even though we may not be able to fit a walk in, tickets are worth it for the souvenir booklet. Two of the houses are always opened for tours of this sort, starting way back with the old Live Oak Festivals (the Stacy house on Alta Vista and the Georgian revival house two doors away, which has been altered and not for the better; the wistaria and the dual stairway approach from the street were removed and a porch not in keeping with the structure was added.) The other Stacy house, the one in which the Supernatural Family Band lived for a while, is on the tour list.