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Letters to the Editor, January 1999

This a traditional letter column. You are encouraged to write a letter of comment on anything that you find worthy of comment. It will (may) be published in this column along with my reply. As editor I reserve the right to delete material; however I will not alter the undeleted material. E-mail to me that solely references the contents of this site will be assumed to be publishable mail. All other e-mail is assumed to be private. And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication. Oh yes, letters of appreciation for the scholarly resources provided by this site will be handled very discreetly. This page contains the correspondence for January 1999.

Index of contributors

Other Correspondence Pages

From: Nina
Date: 1/24/99
Subj: darwin question

I heard a story about someone who died from being stuck in a washer at a laundrymat a couple of weeks ago? (January 1999) have you heard about this? Is it true?

I haven’t heard about this one but I haven’t checked my usual sources yet this year. Maybe one of the readers has heard about it.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 1/22/99
Subj: The Girl of the Golden West

I don’t think this is by Menotti — it dates from somewhere around the turn of the century, possibly before Menotti was born. (There is an otherwise undistinguished mystery, one of a series about Caruso detecting in between scenes, which is set around the U.S. premiere of this opera; I recall it being accurate in setting this premiere well before World War I.) My guess would be Puccini — he did a number of works that were dramatically sappy by our standards.

I would say “even by the standard of the times” but that’s not true. I have, after all, played in East Lynne which was, in its day, done seriously.

Brecht and Weill wrote one full-scale opera, THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CITY OF MAHAGONY (Mahogany is a common slip); it’s not exactly a Western, being set in Florida, although it has sardonic Western aspects — the lead is up on a capital charge not for murder, which is forgivable, but for welching on a gambling debt. (I was tech director for the song set called “Little Mahagony” or “Singspiel Mahagony”, which I think came first.) A number of your readers will have heard some of this work, usually without realizing it; the Doors did one of the early numbers, “Alabama Song”, on their first album.

Oddly enough, I may have seen that production.
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From: JudyInfo
Date: 1/22/99
Subj: survival of fittest

As I headed for lunch with a friend today, I was thinking about the several snowboarders who died recently and how it might be a good thing that they didn’t pass on their genes. Then my friend told me that there was such a thing as the Darwin Awards, for which these ‘boarders would certainly qualify, since they all died going past signs saying they shouldn’t be there.

Alas, ignoring signs seems to be a fairly common cause of fatalities. There is an old joke that runs: Why is it that a person can read in the newspaper that they found a new star five billion light years away and believe it without question and yet, when they see a sign reading “fresh paint” they have to check for themselves?
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 1/21/99

I admit I’ve never seen either of these. (Lack of time is only a partial excuse — unlike many older movies, SHOP was available back when I hit one of a pair of local rep houses at least once a week.) However, the description in your writeup sounds like there are more similarities, if not to SHOP then to SHE LOVES ME, a pleasant small-scale musical that Bock and Harnick based on SHOP before they had the reputations to get backing for larger shows (FIORELLO, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF,…). Matching points include a sickroom scene where the heroine begins to decide that the hero isn’t a totally bad sort, and the final setup where the newly-accepted “friend” is (for no obvious reason) asked along to meet the correspondent; I suspect these are also in SHOP. SHE LOVES ME makes the leads employees of the same store — I don’t know whether that appeared in SHOP or was another way of holding down production costs in a show so squeezed that replacing the pit piano with an accordion was strategic as well as scene-setting (the show is set in Hungary, as I recall reading SHOP was).

SHE LOVES ME also manages to fit in a number of side plots (including a wonderful vehicle for old-time comic actor Nathaniel Frey) despite the presence of ~85 minutes of music (which you’d expect to give a show less time for plot than a typical movie gets). The side plots mean the main story isn’t too cloying — no small achievement for a 1950’s musical seen through 1970’s recollections.

It sounds as though SHE LOVES ME is fairly close to the original SHOP. The original is set in Hungary and the leads are both employees at the same shop. The original SHOP was also a fairly low budget production.

I also rented SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE which the reviews mention. It isn’t as close as the reviews make out. The leads are the same and it is definitely Ephrom romantic fluff but SIS has a very different feel.

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From: Anthony R. Lewis
Date: 1/18/99
Subj: Golden West

Mr. Harter,

The opera oozing about in your head is probably “The Girl of the Golden West” written originally in Italian by Gian Carlo Menotti. It has such great lines as

“Visky, per tutti!”


“Andiamo, Rance!”

It sounds better in Italian than English; I assume that because I really can’t speak Italian.

Highmore in ’76

Tony (Alice’s father)

Now that you mention it, you are right. It was, I suppose, the original Spaghetti Western. Everything sounds better in Italian than in English – particularly if you can’t speak Italian. I seem to recall that “The Girl of the Golden West” was translated into an English version but memory probably betrays me. I also have a vague recollection of Brecht doing a Western – I may be thinking of Mahogany.
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From: Chris Catchpole
Date: 1/15/99

I noted with interest the deep-fried marsbars, haggis & pizza listed. Hmmm spent much time in Glasgow have we? Well i have & here is my favourite ant-hangover sandwitch:-

Not I, but I know people who have. Strange folks they have there in Glasgow.
Cheese, marmite & peanut M&M;’s
Now that’s gross.
as for something folk wont eat? pesto & cabbage Ice cream
God, I hope not. I’ve added these fine items to the lists.
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From: Sharon Clark
Date: 1/13/99
Madam(e) Lazonga

How did you happen to pick the Madam(e) Lazonga name?

Now there is a question to tickle the quiescent grey cells. After browsing around the web – did you know that Madame Lazonga is a prominent tatooist – the old memory cells kicked in. Madame LaZonga was a stock name for cystal ball mediums that was used in cartoons circa many years ago. I think there may have been an actual Madam(e) LaZonga who was a carnival attraction. The name just stuck with me over the years.

“The pride and glory of the Golden West saloon” is a phrase that appears somewhere, possibly in an English language opera. Peaches LaRue is, as far as I know, my own invention though.

… continued on next rock …

What fun. Thanks. I printed out a “picture” of a Madam Lazonga in full – or almost – tatoo. Am sending that along with your note to my Madame Lazonga, now 87 doing just fine. For her eighteeth birthday party, she donned the personage of Madame Lazonga, telling the story of her life and loves, adventures and misadventures. I still address all mail to her in that manner and when she is feeling especially up, she re-dons her ML personality in full regailia.

Thanks again for the response. S. L. Clark

You’re welcome. Was it the eighteenth or the eightieth? In any case she sounds like a lady one would want to know.
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From: Jim Haacke
Date: 1/13/99
N.J. Harter or L.K. Harter

Would you happen to have any information about or know any descendants of N.J. Harter or L.K. Harter. They would both have been living in 1866, other than that, I have no other information.

If you know anything about them, please hit the reply button to this message and let me know. Thank you very much.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have any information. There are (and were) a surprising number of Harters in the US, most of them living in the midwest. I will post this in my correspondence pages in case somebody recognizes the names.
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From: Two Dogs
Date: 12/16/98
Subj: enjoyed it

An interesting evening…enjoyed your humor. Wish I had more time. Thanks.

Semper fi
Two Dogs

Come back again. I keep putting more crap, er, fine intellectually stimulating material in.

Semper fi

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From: Ashley McKenzie
Date: 1/12/99
Idiot Savants

This is Ashley, I went to your web page looking for information on idiot savants, I got some good ideas. I have to do a research report thats 7 pages long and I need some information. I was wondering if you could send me some of yours, seeing as it already looks like you did some research on it. And please, if you send any, send where you got the information from. It would be greatly appreciated, and I would have the opportunity to teach the world just a little more about this incredible phenomenon.

I wish I could help. The trouble is that I did the research, so to speak, a long time ago. IIRC Martin Gardner did a nice article on computing prodigies which appeared in one of his books, said books being packed away somewhere. I know Asimov did a book on quick arithmetic but I don’t think I’ve read it.

In one of the articles I read (it may be Gardner’s) the point is made that the calculating prodigy capability is not tied to feeble mindedness despite the term “idiot savant”. The article related the story of an engineer who had the ability and who blew away a salesman demonstrating a mechanical calculator by multiplying ten digit numbers faster than the machine could.

I will browse around in my overstocked library and see if I can come up with something. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

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From: John Della-Chiesa
Date: 1/12/99
Subj: airline story

My wife works as a travel agent. while taking a booking one day the following happened. My wife was talking to a woman who was to travel to las Vegas. After getting all the details about the trip, my wife asked if she wanted an aisle seat or a window seat. The woman replied oh my dear i just had my hair done i want an aisle seat.
thanks jd nyc ny

Now there is a woman with a sense of priorities. Snicker.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 12/15/98
Back in the Saddle Again

Does Carlisle still have more horses than people? That would have surprised me a bit even in the 70’s, but it wasn’t an area I knew at all. I do remember Monty Wells having trouble stabling his daughter’s horse, but he was in Bedford, behind rt 3 and much closer to 128.

Bedford is an entirely different kind of community. Carlisle has practically no urbs at all and very restrictive zoning. I’m not even sure if they have schools. They may have a grade school but the high school is in Concord and is called Concord/Carlisle. It’s very horsey and very rich country, much more so than Lincoln.

I’ve occasionally compared my home village to Carlisle based on location relative to the focal city and on bits I’ve heard about social attitudes. Interesting to see this born out by a detail — when I was young, there were horses on all three sides of our property; there were also cows across the road. I don’t think even the former is still true as I see fewer fences when I go back there and the fashion around DC is now for more urban/portable kinds of ostentation.

This is a general feature of the times – people move out to the good life in the country and then convert it into suburbia.
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From: Aced1two
Date: 1/2/99
Subj: looking for stories…

I am looking for the stories on the Hunters sitting on a deck in PA. and one afternoon they go after a raccoon in a culvert with a can of gas…. And one about the guy who takes the bees nest of his house with a “pineapple” ( hand grenade).

Could you please help in locating these two stories.

I don’t recognize them off hand. However I will post your letter in the correspondence pages. Maybe somebody will recognize them.
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From: Emer Gallahar Hall
Date: 1/8/99
Subj: Brilliant Site

Love the site!
Intelligence quizes are excellent,got all of them except for 3 of the easiest questions in the last one………give us more! Love the Garden, can we hear more about when you took it seriously?(I am a Horticulturist) I am still not finished going through the site, so i will be back soon! Congrats on the Award, by the way, you deserve it!

I’m glad you like the site. Someone of these days I’m going to have to sit down and do the article about gardening and one about acting, also. I’m not sure what award you are talking about – the little award pictures on my site are all self-bestowed. Unfortunately the best source that I knew of for these little tokens was the Fort Ogden site which apparently has shut down. The Corporation is still in business, though.

P.S. Adam Taylor recommended the site to me……thanks Adam, I owe you one!

Adam is a brilliant and perceptive fellow.
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From: John Elliot Jr.
Date: 1/9/99
Subj: Dogs & Dynamite

I heard this story 5 years ago that involved ice fishing. Stange that it could happen twice.

Entertaining though.

I dare say it’s an urban legend. It ought to be true, though, which is good enough for me.
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From: Adam Taylor
Date: 1/8/99
Subj: Wow….

I’d just like to applaud you for the quality of your site……… it is absolutely brilliant, and I’ve recommended it to several of my friends to stop by when they need cheering up…… the content you have is superb, and it was brilliant to see the 1998 Darwin Awards!!!

I love the puzzles, especially the Intelligence test one…… you got me, I only got three!!!

Thanks again for brightening up my evening,

Thanks for the kind words. I am too modest to say so myself, but I respect your opinion immensely, particularly when you say the site is absolutely brilliant.
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From: Chad Harter
Date: 1/5/99
Subj: NBA/Harter

Richard (Dick) Harter is an National Basketball Assoc. Assistant coach to Larry Bird at the Indiana Pacers.

So that’s where he is now. It’s always disconcerts me to read the sports pages and see my name appearing there.

BTW, if you have a home page please let me know and I will list it. No doubt there is one for Dick Harter, the coach, but I haven’t found it.

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From: glenn gallup
Date: 12/24/98
Subj: Thank you

christmas eve may seem the wrong time to congratulate you for your efforts, but the darwin awards are something special.

thanks and merry christmas

Thank you for the note. I hope you had a good Christmas too. I had no idea when I created the page that it would be so popular.
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From: barry cline
Date: 12/30/98
Subj: rush/barney

your wit and humor is only overshadowed by your inate inability to pull your head out of the sand. rush is the only sane, sensible american to speak out for individual rights in our era. i’m sure you would rather have your hard-earned money go to pay for the housing and feeding of welfare scum and those who would like to do whatever they can to desecrate america and its constitution. go back to russia.

Thank you sir. Although your letter was sent December 30, it will appear in the January letter column. Usually I have to wait a good part of the year for a “flakiest letter of the year” candidate. Congratulations on beating the rush and getting ahead of the crowd.

… continued on next rock …


If this is the flakiest letter of the year, then your readership obviously is not intelligent enough to reply to your alleged satire. i use the word alleged because satire, as defined in the American Heritage Dictionary (American is a word I’m sure I will have to define for you as well), is “A literary work in which irony, derision or wit in any form is used to expose folly or wickedness.” Seeing as how your barney piece contained none of those elements, and how the only thing you exposed was your lack of common sense. I hope you realize that thanks to the constitution’s bill of rights, your pieces of rhetoric are allowable, even though the only thing they do is denigrate the things that made our country great. But I will have to express my thanks to you. If it weren’t for wrong-thinking liberals like yourself exposing their ignorance, a great man like rush limbaugh never would have come to fore and become the leading crusader for the right and righteous.

barry d. cline
Member of : Young Republicans, Youth for Reagan, Texans for Bush, the National Association of Black Journalists (formerly)

While your efforts to nail down the title are appreciated, you needn’t try so hard. The “outraged conservative” bit is, after all, a one trick pony routine. There is a full year coming up and there will be others with their own particular slant on sputtering indignation.

The remarkable thing about persons like yourself (assuming you are not putting me on which is always possible) is the combination of monomania, thinking in stereotypes, and anger. This has nothing to do with politics or political slant per se. There are ‘progressives’ fully as knot-headed, religious fanatics of all stripes (including atheists), and literary theorists, all of whom exhibit the same syndrome.

You remind me of the man with the red shoes. When I was in college I was a member of the Young Republicans. This was quite some time ago, when the Goldwater conservative movement was just getting off the ground. The chap I spoke of was a vehement Goldwater supporter to the point of monomania. He also was pop-eyed and usually wore red shoes. He has a widespread and unfortunate reputation among the coeds whom he unceasingly and unsuccessfully pursued.

I am confident that you are nothing like this chap – no doubt, you are more personable in appearance and dress much, much better. I expect that your romantic life is much more satisfactory. Still, the image of the man with the red shoes has stuck in my mind over the years as the quintessential young college conservative. I’m sure it’s unfair but there it is.

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From: Fernando Magalhães
Date: 12/27/98
Subj: Washington DC Computer Viruses

Dear Sirs,

Congratulations for your virus descriptions. They are really something………..

Thank you, but I can’t take credit for them. The virus piece is one of those things that floats around the internet.
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From: Robert Wilson ([email protected])
Date: 12/28/98
Subj: Thompson Turkey

Back before Thanksgiving I had misplaced my copy of the Thompson Turkey recipe and was very greatful to have found your recipe on the web. Then, shortly before Christmas, I found my oft used, dog-eared copy that I originally ran across when working for a gourmet food shoppe. The copy I have was given to my old boss and his wife for inclusion in a cookbook they were working on, for one reason or another they never used it in the book but had hung on to the recipe and were glad to pass it on to me. I have become the official cook for all holiday gatherings and really enjoy doing everything involved in making this most delectable dishes. Hope this gives you some new tips and insight.


How Do You Roast Thompson Turkey

From a 1959 issue of The American Weekly, Richard Gehman’s turkey cooking story.

Gehman writes: “There is only one way to cook a turkey and it is my way. I did not invent this way. Morton Thompson, the writer, did. He gave it to the world in a marvelously funny book called “Joe the Wounded Tennis Player,” published by Doubleday, Doran and Co. Inc., in 1945. Again the irony – Thompson may be remembered for his novel “Not As A Stranger,” but he will be remembered longer for Thompson’s Turkey.

[snip remainder of article]

I think I actually read that article in the misty past. I’ll have to compare it with the recipe I have. Thanks for sending it along.
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This page was last updated January 24, 1999.
It was reformatted and moved December 16, 2004.

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