Dec. 18, 2012

Five Limericks Against Christmas

by Anonymous

Old Fellow of Dallas

There was an old fellow of Dallas
Who was filled with atheist malice
And on Christmas Eve
He cried, "I don't believe"
To small children, which was terribly callous.

Old Dame of Westchester

There was an old dame of Westchester
A nasty Christmas molester
Who took refuse and piled it
By the Christ child
And police were called to arrest her

Old Man of Seattle

There was an old man of Seattle
Engaged in atheist battle
At a living nativity
He got so livid he
Wrestled the sheep and the cattle

Three Girls of Vermont

There were three girls of Vermont
Atheists just like their aunt
The family was famous
For no Adoramus
And avoiding the baptismal fount

Old Man of Blue Hill

There was an old man of Blue Hill
Who when church was quiet and still
At Christmas Eve mass
Liked to pass gas
Toward a candle, just for the thrill

Five Limericks Against Christmas, by Anonymous. Reprinted with permission of the poet.

It's the birthday of one of the founders of the Methodist movement: Charles Wesley (books by this author), born in Epworth, England (1707). His older brother John Wesley was the preacher, and Charles was the writer of hymns and song leader.

The two of them went to Oxford, and they looked for deliberate ways to serve God throughout the day. Because of this, their fellow students laughed at how methodical they were and named them "Methodists," which they adopted. They traveled around England preaching in the open air to tens of thousands. They were not always successful — they were sometimes met with mobs who threw stones, dirt, and eggs in their faces. They traveled by horseback, and if Charles thought of a hymn while he was riding, he would ride to the house of his nearest acquaintance, demand a pen and ink, and write it down. John did most of the preaching, while Charles led the faithful in hymns at Methodist meetings. Hymnbooks were expensive, and many people couldn't read, so a leader would read out a line at a time, and everyone would sing it.

Wesley wrote 8,989 hymns, which averaged out to 10 lines of poetry every day for more than 50 years. His hymns include "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," and "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing."

It's the birthday of the artist Paul Klee, born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland (1879). Paul Klee died at the age of 60 from an autoimmune disease called scleroderma. He left behind about 9,000 works of art, but also the Paul Klee Notebooks, published in English as The Thinking Eye (1961) and The Nature of Nature (1973). The Notebooks are considered one of the most important written works on modern art. Klee wrote about color theory, the role of chaos in art, and the relationship between art and its subject.

During World War I, Klee wrote in his diary: "The more horrifying this world becomes (as it is in these days) the more art becomes abstract."

It's the birthday of the baseball legend Ty Cobb, born in Narrows, Georgia (1886). His father was a teacher, principal, publisher, and state senator, and he had imagined that his son would follow in his footsteps, or maybe become a doctor or lawyer. He finally gave his blessing to Cobb's career choice, but he warned him: "Don't come home a failure." Three weeks before 18-year-old Cobb made his debut with the Detroit Tigers, his mother shot and killed his father outside their bedroom window — apparently, she thought he was an intruder.

Cobb was furious at the hazing he received from his teammates; he said, "I was just a mild-mannered Sunday-school boy, but those old-timers turned me into a snarling wild-cat." Cobb became one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Nothing stood in his way — legend has it that he would sit in the dugout where the other team could see him and sharpen the spikes on his shoes, then slide feet-first into each base. He was so mad when he thought the spring training field wasn't in top condition that he beat up the groundskeeper, then choked the groundskeeper's wife when she intervened. He attacked a heckler in the stands and almost killed him, and was finally hauled off the man by an umpire and a police officer. The Detroit Free Press described Cobb as "daring to the point of dementia." He still has the highest lifetime batting average of all time.

He said: "The great American game should be an unrelenting war of nerves. I guess that's what I miss most in it nowadays. In the battle of wits I was lucky enough to join in, you sat up nights plotting ways to win."

It's the birthday of British short-story writer Saki (books by this author), born Hector Hugh Munro in Akyab, Burma (1870). His father was an officer in Burma. When Saki was two years old, his mother was visiting England and was charged by a cow and died. Saki and his two siblings were put in the care of two aunts, Augusta and Charlotte, who hated each other and didn't like the children much either.

He finally escaped the aunts for boarding school. When he was through with school, he enlisted as a policeman in Burma, but he contracted malaria and returned to England. He did some writing for newspapers, and his breakthrough came when the editor of the Westminster Gazette hired him to write a satirical column; he made fun of writers like Rudyard Kipling and Lewis Carroll, and the column was very popular. He went on to write short stories in the same vein, mocking Edwardian society. His books include Reginald (1904), The Chronicles of Clovis (1911), The Unbearable Bassington (1912), and Beasts and Super-Beasts (1914). He was killed by a sniper in World War I.

It's the birthday of film director Steven Spielberg, born in Cincinnati, Ohio (1946). When he was 11 years old, he was working on a merit badge for the Boy Scouts. His assignment was to tell a story with still pictures, but his family's camera was broken. So he used his dad's video camera, hunted up some neighborhood friends, and made a Western. It was less than 10 minutes long, but there was a robbery, a shoot-out, and plenty of ketchup for fake blood. When he showed it at the Boy Scout meeting the next week, everyone cheered and applauded, and Spielberg was so excited that he decided to keep making movies.

His films include Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. (1982), Jurassic Park (1993), Schindler's List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Minority Report (2002), True Grit (2010) — as an executive producer, and most recently, Lincoln (2012).

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