Happy New Year 2021

It will soon be only three weeks until January 20 when we have a New President and hope for a complete change in our government. Joe Biden has already chosen many experienced and qualified women and men to lead the country. Kamala Harris was his first enormous choice to appoint people who would look like America.

Today, I have chosen to post a gift to my readers…. a book that tickles the mind and is fun to read.

“An Exaltation of Larks” is the fascinating collection by James Lipton, first published in l968. Lipton, an American writer, poet, composer and actor, traced the tradition in the English language back to the 15th century when groups of animals, fish and birds associated with hunting were given names to epitomize their salient characteristics. Young gentlemen were taught the precise designation of their quarry. We are familiar with some: a pride of lions, a plague of locusts and a litter of pups. The magic of this book is in the hundreds of collective nouns that identify the essence of the group to the reader for the first time — and the witty engravings by Grandville, a 19th century French lithographer, that accompany most of the terms and the text.

Here are a few groups of birds to whet your appetite:
A parliament of owls.
An ostentation of peacocks.
A bouquet of pheasants.
A murder of crows.
A siege of herons.
A brood of hens.
An exaltation of larks.

Skylarks climb together high into the heavens while uttering their song — thus the poetic comment of exaltation. In the interesting Introduction to the book, Lipton traces the history from the 15th century to the present. He writes, “Obviously, at one time or another, every one of these terms had to be invented — and it is equally obvious that much imagination, wit and semantic ingenuity has always gone into that invention. The terms are too full of charm and poetry to suppose that their inventors were unaware of the possibilities open to them, and unconscious of the fun and beauty they were creating. What we have in these terms is clearly the end result of a game that amateur semanticists have been playing for over five hundred years.”

Lipton breaks down the terms into six families according to the original inspiration:

Onomatopoeia – A Murmuration of Starlings. A Gaggle of Geese.

Characteristic (the largest family) – A Leap of Leopards. A Skulk of Foxes.

Appearance – A Knot of toads. An Army of Caterpillars

Habitat- A Shoal of Bass. A Nest of Rabbits.

Comment (pro or con) – A Richness of Martens. A Cowardice of Curs.

Error – A School of Fish, originally a “shoal”. Part III of the book may be the most fun for readers since Lipton drew upon the Book of St. Albans, compiled in 1486, which included seventy references to people and life in the 15th century in addition to the birds, animals and fish for the hunt. The social references, scattered through the St. Albans Book, were filled with wit and commentary about the manners and morals of the day.
The intriguing engravings accompanying these human figures capture the meaning and nuances in each term. Here are samples from the 15th century:
A Herd of Harlots.
A Converting of Preachers.
A Doctrine of Doctors.
An Incredulity of Cuckolds.
A Riffraff of Knaves.
A Drift of Fishermen.
An Eloquence of Lawyers.
A Worship of Writers. (Ah. I love that.) Lipton closes his delightful book with a challenge to the reader to join the “game” and create clever terms that illuminate intrinsic qualities of a group. He says, about playing the game, “like Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence. I found that spectators didn’t stay spectators for long. If you should feel the urge, there are more brushes in the pail.”
…………………………………. Joyce S, Anderson

“An Exaltation of Larks” is available on line at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

Supreme Court Denies Bid By Texas To Subvert Vote

This was the New York Times headline on Saturday, December 12. The nine Justices were in agreement that Texas had “no standing” to interfere with the settled election results in four other states. It was an unsigned brief order , the sharpest rebuke the High Court could have issued.
As I read it, I thought the message they sent Attorney General Paxton of Texas was, in plain language: The election results in these four states are none of your business!
Thus, the seventeen attorney generals from states that had supported Trump and the over one hundred Republican House members who signed support of the law suit could be in trouble during the next Mid term elections. That is the political fall out for each of them. Back a loser, you become a loser.

Speaking of losers…. We know from many inside sources that Donald J. Trump considers the very word LOSER… the worst word in the English language. His niece and biographer have confirmed that. His very brief tweet in response to the High Court decision was an indication of the impact he felt. He usually writes long treatises when he loses a case in the courts, deriding the judge as he did at the start of his time in office.
Friday was also the third day that President Elect Joseph Biden presented a group of appointees to his Cabinet and administration. In a formal setting, he introduced women and men who will hold important positions. He then gave each the opportunity to come to the central lectern and speak briefly while their qualifications were projected on a screen.
Biden has said that his Cabinet and other officials would “look like America”. They each were superbly qualified, having served in Obama’s presidency or earlier. They were women and men of color in this group as were two groups he had introduced previously. Susan Rice , former Ambassador to The United Nations, was the sixth who spoke. She was a power in the position and took my breath away with her speech.
Finally Vice President Elect Kamala Harris concluded the event. She spoke as she always does with authority and passion about the people on the stage who will work for the American people… the veterans and the civilian families suffering during the pandemic. Monday, the election results will be certified by The Electoral College.
All the speakers on stage wore masks which they removed only when each spoke. Joe Biden has emphasized that during the first one hundred days mask wearing in the United States will be mandatory in public.
He has also targeted the first one hundred days as a time when vaccinations against Covid 19 will be a priority. He has consistently emphasized the importance of controlling the pandemic in every appearance he has made.
This is in contrast to the many super spreader events Donald Trump has held at the White House and his rallies to protest the elections results and claim it was “stolen and he was “cheated”.
It is very unfortunate that 74 million Americans who voted for Trump have heard this repeated endlessly from him. Supporters have threatened election officials in states that voted for Biden like Michigan and Wisconsin. They arrived at their houses at night, carrying signs and guns , honking horns outside their homes.
Joseph Biden Jr. won over 80 million votes. This year was the largest total turnout in any National election. The mail in ballots were the key to victory, including those cast by us in New Jersey who avoided voting in person because of the pandemic. Amen!
………………………………Joyce S. Anderson ………………….