Whimsy: March 2012 Archives

Back-porch bald eagles

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Someone posted the first in this series of videos on Facebook, showing a bald eagle perched on a porch railing, sharing the porch with a couple of cats and a fox, none of whom were bothering the others, like something out of a Peaceable Kingdom painting.

The rest of the videos posted by this resident of Unalaska, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands, are remarkable, too, with more interaction between her cats and the eagles, and a few videos of large numbers of bald eagles feasting on fish. Here's a playlist to let you watch all the videos back to back.

just-a-minute-cd.jpgFans of quick-witted British comedy and verbal virtuosity will enjoy a BBC Radio 4 Extra special about the long-running radio panel show Just a Minute.

Just a Minute involves four players and a chairman. The chairman gives a subject to one of the players, who is to speak on the subject topic for 60 seconds without repetition, hesitation, or deviation. If the speaker falters, any other player can buzz in with a challenge. If the challenge is upheld, the challenger takes over the subject for any time remaining. Whoever is speaking when the whistle blows after 60 seconds wins the round. Points are awarded for successful challenges, overruled challenges, winning a round and sometimes just on the chairman's whim. The rules of the game put a premium on thinking on your feet and a rich vocabulary.

Half the fun is the banter that takes place while the clock is stopped for a challenge. (For example, I'm listening to a show from June 2, 1982, in which the topic of bathing a baby has turned into a debate over proper technique for supporting an infant.) For most of the first two decades, the show featured three regular panelists, author and politician Clement Freud, comedic actors Kenneth Williams and Derek Nimmo, and a guest, usually female, in the fourth chair, with actor Peter Jones (who played the Book in the original radio version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) as a frequent substitute. Comedian Paul Merton has been a regular panelist since 1989. Nicholas Parsons has served as chairman since the show's inception in 1967.

There is renewed interest the radio show as Just a Minute returns to BBC television later this month and the CDs of classic episodes have been re-released.

You can listen online to the three-hour BBC Radio 4 Extra special "Just a Minute: Without Hesitation," featuring highlights of the game's four-and-a-half decades, through midday (Tulsa time) March 24, 2012. BBC Radio 4 Extra runs a new episode most weeks, which you can find here.


Just a Minute fan website with episode guides, cast lists, and streaming episodes.

The origins of Just a Minute

I had planned to post this first thing this morning, but computer problems prevented, and then grim news seemed more important. We all could use some music and laughter about now, I think.

The four countries of the United Kingdom are of such great antiquity that they can't mark a founding day or independence day as a national holiday, so instead they celebrate the feast day of their patron saints: St. Patrick's Day for Ireland on March 17, St. Andrew's Day on November 30 for Scotland, St. George's Day on April 23 for England, and St. David's Day on March 1 for Wales.

St. David's Day is traditionally marked by the wearing of a daffodil (now in peak bloom in Tulsa) or a leek on the lapel. The leek was worn by Welsh soldiers to identify each other in the midst of similarly dressed English invaders.


Photo from TheGoonShow.net.

Other uses of leeks are not recommended.


Photo from this BBC article about St. David's Day.

The Principality of Wales has been ruled by England since 1282, was officially annexed to England in the mid-16th century, and regained a degree of self-determination with the creation in 1999 of the Welsh Assembly.

I've spent all of a day in Wales, just enough to get a sense of what a beautiful country it is.

Wales is famed as a center of coal mining, as a place of religious fervor, and as a land of singing. In Wales even the Methodists are Calvinistic, and a religious revival in 1904-5 spread from Wales to the ends of the earth. In comedy, the Welsh are often portrayed with a sing-song accent.

Wales is home to one of the world's longest place names: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Yes, there are four ells in a row in that name.

Wales gave the world Tom Jones and Catherine Zeta Jones and a host of other Joneses, but one of my favorite Welshmen is the late comedian and tenor Harry Secombe. Secombe, the short and stout fellow in the photos above, played Neddie Seagoon in the Goon Show, the long-running BBC radio comedy that set the stage for the anarchic comedy of Monty Python. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, is one of the show's most enthusiastic fans.

No matter how grim things may seem, there's always an episode of the Goon Show available for a listen on the BBC Radio 4 Extra website. Highly recommended for your mental health.

In later life, he played the lead in Pickwick, the musical version of The Pickwick Papers and served as host of TV series with religious themes, including Highway on ITV and Songs of Praise on the BBC.

Here is a 30 minute biography of Secombe, an episode of the series Welsh Greats.

Here, from an episode of Highway, is Harry Secombe and the Treorchy Male Choir singing the hymn Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah, known by the name of its hymn tune, Cwm Rhondda (Rhondda Valley).

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Whimsy category from March 2012.

Whimsy: February 2012 is the previous archive.

Whimsy: April 2012 is the next archive.

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