Thursday, January 27, 2011

Where did you get that title?

A number of people have asked me that...

I stole it, of course! And from a first-class source. (of course)

It comes from the mind and pen of Frank Gilbreth, who for more than 40 years wrote a column of that name under the pseudonym of "Ashley Cooper". (Note that his pen-name is taken from the names of the two rivers which converge in Charleston Harbor to form the Atlantic Ocean...)

I quote a column written by one of his colleagues hours after his death.

I am humbled by his writing genius, and hope to live up to so worthy a mentor.

Jus' doin' the Charleston


Why Charleston will remember Ashley Cooper
Tuesday, February 20, 2001
by Elsa McDowell

Years ago, Lord Ashley Cooper started preparing his own epitaph:
"Although he lived in the twentieth century, he didn't have anything to do with the invention of the atomic bomb, internal combustion engine, TV commercial, rock music or non-objective art."

We all smiled because, of course, Ashley Cooper will be remembered for what he did, not what he didn't do.

He made us smile. He made us think. He made us angry - but never for long. In his column here, beloved by readers, he would make fun of tourists one day and make fun of native Charlestonians the next.

He would recount colorful stories of old Charleston one day and of present-day Charleston the next.

He delighted us with comical slice-of-life vignettes, and he challenged us with prickly community issues.

Ashley Cooper earned the respect and affection of thousands of readers, and when he retired from column-writing in 1993, they grieved. Many are still grieving.


Ashley Cooper, of course, was the pen name of Frank Gilbreth Jr., who died Sunday.

This is the spot in the paper that Mr. Gilbreth filled for more than 40 years. It seems a fitting place to pay tribute to him. And it seems the best way to pay tribute to a masterful columnist is in his own words.

• "I don't know about other Charlestonians, but the way I tell summer from winter is that in winter we get lots of Lincolns, Cadillacs and stuffed shirts, and in summer get lots of Chevrolets, Fords and stuffed shorts."

• "What we really need in Charleston are tourists who will send their money here but stay home themselves."

• "In a hick town they take up the sidewalks at night. In Charleston, the sidewalks are in such bad shape that if you took them up you'd never get them back down again."

• "Who was it who said that Charleston - our Holy City - was like a lesson in verbs? Yes, you discover the present tense and the past perfect."

• "A correspondent advises Lord Ashley never to ask anyone where he is from. 'If he is from Charleston, he will soon announce that fact,' alleges my correspondent. 'If he is not from Charleston, there is no need to embarrass him.' "

• "They say we in Charleston spend more money on liquor than we do on education. But, my goodness, what you can learn at a Charleston cocktail party!"

• "What is full of slime and hooey,
Makes the stomach loop-the-loop?
What is slippery and gluey?
Greasy, gooey OKRA SOUP."

• He stirred up heated emotions over the Confederate flag (which he thought didn't belong over the Statehouse); over "y'all" and "youze guys;" and over historic preservation.

He wrote about cockroaches and Gullah, about George Gershwin and palmettos, about slumlords and bike paths.

His words remind us why we love Charleston and why we will long remember Frank Gilbreth, who loved it too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sing, America!

It's Stupor Bowl Time!

All my friends are talking about it...that time of year when we get to hear WHO is going to caterwaul, abuse, screech, mutilate, and desecrate our National Anthem. Oh, that's right - some people call it singing...

It's all right to stretch the meter a little bit. And no one can object to a hint of rubato now and again. And a few ornaments, tastefully inserted, help to spice up the vocal line. And a touch of pitch-bending makes it sound more contemporary.

THis is all fine and good. It is in the best traditions of both classical and pop music.

But instead of musical excellence we get something distantly related to music instead. We take a so-called "artist" whose main claim to fame is reading pointless and marginally obscene non-sequiturs as part of their role on a sitcom, and ask (pay,handsomely) them to get up in front of millions of people and croak through nodule-ridden vocal cords one of the more challenging vocal melody lines in existence. All the while, the audience sits in bewildered SILENCE trying to figure out what the holy heck is he/she actually singing.

I have an idea... (TM)

Lets get a good orchestra or an organist playing a BIG organ or even a rock band to play it with good rhythm, correct meter, and at a breathable tempo.

Then lets all stand up in the stadium or the tavern or in our media room at home (but not in our cars) and SING TOGETHER OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM! Just think of the grand roar it would create. It would drown out the sound of the Twin Towers collapsing, or the heated (but, mind you, not personally influencing) rhetoric of our politicians. And for a few moments we can all rejoice together in being AMERICANS (without the qualifier-dash prefixes). And then lets be sure to sing the rest of the verses, too...

Would that send a message or what?

For those of you who are not familiar with the full set of words of the Anthem, they appear below. Take a moment to read and reflect...


Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


The poem was set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club in London. "The Anacreontic Song" (or "To Anacreon in Heaven"), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. Accompanying Key's poem and renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner", it became a well-known American patriotic song. With a range of one and a half octaves, it is known for being difficult to sing.

That being said, after the pre-game tedium let's raise the rafters with a spirited rendition of our great National Anthem*, and then in accordance with age-old tradition sit back with a cold one and quaff the health of the good ol' US of A!


Jus' doin' the Charleston...

*Westminster Choir College alums, Valkyries ad lib!

Copyright 2011 Olivia Margaret Ontko