Monday, August 31, 2009

New York's Elvira Oliver (99) World's Oldest Blogger

Brooklyn-born great-grandmother is a proud Italian American

Elvira S. Oliver, aged 99, who grew up in New York's Brooklyn, has burst into the cybersphere as probably the oldest of the world's 100 million bloggers.

She is more than two years older than the previous oldest blogger, Randall Butisingh, a poet and philosopher living in Florida, who was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) 96 years ago.

Elvira's new blog will wow the millions of Americans (and Australians) proud of having an Italian ancestor.

She claims that 40 years ago she wrote a heartwarming story, "The Joys of Growing Up Italian" that has since been "stolen," and posted on hundreds of websites without permission or even a byline.

"When my son Floyd who lives in San Diego, California visited me recently to celebrate my birthday, he convinced me to become a blogger...and that I now would be the oldest blogger on Earth," she wrote a few days ago.

" He came to this conclusion after scrolling through the Internet and read that the two oldest bloggers, at the age of 109, had recently passed away....Olive Riley on July 12 [2008] in Australia; and Ruth Hamilton on January 18 in Florida."

Elvira (Italians pronounce the name El-VEE--ra) was born in Brooklyn in 1910 to Italian immigrants, and says she grew up so Italian in all her ways that she didn't realize until becoming a teenager that she was an American.

Here's what occurred later, as related on her website The Oldest Blogger on Earth:

"Many years slowly passed by, and after my beloved parents left this Earth for greener pastures, it became the custom for my family to gather at my house for special occasions. They came from Long Island: Centereach, Baldwin, and West Hempstead; from Brooklyn, N.Y.; from Sherburne, N.Y.; from Alexandria, VA. and even Burlington, VT.

"All participated in the festivities, enjoyed the comraderie, and filled their bellies with real Italian food with all the trimmings. Then after three or four days, and sometimes a week, all departed.

"One day in 1968, after a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration...and coming home from a rather hectic and busy day at the office, I entered an empty house. Alone and feeling somewhat nostalgic for the good old times, I sat down at my kitchen table, and on an old manual typewriter typed 'The Joys of Growing-up Italian', jottting down random thoughts, regardlessof gender or tense (past, present or future).

"Then after only a few friends and family members received a copy, I just placed it in a drawer and forgot about it. I did not come across it again until the Year 1976, when I moved to a beautiful house on the top of a small mountain in South Otselic, New York.

"Surrounded by forests, cornfields, dairy farms and down-to-earth country folk, I thought I was in Heaven. That particular area generated only a few paesans (Italians). As soon as I became acquainted with them, I eagerly presented them with a copy of my newly found essay.

"The Winter of 1977-1978 found St. Otselic's roads rather impassable for a city-bred girl. Over 10-feet of snow was piled up in my driveway, and I would have been confined in my home all winter, if it wasn't for the generosity of the farmers, who came to pick me up with their tractors for special appointments I had to keep.

"My daughter Angela's concern for my well-being guided me into a new direction. Once more I packed my belongings and dropped the baggage in a small lovely house in a senior development known as Silver Ridge Park in Toms River, New Jersey. There, I suddenly found myself , once again, engulfed in the Italian culture.

"Without saying too much more, many copies were made of 'The Joys of Growing-up Italian', and I gladly distributed it throughout the Village.

"I refined the essay in 1980, and again several more times...correcting grammar, genders, tenses and punctuation, etc. As I became older, all one had to mention is that he/she was of Italian descent, and off went a copy of my essay.

"This happened quite frequently, no matter where I wandered: on trains, buses, and even on airplanes. Addresses were exchanged and new friends were born.

"Several years ago, at a meeting of the Golden Age Seniors in Patterson, New York, next to me sat Claire... I learned she is a 'paesan'. Immediately I made known to her that I was the author of the essay 'The Joys of Growing-up Italian' on which I had received many compliments over the years.

"A startled look crossed her face, and in a subdued tone said: 'Elvira, it's on the Internet'. All Hell broke loose! I'm being plagarized!

"I will continue with this diatribe the next time I blog, if you find it interesting."
-- Posted by Elvira S Oliver at 7:37 PM Aug 26, 2009

Elvira lives on her own in Carmel, (pop. 30,000), about 50 miles north of New York City and 10 miles west of Danbury, Connecticut.

The original story is posted (without a byline) on many web sites, including here and one run by which has tweezed the headline to read The Joy of Growing Up an Italian American.

You can hear an extract from a CD of the essay set to music by visiting a commercial website.
For $7.95 you can buy "a 12 minute recording of the well known, anonymous story of 'THE JOYS OF GROWING UP ITALIAN' that immediately transforms you to your childhood."

In Orlando, Florida, a member of the Italian American Social Club has incorporated the essay (without any mention of its author) in his/her own reminiscences:

"I thought that my experience growing up Italian was not only joyful but also unique until I began sharing my experiences with many of my fellow Italian American Social Club members. We just call our IASC 'da club.'

"I am convinced that our stories of 'growing up Italian' are so similar that I have come to realize that this experience is probably being felt by over two or three million second or third generation Italian-Americans in this country.

"Most of our members who actively participate in our many events express feelings of being a part of 'la familia' or maybe feel they are 'from the old neighborhood,' just because of the way we share our Italian heritage and experiences. . . and how important it has become to each one of us.

"I would like to share with you the joy of how I grew up Italian. If you are Italian, this may be your story also."

[Then followed a copy of Elvira's essay]

"I now depend on Moosehaven and my fellow Moose members. The food is not Italian as we knew it, but it is good and we all enjoy it. I think it is the peace, security and the camaraderie that keeps [us] as content as we are.

"No matter what part of the country we came from, our experiences, joys and memories are mostly the same. We Italians have something extra because we all remember the joys of growing up Italian.

"This is not just my story but that of thousands and maybe millions of Italian-Americans or other ethnic Americans who built this great country for what it is. If you are not Italian, only we Italians know what you missed."

Today, descendants of early Italian immigrants number nearly 16 million, according to the U.S. census of 2000; although through intermarriage, the number of people in the United States with at least one Italian grandparent is estimated to be about 26 million.

The U.S. Census Bureau says Italian Americans are the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, with two-thirds in white-collar positions in business, medicine, law, education and other professions.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kiwi Monkey Tricks World's Letters Editors

An anagram reveals that MONKEYS WRITE the NEW YORK TIMES. A mischievous monkey from New Zealand named Andrew Prieditis has fooled the New York Times' owned International Herald-Tribune's letters editor into publishing a letter showing a fake address.

What's more, using other false addresses, he has similarly tricked leading newspapers in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and the Philippines.

Facing falling revenue from sales and advertising in the global economic depression, newspapers, some on the brink of bankruptcy, have slashed staff numbers. Overworked letters editors often have little time to check the bona fIDes of their correspondents, so Prieditis gets his opinions published by using phony addresses.

His greatest success was a story headed "My plan to be president" which made top place in the August 1 Opinion blog of the Dallas Morning News in Texas:
If I were a Republican interested in becoming president, I'd hitch my star to Sarah Palin's wagon. She will run for president in 2012.

I'd stay so close that after her nomination for president by the Republican Party, she'd have to choose me as her running mate. With her charisma and conservative views, our ticket would be elected.

Then, after two years of serving as president, when she tired of a probing media, outside agitators and an uncooperative Congress -- and became convinced that she could help the nation better being outside of government -- she'd resign. Then I'd be president.

--Andrew Prieditis, Dallas.
Right alongside it was an editorial introduction: "This Blog was the first in the nation created by an editorial board to give readers a behind-the-scenes view of the discussion that goes into crafting the newspaper's daily editorials."

Prieditis's epistle, also published by The Seattle Times and other newspapers, set off chains of readers' comments, for and against Sarah Palin.

In another Texan city, journalist Kevin Whited wrote:

Although the Houston Chronicle has 'an informal 90-day waiting period between letters being published,' Mr. Prieditis of Houston managed to get two letters (one on Sarah Palin on 3 August and one on Joe Biden on 7 August) published within days of each other.
'Punking' the Hearst daily -- especially now that former letters editor Judy Minshew is no longer around... is a little like adults taking candy from children.
Dubbing Prieditis "a citizen of the world," Whited said "Mr. Prieditis isn't a one-trick pony, nor is he just a man of this nation. He has managed to get letters on various topics published all over the world."

Googling his name, you can find letters published by the New York Times from Andrew Prieditis of Hamilton, New Zealand , the London Independent, from Andrew Prieditis of Elland, West Yorkshire, and the Jerusalem Post (Israel) from Andrew Prieditis of Washington. The Birmingham Post published a comment from Andrew Prieditis, from Lionel Street, Birmingham. The headline was "Olympic Games Must Go Back to the Future in Search for Renewed Credibility." That's what Andrew needs!

Down Under, Rupert Murdoch's national newspaper, The Australian, ran this letter from Andrew Prieditis of Torquay, Queensland on August 6:
WHAT does Somalia have in common with Australia? Until recently, almost nothing. The two nations, if Somalia can still be called a nation, had basically zero historical, economic and cultural links until the Department of Immigration began accepting some Somali refugees to Australia.

Now we are told by the Australian Federal Police there is a direct link between the violent mayhem in Somalia and an alleged plot to attack and kill soldiers at the Holsworthy army base in Sydney.

Even if these arrests do not survive the scrutiny of the legal process, they are a reminder that our security services have a constant and difficult task of sifting through the mountain of daily communication and identifying danger. Tuesday’s raids were a reminder of what they are doing and why.
In his home country, the prolific letterwriter fooled Auckland's New Zealand Herald, which published a letter from Andrew Prieditis of Kaitaia, urging Kiwis to eat less sugar and take more exercise, . Then down in Invercargill, the Southland Times ran an email from Andrew Prieditis of Hamilton urging them to "shake off the ghosts of the Rugby World Cup 2007."

He even proffered advice to New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key before Key was elected to that position. It's still there on the PM's video journal:
John: I've recently returned from living 6 years in the United States. It is there that my eyes were opened up to the principles of limited Government in action and lower taxes. I do hope that in the next election, the National party pushes taxes as a big issue as I think, with enough persuasion of the NZ public, it could be the single factor which pushes the party over the winning line.

Where does the mysterious scribbler really live? In the US or New Zealand? Perhaps the answer is on the website of his old school, Kamo High, near Whangarei, two hours' drive north of Auckland. He wrote:

I was a student at Kamo High School in 1995 and 1996, the latter being my 7th form year (I'm amazed at how fast time has gone since then!). I then went on to study applied mathematics at the University of Waikato, graduating with a BSc in 2000.

After that I headed for the United States, and I'm now living in the state of Maryland (near Washington D.C.), working for a real estate transaction company as a Technology Coordinator. I am now also married to a lovely American woman!

Another verbose writer, Oscar Brittle, invaded Sydney's four daily newspapers' letter pages with a hilarious series of posts that infuriated thousands of readers. You can read about him in OhmyNewsInternational: Australia's Funniest Ghost Writer.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

World's oldest dog missing, feared dead

The world's oldest dog, a 26-year-old white poodle called Taffy Gayle, is missing from her owners' home. Neighbors have joined in a search, but the little pooch is thought to have gone to Rainbow Bridge

"To our knowledge, Taffy Gayle is no longer alive. She wandered off their front porch and they haven't been able to find her," Jennifer Williams, senior reporter of The Daily Mountain Eagle, in Jasper, Alabama, told us today.

When Jennifer interviewed the dog's owners a few months ago, she wrote:
"Brenda and Barney Harvill of Curry don’t mind that their poodle, Taffy Gayle, is blind, deaf and missing most of her teeth.

"Taffy Gayle has been the couple’s baby since they could never have children of their own. 'We’ve been so partial to her. Never having any children, I just think it’s a blessing that God’s let us keep her this long,' Brenda Harvill said.

"Taffy Gayle was born Sept. 22, 1982... The puppy was given Brenda Harvill’s middle name, Gayle, when she was registered with the American Kennel Club.

"Harvill likes to buy infant clothing at the thrift store and play dress-up with her. The little dog’s wardrobe includes T-shirts, sweaters and a pink party dress.

"Taffy Gayle doesn’t have to live on a strict diet of dry dog food. She is fed Vienna sausages as a treat. She also eats any potted meat, stewed chicken and ground hamburger.

"On her birthday, Taffy Gayle gets her own little cupcake with a candle in it. She also wears her party dress that day to celebrate."

If Taffy Gayle is no longer alive, the World's Oldest Dog seems to be a terrier mix named Max, living in New Iberia,Louisiana, who celebrated his 26th birthday on August 9.

His local TV station 10-KLFY said "Max has been part of Janelle DeRouen's family [since] just a few weeks after his birth on August 9th, 1983. Janelle says Max is in remarkab;y good shape. He suffers from cataracts. so he wears doggie goggles when he's out in the sun, and a touch of arthritis has slowed him down, but not by much."

You can see a video of Max by clicking on

Max will have to live nearly four more years to be hailed as the oldest dog of all time. The 100th birthday of Bluey, a famous Australian cattle dog born on June 7, 1910, will be celebrated next year by people living in Rochester, a country town 130 miles (209 km) north of Melbourne.

Bluey worked among sheep and cattle for 20 years, and survived until Nov. 14, 1939, when he was put down. He had lived for 29 years, five months and seven days, on a diet of kangaroos and emus. He was the world's oldest dog, a record that has never been beaten.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Birthday Benison from Baron Tennyson

"I shall raise a quiet glass of wine to the memory of the poet on August 6," says David Tennyson, sixth Baron Tennyson and great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria's favorite poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, whose 200th birthday will be celebrated around the globe on Thursday.

David, who rarely uses his title, lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Three months ago, he visited Alfred's stamping ground, Lincolnshire, England, arriving the day after his own 49th birthday.

The UK daily literary web magazine Open Writing posted a story about the six Barons Tennyson on August 1.

While scouring the internet for that article, Open Writing's Australian correspondent asked David about the Tennyson Society. Here is his reply:

I have taken an active interest in the Tennyson Society, based in Lincoln
in England, over the last two years. They have initiated several
to mark the 200th anniversary of the poet's birth.

Over the weekend of 5th-7th June 2009 at Lincoln I attended a "Tennyson in Poetry & Music"
concert at St. Nicholas' Church
in Newport Lincoln.

I attended a special display at the Lincoln
museum (called "the Collection") on Tennyson's inspiration of the visual arts, and finally attended a bicentennial dinner where my cousin Rosalind was guest speaker.

Prior to that I attended the Tennyson Society "social weekend" in the Lake District in May. While there I opened a new
"poetry walk" featuring Tennyson at The Mirehouse.

This old English country house on the shores of Lake Bassenthwaite used to be the home of James Spedding, a great
friend and contemporary of the poet. The poet Tennyson
spent part of his honeymoon at Mirehouse.

Asked what he thought of his great-great-grandfather's poetry, David replied: "It's the best, of course! (alhough I would say that). Mind you, the nice thing about poetry is that in the end you don't have to choose. You are allowed to appreciate different contributors to the world of the arts without having to pick one winner."

Then he was asked whether he or his younger brother, author Alan Tennyson (the Heir Presumptive) had written any poetry. He replied:

Basically the answer to your question is no.... I do remember
studying 'The Lady of Shalott"
at school in what was then form 3...

Speaking for myself, I have always shied away from writing poetry and have taken a different path from the field of literature.

I was trained in mechanical engineering at Canterbury University. I now work for myself in a role I would best describe
as a 'Project Engineer.' This gives me the flexibility to take large
blocks of time off, like my five week trip to Europe earlier in

Living in Canterbury, I do try to get in touch with nature
ovr the weekends, whether that be strolling on the beaches, climbing over the hillsides or exploring the farming flatlands.

To some extent this gives me some appreciation of what the poet's early life must have been like. (Alfred grew up in a principal farming district of England) and I share
the poet's appreciation of the natural world.

Well over a century ago, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote this poem

To Alfred Tennyson, My Grandson

Golden-hair'd Ally whose name is one with mine,
Crazy with laughter and babble and earth's new wine,
Now that the flower of a year and a half is thine,
O little blossom , O mine, and mine of mine,
Glorious poet who never hast written a line,
Laugh, for the name at the head of my verse is thine.
May'st thou never be wrong'd by the name that is mine!

That poem might well have been addressed to his great-great-grandson.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Alfred (Lord) Tennyson, 200, loved mad little tits

And the N.Z. heir to his barony is a birdlover too

The famous British poet Alfred (Lord) Tennyson, whose 200th birthday will be celebrated worldwide on August 6, was a great birdlover. One of his lesser-known poems, called "Ay", names half a dozen bird species ranging from the cuckoo to "the mad little tits."

Ay! Be merry, all birds, to-day,

Be merry on earth as you never were merry before,

Be merry in heaven, O larks, and far away,

And merry for ever and ever, and one day more.

Why? For it's easy to find a rhyme.

Look, look, how he flits.

The fire-crown'd king of the wrens, from out of the pine !

Look how they tumble the blossom, the mad little tits !

'Cuck-oo! Cuck-oo!' was ever a May so fine?

Why? For it's easy to find a rhyme.

O merry the linnet and dove,

And swallow and sparrow and throstle, and have your desire!

O merry my heart, you have gotten the wings of love,

And flit like the king of the wrens with a crown of fire.

Why? For it's ay ay, ay ay.

This poem, and many others, can be found in a 1903 book, The Birds of Tennyson,
by Watkin Watkins, B.A. Cantab, of the Inner Temple, Barrister-at-law, Member of the British Ornithologists' Union.

He says "Tennyson exhibits a knowledge of birds and their ways which is considerably greater than that displayed by the majority of British Poets, and which entitles him to take a place in this respect by the side of Chaucer, Wordsworth and Shakespeare."

Queen Victoria liked Alfred's poems so much that she made him a hereditary baron, with a seat in The House of Lords.

He seems to have transmitted some of his genes to Alan Tennyson, the Heir Presumptive to his title, who is a distant relative (in lineage and geographically) living in New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. Alan is co-author of a book, Extinct Birds of New Zealand.

[Heir Presumptive is an archaic term for the person thought to be next in line for the barony.]

Alan was born in Wellington in 1965, and first worked for the Forest and Bird Protection Society. Then he moved to the Department of Conservation. Apart from watching birds (feathered variety) he's Curator of Fossil Vertebrates at New Zealand's national musem, Te Papa.

The book, "The Extinct Birds of New Zealand" by Alan Tennyson and Paul Martinson [Te Papa Press 2006] received a rave review from Rebecca Priestley in the New Zealand Listener
She wrote:

The story of the huia, a poster bird for extinct New Zealand species, has been well told. Last seen in 1907, the beautiful huia, with its black body and distinctive orange wattle, had been collected to death by 19th century dealers and ornithologists for display in museums and fashionable drawing-rooms -- and
for its white-tipped tail feathers, which made quite the jaunty hat decoration.

Icon maybe, but the huia has plenty of company -- 58 of our bird species, or 26 per cent -- have become extinct since humans arrived here in the 13th century. To celebrate those species, and to remind us of the continuing threat , Te Papa fossil vertebrates curator Alan Tennyson and wildlife artist Paul Martinson have together made a magnificent book, Extinct Birds of New Zealand....

The bulk of the book is made up of accounts of the 58 extinct species, including nine species of moa. Even th giant moa, the tallest bird ever known to have lived -- oustretched, its neck could reach up to three metres high -- was at the mercy of
Haast's eagle... The moa fell victim to human hunting around AD1400, and Haast's eagle soon followed, suffering from loss of prey.

As Heir Presumptive, Alan Tennyson is thought to be next in line for the Tennyson barony, now held by his older brother, David, the sixth Lord Tennyson.

David Tennyson , a modest man who lives quietly in Christchurch and apparently never uses his ancient title, celebrated his 49th birthday on June 4, 2009.

Asked whether either he or his brother writes poetry, Alan replied: "David is more involved in the Tennyson Society than I."

The sixth baron seems to be more interested in recreational cycling, as he is president of the Canterbury Recreational Cycling Club. Christchurch has thousands of cyclists, because the city stands on very flat ground. You can ride 100 miles (160km) over the Canterbury Plains without having to climb a single hill.

The six Barons Tennyson are a mixed bunch, several achieving fame in fields far removed from poetry. Alf's son, the second baron, Hallam Tennyson, became Australia's second Governor-General, and Hallam's son Lionel Hallam Tennyson captained England's cricket team in 1921, and became the third Baron seven years later.

Lionel's son, Harold Christopher Tennyson, (1919–1991) became the fourth Baron, and his youger son became the fifth Baron. When he died three years ago, "the line of the eldest son of the first Baron failed," and the title passed unexpectedly to David Tennyson, in faraway New Zealand.

Here's a list of the six Barons, and links to websites where you can read about them:

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (1809-1892),_1st_Baron_Tennyson
Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson (1852-1928),_2nd_Baron_Tennyson
Lionel Hallam Tennyson, 3rd Baron Tennyson (1889-1951)
Harold Christopher Tennyson, 4th Baron Tennyson (1919-1991)
Mark Aubrey Tennyson, 5th Baron Tennyson (1920-2006) (scroll down)
David Harold Alexander Tennyson, 6th Baron Tennyson (b. 1960),_6th_Baron_Tennyson

Alfred (Lord) Tennyson, as he is usually referred to these days, was reluctant to accept a baronetcy (far less important than a barony) when Britain's Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli offered one to him. Another PM, William Gladstone, finally talked him into accepting a peerage.

Wikipedia,_1st_Baron_Tennyson says the poet was "a passionate man with some peculiarites of nature, he was never particularly comfortable as a peer, and it is widely held that he took the peerage in order to secure a future for his son Hallam."

Still quoting Wikipedia:

Tennyson wrote a number of phrases that have become commonplaces of the English language, including:
Nature, red in tooth and claw
'Tis better to have
loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all
Theirs not to reason
why, / Theirs but to do and die
My strength is as the strength of ten /
Because my heart is pure
Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers
The old
order changeth, yielding place to new

He is the second most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare

Sir Edmund William Gosse (1849-1928), a famous British critic who remembered having met an aged Lord Tennyson when he (Gosse) was a small boy, wrote these words about the poet:

We still look to the earlier masters for supreme excellence in particular directions: to Wordsworth for sublime philosophy, to Coleridge for ethereal magic, to Byron for passion, to Shelley for lyric intensity, to Keats for richness.

Tennyson does not excel each of these in his own special
field, but he is often nearer to the particular man in his particular mastery than anyone else can be said to be, and he has in addition his own special field of supremacy.

What this is cannot be easily defined; it consists, perhaps, in the beauty of the atmosphere which Tennyson contrives to cast around his work, molding it in the blue mystery of twilight, in the opaline haze of sunset: this atmosphere, suffused over his poetry with inestimable skill and with a tact rarely at fault, produces an unfailing illusion or mirage of loveliness.
Further interesting details about the poet, written by Professor Glenn Everett, of America's Northeast Victorian Studies Association, can be found on the Victorian Web: