Rushville Republican

Columns

September 10, 2012

Stuart: Me, Corny, and his grandson's bung hole

RUSHVILLE — Last week's column made mention of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the super-rich tycoon of the 19th century, and yesterday I happened upon a new development in my little world that gives me pause to wonder if his shade isn't haunting me just a little bit.

It has to do with my computer. I don't know if the right terminology is "wallpaper" or "desktop," but whatever that background that shows up on a computer when it boots up is called, mine has changed in a way that connects me to Corny. (I wonder if anyone ever called him "Corny"?)

My walltop/deskpaper used to be this image of the vastness of space, sort of like the cover of the book "Cosmos," the biography of the "Seinfeld" character "Kramer."

Ha! Gotcha! Just checking to see if you're awake Ñ "Cosmos" was actually written by the late Carl Sagan, the super-smart physicist guy of the 20th century. And beyond, actually, at least to the extent that one can still readily partake of his wisdom Ñ and in musical form, no less.

I'm talking about MP3s audios and YouTube videos made by a guy named John Boswell. He takes sound bites Ñ most of them pretty profound Ñ from lots of different profound-sounding guys like Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye the Science Guy, and he then "auto-tunes" them Ñ which is a way of taking the words these guys spoke and making them tuneful and rhythmic, in a sort of new-age-y, space-y kind of way. Before long, voila!, you have a "song."

Boswell calls these works part of "The Symphony of Science" project, and since his first song Ñ featuring Sagan Ñ was completed in 2009, he's created billions and billions more.

Just kidding Ñ "billions and billions" is something Sagan said a lot and it's just really fun to say in a voice that mimics Sagan's. Actually, Boswell has made some fifteen "Symphony of Science" works. All of which can be downloaded for free! Which is not likely to make John Boswell ANYWHERE near as rich as Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Anyway. . .

My cosmic deskwall/papertop has been usurped, dismissed and otherwise made to disappear. The perpetrator clearly seems to be No. 5 son (age 11) whose mug is now prominently featured in that space.

He's wearing a gi-normous "I'm in the middle of a big laugh" look as he stands in front of a diagram illustrating the parts of a wine barrel or cask. His thumb is pointing directly at one of the most vital parts of this apparatus Ñ the bung hole.

I know that sounds kind of juvenile, but in his defense, he was still only 10 years old when the picture was taken.

Of course, if he's going to react this way in the future to any references to "bung hole," I am DEFINITELY not taking him with me the next time I'm wandering along High Holborn Street in London, where we might happen upon Hand Court, and the entrance to a restaurant called The Bung Hole.

So this wine cask diagram was on the wall of a winery located on the grounds of the famous Biltmore House, just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. And while you may already know this, I Ñ following the age-old rule that governs column writing: "Always explain everything, especially when you're getting paid by the word" Ñ will explain that The Biltmore was biltÑmake that, builtÑby George Washington Vanderbilt II, a grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

We visited the place with my wife's sister and her husband, and after a long day of walking through the house, which is roughly as big as Delaware, the grown-ups wanted to check out the winery and taste a few of the Biltmore Wine vintages. So No. 5 son and I had to find something else to do, not being counted among the grown-ups. Ergo, we found this funny picture opportunity.

I took some other pretty funny shots at Biltmore as well, mostly of the gargoyles that festoon the mansion. Of course, I'm glad those didn't wind up as my computer's desktop, because most of them look like some of No. 5's friends, and they might get a little offended, especially by seeing him in the foreground pointing at them with his thumb and wearing a gi-normous "That's as funny as a bung hole" look.

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