Saturday, January 21, 2017

Did Butch Cassidy Survive?

We've seen the Paul Newman-Robert Redford movie, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, where they supposedly die in a shoot out with the Bolivian army in 1908.  At the end of the movie, they rush out of the building with guns blazing and are surrounded by soldiers unleashing a barrage of bullets.  The scene freezes with them still on their feet and the closing credits roll across the screen.  We never actually see them die, but it's implied in the same way that the real life story of Butch Cassidy alludes to him having died in South America.

But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, perhaps the story of his death was greatly exaggerated.

For decades rumors have persisted that Butch survived the shoot out, returned to the United States, and lived in quiet anonymity for nearly thirty years under an assumed name in Washington state.

And swirling at the center of the controversy is a 200 page manuscript titled Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy written in 1934 by William T. Phillips, a machinist who died in Spokane, Washington, in 1937.  A Utah book collector and a Montana author believe that the manuscript is not a biography of the famous outlaw, but actually an autobiography and that Phillips was really Butch Cassidy.  They insist the manuscript contains details that only the real Butch Cassidy could have known.

As with all speculative versions of history, there are always detractors to the theory, historians who claim the manuscript is not an accurate portrayal of Cassidy's life…or at least his life that is known.

Everyone pretty much agrees that Butch Cassidy was born Robert LeRoy Parker in 1866 in Beaver, Utah.  He was the oldest of 13 children in a Mormon family and robbed his first bank in 1889 in Telluride, Colorado.  He served a year and a half in the Wyoming Territorial Prison in Laramie followed by most of the next 20 years spent robbing banks and trains with his Wild Bunch gang.

A Cassidy historian disagrees with the speculative conclusions about the nature of the Bandit Invincible manuscript.  He suggests that the reason Phillips knew so many details about Butch that others wouldn't have known was because the two men actually knew each other rather than Phillips having actually been the real Butch Cassidy.

In 1991 a grave was dug up in San Vicente, Bolivia, reputed to contain the remains of Butch and Sundance.  DNA testing revealed that the bones did not belong to the two outlaws.  However, the Cassidy historian still insists his research confirms that Butch and Sundance died in that 1908 shoot out in Bolivia.

There are stories about the Sundance Kid living long after his time in South America, but they are outnumbered by the many alleged Butch Cassidy sightings.  A brother and sister of Butch's insisted that he stopped in for a visit at the family ranch in Utah in 1925.  Phillips' adopted son believed that his stepfather was the real Butch Cassidy.  Since Phillips was cremated following his death in 1937, there's little possibility of being able to obtain any type of a DNA match.

So the mystery continues…

Saturday, January 14, 2017

First Winter Storm Of The Season

I know other parts of the country have already been inundated by the fun elements of winter weather—the northeast, and midwest have already had snow and blizzard conditions.  Even the deep south has had some nasty northern style winter weather. And just this last week California has been pounded by days of torrential rain causing extensive damage.

All-in-all, it's starting out to be a very wintery type winter. So far, my little area of the country has had freezing temperatures, a little flurry of snow, but nothing of consequence.

Until now.

We have a major ice storm moving in on us…due today (Saturday, Jan 14). Predictions are for up to 2" of ice (no snow, just ice) which translates to major problems for more than just the motorists who need to be on the roads.  Downed tree limbs causing damage to whatever is beneath them such as cars, houses, and power lines.  Downed power lines causing wide spread and prolonged loss of electricity. And, of course, the cold that goes along with it.

Ice is so deceptive.  With snow, you look out the window and can see how much of it surrounds your house.  You can shovel it to make a path and clear the driveway.  But with ice, you look out the window and you don't see just how much of it there is.  And ice is a little difficult to shovel. :)

News story on television last night said no generators for sale available in town and at this point definitely too late to order one when you need it today. Grocery store shelves have been raided. Lots of cars at the gas station making sure the tank is full and locating that cable to charge the cell phone from the car (after disconnecting the automatic garage door opener so you can manually open the garage before running the car engine which means you need to stay with the car…but you can turn on the car heater).

For those of us who do not have back up generators, it's a matter of making sure you have an adequate supply of various size batteries on hand for flashlights, lanterns and radios and for that matter a battery operated radio with emergency weather capabilities.  Start out with fully charged phone, laptop computer, tablet and e-reader. And if you have an all electric kitchen (like I do) make sure you have a manual can opener and food that can be eaten cold (oh no…can't even boil water for instant coffee!! although my water heater is gas so I'll have hot water).  Warm clothes and blankets (no electric blankets and no furnace since the thermostat requires electricity even though the furnace is natural gas). A wood burning fireplace would sure be great but I think I'm too late to build one or buy a wood burning stove!

We had a huge ice storm about 10 years ago…my power was out for several days.  Not a fun time!!

I have a place I can go if I lose power, a friend who has offered me the guest bedroom and they have gas kitchen and wood burning fireplace but at that point in time it's a matter of weighing cold and inconvenience against actually driving on streets of solid ice.

Of course, this too shall pass.  But in the meantime…

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Weird And Bizarre January Holidays

Every month has its share of weird, bizarre and unusual holidays. January is no exception.  Those are the only holidays I'll be sharing with you.  After all, everyone knows the legal holidays…they're the ones with no mail delivery and the banks are closed.  :)

January has its month long celebrations, some serious and others more toward the frivolous: National Bath Safety Month, National Blood Donor Month, National Braille Literacy Month, National Hobby Month, National Oatmeal Month, National Soup Month, and Hot Tea Month.  And in addition to the month long celebrations, the second week of January is designated as Letter Writing Week.

Jan. 2:        Run Up The Flagpole And See If Anyone Salutes Day

Jan. 3:        Festival Of Sleep Day
Jan. 3:        Fruitcake Toss Day
This the day you can finally get rid of all that old fruitcake leftover from the holidays.  Rather than simply tossing them in the trash, invite some friends over and go out to an empty lot to make a game of it.  Who can toss it the farthest?  Or for a less strenuous method, re-gift it next year.
Jan. 3:        Humiliation Day

Jan. 4:        Trivia Day
This is a fun day, a chance for us to share those little nuggets of knowledge with our friends and family.

Jan. 5:        National Bird Day

Jan. 6:        Bean Day
Jan. 6:        Cuddle Up Day
This day provides the opportunity to snuggle up to someone on a cold winter's day…or night.  This holiday is enjoyed by both young and old.

Jan. 7:        Old Rock Day

Jan. 8:        Bubble Bath Day
Jan. 8:        Male Watcher's Day
Here's a day for the ladies, we can officially, openly, and blatantly watch the guys.  The guys are always watching us, so now it's our turn to hoot and holler.

Jan. 10:      Houseplant Appreciation Day
Jan. 10:      Peculiar People Day
This day honors uniquely different people—un-ordinary, extraordinary, unusual, strange, odd, uncommon, intriguing, different, abnormal, and quirky.  Today is the day to look for the good in your peculiar acquaintances.

Jan. 11:      Step In A Puddle And Splash Your Friends' Day

Jan. 12:      Feast Of Fabulous Wild Men Day
Apparently this day suggests you feast your eyes on some fabulous wild men.  Perhaps check out the top 10 sexiest men?  A list should be readily available on the internet.
Jan. 12:      National Pharmacist Day

Jan. 13:      International Skeptics Day
Jan. 13:      Make Your Dream Come True Day

Jan. 14:      Dress Up Your Pet Day

Jan. 15:      National Hat Day

Jan. 16:      National Nothing Day
This is a day for…well…a day for nothing!  It's an un-event.

Jan. 17:      Ditch New Year's Resolutions Day
Since there's a day to celebrate the New Year and make resolutions for the upcoming year, then there should be a day to discard those resolutions.  If you haven't already broken those resolutions you're doing better than most of us.

Jan. 18:      Thesaurus Day

Jan. 19:      National Popcorn Day

Jan. 20:      National Buttercrunch Day
Jan. 20:      Penguin Awareness Day
Although this is celebrated on January 20, World Penguin Day is always on April 25th.  This is a great opportunity to learn about and appreciate one of the few natives of Antarctica.  It's also a day to wear black and white…penguin colors.

Jan. 21:      National Hugging Day
Jan. 21:      Squirrel Appreciation Day

Jan. 22:      National Blonde Brownie Day

Jan. 23:      National Pie Day
Jan. 23:      National Handwriting Day
Jan. 23:      Measure Your Feet Day

Jan. 24:      Beer Can Appreciation Day
Perhaps it's what's inside the beer can that is being appreciated?  This day actually celebrates the day in 1935 when beer was first sold in cans.  There's a collector's market for old beer cans.  Check out collector's catalogues and eBay before throwing away an unusual or old beer can.
Jan. 24:      Compliment Day

Jan. 25:      Opposite Day

Jan. 26:      Spouse's Day

Jan. 27:      Chocolate Cake Day
Jan. 27:      Punch The Clock Day

Jan. 28:      Fun At Work Day
Jan. 28:      National Kazoo Day
The first kazoo was made in 1840 in Macon, Georgia, but commercial production didn't happening until 1912.  The kazoo is easy to play.  All you do is hum a tune into the kazoo.

Jan. 29:      National Puzzle Day
Jan. 29:      National Cornchip Day

Jan. 30:      National Inane Answering Message Day

Jan. 31:      Backward Day
This is a day to do everything backwards.  It's especially popular with school aged kids.

Wishing you a terrific 2017

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Resolutions You'll Be Able To Keep…and other miscellaneous end of year stuff

New Year's resolutions have basically become an annual joke.  Every first of January we make resolutions for the upcoming year and if we're lucky, they remain valid for the rest of the month.

So, this year how about making some resolutions you'll actually be able to keep during 2016?  Here's a list of several such resolutions.  I hope you accept these suggestions in the spirit of humor in which they are offered.  If I've offended anyone, I apologize in advance.

1.  Gain Weight.  Let's face it, you already have a start on this one with all the holiday meals, candy, beverages, and snacks.

2.  Go Deeper Into Debt.  You probably have a head start on this one, too, from holiday gift shopping.  After all, even buying new things for yourself…well, it was probably stuff you needed and with all the great sales this year who could resist?

3.  Spend More Money.  This goes hand-in-hand with the second item on the list.  Spend it now while you're still physically able to get out to do it.

4.  Don't Get A Better Job.  Since having any job is better than not having one, be happy with status quo.

5.  Whatever Shape You're In Is Fine.  Seriously…round is a perfectly acceptable shape.

6.  Don't Go Back To School.  Look at your current life and time schedule.  Now add a part time college schedule to that plus the cost of tuition (probably the same amount as that new curved 80-inch 3D HDTV home theater with Dolby Surround Sound you bought in item two on the list) and the cost of expensive college textbooks.  Hmmm…a fine bottle of rare vintage wine or a bottle of aged single malt scotch vs. Concepts of Economics Vol. 1.

7.  Drink More Alcohol.  Open that fine bottle of wine or scotch and watch your new 80-inch TV.

8.  Smoke Like A Chimney.  When someone chastises you for putting second hand smoke out there, ask them if they've traded in their gas-guzzling car for a bicycle.

9.  Stay At Home for your vacation.  If, however, you prefer to find toilet paper that's hard enough to scrape paint, really weird television, and even weirder food…then travel out of the country.

And last but not least…

10.  Don't Volunteer!

And now for something completely different (with apologies to Monty Python for stealing…uh, I mean borrowing…their catch phrase).

As a follow up to Christmas, a few words about that much maligned holiday treat, the butt of so many jokes, that humble yet seemingly inedible concoction—fruitcake.
Food historians theorize that fruitcake (any cake in which dried fruits and nuts try to coexist with cake batter) is older than Moses.  Ancient Egyptians entombed fruitcake and Romans carried it into battle, probably for the same reason.  Fruitcake was built to last and it did, well into medieval times.

It was in the 18th century that fruitcake achieved totemic status.  At that time nut-harvesting farmers encased fruits and nuts in a cakelike substance to save for the next harvest as a sort of good luck charm.

And thus the problem.  Any cake that is not meant to be eaten doesn't deserve to be classified as food.

Our love/hate relationship with fruitcake began in the early 20th century when the first mail-order fruitcakes became fashionable gifts.  It ended up as a mass-produced product using barely recognizable fruits and packed into cans as heavy as barbell weights.

And another something different…

While celebrating the arrival of the New Year, there's one thing you should keep in mind—the darker the liquor, the bigger the hangover.  According to a new study that compares the after effects of drinking bourbon vs. vodka, what sounds like an old wives' tale is true…to a point.

Brownish colored spirits such as whiskey and rum contain greater amounts of congeners than clear liquors such as vodka and gin.  And what are congeners, you might ask?  They are substances that occur naturally or are added to alcohol during the production and aging process, many of which are toxic.  They contribute to the alcohol's color, odor, and taste.  They also interfere with cell function, and I'm NOT talking about your mobile phone. :)  And they viciously punish your head and tummy the next morning.  According to the study, bourbon is aged in oak barrels and has thirty-seven times as many congeners as vodka, which is heavily filtered to remove impurities.

Drinking in the study was relatively moderate compared to some New Year's Eve binges.  The average blood-alcohol content of the survey participants was 0.1 percent, somewhere between 0.09 ("mildly intoxicated" and considered legally over the limit in most states), and 0.15 ("visibly drunk" and definitely on your way to jail if you're driving a vehicle).  The study's findings may not translate to your holiday party.

The bottom line, however, is that congeners are not the primary culprit in the dreaded hangover.  The credit goes to the alcohol itself

Wishing everyone a happy AND SAFE New Year's Eve and a marvelous New Year.  May 2017 bring you happiness and health.

And Peace On Earth for everyone.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

'Twas The Night Before Christmas…

Although many believe this to be the title of the popular Christmas poem, the actual title is An Account Of A Visit From St. Nicholas.  The long poem, written by Clement Moore in 1822 as a present for his three daughters, has become a Christmas staple.  Moore, an Episcopal minister, was initially hesitant about publishing his poem due to its frivolous content.

The poem, first published anonymously in the Troy, New York, Sentinel on December 23, 1823, had been submitted by a friend of Moore's.  It was first attributed to Moore in 1837 and finally publically acknowledged by Moore himself in 1844.

Four handwritten copies of the poem are known to exist, three in museums and the fourth (written and signed by Clement Clarke Moore as a gift to a friend in 1860) was sold by one private collector to another in December 2006 for a reported $280,000.

Moore's poem is largely responsible for today's image of Santa Claus as a "right jolly old elf" who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer.  A rotund fellow who entered via the chimney and left toys for good boys and girls.
In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast used Moore's poem as the basis to create a likeness of Santa Claus that matches today's image.  The cartoon, which appeared in Harper's Weekly, depicted Santa with a full white beard, a red suit trimmed in white fur, and a large bag filled with toys.  He also gave Santa his North Pole workshop, elves, and Mrs. Claus.

Over the years, there has been some controversy about the authorship of the poem.  There are those who contend that Henry Livingston, Jr., was the true author.  Livingston was distantly related to Moore's wife.  But the general consensus continues to be that Clement Clarke Moore is the true author.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Legend of St. Nicholas

Who is that man in red? The man who, every Christmas Eve, brazenly breaks into people's homes, helps himself to cookies and milk, and leaves things behind resulting in a mess of wrapping paper and ribbon for others to clean up the next morning. Reindeer and a heavily laden sleigh can't be good for the roof. Soot from a chimney tracked all over the floor…something else left behind for others to clean.

Yet every year we anxiously anticipate his arrival, track his progress through the skies, and welcome him into our homes.

Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father when he provided them with a dowry so they could be married. Over the course of many years, Nicholas' popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland.

Sinter Klaas Comes to New York
St. Nicholas made his first inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death.

The name Santa Claus evolved from his Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society's annual meeting. The background of the engraving contains now-familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York. As his prominence grew, Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a rascal with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a "huge pair of Flemish trunk hose."

Shopping Mall Santas
Gift-giving, mainly centered around children, has been an important part of the Christmas celebration since the holiday's rejuvenation in the early 19th century. Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, and by the 1840s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus. In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model. It was only a matter of time before stores began to attract children, and their parents, with the lure of a peek at a live Santa Claus. In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army needed money to pay for the free Christmas meals they provided to needy families. They began dressing up unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them into the streets of New York to solicit donations. Those familiar Salvation Army Santas have been ringing bells on the street corners of American cities ever since.

A Santa by Any Other Name
18th-century America's Santa Claus was not the only St. Nicholas-inspired gift-giver to make an appearance at Christmastime. Similar figures were popular all over the world. Christkind or Kris Kringle was believed to deliver presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. Meaning Christ child, Christkind is an angel-like figure often accompanied by St. Nicholas on his holiday missions. In Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten was thought to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. British legend explains that Father Christmas visits each home on Christmas Eve to fill children's stockings with holiday treats. Pere Noel is responsible for filling the shoes of French children. In Russia, it is believed that an elderly woman named Babouschka purposely gave the wise men wrong directions to Bethlehem so that they couldn't find Jesus. Later, she felt remorseful, but could not find the men to undo the damage. To this day, on January 5, Babouschka visits Russian children leaving gifts at their bedsides in the hope that one of them is the baby Jesus and she will be forgiven. In Italy, a similar story exists about a woman called La Befana, a kindly witch who rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into the stockings of lucky children.

The Ninth Reindeer
Rudolph, "the most famous reindeer of all," was born over a hundred years after his eight flying counterparts. The red-nosed wonder was the creation of Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store.

In 1939, May wrote a Christmas-themed story-poem to help bring holiday traffic into his store. Using a similar rhyme pattern to Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, May told the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his large, glowing, red nose. But, when Christmas Eve turned foggy and Santa worried that he wouldn't be able to deliver gifts that night, the former outcast saved Christmas by leading the sleigh with the light of his red nose. Rudolph's message—that given the opportunity, a liability can be turned into an asset—proved popular. Montgomery Ward sold almost two and a half million copies of the story in 1939. When it was reissued in 1946, the book sold over three and half million copies. Several years later, one of May's friends, Johnny Marks, wrote a short song based on Rudolph's story (1949). It was recorded by Gene Autry and sold over two million copies. Since then, the story has been translated into 25 languages and been made into a television movie, narrated by Burl Ives, which has charmed audiences since 1964.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season 
PEACE ON EARTH.