Saturday, November 30, 2019
I forgot to write my blog for today. Well, not exactly. Obviously I wrote one because here it is. The problem is that I didn't write it ahead of time as I usually do. I try to get my blog posted on Saturday mornings. Right now it's Saturday at 11:15AM Central time and I'm just starting to write without having anything firmly in my mind beyond a general concept.
How did this happen? That's a good question. And the answer is—Long Holiday Weekend. Instead of having extra time available due to a holiday, I have confusion due to the fact that today is the third Sunday this week and there's still one more Sunday to go before things return to normal (or as normal as things get for a writer).
Last Wednesday seemed like Saturday because it was preparation for the next day's Thanksgiving holiday—out-of-town relatives visiting, grocery shopping the day before Thanksgiving (talk about a major mistake I always swear will never happen again!), preparing my assigned dish to take to my brother's house for the large gathering and feast. Which, of course, made the next day seem like Sunday even though it was only Thursday. Then yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving and in reality only Friday, naturally seemed like Sunday. And since today isn't Monday, it must be Sunday…again. Are you noticing a pattern here? :)
And there's still tomorrow, the fourth Sunday this week—the real Sunday—before things finally return to normal on Monday.
If you are the one who had all the friends and family to your house for Thanksgiving turkey with all the traditional trimmings, you've probably been eating leftovers for two days and by now you don't want to see another turkey sandwich for a while.
I can't speak for anyone else, but recovering from a holiday weekend always feels to me as if I'm learning a set routine all over from scratch. After tomorrow's fourth Sunday in one week, I need to get my head into Monday again and get back to work. I really don't want to deal with a fifth consecutive Sunday in one week. :)
Saturday, November 23, 2019
We all know that the bald eagle is America's National Symbol…a proud and majestic bird. And turkey is what we serve every year at Thanksgiving dinner…a tasty bird made all the more appetizing when accompanied by dressing, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy.
But did you know that if Benjamin Franklin had gotten his way, the turkey would have been our national symbol?
In 1776, right after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress appointed a special committee to select a design for an official national seal. This committee consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. They each had their own ideas, none of which included the bald eagle. They finally came to agreement on a drawing of a woman holding a shield to represent the states. However, the design did nothing to inspire the members of Congress.
So Congress consulted a Philadelphia artist named William Barton who created a new design that included a golden eagle. At the time we were still at war with England and the fierce looking bird was deemed an appropriate symbol…with one small change. The golden eagle also flew over Europe so the federal lawmakers declared that the bird in the seal had to be an American bald eagle.
On June 20, 1782, they approved the design that we recognize today.
From the start, the eagle had been a controversial choice. Benjamin Franklin was quite vocal in his objection to the selection of the eagle. He considered it a bird of "bad moral character." A year after the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war with Great Britain, Franklin argued that the turkey would have been a more appropriate symbol. "A much more respected bird and a true native of America."
Unfortunately for Franklin, Congress was not convinced and the bald eagle remained our national symbol.
Whereas both the bald eagle and the turkey are native to America, we can't lay exclusive claim to either species since both traditionally ranged in Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S.
And all of this leads us to one important question. If the turkey had been chosen as our national symbol, what would we serve as our traditional Thanksgiving dinner? Somehow roast eagle just doesn't have the same appeal as the turkey.
Saturday, November 16, 2019
We all know the often told story of how the Pilgrims left England seeking religious freedom and finally settled in the New World, stepping off the Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock in what is now the state of Massachusetts. And how in 1621 they invited the local natives to share a feast with them in order to give thanks for a successful harvest and surviving their first year.
From those humble beginnings have come many facts and just as many myths about the Pilgrims and our Thanksgiving holiday.
Myth: The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and the Pilgrims celebrated it every year after that.
Fact: The first feast wasn't repeated, so it wasn't the beginning of a tradition. In fact, it wouldn't have been called Thanksgiving because to the Pilgrims a thanksgiving was a religious holiday when they would fast rather than feast. That feast in 1621 was a secular celebration and would not have been considered a thanksgiving in their minds.
Myth: The original Thanksgiving feast took place on the fourth Thursday of November.
Fact: The original feast in 1621 occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11 and was a three day celebration based on the English harvest festivals. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the official date for Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November, a decision fraught with controversy. The date was approved by Congress in 1941.
Myth: The Pilgrims wore only black and white clothing with buckles on their hats, garments, and shoes as shown in numerous paintings.
Fact: Buckles did not come into fashion until later in the 17th century. Black and white were commonly worn only on Sunday and formal occasions.
Here's a list of trivia that could be called Thanksgiving-by-the-numbers.
3,000—the number of calories eaten during an average Thanksgiving meal.
12,000,000—the number of whole turkeys Butterball sells for Thanksgiving.
2,000 - 3,000—the number of people used to guide the balloons during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
214—the average number of miles driven for the family get together at Thanksgiving.
1939—the date the Great Thanksgiving Day calendar controversy began (when FDR declared the fourth Thursday of November to be the official date of Thanksgiving).
40,000,000—the number of green bean casseroles made for Thanksgiving dinner.
72,000,000—the number of cans of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce sold for Thanksgiving dinner.
Saturday, November 9, 2019
A couple of years ago, I was watching Castle Secrets And Legends on the Travel Channel. One of the segments was about Cromer Hall in England, located approximately 140 miles northeast of London. The Cabell family have been owner and residents of Cromer Hall for the last 150 years.
A local legend told to a visiting Arthur Conan Doyle, along with the physical description of the actual Cromer Hall built in 1829, are said to have been Doyle's inspiration for The Hound Of The Baskervilles published in 1902. Being a Sherlock Holmes fan, I was pleased when they aired that episode again. I augmented the information the show provided with a little research of my own starting by locating Cromer on a map.
According to a legend told to Doyle—on August 5, 1577, a large black Hound of Hell materialized in a local church and brutally mauled two people to death. The hound glared at the other people in the church with red blazing eyes, then disappeared leaving only a scorched claw mark on the stone wall to confirm its presence. The mark remains to this day. The beast was called Black Shuk and blamed for all unexplained gruesome happenings that took place from that time on.
Another legend tells of Richard Cabell, a 17th century country squire. After seriously mistreating a village girl, he was chased by wild hounds until he died of a heart attack. Considered to have been an evil man and feared by the local villagers, they entombed his body in a small building by the church and placed a heavy stone slab on top of his grave so he couldn't escape.
The Cabell family has their own version of this legend. Richard Cabell believed his wife had been unfaithful. He chased her out into the night and viciously stabbed her to death. Her loyal dog retaliated by tearing him to pieces.
Doyle took the basics of the the three legends along with a detailed description of Cromer Hall, and transported it all to Dartmoor. And the name he gave to the family cursed with the presence of a Hound From Hell due to an ancestor's misdeeds? The coachman who drove Arthur Conan Doyle to Cromer Hall that fateful day for his visit was a man named…Henry Baskerville.
The huge popularity of the story continues today. Devotees of The Hound Of The Baskervilles often dress in period clothes, including the infamous deerstalker cap, and search Dartmoor for the origins of the story.
They do need to keep in mind that it's a fictional story, not a documentary.
Saturday, November 2, 2019
Good question. Just ask some of the Hollywood celebrities whose careers would probably never have gotten off the ground using the name they were born with.
Back in the days when the movie studios literally ruled the performer's lives with iron-fisted control—told the stars which movies they were allowed to make, who they could date, hushed up affairs, covered up pregnancies of unwed actresses, made drunk driving arrests go away and paid off victims, and in some instances it's even rumored that they covered up murder—they also controlled the star's name.
Nowadays it's a matter of individual choice whether or not a celebrity wants to select a name more suited to his/her career with some nearly unpronounceable names appearing on the marquee belonging to celebrities that chose to stay with their real name…something that never would have been allowed in the golden days of the studios.
Here are a few celebrities, some of them old school and others current, whose name change definitely helped their careers.
Fred Astaire, certainly one of the greatest dancers of the 20th century, but would he have been as successful as Frederick Austerlitz? And what about his partner from many of his films, Ginger Rogers? Would she have been as popular as Virginia Katherine McMath?
And then there's Mariska Hargitay's mother, Vera Jayne Palmer. She might not have been as successful without the name change to Jayne Mansfield. And Mariska's co-star on Law & Order—SVU, would Tracy Morrow be as interesting as Ice-T is, especially for someone who started his career as a rapper?
Would that famous Jack Benny stare have been as funny coming from Benjamin Kubelsky?
What about a movie marquee announcing Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. and Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff rather than Rock Hudson and Doris Day?
Would "Missed it by that much!" or "would you believe…" have been such great catch phrases if they had been uttered by Donald James Yarmy rather than Don Adams?
Would Wolfgang Puck have been as successful as a chef and restaurateur under the name of Wolfgang Johannes Topfschnig?
Would we be as mesmerized by the magical illusions of David Copperfield if they were being performed by David Seth Kotkin?
Would Whoopi Goldberg be as funny if she was working under her real name of Caryn Elaine Johnson?
Would they have been as successful if they hadn't changed their names to Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland?
And what about one of the most famous comedy teams in show business history, Crocetti and Levitch? You probably know them better as Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
What about Bernard Schwartz? Would he ever have been as popular if he hadn't changed his name to Tony Curtis?
Can you picture Tina Fey as Elizabeth Stamatina Fey?
Or Jamie Foxx as Eric Marlon Bishop?
Would Oscar winner Ben Kingsley's statuette be the same with the name Krishna Pandit Bhanji engraved on it?
Can you picture Elvis Costello as Declan Patrick MacManus?
There are so many more that I could have listed here, the famous who changed their name in pursuit of a career. Some from days of yore and others current. Do you have any particular favorite celebrities who have chosen to do the name change?