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Posts Tagged ‘Society’

May

By Sara Teasdale

Teasdale ST

Sarah Trevor Teasdale (1884-1933)

The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.

Beneath the apple blossoms
I go a wintry way,
For love that smiled in April
Is false to me in May.

———

Fog

By Carl Sandburg

Sandburg

Carl August Sandburg (1878-1967)

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

———

Winter Morning Poem

By Ogden Nash

Nash O

Frederic Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

Winter is the king of showmen,
Turning tree stumps into snow men
And houses into birthday cakes
And spreading sugar over lakes.
Smooth and clean and frosty white,
The world looks good enough to bite.
That’s the season to be young,
Catching snowflakes on your tongue!
Snow is snowy when it’s snowing.
I’m sorry it’s slushy when it’s going.


———

Legacies

By Nikki Giovanni

Giovanni-n

Yolande Cornelia Giovanni Jr. (B. 1943)

her grandmother called her from the playground
yes, ma’am”
i want chu to learn how to make rolls” said the old
woman proudly
but the little girl didn’t want
to learn how because she knew
even if she couldn’t say it that
that would mean when the old one died she would be less
dependent on her spirit so
she said
i don’t want to know how to make no rolls”
with her lips poked out
and the old woman wiped her hands on
her apron saying “lord
these children”
and neither of them ever
said what they meant
and i guess nobody ever does

———

Autumn

By T. E. Hulme

Hulme-te

Thomas Ernest Hulme (1883-1917)

A touch of cold in the Autumn night
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

 

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The Questions…

1. Who invented leotards?

2. In 1477, Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave his bride-to-be a unique gift that became all the rage among aristocrats. The tradition lives on today, even among common folk. What was it?

3. A desert is a region that gets 10 inches or less of precipitation per year. What is the world’s largest desert?

4. In 1888, Theophilus Van Kannel of Philadelphia invented and patented what became the revolving door. However, he envisioned it as something else. How did he describe it in his patent application?

5. What are ninja? More correctly, what were ninja?

The Answers…

1. French acrobat Jules Léotard (1838-1870), who also originated the flying trapeze routine. The one-piece leotard he wore was designed for agility — and to show off his physique to impress the ladies.

2. A diamond engagement ring.

3. The continent of Antarctica, which is classified as a polar desert. It covers 5.5 million square miles. The 2nd-largest desert is the Sahara in Africa, 3.5 million square miles.

4. As a storm door.

5. Ninja were covert agents who served Japanese territorial lords in feudal Japan. Trained to have a particular set of skills, they were sent on missions to scout, spy, sabotage, and assassinate. The samurai, the class of Japanese military officers, considered the ninja to be dishonorable. Ninjas live on today as covert government agents of the James Bond variety.

Leotard

Ninja

 

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The United States has become a place where entertainers and professional athletes are mistaken for people of importance.

— Robert A. Heinlein

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It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.

— George Carlin

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The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

— Mark Twain

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Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.

— Sholem Aleichem

Heinlein RA

Heinlein

Aleichem S

Aleichem (Solomon Rabinovich)

 

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The expression “May you live in interesting times” supposedly is an old Chinese curse. It’s considered a polite way of wishing someone ill, owing to the fact that interesting times usually involve strife and unpleasantness.

For America, “interesting times” accurately describes the entire decade of the 1960s. And in my case, it started with a bang.

In January 1961, when I was a freshman at the University of Georgia, a major brouhaha erupted in Athens when UGA was ordered by a federal judge to enroll its first black students. I wrote about that in some detail here.

A lesser brouhaha, one that barely made the national news, occurred in Athens not long after that. I’m referring to a series of protest marches to desegregate a popular local restaurant.

The restaurant was the Varsity, a beloved fast-food joint that had been an Athens institution since 1932. Owing to the time and place, it was open to whites only. A bit of background to set the stage.

In 1928, businessman Frank Gordy opened the original Varsity drive-in near the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta. The business was an immediate success. The day he opened, Gordy had 300 customers. By the end of the 1930s — a Depression economy, mind you — Gordy was a millionaire.

It’s the burgers, the chili dogs, and the fries, people. Varsity food is fast food, not health food by any stretch, but it tastes great. And, incredibly, it tastes exactly the same today as it did when I had my first meal there in 1960.

Varsity-1

In 1932, Gordy opened a Varsity in Athens. It was located downtown, across the street from the UGA campus.

Varsity-2

Varsity-3

It remained there until 1962, when a larger building with loads of parking was built on Atlanta Highway. That location is still in operation today.

Varsity-4

The closing of the beloved downtown Varsity was traumatic, and it took a while for Athenians to warm to the new location. But they did, and the Varsity has remained popular with students and townies through the years.

The desegregation of the University in 1961 prompted the black community to address the irksome fact that the Varsity did not allow black customers in the restaurant. Ironically, most of the employees were black.

In my student days, it never registered with me that the Varsity was white only. Yes, the place was a sea of white faces, but Athens was a college town in the 1960s, perpetually awash in white faces.

I was a liberal Democrat then as now, and I agreed that admitting black students to the University was the right thing to do. But in other ways, I was just an oblivious white kid.

Not until years later did I learn that the downtown Varsity only served African-Americans through a walk-up window on the sidewalk.

The new Varsity on Atlanta Highway didn’t even have a walk-up window.

In 1963, taking a cue from the successful lunch counter sit-ins in North Carolina, Athens civil rights activists began marching on the Varsity in protest. Sometimes the marches were peaceful, sometimes they weren’t.

Protesters regularly were arrested and hauled away, but the city usually released them immediately. Prisoners in jail have to be fed, clothed, and looked after. That costs money.

Reportedly, the largest and most contentious march happened in the spring of 1964. And, yes, I was there to see the fireworks.

At the time, I was a senior, set to graduate in June. Everyone knew about the protest marches, and we had heard talk that the Varsity management was weakening, fearing that the negative publicity would affect business. That would never do.

That spring evening, a friend said he heard that the KKK had arrived at the Varsity to protest the protesters. Immediately, we went to see for ourselves.

We arrived just after dark. The black marchers had gathered under the trees on the south side of the building. Between the protesters and the south entrance stood 15 or 20 Klansmen in white robes and pointy hats. Only a few wore hoods that covered their faces.

Earlier, heated words were exchanged and a few bricks were thrown, but the police had made no arrests. Everyone — protesters, Klansmen, cops, and onlookers — stood around more or less quietly, waiting for what came next. The mood was calm, but tense.

I guess it was tense enough to make me thirsty, because I excused my way through the line of Klansmen and went inside to get a drink from the water fountain. No problem, I’m white.

As I passed them, one Klansman pulled back his robe to reveal a holstered pistol on his hip, as if to say: look here, boy, I got me a gun.

I was genuinely embarrassed for the guy. Personally, I think being a Klansman identifies you as a mental midget and a detriment to society. Being a Klansman who flaunts a weapon to a passing teenager further identifies you as an obnoxious jerk.

Somehow, the situation that night remained calm. The protesters occasionally chanted, and the KKK guys watched in silence. Then the protesters walked in single file back to a nearby church, where the march began. Then the Klansmen left, then the police, then the onlookers. The Varsity was back to normal.

A month or so later, I graduated from UGA and left Athens to begin a new adventure in the Air Force in exotic New Mexico. The Athens Varsity was rarely in my thoughts.

But, indeed, not long after I departed, the restaurant saw the error of its ways and opened its doors to all paying customers, regardless of skin tone.

Nowadays, when I stop there for a chili dog fix, I observe that most of the employees are either black or Hispanic, and of the customers, a few black faces might be peppered among the white.

But in truth, the Varsity never became a big thing for black people in Athens. Maybe they don’t like the food.

No matter. What counts is they have the choice.

Varsity-5

Varsity-6

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NAMIB DESERT, AFRICA — A Namibian-German artist has installed a sound system in the Namib, the world’s oldest desert, that will play the 1982 soft rock classic Africa by the band Toto in a perpetual loop “for all eternity.”

The installation by artist Max Siedentopf consists of six speakers attached to an MP3 player powered by solar batteries. Mr. Siedentopf said he wanted to pay tribute to “probably the most popular song in the last four decades.”

Africa has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years and was one of the most-streamed songs of 2017.

Toto-Africa

BOSCAWEN, NEW HAMPSHIRE — When police responded to reports of a shooting at a local residence, a man at the house was arrested for biting a police dog.

When police arrived at the scene, they encountered two men who they found were wanted on outstanding warrants. The men attempted to flee. In the ensuing scuffle, one of the men bit a police dog, K9 Veda. Veda bit him back.

The unidentified man was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police dog.

One of the arresting officers observed that getting into a biting contest with a police dog is ill-advised.

Veda

WESLEY CHAPEL, FLORIDA — Last fall, local resident Don Swartz modified his Smart mini-car into a replica of Fred Flintstone’s “footmobile.”

Swartz then dressed up as Fred Flintstone and arranged to have the local police cite him for speeding as he drove around town.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office obliged. An officer stopped Swartz, gave him a faux citation, and took photos that were posted on the department’s Facebook page. “Yabba Daaba Doo!” the post concluded.

Swartz did not offer a rationale for the elaborate stunt.

Flintstone

 

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

In 1981, Johnny Cash was walking around the exotic animal refuge he maintained at his estate in Tennessee when he was attacked by an ostrich. The normally docile ostrich had recently lost its mate.

Cash fought off the animal with a stick, but suffered five broken ribs and a gaping stomach wound. The painkillers he took as a result led to a two-year relapse into alcohol and amphetamine addiction.

Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of having peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth.

Henry I, son of William the Conqueror, was King of England from 1100 until his death in 1135. Henry had numerous illegitimate children, but only one legitimate son and heir, William. When William drowned at sea in 1120, Henry took a new wife, hoping to have another son.

When that failed, he declared his daughter Matilda to be his heir. That failed, too, when Henry’s nephew Stephen seized the throne. Stephen spent most of his reign (1135-1147) in a civil war with the supporters of Matilda.

The 1983 movie Return of the Jedi was supposed to be called Revenge of the Jedi. George Lucas even released a movie trailer promoting the Revenge title. For whatever reason, he switched to Return at the last minute and saved Revenge for Revenge of the Sith.

Revenge

The first Nobel Peace Prizes were awarded in 1901. The two recipients were Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, and Frédéric Passy, a French economist.

The 1968 film “Krakatoa: East of Java” takes place in the East Indies in 1883, when a volcano on the island of Krakatoa erupted and erased the island. Nit-picking critics pointed out that Krakatoa actually was west of Java.

In his youth, future country singer Conway Twitty (1933-1993) was a talented baseball player. The Philadelphia Phillies tried to sign him, but the Army drafted him first. After his discharge in the 1950s, Twitty became an Elvis-style rock-and-roll singer. In the 1960s, he transitioned to his first love, country music.

Twitty’s real name was Harold Lloyd Jenkins. He took his stage name from the towns of Conway, Arkansas, and Twitty, Texas, which he picked from a road map.

Art critics sometimes weave tapestries of cryptic blather, as when, in 1931, someone described The Persistence of Memory, the surrealist painting by Salvador Dalí, as “an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time” inspired by Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

When Dalí was asked about that, he said no, he was inspired by seeing a Camembert cheese melting in the sun.

Persistence

Thomas Jefferson is said to have invented many things, including the swivel chair, the metal plow, the dumbwaiter, a machine to extrude pasta, and a hideaway bed that was hoisted to the ceiling during the day.

In truth, he made improvements to the swivel chair, the plow, and the dumbwaiter, and he brought back a pasta-extruding machine from Europe, but the hideaway bed story is bogus. No bed at Monticello had a hoisting mechanism.

Jefferson did, however, invent the revolving book stand. It was a turntable that could hold five books that swiveled to face the reader.

A cat named Stubbs served as Honorary Mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, from 1997 until his death in 2017. Stubbs was so named because he had no tail. He was “honorary” mayor because Talkeetna is a historic district, not a town, and thus has no elected mayor.

The first charge card was issued in 1950 by the Diner’s Club in New York City. It listed 27 participating restaurants and 200 cardholders. By the mid-1960s, Diners Club had 1.3 million users.

By then, Visa, MasterCard, and a host of other credit cards had arisen because the concept proved to be so lucrative. Well, duh. Why else would they be in the business?

The National Basketball Association adopted its iconic logo of a running player in 1969. According to the New York branding consultant who designed it, he got the idea from a photo of superstar Jerry West, which the designer said captured the pace and spirit of basketball.

NBA logo

 

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Bob Dylan said he wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in ten minutes. “Just put words to an old spiritual, probably something I learned from Carter Family records. That’s the folk tradition. You use what’s been handed down.”

I read somewhere that “Blowin’ in the Wind” succeeds because it’s ambiguous enough to have meaning for everyone. Fair enough, but the song has plenty more going for it.

It had the chops to became an anthem of the anti-war movement, to be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and to place no. 14 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The “old spiritual” to which Dylan put words is “No More Auction Block,” a marching song of black soldiers during the Civil War, origin unknown. Dylan performed that, too.

Dylan also said this about “Blowin’ in the Wind”:

“It’s critical and it’s hard, this litany of questions about what’s wrong with the world. If one had to choose one subject to label the song, it would be a song asking ‘why.’ In other words, it asks why we have the issues we do in our world. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Dylan B

Blowin’ In The Wind

By Bob Dylan, 1963
Written by Bob Dylan

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, and how many years can a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
Yes, and how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

 

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