Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Society’

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

Rhode Island, the smallest of the states, has the longest official name: “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”

King Francis I of France (reigned 1515-1547), aka “Francis of the Large Nose,” was a major patron of the arts. He attracted many Italian artists to France, including Leonardo da Vinci. Francis acquired the Mona Lisa from Leonardo and hung it in his bathroom.

British filmmaker Duncan Jones (full name Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones), noted for making the sci-fi movie Moon and the fantasy film Warcraft, is the son of the late David Bowie (real name David Robert Jones).

Adermatoglyphia is a condition in which a person is born without fingerprints; the pads are flat, lacking the usual ridges and whorls. The rare condition is caused by a gene mutation and has occurred in only four known families around the world.

adermatoglyphia

Niagara Falls was formed about 10,000 years ago, and in that time, it has eroded seven miles back upstream. At that rate, the falls will disappear into Lake Erie in 22,000 years.

In 2008, the mayor of the Kurdish city of Batman, Turkey, threatened to sue Warner Bros. because it used the city’s name without permission in the film The Dark Knight. The mayor wanted a percentage of the film’s profits, almost $1 billion worldwide. The mayor never filed the suit.

The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World. Among the new products introduced at the fair: Juicy Fruit chewing gum, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Vienna Sausage, Cream of Wheat, Quaker Oats, Shredded Wheat, and Aunt Jemima pancake mix.

The Nakisumo festival in Japan is a 400-year-old ceremony in which sumo wrestlers compete to make babies cry. Scaring babies is considered a positive thing, based on the Japanese proverb “crying babies grow fastest.”

Nakisumo

If a person at the seashore looks out to sea, and eye level is six feet above the sand, the horizon will be three miles away.

New York City’s “sidewalk sheds” are temporary structures that protect pedestrians from falling debris and construction accidents. They date back to 1979, when a college coed was killed by falling masonry. On any given day, about 190 miles of sidewalk sheds are in place around NYC.

The stock symbol of Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc. is LVB, in honor of Ludwig van Beethoven.

The Venus Flytrap, Dionaea muscipula, is a carnivorous plant with a specialized two-part leaf structure that snaps shut when triggered by a passing insect or spider. The trap includes gaps around the edges so prey too small to be worth digesting can escape. The plant is found only in the coastal wetlands of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Venus Flytrap

 

Read Full Post »

Friends, I am truly jaded when it comes to fads.

To be clear, I’m referring to fads, not trends. Beanie Babies and pet rocks were fads; electric cars and ebooks are trends.

These days, when I learn of a new craze or obsession — the latest sensation in attire, style, or whatever — my reaction is either a chuckle, a sigh, or an eye roll.

The only reason something clicks and is deemed cool and exciting is that, for a brief time, people have a chance to feel cool and enjoy the excitement, right? We all know the novelty will wear off and the mania will fizzle.

Consider the many fads that came and went in recent times. Bellbottoms, drive-in theaters, fallout shelters, ant farms, tie-dyed clothing.

Zoot suits, leg warmers, eight-track tapes, Rubik’s cubes. Members Only jackets. Break dancing, yo-yos, hula hoops.

The Twist. The Macarena. Bermuda shorts. Mom jeans. Overalls with one strap dangling.

Nothing wrong with a shared enthusiasm, mind you. But, wow, fads sure do lean toward the dopey and pointless.

What, you ask, brings me to opine that embracing the next new thing is dopey and pointless? Simple. I was thinking about myself back in the day, when I was young and foolish, too.

Back in high school, I was — you can trust me on this — a hip and savvy dude. I knew what was happenin’, and I put much energy into following the fads du jour.

Note, for example, how I rocked the epitome of cool in those days, a flattop haircut. Not to mention this stylish tweed blazer.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), about 1959.

Before long, I advanced to a glorified flattop — AKA a Detroit, AKA a “flattop with fenders.” That baby was flat on top and long on the sides, tapering to a handsome ducktail in the back.

Fad-2

When I went away to college in the early 1960s, the times were a’changin’. Flattops were becoming passé on campus, so I heeded the call to go preppy. It was sort of the astronaut or folk singer look.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), freshman year in college, 1960-61.

By the time I graduated from college, the hippies were in ascendance. Long hair was the new thing for men.

But not for me. Alas, I went immediately from college into the Air Force, which tolerated no longhairs. I was obliged to keep the preppy look.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), Cannon AFB, NM.

By the time I was a civilian again, I was married with kids and working 9 to 5 in an office. Becoming a longhair would have been ill-advised as a career strategy. Thus, for a goodly time, the only variation in my hair style was the length of my sideburns.

Eventually, I got tired of worrying about whether my sideburns were the fashionable length of the moment, so I grew a beard.

Walter Allan Smith (Rocky), 12/25/1984.

That was in the mid-1980s. I haven’t shaved since.

Also, to be honest, a sobering personal reality was becoming obvious in those days: the signs were undeniable that male pattern baldness was in my future. Being a longhair probably wouldn’t be in the cards anyway. Nature can be cruel and without pity.

So can some people. My dad, who kept a full head of hair to the end, found this turn of events greatly amusing.

Anyway, as a result of how the hair thing worked out for me, I bypassed half a lifetime of men’s coiffure fads.

I say that with no regret whatsoever.

Fad-6

Fad-7

Fad-8

Fad-9

And, hey — don’t get me started on skinny jeans.

Fad-10

 

Read Full Post »

Neck

Prius

Dine out

Metaphors

 

Read Full Post »

The Questions…

1. In most of the Western world, black cats are considered evil omens or symbols of bad luck. In what non-Western country are black cats a sign of good luck and prosperity?

2. Who invented the odometer?

3. Residents of the English cities of London and Liverpool are called Londoners and Liverpudlians. What are natives of Manchester and Birmingham called?

4. The acronym KIPPERS is used on Wall Street to define adult children living with their parents. What does KIPPERS stand for?

5. Who was the first person to appear as Ronald McDonald in a TV commercial?

The Answers…

1. Japan. In Japanese culture, black cats represent good fortune and prosperity in business, a talisman against danger and bad luck, and positive mojo for your love life.

2. Benjamin Franklin. In 1753, he measured the distance from Boston to New York by counting the rotations of a wheel on his carriage. He marked each mile with a wooden stake, then had the stakes replaced with engraved mile-marker stones.

3. Mancunians and Brummies. Mamucium (aka Mancunium) was an old Roman fort that grew to become Manchester. Brummagem was the original name of Birmingham.

4. Kids in Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings.

5. The first Ronald was Willard Scott, later the resident weatherman on the Today Show. In 1963, Scott was playing Bozo the Clown for a TV station in Washington, D.C. McDonald’s hired him, and he played the Ronald character until 1965.

Black cat

Ronald-Willard

 

Read Full Post »

Wrecking Ball

On the day Donald Trump took office as President, I put an American flag decal on the rear window of my car, upside down.

It is, of course, a symbol of national distress, as well as of my outrage that a modern-day Benedict Arnold, who also happens to be an unqualified, immoral crook, occupies the White House.

To be clear, displaying the flag upside down can be deemed an act of desecration, depending on the circumstances. I don’t seriously expect to get busted. And I will remove the decal the day the Orange Vulgarian leaves office.

The decal has been in place for two years, and it’s a fact that I drive the car almost literally every day. Plenty of people surely have noticed that the flag is upside down. Yet, not a soul, whether family member, friend, or stranger, ever mentioned it.

Until now.

———

Last Thursday, as I left the Target store in Gainesville, I noticed a white guy wearing a backpack standing behind my car, apparently looking at the rear window.

I didn’t think he had nefarious intentions. Nothing of value was on the seats. He wasn’t likely a car thief, because the parking lot was aswarm with people.

(Actually, in the minutes that followed, I left myself open to armed robbery, but that didn’t dawn on me until later.)

When I got closer, I pressed the key fob. The car chirped, the lights flashed, and the doors unlocked. The man turned toward me. He smiled and raised a hand in greeting.

I nodded to him and reached to open the car door.

“Excuse me, sir,” he said. “Can I ask you a question?”

Oh, hell, I thought. A panhandler. I don’t need this.

I stepped back to get a better look at him. He was 40-ish, short, slender, full beard, wearing a knit cap and a camo jacket. The backpack was fairly large and full, which suggested he was traveling on foot. Yet, he was neat and clean. Curious.

“What question is that?”

“I noticed your decal, the upside-down flag. I take it that’s a protest about something?” He lacked a Georgia accent.

“Yes, it is,” I said. “I put it there the day Trump became President. It will stay there until he’s no longer in office.”

“So, you’re not a Trump fan.”

“No. He’s a disgrace to the office.”

“I don’t like him, either,” the guy said. “He’s a con-man. He’s using the position to enrich himself and his family. Plus, he’s been doing business with the Russians for years. Putin controls him because he knows where the bodies are buried.”

Wow, I thought, how refreshing. Most people around here keep their mouths shut about Trump. Being hidebound conservatives, they voted for him and tolerate his behavior, but they are loath to admit it.

“You’ve been paying attention,” I said.

“Well, here’s what people don’t realize about Trump,” he said. “God made him President. And for a specific reason.”

Oh, hell, I thought. A nut job.

“Trump is God’s wrecking ball,” he said. “God is using Trump to break the stranglehold of the nonbelievers who control the federal government.”

How do I end this conversation?

We had been standing there so long that the car re-locked itself. I pressed the fob again, twice, hoping the guy would take the hint and wrap it up.

“Trump will get the job done, God willing. After that, I hope he gets what’s coming to him. He really is an awful person.”

“Agreed.”

How do I end this conversation?

“The atheists took over really fast, in just a couple of decades,” he said earnestly. “They systematically infiltrated the federal government at every level. Very clever, very efficient. But their days are numbered.”

“‘God’s wrecking ball.’ I like it.”

He grinned. “When you realize Trump is doing God’s work, it changes how you see the situation.”

Yes, I agreed, that does put things in a new light.

“Well, I need to get going. God bless you, sir.”

“Safe travels,” I said.

The man turned and went on his way. As I reached to open the door, the car locked itself again.

Decal

 

Read Full Post »

More poetry that isn’t pretentious and a waste of time…

Here Dead We Lie

By A. E. Housman

Housman AE

Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936)

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

———

Good Bones

By Maggie Smith

Smith-M

Maggie Smith (B. 1977)

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

———

The Rose Family

By Robert Frost

Frost

Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963)

The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
That the apple’s a rose,
And the pear is, and so’s
The plum, I suppose.
The dear only knows
What will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose —
But were always a rose.

———

Invisible Fish

By Joy Harjo

Harjo-J

Joy Harjo (B. 1951)

Invisible fish swim this ghost ocean now
described by waves of sand, by water-worn
rock. Soon the fish will learn to walk. Then
humans will come ashore and paint dreams
on the dying stone. Then later, much later, the
ocean floor will be punctuated by Chevy trucks,
carrying the dreamers’ descendants, who are
going to the store.

———

Harlem

By Langston Hughes

Hughes-L

James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore —
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over —
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

   Or does it explode?

 

Read Full Post »

Known But to God

This is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.

Tomb-1

The last time I was there — which I am startled to find was 10 years ago — I took a boatload of photos and videos. I like these two pics pretty well.

Tomb-2

Tomb-3

If you’ve been there, you know that seeing Arlington and the Tomb is an emotional experience. God knows, I am a borderline pacifist, with no militaristic tendencies whatsoever. But there’s something about the Tomb — the story behind it, the rituals, the soldiers who guard it — that is genuinely moving.

As you’re probably aware, the Tomb honors fallen American soldiers whose remains were unidentified. How the monument came to be is a fascinating story.

The Unknown Soldier of World War I

The idea originated with a British Army chaplain during World War I. In 1916, he saw a grave with a wooden cross on which was written in pencil “An Unknown British Soldier.”

The chaplain envisioned a monument to honor all British unknowns. His ambition was to inter an unidentified British soldier at Westminster Abbey “amongst the kings” to represent all of the Great War’s unknowns.

He contacted the Dean of Westminster, who gave his full support. In turn, so did the British Prime Minister. The process of selecting a representative unknown soldier began.

In the fall of 1920, four sets of unidentified remains were exhumed from undisclosed battlefields in France. The bodies were placed in identical flag-draped caskets. A ranking general closed his eyes and placed his hand on one of the coffins. The other three coffins were reinterred.

The chosen coffin was transported with great ceremony across France, escorted by French troops and processions of schoolchildren. At the port of Boulogne, the coffin was piped aboard a destroyer and escorted across the Channel by a convoy of battleships.

On November 11, 1920, Armistice Day, the casket was interred inside Westminster Abbey in soil from various French battlefields. One hundred women, each of whom had lost a husband and all of their sons in the war, were the guests of honor.

The grave was capped with black marble, to which was affixed this plate (made of brass melted down from wartime ammunition):

Tomb-4

The United States followed a similar selection process in 1921.

The Army exhumed four sets of remains from American cemeteries in France and placed them in identical caskets.

Sgt. Edward Younger, who had been wounded in battle and earned the Distinguished Service Cross for valor, made the selection by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. (Later, the roses were interred with the casket at Arlington.)

The casket was taken by funeral train through Paris to the port of Le Havre, then by ship to the United States.

On November 9, a procession carried the casket to the Capitol Rotunda, where citizens and dignitaries came to pay their respects.

On November 11, the casket was escorted by five soldiers, two sailors, and a marine to Arlington, where this interment ceremony that took place:

Tomb-5

The Americans chose a simpler inscription for the Tomb than the Brits.

Tomb-6

The Unknown Soldiers of World War II and Korea

In 1958, the remains of several unidentified soldiers who died during World War II were exhumed from cemeteries in Europe, Africa, Hawaii, and The Philippines. From these, two were chosen, one from the European Theater and one from the Pacific Theater, and placed in identical caskets.

Navy Hospitalman William Charette, a Medal of Honor winner, selected the casket that would be interred at Arlington. The second casket was buried at sea with honors.

That same year, four unknowns who died in the Korean War were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle, a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross for valor, selected the Korean War unknown.

On May 28, the World War II and Korea caskets were taken to Washington, where they lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. On May 30, the caskets were carried by caisson to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded both unknowns the Medal of Honor, and they were interred beside the World War I unknown.

The Unknown Soldier of Vietnam

The unknown from the Vietnam War was chosen on May 17, 1984, by Marine Sgt. Maj. Allan Kellogg, a Medal of Honor recipient. On May 28, President Reagan awarded the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam War unknown, and the remains were interred with the others at Arlington.

But a decade later, a glitch surfaced. At one time, the remains of the Vietnam War unknown had been identified tentatively as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Blassie. Because the estimated age and height of the remains did not match Blassie’s, the identification was rescinded.

But by 1998, DNA identification had advanced significantly, and the Blassie family asked the Dept. of Defense to retest the remains. The DoD complied, and testing confirmed that the Vietnam Unknown indeed was Lt. Blassie.

At the family’s request, Blassie’s remains were removed from the Tomb at Arlington and reinterred in Missouri. Further, the decision was made to leave the crypt vacant rather than select another Vietnam Unknown. A marker on the crypt now reads, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen.”

The Tomb Honor Guard

In 1925, a civilian guard was posted at the Tomb because people were picnicking on the marble slab to take advantage of the view. In 1926, a military guard took over. By 1937, the monument was under 24-hour protection.

Since 1948, the Tomb has been guarded by an elite unit of volunteer Army soldiers. All are members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, which is stationed adjacent to Arlington Cemetery in Fort Myer, Virginia.

Serving as a guard at the Tomb is a high honor. Only 20 percent of volunteers are accepted for training, and only a few ever become Sentinels.

Applicants must be between 5′ 10″ and 6′ 2″ tall, with a waist size no larger than 30″. Guards must commit to two years of service and will live in a barracks under the Tomb. They cannot drink alcohol, on or off duty, or swear in public for the rest of their lives. If they do, or if they disgrace the uniform or the Tomb in any way, they forfeit the coveted Honor Guard lapel pin.

The pin is awarded after a guard has served nine months as a Sentinel. It features an inverted wreath and the figures of Peace, Valor, and Victory.

Fewer than than 675 soldiers have worn the Honor Guard pin; the Astronaut Badge is the only military pin awarded less often.

Tomb-7

The first female Sentinel came on duty in 2001, the fourth in 2017.

For the first six months on duty, a guard cannot talk to anyone or watch TV. Off-duty time is spent studying the lives of the 175 notable Americans buried at Arlington and knowing where they are buried.

The Honor Guard protects the Tomb at all times, 24 hours a day, regardless of weather, following a precise routine. Here are some pertinent facts:

— The soldier on duty marches 21 steps across the front of the Tomb, carrying the rifle on the shoulder away from the Tomb. The gloves are moistened to help grip the rifle.

— On the 21st step, the guard stops and faces the Tomb for 21 seconds. The rifle is switched to the other shoulder, and the guard marches 21 steps in the opposite direction. The 21 is symbolic of a 21-gun salute.

— The Changing of the Guard occurs every 30 minutes during the summer and every hour during the winter.

— The incoming guard is accompanied by the team commander. The outgoing guard reports to the commander that the Tomb is secure, and the new guard takes over.

— The guards wear sunglasses because the white marble reflects the sun.

— They wear shoes with metal plates to accentuate the ritual clicking of heels.

— To protect the marble, the guards march on a 63-foot rubber mat. The mat is replaced twice a year.

— While on duty (the soldiers call it “walking the mat”) the guards remove insignia that identifies their rank. This is so they will not outrank the interred soldiers, whose ranks are unknown.

— A team of guards works 24 hours on duty, 24 hours off duty, for five days. Then they have four days off while another team takes over.

— The guards spend an average of six hours a day preparing their uniforms.

In addition to their ceremonial duties, the guards protect the Tomb, prevent anyone from touching or approaching the monument, and confront tourists who are loud or disrespectful.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/it-is-requested.mp4

So, mind your manners, buster.

 

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »