Friday, May 29, 2020
3:27 pm pdt
You've made it past the minimum
standards for entry into the afterlife. It wasn't that hard, after all. Come to find out, the Supreme Being –
he, she, it, they, or whatever -- has left it up to you. You can pick whatever version of heaven you want. And
it's yours. Forever. One choice per customer, please. Don't get greedy. So which one will it be?
A harp and a halo? 72 virgins? The Happy Hunting Ground? Valhalla? Nirvana? Something Jewish?
Something Satanic? You can be an Atheist and simply cease to exist. Whatever. Just as long as it's some
organized religion's idea of heaven, you can choose it. This is not a final test. There is no right or wrong answer.
But you do have to choose, and once chosen, it's for all eternity. So which will it be?
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
10:25 am pdt
I Hate My Job: Interview #214: Composer
My most famous song? "Tah-Takka-Takka-Tahhh-Takka-Takka."
Without a doubt. I'm sure you've heard it. It was written for programmable rhythm machine and synthesizer.
That's pretty much the song: "Tah-Takka-Takka-Tahhh-Takka-Takka." There's a shift in the key signature,
add in a little "twaddle-lee-dah" with the synthesizer, and then it repeats. Forever. You know, composing
music for people on hold may not be glamourous, but that song there, "Tah-Takka-Takka-Tahhh-Takka-Takka," it's been
heard by more people on the planet than any other song. Ever. The Beatles. Elvis. Bob Marley –
they can't say that. But I can.
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
4:55 pm pdt
Day, not to be confused with Veterans' Day, honours those people who have died while serving in the military, whereas Veterans' Day, which is observed on November
11, has come to honour everybody who has ever been a member of the Armed Forces, whether they died or not. Memorial
Day has been observed on the last Monday in May since it became an official holiday in 1971. Before that it was celebrated
on May 30... well... if you happened to live in the North. (Memorial Day 2020)
The idea of routinely maintaining the gravesites
of your ancestors – a Decoration Day – is quite old. Before the Civil War, families would generally
clean up gravesites toward the end of the summer, using the occasion as an excuse for family reunions. After
the Civil War, there were suddenly a lot more fallen soldiers to honour. As a result, many secular, patriotic
ceremonies sprang up all over the country. (Memorial Day 2020) Where they sprang up
first, though, is a bit contentious.
Waterloo, New York, is credited with holding "the first formal, village wide, annual observance of
a day dedicated to honoring the war dead," which they called Decoration Day, on May 5, 1866. Congress
made the declaration official in 1966 when they recognized Waterloo as the birthplace of Memorial Day. If
you're ever in Waterloo, there's a museum. (The History and Origin) The observance was moved to May 30
in 1868, in particular because it didn't mark any battle. By 1890, all the Northern states had made Decoration Day a state
holiday. (Memorial Day)
Saying that Waterloo, New York, is the birthplace of Memorial Day, however, might be a bit of Northern
revisionist history. The first Confederate Memorial Day, which was simply called Memorial Day,
was observed on April 26, 1866, in Columbus, Georgia, one month before it was celebrated in Waterloo, and a full two years
before it became a truly official holiday in the North. April
26 marks the anniversary of when most Southerners considered the Civil War to have ended, when General Johnson surrendered
to General Sherman at Bennett Place, North Carolina. (Confederate Memorial Day) Indeed, there are those
who claim that the observance of Memorial Day in the North was a direct response to its taking place in the South.
The day was not referred to as "Confederate Memorial Day" until after observances became established in the
North. (Confederate Memorial Day)
However, even claiming that the Southern states started Memorial Day might be a bit of Southern revisionist
history. The first recorded observation of Memorial Day was in May of 1865 – a year before the Southern
observance – by freed slaves in South Carolina. (Memorial Day)
Confederate Memorial Day is still celebrated throughout the South on various days in the
spring, depending on what state, and even which part of that state, you might happen to be in. It is still
an official holiday in South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee. (Confederate Memorial
the First World War Memorial Day became less of a "North / South" thing, when it was expanded to include all soldiers
who had fallen in any American war. (Memorial Day 2020)
Since the end of World War I, it has become a tradition to wear a single red poppy to honour
the dead on Memorial Day. Poppy seeds are scattered by the wind, and they tend to lie dormant in the ground,
only germinating when the ground is disturbed, as it was in a big way during World War One. Poppies, therefore,
are usually one of the first things to appear on a battlefield, even before the fighting has stopped. (Memorial Day 2020)
John McCrae is generally
credited with starting the poppy tradition. McCrae, who witnessed the First World War, wrote the poem "In
Flanders Fields" in 1915, which features the line "In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row
on row...." (McCrae)
Inspired by McCrae, Moina Michael wrote her own poem, "We Shall Keep the Faith," in 1918 about Flanders
fields and the poppies that grew there. The poem features the line, "And now the Torch and the Poppy red / We wear in
honor of our dead." (Michael)
Wearing of poppies to honour the war dead quickly spread throughout the known world, especially
in Europe. It also spread to Veterans' Day, where it has come to symbolized not only the dead, but the
hope of recovery and new life. (Memorial Day 2020)
On Memorial Day, people traditionally place flags on the graves of veterans.
As well, there is a National Observance at 3:00 p.m. local time. And then there are the barbecues
and picknicks. Memorial Day, aside from honouring the dead, has become the unofficial official start of
summer. (Memorial Day 2020)
"Confederate Memorial Day." 26 April 2020. Wikipedia.
20 May 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_Memorial_Day
"The History and Origin of Memorial Day in Waterloo, New York." 2020.
National Memorial Day Museum. 20 May 2020. https://wlhs-ny.com/national-memorial-day-museum/
McCrae, John. "In Flanders Fields." 3 May 1915.
Poetry Foundation. 20 May 2020. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47380/in-flanders-fields
"Memorial Day." 18 May 2020. History.
20 May 2020. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history
"Memorial Day 2020." 19 May 2020. The Old Farmer's
Almanac. 20 May 2020. https://www.almanac.com/content/when-memorial-day
Michael, Moina. "We Shall Keep the Faith." November 1918.
The Great War: 1914-1918. 20 May 2020. http://www.greatwar.co.uk/poems/moina-michael-we-shall-keep-faith.htm
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
If I Were God
8:22 am pdt
I'd spend my days flying
arms out to my side
Not that I'd need wings
but so I could
feel the wind
slipping through my fingers
and I'd sail
and I'd dive
ride the wind
wherever it would want to take me
far above the cries
of the people down below
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Dreaming of Squirrels
9:06 am pdt
Last night I dreamed I was a squirrel
who wanted to kill himself.
I was a very unhappy squirrel.
I tried to get runover,
but the cars all missed me.
No matter where I darted,
they still missed me.
was a complete failure at being a squirrel.
I couldn't find nuts.
I couldn't find a mate.
I couldn't even get
And then I woke up.
It was just a dream.
I'm sure it doesn't mean a thing.
Monday, May 11, 2020
2:28 pm pdt
The Buddha versus Godzilla
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
9:23 am pdt
Contrary to what many might believe, Mother’s Day – celebrated on the second Sunday
of May – was not invented by Hallmark as an excuse to sell cards. Mothers have undoubtedly been honored
for as long as there have been mothers. The earliest organized celebrations go to back to the ancient Greeks
who honored Rhea, the mother of several of their deities, in an annual spring festival. Likewise, the Romans
honored Cybele, “their Great Mother of Gods,” and the Christians in due time honored Mary, the mother of Christ,
on the fourth Sunday in Lent. (Mother’s Day)
It took several tries to organize Mother’s Day as we now know
it in the United States. One source credits a mother from Albion, Michigan, Juliet Calhoun Blakely.
In the late 1800s, her sons reportedly began paying “...tribute to her each year and urged others to honor their
mothers.” (Mother’s Day in the United States)
Others credit Julia Ward Howe.
Howe, along with being a pacifist and a suffragist, also wrote the lyrics to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
(Mother’s Day) Around 1870 in Boston, she “...called for Mother's Day to be celebrated each
year to encourage pacifism and disarmament amongst women.” (Mother’s Day in the United States) She
believed that mothers “...bore the loss of human life more harshly than anyone else.” (Mother’s Day)
After about ten years, though, her efforts died out. (Mother’s Day in the United States)
women commonly credited with getting Mother’s Day recognized as a national holiday in the Untied States are Ann and
Anna Jarvis, a mother and daughter respectively from Grafton, West Virginia. Starting in the Civil War,
the elder Jarvis organized “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to equally care for wounded soldiers from both sides.
(Strauss) In 1905 when Mother Jarvis died, her daughter began a campaign to memorialize her life
work. Legend has it that young Anna remembered a Sunday school lesson that her mother gave in which she said, "I hope
and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother's day. There are many days for men, but none for mothers." (Mother’s
In 1907, Jarvis was content to hold a private memorial for her mother, but the following year, Jarvis organized
a service honoring mothers in general at the Andrew's Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, which was attended
by over 400 mothers and their children. Since then, the church has been designated as a National Historic
Landmark, having “become the International Mother's Day Shrine.” (Mother’s Day in the United States)
the eventual financial support of a wealthy Philadelphia merchant, John Wanamaker, who saw the marketing potential from the
start, (Father’s Day) Jarvis was able to bring her cause to the attention of national lawmakers, (Mother’s Day
in the United States) including both Presidents Taft and Teddy Roosevelt. (Mother’s
Day) In 1913, “the House of Representatives adopted a resolution calling for officials of the federal
government to wear white carnations on Mother's Day,” a practice Jarvis had started five years earlier.
And the following year, in 1914, all of Anna’s lobbying paid off with Woodrow Wilson’s declaring Mother’s
Day a national holiday (Mother’s Day) “in honor of ‘that tender, gentle army, the mothers
of America.’” (Father’s Day) Since then, Mother’s Day has become the most popular
day of the year to eat out, and that day also marks the heaviest traffic on telephone networks as children across America
call their mothers. (Mother’s Day)
Ironically, to say the least, Jarvis spent the later years of her life
lobbying in vain for the abolition of Mother’s Day because she felt “...that the day's sentiment was being sacrificed
at the expense of greed and profit.” She filed a lawsuit in 1923 to stop a Mother’s Day celebration,
and went so far as to be arrested for trying to stop the sell of carnations to a group of war mothers. (Mother’s
Day) Jarvis had meant for Mother’s Day to be “’a day of sentiment, not profit...’”
for the greeting card industry, “...which she saw as ‘a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write.’”
To her dying day in 1948, Jarvis regretted ever creating the holiday. (Strauss)
really, what did she suspect? After all, this is America, and if there is a way to make a buck off something,
you have to be pretty naïve to think somebody won’t. If marijuana is ever legalized, how long
do you think it will take for there to be 4-20 cards? Oh... wait. There already are.
(“4 20 Cards” and “420 Greeting Cards,” to name but a few)
Incidentally, Anna Jarvis
never had children. (Strauss)
“4 20 Cards.” 2012. Zazzle. 16 Aug. 2012.
“420 Greeting Cards.” 2012.
Café Press. 16 Aug. 2012. http://www.cafepress.com/+420+greeting_cards
“Father’s Day.” 2012.
History.com. 15 Aug. 2012. http://www.history.com/topics/fathers-day
“Mother’s Day.” 123.Holiday.Net. 15 Aug. 2012.
“Mother’s Day in the United States.”
2012. TimeAndDate.com. 15 Aug. 2012. http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/mothers-day
Strauss, Valerie. “Why Mother’s
Day founder came to hate her creation (and more on moms, gifts, baby names etc.).” 13 May 2012.
The Washington Post. 15 Aug. 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/why-mothers-day-founder-came-to-hate-her-creation-and-more-on-moms-gifts-baby-names-etc/2012/05/13/gIQAy
Friday, May 1, 2020
8:41 am pdt
a pretty good bet that Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico, where it celebrated primarily
in the Puebla district, which is just south of Mexico City. What they’re celebrating is the Mexican
militia whoopin’ the tar out of the French Army, a bit like how Davey whooped Goliath, in The Battle of Puebla in 1862.
Of course, the Mexican militia was later defeated, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t celebrate.
(The History of Cinco de Mayo)
The common misconception of non-Mexicans is that what everybody is celebrating on the 5th of
May is the Mexican Independence Day. That is September 16, 1810, which is when Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla,
a revolutionary priest, called on his parishioners to take arms against Spanish oppression, which was basically a declaration
of their war of independence against Spain. (2 Cinco de Mayo)
Cinco de Mayo finds its roots in another war, the Mexican-American
war, which lasted from 1846 to 1848, and ended badly for Mexico. That war, combined with a Civil War, left
Mexico not only devastated, but bankrupt. So on the 17th of July, 1861, President Benito Juarez
announced to all of his foreign debtors that Mexico was going to take a two year hiatus from repaying their foreign debts,
after which they would start up where they left off. I mean, what were they going to do? Repossess
Mexico? Well... yes. But not all of the debtors. Just the British,
Spanish, and the French. The British and the Spanish eventually learned a lesson about blood and a turnip
and went home. But France stayed on. It is argued that they were trying to “...create
an Empire in Mexico under Napoleon III.” However, others believe that it was a move by France to
limit America’s power. “Napoleon III believed that if the United States was allowed to prosper
indiscriminately, it would eventually become a power in and of itself.” So even though the French
campaign eventually failed, France still won the rights to the phrase, “I told you so.” Meanwhile,
though, Mexico had drawn a line in the in the loose, rocky soil at Puebla, behind which stood “5,000 ill-equipped Mestizo
and Zapotec Indians,” all led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. And they held their ground in what came
to be know as “Batalla de Puebla” to the Mexicans, and “Tempête de Merde” to the French.
The French Army was defeated on the 5th of May, 1862, and it’s been a good reason to celebrate ever
since. (1 Cinco de Mayo.)
Aside from still being celebrated in Puebla and a few other parts of Mexico, it is mostly
celebrated – and marketed – in America, especially in cities that have a high Mexican population, but generally
anywhere that needs a reason to drink. (The History of Cinco de Mayo)
“Cinco de Mayo.”
clnet.ucla.edu. 14 Aug. 2012. http://clnet.ucla.edu/cinco.html
“Cinco de Mayo.” 2012. History.com.
14 Aug. 2012. http://www.history.com/topics/cinco-de-mayo
“The History of Cinco de Mayo.” 25 Apr. 2007. Mexonline.com.
14 Aug. 2012. http://www.mexonline.com/cinco-de-mayo.htm