Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving—The Aftermath

Turkey Day, as Thanksgiving is sometimes called in homage to the traditional meal, has come and gone for another year. So…what now? Am I the only one suddenly feeling a little disoriented (for lack of a better word)?

It's almost like a let down from a high. Holiday preparations centering around a large meal with the turkey as the centerpiece. All the family members, relatives both local and from out of town, and even friends and their family members. Who is hosting the large group of family and friends…who has a house large enough to accommodate everyone? And all the preparations. Making sure people coming from out of town and even out of state have a place to stay. Delegating everyone's contribution to the meal—someone brings the dessert (how many pumpkin pies will we need), someone else brings the sweet potatoes, someone else another vegetable, and there's the cranberries in some form, and so on.

And then there is all the work the hostess has to do in preparing a meal for that many people even before guests arrive bringing their assigned dishes. There's the turkey which necessitates that the same person also prepare the dressing and gravy since those items are intertwined which says that the same person also prepare the mashed potatoes.

And all that preparation requires a massive kitchen clean up and running a full load in the dishwasher before dinner so everyone can sit down to the table (or tables depending on how many) and gorge themselves. Then kitchen clean up phase two takes place with running two full loads of dishes in the dishwasher following dinner. And at this point, we haven't had dessert yet because everyone is too full to eat anything else. So, we wait a couple of hours then serve dessert (and enjoy phase three of the kitchen clean up).

And the next day (or maybe even later that night) there's the Black Friday shopping madness for those with the strength and determination to actually hit the stores. Personally, I'm not fond of shopping under the best of conditions so for me Christmas shopping is more of a Cyber Monday online type of thing.

Then we say goodbye to out of town relatives who are now hitting the highways or tackling the airports to return home.

And suddenly we're looking around and feeling at a loss because the frantic activity of Thanksgiving is now in the past. And what's worse, with a Thursday holiday which incorporates Friday into the activities followed by a weekend…well, we end up not sure what day of the week it is.  :)

And that brings us to Monday—the day we try to get back on our regular schedule. And along with that, we now need to turn our attention to the next round of holidays. Getting out the decorations, trying to get our holiday card list together…

And the beat goes on. Hope everyone in the U.S. had a great Thanksgiving and everyone else enjoyed a terrific weekend.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Those Naughty Pilgrims

I have some Mayflower myths to share with you, then we'll talk about those naughty and sexy pilgrims!

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. 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 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the 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.
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.
But what about the actions and activities of those naughty pilgrims? As with so much in life, there's the fa├žade and then there's the reality. :)

Although not liberal in their thinking or lifestyle, the pilgrims were not as uptight as history would have us believe. They tried to create a strict religious society, but had an understanding and mercy unusual for their time. As time passed, intolerance grew and was reflected in their laws as demonstrated by the notorious Salem witch trials.

Men were not the only offenders in Plymouth colony. The prim women weren't always so pious either. Women were often caught with the evidence of their dalliances being babies. The records of the times are filled with one out-of-wedlock child after another. Babies showing up just a few months after marriage were also evidence of wrong doing. Pre-marital sex was severely punished. Fines were levied even for making passes, for appearing to have a lascivious carriage in public, or partying in mixed company at an unseemly time of night.

Sex outside marriage, even between two unmarried consenting adults, usually meant a whipping and fines. If the woman became pregnant, the man had to either marry her or pay for the child's upbringing. The man was usually placed in the stocks and whipped while the woman was made to watch. Sometimes mercy was granted as in the case of a servant, Jane Powell. Following years of hard servitude, she was destitute and had agreed to having sex in the hopes of marrying the man. Apparently the court found her plea convincing and she went unpunished.

Even though the pilgrims imposed strict punishment for crimes, they also understood human temptations. In 1656, Katheren Aines and William Paule were sentenced for committing adultery. William was whipped and forced to pay the costs of his imprisonment. Katheren was whipped, imprisoned and forced to wear a letter on her shoulder designating her as an adulteress. (Calling Nathaniel Hawthorne!) However, Katheren's husband, Alexander, was also punished. Alexander had left his family for some time and treated her badly during their marriage. The pilgrims viewed him as guilty of "exposing his wife to such temptations." Alexander was required to pay for his wife's imprisonment, and sit in the stocks while William and Katheren were whipped.

This Thanksgiving as you sit down to your turkey dinner, it might be a good idea to take a moment to be thankful that you aren't a pilgrim. :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012


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 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 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 old days.

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 probably wouldn't 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 Ice-T?

How many women would actually have swooned over the man who is considered one of "Hollywood's all-time definitive leading men" if Archibald Alexander Leach hadn't changed his name to Cary Grant?

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!" have been such a great catch phrase if it had been uttered by Donald James Yarmy rather than Don Adams?

Would Boris Karloff have been any where near as frightening if he had kept his birth name of William Henry Pratt?

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 as Caryn Elaine Johnson?

We have that teenage song and dance team from those old MGM musicals, Joseph Yule, Jr., and Frances Ethel Gumm. 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.

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?

LATE ADDITION:   I'm adding this in now (10 hours later) because I forgot to put it in the original post.  Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta shortened her name to something much simpler and attention getting.  She became Lady Gaga.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Daylight Saving Time—a brief history

At 2:00AM on Sunday, November 4th, we went off Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. We readjusted that flexible one hour of daylight, putting it back into standard or normal time until next Spring. First we Spring forward and lose an hour's sleep, then we Fall back and regain that hour. Daylight Saving Time (yep, technically it's the singular saving rather than the plural savings)—why in the world do we do this? How does this bizarre ritual benefit us? Or does it? Maybe the answer can be found in the history of Daylight Saving Time.

The purpose of Daylight Saving Time is to make better use of natural daylight. We change the clocks in spring as we're approaching warm summer weather to give us an additional hour of daylight in the evening when we can be outdoors, a time when people would otherwise be using more lights and electricity.

The concept of Daylight Savings isn't a creation of modern times. It was introduced by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 but it didn't go anywhere until 1907 when Englishman William Willett advocated Daylight Saving Time in a pamphlet titled Waste Of Daylight. After several European countries put Daylight Saving into practice during World War I, the U.S. formally adopted it in 1918. It proved unpopular and was discontinued in 1919. At that time the U.S. was still had a large agrarian population and businesses in cities didn't stay open in the evening as they do now. People were more inclined to get up early and go to bed early thus making that additional hour of daylight time in the evening not practical.

Some states and regions continued Daylight Saving after 1919, but it didn't become a national decree again until World War II. From 1942 to 1945, it was referred to as War Time and observed year-round. From 1945 to 1966 there was no federal law dealing with Daylight Saving. States and local regions were left to their own devices, to institute it as they saw fit or to abolish it completely.

By 1966 the need for consistent time schedules nationwide (television broadcasting and airlines, for example) resulted in Congress passing the Uniform Time Act which designated Daylight Saving to begin the last Sunday in April and quit the last Sunday in October with states free to exempt themselves from participating in Daylight Saving Time but not allowed to alter the dates of its use. In 1986 the federal law was amended to start Daylight Saving Time on the first Sunday in April but still end the last Sunday in October.

Then in August 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act which changed the dates effective in 2007 to start the second Sunday in March and end the first Sunday in November which leaves us on Daylight Saving Time for the majority of the year.

This year I do have fewer clocks to reset than previous years and I owe that to my cable company. A couple of months ago I switched from regular cable to HD digital and replaced two of my vcr/dvd combos with the dvr boxes from the cable company which gave me two fewer clocks to reset. So…my desktop and laptop computers reset themselves, the atomic clock in my office resets itself, the dvr boxes reset themselves. That leaves me an answering machine, four clocks, two watches, one microwave…and a partridge in a pear tree. Oh, wait a minute. No partridge. Instead there's the the clock in my car.

And the debate continues…do we really need Daylight Saving Time? Can't we just pick one or the other, Daylight Saving or Standard, and let that be it year-round?

What do you think?