The Mundane Spectacle of Pat, Rocky, Moonface, and the Great Mephisto

Wrestling poster from 1972, photo from Pinterest.

A chunk of my childhood was in black and white. Or, to be more accurate, my recollection of the outside world as-it-was when I was young, my memory of historical events, is in black and white because television was in black and white, and that was the conduit to the outside world. The Vietnam War, the Brady Bunch, Richard Nixon, the funeral of Martin Luther King, and even cartoons. Saturday nights when I was a pre-teen belonged to black-and-white UHF stations, to Big Time Wrestling.

One of the stars from those days was Pat Patterson, whose obituary in the New York Times this week caught my eye. He was Canadian; he was gay; he was a legend. But all of the wrestlers loomed larger than life. It was the nature of their business to loom.

Big Time Wrestling

Wrestling, like so many forms of circuses in our world of bread and circuses, has evolved multiple times over the centuries. My grandparents probably saw it as a sideshow in a circus or attached to vaudeville acts before the invention of TV and mass media. It did not spring forth in whole cloth as it is today, in pay-per-view, with lasers flashing, tens of thousands of fans, and heavy metal music blaring. The version I saw was on that tiny (9-inch) TV screen on grainy channel 40 in a musty half-filled Sacramento auditorium. But it was essentially the same.

Big Time Wrestling @ 1970, photo at the House of Deception.com
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The Mother of Thanksgiving

Sarah Josepha Hale, engraving from Library of Congress

Mary had a turkey browned
From three hours in the oven
Her guests were drooling all the while
For gravy and the stuffin’

Hale’s famous poem, variation by kajmeister

Perhaps Americans would still have invented Thanksgiving without Sarah Josepha Hale. After all, proclamations of Thanksgiving had been declared by the Continental Congresses by Samuel Adams and John Hanson and the like:

It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for His gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner, to give Him praise for His goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of His Providence in their behalf; therefore, the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of Divine goodness to these States in the course of the important conflict, in which they have been so long engaged and so on and so forth etcetera etcetera etcetera…

November 1782, text for the Thanksgiving or National Prayer Day observation (Wikipedia)

That seems a rather dry plateful of harvest to start with, taking some 250 words until it even gets to the Thanksgiving part of the equation. Why, there’s hardly any gravy at all, although there does seem to be quite a bit of lard in it, so maybe the pies were flaky.

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Stuffing and Variations

two bags of to-be-delicious sourdough stuffing
You can never have too much…. photo by kajmeister.

I was pondering when the first cook might have stuffed a turkey way back when… because there’s plenty of time to ponder these days, what with all of us being indoors and on our own so much of the time. Let’s not limit it to turkey, though. Who might have been the first person to stuff an animal, which is to say to take the innards out of an animal and replace it with other stuff, then cook it?

The noun form of “stuff” probably emerged from the verb “stuff” which came from the French otoffer meaning to cram things in other things. (See also “stop” and “plug” and suddenly I’m thinking about Drano.) Anyway, the noun “stuff” really does emerge from the verb, such that when we refer to “our stuff” or “bunch o’things” we mean bunch that could be crammed somewhere. When we are such “stuff” as dreams are made on, as Shakespeare’s Prospero said, he meant a motley bunch of craziness out of which we will go, after death, into some truer reality. This year certainly seems the “stuff” that dreams are made of, so I’m ready to decide we should cram 2020 somewhere else. I have suggestions about where, but you probably don’t want to hear them.

This raises a whole host of ancillary questions. What is the (brief) history of cooking stuffed things, i.e. what was stuffing about during the heyday of say Henry VIII? Compared with the 1950s, for example? Did the pilgrims stuff their turkey? (my guess is no, let’s find out). Why is it for some oddball reason called “dressing” in other places? And what are the weirdest things people want to do with their stuffing, (G-rated only, please)?

a toast to the turkey, family photo from 1965
Holiday dinner 1965, photo by kajmeister’s Dad.

My mother knew how to cook one kick-ass turkey. She wasn’t the world’s greatest cook, but her stuffing and gravy were the best. Apparently, we also ate peas and carrots and Very White Mashed Potatoes on a very white tablecloth with white fine German china underneath. It was the Midwest in the 1960s, what can I say? That’s my uncle Delano on the right, named for FDR, before my uncle changed his name to Lamont then Lavont then Levitar, which was the eye in the pyramid. All that is another story. It was still good turkey.

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Calling Out for Light in the Darkness (a repost)

Source: Newyorksighting.com, fridays

Happy Diwali! Happy Flashback Saturday! I thought it would be worth reposting what I wrote three years ago about lights in the coming of winter. I noticed many of us are putting up Christmas lights early–fantastic! We need ’em. Trees, too? Sure! Even if no one beyond your pod can visit inside your house–and they should not!– they can drive by and look… or you could take turns doing a Zoom tour of the inside for family and friends. Be creative. Stay safe! Be grateful that you are all still here.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even though it’s still dim. Here’s my post, from December 20, 2017.

I highlighted a recent sentiment that Christmas lights make everything better. This is no accident. Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Our body clocks can’t wait for that turning of the tide and, over centuries, our cultures have created one tradition after another to add lights which stave off that darkness. That desire for more light is built into us at the core, even at the cellular levels, within our circadian rhythms.

Fascinatin’ Rhythm

Hall, Rosbash, and Young won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for studying the phenomenon of circadian rhythms. The basic notion of a circadian cycle is one tied to a 24-hour biological clock, a circuit fundamentally tied to the length of a day, split between sun and darkness. Life cycles, for everything from plants to fruit flies to human beings, have adapted to that 24-hour pattern. Scientists have known for years that key processes that regulate sleep, hormone production, metabolism, and behavior are linked to these patterns. The Nobel scientists figured out why.

20171220 circadian1
Source:www.nobelprize.org, Nobel Laureates 2017

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Time to Ostracize the Buggers

The Greeks did it with little shards of pottery because papyrus was way too expensive. The Romans did it in groups of hundreds, with their feet. Some groups did it with little black marbles. It wasn’t done in western republics in secret until late in the middle 19th century. What’s the pertinent subject on most Americans minds these days? Voting, of course!

George Bingham painting of country men lining up to vote
The Country Election by George Caleb Bingham (1852), St. Louis Art Museum.

Can We Vote for Banishing People?

The Greeks might vote for a candidate, but they would also vote at times against them as well. They voted to exile people, such as dictators or the dictator’s family, friends, personal lawyers, or unindicted co-conspirators. But even the cheapest paper, i.e. papyrus, was super-rare and expensive, so they didn’t use paper for the ballots. Instead, they would scratch the tyrant’s name on a piece of broken pottery, called an ostraka and turn it in.

broken black pottery piece with Greek lettering
A shard of ostraka, used to ostracize petty tyrants. Photo from wikipedia, slightly modified.

Funny story–there was a respected general and political leader called Aristides, who was nicknamed “the Just” because he was, well, a pretty honorable dude, according to Herodotus. An illiterate citizen came up to Aristides, while they were practicing their ostraka scratching, and said “How do you spell Aristides?” The Honorable Dude said, “Why do you want to write down Aristides?” and the fellow said, “I’m tired of hearing him called ‘the Just.’ I’m sick of these goody-two-shoes! I want someone mean and horrible.” Or something to that effect. Of course, Aristides then wrote down his own name on the ballot.

Writing down the name of someone on the pottery shards was called ostracism. Maybe we could consider this practice using, I dunno, empty water bottles or something?

The Romans used Excel spreadsheets a lot. They divided all eligible people (men, property owners, proper skin color and all that) into 193 centuries, a model based on their armies. The centuries were ranked within by property, with cavalry equities at the top and unarmed, property-less men at the bottom. Then, they were ranked across, by class, and by junior or senior, and each executive officer then took turns to act as officer-for-the-week, although all the actions *of* that officer have to be ratified…. er, no I think maybe that was the Celts. Anyway, the Roman system held rather a lot of infrastructure, but, then, have you seen their buildings and roads? I mean, bits of their aqueducts are still standing!

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