Friday, July 1, 2016

Go, Fourth! (And Have Fun)

Thought for the day: Every day is a rebirth, with new hope.  [author unknown]


The 4th of July is right around the corner, so how about a rah-rah re-run post about that special day, when more than one and a half million hot dogs are typically consumed in the United States. (Erp! And not all by Smarticus and me, either...)

The following post originally ran on July 4, 2012 with the title Have a Bang-Up Day! But I'm gonna embellish it a bit with a handful of trivia tidbits at the end.


Thought for the day:  You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies dies from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.  [Erma Bombeck]

Happy 4th of July.

Didja hear what one flag said to another?

Give up?


It just waved.

Cook-outs.  Parades.  Street parties.  Music.  Patriotic speeches.  Frisbee-throwing. Glorious booms of fireworks. That's what's gonna be happening all over the United States this weekend. Our little town here in Georgia will be holding an all-day street festival, followed by fireworks. Yes sirree, gonna be a real bang-up day.

                                                     Know what?  No matter WHERE you are in the world...

                                   I hope you have a super day! And to you guys way up north, Happy Canada Day!

                                                  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wait a minute! Not so fast. How about those trivia tidbits first?

  • John Adams thought America should celebrate her  independence on the second of July, because that's when the Second Continental Congress passed its resolution to declare independence.  He wrote to his wife Abigail: The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more. Oh well. So he was only half-right. Because July 4, 1776 is the date on the Declaration of Independence, all of those things Adams imagined have taken place... but a couple days later.  
  • Only two people... John Hancock, and Charles Thompson, the secretary of Congress... actually signed the Declaration on the fourth of July.  Everyone else signed on August second.  
  • Isn't it ironic that one of the songs the U.S. considers patriotic was first sung by British officers? What's more, they sang Yankee Doodle to make fun of the less-than-fashionable Americans cousins.
  • AND the National Anthem is sung to the tune of an old British drinking song.
  • In 1778, to mark the fourth, General George Washington gave his soldiers a double ration of rum, so in a way, those who drink a wee bit too much on the fourth are merely following a long tradition. 
  • Isn't it also ironic that most of the patriotic decorations and  U.S. flags we'll see waving on the fourth... were made in China? Ditto the fireworks. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of pyrotechnics are imported from China every year to help us celebrate our most iconic American holiday.
  • One of the country's most famous 4th of July events is  Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, which has been held in Coney Island every year since 1916. Allegedly, the first contest was held to settle a dispute between four immigrants over which of them was the most patriotic. I guess the one most willing to puke for his country was the winner...?
  • The most continuous 4th of July celebration is a parade held in Bristol, Rhode Island, a tradition that began in 1785. (Those people sure know how to party!)
                                                       Okay, now I'm done. You can go eat a hot dog now.
                                                                  Take care of yourselves. And each other. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Land of Cotton Ain't Forgotten

Thought for the day:  The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart. [Robert Green Ingersoll]

It's an understatement to say some die-hard Southerners never lost heart over losing the Civil War... or the War of Yankee Aggression, as they prefer to call it. They stubbornly cling to remnants of the past, while biding their time, whistling Dixie, and waiting for the South to rise again. But you know what? There's still a place where the Confederacy never exactly fell.

Most people are aware of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, Virginia, but did you know there's also a Lost Colony of the Confederacy? A place where the old Confederacy is still celebrated, and many of its symbols continue to flourish? It's reeeeally in the deep south, Sooooo far south, it isn't even in North American. It's in... Brazil...

[image from widipedia]

Brazil's Emperor Dom Pedro II, as seen in this 1865 photo, was a staunch ally of the Confederacy, and after the Civil War, he offered subsidized passage to any Americans willing to emigrate to Brazil. That allowed this clever man to offer disgruntled Southerners an escape, while also enabling him to import some American prosperity. In what amounted to a voluntary exile, thousands of Confederates, who considered themselves war refugees, accepted the generous offer, and embraced Brazil's cheap land and legal slavery as an opportunity to recreate the way of life they'd enjoyed prior to the war.

Not all of the Southerners stayed, though. Some weren't too keen on Brazil's liberal race relations. Even though Brazil was the last country in the Americas to outlaw slavery, when the Deep South defectors arrived in Brazil after the war, they were shocked to find that blacks there had the right to vote, run for office, and hold positions of leadership over whites.

But those Southerners who DID stay... thrived. And continue to thrive today in the town of Americana, where residents celebrate the heritage of their ancestors by holding an annual festa, replete with rebel flags, Confederate uniforms, hoop skirts, fried chicken, and buttermilk biscuits.

 Just as the Southern drawls eventually faded, those who continue to celebrate their ties to the Confederacy are generally unaware of any connections between the Old South and slavery. In a country in which 51% of the population identifies as either black or mixed race, there is no debate over the use of Confederate symbols. To these celebrant Brazilians, those symbols represent family, unity, fraternity, and friendship.

In a nod to the past, festival attendees sing and dance to music of the Old South.

Legal tender during the festival is, of course... the Confederate dollar.

The overall creed of these revelers? Heritage, not hate. 

And their motto? To live and die in Dixie.

So although it may be far from U.S. soil, the American Confederacy lives on in Brazil, and probably will for many years to come. Why? Because those festivals also raise money to preserve the cemetery where many former Confederate soldiers and their families... the ancestors of these Brazilians... were laid to rest.

                                      Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Like Lassoing a Leech

Thought for the day:  A cat determined not to be found can fold itself up like a pocket handkerchief if it wants to. [Louis J. Camuti]

It's true. Cats have an unsurpassed talent for squeezing into the most ridiculously unexpected places, and anyone who has ever had a cat knows this. Put a small box, bag, or other container within their reach, (which is essentially anywhere) and it's a cinch they're gonna contort their bodies in some weird science-defying way so they can claim this new favorite place as yet another handy spot to take a nap. Even funnier? Have more than one cat, like we do, and only toss one box onto the floor. Talk about tag team wrestling...

Cats can provide endless hours of entertainment. Ours do. They're very sweet and cuddly, too. Except for when it's time to clip their nails. NOT one of their favorite things. Especially Dot, the gray tabby. No matter how loud she's purring or how cuddly she's being, if I foolishly make the mistake of saying clip, cut, nails, or anything that even sounds remotely like any of those words, she screams, leaps from my arms, and heads for the hills. (Or to wherever the hell it is she goes when she vants to be alone.) That I have survived clipping their nails for this long without ending up shredded and bloody is nothing short of a miracle.

But two things I have never attempted to do with our cats is give them a bath... or a pill. (shudder) I fervently pray I never have to do either one of those things, but just in case, I thought it'd be a good idea to be prepared, ya know? I figured there had to be a most efficient method for carrying out these responsibilities with the least amount of muss, fuss, and bloodshed. Now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I think I'm ready to give our girls a bath. Endlessly helpful person that I am, I will now share some of these well-researched cat-washing tips with you.

It's a pretty safe bet that your cat won't be happy with the whole distasteful idea and indignity of you daring to give him a bath, unless, of course, you're planning to lick him clean with your tongue. Supposedly, some cats actually like being in water, but it'd be wise to assume your cat ain't one of them. Chances are, your precious ball of fluff will be going on the defensive in a most offensive way.

Whatever you do, don't attempt to bathe your cat in an open space, because chasing a cat is a race you're doomed to lose. Cats may have the advantage of speed and a total lack of concern for human life, but, theoretically, we humans are smarter, so it's up to us to pick the bathing spot wisely. It's best to choose a small bathroom, and the smaller, the better. If it's larger than four feet square, I hate to tell ya, but you're gonna have to get into the tub with your cat. And close the sliding glass door. (As you can see, a shower curtain doesn't quite cut it.)

Be advised: cats have claws, which they aren't afraid to use. Even if you keep those nails trimmed, or the cats regularly wear them down by shredding your favorite leather sofa, those claws can still do some damage. Not even a martial arts master is impervious to the flying claws of an angry cat, so you'd darned well better dress accordingly. Heavy canvas overalls tucked into leather boots, steel-mesh gloves, an Army helmet, hockey face mask, and a long-sleeved flak jacket should just about do the trick.

Okay, ready? After putting water into the tub, you're going to have to fool your cat. (Come on! We're the smart ones, right?) If your furry friend doesn't look at you suspiciously and head for the hills as soon as you even think about giving him a bath, pick him up nonchalantly, and stroll leisurely toward the bathroom. To assuage his distrust, which is surely mounting at this point, try crooning to him, or humming his favorite show tune. (from Cats, of course)

Once you're in the bathroom, speed is essential to survival. In one fell swoop, shut the bathroom door, get in the tub, slam the sliding door shut, dip the cat in the water, and hit him with a big blob of shampoo.

In case you never noticed, cats don't come with handles, so don't expect to hold onto a wet soapy cat (who's screeching, and fighting you tooth and nail) for more than two or three seconds at a time. When you do have him, give him another shot of shampoo and scrub like crazy. When he squirts out of your arms, he'll fall into the water, and (ta-DA!) rinse off the soap. (I think the world record for successful cat latherings is three, so don't expect too much.)

Now, you've gotta dry the cat, which isn't nearly as difficult as bathing him. That's because by now, your cat more than likely will be firmly attached to your leg.

Now, just open the drain with your foot, reach for your towel, and wait. Once the water has drained, it's a simple matter to reach down and dry the cat.

With any luck, your cat should be relaxed enough to be removed from your leg in a day or two. Unfortunately, for the next several weeks, he may not talk to you, and will probably spend an inordinate amount of time sitting with his back to you. You may think this is an expression of anger, but not so. He's plotting ways to inflict the maximum amount of bodily harm the next time you decide to give him a damned bath. 

Cat's Diary: I am finally aware of how sadistic they are. For no good reason, I was chosen for water torture. This time, however, it included a burning foamy concoction called "shampoo." What sick minds could invent such a liquid? My only consolation is the piece of thumb still stuck between my teeth.

Then there's this other way, which definitely has some merit, especially for the more cowardly of cat owners. It doesn't involve the tub at all, and is called the flush and fluff method:

1. Thoroughly clean the toilet.
2. Add the required amount of shampoo to the toilet water, and have both lids lifted.
3. Obtain the cat and soothe him while you carry him toward the bathroom.
4. In one smooth movement, put the cat in the toilet and close both lids (you may need to stand on the lid so that he cannot escape). CAUTION: Do not get any part of your body too close to the edge, as his paws will be reaching out for any purchase they can find.
5. Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a 'power wash and rinse' which I have found to be quite effective.
6. Have someone open the door to the outside and ensure that there are no people between the toilet and the outside door.
7. Stand behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift both lids.
8. The now-clean cat will rocket out of the toilet, and run outside where he will dry himself.

 The Dog

OR...  We could simply drop our cats off at the local groomer's place. Yep. I think that method gets my vote.

To bathe a cat takes brute force, perseverance, courage of conviction, and a cat. The last ingredient is usually the hardest to come by.  [Stephen Baker]
 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. Also, a very Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there.  

P.S. I have absolutely no idea why the font has decided to go microscopic on me for part of this post, or why this big-ass space has suddenly appeared between lines. Attempts to fix both issues were as pointless as me trying to wash our cats.