Will You be Visited by Krampus this Christmas?

by Kelly R. Smith

Impending doom at the hands of Krampus
Impending doom at the hands of Krampus
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When the holiday season begins to unfold, we begin to indulge in our favorite Christmas traditions. These vary greatly depending on locale and culture, but they’re all fun and grounded in tradition. Everybody is familiar with Santa Claus and his cohort, Rudolf, he of the illuminating red nose. But if you’ve been naughty this year, don’t be surprised if you get a visit from Krampus. Pity you.

Who is Krampus?

The malevolent and mythological Krampus is represented in the form of a hairy half-goat, half-demon. His job? To discipline wee children in the weeks prior to Christmas. His primary stomping grounds are in Germany, Austria, and neighboring Slovakian countries.

While the various Santa Claus representations are jolly old blokes who instill good behavior with the promise of gifts and candy, Krampus punishes naughty kids with whips and birch branches. He threatens to pull them down to his underworld in the event that they misbehave. St. Nicholas, a traditional Santa Claus figure, and Krampus, often work together, with St. Nicholas tending to the good children and Krampus menacing the naughty ones. It’s kind of a “good cop, bad cop” thing. To further increase anxiety, the Krampus goat-demon is traditionally depicted as a devil having a long, prehensile tongue and his feet are a curious mixture of human and hoof.

The History of Krampus

The term Krampus originates from the German word krampen which means “claw,” and the legend is old, pre-Christian in fact. During the 12th century, the Catholic Church not surprisingly tried to ban Krampus celebrations around the Christmas holiday because of the horned character’s resemblance to the devil. Krampus was also booted out of Austria during the 1930s at a time when the country suffered under fascist rule, as the Christian Social Party contended that the character, as represented, was unholy.

Modern Day Krampus

But in the end, it is hard to fight the will of the people and Krampus persisted in popular seasonal lore, with contemporary traditions featuring parades folks dressed in demonic-looking Krampus outfits in some European countries during December. In some countries Krampusnacht or “Krampus Night” is celebrated on December 5.

Today, the proliferation of the internet has exposed the traditional, and unusual-seeming Krampus lore to a multitude of people all over the world, giving Krampus a greater and more international presence during the Christmas season. Because of the figure’s pre-Christian roots, many neopaganists have come to embrace Krampus as one of their own.

So will you be visited by Krampus this Christmas? There might still be time to correct your naughty behavior. He’s watching; you can run but you can’t hide.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

A List of Random Trivia Facts

Increase Your Brain Content and be the Life of the Party

by Kelly R. Smith

Do you know your trivia?
Do you know your trivia?
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This trivia list was updated on 01/06/21.

Do you like trivia? I love it. My wife (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed) hates it; too pedestrian, and should I point out, trivial? (See what I did there?) My mother was the trivia boss; nobody could whip her at the game of Trivial Pursuit. In this post I list some of the tidbits that I find interesting as I stumble across them them. I’ll be adding them as I discover them so come back often. You might also enjoy New Years Eve trivia!

Regarding Food & Beverage

Q. Where did Doritos come from anyway?

A. Shortly after Disneyland opened in 1955, the founder of Frito-Lay opened “Casa de Fritos,” a Mexican-style restaurant in Disneyland’s Frontierland. When a vendor noticed the cooks dumping stale tortillas in the trash, he gave the kitchen a little tip: fry them, season them, and sell them as chips. Of course, they were a big hit, and the iconic snack was unofficially born. The VP of Frito-Lay fell in love with the repurposed snack and christened them “Doritos”. The chips proved to be so popular, they were rolled out nationwide in 1966.

Q. Where was Russian dressing invented?

A. Russian dressing was invented in Nashua, New Hampshire, by James E. Colburn who started selling the salad dressing at his store in 1910. By 1914, Colburn began manufacturing and distributing it to retailers and hotels. The condiment came to be called “Russian” since the original recipe included caviar, a staple of Russian cuisine. The dressing is made with a mayonnaise-ketchup base, often complemented with additional ingredients such as pickle relish, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, chives, mustard, and additional spices.

Q. Which of these foods, peas, potatoes, squash, could not have been eaten at the first Thanksgiving?

A. It turns out that our “traditional” Thanksgiving feast may not be as traditional as you might think. Many of the foods we associate with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner were not yet available for “The First Thanksgiving”. Turkey was not the star of the feast either. Instead, venison headlined the meal, although there was a healthy selection of seafood, fowl, and fish. There was no cranberry sauce, no pumkpin pie, and no potatoes. The potato had not yet been grown in North America. There was no gravy either, since they didn’t yet have mills to produce flour.

Q. Introduced in 1954, what was the entrée in the very first frozen “TV Dinner”?

A. The TV dinner owes its existence to Thanksgiving, an order miscalculation, and a salesman named Gerry Thomas. In 1953, the folks at Swanson overestimated how many Thanksgiving turkeys they would sell, leaving the company with an extra 260 tons of frozen birds sitting in ten refrigerated railroad cars. To get rid of them all, salesman Gerry Thomas came up with the idea of filling aluminum trays with the turkey – along with cornbread dressing, gravy, peas, and sweet potatoes. They were sold for 98 cents, and thus, the TV dinner was born.

Q. Breakfastofchampions.com is the official website of which breakfast cereal?

A. Wheaties is well known for featuring prominent athletes on the exterior of its package. The company first sold the product as Washburn’s Gold Medal Wheat Flakes in 1924. After an employee’s wife won a renaming contest, it called the cereal “Wheaties.”The brand adopted the “Breakfast of Champions” slogan in 1933, and in 1934 the Wheaties box featured its first athlete, Lou Gehrig. Its boxes have since been graced by hundreds of other athletes including Michael Jordan (who has appeared on the box 18 times — more than any other athlete).

Q. Which fast-food chain introduced the controversial “Double Down” sandwich?

A. Who needs burger buns when you can use fried chicken instead? We are, of course talking about KFC’s legendary Double Down sandwich. The Double Down is an iconic sandwich with fried bacon, melted cheese, and BBQ sauce all sandwiched between two pieces of chicken fillets. When it was first introduced, it caused a lot of curiosity, because KFC basically replaced the usual burger buns with actual chicken, and deep-fried at that. Genius! It’s not surprising that the limited time sandwich is one of KFC’s bestselling and controversial products ever. No veggie vegan burger here, folks!

Q. Which of these is part of a wine bottle AND a football term? Tackle, punt, rush, or safety?

A. A punt is the dimple at the bottom of a wine bottle. Historically, punts were a function of wine bottles being made by glassblowers. The seam was pushed up to make sure the bottle could stand upright. Bottles nowadays are much stronger and machine-made, so the punt is simply part of wine-bottle tradition, though some say it helps collect the sediment as wines age. It’s also thought that the punt consumes some volume of the bottle, allowing the bottle to appear larger for the same amount of wine, which may impress the purchaser.

Regarding Politicians and Politics

Q. What is Senator Mitt Romney’s first name?

A. Romney’s real first name is Willard. He was named after J. Willard Marriott, founder of the Marriott hotel chain, who was Mitt’s father’s best friend. Romney’s middle name, Mitt, comes from his father’s cousin, Milton, who played quarterback for the Chicago Bears back in the 1920s. Romney became governor of Massachusetts in 2003 and ran for the Republican nomination in the 2008 election, losing to candidate John McCain. He made a second run for the U.S. presidency in 2012, but was defeated by President Barack Obama in a tight race. He returned to public office in 2019 as a U.S. senator from Utah.

Q. Which Vice President famously could not spell the word “potato”?

A. In 1992, Dan Quayle altered 12-year-old student William Figueroa’s correct spelling of “potato” to “potatoe” at a school spelling bee in Trenton, New Jersey. Quayle was widely lambasted for his error. What most people don’t know is that Quayle was looking at a flash card provided by the school that had the “correct” answer on it, spelled incorrectly.

Q. Which president cancelled Thanksgiving?

A. Thomas Jefferson was so adamantly against Thanksgiving that he refused to declare it a holiday during his presidency, and many say that he called the holiday “the most ridiculous idea ever conceived.” Most historians agree that Jefferson really refused to declare the holiday because he believed in the separation of church and state, and thought that the day of “prayer” violated the First Amendment. It wasn’t until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a federal holiday, that it was officially scheduled to fall on the fourth Thursday of every November.

Q. Whose ghost did British Prime Minister Winston Churchill reportedly see in the White House?

A. Stories of a ghostly President Abraham Lincoln wandering the corridors and rooms of the White House have persisted for more than a century. Presidents, first ladies, guests, and members of the White House staff have claimed to have either seen Lincoln or felt his presence. A well-known ghost story was reported by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was a guest at the White House. After a long bath, and naked except for a cigar, Churchill walked into the adjoining bedroom — and there was Abraham Lincoln at the fireplace. Churchill said, “Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” He reported that Lincoln smiled softly and then disappeared.

Q. Who was president of the United States for eight hours on July 13, 1985?

A. On July 13, 1985, when President Reagan underwent colon cancer surgery, Vice President George H. W. Bush became the first “acting president” of the United States. Reagan sent letters to the speaker of the House and the Senate president pro tempore advising them he “will be briefly and temporarily incapable of discharging the Constitutional powers and duties of the office of the president” and thus “Vice President George Bush shall discharge those powers and duties”. This transfer of power lasted all of eight hours — from 11:28 a.m. until 7:22 p.m. Various press reports say that for most of his tenure as acting president, George H. W. Bush played tennis.

Q. Who is the only First Lady that did not change her last name upon marriage?

A. Eleanor Roosevelt was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, and the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt were 5th cousins, once removed, and had known each other since they were two. They were married on March 17, 1905, in a ceremony that featured Theodore walking his niece down the aisle. When asked for his thoughts on the Roosevelt–Roosevelt union, Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is a good thing to keep the name in the family.” Eleanor is the only first lady to not change her last name upon marriage.

Q. The line “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is included in which of the following?

A. This iconic line comes from one of the best-known speeches in American history. On November 19, 1863, in what would become known as the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln expressed his conviction that the Civil War was the ultimate test of whether the Union created in 1776 would survive, or whether it would “perish from the earth.” The dead at Gettysburg had laid down their lives for this noble cause, he said, and it was up to the living to confront the “great task” before them: ensuring that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Q. What were George Washington’s last words?

A. George Washington died on December 14th, 1799, of a throat infection. He passed away in his bedroom in his home at Mount Vernon, with Martha sitting at the foot of his bed. His last words followed instructions he gave his secretary, Tobias Lear, to “have me decently buried; and do not let my body be put into the vault in less than three days after I am dead”  After Lear confirmed that he understood his mentor’s final wishes, George spoke his final words: “Tis well.” Martha passed away on May 22nd, 1802, about two and a half years after George died.

Regarding the States

Q. Which state’s capital does not begin with the letter “P”?

A. Many people, if put on the spot, would probably assume that Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania. It’s not necessarily a bad guess considering Philadelphia is the most populous city in the state, and once served as the capital of our nation. The city of Lancaster served as the capital of Pennsylvania from 1799 to 1812, after which the capital was moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. With a population just under 50,000, Harrisburg is the 13th largest city in the Commonwealth and the 38th-most populated state capital in the country.

Q. Which of Georgia, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont was NOT one of America’s original 13 colonies?

A. Vermont was NOT one of the original 13 colonies. The United States of America initially consisted of 13 states that had been British colonies until their independence was declared in 1776. The Thirteen Colonies consisted of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The 13 colonies were divided into three geographic areas consisting of the New England colonies, the Middle colonies, and the Southern colonies.

Regarding Cities

Q. Which resort city was named after the abundance of trees that grow in the area?

A. Nestled in the heart of the White River National Forest and surrounded by the peaks of the Elk Mountains, Aspen is well known as an iconic ski destination for the rich and famous. It was founded as a mining camp during the Colorado Silver Boom, and was later named Aspen for the abundance of aspen trees in the area. Now known as a world renowned and luxurious ski area, Aspen is also a popular summertime destination with outdoor adventures like running races, hiking, and biking. “I came to Aspen for the winter, but stayed for the summer,” is how many locals respond after telling about the years they have lived in Aspen.

Q. Which U.S. city is known as the “City of Brotherly Love”?

A. In 1682, William Penn founded the city of Philadelphia to serve as capital of the Pennsylvania Colony. The name he gave his city combined the Greek words for love (phileo) and brother (adelphos), setting up its enduring nickname “The City of Brotherly Love”. Coincidentally, the term “Black Friday” originated in Philadelphia, when it was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department in 1966 to describe the chaos caused by massive traffic jams, car accidents and congested sidewalks that resulted from the shopping day after Thanksgiving.

Q. Where are the US towns are named “Turkey?”

A. There are four small towns in America that are named after the nation’s favorite bird.  There is Turkey, Texas; Turkey, North Carolina, Turkey Creek, Louisiana; and and Turkey Creek, Arizona. Oh, and let’s not forget the two townships in Pennsylvania: the creatively named Upper Turkeyfoot and Lower Turkeyfoot!

Q. On which Hawaiian island is Pearl Harbor located?

A. Pearl Harbor is located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It is located roughly 2,000 miles from the U.S. mainland and about 4,000 miles from Japan. Pearl Harbor of course was the scene of a devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on this day, 12/07/41. The Japanese bombings of Pearl Harbor was a pivotal point in world history and President Franklin Roosevelt would famously describe as, “a date which will live in infamy.” Today, Pearl Harbor remains an active military base, and the headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet.

Q. What is the capital of the U.S. state where the country’s deepest lake is located?

A. With a depth of 1,949 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, and the ninth deepest lake in the world. Crater Lake is located in south-central Oregon, and Salem is of course, the capital of the state of Oregon. Crater Lake rests in the belly of a dormant volcano. The volcano once stood 12,000 feet tall, but it collapsed after a major eruption 7,700 years ago. The lake is known for its vibrant blue color and purity. Because there are no inflowing streams, the lake is fed solely by rain and snow. According to the National Park Service, it is the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world.

Regarding Celebrities and Showbiz

Q. Whose 1993 autobiography titled “Private Parts” was released as a movie in 1997?

A. Private Parts is a 1997 biographical comedy film about radio personality Howard Stern, who stars as himself. The film is an adaptation of Stern’s best-selling 1993 book of the same name. The film follows Howard Stern’s life from boyhood to his rise to success in radio. Stern and several of his radio show staff star as themselves in the film, including newscaster and co-host Robin Quivers, producers Fred Norris and Gary Dell’Abate, and comedian Jackie Martling. The film also stars Mary McCormack, Allison Janney, and Paul Giamatti.

Q. Who was named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2020?

A. Michael B. Jordan has been crowned 2020’s Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. Michael B. Jordan began his career as a model and actor, landing roles in television shows like “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights”. Jordan garnered acclaim for his role in the film festival favorite “Fruitvale Station” and for his role as a boxing protégé in “Creed”. His biggest role to date is his portrayal of supervillain Erik Killmonger in Marvel’s “Black Panther“. Previous title holders of the award include John Legend, Idris Elba, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, David Beckham, Chris Hemsworth, Adam Levine, and Channing Tatum.

Q. What real life figure did Leonardo DiCaprio portray in the 2004 movie “The Aviator”?

A. The Aviator is a 2004 epic biographical drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, staring Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn, and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner. The film depicts the life of Howard Hughes, an aviation pioneer and director of the film Hell’s Angels. The film portrays his life from 1927 to 1947 during which time Hughes became a successful film producer and an aviation magnate while simultaneously growing more unstable due to severe obsessive–compulsive disorder.

Q. Which “Saturday Night Live” cast member was shot and killed by his wife?

A. In 1986, Phil Hartman joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, and was on the show for 8 seasons. Hartman played a wide range of characters including Frank Sinatra, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Ed McMahon, Barbara Bush, and many others. Hartman married his third wife Brynn Omdahl in 1987 and they had two children. Their marriage was troubled by Brynn’s drug use and Phil’s constant absence from home. In 1998, while Hartman was sleeping, his wife shot and killed him, and later committed suicide. It was later discovered that Brynn had alcohol, cocaine, and Zoloft in her system. Phil Hartman was 49 years old.

Q. Who is remembered for the catchphrase “Say good night, Gracie”?

A. This line is spoken by George Burns in the TV show “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show”. George Burns and Gracie Allen met in 1922 while they were both touring on the Vaudeville circuit. After falling in love and getting married, the two developed an act together. By the time they brought their act to TV in 1950, the two were a huge hit. The end of every show became a catchphrase: George and Gracie would come out and do some jokes until it was time to close the show, when George would turn to his wife and tell her, “Say goodnight, Gracie,” and she would simply reply, “Goodnight.”

Q. What is the maximum amount of money that a contestant can possibly win in a single game of “Jeopardy!”?

A. Although it’s never happened, the maximum winnable sum in a single game is $566,400. A single contestant would have to sweep both boards, find all three Daily Doubles – in the top tier and at the end of each round – make them true Daily Doubles and then wager everything in Final Jeopardy! The contestant would have $35,600 after Jeopardy, $283,200 after Double Jeopardy, and $566,400 after Final Jeopardy. The highest one-day winning total was $77,000, a record set by contestant Roger Craig on September 14, 2010.

Q. Which band had a No. 1 hit on the “Rocky III” soundtrack with the song “Eye of The Tiger”?

A. “Eye of the Tiger” is a song by the rock band Survivor. It was the theme song for the film Rocky III, and was recorded at the request of Rocky III star, writer, and director Sylvester Stallone, after Queen denied him permission to use “Another One Bites the Dust”. “Eye of the Tiger” was nominated for the 1982 Academy Award for Best Original Song (the only Oscar nomination for Rocky III), but it lost to “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman. The song was also nominated for the 1983 Grammy Award for Song of the Year, but lost to the Willie Nelson hit “Always on My Mind”.

Q. At 8 minutes and 36 seconds, what is the longest single ever to reach #1 on the Billboard chart?

A. “American Pie” is a song by Don McLean that was a No. 1 hit for a full month in 1972. It is the longest song ever to top the Billboard Hot 100, at a whopping eight minutes and 36 seconds. The 45 RPM single had to be split into two parts, and some DJs only played one side or the other, although many played the uninterrupted album version which includes no fewer than six verses. The repeatedly mentioned phrase “the day the music died” refers to the plane crash that killed rock and roll performers Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens in 1959.

Q. What was the fictional town where “The Andy Griffith Show” was set?

A. Mayberry is a fictional community that was the setting for the television sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show.” The show starred Andy Griffith in the role of Andy Taylor, the widowed sheriff of the slow-paced town of Mayberry, North Carolina. Mayberry is said to be based on Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, North Carolina. Mount Airy is also known as Mayberry and called by both names by its residents. According to show episodes, the community of Mayberry was named for fictional founder Lord Mayberry. Purportedly, Andy Griffith himself chose the name of the fictional community.

Q. What was the title of the first video ever posted on YouTube?

A. YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim uploaded the first video titled “Me at the zoo” to the website on April 23, 2005. The 19-second clip shows Karim standing in front of the elephants at the San Diego Zoo saying “the cool thing about these guys is that they have really, really, really long, um, trunks.” He ends the video simply by stating: “And that’s pretty much all there is to say.” The video doesn’t look like much, but it sparked a revolution. A year after “Me at the zoo,” Karim and his fellow co-founders sold the platform to the social media Google for a whopping $1.65 billion.

Q. Who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Gandhi in the 1982 film of the same name?

A. Gandhi is a 1982 biographical film based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi. It tells the story of Gandhi and his struggle to win independence for India through nonviolent civil disobedience. To embody Mahatma Gandhi, producer and director Richard Attenborough turned to British actor Ben Kingsley, whose father came from the same area in India in which Gandhi was born. The film was a commercial success and received a leading eleven nominations at the 55th Academy Awards, winning eight including for the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Ben Kingsley.

Q. Which television show premiered on the same day that the Soviet Union launched Sputnik?

A. On October 4, 1957, the day Leave It to Beaver premiered on American television, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. Sputnik was a polished metal sphere about the size of a beach ball. It measured 23 inches in diameter, weighed 184 pounds, and circled the Earth once every hour and 36 minutes traveling at 18,000 miles an hour. The U.S. government and scientific community were caught off guard by the Soviet achievement, and their efforts to catch up with the Soviets heralded the beginning of the “Space Race.”

Q. What was the first TV series to be filmed before a live studio audience?

A. Premiering in 1951, I Love Lucy was the first television series to be filmed in front of an audience. This was made possible by the idea of Desi Arnaz to use multiple cameras. This implementation allowed the show to benefit from the strengths of both stage plays (live audience) and film (camera angle options, point of view, etc.). This approach produced a marriage between cinema and theater; television and plays. Shows that subsequently adopted this concept include All in the Family, Cheers, The Jeffersons, Seinfeld, Friends and Full House.

Q. Which band sued Nike after they used the song “Revolution” in one of their commercials?

A. In 1987, the Beatles filed a $15-million lawsuit to halt the use of the band’s 1968 recording of “Revolution” in a Nike running shoes TV commercial. Declaring that the rock group doesn’t “endorse or peddle sneakers or panty hose,” the three surviving Beatles filed the lawsuit objecting to Nike’s use of the song, claiming that the band hadn’t given their “authorization or permission.” Nike stopped running the ads early in 1988, and the “Revolution” lawsuit was settled out-of-court the next year on terms that have been kept secret since.

Q. What were the final words written down by Walt Disney prior to his death?

A. The final words written by Walt Disney were “Kurt Russell”. In 1966, as Disney was suffering from lung cancer and nearing the end of his life, he scribbled down the name “Kurt Russell” on a piece of paper in his office and died soon after. At the time, Russell was a child actor for the studio and had just signed a lengthy contract, according to Disney historian Jim Korkis. To this day, no one knows exactly what Walt Disney meant or intended, including Kurt Russell himself. Walt Disney died on this day in 1966, ten days after his 65th birthday.

Q. Which man was the second person to receive Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in Great Britain?

A. To be or not to be vaccinated, that is the question. William Shakespeare has been vaccinated against the coronavirus. (Yes, you read that right.) The historic name is shared with the second man in Great Britain to receive Pfizer’s approved COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday. The 81-year-old man – Bill to his friends – lives only about 20 miles from the actual Bard’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon. The historic importance of the moment and the historic name sparked some fun on social media calling the inoculation, “The Taming of the Flu.”

Q. Which classic Christmas film opens at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

A. Miracle on 34th Street is a 1947 Christmas film that stars Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn. The story takes place between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day in New York City, and focuses on the effect of a department store Santa Claus who claims to be the real Santa. Miracle on 34th Street was shot on location in New York City, with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade sequences filmed live while the 1946 parade was happening.” The film has become a perennial Christmas favorite.

Q. The U2 song “Shadows and Tall Trees” is taken from a chapter title in what famous book?

A. The song “Shadows and Tall Trees” is one of U2’s earliest recordings. The song was inspired by William Golding’s dystopian novel Lord Of The Flies. “Shadows And Tall Trees” happens to be the name of the seventh chapter of the book. In 1978, U2 went into a studio in Dublin to record their first demo tape. During that session they recorded three tracks, “Street Mission,” “Shadows and Tall Trees,” and “The Fool.” They became the first songs used to try to gain the Irish rock band a recording contract. “Shadows and Tall Trees” was the only song from the demo tape to be included on their debut album, Boy.

Q. Which musician sold his entire songwriting catalog in December 2020 for over $300 million?

A. Nearly 60 years after writing such classics as “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Bob Dylan has sold his entire songwriting catalog — more than 600 songs — to Universal Music Publishing Group in a deal reportedly worth more than $300 million. The deal with Dylan may be the highest price ever paid for a musician or group’s songwriting rights. Universal will now collect money any time another musician covers any of those songs, and it will earn revenue for allowing the songs to be used in commercials and movies as well as when the songs are streamed or sold commercially.

Q. Who rode a horse named Trigger?

A. Trigger (originally named Golden Cloud) was a palomino horse made famous in American Western films with his owner and rider, cowboy star Roy Rogers. When Roy Rogers was preparing to make his first movie in a starring role, he was offered a choice of five rented “movie” horses to ride and chose Golden Cloud. Rogers eventually bought him in 1943 and renamed him Trigger for his quickness of both foot and mind. Trigger was ridden by Rogers in many of his motion pictures, becoming one of the most famous horses in film entertainment.

Regarding History

Q. What French explorer claimed what is now Canada for France in 1534?

A. French navigator Jacques Cartier was sent by King Francis I to the New World in search of riches and a new route to Asia. He led three major North American voyages, and his exploration of the St. Lawrence River allowed France to lay claim to lands that would become Canada. On July 24, 1534, Cartier planted a cross with the words, “Long Live the King of France” on the shores of Quebec, thus claiming the region for France. Cartier is also credited with the naming of Canada, which is derived from the Huron-Iroquois word kanata, meaning “village”.

Q. Which iconic event in American history took place on December 16, 1773?

A. On December 16, 1773, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The midnight raid, popularly known as the “Boston Tea Party,” was in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773. Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the “tea party” with about 60 members of the Sons of Liberty, his underground resistance group. The British government responded harshly, and enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts. The Tea Party became an iconic event which escalated into the American Revolution.

Q. Which song was originally written for the Thanksgiving holiday?

A. “Jingle Bells” is a classic song sung at Christmas time, but it didn’t start out that way. First published in 1857, it was written by James Lord Pierpont, to celebrate Thanksgiving — not Christmas. Pierpont wrote a song called “One Horse Open Sleigh” for a children’s Thanksgiving play. When the song was reissued two years later, it had the more familiar title of “Jingle Bells.” Although “Jingle Bells” is now a Yuletide staple, there is no mention of Christmas anywhere in the song. The holiday ditty became associated with Christmas decades later.

Q. Which insect inspired the term “computer bug”?

A. The first “computer bug” was, in fact, a literal bug. Computer scientist and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, coined the term bug in 1947 after operators traced an error in Harvard University‘s Mark II computer to a moth trapped in a relay. The moth was carefully removed and taped to the machines’ log book. Grace Hopper added the caption “First actual case of bug being found”. This was the first time anyone used the word “bug” to describe a computer glitch. The engineers who found the moth were the first to literally “debug” a machine.

Q. Who wrote the Gettysburg Address?

A. No, not a trick question. While subsequent presidents have all enjoyed significant assistance from speechwriters in crafting their messages, President Abraham Lincoln took a more hands-on approach and is one of the few presidents in U.S. history to have written the entirety of his speeches and remarks.

Q. Who was the first person to break the sound barrier?

A. On October 14, 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier. Yeager piloted the rocket-powered Bell X-1 to a speed of Mach 1.07, becoming the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound. In order to reach its testing altitude, the X-1 was air-launched through the bomb bay of a Boeing B-29 Super Fortress, and then used its four-chambered rocket engine to climb to 43,000 feet, exceeding 660 miles per hour. Chuck Yeager, who was later immortalized in the film “The Right Stuff,” died last night at the age of 97.

Q. Sarah Fuller made history as a female kicker for which college football team?

A. Sarah Fuller made college football history last month as the first female to play in a Power Five college football game. The Vanderbilt University senior made her historic debut as a kicker for the Commodores in their face-off last month against the University of Missouri Tigers. The soccer player was recruited after members of the squad’s special teams contracted the coronavirus. On Saturday, Fuller continued to make history. This time, she converted two extra points for the Vanderbilt Commodores, becoming the first woman to score in a Power 5 college football game.

Q. Which product was advertised in the first television commercial in 1941?

A. The first official paid television advertisement was broadcast in the United States on July 1, 1941 over New York station WNBT (now WNBC) before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies. Before the game began, TV viewers saw a 10-second advertisement for Bulova clocks and watches. The ad showed a clock and a map of the United States, with a voice-over that says, “America runs on Bulova time”. Bulova paid $9 to run the spot that was seen by about 4,000 people in New York.

Q. When and how did Santa Claus start to be portrayed as he is today?

A. In the early days, Santa Claus was depicted as tall and gaunt, and in some cases, he appeared as a spooky elf with a bishop’s robe and animal skin. In 1931, Coca-Cola illustrator Haddon Sundblom redesigned Santa’s image to use in the company’s magazine ads, and that is the figure recognized today as the jolly old fellow.

Q. How did the United States Playing Card Company contribute to the war effort in WWII and help POWs?

A. During World War II, British and American intelligence agencies joined forces with the United States Playing Card Company to create a very special deck of cards. The cards were handed out for Christmas to help prisoners of war escape  Nazi POW camps. Individual cards peeled apart when moistened, to reveal maps of escape routes.

Q. Which Christmas song was banned in Boston by the Roman Catholic Church in 1952?

A. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” was commissioned by Saks Fifth Avenue to go along with a postcard designed for a holiday giveaway. Everyone loved the song when it was released in 1952, except the Roman Catholic Church. When first released, Jimmy Boyd’s record was banned in Boston by the Roman Catholic Church on the grounds it mixed sex with Christmas. Boyd made worldwide news when he went to Boston and met with the leaders of the Church to explain the song. The following Christmas, the ban was lifted.

Q. Which war ended on Christmas Eve?

A. Christmas Eve marks the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. On December 24, 1814, in Ghent, Belgium, the United States and Great Britain came to terms ending two and a half years of fighting the War of 1812. The treaty restored relations between the United States and Great Britain, and foreshadowed more than two centuries of peaceful relations between the two countries. Unfortunately, it took a month for news of the treaty to reach the United States during which American forces under Andrew Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, and the British won the Battle of Fort Bowyer.

Q. What is the best selling Christmas song of all time?

A. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby is not only the best-selling Christmas single, but also the best-selling single of all time, with sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide. Taking into consideration the sales of cover versions, the number jumps to over 100 million units. The song was listed as the world’s best-selling single in the first-ever Guinness Book of Records (published in 1955) and remarkably still retains the title more than 65 years later. Mariah Carey‘s 1994 track “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is the 11th best-selling single of all time.

Regarding Geography

Q. Which of the Great Lakes is the only one located entirely within the United States?

A. The Great Lakes are a series of large interconnected freshwater lakes in the upper mid-east region of North America that connect to the Atlantic Ocean through the Saint Lawrence River. They are lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Lake Michigan is the only one of the Great Lakes that is located entirely within the United States; the others form a water boundary between the United States and Canada. The Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total area, and second-largest by total volume, containing 21% of the world’s surface fresh water by volume.

Q. What was on the grounds of the Jefferson Memorial before it was built?

A. The Tidal Basin, which is the center of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival and the setting of the Jefferson Memorial, was originally a popular beach that once featured a cabana and diving platform. At the time,  this summertime swimming hole was a “whites only” facility.  After much debate over establishing a similar beach site for African Americans, it was decided that the Tidal Basin would be closed to everyone instead.

Regarding Countries

Q. How many time zones does China have?

A. China is a huge country with only one time zone! That means that in some parts of China, the sun doesn’t rise until 10:00 in the morning. In the past, China has had five different time zones. This lasted until 1949 when Communist leaders decided having one time zone for the entire country was a good idea. Since then, everyone in China is using official Beijing time.

Q. Which country could fit inside Central Park in New York City?

A. Central Park is located in New York City, and has an area of 1.3 square miles. Shockingly, the entire country of Monaco could fit inside of Central Park with plenty of room to spare. With an area of .78 square miles, Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, after Vatican City, and roughly 60% of the size of Central Park. With a population of 38,300, Monaco is also one of the densest countries in the world. Monaco is famous for its lavish wealth, casinos, and glamorous events such as the Monaco Yacht Show and the Monaco Grand Prix.

Q. What is the estimated population of the United States?

A. According to the United States Census Bureau, the population of the United States is currently estimated at 330 million. The population of the United States is equivalent to 4.23% of the total world population. Overall the U.S. remains the third most populous country in the world, behind China (1.44 billion) and India (1.38 billion) and ahead of Indonesia (274 million). According to the agency, the U.S. experiences one birth every 8 seconds; one death every 12 seconds; one international migrant (net) every 47 seconds; with a net gain of one person every 16 seconds.

Regarding Nature and Health

Q. Sunlight is credited for increasing the body’s levels of what vitamin?

A. Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to solar rays. If you spend the bulk of your time indoors, you may not produce much vitamin D on your own. Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods, but you can get the nutrient from fortified milk, fortified cereal, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones because your body requires it to absorb calcium. Recent studies have found a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of COVID-19 infection.

Q. In humans, which gender has XY chromosomes?

A. The sex chromosomes are referred to as X and Y, and their combination determines a person’s sex. Males have two distinct sex chromosomes (XY), and are called the heterogametic sex. Females have two of the same kind of sex chromosome (XX), and are called the homogametic sex. In humans, the presence of the Y chromosome is typically responsible for triggering male development; in the absence of the Y chromosome, the fetus will undergo female development. The XY sex-determination system is found in humans, most other mammals, some insects, some fish (guppies), and some plants (Ginkgo tree).

Q. Russia’s current coronavirus vaccine shares its name with which of the following?

A. Sputnik V (V for vaccine), is the trademarked name of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine. In a nod to last century’s Cold War space race, the Russians named the vaccine Sputnik V after the world’s first satellite named Sputnik. Sputnik V has received some questioning from scientists around the world as the vaccine was approved following less than two months of human testing. Russia is not the only world power to draw on outer space for inspiration in naming COVID-19 treatments. In the United States, the Trump administration launched the initiative named “Operation Warp Speed.”

Regarding Irony & Miscellaneous

In 1567, the man said to have the longest beard in the world died after he tripped over his beard running away from a fire.

Q. Which branch of the US Military operates the American Toys for Tots charity?

A. Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The program was founded in 1947 by reservist Major Bill Hendricks. In 1995, the Secretary of Defense approved Toys for Tots as an official activity of the U. S. Marine Corps and an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve. Since its founding, The Toys for Tots Program has collected and distributed more than 584 million toys to 265 million children. To make a monetary donation to the program, visit their website at https://www.toysfortots.org

Q. What was the first song to be played in space?

A. “Jingle Bells” was the first song broadcast from space, in a Christmas-themed prank by Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra. In 1965, shortly before Christmas, the astronauts reported that they spotted a UFO entering the Earth’s atmosphere and that it was moving away from the North Pole and headed south. Before the people at NASA’s Mission Control became too shocked, the astronauts started playing the song “Jingle Bells.” The astronauts joined in with Tom Stafford shaking the sleigh bells he had smuggled aboard and Wally Schirra playing a miniature harmonica.

Q. Bill Lear, founder of the Lear Jet, is credited with inventing what music playback format?

A. William Lear, the man behind LearJet, was also the inventor of the 8-track cartridge tape system. The 8-track tape is a magnetic-tape sound recording technology that was the preeminent portable and car audio format of the 1970s. The main advantage of the 8-Track tape cartridge was that it did not have to be “flipped over” to play the alternative set of tracks. Eight-track players became less common in the early 1980s, with cassette tapes surpassing it in popularity. Throughout his career of 46 years, William Lear received over 120 patents.


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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Is Scientology a Cult or a Religion?

by Kelly R. Smith

One of many Scientology churches
One of many Scientology churches
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Scientology was the brainchild of the charismatic leader and science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard started in 1952. It has been classified as a religion by the United States and the United Kingdom governments for tax purposes. However, Germany calls it an “anti-constitutional sect” and France has labeled it a “dangerous cult” as have many parts of the United States. A looser definition that is sometimes used is a New Religious Movement (NRM), defined as a religious, ethical, or spiritual group or community with relatively modern origins. But is Scientology a cult or a true religion? Where is the dividing line? Does it fall somewhere in the middle, a secret society like the Illuminati?

What Is a Cult?

A sociologist will tell you that a cult is a small group of individuals without a distinctive authority structure, usually led by a charismatic leader or a small group of leaders, and who derive their cause and ideology from outside of, and counter to, the more broadly-accepted religious and social culture. However, in layman’s terms, a cult is a manipulating and authoritarian organization that likely uses mind control to recruit members, keep them in line, and poses a threat to mental health to the flock.

The term “cult” has been used broadly to refer to groups such as Scientologists, Obama’s shadow government, Satanists, Mormons, Druids, The Peoples Church, the KKK, the Manson Family, Antifa, Pagans, Southern Baptists, Roman Catholics, Trekkies, and Pokemon Go players. The term is broad enough to include both dangerous types and mere enthusiasts.

Cults and New Religious Movements

One problem with the term “cult” is that it has such a negative, and to some people, dangerous and frightening connotations. This is why sociologists have dropped the term and now refer to non-traditional religious sects such as Scientology New Religious Movements (NRMs).

Scientology does not exhibit some of the most common characteristics of a truly dangerous cult. In particular, the presence of a beloved, still-living founder; a relatively small and easily controlled number of followers; and a disturbing history of murders or suicides at the command of the leader. However, there is disturbing concern over the amount of control the church possesses, and its constant legal trouble can be seen as a red flag.

Leah Remini, ex-Scientologist discusses growing up in the church

Scientology and Characteristics of Dangerous Cults

  • Ruled by One Charismatic leader. Scientology was created by one charismatic man, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. His originally intended it to be a branch of science, but that didn’t catch on so he switched his focus to a religious movement. He died in 1986, and the current head of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige took over. He maintains all the power and control over the money. He has a reputation as being abusive and tyrannical often losing his temper and physically attacking members of his staff.
  • Complete Control Over Church Members. One of the ways it does this is the policy of disconnection. But what is it? Mike Rinder says in his blog1, “There IS policy of the church of scientology that REQUIRES someone to disconnect from anyone declared by HCO as a Suppressive Person. HCOB 10 September 83 PTSNess and Disconnection states the following: ‘To fail or refuse to disconnect from a suppressive person not only denies the PTS (person connected to a Suppressive Person) case gain, it is also supportive of the suppressive – in itself a Suppressive Act. And it must be so labeled.‘” In a nutshell, if the Church finds disapproval with a person, the Church member must disconnect association, be it a family member, coworker, or other.
  • The Commission of Felonies. Many legal accusations have been directed at the Church over the years, and many have resulted in felony convictions, for example, in connection with Operation Snow White, which included theft of government documents. Through The Looking Glass says2, “Operation Snow White was a criminal conspiracy by the Church of Scientology during the 1970s to purge unfavorable records about Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. This project included a series of infiltrations into and thefts from 136 government agencies, foreign embassies and consulates, as well as private organizations critical of Scientology, carried out by Church members in more than 30 countries.” The most common accusations are fraud, extortion, and harassment, although other accusations such as kidnapping and negligent homicide have also been leveled.
  • Communal Living. Many Church members live in special Church-owned facilities (presumably for more control). There are groups in Scientology (notably Sea Org) that often have semi-communal arrangements in which families may be kept separated. Former employees have reported that they worked long hours, were paid very little, and were actively discouraged from having families.


  • Punishment for Defection or Criticism. According to Learn Religions3, “Defection and criticism can lead to one being labeled a suppressive person from whom other members should disconnect. SPs can become targets of harassment through the church’s ‘fair game’ doctrine. Established by L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s, the ‘fair game’ doctrine states that anyone identified as an opponent may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. Scientology has sued several of its former members; defectors are shunned or ‘disconnected.’ According to the church and former members, leaving is a lengthy process that can take months. The church requires that the leaving members pay ‘freeloader’ bills—former members report bills of tens of thousands of dollars—and sign affidavits which are drawn up by the officials.”
  • Large Donations are a Way of Life. As soon as they join, members are required to pay large donations for their coursework. This money must be paid up front, not-pay-as-you-go. Next, members are highly-encouraged to use these services since they are a fundamental way of achieving the goals of Scientology. Then there are ongoing requests for still more donations for projects and new buildings.

So, is Scientology a cult or a religion? Given how broad the definitions are, there is a lot of gray area. We do know that they don’t believe in Jesus or any other earthly prophet. Instead, they believe in the Overlord Xenu who headed the Galactic Federation, which was an organization of 76 planets. They do believe in reincarnation (hence, the billion-year contract they sign).


References

  1. Mike Rinder, Scientology Disconnection, https://www.mikerindersblog.org/scientology-disconnection/
  2. The Infomaniac, Through The Looking Glass, OPERATION SNOW WHITE: How Scientology Was Behind the Largest Infiltration of the US Government, https://throughthelookingglassnews.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/operation-snow-white-how-scientology-was-behind-the-largest-infiltration-of-the-us-government-in-history-besides-israel-with-5000-under-cover-agents/
  3. Catherine Beyer, Learn Religions, Is Scientology a Cult?, https://www.learnreligions.com/is-scientology-cult-95820

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Who Was Halloween’s Jack-o’-Lantern?

The History Behind this Holiday’s Spooky, Eldritch Icon

by Kelly R. Smith

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Spooky Halloween Jack o' Lanterns
Spooky Halloween Jack o’ Lanterns

This Halloween season, like many that have come before, people far and wide will be carving Jack o’ Lanterns and putting their creations on displays. For this, farmers all over the country thank you. You likely know of Halloween’s Irish origin, but where did this festive fellow come from?

Who are Jack-o’-Lanterns Named For?

Jack has been a generic term for a lad since the 1500s and because of this, it found its way into a number of children’s songs and rhymes. The English own the original use of the phrase jack-o’-lantern. During the 17th century, it meant a night watchman who carried a lantern as he made his rounds.

But as it turns out, jack-o’-lantern was also a name for bizarre, flickering lights that were seen at night lingering over wetlands or peat bogs and thought to be fairies or ghosts. Actually, it’s natural phenomenon that is known as ignis fatuus, or “foolish fire,” friar’s lantern, and will-o’-the-wisp.

Fast Forward to the mid-1800s

What is known as a turnip lantern became known as a jack-o’-lantern. Young boys fashioned these hollowed-out and lit-up root veggies and used them to spook people. One Irish legend in particular says that this use of jack-o’-lantern was named after a fellow named Stingy Jack.

Fun fact: One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween.

Dictionary.com

This legend has it that Stingy Jack believed that he had tricked the devil, however in fact the devil had the last laugh. Ever vindictive, the devil condemned Jack to a lonely eternity wandering over the earth with only an ember of hellfire to light his way. Jack’s lanterns were carved out of potatoes, turnips in Scotland and Ireland, but beets were the vegetable of choice in England. When immigrants brought along this custom with them to North America, for some reason pumpkins eventually became the vegetable of choice. But it makes sense; they are easier to carve.

Pumpkin carving taken to the next level

A More Sinister Jack o’ Lantern

There is also a more dangerous rather than spooky version of a jack-o’-lantern. A poisonous glowing orange fungus known as Omphalotus olearius is commonly known by the layman as the jack-o’-lantern mushroom! It’s found in wooded areas across Europe, this glowing growth forms clusters at the base of decomposing tree stumps. Don’t eat it; try a Shiitake mushroom growing kit instead.

There’s your daily dose of Halloween history. There’s a lot more to Jack o’ Lantern than most people think.



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Classic Halloween Movies for a Scary Evening In

by Kelly R. Smith

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Halloween movies -- a timeless, spooky genre
Halloween movies — a timeless, spooky genre

In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III declared November 1 as a day to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the Irish traditions of Samhain (Oíche Shamhna). The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween.

Today, of course, Halloween is known as a secular holiday. Trick or treating is one of the biggest forms of hoopla for kids but as far as adult parties go, this is one of biggest nights of the year. CBS News, in 2014, said, “One new survey says the typical American will shell out over $250 this Halloween, and another says the total will be a cool $7.4 billion, with the bulk of it going toward costumes, candy, decorations and either throwing or attending a Halloween party.”

This year will be a little different because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing. In a sense, we are already in costume, what with the face mask mandate. This year, many of us will be staying in (please participate in the poll on the right-hand side of this page). That is not such a bad thing, since we have so many Halloween movies to watch. Let’s look at some of the best. Don’t forget to wear your blue-light glasses.

Scream (1996)

A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game. You’ll Scream.

Beetlejuice (1988)

Beetlejuice is Tim Burton’s horror/comedy classic. It follows a ghostly couple who haunt their prior residence, alongside a devious poltergeist named Beetlejuice. Get ready for the laughs and the famous striped suit.

Get Out (2017)

Chris Washington is a talented young black photographer who prepares to meet his Caucasian girlfriend Rose Armitage’s parents during a weekend in their Lake Pontaco home, a secluded estate in the woods. Why is there an off-limits, locked room that leads to the basement? The question is, can he Get Out in time?

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

An artificial man, who was incompletely constructed and has scissors for hands and is quite adept with power tools, leads a solitary life. Then one day, a suburban lady meets him and introduces him to her world. Brought to you by Tim Burton.

Halloween (1978)

The name Halloween says it all, doesn’t it? This slasher flick stars the lovely Jamie Lee Curtis and follows a mental patient and murderer who has fled from a sanitarium and returns to his hometown to stalk innocent people.

Carrie (1976)

Nobody does horror quite like Stephen King. If you don’t find the prom scary, you soon will. The novel adaptation has become a cult classic, and Carrie really is one of the all-time creepiest teen movies of all time.

The Exorcist (1973)

Regan, who had been an average child, is showing signs of unusual behavior, such as hyperactivity, swearing, lying, and lack of concentration. Things go from bad to worse until the decision is made to have her exorcised by Father Damien Karras who is a psychiatric counselor for the Catholic church. In The Exorcist, it’s going to get ugly.

Hocus Pocus (1993)

OK, Hocus Pocus is more of a comedy, from Walt Disney of course. It stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. They are three Salem, Massachusetts witches who are resurrected just in time for Halloween.

Child’s Play (1988)

For his sixth birthday, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) requests that his mother, Karen (Catherine Hicks), buy him a Good Guys doll that he wants. When a peddler has one for a reasonable price, Karen buys the doll. Mayhem ensues.

Mother! (2017)

This psychological thriller features a young husband and wife. Their lives are disrupted by the unexpected arrival of a strange and mysterious couple. The cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Casper (1995)

Casper is voiced by Malachi Pearson. He’s a kindly young ghost who peacefully haunts a home up in Maine. When James Harvey (Bill Pullman) shows up to communicate with Casper and his fellow spirits, he brings along his teenage daughter, Kat (Christina Ricci). Casper falls in love with Kat, but their relationship is complicated not only by his ghostly state, but also by his trouble-making apparition uncles and their mischievous goings-on.

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the longest running theatrical release in history and is a cult-favorite musical. Why? Because of its frequent, interactive showings around Halloween in particular and every week in some places. Feel free to karaoke.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

This horror movie served as the inspiration for countless films that followed, like Paranormal Activity. The movie revolves around three hikers who go to find the legend of Blair Witch and disappear—the movie entirely consists of “found footage,” supposedly recovered from the hikers.

The Craft (1996)

A new girl moves to a new city with her family to embrace a new life. There she meets up with other girls who are very drawn to the occult and together the four of them have seemingly unstoppable power. They can do anything, from getting their dream guys to like them to… the possibilities are limitless.

Paranormal Activity (2007)

This is the initial movie in the hyper-successful Paranormal Activity franchise. It uses “found footage” to follow a couple being haunted in their own home. If you like the movie, you’re in luck: there are six films in the franchise.

Halloweentown (1998)

This one is great for the whole family so if you’ve got little ones… go for it. When a young girl living with her good-witch grandmother learns she too is a witch, she must help her grandmother save Halloweentown from evil forces.

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Very few movie lines are as well known as The Sixth Sense‘s famed, “I see dead people.” This psychological thriller centers on a young boy who can communicate with the dead, and the psychologist who tries to help him. One of Bruce Willis’ finest performances.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Another offering from Tim Burton, this film is equal parts Halloween and Christmas movie, so you can just keep watching this animated feature from October through December. Who can resist following the King of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, as he makes his accidental journey into Christmas Town? Kids and adults alike will love the animation and the musical score.

So there you have it, a great lineup of movies for a Halloween video-binge with family and friends. We may have to forego trick n’ treating this year but we can still have fun and prank out favorite people.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

Columbus Day: History and Controversy

by Kelly R. Smith

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Christopher Columbus discovers land
Christopher Columbus discovers land

Columbus Day falls on October 12. It is a U.S. holiday that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492. As early as the 18th century it was celebrated in many cities and states and it was designated a federal holiday in 1937. The day honors Columbus’ achievements and celebrates Italian-American heritage. But throughout its history, Columbus Day and the man who inspired it have generated controversy, and many alternatives to the holiday have proposed since the 1970s including Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Who Was Christopher Columbus?

Columbus was an Italian-born explorer who set sail in August of 1492, bound for Asia with financial backing from the Spanish monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, He had 3 ships — the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. The plan was to chart a western sea route to China, India, and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia. But alas, things went sideways. On October 12, 1492, he arrived at the Bahamas. He was the first European adventurer to explore the Americas since the Vikings occupied colonies in both Greenland and Newfoundland back in the 10th century.

Columbus was confused quite a bit but it was understandable; Europeans didn’t know the Pacific Ocean existed. He sighted Cuba and thought it was mainland China; come December the expedition encountered Hispaniola, which he thought was Japan. There, he established Spain’s first colony in the Americas with 39 of his men.

The Columbus Controversy

In 1792, New York’s Columbian Order (Tammany Hall) staged an event that commemorated the historic landing’s 300th anniversary. They took pride in Columbus’ birthplace and faith. Italian and Catholic communities in many parts of the country began organizing annual religious ceremonies and parades in his honor.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day a national holiday. In 1937, in 1937, largely as a result of intense lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, an influential Catholic fraternal organization.

Things have changed. Many groups, seeing themselves as social warriors have taken to demonizing not just Civil War heroes but Columbus. BLM and Antifa come to mind. They see Columbus as a colonizer.

Anti-immigrant groups in the United States have also rejected the holiday because it is associated with Catholicism. These are the same people that took God and the Pledge of Allegiance out of school.

Alternate Holidays

South Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii, and Oregon and have officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, as have cities like Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles. Ironically, the so-called “Five Civilized Tribes” of the southeast the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole also participated in the institution of slavery. You don’t see Black Lives Matter having an issue with that inconvenient fact.

In many Latin American countries, the anniversary of Columbus’ landing is observed as the Dìa de la Raza (“Day of the Race”). This is to celebrate the Hispanic culture’s diverse roots. Venezuela renamed the holiday Dìa de la Resistencia Indìgena (“Day of Indigenous Resistance”) in 2002, to recognize native peoples and their experience and to promote socialism.

Do you plan to celebrate Columbus Day? I know I will. Please participate in the poll on the right-hand side of this page for a study I’m doing. Thanks!



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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Joe Biden and Education; His History and Opinions

by Kelly R. Smith

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Joe Biden orating at the podium
Joe Biden orating at the podium

Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden isn’t exactly cutting a broad swath on the campaign trail. He seems to have his own cloak of invisibility, only occasionally emerging from his basement bunker. When he does, he calls it a day before noon. In the bunker he does “live, candid, off-the-cuff interviews” with the questions and answers on a teleprompter. Seemingly, his handlers don’t let him ad lib because of his strange gaffes and confused speech about all topics. Joe Biden and the topic of education is no exception.

Atlantic writer Mark Bowden has a very forgiving opinion of Biden’s tenuous relationship with the truth. In a 2010 piece where depicted the then-vice president as having “the limber storyteller’s tendency to stretch.”

Joe Biden’s Education

The real Joe Biden graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965 and Syracuse University in 1968. In his previous failed presidential campaign years he bragged that he finished in the top half of his law school class. The truth is that he finished 76th place out of 85 students in his graduating class at Syracuse law school and not even the most forgiving of rounding errors could place him in the neighborhood of the 50th percentile. Math or hyperbole?

Here is where Biden’s memory starts to take a strange twist — the Western Journal tells us that, “Last autumn, for instance, he told a town hall in South Carolina that he ‘got started out’ at Delaware State University. He actually attended the University of Delaware.”

Delaware State is a historically black university. Biden told the audience, “I got started out at an HBCU, Delaware State,” he told the audience, eliciting laughter. “Now I don’t want to hear anything negative about Delaware State here. They’re my folks.” Delaware State has since confirmed that Biden had never been a student there.

Your ever-so-humble blogger there may have grey hair, but he still remembers graduating for the University of Houston not high in my class. But then again, I’m not running for President.

Revisionist History Makes for Good Pandering

Biden is far from conservative candidate. If so, the media would fact-check him. But since that doesn’t happen, he is emboldened. Speaking at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Biden told a real whopper, speaking to a predominately black audience. The Daily Mail quotes him, “‘Why in God’s name don’t we teach history in history classes. A black man invested the light bulb not a white guy named Edison. There’s so much. Did anybody know?”

False. Blatantly false. Black man Lewis Howard Latimer, who later worked with Edison, invented the carbon filament which allowed light bulbs to continuously shine.

Let’s just say that Joe Biden and the topic of education do not make good bedfellows. It is to be expected that in the world of politics the truth will be stretched or circumvented to some extent, but Uncle Joe seems to have gone off the rails. I can’t wait to see what emerges at the presidential debates as he faces President Trump. And the fact-checking will not be coming from the mainstream media. What do you think? Please answer the poll on the right.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Abe Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: Interesting Facts

by Kelly R. Smith

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Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation
Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation

Today (September 22) is the anniversary of the day in 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The intent was to grant the freedom of more than 3 million slaves in the United States. Of course, we all learned this in school, along with other historical facts, such as the accomplishments of Theodore Roosevelt. But, there is more to the picture.

5 Interesting Facts about the Emancipation Proclamation

  • It Didn’t Actually Free All the Slaves. As a matter of fact, the proclamation didn’t even give freedom to a majority of slaves. The document is popularly seen now as an inclusive reform, but in actuality it said that the slaves living in states that were still rebelling as of January 1, 1863, would become free. However, not the slaves residing in states that decided to stop rebelling, or slaves residing in states that had never actively rebelled, or in those in Union territories. It only included those in approximately 10 states that still had an opportunity to cease fighting. However, the Proclamation was a key step towards beginning the emancipation process for all slaves. Baby steps as they say. As time marched on, so did the civil rights movement.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation was Issued Twice. President Lincoln issued the first Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd of 1862. It specified that if the states in the south didn’t deist from rebelling by January 1st of 1863, then the Proclamation would go into effect. But the Confederacy did not yield. Therefore, Honest Abe issued the final version of the Proclamation on January 1st of 1863.
  • The Proclamation Wasn’t Technically a Law. You didn’t see that coming, did you? It was actually an order, not a law, and “technically” didn’t stop slavery. States that were Union-friendly got to keep slaves according to the details of the Proclamation (recall that it focused on rebel states). But Lincoln pushed for the proclamation and the end of slavery to be made law. The result was the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This passed in 1865 and ended slavery in all the states. Steady progress; as the Irish say, “The road to Heaven is well signposted, but it’s badly lit at night,” meaning that life has many challenges in store for us but the reward is well worth it.
  • It Allowed Blacks to Join the Union Armed Forces. A detail in the Emancipation Proclamation that never get a lot of attention in history class is that it opened the door to allowing Blacks join the military. Blacks had already started fighting in a variety of ways. Many were in the Confederate forces in the role of slaves. In 1861, Congress passed the First Confiscation Act. This act gave freedom to all the slaves in the Confederate military, whether as soldiers or workers. Next, during 1862, all-Black regiments loyal to the Union were formed. By the time the war was over, more than 200,000 Blacks would serve in the Union Army and Navy.


President Abraham Lincoln considered the Emancipation Proclamation the most important and transformative part of his legacy. He said, “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper. If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.”


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Who Needs a Flu Vaccine Shot and When

by Kelly R. Smith

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Getting a Seasonal Flu Shot
Getting a Seasonal Flu Shot

This article was updated on 09/25/20.


As of this writing, flu shots have become available for the expected flu season which we will experience roughly between October and May. Anyone can catch the flu (influenza) but at a higher risk are:

  • Infants and young children.
  • People 65 years of age and over.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People with pre-existing health conditions or a weakened immune system.

Why Get Your Flu Shot Early

This year is different. Everybody and their brother are more cognizant of health issues and transmittable illnesses. The COVID-19 pandemic, with it’s associated fashion statement of face masks, already has everybody woke to virus culture. In light of that, it’s not a stretch to assume that more immunization naysayers will be queuing up for an influenza shot.

I got mine today at my local Kroger, where I get my blood pressure medication prescription filled. It’s free with my health insurance. Out of curiosity I asked the needle-wielder if he expected a run on vaccine stores due to the public’s heightened health awareness. He said yes; that is the prevalent sentiment in his circle of comrade shot-givers. There are only so many doses made available seasonally, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. If you snooze, you lose.

So, avoid the lines and the shortages. Get your shot now. If you can remember the gasoline shortage lines when that bumbling fool Jimmy Carter was president, that is a good analogy of what we might be looking at with flu shots.

Double Trouble This Season

This flu season contains a double-whammy; the flu plus the Coronavirus pandemic. Getting them both at once will be a very bad scenario, especially for anyone over 65 or that has an underlying condition.

“No one knows for sure how most people will react to simultaneous infection with these two viruses,” says Michael B. Grosso, MD, medical director of Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York. “However, we have extensive experience with children and adults experiencing co-infection with two or more respiratory viruses. As you might guess, people get sicker, take longer to recover and require hospitalization more often when co-infection happens. It’s unlikely to be different with COVID-19 and flu.”

How the Flu Vaccine Works

In the old days, when the flu happened, it just happened. The Spanish Flu was devastating. It lasted from 1918 until 1920 and claimed approximately 500 million souls. A previous flu pandemic during 1889-1890 killed ~1 million people worldwide.

Today we know a bit more about it. We know it will happen every year. We have a good idea of where it will start and from this knowledge we (the CDC) has a good guess of which strains to prepare immunizations for. It’s still a crap-shoot, but it’s better than nothing. The shot I got today is targeted for old codgers in my age group.

The one I received was Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent. It has four times the antigen, (the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses), than Fluzone Quadrivalent and other standard-dose inactivated flu vaccines. Both are quadrivalent vaccines. The higher dose of antigen in the vaccine is intended to give older people a better immune response, and therefore, better protection against flu. What’s not to love?

Vaccines are Good for You and Your Neighbors

I feel compelled to express my feelings on this subject. Over the past decade or so, there has arisen a segment of the population that is entirely anti-vaccination. OK, I get it. In rare circumstances vaccinations can cause issues. But face it, life is, at best, a crap-shoot, my friend. Play the odds.

You don’t want your kid to face the 1 in 1,000,000,000 chance of autism? So no shot for smallpox or polio? OK. Let’s make that happen. We thought those diseases were eradicated in North America but without Trump’s wall, they are being imported.

So get your flu vaccine shot and get it while the doses are still available. There is a predicted demand that will work against you if you hesitate. Go bold, get poked, and don’t look back.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Rosh Hashanah; the Jewish New Year

by Kelly R. Smith

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Rosh Hashanah; the Shofar (ram's horn) and the Star of David
Rosh Hashanah; the Shofar (ram’s horn) and the Star of David

Rosh Hashanah is the autumnal festival celebrating the start of the Jewish New Year. The term literally means “head of the year.” It takes place on the first and second days of Tishri, the seventh month, the Gregorian equivalent of September-October. So, in 2020 it starts on September 18. The only notable similarity it has to the Western, secular holiday is the opportunity to make a New Years resolution.

The two days are a time for introspection; that aspect doesn’t end at the conclusion of Rosh HaShanah but lasts for ten days which are known commonly as the Days of Awe, until Yom Kippur.

Traditions for Rosh Hashanah

You won’t find the term “Rosh Hashanah” in the Bible or the Torah to discuss this holiday. The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom HaZikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom T’ruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25. One important observance of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar (ram’s horn) in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day.

Notably, the shofar isn’t sounded when the holiday falls on the Sabbath. There is no work allowed on Rosh Hashanah. What is allowed, thankfully, is the eating of apples that are dipped in honey Symbolically, this is a wish for a sweet new year. Bread is also dipped in honey.

Another tasty tradition is to eat round challah bread. This symbolizes the eternal circle of the life as well as the cycle of a new year. The challah is formed in the shape of a crown because God is referred to as royalty several times during these times.

Another practice is called Tashlikh (“casting off”). It’s done by going to a source of flowing water, like a river or a creek, on the first day’s afternoon and divulging the contents of our pockets into the river. This symbolizes casting off our sins. Although this tradition is not discussed in the Bible, it’s an age-old custom.

What about greeting each other? The accepted greeting at during this holiday is L’shanah tovah (“for a good year”). This is a shortened version of “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (or when addressing females, “L’shanah tovah tikatevi v’taihatemi”). This literally means “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”

In Judaism 101, Marcia Pravder Mirkin, when explaining The Days of Awe, says, “Among the customs of this time, it is common to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the course of the year. The Talmud maintains that Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible.”

Now that you are familiar with Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New Year, you might be interested in these topics:

References



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.