Ten Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About the Fourth of July

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There are lots of things we expect on the Fourth:  fireworks, friends, family. There are things we love (sparklers, Roman candles, cold beer) and things we despise (sauerkraut, ambrosia, Lee Greenwood… all right, haters… this was from a friend. Direct all your spittle-filled anger elsewhere).

Here are a few unexpected things about the Fourth you can share tomorrow, if only to divert mom’s attention away from Uncle Collin while he takes the youngest  kids ’round back to set off three packs of taped-together Blackcat firecrackers…

10.  No Rush to Get “God Bless America” to the People

Famed American composer Irving Berlin gave his adopted nation one of its greatest and most iconic songs but it didn’t see the light of day because its author didn’t deem it worthy of being sung. Berlin was drafted into the military in the early 1900s and helped to draft a musical comedy for his fellow troops in which he composed the song for its final number — a tune inspired by a phrase his Russian mother would often utter after escaping to America from underneath the iron fist of the bloody Russian empire. However, the composer didn’t think it would fit in the show and kept it in his file for 20 years until singer Kate Smith wanted a patriotic song to sing on the radio as war broke out across Europe. The song became one of the most requested patriotic ditties almost overnight and a staple in American songbooks.  (Source)

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9.  Ehhhh… We’ll Get To It. We’re… Busy.

July 4th was not declared a federal holiday until 1941.  Most federal holidays are observed on a Monday but despite the temptation of a Guaranteed Long Weekend,  that pesky date made lawmakers leave it be.  (Source)

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Top Ten Pick-Up Lines in Literature

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For the Power of Words, I give you Exhibit A: Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, The Crucibleand Marilyn Monroe.

As Exhibit B: Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses, Midnight’s Children and Padma Lakshmi.

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I could go on.

Here are ten great lines from literature that just might help you get lucky, too. 

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1.  “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”

- From The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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After the Dash: Last Words of the Politically and Historically Infamous

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The thing that is so fascinating about a person’s final words is, of course, that the person rarely knows those  utterances will be his or her last.

One of my favorite poems is W.S. Merwin‘s “For the Anniversary of My Death”:

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star
Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what.

Here are ten of those now-famous, or at least, interesting, last words:

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1.  Marie Antoinette
Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose.” – after she accidentally stepped on the foot of her executioner as she went to the guillotine.
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2.  Dominique Bouhours (French grammarian) 

“I am about to — or I am going to — die: either expression is correct.”

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3.  King George V

“Bugger Bognor.”” – to his physician, who had suggested that he relax at his seaside palace in Bognor Regis.

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NSA Scandal Creates Summer’s Hottest Best Seller: Orwell’s 1984

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(Photo credit)

Isaac Asimov described George Orwell‘s dystopian novel 1984 as an “attempt to show what life would be like in a world of total evil, in which those controlling the government kept themselves in power by brute force, by distorting the truth, by continually rewriting history, by mesmerising the people generally.”

The novel was written in 1948 and thus set just thirty-five years in the future. This purpose, Asimov explains, was “so that even men who were already in their early middle age at the time the book was published might live to see it if they lived out a normal lifetime.”

Those men were around for the very beginning of the Digital Age and now their sons and daughters are remembering the warnings and apparently encouraging others to read it as well.  Although sixty-four years have passed since the publication of 1984, sales of the novel have skyrocketed, up by a whopping 6,000% .  The dramatic sales are attributed to revelations last week that the National Security Administration has been secretly using Big Data to collect information about the communications of Americans,

Here are ten  passages from 1984 that are giving a new generation of readers pause:

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Top Ten Literary Beers

It’s Friday! Time to kick back with a summer read, dig your toes into the sand, and crack open one of these beauties. Who said beers couldn’t be high-brow?

White Whale Ale

Yes, it is actually made with pages ripped from the seams of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Le Petit Prince (or The Little Prince)

Lament on love and loss, and forget about that self-obsessed rose already.

The Raven Special Lager

I actually had this once. Nevermore, nevermore.

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ZZZZzzzz: Ten Books We Couldn’t Finish

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My home is filled with books. Books on shelves, books overflowing shelves, books on my nightstand, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, on the floor. Most I manage to get through, if not always enjoy. I am a big believer in seeing it through.  Most of my friends feel the same way. AND YET… there are always a few that we just cannot seem to finish.  Some are classics that we know we should complete before the inevitable Rise of the Librarians comes to quiz us with tasers. Others are books friends raved about….or best sellers that have evoked a lot of fuss…for no reason YOU can discern.

Whatever the reason, here are confessions of my well-read friends and colleagues, many of them English professors, so I will have to give them Code Names so their students never find out their dark, dark, secrets.

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1.  Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Dense passage about the physiognomy of whales: the poor man’s Ambien.  We all know that this should be read. And many of us keep trying. It’s our own…. yeah, you guessed it… Moby Dick (Insert groaning here.)

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2.  The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

More Viggo Mortensen would have made this seemingly-endless series more interesting for me. Skipping the endless “songs” moves things right along though. Save yourself some time and listen to some Zep to catch up on everything you need to know about what you glossed over.

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3.  Paradisio by Dante Alighieri 

Another popular snooze-fest, this comment sums up our feelings in general:

 “I can’t finish Paradisio. The torments of The Inferno and even Purgatorio appeal to my sense of schadenfreude, but people in heaven and Beatrice? BO-RING.”

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4.  Anything by Stephen King 

I must say, in King’s defense, that his text On Writing  is one of my favorites. However, King, to me, and many others, is like the Costco of literature. Do you really need that giant box of paper towels? Or that giant stack of largely interchangeable plots and characters?

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Top Ten Totally Embarrassing Teachers

Your education is in their hands… their totally shameless hands. Meet ten teachers who definitely had the last laugh. At you. In the teachers’ lounge. With all their friends.

1. This teacher who totally went there

2. This teacher who just shattered your dreams

3. This Chemistry teacher who refuses to give Gaga the artistic respect she deserves

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