Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the category “History”

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.  True, I’ve not blogged in ages.  So much for my goal….but the ADD kicked-in and I got bored.  However, it’s still open and I can blog when I want to now!  Yay for loopholes!!!

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Memorial Day — You’re doing it wrong!

On this Memorial Day, we sit out on our decks and party.  Three days we’ve got off from work with burgers on the barbie.  But if you take a moment to reflect, away from your party scene, the radio will remind you what this day truly means.

It’s time to save, I said SAVE, on a waterbed!  It’s time to buy a great mattress at an even greater price!  I’ve got two words for you — It’s “Tire Sale!”  We’ve got rock-bottom prices and the time is running out!

You’ve got one full year, that’s right — one full year!  No interest!  No payments!  This could be the Memorial Day Weekend you enjoy for years!

Oh, yeah, and something about guys who died for our country…..  (“Memorial Day” parody by Heywood Banks)

Sadly, that song which was written as a joke to show just how out-of-touch we are with what Memorial Day really means is truer than you think.

I’ve seen and heard lots of people talking about their holiday weekend.  The “fact” that it’s the first weekend of summer.  About how much they’ve enjoyed their mini-family vacations and days spent on the lake or fishing or perfecting their barbeque techniques.  I’ve also seen a lot of people posting photos/cartoons and statements thanking veterans for their service.

Memorial Day is not the day we say “thank you” to our veterans.  EVERY DAY should be a day we say “thank you” to our veterans.  But for those who can’t be bothered to do that every day you see someone in uniform or someone wearing a hat or jacket showing they were one who promised to put their life on the line for our country, then at least say “thank you” on Veterans’ Day (11 November).

Memorial Day is when we should stop what we’re doing and remember that it’s the day set aside to say “thank you” to those veterans we CAN’T thank in person anymore.  They gave the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefields, wherever they were.  And we remember those veterans who have passed-on and the service they so proudly gave to our country.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was started by Major General John A. Logan from Southern Illinois and the GAR, the Grand Army of the Republic.  The GAR was an organization of Union veterans.  Three years after the Civil War, in 1868, he said that on May 30th all the graves of our war dead should be decorated with flowers (which would be in bloom across the country at that time).  In his orders, he stated:

We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners.  Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

This was done because in many areas immediately following the Civil War, only those of either Union or Confederate forces were being remembered and the graves of the “enemy” were falling into neglect.  One of the first records of equal decorations came in 1866 when women visiting the sites of the Confederate dead from the Battle of Shiloh near Columbus, Mississippi, noticed the graves of Union casualties being ignored and desecrated because they were they “enemy.”  Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the ladies placed flowers there as well.

Many Union or Confederate Decoration Day ceremonies are still held every year.  Memorial Day, however, was made a Federal holiday by an act of Congress in 1971 and the last Monday in May was selected as the date in order to be fairly consistent with the orders given by Maj. Gen. Logan as well as coinciding with the local/regional celebrations that had been occurring since.

Every grave in every national cemetery will have an American flag placed upon it today.  Some are placed by soldiers, some by civic groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts.  Many family members will also decorate the graves of their loved ones in national, state, and private cemeteries.  Speeches will be made and politicians will “pay tribute” across the country today.  But it shouldn’t be just them making an effort.  And it shouldn’t be just the veterans who were able to come home to their country and families and who live with the memories of how their comrades gave the ultimate sacrifice.  It should be all of us — every single person who enjoys the freedom for which those brave men and women laid-down their lives.

It’s not about the sales; it’s not about the picnics; it’s not about a day off with or without pay.  It’s about gratitude; it’s about honor; it’s about those we can never say “thank you” personally to again.

Towel and Star Wars Day — Celebrate both!

No new news on the job front.  My Cadre Manager was supposed to get back in touch with my ERO counselor but that didn’t happen.  I have been given lots of really good advice and had friends recommend a lot of options.  I’m keeping everything open at the moment.  I’ll continue fighting for what’s best for my family and me.

So, since there’s really nothing new, I’ll just wish everyone a Happy Towel Day and Happy Star Wars Day.  Towel Day is for fans of Douglas Adams and his “Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy” (all six books) and in memory of his death on this date in 2001.  Star Wars Day marks the anniversary of the premiere of Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope in 1977.  35 years ago….wow, I feel old.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read Douglas’ books (not just the H2G2 series) as well as listened to the radio shows, audiobooks, and watched the movies.  Douglas Adams also worked on episodes of Doctor Who and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  You can tell I’m a big fan, huh?

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen the original trilogy of Star Wars.  I even have the theatrical releases on DVD because I can’t stand watching all of the added on stuff from 1997.  I remember seeing the movies in the theater, when that was the only option, and then recording them off HBO onto our Betamax player (yes, I really am that old) and watching them every day after school.

Hey, when your dad is the principal of your school, you don’t hang out with a lot of people, and you’re focused on keeping your grades high you find yourself as one of the biggest geeks doing what geeks do best — reciting movie lines.  After I’d seen each of the original three over 500 times each, I quit counting.  I still have no idea how many times I’ve seen them all.  In college I could win bets by having people play a part of the soundtrack and begin to act and recite the exact scene just based on the music!  Okay, it was only good for winning bar bets and has never helped me in any sort of career, but it was fun all the same!

So all you hoopy froods, get your towels and grab a bottle of Old Janx Spirit (from H2G2 or SW, your choice) and head out to Millyways!

Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all. — Douglas Adams

Still irritated at Mythbusters’ “Swinging Pirates” episode

I know it’s just a minor thing, but I really liked the effect in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie that showed the six pirates swinging in a ball made of bones and climbing their way to the top of the cliff and saving themselves.  The Mythbusters tried to recreate the myth that it could be done and messed it up.  Big time.  In my opinion anyway — I’m not a scientist.

They used metal to create the ball — good idea.  They had openings at the bottom of the ball large enough for them to crawl through — bad idea.  They used two cables to hold the ball above the ground — not accurate since in the movie it’s supposed to be a single vine.  But they did prove that they could climb up the “cliff” by having everyone help climb a cargo net on the side of a building.  They really should have replicated the actual conditions.  The two safety cables impeded the ability for the momentum to increase.

However, on the same episode, the Build Team made a pulse jet and had an expert come and show them an effective way to build one and how it should run.  I wonder how many WWII British survivors watched the episode and had bad memories afterwards?  The one their expert built sounded just like a V-1 flying bomb, also known as a “Buzz Bomb” or “Doodlebug” by the British who listened to them as they flew overhead before crashing and exploding.  And if you’ve never heard of the V-1 — go look it up.  They did lots of damage.

Now I’m going to watch the new episode for this week — any time you make a hot water heater explode on television is awesome.

Can we stop with the Titanic stuff now?

Yes, yes, yes….I know it’s the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  I would have known that without all of the televised fanfare and the re-release of James Cameron’s movie in 3D.  You know how I would have known that?  Because I read!  Because I studied in history class!  Because my life isn’t so shallow that I only believe things shown to me on Twitter or Facebook as so many people over the past week have shown in their posts that they didn’t know the movie “Titanic” (1997) was based on an actual historical event!

And I make sure to put the year 1997 behind the title of the movie because, yes, there is more than one movie named “Titanic.”  In 1943 the Third Reich attempted to make a propaganda film espousing the positive reasons to invade Britain by using the Titanic disaster as the backstory.  “Titanic” (1943) showed Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line, as an evil capitalist and all of the British as greedy while a lone German crew member who seemed to know that something bad was going to happen tried to warn everyone but was ignored.  This German officer was later the hero of the movie — even though “Titanic” (1943) never played in Germany until the 1950s.  It was deemed too controversial because of the passengers in Second and Third Class areas trying to scramble for safety and being locked-out or denied passage was too reminiscent of the Holocaust.  With Germany beginning to lose the war, no one in the Third Reich wanted anyone to recognize similar goings-on happening in Germany and other occupied areas where concentration camps were in operation.  A lot of that type of footage was removed before the movie ever played in Germany.

But “Titanic” (1943) wasn’t completely lost to history.  There were many scenes of the ship and people running to the lifeboats that came from “Titanic” (1943) and were used in “A Night to Remember” (1958).  “A Night to Remember” was considered one of the most accurate depictions of the sinking of the Titanic because a lot of the information used to write the movie came from interviews with survivors in the book by the same name.  It was the most accurate at that time because it did not show the Titanic breaking apart because no one had ever confirmed it and there were different memories of what exactly happened that night.

Not until Robert Ballard discovered the RMS Titanic on the ocean floor in 1985 was it confirmed that the ship had broken apart before it sank.  After his discovery, more movies were made.  “Titanica” (1995), narrated by Leonard Nimoy, was shown in IMAX theatres.  “Titanic” (1996), a two-part miniseries, was made for television and got a lot of facts wrong but somehow still pulled out an Emmy win.

Finally in 1997 the world was “graced” (and I use that term sarcastically here) with James Cameron’s version which was fictional but based on historical fact and recent discovery.  Even now he has said that there are parts he got wrong but he’s not going back to fix them all because “when would you know where to stop?”  And Celine Dion’s song and chest-thumping visage on every awards show and commercial hawking “authentic Titanic reproductions” became embedded in everyone’s subconscious.  And I do apologize to all of my readers who are now tortured with it running through their heads at the moment — I feel your pain ’cause it’s stuck in mine, too.

By the way, those “authentic Titanic reproductions” were usually of the blue diamond necklace Rose (not a real person on the RMS Titanic) wore while in the nude being sketched by Jack (another non-real person on the RMS Titanic).  The necklace never existed.  Actually, there is historical reference to a blue sapphire necklace similar to the one depicted in the movie, but it would have only been an inspiration for the one in the movie.  And, sadly, I’ve been seeing more and more replicas of the necklace, the gemstone, etc. being advertised late at night in “honor” of the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

The latest incantation of the story is “Titanic” (2012) and is a four-part television drama based on the sinking.  As if we needed another re-telling of the story.

And movies weren’t the only things created about the RMS Titanic!  Even if you don’t count all of the books and memoirs written or related by survivors and their relatives, along with historical accounts and fictional dramatizations, there’s still tons of stuff out there!  In 1997 there was a Broadway musical about the sinking — and it WON five Tony Awards!!

So, now that you’ve had your history lesson for today, can we please stop all the hoopla?

Don’t get me wrong, though.  It was an important event in history.  Seafaring changed forever after the RMS Titanic sank and the International Ice Patrol was created from this disaster.  Also, there now has to be 24-hour monitoring of communications channels, something that had the Marconi operators on the Californian not gone to bed, they would have received the Titanic’s distress signal and been able to render assistance.  And there are many who spent the last moments of their lives doing their jobs in the belly of the ship in order to keep it level and keep the lights on in order to help others escape, even though they knew they would be no way out for them.

Yes, remember and honor the memories of those who perished, etc., etc., etc.  But now that the official time and date of the sinking 100 years ago has passed, can I please stop being bashed about the head with shows, movies, posts, and documentaries about it all?  Just for a little while??

Spike TV – Get off my lawn!

Yeah, I know.  Spike TV is supposed to be the “all-guy”/”testosterone-only” television network with shows like Deadliest Warrior and 1000 Ways to Die.  But, as I’ve fully admitted, I’m not a typical female.  I’ve never been comfortable in frilly dresses or with lots of makeup (unless it’s special effects makeup for Halloween or the theatre).  I can’t stand to walk past the annoying pink aisle in every toy store where every incantation of Barbie and her “friends” live.  I like hunting, fishing, reenacting, shooting — typical “guys-only” activities.  The only dresses I own are either for Halloween/theatre costumes and my wedding dress (which I certainly can’t fit into anymore).

So, anyone who personally knows me knows that watching Spike TV isn’t that unusual for me.  Tonight, Husband said he wanted to be sure to catch the season premieres of Auction Hunters and American DiggersAuction Hunters usually isn’t that bad.  The personalities on the show — Ton Jones and Allen Haff — aren’t annoying and do admit that they don’t always strike it rich with what they buy.  There’s not a lot of staged “drama” as shown on other storage-unit-purchasing-shows.  The guys are funny, honest about what they don’t know, and occasionally find some really awesome items that make me wonder why I can’t find the neat stuff they find around where I live.

But tonight’s premiere of Auction Hunters was supposed to be a live show where the guys and other buyers would get to bid on four large vaults stuffed with a variety of items.  Watching them were an invitation-only group of experts in militaria, precious metals, firearms, and other collectables; each of them were waiting for their chance to see what was pulled out of them and hoping to land a great bargain.  Ton and Allen spent $5000 on one vault that they felt had the most items they could resell and make a big profit.  Spike TV also agreed that whatever the profit they make, the network would match it dollar-for dollar to Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.  They even kept a countdown clock running throughout the show and commercials because the guys were limited to one hour to bid, buy, dig, and resell the items in any vault they purchased.

They found a lot of collectible toys, but no really valuable items in the toy pile that would have made them worth a lot.  They also found a 1920s-era electric guitar made of aluminum and an amplifier made by the same company that sold for a decent price.  They sold a business safe as well which was probably from the 1930s and received a decent amount of money.  But, throughout the show the host kept telling them how much time they had left and Allen kept complaining that it was rude and distracting for him to do that.  The clock kept ticking and they sold a 1980s boombox and a reproduction Dr. J uniform (packaged with an authentic autographed photo), but they still weren’t out of the red.  Finally, the last item they pulled out of a trunk — a wheel-lock pistol — sold for enough to give them a decent profit and the network said they’d boost the donation to $25,000.  How scripted is that?  It was painful to watch them sift through items and stack things in different areas instead of trying to sell something.  I’d have pulled out a box, seen what was inside of it, and put it up for auction to the crowd.  They were invited there to purchase items, so you know they had money to spend.   But, Allen and Ton just kept digging and arguing until the last second (literally) when they sold the huge pile of “collectible” toys.  And I say “collectible” in quotation marks because the types of toys they found were made for the collectors’ market, which means they’re not because no one would ever play with them.

After that was over, I figured I’d give American Diggers a chance since it’s only a 30-minute show.  That was 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

The idea behind American Diggers is that Ric Savage, a former professional wrestler (of only 7 years) and his crew drive around America looking for places that might have a historical significance and ask the property owners if they can dig on their land.  Tonight’s premiere episode was in Alaska as they were trying to find relics from the gold rush.  I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically as the first houses they went to had owners that didn’t want them anywhere near their property.  One guy finally agreed to let them dig and agreed to a 70-30 split of the profits.  So, Ric and his crew went out and found a few cool items (a bear trap, pick axe head, two-man saw, panning tin) and brought them into town and sold them at a local antique mall.  They then returned to the land-owner and divvied-up the profits.

They’re lucky they weren’t in our area or where I used to live.  The people in these areas are well-known for greeting strangers at the door with a minimum of one firearm and perhaps a large growling animal.  I’m also not sure about this show because in the description online it says they “target areas such as battlefields and historic sites.”  If they attempt to do their digging on a national battlefield, they’ll have a nice surprise when the historic preservation organizations and the law enforcement authorities show up since unauthorized relic hunting is illegal.  Even if they don’t find anything “of worth” in their digs, going onto national park lands and many historical sites with the intention of relic hunting is illegal.

And the Spike TV website says that they have found lots of Civil War bullets, Civil War artillery shell fragments, and Native American arrow and axe heads.  By the way, “arrow heads” are called “projectile points” in the archeology/anthropology/historic preservation communities.  Obviously, these guys aren’t really interested in preservation of any sort, except for their bank accounts.

I don’t think the show will last past the episodes already taped, but I could be wrong.  I doubt it, but I could be wrong.  There are already lots of preservation/collection publications that also educate their readers on what they’ve found and how to avoid being scammed.  This guy’s show (and magazine by the same name) is just wading into the deep end of a genre that doesn’t really need another player and more than likely will sink instead of swim.

February 29th – Interesting Facts

Since it’s “Leap Day,” I’m gonna leap out of my chair and not post anything tonight.  I’m tired and I’m going to bed early.  But, just so those of you who read my blog on a regular basis won’t have to go without, I’m reposting this informational article published by BBC News.  I think you’ll like it.

Here are 10 things to consider – for one day only. Until 2016, that is.

1. The leap year’s extra day is necessary because of the “messiness” of our Solar System. One Earth year (a complete orbit around the Sun) does not take an exact number of whole days (one complete spin of the Earth on its axis). In fact, it takes 365.2422 days, give or take.

2. Until Julius Caesar came to power, people observed a 355-day calendar – with an extra 22-day month every two years. But it was a convoluted solution to the problem and feast days began sliding into different seasons. So Caesar ordered his astronomer, Sosigenes, to simplify things. Sosigenes opted for the 365-day year with an extra day every four years to scoop up the extra hours. This is how the 29 February was born. It was then fine-tuned by Pope Gregory XIII (see below).

3. Every fourth year is a leap year, as a rule of thumb. But that’s not the end of the story. A year that is divisible by 100, but not by 400, is not. So 2000 was a leap year, as was 1600. But 1700, 1800 and 1900 are not leap years. “It seems a bit arbitrary,” says Ian Stewart, emeritus professor of mathematics at Warwick University. But there’s a good reason behind it.

“The year is 365 days and a quarter long – but not exactly. If it was exactly, then you could say it was every four years. But it is very slightly less.” The answer arrived at by Pope Gregory XIII and his astronomers when they introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582, was to lose three leap days every 400 years. The math has hung together ever since. It will need to be rethought in about 10,000 years’ time, Stewart warns. But by then mankind might have come up with a new system.

4. Why is February 29, not February 31, a leap year day? All the other months have 30 or 31 days, but February suffered from the ego of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, says Stewart. Under Julius Caesar, February had 30 days, but when Caesar Augustus was emperor he was peeved that his month – August – had only 29 days, whereas the month named after his predecessor Julius – July – had 31. “He pinched a couple of days for August to make it the same as July. And it was poor old February that lost out,” says Prof Stewart.

5. The tradition of a woman proposing on a leap year has been attributed to various historical figures. One, although much disputed, was St Bridget in the 5th Century. She is said to have complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose. St Patrick then supposedly gave women a single day in a leap year to pop the question – the last day of the shortest month. Another popular story is that Queen Margaret of Scotland brought in a law setting fines for men who turned down marriage proposals put by women on a leap year. Sceptics have pointed out that Margaret was five years old at the time and living far away in Norway. The tradition is not thought to have become commonplace until the 19th Century.

It is believed that the right of every woman to propose on this day goes back to the times when the leap year day was not recognised by English law. It was believed that if the day had no legal status, it was acceptable to break with tradition.

6. A prayer has been written by a female cleric for people planning a leap year day marriage proposal. The prayer, for 29 February, asks for blessings on the engaged couple. It reminds them that wedding plans should not overtake preparations for a lifetime together. The prayer has been taken from Pocket Prayers of Blessing by the Venerable Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich:

“God of love, please bless N and N as they prepare for the commitment of marriage. May the plans for the wedding not overtake the more important preparation for their lifetime together. Please bless their family and friends as they prepare for this special day and may your blessing be upon them now and always. Amen.”

7. The practice of women proposing in a leap year is different around the world. In Denmark, it is not supposed to be 29 but 24 February, which hails back to the time of Julius Caesar. A refusal to marry by Danish men means they must give the woman 12 pairs of gloves. In Finland, it is not gloves but fabric for a skirt and in Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky, leading many couples to avoid it.

8. The chance of being born on a leap day is often said to be one in 1,461. Four years is 1,460 days and adding one for the leap year you have 1,461. So, odds of 1/1,461.

But Stewart points out that is very slightly out, owing to the loss of the three leap years every 400 years. In any case, babies are more likely to be born at certain times of the year rather than others, due to a range of other factors, he says. Babies born on 29 February are known as “leapers” or “leaplings”.

9. Other calendars apart from the Gregorian require leap years. The modern Iranian calendar is a solar calendar with eight leap days inserted into a 33-year cycle. The Indian National Calendar and the Revised Bangla Calendar of Bangladesh arrange their leap years so that the leap day is always close to 29 February in the Gregorian calendar.

10. Explorer Christopher Columbus used the lunar eclipse of 29 February 1504 to his advantage during his final trip to the West Indies. After several months of being stranded with his crew on the island of Jamaica, relations with the indigenous population broke down and they refused to continue helping with food and provisions. Columbus, knowing a lunar eclipse was due, consulted his almanac and then gathered the native chiefs on 29 February. He told that God was to punish them by painting the Moon red. During the eclipse, he said that God would withdraw the punishment if they starting co-operating again. The panicked chiefs agreed and the Moon began emerging from its shadow.

Also of a supernatural nature, on 29 February 1692 the first warrants were issued in the Salem witchcraft trials in Massachusetts.

Spring Gun Show: Day One

I’m surprised.  I’m very surprised.  I’m actually on the verge of being stunned.  Today, I didn’t have to yell at anyone in disgust during the gun show.  And that’s a first for me in a long time!

I don’t consider myself a rude person.  I try to be friendly and cordial with everyone I meet, especially if they’re a customer, until they give me a reason not to be.  Then, depending on the amount of stupidity or rudeness received, all bets are off.  My business is there to make money, not to please the entire world.  I’ve spent years of my life studying and researching information so that I am as close to being an expert as I can be with regards to the items I sell.  And since 99% of all of the items are either from the Vietnam War era or earlier (I deal in military surplus, in case you forgot or are new to my writings), a lot of my information has to come from hands-on experience with the items, talking to veterans who owned or were issued the items, and doing a LOT of reading so that I’ll know the little details.  Not every helmet is the same.  Not every weapon is the same.  And just because you watched Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan doesn’t make you an expert on WWII militaria!  You might own the entire DVD set of every Tour of Duty season or you have every M*A*S*H and After M*A*S*H episode memorized, but that doesn’t make you an expert on the Vietnam or Korean Wars!

The worst thing to do is to come up to my table (which I have spent a fair amount of money to rent so that I can sell my items) after I’ve traveled a long distance to be at the show (sometimes I’m lucky and the shows are actually at a center across the street from my house!) and made sure that I’ve brought a wide variety of items (because one of the biggest complaints at shows is that “there’s nothing worth buying”) and trying to inform me that the polyester-blend jacket you’re holding was passed-down three generations from your relative that served in the American Revolution and because you’ve seen the latest documentary on History Channel that has one “just like it” that I must purchase it from you for an ungodly amount of money.  Or, you bring an item to me and tell me how you watched a television show where someone had one exactly like it except for the color, size, and rust on it and that you demand that I pay the appraised amount from the show.  I’ll make this simple — do either of those things, and the answer is going to be, “Not gonna happen in this lifetime, buddy!”

Another one of the top items to not do is to bring your item to my table, stand in front of me and give me a very, very long, very, very detailed “history” of the item and how you came to own it and then ask me what it’s worth.  It’s even worse when you start your diatribe with, “Do you know what this is?” not in a manner of “Can you help me?” but with the attitude of “I’m going to teach you something.”  What’s most irritating is when I’ve answered your question that I do or don’t know what the item is and ask if you want to sell the item to me and you respond with a resounding “Of course not!” or “Depends on what you tell me it’s worth!  Why should I give you an appraisal for free?  You don’t get other items appraised for free.  Why should I utilize the many years research and knowledge that I have to tell you something that (1) you think you already knew or (2) had no clue about and not get anything out of it?  I don’t work for Antiques Roadshow so my appraisals aren’t free!

Also, when I give a “value” on an item, it’s going to be one of three things — (1) the current market value of the item based on others I’ve seen sell at retail or auction, (2) an estimated insurance value if it’s something that I’ve already been informed is going to stay within the family (and my appraisal fee is paid), or (3) what I think it’s worth to me or what I’m willing to pay because I am going to resell it and need to be able to make a profit.  I’m not buying your memories or appraising your family’s history — I’m in this game to make money and just because you saw someone else told that their item is worth $30,000 doesn’t mean that your’s is as well!  Not every World War II uniform was worn by Eisenhower or Patton and not every German pistol was carried by Goering or Hitler.  And trust me on this, there are a LOT of faked items out there!  Collectors and reenactors have demanded reproduction items and manufacturers have been more than happy to provide them, especially if they’re Nazi items!  They first started reproducing the uniforms but used actual WWII-era materials and thread which made detecting a fake almost impossible.  Then they reproduced weapons with old parts found in defunct factories.  The parts are “original” but the build of the weapon didn’t happen until the 1980s — so saying it’s “real” is kind of hard to do.  Now, there are companies that not only fake the medals (and not just the high honor ones but even the ones that EVERYONE got) but they even fake the presentation boxes the things came in from the 1940s!!  It’s getting so you can’t trust anything as “authentic” anymore!

Oh, and when I said “real” above, that word drives me insane.  People come up to me when I’m wearing my WWII-era authentic uniform and ask, “Is that real?”  I tell them, “Why, yes, it is — in the sense that it takes up time and space.”  That usually baffles them for a few moments until they decide to ask, “Is it really your uniform?”  I reply, “Yes, it is mine because I bought and paid for it myself and am the only person who wears it.”  Again, I’ll get some blank stares because they’re not sure of what to say.  What they should have asked is, “Is that an authentic WWII uniform?” or “Is that uniform original to the WWII-era?” or “Was that uniform made during WWII and possibly used by a soldier then?”  Then I could answer them whether or not my uniform is “authentic,” “genuine” or “vintage.”  “Real” is a word that has way too many meanings.  And asking if it is “mine” implies that I am the person who wore the uniform during World War II and earned the medals pinned to the dress jacket and actually obtained the rank worn from the United States Government.  I may be starting to look older, but I’m not THAT old yet!!

So today wasn’t filled with as many questions or issues like those.  It was nice to have intelligent and humorous conversations with prospective customers.  And when some would ask me for my “expert” opinion or for clarification with regards to an item or type of items I’ve spent a lot of time researching, I was happy to oblige.  True, there were a number of people who tapped on the helmets to make sure they were really made out of metal and others who tried to “inform” us that we couldn’t own or sell our wares because “it’s illegal to own government property” even though the items are edging 70 years old and no one in the government has been searching for them (especially since they discontinued them and threw away what was left-over ages ago).

Hopefully tomorrow will go well.  And if not, at least I’m still on my painkillers from yesterday and they help mellow me out for short periods of time.

Presidents’ Day Sale: Isn’t that every day?

Once again we have another Federal holiday and the newspapers, radio, and television are filled to the brim with advertisements for Presidents’ Day Sales.  Will we ever have a holiday that doesn’t involve unbridled avarice?  Sure, we’re a capitalist society, but we do we have to change our holidays from times of remembrance and honor to just simply buying the crap out of everything?

Of course, I’m also one of the “old fogeys” who remembers back-in-the-day when we used to celebrate George Washington’s birthday on one date (February 22nd) and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on another (February 12th).  And if you’re reading this and have no idea who either of those people are, then please, in all seriousness, stop reading my blog because you’re just going to embarrass yourself.  Our school classrooms were always decorated with silhouettes of Washington and Lincoln and the red-white-and-blue bulletin board borders were strung around the room and decorated each desk.  Sometimes there would be contests to see who could dress-up most like either of them and some teachers who only wanted to have to decorate once in the month of February would put the silhouettes of our first and sixteenth presidents (facing each other, usually) inside a large pink heart.  That one always confused me.

After the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday as a Federal holiday, a lot of states stopped celebrating Lincoln’s birthday because they didn’t want to have to give their employees another paid day-off.  Some states still celebrate it, however, as a state holiday (Illinois being one of the biggest).  But if we had a holiday for every president and event in our country’s history, the government would never be open and all Federal employees would spend most of their time off with pay.  Actually, there are some days it seems like they do that anyway.  Technically, there is no “Presidents’ Day” or “President’s Day” or “Presidents Day” (depending on your interpretation of punctuation rules).  The official designation is Washington’s Birthday and no formal bill has ever changed that.  Some have tried — Nixon issued an executive order to celebrate all presidents (including himself, of course) but that didn’t change the holiday.  A bill was even introduced in 2001 but it never made it out of the subcommittee trying to present it.

So, the sales we’re having are actually to celebrate Washington’s birthday.  But let’s look at the phrasing of what’s printed on most of our calendars because the greeting card industry and all the politically-correct rulesmongers won’t have us ignoring the other 43 presidents we’ve had.  Presidents’ Day.  A day for all of the presidents.

Now let’s add the commercialization part.  Presidents’ Day Sale.  A day to sell presidents?  We have that every day, don’t we?  Look at the current campaigns — it’s a battle for who’s got the most money; who can spend the most in a certain area; and who is going to promise the most going back to the citizens just so long as they donate enough to help them get elected.  No one without a huge “war chest” could even dream of becoming president.  If you don’t already have your own large amount of money that’s doing nothing but waiting to be spent, a PAC, a Super-PAC, or a Super-Sized-PAC-with-fries-and-a-drink, you don’t stand a chance.

Technically, we buy-and-sell our presidents every day.  After one election ends and the inauguration occurs, hopefuls for the next one four years down the road start jockeying for position.  And anyone in politics who says they’re not interested in running is probably lying through their teeth.  But behind the scenes, where the lobbyists and special-interest groups lurk while pretending they’re not involved, the money gathering begins.  If you’ve got the money, we’ve got the candidate for you!

It’s been jokingly suggested that we should make all of our politicians wear uniforms with their “sponsors” logos on them, like the NASCAR drivers do.  There’d be some who’d have to change outfits four-or-more times a day just so every donor would get equal “screen time.”  Watching them trying to give a speech or meet-and-greet with the public would be hysterical as they try to ensure shaking enough hands while holding a sponsoring beverage in the other.  Shoot, the State of the Union address would have everyone sitting and listening to the president while an aide did the old “hat dance” (where the winning driver had to briefly wear a hat from each of the race’s sponsors during the post-race interview) as they sat in the gallery.  I’d almost pay to see that!

The current political climate is already bragging and complaining about money raised and spent and who has how much.  Sure, they say we have “free” elections — but don’t take that too literally.  We’ll pay for it, for good or for bad, one way or another.

My obligatory Valentine’s Day blog post

February 14th — known ’round the world as “St. Valentine’s Day” or just “Valentine’s Day” if you refuse to put the religious part towards it.  Actually, it’s no longer a “religious holiday” since the Catholic church removed it from the “official calendar” in 1969 (what an odd year to do that).  In fact, it wasn’t really a Catholic celebration first.

Arcadian Lykaia (for the Greeks) or Lupercalia (for the pre-Romans) was a cleansing festival to release the purity, health and fertility of a city and its inhabitants.  There is debate whether it was a Greek or a Roman celebration first, but seeing how the Romans throughout history basically stole their history from the Greeks, we’ll say the Greeks get the praise on this one.  It was a celebration to the Greek god Pan (or the Roman equivalent Faunus) and goats and dogs were sacrificed while salt mealcakes were burned by Vestal Virgins.  I don’t have a goat; my dogs will NOT be sacrificed; and it’s pretty darned hard to find a Vestal Virgin around these parts — so we’ll just go back to the more modern version of the holiday.

If you ask most anyone why Valentine’s Day is celebrated, those who believe they know their history will say it’s because Saint Valentine was beheaded on February 14th.  Problem is, which Saint Valentine?  There’s Saint Valentine of Rome and Saint Valentine of Terni.  There is also record of another Valentine who was martyred in Africa but not much information is known about him.  True, Saint Valentine of Rome’s skull is still venerated by many and crowned with flowers while on exhibit at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.  Saint Valentine of Terni is also buried on the Via Flaminia but not close to Saint Valentine of Rome.  Who knows what kinds of arguments might break out if they were close together.

The legend continues that Saint Valentine (it’s not noted which one) was arrested by Roman Emperor Claudius II who attempted to convert Valentine to Roman paganism.  Valentine refused, even though he was told he would be put to death if he did not convert, and attempted to convert Claudius II to Christianity.  As he was being held in prison, awaiting his execution, Valentine supposedly became enchanted with the jailer’s blind daughter.  The story ends with either Valentine leaving a love letter that he wrote the evening before his execution to the blind daughter professing his undying love (thus, the first “Valentine”) or that Valentine cured the jailer’s daughter of her blindness before being beheaded.  Either way, his head was lopped-off and it still baffles me why we don’t get boxes of little chocolate decapitated heads full of chewy goodness instead of the giant heart-shaped things.

However, the heart-shaped things were introduced into the holiday because of the possible love that Saint Valentine may or may not have had for the blind girl.  The first reference of love in connection with Valentine’s Day most likely came from Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem Parlement of Foules, written to commemorate the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia.  Because Chaucer refers to Valentine’s Day in the poem, many believed that he was writing about February 14th.  A little-known fact (unless you’re an English major like me and had to read Chaucer whether you liked it or not) is that Chaucer may have been referring to May 2nd, a celebration in the liturgical calendar of Valentine of Genoa.  You could  have guessed that religion would have crept back in even if the original Valentine story wasn’t true.  There may have been other writers who referred to February 14th and Valentine’s Day in their work, but dating medieval writings can be difficult and Chaucer is pretty well-known (for good or for bad) so I’m sticking with this version.  And it would make sense that Chaucer was referring to May 2nd because he spoke of birds seeking their mates and, even back in the 14th century, February was a little early and cold for birds to be thinking of mating.  But if this is the true version, then I guess we should be biting the heads off of small candy birds.  I do that with Peeps around another religious/pagan spring festival, but I digress.

So, where does it all come from?  We know the popular tradition of giving cards was done as a marketing ploy which makes publishers large sums of cash every February as people panic for something to send so they’re not picked-out as the one who forgot what holiday it was.  And of course florists jump-in with the flowers and candy and balloons which makes Valentine’s Day their equivalent of Black Friday for the year (at least until Mothers’ Day comes along).  Kids in American schools are either (1) required to purchase little cards that they can exchange with EVERY member of their class to show that they “want to be their Valentine” or (2) are forbidden to bring ANY cards, candy, etc. to school to share with their classmates for fear that someone might be forgotten, someone might get their feelings hurt, someone will think it’s a religious holiday, or because someone has a peanut allergy.  And, yes, I know that paper cards don’t have peanuts in them, but the person addressing the cards might have been munching on peanuts while writing their little name on the card or, more likely, the wealthier parents who want to show their child has more and attempts to “buy” the favor of his/her classmates by attaching large bags of candy to the card which could have peanuts.  It’s a vicious cycle.

The only St. Valentine’s “celebration” I can think of that won’t offend anyone religiously or cause them anaphylaxis is commemorating the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929.  For those who don’t know their history on this subject, I’ll make it brief ’cause otherwise I could do a huge post on this event alone.

On February 14, 1929, members of Al Capone’s South Side Italian gang waited across the street from 2122 North Clark Street in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago.  They were waiting for Capone’s rival gang boss, George “Bugs” Moran, who led the North Side Irish gang, to arrive at that address.  Moran had been lured there supposedly with the promise of cut-rate whiskey from Detroit’s Purple Gang, friends of Al Capone.  Capone wanted revenge for prior killings by Moran’s gang and only wanted Moran targeted in this hit, not the entire North Side gang.  Moran’s men had arrived at the garage early that morning but Moran and one of his assistants was running late.  When Moran arrived behind the garage, he saw a police car arrive and decided to wait elsewhere.

What Moran didn’t know was that the police car was there as part of Capone’s plan for his associates to escape.  Capone had hired hitmen from outside the Chicago area so that Moran wouldn’t be able to recognize them.  Two of the men wore police uniforms and entered the garage as if conducting a raid.  The five members of Moran’s gang and two associates were lined-up against the brick wall as if they were to be searched.  As the men were facing the rear wall of the garage, two more of Capone’s men entered and the four hitmen, using two Thompson submachine guns and two shotguns, murdered the men inside and then escaped by having the “police officers” escort the other two men to the waiting police cars.  Witnesses told the police that they saw policemen leaving the area with two men “in custody.”

It wasn’t until Highball, a German Shepherd owned by one of the victims, began barking and howling that anyone came to look inside the garage.  Highball and Frank Gusenberg, who despite being shot fourteen times refused to say anything about the killers before dying three hours later, were the only two survivors.  Photos of the gruesome aftermath were posted in newspapers around the country.

The infamous wall from 2122 North Clark Street (minus a few dozen bricks sold over the years by its previous owner) is now on display at the Las Vegas Mob Museum, so I guess if you want something non-traditional for your Valentine, you can take them there.

Me?  Maybe I’ll take the Thompson into the garage and fire a few blank rounds towards the brick walls in commemoration.  It’s less fattening than chocolate; it won’t die like cut flowers; and it’s a tradition I can do every February 14th.

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