Wednesday

Fascinating Character--Davy Crockett: American Pioneer

"Be always sure you are right - then go ahead." ~Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier


March 26th is the  60th anniversary of the day "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" rose to number one on the US charts.

         "David Crockett" by Chester Harding (1792 - 1866) - cliff1066.
                                                             Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -                                                     http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:David_Crockett.jpg#/media/File:David_Crockett.jpg


Davy Crockett was an American who was born in 1786 and was known for... well, let's see what the song says about him:
  • Born in  the mountains of Tennessee
  • Grew up in a forest
  • Killed a bear (bar) at the age of three
  • Went to Congress
  • Patched up the Liberty Bell
  • Fought against the Creek Indians
  • Went off to conquer the West
Born in the mountains of Tennessee, and grew up in a forest
Yes, accurate. He was born in East Tennessee. He had a ma and pa and most probably played with Tennessee forest trolls, which, as you know, are particularly ferocious.

It was probably the forest trolls which caused him to run away from home at the age of 14. Hmmmm...independent child.

Killed a bear when he was only three

Oh. Come. On! Reeeeeeally? Nah. No historian believes this, but it is part of his legend. He supposedly wrestled alligators too! It is most probable that he was an excellent bear hunter, as described in his book A Narrative of the Life of Davy Crockett of the State of Tennessee. He knew how to wrestle dem bars!

Went to Congress
The song has the chronology backwards. He participated in the Creek War first (see below) in 1813, but he went to the Tennessee Assembly in 1817, then to the House of Representatives in 1827 (where he stayed until 1835).

Patched up the Liberty Bell
I've seen the Liberty Bell--it's still broken. So folks, this is metaphor. The rest of the verse talks about him fixin' Congress and the Government, so, patching the Liberty Bell is a metaphor for fixing our "liberties."

Nowadays, in modern times, people don't just go around fixin' things. If they do, they're called codependent. :D

Fought against the Creek Indians
NOT! Whew. I really like Davy, so I was set to be disappointed when I'd heard he fought in the Creek War, but that didn't happen--neither his fighting nor my disappointment. According to Wikipedia, Crockett enlisted as a scout in 1813 under Francis Jones and Colonel John Coffee, and, "Crockett often hunted wild game for the soldiers, and felt better suited to that role than the killing of Creek warriors and families."

His aversion to killing Indians in this war makes total sense when combined with the fact Crockett could not stand Andrew Jackson's anti-Indian policies and fought against them vehemently. But it is amazing once you know that Creek Indians killed Davy's grandparents!

(BTW, some references say he fought in "the War of 1812." This is confusing. The Creek War dovetailed into the War of 1812, but it was only the Creek War that Davy "fought.")

Went off to conquer the West (Crockett died at the Battle of the Alamo)
Yeah, the song skips his Alamo death in 1836...leaving him alive and still guzzling coffee in his pajamas on Saturday mornings with his rifle by his side (however, the full version of the song mentions the Alamo). But, the army sent him to help defend the Alamo Mission in what they called "the Texas Revolution," and well, the U.S. army lost....

According to Wikipedia, his youngest child, Matilda, described her father the last time she saw him: "'He was dressed in his hunting suit, wearing a coonskin cap, and carried a fine rifle presented to him by friends in Philadelphia ... He seemed very confident the morning he went away that he would soon have us all to join him in Texas.'"

Robert Jenkins Onderdonk shows Crockett using his rifle as a
club in Onderdonk's 1903 painting The Fall of the Alamo.

Why such a legend?
Crockett's mythological status started growing while in Congress, and it was a two-fold process. First, he published his autobiography, and then, James Kirke Paulding wrote a play called "The Lion of the West" that parodied Davy. It showed him as an uncouth-but-funny Tennessee backwoodsmen named Nimrod Wildfire. This play became popular, and so did Crockett as a result.

So, writers, let this be a lesson to  you. Write a book about your crazy antics, pay someone to parody you, and then tell everyone to go see the play (or buy the DVD, or click onto the YouTube link...) and read your book. You will be famous!

His myth kept growing until well after his death and hit its height in the mid-20th Century with a Disney mini-series starring Fess Parker, which created a merchandising frenzy for everything "Crockett," including coonskin caps! So, it's logical that the song, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," the miniseries' theme song, was #1 on the US pop charts on March 26th, 1955!

And here is the Disney version.




Davy has a Wiki Page. Here are some books by him and about him on Amazon, including Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee.

Source Articles: Wikipedia: Davy Crockett ; Brainy Quote: Davy Crockett; When Did Myths and Legends about Davy Crockett Start?; The Battle of the Alamo (Wikipedia); The Creek War (Wikipedia)

More on Davy, (that's "Mr. Crockett" to you!): Various versions of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" onYouTube; Crockett's Bio (with video that details his death at the Alamo); Funny account of the PR that caused Davy to become a legend-- David Crockett, celebrity pioneer, went from wrestling bears to wrestling with his image;

Bear Hunting in Tennessee: Davy Crockett Tells Tales, 1834; Davy Crockett (mini-series); "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" (Wikipedia);

Friday

Fascinating Recipe-- Black-Bean Vegetarian Tacos

My sister-in-law came for a visit this last week, and all we did for over two days was watch movies, talk, laugh, and eat. She's a vegetarian, so when she visits, my challenge is to adapt my meat recipes to non-meat versions. This week, I "de-meatified" my taco recipe, and it turned out delicious. Here it is, and it's simple!


For the filling:
Ingredients--
2 15-ounce cans black beans (or pinto beans). Rinse and drain only one of the cans
1 T. lime juice (we buy the reconstituted kind in a small squeeze bottle)
1 t. salt (adjust to taste)
1T. red chili powder
2 t. cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. diced white or yellow onion

Directions--

  1. Take one of the cans and empty it into a colander or strainer (make sure the holes are smaller than the beans!). Rinse and let drain.
  2. Pour out the other can with all its juice into a saucepan, then empty the colander beans into the same saucepan. Now all the beans are together and happy.
  3. Throw all the other ingredients into the saucepan with the beans. Stir and blend well. Now we're having FUN! Bean fun!
  4. Put a lid on the saucepan and warm on medium heat until the beans get juicy and you can see the liquid get bubbly. (If you don't have a clear-glass lid like I do, then you'll have to keep peeking under the lid.)
  5. After you see the beans get bubbly, turn down the heat to low and barely simmer with lid on for about 3 minutes. Don't boil! In fact, if you have one of those mini burners in the back of your stove, use that.
  6. After the 3-minute simmer, turn the heat off. Stir gently, then put the lid back on to keep them warm. Don't overcook the beans.



For the shell: We use white-corn tortillas and fry them, but many people warm the tortillas over the burner and double them up for an oil-free taste. For us, it needs to taste like "fry" or just just isn't a taco. :D

Toppings: Good toppings are things such as chopped onions, chopped tomato, cheddar or feta cheese, salsa or pico de gallo, diced green chilies or jalapenos, shredded lettuce or cabbage, cilantro, sour cream, and guacamole. I used feta cheese on mine instead of the traditional cheddar. It was delicious!

Tacos have their own Wikipedia Page. Vegetarianism also has it's own Wikipedia Page

I found two vegan taco cook books: Vegan Tacos by Jason Wyrick and Vegan Tacos Recipes by Brittany Davis

Here are some other Vege Taco recipes: 15 Healthy Vegan Tacos;  Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos; Black Bean Tacos with Avocado Salsa; Sweet Potato and "Un-fried" Bean Tacos; Crispy Black-Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw; Black Bean Tacos with Zucchini Salsa; Quinoa Black Bean and Corn Tacos

Wednesday

Theme of the Month -- October is National Sarcasm Month

“If you find it hard to laugh at yourself, I would be happy to do it for you.” ~Groucho Marx

"I don't know how long my marriage would last if it weren't for sarcasm," my friend said. I wanted to correct her and tell her that depending on sarcasm to work out conflict was a bad idea. But then, I avoided that subject and just said something sarcastic. It was so much easier.

Sarcasm, at it's gentlest, is mildly mocking. At it it's worst, it's cutting, even bitter. Some sarcasm has irony. All sarcasm releases cynicism, resentment, or derision. That's why people like it so much.



"Neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics live in them. My mother cleans them." ~Rita Rudner



“It's always darkest before it turns absolutely pitch black.”
 ~Paul Newman

A while back, it was rumored that someone had invented a "sarcasm mark." You can see it in the pic below, but I have never seen it used IRL (in real life.).  Just think of how amazing it would be to have this mark on our keyboards! "Yes, I'll lend you money," becomes "Keep your mitts off my moola, Georgie." 

With a sarcasm mark, "Of course I wouldn't mind you moving in and eating me out of house and home," becomes, "No, I can't be your enabler." Oh, the power of the sarcasm mark!

I suggest we all start PRAYING for the sarcasm mark to be REAL. We could start a campaign aimed at...well, whoever creates these things. A post-card writing campaign could be effective. Seriously. I WANT A SARCASM MARK NOW and I'm not shy about it. 

Below are some wonderful articles on Sarcasm. The "Literary Devices" is one of my faves, and "31 ... Sarcastic Comebacks" is delightful. LOL.  Happy National Sarcasm Month!

Sarcasm has its own Wiki Page; and there are books about sarcasm on Amazon.

Further Reading: Literary Devices: Types of Sarcasm;  How to Be Sarcastic, a Tutorial; 31 Most Hilariously Sarcastic Comebacks; Grumpy Cat; MAXINE;  Top Five Most Sarcastic Comedians; Confused When People Are Sarcastic? Become More Empathetic; National Sarcasm Month on Pinterest;

Source Articles: Sarcasm Quotes; Brainy Quotes, Rita Rudner; Holiday Insights, October; Wikipedia: Sarcasm.

Fascinating Holiday--Banned Books Week

"I hate it that Americans are taught to fear some books as if they were diseases." ~Kurt Vonnegut

The focus of Banned Books Week is to encourage readers to get in touch with their inner rebel and read a previously-banned or challenged book. The message is that reading is tied to freedom of speech and that no book should be banned. If you don't want to read smut, then don't read smut. If you don't agree with a book's premise, then don't read it. No one has the right to tell someone else they can't read a book because he or she doesn't like it.


A typical way a book is banned is when parents feel children are being exposed to damaging material. Parents want to protect their families from ideas and concepts that children are too young to emotionally handle. Hysterics can ensue about a book that is inappropriate for children and, too often, the book is banned, not only in a school, but in an entire library system, or even a city. 

In my opinion, the rational response is for children to require permission from their parents to read the controversial book. That, at least, allows people to exercise discretion and decide for themselves if they or their child should read the book. Choice is always the better way.

"Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is 
one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me." ~Judy Bloom

Another way a book us banned is through a legal suit because the book teaches how to kill or harm innocent people. Hit Man by Rex Feral is one example. The book teaches all the tricks of a professional assassin, in detail. This book was banned by it's own publisher as a result of a lawsuit when a triple homicide was blamed on the book's instructions.

Hit Man is now available on Kindle for 2.99. No more outrage, I guess.

The United States government does not ban books. Books are banned through local systems such a schools, libraries, organizations, and, as in the case of Hit Man, by the book's publisher.


Here are a few banned books that I've read:

  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  • Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
  • Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien

“The dearest ones of time, the strongest friends of the soul—BOOKS.” ~Emily Dickinson




Here are more classics that were once banned:


  • As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
  • Blubber, by Judy Blume
  • The Call of the Wild, Jack London
  • Carrie, by Stephen King
  • Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
  • A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
  • Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  • Ordinary People, by Judith Guest
  • The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
  • The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

See two fuller lists here and here. And here's a list of 21st Century most-challenged books.

Just to make things clear, I do my best to stay away from crude, smutty, or overwhelmingly-violent books. However, I stand behind your and my right to read anything we choose.

Feel like rebelling? Go to your local library or bookstore and procure a whole bunch of previously-banned books! Encourage others to do the same! Let's stage a coup for free speech! :D

Source Articles: Wikipedia: Book Censorship in the United States; List of Banned Books by Governments; BuzzFeed: 11 Quotes From Authors on Censorship and Banned Books; Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors; BannedBooksWeek.org

Monday

Fascinating Character-- Oscar Pistorius

"The accused was, however, demonstrably one of the worst witnesses ever encountered." ~ Prosecuting attorneys against Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius is a famous South African Olympic runner who is physically challenged. He is missing the lower parts of his legs, and thus, runs in competitions using "blades." He also walks with leg prostheses.

But now he's not famous, he's infamous. For five months, Pistorius was on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and on September 16th, 2014, the verdict came in. GUILTY! But, it's not the Guilty that most wanted. Instead of premeditated homicide, it's culpable homicide, which carries a much lesser sentence.

While we wait for the sentencing on October, here are some fascinating facts:

  • Pistorius was born without the fibula bones. Doctors amputated part of his lower limbs when he was a child.
  • Pistorius ran competitively on carbon-fiber blades which, after much assertiveness with the Olympic commitee on his part, allowed him to compete in the 2012 Olympics.


photo credit: Elvar Freyr via photopin cc

  • On Valentine's Day, 2013, police arrested him after he shot and killed his girlfriend before sunup. Not very romantic. Flowers would have been better.
  • The trial began on March 3, 2014 and ended on September 12, 2014 (South African time).
  • Pistorius pleaded "not guilty." (See the reenactment in the video at the end of this piece.)

photo credit: lwpkommunikacio via photopin cc
Pistorius and Steenkamp in happier times
  • The trial was conducted in South Africa, where the jury system is abolished
  • The judge, Thokozile Masipa, "appointed two assessors ... to help her evaluate the case and reach a verdict," according to Wikipedia.


Pritorius has a Wikipedia Page ; Books about him on Amazon 
The Trial has a Wiki Page; Reeva Steenkamp has a Wikipedia Page

Further Reading and Sources: Important Dates in the Life of Oscar PistoriusProsecutor says Pistorius lied on stand ; Studying Oscar Pistorius: Does the Blade Runner Have an Advantage; Pistorius Fulfilled Dream by Running Olympics in LondonOscar Pistorius Trial: Verdict Is Out!Oscar Pistorius Trial: Final Verdict Endangers Judge Masipa?; Oscar Pistorius Can Expect a Cool Reception if He is Able to Return to the Paraolympics