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




Thursday

Fascinating Character--O. Henry (Birthday Version)

"The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate." ~O. Henry

I don't know why William Sydney Porter created the pen name O. Henry, but throughout his life, he seemed obsessed with changing his name. For instance, in 1898, when he was 36, he changed his middle name's spelling from "Sidney" to "Sydney." Also, he didn't always use the pen name O. Henry. Sometimes he was Olivier Henry or Oliver Henry.

When I tell you about the scandal, though, it may make sense.

In 1891, Porter began working at the First National Bank of Austin, and also began to embezzle. Yup. So they fired him in 1894 without reporting him to the Feds. However, in 1896, while Porter was working for the Houston Post, he was arrested for embezzlement. The Feds had decided to audit the bank, and found the inconsistencies. Oh my!

It gets even better. After his father-in-law bailed him out of jail and the day before his trial,  Porter fled the country and settled himself in Honduras. In 1897, he returned to the US because his wife was dying of tuberculosis. He surrendered himself to the court and was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to five years.

So, I guess we see now why Henry seemed fearless in the quote above to face any adventure--he lived a real-life adventure for most his his days.

Anyway, back to his aliases. I think a man with these criminal tendencies may not want to publish under his own name. Or, perhaps he was always thinking he may have to run, so having an alias on the ready was just a wise practice. Those are my two best theories.

O. Henry is best known for . . .

  • Authoring short stories
  • His ironic twists at the end of his fiction
  • The Gift of the Magi (the only tale about a hair comb that will make you cry)
  • Coining the term "banana republic" (in Cabbages and Kings)

There's more drama where "O." is concerned, but I leave you to his Wikipedia page for that.

Is he pondering the meaning of life, 
or a jewelry heist?

Source Articles: Wikipedia; Brainy Quote O. Henry Quotes

Friday

Theme of the Month-- August is National Peach Month

"... I prefer a really intense fruit taste. You know, when a peach is absolutely perfect... it's sublime. I'd like to capture that and then use it in a dessert." ~ Kathy Mattea

August is National Peach Month and I'm celebrating with some fascinating peach facts and yummy peach recipes. Lets start with some peachy info:


Peach Blossoms, aren't they pretty?
You don't eat this part.

  • The peach hails from China, which produces the most peaches in the world
  • There are yellow flesh and white flesh varieties
  • They credit the Silk Road for the import of peaches to the West
  • Europeans like the white-flesh peach over the yellow
  • The white-flesh variety is the sweeter of the two
  • Europeans once believed that the peach came from Persia, thus its scientific name prunus persica
  • Growers harvest the peach anywhere from May to late July, depending on the variety
  • Georgia is famous for its yummy peaches ("Georgia peach")
  • There are two main categories of peach cultivar: freestone and clingstone because with some varieties the flesh sticks to the pit, and with others it doesn't.
  • I like saying the word "cultivar." :D

My favorite peach recipe is my own Easy Peach Cobbler, which is really a dump cake. I found a link on the internet for my exact recipe, which I've posted below with other recipe links. Basically, all you do is take a large can of peaches in heavy syrup, pour them into a 9 x 13 pan, dump a box of yellow cake mix on top, dot with butter, and bake. So easy and so YUM.


photo credit: madlyinlovewithlife via photopin cc



The Peach has it's own Wikipedia Page; Here are some books about peaches on Amazon.