Tag Archives: ABC Wednesday

A is for Animal Adjectives

I’m in a bit of an animal rut groove the last couple weeks. I found this neat link to animal adjectives, most of which I never heard of. But it’s the familiar ones that got me thinking about how some of them get applied to people, sort of a reverse anthropomorphism.

These definitions come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. They are in addition to “having the characteristics of” said animal.

aquiline – curving like an eagle’s beak (an aqualine nose)

elephantine – having enormous size or strength: massive; clumsy, ponderous (elephantine verse)

feline (cat) – sleekly graceful; sly, treacherous; stealthy
Continue reading A is for Animal Adjectives

Z is for at the ZOO

Simon & Garfunkel had been performing on their “Old Friends” tour this year, and I had been considering going to one of the shows in Massachusetts. Then I heard the show had to be canceled because of Art Garfunkel’s vocal paresis.

Old Friends/Bookends was the last pair of songs, segued together, on the first side of the 1968 S&G album, Bookends. The collection also featured “Mrs. Robinson”, “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “America”.

At the Zoo was the last song on the second side of the album. (Remember when albums had “sides”?) Here’s a video of the song.

I recall really liking this recording when I was in high school, whereas my good friend Carol HATED it, and also the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever; odd the things one recalls. And I was particularly fascinated by the attributes that Paul Simon assigned to the animals.

Someone told me
It’s all happening at the zoo.

I do believe it,
I do believe it’s true.

It’s a light and tumble journey
From the East Side to the park;
Just a fine and fancy ramble
To the zoo.

But you can take the crosstown bus
If it’s raining or it’s cold,
And the animals will love it
If you do.

Somethin’ tells me
It’s all happening at the zoo.

Continue reading Z is for at the ZOO

X is for Xenophobia


So I was looking up xenophobia in the Wikipedia, which lists this definition:
Xenophobia is the uncontrollable fear of foreigners. It comes from the Greek words ξένος (xenos), meaning “stranger,” “foreigner” and φόβος (phobos), meaning “fear.” Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity. Xenophobia can also be exhibited in the form of an “uncritical exaltation of another culture” in which a culture is ascribed “an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality”…

A xenophobic person has to genuinely think or believe at some level that the target is in fact a foreigner. This arguably separates xenophobia from racism and ordinary prejudice in that someone of a different race does not necessarily have to be of a different nationality. In various contexts, the terms “xenophobia” and “racism” seem to be used interchangeably, though they can have wholly different meanings (xenophobia can be based on various aspects, racism being based solely on race ethnicity and ancestry). Xenophobia can also be directed simply to anyone outside of a culture, not necessarily one particular race or people.

Well, OK. I’m not sure if it is xenophobia or racism (or both) which led to offensive characterizations against the Republican candidate for governor in South Carolina. Or the renaming of food so as not to invoke people we don’t like. Or the absurd truthiness of this Comedy Central bit about Obama and his emotions.

At some level, I suppose I had gotten to a point where I had hoped xenophobia and racism was some thing of the past, such as one segment in this TV show from 1964, which like the Daily Show segment, is parody. But I realized I was being silly. Xenphobia has lasted for millennia; why should modernism destroy it? Continue reading X is for Xenophobia

W is for Weird


I need to tell you about Mike the Headless Chicken. Then I’ll tell you something REALLY weird.

On September 10, 1945, there was a farmer in Fruita, Colorado named Lloyd Olsen who experienced something unusual. Being a farmer, unsurprisingly, from time to time, Lloyd would lop off the head of a chicken, or in this case, a rooster. While the cliche about running around like a chicken with his head cut off is true, this particular poultry was still strutting his stuff the next day. So Lloyd decided to feed the bird, using an eyedropper full of ground-up grain and water, with “little bits of gravel down his throat to help the gizzard grind up the food.”

Mike could hang on high perches without falling, gurgle in a faux crowing style, even attempt to preen his non-existent head.

Sideshow promoter Hope Wade convinced Lloyd to put Miracle Mike on tour, and for a time, he made $4500 per month, from 25-cent viewings, good money even in these days. Mike even made it into LIFE magazine, a hugely popular US periodical in the day.
Continue reading W is for Weird

V is for Veteran


Back at the end of February 2010, I did a presentation for the Underground Railroad conference about Black Soldiers in Post WW II Germany. I’m certainly not to replicate it here, but a few points I’ll mention.

Even though the first casualty of what would become the American Revolution was Crispus Attucks at the Boston Massacre of 1770, the American colonial powers fighting Great Britain were resistant to allowing black soldiers to serve. It wasn’t until the British offered freedom to black fighters that ultimately got George Washington’s attention. Ultimately, blacks fought on both sides of the conflict, but their reason was singular: freedom.

Again, in the American Civil War, many black men felt that serving in the military was a way they might gain freedom and full citizenship. As Frederick Douglass asserted that if blacks fought, “no power on earth can deny that he has earned the right” to freedom.

General David Staunch took it upon himself to free slaves, not just on islands controlled by Union forces, but in south Florida, where he recruited men capable of bearing arms to form the first black regiment. This was ultimately opposed to, and disbanded by President Lincoln, fearing moving more quickly than “public opinion would bear.”

There was a modicum of freedom for the newly emancipated but this was negated by the Jim Crow laws and other restrictions. During World War I, WEB DuBois wrote in The Crisis magazine, “First your Country, then your Rights”. A by-then familiar refrain.

So, most of the wars fought by the United States, starting with the Revolutionary War, included a subtext, even the promise, of justice for, and fair treatment of African-Americans. World War I and especially the Civil War brought the issue to the fore.

But it was with World War II, with large numbers of black soldiers in uniform, that the contradiction between fighting for freedom for others and a lack of freedom back at home reached a tipping point. Continue reading V is for Veteran

T is for Titans


Uncharacteristically, I was flipping through the TV channels recently. This is highly unusual, because generally, when I watch television, I go to a particular show, usually prerecorded. I came across this 2000 movie I saw in the theaters, Remember the Titans. Part of the IMBD synopsis:
“It’s 1971 in Alexandria, Virginia and successful high school football coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) has just been deprived of the head coaching job at the new integrated T.C. Williams High School to make way for equally successful black coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington). Yoast debates pursuing opportunities elsewhere, but when most of his white players vow to sit out the season unless he coaches, he changes his mind and stays on as Boone’s assistant.”
The Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: “An inspirational crowd-pleaser with a healthy dose of social commentary, Remember the Titans may be predictable, but it’s also well-crafted and features terrific performances.”

Well, yes, predictable, including having the Big Game. I enjoyed it well enough, and it at least tried to tackle the issue of race.

Looking back at it, though, I noticed an interesting coincidence Continue reading T is for Titans

S for Severed States


I saw this article recently in the Wall Street Journal about some people on Long Island wanting to secede from the rest of New York State for a bunch of reasons; it won’t happen, BTW, because the state legislature wouldn’t allow it. But it reminded me that the 50 states in the US were not always the size that they are currently.

Even before there was a United States, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York all insisted that Vermont was a part their state. That’s why Vermont declared itself a kingdom in 1777, and Vermonters to this day refer to the state as the “Northeast Kingdom”, though it became the first state after the original 13.

In the early days of the Union: Continue reading S for Severed States