Fun Stuff

Samuel Goldwyn

Quotes of the Day - Sun, 02/19/2017 - 6:00pm
"Television has raised writing to a new low."
Categories: Fun Stuff

bemuse

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 19, 2017 is:

bemuse • \bih-MYOOZ\  • verb

1 : to make confused : puzzle, bewilder

2 : to occupy the attention of : distract, absorb

3 : to cause to have feelings of wry or tolerant amusement

Examples:

She had neither asked for nor expected her newfound celebrity, and was bemused by all the attention she was receiving.

"I have no interest in bemusing an audience or puzzling an audience. I don't think my plays are difficult. When they're spoken of in those terms, I'm always surprised." — Tom Stoppard, quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle, 10 Oct. 2016

Did you know?

In 1735, British poet Alexander Pope lamented, in rhyme, being besieged by "a parson much bemus'd in beer." The cleric in question was apparently one of a horde of would-be poets who plagued Pope with requests that he read their verses. Pope meant that the parson had found his muse—his inspiration—in beer. That use of bemused harks back to a 1705 letter in which Pope wrote of "Poets … irrecoverably Be-mus'd." In both letter and poem, Pope used bemused to allude to being inspired by or devoted to one of the Muses, the Greek sister goddesses of art, music, and literature. The lexicographers who followed him, however, interpreted "bemus'd in beer" as meaning "left confused by beer," and their confusion gave rise to the first modern sense of bemused above.



Categories: Fun Stuff

February 19, 1847: Donner Party rescued

This Day in History - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 11:00pm

On this day in 1847, the first rescuers reach surviving members of the Donner Party, a group of California-bound emigrants stranded by snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

In the summer of 1846, in the midst of a Western-bound fever sweeping the United States, 89 people–including 31 members of the Donner and Reed families–set out in a wagon train from Springfield, Illinois. After arriving at Fort Bridger, Wyoming, the emigrants decided to avoid the usual route and try a new trail recently blazed by California promoter Lansford Hastings, the so-called “Hastings Cutoff.” After electing George Donner as their captain, the party departed Fort Bridger in mid-July. The shortcut was nothing of the sort: It set the Donner Party back nearly three weeks and cost them much-needed supplies. After suffering great hardships in the Wasatch Mountains, the Great Salt Lake Desert and along the Humboldt River, they finally reached the Sierra Nevada Mountains in early October. Despite the lateness of the season, the emigrants continued to press on, and on October 28 they camped at Truckee Lake, located in the high mountains 21 kilometers northwest of Lake Tahoe. Overnight, an early winter storm blanketed the ground with snow, blocking the mountain pass and trapping the Donner Party.

Most of the group stayed near the lake–now known as Donner Lake–while the Donner family and others made camp six miles away at Alder Creek. Building makeshift tents out of their wagons and killing their oxen for food, they hoped for a thaw that never came. Fifteen of the stronger emigrants, later known as the Forlorn Hope, set out west on snowshoes for Sutter’s Fort near San Francisco on December 16. Three weeks later, after harsh weather and lack of supplies killed several of the expedition and forced the others to resort to cannibalism, seven survivors reached a Native American village.

News of the stranded Donner Party traveled fast to Sutter’s Fort, and a rescue party set out on January 31. Arriving at Donner Lake 20 days later, they found the camp completely snowbound and the surviving emigrants delirious with relief at their arrival. Rescuers fed the starving group as well as they could and then began evacuating them. Three more rescue parties arrived to help, but the return to Sutter’s Fort proved equally harrowing, and the last survivors didn’t reach safety until late April. Of the 89 original members of the Donner Party, only 45 reached California.

Categories: Fun Stuff

Stephen Hawking

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 6:00pm
"I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Senator Patrick Leahy

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 6:00pm
"You get fifteen democrats in a room, and you get twenty opinions."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Henry David Thoreau

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 6:00pm
"Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes."
Categories: Fun Stuff

W. C. Fields

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 02/18/2017 - 6:00pm
"I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally."
Categories: Fun Stuff

protean

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 18, 2017 is:

protean • \PROH-tee-un\  • adjective

1 : of or resembling Proteus in having a varied nature or ability to assume different forms

2 : displaying great diversity or variety : versatile

Examples:

"Together, the paintings demonstrate Picasso's protean ability to slip into new visual languages to suit the occasion, his subject and his own whims." — Colin Dabkowski, The Buffalo (New York) News, 13 Jan. 2017

"Love for Sale examines the shape-shifting undergone by popular music, from minstrelsy to hip-hop, and the equally protean ways in which it has reached the public, from printed notation sheets for do-it-yourself parlor revelry in days of yore to the streaming and downloading of our digital era." — Rayyan al-Shawaf, The Los Angeles Review of Books, 16 Jan. 2017

Did you know?

Proteus was the original master of disguise. According to Greek mythology, the grizzled old shepherd of Poseidon's sea creatures possessed the gift of prophecy but didn't like to share his knowledge. Proteus would escape those who wanted to question him by changing his shape. The only way to get a straight answer from him was to sneak up behind him during his midday nap and hold onto him (while he frantically changed from shape to shape) until he eventually revealed what he knew. The adjective protean describes anyone or anything that is as mutable and adaptable as the mythological sea-shepherd.



Categories: Fun Stuff

February 18, 1885: Twain publishes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

This Day in History - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 11:00pm

On this day in 1885, Mark Twain publishes his famous–and famously controversial–novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Twain (the pen name of Samuel Clemens) first introduced Huck Finn as the best friend of Tom Sawyer, hero of his tremendously successful novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Though Twain saw Huck’s story as a kind of sequel to his earlier book, the new novel was far more serious, focusing on the institution of slavery and other aspects of life in the antebellum South.

At the book’s heart is the journey of Huck and his friend Jim, a runaway slave, down the Mississippi River on a raft. Jim runs away because he is about to be sold and separated from his wife and children, and Huck goes with him to help him get to Ohio and freedom. Huck narrates the story in his distinctive voice, offering colorful descriptions of the people and places they encounter along the way. The most striking part of the book is its satirical look at racism, religion and other social attitudes of the time. While Jim is strong, brave, generous and wise, many of the white characters are portrayed as violent, stupid or simply selfish, and the naive Huck ends up questioning the hypocritical, unjust nature of society in general.

Even in 1885, two decades after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn landed with a splash. A month after its publication, a Concord, Massachusetts, library banned the book, calling its subject matter “tawdry” and its narrative voice “coarse” and “ignorant.” Other libraries followed suit, beginning a controversy that continued long after Twain’s death in 1910. In the 1950s, the book came under fire from African-American groups for being racist in its portrayal of black characters, despite the fact that it was seen by many as a strong criticism of racism and slavery. As recently as 1998, an Arizona parent sued her school district, claiming that making Twain’s novel required high school reading made already existing racial tensions even worse.

Aside from its controversial nature and its continuing popularity with young readers, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been hailed by many serious literary critics as a masterpiece. No less a judge than Ernest Hemingway famously declared that the book marked the beginning of American literature: “There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”

Categories: Fun Stuff

George Meany

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 6:00pm
"Anybody who has doubts about the ingenuity or the resourcefulness of a plumber never got a bill from one."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Robert Frost

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 6:00pm
"Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length."
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Kelvin Throop III

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 6:00pm
"Isn't it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?"
Categories: Fun Stuff

Anonymous

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 6:00pm
"Liberals are very broadminded: they are always willing to give careful consideration to both sides of the same side."
Categories: Fun Stuff

cachet

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 17, 2017 is:

cachet • \ka-SHAY\  • noun

1 : a seal used especially as a mark of official approval

2 : a characteristic feature or quality conferring prestige; also : standing or estimation in the eyes of people : prestige

3 : a design, inscription, or advertisement printed or stamped on mail

Examples:

"It's been 70 years and the Sweetheart City is still going strong with its official valentine card and cachet. The Loveland Chamber of Commerce unveiled the 2016 artwork Tuesday…." — Erin Udell, The Fort Collins Coloradoan, 6 Jan. 2016

"TV is enjoying a surge in critical prestige and has taken over some of the cultural cachet that used to be reserved for the movies." — Ryan Faughnder, The Los Angeles Times, 2 Jan. 2017

Did you know?

In the years before the French Revolution, a lettre de cachet was a letter, signed by both the French king and another officer, that was used to authorize a person's imprisonment. Documents such as these were usually made official by being marked with a seal pressed into soft wax. This seal was known in French as a cachet. The word was derived from the Middle French verb cacher, meaning "to press" or "to hide." The "seal" sense of cachet has been used in English since the mid-17th century, and in the 19th century the word started acquiring its extended senses, first referring to a feature or quality conferring prestige, and by century's end to prestige itself.



Categories: Fun Stuff

February 17, 1904: Madame Butterfly premieres

This Day in History - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 11:00pm

On this day in 1904, Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly premieres at the La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy.

The young Puccini decided to dedicate his life to opera after seeing a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida in 1876. In his later life, he would write some of the best-loved operas of all time: La Boheme (1896), Tosca (1900), Madame Butterfly (1904) and Turandot (left unfinished when he died in 1906). Not one of these, however, was an immediate success when it opened. La Boheme, the now-classic story of a group of poor artists living in a Paris garret, earned mixed reviews, while Tosca was downright panned by critics.

While supervising a production of Tosca in London, Puccini saw the play Madame Butterfly, written by David Belasco and based on a story by John Luther Long. Taken with the strong female character at its center, he began working on an operatic version of the play, with an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Written over the course of two years–including an eight-month break when Puccini was badly injured in a car accident–the opera made its debut in Milan in February 1904.

Set in Nagasaki, Japan, Madame Butterfly told the story of an American sailor, B.F. Pinkerton, who marries and abandons a young Japanese geisha, Cio-Cio-San, or Madame Butterfly. In addition to the rich, colorful orchestration and powerful arias that Puccini was known for, the opera reflected his common theme of living and dying for love. This theme often played out in the lives of his heroines–women like Cio-Cio-San, who live for the sake of their lovers and are eventually destroyed by the pain inflicted by that love. Perhaps because of the opera’s foreign setting or perhaps because it was too similar to Puccini’s earlier works, the audience at the premiere reacted badly to Madame Butterfly, hissing and yelling at the stage. Puccini withdrew it after one performance. He worked quickly to revise the work, splitting the 90-minute-long second act into two parts and changing other minor aspects. Four months later, the revamped Madame Butterfly went onstage at the Teatro Grande in Brescia. This time, the public greeted the opera with tumultuous applause and repeated encores, and Puccini was called before the curtain 10 times. Madame Butterfly went on to huge international success, moving to New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1907.

Categories: Fun Stuff

William James

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 6:00pm
"A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices."
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Thomas Fuller

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 6:00pm
"Many would be cowards if they had courage enough."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Friedrich Nietzsche

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 6:00pm
"In heaven all the interesting people are missing."
Categories: Fun Stuff

Leo Rosten

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 6:00pm
"The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it."
Categories: Fun Stuff

sward

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 16, 2017 is:

sward • \SWORD\  • noun

1 : a portion of ground covered with grass

2 : the grassy surface of land

Examples:

"It was a blind and despairing rush by the collection of men in dusty and tattered blue, over a green sward and under a sapphire sky, toward a fence, dimly outlined in smoke, from behind which spluttered the fierce rifles of enemies." — Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage, 1895

"A few hundred yards upstream of the mill was a dam and a small lake. Along its east shore was Riverside Park with its gazebos and grassy swards and, come summer, flocks of picnickers." — Marc Hudson, The Journal Review (Crawfordsville, Indiana), 28 May 2016

Did you know?

Sward sprouted from the Old English sweard or swearth, meaning "skin" or "rind." It was originally used as a term for the skin of the body before being extended to another surface—that of the earth's. The word's specific grassy sense dates back more than 500 years, but it rarely crops up in contemporary writing. The term, however, has been planted in a number of old novels, such as in this quote from Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles: "The sun was so near the ground, and the sward so flat, that the shadows of Clare and Tess would stretch a quarter of a mile ahead of them...."



Categories: Fun Stuff