Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy Birthday, Louisiana!

Today is the anniversary of Louisiana's
admittance to our United States of America.

Date of Admittance:
April 30, 1812 

Parentage: Claimed by the French from the early 1500s, the entire territory was named after King Louis XIV of France. 

Place in the Family:
Number 18
right after the Buckeye State (March 1803)
and just before the Hoosier State (Dec 1813)

"Union, Justice, Confidence"
...yet they quit the Union to join the
Confederate States of America (CSA) in 1861?!?

The Pelican State
Because they aren't allowed to live anywhere else?

State Flag
A light blue banner with the proud, majestic, and authoritative
state bird The Pelican in its center.

First City You Probably Think of
When You Think "Louisiana":
New Orleans

Actual State Capital: Baton Rouge

Fun Louisiana Fact:
Louisiana is the only state to be divided
into "Parishes" instead of "Counties"

State Size (Area) is 31st of 50.
Population is closer to 22nd of 50.
(per 2000 Census figures)

Louisiana Sports:
NFL Football (New Orleans Saints) and
NBA Basketball (New Orleans Hornets)

Anybody From Louisiana
Ever Grow Up To Be President?
Good vs Evil
Huey Long, Jr
Governor (1928-1932) and Senator (1932-1935) 

Jimmy Swaggart
TV Pentecostal Minister 

Musical Louisianians:
Way too many to do them justice...!
After all, New Orleans is Jazz Capital of the World!

Louis Prima
"Just A Gigolo"

Hank Williams, Jr
"All My Rowdy Friends"

Tim McGraw
"Live Like You Were Dying"

The Marsalis Brothers
All four brothers play!

Harry Connick, Jr
Singer, Pianist, Actor

TV Celebrities From Louisiana:
Bryant Gumbel
sports-anchor, newscaster

Ellen DeGeneres
comedienne, talk-show host, actress

Food From Louisiana:
Tabasco Sauce
produced exclusively in Louisiana

(Pecans, Chocolate, & Carmel)

Film Stars From Louisiana:
Reese Witherspoon
Academy Award Winning Actress

Tyler Perry
World-Renowned Actor, Writer, Producer 

Louisiana Literary Figures:
Truman Capote
"Breakfast at Tiffany's," In Cold Blood

Elmore Leonard
Get Shorty and dozens of others

Anne Rice
Interview With The Vampire etc

Sporty Louisianans:
Terry Bradshaw
Pittsburgh Steeler QB (1970-1983)

The Mannings
The First Family of Football 

Most Famous Louisians:
Louis Armstrong
Anyone who knows Jazz knows "Satchmo." 
There is a statue of him in New Orleans.

A Song For You....
"The Battle of New Orleans"
Sung by Johnny Horton
(looks like this version is from some Christmas special!?)
Music & Lyrics by Jimmy Driftwood

JAZZ Appreciation Month: Duke Ellington

To finish my first annual Jazz Appreciation month here at FoJ, I'm bringing you what I consider the best known jazz instrumental in the USA: "Take The 'A' Train" by Duke Ellington! I knew this song for YEARS before I knew what the name of it was, and then I didn't know who had the definitive version for another few years.

If you don't believe that this is a well-known song, go up to anybody who says they know music and hum some of it to them. My strong belief is that they'll say, "Oh, yeah, I've heard that."

What is ironic for me is that in my studies of jazz I haven't found anything else by Duke Ellington that I like anywhere near as much as I like this! Haha! Sorry, Sir Duke!

Speaking of an extra candle on the cake as we end Jazz Appreciation here, I present  Stevie Wonder doing his smash hit "Sir Duke," which hit #1 in the USA in May 1977.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Maryland!

Today is the anniversary of Maryland's state government ratifying  the US Constitution, locking in her membership as one of our  United States of America. 

Date of Ratification:
April 28, 1788

Parentage: Founded by George Calvert, First Baron of Baltimore.
Named for Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I of England

Place in the Family: 
Lucky Seven
right after older sister Massachusetts (Feb 1788)
but just before problem child South Carolina (May 1788)
"Manly Deeds, Womanly Words" 
This is actually pretty cool, although I have never EVER heard it before

"The Old Line State"
WTH does *that* mean!?
State Flag
It's the family banner of the Calverts.
It is the only state flag based on an English heraldry.
I think it looks like a racing flag.

First City You Probably Think of
When You Think "Maryland":
Actual State Capital: Annapolis

State Size (Area) is 42nd of 50.
Population is closer to 19th of 50.
(per 2000 Census figures)

Maryland Sports:
Baseball (Baltimore Orioles)
Football (Baltimore Ravens).
Also supports next-door neighbor's sons' Hockey (Washington Capitals)
Good vs Evil
Thurgood Marshall,
first African-American Justice of the
US Supreme Court (1967-1991) 

Spiro Agnew,
Governor of Maryland (1967-69) and
Vice-President of the United States (1969-73)

Anybody From Maryland
Ever Grow Up To Be President?

The opposite is true.
The first assassin of a US President, 
John Wilkes Booth, is from here.

TV Celebrities From Maryland:
Jim Henson,
puppeteer extraordinaire

Connie Cheung
newscaster extraordinaire

Comic Professionals From Maryland:
Bernie Wrightson
co-creator of SWAMP THING

Frank Miller

Film Stars From Maryland: 
Goldie Hawn
Academy Award Winning Actress

Sylvester Stallone
World-Renowned Actor, Writer, Producer

Musical Marylanders:
Billie Holiday

Cass Elliot

Maryland Literary Figures:
Edgar Allan Poe
created the modern "detective story"

Dashiell Hammett
creator of Sam Spade and The Thin Man

Historical Marylanders:
Clara Barton
founded the US Red Cross

Babe Ruth
"The Sultan of Swing"

Most Famous Marylander:
Modern Answer: Michael Phelps (aka Aquaman)
Historical Answer: Francis Scott Keye.
Everyone recognizes the National Anthem, even if they can't sing it.

A Song For You....
Here's "Good Morning, Baltimore"
from the musical HAIRSPRAY
Sung by Nikki Blonsky
Music & Lyrics by Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman

Happy Birthday, Harper Lee!

What is the greatest modern American novel?

I suppose we could discuss this, but to me the answer is easy: hands down, the best modern American novel I am familiar with is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The story of lawyer Atticus Finch and his children was published in 1960. It was supposedly based it on some of her own experiences growing up in Alabama. It is not perfect, but for what it is, it is awesomely good.

Today is Miss Harper Lee's birthday. She is 86 years young. So Happy Birthday, Harper Lee! And thank you for writing this wonderful book.

Harper Lee started work on several follow-up projects, but as of this writing she has not published any additional novels.

Ironically enough, another candidate for "Greatest Modern American Novel" could be Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I wouldn't vote for it, but the ironic part is that it, too, was written by a woman and it, too, was the only book she ever wrote.

If you have never read this book, please go to the library and borrow a copy right now. You will not regret it. Then borrow the DVD version of the movie starring Gregory Peck. You will love that, too.

As a type of "trailer" I'll show you some different book jackets for this story. And I will also tell you that the title refers to one of the pieces of advice Atticus gives to his children: you can hunt and kill various things, but you should never kill a mockingbird. They only exist to sing and bring pleasure to others, so to kill one is a sin. And believe me, she writes that a whole lot better than I did. :-)


Friday, April 27, 2012

Arbor Day 2012

Today, in several states in the USA, is Arbor Day. Arbor Day is, of course, the date we set aside to plant more trees.

Arbor Day was started in Nebraska City, Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton. From what I could find, it is actually a state holiday in Nebraska! The point was that there weren't enough trees in Nebraska when pioneers started moving there, so he as a newspaperman started pushing the idea that people needed to plant more trees. Eventually he became the secretary of the Nebraska Territory and pushed his agenda from that role, as well.

The first state-wide Arbor Day was celebrated in 1872. For many years it was April 22, which was Morton's birthday. The US government made it a national day from 1972. However, each state celebrates it differently due to seasonal requirements.

In 2001 the Arbor Day Foundation ran a poll to decide the United States' favorite tree. I don't remember that, but the winner was the Oak.

For a list of all state Arbor Days and all sorts of other information, visit

If you can't plant a tree (if you live in an apartment like me, for example) here's the next best thing...some of the most famous trees in US popular culture.

Magical Apple Trees in The Wizard of OZ

Walt Kelly's beautiful swamp trees in POGO

Charlie Brown's Kite-Eating Tree
Charlie Brown's Christmas

Apple-Pie Tree at McDonalds

The Whomping Willow from Harry Potter
by Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.