What the World Needed

Are you embarrassed by the quality of the food photos you’ve posted to Facebook? The folks at the App Store want you to know they have solutions: new apps for your smart phone, specifically designed to help you improve pictures of what you are eating or drinking. Your couscous and beet salad not lit just right to impress your friends? There’s an app for that. The artistic design in the foam of your coffee beverage not highlighted just so? There are apps with filters to help you create your own style.

From the same folks who brought us Y2K.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

A popular trope from environmental zealots has been to tell us about a plastic-garbage patch the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. Turns out that’s just another attempt to scare us with misinformation about the coming environmental apocalypse. It’s not the size of Texas; it’s the size of TWO Texases. And it’s growing faster than anyone thought.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has attracted so much attention that scientists now use the shorthand GPGP.

Read all about it here.

Marine Conservationist Charles Moore displays a toothbrush found in the Central North Pacific Ocean whilst holding a banner which reads ‘Is This Yours?’ This is part of the Ocean Defenders Campaign in which the Greenpeace ship Esperanza MV sails to the Pacific Ocean, sometimes referred to as the North Pacific garbage patch, to document the threat that plastic poses to the environment and sea life.

Nashville Cats

The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. Thomas Ryman, saloon and steamboat entrepreneur, spearheaded the project in an attempt to bring Christianity to the masses. In its first few decades, to help pay down construction debt, non-religious entertainment was often booked into the facility. W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin and Harry Houdini were among the many to take the stage. Teddy Roosevelt and Helen Keller lectured there. In spite of Jim Crow laws, the Ryman sometimes hosted integrated audiences.
The Ryman became famous as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 until 1974, when it moved in 1974 to Opryland USA,  a shiny new entertainment-shopping-hotel complex away from downtown.
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge sat around the corner facing Broadway. It became famous on its own as a place where future stars paid their dues. Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Roger Miller got started at Tootsie’s. Ernest Tubb’s revered record store across the street is visible through Tootsie’s window.
When the Opry departed, the core downtown became a seedy place to avoid. Demolition of the Ryman Auditorium was proposed. The venerable hall was saved, renovated, and again became a popular venue for music. Tootsie’s also gained fame and became a tourist attraction of its own. Nashville promoted its reputation as the home of country music, and churned out formulaic recordings of what Tom Petty famously called “Bad rock, with fiddles.”
Gentrification has come to Nashville and along with it, a new type of tourist: bachelorettes. The city has become a destination for “Bach Weekends.” Young women from around the country come for their pre-wedding experience, which does not include the Country Music Hall of Fame. BuzzFeed News recently produced an in-depth report on this new phenomenon.

Just for fun…

How Christians Gave Fools Their Own Day

If you missed New Year’s Day, April Fools’ was created for you.

Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1, and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1, became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.

(from history.com)

Increasingly annoyed by Martin Luther and the growing Protestant Reformation, the pope convened an ecumenical council in the northern Italian city of Trent. The Council officially declared much of the Protestant ideology as heresy. As modern-day politicians slip partisan or pork-barrel amendments into unrelated legislation, the Council of Trent added to its decrees a provision to clean up the Julian calendar and provide for a more consistent scheduling of Easter. Eventually the new Gregorian calendar became the standard in most of the world.

So how did they simplify the scheduling of Easter? The Christ’s resurrection is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon that occurs on or after the day of the vernal equinox (the first day of spring).

As with Christmas, Easter is based – co-opted, if you will – on pagan celebrations related to cycles of the moon, the equinox, the seasons and resultant things in nature. Spring festivals celebrated the earth’s return to fertility and the birth of many, ahem, creatures. Christians related resurrection with rebirth and consequently, the Easter egg. So of course, in modern times, the eggs became chocolate.

Happy Holidays

Starbucks_Holiday_Cups-lowresLife was tough for those living in northern latitudes during prehistoric times. When the growing season ended they had to survive on what food they stored and what animals they could kill. Each day the darkness came a bit earlier and lasted longer into the next day. They feared the sun would disappear forever and leave them in permanent darkness and cold. solstice_StonehengeAfter the solstice passed, they would begin to take heart that the sun would return, giving them reason to celebrate and to hope. Even without instruments, to measure the solstice, after a few days they could tell the sun was moving higher on its path, giving cause for celebration.

Beginning in the 3rd century BCE, the Romans honored Saturn, the god of the harvest. The Saturnalia celebration began on December 17 and lasted for a week. The festivities included giving gifts and lighting candles. Romans being Romans, over time it degenerated into a week of debauchery and revelry.

An ancient Syrian god, Sol Invictus (“The Unconquered Sun”) became the chief god of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century CE. The Roman citizens celebrated his holiday on December 25.

Theologians and religious historians estimate that Yeshua, later known as Jesus, was born in the autumn, sometime between the years 7 and 4 BCE. By the 4th century CE, western church leaders felt they needed to celebrate Christ’s birth. They chose December 25 because that date was recognized throughout the Roman Empire as the nativity of various pagan gods. There being no central church authority at the time, it took centuries for December 25 to be universally accepted. Ireland began celebrating Christmas in the 5th century. England, Austria and other European countries did not begin until the 8th century.Coca-Cola-Christmas-christmas

Christians adopted many pagan symbols, such as holly, mistletoe, decorated evergreen tree, gift giving and, yes, magical reindeer. The Romans decorated trees for their Saturnalia festivities. Vikings adorned evergreen trees with pieces of food and clothing, and small statues of the gods to persuade the spirits to return in the spring.

yule-DruidSanta Claus is an amalgam of a number of pre-Christian stories. German mythology includes the character Odin, a wise old man with a beard who rode an eight-legged horse. Ancient Anglo-Saxon solstice celebrations featured Father Time, King Frost or King Winter, dressed in a green hooded cloak wearing a wreath made of holly or mistletoe.

Our pilgrim antecedents were not enthusiasts of Christmas. In the mid 17th century, Christmas was actually outlawed in the city of Boston. The first Congress under our new Constitution was in session on December 25, 1789. It was not until the years after the Civil War that Christmas started to gain popularity in the U.S.

MemoriesAtRockafeller, 10/2/06, 12:44 PM, 8C, 5904x8712 (1023+573), 100%, Custom, 1/30 s, R77.0, G48.2, B69.0

The religious – “Christ’s Mass” – and the profane – St. Nicholas – both gained recognition. Washington Irving (The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent), Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol), Clement Clarke Moore (A Visit From St. Nicholas) and Thomas Nast (Santa Claus illustrations)thomas-nast-santa-claus helped popularize the celebration. Christmas finally became an official U.S. Holiday in 1885. Now we celebrate Black Friday.

A final thought: what does this have to do with Starbucks and the war on Christmas? Historically, the war on Christmas has been waged mostly by Christians.


Special fun bonus link: The story of the Starbucks mermaid.