Tag Archives: Mordecai

Ocarina

Last night’s mild earthquake caused a corner of the cellar to crumble. When we were able to clear the dust and debris away, Mordecai and I discovered a cache of old journals and musical instruments from generations passed. This cache included a bronze ukelele, a harp made of yeti ribs, and a number of ocarinas.

An ocarina is a simple wind instrument, often made of terra-cotta with a mouthpiece and finger holes. Ocarinas are often egg-shaped and is casually referred to as a “sweet potato” in the United States.

Ocarina stems from the Italian dialectal ucarenna, which is the diminutive form of Italian oca,  meaning goose. In other words, ocarina means little goose. The instrument is thought to look like a goose’s beak, hence the name.

You might be familiar with the ocarina from the video game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Or perhaps you had a small plastic ocarina when you were a child. There are a number of different types of ocarinas, the most commonly known being the transverse ocarina. It is shaped a bit like a laser-blaster. There are also smaller, more portable versions of the instrument that look distinctly egg-like. These are called Pendant Ocarinas.

Peruvian Pendant Ocarinas were used by the Incans for rituals, festivals, and ceremonies. Often animals were painted on these ocarinas. It is supposed that the European explorers (like Cortez) brought versions of these ocarinas back to Europe from Mesoamerican explorations. It was then that the music and dance of the ocarina was introduced to Europe.

Mordecai is playing a strangely haunting tune on one of the ocarinas that fell out of the cellar wall. This one is made of quartz and is engraved with what look like dragons. Bubo is enjoying a cool night in the October skies over Brooklyn and I am considering these old journals. With a glass of port, naturally.

 

*Photo courtesy of Frogmen.info.

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Groggy

It must be said, there is nothing like a nap beneath an apple tree in the Northeast. Mordecai and I are in Vermont, having tracked a couple of SpiderBots traversing the coast of Lake Champlain.

Having spent the bulk of today hiking through Camel’s Hump State Park, I am in need of a nap. I am not, strictly speaking, a young man.

As it is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, and as Mordecai is already asleep and I am awfully drowsy, I thought today’s word was rather appropriate.

Groggy is a noun that means dazed or staggering, as from exhaustion, blows, or drunkenness; weak and unsteady on the feet or in action.

Groggy originates from Grog, which is an alcoholic beverage – usually rum – mixed with water (and often served hot, mixed with lemon and sugar). Groggy first meant intoxicated, which clearly happens if one imbibes too much grog.

Pirates typically drank grog and I would venture to guess that if you mix your run with enough lemon juice, you can stave off boredom and scurvy in one gulp. Of course, I’d rather not be aboard a ship crewed by groggy pirates.

Apparently, grog comes from Old Grog, which was Edward Vernon’s nickname. Who was Edward Vernon, you ask? Why he was the 1757 English admiral responsible for diluting the sailors’ rum.

So now, if you’ll excuse me, this groggy old fellow (from exhaustion, not grog) will celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day by napping for a wink or two. Bubo will continue grumbling that pirates get a celebratory day while owls do not.

The Ticonderoga at The Shelburne Museum. Not, strictly speaking, a pirate ship.

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Opprobrium

It is surprising to me that even in this humidity (and a rain that turns on and off as though there is a faucet above me) Mordecai was able to set fire to the crab apple tree in the neighbor’s front yard.

Mordecai and our neighbor have been feuding for years, over what one can not be sure. This afternoon, while I was reading in the library, I heard Mordecai yell “You give blood-sucking insects a bad name!” Then there was a small explosion and the distinct smell of burning apple pie.

By the time I reached the front porch, Mordecai had a black eye and was stomping towards me, away from a fully-enflamed crab apple tree and a screaming angry neighbor. Mordecai was smiling.

This brings me to today’s word.

Opprobrium is a noun that means disgrace arising from exceedingly shameful conduct; ignominy or scornful reproach or contempt.

Opprobrium originates from the Latin opprobrareto reproach – which is from ob –  in the way of plus probrumreproach. It is also similar to the Latin proforward – and to the Latin ferreto carry, bring.

Obviously, this will not be the first time Mordecai enjoys public disgrace from conduct considered grossly wrong or vicious. Of course, he never considers these moments disgraceful.

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Labor Day: ReDux

Well, Happy Labor Day, oddlings. The sky in Brooklyn is an undulating palette of greys, blues, and whites. Perhaps we will have rain. Perhaps the day will just continue as a moody overcast day. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. Bubo hates the word perhaps for reasons unknown. She also hates the word yarn. I think perhaps she’s overly cranky because her attempts to over-dye the bright orange paint on her feathers made them a deep violet color. It’s rather striking. Apparently, the heaviness of extra paint on her feathers is making complicated hunting moves difficult for her.

Luckily for Bubo, we live in Brooklyn, and there is a plethora of pigeons who land in our garden even though there is a fierce hunting machine living in said garden. Oh, pigeons. So shockingly ignorant and unperceptive.

So it is Labor Day here in the States. Silas is manning the barbeque grill (hand-tooled from a small tractor) and Mordecai has spent the weekend mixing pitchers of cocktails. Rumor has it some family members will be descending, though this family doesn’t operate on a standardized calendar. With the Autumnal Equinox right around the corner, they could be showing up in about two weeks. It’s so hard to tell and not a single family member has figured out their cell phones yet.

I can’t quibble – I’ve been unable to find my cell phone for four days. Troublesome thing, technology.

At any rate, I thought I would re-post a previous missive about Labor Day from 2011. So, here it is. Be safe, oddlings, and enjoy your Monday, whatever it portends.

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It occurs to me that many people do not think about what these national holidays mean. They take the day to relax, revel in not being at work, and to grill meat and drink beer. Well, sure. These are wonderful things. But it’s important to know why we get this day to enjoy doing these things.

This is from the United States Department of Labor Page:

Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

A Nationwide Holiday

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

There is also an article about the true Rosie the Riveter that I trust you will find interesting.

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