Monthly Archives: April 2014

Eating Humble Pie: Sucking it Up & Eating… Guts

Hello all!

Humility- it’s a good thing.

Merriam Webster defines humility as: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than  other people

If you’re showing humility, you’re being humble, & that brings us to the phrase this week: “Eat your humble pie.” We say this when talking about conceding defeat, without being mad or implying that you’re better than the person who beat you. It basically means being a good sport about losing something.

Wait, wait, wait. Humility isn’t tangible, so why do we eat it & why does it come in pie form?

Well, it’s very interesting, but in order to tell you, I need to send you back to the Fourteenth Century.

Put yourself in Medieval England. You’re poor & you work for the local noble family, in exchange for the right to live on their land. Your days are long & filled with manual labor, & most evenings are spent in your small house, eating your ration of the harvest & whatever else you may have saved or canned. It’s a pretty rough life, but every so often you get to experience a taste of the high life.

From time to time, your landlord opens his manor to everyone living on his land. He’s just gotten back from a hunting trip & wants to celebrate his catch. You get to rub shoulders with the local celebrities for a day, right through dinner. It’ll be a great time, as there’s plenty of food & alcohol & everyone gets to party.

Speaking of dinner, this one’s bound to be awesome. The family’s top chefs are going to cook up the meat & serve it to everyone. What a generous landlord! You watch as an amazing cut is presented to him(He gets the first bite. It’s only fair; it’s his house). Your mouth is watering already; it’s bound to be delicious.

Not so fast. You’re a peasant, remember? Yeah, this is feudalism, which is fueled by social class & status. You’re nothing to this guy & the dinner is just a formality. If he doesn’t invite you, he’ll look badly in front of his rich guests.

So, what’s on your menu? One thing: nombles. These are nothing more than the entrails of the hunted animal, which are cooked & presented to you in a pie. Yeah, that’s right, the lord eats steak, while you eat the bag from the inside of the Thanksgiving turkey. Don’t worry, it’s baked in a sweet flaky crust. Feel better? I didn’t think so.

This is how it went for about one hundred years, & by the Fifteenth century, the word “nombles” had evolved into “umble.” According to James Fratter’s article, “10 Misconceptions About Common Sayings,” nomble pie suffered from what etymologists like to call metanalysis, or rebracketing. This is the breaking down of a word into parts which aren’t quite the same as what was originally intended & it’s all because of pronunciation. Since the uniformity of English wasn’t well known to the peasants, common objects such as “a napron” changed to become what we know as “an apron.” For the same reasons, “a nomble pie” became spelled “an umble pie.” Over time, because of certain English accents which don’t pronounce the letter H, umble’s spelling became humble & stuck. Those dialects which do pronounce H, naturally, well, pronounced it.

So, there it is, folks. It’s a long & complicated evolution of spelling & pronunciation of a phrase which very literally meant, “Let the cool rich people eat their delicious food, while you field workers get to sit in the corner with the scraps.  I’d better not hear you complain about it.” So, the next time feel ashamed about eating your humble pie because you lost an argument, just remember, you could be eating an animal-guts pie. Admitting you’re wrong doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?

Well, that’s it for today. Now you know; you’re welcome.

 

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Tonight’s Blood Moon: Nothing to Fear

Good morning bologna followers. I hope everyone had a good weekend. I sure did.

 

Let’s kick off this Monday with some science stuff.

Now, before I dive into the article, I feel the need to make a disclaimer, seeing as this is the internet & words can be taken to mean things that weren’t intended: I am in no way knocking any religion in this article. I am merely disproving ideas that certain people are spreading, in what I believe to be an attempt to make money off of the fear of those who believe in a higher power.

That being said, let’s get to it.

Very early tomorrow morning, if you go outside & look at the moon it’ll be a shade of deep red.

“A red moon?” you say.

Yes, a red moon, which many people, including a few Evangelist Christians & astrologers, call “blood moon.” Both groups claim that because there are going to be four of these in the next two years, the end of the world is coming. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re all going to be fine & the absolute worst thing that can happen is that you’ll go outside at an outrageous hour & watch the moon turn a beautiful color. If that’s the worst that can happen, I’d say it’s a pretty sweet deal.

A lunar eclipse. The moon turns red.  Photo credit: Juan lacruz

A lunar eclipse. The moon turns red.
Photo credit: Juan lacruz

The concept of the “blood moon” was coined by Evangelical pastor, John Hagee, while his colleague, Pastor Mark Biltz helped popularize the end of days connection.  “Blood moon” is specifically a term for the four total eclipses which are due in the next two years & these pastors have both widely spread the idea that God is telling us that the world is coming to an end. You can read about Biltz’ theory here (before the end of the article disproves the entire idea). Basically, these two Evangelists cite a Bible verse from the Book of Revelation, which states that the moon will undergo some very similar changes, & that signifies the Apocalypse. After that, the idea just spirals out.

This is the verse, as written in the Book of Revelation:

Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood. –Revelation 6:12

Pretty eerie, huh? But wait; there’s more! The first of these lunar eclipses falls on the Jewish holiday, Passover, which is only a week ahead of Christianity’s most important one, Easter. The similarities are so striking that Hagee even wrote an entire book about it. It’s called Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change.*

I won’t give astrology too much space here. You know how I feel about that subject. These guys, on the other hand are all screaming things like, “The moon is going to be red!”, “It signifies a dreaded change” & “A red moon lined up with the sun & Earth means misfortune, even though the notion that the positions of the solar system’s bodies in relation to us having any impact on our lives has been scientifically proven wrong, time & time again!” Okay, so I made that last part up, but I still stand by my point.

 

Anyway, In typical US news fashion, the networks picked up on the scent & in their standard ratings-driven form & made a bunch of light-toned reports which, of course, only fueled the end of the world theories. This is why I was impressed with this morning’s Today Show segment on the subject… at first. They gave an overview of what’s actually supposed to happen, which was refreshing. Then, they flushed all their credibility down the toilet after they used a picture of Mars & passed it off as the moon in their info-graphic. Oh, well; they tried. Either way, Carson Daily & crew (a phrase I’ll never take seriously because: TRL) did their best to explain that what will be happening during the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Without further ado, let’s get to the bottom of this.

We’re talking about nothing more than your standard lunar eclipse & because of the positioning & timing, over two years, there will be three more, which will come at regular six month intervals.

What explains the red color?

The moon, Earth & sun will be lined up, with the our planet sitting in between the other two. Sunight directed at the moon must pass through the atmosphere of the earth, & as it does so the gasses which make up our air scatter the scatter most of the wavelengths. Red light is let through. The same idea causes beautiful sunsets & sunrises, as the sun is low on the horizon. Depending on how complete the eclipse is (in some instances, the three bodies aren’t perfectly lined up, causing a partial eclipse), the light reflected off the moon ranges from an orange-red, through a deep “blood” red. The light reflected back from the moon all but disappears during a total eclipse. Look at these pictures from Universe Today’s article, “The Science Behind the ‘Blood Moon Tetrad’ and Why Lunar Eclipses Don’t Mean the End of the World.” Those are four lunar eclipses on four different dates, & every picture has some shade of red light reflected from the lunar surface.

 

What makes this one different than a normal eclipse?

Individually, it is no different, but this brings us to the word “tetrad.” The prefix “tetra” means four, just like the prefix, “tri” means three. In astronomical terms, a tetrad is a series of four lunar eclipses which happen during the span of a relatively short period of time. This one is two years, with each one taking place about six months apart. With the Revelation verse as their proof, they claim that the first red-colored moon will kick off the end of days. The coincidence is pretty striking…

Except when you look at it closely. Then it’s not so striking because tetrads aren’t that uncommon. The same Universe Today article, displays some very useful tables, which show the total number of lunar eclipses & tetrads dating back to the Eleventh Century & as far forward as the Thirtieth. The number of eclipses per century range from fifty-seven, in the Twenty-ninth, to eighty-seven in the Twenty-sixth. As for the actual groups of four, they span from zero in some centuries to as many as eight in others, so none of these things are really that rare in the scheme of things. Oh yeah, & the last one happened just ten years ago.

Phases of a lunar eclipse... ending in the red light reflected off the lunar surface. Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia user: QHyseni

Phases of a lunar eclipse… ending in the red light reflected off the lunar surface.
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia user: QHyseni

 

What’s significant about the first eclipse coinciding with Passover?
Actually, nothing. Most people don’t realize that Passover always falls on a full moon. Hey, guess what. Lunar eclipses always occur on full moons too. In fact, since the First Century CE, there have been eight tetrads which fell on Passover & some of these were years when Easter fell on the same day. All of these occurred without any problem.

Of course, in an astrological sense, the moon “turning red” means nothing. Let’s pretend for a second that the scientific data disproving astrology was invalid & that the gravities of the different planets & the forces of their magnetic fields did have significant impacts on our lives. Since an eclipse is just a trick of light, no physical characteristic of the moon changes during the process. No mass is gained, no mass is lost & its orbit remains the same. Its tug on Earth does not change. Astrologers: You have nothing to worry about.

 

All that said, I think that there are a couple of things we can learn two big things from this:

– Regardless of whether you’re religious or not, putting words in God’s mouth is never a good thing.
– Don’t pay attention to astrology. It doesn’t make sense.

So there you have it. Come tomorrow morning & the mornings of October 8, 2014, April 4, 2015 & September 28, 2015, we’re all going to wake up & go about our days. That’s good because I have a ton of records, phrases & sciency things to share with you.

I hope you all have a wonderful rest of the day & I’ll see you soon with another post!
Now you know; you’re welcome.

 

*In my opinion, this & many other public doomsday theories are ploys to make money. I don’t believe this book is here to warn people; It’s here to make wads of cash. Come on. The cover looks like a freaking sci-fi novel.

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Hanson: Anthem (2013)

I have a fairly interesting record to talk about today. I’ll get to that in a second, but first:

 

Updates:

David Berkeley: The Fire in My Head (Straw Man): I have no clue what happened to this record. I am going to contact Amazon & see what they say.

The Decemberists: The Crane Wife(Capitol)
I bought this on iTunes a few years back, after the band was brought to my attention by a few different friends. It quickly became one of my favorite albums. When I saw it on vinyl at Newbury Comics a few weeks ago, I had to pick it up.

 

Hanson- Anthem:


Above, I said that I had an interesting album for you & I would imagine many of you have forgotten about these guys. By “these guys,” I mean Hanson. Yes, Hanson, the teenagers who sang, “Mmmbop,” otherwise known as the catchiest song on the planet (All jokes aside, they totally own it. They still play it live & nail it with adult voices & insanely tight three-part harmonies). I know what you’re all thinking. Before you click the “back” button, just read this. It won’t take too long.

Anthem Label

Hanson’s Anthem label with Hanson & 3CG logos

Anyway, in the wake of their ridiculously huge success in the late 90s & a bunch of corporate firings & mergers, they found themselves on Island Def Jam Records (a hip hop label, of all places). Between 1999-2000, while signed with IDJ, Hanson wrote & recorded their second major release, This Time Around.  The label let them record it without to much input from their executives, but made it clear that it wasn’t too keen on the more mature, more classic rock & pop-soul oriented music the band had written. They essentially told Hanson, “Hey, even though you’re older now, you need to keep acting 12, so we can make money,” because Def Jam is a huge label & of course they did.

The album was met with moderate success, but the album didn’t come close to selling the numbers of their first record. After a few weeks, the numbers were crunched, most likely by some high-level accounting executive who had never met Hanson. At any rate, IDJ decided that the band weren’t bringing in enough money & pulled all of the band’s tour funding… right smack-dab in the middle of a massive international tour. Despite this, as a thank you to their loyal fans, Hanson continued to honor their tour dates, despite the fact that Isaac, Taylor & Zac undoubtedly came home with massive holes in their wallets.

Fast forward a year. Both Hanson & the label decided it’s time to give record making another go. Great, right? The band got to write more & the label got to make more money! A win win, fairy-tale ending!

Hold on a second. We’re talking about one of the biggest record companies in the country here, not to mention they were a hip hop label, which, at the time, had no idea how to deal with a rock band.

Beginning in 2001, Hanson presented IDJ with song after song. With each batch of new demos sent to the company, the response from Jeff Fenster* was more or less the same: “You’ve got some good stuff here, but it doesn’t have it.” Three years, ninety rejected original songs, & an incalculable amount of the label’s unarticulated statements as to what “it” was later, an excruciating legal battle took place in order for the band to finally be out of the contract.**

Not too long after, they formed their own record company, 3CG Records. The gamble of their first independent release, Underneath, paid off, reaching number one on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums & number 27 on Billboard’s Hot 200 Albums. Their single, “Penny & Me,” reached no. two on Billbard’s Hot 100 Singles.

Since the release of Underneath, Hanson has put out three more acclaimed records, with Anthem being the latest. It was released on June 18th, 2013, the same day as Stephen Kellogg’s Blunderstone Rookery.

 

Cover Art/ Vinyl Comments:

Anthem's album cover

Anthem’s album cover


Anthem has a pretty straightforward cover, set on a black background. It features Zac, Taylor & Isaac standing next to each other, in the shadows.

The other interesting thing about this record, is that it’s a thirteen song album, but was pressed on two discs of 180 gram vinyl. Each side has three or four tracks. I’ve looked into it & I can’t find any information as to why they do this. The only thing I found was that a lot of modern musicians release their vinyl editions like this.

Anthem's 2 disc set

Anthem’s 2 disc set

My personal theory is that in this day & age, people like to skip from track to track, rather than play an album from start to finish. Having three tracks per side makes it easier for the listener to select the track. They only have to take out one record. I’m not claiming this to be the truth, because in all honesty, I have no idea. I can’t imagine it’s more cost effective. If anyone who reads this knows the real reason, please leave me a comment.

 

Sound:
Hanson has come a long way since their “Mmmbop” & Middle of Nowhere days. They’ve matured greatly from record to record, changing their sound with each new release, but this one takes a much larger leap. Hanson had a rough time making Anthem & all three members have said that the band’s internal tensions were higher than ever & they butt heads quite a bit. As captured in their documentary, Re Made in Americathe band struggled to balance three very different artistic visions for the music. Things came to a boiling point. When the time came to decide whether to call it quits or keep going, they chose the second option, channeling all of the tension into making the best record they could.

That being said, Anthem & its predecessor, Shout it out are two completely different records. They really changed it up, while still retaining Hanson’s signature three-part harmonies & album format. Taylor & Zac take most of the leads, while making sure to leave room for a song sung by oldest brother, Isaac. The tone out of Isaac’s guitar has remained relatively the same, but for the most part, this is where the similarities stop. While Shout it Out his extremely bright, upbeat & piano-driven, Anthem takes a darker turn. The music is much harder & hits you like a punch. The drums pound, the guitar rocks & the piano is buried much deeper in the mix. It’s not quite a sound I expected from them.

The disc itself sounds great. As I said before, it was released on 180 gram vinyl, so it’s durable & less prone to warps. There are a more few pops than I’d like on a brand new record, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with. Early on, there was a small skip at the beginning of the song, “Juliet,” but that seems to have gone away. There aren’t many other things to say regarding quality.

 

Final Thoughts:
I liked this album a lot, but that comes with a little reservation. It’s definitely Hanson’s most mature work. There’s no question about that, but something about its darker tone seems to slow it down. I still enjoyed it, even though its darker feel tended to slow the pace down a bit.

Key tracks:
“Get the Girl Back”
“Juliet”
“Already home”
“For Your Love”

If you’d like to purchase Anthem in any format, you can do so through Hanson’s website, here.

 

*Fenster was the head of Island Def Jam’s A & R department at the time. I won’t say more because I refuse to give him too much of my time. If you want to know more, you can watch him happily spout on & on about his “musical” & “creative” accomplishments here.

**If you want to learn about Hanson’s battle with IDJ in its entirety, you can download their documentary, Strong Enough to Break, in episodic installments on iTunes, or watch it in the same format here. The film originated as a “making the record” style documentary, but quickly switched gears to become an incredibly detailed documentation of the problems many bands face when dealing with gigantic corporate record labels. You can also buy it on DVD, along with a CD of sixteen unreleased tracks & demos from their merch store.

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Indian Givers: Centuries Old Misunderstandings

Hello, Bologna readers.

This week, I have an expression which has a good amount of historical context to it. It’s an extremely common one & I would be very surprised if any of you hadn’t heard it before. Let’s get to it.

I remember hearing the phrase for the first time from my grandmother, while we were visiting her house on Cape Cod. One of my father’s friends was visiting with his young children & they had brought cookies for dessert. As they were leaving, one of the kids grabbed the box of cookies, not realizing that it’s customary to leave the food you bring to someone’s house as a gift. My dad’s friend explained the custom & my grandmother jokingly called him an Indian giver. Being no more than twelve, I didn’t know the phrase either, so I asked what it meant. She explained that it’s a phrase used to label someone who brings a gift & tries to take it back.

For many English people, the phrase implies a reference to Indians from India & for most North Americans, it implies a reference to the Native population.  Unfortunately for the English, the latter is correct, & the widespread usage has given those populations a reputation as people who take back their gifts. This is a big misunderstanding & can actually be drawn back to the ignorance of European settlers in what is now the United States & Canada. After realizing their mistake, they deliberately spun it to make the Natives look bad, labeled it a lack of civility & used it to justify warring & conquering.

See, many of the Native cultures had group mentalities, which resembled communism. They believed that land belonged to the Earth & that humans were just borrowing it temporarily. This idea extended to property as well. Many items were communally owned, so people also borrowed from & shared with others. Everything was done for the good of the tribe.

There wasn’t any problem with this until the Europeans showed up because they were the exact opposite. Land ownership concrete rules regarding possessions & working for personal gain were cornerstones of their society, so when the two cultures met, there was obviously some friction. Trading was the biggest trigger for those tensions.

Many times, when a trade was made, a member of a tribe would come to request the item back, a perfectly acceptable gesture, according Native culture. The Europeans, having the opposite societal values, didn’t take too kindly to this & begrudgingly did so. Other times, they’d flat out refuse, offending the tribe. Sometimes, a tribal member would come & just take it back, which, of course, offend the settlers. On & on it went like this.

The men on the Lewis & Clark expedition met many Native Americans & in no time, predictably ran into these problems. Because neither side had a concept of cultural understanding, for the most part, the groups didn’t get along. This is where the propaganda comes in. Both Lewis & Clark were angry, & knowing that their journals would be published upon their return, they labeled the natives as, “impertinent and thievish.” Well, the journals were published & word spread. So did public opinion.

The propaganda trip that white settlers took would eventually go as far as to use the word “Indian” to describe something fake or a cheap substitute. Indian tea & Indian corn were cheap substitutes for British goods, & the connotation of the wod. Indian summers, or seemingly random spells of warm weather which come right before the turn of the winter season, take the name from this, as well. The unnatural bouts of summer weather are deceitful & essentially fake summers.

 

Interesting stuff, isn’t it?

Now you know; you’re welcome.

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