“Thank you SO much!”
Has anyone else noticed a trend of news journalists saying “thank you SO much” at the end of their interviews? I’ve been listening to National Public Radio a lot recently, mainly to hear the latest Russia / Ukraine news, and it’s caught my ear. It sounds to me like a bunch of teenagers are conducting these interviews, but maybe I’m just being crotchedy, as has been known to happen. That, and the all-too-frequent “up-speak” where interviewers? sound? like? they’re? asking? questions? all? the? time? is really quite maddening. Here’s one recent post on the subject, so I know it’s not just me noticing it.
While I’m at it, if I hear someone say in an ad (or in real life for that matter) “Seriously?!” or “Really?!” in a flat, yet exasperated tone (you know what I mean), I may lose it. The biggest culprit of this trend is the ad featuring the members of Run DMC that ran constantly during the recent Winter Olympics. I’m not positive but I think this trend of saying “Really?” in this particular manner may have started with Seth Myers and Amy Poehler in their Saturday Night Live Weekend Update. I could be wrong.
OK enough ranting. Really? Don’t I have enough work to do?
The Winter Olympics start today in Sochi, Russia!
While many in the Western world view Russia as a bewildering place of vodka and extreme cold, those who know better know the host country as a place with a deep cultural appreciation of the arts; a place where people spend all day on New Year’s Eve perfecting dishes such as “shuba”—the delicious (and bright purple) layered beet, egg, potato, and herring salad that is translated in English as “herring under fur coat salad”—to be shared with loved ones.
And while most of Russia is indeed cold, Sochi is not. The selection of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics was controversial for several reasons. It is one of Russia’s southernmost cities—it is an extremely popular summer getaway, where mountains meet the sea—and thus was a strange choice for hosting winter events. As a result, the city has undergone extensive renovations to accommodate the events. As The Guardian newspaper put it, “The race to turn the beach resort of Sochi into a Winter Olympic host venue has been described by critics of the Kremlin as one of the most corrupt projects in Russia’s history.”
Here’s some sports-related trivia gleaned from the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World Sport to wow your friends and colleagues:
- Lieutenant (later General) George S. Patton participated in the modern pentathlon at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912; he might have won had he not done so poorly in the shooting event, where he insisted on using his service revolver while the rest of the pentathletes used target pistols.
- The entire first day of the original modern Olympics was devoted to religious rituals—a kind of prolonged opening ceremony when religion mattered more than patriotism or commercial glitz.
- Prior to 1937, the national flags of Lichtenstein and Haiti were identical by coincidence; a fact neither country discovered until they competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
- The earliest recorded attempt to move skating from the winter ice was made by Joseph Merlin (1735–1803), a Belgian maker of musical instruments. He introduced roller skating to the public at a reception in London in 1760. As he played the violin and skated about for the crowd, Merlin, his violin, and a large mirror discovered that he could not turn or brake on his new invention.
- Commonly viewed as a genteel sport for the well-heeled, croquet was originally a sport played by French peasants using altered broomsticks for mallets.
The third edition of this groundbreaking work brings the study of sports into the 21st century by integrating Berkshire’s past work on women’s sports and extreme sports into a complete sporting library. The encyclopedia features over 300 new and updated articles on:
- sports management and marketing
- every sport from cricket and baseball to buzkashi and motorcycle polo
- six kinds of football: association (a.k.a. soccer), American, Australian Rules, Canadian, Gaelic, and flag
- the history and globalization of sport
- the Olympics, past and future
- environmental and economic issues
Click here for a list of events at the Winter Olympics. Update: there will indeed be women’s ski jump for the first time this year!
The email message below, to a reviewer, was copied to me by managing editor Bill Siever, who has been working almost round the clock to finish the Dictionary of Chinese Biography on time, at about the same time he sent the image you see at left, which came with the subject line “My brain.” If I had spent the last two weeks, over Christmas and New Year’s, reading and rereading the whole of Chinese history, and checking endless details as Bill and Mar Kaiser and Anna Myers have done, or indexing the lot as Amanda Prigge did, my brain would be hurting, too. I have a truly awesome team. Here’s Bill’s email (and I’m glad to report that he has now gone home, though he’ll probably be crunching through the snow at 6am to get back to work).
Dear Mark (if I may),
I am losing my mind somewhat and can’t remember if I sent you this; but in any event, I have attached the almost-final section on the Qing. I would be happy to send you the Ming, too, if you’d like to see them. I’m sorry I can’t do anything about the plane ticket to Sydney – that does sound pretty nice right about now!
Here is the website for the opening (sorry, I know it’s not the same thing as being there): http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/calendar/chinas-history/
Also, I am going to send you in a separate email (this one is bulky enough already) the appendices – I am particularly proud of the timeline of Chinese history, which starts on page 1633. I think a student will be able to learn a lot about Chinese history in about 20 minutes with this.
I hope you like these samples; please let me know if you’d like to see anything else.
Thanks again! Will follow up shortly with the appendices from Volume 3.
All the best, Bill
This week is the busiest travel time of the year in the United States, as we Americans travel far and wide to be with family and our closest friends. It’s the holiday where we celebrate our history and reaffirm our sense of American identity and community by (1) eating a meal based around foods native to the Americas and (2) watching a colorful ritual called American football. A couple of nights ago, the New England Patriots narrowly defeated the Denver Broncos in an outdoor game where the temperature was a balmy 6 degrees F / -14 degrees C. Now that’s dedication!
Thanksgiving began, the story goes, here in Massachusetts in the seventeenth century with a feast shared between the Pilgrims (immigrants from England seeking religious freedom) and the native Wampanoag Indians. Thanksgiving almost disappeared in the early nineteenth century but was revived during the US Civil War (1861-1865), when it was celebrated twice a year for a brief time. Congress made the fourth Thursday of November the official date of Thanksgiving in 1941.
Berkshire’s new book This Is America is designed to explain other complexities to today’s students, both those born in the USA as well as the increasing numbers of those who come from other countries. We are announcing the book here with a special offer, naturally, because Thanksgiving is also the day before “Black Friday,” the biggest shopping day of the year. (“Black” not because it is an experience sure to sink the spirits of any sensible person but because it puts businesses “in the black.”) You can preorder This Is America now for only $11.95 and shipping is FREE this week only.
All of us at Berkshire Publishing are passionate about food, and most of us are keen cooks. Some of us are competitive, too: a mashed-potato-making contest has been scheduled. The results will be posted at our blog after tempers cool down. Tom is said to be writing both an acceptance and concession speech. We will also get the opinion of William H. McNeill, the renowned historian who has been writing since the 1930s about how the humble potato shaped European and world history. He may have to be the final arbiter, given the heat around this particular dish.
Immigrants to the United States learn to make traditional American dishes, and Americans living abroad go to enormous lengths to recreate the special foods of Thanksgiving. I cooked a turkey and fixings every year when I lived in England, even in 1984 when the gas company hadn’t yet connected the lines in my new flat. I had started an MA at University College and invited my fellow students to Thanksgiving dinner. Most were American and they were all bringing along a dish – in the “potluck” fashion that Americans like and that made my British friends uncomfortable – so I didn’t feel I could cancel. In any case, the Gas Board said they would get us connected that day, and I’m the perennial optimist. When it was time to get the turkey into the oven, the gasman still hadn’t turned up, so we squeezed it into the tiny oven of a Blackwell Science colleague who happened to live down the street.
Everyone sat on the floor and played Trivial Pursuit and drank wine while the gasman crawled around looking for the line, and eventually we bore the rather charred bird up the street and put it into my oven for a final roasting.
At Berkshire Publishing there has been a big exchange of favorite Thanksgiving recipes this year and you’ll find a few of them below. These are not “twists” or “spins” on the classic Thanksgiving dishes, but instead some side dishes and special treats. Among my own favorite recipes are several from British cookery writers, and I’ve included a recipe for vegetarian “tofukey” sent by Mar Kaiser in Germany and published here in spite of the protests of managing editor Bill Siever. I’m also enclosing a special recipe for “Peking Turkey” from our Washington, DC-based friend Dimon Liu that I’m looking forward to trying sometime after Thanksgiving, when I have a chance to cook at home. (For the basics, this interactive feature from the New York Times is as good an introduction to the meal as any I know.)
I’ve found lots of ideas for Thanksgiving in British writer Nigella Lawson’s Feast and see that at the attractive Random House website you can purchase ebooks directly from the publisher. A few of the Lawson recipes I’ve come to depend on:
Lawson has some regrettable lapses. She praises the traditional but hideous Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows, which we offer here only for educational reasons, suggesting a classroom discussion question, “Why do Americans put marshmallows in savory dishes? (Including “salad” Jell-O molds). Perhaps I wouldn’t find this dish quite so offensive with her addition of lots of lime juice. My own favorite alternative for its place at the table is roasted pumpkin from one of my favorite books, The Vegetable Book by the late Jane Grigson, available in the USA from the University of Nebraska Press.
Recipes from Berkshire Staff and Friends
Note: Although we at Berkshire generally use the metric system, the following recipes use the “English” measurements still standard in the United States – the reasons for this are discussed in This Is America!
Popo is the Cantonese grandmother of Berkshire designer Anna Myers. This is a simple recipe, but Popo’s green beans always turn out perfectly!
Enough green beans to fill about 2/3 of a frying pan or wok (3/4 pounds should be enough for 4–6 people)
One or more cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
Cooking oil (canola or high-temp cooking oil)
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste
1 large deep pan or wok with cover
bamboo chopsticks (or cooking tongs or a wooden cooking spoon)
1. Rinse the beans, then snap or trim the ends of the beans off; particularly long beans should be snapped in half.
2. Heat a little oil in deep pan or wok on medium-to-high heat, to check the temperature, wet ends of chopsticks, press the ends in the oil. It’s hot enough if it causes sizzling.
3. Add green beans to pan, stir-fry for a minute or two until the green beans are coated in oil, and just start to turn a darker green.
4. Add garlic, stir until mixed.
5. Pour in half cup of water and cover pan. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for exactly 8 minutes. Resist the urge to remove the lid early!
6. Spoon beans and garlic slivers into serving dish, leaving remaining water in pan. Add salt to the dish to taste.
1. One bag Yukon Gold potatoes chopped into small cubes, boiled with salted water and a large head of peeled and slightly crushed garlic.
2. Cook until very soft, and drain. Don’t worry about them becoming too soft, cook until they start to fall apart after a light poke with a wooden spoon.
3. Keep on very low heat.
4. After draining, mash in milk and 1 stick of unsalted butter. Mash until slightly too runny in consistency (it will thicken).
5. Mash with a slapping motion, making sure to whip in as much air as possible. You are essentially trying to whip the potatoes, like whipped cream.
6. Mix in two tbsp. of Dijon mustard and one large egg yolk.
7. Mash more.
8. Stir in salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
1. Take a bunch of white potatoes or Idaho golds. Peel them. Chop them roughly into fairly big, 1 1/2 inch cubes. Put them in a huge pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, very slowly heat up a ton of butter and a ton of milk. I’d say a stick of butter and at least 3 cups of milk for a decent amount of potatoes.
3. When the taters are just starting to become soft, drain them in a colander, then put them back in the big pot.
4. Add a ton of kosher salt, and WHITE pepper. White pepper is key. It just is.
5. Using a hand masher, mash the living hell out of them until there are absolutely no lumps at all.
6. Repeat step 5.
7. Repeat step 5 again.
8. Repeat step 5 again until your arm is about to fall off.
9. Repeat step 5 again, just to be sure.
10. OK they should now be properly lump-free. Check the seasoning and hold in the pot with the lid on until everything is ready to go.
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
3 cups water
1 can pumpkin (15 oz.)
1 whole bay leaf
1/3 cup half and half
3 tablespoons honey
chives for garnish
1. Melt the butter in a medium-sized soup pot.
2. Stir in the onion, celery, and apple.
3. Partially cover the pot and saute the ingredients over medium-high heat until the onion is clear, about 8 minutes.
4. Stir in the curry powder and saute the mixture for another minute.
5. Stir in one cup of the water and saute for 1 minute more.
6. Pour the contents into a blender or food processor, add the pumpkin, and puree the soup until it is smooth. Pour it all back into the pot, then stir in the remaining water and the bay leaf. Set the soup over medium-high heat and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, stir in the half and half and the honey. Simmer it for 2 minutes more, remove the soup from the heat, and serve it hot. Sprinkle with chives.
Here’s the Stuffed Tofurkey (click for recipe), promised. The photo you see here was taken at the meal prepared by our Dutch China projects editor Mar Kaiser in Germany. Finally, to round out this global Thanksgiving collection, here is Dimon Liu’s Peking Duck Turkey.
She writes, “Eating turkey is a must on Thanksgiving Day in the US, but the way a turkey is usually cooked here, I find too tough and lacking in taste. In the early 80′s, while living in Hong Kong, I forged my own way with a turkey. I have been cooking it for friends ever since.”
One turkey — any size of your choice. Defrost, wash and pad dry. Leave the bird on a rack to air dry for 24 hours, so the skin will be crispy when cooked.
Sauce — 2/3 cup of dark soy sauce. 1/3 cup of sherry (or French brandy, which I prefer.) 1/4 cup of maple syrup, (better than honey, which chars too easily.) Ginger, enough to match the size of your palm, and more if you like — grind as fine as possible. Mix well all above ingredients to make sauce.
Brush sauce on bird, both inside and outside. Let dry, and brush on more sauce. Repeat until all the sauce is on the bird. Tedious process, I know. Here is a short cut, but you need to have a hair dryer.
After the bird has been defrosted, washed and padded dry, blow hot air on the bird until it is dry, (no need to air-dry, but you will need about five minutes of hair dryer on high.) Brush on sauce, and blow-dry for about a minute. Repeat until all sauce is on the bird inside and out.
It usually takes me about half-an-hour to do this, instead of 24 hours to air dry, and another two to three hours to apply the sauce the long way. I have to say that with the long way, the bird tastes better. If you are in a hurry, which I am usually, the short cut is not bad at all.
Turn the oven on to the highest — in some ovens, it is 450 degree, in others 500 degree. Cover bird in tin foil, (so the skin wouldn’t burn,) and put it in the oven. Check it after half-an-hour, and turn the bird over. Check it again after 15 minutes — this time poke the bird with a chopstick. If the chopstick goes through the bird easily, it is cooked. If not, give it another 10 or 25 minutes, depending on the size of the bird you have chosen.
Take tin foil off bird when chopstick goes through the bird easily, and turn the oven off. The residual heat will brown the bird nicely without burning the skin. Leave the bird in the oven until you are ready to serve it. Cooking time is about an hour, more or less depending on the size of the bird. If you like stuffings, you will have to cook it on the side. Peking Duck Turkey cannot be stuffed!
Enjoy and happy holiday!
A three-day trip to the other side of the world is not something I had in mind, but I know enough to seize the day—or days—when offered. An invitation to speak at the Taiwan Digital Publishing Forum arrived in September just as we were publishing the first Berkshire book about Taiwan, a stroke of perfect serendipity.
Being in Taiwan reminded me of an embarrassing moment on my first trip to China in 2001. I had packed a copy of what I thought was a “Chinese” edition of one of my own books, The Green Home, and showed it proudly to a colleague in Beijing, thinking that it gave me some special credibility.
She laughed. The book I was so happy about, because reaching Chinese readers was important to me even then, had to be read from back to front and was printed in columns and in the “complex” or “traditional” characters used only in Taiwan, not in the People’s Republic of China, where they use “simplified” Chinese, a set of characters designed under Mao in the 1950s to expand literacy.
In 2001, I had absolutely no idea of the distinction, but today every person who works at Berkshire knows this and much more about working with the Chinese language and Chinese characters. I’m amazed by the conversations I overhear among staff who have no more background in Chinese studies than I. “Do we want tone marks on that?” “How about the transliteration of this name – don’t you think it should be left in Wade-Giles?”
In my talk on 6 November at the Taiwan Digital Publishing Forum, I traced the impact of technology on publishing through my own experiences, as a child in the Silicon Valley, a young editor-turned-author in London, and as a reference publisher. I also talked about the huge challenges we face in creating a sustainable model for digital publishing; about ebooks and digital publishing in the PRC, drawing from work that my son Tom (who speaks Mandarin) has been doing with Apabi and other Chinese companies; and about the specialized challenges of publishing books with Chinese characters and content.
There were many surprises during those busy three days in Taipei. The Taiwanese have been technologically advanced for decades, but ebooks have almost no market there. The publishers I talked to were thinking about digital publishing because they had to, but they were unconvinced that Taiwanese readers would take to ebooks any time soon. I argued that their market is not just in Taiwan but with the millions of global readers of traditional Chinese characters. And because it’s easy to convert from traditional to simplified Chinese (but not the other way around), a book published in Taiwan can become a PRC edition very easily. (There are differences of usage to consider, of course, as there are between British and American English: my London-born kids refused to read the American versions of the Harry Potter books.)
I saw for myself that Taiwan has an intense political culture with heated rivalry between the blue and the green, and that it has close ties with Japan. The Japanese occupied Taiwan for 50 years but they are viewed warmly by the Taiwanese I met. Feelings about China are complex. I was asked many questions about my work in the PRC. I complained that AT&T and Samsung wouldn’t unlock my new phone for the trip. “They’re Korean,” someone said with a shrug. I have no idea what that means but am curious to find out. Follow the rules without the flexibility of the Chinese, I guessed.
Food is enormously important in Chinese culture, a major reason I love being involved with China. But I apparently do not look like an adventurous eater. On the plane I startled the flight attendants by asking for the Chinese, not the Western, meal. Its high point was a garnish of three large bright-yellow pickled beans that had been threaded onto a cluster of green pine needles, giving the beans a faint resinous flavor. It was lovely, too. Who would have thought I would want to take a photo of an airplane meal? But I followed the rules and kept my phone turned off.
Afterwards, as the attendant cleared my tray, all the dishes emptied, she turned back and held out the chopsticks. “You should keep them,” she said, and she was right. The lovely bamboo chopsticks will remind me of that special first trip to Taiwan for many years to come, and I’m hoping to report soon on new digital initiatives at Berkshire that will bring more Taiwan-published books to readers and librarians around the world.
Best wishes, Karen Christensen, CEO & Publisher
Want to be on our mailing list and get Karen’s Letter in your inbox every month? Sign up for our mailing list.
Hooray! We have a government again. That means it’s time to get our applications sent off to the Library of Congress for all our upcoming books: This Is America (oh, the irony that this book was delayed by the shut-down); the Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography, which we’ll be officially launching in Sydney, Australia in early 2014; and our next “Berkshire Essential,” Religion and Sustainability, a short guide that helps answer the question: what do people’s religious and ethical beliefs have to do with the environment? (Answer: a lot.)
Time to quit typing and get those applications in to the LOC before the government changes its mind!
- Bill Siever
We’ve started a new service here at Berkshire – custom publishing. This link on our website has more about this service. In a nutshell, this is for academic authors (or institutions like non-profits and NGOs) who have a wonderful manuscript all ready to go … and who don’t want to wait around for three years while the book goes through the usual series of hoops and delays that can afflict university presses. We’ve just come out with our first book from our first imprint – and we took it from manuscript to finished book in one month! Very exciting. Details are below in a press release that we sent out recently. I’m looking forward to working on more books like this – it was a rewarding one to work on, especially since the subject matter (Chinese prison camps for hooliganism) is so vitally important to the thousands of people (and their families) caught up in the system.
Great Barrington, Mass., USA
US-Asia Law Institute Books, an imprint of Berkshire Publishing Group, is pleased to announce the publication of Challenge to China: How Taiwan Abolished Its Version of Re-Education Through Labor.
This timely publication is co-authored by USALI founder and NYU professor Jerome A. Cohen, whose groundbreaking work at Harvard in the 1960s and 1970s stimulated study of the expanding field of Chinese law, and USALI affiliated scholar Margaret K. Lewis, professor at Seton Hall University School of Law and an expert on Chinese and Taiwanese law. The book will be enlightening to scholars, lawyers, judges, and criminal justice professionals, as well as to government officials and others interested in legal reform in China and in the development of criminal justice systems generally.
The subject of the book, unfettered police power to detain anyone for a long period—finally abolished by Taiwan in 2009—is attracting considerable interest at the moment in both the general and professional press because of China’s current attempts to deal with the problem. Professor Lewis notes, “The top leaders in China have publicly stated their intentions to reform the police-dominated sanction of re-education through labor, perhaps as early as this year. Our research on Taiwan’s experience provides fresh ideas for the Mainland’s future reform path.” The book’s crisp, clear presentation makes it accessible to the general reader as well as China specialists.
English-language books explaining the dramatic changes to Taiwan’s legal system in recent decades are rare. Books analyzing developments in Taiwan’s criminal justice system are exceedingly rare. This book explains reforms in an in-depth and accessible manner. It also brings a fresh perspective to the long-standing debate about the future of re-education through labor on the Mainland.
More details on the book are available in this flyer from Berkshire’s website: http://bit.ly/challenge-to-china-flyer. Here is a link to a recent press release on USALI Books: http://bit.ly/USALI-release.
To order copies of the book, please contact Berkshire at email@example.com; here is a link to a library request form: http://bit.ly/libraryrequest. The book is also available through major book distributors such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Please note that the price on the library form is for hardcover, but softcover, cloth, and ebook versions are also available. Special prepublication prices end Monday, 30 September.
Ebooks of Challenge to China are available on Berkshire’s website, Berkshire Digital (http://bit.ly/challenge-to-china-ebook/), and will soon be available through many other ebook and database distributors. Special print/digital bundle pricing is also available in cooperation with Credo Reference; contact Berkshire Publishing for details.
Review copies will be made available; contact Managing Editor Bill Siever, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m back in Great Barrington after a wonderful week on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the southern coast of Massachusetts. It was a bilingual week: my daughter and I were the only non-Chinese speakers, and our meals included crabs and fish caught by energetic members of our party and cooked Chinese-style by others, as well as local lobster and the usual summertime fried clams. My only culinary contribution was a traditional New England blueberry crumble to follow a lobster dinner with Caroline Reeves and her family, who also took us on a sunset fishing expedition. Caroline is a longstanding Berkshire author, an expert on the Chinese Red Cross and Chinese philanthropy (ancient and modern), who has become a dear friend.
We got home very late last night because we hit a piece of metal on the Massachusetts Turnpike and had to pull off the road, call the police and the AAA, and limp to the next rest station. The car’s bumper was badly damaged but Tom and Rachel fixed it with duct tape from the rest area store and we were able to drive another 70 miles without a problem.
I asked if it was only Americans who depend on duct tape, and the following exchange quickly developed amongst my far-flung staffers.
Mar Kaiser, our China projects editor, wrote from Heidelberg: “No, it’s not just America that runs on duct tape. We also like our zip ties (or tie-wraps). That’s definitely my first go-to when fixing something broken. Other great DIY materials: regular tape to re-attach flowers that have fallen off. No joke, my brother once did that because he thought he broke off a flower. My parents only found out when that flower started to shrivel and die, revealing the tape. Those clips you use to close plastic sandwich bags are great to re-attach the legs of your glasses when on holiday in Paris (a true story); super two-component glue can be used to secure your own molars (another true story but don’t try this at home, children – it was weekend and my dad didn’t feel like going to the emergency dentist again).”
Kara Lozier sent her favorite duct tape story: “Paralyzed mom goes duct tape surfing” http://www.pozible.com/project/26193.
Anna Myers in New York pointed out that the Duck Brand Duct Tape company holds a scholarship contest every year for highschool students who create prom clothes out of duct-tape: http://duckbrand.com/promotions/stuck-at-prom/year-book-gallery.
And Tom heard from a friend that she had driven 2,000 miles with a car bumper held together with duct tape. My car has now been tidied up at the garage and the bumper is held together with special black zip ties, but I think I’ll leave the rest of the roll of tape in the back, with the first-aid kit and spare motor oil.
1. The northeastern Australian state of Queensland is four times the size of California but has only 3.5 million people – about the size of Connecticut, or one-fifth the size of New York City.
2. You’ve heard of 3-D printing, right? Well, now there is 4-D printing. This involves printing 3-D items that have the ability to build themselves into something if they are immersed in, say, water. This proves that the world is a very weird place, although that was proven beyond a doubt back in the ’60s by the existence of Capt. Beefheart.
3. You know those European-style oval bumper stickers people put on their cars? GB and F are pretty easy to guess – Great Britain and France. Some are a little tricky – CH is Confederation Helvetia, better known as Switzerland. Some, however, are impossible to get, especially because they don’t refer to countries, but tourist spots. OBX is Outer Banks (of North Carolina). One that has irked me for years is “AUK.” Finally, after doing some Googling and other digging around (including asking a company that sells them, and them guessing that it was referring to the seabird), I have an answer to this question that has plagued me all this time: it is the airport code for NAntUcKet Island. Couldn’t they just use NAN?!
4. People use the short-video-clip-sharing tool Vine to post trailers of movie trailers – and apparently Hollywood looks at these trailers-of-trailers for potential talent.
5. Corn (as we call it here in the US) is weird. Scientists have determined that of all the world’s crops, corn / maize is the one that no one knows the origins of. Some historians and archaeologists have concluded that the creation of corn by mesoamerican cultures is one of the hardest to explain engineering feats in the history of the world.
6. Just before the American Revolution broke out, the northeastern US states of New Hampshire and New York nearly went to war over the settlement of the future state of Vermont. (The royal governors of both had been busy getting filthy rich selling the land rights to hapless settlers, even though the area now known as Vermont was claimed by by both New Hampshire and New York.) The Vermonters were protected from the predations of the evil “Yorkers” by Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys. Allen – truly a character if ever there was one – was one of the first public figures in the American colonies to proclaim his disbelief in Christianity, which did not make him particularly popular with his neighbors, which explains the fact that he moved quite a lot.
7. Last but not least, the Hudson Bay Company still exists! It was founded in 1670 and is North America’s longest continually operated company. I thought it went kaput back in the 1700s sometime. (They go by “HBC” now.) They own the department store Lord and Taylor.
- Bill Siever