Saturday, December 30, 2006

James Bricker

Jim Bricker was a friend of the family for as long as anyone can remember - childhood buddies with my grandfather, Robert Kearney. He was a veteran of WWII, and the picture to the left was taken during the war. The story is that he was at a dinner, and volunteered to dress up, much to the delight of his friends. That phrase - "Much to the delight of his friends" seems to come up a lot when stories of Jim are told.

I won't attempt to truly convey Jim's qualities, as words don't capture him at all. You had to be around him - know him, to really understand what I'm talking about. He was - again for lack of better words - of a different era. Politicians like to talk about the American spirit, the good-ol-days, the time when men were honorable. Our modern cynicism casts aside those sentiments, arrogantly asserting that they don't exist, and never existed. But we are wrong. I know we are because I knew Jim.

Jim was completely selfless, serving others in every way a person can serve - his friends, his family, his community, his country - we were all better people when he was around. His wit and humor are the stuff of legend - I cannot think of a single Bricker dinner when the table wasn't in hysterics by the first course. Even with multiple surgeries and knee replacements he was traveling to the local retirement home and cracking up his friends. That's the kind of person he was.

Jim passed away this last August. When he died, an era ended, it's as simple as that. There will never be another like him. He was an unyielding spirit, the last of his kind - a true and great American. I was honored to know him, and I will never forget my friend.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Why does that Ball Drop Anyway?

So true, so true - after a hundred years, the ball dropping in Times Square is still one of the coolest traditions around. It is useless to resist - you will watch it, you will smile and you WILL have hope for humanity. I don't care how many times KISS reunites for that god-awful New Years reunion concert, grudgingly putting on the makeup and rehashing their greatest hits like jaded telemarketers...the site of the giant glowing crystal cuts through the commercialism like a senile driver, leaving you flush and happy, your cheeks glowing with the spirit of New Years (or "spirits", to be more accurate). It is also the only time expensive crystal can fall to the ground and people actually cheer it on. At any rate, here's WHY this happens:

- 1904 - The owner of the New York Times, Alfred Ochs, throws a huge party in the recently renamed Times Square to celebrate the headquarters opening. Overnight, Times Square becomes New York's New Years Destination. It's the Bee's Knees, Sugar-Daddy!

- 1907 - The party-animals at city hall ban the fireworks display, so Alfred decides to lower a 700-pound illuminated ball from his building's flagpole instead. Viola! The tradition begins! This was actually a derision of an early practice of lowering time balls for visual synchronization of navigation chronometers, but tell that to a drunken flapper and you are sure to lose the next dance.

1942-43 - Ball is not dropped due to war-time "dimout".

1972 - Dick Clark starts his "New Years Rockin' Eve" to the delight of Millions. To the confusion of millions, Dick Clark refuses to age.

2006 - Billions world wide watch the ball drop thanks to Satellite communication. Father Time uses cellphone to announce Baby New Year

So there you have it. Have fun on New Years, bang pots, be safe and blow Alfred Ochs a big ol'

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jarod Tip of the Day: How to Renew that Old Cedar Smell

It's an all too tragic scenario - your mother bought a cedar chest 50 years ago, enjoying the fresh, invigorating scent. She became giddy and light with each delightful inhale, often frolicking about the room like a shampoo commercial. And what happens? You get the cedar chest years past it's prime and and not a molecule of scent to be had! "Rip off!" you yell into the unforgiving void, fists raised. But fret not, there is a cure. If you want to revitalize the smell on your old cedar, simply get some 220-grit sandpaper and lightly go over the interior! Thats it! You will soon be hopping and waltzing, the sunlight streaming in as the strategically placed cat looks on approvingly. Sand away! (lightly)

Note - this is NOT to be done on antique cedar, unless you want the value to drop. Save that antique for the rogue son who has, of course, gambled away the family fortune.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

South Carolina Secedes. Not to be confused with "Succeeds"

On this day in 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union, resulting in one of the major triggers of the Civil War. As most know, the secession only lasted until 1865 - It's a good thing too, because it would be a shame to not have South Carolina in the country - after all, there's Charleston, and...well, Charleston (Just kidding, fellas - we North Carolina boys love ya!) At any rate, here's what basically happened:

- Decades of animosity - I won't go into it - but think of a really bad case of he said/he said.

- November 6th, 1860 Ol' Abraham Lincoln elected. "Tall and Ugly" officially chic.

- South hears about election. 100,000 guns heard simultaneously loading. You see kids, the South didn't like Mr. Lincoln. They felt he was the embodiment of Government control over Southern interests. Of course, the main interest was slavery and the expansion of slavery in the new territories. State-rights was a huge issue, but the issues are so interlocked it is hard to separate them, in my humble opinion.

- Four days after election, the South Carolina legislature calls for a convention to consider secession. John Calhoun seen literally frothing at the mouth.

- December 20, 1860 South Carolina officially secedes. Charleston is alight with fire-works and celebration. President James Buchanan, (who I am related to) does nothing, preferring to leave it to President-elect Lincoln. Okay, family, say it with me - 1, 2, 3 "Thank You, Jaaamees!"

- Next six months, 10 other states seceded. John Williams already writing intense score for future movie deal.

- April 12, 1861, Confederate Batteries begin shelling Fort Sumter. A guy named Edmund Ruffin (yes, you read that name right) is credited with firing the first shot. Upon later interviews, he claims he "didn't like the unfashionable scarfs they were wearing. So 1859".

- 1861-1864: All hell breaks loose.

Well, thats the secession in a nutshell. Or a giant, howling Mortar-shell, as it were. In any case, ol South Carolina shook things up a bit, and for good or bad, we haven't been the same since. That's history for ya!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Scrooge - Malicious, Ill-tempered Miser or Financial Genius?

In the winter of 1843 Charles Dickens published his classic "A Christmas Carol". From that moment on, Scrooge became synonymous with all things ungenerous - the Anti-Santa, if you will. In fact, right now try to think of Scrooge without envisioning two starving, ragged street urchins desperately holding out their hands, their upturned, pitiful faces smudged with random soot, their hair speckled with unidentifiable granules. You can't, can you? And what does that tall, white-haired guy do when he passes them in your vision? He not only refuses to give money, her does so in an unnecessarily huffish way!

Well I'm here to tell you that Scrooge, like so many in our cultural lexicon, has been vastly and grossly misunderstood. A miser? A Pinch-fist? Ha! How many late-night commercials have you seen offering some padded financial plan? How many articles in the in-flight magazine about how to save a penny for the holidays? Yet here we are, judging poor Mr. Scrooge while we feverishly type away at our 401ks and yell at the kids to turn off the lights. If Scrooge was around today, he would be the number one adviser on Wall street, probably with his own infomercial! Thats right, his face would be on every billboard, glaring down on you with his crazed, white hair, inspiring the masses to save for the future while wincing in horror.

And what of his innovative theories on child-labor? We dismiss them - the ridiculous ravings of on old man. Well Mr. "Happy-Childhood-For-All", let me ask you this - what is your kid doing RIGHT NOW? Playing video games while his plump butt slowly expands from hot-pockets. Maybe a little time in front of a churning, steel-toothed coal grinder is exactly what our kids need. They could learn reflexes and dexterity as they frantically dodge the steam wheels of the 100 yard linen looms. They could acquire social skills as they plot and fight for that last scrap of bread in the tyrant-run food line. And why spend money on summer camp when they could be having fun bunking down with 100 other shivering children, their hammocks swaying in a line just like a fun-filled marine base.

And what's the big deal about telling Mr. Crachit to save coal in the stove? Isn't he just being environmentally responsible? I say a hunched, wrapped, coughing Crachit is worth saving the planet from fossil fuel emissions. If you think about it, Crachit was such a nice guy he probably would have wanted it that way. God bless us, everyone - except for the ENVIRONMENT?

So I say to you, oh spent Christmas shoppers, your pockets now empty from the fruit bowls and bad ties - judge not poor Mr. Scrooge. Our country has become obsessed with consumerism and spending, and seemed to have forgot the frugal lessons of our forefathers. We have come to believe that the more money you spend, the better the gift. We have equated commercialism with generosity, while forgetting that the best gifts come from the heart. Our ancestors knew this, and knew that simplicity was knowing how to give AND save. So as you sit back this winter, your wallets empty, your house littered with useless trinkets, give the old boy a nod - maybe being a bit of a Scrooge is exactly what we need!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Jarod's Top Ten Reasons to Siege a Castle

It's a crisis of conscious, really. You and your Saxons have been sitting there for days, debating what monstrous attack to participate in next. As Borlok the Drooler pointed out, you could easily wipe out the next town, burning homes and stealing booty - the usual. But as Alerac the Warted thoughtfully interjected, "How many anguished screams can one hear before 'moving on'?" You want something different, something challenging. Something to create a supportive, nurturing environment for your men's emotional needs. Then it hits you like a shovel-full of random muck: lets siege a castle! The decision is obvious to you, but your men's legal attorneys have requested motivation documentation in writing. Here are some reasons to give them:

10 - Romantic Views
Everyone knows the best sunsets are from the top of a smoldering, charred-out keep
9 - "Accidentally" Catapult your Mother-in-Law
"Its a great device, my lady. Here, have a closer look..."
8 - Show off your new armor
It took three months to make the damn thing. What are you going to do, just sit there?
7 - Decapitation impresses the ladies
Lets face it, heads are going to roll at some point. Might as well be by you, in front of a throng of adoring damsels
6 - Makes a great Drinking Game
For every screaming peasant running amok on fire, take a shot!
5 - Free Oil
Need a cup of hot oil? They're giving it away at the walls like it's free!
4 - The Jerks Looked at you the Wrong Way
Sooner or later some fop is going to look at you funny. Consider his castle sieged!
3 - New Castle is a Great Anniversary gift
"You wanted more closet space, honey?"
2 Mead just tastes better on a pile of enemy bodies
This is common knowledge
and finally....
1 Screw Lord "Farty-Pants"!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Exercise Trend?

Here is my cousin Tara preparing for battle with my WWII Japanese Katana.

I say to you, oh bored and shapely Hollywood, why not make this the new exercise trend? Eh? Picture hundreds of sweat-crazed housewives swinging swords about with angst - possibly frothing at the mouth. Think of the publicity your gym would get as Demi Moore accidentally decapitates Muffy the beautician? Its a win, win, really

Besides, Tara weighs about 13 pounds and she can do it! (To all Iaido students - notice the accurate hand positioning?) So to Hollywood, drop the yogurt and pick up that 14th century Katana - at least until the next trend of "Aerobics in full Plate Armor".

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Council of Trent - What a Party!

On this Day in 1545 the Council of Trent began. Not just a fun-filled event of anti-Protestant condemnation, the council, or "The Big C" as they say, sought to reform corruption in the Catholic Church.
So Kids, I ask you - did it work?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tanning Animal Hides the Old Fashioned Way: With Brains!

As every Grandma tells her grandchildren - you can tan most animal hides with the animals brains! This is useful if you are trapped in the woods and have managed to down a 1600 pound bear with a simple spear, like in the Movie "The Edge". I'm sure as you watched Alec Baldwin wearing the bear skin with his well-manicured hands you said to yourself "Hey, wouldn't that skin rot and start smelling?"

Not if he tanned it with the Bear's BRAINS, I say!

Just bash up the brains and work it into the freshly skinned hide, careful to soak it in thoroughly. Hang it to dry, but before it gets completely dry soften it by sliding the skin back and forth - fur side up - over a wire, (or branch if you are stuck in the Alaskan wilderness). "It can't be that easy", you say - well, you're right. It is time consuming, and will have your wife complaining of the smell - and while you concentrate on the project there is always the danger of an Indian attack, but basically that's all there is to it.

So next time you hit that endangered fox with your new Hummer, don't fret....use some brains! After all, Alec Baldwin's press agent would have wanted it that way.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

My Description of William Howe, British General During the Revolution

A loathsome and unfortunate man whose sole purpose in life seemed to be the diffusion of knowledge that he was an utter and complete boob. Bug eyed, club-footed, hunched, confused, and a drooler, General Howe's demeanor was widely considered "nauseatingly unsound", and most contemporaries were forced to conclude that he was hatched by pitwolves as the only logical source of his existence. His conversation skills were so inept and unsettling that he was accidentally reported three times to the Sanitary Commission as a "loose and moving invalid in need of immediate acquisition". His own wife aspired to have herself committed on several occasions rather than "suffer one more excruciatingly boring anecdote". His physical appearance was at best unsanitary, and in his younger years ladies were known to describe his facial features as "generally depressing". His diplomatic excursions were disastrous to the point of amusement, and his political peers eagerly awaited his presence at state dinners, believing that "the full belly laughs obtained from listening to his French were good for digestion".

Confused half his life and uninspired the other, General Howe's most redeeming quality was that he was never in complete charge of the British military. Had he been so, scientists estimate that not only would the war have been twice as disastrous for the British, but to this very day England would somehow be ruled by Luxembourg.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

How to Tell a Real Pearl Necklace from a Fake One

So your husband gave you a pearl necklace, apologizing deeply for his embarrassing outburst at the family reunion....want to know if it's real?

- Look for irregularities in the pearls shape. Fake pearls are typically perfectly uniform (too uniform) whereas real ones often have slight irregularities.

- Rub them together - if you feel a kind of "grit" in the rubbing that is a good sign. If they rub smoothly attack husband.

- The even better "teeth test" - again look for a "grit" as you rub it in your teeth. Fake pearls will often feel smoother (try to avoid looks from mother-in-law).

- Sometimes real pearls feel "cold" initially. Touch the metal blades of scissors then touch the plastic handle - see what I mean? They are in the same room temperature yet the metal "feels" colder.

- Surefire plastic test: Take a hot pin and press it into the pearl. Plastic will melt and give way to the pin whereas real pearls will not.

- There are "shell pearls" which are ground mother of pearl shell pressed and coated. Look at the drill hole - with shell pearls the coating will often be chipped around the hole.

Well there you have it, the old fake pearl assessment. If they pass, make sure to hold them high, laughing like a pirate while exclaiming "They're mine! ALL MINE!!"

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Loyalist vs Patriot

A quick overview on Loyalists and Patriots during the Revolution taken from an exhibit I curated. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject - feel free to post links or interesting research you are doing in my comments back here after you have read.

Friday, December 1, 2006

One Way to Tell Real Ivory from Fake

Jarod's Tip of the Day:
If someone is selling you a piece of ivory or scrimshaw and you want to know if it is real, find a non-prominent part and scratch it a little with your finger. If it smells like burnt hair, that is a good sign. If you can't smell anything, a sure-fire test is to take a heated pin and press it into the ivory. If you get that "burned tooth" smell like a lovely dentist drill, it is real. If it smells like burned plastic, give it away as a christmas gift to the in-laws!
Come check out my Facebook photography page!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Article on Damascus Steel (true damascus)

Check out this article on Damascus steel. Think of the work it took to come up with this process all those centuries ago - pretty impressive.


sgian dubh - historical accuracy versus experimentation

Here is a sgian dubh I made a while back. It has a trilobite inlay, which I realize is not historically accurate, but it seems to work somehow.

An interesting question is at what point does a piece no longer retain it's original meaning because of creative license? Is a Scottish dirk still a dirk if it has a tanto blade? What about pieces that is correct in form, but the building materials are completely wild. How obsessive should one be about proper nomenclature?

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