Saturday, May 19, 2007

Today's Museum Tip: More Than a Rock?

You are at the most important dinner of the year. A 40-foot solid mahogany table is filled with investors who hold the fate of your small business in their powerful, cigar-stained hands. The conversation has become embarrassingly mundane, and you can see all your efforts and hard work collapsing like a failed Jinga tower. Mr. Cotton-Matherstein III just yawned for the forth time, and the widow Muffy Marmensok is starting to inhale wine like a beluga whale cruising for plankton.
Suddenly it occurs to you how to save the day. 'Of course!' you think, grabbing a fork and tapping loudly on your rented crystal glass.

"Ladies and Gentleman" you exclaim, face afresh and eyes sparkling "I know how to tell if you found an arrowhead!!!"

Energy cascades through the investors, their bodies shifting as they eagerly await this new and important information. Mumbling occurs - positive mumbling - as heads nod and attention focuses. Now, young entrepreneur, here are some quick facts about arrowheads:

- Actually, most of the "arrowheads" you find are not arrowheads at all, but spear-points or atl-atl points. The bow wasn't invented until relatively late in the Native American time-table (about 500 AD), so for most of their history they were using spears or atl-atl darts. For true nerdness, call them "projectile points".

- Look for percussion flaking marks - these are little indentations on the surface formed during fabrication. Native Americans would not have bothered to smooth the surface.

- Look for sharp edges and tips. Projectile points were made to kill - sometimes you will find a rock that is shaped like a point, but with thick edges and the like. Ask yourself - if it is placed on the end of a spear, could it easily penetrate your skin? (note: for all young male readers, do not try)

- With that fancy "internets" thing, archaeologists have amassed a large amount of reference data referring to point type and location. This data can generally be used to accurately date a point if the location is known, and is a great way to identify your find. Here is an example site:

Congratulations, you have now saved the day! The investors are abuzz with excitement, and Muffy is already talking about new boots for her arrowhead-finding expeditions. Perhaps your business can expand, and you can buy that townhouse in Tampa. Now, if you only knew what an atl-atl was.

Memorial Day: A little History, A Lot Of Honor

Before I begin, the picture to the left is my Grandfather, Robert Kearney. He was a communications officer aboard a B-25 Bomber during WWII, and one of the greatest men to ever grace this planet. More coming on that in another post.

My mother recently told me something very interesting. I know what you are thinking - I was found in a tree stump, given up by trolls. No, you are wrong! And shame on you for thinking such a horrible thing (we all know I was left by gypsies). In actuality, she listed all the Memorial Day services being held in her community on the 28th. Why is this cool? Well, I don't have to tell you, it seems.

You see, there is great hope for our society. Sometimes popular culture celebrates the actor pretending to be a soldier more than the actual soldier. However - we as individuals do NOT, and this is very important. We all have our guilty pleasures - American Idol, Desperate Housewives etc. Mine is Buffy the Vampire Slayer (that's right, proud member of the Scooby Gang). But when it comes down to it, I bet any one of you would honor the soldiers who died for our country more than all of Hollywood combined. The media can throw what it wants at us, it doesn't matter - it's shaved Britney Spears' heads, it's pompous clothes designers snapping their fingers, it's American Idol rejects crying and running amok outside the audition room. Throw it all! In the end we all know, and always have known, what is most important in life.

That is America. We love the absurd and cherish the significant. We laugh at mundane sitcoms, yet stand and honor those who truly deserve it. We are a great people, sometimes we just need to remember.

For the 28th, Here are some quick facts about Memorial Day:

- Memorial Day began as a result of the Civil War. Various communities held services for the fallen, with veteran groups often leading the way. One of the earliest ones began in 1866 in Waterloo, NY (the official "birthplace" of Memorial Day), held on May 5th annually.

- As leader of the Veterans group "The Grand Army of the Republic," General John A Logan led the call for a national Memorial Day. On May 5th, 1868, Logan declared a national "Decoration Day" to be held on May 30th every year. That date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular Civil War battle.

- At first, many Southern States refused to celebrate Decoration Day because of continuing hostility toward the North, although they held their own Confederate Memorial Days. This changed, however, after WWI as many of the veterans were from the South.

- The name "Memorial Day" was not used regularly until after WWII. Decoration Day likely came from the tradition of decorating soldiers graves with flowers and other items. Southern women's groups were particularly involved in this practice, and set an example for the rest of the nation.

- In 1968 Congress passed the "Uniform Holiday Bill" which moved four holidays to Mondays: President' Day, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, and Memorial Day. This was done to create three day weekends, and moved the date of Memorial Day from May 30th to the last Monday of May. This may have inadvertently led to the dwindling of Memorial Day celebrations, as Americans became distracted by the three day weekend.

- Memorial Day specifically honors US soldiers that have fallen during military service. This is not to be confused with Veterans Day, which largely honors and thanks our living veterans.

- Since the 1950's, the 3rd US infantry places American Flags at all of the Graves at Arlington National Cemetery, then patrols the entire weekend to make sure the flags stand.

- Every year, the Boy and Girl Scouts place candles at each of the 15,300 graves at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

- In 2000, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed by Bill Clinton to ask for a voluntary moment of silence at 3:00 pm by all Americans each Memorial Day.

- In 2004, Washington DC held it's first Memorial Day Parade in 60 years.

Even with the best intentions, it is sometimes easy to forget Memorial Day with today's fast moving society. We all have done it, or at least not celebrated it as much as we should have. But we don't have to be perfect...America isn't perfect, and it is not supposed to be. America gives us the freedom to better ourselves, and perhaps that is most important of all. On Memorial Day, lets try to remember the men and women who died for our country.

"We cherish too,
the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies."

- Miona Michael, 1915

Friday, May 18, 2007

Where has the time gone?

Am I getting old? - I found a track from my band "Sugar Lloyd" from back in the day. This was recorded live at "Kilroys" around 1992.
I wonder if the place even exists anymore. I know what you baby-boomers are thinking - "It wasn't THAT long ago, fella." But to me it seems like a century.
At any rate, The guitarist (Dave McCracken) is now a well-known key-boardist, playing his heart out with Donna the Buffalo and all kinds of cool bands. The drummer (Brad Lloyd) is now an amazing Jazz drummer, playing with all kinds of big names. I'm not sure what the bassist (Matt Webb) is doing these days, but if anyone knows drop me a line. The singer? Well, I'm the nerd with the artifacts. Although musically, I'm learning the banjo these days. It's a lot of fun, and I figure I'll be pretty good by the time I'm 80.
(Note: the song is a live jam, with it going from very loud to practically hearing nothing. Just so you won't be startled when it suddenly comes back in!)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Thank You

Just a moment to sincerely thank my cousins Sergeant Wade Vakulick and Lieutenant Colonel Nate Nastase for their service to our country.

Wade just got back from a tour in Iraq, putting his life here on hold and heading to one of the most dangerous places in the world. Nate is there right now for a couple weeks to prepare for another tour later this year. Nate has been to Iraq numerous times now, including the first Gulf War.

I can't even fathom the sacrifices these men have made . Also, think about their families and what they go through, and how amazing it is they pull through it. Their wives, kids, parents, and siblings. Especially Eileen and Susan, - thank you so much as well! It is truly incredible the support they give.

Anytime you have a bad day, just try to remember what these soldiers and their families have done for us.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

King Herod Found - Critics Say "Looking a bit Pale"

This just in! - They may have found King Herod's Tomb:

I know, I know, lets not break out the calf-skin wine bags just yet. But I am excited for a number of reasons, not the least of which "Herod" is one of the few words that actually rhymes with "Jarod" - go ahead, try to think of some (Arid has already been taken).

Another is my cousin, "Tara the Great", and I find him interesting. For those that don't know, Herod was the King of Judea living ca 74 BC - 4 BC. He was the fellow involved with the massacre in Bethlehem as it was described in the Book of Matthew (allegedly...wrongful death suit in litgation). Despite this, he did many great things for his people - just do a google search and you will see what I mean. It was his son, Herod Antipas, who took an unfortunate exception to John The Baptist. This can be confusing, since both were named Herod.

Via Tara, the following history of the term "Sarcophagus" is quite interesting. Be sure to read it while eating, you with thank me. Incidentally, Tara not only has these random tidbits of information, but can properly handle a Japanese Katana - and I have proof. Just go to the "random" gallery on my homepage,, and you will see.

Word History: Sarcophagus, our term for a stone coffin located above ground and often decorated, has a macabre origin befitting a macabre thing. The word comes to us from Latin and Greek, having been derived in Greek from sarx, "flesh," and phagein, "to eat." The Greek word sarkophagos meant "eating flesh," and in the phrase lithos ("stone") sarkophagos it denoted a limestone that was thought to decompose the flesh of corpses placed in it.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Today's Random Curator Tips:

I completely understand. You were sitting on the couch last night, eating your teriyaki chicken-salad, when the urge hit you like a rogue piano launched from a clown convention. "I want to know some random curator tips!" you called out, mouth agape and dripping ginger sauce. But you couldn't leave the TV, of course. After all, re-runs of "Cop Rock" were on, and no force on earth could make you miss that. Never fear, I am here to help - here are some random curator tips to quench that fiery and unbending urge:

- Keep your photos and other prize documents out of direct sunlight. Think of them as little vampires, hissing when they are in contact with sunlight. Light is one of the biggest enemies in the artifact world. In most homes, it is impractical (and silly) to shift your good furniture and decorations around to avoid sunlight - but if you have some cherished photos, framed documents, or other easily moved items - maybe take a minute to move them to a less bright area - they will thank you (possibly in tiny little voices).

- Keep the good stuff out of the attic. As my friend Mike says, there are two types of people in the world - those that make sweeping generalizations, and those who do not. Similarly, some of us are pack-rats, and some of us throw away last year's cellphone. At any rate, non-insulated attics are notorious for high temperatures and wild humidity fluctuation. If you can help it, keep your best items in an inside closet or similar place that benefits from your normal household air control.

- If someone is selling an "antique" chair or similar piece, turn it over and look for arced marks in the wood (from a circular saw). This is true for many types of wood furniture. Circular saws were generally not used in furniture-making before the late 1800s.

- To frame or not to frame. Was that last sentence cheesy? The answer is no, considering I could have said "15 minutes of frame." Anyway, here is the short answer: framing is good for most 2-d items, IF taken to a proper, reputable shop that knows what they are doing. Translation: you have to shell out the money. But to save the 110 year-old picture of old man Bagenworthenstein looking particularly grim, it is worth it.

Okay, that's enough for now. Now go forth, young grasshoppers, and curate away!

(Note: please do not place Teriyaki chicken on antique wood)