Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memorial Day and Veterans Day: what and when are they, and what's the difference?

Because my large, extended family boasts of many military veterans and because I'm a Veterans History Project Official Partner/New York, I often find myself answering two common questions about Memorial Day and Veterans Day:
  1. Exactly what and when are they? and
  2. What's the difference between them?
Here are the quick-and-dirty responses:
  • WHAT:
Memorial Day (formerly known as "Decoration Day"), and Veterans Day (also known worldwide as "Armistice Day," "Remembrance Day," "Remembrance Sunday," "Poppy Day, " "National Day," "Polish Independence Day," and the "Day of Peace") are two USA federal holidays - roughly six months apart - that honor America's military veterans. Memorial Day honors those who have fallen while in service to the country, while Veterans Day honors all who have served in the US military, both living and deceased.
  • WHEN:
Memorial Day is currently celebrated on the last Monday in May (although there is support for reverting to the original, May 30 date or Armed Forces Day weekend - the third weekend in May - to focus attention on the holiday's intended meaning). Veterans Day is celebrated in the USA on November 11.

It's easy to confuse all of these interrelated holiday names, aliases, dates and meanings, even after reading about them on official USA government sites, such as US Information Agency>>Celebrate! Holidays in the USA and>>American Holidays. For one thing, articles such as the US Department of Veterans Affairs' "History of Memorial Day" and "History of Veterans Day" highlight the fact that both holidays have undergone changes in name, date, and scope since their inceptions.

Consequently, as Wikipedia>>Memorial Day notes, in addition to the federally recognized remembrances, some communities continue to honor the original traditions, while still others follow parochial practices, as well as rites unrelated to the holiday's intention. For example, my family adheres to a popular Memorial Day tradition of decorating the graves of all loved ones who predeceased us; we don't confine our commemorations to military veterans or those who died during wartime. (Of course, most of my family's plots feature veteran and civilian graves situated side-by-side, or stacked atop each other.)

Further diffusing Memorial Day's meaning is its extension, to three days, of the weekend that symbolically starts the summer. Throughout the USA, May's final weekend kicks off many outdoor (and some indoor) activities, and the beginning of boating, beach and barbecue season. Consequently, most Americans (myself included) mark Memorial Day weekend not only as a time for reflection and remembrance, but also for recreation.

To "help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day," the White House passed a "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution in December 2000. It asks all Americans "to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all."

Like Memorial Day, Armistice Day - Veterans Day's precursor in the USA - also serves mixed purposes, and thereby generates some confusion. The holiday was initially conceived as an international commemoration of the end of World War I. However, as Wikipedia>>Armistice Day notes, World War I ended on different days in different locations, and many countries have adapted the Armistice Day concept in a variety of ways:
Armistice Day is the anniversary of the symbolic end of World War I on 11 November 1918. It commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany at Rethondes, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front. The cease-fire took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning — the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month". While this official date to mark the end of the war reflects the cease fire on the Western Front, hostilities continued in other regions, especially across the former Russian Empire and in parts of the old Ottoman Empire.

The date was declared a national holiday in many allied nations, to commemorate those members of the armed forces who were killed during war. An exception is Italy, where the end of the war is commemorated on 4 November, the day of the Armistice of Villa Giusti. Called Armistice Day in many countries, it was known as National Day in Poland (also a public holiday) called Polish Independence Day. After World War II, the name of the holiday was changed to Memorial Day[sic] in the United States and to Remembrance Day in countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Armistice Day remains an official holiday in France. It is also an official holiday in Belgium, known also as the Day of Peace in the Flanders Fields.

I hope this write-up (and its linked resources) fulfilled its four-eyed mission: to inform, instruct, intrigue and inspire. If you'd like for me to address your group, or feature you in my media or cultural documentation programming, feel free to contact me.###

Monday, May 18, 2009

On TV: I'm a sucker for these three Kojak catchphrases

GREATER NEW YORK - Watching roundups of popular TV shows and TV characters always reminds me of favorite, but long-forgotten lines. For example, I'm a sucker for these three catchphrases from Kojak, the popular TV cop drama which starred Telly Savalas in the 1973-1978 CBS-TV series, and Ving Rhames in the 2005 cable TV remakes:
"That seems like a big, fat sloppy-lip kiss-off to me!"

"Who loves ya, baby?"
"You're beautiful."

Savalas' hard boiled and bald-headed, lollipop-loving and sharp-dressing, charismatic and unconventional detective, Theo Kojak, first appeared in the 1973 TV movie, The Marcus-Nelson Murders. The movie was described by IMDb as "Season 1, Episode 0" and by as "a ratings hit that encouraged CBS and writer-producer Abby Mann to create a trend-setting series (based on a book by Selwyn Raab)." (Read a roundup at Television Heaven).

Several TV-review venues explain the show's hit appeal. For example, Classic Telly credits the show's original star and Kojak's character:
Telly Savalas, the Greek God of TV, stars as the eponymous no nonsense police Lieutenant Theo Kojak. The tough New York streets need a tough New York cop even if it means bending the rules to see that justice is done.
TV Guide diagnoses:
Filmed in New York, the series was gritty and authentic in its portrayal of cops and crime.
And Television Heaven concurs, adding:
Kojak reclaimed the city of New York's dubious crown as 'Crime Capital of the World', from a decades long stint on the sun-drenched head of the street's [sic] of Southern California. The television viewing world loved Savalas for it. New Yorker's [sic] loved him even more.

In March 2005, Kojak followed the fad of remaking classic TV shows (which I'm not fond of, except for the opportunities that revivals provide to actors of color). In the reimagined series of Kojak TV-movies, Ving Rhames reprised Savalas' role as the jazz-loving, straight-shooting, lollipop-loving gumshoe.

SavalasFan's critique of Rhames' remakes reads:

It is superb. The character is still a sharp dressing prince of the city. He still doesn't do everything by the book and he still protects the innocent. Bobby Crocker is back. Frank MacNeil is back. The lollipops are back. The bald is back too. Most importantly, Kojak still has his heart of gold. I'm as happy watching Ving as I am watching Telly in the role on DVD. Both men bring their own individuality to the role, but the heart and soul of Kojak is there in both versions. The 2005 series truly maintains the integrity of the original character. Kojak is still one hell of a guy. This is how all remakes should be. It's excellent.

Kojak (2005) aired on the USA Network cable TV channel and on United Kingdom's ITV4. However, despite the fact that "Ving Rhames' Kojak remake managed a solid 4.5 million viewers for its premiere," and fans' reviews were generally raves (such as these and these), USA Network cancelled Kojak after one season.

Despite that big, fat sloppy-lip kiss-off, Kojak, I still love ya, baby!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Twitterer, thy name art...what?

GREATER NEW YORK - Sticking my proverbial toe in the Twitter-pool has aroused my curiousity. Twitterer, thy name art...what, exactly? Does sending tweets on Twitter make one a "tweeter", a "twit", or plain old "tweeple"? ###

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Recently tweeting

GREATER NEW YORK - I'm an early bird member of Twitter, but only recently have begun tweeting. The inspirations: wanting to walk the talk with, and send reminders to, my clients and classes, such as "Mastering Marketing."

Click the images and these links to access Twitter resources and products.###

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Make today a Shay Day (Tito, pass me some tissues)

I've received this story from several sources, most recently from my friend Julie over at Creative Planette, who entitled it: "Two Choices." It's fitting that she sent it during baseball season.

I'm unsure who the author is, but this story always makes me cry. Hope it'll touch you, too. Why not make today a Shay Day? (Tito, pass me some tissue.)

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:

'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection.

Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.

Where is the natural order of things in my son?"

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued:

"I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child."

Then he told the following story:

"Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?'

I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.

In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again.

Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the
plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.

The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.

As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over.

The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.

Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates.

Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first!

Run to first!'

Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.

He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'

Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.

By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball. The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.

He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.

Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay!'

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third!

Shay, run to third!'

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!'

Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team."

"That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world.

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!"


We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate.

The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren't the 'appropriate' ones to receive this type of message Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference.

We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the "natural order of things."

So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice:

Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said, "Every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them."

You now have two choices:

1. Delete
2. Forward

May your day be a Shay Day.###