Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Here They Come! Black Friday (US)

Black Friday Shopping Photo: Public Domain
Black Friday Shopping
Photo: Public Domain

Today is called Black Friday or as it used to be known, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. It is not an official public holiday though many government employees and a select number of private companies do take the day off. Schools are generally out as well so a lot of kids from grade school to college have the day off. The day after Thanksgiving has been a major retail event for decades. And the term “Black Friday” likely came from such overwhelming numbers of people and vehicles filling the streets, sidewalks, and malls on this particular day.

Until fairly recently most retail stores were closed on Thanksgiving Day. Only a limited number of stores, often grocery and 24 hour restaurant or retail operations, would be open. Usually stores would open around 6:00am the next day but a few years ago some big retailers like Target started opening up at first late at night but now open at 6 pm. It has not been without controversy as workers get a limited Thanksgiving with their families. Most retailers if they are wise will pay extra for the inconvenience but they are not required to. Federal law does not mandate extra pay if you work on a holiday or on weekends. Overtime pay for most non-exempt (meaning hourly workers)is only legally required once you exceed 40 hours,

The sheer masses of people trying to get into stores or malls creates hazardous situations. People being stomped on or worse have occurred. Criminals like to take advantage of the situation to rob shoppers, stores, or break into cars. It bears remembering that if you leave anything visible in the car such as backpacks, bags, GPS devices and mobile phones that it may trigger a smash and grab. This has become quite an problem in San Francisco when tourists leave such gadgets plainly visible in their car.

Black Friday is often used to measure consumer spending for the upcoming Christmas season. Merchants use the data from the sales made to forecast what the projected seasonal earnings will be. If modest or low, it tells them the rest of the season will be lackluster unless they step up their marketing. If sales are booming, then retailers are looking forward to a prosperous Christmas season.

Of course if you want to avoid the whole Black Friday mess and have access to the internet, you can shop from the comfort of your home. Why stand outside a store for hours when you can order the very product you want, often with the same discount, when you can do it at home? That is something likely to get stronger if the present trends hold up which is why there is now a Cyber Monday.

HAPPY SUNDAY

With the end of daylight savings time, the days are now perceptively shorter. Each day the sun sets earlier than it used to, and sunrise later and later. In olden times people would be busy making sure food was stored for the winter. Livestock too would be moved into barns or other places so they were protected from the elements. Farmers would have to get up each day and make sure they were fed and to clean out the stalls as well.

October seemed to go by in a whirl and Halloween seemed to as well. Now Christmas themed commercials are appearing, outdoor ice rinks are opening, and stores are filling their shelves with Christmas items. The Hallmark Channel has switched over to holiday movies until January. And the Christmas tree lots are under construction. Once Thanksgiving hits, Christmas trees will be ready for people to take home.

So far none of the radio stations in our area has switched to Christmas music yet. I am certain it will soon happen soon. For the moment here at Titanic News Channel we will continue with the autumn theme for a while longer. To get in the mood for relaxing Sunday, here is a tune from Simon & Garfunkel. Have a nice Sunday everyone.

Dracula

Ist Edition Cover
Public Domain

Bram Stoker’s Dracula was not the first vampire story but certainly the most memorable. It starts out as Jonathan Harker records his trip to visit Count Dracula about property he has purchased in London. We are given fascinating details of the journey but foreboding as well. Although welcomed warmly by Dracula, he begins to suspect things are not right. And that leads him to discover Dracula is not at all what he seems but a monster that will spread evil into the heart of Europe.

Readers then and now are surprised at how Stoker did not hold back in what Dracula does. Perhaps the most horrific–and rarely seen in film or miniseries adaptations–is when the three vampire women at his castle are given a baby by Dracula as a meal. It shows what truly a monster he is and those that serve him as well. Stoker builds on that horror as Dracula arrives in England to begin spreading his evil. The strange illness of Lucy Westenra brings us the character of Van Helsing who suspects a vampire is at work. And Jonathan’s return helps the group that forms that they are dealing with an evil creature that must be destroyed.

But they also fail to see he is already working against them by feeding on Mina, Jonathan’s wife. They get the upper hand though by tracking down all his hiding places to sanctify making them unusable to him. He taunts them at one point and then flees across the ocean back home. The chase to get there before he does is perhaps the most thrilling part of the book. In a dramatic ending, they catch him as the sun is starting to set and he is about to have full command of his powers. The end is quick with a dagger in the throat and the heart. And then he is no more. Unlike some depictions, he goes to dust with just a momentary sight that his soul was at peace now.  The evil is vanquished never to rise again.

Dracula spawned other books and movies both inspired or based in some way on the book. The famous 1931 movie with Bela Lugosi cemented a certain image of Dracula that stood out for a long time. Yet except perhaps for the Coppola movie, few show what Harker saw:

Within stood a tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache, and clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of colour about him anywhere.

Most depictions have no moustache and Dracula neither appears old or young (somewhere in between). They also rarely show the trip to the castle (quite long as Dracula was looking for blue flames to find hidden treasure and his command of wolves). Dracula in the book can get about by day. The mythos that sprung up was that vampires had to walk at night. Not so in the book at all. Dracula could get around in daylight but it constricted his abilities. At night be could use his full range of abilities but daylight limited him to whatever form he had at that time (he also had to be careful about running water).

Dracula was not conflicted nor concerned about what he became, like vampires in some modern novels are sometimes depicted as. Dracula was a creature of evil that served evil. He had no qualms about killing anyone who got in his way but despite all that, as Van Helsing observed, he was not without weakness.  He could live centuries but he could be killed by staking through the heart or kept at bay with a crucifix. And when confronted with a determined group out to destroy him, he fled back home to live to fight another day.

Dracula stands out as masterful horror fiction because it reveals a story slowly, deliberately, and then like a hammer hitting anvil hits you with full fury. Reading it today is still gripping despite all the movies inspired from it. Stephen King’s Salems Lot follows a similar pattern of building the story up slowly until it reveals what the horror is. And it appears Stoker did his research well for he based it on a real historical figure (Vlad the Impaler) who for a time brought fear to Turks who tried to dominate central Europe. He was so ruthless that he made sure that lands were burned, wells were poisoned, and many of their soldiers were found impaled on stakes as they approached his lands.

It is debatable how much Stoker really knew about Vlad the Impaler but learned enough from the information he had to craft his vampire story.  And a great one it is that stands the test of time while other vampire stories remain forgotten on library shelves.

Happy October

Photo:David Wagner(publicdomainpictures.net)

October is the 10th month on both the old Julian and newer Gregorian calendar. It is the first full month of Autumn where harvests are being done and in the old days people began to make ready for the coming of winter. The southern hemisphere though October is the first full month of spring.  Harvest festivals are common at this time of year along with popular ones such as the German Oktoberfest.

Also for sports fans in the US you see the popular sports of basketball, American football, and baseball converge on the calendar. Football is kicking into gear, basketball is starting up and baseball enters its championship phase culminating with the World Series.

Of course the big day is Halloween on October 31st. Sadly it falls on a Thursday meaning kids have to be home early and back to school the next day. Halloween decorations are out there and of course scary movies are in demand again. October has as its flower the Calendula and the birthstone is the opal.

Autumn Equinox Today

For those who watch the calendar, today marks the official end of summer and the beginning of autumn with the equinox today. It began today at 07:50 UTC (go here to see the time it began in your area). There are two equinoxes in the year: March and September. When these equinoxes occur the sun is directly on the equator, and the length of day and night is almost equal. In the Northern hemisphere, the September Equinox heralds autumn while in the South it is the beginning of spring.

For those of us in the North, it means a transition from summer to winter.  During this period  days start getting shorter and nights longer. Depending on where you live, you will likely have moderate warm days followed by long and cooler nights. Harvests of many crops often take place during the fall and in the old days you would make preparations to store food for the winter. Harvest festivals are very popular and in particular Halloween. Pumpkins begin appearing along with all kinds of Halloween decor culminating, of course, in All Hallows Eve (Halloween) on October 31.

English Autumn
George Hodan (publicdomainpictures.net)

Happy Sunday

Autumn is not that far away now. Technically it is still summer but the days are starting to get shorter now. Warm days still abound but now some chilly nights as well. Of course that depends on where you live. Some areas actually get warmer such as California due to seasonal changes in wind direction. More offshore winds usually means lots more warm air over California.

Still the signs that autumn is approaching are showing up. Already some trees are starting to loose leaves. Summer produce is now disappearing from the shelves to be replaced soon with fall produce. Blueberries, mangos, peaches and watermelons will soon be replaced by apples, grapes, cranberries and pumpkins.  Of course since the growing season is different in the southern hemisphere, out of season produce here may appear on our shelves from places like Chile.

Have a nice Sunday everyone.

September In The Forest Larisa Koshkina (publicdomainpictures.net)