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Friday, August 25, 2006

Pogo’s Legacy

Long before Gary Trudeau's Doonsbury and Scott Adams' Dilbert, cartoonist Walt Kelly, who was born August 25, 1913 and died in 1973, satirized American culture and politics with a group of Okefenokee Swamp critters led by a possum named Pogo.

According to a 2005 Washington Post article (“Pogo, Never Really Gone,” by Jonathan Yardley, May 23, 2005), Kelly’s strip appeared in 600 newspapers across the country at the height of his popularity in the late 1950s. An Adlai Stevenson liberal, he even created a character based on Senator Joseph McCarthy, an unpleasant bobcat named Simple J. Malarkey. In later years he satirized Richard Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, showing he didn’t take sides.

But even without the politics, Kelly entertained a generation with creatures such as Albert Alligator, Howland Owl, the turtle Churchy-la-Femme, Porky Pine, the cow Horrors Greeley, the alluring skunk Mam'zelle Hepzibah, Beauregard the houn' dog, Mallard de Mer ("the seasick duck"), Deacon Muskrat and Wiley Cat.

Pogo fans still gather annually for a Pogofest to celebrate their favorite strip. This year’s event was held in Waycross, George not far from the haunts of Pogo and his friends. For all things Pogo, check out:

Pogo, Volume 1 by Walt Kelly.

The Pogo Peek-a-Book by Walt Kelly.

Flashbacks: Twenty-Five Years of Doonesbury by Gary Trudeau.

It’s Not Funny If I Have To Explain It by Scott Adams.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Black Cows

Back on August 19, 1893, Frank J. Wisner created the first root beer float by adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream to his Myers Avenue Red Root Beer. Wisner, who owned the Cripple Creek Brewing Company in Colorado, was inspired by the moon over snow-capped Cow Mountain — thus the origin of the frothy concoction’s nickname, “black cow.” The foam is formed as microscopic bubbles in the ice cream create nucleation sites, which make larger bubbles of carbon dioxide.

Root beer is fermented and made from a variety of ingredients, such as vanilla, cherry tree bark, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, sassafras root bark, nutmeg, anise, molasses and other ingredients. At one time the beverage was a traditional drink and herbal medicine. It contained about two percent alcohol and was used for coughs and mouth sores. A non-alcoholic version was introduced to the U.S. as a commercial soft drink by Charles Hires at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Today root beer makes up about three percent of the soft drink market.

Ice cream and its relatives have more ancient roots. The Chinese are believed to have invented the first device for making ice cream, and the caliphs of Baghdad supposedly drank syrup cooled with snow. Middle Easterners are also credited with introducing the frozen dessert, gelato, to the West through Sicily.

August is the perfect time for chilly sweets. Check out:

Homemade Root Beer, Soda and Pop by Stephen Cresswell.

A Passion for Ice Cream by Emily Luchetti.

Ice Cream Treats by Charity Ferreira.

The Ice Cream Lover's Companion by Diana Rosen.

The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein.

A Month of Sundaes by Michael Turback.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tales That Endure

Recently CNN reported that a 1,000-year-old medieval manuscript was unearthed in Ireland. Here are a few ancient stories you can “dig up” at the Fairfax County Public Library:

Gilgamesh: A New English Version
The Epic of Gilgamesh is thought to be the oldest work of literature in the world. The most complete version of the tale of this Sumerian hero-king exists on 11 clay tablets that date from the 7th century B.C.

I Ching: Book of Changes
Considered both a treatise on Chinese philosophy and a system of divination, the exact origin of the I Ching can’t be dated, but it was in use by the time of the Zhou Dynasty (1122 – 256 B.C.).

The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
Written by the blind Greek poet, the Iliad and the Odyssey, which make up the epic poem about the Trojan War, date somewhere between the 7th and 6th century B.C.

The Aeneid by Virgil
The Roman poet Virgil lived in the 1st century B.C. His most famous work, The Aeneid, took him 10 years to write and became the Roman Empire’s national epic.

The Pillow Book by Sei Sh┼Źnagon
The Pillow Book contains the somewhat gossipy observations and musings of a court lady written to Empress Sadako during the 990s A.D. in Heian, Japan.

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
This epic poem dates from 700 – 1000 A.D. It tells the story of Beowulf, a hero from a Germanic tribe in Sweden, who travels to Denmark to defeat a monster known as Grendel.

The Song of Roland
The oldest French epic poem, The Song of Roland, dates to around 1000 A.D. It concerns a minor incident, the battle of Roncevaux Pass, in which Charlemagne’s Franks were attacked by Basques.

What’s your favorite old story?