“We the people of the United States . . .”



From the New York Times crossword, August 28, 2015

41 Down   Item authorized by Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution

First, the easy part – Article 1, Section 8 deals with the legislative branch of the U.S. government, or Congress.  That is the short answer for your quiz bowl, but just what is covered in this article?  Plenty.  So, for those of us who need a review on our Constitution, just what duties are outlined in this article?  I’m glad you asked!  They are:

  • Collect taxes
  • Borrow money
  • Regulate commerce with foreign nations
  • Establish a rule of naturalization and laws on bankruptcies (yes, these two are in the same section ?!)
  • Coin money
  • Outline punishment for counterfeiting
  • Establish post offices and roads
  • Provide patent laws, restrictions
  • Jurisdiction to establish the lower courts
  • Define and punish piracy
  • Declare war
  • Raise and support armies
  • Provide and maintain a navy
  • Make rules for regulation of land and naval forces
  • Use of militia for executing laws of the government
  • Provide for organization, discipline and supplying said militia
  • Execute legislation for the District of Columbia
  • Make all laws necessary and proper for executing its duties

WAIT!  Hold the phone!  That last power with its “necessary and proper” phrasing is known as the “elastic clause” and understandably its wording has caused considerable controversy over the years – pretty much from its inception.

In the first case, McCulloch v. Maryland, the state of Maryland had imposed a tax on out of state banks.  Problem was, the Second Bank of the United States was the only one, and in a landmark decision by Chief Justice John Marshall, he wrote that while the Constitution did not implicitly allow for Congress to create a federal bank, its power was implied in the necessary and proper clause.  Other subsequent applications of this clause included Congress creating the Federal Kidnapping Act, making it a federal crime to transport a kidnapped person across state lines because it regulated interstate activity.

A few quick facts about the rest of the document – there are seven articles and twenty-seven amendments.  Interestingly enough, it is the shortest constitution compared to others world -wide.  Want to test your knowledge of the Constitution?  Try this quiz:  Constitution quiz


Greenbacks, Bucks and Eight Bits – What’s in your Wallet?

From the New York Times Crossword puzzle, August 23, 2015

67  Down  _________ coeptis (phrase on the back of the dollar bill)

You’ve spent hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of them – but do you know what is on your one dollar bill?  Sadly, many of us have no idea.  Yet a careful glance at our one-dollar bill will give us a lesson in history and symbols.

Front of the Dollar Bill

Well, this won’t take long as most of the good stuff is on the reverse side.  However, did you know that George Washington was not the first person pictured on the bill?  No, it was Salmon P. Chase.  And just who was he?  Well, he was the Secretary of the Treasury when the bill was first introduced.

In addition to Washington, there is the United States Treasury Seal which shows the balancing s03_treasury-sealcales, indicated justice and the chevron with thirteen stars for the original thirteen colonies.  The key invokes the symbol of authority.

These days, only the one dollar bill still carries the district letter of the issuing reserve bank.  Higher denominations  have replaced those with the Federal Reserve Seal.  Quick – can you name the Federal Reserve banks (hint:  there are twelve of them).  Answer:  Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco.

Back of the Dollar Bill

Now for the good stuff – we’ll start with the Great Seal.  If you can imagine, it took six years and three committees just to design the Great Seal.  It wasn’t until June 13, 1782, that Charles Thomson managed to assuage all voices with his design which on the front Great Sealshowed an eagle rising with thirteen arrows in its left talon and an olive branch in its right.  The olive branch and the number thirteen seem pretty self-explanatory, but what is interesting is the significance of which talon they are in – right signifies dominance, so peace should predominate.  An accidental switching of these in early years, nearly sparked an armed conflict!

The shield on the eagle has the horizontal blue stripe signifying Congress and the thirteen stripes signify – you guesses it the thirteen original colonies, but the thirteen stars?  Colonies again?  No!  They signify “a new constellation” which somehow indicated that the United States was charting a new course.  And by now, most of us know that E pluribus unum, means “Out of many, one”

Now we look at the other side which shows the reverse side of the Great Seal – the picture that has sparked many discussions and controversies.  The unfinished pyramid which is supposed to indicate strength and duration; it again has thirteen rows of building stones with 1776 written in Roman numerals on the bottom.  The phrase Novus Ordo Seclorum means the New Order of the Ages.  Above the pyramid is the eye which sees in agreat_seal_revll directions – a symbol that is evocative of the Freemasons for whom the eye is the symbol of the Great Architect.

The answer for this puzzle’s clue, Annuit coeptis – means Providence has favored our undertaking – something that perhaps not all of our enemies or allies would endorse, but nonetheless, there it is.

And what about In God We Trust?  It was first used on money during the Civil War when national currency was first introduced.  It did not become our national motto until 1956, and in 1957, it made its first appearance on the dollar bill.




Goonies never say die!

From the New York Times crossword, August 19, 2015

43 Down  Oregon city named for a furrier

Situated on the mouth of the Columbia river, is a town named for John Jacob Astor – the seat of Clatsop County, Oregon:  Astoria.  The town was founded by Astor in 1811 when he started his American Fur Company at the location.  Just prior to his arrival, the final leg of the Lewis and Clark Expedition completed its journey at Fort Clatsop – at the time, it was a small log structure, now it is an historical park.

One of John Jacob Astor’s subsidiary companies, the Pacific Fur Company, was created to increase trade in the Oregon territory.  Fort Astoria, its primary trading center, holds the distinction of being the first permanent U. S. settlement on the Pacific coast.

Through the years, with fur trading and logging and subsequently fishing industries attracting large numbers of immigrants, the population grew considerably with many Nordic immigrants carving out niches in the town.  As one might expect with those industries, the town has had its shares of boom and bust years.

Astoria has continued to be a busy port on the Pacific, but has been eclipsed by both Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.  Beginning in 1921, a ferry across the Columbia connected the port to Pacific County in Washington.  In 1966, the Astoria-Megler Bridge was completed.  It is 4.1 miles long and was the final segment in Highway 101.  It is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America.


The Astoria-Megler bridge viewed from the Cannery Pier













Much of the cannery business has closed with Bumblebee closed its final cannery in 1980.  Likewise, the logging industry has suffered its share of woes.  Today, Astoria has added tourism to its resume with its growing art scene and light manufacturing.  Some herald it the “Little San Francisco” with its Victorian homes overlooking the water as well as the earthier elements along the waterfront.

Fans of the film, The Goonies, are more than familiar with Astoria as it was filmed on site here.  There are throngs of fans who still visit it to see the familiar sights.  In addition to The Goonies, many other movies have been filmed here including Free Willy, The Black Stallion, Kindergarten Cop, and more recently, Into the Wild.  Of course, if you are looking for some truly local flavor, the musical, Shanghaied in Astoria has been performed on stage every year since 1984.




Annnndddd, they’re off!

From the New York Times crossword, August 16, 2015

23 Across  Triple Crown winner who himself sired a Kentucky Derby Winner

This year when American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, he earned a spot with a select group of horses who have achieved that success.  Considering that it had been over thirty years since Affirmed won in 1978.  Among his colleagues in this elite group, is the answer to today’s clue:  Seattle Slew.

He was purchased by Mickey and Karen Taylor for the small sum of $17,500 (compared to this year’s winner, American Pharoah who was purchased for $250,000).  Karen was a flight attendant, and her husband, Mickey, working in logging.  As they lived in White Swan, Washington, they decided to name their horse after the city of Seattle and added Slew to the name in honor of the sloughs used in logging transport.


Seattle Slew rides to Triple Crown history

His appearance did not exactly inspire confidence as he had a curved right foot that caused him to sway when he ran, causing one trainer to nickname “Baby Huey”.  However, it wasn’t long before he garnered some positive attention when he won the Belmont Stakes in his maiden race – winning by five lengths.

After winning his next three races in 1977, he came to the Kentucky Derby undefeated.  After a rough start which caused an injury at his bridle, his jockey, Jean Cruguet, corrected him, and he won the Derby by almost two lengths over the favorite.  Winning at the Preakness, his time was only seconds behind the all-time record.

While all other nine Triple Crown winners had come to the Belmont with at least one loss under their belt, Seattle Slew blew that record as well – being the first undefeated horse to win the Triple Crown.  Not surprisingly, offers for him came in from all over.  Seattle Slew continued to race evening beating the next year’s Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, in a race at the Marlboro Cup.

But what about the above clue – just which winners did he sire?   Well, in fact, there were many.  Rags to Riches, his granddaughter, won the Belmont in 2007 – giving trainer Todd Pletcher, his first victory.  The Derby (and Preakness) winner he sired, however, was California Chrome who created considerable excitement in 2014.

He died on May 7, 2002 – twenty-five years to the day when he won the Kentucky Derby.  He was buried whole – an incredible honor for a horse and was buried with his favorite blanket and a bag of peppermints – a perennial favorite of his.



She helped make Fred Astaire a star!

From the New York Times crossword puzzle, August 18, 2015

48 Across  Half of a brother/sister dance duo

No, it isn’t who you think it is – in honor of her birthday, September 10, we dedicate this post to the woman who really helped launch his career – his sister, Adele.  Born in 1896 in Omaha, Nebraska, Adele was the older sister of Fred.  At the age of eight, her mother enrolled her in dance classes and then had Fred tag along to keep her company. He was soon intrigued with dancing, and the two began their partnership.

Their teacher suggested to their mother that the young duo had promise in a dancing career, but it would necessitate a move to New York City.  Off to New York they went, with their father staying in Omaha to work with occasional trips east to see his family.  The two were enrolled in the Alvienne School of Dance – the only children in their class.

By 1912, they were performing on Vaudeville and in 1917 they made their Broadway debut in “Over the Top”.  They continued to have tremendous success – J. M. Barrie sought Adele for the role of Peter Pan in his first production, but contractual obligations kept her out of the part.

Adele AstaireIt may come as a surprise to some that Adele was actually the more engaging of the two and was more involved with promoting their act while Fred stayed behind the scenes and worked on their routines.  Ever the perfectionist, Adele nicknamed him “Moaning Minnie”, but the two managed to work together seamlessly when performing.  In 1922, they collaborated with Gershwin brothers in Lady Be Good as well as Funny Face.

With Fred’s success in Hollywood, Adele briefly considered a career in films as well, but thought that it was not for her and admitted that she was somewhat intimidated by Fred’s success.

She subsequently retired from performing and married Lord Charles Cavendish.  After their marriage, they moved to Ireland and resided in Lismore castle.  Sadly, a daughter born to them died days after birth and twin boys later died within hours of each other.  After Lord Cavendish’s death, she married an American, Colonel Kingsman Douglas – an Air Force officer and later assistant director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 1971, both she and Fred were inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.  After the death of her second husband, she moved to Phoenix where she resided until her death in 1981.

May I have the envelope please?

From the New York Times Crossword Puzzle on August 17, 2015

69 Across  Deborah who was nominated for a record six Best Actress   Oscars without ever winning

While it is still a few months away, there is always buzz about who might be nominated for an Academy Award.  Many people will know which actress has won the most awards for Best Actress (Katherine Hepburn, with four) and for Best Actor (Daniel Day Lewis, with three).  OK, now name the actress nominated for Best Actress without winning.  Hint:  there are actually two, but only one of them fits the bill for the above clue.  Answer:  Deborah Kerr, who along with Thelma Ritter endured six Academy Award ceremonies without taking home the coveted statue.  For those wishing to fulfill their trivia quota, Peter O’Toole is the actor who shares the dubious honor with Kerr and Ritter – he was actually nominated eight times without winning.

47-deborah_kerr_theredlistDeborah Kerr was born September 30, 1921 in Helensburgh, Scotland to Captain Arthur Kerr-Trimmer.  She came to acting to overcome extreme shyness. Through an aunt who was a radio star, she was introduced to Gabriel Pascal who cast her in her first film role, Major Barbara.  She quickly became a star in British movies and theater.

In 1947, she came to Hollywood.  As she put it, “I came over here to act, but it turned out all I had to do was to be high-minded, long suffering, white-gloved and decorative.”  She found success in Hollywood with roles in Quo Vadis, The Hucksters, and Edward, My Son, which yielded her first Oscar nomination.  Tiring of her prim roles, she took advantage of the role as the adulteress in From Here to Eternity, which garnered her second Oscar nomination.  Ironically, Joan Crawford was slated to play the role but insisted on her own cameraman and other details, so the role went to Kerr instead.

king-and-iIt has been said that Maureen O’Hara was the choice for the role of the school mistress in The King and I, but Yul Brynner insisted on having Deborah Kerr, with this film giving her third Oscar nomination.

For Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Robert Mitchum was reluctant to work with her – thinking that she would personify the prim characters which had been her mainstay.  However, after she swore at director John Huston, Mitchum, who was in the water, almost drowned laughing.  He soon put his concerns to rest, and the two became life-long friends.  This film gave her the fourth Oscar nomination.

To round out the list, the other films for which she was nominated Best Actress were:  Separate Tables and The Sundowners.

In 1994, she was given an Honorary Oscar – presented by Glenn Close (who has since tied Kerr with six nominations without winning).  Upon entering the stage to accept her award, she received the longest standing ovation in Academy Award history.  One of the comments stated:  “An artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance.”  Indeed.


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . .

From the New York Times Crossword puzzle, August 15, 2015

15 Across  Symbol of the Franciscan order

Now, I did know that St. Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan order, but a symbol?   Well, a few minutes of research revealed the answer:  the Tau cross.  It seems self-explanatory that a priest would use a cross as his symbol, but the Tau cross has a great deal more meaning – particularly for the Franciscans.

Tau is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and was used by the prophet Ezekiel in 9:4:  “Go through the city of Jerusalem and put a TAU on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”  So the Tau symbol predates St. Francis by several centuries.

It was at the Fourth Laterntau-cross Council where Pope Innocent spoke of the Tau cross using the quote from Ezekiel and also stated that it was the shape of the cross on which Christ was crucified.  From that point on, Francis used it as his coat of arms and signed using the Tau and wrote it on the doors and places where he stayed.Also of interest is the fact that the cross is traditionally made of wood.  Why wood?  Well, it is flexible and responsive as the Christian should be to the word of God.

St. Bonaventure said, “This TAU symbol had all the veneration and all the devotion of the saint: he spoke of it often in order to recommend it, and he traced it on himself before beginning each of his actions.”

One of the better known stories of St. Francis was his blessing of  Brother Leo, in which Francis wrote on parchment, “May the Lord bless you and keep you! May the Lord show Hfrancissigndet250268is face to you and be merciful to you! May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace! God bless you Brother Leo!” Francis sketched a head (of Brother Leo) and then drew the TAU over this portrait.




My head is full of sunshine!

From the New York Times crossword puzzle, August 8, 2015
59 Down  Chess champion of the early 1960's

When he was named world chess champion, Mikhail Tal, used the quote in the title to describe his elation at his new status.  The journalist who was interviewing him was delighted at the phrase, thinking it was original.  However the quote was from Yves Montand.  The realization did nothing to dim Tal’s enthusiasm.  In answer to the clue for today’s post, he was the world chess champion from 1960 to 1961.

Born in Riga, Latvia in 1936, he learned to read at the age of three and actually started university at the age of fifteen.  Reportedly, he learned chess by watching his father.  He was fascinated by Mikhail Botvinnik and actually went to a tournament with the hope of playing a match with the master.  While he did not have the chance to play him at that time, from that point on, he began to study chess in earnest.  After being tutored by Alexander Koblents, his progress soared, and he won the Latvian championship in 1952, placing ahead of Koblents.

By 1954, at the age of eighteen, he was named a Soviet master of chess.  In 1956, he qualified for his first USSR Championship and won it the following year, being the youngest ever, at the age of 20.  While he had not won enough games to be named Grandmaster, but because of his win of the USSR championship, the rules were waived – the USSR led the world in chess dominance at that time.


Mikhail Tal in 1982

Known for his aggressive style of play and characterized by many for his creative moves – even called the Magician from Riga, he went up against his idol, Botvinnik, and defeated him in 1960 at the age of 23, making him the youngest chess champion ever at that time (Garry Kasparov would later break that record).  In a rematch, Botvinnik regained his title, having analyzed Tal’s moves in the interim.

After being defeated by Botvinnik, he won a match against Bobby Fischer in the Bled Tournament in 1961.  He never did qualify to play for the world title again.  In part, his poor health played a role in his sporadic playing.  Having suffered from various ailments since childhood, his chain smoking (up to five packs of cigarettes in one match!), heavy drinking and bohemian lifestyle did nothing to help matters.  He died in 1982 at the young age of 55.

While his bombastic style of chess playing was dismissed by many in the beginning, it is notable that he beat almost every known grandmaster with this same style.  His final game with Botvinnik which gave Tal the championship was one in which he sacrificed his knight.  This move so unnerved Botvinnik that he was unable to figure out his strategy and lost the game.  Not surprisingly, many other Latvians have emulated his playing style, giving rise to a Latvian School of Chess image for some.


The Sky (of sorts) is falling!

From The New York Times Crossword, August 5, 2015

6 Down  The orbital workshop was its largest component

These days I get more reminders that I am getting older.  A recent clue from the crossword brought back memories from high school.  The orbital workshop?  That was a puzzler.  After a few solvings of other clues, the answer was clear:  Skylab.  For anyone forty years old and older – the name Skylab will likely conjure up the mass hysteria that surrounded the beleaguered space station.

Back in 1979, it was announced that Skylab was exiting its orbit and was plummeting towards the earth.  Speculation abounded as people wondered which country or area of the planet would be obliterated.  In those days, you knew you had it made when Saturday Night Live parodied you in one of their weekly skits.  True to form, John Belushi acting as a news broadcaster, predicted the crashing of Skylab – he was subsequently pictured sitting in his basement wearing a crash helmet.

When it finally fell to earth, its landing was rather unspectacular with bits falling over the Pacific Ocean and some parts actually landing on Australia.  No one was injured, no country was demolished.  It was rather, boring.  Never mind that, T-shirts were printed and rushed to the stores with slogans such as, “I survived Skylab!”  Australia mined the event for all that it was worth.  The hysteria surrounding its demise ground to a whimper.

Just what was Skylab after all?  As the name suggests, it was a space station – operated by NASA which orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979.  It had a solar observatory and an orbital workshop.  Experiments were conducted, some of which proved the coronal holes in our sun.  Other accomplishments were thousands of photos of Earth taken from space as well as the extension of time spent in space by the crew.

NASA photo

NASA photo

The concept of a manned space station was first conceived by Werner von Braun as well as writer Arthur C. Clarke, among others.  The idea was first proposed by von Braun in 1959, but it took almost two decades for the project to be launched, so to speak.  Developments with NASA, the United States Air Force and manufacturing by McDonnell Douglas and computers from IBM all contributed to the space station.

It was planned that Skylab would remain in orbit until the 1980’s but in early 1978, greater than anticipated solar activity produced increased drag on its orbit, so scientists then predicted a much earlier return of the station.  The crash of the Soviet Union’s Cosmos 954 which dropped radioactive waste on Canada was largely responsible for the growing hysteria surrounding Skylab’s re-entry.

Landing near Western Australia, some viewers reported large fireworks display as it descended.  A part of it was actually on stage at the Miss Universe pageant held that year in Perth, Australia.

How the peacock got its look!

From the New York Times crossword, August 6, 2015

68 Across  One of many for Argus

Work the crosswords or watch Jeopardy, and almost every week there is a reference to mythology – sometimes Norse, sometimes Egyptian, but most commonly Greek or Roman.  If you’re like I am, you studied mythology at some point while in school but have long since forgotten many of the references.  Such is the case for the clue above – now in the puzzle, the answer was revealed by solving the surrounding clues:  eye.

Back to our mythology lesson:  Argus was a monster, sometimes called Panoptes because of his many eyes – by many reports at least one hundred of them.  As he always had at least a few eyes open even when asleep, he was considered the master watchman.  Hera, the wife of Zeus, appointed him to guard Io, who though in the guise of a heifer, was actually a nymph Zeus planned to seduce to create a new order of gods.

So, Argus was the beast of a hundred eyes, servant of Hera and guardian of Io – got it?  Zeus, even though, he was the king of the gods, could not get close to Io, so he hired Hermes to slay Argus.  Hermes was a god that was both divine and mortal and able to travel to both worlds.  In traditional mythology, he is known as the trickster, the herdsman, and the transporter of souls between the two worlds.  His counterpart in Roman mythology is Mercury.

PeacockHermes, once hired by Zeus, decided to disguise himself as a shepherd.  By using charms, Hermes managed to lull Argus to sleep and then killed him by hitting him with a stone – a rather anticlimatic end to the beast, it seems.  At any rate, Hera, according to Ovid, memorialized her faithful servant by putting his eyes into the peacock’s tail.