Saxophone Day

Adolphe Sax, born on November 6, 1814, was a Belgian instrument maker, flautist, and clarinetist. But most importantly for this day, he was the inventor of the saxophone. The saxophone is part of the family of woodwind instruments. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. Sax’s goal was to create the most powerful and adaptable brass woodwind instrument to fill the perceived gap between their respective sections, brass and woodwinds. Saxes come in nine varieties, Sopranissimo, the highest, Sopranino, Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone, Bass, Contrabass, and Subcontrabass, the lowest. However, most saxophonists use one of the four most popular types – tenor, baritone, alto, and soprano.

Sax didn’t do as well as he could from his invention. His patent was only for fifteen years, and once that ran out, he had to fight lawsuits from competitors. He died in 1894, a poor man, and is buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.

The saxophone, patented in 1846, was originally intended for the military. However, it soon expanded to other types of ensembles, from classical to rock. Once the sax made its way to America, it was adopted by jazz players and is today most often thought of as a jazz instrument. It seems particularly suited for that improvisational style. If you look at a listing of great sax players, most are jazz musicians.

The sax has a lovely warm sound. Days of the Year, puts it like this: “That sultry wail on a mist-ridden street, the seductive tones of Kenny G, and the rich warm sound of a jazzy riff. These sounds truly capture the heart and imagination of their listeners…” If you want to celebrate this day by listening to some saxophone music (and you should) you will find many lovely pieces on YouTube.

Quotes about saxophones

Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you.–Charlie Parker

The saxophone is so human. Its tendency is to be rowdy, edgy, talk too loud, bump into people, say the wrong words at the wrong time, but then, you take a breath all the way from the center of the earth and blow. All that heartache is forgiven. All that love we humans carry makes a sweet, deep sound and we fly a little.–Joy Harjo

If you like an instrument that sings, play the saxophone. At its best it’s like the human voice.–Stan Getz

That’s the beautiful thing about the saxophone. It can peacefully coexist with just about anything – whether it’s hip-hop, rap, rock music, pop, R&B or jazz, there’s a place for the saxophone in all of those styles.–Dave Koz

I’d loved the clarinet, but there’s something about the saxophone that just grabs you.–Matana Roberts

The potential for the saxophone is unlimited.–Steve Lacy

As a horn player, the greatest compliment one can get is when a person comes to you and says, ‘I heard this saxophone on the radio the other day and I knew it was you. I don’t know the song, but I know it was you on sax.’–Clarence Clemons

I like what Oliver Lakes does on the saxophone. The saxophone comes pretty close to the sound of the human voice and when Oliver plays with other sax players, it’s like a dialogue.–Yusef Komunyakaa

And I saw the sax line-up that he had behind him and I thought, I’m going to learn the saxophone. When I grow up, I’m going to play in his band. So I sort of persuaded my dad to get me a kind of a plastic saxophone on the hire purchase plan.–David Bowie

I practice my saxophone three hours a day. I’m not saying I’m particularly special, but if you do something three hours a day for forty years, you get pretty good at it.–Kenny G

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King Tut Day

November 4 is the day we remember the boy king Tutankhamun because, on this date in 1922, Howard Carter discovered his tomb.

Tutankhamun was born circa 1341 B.C.E.. His father was likely Akhenaten, who had forbidden the worship of many gods in favor of worshiping one, Aten, the sun disk. This had led to much social unrest in Egypt of that time. Following a 17-year reign, he was gone, probably forced to abdicate, and died soon after. His nine-year-old son, Tutankhaten, took over around 1332 B.C.E. He married his half-sister Ankhesenpaaten, who was the same age as he was. The couple had two children, one a miscarriage, and the second stillborn.

Advised by his regent Ay, Tut undid the reforms of his father and reinstated the Egyptian pantheon. The action settled things down, and he seems to have ruled peacefully for about ten years until he suddenly died. The current thinking is that it was from infection from a broken bone, but no one really knows what happened. Tut was buried in a smaller tomb, likely because his own was not ready. However, shortly after his death, General Horemheb seized power and immediately set about wiping Tutankhamun’s name from the official records, He virtually disappeared from history until his tomb was discovered all those years later.

Because of the unexpected death of the young ruler, the tomb was apparently assembled hastily. The antechamber was piled high, in disarray, with gold-covered furniture and dismantled chariots. The annex was full of more gold covered furniture, jars of precious oils and ointments and also food and wine. The burial chamber contained the gold covered shrines and coffins of Tutankhamun.

And finally, for an irreverent look at King Tut, check out this video by Steve Martin from Saturday Night Live.

Quotes about King Tut, Egypt, and Pyramids

When I die, now don’t think that I’m a nut, don’t want no fancy funeral, just one like old King Tut.–Steve Martin

You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions. Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not. ‘Have you found joy in your life?’ ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’–Morgan Freeman

From the heights of these pyramids, forty centuries look down on us.–Napoleon Bonaparte

They say the Pharaohs built the pyramids Do you think one Pharaoh dropped one bead of sweat? We built the pyramids for the Pharaohs and we’re building for them yet.–Anna Louise Strong

The pyramid shape is said to hold many secrets and amazing properties. One of them is a sense of wonder.–Vera Nazarian

The pyramids, attached with age, have forgotten the names of their founders.–R. Buckminster Fuller

Today the traveller on the Nile enters a wonderland at whose gates rise the colossal pyramids of which he has had visions perhaps from earliest childhood.–James Henry Breasted

History fades into fable; fact becomes clouded with doubt and controversy; the inscription molders from the tablet: the statue falls from the pedestal. Columns, arches, pyramids, what are they but heaps of sand; and their epitaphs, but characters written in the dust?–Washington Irving

Pyramids, cathedrals, and rockets exist not because of geometry, theories of structures, or thermodynamics, but because they were first a picture- literally a vision-in the minds of those who built them.–Eugene S. Ferguson

Ancient astronauts didn’t build the pyramids. Human beings built the pyramids, because they’re clever and they work hard.–Gene Roddenberry

Build your own pyramids, write your own hieroglyphs.–Kendrick Lamar

A country, after all, is not something you build as the pharaohs built the pyramids, and then leave standing there to defy eternity. A country is something that is built every day out of certain basic shared values.–Pierre Trudeau

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Look for Circles Day

Every November 2, we celebrate circles. Think of all the circles we see each day, from buttons to wheels on vehicles to coins to the dot over the letter “I”. Circles are everywhere.

Circles have great meaning in many cases. A ring is given in marriage to represent the unbroken promise of love. We use wreaths at Christmas to help celebrate the circle of life. These go back to northern Europe, where candles were lit around wagon wheels laid on their side. Celtic crosses are often carved with a circle around the cross, signifying the world. National Whatever Day, puts it like this: “The circle has been associated with; centering, completion, cycles, focus, infinity, mobility, moon, sun, and wholeness. To the Native Americans, the circle is the sun, the moon and her children. The Chinese use the circle to represent the union between heaven and earth.”

A circle can represent protection. We speak of “circling the wagons,” when there is trouble. Of course, this can be a bad thing too, as sometimes people circle their wagons to keep new ideas out. In medieval times, cities were surrounded by thick walls.

Sometimes we go around in circles, meaning we aren’t getting anywhere. Or someone talented might run rings around someone else. We might go around the block when taking a walk. Or someone experienced may be said to have been around the block.

Solid circles, or spheres are used in sports – baseball, basketball, soccer (or football, depending on where you are from). Hockey uses a round puck.

Foods can be round, like tomatoes, melons, oranges, apples, or blueberries. Of course, planets are round, more or less.

So today is the day to become aware of all the circles in your life and your day. See how many you can find – you might be surprised!

Quotes about circles

A circle is the reflection of eternity. It has no beginning and it has no end – and if you put several circles over each other, then you get a spiral.–Maynard James Keenan

A circle is a round straight line with a hole in the middle.–Mark Twain

I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world.–Rainer Maria Rilke

A circle may be small, yet it may be as mathematically beautiful and perfect as a large one.–Isaac D’Israeli

Gardeners instinctively know that flowers and plants are a continuum and that the wheel of garden history will always be coming full circle.–Francis Cabot Lowell

The whole universe is based on rhythms. Everything happens in circles, in spirals.–John Hartford

Do not bind the children within the narrow circles of your own lives.–Charles Hamilton Houston

Circle are praised, not that abound, In largeness, but the exactly round.–Edmund Waller

Life comes full circle.–Tracey Gold

Circles create soothing space…–Margaret J. Wheatley

The life of man is a self-evolving circle.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Before you can be eccentric, you must know where the circle is…–Ellen Terry

Circles in water as they wider flow
The less conspicuous in their progress grow,
And when at last they trench upon the shore,
Distinction ceases and they’re view’d no more.
George Crabbe

Everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the power of the world always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken the people flourished.–Black Elk

The mind petrifies if a circle be drawn around it, and it can hardly be denied that dogma draws a circle round the mind.–George Moore

If people stand in a circle long enough, they’ll eventually begin to dance.–George Carlin

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October 31 is not only Halloween, but is also a special day for several related holidays. I’ll get to those in a minute. Halloween came to us from Celtic Samhain, which I wrote about last year. You can find the link to that here. (I’m reusing the same quotes, so if you do go there, you won’t need to read them.)

Today, rather than marking the end of harvest, Halloween is a chance to dress up, pig out on candy, and give everyone a chance to see one’s children in costume on Facebook. But Halloween has spawned a multitude of similarly themed holidays on this day. October 31 is also Books for Treats Day, or in another version, All Hallows Read. It is Carve a Pumpkin Day, National Candy Apple Day, National Knock-Knock Jokes Day, National Doorbell Day, National Increase Your Psychic Powers Day, National Magic Day, Scare a Friend Day, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF Day, and Sneak Some of the Candy Yourself Before the Kids Start Knocking Day.

So you see, you have a wide variety to choose from!

Halloween isn’t a popular as it was when I was a child, or at least not in the same way. I lived in a subdivision, and we had dozens of houses to go to to ask for treats. My mother used to give out over 200 pieces of candy each year. But for the last few years I had no children at all come to my door. Still, it is nice to see the creative Halloween decorations in stores right now. I hope you have a safe and joyous holiday.

Quotes about Halloween

A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.–Erma Bombeck

Never let your kids buy an off-the-shelf Halloween costume. Forbid it, no matter how close you may be to the witching hour. Instead, help them make their own. Encourage them to use their imaginations and their ingenuity. Show them that what can be created is often better than what can be bought. And besides, don’t the darkest, most frightening things live inside us anyway?–Joe Kita

Hold on, man. We don’t go anywhere with “scary,” “spooky,” “haunted,” or “forbidden” in the title.–From Scooby-Doo

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.
~Author unknown

I don’t know that there are real ghosts and goblins, but there are always more trick-or-treaters than neighborhood kids.–Robert Brault

Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees, “Tonight is Halloween!”–Dexter Kozen

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
~ Scottish saying

Nothing beats a haunted moonlit night on All Hallows Eve… And on this fatal night, at this witching time, the starless sky laments black and unmoving. The somber hues of an ominous, dark forest are suddenly illuminated under the emerging face of the full moon.–Kim Elizabeth

The worst thing about Halloween is, of course, candy corn. It’s unbelievable to me. Candy corn is the only candy in the history of America that’s never been advertised. And there’s a reason. All of the candy corn that was ever made was made in 1911. And so, since nobody eats that stuff, every year there’s a ton of it left over.–Lewis Black

It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin – and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.–Erin Morgenster

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National Hermit Day

For some of us, October 29 comes as a welcome holiday, since we naturally lean towards a more solitary life. For others, this sounds like a difficult thing to do, as they are more socially minded. But whatever your natural bent, today is a day to stand back from the crowd and be on your own.

St. Colman of Ireland lived as a hermit in in the Burren Forest in a cave for seven years. He died on October 29, and it is believed that today’s holiday is in honor of him. People who want to get away from the pressures of the world and live by themselves, may be found in all over the world. For many, this is a spiritual practice, as the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the third century CE onwards. The Irish are also noted for this practice. There are no deserts in Ireland, so the Irish hermits tended to find remote, rocky places to build a small hut away from others.

These hermits attracted others, both because of their lifestyle and piety. They sometimes formed small communities, or monasteries. In Ireland these would be presided over by a male or female abbot, and were sometimes had both male and female members.

Today, for most of us, this doesn’t appeal as a permanent lifestyle. Yet, though humans are social animals, we also need a certain amount of alone time to gather our thoughts and to unwind from the demands of life. Today is the day to do that without feeling guilty. Detach from social media. Turn off your phone and television. Shut the door and read a book, or write your thoughts or simply meditate. Take whatever time feels right for you, whether that’s a snatched fifteen minutes, or an entire day. Feel what it’s like to be quiet and alone, at least for a little while.

Quotes about solitude.

All humans are frightened of their own solitude. But only in solitude can we learn to know ourselves, learn to handle our own eternal aloneness.–Han Suyin

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.–Alice Koller

Do not rely completely on any other human being, however dear. We meet all life’s greatest tests alone.–Agnes Macphail

Each of us is alone in the world. It takes great courage to meet the full force of your aloneness. … When you face your aloneness, something begins to happen. Gradually, the sense of bleakness changes into a sense of true belonging. This is a slow and open-ended transition but it is utterly vital in order to come into rhythm with your own individuality. –John O’Donohue

I feel the same way about solitude as some people feel about the blessing of the church. It’s the light of grace for me. I never close my door behind me without the awareness that I am carrying out an act of mercy toward myself.–Peter Hoeg

I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.–Audrey Hepburn

I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.–Henry David Thoreau

Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.–Pearl S. Buck

It is in solitude that the works of hand, heart and mind are always conceived, and in solitude that individuality must be affirmed.–Robert Lindner

The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.–Aldous Huxley

Solitude can be frightening because it invites us to meet a stranger we think we may not want to know–ourselves.–Melvyn Kinder

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Potato Day

According to one Web site I found, today is National Potato Day. I’m not totally convinced that it is accurate, but since I am currently in Ireland, how could I pass up a day to celebrate potatoes? French fries, that is, chips, are particularly popular here. You can get chips with anything, including Chinese take away.

Potatoes have been important to Irish life for a long time. Back in the middle eighteenth century, most poor people depended on them almost exclusively, so when a potato blight hit in 1845 and again in the next several years, it caused massive disruption. From a population of eight million, historians tell us that a million people died, and another million emigrated.

The potato was first cultivated inn Peru, some seven to ten thousand years ago. Spanish conquistadors brought the vegetable to Europe in the 1500s. Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland in 1589 on the 40,000 acres of land near Cork. It took nearly four decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe.

There are something like four thousand varieties of potatoes, divided into a few main groups, such as russets, reds, whites, yellows (also called Yukons) and purples—based on common characteristics. For cooking, varieties are differentiated by their characteristics. Floury, or mealy (baking) potatoes have more starch (20–22%) than waxy (boiling) potatoes (16–18%).

In recent years, scientists have genetically engineered potatoes to protect them from the blight I mentioned above, and various insects, such as the Colorado potato beetle, which can also infest them.

So whether you prefer them mashed, boiled, or fried, potatoes are a perfect comfort food. And they are so versatile, being eaten for breakfast as hash browns, or for lunch or supper in stews, or soups, or formed into potato pancakes, we celebrate the potato today.

Quotes about potatoes

My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with.–Oprah Winfrey

They who derive their worth from their ancestors resemble potatoes, the most valuable part of which is underground.–Francis Bacon

They who derive their worth from their ancestors resemble potatoes, the most valuable part of which is underground.–Francis Bacon

Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.–Alan Watts

What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.–A. A. Milne

Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.–Diane Duane

I appreciate the potato only as a protection against famine, except for that, I know of nothing more eminently tasteless.–Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Both sides of my family had come from Ireland in the 19th century for the same reason: There was nothing to eat over there. Since then, I’ve tried to make up for the potato famine by making the potato the only vegetable that passes these lips.–Art Donovan

For me, a plain baked potato is the most delicious one….It is soothing and enough.–M. F. K. Fisher

If shoppers looked at crooked carrots, misshapen potatoes, slightly dinged apples or too-small peaches and thought, wow, that looks delicious, imagine the benefits for struggling farmers.–Dana Cowin

In life, one is entitled to a side dish of either coleslaw or potato salad, and the choice must be made in terror, with the knowledge that not only is our time on earth limited but most kitchens close at ten.–Woody Allen

My childhood favourite is mum’s shepherd’s pie, Yorkshire pudding and roasted potatoes. I remember coming home from school and going to the kitchen to help her. It’s because of her that I discovered my love for cooking.–Gordon Ramsay

Judging foods without regard to price is a rich mans game, and yet poor people can be gourmets able to discern a good potato from a bad one.–Mark Kurlansky

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International Artists Day

Since 2004, we have celebrated October 25 as International Artists Day. This holiday was founded by Chris MacClure, a Canadian artist who specializes in the style known as “Romantic Realism.” Art scholar John Baur described this art type as “a form of realism modified to express a romantic attitude or meaning.” If that still leaves you confused, you are not alone! Looking at the paintings done by Chris MacClure, it seems to me his art conveys the optimistic side of life, and the beauty of nature, but I am no expert.

At any rate, this day was created to honor all the contributions artists have given society, and to raise awareness of art and artists. Art has been an important part of the human experience for time out of mind. The first records of the world are not written in books, but are captured in paintings, sculptures, and music, which helps to paint a picture of world lost to the past. But it is not only a day to remember the artistic endeavors of the past, but also to celebrate living artists.

By the way, this day is not just to honor painters. Artists work with many different mediums. They include painters, photographers, sculptors, musicians, dancers, writers, actors, digital artists and more. I would also include those who do what might be called practical art, such as working in fiber or clay or wood, to make those things we use every day.

The very best way to celebrate this day is to support a local artist. But if that is not possible, then attend a concert or go to an art gallery or to a museum to see arts of the past. At the very least stop to appreciate those who make the world a more beautiful place.

Quotes about art

The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inner significance.—Aristotle

All great art … creates in the beholder not self-satisfaction but wonder and awe. Its great liberation is to lift us out of ourselves.–Dorothy Thompson

Any form of art is a form of power, it has impact, it can affect change–it can not only move us, it makes us move.–Ossie Davis

Art affirms all that is best in man — hope, faith, love, beauty, prayer…What he dreams of and what he hopes for. What is art? Like a declaration of love: the consciousness of our dependence on each other. A confession. An unconscious act that none the less reflects the true meaning of life—love and sacrifice.–Andrei Tarkovsk

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.–Pablo Picasso

[The artist] speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation–and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear…which binds together all humanity–the dead to the living and the living to the unborn.–Joseph Conrad

The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world.–G. K. Chesterton

The finest works of art are precious, among other reasons, because they make it possible for us to know, if only imperfectly and for a little while, what it actually feels like to think subtly and feel nobly.–Aldous Huxley

It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.–Anais Nin

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