Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater

I recently monitored an art class, and was intrigued by a carved pumpkin in the back of the room, which looked like this:

The next day, I ran into the instructor for the class, who told me that he was inspired by the work of a man named Ray Villafane, who owns a studio in Phoenix. You can view some of his creations at the link below:

My favorite is the deranged clown shown below:

If you would like to read more about the artist, click on the link below:

Although his specialty is carved pumpkins, he also has done some sand carving as well, which you can also see at the villafanestudios.com link shown above.

We have all carved numerous pumpkins in our lives, but none of them could hold a candle (pun intended) to the work of Mr. Villafane. Only in America could a man make a living carving pumpkins!

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Mary and the grasshoppers

If you are even remotely familiar with the Old Testament, you are aware of the fact that the ancient Egyptians, due to their enslavement of the Israelites, suffered 10 plagues, one of which was the invasion of the locusts. The other plagues included frogs, lice, hail, boils, and the death of every first born Egyptian son.

More than 2000 years later, you would think that the locust plague was ancient history – but you would be wrong.

In 2013, the locusts came back to Egypt. Although it is difficult to get an accurate count, it is estimated that 30 million locusts invaded Egypt in the early months of 2013, just before the Jewish Passover.

Not surprisingly, Egypt is not the only place that has been invaded by locusts, but before I explore the other locations, it is important to know exactly WHAT a locust is.

In essence, a locust is virtually the same as a grasshopper, and the distinction between the two lies in their behavioral patterns. If the critters turn into a swarm, then they have morphed from grasshoppers to locusts.

In the 1870’s, my home state of Minnesota suffered FIVE YEARS of a grasshopper invasions. From 1873 until 1877, the grasshoppers/locusts came every year, and devastated crops in most of the state. The farmers affected by the plagues tried every thing that they could think of, but none of the remedies seemed to work. In the spring of 1877, Minnesota governor John S. Pillsbury designated April 26 as a day of prayer. Although rain turned to snow that night, potentially freezing the varmints out, they were as plentiful as ever after the storm passed.

In July of 1877, the residents of the town of Cold Spring, Minnesota, erected a chapel to honor the Blessed Virgin. The official name for the chapel is Assumption Chapel, but it is also known as Grasshopper Chapel. The first mass at the chapel was held on August 15, and not long after that, the grasshoppers virtually disappeared.

In 1892, a tornado tossed the chapel into a nearby woods, entirely destroying the structure. The only thing that remained on the original structure was the statute of the Blessed Virgin, which was undamaged. In 1952, the chapel was finally rebuilt. Each year, a mass is held on the site on August 15, and daily masses are said each year for 7 weeks in the spring in order to bring blessings during the planting season.

You may or not believe that the disappearance of the grasshoppers in 1877 was a miracle, but it would not be much of a stretch to say that it was. Over the past few centuries, the Vatican has researched 295 apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, but has officially recognized only 12, the most recent being the 2008 approval of the 17th and 18th century apparitions of Our Lady of Laus.

The 2nd largest religious group in the United States is the one that includes Americans without a religious affiliation. At 22.8% of the population, it is a larger group than Catholics, who are 20.8 % of the population, but a lot smaller than the group labeled “Protestants”, who make up 46.5% of our population.

I have never personally witnessed any miracles, but I HAVE been to Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois, where some VERY miraculous occurrences have taken place.

In my opinion, it is totally irrelevant what your religious views are. However, even if you are totally irreligious, it is always wise to allow room for the miracles that WILL occur sometime during your lifetime. If you don’t believe me, take a trip to Cold Spring, Minnesota.

I think that you will see the light.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap

Soap is one of those products that we all use on a daily basis. Very few of us would consider it to be a very exciting product, nor would we consider it to be controversial in any way.

In colonial and early pioneer days, everyone had to make their own soap, since you couldn’t simply go to the store and buy the stuff. Needless to say, it was a time consuming and arduous task, and it didn’t always turn out the way that you wanted it. The link below provides some of the details about the process:

On November 6, 1959, Richard DeVos and Jay Van Andel started a company called Amway, and their product line was almost exclusively health, beauty, and home care products. Initially, the company’s ONLY product was an organic liquid cleaner, but it soon added other products as well. Rather than sell their products in retail stores, the company relied on a multi-level marketing system to sell and distribute its goods. The company’s sales strategy turned out to be extremely successful. In 2014, the company’s annual sales were $11.8 billion, and the products are sold in 80 countries. As of today’s date, Richard DeVos is worth $5.1 billion. Upon his death, his son Dick (and his wife Betsy) will inherit that vast fortune, which is larger than the net worth of Betsy’s new boss, Donald Trump, who is “only” worth $3.7 billion.

In the early 1970’s, a woman named Marilyn Chambers played the role of the Ivory Snow Girl. Since the Ivory Snow Girl was “99 and 44/100ths percent pure”, her role would not have been the least bit controversial. However, Proctor and Gamble soon discovered that she was the starring actress in a 1972 adult film titled “Behind the Green Door”, and she quickly became the FORMER Ivory Snow Girl.

Despite their best intentions, even large companies sometimes make mistakes in their advertising campaigns, and Dove is the latest example of a company stepping in dog doo doo.

Although the company stated that its intent with the latest ad was to be inclusive, it turned out to be racially insensitive, and it was not the first time that the company had made a similar error.

I’m fairly certain that there will be people in our country who will stop buying Dove products, but I’m also fairly certain that the “controversy” will soon be forgotten by most of us, and the company will not suffer very much for its error. The Dove brand commands a 21% share of the personal cleansing category, significantly higher than the 14% share held by second place Dial. Dove’s parent, Unilever, has annual annuals in excess of $50 billion,   

Dove quickly apologized for its ad, and quickly withdrew it, effectively “washing their mouth out with soap”. The fact that they “came clean” in a timely manner makes it much easier to move on to their next campaign, and we can all move concern ourselves with the NEXT “crisis of the week”.