November 26 – Anniversary of the Premiere of Casablanca

Posted on November 26, 2015

It's a romance.
It's a drama.
And it's one of the most famous movies of the 1940s, with a Best Picture academy award plus many other accolades and awards.

Actually, many people rank Casablanca as one of the best movies of all time!

This movie is set in Northern Africa, in the town of Casablanca, Morocco, during World War II. I think it is interesting that the movie was made, surprisingly quickly, actually during World War II. Of course, it wasn't shot on location (although a few short clips of stock footage of Paris was used for a flashback section); instead, it was shot entirely in a studio in Burbank, except for a short sequence filmed at a Southern California airport.

When I say that the movie was made “surprisingly quickly,” here is the timetable:

  • 1941 – story editor discovers a never-before-produced play
  • Jan. 1942 – rights to play purchased
  • late May 1942 – filming begins
  • early Aug. 1942 – filming ends
  • spring 1942 – planned release date
  • BUT – in the actual war – early to mid-Nov. 1942 – Allied forces invade French North Africa and take over Casablanca
  • SO – to take advantage of the hubbub over this Allied victory in Casablanca and North Africa – Nov. 26, 1942 – world premiere of the movie Casablanca!

Less than a year from the purchase of the rights until the world premiere of the completed movie? That's pretty quick for a major motion picture. Most movies take from a year to a year-and-a-half to make, but some major motion pictures take longer. Some take decades! (The pre-production stuff like writing a script, getting rights, and hashing out funding often takes a long time.)

Here are a few of the famous lines from Casablanca:

  • Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.
  • Play it again, Sam. (or something like that!)
  • I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
  • Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of.
  • ...It doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
  • Here's looking at you, kid.

To celebrate this historical anniversary, all you have to do is watch the movie! (If you live in the U.S., that might be after all the cooking and feasting and cleaning!)

Also on this date:


Proclamation Day in Mongolia

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November 25 – Statehood Day in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Posted on November 25, 2015

With Bosnia and Herzegovina's complicated and all-too-often violent history, it's difficult to agree on a certain day to celebrate the nation as a nation. That said, many regions in the nation celebrate November 25 as a sort of National Day.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the six nations that came into being when Yugoslavia ceased to exist, in 1992.

If you think that this country's name is long and difficult to pronounce, wait until I tell you that it is actually made up to two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic Srpska (which, frankly, doesn't have enough vowels in its name), plus a self-governing administrative unit called the Brcko District (also too few vowels)!

Yellow - Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
 Orange - Republika Srpska
Pale green - Brcko District

The name “Bosnia” comes from an Indo-European word bosana, which means water. So let's check out some of the more beautiful of the watery sights to see in the nation:

Stari Most

This popular bridge stood for more than four centuries but was destroyed by Croat forces in 1993 during the Croat-Bosniak War.

Well, that won't do! The bridge was one of the country's most recognizable landmarks and was considered a great example of Islamic architecture. So the bridge was reconstructed and reopened in 2004.

This bridge is a popular spot for bridge jumping and bridge diving.
(This is a composite photo of one tourist jumping off the bridge!)

Rama Lake

Prokosko Lake

Boracko Lake

Vrelo Bune (Buna Springs)

Trebizat River

Pliva Waterfall and watermills

Skakavac Waterfalls

From what I can tell, there is a series of falls and
cascades in Skakavac. Not a TON of water flow...

...which makes the falls a great place for "base jumping"
in summer, and a gorgeous frozen display in winter.

Strbacki Waterfalls

Kravice Waterfalls

Also on this date:

Blasé Day  

Evacuation Day

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November 24 – Anniversary of D.B. Cooper's Skyjacking

Posted on November 24, 2015

This is very weird for me:

A man the media named D.B. Cooper skyjacked an airliner in order to extort $200,000 in ransom, and he might have died when he parachuted away with the money, but he may have gotten away with it. All of that's unusual (thank goodness), and the case is singular because it is the ONLY unsolved air piracy in American history. But the thing that is so weird for me is that there are Cooper fans who gather together once a year to talk about the unsolved case.

I shudder at the thought of celebrating someone who hijacks a plane!

Although, if you were going to celebrate a skyjacker, D.B. Cooper would be the right one, because he was calm, polite, and he never hurt anyone.

Still, he threatened everyone with a bomb (if it really was a bomb).

At the time of the hijacking, on this date in 1971, there had been no 9-11, there had been no flying planes into buildings and killing everyone on board. At the time, officials generally cooperated with hijackers at least long enough to save the passengers' lives and hopefully the lives of the flight crew as well.

This is the sketch of "Cooper"
created from descriptions
by eyewitnesses.
Here's what happened (briefly stated): a man dressed in a business suit and calling himself Dan Cooper bought an airplane ticket at the Portland, Oregon, Airport; he bought a one-way ticket to the nearby city of Seattle, Washington, just a 30-minute flight. When in the air, the man informed a flight attendant that he had a bomb and wanted $200,000 in “negotiable American currency”; he also demanded four parachutes (two primary and two reserve) and food for the flight crew.

The airplane circled the Seattle and Tacoma area while the FBI got together the parachutes and ransom money. Then it landed at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, and Cooper released the passengers and most of the flight crew when he got the parachutes and the money. The plane was refueled. Cooper told the pilots that, when they took off again, they would fly toward Mexico City, with a refueling stop in Reno, Nevada. He made some really specific demands about flying – wing flaps lowered, landing gear in takeoff and landing position, certain speed and altitude, and so on.
Shortly after takeoff, Cooper told the flight attendant to join the pilots in the cockpit and stay there with the door closed. And shortly after that, the flight crew saw from warning lights that the aircraft's rear exit door was open and its staircase had been extended. A few minutes after that, the crew noticed a sudden upward movement from the airplane's tail section. They wondered if Cooper had jumped out already.

About two hours later, the airliner finally landed in Reno. Of course FBI agents, state troopers, Reno police, and sheriff deputies surrounded the jet and then searched the plane. They were able to confirm that Cooper was indeed gone. Two of the parachutes and a black clip-on tie were left behind.

Of course officials studied the flight path from Seattle toward Reno and began a manhunt to find and arrest Cooper, if he survived his jump. And, as you can imagine, they concentrated their efforts over the spot that the airliner was when the crew felt that tail-section dip. However, the FBI never found Cooper or his body, and they never found the parachute. Also, they didn't find the money (which had been carefully photographed before it was turned over to the hijacker, so that they would be able to track serial numbers if he ever spent the money).

The money that was found
still had intact rubber bands, but
the money itself was pretty
That is, they didn't find the money THEN. Nine years later, in 1980, a young boy was digging a fire pit in a sand bar. He uncovered three bundles of twenty-dollar bills, with their rubber bands still intact. The serial numbers matched the some of the money that was given to Cooper! The money ($5,800) was not found anywhere along the flight of the plane, but of course could have been carried by Cooper or someone else and then buried, or it could have washed down a river before being buried in the sand by natural processes.

But despite years of investigation, enlisting the public's help, quite a few fingerprints found on the tie clip and unused parachute, and all the info given from passengers and especially flight crew, including sketches from the sketch artist – we still don't know who Dan Cooper really was, and we don't know what happened to him.

Oh, and why do we call Dan Cooper (not his real name) “D.B. Cooper”? It was a mistake made by a hurried reporter – but the name stuck in the public's mind. And since one alias is as good as another, D.B. Cooper it shall remain, unless we ever do discover the man's real identity.

Find out more, including all the details that people still debate, at Citizen Sleuths.

Because Cooper hijacked the plane and jumped on the day before Thanksgiving, every year the Saturday after Thanksgiving is the D.B. Cooper Festival. And it is held in the Ariel Store in Ariel, Washington, because this spacious tavern was sort of HQ for the gigantic ground search for Cooper.

I gather that the FBI still maintains and active case file on the skyjacking. And it is now 60 volumes!!

This air pirate -- who, again, endangered the lives of 42 people and caused a lot of inconvenience and expensive investigations for many, many more people -- has somehow created a cult following. There have been songs, books and comic books, movies, and Cooper-themed promotions in restaurants, bowling alleys, and more...

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November 23 – National Eat a Cranberry Day

Posted on November 23, 2015

When you hear the word “bog,” do you think of muddy, swampy land, deadly quicksand, and the pungent smells of rotting plants?

Or do you think of still pools of water gone bright red with ripe cranberries?

Cranberries grow on dwarf shrub plants that grow in wetlands, sometimes partly submerged in water. The wetlands aren't just any wet place – for cranberries, the bogs must be acidic. The flower of this plant tends to bend toward the ground and looks a bit like the head, neck, and bill of a crane – and that is where the name cranberry comes from.

In order to make harvesting easier, cranberry growers flood the bog with more water so that the vines are entirely submerged, and a harvester is driven through the beds to remove fruit from the vines. Released from the plant, the cranberries float at the top of the pools and can be easily sucked up via a hose.

Actually, there is another, less common, method of dry harvesting, which is how most of the cranberries used to sell fresh in bags are harvested. 

The more usual wet harvesting method is fine for making cranberry juice and cranberry sauce, which is how 95% of cranberries are used. 

Some people prefer cranberry sauce (above).
and others prefer cranberry jelly (below).

And then there is my favorite: dried, sweetened cranberries in Trader Joe's cereal.

Here are some of the favorite cranberry recipes my family uses at this time of year:

We make an uncooked cranberry relish rather than a cooked cranberry sauce, to go along with our turkey dinner at Thanksgiving time. It's really yummy!

1 bag fresh cranberries 
1 seedless orange, washed 
Use a grinder to grind up the cranberries and the orange, rind and all. Add sugar to taste. Be conservative with the sugar at first, and let the relish sit overnight and then taste again. If you need more sugar, you can add a bit more. (Just remember, you can always add more, but you cannot take sugar out!)

Also, this festive salad is great for holiday meals:

romaine lettuce in bite-sized pieces (one large head or two bags)
1 pear, cored and cubed 
1 apple, cored and cubed 
1 cup cashews 
¼ cup dried cranberries 
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Dressing - blend together:
½ cup sugar
1/3 - cup lemon juice
2 tsp. finely chopped onion
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. salt
2/3 cup oil
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds 

On “Eat a Cranberry Day,” remember that you can enjoy many cranberry products and recipes, but you can't eat raw cranberries – they are hard and very sour!

Also on this date:

Dr. Who Day

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