June 16 - Bloomsday in Ireland

 Posted on June 16, 2021

This is an update of my post published on June 16, 2010:

Bloomsday celebrates the life and the work of Irish writer James Joyce. The holiday is mostly celebrated by fans of Joyce's novel Ulysses - and since all of the events in the novel took place in Dublin on June 16, 1904, and since the main character is named Leopold Bloom - well, Bloomsday on June 16 seems perfectly fitting!

Some fans even read the entire novel aloud—and that can take more than a day! Up to 36 hours!

Ulysses is more than 700 pages long - which is
really long considering that it describes events that
occur in the space of a single day!

Bloomsday was first mentioned in writing in 1924, although it is certainly possible that it was celebrated the year before that. Ulysses was first published in 1922.

In 1954, which is considered the 50th anniversary of the fictional events of the book, several literature fans reenacted the novel, assigning character roles to each participant, traveling to the spots where the characters went, etc. 

In 2004, before the 100th anniversary of the fictional events of the book, 10,000 people in Dublin were served a free full Irish breakfast: sausages, rashers, toast, beans, and black and white puddings.

Note that the Bloomsday participant above is dressed to
look like James Joyce (below).

In general (and when not locked down because of a deadly pandemic), Bloomsday is celebrated in Dublin by Ulysses readings and dramatizations, pub crawls, tours, concerts, and other events. Some folks dress up in Edwardian costumes.

Another city that celebrates Bloomsday is Szombathely, Hungary. Why there? you ask. Well, this is the (fictional) birthplace of (fictional) Leopold' Bloom's (fictional) father Virác Rudolf.

Of course, fans of Joyce or of Irish culture in general often celebrate Bloomsday wherever they live - in the U.S., in Italy, in New Zealand, on and on...

In 2020, because of COVID-19, articles were written about Bloomsday becoming a Zoomsday! Hopefully a lot of cities have enough vaccinated people to celebrate in-person this year.

Also on this date:

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest boards for:

And here are my Pinterest boards for:

June 15 - Happy Birthday, Malvina Hoffman

Posted on June 15, 2021

This is an update of my post published on June 15, 2010:

Born in New York City on this day in 1887, Malvina Hoffman was a sculptor. She is best known for a group of more than 100 life-size bronze statues of culturally diverse people. It was a commission for the Field Museum of Natural History, in Chicago, destined for the "Hall of Man."

Hoffman was brought up in an artistic family, with pianist parents and lots of varied musicians and artists invited to their home on a regular basis. She was homeschooled by her mother until age 10. When she completed her first sculpture, a clay bust of her father, he said to her, "My child, I am afraid you are going to be an artist." The sculptor responsible for Mt. Rushmore (Gutzon Borglum) also praised the sculpture, so even though Hoffman was also a talented singer and sketch artist, she decided to pursue sculpting.

Hoffman trained under Borglum and other sculptors, including French sculptor Auguste Rodin, who is considered the founder of modern sculpture.

The bronze statues Hoffman created for the Field Museum were first displayed in 1933, and they remained on display until Hoffman's death in 1966. Hoffman wrote that she intended to show the individuality and dignity of each of her subjects. 

However, the exhibit of her pieces, taken as a whole, tended to give a message that is now out of date: that racial differences are physical and that race categories are distinct. We now consider race to be a social construct that relates to geography, ethnic and cultural groups, ancestry and populations, and unfortunately to patterns of long-standing systemic segregation and discrimination.

A new exhibit of Hoffman's statues feature individuals' names and specific group names, whenever possible, and urge viewers to look for nuance and beauty in each sculpture.

Desideria Montoya Sanchez, member of a famous pottery-making family in New Mexico.

In the 1930s, this statue was labeled "San Ildefonso Pueblo Woman."

Here are some of Hoffman's pieces. What do you think?


June 14 - Flag Day in the United States

 Posted on June 14, 2021

This is an update of my post published on June 14, 2010:

On this date in 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution establishing the new country's flag as 13 red-and-white stripes and 13 white stars on a blue field. Each star and stripe represented one state.

This resolution didn't design a flag out of thin air, but rather confirmed as official one particular flag that was already in use.

I would say “Cue Betsy Ross,” referring to a popular legend that Betsy Ross designed and sewed the first U.S. flag, but apparently there isn't a lot of evidence that the legend is true. However, as an upholsterer, she definitely did sew many American flags (as did other seamstresses).

There is good evidence that Betsy Ross was the one who suggested a 5-pointed star rather than an earlier 6-pointed version.

Did you know...?

I'm sure you know that the stars of the U.S. flag haven't always been arranged in horizontal stripes. You've definitely seen flags with the stars arranged in a circle (see above). But - did you know that one version of a U.S. flag had the 5-pointed stars arranged in a "Great" 5-pointed star?

In 1795, there were 15 states in the new country, so there were 15 stars and 15 stripes on the flag. However, in 1818, when 5 more states and therefore 5 more stars were added, the stripes were reduced again to 13. (Thank goodness! What would the U.S. flag look like with 50 stripes?)

This flag is the one that 
inspired the U.S. national anthem, 
"The Star-Spangled Banner." 
It has 15 stripes.

The largest U.S. flag is called the “Superflag.” It is 505 feet long and 225 feet wide. It weighs 3,000 pounds, and it takes 500 people to unfurl! Each star is 17 feet high. Pictured here on Hoover Dam, the flag is owned by Thomas "Ski" Demski.

By the way, there are a lot of claims on the internet about this or that or this other flag being the largest in the world. Apparently the current official "largest flag," as acknowledged in the Guinness Book of World Records, was rolled out on the ground somewhere in Romania. It covered 
850,000 square feet (79,000 square meters) - but I'm not impressed. Is it really a "flag" if it can't fly???

One of the claims of the world's largest flag is in North Korea, near the border with South Korea. It flies from what used to be the world's tallest flagpole at (557 feet tall). I thought it was so interesting to note that the village it flies above is called "Peace Village" by North Koreans but "Propaganda Village" by everyone else. Because it isn't really a village! It's a fake, built to show an image of prosperity in hopes of luring folks to cross the border. Nobody lives there; there is no glass in the windows; electric lights run on timers. Maintenance workers bustle around as assigned, keeping up the lived-in appearance!

Learn about flags of the world

Enchanted Learning has a variety of world flag activities. Click around—there are lots of links to various categories of flags, plus color symbolism, flag shapes, and so forth. I clicked “Animals” and found out that animals as varied as  eagles, bears, lions, dragons, snakes, and bison. Peru's flag features a llama, and Uganda's flag features a Grey Crowned Crane.

A very complete website on vexillology (the study of flags) is called “Flags of the World.”