November 30 – Happy Birthday, Lucy Maud Montgomery

Posted on November 30, 2017

I've read about authors whose books languished - either unpublished, or mostly unknown and unread - during their lifetime, but became popular after they died.

This is not one of those stories.

Lucy Maud Montgomery, born on this date in 1874 on Prince Edward Island in Canada, was an instant hit with her very first novel, Anne of Green Gables.

Montgomery was prolific - that means she wrote a lot - with 20 novels, 530 short stories, 500 poems, and 30 essays to her credit. Even her non-published writings have been read, and even studied, as scholars have pored over her diaries and letters to learn which aspects of her writing are autobiographical.

Authors are generally told to "write what you know." This makes some sense - if you are, say, an Israeli girl who moves to Morocco, who else is going to write your story, if you do not?

(On the other hand, I'm glad that some authors take major flights of fantasy, or we wouldn't have the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter at Hogwarts, or science fiction!)

Montgomery wrote about her beloved Prince Edward Island and other Canadian locations, and she wrote about a girl who, like herself, thrilled at the beauties of nature. Of course, the Anne books and Montgomery's other novels are fiction, but her life inspired much in her books, and her books inspired interest in her life.

Green Gables farm - an actual farm that was owned by Montgomery's cousins - is a popular tourist site. Starting in the early 1900s, visitors from around the world began to visit Green Gables and the nearby town, and because of that interest, the farm and surrounding lands were made into Prince Edward Island National Park. Even now, the Green Gables farmhouse is one of the most-visited historic sites in all of Canada!

Today, get your Anne on. You can watch many different versions of Anne of Green Gables - movies, made-for-TV movies, TV series - both live-action and animated.

There have also been radio productions, plays, musicals, and web productions!

Here is a compilation of several different versions of an important scene from the story.

November 29 – Unity Day in Vanuatu

Posted on November 29, 2017

The idea of "unity" fits well with how this day is celebrated in the South Pacific Ocean nation of Vanuatu:

There's a parade of dancers in traditional costumes. There are music concerts and dance performances. There are sporting events. Families picnic or camp. There are even prayer meetings focusing on the unity of all the people.

However, the reason for the date does NOT fit in with "unity." November 29 is the anniversary of a 1977 scuffle between crowds of French-speaking Vanuatu residents and English-speaking Vanuatu residents, and police ended up tear gassing the crowds in order to get them to go their separate ways.

In remembrance of that day as a kind of warning what NOT to do, Vanuatu holds Unity Day.

In case you were wondering...

Why were French- and English-speakers duking it out on an island nation in the South Pacific? 

An island nation with a population of almost entirely Melanesian people...

An island nation that was first "discovered" (by Europeans) by a Portuguese navigator...

A nation with its largest island, Espíritu Santo, named in Spanish...

Well, as you know, European nations tried to colonize lands and rule over people all over the world. At the time that the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós spotted one of the islands of the Vanuatu archipelago, in 1606, Portugal and Spain were united under the Spanish king, and so the island was given a Spanish name. But the settlement on that island died out.

The long-lasting colonization happened in the late 1700s - and it was carried out by both French and British folks. French colonists wanted France to annex the islands, and British colonists wanted Britain to do the same. In order to solve the dispute peacefully, France and Britain agreed to administer the islands together - a unique form of government called the Anglo-French condominium.

Of course, the people wanted to govern themselves - and indeed Vanuatu was able to achieve independence in 1980.

These days, there are three official languages in Vanuatu: Bislama, French, and English.

When I think of South Pacific islands, I think of beaches, volcanoes, and tourism. Sure enough, those three things are big in Vanuatu.

Tourism is important - and growing - in Vanuatu. Here is a link to a tourism video. 

Vanuatu has so many lovely beaches, the people who list things like "Top 10 Beaches of Vanuatu" say that it's "almost a bit unfair to compare" the beaches, since so many of them are "more postcard-worthy" than the beaches wherever tourists are traveling from...

With 82 islands in its archipelago, many of them volcanic in origin, Vanuatu has two active volcanoes - and tourists actually get waaaaay closer than I can believe to erupting and smoking volcanic action!!!

Also on this date:

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest boards for:

And here are my Pinterest boards for:

November 28 – Happy Birthday, Jon Stewart

Posted on November 28, 2017

His parents divorced when he was just 11. His relationship with his dad was...well, shall we say "not good"? He even changed his last name, going by his first and middle name, to distance himself from his father.

He was bullied, to some extent, in school. Mostly because he was Jewish.

He didn't work all that hard in college, he claims (although his soccer coach reports that he had a lot of energy on the playing field). And after college, he had a ton of different jobs that don't require college degrees. From busboy to puppeteer, from caterer to bartender, from shelf-stocker to soccer coach...

None of that sets us up for the fact that Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, aka Jon Stewart, would become an American icon, one of the most trusted people on television, a big-time award winner, and someone who could retire in his early 50s with a net worth of 80 million dollars!

But that's what happened.

Mostly known for hosting The Daily Show with John Stewart, on Comedy Central, Stewart is a comedian, writer, producer, actor, political commentator, and TV host. 


Stewart has published two books, fathered two kids, and hosted two Academy Awards shows. 

(I bet the "two kids" part is by far-far-far-far most important to Stewart!)

I find it difficult to deal with the frustrations and agonies of the news without filtering it through someone like Jon Stewart, who reported and responded to news with humor and a sort of skeptical idealism.

Humor, satire, and informed skepticism are important for society, and it's wonderful that we reward comedians - especially intelligent comedians who binge-watch news - for their take on events and trends.

Check out some of the wit and wisdom of today's birthday celebrity: