Thursday, October 28, 2010

2010.10.28 — Is it me being a jerk, or is life jerking my fushigi chains?

Have you ever wondered where the name 'jerk', as in jerk chicken or jerk pork, came from? Earlier this week, on Tuesday I believe, the Canadian Food Network cook, Michael Smith did. He asked it out loud while I was cooking in the kitchen and my wife was watching him make jerk pork (I think). He said, paraphrased from memory, 'I bet it comes from the head jerking back when you get hit by all those flavours!' (Or words to that affect.)

So, I ask, is life jerking me around, am I slowly going nuts, or did I experience another fushigi last night when I read the following:
Johnnycake is sometimes said to be a contraction of journey cake, the idea being that it was a food packed for journeys. But since it is a kind of cornbread, and cornbread patently is not a travelling food, the explanation is unconvincing. Another suggestion is that it is a corruption of Shawnee cake. In New England it was called jonakin or jonikin long before it was called johnnycake, suggesting that johnnycake is a folk etymology based on some earlier, forgotten, Indian term. Two native American foods that were designed for travelling were pemmican and jerked beef. Despite the name, nothing is jerked to make jerked beef. The word comes from charqui, a Spanish adaptation of a Peruvian Indian word. Though the variant name jerky is etymologically closer to the Spanish original, it actually entered the language much later. Jerked beef was well established in the colonies by the early eighteenth century. Jerky isn't attested before 1850. Pemmican, more straightforwardly, is from the Cree pimikân (p184).
Bill Bryson.
Made in America:
An Informal History of the English Language in the United States
New York: Perennial (HarperCollins), 2001.

Synchronicity-petite or just a 'coincidence?'
Is this an interesting suggestion as to how pervasive is the interconnectedness of the world, as is argued by physicists who support string and super-string theories? Or is my finding these things interesting just my becoming fixated like a madman on a whiff of nothing, a puff of meaninglessness in a meaningless world? Hmmmm. And I guess my blog has truly degenerated into a place of fushigi.

Monday, October 25, 2010

2010.10.24 — By George, I Think I Hear Another Fushigi

Well, well well. It would seem that with all the so-called busy-ness I can claim to have around me, this blog is bogging down, or is that listing towards, a fushigi listing. I was briefly tempted to spend time gnashing my teeth at my wasting of life's time by doing this instead of creating important world-saving obstreperous pontifications about social injustice or other worldly (or is that other-worldly) issues of grave meaning and mortal import. Alas, but temptation fell to my real temptation, which is to post another meaningless, but very amusing, fushigi — or, as I am wont to call them, synchronicity-petites.

It begins with a book I am reading with great enjoyment — but which I haven't charted on my
book blog yet. And that is

Bill Bryson.
Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States.
New York: Perennial (HarperCollins), 2001.

Like all true synchronicity-petites, it begins with something small. In this case, it was a fascinating item, a tiny nugget of history of which I was completely unaware, like the hundreds of others both big and small that preceded it, . until Made in America illuminated it with ease, grace and such power that it even without being 'fushigified' it would have lived on in my memory and imagination for a long time.
Pullman cars, originally Pullman Hotel-Cars, were named for George M. Pullman, who developed them in 1865, and dining cars in 1868. To accommodate his twelve thousand workers, Pullman built a model community, Pullman, Illinois (now part of greater Chicago), where workers lived in company houses and shopped at company stores, thus ensuring that most of what they made returned to the company. That Pullman porters were nearly always black was not a result of enlightened employment practices, but a by-product of abysmal pay. The custom of calling porters 'George,' whatever their name, was apparently from Pullman's own first name (161). 
When I finished reading that, I put the book down, bemused and humbled by how much history I do not know. And at how labour has always been exploited, if not by 'honest' slavery, then by slavery masked behind structured indenture-hood of one form or another.

Then, being fully a member of the privileged middle-class, I went about the rest of my afternoon doing those easy lazy things that comprise my life on a work-free Sunday afternoon. Eventually, late in the afternoon, I turned on the TV to watch the time-shifted-from-the-east finale of 'So You Think You Can Dance Canada'. (Sigh. That sounds so trite — is so trite. But there you go, I did say I am a full member of the comfortable middle-class.) And, in typical fashion for me watching commercial bloated TV, I flip through stations during the ads, and stopped at a strange movie title with at first, disbelief, and then amazement. The title was one I'd not seen before. I know I'd not seen it before because if I had I would have remembered it, not just because I am very good with movie titles and actors, but because the title is absolutely rememberable and truly unique: 

When I looked up '10,000 Black Men Named George'  at iMDb, it would seem that the movie was not well promoted by its producer, Paramount Network Television Productions, because of all the movies I've researched on iMDb '10,000BMNG' has the absolute fewest number of ratings and reviews I've ever seen, 168 and 8 respectively. There are few photos, almost no biographical information, and a single sentence plot synopsis:

Union activist Asa Philip Randolph's efforts to organize the black porters of the Pullman Rail Company in 1920s America.

This for a movie about a man who had a huge impact on the labour and the civil rights movements in the USA. iMDb includes an interesting historical footnote in the 'Fun Facts' section:
Title Card: On August 25th, 1937 the Pullman Company signed the first ever agreement between a union of black workers and a major American corporation. It was twelve years - to the day - of the founding of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
Title Card: For the next four decades Randolph carried forward his fight for equality. In 1963, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Randolph initiated the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was at that gathering that a young Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech... and Randolph passed his torch to a new generation of leaders in the fight for Civil Rights. 
Unfortunately, my TV flip occurred with only 10 minutes or so left of the movie, so I did not see it.

But, there you have it. A very interesting fushigi, or, if you prefer, synchronicity-petite.