Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Hallow's Eve

The Headless Horseman - Sleepy Hollow

The Black Riders - The Lord of the Rings

Nazgul flying from the Black Tower - The Lord of the Rings

Ringwraith - The Lord of the Rings

The Headless Horseman - Sleepy Hollow

Halloween had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead. The Celtic peoples, who were once found all over Europe, divided the year by four major holidays. According to their calendar, the year began on a day corresponding to November 1st on our present calendar. The date marked the beginning of winter. Since they were pastoral people, it was a time when cattle and sheep had to be moved to closer pastures and all livestock had to be secured for the winter months. Crops were harvested and stored. The date marked both an ending and a beginning in an eternal cycle.

The festival observed at this time was called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living. On that day all manner of beings were abroad: ghosts, fairies, and demons--all part of the dark and dread.

Samhain became the Halloween we are familiar with when Christian missionaries attempted to change the religious practices of the Celtic people. In the early centuries of the first millennium A.D., before missionaries such as St. Patrick and St. Columcille converted them to Christianity, the Celts practiced an elaborate religion through their priestly caste, the Druids, who were priests, poets, scientists and scholars all at once. As religious leaders, ritual specialists, and bearers of learning, the Druids were not unlike the very missionaries and monks who were to Christianize their people and brand them evil devil worshippers.

As a result of their efforts to wipe out "pagan" holidays, such as Samhain, the Christians succeeded in effecting major transformations in it. In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First issued a now famous edict to his missionaries concerning the native beliefs and customs of the peoples he hoped to convert. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them: if a group of people worshipped a tree, rather than cut it down, he advised them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship.

In terms of spreading Christianity, this was a brilliant concept and it became a basic approach used in Catholic missionary work. Church holy days were purposely set to coincide with native holy days. Christmas, for instance, was assigned the arbitrary date of December 25th because it corresponded with the mid-winter celebration of many peoples. Likewise, St. John's Day was set on the summer solstice.

Samhain, with its emphasis on the supernatural, was decidedly pagan. While missionaries identified their holy days with those observed by the Celts, they branded the earlier religion's supernatural deities as evil, and associated them with the devil. As representatives of the rival religion, Druids were considered evil worshippers of devilish or demonic gods and spirits. The Celtic underworld inevitably became identified with the Christian Hell.

The effects of this policy were to diminish but not totally eradicate the beliefs in the traditional gods. Celtic belief in supernatural creatures persisted, while the church made deliberate attempts to define them as being not merely dangerous, but malicious. Followers of the old religion went into hiding and were branded as witches.

The Christian feast of All Saints was assigned to November 1st. The day honored every Christian saint, especially those that did not otherwise have a special day devoted to them. This feast day was meant to substitute for Samhain, to draw the devotion of the Celtic peoples, and, finally, to replace it forever. That did not happen, but the traditional Celtic deities diminished in status, becoming fairies or leprechauns of more recent traditions.

The old beliefs associated with Samhain never died out entirely. The powerful symbolism of the traveling dead was too strong, and perhaps too basic to the human psyche, to be satisfied with the new, more abstract Catholic feast honoring saints. Recognizing that something that would subsume the original energy of Samhain was necessary, the church tried again to supplant it with a Christian feast day in the 9th century. This time it established November 2nd as All Souls Day--a day when the living prayed for the souls of all the dead. But, once again, the practice of retaining traditional customs while attempting to redefine them had a sustaining effect: the traditional beliefs and customs lived on, in new guises.

All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows (hallowed means sanctified or holy), continued the ancient Celtic traditions. The evening prior to the day was the time of the most intense activity, both human and supernatural. People continued to celebrate All Hallows Eve as a time of the wandering dead, but the supernatural beings were now thought to be evil. The folk continued to propitiate those spirits (and their masked impersonators) by setting out gifts of food and drink. Subsequently, All Hallows Eve became Hallow Evening, which became Hallowe'en--an ancient Celtic, pre-Christian New Year's Day in contemporary dress.

Virtually all present Halloween traditions can be traced to the ancient Celtic day of the dead. Halloween is a holiday of many mysterious customs, but each one has a history, or at least a story behind it. The wearing of costumes, for instance, and roaming from door to door demanding treats can be traced to the Celtic period and the first few centuries of the Christian era, when it was thought that the souls of the dead were out and around, along with fairies, witches, and demons. Offerings of food and drink were left out to placate them. As the centuries wore on, people began dressing like these dreadful creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This practice is called mumming, from which the practice of trick-or-treating evolved. To this day, witches, ghosts, and skeleton figures of the dead are among the favorite disguises. Halloween also retains some features that harken back to the original harvest holiday of Samhain, such as the customs of bobbing for apples and carving vegetables, as well as the fruits, nuts, and spices cider associated with the day.

Today Halloween is becoming once again and adult holiday or masquerade, like mardi Gras. Men and women in every disguise imaginable are taking to the streets of big American cities and parading past grinningly carved, candlelit jack o'lanterns, re- enacting customs with a lengthy pedigree. Their masked antics challenge, mock, tease, and appease the dread forces of the night, of the soul, and of the otherworld that becomes our world on this night of reversible possibilities, inverted roles, and transcendency. In so doing, they are reaffirming death and its place as a part of life in an exhilarating celebration of a holy and magic evening.

Check out the article at

Interesting article! It's amazing how traditions have changed as times have become more modern... yet, some things have a persistent staying power. Why is that?

For more info, check out the Halloween Wiki Entry.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Weekend Getaway in New Orleans!

St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, LA

A Passing Streetcar on the River Line - New Orleans, LA

The Riverwalk Fountain - New Orleans, LA

The Riverboat Natchez Departs - New Orleans, LA

Shops on Decatur Street - New Orleans, LA

Shops on Decatur Street - New Orleans, LA

Art For Sale in Jackson Square - New Orleans, LA

Jackson Square - New Orleans, LA

Grand Victorian Bed & Breakfast - New Orleans, LA

The Parlor at Grand Victorian Bed & Breakfast - New Orleans, LA

Our Suite at Grand Victorian Bed & Breakfast - New Orleans, LA

My wife and I celebrated our anniversary by spending last weekend in New Orleans... we couldn't have asked for a better getaway! The Grand Victorian was first class and we couldn't find a bad restaurant to eat at. The crowds weren't too bad, so we were able to get all over the French Quarter with relative ease. Despite it being the off-season, Bourbon Street was jumping (as usual) and Galatoire's was jam-packed! We visited tons of landmarks, shops and attractions via the streetcars - the best way to travel around in the Big Easy!

If you're interested in visiting New Orleans, check out the New Orleans CVB website and come see what your missing!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Guts & Glory!

LSU's Demetrius Byrd pulls in an unbelievable catch for the win!

LSU's Keiland Williams breaks a tackle for a touchdown!

LSU's Marlon Favorite chases down Auburn's Brandon Cox!

Looks like Matt

LSU Tiger Stadium - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

If you’re scoring at home, that’s three consecutive epics with dramatic endings for the LSU football team. While you’re at it, make it four in a row for LSU and Auburn.

LSU kept its national championship hopes alive Saturday night with another down-to-the-wire finish, edging Auburn 30-24 on Matt Flynn’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Byrd with 1 second left.

“This Auburn-LSU thing,” LSU coach Les Miles said, “I want you to know something: It’s not normal.”

The home team won for the eighth consecutive year in the series, and in a dramatic way for the fourth consecutive year.

The No. 5-ranked Tigers outgained the No. 18-ranked Tigers 351 yards to 127 in total offense in the second half. The game-winning drive covered 58 yards on nine plays after a short squib kick followed an Auburn touchdown.

LSU overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit, taking control in the third quarter and building a 23-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Auburn drove for a touchdown to regain the lead with 3:21 left. After Pep Levingston covered the short Auburn kickoff, the purple-and-gold Tigers had 3:13 on the clock to try for the victory against the visiting Tigers.

They used 3:12.

Flynn scrambled for yardage, pitched out to Richard Murphy and Jacob Hester and found himself facing third-and-7 from the Auburn 22 as the clock ran. LSU, which had one timeout left, apparently planned to take one more shot at the end zone before facing the prospect of a field goal attempt.

Flynn hit Byrd, who was tightly covered by Auburn defensive back Jerraud Powers, in the northwest corner of the north end zone with 1 second showing on the clock.

LSU (7-1) is tied for first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with Alabama at 4-1. Those teams will be off next weekend before meeting Nov. 3 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Auburn (5-3, 3-2) dropped out of a three-way tie with LSU and Alabama after losing away from home to an SEC opponent for only the second time in 16 games.

A Tiger Stadium crowd of 92,630 saw another Auburn-LSU 60-minute battle that belongs in a conversation with the previous three.

Auburn edged LSU 10-9 in 2004 by scoring a touchdown with 74 seconds left and kicking the game-winning PAT after a miss on the first try and a penalty against LSU.

An interception deep into the final minute ended LSU’s comeback hopes.

LSU defeated Auburn 20-17 in overtime in 2005, winning on Chris Jackson's field goal and Auburn's subsequent miss.

Auburn defeated LSU 7-3 last season, stopping LSU at the Auburn 4-yard line on the game’s last play.

Dramatics were nothing new to LSU’s 2007 team. In its last home game before Saturday’s comeback against Auburn, LSU rallied from a series of 10-point deficits to defeat reigning national champion Florida 28-24.

That victory wasn’t secured until LSU batted down a last-second Florida pass in the end zone.

A week later, LSU took its No. 1 ranking to Kentucky and lost 43-37 in triple overtime. The longest game in LSU history ended with LSU failing to pick up a first down on fourth-and-2.

Auburn helped make sure LSU’s next game would come down to the end.

Check out the article at The Advocate.

Yes, it's been a little quiet here for the past couple of weeks... was I tongue-tied after the Kentucky loss? Not hardly, but that was one tough game full of LSU penalties. Gotta hand it to the Wildcats, though - they played to win. As for me, I've been out of town on a camping trip to Camp Avondale and a weekend getaway to New Orleans, so haven't had much time to blog. I'll get some pics up from the Big Easy soon... promise!

Now, for that Auburn game... WOW! It was almost as big as the Florida game, and might even be designated as The Earthquake Game - Part 2. It was definitely another classic game for the books! Let's just hope that the game at Nick Saban State (aka Alabama) isn't such a close matchup.

Geaux Tigers!!!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Paper Tigers? Not So Fast, Tebow!

Florida's Tim Tebow is a Paper Gator!  Owned!

LSU's Matt Flynn

LSU's Jacob Hester punching it through for the win!

Every now and then you get a glimpse of how this game of college football is supposed to be played. If you watched the Florida-LSU game late Saturday night, you saw the team you want your team to be.

LSU, now the undisputed top team in the land after Southern Cal fell to Stanford, showed a stadium stuffed with more than 90,000 rabid Bayou Bengals fans and a national television audience why the Tigers are so good.

Yes, they have excellent players. And, yes, they have tradition and fan support and all the amenities needed to rise above the crowded field of contenders whose fans like to run around thrusting their index finger in the air and claiming to be Number One.

But they also have Les Miles, perhaps the best football coach in the country. At least he was Saturday night.

All you had to see was the fourth quarter of this Southeastern Conference showdown against the former national champion Gators to see what good, tough, confident coaching means to a football program.

It was, in a compound sentence, one of the best performances you could hope for in one of the biggest games of the year under the most intense pressure you can imagine.

And the Tigers made it look easy.

Beauty and bravery

While LSU fans were stunned when Florida jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, Miles just clinched that strong jaw of his on the sideline, pulled his hat down tighter on his head and watched with an understanding determination.

When interviewed coming off the field at halftime, he hardly seemed frightened by the prospects of losing. Instead, he stated exactly what his team needed to do and would do in the second half. Make more tackles and score more points.

He didn't mention take more chances, but that apparently comes with the territory if you want to be Number One.

Down 10 points with the clock running against them, the Tigers pulled out all the stops. They faked a field goal that set up a touchdown. Then, needing only a field goal to tie and extend the game to overtime, Miles wanted no part of it. He went for the victory, going for it on two critical, fourth-quarter, fourth-down situations, making it every time, barely.

The final drive, behind the gutsy running of Jacob Hester, that gave LSU its 28-24 victory with just over a minute remaining in the game was a thing of absolutely beauty and bravery.

Not only did starting quarterback Matt Flynn move his team with confidence, but also Miles was bold enough to bring in his back-up quarterback, sophomore Ryan Perilloux, in critical situations to give him the kind of steely experience you can only receive in the heat of battle.

Guts and glory

To watch LSU pull off that final, 15-play, 60-yard, 8-minute, game-winning, risk-taking drive brought college football fans to the edge of their seats all across the nation.

To witness this excellent example of guts and glory after most fans had spent the day watching their favorite teams flounder in the face of adversity was a teaching moment.

If you weren't an LSU fan or a Les Miles fan before Saturday night's phenomenal finish you probably are now.

With all due respect to the Florida Gators, who played a heck of a football game, this LSU victory gave us all a glimpse of what it means to have a great team and a great coach and how the two combine to win championships.

There was no second-guessing, no what-ifs, no question, no doubt. That final drive should be mandatory in film rooms across the nation.

Every head coach should watch it over and over again just to see how the game is supposed to be played, with confidence and passion instead of caution and fear of losing.

Check out the article at LSU Sports.

What an awesome game! It will go down as one of the greatest in Tiger Stadium!

I thought that both teams played some tough football, and you have to admire the dedication, skill and sportsmanship of everyone involved... except for Tim Tebow (at least in the sportsmanship department). Shortly after the loudspeaker announcement of the USC upset and the crowd going wild, the Gators capped off a scoring drive with a TD. Mr. Tebow decided to taunt the audience, with the "Paper Tigers, I Can't Hear You" gesture. Well, Tim, that inspired me to create the above image, may it follow you through the internet wherever you go! Who's the Paper Gator, now?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Big Time SEC Matchup!

LSU Tigers are in the toughest conference in the country - the SEC

LSU Tiger Stadium - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

ESPN's College Gameday will once again be on the LSU Campus

LSU Tiger Stadium seen from Victory Hill

LSU's Golden Girls marching up Victory Hill

Two TV networks are in town. Nearly 600 press passes have been handed out. The downtown Hilton hotel has sought out overflow rooms as far away as Hammond.

And The Chimes has ordered extra alligator meat, a popular choice on its menu and, perhaps not so coincidentally, the mascot of LSU’s opponent.

“I’ll not be a bit surprised if it’s a record day for The Chimes and Varsity,” co-owner Tim Hood said. “We anticipate this one as being as good and somewhat better.”

Even by game day standards, this weekend’s high-profile game at LSU is turning into a perfect storm for Baton Rouge merchants.

LSU, 5-0 and sporting its first No. 1 ranking in The Associated Press poll in nearly 50 years, hosts ninth-ranked Florida in what is perhaps the highest profile game so far this season.

How big is the game? Never mind the stadium holds 93,000. Maj. Lawrence Rabalais of the LSU Police Department said the Florida game could draw 140,000 fans, which would top the estimated 130,000 at the Virginia Tech game last month.

Making an impact

LSU economist Loren Scott, who has done studies for the LSU Athletic Department on the economic impact of LSU football games, said the LSU-Florida game will be a boon for merchants.

Scott also cited the exposure the city gets by being featured in the national media outlets.

Shows such as ESPN’s “Gameday” at LSU on Saturday and CBS morning show segments today, he said, “are almost totally positive information about what it’s like to come to the Baton Rouge area.”

“At this stage of the season … (fans) are happy and jovial, and when they’re happy and jovial they tend to spend more money,” Scott said.

“It actually begins Thursday,” Matherne said. For this weekend, “We don’t know what to expect,” he admitted Thursday afternoon. “I figure we’ll be running like crazy trying to keep up, especially with libations.”

Brandon Landry, co-owner of Walk-Ons restaurant on the south side of LSU, said beer vendors are sending in refrigerated trucks to keep up with tailgaters.

His employees have spent the week draining ice makers from the other downtown restaurants he owns with business partner Jack Warner.

“We’ve had some big games,” Landry said. “But I don’t think we’ve ever seen what we’re gonna see this weekend.”

Beer provider Mockler Beverage Co. and the local Coca-Cola bottling plant are used to big-event weekends. But both beverage companies said they’re expecting brisk sales this weekend.

“We absolutely see a difference in sales on big football weekends,” said Melanie Clark, vice president of marketing for the Gulf Coast Region Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United.

Chris Davis, who handles marketing for Mockler, called it “chaos, but controlled chaos.”

Local hotels said out-of-town fans who didn’t secure a room at least a few months ago were probably out of luck.

But that hasn’t stopped them from calling, said Tina Rance, director of sales and marketing for the Hilton Baton Rouge Capital Center.

She said the hotel has booked corporate apartments as far away as Hammond to handle its overflow demand.

“It’s been a Super Bowl atmosphere for two weeks now,” she said Thursday.

Anna Zebeau, director of sales for the Sheraton Baton Rouge Convention Center Hotel, said other local hotels have called hers asking for extra rooms.

“Everybody is sold out,” she said.

Check out the article at The Advocate.

Due to the record crowds expected for the big game tomorrow, and the fact that College Gameday will be broadcasting at 9:00am, you might want to get out to Tiger Stadium early tomorrow! The atmosphere is going to be electric! Let's just hope the forecast is wrong and it doesn't rain.

Geaux Tigers!!! Mmmm, Fried Gator... Tastes Like Chicken!!!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Beep Heard Around the World

Sputnik I - The Beep Heard Around the World

Sputnik I Launch

Sputnik I Model

With a series of small beeps from a spiky globe 50 years ago Thursday, the world shrank and humanity's view of Earth and the cosmos expanded.

Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, was launched by the Soviets and circled the globe Oct. 4, 1957. The Space Age was born. And what followed were changes to everyday life that people now take for granted.

What we see on television, how we communicate with each other, and how we pay for what we buy have all changed with the birth of satellites.

Communications satellites helped bring wars and celebrations from thousands of miles away into our living rooms. When we go outside, weather satellites show us whether we need to carry an umbrella or flee a hurricane. And global positioning system satellites even keep us from getting lost on unfamiliar streets.

Sputnik gave birth to more than mere technology. The threat of a Soviet-dominated space spurred the U.S. government to increase tenfold money spent on science, education and research. Satellite pictures of Earth inspired an embryonic environmental movement.

Spy and communications satellites also kept the world at relative peace, experts say. Just last week, scientists used commercial satellite images to document human rights violations in Myanmar.

When Sputnik was launched, the public thought a space future would consist of gigantic space stations and colonies on the moon and other planets. The fear was warfare in space raining down on Earth.

"The reality is that the things we expected did not come to pass, and the things that we did not fathom changed our lives in so many ways that we cannot even envision a life that's different at this point," said Roger Launius, senior curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.

America got a taste of that in May 1998. Just one communications satellite malfunctioned. More than 30 million pagers went silent. Credit card payment approvals didn't work. National Public Radio and CNN's Airport Television Network went off the air in some places.

"The civilization we live in today is as different from the one that we lived in the mid-1950s as the mid-1950s were from the American revolution," said Howard McCurdy, an American University public policy professor. "It's hard to imagine these things happening without space. I guess I could have a computer, but I wouldn't be able to get on the Internet."

All thanks to an 184-pound metal ball with spikes shot into space by a country that doesn't exist anymore.

"The launch of Sputnik actually triggered heightened interest among the American people, not only in space, but in science, mathematics and education," said White House science adviser John Marburger. "It also opened up people's eyes to the possibility that space could actually be used for something."

Check out the article at Fox News.

It's amazing the technology that hostility and competition can breed. Where would we be now if not for the World Wars and the Cold War? I don't think we could even imagine!

Sputnik was not the original plan by the Russians... they used rockets from their ICBM program and threw together the simple little sphere with a radio transmitter in an effort to beat the USA to space. The only thing that they actually accomplished was to show the world that it could be done and that they did it first, and to broadcast the "Beep Heard Around the World."

Check out the: