Friday, January 31, 2014

FACT: Lincoln Has No Contemporary Descendants

If you ever come across a person who's last name is Lincoln, and they try to pass themselves off as a direct descendant of the 16th President, you can confidently school them in the fact that there is no such thing.  Yes, there are cousins many times removed, but none in The President's direct lineage.

Abraham Lincoln’s great-great-great grandfather came to Massachusetts from England in 1637 and went into farming initially, but became a businessman and active member of the church. Over the generations his ancestors moved south, eventually settling themselves in Kentucky. The President's grandfather, for whom Abraham was named, was a captain during the American Revolution but ironically was killed by a Native American while farming with his sons.

President Lincoln’s life was filled with death. His little brother, Thomas Jr., died days after Thomas’s birth in 1812. Lincoln’s mother died in 1818, when Abraham was just nine years old. Then, in 1828, his sister Sarah died in childbirth, along with her stillborn baby. Lincoln also mourned the woman he had intended to marry, Ann Rutledge, when she died in 1835.

After Lincoln’s marriage to Mary Todd (#2 in the image at right) in 1842, the couple settled down to start their own family. They would have four sons.

The first, Robert (#3), was born in 1843 and would live a long and prestigious life. The second son, Edward, was born in 1846 and died in 1850 of what is believed to be tuberculosis. Another son, William (a favorite of Mary and Abraham Lincoln and nicknamed “Willie”), was born less than a year after Edward’s death and died at age 11 while the Lincolns resided in the White House. Willie’s death was a harsh blow to the family. His body would eventually be exhumed and accompany his father’s to be buried in Springfield, Illinois. The Lincolns’ youngest son, Thomas (also known as “Tad”), was born in 1853. Tad would outlive his father by only six years. He died at the age of 18.

The Lincolns’ only son to marry and have children was Robert. Robert married Mary ("Mamie") Harlan (#4) in 1868 and had three children: Mary (#5), Abraham (#6) and Jessie (#7).  Abraham died of blood poisoning at the age of 16.  Robert’s two daughters each lived well into the 1900s:  Mary Lincoln Isham, had one son, Lincoln Isham (#8), who ultimately did not have children, and Jessie Lincoln Beckwith, had two children: a daughter, Mary (#9) who never wed, and a son, Robert (#10).  Mary Beckwith died in 1975.  

Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith (Robert Lincoln's grandson) married three times but had no children. During the time Robert divorced his second wife, she became pregnant and claimed the child to be his. Due to Robert having had a vasectomy prior to this marriage, he protested the paternity of the child, and the courts ordered a blood test be performed. When the mother failed to comply, the court ruled that the child was not Robert Lincoln’s. In 1985, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, the great grandson of President Abraham Lincoln, died with no heir to carry on the family name. With his death, an American family that had lived and worked in this country for more than nine generations came to an end.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Budweiser Going To The Dogs

This is an image taken from Budweiser's planned "Puppy Love" Super Bowl ad to air on Sunday, February, 2nd.

Research is showing that the gender gap of Super Bowl watchers has been narrowing over the years.  In 2012, of the 111 million American viewers of Super Bowl XLVI, 54 percent were male compared to 46 percent female.

So, it makes me wonder who Budweiser is trying to target.  Are rough and ornery football fans easily charmed by a puppy?  Or is this to tug at the heartstrings of the growing number of female watchers?  Or it is perhaps for the kids in the house who are watching the game with their guardian(s)?  I think it's very interesting to put such a sweet, charming ad during one of the roughest sporting matches of the year.

Personally, I love it.  Watch the video below:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Open Letter to Carol Burnett

Below is a copy of a letter I mailed to Carol Burnett about a week ago.  Further below is the response I received from Ms. Burnett on Saturday, February 9th.

Dear Ms. Burnett:

I must admit that I am quite surprised to be writing you at this stage of my life.  I would consider any kind of letter written to you today to be about 40 years late. You see, I idolized you as a boy and never missed The Carol Burnett Show.  Without fail, every Saturday night at 10 o’clock, I sat perched in front of the TV in my pajamas and laughed myself silly.  There was something about you that made me feel warm inside.  I wanted you to be my mother, my best friend, and – yes – even my wife.  I guess even a boy of 8 can dream.

But the reason I am writing this letter to you is not because of what you did for me as a child, but rather what you’ve apparently done for my father today.  You see, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago.  He’s 74 now and has digressed to the point of relying on my mother for constant care.  He still recognizes and knows his family, but everything else in my father’s past seems to have been forgotten.  At night, while sitting in my parents’ dining room, he tells my mother that he needs to go home.  Sometimes, he tells my mother that after dinner, they should go visit her mother.  But he does not remember that my grandmother died in 1987.  We’ll show him photos of places and people and he looks at them with blank stares.  We wonder what he’s thinking, probably as much as he wonders himself.

I was visiting my parents over the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday.  While my parents and I were watching TV in the living room, I channel surfed and came upon the broadcast of your receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center (congratulations, by the way!).  My father, who had been sitting quietly as usual, seemed to spring to life when your face appeared on the television.

“Ha!”, he laughed.  “My God, there’s your girlfriend.”  I sat dumbfounded for a second and could only mutter something like, “yeah, there she is”.  And then my dad looked at me and said, “Do you still love her like you used to?”  And I said, “Yeah, Dad, I still love her.”

My mother and I simply looked at each other in astonishment.  "Like you used to?"  This wonderful, sad man – whose life has completely slipped away from him, robbing him of sacred and treasured memories by the millions – remembered you; not because of what you meant to him, but because of  what you meant to his son.  "Like you used to?"  It was a moment I will never forget.  There’s no explaining how or why he’s been able to cling to this particular memory, but I thank God that he has.  How grateful I am to you.

I know you read your fan mail.  And I hope this eventually finds its way to you because you should know what you’ve given to me and my family.   I guess all I can say is thank you for being you.  And thank you for what you did for me as a child, and what you’ve done for me today.  May God forever bless you.

Now click HERE to read Ms. Burnett's response.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Facebook Ruins Friendships

Several times in my life, when I’ve found myself alone in new situations, I’ve selected a person from the crowd and told myself, “That is going to be my new best friend”.   Being naturally distrusting, I’ve always had a talent for being able to quickly size-up a person – a trait even my most recent supervisor was able to acknowledge.  “You read people exceptionally well,” she said.  It’s easy to remember this compliment, since compliments were actually few and far between from her.  But then, that’s why I loved working for her

Jeff and I met and became instant friends in 1989.  We met one night in a bar when I ran into Matt, an old high school chum, who introduced Jeff to me.  Having just broken up with my first boyfriend, I needed a new best friend.  And I decided right then and there that Jeff would be that person.  He was new to being out and this was actually his first night in a gay bar.  He knew nothing, so I saw myself as his new mentor.  When I had come out a few years earlier, there was no one to show me the way.  I knew no other gay men.  There was no internet.  So I set out by myself to observe, absorb and learn what I could, on my own.  For the first few years – at least in those days – being gay was all trial and error.  And it is only for the fact that I can “read people exceptionally well” that I am still here.

But where previous best friends had eventually gone by the wayside over the course of time, Jeff somehow remained in my life as a constant.  I couldn’t possibly count the number of hours spent in a vehicle driving back and forth from everywhere we went; countless trips to the only gay bar within 100 miles of our homes; driving 300 miles round trip just to be on a gay bowling league; several journeys to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware; two vacations to Disney World; not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars we spent on brunches, lunches, dinners and cocktails.  And when the time came for me to move 150 miles away, the unimaginable amount of time we spent on the telephone, talking a few times a week, waxing sentimental on days gone by and planning our next great adventure.

Over the course of one score+ years, Jeff was there with me through my college education, 5 boyfriends, 9 jobs, and 12 apartments across 5 cities – not to mention all the stuff that both goes along with and comes in-between.  I figured we would be best friends until one of us died.

And then we both joined Facebook.

The ruination of our friendship didn’t happen overnight.  And there were extenuating circumstances as well.  But I blame Facebook for showing me a side of Jeff that I had never seen in the 20 years I had known him.  About 6 years ago, Jeff went on complete disability from work, which gave him lots of time to sit at home and watch TV.  And his TV show of choice:  Fox News.  I could write thousands of words on why Fox News is not healthy for America, but millions have come before me already doing just that.   What I know is that Jeff is well-educated in what Fox News espouses.  I don’t have the time to sit and listen to the news all day, every day.  I know the topics, but not the minute details as Jeff knows them.

One of our last exchanges on Facebook took place 2 years ago.  It was during the winter that the Washington, DC area was crippled with several blizzards and snowstorms.   The exchange went something like this:

Jeff:  Well, what do all those global warming enthusiasts have to say NOW?
Me:  Actually, Jeff, global warming is expected to increase heavy precipitation in winter storms, and for the Northern Hemisphere, there is evidence that these storms are already more frequent and intense.
It can’t be freezing outside for months at a time and expect me to believe the globe is getting hotter.
Well think about it, Jeff.  Global warming affects the entire GLOBE.  So when it’s winter here, it’s summer someplace else.  And right now, there are record hot temperatures in Australia.
Well excuse me for having an opinion!
You can certainly have an opinion.  I’m just debating you with actual facts.

There are a few people in my life who I love in person, and hate on Facebook.  When I mention this to other friends, their response is usually something like, “well isn’t it better to know the real person?”  But I have to wonder, then, who IS the real person?  Is it the person I laugh with, drink with, joke with in his company – or is it the person who posts “Obama is a foreign-born Muslim”?

I don’t shy away from confrontation.  I’ll confront a friend who posts “Sarah Palin for President” by telling him that supporting the Tea Party is essentially supporting an organization that wants to put me to death.  And I’ll confront the relative who posts “Mike Huckabee is my kind of people” after Huckabee posts that the cast of Duck Dynasty is just supporting good ol’ American family values.  And when a Christian posts that we should “keep Christ in Christmas”, I tell them that it might be better to start by “keeping Christ in Christian.”  I’ll do all this, but I shouldn’t have to.  And I didn’t have to before Facebook.

Since that exchange, Jeff and I have chatted briefly and even curtly, through Facebook; usually he is responding to a post from me just checking in on him.  But he never initiates a conversation.  And we haven’t spoken on the phone or seen each other since. In some way, I feel like I have failed Jeff.  When we met, he was a sheltered person who didn’t know anything about gay life and I think he looked to me as a guide.  And as time wore on, I think I continued to be the lead in for him on how life situations are handled, how to talk to people, how to get what you want.  And when I finally became so caught up in my own life, I left him on his own to figure things out.  And he did it through a source that I find troubling and surprising.

I wonder when my opinions no longer mattered to him.  I wonder when he decided to no longer trust my advice.  And I wonder how on earth we had even remained friends, let alone best friends, for over two decades if my presence in his life was so disposable.  I wonder . . . and it breaks my heart. 

And I have Facebook to “thank”.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


I learned a new word today:  snowclone.  When I first heard it, I immediately pictured a snowcone.  But that's not correct. 

A snowclone is actually is a neologism for a type of cliche and phrasal template originally defined as "a multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different variants".

An example of a snowclone is "Tupperware is the Cadillac of Food Storage", giving rise to the template "X is the Cadillac of Y".  X and Y may be replaced with different words or phrases—for example, "Behr is the Cadillac of paint."  And if you were a fan of the WKRP in Cincinnati: "Red wigglers, the Cadillac of worms!"

Orange Is the New Black is not only a great series on Netflix, it's also a snowclone.  There are hundreds of them, but here are other examples are:
  • A few X short of a Y.
  • Yes, Virginia, there is an X.
  • This is your brain on X.
  • My kingdom for a(n) X.
  • There's no crying in X.
  • X?  We don't need no stinking X.
  • We're going to need a bigger X.
  • Whatever Xs your Y.
The term snowclone has only been around for about 10 years.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Travel Manners: Gone, Baby. Gone.

On a recent flight, I noticed so much rude and self-important behavior, it made my blood boil.  Admittedly, it doesn't take much to set me off.  But when people - adults who should know better - are misbehaving, how will future generations act? 

First of all, boarding a plane should be the easiest thing in the world to do.  Everyone is given a boarding pass that clearly defines when it is your turn to board.  But there are folks out there who don't seem to think that this process pertains to them.  On a recent flight, a businessman (dressed in suit and talking on his phone) in boarding group 5 tried to board the plane with groups 2, 3, and 4, each time being told by the gate attendant that he would have to wait until his group was called.  He didn't seem phased.  He apparently thought himself too important to wait his turn.  I've seen this behavior on just about every flight I've been on recently.

When my flight landed at its destination, the passengers bum-rushed the cabin door.  It used to be, when disembarking from the plane, that everyone exited 1 row at a time:  all 6 passengers in Row 1, followed by the passengers in Row 2 and so on.  The flight was actually a bit early, so it wasn't like people needed to tight connections.  Again, people just don't think they should have to wait their turn.

And on every flight since 9/11, attendants inform passengers that it is illegal for them to congregate in the forward cabin; that if the restroom is occupied, to please stay seated until the room is free.  This request - or should I say regulation - doesn't seem to prevent people from doing just the opposite.  And every time, a flight attendant has to approach the passenger and ask them to take their seat and the passenger argues with the attendant, essentially until the restroom is available.

There was a time, not really all that long ago, when passengers would actually dress to fly.  By that, I mean men wore suits or at least jackets, and women wore dresses.  Today, some passenger look like they are in pajamas.  And carrying their pillows, no less.  When did a flight become a slumber party? This is not a place to stretch across seats or curl into a ball in your jammies.  Sit up like an adult and act accordingly.

And I know the concept is tricky to grasp because although we are INSIDE a plane, it also feels like we are OUTSIDE as well due to being in the air, but for all intents and purposes, please use your INSIDE voice when you speak.  And since we are in such a tight space, make it your SUPER QUIET INSIDE voice.  I shouldn't be able to hear your conversation over the din of the engines 3 rows back.

While you're at it, please choose the correct seating for your situation.  If you are one of those people who has to "go" every 30 minutes, please take the aisle seat.  And if the sunshine bothers you, please take the aisle seat.  I don't know why people who either constantly need to get up or pull the shade closed immediately upon sitting down chose a window seat.  Ludicrous.

I personally don't care what kind of hoops I have to jump through when it comes to security.  If it prevents a hijackers or bomb-enthusiast from boarding my plane, I am all for it.  It's the passengers who have ruined flying for me.