Weekly Photo Challenge: It’s Not This Time of Year Without …

November 28, 2016 — This week’s photo challenge is It’s Not This Time of Year Without …

Colorful Christmas tree ornaments

Colorful Christmas tree ornaments

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The History of Black Friday

imagesNovember 25, 2016 – If you’re someone who pays homage to the day after Thanksgiving by shopping, you probably familiar with the term “Black Friday” as the day of the year that retailers “go into the black” and make a profit. What you might not know is that you’re only half-right.

The term is also used to describe the crash of the U.S. gold market on Friday, September 24, 1869. The crash sent the stock market into free-fall, bankrupting everyone in the country from Wall Street tycoons to farmers.

Black Friday’s ties to the retail industry are more commonly known, but the “black” part of Black Friday wasn’t always associated with profits. Back in the 1950s, Philadelphia police coined the phrase “Black Friday” to describe the chaos that occurred on the Friday after Thanksgiving when suburban crowds would come into the city to watch the annual Army-Navy game, traditionally played the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Large crowds would arrive the day before for holiday shopping, with some taking advantage of the masses to shoplift, which often caused riots.

Philly’s Finest referred to that day as “Black Friday” because of the extra manpower needed to control the crowds. The term didn’t spread to the rest of the country, or take on a positive spin of retailers going from red to black, until several years later when it became a common holiday shopping day nationwide.

It seems that many firsts have roots in Philadelphia.

Faire Impression

ren-faire-coverNovember 18, 2016 – Last month, I took a trip back in time and visited the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire.

As a first time visitor, I had expectations but tried to keep an open mind after hearing stories from people who either enjoyed or despised the experience. Faire workers, for example, dress in period costume. I expected that. Referred to as actors, they wander through the grounds unable to be pulled out of character, much like the Buckingham Palace guards when faced with a Lucy Ricardo in the crowd. Wenches pour drinks and sing lewd songs; poets recite bawdy poetry and then apologize for it; and street performers juggle knives, swords and other objects, and wrestle in lots of mud.

interesting-oddities

One of the many interesting oddities you’ll come across at the faire.

The impressive four men, who acted as common villagers walking through town, for example, had a rather lengthy conversation about “displeasing the King and serving at his pleasure.” They didn’t miss a beat and included me in the conversation as I followed them for several minutes. However, the musicians mesmerized me most, as they entertained with the likes of Greensleeves, Scarborough Fair, and a few modern classics made to sound as if they belong in the middle ages. From the guitars and harmonicas, to hurdy gurdys and fiddles, they enchanted the crowd with their serenade.

singing-in-the-square

Ladies singing in the Town Square.

With this blog post in mind, I wanted to ask questions, especially of the four men I followed, but decided not to. The actors would have cooperated, or else they face a fine, so I did my best to learn what I could by paying attention and eavesdropping. Many of the workers camp on the faire grounds during the 10-week season, some even travelling from faire to faire. Those on the national circuit are also mostly pagans, but I’m not sure if that means they are a part of the well-known motorcycle club or they practice paganism, the nature-worshipping religion. Finally, the people who work the booths and sell their wares are independent business owners, known as boothies.

boothie

One of the boothies selling her wares.

Here’s what I didn’t expect. The crowd lines up at least an hour before the faire opens, and the majority of visitors dress in costume. I expected some to dress for the occasion, but I didn’t expect to be the minority. I had ample time to ask this group questions as we waited together, and here’s what I learned:

  • Many of them (old and young alike) are season ticket holders and frequent visitors to the faire.
  • Since I was dressed in 21st century clothing, I am a “Mundane” or ordinary person.
  • People who attend dressed in costume are known as playtrons. (Just a hunch, I’ll bet they also play Dungeons and Dragons).
  • Playtrons enjoy interactions with the actors, but it’s frowned upon during the scripted events. However, that doesn’t always stop them, and it could be difficult at times to tell one from the other.
  • The faire has an actual theme, recreating a village from 1500s England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. When I referred to something as Victorian, a few hard-nosed playtrons glared at me in disgust. Other events, they told me recreate Victorian and Edwardian eras, but “official” Renaissance Faires are only Elizabethan.
  • The idea for the faire began in California in the early 1960s when a teacher created a living history exhibit in her backyard as a high school project for her students. The idea caught on and has been active ever since.
actors

Entertaining the King and Queen in the Town Square.

I’m not ready to become a playtron, but I did enjoy my time at the faire as a mere Mundane, and I’d visit again. The village is set in a wooded area, with stunning foliage against the backdrop of a bright blue sky, making it the perfect autumn experience.

If you decide to give it a try and plan to dress in costume, wear sensible shoes. My Fitbit clocked nearly 20,000 steps that day!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Tiny

November 14, 2016 — This week’s photo challenge is tiny.

The tiny house below, most likely a station house that sold train tickets, is now home to an interesting fellow with a long beard. The picture may be deceiving; this is a tiny house in every sense of the word, perhaps the tiniest I’ve ever seen, and it’s located in Beth Ayres, Pa., in Montgomery County.

The photo was originally featured in blog post a few years back. It became one of my favorites because if you read the comments, you’ll see it connected me with the grandson of the man who used to live there years ago. Not sure how he found my blog, but it was awesome to hear from him so he could share the history of this tiny house.

tiny-house

 

I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

pink-pantherNovember 11, 2016 – On November 10, 2010, an unemployed writer started a blog to share her opinion and commiserate with other unemployed job seekers. Six years, one day and 1,118 blog posts later, janemcmaster.wordpress.com is still online.

Looking back, I am impressed that I blogged every day that first year, but I couldn’t keep up the pace once I went back to work. Still, I averaged 3.6 posts per week since the blog’s inception and finally settled into the comfortable pace of publishing one photo blog and one written post each week, combining my newly discovered passion for photography with my love of writing.

On occasion, I also rely on friends from the blogosphere and highlight posts I find helpful and well done, such as the one below:

7 Simple Edits That Make Your Writing 100% More Powerful

I’ve been working in the communications field for 20 years, and this exceptional piece taught me something new. I enjoyed every word—including all 261 comments—and now want to re-edit the 1,118 blog posts that came before. However, I think my time would be better spent moving ahead.
Here’s to the next six years!