Monthly Archives: October 2011

Fall crush, part two – October 21, 2011

It was a pretty big international news day and I’m a bit of a news junkie. So you know if I’m going to disconnect from most of my news sources for any length of time to run off and do something else, that something else has to be pretty fantastic.

And it was.

I caught a little of the news this morning before heading out to the heart of Oregon’s wine country to meet my Twitter/Timbers friend Dave. Dave is the general manager at Vista Hills in Dayton, Oregon, and was kind enough to agree when I invited myself out for a behind-the-scenes look at the wide world of wine.

He’s a good sport, that Dave.

Today’s work was being done at Panther Creek, where we were to process six tons of grapes that had been picked this morning. But when I got there, things had already apparently gone awry. Dave and his crew were in semi-scramble mode, trying to fix the destemmer. The lesson learned today is that, when you unplug something, you should always pull the plug, not the cord. Pulling the cord for the destemmer had loosened some of the electrical connections which, thankfully, was a much easier fix than trying to find another motor to swap out (which was the other possible oops being considered).

Back on track, we got started sorting the fruit, looking for anything that shouldn’t be in the mix. “You’re a Timbers fan,” one of the other wine guys told me. “Just pretend you’re looking for Roger Levesque and when you find him, get him out of here.”

Dave had warned me that it would be sticky work. Nearly twelve hours later, I’m still sticky, but I can’t imagine many things I’d trade the experience for. A few hours in wine country, shoulder to shoulder with the winemakers, a shared meal and grape schmutz in my hair. That’s a win in my book. I can’t wait to go back.

Did I mention that we listened to Rush at very high volumes for an extended period of time? Double win.

These sorts of things are what we’ve moved away from in our automated, industrial, commercialized world. We don’t get our hands dirty. We drink wine we buy in a grocery store, knowing nothing of the land or people that produced it. The same can be said for pretty much everything else we consume.

It might be cheaper to run down to the store for a bottle of Two Buck Chuck, but there’s better out there. Make the effort to find it. Think locally, buy locally. Get involved locally. Grow something. Make something. Or, at the very least, make a friend who does. And then invite yourself to his vineyard.

Happy October, people. And thanks again, Dave.

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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in October 2011


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Fall crush – October 20, 2011

I wholeheartedly believe that I am genetically predisposed to harboring a desire to be part of the winemaking process. I can’t help it.

My mom grew up, at least in her very early years, in the heart of wine country in Northern California and I grew up with holidays spent at my aunt and uncle’s kitchen table in Napa, surrounded by grapes and hot air balloons and all the other wine country trappings.

When I started my hotel career over a decade ago, I did so at an European-style bed and breakfast tucked into the middle of a working vineyard. It was there that I learned the basics and there that I learned to appreciate the magic of fall crush.

When the weather starts to turn, there’s a level of stress among the vintners that we civilians will never fully comprehend. To make a truly great vintage, one must pull the fruit from the vine at the exact perfect moment. Too soon and the sugars will not have fully developed, too late and the grapes will have ripened too far. There is science, there is intuition, there is luck. When you combine all three, that is when you may be able to create a wine worthy of sharing with friends and loved ones.

I’ve been lucky over the years to find a few wines (and a few winemakers) to whom I am loyal. I hold a fondness in my heart for the estate chardonnay from Lange here in Oregon, the Snoqualmie merlot from Washington, and Elysium, a black muscat from Quady. I’m always on the lookout for a wine that surprises me but doesn’t break my budget or try my patience by being too expensive or too pretentious (I’m looking at you, Domaine Drouhin).

And, when day dawns, I’ll be on my way to visit the winery where my new friend Dave works. Dave, a fellow Timbers supporter, has been teasing us all week by posting photos of the vineyard, the winery and the winemaking process to his Twitter account. I won’t post his Twitter handle today since I forgot to ask his permission (on the off chance that every single one of you suddenly floods his Twitter stream with, well, I don’t know what, I want him to have some notice) but I’ll be sure to ask when I see him.

Fall crush is an experience unique to October when the farmhands and the vintners come together to create true magic, bottling it and keeping it safe so that we may enjoy it year round.

More tomorrow….

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Posted by on October 19, 2011 in October 2011


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Why are they always stale? – October 19, 2011

Popcorn balls are one of the traditional treats of October. I’m sure it had something to do with celebrating the harvest and whatnot but Nebraska (Nebraska?!) lays claim to the original creation of popcorn balls with a story that might have come straight out of Fried Green Tomatoes.

Here’s my favorite popcorn ball quote EVAR (linked to its original article and some interesting popcorn ball recipes):

“Popcorn balls are to Halloween what fruitcake is to Christmas. A tradition everybody enjoys but nobody eats.”

That pretty much sums it up. We have them around because it’s tradition, but nobody really likes them. You know it’s true. If you get one that’s actually edible, you’re shocked. Of course, how would you know if it is edible? You know darn well that you’re not going to attempt eating any popcorn ball-esque objects people give you. You’re not stupid.

If you’re like me, you probably don’t have any truly fond memories of popcorn balls. And if you’re of my generation and perhaps a bit older, you remember with great bitterness every single house that gave you a popcorn ball when you went trick-or-treating. And you remember with great frustration your attempts at shoving it in through the not-quite-large-enough hole in the top of your orange plastic pumpkin trick-or-treat receptacle and scraping your knuckles as you did so on the sharp edges of said pumpkin.

Gahhhh. Popcorn balls.

So, starting this year, I make the following request: let’s make that our October swear. Stub your toe whilst raiding the Halloween candy in the middle of the night? Popcorn balls! Arrive at the costume party in your super-unique costume only to find seven other six-foot-tall Smurfs? Popcorn balls! Realize too late that your semi-permanent rave green hair coloring is not exactly semi at all? Popcorn balls!

Popcorn balls!

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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in October 2011


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Shades of grey – October 18, 2011

I am not a meteorologist. I cannot give you the scientific reasoning behind fog aside from a brief explanation of temperature and moisture but that’s not what you came here for. What I can give you is this:

Fog is mystical, magical. Fog lends mystery to the mundane, drama to the ordinary.

Fog envelops, surrounds, shrouds.

Fog sneaks up on us, twisting our surroundings and pushing us off balance, causing us to wonder if perhaps we should turn back and spend our evening at home near the hearth with a dog who does not howl because he cannot see the full moon.

Fog is the form the vampire takes in order to steal into your bedroom through the keyhole or from around the panes of glass in your window. Fog takes no heed of ropes of garlic or sacred amulets meant to ward against evil.

Fog obscures the path before you so you stumble blindly. Fog follows you so there’s no way for you to see your assailants until they’re already upon you, all claws and teeth and things best left unsaid.

Fog is the icy breath of October at the nape of your neck.

Fog is alive.

Happy October, people.

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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in October 2011



You can keep those. Thanks. – October 17, 2011

I’m fully prepared for Rebecca to start screaming from the other side of the state by the end of this. I’m half surprised she hasn’t started already. She knows what’s coming.

As has been mentioned in previous years, I’m a sucker for anything that smells or tastes like pumpkin or pumpkin spice or even says it does. If the label says “pumpkin spice,” I’ll buy it. I can’t seem to help myself. And this year, I’m told there are two more products to add to my pumpkin spice shopping list: pumpkin-flavored Eggo waffles and Pop-Tarts. I haven’t yet been able to locate either, but they’re out there.

I had a hard time with the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte for a long time until I learned that if you add about a half-shot of vanilla, it actually kind of tastes like pumpkin pie. And now you probably don’t even need to go to Starbucks. Even most of the little mom-and-pop coffee places (unless they’re super snooty coffee connoisseurs) have the stuff to make you a pumpkin spice coffee drink.

Regardless, I’m not here to sell you anything (although I wholeheartedly endorse Philosophy’s Pumpkin Spice Muffin shower gel is ridiculous).

Tonight, I’m here to warn you of the terror that is the black jelly bean.

It’s just about this time every year when the world seems to slip into an entirely black-and-orange color scheme. I have no problem with this except when it comes to jelly beans.

I’m okay with the orange jelly beans. They’re usually orange or just a generic sweet something-or-other but the black ones, without fail, are black licorice. Unacceptable. If I wanted black licorice, that’s what I’d reach for.

And no, I don’t have a plan for what they should taste like should the jelly candy cartel ever take my yearly rant to heart. Maybe s’mores? Guinness! Yes, they should taste like Guinness.

Until then, you can keep your black jelly beans. No need to share, thanks.


Posted by on October 16, 2011 in October 2011


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Aftermath and the afterworld – October 15/16, 2011

Last night was rough. Everything felt wrong from the moment I got to the stadium.

Often when I get these weird sorts of feelings, it’s safe to assume it’s just me being vaguely crazy. I don’t claim to have any sort of psychic abilities. I don’t see the future. I can’t tell you next week’s winning lottery numbers or anything like that. I sound like a lunatic when I talk about this stuff but, like many people out there who have probably made the right choice to not say anything lest they sound like a lunatic, I think I’m just slightly more sensitive to certain energies.

And last night was one of those times.

I went downtown earlier than I normally would for a Timbers match at Jeld-Wen Field. Looking back, I’ve been on edge for days. And, reading Twitter, I know I’m not the only one. The last regular season home game of an insane first season in MLS with our playoff hopes on the line had somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 people just as jittery as I.

October folks, stay with me here. I swear there’s an actual October Thought coming.

I strayed from my normal routine a bit and went to meet a fellow NaNoWriMo participant and his in-laws at the Bitter End. We talked of our love for our team, our commitment to the Timbers Army, our admiration of team owner Merritt Paulson and wondered at the fact that he’s on Twitter and will respond directly to you if you have a question or a complaint. You don’t get that from Paul Allen, that’s for sure.

About an hour before the game, I headed over to the park. Said hello to a few people on the way, settled into my regular place high in 221, overlooking the pitch and with an excellent view of the Army in all its glory. I wasn’t inside the park more than five minutes before Merritt was up on one of the capo stands leading a chant. He gets it.

But even in such familiar surroundings, I felt out of place. Maybe that isn’t entirely accurate. It just didn’t seem right. Something was off. It felt like things were moving too fast.

We sang the national anthem. There were fireworks. The massive Tifo went off without a hitch. We sang. We clapped. But then it started to unravel.

Reading later Twitter and Facebook posts, we know something went down in the TA section. Some big names got caught up in part of it and park security didn’t step in to lend a hand. An influx of 1,000 tourists with giveaway tickets from Adidas probably didn’t help. I can’t say with any certainty what happened because I wasn’t in the midst of it but people are still talking it out a day later. What I can say is that the Army was more subdued than I’ve seen it in a very long time.

The on-field action was much the same: our guys getting slammed around on the pitch by a thuggish Houston side and little help from the ref. An injury to Zizzo and a thoroughly flattened Chabala as the result of some dangerous play turned the crowd negative. I’m not sure I was breathing the entire time Chewy was laid out face-down on the pitch and even less sure I’ve ever had a happier moment than when he finally got to his feet.

And then it was over and we’d lost.

We made our way to the North End to see Perkins awarded his Supports Player of the Year belt. Said hello to Timber Jim and a few more people, folks we may or may not see until next season depending on the results of this coming week’s matches.

Stood on a street corner and ate Timbers-themed ice cream in the rain and then got in our cars and went home. Should have gone to the Bullpen or BE, but didn’t. Couldn’t.

Came home sad, but not totally deflated. We’ve got two more matches ahead of us. There’s still hope. Obi says,”Believe beyond reason.” That’s what I’m focusing on now.

And then there’s this. The part that made me cry is at about 3:35. This is one more reason to love John Spencer:

I woke up this morning hoping that none of it had happened, but it had and it’s time to put the cleats back on and get back to work.

Finally, October people, we’re on the verge of an actual October Thought.

I got up this morning in a mood that, were it a color, might be a heathered charcoal grey. In fact, it’s the same color as the shirt I was wearing yesterday. And I woke up pondering the symbolism of spending half my day in a cemetery.

Today I went to a meeting of tour guides for the Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery’s Tour of Untimely Departures.

Ha, say the October folks. Cemeteries!

So, on a really pleasant October afternoon when I was in an already dark mood, I found myself in what has recently been revealed as one of National Geographic Traveller’s top ten cemeteries to visit. Weathered grey stone, shiny black granite, the red and oranges of fallen leaves, it was like walking into the center of all things October. Surrounded by an estimated 25,000 burials, I started to feel a little bit better.

This, my friends, is where I plan to spend most of my Halloween.

Friends of Lone Fir stepped in about a decade ago to preserve and protect this crumbling pioneer cemetery in southeast Portland. Lone Fir is a treasure trove for historians, home to burials that predate Oregon’s statehood and span the breadth of Portland history: unnamed Chinese immigrants lie yards from those for whom we’ve named streets and bridges. Of note to those of you who partake in the occasional beer: the resting place of George Bottler, Henry Weinhard’s partner in his first Portland brewery. Daniel Boone’s granddaughter is there, as are any number of mayors and newspaper editors and other notables. A lot of them are on the website.

Lone Fir has long been a target of graffiti and vandalism and, as the Friends of Lone Fir noted years ago, such activity spikes around Halloween. So, what better way to combat crime than to fill the cemetery with people who are there for some other purpose? They started offering tours during trick-or-treating hours about six years ago. In that first year, they had 200 people. Two years ago, they had more than 2,000.

That’s where we come in. I spent about two hours today following along as one of the tour directors ran us through the talking points and the tour route. Most of the other folks there had been involved with the tours before. Near as I could tell, I was the only one who had not even been on previous years’ tours something that I’m wholeheartedly regretting.

I had some concerns as to whether running 2,000 people through a graveyard in costume on Halloween might be seen as disrespectful to those interred there or to their surviving relatives. But having seen the preparation and care that goes into it, those concerns are gone. I was incredibly impressed with the amount of information our guide threw at us, much of which won’t even make the tour because we just won’t have time for all of it. There’s really no way to put a century and a half worth of information into a 45-minute tour. A lot of research has been done (and is ongoing) and one of the chief concerns of the organizers is that we all have the correct information so that any portrayal of the cemetery’s residents is as accurate as possible. A far cry from when I was a tour guide elsewhere and it was “Well, if you don’t know, just make up something interesting.”

So, if you’re looking for something to do on Halloween that’s vaguely creepy and still somewhat educational, here you go. Advance tickets are available online through the Friends of Lone Fir website (linked above). Dress warmly. Wear comfortable shoes. Don’t be scared.

Happy October.

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Posted by on October 16, 2011 in October 2011, Timbers


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Something simple…and kind of convoluted- October 14, 2011

Warning: if this is the first time you’re settling in to read something I’ve written, don’t. Come back tomorrow when I’ve gotten myself back on track. Seriously. You’ve been warned.

Okay, so I had this whole other thing I was going to write but today, October 14, 2011, is the date of the Portland Timbers’ last regular season home game. Coming into the season as a fairly casual observer of soccer, but not really a fan, I honestly had no idea I would have gotten so caught up in all of this. I love the game, I love my team, I love nearly every fan in the stadium (with the exception of Asshat McDoucheypants who sits across the aisle from me when he bothers to show up). This match is occupying a lot of my brainpower right now and I’m much more emotional about the whole thing than I probably should be so I’m going to attempt to skip into the October Thought and call it good. But there, look. All of a sudden I have 150 words relating to you my undying love of the Timbers. Rose City ’til I die.

See? That’s exactly what I didn’t want to do. We should be talking about October. Leave the sports writing to the folks that can actually write sports.

So, we’re going to go with something simple because, as evidenced above, I’m distracted and slightly ridiculous.

Candy corn.

That’s right. Candy corn. What’s more October than candy corn?

Here’s the Wikipedia page. I’m stupidly amused by it because, honestly, it looks like someone lifted most of it from past years’ October Thoughts on the subject. Not that I mind. It’s important information that all people should have access to. Candy corn is October’s lifeblood.

***Did I mention that Sal Zizzo is opening a food cart in Portland? No? Well, he is.***

Years back, I found a quote somewhere online that called candy corn the “crack cocaine of the confectionary world.” Truth. It’s too sweet. It’s made of corn syrup in most cases. It’s bad for you. It will rot the teeth right out of your head if you’re not careful (ha! much like crack!) And there’s no way you can stop after the first one. There is no substance known to man that’s more addictive than candy corn.

Why do I not have any right now? How the hell did this happen? I’m writing about candy corn with no actual candy corn in sight. I’m blaming this on Mike Chabala. Although there’s the possibility that Pete Lowry as already eaten all of it since earlier this month he tweeted that if he’d been eating carrot sticks at the same rate he was eating Halloween candy, he’d be orange by Halloween.

Candy corn used to be one-size-fits-all. Not so much anymore. There’s the traditional, the Indian corn (with the chocolate-flavored part), caramel apple-flavored candy corn (don’t do it, trust me) and about a bazillion other kinds. You can get it year-round now in colors that coordinate with whatever the nearest holiday is. Red and pink for Valentine’s, pastels for Easter, red, white and blue for Independence Day.

But I’m a traditionalist. Make mine plain – orange, yellow, white. And I don’t want the fancy Brach’s candy corn. Just gimme the cheap, waxy stuff.

Then, if you do want to get all fancy, make me some of these: Candy Corn Butterfinger Pops.

***Time out for me to imagine a Darlington Nagbe cross to Kenny Cooper and the possibility of the KCHT.***

That’s really all I’ve got. Go get yourselves some candy corn. Share it with your friends. Don’t forget to brush your teeth.

Did I mention we’ve got a guy with a chainsaw?

And this guy? I love this man.

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Posted by on October 14, 2011 in October 2011, Timbers


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Lucky Thirteen – October 13, 2011

Does this font look weird? It looks weird to me. Onward.

I’ve always harbored a sort of fascination with the occult. I think it stems from two things: Scooby Doo cartoons and exposure to Monster Macabre and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, in my formative years.

I loved a good ghost story when I was little, but it was the “real” stuff that was most interesting to me.

Enter Sarah Winchester.

My early childhood was spent in southern California, but we have relatives in the Bay Area and in Napa and Sonoma, so many holidays and vacations were spent there. When I was maybe 8, one of these vacations included a tour of the Winchester Mystery House.

I had no idea what to expect, but I was (and still am) that dorky kid that wanted to stop and read every historical marker at the side of the road. I loved tours of the Missions when I was little, and General Vallejo’s house and Jack London State Historic Park were favorite places of mine.

As I remember, on the trip during which we visited the Winchester house, we also toured Hearst Castle. No comparison. Hearst is grand and opulent, but Sarah’s house was creepy on a level I still have trouble describing.

Sarah Lockwood Pardee married into the Winchester family in 1862 and, following the deaths of her daughter, her husband and several other members of the Winchester family, she was left holding a 50% stake in Winchester Rifles.

Sarah was a troubled soul who became even more troubled following the deaths of her infant daughter and her husband. Out of desperation and thinking she was cursed, she consulted a psychic who told her that her trouble stemmed from the unrestful spirits of all those killed by the Winchester rifle.

The only way to appease those spirits and avoid sure death, the psychic told her, was to build a house. And to keep building it. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And so she did.

For thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight years.

The house still stands in San Jose, California. You can tour it if you like. This time of year, especially creepy flashlight tours are offered so you can truly get the feel of the place.

Sarah had no architect and no plan but the ones she sketched out in the Blue Room, where she was said to have spent many nights “communing with spirits” who told her what she should build.

Sarah had no architectural training, something clearly evident for anyone who has ever visited the house. Doors open to walls or to two-story drops to the ground below. Stairs were built that lead only to the ceiling. The house is secret passageways and other anomalies.

And, as Sarah was deeply influenced by the occult, the number thirteen figured prominently into her plans. Windows were specially made with thirteen panes. Rooms were fitted with thirteen oak panels when twelve would have sufficed. She had twelve-armed chandeliers fitted with an extra arm to suit her needs.

Sarah died in her sleep at the age of 83 unable to avoid death by continuing her construction project. When her carpenters were told of her death, they simply put their tools down and walked away. There are still places in the house where nails are only halfway driven into the walls. With Sarah gone, there was no reason to continue.

Some say that Sarah still inhabits the house and I, for one, wouldn’t be surprised at all. Go see for yourself. And think of Sarah the next time your home improvement projects take a bit longer than you originally anticipated.

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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in October 2011


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And so it has begun – October 12, 2011

Courtesy of a friend on Twitter who goes by the handle @DemonJuice, we have our first House of Crap for the season.

Click here.

There was some discussion as to whether it’s actually a Halloween House of Crap or if it’s just super early for Christmas but DJ is leaning toward those being Halloween lights.

They’re out there, people. You know who they are. There’s one on every block. They’ve got a basement full of holiday decor and they’re not afraid to use it.

These are the caretakers of the Houses of Crap.

It used to be, years ago, that these HOCs were only identifiable at Christmas when they filled their yards with elaborate illuminated holiday scenes. Who doesn’t love the light-up Baby Jesus? And who among us didn’t at least know someone with a three-foot-tall plastic Santa that lit up the night?

But, in recent memory, more and more Houses of Crap are advancing their agendas and branching out into other holidays. There’s (at least) one here in Portland that goes pretty much year round. A friend of mine is convinced that the caretakers there actually make up holidays to celebrate. I wouldn’t be surprised. In addition to the Big Three (Halloween, Christmas, Easter), they have managed to find illuminated leprechauns for St. Patrick’s Day. They have achieved a whole other level of Craptastic.

Also here in Portland is another fantastically Octoberesque locale: the Davis Graveyard. They’ve taken what was once probably just your standard yard display and have built and built and built until it is a landmark Halloween attraction. Elements of haunted house and creepy graveyard take over what is normally just a lovely house in SE Portland for a month each fall. Guess which month.

But it doesn’t stop there. They sell do-it-yourself items so you can build your own haunt as well as t-shirts and videos of past years’ events on their website. They offer classes on how to create some of the FX they use. And they sell refreshments curbside to spectators to support a local high school dance team. There’s a whole lot going on there. If you’re in the area, make sure you check it out.

Now here’s your call to action. I don’t think I’ve ever suggested this before, but this year I’m encouraging you all to go out and spend a little time creating your own house of crap. It doesn’t have to be outrageous or elaborate. Think of the coming trick-or-treaters. Give ’em a little yard decor theater. A ghost in the dogwood tree, a witch on the front porch. You can do this.


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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


The Sanguine Moon – October 11, 2011

We’ve gone pretty far afield these last couple days from the original intent of the October Thoughts.

Traveling in that big blue van with the one red fender through Wisconsin so long ago, these shared daily themes were simple: the color orange, those awful peanut butter taffies that ended up in your trick-or-treat candy when you weren’t paying attention, the full moon. We wrote no essays, we linked no websites. It’s a changed world.

Tonight is the full moon for October. I’m pretty sure this one is the Hunter’s Moon since September’s full moon was closer to the autumnal equinox, making it the Harvest Moon. No, I don’t keep this stuff in my head. I have to look it up every year. This year, I’ll even admit to counting on my fingers so I’m pretty sure I’m right. There: I’ve completely blown my cover and now y’all know I’m not really an expert on all things October. I’m only an expert on most things October.

The Farmer’s Almanac also refers to the October full moon as the Blood Moon or the Sanguine Moon which I actually prefer. Lends a little more drama, I think, especially when we’re moving into the part of October when we start gearing up for Halloween.

Sadly, this year’s Sanguine Moon is expected to be the smallest of the year, appearing 12.3% smaller than the full moon in March. The difference? a change in distance from the Earth of merely 30,000 miles. (Please note that the article linked here incorrectly identifies tonight’s moon as the Harvest Moon. Someone didn’t count on their fingers.)

The moon figures prominently in the rituals of many cultures but, with the passage of time, our more industrial world has moved away from looking to nature (and the phases of the moon) for guidance. The moon still has some pull (hello, semidirunal tide) and still holds sway over some religious holy days but, for the most part, it’s just another rock in the sky.

Pliny the Elder and Aristotle both argued that the moon made crazy even crazier. Because the brain is made of mostly water, it only made sense to them that, if the moon could affect the tides, it could obviously exert the same pull on the brain. Crazy? The full moon makes you crazier.

For a more contemporary pop culture reference to the effects of the full moon, we need look no further than the werewolf. We’ll leave our discussion of him for another day, but I will point to the December 2001 issue of the British Medical Journal where they presented two sides to the discussion of whether emergency rooms see more dog bite admissions near and during the full moon. There’s a ton of good stuff in there (as well as the tiniest bit of Brit humor) if you’ve got way too much spare time on your hands.

Happy October, people. Enjoy the Sanguine Moon.

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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in October 2011


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