The Weekender, November 21, 2018

1) Turkey trivia for your Thanksgiving! Here are some selections from past Now I Know issues which could make for good small talk around your turkey day dinner.

How Turkey Got Its Name (November 2010): Turkey, the bird, they’re from North America, not from Turkey, the country. So how did the bird get named for a nation an ocean away?

Brown Friday (November 2012): Thanksgiving is a day off for many; the day after is a busy day for plumbers. It’s not a coincidence — it’s the gravy.

When Elephants and Donkeys Fought Over Turkey (June 2013): The fourth Thursday in November is an odd day for a holiday, especially when (like this year) there’s a fifth Thursday in the month. Here’s the history behind that decision — and as the title implies, it was very political.

Thanks For the Helium (April 2014): The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is an institution, with huge balloons of cartoon characters and the like marching down the streets of New York City. Here’s what used to happen to those balloons after the parade was over.

Turkey Basters (November 2014): That really big turkey on your dinner table was, well, creatively made.

The Forgotten History of Jingle Bells (November 2017): Jingle Bells isn’t a Christmas song — it’s a Thanksgiving song. (As the article notes, “there’s no mention of Christmas itself and the “sleigh” isn’t Santa’s.”) And… it’s not really a kid’s song, either.

2) “The Turkey in the Left Turn Lane” (The Atlantic, 11 minutes, November 2017). The subhead: “How a bird that stood in traffic captivated, united—and divided a town.” (The picture at the top is great, too.)

As 2016 gave way to 2017, a turkey moved into the left turn lane of a major intersection in my hometown. Some say he arrived in January of this year; others are sure he was around in late 2016. But regardless, once he was there, he was there to stay. When he wasn’t in the street, he rarely strayed far from the nearby corner that he’d decided to make his home.

In suburban Ypsilanti, Michigan, the corner of Whittaker and Textile sits in between a residential area of schools and subdivisions, and a busier commercial area with a grocery store and several restaurants that dot Whittaker Road as it heads toward the highway. The turkey’s constant presence in this busy spot made him a local celebrity, and the unlikely, or perhaps inevitable, epicenter of a community in which humanity’s best and worst instincts played out.

3) “Thanksgiving, 1963” (Politico, 9 minutes, November 2015). A week and a day before Thanksgiving, 1963, JFK was murdered, making Lyndon B. Johnson the nation’s new President. As the subhead articulates, this was “the long weekend that defined LBJ’s presidency.”

4) “InSight” (The Oatmeal, 7 minutes maybe?, November 2018). This is a comic strip. On Monday, NASA hopes to land InSight on Mars. If all goes well, InSight will dig a really deep hole in the Mars surface to measure all sorts of things. This comic explains it in a fun, approachable way. (If you want more, here’s NASA’s official site.)


5) “Welcome to the Witch Capital of Norway” (The Outline, 7 minutes, November 2018). Like Salem, Massachusetts, but a lot less commercial — and a lot more witchiness.

6) “Ribbon” (YouTube, 6 minutes, October 2018). The best magic trick you’ll see this week, easily. Each year, the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques (in English, the International Federation of Magic Societies) hosts a world championship. This was the winner in the “close up” category and you’ll see why.

Have a great Thanksgiving!