|Posted on Thu, Jan. 22, 2004|
Hey, hey for the monkey
It's time to party, to monkey around. It's Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey, and astrologists say that signals a year of fun.
The Chinese calendar, based on phases of the moon, places today, Jan. 22, as the first day of year 4701.
Join us in celebrating not only the new year, but also the lovable, laughable monkey, and the weird and wonderful ways he pops up in our culture.
How to observe traditional Chinese New Year
In preparation for the 15-day new year celebration, you should already have cleaned house, paid debts, prepared food and written poems.
With the "old" swept out, you should spend time today with family and avoid raising your voice, using indecent language or breaking anything unless you want to attract bad luck during the Year of the Monkey.
Give children money in red envelopes as a portent of luck.
The day after new year's day -- Friday -- go visiting, carrying gifts of plum blossoms (symbolizing hope and courage), tangerines (symbolizing luck) and oranges (symbolizing wealth).
Everyone in traditionalist China turns a year older on the seventh day of the new year, a time considered more important than individual birthdays. On Jan. 29, count yourself a year older.
End the celebration with a Lantern Festival, a parade where dancers prance under the silk, bamboo and paper of a long dragon costume.
Set off firecrackers to ward off evil spirits.
Hang up poems written in black ink on red paper by the front door or in the kitchen. Traditionally, two-line verses known as couplets are used. Each line should match the other in syntax and sound.
The poems should express wishes for good fortune or should serve as odes to spring.
Source: Chinese Cultural Center in San Francisco
Poem for the new year
Chu ru ping an
Si ji ping an
May you be blessed with peace and safety wherever you go
May you be blessed with peace and safety in all seasons
How to observe modern Chinese New Year
Look for fun events for families and kids. One of note: a Dallas museum, The Crow Collection of Asian Art, celebrates on Saturday with its Enchanted China family day. Activities include Chinese brush painting, shadow puppets, Chinese fortunetelling, mah-jongg and the art of paper cutting. The event is free and runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum at 2010 Flora St.
Or go see monkeys. The Fort Worth Zoo is home to a collection of colobus monkeys. In their African home, colobus are known as "messengers of the gods" because of their habit of sitting in the tops of trees at sunrise, as if in quiet prayer. Mandrill monkeys, relatives of baboons, also are at the Fort Worth Zoo. They are powerful primates with bright red and blue markings on their faces and bottoms.
Hey, hey, they're the Monkees
They charmed teens during the 1966-67 television season with their hit show, The Monkees, and hit songs like Last Train to Clarksville and Daydream Believer. Then they broke up, reunited and broke up again. But they keep monkeying around. Davy Jones, now 61, is playing on the QE2 cruise liner out of New York this spring. Michael Nesmith, 58, recently scrapped plans to release an album in favor of releasing it song by song on his Web site, www.videoranch.com. Mickey Dolenz, 62, joined the Broadway cast of Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida this month. Peter Tork, 59, tours with his band, Shoe Suede Blues.
The Chinese zodiac says people born in the years 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992 and 2004 are governed by the spirit of the monkey. These folks are sociable, cheerful, brainy strategists who slip into and out of difficulties with ease. The monkey is the sign of the inventor, the improviser, the motivator.
Famous monkeys include Jennifer Aniston, Elizabeth Taylor and Will Smith. Source: the ancient astrologers at www.primatestore.com
Monkey news story of the century, so far
Customs agents at Los Angeles International Airport detained Californian Robert Cusack in 2002 for smuggling exotic orchids and birds, but they could never have imagined what would happen when they asked him if he had anything else to declare.
"Yes, I've got monkeys in my pants," Cusack responded before handing over a pair of pygmy monkeys he'd picked up in Jakarta and carried aboard the long flight from Indonesia to California.
Imagine what trouble your dog would get into if he had opposable thumbs. Nothing would be safe.
"Monkeys are pretty smart, about as smart as dogs," says Linda Roberts, lead primate keeper at the Fort Worth Zoo.
They have the added advantage of having not just thumbs on their hands but also fully workable "thumbs" on their feet.
Monkeys also must rely on their "smarts" to get by. They aren't bigger or stronger or faster than other animals in the wild.
Female monkeys usually have just one baby at a time and teach them much during nursing periods of up to two years.
"Monkeys have to have a fairly high intelligence to remember everything they need to know to survive," Roberts says.
They need to know when certain leaves -- their main food -- come in season, where to go to get them and which leaves are toxic.
One troop of monkeys in Africa was known to raid a potato field. One of the monkeys dropped his potato in the ocean by mistake, then retrieved it and apparently enjoyed the salty taste. That must have been communicated to the troop, because soon all the monkeys were dropping their potatoes in the ocean, Roberts says.
About 200 species of monkeys exist. The smallest is the pygmy marmoset, which is about 6 inches long (not including its tail) and weighs about 4 ounces. The largest is the mandrill, which is about 32 inches long. One male mandrill at the Fort Worth Zoo weighs 75 pounds.
Monkeys live in tropical and subtropical climates in Africa, Asia and South America.
Source: The World Book Encyclopedia; Fort Worth Zoo
Monkeys in space
Monkeys are so much like us that NASA sent 14 into space between 1949 and 1990 to test the effects of space flight.
Monkeys were strapped into rockets. They were seated in space capsules in high-tech suits. Most didn't survive the flights, but they are credited with paving the way for the likes of astronauts Alan Shepherd and John Glenn.
And do we ever pause to thank the monkeys? No. Do we remember them on Veterans Day? No. Poor monkeys.
Go get a drink with one of those plastic monkeys hanging off it and remember our astromonkeys, including Albert, the first astromonkey, and Sam, who flew in 1959.
The word "monkey" in popular slang is used to describe rascals, silly people, things that scamper or tinker.
"Monkey" swings into our language often:
Monkey on my back: This term emerged in the late 1800s to describe someone who was bothered and in a bad mood by something that wouldn't go away. By the late 1940s, it had become a reference to having an addiction, particularly to heroin, or to having a home mortgage.
Monkeyshines: This description of frivolous behavior or pranks has no clear origin. It is usually plural. Monkeys seldom do something just once.
Monkey suit: A tuxedo, the wearing of which makes some men feel silly.
Monkey's uncle: Audie Murphy in 1948's Hell and Back said: "If it works . . . I'm a blue-tailed monkey's uncle." That's an early reference to the expression showing surprise and slight humiliation at an outcome.
Monkey wrench: A tool used to tinker, just as monkeys love to do. To throw a monkey wrench into something is to sabotage or ruin a plan.
Source: Historical Dictionary of American Slang (Random House, 1997)
Makes 1 circular loaf
• 1 cup bran
• 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 cup boiling water
• 2 packages dry yeast
• 1 cup lukewarm water
• 2 eggs
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 6 1/2 cups flour
• 1/4 pound margarine
Put bran, shortening and 1/2 cup (minus 1 tablespoon) sugar in large bowl. Pour boiling water over mix. Stir until shortening is melted. Let stand until lukewarm. In separate bowl, mix the yeast with lukewarm water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Beat eggs (in separate bowl), then add salt. Fold eggs into bran mixture. Add yeast mixture. Mix well at low speed. Gradually add 3 cups flour and beat well with mixer. Add remaining flour and beat by hand. Turn out half of dough onto board and knead for 1 minute. Roll out to 1/4-inch thickness and cut into diamonds. Dip each diamond in melted margarine and place in bundt pan. Let rise 1 1/2 hours. Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes and 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool, then remove from pan. Keep remaining dough in refrigerator up to 1 week.
-- Angela Pearce, Arlington