The Almanac


Illustration by Esther Watson Turkey sales peak this month; so do sales of vegetarian alternatives, such as tofu and wheat-based "turkeys." It is estimated that more than 170,000 meatless turkeys will be consumed on Thanksgiving. The market for such items has recently soared: one manufacturer, for example, has seen sales double each year since 1992. The rise is due in part to the growing popularity of soy products, increasingly prized for their health value, and in part to sentiment (many who shun meat are nostalgic nonetheless for traditional holiday foods). Producers have come up with a number of tactics to make these products resemble real turkeys. One brand is molded into the shape of a bird; another has a covering that turns dark and crispy, when baked, like turkey skin; yet another has a tofu-jerky wishbone inside.


November starts the busy season for college applications. Admissions officers may still be recovering from last season, which saw the highest volume in the nation's history. The peak resulted from the number of high school seniors, members of the so-called Baby Boomlet (it is estimated that 2.8 million graduated this year, close to the record 3.2 million in 1977), coupled with the high proportion who set out to attend college (67 percent today, as compared with 50 percent in 1977). In recent years the process has been heating up earlier than usual, partly because of the growing popularity of early-action options, especially at top-rated schools: for example, in 1998 Harvard University accepted nearly half of its incoming class by early action. The Internet has also increased applications activity: students have begun adding multimedia components to their applications, electronic services have reduced the cost and work of applying to several schools at once, and some colleges let students confirm the receipt of their applications online. However, one rite remains sacred: acceptance and rejection letters still arrive by regular mail.

Arts & Letters

The American artist Norman Rockwell -- long scorned by critics as sentimental and a mere "illustrator," and omitted from many art-history texts -- gains an important measure of respectability in the art world this month with the opening of the most comprehensive exhibit ever of his work. "Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People" starts a nationwide tour at the High Museum of Art, in Atlanta, on November 6; it will travel to Chicago; Washington, D.C.; San Diego; Phoenix; Stockbridge, Massachusetts; and New York City. The exhibit contains more than 70 oil paintings and all 322 of Rockwell's covers for The Saturday Evening Post. It pairs the nostalgic pictures for which Rockwell is famous with lesser-known works relating to complex social developments -- for example, the civil-rights movement -- and also contains sketches and other items that document his meticulous methods. Its catalogue will include critical essays about Rockwell -- the first time such a collection has been published.


November 1: As of today the four major networks and their affiliates must begin high-definition digital broadcasting in the nation's top 30 television markets. This is the second phase of a Federal Communications Commission mandate that will eliminate traditional, analog broadcasting by 2007. (The first phase, implemented in May, required the addition of digital formats in the top 10 TV markets.) The switch not only is big business -- high-definition TVs typically cost between $4,000 and $10,000 -- but also has medical implications. Last year about a dozen heart monitors at Baylor University Medical Center malfunctioned when a Dallas TV station tested the high-definition technology over the same broadcasting band used by the hospital (no patients were harmed). During the transition years, when stations will be broadcasting in both formats, there will be fewer frequencies available to hospitals -- which bear the responsibility for steering clear.

The Skies

Illustration by Esther Watson

November 6: Saturn reaches opposition -- it is on the other side of Earth from the Sun -- and is at its brightest in more than 20 years. 13: The crescent Moon hangs just above Mars in the southwest at dusk. 17-18: The Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight. Though notoriously unpredictable, the shower may bear watching this year: many believe that this might be the last chance in several decades for a spectacular display. 23: Full Moon, also known this month as the Frosty or Beaver Moon or the Moon When the Bucks Lose Their Horns.

Health & Safety

November 18: The Great American Smokeout, on which day the American Cancer Society urges smokers to refrain. They may do so at some peril: British researchers who reviewed 10 years' worth of statistics found a rise in workplace accidents on Britain's No Smoking Day (the second Wednesday in March). They attributed the accidents to deficits in concentration and coordination from nicotine withdrawal, and recommended that abstainers take other forms of nicotine on such days.

50 Years Ago

Bertrand Russell, writing in the November, 1949, issue of The Atlantic Monthly: "The savage ... lived a life in which his initiative was not too much hampered by the community. The things that he wanted to do, usually hunting and war, were also the things that his neighbors wanted to do, and if he felt an inclination to become a medicine man he only had to ingratiate himself with some individual already eminent in that profession.... The modern man lives a very different life. If he sings in the street he will be thought to be drunk, and if he dances a policeman will reprove him for impeding the traffic. His working day, unless he is exceptionally fortunate, is occupied in a completely monotonous manner.... When his work is over, he cannot, like Milton's Shepherd, 'tell his tale under the hawthorn in the dale,' because there is often no dale anywhere near where he lives, or, if there is, it is full of tins."

Illustrations by Esther Watson.

The Atlantic Monthly; November 1999; The Almanac - 99.11; Volume 284, No. 5; page 14.