Monday, December 31, 2012


The keeping of a holiday

Today's gift count (84 gifts): you currently have Seven Swans a' swimming, 12 geese a' laying, 15 golden rings, 16 calling birds, 15 French hens, 12 turtledoves and 7 partridges in their respective pear trees.

More than six swans constitutes a lamentation of swans. They are usually known as a flock or bevy (A wedge when you see them flying in their usual V formation.)

I can't begin to imagine the amount of bird waste you are removing at the point. But keep shoveling, you don't want the EPA on your tail (so to speak.) You may want to consider contacting your local garden store: fresh guano can garner a pretty price.

Tonight's the Sixth night of Kwanzaa.

Tonight celebrates Kuumba (Creativity) - To do always as much as one can, in the way one can, in order to leave their community more beautiful and beneficial than one inherited it.

December 31, 1907 -
For the first time a ball drops at Times Square to signal the New Year on this date.

The New Year’s Eve Ball first descended from a flagpole at One Times Square, constructed with iron and wood materials with 100 25-watt bulbs weighing 700 pounds and measuring 5 feet in diameter.

December 31, 1909 -
The Manhattan Bridge, the last of the three suspension bridges built across the lower East River, was opened to traffic on this date (although not officially completed until 1912.)

This must have made it quite an interesting crossing.

December 31, 1958 -
Rebels forces lead by Fidel Castro, marched triumphantly into Havana, Cuba on this date. Cuban dictator Juan Batista fled the country with 180 of his supporters and personal fortune of more than $300 million dollars amassed through graft and payoffs.

Menwhile, Michael grasps Fredo tightly by the head and gives a kiss, telling him "I know it was you Fredo; you broke my heart." Michael appeals to his brother to join him in leaving the country, but Fredo runs away, frightened.

But that's another story ...

December 31, 1969 -
Walt Disney through its Buena Vista Distribution Company released The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, starring Kurt Russell, on this date.

It’s the first motion picture to use the word “computer” in its title.

December 31, 1995
Cartoonist Bill Watterson ends his Calvin & Hobbes comic strip on this date. Calvin and Hobbes debuted in 1985 and featured the adventures of Calvin, a hyperactive, overly imaginative, bratty six-year-old, and his best friend, the stuffed tiger Hobbes.

Thank you Bill

December 31, 1999 -
The large ferris wheel,  the London Eye (also called the Millennium Wheel), was built in celebration of the change of millinia, opened on this date.

It went on to become a famous London landmark, and attracts thousands of tourists a year.

Hope you all have wonderful plans for this evening. The only advice I can give you is - Drink til you drop and drop where you drink - Don't drink and drive.

Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians played "Auld Lang Syne" as a New Year’s Eve song for the first time on this date in 1929.

Here’s a brief overview of New Years Celebrations

Although the new year has been celebrated since prehistoric times, it was celebrated on the vernal equinox rather than what we now consider the first of the year. The Romans were the first to recognize New Years Day on January first. Rather than tie the day to some significant astronomical or agricultural event, in 153 BC the Romans selected it for civil reasons. It was the day after elections in which the newly elected assumed their positions.

Years later, Julius Caesar wanted to change the date to a more logical date but that year, January 1, 45 BC was the date of a new moon. To change it would have been bad luck. He did, however, change the calendar system from the Egyptian solar calendar to the "Julian" calendar, named for Caesar. July, the month of Caesar's birth, was also named after him to recognize him for his calendar reform. And look what it got him.

Up unto 1582, Christian Europe continued to celebrate New Years Day on March 25. Pope Gregory XIII instituted additional calendar reforms bringing us the calendaring system of the day. The Gregorian calendar was adopted by Catholic countries immediately while the reformists, suspect of any papal policy, only adapted it after some time. Today most countries around the world have adopted this calendaring system.

From primitive man to today, it has been recognized as a day in which rites were done to abolished the past so there could be a rejuvenation for the new year. Rituals included purgations, purifications, exorcisms, extinguishing and rekindling fires, masked processions (masks representing the dead), and other similar activities. Often exorcisms and purgations were performed with much noise as if to scare away the evil spirits. In China, Ying, the forces of light fought Yang, the forces of darkness with cymbals, noisemakers, and firecrackers.

Early European-Americans adopted the New Year celebrations from their homelands. However, it was noted by early settlers that native Americans already honored News Years Day with their own customs. Their rituals coincided with those around the world including fires, explosions of evil spirits, and celebrations. Today many of the New Year celebrations actually begin with a countdown to the New Year on the evening prior. It is customary to kiss your sweetheart when the clock strikes midnight as one of the customs of these New Years Eve parties.

Around the world, different cultures have their own traditions for welcoming the new year. The Japanese hang a rope of straw across the front of their houses to keep out evil spirits and bring happiness and good luck. They also have a good laugh as the year begins to get things started on a lucky note. Iraqis like to hang evil bastards to try to keep bad luck out of their country.

In West Bengal, in northern India, the people like to wear pink, red, purple and white flowers. Women favor yellow, the color of spring. Hindus also leave shrines next to their beds so they can see beautiful objects when they wake up to the new year.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, Canadians enjoy the traditional polar bear swim. People of all ages don their swim suits and take the plunge, an event that is sure to get you started in the new year with eyes wide open.

In Scotland, they celebrate Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year, usually with great exuberance. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow host street parties for 100,000 people. At midnight, there is the celebration of "First Footing," where gifts are exchanged.

New Year Resolutions is simply another way to wish away the past in exchange for hopes of the future. It is where the phrase turning over a new leaf originated.

I hope 2013 brings good health and better luck to all.

So everyone turn the wheel of your life. Make complete revolutions. Celebrate every turning. And persevere with joy!!!

And so it goes.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

In case this is still up for debate

If you have kids in your family (or family members that live in the south), here's a wonderful clip from our friends at Minute Physics explaining why the world is round:

Oh happy we that live on the little blue marble!

Today's gift count  (56 gifts): you currently have Six geese a' laying, 10 golden rings, 12 calling birds, 12 French hens, ten turtledoves and six partridges in their respective pear trees (begin thinking abut gardening tools and an illegal immigrant.)

I'm sorry to have to say this but kill the gaggle of geese immediately (after five, it's considered a gaggle.) They're filthy disgusting birds - again, contact your local upscale poultry purveyor. Geese lay approximately one egg every 1.5 days. Game birds fetch a high price during the holiday season.

Tonight is the Fifth night of Kwanzaa.

Tonight celebrates Nia (Purpose) - To make collective vocation the building and developing of community in order to restore the member's of the community to their traditional greatness.

December 30, 1942 -
Frank Sinatra opened at New York's Paramount Theatre for what was scheduled to be a 4-week engagement (his shows turned out to be so popular, he was booked for an additional 4 weeks). An estimated 400 policemen were called out to help curb the excitement.

It is said that some of the teen-age girls were hired to scream, but many more screamed for free. Sinatra was dubbed 'The Sultan of Swoon,' 'The Voice that Thrills Millions' and just 'The Voice.' Whatever he was known as, it was at this Paramount Theatre engagement that modern pop hysteria was born .

December 30, 1949 -
Stanley Donen/ Gene Kelly's wonderful take on the Comden and Green musical, On the Town, starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, opened nationwide on this date.

The crew tried to keep the location filming in New York City as low-key as possible. Many of the scenes were filmed from the back of a station wagon. At the end of "New York, New York", as the camera tilts up at Rockefeller Plaza, you can see the skating rink lined with spectators watching Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.

December 30, 1946 -
In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.

Patricia Lee "Patti" Smith, singer-songwriter, poet, artist, Godmother of Punk, Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was born on this date.

December 30, 1970 -
Paul McCartney sued the other three Beatles to dissolve the partnership and gain control of his interest. The suit touched off a bitter feud between McCartney and the others, especially his co-writer on many of the Beatles compositions, John Lennon.

The Beatles were legally disbanded, four years to the day after Paul McCartney sued his band mates to dissolve the partnership.

December 30, 1980 -
The longest-running series in prime-time television history, The Wonderful World of Disney, was canceled on NBC after more than 25 years on the air. The Government, wanting to honor this momentous occasion, had the Selective Service System sent a warning to Mickey Mouse at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The Selective Service said that Mickey was in violation of registration compliance.

Of course, Mickey, age 52 at the time, sent in his registration card proving that he's a World War II veteran .

Today in History:
December 30, 1853 -
Kids, follow along, it gets bumpy.

After the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, border disputes continued between the United States and Mexico. Land that now comprises lower Arizona and New Mexico was part of a proposed southern route for a transcontinental railroad. U.S. President Franklin Pierce (considered one of the worst Presidents) was convinced by Jefferson Davis, then the country's Secretary of War, to send James Gadsden (who had personal interests in the rail route) to negotiate the Gadsden Purchase with Mexico. Under the resulting agreement, the U.S. paid Mexico $10 million (equivalent to about $230 million in 2006 dollars, 2011 dollars are just not worth that much anymore) to secure the land.

The matter about the money was to be very contentious: even though the agreement specified $10 million, the US Congress agreed on only $7 million ($163 million in 2006 dollars). When the money finally arrived in Mexico City $1 million ($23 million in 2006 dollars) was missing, thus resulting in a total of only $6 million (oh, you do the math.) The treaty included a provision allowing the U.S. to build a transoceanic canal across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, though this option was never exercised. With a few exceptions, such as the resolution of the Chamizal dispute, acquisition of land in this purchase defined the present boundaries of the continental United States.

December 30, 1862 -
The Union ironclad ship USS Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C., during a storm on this date.

While the design of Monitor was well-suited for river combat, her low freeboard and heavy turret made her highly unseaworthy in rough waters. Sixteen members of the crew were lost.

The Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago, Illinois, claimed 627 lives on December 30, 1903. It was the single-building fire in U.S. history with the most fatalities, claiming over 100 more fatalities than the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston. The Iroquois Theater, at 24-28 West Randolph Street, was advertised as "absolutely fireproof." The theatre opened on November 23rd and burned 37 days later on December 30th. Over 1,900 people were in attendance at a matinée showing of the popular musical Mr. Bluebeard.

Of the 300 or so actors, dancers, stagehands, etc., only an aerialist (Nellie Reed), an actor in a bit part, an usher, and two female attendants died. The aerialist's role was as a fairy. She flew out over the audience on a trolley wire, showering them with pink carnations. She was trapped above the stage while waiting for her entrance. Comedian Eddie Foy was hailed as a hero for attempting to calm the crowd. Foy's role in this disaster is recreated by Bob Hope in the film The Seven Little Foys.

After the fire, it was revealed that fire inspectors had been bribed with free tickets to overlook code violations. Accusations began to appear that the asbestos curtain was not asbestos. The curtain had disappeared, which meant it was either viewed as incriminating evidence and removed or had burned, in which case it could not have been asbestos, which does not burn.

A result from the Iroquois fire was the development of the first panic exit device by the Von Duprin exit device company, now a part of Ingersoll Rand. Panic exit devices are now required by building codes for high-occupancy spaces.

December 30, 1916 -
Kids, you know I love discussing early 20th Century Russian history as much as the next person, but this item is so good, it has to span over the course of two days (but it will reside on December 30th - you'll see why shortly.

Grigory Rasputin, a self-fashioned Russian holy man, whore monger (I got to use whore monger twice in the same post), very unbathed and alcoholic was a very unpleasant man. And yet he held tremendous influence over the royal family (which probably hastened their downfall).

On December 16, 1916 O.S. ( Old Style, i.e. - Julian Calendar, so it's really December 29), having decided that Rasputin's influence over the Tsaritsa had made him a far-too-dangerous threat to the empire, a group of nobles, led by Prince Felix Yusupov and the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (one of the few Romanov family members to escape the annihilation of the family during the Red Terror), apparently lured Rasputin to the Yusupovs' Moika Palace, where they served him cakes and red wine laced with a massive amount of cyanide. According to legend, Rasputin was unaffected, although Vasily Maklakov had supplied enough poison to kill five men. Conversely, Maria Rasputin's (one of Rasputin's four children) account asserts that, if her father did eat or drink poison, it was not in the cakes or wine, because, after the attack by Khioniya Guseva (she stabbed him in the gut - no surprise - he survived), he had hyperacidity, and avoided anything with sugar. In fact, she expressed doubt that he was poisoned at all.

Determined to finish the job, Yusupov became anxious about the possibility that Rasputin might live until the morning, which would leave the conspirators with no time to conceal his body. Yusupov ran upstairs to consult the others and then came back down to shoot Rasputin through the back with a revolver. Rasputin fell, and the company left the palace for a while. Yusupov, who had left without a coat, decided to return to grab one, and, while at the palace, he went to check up on the body. Suddenly, Rasputin opened his eyes, grabbed Yusupov by the throat and strangled him. As he made his bid for freedom, however, the other conspirators arrived and fired at him. After being hit three times in the back, Rasputin fell once more. As they neared his body, the party found that, remarkably, he was still alive, struggling to get up. They clubbed him into submission and, after wrapping his body in a sheet, threw him into an icy river, and he finally met his end there on the morning of December 17th O.S. (December 30th) - as had both his siblings before him.

Three days later, the body of Rasputin, poisoned, shot four times and badly beaten, was recovered from the Neva River and autopsied. The cause of death was hypothermia. His arms were found in an upright position, as if he had tried to claw his way out from under the ice. In the autopsy, it was found that he had indeed been poisoned, and that the poison alone should have been enough to kill him.

Yet another report, also supporting the idea that he was still alive after submerging through the ice into the Neva River, is that after his body was pulled from the river, water was found in the lungs, showing that he didn't die until he was submerged into the water. So, apparently, you can't keep a very bad man down.

There will be a test.

Really, start thinking about those resolutions.

And so it goes

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Those voices do seem to grow dimmer and dimmer

I found another holiday present stuck way back, under the tree.  Find some time this afternoon (or evening) and watch Radio Days by Woody Allen:

Keep an eye out for the wonderful cameo Diane Keaton does toward the end of the movie.

Today's gift tally (37 gifts): you currently have five golden rings, eight calling birds, nine French hens, ten turtledoves and five partridges in their respective pear trees (begin thinking preserves.)

Word to the wise - contact your local upscale poultry purveyor. Game birds fetch a high price during the holiday season.

Speaking of poultry - we've all been misinterpreting the song all these years. The song's seemingly bizarre switch from four birds, to five pieces of jewelry, and back to six birds actually makes perfect sense: The "five golden rings" is more likely a reference to ring-necked pheasants. So the five golden rings in this stanza refer to five ring-necked pheasants, a dish that was sure to be served at some of the king or queen's Twelfth Night feasts during the Twelve Days of Christmas celebrations.

So now you know.

Tonight is the Fourth night of Kwanzaa.

Tonight celebrates Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) - To build and maintain the community's stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

December 29, 1939 -
The classic Western comedy, Destry Rides Again, premiered on this date.

In the original script, there was a scene in the movie showing Marlene Dietrech putting her winnings from a wild night of gambling below her dress neckline. The censors initially approved her comment. Patting her chest, she exclaims, "There's gold in them thar hills." After the preview audience roared at the line, the censors ordered it removed.

December 29, 1959 -
Paula Poundstone, comedian, was born on this date.

Still one of the funniest working comedians today.

December 29, 1965 -
Thunderball - the best James Bond title - premiered in US on this date.

In the scene where Bond and Domino meet underwater and disappear behind a rock, the scene was originally supposed to show Domino's bikini float out from behind the rock. Producer Albert R. Broccoli vetoed this because he felt it was too suggestive.

December 29, 1967 -
Star Trek first aired The Trouble with Tribbles episode - arguably one of their most famous episodes - on this date.

During the famous "bar fight", careful observers will note that while tables are broken, all the chairs remain intact. The tables were studio property: the chairs were rented, and if damaged would have to be paid for.

Today in History:
December 29, 1170 -
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is slashed to death by four of King Henry II's knights at the altar of the Virgin Mary. "Is there no one who will rid me from this turbulent priest", cried Henry in frustration earlier that month.

It was apparently not a serious demand for Becket's death, but that did not stop his brains from being splattered in Canterbury Cathedral.

Henry II was forced to walk to Becket's grave while being flogged by eighty monks as penance for his death.  So kids, remember, don't ask for things that you don't really want (the whole tears in heaven/answered prayers thing.)

December 29, 1851 -
It's fun to stay at the YMCA. The formation of the first YMCA in the United States in Boston, happened on this date.

No, I'm not going to play that song.

December 29, 1852 -
Emma Snodgrass, referred to by East Coast newspapers as "the girl who has recently been visiting parts of New England in pants" was "again" arrested in Boston on a charge of vagrancy. Since Emma was regularly employed as a clerk, and paid her bills, the vagrancy charge didn't hold.

She was released after the judge had given her some "wholesome advice about her eccentricities," to which she "responded with becoming grace and promised reformation." The next day, however, Emma was back on the street in her "male attire."

I tremble to think what would have happened if the judge had seen what was going on at the Boston YMCA.

December 29, 1876 -
Today's lesson: taking your job too seriously, can get you seriously killed.

On a cold and wintry night, the Pacific Express, carrying some 159 passengers and crew, was traveling over a bridge near Ashtabula, Ohio. Only the first engine of the train made it to the other side at 7:28 p.m. as the bridge began to collapse. The rest of the train broke away and plummeted to the bottom of the ravine below. Approximately 92 men, women and children were killed, not from the fall itself, but from the ensuing fire while they were trapped inside the crushed cars.

The bridge was owned by the Lake Shore and Michigan railroad, and was the joint creation of Charles Collins, Engineer, and Amasa Stone, Chief Architect and Designer. After testifying before an investigative jury, Charles Collins quietly went home and shot himself in the head. Amasa Stone committed suicide approximately 7 years later. Stone was held partly responsible for the disaster by the same investigative jury before which Collins had testified, and was publicly scorned for many years.

Please remember that YOU are not your job (unless you feel personally responsible from the horrible death of about 100 men, women and children.)

December 29, 1890 -
The Wounded Knee Massacre took place at Wounded Knee, South Dakota as over 200 Sioux were killed by US troops, led by Colonel James Forsyth, sent to disarm them on this date.

Forsyth was later charged with killing the unarmed men women and children, but later exonerated.

Another proud moment in American history.

December 29, 1946 -
Baroness Sacher-Masoch (Marianne Evelyn Faithfull), English singer, songwriter, actress

and inventor of the Mars bar tampon, was born on this date.

December 29, 1993 -
Former child star Todd Bridges (who played Willis on Different Strokes) arrested for transportation of methamphetamine.

What the hell was in the water on that set.

And so it goes

Friday, December 28, 2012

What can you buy for a buck?

I want them as a sponsor - Dollar Shaving Club

Remember, Their Blades are not good; their Blades Are Fucking Great

Here are two more very good clip reels of the films of 2012

Maybe, I'll have time to see some of them on Netflix.

Tonight's the third night of Kwanzaa.

Tonight celebrates Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) - To build and maintain the community together and make the members of the community's problems, everyone's problems and to solve them together.

December 28, 1958 -
Toho Company Ltd. released The Hidden Fortress, directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune and Misa Uehara to theaters in Japan on this date.

Akira Kurosawa made this commercial and accessible film as a way to repay Toho Studios for allowing him to make riskier, more artistic fare such as Rashomon. It was later one of the greatest inspirations for George Lucas' first Star Wars film.

December 28, 1968 -
Marvin Gaye's song I Heard it Through the Grapevine hit number #1 on this date.

This was the longest running Motown #1 hit and Gaye's first #1 hit. It topped the US chart for 7 weeks.

Today in History:
December 28, 1869 -
Patent for chewing gum was granted to William Semple (patent number 98,304), on this date.

William Semple's version, complete with rubber, charcoal, and myrhh, was the first one to be patented. I bet this gum doesn't lose it flavor on the bed post overnight?

December 28, 1895 -
Auguste and Louis Lumiere opened the first movie theater at the Grand Cafe in Paris, on this date . Other inventors, including Thomas Edison, were working on various moving picture devices at the time. But most of those other devices could only be viewed by one person at a time. The Lumieres were the first to project moving pictures on a screen, so that they could be viewed by a large audience.

The first film they showed to a paying audience was called Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory. It was a short, single shot with an immobile camera and it showed a concierge opening the factory gates from which dozens of workers walked and bicycled into the street. It ended with the concierge closing the gates again.

It wasn't a movie in the modern sense. It had no characters, no storyline. It was just an animated photograph. Much like most French New Wave films. The Lumiere brothers went on to make more than 2,000 films like this, each one less than a minute long depicting various scenes of human activity with titles like The Arrival of a Train, Boat Leaving the Harbor and Baby's First Steps. They didn't call these "movies" or "films," they called them "views."

It took other filmmakers to turn movies into a medium for storytelling. The Lumieres were primarily documentary filmmakers. But in their film Demolition of a Wall they added a reverse loop to the film so that after the wall falls to the ground it miraculously picks itself back up. It was the first special effect ever uses in the history of motion pictures.

The Lumieres' movie house was a big success. Within a few months of its opening, more than 2,000 people lined up every night to buy tickets. But the Lumieres themselves thought that movies would be a passing fad. They told their cinematographers not to expect work for more than six months. Auguste went on to become a medical scientist and Louis went back to working on still photographs.

December 28, 1983 -
Dennis Wilson, original drummer of the Beach Boys, drowned while diving from a boat near Marquesas Pier on this date. He was rather drunk at the time.

You would think that someone in the Beach Boys could swim.

December 28, 1991 -
Jack Ruby's pistol, used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, sold at auction at Christie's for $220,000 on this date.

The perfect gift for the man who has everything.

Today's score, you currently have 22 gifts - four calling birds, six French hens, eight turtledoves and four partridges in their respective pear trees (when do these trees become a grove?)

Begin hoarding old loaves of bread - you'll need it in a major way.

And so it goes

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Don't let this happen to your family

Here's a very clever commercial from the folks at Outback Steakhouse -

Beware them all, but especially beware the fermented cranberry sauce.

Guinness World Records has created a 'Best of 2012' video compilation that highlights the year’s most incredible achievements. 

They still haven't considered my achievement of world most endorsements of Bombay Sapphire Gin without compensation.

Tonight's the second night of Kwanzaa.

Tonight celebrates Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) - To define oneself, name oneself, create for oneself and speak for oneself.

Once again, if you're keeping score, you currently have, three French hens,  four turtledoves and three partridges with their trio of pear trees (10 gifts.)

The hens, being french, will not associate with the common turtle doves - leave plenty of room between the cage

Today in History:
December 27, 1831 -
For some unknown reason, naturalist Charles Darwin began his famous voyage on-board a beagle, on the date.

He immediately swam back to shore and boarded the HMS Beagle once the dog drowned.

The 12 acre complex in midtown Manhattan known as Rockefeller Center developed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., on land leased from Columbia University opened to the public on December 27, 1932.

Radio City Music Hall (named for one of the complex's first tenants, the Radio Corporation of America) opened with a spectacular stage show, featuring Ray Bolger and Martha Graham. The opening was meant to be a return to high class variety entertainment.

Unfortunately, the show bombed and on January 11, 1933, the Music Hall rushed to show the first film on the giant screen, installed in the theatre: Frank Capra's The Bitter Tea of General Yen starring Barbara Stanwyck.

Again, the film was not critically well received

December 27, 1937 (some sources site the broadcast date as December 12, 1937) -
Middle aged, stout and possible transvestite performer, Mae West and Don Ameche appeared on the radio show The Chase and Sanborn Hour as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. She told Ameche in the show to "get me a big one...I feel like doin' a big apple!"

The FCC later deemed the broadcast vulgar and indecent and far below even the minimum standard which they should control in the selection and production of broadcast programs. West would not perform in radio for another twelve years until January 1950, in an episode of The Chesterfield Supper Club hosted by Perry Como.

December 27, 1941 -
20th Century Fox released John Ford's film, How Green Was My Valley, starring Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara and Roddy McDowall on this date.

For the scene where the miners greet their women by putting their earnings in baskets, actress Maureen O'Hara stopped the scene's filming once she noticed that her basket was a modern Kraft basket and not a basket of the movie's period. Director John Ford was so upset by being corrected in front of the cast and crew that he closed down the set and told O'Hara to wait on a nearby hill until he called for her. Fuming, O'Hara waited an hour before an assistant came to retrieve her but was satisfied to see that the basket had been changed upon her return.

December 27, 1947 -
Hey kids, what time is it?

A bleary eyed world, fresh from the horrors of a second World War awaken to the sight of a freaky marionette on NBC - Howdy Doody premiered.

The show hosted by Buffalo Bob Smith, somehow managed to stay on the air for 13 years .

December 27, 1967 -
Robert Zimmerman returned to his acoustic roots with the release of his John Wesley Harding album on this date.

While Bob Dylan did the original version of the song, it wasn't as popular until remade by Jimi Hendrix. Dylan liked Hendrix' version so much, he began playing the Hendrix version instead of his own. Jimi Hendrix had replaced the harmonica parts with guitar, and sped up the song.

And so it goes

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

That's a lot of paper to recycle

If you're keeping score, you currently have two turtledoves and a pair of partridges in their respective pear trees (4 gifts - we're counting the partridge and a pear tree as one unit.) Begin hoarding newspaper - you'll need it in a major way.

Today is Boxing Day (St. Stephen's Day) and citizens of the British Commonwealth celebrate by putting on trunks and gloves to beat each other bloody silly.

Another reason to appreciate the American Revolution - a peaceful December 26th.

If you are starting your Christmas shopping for next year, you're either way ahead of the curve or cheap.

Tonight's the first night of Kwanzaa.

Tonight celebrates Umoja (Unity) - To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

December 26, 1951 -
The film that introduced Akira Kurosawa to world audiences, Rashomon, starring Toshiro Mifune and Machiko Kyo, premiered in the US on this date.

During shooting, the cast approached Kurosawa en masse with the script and asked him, "What does it mean?" The answer Akira Kurosawa gave at that time and also in his biography is that Rashomon is a reflection of life, and life does not always have clear meanings.

December 26, 1957 -
The Ingmar Bergman classic Wild Strawberries, starring Victor Sjostrom, opened in Sweden on this date.

Ingmar Bergman wrote the movie with Victor Sjöström in mind. He and the production company agreed that there would be no movie without Sjöström. Bergman didn't dare to call his idol Sjöström himself about the movie thou, so the head of Swedish movie industry made the call. Sjöström was initially reluctant, due to his high age, but agreed to meet with Bergman to discuss the movie. So Bergman went to his apartment and talked about it, Sjöström said he'll think about it. The next morning Sjöström called and agreed on the part on one condition. As long as Bergman promised Sjöström that he'd be able to come home and have his whiskey grog at 5 pm every day, he would do the movie.

December 26, 1973 -
Here was a great way to celebrate the holidays, The Exorcist, premiered in the US on this date.

The refrigerated bedroom set was cooled with four air conditioners and temperatures would plunge to around 30 to 40 below zero. It was so cold that perspiration would freeze on some of the cast and crew. On one occasion the air was saturated with moisture resulting in a thin layer of snow falling on the set before the crew arrived for filming.

We're still knee deep in celebrating the holidays.  In fact, we're having company over for dinner and I have to spatcock the bird (if it were only tomorrow, I'd have three french hens.)

Here's an abbreviated Today in History:
December 26, 1776 -
American forces under Gen. George Washington, having crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night, defeated Hessian mercenary troops fighting for the British at the Battle of Trenton, N.J. on this date.

Apparently, Washington was trying to beat the toll.

On this day in 1913, the author of the short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and the satirical dictionary, The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce disappeared into Mexico while traveling with the army of rebel Pancho Villa. In one of his final letters, the 71-year-old Bierce wrote to his niece, Lora,

Good-bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico—ah, that is euthanasia!

December 26, 1919 -
Red Sox owner and Broadway Producer, Harry Frazee believed he has solved one of his many headaches when he sold, an overweight, drunk, whoremongering baseball player to the New York Yankees on this date


December 26, 1967 -
The Beatles gave their fans a Christmas present - Magical Mystery Tour was shown on the BBC on this date.

The film was broadcast in black and white, although the film was shot in color. The British public's reaction to the film was scathing.

And so it goes

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Jesus Christ, not Christmas again.

As always, we here at ACME want to help spread hope, peace, joy, and other marketing buzzwords

Hopefully you don't have to work this Christmas, but if you do, here's how MTM dealt with the situation -

(Half way through the day, complain loudly about intestinal cramps and run to the bathroom.  Come back about a half hour later and just put your head on your desk.  You be out the door, on your way home by 1 PM.)

Your Christmas gifts are starting to arrive (we'll be keeping a count.)

Put your feet up and read a little bit about the History of Christmas

Christmas is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world, although the form of its observation varies widely from nation to nation. In America, our cultural kleptomania has allowed us to assimilate the most enjoyable of those traditions while discarding any stupid superstitions associated with them.

But it's worth reviewing those superstitions along with our traditions, if only to amuse ourselves yet again at the expense of our ancestors.

The winter solstice had long been celebrated by ignorant barbarians throughout the northern hemisphere as the time of the year when the sun stopped getting smaller and smaller and finally started getting bigger and bigger. The sun was important to these poor primitive bastards, in much the same way that we poor modern bastards find it so important. It was, after all, the sun.

To avoid having to go out much during the darkest and coldest days of the year, the poor shivering Nordic bastards of Scandinavia would bundle up and sally forth into the woods to bring home great big logs which would often burn for as long as twelve days. As long as the log burned they would stay in and eat and drink and fornicate. They believed that every spark their log set off foretold the birth of a calf or pig in the new year, which only underscores the irony of the Nobel prize being awarded in Sweden.

They believed the sun was a big wheel (hwoel) that rolled away from the earth until the winter solstice, at which point it began rolling back toward us. This quaint ignorance charmed the weak and flabby peoples over whom the Vikings later swept like an apocalyptic affliction. However, these peoples could not pronounce hwoel and therefore called it "yule." This irritated the Vikings and eventually forced their retreat.

While the Norse were hauling those logs into their houses, others throughout Europe were enjoying some of the finest dining of the year. Since it was too expensive to feed and shelter animals through the cold weather, those in northern climes killed their livestock at the onset of each winter. This provided their only steady supply of fresh meat all year, and went nicely with the wines and ales which had finally become fermented. The inevitable gastrointestinal distress that followed these binges is probably responsible for the primitive Germans' fear that the god Odin was flying around the sky above them during the solstice, deciding who was naughty and who was nice. It was not entirely academic: Odin's invariable sentence for the naughty was death.

Peasants everywhere also liked to bring sprigs and boughs of evergreens into their homes around the time of the solstice to remind themselves that sooner or later all that awful cold and snow would end and it would get warm enough to eat, drink, and fornicate outdoors. The Druids of the British Isles brought evergreen boughs into their temples every winter as a sign of everlasting life, and the Vikings thought that evergreens were the particular plant of their own sun-god, Balder (so-named because they mistook the sun for his shiny, hairless cranium). Even the Egyptians worshiped their sun-god Ra's "recovery" by bringing palm rushes into their homes. It's not clear how this was intended to help poor Ra, but he always pulled through.

In ancient Rome, the festival of Saturnalia began the week before the solstice and lasted a full month. Romans ate and drank and fornicated during this festival in honor of Saturn, the god of Agriculture. They filled their homes with evergreen boughs to remind themselves that everything would be green again eventually. They also let slaves become masters for the duration of the festival, and the plebeians were put in charge of the city. It was a crazy, topsy-turvy time, with all sorts of nutty mix-ups. Overlapping with Saturnalia around the time of the solstice was Juvenalia, a feast to honor the children of the city.

The winter solstice fell on December 25 in the year 274, and the pagan Roman Emperor Aurelian declared that day a holiday: the festival of the birth of the Invincible Sun. The Invincible Sun was also known as Mithra. Mithra was an infant god who had been born from a rock (presumably virgin rock). The Roman upper classes, with their special fondness for rocks, honored this holiday as one of the most sacred in the year.

Meanwhile, the noisy little sect of Christianity had started to gather some steam.

St. Nicholas was born around this time in what is today Turkey, but was then just another primitive desert backwater full of bickering barbarians. One popular story about St. Nicholas was that he had saved three sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution, or both, by sneaking money for dowries into their shoes and socks. He died on December 6, and this was subsequently celebrated as his feast day. It came to be considered a lucky day on which to buy things or get married. He was honored as a protector of children and sailors. By the Renaissance he had topped all the European charts to become the most popular saint ever, probably on account of widespread sailors and children.

In the fourth century, church leaders decided to begin celebrating the birth of Jesus, since it seemed morbid just celebrating his death. No one is really sure when Jesus was born, although most scholars are pretty sure it wasn't late December and most astrologists are quick to point out that Jesus doesn't seem like a Capricorn.

Pope Julius I chose to declare December 25 as Jesus' birthday, since people were already used to celebrating at that time of year. The holiday was called the Feast of the Nativity, and by the end of the eighth century it had spread across all of Europe, even to those remote and primitive corners where people still thought the sun was a big yellow wheel.

By the middle ages Christianity had penetrated almost all of Europe, but Christmas was still a blend of ignorant barbarian superstitions and unbearable religious seriousness. Christians would attend a Christmas mass on December 25, then eat, drink, and fornicate like they did in the old days. They would crown some wretched beggar the "lord of misrule," and the drunken revelers would happily and laughingly obey his every command. The poor would show up at the doors of the rich and demand food and drink, and if they were denied they would often laughingly burn down the house, beat its inhabitants, and rape the womenfolk before moving on to the next house. It was a very jolly holiday.

Devout Christians of sixteenth century Germany began trying to outdo the rest of Europe with their usual humorless Teutonic ambition. Instead of hanging a few little evergreen boughs about the hearth at Christmastime, they began hauling whole trees into their homes. According to legend, Martin Luther himself was walking home from a sermon one night when he was struck by the beauty of the glittering stars among the pines. When he got home he promptly decorated his own tree with candles. Despite the obvious fire hazard, this quickly became a popular tradition.

After the Reformation, puritans decided there was too much eating, drinking, and fornication associated with Christmas and that it was therefore bad. Many rulers outlawed it altogether. This was not usually popular: in England, for example, Oliver Cromwell cancelled Christmas, resulting in the restoration of Charles II and the retaliatory cancellation of Mr. Cromwell's head.

All of this was bad for Christmas, but such was St. Nicholas' popularity that it did little to deter from his reputation. He remained on top of the charts. Nowhere was he more popular than in Holland, where he was venerated as Sint Nikolaas, or more familiarly as Sinter Klaas.

The puritan bastards who settled America avoided Christmas as part and parcel of their longstanding commitment to No Fun. Massachusetts Colony actually penalized anyone caught celebrating Christmas with a five-shilling fine. Since it was considered an English holiday, it was ostentatiously ignored in the years during and after the Revolution, and wasn't made a federal holiday until after the Civil War (on June 26, 1870.)

Washington Irving had done his part in sorting through barbarian superstitions for things that were wholesome, pleasant, and commercial enough to be made officially American, and in 1809 he referred to St. Nicholas as the Patron Saint of New York. In 1822 an Episcopalian minister named Clement Clarke Moore wrote a frivolous poem for his daughters entitled "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Mr. Moore cleverly ignored all elements of the good saint's biography involving slavery, prostitution, dowries, and sailors. He focused instead on sleighs, reindeer, and presents for good little American boys and girls. It was so silly and frivolous that it became one of the most popular American poems ever—second only to the one about the guy from Nantucket.

By 1820, American stores had begun to advertise Christmas shopping, and by 1870 children were flocking to Macy's to see Santa Claus. And so it was that America began applying its curious collective genius for assimilation to the vast storehouse of silly and primitive traditions from throughout the world.

Thus we need not concern ourselves with St. Lucia, the patron saint of the blind, whom Scandinavians honor each December 23 (Little Yule) with elaborate pagan rituals involving candles, torches, and bonfires.

We need not worry about the witch Babouschka, who visits Russian children with gifts each Christmas to compensate for a nasty little joke she once played on the wise men,

or the Italian witch La Befana.

We need not trouble ourselves with the construction of piñatas each holiday season, as Mexican parents must.

We don't have to sit around our tables as they do in Ukraine, waiting for the evening star to appear before we begin our meal. We need not fear the kallikantzeri of Greece, nasty little goblins that cause mischief for the twelve days of Christmas.

And let's not even talk about Krampus

Let's all take a moment during these troubled times to express our gratitude and admiration for our American traditions, which are so much better than the traditions of every other country.

I wish to all you gentle readers, a happy, healthy and joyous holiday.

And so it goes

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hopefully you've finished shopping

While your wrapping your gifts, here a Christmas Jukebox to put you in that holiday mood.

Je ne regrette rien

Henri the Existential Cat wanted to share with you his holiday greetings in his new short - The Worst Noël.

Tonight's' holiday special: The meaning of the holiday.

December 24, 1940 -
George Cukor's classic film-comedy The Philadelphia Story, starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, premiered on this date.

Katharine Hepburn asked MGM to cast Clark Gable as Dexter and Spencer Tracy as Mike before she met either of them. Both Gable and Tracy were busy with other projects, so Cary Grant and James Stewart were cast instead.

December 24, 1951 -
Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors became a Christmas classic on this date.

This was the first Christmas television program to become an annual tradition, although it switched cast members every so often. "Amahl" was telecast annually from 1951 through 1966. It was discontinued afterwards and did not appear again on American television until a new production was filmed on location and telecast in 1978.

December 24, 1953 -
Jack Webb's series Dragnet aired a special episode, The Big Little Jesus on this date.

The episode was network television's first half-hour color film. It was the only color show of the series. Those of you with very sharp eyes can tell with some prompting that this is not the color episode. Sorry about that.

Today in History:
December 24, 1818 -
The classic Christmas carol, Silent Night, was first performed on this date.

At St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorff, Austria, Franz Gruber, composed on his guitar the melody for Silent Night. The music was combined with the words from Joseph Mohr's poem, Stille Nacht.

December 24, 1865 -
Southern whitefolk united together to form a service organization wherein they consort with other southern whitefolk on this date.

Members participate in festive cruciform fire ceremonies and lively negro butcherings.

By the 1920's membership in the Ku Klux Klan reaches an astonishing two million.

December 24, 1867 -
This was the first time that the R.H. Macy's department store in New York City remained open until midnight to catch last-minute shoppers.

Things never change.

December 24, 1914 -
World War I was only months old on Christmas Eve 1914 when an extraordinary unofficial truce occurred in many places along the Western Front. "We were all moved and felt quite melancholy," wrote one German soldier, "each of us taken up with his own thoughts of home." German and English troops, often less than one hundred yards from each other, set aside warfare to trade Christmas greetings and sing familiar carols in two languages (If you remember correctly, most of the major players in this war were more than just on a first name basis - they were all related to a minor German prince who happened to be married to his cousin, the Queen of England.)

The truce, probably observed by two-thirds of the British and German troops, ended with the holiday, but reasserted the basic decency of ordinary men like these British and German soldiers caught up in war.

December 24, 1954 -
Rock musician Johnny Ace plays a little .45 calibre solitaire (Russian Roulette) at City Auditorium in Houston after a concert.


He thought it would impress his girlfriend - perhaps it did.

December 24, 1968 -
Apollo VIII astronauts read passages from the Old Testament Book of Genesis and transmitting a message to all mankind calling for 'peace on earth', during a Christmas Eve television broadcast. The three astronauts, James A. Lovell, William Anders and Frank Borman (our friend with the messy space suit,) had reached the moon.

They would orbit the moon ten times, paving the way for the first Earthling to walk on the lunar surface some seven months down the road .

December 24, 1985 -
Fidel Castro announces that he has given up cigars on this date.

Santa still leaves him a lump of something (I'm not saying what) in his stocking every Christmas.

You'd better hurry up and finish your shopping before I start explaining how the War of 1812 was resolved by the Treaty of Ghenet on this date in 1814 and yet the Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815, after the treaty was signed.

Here's one of the only known photos of  Dr. Caligari (and his partner in crime) performing his little known Brechtian Cabaret act in the Weimar Republic - Oh Christmas, warum Sie immer uns im Stich gelassen?

And so it goes

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Holiday for the rest of us

Happy Festivus everyone.

As not to embarrass yourself tonight at your Festivus family gathering, here are the four tenets of the holiday:

The Festivus Pole: During Festivus, an unadorned aluminum pole is displayed. The pole was chosen apparently in opposition to the commercialization of highly decorated Christmas trees, because it is "very low-maintenance," and also because the holiday's patron, Frank Costanza, "find[s] tinsel distracting."

Festivus Dinner: The Festivus dinner menu is flexible, but it should consist of filling, non-holiday comfort food (no turkey, duck, goose, or ham). The televised dinner featured what may have been meatloaf or spaghetti in a red sauce. (Presumably, an entree in a red sauce is more festive.) Kruger took a flask out from his jacket and took a swig; so one might interpret that drinking is optional.

The Airing of Grievances: At the Festivus dinner, each participant tells friends and family of all the instances where they disappointed him or her that year.

The Feats of Strength: The head of the family tests his or her strength against one participant of the head's choosing. Festivus is not considered over until the head of the family has been pinned to the ground. A participant is allowed to decline to attempt to pin the head of the family only if they have something better to do instead.

A Healthy and Happy Festivus to you and your family.

Here's a great special you and the family can watch after the Feats of Strength are completed:  Olive, the Other Reindeer.   Also, today's holiday special: Why do they all have to be for the kids?

December 23, 1942 -
The Noel Coward-David Lean War time drama, In Which We Serve, premiered in the US on this date.

The Hays office tried to delete the words "God", "hell", "damn", and "bastard" from the American release. Uproar from England forced the office to back down on everything except "bastard".

December 23, 1954 -
Walt Disney's live-action film, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, premiered on this date.

Richard Fleischer was surprised at being considered for the director's chair for this film, as he was the son of Disney's biggest competitor, Max Fleischer. He approached Walt Disney to inquire if Disney knew who he was. Disney told him that he was well aware of who he was and hired him because he thought he was the best man for the job.

Today in History:
December 23, 1823 -
The famous poem A Visit From St. Nicholas was first published on this date. It begins, Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house / Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse ....

Fourteen years after its first publication, an editor attributed the poem to a wealthy professor of classical literature named Clement Clarke Moore.

In the last few years, new evidence has come out that a Revolutionary War major named Henry Livingston Jr. may have been the actual author of The Night Before Christmas.

His family has letters describing his recitation of the poem before it was originally published, and literary scholars have found many similarities between his work and The Night Before Christmas. He was also three quarters Dutch, and many of the details in the poem, including names of the reindeer, have Dutch origins.

December 23, 1888 -
After an argument with fellow painter Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh took a razor and removes a portion of his left ear. Their quarrel regarded the prostitutes in Arles who seemed to prefer Gauguin over Van Gogh; the painter delivered his ear a startled prostitute. She fainted.

Some women get very emotional when they receive that special gift.

December 23, 1948 -
Japanese Premier Tojo and 6 others were hanged by the War Crimes Commission at Sugamo Prison, Tokyo, for the crime of starting an aggressive war on this date.

Now, that's not a necktie you want for Christmas.

December 23, 1968 -
On the first day of the first flight ever by astronauts to orbit the Moon, Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman suffers from the first documented case of motion sickness. Previous astronauts had reported nothing -- partly because their ships were too small for them to move around a lot and get queasy, partly because they kept their mouths shut for fear they'd never fly again.

There is nothing worse than barfing into your own spacesuit.

Oh, wait a minute, yes there is - barfing into someone else's spacesuit.

December 23, 1985 -
In a Lutheran school playground, James Vance and Raymond Belknap acted upon a drunken suicide pact forged while listening to Stained Class by Judas Priest. Belknap shot a 12 gauge shotgun under his chin, dying instantly, and Vance followed, but survived with a severely disfigured face. He later dies from painkillers on Thanksgiving three years later. Both kids' parents file suit against the band, but a judge ultimately rejects their subliminal message theory.

I believe anyone would kill themselves being forced to listen to Judas Priest.

2 more shopping days until Christmas. If you haven't started shopping, may I suggested that a bag of mentholated cough drops, purchased from the local drug store might have to do.

Before I let you go, My favorite Vlogger, CGP Grey has finally answered another of Life's burning questions - What is the difference between Holland and The Netherlands?

Hopefully someday we'll get to the bottom of 'Tastes Great' vs. 'Less Filling'.

And so it goes.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

You knew it was coming

The people at JibJab wanted to make sure that we survived before they released their year in review: The End is Here!

All that in under 2 minutes.

Christmastime is here
Happiness and Cheer

Today's Holiday Special: Guess the Theme.

December 22, 1949 -
The film version of Maxwell Anderson's play (Joan of Lorraine,) Joan of Arc, starring Ingrid Bergman opened in Los Angeles on this date.

The film was not really a commercial success upon release, but only partly due to RKO's poor publicity campaign (which producer Walter Wanger blamed on then-RKO president Howard Hughes). Audiences stayed away from the film when Ingrid Bergman's affair with director Roberto Rossellini was revealed while the movie was in release, because they considered it blasphemous for an adulterous woman to be playing a saint.

December 22, 1959 -
Joseph L. Mankiewicz' film version of Tennesse Williams' strange one act play (about rape, incest, homosexuality, and cannibalism - I know that was probably a huge selling point,) Suddenly, Last Summer, premiered on this date.

Because of years of alcoholism and prescription drug abuse, Montgomery Clift was considered uninsurable due to chronic ill health. Ordinarily that would have meant he would have been fired and replaced, but his good friend Elizabeth Taylor saved his job by insisting she would not do the film without him.

December 22, 1975 -
A beautiful study of love and madness (and the razor's edge between them), L'histoire d'Adele H, opened in the US on this date.

Initially planned as a grand-scale spectacular drama with Jeanne Moreau to play the lead, then Catherine Deneuve (then having an affair with François Truffaut) was considered for the role. The film took 7 years to be made, and finally Truffaut decided on Isabelle Adjani whom he noticed on a TV broadcast of the Comédie Française.

Today in History:
December 22, 1879 -
It's Stalin's birthday (again)! Hey, when your a dictator, you get to celebrate your birthday on more than one day. Unfortunately, the proper way to celebrate - oppress, torture and murder millions of your fellow country men - is frowned upon.

So smack someone upside the head for no reason.

December 22, 1937 -
The center tube of the Lincoln Tunnel was opened to traffic today, charging $0.50 per passenger car.

Some of those cars are still trying to get through the tunnel.

December 22, 1940 -
Strange death of the day - Author Nathanael West and his wife, Eileen McKenney, died in an auto accident on this date.

Distraught over hearing of his friend's F. Scott Fitzgerald's death (who passed away a few days earlier of a massive heart attack,) he crashed his car after ignoring a stop sign.

December 22, 1955 -
The corpse of Evita Peron was stolen by anti-Peronistas on this date.  For 26 years, her corpse makes a worldwind turn before it's returned for burial in Buenos Aires.

30 years later (to the day), Madonna's Like a Virgin single goes #1 for weeks.

Make of the coincidence what you will.

December 22, 1965 -
David Lean's Russian epic, Dr Zhivago, premieres in the US, on this date.

The film was not shown in Russia until 1994.

December 22, 1984 -
Bernhard Goetz shoots 4 teenage boys on the NYC subway after one of them asks him for money.

Again, this practice is frowned upon, so smack someone upside the head.

December 22, 2001 -
Richard Reid attempts to blow up an American Airlines transatlantic flight by igniting a plastic explosive concealed in his shoe. Other passengers beat the living daylights out of him.

They knew, they smacked him upside the head.

3 more shopping days until Christmas. 1 more shopping days until Festivus. You might want to take the aluminum pole out of the closet.

And so it goes