Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the years'.

Somehow it has become the last page of the calendar.

It's taken me many years not to think of this as the middle of the year and think of summer break as one long New Years Eve.  Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.

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, 1938 -
Dr. Rolla Harger, a professor of biochemistry and toxicology, patented the Drunkometer, a balloon-like device into which people would breathe to determine whether they were inebriated in 1936. Just in time for New Year's Eve, the first practical use of the device in the field by Indianapolis police was conducted on this day.

The Drunkometer worked by having the person blow into a balloon. The balloon would be attached  to a tube of purple liquid - a  weak solution of potassium permanganate in sulphuric acid.. The darker the result, the more alcohol the person had in their system. In 1954, Robert Borkenstein, a colleague of Dr. Harger, invented a more portable tool called the Breathalyzer.

December 31, 1958 -
Rebels forces lead by Fidel Castro, marched triumphantly into Havana, Cuba on this date. Cuban dictator Fulgencio 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.

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. In Argentina, people wear brand-new pink underwear to attract love. While in Brazil, people wear none; that usually works better.

In Germany, every year on December 31st, TV networks broadcast an 18-minute-long black and white skit in English called Dinner for One.

In 1963, Germany’s Norddeutscher Rundfunk television station recorded the sketch, performed by the British comics Freddie Frinton and May Warden. Since its initial recording, the clip has become a New Year’s Eve staple in Germany. The clip holds the Guinness World Record for Most Frequently Repeated TV Program, (although Dinner For One has never been broadcast in the U. S. or Canada.)

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 are 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 2015 brings good health and better luck to all.

And so it goes my friends.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One more 2014 movie montage

Today's supercut is from Nikita Malko (it's very nicely edited together.)

Believe it or not, there are 301 films represented in the montage; here's the list of them.

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.

When Gene Kelly dismisses the beauty of a passing New York girl, Jules Munshin asks, "Who you got waiting for you in New York, Ava Gardner?" Frank Sinatra was having an affair with Gardner at the time.

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, 2014 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.

December 30, 1946 -
Some of us are born rebellious. Like Jean Genet or Arthur Rimbaud, I roam these mean streets like a villain, a vagabond, an outcast, scavenging for the scraps that may perchance plummet off humanity's dirty plates, though often sometimes taking a cab to a restaurant is more convenient.

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.

Really, start thinking about those resolutions.

And so it goes

Monday, December 29, 2014

Another year end film review

This time, it's Cinefile's celebration of the films of 2014

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.

Let's hope your true love does not know this, you do not need any more damn birds.

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.

Marlene Dietrich's fight scene was unchoreographed. She and Una Merkel agreed to do it impromptu with the only rule being no closed fists. They used feet, pulled hair, and Marlene had bruises for weeks afterwards. but the director got everything in one take.

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

I love Paula on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.

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

Bond's jetpack was actually flown by engineer Bill Suiter. He was one of only two people in the world qualified to fly it.

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

The scene in which Kirk is buried in an avalanche of tribbles took eight takes to get right. The tribbles were thrown into the hatch by members of the production crew. The crew members were not sure when to stop because they were unable to see the scene. This is why additional tribbles keep falling on Kirk one by one. William Shatner can be seen looking perplexed as to why more tribbles keep falling on him.

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, 1848 -
James Polk became the first president to install gas lighting in the White House on this date, though it had been used sporadically around the country since 1816.

Incidentally, Polk was also the first president to have his inauguration speech broadcast by telegraph, and the first president to have his photograph taken.

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, on this date, as over 200 Sioux were killed by US troops, led by Colonel James Forsyth, who was sent to disarm them.

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, 1972 -
ended the weekly publication of their magazine with the issue titled Year in Pictures, on this date. From 1936 it had produced over 1,860 issues.

The magazine was resurrected as a monthly in 1978 and ended again in 2000. From 2004 to 2007 Life appeared as a weekly newspaper supplement. In 2009, the archives were made available electronically.

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

What the hell were they smoking on that set? Oh, wait a minute ...

And so it goes

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ask and you shall receive

I mentioned the other day that I was concerned which films North Korea would let my family see this holiday season and I found this post from Tom the Dancing Bug:

I never realized how helpful Totalitarianism could be.

Here's an interesting list of the 25 best films of 2014 from Little White Lies Magazine:

I can actually say I will go out a watch some of these films.

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.

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.

December 28, 1945 -
One of the first Hollywood films to deal with psychoanalysis, Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound premiered in the US on this date

Alfred Hitchcock was a big admirer of Salvador Dalí's work and realized that no one understood dream imagery better. David O. Selznick was opposed to using Dalí from an expense point of view, until he realized the marketing mileage that could be gained from such a hiring.

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
was upset with the lack of success of his last two films which he deemed heavy and tragic, so he took a new tone with this film, stating "I want to make a 100% entertainment film, full of thrills and fun."  The film went on to become 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, 1832
- .
US Vice President John Calhoun resigned on this date, having only served 16 days in office because of political differences with President Andrew Jackson.  He was the first vice president to do so.

He still continued to be a major force in American politics and was a big influence on the policies of the Confederacy.

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 -
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, 1945 -
Please rise while reading this

The US Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Reverend Francis Bellamy for use at the dedication of the World's Fair Grounds in Chicago on October 21, 1892.

December 28, 1973 -
In between bouts of self-loathing and heavy drinking, Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law on this date.  (Sometimes people can surprise you.)

It was the first legislation in American history to focus on protecting animals and their habitats from economic encroachment.

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.

December  28, 1991 -
people died in a crush to get into a basketball game at City College in New York. The game was promoted by  Sean Combs.

Combs later testified that security at the Nat Holman facility was supposed to be provided by NYCC. (Sean Combs, Sean Combs, I know that name from somewhere.)

And so it goes

Saturday, December 27, 2014

I was so busy, I didn't even notice

JibJab came out with their Year in Review -

I don't get/ remember the potato salad reference. (I googled it but I still don't remember it.)

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 hensfour 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

December 27, 1937 (some sources site the broadcast date as December 12, 1937) -
Middle aged, slightly overweight 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, 1940 -
Universal Pictures
released The Invisible Woman, directed by A. Edward Sutherland and starring Virginia Bruce and John Barrymore on this date.

Despite the lightweight nature of the film, it was budgeted at $300,000.00, (about twice the amount of a typical Universal B-feature of the time) making it one of the studio's most expensive productions for 1940.

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.

How Green Was My Valley famously beat Orson Welles Citizen Kane to a Best Picture Oscar.

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 NBCHowdy Doody premiered on this date.

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.

On the cover of John Wesley Harding, on either side of Dylan (who was wearing the same jacket he'd worn on the sleeve of Blonde On Blonde) is Luxman and Purna Das of the Bengali Bauls music collective, who were staying with Dylan's manager Albert Grossman at the time. Standing behind them is Charlie Joy, a Woodstock carpenter and stonemason. The foursome all sport a rather disheveled "common man" look and the whole arrangement was possibly a dig at the Beatles and their Sgt. Pepper cover with the Fab Four placed at the center of a group of famous personalities.

December 27, 1979 -
Knots Landing
, CBS' spinoff of  Dallas, premiered on this date. The show went on for 14 seasons, making it the second longest running prime time drama, after Gunsmoke, in television history.

Two cast members remained with the series from the first episode in 1979 until the final episode in 1993: Michele Lee and Ted Shackelford. Lee is the only actor to have appeared in all 344 episodes, which was a record for an actress on a prime-time drama at that time.

Today in History:
December 27, 1703
The Methuen Treaty was signed between Portugal and England, giving preference to the import of Portuguese wines into England.

I am well aware that sherry and port are not the same thing but I haven't played a Monty Python skit in awhile and this seemed as good a time as any.

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.

December 27, 1900 -
Carrie Amelia Moore Nation had been a member of the Women's Christian Temperance organization until she became fed up with their non-violent tactics, and decided to smash up pubs instead. With her cry, “Smash! Smash! For Jesus’ sake, smash!,” the radicalized Nation first picked up her famous hatchet and raided the swank bar at the Hotel Carey in Wichita, Kansas, destroying the interior on this date.

While Nation went on to greater fame after the attack, her plans for the bar backfired; the hotel bar gained nation-wide recognition after the militant prohibitionist waged her attack.

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, 1971 -
Charles Schulz’
famous Peanuts comic strip made the cover of Newsweek magazine this day.

Charlie Brown hoped this would help him with his chances with the little red headed girl. Lucy, on the other hand, was unimpressed, having been on the cover of Time magazine six years earlier.

December 27, 1985 -
Dian Fossey
,  famous for her efforts to study and save mountain gorillas in Africa, was murdered in her hut in Rwanda with a machete she had confiscated from a poacher some months earlier.

No suspects were ever found; no charges were made.

And so it goes

Friday, December 26, 2014

I'm sorry I missed this the other night

One last Christmas song for the season: Puddles the sad clown sings O Holy Night

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.

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.

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.

In the downpour scenes showing the Rashomon Gate, Akira Kurosawa found that the rain in the background simply wouldn't show up against the light gray backdrop. To solve this problem, the crew ended up tinting the rain by pouring black ink into the tank of the rain machine. The ink is clearly visible on the Woodcutter's face towards just before the rain stops.

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 though, so the head of Swedish movie industry made the call.

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.

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

The scene where Regan projectile vomits at Father Karras only required one take. The vomit was intended to hit him on the chest. Instead, the plastic tubing that sprayed the vomit accidentally misfired, hitting him in the face. The look of shock and disgust while wiping away the vomit is genuine.

(I've pushed myself a little too hard this season and come down with a chest cold; posting for the next few days could be spotty)
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, 2004 -
A massive tsunami caused by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, devastated Southeast Asia, killing more than 250,000 people in a single day and more than half a million lost their homes. This was most devastating tsunami in modern times

The earthquake has been titled the Sumatra-Andaman Islands Earthquake and is the highest magnitude earthquake in the region in over 40 years. The event had the fourth largest death toll from an earthquake in recorded history. Ten years after the quake and tsunami events, the entire region is still trying to recover and to rebuild. Some areas will never recover.

And so it goes

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry, merry, happy, happy

As always (a tad late this year,) we here at ACME want to help spread hope, peace, joy, and other marketing buzzwords

Hopefully you haven't overeaten this Christmas, but if you have, perhaps you'll get a visit from  -

(  Remember, it isn't really Christmas until you hear his Hidey Ho.)

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

(Remember, we are going to count this as a unit and not as two individual gifts.)

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