Saturday, December 16, 2017

No big piles of reindeer poop on your roof

It's the Fifth Night of Hanukkah

Unless you lay off all this fried food, you may have to begin considering your own pair of Joey Thanksgiving's pants for this holiday.

December 16, 1938 -
released its film version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, on this date.

Lionel Barrymore was originally set to play Scrooge, but had to back out due to illness. Barrymore instead suggested his friend Reginald Owen take over the role. Barrymore did not perform the radio version of A Christmas Carol in 1938 so that it would not interfere with the success of the picture, and he appeared in a special trailer for it called A Fireside Chat with Lionel Barrymore.

December 16, 1951 -
NBC-TV debuted Dragnet in a special preview on Chesterfield Sound Off Time on this date. (The show began officially on January 3, 1952.)

The series opener ran in real time, and it contained several clock-on-the-wall shots to keep track of time. The story starts with the police frantically trying to meet a 26-minute deadline to satisfy the demands of a terrorist. The show ran for 26 minutes, excluding commercials.

December 16, 1959 -
20th Century Fox
releases the Jules Verne science fiction classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Pat Boone, James Mason and Arlene Dahl,on this date.

Pat Boone didn't want to make this film but was talked into it by his agent. Years later he stated he's glad he did it because of the regular residual checks it brings in and because it's the movie he'll probably be best remembered for.

December 16, 1962 -
David Lean's
epic (in ever sense of the word) bio-pix of T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, starring Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins and Omar Sharif premiered in the US in NYC on this date.

King Hussein of Jordan lent an entire brigade of his Arab Legion as extras for the film, so most of the "soldiers" are played by real soldiers. Hussein frequently visited the sets and became enamored of a young British secretary, Antoinette Gardiner, who became his second wife in 1962. Their eldest son, Abdullah II King Of Jordan, ascended to the throne in 1999.

December 16, 1965 -
One of the classic cold war thrillers, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, starring Richard Burton, premiered in the US on this date.

Author John le Carré worked for British Intelligence MI5 and MI6 during the 1950s and 1960s and worked in Berlin where this film is partially set. Le Carré was there when the Berlin Wall was being constructed. Le Carré drew on this real life experience when he wrote the novel of 'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold'.

December 16, 1971 -
Don McLean's eight-minute-plus version of American Pie was released and became one of the longest songs to ever hit the pop charts.

If you prefer the clip with Don singing in it, here you go.

Kids, use the song as the Cliff Notes (Shmoop, if you prefer) for what happened during the 60s (do they still print Cliff Notes?)

December 16, 1972 -
Soul singer Billy Paul's single,  Me and Mrs. Jones hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts on this date.

The song was written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Carey Gilbert. Gamble and Huff formed a famous songwriting team that helped define the Philadelphia Soul sound of the '70s.

December 16, 1975 -
The groundbreaking sitcom (for it's time) One Day At A Time starring Bonnie Franklin, Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli premiered on this date.

In the original pilot, Ann (Bonnie Franklin) had only one daughter (Mackenzie Phillips). Executives weren't happy with the results; a new pilot was shot with Valerie Bertinelli added as the second daughter.  Mackenzie Phillips (Julie) and Valerie Bertinelli (Barbara) were actually the same age. Phillips was taller and wiry, while Bertinelli was round-faced and looked like the younger of the two, so Phillips was cast as the older sister.

December 16, 1977 -
Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta, went into general release on this date.

Oh John, what a long strange trip it's been since that polyester shirt.

Production had to be briefly halted so that John Travolta could attend the funeral of his girlfriend Diana Hyland. The couple had earlier appeared in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, their only ever joint venture. It was Hyland who encouraged Travolta to take the role of Tony Manero.

When John Travolta first saw the rushes, he was greatly upset that his solo dance was cut in close-up. He called Robert Stigwood and vocalized his concerns. It didn't seem right he explained, that he had worked so hard to get in shape and learn a complex dance just to see the sequence cut down in the editing room. It was important to Travolta for audiences to see his work and to know without a doubt that he was doing his own dancing. Stigwood agreed and told Travolta to go back and sit with the editors and personally supervise a new cut of the solo sequence.

Don't forget to tune into another The ACME Eagle Hand Soap Radio Hour holiday special

Today in History:
December 16, 1773
The Boston Tea Party took place 244 years ago today.

A group of young colonists, dressed as Native Americans, stormed a few British ships in Boston Harbor and tossed their tea cargo overboard in protest of the British insistence that Americans ride their horses on the left-hand side of the street. While this is often remembered as a defining historical moment in the development of our proud nation, it should not be forgotten that Boston Harbor was for a long time one of our most polluted waterways.

I equally deplores the ecologically disastrous precedent set by these hotheaded young good-for-nothings, and their demeaning depiction of Native Americans as savage, tea-hating polluters. Also please do not confuse the Tea Party with Tea Baggers - two very different things although men wearing short skirts figure prominently in both of them.

December 16, 1950 -
President Harry S. Truman declares a state of emergency, after Chinese troops enter the fight with communist North Korea in the Korean War.

With all the business going on in the world in the intervening 67 years, the order is still in effect, one of four current states of national emergency granting extraordinary powers to the President.

What the hell were we thinking?

December 16, 1965 -
NASA was in a piss-proud mood. Days before, Gemini 6 (Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra, space cowboys aboard) and Gemini 7 (Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, rocket men aboard) had successfully  rendezvoused in space. Just before Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra were about to re-enter Earth's atmosphere, on this date, they radioed Mission Control with their startling sighting:

"We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit.... Looks like he might be going to re-enter soon.... You just might let me pick up that thing.... I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit."

Wally and Tom do something even more startling; they break out in a chorus of Jingle Bells, accompanying themselves with a small harmonica and tiny small bells. The pair become the first men to perform Christmas carols from space.  NASA, of course, was not amused having to pay the ASCAP fees.

December 16, 1985 -
What were you doing 32 years ago - I left work, cut through a parking garage in the middle of the block and walked passed the limos in front of Sparks Steak House on the next block on this date.

John Gotti was looking to improve his position with IBM (the Gambino crime syndicate.) He had his boss Paul Castellano ventilated outside Spark's Steak House in Manhattan.

John and Paul are long gone but I, occasionally, get to visit my old office.

And so it goes


Friday, December 15, 2017

There is no huge electric bill at the end of the holiday

It's the fourth night of Hanukkah -

Remember to leave the windows open when you leave for work; the house is probably starting to pick up that unpleasant fried food odor


December 15, 1939 -

The motion picture Gone With The Wind, starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, had its world premiere in Atlanta on this date.

It was the first movie premiere ceremony to be televised. The governor of Georgia proclaimed the day a state holiday in commemoration of the event and the holiday celebrations continued for three days.

The fact that Hattie McDaniel would be unable to attend the premiere in racially segregated Atlanta annoyed Clark Gable so much that he threatened to boycott the premiere unless she could attend. He later relented when she convinced him to go.

December 15, 1954 -
As part of the new Disneyland TV show, Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter, starring  Fess Parker premiered on ABC-TV on this date. It is often considered the first miniseries.

This and the following episodes were filmed in color at a ranch in California and a Native American reservation in North Carolina. Though originally broadcast in black-and-white, the color reels were restored a few years later and broadcast again after color TV was introduced.

December 15, 1961 -
An underrated Billy Wilder film, One, Two Three, opened in the US on this date

James Cagney had such a negative experience making this picture that he retired from films for 20 years until his cameo in Ragtime.

December 15, 1967 -
The wonderfully trashy film Valley of the Dolls premiered in NYC on this date.

The character of Neely O'Hara was partially based on Judy Garland's own history (with pills, alcohol, and failed marriages). It was Garland's real-life pill addiction that contributed to her leaving this film.

December 15, 1974 -
Mel Brooks'
send up of the Universal horror films, Young Frankenstein, opened on this date.

The shifting hump on Igor's back was an ad-libbed gag of Marty Feldman's. He had surreptitiously been shifting the hump back and forth for several days when cast members finally noticed. It was then added to the script.

December 15, 1978 -
Warner Bros
. released the DC Comics super hero Superman The Movie, directed by Richard Donner and starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando and Margot Kidder in a limited release in the U.S. on this date.

To obtain the musculature to convincingly play Superman, Christopher Reeve underwent a bodybuilding regime supervised by David Prowse, the man who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy.

December 15, 1993 -
Steven Spielberg's Academy Award
winning Holocaust film, Schindler's List, starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Kingsley opened in the US on this date.

Steven Spielberg offered the job of director to Roman Polanski. Polanski turned it down because the subject was too personal. He had lived in the Krakow ghetto until the age of 8, when he escaped on the day of the liquidation. His mother later died at the Auschwitz concentration camp. After learning this, Spielberg immediately and repeatedly apologized for bringing up such a traumatic memory.

It's a surprise Hanukkah game

Today in History:
December 15, 1944
En route to Paris, "swing" big band leader and whore monger Glenn Miller vanishes over the English Channel. Miller, listed as Missing In Action, was serving as a Major in the Army Air Force Band when his plane went down.

Miller's disappearance has led to many conspiracy theories over the years. Some allege that Miller was killed by friendly fire. Another theory holds that he landed safely, but died of a heart attack in a bordello in Paris. A third theory has also gained some recent credibility based on observations from his younger brother Herb Miller.

Glenn had been a chain-smoker for much of his life and by late 1944 was suffering from severe weight loss and shortness of breath, leading to speculation that he was terminally ill, probably with lung cancer. This theory also holds that he landed safely, but died of his illnesses on December 16th. Both of these latter theories overlook the fact that Miller wasn't alone on the flight; there were two other officers aboard the aircraft when it disappeared. They also have never been found.

To paraphrase my favorite quote once again, perhaps they too got carried away at that orgy in Paris.

December 15, 1961 -
Nazi Adolf Eichmann, former Reichssicherheitshauptamt (that's a real word) bureaucrat, was sentenced to death by a Jerusalem court on this date.

Eichmann had been arrested in Argentina and smuggled to Israel the previous year.

December 15, 1966 -
Walt Disney
, neo-nazi, commie hater, union-buster and child pornography lover died on this day.

And he's not a giant frozen popicle in Cinderella's Castle!

Let us compare of two of the modern era's finest and most influential artists: Georges Seurat (December 2, 1859) and Walt Disney (December 5, 1901), both born in December.

Young Seurat studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and was strongly influenced by the work of Rembrandt and Goya. He studied optical science and aesthetic theory, and painted with a unique technique that he called "divisionism," but which others came to call "pointillism."

Young Disney arrived in Hollywood in 1923 with $40 in his pocket, a suitcase, and a sketchbook. He had not studied at any fancy French schools. He drew cute little pictures of funny little animals, called "cartoons."

Seurat served a year of military service at Brest, then returned to Paris and had his drawing Aman-Jean at the official Salon in 1883. The following year, the Salon rejected the panels from his painting Bathing at Asnieres, so he stormed off with some friends and formed the Societe des Artistes Independentes (Guys Who Got Rejected by the Salon.)

Disney and his brother, Roy, sold a cartoon series called the Alice Comedies, and landed a distribution deal. Over the next four years, they continued to produce Alice Comedies and more than two dozen episodes of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

In 1886, after two years of labor, Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte was the centerpiece of the Societe's exhibition. It was hailed by critics, and he was recognized as the successor to the Impressionists.

In 1928, Disney conceived of a funny little mouse while on a train ride, and Steamboat Willie became the first sound Mickey Mouse cartoon on November 28, 1928, at the Colony Theater in New York. Mickey was an instant hit, and by 1930 he was already earning Disney significant merchandise deals.

Seurat and his followers were dubbed the "neo-impressionists." Only at the time of his premature death in 1891 did his friends and family learn that he had been living with and had even fathered a child with his mistress.

Disney built an entertainment and recreation empire from Mickey Mouse, but was not frozen in liquid nitrogen after his death in 1966. His followers are called the "imagineers."

(Seurat was not frozen, either. I believe he may have briefly dated Bernadette Peters.)

Before you go - In case you're not a holiday person, you might like this video I saw on a friends' Facebook page.

And so it goes.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

There are no Donny and Marie Hanukkah Specials

It's the third night of Hanukkah -

Maybe you could slip in some steamed vegetables

For some, the holidays begin today

The Halcyon Days of yore, begin today, a week before the winter solstice and end a week after.

According to legend, this two-week period is associated with unusually calm seas; hence the common meanings of halcyon as “quiet” or “peaceful” and by extension, “prosperous.”

December 14, 1967 -
Richard Brooks'
adaptation of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, starring Robert Blake, Scott Wilson and John Forsythe,  premiered in New York City on this date.

The "Jenson"/"Narrator" characters are based on the author himself, Truman Capote. Capote went to Kansas soon after the murders to cover the manhunt and to interview those who knew the Clutter family.

December 14, 1969 -
Michael Jackson
and the rest of The Jackson 5 made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on this date.

The Jackson Five performed Sly and the Family Stone’s Stand, Smokey Robinson’s Who’s Loving You, and their first hit single I Want You Back.

December 14, 1970 -
Another holiday special from Rankin/Bass, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town premiered on this date.

Mickey Rooney returned to voice Santa Claus in the 1974 Rankin/Bass special, The Year Without a Santa Claus. Shirley Booth voiced Mrs. Claus in the latter. .

December 14, 1984 -The David Lynch version of Frank Herbert’s Science Fiction classic, thought to be unfilmable; Dune, starring Kyle MacLachlan, José Ferrer, Francesca Annis and Sting, premiered on this date.

David Lynch has said he considers this film the only real failure of his career. To this day, he refuses to talk about the production in great detail, and has refused numerous offers to work on a special edition DVD.

Christmas Trivia
Brenda Lee
was just 13 years old when she recorded Rockin around the Christmas Tree back in 1958.

The record mostly flopped upon its initial release, selling just 5,000 copies.  The next year, they released the song a second time and it again flopped, selling just over what it did on its initial release. It finally started to gain some traction the next year as Brenda Lee’s fame began to skyrocket, managing to rise as high as number 14 on the Hot 100 Pop Singles list. Within five years of that, it went as high as number three on that same list.  By the song’s 50th anniversary in 2008, Brenda Lee’s original version of it had sold over 25 million copies, including about 700,000 digital copies, making it the fourth most digital downloads sold of any Christmas single.

Spending Hanukkah with IBM

Today in History:
December 14, 1503

Nostradamus, famous french huckster (forerunner of Miss Cleo, for those of you who remember Miss Cleo) was born on this date. He predicted correctly French king Henri II's manner of death. Nostradamus was the author of a book of prophecies that many still believe foretold the future. He wrote in rhyming quatrains, accurately predicting the Great London Fire in 1666, Spain's Civil War and that Hitler would lead Germany into war. He even correctly predicted his own death on July 2, 1566.

If you write vague enough prophecies, they will fool almost anyone.

December 14, 1656 -
Artificial pearls were first manufactured by M. Jacquin in Paris on this date.

They were made of gypsum pellets covered with fish scales.

December 14, 1702 -
A major part of Japanese history - the 47 Ronin were samurai until their master was ordered to commit suicide after killing an arrogant official. In revenge, the Ronin killed the official, and were then were ordered to commit suicide themselves.

The story of the 47 Ronin remains a popular Japanese legend, and the 47 Ronin are seen as examples of loyalty and faithfulness.

Try getting your staff to turn in reports on time.

December 14, 1807 -
A 'shooting star' fell in Weston, Connecticut at 6:30am on this date, making a hole five feet long and 4.5 feet wide.  A young Yale professor, Benjamin Silliman, who rushed to the scene of the phenomenon pronounced it a meteorite.

The meteorite is believed to be the first meteorite to have been seen falling in the New World since the arrival of European settlers. Silliman's study of the Weston meteorite led the foundation of modern scientific research and helped in the development of the field of meteoritics.

December 14, 1861 -
Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, of tobacco can fame and husband of Queen Victoria, died at Windsor Castle from typhoid fever on this date.

The death of the Prince Consort sent Queen Victoria into a deep depression, which effected the entire Empire and even after her recovery she would remain in mourning for the rest of her life.

December 14, 1900 -
Max Planck
published his theory of quantum mechanics, which is often considered one of the most radical scientific discoveries of the 20th Century, on this date. It's even more radical than the belief in the collection of Turkish union dues or Iraqi clerics

Max Planck was working in a laboratory in 1900, heating up various substances and examining the color of light they emitted when they reached certain temperatures. He also accidentally invented crack cocaine but that's another story. He wanted to describe his results in mathematical terms, but no matter how hard he tried, his mathematical calculations didn't make sense. The only way he could fix the problem was to assume that light travels in little packets, like bullets or balloon condoms filled with cocaine, lodged in the colon of drug mules, even though this seemed impossible.

But five years later, Albert Einstein took Planck's theory of light seriously, and wrote his first major paper exploring the idea of light traveling in packets, which he called photons. Even though he became better known for his theory of relativity, it was Einstein's work expanding on Planck's original ideas about light that won him a Nobel Prize. Einstein later said, "I use up more brain grease on quantum theory than on relativity."

With the discovery of quantum mechanics, physicists found that subatomic particles were by nature unpredictable. If you shot one across the room, you could guess where it might end up, but you could never be sure. This idea made Einstein miserable. He famously said, "I am at all events convinced God does not play dice."

Today quantum mechanics remains one of the most mysterious and difficult scientific theories ever. The Danish physicist Niels Bohr once said that a person who was not shocked by quantum theory did not understand it, and the physicist Richard Feynman once said that while only a modest number of people truly understand the theory of relativity, no one understands quantum mechanics.

Max Planck himself died in 1947 and he never came to fully accept the theory he discovered. But even if few people really understand it, quantum mechanics led to the development of modern electronics, including the transistor, the laser, and the computer.

December 14, 1911 -
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his expedition successfully reached the South Pole on this date, beating out the rival expedition of British Robert Falcon Scott by almost a month.

Amundsen would later become the first explorer to ever fly over the North Pole in 1926.

December 14, 1944 -
Lupe Velez
, Hollywood's Mexican Spitfire of the 1940s, committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills on this date.

Contrary to her plans of being found laid out on the bed in a silk nightgown, she is instead discovered in the bathroom with her head in the toilet. (OK bunkies, this is just an urban legend but let it get in back of the list of others, like the death of Cass Elliot or Judy Garland. Don't even get me started about the death of Albert Dekker.)

What a way to go!!!

December 14, 1955 -
The Tappan Zee Bridge (Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee toll bridge) in New York opened to traffic on this date.

The bridge was decommissioned in 2016 and the first section of the new bridge opened in 2017.  The entire bridge is scheduled for completion in 2018.  Don't hold your breath.

December 14, 1963 -
Dinah Washington
, the "Queen of the Blues", juggled numerous prescription medications, primarily for dieting and insomnia, most of her life.

I Wanna Be Loved -

What a Diff'rence a Day Made -

September in the Rain -

An unintentional but lethal combination of alcohol and pills forever stilled her magnificent voice on this date. She was only 39 and was thankfully found in bed.

On this anniversary of the terrible act at Sandy Hook,

please honor the families of the victims by spreading kindness.

Before you go
  - I can't believe I didn't see this last week when I was preparing the Charlie Brown Christmas tribute - Puddles covered the Vince Guardino classic, Christmas Time is Here -

Everybody bathe in the melancholia.

And so it goes..