Friday, December 18, 2015

The Diner Capital of the World

New Jersey was the third state admitted to the Union, on this date in 1787. It was the first state to sign the Bill of Rights to the Constitution.  It derives its name from the isle of Jersey, just off England's shore (and also near Britain).

The official state bird of New Jersey is the Eastern Goldfinch.

The state bug is the honey bee (apis mellifera).

The state tree is the red oak (Quercus borealis maxima). The state flower is the common meadow violet (Viola sororia). The state shell is the knobbed whelk, also known as the conch shell (Busycon carica gmelin). The state fish is the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), the state animal is the horse (Equus caballus),

and the state dinosaur is the Hadrosaurus (Hadrosaurus foulkii).

The eggplant is not the official vegetable of New Jersey because it's not a vegetable. It's a fruit - berry, actually - and New Jersey claims to produce two-thirds of all the eggplant in the world. (It's a bogus claim, and one that leaves me wondering not so much about the world eggplant situation, but the mindset of whoever thought it would enhance New Jersey's reputation if people thought it was the world's leading producer of eggplant. I mean, eggplant?)

Blueberries became the official berry of New Jersey in 2004. Before that, many thought it was almost certainly the eggplant, which would predictably cause great confusion among persons accustomed to putting berries in their cereal.

New Jersey has a population of 8.48 million on 7,417 square miles of land. It's the fifth smallest state in the country. With 1,134 people per square mile, it's the densest state in the nation. The relative density of New Jersey should come as no surprise to anyone who's ever driven behind a car with Jersey plates.

And once again, I didn't have to bring the governor into the conversation.

December 18, 1957 -
David Lean's epic glimpse into the insanity of war, The Bridge on the River Kwai, premiered in the US on this date.

After the final scene was shot, producer Sam Spiegel shipped the film footage on five different planes to minimize the risk of loss.

December 18, 1966 -
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas aired for the first time on CBS on this date.

Dr. Seuss was initially concerned that the casting Boris Karloff would make the Grinch too scary.

December 18, 1966 -
The Pink Panther cartoon series premiered with the episode titled on this date

The Pink Panther character, created for the animated opening credits of The Pink Panther movie, was so popular that this short was produced as a starring vehicle for the character. This short marks the only time a studio has won an Oscar with its first cartoon release.

Why not finish writing out your Christmas cards (or start helping Santa wrap those presents) and watch this Christmas special in the background -  December 18, 1989 -
An I Love Lucy Christmas episode, nicknamed "The Lost Episode" because it was not included in the syndication package, was shown for first time in over 30 years on this date.

The Christmas episode was not included in the usual syndication package because of its holiday theme and because it mostly consists of flashbacks to previous episodes. CBS aired a colorized version (as you may know, I'm not a fan of colorized versions.)

December 18, 1998 -
Warner Brothers releases the romantic film You’ve Got Mail (A remake of  the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner,) directed by Nora Ephron and starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, on this date.

The children's book store scenes in the film were actually filmed at Maya Shaper's Cheese and Antique shop on 103 West 69th Street. The film makers wanted to use the antique shop because it had the quaint, homey feel they were going for. They sent the owner of the antique shop on vacation for a few weeks and while she was gone they turned the store into a children's bookstore. After filming was finished, they put everything back the way they had left it and it became an antique store once again.

December 18, 2009 -
Twentieth Century Fox
began printing money when James Cameron's Avatar, starring Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, was released on this date.

James Cameron, known for being tough on set, allegedly kept a nail-gun on set that he would use to nail cell phones, that had the misfortune of ringing, to a wall above the exit sign.

Today's Christmas countdown - Holiday Cartoons

Today in History:
December 18, 1626
Christina (Kristina), Queen of Sweden , later known as Maria Christina Alexandra, Minerva of the North, Protectress of the Jews at Rome and sometimes Count Dohna, was born on this date. Like most royalty and some presidents, Christina did not have to carry money, a passport or consistently spell her name the same way.

Kristina's father, King Gustav II Adolf, wanted a boy and decreed she be given the best education possible. Christina's mother, Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, an early proponent of Jewish guilt as a tool for childhood rearing, repeatedly told Kristina about the 'horrors' of sex and childbirth. These factors may have prejudiced Kristina against the prospect of having to produce an heir to the throne and convinced her to adopt the dress and manner of a man.

True story: in the winter of 1650 the magnificent Queen Kristina of Sweden summoned Rene Descartes to Stockholm to tutor her in philosophy. With his trademark optimism ("I think warm, therefore I am not cold"), he accepted the invitation and hurried up from Paris. Not long after his arrival, he died of pneumonia. But I digress ...

Queen Kristina, or the Girl King as she liked to be known, (as opposed to King Ludwig of Bavaria the Boy Queen, but that's another story) chose the rather shockingly ungodly motto (probably sarcastically) that "Wisdom is the Prop of the Realm." She abdicated in 1654 converted to Catholicism and dashed around Europe on a white horse, wearing men's clothing and studying philosophy and sleeping with men and women. She is one of the only few women buried within St. Peter's Basilica.

In the 1930s, she was portrayed by Greta Garbo in the film Queen Christina. Garbo basically modeled her later life on this character except for the converting thing.

December 18, 1892 -
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite publicly premiered in Saint Petersburg, Russia, at the Maryinsky Theater on this date.

The first performance of The Nutcracker was not deemed a success. The reaction to the dancers themselves was ambivalent. Reception was better for Tchaikovsky's score.

Quick pop quiz -
On December 18, 1940, Adolf Hitler issued his plans for…

a. The Volkswagen
b. An extremely white Christmas
c. The bombing of Britain
d. The invasion of Russia
e. The conquest of Cyprus
f. Recovery of the lost Ark of the Covenant

And so it goes

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