AUGUST 18, 1930: A DOG WALKS INTO A BAR

A DOG WALKS INTO A BAR

The world of Disney (as opposed to Disney World) is “peopled” by a group of cartoon animals who walk on two legs, talk intelligibly and dress stylishly. Mickey came first. Then Minnie. Add Donald plutoDuck, Daisy Duck, and Goofy, and you have five of the characters known as the Sensational Six — the superstars of the Disney universe. The sixth character joined the group on August 18, 1930, with the release of the cartoon short Chain Gang. But he was different from the other five. He walked on all fours, barked and was completely naked. He was an animal animal.

Pluto was nameless in his debut vehicle. It wasn’t until a month later and a second appearance in The Picnic that he acquired the clever name Rover. In the cartoon, Rover belongs to Minnie Mouse who brings him along on a picnic with Mickey. In a Mitt Romney moment, Mickey ties the dog to the back of the car before driving off and dragging him behind. But when the poor pooch spots a couple of frolicking rabbits, he ends up dragging the car and its mouse occupants on a merry chase.

The following year, Rover returned as Mickey’s pet with the new name Pluto the Pup. The origin of that name is the subject of argument. It was back in 1930 that the now ex-planet Pluto was discovered. Was this the source of his name? Or were both planet and dog named after the Roman god of the underworld? And then there’s that other great mystery: If Pluto’s a dog and Goofy’s a dog, why is the latter anthropomorphic and the former not?  Walt remained mum.

 

 

 

 

 

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AUGUST 17, 1978: GIVE ‘EM HELIUM

GIVE ‘EM HELIUM

Three Americans from New Mexico completed the first transatlantic balloon flight, landing in a barley field 60 miles from Paris, 138 hours and six minutes after lifting off from Presque Isle, Maine. The helium-filled Double Eagle II covered 3,233 miles in its six-day journey.

Almanac devotees will remember (having most certainly taken notes) that Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard crossed the English Channel to great fanfare some two hundred years earlier.

Balloonists began attempting the Atlantic crossing in the mid-1800s, with 17 unsuccessful flights, balloonresulting in the deaths of at least seven balloonists. Two of our three balloonists gave it their first shot in September 1977, aboard the Double Eagle I, but were blown off course, landing off Iceland after 66 hours.  After recovering from bruises, embarrassment and frostbite, they were ready to foolishly rush in again.  A third pilot was brought in to spread the pain.

The Eagle Junior was a big balloon – 11-stories of helium.  It made good progress after blastoff, but during mid-trip, plunged from 20,000 feet to a hair-raising 4,000 feet, forcing them to jettison ballast material and many of their inflight amenities.  Among the items chucked overboard was evidently all of their finer cuisine, for they were forced to finish the trip dining only on hot dogs and sardines. Toward the end of the trip, one balloonist was heard to remark somewhat testily: “Skip the bun; just grease up my hot dog with mustard real good and I’ll shove it in my ear.”

Panic set in when the balloonists couldn’t find the Eiffel Tower.  Blown off course, they touched down just before dusk on August 17, 1978, near the hamlet of Miserey, missing the wine and ticker-tape parade in Paris. Parisians, not wanting to give up a celebratory occasion, amused themselves in honor of the storming of the Bastille.

 

AUGUST 16, 1896: THERE’S BACON IN THEM THAR HILLS

THERE’S BACON IN THEM THAR HILLS

Tagish-Tlingit Packer Keish (Lone Wolf), commonly known as Jim, carried equipment and supplies for early prospectors over the mountain passes from the Alaskan seacoast to the headwaters of the klondike.previewYukon river. He earned the nickname “Skookum” (Chinook for big and strong) for his feat of carrying 156 pounds of bacon over Chilkoot Pass in a single trip. (You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, And you don’t mess around with Jim.)

Eventually, tired of of slogging other folk’s bacon, Skookum Jim formed a partnership with his sister Shaaw Tlaa (Kate), his cousin Dawson Charlie (Tagish Charlie), and Kate’s husband George Carmack (no nickname) to go look for the Big G.

On August 16, 1896, the Skookum party discovered rich gold deposits in Bonanza (Rabbit) Creek, Yukon.  Although Skookum Jim is believed to have made the actual discovery, George Carmack was officially credited for the gold discovery because the actual claim was staked in his name. The group agreed to this because they felt that an Indian’s claim would not be recognized because of the rampant racism of the time.

Well, you can just imagine what happened when word of their discovery got out. The Klondike was suddenly a “destination” for every would-be prospector who ever dreamed of the Big G. The exodus known as the Klondike Gold Rush (Yukon Gold Rush) (Alaskan Gold Rush) (The Gold Rush to End All Gold Rushes) was on.

Together our heroes worked what would become known as Discovery Claim (Look What We Found) and collectively earned nearly a million dollars. Skookum Jim built a home for his wife (the little woman) and daughter (junior) in the Yukon Territory (Tagish First Nation) where he spent the winters trapping, hunting and eating lots of bacon hauled in by others. George and Kate moved to California where he deserted her for another woman. You can’t trust anyone without a nickname.

 

 

AUGUST 15, 1935: WILL POWER

WILL POWER

Cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator and motion picture actor, Will Rogers was one of the world’s best-known celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s and adored by the Will-Rogers-StampAmerican people. Known as “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son,” Rogers was born in 1879 to a prominent Cherokee Nation family in Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma). During his amazing career, he traveled around the world three times, wrote more than 4,000 nationally-syndicated newspaper columns, and starred in 71 movies (a majority of them silent ) and several Broadway productions. He was the top-paid Hollywood movie star at the time, and in 1934, was voted the most popular male actor in Hollywood.

     As a radio broadcaster and political commentator, he was the leading political wit of the Progressive Era.  He called politics “the best show in the world” and described Congress as the “national joke factory.”

     Rogers died on August 15, 1935, with aviator Wiley Post, when their small airplane crashed in Alaska.

Never miss a good chance to shut up.

 

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There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

 

We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.

 

When I die, I want to die like my grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.

 

Will-Rogers-Quotes-1

Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can’t buy enough to eat.

 

The best way to make a fire with two sticks is to make sure one of them is a match.

AUGUST 14, 1619: THOU SHALT NOT

THOU SHALT NOT

Those folks who think they have it pretty rough in Virginia these days should thank their reactionary stars things are not as they were back in 1619. The very first general assembly got together in Jamestown that year to pass laws that pretty much told everyone how they could and could not behave. The burgesses, as members of the assembly were called, were 30 old white men determined to dictate morality to everybody else, a tradition that hasn’t changed much over the years.

     Nor has the politics. The burgesses passed laws requiring all colonists to attend two religious services every Sunday and to bear arms (pieces, swords, powder and shot) while doing so – just in case religious fervor pushed someone over the edge.  Even those bearing arms were forbidden from gambling, drinking, idleness and “excesses in apparel,” (which probably didn’t mean too much clothing).  Not wishing to overlook any sin they hadn’t thought of, the burgesses also approved a stern enactment against immorality in general. In the eyes of the burgesses, one can imagine, that might cover a lot of territory (and the colonies had lots of territory). The planting of mulberry trees, grapes and hemp was also proscribed, for we all know that that seemingly innocuous flora is the first step on the road to degradation (spelled with a ‘d’ and that rhymes with ‘p’).

     The burgesses had only nice things to say about tobacco however. Colonists were urged to dedicate the times they were not in church to the growing of said crop. The colonists responded with enthusiasm, even to the point of growing tobacco in the streets of Jamestown – 20,000 pounds a year – despite His Royal Stick in the Mud King James calling it “dangerous to the lungs.”

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” ― Mark Twain

AUGUST 13, 1942: DEAD, A DEER, A FEMALE DEER

DEAD, A DEER, A FEMALE DEER

At some point, practically everybody on the planet has laughed and cried with Flower the Skunk, Thumper the Rabbit, the Great Prince of the forest and his unnamed mate, and Bambi, the title character in the Walt Disney classic first released on this date in 1942. It has become a favorite of generation after generation of kids and critics alike and ranks third in the American Film Institute’s all-time best animation features, “…the crowning achievement of Walt Disney’s animation studio.”

     It wasn’t a big success out of the gate. The New York Times said: “In the search for perfection, Mr. Disney has come perilously close to tossing away his whole world of cartoon fantasy.” Another critic called it “entirely unpleasant.” Hunters called it “an insult to American sportsmen.” Even Disney’s daughter complained, saying that Bambi’s mother shouldn’t have died. When Walt said he was just following the book, she protested, saying that he had taken other liberties before, and that Walt Disney could do whatever he wanted.

     As it was, we didn’t see Bambi’s mother die on-screen. They decided it was emotional enough without showing it. And there was much more we didn’t see. We didn’t see the six bunnies modeled after the Seven Dwarfs. They became five generic rabbits and Thumper. The squirrel and chipmunk comedy team didn’t make the final cut, nor did the two falling autumn leaves conversing like an old married couple. The civilization that Bambi destroyed by stepping on an ant hill and a family of squabbling grasshoppers didn’t pass the “What’s this got to do with Bambi?” test.  And Walt was talked out of showing a man burned to death by the fire that he inadvertently started.

     Oddly enough, Bambi is also listed in the Top 25 Horror Movies of all Time by Time magazine, because it “has a primal shock that still haunts oldsters who saw it 40, 50, 65 years ago.” Which brings us back to the question, did Bambi’s mother really have to die?

 

 

AUGUST 12, 1881: READY WHEN YOU ARE, C.B.

READY WHEN YOU ARE, C.B.

Cecil B. DeMille was a larger-than-life filmmaker throughout the first half of the last century as well as God’s public relations director. Born in 1881 in Ashfield, Massachusetts, he went on to enter the world of theater as an actor, director and playwright.  He helped to establish Paramount Pictures and co-directed his first film, The Squaw Man, the first of over 70 films, in 1914. Through the years, he burnished his reputation with lavish biblical epics such as The King of Kings, Samson and Delilah, and The Ten Commandments.

     DeMille created the first movie to have a budget of more than $1 million, paving the way for his future epics “with a cast of thousands.” Although he was adept at directing thousands of extras, he had a bit of a problem with individual actors, becoming a tad tyrannical on the set.  When making redsea1927′s King of Kings, DeMille demanded that in order to preserve the film’s spiritual integrity, the actors all had to enter into contracts promising that they would not do anything “unbiblical” for five years — that included going to baseball games,  frequenting nightclubs and  driving sexy cars.

     He saw no reason his actors shouldn’t risk their lives for the good of the film.  Although Victor Mature was a superhero in Samson and Delilah, DeMille said he was “100% yellow” because he refused to wrestle a lion. Paulette Goddard lost future roles with the director by refusing to play with fire in Unconquered.

     And he loved spectacle – the parting of the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments, the toppling of the temple in Samson and Delilah, train wrecks in The Road to Yesterday, Union Pacific and The Greatest Show on Earth, and the destruction of a zeppelin in Madame Satan.

     Gloria Swanson immortalized DeMille in a movie he didn’t direct, Sunset Boulevard, with the frequently repeated line: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

Give me any two pages of the Bible and I’ll give you a picture.  — Cecil B. DeMille

AUGUST 11, 1894: POPARAZZI

POPARAZZI

Sometimes great ideas just come falling from out of nowhere, like that apple that beaned Isaac Newton while he sat under a tree daydreaming. Such was the case with Frank Epperson, born on August 11, 1894. Frank wasn’t a scientist or an inventor or any such thing. In fact, he was only 11 years old when he had his Eureka! moment.

Little Frank, who lived in Oakland, California, loved a soda concoction made by dissolving a flavored powder in water. One day as he was mixing his drink, he was distracted by something or other and left the drink with his stirring stick on the porch, completely forgetting about it.

Well, didn’t the Oakland temperatures plummet that night to a record low. The next morning Frank discovered his drink, completely frozen, the stirring stick standing straight up. You guessed it — the very first Popsicle. Only Frank called them Epsicles when, a few years later, he began to sell them to the public at Neptune Beach and later when he applied for a patent for his “frozen confectionary.”

Somewhere along the way, he changed the name to Popsicle, and in 1925 he sold the rights to the Joe Lowe Company of New York. The Popsicle eventually acquired some cousins — Fudgsicle, Creamsicle and Dreamsicle — and in 1989 it was swallowed up by Good Humor, a subsidiary of corporate giant Unilever.

And Along Came Popsicle Pete

In 1939, Popsicle Pete became the official spokesman for Popsicle products. He was introduced on the Buck Rogers radio program, urging listeners to send in wrappers and win neat prizes. Popsicle Pete was . . . well, make your own characterization:

Why Bartlett’s Ignored Reagan

President Ronald Reagan was about to deliver a scheduled radio address on August 11, 1984. While testing his microphone before the speech, Reagan quipped: “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin Ronald Reaganbombing in five minutes.”  Reagan’s aides laughed heartily at their boss’ obvious joke; many others didn’t. Some dismissed his remark as an example of poor taste while others thought it to be a major embarrassing political gaffe — certainly not his first. Reagan’s sense of humor didn’t play well with the folks at Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations who pretty much ignored him during their compiling of quotes.

Among the Reagan remarks that didn’t find their way into the noted encyclopedia of clever speech included his 1969 response as governor to student protestors at the University of California at Berkeley — “if there has to be a bloodbath then let’s get it over with,” his comparison between politics and prostitution, and these gems:

“I’ve noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.”

I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.”

“What makes him think a middle-aged actor, who’s played with a chimp, could have a future in politics?”

The Soviets, for their part, were not amused, and the president’s approval rating among American voters nosedived just long enough to give Democrats the fleeting thought that Walter Mondale might soon be president.

And Quayle

Exactly five years later, Vice President Dan Quayle uttered these memorable words:  “Mars is essentially in the same orbit. Mars is somewhat the same distance from the sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen, that means we can breathe.”

A team of linguists continues to study the meaning of the quote.

AUGUST 10, 1749: MORE POWERFUL THAN . . .

MORE POWERFUL THAN . . .

Thomas Topham, born in London about 1710, was brought up in the trade of carpentry and eventually found himself as the landlord of a small pub, the Red Lion Inn. Though he was by no tophammeans remarkable in size, he was endowed with extraordinary muscular powers and was able to entertain the patrons by performing various feats of strength. Crowds began to gather at the inn, not to drink but to see him perform.  To entertain the crowds, he might break a broomstick by striking it against his bare arm or lift a horse and toss it over a fence or roll up a pewter plate weighing seven pounds as another man would roll up a sheet of paper. In addition to his freakish strength, Topham could also sing in a basso profundo voice said to be so deep and resonant that it was scarcely human.

Strong as he was, he had basically a gentle nature. Sure, he might wrap an iron pipe around the neck of a man who irked him, but all in all he was a good-natured soul.  Naturally, the fame of this amazing strong man spread throughout England, and he became known as the Modern Samson.  He continued to wow bigger and bigger crowds – lifting 200-pound weights on his little finger or a six foot long oak table with his teeth, smashing a coconut by striking it against his ear, bending a one-inch thick iron bar around his bare arm with one blow.

     Alas, great fortune was not to continue for our Modern Samson. Like his biblical namesake, he was done in by the wiles of his very own Delilah. On August 10, 1749, his world came crashing down like that ancient temple when he discovered his wife’s infidelity.   After stabbing her to death, he used the knife on himself; dying from his wounds shortly thereafter.

She stood there laughing
I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more
My, my, my Delilah
Why, why, why Delilah
So before they come to break down the door
Forgive me, Delilah, I just couldn’t take any more.

— Delilah, as sung by Tom Jones

AUGUST 9, 1639: TIPTOE THROUGH THE BOROUGHS

TIPTOE THROUGH THE BOROUGHS

Jonas Bronck was the Norwegian son of a Lutheran minister born sometime around 1600. Or he was a Swedish sailor in the Danish Merchant Marine. Or a Dutch Mennonite who fled the Netherlands because of religious persecution. Or German.

In any event, he was an immigrant to the Dutch colony of New Netherland during a time when the greetings-bronxDutch were trying to increase its colonial population by relocating folks who had gone broke during the bursting of the tulip mania bubble in 1637. The English, who didn’t give a whit about tulips, were copulating and populating the New World like so many limey rabbits, and the Dutch were urged to get out of those wooden shoes and get with it.

Thus, Jonas Bronck arrived in New Netherland in 1639 aboard a ship ostentatiously named The Fire of Troy, whereupon he purchased himself a large tract of land from the Lenape Indians for 400 beads. (You will remember that Dutch wheeler-dealer, Peter Minuit, who snapped up Manhattan for 26 bucks.)

Bronck’s 500 acres was just across the river from the village of Harlem, an easy commute to the Apollo Theater even then. Although Bronck traded with the local Indians, relations were not good, thanks to the Dutch practice of frequently murdering large numbers of Indians. Eventually, the Indians told Bronck to take his 400 beads and shove them, then killed him to reinforce the point.

Eventually, those populating English took over the Dutch lands. Jonas Bronck might have been completely forgotten, but for the river that retained Bronck’s name, mangled a bit to become the Bronx River. By extension, the land around it became The Bronx (and living there known as Bronxitis). This is fortunate, for the original Lenape name was Rananchqua.

We’ll have Manhattan, Rananchqua and Staten Island, too?