OCTOBER 21, 1772: A BIRD ROUND THE NECK IS WORTH TWO IN THE BUSH

A BIRD ROUND THE NECK IS WORTH TWO IN THE BUSH

English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was one of the major literary voices in England at the end of the 18th century. He was born on October 21, 1772, and died on July 25, 1834. Along with his good friend William Wordsworth, he helped to pioneer the Romantic Age of English poetry.  He’s best known for Kubla Khan (In Xanadu did Kubla Khan /A stately pleasure-dome decree) written, according to Coleridge himself, in “a kind of a reverie” as a result of an opium dream, and Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a seafaring epic, sort of like Mutiny on the Bounty without the mutiny or Titanic without the glitz or the the sinking.

The poem begins at a wedding, where one of the guests, hoping to get into the open bar before it closes is distracted by an old salt “with long grey beard and glittering eye.” This, of course, is the titular ancient mariner – no surprise, since Coleridge identifies him as such in the very first line – who begins his tale:

‘The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,

Merrily did we drop

Below the kirk, below the hill,

Below the lighthouse top.

The Sun came up upon the left,

Out of the sea came he!

And he shone bright, and on the right

Went down into the sea.

 

Even though the mariner has a nice way with words, the wedding guest is thirsty and he has spotted the bride leading other guests to the bar. But –

 

“The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,

Yet he cannot choose but hear;

And thus spake on that ancient man,

The bright-eyed Mariner.

 

The mariner describes his journey which takes him into some rather nasty, cold (Vermont-like) weather:

 

“The ice was here, the ice was there,

The ice was all around:

It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,

Like noises in a swound!

 

We can only guess what a swound is – but it is a pretty nasty sounding thing and it does rhyme nicely.  Enter the albatross, seascape left:

 

“At length did cross an Albatross,

Through the fog it came;

As if it had been a Christian soul,

We hailed it in God’s name.

 

The albatross leads the ship and its crew to warmer waters, and a perfect spot for the mariner to conclude his tale as  the wedding guest suggests, nervously checking his watch. But the mariner drops a bomb instead:

 

“‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!

From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—

Why look’st thou so?’—With my cross-bow

I shot the ALBATROSS.

 

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the fair breeze that had delivered them from the cold disappears, and they are becalmed, unable to move, and now it’s getting hot:

 

“Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink.

 

The crew members blame their plight entirely on the mariner. They hang the albatross around his neck and give him the cold shoulder. Eventually they spot a ship in the distance, and they watch for several verses in anticipation. As the vessel draws near, however, they discover that its passengers are Death (a skeleton) and the “Night-mare Life-in-Death” (a deathly-pale woman). These two are playing dice for the souls of the crew. Death wins the lives of the crew members and Life-in-Death the life of the Mariner. He will endure a fate worse than death as punishment for his killing of the albatross.

One by one, all of the crew members die, but the Mariner lives on:

“The many men, so beautiful!

And they all dead did lie:

And a thousand thousand slimy things

Lived on; and so did I.

 

Eventually, left alone with them, the mariner begins to appreciate the slimy things and even begins to pray for them.  And then the albatross falls from his neck. The bodies of the crew, possessed by good spirits, rise again and steer the ship back home, where it sinks again, leaving only the Mariner behind.

But his penance for shooting the albatross is not finished. He is forced to wander the earth annoying wedding guests with his story, a lesson for all those he meets:

 

“Farewell, farewell! but this I tell

To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!

He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast.”

 

Unfortunately for the wedding guest, he has missed out on the open bar and his dinner (he ordered the chicken) is cold.

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OCTOBER 20, 1720: MET A GUY IN CALICO

MET A GUY IN CALICO

It was the golden age of piracy — that period from the mid-17th to mid 18th century during which such luminaries as Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd and Blackbeard terrorized shipping throughout the New World.

New Providence Island in the Bahamas, was nicknamed the Pirate’s Republic because it was infamous as a home base for so many ne’er-do-wells. It was here in 1718 that Jack Rackham, who became known as Calico Jack thanks to his colorful attire, first sailed into notoriety. Calico Jack’s career started as member of the pirate crew under Captain Charles Vane. After robbing several ships off the coast of New York, Vane and his crew encountered a French man-o-war which was twice their size. Calico Jack wanted to do battle with the French, arguing that if they captured the ship, it would give them not only a dandy bit of plunder but a nice big ship as well. Vane demurred, ordering his ship to sail away to fight another day, even though most of the crew agreed with Jack.

Shortly afterward, Rackham called a vote in which the men branded Vane a coward, impeaching but not keelhauling him, nor treating him to any other pirate punishments. In fact, they sent him away with a nice gold watch for his years of service. Calico Jack was swept into office with a pillaging and plundering mandate.

One of Calico Jack’s most famous adventures as spelled out in A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates, was an encounter with a Spanish warship. He and his men were docked in Cuba, refitting their small sloop, when the warship patrolling the Cuban coast entered the harbor, along with a small English sloop they had captured. Although the Spaniards spotted the pirates, low tide prevented their capture, so they remained in the harbor awaiting the higher tide of the morning. But during the night, that sneaky Calico Jack and his men rowed to the captured English sloop and overpowered its guards. Come dawn, the warship began firing at Calico Jack’s now vacated ship as Calico Jack and his men brazenly sailed past in their new ship.

Calico Jack and his men sailed back to Kingston where they promptly applied to the governor for a royal pardon, claiming that the devil Vane had made them do that pirate stuff. They received a pardon, but by 1720, Calico Jack and his new life partner Anne Bonny were back to plundering. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived comeback. They were captured on October 20 by pirate hunter Jonathan Barnet. Calico Jack was hanged in November of the same year.

Calico Jack’s career was short but he will always be remembered for one important contribution to the world of piracy: the design of his Jolly Roger flag, a skull with crossed swords.

TERRYCOVERjune13Please check out my humble contribution to the world of piracy — Terry and the Pirate — it’s got romance, adventure and plenty of gratuitous swashbuckling.

 

 

OCTOBER 19, 1533: I’M ALWAYS CALCULATING STIFELS

I’M ALWAYS CALCULATING STIFELS

Michael Stifel (or Steifel or Styfel) was a German mathematician, priest and monk. He was also a big fan of Martin Luther, publishing a poem called On the Christian, righteous doctrine of Doctor Martin Luther (not really in the same neighborhood as Keats or Shelley). But what he came to be most famous for was a verse of a different color.

The German saying “to talk a Stiefel” or “to calculate a Stiefel” meaning to say or calculate nonsense can be traced right back to  Michael Stifel – all because of one particular calculation our mathematician/monk made back in 1532. A few years earlier, Stifel had become minister in quiet Lochau, where the tranquil life allowed him to dabble in mathematical studies. His particular interest was in one that he called “Wortrechnung” (word calculation), studying the statistical properties of letters and words in the bible.

As a result of these studies he published a book (publishing seems to be the downfall of many a good person), A Book of Arithmetic about the AntiChrist. A Revelation in the Revelation. Well, this had best seller written all over it. It had the sort of great hook a book needs to grab audiences – the rapidly approaching Judgment Day. To be specific – which Michael was – the world would end on October 19, 1533, at 8 a.m., German Standard Time.

One would think that a would-be Nostradamus – especially one with a statistical bent – would calculate the risk/reward of predicting the end of the world. If you’re wrong, there’s a pretty large helping of egg on your face, and if you’re right, there’s no one around to congratulate you. As you might guess, Stifel fell into the first category.

The townsfolk who, believing his prediction, did not plant crops or store foods and even burned their homes and possessions on the appointed day, were not amused. Stifel had to be taken into protective custody with the villagers chanting death threats outside his cell. He made no further predictions.

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
― T.S. Eliot

OCTOBER 18, 1963: SPACE, THE FELINE FRONTIER

SPACE, THE FELINE FRONTIER

The story of cats in space is a dramatic tale indeed. It begins in an unlikely place with the 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik 2, carrying of all felicettethings a dog named Laika. Laika was a stray found on the streets of Moscow who could have been the star of a dandy rags-to-riches shaggy dog story, except that things didn’t go all that well and the pooch perished under mysterious circumstances.

This was viewed as an early skirmish in the superpower space race to which NASA responded by sending a chimp into space and successfully returning him.

The French meanwhile had been plotting their own animal space probe. Fifteen cats had been chosen to undergo extensive training involving centrifuges, compression chambers and other medieval torture devices for a space mission in which the French would prove that they belonged at the table with the big guys and a cat would demonstrate to its fanciers everywhere that cats were superior to dogs in yet another way.

A pretty black and white Parisian chatte was eventually selected for the mission, because she was the only one who hadn’t become overweight during training, something to do with croissants most likely. On October 18, 1963, at 8:09 am, Chatte Félicette boarded a Véronique AGI 47 rocket at a base in the Algerian Sahara Desert and was blasted 97 miles into space. Fifteen minutes later, she parachuted safely to earth and pussycat immortality. Voilà!

 

OCTOBER 17, 1814: THIS ROUND’S ON ME

THIS ROUND’S ON ME

An unfortunate incident involving beer – aged porter to be precise – occurred in London back in 1814.

The central London parish of St Giles was, as slums go, one of the slummiest.  Although it has since been rather gentrified with theaters, Covent Garden and the British Museum nearby, it was then mostly squalid housing where immigrants crowded into its ramshackle buildings, often more thanbeer one family to a room. Near one end of the parish stood the massive Meux and Company Horse Shoe Brewery, its giant vats filled with thousands of gallons of aging porter.

One particular vat which held over 135,000 gallons had seen better days. Like the shanties surrounding the brewery, it suffered from age, and on October 17 it succumbed, bursting and letting loose enough precious liquid to give all of St. Giles and then some a pretty good buzz, although the fury with which it was released made tippling difficult. Like giant shaken cans of beer, nearby vats ruptured and joined the game of dominoes.

Within minutes the brick structure that was the Meux and Company Horse Shoe Brewery was breached, and the deluge roared down Tottenham Court Road, flinging aside or burying in debris anyone or anything in its path.

Homes caved in. A busy pub crumbled, burying a buxom barmaid and her ogling patrons for several hours.  All in all, nine people were killed by drink that day. Those who didn’t lose their lives lost everything they owned to evil alcohol. Soon after the suds subsided, survivors rushed in to save what they could of the precious brew, collecting one or more for the road in pots and cans.

St. Giles smelled like the morning after a particular robust party for weeks. The brewery was later taken to court over the accident, but they pleaded an “Act of God,” and the judge and jury bought it, leaving them blameless. The brewery even received reparations from the government.  God, it would seem, has a soft spot for brewers.

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Alice in Donaldland, Part 6: A Grinning Cat

Read Part 1

Alice stood at a crossroads, wondering which way she ought to go. As she pondered, a large Cat appeared on the branch of a tree a few feet away. When the Cat spotted Alice, it grinned at her. She had never known a Cat to grin before and didn’t even know a Cat could grin. It looked rather good-natured, but it had very long claws and a great many teeth so Alice thought it wise to treat the Cat with respect.

“What sort of cat are you?” Alice asked. “You must be happy, smiling like that.”

“I’m a Cheshire, “answered the Cat. “And I always smile.”

“Cheshire? Wouldn’t that make you a cheese?”

“Have you ever seen a cheese smile?”

“I guess not. Well Mr. Cheshire Cat, sir, I wonder if you might tell me which way to go?”

“That depends a great deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where — ”

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

” — so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added.

“In that direction lives a Hatter,” the Cat said , pointing. “And in that direction lives a March Hare. Visit either; they’re both mad.”

“Oh dear, I don’t want to go among mad people.”

You can’t help that. We’re all mad in Donaldland. Speaking of which, are you going to play golf with the Queen today?”

“I should like to,” said Alice. “But I haven’t been invited.”

“Oh you needn’t be invited. All that’s required is signing a nondisclosure agreement.”

“What would I not be disclosing?”

“Oh I can’t disclose that.”

“Where would I find the Queen’s Court?”

“There are several courts. There’s the Tennis Court, the Basketball Court, and the Supreme Court. At the Tennis Court, the Queen’s subjects serve.”

“What do they serve?”

“Why the Queen of course. At the Basketball Court, everyone runs about madly, stealing chickens and turkeys and partridges. When they’ve collected five fowls, they get to sit down. The Supreme Court is where things are decided; it’s divided into three wings.”

“Chicken wings?”

“No, no, no. Groups of deciders. There’s the liberal wing, the conservative wing, and the sexual predator wing and they all make decisions. But the Queen tells them what their decisions are.”

“It sounds like a Kangaroo Court,” scoffed Alice.

“Kangaroo Court, that’s rich. I like that.” The Cat’s grin widened. “Perhaps I’ll see you there. Ta ta.” And with that the Cheshire Cat began to disappear until only it’s grin remained. Alice, having already forgotten who lived which way, picked a path and started off. As it turned out, it didn’t matter which path because she came to a clearing with a large table, and both the Hatter and the Hare were crowded into one corner. A Dormouse sat on the table between them.

Part 7, Coming Tuesday

OCTOBER 16, 1869: ONE MORE GIANT FOR MANKIND

ONE MORE GIANT FOR MANKIND

In 1869, George Hull, a New York tobacconist, and his cousin, William Newell, a farmer, hired two men to dig a well on Newell’s farm. As theycardiff_ were digging, one of the men suddenly shouted: “I declare, some old Indian has been buried here!” ‘I declare’ is a tad short of ‘Eureka!’ but it got the point across; what the two men had discovered was, according to Hull, a perfectly preserved ten-foot-plus petrified giant.

Noting the incredible scientific implications of this discovery, Hull and Newell immediately did the scientific thing. They set up a tent over the giant and charged 25 cents for people who wanted to see it. Two days later, thanks to public demand, the price doubled to 50 cents. And the crowds doubled along with the price. Everyone wanted to see the amazing, colossal Cardiff Giant, as the stony corpse had come to be called.

Archaeological scholars stood at the back of the throngs shouting “fake, fake” but folks ignored them (folks generally ignore archaeologists). And they ignored the geologists who said there was no earthly reason to dig a well in the exact spot the giant had been found. A Yale palaeontologist, getting really worked up, called it “a most decided humbug.” Some Christian fundamentalists and preachers, came to the giant’s defense, however, citing some positive reviews in Genesis.  And we all know there were some mighty big people in the Bible.

Eventually, Hull sold his part-interest for $23,000 (close to half a million today) to a syndicate in Syracuse, New York, for exhibition. The giant continued to draw amazing crowds, so much so that P. T. Barnum offered $50,000 for the giant. When the syndicate turned him down, he hired an unscrupulous sculptor to create a plaster replica. Barnum put his giant on display in New York, claiming that his was the true giant, and that the Cardiff Giant was an impostor.

Then in December, Hull confessed to the press that he had faked the Cardiff Giant (he already had his $23,000). It had been carved out of a block of gypsum then treated with stains and acids to make the giant appear to be old and weathered.  (It had been whacked with steel knitting needles embedded in a board to simulate pores.) And the following February, both giants were declared fakes in court.

Epilogue: An Iowa publisher later bought the Cardiff Giant to use as a conversation piece in his basement rumpus room. In 1947 he sold it to the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, New York, where it is still on display.

 

OCTOBER 15, 1954: I HAVE PEOPLE TO FETCH MY STICKS

I HAVE PEOPLE TO FETCH MY STICKS

Long before he debuted in his own television show on October 15, 1954, Rin Tin Tin had become an international celebrity. It was as good a rags-to-riches story as Hollywood could churn out. He was rescued rin-tin-tin_from a World War I battlefield by an American soldier who trained him to be an actor upon returning home. He starred in several silent films, becoming an overnight sensation and going on to appear in another two dozen films before his death in 1932.

Rinty (as he was known to his friends) was responsible for a great surge in German Shepherds as pets. The popularity of his films helped make Warner Brothers a major studio and pushed a guy named Darryl F. Zanuck to success as a producer.

During the following years Rin Tin Tin Jr. and Rin Tin Tin III kept the Rin Tin Tin legacy alive in film and on the radio. Rin Tin Tin IV was slated to take the franchise to television in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, but he flunked his screen test and was shamefully replaced by an upstart poseur named Flame.

The TV series featured an orphan named Rusty who was being raised by soldiers at a cavalry post known as Fort Apache.  Rin Tin Tin was the kid’s dog. It was a low budget affair, filmed on sets used for other productions with actors frequently called upon to play several soldiers, Apaches, and desperadoes in a single episode. Although it was children’s programming, you might not guess that by the lofty literary titles of many episodes: Rin Tin Tin Meets Shakespeare, Rin Tin Tin and the Barber of Seville, Rin Tin Tin and the Ancient Mariner, Rin Tin Tin and the Connecticut Yankee.

Meanwhile, IV stayed at home on his ranch, fooling visitors into believing he was actually a TV star (and perhaps contemplating a run for President).

Rated P. G.

“Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy’s Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day’s work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city’s reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle wodehouseempty.” One line from someone who had a great knack for them, which he displayed in over 300 stories, 90 books, 30 plays and musicals, and 20 film scripts. Comic novelist P.G. Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves the butler, was born on this day in 1881 in Surrey, England.

 

He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom.

Mike nodded. A sombre nod. The nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812 and said, “So, you’re back from Moscow, eh?”

I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.

She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say ‘when.’

The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.

Every author really wants to have letters printed in the papers. Unable to make the grade, he drops down a rung of the ladder and writes novels.

It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.

And she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.

At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.

Cheap Halloween Thrills: And Then There Were 31

Like yesterday’s Night of the Hunter, these three films feature children in danger and perhaps the source of danger. Poltergeist (1982) explores the dangers of watching too much TV, especially when the TV set is possessed. “I see dead people.” Nine-year-old Cole sees and talks to ghosts in the 1999 supernatural horror film The Sixth Sense. In the 1961 psychological study The Innocents, Deborah Kerr is a governess whose two charges are outwardly little angels but whose sweet smiles may hide something quite sinister.

1 The Shining

2 The Exorcist

3 Beetlejuice

4 Invasion of the Body Snatchers

5 Ghost Story

6 Ghostbusters

7 Freaks

8 Ichabod and Mr. Toad

9 Hound of the Baskervilles

10 I Walked with a Zombie

11 Diabolique

12 Alien

13 Rosemarys Baby

14The Birds

15 Psycho

16 Phantom of the Opera

17 Nosferatu

18 Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

19 Get Out

20 Frankenstein

21 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

22 Young Frankenstein

23 Edward Scissorhands

24 The Invisible Man

25 Dracula

26 The Wolf Man

27 Cape Fear

28 Night of the Hunter

29 Poltergeist

30 The Sixth Sense

31 The Innocents

 

OCTOBER 14, 1790: IT IT’S THURSDAY, THIS MUST BE PITCAIRN

 IT IT’S THURSDAY, THIS MUST BE PITCAIRN

When British ships arrived at Pitcairn Island in 1814, two men paddled out in canoes to meet them. Both spoke English well, impressing the officers and men of the ships with their refinement as they met on deck. Their civilized demeanor persuaded the ships’ captains that  the mutineers from the Bounty, had created a proper society (after alcoholism, murder and disease had killed most of them off), and did not merit prosecution for the takeover.

One of the two men was Thursday October Christian, son of Fletcher Christian and his Tahitian wife Mauatua. Fletcher, you will remember, was the ringleader of the mutiny that took place on the Bounty‘s voyage to Tahiti for breadfruit. Captain Philip Pipon, commander of one of the British ships, described Fletcher’s son Thursday as being “about twenty five years of age, a tall fine young man about six feet high, with dark black hair, and a countenance extremely open and interesting. He wore no clothes except a piece of cloth round his loins, a straw hat ornamented with black cock’s feathers, and occasionally a peacock’s, nearly similar to that worn by the Spaniards in South America, though smaller.”

Thursday October Christian, born on October 14, 1790, was the first child born on the Pitcairn Islands after the mutineers took refuge there. Born on a Thursday in October, he was given his name because his father wanted him to have “no name that will remind me of England,” forgetting perhaps that there are both Thursdays and Octobers in England. Captain Pipon referred to young Thursday as Friday October Christian,” because the Bounty had crossed the international date line going eastward, but the mutineers had somehow failed to adjust their calendars for this. The mutineers were living on a tropical island where everyone was running around naked. Is it any surprise that they didn’t know what day it was – or care?

As soon as Captain Pipon left, Thursday went back to his original name, not wanting to be confused with that other character from a story set on a tropical island.

 

Cheap Halloween Thrills

Robert Mitchum usually starred as a rugged, but romantic leading guy type who brought a seen-it-all disinterest to many film noir classics. In two films, however, he played men of pure evil. In Night of the Hunter (1955), he played a monstrous preacher in pursuit of two children. In Cape Fear (1962), he was the menacing rapist Max Cady (in a later remake, he played a police detective pursuing Robert De Niro’s Cady).

1 The Shining

2 The Exorcist

3 Beetlejuice

4 Invasion of the Body Snatchers

5 Ghost Story

6 Ghostbusters

7 Freaks

8 Ichabod and Mr. Toad

9 Hound of the Baskervilles

10 I Walked with a Zombie

11 Diabolique

12 Alien

13 Rosemarys Baby

14The Birds

15 Psycho

16 Phantom of the Opera

17 Nosferatu

18 Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

19 Get Out

20 Frankenstein

21 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

22Young Frankenstein

23 Edward Scissorhands

24 The Invisible Man

25 Dracula

26 The Wolf Man

27 Cape Fear

28 Night of the Hunter

OCTOBER 13, 1917: GOD TO EARTH: SHAPE UP

GOD TO EARTH: SHAPE UP

It was an “aeroplane of light, an immense globe flying westward at moderate speed,” according to one of the many witnesses who were assembled that cloudy October 13. Many were certain they had seen amiracle-of-the-sun_cosmo-code figure within the globe — not some strange looking extraterrestrial creature, but rather a human form, a woman. Had this been the 1950s, this occurrence may have been commonplace; people were seeing flying saucers, flying doughnuts and other strange alien craft everywhere. But this was 1917, and UFOs were the stuff of speculative science fiction. Therefore, witnesses did not attribute this to an invasion from Mars or some far-off galaxy; they said it was a miracle.

The number of witnesses was rather phenomenal for a UFO sighting — some 30,000 or more descended on the little Portuguese village of Fatima. Nor had an alien invasion ever been scheduled in advance. It was three children who announced the visit of the lady. The kids had seen apparitions off and on for several months leading up to this day, apparitions bringing the message that folks upstairs were annoyed at all the war mongering that was going on and that if things didn’t change for the better, annihilation was next on the agenda. (This was not unlike the message Klaatu — as in “Klaatu barada niktu” — delivered to earthlings several decades later. It’s a message that never seems to not get through to us, however.)

Although the accounts of the appearance were wildly contradictory, leading some naysayers to suggest people saw what they wanted to see, the consensus was that it was raining when the clouds suddenly parted and the sun appeared. It was duller than usual and resembled a spinning globe as it careened toward the earth. Its lady passenger appeared to some but not all in the assembly and shot an admonishing glance before her chariot zigzagged away.

Many remained skeptical, having not seen anything themselves and suggesting that some of the others may have stared at the sun a bit too long. Nevertheless, some 13 years later the Roman Catholic Church declared that maybe it was a miracle after all. It’s official designation is now the Miracle of the Sun.

 

Cheap Halloween Thrills

Universal Pictures, knowing a good thing when they had it, cranked out horror pictures at a breakneck speed during the 30s and 40s. Along with the Frankenstein franchise and many others there were these three gems:Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi beginning his reign as the Count; The Invisible Man (1933) with Claude Rains as the man who wasn’t there, sort of;  and The Wolf Man (1941) with Lon Chaney Jr. as the hairy tortured soul.

1 The Shining

2 The Exorcist

3 Beetlejuice

4 Invasion of the Body Snatchers

5 Ghost Story

6 Ghostbusters

7 Freaks

8 Ichabod and Mr. Toad

9 Hound of the Baskervilles

10 I Walked with a Zombie

11 Diabolique

12 Alien

13 Rosemarys Baby

14The Birds

15 Psycho

16 Phantom of the Opera

17 Nosferatu

18 Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

19 Get Out

20 Frankenstein

21 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

22Young Frankenstein

23 Edward Scissorhands

24 Dracula

25 The Invisible Man

26 The Wolf Man

 

OCTOBER 12, 1960: DIPLOMACY 101

DIPLOMACY 101

On the last day of the 1960 meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Lorenzo Sumulong head of the Philippine delegation had the floor. During his remarks he took the Soviet Union to task, at one point referring to “the peoples of Eastern Europe and elsewhere which have been deprived of the free exercise of their civil and political rights and which have been swallowed up . . . by the Soviet Union.”

Nikita Khrushchev must have taken umbrage at the statement for he hied himself to the rostrum, where he begged to differ with Sumulong, suggesting that he was “a jerk, a stooge, a lackey and a toady of American imperialism.” Before returning to his seat, Khrushchev demanded that Assembly President Frederick Boland of Ireland call Sumulong to order.

When Sumulong continued to speak, Khrushchev began pounding his fist on his desk, and when that didn’t seem forceful enough, he took off a shoe (a loafer or sandal because he hated tying laces, according to Khrushchev’s son) and waved it in the air. He then proceeded to bang it on the desk, louder and louder until everyone in the hall was abuzz with shouts and jeers.

The chaos finally ended when a red-faced Boland declared the meeting adjourned and banged his gavel so hard it broke, sending the head flying through the air.

Afterward Khrushchev was said to have remarked: “It was such fun!”

Berlin is the testicle of the West. When I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin. — Nikita Khrushchev

Cheap Halloween Thrills

The big daddy of all monsters is of course the one we insist on calling Frankenstein rather than Henry Frankenstein’s Monster. The big guy is featured in four of the films on our list. The first is not surprisingly Frankenstein (not Frankenstein’s monster, you’ll note), and Boris Karloff’s (billed as just Karloff) portrayal became pretty much the gold standard. The central theme, Dr. Frankenstein’s misguided attempt to create life by assembling a creature from body parts of the dead, recurs in our next three films, although with a much different approach.

With Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, the comic duo joined the Universal horror mill in the first of their many encounters with monsters and other villains. As baggage handlers delivering a couple of suspicious crates to a horror museum, they have run-ins with not only Frankenstein but Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Invisible Man as well.

Gene Wilder is a Frankenstein grandson (“that’s Frahnkensteen”) in the hilarious 1974 Mel Brooks film Young Frankenstein. He’s joined by Marty Feldman as Igor (“that’s eyegor”), Peter Boyle as the Monster, Terri Garr, Madeline Kahn, and Cloris Leachman in a loving parody of the original movie.

Tim Burton’s 1990 film Edward Scissorhands is a romantic fantasy about an artificial man whose creator dies before his completion, leaving his with scissor blades instead of hands. While neither a parody nor a retelling of the Frankenstein story, the similarities are obvious. Johnny Depp is Edward and Vincent Price, in his last role, is his creator.

1 The Shining

2 The Exorcist

3 Beetlejuice

4 Invasion of the Body Snatchers

5 Ghost Story

6 Ghostbusters

7 Freaks

8 Ichabod and Mr. Toad

9 Hound of the Baskervilles

10 I Walked with a Zombie

11 Diabolique

12 Alien

13 Rosemarys Baby

14The Birds

15 Psycho

16 Phantom of the Opera

17 Nosferatu

18 Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

19 Get Out

20 Frankenstein

21 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

22Young Frankenstein

23 Edward Scissorhands