Friday, December 24, 2010

Fifth Annual Holiday Spectacular

My responsibility can be enormous, but it is the price of unparalleled success. Every year, knowing that my next holiday spectacular will be judged against the last one, I have to find a way to make it bigger, better, more audacious and, of course, spectacular. As Jimmy Wales was saying to me the other day when we were shelling walnuts for the Christmas tree – “I’ve been trying to come up with something bigger and I just can’t seem to do it.” I knew exactly what he meant. Last year’s Christmas spectacular – or is it holiday spectacular? – was ranked by as the 3,778,265,772nd most visited page in the entire internet, just below a video of Larry King interviewing the cast from Broadway’s Glory Days. But, I don’t want to brag.

Somehow, the following rule has manifested itself for my holiday spectacular – I can’t prepare for it – I have to just start writing and see what comes out, kind of like putting a chimp at a typewriter. That might not seem like much of a rule, but it’s all I got. Hold on. Here we go.

Best comments on for 2010

10. “There is nothing unusual or singular about a horse and pony show. It makes no sense! Wait, I'm talking to you. Never mind.”  Comment by Bear from Just another day in congress watching the ponys (7/2/10).

9. “I’m really worried about myself. I find myself agreeing more and more with your political update posts.” Comment by Don from Political update for October, 2010 (10/5/10).

8. “skynxxxx-zzzzzhhhhhh-zzzzzzzzzhhhh- huh? what? Oh... Wake me when he writes about books or history again.” Comment by Bear from Buying guns in Westbury (4/20/2010).

7. “Love,Actually??? Love.... actually?Love, Actually! Did you say Love, Actually?? Okay, to re-cap: Casablanca, Outlaw Josey Wales, Groundhog Day, and, wait for it...LOVE,ACTUALLY. HAAAAAAAAAAAAA...hahhhaaaaaaahaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaaaaahaaahaaaaahaaaaahaaaaahaaaaahaaaaahaaaahaaaaaahaaaaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaahaaaa!” Comment by Bear from Movie Night (8/6/10).

6. “Oh omniscent one, however do you tolerate us of little brains? Do now get an official ‘sychophantic commentator’ badge and decoder ring.” Comment by Conchis from Just another day in congress watching the ponys (7/2/10).

5. “You know, you are starting to sound like a talkshow host in your replies to comments and it’s generally starting to piss me off. ‘Thanks for the comments’, ‘For those in the know’, ‘DummiesbDummies was very gracious and we’ve visited each others sites. . .’ Wellll goody for you. Gag me.” Comment by Bear from Political Update for June, 2010.

4. “I have notice lately that when your thoughts are challenged you respond with a thin vaneer of ideas without much intellectual rigor.” Comment by Lee from I promise not to eat your children (5/31/10).

3. “This is why you need to expend more intellectual rigor and firepower in your argumentation on this subject. Your second grade analysis is just not of sufficient depth for a mature man of your intellectual prowess.” Comment by Lee from I promise not to eat your children (5/31/10).

2. “Bless your foul, direction-enfeebled heart.” Comment by Bear from Who said it IV? (5/2/2010)
And the winner is . . .

1. “I think ‘almost no one reads you’ because you are a terribly boring writer...not because of the amount of vapid mommy bloggers supporting each others boring blogs. Just saying.” Comment by Anonymous from The Mayans are coming – run for your life! (3/15/2010)

Top dead celebrities from 2010

Many websites list the who's who of dead folk for the year. These are the one's I heard of, anyway.

King Curtis Iaukea (a professional wrestler - I wouldn't have noticed if Bear hadn't pointed it out to me).
Steve Landesberg - Best character on Barney Miller.
Ron Santo - Great baseball player. Always deadly with a man on base.
Don Meredith - Monday Night Football great not to mention a pretty good quarterback.
Bob Feller - One of the all-time great pitchers. I would have thought he died 30 years ago.
Blake Edwards - Producer of the Pink Panther movies.
J.D. Salinger - reclusive writer. Never read him. Probably should.
Howard Zinn - Controversial historian.
Art Linkletter - A funny writer with a newspaper column.
Dino De Laurentis - Movie producer.
Dennis Hopper - Movie actor.
Eddie Fisher - Singer, actor, fourth husband of Elizabeth Taylor, who stole him from Debbie Reynolds. She was his best friend's widow. Suspicious?
Fess Parker - actor - played Davie Crockett on TV.
Gary Coleman - actor who played Arnold on Different Strokes. "Whatchyou talkin' bout, Willis?"
George Steinbrenner - Yankee owner.
Jill Clayburgh - actress.
Joan Sutherland - actress.
John Forsythe - actor.
Manute Bol - Basketball player. Tall even for that. Manute Bol died?
Mitch Miller - musician, band leader.
Merlin Olsen - Football player, actor.
Lynn Redgrave - Actress.
Peter Graves - Actor.
Robert B. Parker - Writer of the great Spenser series, among others.
Robert Culp - Actor.
Tony Curtis - Actor, father of Jamie Lee Curtis with Vivian Leigh.
Leslie Nielson - Very funny actor. "And don't call me Shirley."

Celebrity tribute

I know it’s unseemly to fall in love with your own work, but I typed this out the day I learned that Robert B. Parker died and any time I come across it I read it again and get a little misty-eyed. If you never read his books, this will mean nothing to you. If you have, you will understand completely:

"You worried?"
"Nope. You?"
"No. They'll put me where they see fit. I'll try and like it."
"Got to face it - we may not end up together."
“They’ve tried to separate us before. Never seems to work out for them.”
“'At least the beer’s good up here.”
"Maybe it's 'down' here."
"Doubt it. I’m still cool."
"Maybe you're right, but I'm feeling warm."
"Then take off your overcoat."
"Can't. I still have on the wife beater I wore when I fought Jersey Joe."
“That was a good day."
"Yes, it was."

. . .

"You miss her?"
"Not yet. But soon."
"I meant Pearl."
"Me too."
"How about the skinny one?"
"She'll be along soon. She's no spring chicken."
"Still beautiful though."
"Course. She's with me.”
“Guess that's why I’m still beautiful too.”
“I may have to wait for her, but we're forever. No debate allowed."
"She's definitely going upstairs, you know."
"Naturally. She's one of the chosen people."
"A good person, too. What if you don't end up in the same place as her?"
"Then I'll go find her."
"Could be consequences."
"Always have been."
"You decide. I'll back your play."
"Always have."
"Always will."
"Same here."
"I know."

Christmas stuff

I almost forgot to add something about the most wonderful time of the year - Christmas -my favorite holiday including Neanderthal New Year and Franco-Prussian War Armistice Day. I’ve think I’ve already done best Xmas movies, songs, books, birthdays, iconic experiences, historical moments and some other stuff in previous years. Frankly, I’m out. Wait - I just got an idea. Here are excerpts from articles from the past - courtesy of The New York Times archives:

December 25, 1851

Burning of the congressional library

"About 7 o'clock, yesterday morning, fire was discovered in the Library rooms of the Capitol at Washington. The alarm was immediately given, and the Fire department, promptly on the spot, used their utmost exertions to arrest the flames, but unhappily failed to do so before the splendid collection of books upon the shelves, was more than half consumed."

When the British burned the capitol in the War of 1812 (really our fault – American soldiers burned some towns in Canada first) we lost our first library, and TJ, who takes all kinds of abuse in this blog, sold his entire collection of something like 6500 books to get it started again. In 1851, there were 55,000 books, but 35,000 were lost in this fire, including most Jefferson’s.

France.; the revolution in Paris

"The much-talked-of coup d' etat is struck at last. Paris is again in a state of siege. LOUIS NAPOLEON has assumed the Dictatorship. He has begun his march towards empire. The Assembly met and jangled for the last time on Monday."

Full name Charles Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew of the Napoleon Bonaparte. He was president of France, but was frustrated by the National Assembly and pulled off a coup d’├ętat. He was, for a dictator, not a bad one in many ways, particulary after he loosened up his dictatorship about 10 years into it. He made the mistake of attacking Prussia in 1870, making a star of Bismarck, helping create the German empire, and lost his throne, living in exile for the last 3 years in England.

December 25, 1860

The Mysterious Disappearance of Mrs. De Forrest Heard from at Last

"Our readers probably remember the general interest excited three years ago by the mysterious disappearance of young DE FORREST from the Metropolital Hotel, -- and the utter failure of all endeavors to detect any trace of him. He had very respectable connections, was of good habits, and it was impossible to account for his sudden absence. The general belief was that he had been murdered, -- or had fallen into the river during some momentary attack of insanity. The last Australian mail, however, has brought letters which place beyond doubt the fact that he is alive, and in his right mind."

Wonder what really happened. Yes, the headline does say Mrs. De Forrest, but everyone makes mistakes.

December 25, 1870

The Greek Brigands

"The lovely countries of classic antiquity continue to be desolated by marauders whom no inducement will persuade to work, and no terrors doter from theft. In Lord BYRON'S day, the Greek excuse for brigandage was that the land was enslaved, and that there could be no encouragement for labor whore there was no protection for its fruits."

December 25, 1880

A Select Prize Fight

"John Sullivan, of Boston, and Prof. John Donaldson, of Cleveland, succeeded to-night in having a fight, with small hard gloves before a select, and very small party. Ten rounds were fought, in every one of which Donaldson was either knocked down or went down to avoid punishment. At the end of the tenth round Donaldson said he was satisfied that Sullivan should take the money, and the fight was ended."

John Sullivan was, of course, the great John L. Sullivan, the first official heavyweight champion. He only lost his belt in 1892 to Gentleman Jim Corbett, but Sullivan hadn't fought for 4 years at the time and had fought about 500 prize fights, often bare-knuckled and in a much more brutal fashion than would ever be allowed today. The Prof. was about 6 years older than John and fought until his 40s, but the last few years really shouldn’t count as it was part of a play he was in with Jim Corbett – Gentleman Jack - and was really sparring. It was Donaldson’s and Sullivan’s 2d exhibition in 4 days, but obviously, Sullivan wasn't kidding around. Prizefighting being illegal in Cincinnati, they were both arrested a few days after the second one, but the charges were later dropped.

December 25, 1880

An Actress’s Affections

"Miss Mary Patrice Whitebeck, an actress, playing in “Midnight Call” at one of the theatres here, is a plaintiff in a breach of promise suit for $20,000 begun to-day against A.P. Blakeslee . . . who is said to be wealthy.

. . . The actress claims to have a number of letters showing conclusively that Mr. Blakeslee promised to marry her. . . ."

Ah, the good old days of breach of promise and seduction suits. Couldn't find an article on how it turned out. Maybe they settled.

December 25, 1900

Cured by Electricity

"Thirteen-year-old Nettie Rosch, daughter of President John Rosch of the White Plains Board of Police Commissioners, given up by eminent New York specialists as a hopeless paralytic, not having had the use of her legs for nine years, returned to her home yesterday, after undergoing treatment in Brooklyn, apparently absolutely cured. She was able to walk from the station to her home, much to the delight of her parents."

Umm, if that worked, why didn’t they keep doing it? I smell a rat.

December 25, 1870

Wife, Left Alone, A Christmas Suicide

"An hour after George M. Luersson and his wife, Margaret, had finished their Christmas Eve dinner in their apartment on the third floor of 225 West 110th Street, overlooking Central Park, last night. Mr. Luersson put on his hat, saying he had to go out to keep a business engagement. Mrs. Luersson, his young wife, whom he had married a year and a half ago, pleaded with him to stay at home on Christmas Eve. She pointed to the many Christmas gifts, many of them from him, which were stacked in the brightly decorated apartment, and to the new silk dress and jewels she had put on for the occasion, and she begged him not to leave her. But Mr. Luersson said he was obliged to go. He promised to return in a short time.

He was somewhat surprised at the odd look she gave him, and at her words when, kissing him, she said:

'Now, Dearie, sleep well.'

He telephoned for a taxicab and stepped out into the hall. While he was waiting in the elevator, he heard a shot in his apartment. Rushing back, he found his wife on her knees between the parlor and the bedroom. Blood flowed over her silk dress from a wound at her heart, a revolver they had kept under their pillow, as a protection against burglars, lay on the floor beside her."

Any of you buying that? Sound a little too Scott Petersonish? I wonder what color dress his business associate was wearing. Never would have gotten away with it if there were a Columbo or Monk around.

On that happy note – Merry Christmas – happy holidays.


  1. If you're gonna top this one next year you better start working now.

    BTW I t5hink all armistice days should be celebrated to a larger degree; there have been lots of wars so we could probably get a holiday into every week of the year.

  2. Ah, faithful reader, leaping out of bed on Christmas morn, running past the tree and presents, turning on the computer and checking out I refuse to publish other comments asking what the heck is the matter with him?


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .