Last year, we visited the Florida settlement of Christmas (apparently home to the world’s largest concrete alligator too, but that’s by the by) and saw some rather lovely photos of their Christmas post office at its busiest time of the year.
Last Christmas Eve, we contemplated what might happen if Santa had got hold of a motor car in the early days of internal combustion engines (I’m still wondering if poor old unemployed Rudolph would qualify for Jobseekers Allowance, what with him being a reindeer and all).
Hunting for Christmassy stuff this year, I discovered this wonderful cover image from the December 19th 1909 edition of the New-York Tribune. I can just imagine the havoc caused on that Christmas Eve when fly boy Santa took off for his rounds in that precarious plane…
From all this, I can only conclude that Santa is an enthusiastic early adopter of technology – you know the type – he’s gone from a car in 1896 to a plane thirteen years later (and only a mere six years after the first powered flight by the Wright brothers at that).
These days, he’s probably got an iPad, sat nav, and checks his list in the cloud. He’s also annually tracked by the modern satellite technology of NORAD (which is possibly a little worrying if you think about it too much…).
However thoroughly modern Santa has become with his transportation (personally, I’d argue that reindeer are much more reliable that Siri in the long run), he’s still using old school magic tech to physically get down all those chimneys and deliver your presents. It’s hard work being an omnipresent semi-mythical gift-bringer, so I hope you’ve left out some mince pies and a shot of something warming for the poor guy!
And I really hope poor old Rudolph has finally got to put his hooves up…
For much more festive reading, follow the links here.
In 2018, however… we’re actually going to Christmas.
No, really. We are.
Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
– as teacher John Keating in ‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989)
Advice for us all, however old we might be. And his life was extraordinary.
Robin McLaurin Williams: 1951-2014.
Rest In Peace, Genie.
As today would have been his 75th birthday…
Amongst all his legendarily Gonzo work, Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) is still probably most renowned for his writings on the Nixon era of American politics. He first interviewed the notorious ex-president for a magazine in 1968, meeting Tricky Dicky in a car on their way to the infamous politician’s private campaign jet.
On the airport runway once the interview was over, Hunter said farewell to Nixon and exited the car, immediately going to light a cigarette. Before he could get flame to fag, however, he was rugby tackled from the side and his lighter ripped from his hand:
I thought they had mistaken me for an assassin and they mistook the lighter for some kind of weapon… but the Secret Service agent who tackled me helped me up and began apologising very quickly. It turned out they were fueling the plane and I was standing just a few feet from the gas tank. I could have blown the fucker up and saved this nation a lot of trouble.*
Goddammit Hunter. God. Damn. It. One little cigarette could have changed history….
* ‘Fear and Loathing: The Strange and Terrible Saga of Hunter S. Thompson’ – Paul Perry (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1993, p.130)
On the evening of Thursday 17th November, thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters marched across the city to the Brooklyn Bridge. At the bridge, and to their delight, they saw that some very clever individuals were projecting this message, ‘bat-signal’ style, onto a nearby office block:
99% / MIC CHECK! / LOOK AROUND / YOU ARE A PART / OF A GLOBAL UPRISING / WE ARE A CRY / FROM THE HEART / OF THE WORLD / WE ARE UNSTOPPABLE / ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE / HAPPY BIRTHDAY / #OCCUPY MOVEMENT / OCCUPY WALL STREET / … / OCCUPY EARTH / WE ARE WINNING / IT IS THE BEGINNING OF THE BEGINNING / DO NOT BE AFRAID / LOVE.
The man who put all this together was 45-year-old Mark Read, who later told the website Boing Boing how much he has been inspired by the Occupy Movement:
I feel immense gratitude to these youngsters for kicking my ass into gear. I’m feeling so much gratitude to everyone, for putting their bodies on the line every day, for this movement. It’s a global uprising we’re part of. We have to win.
It was those eyes. Those ridiculous, unfeasible violet eyes. That’s what made me, and millions of other movie-goers, sit up and take notice of Elizabeth Taylor over a film career that lasted more than six decades. A much, much better actress than her voluptuous, glamorous sexiness might, at first glance, suggest, she had an incredible screen presence, a huge acting talent, and the knack of making even the daftest films oddly watchable (Cleopatra, anyone?). Nominated for the ‘Best Actress’ Oscar five times, she won it twice – alongside many other acting awards – and performed with countless members of the Hollywood aristocracy over her long and eventful career.
There is no doubt her life was an intense one by most people’s standards and that she was one tough cookie – anyone who can survive child stardom in the Hollywood studio system of the 1940s, a grand total of eight marriages (two of which were to that notorious Welsh actor and professional hellraiser Richard Burton), well-publicised drug and alcohol addictions, and some very serious ill health would have to be, quite frankly. It was Burton who, half awestruck and half exasperated, described her as “too bloody much”; their tempestuous and profoundly passionate relationship (which began on the set of Cleopatra – see photo, above) made headlines around the world.
Most people, when they hear the name Mae West, think of old Hollywood movies and a brassy bottle blonde delivering comic double entendres in a studied drawl. In fact, there was a lot more to Mae than innocently smutty remarks (although she made those into a cinematic art form – most famously replying to the comment “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!” with a knowing “Goodness had nothing to do with it” in the 1932 movie Night After Night).
A woman way ahead of her time, she was a multi-talented performer and a very successful and highly controversial playwright – her first play (entitled, with admirable brevity and decades before Madonna, simply Sex) led to her arrest and brief imprisonment during the highly moralistic 1920s. Beginning her career in vaudeville, she became a smash hit on Broadway for both her acting and her plays before moving to Hollywood in the early 1930s, where she became a huge success, again for her acting and writing.
Her distinctive and naughty style attracted the attention of the censors, and her early Hollywood performances were apparently partly responsible for the creation of the so-called Hays Code, which tied the American film industry into a narrowly defined moral outlook for more than thirty years. It was in order to circumvent this new code that Mae developed her now-famous facility with double entendres, a facility that turned her into an icon and one of Hollywood’s highest paid stars.
That this house notes with sadness the 10th anniversary of the death of Bill Hicks, on February 26th 1994, at the age of 32; recalls his assertion that his words would be a bullet in the heart of consumerism, capitalism and the American Dream; and mourns the passing of one of the few people who may be mentioned as being worthy of inclusion with Lenny Bruce in any list of unflinching and painfully honest political philosophers – Stephen Pound MP, in a February 2004 Early Day Motion before the House of Commons.
Today would have been Bill Hicks’ 49th birthday. Born on December 16th 1961 in a small town in Georgia, Bill was about as far away from the stereotypical resident of the Deep South that you can imagine. Discovering at an early age that he had a gift for making people laugh and that he had a lot to say for himself, he grew up to become – without exaggeration – the most influential comedian of his generation and, as Stephen Pound MP pointed out in his extremely unusual EDM, a modern philosopher.
Despite the fact that Hicks had to cross the Atlantic to make a success of himself (he was immediately and passionately adored by us Brits from a very early stage in his professional career), and although his material was frequently outrageous and often very closely skirted the borders of good taste, there were many in his homeland and elsewhere who were inspired into action on hearing his vicious, pin-point accurate critiques of humanity and American culture. He loved and despaired of his country in equal measure, and was never afraid to poke at cultural sacred cows with a pointy stick.