Archive for The Way We Were

To soar beyond the clouds

That which is Pony inspires us all, from whatever corner of the world as we know it.

The musician known to us as MelodicPony, who crafted this lovely bit of orchestration in 2013, has died, the victim of a stroke. He was twenty-seven.

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Quote of the week

Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society, in an historical piece for the Society’s Gilbert Magazine, May-June 2016:

It is commonly thought that [G. K.] Chesterton was fired from the Daily News for raising his voice against the Liberal Party, but the fact is he quit, and his leaving the Daily News was itself news. But even before he quit, we can see a change in tone during the last months of his tenure there, especially when he devotes one of this columns to an open letter to the Liberal Party. In it, he confesses that for the first time since he started writing for the paper, he is not enjoying himself. He admits that he has been a Liberal “since shortly before I was born” because the party represented freedom and democracy. He could see, however, that it was clearly acting in the direct opposite of those ideals. Before the straw that breaks the camel’s back, there is a penultimate straw that does severe spinal damage. For Chesterton it is the compulsory Insurance Act [1911], and the fact that the paper calls someone who opposes the act an “anarchist.” Chesterton has already spoken out against the problems posed by compulsory health insurance: the rise in the power of the medical establishment joined at the hip with government, the looming threat of eugenics and, with it, infanticide, the messing with marriage, the manipulation of the working class, and above all, the helplessness of the citizen to do anything about it: “The broad, brutal fact about the capitalist State in which we live is in two parts: First, that we are all servants; second, that we know less and less whom we are serving.” And: “It used to be the weak things that hid themselves, now it is the strong things that hide.”

Historical notes: Chesterton’s last piece for the Daily News was in February 1913. The paper itself was merged into the News Chronicle in 1930, which in turn was absorbed by the Daily Mail in 1960.

Britain’s Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party merged in 1988 to form the current Liberal Democratic Party; a new Liberal Party rose the next year, but holds no seats in Parliament at this time.

The National Insurance Act, never really as “national” as it was billed to be, was eventually repealed; however, many of its ideas would rematerialize with the founding of the National Health Service in 1948.

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Checking one’s hindsight (1)

Note: The following originally appeared in Vent #10, from this week in 1996.

Occasional Baptist counterexamples notwithstanding, the true religion of Oklahoma is football, which explains why two of the state’s Representatives (out of six) are former college football players who have little else to recommend them. The First District’s Steve Largent, recently stroked by America’s leading political magazine — People Weekly — is owned and operated by the Pat Robertson crowd, and this always plays well in Tulsa, which is, after all, Oral Roberts’ home base. Largent, therefore, will probably survive this fall. More troublesome for the GOP is Julius Caesar Watts, installed in the Fourth District seat after spending a couple of years on the Corporation Commission shilling for utility companies. In the House, he rails against all government programs except the one that enabled him to buy a distressed Midwest City apartment complex dirt-cheap. And remember all that yammering about how Congress shouldn’t exempt itself from the laws it inflicts on the public sector? Our friend J. C. has managed to exempt a mere 94 percent of his staff from the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Steve Largent, by comparison, has fully a third of his staff covered, which by this state’s standards borders on commendable. The Tulsa World covered all this during the spring, if anyone is curious.) Word is now out that Watts turned a profit on his investment with Hillary-like speed, which automatically arouses suspicion around Dustbury, and this could well cost him his seat come November.

As it happens, neither Largent nor Watts had anything to worry about in the ’96 election, or the next two. Largent gave up his seat in 2002 to run for Governor, but was beaten by Brad Henry. Watts left in 2002 to sort of return to the private sector; he’s now CEO of the no-longer-scandal-ridden charity Feed the Children.

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When greatness calls

Muhammad Ali, we remember, had a decidedly activist side:

“I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

Some found this disquieting. But Ali was working with ideas, not with buzzwords: no matter what he said, kidding around or deadly serious, he was never just going through the motions. And even when he told you he was The Greatest, he knew, and would willingly acknowledge, that there was Someone Even Greater.

A little bit of bombast, a whole lot of humble:

And the President said exactly the right thing:

He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved. But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes — maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves. Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world. We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest. We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes.

That spark lives on, even as the man who brought it travels to a higher plane.

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A page from my past

Actually, this is a current page, but it was seriously pertinent to me back in the 1960s:

Bishop England High School has been providing a Catholic, college preparatory education to thousands of young men and women of varied backgrounds since it was founded in 1915. Students graduating from Bishop England make a mark on their world through leadership, achievement, and service — skills learned as part of the Bishop England experience. BE’s ability to prepare young men and women into adults who are critical thinkers, who understand the importance of human dignity and empathy, who respect themselves and others, and who live their faith through action, depends on the support of many — teachers, religious leaders, alumni, friends and family — giving their time, talents and resources.

Gifts to Bishop England, large or small, help ensure that the tradition of a Bishop education can remain strong and that qualified students are able to pursue a secondary school education here regardless of their ethnic, religious or socio-economic backgrounds. As you contemplate your personal support of BEHS, please know that every gift is important and every gift makes a difference in the lives of our students.

I remember how we scraped for tuition when I was enrolled. Having looked at the current rates, I don’t know how anyone scrapes for them: a year now costs about as much as two years of regional state universities where I live now, and that’s before the tuition hikes go in to cover for the 15.9-percent funding cut they’re getting this year.

So yeah, I sent a few bucks to the old high school. It isn’t the first time.

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A matter of remembrance

Jack Benny, signing off his radio show on 30 May 1943:

Today Valley Forge and Bull Run and Gettysburg and Château Thierry come marching out of the past and we see them clearly again … because marching at their side are the men of Bataan and Pearl Harbor and Corregidor and Wake.

Someday time will erase the pain of the memory of Bataan and Pearl Harbor as it once erased the pain of Verdun. But tonight the gold stars are too new and bright, the wounds in our hearts too fresh and the pain too sharp to forget. And thus Memorial Day becomes more than a roll call of our honored dead and a roll call more of the living. And the living must step forth and answer and they must say … “all these men from 1776 to 1943 — they died for me. So let me work and let me buy the bonds, and let me — with the helping hand of God — make the sacrifice that tells the soul of each one of these men, “You did not die in vain.”

(Complete episode via transcription here.)

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We build nations

Except for the minor detail that actually, we don’t:

I was one of the fools who believed in W’s grand “nation building” project in the Middle East. I know more history than the average guy, and yet I was fooled, too — such is the power of wishcasting.

In reality, representative government is an Anglo-Saxon thing. And given the problems we have with it — our current election is between a criminal narcissist and a narcissist criminal — it’s no surprise that cultures with no tradition other than the despotic can’t get the hang of it in just a few years, despite the best efforts of National Review and the Peace and/or Marine Corps.

This is not, you should note, some kind of ethnic thing:

[N]one of this should be taken for an argument that only white people can do democracy — as if the ability to mark a ballot is somehow genetic. Again, see Presidential Election 2016, or any of the literally Caucasian countries surrounding the former USSR. The point is that representative democracy is the result of a long, long, long history, a unique combination of circumstances stretching back to the Greek polis (and, again, if you want to maintain that white folks have a “government” gene, imagine what would happen if you time-warped Demosthenes into modern America and told him that this is representative government. The poor dude would stroke out). Other cultures simply don’t have that history, and even the best-intentioned attempts to impose a facsimile from above give you — at best — India. Which bills itself as “the world’s largest democracy,” and it is … sort of, if you add a list of qualifiers about the size of the Chicago phone book.

Still, if India is the best-case scenario, and you can make a case that it is — well, you don’t want to think too hard about the worst-case scenario.

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On being merchandise

Pretty much everyone is agreed that slavery is a heinous thing, and we’re all better off without it. (I’d just as soon not hear from anyone who thinks we’re not better off without slavery, thank you very much.)

Then again, none of us actually lived in those days, so it’s all kind of theoretical to us — until we stumble upon something like this:

1855 slave sale poster

Typography aside, this could be an auto-dealer ad today, except for the lack of rebates.

Debra Monroe observes:

[P]osters like this were as common as dirt. They should be in history books in school — not college. School. One month of black history.

It doesn’t even have to be in February.

Side note: Lewis County, Kentucky is just south of the Ohio River. It’s 98 percent white; over 40 percent of county income is government benefits of one sort or another.

(Poster from the Facebook page Black Knowledge.)

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Synths and sensibility

After Switched-On Bach, the deluge: all manner of music was processed through the magical Moog and its rival devices. Perhaps the biggest hit was a Debussy collection called Snowflakes Are Dancing, on which Isao Tomita spent fourteen months trying to do polyphonics on a machine that did one note at a time. Wendy Carlos faced the same issue on her early Moog work, but she was doing mostly Bach, nicely mathematical and discrete. Debussy, a “tone painter,” would prove tricker, but not at all impossible:

The only off-note is the title of the collection, a slightly warped translation of Debussy’s original La neige danse. I played the very dickens out of this disc, and it still comes out a couple times a year to remind me.

Unfortunately, this came down the stream yesterday:

Tomita was 84. And before he was through, he did some Bach of his own:

The numbers still add up.

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The original Hipster

Roger happened to mention “Who Put the Benzedrine in Mrs Murphy’s Ovaltine?” this week, which is a great song because (1) it’s funny as hell while being utterly unrespectable in 1940s culture and (2) it sold several thousand more copies in 1975 as part of a Dr. Demento compilation album. This suggested that maybe it’s time to look at Harry the Hipster Gibson himself, born Harry Raab in the Bronx in 1915:

Yes, folks, that’s a Fellow of the Juilliard School, and the graduate school at that.

The Hipster continued to make records until 1989, like this jaunty little tune about Shirley MacLaine; tormented by congestive heart failure in 1991, he got his revenge on the failing organ by shooting it and thus himself.

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Now I want sherbet

First, the instrumental version:

Part of the New York state of mind, even though it originated outside the Tri-State Area:

An annual herald of summer for more than half a century, it is exquisitely Pavlovian, triggering salivation or shrieking — sometimes both at once. It is the textbook embodiment of an earworm: once heard, never forgotten.

It is the Mister Softee jingle, which for generations has sprung from ice cream trucks throughout the metropolitan area and beyond after first springing from the mind of Les Waas, a Philadelphia adman who died on April 19 at 94.

There are words [pdf]. I already knew this, though, and I am quite familiar with the power of a good jingle. About eleven years ago, rock-and-roll writer Dawn Eden — now Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein, theologian — was here in the Okay City, and she regaled a bunch of us locals with, yes, the Mister Softee jingle. Let the record show that we defended ourselves with a spirited rendition of the B. C. Clark jingle, which is actually four years older: 1956 versus 1960.

(Via WFMU.)

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Whammery

In the early 1960s Lonnie McIntosh, having foreshortened his last name to “Mack,” was getting regular studio work with the smallish Fraternity label in Cincinnati, and one day — specifically, 12 March 1963 — he and the group killed a few leftover minutes of studio time with some guitar vamping on the theme of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee.” He didn’t think any more about it, as he was scheduled to be part of a Troy Seals tour. And while he was out on the road, someone at Fraternity got the idea of issuing Mack’s impromptu recording on an actual 45. It promptly rose to the Top Five on both pop and R&B charts, and Mack had no idea it was even out as a single.

No fool, Mack got home and laid down enough tracks for an album, including a single called “Wham!” with the exclamation point. What no one was expecting was that Mack could also sing, although Fraternity wasn’t at all keen on one of their stars diversifying. “Why,” from that first album, didn’t come out as a single for five years, and as a B-side at that. Then again, it might have been just a hair too fierce for an A-side:

And since we haven’t heard “Wham!” yet, here it is live, with another pretty amazing guitarist: Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I’m guessing you might have heard more about Mack’s death (at 74) had it not happened on the same day as Prince’s.

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The artist forever known as amazing

In late 1977, Prince spent some astonishing percentage of his original advance from Warner Bros. — possibly over 100 percent — on studio time at the Record Plant, sessions which yielded up nine tracks for an album, prosaically titled For You. (No, not 4 U. Too early for that.) He might have ponied up for a few instruments, but he didn’t overspend on studio musicians, as the Personnel list on this album is dazzlingly simple:

Prince — all vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Orr bass, bass synth, singing bass, Fuzz bass, Fender Rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, Mini-Moog, Poly-Moog, Arp String Ensemble, Arp Pro Soloist, Oberheim 4-voice, clavinet, drums, syndrums, water drums, slapsticks, bongos, congas, finger cymbals, wind chimes, orchestral bells, woodblocks, brush trap, tree bell, hand claps, finger snaps.

That’s it. If nothing else, you could assume that Prince, then nineteen, knew exactly what he wanted. But then, Prince always knew exactly what he wanted, and he wasn’t above hectoring the record company to get it.

Perhaps by 2009 he was feeling the strain. He told Tavis Smiley:

It’s a hurtful place, the world, in and of itself. We don’t need to add to it. And we’re in a place now where we all need one another, and it’s going to get rougher.

“In this life,” he’d said in “Let’s Go Crazy,” the opening track to Purple Rain, “you’re on your own.”

Still:

While we mourn, we know the afterworld will be cheering his arrival for the next few eternities.

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Oh, Rochester!

This clipping was going around the Jack Benny Fan Club Facebook page this past weekend:

1939 clipping from a Hollywood trade paper reviewing a show by Eddie Anderson

It surely is a measure of something that Mr. Anderson, who had started playing Rochester on the Jack Benny program only two years before, was so totally identified with that role, despite having appeared in at least two dozen films by 1939. (Then again, he was uncredited in most of them.)

And if “Negro comic” doesn’t make your eyes roll, consider the term “sepians.”

Many years later, “Rochester” was apparently still widely believed to be a real person:

Among the most highly paid performers of his time, Anderson invested wisely and became extremely wealthy. Until the 1950s, Anderson was the highest paid African-American actor, receiving an annual salary of $100,000. In 1962, Anderson was on Ebony magazine’s list of the 100 wealthiest African-Americans. Despite this, he was so strongly identified with the “Rochester” role that many listeners of the radio program mistakenly persisted in the belief that he was Benny’s actual valet. One such listener drove Benny to distraction when he sent him a scolding letter concerning Rochester’s alleged pay, and then sent another letter to Anderson, which urged him to sue Benny. In reality, Anderson did well enough to have his own valet.

Jack Benny, for what it’s worth, was never a cheapskate; that was just part of the character he played.

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Everyman with a fightin’ side

A cousin of mine unearthed this clip after hearing about the passing of Merle Haggard. For a guy who worked awfully hard at developing his own sound, he was really good at duplicating other people’s:

More recently, “here’s one for all the ex-convicts in the house”:

Besides, he never got closer to Muskogee, Oklahoma than, oh, 19 miles or so, at least not until much, much later.

Okay, 2016. You can stop taking people away now.

Addendum: Here’s a typically thoughtful sendoff by Lisa.

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Looks like her cousin

I was never that fascinated by The Patty Duke Show, partly because I couldn’t comprehend the genetics of “identical cousins.” (This business got particularly weird in season two, when there was an episode involving a third Lane clone.) Fortunately, I adored her singing; her voice wasn’t much more than serviceable, but the producer (studio pro Jack Gold, who’d been doing this sort of thing for two decades) knew how to get the maximum out of it.

Cover art for Don't Just Stand There by Patty DukeFrom the liner notes of the Don’t Just Stand There LP:

[J]ust like everything she touches, it is pure gold. It is certain to find a huge throng of eager fans waiting to purchase it and catapault [sic] it quickly high on the nation’s best-seller lists. In addition to the title tune, it contains a wonderful selection of the great songs of the day — all eminently youthful and all hand-picked for our star of stars.

This is not the first time I’ve read a liner apparently written by someone who hadn’t heard the record. (And track four is a cover of “Danke Schoen,” which wasn’t “youthful” when Wayne Newton put it out two years before.)

“Don’t Just Stand There” topped out at a respectable #8. (I’ve written about this track before.) To promote it, she appeared on Shindig; to my surprise, she did it live.

Patty Duke indisputably achieved Far Greater Things in her life. But this is what I remember best.

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He was

Now that I think about it, it was definitely scary for Greg Lake to come up with these lines:

A bullet had found him
His blood ran as he cried
No money could save him
So he lay down and he died

Especially, you know, when he was twelve.

I doff my hat to Keith Emerson, unfortunately not saved at the tender age of seventy-one.

Addendum: Emerson’s death has been ruled a suicide.

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Free to fade away

No visuals here, just the cover art. This is track two from Jimmy Webb’s El Mirage album, turned loose on the world in 1977. Just in case someone asks “What’s your favorite George Martin production, other than Beatles material?” — and someone will — this is it. (It’s also his arrangement.)

George Martin in the studio meme: did more with 4 tracks than most do with Pro Tools

(Meme swiped from Tape Op Magazine.)

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Way back in 286

In 1988, Dell had only just retired the PC’s Limited name, and this was a bid they put in on a complete 80286-based system:

Seven hundred American dollars for a 40-meg hard drive! Then again, this was quite a deal, considering what was on offer not that long before.

Now, which was worse? Windows 2.0, or MS-DOS 4? (I suspect the answer is Yes.)

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Keep your head to the sky

And yet another of the greats ascends to the next level:

Maurice White, the founder and leader of Earth, Wind & Fire, has died at home in Los Angeles, said his brother Verdine White. He was 74.

A former session drummer, White founded Earth, Wind & Fire in the late 1960s. The group went on to sell more than 90 million albums worldwide, displaying a flashy and eclectic musical style that incorporated his influences from growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, and working at the influential Chicago music labels Chess and Okeh.

EWF was practically everywhere in the 1970s: you couldn’t avoid them if you wanted to, and why in the world would you have wanted to? I got tuned in circa 1973, with the Head to the Sky album, which still delights me today.

But White went back farther than that. From his days as a studio musician, we have here the supersized version of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” as trilled by the late Billy Stewart, and on the kit off to the right, Maurice White playing like the greatest drummer ever to work out of Chicago.

Head to the Sky led off with a lovely little number called “Evil,” which was in fact a reworking of “Bad Tune,” off EWF’s very first (and eponymous!) album in 1971, the sort of thing that might make you think that this was where Sly might have gone if he could have kept his head together.

Said Verdine of his brother:

“While the world has lost another great musician and legend, our family asks that our privacy is respected as we start what will be a very difficult and life changing transition in our lives. Thank you for your prayers and well wishes.”

Amen to that.

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8080 in ’80

Back in the day, few of us could aspire to these heady heights of technology, but oh, how we dreamed:

Advertisement for IMSAI Computer System

Information Management Sciences Associates, Incorporated, founded in 1973, sort of still exists today: Fischer-Freitas, which was actually set up by two former employees to acquire IMSAI after its 1979 bankruptcy, continues to provide parts and support for these Ur-machines.

(“Optional 16-bit”? 8085, maybe?)

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Facing the no longer strange

From almost fifty years ago, or so it seems, David Bowie responds to his first American fan letter:

From just yesterday, or so it seems, David Bowie responds to the world at large:

Rest well, Starman. You have earned your place in history.

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From some other time

There were two great eras of rock and roll pseudonyms. The later one was sustained mostly by punk bands, and featured names like Johnny Rotten and Rat Scabies and Poly Styrene and a whole handful of Ramones. The earlier one probably ended with Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr, but it featured names like Bobby Day and Bo Diddley and Del Shannon and Frankie Ford and, perhaps the most influential, not so much in music but in sheer nomenclature, was the late Troy Shondell, born Gary Wayne Schelton in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Shondell would have only one big hit, but it was a monster:

Sourced from Shondell’s official YouTube channel, this is (mostly) the original 1961 version, cut for infinitesimal Gaye Records, then issued on Goldcrest, a regional label distributed by Liberty; when it started gaining traction, Liberty reissued it themselves and watched it spend four months on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #6. I say “mostly” because the guitar solo in the middle was clumsily overdubbed long after the fact; the record as released had a piano break and nothing more.

Shondell’s last release for Liberty was “Na-Ne-No,” a Lloyd Price cover produced by Phil Spector, no less; after it went nowhere, he decamped for Nashville, where he cut a few sides for the TRX label, of which only “Let’s Go All the Way” managed to Bubble Under the Hot 100. The money, Shondell decided, was better on the publishing side, though he’d occasionally cut a side for the hell of it. The last one I know of, from 1981, was a cover of John Sebastian’s “Lovin’ You”.

In late 1964, a band from Illinois took the name The Shon-Dels, and self-released one single before changing their name to the Ides of March. An entirely different group of Shondels assembled in Winnipeg about the same time. But neither would be quite as successful as Tommy James’ Shondells from Michigan, originally the Tornadoes (not to be confused with Joe Meek’s British instrumental group), who would not be a factor on the charts until “Hanky Panky” in 1965, by which time they’d broken up. (James went on tour to support the record, and hired a bar band to be the new Shondells.)

As for Troy Shondell himself, he toured in 2001 in a show called “The Masters of Rock and Roll,” featuring some other wonderfully named guys like Ronnie Dove and Jimmy Clanton. He died last week of complications from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, two names that aren’t so wonderful.

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Of hippos and homunculi

This song is as old as I am, but it (unlike me) never actually gets old:

She got one, too: a baby hippo named Matilda, who after the presentation went to live in the Oklahoma City Zoo, and made it to the ripe old age of 48; moving Matilda and her younger beau to Walt Disney World in Florida was apparently more than the old(ish) girl could take.

In 1960, Gayla Peevey, under the name “Jamie Horton,” cut this little ditty for a small New York label:

I don’t think she got one of those. (Peevey graduated from San Diego State, taught for several years, then ran an ad agency. She’s still around at 72.)

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Twenty-five and counting

Today, it appears, is the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web:

If the web were a person, it wouldn’t have trouble renting a car from now on: the world’s first website, Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, went online 25 years ago today. The inaugural page wasn’t truly public when it went live at CERN on December 20th, 1990 (that wouldn’t happen until August 1991), and it wasn’t much more than an explanation of how the hypertext-based project worked. However, it’s safe to say that this plain page laid the groundwork for much of the internet as you know it — even now, you probably know one or two people who still think the web is the internet.

More than one or two. I blame Microsoft, which used to call its Web browser “Internet Explorer.”

It still stuns me a little to think that I’ve had an outpost on the Web for most of its existence. But it’s true: this little site went live on the 9th of April 1996, and has had some form of update every single day since the summer of 2000. Eventually, I suppose, the world will move on to something else. Then again, so must I, and so must we all.

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Perhaps on a warmer day

When I was a bicycle-riding fool in the late 1960s, the British-made Raleigh bikes were considered at least as prestigious as the Schwinns I favored. I do not, however, remember any Schwinn advertising like this:

Raleigh Bicycle advertisement from a Greek magazine

You couldn’t run an ad like this today, anyway. For one thing, the young lady isn’t wearing a helmet.

(Via Other Whimsey.)

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Half nuts

Hitler, said the song, “has only got one ball,” and it was assumed that shrapnel — not Henry Shrapnel himself, of course, as he died in 1842 — was responsible for der Führer’s condition. Apparently not:

A German historian claims he has proof that Adolf Hitler had just one testicle, lending credence to a World War II-era song that mocked the maniacal leader’s manhood.

Professor Peter Fleischmann of Erlangen-Nuremberg University said medical records show the tyrant’s right testicle was undescended, according to The Telegraph.

The documents, from a prison exam taken in 1923, after Hitler’s failed attempt to seize power, surfaced during a 2010 auction, but were confiscated by the Bavarian government, and have only now been properly reviewed.

The prison’s physician, Dr. Josef Steiner Brin, noted that “Adolf Hitler, artist, recently writer” was “healthy and strong” but suffered from “right-side cryptorchidism,” a condition when a testicle fails to properly descend.

No confirmation is yet available for the song’s assertion that Hermann Göring “has two, but very small.”

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Make that to go

Once upon a time, the time being spring 2006, I took on one of those “Tell us about yourself” memes, and every single answer was a Frank Sinatra record.

For the Chairman’s 100th birthday, I shuffled through the archives, both mine and YouTube’s, in search of a song that nobody else will ever need to try to sing ever again. And this is the one I came up with:

Sinatra himself recorded this song six times, the latest in 1993, but this minimal live track seems to express the mood better than any of them. And if you do want to record this song, well, this is what you’re up against.

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Oldest known d14

Something else we didn’t invent in the last half-century or so:

Pieces from a mysterious board game that hasn’t been played for 1,500 years were discovered in a heavily looted 2,300-year-old tomb near Qingzhou City in China.

There, archaeologists found a 14-face die made of animal tooth, 21 rectangular game pieces with numbers painted on them and a broken tile which was once part of a game board. The tile when reconstructed was “decorated with two eyes, which are surrounded by cloud-and-thunder patterns,” wrote the archaeologists in a report published recently in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

The skeleton of possibly one of the grave robbers was also discovered in a shaft made within the tomb by looters.

A hint at the actual gameplay:

[A] poem written about 2,200 years ago by a man named Song Yu gives an idea as to what the game was like:

“Then, with bamboo dice and ivory pieces, the game of Liu Bo is begun; sides are taken; they advance together; keenly they threaten each other. Pieces are kinged, and the scoring doubled. Shouts of ‘five white!’ arise” (translation by David Hawkes).

Pictures for your examination, should you so desire.

(Via @BrowncoatPony.)

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Saved by the Bell

Original Taco Bell designThe very first Taco Bell, built in the dear, dead days of 1962, hasn’t served up anything from the mothership in nearly thirty years, and with its little corner lot in Downey worth a lot more than it used to be, corporate has decided to save Numero Uno by moving it:

Taco Bell is saving its first fast-food restaurant from the wrecking ball by relocating the iconic 400-square-foot food stand from Downey to its corporate headquarters in Irvine.

“This is arguably the most important restaurant in our company’s history,” said Taco Bell chief executive Brian Niccol. “When we heard about the chance of it being demolished, we had to step in. We owe that to our fans; we owe that to Glen Bell.”

Earlier this year, new development for the vacant Firestone Boulevard site triggered demolition plans for the nostalgic building, dubbed “Numero Uno.” An uproar in the community followed. Taco Bell remained relatively quiet, though it did encourage the #SaveTacoBell campaign on social media.

This particular design — I worked in one just like it briefly — was eventually abandoned because there was no real way to splice a drive-thru window into it.

The structure’s 45-mile overnight journey begins Thursday at 10:30 p.m. It should garner much attention as it traverses the cities of Downey, Norwalk, Cerritos, La Palma, Buena Park, Anaheim, Orange and Tustin. Throughout the four to five hour trip, Taco Bell is encouraging fans to follow the historic relocation via a live webcam.

Eventually, of course, all restaurants will be Taco Bell.

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