Halloween has come and gone, Linus once again mourns the Great Pumpkin did not show up, and Christmas decorations are starting to appear. Fall is now apparent with its cool nights and moderate warm days punctuated by rain here and there. Although it is still very early, Christmas jingles are starting to be heard in commercials.
In San Francisco, city workers are hard at work putting up Christmas lights and decorations on Market Street. With standard time, they will be seen by commuters early in the morning and as they leave at night. Thanksgiving is not far off so many are already making plans for the Great Feast. Thanksgiving is normally a day to relax but alas some retail stores do open on that day in the hopes of luring shoppers with great deals.
Coats that have been little used are being fetched out, cleaned, and worn again as the days get a bit cooler. Sometimes very cool depending on how far north you live. But for my friends down in Australia, spring is coming to an end and summer will begin with the solstice in December. Their December is mostly pleasant and warm. It is sort of odd to hear that tune with the lyric “…. Jack Frost nipping at your nose…” as you grill food and sit back in shorts to enjoy a fine meal.
I guess it is all a matter of perspective since I know a guy who fires up his grill in the dead of winter to cook pork chops. But winter is still a ways off and we are in early November. So we say welcome to November and begin our trek into the Christmas season and to the New Year.
Once again we are in the Halloween season. Pumpkins and scary decorations now adorn porches, patios and lawns. Here is a clip from the Disney animation classic The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). Of course if you want a more scary headless horseman you can view one here.
Labor Day Weekend is here in the United States and that means summer is unofficially over. Straw Hat weather is still in play though. That is an old fashioned term in which men wore straw hats and summer clothing generally from May 15 to September 15. Then straw hats and summer clothing were put away and warmer winter clothing would be put on. Men were expected, even if it was warm, to wear heavy clothing right up to May 15. Today of course that tradition has faded though the hats remain. If you look back at photographs taken at ball games between 1920-1960, most men wore hats and even ties. My how fashion has changed. Today at most sporting events most wear casual clothing such as caps, jeans, and tee shirts. The only people who are dressed formally are league officials.
Summer of course is the warmest time of the year whether in the north or south hemispheres. Days are longer and when clocks are set an hour ahead, you seem to get more sunlight. It is really an illusion we are giving our ourselves. And once the Summer Solstice has come and gone, there a slow but steady decrease in sunlight. By September those seconds of less sunlight have become minutes. The sun is now setting earlier than it did and with the Autumnal Equinox people who left home at 6:30 am in sunlight will soon be in darkness. The days start to become cooler especially the more farther north you are.
Labor Day Weekend though is the time to have one final blast of summer before autumn and then winter sets in. People go out and enjoy a long weekend. Mostly it is a time to relax, go out and have some fun, and toast the end of summer. Retail stores are already clearing space for Halloween and having sales on summer goods. All the goods to be sold at Christmas are already in transit on ships to arrive at major ports and then transported to distribution centers. For now all that needs to be done is to enjoy this last hurrah of summer. Have a nice weekend everyone.
Friday is here and time for a musical interlude to welcome the weekend. Casablanca (1942) is one of the top 10 American movies of all time. It had great acting, a compelling story line, and some great music such as As Time Goes By sung by Dooley Wilson. Most of those involved in the movie thought it would be rather ordinary run of the mill movie that would likely be forgotten in a year of so. But world events, namely the invasion of North Africa in 1942 by the Allies propelled this movie into the realm of great movies. If you have not seen it, you should.
Today is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. For those below the equatorial line, it is the Winter Solstice. The June Solstice usually takes place between June 20-22. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, it usually is the longest day of sunlight as the North Pole tilts directly towards the sun. Which translates into more sunlight particularly the further north you live. For those more closer to the North Pole (Alaska, parts of Canada, and Scandinavian countries)the sun literally never sets during this time of year. Of course the reverse is true in the Southern Hemisphere. They get less sunlight on the June Solstice and the closer you are to the Antarctic Circle means less sunlight or total night.
The coming of summer is usually a time for celebration in many cultures. Festivals in Northern Europe celebrate summer and the fertility of the Earth. Bonfires are lit and homes are decorated to mark the festival. Many cultures honor the sun in some fashion. Modern day pagans and druids also celebrate the day with their own festivals and many go to Stonehenge in England to witness the first rays of summer.
This year summer has arrived very hot for California, Arizona, and New Mexico . The heat has been so intense that sidewalks have buckled in some areas and the power grid has been deeply hit as people race to turn on fans and air conditioning.
Zorro was originally created by pulp writer Johnston McCulley in 1919 and was set during the era of Mexican rule of California (1821-1846). Don Diego de la Vega, a nobleman living in Los Angeles, adopted the identity of the masked outlaw who helped those who were persecuted by tyrannical authorities and other villains. Movie adaptations usually set the time period under Spanish rule.
McCulley’s stories were not always consistent and sometimes contradictory (Zorro might die in one story and alive in the next). Zorro is a cunning foil for those he goes up against. Sometimes his targets are overconfident while others sometimes bumbling. And he delights in giving them their comeuppance. There have been many movies made telling the Zorro story starting in the silent era all the way up till recent times produced in the U.S., Mexico and Europe. There have been both live action and animated television series as well.
One of the more notable ones was Disney’s Zorro that ran from 1957-1959 on ABC. It ran for two seasons before a dispute between Disney and ABC over ownership rights cut the show short. It was kept alive for a series of 4 one hour movies using the same cast. The dispute was resolved but Disney felt it had run its course. In the Disney version, Don Diego de la Vega was portrayed by Guy Williams (later of Lost in Space) for the entire run of the series.
The Disney Zorro used arcs that would span several episodes. The first season was primary with Zorro battling wits with Captain/Commandante Monastario. The second season had several different arcs such as dealing the the attempts to seize California from Spain by a self-made tyrant, dealing with corruption in Monterey, or involving characters that spanned several episodes.
What made Zorro so interesting is that he was clever, a good fencer, employed clever strategy, and rarely did he kill his foes (it did occur but not often by his hand but by some other means). The Disney version also used comedy to lighten the mood, often to good use.
While originally filmed in black & white, the episodes have all been colorized. There are different places you can buy them though the original Disney versions can be expensive. Beware of pirated collections sold through some websites. They simply recorded it from the Disney Channel and is not very good resolution. The Family Channel did a remake called The New Zorro (or just Zorro in some cases)that ran from 1990-1993. It is a worthy successor in its own right though I think the opening theme from Disney’s version is better.
[Editors Note-Still catching up on news. Been busy as of late so I have not been able to post much]
1. Rare Titanic photo going under the hammer (Daily Echo, 10 Feb 2017) A rare photograph of the ill-fated Titanic,which was bought for “a song” at a country auction, is now set to fetch hundreds of pounds when it is auctioned again next week. The black and white photograph, in a glazed oak frame, was taken shortly before the Titanic sank – with the loss of more than 1,500 lives – on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in April 1912.
2. Experts are disputing a documentary which says a fire was partly to blame for the Titanic sinking (thejournal.ie, 11 Feb 2017) The programme argued that long-hidden photographs from the time showed that the Titanic’s hull had supposedly been damaged by a fire before it set off on its only journey, leaving it weak and susceptible when it hit an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean. In the documentary, Moloney noted that researchers had known about the fire before but had tended to dismiss it as an ‘irrelevancy’, arguing that it should have been taken more seriously as a cause of the sinking. The documentary also claimed there were other issues which contributed to the ship sinking, such as substandard materials and shoddy workmanship, primarily due to cost-cutting. However a team of seven maritime historians has published an article completely refuting the programme’s claim that the coal fire was one of the main reasons why the ship sank. “However intriguing the claims set forth in Titanic: The New Evidence may be, they run counter to a wealth of well-researched facts about the ship and its sinking,” said J Kent Layton, a Titanic historian.
3. James Cameron really has a thin skin it seems when it comes to certain aspect of his famous Titanic movie. Fans debate the many points of this and that in the movie. One such example is whether or not Jack could have fit on the door Rose was on. Now I have not spent any real time dwelling on this point since we know this is just a movie. Apparently it got the attention of Mythbusters and they proved it was possible for Jack to have survived on the floating door with extra buoyancy. Okay that ought to have more or less settled it and we could move on. Not Cameron. So he recently commented on it by saying Jack would never have survived and that Mythbusters was full of poop (he used a barnyard word that is far more graphic for this family friendly blog). Of course he was on that episode of Mythbusters and never said is was all poop. He does say it was in the script he was to die. Okay. Moving on. James Cameron Debunks ‘Titanic’ Theory That Jack Could Fit On The Door (Huffington Post Canada, 1 Feb 2017)
Most Titanic researchers know that there was a serious coal fire when the ship set sail. Bunker fires are not new but they can be extremely difficult to deal considering the high heat that is often generated as a result. The heat can result in visible damage to the ship and even result in causing the steel to loose some of its strength. This was seen on 9-11 when jet fuel burning at high temperatures weakened the steel causing the building collapse.
In the case of Titanic though, it has always been a question whether or not the coal fire had some connection to Titanic’s demise. Senan Melony certainly thinks so in a documentary. As reported by The Independent, Melony argues that the fire caused damage to the hull which made it less strong when it hit the iceberg. And he argues that White Star president J. Bruce Ismay told the ship officers not to mention the fire to the passengers. Damage was visible and to prevent it from being seen Titanic was backed into Southampton. Malony believes Titanic ought never to have been put to sea because of the fire damage. It was not the cause of Titanic’s demise but a contributing factor in it.
SS Ourang Medan
The SS Ourang Medan is a ghost ship that was shipwrecked in the Dutch East Indies in 1948 and its crew died under mysterious circumstances. The story was reported in a Dutch-Indonesian newspaper in three accounts from February through March 1948. While two of the later articles mention the name of the ship as Ourang Medan, the first one did not. The incident was reported as taking place 400 nautical miles southeast of the Marshall Islands. A survivor who made it to an atoll told his story before dying. He told a missionary the ship was carrying sulphuric acid and was not properly stored. The poisonous fumes killed off must of the crew and it later sank. The ship was sailing to Costa Rica from an unknown Chinese port and because of the cargo was avoiding authorities. More recent research found other news articles from the Associated Press and from some U.K. newspapers. The location is different as is the SOS message. Interesting is that the source is the same: Silvio Scherzi of Trieste.
Many speculative writers (some who dabble in the Bermuda Triangle or supernatural/paranormal reporting)reported the Ourang Medan as well. The story somewhat parallels another famous story: the Mary Celeste. The Celeste was found abandoned on 5 Dec 1872 by the Dei Gratia. The ship had ample provisions and belongings were undisturbed. But the crew was never seen again. Over time false details and fantasy were added. Sensationalist writers talked up the story using supernatural angles or connecting it to the mythical Bermuda Triangle (it was found well outside that area). After a salvage hearing in Gibraltar, there was no definitive cause as to why the ship was found abandoned. And so the mystery remains.
The Orang Medan likely never existed since proof of its existence has never been found. Most likely it was a story embellished likely from the smallest sliver of truth to generate media interest. Unlike the Celeste, which is a true mystery of the sea, the Orang Medan is an episode of alternate science reality show likely on the SyFy network.
Titanic Memorial Plaque Not Stolen Reports BBC News
A Titanic memorial plaque at Vokes Park in Southampton, UK was thought stolen earlier this week. The plaque, erected in the 1990’s by the British Titanic Society, was in fact removed by staff of Associated British Ports. The plaque had fallen off its plinth and was in danger of being stolen reports BBC News. The plaque will be returned and affixed to prevent it from being stolen but the date has not been announced.
Source: Southampton docks Titanic memorial plaque mystery solved (24 Nov 2016, BBC News)
Rare Parcel Label Address To Titanic To Be Auctioned Off
Another case of something unintentional ending up as a Titanic memorabilia. A parcel label that possibly was on a package of blank telegram forms for the Marconi wireless operators on Titanic is up for auction in Australia reports United Press International (UPI). The package was given to the first office on Olympic, Titanic’s sister ship and to be delivered to Titanic when it arrived in New York. It is believed the Olympic first officer gave the label as a souvenir after Titanic sank and eventually ended up with a private collector who is putting it up for auction. Mossgreen Auctioneers is handling the auction and is expected to fetch $20,000.
Source:Postal label addressed to Titanic expected to raise $20,000 at auction (18 Nov 2016, UPI)
The Day After The Feast
Well Thanksgiving has come to an end and today is called Black Friday here in the United States. People might think that an odd name considering what happens. Many retail chains, mostly the bigger ones, offer special deals on Black Friday to lure people into their stores. It is a clever marketing idea to get a lot of stuff off the shelves for the Christmas holiday. So they deep discount on anything they want to get rid off. Loss leaders are put up to reel in many to buy even more than they intended. The desire to maximize the profits led many chains to open up on Thanksgiving. This has not been welcomed by many employees who want to spend more time at home. Then again some retailers do sweeten the pot, so to speak, with time and half pay. Some think that is required by U.S. federal law but it is not. Unless you work over forty hours a week, that rule does not apply. It is up to the employer to decide if they want to pay you extra for working on a holiday. If you are part of a union, then in the contract with the employer it may specify that working on holidays gets you time. Most employers who can afford usually will pay time and half to get their workers to come in. It takes a lot of people to stock those shelves and check them out at the cashier stand.
I decided this year to not put up the usual safety warnings about deep frying turkey. This video by the Fresno fire department explains it pretty well. Hey you do not need an expensive outdoor fryer. You can buy a electric deep fryer designed for the same thing for the kitchen. You measure in the oil precisely, insert the turkey and close the lid. I saw one video of an old guy wearing shorts and no shoes trying to put the turkey in the fryer. The oil overflowed, flames erupted and the man ran for his life while someone called 911. Enough said.