Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Winding Down Summer

A sea of hats and suits for New York Yankees opening day in 1923
Bain News Service, P. (1923) Yankee Stadium opening day, 4/18/1923. , 1923. 4/18/ date created or published later by Bain. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ggb2006011183/.
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.


Happy Sunday

Image:Petr Kratochvil(publicdomainpictures.net)


Casablanca-As Time Goes By

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.


Welcome Summer

The sun rising over Stonehenge on summer solstice(2005) Photo:Andrew Dunn (Wikimedia)
The sun rising over Stonehenge on summer solstice(2005)
Photo:Andrew Dunn (Wikimedia)

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.

Wayback Machine: Zorro (Disney-1957)

The cover to The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley, The All-Story Magazine, August, 9, 1919
Public Domain

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.


Recent Titanic News

[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)


Titanic Musings:Of Titanic Fires and Ships That Never Were

Titanic Leaving Queenstown 11 April 1912. Believed to be the last photograph of ship before it sank.
Public Domain

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.

The Flying Dutchman, Circa 1896
Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847–1917)
Public Domain

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 News & Musings

Photo:Daemonic Kangaroo(Wikipedia)
Photo:Daemonic Kangaroo(Wikipedia)

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)

Photo: Mossgreen Auctioneers
Photo: Mossgreen Auctioneers

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.

Have a nice Thanksgiving weekend everyone,


From the Halloween files: Something Wicked This Way Comes

something_wicked_this_way_comes_firstRay Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, I recently realized, is an underrated gem. Wandering through my local library one recent Saturday, I noticed the book on the science fiction/fantasy shelf. I realized never read this book and checked it out. I wish I had read the book sooner as the story is compelling and scary. A perfect book for autumn and for Halloween.

The story is told primarily from the point of view of two 13 year-old boys, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway. They are in the cusp of leaving childhood and forever changed when Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show comes to town in autumn. It is unusual for a carnival to come so late in the year and the boys are excited. It comes when everyone is asleep at 3am in the morning but the boys watch it set up and are excited about it. As the story progresses though, it becomes clear the carnival is not at all what it seems to be. They see their teacher, Miss Foley, come out of the Mirror Maze in a panic. And later they see Mr. Cooger turned into a 12 year-old boy by riding the carousel backwards. Cooger then insinuates himself into Miss Foley’s house as a relative. Later when Cooger ages back on the carousel, Jim wants to hop on but Will accidently hits the breaker. The carousel spins out of control and Cooger grows very old. Ultimately he becomes a new act for the carnival when the boys return with the police, Mr. Electrico. Mr. Dark, aka the Illustrated Man for the many tattoos on his boy of the souls he has taken, realizes the two boys are a serious threat that must be dealt with.

The carnival is a façade, designed to ensnare the unwary to become either servants for Dark or to send them back home more miserable than before. Dark and his cohorts are the Autumn People. For them the calendar goes from September to October and stops after Halloween. They are locked perpetually in that world, much like a vampire is, neither going forward nor backward. Autumn, since it is the transition from summer to winter, is a melancholy period of leaves falling, cooler evenings and other things. And the Autumn People thrive during this period finding people who have lost the joy of living and replaced it with fears, guilt, and misery. Charles Holloway, Will’s father, is sad at being too old to play with his son. And he fears death. Those fears and many more draw Dark and his carnival to their dark harvest.

Dark seems to have all the power at his disposal as all evil villains do. He manages to capture the boys and nearly brings about Charles’ death until he realizes the one true power that will defeat Dark and his people: joy. It is interesting that in this battle between good and evil that it comes down to something simple. There is no waving of swords, chanting of magical phrases. Instead Charles realizes that the simple love he shares with his son gives him power over Dark. And once they realize he has that power, it truly frightens them. For it is the one thing that can truly kill them. Joy, laughter, happiness are the weapons against evil here and it shatters Dark and his carnival. Dark is killed by simple affection in the end.

The depiction of good versus evil is focused not on the spiritual but on how we allow our self-perceptions blind us to the joys of life. If we allow our miseries to cloud our outlook, it can blind us to the real evils that come knocking on our door. The lightning rod salesman wanted to meet a beautiful woman. He did and got turned into a dwarf to serve in the carnival with no memories of what he once was. Miss Foley was seduced by Cooger’s promise of youth that she failed to see he was not her nephew at all. Enjoying simple everyday joys counteract the bad things we have in our life.

With its skillful combination of fantasy and horror, this book is considered at the top of many horror lists. Ray Bradbury wrote a lot of books, many of them in the science fiction genre, but also wrote others outside of those parameters. It was made into a Disney film in 1983 and one of the rare dark movies made by them. While it differs in some ways from his book (Bradbury was involved with the movie), it gets the setting right and the basic story is there. The book though is far superior to it and recommended reading when you want a genuine spooky book that will entertain and delight. Unlike Stephen King, who frequently lambasts small towns in his books, the small town setting is exactly the right place for this story. And its story of good versus evil has never gone out of style.

Further Information
Ray Bradbury (Official Site)
Ray Bradbury Biography (Biography.com)
Something Wicked This Way Comes (Sparknotes)
Something Wicked This Way Comes (Goodreads)

Jack Was Never There

conspiracy-theory-alertTaking a stroll down conspiracy lane finds a new entrant. This has nothing to do with the real Titanic but the fictional retelling in James Cameron’s Titanic. If you have seen this Academy Award winning movie, you know the story of Jack and Rose. But some out there, perhaps with lots of time to spend with nothing to do, are putting out the theory that Jack was simply made up by Rose. The thinking is this: since she was being trapped into a marriage she did not want, she created the delusion of Jack. While it is plausible in some senses, it begs the question of who painted her (did she paint herself?)or how he was seen by others at a dinner. Then again these are inconvenient truths for the conspiracy minded.
Source:This sinister Titanic fan theory about Rose puts an entirely different AND darker slant on the film (Daily Mirror,4 Oct 2016)