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Showing posts from July, 2018

Limousines

Time was, if you were wealthy enough, you could afford a private carriage. Carriages were usually drawn by one or two horses. More than that weren’t typically needed, since private carriages usually weren’t that big. Larger passenger loads were handled in a larger carriage known as a stagecoach or a coach and four (so called because they were usually pulled by four horses). If you could afford a private carriage, that carriage would, in turn, afford you a certain amount of privacy.


As the 20th century got underway, the automobile started to take the place of the horse and its carriages. Just as you could once hire someone to drive your horses, you could hire someone to drive your automobile. This was nice, since an automobile could go much faster than a horse (when the roads were smooth enough). The problem, however, was the way a driver in one’s employ was now in a position to hear private conversations in the back seat. In a carriage, the driver was outside and out of earshot…

The Candy Desk

In the 1964 Senate elections, the voters of California sent song-and-dance man George Murphy to Washington. It was a long road to the Senate from his humble origins in Connecticut. There, Murphy first worked as a toolmaker for the Ford Motor Company, then tried his hand at mining, real estate, and finally singing in night clubs. His night club act proved be to his ticket, and it wasn’t long before he was on Broadway. He made the transition to motion pictures in 1934, and kept acting for eighteen years after that. When he retired from acting in 1952, he made his way into politics. Murphy served as the director of entertainment for the presidential inaugurations in 1953, 1957 and 1961. Bitten by the political bug, Murphy next decided to run for office himself. He picked a rough year to do it. Unpopular presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) proved to be a drag on the downballot races. Democrats gained Senate seats from Republicans in every state but one. Only o…

Genesis 25: How to Win at Sibling Rivalry

With his son Isaac married off, the old widower Abraham figured he might as well get around to getting himself married again.  This was easy to do, since Abraham had a lot of property and was very old, which is a combination that a certain kind of woman finds very appealing.  Keturah was one such woman.  She and Abraham had six kids together.  They lived to see their grandchildren and great-grandchildren be born.  Well, we know Abraham did.  After the mention of her bearing six children, Keturah disappears from the narrative, and there’s no telling what happened to her.  Abraham himself lived to be 175.  Odds are Abraham treated his second wife well, in light of the fact that he had been decent enough to set up the sons of his concubines with nice little nest eggs and sent them off to the east to get their lives going.  Anything Abraham had that didn’t go to his concubines’ sons (and, possibly, his widow,) was left to Isaac.
As Abraham died, his family gathered around him.  All livin…

Clara Bow: The Original "It" Girl

Born in urban poverty in Brooklyn, Clara Bow made her way to the silver screen, and even into the English language. Her career in films was relatively short, spanning all of nine years, but you’ll still hear her referenced in Hollywood by people who might not even know her name. Clara grew up a tomboy, by her own admission, preferring the company of boys to girls. But by the time she was a teenager and her peers started to see the differences between boys and girls as not so easily traversed, so she found herself without many close friends. Her mother died while Clara was a teenager, suffering from the strangely-worded malady “psychosis due to epilepsy”, after having been sent to an asylum following a psychotic episode where she held a knife to the throat of her daughter, who managed to fight her off. Clara’s father was supportive, if unlucky in establishing a steady career, and encouraged his daughter in life. At age 16, she entered a mail-in contest promoted in a number of mag…

Disco Demolition Night

In the 1989 film Dead Poets’ Society, English teacher John Keating, played by Robin Williams, utters the line, “How can you describe poetry like American Bandstand”?  ‘I like Byron.  I give him a 42 but I can’t dance to it.’”  The film was set in 1959, when American Bandstand was where many teenagers of the day tuned in to catch the newest musicians and records.  The “I give him a 42” line referred to the show’s vaunted Rate-a-Record segment, when host Dick Clark would ask two teenagers in the audience to rate two records on a scale of 35 to 98, and to then justify the ratings they gave.  Clark would then average the scores.  When the teenagers gave their justifications for the scores, they would try to sum things up neatly for the TV cameras, so there was a tendency to give stock phrases.  “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” became one of the famous phrases associated with the show.  (It’s likely that no teenager ever said such a thing on American Bandstand, but it sounde…

Arnold the Munching Monster