Archive for September, 2014

Having a Bad Day?

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

September 30, 1659. I poor miserable Robinson Crusoe, being shipwreck’d, during a dreadful Storm, in the offing, came on Shore on this dismal unfortunate Island, which I call’d the Island of Despair, all the rest of the Ship’s Company being drown’d, and my self almost dead.

All the rest of that Day I spent in afflicting my self at the dismal Circumstances I was brought to, viz. I had neither Food, House, Cloaths, Weapon, or Place to fly to, and in Despair of any Relief, saw nothing but Death before me, either that I should be devour’d by wild Beasts, murther’d by Savages, or starv’d to Death for want of Food. At the Approach of Night, I slept in a Tree, for fear of wild Creatures, but slept soundly tho’ it rain’d all Night.

Arbitrary Flag of the Day

Friday, September 26th, 2014



Benedict Arnold (with a little help from John Jameson)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

On September 23, 1780, Major John André was detained by militiamen on his way to British army headquarters in New York; unfortunately, André assumed they were British soldiers, and after he made a few suspicious remarks, he found himself at Continental army headquarters instead.

Little did the militiamen know, Major André was head of British intelligence and his socks were repositories for with some highly sensitive documents in General Benedict Arnold’s handwriting.

(Arnold was angry that he was not promoted and credited to his liking, and plotted to hand over the fort he commanded at West Point to the British. In exchange for his betrayal, Arnold would receive a rich price: thousands of pounds in cash, tracts of land, pensions for his entire family, and a commission in the British military.)

Faced with this damning evidence and the likelihood that General Arnold was the biggest traitor in U.S. history, an officer in the Continental army pulled one of the most shocking old-boy-network moves of all time.

Colonel John Jameson sent word to Benedict Arnold to let him know that they had someone named Mr. John Anderson in custody (Major André used the name Anderson), and that the Continental army was in possession of some pretty incriminating documents. Not only did Jameson send a message to Arnold, he sent André to West Point with the message.

Shortly thereafter, Major Benjamin Tallmadge (head of the Continental army’s intelligence) arrived at HQ; he was able to convince Jameson to retrieve Major André, but the warning message went on to Benedict Arnold.

Thanks to Jameson’s quick thinking and obsessive need to ignore evidence to protect Benedict Arnold’s good name and future career, the turncoat had plenty of time to escape.

Benedict Arnold went on to burn Richmond, Virginia.

As for his liaison, John André, he was convicted as an enemy spy for his part in the West Point plot. When the time came for his hanging, he placed the noose over his own head and said, “I pray you to bear me witness that I meet my fate like a brave man.” And by all accounts, he did.

Benedict Arnold is buried in St. Mary’s Church, Battersea, London.

Major John André is buried at Westminster Abbey.

NEW! Secular Saints Candles Are the Answer to Your Prayers…

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014





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…as long as you were praying for a dozen brand-new ways to light up your life!



It’s Spelled “Shawmut” But It’s Pronounced “Boston.”

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Before Europeans arrived, resplendent in their itchy undergarments and Old World religious antagonisms, the Shawmut Peninsula was home to the Massachusetts, Penacook, and Wampanoag peoples.

On September 16, 1630, some Puritans founded their city there and renamed the place after Boston, England.

What is it with us? We move to perfectly good places with perfectly good names and then rename them – sometimes after places that have made life difficult for us or kicked us out.

Laugh and the World Laughs with You Whether You’re Funny or Not

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

On September 9, 1950, the laugh track made its network debut on “The Hank McCune Show,” a sitcom that was filmed without an audience. An electrical engineer named Charles Rolland “Charley” Douglass invented the process for simulating a live comedy atmosphere by mixing in pre-recorded sound.

Douglass used his top-secret “laff box” to add laughter, applause – even the illusion of an entire audience where none existed – to the soundtracks of television shows. In the early years, Douglass would enhance reactions to make quiet responses sound more appreciative. However, as time went on, TV producers came to rely on laugh tracks, and came to insist that even the weakest of jokes receive outrageous laughter and applause, and even a spirited “woo!”

Sometimes the overwhelming response of the “audience” was bewildering to those at home who assumed they had missed something, and although Douglass varied his recordings, fans of TV sitcoms came to recognize many of the individual laughs of his canned crowd.

The television industry recognized Douglass’ contributions to the medium and awarded him an Emmy in 1992 for lifetime technical achievement.

Though laugh tracks have their fans and detractors, it must be said that Douglass found the humor in even the least funny situations.

Of course, if he didn’t find humor in a situation, he put it there.

To the Moon!

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

On September 2, 1902, French filmmaker Georges Méliès (born Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès) released his spectacle, A Trip to the Moon.

According to Méliès (who wrote, directed, and produced), space travel is more giddy hallucination than high-tech enterprise. The many years he spent as a stage magician and theatrical producer informed his fabulist’s-eye-view of the moon. His sci-fi fantasy is filled with acrobats, a pin-wheeling comet, star people, and spear-wielding sentries with crab claws who disappear in a puff of smoke at the stroke of your umbrella.

It has been more than a century since crowds first wondered at his camera illusions and complicated costumes; though we live in the age of CGI, only the most jaded viewer will fail to appreciate these 12 minutes of weird and pretty spectacle.

Why not take a trip back in time to the future of the past?