December 18th, 2008 thurs.
December 18th, 2008

For those of you in animation with staff jobs, tomorrow is the last day before the Big Holiday Break! And if you are made to work next week, your employer should understand that even if your ass is in the chair, your head and heart will already be far away on break regardless.

QUIZ: Which TV Christmas Special was first? A)A Charlie Brown Christmas, B) Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol, C) The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, D) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Yesterday’s question answered below: Why is Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, important to the way we celebrate Christmas?
History for 12/18/2008
Birthdays: Antonio Stradivari, Karl Maria Von Weber, Ty Cobb, George Stevens, Ozzie Davis, Diane Disney-Miller, Anita O’Day, Paul Klee, Betty Grable, Willy Brandt, Keith Richards, Leonard Maltin, Alyssia Sanchez-Vaccario, Ray Liotta, Katie Holmes, Brad Pitt is 45, Steven Spielberg is 62

1679- THE ROSE ALLEY AMBUSCADE- Writer and critic John Dryden was walking in the Rose Alley in Covent Garden when a group of thugs jumped him and beat him up. They had been hired by The Earl of Rochester because of a satirical essay making fun of him was attributed to Dryden. Other writers like Voltaire suffered similar attacks from aristocrats who couldn’t take a joke.

1757- Frederick the Great’s army besieged the Fortress city of Breslau in Silesia. The Austrian garrison’s commander General Sprecher posted placards throughout the town threatening with death anyone who breathed a word of surrender- then he surrendered.

1783- The American Revolution now over, George Washington appeared before Congress in Philadelphia to resign his army commission and go home to Mount Vernon. The president of Congress was Thomas Mifflin, his former aide who Washington sacked for his trying to go behind his back. This moment was when George Washington parts company with most conquerors like Cromwell, Napoleon and Castro. He had power, but then walked away. Kings George III and Louis XVI were amazed when they heard the news: That Washington, the great generalissimo, the most powerful man in the Americas, would give up his power so lightly in order to return to his farm like some legendary Roman -Cinncinnatus, to be exact. Washington was called out of retirement five years later to be the first U.S. president.

1787- New Jersey named the third state.

1812-NAPOLEON'S RETREAT FROM MOSCOW ENDS -Napoleon reached Paris by sled after racing ahead of his shattered army to prop up his tottering regime.
Of Napoleon's 600,000 troops that invaded Russia less than 60,000 frozen wretches came out. Insanely brave Marshal Ney was the last invader to recross the border. Alone, with bullets whistling past his ears, he calmly crossed the burning Neiman River bridge, stopping to pick up abandoned muskets to fire them at the Russians. After he fired a last shot, he threw the empty rifle at them. When Napoleon got to his palace at Saint Cloud he was so dirty from the trip the guards didn't recognize him and wouldn't let him in. His first official acts after the public announcement of the Russian Campaign’s disaster was ordering the Paris ballet dancers to dance barelegged instead of in tights. While that topic dominated gossip, his second act was to give the French people a big tax cut. Watching Louis XVI lose his head in the Revolution, gave Nappy a healthy if cynical respect for the anger of the average citizen.

1912- THE PILTDOWN MAN- An announcement was made, of a find, in a peat pit, in England, of the remains of a human ancestor between ape and man, the so-called "Missing Link". The skull had canine teeth like an animal but it had an enlarged cranium like a man and was buried with primitive tools. This find was made at the time Darwin’s Evolutionary theories were being hotly debated. The authenticity of the Piltdown Man was thrown into question in 1949. When modern dating techniques were perfected, by 1953, the Piltdown Man was officially declared a hoax. The remains were too modern to be ancient and the canine teeth had filed down by tiny files. It is generally believed that a practical joker named Martin Hinton at the British Museum of Natural History may have been the perpetrator.

1919- in France Composer Cole Porter married divorcee Linda Thomas. They stayed together all their long lives, even though she always knew that he was gay .

1931- Gangster Jacky "Legs" Diamond had a penchant for recovering after being shot repeatedly by pistols and shotguns. It was said he had so much lead in him he could attract a magnet. Today someone finally shot him down and he didn't get up.

1937- Mae West does a comedy routine on national broadcast radio with Don Ameche about Adam and Eve that was considered so racy CBS banned her from their network.
At the same time she got fined by the networks for joking about ventriloquist puppet Charlie McCarthy:" Hmmm…he’s all wood and a yard long!"

1939-Max Fleischer's animated classic “Gulliver's Travels”. To me the best use of motion capture to date.

1956- TV Game show To Tell the Truth made its debut. Bud Collier hosting, and panelists like Kitty Carlisle, Bennett Cerf, Orson Bean and Dorothy Killgallen as panelists.

1960- An eccentric man named Jerry Garcia was dishonorably discharged from the army. He had done things like drive a tank into a field then walk away. He was AWOL 8 times in one year. After leaving the army Jerry Garcia became a hippie musician in San Francisco and in 1966 formed the rock band the Grateful Dead.

1961-" In the Jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps to-night…a winoweh, etc. " this song by the Tokens goes to #1 in pop charts.

1966- Chuck Jone's 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' premiered.

1975- Rod Stewart announced he was leaving the band Faces for a solo singing career.

1978- SAG strikes Hollywood again, for residuals. (again...)

1984- Chris Guest married Jamie Lee Curtis at Rob Reiner’s house .

1997- Saturday Night Live Comedian Chris Farley was found dead in his Chicago apartment in the Sears Tower, surrounded by empty food containers and porn magazines. The chubby 31-year-old had been partying for 17 straight hours doing cocaine, heroin, vodka and crystal-meth. His last words were to an exhausted prostitute:" Please don’t leave me.". Chris Farley was scheduled to be the voice of the character Shrek; Mike Myers now took over. He had also optioned a script to play the serious biography of silent star Fatty Arbuckle. Farley idolized the late John Belushi, who had also died of drugs and hard living at age 31. One writer recalled Farley drunk, throwing chairs and tables around in his hotel room, then he turned to him and asked innocently:" Do you think Belushi is in heaven?"

1998- TEN YEARS AGO- Dreamworks first animated feature the “Prince of Egypt”, or, as it was known in Hollywood,"The Zion King".

Yesterdays Question: Why is Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, important to the way we celebrate Christmas?

Answer: Albert was THE trend-setter for genteel society in the Victorian Era. When he wore sideburns, everyone had to wear them, and when he wore a tuxedo jacket at dinner, everyone else had to also. So when he insisted the Royal Palace adopt his German custom of a family Christmas Tree, the custom was set, not only in the British Empire, but for all us Americans who doted on everything British.

Christmas trees had been introduced to Britain earlier by George III’s wife Queen Charoltte, and to America by the Hessians. But the practice didn’t become regular in the English speaking world, until Victoria & Albert made it so.

Better ring up the Huff Post and call the Wire Services, Pat just told me she wants to be considered for the NEXT SENATOR FROM NEW YORK!

She's rested, she's ready- click to enlarge

Now, don't get me wrong, Caroline Kennedy or Fran Drescher would be great, but as long as they're asking, maybe it's Pat's year.
True, she has not lived in New York since 1980, but hey, Hilary and Bobby didn't live there long either! And being a genuine Bronx Chick, unlike Rudy she is more likely to root for the Yankees and not express support for the Red Sox when in Boston and the Cubs when in Chicago.

Now dat's integrity.

Ask if she has experience? Well, how much experience do you need to join a group with a 16% approval rating? And as an animation checker and production coordinator, she's had to negotiate difficult animators' egos and crazed producers and directors. So her diplomatic skills have been extensively tested.

Pat for Senator! We're awaiting Governor Patterson's phone call.

Quiz: Why is Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, important to the way we celebrate Christmas?

Yesterday’s question answered below: Of all the Apostles, Simon, John, Andrew, why is Judas Iscariot the only one with a last name?
History for 12/17/2008
Birthdays: Paracelsus (otherwise known as Nicholas Paracelsus Theophrastus Bombastus Von Hohenheim) the father of modern medical diagnosis, Antonio Cimmarosa, William Lyon Mackensie-King, Arthur Fiedler, Bob Guccione founder of Penthouse Magazine, William Safire, Cal Ripken Sr., Ford Maddox-Ford, Erskine Caldwell, Tommy Steele, Bill Pullman is 55, Eugene Levy is 62, Wes Studi, Milla Jovovich is 33, Sean Patrick Thomas, Giovanni Ribisi, Bart Simpson- is 19

ROMAN FESTIVAL OF SATURNALIA-Tonight began the festival of Saturn, the biggest holiday to the ancient Romans is one of the roots of Christmas. On this holiday Roman families got together, masters served their slaves and gave them a day off. People gave each other gifts in pretty colored wrappings. Romans also decorated the outsides of their houses with wreaths and lights to welcome the New Year -sound familiar? Most modern scholars agree that Jesus was probably born in July or August, but Christians began using the Saturnalia as the birth festival of Jesus as early as 335AD. It was made official by the Vatican in 885 AD. So at sunset, raise both hands palms-up towards the sky ( the Roman way of praying) and shout "Io,Io, Saturnalia!" Greek for Hail Saturn!

1777-VALLEY FORGE- When Lord Howe’s British Army called the Christmas Truce and beds down in Philadelphia, George Washington’s army made camp at Valley Forge. The severe winter and poor conditions made Washington’s Army lose as many men as if there had been a battle. 2500 out of 10,000 colonials do not survive to see Spring. Meanwhile the surrounding farmers sold their food to the British, who paid better.

1843- Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story for Christmas" first published. In the 18th century and earlier the Christmas celebration was a more rowdy affair with public drinking, marching around in costumes “mummery” and mayhem more like today’s Mardi Gras. This is why the Pilgrims tried to ban it. The popularity of Dickens story of Scrooge, Marley and Tiny Tim did much to help Victorians change the nature of the Christmas celebration to a more intimate and pious observance among centered on the family.

1865- Schubert's Unfinished Symphony (#8) received it's world premiere. In 1822 Schubert wrote the first two movements and 8 measures for the 3rd (Scherzo) then gave the manuscript to a friend who kept it in a closet for 43 years.

1892- Peter Ilyich Tschaikowsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker” premiered at the Imperial Ballet in Saint Petersburg. One child dancer playing a candy cane in that first performance was a Georgian boy named Gyorgi Balavadajze-later American choreographer George Balanchine.

1902- THE VENEZUELA CRISIS- Kaiser Wilhelm threatened Venezuela with naval blockade and invasion if she did not pay her international debts. US President Teddy Roosevelt sent Admiral Dewey with 23 battleships to the Caribbean and threatened war. Der Kaiser backed down and war was avoided. This incident was kept secret for seventy years. It’s when Teddy first said:” Speak softly and carry a big stick!”

1903- THE AIRPLANE- Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. For one minute a powered heavier than air craft flew. Orville finished the day with a telegram to their father minding the bicycle shop back in Dayton Ohio: “Success. Four Flights Thursday Morning against twenty-one mile an hour wind.. Inform press home for Christmas.” The news failed to get into most national newspapers. The Wrights themselves maintained a strict secrecy because they knew rivals like Glen Curtis, the French and Smithsonian professor William Langley were all close to inventing an airplane as well. The sensation of the airplane didn’t really become widespread until the Wrights demonstrated their plane in France in 1908 and around New York Harbor in 1909. In 1913 Curtis took Langley’s flying machine the Aerodrome out of storage and flew it to prove to the Smithsonian that the Wright Brothers were not the first. The bitter disputes lasted the length of their lives.

1917-HAPPY BIRTHDAY THE KGB! Lenin created the first Communist Secret Police, the Cheka, led by Felix Derszhinsky:” My thoughts induce me to be without pity.” In a few months the Cheka executed more people than the Czars’ police the Okrana did in all of the XIXth Century. The Cheka in Stalin’s time was called the OGPU, then NKVD, his executioners in the Great Purges. After Stalin their name was changed to the KGB, the great spy and Secret Police operation set to bedevil their counterparts in the west the CIA and MI5. The KGB was disbanded in 1991. Current Russian President Vladimir Putin was a former KGB agent.

1928- Under orders from Josef Stalin the Central Committee of the Soviet Union first declared that rural land belonged to the community and all landowners were enemies of the state. This began the War on the Kulaks- the name for middle class peasants who owned farmland. The purges of Kulaks and famine from forced collectivization killed millions.

1934- First test flight of the Donald Douglas' DC-3, the most widely used airplane in aviation history. Unchanged for almost 50 years the two engine DC-3 was the backbone of most of the world's first passenger airlines and with the military name C-47 (the Gooney Bird) it became the workhorse cargo plane of from World War Two until Vietnam.
There are still DC-3's in service in many small countries.

1941- As if he hadn’t put his foot in his mouth badly enough already Charles Lindbergh does it again today. After earlier in the year railing on about the “International Jewish Conspiracy pushing America into war” today in a speech Lucky Lindy denounced the war with Germany:” The only real threat to America is the threat of the Yellow Race. Japan and China are united against the white race. And our only natural ally is Germany”. Secretary of the Treasury Robert Morgenthau told President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “I am convinced this guy is a Nazi”.

1944- the MALMEDY MASSACRE- The largest documented atrocity committed on U.S. troops in Europe in World War Two. During the Battle of the Bulge Nazi S.S. troops rounded up a large group of U.S. prisoners and machined gunned them all. 87 men of Battery B, 285th Field Artillery died. This was unusual; the statistics show only 1% of U.S. P.O.W.'s died in German captivity as opposed to 37% in Japanese hands. The atrocity stiffened U.S. resistance to the Nazis advance. The furor over President Reagan's laying a wreath at the Bitburg cemetery in 1985 was that some of the guilty SS troops of Malmedy were buried there. The commander of the SS troops, Major Otto Wolf, did some prison time after the war and lived quietly until 1967, when he was found shot to death in his burning house, a smoking rifle in his hands like he was defending himself. Obviously someone had not forgotten.

1955- Carl Perkins awoke in the middle of a bad nights sleep and wrote Blue Suede Shoes, the first song to be a hit in Country, R&B and Rock n’ Roll charts simultaneously.”Well you can knock me down, step on ma face, etc.”

1962- The Beatles first hit "Love Me Do" enters the U.K. pop charts.

1969- Tiny Tim, the campy, ukulele strumming crooner, married his Miss Vicky, or Victoria Budinger live on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

1969- The US Air Force terminated Operation Blue Book, the investigation of UFO phenomena.

1989- Communist dictator Nicholas Cercescu ordered the Romanian Army to open fire on democratic protesters in Timisoara. Two thousand were killed. This incident pushed elements of the Army to turn their guns on the government.
Yesterday’s Quiz: Of the Apostles, Simon, John, Andrew, why is Judas Iscariot the only one with a last name?

Answer: It’s not really a last name, more of a nickname. The Hebrews who resisted Roman domination were called Zealots, and the terrorist fringe of that group were called Sicari, for a knife they used to murder political enemies. So the name Judas Iscariot, meant Judas the Knife-Man. The Romans claimed the Sicarians were at the forefront of the great Jewish revolt in AD70.

Hey Boys & Girls, have you begun to start looking for Christmas gifts for that animator in your family? Don't know what to get them? Why my Shucky-Buckaroos, get them some of the new cool books available these days!

Don Hahn, Producer of classics like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Beauty and the Beast, is now set upon becoming the Xenophon or Pepys of our time. His book is a wonderful collection of Disney anecdotes and behind the scenes images from Snow White to PIXAR's Ratatouille.
Top animator Eric Goldberg has also put the dark secrets of his technique into written form for the first time.

OF COURSE, if your are really stuck for what to get, there's always my favorite author....

Stay tooned next year for my update of the Halas & Whittaker classic, TIMING FOR ANIMATION.
Quiz: Of the Apostles, Simon, John, Andrew, why is Judas Iscariot the only one with a last name?

Yesterday’s Quiz answered below: Actor Lloyd Bridges’ sons, Jeff and Beau Bridges, both became actors, likewise Martin Sheen’s boys Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Debbie Reynold’s daughter is Carrie Fisher. Are there such dynasties in animation?
History for 12/16/2008

Birthdays: TA-TA-TA-TUMMMMMM!!! Ludwig Van Beethoven, Catherine of Aragon (Henry VIII's wife number one), Marshal Gerbhard von Blucher, Lenoid Brezhnev, Jane Austen, Margaret Mead, Noel Coward, George Santayanna, Liv Ullmann is 67, Steve Bochco, Leslie Stahl. Quentin Blake- dean of British illustrators favored by Roald Dahl, William 'Refrigerator' Perry, Arthur C. Clarke

1773- THE BOSTON TEA PARTY- The British Parliament had angered the colonists of New England by disallowing any tea to be imported except by British vessels and then a heavy tax to the Crown was to be paid on it's purchase. As New England women began to develop alternatives from grass and dandelions-what we now call Herbal Teas- the men of Boston threatened violence on any merchant who dared sell English tea.
On Nov 28th the good ship Dartmouth anchored at Griffith's Wharf with 144 tons of tea to be cleared of customs by December 17th. A mob gathered at the Old South Meeting House to discuss what to do. The call was made for 'The Mohawks!" In the crowd were Paul Revere and artist Jonathan Trumbull. At 6:00 p.m. men disguised as Indians boarded the Dartmouth overpowered the crew and tossed crates of loose tea into the harbor. British Admiral Montague watched the proceedings from his warship across the harbor, but didn't take any action "for fear of civilian casualties." He well remembered the political repercussions a few years earlier, when His Majesties troops fired into a snowball throwing crowd and the radical Yankees called it the Boston Massacre.
Next morning all of Boston developed mass amnesia. No one knew who did the deed. One man waited until he was ninety-three years old and the Revolution long over before he named who was there that night.

1824- PUBLISH AND BE DAMNED! - Was the response of the Duke of Wellington to a Mr.John Stockdale, who wrote him that he intended to publish the reminiscences of one of London's most notorious courtesans named Harriet Wilson. The beautiful Miss Wilson had bedded most of the leading men of London society. She intended to name Wellington as one of her frequent flyers during the period 1805-1808, unless of course he chose to have his name removed- for 200 pounds. But such was the Iron Duke's famous answer.

1835- THE FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION FORMED- After numerous revolts in Paris streets since 1789, Napoleon’s old friend Marshal Soult came up with a novel idea: Take all those street ruffians who made "Le Miserables" so colorful, put them in uniform and send them to the Sahara and hopefully they'll all get killed. To this day the Legion Etrangere' takes anyone from any nation from 16 to 40, no questions asked, and sends them to do the French army's toughest jobs. There motto- "March or Die”.

1900 -EARLY ANIMATED FILM "ENCHANTED DRAWINGS', James Stuart Blackton was a New York World cartoonist who used to do a vaudeville act in drag. He came to do an article on Thomas Edison then Edison put him on the payroll. He created this and several other trickfilms. It doesn’t move much more than his vaudeville lightning drawing act, His 1906 film Humorous Phases of Funny Faces is considered the first animated cartoon.

1905- Variety magazine born.

1907- THE WHITE FLEET- Pres. Teddy Roosevelt sent a big badass fleet of US Navy battleships all painted white on a round-the-world cruise. It was billed as a goodwill tour, but in an age when battleships were the viewed like nukes are today, the message to other world powers was obvious. That the US was now a serious player in world affairs.

1913- Young English music hall actor named Charlie Chaplin got a job at Keystone Studios in Hollywood. His first film he would play a villain.

1935- Hollywood movie star Thelma Todd found dead in her car in her garage in Malibu She was 30. She was a sexy comedienne who starred with Laurel & Hardy, Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers and loved to party so much she was nicknamed "Hot Toddy". She knew New York mobster Lucky Lucciano. Was she done in by the mob, her jealous director boyfriend, was it a suicide or did she just pass out drunk in her car garage with the motor running? The mystery’s never been answered.

Thelma and Groucho Marx

Interestingly enough, her roadside restaurant in Malibu is still there. Although no longer serving coffee, crullers and bootleg gin, it is just like it was in her time. It is one of the best preserved 1930's restaurant exteriors in Los Angeles.

1944- Big Band Leader Glen Miller's plane disappeared over the English Channel. In 1988 ,a retired RAF engineer admitted he may have jettisoned some leftover bombs on top of the entertainer's plane while returning home from a bombing run.

1944- THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE- In his last gamble Hitler scraped together his remaining army reserves armed with new King Tiger tanks and launched them in an attack through the center of the allied armies. The Nazis panzers were spearheaded by a group of commandos in G.I. uniforms trained by one eyed Otto Skorzeny in American slang and baseball scores to confuse communications. They calculated to launch their offensive during a heavy snowstorm when the superior Allied air forces would have to be grounded.
After chasing the Germans across France to the Rhine, the Americans had come to consider the Krauts a defeated enemy. So they were taken completely by surprise. One US POW noted as he was brought to the rear, seeing hundreds or Germans in fresh uniforms and new tanks. General Eisenhower had just gotten his fifth general's star and was attending the wedding of his orderly Rickie in Versailles when he got the news. Rickies bride was Pearlie.
The German attack was so successful that Franklin Roosevelt wanted to drop the first Atomic Bomb on them. The offensive eventually stalled and was beaten back at the cost of 70,000 U.S. casualties; the most Americans killed and wounded in any single battle in history.

1948- A top Truman Presidential aide named Alger Hiss was indicted for perjury for lying to a Federal Grand Jury about passing secrets to a Communist turncoat agent named Whittaker Chambers. Chambers told so many lies that he was discredited as a witness but Hiss was convicted on circumstantial evidence like microfilm found hidden in a pumpkin- The Pumpkin Papers. The case of such a high ranking US official being a spy stoked the anti-commie paranoia of the 1950’s.

1966- New York Police raid the offices of Bernard Spindle, a freelance surveillance expert who bugged the phones of the rich and powerful. They carted off all his tapes and records; including tapes -he claimed- proving Marilyn Monroe’s sexual trysts with President John Kennedy. He was later told by the feds all his tapes were lost. Spindle’s career was the inspiration for the movie The Conversation.

1966- The Jimi Hendrix Experience released the song ‘Hey Joe’, in the UK.

1971- Don McClean released the long version of the song ‘American Pie’.

1973- O.J. Simpson became the first NFL player to rush for 2000 yards in a season.

1980- Colonel Harland Sanders, the Kentucky Fried Chicken founder, died.

1988- Shockjock Howard Stern is fined $100,000 by the FCC for having on his radio show a man who could play the piano with his penis.

1993- Aaron Spelling fired Shannon Dougherty off of Beverly Hills 90210.

1999- Julie Andrews, star of Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music, sued New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital for destroying her singing voice during a routine throat operation.
Yesterday’s Quiz: Actor Lloyd Bridges’ sons, Jeff and Beau Bridges, both became actors, likewise Martin Sheen’s boys Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Debbie Reynold’s daughter is Carrie Fisher. Are there such dynasties in animation?

Answer: Yes, there are a number of ToonTown dynasties. The most famous is probably Preston Blair, Lee Blair & Mary Blair; Ward Kimball’s two children John and Kelly were in the business, as was his granddaughter Laurie and her husband Geefwee. MGM animators Don and Ray Patterson and Rays’ daughter Kim. Bernie Wolf, Fred Wolf, Bill Wolf. The brothers Izzie and Phil Klein, who’s daughter Naomi Klein is a best selling progressive political writer. Phil Eastman and son Tony Eastman. Bill Melendez son Steve Melendez now runs the family business. Harry Holt, wife Marcia and daughter Renee Holt were all in the Biz. Recently Richard Williams two offspring Alex and Claire are both animation professionals. Glen Keane, who’s father and brother Bill and Jeff Keane are top cartoonists, has his daughter Claire on his crew.

This past Saturday Art Leonardi, one of the last of the Termite Terrace Warner Bros animators, got us all down to the Warner Bros lot to participate in a holiday fair. The annual event helps Camp Ronald MacDonald to aid children with cancer. Art set up long tables and we spend the day drawing cartoon characters for the children. I couldn't stay long, but I put in an hour or so doing about a dozen drawings of Disney, Warners and an anime star named Ben 10. Thanks for whoever had that model sheet handy! There was a nice turnout of around fifteen of my fellow scribblers. It must have made Art happy, because he spends weeks before bugging us all to attend, like Father Duffy shaming you to go to Confession!

When I was a tiny tot, I went up to Milton Caniff at a National Cartoonists show in NY's Central Park and he drew me a picture. I never forgot it.

All of us professional cartoonists who endlessly headache over money, the business, deadlines and creative arguments would do well to do an event like this once and awhile. It's important to remember what a gift you have.

You can draw a picture, and make a sick kid smile.

Now, I'm not a very religious person, but I do know being an artist means you have a certain talent that was not given to everyone. Surrounded by so many other creative people in our industry, we forget sometimes how special it really is.

And doing something as simple as doing a cartoon to make a child forget his own problems even for a moment, is payback for Divine Providence giving you your livelyhood.

The Holiday Season is the time when we remember how fortunate we are, and that we should never take it for granted.

So there's your brief. This Holiday, use that talent you were given, and go make at lease one child happy.

Quiz: Actor Lloyd Bridges’ sons, Jeff and Beau Bridges, both became actors, likewise Martin Sheen’s boys Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Debbie Reynold’s daughter is Carrie Fisher. Are there such dynasties in animation?

Answer to yesterday’s question below: Who wrote the famous British hymn “Jerusalem”, featured in the film Chariots of Fire? Bring me my bow, of Burning Fire, Bring me my arrows of De-sire…
¬History for 12/15/2008
Birthdays: Roman Emperor Nero, Roman Emperor Lucius Verus who was known for little else but his really swell haircut, Gustav Eiffel, J. Paul Getty, Jeff Chandler, Alan Freed, animator Ernie Pintoff, Helen Slater, Don Johnson, Stuart Townsend

1790- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has a farewell dinner for Franz Josef Haydn who was going to London for two years. Amadeus said:" Farewell Papa, I think we shall not see each other again in life. " Mozart was 34 and Haydn was 67, so he probably thought Haydn would go first. Mozart died a year later at 35 and old Haydn lived another fifteen years, dying in his 80s.

1791-The BILL OF RIGHTS was ratified and added to the U.S. CONSTITUTION- It was the brainchild of James Madison, who felt the Constitution was a bit vague on basic civil rights. Even so Patrick Henry thought it was still too weak.

1792- FOUNDING FATHERS SEX SCANDAL- In the dead of night George Washington's Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton (that guy on your ten-dollar bill) was visited by a delegation sent by his political enemy, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson (that guy on your nickel). They included future president James Monroe and First Speaker of the House of Representatives Felix Muhlenberg.
They accuse Hamilton of having an extramarital affair with a certain Mrs. Reynolds, and that he even had her husband sent to prison to keep him out of the way! Hamilton admitted it all, but said he was being blackmailed by Mr. & Mrs. Reynolds. The accusers took pity and by “Gentleman's Agreement" for four years the scandal was hushed up. When at last it was made pubic in 1797 by a tabloid newspaper, it helped drive Hamilton from government office and discredit the Federalist Party, who lost the White House to Jefferson's democrats. Hamilton was furious that his secret was out and challenged James Monroe to a duel. The duel was solved peacefully by an arbiter, Aaron Burr, who himself would shoot Hamilton to death eight years later. Burr later became Vice President and Burr got to sleep with Mrs. Reynolds too!

1815- Giacomo Rossini received the commission to write a new opera based on Beaumarchais the Marriage of Figaro- The Barber of Seville.

1874- Hawaiian King David IV Kalakaou visited the White House and was received by President Grant.
1890-SITTING BULL KILLED by government employed Indian agents. They had come to arrest him when they learned he planned to join the Ghost Dancers at Wounded Knee. The Ghost Dance was a spiritual revival movement but the authorities overreacted in fear of a true-armed uprising. As Sitting Bull was led out of his cabin other Sioux tried to stop the Indian police and in the scuffle they shot Bull dead. In a macabre twist Bull's pony, who was a gift from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, reared up and started doing circus tricks when he heard the shots.

1893-Czech composer Anton Dvorak premiered a symphony he wrote while living in the Minnesota. The New World Symphony.

1899-Battle of Colenso-More Boer Woer. Britain had had so many early reverses in South Africa that Kaiser Wilhelm annoyed Prince Edward by saying:" You English are renown for your sense of good sportsmanship. Why don't you admit you're beaten and make the best of it? Rather like last year when the Australians beat you at cricket." Comments like this didn’t help Anglo-German relations. The British won the Boer War in 1901.

1911- King George V of England moved the capitol of India from Calcutta to Delhi and laid the foundation stones for a new Imperial City, New Delhi.

1939- The gala premiere of Gone With The Wind at the Loews Grand Theater in Atlanta Georgia. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh flew out from Hollywood and the Governor of Georgia declared it a state holiday.

1941- The American Federation of Labor announced there would be no strikes or other labor actions for the duration of World War Two.

1941- Lena Horne recorded her signature tune “Stormy Weather.”

1943- In Harlem jazz great Fats Waller died of alcoholism and heart failure. He was 39.

1952- British Fashion photographer George Jorgenson has the first sex change operation in Denmark and becomes Christine Jorgenson.

1954-“Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter” starring Fess Parker was featured on the Walt Disney TV show for the first time. The show created a mania for little kids, all wanting coonskin caps. “ Born on a mountaintop in Tenn- Ah- See..”

1964- Canada adopted the Maple Leaf flag. It did not completely replace the Dominion Flag until 1979.

1966-Walt Disney died at age 65. He was alone in the room at Saint Joseph's when he died. A heavy cigarette smoker- his favorites were Malboro and French Gitanes- he suffered from lung cancer and respiratory failure. Contrary to the legend that he's cryogenically frozen in a room in the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, he was cremated and interred at Forest Lawn. Or maybe that’s what he wants us to think?!

1967- Beverly Hills police chief C.H.Anderson assured the public that there are "No Hippie Pads in Beverly Hills". Chief Andersen said many oddball types arrested on the Sunset Strip and West L.A. are sent to Beverly Hills municipal courts for trial, but inhabitants need not fear an outbreak of long haired hopped up psychedelic speed freaks. Groovy!

1973- The American Psychiatric Association reverses its earlier position and announced the homosexuality is not a form of mental illness. Being gay before that meant your family could legally have you institutionalized and even lobotomized or electro-shocked.

1984- Gangster Paul Castellano had taken over the largest Mafia family in New York after the Godfather Carlo Gambino died. But he was having problems with his unruly lieutenant John Gotti. This day he was getting out his limo on a midtown Manhattan street to go to Sparks Steakhouse when he was shot dead by hitmen sent by Gotti. Instead of the dead of night on a lone wharf, it was done out in broad daylight and the killers just melted into the countless masses of lunch hour foot traffic on 5th Avenue. John Gotti took control of the Gambino family and ruled as the Dapper Don, until sent up the river for life in 1992.

1989- Colombian drug cartel leader Gonzalo Rodriquez Gacha “El Mexicano” was shot down in a furious gun battle with police. He had waged a war of terror with the Colombian authorities, bombing an Avianca airliner and blowing up the police headquarters in Bogota.

2008- As outgoing President Bush made a surprise appearance in Baghdad to tout his success in the region, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at the presidents’ head, shouting “Here’s your thanks, you dog!” He missed. NY Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner commented” His first throw was high and outside, the second was right down the middle, we could use him in a series against Boston.”

Yesterday’s question: Who wrote the famous British hymn “Jerusalem”, featured in the film Chariots of Fire?

Answer: Poet, Artist and totally out-there mystic William Blake wrote a poem in 1806 about an apocryphal story that Jesus and Josef of Aramethea once traveled by ship to visit Glastonbury. This made England for a time Heaven on Earth! The Chariot of Fire is the way Elijah was taken up into Heaven. C. Hubert Parry set it to music during World War One and Sir Edward Elgar orchestrated it.

And did those feet in ancient time,

Walk upon England’s mountains green

And was the holy Lamb of God,

On England’s pleasant pastures seen

And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;

Bring me my Arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold:

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In England’s green and pleasant Land.

December 14th, 2008 sun.
December 14th, 2008

Congratulations to my old comrade Julia Gray, who worked in the editorial dept. at Disney and Warner Bros, then returned to Chicago to enjoy the joys of local politics!
Writing for the online Beachwood Reporter, she has coined the BuzzWord of the Week-


QUIZ: Who wrote the famous British hymn “Jerusalem”, featured in the film Chariots of Fire? Bring me my bow, of Burning Fire, Bring me my arrows of De-sire…

Yesterday’s question answered below: What are the Halcyon Days?
History for 12/14/2008
Birthdays: 1553-King Henry IV of Navarre, Tycho Brahe, Nostradamus -Michel de Nostre Dame-1503, English King George VI, Spike Jones the bandleader, Morey Amsterdam, Charlie Rich, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, Lee Remick, Patty Duke-Astin, porn star Ginger Lynn, Clark Terry, trumpeteer, ex-Ellingtonian, is 88. Cecil Pay, Saxophonist, 86. Jane Birkin "Je t'aime moi non plus" chanteuse is 61.

Welcome to the first day of what is referred to as the HALCYON DAYS. The seven days prior to and after the Winter Solstice, a time of tranquility and peace.

1776-After chasing George Washington's little rebel army from New York to Philadelphia, British General Lord William Howe announced the customary holiday truce and beds his army down for the winter. His subordinate Lord Percy wrote home:” It’s just about over with those people, we shall be home shortly.” Lord Howe took as a mistress the wife of his Boston superintendent of prisons a Mr. Loring, who grew rich enough on army contracts to not mind. A rebel poem of the time said: "Sir William He, snug as a Flea, lay in his bed a Snorring. Nor thought of Harm, as he lay Warm, in bed with Mrs......"

1798- David Wilkinson of Rhode Island patented a machine that made the new inventions metal screws, nuts and bolts.

1799- GEORGE WASHINGTON DIED. 67 year old Washington had retired to Mount Vernon after his last presidential term in 1796. He always complained to friends of his bad health, and never expected to live to a great age. On Dec. 12th he went riding five hours during a sleet storm and caught the flu. Another theory was a viral infection of the epiglottis.
He might still have survived had it not been for modern medicine. Doctors bled him of four pints of blood, while applying leeches, mustard sulfur packs and laxatives to purge him of the ill humours. He developed pneumonia and died swiftly. Because coma was so little understood, people had a dread of premature burial. Washington left instructions that his body be left out several days to make sure he was dead before being sealed in a tomb. After assurances put his mind at ease, his last words were:" Tis well." No priests or religious last rites were performed or called for. The US government wanted to place his tomb at the center of the planned dome in the capitol building, but Washington’s wish was to be in a simple tomb in Mt. Vernon. He also freed all his 137 slaves and sent them each off with a pension.

1861- Albert the Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria, died at 42. Even though he died of typhoid fever, which was common in those times, Victoria blamed her son Bertie (Edward VII)'s sexual escapades as causing her beloved husband's heartbreak. One of Albert’s last acts was to tone down a diplomatic response to the Trent Affair, which avoided war with the United States. Victoria wore mourning for the rest of her long life. She withdrew from formal politics for 12 years. She had Albert's rooms at Balmoral and Osborne kept like he was still there. Every single night for 40 years the servants would lay out his clothes and a basin of warm water like for some invisible user. She kept the cast of his hand on her night table so she could reach out and touch it for reassurance at night. When she died in 1901 after reigning 64 years her last words were "Albert..."

1871- Verdi's opera "Aida" debuts in Cairo. It was supposed to be done for the dedication of the the Suez Canal in 1869, but Verdi was slightly over deadline.

1901- The first Ping-Pong tournament held in London.

1911- Norwegian explorer Roald Ammundsen and four others first reached the South Pole, winning the race against Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

1913- Cartoonist Johnny Gruelle entertained his dying daughter by making up stories involving her rag dollies. After her passing friends, urged Gruelle to publish them. The RAGGEDY ANN & ANDY stories are born.

1924- Ottorino Respighi's rhapsody the Pines of Rome premiered.

1927- Charles Lindbergh does one last flight with his famous monoplane the Spirit of Saint Louis, from Washington to Mexico City. This is at the request of American Ambassador Dwight Murrow who wanted to improve Mexican-American relations. Lindbergh would not only improve relations but also marry Murrow's daughter Anne. To make the flight a challenge Lindbergh took off at night in a rainstorm to prove air travel was safe. The President of Mexico and 150,000 people greeted him in Mexico City. When flying he noticed many Mexican towns had a sign named 'Caballeros' in their railroad stations. He reasoned Caballeros must be a popular name for a town.

1944- Hollywood starlet Lupe Velez, the "Mexican Spitfire' committed suicide. She had taken an overdose of sleeping pills and laid herself out in a beautiful negligee of her own design to be found radiant. But instead of dying immediately the pills made her sick and she was found dead with her head in the toilet. In her prime she counted Gary Cooper, Anthony Quinn and Johnny Weissmuller among her lovers. When Weissmuller was filming 'Tarzan' the studio complained to her that their lovemaking was so...err..athletic? exhuberant?....that she was leaving scratch marks all over his back. The makeup department complained of all the effort to cover them.

1944- The film National Velvet premiered, making a star out of 12 year old Elizabeth Taylor.

1947- The National Association of Stock Car Racing or NASCAR formed.

1953- Young pitcher Sandy Koufax was signed by the Dodgers. He became one of their most famous players.

1957- Hanna Barbera's first TV cartoon "Ruff and Ready" premiered.

1967- Greek generals overthrow King Constantine II and rule by junta led by George Papadapolos.

1970- George Harrison’s single My Sweet Lord went gold.

1972-THE LAST MAN LEAVES THE MOON. Apollo 17 blasts off. We all remember the first man on the moon, but do you remember the last? Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmidt. President Nixon annoyed NASA by saying he doubted that men would return to the moon in the Twentieth Century, but he was right.

1977- The movie Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta and the music of the Bee Gees make the Disco dancing scene a national craze.

1979- STUDIO 54 RAIDED- The Internal Revenue Service busted the worlds most notorious disco club. Formerly the hangout of Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Truman Capote and other “Beautiful People”, now the Feds were on to them. The IRS seized doctored account books, cocaine and undeclared cash, landing the owners in jail and bringing the celebrity playland’s days to an end.

1984- Howard Cosell retired from sports reporting and calling the Monday Night Football game. “And now to Dandy Don down on the field.”
Yesterday’s Question: What are the Halcyon Days?

ANSWER: An alcyon was the ancient Greek name for a type of Kingfisher bird that builds it’s nest floating on the water. Legend has it the bird had the powers to calm the waves so it would sleep undisturbed. So Halcyon Days meant peaceful, undisturbed time. This came to mean the time around the Winter Solstice, see above.