“Dancing is a sweat job. … When you’re experimenting you have to try so many things before you choose what you want, that you may go days getting nothing but exhaustion. This search for what you want is like tracking something that doesn’t want to be tracked. It takes time to get a dance right, to create something memorable. There must be a certain amount of polish to it. I don’t want it to look anything but accomplished, and if I can’t make it look that way, then I’m not ready yet. I always try to get to know my routine so well that I don’t have to think, ‘What comes next?’ Everything should fall right into line, and then I know I’ve got control of the bloody floor.” — Fred Astaire
“How to hit home runs: I swing as hard as I can, and I try to swing right through the ball. In boxing, your fist usually stops when you hit a man, but it’s possible to hit so hard that your fist doesn’t stop. I try to follow through in the same way. The harder you grip the bat, the more you can swing it through the ball, and the farther the ball will go. I swing big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.” — Babe Ruth
“Don’t get discouraged because there’s a lot of mechanical work to writing. … I rewrote the first part of A Farewell to Arms at least fifty times. … The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none, but after you learn to work it’s your object to convey everything to the reader so that he remembers it not as a story he has read but something that has happened to himself. That’s the true test of writing.” — Ernest Hemingway
The 1990 antitrust case United States v. Syufy Enterprises settled a dispute regarding monopoly among Las Vegas movie exhibitors. But it became famous for another reason: It appears that Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski hid more than 200 movie titles in his opinion. Here’s a sample (italics mine):
“Absent structural constraints that keep competition from performing its levelling function, few businesses can dictate terms to customers or suppliers with impunity. It’s risky business even to try. As Syufy learned in dealing with Orion and his other suppliers, a larger company often is more vulnerable to a squeeze play than a smaller one. It is for that reason that neither size nor market share alone suffice to establish a monopoly. Without the power to exclude competition, large companies that try to throw their weight around may find themselves sitting ducks for leaner, hungrier competitors. Or, as Syufy saw, the tactic may boomerang, causing big trouble with suppliers.”
It’s a bit hard to tell how many of these are deliberate, as they appear natural in context, and Kozinski won’t say. But working with Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies and Video Guide, the Brigham Young University Law Review found 215 titles in the opinion. You can try your own hand at it — the full text is here.
Harper Lee and Margaret Mitchell wrote one novel apiece. Both won the Pulitzer Prize.
The Turning Point and The Color Purple each received 11 Oscar nominations — and won zero.
Raymond Chandler to Alfred Hitchcock, Dec. 6, 1950:
In spite of your wide and generous disregard of my communications on the subject of the script of Strangers on a Train and your failure to make any comment on it, and in spite of not having heard a word from you since I began the writing of the actual screenplay — for all of which I might say I bear no malice, since this sort of procedure seems to be part of the standard Hollywood depravity — in spite of this and in spite of this extremely cumbersome sentence, I feel that I should, just for the record, pass you a few comments on what is termed the final script. I could understand your finding fault with my script in this or that way, thinking that such and such a scene was too long or such and such a mechanism was too awkward. I could understand you changing you mind about the things you specifically wanted, because some of such changes might have been imposed on you from without. What I cannot understand is your permitting a script which after all had some life and vitality to be reduced to such a flabby mass of clichés, a group of faceless characters, and the kind of dialogue every screen writer is taught not to write — the kind that says everything twice and leaves nothing to be implied by the actor or the camera. Of course you must have had your reasons but, to use a phrase once coined by Max Beerbohm, it would take a ‘far less brilliant mind than mine’ to guess what they were.
Regardless of whether or not my name appears on the screen among the credits, I’m not afraid that anybody will think I wrote this stuff. They’ll know damn well I didn’t. I shouldn’t have minded in the least if you had produced a better script — believe me, I shouldn’t. But if you wanted something written in skim milk, why on earth did you bother to come to me in the first place? What a waste of money! What a waste of time! It’s no answer to say that I was well paid. Nobody can be adequately paid for wasting his time.
John Steinbeck, Thornton Wilder, and Dashiell Hammett had already turned down the job. When Chandler finally did hear from Hitchcock, it was to learn he’d been fired.
The Rainbow Room had a revolving floor in front of the band. [In 1934] Ray [Noble] would get up wearing white tie and tails and sit down at the piano on the revolving floor. We would go into a medley and Ray would play and talk to the people at the tables as he was being moved about. When he got about halfway around the circle he would be a half-block away from us. Claude [Thornhill] would then change keys on him. Ray would be playing ‘The Very Thought of You,’ say in E-flat, and Claude would change it to F and Ray would be stuck out there. When a half hour later the piano, moving circularly, got back to the bandstand Ray would be furious, and he would say, ‘For God’s sake, fellows, I am playing ‘The Very Thought of You’ in E-flat. What the hell are you playing?’
– Bud Freeman, Crazeology, 1995
Reviewing a play in 1917, Heywood Broun wrote that Geoffrey Steyne’s performance was “the worst to be seen in the contemporary theater.” Steyne sued him for libel, but a judge threw out the case.
In reviewing the actor’s next production, Broun wrote, “Mr. Steyne’s performance was not up to his usual standard.”
See Critic Fatigue.
“I wouldn’t say when you’ve seen one western you’ve seen the lot, but when you’ve seen the lot you get the feeling you’ve seen one.” — Katharine Whitehorn
During a newspaper interview in March 1966, John Lennon said that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.”
On August 13, radio station KLUE in Longview, Texas, organized a bonfire in which protesting Christians burned their Beatles records.
The following day, the station’s broadcast tower was struck by lightning, rendering the news director unconscious and knocking the station off the air.
Wonder Woman and her Lasso of Truth were created by a pioneer in lie detectors.
While a graduate student at Harvard after World War I, William Moulton Marston had developed a systolic blood pressure test to detect deception.
Twenty-five years later, while proposing a female superhero to DC Comics, he suggested a magic lasso that would force those it captured to tell the truth.
He was inspired by his wife, Elizabeth. “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power,” he said in 1943. “The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”
Letter from Groucho Marx to the Franklin Corporation, April 24, 1961:
Dear Mr. Goodman:
I received the first annual report of the Franklin Corporation and though I am not an expert at reading balance sheets, my financial advisor (who, I assure you, knows nothing) nodded his head in satisfaction.
You wrote that you hope I am not one of those borscht circuit stockholders who get a few points’ profit and hastily scram for the hills. For your information, I bought Alleghany Preferred eleven years ago and am just now disposing of it.
As a brand new member of your family, strategically you made a ghastly mistake in sending me individual pictures of the Board of Directors. Mr. Roth, Chairman of the Board, merely looks sinister. You, the President, look like a hard worker with not too much on the ball. No one named Prosswimmer can possibly be a success. As for Samuel A. Goldblith, PhD., head of Food Technology at MIT, he looks as though he had eaten too much of the wrong kind of fodder.
At this point I would like to stop and ask you a question about Marion Harper Jr. To begin with, I immediately distrust any man who has the same name as his mother. But the thing that most disturbs me about Junior is that I don’t know what the hell he’s laughing at. Is it because he sucked me into this Corporation? This is not the kind of face that inspires confidence in a nervous and jittery stockholder.
George S. Sperti, I dismiss instantly. Any man who is the President of an outfit called Institutum Divi Thomae will certainly bear watching. Is he trying to impress stockholders with his knowledge of Latin? If so, why doesn’t he read, ‘Winnie ille Pu’? James J. Sullivan, I am convinced, is Paul E. Prosswimmer photographed from a different angle.
Offhand, I would say that I have summed up your group fairly accurately. I hope, for my sake, that I am mistaken.
In closing, I warn you, go easy with my money. I am in an extremely precarious profession whose livelihood depends upon a fickle public.
(temporarily at liberty)
The climax of Harry Houdini’s 1919 film The Grim Game called for the hero to descend by a rope between two biplanes. During filming, the planes inadvertently collided and went plunging toward the ground (about 4:30 in the clip above).
No one was hurt, but the incident was caught on film and the story was hastily rewritten to incorporate the sequence. Ever the showman, Houdini boasted that “all the flying stunts [had been] actually performed” and offered $1,000 “to any person who can prove that the collision [shown in] the film was not genuine.”
It was genuine, all right, but the performer wasn’t Houdini — a former U.S. Air Service pilot named Robert E. Kennedy had performed the stunts, which were later intercut with closeups of Houdini.
During the accident, Houdini had been safely on the ground with his arm in a sling — he’d fallen three feet while filming a jail-cell escape.
“What a subject: her nose is too big, her mouth is too big, she has the composites of all the wrong things, but put them all together and pow! All the natural mistakes of beauty fall together to create a magnificent accident.” — Rex Reed on Sophia Loren, review, Oct. 23, 1968
Director Curtis Bernhardt was midway through shooting My Reputation in 1944 when he encountered some trouble with one of the stars. Robert Archer insisted on wearing a jacket and shirt while mowing a lawn under the hot California sun.
Bernhardt pressed him, and to his surprise Archer said, “Okay, okay, I’m a girl.”
She was Tanis Chandler, a 20-year-old typist in a local brokerage office who’d gotten tired of waiting for acting jobs. Posing as Archer, she’d won a part in 1943′s The Desert Song, where robes and a burnoose had hid her shape. She’d done so well that the casting office had sent her out for Bernhardt’s film.
“The studios are always yelling about the lack of men,” she said. “I thought I’d have better luck in male roles. Oh, well.”
In 1938 Charlie McCarthy received an honorary degree from Northwestern University — as “master of innuendo and the snappy comeback.”
The earliest mention of baseball may be in Northanger Abbey, of all places:
… it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books.
Jane Austen wrote that passage in 1798, 41 years before Abner Doubleday supposedly invented the game in 1839. Evidence now suggests that “America’s game” evolved in England and was imported to the New World in the 18th century.
UPDATE: A reader alerts me that the town of Pittsfield, Mass., passed an ordinance in 1791 forbidding inhabitants from playing “Baseball” and certain other games near a new meeting house. This is believed to be the first written reference to baseball in North America. But a researcher at the Oxford English Dictionary tells me that the OED now has an example dating from 1748: “Now, in the winter, in a large room, they divert themselves at base-ball, a play all who are, or have been, schoolboys, are well acquainted with.” The letter writer was English, so, for the moment, England has the ball.
What’s the shortest possible game of Monopoly if each player plays optimally? Richard I. Hess of Palos Verdes, Calif., found this solution:
You roll 1, 1, land on Community Chest, and win $10 as second prize in a beauty contest. Then you roll 5, 5 and buy Electric Co. for $150. You end your turn by rolling 1, 3 and buying St. James for $180. Now you have $1180.
Each other player rolls 1, 3 and pays 10 percent Income Tax, reducing their balance to $1350 each.
Your turn again. You roll 1, 1 and buy Tennessee for $180, then roll 2, 2 and draw a Chance card, which sends you back three spaces, where you buy New York for $200. Now you roll 1, 2 and draw another Chance card, which advances you to GO and yields $200. You have exactly $1000, which you use to buy 10 houses, four on St. James and three each on Tennessee and New York.
The other players roll 4, 4 and pay $32 rent on Electric Co., then roll 2, 2 and pay $750 on St. James. They conclude ignominously by rolling 1, 2 and going bankrupt on New York, where they owe $600 and have only $568.
That’s if every player does his best. What if your opponents play a stupid but legal game?
You roll a 3 and buy Baltic for $60. Every other player buys Baltic from you for $1500 and sells it back for $3. Then each rolls 1, 2, lands on Baltic, and, having $3 but owing $4, goes bankrupt.
(From the Journal of Recreational Mathematics, 15(1))
11/21/2011 UPDATE: Kevin Tostado points out that a player who draws the Community Chest card “Bank Error in your Favor: Collect $200″ would not need to draw the “Advance to GO card”; that it’s unnecessary to purchase Electric Company; and that the 10% income tax option was phased out in 2008. He offers the following improvement, which requires one less roll by the first player and one less property purchased:
You roll 1, 1, land on Community Chest, and collect $200 for a bank error in your favor. Then you roll 4, 4, land on Just Visiting, then roll 1, 5 and buy St. James for $180, ending your turn. Now you have $1370.
Each other player rolls 1, 3 and pays $200 Income Tax, reducing their balance to $1300 each.
Your turn again. You roll 1, 1 and buy Tennessee for $180, then roll 1, 3 and draw a Chance card, which sends you back three spaces, where you buy New York for $200. You have $1140, which you use to buy 11 houses, four each on St. James and New York and three on Tennessee.
The other players roll 3, 3, land on Just Visiting, then roll 3, 3 and pay $750 on St. James. They conclude ignominously by rolling 1, 2 and going bankrupt on New York, where they owe $800 and have only $550.
“Also, in the course of filming my documentary, one player I interviewed described how in an actual tournament game, he bankrupted three opponents in under 15 minutes, all actually trying to win (and not just throw the game), through acquiring a natural monopoly on the light blues on his 2nd full turn of the game.” (Thanks, Kevin.)
- Newton was born the year that Galileo died.
- Cole Porter’s summer home was called No Trespassing.
- 66339 = (6 × 6)3 + 39
- Could you have had different parents?
- “A good conscience is a continual Christmas.” — Ben Franklin
UPDATE: The first item here is incorrect. The dates coincide only if one uses the Gregorian calendar to date Galileo’s death and the Julian to date Newton’s birth. The two events occurred 361 days apart, which puts them in separate years on both calendars. Apparently this is a very common error. (Thanks, Igor.)
Each year, when the last flight of the summer field season departs the U.S. research station at the South Pole, the remaining staff gather to watch The Thing.
The next flight won’t arrive for eight months.
Pianist Pete Brush was waiting for his wife outside a midtown department store when a woman with a violin case approached him and asked, “How can I get to Carnegie Hall?”
He said, “Go uptown to 57th Street and make a left to 7th Avenue.”
In 1990, weary of repetitive interviews, Phillies pitcher Don Carman posted this list of responses on his locker. “You saw the game,” he told reporters. “Take what you need.”
- I’m just glad to be here. I just want to help the club any way I can.
- Baseball’s a funny game.
- I’d rather be lucky than good.
- We’re going to take the season one game at a time.
- You’re only as good as your last game (last at-bat).
- This game has really changed.
- If we stay healthy we should be right there.
- It takes 24 (25) players.
- We need two more players to take us over the top: Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
- We have a different hero every day.
- We’ll get ‘em tomorrow.
- This team seems ready to gel.
- With a couple breaks, we win that game.
- That All-Star voting is a joke.
- The catcher and I were on the same wavelength.
- I just went right at ‘em.
- I did my best, and that’s all I can do.
- You just can’t pitch behind.
- That’s the name of the game.
- We’ve got to have fun.
- I didn’t have my good stuff, but I battled ‘em.
- Give the guy some credit; he hit a good pitch.
- Hey, we were due to catch a break or two.
- That’s why they pay him _____ million dollars.
- Even I could have hit that pitch.
- I know you are, but what am I?
- I was getting my off-speed stuff over so they couldn’t sit on the fastball.
- I had my at ‘em ball going today.
- I had some great plays made behind me tonight.
- I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.
- You saw it … write it.
- I just wanted to go as hard as I could as long as I could.
- I’m seeing the ball real good.
- I hit that ball good.
- I don’t get paid to hit.
Beetle Bailey and Lois Flagston, of Hi and Lois, are brother and sister.
Both comics were created by Mort Walker.
Though it’s three and a half hours long, Lawrence of Arabia contains no credited speaking roles for women.
Two weeks after Fleer released its 1989 baseball cards, the company received a call from a Baltimore sports reporter seeking a comment on card number 616. When managers looked up the card they saw a photo of Orioles second baseman Billy Ripken holding a bat on his right shoulder. On the knob of the bat were the words FUCK FACE.
The company halted distribution immediately, but this elevated the card from a novelty to a rarity, and the frenzy increased. By January its price has risen to $100; an unopened case could fetch $1,700. Ripken himself signed a few at a Jersey City card show, and the autographed cards became more valuable still. (“If people are crazy enough to spend that kind of money on a card,” he said, “it doesn’t concern me.”)
How the obscenity had made its way unnoticed through Fleer’s production process remains a mystery. The photo had been taken in Boston before an Orioles-Red Sox game in 1988; Ripken eventually admitted that he’d written the expletive himself to identify a practice bat, but he insisted that its appearance in the photo had been an accident.
See Inverted Jenny.
On Aug. 4, 1982, Mets center fielder Joel Youngblood had driven in two runs against Cubs pitcher Ferguson Jenkins in an afternoon game at Wrigley Field when he was traded in mid-game to the Montreal Expos.
He left the game and flew to Philadelphia in time to take up a position in right field at Veterans Stadium at the bottom of the sixth in an evening game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
In the top of the seventh he singled against Steve Carlton. That makes Youngblood the only player in history to get a base hit for two different teams in two different cities on the same day — and he did it against two future Hall of Famers.