Little Wars

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HG_Wells_playing_to_Little_Wars.jpg

H.G. Wells played war games. In 1913 he published a set of rules for playing with miniature infantry, cavalry, and artillery, worked out with his friend Jerome K. Jerome while playing with toy soldiers after lunch one day.

He fired that day a shot that still echoes round the world. An affair — let us parallel the Cannonade of Valmy and call it the Cannonade of Sandgate — occurred, a shooting between opposed ranks of soldiers, a shooting not very different in spirit — but how different in results! — from the prehistoric warfare of catapult and garter. ‘But suppose,’ said his antagonists; ‘suppose somehow one could move the men!’ and therewith opened a new world of belligerence.

With another friend and a lot of playtesting, he worked out a set of rules by which two players contend for control of a battlefield, “little brisk fights in which one may suppose that all the ammunition and food needed are carried by the men themselves.”

In two or three moves the guns are flickering into action, a cavalry melee may be in progress, the plans of the attack are more or less apparent, here are men pouring out from the shelter of a wood to secure some point of vantage, and here are troops massing among farm buildings for a vigorous attack. The combat grows hot round some vital point. Move follows move in swift succession. One realises with a sickening sense of error that one is outnumbered and hard pressed here and uselessly cut off there, that one’s guns are ill-placed, that one’s wings are spread too widely, and that help can come only over some deadly zone of fire.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3691/3691-h/3691-h.htm

When Wells published his rules in August 1913, the Spectator raved that “there can be no doubt at all as to the excellence of Little Wars as a game for its own sake” — “Mr. Wells describes his new game and sets out its rules so attractively, and has, moreover, added to his description such alluring photographs, that his readers will find it hard indeed not to hurry out to the toy-shop round the corner, raise the necessary levies, and fall down forthwith upon hands and knees to emulate his achievements in the Battle of Hook’s Farm.”

Happily, since it was published a century ago, the whole thing is in the public domain — it’s available at Project Gutenberg.

Small World

paramount shooting locations 1927

In 1927, Chicago investment bank Halsey, Stuart & Co. published a prospectus inviting its clients to consider investing in the burgeoning motion picture business. Among the illustrations was this Paramount Studios map of international shooting locations in California.

“It was not mere chance that established the motion picture industry in Southern California,” notes the booklet. “The actual localization of production there came through a process of pure competitive selection in which the geographical advantages favorable to producers in that region literally forced competing directors and their companies to come to California — and Hollywood.

“The advantages of dependable sunshine, permitting outdoor production without delays, and of great variety in scenery at close range (the ocean on one side, the deserts, mountains, and forests in other directions), so that the sequence of almost any picture can be suitably filmed with but little cost for travel — all have militated to established Hollywood as the center of the motion picture world.”

(“The Motion Picture Industry as a Basis for Bond Financing,” reprinted in Tino Balio, ed., The American Film Industry, 1985.)

Curtain Call

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Lady_Eve_(1941)_trailer_3.jpg

In a review for the New Yorker in 1959, film critic Kenneth Tynan mistakenly referred to “the late Eric Blore,” and the magazine’s famously vigilant fact-checking department failed to note that the English comic actor was still alive.

Blore’s lawyer demanded a retraction, and a chastened Tynan prepared an apology, which was scheduled to appear in the following issue.

After that issue had been printed, though, the actor really did die … so while that day’s newspapers were reporting Blore’s death, the New Yorker was apologizing for saying he was no longer alive.

(Thanks, Johnny.)

Undead

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Mummy,_Boris_Karloff_(1932).jpg

James Riffel’s 1991 film Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh Eating, Hellbound, Zombified Living Dead Part 2 in Shocking 2-D spawned three sequels: Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Hellbound, Flesh-Eating Subhumanoid Zombified Living Dead, Part 3 (2005), Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Hellbound, Flesh-Eating Subhumanoid Zombified Living Dead, Part 4 (2005), and Night Of The Day Of The Dawn Of The Son Of The Bride Of The Return Of The Revenge Of The Terror Of The Attack Of The Evil, Mutant, Hellbound, Flesh-Eating, Crawling, Alien, Zombified, Subhumanoid Living Dead — Part 5 (2011).

The 2015 direct-to-video film The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power is the sequel to the sequel to the prequel to the prequel to the sequel to the remake of Universal’s original 1932 The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff.

“Certainly I was typed,” Karloff said of his long career in horror. “But what is typing? It is a trademark, a means by which the public recognizes you. Actors work all their lives to achieve that. I got mine with just one picture. It was a blessing.”

Easy Come …

The Ironman Heavymetalweight wrestling championship operates under 24/7 rules, meaning that the titleholder must defend it at all times against all comers. This has bred some chaos, with the belt changing hands more than 1,170 times. English wrestler Laura James won the belt in June and lost it the same day to her cat, Bunny (above). Other notable winners:

  • a monkey
  • a miniature Dachshund
  • a Hello Kitty doll
  • a baseball bat
  • three different ladders
  • a chicken doll
  • a poster
  • a ringside mat
  • a pint of beer
  • a steel chair
  • two inflatable love dolls
  • Vince McMahon’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • an “invisible wrestler”
  • three elementary school girls
  • the entire audience of Beyond Wrestling’s Americanrana ’16

Heroically, the belt itself became the 1,000th champion. Sanshiro Takagi, the 999th titleholder, was attempting to retire when Poison Sawada knocked him out with the belt, which fell on his chest, “pinning” him. The referee counted him out.

Animal Spirits

Hatebeak (above) is a death metal band fronted by a Congo African grey parrot named Waldo. To date they’ve released four albums, Beak of Putrefaction, Bird Seeds of Vengeance, The Thing That Should Not Beak, and Number of the Beak.

Bird Seeds of Vengeance was made with Caninus, a deathgrind band led by two pitbull terriers, Basil and Budgie. Unfortunately Basil died in 2011, and founding member Budgie died earlier this year, so the band has now retired.

“We are all lucky to have had her in our orbit for as long as we did,” the surviving members wrote after Budgie’s death. “She touched many lives, licked many faces, pushed many people out of beds, stole many slices of pizza, ate many soundguy burritos and, most importantly, inspired many to adopt from shelters instead of buying from pet shops or online breeders.”

Pow!

wile e coyote, super genius

Cartoon laws of physics:

  1. Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation. Daffy Duck steps off a cliff, expecting further pastureland. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing flippantly, until he chances to look down. At this point, the familiar principle of 32 feet per second per second takes over.
  2. Any body in motion will tend to remain in motion until solid matter intervenes suddenly. Whether shot from a cannon or in hot pursuit on foot, cartoon characters are so absolute in their momentum that only a telephone pole or an outsize boulder retards their forward motion absolutely. Sir Isaac Newton called this sudden termination of motion the stooge’s surcease.
  3. Any body passing through solid matter will leave a perforation conforming to its perimeter. Also called the silhouette of passage, this phenomenon is the specialty of victims of directed-pressure explosions and of reckless cowards who are so eager to escape that they exit directly through the wall of a house, leaving a cookie-cutout-perfect hole. The threat of skunks or matrimony often catalyzes this reaction.
  4. The time required for an object to fall twenty stories is greater than or equal to the time it takes for whoever knocked it off the ledge to spiral down twenty flights to attempt to capture it unbroken. Such an object is inevitably priceless, the attempt to capture it inevitably unsuccessful.

There are 10 laws altogether, including “9. Everything falls faster than an anvil.” As early as 1956 Walt Disney was describing the “plausible impossible.” In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Eddie Valiant says, “Do you mean to tell me you could’ve taken your hand out of that cuff at any time?” Roger answers, “Not at any time! Only when it was funny!”

In a Word

contesserate
adj. leagued together in friendship

onerary
adj. suitable for carrying a burden

sciscitation
n. questioning

panier de crabes
n. a dangerously controversial topic (literally, “basket of crabs”)