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Friday, February 1, 2019

Friday links

February links - pagan Roman purification (februa = purify) and Mary's purification 40 days after the birth of Christ.

Don't like what the groundhog has to say? It's probably wrong - Punxsutawney Phil has been correct just 39% of the time since 1887. 

Jonah's classic Groundhog Day column - A Movie For All Time.

As Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell take off down the street once Groundhog Day has ended, Nat "King" Cole is singing Almost Like Being In Love - here's Mark Steyn with a history of that song.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include the cow toilet, 1915 footage of Monet, Renoir, Rodin & Degas and PSAs on movie theater etiquette from that era, what it's like to be declared dead by the government, and W. C. Fields' birthday (including a "best of" compilation).

8 years? 34 years? How long was Bill Murray stuck in Groundhog Day?

First of all, here's Jonah Goldberg's (perennial) Groundhog Day column; I completely agree with his contention that it's great comedy and a great moral lesson.  But how long was Bill Murray stuck there?

Director Harold Ramis, in the DVD commentary, opined that it takes Murray's character about ten years of repeating Groundhog Day and then later, in response to several sites online linking to an article that came to an answer of just 8 years, 8 months, and 16 days, he offered the following:
"I think the 10-year estimate is too short. It takes at least 10 years to get good at anything, and allotting for the down time and misguided years he spent, it had to be more like 30 or 40 years…"
Here's an amazingly detailed subsequent analysis that concluded it must have been at least 34 years, and here are some additional interesting Groundhog Day links.

Discussing some of the calculations:

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Groundhog Day, Candlemas and weather predictions

Candlemas was originally a Celtic festival marking the “cross-quarter day,” or midpoint of the season. The Sun is halfway on its advance from the winter solstice to the spring equinox. The Christian church, at this time, commemorates the purification of the Virgin Mary and her presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple. Candlelit processions accompanied the feast day.

Since the traditional Candlemas celebration anticipated the planting of crops, a central focus of the festivities was the forecasting of either an early spring or a lingering winter. Sunshine on Candlemas was said to indicate the return of winter. Similarly, “When the wind’s in the east on Candlemas Day / There it will stick till the second of May.”

A bear brought the forecast to the people of France and England, while those in Germany looked to a badger for a sign. In the 1800s, German immigrants to Pennsylvania brought their Candlemas legends with them. Finding no badgers but lots of groundhogs, or woodchucks, there, they adapted the New World species to fit the lore.

From the Book of Days*:

Considering the importance attached to Candlemass day for so many ages, it is scarcely surprising that there is a universal superstition throughout Christendom, that good weather on this day indicates a long continuance of winter and a bad crop, and that its being foul is, on the contrary, a good omen. Sir Thomas Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, quotes a Latin distich expressive of this idea:
'Si sol splendescat Maria purificante,
Major erit glacies post festum quam fait ante;
which maybe considered as well translated in the popular Scottish rhyme:
If Candlemass day be dry and fair,
The half o' winter's to come and mair;
If Candlemass day be wet and foul,
The half o' winter's gave at Yule.'
In Germany there are two proverbial expressions on this subject: 1. The shepherd would rather see the wolf cuter his stable on Candlemass day than the sun; 2. The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemass day, and when he finds snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining, he draws back into his hole. It is not improbable that these notions, like the festival of Candlemass itself, are derived from pagan times, and have existed since the very infancy of our race. So at least we may conjecture, from a curious passage in Martin's Description of the Western Islands. On Candlemass day, according to this author, the Hebrideans observe the following curious custom:

The mistress and servants of each family take a sheaf of oats and dress it up in women's apparel, put it in a large basket, and lay a wooden club by it, and this they call Brύd's Bed.; and then the mistress and servants cry three times, "Brύd is come; Brύd is welcome!" This they do just before going to bed, and when they rise in the morning they look among the ashes, expecting to see the impression of Brad's club there; which, if they do, they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an ill omen.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

An Animated Guide To American Football For Liberals, Ladies and Limeys

The story of American football (wiki) is the story of America herself - a tale of taking other people's land by force.

Tuesday links

"A woman drove me to drink, and I never even had the courtesy to thank her." It's W. C. Fields' birthday: quotes, a brief bio and film clips (including a "best of" compilation).

The cow toilet (with video).

1915 footage of Monet, Renoir, Rodin & Degas.

Here's how to go invisible online.

What It’s Like to Be Declared Dead by the Government.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include how a group of bootleggers created NASCAR, people who operated on themselves, Australia Day, and the Brady Bunch conspiracy theory.

Monday, January 28, 2019

It's W.C. Fields' birthday: quotes, bio and film clips

January 29 is the anniversary of the birth, in 1880, of American film actor and comedian W. C. Fields (wiki) (1880-1946), born William Claude Duckenfield in Philadelphia. Fields ran away from home at the age of 11 and got his start in vaudeville as a juggler. He made his musical comedy debut on Broadway in 1906, moved on to the Ziegfeld Follies, and appeared in his first silent film in 1915. 

By 1930, he was a staple in Hollywood comedies, playing a series of drunken, misanthropic - and yet wistful - rascals who mirrored his own real-life persona. Fields is perhaps best remembered as starring opposite the inimitable - and bosomy - Mae West (1892-1980) in My Little Chickadee(1940), but it was in The Bank Dick of that same year that he gave his most classic performance. An excellent biography of W. C. Fields by James Curtis appeared in 2003. 

In one of his more celebrated remarks, Fields responded to the question of why he never drank water by noting that
"Fish f__k in water."
A selection of quotes:

Never give a sucker an even break.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Than quit. No use being a damn fool about it.

Horse sense is the good judgement which keeps people from betting on horses. 

A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money. 

There's not a man in America who at one time or another hasn't had a secret desire to boot a child in the ass. 

~ W. C. Fields (various attributions) 

The funniest thing about comedy is that you never know why people laugh. I know what makes them laugh, but trying to get your hands on the why of it is like trying to pick an eel out of a tub of water. 

~ Fields (quoted in Anobile, A Flask of Fields)

Much of Fields's humor turned on his legendary alcoholism:

A woman drove me to drink, and I never even had the courtesy to thank her. 

I always keep a stimulant handy in case I see a snake - which I also keep handy.

That drink has made a new man of me... He'll have one, too. 

Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water. 

I exercise strong self control. I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast. 

His famous suggestion for an epitaph (June 1925):

Here lies W. C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia.

He was an isolated person. As a young man, he stretched out his hand to Beauty and Love and they thrust it away. Gradually he reduced reality to exclude all but his work, filling the gaps with alcohol, whose dim eyes transformed the world into a distant view of harmless shadows. 

~ Louise Brooks (1906-1985) (on W. C. Fields; quoted in Tynan, Show People)

The famous diner scene from Never Give a Sucker an Even Break:

If you have more time and interest, here's a "best of" compilation from several of his movies: