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Friday, August 23, 2019

Friday links

August 23rd is Gene Kelly's birthday: here's a brief bio and the famous Singin' In The Rain dance. Related, this excellent compilation of Rita Hayworth's dancing, set to Stayin' Alive

August 24th is St. Bartholomew's Day - some history, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, a brief documentary, and Monty Python. Also this weekend, it's the anniversary of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and destruction of Pompeii in A.D. 79.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the wild camels of the American west, comics published by the federal government, the weird journey of Dorothy Parker's ashes, and 50's and 60's visions of the everyday uses of nuclear explosions and radioactive isotopes.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Chocolate caramel bars recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Use cooking spray on an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking pan - if you want more, thinner pieces, use a 13x9 inch pan.


1 box German chocolate cake mix

1/2 cup melted butter

2/3 cup evaporated milk, separated

The recipe I used to use called for one 14 ounce package vanilla caramels, unwrapped, but the bags of caramels are now 11 oz, and these are better with more caramel then less. If you can find them, get these Kraft caramel baking bits, which are just unwrapped caramel.

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

12 oz bag semisweet chocolate chips 

In a mixing bowl, combine cake mix, melted butter and 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk - beat at medium speed until smooth. Spread half the dough in prepared baking pan and set aside the rest.

In heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine caramels and remaining 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Cook and stir frequently over medium-low heat until smooth - set aside to cool slightly, then pour evenly over the dough layer in pan. Sprinkle with nuts, if using, and chocolate chips. Crumble remaining dough evenly over nuts and chocolate pieces. It won't spread evenly, but that's fine.

Place on center rack of 350 degree oven. Check at 25 minutes - maybe a an extra few minutes for the 8x8 pan. I like to cut these small because they're very rich.

Gene Kelly's birthday: here the famous "Singin' In The Rain" dance and a top 10 compilation

August 23rd is the anniversary of the birth in 1912 of extraordinary American dancer (Eu)Gene Curran Kelly (wiki) (1912-1996) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Kelly worked his way through college as a dancer and teacher and joined a Broadway chorus line in 1938. Within two years, he had scored the dance lead in Pal Joey, and went on to Hollywood for his film debut in For Me and My Gal (1942). 

Kelly served in the Navy during World War II but soon resumed his career after the conflict in such films as On the Town (1949), An American in Paris (1951), and Singin' in the Rain (1952) - each appearance marked by his spirited, athletic, and seemingly effortless dancing. Subsequently, he became a celebrated choreographer, played straight dramatic roles in such films as Inherit the Wind (1960), and directed the 1969 film version of Hello, Dolly! 

His performance in the title song of Singin' in the Rain is perhaps his most memorable. Watch full screen!

And here's a top 10 Gene Kelly dance scene compilation (via @LandryST)

Related posts:

It's Fred Astaire's birthday - here are clips of some of his best dancing.

Happy Birthday, Rita Hayworth: here's an excellent compilation of her dancing, set to Stayin' Alive.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wednesday links

August 21st is Dorothy Parker's birthday: quotes, poems, a brief bio, and the weird journey of her ashes

How Not to Get Eaten After Sex (If You're a Black Widow)

This 1960s Comic Strip Claimed Nuclear Explosions Were the Future of Road Construction. Related, in this optimistic 1957 Disney classroom film Our Friend the Atom, radioactive isotopes are depicted as a sparkling, magic dust sprinkled as plant fertilizer and in animal feed.

The World War of the Ants – The Army Ant.

Whatever Happened to the Wild Camels of the American West?

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the anniversary of the death of Genghis Khan, how easily rats can swim up your toilet, 19th century cancer treatment, alien abduction insurance, and lightbulb history.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

August 21 is Dorothy Parker's birthday: quotes, poems, a brief bio, and the weird journey of her ashes

A few favorite attributed quotes from Dorothy Parker (wiki):

“Their pooled emotions wouldn’t fill a teaspoon.”

“You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think.”

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”

“I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless, and stupid.”

August 21 is the anniversary of the birth in 1893 of American humorist, literary critic, and writer Dorothy Parker ( (1893-1967), born Dorothy Rothschild in West End, New Jersey. Parker grew up in New York City and in her twenties worked on the magazine Vanity Fair with Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood. With them, she founded a legendary writer's luncheon group known as Algonquin Hotel's "Round Table" (wiki), (PBS) which ultimately included James ThurberE.B. WhiteOgden Nash (my personal favorite Nash here), and Ring Lardner

After 1927, Parker published incisive book reviews in her "Constant Reader" column in the New Yorker and made her literary mark with a series of poignant short stories about the cruelty and absurdity of city living. Later, she collaborated on several screen plays, including A Star is Born(1935), and served as a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War. Her successes, including two Academy Award nominations, were curtailed as her involvement in left-wing politics led to a place on the Hollywood blacklist.

A few more favorite quotes/poems:

“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”

“Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

“One more drink and I’ll be under the host.”

"That woman speaks eighteen languages and can’t say ‘no’ in any of them."

“It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.”

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.

"If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised." 

"It's not the tragedies that kill us, it's the messes." 

My land is bare of chattering folk;
the clouds are low along the ridges,
and sweet's the air with curly smoke
from all my burning bridges. 
By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying -
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

If you have some time, watch this - The Ten-Year Lunch; Wits & Legends of the Algonquin Round Table (Complete):

Dorothy Parker's memorial and the story of her remains - here's the short(ish) version:

Four suicide attempts never succeeded for Dorothy Parker. When she turned 70, she told an interviewer who asked what she was going to do next, "If I had any decency, I'd be dead. All my friends are." But death waited until she was 73, and a fatal coronary came on June 7, 1967.

Her will was plain and simple. With no heirs, she left her literary estate to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She'd never met the civil rights activist, but always felt strongly for social justice. She named the acerbic author Lillian Hellman as her executor. Parker didn't want a funeral, but Hellman held one anyway, and made herself the star attraction.

Within a year of her death, Dr. King was assassinated, and the Parker estate rolled over to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. To this day, the NAACP benefits from the royalty of all Parker publications and productions.

She was cremated, and this is where the story takes a sharp right turn. Parker was cremated on June 9, 1967, at Ferncliff Crematory in Hartsdale, New York. Hellman, who made all the funeral arrangements, never told the crematory what to do with the ashes. So they sat on a shelf in Hartsdale. Six years later, on July 16, 1973, the ashes were mailed to Mrs. Parker's lawyer's offices, O'Dwyer and Bernstein, 99 Wall Street. Paul O'Dwyer, her attorney, didn't know what to do with the little box of ashes. It sat on a shelf, on a desk, and for 15 years, in a filing cabinet.

Hellman went to court to fight the NAACP over Parker's literary estate. Hellman lost in 1972 when a judge ruled that she should be removed from executorship. Hellman was adamant that she get Parker's money, and came out of the mess painted as a racist. She was sure the will was supposed to give her a huge sum. Hellman said, "she must have been drunk when she did it."

In 1988, someone figured out that Mrs. Parker's ashes were unclaimed, 21 years after her death. New York tabloids ran stories and readers sent in letters about what should be done with the dust. But the NAACP stepped in and took the box from Paul O'Dwyer's drawer. The NAACP built a memorial garden at the national headquarters in Baltimore, and interred the ashes there.

From Christopher Hitchens' 1999 Atlantic article on Parker: Rebel in Evening Clothes:
A small memorial garden was prepared on the grounds of the organization's national headquarters in Baltimore, and a brief ceremony was held at which Mr. Hooks improved somewhat on the terse line about "excuse my dust." It might be better, he said, to recall her lines from "Epitaph for a Darling Lady":
Leave for her a red young rose
Go your way, and save your pity.
She is happy, for she knows
That her dust is very pretty.
"Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) Humorist, writer, critic, defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested "Excuse My Dust". This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind, and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people."

More at her websiteThe Portable Dorothy Parker for a "greatest hits" selection, and, if you'd prefer a biography, What Fresh Hell Is This?.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Dorothy Parker.