Tuesday 31 December 2013

Watching the Ball Drop

It is estimated that 2 billion television viewers will watch the ball descend 141 feet in 60 seconds in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

New York City With Horse and Wagon In Foreground and Times Building In Background

The Times Building, the second largest in Times Square circa 1904 courtesy www.dailymail.co.uk.

It is a tradition that started back in 1904, when Longacre Square, at the corner of Broadway and Seventh, was renamed Times Square after the pink granite newspaper building which sat at its centre.  From 1904 to 1906, fireworks were set off to commemorate the new year.  In 1907, the ball first appeared, initiated by New York Times owner Adolph Ochs.  It was composed of iron and wood, weighed 700 pounds and was lit up by 100 25-watt bulbs.  Six men with a rope and a stop watch slowly lowered the giant ball at midnight.



By 1920, the original ball was replaced by a smaller, 400 pound iron ball.

Bustling nightlife: By 1925, Times Square has become a destination for locals and tourists alike looking to dine at a fine restaurant and see a show in one of the many theaters on Broadway

During World War II, because of light restrictions, the ball was not dropped in 1942 and 1943.  A moment of silence was observed instead to honour the soldiers serving overseas.

Bad reputation: Over the years, times Square, seen in this 1942 image, has effectively turned into the city's red-light district filled with brothels and prostitutes

Times Square circa 1942 courtesy www.dailymail.co.uk.

In keeping with the "I Luv New York" theme of the 1980's, the ball became red with a green stem in the 1980's.  In 1995, rhinestones and strobe lights were added to the ball.  To usher in the new millennium, a Waterford crystal ball was made, weighing over 1000 pounds.


As of 2009, the new 12000-pound 12-foot ball remains atop Times Square year round, waiting to be dropped on New Year's Eve.  One million spectators fill the Manhattan streets, eager with anticipation.  At the signal from a laser cooled clock in Colorado, the ball begins its descend one minute to midnight.  The crowd erupts in cheers.  "Auld Lang Syne" plays followed by Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York".

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Party time: On December 31, 2004, millions of people gathered at Times Square to witness the annual ball drop ceremony


Monday 30 December 2013

Cluedo, Draughts & Broadsides

With New Year's Eve arriving tomorrow, here are some interesting facts about some classic board games.


1.  Monopoly 1934

Monopoly is a game about money, property and power.  A special wartime edition was made to help POWs escape; it included hidden maps, compasses and other tools.

2.  Scrabble 1948

Created by an out of work architect, this game uses letters to make words that interconnect.  Believe it or not, there are 84 words in the English language which use a Q but not a U.

3.  Yahtzee 1954

Yahtzee is a game of dice and poker-like combinations.  It was originally called "The Yacht Game" since a Canadian couple used to play it on their yacht.  It was purchased by Parker Brothers in 1956.

4.  Life 1960

Originally called "The Checkered Game of Life", the first version of the game appeared in 1860.  One hundred years later, it appeared as "The Game of Life".


5.  Sorry 1934

Originally called "The Game of Sweet Revenge" this game resembles the Indian game "Parcheesi".

6.  Riski 1957

Originally called "La Conquete du Monde" it was first invented in France.  The American version, appearing in 1959, has 19 varieties including Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

7.  Clue 1949

This game was based on a murder mystery played in the underground bunkers during air raids in London, England.  The British called it "Cluedo".


8.  Checkers

Also called International Draughts, this game with red and black tokens dates back as far as 3000 BC in Ur, Iraq.

9.  Chess

This game dates back to the 5th Century.  The most expensive chess set, the Jewel Royale, includes gold, platinum and diamonds and is valued at $9.8 million.

10.  Battleship 1943

This game involves sinking enemy ships and is based on "Broadsides", a pad and pencil game from 1943.  The board game first appeared in 1967.

Source:  www.examiner.com

Sunday 29 December 2013

Hoover, Hindenburg & Hitler

In honour of my father in law, Albert Jonasson's birthday, here are ten facts about 1932, the year of his birth.

1.  Here are some prices in the U.S. in 1932:

-average house cost $6, 510
-average wage was $1,650
-gallon of gas cost 10 cents
-loaf of bread cost 7 cents
-pound of hamburger cost 10 cents
-new car cost $610


2.  With 24.5 % of Americans unemployed, Hoovervilles sprouted up across the country which included houses made of wooden crates, metal scraps and cardboard.

Hooverville in Central Park courtesy wordpress.com.

3.  With unemployment at an all time high, many families could not eat and were malnourished, leading to a rise in tuberculosis.

facts about the depression


4.  Bonus Marchers:  17000 World War I veterans marched on Washington D.C. in hopes of getting early payments on their cash bonuses.

Bonus Marchers camped outside the Capitol courtesy upload.wikimedia.org.

5.  The New York Yankees beat the Chicago Cubs 4 to 0 in the World Series.


6.  Famine was widespread in the U.S.S.R. (the Ukraine) due to Stalin's policies.


7.  Hindenburg was elected president of Germany, beating newcomer Adolph Hitler.


8.  Aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh's baby was kidnapped in New Jersey.


9.  Spiritual leader Mahatma Ghandi was jailed by the British (after his hunger strike).


10.  British scientists Sir John Douglas Cockcroft and Earnest Walton were the first to successfully split the atom.


Saturday 28 December 2013

Saving Mr. Banks

"A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, the medicine go down, the medicine go down..." 
(Mary Poppins)

Walt Disney and his young daughters courtesy gettyimages.com.

Walt made a promise to his daughters that he would make a movie of their favourite book Mary Poppins. But a certain curmudgeonly British author stood between him and his dream.  Little did he know that it would take him over 20 years to keep his promise.

Mr. Banks (Colin Farrell) and his family courtesy cdnds.net.

P.L. Travers grew up in the Australian outback, one of three daughters of a banker father and homemaker mother.  Particularly close to her father, she cherished their moments together playing.  Her father, Mr. Travers Goff, held a stressful job as a bank manager and drowned his sorrows in booze.  Her mother felt like she was always competing with her daughter for her husband's affections.  

One day Mr. Goff collapsed in the middle of making an important speech to his fellow bankers.  It soon became apparent that he had tuberculosis.  Bedridden, his wife hired an eccentric woman with an umbrella to help her husband get well.  


While the early 1900's Australian drama is playing itself out, another drama is taking place in 1960's California:  Mr. Walt Disney is trying to woo Mrs. Travers , the author of Mary Poppins.  After 20 years of trying, he finally convinces the author, now living in London, England, to visit him in California.  For two weeks, Walt and his team attempt to get Mrs. Travers to sign an agreement offering film rights to her story.  The team tries every trick in the book:  they dance and sing their way through Supercalifragiclisticexpealodocious.  Mrs. Travers, however, remains unamused.


Mr. Disney even treats Mrs. Travers to a trip to Disneyland where she rides the merry-go-round.  But the Magic Kingdom does not change her sour demeanor.  The British author doesn't perk up until one day, the Disney team presents her with a musical number called "Let's Go Fly a Kite".  She loves it so much she starts dancing with the director.  

Julie Andrews courtesy scifipulse.net.

However, her relationship with Walt goes south again when she discovers he plans to have animated penguins in his movie after promising her it would include no animation.  Mrs. Travers hops the first plane out of Hollywood.  But Walt follows close on her heels, accidentally discovering that Mary Poppins is autobiographical.  In her London apartment over tea, he tells her the tale of his childhood in Kansas City where he and his brother Roy would stumble through snow banks delivering newspapers before dawn and after dusk.  If they did not do it to Elias Disney's liking, they would get the strap.  For the first time, Mrs. Travers realizes that Mr. Disney was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth and that he suffered hardships just as she had in childhood.

Young Walt Disney as a paperboy courtesy edublogs.org.

Walt promises Mrs. Travers that he will give her a magnificent movie while staying true to her vision -- and the author finally signs on the dotted line.

Julie Andrews, Walt Disney & Lillian Disney at the Mary Poppins premier circa 1964 courtesy mentalfloss.com.

Friday 27 December 2013

A Mary, a Monkey and a Mockingbird

Radio City Music Hall courtesy cruiselinehistory.com.

John D. Rockefeller owned a piece of property in midtown Manhattan in the speakeasy belt.  He dreamed of bringing culture to New York City.  But how could he make it affordable?  In the end he built the world's largest indoor theatre which would house more than one million spectators.

Audience circa 1930's courtesy visualizeus.com.

Mr. Rockefeller partnered with the Radio Corporation of America back in 1932 to build a theatre.  He chose Donald Deskey to design the building.  Mr. Deskey focussed on an art deco design and a "Progress of Man" theme for the new theatre.  It would house:  eight lounges and smoking rooms, three mezzanines and a great stage.  Music would be played on a "Mighty Wurlitzer" pipe organ.  Twenty five thousand lights would illuminate the theatre.  The Great Stage, designed in the shape of a setting sun, would be enclosed by a shimmering gold curtain.  Its marquee would stretch one full city block.  It would be called Radio City Music Hall.


The theatre would be the site of over 700 film premiers including one for:  King Kong, Mary Poppins and To Kill a Mockingbird.  The latter starred Gregory Peck, a former usher at the Music Hall.  

Gregory Peck and his wife Veronique arrive at To Kill a Mockingbird premier 1962 courtesy photobucket.com.

By the 1970's, Radio City Music Hall invited musicians and singers to perform on its giant stage including:  Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and The Count Basie Orchestra.  The highlight of the year would continue to be the Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes, a tradition dating back to 1933.

The Rockettes courtesy cruiselinehistory.com.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Christmas Trees

THE CITY had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.
He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.
Robert Frost 


Tuesday 24 December 2013

Reese's Peanut Butter Squares


1 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


1.  In a medium bowl mix together butter, graham cracker crumbs, confectioner's sugar and peanut butter.

2.  In the microwave, melt the chocolate chips.  Spread over the prepared crust.

3.  Refrigerate.

Peanut Butter Bars I Recipe


Monday 23 December 2013

Rudolph, Frosty & The Grinch

Here are the top ten Christmas TV shows according to E.T. Online.

1.  Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

2.  Santa Claus is Coming to Town

3.  Charlie Brown Christmas

4.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas

5.  Frosty the Snowman

6.  Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

7.  The Little Drummer Boy

8.  Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

9.  Twas the Night Before Christmas

10.  The Year Without a Santa Claus


Sunday 22 December 2013

Vintage Christmas Magazine Covers

1.  Saturday Evening Post circa 1935 courtesy www.coverbrowser.com.

2.  The New Yorker 1948 courtesy ak0.pinimg.com.

3.  Good Housekeeping 1924 courtesy ak0.pinimg.com.

4.  The New Yorker circa 1960 courtesy media.aphelis.net.

5.  Family Circle circa 1950's courtesy ak0.pinimg.com.

6.  McCall's courtesy wordpress.com.

7.  Good Housekeeping circa 1924 courtesy pinimg.com.


8.  Good Housekeeping circa 1959 courtesy pinimg.com.

9.  Good Housekeeping circa 1952 courtesy pinimg.com.

10.  Vogue circa 1894 courtesy fashionista.com.