Monday, March 30, 2015

The Funnies - Back to Civilization (1904)

"Well, I am glad to get back to civilization."
"Been up in the Bad Lands?"
"Naw, New York."

Life Magazine, July 1904

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Funnies - Prodigal Son (1915)

The Prodigal Son Returns
(with his wife and five children)
Life Magazine, November 11, 1915

Another comic strip serving double-duty! Not being a member of the vaunted millennial brat-pack, I don't pretend to understand the complexities of entering adulthood in a world wracked with near-constant war, wage stagnation, and a congress that comes to heel whenever a multi-billionaire clears his throat. I've heard complaints that the youth of today expect everything to be give to them and I've heard they are creative geniuses less concerned with making money and more into self-fulfillment. Whatever the case, I can say every generation has seen the one that follows as lacking. As an illustration, take this hundred-year-old comic from the pages of Life Magazine.

Look familiar? The adult child coming home to live in mommy and daddy's basement, along with his wife and kids. Not only are there no new stories to be written, there are no new narratives. We are a species which repeats itself infinitely, each time thinking no other member of the race has been so clear-minded, creative, and enlightened. Ah, to be human!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Funnies - Rocking the Baby (1920)

In the Stone Age:
Rocking the Baby to Sleep

Life Magazine, January 1920

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Happy Buzzard Day!

Yep, the Day of the Dead has nothing on March 15th, which is Buzzard Day in the township of Hinckley, Ohio. According to the Hinckley Township website, the vultures for which the area is known were supposedly drawn to the area by the carcasses and waste left behind after the Great Hinckley Hunt of 1818. The 1818 hunt was touted by organizers as "a war of extinction upon wolves and bears." Ah the early 19th century was such a gentle and civilized time!

Though this story has a morbid appeal, I like the idea that the citizens were visited by a plague of carrion birds after their bout of senseless killing, it's not likely the hunt drew vultures to Hinckley Township. It's equally unlikely that the alternate legend involving the local Wyandot tribe's hanging of a woman for witchcraft at the Big Bend of Rocky River created a supernatural beacon to which the undertakers of the bird-set hearkened. Anyone who lives in the Midwest, especially in areas where there are high bluffs or bodies of water around which thermal currents build, knows the buzzard is as much a part of the local fauna as the Sycamore tree is the flora. Though they may have been more noticable after the 1818 hunt, it's doubtless buzzards were living in Medina County around Hinckley Township long before settlers entered the area.

What would lead to March 15th being declared Buzzard Day, though, was an article that ran in the Cleveland Press on February 15,  1957. A Cleveland reporter had heard the local folklore that buzzards returned to Hinckley without fail every March 15th and he penned a piece on the subject. The story stoked the imaginations of local naturalists, ornithologists, and other reporters, beginning speculation on the predicted return of the big, black scavengers. When the birds made their appearance exactly as predicted about 9000 tourists headed for Hinckley.

Today you can celebrate the return of the vultures with a pancake breakfast hosted by the Hinckley Chamber of Commerce, see exhibits put on by the local elementary school, and buy crafts commemorating the return of the buzzards. Hey, Capistrano has its swallows, Ohio has its vultures.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Steampunk Saturday - Attack by Airship!

If the commander of the air-ship desires to make his heaviest attack upon a steamship, he will turn the head of his ship earthward and glide just as does a volplaning aeroplane.

An image from the June, 1913 issue of Everybody's Magazine depicting an airship descending on a steamship for an attack in the style of Fritz Lang. Add a bit of Victoriana and you've got a steampunk scene worthy of H. G. Wells. A couple words in the caption stick out to me. Firstly "volplaning" and then the archaic spelling of "aeroplane".

At the time of this article, volplane would have drawn the derision of word-snobs in the same way their modern progeny shudder at trendy words of our era. It is an anglicized version of the French vol plané which translates to "gliding flight". A description of the movement of an airship in an era when airships were so new as not to have language to describe their behavior. Evidence of this comes from the fact that the first usage cited by Merriam-Webster was in 1909, just four years before this article ran.

Likewise, aeroplane is an archaic form of the modern English "airplane". It is an anglicized version of the French aéroplane. Its first cited usage was much earlier, in 1873. That makes perfect sense, you don't need words to describe the behavior of something that hasn't been invented yet!

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Funnies - Flapper Fanny (1929)

It isn't always a brilliant child who is considered too smart.

Ironwood Daily Globe, 1929

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March Full Moon - Moonlight (1921)

Con Conrad published his first song in 1912 and produced the Broadway show Honeymoon Express starring Al Jolson the very next year. His meteoric rise turned into something more like a comet, because he wouldn't see much success until 1920 and then three years later he turned his attention mainly toward composing for the Broadway stage. It is this phase of Conrad's career that brings us Moonlight, the title tune of a Broadway show starring Maxine Brown, Glen Dale, Ernest Glendinning, Allyn King, Robinson Newbold, and Helen O'Shea. Never heard of any of them? Well, that's probably not suprising since the show ran for less than a year and had only 174 performances. Glendinning turned out to be the most prolific of the cast, appearing in 36 other productions and even the 1922 Marion Davies talkie When Knighthood was in Flower.

The number is a plucky foxtrot, a tempo that wouldn't be recognized by modern ballroom denizens who tend to have a narrow interpretation of what that term means. Still it conjurs the goofball antics of 20's musical theater and makes me think of Bertie Wooster and his Drones Club pals hanging around the stage door in their tuxes and top hats.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Funnies - Flapper Fanny (1940)

"Wonder why we haven't seen any robins yet?"
"Guess they know the early bird catches a cold."

Cumberland Evening Times, 1940

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Quote for March

March is a month without mercy for rabid basketball fans. There is no such thing as a 'gentleman gambler' when the Big Dance rolls around. All sheep will be fleeced, all fools will be punished severely... There are no Rules when the deal goes down in the final weeks of March. Even your good friends will turn into monsters.

- Hunter S. Thompson