Fun Stuff

P. D. James

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 6:00pm
"It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life."
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W. L. George

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 6:00pm
"Wars teach us not to love our enemies, but to hate our allies."
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Jerry Seinfeld

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 6:00pm
"It's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper."
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Phineas Taylor Barnum

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 12/03/2016 - 6:00pm
"Every crowd has a silver lining."
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vulpine

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Fri, 12/02/2016 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 3, 2016 is:

vulpine • \VUL-pine\  • adjective

1 : of, relating to, or resembling a fox

2 : foxy, crafty

Examples:

"There is something Gatsby-esque about the whole story. [Bernie] Madoff is a clear proxy for Meyer Wolfsheim, the vulpine, self-satisfied criminal seducer." — Daniel Gross, Newsweek, 12 Jan. 2009

"Flashing a vulpine grin, he's not a typical hunk—but like Casanova, a maestro of stylish manners and clever entrapment, an incorrigible cad proud of his powers of improvisational manipulation." — Misha Berson, The Seattle Times, 30 Oct. 2016

Did you know?

In Walden (1854), Henry David Thoreau described foxes crying out "raggedly and demoniacally" as they hunted through the winter forest, and he wrote, "Sometimes one came near to my window, attracted by my light, barked a vulpine curse at me, and then retreated." Thoreau's was far from the first use of vulpine; English writers have been applying that adjective to the foxlike or crafty since at least the 15th century, and the Latin parent of our term, vulpinus (from the noun vulpes, meaning "fox"), was around long before that.



Categories: Fun Stuff

December 03, 1947: A Streetcar Named Desire opens on Broadway

This Day in History - Fri, 12/02/2016 - 11:00pm

On this day in 1947, Marlon Brando’s famous cry of “STELLA!” first booms across a Broadway stage, electrifying the audience at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre during the first-ever performance of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire.

The 23-year-old Brando played the rough, working-class Polish-American Stanley Kowalski, whose violent clash with Blanche DuBois (played on Broadway by Jessica Tandy), a Southern belle with a dark past, is at the center of Williams’ famous drama. Blanche comes to stay with her sister Stella (Kim Hunter), Stanley’s wife, at their home in the French Quarter of New Orleans; she and Stanley immediately despise each other. In the climactic scene, Stanley rapes Blanche, causing her to lose her fragile grip on sanity; the play ends with her being led away in a straitjacket.

Streetcar, produced by Irene Mayer Selznick and directed by Elia Kazan, shocked mid-century audiences with its frank depiction of sexuality and brutality onstage. When the curtain went down on opening night, there was a moment of stunned silence before the crowd erupted into a round of applause that lasted 30 minutes. On December 17, the cast left New York to go on the road. The show would run for more than 800 performances, turning the charismatic Brando into an overnight star. Tandy won a Tony Award for her performance, and Williams was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

In 1951, Kazan made Streetcar into a movie. Brando, Hunter and Karl Malden (as Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s love interest) reprised their roles. The role of Blanche went to Vivien Leigh, the scenery-chewing star of Gone with the Wind. Controversy flared when the Catholic Legion of Decency threatened to condemn the film unless the explicitly sexual scenes–including the climactic rape–were removed. When Williams, who wrote the screenplay, refused to take out the rape, the Legion insisted that Stanley be punished onscreen. As a result, the movie (but not the play) ends with Stella leaving Stanley.

A Streetcar Named Desire earned 12 Oscar nominations, including acting nods for each of its four leads. The movie won for Best Art Direction, and Leigh, Hunter and Malden all took home awards; Brando lost to Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen.

Categories: Fun Stuff

G. K. Chesterton

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 12/02/2016 - 6:00pm
"There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read."
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Blake Clark

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 12/02/2016 - 6:00pm
"Being in the army is like being in the Boy Scouts, except that the Boy Scouts have adult supervision."
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Calvin Trillin

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 12/02/2016 - 6:00pm
"The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found."
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Elbert Hubbard

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 12/02/2016 - 6:00pm
"Life is just one damned thing after another."
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wane

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Thu, 12/01/2016 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 2, 2016 is:

wane • \WAYN\  • verb

1 : to decrease in size, extent, or degree

2 : to fall gradually from power, prosperity, or influence

Examples:

"Last year, the station offered fans the chance to buy the CD online for the first time and also sold it in Target stores as usual. But unlike previous years, the limited-run compilation didn't sell out immediately, suggesting its popularity may be waning." — Ross Raihala, The Pioneer Press (TwinCities.com), 14 Oct. 2016

"And as public and political interest in space exploration waxed and waned over the following decades, the funding for the space program did too." — Dianna Wray, The Houston Press, 26 Oct. 2016

Did you know?

"Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour / Draws on apace four happy days bring in / Another moon: But oh, methinks how slow / This old moon wanes!" So Theseus describes his eagerness for his wedding night in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. As illustrated by Theseus' words, wane is a word often called upon to describe the seeming decrease in size of the moon in the later phases of the lunar cycle. The traditional opposite of wane is wax, a once common but now infrequently used synonym of grow. Wane and wax have been partnered in reference to the moon since the Middle Ages.



Categories: Fun Stuff

December 02, 2001: Enron files for bankruptcy

This Day in History - Thu, 12/01/2016 - 11:00pm

On this day in 2001, the Enron Corporation files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a New York court, sparking one of the largest corporate scandals in U.S. history.

An energy-trading company based in Houston, Texas, Enron was formed in 1985 as the merger of two gas companies, Houston Natural Gas and Internorth. Under chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay, Enron rose as high as number seven on Fortune magazine’s list of the top 500 U.S. companies. In 2000, the company employed 21,000 people and posted revenue of $111 billion. Over the next year, however, Enron’s stock price began a dramatic slide, dropping from $90.75 in August 2000 to $0.26 by closing on November 30, 2001.

As prices fell, Lay sold large amounts of his Enron stock, while simultaneously encouraging Enron employees to buy more shares and assuring them that the company was on the rebound. Employees saw their retirement savings accounts wiped out as Enron’s stock price continued to plummet. After another energy company, Dynegy, canceled a planned $8.4 billion buy-out in late November, Enron filed for bankruptcy. By the end of the year, Enron’s collapse had cost investors billions of dollars, wiped out some 5,600 jobs and liquidated almost $2.1 billion in pension plans.

Over the next several years, the name “Enron” became synonymous with large-scale corporate fraud and corruption, as an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department revealed that Enron had inflated its earnings by hiding debts and losses in subsidiary partnerships. The government subsequently accused Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling, who served as Enron’s CEO from February to August 2001, of conspiring to cover up their company’s financial weaknesses from investors. The investigation also brought down accounting giant Arthur Anderson, whose auditors were found guilty of deliberately destroying documents incriminating to Enron.

In July 2004, a Houston court indicted Skilling on 35 counts including fraud, conspiracy and insider trading. Lay was charged with 11 similar crimes. The trial began on January 30, 2006, in Houston. A number of former Enron employees appeared on the stand, including Andrew Fastow, Enron’s ex-CFO, who early on pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and agreed to testify against his former bosses. Over the course of the trial, the defiant Skilling–who unloaded almost $60 million worth of Enron stock shortly after his resignation but refused to admit he knew of the company’s impending collapse–emerged as the figure many identified most personally with the scandal. In May 2006, Skilling was convicted of 19 of 35 counts, while Lay was found guilty on 10 counts of fraud and conspiracy. When Lay died from heart disease just two months later, a Houston judge vacated the counts against him. That October, the 52-year-old Skilling was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison.

Categories: Fun Stuff

Douglas Adams

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 12/01/2016 - 6:00pm
"He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which."
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George Bernard Shaw

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 12/01/2016 - 6:00pm
"Martyrdom is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability."
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Sir Winston Churchill

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 12/01/2016 - 6:00pm
"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
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W. Somerset Maugham

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 12/01/2016 - 6:00pm
"She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit."
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thaumaturgy

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Wed, 11/30/2016 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 1, 2016 is:

thaumaturgy • \THAW-muh-ter-jee\  • noun

: the performance of miracles; specifically : magic

Examples:

"The place is still a favourite pilgrimage, but there seems to be some doubt as to which Saint John has chosen it as the scene of his posthumous thaumaturgy; for, according to a local guide-book, it is equally frequented on the feasts of the Baptist and of the Evangelist." — Edith Wharton, Italian Backgrounds, 1905

"Indeed, so keen was the horror at the hysteria that had taken hold in Salem that the mere mention of the place was sufficient to cool any passions that looked in danger of spiraling into outmoded and dangerous thaumaturgy." — Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, 16 Dec. 2011

Did you know?

The magic of thaumaturgy is miraculous. The word, from a Greek word meaning "miracle working," is applicable to any performance of miracles, especially by incantation. It can also be used of things that merely seem miraculous and unexplainable, like the thaumaturgy of a motion picture's illusions (aka "movie magic"), or the thaumaturgy at work in an athletic team's "miracle" comeback. In addition to thaumaturgy, we also have thaumaturge and thaumaturgist, both of which mean "a performer of miracles" or "a magician," and the adjective thaumaturgic, meaning "performing miracles" or "of, relating to, or dependent on thaumaturgy."



Categories: Fun Stuff

thaumaturgy

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Wed, 11/30/2016 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 1, 2016 is:

thaumaturgy • \THAW-muh-ter-jee\  • noun

: the performance of miracles; specifically : magic

Examples:

"The place is still a favourite pilgrimage, but there seems to be some doubt as to which Saint John has chosen it as the scene of his posthumous thaumaturgy; for, according to a local guide-book, it is equally frequented on the feasts of the Baptist and of the Evangelist." — Edith Wharton, Italian Backgrounds, 1905

"Indeed, so keen was the horror at the hysteria that had taken hold in Salem that the mere mention of the place was sufficient to cool any passions that looked in danger of spiraling into outmoded and dangerous thaumaturgy." — Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, 16 Dec. 2011

Did you know?

The magic of thaumaturgy is miraculous. The word, from a Greek word meaning "miracle working," is applicable to any performance of miracles, especially by incantation. It can also be used of things that merely seem miraculous and unexplainable, like the thaumaturgy of a motion picture's illusions (aka "movie magic"), or the thaumaturgy at work in an athletic team's "miracle" comeback. In addition to thaumaturgy, we also have thaumaturge and thaumaturgist, both of which mean "a performer of miracles" or "a magician," and the adjective thaumaturgic, meaning "performing miracles" or "of, relating to, or dependent on thaumaturgy."



Categories: Fun Stuff

December 01, 1990: Chunnel makes breakthrough

This Day in History - Wed, 11/30/2016 - 11:00pm

Shortly after 11 a.m. on December 1, 1990, 132 feet below the English Channel, workers drill an opening the size of a car through a wall of rock. This was no ordinary hole–it connected the two ends of an underwater tunnel linking Great Britain with the European mainland for the first time in more than 8,000 years.

The Channel Tunnel, or “Chunnel,” was not a new idea. It had been suggested to Napoleon Bonaparte, in fact, as early as 1802. It wasn’t until the late 20th century, though, that the necessary technology was developed. In 1986, Britain and France signed a treaty authorizing the construction of a tunnel running between Folkestone, England, and Calais, France.

Over the next four years, nearly 13,000 workers dug 95 miles of tunnels at an average depth of 150 feet (45 meters) below sea level. Eight million cubic meters of soil were removed, at a rate of some 2,400 tons per hour. The completed Chunnel would have three interconnected tubes, including one rail track in each direction and one service tunnel. The price? A whopping $15 billion.

After workers drilled that final hole on December 1, 1990, they exchanged French and British flags and toasted each other with champagne. Final construction took four more years, and the Channel Tunnel finally opened for passenger service on May 6, 1994, with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and France’s President Francois Mitterrand on hand in Calais for the inaugural run. A company called Eurotunnel won the 55-year concession to operate the Chunnel, which is the crucial stretch of the Eurostar high-speed rail link between London and Paris. The regular shuttle train through the tunnel runs 31 miles in total–23 of those underwater–and takes 20 minutes, with an additional 15-minute loop to turn the train around. The Chunnel is the second-longest rail tunnel in the world, after the Seikan Tunnel in Japan.

Categories: Fun Stuff

Sidney J. Harris

Quotes of the Day - Wed, 11/30/2016 - 6:00pm
"A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future."
Categories: Fun Stuff