Did Jean-Paul Belmondo invent the high-five in ‘Breathless’?

A couple years ago, ESPN wrote about the person who invented the high five, “the celebratory hand gesture that occurs when two people simultaneously raise one hand, about head-high, and push, slide, or slap the flat of their palm against the flat palm of the other person.” (Wikipedia)

As contenders for the title, the article mentions Magic Johnson and throws out a couple athletes’ names – Glen Burke, the elusive “Lamont Sleets” (name in quotes because it was a hoax associated with National High Five Day) and the 1978-79 Louisville basketball team.

But it doesn’t mention Jean-Paul Belmondo, the French actor associated with the New Wave cinema in the early 1960s. Here then, via two Breathless screen caps taken from a recent screening on a small TV, is proof that he deserves consideration. Two French men high-fiving on a Paris street in 1960, witnessed by an American, no less – the ethereal Jean Seberg. (It’s the scene toward the end where Belmondo’s associate, the guy with the camera, criticizes Belmondo, who’s on the run from police, for wearing silk socks with a tweed outfit.)

ImageImage

Leave a comment

Filed under Pop Culture

8 random observations about the passing of country music legend George Jones

1. Newspaper headline on the passing this week of country music legend George Jones:
George Jones had contrarian appeal for young country fans, artists

2. Don’t know whether Mr. Jones ever used the word “contrarian” in his life, but he did sing this line in “I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair”:

I do my rockin’ on the stage / You can’t put this possum in a cage

3. And the great Merle Haggard had this to say, along with a snapshot, via Twitter:

Image

It’s an astounding compliment from one country legend to another and fitting, too, for the original “high-tech redneck.”

4. Mr. Jones hung around long enough to earn two mighty fine nicknames – “No-Show,” for the many times he was supposed to headline a concert but didn’t quite make it to the stage, and “Possum,” according to the Nashville Tennessean, “because of his marsupial resemblance.” (Is this a compliment in country circles? Regardless, the name stuck.)

5. Bing “What brand of riding lawn mower was george jones riding when he was arrested for a dui?” and you’ll get the answer.

6. Five George Jones performances you must watch (MSN)

7. Crazy photo of him with Tammy Wynette and Little Richard (left)
8. Who’s gonna fill his shoes? Nobody.

1 Comment

Filed under Music

Post WWII Blues: A brief history of the modern world with Oliver Stone

“America did it,” my wife said as she entered the room and found me walking on the treadmill, watching TV.

Not just any TV – Oliver Stone TV.

She knew that I was watching Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, the provocative film director’s history series on Showtime because, for about six weeks in a row, it was the main starting point of our lunch conversations.

“Did you know that …

  • Democratic Party bosses stole the VP nomination in 1944 from Henry Wallace?
  • The first U.S. Secretary of Defense killed himself by jumping from a building?
  • Screen legend James Cagney had incredibly strong feelings about the Czech leader thrown out of his building?”

And so on. But more on these topics later. Back to my wife’s comment.

When watching real-life murder mystery stories featured on Dateline, 20/20 and 48 Hours Mysteries, we have a routine that involves saying “He/She did it” whenever they first show the main suspect in the case. It’s usually a relative, business partner or former spouse with something to gain from the victim’s demise.

Whether totally engaged with the show or giving it a passing, second-screening glance, the catch-all comment serves to acknowledge the power of the genre and why we keep watching: We know she/he did it, but we need to know the details, especially how and why they did it. (Plus, don’t they ever watch these shows to avoid these mistakes/previous histories?)

The shows are masterfully edited to feature the twists and turns of criminal investigations, but the only suspense revolves around whether there’s enough material to fill one or two hours of prime-time TV. While there are always titillating hints of a surprise witness, mistaken identity involving identical twins or “how to commit the perfect murder” search-engine computer record, odds are good that the attractive woman “forced” to have sex with her captor kidnapped herself; the squeaky-clean pastor had killed before; and the panty-stealing Air Force commander’s cross-dressing double life led to murder.

In other words: He/she did it. They’re all guilty.

Now back to OSTV.

Recent history is fascinating because it’s no longer journalism and it’s not in classroom books yet. And even if it is in the books, semesters only last so long – in high school in the 1980s, we only made it to the start of the Korean War.

In a series preview, Stone said the dearth of coverage in U.S. history books of post-WWII America motivated him to undertake the project. (Note to history teachers at middle schools and high schools across America: While fascinating, this series is not for students below college age. Graphic images of dead bodies are strewn across the screen, from Auschwitz to Saigon. And remember the blurred-out images of the depravity at Abu Ghraib prison? They’re not blurred out in the final episode, which ends with the first Obama Administration.)

There’s a lot to admire about the series, and some fascinating glimpses of what was and might have been, including incredible archival footage and photos of historical figures in unlikely places – Eisenhower and Stalin in 1945, watching a parade from the grandstand in Red Square; Nixon with Castro at the White House in 1959; a gum-chewing President Kennedy, watching a missile test and fighting the Cold War with his Wayfarer coolness.

Speaking of Kennedy, you would’ve thought the director of JFK would have gone to town on the topic of his assassination – especially since he served as the series narrator and head writer. Instead, he shows incredible restraint by not showing the Zapruder images and stating an opinion about Kennedy that everyone can pretty much agree with: “Like Roosevelt, he embodied a grace that forgave much in the new era of television reality.”

Unsung heroes get some attention, including the aforementioned Henry Wallace and Vasili Arkhipov.

Vasili Arkhipov

Vasili Arkhipov

Arkhipov prevented World War III in 1962 by not agreeing with two colleagues to fire nuclear missiles while being depth-charged by U.S. warships off the coast of Cuba during the Missile Crisis. (You’d think Hollywood would make a movie about him, and they did – only not for this incident but about one the year before: K-19: The Widowmakerstarring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, and directed by Kathryn Bigelow.)

Wallace was a New Deal idealist and vice president to FDR who was in line to become president. If he had become president, according to Stone, the U.S. would not have dropped atomic bombs on Japan, we wouldn’t have gotten as paranoid and afraid of “the Reds” as quickly as we did after WWII and the military-industrial complex wouldn’t have gotten its hooks into the country like it did.

And this is the part where we get to James Cagney. While weaving his elaborate tapestry of assassinations, coups and paranoia that marked the 20th century, Stone makes two massive missteps that threaten to drain the entire production of credibility.

Jan Masaryk

Why would an American actor be so obsessed by the mysterious death of a Czech leader?

The first involves Cagney, who appears via impassioned voiceover discussing … the mysterious death of Czech leader Jan Masaryk:

Famous actor James Cagney voiced the following explanation of the Western view: “Subversion is of course, an important technique of Communist conquest. Czechoslovakia in 1948 is an established democracy in Eastern Europe. Suddenly a rash of strikes, Conservative elements resign from the capital. But Jan Masaryk, son of the country’s greatest hero, will not go along and remains in the foreign office. Two weeks later, his dead body is discovered. Whether he was murdered or killed himself is not known to this day.”

MLK meets J. Edgar Hoover

One suspects that the word “honky” might have been used in this film.

The second involves a meeting between Martin Luther King and J. Edgar Hoover … as told from a very black-exploitation point of view. (Words fail me, so please see image at right.)

All in all, however, the series made you think, which is what history should do. 

So Stone, ultimately, should be applauded for his courage in producing this entertaining romp through the warfare and pogroms that defined the 20th century. He slams Carter as ineffective; praises the first George Bush, a WWII hero derided as a “wimp” – have you seen Congress lately?; and points out that Obama isn’t as far removed from Reagan as you might think.

I actually looked forward to my weekend dates with the treadmill, so I could hear about all the “hidden history” and conspiracies I didn’t know about from recent times.  To hear the pan flutes (indicating pastoral bliss); to learn that Americans are not as nice as we think we are or have been;  to realize the idealized American Dream from the 1950s has always been just that – a dream. 

To be comforted by the fact that all Stalin ever wanted was peace.

In other words: We did it.

With this, let’s throw it to Mr. James Joyce to close out this post: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

Leave a comment

Filed under History of the World

How Anheuser-Busch survived Prohibition and capitalized on the Clydesdales

I didn’t drink a Budweiser on New Year’s Eve, but I woke up the next day thinking about it. Specifically, how a company with such a strong brand has had such staying power for more than 100 years – 13 of which were spent not producing its most popular product because of Prohibition.

In 2010, Horizon Research Group analyzed the situation from a short seller’s point of view and came up with this gem of a report, which starts off with an understated bang:

Some general questions that are worth a short seller’s consideration include asking what happens to a company when its primary product has a precipitous decline in sales within a short time frame, and how robust and resilient can a company be in that situation.

BevoThey concluded that while product diversification was a good idea, what really saved the company was its ability to sell the raw materials used to make beer – primarily barley. Translation: The cereal-based, non-alcoholic beverage called Bevo, which featured this message on the bottle – The All-Year-Round Soft Drink. Appetizing – Healthful – Nutritious – Refreshing. Milk or water may contain bacteria. BEVO never does.  – wasn’t a hit.

On this point, the Horizon Research report notes, rather dry-countyly:

Everyone agreed that there wasn’t a taste difference, but they just didn’t want to buy it. The forces in favor of Prohibition used this fact to their advantage when they advocated for maintenance of the Amendment. They claimed that lack of customer acceptance of the non-alcoholic beer, which had no discernible taste difference from alcoholic beer, meant that people weren’t drinking beer for its taste and flavor; they were drinking it for another reason.

So what’s the point of this post? Only this: In trying to figure out how Anheuser-Busch survived Prohibition, I discovered, through its website, that:

  • You have to verify your age before you can actually log in, which all alcohol-related sites have. This Smashing Magazine article sums up the industry logic, or lack thereof, behind this move – compounded, in A-B’s case, by the fact that the age-verification slots spin like a slot machine, combining two of America’s older vices – alcohol and gambling – with one of the newer ones – the Internet. (Is now the time to mention that my 10-year-old daughter can name five different beers based on the ads she’s seen during football games? “Why do they always show beer ads during football games?” is a question she has stopped asking.)
  • Like the Mob, there are at least six domestic and eight foreign “families.” True to its name, the one whose connection to “The King of Beers” that shocked me the most was Shock Top. And all this time, I thought I was helping some tiny microbrewery start-up on some Seattle-area island sustain its mission for peace, love and rock-climbing every time I purchased a six-pack of Belgian White at the 7-Eleven. (Like Lou Reed sings in “Sad Song”: “Just goes to show how wrong you can be.”)
  • The Budweiser Clydesdales made their debut when Prohibition ended. They were used to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, including a re-enactment of the first shipment of legal Budweiser to FDR at the White House. (The Dalmatian mascot was added in 1950.) Even then, a horse-drawn wagon full of beer was a big marketing win.
  • And finally, there’s this: Just add friends and serve!

BudQuart

Leave a comment

Filed under Content Marketing

The Wild Side: How one photo of a fox mobilized a team of journalists in Dallas

Neighborsgo is the community news operation of The Dallas Morning News.

Every Friday, 11 tabloid print editions, zoned by communities, are delivered to more than 330,000 households throughout the Dallas area. Most of the news and information that appears in print – whether by staffers or residents – is first posted on neighborsgo.com.

Neighborsgo celebrates the greatness of everyday people, so the cover stories each week address a general theme in a very specific way – e.g., if Faith is the topic,  the Allen/Frisco/McKinney edition focuses on a Jehovah’s Witness convention,  the Richardson edition features a story about the 135th anniversary of a Congregationalist church on its cover, and the Irving cover is about a school-uniform drive by a Methodist church. (Covers here, via Pinterest)

One of the more popular themes is Pets and Their People, which focuses on animals and the people who love them. On Sept. 14, 2012, all 11 cover stories featured a connection to animals – but not the domesticated kind. It was called “The Wild Side,” and here is how it went from an idea to a project and how one little photo of a fox started the whole process.

1 PHOTO, 3 QUESTIONS

Image

Rebecca Hertz posted this photo on Aug. 17, 2012. It led to three simple questions in the neighborsgo newsroom:

1. If  foxes are roaming Dallas neighborhoods, what is happening in other parts of our coverage area – about 30 miles north, south, east and west of Dallas?

2. What should residents do when they encounter a wild animal?

3. Could we get residents to share their photos to help tell this story?

A BOBCAT VISITS MY NEIGHBORHOOD

Later that same day, the fox photo was posted on neighborsgo.com, I saw a photo of a bobcat in my neighborhood posted on my NextDoor neighborhood site.  I live in Frisco, about 30 miles away from Rebecca in Dallas. Bobcats in Frisco, foxes in Dallas – surely this is happening elsewhere, right? (Put another way: This isn’t just a case of “news is what happens to editors, right?”)

ASKING READERS FOR HELP

On Aug. 24, we began asking readers – online and in print – to share their photos with us. Several images were posted on neighborsgo.com, a few were tagged on our Facebook page,  none via Twitter, and about 20 shots were emailed to us. The best one was submitted by Jennifer Wagner of Plano: Her brave Westie, Mac, facing off a bobcat kitten through a window.

Photos submitted for neighborsgo Wild Side project

MORE ICONIC SHOTS

On Aug. 29, Ruth Kidd of Lakewood emailed a photo of a fox that loves to sit on her backyard rocking chair. The next day, Karin Saucedo of Allen emailed a series of photos of a bobcat lounging by her swimming pool. The photos were posted online and generated a few hundred page views, but the bigger impression they – and the Westie-bobcat shot – made was on the neighborsgo staff:  Seeing was believing, and they redoubled efforts to contact sources for more photos and story ideas.

READER FEEDBACK

Through our Sounding Off feature, which consists of a community-specific question, we asked one universal question of the more than 1,000 area residents on the opt-in list. Questions usually elicit enough responses for one full tabloid page in print – about a dozen or so. This particular question generated enough responses to fill two pages, averaging about two dozen per edition.

ALL 11 ‘WILD SIDE’ COVERS

THE ‘WILD SIDE’ VIEWFINDER

THE OVERVIEW

Each community-specific story was fairly brief, but there was enough interest from readers across the region for an overarching story that tied everything together. Danielle Abril wrote it for The Dallas Morning News, and it appeared on the Metro cover Sept. 15, 2012.

neighborsgo story in Dallas Morning News

FACEBOOK COVER PHOTO

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE

But for those who read to the end, here’s a treat: The song that was going through my head throughout the “Wild Side” process:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Burl Osborne stood on a desk in 1986 and said what?

When it comes to nostalgia, I always think of The Clash song London Calling.

Specifically, the line about “Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust,” which I have always interpreted as “The Beatles were awesome and so was the idea of the Sixties. We’re not the Beatles, and it’s not the Sixties. But we are singing right here, right now, so listen up.”

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself being nostalgic for a newsroom that I wasn’t even part of yet.

The year was 1986, and The Dallas Morning News had just won its first Pulitzer Prize. The newsroom was celebrating this accomplishment, which really put the newspaper on the national stage, when Burl Osborne stood on a desk and addressed staffers.

According to someone who was there, Mr. Osborne, then-editor and president of The News, said something along the lines of “You keep providing the stories, and I’ll keep providing the ink and newsprint to run them.”

I’m always advising my 20- and 30-something colleagues to not buy into the hype of “how great things used to be.” This story is the exception to the rule, because if there’s a newsroom equivalent to the warrior riding up and down the ranks, sword raised, exhorting his troops to triumph, this is it.

And it sounds pretty great indeed.

Image

Burl Osborne detailed his groundbreaking 1966 kidney treatment and transplant in a newspaper column that ran in neighborsgo, the community news operation of The Dallas Morning News, on April 6, 2012.

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsroom Nostalgia

How the Texas Rangers turned the 2012 season around

When the Texas Rangers are down by three runs late in the deciding game of the 2012 World Series, I will point to the game they played against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Aug. 1, 2012, and say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Here’s what happened:

Like everyone other casual and diehard fan, I had given up. Too many squandered opportunities, too many Josh Hamilton strikeouts, too few David Murphy at-bats.

But in the bottom of the 8th, David Murphy singled in Adrian Beltre to make the score 7-6. Then, in the bottom of the 9th with one out, Ian Kinsler HIT A HOME RUN TO TIE THE GAME!

Next up, Elvis Andrus doubled. The winning run was on second with one out!!

Up comes Josh Hamilton; pops up to short, does Josh Hamilton.

Beltre up next; pops up to third does Beltre.

Extra innings.

In comes the Rangers’ ace, Joe Nathan. Batting eighth, something called Iannetta works the count to 3-2 … and then hits a massive, 400-foot home run to left field. Rangers down, 8-7.

Romaine flies out; Mike Trout, the next incarnation of Babe Ruth, strikes out; Torii Hunter is hit by a pitch.

Up  next, with two outs: Albert Pujols. He proceeds to do what Albert Pujols does to Rangers pitchers: hit a towering home run to left centerfield. Angels up, 10-7. Next batter grounds out, but who cares, the Rangers are done, right?

Up first is Nelson Cruz. He hits a stupendous, 470-foot shot to left center. Rangers down, 10-8. There is hope in Mudville!

Then Michael Young reaches on an error, Murphy (of course) walks and Mike Napoli singles. Craig Gentry comes in to run for Napoli.

Mitch Moreland singles, scoring Young. Rangers down, 10-9, with Murphy on third and Gentry on second.

Kinsler is poised to be the hero again … and quietly pops out.

Up comes Elvis Andrus. Up on the count 3-0,  he takes a questionable strike on the inside corner, then another right down the middle.

With the count 3-2, he looks more focused than I’ve ever seen him.

And he kills the Angels softly with his song by slapping a double over third base, scoring Murphy and Gentry.

Rangers win, 11-10. It was about as awesome a comeback as you’ll ever see.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports