What I See ~

Strange Fruit

Billie_Holiday_PortraitBillie Holiday first performed the song, “Strange Fruit”, at Café Society, New York’s first9780252034138 integrated nightclub. Café Society was created by Barney Josephson who some say introduced the song to Billie.

dapper7Holiday said it scared the hell out of her as she feared retaliation but because the imagery reminded her of her father she made it a part of her regular performances. Because of the nature of the song Josephson drew up some rules for her.

billie inside CS

Billie Holiday singing at Cafe Society

First she would end on it, there would be no encore. Second, the waiters would stop all services in advance. The room would be darkened except for a spotlight on Holiday’s face. Powerful stuff for the times as Holiday would sing with her eyes closed almost as if in prayer.


Billie Holiday

Strange Fruit was recorded on this day in 1939 becoming Billie Holiday’s biggest selling hit with over a million copies sold.

Samuel Grafton of the New York Times wrote of Strange Fruit: “If the anger of the exploited ever mounts high enough in the South, it now has its Marseillaise.” In case you don’t know, Marseillaise is Frances’ national anthem. A revolutionary anthem to freedom and a patriotic call to mobilize the fight against tyranny.

The Rest of the Story

ThomasShippAbramSmithStrange Fruit was a poem written my Abel Meeropol, a teacher and writer. The poem was inspired by a disturbing photograph of a lynching. It put Abel over the edge as he was disturbed and sickened by racism in America. He said the photograph haunted him for days, so he wrote a poem about it. As an amateur composer he set the poem to music and played it to a New York club owner, Barney Josephson. Josephson gave it to Billie Holiday.

Strange Fruit ~ Abel Meeropol

Southern trees bear strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.


Pastoral scene of the gallant south,

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.


Here is the fruit for the crows to pluck,

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,

Here is a strange and bitter crop.

The lyrics never mention lynching but the metaphor is painfully clear.

One Other Thing

The Rosenbergs

The Rosenbergs

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for espionage in 1953. It caught America by storm. A married couple busted for spying. It carried national headlines month after month. Now they were both headed to the electric chair. They had two young sons, Robert and Michael, 6 and 10 years old. There were touching news photos of the young boys dressed in suits to visit their parents in prison.


Robert recalls that after their parent’s execution it wasn’t clear where they would end up. Remember it was the height of McCarthism and no one wanted to be associated in any way with the Rosenbergs or Communism. Not even family members.

image 420WhereAreThey_AP.imgcache.rev1271177491892


At a social event, a Christmas party at the home of W.E.B Du Bois1, the boys were introduced to Abel and Anne Meeropol. Weeks later they were living with them, eventually ending up being raised by Abel and Anne.


Anne with Robert and Michael

There is something special about this man who was able to make a loving family out of a national scandal, connecting this and his poem, Strange Fruit. His son Robert said,

“One of the most remarkable things was how quickly we adapted,” Robert says. “He was incredibly softhearted”.


Abel and his boys

A little more from Billie Holiday

1 Du Bois was a Harvard graduate and the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University.

April 13, 1743: Thomas Jefferson Born (featuring Zappa and the Mothers)


Thomas Jefferson: intellectual, architect, philosopher, musician, essayist. He collected and studied fossils, was known to be down to earth, relaxed, unconventional. A common man with a fondness for receiving White House visitors in his robe and slippers. Thomas Jefferson was born on this day in 1743.

T_Jefferson_by_Charles_Willson_Peale_1791_2Jefferson had a monumental role in shaping American politics, not only being our third president but drafting the Declaration of Independence. He worried some would try to model our new nation after a monarchy which we had just freed ourselves from. He denounced oppressive government and was a fierce proponent of the freedom of speech and religion.

Although Jefferson desired the abolition of slavery, he owned human beings who worked on his plantation. In the context of the times he treated his workers well. Historians show that one of his slaves was his lover, Sally Hemings. Sally was a mixed race gal who gave birth to six children the first of which was Eston. They eventually were freed from slavery and went on to live as free people. Jefferson ended the foreign slave trade beginning January 1, 1808. There is much ongoing controversy with historians about the accuracy of Sally, Jefferson and their offspring.

Sally Hemings

Sally Hemings

Jefferson was a widower since the death of his wife Martha in 1782 but was thought to have a relationship with the beautiful (married) painter and musician, Maria Cosway. Jefferson met her while serving as minister to France. The relationship inspired him to write his famed romantic essay, A Dialogue Between the Head and Heart.

A Dialogue Between the Head and Heart.

The Infant Bucchus by Maria Cosway

The Infant Bucchus by Maria Cosway

Maria Cosway self portrait

Maria Cosway self portrait


Ten Jefferson Achievements and Contributions


1. Wrote the Declaration of Independence (1776). Jefferson was responsible for writing the first draft of our Declaration of Independence. He did the first draft within 17 days which was reviewed and revised then presented to Congress.

2. Wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1777). He declared freedom of religion a “natural right” which became the model for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

3. Advocated for free public education (1779)

4. Served as the first U.S. Secretary of State (1790–1793)

5. Made the Louisiana Purchase (1803). For about $15 million, he effectively doubled the size of the United States.

la-purchase-large6. Launched the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804).  Jefferson appointed his personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis, who enlisted William Clark, to explore the new American landscape. They left on their journey in 1804 with the goals of learning more about the landscape and the Native American tribes, and of finding a water passage between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean.

For More on Lewis and Clark

Lewis and Clark with Sacagawea and York (man with the gun on his shoulder)

Lewis and Clark with Sacagawea and York (man with the gun on his shoulder)

7. Participated in the founding of the Library of Congress (1815). In 1815, Jefferson sold his personal library, consisting of almost 6,700 volumes, to the federal government. These formed the core collection of the beginnings of the Library of Congress. The current Librarian of Congress, James Billington wrote, “If ever a library had a single founder, Thomas Jefferson is the founder of the Library of Congress.”

8. Founded the University of Virginia (1819). Jefferson believed that universities should educate leaders rather than just preachers and professors. He founded the University of Virginia as the first nonsectarian university in the United States as well as the first to use the elective course system.

9. Popularized macaroni and cheese in the United States

american-history-thomas-jefferson-swscan01215When Jefferson traveled to Europe he became enamored with pasta and the many ways of enjoying it. He would serve mac ‘n’ cheese to his guests at his home in Monticello and even had planes for a macaroni machine. He has been referred to as “America’s First Foodie”. There is even a mac ‘n’ cheese recipe in his own handwriting.


10. Revolutionized gardening and advanced sustainable agriculture. Jefferson was a huge fan of vegetables. He experimented with his garden and loved tomatoes which people thought were poisonous at the time. He also pioneered techniques in sustainable agriculture.

A few quotes:

Future-quote-Thomas-Jefferson Jefferson-quote No-free-man-shall-ever-be-debarred-the-use-of-arms quotes-by-thomas-jefferson spuriousquoteforamerica-300x300 thomas_jefferson_quote_2 thomasjefferson_twoenemies_quote thomas-jefferson-end-of-american-democracy thomas-jefferson-quotes-on-education-11

Jump or Burn


March 23, 1944: Man Falls 18,000 Feet and Survives

Jump or burn. That’s the choice. You are 18,000 feet in the air in a burning plane. Your parachute is on fire and melting in from of your eyes. Things are getting a little warm. What do you do?

That was exactly the choice RAF gunner Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade made after his Lancaster bomber, the Werewolf, was hit by a German fighter plane.


Luftwaffe Ju 88

Luftwaffe Ju 88

Sgt Alkemade was only 21 on this day in 1944 sitting in the tail end of the Werewolf. It was his 13th mission as the Werewolf was flying a raid near Frankford Germany. The plane was attacked by Luftwaffe Ju 88 night fighters when it caught fire and began to spiral out of control.

From his account he now feared for his life. He was surrounded by fire with the heat melting the mask on his face. He saw his parachute was no longer on the rack but burning on the floor of the aircraft. In a later account he describes how he felt:

“For a brief moment I stared while it dissolved before my eyes. It was not so much a feeling of fear, or dismay, or horror, as a sensation, a sort of twisting in the stomach”.

His clothes were scorched and began to burn. He had two options burn or jump. He elbowed the hatch open and fell back. Fell back 18,000 feet. He says that as he fell he could see the burning Lancaster explode, then stars beyond his feet. He gained momentum and breathing became difficult. His account reads:

“Funny, I thought, but if this is dying, it’s not so bad. Then the rushing air, the stars, the ground, the sky, all merged and were forgotten as unconsciousness crept over me…”


Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade

When Alkemade opened his eyes he cautiously moved each part of his body. He was a bit stiff but everything seemed alright. He looked at his watch, it read 3:25. He had jumped just after midnight.

He realized then, as he lay under a pine tree, that it was the trees and snow that had broken his fall. He was cold and unable to move so began blowing his rescue whistle. Alternating between whistle blows and smoking the remainder of his cigarettes he was finally found by a German patrol.

Nicholas was taken to one of the Germans most notorious prisoner of war camps, Stalag Luft III, the one that 76 men tunneled to freedom. The one the blockbuster movie was made of, “The Great Escape”. The one he was sent to the very day after the 76 had escaped.

Of course they threw him into solitary confinement for being a spy.

“Oh sure, you just fell 18,000 feet with no parachute. You just fell out of the sky. Of course we believe you!”

After examining the wreckage of his aircraft, they found the remains of his parachute and were so amazed by his escape, they (reputedly) gave him a certificate in acknowledgment of his testimony.

He spent the next 14 months as a POW.

Crew of the Werewold

Crew of the Werewolf

Babe Takes the Mound


March 20, 1934: Babe Takes the Mound for Philly

March 20, 1934, “Babe” Didrikson pitched an inning of exhibition baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics in a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. She pitched a no hitter allowing just one walk.

bz41Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias is considered one of the greatest female athletes of the century.

In 1932 she single-handedly won the AAU championships, which served as a qualifying event for the Olympics. She was a team of one scoring 30 points, 8 more than the whole runner-up team which had 22 athletes. In just 3 hours she competed in 8 out of 10 events, winning 5 outright, and tying first in the high jump. Oh yeah, she also set world records in the javelin, 80-meter hurdles, high jump and baseball throw.

002155She gained national hero status in the 1932 Olympics when she won two gold medals. She qualified for five events but at the time women were restricted to three events – go figure.


Babe set a world record in the javelin, then set a world record in the 80 meter hurdles the next day. She tied with the declared winner in the high jump and got the silver. The judges disqualified her because they didn’t like her “head first” style (even though she used that style in all her previous jumps). She was named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for the first time.


Born Mildred Didrikson on June 26, 1911, in Port Arthur, Texas, hometown people knew she was a special athlete early on. As a teenager she could hit a baseball farther than anyone else in town. Even then she knew her life’s ambition, “My goal was to be the greatest athlete who ever lived”. She said she got her nickname “Babe” by hitting 5 home runs in a childhood baseball game. The reality is that her mother called her “Bebe” from the time she was a toddler.


She made a noticeable impact in basketball at Beaumout High School and was hired by Employers Casualty Company of Dallas to play basketball for their Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team. Of course she couldn’t accept money to play so was officially hired as a “secretary” so she wouldn’t spoil her amateur status. The team won the AAU Basketball Championship in 1931.


Babe took up golf in 1933 and went on to dominate the sport. She won 82 tournaments, winning 21 straight in 1947-48 and 19 in a row in 1949. Eventually she helped found the LPGA (Ladies Professional Sport Association).


Didrikson wanted to play in the USGA, the ruling body of men’s golf. Her play was impressive enough but despite there being no specific rules prohibiting women from playing the guys quickly scrambled to rewrite the rules so only men could enter.


Shortly after winning the inaugural Babe Zaharias Open in Beaumont in April 1953, she learned that she had cancer. Surgeons removed the tumor, but discovered the cancer had spread into her lymph nodes, which were inoperable.


Fourteen weeks later, she played in a tournament. By the next year she had completed an incredible golf comeback, winning her third U.S. Women’s Open – by an unbelievable 12 strokes.

Many sports writers didn’t appreciate Babe, condemning her for not being feminine enough, “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring,” Joe Williams wrote in the New York World-Telegram.

Clowning with Babe Ruth

Clowning with Babe Ruth

Others were captivated by the 5-foot-5 Babe, who was muscular but never heavy. “She is beyond all belief until you see her perform,” famed sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote. “Then you finally understand that you are looking at the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination, the world of sport has ever seen.”

Pain in her lower spine, caused by cancer, became unbearable in 1955. On Sept. 27, 1956, Babe died of the disease in Galveston, Texas. She was 45.


Babe Didrikson was named female “Athlete of the Half Century” in 1950 by the Associated Press. One of the greatest female athletes in history, Babe Didrikson Zaharias mastered every sport she pursued and was a defining figure for all women in the world of athletics.

File photo, Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Georgia O’Keeffe


March 6, 1986: Georgia O’Keeffe Dies in Santa Fee

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.”

– Georgia O’Keeffe


Two Calla Lillies

Fig1-lgO'Keeffe-(hands) GeorgiaGeorgia O’Keeffe dies in Santa Fee, NM at the age of 98. She was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, in 1887… my Wisconsin connection with O’Keeffe. Growing up in Virginia she first studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. If you’re a fan you know most of her bio, I just wanted to take a moment to remember the artist.

Melting Volcano

Melting Volcano


Oriental Poppies

Regarding Her Art

O’Keeffe was one of the first artists to adapt the method to painting by rendering close-ups of uniquely American objects that were highly detailed yet abstract.




Series No 3


Autumn Leaves

She didn’t follow any of her contemporaries but experimented with abstracts from nature. She often worked in series creating works with high detail or stripping away what she considered inessential.

Rams Head

Ram’s Head

Single Calla Lilly

Single Calla Lilly

She used intense observation of nature and experimented with scale and nuanced line and color. Her art was considered outside the mainstream… as others were exploring non-representation she embraced it.

Rust Red Hills - this is my current desktop image

Rust Red Hills – this is my current desktop image

GEORGIA O’KEEFFE QUOTES “I said to myself ‘I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me- shadows and ideas so near to me – so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down.’ I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught.” SC217551 “It is easier for me to paint it than to write about it and I would so much rather people would look at it than read about it. I see no reason for painting anything that can be put into any other form as well.”


Leaves of a Plant

“Color is one of the great things in the world that makes life worth living to me and as I have come to think of painting it is my efforts to create an equivalent with paint color for the world, life as I see it.”


Grey line with black blue and yellow

“I have but one desire as a painter – that is to paint what I see, as I see it, in my own way, without regard for the desires or taste of the professional dealer or the professional collector. I attribute what little success I have to this fact. I wouldn’t turn out stuff for order, and I couldn’t. It would stifle any creative ability I possess.”


Oriental Poppies

“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.” okeeffemuseum061 Click on images to enlarge. Top photo: Maria Chabot photographed O’Keeffe and Maurice Grosser on his 1938 Harley Knucklehead

Rat Fink

3172782275_e4d866aacf_oMarch 4, 1932: Bid Daddy Born

Big_Daddy_Ed_RothEd “Big Daddy” Roth was one of our leading custom car builders of the 1950s and 6627473_112343837357‘60s. Known for his outrageous, over-the-top designs he started his empire of weirdness selling “Weirdo Shirts” at custom car shows.

There was something about Rat Fink that caught on. The grimy rodent was inspired partially to be an anti-Micky Mouse character as Big Daddy was not a Disney fan.

Rat Fink Middle Finger485729Like most of his screwball misfits, Rat Fink had bulging blood shot eyes and sinister teeth.

Parents hated Rat Fink which was probably part of the appeal to kids (like me). “Some people thought that Rat Fink was ghastly. . . . Moms used to drag their kids away from my booth,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1997.


I actually had this Tee Shirt

263383882_3e853eb854 2576270023_0911634c0f 3172782121_30d586597f Homco4

Young Ed with his '33

Young Ed with his ’33

Big Daddy loved all things automotive. In high school he bought a 1933 Ford he began tinkering with. After being discharged from the Air Force he produced his earliest works, Little Jewel and Outlaw.

Little Jewel

Little Jewel




One of his most famous cars was the Beatnik Bandit. It was such a hit back then that Revell, the model car kit company, made it into one of their most popular kits. I built it as a kid myself.

Beatnik Bandit

Beatnik Bandit

The Beatnik Bandit used a shortened 1955 Oldsmobile chassis as a base. The car had an exposed motor, crazy curves and a bubble top.



Author Tom Wolfe, in an essay about the Southern California custom car scene, described Roth as, “the Salvador Dali of the movement — a surrealist in his designs, a showman by temperament, a prankster.”roth2

home-rothAlways a jokester Revell asked him to clean up his image… he made his entrance to a big car show dressed in top hat and tails, looking a bit like Dali.


Roth died of a heart attack while working on a project in his garage on April 4, 2001. Five years after his death, Roth was the subject of a documentary entitled Tales of the Rat Fink, which featured, appropriately enough, animated segments using his trademark characters. John Goodman, Ann-Margaret, Matt Groening, Jay Leno and Tom Wolfe all contributed to the project.

His last work, Beatnik Bandit II

His last work, Beatnik Bandit II – Click image to enlarge

Tales Of The Rat Fink – Trailer

Largest Ed “Big Daddy” Roth Automotive Collection at Galpin


Big Daddy’s Facebook page:


Washington’s Sweet Lips


February 22, 1732: Washington’s Birthday… (psssst, it’s the wrong day)

In honor of Washington’s birthday, I’ve collected a few details about George you may not have known.

First off, he was not born on February 22, 1732. He was actually born on February 11, 1731. When the colonies switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar his birthday was moved eleven days.

GW had a Crush on Canines

sweet lips

Painting of one of Washington’s dogs, name unknown

During the battle of Germantown the Continental army was getting beaten against the strong British advance. Some of Washington’s soldiers found a small dog on the front lines. When they discovered the dog was wearing a collar indicating it belonged to the British General Howe, they immediately brought it to Washington.

Remarkably, instead of using the dog in some way to his army’s advantage, he cleaned and fed the hungry animal and ordered a cease-fire. He then saw that the dog was returned to its owner with this note:

“General Washington’s compliments to General Howe. General Washington does himself the pleasure to return to him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and, by the inscription on the collar, appears to belong to General Howe.”

Representation of Sweetlipps

Representation of Sweet Lips

The British Commander called the incident, “an honorable act of a gentleman”. Howe seemed to dampen his harsh pursuit of the Continental Army. His soldiers continued to win battles but he showed restraint in crushing Washington’s army despite having opportunities to do so. When The Crown gave him an order to “show little compassion to the rebels,” Howe resigned his position.

Washington bred hound dogs that he treated like members of the family. He loved naming his dogs which attests to his love for his four legged friends. Here are a few:

Countess, Doxey, Droner, Dublin, Dutchess, Forrester, Hearkwell, Jupiter, Lady, Mopsey, Music, Pluto, Ragman, Ringwood, Rober, Rockwood, Rover, Searcher, Shingas, Singer, Sweetlips, Truelove, Venus and Vulcan.

He personally owned more than 50 dogs during his lifetime!wahing

The Big Guy

Washington was a big man at six feet, two inches tall and 200 pounds, he was one of our biggest presidents.

Lack of Education

Washington started school when he was six and left school at 15. He was largely self-taught in various disciplines and was so good at math, he became a paid surveyor at age 16!

Favorite Foods

Some of Washington’s favorite foods were:

Cream of peanut soup, mashed sweet potatoes with coconut, and string beans with mushrooms.

Sweet potato and coconut

Sweet potato and coconut

Cream of peanut soup

Cream of peanut soup

Beans and mushrooms

Beans and mushrooms


Washington’s favorite breakfast was hoecakes – simple pancakes made with cornmeal, served with butter and honey.

Hoe cakes

Hoe cakes

A Sickly Guy

He was one of our sickest presidents in history. Through-out his life he suffered many ailments including: diphtheria, tuberculosis, smallpox, dysentery, malaria, quinsy (tonsillitis), carbuncle, pneumonia, and epiglottitis.

Toothaches bothered him for years. At age 57 he had all his teeth pulled and wore dentures. Contrary to legend his dentures were not made of wood. They were made of carved animal bone and human teeth.


Washington’s teeth

That was his real hair, not a wig. It looked white because he powdered it.


He may have died from medical malpractice.

On the day of his death he went through four rounds of bloodletting.

From the New York Times:

On Washington’s fateful day, Albin Rawlins, one of his overseers and a bloodletter, was summoned. Washington bared his arm. The overseer had brought his lancet and made an incision. Washington said, ”Don’t be afraid.” That day, Rawlins drew 12 ounces of blood, then 18 ounces, another 18 ounces and a final 32 ounces into a porcelain bleeding bowl.

Greeting the President as “Mr. President” was his idea.

He was so strong that he could crack walnut shells between his thumb and forefinger.

George-WashingtonHe was widely acknowledged as the best horseman in the 13 Colonies.


Washington owned a whiskey distillery.

George_Washington_Distillery_7 P1014258

He installed a distillery at Mount Vernon in 1798 and made aproxitmaly 12,000 gallons of liquor a year. George was one of the most successful distributors in the country. His state of the art distillery also made rye whiskey, apple brandy and peach brandy. The distillery has been restored and is now open to the public.

Rabbit Of Seville


February 20, 1816: Barber of Seville Premiers



Gioachino Antonio Rossini’s now famous opera, The Barber of Seville, premieres at the Teatro Argentina in Rome this day in 1816. The Barber of Seville is an opera buffa in two acts. ”Opere buffe” is an informal description of Italian comic operas.


Teatro Argentina


Teatro Argentina stage


Teatro Argentina from the stage


click to enlarge pictures

The Test of Time

Imagine surviving over 200 years of popularity. Rossinui’s Barber is one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy and music… Bugs Bunny attests to it’s popularity


Rabbit of Seville is a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon released in 1950.

It was directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese with musical arrangements by Carl Stalling. The cartoon’s music focused on Rossini’s overture to The Barber of Seville.


Stalling’s arrangement is remarkable in that the overture’s basic structure is kept relatively intact; some repeated passages are removed and the overall piece is conducted at a faster tempo to accommodate the cartoon’s standard running length. In 1994 it was voted #12 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. [1]

Click on pictures to enlarge

[1] Wikipedia

Where Have You Seen This Face?


January 31, 1606: The Death of Guy Fawkes


Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators wanted to blow up the House of commons… they especially hated King James I. It was a religious thing, with the King being Protestant, Fawkes and his cohorts wanted to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. It was a bit more complicated that that but hopefully you get the gist.

Initially they rented a house near the Parliament and meant to tunnel underneath it where they would fill the cavern with gunpowder. After weeks of tunneling Fawkes discovered that a filthy unused room was available for lease directly below the chamber where Parliament was to meet.

m3NXdakxjpM3Cvd7SoUMBqAThe schemers secretly brought in 36 barrels of gunpowder with Fawkes in charge of guarding it. He was also the guy chosen to light things off.


The night before the general parliamentary session was scheduled to begin, Sir Thomas Knyvet, a justice of the peace, found Guy Fawkes lurking around the cellar of the Parliament building. He was detained and while searching the premises, found nearly two tons of gunpowder hidden behind firewood in the cellar.

Initially Fawkes was defiant and did not hold back his plan. When asked by one of the lords what he was doing in possession of so much gunpowder, Fawkes answered that his intention was “to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.”1 He gave a fake name, John Johnson, and would not give up his collaborators.


A contemporary engraving of eight of the thirteen conspirators, by Crispijn van de Passe. Fawkes is third from the right

After four days of torture Fawkes finally gave it up.

Fawkes was quickly processed through a brief trial and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The gruesome executions were popular events in London so a huge crowd had gathered to see Fawkes hang. On January 31, 1606 he was lead up the stairs of the hanging platform but suddenly jumped from the ladder breaking his neck, dying instantly.

A 1606 etching by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher, depicting Fawkes's execution

A 1606 etching by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher, depicting Fawkes’s execution

Brits began celebrating November 5 as the day the Gunpowder Plot was foiled, preventing King James I death. Originally Guy Fawkes Day was very anti-Catholic, but today is has a much lighter tone and is mostly an excuse to watch fireworks, make bonfires, drink and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes and whoever the current politicians and celebrities trending that people love to hate.

So now you know. But did you also know that Guy Fawkes kind of looks like…

Vincent Price

Vincent Price

Or maybe…

Leonardo DeCaprio

Leonardo DeCaprio

This guy…

Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert



I Yam What I Yam


January 17, 1929: Popeye First Appears in a Cartoon

Initially Popeye was a minor character created by E. C. Segar for the Thimble Theatre comic strip. He was a sailor hired by Olive Oyl’s current boyfriend, Harold Hamgravy. He was never meant to continue but readers took such a huge liking to the oddball sailor that he was quickly brought back.

First Comic

First Comic – click to enlarge

E. C. Segar

E. C. Segar

Segar had been doing the strip for ten years but after Popeye’s arrival he became the main focus of the cartoon. Popeye the Sailor was one of the hottest properties for King Features during the 1930’s. King Features is a print syndication company owned by The Hearst Corporation.

In 1933 Popeye received a foundling baby in the mail. He adopted him and named him “Swee ‘Pea”. Of course a favorite character was J. Wellington Wimpy who was always on the hunt for a hamburger today that he would gladly pay for Tuesday.


Click to enlarge


One of the more unusual characters was Jeep the yellow dog-like animal from Africa with magical powers. In Segar’s strip Bluto made only one appearance and spinach use was rare. Popeye got his power from rubbing the head of Bernice the Whiffle hen.

Click to enlarge

Popeye with Bernice the Whiffle hen – click to enlarge

Looking back, Popeye was more than a quirky sailor with bad grammar, weird arms and “a face like a hatchet” (Popeye’s self-description). He was rough but not a bully. He wasn’t very smart… and I mean that in a good way.  He held himself accountable, and put himself in jail a few times when he realized he had screwed up. He admits when he’s wrong and tries to make it right. He’s man enough to face his mistakes.


Click to enlarge

As Segar himself said: “Popeye is much more than a goofy character to me… He represents all of my emotions, and is an outlet for them. I’d like to cut loose and knock the heck out of a lot of people, but my size and good judgment hold me back.”

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In 1933 Fleischer Studios adapted the cartoon to an animated series. Popeye the Sailor became one of the most popular cartoons of the ‘30’s and continued production to 1957.


Fleischer’s first Popeye cartoon

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man,

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’m strong to the finich

Cause I eats me spinach.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’m one tough Gazookus

Which hates all Palookas

Wot ain’t on the up and square.

I biffs ’em and buffs ’em

And always out roughs ’em

But none of ’em gets nowhere.

If anyone dares to risk my “Fisk”,

It’s “Boff” an’ it’s “Wham” un’erstan’?

So keep “Good Be-hav-or”

That’s your one life saver

With Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man,

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

I’m strong to the finich

Cause I eats me spinach.

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

Popeye’s theme song, “I’m Popeye The Sailor Man” was  composed by Sammy Lerner in 1933 for Fleischer’s first Popeye the Sailor cartoon and has become forever associated with the sailor.


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