Popular Culture

September 10, 1945: Mike the Headless Chicken

History relates many a strange event, but few stranger than Mike the Headless Chicken.  Intending a five month old Rooster for dinner, farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita , Colorado cut off the bird’s head on September 10, 1945.  Much to his surprise, the chicken did not die, but continued to walk around.  (Scientists examining Mike would later find that the jugular vein had been missed and  that a quick forming blood clot prevented him from bleeding to death.  Mike’s brain stem was intact, which controlled most of his reflexive behavior.)

Olsen, stunned by all this, did not finish his job of putting Mike to death, but instead fed and watered the bird by squeezing water mixed with powdered chick feed down the esophagus of Mike.  It was inevitable that Mike would end up on the freak show circuit, earning the equivalent of approximately $47, 500  in today’s currency.  Thought by many to be a hoax, at least until scientists of the University of Utah verified that he was a living headless chicken, he was photographed thousands of times including by such major publications of the day as Time and Life.

After 18 months of a headless existence, during which he gained 2.5 pounds, Mike departed this Vale of Tears while on tour, choking to death at a motel in Phoenix during the night.  Continue reading

The Man in the High Castle

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Ecclesiastes 12:5


The late Philip K. Dick, paranoid, left-leaning, mentally ill and drug abuser, was nevertheless a science fiction writer of pure genius.  His book The Man in the High Castle (1962) introduced me as a boy to the genre of alternate history, with his unforgettable evocation of a United States divided by the victorious Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  One of the main plot devices in the book is a novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which posits an alternate reality in which the Allies won World War II.  Like most of Dick’s work, the book suggests that the dividing line between alternate realities can be very thin. Continue reading

Of Mockingbirds and Consciences

They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)


As I slave away in the law mines, I take my flashes of amusement where I can find them.  One thing that has often amused me is the bizarre names that people these days often curse their children with.  I often find when questioning the mother that the name was from some television show, film, video or song, often with a spelling variant to ensure that the child will be a special little snowflake and have his or her name misspelled for the remainder of the time God allots the child in this Vale of Tears.

Naming kids after a fictional character has always struck me as bizarre:  real people always being so much more interesting than two-dimensional fictional puppets.

An example of the drawbacks of naming a child after a fictional character has been illustrated this week by an interesting little literary-morality tempest being played out this week.  Harper Lee, a one book wonder, To Kill a Mockingbird, has released another book, Go Set a Watchman.  The story behind this book is perhaps more interesting than the tome itself.  Ms. Lee, 89 years old, lives in an assisted living facility, and is perhaps in her dotage.  Go Set a Watchman was written in 1957, the year of my birth, before To Kill a Mockingbird.  It was rejected by a publisher at the time as showing promise but not ready for publication, an accurate assessment I think.  That the book is now being published 58 years later might cause some to suspect the motivations of those now in control of Ms. Lee’s affairs, since for more than a half century she made no effort to have this early work published.  No doubt a book about the behind the scenes machinations that led to the publication of Go Set a Watchman will be forthcoming eventually, doubtless not written by Ms. Lee, alas.  More on this below the fold, with spoilers in regard to Go Set a Watchman. Continue reading

Inside Out

Much of the modern resistance to chastity comes from men’s belief that they “own” their bodies — those vast and perilous estates, pulsating with the energy that made the worlds, in which they find themselves without their consent and from which they are ejected at the pleasure of Another!

CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters



My family and I went to see the new Pixar movie Inside Out on Saturday, and I heartily endorse it.  It is a very funny family comedy which gives a humorous fictional account of how people think and interact with others.  Personifications of our emotions run the show for each person, and the story conceit is well developed.  On one level it can be enjoyed as a kid’s movie, and on another level it is a pretty profound meditation on how complex human thoughts and emotions are, as we attempt to interact with others while barely understanding, at times, the complex factors within us determining our reactions to the outside world.  As usual for Pixar, stay for the ending credits, where you will see funny vignettes.  A good film for the forthcoming holiday weekend. Continue reading

Murder and Redemption




When I was a kid I watched way too much TV.  How little of those hours I can recall now!  However there is one television show that I watched that has always stayed with me.  On October 25, 1971, when I was a freshman in high school, a Gunsmoke episode aired entitled Trafton.  The guest star of the episode was character actor Victor French, who would make twenty-three appearances on Gunsmoke, usually portraying a villain.  The Trafton episode was no exception.  He portrayed a gunman known simply as Trafton.  A murderer, Trafton had learned the gunman’s trade while riding with Confederate raider “Bloody Bill” Anderson during the War.  The episode opens with Trafton and his gang shooting up a town in New Mexico.  They attempt to rob the bank, only to find that the vault contains no money.  Frustrated, on his way out of town Trafton sees a Catholic Church.  He enters the Church and goes up to the altar, and takes a gold cross, a gold communion chalice and a gold paten.  The priest appears and tries to stop him,  Trafton unhesitatingly gunning down the priest.  Seeing a gold cross about the neck of the dying priest, Trafton stoops down to remove the cross.  As he does so the priest with his last strength, to the utter astonishment of Trafton, says, “I forgive you.” and with his bloody right hand traces a cross on the forehead of Trafton just before he dies.  Trafton uneasily touches his forehead, and then leaves the Church and rides off. Continue reading

Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings



I went into this film assuming it was going to be bad based on what I had heard about it.  In that assumption I was mistaken.  Although not a film I would recommend, I can’t call it a bad film.  My review is below with the usual caveat as to spoilers. Continue reading

Cover Me! I’m Going In!

I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life.

Chistian Bale, star of Exodus:  Gods and Kings, in reference to Moses, who he is portraying in the film.

One of the many services that TAC has provided to its readers over the years is me going to see bad films so you don’t have to.  My bride and I are picking up our daughter on Friday from college and on Saturday our son will arrive by train, fresh from the rigors of first semester law school finals.  We will eat after he arrives and then the family will go off to see Exodus:  Gods and Kings.  I suspect it will be a bad film from everything I have read about it.  I hope it will be so bad that it may be a cult classic in the making rather like Dune (1984).  Whatever it is, I will review it for the blog.

The Messiah on Mott Street

Every now and then, God remembers the tenements.

Buckner, The Messiah on Mott Street



In my early teen years I was a fan of Rod Serling’s anthology series Night Gallery.  Usually consisting of tales of  horror, on December 15, 1971 something different was broadcast for Christmas.  Edward G. Robinson gives a moving performance of the eternal Jewish longing for the Messiah, and how, whether we realize it or not, we are always in God’s hands.  The episode may be viewed here.


Who’s the Messiah? He’s the messenger from God. Any moment he will appear, looming big and black against the sky, striking down our enemies and lifting us up to health and wealth and Heavenly contentment… and fix our digestions, too. And supply me with a new set of teeth.

Abraham Goldman (Edward G. Robinson), The Messiah on Mott Street

Noah: A Review



Well, I finally got around to seeing Noah.  We picked up a $9.00 Blu-ray copy at a Black Friday special, and I think I was overcharged at least $8.99.  Follow me below the fold for why I think this is one grand buzzard of a flick.  The usual caveats regarding spoilers apply: Continue reading

Requiescat in Pace: Tom Magliozzi


For decades I enjoyed the antics of the two hosts of Car Talk on NPR.  Having zero interest in the technical aspects of motor vehicles, I would often listen to the hilarious advice they gave to their callers as I drove my family to destinations on Saturday morning.  “Click and Clack” added to family hilarity over the years and for that I am duly thankful.  Half the team died earlier this month:


Tom Magliozzi, half of the “Click and Clack” team of brothers who hosted NPR’s “Car Talk” radio show, died Monday. He was 77.

NPR reported the death Monday afternoon. The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, the radio network said.

In a statement, his brother Ray remembered a jovial partner.


“We can be happy he lived the life he wanted to live; goofing off a lot, talking to you guys every week, and primarily, laughing his ass off,” he said.

For more than 25 years, “Car Talk” has been one of NPR’s most popular shows, a laid-back free-for-all that’s only occasionally about cars. The brothers stopped doing original broadcasts two years ago, but archival material has kept their laughter on the air.

A typical show featured Tom Magliozzi and Ray, 12 years his junior, taking questions from listeners about whether it was appropriate to buy a BMW roadster for a teenager, how to get the smell of a dead mouse out of an air-conditioning vent and whether relationships were worth pursuing with a partner who owned an old rattletrap.

Tom Magliozzi had an old rattletrap himself, a 1963 Dodge Dart that was a constant source of fun for both brothers.

In fact, most things were sources of fun for the brothers, whose uproarious laughter frequently punctuated the show.

“His laugh is the working definition of infectious laughter,” Doug Berman, the longtime producer of “Car Talk,” told NPR. “Before I ever met him, I heard him, and it wasn’t on the air.”

“Car Talk” debuted in 1977 on Boston radio station WBUR. NPR picked it up in 1987. The show was drawing about 4 million listeners at the time the brothers stopped making original broadcasts in 2012. The network said in a statement that it continues to be a top-rated show. Continue reading

Gone With the Wind and Proud Contemporary Ignorance

Apparently some of the young, in addition to not reading, can’t even be bothered to watch a classic film, even when they purport to have an interest in films.  John Nolte at Breitbart gives us the grim details:



Monday we learned that a 25 year-old taking graduate-level journalism classes at New York University had no idea what an editorial was. Today we learn that “most” of the students taking a film class at Georgetown University have never seen “Gone with the Wind.”

[W]hen I asked 13 students in a Georgetown University film class if they’d seen it, most either hadn’t seen the film or had seen only parts of it. These students are serious about movies. But a lot of them sided with Mike Minahan, 20, who said when it comes to Gone with the Wind — frankly, he doesn’t give a damn.

“Everything I’ve seen about it says it, like, glorifies the slave era … and I dunno, what’s the point of that? I don’t see that as a good time in history … like, oh, sweet, a love story of people who own slaves.”

The students had two issues with Gone with the Wind: race and rape.

What a relief it is to know that the next generation of film reviewers, writers, and makers will be politically correct, uneducated, narrow-minded provincials completely out of touch with the real world. You know, just like the current crop of film reviewers, writers and makers.

A poll released Monday shows that 73% of Americans consider “Gone with the Wind” one of the best movies ever.

Not only are these close-minded students missing one of the grandest pieces of entertainment ever released in any medium, but a piece of cinema history that will live on long past any of us. In 1939, GWTW was an epic technical achievement. Seventy-five years later, in this age of CGI, producer David O. Selznick’s masterpiece is even more impressive.

Moreover, the idea that GWTW glorifies rape is laughable. Leftists are supposed to be Captains of Nuance and yet they seem incapable of understanding that this so-called rape is in reality the end result of a complicated dance of seduction between Rhett and Scarlett. As far as the film’s backwards portrayal of slaves and blacks, if you’re going to discount and dismiss any art based on current mores and values, you’re nothing more than a modern day Production Code. Continue reading

Seven Days in May

Hard to believe that it is half a century since the film Seven Days in May (1964) was released.  Directed by John Frankenheimer with a screenplay by Rod Serling based on a novel published in 1962, the movie posits a failed coup attempt in the United States, with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General James Mattoon Scott, played by Burt Lancaster, being the would be coup leader.  Kirk Douglas plays Scott’s aide Marine Corps Colonel Martin Casey who, while agreeing with Scott that President Jordan Lyman’s nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets is a disaster, is appalled when he learns of the proposed coup, and discloses it to the President, portrayed by Frederic March.

The film is an example of liberal paranoia in the early sixties and fears on the port side of our politics of a coup by some “right wing” general.  The film is unintentionally hilarious if one has served in our military, since the idea of numerous generals agreeing on a coup and keeping it secret, even from their own aides, is simply ludicrous.  Our military leaks like a sieve, and general officers almost always view each other as competitors for political favor, rather than as co-conspirators.

Ironies abound when the film is compared to reality: Continue reading

Review of the Hobbit Trilogy

(Language advisory for the video;   apparently the first film made the reviewer extra grumpy.)

The above video shall serve as a review for the entire Hobbit trilogy.  I saw part II last week and I was certain, perhaps in what felt like the fiftieth hour, that time had ceased and eternity begun.  You know a movie based on The Hobbit is bad, when by the end you are rooting for Smaug to be unleashed on Peter Jackson and his merry band of let’s-see-how-much-money-we-can-flog-out-of-this-dead- Hobbit!  Ah, well, we will always have The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Continue reading

A Review of Christians in the Movies: A Century of Saints and Sinners

 Christians in the Movies


As faithful readers of this blog know, I am a film buff.  I therefore was pleased when Dr. Peter Dans, a friend of mine and commenter on the blog, brought to my attention his book Christians in the Movies:  A Century of Saints and Sinners.  Peter is a medical doctor and a former professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins.  Go here to learn about his professional activities.  He is also a faithful Catholic, a skilled writer and an all around good guy.  However, I am here to review the book and not to review the author!

Published in 2011 by Sheed & Ward, the book is a fairly comprehensive look at how film has portrayed Christians and Christianity from 1905-2008.  The book proceeds chronologically with chapters devoted to films of the silent era, films of the forties, etc.  The chapters open with a general overview of the film period being discussed and then a look at selected films.  The films are not limited to those self-consciously religious, but also those in which religion is a major plot element.  Thus the Oscar winning film Sergeant York (1941) is included because of its examination of the religious conflict that World War I hero Alvin C. York had to resolve before he could in good conscious fight for his country.  Dr. Dans also looks at the impact of the films examined, for example in regard to Sergeant York he mentions that the film was denounced by the isolationist Senator Nye as propaganda to get America into World War II.  Some of the facts that the author discusses were news to me.  For example I have watched the film Song of Bernadette (1943) about Bernadette Soubirous and Lourdes but I was unaware that it was based on a book written by Franz Werfel, a Jew, who made a vow to write a book about Bernadette  when he and wife were hidden from the Gestapo by nuns and families at Lourdes.  In regard to Going My Way, 1944, Dr. Dans reveals that Pope Pius XII was so taken by the film that he granted a private audience to Bing Cosby and credited the film with helping to spur priestly vocations.  I like it when a book gives me information that I was unaware of, and this book accomplished that task.

The book is not limited to films that have become well known.  For example there is a section devoted to one of my favorite westerns, Stars in My Crown, 1950, in which Joel McCrea portrays a Union veteran who becomes a Protestant minister and his travails as he brings religion to a town and fights the Ku Klux Klan.

Continue reading

Twelve O’Clock High

Something for the weekend.  The score from the movie Twelve O’clock High (1949).  A film shorn of any Hollywood glamor or heroics, it tells the story of the fictional 918th bomb group as it pioneers daylight precision bombing in the early days of the Eighth Air Force in England and suffers harrowing losses as a result.  Veterans of the Eighth Air Force applauded the film for its stark realism and its demonstration of the impact of war on the men called upon to fight it.  Anyone who has not seen this masterpiece should do so as quickly as possible.

Here is the opening of the film:

Continue reading

Chipotle’s Food War

Over the top and entertaining which is how I like commercials if I have to endure one.  I like Mexican food but I have never liked Chipotle as the menu is too limited and their massive burritos leave me cold.  Just as well, as those things weigh in, on average, at a 1000 calories, which makes their wholesomener than thou commercial hilarious.  Yeah, we treat the animals we slaughter for your plate in a kinder and gentler fashion as we serve you their remains to make you obese!

I do appreciate however that Chipotle burritos can apparently double for plastic explosives in a pinch: Continue reading

Twisted Trailers

I love fake trailers that completely twist a movie and the above is a fine example of the genre:

Don’t run away! This modern trailer recut for “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is just about the most awesome thing that happened on the Internet this week. Because, come on. It’s not every day that someone goes and makes “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” seem like a high-budget medieval Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster. (Instead of, you know, just a bunch of guys running around Scotland with coconuts.) Kudos to Stefane Bouley for putting this gem together and for nearly resisting the temptation to include any humor. 

Another example:  Can the world survive Rambo, the Musical?

Continue reading

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