On the subject of New Year’s Day resolutions, Mark Twain (whose autobiography just this year, a century after he started pushing up daisies, made it to the booksellers) pithily noted, “Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient short comings considerably shorter than ever.”
But, first, before we’re thirty days into a new year, a replay of some of the old:
A set of false chompers once worn by Churchill sold at auction for $23,000. A toilet once used by John Lennon went for nearly $15,000. A commode that once knew well the reclusive ass cheeks of J. D. Salinger, who died this year, was listed on Ebay for $1 million. Soon, a late Miami playboy’s estate plans to offer 42-year-old underpanties purportedly once belonging to the Queen of England. Victoria’s secret? No, Elizabeth the Second’s. Asking price: $9,000.
Chelsea Clinton married, Al and Tipper Gore split, and Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston got engaged. Again. Then broke up. Again.
Jews control the media, so implieth Rick Sanchez. Jews should vacate Palestine, so declareth Helen Thomas. Muslims on planes unnerve me, so confideth Juan Williams. Zionist-supporting America was behind the 9/11 attacks, so ranteth Iran’s demented leader at the U.N. The only one among the four who retains his job is also the boil on the world’s butt that is the most worrisome. If the dwindling patience of the Israelis has anything to do about it, his mouth might be shut for good in 2011.
From a crazy Holocaust denier to its originator: A DNA report obtained by the Daily Mail suggests Hitler may have descended from both Jews and Africans. Oy vey! Say what, dawg?
Lady Gaga has far more Facebook followers than you’ll ever have: 11.3 million, as of July, a record for a living person. It is unlikely that Elton John is one of them. “I’m at that stage where I don’t think I can write pop music anymore,” The Rocket Man, 63, confessed this year, feeling too old to compete with the likes of Gaga, 24.
Fact: 3,283 tweets per second were posted during the World Cup. Fact: 71% of all tweets are ignored. Not this one, apparently: Tweeting her disapproval of a mosque near Ground Zero, Sarah Palin wrote that Muslims should “refudiate” the plan. Somewhere in Texas, Dubya must be getting a good chuckle. And joking about deserving a royalty.
Nearly $10 billion was pledged by donor nations at an April UN conference to help rebuild quake-devastated Haiti. Nearly a year later, much of that has yet to materialize. Inspired to help, Charlie Simpson, a seven-year-old British boy, organized a sponsored bike ride in a London park, hoping to raise $800. He hauled in $160,000. As of November, only 5% of rubble had been removed from Haitian streets.
A 51-year-old man in Vegas set the new world record for hugs given in 24 hours: 7,777. Doubtless, none compared in heart-felt sincerity to the ones that awaited 33 Chilean copper miners upon being carefully, methodically extracted from their 69-day underground prison, snatched from death.
Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles due to faulty gas pedals. GM recalled 1.5 million for faulty windshield wiper systems. A most unHappy Meal: McDonald’s recalled 12 million Shrek drinking glasses after traces of cadmium, a carcinogen, were found in the paint on the cups.
But it’s only a matter of time before they are pictured with Happy Meals spread out before them: Researchers looking at 52 painted versions of the meal determined that the portion sizes at the Last Supper have increased 69% over the last millennium.
On the subject of masterpieces, a Van Gogh – worth $50 million – was stolen from a Cairo art museum. Number of alarms that were functioning: 0.
Once the number-crunching is done, the airline industry is forecast to earn a projected $2.5 billion profit in 2010. Some of that no doubt comes from charging fees for carry-on baggage, which if it takes off can be blamed on (South Florida-based) Spirit Airlines, which started doing so last summer. And proving that no dumb deed goes unrewarded with something even dumber, ex-JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater had a hissy fit, grabbed two beers, and slid down a rescue chute to 25 reality show offers.
Four women – a new record – were simultaneously in space following a shuttle launch this year. Three women – a new record – now comprise the U.S. Supreme Court.
It’s not wise to deny teenagers things like senior proms. It can be costly. Constance McMillen of Mississippi wanted to bring her girlfriend to hers. Turned down, she got even and sued her school district. A $35,000 settlement was reached. Another Mississippi lesbian student, Ceara Sturgis, is suing her district for excluding a photo of her in a tux from her school’s yearbook. This would be a good time for Mississippi to consider investing in diversity training. And calendars that read 2011 and not 1811.
Truth in advertising – or not: Of over 5,200 “green” products surveyed in the U.S. and Canada, 95% were found to have unproven environmental claims. An environmental calamity that’s indisputable: Twenty years ago, there were 100,000 tigers in the Asian wild; that number now hovers at 3,200.
What kind of democracy are we trying to introduce in all this nation-building? Out of 5.6 million votes cast in Afghanistan’s September elections, 1 out of every 4 was fraudulent.
Persistence may eventually pay off: Alvin Greene, an unemployed Army vet who unexpectedly won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate from South Carolina, suggested that making action figures of himself would help spur job creation. He lost. Undeterred by defeat – or by his stupidity – he now seeks a statehouse seat in an upcoming special election.
The housing bubble hasn’t exactly burst for everyone: Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, now has had built for him in Mumbai a single-family home, 27 stories tall, with three helipads. All for $1 billion.
Signs that the local gene pool has a little too much algae:
Exhibit #1: Two days before Christmas, a man was seized at LAX airport for carrying 14 pounds of coke in his luggage. Concealed inside Easter eggs. The ingenious smuggler? Esteban Galtes. From Miami, natch.
Exhibit #2: Before she died in March, Miami millionaire Gail Posner willed $3 million to a loved one, Conchita. She left only $1 million to her son Brett. Conchita is a Chihuahua. The (well-)pampered bitch (Conchita, that is, not the departed Gail, though that might be debatable) shares her fortune with two other mutts. A probate expert confirmed that Florida legally allows any nut to let his or her trust money go to the dogs. Brett is contesting.
Exhibit #3: The feds raided the Miami home of Charles L. Stewart in January after receiving complaints. Devotees to Stewart and the traditional African religion he practices say they were sickened after drinking the mucus of a giant African snail (prohibited in the U.S. without special approval) used in “healing ceremonies.”
Gone is Lena Horne, 92, who surmounted the stormy weather of racism with a voice that entranced movie and theater goers for over half a century. Daniel Schorr, 93, was put in front of a radio mic by the Great Murrow, then circuited from televised news on CBS to CNN, with a place on Nixon’s enemies list and a congressional contempt citation along the way, before closing a long and distinguished career with a return to radio, at NPR. Alexander Haig, 85, steadied a collapsing Nixon presidency in 1974 and from behind the scenes eased the nation into a transition to Ford. The Southern belle charm of Rue McClanahan, 76, gave a TV comedy about four Miami retirees a saucy, sexy sass. Patsy Cline could fall to pieces and Eddy Arnold could ask to make the world go away because Hank Cochran, 74, wrote the lyrics.
Tom Bosley, 83, played a cranky, yet lovable, dad on a popular series about the 50?s while Barbara Billingsley, 94, played an unflappable mom on a popular series actually from the 50?s. Many a young boy, including me, could sing the theme song of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, because we watched Fess Parker, 85, portray Davy, then, later, Daniel Boone. Gloria Stuart, 100, a faded screen actress from Hollywood’s past, was resurrected in the winter of her life and, through one of the most titanic blockbusters of our time, introduced to new audiences. Pavarotti called Joan Sutherland, 83, the greatest coloratura soprano “of all time.”
And Clara Belle Denning, 86, taught high school English and journalism, serving as adviser to the school paper and yearbook staffs, then spent her retirement years traveling the globe beyond her small Ohio River valley hamlet in West Virginia. For decades, she imparted the 5 W’s of news writing to many a journalism student, one of whom still employs her lessons in the Miami Beach weekly for which he writes.