My thoughts today, as I celebrate Christmas in warmth and comfort, are with the people of the Ukraine as they shiver in darkness, and with the terrified young soldiers on both sides of that battle line. That leads me to recall the great Christmas Truce of WW1.
Human societies seem to have some common rules, one of which is that the young men must kill or be killed for whatever causes the old men have brainwashed them to believe, but there were a few times in our history when the warriors told their overlords to stuff it, if only for a moment. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1914, during the first sacred holiday of the first world war, the trench warriors set aside their rifles, ignored their orders, and walked into the no-man’s land to celebrate Christmas with their enemies.
Peace broke out in many places along the lines, involving many men communicating to one another without a common language. As the story goes, the Germans first put Christmas trees up just above their sight lines, with signs that said “you no shoot, we no shoot” or “Merry Christmas.” Then the Scots brought out their ubiquitous bagpipes and played Christmas carols. The French broke out their champagne. The men shared pictures of their loved ones. They roasted some pigs together for Christmas dinner, and their chaplains held Christmas religious ceremonies. They cleared no-man’s land of the rotten corpses, buried their fallen comrades, and helped their enemies to do the same. When they had cleared away their dead, they played soccer where the bodies had been strewn.
The real-life aftermath of the unpremeditated Christmas truce was shock among the high commands of the opposing nations. Nothing could be more disastrous for the world’s sense of proper order than to have young men of opposing countries declaring their comradeship and refusing to kill one another. Why, it’s downright socialist! Generals on both sides declared this peacemaking to be treasonous, and all the lingering goodwill generated by the spontaneous outbreak of peace had been completely quashed by Easter of 1915, when the men would again resume the unquestioned killing of one another on behalf of their common God, who had apparently issued the two sides contradictory orders. Before Armistice Day in 1918, an entire European generation was lost. Some thirty million young men would return to their homes wounded. Their mothers would be envied by the ten million others whose sons did not return at all.
As I write this on this Christmas Day in 2022, when many young Ukrainian and Russian men are still dying for old men’s causes, it gives me some faint hope to look back on that Christmas of 1914 and recall the foot soldiers who proved that, despite all indications to the contrary, we do have brotherhood within us, if only we reach for it.
“He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
Shakespeare, Henry V (Act IV, Scene III),
It was on October 25th in 1415 that Henry V of England led his troops to a resounding victory over France at Agincourt, although the English were greatly outnumbered (perhaps 4-1; estimates vary), and fighting on French territory. Making victory even less likely was the fact that his troops were basically on foot, forced to confront armed and mounted knights.
Henry had one important thing on his side – longbows. He had some 5,000 archers and they had plenty of arrows. He also had the ideal setting for his archers to confront the French cavalry. The battlefield was a narrow, muddy opening between two dense forests, basically the worst possible conditions for the French attacks. The mud impeded the French advances, while the dense woodlands made it impossible for the French to create flanking or rear attacks. The terrain basically funneled them into direct charges, straight into hail after hail of English arrows. The horsemen who successfully approached the English lines found that the archers were protected from cavalry charges by sharpened, outward-facing stakes. In the narrow opening afforded them, with piles of bodies to their rear, dense forests on either side, and thousands of well-sheltered English longbowmen in front of them, the French could neither charge nor retreat effectively. It was less a battle than a slaughter. The English were merciless. Historians estimate that the archers fired at least a hundred thousand arrows that day, perhaps as many as a half-million. The piles of French bodies were so high that it was difficult to identify exactly who did die that day. Some of their wives had to find out over time, simply from the fact that their husbands never returned. The bloodshed didn’t even end with the eventual French retreat. The English killed the vast majority of their prisoners, sparing only those of the very highest ranks. Henry even ordered the killing of some men worth ransoming.
Here is a concise description of the action:
“The French had suffered a catastrophic defeat. In all, around 6,000 of their fighting men lay dead on the ground. The list of casualties, one historian has noted, “read like a roll call of the military and political leaders of the past generation”. Among them were 90–120 great lords and bannerets killed, including three dukes, nine counts and one viscount, also an archbishop. Of the great royal office holders, France lost its constable, an admiral, the Master of Crossbowmen, Master of the Royal Household and prévôt of the marshals. 3,069 knights and squires were killed, while at least 2,600 more corpses were found without coats of arms to identify them. Entire noble families were wiped out in the male line, and in some regions an entire generation of landed nobility was annihilated. The bailiffs of nine major northern towns were killed, often along with their sons, relatives and supporters. In the words of Juliet Barker, the battle “cut a great swath through the natural leaders of French society. Estimates of the number of prisoners vary between 700 and 2,200, amongst them the dukes of Orléans and Bourbon, the counts of Eu, Vendôme, Richemont (brother of the Duke of Brittany and stepbrother of Henry V) and Harcourt, and marshal Jean Le Maingre.”
In contrast, Shakespeare contended that the English casualties amounted to 29 men, of which 25 were commoners.
OK, that was a bit of bullshit, let’s call it chauvinistic exaggeration by the Bard of Avon. He was not a historian, but a literary man sucking up to the English monarchy. The English probably lost about 300-400 men, but only a small number of those were magnates. Exaggeration aside, it was one of the greatest military successes in human history, since it not only destroyed a numerically superior force and most of its key officers, but it humbled and weakened France so completely that within five years the French royals had declared that the English Henry was the heir to the French throne!
(He would die about two years after that agreement without ever having sat on that throne.)
More important than any of that to us today is that the victory inspired one of Shakespeare’s best monologues, as cited above and shown below. Ol’ Shakey often used his monologues to deliver melancholy, philosophical ruminations about the fragility of life, but this was different. It was a stirring call to action for country and brotherhood.
It’s the 83rd birthday of a great character actor, F. Murray Abraham, who won an Oscar for playing the cunning, Machiavellian Antonio Salieri (“the patron saint of mediocrities”).
To celebrate this special holiday each year, we take this time to honor our loved ones publicly and to their faces, but then to betray them behind their backs and take credit for their achievements.
Jefferson was invited to attend a celebration of the nation’s 50th birthday, but he was not well enough to travel. He responded to the invitation as follows:
“Let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of the rights of man, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
In an amazing coincidence, John Adams and Jefferson, co-signers of the Declaration of Independence, rivals, second and third presidents of the nation, died on the same day – and that day happened to be the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence! Their deaths, 196 years ago today, left Charles Carroll as the last living co-signer of the Declaration. (He would live six more years, to age 95.)
Have a good 4th!
It is Giant Pink Japanese Penis Day in the Year of Our Shatner 91.
Whether you count your years in A.D. or A.S., may you and yours have a most blessed holiday. Although the Giant Pink Japanese Penis Parade has been cancelled, and no vendors will be selling the delightfully refreshing Giant Pink Japanese Penis Pops, we should never forget the true meaning of Giant Pink Japanese Day.
Whatever that is.
Perhaps we can learn from the second-wisest man in history:
“Maybe Giant Pink Japanese Penis Day doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Giant Pink Japanese Penis Day means a little bit more.”
Or to quote the wisest:
Hemingway once wrote, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” The same is true of Giant Pink Japanese Penis Day. Oh, sure, this year we will miss the Giant Pink Japanese Penis Carols, and the crazy students will miss their chance to participate in the traditional Running of the Dicks, but the real Giant Pink Japanese Penis is inside all of us.
So to speak.
You can keep your bowl games and your In Memoriam segments. The best way to celebrate a New Year is to look at the best nude scenes from the previous one.
We’ve had ups and downs over the years. There have been spectacular years like 2014, when Alexandra Daddario, ScarJo and Margot Robbie all graced us with their full-frontal debuts. It was such a good year that I had to expand the list to 25 scenes in order to include some great scenes like Elizabeth Olsen in Oldboy. And there have been total duds like 2008, when lower frontal nudity had almost been declared extinct.
In general, 2021 was one of the best years overall for the quality of the nudity, but not for the familiarity of the performers. There was no great full-frontal standout from a big name or in a familiar production, so nothing matched the three performances I mentioned from 2014, but there is not a dud in the top ten, and our voters generally gave the great scenes the recognition they deserved, from the biggest releases to the most obscure foreign films. As I re-watched the scenes this week, I was again dazzled by the beauty of Vivi Koenig, the full-blown insanity of Agathe Rousselle and Daria Polasik-Bulka, the masterful writing and photography featuring beautiful Lea Seydoux, the incredibly lengthy exposure of Odessa Young, the dedication of Sarah Shahi, the unearthly figure of Sydney Meyer, the daring of Maryse Miege … and that’s just a sample. Some of those, and other brilliant scenes, couldn’t even crack the top 20. In fact, there are some great nude performances that didn’t even make it to the final poll: Paulina Gaitan and Daphne Patakia come to mind immediately.
I rarely give in to the “popularity contest” aspect of the competition. In general, I try to seek out a truly meritorious scene rather than a popular favorite. In my typical process I would have voted for Odessa Young or Daria Polasik-Bulka, but this year I didn’t vote with my head. I let other body parts determine the selection, and I realized that Sydney Sweeney creates as much of a stir in me as she does in everyone else. I joined many of you in giving her a record-breaking victory, in which she garnered as many votes as the next four choices added together.
Here is the 2021 recap, including a link to brief film clips from each of the winners.
Here is a list of the top tens from the entire Scoopy era (1995-2021, the lifespan of the site), with links to the full recaps for each individual year.
Here is a mini search engine that goes through all of the lists (and nothing else).
Here is the final numerical tally from the 2021 voting.
Here are the results of the semi-final poll, which determined the candidates in the final selection. It’s kind of interesting to see how the list differed from the final results. Some mediocre scenes, like Daddario in The White Lotus, got a lot of attention when people could offer an opinion on every scene, but when voters were forced to name only their very favorite scene, the so-so entries fell by the wayside, replaced by … well, by great scenes worthy of being called the best of the year. (Note: three late entries or omissions were added to the final poll. One of those, Odessa Young in Mothering Sunday, deservedly made the top ten!)
Here is the original list of nominees, with links to pics and/or clips from every performance.
And most important, let’s all have a happy new year and a happy nude year in 2022. Thanks to all of you for participating in the poll, and for reading the “other crap” that appears here every day.
No, I’m not in Hawaii. Just wishing I was.
Those are the only ones I know by heart. (And I don’t really know much French, but that one is commonplace.)
The Norwegians really have a gift for minimalism. (“God jul”). I loved to watch old American movies in Olso with Norwegian subtitles. There’d be a cowboy movie where the sheriff would deliver some prolix exhortation like “Let’s vamoose, boys, and cut ’em ornery varmints off at the pass,” and it would be translated into Norwegian as “Kom.”
I found the opposite in Italy. A film character might say, “Why not?” and the Italian equivalent would require a full page of translation, followed by an ellipsis, with the translation continued on the next slide.
Well, OK. Festivus and Shatner’s birthday are the TWO greatest holidays. Yup, Festivus and Shatner’s birthday … oh, and Giant Pink Japanese Penis Day. Damn! The THREE greatest holidays are, in no particular order …
Wait. I’ll come in again.
Amongst our revelry are such diverse holidays as …
From the Onion:
Here is something more useful than the usual bromides:
It is so named in honor of the greatest role of my favorite living character actor (since Wilford Brimley died), and my fellow Longhorn, the F man himself. Happy 82nd birthday, you magnificent, Mozart-killing bastard.
Important Salieri info:
1. The F doesn’t stand for anything. His name is Murray Abraham, but he thought that sounded undistinguished and pedestrian, so he added an initial to make him sound special. He chose F in particular in honor of his dad. (Wikipedia) In theory, it should be written without the period, since F is just F and not an abbreviation, but he spells it with the period.
2. If you have never heard him speak as himself, you should Google him. Unlike the other people I make fun of, he is cultured, spiritual, articulate, generous and highly intelligent. He plays sinister characters because he has a baleful appearance. Some people assume that actors with faces like Abraham and John Colicos must resemble the characters they play, but they are just actors making optimal use of an asset – their villainous countenance. An example of the F man’s classy nature can be found in his Oscar acceptance speech.
3. In slight contradiction to what I wrote above, the F Man appears to have gotten a bit of a swollen head after he won that Oscar. The director of The Name of the Rose, Jean-Jacques Annaud, described Abraham as an “egomaniac” on the set, who considered himself more important than Sean Connery because Connery did not have an Oscar. That must have been quite a match of outspoken egos, since Connery himself is no shrinking violet.
4. Nah, the real Salieri wasn’t evil either, and there is no evidence that he somehow caused Mozart’s death. That was merely the gossip of ignorant idlers until the great Pushkin, who was basically the Russian Shakespeare, gave the whole thing credence when he wrote a play about it shortly after Salieri’s death, using jealousy as his fictional motivation for Salieri’s actions. Pushkin was a brilliant wordsmith, some say the very creator of modern Russian, but he was no historian, and was also a hot-headed ass whose character flaw was … (wait for it) … jealousy. In English we often use the expression “fatal character flaw” with no regard for the literal meaning. In Pushkin’s case, his propensity for jealousy was indeed fatal. You can assume that his version of Salieri is a rather obvious subconscious representation of himself. In reality, Antonio Salieri was respected by no less a genius than Beethoven, and all of Mozart’s closest friends and associates continued to associate cordially with Salieri after Mozart’s death.
5. The great genius’s name, at least the part between the Wolfgang and the Mozart, was not Amadeus at all. In birth it was Theophilus – Greek for “beloved of God.” Amadeus is simply the Latin equivalent. Mozart himself used the French, German and Italian versions at various times. (Amade, Gottlieb and Amadeo, respectively.) A benefit concert for Mozart’s family was held in Prague on December 28, 1791, billed as “Concert in memory of Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart.” On his marriage registration, it has been mysteriously Anglicized to “Adam” – Wolfgang Adam Mozart! His earliest biographers used Gottlieb as a middle name. As far as we know, Mozart never once referred to himself as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, although he did jokingly sign correspondence in pseudo-Latin as Wolfgangus Amadeus Mozartus. Somehow, in the 19th century, Mozart’s little jest became his posthumous reality. (Many details here.)
SIDEBAR: Tom Hulce played Mozart in that film. If he were cast today, he could play Steve Bannon.
And, of course, your lusted ones as well as your loved ones. May they never meet on this most sacred of holidays.
Well, OK, maybe National Orgasm Day is not more sacred on the Scoopy Calendar than Shatner’s Birthday or Giant Pink Japanese Penis Day. That’s debatable, depending on which specific branch of Scoopianity you subscribe to. It’s like Christians arguing whether Easter is more sacred than Christmas.
I was invited to a family event. I declined. It will be me and my daughter.
As Billy Joel noted, we will be “sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone.”
And considerably better than death.
It is the 25th anniversary of Uncle Scoopy’s Fun House!
(Well, it might be today. It was in November of 1995. So let’s say today, since I happened to think of it.)
That’s a long time. It started in Bill Clinton’s first term. That’s a lot of editions – somewhere around 9000. I’m not sure how many editions there were in 1995 and 1996, because I couldn’t write it every day back then. I was traveling internationally in those 14.4 modem days, and there were plenty of places with no internet connections, or connections so slow they were useless. I tried, but I just couldn’t write my crappy little “e-zine” in relatively remote and primitive places like Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea and Indiana.
Sorry, Hoosiers. I’m just fuckin’ witcha.
But we have published an edition every day, seven days a week, for the last 23 of those 25 tours around the sun. I say “we” because three other people besides me have published the daily fun house, although I have contributed in some way every day. On the days when I didn’t assemble the page, I contributed a column, or links, or movie reviews and/or collages.
For trivia buffs, the other three guys who assembled and wrote the front page:
- Tuna, now deceased, a computer professional from the San Francisco area, who only wrote about 15 pages at the very end of 1999, but contributed his comments and collages to thousands of pages. (He created about 100,000 collages.) In addition to celebrity imaging, and running a hosting service, he was a brilliant photographer.
- The Realist, an infrequent contributor, but an avid fan and a neighbor of mine in Austin, who left Texas to become an Ivy League assistant professor in the frozen north. He wrote the page for about a month when I was traveling with my two youngest kids. I don’t hear from him any more. It has been fifteen or twenty years since our young genius left for the north, so I suppose he is probably a full professor by now.
- Scoopy Jr., my oldest son, another Austinite, who wrote the daily page for about three years (close to 1000 pages) while I concentrated exclusively on movie collages and reviews.
As for this page, Other Crap, it’s a real Johnny-come-lately by my standards. It has only been around for 17 1/2 years!
Luscious Luke was my favorite player when I was a kid. If you grew up in Rochester or Buffalo, you will probably say the same thing. He was a local legend. Although a kind-hearted man who was a clubhouse joker, he was a brute in the batters’ box. He was 240 pounds of muscle with shoulders that seemed as wide as two ordinary men, and he could hit the ball as hard as anyone ever has – as hard as Bo Jackson, Giancarlo Stanton, Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle. In fact, if you want to imagine him, just picture a black version of Stanton. By the time I saw him, Luke was nearly 50, wore glasses to bat, and was slow to time the fast ball – but was so strong that he hit 400-foot homers to the opposite field.
“As a player, Easter was best known for his powerful home runs, colloquially known as “Easter Eggs.” While with the Homestead Grays in 1948, he became the first player to hit a home run into the center field bleachers at New York’s Polo Grounds during game action, a section that was 475 feet from home plate. During his rookie season, he also hit the longest home run in the history of Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, a 477-foot blast over the auxiliary scoreboard in right field. The only other player to match that feat was Mickey Mantle, who did it in 1960. Finally, during his twilight days with the Bisons, he became the first player to hit a home run over the center field scoreboard at Buffalo’s home park, Offermann Stadium, doing so twice in 1957. On June 14 he cleared the board, and newspapers reported the blow at an estimated 500 feet.[Rochester, New York, Democrat and Chronicle, June 15, 1957, p. 21] On August 15, he hit the board near the top, and it went through a space between the board and a sign just above it.[Rochester, New York, Democrat and Chronicle, August 16, 1957, p. 26]
When told by a fan one time that the fan had seen Easter’s longest home run in person, Easter is reported to have replied, “If it came down, it wasn’t my longest.””
Luke was already a PCL legend when he made it to the majors. In 1949 he batted .363 for San Diego with a .722 slugging average.
Nobody is really sure when Luke was born, and the big guy offered a different birth year every time he was asked. The census data indicate he was born in 1915, making him a major league rookie at 35. Despite his advanced years in baseball terms, Luke had three great years with Cleveland.
1950: 28 homers, 107 RBI
After the Indians cut him, he went on to hit more than 200 minor league homers.
Here is a really great article about Luke’s colorful life, mostly about the early days of his career.
“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?”
“To-day? You don’t know? Why, Shatmas Day! Oh, good sir, with due respect, if you don’t know Shat, you don’t know Shit.”
There are those who, with apologies to pretenders like Alexander Graham Bell and the not-as-great Gretzky, call Bill Shatner the greatest of all Canadians. That’s nonsense. Why restrict his importance to a single frozen land with fewer than 40 million inhabitants? He is simply the greatest HUMAN.
Today is his 89th birthday. What is he up to? “William Shatner Provides Delightful Self-Quarantine Updates As Captain Kirk.”
Like most of his followers, I celebrate by getting into costume and re-enacting one of his many career highlights. I normally choose this all-time classic:
But that scene requires two actors, which is inappropriate in the era of Coronavirus and social distancing, so this year I have chosen to re-enact the fight scene from White Comanche, since Shatner plays both parts.