A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
1931 – Dick Tracy, the original CSI, made its first comic strip appearance in the Detroit Mirror newspaper. Tracy was way ahead of its time and you can see many of the story lines and plot twists in today’s TV crime dramas. For example, Tracy thought nothing of killing off recurring characters – even if they were women or good guys. This was unheard-of in the 30s. In 1990, Tracy was briefly resurrected in a cool Warren Beatty movie with Madonna, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino. Unfortunately, there may not be any more Dick Tracy anythings because, in an ironic twist, Tracy himself is tied up in court over who owns the rights to the hard-boiled detective.
1941 – Anne Rice, author whose real name is Howard Allen O’Brien. This woman has a lot to answer for. Since when did vampires become cozy? You want cozy? Get a kitten. Vampires, as dictated by the absolute real way the world works, are erotically evil creatures who stalk the shadows, looking for unsuspecting folks like you and me. They entice us, trap us and do things to us that are…un-natural. Since Rice introduced Lestat in Interview with the Vampire (1976) vampires have become cuddlier and cuddlier. Now they’re riding the bus and sitting in Biology class. Is our society so desperate to feel good that we have to kill off the last remaining wonderful evil? What next? Who Wants to Marry a Zombie? Don’t say I didn’t warn you?
1883 – The old time train line, The Orient Express — even the name conjures up luxury and intrigue! — began its original journey from Paris to Constantinople. More than nostalgia, the Orient Express is the elegance of the art of travel that has been lost in the 21st century. I don’t care how you dress it up; fast food, fast planes, canned air and a movie are not the way to travel. Slipping through the Austrian twilight at a table with a coffee and the after dinner evening – that’s the way to go. Then rocking asleep, listening to the exotic Balkan night rushing past your window and waking up to a whole different country: this is leisure. Unfortunately, it’s been lost forever — the Orient Express shut down in 2009.
1957 – Sputnik I was a satellite launched by the Soviet Union. It marked the start of the Space Age and the Space Race and confirmed that the United States was #2 in terms of engineering and technology. Bluntly, it scared the hell out of them. In actual fact, Sputnik I didn’t do much: it was basically an 84 kg football. However, the launch kicked Cold War hysteria into high gear. The Americans immediately threw huge wads of money at vast new programs in science and math, and the result was Neil Armstrong who one-small-stepped onto the moon, 12 years later. A super trivia question nobody ever gets: What is the largest satellite orbiting the Earth?
1989 – Graham Chapman, is the 5th funniest man who ever lived. He’s still funnier than Terry Gilliam (who isn’t funny at all, anymore.) Chapman was part of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the British television show that was the biggest influence on comedy since Charlie Chaplin. He died the day before the 20th anniversary of the first broadcast of Flying Circus. When asked to comment, Terry Jones, another Python, called it “the worst case of party-pooping in all history.”
1989 – Secretariat, was apparently, a gifted athlete, who won the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and the Belmont Stakes) in 1973. He was the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Citation in 1948. He was honoured all over the place. ESPN named him one of the top 100 athletes of the 20th century. The Post Office issued a Secretariat stamp in 1999, and he was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, the first non-human to be so honoured. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t even tie his own shoes.