Monthly Archive: December 2010

Billy the Kid Does NOT Get a Pardon

Billy the Kid will not receive a pardon from Gov. Bill Richardson on Richardson’s last day in office.The New Mexico governor made his decision public today, after much outside speculation and derision.  (The full text of his announcement is reprinted below.)  Money quote:

Meet Heidi, the Timberline Lodge St. Bernard

Tell me this dog isn’t cute. Heidi became the latest St. Bernard “in residence” at Oregon’s Timberline Lodge in September. My cousin, Kristin Garrett, is the wrangler. 

Paul Bowles, Happy 100th Birthday!

Paul Bowles, noted expatriate and author of The Sheltering Sky, was born on this day 100 years ago.Fans have been celebrating all year.Paul Bowles lived to be nearly 89 and stayed in Morocco ’til the bitter end, as this 1998 interview shows.

Dr. J and Larry Bird for Chewable Converse All-Stars

Dr. J and Larry Bird (and Magic Johnson too!) love their Chuck Taylors.  Not actually chewable, but definitely gumball-colored. Official shoe of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, y’know.

Real-Life ‘Liesl Von Trapp’ Dead at 97

She’s no longer 97 going on 98.Sorry, couldn’t resist.  The sad truth is, Agathe von Trapp has died at age 97 in Baltimore, Maryland.

A Professor Explains Jeremy Bentham’s Corpse for You

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham is a longtime star of our loop Oddly Preserved, thanks to his unusual demand that his body should be saved, dressed up, and displayed to friends and followers.Here Professor Philip Schofield of University College London tells the story, as Jeremy Bentham’s corpse looks on.

The Billy the Kid Pardon: Eight Burning Questions About a Dopey Controversy

Enough!  Enough of these endless headlines about a maybe-pardon for Billy the Kid.  Since nobody has explained to my satisfaction why we’re even talking about it in 2010, I’ve done the research.  Here are the answers to your eight burning questions about Billy the Kid and the Great Dopey Pardon Scandal of 2010.

Famous People Who Died in 2010

Here’s our big list.  It starts with feminist Mary Daly on January 3rd, and ends (so far) with JFK advisor Ted Sorensen on October 31st.Who was the most famous person to die in 2010? Tthere’s no real standout there. I give the nod either to Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger, or to Hollywood icon Tony Curtis. 

Marlene Dietrich, Happy Birthday!

If Marlene Dietrich were still alive, she’d be 109 years old today.
My guess is we’d still be reading about her exploits in Hollywood — suggestive rumors about her “close” relationships with Jesse McCartney and, say, Lady GaGa.
And still making visits to the troops overseas, singing a dubstep version of “Falling in Love Again (Can’t Help It)” (remixed by Kanye and available on iTunes).

Calamity Jane’s Last Years

Over at this month, there’s a terrific piece by author William Secrest titled “The Calamities of Calamity Jane.”
Born Martha Jane Cannary in Missouri around 1852, she became a notorious resident of Deadwood in the Dakotas during the Gold Rush of the 1870s. By the 1880s, the legend of “Calamity Jane” had spread to the east coast in the form of dime novels, newspaper accounts and stage plays.

‘Cuddles’ Sakall: A Holiday Appreciation

Last December I wrote an encomium to Christmas in Connecticut, the most delightful Christmas movie ever made. Here’s what I had to say about veteran character actor S.Z. Sakall:

Aaron Carter Is Not Dead

Aaron Carter is not dead, according to Aaron Carter.  He so tweeted on Christmas Eve:”This is the real Aaron Carter I know there’s a Hoax Going Around, But I’m Here, Alive & Well. At the compound Working on my mind & soul.”Finally: Aaron Carter has something in common with Alexander the Great. 

Santa Claus Makes Richie Rich Sweat

How many ads, promotions and odd themes can you work into one Santa Claus photo?Here we have jolly old St. Nick posing with Richie Rich, the club kid-turned-fashion maven. 

The Curse of the Spider-Man

Who will step in and shut down this insane Broadway production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark? 

Jenny Agutter is 58

The British actress Jenny Agutter turns 58 today. 

Captain Beefheart is Dead

Don Van Vliet, the painter who became famous in the late 1960s as Captain Beefheart, died yesterday from complications related to multiple sclerosis. He was 69 years old.
Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band’s most famous album is 1969’s Trout Mask Replica, produced by his pal and collaborator Frank Zappa. Captain Beefheart also sings on “Willie the Pimp” from Zappa’s album Hot Rats.

Abe Lincoln’s Statue

I was in downtown Portland, Oregon today, and I took a couple of photos of this Abraham Lincoln statue that is in what the locals call “the Park blocks.”

Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter Will Tag-Team a Computer on Jeopardy!

Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, two of Jeopardy!’s all-time great champs, will compete against an IBM computer named Watson on the show in February.Jennings and Rutter could win a million bucks.  If Watson wins, he gets a soothing oil bath.

Yogi Bear: Boo Boo Kills Yogi

Watch this moving clip that takes Yogi Bear and Boo Boo and puts them right into the Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford:

Ja Rule Goes to Jail

Calling it a “minor setback for a major comeback,” rapper and sort-of actor Ja Rule reached a plea agreement with New York authorities that will have him spending at least 16 months in jail.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is 60!

Grab a bushel of corn and raise a toast: Tom Vilsack was born on this day in 1950.  He has been America’s Secretary of Agriculture since January of 2009.

Memories of the Al Gore Administration

What if the Supreme Court had given the election to Al Gore instead of George W. Bush? New York magazine imagines.

Amelia Earhart’s Finger Bone

According to this story from, a bone fragment found on the uninhabited Pacific island of Nikumaroro may be part of Amelia Earhart’s finger.
Amelia Earhart and her finger disappeared 73 years ago while attempting an around-the-world flight with navigator Fred Noonan.

Bernard Madoff’s Son Commits Suicide

Mark Madoff, the elder son of jailed-for-life investment fraud Bernard Madoff, has committed suicide.  He hung himself with a dog leash in Manhattan.  It happened on the second anniversary of Bernard Madoff’s 2008 arrest.

George Custer’s Last Flag Sells for $2.2 million

Yes, Sotheby’s in New York made headlines again today, with the sale of a 7th Cavalry standard (flag) that is one of the last remaining artifacts of the General Custer debacle at the 1863 Battle of Little Big Horn.

Neil Armstrong Answers Your Questions

Here’s a letter to Robert Krulwich of National Public Radio’s science blog, in answer to a question he posed about why the first men on the moon didn’t travel very far from the lunar module.
The letter is from Neil Armstrong, who just happened to be the first man to step foot on the moon. He also took a lot of the photos and video from Apollo 11’s 1969 trip.

Elizabeth Smart’s Captor Found Guilty

Today a federal jury in Salt Lake City, Utah found Brian David Mitchell guilty of kidnapping and raping Elizabeth Smart back in 2002, when Smart was just 14 years old.
Brian David Mitchell never denied that he took Elizabeth Smart from her home and held her captive for nine months of sexual abuse. Mitchell’s defense that he did it because he was out of his head with delusions.

It’s Not a Mugging, It’s Ad Copy

Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone was mugged in London recently.  The thieves gave him a black eye and took $315,000 worth of jewelry — including a Breitling “H

John J. Audubon’s Big Expensive Book(s)

They’re calling it “the world’s most expensive book”: A copy of John J. Audubon’s Birds of America was sold at auction yesterday for about $11.5 million.
Read about the sale here at The Guardian.
It’s a big book. It’s actually four books, and they contain 435 prints — handpainted watercolors — that are about two feet by three feet.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Attacker Goes to Jail

It’s two years in the slammer for Aretha Wilson, the woman who in 2005 crashed a party and jabbed a broken beer bottle into the face of actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
Read the brief news item here.

Jon Stewart Mocks the ‘War on Christmas’

Jon Stewart mocked the alleged War on Christmas pretty darn good in last night’s Daily Show.  This after Fox News attacked a renamed “Holiday Parade” in Tulsa, Oklahoma.Skip ahead to the 4:50 mark for the really funny part: a parody with Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and the whole “holiday” gang.

Julian Assange Arrested

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, was arrested today in London.
Julian Assange has been accused of sexual assault and is wanted by Swedish authorities. Reports are that British authorities will agree to extradite him to Sweden.
Assange’s defenders claim the charges are just a way to keep WikiLeaks from publishing more classified documents, but who knows.
Below is a long-ish report from India with a limited number of video clips of Julian Assange:

Pearl Harbor Day Tribute: Chester Nimitz

Here’s a December 7th salute to Admiral Chester Nimitz.After the disaster of Pearl Harbor in 1941 (disaster for American forces, that is), Nimitz was the man appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt to take over the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet and clean up the mess.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Just Look Like Movie Stars

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt delivered the movie glamour on Monday night at the world premiere of The Tourist in New York City.  Angelina Jolie stars with Johnny Depp in the big-budget thriller, set and filmed in Venice (

Johnny Cash Memorabilia For Christmas Shoppers

There was an auction yesterday of Johnny Cash memorabilia, and the hottest item ended up being a blue jumpsuit that Johnny Cash wore while rehearsing at Folsom Prison in California.
It went for $50,000.
The auction was held by Juliens Auction. You may remember them as the ones who auctioned off the chest x-rays of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. If you don’t remember that, join the club!

From Dropout to Doctorate: A Bill Cosby Educational Timeline

{Editor’s note: First published on December 5, 2010. See our Bill Cosby biography for updates on his recent controversies and criminal charges.} “My father said, ‘Junior, it takes a man to …..

Charles Manson Had a Cell Phone

They caught Charles Manson with a cell phone in prison. Read about it here at FoxNews.
Charles Manson isn’t supposed to have a cell phone in prison, you see. The report says he called and texted people in California, New Jersey, Florida and British Columbia. I can imagine: “no parole 4 me, FML.”

Oh Dear Heavens, Danny Bonaduce Got Married Again

Danny Bonaduce, still of Partridge Family fame, has married his manager in a surprise ceremony in Hawaii.  It’s only his third marriage, so perhaps it’s not fair to give him the “oh dear heavens” treatment.  Good luck to

Robert Duvall Calls Stanley Kubrick “An Actor’s Enemy”

Dig this video from The Hollywood Reporter, featuring actors Jesse Eisenberg (he plays Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network), Mark Ruffalo and Robert Duvall.
Eisenberg talks about his experiences doing multiple takes for the movie’s director, David Fincher. Jesse Eisenberg puts a positive spin on the whole deal.

Putin Likely Knew About Assassination Plot: Wikileaks

Vladimir Putin probably knew about plans to murder dissident journalist Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, according to American diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks.  Litvinenko, you may recall, was poisoned with Polonium-210 in 2006 in London.  He accused Putin of his murder before he died.Litvinenko’s assassin now enjoys the “personal protection of Putin,” say the cables, which also call Russia a “virtual mafia state.”