Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Trivia


DID YOU KNOW that Halloween or Hallowe'en is a contraction of All Hallows' Eve, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day or All Saints' Day (November 1), which is dedicated to honouring martyrs, saints and the departed?  It is widely believed The Americanized version of Halloween, with costumes, candies and pumpkins, originated with the Celtic harvest festivals in Britain, which may have been pagan, and that those customs were later adapted to Christian and immigrant tranditions.  However, some academics contend that Halloween began as an independent Christian feast.

DID YOU KNOW that the famed illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini died on Halloween?

Harry Houdini, born Erik Weisz, died on October 31, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan, USA from a ruptured appendix and peritonitis (inflamation of the peritoniium. the tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen)  He was 52 years of age at the time of his passing.  Houdini's death occurred after an incident in the Princess Theatre in Montreal, Canada.  A McGill University student, J. Gordon Whitehead, apparently delivered multiple munches to Houdini's abdomen.   According to some eyewitness, Houdini was asked whether it was true that punches in the stomach did not hurt him.

Houdini had a high fever and acute appenditis when he later arrived in Detroit.  He ignored advice to undergo immediate surgery. Instead, he performed his final show at Garrick Theatre in great pain and died at Detroit's Grace Hospital.

DID YOU KNOW that Nevada joined the United States on Hallween?

Nevada became the 36th state in the union on October 31, 1864, just eight days before the presidential election of that year. Statehood was rushed to help ensure the reelection of Abraham Lincoln and post-Civil War Republican control of Congress.  As it turned out, Lincoln won the November 8th election handily anyway.  (Coincidentally, the presidential election of 2016 will be held on November 8th, just eight days from today).

DID YOU KNOW that Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India from 1966 to 1977, was assassinated on Halloween?

Born on November 19, 1917, Indira Gandhi was India's first female prime minister and head of government.  On October 31, 1984, two of her Sikh bodyguards shot her to death with their service weapons in the garden of the Prime Minister's Residence in New Delhi.  The shooting occurred just before she was to be interviewed by British actor Peter Ustinov, who was filming a documentary about her for Irish television.

In her last speech, the day before her death, Indira Gandhi delivered an inspiring and prophetic speech.  She spoke the following words:

I am her today, I may not be here tomorrow.  But the respsosibilty to look after national interest is on the sholulder of every citizen of India.  I have often mentioned this earlier.  Nobody knows how many attempts have been made to shoot me, lathis have been used to beat me.  In Bhubaneswar itself, a brickbat hit me.  They have attack me in every possible manner.  I do not care if I live or die.  I have lived a long life and I am proud that I spend the whole of my life in the service of my people.  I am only proud of this and nothing else.  I shall continue to serve until my last breath and when I die, I can say, that every drop of my blood will invigorate India and strengthen it."

DID YOU KNOW that Jimmy Durante left an imprint of his nose on Halloween?

On October 31, 1945, American singer, pianist and comedian Jimmy Durante, left an imprint of his "schnozzola" in the cement outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California.  Durante passed away on January 29, 1980 at the age of 86.

DID YOU KNOW that Harry Potter's parents were killed on Halloween night?

According to the timeline of the Harry Potter novels by British author J.K. Rowling, Voldemort killed Harry's mother and father on the night of October 31, 1981.  Volemort, the archenemy of the boy wizard first appeared in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which was released in 1997.

DID YOU KNOW that Benito Mussolini took power in Italy on Halloween?

Fascist leader Benito Mussolini became the 27th Prime Minister of Italy on October 31, 1922.  At 39 years old, he was the youngest Italian prime minister until the appointment of Mateo Renzi in February of 2014.  Known as Il Duce, (The Leader), Mussolini ruled constitutionally until 1925, when he established a legal dictatorship.  On June 10, 1940, Il Duce's Italy officially entered World War II on the side of Germany.  On April 27, 1945, Mussolini and his mistress, Clara were captured by Communist partisans near the village of Dongo on Lake Como.  They and other Fascists were summarily shot.

DID YOU KNOW that the English poet John Keats was born on Halloween?

John Keats, the celebrated romantic poet, was born on October 31, 1795 in Moorgate, London, England.  He died of tuberculosis in Rome in 1821,  He was only 25 years old at the time of his passing.

DID YOU KNOW that Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins was born on Halloween?

Astronaut Michael Collins was born on October 31, 1930 in Rome, Italy, the son of U.S. Army General James Lawton (1882-1963).  In July of 1969, he was the Command Module Pilot for Apollo 11, the first spaceflight that landed humans on the Moon.  He piloted Columbia alone in lunar orbit while his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin walked on the moon.  Collins celebrates his 86th birthday today.

DID YOU KNOW that Nationalist Chinese leader Chiag Kai-Shek was born on Halloween?

Chinese political and military leader Chiang Kai-Shek was born on October 31, 1887.  He served as the leader of the Nationalist government of China from 1928 until his death on April 5, 1975 at the age of 87.  While training in the Japanese military, Chiang became a believer in republican ideals.  Upon his return to China, he opposed the dying Manchu imperial dynasty.  He joined forces with the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) of Sun Yat-sen, the revolutionary, founding father and first president of the Republic of China in 1912.

A Happy Halloween to all from Number 16.

- Joanne

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Do Your Own Plumbing: Five Plumbing Jobs You Should Be Doing Yourself

Here is an infographic tip sheet on how to do five common plumbing repairs.  Keep in mind, though, that it is not recommended that you try to fix anything more complicated without calling a plumber, especially if you are not particularly good at handiwork or mechanically inclined.  Nevertheless, there are a few jobs that you could do on your own and save the expense of a plumber.

- Joanne

Plumbing Hacks by Radiator Valves 4u
Plumbing Hacks by Radiator Valves 4u.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mrs. Miller: Cult figure of the 1960s

Listeners loved the novelty of Mrs. Miller. She sang off key and out of sync with the band, but she was a good-natured, plump 59-year-old woman whose enthusiasm for performing and overconfidence in her singing ability seemed authentic.

- Suzanne Raga
"The '60s Housewife Who Couldn't Sing - But Landed on the 'Billboard' Charts Anway", May 29, 2015 

Recently I saw the movie Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.  The film is based on the true story of a New York socialite by that name.  Florence Foster Jenkins, who was portrayed by Streep in the film, was an amateur soprano with poor singing ability.  Known for her flamboyant costumes, she became something of a cult figure in New York City during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. On October 25, 1944, at the age of 76, Florence performed at a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall. The concert turned out to be her swan song.  She died about a month later, on November 26, 1944.

After viewing the film about Florence Foster Jenkins, I was reminded of Elva Miller, who recorded under the name of "Mrs. Miller" and was a cult figure of the 1960s.  Since I have an interest in '60s pop culture, I decided to do some research on Mrs. Miller.  I wanted to know how in the midst of the of the Vietnam era and the civil rights struggle, she became so popular.  At a time when young people were told not to trust anyone over 30, how did this 59 year-old suburban housewife become a star?

Elva Ruby Connes was born in Joplin, Missouri on October 5, 1907, the third of the seven children of Edward Connes and Ada Martin.  Elva's family soon moved to a farm in Jetmore. Kansas.  As a teenager, Elva left Jetmore  and went to live with a family in Dodge City, Kansas.  In Dodge City, she continued her high school education and sang in a church choir.

On January 17, 1934, Elva married John Richardson Miller, a professional investor and horsebreeder who was thirty years her senior.  In 1935, the couple left Kansas behind and moved to Claremont, California where Elma studied music and voice at Pomona College. Elva kept busy with church and community work and produced several recordings which she financed on her.own, mainly classical, gospel and children's songs.  When arranger Fred Bock heard her, he persuaded her to record some contemporary songs and offered the recordings to various record companies.

In the early 1960s, Gary Owens of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in fame was a disc jockey at KMPC radio in Los Angeles.  Owens, who was a friend of Fred Bock, played Elva's songs on his radio show. In 1965, she was signed to Capitol Records,

The story of Mrs. Miller's rise to success is extraordinary.  Within 18 months, she rocketed to fame. Her debut album, Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits, sold 250,000 copies within three weeks.  In April of 1966, her rendition of Petula Clark's hit song "Downtown" reached the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, peaking at Number 82.

Below is a promotional ad from Capitol Records for Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits.  The ad also highlights Elva's whistling and humming ability.

Meet Mrs. Miller.

You've been teased long enough.

This is Mrs. Elva Miller, our newest vocal find, with her distinguished and well-mannered sound.  

Mrs. Miller is a singer a whistler, and a hummer.  She is also a founder of the Foothill Drama and Choral Society, located near her Claremont, California home.  

Mrs. Miller is not one to live in the past.  Today's music is her music.  Classics-to-be such as "Downtown," "A Hard Days Night," "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," and "Let's Hang On" are inimitably rendered in her new album.  Thus,we believe they now belong to the ages.  

By that token, we at Capitol proudly introduce a new talent and a superlative musical document, "Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits."

Was Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits all just a gag, a tongue-in-cheek joke on Capitol's part.  How serious did Mrs. Miller take herself?  In a December 1967 interview with Bob Thomas for The Associated Press (AP) ("Mrs Miller Tries to Change Image"), Elva shed some light on the issue and seemed determined play it straight with a new image.  She stated that "Capitol Records created the angle that 'she's so bad that she's good.  Or it's what you call camp." Elva also claimed that she wasn't originally in on the gag.  She insisted that she didn't sing off key. She said that "They got me to do so by waiting until I was tired and then making the record. Or they would cut the record before I could become familiar with the song. At first I didn't understand what was going on. But later I did, and I resented it. I don't like to be used."

Mrs. Miller's second album for the Capitol label was titled Will Success Spoil Mrs. Miller? While Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits focused on contemporary hits, Will Success Spoil Mrs. Miller? contained traditional pop standards such as "Moon River" and "Strangers in the Night."  In 1967, Mrs. Miller's third and final album for Capitol was released.  It was called The Country Soul of Mrs. Miller and it did not sell very many copies.

At the height of her fame, Elva Miller performed at the Hollywood Bowl and entertained U.S. Servicemen in Vietnam.  She made television appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The Ed Sullivan ShowArt Linkletter's House Party and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.  In December of 1966, she appeared on Hollywood Palace with Jimmy Durante and they sang a duet of "Inka Dinka Do."  Mrs. Miller was also featured in the film The Cool Ones, starring Roddy McDowall.  She sang "It's Magic." in the 1967 comedy about a has-been pop star and a go-go dancer.

Mrs. Miller with Jimmy Durante

Mrs. Miller singing "It's Magic" in The Cool Ones"

After three albums, Capitol Records unceremoniously dropped Mrs. Miller from its label.  In a December 1967 AP article by Bob Thomas, Elva related her feelings about being rejected by Capitol.  "I could see that they were doing nothing for my records in the way of promotion," she stated, "and I felt this was a signal.  So we asked for my release. Without consulting us, Capitol released the news that I was being dropped."

In 1968, Elva released one album, Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing, on the Amaret Records label.  She then released some singles on her own label, Vibrato Records. On the album cover, she is dressed in a psychedelic hippie outfit, holding a plate of green brownies.  The album included songs with drug symbolism.

By the early 1970s, Mrs. Miller's career was largely non-existent.  In 1973, she officially retired.   
Elva Miller spent the last years of her life in Hollywood and then in Northridge, California (in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles) where she occupied herself with charity work.  In 1994, her Northridge apartment building collapsed during an earthquake and she was immediately moved to a convalescent hospital.  On July 5, 1997, Elva  passed away in Garden Terrace Retirement Home in Vista, California.  Mrs. Miller was 89 years old at the time of her death.


* In The Book of Lists 2 by Irving Wallace and David Wallechinsky, Mrs. Miller's voice was likened to the the sound of "roaches scurrying across a trash can lid."

* Elva and John Miller did not have any children.

* In a September 1967 interview with Life magazine, Elva Miller talked about whistling.  She that "for whistling you need a good tight pucker.  I use ice clamped between my lips.  I leave it there about 20 minutes.  It doesn't hurt.  It just freezes up."

- Joanne

Friday, October 7, 2016

Teched Out House: A Look at a Technology Friendly Home of the Future

This infographic provides a glimpse of how technology may affect the homes of the future.  I hope you enjoy it and that you find it thought-provoking.  Think about how prophetic it will turn out to be.  Challenge yourself.

- Joanne

Teched Out House Infographic by The Rug Seller by The Rug Seller