(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas

“All rising to great places is by a winding stair”*…

 

stairs

 

(Roughly) Daily will be on Thanksgiving hiatus until Monday the 2nd.  Meantime, with an eye to the massive meals that U.S. readers are likely to consume in the meantime…

George Schupp never expected to find himself in Robert De Niro’s apartment. Once the owner of a thriving a custom manufacturing company in Tulsa, Schupp’s business withered during the 1970s energy crisis.

Feeling aimless, Schupp and his business partner, Jim Walker, began wondering what else they could manufacture. Through creativity and fate, they ended up producing something so iconic that it transformed gyms around the world – and sculpted countless butts along the way.

Maybe that’s what De Niro was hoping for, when he invited Schupp into his home. It’s hard to know, all these years later. But the one thing the story shows is that even De Niro wasn’t immune to the allure of the StairMaster.

For a long time, gyms didn’t have machines, other than a stationery bike or two. The gym was a place for synchronized cardio classes, or free weights. The StairMaster, along with companies like Nautilus, transformed the gym into its current landscape, where rows of treadmills coexist with bikes, ellipticals and other contraptions.

stair_then

An early StairMaster

 

But how did the StairMaster climb from its humble Midwest origins to an Oscar-winning actor’s luxurious suite? It started with a chance encounter. In the midst of Schupp and Walker’s strategizing over how to transition into the fitness industry, they happened to meet a man named Lanny Potts.

When Walker showed up to buy Potts’ old car, the two fell into a meet cute so perfect it could have been scripted. Potts, it turned out, was an inventor. Soon, the trio met regularly to brainstorm. Walker and Schupp had the manufacturing know-how, and Potts brought promising ideas into the mix.

Seeking inspiration, Potts began reaching out to friends and associates. At one point, he made the fateful decision to approach his doctor, who proceeded to muse about the vexing problem of stair climbing. Did they know that climbing is excellent exercise, yet the descent can wreak havoc on shins and joints? They did not. But there it was, nearly perfect: A problem that needed a solution. And so they got to work.

In this way, the StairMaster’s history is almost the exact opposite of the treadmill’s. While the StairMaster is designed to minimize potential injury, the treadmill was specifically designed to inflict it. In 1818, a civil engineer named William Cubitt designed the treadmill as a ghoulish machine to punish prisoners…

Oprah

Oprah with the (newer model) StairMaster she called “my little friend”

 

A keystone of the modern gym: “The Story of the StairMaster.”

See also “From Oil to Oprah: An Oral History of the StairMaster.”

[image at top: source]

* Gautama Buddha

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As we work it off, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924 that the annual Thanksgiving Day parade started in Newark, New Jersey by Louis Bamberger at the Bamberger’s store was transferred to New York City by Macy’s.  Originally running from Harlem to the Macy’s store on Herald Square, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is tied for second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States with America’s Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit.  (Both parades are four years younger than Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.)

The balloons that have become the Macy’s Parade’s signature were introduced in 1927, when a Felix the Cat balloon took the place of the live animals that had previously been borrowed from the Central Park Zoo.

From the first Macy’s Parade:

elephants_21904_1370_10881

floa_01

source

 

 

Written by LW

November 27, 2019 at 1:01 am

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present”*…

 

The 13 most popular Christmas songs on Spotify, a music-streaming service, have amassed 1bn plays between them. The most popular of them, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, written in 15 minutes and recorded by Mariah Carey in 1994, accounts for 210m of those plays. It has earned over $60m in royalties since its release.

Despite its ubiquity during December, the appeal of festive music varies significantly by geography. Spotify provided The Economist with data for Christmas listening across 35 countries, and for every American state, on a day-by-day basis for the two months leading up to Christmas Day 2016. The data demonstrate that music lovers in Sweden and Norway listen to festive tunes most frequently. One in every six songs they streamed on Spotify during December last year received this classification (the list includes some 1,500 Christmas songs performed in English and local languages). By contrast, during the same period in Brazil—a country with a comparable proportion of Christians—just one song in 150 was Christmas-themed. Listening habits in American states also vary, though to a smaller degree: in New Hampshire Christmas songs accounted for one in nine streams, whereas in Nevada, the state where such tunes are least common, it was one in 20…

Why?  Find out at “The music industry should be dreaming of a white Christmas.”

* Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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As we deck the halls, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957 that 55-year-old German accordionist Will Glahé outsold many established Rock And Roll artists when his “Liechtensteiner Polka” reaches #19 on the Billboard Pop chart. Glahé’s first success in America had come in June, 1939 when his rendition of “Beer Barrel Polka” hit the top of the US Hit Parade, selling over a million copies. (Your correspondent has no explanatory link for this one…)

 source

 

Written by LW

December 8, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Dear Santa, before I submit my life to your scrutiny, I demand to know who made YOU the master of my fate?!*…

 

Father Christmas as pictured in Josiah King’s The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas (1686)

Contrary to what many believe, Santa Claus as we know him today – sleigh riding, gift-giving, rotund and white bearded with his distinctive red suit trimmed with white fur – was not the creation of the Coca Cola Company. Although their Christmas advertising campaigns of the 1930s and 40s were key to popularising the image, Santa can be seen in his modern form decades before Coca Cola’s illustrator Haddon Sundblom got to work. Prior to settling on his famed red garb and jolly bearded countenance, throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Santa morphed through a variety of different looks. From the description given in Clement Moore’s A Visit from St Nicholas in 1822, through the vision of artist Thomas Nast, and later Norman Rockwell, Mr Claus gradually shed his various guises and became the jolly red-suited Santa we know today…

The illustrated story of St. Nick at “A Pictorial History of Santa Claus.”

* Calvin (Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes)

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As we finish our letters, we might recall that it was on this date in 1913 that Arthur Wynne’s “word-cross,” the first crossword puzzle, was published in the New York World:

2-3.    What bargain hunters enjoy.        6-22.    What we all should be.
4-5.    A written acknowledgment.         4-26.    A day dream.
6-7.    Such and nothing more.                2-11.    A talon.
10-11.    A bird.                                            19-28.    A pigeon.
14-15.    Opposed to less.                           F-7.    Part of your head.
18-19.    What this puzzle is.                     23-30.    A river in Russia.
22-23.    An animal of prey.                      1-32.    To govern.
26-27.    The close of a day.                      33-34.    An aromatic plant.
28-29.    To elude.                                      N-8.    A fist.
30-31.    The plural of is.                           24-31.    To agree with.
8-9.    To cultivate.                                     3-12.    Part of a ship.
12-13.    A bar of wood or iron.                20-29.    One.
16-17.    What artists learn to do.            5-27.    Exchanging.
20-21.    Fastened.                                      9-25.    To sink in mud.
24-25.    Found on the seashore.             13-21.    A boy.
10-18.    The fibre of the gomuti palm.

solution (source)

 

Written by LW

December 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Now, the supreme moment, the Christmas pudding was brought in, in state!”*…

 

Central Hotel, Charlotte, North Carolina, 1900

What did people eat in America 100 years ago during the holiday season? Menus catalogued by the New York Public Library from Christmas dinners served in the early part of the 20th century offer an interesting look at our ancestors’ dining habits. The menus come from a survey of restaurants, hotels, and even an Army fort’s Christmas dinner service…

Just in time to aid in planning this year’s holiday meal:  more (and larger) menus from an age gone by.

* Agatha Christie, “The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding”

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As we bake the bread to break, we might recall that it was on this date in 1843 that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol— a novella he’d written over the prior six weeks– was formally published; it had been released to book stores and the public two days later.  The first run of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve, and the book continued to sell well through twenty-four editions in its original form.

Cover of the first edition

source

 

Written by LW

December 19, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”*…

 

 

It seems that in northern Siberia, the reindeer developed a taste for those colorful red and white mushrooms, fly agaric (amanita muscaria), and will eat them till they’re higher than a kite.  Anyone eating the meat of such reindeer will get equally high. The village shamen soon figured out how to reduce the toxicity of the mushrooms, while increasing the potency and claiming it helped them fly.  Folks in the far north had not yet discovered the art of fermentation, so the fly-in visits from the shaman with his mushroom treats were much anticipated.  A further point…many shamanistic arctic tribes such as the Koryaks of Siberia lived in semi underground yurt like structures, whose only entrance was a ladder through the smoke hole, or chimney, in the roof, down which the shamen would climb with his gifts, carried in a sack.

Then, in 1931, a young Swedish artist named Haddon Sundblom, obviously familiar with the tales, created a jolly round Santa Claus as a Christmas icon for his client, Coca-Cola,  using the company’s familiar red and white colors.  Coke notes with pride that until that time, St. Nick appeared in any number of guises, from a somber man in priestly garb to a green-clad elf, and it was only after Haddon had developed the character over several years that the jolly fat Santa became our Christmas standard-bearer, shown drinking his first Coke in 1934…

Read more in John Hulls’ terrific blog Somewhat Logically: “Reindeer Really Know How to Fly.”

* the famous reply contained in “Is There a Santa Claus?”, an editorial appearing in the September 21, 1897, edition of The (New York) Sun.

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As we bake cookies to leave out on Christmas Eve, we might recall that on this date in 1732 Benjamin Franklin published the first edition of “Poor Richard’s Almanack,”  a pamphlet series that he continued, to great success, annually through 1757.  (Indeed, with print runs typically numbering 10,000, the series made Franklin’s fortune, allowing him to spend the bulk of his time on scientific experiments, diplomacy…  and in his own consciousness-altering experiments in The Hellfire Club.)

The first edition (published in 1732 for 1733)

 With the hope that your celebrations will be warm and peaceful, and with thanks for your kind attention over the last twelve months, (Roughly) Daily is going on it’s annual Holiday hiatus…  See you in the New Year!

Written by LW

December 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

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