Tag Archives: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The glowing history behind Christmas's most stop-motiony character.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a fictional Christmas-time character that first appeared in 1939 as the ninth reindeer pulling Santa’s forced servitude toy-distribution sledge. Known for his glowing red nose and inability to successfully convince his co-workers to allow him to participate in common playtime activities for reindeer, he was the creation of a low-paid advertising copywriter for Montgomery Ward.

Rhonda, Carl, Ricky and Rudolph

Robert L. May was tasked with coming up with a cheery Christmas coloring book to lift the spirits of Depression-era shoppers using an animal as the star. After going through a round of rejected characters which we would like to think included Rhonda the Ruby-Lipped Rhinocerous and Carl the Crimson-Beaked Cockatiel, he decided to make a deer his central character, finally landing on “Ricky, the Deer with Extreme Nose Rosacea”, at which point he was fired for being such a terrible copywriter. Just kidding; of course the deer was Rudolph, and May’s creation was described in the poem he wrote for the book, which was first published during the 1939 holiday season. Written as a poem in anapestic tetrameter, the same horrific rhyming disease that also afflicted Dr. Seuss, May told the story of a young reindeer named Rudolph, whose father may or may not have been the guy in the Operation game. His unfortunate genetic disorder is ridiculed by his co-workers, causing great distress to the young deer, who is then convinced by lawyers from the Animal Defense Fund to file an employment discrimination lawsuit that ultimately wins him $14 million which bankrupts Santa and then Christmas is canceled (See: “The Year Without A Santa Claus“).

A killer-diller lulu of a magilla

The poem was a hit with shoppers, who snapped up over 2.4 million copies using their 24 million greedy holiday snapping fingers, but even so the poem wouldn’t be reprinted until 1946 because of wartime restrictions on paper use (thanks again, Hitler.) May was generously given the rights to the Rudolph story and proceeded to release a spoken word version of the poem, followed by a print book, with both items making killer-diller moola like a lulu, if you really want the whole magilla, which in 1940s-speak means they sold well. Next, his brother-in-law Johnny Marks, who was a songwriter, decided to write a song based on the now-famous deer in 1949. It became an instant hit; or at least it did after it was recorded by country-western star Gene Autry and made into actual records and played on whatever people used for MP3 players back then. It sold more copies than any other Christmas song with the exception of White Christmas and the one those chipmunks sing about the hula hoop.

Get to the sled!

A sequel, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Shines Again, starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as an older and now bitter, disillusioned Rudolph who exacts bloody revenge on a Mexican drug cartel for killing his family over a magic candy cane or something. But again, that’s just what we’d like to think. The character probably achieved it’s ultimate fame as a result of the eponymous Rankin and Bass stop-motion TV special which aired in 1964 in what is now regarded as a Christmas Classic, right up there with the Santa Norelco shaver commercial and that one weird special where David Bowie sings “Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby in a cardigan sweater. The special added such characters as Sam the folk-singing hipster snowman, Hermey the slightly masochistic unlicensed dentist, and Yukon Cornelius, winner of the most gravity-defying mustache in history. Subsequent annual viewings have cemented Rudolph and his pals into the public consciousness like an impacted Abominable Snow Monster molar, although certain children, not necessarily me, suffered deep psychological trauma when they weren’t allowed to watch the show until they had finished eating their nasty pig-in-a-blankets, because Tivo hadn’t been invented yet, and he had mean parents.

So while you may have your Dasher’s, Donner’s, Vixen’s, Nixon’s and Agnew’s, remember good old Rudolph and his glowing proboscis is at the front of the pack making sure that you get your Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots you never got when you were a kid, as long as you eat your pig-in-a-blankets.

Photo Credit: olivia_henry cc

Get to the Choppa! (Helicopters)
A brief history of vertical flight, plus, lots of accent thingys

Helicopters are aviation devices that utilize rotating blades for lift, used primarily for transport and for dumping Bond villains into tall smokestacks. They are also used for military purposes, law enforcement, medical use, and for providing something for Arnold Schwarzenegger to point to while yelling “Get to the choppa!”.

Here come those accent thingys again

Although helicopters are one of the more recent methods of powered flight, references for vertical flight come from as far back as ancient China, where Chinese boys would tie small animals to rockets, as well play with bamboo flying toys that were spun by rotating a stick attached to a rotor. It would take six centuries for the Chinese to realize that rocketed-powered rats could only get you so far in the vertical flight race, as they didn’t develop their own helicopter design until the 1950’s, with help from their buddies the Soviet Union. However, the Chinese bamboo toys would served as a model for later helicopter experiments by European inventors with names containing lots of those accent thingys over the letters, such as “Alphonse Pénaud” and Gustave de Ponton d’Amécourt. They developed a variety of tethered helicopter devices, useful for advertising used car sales and high school pranks, but not yet practical. It was French inventor d’Amécourt himself who coined the word “helicopter” in 1861, by graciously taking all of the accent thingys out of the French word hélicoptère, which itself was derived from the Greek words “helix” and “pteron”, which themselves were derived from some even older words, all the way back to some noises a caveman grunted when he saw a dead bird cartwheeling out of the sky.

Watch out, short people

Ján “Ha! I’ve Got One More Accent Thingy Than You, Gustave de Ponton d’Amécourt” Bahýľ developed a helicopter model in 1901 that was powered by an internal combustion engine. It reached a height of 1.6 ft; useful for trimming some of the taller grass in his back yard, but fairly dangerous around children and short people. Finally, two French brothers, Jacques and Louis Breguet, were able to achieve the first manned flight with their Gyroplane No. 1; with the pilot achieving a brief, one minute trip about 2 feet off the ground before realizing he forgot his cell phone in the house. Another Frenchman, Paul “Ain’t Got No Accent Thingys” Cornu was able to pilot his double-bladed machine up to 6.5 feet into the air, but had to abandon his design because of instability (the helicopter’s, not his).

Cyclic Pitch and the fast-sounding “turbs”

A major advancement occurred in the 1920’s when another accented inventor, an Argentine named Raúl Pateras-Pescara de Will This Name Ever End Castelluccio, was able to successfully apply the concept of “cyclic pitch”, where coaxial, contra-rotating, biplane rotors could be warped to cyclically increase the blah blah blah and then the helicopter flew! Other inventors throughout the 20s and 30s perfected helicopter design, even though some of their names were woefully lacking in accent thingys, culminating with the concept of a transverse rotor mounted on the tail, which allowed for stability and a cool way to cut off the villain’s head at the end of action movies. Russian-born engineer Igor Sikorsky was the main instigator of practical, mass-produced helicopters, developing helicopters for the military for use in picking up injured soldiers who had been shot by other helicopters. The famous (to helicopter enthusiasts, I suppose) Bell 47 was the first machine certified for civilian use in the US, and was also the type of helicopter flown in the TV show M*A*S*H, although it is still involved in a protracted lawsuit involving rerun residuals. With the addition of turbines, turboshafts and other mechanical things that contain the fast-sounding word “turb”, helicopter design advanced rapidly, reaching it’s nadir with the production of Airwolf in 1984, which, if the producers had been thinking, should have talked like the car in Nightrider.

So, next time you’re being airlifted to the hospital because you tried to say a word with too many accent thingys, or you’re just contemplating if there really are any other aviational words containing the word “turb”, be thankful for helicopters, science’s excuse for being able to say “get to the choppa!”

Photo Credit: Defence Images cc