Monty Python: Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Their over-the-top take on the Spanish Inquisition is typical of their comedic genius.
This was one of Monty Python's classic sketches. One reason why it stands out is because it's one of the few in which Terry Gilliam -- the animator and sole American-born member of the troupe -- performs in front of the camera.

Monty Python was on stage last Thursday night at New York's Ziegfield Theatre for a reunion performance.

The Full Monty

A brave ten year old girl in the Ziegfield audience had the opportunity to perform the Inquisition sketch solo as the Pythons looked on.

Just think of it as enhanced interrogation.
Over the years, this Monty Python sketch has generated a lot of laughs from but, alas, the real Inquisition wasn't nearly as funny. Stretching, in some form or another, from the 12th to the 14th century, it was a process used not to seek truth but to solidify a diverse Europe for political purposes by getting its victims to abandon their own faiths and admit to false doctrine.

Galileo got caught up in the Inquisition, Italian style. His theory that the Earth was not the center of the universe didn't go over well with Pope Gregory IX.

The Day the Earth Stood Still
As a result of pressure put on him by the Roman Catholic Church of the day, Galileo recanted his heretical theory and professed that the Sun moved around an Earth which stood still.

It has been rumored that as he was led away from the tribunal he muttered, "And yet, it moves..." Good for Galileo, if true.

Theatre Apocalypzia
Imagine, if you will, Galileo and a young asistant standing by a primitive telescope charting celestial movements.

Galileo: We are witnessing the grand wonders of the universe!

Young Assistant: Why didn't you invent something useful like a phone, a videogame or a computer, instead of this dumb telescope?

Galileo: Silence you young upstart! I didn't expect some kind of Spanish Inquisition!

Cue Monty Python...

DOA at CBS: Accidentally on Purpose: Can This Show Be Saved?

accidentally on purpose

First of all, we are huge fans of the smart, sexy and playfully sassy Jenna Elfman.
We looked forward to her return to network TV on the sitcom, Accidentally on Purpose. But somewhere between when this show was pitched to the network and its premiere on CBS this fall, something went terribly wrong.

According to the Comedy Centric, each airing of the show has registered lower Nielsen ratings than the previous episode. And if that wasn't bad enough, the show is losing the audience of its lead-in, How I Met Your Mother (which, by the way. might have been a better name for Jenna's show).

So what's the problem?
It isn't as if Jenna isn't trying. She seems to be working hard to keep the sinking ship afloat with her considerable charm and comic timing.

But creating greater drag than her lift is an unfortunate amalgam of poor casting, poor scripting and a poor premise.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment is the casting of Jon Foster opposite Jenna.
Not because he's so weak in the part (though he certainly is) but because we -- and we're sure the network -- expected so much more from him.

Jon, in his career, has kind of hit the Cougar jackpot, so to speak, making his debut as the love/sex interest of Kim Basinger in 2004's The Door in the Floor.

In that film, Jon held his own against the talented likes of Kim and Jeff Bridges. His portrayal of a teenager in a Summer of 42 romance with an older woman is what gives this well-done film both heart and soul.

And therein lies the problem.
We're sure that the producers and the network expected him to bring the same level of sensitivity and energy to this show. He didn't.

Not to say that Jon is the only problem.
The show seems to be searching each week for a reason for being. Why do these two people live together? What attracted them to each other in the first place? Why should we care?

Chuck Lorre to the rescue?
With the success of Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, Chuck Lorre -- the brains behind Jenna's Dharma and Greg hit -- is the reigning master of TV's Odd Couple genre. When we first heard about Accidentally on Purpose, we hoped that Lorre might be associated with it in some way. He isn't.

But perhaps even he couldn't sort this one out at this point.

Come on, Jenna. We're pulling for you. Make us proud.

jenna elfman

Children of Stardust

Right now, anything and everything that is within your field of view -- and indeed all solid matter in the universe -- is the product of the violent and explosive death of a star.

The Birth of Stars ...
In the cosmic beginning, there was only hydrogen gas. Tremendous forces of gravity compacted that gas into isolated pockets that reached levels of density so intense and mass so great that a star was born.

Each star is a nuclear fusion furnace, collapsing at precisely the same rate that it is exploding, converting that which is simple -- like hydrogen -- into that which is more complex and heavier -- like carbon, oxygen and iron.

... the Death of Stars
For each star, the delicate balance is eventually disrupted as the outgoing force of the nuclear fusion explosion overtakes that crushing gravity that holds the star together.

The star explodes into a supernova, and the heavy elements forged in its core are ejected into the cosmos.

All that you can see, touch and taste is composed of the ancient remnants of dying suns.


We the Children
That goes for you and me, as well. Skin, blood and bone all constructed of elements and compounds manufactured in the fiery center of stars. We are all indeed, the children of stardust.

And when we look out into the night sky what we see millions of light years beyond is no more a part of the universe than we are. Every star, planet and moon is a cosmic cousin.

Purpose and Meaning
Eric Carlson, twenty-eight years the senior astronomer at Chicago's historic Adler Planetarium and now an astro-theologian believes that when we look up into the vastness of the cosmos and wonder about its origins, it is indeed, the universe contemplating itself and meditating on its purpose and meaning.

The cosmos depends on we the children -- the essence of its mind and evidence of its soul -- to unravel its own riddle and master its own mystery.

Poem by J. Sig Paulson
I tried to conquer the Universe, but it defeated me
I tried to capture the Universe, but it eluded me
I tried to understand the Universe, but it outwitted me
So, clumsily, hesitantly, I tried to love the Universe
And it embraced me

Gidget Goes Boniva; Social Security Makes Patty Lose Control

tv guide

The Pig in the Python
Madison Avenue looked at the Baby Boomers as 70 million consumers just waiting to be marketed to through the magic of Television. In the Leave-It-To-Beaver 1950s, TV programming -- and commercials -- focused on adolescents.

Gidget Goes Primetime.
By the 1960s the focus shifted to teenagers. The movie series Gidget came to TV in the mid-1960s starring Sally Field.

Gidget was Hollywood's idea of the perfect teenager at the time. Cute, perky and boy-crazy.

Patty Likes to Rock and Roll...a Hot Dog Makes Her Lose Control.
Patty Duke was already an accomplished actress by her mid-teens. At the age of 16, she won an academy award for best supporting actress for her brilliant portrayal of Helen Keller. Just a year later, she was staring in her own sit-com in the dual roles of American-teen Patty Lane and her English cousin Cathy Lane.

Patty was Hollywood's idea of the perfect teenager at the time. Cute, perky and boy-crazy.

The Mad Men Still Look to Gidget and Patty to connect with Baby Boomers.

Sally Field -- looking fabulous -- is pitching Boniva today.

Patty and Cathy Lane help the US government teach Boomers about Social Security.

But this wasn't Patty Duke's first commercial.
She made her debut in this ad for Remco toys...

To Hell and Back ...

heather west


If you're a fan of Hell's Kitchen, you already know that the winner of the current season has been named.

In a hard fought three-way battle between Ariel, Kevin and Dave, the last remaining female was eliminated, setting up a showdown between cocky Kevin and Dave, the one armed bandit.

The ultimate prize for this season was a job as the head chef at the Araxi Restaurant in Whistler, Canada, just in time for the upcoming winter Olympics.

And the Winner Is...
hell's kitchen
...Slow-takin' but good-cookin' Dave Levey

After injuring his arm early in the competition, Dave -- forearm cast and all -- fought on valiantly, rarely displeasing the mercurial Gordon Ramsay, and shutting out one contender after another.

Dave deserved to win and we hope that he enjoys his new job as head chef at the Araxi. In fact, we hope he actually ends up in the job he was promised.

The Ballad Of Heather West
Heather West was Hell's Kitchen's Season 2 winner. That's Heather being congratulated by Chef Ramsay in the photo at the top of this post.

She faced down 11 competitors in her successful bid to win Hell's Kitchen for the promised job of being the executive chef of the Terra Rossa at the Red Rock Resort Spa and Casino in Las Vegas. The job she was given at the Terra Rossa was Senior Chef -- a few notches down. A year later, after her 1-year contract was up, she was no longer employed there at all.

According to Reality Blurred, Rock Harper, winner of Hell's Kitchen Season 3, was the first person to actually get the prize job being competed for. He took the promised job as head chef of Terra Verde at the Green Valley Ranch Resort.

Michael Wray, winner of Season 1, was given the prize options of apprenticing under Chef Ramsay in London or being set up in his own restaurant. He reportedly chose neither.

Lemons from Lemonade
But not to worry about Heather. She landed a job on the Hell's Kitchen crew as one of the show's sous chefs who are basically assistants to the contestants. That's Heather in the background of the photo below, her head just over the shoulder of the poor soul in the foreground being reamed by Chef Ramsay .

And our question is...
Is it worth going through hell to wind up as just another unheralded sous chef for the competition that was to launch your career, there only to help other aspiring hopefuls achieve their dreams?

I guess we'd have to ask Heather that.

Niepce's Camera: Yesterday's Eyes and Visions Darkly Fading

This grainy image captures a turning point in human history.
Taken in 1826, this is considered to be one of the earliest photographs ever taken. Titled View From the Window at Les Gras, the image allows us to look out over rooftops and fields beyond as they appeared the better part of 200 years ago.

A shutter -- open for 8 hours -- allowed the image to be focused on a butimen-covered pewter plate which was then washed with a combination of oil of lavender and white petroleum.

Nicephore Niepce
The photographer was Nicephore Niepce, a pioneer-inventor. This photograph -- Niepce called it a heliograph -- was taken at his Les Gras estate in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France.

And Niepce wasn't the only pioneer photographer to spend time there. Daguerre, inventor of Daguerreotype photography, collaborated with Niepce a number of times at the estate.

In 2002, Les Gras estate was converted into a museum in honor of Niepce's work there.
The window -- through which the historic photograph was taken -- was removed during a renovation sometime after 1836 and its actual location was for a long time a mystery.

But after studying blueprints, historians have created a computerized artist's conception of what Niepce actually saw that fateful day.


But View From the Window at Les Gras wasn't the first image Niepce captured. The year before he replicated a 17th century Flemish engraving, depicting a man leading a horse.

flemish engraving

Why take a picture of an engraving?
Nineteenth century publishers needed an efficient way to reproduce works of art. Something called a camera obscura -- much like today's overhead projector -- was used to project the image of a painting or engraving onto a blank sheet of tracing paper where it could be replicated by hand.

Niepce couldn't draw very well and sought a way to capture the projected image permanently.

Photography started out as the search for a good Xerox machine. All the rest was serendipity.

Renaissance Man
But Niepce didn't spend all his time in the dark room.


In 1818 he invented the velocipede, a precursor to today's bicycle. And if that wasn't enough, he also built the world's first internal combustion engine, with fuel injection, no less. He even hypothesized mounting his engine to the velocipede.

If he'd followed up on that, he would have invented the world's first motorcycle, as well. Vroom Vroom!

Apocalypzia Trivia: On the far side of the Moon, in the high latitudes, there is a crater named after Niepce, in honor of his many contributions to science.

Sunbeam Bread: The Goofiest Ad Campaign of All Time?

Yikes! Who Came Up With This Stuff?!
That's Little Miss Sunbeam romping in the fallen oak leaves. Her Dick-and-Jane face has graced the packaging of Sunbeam Bread since World War II.

But what's truly weird about the marketing for this product is the series of black-and-white TV commercials that ran early on.

This first commercial lacks focus, don't you think?
In the short span of sixty seconds, we careen through the courtship and marriage of a strange couple who seems to care more about Sunbeam Bread than connubial bliss.

And what's up with that robot-dance in the grocery store?

It's bread for Pete's sake. Just bread.

Bread isn't just something to eat for energy, it's the ONLY THING!
And apparently, the more bread you eat the more energy you'll have. According to this commercial, if you eat Sunbeam Bread ALL DAY LONG, you have more ZING-PEP, whatever that is.

What does a kid playing alone in a meadow have to do with bread?
The sappy, cloying flute in this commercial gives it a bad-new-age-music feel, 25 years before there was anything called new-age-music, bad or otherwise.

And by the way, did you know that bread tastes better than air?

Apocalypzia Archives: More Scary Ads!!