Merry Christmas, you wonderful old building and loan!

This year, I’ve managed to see my favorite holiday film TWICE: Once, with live orchestra playing the score, courtesy of the amazing Mrs Heathen; and then again, at home on the couch, with the aforementioned Mrs Heathen. This is probably the optimum viewing frequency, and certainly exceeds the level of delight on offer in, say, 2014, when we watched it in the HOSPITAL with COMMERCIALS like ANIMALS.

Anyway, I yammer on about this film nearly every year here, so this time I thought I’d make it more interesting. How about TEN COOL THINGS about It’s A Wonderful Life?

1. Tabloid Fodder!

Let’s start with the somewhat seedy: Gloria Grahame, who plays the sultry Violet Bick in the film, was basically an early Hollywood plastic surgery casualty (it left her upper lip paralyzed), and to really put her on the tabloid map she also managed to make her third marriage spectacularly scandalous: it was to a man who had previously been her stepson.

2. Pharmacist Savior

Mr Gower the druggist — played by H. B. Warner (1875 – 1958) — appeared in a number of Capra joints, which is of course not surprising now. However, being in this particular film, or even Capra’s films generally, isn’t his main claim to film fame: he played Jesus in Cecil B. DeMille’s silent epic The King of Kings in 1927.

3. Well, it was kind of rascally.

Mary’s annoying suitor in the high school dance scene — the fellow who ultimately opens the gym floor, sending the Charleston contest into the pool — was played by Carl Switzer, better known to you as Alfalfa on the Little Rascals. Mr Switzer, sadly, didn’t end well.

4. Hopefully, her life had flavor ’til the end.

The last surviving adult cast member, near as I can tell, was Argentina Brunetti, who played Mrs Martini. She was born in 1907, and passed away back in 2005.

5. (Some of the) Kids are Alright

That said, there ARE still several child actors from the film known to be alive, and a few with no clear answer on the subject. Three of the the Bailey’s kids are still with us.

  • Carol Coombs Miller (“Janie”, who played the piano) was born in 1935 and is enjoying retirement in California.

  • Jimmy Hawkins (“Tommy,” who burped) was born in 1941; he also worked with Donna Reed on her eponymous show years later.

  • Most famously, Karolyn “Zuzu” Grimes (b. 1940) still makes appearances in connection to the film.

  • Larry Simms, who played Pete, passed away in 2009 at the age of 75.

It’s not clear if the actors who played the young versions of George and his cronies are still around, but none turned out to be famous enough for this to be easily discoverable.

6. The bird’s on wikipedia.

I’ve always been fascinated with Uncle Billy’s pet raven, and it turns out the raven ITSELF was famous. Jimmy the Raven worked in hundreds of films!

7. Did you further know….

Remember the pool under the gym floor mentioned above? Yeah, it’s real — and it still exists. It’s at Beverly Hills High School.

8. There is, sadly, no Sesame Street connection

It’s often repeated as truth, but there’s nothing on record to suggest that Jim Henson deliberately named his iconic odd-couple Muppet roommates after the cop and the taxi driver. However, the filmmakers absolutely do lampshade this in a brief moment from Elmo Saves Christmas.

9. The Barrymore Family Tree has fewer steps than you might expect.

We all know about the Barrymores, and that Lionel Barrymore so completely embodies the mean old rich miser Mr Potter here, right? What I didn’t know, and was surprised to learn, is the actual relationship between Lionel and our generation’s Barrymore, Drew. Lionel (1878 – 1954) and his siblings — John (1882 – 1942) and Ethel (1879 – 1959) — were the children of original Barrymore patriarch Maurice. John had a son (also John) in 1932, when he was 50. The younger John gave birth to his famous daughter in 1975, when he was already 42, which is one way to really stretch out those generations. This makes Lionel Drew’s great-uncle, which is WAY closer than I would’ve assumed before hitting Wikipedia.

10. Get me. I’m handin’ out wings!

Finally, my favorite bit of trivia about IAWL is this: Mr Martini’s head bartender Nick — who actually owns the bar in the darker, no-George-Bailey timeline — was played by a character actor named Sheldon Leonard. Leonard had plenty of work as an actor, but he really became far more influential as a producer of early TV shows, including The Danny Thomas Show, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Spy, and others.

In fitting tribute, he’s memorialized in every episode of one of today’s most successful sitcoms. Houston native Jim Parsons plays Sheldon Cooper, and Johnny Galecki plays Leonard Hofstadter.

In which goals are met.

My adult cycling career started awkwardly, really. I bought a hybrid bike, and rode it some, and then both Erin and I got more into it, and started doing more supported charity rides. In 2012, we both stepped up to nicer bikes more appropriate for 40+ miles at a go. We got Erin a Specialized Dolce, and we got me Surly Cross-Check. (Actually, we got me TWO of them, since the first one was stolen inside 90 days, dammit.)

And so I rode. Not enough, really, but I hit a bunch of social rides, and started going to some more intense rides (where I got dropped pretty much every time), and somehow convinced myself that signing up for Karbach’s 2013 MS150 team would be a good idea. When the fall rolled around and training for that REALLY started, I freaked out well and proper at what I’d done, but I did the work and made it to Austin — and in the process notched my first century since the 1980s.

Then it got hot again, and I rode less, and regained weight, and by the time the 2014 MS150 rolled around I wasn’t really any stronger than I’d been the year before. Clearly, this wouldn’t do, so instead of slacking off after the Austin ride, I doubled down, and rode hard all summer — averaging in excess of 100 miles a week for a while there. I lost a bunch of weight. I got a lot faster. I bought an even better bike — a 2015 Specialized Roubaix, which is a whopping TWELVE POUNDS LIGHTER than the Surly. And I rode, and rode, and rode, all up until I stopped rather suddenly on the 20th of November. I think you know that story.

I was on a pace for an estimated 4500 or 5000 miles in 2014, but ended up with only 3,308. I didn’t start tracking seriously until the week of April 6, and the real craziness didn’t kick up until the summer, but we can probably assume that I would have kept up the 90-100 mile weeks for the final six weeks of the year, and that I pulled at least 70 per week for the 12 or so weeks before I started tracking. Oh well.

2015 started quietly, obviously. As I was unable to walk initially, I didn’t touch the bike again until a very, very short ride on March 15 (3 miles, to visit the team party after Tour de Houston). I didn’t do a real ride again until the 28th of March, at the Center, where I rode an ambitious 27.5 miles. It came back slowly. I didn’t get over 50 miles in a week until late May (which really means “two rides”). I didn’t break 100 again until mid-summer. At the end of the year, I’d put in “only” 2,790 miles, but given the start, I’ll take it.

For 2016, though, I set a capital-G GOAL: 5,000 miles. That means shooting for 100 miles a week or better each and every week, with the understanding that logistics or weather or travel will get in the way occasionally.

Last night, this happened:

Screen Shot 2016 12 16 at 9 15 33 AM

I’ve got a few weeks to go, even.

And now, ridiculous stats, taken with 50 weeks down (there being 53 weeks that end in 2016):

  • Average miles per week in 2016: 99.88 (through 12/11/16)
  • Number of 100-mile weeks: 36
  • Number of weeks under goal: 14
  • Number of missed weeks that were nevertheless 85 or better: 5. You’d think I could’ve done something about that.
  • Longest stretch of 100s: 11, from 9/18 through Thanksgiving week.
  • Longest stretch of short weeks: 3, from 2/21 through 3/6, with a cruise in the middle.
  • Number of goose eggs: 2. One was for the cruise, and the other was a conflagration of business travel, a cold, and rainy weather.
  • Biggest week: 207.1, which included the Ride to the River weekend back in October.
  • Number of long-suffering wives who for some reason tolerate this behavior: 1

Wells Fargo is even more evil than you thought

You know about that whole “open fraudulent accounts to accrue fees” thing they did, like, two million times, right?

Well, many of those folks are suing Wells over this egregious behavior, which they should.

In response, Wells is arguing in court that, because these people agreed to binding arbitration when they opened their legitimate accounts, they shouldn’t be allowed to sue over the fraud. Wells will happily work through arbitration instead — and, of course, arbitration nearly always favors the corporation.

Frankly, if you’re an attorney arguing this in court, you’re a goddamn disgrace.

But it gets worse: some judges are buying it.

I mean, sure, 95 is a good run, but…

…as my friend Therese says, “it still goes on the ledger” for this dumpster fire of a year.

John Glenn, the last surviving member of the iconic and original “Mercury Seven” astronauts and the first American to orbit the Earth, has died. He was 95.

He is survived by his wife of 73 years, Annie.

Robert Reich just keeps being incisive; also, we are screwed.

From a post on FB:

To date, Trump has picked an Attorney General who doesn’t believe in the Voting Rights Act; a Secretary of Heath and Human Services who doesn’t believe in government-provided health insurance; a Treasury Secretary who wants to “strip back” the Dodd-Frank Act, designed to prevent another bank meltdown; a Secretary of Education who’s against public schools; and, now, a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who doesn’t believe in the Fair Housing Act. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I don’t think the Senate should confirm people who are on record as being against the laws they have a constitutional duty to implement.

Oh, and it gets worse. Trump’s pick to run the EPA is in the same vein, but worse; from a later post by Reich:

Trump has picked Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Here are 6 things you need to know about him:

  1. As attorney general of Oklahoma Pruitt is a close ally of the fossil fuel industry. A 2014 investigation by The Times found that energy lobbyists drafted letters for Pruitt to send to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama, criticizing Obama’s environmental rules. The close ties have paid off for Pruitt politically: Harold G. Hamm, the chief executive of Continental Energy, an Oklahoma oil and gas company, was a co-chairman of Mr. Pruitt’s 2013 re-election campaign.

  2. Pruitt shares Trump’s view that Obama’s signature global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, is a “war on coal.”

  3. Pruitt has been a key architect of the legal battle against Obama’s climate change rules — spearheading a 28-state lawsuit against them. A decision is pending in a federal court and is widely expected to advance to the Supreme Court.

  4. Pruitt shares Trump’s view that the established science of human-caused global warming is a hoax. “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” Pruitt wrote in National Review earlier this year.

  5. Pruitt also shares Trump’s view that the Paris accord, committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate change, should be canceled.

  6. Pruitt is well positioned to help Trump dismantle the E.P.A. altogether. Like Trump, Pruitt doesn’t believe the federal government has a role in setting environmental policy.

Reich continues:

Trump will be nominating the most radical right-wing cabinet in American history — including an EPA administrator who doesn’t believe in regulating the environment, an Attorney General who doesn’t believe in the Voting Rights Act, a Secretary of Education who doesn’t believe in public education, a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who doesn’t believe in the Fair Housing Act, and a Secretary of Health and Human Services who doesn’t believe in public health insurance.