Toni Basil is fucking EIGHTY YEARS OLD

This is being passed around quite a bit right now, and it’s true: “Mickey” artist and longtime choreographer Toni Basil was born on this day in 1943. And yes, it’s alarming to find out the artist of a song of your youth is an octogenarian, but! there’s more here.

Mickey” was a hit in 1982. This means that the simple, almost throwback song was released when Basil was already almost 40, and nowhere near the young ingenue she appeared to be in the video. I mean, well done to Ms Basil, but it’s a thing, and it means she was nearly a generation older than we assumed she was when she became quote-unquote famous.

Turns out, though, that she was almost 20 years deep in a fairly accomplished entertainment career when became a one-hit wonder (lol). Like, per Wikipedia, she was a lead dancer in the 1964 film “Pajama Party,” and appeared in the Elvis-vehicle “Viva Las Vegas” that same year. By the mid-60s she was in demand as a choreographer, and released her first single in 1966.

If you review the top hits of 1982, another female artist near the top is Joan Jett, who was only 24 in 1982. Billy Idol is only 3 years older than Jett. That’s more what we expect of pop artists, and that’s why we all blithely assumed she was in their cohort, and that’s what sets us up for this “holy shit Toni Basil is 80” moment.

Instead of being shocked at her age, though, be impressed by her resume — a resume already pretty impressive BEFORE her “one hit wonder” 41 years ago.

I will never tire of the story of Wojtek

Wojtek was a Syrian brown bear who somewhat famously “served” in the Polish military during WWII. I mean, the scare quotes are probably not required; he absolutely did mimic his soldier caretakers, and that included saluting, marching, and literally carrying ammo crates, which sounds a lot like literally serving to me.

For bureaucratic reasons, he was also officially conscripted first as a private, and later promoted to corporal, so yeah, he served. After the war, he retired to a zoo in Scotland, where he lived until 1963. Animal behavior blogger “Why Animals Do The Thing” has more pictures, which are kind of amazing.

It’s possible, though, that my favorite thing about this story is his wikipedia page, and specifically the set of categories he belongs to. They include:

  • List of individual bears; and
  • Poles in the United Kingdom

On Not Knowing

I’ve been in the software game for 30 years now. I’ve seen some things.

One of the things I’ve seen is the gradual degradation of technical capability in IT departments. When I joined this world, there was little divide between people who built software and people who ran information systems; they had many of the same skills, and careers would often move through both spheres.

That’s not really the case anymore. Software people just build software, and remain (generally speaking) technically proficient and often quite bright. However, the other side of the house is in disarray. IT departments are now often overrun with people who have never done anything hands on at all, or who have very very minimal technical ability. This is trouble, and leads to meetings with a WHOLE BUNCH of people who are deadweight while two or three people who can actually engage with the material have a conversation.

(That said conversation is frequently interrupted by the know-nothings with worthless contributions should be taken as read.)

But wait! It gets worse!

I have a customer now who has taken this a step even farther by outsourcing the not-knowing to a third party. I suppose this makes sense, because you can get external people to not know things for far less money than hiring internal people to not know these things.

We must engage these third party people to ensure there’s a proper headcount of know-nothings in any given meeting; often, we must reschedule to ensure that precisely the correct parties are included — we may have someone on the call who does not understand Active Directory, sure, but we ALSO need a resource who does not understand SQL Server, and they’re offshore, so we have to reschedule.

Obviously, too, the lack of knowing generally allows the rampant metastasis of Policy, which always thrives in environments short on knowledge. Such policies are often at odds with reality, and so we must carefully explain why one cannot, for example, do the IT equivalent of declaring mathematical truths by legislative fiat.

(Yes, that link describes an event from 1897, but don’t get cocky; legislative bodies the world over continually try to impose back doors on cryptographic systems that would somehow only ever be usable by “good” people, which makes no more sense than setting π = 3.2.)

Rescued from Facebook: In which I prattle on about Hogan’s Heroes

Here I am, being an Old, but bear with me.

I grew up watching “classic TV” reruns. They ran ALL THE TIME in the afternoons, owing largely I suspect to the lack of content available at the time. Obviously MASH was the king, but a longtime ever-present option was Hogan’s Heroes.

Even late GenX folks may not remember, but this weird little sitcom — it ran from 1965 to 1971, and was waning in syndication by the time I went to college — about a German POW camp was kind of delightfully subversive, and the cast included some pretty wonderful actors. The most famous after the show was probably English actor Richard Dawson, who went on to game show fame with Match Game and Family Feud, but the bench was much deeper.

John Banner played the loveable, oafish, somewhat dim Sergeant Schulz (“I know nothing! NOTHING!”). Banner was born Johann Banner to Jewish parents in Austria-Hungary, in an area that is now part of Ukraine. He fled Europe in 1938, when Hitler annexed Austria, and eventually enlisted in the the Army Air Corps. Banner died young (by modern standards) at 63, back in 1971.

The camp was run by the imperious but only marginally competent Colonel Klink, played by German-born actor Wener Klemperer. He and his family emigrated to the US in 1933, where his father was the conductor of the LA Philharmonic. He acted in the thirties, but joined the Army when the war began. When Hogan’s Heroes came along, he accepted the role only if the Colonel was to be played as a fool incapable of succeeding; the writers obliged. He lived to be 80.

What moved me to write this today [which was, at the time, 17 November 2022] was the news that Robert Clary, the French actor who played the diminutive Corporal LeBeau and the last surviving principal cast member, passed away at the ripe old age of 96 yesterday.

What I had not appreciated was that Clary — born Robert Max Widerman — was a Holocaust survivor. Born in Paris in 1926, he was the youngest of 14 children. He was already singing professionally by the age of 12 — but then, of course, the war came to France.

In 1942, at 16, he and his family were abducted by the Nazis, and he was sent to the camp at Buchenwald. His parents and 10 of his siblings were sent instead to Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Clary survived, he believed, because he could entertain his SS captors. He was liberated in 1945, and was able to resume his entertainment career successfully enough that he made his way to Hollywood and TV immortality in Hogan’s Heroes.

Oh look. They’re still at it.

The most hilarious thing about the new video from octogenarian nostalgia outfit The Rolling Stones is how it is comprised almost exclusively of historical footage of the band — interposed with a lovely blonde doing a Tawny Kitaen impression in a convertible — presumably because images of three Skeletors tested poorly with focus groups.