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Great Moments: Kennedy, Cuba and Cigars

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Pierre Salinger, Autumn 1992: Cigars have been a part of my life. My smoking habit began in my youth, helped me write my own adult history, and now, cigars are in my dreams. Even though the world is rising against smoking, and particularly against cigars, I still feel they are part of my daily world and I have no incentive to stop smoking them.

My cigar smoking started when I was young. I entered the United States Navy in the early days of World War II and when I reached the age of 19 I became commanding officer of a submarine chaser in the Pacific Ocean. But to run a ship that had 25 sailors and two other officers, all older than me, posed a deep psychological problem . How could I convince them that I was a man of authority? Even if the quality of those big cigars was mediocre, they accomplished their purpose–they made a 19-year-old boy really look like the commander of the ship.JFK-cigar4

When I returned to San Francisco after the war, I went back to a job at a daily newspaper where I had briefly worked before entering the Navy. I kept on smoking my cigars while I wrote articles. But the cigars were still bad cigars, and they obviously smelled bad. There was a wonderful woman journalist working for the newspaper who hated the smell. She decided to take up a collection among my fellow workers. She handed me $19.32 and told me it was her contribution for a better quality of cigars. Better cigars, better smell.

Despite the self-interested largess of my colleagues, I still did not advance to the cream of available cigars in those days, the imports from Cuba. Actually, I would have to wait until I was almost 35 years old before I started to work for a rising young American politician named John Kennedy, who liked to smoke Petit Upmann Cuban cigars. Working around him, I felt I had no choice but to upgrade my smoke of choice to a Cuban. I’ve smoked them ever since.

Shortly after I entered the White House in 1961, a series of dramatic events occurred. In April, 1961, the United States went through the disastrous error of the Bay of Pigs, where Cuban exiles with the help of the United States government tried to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. Several months later, the President called me into his office in the early evening.

“Pierre, I need some help,” he said solemnly.

“I’ll be glad to do anything I can Mr. President,” I replied.

“I need a lot of cigars.”

“How many, Mr. President?”

“About 1,000 Petit Upmanns.”

I shuddered a bit, although I kept my reaction to myself. “And, when do you need them, Mr. President?”

“Tomorrow morning.”

I walked out of the office wondering if I would succeed. But since I was now a solid Cuban cigar smoker, I knew a lot of stores, and I worked on the problem into the evening.

The next morning, I walked into my White House office at about 8 a.m., and the direct line from the President’s office was already ringing. He asked me to come in immediately.

“How did you do Pierre?” he asked, as I walked through the door.

“Very well,” I answered. In fact, I’d gotten 1,200 cigars. Kennedy smiled, and opened up his desk. He took out a long paper which he immediately signed. It was the decree banning all Cuban products from the United States. Cuban cigars were now illegal in our country.

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The embargo complicated my life. The only time I could get a few Cuban cigars was when I traveled abroad with the President to countries like France, Austria and Great Britain. But then, in late May 1962, I went alone to Moscow for the first time. I met for two days with Nikita Khrushchev, talking face to face with the Soviet leader. As our meeting came to end, Khrushchev turned to me. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Musée Océanographique de Monaco

The Oceanographic Museum – Monte Carlo, Monaco

This monumental architectural work of art has an impressive façade above the sea, towering over the sheer cliff face to a height of 279 feet (85.04 m). It took 11 years to build, using 100,000 tons of stone from La Turbie. Read the rest of this entry »

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Paperback: ‘Santa Claus Funnies’

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Illustration: R. Kikuo Johnson

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Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson for an Entertainment Weekly article on the rise of the serial podcast, November 26, 2014.

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[PHOTO] Salvador Dali on a Chopper

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Comeback Story of 2014: Vinyl Records

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Neil Shah writes: Nearly eight million old-fashioned vinyl records have been sold this year, up 49% from the same period last year, industry data show. Younger people, especially indie-rock fans, are buying records in greater numbers, attracted to the perceived superior sound quality of vinyl and the ritual of putting needle to groove.

“Record labels are waiting months for orders that used to get filled in weeks. That is because pressing machines spit out only around 125 records an hour. To boost production, record factories are running their machines so hard—sometimes around the clock—they have to shell out increasing sums for maintenance and repairs.”

But while new LPs hit stores each week, the creaky machines that make them haven’t been manufactured for decades, and just one company supplies an estimated 90% of the raw vinyl that the industry needs. As such, the nation’s 15 or so still-running factories that press records face daily challenges with breakdowns and supply shortages.

“To get more machines, record-plant owners have been scouring the globe for mothballed presses, snapping them up for $15,000 to $30,000, and plunking down even more to refurbish them.”

Their efforts point to a problem now bedeviling a curious corner of the music industry. The record-making business is stirring to life—but it’s still on its last legs. Read the rest of this entry »


Scream Show: ‘Mighty Gargantua’

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The Grim Gallery: Exhibit 1309


Wedge of Tomorrow: 20 of the Greatest Sports Cars of the ’70s and ’80s

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The soft, gentle and voluptuous curves of traditional automotive design made a radical right turn in the late 1960s, when cars like the Alfa Romeo 33 Carabo concept by Bertone introduced the rising wedge line. The look was futuristic, cool, and first embraced by a handful of production Italian exotics. But soon the entire automotive industry caught on, and from the 1970s through the mid-1980s, nearly every new sports car had a pointy nose and pop-up headlamps. Here are 20 of the most memorable — a group of cars that envisioned an angular future….(read more)

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[PHOTO] Grace Kelly, 1955

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Grace Kelly wearing an Edith Head gown, photographed by Philippe Halsman, 1955 (via)

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‘The Dark Knight Rises': Christian Bale Reveals Batman Isn’t Dead

Originally posted on Hollywood Life:

The ending of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ has left viewers with many, many questions. The biggest one being: Is Bruce Wayne/Batman really dead? Christian Bale has his take on his character’s fate. Click to LISTEN!

For the past two years, Batman fans have been pondering whether or not Bruce Wayne/Batman was alive at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. Alfred (Michael Caine) saw him (Christian Bale) sitting with Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), but it could have been the aforementioned dream that Alfred always wanted for Bruce. In a new interview, Christian offers his explanation on why Bruce/Batman was actually alive.

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Pulp Fiction Cover: ‘The Mystery Man of Soho’

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Herbie Hancock by Johanna Goodman

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Giovanni Baglione c. 1602

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Giovanni Baglione c. 1602

Sacred and Profane Love

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Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy: ‘You Want Me To Become a Communist?’

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Best Movie Posters of 2014

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See my list of my favorite movie posters of the year on MUBI

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[PHOTO] Vintage Selfie-Beheading Hoax

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History’s First Selfie-Beheading Hoax? Hand-colored, trick photograph shows a deciptated man as he holds his own head in one hand and a bloody knife in the other, late 1800s. (Photo by George Eastman House/Getty Images)

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Today in Comic Book History, December 11, 1942: Captain Marvel Adventures #18

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TODAY IN COMIC BOOK HISTORY: December 11, 1942

In the pages of Captain Marvel Adventures #18 we learn Billy Batson has a long lost twin sister, Mary Batson. Mary is based off of actress Judy Garland by artist Marc Swayze and soon gains the same powers as her brother and is later dubbed Mary Marvel.

Mary Marvel would go on to headline her own book with supporting characters such as Uncle Marvel. Although Wonder Woman debuted a year earlier, Mary Marvel gained a great following especially from younger girls.

In the mid-fifties Fawcett Publications ceased the Mary Marvel books and all the Captain Marvel Family titles due to a copyright lawsuit by DC, and she wouldn’t be seen again for 20 years. DC eventually started publishing stories about the Marvel Family in the early 70s under the title “Shazam”. Read the rest of this entry »


Gorgeous, but Deadly, Lead White: The Banned Color that Most Modern Painters Yearn For

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LEAD WHITE

Gorgeous, but deadly, lead white is the banned color that most modern painters yearn for.

Luminous light and glowing skin, especially in 17th-century paintings is likely attributed to lead white. But even as late at the 1870s, death by lead white makeup was still happening.

Today, artists mostly use titanium dioxide, a synthetic white that still doesn’t have the wicked twinkle of lethal lead.

More on colors and history in The Brilliant History of Color in Art.

Burial of Atala, about 1808, After Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson. J. Paul Getty Museum.
Astronomer by Candlelight, late 1650s, Gerrit Dou. J. Paul Getty Museum.
Still Life with Lemons, Oranges, and a Pomegranate, about 1620-1640. J. Paul Getty Museum.

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Ernie Bushmiller’s ‘Nancy’ with Snowmen

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nancy is happy scans | this makes me happy


‘Wonder Woman’ Brochure, 1944

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Wonder Woman Newspaper Comic Strip Brochure, 1944

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