It Came From Rifftrax: ‘Flying Stewardess’

This is one of those shorts that’s as fascinating as a window into the past as it is amusing. In this case, a look at air travel in the 1940s. I do not recommend watching this short just before taking a trip, as thinking of the roomy seating, tasty-looking four-course meals, and sleeper berths of the past may make you feel as though you’ve been badly cheated as you wedge yourself onto cramped seats in the packed, germ-ridden, thermostat-challenged tube that will be your world for the next six or seven hours.

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“There’s not a man on the wing of the plane! I just wanted to sound the all-clear on that.”

The short is the documentary of a young stewardess from the classroom to her first solo flight, covering quite a lot of ground (literally and figuratively) in about eleven minutes. Did you know that stewardesses of the era took classes on radio theory? I didn’t. Not to mention that planes of the era flew low enough that you could actually make out key sights on the ground, such as the skylines of major cities and even Niagara Falls (“Oh, my God, you’re taking us to Canada?! Let me off!”). We get a quick cross-country tour of the old America, which is pretty cool, to be honest, including my home-town of Detroit (gets a hilariously underwhelmed “Yay” from Bill).

Though the short itself is pretty interesting, it nevertheless provides lots and lots of good riffing material, from roasting each location in turn (upon arriving in Los Angeles: “The morning vomit has been hosed off the streets and it’s shining like a jewel!”) to the sometimes overblown narration (“No use articles here Chicago”) to just riffing on the passengers and the scenario in general (“I’m Bob Executive; which way is business?”). As usual, there are a few ‘sexist forties’ jokes, but not very many or very notable ones, and the riffing imagines the stewardesses abusing far more than being abused (“try not to snore like a breeder hog, will yah?”).

Air travel in general just lends itself to humor, especially from our perspective given how I don’t think anyone really likes the experience these days (“It’s like eating at ‘Denny’s’, but with a much smaller risk of death”). This short shows us that it, perhaps, wasn’t always like that. I was particularly fascinated by the look at the ‘sleeper’ flight, where face-to-face booths were made up into actual sleeping bunks like on a train car. It’s almost as though the passengers expected a comfortable and convenient flight and the airlines meant to oblige.

Of course, the problem with that is there’s clearly a much lower capacity on each flight, and no doubt they were proportionately much more expensive. It is, I suppose, a trade-off, though I can’t help wondering whether we’ve traded too far in the opposite direction. That’s a whole other issue, of course, but still, looking through this little keyhole into the not-too-distant past, it’s clear to me that we’ve lost something along the way.

Meanwhile, other highlights of the short include a look at the stewardesses on break time, where they keep fit by sailing (amusingly, they really look like they’re about to tip over at one point and there’s an abrupt jump-cut, making me think they had to pause filming for a moment to make sure no one went overboard). The narrator helpfully clarifies that, though most stewardesses marry within a few years, they do not typically marry pilots. Mike gets a great moment with a fussy baby, while Kevin delights in finding synonyms for the solo flight and sniggers when the narrator apparently joins in.

All in all, a very fun short providing a legitimately interesting look into a vanished world amid some solid riffing. Recommended, especially for those who like a little view into the past.

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“The captain thanks you for keeping the plane snake-free.”

Bishop Sheen on the Three Confessions

Broadcasted 1957: Ven. Bishop Fulton Sheen traces the course of human sentiment through three great ‘Confessions:’ those of St. Augustine, of Abelard, and of Jean-Jacque Rousseau:


Money quote: “Jean-Jacque, therefore, gave birth to an entirely new concept of how to handle a conflict: namely, give way to it and call it right.”

One Hundred Years Dead


“Death had to take him sleeping, for if Roosevelt had been awake, there would have been a fight.” -Vice-President Thomas Marshall

On January 6th, 1919, Col. Theodore Roosevelt died. It’s now been one hundred years since that most colorful of American Presidents, one of the few whose lives were larger than the office he held, went to his reward.

How things have changed since his day! His vigorous Americanism would today be decried as racist (despite the fact that Roosevelt insisted that all were Americans), while his ‘square deal’ would probably be derided as socialist (despite his loathing of socialism). No one would care for his strident moralism or idealistic goals. Roosevelt today would be a political pariah, unable to fit in either party. Though, to be fair, he wasn’t far from being so in his own day either. He was a rare breed even in his time.

Meanwhile, I’m quite sure T.R. would have been appalled at the state of the country today, and would consider all sides of the political spectrum criminally delinquent. He’d probably run a Bull Moose campaign in 2020, advocating moral and legal reform and effectively a total tear-down of the present government.

If only.

Picture of the Day

Hat-tip: Church Pop

John Wayne and his son, Patrick, venerate a statue of the Blessed Virgin in Cong, Ireland in 1950 during filming of The Quiet Man.

For those who don’t know, the great John Wayne, though far from perfect (especially regarding marital fidelity), was a devout believer his whole life, and throughout his life was surrounded by Catholic influences. These ranged from his wives (all three of his wives were Mexican, and at least the first and third were enthusiastic Catholics) to his main leading lady and close friend Maureen O’Hara (incidentally, though Wayne had many affairs, by all account he and Miss O’Hara were never more than close friends). This was back before the entertainment industry became the monoculture it is today (in those days you often had things like ultra-conservative John Wayne working side-by-side with super-liberal Henry Fonda) and when religion was still a matter of common experience in the film industry, so during his career Wayne made friends with people from all different backgrounds and faiths. In the end, he was received into the Catholic Church two days before his death. He is said to have expressed regret that he waited so long, blaming a “busy life” for his late conversion.

Thought: Who Writes History?

Everyone knows the canard “History is written by the winners.” Few people ever point that it’s sheer nonsense. Are there no Confederate histories of the American Civil War? No British histories of the American Revolution? No Christian histories of the Crusades? The greatest of all historians – Thucydides – wrote from the point of view of the losing side of the Peloponnesian War.

History isn’t written by the victors; it’s written by people who write history. That may sound like a tautology, but it’s really not. The key point is that who writes history is whoever has the inclination or skill to do so, which means it’s written by the vanquished as often as by the victor (depending on whether the conquered culture has a tradition of writing, written accounts, and so on). People read history from their own cultural POV, which means they tend to read works that tell the story of their own culture. By definition, it’s one that has survived thus far. Most people, therefore, read history from the point of view of ‘victors’ in one sense or another.

For instance, a Frenchman will typically read history from the perspective of modern French culture. He will thus take the tacit position of the ‘victor’ in the sense of the figures and events that ultimately lead to the current position he finds himself in. But this isn’t a ‘victor’ in the sense that he would only see the British POV of the Battle of Waterloo or Trafalger. In a more real sense, his history will have been written by the losers of the Napoleonic Wars, Franco-Prussian War, and so on. He reads that point of view because it is his point of view, just as a Prussian would read the same history from the POV of the victor, not because history is written by the victors, but because that is his point of view.

In other words, the idea that history is written by the victors is, at best, an optical illusion based on how history is generally read by the common man.