Tuesday, July 3, 2012


That's an inside joke for astronomers - The Dog Days of summer begin today.

The following is provided for the benefit of non-astronomers.

Sirius is the name of the brightest star in the night-time sky (the brightest star in the day-time sky is called "the sun"), and it's known as the dog star because it's located in the constellation Canis Major - or, in English, Major Dog. The hottest days of the year in the northern hemisphere happen to coincide with the period during which Sirius rises with our own sun, and ancient man therefore concluded that Sirius was contributing to the heat.

Like most men, they were wrong, but like most modern idiots, we continue to cherish their timeless wisdom anyway. Plus, having "Dog Days" of summer is a great boon to advertising copywriters, whose creativity is surely the driving force behind western civilization.

I know this may surprise three people in Duluth - Anderson Cooper announced yesterday that he was a gay American.

So now that makes him, 'Coolest man on TV with silver hair' (look it up, it's an actual title you could have applied for but since Anderson has taken it, it's no longer available.)

Happy Birthday Geraldo Rivera (Gerry Rivers) (1943)

(Let's send Geraldo a cake delivered by a bunch of teenagers in hoodies)

and it's the big 50 for Tom Cruise (Mapother IV) (1962).

Poor Tom, all of his wives seem to fly the coop when they reach 33.

But let's hope Tom has someone to help him get through this crisis

July 3, 1951 -
An under-appreciated Hitchcock classic, Strangers on a Train, was released on this date.

This is the movie that determined the location of Carol Burnett's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1951, she was working as an usher when this film was playing at the Warner Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. A couple arrived late, and Burnett, having already seen the film, advised them that it was a wonderful film that should be seen from the very beginning. The manager of the theatre very rudely fired her for this. Years later, when Carol Burnett was asked where she would like to have her star placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, she requested that it be placed in front of that theatre (who knew Carol was Sicilian.)

July 3, 1962 -
John Frankenheimer's biography of Robert Stroud, Birdman of Alcatraz, starring the amazing Burt Lancaster, premiered on this date.

Robert Stroud does not appear to be the sympathetic character as portrayed by Burt Lancaster. According to a biography on Robert Stroud, he was an extremely difficult and demented inmate who, though highly intelligent, was a vicious killer and a psychopath.

July 3, 1996 -
One of the great summer popcorn movies, Independence Day, was released on this date.

The White House interiors were originally built for The American President, and were subsequently used for Mars Attacks!.

Today in History:
Joyeux anniversaire au Qu├ębec, vous ne cherchez pas un jour plus de 350.

On this date in 1608, the very manly French explorer Samuel de Champlain invented Quebec. Since then, the French Canadians have been even more obnoxious than the French themselves.

July 3, 1863 -
The long three day Battle of Gettysburg ended on this date, marking the bloodiest battle the country had yet seen.

The fighting in the small Pennsylvania town marked a pivotal point in the Civil War and although both sides losses were essentially equal, helped turn the outcome toward the Union forces.

July 3, 1965 -
Roy Rogers' horse, Trigger, died at 25 on this date.  His stuffed body was placed on display at Rogers' museum in Victorville, Ca.

Trigger was not alone; Buttermilk (Dale Evans' horse) and Bullet (the Rogers' German Shepherd) are mounted alongside.

Do you think Dale breathed a huge sigh of relief when Roy went first?

On July 3, 1969, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones drowned in his own swimming pool on this date.

Although he was the first Rolling Stone to do so, Mr Jones is just one of millions of people to have drowned in their own swimming pools. As a public service I have therefore chosen to help American readers prepare for the long holiday weekend with some advice on how not to drown in one's pool:

1. The easiest way not to drown in your own pool is not to have one. Readers without pools may enhance their safety further by consulting the previous articles, "How Not to Kill Yourself: Don't place your Head in an Oven!" and "How Not to Fall Down an Elevator Shaft."

2. If you insist upon owning a pool, don't swim in it, walk by it, or nap in its vicinity.

3. Pools don't drown people: water does. A drained pool is a safe pool. In troubling times like these, it's also worth noting that empty pools may be put to good use as bunkers or bomb shelters.

4. Avoid the use of electronic equipment while swimming. Today's multi-tasking professionals may feel inclined to save time by checking their email or drafting a Powerpoint presentation while taking a few laps, but this can prove ruinous for one's telecommunications equipment and, in the case of desktop computers or mainframes, not much better for one's own health.

5. Wait at least 45 minutes before swimming after the ingestion of mind-altering substances.

6. Don't be a rock star. Scientific research has proven that rock stars are seven times more likely than the general population to drown in swimming pools, bathtubs, or pools of their own vomit.

7. Do not attempt to convert the water in your pool to Jell-O. Jell-O is just as deadly as chlorinated water when ingested by the lungs, but far more likely to attract insects and vermin. It is one thing to drown in your own pool: it is quite another to drown in your own pool and then be devoured by maggots.

8. Avoid poisonous snakes.

July 3, 1971 -
Jim Morrison was found dead of an apparent heart attack in his Paris apartment bathtub on this date.

That's what he wants us to think, anyway.

And so it goes.

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