Tuesday, April 9, 2013

More desperate than amusing

April 9, 1928 -
... Life is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

Tom Lehrer, singer-songwriter, satirist, pianist, and mathematician,was born on this date.

Let's all go poison pigeons in the park in his honor.

Today in History:
April 9, 1241 -
In the Battle of Legnica, Silesia, Mongol armies defeated the Poles and Germans and the Mongols slaughtered the entire infantry. Mongols collected nine bags of ears* after the battle with Henry, Duke of Poland, on this date.

*In case you were wondering, apparently you can fit 25,000 ears into nine bags.

April 9, 1492 -
Lorenzo de' Medici died, turning his face to the wall to avoid the verbal abuse from Savonarola, who commands Lorenzo to confess his sins, indecencies and pride and to give the Florentines back their liberty, on this date.

It's very annoying to have your confessor pester you while you lay dying.

April 9, 1865 -
General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. On April 5th, Grant sent a message to Lee that said, "General: The result of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. P.S. If you could help an old friend out, send more bourbon. I've finished all of the Union's supply of that fine sippin' whisky of yours yesterday and I have a powerful thirst."

Lee wrote back to say, "Though not entirely of the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance ... I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer, on condition of its surrender. Also expect a barrowful of the heavenly nectar with this dispatch. Please tip the delivery boy, you cheap so and so."

And so they met at the Appomattox Court House on April 9th, Palm Sunday, just after noon. Afterward, Lee rode back to his camp, and crowds of Confederate soldiers along the road began to weep as he passed. Little did Grant know that least than a week later, he would have the sad honor of serving as a pallbearer at the funeral of his greatest champion, Abraham Lincoln.

April 9, 1830 -
It's the birthday of Eadweard Muybridge, born in Kingston-on-the-Thames, England. He emigrated to California in the 1850s, where he took up photography and quickly became one of the first internationally known photographers. Between 1867 and 1872 he took more than 2000 photographs, many of them views of the Yosemite Valley.

It was Eadweard Muybridge who designed a new camera that could take a picture in one-thousandth of a second. To test his improvement, he set up twenty-four cameras along a race track with trip wires to pull the shutters. With those cameras, he managed to take a series of pictures of a horse galloping, proving for the first time that all four of a horse's hooves will sometimes be off the ground at the same time, and winning his sponsor soon-to-be Governor of California Leland Stanford, a businessman and race-horse owner, a $25,000.00 bet. Muybridge's friendship with Stanford proved quite helpful.

In 1874, still living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Muybridge discovered that his wife had a lover, a Major Harry Larkyns. On October 17, 1874, he sought out Larkyns; said, "Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here is the answer to the letter you sent my wife"; and shot and killed him. One is left to wonder what the good Major wrote to warrant such a response.

Muybridge thought his wife's son had been fathered by Larkyns (although, as an adult, the young man had a remarkable resemblance to Muybridge). He was put on trial for the killing, but acquitted of the killing on the grounds that it was "justifiable homicide." The inquiry interrupted the horse photography experiment, but not Stanford's support of Muybridge; Stanford paid for his criminal defense.

April 9, 1939 -
In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Marian Anderson, an African-American contralto singer, to perform in front of an integrated audience in Constitution Hall.

With the aid of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on this date, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions.

April 9, 1959 -
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduces America's first astronauts for Project Mercury to the press: Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil 'Gus' Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr. and Donald Slayton. The seven men, all military test pilots, were carefully selected from a group of 32 candidates to take part in Project Mercury, America's first manned space program .

The only surviving members of the Mercury Seven, John Glenn and Scott Carpenter, are still going strong as of April 2013.

April 9, 1963 -
The first foreigner to receive honorary United States citizenship on this date, was Winston Churchill (whose mother had been American).

Only Sir Winston and the Marquis de LaFayette share this distinction. But it was the first time that Congress had actually resolved that honorary citizenship he bestowed, by the President of the United States, on a foreign national.

April 9, 1965 -
TIME magazine featured a cover with the entire Peanuts gang on this date.

After the Peanuts made the cover of TIME magazine, an advertising agent for the Coca-Cola company who had seen the Charles Schulz documentary produced by Lee Mendelson. The agent asked if Mendelson had thought about creating a Peanuts Christmas special. Mendelson fibbed that he had; the following day, he and Schulz came up with the story. A Charlie Brown Christmas is the longest-running cartoon special in history, airing every year since its debut in 1965.

And so it goes.

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