Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is it me or

have the tabloid magazines become obsessed with activity of the uterus’s of today's young Hollywood stars.

Just a thought.

On January 31, 1940, the first monthly retirement check was issued to Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vermont, in the amount of $22.54. Miss Fuller, a Legal Secretary, retired in November 1939. She started collecting benefits in January 1940 at age 65 and lived to be 100 years old, dying in 1975.

Ida May Fuller worked for three years under the Social Security program. The accumulated taxes on her salary during those three years were a total of $24.75. Her initial monthly check was $22.54. During her lifetime she collected a total of $22,888.92 in Social Security benefits.

January 31, 1945 -
Private Eddie Slovik is the first U.S. soldier to be shot for desertion since the Civil War. Although over twenty-one thousand soldiers were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II—including forty-nine death sentences—only Slovik's death sentence was carried out.

January 31, 1950 -
President Truman gives the go-ahead for the development of Edward Teller's hydrogen bomb.

Explorer-I, officially Satellite 1958 Alpha (and sometimes referred to as Explorer 1), was the first Earth satellite of the United States, having been launched at 10:48 pm EST on January 31, 1958, as part of the United States program for the International Geophysical Year. The satellite was launched from LC-26 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida onboard a Juno I rocket.

Electrical power was provided by mercury chemical batteries that made up approximately 40 percent of the payload weight. These provided power that operated the high power transmitter for 31 days and the low-power transmitter for 105 days.

January 31, 1961 -
The United States sends its first space monkey into space, Ham the chimpanzee. His Mercury/Redstone 2 achieves an altitude of 158 miles. Ham's capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean and was recovered by a rescue ship later that day.

After the flight, Ham lived for 17 years in the National Zoo in Washington D.C., then at the North Carolina Zoo before dying at the age of 27 on January 19, 1983. Ham appeared repeatedly on television, as well as on film with Evel Knievel. Truly, a great way to honor this space pioneer - appear with Evel Knievel.

On January 31, 1966, the Soviet lunar probe Luna 9 is launched. On February 3rd, the spacecraft was the first spacecraft to achieve a lunar soft landing and to transmit photographic data to Earth. Betcha didn't know that.

January 31, 1974 -
Ted Bundy commits what is sometimes regarded as his first murder, Lynda Ann Healy, a 21 year old senior at the University of Washington. Her skull is not found until a year later. By the time he was executed, Bundy had committed nearly 30 murders, mostly women with dark long hair. It is believed that he may have murdered as early as 1961, when he was 15, but proof is at best circumstantial.

January 31, 1989 -
Copies of the March Playboy with LaToya Jackson posing with...snakes! hit the newsstands. She also has a snake tattoo. Face it, the lady really, really likes snakes.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Florida's a stake in his heart

... and the beast is dead. So says our former Mayor Ed Koch about the other former mayor Rudy Giuliani. Gee Ed, how do you really feel?

This just in - John Edwards is going to announce that he's stepping out of the race.

Here is your Today in History -

Once again, history proves that it's not always good to be the king (or apparently the man who overthrows him either). Charles I (November 19, 1600 – January 30, 1649) was your average inbred near dwarf royalty that much of Europe was popping out at the time. He is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the nation's shortest king. He married married another inbred royal princess (Princess Henrietta Maria of France) and that would have been that. Unfortunately for him, two issues got in his way - his wife was Catholic and after much tsuris, England was in a Protestant mood.

Also, Charles had picked up the nasty habit of believe in the Divine right of the Monarchy. Parliament was feeling it oats and would have none of it and this lead to the English Civil War. Rather than the Blue and the Grey, England had the Roundheads and the Cavaliers (it really doesn't matter who was who.)

Charles and his supported were defeated and Charles was put on a show trial for High Treason. Since Charles believed he had a Divine right to be King, he put up no defense. Parliment, wishing all the best to meet the Divine, convicted him of treason and ordered his execution.

When Charles was beheaded on 30 January 1649, it is reputed that he wore two shirts as to prevent the cold January weather causing any noticeable shivers that the crowd could have been mistaken for fear or weakness. He put his head on the block after saying a prayer and signalled the executioner when he was ready; he was then beheaded with one clean stroke.

It was common practice for the head of a traitor to be held up and exhibited to the crowd with the words "Behold the head of a traitor!"; although Charles' head was exhibited, the words were not used. In an unprecedented gesture, one of the revolutionary leaders, Oliver Cromwell, allowed the King's head to be sewn back on his body so the family could pay its respects. Charles was buried in private and at night on 7 February 1649, in the Henry VIII vault inside St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. This was Cromwell's big mistake.

Under Oliver Cromwell, England became a Repuplic and became Protectorate and ruled England until his death from malaria in 1658. He was succeeded as Lord Protector by his son Richard. Although Richard was not entirely without ability, he had no power base in either Parliament or the Army, and was forced to resign in the spring of 1659, bringing the Protectorate to an end. In the period immediately following his abdication, the head of the army, George Monck took power for less than a year, at which point, Parliament restored Charles II as king.

Now here's the kicker - in 1661, Oliver Cromwell's body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey, and was subjected to the ritual of a posthumous execution. Symbolically, this took place on January 30; the same date that Charles I had been executed. As Cromwell was quite dead at the time, he could put up a very weak defense at best. His body was hung in chains at Tyburn. Finally, his disinterred body was thrown into a pit, while his severed head was displayed on a pole outside Westminster Abbey until 1685. Afterwards the head changed hands several times, before eventually being buried in the grounds of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in 1960.

January 30, 1835 -
Andrew Jackson is the subject of the first recorded assassination attempt on a U.S. president. Jackson was crossing the Capitol Rotunda following the funeral of a Congressman when Richard Lawrence approached Jackson and fired two pistols, which both miraculously misfired. Jackson proceeded to beat the living daylights out of Lawrence with his cane, prompting his aides to restrain him. As a result, Jackson's statue in the Capitol Rotunda is placed in front of the doorway in which the attempt occurred. Lawrence was later found to be mentally ill, having accused Jackson of preventing him from becoming King of England.

January 30, 1948 -
Sometimes, it's not good to be the world's greatest advocate of non violence. Mohandas K. Gandhi is assassinated by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse on his way to morning prayers.

January 30, 1968 -
North Vietnam launches the Tet Offensive, in which they suffer a defeat and 46,000 dead, but shocks the complacent American television viewer who had been led to believe the war was won.

January 30, 1976 -
George HW Bush becomes directory of the Central Intelligence Agency, a position which he holds until 1977. Perhaps he knows who killed Kennedy.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Youth wants to knw

Is an endorsement from Ted Kennedy a good thing or a bad thing?

Here's your Today in History -

January 29 1595 -
"When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine,
That all the world will be in lobe with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun."

William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet was probably first performed (unless it wasn't).

It's Thomas Paine's birthday today. He was born in 1737. You could commemorate the occasion by reading (or rereading) Common Sense. You could also commemorate the occasion by piercing an eyebrow or waxing your car or bikini area. I don't care, it was just a suggestion.

January 29, 1964 -
Introducing us to "precious bodily fluids," and the rule about no fighting in the War room, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is released in the United States. Nuclear annihilation will never be the same.

January 29, 1979
"I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day." -- Brenda Spencer fires repeatedly at the school across from her residence in San Diego, killing 2 and wounding 8 children, using the rifle her father had given her as a gift. The reason she gave inspired the Boomtown Rats song.

Remember guns don't kill people, it's the damn gifts our father's give us.

And so it goes.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Another week, another set of entries

Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely. The word derives from an old Persian fairy tale and was coined by Horace Walpole on 28th of January 1754 in a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann (not the same man as the famed American educator).

January 28, 814 -
Charlemagne German emperor, dies at the age of 71. Though he had conquered much of Europe, his legacy was considerably reduced after his death from mismanagement and incompetence. Coincidentally, The Siege of Paris, lasting from September 19, 1870 – January 28, 1871, ends, bringing about French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and led to the establishment of the German Empire (Second Reich). Due to a severe shortage of food, Parisians were forced to slaughter whatever animals at hand. Rats, dogs, cats, and horses were regular fare on restaurant menus. Even Castor and Pollux, the only pair of elephants in Paris, were not spared.

Hey, it not like I was going to have a photograph of him - this is the best you're going to get.

January 28, 1958 -
Brooklyn Dodger catcher Ray Campanella paralyzed in a car wreck.

January 28, 1958 -
Those damn little toys that you step on in the middle of the night got their start today. The Lego company patented their design of Lego bricks, still compatible with bricks produced today.

January 28, 1977 -
Star of TV's "Chico and the Man" Freddie Prinze has a violent allergic reaction to a bullet to the brains at age 23.

January 28, 1978 -
"Vampire of Sacramento" Richard Chase is arrested. Miscellaneous human organs are found in his refrigerator. He managed to kill six people, drinking the blood of two of his victims. No fava beans or chianti were found in the apartment, though.

January 28, 1986 -
Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates 74 seconds into its flight, killing teacher Christa McAuliffe and the rest of the crew. Their capsule plunged intact into the ocean, pulverizing everyone on impact, making a rescue attempt difficult, if not impossible. Moral: don’t travel by rocket this week.

And so it goes.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Empire State Bldg zapping cars

A story in the Daily News is claiming that a five block zone around the Art Deco icon is the Bermuda Triangle for cars - they enter but can't get out. They just die. Authorities can't readily explain the phenomenon but speculate it has something to do with the electro-magnetic field the giant antenna atop the build creates.

Tourist beware - it could be the ghost of Tesla zapping them with his death ray.

Here's your Today in History -

Another crummy day in history -

January 27, 1756 -
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Austrian musical genius, composer and fart joke lover, whose works included The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute, was born on this date.

January 27, 1859 -
Kaiser Wilhelm II, (Queen Victoria's first grandchild and first cousin to both King George V and Tsar Nicholas II) emperor who ruled Germany during World War I but was forced to abdicate in 1918, was born on this date.

January 27, 1900 -
Hyman Rickover, American admiral who is considered the "Father of the Atomic Submarine", was born on this date. Creating a detail-focused pursuit of excellence to a degree previously unknown, Rickover redirected the United States Navy’s ship propulsion, quality control, personnel selection, and training and education, and has had far reaching effects on the defense establishment and the civilian nuclear energy field.

Jan 27 1967 -
A launchpad flash fire in the Apollo I capsule kills the astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward H White, and Roger B Chaffee, at Cape Canaveral.

Jan 27 1992 -
Falsetto Mike Tyson on trial for rape.

Jan 27 1992 -
Candidate Bill Clinton and Gennifer Flowers mutually accuse each other of lying about whether or not they had a 12 year affair.

Jan 27 1992 -
Prostitute Aileen Wuornos found guilty after she killed seven "johns", often leaving cum-filled condoms near their bodies.
She claimed self defense but is still sentenced to death. Oddly, prosecutors had arranged movie deals before an arrest had even been made.

Jan 27 1997 -
Pat Boone goes heavy metal.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Another crappy day in History

Here is your Today in History (and it was another crummy day)-

January 26, 1948 -
A man with a "Sanitation" armband enters Teikoku Bank in Tokyo and injects the staff with a potassium cyanide solution, claiming to be administering immunizations for ameobic dysentery. Twelve people die, and the bank is robbed of a mere $500. Artist Sadamichi Hirasawa is later found guilty of the killings.

January 26, 1962 -
Mafia boss Lucky Luciano dead of natural causes at the Naples airport. On the day of his fatal heart attack, Luciano had plans to sell the rights of his life's story to a movie maker. Luciano dropped dead as he was about to shake hands. The Mob disliked the idea and had tried unsuccessfully to change his mind. It has been hypothesized that Luciano's heart attack was a result of poisoning by the Mafia.

He was buried in St. John's Cemetery in Queens, New York after a federal court ruled his burial on United States soil could not be blocked on the grounds that a corpse is not a citizen of any country and is therefore not subject to immigration control or deportation laws.

January 26, 1979 -
Dukes of Hazzard premiere, titled "One Armed Bandits". A shipment of slot machines is hijacked. High comedy.

January 26,1979 -
70-year-old multibillionaire Nelson Rockefeller is stricken by a massive heart attack while "giving dictation" to his 27-year-old research assistant, Megan Marshak. Some time after that event, Marshack had called her friend, news reporter Ponchitta Pierce, to the townhouse and it was Pierce who phoned 911 approximately an hour after the heart attack. Much speculation went on in the press regarding a personal relationship between Rockefeller and Marshack. Rockefeller's will leaves Marshak $50,000 and the deed to a Manhattan townhouse.

January 26, 1984 -
Michael Jackson's hair is ignited by a magnesium flash bomb at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles during the filming of a Pepsi television commerical, causing third-degree scalp burns. It is later reveals that unscrupilous doctors prescribe a full regiment of pedophilia to ease the singers wounds.

January 26, 1996 -
Insane madman millionaire John E. du Pont shoots Olympic wrestler David Schultz three times, killing him. A two day police standoff follows at the Foxcatcher estate and wrestling compound, with SWAT teams biding their time under the assumption that du Pont, an expert marksman, possessed an arsenal at his disposal. Nothing good every comes from greasing yourself up and rolling around a mat with another person in a unitard.

Jan 26 1998 -
Residents of the Japanese town of Ito are attacked by a pack of raving wild monkeys. A total of 26 were injured and had to receive rabies shots. It remains unclear why the monkeys chose to attack.

January 26 is Republic Day in India, and dancers from all over the nation gather in New Delhi every year on this day to dance in the huge National Arena and all along a five mile parade route. On January 26, 1979, "Le Freak" was on the top of the American charts.

It's nice to think there's a connection.

And so it goes.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Daddy wants her to go to rehab...

She says yes, yes, yes.

Finally the walking accidental overdose waiting to happen is getting help (hoping it will work)

And now Today in History:

January 25, 1947 -
The infamous mobster Al Capone dead in Florida, his mind in dementia from long untreated syphilis. Capone was Alcatrazzed for eight years of his eleven year sentence for tax evasion, but had to be released due to deteriorating health.

January 25, 1960 -
Actress Diana Barrymore, Drew's aunt, commits suicide with alcohol and sleeping pills.

January 25, 1971 -
Idi Amin Dada, everybody's favorite tyrant, comes to power in Uganda. Forest Whitaker won a Golden Globe award, a BAFTA, the Screen Actors' Guild award for Best Actor (Drama), and the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of this cannibal. Hopefully, Forest isn't a method actor.

January 25, 1971 -
Charles Manson and three of his followers are convicted in Los Angeles of the Tate and LaBianca murders. All were sentenced to the gas chamber, with sentences commuted to life imprisonment when the death penalty was temporarily abolished.

January 25, 1980 -
Beatle Paul McCartney is deported from Japan for possession of nearly a half pound of marijuana. It is Paul's third pot bust and his second deportation, an earlier one occurring in Germany 20 years previously after setting fire to a condom. They take contraception seriously in Germany.

January 25, 1990 -
An Avianca Boeing 707 ran out of fuel and crashed in Cove Neck, N.Y.; 73 of the 161 people aboard were killed.

January 25, 1993 -
Pakistani Mir Aimal Kasi fires a rifle at CIA headquarters parking lot at rush hour in Langley, VA, killing two agents and wounding three others. Kasi wanted to punish the U.S. for acting against Iraq during the Gulf War, and other acts against unspecified islamic countries.

January 25, 1994 -
Michael Jackson pays $10M in an out of court settlement to the family of 14 year old Jordy Chandler, who accused him of child molestation. Quote from the affidavit, citing May 1993 as the time period: "That's when the whole thing really got out of hand. We took a bath together. This was the first time that we had seen each other naked. Michael Jackson named certain of his children friends who had masturbated in front of him."

And so it goes.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Damn, those Olsen Twins get around

It's a sad enough story concerning Heath Ledger but when one of the Olsen Twins are involved (does it really matter which one), it starts spinning out of control.

Here's your Today in History -

January 24, 41 -
Roman emperor and crackpot Caligula is assassinated by his bodyguards. His last words apparently were, "I am still alive! Strike again." Yeah, yeah, I know you know that the Roman Emperor Caligula made his horse a senator and a god, married his sister, slept with the horse. I guess this guy got more unnatural things done in a day then most of us do in a lifetime.

January 24, 1908
The first Boy Scout troop is organized in England by its founder, Robert Baden-Powell, a man who enjoyed seeing and photographing naked boys swimming just a little too much. It is odd that such a homophobic organization would be founded by a repressed homosexual.

January 24, 1978
The nuclear-powered Soviet Cosmos 954 satellite plunges through Earth's atmosphere and disintegrates, scattering radioactive debris over parts of Canada's Northwest Territories. Much of the satellite lands in the Great Slave Lake; only about 1% of the radioactive material is recovered. Hey, I hope we all enjoyed that smoked salmon from Canada in the late 70's.

January 24, 1986
Crackpot and founder of the fraudulent Scientology movement, L. Ron Hubbard dies. His bad science fiction writing has grown alarmingly prolific in the years since his death. Hopefully, neither Tom Cruise or Travolta read this.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sorry about that

I seem to have had a problem embedding videos yesterday (The ACME tech guys working with me have been sent back to the Anvil testing grounds).

Let's see if today is any better -

Here is your Today in History -

In 1908, a group of young officers in the Ottoman army formed a political group called the "Committee for Unity and Progress." Like so many young men before them, they were angry at the way things were and felt confident they could do a better job of things.

The guy responsible for the status quo was Sultan Abdul Hamid, head of the Ottoman Empire. As Sultan he controlled Ottoman worldly affairs, and as Caliph he directed their spiritual affairs. Both of these were in a shambles, and the angry young men brought all the political pressure they could to bear upon the Sultan (the phrase "political pressure" is used euphemestically), until at last they compelled him to accept a constitution.

The constitution, it was hoped, would modernize the empire and return the Ottomans to their rightful place (presumably in front of the Recliners). One of the things it guaranteed was religious liberty, which brought on the immediate disapproval of Islamites. Unlike their modern counterparts, these Islamites could be quite vicious when they felt snubbed, so they attempted a coup against the Sultan.

It failed. But the Sultan took note of the simmering discontent, and attempted to slow down the secularization being urged by the C.U.P., which was by now half full.

Unfortunately, the new constiution specified that interference with the constitution was unconstitutional, and so the Sultan was deposed and replaced.

The C.U.P. had begun as a pan-national movement designed to broaden support for the crumbling Ottoman Empire by appealing to the various nationalities of its constituents. But now they began to have second thoughts. It was very complicated being pan-national. It would be easier just to be Turks.

By 1913 other political groups were contending for power with the C.U.P., so they did the logical thing. Ninety-one years ago this very day (January 23), they seized power. The Ottoman Empire was thenceforward ruled by the so-called Young Turks, three young men in their mid-thirties: Enver Pasha, Mehmed Talaat, and Ahmed Djemal.

Pasha became the Minister of War, Talaat was put in charge of Internal Affairs, and Djemal was given the Navy.
Having studied extensively in Europe, the three men judged it prudent to side with the Central European powers in the first world war. With an eye toward the second, they took the added step of ratcheting up their Turkish Pride and decimating half the Armenian population—an act of genocide with no equal in the history of the world (for about thirty years).

This resulted in military defeat and bad karma, and the Young Turks fell from power at the war's end in 1918. Middle-Aged Turks took over from there, and the rest was smooth sailing.

January 23, 1972 -
An unscrupulous New Delhi bootlegger sells wood alcohol to a wedding party, killing 100 guests. Please, I beg you, stop buying bootleg booze.

January 23, 1978 -
Terry Kath of band Chicago accidentally suicides in Woodland Hills. Moral: don't pretend to play Russian Roulette. Remember guns don't kill - that opne bullet in the chamber does.

On January 23, 1985, O.J. Simpson was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame. The great Buffalo running back, Leslie Nielsen sidekick, and alleged decapitator was the first Heisman Trophy winner to be inducted. He remains the only inductee to the Hall of Fame to have been acquitted of double homicide.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Oscar Nominations are in ...

but will there be a telecast this year? Who's to say (more later)

Here's your Today in History -

Today is the birthday of Grand Duke Ivan III of Moscow, better known as Ivan the Great.

He was born in 1440 and became Grand Duke of Moscow in 1462. Although Moscow was a lot of fun, it was not yet Russia. Ivan was determined to remedy that shortcoming as quickly as possible: he had tsars in his eyes.

To enlarge his dominions he began nibbling at his smaller neighbors, paying an annual tribute to the

Golden Horde of Tatars to keep them from nibbling at him. Having eventually swallowed most of his surroundings, Ivan decided in 1480 that it was time to stop paying the Golden Horde.

The Golden Horde reminded him that it was time for their annual tribute. Ivan ignored them.

The Golden Horde sent him polite reminders in the mail, but he ignored these also.

They sent reminders on brightly colored stationery embossed with the words PAYMENT PAST DUE, but Ivan, alas, remained indifferent.

Finally the Golden Horde marched against Ivan and he marched his own troops out to meet them. The two armies met, faced off, and simultaneously retreated.

This was a victory for Ivan, in that neither he nor his descendants ever paid tribute to the Golden Horde again. But it was also a defeat for Ivan, who was therefore denied the rank of tsar.

(The first real tsar of Russia was his grandson, Ivan IV, "the shooting tsar.")

January 22, 1521 -
The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V commenced the imperial Diet of Worms, on this date, to address the issues Martin Luther brought up in his 95 Theses. While worms in general are quite unpleasant to consume, most people were afraid to contridict the Emperor, so many people in Europe became Protestant.

It was on this date in 1807 that U.S. President Thomas Jefferson exposed a plot by his former vice-president, Aaron Burr, to establish an empire in the southwestern part of the continent. Burr was eventually acquitted as a result of Chief Justice Marshall's "tree-falling-in-forest" ruling that treason wasn't treason unless someone was there to see it—along with someone else who saw the same thing. The vice-presidency was never the same.

From that date forward, retiring vice-presidents have been compelled to either retire into the political obsolescence of private life, where we can safely ignore them, or into the presidency, where we can keep an eye on them.

January 22, 1905
In 1905, thousands of demonstrating Russian workers were fired on by Imperial army troops in St. Petersburg on what became known as "Red Sunday" or "Bloody Sunday". 96 people were killed, and over 300 were wounded. This incident marks the beginning of the so-called 1905 revolution.

January 22, 1918
Manitoba, Canada film censor board decides to ban comedies, on the grounds that they make audiences "too frivolous". Canada does not fully recover their true "frivolousness" until the broadcasting of SCTV in the early 80's.

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January 22, 1949
Red Communists enter Peking (as opposed to the pink, fuscha or flesh colored communists).

January 22, 1951
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's baseball career is ended after he is thrown out of a winter league game, during the tryouts for the Washington Senators. He soon hears about a position as dictator for life and applies.

Jan 22 1972
In an interview with Melody Maker, musician David Bowie announces that he is gay. Actually he is bisexual, and his wife Angela did catch him in bed with Mick Jagger. Remember the famous quote about Cary Grant, (e-mail me if you forgot it.)

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And so it goes.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Throw another log on the fire

Happy Monday folks. Hopefully most of you have the day off.

I wanted to share with you this video of the song "Watching the Detectives" for no other reason than it's clever and it's my blog -


Here's your today in History -

January 21, 1793 -
On Monday, 21 January 1793, stripped of all titles and honorifics by the republican government, citizen Louis Capet was guillotined in front of a cheering crowd in what today is the Parisian Place de la Revolution. The executioner, Charles Henri Sanson, testified that the former King had bravely met his fate. An early "urban legend" has the King months earlier suggesting a slant and bevelling of the blade, for better cutting action.

Sometimes, people should just keep their opinions to themself.

January 21, 1924 -
Lenin dead of stroke -- they keep him on ice, expertly preserved. Now after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian gangsters employ the use of the same scientists who taxidermied Lenin to preserve each other after they get whacked.

January 21, 1959 -
Former Our Gang child star Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer arrived at Moses "Bud" Stiltz's home in Mission Hills, California, to settle an alleged debt owed to Switzer. Previously, Switzer had borrowed a dog from Stiltz which was lost, but eventually found, Switzer paying the man who returned the dog $50. Switzer went to Stiltz's house to collect the money "owed" him. He banged on Stiltz's front door, demanding that he let him in, flashing a fake police badge. Once Switzer got inside he and Stiltz got into an argument. Switzer informed Stiltz that he wanted the money owed him. However, when Stiltz refused to hand over the money, the two engaged in a physical fight. Switzer bashed Stiltz in the head with a lamp, which caused Stiltz to bleed from his left eye. Stiltz retreated to his bedroom and returned holding a gun, but Switzer immediately grabbed the gun away from Stiltz, which resulted in a shot being fired but neither man being hit. Then Switzer forced Stiltz into a closet, despite Stiltz having gotten his hands back on the gun. Switzer then allegedly pulled out a knife and was attempting to stab Stiltz with it. But just as Switzer was about to charge Stiltz, Stiltz raised the gun and shot Switzer in the chest. Switzer died of intense blood loss while on his way to the hospital. He was 31 years old.

Switzer's death was largely ignored in the media, mainly because director Cecil B. DeMille had died on the same day. Kids, never loan a dog to a former child star.

January 21, 1960
The Little Joe 1B was a Launch Escape System test of the Mercury spacecraft, conducted as part of the U.S. Mercury program, on this date. The mission also carried a female Rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) named Miss Sam in the Mercury spacecraft. The six pound monkey survived the 8 minute 35 second flight in good condition.

Miss Sam retired fro the space program and enjoyed a successfully career in the "Straw Hat" theatre circuit, starring in among other things, "The Little Foxes" and "A Doll's House".

Also, Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

To celebrate the day and the man, I'd like to leave you with these words from his 1964 Nobel Lecture:

"... Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meaning can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart."

Hopefully your life will be filled with many of these moments.

And so it goes

Sunday, January 20, 2008

It's too darn cold

I'm cold and it's given me brain freeze, so here's an abbreviated Today in History -

Jimmy Naismith was born in Ramsay township in Ontario, Canada in 1861. He grew up and eventually went to McGill University in Montreal. He became their Athletic Director and in 1891 he moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, to take a post at the YMCA Training School. It was there that he was confronted with the problem of developing a game that could be played indoors and in relatively little space. On January 20, 1892, with only two peach baskets, a soccer ball, and a hand-written list of 13 rules, Dr. Naismith oversaw the world's first full game of a brand new sport, a sport that took its name from the peach baskets and soccer ball used to play it.

He had finally invented peach soccer.

January 20, 1936 -
King George V of England is euthanized with injections of cocaine and morphine, after a painful cancer illness. His physician was motivated not only to ameliorate the king's suffering, but also to break the story in the morning edition of the newspapers, "rather than the less appropriate evening journals." Remember kids - Promptness is the politeness of kings.

At the procession to George's Lying in State in Westminster Hall, as the cortege turned into New Palace Yard, the Maltese Cross fell from the Imperial Crown and landed in the gutter. The new King, Edward VIII, saw it fall and wondered whether this was a bad omen for his new reign. He would abdicate before the year was out.

January 20, 1982 -
Rock musician Ozzy Osbourne is hospitalized in Des Moines IA after he bites the head off of a dead bat. The bat was tossed on stage by a fan during a live performance. Oh, so that explains everything.

And so it goes.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What will you buy with your check?

So the President will save the economy by giving everyone some pocket change. Perhaps everyone could chip in and buy Britney Spears some panties and a doctor.

And now your Today in History -

On January 19, 1793, French king Louis XVI was condemned to death. He was guillotined in Paris two days later. Please refer to my post on the word "impeachment".

January 19, 1809 -
It's the birthday of the poet and short-story writer Edgar Allan Poe, born in Boston. He was the son of two actors, but since he was Edgar Allan Poe, both his parents died of tuberculosis when he was just a boy. He was taken in by a wealthy Scotch merchant named John Allan, who gave Edgar Poe his middle name. His foster father sent him to the prestigious University of Virginia, where he was surrounded by the sons of wealthy slave-owning families. He developed a habit of drinking and gambling with the other students, but his foster father didn't approve. He and John Allan had a series of arguments about his behavior and his career choices, and he was finally disowned and thrown out of the house. Sometimes, we all make bad choices.

He spent the next several years living in poverty, depending on his aunt for a home, supporting himself by writing anything he could, including a how-to guide for seashell collecting and picking the pockets of the dead at funerals. Eventually, he began to contribute poems, journalism and helpful cleaning tips to magazines. At the time, magazines were a new literary medium in the United States, and Poe was one of the first writers to make a living writing for magazines. He called himself a "magazinist."

He first made his name writing some of the most brutal book reviews ever published at the time. He was called the "tomahawk man from the South." He described one poem as "an illimitable gilded swill trough," and he said, "[Most] of those who hold high places in our poetical literature are absolute nincompoops." He particularly disliked the work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier.

Poe also began to publish fiction, and he specialized in humorous and satirical stories because that was the style of fiction most in demand. Once again, remember this is Edgar Allan Poe - so, soon after he married his 14-year-old cousin, Virginia, he learned that she had tuberculosis, just like his parents, and he began to write darker stories. One of his editors complained that his work was growing too grotesque, but Poe replied that the grotesque would sell magazines. And he was right. His work helped launch magazines as the major new venue for literary fiction.

But even though his stories sold magazines, he still didn't make much money. He made about $4 per article and $15 per story, and the magazines were notoriously late with their paychecks. There was no international copyright law at the time, and so his stories were printed without his permission throughout Europe. There were periods when he and his wife lived on bread, molasses, and dustbunnies and sold most of their belongings to the pawn shop.

It was under these conditions, suffering from alcoholism, and watching his wife grow slowly worse in health, that he wrote some of the greatest gothic horror stories in English literature, including "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Fall of the House of Usher." Near the end of his wife's illness, he published the poem that begins,

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door."

It became his most famous poem: "The Raven."

Don Simpson, American film producer, S & M bottom, owner of a collagen enlarged penis and snuff and porno film aficionado, was found dead on the toilet in his home in Los Angeles on this date in 1996. The cause of death was a heart attack. According to the coroner's report, Mr. Simpson had Toradol, Librium, Ativan, Valium, Depakote, Thorazine, Cogentin, Vistaril, Lorazepam and 19 others, including morphine in his system at the time of his death. According to High Concept, a Simpson biography by reporter Charles Fleming, Simpson had a $60,000 per month drug habit at the time of his death. His job as an executive at Paramount Studios came to an end when he allegedly passed out in the middle of a meeting. Simpson told an acquaintance, "They fired me on a f*cking morals charge! They had executives (read Barry Diller) buggering boys in the backseats of their Porsches, and they fired me on a f*cking morals charge!"

He was a charming man at parties.

And so it goes.

Friday, January 18, 2008

And they said it would never last

Eddie Murphy and his 'wife' separated after two long weeks of 'wedded' bliss. Once again proving the sanctity of marriage.

Here is your Today in History -

1836 -
Knife aficionado Jim Bowie arrives at the Alamo to assist its Texas defenders.

On January 18, 1871, while Prussian guns blasted all hell out of Paris, William I was proclaimed Emperor of a united Germany in nearby Versailles. For this reason the Germans have always had a soft spot for France, and have returned often.

January 18, 1882 -
A.A. (Alan Alexander) Milne, novelist, humorist and journalist was born on this date. Since his death, Milne's more than 60 books for adults have almost all gone out of print, but his Winnie-the-Pooh books remain classics of children's literature. They have been translated into more than 20 languages, including Latin.

A.A. Milne wrote, "Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing."

January 18, 1892 -
Oliver Hardy, writer, director and member of Laurel and Hardy comedy duo (one could argue that they were the greatest duo period in film history), was born on this date. Despite rumors over the years, he did not die from the effects of obesity--quite the contrary. Dieting on doctor's orders, he took off too much weight too fast, going from 300+ pounds to 150 in a matter of a few weeks, weakening his constitution well past the danger point. It was becoming dangerously underweight in this manner that brought about his final illness and death.

January 18, 1904 -
Archibald Leach, noted acrobat, actor and famous for going overboard at orgies, was born on this date.

January 18, 1903 -
Theodore Roosevelt, the President of the United States, sends a radio message to King Edward VII: the first transatlantic radio transmission originating in the United States. Unfortunately, Teddy decided to use the old joke about having Prince Albert a can and 'Bertie', the King had already heard the joke ad nauseum (Prince Albert was his father) and was not amused.

January 18, 1978 -
"Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read. -- Frank Zappa, Chicago Tribune

January 18, 1983 -
Ringo Starr made him do it. During a broadcast of "The Magic Christian," Bruce Blackman shoots and kills his family. He claims that he acted on orders received while watching the movie.

January 18, 1990 -
Rusty Hamer, the actor who played Danny Thomas's son on Make Room For Daddy, shoots himself in the head with a .357 Magnum in DeRidder, Louisiana. Rusty was 42 years old. Uncle Tonoose made him do it.

January 18, 1990 -
Washington DC mayor Marion Barry is arrested on cocaine possession charges at the Vista International Hotel, as he tokes on a glass crack pipe while being videotaped with his mistress Rasheeda. Kids remember, say no to drugs, especially while being videotaped.

January 18, 1991 -
The United States admits that the CIA paid Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega over $300,000 during his career as undercover narc. Those payments were approved mostly by George H. W. Bush.

And so it goes.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It's Oprah's World Now

I guess now that Oprah is going to start OWN Network, it's really will be Oprah's world, we just live in it.

Here is your Today in History -

Today is the anniversary of Thomas Crapper's death.

He died on January 17, 1910. In popular American folklore, the British Mr. Crapper was the man who invented and gave his name to the flush toilet. Unfortunately, there isn't much historical evidence to support Mr. Crapper as anything but a friendly British plumber.

I say unfortunately because the world is ambiguous enough as it is and the toilet is one of a very few things that can be counted on to acquit itself without any ambiguity. Having a toilet in the home improves our quality of life enormously; the contributions of most other appliances pale by comparison. Like other vital but widely available amenities, however, a toilet's importance is most strongly felt in its absence.

It's importance can also be appreciated when it fails to work properly. Most of us have had at least one experience where we've made a hefty contribution to a toilet only to discover afterwards that it wouldn't flush properly (or at all). Can you not remember the horror as you stared down into the bowl and wondered what to do? Can you not remember the icy panic that gripped you as you noticed that not only wouldn't the toilet flush, but that the water was rising?

(The Germans have a word for that bone-chilling dread, and it reflects poorly upon us as a nation that we do not. The Germans also have a word for the feeling you get when you notice just as you're locking your car door that the keys are still in the ignition. I don't remember either of the words, which suggest they may also have better memories. Clearly, they have more to offer the world than beer, pretzels, and Nazis.)

The importance of toilets cannot be overstated, and anything that important deserves a good legend. Thomas Crapper may not have invented the toilet, and his name may not have been the source of "crap" or "crapper," but that doesn't mean we have to tolerate the truth. We can choose to embrace the legend of Thomas Crapper. The Moron's Almanac recommends you do.

Thomas Crapper was born in 1839. He became a plumber. He invented the flush toilet, which is why people called it the "crapper," which eventually led to people calling the stuff they put into the toilet "crap."

Reject the truth and mourn the death of this great man.

Benjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706. The inventor of spectacles and the hundred dollar bill, Franklin was one of Washington's first celebrated womanizers to avoid indictment. One day Franklin tied a key to the string of a kite that he then flew in a thunderstorm, thus discovering Electrolysis. Franklin also invented the Post Office and can be credited with the creation of the first fully functioning disgruntled postal worker.

On January 17, 1860, Anton Chekhov was born in Taganrog, Russia. Tragically, a bureaucratic snafu at the Kremlin resulted in Chekhov's not being told he was one of the Great Russian Writers, so he practiced medicine well into middle life. By then, of course, he was almost good enough to quit practicing but he'd also made a name for himself as a writer. As a doctor and writer of comedies, Chekhov originated the saying "laughter is the best medicine" (some of his tubercular patients disagreed, but they subsequently died, proving his point). Chekhov's greatest work is "The Seagull," in which a young man kills a seagull, making his girlfriend cry and a lot of people with unpronounceable Russian names argue and wave pistols about. Chekhov should not be confused with Chekhov, who was the security officer of the USS Enterprise. Neither of them should be confused with Charo.

Also born on January 17 was Al Capone, in 1899. Chronic self-esteem problems in his early adolescence resulted in his turning to a life of crime in Chicago (where crime had at last trickled down from elected officials to the lower classes). Capone was such a successful gangster that eventually Robert DeNiro had to play him. In the end, Capone was captured by Elliot Ness and his "Untouchables," who got their name from the fact that their busy schedules prevented them from changing clothes.

On January 17, 1806, President Thomas Jefferson's grandson James Madison Randolph became the first child to be born in the White House. Sadly, no official records have been kept on the more interesting statistics of children conceived in the White House.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Haircut wins one

Mitt scores his first victory, so much like a groundhog's shadow, more weeks without a clear front runner.

Here is your Today in History -

January 16, 1547 -
Ivan IV was crowned Tsar of Russia. . He is better known by his nickname: Ivan the Terrible. He was the first king of Russia to call himself a Caesar, probably in the hopes that Shakespeare would write a play about him. He couldn’t pronounce Caesar, however, so he simply called himself "zar," and subsequent arguments over whether that should be spelled czar, tsar, zar, or tzar became so heated that they eventually resulted in Russian History.

January 16, 1942 -
Raising money for the war, actress Carol Lombard and her mother are killed along with a score of others in a Las Vegas airplane crash.

January 16, 1987 -
President Leon Cordero, no relation, of Ecuador is kidnapped by followers of Gen. Frank Vargas, held in a Quito prison for a 1986 coup attempt. Vargas is free and so was the President. Lesson: crime pays.

January 16, 1991 -
Operation Desert Storm commences as Baghdad is pummelled live on CNN. Targeted with smartbombs are "command and control facilities" and Saddam Hussein himself. We seem to miss both, but do manage to kill about 100,000 Iraqi soldiers in the surreal bombardments that follow.

Given the general mood of parts of the country, this week’s word is "impeachment." Persian traders arrived in ancient Roman ports with a fruit no Roman citizen had ever seen before, and the wildly popular fruit was simply called a "Persian"—in Latin, a "persicum." Later, when France was invented by a lot of Romans who’d been chased out of Rome by the Germans who’d been squeezed out of Germany by the Hungarians who’d... well, anyway, they translated "persicum" into "peche," which sounded Frencher. The English subsequently pronounced "peche" as "peach" just to get a rise out of the French. That’s where we get "peach." Now here’s the tricky part: prior to being decapitated at the outset of the French Revolution, King Louis XVI (pronounced "zivvy") was seized by a mob of wild-eyed, tricote-wearing Frenchmen, who stripped the king, pinned him down, and jammed half a dozen "peches" up his royal rectum. In his classic 1790 treatise, "Reflections on the Chopping Off of People’s Heads," British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke observed that, "prior to having his head so elegantly disassociated from his shoulders, the late French king was impeached by the people."

And so it goes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Let's get right into it

Here is your Today in History (and it's chock full of history today) -

Most Americans know that Martin Luther King, Jr, was born on the third Monday in January, but in our eagerness to celebrate the reverend’s accomplishments, we are overlooking two classic icons of American culture whose birthdays occur in the same week. Unlike the venerable Reverend King, these two figures represent not the American Ideal but the American Reality and, as such, deserve our recognition. Therefore, in the tradition of "President’s Day," that floating amalgation of Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays that has at last become a kind of collective presidential birthday, let us choose one day this week to celebrate not only the two individuals whose identities will be revealed in a moment, but everything they represent. Let us take this one day a year to acknowledge all that is great in America, as personified by Charles Nelson Reilly (1/13/31) and Charo (1/15/51).

Why are they important? Because they represent everything magnificent about America in this century, everything grand and glorious about our unique blend of liberty, commercialism, and shiny red sequin dresses. Charles Nelson Reilly made a career out of a weak chin, a few peculiar facial expressions, and a whiney sound that cannot be done justice on paper (but sounded something like "neeyeh!"). It might be said that Charo made her fame the old-fashioned way, by wriggling around in scanty clothes, but then how does one account for the millions of women who’ve shaken their hoochies and shimmied their coochies before and since with nary a guest appearance on "Love Boat?" No, Charo wasn’t simply a titillating nymphet, but a titillating nymphet who yelped and squealed like a bitch in heat. Very well, you say: maybe Charles Nelson Reilly made his fortune off a weak chin and "neeyeh," and maybe Charo made hers off a yelpy squeal, so what? What’s any of this got to do with America? Who cares?

Your humble author cares, and you should care. The important thing isn’t that they made their particular fortunes by means of those particular eccentricities, but that they were ABLE to do so. Our nation is great not because people like Charles Nelson Reilly and Charo succeed here, but because they CAN succeed here. It’s important to support the ideals of liberty and justice and equality before the law, but it’s just as important—nay, perhaps more important—to celebrate the reality that we’re more than Democracy’s standard bearer, more than the defender of oppressed peoples, more than the "last best hope"—we are unbelievably silly! We’re sillier than any other nation on the face of the earth, and it’s time to stop being ashamed. It’s time to stand up for silliness, and that is what I believe

(I only wish Adrienne Barbeau had been born on the same week - it would have been the perfect trifecta.)

On January 15 in 1892, a little magazine in Springfield, Massachusetts, first published the rules for a brand new game that involved tossing a ball into a high-mounted peach basket. This was, of course, the precursor of what is today known as "Peachbasket," still as popular as ever in Springfield, Massachusetts.

January 15, 1919 -
In Boston, an immense storage tank alongside a rum distillery suddenly explodes, producing a flash flood of 2.3 million gallons of sticky molasses. Whole buildings are knocked off their foundations and reduced to rubble by an eight-foot wall of liquid traveling 35 miles per hour. 21 killed and 150 injured as a result of this industrial accident. What a way to go!

On January 15, 1967, the Packers beat the Chiefs in Superbowl I. People keep pointing out that tickets were only ten bucks, but back then ten bucks could also rent a three bedroom apartment for six months.

January 15, 1974 -
America once again, found it's thrill, on Blueberry Hill. The first episode of Happy Days (series) airs. Potsie sets Richie up with that Mary Lou slut. As I'm sure you all remember, the Happy Days Pilot was shown as a segment of Love American Style.

January 15, 1983 -
Meyer Lansky, retired Jewish organized crime genius, Godfather of the Mafia, dead of a fatal nosebleed at Mount Sinai Hospital. It is not clear where Lansky's estimated $300 million fortune went. Once again, what a way to go!

January 15, 1988 -
Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder's racist statements regarding the breeding history of slaves and black athletes costs him his job at CBS.

Dhaka, Bangladesh will be unseasonably cold, with strong winds, heavy precipitation, and cheese.

And so it goes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm a little behind ...

and don't think I haven't heard that before.

Here's a very abbreviated Today in History -

January 14, 1858 -

Emperor Napoleon III (having the unusual distinction of being both the first titular president and the last monarch of France) and Empress Eugenie escape unhurt after an Italian assassin throws a bomb at their carriage as they travel to the Paris Opera to see Rossini's William Tell, Orsini and his accomplices threw three bombs at the imperial carriage. The first bomb landed among the horsemen in front of the carriage. The second bomb wounded the animals and smashed the carriage glass. The third bomb landed under the carriage and seriously wounded a policeman who was hurrying to protect the occupants. Eight people were killed and 142 wounded, though the emperor and empress were unhurt. Napoleon, ever the politician, realized that he and Eugénie had to proceed to the performance and appear in their box.

They apparently, really wanted to see the opera.

January 14, 1957 -Humphrey Bogart, the Greatest Male Star of All Time, model for the Gerber baby and founding member of the Hollywood Rat Pack (a phrase coined by Lauren Bacall) finally decided to let the world catch up with his three drink lead and succumbs to cancer of the esophagus.

At his funeral, John Huston eulogised that:

Bogart never took himself too seriously—his work most seriously. He regarded the somewhat gaudy figure of Bogart, the star, with an amused cynicism; Bogart, the actor, he held in deep respect…In each of the fountains at Versailles there is a pike which keeps all the carp active; otherwise they would grow overfat and die. Bogie took rare delight in performing a similar duty in the fountains of Hollywood. Yet his victims seldom bore him any malice, and when they did, not for long. His shafts were fashioned only to stick into the outer layer of complacency, and not to penetrate through to the regions of the spirit where real injuries are done."

And so it goes

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Better late than never

Sorry for the delay.

Here is an abbreviated Today in History:

January 13, 1862 -
President Lincoln names Edwin M. Stanton Secretary of War. He vigorously pursued the apprehension and prosecution of the conspirators involved in Lincoln's assassination. These proceedings were not handled by the civil courts, but by a military tribunal, and therefore under Stanton's supervision.

Staton was appointed by President Grant to the Supreme Court, but he died four days after he was confirmed by the Senate, and taking the oath of office on his deathbed, set the record for shortest tenure on the Court.

January 13, 1900 -
To combat Czech nationalism, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary decrees German the official language of the Imperial Army. This causes all of the Esperanto schools in Austria-Hungarian Empire to close.

January 13, 1919 -
California votes to ratify the prohibition amendment. Much heavy drinking ensues.

January 13, 1832 -
Horatio Alger, Jr., American children's author (Ragged Dick, Tattered Tom) is born. Stop snickering.

And so it goes.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Holy homoeroticism!!!

Here is your Today in History -

If you were ever an alter boy or ever took Latin, I don't need to tell you what jacta alea est means. But if you're like most Americans, to whom Latin is about as familiar as Urdu, let me translate: it means the die is cast. At least that's how it's usually translated. Back in the early days of English, when the phrase was first translated, that's how they would have said "the dice are thrown."

This Latin snippet is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly because it demonstrates the popularity of gambling with dice in the ancient world, which is an important bit of trivia for keeping wayward adolescents interested in the classics; secondly because it's a short little Latin phrase you can drop into conversation to impress snobs; thirdly because the event of its utterance changed the course of western civilization for ever.

The line was uttered by Julius Caesar on this very date in 49 BC. Caesar and his army had just crossed the Rubicon, a little stream in northern Italy. The Roman Senate had long ago established a rule that Roman citizens should be forbidden from crossing the the Rubicon with their armies, since they figured anyone coming south toward Rome with an entire army probably wasn't up to any good.

(If the Roman Senate had really wanted to play it safe, maybe they should have designed the infrastructure of their empire so that all roads didn't lead to Rome—but that's beside the point.)

You may be wondering why Caesar would set out to break the law this way. He had, after all, been a popular and successful general and had been governor of Gaul for some time. But that's exactly why he decided to cross the Rubicon: he had become so popular and so powerful that the Roman Senate ordered him to disband his army and give up Gaul.
Which has always made me wonder why the Roman Senate didn't say "jacta alea est" after issuing their demands. Maybe they were just too eager to get back to their dice.

Anyway, by crossing the Rubicon Caesar had officially committed treason and launched the Roman Civil War. I've also saved you several hours of watching HBO series 'Rome'. Except for the naked parts.

The rest is history.

January 12, 1865 -
General William T. Sherman issues Special Field Order No. 15, entitling the household of each freed slave "a plot of no more than forty acres of tillable ground" along the Carolina coastline between Charleston and Jacksonville. After the Confederate surrender, the Johnson administration makes a halfhearted attempt to follow through on the acreage, but all efforts to parcel out the land in question are abandoned just a few months later.

January 12, 1965 -
At 10:58 a.m. PST, scientists conduct what they called a "controlled excursion", burning up a nuclear rocket in Nevada and putting a radioactive cloud over Los Angeles. So now you know why most people in L.A. are crazy (sorry West Coast readers : )

January 12, 1966 -
Holy homoeroticism!!! ABC premieres the brightly colored underwear wearing, perfectly genitally arranged comedy "Batman" today.

January 12, 1971 -
Oh Geez, stifle yourself. The first episode of "All in the Family" made television history by broadcasting the sound of a toilet flushing. This is not, however, the first time a toilet tank is seen on television. That honor goes to "Leave it to Beaver" premiere episode, "Captain Jack" back in 1957.

January 12, 1993 -
Most of Britian wakes up, reads their morning newspaper and begins retching this day. A transcript of the infamous 1989 intercepted phone call between Camilla and Prince Charles is published by the Sun. "I'll just live inside you as your tampon...". I guess that's what passes for love among the Royals.

And so it goes.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Customer is Always right (except when they're not)

Here is your Today in History -

January 11, 1843 -
Francis Scott Key, poet of "The Star-Spangled Banner," dies in Baltimore.

January 11, 1861
Alabama secedes from the Union. There were some in Alabama that until recently, never realized that they had rejoined the Union.

January 11, 1862
Lincoln accepts Simon Cameron's resignation as Secretary of War. Cameron's definition of an honest politician - today he would be called a statesman with character - was that when he was bought, he'd stay bought.

His corruption was so notorious that Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, when discussing Cameron's honesty with Lincoln, told Lincoln that "I don't think that he would steal a red hot stove" - apparently there was a lot of that going around during the Civil War.

January 11, 1887
At Fort Smith, Ark., hang man deluxe George Maledon dispatches four more victims in a multiple hanging. Executions with no waiting, one is suprised that this wasn't imported to Texas immediately.

H. George Selfridge was born on January 11, 1864. Though American-born, he is best known as the founder of the British store Selfridge and Co., Ltd (think Macy's, for those of you unfamiliar with the store). He receives little or no attention here in the United States. His name does not appear in any textbooks, he is not honored with any holidays, his image does not appear on any currency, and his biography has never aired on A&E. And yet Mr. Selfridge’s philosophy has had more impact on western civilization than a dozen Aristotles.

His great maxim is uttered carelessly by a million voices every day, is enshrined in the halls of commerce and government alike, and has permeated our culture to the point where it has become a cliché. Like most successful ideas, we can hardly imagine that his concept was ever new or controversial; we must strain our imaginations to conceive a world unilluminated by his wisdom.

It was Mr. Selfridge’s philosophy that "the customer is always right."

This was an unorthodox, even heretical proclamation to the ears of nineteenth century merchants, who had been operating--like their parents and grandparents and scores of generations before them--under the assumption that the customer was an idiot who didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.

Prior to widespread acceptance of Mr. Selfridge’s theory, exchanges between merchant and customer often went something like this:

Customer: "This is a terrible shirt. There’s no hole for my head, the arms are too long, and it barely comes down over my shoulders."

Merchant: "That’s because it’s a pair of pants, you jackass."

After the revelation of consumer infallibility, however, the same exchange was more likely to go something like this:Customer: "This is a terrible shirt. There’s no hole for my head, the arms are too long, and it barely comes down over my shoulders."

Merchant: "You’re absolutely right, of course. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. You can rest assured we’ll have our seamstresses taken out and shot."

Consumer infallibility changed the face of commerce because instead of producing goods and then trying to force them upon the public, merchants began appraising the public’s needs and trying to provide products and services that met them. Merchants became less inclined to insult, spit at, or strike their customers, and more inclined to take them out to dinner.

This shift dovetailed nicely with the growth of political pluralism, which saw governments becoming more responsive to their electorates based on the premise that "the voter is always right." (It has been argued, however, that whether they are made love to or raped, most electorates still end up screwed.)

Mr. Selfridge’s birthday should be celebrated throughout western civilization as a holiday of emancipation, no less significant than the signing of the Magna Carta, the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, or the invention of microwave popcorn.

Did you Know?

...that the nipples of the Ancient Greek statue Victorious Youth (In the Getty Museum) were cast in copper to contrast with the bronze of the torso.

And so it goes.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Marching down to the South

Here is your Today in History -

There's been a casualty on the way to South Carolina - Bill Richardson will be going home. Hopefully he'll be able to take the home version of the primary game with him.

Common Sense was a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine. It was first published anonymously (not that Tom didn't know his name - it was theorically punishable by death to denounce the crown and Tom wasn't quick looking for death at that time) on January 10, 1776, before the American Revolution. Paine wrote it with editorial feedback from Benjamin Rush, who came up with the title. The document denounced British rule, and through its immense popularity contributed to fomenting the American Revolution. The second edition was published soon thereafter. A third edition, with an accounting of the worth of the British navy, an expanded appendix, and a response to criticism by the Quakers, was published on February 14, 1776.

January 10 1883 -A fire at the six-story Newhall Hotel in Milwaukee kills more than 71 people. For years this was considered one of the worst single structure fires in the United States. Two famous midgets residing there, General Tom Thumb (Charles Sherwood Stratton ) and his brother-in-law Commodore Nut, are rescued by firefighters.

January 10 1927 -The film Metropolis was released. It was the most expensive silent film of the time, costing approximately 7 million Reichsmark to make. While that seems like a very large sum of money due to the incredibly crushing inflation running rampant in Germany at the time, you could also just about buy a loaf of marble rye with that amount of money.

January 10 1982 -You could no longer go to Paul Lynde to block on this date. Mr. Lynde was found dead (and naked) in his West Hollywood home. By the next morning, Lynde's mysterious male companion had fled.

January 10 1998 -German psychologist Heidi Fittkau-Garthe was charged in the Canary Islands with a plot of murder-suicide in which 31 cult followers, including five children, were to ingest poison. After the suicides they were to be picked up by spaceship for an unspecified destination. Since she was found alive, I guess she didn't believe quite as much as those other 31 people. Remember people, DON'T drink the purple Flavor-Aid (remember, it wasn't Kool Aid).

---THIS WEEK’S HEALTH TIP---Quit stuffing your face and get off your big fat ass.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Never count anyone out

So Hillary is the comeback kid for the moment. Today is a good day to remember another comeback kid,

Here is your Today in History -

It's the birthday of the 37th president of the United States, Richard Milhous Nixon, (born in Yorba Linda, California (1913). He had a childhood full of tragedy and disappointment. When Nixon was 12, his older brother had a vision of young Dick's future and got a headache that turned out to be meningitis. He died a month later. Nixon said that he cried for weeks afterwards. A few years later, Nixon's other brother caught tuberculosis and spent five years in a cut-rate sanitarium before he died. The cost of his treatment drained the family's resources, and Nixon had to turn down a partial scholarship to Harvard. He did get a full scholarship to Duke Law School, but he had to live in a one-room shotgun shack with no plumbing or electricity. He was forced to shave in the women's room of the Duke University library and bathe in a local bird bath.

Nixon's luck only began to change when he decided to join the military during World War II. Although raised a Quaker - morals never seemed to stand in his way. Nixon was interested in politics, and he knew that military service would look good on his résumé. One of the many things he learned in the military (besides compiling lists of his enemies) was that he was a fantastic cheat at poker. By the end of the war, he had earned almost $10,000. When he got back to civilian life, he used that money to fund his first political campaign.

He managed to win his first election for Congress, and he served as vice president under Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower suffered from heart problems and Nixon would try to entertain the ailing President by jumping out from behind the furniture shooting, "Boo" or "Oh My God, the Communists have begun bombing New Haven". Nixon was defeated for the presidency by John F. Kennedy in 1960 due in part to a perceived lack of personal hygiene. Then, in 1962, he lost a campaign for governor of California, and suddenly it seemed like his career was over. But just six years later, he was elected president of the United States.

His policies as president were surprisingly liberal by today's standards. He began arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and eased relations with China. He established the Environmental Protection Agency, expanded Social Security and state welfare programs, and he tried to create a national health insurance system.

The Watergate investigations eventually forced Nixon to resign in 1974. At his last meeting with his Cabinet in 1974, Nixon burst into tears. He told them, "Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself."

And so it goes.