Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day

Today is Leap Day, the extra day that we tack on to February every four years to keep the calendar in time with the seasons. We do this because the Earth does not orbit the sun in a nice round 365 days, but rather in 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds. So remember check your stopwatches.

Ancient peoples based their calendars on many things, from the movements of the stars to the activities of plants and animals. The Greek poet Hesiod told farmers to begin the harvest when the constellation Pleiades was rising and to begin plowing when it was setting, and to sharpen their farming tools when Persian began invading their country. Most early calendars were based on the stages of the moon, with lunar months of about 29 days each. But the problem with the lunar calendar is that it's about 11 days short of the actual year, so instead of having to add a leap day every few years, you have to add a leap month.

The Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to develop a calendar with 12 months and 365 days. When Julius Caesar rose to power, the Romans were using a calendar that was so faulty they often had to add an extra 80 days to the year. In 46 B.C., after his affair with Cleopatra, besides the clap, Caesar decided to bring back the superior Egyptian calendar with him, and this became known as the Julian calendar. In the first version of the Julian calendar, February had 29 days most years and 30 days in leap years. Caesar named the month of July after himself, so when Augustus came to power, he decided he needed a month too. He named August after himself, but he had to steal a day from February in order to make August as long as July. (Again, this is what comes from spending too much time at the orgies.)

The Julian calendar worked well for a while, but in the 13 century, a sick old friar named Roger Bacon sent a letter to the Pope. He had calculated the actual length of the solar year as slightly less than 365.25 days, and he pointed out that the Julian calendar was adding one leap day too many for every 125 years. The result was that Christians were celebrating holy days on the wrong dates. Bacon wrote, "The calendar is intolerable to all wisdom, the horror of astronomy, and a laughing-stock from a mathematician's point of view." Bacon was eventually imprisoned for implying that the pope had been fallible, and his writings were censored.

It wasn't until 1582 that Pope Gregory XIII hired a group of Jesuits to fix the calendar, and they came up with the complicated system of omitting the leap day at the beginning of each century, except for those centuries divisible by 400. When Pope Gregory made the change (with his Papal Bull), the calendar was about 10 days off, so Gregory deleted 10 days from the year. People went to sleep on Thursday, Oct. 4 and woke up on Friday, Oct. 15. (Don't even ask.)

At first, the Gregorian calendar was only accepted in Catholic countries, and even there people were uncomfortable about losing 10 days of their lives. It led to protests and financial uncertainty, since people weren't sure how to calculate interest or taxes or rent for a 21-day month. Protestant countries didn't adopt the new calendar until much later, and this meant that for a long time, if you crossed the border of certain European countries, you had to set your clock back or forward by at least 10 days. When Great Britain finally accepted the Gregorian calendar in 1751, 11 days had to be deleted from the year. The change led to antipapal riots, because people believed the pope had shortened their lives. Mobs gathered in the streets, chanting, "Give us back our 11 days!" When the British colonies in America made the change the following year, Ben Franklin wrote in an editorial, "Be not astonished, nor look with scorn, dear reader, at ... the loss of so much time. ... What an indulgence is here, for those who love their pillow, to lie down in peace on the second [day] of this month and not awake till the morning of the fourteenth."

The Gregorian calendar has since been accepted everywhere as the standard. It is so accurate that we will have to wait until the year 4909 before our dates become out of step with the Earth's orbit by a full day. So now you know.

Leap Year has been the traditional time that women can propose marriage. In many of today's cultures, it is okay for a woman to propose marriage to a man. Society doesn't look down on such women. It is believed this tradition was started in 5th century Ireland when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for so long for a man to propose. A law once existed in Scotland forbidding a man to refuse a proposal made to him on February 29th. Punishment for such an offense was a large fine. And yet, there is a Greek superstition that claims couples have bad luck if they marry during a leap year. Apparently one in five engaged couples in Greece will avoid planning their wedding during a leap year.

A person who was born on February 29 may be called a "leapling". In non-leap years they may celebrate their birthday on 28 February or 1 March.

For legal purposes, their legal birthdays depend on how different laws count time intervals. In England and Wales the legal birthday of a leapling is 28 February in common years (see Leap Years, above). In Taiwan the legal birthday of a leapling is also February 28 in common years. In both cases, a person born on February 29, 1980 would have legally reached 18 years old on February 28, 1998.

There are many instances in children's literature where a person's claim to be only a quarter of their actual age turns out to be based on counting their leap-year birthdays. A similar device is used in the plot of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance. Frederic, born on February 29, was apprenticed to a band of pirates until his 21st birthday, which would not arrive until he was eighty-eight years old.

Some famous leaplings are:

- William "Wild Bill" A. Wellman, American film director, (Wings, The Public Enemy and Nothing Sacred) (1896)

- Jimmy Dorsey, American bandleader (1904 )

- Balthus, French-Polish painter of young girls in an erotic context (1908)

- Dinah Shore, American singer and long-time supporter of women's professional golf. (1916)

- Alex Rocco, American actor (Moe Green) (1936)

- Superman (Clark Kent), the Man of Steel.

And so it goes

Thursday, February 28, 2008

And yet the drama continues

Even though all of the water was dried up - most of the wall of my office have to be torn down, for fear of the dread 'Black Mold'!!!! So as I am next to homeless in this hallway typing away, here is your Today in History -

February 28, 1574 -
Two impertinent heretics are burned at the stake in Mexico at a spectacular auto-da-fe comparable to those in Spain. The two are the first victims of the Inquisition in the New World, dying for their heretical crimes of... Lutheranism.

February 28, 1844 -
Julia Gardner meets her future husband, President John Tyler. The USS Princeton departed Alexandria, Virginia on a pleasure and trial trip down the Potomac with President John Tyler, his Cabinet and approximately two hundred guests on board. Upon the final firing of Stockton's Peacemaker, the defective gun finally burst, instantly killing Secretary Upshur; Secretary Gilmer; Captain Beverly Kennon, Chief of the Bureau of Construction, Equipment and Repairs; Virgil Maxcy of Maryland, Charge d'Affaires to Belgium, 1837–42; David Gardiner of New York, the father of Julia Gardiner; and the President's valet, a black slave named Armistead. It also injured about 20 people, including Captain Stockton. A Court of Inquiry exonerated Capt. Stockton due to his political influence (he supported Tyler’s campaign), blaming the explosion on Ericsson (despite the fact Ericsson had nothing to do with the design of the Peacemaker gun), and "bad luck".

When Julia Gardiner, who was aboard, found out her father had died in the explosion she fainted into President Tyler's arms. Isn't love grand.

February 28, 1968 -
Singer and early 60's heartthrob Frankie Lymon is found dead from a heroin overdose next to his syringe, in his grandmother's New York City apartment. Years later, three women, Zola Taylor, Elizabeth Waters, and Elmira Eagle, each claim to be Lymon's rightful widow and sue to stake out a piece of his estate. SO, I'm hoping the the answer to the question, "Why do fools fall in love?" isn't so that they can O.D. and have three women pick over the bones of your rotting corpse.

“Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” was the 251st and final episode of M*A*S*H. Closing out the series' eleventh season, the 2½-hour episode first aired on Monday, February 28, 1983. Written by a large number of collaborators (including series star Alan Alda) and directed by Alda, "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" is still, as of 2007, the single most watched episode of a television series in American history.

February 28, 1986 -
Prime Minister of Sweden Olof Palme assassinated as he left a movie theater in Stockholm. It is unknown who the assailant was, though some suspect a South African death squad.

February 28, 1993 -
Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco use armed force attempting to serve Branch Davidian leader David Koresh with a search warrant (one with no actual evidence of any illegal activity whatsoever), in what the BATF viewed as a publicity stunt to improve their image. While the agents carefully coordinated the raid with eleven different media outlets, something apparently tipped off Koresh and as these things usual happen - things do not go well: six Davidians and four ATF agents were killed. The warrant instead could have been served peacefully, while Koresh did his daily morning jog.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The waters have receded

My office is drier yet moldier this morning. I guess I should be thankful for small favors.

Here's your Today in History:

On this date in 280 A.D., Emperor Constantine the Great was born. Constantine took half the Roman Empire and moved it to Byzantium, a little village which he built up into such a magnificent city that it was eventually named after him: Istanbul. And it's nobody's business but the Turks.

(Yeah, I know I've played this before - I just like it.)

February 27, 1937 -
The Reichstag conveniently burns. A mad Dutchman who was arrested at the scene, Marinus van der Lubb, may have been partially responsible but if this is so, he is likely someone's patsy. The Nazi Party benefit greatly from the subsequent crack down, and it's suspected that SA stormtroopers set things up for van der Lubb. Another important life lesson - bad Germans, beer halls and matches do not mix.

On February 27, 1939, General Francisco Franco's rebellion achieved victory in the Spanish Civil War. Ernest Hemingway had been defeated. The war had been so successful that Europe decided to have the second world war, which was every bit as exciting as the Spanish Civil War but with more geography and submarines.

General Franco and Ernest Hemingway are still dead.

On February 27, 1951, the 22nd Amendment to the American Constitution was ratified by Minnesota, the 36th state out of 48 to ratify, thereby making it the law of the land. The 22nd Amendment states that no person shall be president of the United States more than twice unless they're Harry Truman. Really, look it up it says that.

In the graphic novel Watchmen, a crushing U.S. victory in the Vietnam War leads to the repeal of the 22nd Amendment and the repeated reelection of President Richard M. Nixon, who still serves as of 1985, the year in which Watchmen is set. Similarly, in the time-travel movie Back to the Future Part II, an alternate timeline newspaper headline, before changing to report Reagan considering a second term, reports Nixon considering a fifth term. In a Saturday Night Live sketch, Dan Aykroyd portrayed Richard Nixon writing to random congressmen, asking for repeal of the amendment.

February 27, 1859 -
Censured Congressman Dan Sickles of New York (who escorting a known prostitute into State chambers) shoots and kills Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The younger Key was having an affair with the congressman's wife. He was tried on a charge of murder, but was acquitted after a sensational trial involving the first use of the insanity defense in U.S. history. (His defense attorney was Edwin M. Stanton, later to become Secretary of War.)

February 27, 1992 -
Trying to get the lid off her McDonald's coffee to add cream and sugar, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck accidentally splashes the 180-degree liquid on herself, causing third-degree burns to the thighs, genitals, and buttocks. Ouch.

After skin graft surgery and weeks of recuperation, Liebeck asks McDonald's to turn down the temperature of their coffee and pay $20,000 to defray her hospital bills. McDonald's tells the old lady go take a flying leap, as they had done for a decade of similar burn claims. Ultimately, a jury awards Liebeck $2.9 million in the resulting lawsuit, which immediately triggers a renewed call for legislative tort reform and makes that one expense cup of coffee.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I think we've hit an iceberg

I came into my office this morning to find about three inches of running water. So while they are manning the bilge pumps and frantically ushering the women and children to the lifeboats, I just have enough time to post this abbreviated Today in History.

On this date in 1936, the Japanese Army mistook Japan for a foreign country and conquered it. This disrupted the Japanese automotive industry, giving Adolf Hitler the opportunity to preside over the official opening of the first Volkswagen factory. (The good people at Volkswagen seem to overlook this anniversary every year.)

February 26, 1918 -
Grandstands at the Hong Kong Jockey Club collapse and burn, killing 604 spectators. It is the worst disaster in sports history. Even though mad dogs and Englishmen may go out in the midday sun - they apparently will not leave a burning stadium.

February 26, 1974 -
A U.S. Senate report reveals Ford Motor's involvement in Nazi Germany's war efforts, for which CEO Henry Ford received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Adolf Hitler himself. After the war, the car company was paid nearly $1M reparation by the U.S. government to compensate for one of its plants that was bombed within the Reich. And some people worry about buying a BMW.

February 26, 1993 -
A bomb explodes on level B2 of the World Trade Center, creating a five story crater and leaving six dead and over 1,042 injured. According to the New York Times, the FBI knew in advance this was going to happen.

And so it goes.

Uh oh, I think I hear them playing, "Nearer My God to Thee." I better don my life jacket .

Monday, February 25, 2008

I think the Oscars are over?

I fell asleep after the montage of Brussels Sprouts in the movies.

February 25, 1570 -
Pope Pius V excommunicates Queen Elizabeth I of England, for the sin of being a Protestant. As Elizabeth was already the nead of her own religion, Church of England, this Papal Bull did not make her break stride.

February 25, 1815 -
Able was I ere I saw Elba. Napoleon leaves his exile on the Island of Elba, intending to return to France.

February 25, 1888 -
John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State to President Eisenhower, was born on this date.

Feb 25 1922 -
Henri Landru, the notorious French serial killer known as "Bluebeard", guillotined for murdering ten women, and one boy. His motive was purely financial; by placing classified ads Landru lured selected women into his clutches, married them, and disposed of their bodies without a trace. While denying guilt to the end, a drawing given to his attorney had written on the reverse, "I did it. I burned their bodies in my kitchen oven". Charles Chaplin based his movie, 'Monsieur Verdoux' on this case.

Feb 25 1932 -
Austrian Adolf Hitler granted German citizenship, to meet a "minor" technical requirement in order to run for president.

Feb 25 1983 -
Playwright Tennessee Williams found dead in his New York hotel room after he choked on a bottle cap during the night.

Feb 25 1986 -
Egyptian Military Police enter four luxury hotels near the Pyramids, setting fires and looting. Hotel guests were terrorized. The police were upset over tours of duty that were being extended.

Feb 25 1996 -
Dr. Haing S. Ngor, the Cambodian who won the 1984 Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Killing Fields, shot during a robbery attempt in the carport of his Los Angeles apartment.

And so it goes.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oh, great

Ralph Nader is going to enter the race. Just what we need.

Today in History -

On February 24, 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued a proclamation that made everyone change their calendars from the Julian calendar to his own new and improved "Gregorian" calendar. (Obviously he was in cahoots with the calendar printing people, or he would have done it in November or December.) It was this shameless act of self-promotion that led to subsequent Vatican proclamations being called "Papal Bull."

Feb 24 1868 -
President Andrew Johnson impeached for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, which is fancy talk for removing Secretary of War Stanton. This remains an honor not bestowed again until the blowjob years of the Clinton Administration.

On February 24, 1920, the spokesman of a radical political group in Germany announced that it would change its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

The group had previously been called the East Munich Crips.

Rejected names had included "The Genocidal Maniacs Party," "The World Conquest Party," and "The Party of Smiley People Who'll Make Life a Happy Little Picnic for Everyone." This name change made all the difference in the world, and eventually led to Evil Nazi Bastards, who later teamed up with the Evil Fascist Bastards of Italy and became a Significant Problem. They did not kill quite as many people as the Evil Communist Bastards of the Soviet Union, however, and were therefore unable to scare posterity into producing apologists.

(The party spokesman who had announced the change was of course Adolf Hitler, who did not change his own name and is therefore known to history as... you guessed it... Adolf Hitler.)

Feb 24 1921 -
Abe Vigoda's birthday. Not dead yet!

Feb 24 1988 -
Jerry Falwell loses his appeal to the Supreme Court, regarding an outrageous parody published by Hustler magazine. Falwell was shown as an incestuous drunk. As long as the material is not presented as factual, public figures may be sniped upon.

You're going to have to find the photo on your own folks.

Feb 24 1990 -
Businessman Malcolm Forbes dead. Call boys all over New York, mourn his death.

Feb 24 1992 -
In a very special episode of Geraldo, daytime talk show host Geraldo Rivera has fat cells removed from from his ass and injected into his forehead. I believe no other comments are necessary.

Feb 24 1998 -
A man "on a mission from God" hijacks a Turkish Airlines jet with 68 on board, claiming to have a bomb in his teddy bear, and attempts to divert it to Iran. Passengers put an end to his plans.

And so it goes.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Did you get to play?

Hopefully you got out there and played in the snow before it became slush.

Today in History -

Feb 23 303 -
Roman Emperor Diocletian issues an edict to suppress Christianity, "to tear down the churches to the foundations and to destroy the Sacred Scriptures by fire". Further edicts require that church officials engage in animal sacrifice to appease traditional Roman gods. I can bet there was some kind of orgy that night.

Feb 23 1885 -
The British hangman at Exeter Gaol tries three times to hang John Lee of Devonshire, for the murder of Emma Keyse. The trap refused to open. His sentence was commuted to life, and he was eventually released.

Feb 23 1915 -
Nevada enacts a law reducing the "quickie divorce" residency requirements down to six months, a figure further reduced in 1931 to six weeks.

On February 23, 1821, English poet John Keats died in Rome. Mr. Keats was Romantic and therefore wrote an Ode to a Nightingale, an Ode to Psyche, and even an Ode to a Grecian Urn. None of them would have him, so the poor man died alone.

February 23, 1836 -
The siege of the Alamo began. It was quite an adventure. For years afterward people would sigh, "Remember the Alamo?" And they'd kind of nod and smile, but eventually they forgot.

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February 23, 1919 -
Benito Mussolini founded the Fasci del Comattimento ("Evil Fascist Bastards") party in Italy in hopes of improving the nation's irregular train schedules. The Evil Fascist Bastards did eventually succeed in getting the trains to run on time, but their success was short-lived: allied forces entered the country in the 1940s and threw off their timetables for ever.

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February 23, 1942 -
The first Japanese attack on the U.S. mainland occurs when an I-17 submarine fires 13 shells at an oil refinery near Goleta, Southern California. $500 damage was inflicted. It was not clear why this target was chosen until much later, when it was found that the commander of this particular submarine had visited the site in the 1930's and stumbled into a field of prickly pear cactus. Captain Nishino never forgave the ridicule he received from his American hosts that day.

February 23, 1981 -
Right wing members of the Civil Guard storm the Spanish Parliament with machine guns, taking every important elected official in the country hostage. The coup collapsed 18 hours later.

February 23, 1996 -
The "Freeway Killer" William G Bonin was executed at San Quentin, on this date. For his last meal he chose two
pepperoni and sausage pizza, three coffee ice creams, and fifteen cans of Coca Cola totaling a rather
unhealthy 6391 calories.

And so it goes.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Hey, it's snowing!!! The kids are going to have a great time today.

Here's your Today in History -

On February 22, 1862, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as president of the Confederate States of America. I guess his mother was proud of him.

February 22, 1987 -
Andy Warhol dies of complications after gallbladder surgery, though the details are hazy. The official cause was listed as cardiac arrhythmia, but speculation includes his fear of hospitals as well as possible Cefoxitin allergy. Mr. Warhol is best known for painting pictures of Campbell's Soup cans and Marilyn Monroe, although never together. Warhol's death brings him a bonus 15 minutes of fame. His work can be seen in museums and galleries around the world to this very day.

Campbell's Soup cans can still be found in the canned goods section of your favorite supermarket to this very day.

February 22, 1993 -
The United States Supreme Court rejects a move by singer Chuck Berry to move his case to Federal court. Various women sued Berry alleging he videotaped them going potty in his St. Louis restaurant.

February 22, 1994 -
CIA agent Aldrich Ames charged with conspiracy to commit espionage.His betrayal, starting in 1985, resulted in the executions of a good number of important undercover agents within the Soviet Union. The CIA knew without doubt there was a mole in its ranks. And though by 1989 Ames had acquired unexplainable wealth from his spying and did very little to conceal the spying, he somehow managed to evade being caught for five more years.

February 22, 1997 -
The first cloning of an advanced mammal, a sheep known as Dolly, is announced in the news media. Dolly was cloned from a mammary cell, her name being taken from the top heavy Dolly Parton, star of the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

And so it goes.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Runner Stumbles

Shocking. John McCain may have been playing slap and tickle with a lobbyist nine years ago and suddenly the info surfaces just as he is about to clinch the Republican nomination. I bet Rush has soiled himself with excitement on this news.

Here's your Today in History -

King James I of Scotland was assassinated on February 21, 1437. James I's grandfather, Robert II, had married twice and the awkward circumstances of the first marriage (the one with James's grandmother Elizabeth Mure - he didn't get around to marrying her until several years and children into their relationship) led some to dispute its validity. Conflict broke out between the descendants of the first marriage and the unquestionably legitimate descendants of the second marriage over who had the better right to the Scottish throne. Matters came to a head on February 21, 1437, when a group of Scots led by Sir Robert Graham assassinated James at the Friars Preachers Monastery in Perth. He attempted to escape his assailants through a sewer. However, three days previously, he had had the other end of the drain blocked up because of its connection to the tennis court outside, balls habitually got lost in it. I'm sure the irony was not lost on James while he scrambled around in the sewer.

February 21, 1803 -
Edward Despard and six co-conspirators were executed at Horsemonger Lane Gaol for plotting to assassinate England's King George III and to destroy the Bank of England, in front of a crowd of at least 20,000 spectators. Despard was originally sentenced, with six of his fellow-conspirators (John Wood and John Francis, both privates in the army, carpenter Thomas Broughton, shoemaker James Sedgwick Wratton, slater Arthur Graham, and John Macnamara), to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

These were the last men to be so sentenced in England, although prior to execution the sentence was commuted to simple hanging and beheading, amid fears that the Draconian punishment might spark public dissent.

February 21, 1885 -
America's greatest phallic symbol, the Washington Monument, is dedicated by President Chester A. Arthur. The shaft towers over 555 into the air, and sports an aluminum foreskin.

February 21, 1916 -
Start of the Battle of Verdun, which in nine months yielded 975,000 casualties and almost no change in the front line. It is the bloodiest battle in history, and often the one remarked as having the "highest density of dead per square yard."

February 21, 1931 -
The first attempted hijacking of an airplane occurs when revolutionary soldiers in Peru seize a Ford Tri-motor and demand pilots drop propaganda leaflets over the capital, Lima.

February 21, 1965 -
Malcolm X assassinated in a Manhattan ballroom, probably by fellow black muslims.

February 21, 1972 -
Nixon visits Red China, fulfilling the old Vulcan proverb, "Only Nixon could go to China."

February 21, 1988 -
Television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart of the Assemblies of God, with tears streaming down his face, confesses sinning with a prostitute in a Louisiana hotel room. A second scandal with yet another prostitute emerges in 1991, further killing his evangelical career.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Total lunar eclipse tonight

(Here on the East Coast) Try to stay up to see it or you'll have to wait three years to see another one.

Today in History

February 20 doesn't have much going for it. It's just one many dates on which Francois-Marie Arouet may have been born in 1694.

Francois-Marie was a supremely intelligent, fiercely independent man and was therefore instructed to leave Paris.

Each time he was kicked out, however, he simply came back, said something witty, and was kicked out yet again.

Eventually the French invented reverse psychology. They invited Francois-Marie back from his latest exile and threw a big party for him. The shock of his reception killed him and Paris has mourned his loss ever since.

Except now they call him Voltaire.

February 20, 1947 -
A chemical mistake at the O'Connor Electro-Plating Co. in Los Angeles causes a huge explosion, killing 17 and leaving a 22 foot crater. Four city blocks suffer severe devastation, with over 100 buildings damaged. Oops

February 20, 1971 -
An erroneous warning is emitted on the Emergency Broadcast System causing a number of stations to go off the air, and others to completely ignore the alert (thus pointing out that many key stations would not react to any emergency broadcast over the system.) So remember this just a test, unless it's not.

February 20, 1980 -
After some heavy drinking, Bon Scott, vocalist for heavy metal band AC/DC, is found in a friend's automobile choked on his own vomit. His family was relieved that he hadn't choked to death on someone else vomit.

February 20, 1984 -
Ballerina Julia Pak marries the ghost of Sun Myung Moon's dead son, Heung Jin Moon, in a tasteful necro-ceremony. The couple were engaged to be married, but a car accident in December intervened. Unfortunately in the Moonie religion, only married couples may enter Heaven, hence the need for this awkward rite. Imagine the honeymoon - yuck!!!

February 20, 1997 -
Victor Willis, the "cop" in the Village People (and former husband of Phyllis Rashad) is charged in Nevada on drug possession (45 grams of cocaine), possession of drug paraphernalia, and strong armed robbery. The events occurred February 15. Willis, 45, listed his occupation as "unemployed" and generously gave approval for his hotel room to be searched.

February 20, 2003 -
A fire at a West Warwick, R.I. performance of eighties hairspray legends Great White caused by the band's indoor pyrotechnics leaves 100 dead. The pyrotechnics were illegal in that nightclub venue, and use of them by the band had been forbidden by other local venues. Guitarist Ty Longley is among the dead, his last journal entry containing the words: "I say we send a bunch of bands, food, artists, strippers, bartenders, proctologists, psychologists and lots of love over to Iraq and North Korea for a big party!"

And so it goes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Castro resigns

as President of Cuba. Hoping to get into Cooperstown on a platform of "At least I didn't use HGH in 50 years".

Here is your Today in History -

In the presidential election of 1800, Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson drew to a tie. The House of Representatives broke the tie by throwing their weight behind Jefferson, making him president. Burr was given the vice-presidency as either a consolation prize or a practical joke.

Like many other people, Vice-President Burr was often irritated by Alexander Hamilton. Unlike most other people, he shot and killed him. Although it had been a fair duel, the vice-president was indicted for murder. He was never actually arrested for the shooting, nor was he removed from office, because there was no controlling legal authority in place to prevent a vice-president from shooting Alexander Hamilton. (A subsequent constitutional amendment that would have made it illegal for members of the executive branch to shoot Alexander Hamilton was defeated on the grounds of its limited usefulness to the deceased.)

Instead of reviving Burr's political career, the duel helped to end it. Burr was charged with two counts of murder. After his term as vice president ended, he would never hold elective office again. And his next plot to gain power would end with charges of treason.

Civilized political discourse?

After serving out his term as VP, Mr. Burr moved to the southwest and decided to establish his own empire. Fortunately there were controlling legal authorities that prohibited the establishment of empires. President Jefferson had him arrested on February 19, 1807.

Burr was ultimately acquitted. (His descendant Raymond Burr would go on to restore a bit of varnish to the family name as Perry Mason and as spokesperson for Raymond Burr Nipple Rouge.)

February 19 is also notable for the 1995 marriage, on that date, of Pamela Anderson to rocker Tommy Lee. Their marriage is best remembered for having produced the most widely-distributed honeymoon pictures in the history of the world.

Sorry folks, you're going to have to find the link to the video yourself.

Nobel laureate, Protestant, and noted pederast, Andre Gide died on February 19, 1951.

Supreme Chinese leader and replacement for Diana Ross, Deng Xiaoping died on February 19, 1997. Dying takes the shine off of being Supreme.

And so it goes.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy Generic President's Day

Also Happy Birthday Matt.

Here is your Today in History -

Timur Lenk (also known as Timur the Lame, Tamerlane, Tamberlaine, and Mr Tambourine Man) died "mysteriously" during an expedition to China on February 18, 1405.

George, the English Duke of Clarence, was convicted of treason against his brother King Edward IV and murdered in the Tower of London on February 18, 1478. The legend arose that he had been drowned in a barrel of Malmsey wine. What a way to go.

Michelangelo Buonarotti died on February 18, 1564.

Elm Farm Ollie (known as "Nellie Jay" and post-flight as "Sky Queen") was the first cow to fly in an airplane, doing so on 18 February 1930, as part of the International Air Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. On the same trip, which covered 72 miles from Bismarck, Missouri, to St. Louis, she also became the first cow milked in flight. This was done ostensibly to allow scientists to observe midair effects on animals, as well as for publicity purposes. A St. Louis newspaper trumpeted her mission as being "to blaze a trail for the transportation of livestock by air." Your life is better for knowing this.

Feb 18 1933 -
Yoko Ono born. What else is ther to say?

Feb 18 1967 -
J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, dies. His 'children' didn't even send flowers.

Feb 18 1991 -
Killer/Cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer strangles a 19-year-old man, marking his tenth (of 17) victims. Jeffrey dismembers the body and keeps the skull in his Milwaukee, Wisconsin apartment.

Feb 18 2001 -
Race car driver Dale Earnhardt crashes into the wall at the Daytona 500, killing him instantly. His widow files a lawsuit to force the autopsy photos to be sealed, and a Florida law is subsequently passed to prevent them from ever being released. Earnhardt was the most well known and most successful driver in the history of the sport.

And so it goes.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Let's raise a glass ...

to the Blaine Act, sponsored by Wisconsin senator John J. Blaine and passed by the United States Senate on February 17, 1933, to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, or Prohibition. The repeal was formally adopted as the 21st Amendment of the Constitution on December 5, 1933. Hip. hip hooray!!!

Here is your Today in History -

February 17, 1600 -
Roman philosopher and mathematician Giordano Bruno burned at the stake at Campo di Fiore in Rome, likely because ecclesiastical authorities were alarmed at his rambling and somewhat insane ideas, coupled with rejection of accepted authority. Exactly what the charges against him were are lost to history, but likely involve theological heresies rather than astronomical.

Celebrated French dramatist and comedian Moliere collapsed on stage and died on February 17, 1673. It is said that he was wearing green, and because of that, there is a superstition that green brings bad luck to actors. As an actor, he was not allowed by the laws of the time to be buried in the sacred ground of a cemetery. His wife Armande asked the king Louis XIV to allow a "normal" funeral celebrated at night. The king agreed, and Molière was buried in a part of the cemetery reserved for unbaptized infants. In some accounts of his death, it is said that over 800 people attended his "secret" funeral.

A bomb exploded in the dining room of St. Petersburg's Winter Palace on February 17, 1880. Tsar Alexander II survived. Being late for supper, the Tsar was not harmed, although 67 other people were killed or wounded. The dining room floor was also heavily damaged. While it is often said that promptness is the politeness of kings, sometimes being late can save you.

February 17, 1974 -
Forty-nine people trampled to death at a soccer stampede in Cairo, after crowds tear down entry barriers to the Zamalek vs Dukla game.

February 17, 1989 -
The cinematic masterpiece "Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure" starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter opened in theaters. We are getting old folks - Keanu is 43.

February 17, 1993 -
An overcrowded ferry carrying up to 1,500 people sank off Haiti. Only 285 people were known to have survived.

February 17, 1994 -
The decomposing corpse of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, first president of the Republic of Georgia, is exhumed from a temporary grave in Djikhaskari. His wife refuses an autopsy, but western journalists note a bullet wound in the side of Zviad's head. Officially listed as suicide, the wife also claims he was murdered. Another government minister oddly states the death was by cancer with the head shot administered post-mortem.

Note to self: don't seek cancer treatment in the Republic of Georgia or the state of Georgia, for that matter.

And so it goes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Have you eaten your Oatmeal this morning?

Your heart will thank you.

Hey, We have to run a public service announcement now and then or they'll close us down.

Today in History -

February 16, 1923 -
Lord Carnarvon opens King Tut's tomb, revealing one of the most well-preserved treasures from the ancient world. While it has been frequently reported that a curse killed 13 of the 20 people present at the opening of the tomb, there was no curse and no unusual death patterns occurred. Just make sure you lock you doors after you go to the musuem to see a mummy.

Feb 16 1959 -
Failed baseball player Fidel Castro is sworn in as President For Life of Cuba after having led the revolution that removed Fulgenico Batista. At the time, Cuba was a nation plagued by poverty, racked by corruption, and held in thrall by the military force of its leader. During his first year of rule 500 are put to the firing squad, an RBI record any dictator would be proud of. Today, of course, Cuba is a nation plagued by poverty, racked by corruption, and held in thrall by the military force of its leader.

On February 16, 1918, Lithuania declared its independence from Russia. It was such a successful declaration that they didn't have to repeat it for more than seventy years.

Feb 16 1988 -
Richard Farley, a man obsessed with the lovely and petite Laura Black, entered his former workplace in Sunnyvale, California, and killed 7 employees as he made his way towards Laura's office. A hearing was scheduled regarding her restraining order against him for the following day. Farley fails in his attempt to kill her, leaving Laura critically wounded.

And so it goes.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Feeling a little logy today

After eating all that chocolate last night? Don't worry, there's a long weekend coming up - you can eat oatmeal.

February 15, 339 BC -
The permanently pissed philosopher Socrates found guilty of corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and sentenced to death, on this date. While awaiting death rather than exile, he berates his students:

"All the time, it's 'Socrates, what is beauty?', 'Socrates, what is Truth?' but never once did any of you say, 'Socrates, Hemlock is poison!'

Galileo Galilei was born on February 15, 1564. He invented a telescope with which he later discovered craters on the moon, the satellites of Jupiter, and every luscious detail of the girl next door's nubile young form. Galileo's astronomical observations seemed to confirm Copernicus's theory that the Earth went around the sun rather than the other way around. Unfortunately, Copernicus's theory was heresy and therefore not supposed to be confirmed.

The church was in a tough spot. Galileo was every bit as Bad and Heretical as Copernicus had been, but they didn't want to inspire a bunch of angry Germans to start another church, as Martin Luther's followers had not long after the church's previous brush with Astronomy.

High-ranking church officials pleaded with the astronomer: "Come on, Galileo." "Please, Galileo." "Knock it off, Galileo."

But he wouldn't stop talking about the earth spinning around the sun. He couldn't even be persuaded to talk about something else, such as sports, the weather, or the girl next door's nubile young form. So they threatened to kill him.

At this point Galileo remembered that the sun actually did revolve around the earth, and the church rewarded his improved memory by giving him free room and board for the rest of his life (a level of hospitality sometimes referred to as "house arrest").

On February 15, 1763, Austria and Prussia signed the Treaty of Hubertusburg. This ended the Seven Years War, and just in time: the war had lasted almost exactly seven years!

February 15, 1898 -
The battleship U.S.S. Maine blows up in Havana Harbor, commencing a splendid little war against Spain that ends with the United States owning a colonial empire and Cuba under martial law. The situation is immortalized in the film "Citizen Kane" with the lines, "You supply the prose poetry. We'll supply the war."

February 15, 1933 -
An unsuccessful attempt on FDR's life by Joseph Zangara in Miami leaves Chicago mayor Anton Czermak dead. Zangara is electrocuted the following month.

February 15, 1936 -
At a speech in Berlin, Hitler confronts German industry with the challenge of creating the Volkswagen. Thus Ferdinand Porsche designs the Beetle which is now widely seen as the final solution to fahrvergnugen. But neither Hitler nor Porsche would have the foresight to realize how groovy the Beetle would be, man.

February 15, 1954 -
Ronald Reagan opens his stand-up act at the Las Vegas Ramona Room with the "Honey Brothers", a wacky slapstick troupe. His show was a smashing success.

February 15, 1961 -
The U.S. figure skating team is obliterated when their Sabena Airlines 707 crashes in Belgium. The crash was the first fatal accident involving a Boeing 707 in regular passenger service.

February 15, 1992 -
Jeffrey Dahmer sentenced to fifteen consecutive life terms for the murder of fifteen young and mostly ethnic boys. He completed his sentence when he was beaten to death in the shower by other inmates. Another reason to remain popular in prison.

February 15, 1995 -
The most wanted computer hacker in history, Kevin Mitnick, is arrested in Raleigh North Carolina for various offenses, one of which was breaking into security specialist Tsutomu Shimomura's computer. Mitnick now runs Mitnick Security Consulting, a computer security consultancy. Sometimes, crimes does pay.

And so it goes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Increase Hallmark's Bottom Line Day

Here is your Today in History -

February 14 -
The eve of the Roman feast of Lupercalia. Naked youths would run through Rome, anointed with the blood of sacrificed dogs and goats, waving thongs cut from the goats. If a young woman was struck by the thong, fertility was assured. Marc Anthony, naked and gore drenched, after a crazed run through the Roman Forum on the feast of Lupercalia, offered Julius Caesar the imperial crown of Rome. Caesar demurred and told Marc Anthony to go home, take a shower and get dressed. Pope Gelasius I decided this was a bit too much, and co-opted the Roman holiday to be the Feast of St. Valentine in 484 A.D.

Sorry, this is a family blog, I can't post the video I have for this entry.

"For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings." King Richard II of England, who had been deposed in 1399, died "mysteriously" on February 14, 1400.

February 14, 1779 -
English explorer Captain James Cook and some of his crew are slaughtered, roasted and eaten by angry Hawaiian islanders, after he tried to take a Hawaiian chief hostage over a dispute regarding a stolen boat.

February 14, 1929 -
The Capone gang kills six members of the "Bugs" Moran gang and one other person at the S.M.C. Cartage company in Chicago, (The infamous "Lupercalia Massacre.") Bogus police officers were used so that it appeared to be a routine police bust. Except for all the bodies.

February 14, 1979 -
Walter Carlos, the musician who created "Switched on Bach" and the score of "A Clockwork Orange", reveals to the world that he has had a sex change operation and is henceforth to be referred to as Wendy.

February 14, 1989 -
Ayatollah Khomeini issues a takfir against Salman Rushdie, for his writings in the Satanic Verses. The act propels the otherwise uninteresting book into a bestseller.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's kinda wet out there

You probably should be using your seat as a flotation device at this point.

Here is your Today in History -
On February 13, 1542, Henry VIII of England's Vth wife, Catherine Howard, was executed for adultery.

You would have thought, people would have figured out marrying Henry was not a career with a lot of advancement possibilities.

On February 13, 1883, German composer and posthumous Hitler idol Richard Wagner, best known for writing the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now, died.

Almost exactly eleven years later (February 12, 1894),

Hans von Bulow, German pianist and composer, and the first husband of Wagner's wife Cosima, also died.

February 13, 1917 -
Mata Hari (Margaretha Geertruida (Grietje) Zelle) a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan is arrested for spying.

(Her actual crime may have been just sleeping with some German officers which the French took a dim view of at the time.)

February 13, 1945 -
An estimated 135,000 people, mostly women and children, die in the firebombing of the 13th-century city of Dresden, a revenge bombing that had no real military justification.

Kurt Vonnegut was one of just seven American prisoners of war in Dresden to survive, in an underground meatpacking cellar known as Slaughterhouse Five.

February 13, 1953 -
Transsexual Christine (formerly George) Jorgenson arrives in New York with much fanfare. She had had sex change operations performed in Denmark by Dr. Christian Hamburger, becoming the first successful surgical transgender.

Upon return, she becomes a cabaret actress. The excess parts of George goes on to become the other half of the famous East Germany TV Comedy Duo, Gunther and Smeckel.

February 13, 1959 -
Barbara Millicent Roberts, whose parents were George and Margaret Roberts from Willows, attend Willows High School and Stuyvesant High School. She has an on-off romantic relationship with her beau Ken Carson. Among her many careers were American Idol contestant, Ballerina, Fashion model, Movie producer, Movie star, Rock star, Radio City Music Hall Rockette, Aerobics instructor, Olympic gymnast, Olympic figure skater, Tennis star, WNBA basketball player, Dentist, Medical doctor, Nurse, Pediatrician, Surgeon, Veterinarian, United States Army officer,United States President, UNICEF Summit diplomat, Ambassador for world peace, Firefighter, Police officer, Canadian Mountie, Astronaut, Flight Attendant ( for both American Airlines & Pan Am ), NASCAR driver, Pilot, Cowgirl, Chef, Paleontologist, McDonald's Front Desk and Flight Attendent, etc.

Barbie was introduced today by Mattel in California. What have you done with your life?

February 13, 1985 -
Japan's New Amusement Business Control and Improvement Act comes into effect. The law brings an end to Japan's innovative sex businesses (i.e., strip bars, and public bondage), while protecting the traditional brothel industry.

That's an improvement?

And so it goes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's Honest Abe's Birthday

Go split a log in his honor

Here's your Today In History:

On February 12, 1554, The sixteen year old Lady Jane Grey, puppet Queen of England for nine days, beheaded in the Tower of London. Questions arose as to where to bury this semi-queen, until it was decided to place her among the beheaded former wives of Henry VIII.

Adolf Frederick was King of Sweden until he died of digestion problems on February 12, 1771 after having consumed a meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sour cabbage, smoked herring and champagne, which was topped off with 14 servings of his favorite dessert: semla (a hot cross bun filled with cream) served in a bowl of hot milk. He is thus remembered by Swedish schoolchildren as "the king who ate himself to death." So remember - push away from the dessert tray, folks.

February 12, 1789
Ethan Allen dies in a drunken sleigh accident while crossing the frozen Lake Champlain, reminiscing with friends and rye. Much of the circumstance remains a mystery. The Spirit of Ethan Allen is Lake Champlain's largest cruise ship. So kids remember, if you're lucky and you die while drunkenly crossing a Great Lake, you too can get a cruise ship or a line of furniture named after you.

Immanuel Kant, a real pissant, died on February 12, 1804. His last words were reportedly "It is good." This is hard to believe, since Kant did not speak English.

On February 12, 1894, Hans von Bulow died, (yes, Klaus is related to him). He was a popular pianist and composer, and the husband of composer Franz Liszt's daughter, Cosima, who screwed around behind Hans's back and ultimately left him for Richard Wagner, (more about him tomorrow)

Emperor Pu Yi of China's Manchu dynasty abdicated on February 12, 1912, allowing the establishment of a provisional republic under Sun Yat-sen, eventually causing Red China.

February 12,1967
Police in London arrest Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Marianne Faithful after they discover amphetamine pills, cannabis resin, and Marianne scandalously naked but for a fur rug. The two Rolling Stones received jail sentences which were successfully appealed. Questions still persist - where exactly was that Mars Bar anyway?

And so it goes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Wow, it's really cold today

Today in History -

On February 11, 1573, Francis Drake discovered the Pacific Ocean, which had been missing since being misplaced during the Roman Empire.

Friedrich Ebert was elected the first president of the German Republic on February 11, 1919. President Ebert brought about the Weimar constitution that eventually resulted in Adolf Hitler's rise to power.

February 11, 1929 -
The Lateran Treaty is signed -- Mussolini granted recognition to the Vatican in return for their support of his fascist dictatorship.

February 11, 1933 -
Nineteen year old Japanese schoolgirl Kiyoko Matsumoto committed suicide by jumping into the thousand foot crater of a volcano on the island of Oshima. This act started a bizzarre fashion in Japan and in the ensuing months three hundred children did the same thing.

February 11, 1936 -
Burt Reynolds' birthday. He's not the one who squealed like a pig in "Deliverance". But his hairpiece is much younger than he is.

February 11, 1986 -
Frank Herbert, author of Dune, dead from pancreatic cancer.

February 11, 1990 - Nelson Mandela, a political prisoner for 27 years, is freed from Victor Verster Prison outside Cape Town, South Africa.

February 11, 1992 -
"I'd like to thank my family for loving me and taking care of me. And the rest of the world can kiss my ass." -- Last words of Johnny Frank Garrett, executed by lethal injection.

February 11, 1993 -
Clinton nominates the beautiful Janet Reno to be US Attorney General.

And so it goes.