Sunday, May 31, 2009

Put out that butt.

World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on May 31. The member states of the World Health Organization created World No Tobacco Day in 1987. It draws global attention to the tobacco epidemic and to the preventable death and disease it causes.

It aims to reduce the 3.5 million yearly deaths from tobacco related health problems. From 1988 the WHO has presented one or more World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) Awards to organizations or individuals who have made exceptional contributions to reducing tobacco consumption.

Here is your Today in History -

May 31, 1678 -
The lovely young Lady Godiva, aged 17, rode naked on horseback through Coventry, England, to protest the high tax rate established by her own husband, Earl Leofric of Mercia. Her protest worked and he lowered taxes.

I strongly endorse this type of civil disobedience, and remind the ladies out there that taxes are pretty high just about everywhere these days.

May 31, 1819 -
Great New Yorker and even greater poet, Walt Whitman is born.

May 31, 1884 -
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, head of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, patents corn flakes. The good doctor believed in a vegetarian diet and a regimen of exercise. The good doctor also believed in proper elimination. At his sanitarium, Kellogg made sure that the bowel of each and every patient was plied with water, from above and below. His favorite device was an enema machine that could run fifteen gallons of cold water through an unfortunate bowel in a matter of seconds.

Every water enema was followed by a pint of yogurt — half was eaten, the other half was administered by enema “thus planting the protective germs where they are most needed and may render most effective service”. The yogurt served to replace the intestinal flora of the bowel, creating what Kellogg claimed was a squeaky clean intestine.

Aren't you glad you know this now.

May 31, 1889 -
Relentless rain and inadequate maintenance causes the South Fork Dam to fail, unleashing a 35-foot-high wall of water on Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

2,209 people are entombed beneath a pile of debris half a mile wide.

May 31, 1902 -
the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed, canceling the Bore War for lack of interest. (The Bore War should not be confused with the Boar War, which was much more exciting on account of tusks.)

May 31, 1921 -
After a white woman claims that a black man had grabbed her arm in an elevator, the largest race riot in U.S. history breaks out in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Marauding whites set fire to the exclusively-negro Greenwood district, leveling its 35 city blocks of black-owned businesses.

The official death toll is reported as 36, but later historians estimate it was more like 300.

May 31, 1963 -
Nun Nu Thanh Quang, a Buddhist monk, immolates himself at the Dieu de Pagoda in Hue, Vietnam.

That has got to hurt.

May 31, 1969 -
The National Legume Collective negotiates intensely all through the early part of 1969 with John Lennon and his new wife, Yoko Ono to record their new promotional song, Give Peas a Chance. The agreement ends abruptly when the organization actually hears Ms. Ono's voice.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono then decide not to waste the experience and record Give Peace a Chance, the first single recorded by a solo Beatle, from their hotel bed (not as a political statement as some have argued but because of the bloated feeling from eating a non-stop diet of peas for the past five months).

A pilot show (The Seinfeld Chronicles) created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld premiered on Thursday, May 31, 1990 on NBC. The show often described as "about nothing" was not an immediate success.

After the pilot was shown, on July 5, 1989, a pickup by the NBC network did not seem likely and the show was actually offered to Fox, which declined to pick it up. However, Rick Ludwin, head of late night and special events for NBC, diverted money from his budget, and the next four episodes were filmed. I wonder what ever happened to those guys?

May 31, 1996 -
Timothy Leary dies quietly in his sleep, thereby failing his intended mission of killing himself live on the Internet.

On a brighter note, a longstanding Moody Blues prophecy is fulfilled.

And so it goes.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Who knew they were Druish?

Because of the work of the The Commissioners' Plan of 1811, the orderly plan of the grid like layout of most of Manhattan occurred, we were able to see the spectacular setting of the sun which aligns with the east-west streets, fully illuminating every single cross-street for the last fifteen minutes of daylight.

Today in History:
Breasts are an important feature among mammals. They allow mothers to nurture their young through protracted infancies. No infancy is longer than that of the human species, especially that of the American male, which often lasts until death.

Breasts are more than just moving diner for the young, however. On humans at least, they also have valuable recreational value. Nothing else has the nutrition, entertainment, and sheer jiggle value of the human breast (although Jell-O™ does come close).

Naturally, men couldn't leave anything with the power, appeal, and nutritive value of breasts in the hands of women, literally or metaphorically. From the very dawn of human history, therefore, breasts have been in men’s hands.

In 2500 BC, the Minoan women of Crete are believed to have worn a special garment that lifted their breasts entirely out of their clothing. (Like another popular story of ancient Minos, this is believed to be half bull.) By the rise of the Hellenic (Greek) and Roman (Roman) civilizations, however, women were wearing tightly bound breast bands to reduce their busts. This style persisted until 476 AD, rightly referred to by historians as the Fall of Rome.

As history progressed, the popularity of breasts rose and fell, heaved and plunged, lifted and separated. Each new culture found a new way of exalting or obscuring the breast, according to their inclinations. By the nineteenth century in Europe, breasts were being pressed together and thrust upward by means of whalebone-fortified corsets.

The strain was unbearable. Something had to give.

On May 30, 1889, the world’s first bra was invented. To tell you the truth, I’ve lost all track of where I found that date, and haven’t got the slightest idea what it refers to. I do know, however, that corset maker Herminie Cadolle invented the “Bien-être” in 1889, and that this “health aid” was the first garment to support breasts from the shoulder down instead of squeezing them up from below.

Marie Tucek patented the first “breast supporter” in 1893 (separate pockets for the breasts, with straps that went over the shoulder and were fastened by hook-and-eye closures). Yes, the first documented over the shoulder boulder holder.

New York socialite Mary Jacob Phelps invented a modern bra in 1913 (with two handkerchiefs, some ribbon, and a bit of cord) to accommodate a sheer evening gown. Ms. Phelps sold her invention, which she called the brassiere, to the Warner Brothers Corset Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for $1500 in 1914.

The US War Industries Board encouraged the assimilation of the bra in 1917 by encouraging women to stop buying corsets, thereby freeing up nearly sixty million pounds of the metal used in them.

During the 1920s, a Russian immigrant by the name of Ida Rosenthal founded Maidenform with her husband William. The Rosenthals grouped breasts into cup sizes and developed bras for women of every age.

So it doesn’t really matter what happened on May 30, 1889. It only matters that I’ve gotten you to read the word breast about twenty times in the last several paragraphs.

May 30, 1908 -
Melvin Jerome Blanc, the prolific American voice actor, performing on radio, in television commercials, and most famously, in hundreds of cartoon shorts for Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera during the Golden Age of American animation was born on this date. He is often regarded as one of the most gifted and influential persons in his field, providing the definitive voices for iconic characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Barney Rubble among hundreds of others. His talents earned him the nickname, "The Man of a Thousand Voices".

On January 24, 1961, Blanc was involved in a near-fatal auto accident on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Hit head-on, Blanc suffered a triple skull fracture that left him in a coma for three weeks, along with fractures of both legs and the pelvis.

The accident prompted over 15,000 get-well cards from anxious fans, including some addressed only to "Bugs Bunny, Hollywood, USA", according to Blanc's autobiography. One newspaper falsely reported that he had died. After his recovery, Blanc reported in TV interviews, and later in his autobiography, that a clever doctor had helped him to come out of his coma by talking to Bugs Bunny, after futile efforts to talk directly to Blanc. Although he had no actual recollection of this, Blanc learned that when the doctor was inspired to ask him, "How are you today, Bugs Bunny?", Blanc answered in Bugs' voice. Blanc thus credited Bugs with saving his life.

And so it goes.

Friday, May 29, 2009

It's Jay's last night on the Tonight Show

Does anyone really care?

May 29, 1954 -
During the first 3D crazy of the 50's, Alfred Hitchcock releases his masterpice, Dial 'M' for Murder, on this date.

After several unsuccessful attempts to film the scene where Margot stabs Swan with the scissors, Alfred Hitchcock said, "This is nicely done but there wasn't enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce - tasteless."

And dammit, there is no truth to the rumor that Hitchcock wanted to direct the original 1-800-MATTRES commercials.

Today in History
May 29, 1453 -
Constantinople is taken by Ottoman Turks, after a fifty day siege led by Sultan Mehmet II. The city defense of 10,000 men was no match for a force of 100,000 armed with heavy artillery.

It is the final gasp of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Why is this important, you may well ask - it isn't but neither is most of history.

Patrick Henry was born on May 29, 1736. Mr Henry was an American patriot best known for never having been able to make up his mind. Asked the simplest question, Mr Henry found himself befuddled for days. It therefore came as no surprise to anyone who knew him when, given the choice between liberty and death, he famously pronounced that either would be welcome.

History records his vow at St. John's Church in March of 1775 as "Give me liberty or give me death!" Eyewitnesses and other contemporaries claim he actually said, "Liberty, death, whatever, let's just wrap this thing up."

May 29, 1806 -
Andrew Jackson couldn't wait to marry his wife, Rachel Donelson Robards. He was so impatient that he had married her before she could obtain a legal divorce from her fist husband, Captain Lewis Robards - so technically she was a bigamist and an adulteress. His political opponents made much of this fact. Dueling over a horse racing wager and his wife's honor, the future President takes a bullet in the chest from fellow lawyer Charles Dickinson. The slug shatters two ribs and buries itself near his heart. Then it is Jackson's turn to fire, which manages to sever an artery, technically breaking the rules of the duel. Dickinson died a few hours later, the only man Jackson ever killed in any of his 103 duels.

The bullet that struck Jackson was so close to his heart that it could never be safely removed. Jackson had been wounded so frequently in duels over his wife's honor that it was said he "rattled like a bag of marbles". At times he would cough up blood, and he experienced considerable pain from his wounds for the rest of his life. I suppose that's what love was like in the 19th Century.

May 29, 1913 -
Imagine, if you will, you live in Paris and that after a hard day of not working and drinking heavily (it's what most of the idle rich did in Paris at the time, while they waited around for Marcel Proust to finish writing that damn book he was working on - but that's another story), you were dragged to the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Tonight, the Ballets Russes was going to perform a new ballet, Le Sacre du printemps (The Rites of Spring) with the international star, Nijinsky, the choreographer. You were probably expecting a brief snooze what you got was a full out boxing match (not unlike a recent evening at the Boston Pops).

The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd, and there were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance, and Igor Stravinsky (the composer) himself was so upset on account of its reception that he fled the theater in mid-scene, reportedly crying. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the première, (though Stravinsky latter said "I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out of, the premiere.") allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet's opening bars. I hate when they misuse the bassoon.

Stravinsky ran backstage, where Diaghilev was turning the lights on and off in an attempt to try to calm the audience. Nijinsky stood on a chair, leaned out (far enough that Stravinsky had to grab his coat-tail), and shouted numbers to the dancers, who couldn't hear the orchestra (this was challenging because Russian numbers are polysyllabic above ten, such as eighteen: vosemnadsat).

Although Nijinsky and Stravinsky were despondent, Diaghilev (the ballet's impresario) commented that the scandal was "just what I wanted". The music and choreography were considered barbaric and sexual and are also often noted as being the primary factors for the cause of the riot, but many political and social tensions surrounding the premiere contributed to the backlash as well.

It was quite an evening.

John F. Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, and is best remembered for telling Berliners "I am a jelly-filled donut speech," delivered in Berlin (either that or "I am a small brimmed hat, usually worn in early spring" or "I like cheese"), an axiom that many Americans found problematic in the face of increasing cold war tensions, imminent nuclear war, an escalating presence in Vietnam, the troubled state of race relations, and the ubiquitous threat of poisonous snakes.

Mr. Kennedy should not be faulted for his mangling of the phrase, he was a pill-popping, philanderer in constant pain from Addison's disease and shouldn't have been expected to stay on point in a foreign language with so many other things on his mind.

Born on the same day but several centuries earlier (in 1630), was King Charles II of England, best known for the saying, "Give me back my throne."

May 29, 1953 –
Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay are the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on Tenzing Norgay's (adopted) 39th birthday.

Following his ascent of Everest he devoted much of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he founded. Through his efforts many schools and hospitals were built in this remote region of Nepal.

And so it goes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another sign that we are really old.

May 28, 1989 -
Marvin Young (Young MC) an ecomonics major at University of Southern California releases his Grammy Award winning album on this date.

The song is now old enough to go to the clubs and get into all sorts of trouble.

Did Gillette actually see a need for this video? Did some sort of horrible accident occur that they don't want to talk about?

And where is the video for shaving your hairy, pimply, baboon like ass?

May 28, 1503 -
The Treaty of Everlasting Peace between Scotland and England is signed culminating in the marriage of James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor (sister of Henry VIII).

Once again the European sense of time prevails and the treaty would actually last only 10 years.

On May 28, 1743, Joseph Ignace Guillotine was born in France. Later he became a doctor. As a politically active humanitarian, he was understandably disturbed by the grisly executions of the French Revolution. He was sure people could be killed more efficiently, and he invented a device to do just that.

His machine sliced the victim's head off by means of a heavy, suspended blade rushing down a pair of siderails onto (or more accurately through) the victim's neck. Not only was it quick and painless: in those dull years before cable, it was also great entertainment. Dr Guillotine enjoyed watching the youngsters scampering playfully about the machine, fighting for the severed head.

During the rough weather that followed the French Revolution (known to meteorologists as "The Rain of Terror") it became necessary to purge the Republic of all obstacles to the welfare of its people. Sadly, most of those obstacles were people themselves, and there were a damned lot of them.

Drunk with power (a lingering effect of the Bourbon era) and armed with Dr Guillotine's new invention, the government succeeded in eliminating thousands of such obstacles quickly and effectively, in a way that made the children laugh and sing right up to the moment that their own heads were sliced off.

Dr Guillotine himself was eventually guillotined, suggesting the possible existence of a moral to his story. (Readers seeking morals, however, are advised as always to conduct their searches elsewhere.)

May 28, 1930 -
The Chrysler Building, the premier Art Deco skyscraper in New York City, opens on this date. Standing 1,047 feet (319 meters) high, it was briefly the world's tallest building before it was overtaken by the Empire State Building in 1931. After the destruction of the World Trade Center, it is again the second tallest building in New York City.

The skyscraper, designed by architect William Van Alen, was originally built to house the Chrysler Corporation. The groundbreaking occurred on September 19, 1928. At the time, the builders of New York were engaged in an intense competition to build the world's tallest skyscraper. The Chrysler Building was erected at an average rate of four floors per week and no workers were killed during construction. Just prior to its completion, the building stood about even with the rival project 40 Wall Street, designed by H. Craig Severance. Severance quickly increased the height of his project by two feet and claimed the title of the world's tallest building (this distinction excluded structures that were not fully habitable, such as the Eiffel Tower).

Van Alen secretly obtained permission to build a spire that was hidden inside the building during construction. The spire, measuring 125 feet (58.4 meters) long and composed of Nirosta stainless steel, was hoisted to the top of the building on October 23, 1929. The added height allowed the Chrysler Building to surpass both 40 Wall Street and the Eiffel Tower as the tallest building and the tallest structure in the world. It was also the first man-made structure to stand taller than 1,000 feet (305 meters). The steel chosen to cap the building was Krupp KA2 "Enduro" Steel (in case you needed to know that fact). In less than a year, the Chrysler Building was surpassed in height by the Empire State Building. Van Alen's satisfaction was further muted by Walter Chrysler's refusal to pay his fee.

May 28, 1944 -
The thrice married (forgot that his first wife was his second cousin), former prosecutor, businessman, and Republican politician from the state of New York Sir Rudolph William Louis Giuliani III was born on this date.

Remember, please don't threaten to beat up the mayor - it's against the law, just ask Mr. John McCluskey.

May 28, 1959 -
America launches a Jupiter rocket containing a rhesus monkey named Able and a squirrel monkey named Miss Baker. After experiencing nine minutes of microgravity, the capsule successfully returns to Earth with both monkeys intact.

However, Able dies during surgery to remove his electrodes. Able was then stuffed and mounted, and is now on display at the Smithsonian Institute of Air and Space Museum. Wally Schirra's family is quite happy this practice has not continued.

May 28, 1972 -
The virtually exiled King Edward VIII, styled the Duke of Windsor by his brother King George VI in 1936, died on this day in 1972 in Paris. He was buried at Windsor Castle. It was the first time that the Duchess was a royal guest of the Queen.

According to Sarah Bradford, the latest royal biographer, the Queen Mother, who had for 36 years resented the fact that the Duke's undying love for the horse faced, possible transvestite Mrs. Simpson had put her husband on the throne right at the threshold of war and had condemned him to an early death (She conveniently forgot that her husband was a very heavy smoker from early adulthood and that his family was prone to cancer), was very solicitous about the senile Duchess and took care of her during the funeral. The Queen did not weep for her uncle, but, strangely enough, when the Duchess followed him in death 14 years later, the Queen did weep at her funeral.

May 28, 1987 -
German teenager Matthias Rust lands his Cessna in Moscow's Red Square, buzzing the Kremlin on the way in.

He serves 18 months in prison for this prank, which also costs the commander of the Soviet Air Command his job.


And so it goes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mein Fuhrer, I can walk !!!

May 27 1923 -
Henry Kissinger is born in Fuerth, Germany.

50 years later, (War Criminal - according to your political beliefs) Dr. Kissinger receives the Nobel Peace Prize for quitting the Vietnam War. No kidding. (Henry also proves that outliving your enemies is the best revenge.)

Here is your Today in History -
May 27, 1933 -
The Walt Disney Company releases the cartoon The Three Little Pigs.

The natural commercial tie-in with Parks Link sausages isn't such a big hit though.

May 27 1942 -
A couple of Czech assassins ambush the car carrying Reinhard Heydrich and toss a grenade into the front seat.

The man who headed the Wannsee Conference is mortally wounded in the attack, and dies of septicemia a week later. The Nazis retaliate by obliterating the Catholic village of Lidice, Czechoslovakia and its inhabitants.

May 27, 1944 -
Duck Soup to Nuts, another classic Daffy Duck/ Porky Pig teaming, was released on this date.

I'm not just your ordinary, meat-on-the-table duck. I'm gifted. I'm just slopping over with talent.

May 27, 1964 -
From Russia with Love, the second spy film in the James Bond series, was released in the US on this date.

President John F. Kennedy had named Fleming's novel From Russia with Love among his ten favourite books of all time in a Life magazine article. In a bizarre coincidence, according to the book "Death of a President" by William Raymond Manchester, this was the last motion picture John F. Kennedy ever saw, on 20 November 1963, in the White House.

May 27 1977 -
After the pressing plant initially refuses to duplicate the record and the printer refuses to make the covers, Virgin finally releases "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols in time for the monarch's Jubilee celebration.

Apparently, their deepest wishes have come true, 32 years later, she's still there.

May 27 1993 -
Five are killed and 37 wounded when a Fiat Fiorino explodes outside the Uffizi museum in Florence, Italy.

The car bomb (a combination of PETN, T4, and TNT, kids does try to make this at home) also manages to obliterate three priceless artworks and substantially damage thirty more. The bombing appears to have been the work of the Sicilian Mafia.

May 27 1995-
During the third jump of an equestrian event in Charlottesville, Virginia, actor Christopher Reeve is thrown headfirst over his horse.

Reeve breaks his neck in two places, instantly rendering him a quadriplegic, unable to move or breathe without assistance.

Today's birthday include Siouxsie Sioux (1957),

Neil Finn (1958),

Hubert Humphrey (1911),

Vincent Price (1911),

And so it goes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Obama picks Sotomayor for high court

AP report - President Barack Obama tapped federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court on Tuesday, officials said, making her the first Hispanic in history picked to wear the robes of a justice.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sotomayor, 54, would succeed retiring Justice David Souter. Two officials described Obama's decision on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement had been made.

Administration officials say Sotomayor would bring more judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice confirmed in the past 70 years.

A formal announcement was expected at midmorning.

Let the mudslinging begin.

Today in History
Happy Birthday Marion Michael Morrison - American Patriot.

May 26 1232 -
Gregory IX issues the bull Declinante jam mundi, bringing the Papal Inquisition to Spain.

I never get tired of playing this clip.

May 26 1647 -
Alse Young, a widow, is hanged for witchcraft in Hartford, Connecticut. She is the first person in America executed for the crime of witchcraft.

Her daughter Alice is accused of the same offense 30 years later, in Massachusetts.

It was something in the genes.

May 26 1868 -
In England's last public execution, Michael Barrett is hanged at Newgate. All subsequent hangings are held behind prison walls. Presiding over the event is executioner William Calcraft, who frequently supplements his income by selling the clothes and noose worn by the condemned.

May 26 1913 –
Peter Wilton Cushing, OBE, English actor, known for his many appearances in Hammer Films, was born on this date.

May 26 1960 -
America's UN Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. charges the Soviets with having bugged the Moscow embassy. He shows off a large wooden carving of the United States seal which had been hollowed out to conceal a sophisticated resonant cavity transmitter.

Less than 30 years later a newly-rebuilt Moscow embassy is determined to be "structurally riddled with eavesdropping devices."

May 26 1994 -
"Price Is Right" host Bob Barker admits to having had an 18-month sexual relationship with former co-host Dian Parkinson. The onetime Playboy model was suing the game show's host and its production company for sexual harassment.

Barker denies that the sex had been anything but consensual, claiming that "she volunteered the hanky-panky." Parkinson later drops the suit. Bob was 71 at the time and Viagra was not on the market.

Way to go Bob!!!

May 26 1994 -
Michael Jackson weds Lisa Marie Presley in the Dominican Republic. The couple keeps their love match secret for six weeks, then files for divorce 18 months after that.

Lisa Marie has confirmed on the Oprah show that she had marital relations with Jackson -

I still have a little taste of vomit in my mouth!!

There were alot of notable music birthdays on this date.

May 26, 1920
Norma Deloris Egstrom, Grammy award winning singer, songwriter, composer and actress, was born on this date.

And yes Peggy, that's all there is.

May 26, 1926 –
Miles Dewey Davis III, widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, was born on this date.

May 26, 1938 -
Teresa Stratas, soprano opera singer, was born on this date

May 26, 1940 -
Mark Lavon Helm, is an American rock musician and actor

May 26, 1948 -
Stephanie Lynn Nicks, singer-songwriter, was born on this date.

And so it goes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country.

It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. One of the longest standing traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911 (no one has been able to successfully explain the connection between honoring the nation's war dead and people driving around a race track).

Here is your Today in History -

Happy Towel day (remember a towel is "about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have") -

so don't panic.

May 25, 1521 -
Charles V, a Holy Roman Emperor (Who was neither holy or a Roman - he was just a German King) issues the Diet of Worms.

Martin Luther, German monk and all around killjoy, couldn't stomach this diet (as it declaring him an outlaw for not eating worms, banning his writings, and requiring his arrest) and goes off to start the Protestant Reformation.

May 25 1803 -
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on this date. Emerson whose original profession, a Unitarian minister but secret calling was as, an amateur plumber, left the ministry to pursue a career in writing and public speaking.

Emerson became one of America's best known and best loved 19th century figures, writing such works as "Self-Reliance and the indoor toilet" and "Bacchus on the chamber pot".

May 25, 1895 -
British playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde is convicted of "committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons," to wit: buggering some rent boys.

For his crime, Wilde is sentenced to two years of hard labor in Reading jail. Perhaps, he should have taken up gardening instead.

May 25, 1925 -
John Scopes was indicted for teaching evolution in school. Evolution was a theory put forth by Charles Darwin, whose boat was named "the Beagle." People objected to this theory, which put forth the proposition that mankind had evolved from life forms with hairy red asses.

This resulted in the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, in which Spencer Tracy gave a long monologue that changed everyone's minds even though it was so darn hot in the courtroom.

It is now commonly accepted as fact that mankind evolved from life forms with hairy red asses, a proposition that anyone who's been to the beach lately shouldn't find too hard to accept.

May 25, 1977 -
In a time long ago and in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas began legally printing money with the release of the first Star Wars movie, which for reasons only know to George was titled - Stars War IV: A New Hope.

Yes, we are old.

May 25, 1996 -
The body of Bradley Nowell is discovered in his room at San Francisco's Ocean View Motel.

Nowell, lead singer for radio trio Sublime, was killed by an accidental smack overdose.

May 25, 2001 -
Erik Weihenmayer is the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on this date. He also completed the Seven Summits in September 2002. His story was covered in a Time article in June 2001 titled Blind Faith.

He is author of Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye can See, his autobiography. Some of you reading this actually have actual met and know him. Small world.

And so it goes

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Bob

Robert Allen Zimmerman, a simple country boy from the the great state of Minnesota, don't ya know, who has been a major figure in popular music for five decades, was born on this date.

Hopefully, someday he'll get a larger audience

Here is your Today in History -

May 24, 1610 -
Buggery is criminalized for the first time in North America, when the Virginia colony declares that "no man shall commit the horrible, and detestable sinnes of Sodomie upon pain of death."

This was all probably due to the lack of proper lubricant and the fact that the writer of this law was a troll.

May 24, 1686 -
Gabriel Fahrenheit was born on the date. Mr Fahrenheit did pioneering work in the field of temperature. It was his dream to develop a more sophisticated temperature measurement system than the accepted worldwide standard of his era, which consisted of only seven gradations: brr!, cold, chilly, warm, hot, steamy, and ow!. Hard at work on the same problem was his colleague Gustav Celsius. Mr Fahrenheit eventually discovered the "degree." It took 32 of Mr Fahrenheit's degrees to freeze water and 212 of them to boil it. Mr Celsius, meanwhile, had discovered a different kind of "degree." It took only a hundred of his degrees to bring water to a boil, and, even more impressively, he discovered that water would freeze without any degrees at all.

By requiring fewer degrees to get things done, and less tick marks on thermometers, Mr Celsius's system was more compact and economical than Mr Fahrenheit's. This made it a natural for the crowded lands of Europe, where storage came at a premium. In the great unsettled expanse of the New World, however, space was not an issue and Mr Fahrenheit's system took hold.

May 24, 1819 -
Queen Victoria was born as Princess Alexandria Victoria at Kensington Palace, London. Through a series of accidents and bad planning on the part of her uncles, she became Queen. She reigned for sixty-four years, and lent her name to an era best remembered for its prudery and chastity.

Remember, this was the time when one put skirts on piano legs for fear of arousing the passions of young men. The chastity of the era was probably the result of so many citizens having to stay home and care for their children, since Victoria's reign also saw the largest population explosion in British history.

May 24, 1856 -
A small gang led by abolitionist John Brown murders five pro-slavery homesteaders in Franklin County, Kansas, hacking them to pieces with swords.

The event comes to be known as the Pottawatomie Massacre.

May 24, 1883 -
"I've got ninety thousand pounds in my pajamas,
I've got forty thousand French francs in my fridge,
I've got lots of lovely lira, Now the Deutschmark's getting dearer,
And my dollar bills would buy the Brooklyn Bridge..."

The Brooklyn Bridge (originally the New York and Brooklyn Bridge), one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, stretches 5,989 feet (1825 m) over the East River connecting the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn opened for business today. On completion, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world and the first steel-wire suspension bridge. Since its opening, it has become an iconic part of the New York Skyline and is still considered one of the Wonders of the Modern World.

The first person to jump from the bridge was Robert E. Odlum (and not Steve Brodie) on July 23, 1886. Robert, a swimming teacher, made the jump in a costume bearing his initials. He survived the pre-announced jump, but died shortly thereafter from internal injuries. Apparently, no one told him taking the high dive off the bridge would get him killed.

This showed him.

May 24, 1920 -
Senile French President Paul Deschanel falls off a train bound for Montbrison, and is later discovered wandering along the track in his pajamas.

As I mentioned yesterday, The French, they are a strange race.

And so it goes.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Happy World Turtle Day

The purpose of World Turtle Day, sponsored yearly since 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue, is to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive.

Turtle Day is celebrated worldwide in a variety of ways, from dressing up as turtles to saving turtles caught on highways, to research activities.

Here is your Today in History -

May 23, 1430 - The French, they are a strange race. A little french shepherdess goes out into a field for a picnic. And instead of getting food poisoning, which was common, hears the voice of God, which is not.

Joan, heeding God' command, heads the army of France to rout the England and help crown a new French King. And for her troubles, Joan of Arc captured by Burgundians today at Compiegne, who sell her to the British. The British, known for their sense of humor, give Joan the ultimate hot foot.

This is what comes from being the messenger of God.

May 23, 1498 -
"What a day for an auto da fe..."

Religious fundamentalist Girolamo Savonarola is executed in Florence, Italy for his many heresies. The Catholic Church had already excommunicated the Dominican friar the year before, but Savonarola continued to preach for radical reforms. Among other things, he held "bonfires of the vanities" for his parishioners' worldly possessions, because they competed with the word of God for attention. Brother Savonarola is hanged along with two accomplices and their bodies burned.

This is what comes from trying to follow your own understanding of God's words.

May 23, 1618 -
In what is later called the "Second Defenestration of Prague," (yes there was a First) three men representing the soon-to-be Emperor Ferdinand II are thrown from a window in the Hradshin Palace by Protestant noblemen. Luckily for the imperial emissaries, they land on a large pile of trash and survive. But when the Catholic Ferdinand assumes the throne the following year, all hell breaks loose in Europe, starting with Bohemia.

Thus begins the horrific religious conflict that comes to be known as the Thirty Years War. Shockingly, given the European sense of time, the war actaully lasted 30 years. It is generally agreed that the war set back the continent a full century.

May 23, 1701 -
Captain William Kidd is hanged in London. After the first attempt fails when the rope snaps, Kidd is brought right back to the gallows and the process repeated. After death, the body is slathered in tar, chained up, and suspended over the Thames where it remains for years as an example to others considering a life of piracy.

Again, the British and their sense of humor.

May 23, 1734 -
Friedrich Anton Mesmer was born on this date.

Mr. Mesmer was a physician and hypnotist who developed a peculiar method of therapy-by-suggestion that bears his name to this day: Antonism.

(Antonism should not be confused with antonyms, an antonym for synonyms. Synonyms should not be confused with cinnamon, which is used on hot buns. It will spare embarrassment at the breakfast table if hot buns are not confused with hot buns.)

May 23, 1934 -
200 years later, a group of FBI agents and police officers from two states ambush Bonnie and Clyde on a highway near Gibsland, Louisiana.

The men open fire as the bank robbers drive past the concealed posse, unloading hundreds of rounds into the car.

You make the connection.

May 23, 1911 -
More than one million books were set in place for the official dedication of The New York Public Library (on Fifth Avenue on the site of the old Croton Reservoir) on this date – exactly 16 years to the day since the historic agreement creating the Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations had been signed.

The ceremony was presided over by President William Howard Taft and was attended by Governor John Alden Dix and Mayor William J. Gaynor.

Please, all of you who forgot to return your books from the opening day, return them please. All is forgiven. No questions asked.

May 23, 1969 -
"Tommy, can you hear me?
Tommy, can you hear me?"

The Who release Tommy, the first rock opera. Now if we could only get the image of Elton John and those damn boots out of our heads.

And so it goes.

Friday, May 22, 2009

This could be one of the funniest moments on TV in a long time:

I hardly ever watch his show but I have a feeling I show start TIVO'ing it.

I'm not a big Country music fan but I hear Joe Doe (from the X's) and I head him do a cover version of this classic and I want it in heavy rotation play. I want to share with you some older versions of the song:

Isn't that a cheerful little ditty.

Today in History:
May 22, 337 -
Emperor Constantine dies. Although quite dead, his embalmed corpse continues to act as head of state, receiving state dignitaries and daily reports from ministers as if nothing had changed. Constantine's macabre leadership continues through winter.

Sometimes, it good to be the King, even after you're dead.

Richard Wagner was born on May 22, 1813. One of the most controversial personalities of the nineteenth century, Wagner wrote some of its most controversial music. Hitler is said for most of his life to have kept only three books on his nightstand: Wagner's autobiography, Machiavelli's The Prince, and The Best of Juggs. (How Hitler ended up with Wagner's nightstand is a question best left alone.)

Wagner considered it his life's mission to create a new and purely German music, in German, about Germany, for Germans, and is therefore best known for having scored the helicopter scene in Apocalypse Now.

Laurence Kerr Olivier, director, producer and one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century, was born on this date.

Interestingly, Olivier is buried alongside some of the people he has portrayed in theatre and film, for example King Henry V, General John Burgoyne and Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding.

On May 22, 1939, Hitler and Benito Mussolini signed their "Pact of Steel," committing their countries to a military alliance.

The pact held. (Their "Pact of Aluminum" had failed miserably, and their "Pact of Semi-Adhesive Paste" is still the butt of diplomats' jokes.)

May 22, 1967 -
Today was the first day a soft spoken man slipped into your home and made himself more comfortable. But don't let his demeanor fool you, he was the power behind the throne of a kingdom where most of the royalty were mere "puppets". Mr. Fred Rogers premieres on WQED.

Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?
Won't you please, won't you please?
Please won't you be my neighbor indeed!!!

May 22, 1992 -
The man, most of America went to bed with every night for 30 years finally got tired of having to try to satisfy so many people.

John Carson's final appearance on the Tonight Show was broadcast on this date.

If you're going to be away from your computer the weekend - try to remember why we have this three day weekend. Also, please remember to drink til you drop and stay where you are - Don't drink and drive - I have so few readers, I can't afford to lose any of you.

And so it goes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Please personally thank Sen. Tom Coburn

Your credit card is safe to bring to a National Park (along with your concealed weapon.)

Have a great summer.

Today in History:
It was on this date in 1471 that King Henry VI of England was murdered in the Tower of London, concluding Part III of his reign.

Edward IV assumed the throne as the world eagerly awaited Richard III and the dramatic conclusion of the War of the Roses.

May 21, 1917 -
One of the World's greatest actor's, Raymond Burr is born.

In celebration, may I suggest purchasing a small container of the fabulous nipple rouge bearing this man's name.

May 21, 1904 -
Thomas Wright (Fats) Waller, jazz pianist, organist, composer and entertainer, was born on this date.

One never knows, do one?

On May 21,1927, Charles Lindbergh, American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, racist, Neo-Nazi, Isolationist and serial philanderer became the first man to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean.

Exactly five years later Amelia Earhart became the first woman to do it. This was an impressive step for feminism, and she did it without the astronaut diapers.

May 21, 1952 -
Mr. T is born in the ghetto

and his mama cried.

May 21, 1972 -
A deranged Australian geologist takes a hammer to Michelangelo's Pieta, shouting "I am Jesus Christ -- risen from the dead!"

Laszlo Toth is never charged with any crime, instead receiving a free trip to an Italian insane asylum. Toth's name is later adopted by comedian and former SNL regular Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci) for a long series of pranks by mail. Everybody's a critic.

May 21, 1980 -
George Lucas didn't have enough money. He produces a sequel to his highly successful Star Wars, which somehow is Part V (don't ask or someone will go to great lengths to explain it all to you.) 'Empire Strikes Back' premieres on this date.

The film contains, arguably the most shocking revelation - right next to what Rosebud was or who exactly was killing all those people at the Bates Motel.

And so it goes

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Don't forget to leave home without protection.

As is the case around every time, every year - seamen are flooding NYC - it's Fleet week.

The Easy Star All Stars - I ended up listening to these guys all day yesterday

I had a blast.

Today in History:
Honore de Balzac was born in France on May 20, 1799 (or May 19th.) The exact date could not be determined as all of France had just started on a drinking binge that only recently just ended. Balzac created a vast body of literature that he called La Comédie Humaine (“A Vast Body of Literature”).

It consisted of dozens of novels, short stories, and plays interwoven with many of the same characters, places, events, horses, etc. One of his most popular characters was the brilliant and big-hearted Dr. Bianchon. It is rumored that Balzac’s dying words were, “If Bianchon were here, he would save me!” The anecdote is probably apocryphal, as Balzac didn’t speak English.

May 20 1867 -
Queen Victoria laid the foundation stones in the Royal Albert Hall.

Two thoughts immediately came to mind:
a.) Why thought she would do it in the road?
b.) Wow, Keith Richards is really old.

May 20, 1873 –
Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive a U.S. patent (#139121) for blue jeans with copper rivets.

18 years later, on this date, George Sampson patents the clothes dryer. It's just that simple.

May 20 1944 -
Joe Cocker was born on this date.

Mad dogs and Englishmen celebrate this day as a national holiday.

May 20 1946 -
Cherilyn Sarkisian, pop singer-songwriter, Academy Award, Grammy Award, Emmy Award, three Golden Globe Awards and a People's Choice Award winner was born on this date.

Wig manufacturer's everywhere celebrate this day as an international holiday. (Are we sure that's the same person in both videos?)

May 20, 1956 -
The first hydrogen bomb to be dropped from the air was exploded over the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific (Operation Redwing), but it was a much earlier (July 1, 1946), non-aerial atomic detonation that originally inspired the bikini swimsuit.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, $90 million has been appropriated by Congress "to be used by the Bikinians to clean up their atoll" since 1990. How embarrassing must it have been for the guy who had to call the Bikinians and tell them we had soiled their atoll—that we wanted to help them clean their filthy atoll?

(Which isn't to say it'd be a cakewalk being called a Bikinian.)

May 20 1960 -
Music DJ Alan Freed, originator of the term "Rock and Roll," is indicted in New York in the Payola scandal.

Freed had accepted $30,650 from five record companies to play their records, although to be fair "pay for play" was the accepted practice up to that point.

May 20 1989 -
The Chinese government imposed martial law on Beijing on this date, in response to student-led protests that had brought millions of people onto the streets. The demonstrations continued, however, until the brutal military crackdown on June 3 and 4 in Tiananmen Square, in which thousands of Chinese dissidents were killed by the Chinese military. In a June 9 speech, Deng Xiaoping announced that the government had suppressed a "counterrevolutionary rebellion" in which the "dregs of society" had tried to "establish a bourgeois republic entirely dependent on the West."

China still has a veto on the U.N. Security Council.

May 20, 1989
Gilda Radner, Emmy Award winning American comedienne and actress, best known for her five years as part of the original cast of the NBC comedy series Saturday Night Live, died at 42 of ovarian cancer on this date.

And do it goes