Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's Bunsen burner day

Robert Bunsen, whose name we associate with the burner, was a 19th-century German chemist of some renown. He worked on explosive organic arsenic compounds--leading to the loss of one eye--and, later, on gases from volcanoes, geysers and blast furnaces.

With Gustav Kirchhoff, he contributed to our understanding of the meaning of spectra lines. (He also gained note for not bathing--one woman of polite society remarked that Bunsen was so charming that she would like to kiss him, but she would have to wash him first.)

March 31, 1943 -
Ronald Walken, possibly the most imitated actor in America, was born on this date.

In his over 35 years in film, he has acted in well over 90 films. He rarely turns down a part, under the belief that making movies (whether they turn out good or bad) is always a rewarding experience.

March 31, 1957 -
The original version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, starring Julie Andrews, aired live in color on CBS on this date (only black-and-white kinescopes exist today.)

Cinderella was seen by the largest audience in history at the time of its premiere: 107,000,000 people in the USA, fully 60% of the country’s population at that time.

March 31, 1994 -
Madonna appeared on Late Show with David Letterman on this date. She dropped the f-bomb more than a dozen times, exchanged less- than-friendly barbs with Dave and then stubbornly refused to leave the set.

This made the episode the most censored in American network television talk-show history; it also resulted in some of the highest ratings of Letterman's late-night career.

The extra credit question, who was the musical guest that evening? - Counting Crows.

Today in History:
March 31 1492 -
Ferdinand and Isabel expel all of the Jews from Spain, except those willing to convert to Christianity. Even with the infusions of gold and silver arriving during the 16th century from the Americas, this is an act from which Spain never recovers.

By expelling their merchant and banking class, Jews and Muslims, the country is left ill-equipped to process the new wealth, which ultimately winds up in the coffers of other countries and squandered on disastrous military campaigns.

I guess that didn't quite go the way they had planned.

March 31, 1889 -
The Eiffel Tower as it exists today was built in 1889, but its history dates back to Gallic times.

Documents that have been carbon-dated to roughly 200 B.C. indicate that King Catatonix of the Hellatians decreed, for no apparent reason, the construction of a big tower on the very site where the Eiffel Tower can be found today.

In Caesar’s Reflections on the Garlic Wars, the Roman general reminisces on having found “a curious wooden tower, tall and strange.” Baffled by this peculiar cultural monolith, and never happy to be baffled, he burned it to the ground.

Some four centuries later, with the western Roman Empire in collapse, wild-eyed Gallic nationalists rebuilt the tower using cheese instead of wood. They called it La Grande Fromage, from which we get the expression, The Big Cheese.

During subsequent invasions by and entanglements with Normans, Saxons, Angles, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Lolligoths, the Tower was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, always for no apparent reason. It had become a sort of habit by now, a national obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Rene Descartes was born on March 31, 1596. Descartes said that he existed because he thought, and although he said it in Latin everyone still had to admit that it looked like Reason had finally entered the world.

Therefore the Franks (who now called themselves the French, primarily to irritate Germany) lost interest in the tower, and at last abandoned the effort.

Unfortunately, in 1870 German chancellor Otto von Bismarck defeated the French army in a Sedan and laid siege to Paris. This made the French lose their heads (see also the French Revolution). They forgot all about Reason and made Gustav Eiffel build a Tower, this time using steel, which was stronger than cheese and not quite as flammable as wood. It stands to this day, a proud monument French culture, without which we would not have Champagne, Camembert, Brigitte Bardot, or Marcel Proust.

March 31, 1959 -
The Dalai Lama is forced to leave Tibet, after the Red Communists (Evil Bastards) make it very unpleasant for him to stay.

He accuses the Chinese of making genocide against the Tibetan people, by systematic destruction of Tibetan culture and execution of thousands of prominent citizens (I guess I'll never be read in China.)

March 31, 1995 -
The president of the Selena Fan Club, Yolanda Saldivar, kills the Tejano music popstar Selena in Corpus Christi, TX. "It just went off, I didn't mean to do it. I didn't mean to kill anybody".

That might be true, but the jury did not believe her. Remember folks, never let a crazy fan with a gun license and bad credit be the head of your fan club.

And so it goes

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge Day

March 30, 1909 -
...The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge, is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.... - F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The Queensboro Bridge (originally known as Blackwell's Island Bridge,) the first double decker bridge, opened and linked the New York boroughs of Manhattan and Queens on this date.

The Simon & Garfunkel song Feelin' Groovy uses the bridge as its namesake. Soon the bridge will be named after the former mayor Ed Koch.

Today in History:
March 30, 315 -
The Donation of Constantine grants to the See of Rome dominion over all earthly thrones of Europe, a document made by the Roman Emperor Constantine I after his conversion to Christianity in return for being cured from leprosy (it was the least he could do after avoiding his nose falling off his face).

But in 1440, anachronisms in the document prove that it was really a fraud written around 752 AD, during the reign of and under orders of Pope Stephen II and the Frankish king Charlemagne (more about him later).

March 30 1282 -
After vespers on Easter Monday, a French sergeant named Drouet touches the breast of a young Sicilian bride, causing an outrage that precipitated the slaughter of perhaps 2,000 Frenchmen living and ruling over Sicily.

Lesson here: don't cop a feel of someone else wife after church, especially if they're Sicilian. One of Giuseppe Verdi's most musically acclaimed operas, Les Vêpres Siciliennes is based on this conflict.

March 30, 1840 -
George Bryan Beau Brummell, English dandy and former favorite of the prince regent, died of syphilis in a French lunatic asylum for paupers (I hate when that happens.)

If people turn to look at you on the street, you are not well dressed. - Beau Brummell.

On March 30, 1853, Vincent Van Gogh was born. Exactly 134 years later to the very day, his painting Sunflowers sold for $39.7 million.

Van Gogh’s life was full of such eary coincidences.

March 30, 1863 -
OK kids, it's your favorite topic - life among the those wacky imbred royals.

Danish prince Wilhelm Georg was chosen as King George of Greece. King George I is the grandfather of Prince Philip, yes that gadabout greek sailor who lives in London. Kids, now follow this: Philip and his lovely wife Elizabeth are second cousins once removed: they are both descended from Christian IX of Denmark - Elizabeth II is a great-great-granddaughter through her paternal great-grandmother Alexandra of Denmark, and the Duke is a great-grandson through his paternal grandfather George I of Greece.

As well as second cousins once removed, the couple are also third cousins: they share Queen Victoria as a great-great-grandmother. Elizabeth's great-grandfather was Edward VII, while Edward's sister Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine was the Duke's great-grandmother. This was probably painfully obvious to them on their wedding day as everyone assembled to witness their wedding was related to one another.

So goes love amongst the royals and hillbillies.

On March 30, 1870, the U.S. Congress readmitted . Texas is the only state in the Union whose name is an anagram for taxes. Texas had been naughty and seceded in 1861, but they said they were sorry and promised never to do it again.

Congress didn’t think they really meant it, but let them back in anyway, after making Texas write "I will not secede from the union" 500 times.

Conclude this paragraph with the Texaphobic slur or Texaphiliac slogan of your choice.

March 30, 1964 -
What gameshow has been on the air since this date? Pens down.

Merv Griffin's game show Jeopardy! makes its debut on television. He sold the rights for the show to Coca-Cola for $250 million in 1986. The show was hosted by Art Fleming until 1975. It resurfaced in syndication in 1984 with Alex Trebek as host.

March 30, 1968 -
Two children in the Bowery come across the body of a homeless drug addict later identified as Bobby Driscoll, 31, the voice of Disney's Peter Pan.

So I guess he really wouldn't grow up.

March 30, 1981 -
Pres. Ronald Reagan was shot and wounded by John W. Hinckley Jr.outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on this date. Press Sec. James Brady was also shot as was Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and District of Columbia police officer Thomas Delahanty.

While President Reagan undergoes surgery for a life-threatening gunshot wound, Secretary of State Alexander Haig announces to the press: "As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President."

As bloodless coups go, it was a brilliant though short-lived one.

And so it goes

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A wonderful way,

to waste about 11 minutes

I saw this short on another website - it's absolutely amazing. Share it with someone.

March 29, 1959 -
Billy Wilder 's film, Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, premiered on this date.

In 2000, the American Film Institute listed Some Like It Hot as the greatest American comedy film of all time.

Today in History -
Georges Seurat died on March 29, 1891. Mr. Seurat was a dotty artist who painted the world as he saw it.

Sadly, his eye condition was never treated.

March 29, 1932 -
A vaudeville comedian made his radio debut, saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Benny talking. There will be a slight pause while you say, 'Who cares?' "

The eternally 39 year old Benjamin Kubelsky premiered on his weekly radio show which ran from 1932 to 1948 on NBC and from 1948 to 1955 on CBS, and was consistently among the most highly rated programs during most of that run.

March 29, 1951 -
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are both convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage. While Julius probably pass along secrets to the Soviets, recently declassified documents show that none of them lead to the development of the Russian nuclear weapons.

Ethel, unfortunately, is another matter. The same declassified document show that the government never believed that Ethel had anything to do with the case and the prosecution led by the lovely Roy Cohn wanted to use her as a 'lever' to pressure Julius into giving up the names of others who were involved.

She was mainly convicted on the testimony of her brother David Greenglass, a co-defendent in their trial. Greenglass was spared execution in exchange for his testimony. In late 2001, Greenglass recanted all of his testimony against his sister and claimed that he had committed perjury when he testified about her involvement in the case. Greenglass said he chose to falsely testify against his sister in order to protect his wife, who in fact was spying for the Russian.

Isn't sibling love grand?

March 29, 1977 -
Lee Harvey Oswald's best friend, and coincidentally a friend of both Jackie Kennedy and George HW Bush, Dallas socialite George de Mohrenschildt dies from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the mouth, at 3:45 pm.

It is likely he was going to be called to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

March 29, 1979 -
A U.S. House of Representatives committee report finds that John F. Kennedy's assassination was the result of a conspiracy.


March 29, 1992 -
Arkansas Governor and Presidential candidate Bill Clinton tells the New York Times: "When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it. I didn't inhale, and never tried it again."

Oh Bubba - I know you inhaled. But remember, he did not have sexual relations with that woman.

And so it goes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The holidays seem to coming earlier

March 28, 0 -
According to Des Pascha Comutus, written in 243 CE, Jesus Christ's birthday was March 28. It later became the familiar December 25 after the Catholic Church changed it in 336 AD.

So Merry Christmas everybody.

March 28, 1940 -
United Artists released the Alfred Hitchcock adaptation of Daphne Du Maruier's atmospheric thriller, Rebecca, starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson on this date.

This would be the only Hitchcock effort that would win him a directorial Oscar.

March 28, 1942 -
Another fine Looney Tunes cartoon, The Wabbit Who Came to Supper, was released on this date.

Notice the pudgy Elmer.

Today in History
March 28, 193-
The Roman ruler Pertinax was at his palace when a contingent of some three hundred soldiers rushed the gates. Pertinax was somewhat distracted. Ancient sources suggest that the soldiers had received only half their promised donativum (pay or bribe money not to kill him). Pertinax had only been emperor for 86 days and didn't have enough time to sell off the previous Emperor Commodus' property (including the concubines and youths Commodus kept for his sexual pleasures) in the giant fire sale he was having.

Neither the guards on duty nor the palace officials chose to resist them. Pertinax, although advised to flee, attempted to reason with them (never try to reason with unpaid Roman soldiers on a rampage), and was almost successful before being struck down by a member of the Praetorian Guard. There being no obvious successor and no Senatorial volunteers, the Guard auctions off the emperorship. The high bidder is Senator Didius Julianus, for 300 million sesterces. After hearing of this, Roman general Septimus Severus in Dalmatia marched on Rome, beheading the new emperor upon arrival.

Both films, The Fall of the Roman Empire and Gladiator both take the same historical event as a starting point.

March 28, 1515 -
Theresa of Avila (Teresa de Jesus), Spanish Carmelite nun, mystic writer and one of my favorite saints (remember, she's the one who was repeated pierced with God's 'golden shaft' of light) was born on this date. She co-founded with John of the Cross, the Order of Discalced (barefoot) Carmelites.

...To wish to act like angels while we are still in this world is nothing but folly.

March 28, 1921 -
Dirk Bogarde (Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde), actor and the epitome of coolness, was born on this date.

March 28, 1930 -
Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks.

I can't help myself - I just love this song (Constantinople and Angora change their names to Istanbul and Ankara on this date.)

March 28, 1941-
Virginia Woolf drowns herself by weighing her pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse near her home because she a dream that Nicole Kidman would portray her in a film with a truly horrifying fake nose.

Lesser writers would have done the same.

March 28, 1964 -
First pirate radio station began to broadcast off the coast of England. Radio Caroline debuted with a combination of rock music and lively disk jockey who's patter played to a huge audience in Great Britain.

British authorities, tried unsuccessfully, to shut down the radio station ship. Radio Caroline had become competition to the staid and usually dull British Broadcasting Corporation.

March 28, 1979 -
The Unit 2 nuclear power plant (a pressurized water reactor manufactured by Babcock & Wilcox) on the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg suffered a partial core meltdown.

The Three Mile Island accident was the worst accident in American commercial nuclear power generating history, even though it led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of the nearby community.

And so it goes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oops, I nearly forgot

I thought I had already set up a post for the day.

March 27, 1998 -
The US Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Viagra (Sildenafil citrate), made by Pfizer, saying it helped about two-thirds of impotent men improve their sexual function. Viagra’s effects were shown to last 8-12 hours (but remember if your erection last more than 4 hours, after calling your friends, please seek medical assistance.)

Pfizer had originally tested the compound UK 92,480 as a drug for angina and found that male volunteers were getting frequent erections (don't ask why all the volenteers were sitting around naked.) They renamed it Viagra and sought sales approval.

March 27, 1952 -
Singin' in the Rain, the apex of movie musicals, premiered in New York on this date.

The rain consisted of a mixture of water and milk so it would show up better on film but it caused Gene Kelly's wool suit to shrink.

Today in History -
March 27, 30 -

A small time official in a backwater province of the Roman empire gains immortality for practicing good hygiene. Pontius Pilate washes his hands and seals the fate of Jesus.

March 27, 1866 -
Patent for a urinal is granted to Andrew Rankin.

Men everywhere stand up and cheer.

March 27, 1945 -
Argentina declares war on Nazi Germany, a tad late in the game. Of course, this was just a silly charade for the benefit of the world community. Argentina would be a quiet ally of Germany for the duration of the war, even welcoming many Nazi and SS leaders to emigrate there in the aftermath.

"It's no longer a blue world Max. Where could we go?"


March 27, 1957 -
Nikita Khrushchev assumed control of the Soviet Union when he took over as premier (Evil Bastard, new style) of the country, five years after the death of Joseph Stalin. Unlike most of the early Soviet leaders, who were all members of the Russian middle class, Khrushchev actually came from the working class (a very polite way of saying, he was as dumb as dirt). His father was a coal miner, and his grandfather had been a serf. Khrushchev worked his way up through the ranks of the party until he became a close ally of Joseph Stalin, and during the mass executions of 1930s, when Stalin purged the party of all his suspected political enemies, Khrushchev was one of only three provincial secretaries to survive.

So upon Stalin's death in 1953, when Khrushchev began to work behind the scenes to take control of the party, there was no reason to believe he wouldn't just continue Stalin's reign of terror. But instead, in 1956, Khrushchev gave a four-hour speech to the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, viciously attacking Stalin's legacy and abuses of power, detailing all the innocent people Stalin had imprisoned, tortured, and murdered during his reign. The night Khrushchev gave the speech, no one knew exactly what he was planning to say. Witnesses said later that some members of the audience fainted from the shock of hearing Stalin criticized. Several audience members committed suicide a few days later. Many went insane having to endure a four hour speech by a semi literate politburo member.

The speech was never officially announced to the public( for fear of the mass suicides - think Monty Python's WWII 'funny' joke), and Khrushchev never admitted to having made it, but word of the speech immediately began to leak out to intellectual circles and the foreign press. It was a bombshell, and it helped bolster Khrushchev's power at home and abroad. He became the premier two years later, on this day in 1958.

March 27, 1963 -
It's the birthday of the noted filmmaker, crack addict and foot fetisher Quentin Tarantino, born in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was diagnosed as hyperactive as a kid, and didn't get along with his classmates or his teachers. His parents had to tie a pork chop around his neck to get the dog to play with him. The only things that calmed him down were comic books, movies and continually swallowing wristwatches. From the time when he was a toddler, his mother let him watch whatever movies he wanted. He watched everything from kung fu movies to French art house films (perhaps a little too much kung fu movies, some might argue).

He started taking acting classes (obviously failing those courses), and in his spare time he rewrote screenplays of movies he'd already seen from memory. Instead of going to film school, he got a job at video rental store that had one of the largest video collections in Southern California. Several other aspiring filmmakers worked there, and they would watch movies all day at work, discussing camera angles and dialogue. He spent five years working at the video store, writing screenplays, but he wasn't getting anywhere in his career.

He finally got a break when he met an actor who knew another actor who knew Harvey Keitel, and Keitel agreed to look at one of Tarantino's scripts. Keitel was impressed enough to volunteer to help Tarantino produce the film, and to act in it himself. The result was Reservoir Dogs (1992), which made Tarantino internationally famous. His next film, Pulp Fiction, won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994, and it went on to win an Academy Award for best screenplay.

These days, in addition to making movies, Tarantino organizes the semi-annual Quentin Tarantino Film Festival, which is devoted to B movies of various genres, including kung fu movies, horror movies, biker movies, cheerleader movies, and women-in-prison movies.

So by all means, please slap his mother or father if you come across them today and blame them for the state of today's cinema.

March 27, 1964 -
On Good Friday at 5:36 pm, Valdez, Alaska, in Prince William Sound was rocked by an 9.2 earthquake, the largest ever recorded in North America. It lasted 4 minutes and was followed by tsunamis and fires and 131 people were killed.

Much of Crescent City, Ca., was demolished and 12 people were killed by a resulting tsunami..

And so it goes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

You can't unsee it

It will buzz in your head all day.


Earth Hour is a global event (organized by World Wildlife Fund) held on the last Saturday of March. Earth Hour is celebrated annually to households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and other electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change.

Earth Hour 2011 will be held from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. EDT (hopefully you've already read this post.)

March 26, 1942 -
The Bulleteer, part of the Fleischer Superman animated series, is released on this date

This still holds up.

March 26, 1971 -
Balding, middle-aged, and portly - Cannon with William Conrad premieres on CBS-TV on this date.

Frank Cannon was originally a policeman, but he quit the force after the tragic death of his wife and infant son in an automobile accident. The tragedy drove Cannon to become a top private eye.

March 26, 1977 -
Less Than Zero, the debut single from Elvis Costello, was released by the newly formed Stiff Records in London, England on this date

... Well, I hear that South America is coming into style

Today in History March 26, 1199 -
All seemed right with the Medieval world. Richard the Lionheart was taking an evening stroll around the castle perimeter without his chain mail, investigating the progress of soldiers trying to destroy the fortress in which he was seeking refuge. Arrows were occasionally fired from the castle walls, but these were given little attention. One defender in particular was of great amusement to the King - a man standing on the walls, cross bow in one hand, the other clutching a frying pan which he had been using all day as a shield to beat off missiles (this is what passed for amusement in 1199). He deliberately aimed an arrow at the King, which the King applauded. However, another arrow then struck him in the left shoulder near the neck. He tried to pull this out in the privacy of his tent, but failed; a surgeon, called a 'butcher' by Hoveden, removed it, 'carelessly mangling' the King's arm in the process. However, the wound swiftly became gangrenous.

Accordingly, Richard asked to have the cross bowman brought before him - the man proved a boy. This boy claimed that Richard had slain the boy's father and two brothers, and that he had slain Richard in vengeance. The boy expected to be slain; Richard, as a last act of mercy, forgave the boy his crime, saying, "Live on, and by my bounty behold the light of day," before ordering the boy to be freed and sent away with 100 shillings. Richard then set his affairs in order, bequeathing all his territory to his brother John and his jewels to his nephew Otto.

Richard died on Tuesday, April 6, 1199 in the arms of his mother; it was later said that "As the day was closing, he ended his earthly day." His death was later referred to as 'the Lion [that] by the Ant was slain'. His last act of chivalry proved pointless: as soon as Richard was dead, his most infamous mercenary captain Mercadier had the boy who fired the fatal arrow flayed alive and then hanged.

So much for pardons.

March 26, 1827 -
German composer Ludwig Van Beethoven dies in Vienna. He had been deaf for the later part of his life, but said on his death bed "I shall hear in heaven."

I wonder how that worked out for him?

March 26, 1830 -
Joseph Smith publishes The Book of Mormon, after translating it from golden plates turned over by the angel Moroni.

Smith maintained that the text contained in the tablets were written in Reformed Egyptian which he read by means of two magic stones from the Old Testament, the Urim and Thummim.

Don't forget to catch, Book of Mormon on Broadway.

March 26, 1931 -
As if some cosmic force far greater than any of us can understand, Leonard Nimoy is born four day after William Shatner.

March 26, 2233 (There is some controversy surrounding this date) -
James Tiberius Kirk will be born to Winona & George Samuel Kirk, Sr. in a small farming community in Riverside, Iowa. As the Captain will be quoted in the future, "I'm from Iowa, I only work in outer space."

Although born on Earth, he was apparently raised, at least for a time, on Tarsus IV, where he was one of only nine surviving witnesses to the massacre of 4,000 colonists because of utilitarian extermination by Kodos the Executioner so that the colony could survive a devastating famine.

And so it goes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Cartoon PSA of the day

So remember, cartoon animals can enjoy unsafe sex without genitalia

March 25, 1932 -
Olympic gold medal swimmer Johnny Weismuller first dons the leopard skin loin cloth - Tarzan the Ape Man premiered in NYC on this date.

Weismuller starred in a total of 12 Tarzan films. Clark Gable was considered for the role of Tarzan, but was deemed too much of an unknown to play the ape man.

March 25, 1942 -
Aretha Louise Franklin (The Queen of Soul,) born in Memphis, Tennessee, is a singer, songwriter and pianist. Although known for her soul recordings, Franklin is adept at jazz, blues, R&B and gospel music.

Franklin has won eighteen Grammy Awards in total during her nearly half-century long career and holds the record for most Best Female R&B Vocal Performance awards with eleven to her name.

March 25, 1947 -
Reginald Kenneth Dwight, singer-songwriter, composer and pianist was born on this date as well.

Today in History:
Anne Brontë was baptized on March 25, 1820. She and her sisters Charlotte and Emily were avid writers. Women were not supposed to write books at the time because novels were still being written in the formal style, and it was feared that women would corrupt that classic form with their penchant for multiple climaxes. The Brontës therefore wrote under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.

Charlotte got to be Currer, which made the other girls jealous, because Currer was the handsome and swarthy sailor: Ellis was the stuttering librarian, and Acton was the simpleminded shepherd.

March 25, 1911 -
Today marks the 100 year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, the largest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York, causing the death of 148 garment workers who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. It was the worst workplace disaster in New York City until September 11th, 2001.

The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers in that industry.

For those of you who live in Wisconsin - especially today, please spit directly into Gov. Scott Walker's eye.

March 25, 1915 -
During submarine maneuvers off Honolulu, Hawaii, USS F-4 (SS-23) sinks on this day.

Despite all efforts of naval authorities, all 21 of the crew members were lost. This was the first major submarine disaster.

March 25, 1967 -
As part of Operation Green Mist, the U.S. Army detonates explosive warheads containing the deadly sarin nerve agent at Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve on the big island of Hawaii.

The open-air tests are kept secret for more than thirty years.


March 25, 1975 -
King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was assassinated by his nephew during a reception at Ri'Assa Palace.

The nephew was beheaded the following June..

Kids don't let this happen to you - remember to pass the hummus when dining with your family.

And so it goes

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"I know I'm vulgar, but would you have me any other way?"

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky R.I.P.

I want to win Megamillions just so I can fund this movie

Today is National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day - a day to enjoy this tasty combination of chocolate and fruit. Chocolate lovers who like raisins, find the combination simply irresistible. Kids find them irresistible, too.

Just make sure nobody owns a rabbit at the home where you are enjoying those Raisinets (TM).

Mr. Sulu may be on to something

It's also World Tuberculosis Day, commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus

(also it is supposed to remind people that tuberculosis still remains an epidemic in much of the world.)

But weighing that with the the celebration of Raisinets - I went with the chocolate.

March 24, 1939 -
The first appearance of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes - The Hound of the Baskervilles premiered in New York on this date.

Oh, Watson, the needle!

March 24, 1951 -
Scent-Imental Romeo, another funny Looney Tunes short starring Pepé Le Pew, is released on this date.

I believe this picture kept Hitchcock up for nights

Today in History:
March 24, 1401 -
Tamerlane conquered Damascus. Tamerlane (Timur the Lane) was a descendant of Ghenghis Khan, and one of the greatest Tater leaders ever, expanding the Mongol empire from the Pacific to the Meditterranean.

Tamerlane is best remembered for having built pyramids out of human skulls, owing to a faulty understanding of architecture which no one ever had the courage to correct.

March 24, 1603 -
Tudor Queen Elizabeth I, the "Virgin Queen," died. She had reigned from 1558-1603.

Scottish King James VI, son of Mary, became King James I of England in the union of the crowns.

March 24, 1874 -
Harry Houdini, magician, escape artist, was born as Erik Weisz (Ehrich Weiss) in Budapest.

He is still working on perfecting his final trick of coming back from the dead.

March 24, 1895 -
Arthur Murray, American dancer who founded dance schools, was born on this date.

He proved to millions of Americans that they have no innate sense of rhythm.

March 24, 1944 -
76 Allied officers escaped Stalag Luft 3. In 1949 Paul Brickall authored The Great Escape. The story of Jackson Barrett Mahon, an American fighter pilot, and the Allied POW escape from Stalag Luft III in Germany during WW II.

The 1963 film The Great Escape starred Steve McQueen, was directed by John Sturges and was based on the true story.

March 24, 1989 -
Cold Fusion is announced. To celebrate this amazing advancement in energy, Captain Joseph Hazelwood downs, in rapid succession, five double vodka on the rocks and pilots the Exxon tanker Valdez.

He ran the Valdez into a well-charted reef at Prince William sound, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil. An estimated 250,000 seabirds were killed.


And so it goes

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Happy Melba Toast Day

You know it involves an Opera Singer and the great French Chef Auguste Escoffier but it's toast. A whole day to celebrate it?

I only bring this up in order to distract you from the fact that it's snowing around NYC today.

March 23, 1910
Akira Kurosawa, Japanese film director (Rashomon, The Seven Samurai, Ran), was born in Tokyo, Japan.

He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in film history.

Today in History -
March 23, 1369
Pedro the Cruel, King and tyrant of Castile and Leon, was murdered on this date. Enrique, the illegitimate son of Alfonso XI of Castile, killed his half brother Pedro I in the Castilian civil war and became King Enrique I the Bastard of Castile.

Once again, I must ask, what the hell were people thinking when they named their children.

March 23, 1534 -
Pope Clement VII declared that the marriage between Henry VIII of England and Catherine of Aragon was still valid, even though they'd been divorced the previous year and Henry had already married Anne Boleyn.

Henry decides to trump Clement with his extra I and invents his own religion and appoints a more agreeable pope.

March 23, 1912 -
Wernher von Braun, German - born rocket pioneer who led the development of the V-2 rocket during World War II was born on this date.

He was deemed one of the The Good Germans we collected as a bonus prize at the end of the war. Von Braun was said to be the preeminent rocket engineer of the 20th century.

March 23, 1919 -
Benito Mussolini
founded his own party in Italy. He had tried all the other parties, but he was an awkward young man and had a hard time getting to know people. His Fasci di Combattimento ("Evil Fascist Bastards Party") was extremely popular, however, and even the cool kids came.

It got so crowded that the neighbors started complaining, which ended up starting a big fight, and the rest is history.

March 23, 1925 -
Tennessee lawmakers passed a law against teaching in public school "any theory that denies the story of divine creation of man as taught in the Bible", on this date.

Teacher John Scopes couldn't think of anywhere else to teach evolution, so he ignored the ban and was later prosecuted in what became known as the Scopes Monkey Trial, which resulted in an Oscar for Spencer Tracy.

March 23, 1989 -
A 1000-foot diameter asteroid misses the Earth by only 500,000 miles. (Astronomers did not see it until it passed.)


March 23, 1997 -
Five dead bodies are found arranged in a cross formation at the burned Quebec home of Didier Queze. They were members of the Solar Temple cult who in 1994 to 1996 had totaled 69 suicides in Europe and North America.

Interestingly, in San Diego, The Heaven's gate suicides (completely different set of nuts) leave 39 dead, all wearing NIKE shoes and many of the male members of the pact had previously voluntarily removed their members.

I believe this is the corollary to Thoreau's 'beware of all enterprises that require new clothes' - NEVER join a cult that requires you to remove your genitals.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No. 2 pencils, please.

Today is Worldwide Water Day. Lack of potable water is the second leading cause of death in many Third World countries.

So please remember to recycle your 'precious bodily fluid'.

Two leading lights of twentieth century musical theatre were born on March 22: Stephen Sondheim (1930), best known for his work on Gypsy, West Side Story, Company and Sweeney Todd and Andrew Lloyd Weber (1948), best known for Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats and Phantom of the Opera.

By some mysterious natural process of compensation, March 22 is also the birthday of Marcel Marceau (1923), best known for Man Trapped in an Invisible Box.

Today in History: March 22, 1622 -
A band led by the Brother of Powhatan slaughters 347 settlers near Jamestown, a quarter of the population, in the first Indian massacre of European settlers.

Just think if the Indians had just followed the thought all the way through ....

March 22, 1895 -
Auguste and Louis Lumiere first demonstrated motion pictures in Paris using celluloid film. Unless it was March 19, 1895, or December 28, 1894, or cellulite instead of celluloid. And it may have been in Milan, or Warsaw, and it's possible it wasn't Louis and Auguste Lumiere, but Max and Emil Skladanowsky.

It depends who you ask. It wasn't much of a movie anyway—just footage of workers leaving the Lumiere Factory at the end of their shift—so the ambiguity surrounding its debut shouldn't be so surprising.

March 22, 1958 -
Michael Todd, movie producer and one of the myriad of husband's of Elizabeth Taylor and three other people were killed in the crash of Todd's private plane Lucky Liz, near Grants, New Mexico. In his autobiography, Eddie Fisher, who considered himself to be Todd's best friend (and another one of the myriad of husbands of Elizabeth Taylor,) stated that no fragments of Todd had been found, and that his coffin contained only his ring.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 1977 that Fisher's story was false—remains of Todd were indeed found and buried. His remains were desecrated by robbers, who broke into his coffin looking for the ring. The bag containing Todd's remains was found under a tree near his plot.

Now you know.

March 22, 1972 -
National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommends ending criminal penalties for possession of marijuana.

No subsequent administration has heeded their recommendation.

March 22, 1978 -
One of the Flying Wallendas, 73 year old Karl Wallenda, plunges to his death on a cable strung between two hotels in San Juan, PR.


William Shatner, arguably the world's (or at least Canada's) greatest actor was born today in 1931.

...But what about truth, what about beauty....

Have you been paying attention. Please match the Russian Czar (Tzar, Tsar) with how he met his untimely end:

A. Nicholas II
B. Peter III
C. Paul I
D. Peter the Great
E. Ivan VI
F. Alexander II

1. Overthrown by his own wife, imprisoned, killed by his wife’s favorite
2. Struck in the head with a sword, then strangled and trampled to death in his bedroom.
3. Killed by a bomb thrown by a revolutionary
4. Overthrown in a coup, exiled, imprisoned, killed while trying to escape
5. Caught a chill and died
6. Shot to death by revolutionaries

And so it goes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Don't be fooled by the weather

It's the First Full Day of Spring.

March 21, 1964 -
Beatles' She Loves You, single went #1 and stayed #1 for 2 weeks.

What nice clean boys, I wonder if they had any other hits after this one?

March 21, 1962 - Roseann O'Donnell, stand-up comedian, actress, and next queen of talk show television was born on this date.

Rosie Radio, her daily two-hour show on Sirius XM Radio, will end in June, 2011, as O'Donnell begins full time work on her show for OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

Today in History - March 21, 1843 -
According to Biblical crackpot William Miller, Christ would return sometime in the year following this day in 1843. After Jesus failed to appear by the next March, Miller claimed it was the result of an arithmetic error and recalculated the deadline to be October 22, 1844.

The Lord was AWOL on that date also.

March 21, 1962 -
A two-year old female black bear was taken aboard a B-58 bomber out of Edwards Air Force Base in California, flown up to 35,000 feet at a supersonic speed of 850 miles per hour, and ejected from the bomber in a specially made capsule. She landed safely, and became the first living creature to survive a parachute jump from a plane flying faster than sound.

Imagine what PETA would have made of this test at the time.

March 21, 1963 -
Alcatraz Prison closed at the order of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Hardened criminals would have to go elsewhere to experience the joys of prison sex.

March 21, 1970 - Vinko Bogataj crashes during a ski-jumping championship in Germany;

his image becomes that of the "agony of defeat guy" in the opening credits of ABC's Wide World of Sports.

March 21, 1976 -
David Bowie and Iggy Pop were arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession in New York. They were released on $2,000 bail. The charges were dropped.

Musicians using drugs - shocking, shocking, I tell you.

March 21, 1980 -
Mobster Angelo The Docile Don Bruno killed with a shotgun blast to the head while he waits in his car after dinner. The order was probably ordered Anthony Tony Bananas Caponigro, Bruno's consigliere, so much for family loyalty. His replacement, one of Bruno's former capo Phil Chicken Man Testa, is short lived, as he is killed a year later by a nail bomb at his home.

One must assume that their parents knew something about their future careers when giving them middle names.

March 21, 1980
On the season finale of Dallas, the infamous character J.R. Ewing was shot by was shot by an unknown individual - Who Shot JR?

Viewers had to wait all summer, and most of the autumn because of a Hollywood actors' strike (and Hagman's own holdout), to learn whether J.R. would survive, and which of his many enemies was responsible.

Today's episode of Oh, that Wacky Russian Revolution:

The Russian Royal family was having a really bad day. On March 21, 1917, Nicholas II and his family were arrested. It was a confused and confusing period, and the situation would only continue to deteriorate until the October Revolution (in November).

The eventual triumph of the proletariat, as everyone knows, finally put an end to all the suffering and oppression in Russia.

Since yesterday was Fred Rogers birthday, I believe an important comparison should be shown to help you better understand the Russian Imperial dynasty:

Hereditary heads of the Russian empire, 1613-1917: 19
Hosts of the long-running PBS series Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood: 1
Russian heads of state to have died by natural causes: 10
Deaths on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: 0
Average length of Russian reign, in years: 15.6
Years Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood ran: 31
Russian emperors to die of dropsy: 1
Dropsy deaths in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe: 0
Russian emperors assassinated: 5
Assassination attempts on the life of King Friday XIII: 0
Bolshevik Revolutions in the Neighborhood of Make Believe: 0

Please be prepared for a quiz tomorrow.

And so it goes.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sorry for the late start

Spent too much time looking at the moon last night and when to bed quite late.

It's the eighth anniversary of the second Gulf War.

At some point today, please keep in minds the fine men and women who have given their lives in this endeavor.

If you see Donald Rumsfeld flogging his 'book', please kick him squarely in his nut sack, hard.

We've put winter behind us?

While you're balancing those eggs today remember that it's the Vernal Equinox at 7:21 P.M. EDT today.

That means it’s spring. Take off your clothes.

Today in History -
On March 20, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte entered Paris and began his "Hundred Days" rule, which lasted 94 days.

Days were measures in the metric system back then.

March 20, 1828 -
It's the birthday of playwright Henrik Ibsen, born in Skien, Norway. He was a small time cherry herring bootlegger and an assistant stage manager for a new theater, where it was his job to produce a new drama each year based on Norway's glorious past. He produced a number of plays, but none got any attention (owning much to the fact that while it was true that Norway did have a past - most of it was quite boring. None of it was glorious.) Overworked, under paid and very cold, he applied to the government for a stipend to study the fjords. The government decided to give him one to to travel abroad, and off he went. He spent the next 27 years living in Italy and Germany, pining for the fjords.

He found that by leaving his homeland, he could finally thaw out and see Norway clearly, and he began to work on creating a true Norwegian drama. At a time when most people were writing plays full of sword fights and murders, Ibsen started to write plays about relationships between ordinary people. The type of people that have terrible social diseases, suicidal tendencies, murderous intent in their heart, incestuous thoughts and old lechs - the ordinary people of Norway.

He used dialogue rather than monologues to reveal his characters' emotions, and he stopped writing in verse. He said, "We are no longer living in the age of Shakespeare. ... What I desire to depict [are] human beings, and therefore I [will] not let them talk the language of the gods." Except he said that in Norwegian.

One of Ibsen's first important plays was A Doll's House (1879), about a woman named Nora who refuses to obey her husband and eventually leaves him, walking out of the house and slamming the door in the final scene. When it was first produced, European audiences were shocked, and it sparked debate about women's rights, divorce and home improvements across the continent. It also changed the style of acting. At the time, most actors were praised for their ability to deliver long poetic speeches and avoiding bumping into the furniture, but Ibsen emphasized small gestures, the inflection of certain words, and pauses, and he inspired a new generation of actors to begin embodying the characters they played.

A Doll's House made Ibsen a celebrity across Europe. His play Ghosts (1881) came out two years later. It's frank depiction of pottery making further scandalized the theatre going population.

Henrik Ibsen said, "You should never have your best trousers on when you go out to fight for freedom and truth. You should also never wear them when mucking out the toilets of the theatre. Have you seen what these actors eat?"

There is only one known picture in which Ibsen smiles. And yes, he was passing gas at the time.

March 20, 1899 -
Martha M. Place, the first woman to be honored with a warm seat in the electric chair, for the bloody murder of her 17 year old stepdaughter Ida, dies at Sing-Sing Prison. Having never executed a woman in the electric chair, those responsible for carrying out the death warrant devised a new way to place the electrodes upon her. They decided to slit her dress and place the electrode on her ankle. Edwin Davis was the executioner. According to the reports of witnesses, she died instantly (having a large amount of electric course through your body normally results in ones death).

The governor of the State of New York Theodore Roosevelt was asked to pardon Place, but he refused. "Bully!"

Martha Place was buried in the family cemetery plot in East Millstone, New Jersey without religious observances.

March 20, 1928 -
Remarkably, Fred Rogers was born today in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

and not some other place.

March 20, 1969 -
Small town musician (John Lennon) marries small time conceptual artist (Yoko Ono) on this date.

I wonder what ever happened to them.

March 20, 1995 -
Last words of Thomas J. Grasso, executed in Oklahoma by lethal injection: "I did not get my Spaghetti-O's, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this."

Duly noted Mr. Grasso.

And so it goes.