Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Paradox!

February 29, 1584 -
Due to the Gregorian Calendar adjustment of two years earlier, much of Europe's population lived through its first Leap Day on this date.

But let's take a step back - Roman Emperor Julius Caesar took a break from being the dictator of the known world and took a stab at fixing the calendar when dates were no longer in sync with the seasons. First, he created one extra-long year – 445 days – to get things back on track (heavy drinking, animal sacrifices and non-stop orgies were involved.) He followed that with a pattern of three 365-day years and one 366-day year – leap year.

Fifteen centuries later, though, the calendar was off-kilter again. It turns out that Caesar’s plan created three extra leap years every 400 years. So in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII came up with a way to fix the problem. That year, the calendar jumped from October 4 to October 15. Gregory also set up a new rule to get rid of those three extra leap years. Under the Gregorian calendar, only century years divisible by 400 are leap years. With the introduction.of LEAP SECOND adjustments on the final day of some years, calendar accuracy has become an almost-exact science.

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

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

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

There are many instances in children's literature where a person's claim to be only a quarter of their actual age turns out to be based on counting their leap-year birthdays.

A similar device is used in the plot of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance. Frederic, born on February 29, was apprenticed to a band of pirates until his 21st birthday, which would not arrive until he was 88 years old.

Some famous leaplings are:

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

- Jimmy Dorsey, American bandleader (1904)

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

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

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

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

Today in History -
February 29, 1504 -
Christopher Columbus, stranded in Jamaica during his fourth voyage to the West, used a correctly predicted lunar eclipse to frighten hostile natives into providing food for his crew.

Things didn't go well for the native population after that.

February 29, 1692 -
The witch mania in Salem, Massachusetts,began on this date when Sarah Goode and Tituba, an Indian servant to a local preacher, were arrested and charged with witchcraft on this date.

Things didn't go well for them.

February 29, 1904 -
President Theodore Roosevelt appointed the Isthmian Canal Commission to detail requirements for construction of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama.

In 1905, the seven-man commission decided on a canal with locks, not a sea-level waterway. Completed in the 1914, its final cost was $336-million.

February 29, 1940 -
Gone with the Wind won eight Academy Awards, including best picture of 1939, on this date.

Victor Fleming was named best director, Vivien Leigh best actress and Hattie McDaniel best supporting actress, the first black performer to receive an Oscar.

February 29, 1968 -
At the Grammy Awards on this date, the Fifth Dimension's Up, Up and Away won record of the year for 1967,

while album of the year honors went to the Beatles for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

And so it goes

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'm very confused and a little uncomfortable

While heading to work yesterday, I saw a very large video display outside a Duane Reade's, advertising a new sleep aid:

Does this produce help achieve a better sleep or more disturbing erotic dreams?

February 28, 1915
The freedom of any society varies proportionately with the volume of its laughter

Samuel Joel Zero Mostel,('blacklisted" by the HUAC in the '50s),larger than life actor and comedian, was born on this date.

February 28, 1948 -
You've gotta be original, because if you're like someone else, what do they need you for?

Bernadette Lazzara (Bernadette Peters), Actress/Singer was born on this date.

Today in History:
February 28, 1574 -
Two impertinent heretics are burned at the stake in Mexico at a spectacular auto-da-fe comparable to those in Spain.

The two are the first victims of the Inquisition in the New World, dying for their heretical crimes of...Lutheranism.

February 28, 1844 -
Julia Gardner meets her future husband, President John Tyler, on this date.

The USS Princeton departed Alexandria, Virginia on a pleasure and trial trip down the Potomac with President John Tyler, his Cabinet and approximately two hundred guests on board. Upon the final firing of Stockton's Peacemaker, the defective gun finally burst, instantly killing Secretary Upshur; Secretary Gilmer; Captain Beverly Kennon, Chief of the Bureau of Construction, Equipment and Repairs; Virgil Maxcy of Maryland, Charge d'Affaires to Belgium, 1837–42; David Gardiner of New York, the father of Julia Gardiner; and the President's valet, a black slave named Armistead.

It also injured about 20 people, including Captain Stockton (who received severe powder burns on his face, and all the hair on his head was burned off.) A Court of Inquiry exonerated Capt. Stockton due to his political influence (he supported Tyler’s campaign), blaming the explosion on John Ericsson, designer of the ships' engines (despite the fact Ericsson had nothing to do with the design of the Peacemaker gun), and "bad luck". When Julia Gardiner, who was aboard, found out her father had died in the explosion she fainted into President Tyler's arms.

Isn't love grand.

February 28, 1905 -
Jane Lathrop Stanford, the wife of the late Leland Stanford, died of suspected arsenic poisoning at the Moana Hotel in Honolulu. A coroner’s jury confirmed the result.

Her body was returned to the mainland under the care of David Starr Jordan, the president of Stanford Univ. An examination by Stanford physicians claimed no trace of strychnine and set heart attack as cause of death.

A will signed 19 months earlier had left the bulk of her $30 million estate to Stanford University. After 100 years the only thing certain about the case - Stanford did in fact died of strychnine poisoning and somebody got away with murder.

February 28, 1968 -
Singer and early 60's heartthrob Frankie Lymon was found dead from a heroin overdose next to his syringe, in his grandmother's New York City apartment, on this date. Years later, three women, Zola Taylor, Elizabeth Waters and Elmira Eagle, each claim to be Lymon's rightful widow and sue to stake out a piece of his estate.

SO, I'm hoping the answer to the question, "Why do fools fall in love?" isn't - so that they can O.D. and have three women pick over the bones of your rotting corpse.

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen was the 251st and final episode of M*A*S*H*. Closing out the series' eleventh season, the -hour episode first aired on Monday, February 28, 1983.

Written by a large number of collaborators (including series star Alan Alda) and directed by Alda, Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen was the single most watched episode of a television series in American history until this year's Super Bowl.

February 28, 1986 -
Prime Minister of Sweden Olof Palme was assassinated as he left a movie theater in Stockholm.

In 1996 South African former police officer Eugene de Kock said that Craig Williamson, a South African spy, was involved in the murder. In 1997 lawyer Pelle Svensson said that his client, Lars Tingstrom, wrote a statement on his deathbed in prison in 1993 that he committed the killing. the family was convinced that Christer Pettersson, a drug addict and alcoholic, was the killer. In 1999, Abdullah Ocalan in Turkey suggested that a rival PKK organization killed Olaf Palme.

It seems everybody wanted to get into the act.

February 28, 1993 -
Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco use armed force attempting to serve Branch Davidian leader David Koresh with a search warrant (one with no actual evidence of any illegal activity whatsoever), in what the BATF viewed as a publicity stunt to improve their image.

While the agents carefully coordinated the raid with eleven different media outlets, something apparently tipped off Koresh and as these things usual happen - things do not go well: six Davidians and four ATF agents were killed.

The warrant instead could have been served peacefully, while Koresh did his daily morning jog.

And so it goes

Monday, February 27, 2012

How's you do in your Oscar Pool?

Today is National Kahlua Day. Kahlua, in case you are under 21 or a Mormon, is a rich, creamy, coffee based alcoholic liqueur from Mexico.

Drink a White Russian today, in honor of The Dude

February 27, 1932 -
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, actress and serial bride was born on this date.

I've often quoted the Bill Murray skit in jest but it's not that bad an epitaph for Ms. Taylor: I don't care how much you weigh, just so your cheeks don't puff up over those beautiful violet eyes that I've been in love with since "National Velvet".

February 27, 1937 -
An early Porky Pig, drawn by Tex Avery, Picador Porky, premiered on this date.

This is the first Warner Bros. cartoon to feature Mel Blanc's voice.

Today in History:
On this date in 280 A.D. (or another date or year, again remember lead cups and constant orgies, do not good calendar keepers make), Emperor Constantine the Great was born. Constantine took half the Roman Empire and moved it to Byzantium, a little village which he built up into such a magnificent city that it was eventually named after him: Istanbul.

And it's nobody's business but the Turks.

February 27, 1859 -
Censured Congressman Dan Sickles of New York (who escorting a known prostitute into State chambers) shot and killed Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The younger Key was having an affair with the congressman's wife.

He was tried on a charge of murder, but was acquitted after a sensational trial involving the first use of the insanity defense in U.S. history.

An interesting aside: Sickle went on to become a Union general and was involved in some of the bloodiest fighting at Gettysburg and lost his own right leg in the battle. He had the leg preserved and sent to Washington, where it was exhibited in a little wooden coffin at the Medical Museum of the Library of Congress. Sickles frequently visited it himself.

February 27, 1933 -
The Reichstag conveniently burns. A mad Dutchman who was arrested at the scene, Marinus van der Lubb, may have been partially responsible but if this is so, he is likely someone's patsy. The Nazi Party benefit greatly from the subsequent crack down, and it's suspected that SA stormtroopers set things up for van der Lubb.

Another important life lesson - bad Germans in leather shorts, beer halls and matches do not mix.

On February 27, 1939, General Francisco Franco's rebellion achieved victory in the Spanish Civil War.

Ernest Hemingway had been defeated.

The war had been so successful that Europe decided to have the second world war, which was every bit as exciting as the Spanish Civil War but with more geography and submarines.

General Franco and Ernest Hemingway are still dead.

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

Really, look it up - it says that.

In the graphic novel Watchmen, a crushing U.S. victory in the Vietnam War leads to the repeal of the 22nd Amendment and the repeated reelection of President Richard M. Nixon, who still serves as of 1985, the year in which Watchmen is set.

Similarly, in the time-travel movie Back to the Future Part II, an alternate timeline newspaper headline, before changing to report Reagan considering a second term, reports Nixon considering a fifth term. In a Saturday Night Live sketch, Dan Aykroyd portrayed Richard Nixon writing to random congressmen, asking for repeal of the amendment.

February 27, 1968 -
CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite's commentary on the progress of the Vietnam War solidified President Lyndon B. Johnson's decision not to seek reelection in 1968. Cronkite, who had been at Hue in the midst of the Tet Offensive earlier in February, said: "Who won and who lost in the great Tet Offensive against the cities? I m not sure." He concluded: "It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out...will be to negotiate, not as victors but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."

Johnson called the commentary a turning point, saying that if he had "lost Cronkite," he d "lost Mr. Average Citizen." On March 31, Johnson announced he would not seek reelection.

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


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

February 27, 2003 -
All of our neighborhoods were a little less beautiful when our good neighbor, Fred McFeely Rogers died on this date.

But let's make the most of this beautiful day.

And so it goes.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Remember, even if you're alone tonight -

no double dipping the chips

Tonight is the 84rd Annual Academy Awards Presentation on ABC-TV.

Here are some Oscar tidbits to discuss while waiting for the show to start (if you're not interested in being catty about the red carpet coverage.)

Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are the only actors to win an Oscar for the same character. Three actors (Charles Laughton, Robert Shaw and Richard Burton) have earned Oscar nominations for playing the same character, King Henry VIII.

Due to metal shortages, Oscars during World War II were made from painter plaster.

Oscar Hammerstein II is the only Oscar winner named Oscar.

The last movie in black-and-white movie to win Best Picture was Schindler's List in 1993; before that, The Apartment in 1960.

If it wins, The Artist will be only the second silent film to collect an Oscar for Best Film. Howard Hughes' film Wings was the first in 1929.

Go discuss amongst yourselves

February 26, 1908 -
Let's make some funny pictures.

Frederick Bean (Tex) Avery, animator, cartoonist, and another member of the legendary Termite Terrace was born on this date.

February 26, 1916 -
The second day of a diet is always easier than the first. By the second day you're off it.

John Herbert Gleason, (The Great One) comedian, actor and musician was born on this day.

February 26, 1870 -
The first pneumatic-powered subway line in New York City was opened to the public on this date. Propulsion was provided by a giant fan, nicknamed The Western Tornado, operated by a steam engine, drawing air in through a valve, and blowing it forcefully into the tunnel.

The tunnel was only a block long, and the line had only one car. Rush hour must have been a bitch.

February 26, 1988 -
John Water's great, albeit more mainstream feature (Water's first PG-rated film), Hairspray, opened on this date.

The role of Edna Turnblad was originally written for famed transsexual Christine Jorgensen. The role of Velma Von Tussle was originally offered to Mamie Van Doren.

February 26, 1994 -
Bill Hicks, writer and comedian, died of pancreatic cancer on this date. In the years after his death, Hicks' work has achieved significant admiration and acclaim.

A documentary entitled American: The Bill Hicks Story, based on interviews with his family and friends is available on DVD.

Today in History:
February 26, 1815 -
Able was I ere I saw Elba.

Napoleon left his exile on the Island of Elba, intending to return to France on this date.

February 26, 1918 -
Grandstands at the Hong Kong Jockey Club collapse and burn, killing 604 spectators on this date. It is the worst disaster in sports history.

Even though mad dogs and Englishmen may go out in the midday sun - they apparently will not leave a burning stadium.

On this date in 1936, Some junior officers in the Japanese Army mistook Japan for a foreign country and tried to conquered it. This disrupted the Japanese automotive industry, giving Adolf Hitler the opportunity to preside over the official opening of the first Volkswagen factory.

(The good people at Volkswagen seem to overlook this anniversary every year.)

February 26, 1966 -
While Nancy Sinatra was on the same record label (Reprise) as her famous father, her record label was going to drop her because her first few singles flopped. Things changed when they teamed her with producer Lee Hazlewood. These Boots Are Made for Walkin' topped the charts on this date.

It was her first hit. In 1996, Nancy Sinatra gave a pair of white go-go boots she wore to promote this song to the Hard Rock Cafe in Beverly Hills.

February 26, 1974 -
A U.S. Senate report reveals Ford Motor's involvement in Nazi Germany's war efforts, for which CEO Henry Ford received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Adolf Hitler himself.

After the war, the car company was paid nearly $1M reparation by the U.S. government to compensate for one of its plants that was bombed within the Reich.

And some people worry about buying a BMW.

February 26, 1993 -
A bomb explodes on level B2 of the World Trade Center, creating a five story crater and leaving six dead and over 1,042 injured.

Mohammed A. Salameh is later arrested in connection with the bombing as he tries to claim a refund on a rented van believed to have carried the explosion.

Genius, sheer genius.

And so it goes.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

National Pistol Patent Day

February 25, 1836-
Samuel Colt was granted his first patent for a multi-chamber gun on this date.

His pistol was different from others; its design allowed several shots to be fired in succession without reloading.

Here's something to ponder - I found out about Pistol Patent Day on a Hallmark site. I guess they do have a card for every event.

Here's another Fine Bros. video clip about 2011 movie spoilers (it'll help in case you didn't see all of the nominees.)

Remember to save your seat on the couch for Oscar viewing tomorrow night

February 25, 1941 -
Another Preston Sturges' comic masterpiece, The Lady Eve, premiered in the US on this date.

Preston Sturges wrote the script in Reno, Nevada, while awaiting his third divorce.

February 25, 1945 -
Part of Roberto Rossellini Neo-realist classic war trilogy, Roma, città aperta (Rome Open City) opened in the US on this date.

Rossellini used real Nazi POWs as extras for added realistic effect.

February 25, 1950 -
The comedy-variety program Your Show of Shows, starring Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and Carl Reiner, debuted on NBC on this date.

Writers for the show included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart. A common misconception is that Woody Allen wrote for Your Show of Shows; he in fact wrote for its successor program, Caesar's Hour, which ran from 1954 to 1957.

Today in History:
February 25, 1570 -
Pope Pius V excommunicates Queen Elizabeth I of England, for the sin of being a Protestant.

As Elizabeth was already the head of her own religion, Church of England,

this Papal Bull did not make her break stride.

February 25, 1601 -
Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, was beheaded following a conviction of treason. His plan to capture London and the Tower had failed.

He was the last person to be beheaded in the Tower of London. It was reported to have taken three strokes by the executioner to complete the beheading. Ouch!

Let this be a lesson to all you playas - never try to steal you girlfriends' country.

February 25, 1879 -
Charles Frederick Peace, imfamous Victorian cat burglar and The Murderous Musician was executed by hanging on this date.

Pearce's notority was such that he appeared as a character in short stories by both Arthur Conan Doyle and Mark Twain.

February 25, 1888 -

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

Haven't we all made a fool of ourselves over John Foster Dulles.

February 25, 1922 -
Henri Landru, the notorious French serial killer known as "Bluebeard", guillotined for murdering ten women, and one boy. His motive was purely financial; by placing classified ads Landru lured selected women into his clutches, married them, and disposed of their bodies without a trace.

While denying guilt to the end, a drawing given to his attorney had written on the reverse, "I did it. I burned their bodies in my kitchen oven".

Charles Chaplin based his movie, Monsieur Verdoux on this case.

February 25, 1932 -
The German state government of Brunswick, in which the Nazi Party participated, appointed Adolph Hitler of Austria to a minor administrative post this month and on this day gave him German citizenship.

Hitler was thus able to stand against Hindenburg in the forthcoming Presidential election.


February 25, 1969 -
In Vietnam, a 25 year old Navy Lt., Bob Kerrey, took part in a SEAL raid in the Mekong Delta where over a dozen women, children and old men were killed in the village of Thanh Phong. Kerrey received a Bronze Star for the raid and later strongly regretted his actions.

Soon after the raid, Lt. Kerrey lost a leg at Hon Tam Island and was later awarded a Congressional medal of Honor. In 2001, the former Governor and Senator from Nebraska, publicly discussed his participation in the raid after Bui Thi Luom of Thanh Phong, the only survivor from her hut of 16, said, "Only civilians, women and children" were killed. Kerrey described the event in his 2002 memoir When I Was a Young Man.

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

Once again, another victim of not reading the pill bottle label correctly.

And so it goes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

National Tortilla Chip Day

Raise your Frozen Margarita's tonight - contrary to popular belief, tortilla chips are not from Mexico. They were invented in Los Angeles in the 1940s. Stick that in your guacamole!

While looking for a clip to go with this posting, I was offered a clip for Electric Stunning of Pigs and Sheep (you find it yourselves, you sick monkeys.) I never realized making chips involved the killing of farm animals.

In the lead-up to the Oscars on Sunday, here's a brief clip on Oscar Etiquette -

Probably the best work Mike has done in a very long time.

February 24, 1921 -
It's Abe Vigoda's birthday.

...because he's a dancer.

February 24, 1973 -
I was going to bring up the point that Killing Me Softly with His Song by Roberta Flack topped the charts on this date but I thought it was more interesting to see the evolution of this song.

Today in History:
On February 24, 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued a proclamation that made everyone change their calendars from the Julian calendar to his own new and improved Gregorian calendar. (Obviously he was in cahoots with the calendar printing people, or he would have done it in November or December.)

It was this shameless act of self-promotion that led to subsequent Vatican proclamations being called Papal Bull.

February 24, 1807 -
It was not a good day for a hanging - In a crush to witness the hanging of John Holloway, Owen Heggerty and Elizabeth Godfrey in England, 17 people died and 15 were wounded.

People, please, remember that you can see the executions perfectly well, if you stand back.

February 24, 1838 -
Thomas Benton Smith, brigadier general in the Confederate States Army , was born in Mechanicsville, Tennessee, on this date. He was wounded at Stone’s River/Murfreesboro and again at Chickamauga. He was captured at the Battle of Nashville (December 16, 1864) where he was beaten over the head with a sword by Col. William Linn McMillen of the 95th Ohio Infantry. His brain was exposed and it was believed he would die.

He recovered partially, ran for a seat in the U. S. Congress in 1870, but lost and spent the last 47 years of his life in the State Asylum in Nashville, Tennessee, where he died on May 21, 1923.

Now you know

February 24, 1868 -
President Andrew Johnson impeached for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, which is fancy talk for removing Secretary of War Stanton.

The Senate later acquitted Johnson. This remains an honor not bestowed again until the blowjob years of the Clinton Administration.

On February 24, 1920, the spokesman of a radical political group in Germany announced that it would change its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. The group had previously been called the East Munich Crips. Rejected names had included The Genocidal Maniacs Party, The World Conquest Party and The Party of Smiley People Who'll Make Life a Happy Little Picnic for Everyone.

This name change made all the difference in the world, and eventually led to Evil Nazi Bastards, who later teamed up with the Evil Fascist Bastards of Italy and became a Significant Problem. They did not kill quite as many people as the Evil Communist Bastards of the Soviet Union, however, and were therefore unable to scare posterity into producing apologists.

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

February 24, 1990 -
Businessman Malcolm Forbes died of a heart attack, at his home in Far Hills, New Jersey on this date.

Aging Chelsea leather boys still mourn his passing.

And so it goes.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Here's an oldie but a goodie

Once again trolling around the internet, I rediscovered this very fun commercial from the 90's

Proving once again that revenge is a dish best served in a paper sack by a man with a large ping pong ball head.

February 23, 1896 -
The Tootsie Roll was introduced by Leo Hirshfield an Austrian immigrant, in his small candy shop located in New York City.

He was America's first candy maker to individually wrap penny candy. Current production is over 49 million pieces a day. For many, this day should be a Federal holiday.

Today in History:
February 23, 303 -
Roman Emperor Diocletian issues an edict to suppress Christianity, "to tear down the churches to the foundations and to destroy the Sacred Scriptures by fire". Further edicts require that church officials engage in animal sacrifice to appease traditional Roman gods.

One can only image the kind of orgies that when on that night.

February 23, 1861 -
President-elect Lincoln arrived secretly in Washington D.C. to take office after an assassination plot was foiled in Baltimore. Allan Pinkerton, founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, may have saved Abraham Lincoln’s life by uncovering the plot to assassinate the president-elect in Baltimore, Md.

At the detective’s suggestion, Lincoln avoided the threat by secretly slipping through the city at night.

February 23, 1885 -
The British hangman at Exeter Gaol tries three times to hang John Lee of Devonshire, for the murder of Emma Keyse. The trap refused to open.

His sentence was commuted to life, and he was eventually released.

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

February 23, 1821 -
English poet John Keats died in Rome on this date. Mr. Keats was Romantic and therefore wrote an Ode to a Nightingale, an Ode to Psyche, and even an Ode to a Grecian Urn.

None of them would have him, so the poor man died alone.

February 23, 1836 -
The siege of the Alamo began on this date. It was quite an adventure. For years afterward people would sigh, Remember the Alamo?

And they'd kind of nod and smile, but eventually they forgot.

February 23, 1919 -
Benito Mussolini founded the Fasci del Comattimento (Evil Fascist Bastards) party in Italy in hopes of improving the nation's irregular train schedules.

The Evil Fascist Bastards did eventually succeed in getting the trains to run on time, but their success was short-lived: allied forces entered the country in the 1940s and threw off their timetables for ever.

February 23, 1940 -
Walt Disney's animated movie Pinocchio went into general release, on this date.

The pool hall at Pleasure Island is in the shape of a giant eight ball with a tall cue-shaped structure standing nearby. This is a neat takeoff on the Trylon and the Perisphere at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

February 23, 1945 -
U. S. Marines raised the flag on Mt. Suribachi (Battle of Iwo Jima).

The photograph of the event was extremely popular, being reprinted in thousands of publications. Later, it became the only photograph to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in the same year as its publication, and ultimately came to be regarded as one of the most significant and recognizable images of the war, and possibly the most reproduced photograph of all time.

February 23, 1996 -
The Freeway Killer William G Bonin was executed at San Quentin. He was the first person to be executed by lethal injection in the history of California.

For his last meal, Bonin requested two large pepperoni and sausage pizzas, three pints of coffee ice cream and three six-packs of regular Coca Cola.

That kind of diet will kill you.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Did you find the coin in the Kings cake?

So begins forty days of prayer, fasting, contemplation and community service and not the Lentil season, which is marked by forty days of legume eating and gas passing (but that's another story.)

(Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.)

Tip of the day - You're not being help by trying to wipe the the smudge mark on your friend's forehead today

Young George Washington was born on February 11, 1731 (or so he thought.) Unfortunately for him, England had been stubbornly holding onto the Julian calendar - they wanted none of that Papist Gregorian calendar crap. But England finally wanted to get with the times, so in 1752, Parliament adopted the Gregorian calendar. Many prominent colonists supported the new system; including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. Washington updated his own birthday from the old February 11th to the Gregorian February 22th.

But wait, there's more - the calendar switch of 1752 included another significant change. Under the Julian system, the year began on March 25. That means a colonist who went to bed on March 24, 1700, would wake up on March 25, 1701. The new Gregorian rules set the start of the year to January 1st. This created some confusion, since anyone who was born between January 1st and March 25th in the old system would have the wrong birth year in the new one.

So you have to wish the Father of Our Country birthday greetings for the third time this month.

Much heavy drinking ensued.

February 22, 1934 -
Frank Capra's romantic comedy It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, premiered at Radio City Music Hall .

This was the first film to win the Oscar "grand slam" (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Screenplay).

February 22, 1977 -
The single New Kid in Town, the first release from the album Hotel California, was the Eagles' first to be certified gold for selling more than 1 million copies on this date.

On February 26, 1977, it reached the Billboard #1.

February 22, 2001 -
Mira Nair's wonderful Monsoon Wedding, opened in both Los Angeles and New York on this date.

A large portion of the original footage (including the wedding itself) was ruined by an airport x-ray machine. The scenes had to be re-shot, when additional funds had been raised to do so, some months later.

February 22, 2002 -
Charles Martin Chuck Jones, director of many of the classic short animated cartoons starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the Road Runner & Wile E. Coyote, died on this date.

In 1996, Jones received an Honorary Academy Award in, for "the creation of classic cartoons and cartoon characters whose animated lives have brought joy to our real ones for more than half a century." At that year's awards show, Robin Williams, a self-confessed "Jones-aholic," presented the Honorary award to Jones, calling him The Orson Welles of cartoons.

Today in History:
On February 22, 1862, Jefferson Davis was officially inaugurated for a six-year term as the President of the Confederate States of America in Richmond, Virginia.

He was previously inaugurated as a provisional president on February 18, 1861.

I guess his mother was proud of him.

February 22, 1987 -
Andy Warhol died of complications after gallbladder surgery, though the details are hazy. The official cause was listed as cardiac arrhythmia, but speculation includes his fear of hospitals as well as possible Cefoxitin allergy. Mr. Warhol is best known for painting pictures of Campbell's Soup cans and Marilyn Monroe, although never together. Warhol's death brings him a bonus 15 minutes of fame.

His work can be seen in museums and galleries around the world to this very day.

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

February 22, 1980 -
During the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York, the United States hockey team defeats the Soviet Union hockey team 4-3.

It is considered to be one of the greatest upsets in sports history (the Miracle on Ice.)

February 22, 1994 -
CIA agent Aldrich Ames and his wife are charged by the United States Department of Justice with spying for the Soviet Union on this date.

And though by 1989 Ames had acquired unexplainable wealth from his spying and did very little to conceal the spying, he somehow managed to evade being caught for five more years.

February 22, 1997 -
The first cloning of an advanced mammal, a sheep known as Dolly, was announced in the news media, on this date. Dolly, actually born on July 5, 1996, was cloned from a mammary cell -

Dolly was purportedly named after Dolly Parton.

I guess that's a compliment.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thomas Jefferson liked to collect beads too.

Bon temps roulez mes amis. It's Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) folks. So everybody shake your groove thing.

No one needs to disrobe, we've got plenty of beads (unless you like to disrobe in public.)

Today is also know as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, which heralds the beginning of fasting in Lent. On this day (so the historians say) there were feasts of pancakes to use up the supplies of fat, butter and eggs... foods that were forbidden during austere Lent.

In England there are several celebrations on this day but perhaps the best known one is the Pancake Day Race at Olney in Buckinghamshire which has been held since 1445. The race came about when a woman cooking pancakes heard the shriving bell summoning her to confession. She ran to church wearing her apron and still holding her frying pan, and thus without knowing it, started a tradition that has lasted for over five hundred years.

Keep flipping them pancakes

February 21, 1931 -
Plop Plop Fizz Fizz, Oh what a relief it is ...

Miles Laboratories introduced Alka-Seltzer® on this date.

February 21, 1967 -
One Million Years B.C., starring Raquel Welch, her bodacious tatas and a bunch of dinosaur puppets, premiered on this date.

As I've mentioned in the past, folks going to the Creation Museum, this is NOT a documentary.

February 21, 1981 -
Charles Rocket, first in the long line of performers on Saturday Night Live to drop the f-bomb, curses live at the end of the episode in response to a question about how it felt being shot during a skit.

Due partially to the violation of broadcast standards, along with Saturday Night Live's low ratings, Rocket and most of that seasons cast and writers were fired shortly thereafter. (Sorry but Youtube has taken down the clip)

Today in History:
King James I of Scotland was assassinated on February 21, 1437. (Please feel free to chart the following genealogy, it may be on the test) James I's grandfather, Robert II, had married twice and the awkward circumstances of the first marriage (the one with James's grandmother Elizabeth Mure - he didn't get around to marrying her until several years and children into their relationship) led some to dispute its validity. Conflict broke out between the descendants of the first marriage and the unquestionably legitimate descendants of the second marriage over who had the better right to the Scottish throne.

Matters came to a head on February 21, 1437, when a group of Scots led by Sir Robert Graham assassinated James at the Friars Preachers Monastery in Perth. He attempted to escape his assailants through a sewer. However, three days previously, he had had the other end of the drain blocked up because of its connection to the tennis court outside, balls habitually got lost in it.

I'm sure the irony was not lost on James while he scrambled around in the sewer.

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

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

This must have been a very pretty sight indeed.

February 21, 1878 -
The first telephone directory was issued with 50 subscribers, by the District Telephone Company of New Haven, Connecticut on this date.

The first prank phone call to a Mr. Lipshitz soon follows.

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

The monument was the tallest structure in the world when completed .

Talk about feeling inadequate (and talk about smegma.)

February 21, 1916 -
The Battle of Verdun began today, which in nine months yielded 975,000 casualties and almost no change in the front line.

It is the bloodiest battle in history, and often the one remarked as having the "highest density of dead per square yard."

February 21, 1925 -
The top hatted character Eustace Tilley first appeared on a magazine cover on this date.

The first issue of the New Yorker magazine, founded by Harold Ross, hit the newsstands.

February 21, 1953 -
Francis Crick and James D. Watson discover the structure of the DNA molecule.

At first they were going with a squiggle or smiley face structure until they hit upon the double helix.

February 21, 1965 -
Former Black Muslim leader El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, aka Malcolm X was shot to death in front of 400 people in New York by assassins identified as Black Muslims.

He was murdered at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. His wife, Betty Sha-bazz, was pregnant with twins and sat in the audience along with his 4-year-old daughter Quibi-lah.

February 21, 1972 -
Richard M. Nixon visits the People's Republic of China to normalize Sino-American relations, becoming the first US president to visit a country not diplomatically recognized by the US.

He fulfills the old Vulcan proverb - Only Nixon could go to China.

February 21, 1988 -
Television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart of the Assemblies of God, with tears streaming down his face, confesses sinning with a prostitute (Debra Murphree) in a Louisiana hotel room.

A second scandal with yet another prostitute emerges in 1991, further killing his evangelical career. It way have not to do with the situation but Jimmy is related to both Mickey Gilley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

And so it goes.

Monday, February 20, 2012

No, it's not George's Birthday today

It's Generic Executive Office Holder of the Government Day.

Celebrate anyone of them in style - James Garfield for example. Let's celebrate the fact that he like to perform parlor tricks. He could write in Latin with one hand, while writing in Greek with the other hand at the same time.

Or Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of United States, was the first president of the United States to have been born in the United States.

Or the fact that Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Grover Cleveland, were all draft dodgers

Or my personal favorite, Warren G. Harding.

Besides being the only President probably murdered by his wife because of his philandering ways (he actually did have sex will someone in a White House broom closet), Warren was such a lousy poker player that he once lost a complete set of china that had been in the White House dating back to President Benjamin Harrison's years.

So let's hear it for all the generic Presidents.

February 20, 1932 -
Tod Browning's incredible film, Freaks, about sideshow performers, was released on this date.

I won't even try to describe this masterpiece any further - you must see it.

February 20, 1952 -
John Huston's excuse for big game hunting, African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, opened in general release at Capitol Theater in NYC on this date.

The female lead was originally offered to Bette Davis in 1938, with David Niven as Charlie. It was offered to Davis again in 1947, with James Mason, as Charlie, but she had to drop out due to pregnancy. By the time Davis tried out for the role again in 1949, plans were underway for Katharine Hepburn to star.

February 20, 1956 -
The wonderfully evil comedy, The Ladykillers, starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellars, opened in New York on this date.

When Alec Guinness was offered the part of Professor Marcus, he wrote to the producers to say "but this is meant for Alastair Sim surely". It is not known whether Sim auditioned for the part. Alec Guinness has said that he based his characterization on theatre critic Kenneth Tynan.

February 20, 1967 -
If you die you're completely happy and your soul somewhere lives on. I'm not afraid of dying. Total peace after death, becoming someone else is the best hope I've got.

Kurt Cobain, musician and lead guitarist of seminal grunge band Nirvana, was born on this date.

Today in History:
February 20 is just one many dates on which Francois-Marie Arouet may have been born in 1694.

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

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

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

Except now they call him Voltaire.

February 20, 1872 -
The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its doors to the public for the first time. The Museum first was housed at the Dodworth Building at 681 Fifth Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets.

The Museum remained in its first home until 1873, when it moved to larger quarters in the Douglas Mansion on West 14th Street. In 1880, the Metropolitan opened its first building at its current location in Central Park. Currently, its permanent collection contains more than two million works. (That's a lot of art to dust.)

February 20, 1907 -
Pres. Theodore Roosevelt signed an immigration act which excluded "idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded persons, epileptics, insane persons" from being admitted to the US on this date.

I've said it before: Teabaggers and Birthers should rejoice that there is not a 'sanity clause' for the native born citizen.

February 20, 1947 -
A chemical mistake at the O'Connor Electro-Plating Co. in Los Angeles caused a blast that destroyed/damaged more than 55 structures in a 300-foot radius, 150 people were injured and 15 persons perished.

The incident resulted in the city's first ordinance stipulating regulations for the storage, transportation, production, processing, and use of hazardous chemicals and led to one of the first Hazmat Dictionary's in the U.S.


February 20, 1962 -
... Godspeed John Glenn.

While aboard Friendship 7, John Glenn orbits the earth three times in 4 hours, 55 minutes, becoming the first American to orbit the earth. Remember, NASA hadn't invented the astronaut diaper yet; I bet he had to pee like it a racehorse.

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

So remember this just a test, unless it's not.

February 20, 1980 -
After some heavy drinking, Bon Scott, vocalist for heavy metal band AC/DC, is found in a friend's automobile - he apparently choked to death on his own vomit.

His family was relieved that he hadn't choked to death on someone else vomit.

February 20, 1984 -
Happy 28th Zombie Anniversary!!!

Ballerina Julia Pak married Heung Jin Moon, son of Sun Myung Moon, religious icon. The ceremony was a tasteful affair save one small detail - Heung Jin Moon was prevented from attending the service in person; he had died in an auto accident the previous Decemeber.

As adult Moonies are only allowed to enter Heaven once they are married, there was a dire need for this awkward necro-ceremony.

And so it goes.