Friday, May 31, 2013

Just try to stop

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

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

May 31, 1980 -
Casablanca Records released the Steven Greenberg song, Funkytown, on this date.

Steven Greenburg became A&R Vice President for Mercury Records, signing Hanson, among other acts. Later he headed the S-Curve Records label signing the Baha Men and Joss Stone.

Today in History:
May 31, 455 -
Petronius Maximus, emperor for less than three month, was having an extremely bad day. News reached Rome that Vandals were planning on sacking Rome (a favorite past time for Vandals.) The level headed Petronius attempted to organize an orderly evacuation of the Senate and his cronies. Panic, unfortunately set in and Petronius Maximus was completely abandoned by his bodyguard and entourage and was left to fend for himself.

As he rode out of the city on his own on , he was set upon by an angry mob who stoned him to death. His body was mutilated and flung into the Tiber.

Sometimes, it isn't every worth getting out of bed, even if you're the ruler of all the known world.

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

While I can't say whether or not the Tea Bag movement strongly endorse this type of civil disobedience, I'd like to remind the ladies out there that taxes are pretty damn high just about everywhere these days.

May 31, 1819 -
Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.

A great New Yorker and even greater poet, Walt Whitman was born on this date.

May 31, 1859 -
The iconic clock in the clock tower attached to the Palace at Westminister first began to keep time on this date.

The name Big Ben is often used to describe the tower or the clock but it's actually is the name of the carillon inside.

May 31, 1884 -
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, head of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, patented corn flakes on this date. The good doctor believed in a vegetarian diet and a regimen of exercise. The good doctor also believed in proper elimination. At his sanitarium, Kellogg made sure that the bowel of each and every patient was plied with water, from above and below. His favorite device was an enema machine that could run 15 gallons of cold water through an unfortunate bowel in a matter of seconds.

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

You'll never look at a carton of Activa the same way again.

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

The wall of flood water grew at times to 60 feet high, tearing downhill at 40 miles per hour, leveling everything in its path and killing 2,209 people.

May 31, 1902 -
The Treaty of Vereeniging was signed on this date, canceling the Bore War for lack of interest.

(The Bore War should not be confused with the Boar War, which was much more exciting on account of tusks.)

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

That has got to hurt.

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

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

The first Seinfeld episode (referred to as episode #2 The Stakeout) created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld premiered on Thursday, May 31, 1990 on NBC-TV. The show often described as "about nothing" was not an immediate success.

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

I wonder what ever happened to those guys?

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

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

And so it goes.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Just in case you missed it

Here's my piss poor photo of Manhattanhange from last night

It's looked more impressive in person, but so much of life does.

For no reason in particular, G.I. Joe Astronaut - Spacewalk Mystery (remember now with real hair!)

You never knew Stanley Kubrick directed toy commercials.

May 30, 1956 -
 RKO Radio Pictures released Fritz Lang's late period film-noir classic, While the City Sleeps, starring Dana Andrews, Vincent Price and Ida Lupino on this date.

The sequence depicting the New York subway was actually filmed in the Los Angeles subway.

Today in History:
May 30, 1431 -
Convicted of heresy by the English (see May 23), 19-year-old Joan of Arc got an extreme hot foot as her punishment in Rouen, France, on this date.

Pope Benedict XV canonized her in 1920.

May 30, 1593 -
Noted English dramatist, spy and buggerer, Christopher Marlowe was either -

a: murdered in a tavern brawl on this date, or,
b: faked his death and assumed a new identity as William Shakespeare, noted English dramatist, spy and buggerer.

May 30, 1806 -
Andrew Jackson couldn't wait to marry his wife, Rachel Donelson Robards. He was so impatient that he had married her before she could obtain a legal divorce from her first husband, Captain Lewis Robards - so technically she was a bigamist and an adulteress. His political opponents made much of this fact. Dueling over a horse racing wager and his wife's honor, the future President takes a bullet in the chest from fellow lawyer Charles Dickinson on this date in 1806. The slug shatters two ribs and buries itself near his heart. Then it is Jackson's turn to fire, which manages to sever an artery, technically breaking the rules of the duel. Dickinson died a few hours later, the only man Jackson ever killed in any of his 103 duels.

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

I suppose that's what love was like in the 19th Century.

On May 30, 1889, the world’s first bra was invented.

To tell you the truth, I’ve lost all track of where I found that date but I do know, however, that corset maker Herminie Cadolle invented the Bien-être in 1889, and that this “health aid” was the first garment to support breasts from the shoulder down instead of squeezing them up from below.

Now you know.

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

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

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

May 30, 1922 -
The Lincoln Memorial, a neo-classical monument, was dedicated on this date, by former President William Taft  who was serving as a Supreme Court Justice at the time.

It was a controversial design; some felt that the Greek temple style was too ornate to represent Lincoln, and suggested that a log cabin be built in the monument's place instead.

May 30, 1989 -
Chinese students erected a giant statue called "The Goddess of Democracy" in Tiananmen Square on this date. 

The statue was put up as part of the ongoing student protests in Tiananmen Square, and was brought down by tanks just five days later.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This is what you get

Last night I heard a great cover version of Radiohead's Karma Police by an Israeli performer Rotem Shefy -

If you have the time, you tube her and check out some of her other videos

May 29, 1936 -
Fritz Lang's crime thriller, Fury, starring Sylvia Sidney and Spencer Tracy, opened on this date.

Director Fritz Lang threw smoke bombs into the riot scene to rile up his actors. One of them struck Bruce Cabot who had to be physically restrained from punching his director.

May 29, 1942 -
The movie Yankee Doodle Dandy, starring James Cagney, premiered at a war-bonds benefit in New York on this date.

Many facts were changed or ignored to add to the feel of the movie. For example, the real George M. Cohan was married twice, and although his second wife's middle name was Mary, she went by her first name, Agnes. In fact, the movie deviated so far from the truth that, following the premiere, the real George M. Cohan commented, "It was a good movie. Who was it about?"

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

Warner Brothers insisted on shooting the movie in 3-D although the craze was fading and Alfred Hitchcock was sure the movie would be released flat. The director wanted the first shot to be that of a close-up of a finger dialing the letter M on a rotary phone, but the 3-D camera would not be able to focus such a close-up correctly. Hitchcock ordered a giant finger made from wood with a proportionally large dial built in order to achieve the effect.

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

It is the final gasp of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.

Why is this important, you may well ask - it really isn't (this event is considered the end of the Middle Ages) but neither is most of history.

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

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

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

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

I hate when they misuse the bassoon.

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

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

It was quite an evening.

In the early morning hours of May 29, 1914, the Canadian Pacific ocean liner Empress of Ireland was cruising the St. Lawrence, headed for Liverpool. Travelling the opposite way was the Norwegian collier Storstad, weighed down by a full load of coal.

The British passenger ship collided with a Norwegian freighter and sank, taking 1012 passengers and crewmen with her, within fourteen minutes. At the time, it was considered one of the worst disasters in maritime history.

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

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

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

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

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

And so it goes

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's all Gouverneur Morris' fault

Please think about this, all of you Illuminati conspiratorialists, today and tomorrow, it's Manhattanhenge time again.

Manhattan's grid was originally proposed in 1811, by Gouverneur Morris, surveyor John Rutherfurd, and New York State Surveyor General Simeon De Witt, four years after the city council appointed them "Commissioners of Streets and Roads," charged with master-planning the city's expansion from its dense base on Manhattan's southern tip.

Because of the work of the The Commissioners' Plan of 1811, the orderly plan of the grid like layout of most of Manhattan occurred, we were able to see the spectacular setting of the sun which aligns with the east-west streets, fully illuminating every single cross-street for the last fifteen minutes of daylight (best bet according to Neil deGrasse Tyson is 8:16 P.M. EDT.)

May 28, 1953 -
Walt Disney's first animated 3-D cartoon in Technicolor, Melody, premiered on this date

Originally there was to be an entire series of "Adventures in Music" shorts but in fact, only one other was made: the Academy Award-winning Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom.

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

The song is now old enough be old school and Marvin is now about 46, has he become Middle Aged MC.

Today in History:
May 28, 1503 -
The Treaty of Everlasting Peace between Scotland and England was signed culminating in the marriage of James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor (sister of Henry VIII) on this date.

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

On May 28, 1743, Joseph Ignace Guillotin was born in France on this day. Later he became a doctor. As a politically active humanitarian, he was understandably disturbed by the grisly executions of the French Revolution. He was sure people could be killed more efficiently, and he proposed a device to do just that (Antoine Louis devised the gismo.)

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

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

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

Dr Guillotine probably died of natural causes and was not eventually guillotined (as many believe,) thus robbing us of the possible existence of a moral to his story.

(Readers seeking morals, however, are advised as always to conduct their searches elsewhere.)

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

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

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

In less than a year, the Chrysler Building was surpassed in height by the Empire State Building. Van Alen's satisfaction was further muted by Walter Chrysler's refusal to pay his fee.

May 28, 1944 -
The thrice married, former prosecutor, businessman, transvestite and Republican politician from the state of New York Sir Rudolph William Louis Giuliani III was born on this date.

Please, there is nothing wrong with transvestism. My favorite comic, Eddie Izzard is a Male Executrix. But remember, although the former mayor may have supported Gov. Romney for President, don't ask him to compare his record to that of Romney's

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

However, Able died during surgery to remove his electrodes. Able was then stuffed and mounted and is now on display at the Smithsonian Institute of Air and Space Museum.

There is no truth to the rumor that Miss Baker went on to carry on a long term ménage à trois with President Kennedy and Frank Sinatra.

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

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

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

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


And so it goes

Before I let you go - This weekend was chock-a-block with mash-up dance videos.  The first is a mash-up of Movie and TV clips set to the new Daft Punk song, Get Lucky (with it very Earth, Wind and Fire vibe)

And the second is a Mash-up of 77 diferent and very diverse movie clips set to We Can Dance by Men Without Hats

Monday, May 27, 2013

Remember those who gave their all

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

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

The Popsicle was first made (but not patented) in 1905 by Frank Epperson on this date (he was only 11 years old at that time .)

If only we could create a frozen concoction that mixes ice and alcohol - oh wait a minute that's a Frozen Margarita, never mind - keep celebrating the Popsicle.

Today's birthday celebrants include:
Hubert Humphrey (1911),

Vincent Price (1911),

Siouxsie Sioux (1957),

Neil Finn (1958),

Today in History:
May 27, 1923 -
Henry Kissinger was born in Fuerth, Germany on this date.

50 years later, (America Favorite Freely Roaming War Criminal - according to your political beliefs) Dr. Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize for quitting the Vietnam War.

Henry also proved that outliving your enemies is the best revenge.

May 27, 1930 -
Howard Hughes' multi-million dollar war drama, Hell's Angels, premiered in Los Angeles, on this date

Howard Hughes hired WWI aces to fly the planes but also flew one himself; he crashed shortly after his first takeoff and broke several bones. More than 70 pilots were used in the film. Three of them died during shooting.

May 27, 1933 -
Walt Disney classic take on The Three Little Pigs, premiered on this date.

The selling of pork sausages during the original screenings of the cartoon wasn't such a big hit though.

May 27, 1937 -
The dream of Emperor Norton I was finally realized when the Golden Gate Bridge, connecting San Francisco with California's Marin County opened to pedestrian traffic on this date.

More than 200,000 made the first-day trek. Harold Wobber had the good grace to wait until August 7, 1937, to take the first leap into eternity.

Wobber supposedly turned to a stranger on the walkway and said,"This is as far as I go" then took his last step.

May 27, 1939 -
Detective Comics Number 27 featuring Batman, DC Comics debuted its second superhero on this date. The superhero is Batman, who will go on to be one of the greatest commercial successes in the comic industry.

This issue also marks Commissioner Gordon’s first appearance. According to creator Bob Kane, his inspirations for Batman were Superman, Leonardo da Vinci’s design of a bat-like glider, and two films: “The Mark of the Zorro” and ”The Bat Whispers”.

May 27, 1941 -
The British sank Germany's elusive, pocket-battleship Bismarck, then the largest warship commissioned, on this date.

The destruction of the battleship was reported on the front pages of newspapers around the world. Only 110 of her crew of 2,222 survived the sinking.

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

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

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

When then President John F. Kennedy listed Ian Fleming's book among his top ten favorite novels of all time, a list published in Life Magazine, March 17, 1961, the producers decided to make this the second James Bond movie. According to the book Death of a President by William Raymond Manchester, this was the last motion picture John F. Kennedy ever saw, on a private screening in the White House, November 20, 1963.

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

The Sex Pistols were signed to A&M records when they recorded this. They dropped the band just as this was released, pulling all the singles. The ones that slipped through became valuable collectors items. In 2011 Record Collector magazine compiled its Top 50 most collectable records, and top of the list came the A&M release of this song - if you happen to have a copy the good news is it worth $12,000.

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

The car bomb (a combination of PETN, T4 and TNT, kids don't try to make this at home) also manages to obliterate three priceless artworks and substantially damage thirty more. The bombing appears to have been the work of the Sicilian Mafia.

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

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

Don't forget, tomorrow starts Manhattanhenge viewing (more on that later)

And so it goes.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The perfect gift

Saint Vitalis of Assisi (not to be confused with St. Vitilas of Milan, patron saint of grey haired Lotharios ) was an Italian hermit and monk who died in 1370. He became a saint despite an early life marked by licentiousness and immorality. However, in an attempt to atone he went on pilgrimages to various sanctuaries.

On his return to Umbria, he became a Benedictine monk at Subiaco and later lived as a hermit. He spent the rest of his life in the hermitage of Santa Maria di Viole, near Assisi, in utter poverty. His reputation for holiness soon spread after his death. He was known as a patron against sicknesses and diseases affecting the genitals.

The severed head alleged to belong to the patron saint of genital diseases was recently sold at auction.  If the reliquary ever comes up for sale again, snap it up. 

Bunkies, nothing says love like the rotting skull of the saint of the burning loins.

May 26, 1977 -
Police arrested George Willig, after he had successfully scaled the World Trade Center's south tower in NYC on this date.

He was fined $110 -- a dollar per floor climbed. The stunt paved the way for appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Good Morning America, The Merv Griffin Show and ABC's Wide World of Sports.

There were a lot of notable music birthdays on this date.
May 26, 1920 -
Norma Deloris Egstrom, Grammy award winning singer, songwriter, composer and actress, was born on this date.

And yes Peggy, that's all there is.

May 26, 1926
Miles Dewey Davis III born on this date in Alton, Illinois, was a trumpeter, bandleader, composer and widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

I just love this story about Miles Davis: In 1987, he was invited to a White House dinner by Ronald Reagan. Few of the guests appeared to know who he was. During dinner, Nancy Reagan turned to him and asked what he'd done with his life to merit an invitation. Straight-faced, Davis replied: "Well, I've changed the course of music five or six times. What have you done except f*ck the president?"

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

May 26, 1964 -
Leonard Albert "Lenny" Kravitz, musician and actor was born on this date.

(Running around a lot with some family issues, so it and abbreviated) Today in History:
May 26, 1232 -
Pope Gregory IX issues the bull Declinante jam mundi, bringing the Papal Inquisition to Spain.

I know this clip is about a later version of the inquisition but I  just couldn't play the Monty Python clip again

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

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

It was something in the genes.

May 26, 1868 -
In England's last public execution, Michael Barrett was hanged at Newgate on this date. All subsequent hangings are held behind prison walls.

Presiding over the event is executioner William Calcraft, who frequently supplements his income by selling the clothes and noose worn by the condemned.

Hey, a man's got to earn a living.

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

Peter Cushing was the guest of honor at the Famous Monsters of Filmland Convention in New York City in 1975. After receiving a thunderous ovation from those in attendance, he looked at everyone and said, "Have you ever felt unloved?"

May 26, 1923 -
Le Mans France held its first Grand Prix D'endurance - the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as an endurance test for touring cars.

The first winning drivers, Amdre Lagache and Rene Leonard, averaged 57.2 miles per hour.

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

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

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

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

Stop thinking about it, it's the road to madness!!

May 26, 1995 -
89-year-old Friz Freleng, the cartoonist who created Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and many other Looney Tunes characters, died in Los Angeles on this date.

The nickname "Friz" came from how "frizzy" his hair was at one time.

And so it goes.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

What can't you do with it?

Today is Towel Day

Remember a towel is "about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have."

Towel Day is celebrated every May 25th as a tribute by fans of the late author Douglas Adams. On this day, fans carry a towel with them to demonstrate their love for the books and the author, as referenced in Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

So don't panic.

May 25, 1950 -
The Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel, the longest-continuous, underwater-vehicular tunnel (measuring 1.7 miles long between portals) in North America, opened in NYC, on this date.

A parade of dignitaries led by Mayor William O’Dwyer and Robert Moses, head of the newly created Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, traveled by motorcade through the tunnel where they were welcomed by a cheering crowd on the Manhattan side.

May 25, 1966 -
Norman Jewison's Cold War comedy, The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming, premiered on this date.

Johnny Whitaker so impressed Brian Keith that when TV's Family Affair began casting later that same year, Keith requested Whitaker test for the part of his nephew.

May 25, 1979 -
Twentieth Century Fox releases the science fiction film Alien, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt and John Hurt, on this date.

An early draft of the script had a male Ripley, making this one of at least three films where Sigourney Weaver played a character originally planned to be a man. The second is The TV Set and the third is Vantage Point.

Today in History:
May 25, 1521 -
Charles V, a Holy Roman Emperor (Who was neither holy or a Roman - he was just a German King) issues the Diet of Worms (which neither helps you lose weight nor comprised of non-arthropod invertebrates,) on this date.

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

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

Emerson became one of America's best known and best loved 19th century figures, writing such works as Trust Thyself and carry a self-threading snake and Bacchus on the chamber pot.

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

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

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

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

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

May 25, 1961 -
President John F. Kennedy proposed to Congress on this date, a goal for the U.S., "before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

The USSR had become the first country to send a man into space the month before, and Congress embraced Kennedy's plan.

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

George realized that he did not have enough money so he released Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi on this date in 1983.

David Lynch was originally offered the chance to direct this episode of the series. He turned it down because he believed it was "Lucas' thing." He went on to direct Dune instead. Director David Cronenberg was also offered the chance to direct, but he also turned it down.

I wonder how their careers turned out.

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

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


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

He is author of Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye can See, his autobiography.

And so it goes

Friday, May 24, 2013

A word to the wise

Kids, when the police come a knockin' on your door,

don't react by throwing your bong out the window.  It doesn't look right.

May 24, 1941 -
Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham Zimmerman, a young boy from a small shtetl in the great state of Minnesota, don't ya know, who has been a major figure in popular music for five decades, was born on this date.

Hopefully, someday he'll get a larger audience

May 24, 1968 -
The Rolling Stones released Jumping Jack Flash, in Britain, on this date.

The Rolling Stones have played Jumping Jack Flash during every tour since its release; it ranks as the number the band has played in concert most frequently.

May 24, 1989 -
The third movie in Steven Spielberg's salute to Saturday afternoon serials, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, premiered nationwide on this date.

Steven Spielberg is on record as saying he made the film for two reasons: 1) to fulfill a three-picture obligation he had with George Lucas, and, 2) to atone for the criticism that he received for the previous installment, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Today in History:
May 24, 1610 -
Buggery was criminalized for the first time in North America by Sir Thomas Gates, when the Virginia colony declares that "no man shall commit the horrible, and detestable sinnes of Sodomie upon pain of death."

This was all probably due to the lack of proper lubricant and the fact that Sir Thomas was a troll.

May 24, 1626 -
Peter Minuit was the director-general of the Dutch colony of New Netherland who was credited with the purchase of the island of Manhattan on this date.

According to legend, he persuaded the natives—perhaps a Metoac band of Lenape known as the Canarsee, who were actually native to what is now Brooklyn—to "sell" the island for a handful of trade goods worth approximately 60 guilders (appx. $24.)

 I've often said that there are those in Congress looking to give New York back to the Indians.

May 24, 1686 -
Gabriel Fahrenheit was born on the date. Mr Fahrenheit did pioneering work in the field of temperature. It was his dream to develop a more sophisticated temperature measurement system than the accepted worldwide standard of his era, which consisted of only seven gradations: brr!, cold as hell, chilly, warm, hot, hot as hell and ow!.

Hard at work on the same problem was his colleague Anders Celsius. Mr Fahrenheit eventually discovered the "degree." It took 32 of Mr Fahrenheit's degrees to freeze water and 212 of them to boil it. Mr Celsius, meanwhile, had discovered a different kind of "degree."

It took only a hundred of his degrees to bring water to a boil, and, even more impressively, he discovered that water would freeze without any degrees at all.

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

May 24, 1819 -
Queen Victoria was born as Princess Alexandria Victoria at Kensington Palace, London on this date. Through a series of accidents, debauched living and bad planning on the part of her uncles, she became Queen. She reigned for 64 years, and lent her name to an era best remembered for its prudery and chastity.

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

May 24, 1844 -
Samuel F. B. Morse formally opens America’s first telegraph line, when he demonstrated a magnetic telegraph, sending a message from the chambers of the Old Supreme Court courthouse in Washington D.C. to his partner, Alfred Vail, at the Mount Clare Depot of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company in Baltimore, Maryland, on this date.

Vail responded by retransmitting the same message back to Morse.  The message, "What hath God wrought?" was the first message sent on a commercial telegraph line.

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

The event comes to be known as the Pottawatomie Massacre.

May 24, 1883 -

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

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

This showed him.

May 24, 1920 -
Senile French President Paul Deschanel fell off a train bound for Montbrison, and is later discovered wandering along the track in his pajamas. The Station master's wife later commented that she knew he was a gentleman because he had such "clean feet."

Soon afterwards, Deschanel walked out of a state meeting, straight into the fountains at the Rambouillet chateau, fully clothed.

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

May 24, 1941 -
During the Battle of the Denmark Strait (World War II,) the German battleship Bismarck sank the HMS Hood on this date

More than 1,400 crewmen died; only three survived.

And so it goes.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

It's World Turtle Day today.

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

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

May 23, 1929 -
Walt Disney released the ninth film in the Mickey Mouse film series, The Karnival Kid on this date

This is  first cartoon in which Mickey Mouse speaks. His first words are "Hot dogs!"  In case your a big Mickey fan (I'm not) here's Croissant de Triomphe

 Croissant de Triomphe is the first of 19 all new animated shorts from Disney that feature Mickey Mouse making his return to the screen.

May 23, 1966 -
The Beatles released the single Paperback Writer on this date

Paul McCartney wrote this after helping some friends, including John Dunbar, set up the Indica Bookshop (in the basement was the Indica Gallery, where John Lennon eventually met Yoko Ono), in January of 1966. Paul was the first customer of the shop.

May 23, 1980 -
Stanley Kubrick's classic horror thriller The Shining, opened on this date (I remember seeing it at the midnight showing on this date in Time Square.)

The Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood in Oregon was used for the front exterior, but all the interiors as well as the back of the hotel were specially built at Elstree Studios in London, England. The management of the Timberline requested that Stanley Kubrick not use 217 for a room number (as specified in the book), fearing that nobody would want to stay in that room ever again. Kubrick changed the script to use the nonexistent room number 237.

May 23, 1984 -
Steven Spielberg/ George Lucas' theme park thrill ride film, Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom, opened on this date.

An early draft of the script for Raiders of the Lost Ark had Indy traveling to Shanghai to recover a piece of the Staff of Ra. During his escape from the museum where it was housed, he sheltered from machine gun fire behind a giant rolling gong. The same script also featured Indy and Marion fleeing destruction in a mine-cart chase. Both of these scenes were cut from that script, but resurface in this movie.

May 23, 1997 -
Steven Spielberg's sequel monster movie, The Lost World: Jurassic Park opened nationally, on this date (this date must be a lucky day for Steve.)

At least five scenes were cut from the film before release, and some appeared in the trailer: Peter Ludlow talking to the InGen committee about their expenses, Roland and Ajay talking in a bar, T-rexes trying to attack Kelly, who was left alone in the High Hide, The Raptors and T-rexes fighting in the rex's nest, and Pteranodons attacking the rescue helicopter.

Today in History:
May 23, 1430 -
The French, they are a strange race.

A little french shepherdess goes out into a field for a picnic. And instead of getting food poisoning, which was common, hears the voice of God, which is not.

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

This is what comes from being the messenger of God.

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

Religious fundamentalist Girolamo Savonarola was executed in Florence on this date, Italy for his many heresies, after being excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI. The Catholic Church had already excommunicated the Dominican friar the year before, but Savonarola continued to preach for radical reforms. Among other things, he held bonfires of the vanities for his parishioners' worldly possessions, because they competed with the word of God for attention.

Brother Savonarola was first hanged along with two accomplices and their bodies burned.

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

May 23, 1618 -
In what is later called the Second Defenestration of Prague, (yes there was a First) three men representing the soon-to-be Emperor Ferdinand II are thrown from a window in the Hradshin Palace by Protestant noblemen.

Luckily for the imperial emissaries, they land on a large pile of manure and survive (Catholics immediately proclaimed that God’s angels had saved them from certain death.) But when Ferdinand assumes the throne the following year, all hell breaks loose in Europe, starting with Bohemia.

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

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

Again, the British and their sense of humor.

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

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

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

May 23, 1873 -
The Northwest Mounted Police were founded on this date.  The Northwest Mounted Police was one of the first police forces in the Northwest Territories — present day Alberta and Saskatchewan — and the predecessor of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, also known as the Mounties.

Please rise for the playing of the Mounties Anthem

Yes, this has nothing to do with that fine organization but isn't your day just a little better for having heard this again?

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

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

Please, all of you who forgot to return your books from the opening day, return them. All is forgiven.

No questions asked.

May 23, 1934 -
A group of FBI agents and police officers from two states ambush the notorious Bonnie and Clyde on a highway near Gibsland, Louisiana, on this date.

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

May 23, 1969 -
... It's a boy Mrs. Walker, it's a boy ....

The Who released Tommy, the first rock opera on this date.

Somehow this may or may not be connected with the fact that

the BBC gave the go-ahead for 13 episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus on this date as well.

And so it goes.

Before I let you go - Mental Floss' next clip - 50 common misquotations and misattributions:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This could be the most important piece of information you will ever hear

Please put your drink down - now listen to Gary Busey discuss the necessity of not being anally abusive to cows.

I have had many stray and aberrant thoughts in my life but I've never considered the use of butt plugs on bovines.

My mind is blown.

May 22, 1947 -
David Lean's classic, Great Expectations, premiered in NYC on this date.

David Lean wanted his film to have a feeling of heightened realism. Working closely in conjunction with art director John Bryan and cinematographer Guy Green, he employed several tricks, such as forced perspective, to achieve this effect. The famous opening shot in the graveyard, for instance, features a brooding church in the background which in reality was only three meters high.

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

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

May 22, 1813 -
One of the most controversial personalities of the nineteenth century, Richard Wagner was born on this date. Wagner wrote some of its most controversial music. Hitler is said for most of his life to have kept only three books on his nightstand: Wagner's autobiography, Machiavelli's The Prince, and Youth Aryan Youth, in lederhosen around their ankles, sitting in a tub of Choocolate Pudding. (How Hitler ended up with Wagner's nightstand is a question best left alone.)

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

May 22, 1856 -
Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner was beaten unconscious with a cane on the Senate floor by South Carolina’s Preston Brooks on this date.

Brooks, a pro-slavery Democrat, attacked Senator Sumner, a Republican abolitionist from Mass., so badly that he was unable to resume his duties for three years. Brooks resigned from his seat but was re-elected.

And you thought, things were contentious in the Senate now-a-days.

May 22, 1906 -
The Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were granted a U.S. patent for their “new and useful improvements in Flying Machines.” (US No. 821,393)

It is the first airplane patent in the U.S.

May 22, 1907 -
Laurence Kerr Olivier, director, producer and one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century, was born on this date.

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

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

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

May 22, 1964 -
Lyndon B. Johnson formally outlined his goal to create a "Great Society" through social reform during commencement exercises at the University of Michigan on at Ann Arbor, on this day.

Two main goals of the Great Society social reforms were the elimination of poverty and of racial injustice. The most long-lasting programs of the Great Society include Medicaid and Medicare.

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

Mr. Fred Rogers premiered on WQED on this date.

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

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

And so it goes.