Sunday, December 30, 2007

Just a few more days left ...

Fifth night of Kwanzaa Sunday celebrates Nia (Purpose) - To make collective vocation the building and developing of community in order to restore the member's of the community to their traditional greatness.

December 30, 1853 -
Kids, follow along, it gets bumpy. After the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, border disputes continued between the United States and Mexico. Land that now comprises lower Arizona and New Mexico was part of a proposed southern route for a transcontinental railroad. U.S. President Franklin Pierce (considered one of the worst Presidents) was convinced by Jefferson Davis, then the country's Secretary of War, to send James Gadsden (who had personal interests in the rail route) to negotiate the Gadsden Purchase with Mexico. Under the resulting agreement, the U.S. paid Mexico $10 million (equivalent to about $230 million in 2004 dollars, 2007 dollars are just not worth that much anymore) to secure the land.

The matter about the money was to be very conflictual: even though the agreement specified $10 million, the US Congress agreed on only $7 million ($163 million in 2006 dollars). When the money finally arrived in Mexico City $1 million ($23 million in 2006 dollars) was missing, thus resulting in a total of only $6 million ($140 million in 2006 dollars). The treaty included a provision allowing the U.S. to build a transoceanic canal across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, though
this option was never exercised. With a few exceptions, such as the resolution of the Chamizal dispute, acquisition of land in this purchase defined the present boundaries of the continental United States.

December 30, 1862 -
The Union ironclad ship USS Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C., during a storm. While the design of Monitor was well-suited for river combat, her low freeboard and heavy turret made her highly unseaworthy in rough waters. Sixteen members of the crew were lost.

The Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago, Illinois, claimed 602 lives on December 30, 1903. It is, as of 2007, the single-building fire in U.S. history with the most fatalities, claiming over 100 more fatalities than the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston. The Iroquois Theater, at 24-28 West Randolph Street, was advertised as "absolutely fireproof." The theatre opened on November 23rd and burned 37 days later on December 30th. Over 1,900 people were in attendance at a matinée showing of the popular musical Mr. Bluebeard.

Of the 300 or so actors, dancers, stagehands, etc., only an aerialist (Nellie Reed), an actor in a bit part, an usher, and two female attendants died. The aerialist's role was as a fairy. She flew out over the audience on a trolley wire, showering them with pink carnations. She was trapped above the stage while waiting for her entrance. Comedian Eddie Foy was hailed as a hero for attempting to calm the crowd. Foy's role in this disaster is recreated by Bob Hope in the film The Seven Little Foys.

After the fire, it was revealed that fire inspectors had been bribed with free tickets to overlook code violations. Accusations began to appear that the asbestos curtain was not asbestos. The curtain had disappeared, which meant it was either viewed as incriminating evidence and removed or had burned, in which case it could not have been asbestos, which does not burn.
A result from the Iroquois fire was the development of the first panic exit device by the Von Duprin exit device company, now a part of Ingersoll Rand. Panic exit devices are now required by building codes for high-occupancy spaces.

December 30, 1916 -
Kids, you know I love discussing early 20th Century Russian history as much as the next person but this item is so good, it has to span over the course of two days (but it will reside on December 30th - you'll see why shortly. Grigory Rasputin, a self-fashioned Russian holy man, whoremonger, very unbathed and alcoholic was a very unpleasant man. And yet he held tremendous influence over the royal family (which probably hastened their downfall).

On December 16, 1916 O.S. ( Old Style, i.e. - Julian Calendar, so it's really December 29), having decided that Rasputin's influence over the Tsaritsa had made him a far-too-dangerous threat to the empire, a group of nobles, led by Prince Felix Yusupov and the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (one of the few Romanov family members to escape the annihilation of the family during the Red Terror), apparently lured Rasputin to the Yusupovs' Moika Palace, where they served him cakes and red wine laced with a massive amount of cyanide. According to legend, Rasputin was unaffected, although Vasily Maklakov had supplied enough poison to kill five men. Conversely, Maria Rasputin's (one of Rasputin's four children) account asserts that, if her father did eat or drink poison, it was not in the cakes or wine, because, after the attack by Guseva, he had hyperacidity, and avoided anything with sugar. In fact, she expressed doubt that he was poisoned at all.

Determined to finish the job, Yusupov became anxious about the possibility that Rasputin might live until the morning, which would leave the conspirators with no time to conceal his body. Yusupov ran upstairs to consult the others and then came back down to shoot Rasputin through the back with a revolver. Rasputin fell, and the company left the palace for a while. Yusupov, who had left without a coat, decided to return to grab one, and, while at the palace, he went to check up on the body. Suddenly, Rasputin opened his eyes, grabbed Yusupov by the throat and strangled him. As he made his bid for freedom, however, the other conspirators arrived and fired at him. After being hit three times in the back, Rasputin fell once more. As they neared his body, the party found that, remarkably, he was still alive, struggling to get up. They clubbed him into submission and, after wrapping his body in a sheet, threw him into an icy river, and he finally met his end there on the morning of December 17th O.S. (December 30th) - as had both his siblings before him.

Three days later, the body of Rasputin, poisoned, shot four times and badly beaten, was recovered from the Neva River and autopsied. The cause of death was hypothermia. His arms were found in an upright position, as if he had tried to claw his way out from under the ice. In the autopsy, it was found that he had indeed been poisoned, and that the poison alone should have been enough to kill him.

Yet another report, also supporting the idea that he was still alive after submerging through the ice into the Neva River, is that after his body was pulled from the river, water was found in the lungs, showing that he didn't die until he was submerged into the water. So, apparently, you can't keep a very bad man down.

And so it goes.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

And yet another new post

Here's Today in History -

Tonight is the Fourth night of Kwanzaa and Sunday is the Fifth. Saturday celebrates Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) - To build and maintain the community's stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

December 29, 1170 -Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is slashed to death by four of King Henry II's knights at the altar of the Virgin Mary. "Is there no one who will rid me from this turbulent priest", cried Henry in frustration earlier that month. It was apparently not a serious demand for Becket's death, but that did not stop his brains from being splattered in Canterbury Cathedral. So kids, remember, don't ask for things that you don't really want.

December 29, 1851 -It's fun to stay at the YMCA. Formation of the first YMCA in the United States in Boston, on this date.

December 29, 1890 -The Wounded Knee Massacre took place in Wounded Knee, South Dakota as over 200 Sioux were killed by US troops sent to disarm them. Another proud moment in American history.

December 29, 1972 -Members of a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes admit at a press conference that they survived by Cannibalism. This spawned a popular theme for bumper stickers, "Rugby Players Eat Their Dead". But best of all is the quote from one of the team, "If we had been soccer players, we would have died."

December 29, 1993 -Former child star Todd Bridges (who played Willis on "Different Strokes") arrested for transportation of methamphetamine. What the hell was in the water on that set.

December 29, 1997 -Male nurse Orville Lynn Majors is charged with six counts of murder at Vermillion County Hospital in Newport, MD. He is suspected of many other murders, likely over 100. Majors would apparently inject older patients with potassium chloride or other drugs, and frequently he expressed a dislike for elderlies. When off duty, hospital deaths occurred once every 551 hours; but on duty, once every 23 hours. Apparently, Columbo didn't work out of Newport, MD.

And so it goes.

Friday, December 28, 2007

And now with video links

Good Morning All,

Here is your Today in History -

Tonight's the third night of Kwanzaa. Tonight celebrates Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) - To build and maintain the community together and make the members of the community's problems, everyone's problems and to solve them together.

December 28, 1869 -
Patent for chewing gum granted to William Semple (patent number 98,304), on this date. Does your chewing gum lose it flavor on the bed post overnight?

December 28, 1895 -
Auguste and Louis Lumiere opened the first movie theater at the Grand Café in Paris, on this date . Other inventors, including Thomas Edison, were working on various moving picture devices at the time. But most of those other devices could only be viewed by one person at a time. The Lumieres were the first to project moving pictures on a screen, so that they could be viewed by a large audience.

The first film they showed to a paying audience was called Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory. It was a short, single shot with an immobile camera and it showed a concierge opening the factory gates from which dozens of workers walked and bicycled into the street. It ended with the concierge closing the gates again.

It wasn't a movie in the modern sense. It had no characters, no storyline. It was just an animated photograph. Much like most French New Wave films. The Lumiere brothers went on to make more than 2,000 films like this, each one less than a minute long depicting various scenes of human activity with titles like The Arrival of a Train, Boat Leaving the Harbor, and Baby's First Steps. They didn't call these "movies" or "films," they called them "views." It took other filmmakers to turn movies into a medium for storytelling.

The Lumieres were primarily documentary filmmakers. But in their film Demolition of a Wall they added a reverse loop to the film so that after the wall falls to the ground it miraculously picks itself back up. It was the first special effect ever uses in the history of motion pictures.

The Lumieres' movie house was a big success. Within a few months of its opening, more than 2,000 people lined up every night to buy tickets. But the Lumieres themselves thought that movies would be a passing fad. They told their cinematographers not to expect work for more than six months. Auguste went on to become a medical scientist and Louis went back to working on still photographs.

The Link below leads you to a compilation of some of The Lumiere Bros first films:

December 28, 1983 -
Dennis Wilson, original drummer of the Beach Boys, drowned while diving from a boat near Marquesas Pier. He was rather drunk at the time. You would think that someone in the Beach Boys could swim.

December 28, 1987 -
R. Gene Simmons (not of Kiss fame) kills two coworkers and injures four others in Russellville Arkansas, and then surrenders. The busy man had killed 14 of his relatives over the Christmas holidays.

December 28, 1991 -
Jack Ruby's pistol, used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, sells at auction at Christie's for $220,000. The perfect gift for the man who has everything.

And so it goes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

First Posting - an Inauspicious Beginning

This is the first off-line posting of Today in History -

Here's your abbreviated Today in History -

Tonight's the second night of Kwanzaa. Tonight celebrates Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) - To define oneself, name oneself, create for oneself and speak for oneself.

December 27, 1831 -For some unknown reason, naturalist Charles Darwin begins his famous voyage onboard a beagle, on the date. He immediately swims back to shore and boards the HMS Beagle once the dog drowns.

The 12 acre complex in midtown Manhattan known as Rockefeller Center developed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., on land leased from Columbia University opened to the public on December 27, 1932. Radio City Music Hall (named for one of the complex's first tenants, the Radio Corporation of America) opened with a spectacular stage show, featuring Ray Bolger and Martha Graham. The opening was meant to be a return to high class variety entertainment.

Unfortunately, the show bombed and on January 11, 1933, the Music Hall rushed to show the first film on the giant screen, installed in the theatre: Frank Capra's The Bitter Tea of General Yen starring Barbara Stanwyck. Again, the film was not critically well received

December 27, 1937 -Middle aged, stout and possible transvestite performer, Mae West performs an "Adam & Eve" skit that gets her banned from NBC radio.

December 27, 1947 -Hey kids, what time is it? A bleary eyed world, fresh from the horrors of a second World War awaken to the sight of a freaky marrionette on NBC - Howdy Doody premieres.

December 27, 1992 -Harry Connick, Jr., was arrested at Kennedy Airport in New York City after telling authorities he had an unloaded 9mm pistol in his luggage, which he said he had forgotten that his sister had given to him. Oh, that old one, Officer, I forgot I had a loaded gun in my suitcase.

Thought of the Day: Statistics are often used as a drunk uses a light pole: For support rather than illumination.

And so it goes.