Saturday, February 28, 2009

Flaunt it baby, flaunt it!!!

February 28, 1915 –
Samuel Joel “Zero” Mostel, larger than life actor and comedian, 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 Ericsson (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, 1968 -
Singer and early 60's heartthrob Frankie Lymon is found dead from a heroin overdose next to his syringe, in his grandmother's New York City apartment. 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 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 2½-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" is still, as of 2008, the single most watched episode of a television series in American history.

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

It is unknown who the assailant was, though some suspect a South African death squad.

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

Friday, February 27, 2009

The face that launched 1000 magazine covers

February 27, 1932 -
“tad overweight but with violet eyes to die for"

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, actress and serial bride was born on this date.

Today in History:
On this date in 280 A.D., 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, 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, 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, 1859 -
Censured Congressman Dan Sickles of New York (who escorting a known prostitute into State chambers) shoots and kills 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.

(His defense attorney was Edwin M. Stanton, later to become Secretary of War.)

On 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, 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. Ouch.

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.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

And away we go

February 26, 1908 –
Frederick Bean (Tex) Avery, animator, cartoonist, and another member of the legendary "Termite Terrace" was born on this date.

February 26, 1916 –
John Herbert Gleason, (The Great One) comedian, actor and musician was born on this day.

That's a good cup of coffee

Today in History;
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, 1918 -
Grandstands at the Hong Kong Jockey Club collapse and burn, killing 604 spectators. 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.

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.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's that Lenten season again

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris (Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.)

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.)

Tip of the day - don't embarrass yourself by calling attention to the smudge mark on your friend's forehead today

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, 1815 -
Able was I ere I saw Elba.

Napoleon leaves his exile on the Island of Elba, intending to return to France.

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.

Feb 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.

Feb 25 1932 -
Austrian Adolf Hitler is granted German citizenship, to meet a "minor" technical requirement in order to run for president.

Feb 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.

Feb 25 1996 -
Dr. Haing S. Ngor, the Cambodian who won the 1984 Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Killing Fields, shot during a robbery attempt in the carport of his Los Angeles apartment.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Take me down to Mardi Gras

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

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 arc 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 them pancakes coming

I saw this clip on the Huffingtonpost website and thought it the best way to review Oscar history -

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."

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

Feb 24 1921 -
Abe Vigoda's birthday.

Not dead yet!

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

Call boys all over New York, mourn his death.

And so it goes

Monday, February 23, 2009

So how did you do ...

On your Oscar pool?

Today in History:
Feb 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.

I can bet there was some kind of orgy that night.

Feb 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.

Feb 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.

On February 23, 1821, English poet John Keats died in Rome. 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. 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.

Have you wished upon a star lately?

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.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Here's a tip for your Oscar pools

Most of the major awards are a lock - Slumdog, Heath Ledger, Kate Winslet, etc., you've got to get the minor ones. Start googling critics Oscar picks now and average their scores.

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 inaugurated as president of the Confederate States of America.

I guess his mother was proud of him.

February 22, 1987 -
Andy Warhol dies 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.

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, is announced in the news media. Dolly was cloned from a mammary cell,

Dolly was purportedly named after Dolly Parton.

I guess that's a compliment.

And so it goes.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hey, they' re not all Citizen Kane

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

Governor Palin had to be told that this wasn't a documentary

Today in History:
King James I of Scotland was assassinated on February 21, 1437. 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.

February 21, 1878 -
The first telephone book is issued in New Haven, Connecticut.

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 into the air, and sports an aluminum foreskin.

I need to sit down, I have the vapors.

February 21, 1916 -
Start of the Battle of Verdun, 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, 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 -
Malcolm X assassinated in a Manhattan ballroom,

probably by members of the Nation of Islam.

February 21, 1972 -
Nixon visits the People's Republic of China to normalize Sino-American relations,

fulfilling 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 in a Louisiana hotel room.

A second scandal with yet another prostitute emerges in 1991, further killing his evangelical career.

And so it goes.

Friday, February 20, 2009

One of us, One of us!

February 20, 1932 -
Freaks, the horror film about sideshow performers, directed by Tod Browning was released on this date.

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

February 20, 1967 -
Kurt Cobain, musician and lead guitarist of seminal grunge band Nirvana, was born on this date.

I thought you died alone, a long long time ago

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, 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 -
While aboard Friendship 7, John Glenn orbits the earth three times in 4 hours, 55 minutes, becoming the first American to orbit the earth.

I bet when he got back he had to pee like it was nobody's business.

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 -
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.

Imagine the honeymoon - yuck!!!

February 20, 1997 -
Victor Willis, the "cop" in the Village People (and former husband of Phyllis Rashad) is charged in Nevada on drug possession (45 grams of cocaine), possession of drug paraphernalia, and strong armed robbery.

The events occurred February 15. Willis, 45, listed his occupation as "unemployed" and generously gave approval for his hotel room to be searched.

February 20, 2003 -
A fire at a West Warwick, R.I. performance of eighties hairspray legends Great White caused by the band's indoor pyrotechnics leaves 100 dead. The pyrotechnics were illegal in that nightclub venue, and use of them by the band had been forbidden by other local venues.

Guitarist Ty Longley is among the dead, his last journal entry containing the words: "I say we send a bunch of bands, food, artists, strippers, bartenders, proctologists, psychologists and lots of love over to Iraq and North Korea for a big party!"

And so it goes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Smokey

February 19, 1940
William "Smokey" Robinson, singer was born, on this date.

Robinson, when still a child, was nicknamed "Smokey Joe" by an uncle because of his love of cowboy movies. Betta you didn't know that!

Here is your Today in History -

In the presidential election of 1800, Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson drew to a tie. The House of Representatives broke the tie by throwing their weight behind Jefferson, making him president, on February 17, 1801. Burr was given the vice-presidency as either a consolation prize or a practical joke.

Like many other people, Vice-President Burr was often irritated by Alexander Hamilton. Unlike most other people, he shot and killed him. Although it had been a fair duel, the vice-president was indicted for murder. He was never actually arrested for the shooting, nor was he removed from office, because there was no controlling legal authority in place to prevent a vice-president from shooting Alexander Hamilton.

Instead of reviving Burr's political career, the duel helped to end it. Burr was charged with two counts of murder. After his term as vice president ended, he would never hold elective office again. And his next plot to gain power would end with charges of treason.

Civilized political discourse?

(A subsequent constitutional amendment that would have made it illegal for members of the executive branch to shoot Alexander Hamilton was defeated on the grounds of its limited usefulness to the deceased.) After serving out his term as VP, Mr. Burr moved to the southwest and decided to establish his own empire. Fortunately there were controlling legal authorities that prohibited the establishment of empires. President Jefferson had him arrested on February 19, 1807.

Burr was ultimately acquitted. (His descendant Raymond Burr would go on to restore a bit of varnish to the family name as Perry Mason and as spokesperson for Raymond Burr Nipple Rouge.)

February 19 is also notable for the 1995 marriage, on that date, of Pamela Anderson to rocker Tommy Lee. Their marriage is best remembered for having produced the most widely-distributed honeymoon pictures in the history of the world.

Sorry folks, you're going to have to find the link to the video yourself.

Nobel laureate, Protestant, and noted pederast, Andre Gide died on February 19, 1951.

Supreme Chinese leader and replacement for Diana Ross, Deng Xiaoping died on February 19, 1997.

Dying takes the shine off of being Supreme.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If only he had his intercostal clavicle ...

February 18, 1938 -
Bringing Up Baby, a screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant was released on this date.

The film was a box office disaster upon it's initial release, causing Hawks to be fired from his next RKO film (Gunga Din, also starring Cary Grant) and forcing Hepburn to buy out her contract. As time went on, however, the movie gained more and more attention and is now revered as a sophisticated classic decades ahead of its time.

Today in History:
Timur Lenk (also known as Timur the Lame, Tamerlane, Tamberlaine, and Mr Tambourine Man) died "mysteriously" during an expedition to China on February 18, 1405.

George, the English Duke of Clarence, was convicted of treason against his brother King Edward IV and murdered in the Tower of London on February 18, 1478.

The legend arose that he had been drowned in a barrel of Malmsey wine.

What a way to go.

February 18, 1564 -
Michelangelo (Buonarotti), Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet and engineer died on this date.

Elm Farm Ollie (known as "Nellie Jay" and post-flight as "Sky Queen") was the first cow to fly in an airplane, doing so on 18 February 1930, as part of the International Air Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. On the same trip, which covered 72 miles from Bismarck, Missouri, to St. Louis, she also became the first cow milked in flight. This was done ostensibly to allow scientists to observe midair effects on animals, as well as for publicity purposes. A St. Louis newspaper trumpeted her mission as being "to blaze a trail for the transportation of livestock by air."

Your life is better for knowing this.

Feb 18 1933 -
Yoko Ono born.

What else is there to say?

Feb 18 1967 -
J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, dies.

His 'children' never even send him flowers.

Feb 18 2001 -
Race car driver Dale Earnhardt crashes into the wall at the Daytona 500, killing him instantly. His widow files a lawsuit to force the autopsy photos to be sealed, and a Florida law is subsequently passed to prevent them from ever being released.

Earnhardt was the most well known and most successful driver in the history of the sport.

And so it goes.

Also, on a personal note - Happy Birthday Matt.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another red letter day in our house

February 17, 1958 -
Pope Pius XII declares Saint Clare of Assisi (1193~1253) the patron saint of television.

Given all the meager pittance I call a salary has come from my work in TV, having a saint you can pray to comes in handy.

Speaking of television -

As of midnight tonight, the original DTV transition date, 421 television stations will cease their analog signals. Another 220 stations have already made the switch, taking today's total to 641 stations or 36% of the U.S., according to information disseminated by the FCC. Congress recently passed a bill moving the analog-to-digital date to June 12, 2009 and President Obama signed the measure into law last week.

So some of you cheapskates without cable have a brief reprise.

Today in History:
February 17, 1600 -
Roman philosopher and mathematician Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake at Campo di Fiore in Rome, likely because ecclesiastical authorities were alarmed at his rambling and somewhat insane ideas, coupled with rejection of accepted authority.

Exactly what the charges against him were are lost to history, but likely involve theological heresies rather than astronomical (just in case it comes up in conversation today.)

Celebrated French dramatist and comedian Moliere collapsed on stage and died on February 17, 1673. It is said that he was wearing green, and because of that, there is a superstition that green brings bad luck to actors. As an actor, he was not allowed by the laws of the time to be buried in the sacred ground of a cemetery. His wife Armande asked the king Louis XIV to allow a "normal" funeral celebrated at night. The king agreed, and Molière was buried in a part of the cemetery reserved for unbaptized infants.

In some accounts of his death, it is said that over 800 people attended his "secret" funeral.

A bomb exploded in the dining room of St. Petersburg's Winter Palace on February 17, 1880. Tsar Alexander II survived. Being late for supper, the Tsar was not harmed, although 67 other people were killed or wounded. The dining room floor was also heavily damaged.

While it is often said that promptness is the politeness of kings, sometimes being late can save you.

February 17, 1989 -
The cinematic masterpiece "Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure" starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter opened in theaters.

We are getting old folks - Keanu is 44.

February 17, 1994 -
The decomposing corpse of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, first president of the Republic of Georgia, is exhumed from a temporary grave in Djikhaskari. His wife refuses an autopsy, but western journalists note a bullet wound in the side of Zviad's head. Officially listed as suicide, the wife also claims he was murdered. Another government minister oddly states the death was by cancer with the head shot administered post-mortem.

Note to self: don't seek cancer treatment in the Republic of Georgia or the state of Georgia, for that matter.

And so it goes.