Friday, July 31, 2009

Who IS this kinky so-and-so?

Last night at the Beacon, Steely Dan on their Rent Party 2009 Tour performed the classic album Royal Scam, in it's entirety.

How much exactly can you make collecting Turkish union dues

Here's your Today in History:
July 31, 1945 -
Wearing a stolen army uniform, prisoner John Giles attempts to escape from Alcatraz island by boarding an outbound cargo boat. But instead of San Francisco, the vessel heads for Angel Island, where Giles is promptly captured.

Always check your schedules before boarding your escape craft.

It was on this day in 1954 that human feet first stood upon the summit of Pakistan's K2 mountain, the second-tallest mountain in the world.

K2 was known to the Chinese as "Great Mountain" and to Indian and Pakistani locals as "That Big Thing Over There." It was not until 1856, when T.G. Montgomerie of Britain's Survey of India was logging the mountains of the Karakorum range, that it was dubbed K2. This helped distinguish it from K1, to its left, and K3, to its right.

(K1 was later named Mount Masherbrum. K3 moved to New Mexico, where it is believed to be running a New Age bookstore under an assumed name.)

It was an Italian expedition led by Ardito Desio that first succeeded in ascending to the peak of K2. Team members Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni achieved that distinction on July 31, 1954.

The summit wasn't reached again until 1977, when a Japanese team with more than 1500 porters found their way to the top.

The first American expedition reached the top in 1978 without the aid of any stinking porters.

July 31, 1948 –
At Idlewild Field in New York, New York International Airport is dedicated by President Harry Truman.

A 30 year old Congressman John F. Kennedy gets a blinding headache that day and doesn't know why.

July 31, 1966 -
Beatles records are burned in Birmingham, Alabama -- only because John Lennon innocently declared that the band happens to be "more popular than Jesus."

The record burning of course has the opposite effect, as sales of Beatles records dramatically increase (in part to burn them.)

July 31, 1966 -
Charles Whitman, as a student at the University of Texas at Austin, wounds 30 and kills 16, before being killed by police.

Two years later, Peter Bogdanovich directs his first film, Targets, based of the the Whitman slayings.

The film, starring Boris Karloff, is hailed as one of the most promising debuts of a director since Orson Welles.

July 31, 1971 -
One of the most expensive car rides occurred on this date, when James B. Irwin and David R. Scott took the Lunar Roving Vehicle or "Moon Buggy" on it's premiere jaunt on the surface of the moon.

I bet there was a lovely Earth out that evening.

July 31, 1979 or 80 -
Harry Potter, an orphan who discovers that he is a wizard was born on either of these dates. Although disputed by his author, J K Rowlings, the Harry Potter brand has made her a billionaire.

Who knew a disfigured kids could make so much money?

And so it goes.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

She don't remember the Queen of Soul

Last night at the Beacon, Steely Dan on their Rent Party 2009 Tour performed the classic album Gaucho in it's entirety.

And why exactly is he standing in your spangled leather poncho with the studs that match your eyes.

Here's your Today in History:
Prague has always been a tough town for elected officials. On July 30, 1419. Jan Želivský, a Hussite priest at the church of the Virgin Mary of the Snows, led his congregation on a procession through the streets of Prague to the Town Hall. The town council members had refused to exchange their Hussite prisoners, and an anti-Hussite threw a rock at one of the protesters. Enraged, the crowd stormed the town hall and threw seven of the council members from the windows onto the spears of the armed congregation below. Thus, the First Defenestration of Prague occurred.

Less you think that was the only defenestration in that tough old town, at Prague Castle on May 23, 1618, an assembly of Protestants tried two Imperial governors, Wilhelm Grav Slavata (1572–1652) and Jaroslav Borzita Graf Von Martinicz (1582–1649), for violating the Letter of Majesty (Right of Freedom of Religion), found them guilty, and threw them, together with their scribe Philip Fabricius, out of the high windows of the Bohemian Chancellery. They landed on a large pile of manure and all survived unharmed. Philip Fabricius was later ennobled by the emperor and granted the title "von Hohenfall" (lit. translating to "of Highfall"). Apparently, the streets of Prague were literally full of crap.

But what there were more, a defenestration (chronologically the second defenestration of Prague) happened on September 24, 1483, when a violent overthrow of the municipal governments of the Old and New Towns ended with throwing the Old-Town portreeve and the bodies of seven killed aldermen out of the windows of the respective townhalls.

Sometimes, the name the third defenestration of Prague is used, although it has no standard meaning. For example, it has been used to describe the death of Jan Masaryk, who was found under the bathroom window of the building of the Czechoslovakian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 10, 1948, allegedly murdered by Communists, though the official Communist line claimed this to be a suicide. It's tough to be an elected official in Prague.

Again, it's a tough town for politicians but it's the gravy train for glazers.

It's Emily Brontë's birthday.

The Brontës were three hideous sisters who dwelt in a cave and had to share a single eyeball between them. They were eventually outwitted and slain by wily Odysseus. (Unless that was the Gorgons, in which case the Brontës were three Englishwomen who wrote poetry and novels in the middle nineteenth century.)

Women were not allowed to write books at the time because novels were still being written in the formal style, and it was feared that women would corrupt that classic form with their penchant for multiple climaxes. The Brontës therefore wrote under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Charlotte got to be Currer and this made the other girls jealous: Currer was the handsome and swarthy sailor, while Ellis was the stuttering librarian and Acton was the simpleminded shepherd.

As authors, the Brontës were heavily influenced by the Romantics ("That's What I Like About You"), but most scholars contend that Emily's Wuthering Heights owes more to the Meteorologists.

She is perhaps best known for her invention of Heathcliff, most recently popularized by American cartoonist George Gately.

Flowers and Trees is a 1932 Silly Symphonies cartoon produced by Walt Disney, directed by Burt Gillett, and released to theatres by United Artists on July 30, 1932. It was the first commercially released film to be produced in the full-color three-strip Technicolor process, after several years of two-color Technicolor films.

The Flowers and Trees was a commercial and critical success, winning the first Academy Award for Best Short Subjects: Cartoons.

July 30, 1938 -
In his Dearborn, Michigan office Henry Ford proudly accepts a Nazi medal on his 75th birthday. The Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle is the highest award the Reich can bestow on foreigners. The medal arrives with a note of personal greetings from Adolf Hitler.

A rabid anti-semite, Ford paid for copies of the racist hoax Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion to be deposited in major U.S. libraries.

Hopefully, there isn't a Ford in your future.

July 30, 1947 -
The last shot at the German dream of the perfect Aryan nation - Arnold Schwarzenegger was spawned on this date.

I'm not quite sure that an overly greased muscle man in a speedo (who would become the governor of a bankrupt US state) was what Hitler had in mind but who knows.

July 30, 1975 -
Where have you gone Jimmy Hoffa, the nature turns it jaundice eyes to you? Jimmy Hoffa is or isn't dead.

Jimmy is or isn't buried somewhere in the Meadowlands or a horse farm or was made into ground meat and consumed at some very unfortunate barbecue.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Once again we find ourselves under banyan trees

Last Night, Steely Dan played the Beacon Theater on their Rent Party 2009 Tour. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker performed the classic album Aja in it's entirety.

Yes, we're gonna break out the hats and hooters

July 29, 1959 -
Another gimmicky William Castle flick, The Tinkler opens on this date.

Ladies and gentlemen, please do not panic! But SCREAM! Scream for your lives!

Today in History:
July 29, 1588 -

Phillip II of Spain sent his armadillo to invade England. This Spanish armadillo was defeated by the belly-buttons of Lord Howard and Sir Francis Drake in one of the greatest navel engagements of all time.

The defeat altered the balance of power in Europe irreversibly and marked the last use of armadillos in navel warfare.

July 29 1921 -
The Council on Foreign Relations is incorporated in New York City by a group of bankers and other influentials, including John D Rockefeller. The CFR remains a vital component of the New World Order, and is surpassed in importance only by the Trilateral Commission.

Now that you have this information, you know too much and you'll probably have to be killed.

July 29 1921 -
Adolf Hitler is selected as leader of the National Socialist Party.

I'm guessing there have been some regrets concerning this election.

July 29, 1965 -
The Beatles movie Help! premiered in London on this date.

Director Richard Lester originally approached Peter Sellers to play Clang, Sellers declined because he didn't want to be upstaged by the Beatles. (Personal aside - my kids love this movie, they watch it all the time.)

July 29 1968 -
Pope Paul VI issues encyclical Humanae Vitae, prohibiting all unnatural forms of birth control.

Although he thereby answers an age-old question, it seems unnecessary - Altar boys can't get pregnant.

July 29 1974 -
Mama Cass Elliot, a very large part of The Mamas and the Papas, dies in London.

Although initial reports ascribe the cause of death to choking on a ham sandwich, in actuality it was a heart attack.

July 29, 1981 -
Britain's Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in an internationally televised ceremony at Saint Paul's Cathedral in London, England.

They were divorced in 1996 . She was dead by 1997 and he married his long time mistress in 2005.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A gasping nation breathes a sigh of relief!

I wish I could have made this up. More importantly, I wish Billy Mays was still alive to hawk it to a needy public:

Let's hear some Smiths this morning:

What a happy little tunesmith Morrissey is.

July 28, 1954
An early Brando classic, On the Waterfront, premiered in New York on this date

The producer forgot to pay for rear-projection equipment, hence the reason why the cab where Brando and Steiger play out the film's most famous scene has blinds.

One of Bogart's best late work, The Caine Mutiny, premiered in New York on this date. A bizarre irony is that this film directed by Edward Dmytryk and On the Waterfront directed by Elia Kazan premiered on the same date. Both men testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee with vastly different personal results.

Ahh, but the strawberries that's... that's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with... geometric logic... that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I'd have produced that key if they hadn't of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers...

Today in History
For those of you still seeking your Masters in European History -

July 28 1914 -
It was a sweltering July in most of Europe and the world as most people knew it was about to end. That was the day on which, still reeling from the recent assassination of their Archduck Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

Because Russia was a Slavic nation, like Serbia, Czar Nicholas II sent a few troops toward Vienna the very next day, hoping either that Austria-Hungary would become nervous and back off or that the Russian troops would loot someone else for a change.

But it was hot, people were angry, and Austria wasn't in any mood to back off. If anything, they were feeling a little pissy: a day later, they sent some troops of their own toward Russia.

The Russian Czar was unaccustomed to this kind of confrontational behavior. His self-esteem in tatters, he mobilized the entire Imperial Army against Austria and began calling himself Tsar.

Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany observed the Russian mobilization with unease. The Slavs of Russia considered the Slavs of Serbia their blood cousins, but the Germans and Austrians were closer still. Like brothers. Like twin brothers. (Fraternal, not identical). The Emperor dashed off a note to his friend (and cousin) the Tsar (formerly the Czar), asking if maybe Russia wouldn't mind calling her troops back within, say, the next twenty-four hours or else. He sent another little note to France, asking if they wouldn't mind promising to keep their noses out of certain other peoples' business, if certain other people should happen to go to war within the next, say, eighteen hours.

Neither Russia nor France offered any reply to the Emperor's little notes (possibly because he wrote it in German. Now if he wrote it in French, that might have been different - they all spoke French at home), and his feelings were understandably hurt. He mobilized his own army, declared war against Russia on August 1, against France on August 3, and started calling himself Kaiser.

To reach France, the Germans had to cross through Belgium. Belgium expressed its sincere desire not to be crossed. This was unreasonable and forced the Germans to start killing Belgians on the night of August 3.

Britain, meanwhile, didn't care about Serbia. Britain didn't care about Russia. And Britain certainly didn't care who attacked France — it had been their own national sport for centuries. But they had foolishly pledged their support to unreasonable little Belgium, and had no choice but to declare war on Germany on August 4. This was extremely vexing to the British monarchy, as they themselves were mostly German and Kaiser Willie was King Georgie cousin (and remember, as well as the Czar, Tzar/ Tsar.)

On the same day, the United States declared its reluctance to become involved in the European conflict until it had a better idea who'd win.

Austria, meanwhile, had been touched by the fervor with which Germany had come to her defense—and by the rapidity with which Russian troops were advancing toward both of them. Emperor Franz Josef declared war against Russia on August 5.

Serbia, already being pounded by Austria, declared war against Germany on August 6. Montenegro considered this bold and dashing, and wanted a piece of the action: she declared war against Austria on August 7, and, ebullient at finding herself intact a whole five days later, went so far as to declare war against Germany on Aug 12.

Already at war with Germany, an irritated France declared war against Austria on August 10. Caught up in the excitement, Britain declared war against Austria on August 12. By now it seemed like everyone was getting involved. There was a mad rush to war. Japan declared war against Germany on August 23.

Japan's hostilities toward Germany offended Austria, who declared war against Japan on August 25. Fastidiously egalitarian in their foreign policy, they declared war against Belgium three days later. Things were now spinning wildly out of control. On August 29, France declared war against Mongolia, Ireland declared war against Lichtenstein, and dogs declared war against cats.

World War One was underway. In just four years, it would claim 8.5 million lives and leave 21.2 million wounded, and lay the groundwork for an eventual rematch.

Sometimes family feuds just get out of hand.

July 28 1794 -
Maximilien "The Incorruptible" Robespierre was guillotined for having ravaged the French meteorological cycle with his nefarious Rain of Terror.

July 28 1841 -
James Boulard and Henry Mallin pull the decomposed body of a young woman from the Hudson River near Hoboken, New Jersey. Mary Cecilia Rogers, who worked at a popular cigar store, is initially thought to have been killed in the course of a brutal gang rape, but ultimately it seems more likely that she died from a botched abortion.

Years later, novelist Edgar Allen Poe adapts the sensational news story about "The Beautiful Cigar Girl" into the short story "The Mystery of Marie Roget."

July 28 1945 -
A US Army B-25 bomber crashes into the Empire State Building between the 78th and 79th floors. An engine plunges down an elevator shaft, sparking a fire in the basement. Eleven people in the building are killed, in addition to the three man bomber crew. Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver survived a plunge of 75 stories inside an elevator, which still stands as the Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall recorded.

And if I step outside my apartment and look up Fifth Avenue, it's still standing.

(And folks - Please, this clip doesn't prove or disprove any 9/11 Conspiracies.)

July 28 1957 -
A C-124 transport plane carrying three nuclear weapons jettisons its precious cargo into the Atlantic, somewhere east of Delaware and New Jersey. The bombs are never recovered.

Remember every time you go to a beach off the Jersey Shore, a 200 foot radioactive mutant Blue Crab is lurking.

And so it goes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The rain in Spain may stay mainly in the plain

But it came down in buckets last night all over NYC (that was an intense storm yesterday.)

July 27, 1949 -
Mighty Joe Young, an RKO Radio Pictures made by the same creative team responsible for King Kong. premiered in New York City on this date.

This was the first feature film for which Ray Harryhausen used his newly created stop-motion technique.

(At age 55, Terry Moore, star of the film, who describes herself as a "devout Mormon" posed nude in the August 1984 issue of Playboy magazine.)

July 27, 1978 -
National Lampoon's Animal House, the grandfather of all gross-out comedies, premiered in New York City on thus date.

Toga, toga, toga. This was Kevin Bacon and Karen Allen's first movie.

Here's your Today in History:
July 27 1890 -
At the Chateau d'Auvers, Vincent van Gogh presses a revolver to his chest and pulls the trigger. Somehow the bullet misses the vital organs, and the painter manages to stumble over to a friend's house.

The following night, Van Gogh dies of an infection in the arms of his brother Theo.

July 27 1940 -
Bugs Bunny made his debut in a cartoon called "A Wild Hare", on this day. Warner Brothers' writers and animators set out to make a rabbit who would be the epitome of cool. They modeled bugs on Groucho Marx with a carrot instead of a cigar. Mel Blanc gave him a Brooklyn accent.

He was a nonchalant rabbit who chewed on his carrot in the face of all of his enemies and he was famous for the line, "What's up, doc?" which he used in that first cartoon when he met Elmer Fudd who was hunting rabbits. I'd like to send out a great big birthday kiss to that wascally wabbit. Happy 69th Bugs.

July 27, 1953 -
The armistice that ended the Korean War was signed today. It was a war that began in June 1950 when North Korea invaded the south. Almost 35,000 Americans were killed in the conflict, more than 5,000 captured or went missing. A corporal in the 1st Marine Division named Anthony Ebron said, "Those last few days were pretty bloody. Each time we thought the war was over we'd go out and fight again. The day it ended we shot off so much artillery that the ground shook. Then, that night, the noise just stopped. We knew it was over."

Harry Truman said that if he had signed the same armistice, the Republicans would have drawn and quartered him, but Dwight D. Eisenhower had run for president on the platform that he would end the war, and when he was elected, that's what he did.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to inform the North Koreans that they, in fact, signed the armistice and are still technically at war with someone.

July 27 1980 -
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the exiled Shah of Iran, dies of lymphatic cancer in Cairo.

Everyone looks just a little more guilty standing next to Nixon.

July 27 1996 -
During a celebration for the Atlanta Olympics, security guard Richard Jewell notices a suspicious green knapsack in Centennial Park. He immediately alerts police and helps to clear people from the area shortly before the pipe bomb explodes. For his trouble, Jewell becomes the FBI's preliminary suspect and news organizations run wild with the story.

Because he didn't do it, numerous media outlets end up paying him large undisclosed settlements. Also, the FBI uses the event as an excuse to lobby for further clampdowns on civil liberties.

And so it goes.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Happy Parents Day

Held on the fourth Sunday of every July, Parents Day was established in 1994 when President Bill Clinton signed a Congressional Resolution into law for "recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children."

So kids, give your folks a little less grief today.

July 26, 1943 -
Michael Philip Jagger, Golden Globe and Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, occasional film producer and actor, was born on this date.

Remind yourself - he has 4 grandkids. Can your granddad shake his moneymaker like Mick?

Winsor McCay, an American cartoonist and animator, died on this date in 1934. A prolific artist, McCay's pioneering early animated films far outshone the work of his contemporaries, and set a standard followed by Walt Disney and others in later decades.

His two best-known creations are the newspaper comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, which ran from 1905 to 1914, and the animated cartoon Gertie the Dinosaur, which he created in 1914.

Here's your Today in History:

July 26 1826 -
Schoolmaster Cayetano Ripoll is hanged in Valencia, after uttering his last words: "I die reconciled to God and to man." He is the last person executed by the Spanish Inquisition.

Gee, I guess at that point everybody should have expected the Spanish Inquisition.

July 26 1947 -
The National Security Council is created.

And no, Donald Rumsfeld is not in the background of this picture.

July 26 1984 -
Serial killer, cannibal and flesh suit wearer Ed Gein dies at the Mendota Mental Health Institute, a home for the criminally insane.

Gein inspired the films Psycho and Silence of the Lambs. I wonder if he got any of the royalties.

July 26 1991 -
Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) is arrested in Florida, for exposing himself at the South Trail XXX Cinema.

Following the incident, Reubens loses his children's television show and product endorsements.

And so it goes.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Whoa, did somebody step on a duck?

The very silly movie, Caddyshack, premiered on this date (watch it - you'll laugh in spite of yourself.)

This steak still has marks from where the jockey was hitting it.

It's St. Christopher's Day

Unless, of course you believe he was demoted by the Catholic Church.

Here's your Today in History:

July 25 1485 -
In Toledo, Spain, over 400 dead bodies are charged with heresy and burned in effigy, in a great public spectacle.

What a wonderful thing, this Spanish Inquisition.

July 25, 1689 -
King Louis XIV of France declared war on Britain for having joined the League of Augsburg and the Netherlands in order to oppose the French invasion of the Rhenish Palatinate.

This caused the Battle of Schenectady in New York. (Really.)

July 25 1848 -
British statesman Arthur James Lord Balfour was born on this date. In 1917, as Foreign Secretary of the British Government, Lord Balfour declared that "His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

This came to be known as the Balfour Declaration, acknowledged by scholars throughout the world as the beginning of the Middle East Peace Process.

July 25 1917 -
Margaret Zelle, also known as Mata Hari, is found guilty of spying and is sentenced to death.

There is no actual evidence that she is a spy, although she may have slept with half of the German army (and the French had a thing about that.)

July 25, 1943 -
Benito Mussolini resigned as Head Evil Bastard of Italy. He did not receive a gold watch. His 401(K) was in tatters.

He was therefore machine-gunned to death, suspended upside down, and urinated on by the people of Italy as a civic reminder of the importance of retirement planning.

Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century is a Merrie Melodies cartoon created in 1952 and released on July 25, 1953, starring Daffy Duck as space hero Duck Dodgers, Porky Pig as his assistant, and Marvin the Martian as his opponent. Marvin the Martian had been introduced as a villain then named Commander X2 in Haredevil Hare (1948) playing opposite Bugs Bunny, but this cartoon was the first of many appearances of Duck Dodgers.

The plot of the cartoon involves Duck Dodgers' search for the rare element Illudium Phosdex, "the shaving cream atom." In the future, the only remaining supply of the element is on the mysterious "Planet X," which fortunately is found when Dodgers follows a path leading from Planet A to Planets B, C, D, and so on. Assisting him in his space explorations is Porky Pig , playing the role of the "Eager Young Space Cadet." Dodgers is about to claim Planet X in the name of the Earth when Marvin the Martian lands on the same planet (in a ship called the "Martian Maggot") and claims it in the name of Mars. The stage is set for a battle of wits (or lack thereof) between the two cartoon stars.

July 25 1990 -
At a baseball game, actress Rosanne Arnold warbles the Star Spangled Banner, grabs her crotch, and endears herself to an entire nation.

Ah, America, land of opportunity.

July 25 1999 -
Woodstock '99 festival ends in looting and rioting, leaving 12 trailers burned, towers toppled, and several women attacked during the course of the show.

About 500 state troopers were needed to quell the mass uprising of peace and love, apparently triggered by overpriced vendors and commercialization.

July 25 2000 -
A right tire explosion on the Concorde causes the plane to crash after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, leaving 113 dead.

It is the first crash in Concorde's history, and the only supersonic commercial flight to ever crash.

And so it goes.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Is there anyone that wasn't arrested in New Jersey?

Hey at least they weren't selling brains to zombies.

July 24, 1948 -
Crunchy Munchies are the best,
Look delicious on your vest.
Serve them to unwanted guests,
Stuff the mattress with the rest.

Marvin the Martian made his first appearance in Haredevil Hare, when it was released on this date.

No, no don't leave, there's a lovely earth out tonight.

July 24, 1998 -
The unflinchingly gritty war flick, Saving Private Ryan premiered on this date.

Steven Spielberg reportedly said that even if the film had received an NC-17 rating, he would have released it uncut anyway.

Here's your Today in History:
Jul. 24 - Mary of Guise, the French wife of Scotland's King James V, gave birth to a daughter named Mary in 1542. A week later King James died and the very young Mary became the Queen of Scotland.

Prince Edward of England proposed marriage to the Queen immediately and his proposal is therefore known as "the Rough Wooing." While the pedophile Prince waited for the Queen to acquire enough verbal skills to reply, the Scottish parliament annulled the engagement.

Edward's father, the English King Henry VIII, considered this an insult and declared war. Following an especially nasty Scottish defeat in 1547, Mary was sent to France. It was hoped she would learn to read and write there, and perhaps reach puberty.

She was raised in the court of Henry II, which ought to have taught her some manners, but instead inspired her to marry a dolphin. Eventually the dolphin became king and died, leaving Mary the dowager queen of France. She was 18.

Her mother had meanwhile died in Scotland, which caused the Protestants to rebel. They imported the Reformation and banned the Pope. Mary, being Catholic, returned to Scotland to work out a compromise: the country could be Protestant as long as she was allowed to be Catholic.

Four years later she married her cousin, Lord Darnley, a Two-Door Steward. Unfortunately he turned out to be disgusting, and even the birth of a son could not induce Lord Darnley to behave. He was therefore struck by an explosion the following year and subsequently died of strangulation.

She was then kidnapped by one of the men suspected of strangling Lord Darnley, a certain Earl of Bothwell, whom she therefore made a Duke and married.

This angered the Protestants, who rose up against her and, on this very day in 1567, made her abdicate in favor of her son, who was immediately crowned as James VI.

She then escaped, raised an army, and was promptly defeated. She became a guest (or, in English, "prisoner") of Queen Elizabeth, until she was caught writing letters asking friends to support (or, in Scottish, "kill") the English Queen.

She was therefore beheaded, and remains dead to this day.

308 years ago today, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded a trading post at Fort Pontchartrain, which eventually became Detroit.

Mr Cadillac himself thereby came to be known as "the Rolls Royce of settlers."

July 24, 1915 -
Almost 850 Western Electric employees and their family members perish when the chartered steamer Eastland rolls over in Chicago harbor. History blames the top-heaviness of the ship, exacerbated (ironically) by the recent addition of lifeboats.

So much for company picnics.

And so it goes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yo quiero Taco Bell no mas.

Gidget, the Chihuahua best known for her Taco Bell [YUM] ad campaign, died from a stroke the other night at age 15.

While 15 is an advanced age for a dog, I have to wonder how all those chalupas helped?

Today in History:
July 23, 1885 -
One of the most famous residents of West 122th Street and Riverside Drive made a most fateful decision on this date.

He died.

In 1881, Ulysses S.Grant, American general, the eighteenth President of the United States and famous horseback riding drunk, purchased a house in New York City and placed almost all of his financial assets into an investment banking partnership with Ferdinand Ward, as suggested by Grant's son Buck (Ulysses, Jr.), who was having success on Wall Street. Very wrong move. Ward swindled Grant (and other investors who had been encouraged by Grant) in 1884, bankrupted the company, Grant & Ward, and fled.

Grant learned at the same time that he was suffering from throat cancer. Grant and his family were left destitute; at the time retired U.S. Presidents were not given pensions, and Grant had forfeited his military pension when he assumed the office of President. Grant first wrote several articles on his Civil War campaigns for The Century Magazine, which were warmly received. Mark Twain offered Grant a generous contract for the publication of his memoirs, including 75% of the book's sales as royalties.

Terminally ill, Grant finished the book just a few days before his death. The memoirs sold over 300,000 copies, earning the Grant family over $450,000. Twain promoted the book as "the most remarkable work of its kind since the Commentaries of Julius Caesar," and Grant's memoirs are also regarded by such writers as Matthew Arnold and Gertrude Stein as among the finest ever written .

Ulysses S. Grant died at 8:06 a.m. on Thursday, July 23, 1885,at the age of 63 in Mount McGregor, Saratoga County, New York. His last word was a request, "Water" (I'd like to believe it was actually, "Sir, cut my bourbon with water."

Grant's funeral was one of the greatest outpourings of public grief in history. A large funeral parade marched through New York City from City Hall to Riverside Park. It had 60,000 marchers, stretched seven miles, and took up to five hours to pass. Well over one million spectators witnessed the parade.

The funeral was attended by numerous dignitaries, including President Grover Cleveland, his cabinet, the justices of the Supreme Court, the two living ex-presidents (Hayes and Arthur), virtually the entire Congress, and almost every living figure who had played a prominent role during the Civil War.

Civil War veterans from both North and South took part, reflecting the high esteem in which he was held throughout a reunified country. General Winfield S. Hancock led the procession, and Grant's pallbearers included former comrades -- General William T. Sherman, General Philip H. Sheridan, and Admiral David D. Porter - as well as former Confederates - Generals Joseph E. Johnston and Simon B. Buckner.

Completed in 1897, Grant's Tomb is the second largest mausoleum in North America (the Garfield Memorial is the first).

July 23, 1904 -
At the turn of the last century, ice-cream men were a breed apart. It was hard work making ice-cream and the rewards were few. "You don't choose ice cream," they said, "ice cream chooses you."

Well, Charles E. Menches was an ice-cream man. They say it ran in his veins. (They say forget the autopsy: they say you don't need actual ice-cream in your blood to have it in your veins.)

Charles E. Menches had always known he'd be an ice-cream man. Everyone had known. While other boys in St. Louis played stickball or jacks, little Chuckie experimented with different creams and salts. While other boys dreamed of being doctors or lawyers, little Chuckie dreamed of exotic flavor combinations like cinnamon-onion swirl and artichoke-pistachio.

Charles E. Menches's passion for ice cream was infectious. He made his brother Frank an ice-cream man. They began traveling to fairs and special events across the Midwest to sell ice cream from a tent.

They did what all ice-cream men did: they scooped their ice cream into bowls and sold it to their customers. People loved ice cream back then, just as they love it today. And why not? It was ice cream.

One sweltering day at the St. Louis World's Fair--July 23, 1904, to be precise--Charles E. Menches and his brother Frank sold so much ice cream that they ran out of dishes.

An ordinary ice-cream man might have folded up his tent and taken the rest of the day off. But not Charles E. Menches. Charles E. Menches knew the code of the ice-cream man. More than that, he lived it.

The people of St. Louis would not be denied their ice cream. Not if Charles E. Menches had anything to say about it.

The tent beside Charles and Frank's ice cream tent belonged to Ernest A. Hamwi, a Syrian pastry-maker who sold sweet wafer pastries called Zalabia. (Ernest A. Hamwi was what Syrians would call a Zalabia man, but they wouldn't say he had Zalabia in his veins. Syrians would never talk such tripe.)

In a moment of brilliant epiphany, Charles E. Menches bought all of Ernest A. Hamwi's Zalabia and rolled them into cones. He then began selling his ice cream in sweet wafer cones instead of dishes.

The ice cream cone was born.

(Sure, Italo Marchiony had received U.S. patent #746971 for the ice-cream cone seven months earlier in New York., but Italo Marchiony had never been an ice-cream man.)

July 23 1923 -
While driving his 1919 Dodge, retired revolutionary Pancho Villa is ambushed and assassinated. But even with 16 gunshot wounds he still manages to kill one of his attackers.

Curiously, Villa's head is stolen from his grave three years later and never recovered. Despite persistent rumors, Yale's secret society Skull and Bones denies they possess the artifact. But we know better.

July 23, 1966 -

The "longest suicide in Hollywood" finally ended on this date, with the death of Montgomery Cliff of a heart attack brought on by his severe drug and alcohol addictions. In 1956, while filming Raintree County , he smashed his car into a tree after leaving a party. Elizabeth Taylor kept him from choking to death by removing two teeth lodged in his throat. She had been co-starring in the movie and happened to be at the party. Besides the two missing teeth, the accident left Monty with a broken jaw and nose, crushed sinus cavity, and severe facial lacerations which required plastic surgery. He needed reconstructive surgery on his face and returned after several weeks to finish the film.

He is now the most famous 'resident' of Quaker Cemetery in Prospect Park Brooklyn.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Another summer day

Today in History
July 22 1587
Roanoke, the colony founded by Sir Walter Raleigh, is found to be missing.

If found, please contain Queen Elizabeth II.

July 22 1934
John Dillinger is shot dead outside Chicago's Biograph Theatre,on this date in history. And one of the most bizarre urban legends is born. According to the rumor, J Egdar Hoover, Pug ugly head of the FBI and notorious transvestite, rushes to Chicago to see the corpse himself. Dillinger, Public Enemy No. 1, was a ladies man and was reported to be very specially endowed.

Hoover, after viewing the nude lifeless body of Dillinger in the morgue, orders Dillinger's member to be removed and preserved as a 'specimen' for his private files.

Rumors of Hoover's trophy dogged him for the rest of his life. He even went to the extraordinary step of stating sometime in the late '60's that he "did not now nor even have Dillinger's privates in a jar". His comments were not taken seriously as he was wearing a size 28 Dior outfit with matching handbag at the time.

The Smithsonian museum is still flooded with requests annually to view this 'special exhibition'.

July 22, 1947 -
Albert Lawrence Einstein (Albert Brooks), actor, writer & director was born on this day.

I want to touch an Indian.

July 22, 1964 -
Another great underrated (and sexually twisted) Hitchcock film, Marnie premiered on this date.

You're aching my leg, Marnie.

At the time of his death in 1982, King Sobhuza II was the longest-reigning monarch in the world. His death established him as the most recently-deceased monarch in the world. Today he is simply dead.

Sobhuza began his career as Paramount Chief of the Swazi in 1921, but was not recognized as king by Great Britain, which ran the nation as a protectorate, until 1967. (The forgetful Brits have a long history of failing to recognize kings, perhaps owing to the difficulty of seeing clearly in the London fog.)

The Brits wrote a Constitution before they left, but Sobhuza did not discover it until 1973, at which point he discarded it on the grounds of its being British. Five years later he implemented a better Constitution that, surprisingly enough, left all political power in his own hands.

He died in 1982. The Constitution declared that he should be succeeded by one of his children, which seemed simple at first but was complicated by the revelation of his having had over 600 children. (Apparently there had been room in his hands for more than political power.) It took four years to find the right son, and King Mswati III has reigned ever since.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I can't believe this is real.

This ad purports to be a banned ad from German TV:

What were they thinking?

Today in History:
July 21 365 -
Earthquake destroys the ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria, causing the sea to recede and then re-enter the city with tremendous force. Many of those not killed by collapsing buildings were drowned. Fifty thousand die.

It was not a good day in Ole Alexandria

July 21 1899
Ernest Hemingway was born on this date. He was young at the time of his birth. It was fine to be young.

He drove an ambulance in the first world war. It wasn't called the first world war then. It was called the war. It was one of those times when people shot at each other. When people were shooting at each other they didn't have time to worry about what to call it. It was only afterwards that they needed to call it something. "What should we call that time when we were shooting at each other?" "Let's call it the Great War." "Good."

It was a good ambulance. It was long and white. It had flashing lights and a siren that went "wee-ooo, wee-ooo." He liked that.

After the war he lived in Paris. A lot of Americans lived in Paris after the war, but only a few of them had ever driven an ambulance. In the 30s he went to Spain. He was a journalist. They were having a war.

They called it the Spanish Civil War. It was started by an Evil Bastard named General Franco on July 18, 1936. It was a test to see whether or not they should have World War II. They had fascists and socialists and anarchists. They even had clowns. People shot at each

(General Franco finally gave up power on July 19, 1974, because he was sick. Maybe he had always been sick. It is sometimes hard to understand sickness. Maybe we are not meant to understand it.)

Later Hemingway lived in Cuba. He liked to fish. He thought all men should fish. He wrote stories about fishing. Finally he blew his brains out at his home in Idaho. It was July 2, 1961.

He had written a lot of books but now he was dead.

July 21 1919 -
Two passengers, a mechanic and 10 bank employees are killed in Chicago when a Goodyear blimp, the Winged Foot Express, catches fire and crashes through the roof of the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank. This was the first and worst accident (prior to the Hindenburg crash) involving a dirigible.

July 21 1925 -
John Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution in a Tennessee public school. The jury fines him $100.

The fine and the case were later overturned on a technical appeal.

July 21 1972 -
In Milwaukee, George Carlin is arrested for obscenity and disorderly conduct for performing his "Seven Dirty Words" routine on a Summerfest stage in Milwaukee.

He was released after posting $150 bail.

July 21 1981 -
Mark David Chapman is sentenced to 20 years in prison for the shooting of John Lennon. His only response is to read a passage from "Catcher in the Rye".

Chapman currently works as a janitor in Attica State Prison.

And so it goes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Eagle has landed!

It's National Lollipop Day
I couldn’t find out who started the holiday or when, or why, but there are many mentions of it online so I guess it’s true.

Yeah, that's how the great lie works. (I believe it could be a huge conspiracy perpetrated by a large Big Sugar Syndication.)

Today in History
July 20, 1402 -
At the battle of Angora, Tamerlane led his huge army of Taters against the Ottomans (or Ottomen). Tamerlane

captured the Sultan (Head Ottoman), and this is why we call some sweaters Angoras to this day.

(Angora, however, is now called Ankara.)

July 20, 1944 -
In an attempt on Hitler's life, a timebomb explodes in the situation room of the Wolf's Lair, killing four Nazi

officers but only wounding the Fuhrer. After his close call, Hitler becomes even more paranoid. A massive purge

is to follow, resulting in the execution of thousands of officers.

Tom Cruise starred in a fair depiction of the events this past year. All in all, not the greatest way to celebrate a


July 20, 1951 -
In Jerusalem at the al-Aqsa Mosque, King Abdullah of Jordan is shot three times in the head and chest by Mustapha Shukri Usho, a Palestinian opposed to peace with Israel.

Abdullah dies on the spot.

July 20, 1969 -
On live television, the world watches as Neil Armstrong steps foot on the Moon. It was a brave thing to do.

That is, unless it was faked.

July 20, 1973 -
In Hong Kong, martial artist Bruce Lee drops into a coma and dies of cerebral edema. He had been experiencing

brain problems beginning in May, which included sporadic loss of consciousness.

Lee's death transpires shortly before the release of Enter the Dragon, his most successful film.

July 20, 1994 -
O.J. Simpson offers a $500,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the Real Killers.

To this day progress remains elusive, although Simpson's begun his search throughout the prison yards of Lovelock, Nevada.

And so it goes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Don

July 19, 1947 -
Don Henley , singer, songwriter and drummer, best known as a founding member of the Eagles, was born on this date.

Apparently, for the right price, he may never check out of the Eagles.

(Oops, an eagle-eyed reader noticed that I had Don's birthday wrong - sorry about that. I don't think Don minded the early birthday shout out.)

Happy Flitch Day
Every year on this day, since about 1104, any married couple who could prove they had been faithful and loving to one another for one year was awarded half a pig, known as a flitch of bacon. However, very few couples would actually "bring home the bacon!"

July 19, 1692 -
Five Salem witches are hanged for the crime of witchcraft, based primarily on the accusations of little girls who were bewitched.

Eventually, the village executes a total of 20 witches.

July 19, 1870 -
France attempted to declare war on Russia. Due to a typographical error, however, she inadvertently declared war on Prussia and caused the Franco-Prussian war. This eventually led to the creation of Germany, which led to World War I, World War II, and the volkswagen.

Moral: always proofread.

July 19, 1937 -
The Nazis open "Entartete Kunst," the Degenerate Art show, in Munich. The traveling exhibition offers up Expressionism for ridicule, carefully arranged by (offensive) subject.

The German youth are not admitted, lest they become tainted.

July 19, 1952 -
During a series of UFO sightings in Washington, D.C. occurring over July 13-29, unidentified objects are picked up on D.C.'s National Airport radar system. Sightings in the region are so extensive the Air Force is prompted to hold a press conference. Conveniently, these are all "radar mirages" resulting from "temperature inversions."

Keep watching the skies.

July 19, 1957 -
Michael Landon stars in his first film, I Was a Teenage Werewolf.

He must have been so proud.

July 19 1966 -
Frank Sinatra marries Mia Farrow in Las Vegas.

Ava Gardner's famous comment on the union: "Hah! I always knew Frank would end up in bed with a little boy!"

And so it goes.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

An American Icon has passed.

Walter Cronkite died last night after a long battle with cerebral vascular disease.

He was often cited in viewer opinion polls as "the most trusted man in America" because of his professional experience and kindly demeanor.

It's Screamin' Jay Hawkins Birthday. Turn this on up really loud and dance around the room in your underwear

Don't ask, just do it.

Today in History
July 18, 64 -
Most of imperial Rome was burned to the ground because Emperor Nero had been playing the fiddle. This resulted in the persecution of Christians, many of whom were believed to have encouraged him.

You know how those early Christians love their city burning, fiddle playing, crazed Emperors.

July 18 1870 -
At the end of Vatican I, Catholic popes are proclaimed infallible by chapter four of the papal bull Pastor Aeternus. His declarations on matters of faith are protected from error by the Holy Spirit. In a nutshell: whatever he says about the scripture, goes. This is an interesting doctrine, considering how often St. Peter is himself contradicted by the Gospels.

Jul 18 1925 -
July 18 marks the 84nd anniversary of the 1925 publication of Adolf Hitler's best-selling political memoir, Mein Kampf (or, in English, "I'm Crazy and I'm Gonna Kill You"). The book remains extremely popular with genocidal sociopaths and is therefore experiencing a renaissance of sales.

The book's original title was Four-and-a-Half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice.

Taking him at his word and assuming the little lance-corporal really had struggled against lies, stupidity, and cowardice for 54 months, one has to ask, in light of his later activities, if maybe lies, stupidity, and cowardice aren't so bad.

July 18 1939 -
Hunter S. Thompson's birthday is today. He was once considered, armed, and dangerous. Now he is no more than soot on the window sills of his and his neighbors homes. Dr. Thompson founded the Gonzo school of journalism in the 1970s; graduates from that school can today be seen every night on cable news.

Dr. Thompson inspired the character "Uncle Duke" in the comic strip Doonesbury, by former Canadian Prime Minister Gary Trudeau.

("Uncle Duke" first appeared in Doonesbury on July 8, 1974.) Several movies have been made about Dr. Thompson's life and work and psychotic episodes. He is perhaps the only American journalist to have been played on-screen by both Bill Murray

and Johnny Depp.

July 18 1966 -
In Los Angeles, the beaten corpse of Bobby Fuller is found sprawled across the front seat of his mother's Oldsmobile. Fuller, whose band The Bobby Fuller Four released the hit "I Fought The Law," is found to have died from "forced inhalation of gasoline."

Technically, Fuller died from huffing... although circumstances point to murder.

July 18 1969 -
Driving home from a party on Chappaquiddick Island, Senator Ted Kennedy's car goes over the side of Dike Bridge and flips over into a pond. Kennedy manages to free himself from the automobile, but his passenger, one Mary Jo Kopechne, drowns.

For some reason, Kennedy tells no one about the accident for at least an hour, and waits until the following morning to notify local police.

July 18 1988 -
Rock and Roll performer / heroin addict Nico wipes out on her bicycle on Ibiza and dies from a brain hemorrage - that combined with a lack of medical treatment.

And so it goes.