Saturday, August 31, 2013

Improving your vocabulary, one word at a time


Verb; resembling a buzzard.  Aunt Beulah's buteonine profile was unfortunately enhanced when we happened upon her in the kitchen, gnawing on the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey.

August 31, 1929 -
RKO released the musical film-short St. Louis Blues, starring singer Bessie Smith, on this date.

At W.C. Handy's suggestion, Bessie Smith was picked to be the star of the film. Bessie had scored a huge hit in 1925 with her recording of "St. Louis Blues", which had featured Louis Armstrong on cornet. It was Bessie Smith's only film appearence.

August 31, 1945 -
Let's all wish the intensely  litigious and curmudgeonly, George Ivan Morrison, singer and songwriter, happy birthday.

Van the Man, is still the greatest living blue-eyed soul singer.

August 31, 1946 -
Howard Hawks' version of Raymond Chandlers classic Marlowe yarn (William Faulkner was one of the screen writers), The Big Sleep, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, was put into general release on this date.

Eager to repeat the success of To Have and Have Not, Warner Bros. studio chief Jack L. Warner gave Howard Hawks $50,000 to purchase the rights for The Big Sleep.  Hawks bought the rights for $5,000 and pocketed the rest.

August 31, 1948 -
Los Angeles police arrested actor Robert Mitchum, the coolest cat in Hollywood, for marijuana possession on this date. He later received a 60-day sentence.

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands celebrated her Golden Jubilee on this date as well. (You figure out the connection.)

August 31, 1957 -
I don't know how yas done it but I know yas done it!

This second Looney Tunes with Rocky and Mugsy, Bugsy and Mugsy, was released on this date.

August 31, 1957 -
Singles remind me of kisses.  Albums remind me of plans.

Glenn Tilbrook, singer, guitarist and with his writing partner Chris Difford, formed the pop group, Squeeze, was born on this date.

August 31, 1987 -
Epic/CBS Records released the Michael Jackson album, BAD on this date.

An 18 minute video of the title song, written by novelist and screenwriter Richard Price and directed by Martin Scorsese, debuted on CBS-TV on this same day, as well.

Today in History -
Gaius Caesar Caligula was born on August 31 in the year 12 AD. Caligula succeeded Tiberius in the year 37, and his reign was most notable for its policy of Sex with the Emperor.

(Please note - this guy not only slept with the unwilling wives of senators and his sisters, he married his horse and tried to have him made a god.) This turned out to have been a weak Political Philosophy, because the Romans all had classical educations and saw right through him.

So they killed him.

August 31, 1422 -
Henry V of England, one of the great warrior kings of the Middle Ages, died suddenly of dysentery on this date. He was 34 at the time.

At the time of his death, Henry had not only consolidated power as the King of England but had also effectively accomplished what generations of his ancestors had failed to achieve through decades of war: unification of the crowns of England and France in a single person.

In 2002 he was ranked 72nd in the 100 Greatest Britons poll. And yet, lack of proper sanitary conditions carried him away. Let this be a lesson to us all - wash your hands after visiting the rest room.

August 31, 1879 -
Alma Maria Schindler, noted in her native Vienna for her beauty and intelligence, was born on this date.

In her youth she was an aspiring composer. But that's not why I bring her up. She was the wife, successively, of the composer Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, and novelist Franz Werfel, and lover to the painter Oskar Kokoschka. Rather than try to encapsulate the story of this very busy woman,

Listen to Tom Lehrer's song Alma, which nicely gives you the gist of her life.

August 31, 1919 -
Workers of the world unite!

In Chicago, journalist John Reed established the American Communist Labor Party, on this date,

providing entertainment for Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover for decades.

August 31, 1976 -
George Harrison was found guilty of unintentionally plagiarizing My Sweet Lord.

Those damn Beatles could never come up with an original tune.

August 31, 1977 -
Ian Smith, espousing racial segregation, won the Rhodesian general election with 80% of overwhelmingly white electorate's vote.


August 31, 1997 -
On August 28, 1997, My wife and I were coming out of the revolving doors at the Ritz Hotel in Paris and a very famous couple were coming in. A few days later on this date, a charming, slightly addled, beautiful divorcee with two children decides to take a car ride with her very rich Middle Eastern boyfriend and his very drunk driver. She makes the fatal mistake of not buckling her seat belt and paid a very heavy toll.

So ended the glamorous and controversial life of Diana Spencer Mountbatten-Windsor.

Kids, if you don't want to end up dying in the backseat of a black 1994 Mercedes-Benz W140 in a road tunnel in Paris - BUCKLE UP.

And so it goes .

Friday, August 30, 2013

It's coming

William Shatner next album, Ponder the Mystery will be release October 8, 2013

Quite possibly the most creative thing I have ever done. – William Shatner.  Reason enough to live.

August 30, 1959 -
Bobby Darin's jazzy interpretation of Mack The Knife began its 26-week stay on the pop-singles charts.

Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht wrote this song in 1928 for the German play The Threepenny Opera. "Mack" is Macheath, the title character, portrayed as a criminal. The light melody can make this feel like an upbeat song, but it contrasts sharply with the lyrics, which are about a murderer.

August 30, 1967 -
John Boorman's crime drama thriller, Point Blank, premiered on this date.

During a rehearsal taking place in the home of Lee Marvin, he hit John Vernon so hard that it made Vernon cry.

August 30, 1968 -
Apple Records released its first single, Hey Jude by The Beatles on this date.

This song hit #1 in at least 12 countries and by the end of 1968 had sold more than 5 million copies. It eventually sold over 10 million copies in the United States, becoming the fourth-biggest selling Beatles single there. Factoring in the price of records in 1968 vs. 1964, when the top-seller "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was released, "Hey Jude" might be the biggest earner.

Today in History:
I decided to make an executive decision and stop reporting on the second time in 30 BC, that Egypt's Queen Cleopatra VI clutched a snake to her breast and died.

Folks, as I mentioned in the past, the Romans, excellent at empire building and aqueduct making (except for the whole lining the aqueduct with lead), not so great at accurate note taking.

August 30, 1780 -
General "Eggs" Benedict Arnold secretly promised to surrender the West Point fort to the British army during the American Revolution. The measure of Arnold's treachery was made worse by the fact that he was considered by many to be the best general and most accomplished leader in the Continental Army.

In fact, without Arnold's earlier contributions to the American cause, the American Revolution might well have been lost; notwithstanding, his name, like those of several other prominent traitors throughout history, has become a byword for treason and a brunch staple.

August 30, 1859 -
At the University of Göttingen, PhD candidate Albert Niemann isolates the alkaloid C17H21NO4 from leaves of the plant Erythroxylum coca.

Niemann names his white, powdery discovery cocaine and observes firsthand its peculiarly strong anesthetic effect: "it benumbs the nerves of the tongue, depriving it of feeling and taste."

Oh, that's what cocaine does. Now I know.

August 30, 1918 -
Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin should have been having a great day on this date. Six weeks earlier, Lenin had the previous tenant of Kremlin, Tsar Nicholas II, permanently taken off the lease. After speaking at a factory in Moscow, Lenin was shot twice by Fanya Kaplan, a member of the Social Revolutionary party. Lenin narrowly survived an assassination attempt, but was severely wounded.

As Lenin was a 'godless' communist, he did not turn the other cheek. The assassination attempt set off a wave of reprisals by the Bolsheviks against the Social Revolutionaries and other political opponents. Thousands were executed as Russia fell deeper into civil war.

August 30, 1930 -
Warren Edward Buffett often called the "Sage of Omaha", "Oracle of Omaha", or "Omaha Steak", American investor, businessperson and philanthropist is born on this date. Buffett has amassed an enormous fortune from astute investments managed through the holding company Berkshire Hathaway, of which he is the largest shareholder and CEO.

With an estimated current net worth of around $53.5 billion, he was ranked by Forbes as the fourth-richest person in the world as of March 2013, falling behind behind Spanish businessman Amancio Ortega, (owner of the Zara clothing chain.)

I, on the other hand, did not make a blip on the list.

August 30, 1967 -
Thurgood Marshall, the lawyer who was best known for arguing the Brown v. Board of Education case before the Supreme Court, became the first black US Supreme Court Justice

The US Senate voted 69 to 11 to appoint Marshall. He served on the Court from 1967 to 1991.

August 30, 1993 -
The Late Show with David Letterman premiered on this date, on CBS-TV.

Bill Murray was his first guest and Billy Joel was the first musical guest.

And so it goes.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Watch this before it disappears

Pssst, here's a wonderful documentary featuring T%m W3@t* from the late 70's - A Day in Vienna (Youtube will probably pull it down any minute.)

It's been floating around the interweb for the past few days and it keeps getting taken down.

G.E. just hosted a six second science fair to see how much science you can cram into six seconds ( here are some of the results)

You can probably get some of your kids (or even adults) at home to try some of these experiments out.

August 29, 1915 -
Ingrid Bergman, the Swedish three-time Academy Award, two-time Emmy Award, and Tony Award - winner was born (and died in 1982) on this date.

Her luck was as phenomenal as her talent. In New York City, a Swedish couple praised a film of hers to their son, an elevator operator in the apartment building where one of film producer David O. Selznick's young talent scouts lived. Six months later, Ingrid was on her way to Hollywood. "I owe my whole career to that elevator boy", she would say laughingly.

August 29, 1920 -
Charles Christopher "Bird" Parker, jazz saxophonist and composer was born on this date.

Along with trumpet legend Dizzy Gillespie, he created the sporadic rhythms known as "be bop" in the 1950s.

August 29, 1953 -
Warner Brothers introduced Speedy Gonzalez in the cartoon Cat-Tails for Two on this date.

While this is the first cartoon featuring the character Speedy Gonzales, his depiction here is vastly different from the character he would later become. It wasn't until his second appearance, Speedy Gonzales (two years later,) that he was re-designed as the character we know him as today.

August 29, 1964 -
Roy Orbison’s single, (Oh,) Pretty Woman, was released on this date.

In 1964 the song sold more records in its first ten days in release than any other 45rpm single in history.

August 29, 1964 -
Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins opened on this date. This is first movie I ever saw (but not on this date.)

After many attempts, P.L. Travers finally relented and sold the film rights to Walt Disney in 1961, although she retained script approval rights. One of the reasons prompting her to do so was a decline in her book sales.

August 29, 1967 -
ABC's television ratings soared through the roof as David Janssen and Barry Morse starred in the final episode of The Fugitive on this date.

It is commonly given that this show was based on the Samuel Sheppard murder case of 1954. While the show does feature some similarities to the case, Roy Huggins consistently denied that he based Richard Kimble on Sheppard or the fictional murder on the real one.

Today in History:
August 29, 29/30AD ( The date is a best guess, and the subject of much debate. Once again, Romans were too busy with their orgies and draining lead-lined wine goblets to accurately document events of the day.)
John the Baptist (cousin of the itinerant carpenter of Nazareth) received a severe haircut from King Herod, because his teenage step-daughter, Salome (the Miley Cyrus of her day,) couldn't keep her shorts on while dancing.

Children are always such a handful.

August 29, 1533 -
Atahualpa, the last Incan Emperor, discovered on this date, that the European exploration of the new world was not going to go well for the indigenous people. Francisco Pizarro, one in a long line of Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Andes, with a bible in one hand and a sword in the other.  Atahualpa was quickly captured by the Spanish and held for ransom.  After paying an immense ransom for his release (a room, 22 ft by 17 ft by 8 ft high, once filled with gold and twice with silver within two months), Pizarro decided it was better to kill his hostage and keep the random.

Atahualpa was condemned to be burnt at the stake - which was anathematic since the Inca believed that the soul would not be able to go on to the afterlife if the body were burned.  Atahualpa offered and paid an additional random to be ritualistically garroted after a proper Christian baptism, which occurred on this date in 1533.

And in keeping with the true spirit of diplomacy, Pizarro had Atahualpa corpse burned afterwards.

More on Political Philosophy ...
Jean Baptiste Colbert was born on August 29, 1619.

Colbert was the finance minister to King Louis XIV of France. His own Political Philosophy consisted of a big pile of money. This was a very effective politics, and therefore deemed insufficiently philosophical, which is why you tend to hear more about Locke and Hegel.

Another important political philosopher was born this week: John Locke was born on August 29, 1632. Mr. Locke was a political philosopher, and many of his ideas found their way into the American Constitution.

He is best known for his essay concerning human understanding, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which remains famous to this day as the shortest essay ever written.

August 29, 1896 -
Here is one of those bright dividing lines: if you know what Chop Suey is - you're old. If you've tasted Chop Suey - you're really old.

The Chinese-American dish Chop Suey was invented in New York City by the chef to visiting Chinese Ambassador Li Hung-chang on this date.

August 29, 1949 -
The Soviet Union joined the nuclear club on this date when they detonated a nuclear weapon, code-named First Lightning (Pervaya Molniya) at a test site in Kazakhstan. American experts weare shocked and dismayed because they had thought the Soviets were still years away from having a workable bomb.

The resultant fear helped trigger an arms race that would see the Americans and Soviets stockpile approximately 32,000 and 45,000 nuclear devices.

August 29, 1958 -
Michael Joseph Jackson, the self-crowned King of Pop was born on this date.

He has achieved the dubious distinction of being in the number one position on Forbes magazine's list of "Top-Earning Dead Celebrities", two years in a row.  Two years ago, Jackson's posthumous earnings were $170 million dollars (Elizabeth Taylor beat him out of the top spot last year, earning over $185 million dollars with the sale of her jewelry, costume and art collections.)

August 29, 1966 -
The Beatles performed their last concert before paying fans at in San Francisco's Candlestick Park on this date.

The performance marked the end of a four-year period dominated by touring and concerts including nearly sixty U.S. appearances and over one thousand four hundred internationally.

August 29, 1991 -
After a vote in the Soviet Union's parliament on this date, the Supreme Soviet, dissolved the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The move brought an end to one of the world's largest communist governments.

August 29, 2005 -
Hurricane Katrina devastates much of the U.S. Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. The death toll eventually reached at least 1,600. An estimated 300 Louisiana residents died out of state; some 230 people perished in Mississippi. Property damage estimates were in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

The name Katrina was officially retired on April 6, 2006 by the World Meteorological Organization at the request of the U.S. government. The name will never again be used for another North Atlantic hurricane.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In war, truth is the first casualty

As the drum beats for war against Syria grow ever more loud, The New York Times may have been the first victim.

Readers who tried to click on the New York Times' website got nothing but error messages Tuesday afternoon in its second major disruption this month. A hacker group calling itself the "Syrian Electronic Army" claimed responsibility.

August 28, 1930 -
... but that is entirely ir-elephant to what I was talking about ...

The Marx Brothers second outing at Paramount, Animal Crackers, opened on this date.

This film contains one of the few scenes in which Zeppo was actually allowed to be funny, as he takes the liberty of interpreting Groucho's letter to his lawyer, Hon. Charles H. Hungadunga.

August 28, 1946 -
Universal's film-noir classic version of Ernest Hemingway's story, The Killers, premiered in NYC on this date.

Former Warner Bros. producer Mark Hellinger, who had started his own independent production unit at Universal-International, initially wanted either Wayne Morris or Sonny Tufts to star in this, his first picture. Tufts was ultimately considered to be too inexperienced, and Warner Bros. wouldn't loan Morris, so Hellinger cast the unknown Burt Lancaster in his first movie. It made Lancaster a star.

August 28, 1951 -
Paramount's second film version based on Theodore Dreiser's novel, An American Tragedy, A Place in the Sun, opened in NYC on this date.

Paramount was reluctant to make the film, as it had already put Theodore Dreiser's novel on the screen in 1931 under its original title, An American Tragedy. The studio's lack of commitment ultimately changed when director George Stevens sued them for preventing him from working and therefore breaching his contract.

Today in History:August 28, 476 A.D. -
Today is believed to be the date when the Western Roman Empire, which had lasted for almost 500 years, came to an end as Emperor Romulus Augustulus was deposed by a barbarian. (Well, his father, Orestes, the real power behind the throne, was executed on this date - he, Augustulus, relinquished the throne on September 4, 476 and disappeared into obscurity.)

Historians have been theorizing about the causes of the fall of Rome ever since. Edward Gibbon's book The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776) put forward the idea that the Christian Church was to blame. After Christianity became the official religion of the empire, the best and the brightest leaders became leaders of the church rather than leaders of the government or the military. Another theory is that the aqueducts, which carried the water supply, were lined with lead, and so the Romans slowly went crazy. Some geologists believe that the eruption of Mount Vesuvius released so much ash into the air that it ruined Roman agriculture and weakened the empire. One of the more recent theories is that the Roman army had been infiltrated by the barbarians themselves.

But whatever the cause, the fall of Rome actually wasn't the catastrophic event most people think it was. So-called barbarian rulers kept most of the basic laws in place, Latin remained the official language of government, everyone remained Christian and orgies continued but in private.

August 28, 1837 -
Pharmacists John Lea and William Perrins began commercially manufacturing Worcestershire Sauce on this date, based on an Indian recipe brought to them by Lord Marcus Sandys -- an ex-governor of Bengal.

If they told you the recipe (it contains anchovies), they'd have to kill you.

August 28, 1898 -
Pharmacist Caleb Davis Bradham created a beverage, he believed would aid in digestion and boost energy, calling it "Brad's Drink," on this date.

He later renamed it Pepsi-Cola, after "pepsin" and the kola nut used to flavor the drink.

And still made with no cocaine.

August 28, 1907 -
Two teenagers, Jim Casey and Claude Ryan decide to start the American Messenger Company in Seattle, on this date. The company's name was later changed to the United Parcel Service.

Hopefully you have those tracking numbers available, some of those packages will arrive soon.

August 28, 1922 -
The first radio commercial aired on WEAF in New York City (WEAF stood for Water, Earth, Air and Fire.)

It was a 10-minute advertisement for the Queensboro Realty Co., which had paid $100.  Programming must have really stunk if people listened to a 10 minute commercial.

August 28, 1938 -
Charlie McCarthy (Edgar Bergen’s wooden partner ) received the first degree given to a ventriloquist’s dummy on this date.

The honorary degree, “Master of Innuendo and Snappy Comeback,” was presented on radio by Ralph Dennis, the dean of the School of Speech at Northwestern University.

I wrote my dissertation on. "Oh, that's too much vermouth." And I earned my degree without someone's hand up my ass.

August 28, 1963 -
During a 200,000-person civil rights rally in at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I have a dream speech" 50 years ago today.

The speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.

August 28, 1982 -
Two crazy kids got married on this date.

Some of the people who were at that wedding are still alive. More and more of them are unfortunately not. Some of them have gotten married (even to each other.) Others are not. Some of them had children. Some do not.

Thirty one years later, those two crazy kids are still alive, married and have children.

Happy Anniversary Mary.

August 28, 1996 -
Unfortunately for others, the fairy tale has a very unhappy ending,

Britons Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales, were divorced on this date.

One year later, almost to the day, Diana, would have a very nasty accident in an Paris underpass.

And so it goes

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I'll just sit in the dark

It's the feast day of St. Monica of Hippo.

Monica, who was originally from Wombat and moved to the better neighborhood of Hippo, was known as a virtuous woman. Much to her disappointment, she was also the mother of St. Augustine. She continually encouraged (nagged) her son (the lazy bum) about his debauched ways until she successfully convinced him to convert.  She is the patron saint of all Jewish mothers and those with disappointing children.

August 27, 1882 -
Schmuel Gelbfisz, (Samuel Goldwyn), glove maker, sales man and pioneer filmmaker was born in Warsaw, Poland on this date.

His sayings, sometimes known as "Goldwynisms," were famous for their unintentional wit, which was partially as a result of his somewhat limited understanding of the English language that surfaced when he tried to comment on certain situations. There are many examples of this, such as "Include me out" or "a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.".

August 27, 1916 -
Martha Raye, singer, actor, denture wearer was born in Butte, Montana, on this date.

Martha left the bulk of her estate to Mark Harris, but left some money to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Harris spent a portion of his money designing a line of furs.

August 27, 1943 -
(An almost forgotten film) Warner Bros. released the Lillian Hellman anti-fascist drama, Watch On The Rhine, starring Bette Davis, Paul Lukas, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Beulah Bondi, on this date.

Watch on the Rhine was a play produced on Broadway eight months before the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese. In it, Lillian Hellman was heralding America's entrance in World War II. The screenplay is credited to Ms. Hellman and Dashiell Hammett, her long time companion.

August 27, 1947 -
20th Century Fox's classic film-noir, crime-drama, Kiss of Death, premiered on this date.

When New York mobster "Crazy" Joe Gallo was starting out as a small time hoodlum, he saw this movie and instantly idolized Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark). Afterwards, Gallo began wearing his suits with black shirts and white ties in emulation of Udo. He also began acting in a more crazed manner, thus giving rise to his "Carzy Joe" persona which lasted until the gangster's death in 1972 when he was shot to death in a restaurant.

August 27, 1961 -
Francis the Talking Mule was mystery guest on 'What's My Line' on this date.

This was a gentle reminder that we are not living through the nadir of television.

Today in History:
August 27, 413 BC -
A lunar eclipse interrupted the evening sodomy among the sailors of the Athens fleet on this evening, affecting the outcome of a battle in the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians were ready to move their forces from Syracuse when the Moon was eclipsed. The soldiers and sailors were startled by this celestial omen and clung tightly to their ship mates.

The fleet’s commander, Nicias, gutted a sheep and postpones the fleet’s departure for 27 days. The delay gave an advantage to their enemies, the Syracusans, who went on to defeat the entire Athenian fleet and army, killing Nicias in the process.

August 27, 410 -
In case you were keeping score, the Sack of Rome still continued unabated. The orgies were winding down as everything that moved had been used. The Visigoths were forced to engage in unnatural acts with statuary.

For those of you with a more genteel nature, I'll won't tell you how the statuary was used.

Political Philosophy has caused more human death and suffering than any other disease. No inoculations exist. Outbreaks are sudden and almost always fatal. Political Philosophy strikes young and old alike, healthy and sickly, nimble and clumsy, lefty and righty. By the time its symptoms are visible, you have very little time to protect yourself. Popular referendums will only exacerbate the problem.

Emigrate at once.

Case studies:

On August 27, 1793, the Committee of Public Safety in Paris, France, accepted its newest member, Maximilien Robespierre.

Robespierre soon rose to prominence on the basis of his Political Philosophy, the Guillotine, which was quicker than Inalienable Rights and more readily understood than Separation of Powers.

On August 27, 1770, Georg William Hegel was born on this date. Georg's family was so poor that they couldn't afford the second 'e' in his first name. Hegel was also a kind of political philosopher.

He believed in theses and antitheses and that sooner or later everyone ended up in Synthetics. Unfortunately there was no way to test his theory, as this was well before the invention of polyester.

August 27, 1952 -
Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman) American actor, writer, comedian and public onanist was born on this date.

Reubens credits pioneer TV children's show host Pinky Lee as a partial inspiration for his "Pee-Wee Herman" character. Like Reubens, Lee also wore a tight checked suit and hat as part of his characterization.

August 27, 1967 -
Brian Epstein, the man who discovered the Beatles and guided them to mega-stardom, died at his London residence, from an overdose of sleeping pills, on this date.

Many critics believe this traumatic event ultimately lead to the Beatles breakup.

And so it goes.

Before you go -
Most people have learned to watch their weight and properly apply sunscreen, but how many Americans really know how to protect themselves against assassination? Not many. And yet, each year, millions of people are killed by assassins.

It’s tragic because these are needless deaths, almost all of which could have been prevented. I have found on the internet, a few simple precautions can help ensure that no assassin’s bullet will ever have your name on it:

a) First, get plenty of exercise, eat plenty of vegetables, and avoid being born into royalty.
b) Don’t be president, prime minister, or other Top Person.
c) Don’t create a military junta or mastermind a coup.
d) Don’t say or write anything that might be considered disparaging by anyone with their own military junta.
e) Do not found a religion.
f) Do not oppose a religion.
g) If your parents are gods, dismember them.
h) If your children are gods, devour them.
i) Excel at nothing.
j) Stay indoors.
k) Always call shotgun when driving with suicide car-bombers.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The holiday is actually based on a real event.

The first time toilet paper was ever sold on a roll was on August 26, 1871. August 26 was later officially dubbed National Toilet Paper Day.

The Chinese took a break from inventing everything else and found time to create TP on this date in 580 AD. They were far too serious to be messing around with any old orgies not to note the correct date.

I have no problem with a holiday celebrating pets. National Dog Day reminds potential dog owners to adopt their dogs from shelters, rather than buying from pet stores.

But why isn't it celebrated during the dog days of summer?

Today is the Feast of The Transverberation of St. Teresa of Avila (again, find an old lady saying her rosary in church to explain it to you.)

If you find yourself in Rome, run, do not walk, to see the Santa Maria della Vittoria Church. It houses one of the most amazing statues - The Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Bernini.

The statues depict a moment described by Saint Teresa of Avila in her autobiography, where she had the vivid vision of an angel piercing her heart with a golden shaft, over and over again, causing her both immense joy and pain. The flowing robes and contorted posture abandon classical restraint and repose to depict a more passionate, almost voluptuous trance.

Such is my obsession with religion.

August 26, 1953 -
Considered to be one of the great science fiction films of the 1950s, George Pal's The War of the Worlds was released on this date.

Cecil B. DeMille was due to direct the film when the rights were originally purchased in 1925 and Alfred Hitchcock was to direct a proposed version in the 1930s. Cecil B. DeMille's personal choice to produce the film after Alfred Hitchcock declined to direct the film was George Pal, who was renowned for his Puppetoon animation technique and two earlier live-action sci-fi films: Destination Moon and When Worlds Collide.

Today in History:
August 21, 1498 -
A statue was commissioned for the tomb in St. Peters of the French cardinal Jean de Billheres (who was a representative in Rome), on this date.

Michelangelo (23 at the time) won the commission to make the Pieta.

August 26, 1743 -
Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was born on this date. Dr. Lavoisier discovered oxygen but not on this date; he was usually too busy celebrating his birthday.

The discovery was a great boon to science, as it enabled Breathing, without which many subsequent scientific advances would have been impossible.

August 26, 1883 -

Krakatoa erupted, between Java and Sumatra on this date. The two-day eruption and related tidal waves killed 36,000 people and destroyed two thirds of the island. (Yeah, yeah, I know, Krakatoa is West of Java.)

On a lighter note, "Krakatoa" sounds like "cracked a toe, huh?" and can be used in many humorous puns.

August 26, 1957
The first Edsel, named Edsel for Henry Ford's son, Edsel Bryant Ford, made by the Ford Motor Company rolls off the assembly line on this date.

110,847 of the cars are built before Ford pulls the plug due to lack of sales.

And so it goes.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I used to be disgusted; now I try to be amused.

It's the birthday of Declan Patrick MacManus, one of the most prolific musicians of the late 20th Century.

In addition to recordings as "Elvis Costello" (often backed by The Attractions), has recorded music as "Declan MacManus", "Napoleon Dynamite & The Royal Guard", "The Coward Brothers" (with T-Bone Burnett), "Nick Lowe & His Sound", "The Emotional Toothpaste" and "The Imposter".

August 25, 1962 -
Little Eva's record The Loco-Motion topped the charts on this date.

The promotional photo for this single features five of the people involved posing around an actual locomotive train engine: Producers Don Kirshner and Al Nevins on the left, founders of Aldon Music, songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King on the right, the writers, and lead singer Little Eva, in the front with one foot up on the train like she's keeping it parked so it doesn't roll away.

August 25, 1975
Bruce Springsteen's third album Born to Run was released on this date.

This album was Springsteen's breakthrough and came at the crossroads of his career. His first two albums sold poorly and Columbia Records might have dropped him if he did not produce a hit.

August 25, 1986 -
WEA Records released Paul Simon's award-winning Graceland album on this date.

This was Simon's most successful album, selling over 15 million copies and winning a Grammy for Album of the Year. It is an album focusing mostly on African music, but it also explores other forms of non-mainstream music, like Zydeco.

Today in History:
The Council of Nicaea ended on August 25, 325, resulting in the Nicene Creed. This established the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which proved that the Father and Son were not two, but three and therefore one. This controversial creed alienated many math teachers from the church.

Its repercussions eventually caused a Schism, which caused Infidels, which caused considerable bloodshed and ultimately resulted in more Political Philosophy.

August 25, 1718 -
French colonists, led by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur De Bienville, established the Louisiana settlement and fortress of Nouvelle Orleans.

In honor of the Big Easy, flash a cop on horseback.

August 25, 1830 -
The 'Tom Thumb' steam locomotive, designed by Peter Cooper, ran the famous first race between a locomotive and a horse-drawn vehicle, over a nine mile stretch, between Relay and Baltimore, Maryland.

The locomotive was off to a promising start, but broke down, and the horse won .

August 25, 1835 -
The New York Sun publishes stunning revelations that Sir John Hershel, having built a new super powerful telescope, had observed little men living on the surface of the moon.

The stories, now generally believed to be false, brought the paper record circulation.

August 25, 1900 -

No, Nietzsche is dead, on this date.

God finds this very amusing.

August 25, 1901 -
Clara Maass, a 25 year old army nurse, volunteered for an experiment to prove that the mosquito carries yellow fever.

Unfortunately for her, the experiment proved successful and Maass died. Her death roused public sentiment and put an end to yellow fever experiments on humans.

August 25, 1925 -
The Sleeping Car Porters' Union was established by A. Phillip Randolph, a political malcontent who'd been agitating for reform ever since his ejection from the Wide Awake Car Porters' Union.

Mr. Randolph was the principle organizer for the March on Washing in 1963.

August  25, 1944 -
The City of Paris, occupied since June 1940, was liberated from German occupation by Free French Forces under General Jacques LeClerc and his 2nd Tank division on this date.

Although ordered by Adolf Hitler to leave Paris a smoldering ruin, Paris' military governor Major General Dietrich von Cholitz lied to his superiors and left the city's landmarks intact.  I bet Hitler wasn't a happy camper today.

August 25, 1967
George Lincoln Rockwell, the leader of the American Nazi Party, was relieved of his duties by means of the usual Nazi method: he was shot to bloody hell on this date.

Former party member John Patler was later convicted of the killing.

August 25, 1970 -
Elton John, a virtual unknown, started the first night of a six night engagement at the Troubador Club in Los Angeles on this date, making his first American public appearance.

After the first night, Robert Hilburn, music critic for the Los Angeles Times, wrote: “Tuesday night at the Troubadour was just the beginning. He’s going to be one of rock’s biggest and most important stars.” And as Hilburn predicted, in 1990 Rolling Stone magazine declared these shows to be among the 20 most important concerts in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

And so it goes.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Once it starts, you can not turn your eyes away

Here, in all his fabulousness, is Richard Simmons in his new music video, Hair Do:

I don't think I've ever seen Richard in a suit and a tie before?

August 24, 1937 -
William Wyler's crime-drama film, Dead End, premiered in NYC on this date.

William Wyler originally wanted to film on location on the streets of New York, but producer Samuel Goldwyn insisted that it be made in the studio. Art director Richard Day was assigned to design the sets, and made one of the most convincing and elaborate sets in film history.

August 24, 1966 -
One of the quintessential films of the 60's, Alfie, opened in the US on this date.

A rarity in film, Michael Caine's character sporadically engages the cinema audience by looking straight into the camera as he voices his thoughts, a technique called "breaking the fourth wall". Curiously enough, the film's director Lewis Gilbert went on to direct Pauline Collins as the titular Shirley Valentine in which she also spoke her thoughts directly to the viewer.

August 24, 1966 -
The (still surprising good) sci-fi film, Fantastic Voyage, premiered on this date.

The plot of this movie has partly been anticipated by (or been plagiarized from) the first season episode I Dream of Jeannie: The Moving Finger. In that episode, Captain Nelson works as technical consultant for a studio making a movie, in which an American astronaut, shrunken to the size of a pinhead, is injected into the bloodstream of a Soviet astronaut, works his way to the brain and retrieves information vital to the defense of the country.

August 24, 1968 -
The Rascals song People Got to Be Free topped the charts on this date.

Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records briefly blocked the single's release as he thought the Rascals' career would be hurt by a political record.

Today in History:
August 24, 79
The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were fired by Mount Vesuvius. Vesuvius, ever the vengeful volcano god buried those happening Roman vacation spots, apparently to punish the debauchery that made the towns famous. Tens of thousands of people perished only to have plaster casts made centuries later of the hollows their bodies once occupied.

Once again, People, this is what happens when a city goes on the cheap and starts sacrificing any old whore rather than a proper virgin.

August 24, 1572 -
Troops loyal to the French crown alongside Catholic civilians massacre the Protestant Huguenots of Paris, estimates range between 20,000 and 100,000 deaths. At news of this carnage of this St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, a gleeful Pope Gregory XIII ordered celebrations and a medal to be struck.

Sometimes, you just have to be embarrassed to be a Catholic.

August 24, 1680 -
Colonel Thomas Blood, Irish adventurer who stole the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London in 1671, died on this date.

Captured after the theft, he insisted on seeing King Charles II, who had a reputation for liking bold scoundrels. Charles not only pardoned him, but granted Blood Irish lands worth £500 a year!

August 24, 1814 -
The White House and other public buildings in the District of Columbia were torched by the invading British army on this date.

The President's wife, Dolley Madison and Paul Jennings, her husband's enslaved manservant, are torn away from Mrs. Madison's ice cream and candy making duties to save a couple of chairs,

and an unfinished portrait of some dead Virginian Slave holder, Masonite and dope smoker.

 August 24, 1853 -
It is believed that the original potato chip recipe was created by chef George Crum, at Moon's Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York, on this date.

He was fed up with a customer (the popular myth wrongly identifies him as Cornelius Vanderbilt) who continued to send his fried potatoes back, claiming that they were too thick and soggy. Crum decided to slice the potatoes so thin that they couldn't be eaten with a fork, nor fried normally in a pan, so he decided to stir-fry the potato slices. Against Crum's expectation, the guest was ecstatic about the new chips. They became a regular item on the lodge's menu under the name Saratoga Chips. They soon became popular throughout New York and New England.

You don't want to know how Crum got the vinegar flavor for that damn chip.

August 24, 1932 -
Amelia Earhart flew from Los Angeles to Newark, becoming the first woman to complete a non-stop, transcontinental flight on this date.

She completed the journey in 19 hours and five minutes.

August 24, 1958 -
Red China commenced the shelling of the islands of Quemoy and Matsu, which hold one-third of Chiang Kai Shek's troops, on this date. The United States threatens nuclear retaliation for this, but the American people do not support the stance.

A very strange compromise is worked out, permitting China to shell the islands on odd dates and Chiang Kai Shek's troops to resupply the islands on even dates.

August 24, 1968
France exploded its first hydrogen bomb, thus becoming the world's fifth nuclear power.

The Germans break out in an ever slight sweat. (The 1998 film Godzilla uses this particular test as the basis for the monster Godzilla, an infant green iguana mutated by the fallout from the blast.)

Another reason to hate the French.

August 24, 1989 -
Pete Rose was suspended from baseball for life for gambling on this date.

Remember, Pete just gambled, he didn't get shot in the ass with any damn steroids.

August 24, 2006 -
The planet Pluto was reclassified as a "dwarf planet" by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) on this date. Pluto's status was changed due to the IAU's new rules for an object qualifying as a planet.

The other planets have been picking on Pluto ever since.

And so it goes.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Today is Vulcanalia

On this day in the old Roman Empire, people tossed small fish into large fires to appease the god Vulcan and ask him to restrain wild fires and volcanoes.

Hopefully the people of California remember this, take appropriate action and head toward their local Petcos.

August 23, 1940 -
Preston Sturges' Oscar winning satire on political corruption, The Great McGinty, premiered on this date.

This was the first movie to show the credit "Written and Directed by...." followed by just one name: Preston Sturges.

August 23, 1957 -
20th Century Fox released its film adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel, The Sun Also Rises, on this date.

Fans of Tyrone Power were shocked by his tired and aged appearance in the movie, since he was only 42 at the time of filming. Years of chain smoking cigarettes and drinking heavily had taken a toll on his looks. In addition he was reportedly taking pills so he could survive with only three hours sleep every night.

(Kids - don't do drugs.)

August 23, 1969 -
The Rolling Stones hit, Honky Tonk Women reached number one on the pop-singles charts, on this date.

The single was given away to all the fans who helped clean up after The Stones free concert in Hyde Park on July 5, 1969. This was the first concert Mick Taylor played with the band. A life-size cutout of Brian Jones, who died 3 days earlier, was kept on stage and the show was dedicated to him.

August 23, 1985 -
Atlantic Releasing Corp releases the comedy film Teen Wolf, directed by Rod Daniel and starring Michael J. Fox, on this date.

Most of the "teen" actors were too old to be high school students. Scott is played by Michael J. Fox: age 23. Stiles is played by Jerry Levine: age 27. Chubby is played by Mark Holton: age 26. Mick is played by Mark Arnold: age 27.

August 23, 1996 -
One of the most bizarre films ever made (starring Marlon Brando) The Island of Dr. Moreau, was released on this date.

Marlon Brando wore a small radio receiver to aid him remembering his lines. Co-star David Thewlis claimed "He'd be in the middle of a scene and suddenly he'd be picking up police messages and Marlon would repeat, 'There's a robbery at Woolworths'."

Gotta dance, gotta dance, gotta dance!

It's Gene Kelly's birthday today.

BTW - The average American wage hasn't grown at all since 2000.  Just thought you'd like to know.

Today in History:
August 23, 1305 -
Scottish patriot William Wallace (Mel Gibson) was persuaded to take an early retirement on this date.

According to one eyewitness: "He was hung in a noose, and afterwards let down half-living; next his genitals were cut off and his bowels torn out and burned in a fire; then and not till then his head was cut off and his trunk cut into four pieces. At this point he was given a gold watch, and a humorous card that we had all signed."

August 23, 1914 -
Japan declared war on Germany on this date.

Much confusion and embarrassment ensues about 25 years later when this point is brought up at a meeting of the Axis powers.

August 23, 1926 -
Rudolph Valentino died from peritonitis and severe pleurisy,  on this date, following an emergency appendectomy. His death caused a worldwide frenzy among his fans, sales of the Sheik condoms soared.

Thing is, he probably would have survived if the surgeons weren’t so freaked out by the fact that "Valentino" was their patient. They were so terrified of operating on such a world famous person, that they procrastinated for several hours, dramatically worsening his condition.

Sometime it sucked to be Valentino.

August 23, 1927 -
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, convicted of murder in 1921, were executed in Boston in spite of worldwide protests, on this date.

Their guilt is still disputed.

August 23, 1939 -
Joachim von Ribbentrop and Josef Stalin signed a non-aggression pact, allowing Germany to attack Poland and the USSR to invade Finland without fears of reprisal on this date. Three years later, the Battle of Stalingrad began. (The Battle of Stalingrad was fought by Germans and Russians, in case the irony was lost on you.)

Moral: secret wartime pacts with evil conquering bastards aren't any more reliable in the real world than they are in a game of Risk.

August 23, 1942 -
The Battle of Stalingrad began on this date, which many historians think of as the turning point of World War II. Hitler had already conquered all of Europe except for England, Switzerland and Monaco and he began the invasion of Russia in the summer of 1941 with an army of four million men. The Germans reached Stalingrad on this day in 1942 and flew more than 2,000 bombing raids in just the first day of the battle. They hit oil storage tanks that flowed into the river and caught fire and laid siege to the city. It went on for months.

It's been called the most terrible battle the world has ever known, and in the end the Russians won, thanks to the approach of winter. The German troops were not prepared for fighting in below zero weather.

By February of 1943, all the German soldiers had surrendered or been killed, the first defeat of Hitler's army.

August 23, 1944 -
At 10.30 am on this date, an American Liberator Bomber 42-50291 took off from Warton on a routine test flight. A huge explosion, thought to have been sparked by a bolt of lightning, tore the huge plane apart and parts of the fuselage hit the Holy Trinity Church of England School in Freckleton, England.

61 people were killed in the Freckleton Air Disaster, 38 were children; it was the greatest loss of civilian life outside London during the Second World War.

August 23, 1944 -
Romanian Prime Minister Ion Antonescu was dismissed by King Michael (another cousin of both Queen Elizabeth and her itinerant sailor husband Philip Mountbatten), paving the way for Romania to abandon the Axis in favor of the Allies.

King Michael organized a coup against the pro-Nazi dictator, Marshal Ion Antonescu, but was double-crossed by Joseph Stalin and betrayed by the Allies who ceded the country to the Russians at the Yalta summit in 1945.

August 23, 1968 -
The Youth International Party designated Pigasus as their choice of candidate for U.S. President on this date. The boar hog was introduced at a press conference outside the Chicago Civic Center, with the slogan "They nominate a President and he eats the people. We nominate a President and the people eat him."

The gathering is broken up shortly thereafter when the Chicago PD takes into custody the Yippie organizers and their pig.

August 23,  2012 -
Cecilia Gimenez (80+) took it upon herself to restore a fresco of Jesus called Ecce Homo painted by Elias Garcia Martinez at the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza, Spain.

Unfortunately her attempt at restoration did not turn out the way she hoped and the fresco was turned into an image almost resembling a hairy monkey. The woman hoped that it could be further restored by professionals and had gone into it with good intentions.   And you all know what is paved with good intentions.

And so it goes.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

And no inbred hillbillies were involved

Funny or Die presents, for your viewing entertainment, Steve Martin and Kermit the Frog performing Dueling Banjos -

While Steve Martin is a very good banjo player, Kermit is phenomenal given the fact that he has no opposable thumbs.

August 22, 1929 -
Walt Disney released the animated short film The Skeleton Dance (The first of Disney's Silly Symphony series,) animated by Ub Iwerks, on this date.

Worried that he would be too dependent on Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney wanted to diversify. Carl W. Stalling came up with the idea of producing "musical novelties" (which would later become Silly Symphonies). He even came up with the idea of the dancing skeletons for the first of the series (as a child he had seen an ad in The American Boy magazine for a dancing skeleton and the image stuck with him).

August 22, 1930 -
W.C. Fields' classic short, The Golf Specialist, premiered on this date.

According to the wanted poster among the offenses that Bellweather has committed are "Eating spaghetti in public" and "Telling the facts of life to an Indian."

August 22, 1946 -
The last of Alfred Hitchcock's wartime thrillers, Notorious, premiered on this date.

After filming had ended, Cary Grant kept the famous UNICA key. A few years later he gave the key to his great friend and co-star Ingrid Bergman, saying that the key had given him luck and hoped it would do the same for her. Decades later at a tribute to their director Alfred Hitchcock, Bergman went off-script and presented the key to him, to his surprise and delight.

August 22, 1972 -
The movie that introduced Monty Python and its seminal brand of comedy to American audiences, And Now for Something Completely Different, premiered on this date.

The deadly joke that is used to kill Germans in World War II is translated to this in plain language: "If that is git only stucco and Slotermeyer? Yes! Celebration dog that or the Flipperwaldt gersput!"

Today in History:
August 22, 1485 -
At the Battle of Bosworth, England's King Richard III was terminated for having made a fiscally irresponsible bid on a horse.

For evermore, kingdoms went for a great deal more than small pieces of hardware.

August 22, 1770 -
Captain James Cook claimed Australia for the British crown when he landed on a small island off the coast of Queensland.

This must have come as a great shock to the indigenous inhabitants there.  But then again, they didn't have a flag.

August 22, 1776 -
George Washington asked the Continental Congress for permission to burn New York City, to stop the city from being used to quarter troops arriving via the British fleet. It is declined, but his soldiers set 1/4th of the town ablaze on September 21.

There are still many in the government that would like to enact Washington's plan right now.

August 22, 1849 -
In the first air raid in history, Austria launched 200 pilotless balloons, each attached with 30-pound bombs, against the city of Venice on this date.

The bombs don’t cause much damage. But on this August day, exactly a hundred years later, Japan dedicated the town of Hiroshima as a shrine of peace after a single nuclear bomb killed 130,000 people

August 22, 1864 -
12 nations sign the first Geneva Convention specifically calling for the protection of the wounded during times of active warfare on this date. This leads directly to formation of the Red Cross.

In 1882, U.S. President Chester Arthur signed the treaty, making the U.S. the 32nd nation to do so.

August 22, 1893 -
If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.

Dorothy Parker was born in New York City, to Henry and Eliza Rothschild (... My God, no, dear! We'd never even heard of those Rothschilds ....) on this date.

Her birth was two months premature, allowing her to say that it was the last time she was early for anything. She was quoted, when discussing her early years, "All those writers who write about their childhood! Gentle God, if I wrote about mine you wouldn’t sit in the same room with me."

While she was a successful writer, she was just plain lousy at committing suicide. Dorothy Parker attempted suicide four times herself before succumbing to a heart attack in 1967.

August 22, 1902 -
President Theodore Roosevelt became the first U.S. chief executive to ride in an automobile (a purple-lined Columbia Electric Victoria) in Hartford, Ct. on this date. The police detail covering the event rode bicycles.

I'm sure he had a bully time, but the truth is a year earlier William McKinley rode in a car, although it was the electric ambulance that took him to the hospital after he was shot.

August 22, 1920 -
The late great Ray Bradbury, science fiction writer whose works include The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, was born on this date.

As a young boy, a friend once ridiculed his collection of science fiction and comic books, and heckled him into throwing them away. A day later, Bradbury was heartbroken, feeling that he had trashed his best friends. He immediately rebuilt his collection.

August 22, 1962 -
A group called the OAS (Secret Army Organization in English) plotted an assassination attempt on President Charles De Gaulle, who they believed had betrayed France by giving up Algeria (in northern Africa) to Algerian nationalists.

Frederick Forsyth dramatized the events of that August in his best-selling novel The Day of the Jackal, later made into a film.

August 22, 1973 -
Henry Kissinger
, German-born American bureaucrat, succeeded William Rogers as Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon, on this date.

Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize in the same year, (he's also considered a war criminal by others.) He continued in office until 1977. (I really don't care about the man but it gave me an excuse to play the Python song.)

And so it goes.