Thursday, October 31, 2013

I bet you've seen it but never reallized this

You’ve probably noticed the train-conductors pointing at a striped black-and-white sign each time they pull into a station. The conductors are required to do this to show they’ve fully arrived on the platform.

Two people, Yosef Lerner and Rose Sacktor, decided to stand at subway stations in New York holding special signs knowing the conductors would have to point at them and make their day.  It will probably make yours as well

Happy Halloween!

In case you still need a costume; this year go as the spokes person for Tooth Decay (it's a large secret East Coast syndicate backed primarily by Big Sugar and Dental Schools.)

I'd have written more but I'm way behind in injecting rat poison into Snicker Bars.

( For all you parents - remember to sort your kids candy later tonight. It is not a crime to save all the good chocolate for yourself. Tell'em you have to sample it for poison.)

October 31, 1912 -
The Musketeers of Pig Alley, directed by D.W. Griffith and starring Elmer Booth, Lillian Gish, Clara T. Bracy, and Walter Miller, premiered in the US on this date.  The film is thought to be the first film about organized crime.

This film heavily influenced Martin Scorsese in the making of his own gangster films, Goodfellas and Gangs of New York. It was picked by Scorsese for his 2005 tribute at Beaubourg in Paris, France.

October 31, 1945 -
René Clair's
adaptation of Agatha Christie's classic murder mystery And Then There Were None was released in the US on this date.

The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film.

October 31, 1949 -
Cecil B. DeMille's
wonderfully campy (although not intentional) version of Samson and Delilah, Starring Hedy LaMarr and Victor Mature premiered on this date.

For the scene in which Samson kills the lion, Victor Mature refused to wrestle a tame movie lion. Told by director Cecil B. DeMille that the lion had no teeth, Mature replied, "I don't want to be gummed to death, either." The scene shows a stunt man wrestling the tame lion, intercut with closeups of Mature wrestling a lion skin.

Today in History:
October 31, 1926 -
Harry Houdini
died in room 401 of Grace Hospital in Detroit on this date.

The escape artist was killed by diffuse peritonitis, after having undergone an emergency appendectomy.

Contrary to popular belief, the fatal appendicitis could not have been caused by a punch to the stomach.

October 31, 1950 -
Everybody Mambo!

John Franklin Candy, the great Canadian comedian and actor, was born on this date.

October 31, 1984 -
Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was not having a good day. Daughter of Nehru, the first prime minister of the newly independent India and fashion plate of the 60's, Mrs. Gandhi was running late for an interview with Peter Ustinov, who was filming a documentary for Irish television. Two Sikh members of her bodyguard, annoyed with her involvement in the storming of the Golden Temple (The holiest of Sikh sites) took this moment to express their vexation with their boss and assassinated her on the spot.

This sparked Hindu-Sikh clashes across the country. Four days of anti-Sikh rioting followed in India. The government said more than 2,700 people, mostly Sikhs, were killed, while newspapers and human-rights groups put the death toll between 10,000 and 17,000.

Once again, people should be checking the references of their bodyguards more carefully.

October 31, 1993 -
Federico Fellini
, considered as one of the most influential and widely revered film-makers of the 20th century, passed away on this date.

He made some 24 films, including La Strada, La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2 and Amarcord, all hallmarks throughout the 50’s and 60’s Art House world.

Before I let you go - the wonderful people at Mental Floss have a fun new video about the original of 32 familiar superstitions.

I still don't think birds pooping on you is good luck (unless you own a dry cleaner.)

And so it goes

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

National Candy Corn Day

The famous candy is said to have been invented in the United States by George Renninger in the 1880s, and it was originally made by hand.

Nowadays, it's mass produced by Jelly Belly® using a recipe unchanged since about 1900. Candy corn is made from bottom to top. The yellow bit is the top and the white is the bottom.

October 30, 1937 -
A good early Looney Tunes Halloween treat, The Case of the Stuttering Pig, was released on this date.

When the picture of Uncle Solomon is shown, it's a drawing of Oliver Hardy as a pig.

October 30, 1943 -
A very funny war-time Bugs Bunny Cartoon, Falling Hare, was released on this date.

In the early 1940s, Walt Disney was developing a feature film based on Roald Dahl's book Gremlin Lore, and asked the other studios to refrain from producing gremlin films. While most of the studios complied, Warner Bros. already had two cartoons too far into production - this cartoon and Russian Rhapsody. As a compromise, Leon Schlesinger re-titled the cartoons to remove any reference to gremlins. The original title was "Bugs Bunny and the Gremlin".

October 30, 1968 -
The wonderfully acted treachery among the 12th Century Royals, A Lion In Winter starring Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn and Anthony Hopkins opened in the US on this date.

Katharine Hepburn affectionately referred to Peter O'Toole as "pig" during filming. Every day at five o'clock the two would unwind over a cigarette and a glass of white wine.

Today in History:
October 30, 1863 -
OK kids, try to follow this ...

Danish Prince Wilhelm was a middle child of very famous siblings.

His older brother was to become the King of Denmark.

His older sister was married to Edward VII, making her the Queen consort of England.

His younger sister was married to the Tsar (czar? csar?) of Russia.

His parents didn't know what to get for him. They thought and thought about it and decided that he should become the King of Greece?

Wilhelm arrives in Athens, changes his name to a good Greek name and assumes his throne as George I, King of the Hellenes, on this date. As mentioned previously, Wilhelm/ George's grandson was a sailor named Philippos,

whose parents were related to themselves and half the other nobility in Europe. Philip had no real prospects of a career, so he did what any blue blooded aristocrat would do with no real prospects, he married up by marrying his second cousin (Elizabeth II of England).

October 30, 1938 -
The War of the Worlds was the Halloween episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. Directed by the wunderkind Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells' classic novel The War of the Worlds (1898).

Welles's adaptation is arguably the most well-known radio dramatic production in history. Both the War of the Worlds broadcast and the panic it created have become textbook examples of mass hysteria and the delusions of crowds.

It has been suggested in recent years that the War of the Worlds broadcast was actually a news report of the Red Lectroids invasion of Earth by Orson as fact retracted as fiction. Another conspiracy theory has the Rockefeller Foundation funding the broadcast as a test to gauge the public's reaction.

There has been continued speculation that the panic generated by the broadcast inspired officials to cover up unidentified flying object evidence, to avoid a similar panic. Indeed, U.S. Air Force Captain Edward J. Ruppelt wrote in 1956, "The [U.S. government's] UFO files are full of references to the near mass panic of October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles presented his now famous The War of the Worlds broadcast."

It's also possible that the aliens hypnotizing Welles and causing him to pass the broadcast off as a drama, when it was indeed factual.

You never know.

October 30, 1961
The Soviet Union tested the largest nuclear device ever created (the Tsar Bomb) on this date.  The nuclear test took place on the islands of Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Ocean.

The bomb was 4,000 times stronger than the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima.  It when BOOM and blowed up real good.

October 30, 1968 -
Silent film star, Ramon Novarro was brutally beaten and left for dead by his assailants, on this date. Novarro's life ended when two brothers, Tom and Paul Ferguson (if you're a very sick puppy, there are nude photos of Paul on the internet but I'm not going to link to them), whom he had paid to come to his Laurel Canyon home for sex, murdered him.

According to the prosecution in the Novarro murder case, the two young men believed that a large sum of money was hidden in Novarro's house. The prosecution accused them of torturing Novarro for several hours to force him to reveal where the nonexistent money was hidden. They left with a mere twenty dollars they took from his bathrobe pocket before fleeing the scene.

Novarro died as a result of asphyxiation, choking to death on his own blood after being brutally beaten. According to filmmaker and scandal monger, Kenneth Anger, Navarro actually died after suffocating on a wooden (or silver or lead) dildo (a gift from Rudolf Valentino) the two brothers crammed down his throat.

A very unpleasant end, indeed.

October 30, 1990 -
Joseph W. Burrus
, an aspiring magician, died while attempting a "buried alive" stunt. He was contained inside an acrylic glass clear box,or coffin, of his own construction. Lowered into a hole, his crew began filling the hole with dirt and cement around the coffin.

Apparently, Burrus didn't calculate the correct force the weight of the wet cement had on this coffin - he had only practiced the trick with soil. At some point, the crew realized the concrete had crushed the box, and when they pulled him out, he was dead.
Oops  (probably non-union help.  Folks, when you're being buried alive, spend the extra bucks and go labor!)

And so it goes

Before I let you go: You have one day to get your costume together for Halloween. I'm dressing in the same manner that I have done for many a year

- Sociopath (they look just like everyone else dammit.)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

And then the rain came

October 29, 2012 -
Last year, most of us on the East Coast were battening down the hatches, waiting for Sandy to hit landfall.

By the next day, New York harbor had risen to over 13 feet at the Battery, over two million New Yorkers has lost power, and 44 New Yorkers had lost their lives.

October 29, 1977 -
and Joe got married on this date.

It's such a shonda that it didn't last.

October 29, 1993 -
Tim Burton's
Halloween animation fantasy, The Nightmare Before Christmas, went into general release in US theaters on this date.

Tim Burton has said the original poem was inspired after seeing Halloween merchandise display in a store being taken down and replaced by a Christmas display. The juxtaposition of ghouls and goblins with Santa and his reindeer sparked his imagination.

Today in History :
October 29, 1618

Yesterday (back in 1618), Sir Walter Raleigh was a fairly forgotten figure in England History. Sir Walter, famous explorer and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I had been languishing in prison for years on some murky charges of plotting against King James I. He was left to languish in the Tower of London until 1616. While imprisoned, he wrote many treatises and the first volume of The Historie of the World, about the ancient history of Greece and Rome. His son Carew was conceived and born while Raleigh was legally 'dead' and imprisoned in the Tower of London (1604).

In 1616, Sir Walter was released from the Tower of London in order to conduct a second expedition to Venezuela in search of El Dorado. In the course of the expedition, Raleigh's men, under the command of Lawrence Keymis, sacked the Spanish outpost of San Thome on the Orinoco. During the initial attack on the settlement, Raleigh's son Walter was struck by a bullet and killed. On Raleigh's return to England, the outraged Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, the Spanish ambassador, demanded that King James reinstate Raleigh's death sentence. The ambassador's demand was granted.

Raleigh was beheaded at Whitehall on this date in 1618. "Let us dispatch," he asked his executioner. "At this hour my ague comes upon me. I would not have my enemies think I quaked from fear." After he was allowed to see the axe that would behead him, he mused: "This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all diseases and miseries". It's been said that Sir Walter final words (as he lay ready for the axe to fall) were: "Strike a match man, strike!"

The corpse was to be buried in the local church in Beddington, Surrey, the home of Lady Raleigh. "The Lords," she wrote, "have given me his dead body, though they have denied me his life. God hold me in my wits". After Raleigh's execution, his head was embalmed and presented to his wife. She carried it with her in a velvet bag until she decided she didn't like the smell.

Gentlemen, remember either to keep your head firmly in place upon your death or ask your wife to invest in a lot of room deodorizer.

October 29, 1891 -
Your audience gives you everything you need. They tell you. There is no director who can direct you like an audience.

Fanny Brice, popular and influential American comedienne, singer, theatre and film actress and entertainer, was born on this date..

October 29, 1899 -
Akim Tamiroff
, Georgian born actor (was the first Golden Globe Award-winning actor for Best Supporting Actor) was born on this date.

While Tamiroff may not be a household name in the present day, his malapropistic performance as the boss in The Great McGinty inspired the cartoon character Boris Badenov,

the male half of the villainous husband-and-wife team Boris and Natasha on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

October 29, 1901 -
Leon Czolgosz
was convicted and sentenced to death for the assassination of U.S. President William McKinley on September 23, 1901 in a brief trial that lasted eight and a half hours from jury selection to verdict. Upon returning to Auburn Prison, he asked the Warden if this meant he would be transferred to Sing Sing to be electrocuted and seemed surprised to learn that Auburn had its own electric chair.

He was executed by electrocution, by three jolts at 1700 volts each, on October 29, 1901, in Auburn Prison in Auburn, New York. His brother Waldek and his brother-in-law Frank Bandowski were in attendance, though when Waldek asked the Warden for his brother's body to be taken for proper burial, he was informed that he "would never be able to take it away" and that crowds of people would mob him, so the body had to be buried on prison grounds.

His last words were "I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people - the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime."  As the prison guards strapped him into the chair, however, he did say through clenched teeth, "I am sorry I could not see my father." Sulfuric acid and lye were thrown into his coffin so that his body would be completely disfigured, and to aid in its decomposition. His letters and clothes were burned.

The scene of the crime, the Temple of Music, was torn down in November 1901. A stone marker in the middle of Fordham Drive, a residential street in Buffalo today marks the approximate spot where the event occurred. Czolgosz's revolver is on display at the Pan-American Exposition exhibit of the Erie County Historical Society in Buffalo.

Today is the anniversary of Black Tuesday, the stock market crash in 1929 that signaled the beginning of the worst economic collapse in the history of the modern industrial world. Few people saw it coming except for Joseph P. Kennedy and Charlie Chaplin who had cashed out of the volatile market weeks early and preserved their fortunes. The stock market had been booming throughout the 1920s. Brokerage houses had been springing up all over the country, to take advantage of everyone's interest in investment. There were stories about barbers, messenger boys and prostitutes who'd gotten rich off of overheard stock tips. Americans who ordinarily couldn't afford to invest their money were taking out loans to buy stock so they wouldn't miss out (shades of the sub prime mortgage market.)

The front-page story in The New York Times on the next day read, "Wall Street was a street of vanished hopes, of curiously silent apprehension and of a sort of paralyzed hypnosis. Men and women crowded the brokerage offices, even those who have been long since wiped out, and followed the figures on the tape. Little groups gathered here and there to discuss the fall in prices in hushed and awed tones."

The stock market didn't do so well in September of 1929, but nobody really noticed anything was wrong until October 23, when 2.6 million shares were sold in the closing hour of trading. It looked as though the selling would continue on Thursday, October 24, but a group of the most influential American bankers in the country pooled their money and began to buy up the declining stocks, supporting the market. By the end of that day it seemed like everything would be all right.

But on this day in 1929, the bottom fell out of the market. Three million shares were sold in the first half-hour. Stock prices fell so fast that by the end of the day there were shares in many companies that no one would buy at any price. The stocks had lost their entire value.

It was the most disastrous trading day in the stock market's history (until now). The stock market lost $30 billion dollars, more than a third of its value, in the next two weeks.

October 29, 1964 -
The Star of India, the famous golf-ball-sized stone was stolen, along with several other stones including the Eagle Diamond and the deLong Ruby from the American Museum of Natural History, in NYC, on this date. The thieves unlocked a bathroom window during museum open hours, climbed in that night, found that the sapphire was the only gem in the collection protected by an alarm -- and the battery for that was dead. So they raked up the stones, and fled the same way they came in.

Within two days, the notorious cat burglar, smuggler, and one-time surfing champion Jack Murphy (known as Murph the Surf) was arrested along with two accomplices, later receiving a three-year sentence. The uninsured Star of India was recovered in a locker in a Miami bus station. However, the Eagle diamond was never recovered.

October 29, 1969 -
The first computer-to-computer message transmission (ARPANET), the basis of today's internet, was established between UCLA and Stanford on this date. (thank you Jim)

Apparently, the two computers were looking for porn.

Before I let you go - Sesame Street has come out with a new parody - this time a parody of the series Homeland called, Homelamb

The Big Bad Wolf is on the lamb - I'm not really sure this was for kids.

And so it goes

Monday, October 28, 2013

Whatever you do - listen to the talking toast

Hey kids, want to have some fun: Let's all watch Toasty the Help Toast.

Lock up the liquor kids, he appears to be a mean drunk.

October 28, 1947 -
An overlooked yet still powerful film-noir, Nightmare Alley, was released on this date.

Tyrone Power gives a memorable performance. Audiences, unfortunately weren't able to deal with him cast against type and he never had such a dramatically heavy role again.

October, 28, 1957 -
Federico Fellini's Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) opened in the US on this date. (A good friend of mine named her daughter after Giulietta Masina. )

God creates Adam and Eve five days after the rest of the universe.

October 28, 1858 -
Department Store in New York City, on the corner of 14th Street and 6th Avenue, opened on this date

On the company's first day of business, the sales totaled $11.06. Betcha didn't know that Macy's was the first store to bring Santa inside to greet children (in 1862). Previously he stood outside to draw crowds. Macy's also inaugurates elaborate holiday windows that year.

October 28, 1886 -
The Statue of Liberty was dedicated at Liberty Island, New York, by President Grover Cleveland. The statue weighs 225 tons and is 152 feet tall. It was originally known as Liberty Enlightening the World. Lady Liberty, as she came to be called, quickly become a symbol of America, partly because she was such a striking visual symbol of our national reverence for liberty, partly because of the five-dollar hot dogs and ten-dollar plastic replicas sold at her feet.

The statue's inscription was written by poet Emma Lazarus, and attributes the following exhortation to Lady Liberty: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

(Cynics like to point out that construction of the golden door was never completed.)

Exactly thirty-three years later, in 1919, Congress passed a law prohibiting alcohol.

Ultimately, it resulted in toxic, bootlegged alcohol that killed more people than legal alcohol had. With alcohol outlawed, only outlaws had drinks and the atmosphere fosters Mafia encroachment into legitimate businesses. Fortunately there were an awful lot of them and they overturned the law as soon as they were sober enough to vote.

October 28, 1922 -
Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini seizes power in Italy, with the assistance of the Catholic Church. Pope Pius XI declared Mussolini is a man sent by divine providence.

In return for this endorsement, the silly dictator signs the Lateran treaty, restoring papal sovereignty over the Vatican.  But at least the trains ran on time.

October 28, 1948 -
The Nobel committee announces that Swiss chemist Paul Mueller had won the 1948 chemistry prize on this date.

He discovered the unusual insecticidal properties of 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2- bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane. Thanks to Mueller, the world embraces the phenomenal bug-killer... until somebody discovers that the hydrocarbon, popularly known as DDT, also excels at causing cancer.

October 28, 1955 -
William Henry Gates III
was born in Seattle on this date.

With the economic downturn, Bill's coupon clipping has only helped him maintain the number two position on Forbes' world billionaire list. I believe he is still well ensconced in the 1%.

October 28, 1962 -
The Cuban Missile Crisis officially ended when Nikita Khrushchev formally agreed to dismantle the Soviet missiles and remove them from Cuba. In exchange, the US agreed not to invade Cuba and respect its sovereignty.

The world breathed a sigh of relief as the tense situation that almost caused a nuclear war came to an end.

October 28, 1963 -
A New York DJ, Murray Kaufman, played a song from a little known British group on this date.

It is believed that Murray the K's playing of "She Loves You" by The Beatles was the first time a Beatles song was played on an American radio station.

October 28, 1965 -
Pope Paul VI issued a decree, Nostra Aetate, which among other things, absolved Jews of collective guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

I can chart my moral decline to this date.  When informed of this a few years later, I told my seventh grade religious teacher, "Gee, that was awfully big of him."

And on a personal note:
Happy Birthday Olivia

And so it goes

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Life seems to have repeated itself

Much like last year, I'm running behind schedule because of my youngest daughter's birthday weekend celebrations (we're late for the Halloween party in Bleeker park.)

October 27, 1939 -
John Cleese, actor, writer and all around funny guy was born on this date. (Oh yeah, I think he was in a comedy group in the late 60's, early 70's.)

I seriously hope this isn't the last time we see John.

October 27, 1955 -
The quintessential 50's movie (although quite startling at the time,) Nicholas Ray's masterful, Rebel Without a Cause, was released on this date.

Director Nicholas Ray researched L.A. gangs by riding around with them for several nights.

October, 27, 1956 -
One of the better late period Elmer vs. Bugs Looney Tunes, Wideo Wabbit, premiered on this date.

Among the television programs parodied are You Bet Your Life starring Groucho Marx, You Are There with Walter Cronkite and The Liberace Show, starring Liberace.

October 27, 1964 -
Another Paddy Chayefsky scripted classic from the 60's (although unappreciated), The Americanization of Emily, starring James Garner and Julie Andrews, premiered on this date.

James Garner says that this is his favorite of his movies.

Today in History:
October 27, 1553 -
Michael Servetus
, noted theologian, was honored in Switzerland for his discovery of the pulmonary circulation of the blood, on this date by being burned at the stake just outside Geneva with what was believed to be the last copy of his writing chained to his leg. Historians record his last words as: "Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me."

John Calvin is given a good deal of credit for having arranged these honors, which may have had something to do with his own gratitude to Mr. Servetus for having raised an important theological question.

Throughout history, such important theological questions have caused almost as much bloodshed as important theological answers. That doesn't mean theology's an especially bloody field - there's been just as much carnage from philosophy, political science, economics, linguistics, and the rest of the humanities.

It's probably all that blood that puts the 'human' in the humanities or as one of my faith readers put it, the 'hard' in hard science.

The Interborough Rapid Transit Subway, New York City's first underground subway line opened officially 109 years ago today. It ran from the Brooklyn Bridge uptown to Broadway at 145th Street with a fare of one nickel.

The ride currently costs $2.25 but you have to ride in the car.

October 27, 1954 -
"... It was all started by a mouse." Walt Disney's first TV show, Disneyland, premiered on ABC-TV on this date

All of the ABC episodes were filmed in color, even though they aired in black and white. When the show moved to NBC in 1961, many of the ABC episodes that re-aired on NBC were shown in color and have been that way ever since, even when those episodes aired on The Disney Channel and released on home video.

October 27, 1962 -
The British comedy stage revue Beyond the Fringe, written by and starring Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett opening in NYC on this date.

This show is often seen as the beginning of the British satirical comedy of the 60's and many of the members Monty Python found this show highly influential.

October 27, 1964 -
In a private ceremony, Sonny and Cher exchanged rings in Tijuana (on this date) and told others they were married,

they were not legally married until 1969.

And so it goes.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hey, that's convenient.

Five days before Halloween, we can celebrate National Pumpkin Day and Howl at the Moon Day.

I'll take any excuse to play the Ramones.

October 26, 1959 -
A gentle and yet still relevant Cold War comedy, The Mouse the Roared, opened in the US on this date.

Peter Sellers made this film in part as a means of emulating his hero, Alec Guinness, by playing multiple roles in one movie.

October 26, 1962 -
The horror camp classic Crawford - Davis paring, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? opened in NYC on this date.

While touring the talk show circuit to promote the movie, Bette Davis told one interviewer that when she and Joan Crawford were first suggested for the leads in this film, Warner Bros. studio head Jack L. Warner replied: "I wouldn't give a plugged nickel for either one of those two old broads." Recalling the story, Davis laughed at her own expense. The following day, she reportedly received a telegram from Crawford: "In future, please do not refer to me as an old broad!"

October 26, 1967 -
An excellent (though almost forgotten) thriller from the 60's, Wait Until Dark premiered on this date.

As a way to get people to see the movie, the filmmakers made a print ad and cautionary trailer that read: 'During the last eight minutes of this picture the theatre will be darkened to the legal limit, to heighten the terror of the breathtaking climax which takes place in nearly total darkness on the screen. If there are sections where smoking is permitted, those patrons are respectfully requested not to jar the effect by lighting up during this sequence. And of course, no one will be seated at this time.' It worked and the film became a huge success because of it.

October 26, 1982 -
TV's longest dream sequence, St. Elsewhere, premiered on NBC-TV on this date.

The show was known for its inside jokes. The writers named characters after series staff members, they wrote lines that referenced other TV shows, movies, plays and books. One had to be up on current events and the arts to understand some of the humor.

October 25, 1985 -
Robert Zemeckis
' seminal time travel epic Back to the Future opened on this date.

Michael J. Fox was allowed by the producer of Family Ties to film this movie on the condition that he kept his full schedule on the TV show - meaning no write-outs or missing episodes - and filmed most of the movie at night. He was not allowed to go on Back to the Future promotional tours.

Today in History:
October 26, 1440 -
Gilles de Rais
, French marshal and (alleged) depraved killer of 140 children, was strangled then thrown onto slow fire on this date.

A brilliant young French knight, he was believed to either have cracked over the torture and death of his true love, Jeanne d'Arc, the Maid of Orleans or some theorists consider Gilles the victim of a plot to acquire his lands.

In 1825, New York City becomes a World Port with the opening of the Erie Canal; a river  waterway between Hudson River and Lake Erie opened. It cut through 363 miles of wilderness and measured 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep. It had 18 aqueducts and 83 locks and rose 568 feet from the Hudson River to Lake Erie.

Toll receipts paid back the $7.5 million construction cost within ten years.  (This will all be on the test.)

October 26, 1881 -
Wyatt Earp, his two brothers and Doc Holliday showed up at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, to disarm the Clanton and McLaury boys, who were in violation of a ban on carrying guns in the city limits.

This became the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLowery were killed; Earp's brothers were wounded.

October 26, 1944 -
Freemason and Vice President Harry S Truman publicly denies (yet again) ever having been a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Unfortunately for him, while never an active member, he did pay the $10 membership dues in 1922 in order to get backing for a judgeship he was seeking back in Missouri.  I can't even imagine the feeding frenzy that would have go on today.

October 26, 1965 -
Queen Elizabeth decorated The Beatles with Order of British Empire, at Buckingham Palace, on this date.

The Beatles, ever polite, allowed Her Majesty to add chintz curtains and tufted sofas in their living rooms.

October 26, 1970 -
Doonesbury, the comic strip by Gary Trudeau, premiered in 28 newspapers across the U.S on this date.

The strip is still going strong, with Alex, Mike's daughter taking over a the main character. Who knew (who reads newspapers anymore.)

October 26, 1979 -
Kim Jae Kyu
, director of South Korea's central intelligence agency, "accidentally" shot President Park Chung Hee to death, also killing Park's bodyguard. Park had been president (dictator, effectively) since 1961. Kim was executed the following May for his attempted coup d'etat.  (I hate when someone in my cabinet tries to assassinate me.)

In 2005, at the New York Film Festival, the film, The President's Last Bang, recounted the events.

October 26, 1984 -
19-year-old John McCollum shot and killed himself while listening to Ozzy Osbourne records on this date. One year later, McCollum's parents file suit against Ozzy and CBS Records, alleging that the song Suicide Solution from the album Blizzard of Ozz contributed to their son's death.

Except that the song's subject was quite plainly alcohol addiction. The trial court dismissed the McCollum's complaint. (Please, only watch the video once, with adult supervision.  And for heaven's sake, don't try to play it backwards!)

October 26, 1991 -
A sudden wind uprooted a 485-pound umbrella, part of an outdoor 'art project' installed by Christo, in the Tejon Pass north of Los Angeles and struck Lori Keevil-Matthews, 33 years old, of Camarillo, California, crushing her to death against a boulder.

That must really suck being killed by a Rhianna song.

And so it goes.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Make love, not war

Although it's up for debate, the average people can burn off 150 calories during a half hour of sex (you figure out if you're having average sex.)

Each day, over 120 million consensual sexual acts take place all over the world.  It works out to 18 billion calories (that's about the total energy released in the nuclear fission of one gram of uranium-235.)

It's Saints Crispin and Crispinian's Day (it comes up later)

They are the patron saints of cobblers, tanners and leather workers. So remember, if you see a Leather Daddy walking his 'boy' on a leash this morning, wish them a Happy St. Crispin's Day!

October 25, 1957 -
One of Frank Sinatra's best movie performances, Pal Joey was released on this date.

After Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn saw the success of Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl, he promised this film to them (Kelly had his big break by creating the role of Joey Evans on Broadway). Sadly, the story took another 15 years to reach the screen and by that time Kelly was under contract to MGM. Hayworth was cast as the older woman, with Kim Novak now playing the younger woman.

October 25, 1957 -
The greatest 50's Drive-in movie, The Amazing Colossal Man, opened in NYC on this date.

The Colossal Man is never referred to as such in this movie. He's referred to only as Colonel Manning or the Giant.

October 25, 1965 -
Jean-Luc Godard's
take on Sci-Fi Film Noir, Alphaville, opened in NYC on this date.

Despite the fact that the film is a work of science fiction and supposed to be in a city of the future, all the sets were existing locations in Paris in 1965, and all the weapons are conventional firearms.

October 25, 1967 -
The Lerner and Loewe take on the the Arthurian legend, Camelot, starring  Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero, premiered on this date.

While filming the movie, Vanessa Redgrave began an affair with Franco Nero, even though Redgrave was married to director Tony Richardson at the time. Redgrave divorced Richardson, and moved in with Nero. They had a son, Carlo Gabriel Nero, in 1969. Redgrave and Nero split up in 1971, but remained friends for many years, and eventually got back together. They were finally married on December 1, 2006, 40 years after meeting on the set of Camelot.
  (Ok, intermission's over.)

At one point, while filming on a Warner Bros. soundstage, Richard Harris and producer Jack L. Warner were at odds over how to do a scene. Warner took Harris out onto the studio lot, and showed him the famous water tower with the Warner Bros. logo on it. "What does that tower say, Richard?" asked Warner. "It says 'Warner Brothers,' " Harris replied. "Right," said Warner. "Now when it says 'Harris Brothers,'  - then -  we'll do it, your way."

October 25, 1971 -
The TV show The Electric Company premiered on this date.

For the "Letterman" sketches, Gene Wilder, who voiced the heroic title character, and Zero Mostel, who voiced the villainous Spell Binder, were so excited to be working with each other again after The Producers that they recorded their dialogue together, a rarity in animation.

October 25, 1982 -
Bob Newhart'
s second successful-sitcom Newhart, premiered on CBS-TV on this date.

Darryl and Darryl were originally named Larry. They altered their given names to avoid confusion both at home and at obedience school.

Today in History -
It's 1415, as it has been often said, times were hard - the only way to tell who the king was in England was looking for the person with the least amount of crap on him. The wastrel son of a usurping King led a ragtag army into another sovereign nation on this date.

After giving a stirring speech, the outnumbered army beats the far superior and well fortified army and wins the decisive Battle of Agincourt on this day. More than one hundred years later, either William Shakespeare or a bunch of other people wrote a slew of Henry plays

It's 1854, this time. The British want to maintain their naval superiority of the globe and continue to enjoy the fruits of sodomy on the open seas. The Russian Tsar (or Czar, as most monarchs are to busy to get a proper education, so they could barely figure out what type of monarch they are) decided that the Russian naval needed to get into a little of those high seas hijinks, began moving his army towards Turkey, hoping for a Russian port in the black sea. Thus, buggery is one of the underlying causes of The Crimean War.

It typical British fashion, on the morning of October 25, 1854, the English were winning the Battle of Balaclava (not Baklava, the delicious Greek pastry wars, to be described at a future date, but the goofy hat war with the ear flaps) when Lord Cardigan (yes, of sweater fame) received his order to attack the Russians fortifications.

Unfortunately for the Light Brigade, the Russian army was also on the other side of the valley that they were charging towards. The brigade was decimated by the heavy Russian guns, suffering 40 percent casualties.

It was later revealed that the order was the result of Alfred Lord Tennyson needing a new hit poem and not intentional.

October 25, 1881 -
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, the Spanish-born doodler and noted womanizer (considered the most influential artist of the 20th century) was born on this date.

I wonder if his paintings are still worth anything?

October 25, 1920 -
On a fine October day in 1920, King Alexander of Greece (cousin of my favorite Greek itinerant sailor - Philip) was walking in the gardens of the royal palace in Athens. The young monarch was walking with his favorite dog when they were attacked by a pair of wild monkeys (once again, I can't make this stuff up.) Alexander attempted to drive the monkeys away from his dog but was bit during the scuffle.

The incident proved fatal for both parties. King Alexander suffered an infection and died from sepsis on this date and the monkey was destroyed when the Greek people sought revenge for the regicide. His father, the former King Constantine I (Philip's uncle) was called back into service to be king until his disastrous actions in the Greco-Turkish War.

Winston Churchill said, 'It is perhaps no exaggerration to remark that a quarter of a million people died from this monkey bite.'

Once again, sometimes it stinks to be the king .

October 25, 1931 -
In every home there is a heartbreak

This story is truly not for the faint of heart.

Elena Hoyos, a pretty and vivacious 21 year old Cuban-American girl died from tuberculosis in Florida on this date. While this is sad, it wouldn't be noteworthy other than for her middle aged neighbor with a strange infatuation with Elena. Carl Tanzler (also known as Carl von Cosel), German-born radiologist became obsessed with his young neighbor. Not only did Mr. Tanzler attempted to treat and cure Hoyos with a variety of medicines, as well as x-ray and electrical equipment, that were brought to the Hoyos' home but Tanzler showered Hoyos with gifts of jewelry and clothing, and allegedly professed his love to her.

In April, 1933, Tanzler removed Hoyos' body from the mausoleum, carted it through the cemetery after dark on a toy wagon, and transported it to his home. Carl, with a little help from some home embalming, lived with Hoyos' corpse until October, 1940, when Elena's sister Florinda heard rumors of Tanzler (now known as Von Cosel) sleeping with the disinterred body of her sister, and confronted Tanzler at his home, where Hoyos' body was eventually discovered. Von Cosel was not charged with a crime because the statute of limitations on grave robbing had expired. Elena Hoyos was eventually buried at a secret location. Von Cosel, separated from his love, used a death mask to create a life-sized dummy of her, and lived with it until his death in 1952.

(This story is even more disturbing then you think, I've left some of the very unsavory details out for those readers with a more delicate nature.)

October 25, 1938 -
The Archbishop of Dubuque, the Most Reverend Francis J.L. Beckman, denounces the newfangled Swing music

-- the latest craze -- as nothing more than "a degenerated musical system... turned loose to gnaw away the moral fiber of young people" on this date.

Its cannibalistic rhythms are said to lead one down the "primrose path to Hell."

October 25, 1955 -
Sadako Sasaki
was a Japanese girl who lived near Hiroshima, Japan. She was only two years old when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. As she grew up, Sadako was a strong, courageous and athletic girl. In 1954, at age eleven, she became dizzy and fell to the ground. Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia, the "atom bomb disease".

While in the hospital, a friend gave her a golden paper crane and retold the story about the paper cranes (one who folded 1,000 cranes was granted a wish.) She may or may not have completed her goal in August of 1955, reports vary, and continued to fold cranes.

During her time in the hospital her condition progressively worsened. Around mid-October her left leg became swollen and turned purple. After her family urged her to eat something, Sadako requested tea on rice and remarked "It's good." Those were her last words. With her family around her, Sadako died on the morning of October 25, 1955 at the age of 12.

October 25, 1957 -
In chair number four of the barber shop at the Park Sheraton hotel in Manhattan, Mafia don Albert Anastasia, the Lord High Executioner of Murder Inc., was shot five times by the Gallo Brothers, under orders from Carlo Gambino.

The barber shop is now a Starbucks.

October 25, 1983 -
In order to maintain an uninterrupted supply of nutmeg to satisfy global demand, the United States of America invades the Caribbean island of Grenada.

The invasion was rationalized as a rescue mission for the American medical students at the local school. A good friend of mine was at the school at the time and was widely quoted in the media.

October 25, 1991 -
On the way back from a Huey Lewis concert, rock promoter Bill Graham was killed when his helicopter hits high-voltage power lines in Vallejo, California on this date.

So, he died because he had to listen to Hip To Be Square.

And so it goes

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's I-G-N-A-T-Z

It's National Bologna Day

When was the last time you had a Baloney sandwich?

Just don't ask how they make it.

October 24, 1962 -
A taut thriller with the underlying theme of an afternoon tea party gone horribly wrong - The Manchurian Candidate, premiered on this date.

Frank Sinatra wanted Lucille Ball for the role of Mrs. Iselin which was played by Angela Lansbury.

October 24, 1969 -
The original version of Brokeback Mountain, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, premiered on this date.

The more commonly used name for Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid's gang was The Wild Bunch. However, when the Sam Peckinpah film, The Wild Bunch, was released a few months earlier, the name of the gang was changed to the Hole in the Wall Gang to avoid confusion with Peckinpah's film.

October 24, 1973 -
The series about bald, dapper, New York City policeman , Kojak, starring Telly Savalas, premiered on CBS-TV on this date.

During its five year run, Telly Savalas, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson and George Savalas, are the only actors to appear in every episode.

Today in History:
October 24, 1601 -
Tycho Brahe
, nobleman, astronomer and alchemist, died from politeness on this date. He was fabulously wealthy and had a dwarf court jester sit under the table at dinner to amuse him. Tycho lost his nose in a duel and had a metal one made which he famously wore for the rest of his life. He also had a pet moose, who died from a drunken fall (I can't make this stuff up.)

Brahe went to a party at a friend’s house and drank heavily, bound by the etiquette of the day, Tycho couldn’t leave the table until his host did -not even to go to the bathroom. When he finally left the table he found he could not go; his bladder was blocked from waiting too long. He lingered for days in utter agony for days until he died on this date.

Traditionally it’s believed he died from urine poisoning. Recent analysis of hair taken from his remains shows that he must have ingested a large dose of mercury about 20 hours before his death, possibly as a medicine for his illness or perhaps he was poisoned - some believe by his famous student Johannes Kepler, who worked for him at the time and was appointed his successor as imperial mathematician.

October 24, 1836 -
(Please follow along on your flow charts - this will be on the test) Mankind was not fully mankind until it learned how to set things on fire. That happened a long time ago and enabled such hallmarks of early civilization as cooked meat, heated homes, and flaming heretics. Only in the past few hundred years has mankind learned how to start fires quickly and easily.

In 1680, Irish scientist Robert Boyle discovered that rubbing phosphorus and sulphur together caused them to burst into flames. Such was his reward for a lifetime spent rubbing phosphorus against things to see what would happen.

In 1827, seizing upon the Irish invention with a zeal usually reserved for Irish real estate, an Englishman named John Walker invented "sulphuretted peroxide strikeables," which were like matches except they were three feet long and as likely to explode as ignite.

A variation on this firestarter was introduced in England in 1828, patented by Samuel Jones. It was called the Promethean, and consisted of a glass bulb of sulphuric acid. The bulb was coated with potassium chlorate, sugar, and gum, then wrapped in paper. To ignite the Promethean, one broke the glass bulb against one's teeth. Dentists loved it, but the public remained wary.

Germans began manufacturing small phosphorus matches in Germany in 1832. Like so many other German inventions, however, these tended to ignite with a series of explosions that spread fire about one's feet. They also exploded when stepped on. This dampened their popularity among the arson-averse public.

Finally, on this date, a patent was issued in the United States to Alonzo D. Phillips for the manufacture of friction matches and called them Locofocos.

October 24, 1901 -
Anna Edson Taylor,
a 43-year-old widow, was the first woman to go safely over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The barrel was four and a half feet high and three feet across. Ms. Taylor went over Niagara Falls and dropped 175 feet.

The barrel was four and a half feet high and three feet across.She made the attempt for the cash award offered, which she put toward the loan on her Texas ranch and help her make a fortune touring the world. Although the stunt did indeed receive international attention, Taylor reaped a few financial rewards but died in poverty after twenty years as a Niagara street vendor.

October 24, 1929 -
The stock market began a catastrophic collapse and this day became know as Black Thursday nearly 13 million shares traded hands and stock prices plummeted.

This ultimately led to the Great Depression. Scientists around the world desperately sought a cure for the millions of Depressed peoples on every continent. Researchers from the National Socialist Society eventually demonstrated that the people of Germany, Italy and Spain were Depressed because their trains didn't run on time, and fascism was invented to address this shortcoming.

Having resolved their train schedules, however, fascists discovered that many people were still unhappy. This was found to have been the result of socialism (remember, National Socialist are not Socialists i.e. Communist), which was incompatible with fascism, and persons who failed to become happy were subsequently shot.

This caused the Spanish Civil War, which was so successful it inspired World War II, after which everyone felt much better.

October 24, 1931 -
The George Washington Bridge opens to public traffic, linking New York City with New Jersey. The bridge became a famous New York landmark and has been featured in many movies and TV shows. The toll to cross the bridge was to be temporary -- just to cover costs.

But it costs and costs and costs when you have to keep repairing and painting a bridge that big -- so, the bridge toll continues. And the bridge is still being painted.

October 24, 1947 -
In a very UN-American fashion, Neo-Nazi and American Isolationist Walt Disney testified before the House Unamerican Activities Committee on this date.

Disney named employees he believes to be Communists, ranting about how Communists were infiltrating the unions he has to deal with, and how "Commie groups began smear campaigns against [him]."

October 24, 1960 -
At the Soviet Union's Baykonur space facility, an R-16 ballistic missile explodes on the launch pad, incinerating 165 people on this date.

Included among the dead is Field Marshall Mitrofan Nedelin, whose death is covered up as having occurred in a plane crash.

And so it goes

Before I let you go: CGP Grey has a new video - How Many Countries Are There?

Now your day is better.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Celebrate as your conscience dictates

Mole Day is celebrated annually on October 23 from 6:02 AM until 6:02 PM - Mole Day commemorates Avogadro's Number (6.02 x 10^23), which is a basic measuring unit in chemistry.

Mole Day was created as a way to foster interest in chemistry. Schools throughout the United States and around the world celebrate Mole Day with various activities related to chemistry and/or moles.

Don't tell anybody that you celebrated this day.

According to James Ussher, the venerable 17th century Archbishop of Armagh, and Dr John Lightfoot of Cambridge, it was at exactly 9:00 a.m. on the chilly autumn morning of October 23, 4004 BC, that God created the world.

9:00 A.M. - exactly? (Where didn't appear to enter into their consideration.) This strikes me as monumental. If the world was created at 9:00 AM Greenwich Time, it would have been 5:00 AM Eastern Time, meaning the world was technically created earlier in the Old World than it was in the New. What's worse, Hawaii, the Midway Islands, Samoa, and other points west would have been created the day before.

It's conceivable, I suppose, that Ussher & Lightfoot (which sounds like either a rock group, law firm, or television action series) could have been mistaken in their calculations, but if we start questioning men of God, where will it end? Sooner or later we'll start questioning God himself, which couldn't possibly lead anywhere good. No, it's either blind obedience to God or the Hell with us all.

Just ask the Taliban.

Anyway, this would make this old earth just 6017 years old on October 23 (according to Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and others.)

But then again, the voice of reason keeps rearing it's ugly head.

Today is also TV Talk Show Host Day. We celebrate and honor all TV Talk Show hosts (except Arsenio Hall, even though he's back on TV, and Chevy Chase.)

This very special day is celebrated on the birth date of legendary night time talk show host Johnny Carson. Carson is considered the "King of Late Night Television". He hosted The Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992 for a record 29 years, 7 months, 21 days (1,859 episodes.)

While this day is celebrated on Johnny Carson's birth date, it is intended to show appreciation to all Television talk show hosts, daytime and nighttime.

Celebrate today, by staying up all day and night and watch talk shows (until you pass out.)

October 23, 1941 -
Walt Disney studios release their fourth animated film, Dumbo on this date.

A very tightly budgeted, scripted, and produced film, because Walt Disney needed the film to bring in much-needed revenue after the expensive failures of Pinocchio and Fantasia. Final negative cost of Dumbo was $813,000 (making it the least expensive of all Disney's animated features), and it grossed over $2.5 million in its original release (more than Pinocchio's and Fantasia's original grosses combined).

October 23, 1959 -
Alfred Matthew Yankovic, Grammy Award winning American singer, musician, actor, satirist, parodist, songwriter, music producer, accordionist, and television producer, was born on this date.

And you just thought he was some nerdy guy you sang some funny songs.

Today in History:
October 23, 42 BC
While it is not the Ides of March - today was a very bad day for Brutus.

Marcus Junius Brutus, one of the lead assassins of Julius Casear, and his army are decisively defeated by Mark Antony and Octavian in the Second Battle of Philippe, on this date. Brutus didn't take the loss well and commits suicide.

His last words were allegedly Yes, we must escape, but this time with our hands, not our feet. (I believe they really were, Ouch that really hurts).

October 23,1935 -
Gangsters Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at a saloon in Newark, New Jersey in what will become known as The Chophouse Massacre.

Remember kids, crime doesn't pay (except perhaps for Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese.)

October 23, 1987 -
United States Senate rejected the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork on a 58-to-42 vote. Ostensibly this was because he admitted to smoking marijuana as a youth, which would be the wrong reason. He should have been rejected for his dealings in the Saturday Night Massacre (with evil chin hair.)

Some have since argued that Bork was the target of a smear campaign, and they began using his last name as a verb, saying that they wanted to prevent future nominees from getting "borked." The word "bork" was recently added to Webster's dictionary, defined as, "[Seeking] to obstruct a political appointment or selection, also to attack a political opponent viciously." Robert Bork said, "My name became a verb, and I regard that as one form of immortality."

The chip on Mr. Bork's shoulder makes the one on Clarence Thomas' very small indeed. BTW, Mr. Thomas was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice on this date in 1991.

October 23, 1995 -
The murderer of the Pop Star singer Selena, and president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar, was found guilty in Houston of her slaying on this date.

It helped that case tremendously that with her last breathe, Selena was able to say, "Hey, the big fat ugly embezzling head of my fan club just shot me in the back."

Very lucky break for the prosecution.

And so it goes

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Today is the day that campaigns for the removal of the caps lock button from standard QWERTY keyboards (or for the moving of the button), due to people continually accidentally pressing the button when they mean to use other keys.

There’s also a tendency for people to ‘shout’ (either intentionally or accidentally) by using capital letters when typing, especially online. International Caps Lock Day was created in 2000 by Derek Arnold of Iowa. Please email him in full caps to complain.

(Forgive me, I should have warned you about the video.)

October 22, 1942 -
The biggest box office hit of Bette Davis' career, Now, Voyager opened in NYC on this date.

Claude Rains initially turned down the Jaquith role, finding it too insubstantial. The part was built up for him and he was paid $5000 a week for six weeks' work.

October 22, 1949
The second film in director John Ford's Cavalry Trilogy, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, premiered on this date.

When Sgt. Quincannon (Victor McLaglen) is addressing the troops and warning them to "watch them words," he asks who owns a dog that had wandered over and was watching the assembled soldiers. Not receiving an answer, he concludes, "Nice dog! Irish setter!" The scene was improvised on the spot by director John Ford. The dog was an unnamed Navajo pet that had fallen asleep during the setup. Multiple takes were required because McLaglen kept blowing the line, calling the dog a "cocker spaniel."

October 22, 1965
The Beatles recorded the song Nowhere Man for their influential album Rubber Soul on this date.

It was probably their first song that did not deal with romance or love.

October 22, 1965 -
The Rolling Stones released the single Get Off My Cloud on this date in the U.K.

Keith Richards said of the song: "Get Off My Cloud was basically a response to people knocking on our door asking us for the follow up to 'Satisfaction,' which was such an enormous hit worldwide."

October 22, 1971 -
Peter Bogdanovich's break out film, The Last Picture Show opened on this date.

The "last picture" shown in the movie theater was Red River. In the original novel it was an Audie Murphy B-Western, but Peter Bogdanovich wanted something more dramatic. .

Today in History:
October 22, 1797
Once upon a time in the eighteenth century, a man named J.P. Blanchard threw a dog wearing a rudimentary parachute out of a hot-air balloon. History does not divulge the outcome of this experiment. Mr. Blanchard may simply have been a disgruntled cat person.

There lived at that time a swindler by the name of Andre-Jacques Garnerin, who traveled around France offering (for a fee from his spectators) to ascend into the sky in a hot-air balloon and leap to the earth in a parachute. Strangely enough, his balloon never managed to get off the ground. Refunds were never offered.

One day an angry spectator brought Garnerin's con to the attention of the local authorities, who promptly arrested him. He was given a choice: he could either get his balloon to fly and make the promised jump or he could go directly to jail.

And so, one early evening 215 years ago today, Garnerin's balloon rose 3000 feet into the evening air above Paris.

Then it exploded.

Fortunately, Garnerin was already in his parachute and survived the landing. The suddenly successful showman didn't die his inevitable horrible aviation-related death for a full quarter-century later.

It was on this day in 1836 that Sam Houston was sworn in as the first president of the Republic of Texas. Texas had become an independent nation after winning its independence from Mexico, and would not be incorporated into the United States as a state until 1845.

There are some who insist to this day that Texas was never properly admitted into the Union because, like everything else, its admission had been Unconstitutional. (We will leave this conversation to Mr. Perry and Mr. Cruz.)

October 22, 1844 -
The 'Second Coming' fails to occur on this date, for the Seventh Day Adventists, led by Bible scientist William Miller. The Millerites were expecting the End Times to accompany the appearance of Jesus Christ, so that didn't happen either.

Oops, I guess Mr. Miller has some explaining to do.

The Gare Montparnasse, one of the six large terminus train stations of Paris, became famous for a derailment on October 22, 1895 of the Granville-Paris Express that overran the buffer stop. The engine careened across almost 100 ft off the station concourse, crashed through a two foot thick wall, shot across a terrace and sailed out of the station, plummeting onto the Place de Rennes more than 30 feet below, where it stood on its nose.

All on board the train survived, five sustaining injuries: two passengers, the fireman and two crew members; however, one woman on the street below was killed by falling masonry. The accident was caused by a faulty Westinghouse brake and the engine drivers who were trying to make up for lost time. The conductor incurred a 25 franc penalty and the engine driver a 50 franc penalty; he was also sent to prison for two months.

Do you think the passengers got their money back?

October 22, 1907 -
President Theodore Roosevelt visited The Hermitage, in Nashville, Tennessee, home of the late President Andrew Jackson on this date.

Years later, Maxwell House claimed that Roosevelt had praised a cup of its coffee during this visit by saying it was "good to the last drop."

October 22, 1934 -
Here's another story of your tax dollars at work:

FBI agents, led by the ambitious Melvin Purvis and local Ohio authorities captured and killed Public enemy No. 1, Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd, in a shoot out on this day. Or so the official story goes. But as many of you loyal readers know the 'authorized' version and actual facts of events can differ wildly.

Chester Smith, a retired East Liverpool Police Captain, the sharpshooter who claimed that he shot Floyd first, stated in a 1979 interview, that after he had (deliberately) wounded, but not killed, Floyd.

"I knew Purvis couldn't hit him, so I dropped him with two shots from my .32 Winchester rifle."

Smith claims that he then disarmed Floyd, and that Melvin Purvis, the agent in charge, ran up and ordered: "Back away from that man. I want to talk to him." Purvis questioned him briefly and then ordered him shot at point-blank range, telling agent Herman Hollis to "Fire into him." The interviewer asked if there was a coverup by the FBI, and Smith responded: "Sure was, because they didn't want it to get out that he'd been killed that way."

This account is extremely controversial. If true, Purvis effectively executed Floyd without benefit of judge or jury.

Floyd's body was quickly embalmed and shipped to Oklahoma. His funeral was attended by between twenty and forty thousand people. It remains the largest funeral in Oklahoma history.

And so it goes