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March 12, 2015
March 11th, 2015

Question: Was Uncle Sam based on somebody real?

Yesterdays’ question answered below: What is the origin of calling someone zany?
History for 3/12/2015
Birthdays: Jack Kerouac, Billy "Buckwheat "Thomas, Darryl Strawberry, Edward Albee, Andrew Young, Joan Kennedy, Eugene Ormandy, Gordon McCrae, Liza Minelli is 69, Courtenay Vance, James Taylor, Frank Welker, Al Jareau, Maurice Evans, porn star Ron Jeremy, Barbara Feldon- agent 99 in Get Smart, DeWitt Bodeen- writer of the 1942 film Cat People. Aaron Eckart is 47

To the Zoroastrians of Persia, this was the Festival of Marduk, the God of Storms.

81 BC- Roman dictator Sulla grants his general Pompey the right to hold a triumph to celebrate his victories. A triumph was the grand parade through the streets of Rome, hero in his chariot and all that, like in the movies. Pompey is the guy we get the term "pompous" from. As a young man he already insisted people refer to him as Magnus- The Great. Instead of his gold chariot being borne by the traditional four milk white horses, he wanted four milk white elephants! Sulla felt Rome’s arches and street weren't of sufficient width so Pompey reluctantly settled for one white elephant.

222AD- The Roman Emperor Elagabulus was assassinated. Elagabulus was a sicko-tyrant like Nero and Caligula. When his guards turned on him he first hid in a toilet but was found and stabbed. His body was dragged behind a chariot in the Circus Maximus to the cheers of the crowd, then dumped in the Tiber River. General Severus Alexander took over the Empire.

1507-After being run out of Rome after his father Pope Alexander VI 's death, Caesare Borgia became a petty mercenary in Navarre. During a battle he spurs his horse into the thickest of the foe, and on a pre-arranged signal none of his men follow. He was cut to pieces.

1579- The Duke of Ferrara Ludovigo D’Este had a problem. He was long the patron of a poet named Torquato TASSO and Tasso loved one of his daughters. But Tasso was mentally unstable, probably schizophrenic.
This day, in the midst of a ceremony celebrating the Dukes third marriage, Tasso began raving and screaming and had to be dragged off to a mental hospital. At the same time Tasso’s greatest poem JERUSALEM DELIVERED was published. The poem became world famous – Montaigne, Cervantes and Queen Elizabeth of England all loved it. Christian Europe felt they finally had an epic poet to rival the pagans Virgil and Homer. Musicians like Handel and Monteverdi made operas of its characters, Armida, Tancredi and Reynaldo.
And Duke Ludovico? For all his trouble, all he got was criticism for his perceived bad treatment of Italy’s greatest poet since Dante.

1773- The Virginia Legislature voted to make common cause with the other American colonies and establish regular communications, particularly with Massachusetts who was having the most trouble with the London Government at that time. Up to now even clear thinkers, like Ben Franklin, doubted all the various American colonies could ever agree on anything.

1781- In one of the more desperate schemes of the American Revolution, a letter signed this day by General George Washington gave permission to a plan for secret agents to kidnap Prince William, the Duke of York, while he was visiting British troops in America! The letter insists the Royal hostage should be treated properly. The plan never was carried out. Forty years later, when William, now King William IV, heard of the scheme, he commented: "I thank Mr. Washington for his kind intent while being thankful I was never made subject to his hospitality!"

1796- After a two-day honeymoon at her place, Malmaison, Napoleon leaves Josephine
to go conquer Italy. And don't forget to pick up the Sunday paper on the way back!

1877-In Philadelphia, Sam Wanamaker was unsure just what kind of retail he wanted to go into, he just wanted his business to be big. So he opened a large building with different types of goods sold in separate departments. Wanamakers became the first true Department Store.

1884- The Dervish army of El Mahdi completed its surrounding of the Sudanese capitol of Khartoum defended by British General Charles Gordon. They would finally break into the city and kill him by next January. Yet despite the hopelessness of his situation Gordon was in merry spirits. Gordon was a religious zealot who prayed and preached at length. English society considered him something of a Missionary Saint. He never married but had a Victorian penchant for picking up poor street boys, bathing them and photographing them...ahem.

1912-The Girl Scouts was founded in Savannah, Georgia, by Juliet Low, a friend of Sir Anthony Baden-Powell, English founder of the Boy Scouts.

1928- THE SAINT FRANCIS DAM DISASTER- The second worst disaster to hit California after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.

Following up his triumph bringing water to Southern California by aqueduct, William Mulholland had designed several dams and reservoirs north of Los Angeles in the Santa Clarita Valley. On this night at midnight the largest of them exploded from basic structural weakness and sent a wall of water 30 feet high across the rural towns of Santa Paula and Fillmore down to Oxnard and the Pacific. 400 people drowned in their beds without warning.

Mulholland took full responsibility for the disaster and resigned all his city offices. "I envy the dead", he said. He died a few years later. Today when driving around the Valencia-Newhall area you can still see huge boulders with steel retaining rods sticking out of them. They are not natural rocks but chunks of the dam carried miles by the torrent of water.

1930-Mohandas K Ghandi, of India, called the Mahatma or the Great Soul, began his Salt March. This gesture of defying the British Empire's monopoly on salt production was a gesture akin to throwing tea into Boston Harbor. He set out from his ashram with 78 followers and a lot of press coverage; by the time he reached the Indian Ocean his followers had become tens of thousands and was famous around the world.

1932-Disney short "Mickey’s Revue" featuring Dippy Dog, now turned into a new character named "the Goof" or Goofy.

1933-THE FIRESIDE CHATS- Just 8 days after taking office President Franklin Roosevelt began a series of national radio broadcasts detailing his plans to fight the economic problems of the country, called by newsman Robert Trout his Fireside Chats. FDR amazed the American public by speaking quietly and candidly, instead of using the bombastic political speeches of the day.

1939- While war clouds grew in Europe Eugenio Pacelli was crowned Pope Pius XII. Pius’ authoritarian style dominated Catholic thinking into the 1950’s. He was nicknamed "Hitler’s Pope" for his cozy relationship with the Fascists and Nazis, never speaking out against the Holocaust even when the Jews of Rome were being dragged off under his window. But he did censure American anti-Semitic radio star Father Coughlin. In the 1950’s he threatened with excommunication any Catholics who became Communists, or even worse, those who married Protestants!
For short trips he liked to be driven around in a Cadillac with a throne built into the backseat. He died in 1958 and his successor Pope John XXIII instituted the liberal reforms known as Vatican II.

1945- Anne Frank died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at age 15.
Her father discovered her diary after the war.

1945- The Japanese military order every school child over the age of seven to enter the military or factories to fight the coming American invasion.

1945-THE WAR OF HOLLYWOOD BEGAN-Throughout the 1930’s and 40’s several national unions battled studios and each other to represent Hollywood film workers. The Teamsters, the FWPC, the Brotherhood of Electricians.

By 1945 only two remained, the IATSE and the CSU.(International Alliance of Theater and Screen Engineers and the Conference of Studio Unions) IATSE had a reputation of gangsterism and making cozy deals with the studio heads. The CSU, a much more militant group with past ties to communist organizations, was headed by a charismatic scenery painter named Herb Sorrell who had helped win the Disney strike for the cartoonists in 1941. Sorrel called several citywide strikes that paralyzed Hollywood in 1945, 46,and 47. President Richard Walsh of IATSE fought them and rioting in front of the studios was commonplace.

1947-THE TRUMAN DOCTRINE- In a speech to Congress President Harry Truman called for millions in aid to Greece and Turkey to stop them from going Communist. This speech was the de-facto declaration of the Cold War. Truman stated that it would be the policy of the United States to aid "any minority fighting Communist coercion".

1948- The Hell’s Angels motorcycle club formed in Oakland Cal. Instead of boozy teenagers the first motorcycle clubs were formed by former World War II combat fighter pilots who missed the thrill and camaraderie of flying in formation. During the war motorcycle scouts kept their bike engines un-muffled and loud to scare German snipers into thinking a tank or some other big ordnance was coming. The long handlebars and low seat of the chopper was evolved as a defense against booby trap wires strung across a road at a height to decapitate a hapless scout.

1951- Former Disney assistant animator Hank Ketcham was trying his hand as a print cartoonist. He had some success selling gags to the New Yorker Magazine. His baby son Dennis was a precocious infant. Once after she caught the child smearing the contents of his diaper around the house, his mother exclaimed to Hank-“ Your son is a Menace!” That gave Ketcham an idea. Today the first Dennis the Menace comic strip was published.

1955- BIRD DIED- Jazz genius Charlie "Bird" Parker had a lifelong drug addiction. Since the death of his infant daughter earlier that year his drug use had spiraled out of control. He was sleeping on the couch in the NY apartment of the Baroness du Rothschild-Konigswarter, a jazz supporter. He awoke to watch TV.. While laughing at a juggler on the Dorsey Brothers Variety Show he died. The coroner said death was by heart failure, cirrhosis and pneumonia. He estimated Parker’s age at 65. He was really 34. When his band heard of his death they paused between sets to all shoot up with heroin in his honor. "Seems silly now, come to think of it." Said one musician later.

1964- Malcolm X announced his break with the Nation of Islam in the US. Since returning from Mecca he was disillusioned with founder Elijah Mohammad’s leadership.

1969- Mrs. Robinson –a song written by two young folk singers named Simon & Garfunkel, won a Grammy award.

1969- Paul and Linda McCartney married.

1989- Tim Berners-Lee flicked a switch and the World Wide Web became operational, connecting several web systems into a global network.

1992- Warren Beatty married Annette Benning.

2000- Pope John Paul II officially apologized on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for the Crusades, The Inquisition, 2000 years of Anti-Semitic persecution, the Fires of Smithfield, Bloody Mary, burning at the stake Jan Hus and Giordano Bruno, Silencing Galileo and Copernicus, the Thirty Years War, The forced conversions of indigenous peoples, ignoring the Holocaust, uhh. Did we leave anything out? Comedian John Stewart said Judaism officially apologized for the Barbara Streisand movie "Yentl."

2003 –The female vocal group the Dixie Chicks were tops of the country-western world. They had preformed at last years Super Bowl. But in an interview during a concert in Britain, singer Natalie Maines expressed her sadness over America’s invasion of Iraq. “ Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence. And we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas." Starting today the conservative backlash from this comment destroyed their careers. They made a documentary about it in 2006 entitled “ Shut Up and Sing.”

Yesterdays’ question: What is the origin of calling someone zany?

Answer: In the Italian Commedia Del Arte theater of the XVI Century, a Zani was a type of comic character.