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November 9th, 2007 friday
November 9th, 2007

My old comrade and fellow pencil-pusher Michael Sporn is having a retrospective of his films this week at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. On Monday he will be interviewed on stage by historian John Canemaker. Check his site listed on my links for the details.

It is an interesting part of growing older when you see friends you hung out with and got drunk with, one day having retrospectives in a museum. While I wrestle with my mortality, Michael Sporn has been making wonderful films in New York for the last twenty five years. Many folks recall fondly getting their first jobs under his aegis and learning the animation ropes.

My favorite films of his are the William Steig projects like Dr DeSoto and the Amazing Bone. I recall when I was heading story on SHREK at Dreamworks, when the topic of what the production design of the picture should be, I would say, "why not DO STEIG?" After all, IT'S HIS STORY!" The others would look at me like I had grown another head.

from the amazing bone, courtesy

So, thank you Mike for bringing Steigs' intriguing and whimsical style to the screen, among many others, and keeping a big viable studio going in the home of Max Fleischer and John Hubley. Congratulations, Slava and Vivat! I'll stand behind you in the chariot holding the laurel wreath, and mumbling the ancient device- Remember thou art but a Man!

I urge anyone in the area to run don't walk to go see it!

Today's Question: How long has the motto IN GOD WE TRUST been stamped on U.S. money?

Answer to yesterday' question: What is a Smart Aleck? below.
history for 11/9/2007
Birthdays: English King Edward VII-Bertie, Stanford White, Marie Dressler, Ed Wynn, Claude Rains, Ann Sexton, Spiro Agnew, Tommy Dorsey, Dr. Carl Sagan, Whitey Herzog, Dorothy Dandridge, Dr. Herbert Kalmus the inventor of Technicolor film, Lou Ferrigno, Sisqo

In ancient Rome this was the Feast of Mania, like the Greek Anthesterion it was a time when the Gates of Underworld were said to be open and the shades of the dead could visit their old haunts. This is where we get the word Maniac.

64BC- Marcus Cicero delivered the first of his great speeches against Catiline, a Roman noble he accused of gathering an army of the disaffected to overthrow the Republic.

1699- According to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels this was the day Lemenual Gulliver was shipwrecked on the island of Liliput.

1799- THE COUP OF THE 18TH BRUMAIRE- Napoleon seized power in France. The name referred to the date in the French Revolutionary calendar. The little general began by giving a speech in the National Assembly denouncing the Jacobin menace and the need to restore order. Throwing around the term Jacobin then was akin to calling people Al Qaeda today. However, he was never as good a political speaker as he was a soldier. The senior politicians recognized baloney when they heard it and mobbed him. His brother Lucien who was a senator pulled him out of the crowd. So Nappy called in his troops and cleared the hall, pushing some senators out of the windows, it was a one story building so the effect was purely symbolic. At 2:00 AM a small group of friendly senators were convened to vote to create a leadership system of three Counsels with Nappy to share power, but he soon outmaneuvered the other two. Napoleon became dictator of France and declared the French Revolution complete. “I am the Revolution!” He was 31.

1872- The Great Fire of Boston. Much of the city center was destroyed because an equine virus, The Great Epizootic, had killed off the horses of the fire brigades.

1875- A treaty had declared all of the Sacred Black Hills of South Dakota to be protected Indian land “ So Long as Grass grows and Water Flows.”But prospectors supported by General George Custer had discovered gold in those hills and a gold rush began, Indians or not. This day a confidential memo from Supreme Commander of the U.S. Army Phil Sheridan with President Ulysses Grant’s approval ordered the frontier cavalry to cease preventing settlers and gold prospectors from moving into the Black Hills. This memo in effect violated the Indian Treaty of 1868 and would lead to Custer's Last Stand next June.

1888- The last victim of Jack the Ripper found. 25 year old prostitute Mary Kelly. After her murder the Ripper attacks ceased as mysteriously as they had started.

1911-The first Neon sign illuminated.

1918- KAISER WILHELM ABDICATED the collapsing German Monarchy . A curious fact was that no Tommy, Doughboy or Poilu ( the nicknames for British, American and French soldiers) in World War One ever made it to Berlin, much less entered Germany. The German war machine collapsed from within- bread riots, the economy in shambles, The entire Navy mutinied, Bolshevik Worker’s Soviets were set up in eleven cities including Cologne, Munich and Hamburg..
At first the Kaiser hoped to first sign the peace with the victorious Allies then use the German army to put down the riots and restore order. But changed his mind when 40 combat officers selected at random said 38 to 2 that they would refuse to kill other Germans to save his dynasty. Even then leaders resorted to polls. “What about the Fananeider-the German Soldiers Oath to die for the Monarchy?! “he asked General Von Groener. “Sire, today the Oath is just some empty words!” Even the Kaiser’s personal bodyguards were setting up a Revolutionary Workers Committee. So rather than wind up arrested and maybe even shot like his cousin the Czar of Russia, Wilhelm abdicated.

1928- Anthropologist Margaret Mead arrived in Ta’u, Samoa to begin work on her book “Coming of Age in Samoa” which will have a great effect on how people raise their children.

1937- KRYSTAL NACHT- In Paris an angry German-Jewish exile shot and killed a German diplomat named Ernst Von Rapt. Ironically Rapt was anti-Nazi and was being watched by the Gestapo. Back in Germany the Nazis use this incident to order the mass destruction of 191 synagogues and 1,000 Jewish businesses. Then the Jewish community was ordered to pay fines up to $40 million to pay for the damage. The name Crystal Night pertains to the sound of smashing glass in the streets. German boxing champion Max Schmelling was the media idol of Aryan Superiority for defeating American Joe Louis. One thing no one knew was that Schmelling concealed two Jewish boys from danger on Krystalnacht and had them smuggled out of the country. In 1961 Schmelling was invited to a testimonial in his honor at the Sands Casino in Las Vegas, owned by one of those boys.

1964- First "Wizard of Id" comic strip published.

1953- Welsh poet Dylan Thomas died of alcohol poisoning and liver failure in New York after downing 18 straight shots of whiskey . There's actually some debate as to whether or not Dylan Thomas intended to drink himself to death. Scholars have recently suggested that he was a diabetic and died of hypoglycemia. Whatever the actual agent of Thomas' demise may have been, the coroner wrote on his death certificate under the cause of death heading, "Insult to the brain."

1965- "WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT?" The first Great East Coast Blackout. A transformer near Rochester shorts out and the surge overloads station after station until the entire eastern seaboard from Boston to Delaware is in darkness for 12 hours. (nine months later there was a notable rise in the birthrate, there was nothing else to do....).

1966- In London Beatle John Lennon went to an art exhibit and met a Japanese avant garde photographer named Yoko Ono.

1981- The Screen Actor's Guild under President Ed Asner votes emergency moneys for striking PATCO air traffic controllers fired by the former SAG president, now U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

1979- National Public Radio goes on the air. The first US national news show with women as anchor reporters.

1989- THE BERLIN WALL OPENS UP. The East German authorities back down as the people (guards included) dance and sing on the hated symbol of Cold War division. A student points up at the t.v. cameras and triumphantly shouted: "Look, the Whole World is Watching !" Some West German politicians drove to the scene of the spontaneous demonstration and they tried to get everyone to sing patriotic songs like "Deutschlandlied", but the crowd drowned them out dancing to the theme from the movie:"GhostBusters". The next day people found the streets covered in banana peels. It was the first thing East Germans bought in the west, and they ate their bananas as they window shopped.

2004- The Jones Soda Pop Company of Seattle announced its new creation – Mashed Potato Flavored Soda. This was to follow up on their success last year of Roast Turkey and Gravy Soda.
QUESTION: what is a smart-aleck?

ANSWER: The Vice President of the Confederate States, Alexander Stephens (1812-1883), was reputed to be a brilliant debater in Congress. He was so quick-witted, people referred to Smart- Alex, or Aleck, so it came to be a name for a quick witted wiseass.