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March 26th, 2008 wed.
March 25th, 2008

Question: Why is the speed of a ship measured in knots?

Yesterday’s Quiz answered below: In Moby Dick, what are the names of the two retired captains who owned the ship the Pequod?
History for 3/26/2008
B-Days: Harald von Braunhut 1926 - the inventor of Sea Monkeys, Robert Frost, Chico Marx, Conde’ Nast, Tennessee Williams, Joseph Campbell, General William Westmoreland, Erica Jong, Bob Elliot of Bob & Ray is 85, Duncan Hines, Bob Woodward, Leonard Nimoy is 77, Alan Arkin, James Caan is 69, Diana Ross, Former Justice Sandra Day-O’Connor, Martin Short, Keira Knightley is 23.

1199- English King Richard Lionheart died of blood poisoning from an arrow scratch. He was 42. After returning from the Crusade and getting ransomed from prison in Austria, Richard embarked on a campaign of regaining lands in central France he lost while he was away. He received his fatal wound while attacking the small castle of Chalus in Limousin. Since Lionheart shunned the company of women and never made a son (He married his wife Berengaria of Navarre to his sword) he died without an heir. His brother evil Prince John became king anyway.

1791- The French politician Mirabeau had guided the French Revolution from the Bastille towards creating a constitutional monarchy on the English model.Now, being the most famous man in France, he lived hard and played hard. This night he “entertained” two female dancers from the Opera all night and woke up with violent intestinal cramps. He was dead by April 2nd. The Revolution spun out of control into the Reign of Terror, then the dictatorship of Napoleon. It’s interesting to think if things would have been different had Mirabeau contented himself with one actress.

1811- Poet Percy Shelley was expelled from Oxford for writing a pamphlet that argued that God didn’t exist.

1827- Ludwig van Beethoven died at age 56. Six people visited him while he was sick, 20,000 attended his funeral in Vienna. Romantic legend says he died at the violent peak of a thunderstorm raising his fists skyward in a last act of defiance to God and the elements, but in actual fact he died peacefully in his sleep. He lived in an abandoned monastery given him as public housing by the Austrian government along with a small pension. He constantly complained about his poverty so that the Philharmonic Society of London sent him 1,500 gold English pounds from a benefit concert. After his death they found around 20,000 gold pieces hidden in cupboards and pots.

1830- Vermonter Joseph Smith, 24, first published The Book of Mormon.

1832- Artist George Catlin began his first trip to the West. He departed up the Missouri River on the American Fur Trading steamer the Yellowstone. Catlin’s paintings of Plains Indians became famous.

Courtesy of Univ of Indiana

1860- The tip of the Kowloon penninsula and Stonecutter’s Island ceded by China to Great Britain. This would become the site of Hong Kong. A British Empire diplomat called it "The notch by which the tree will be eventually felled.." meaning that like India eventually all China would be a British colony.

1865- At City Point, Virginia, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, had a covert meeting with Abraham Lincoln to discuss possible peace terms to end the Civil War. But they couldn’t agree on anything. Even at this late date, Lincoln offered a cash compensation of $4 million for the loss of slaves but Stephens said the deal breaker was that Southerners would not admit they were wrong and ask for pardons and amnesties. Alexander Stephens went back to Richmond empty-handed and the war went on. Not the last time a Republican and Democrat couldn't agree.

1883-To inaugurate her opulent, new, 5th Ave. mansion, Mrs. Cornelia Vanderbilt held one of the greatest costume balls in New York City history. She and Mrs. Astor had formed the Social Register, also called the Golden 400, the ranking of the top families in polite society first invented by the Venetian Republic. If you weren’t on their list then darling, you simply weren’t anybody. The mansion stood where Bergdorf Goodman’s faces the Plaza Hotel today. The party set new standards for the conspicuous wealth and excess of the Gilded Age. Many guests dressed as Venetian nobility and Mrs. J.P. Morgan dressed as “Electric Light: The Wonder of the Age.”

1900- The Happy Hooligan comic strip.

1909- The U.S. Board of Censorship created.

1920- This Side of Paradise, the first novel published by a young Minnesota writer named F. Scott Fitzgerald. F. Scott Fitzgerald was a descendant of Francis Scott Key, writer of the Star Spangled Banner.

1937- A statue of Popeye the Sailor unveiled at the Crystal City Texas Spinach Festival.

1943- Just outside Chicago, gangster Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti took a walk down a railroad track, took a swig of bourbon, put a 32mm pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. He first waved to get the attention of some track workers so they could witness that he was taking his own life and was not the victim of another gangster. The successor to Al Capone was going to be indicted the next day on Federal charges of racketeering and he knew they had enough from stoolies like Willie Bioff to put him away for a long time.

1953-The Salk Vaccine for Polio announced.

1958- The Mau-Mau Rebellion in Kenya. It's debatable just how extensive or violent the Mau-Maus were, or even if there ever was such an organization, but the British colonial authorities used it as the excuse to jail the real nationalists like Njomo Kenyatta.

1959- Writer Dashell Hammett died.

1969- On this day, a frustrated young writer named John Kennedy Toole committed suicide. When his mother went through his things she found the manuscript of a novel in an old shoebox. Seven years after John Kennedy Toole killed himself, his mother forced the manuscript upon novelist Walker Percy to read. He was teaching at Loyola University in New Orleans. He was stunned with what he read and that lead to it being published by Louisiana State University Press. The book the " Confederacy of Dunces " went on to be a critically acclaimed bestseller and win the Pulitzer Prize.

1970- Peter Yarrow, of the folk group Peter, Paul & Mary, admitted to having sex with a 14-year-old girl. “ If I had a Hammer…”

1975 - The Who’s rock opera "Tommy" premiered in London

1976 - Wings release "Wings at the Speed of Sound" album

1979 - Camp David Peace Accords signed between Israel and Egypt. Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egypt’s leader Anwar Sadat at one point were so uncooperative President Carter had to shuttle from cabin to cabin because they wouldn’t meet in the same room. Menachem Begin liked to mess with people’s minds. At one point, to cut the tension, Presidential advisor Zbignew Brezshinski invited Begin to play chess. As they sat Begin said softly,”I haven’t played chess in 40 years. Not since the day the Nazis kicked in my door and dragged me and my family off to Auschwitz.” While Brezshinski was humbled thinking about the enormity of that statement Mrs. Begin came in and said: “Oh, I see you’re playing chess, it’s Menachem’s favorite. He never stops playing!”

1997- Turner Animation's film 'Cats Don't Dance", featuring the last film work of Gene Kelly opened. He was a consultant on the dance sequences.

2228 - According to Star Fleet records- James T. Kirk, captain of Federation Star Ship Enterprise (Star Trek) was born.
Quiz: In Moby Dick we all remember Captain Ahab, Mr. Starbuck and Quequeg. What are the names of the two retired captains who owned their ship the Pequod?

Answer: Avast ye! The part-owner agents were the venerable Nantucket Quakers Captain Peleg and Captain Bildad.