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May 20th, 2009 weds
May 20th, 2009

Congratulations to my UCLA students Joaquin Baldwin, who won a Student Academy Award for his film SEBASTIAN'S VOODOO. And to Robyn Yannoukos who won an alternate for her film ALICES' ATTIC.

Question: What is the origin of Denim?

Yesterday’s Question answered below: What is an agent-provocateur??
History for 5/20/2009
Birthdays: Honore Balzac, Jimmy Stewart, Leon Schlesinger, William Fargo of Wells Fargo, Moshe Dayan, Henri Rousseau, Dave Thomas, Ted Bessell (Donald to Marlo Thomas’ “That Girl”), Japanese baseball great Sadaharu Oh, Antony Zerbe- the badguy vampire in the Omega Man, Bronson Pichot, Joe Cocker, Cher is 63, Busta Rhymes

1347- Cola di Rienzi became the “tribune” or leader of the city of Rome. The Pope was a prisoner in Avignon so the Eternal City was in chaos. Rienzi tried to bring about reforms and restore infrastructure but like Mussolini he eventually got too arrogant and overplayed his hand. A mob slaughtered him and danced with his corpse. The main thing Rienzi is remembered for today is giving his name to an early overture by Wagner and to Gen. Phil Sheridan’s horse.

1520- A violent young Spanish mercenary soldier named Ignacio was hit by a cannonball. When he recovered he underwent a spiritual conversion and became St. Ignatius Loyola. Loyola founded a religious order called the Society of Jesus or Jesuits. Instead of acting like monks the Jesuits were organized on military discipline. Their leader is not called an abbot but the Secretary General. He is nicknamed “the Black Pope”.

1520- Hernando Cortez had not only to fight the entire Aztec Empire with just 391 troops, he also had the Spanish Governor of Cuba out to get him! This day Cortez surprised attacked the troop of Spaniards sent to arrest him. After a short battle he defeated the Governor’s force, and invited the survivors to join him.

1621- The Sack of Magdeburg-During the Thirty Years War Catholic armies captured this Protestant German city. They stabbed the surrendering Dutch commander Dietrich Von Falkenberg and committed horrible atrocities on the population. The medieval cry "Cria Havoc!" was the signal for the pent up soldiers to run amuck. According to the rules of war they have the right to rape, pillage and destroy for three days then discipline is restored. But at Magdeburg they burned the city down and for 14 days the victors dumped the bodies of the innocent in the Elbe River. The army’s commander Johan Tserclas von Tilly explained: “ The soldier must get something for his toil and trouble.” The incident galvanized Protestant resistance. Ironically a lot of the troops in the Catholic army were protestant mercenaries who figured the religious questions were for kings to worry about, they just thought the catholic side had better benefits.(401k, Good dental, the usual..)

1830 - D Hyde patented the fountain pen, replacing the goose feather quill .

1873- Mr. Levi Strauss of San Francisco patents Jacob Davis’ process of riveted blue jeans. One alteration he made was to remove a rivet that was at the base of a cowboys crotch. It seems when they squatted around the campfire that rivet got red hot and caused much whoopin’ an a’ dancin’.

1887- In Russia a young man named Alexander Ulyanov was hanged by the police for plotting to assassinate the Tsar with a bomb hidden in a dictionary. His baby brother Vladimir watched him die and was deeply affected. He took up his brother’s revolutionary cause, and to protect his family changed his name to N. Lenin. The N is sometimes called Nikolai, but in Lenin's words it meant 'Nietzsto- Nothing."

1891- Thomas Edison demonstrated an early prototype of kinetoscope- a motion picture machine- to his wife's friends at a party. The footage was of engineer W.K.L. Dickson and his associates dancing. Edison that night writes a letter about his movie machine to photographer Edweard Muybridge: " I doubt it will ever have any commercial value.."

1916- Polar Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton set off in 1914 to cross the continent of Antartica. No one had heard from his party for two years and everyone assumed he was dead like Scott of the Antarctic 4 years before. This day Shackleton and two survivors reached a Norwegian Whaling Station on South Georgia Island ahead of the rest of his party. Sir Ernest asked about the Great War in Europe and assumed that by now the war was probably over. “Who won that war?” he asked. He was told: “It is still going on. Europe has gone mad. The World, has Gone Mad.”

1916- Artist Norman Rockwell sold his first painting for a Saturday Evening Post cover.

1926 - Thomas Edison says Americans prefer silent movies over talking pictures. He also thought the flat record disc could never replace the cylinder.

1927- Charles Lindbergh took off for France in his little plane The Spirit of Saint Louis. The day before two pilots died when their plane failed to clear some power lines. Lindbergh barely cleared them himself. By attempting the trip alone it meant he would have to stay awake and alert for 33 1/2 hours with no company but a Felix the Cat doll for good luck.

1932- Amelia Earhart landed in Londonerry, Northern Ireland , completing the first solo flight by a woman across the Atlantic Ocean.

1937-The Cinema Editor's Guild started.

1937- Bob Clampett promoted to director at Leon Schlesinger’s Looney Tunes Studio. Clampett, whose mother hand sewed the first Mickey Mouse dolls for Walt Disney. After leaving Looney Tunes Clampett created the Beany & Cecil Show for early television.

1939- Pan Am establishes "Yankee Clipper"" flying boat passenger service across the Atlantic. From Long Island New York to Lisbon Portugal in 22 hours. For awhile it was thought flying boats would be the future of civilian aviation because they land in water so save land for airports and runways. Also safer because if there was any kind of engine trouble they could just put down in water and bob around until help arrived.

1942- Nazi parachutists capture Crete. One of the paratroopers was Max Schmelling, who boxed Joe Louis for the heavyweight title. The Germans casualty rate was so high the Germans abandoned all future parachute assaults.

1943- Admiral Yamamoto shot down and killed in transit by American pursuit squadron tipped off by the broken Japanese code. Ironically the mastermind of Pearl Harbor was against the war with America and predicted: " If I can knock out the American fleet early I can raise hell in the Pacific for two years. If you don't negotiate after that we will eventually lose." I recently read a theory of one historian who said that right around this time Prime Minister Hideki Tojo's government had fallen over the conduct of the war and Yamamoto, as Japan’s most popular soldier, could have been the next Prime Minister. In which case he would have opened peace talks as early as 1943, long before Okinawa, Iwo Jima and Hiroshima ! It’s a stretch, but one of the intriguing “what if’s” of history.

1948- A tornado touched down on a commercial airport in Tinker Oklahoma. What made this episode special was two air force meteorologists named Miller and Forbush just happened to present studying tornado weather patterns when the twister showed up as if on cue. The result was the invention of the first serious tornado warning systems .

1969- The Battle of Hamburger Hill ended- U.S.101st Airborne took the summit of Hill 937 from North Vietnamese regulars after nine days of incurring grievous losses. The hill was abandoned shortly afterwards.

1970-THE HARD HAT PARADE- In a response to the anti-war demonstrations convulsing US colleges and cities, several thousand people marched in downtown New York in support of President Nixon’s Vietnam policies. The so-called Hard Hat Parade was made up of union construction workers and middle aged veterans. Conservatives made a lot of this event but the fact is this was a one time anomaly in the face of hundreds of thousands marching nationwide against the unpopular war.

1975- In a small warehouse in Van Nuys California, George Lucas assembled an effects crew to create the film Star Wars. It is the birth of Industrial Light & Magic, or ILM.

1979- The last Saturday Night Live show done by the original cast. Many of them had their 5 year contracts up and wanted to do something else. Plus producer Lorne Michaels was feuding with NBC chairman Fred Silverman and wanted to leave. So goodbye Lorne Michaels, Gilda Radner, Lorraine Newman, Garret Morris, Bill Murray and Al Franken, Hello Jean Doumainian and Joe Piscopo! Lorne Michaels came back to the show a few years later and has produced it ever since.

1984- Hanna Barbera’s “The Smurfic Games”.

1993 - Max Klein, the inventor of Paint by Numbers sets, died at 77. President Eisenhower once passed out paint-by-numbers sets to his senior cabinet so their paintings could adorn the West Wing offices. Imagine seeing on your wall an original artwork by VP Nixon or Curtis LeMay!
Yesterday’s Quiz: What is an agent-provocateur??

Answer: An agent provocateur was a spy sent to encourage others to commit a crime, sometimes even a spy sent by the police. I had a great uncle Boris who was a nationalist terrorist- provocateur. In Czarist occupied Poland my uncle would start riots, and then leave before the Cossacks rode out to whip and shoot into the crowd. He died in Albany of old age. I’m not sure about the ones who stuck around for the riot.