I’ve seen it four gazillion times lately:  Britney Spears is the poster child for the downfall of modern American society.  There are serious things going on in the world, but the news is reporting the latest exploits of various celebutards like Lohan, Hilton and Spears.  We are most certainly going to hell in a handbasket.  Back in the day, we took national and world affairs SERIOUSLY, and did not obsess over celebrities.




Well, our uncles and aunts ushered in the age of Aquarius.  They didn’t obsess over celebrities.  Ummm…


Keep readng, I’m not done yet!

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Was It Named ‘Roland’s Thompson Gun’?

Patty Hearst heard the burst.

OK, I can’t help myself. Patty Hearst, yes, that Patty Hearst, owns a French bulldog named Diva, and she is showing it at the Westminster Dog Show. She won a red ribbon as Best of Opposite Sex — a male dog won the breed, and hers was judged the top female.

For you youngins, a little history:

The granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst gained her greatest notoriety in 1974 when, as a 19-year-old, she was kidnapped in 1974 by the radical group the Symbionese Liberation Army. She later was photographed holding a gun while robbing a California bank, and eventually spent almost two years in prison.

Her sentence was commuted by President Carter, and President Clinton later gave her a full pardon.

For the record, she is not named “Roland’s Thompson Gun”, but “Shann’s Legally Blonde”. Pity, that.

Speaking of pity, this was supposed to be the year I took Lintilla to New York for Westminster (we’ve wanted to go since we met), but circumstances prevented it. Maybe next year.

Anybody else watching it? If you haven’t and watch tonight, I’ll give you a warning: the Pedigree commercials are tear-jerkers.

What I’m Reading

Yes, Kat, I do read.  I prefer non-fiction, especially biographies, which would be another interesting topic in and of itself.  I’ve noticed that the bloggers I know who write in a very matter of fact, almost dry way, love to read fiction.  And those of us with a flair for the dramatic seem to prefer non-fiction.  Maybe reading fills a deep need, and fills gaps we don’t even know are there?  I don’t know, I’m just thinking.

Anyway, I not only love biographies, I especially love baseball biographies.  I’ve eaten up books about Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson.  I had never before read a book about any of the much-hated Yankees, until now.  My wife gave me Luckiest Man , The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig as a gift, and it has been fascinating. 

I have learned quite a bit from this book, and not only just about Gehrig.  For instance, I had no idea that there was a real estate bust in Florida in the mid to late 1920’s.  The situation almost totally mirrors our current nationwide real estate slowdown.  I had no idea, but a lot of ballplayers lost a lot of money in that real estate crash, long before others lost even more in the stock market crash of 1929 (Hank Greenberg lost a fortune).

I learned that Gehrig had an audition to take over for Johnny Weismuller in the role of Tarzan.  He took several photos in a Tarzan suit, and upon seeing them, Edgar Rice Burroughs had this to say, “Having seen several pictures of you as Tarzan and paid about $50 for newspaper clippings on the subject, I want to congratulate you on being a swell first baseman.”  (Gehrig did end up in a supporting role in Rawhide). 

I’ve learned that Gehrig and Babe Ruth had a horrible falling out, and although the facts are unclear, it involved a cruise, and Ruth partying with Gehrig’s very drunk wife.  The whole thing was probably a misunderstanding, but the rift became large, and then later the two men said things about each other that no doubt caused more anger.  I hate how these things happen.

Gehrig’s parents were most likely illegal aliens.  No record can be found of their emigration.

Gehrig was a mama’s boy, a cheapskate, and a horrible interview.  I love how this book doesn’t gloss over any of those things, but the subject still comes off as sympathetic.  In fact, his work ethic (and pride in his work ethic) reminds me very much of the men in my family.  And, of course, having a loved one with a neuromuscular disease makes me even more interested in a man so great they still call the disease that killed him “Lou Gehrig’s disease”.

He lived in the shadow of Babe Ruth, then Joe Dimaggio, and never complained about it – even though his numbers were arguably better than each of them during the years they played with Gehrig.

I am a little over halfway through (I read at bed time, and the Ambien cuts me down to a page or two a night), and I have just gotten to the season (1938) when everyone knew something wasn’t right with Gehrig, but he hadn’t yet been diagnosed.  It’s funny, instead of sadness at this point, I am amazed.  His body was failing in 1938, and early in the year, he had the lowest batting average in the league.  Yet, the human body is an incredible thing.  As muscles failed him, other muscles learned to compensate.  He finished the season with a .294 batting average and 114 RBIs.

I want you baseball fans to think about that.  Those are great numbers for a healthy man.  But Gehrig was literally dying, and his strength and skill were so great that he willed himself to play better than most pros do, ever. 

Anyway, I highly recommend Luckiest Man to any baseball fan, or student of the 20th century.  I’m a little upset that I’ve discovered a Yankee I could actually like. 🙂

On This Day In History

I really love sites like Brainy History, which list historical events on a daily basis.  Sometimes, I wish I had pursued making a career of my love of history, instead of just dabbling in it.  But, then again, I AM a dabbler.

But, it’s amazing that you can pick any day in the calendar, look backward, and see lots of interesting events, people, and places.  Take today for instance.  I picked these events out of a very long list, and threw my own comments into some:

Today In History: August 16th

Notable Events:

  • 1513: Battle at Eguinegatte/Guinegate: Maximilian and Henry III beat France

  • 1570: King Janos Sigismund Zapolyai signs secret treaty with Maximilian II (Bush’s fault)

  • 1691: Yorktown Virginia founded

  • 1743: Earliest boxing code of rules formulated in England (Jack Broughton)  (fight fair, y’all)

  • 1777: Americans defeat British in Battle of Bennington, Vt (yeah!)

  • 1780: British decisively defeat Americans in Battle of Camden, SC (uh-oh…)

  • 1812: Gen Hull surrenders Detroit and Michigan territory to England (Dang!)

  • 1829 Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker arrive in Boston to be exhibited

  • 1858: Britain’s Queen Victoria telegraphs President James Buchanan

  • 1863: Emancipation Proclamation signed (that was a biggie!)

  • 1870: Fred Goldsmith demonstrates curve ball isn’t an optical illusion (enter baseball)

  • 1896: Gold discovered in Klondike, found at Bonanza Creek, AK

  • 1898: Edwin Prescott patents roller coaster (wheeee!)

  • 1903: Tigers play a home game in Toledo Ohio, Yanks win 12-8 (Ohio!)

  • 1904: New York City begins building Grand Central Station

  • 1914: Zapata and Pancho Villa over run Mexico

  • 1920: Ray Chapman, of Indians is hit in head by Yanks’ Carl Mays pitch; he dies next day, only major league fatality. (May it never happen again)

  • 1927: 1st HR hit out of Comiskey Park Chicago (New York Yankee Babe Ruth)

  • 1943: Bulgarian czar Boris III visits Adolf Hitler

  • 1944: 2nd Canadian Division occupies Falaise Normandy (Go Canadians!)

  • 1946: Great Calcutta blood bath – Moslem/Hindu riot (3-4,000 die)  (Dang)

  • 1947: Ralph Kiner becomes 1st Pirate to hit 3 consecutive HRs

  • 1954: Sports Illustrated magazine begins publishing (No swimsuit edition yet…)

  • 1955: Fiat Motors orders 1st private atomic reactor (What the?)

  • 1959: U.S.S.R. introduces installment buying (I knew it was a commie plot!)

  • 1961: Martin L. King protests for black voting right in Miami

  • 1962: Ringo Starr replaces Pete Best as Beatle drummer (That worked out pretty well)

  • 1964: St. Louis Card Curt Flood gets 8 straight hits in a doubleheader (Holy Cow!)

  • 1965: AFL awards its 1st expansion franchise (Miami Dolphins)

  • 1969: Woodstock rock festival begins in New York (Ivory Soap sales plummet)

  • 1974: Ramones concert debut (NY’s CBGBs) (Was Hutchmo there?)

  • 1975: Peter Gabriel quits Genesis (Enter Phil Collins)

  • 1977: Yanks blow 9-4 lead in 9th but beat Chicago 11-10 in bottom of 9th (the Bronx is burning!)

  • 1980: Jools Holland quits Squeeze ; Cozy Powell quits Rainbow; Bill Ward quits Black Sabbath (a good day for hissy fits)

  • 1983: Paul Simon weds Carrie Fisher

  • 1984: L.A. federal jury acquits auto maker John DeLorean on cocaine charges (snort!)

  • 1985: Madonna weds Sean Penn on her 27th birthday

  • 1987: New York Mets beat Chicago Cubs, 23-9 (Harry had a few extra that day)

  • 1987: Astrological Harmonic Convergence – Dawn of New Age (How did that work out?)

  • 1988: IBM introduces software for artificial intelligence (still trying to get Paris Hilton right)

  • 1991: Belgium census is 10,000,963 inhabitants

  • 1997: For only 2nd time Stanley Cup leaves North America (heads to Russia) (and ever since, the NHL has been overrun with Russians)

 There were, of course, some historic deaths on this day:

  • 1938: Robert Johnson, U.S. Delta-blues singer and guitarist, poisoned at 27

  • 1948: Babe Ruth, Baseball legend (New York Yankees), dies in New York at 53

  • 1949: Margaret Mitchell, U.S. writer (Gone With the Wind), dies at 48

  • 1956: Bela Lugosi, actor (Dracula), dies of heart attack at 73

  • 1977: Elvis Presley, rocker, dies of heart ailment/drugs at Graceland at 42

  • 1989: Amanda Blake, actress (Gunsmoke), dies at 58

  • 1991: Shamu the Whale, dies of respiratory failure at 16

  • 1995: John Cameron Swayze, news anchor (NBC), dies at 89

  • 2003: Idi Amin, Ugandan dictator, dies at 78

 There were also some notable births:

  • 1897: Robert Ringling, circus master

  • 1913: Menachem Begin, Israeli Prime Minister, 1977-83, Nobel 1978

  • 1923: Shimon Peres, Israeli Labor Party leader/prime minister

  • 1925: Fess Parker, Fort Worth Texas, actor, Davy Crockett, Old Yeller

  • 1930: Robert Culp, Berkley California, actor, I Spy, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice

  • 1930: Frank Gifford, born in California, NFL halfback for the New York Giants/ABC sportscaster

  • 1946: Lesley Ann Warren, New York City, actress, Cinderella, Mission Impossible

  • 1947: Carol Moseley-Braun, Sen-D Illinois

  • 1949: Bill Spooner, rock guitarist and vocalist, Tubes

  • 1953: Kathie Lee Gifford, Paris, Florida, hostess, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee

  • 1954: George Galloway, British Politician

  • 1958: Madonna, [Ciccone], Bay City, Michigan, singer and actress, Like a Virgin

  • 1958: Angela Bassett, born in New York City, actress, What’s Love Got to Do With It

  • 1960: Timothy Hutton, born in Malibu, California, actor, Turk 182, Ordinary People

  • 1963: Steve Carell, American Actor

  • 1964: Slartibartfast, blogger

  • 1969: Ben Coates, NFL tight end for the New England Patriots

  • 1974: Ryan Longwell, NFL kicker, Green Bay Packers-Superbowl 31

  • 1980: Vanessa Carlton, American Musician

You see, every day is historical and interesting.  I just picked this one because, well…I don’t know.

Posted in History, Me. 7 Comments »

Food and Beer

The domain thing has been decided.  Thanks for all the suggestions.  Stay tuned for news in the coming weeks.

Last night, I watched the most fascinating show on the History Channel about the Little Ice Age.  I was less interested in what ramifications the study of this weather phenomenon has on our modern climate changes (although that was interesting, too), than I was about the interesting food factoids they threw out.

The Irish did not adopt the potato as a food staple until they were starving due to the inability to grow much of anything else.  And I’d thought theyd always grown them there.

Even more fascinating is this:  During the great warming period before the Little Ice Age,  vinyards existed as far north as England.  Southern Europe (especially France) was appalled, but apparently there were some very good wines coming out of northern Europe. That is, until the Little Ice Age.  When it got too cool to grow grapes in the north, the people got the alcohol fix with what they had:  beer (or ale, as it were) and hard liquor. 

And guess who first emigrated to America?  Northern Europeans.  Apparently, that explains why a vast majority of Americans drink beer and liquor instead of wine.  There was one quote that I’ll have to paraphrase:  only about 20% of Americans drink wine, and most of those are on the two coasts.  Everybody else that drinks alcohol drinks beer or liquor.

Now, the concentration of wine drinkers on the two coasts would be an interesting subject to study (the program didn’t say why it was).  It could be that’s where the southern Europeans settled when they emigrated, or it could be that weird dynamic where the two coasts have always had a little bit of Europe envy.  There you will find all the trappings: a more “enlightened” view of sexuality, high taxes, population density, mass transit, wine drinking.

But, enough amateur sociology.  Bridgett probably knows the answer, but she’s on vacation. 

But, I found it interesting how just a small shift in climate can affect human behavior for centuries.