Today in history – Alaska bought, Edison dies, Mason/Dixon line drawn

So many interesting events in history on this date – picking out just a few interesting is tough. So we’ll cover the purchase of Alaska, the death of Thomas Edison, and the drawing of the Mason/Dixon line. As always, information gathered from The History Channel’s Today in History section. Continue reading “Today in history – Alaska bought, Edison dies, Mason/Dixon line drawn”

Today in History – OJ acquitted

I wanted to title the post OJ gets away with murder, but then I figure someone would accuse me of slandering the man (or is it libeling – I never can keep them straight and I’m too lazy to check which is in print and which is verbal), and I just wanted a humorous title. So I’ll stick to what we know, and leave the hypothesizing to water-cooler chat groups.

Today in 1995, after only 4 hours of deliberation, the jury in the OJ Simpson murder trial returned with a not guilty verdict. I remember the event well enough, because about 90% of the folks in the office where I worked all went into our large conference room to watch the broadcast. I sat with my supervisor talking about work instead. When someone else on the way to watch the reading of the verdict asked if I was going to come watch, I responded “No, I already know they are going to say not guilty.” He was amazed I could think Simpson was not guilty. I pointed out to him that I didn’t say he was not guilty, but rather that the jury would find him not guilty. And my reasoning was simple (and correct, thankfully) – no one would convict a well known and well liked man of a double murder with the harsh penalty that verdict would carry. I simply didn’t believe the people on that jury would announce in that short a time a guilty penalty against someone who came across as a generally likeable person.

At the end of a sensational trial, former football star O.J. Simpson is acquitted of the brutal 1994 double murder of his estranged wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. In the epic 252-day trial, Simpson’s “dream team” of lawyers employed creative and controversial methods to convince jurors that Simpson’s guilt had not been proved “beyond a reasonable doubt,” thus surmounting what the prosecution called a “mountain of evidence” implicating him as the murderer.

Orenthal James Simpson–a Heisman Trophy winner, star running back with the Buffalo Bills, and popular television personality–married Nicole Brown in 1985. He reportedly regularly abused his wife and in 1989 pleaded no contest to a charge of spousal battery. In 1992, she left him and filed for divorce. On the night of June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were stabbed and slashed to death in the front yard of Mrs. Simpson’s condominium in Brentwood, Los Angeles. By June 17, police had gathered enough evidence to charge O.J. Simpson with the murders.

Simpson had no alibi for the time frame of the murders. Some 40 minutes after the murders were committed, a limousine driver sent to take Simpson to the airport saw a man in dark clothing hurrying up the drive of his Rockingham estate. A few minutes later, Simpson spoke to the driver though the gate phone and let him in. During the previous 25 minutes, the driver had repeatedly called the house and received no answer.

. . .

In polls, a majority of African Americans believed Simpson to be innocent of the crime, while white America was confident of his guilt. However, the jury–made up of nine African Americans, two whites, and one Hispanic–was not so divided; they took just four hours of deliberation to reach the verdict of not guilty on both murder charges. On October 3, 1995, an estimated 140 million Americans listened in on radio or watched on television as the verdict was delivered.

In February 1997, Simpson was found liable for several charges related to the murders in a civil trial and was forced to award $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the victims’ families. However, with few assets remaining after his long and costly legal battle, he has avoided paying the damages.

I would like to point out that after the trail, Simpson said he would not rest until the real murderer was found. Since then, he has been seen frequenting numerous golf courses in Florida. I have to assume this means he thinks the real murderer is a golfer who has taken up residence in Florida.

[tags]OJ Simpson acquitted today in 1995, Today in History[/tags]

International Talk Like a Pirate day

You’d better be talking like a pirate today. That’s right – today is International Talk Like a Pirate day, friend.

You’ve read about it in Dave Barry’s blog. Maybe you caught one of our radio or TV interviews. Or maybe you just stumbled on to our site while googling around for sites your mother probably wouldn’t approve of. Perhaps you’re one of the millions of people from South Africa to Australia, from New York to the Pacific Northwest, who party like pirates every September 19th.

In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, all posts and comments today will be automagically translated to pirate speak. If you don’t want to be reading piratized comments today, you might consider skipping all posts and comments for the day.

[tags]International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Pirates, Ahoy, Matey[/tags]

Today in History – US Constitution is signed

With all the efforts by our current and recent government leaders to reduce our rights and take away privacy, this might not be nearly as important as it used to be, but we can still celebrate when our leaders signed the Constitution.  Back then, the Constitution and the follow-on Bill of Rights served as a sign that our leaders were trying to improve the country, protect the people, and assure the citizens that the government was to serve the people, not intrude upon their lives and remove liberties.

The Constitution of the United States of America is signed by 38 of 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Supporters of the document waged a hard-won battle to win ratification by the necessary nine out of 13 U.S. states.

. . .

On May 25, 1787, delegates representing every state except Rhode Island convened at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania State House for the Constitutional Convention. The building, which is now known as Independence Hall, had earlier seen the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the signing of the Articles of Confederation. The assembly immediately discarded the idea of amending the Articles of Confederation and set about drawing up a new scheme of government. Revolutionary War hero George Washington, a delegate from Virginia, was elected convention president.

. . .

On September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution–the Bill of Rights–and sent them to the states for ratification. Ten of these amendments were ratified in 1791. In November 1789, North Carolina became the 12th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Rhode Island, which opposed federal control of currency and was critical of compromise on the issue of slavery, resisted ratifying the Constitution until the U.S. government threatened to sever commercial relations with the state. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island voted by two votes to ratify the document, and the last of the original 13 colonies joined the United States. Today, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest written constitution in operation in the world.

King George was a threat to all these ideas then, just as King George is a threat to these ideas now.  Not that my conservative friends agree, but I just don’t like all the recent laws that have reduced our rights and privacy in the name of fighting terrorism.

[tags]Today in History, The US Constitution is signed, The threat of King George[/tags]

Happy Birthday, General Lee

You people with your misunderstanding.  Not the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard.  The real General Lee – the confederate general.  We’re talking real history here…
Yes, September 16th 2006 is General Custis Lee’s 174th birthday.  So hats off to a man who played a large part in the civil war.  Oh, and note this little bit:

The eldest son and the second of seven children, Custis Lee, as his family called him, followed his father’s footsteps to West Point. At age 16, Custis had been denied entry into the military academy, but his father wrote an appeal to General Winfield Scott and so he was admitted the following year. Though he had needed his father’s influence to gain admission, once in West Point Lee made the most of his opportunity. He graduated first in his class of 46 in 1854. For the last two years of his studies, his father was superintendent of the academy.

Like so many children of the rich these days, it appears he couldn’t make the cut on his own, so he got Daddy to fix things and let him get where he wanted to be.  Not that he didn’t do well after this, but he couldn’t even get into the military academy on his own.  Think how history might have changed had daddy not written that letter.

[tags]Happy Birthday, General Lee’s birthday[/tags]

Today in History – volcano go boom

Today’s History Channel lead story is on the August 24th, 79 A.D. eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in southern Italy, destroying Pompeii and Herculaneum.  The people in the region lived there to take advantage of the fertile ground.  They had no idea why the land was so fertile.

The ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum thrived near the base of Mount Vesuvius at the Bay of Naples. In the time of the early Roman Empire, 20,000 people lived in Pompeii, including merchants, manufacturers, and farmers who exploited the rich soil of the region with numerous vineyards and orchards. None suspected that the black fertile earth was the legacy of earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Herculaneum was a city of 5,000 and a favorite summer destination for rich Romans. Named for the mythic hero Hercules, Herculaneum housed opulent villas and grand Roman baths. Gambling artifacts found in Herculaneum and a brothel unearthed in Pompeii attest to the decadent nature of the cities. There were smaller resort communities in the area as well, such as the quiet little town of Stabiae.

At noon on August 24, 79 A.D., this pleasure and prosperity came to an end when the peak of Mount Vesuvius exploded, propelling a 10-mile mushroom cloud of ash and pumice into the stratosphere.

Also of note today in history is the last tank produced by Cadillac came of the line today in 1945, and in 1954 the Communist Control Act was passed, coming to effect not long after the disgrace of Sen. McCarthy (who, BTW, was correct on many of his accusations).
Read the entire account and see what else of note occurred today in history, thanks to The History Channel.

[tags]Today in History, The History Channel, Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii[/tags]

Celebrate 138 years of helium

On this day in 1868, the French astronomer Pierre Jules César Janssen discovered Helium.  Ever since, ordinary people have been talking with funny voices and laughing while destroying their esouphagus.

In 1862, impressed and fascinated by the spectroscopic work of Gustav Kirchhoff and Robert Bunsen, Janssen began his studies of the solar spectrum. His first important contribution was to demonstrate that some of the dark lines observed in the solar spectrum were caused by water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere. He made lasting contributions in solar spectroscopy, in particular in the observation of solar prominences. Following his observations of the 1868 solar eclipse in India, he suggested that some of the unknown spectral lines observed above the solar limb were due to a hitherto unknown chemical element. J. Norman Lockyer independently and simultaneously arrived at same conclusion, and both men are now credited with the discovery of Helium.

I’m guessing it was a few years later that Helium was put in to balloons for all the spoken zaniness we’ve come to love Helium for, but noting the existance of this element in space was the important first step.

[tags]Pierre Jules César Janssen, Helium[/tags]

Today in History – 1984: Reagan makes a joke

While doing a microphone check before his weekly radio address, on this date in 1984, President Ronald Reagan makes the joke:

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Since this was pre-speech, it was not aired, and all was good. Later, however, detail of the joke were leaked, and humorless idiots everywhere over-reacted, accusing Reagan of everything possible except the truth – having a sense of humor.

. . . In Paris, a leading newspaper expressed its dismay, and stated that only trained psychologists could know whether Reagan’s remarks were “a statement of repressed desire or the exorcism of a dreaded phantom.” A Dutch news service remarked, “Hopefully, the man tests his missiles more carefully.” Other foreign newspapers and news services called Reagan “an irresponsible old man,” and declared that his comments were “totally unbecoming” for a man in his position. In the Soviet Union, commentators had a field day with Reagan’s joke. One stated, “It is said that a person’s level of humor reflects the level of his thinking. If so, aren’t one and the other too low for the president of a great country?” Another said, “We would not be wasting time on this unfortunate joke if it did not reflect once again the fixed idea that haunts the master of the White House.”

Reagan’s tasteless joke provided additional ammunition for commentators at home and abroad who believed that the anticommunist crusader was a reckless “cowboy” intent on provoking a conflict with the Soviet Union. Ironically, the man who also referred to Russia as an “evil empire” went on to establish a close personal relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev after the latter came to power in 1985. The two men later signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons.

Reagan was a great President, and honestly, if the worst thing he did was joke about outlawing Russia, I think that’s not a bad legacy to leave behind.

[tags]Ronald Reagan, Today in History, Outlawing Russia[/tags]

Today in History – Jesse Owens puts hole in Hitler’s theories of superior race

Stupid old Hitler thought he had the formula for the perfect race.  He considered skin color to be one of the important factors in building the perfect race.  Then came the 1936 Olympics, where Jesse Owens went on to win or be on the team that won 4 gold medals, the 4th coming on this date in 1936.  This showed Hitler that either he was wrong about skin color being an important part of the perfect race, or that he’d selected the wrong skin color.

In 1931, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1936 Summer Olympics to Berlin. The choice was meant to signal Germany’s return to the world community after defeat in World War I. Two years later, however, Adolf Hitler came to power. He transformed the democratic German government into a one-party dictatorship, purged political opponents and suspected dissidents, instituted anti-Semitic policies, and began the remilitarization of Germany.

Hitler initially held the Olympics in low regard because of their internationalism but became an avid supporter after Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels convinced him of their propaganda value.

Continue reading “Today in History – Jesse Owens puts hole in Hitler’s theories of superior race”

Happy glow-in-the-dark day

I knew this, and forgot to post it earlier today. For those that aren’t aware of today’s historic event, we’ll let the History Channel website fill us in:

August 6

1945 – Atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima

On this day in 1945, at 8:16 a.m. Japanese time, an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, drops the world’s first atom bomb, over the city of Hiroshima. Approximately 80,000 people are killed as a direct result of the blast, and another 35,000 are injured. At least another 60,000 would be dead by the end of the year from the effects of the fallout.

More information on this momentous occasion is available in the full History Channel article. Go read just how bad this was to the victims of the attack.

Oh, and yes, I know someone will be offended by the article subject or my Technorati tags below. I recommend they start their own blog and word it more nicely, however, as I kinda like the macabre humor implied in my wording.

[tags]Today in history, The History Channel, What’s that green glow?, What’s that cloud mean momma?, Hiroshima, Enola Gay[/tags]

Good-bye, Norma Jean

Well, you know what they say – “Your candle burned out long before your legend ever did.

1962 Marilyn Monroe dies

On this day in 1962, Marilyn Monroe dies from an overdose of barbiturates. Her death was widely presumed to be suicide.

Monroe, born Norma Jean Mortensen and also known as Norma Jean Baker, had a tragic childhood. Her mother, a negative cutter at several film studios, was mentally unstable and was institutionalized when Norma Jean was five. Afterward, the little girl lived in a series of foster homes, where she suffered from neglect and abuse, and later lived in an orphanage. At 16, she quit high school and married a 21-year-old aircraft plant worker named Joe Dougherty.

In 1944, her husband was sent overseas with the military, and Monroe went to work as a paint sprayer in a defense plant. A photographer spotted her there, and she soon became a popular pin-up girl. She began working as a model and divorced her husband two years later. In 1946, 20th Century Fox signed her for $125 a week but dropped her after one film, from which her scenes were cut. Columbia signed her but also dropped her after one film. Unemployed, she posed nude for a calendar for $50; the calendar sold a million copies and made $750,000.

Monroe played a series of small film roles until 1950, when Fox signed her again. This time, they touted her as a star and began giving her leading roles in 1952 with films like Don’t Bother to Knock and Monkey Business. Her star continued to rise during the next few years with hits like Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953) and Some Like It Hot (1959). Her tremendous sex appeal and little-girl mannerisms made her enormously popular. In 1954, she married baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, but they divorced only nine months later.

After the divorce, Monroe searched for more serious roles and announced she would found her own studio. She began studying acting with the famous Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio in New York. She gave an impressive comic performance in Bus Stop in 1955. The following year, she married intellectual playwright Arthur Miller. Miller wrote a screenplay for her, The Misfits (1961), which was her last picture. She divorced him a week before the film opened. She attempted one more film, Something’s Got to Give, but was fired for her frequent illnesses and absences from the set, which many believed to be related to drug addiction. In August 1962, she died of an overdose of sleeping pills at the age of 36. Since her death, her popularity and mystique have lingered, with numerous biographies published after her death. Her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio continued to send flowers to her grave every day for the rest of his life.

[tags]Norma Jean Mortensen, Marilyn Monroe, Today in History[/tags]