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Archive for the ‘Twentieth century (1901-1960)’ Category

The new laptop has been here for a couple days, and I’m getting used to it.  For the price, it’s a pretty good machine.  Dual-core AMD processor, a really nice screen, plenty of memory, and a decent keyboard.  All in all, nice.  It was full of add-on apps that Lenovo gets paid to stuff on the drive, so I’m still working through deleting all the garbage.  And Windows 7 looks pretty, but after years of NT/2000/XP, it requires some re-learning.  But typing is pretty easy and I can get on the Internet, so I’m good to go…mostly.

I just finished reading Timothy Egan’s book on the forest fire that raced through the Bitterroots in 1910 (look for a couple pieces late this summer), and it has served to put me in a “forest fire” state of mind.  Those mountains stand north and west of me, so for Today’s History Lesson, let’s head south and east…to Atlanta, which has a fire story all its own.  Actually, it has a couple of them, the most famous being General Sherman’s burning of the city during the Civil War.  But we’ll look at a fire that struck on a different occasion and under very different circumstances.

May 21, 1917 was a warm day in Atlanta, fueled by the stiff southerly breezes blowing through the region.  We’ve talked before about how heat and wind can serve to fuel fires into a conflagration, and it was no exception in Georgia’s capital.  As the clock approached 1:00pm, fire crews responded to a call of a fire at a Skinner Storage Company warehouse.  They arrived to find mattresses burning, but they didn’t have any fire-fighting equipment.

That sounds pretty crazy until you realize that this particular day had seen numerous small (and larger) fires popping up all over.  Atlanta’s fire crews were spread incredibly thin and didn’t have enough equipment to cover so many fires.  And by the time gear could be brought to the warehouse, it had already spread.

I recently sat in on a fire-safety seminar (that came with a free meal), and was reminded that fires need two things to survive…fuel and air.  The warehouse mattresses provided the fuel and, once the fire had breached the warehouse, the strong winds offered all the air it needed.  The fire was pushed north, jumping from building to building and home to home, each structure sacrificing its walls, roof, and contents to the growing inferno.  Many poorly-constructed homes and shanties offered easy kindling, and the firefighters, now equipped, were waging a losing battle against their enemy.

In a desperate attempt to create a firebreak and stop the fire’s advance, homes in the path were dynamited.  Their gamble paid off, as the fire was slowed, eventually contained, and extinguished that night.  The fire had traveled more than a mile, which at first glance doesn’t look like any great distance.  But when I look outside at all the homes on my block, and then consider how many homes are within one mile of mine, and then think about how much closer together they used to be built, I realize how big this fire really was.

Most of Atlanta’s old Fourth Ward was destroyed, and upwards of 2,000 homes, businesses, and places of worship were reduced to ashes.  Miraculously, just one death was attributed to this fire when a woman, probably overcome by the loss of her home and all her possessions, suffered a fatal heart attack.

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When the RMS Titanic sank in 12,500′ of frigid North Atlantic water, it was more than 50,000 tons of steel and glass and linens going down.  More was lost than a massive financial investment by J.P. Morgan.  The tragedy of more than 1,500 people perishing, awful as it was, did not comprise the only deaths of April 15, 1912.

The loss of the Titanic shattered a delusion that had captured many minds in an age of industrial revolution.  That delusion was belief in the ultimate ability of mankind.  Potentates that we know well from history, with last names like Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller, and Ford helped formulate that idea by giving the people glimpses of what technology could do.  With that came a promise of a “utopia” of sorts, where technology and scientific advances could create a bunch of “un-stuff” (unbendable, unbreakable, un-dying, unsinkable).  Now whether or not the guys driving these advances actually preached the utopian mantra, I don’t know.  But many believed a perfect future was possible, just like they truly believed the Titanic to be unsinkable.

Of course, this concept wasn’t new to people in the late 19th century, nor the early 20th century.  It goes way back to the plains of Shinar and a powerful king named Nimrod.  If you believe the story to be factual, he got a bunch of people together and attempted to build a giant tower that would reach into the sky.  The people believed that they had reached the pinnacle of development and, if the tower could be completed and reach the heavens, they would be like gods and nothing would be impossible.  As you might guess, the Tower of Babel (as it came to be called) was never finished.

I suppose we’re that way too, here in the way-more-modern 21st century.  We’re constantly bombarded with reminders of how advanced we’ve become and how much better our lives are.  In a good number of ways, it’s true.  But it gives us a false sense of security.  We kind of expect things to always work.  When I sit in a chair, it will hold me up.  When I turn the key, the car will start and will operate just like it’s supposed to.  When I turn on my electronic device, it will power up, just like the last time.  That airplane that’s flown for ten years?…it’ll certainly fly today.  The roof won’t collapse.

And when things don’t work?…we get angry.  We slam our hands on the steering wheel.  We repeatedly press the buttons of the remote in frustration.  We unplug and replug, with words like “fiddlesticks!” and “rackafratz!” hissing from our lips.  We forget that all of these wonderful conveniences (the cars, the boats, the vacuum cleaners, the computers) are, at their core, mechanical devices.  And last time I checked, every mechanical device breaks.  Some break early on, some after a long time, but all of them eventually.

What’s more, every one of those wonderful conveniences was designed by a fallible human being, and those designers won’t get it right every time.  People make mistakes building cars the same way I make mistakes building software, the same you sometimes mess up cutting hair, or building a bridge, or teaching students, or raising children.  I read (or heard) somewhere that a passenger jet contains 100,000 miles of wiring.  Regardless of whether that’s true or not, an airplane has a ton of wiring, and someone has to hook it up.  If he happens to hook something up wrong, it’s just one incorrect detail amid a myriad of other details, but it could have catastrophic consequences.

Robots are more precise, but they only do what humans design and program them to do, and maybe those people made mistakes, too.  Toyota, a car company with a legendary reputation, has recently been jolted back to reality.  It employs fallible humans to build mechanical devices, so guess what?  They’re going to get it wrong sometimes.  This morning, Mazda announced a recall of a bunch of vehicles for transmission issues.  Transmissions, for all their modern-day sophistication, are mechanical.  Part of the human experience is “getting it wrong”.

Sometimes we need to give ourselves a good slap upside the head as a reminder that we’re not “all that”.  Our knowledge increases, our standards improve, and our technology advances.  But in the end, cars break, laptops (as I just discovered) wear out, and an unsinkable ship still sinks when its buoyancy is overcome by North Atlantic waters, regardless of who funds it or who parades the decks.

We build cooler stuff, but the human condition remains, regardless of how good we think we have it.

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Usually, when I think of brutal weather conditions, I think of cold places like the Arctic or Antarctic regions.  You might do the same…or maybe it’s Siberia or the Yukon Territory that comes to your mind.  It could be places of intense heat, like the deserts of Africa or South America’s west coast…or possibly it’s the upper reaches of the Himalayas that the phrase “impossible living conditions” paints behind your eyes.

But I think of the cold, and as I’ve written a few things about the polar expeditions (and have a few more things scheduled), it’s been the cold and wind that always color my impressions.

So it may come as a bit of a surprise that Today’s History Lesson, dealing with brutal winds, comes not from any of those regions…or even anywhere close to them.  Rather, we travel to the harsh climate of…New Hampshire.

Yeah, go figure.

But New Hampshire is where Mt. Washington is located, and while we’ve discussed New Hamphire before, today we focus on this 6,288′ high chunk of rock.  Immediately, one thinks, “What’s so bad about Mt. Washington?  Lots of places in the U.S. way higher than that…what makes this weather so special?”  Well, first off, it’s not really the weather in general, though that is rather interesting.  Mt. Washington receives an average of 8.5 feet of rain per year and almost 26 feet of snow…per year.  Again, keep in mind that it’s but 6,300′ above sea level…not a 10- or 15-thousand-foot peak.  The temps are fairly moderate in the summer, but can drop to -40°F or lower in the winter.

It’s the winds that make Mount Washington special.  On average, 110 days each year see winds that exceed hurricane force (75mph), with most of those occuring between April and November.  When those are combined with bitter cold, well, you can imagine.  In January of 2004, -43°F temps combined with 87+mph sustained winds to create windchills of −103°F.

But 87mph is a stiff breeze compared to what observers recorded on April 12, 1934.  It was then that a ridge of intense high pressure to the north and east of Mt. Washington began pressing against a strong low pressure system to the west.  As we learned from our discussion of the Children’s Blizzard, atmospheric conditions always seek to balance themselves out.  So in this case, the powerful high desperately tried to reach equilibrium with a just-as-powerful low.  And at 1:21pm, they did so over Mount Washington at 231mph.  You read that right…231mph.  That’s basically an F5 tornado.  And it wasn’t just a “rogue” gust.  Throughout the day, gales exceeding 220mph were recorded.

And while extremely powerful tornadoes can best that speed, no wind gust anywhere (that wasn’t from a tornado or hurricane) has ever surpassed it.  I suppose that, at some point, that record will be broken, maybe even on Mount Washington.  But our sophisticated weather forecasting means I’ll have advanced warning.  So on that day, you’ll find me enjoying relative calm of the Antarctic, or the cool of the Sahara, or maybe in the relative safety of the mamba’s lair.

Recommended Reading:  The Mount Washington website

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The word titanic has been around for a long time, but it’s difficult to even say the word without thinking of the ship that carried that name.  I’ve probably used the word a handful of times in Today’s History Lesson, and I can safely say that every time I have, my mind’s eye has conjured up something involving the RMS Titanic.  It’s hard not to.

Almost no one knows everything there is to know about this most famous of steamships, but almost everyone knows something.  The story of her supposed “unsinkability”, her much-heralded and much-anticipated maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, and her disastrous end in the frigid Atlantic waters all constitute one of the most recognizable stories in American history.

And while April 15th, the day the Titanic died, is the most famous day in the Titanic’s life, another day ranks a close second.

On March 31, 1912, construction on the Titanic was completed, and she was built to be the very best in every aspect.  It was the largest passenger liner of its day, was financed by one of the wealthiest men in the world (J. P. Morgan), was designed by some of the most accomplished engineers, and featured the most luxurious accomodations available (at least for the 1st-class passengers).  And of course, there was the whole unsinkability thing, too.

Coincidentally, the construction of the Titanic had begun exactly 3 years before…March 31, 1909.  It was 882 feet and 46,000 tons of opulence, and 1st-class passengers paid huge sums of money ($4,000 or more in 1912 money) to be numbered among those on the first trip across the Atlantic.  Among them were some of the most famous people of the day, with last names like Guggenheim, Straus, and Astor.  J.P. Morgan himself planned to be aboard, but canceled at the last minute.

Theirs were names on a manifest that included 2,240 names in total.  And while there were but 20 lifeboats (far fewer than the passenger list could support), that number was well within the legal requirements.

But lifeboats were certainly not the issue of the day on March 31st.  The Titanic was finished, and ready for sea trials and a glorious trip that would begin on April 10th.

I think we’ll visit the Titanic again…and most of you can correctly speculate as to why.

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When one thinks of historical disasters in California, usually one of two events comes to mind…both involving earthquakes.  The first, and most obvious, is the earthquake and fire that struck San Francisco in 1906.  The second is the quake that again rocked the city in the fall of 1989.

But our topic of discussion this evening has nothing to do with earthquakes, though a whole lot of earth got moved.  Just before midnight on March 12, 1928, the St. Francis Dam collapsed, sending a tremendous wall of water (initially 125 feet high) screaming down the San Francisquito Canyon (roughly following the San Francisquito Canyon Road).

The causes of the failure were numerous, and go back almost to the start of construction in 1924.  Originally engineered as a 175-foot high dam, 10′ were added to the height in order to increase the water capacity.  Halfway through construction, yet another 10′ were added.  There were issues with material quality, proper design, and proper accounting for the bed on which the dam was built, but the height changes were probably the main problem.

When construction was completed, the dam began to fill without issue.  But as the dam reached capacity, the structural shortcomings came to light.  The additional height was not accompanied by enough width at the bottom to support the additional forces at the dam’s top.  So at 11:57pm, the pressure at the top of the dam sort of lifted the dam off its foundation and pushed it over.

More than 12 billion gallons ripped down the valley, at breakneck speed and with earth-gouging power.  Recall that when we talked about the terrible Johnstown Flood that occurred 40 years earlier, the collapsing South Fork Dam released less than half the volume of water.

Five and a half hours later, when the floodwaters reached the Pacific Ocean (more than 50 miles away), they carried homes, giant chunks of concrete and rock, parts of a hydroelectric plant, and the bodies of an estimated 600 people.  Upstream at the dam site, only the center section of the dam (shown above, aptly named the “Tombstone”) remained.

The collapse of the St. Francis Dam is a relative unknown in the list of California disasters, but it was one of the worst engineering disasters of the previous century.  In fact, in California’s history, only the dreadful 1906 earthquake resulted in a greater loss of life.

Recommended Reading: Directions to the St. Francis Dam – A nice pictoral of how to find the site of California’s second-worst disaster.

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It was only a couple of weeks ago that a massive earthquake struck just off the coast of Chile.  The early morning quake lasted an astounding 4 minutes and weighed in at an astonishing 8.8 on the Richter Scale.  Within a very short time, tsunami warnings were being posted all over the  Pacific Ocean.  Around noon the focus (at least for the U.S.) narrowed to the Hawaiian Islands, where the waves, which travel at high subsonic speeds, were scheduled to strike.  Estimates suggested waves of 8′, which would probably have done some significant damage.

My folks had come to visit for the weekend, and we turned on the TV to see what happened.  When nothing much came of it, the news reporters started fumbling around a bit, and for us it turned into a bit of comical farce.  Of course, some places along the Chilean coast were heavily damaged by tsunamis, but most of the Pacific (including Hawaii) was spared.

But that was not the case on March 9, 1957.  On that date, a huge earthquake struck the Andreanof Islands (on the southwest part of the Aleutian Islands) near Alaska.  Tsunami waves in the immediate area approached 70 feet, but as expected, those waves spread out through the Pacific Ocean and struck Hawaii.  And they were not the small “2010-style” waves.

Maximum wave heights were nearly 50′ on Kauai, more than 20′ on Oahu (from where the picture above was taken), 15′ on Molokai, and more than 10′ on Hawaii itself.  Damage was immense as hundreds of homes were destroyed, bridges and highways were washed out, and floodwaters washed through businesses and homes.

But miraculously, not a single Hawaiian (or visitor to the islands) was killed, though the damage was extensive, topping $5 million.

We’re familiar with flooding from dam breaks (and we talked about a couple of those, here and here, and the schedule calls for another in a couple days).  And even I know the terrible power of river- and stream-flooding first-hand (and it’s threatening us again as I write this).  But tsunamis are in a class all their own.  The volumes of water, the speed with which they strike, the total destruction and widespread death and calamity they can bring are on a scale most of us can’t grasp.

Well, in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which many of us have seen on video, maybe we can to a degree…and it’s very sobering.

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The cold continues…-15 again this morning and the white car still doesn’t start.  It’s like a really bad saga.

When I mention that Today’s History Lesson has something to do with San Francisco, each of you will have different images pop into your brain.  For some, it’s the houses packed so tightly together (each of which costs a bundle to own).  For others, it might be the fog over the Bay.  Some may immediately think of the earthquakes that have, over the years, caused catastrophic damage to the area.

For me personally, it’s that one street that winds back and forth (the name escapes for the moment).  It’s the scenes from the movie Bullitt with Steve McQueen and his Mustang, where pursued became pursuer as they flew down those descending streets in one of the more dramatic car chases ever to grace the movie screen.  But the thing that probably comes to my mind first is the same thing for many of you as well…

The Golden Gate Bridge.

Along with the Empire State Building, Mount Rushmore, and the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate is likely one of the most recognizable man-made structures in America, if not the world.  It’s not the tallest, it’s not the longest (though it was when it was built), and it’s not the most expensive bridge ever built.  And it’s never had a major collapse to color its history, as others have.

But it, as much as any structure ever built, has demonstrated man’s ability to harness the rigid laws of physics and use them in a way that actually helps people.  Before the Bridge (in the early 1930’s), getting from San Francisco to Sausalito required a ride on a ferry across the Bay, or a drive of many hours around the Bay, taking advantage of whatever other bridges would serve to shorten the trip.  And while the ferry worked, it wasn’t so nice in heavy weather, and ferries could only move so many cars at a time.

The idea of a bridge, however, was looked on with skepticism.  The distance (6,700′) was daunting.  The weather and the winds and the waves would wreak havoc on a bridge.  The water in the middle of the proposed span was 500′ deep…driving pilings and pouring concrete and building supports would be very difficult.  And the harbor still had to support a significant shipping business as well as the needs of the U.S. Navy.  Nobody wanted ships constantly plowing into a bridge.  And of course, there were those occasional earthquake concerns.

The solution was a suspension bridge.  Two massive supports would be “planted” on the far ends of the bridge, which would prevent the expensive process of laying supports in deep water, while simultaneously removing a bunch of solid targets for ships to hit in bad weather.  Then, a bunch of cable would be strung between the supports and the bridge itself, providing the lift.  Of course, there’s a whole lot more physics and stuff involved, but I averaged a D+ in my two semesters of college physics, so I’m not the guy to explain it.

And on January 5, 1933, that’s what the workers started building.  Completed in 1937 and opened to traffic in May of that year, the Golden Gate runs almost 9,000′ from abutment to abutment.  It weighs in at a rather heavy 894,500 tons.  The bridge is supported and stabilized by 80,000 miles of high-tensile cable, which means two things.  First, it can hold up two tons of stuff (cars, trucks, and buses) per foot.  Second, the bridge offers significant flex (up to 15′ of total deflection) without collapse.

While I’ve visited California, I’ve never been to San Francisco nor seen the Golden Gate.  But I’d love to visit.  Getting my wife to actually cross the Golden Gate, however, well…

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During the week, I eat breakfast at my desk and it ususally consists of:

1 cup pistacchios (they’re super-healthy)
1 serving of fruit (yogurt/applesauce/etc…)
1 multi-vitamin & 2 fish oil pills
Water

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? You’re right, it’s not exciting…not in the least. But it tastes good and it’s healthy.

Weekends are different.  My wife might be the best cook I know (and I’m not just saying that), and sometimes she’ll whip up something delicious, like French toast, or a breakfast pizza…and it’s awesome, or maybe an egg scramble with bacon, toast, and sausage.  Other times, I’ll make oatmeal or oat bran cereal…and don’t forget the flax!

But on occasion, breakfast takes a different form…restaurant food.  And if breakfast is coming from a fast food place, one and only one thing tops my list…

A Croissan’wich from Burger King.  The croissant is light and flaky with a bit of buttery sweetness.  It also leaves less oily residue on my fingers than a traditional biscuit   And there’s that slight crunch when I first bite in.  And then there’s all the breakfast goodies inside.  And Burger King’s idea of “having it your way” means there are options.  Egg?…of course.  Cheese?…definitely.  And the protein part…mmm…MMMM!!!!  Should I pick the tasty bacon, or maybe the ham?  Either is great, but that would leave out the sausage.

When I buy them, I’m usually in the car, so a Croissan’wich with bacon is a little less forgiving.  You know how it is…you’re driving in morning traffic, you take a bite and the whole piece of bacon comes out, dragging the melted cheese, which is stuck to the egg.

Now I have to make a choice.  Either I have to try to stuff all the innards of the rapidly disintegrating sandwich into my mouth (which already is full of food), or I have to let it all fall in my lap, or I use my driving hand to catch what’s falling.  Usually it’s a combination of all three.

So now my breakfast is risking the lives of other drivers who are busy typing text messages, talking on their cell phones while waving their hands around, messing with the new GPS-thingy they just bought, or balancing their checkbooks.  That’s clearly not very considerate of me.

So I avoid the bacon Croissan’wich, and order one with ham/egg/cheese and another with sausage/egg/cheese.

Even though I’ve never been there, I’m a big fan of Heaven.  My wife talks about the place in terms of chocolate and peanut butter (she’s highly allergic to both).  I’m not sure that we’ll ever need to eat in Heaven, because hunger is your body lacking something and our bodies won’t lack for anything there.  But if we do, I’m hoping Burger King Croissan’wiches are on the menu.  After all, they are heavenly.

Oh…a history lesson.  The first Burger King opened in Miami on December 4, 1954.

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It’s a special day at Today’s History Lesson.  I’m just brimming with stuff to talk about, though I have but one subject.

For those of you that grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, you know how relaxing…and calming…and soothing…and gentle that program was.  Rambunctious children like you, by the millions, exorcised their “energy” demons with this magic 30-minute elixir provided by the Friends of Public Television (and RKO General…whatever that was).

But then you grew up to be a teenager (and beyond), and Mr. Rogers, great as he was, was a little too young for you.  Awesome for the kids, a little embarrassing to sit with your buddies as a teen.  And let’s face it…college life was hectic.  Always on the go, not eating right, not sleeping nearly enough, the constant studying.  Sometimes a person just needed a break…another of those 30-minute wind-downs.

If you’re like me (and I know I am), you again turned to Public Television.  This time for The Joy of Painting…with Bob Ross.

Bob Ross was a genius with oils and The Joy of Painting (which ran for anywhere from 25 to 100 years) was a masterpiece.  Like Fred Rogers, he never raised his voice, he was never rushed, and he never stopped smiling.  And he could do things with a brush that were just awesome.  I’ve heard tell that others artists didn’t care for Bob’s techniques, because he made it look so easy.  It was as though he took the “mystery” of painting and made it “mundane”.

But Bob thought everyone should be able to paint, so he worked out ways to make complicated procedures easy.  Making mountains involved cutting off a little roll of paint from 2 or 3 mixed colors laid out flat.  His 2-inch brush could create “the illusion of mist” or “happy little clouds” instantly.  Reflections on water?…pull the brush down, then lightly sweep back and forth.  Beauty.  Snow on the mountains…no problem.  Big trees?…piece of cake.

Every episode showed Bob using the same techniques, and he used the same phrases every time, so it was an art instruction class without the silly homework and nerve-wracking exams.  I told people that, even though I was the farthest thing from an artist, I could paint just by remembering the words Bob repeated over and over.

But Bob was also quirky, and it was those quirks that I think made him so lovable.  I’m a bunch of words into this and haven’t mentioned them.  Bob had the biggest hair ever seen on a guy not living in the 1970’s.  And those little things he sprinkled throughout each episode.  Let’s make a (partial) list:

  • Of course, the always goofy opening intro sequence.
  • There was the “18 by 24 double-primed pre-stretched canvas” he used for nearly every painting.
  • The “little roll of paint” he cut with the knife.
  • “We don’t make mistakes, we have happy accidents.”
  • Nearly every show had, at some point, “your bravery test”, and it usually involved putting big trees over something you just painted (“because you know me, I love big trees”).
  • And of course, “every tree should have a friend.”
  • Those times when Bob said, “Let’s get crazy!!”…”crazy” in Bob’s world usually involved a waterfall with some big rocks or maybe a wave crashing on the shore.
  • The constant reminders that, “in your world, you can do anything you want.”
  • The occasional visits from his squirrel friends.
  • (Possibly my favorite) The highly-anticipated cleaning of the brush.  Bob would dip the brush in odorless, colorless paint thinner, stir it around, take it out, flick it twice, then rap it against the easel leg, look at the camera, give a snicker, and say “and then we beat the devil out of it.”  Absolutely classic (and I’ll bet you did it along with him like I did).
  • The colors that ran across the bottom of the screen at the show’s beginning…Van Dyke Brown, Alizarin Crimson, Pthalo Blue (did I spell that right?…who cares…if not, it’s just a happy accident anyways), Yellow Ochre, and Midnight Black.  Did you try (like me) to name them before they appeared?
  • His collection of brushes…the fan brush, the round brush, the philbert brush, the 2″ brush, the knife.

Everything about The Joy of Painting was just a bit off-beat, and it was wonderfully addictive.  In college, “the Dan’s” and I would gather at 2:30 on Saturday afternoons with religious regularity, drink a soda, and relax to the sounds of the world’s smoothest painter.  And then the 30 minutes would be done, and Bob would look at us and say, “And from all of us here, I’d like to wish you happy painting…”, give that little wave of the barely-raised right hand, “…and God bless my friend.”

Bob Ross was born on October 29, 1942 and died of lymphoma way too young at just 52 years of age.  But he touched a generation of viewers and turned more than a few into artists themselves.  The Joy of Painting still brightens Public Television’s screens from time to time, and is an absolute must-see.

Can we buy the various series on DVD anywhere?

Happy Birthday, Bob Ross!!

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South Dakota is one of the least populated states in the Union.  With roughly 800,000 people calling it home, only Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, and North Dakota have fewer residents.  But between 2 and 3 million people call South Dakota “my/our vacation destination” every year as they venture to Mount Rushmore, one of the most famous National Parks in the country.

What could I possibly write about it that hasn’t already been said?  Well, I suppose I could say that Gutzon Borglum’s construction of the massive busts (or rather, the re-shaping of Rushmore to look like Presidents) began on October 4, 1927…that’s not terribly well-known.  I could also mention Mt. Rushmore was named long before Presidential heads rested there, dating back to Charles Rushmore’s expedition in the late 1800’s.

Or maybe you’re not sure why these four particular Commanders-in-Chief were selected for “stoning”, as opposed to others.  Washington was chosen for his critical role in the founding of the country as Revolutionary War hero and first President.  Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, was the first Secretary of State, and was instrumental in bringing about the largest single expansion of the country with the Louisiana Purchase, which included the land that was cookie-cuttered into South Dakota.  Lincoln preserved the Union when disunion was the attitude of the day, and brought the nation through its darkest hour, the Civil War years.  Theodore Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill.  Well, that and his role in bringing the U.S. onto the world stage in the early 1900’s got him that inside corner slot.

Hmmm…you already knew that, too?  Did you know that more than 400 sets of hands worked for 14 years on the Presidents and, unlike other projects, not a single life was lost?  Did you know that?

Or maybe that more than 2,000,000 tons of granite (that’s 4,000,000,000 pounds!) were moved in its construction?  That the project cost less than $1 million to complete?…we’ve got homes in town that cost more than that to build, and 3 million people couldn’t care less!

Did you know that project was scoped to be more than just the heads and was to include some arms, hands, and even a coat or two, but the money dried up?  Gutzon Borglum died in 1941, just 5 years after the final head (Roosevelt’s) had been dedicated, but before the project was completed.  Since then, no work (other than maintenance) has been (or will be) done.

If you all know all that stuff, then Today’s History Lesson was kind of wasted writing.  But that’s alright, because Rushmore’s grandeur is worth a little extra print.

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As a long-time Braves fan, it wouldn’t be right to let today go by without saying something about Skip Caray.  Born on August 12, 1939, Skip joined TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) in 1976 and, for more than 30 years, entertained fans who either watched the games on TV or listened on the radio.

When I became a Braves fan in 1982, Caray was as much a part of the everyday lineup as Dale Murphy, Phil Niekro, and Claudell Washington.  He probably didn’t have the same notoriety as his famous Budweiser-drinking, sitting-in-the-stands father Harry.  And his voice, while distinctive, probably wasn’t as instantly recognizable as his dad’s, especially later in the games when Harry tended to be somewhat “chemically altered.”

But Skip Caray knew how to entertain the listening fan.  He did a great job calling the games.  Sure, he was a Braves fan, but he made no secret of that, and his salary was paid by the man (Ted Turner) that, at the time, owned the Braves as well as the TV/Radio network.  So being a “homer” was allowed.

But even more than that, the man was funny.  Over the years, many of his broadcasts with Pete van Wieren, Ernie Johnson, and Joe Simpson were sprinkled with humorous stories, laughter, and just goofy stuff that other baseball announcers never did.  Part of that may have been to obscure the obvious:  the Braves of the 1980’s were pitifully bad.  Other than 1982 & 1983, they were pretty much the National League doormats.

I recall one game (against St. Louis maybe?) when the Braves came out to start the game, and Skip quipped, “And like lambs being led to slaughter, the Braves take the field.”  Hilarious!!  He had this thing for telling jokes on the air, but he’d never actually tell the joke itself (maybe because the nature of the joke wouldn’t allow it)…he’d just give the punchline.  Then he’d start laughing and, as a viewer, I couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer goofiness of it.

The “Happy Birthday Greeting” sections were usually laced with humor as well.  Sometimes a foul ball would be “caught by a fan visiting from Des Plaines, Illinois”, or some other made-up location.

Skip was never bashful about his feelings, either.  During the futile 80’s, you could almost see Skip throwing his hands up in frustration at the woeful performances he had to “color” for us on TV.  How many nights did I hear the phrase, “…and now the wheels have completely come off…” come from Skip’s lips?  If an umpire made a bad call, Skip was quick to let us know how terrible it was.

Maybe that’s what I loved about Skip…he was just a real guy that happened to call Braves games.  His emotions were always visible, his frustration was never hidden, and when things went well, his joy was effusive.  When the Braves of the 80’s became the consistent winners of the 90’s, no one was as happy as Skip.

I’ll never forget the 1992 Championship Series against the Pirates, when the Braves were down 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th.  I was at my boss’ house putting on my coat and standing, just waiting for the final out.  Then Francisco Cabrera’s miracle hit put the Braves into the Series, and there was Skip, yelling “Braves win, Braves win, Braves win…!!!”

It’s been just over a year since Skip Caray passed away, and I miss his voice.  I miss his laughter, his humor, and his love for the game of baseball.  I’m not alone.

In conclusion, I’ll tell you my favorite “Skip Caray” moment.  In 2003, Ray King was a relief pitcher for the Braves.  He was a hard-throwing, sort of portly, left-hander.  One evening he came on in relief and someone yelled from the stands, “C’mon Burger King!!”.  Skip, who was calling the game, suddenly stopped talking and there was silence for about 10 seconds.  When he finally gathered himself, you could tell he was laughing hysterically while trying to suppress it.  I must have laughed for 10 minutes at that.

Happy Birthday, Skip Caray!!  You’re deeply missed.

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Many years ago, Saturday evenings usually meant gathering in the living room and listening to the radio.  Once the 500-pound device warmed up, families would listen through the static to whatever they could hear clearly enough to understand.

They might have included some comedy sketches from Lum and Abner, or maybe Amos and Andy.  Or maybe the kids just had to listen to The Lone Ranger.  Perhaps it was the Grand Old Opry, or a night of Suspense with Sorry, Wrong Number.

When I was growing up, radio had been largely eclipsed by television, but that’s not to say the radio didn’t still have its place in our house.  For us, many Saturday evenings were spent, two hours at a time, listening to A Prairie Home Companion.

Garrison Keillor was sort of the star of the variety show, which featured goofy skits, folk music, “homemade” commercials, and a monologue about Lake Woebegon, a “little town that time forgot, that the decades could not improve.”  Keillor was also the founder of the show, and it dates back to the mid-70’s.

Garrison’s 20-minute monologue, usually in the show’s second hour, always began with “Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Woebegon…”.  His deadpan delivery with that slight Minnesota accent made it humorous right from the start.

Despite the lack of a TV screen, Keillor’s stories came alive in my mind’s eye.  He was (and still is) very much an artist with his voice, painting scenes of the Carl Krebsbach’s farm or the Chatterbox Cafe, where Dorothy presides.  He talked of his childhood, and the “Storm Home” system his little school put in place, should a blizzard strike during school hours.  We would laugh as he wistfully talked of what his Storm Home parents (whom he never met) would be like…maybe they’d offer him an oatmeal cookie.

I suppose for many “city folk”, everything about Keillor would seem boring and probably “hick”.  But the man was made for the Midwest, mesmorizing men and women and taking us back to simpler days, when Powdermilk Biscuits were all that was required to give a person courage.

Garrison Keillor, who was born on August 7, 1942 (as Marines were landing on Guadalcanal), decided to get married in the late 80’s and spend some time abroad, and A Prairie Home Companion went away as one of Public Radio’s most popular shows.  But its following meant it wouldn’t be gone for long and, by the early 90’s, it was back.

Keillor has written several books and he’s contributed to numerous papers and magazines.  But for me, his tales from Lake Woebegon, a little town that doesn’t even exist, are what is most real to me.

Happy Birthday, Garrison Keillor!!

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When the words “Lituya Bay” are mentioned (which, to be perfectly honest, doesn’t happen all that often), I think of those Old Milwaukee beer commercials from years past.  You remember the ones?  They go something like…

Lituya Bay and Milwaukee both mean something great to these guys.  Lituya Bay means Alaska, America’s wildest frontier.  Beauty, wildlife, fishing.  And Milwaukee means beer…cold, crisp, Old Milwaukee beer…

You get the idea…and yeah,  it’s pretty stupid.

In case you didn’t know, Lituya Bay is a small natural fjord (2 miles wide by 7 miles long) along the southeast coast of Alaska…right about here.  It serves mostly as a shelter and anchoring point for small fishing boats, but its relatively dramatic tides and high current speeds at the entrance give mariners some extra action when navigating.

Typically a quiet little harbor, Lituya Bay was never in an Old Milwaukee beer commercial.  But it was the sight of one of the most dramatic events in recorded geological history.  On the evening of July 9, 1958, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake shook the Fairweather Fault, which crosses our little harbor.  Earthquakes are not uncommon, but the results of this quake certainly were.

At the back of the harbor, 40 million cubic yards of mountain broke free and collapsed into the water, creating a huge tsunami.  As the water ripped through Lituya Bay, it spread out and got smaller, but its initial height is still the highest ever seen…516 meters.  That’s 1,720 feet high…a third of a mile.  For comparison, the World Trade Center’s North Tower (including antennas) stood 1,728 feet tall.  That’s a colossal wave!

Anyways, near the mouth of the Bay sat Howard Ulrich and his 7-year-old in their small fishing boat.  Having anchored just a couple hours before, they got the shock of their lives when the earthquake struck.  Two minutes later they got a second (and bigger) shock in the sound of a deafening crash and what looked to be a massive explosion at the head of the harbor.  Three minutes after that, the wave, still nearly 100 feet high, hit their boat, carried them out over the shore, then backwashed them into the middle of the harbor.  Miraculously, both survived.

The Lituya Bay tsunami stripped away the trees, vegetation, and even the dirt in its path, leaving bare rock in its wake.  Fifty years later, the effects of the landslide can still be seen in Lituya Bay, a stark reminder to the incredible power of water.

Recommended Reading: Geology.com website – This site has a great amount of detail and great photos of the Lituya Bay tsunami.

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There’s no denying that I’ve always been a car nut.  I love cars.  I’m always looking at them, thinking about buying them, and wondering how to improve the ones I own.  And over the years, I’ve owned a number of them, foreign and domestic.

Back in 2001, I purchased a project car (actually my first purchase on ebay) that is now nearly finished.  I’ve put more money into the car than it cost new back in 1988, but it’s been worth it.  I’ve owned a pair of Audi A4’s (a 2000 and a 2005.5) that I loved.  A trio of Mazdas, a trio of Acura Integras, a couple old Volkswagen Rabbits, a couple Chevys, a beater Jeep, and even an old Buick pretty much round out the list.

I’ve also been fortunate to have ridden in a lot of really fast cars (though not at really fast speeds).  But in all my life, I’ve only been inside a moving Corvette once.  And that’s a real shame, because every one that rolls out the factory doors – are they still manufactured in Bowling Green? – comes with an incredible heritage that now spans more than half a century.

Cars have a lifespan that’s measured in “generations”, and America’s longest-lived sports car (which is named after a small, agile warship) is no different.  The first was classed the “C1”, the second “C2”, and so on.  The latest evolution is the C6, and it includes the highest performing “from-the-factory” variants we’ve ever seen.  The base car has well over 400hp, the Z06 a tad over 500hp, and the competition-flattening 2nd-generation ZR-1 has a heart with 640 supercharged horsepower.  These are serious cars.

But they weren’t always that way.  Early Corvettes, the first of which rolled off the line on June 30, 1953, were pretty anemic, with a wimpy straight-6 engine and an uninspiring 2-speed gearbox.  But since only 300 of those 53’s were built, they are probably the most valuable of all the Vettes.

Fortunately, Ford began production on the Thunderbird in 1954.  The cars were somewhat similar in look, and the T-Bird was more of a luxury coupe.  Wanting to differentiate itself, Chevy gave the Vette more power, modified the styling some, and classed it a sports car.  And since then, fans have been (mostly) thrilled.

Other than the 1970’s, when all cars had low compression and no power, the Vettes have always symbolized the pinnacle of American performance.  But it’s only been in the last 15 or 20 years that Chevy’s sports car has been mentioned in the same breath as the supercar brands from Italy and Germany.  Today’s ZR-1 offers comparable (and sometimes superior) performance and quality to Lamborghini and Ferrari at a better-than-50% discount.  The Corvette may not have the prestige of a Murcielago or an F430, but who needs prestige with 640 horses under the hood when the light turns green?

My favorite Vette is the 1963 Sting Ray (a C2) with that split rear window (like the one shown above).  And it just happens to be the only Corvette I’ve ever driven…at about 5mph.  In college, I worked at a car dealership washing cars, and a customer brought one in for service.  It was a brutish beast with a small-block V8 and a clutch that Lou Ferrigno would have struggled to engage.

But I’ll never forget that “drive”.

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It seems somehow appropriate to talk about North Korea for Today’s History Lesson.  Over the last several years, this secretive Communist stronghold, controlled by one that many consider to be a deranged lunatic, has managed to anger or threaten nearly every civilized nation on the planet.

Determined to establish itself as a “power with which to be reckoned”, North Korea recently passed the nuclear threshold and is now determined to use the status of a nuclear power to bully countries it probably should not antagonize.

Now we watch as hundreds of thousands of North Koreans scream anti-American statements in Pyongyang.  We see the USS John S. McCain tailing the North Korean freighter Kang Nam, suspected of carrying nuclear contraband.  And of course, Kim Jong Il is bellowing that any attempt to stop it or interfere will result in total annihilation.  And he’s promising to shoot a missile in the direction of Hawai’i as a “4th of July” extra.

For some reason, I’m not yet terrified.

North Korea is quick to remind the world that they’re still not “at peace” with either South Korea or the United States.  The Korean War, fought back in the early 1950’s, ended not in a peace treaty, but in an armistice.  A cessation of hostilities.  A truce that has, for nearly 60 years, prevented any peaceful, easy feelings south of the 38th Parallel.

In fact, the Korean War began on this day…June 25, 1950.  When World War II ended, the Soviets accepted the surrender of Japanese soldiers in the north, where they promptly set up a Communist regime.  In the south, it was the United States as the overseer, and democracy was the order of the day.  Of course, two such opposing ideologies were bound to clash, and there had been numerous border skirmishes in the year leading up to full-out war.

The North Koreans justified their attack as an act of defense, claiming their borders had been crossed.  The U.S. responded quickly to reinforce South Korea, and began what would become a three-year war of immense frustration.

Sixty years later, the situation is as tense as it ever was.  North Korea vacated the 1953 armistice in May, and South Korea looks to the north, nervously wondering and waiting.  And North Korea’s trigger, the Kang Nam, continues to sail, shadowed by the U.S. Navy.

I would imagine we won’t have to wait too much longer to see how this plays out.

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Most people that are fans of history weren’t just born that way.  It might be true that students who are passionate about the past have some predisposition wired in to their makeups.  But I think it’s one of those things that needs a spark, or a gentle push, to come to life.  It may be the stories of a father or grandfather.  Or possibly a friend’s dad has a collection of photos from “the War” (whichever war it happens to be).  Or maybe, a teacher inspires the “historical” gene to become dominant.  A teacher…

Hal Lyness was born in Portland, OR on May 24, 1925 and raised in Tacoma.  I don’t know for sure, but it’s quite possible that Hal’s love of history sprouted early on, because it was his passion which became that spark for hundreds of students that passed through his classroom doors.  For nearly 35 years, he fascinated students in the central Iowa town where I grew up with his tremendous knowledge of days long past.

I was fortunate enough to be one of those students, and I can safely say that, while Hal taught more classes than just history, he didn’t teach history because there was no one else available.  He (the teacher) was also a student of the subject, and it’s reported that his voracious appetite for reading consumed more than 100 books a year.

His wife Betty, whom he married in 1948, said her husband would give her a history lesson about every state to which they ventured.  And if her studies were anything like what we got as students in class, she was probably as captivated by what he said as we were.  Mr. Lyness made history current.  He made events of yesterday interesting, relevant, important…essential.

And he was demanding.  He teaching was rigorous and his exams were often very challenging.  And though we all knew that ahead of time, we still wanted to among those few sitting in the desks of his classroom.  Students would fill notebook after notebook with information, and hand cramps were as common as the ubiquitous eraser debris.

When exams were returned, we waited with baited breath for our own, anxious to see not only the score, but the comment he would put with it…in red ink as I recall with that spidery-fine handwriting.  I was a solid student, but I remember vividly an exam on which I received a C+…his single-word comment at the top was “What?!?”  I didn’t get another “anything-below-an-A” again.  But that was Mr. Lyness…you worked hard in his class because you wanted to…and frankly, the excellence of his teaching really deserved nothing but your best efforts in return.

Hal was easily one of the most loved educators in my school…and he probably knew that.  But it never affected him…I don’t think there was an ounce of ego in the man.  Instead, there was a ton of pride.  Pride in his work and pride in his students.

And there were the quirky things, too.  His refusal to use any pencil but a #2 Dixon Ticonderoga.  His absolutely orderly desk.  His writing on the chalkboard, done with such care and precision that one would have thought the class was about caligraphy.  And of course, his manner of dress.

His wardrobe is famously remembered as “bordering-on-outlandish”.  Bright colors, pants that were too short, ties that were too wide, and suspenders.  But while the day’s attire was cause for constant conversation among his students, it was never disrespectful.  One just didn’t say negative things about Hal Lyness.

And years later, if one of his now-grown-up students ventured through the halls and appeared in the doorway (even during classtime), Hal immediately stopped, ran to the door with hands extended and a broad smile on his face.  He’d remember your name and things about you.  Maybe that’s because your own history was as important to Hal as the history he taught you.

There are hundreds of stories about the man, and they could compose a tome of considerable size, but these are some of the things I remember most.

Hal Lyness went to bed with Betty on January’s final night in 2009…and didn’t wake up.  As I sat in a packed church and listened to his son give a great eulogy about his father, it struck me that Hal had become part of the thing he seemed to love the most…after his wife, his family, and hundreds and hundreds of students.

Mr. Lyness is now an historical figure.  But like all great men of history, he won’t be forgotten.

Happy Birthday, Hal Lyness!!

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Nearly a year ago, we took a look at the Alien and Sedition Acts which were put into effect in 1798.  We noted the Sedition Act in particular, which made writing false or malicious things about the government a crime, punishable by fines, imprisonment, or both.  While clearly a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, it remained in effect for nearly 3 years until it expired.

But somewhat surprisingly, it wasn’t the last time such legislation made it through the halls of Congress and under the President’s pen.  On May 16, 1918 (nearly 120 years after the first Sedition Act), the Sedition Act of 1918 was passed.

There were some similarities between this Act and the one signed in 1798.  Like the first, the Act of 1918 was part of a larger piece of legislation, the Espionage Act of 1917.  Second, it made profane and disloyal speech about America, the Flag, and the armed forces a crime.  Both Acts were passed during a time of conflict – an undeclared war with France in the 18th Century and the First World War in the 20th – when it was believed that war protests and anti-war activity would undermine the war effort.  And both were actually supported by Congress and the public.

There were also some differences between the two.  While both Sedition Acts were signed by their respective Presidents into law, President John Adams had not requested nor endorsed the one passed in 1798 (though he happily signed it), while President Woodrow Wilson pushed aggressively for the one passed in 1918.  Also, while many newspapers were outraged in the 18th Century (primarily because they were the Act’s ultimate targets), they largely supported the 1918 measure, as it focused more on “subversive” activity and war protests.

Both Sedition Acts were would end up being used in a partisan manner, which probably comes as a surprise to almost no one.  And thankfully, both ended.  The Sedition Act of 1798 expired in 1801.  And the Sedition Act of 1918 was repealed by Congress in 1820.

Recommended Reading: Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from The Sedition Act of 1798 to The War on Terrorism

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Herbert Morrison’s words, choked with emotion, still echo from the field in Lakehurst, New Jersey.  And 72 years later, the photo (taken by a member of the U.S. Navy) is not only instantly recognizable, it’s one of the most famous pictures ever taken.  And both Morrison’s audio, which was being recorded for radio station WLS in Chicago, and the video shot of the Hindenburg airship explosion and crash have served to make it one of the most well-known disasters in history.

To me, there are two (rather simplistic) things that make this such a remarkable event.  The first is how quickly the Hindenburg burned.  When watching the video, it seems to only take about 30 seconds for the airship to become completely engulfed in flame.  Keep in mind that the Hindenburg was the largest aircraft of any kind ever built.  It was only 80 feet shorter than the RMS Titanic.  You know, the huge ocean liner.  It was massive.

But a couple of things made this aerial ocean liner very flammable.  One was hydrogen gas.  The Hindenburg was designed to fly with the help of helium.  But in the 1930’s, helium was extremely expensive and available only from the United States, who wasn’t exporting it.  Hydrogen, by comparison, was cheap and readily available.  But those of you that know your Periodic Table know that hydrogen is on the left side with the more volatile elements, while helium is one of the Noble Gases, and way more stable.

Furthermore, the skin of the airship was coated with materials to protect the sensitive gas bags.  But that material was also volatile and, when exposed to high heat, caused thermite reactions.  So you have a flammable fuel being protected by flammable skin…a recipe for disaster.  And when the spark sparked (and to this day, no one knows for sure what caused it) at 7:25pm on May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg went from a tranquil airship to a raging inferno of exploding gas and exploding skin in a matter of moments.

The second thing I find so surprising is that there were any survivors at all.  In fact, only 35 of the 97 passengers were killed…a tragedy, no doubt.  But when you watch that thing burn, you marvel that anyone made it out.  Some jumped to safety while others simply rode it to the ground and made their miraculous escapes.

Airships were kind of “the rage” in the 1930’s.  They were luxurious, smooth, and comfortable.  But it only took about a minute’s worth of time on a May night in Lakehurst to put an end to all that.

Recommended Viewing:  The Hindenburg airship disaster – Video footage combined with Morrison’s dialogue.

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We’ll keep it brief today.  Usually actors and actresses start their careers with bit parts or bigger parts in no-name B movies.  Eventually they gain some experience and move on to bigger and more important roles.  Some become superstars, and the movies for which they’re known bear little resemblance to the ones that started their careers.

Usually.

But some have taken a different route, and it’s possible that Pia Zadora could be considered such an actress.  Her most famous movie was probably the first one in which she starred.  At just 8 years of age, Zadora (who was born Pia Alfreda Schipani on May 4, 1954) was cast in one of the most famous low-budget movies of all time:  Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

In the role of a cute-as-a-button Martian named Girmar, she spent too much time watching earth programs, wishing she could have fun and experience the joys of childhood.  Furthermore, she earned extra lines (and maybe a few extra bucks) singing the “opening credit sequence” song, a horrific ditty called “Hooray for Santy Claus”.  And from there, the movie pretty much went downhill…

…which made it perfect for the guys at Mystery Science Theater 3000.  In 1991, they brought new fame to Zadora by making Santa Claus Conquers the Martians the 21st episode of their 3rd season.

Zadora would go on to act in numerous other movies, achieving modest success, including winning a Golden Globe.  She would also try her hand at music.  But her first movie is considered by some to be her most recogniable.

Happy Birthday, Pia Zadora!!

Recommended Viewing:  Santa Claus Conquers the Martians – Of course…an absolute must-see!!

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Pluto.  It’s a lovable, cute cartoon dog and playmate of Mickey Mouse.  It’s also the 9th (and smallest) planet in our solar system.  Actually, since 2006, it hasn’t even been classified as a planet anymore.  But you all knew that, right?

I had no idea that there was all kinds of debate about what constituted a “planet”.  I just knew that our solar system had 9 planets…it was always that way.  There were the entries in the encylopedias that said so.  My teachers said so.  Those drawings and wire diaramas and science books in school gave me all the proof I needed.

And now it’s all got to change.  All the textbooks.  All the science center planetariums.  That little wire and decoupage planet thing you made in the 3rd grade and got an A for doing?…it’s no better than a B+ project now.  Those encylopedias from the 70’s are just garbage fodder now.

When I first heard about it, I was kind of sad.  Pluto’s classification was changed to a “dwarf” planet.  I thought, “Well, that’s pretty Dopey…or maybe I should be Happy?”  Yeah, Pluto ceased being a friend of Mickey and Donald to become the 8th Dwarf.  I considered it a downgrade, though some might disagree.

And then I started reading a little more about the not-dog, no-longer-planet Pluto, and discovered it wasn’t even named after Mickey’s dog.  It was as though the world as I knew it was unravelling before my eyes.

I’m serious.  I thought Pluto was named after the cartoon dog.  Apparently there was at least one science/history lesson I missed.  It turns out some little girl in England with an interest in mythology (Roman, Norse, or something, but not Disney) came up with the name that stuck.  On May 1, 1930, the planet’s new name was announced to the world, though it was officially named five or six weeks earlier.

But that’s right, it’s not a planet anymore.  Is Mickey’s dog still the same, or is it now a cat?

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