Author Topic: Today in history


Today in history
« on: January 31, 2013 »

Psycho Birds director and notorious unrepressed flirt Alfred Hitchcock turned left on his bicycle. It was a decision he had been planning for some time. "I was careful to prepare the audience. First, there was the shock of seeing me on the bicycle. Next I extended my arm in a long shot masterfully composed by my cinematographer. Finally, suspense building, with the ominous lapping of the waves in the docks in the background providing an accretion of unavoidable dread, I did the deed. My right foot resting on the ground, which I always do to facilitate a change of direction, will be cropped out: filmgoers must never see how the magician performs his tricks."


Today in history
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2013 »

Western Union overtook the Pony Express as the delivery service of choice in a brash and sprawling country where many urgent communications needed to be sent pronto. Here we see employee of the month Hervé Villechaize, no relation to the actor, as he set off an another transcontinental jaunt to deliver a message from a hat store in New York City to his supplier in Los Angeles: "Send more hats." The conditions for couriers were harsh, with Indian attacks still possible in disputed territories in the West and attacks of malaise in what would later be suburbia. Hervé's 10 cent commission was mostly eaten up by expenses, unpaid by the company in a far away time when worker's rights and compassion had not yet been invented. Eventually he would open his own business selling artificial flowers.


Today in herstory
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2013 »

To circumvent an ordinance preventing women from being on or near a velocipede in Salem Massachusetts, Claire Bloomer successfully drew a mustache on her face and passed herself off as a man for years. Unfortunately she was discovered in a compromising relationship involving an Ordinary (a law still in force in Lynchburg Tennessee), arrested, and sentenced to do community service as a mime. Her story was to have a happy ending, however. Audience appreciation of her "glass ceiling" act

was such that she was encouraged to run for office. Disqualified because women couldn't hold office in that unenlightened time, she redrew her mustache and was promptly elected dogcatcher of Salem, in which capacity she found love and fulfillment while enforcing the leash law on an attractive raven haired bitch.

Valentine's Day is also celebrated here and here. And here.


Today in history
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2013 »

His application for a parking permit at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study put on hold when a routine security check flagged a reprimand in his file from his time at the Swiss Patent Office ("Paperclips not returned in original condition"), Albert Einstein "borrowed" guest chalk duster Leó Szilárd's bike and didn't get around to returning it. This oversight was forgiven but never forgotten; Szilárd was to mention it in his Nobel warm-up act years later, remarking "When I thought up nuclear chain reaction,1 which was good enough for the Superpowers but not quite good enough for my esteemed Swedish hosts, little did I realise that Albert Einstein would eventually steal my bicycle, too. We laugh about it now, but I had to ride a girl's bike back to the hotel."

Disdaining not just socks but a helmet as he could not abide helmet hair, the physicist took a tumble one day and was knocked out cold. This led him to incorporate headgear into his Unified Field Theory, an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to unify the general theory of relativity with electromagnetism and cosmetology. Szilárd would also joke about that: "God may not play dice with the universe, but he gave Albert's head a good roll, didn't he?"

Einstein did not invent recumbents2 as he is sometimes credited with doing by admirers. He did co-invent a refrigerator3 with guess who: "Actually he just stuck a magnet on it and collected royalties."

1 - Utopia on the sidewalk
2 - Celebrities on 'Bents
3 - Einstein refrigerator

Great minds think alike.


Today in history
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2013 »

The first bicycle shop in Britain opened. Bicycles were not for sale as no one was yet licenced to ride one. It would be several years before standards were adopted, rules written (cyclists give at least two days public notice in The Times before circumnavigating a roundabout), and tests given. Meanwhile customers were encouraged to begin examining the stock with a view towards putting in an extra 12 hours a day in the coal mine or wool spinning factory to be able to think about affording one. Accessories included 'Big Ben' brand bells, a drivetrain, and the new improved Carradice saddle bag, now stiffened with modern wood rod instead of whale bone. Women's models were still forbidden, though a few suffragette types would mount what some call "The Devil's stallion" anyway, risking virtue and a spell in gaol. Horse riders unhappy at sharing the thoroughfares began a grumbling campaign to be taken up by their grandchildren when the motorcar gets around to being invented.


Today in history
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2013 »

Elvis signed with RCA Records under the ever watchful eye of Colonel Parker, just out of shot. The two had taken the contract out of the office to cool off after a heated discussion involving a clause requiring the rising young star to gyrate his hips in a manner which he found objectionable on the grounds that his mother wouldn't approve. "I'm sure she'll approve of the new house you'll be able to buy her," the Colonel told him. Warming to the idea but still uncertain if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Elvis asked two young ladies if the suggestive thrusting of his hips would deter them from buying his records. They searched their conscience and assured him that it wouldn't, provided he lived a wholesome life when not under the spotlight.

Grabbing a pen and a boy passing on a bicycle, he signed. The rest is music history. The boy grew up to become a DEA agent and a big Elvis fan.


Today in history
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2013 »

"If only," Truman thinks

Truman Capote, the Breakfast at Tiffany's author so eerily portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman on the big screen and Cartman on the small one (if he hasn't been he should be), made a U-turn for Pancakes at Bob's, which he spotted on his way home from a Gore Vidal effigy burning party. Capote was a notorious pancake fancier and philanthropist, often filling his basket and dispensing them like frisbees to admirers.

A literary prodigy, Truman was reportedly fired from an early drudge job at the New Yorker for angering Robert Frost enough for the poet to update Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And Truman's balls to squeeze in a vice,
And Truman's balls to squeeze in a vice.

Capote later found fame as a true crime writer, party boy, then house pet to Joanne Carson, wife of Ed McMahon's benefactor. He ended his days shuffling through revolving doors of rehab clinics and hallucinating that he was Tennessee Williams's mustache, his death cruelly mocked by Vidal as "a good career move" but his career an undeniably intriguing weave in the rich tapestry of life.


Today in history
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2013 »

Butch Cassidy relaxed after a robbery, giving the Sundance Kid an idea: what if on their next bank heist they use the drive-thru window? It would make for a fast sure getaway, horses getting notoriously dead when punctured by the bullets of pursuing lawmen. The bike besotted Butch decided it was the future and agreed.

The day of the heist started with a bad omen when the Sundance Kid got SMIDSY'd by a stagecoach, totaling his black beauty. They made lemonade out of lemons and robbed the coach out of principle, then the Kid hopped onto Butch's handlebars. On the way to the bank they got passed by an old lady on a penny farthing, which irritated the Kid enough to want to rob her too, but Butch told him to grow up.

When they finally arrived the drive-thru had a long line of customers who make easy pickings for the bandits. Flush with cash by the time they got to the window, Butch nearly had a change of heart and made a deposit instead, part of him thinking he's getting a little old for this and maybe it's time to let his money do the work, but the interest rate was risible so he stuck to the plan. They took out a large withdrawal and commenced their getaway.

Unfortunately the plan had a fatal flaw. The posse following in hot pursuit reminded them that bikes can get punctures, too.

The desperadoes took cover in an abandoned shed at the edge of town, pinned in, outgunned, their useless "hearse" as the Sundance Kid was now calling it a convenient target for him to flog out of frustration. Butch watched impassively, the posse giving the usual spiel about being surrounded, etc. "They also shoot iron horses, don't they," he said mostly to himself. "What?" said the Kid. "Never mind," said Butch. "For a moment there I thought we were in trouble."


Today in history
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2013 »

John Paul II collected the bike which has finally been repaired after Satan caused the wheels to go out of true. He is shown here blessing it, which according to Vatican regulations must be done before God's representative on earth and now Twitter is allowed to go for a spin. A keen cyclist, as a youth in Poland he was in charge of blowing air into tyres for the national team. After he became pope he was regularly sighted doing circuits of St Peter's Square, offering nuns a ride on the handlebars and sometimes pushing them off "to watch them fly."

The Cardinals weren't afraid to play pranks on their beloved holy father. Once they turned the popemobile, fitted with a bike rack for visits abroad, upside-down and told him "your car is ready." They then crouched behind nearby cherubim and watched what would happen. Paul II very calmly checked the tyres, pronounced them a bit low, and was about to do the honours when the Cardinals scrambled from their hiding place as he was humbly pursing his lips.

He was not above friendly competition with those who sought his audience, instructing them to not let him win out of fear for their souls. There is, however, no record of him ever losing.


Today in history
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2013 »
44BC: Brutus grows tired of scratching Caesar's itch.

1493: Columbus returns home after his first trip to the Americas. He's later sent back by Isabella to get better souvenirs.

1672: Charles II issues the Royal Declaration of Indulgence, an act which allows him all the Ferrero Rocher he can fit on his lap.

1893: Liverpool F.C. is founded.

1956: My Fair Lady premiers on Broadway to disastrous reviews in the cosmetics press.

1971, in horrible seriousness: 22-year old "champion of the world" Jean-Pierre Monseré is killed during a race in a collision with a car. His young son will later also die on a bicycle.