Monday, November 22, 2021

A Veritable Cornucopia - November 22, 2010


Thanksgiving is, for better or worse, a holiday identified with abundance. It's only appropriate, then, that the week leading up to Turkey Day is chock-a-block with events, anniversaries, and just plain oddities. But what are we waiting for? Let's go!

We begin Monday with a couple of icons of the 1930s. In 1899, composer
Hoagy Carmichael was born. Though musically untrained, Carmichael became enamored of ragtime and jazz at an early age, and went on to write such standards as "Stardust," "Georgia On My Mind," "The Nearness of You," and "Heart and Soul." 

In 1980, Mae West died at the age of 87. West was an actress who specialized in a shocklingly overripe and aggressive sexuality - and was, in fact, arrested in 1927 on morals charges for her Broadway play, Sex. To her dying day, she insisted that she was as sexually alluring as ever, even starring as an octogenarian sex symbol in 1978's Sextette.

On the opposite end of the sexual spectrum was the gentle and avuncular
Fred Rogers, who donated one of his Mister Rogers' Neighborhood sweaters to the Smithsonian Institution on this date in 1984. There's no report on what happened to his sneakers.

Perhaps they were stolen by one of the host of shady characters we'll note over the next two days. 

For example, Monday is the anniversary of the 1718 death in battle of Edward Teach - better known as the notorious pirate Blackbeard, who terrified the West Indies. 

If not Teach, perhaps the culprit was Henry McCarty (aka William Bonney), who terrorized the American West as the thieving Billy the Kid (born November 23, 1859). 

Or maybe it was William Marcy "Boss" Tweed, the uber-corrupt boss of Tammany Hall who ran New York City in the 1850s and '60s, and was arrested and returned to Manhattan in 1876 after fleeing to Europe.

If one were of such a mind, one might see the death of Blackbeard or the jailing of Tweed as evolutionary "thinning of the herds;" an appropriate thought, since Monday is the 141st anniversary of the publication of
Charles Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species

Darwin's ideas are pretty deep, and are best contemplated by either a Rhodes Scholar or a comics geek – both of whom are in luck Monday, as not only will the 2010 Rhodes Scholarships be announced, but (following a computer meltdown earlier this month), tickets for next summer's San Diego Comic-Con will go on sale. If history is any indication, they'll sell out within minutes, so you've probably already missed your chance. 

If that's the case, you may want to salve your hurt feelings with some television, perhaps even sinking to watching tonight's premiere of Skating with the Stars. (Because there's nothing we need more than another eccentric actress falling on the ice in another phony reality competition.)

On a serious note, for those of us of a certain age, November 22 will always signify the 1963
death of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. Forty-seven years later, most of us still remember where we were when we heard the news.

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Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Risky Business of Attempted Assassins - November 21, 2006


Every endeavor or profession has its success stories and its failures; its heroes and goats. 

This is just as true in the murky world of political assassins. For every villainous John Wilkes Booth or Leon Czolgosz, there's a Sara Jane Moore or a Samuel Byck who failed to reach the upper echelons of infamy -- thankfully so. 

We would never call any murder or murderer a "success," but nevertheless it appears that some assassins are just more efficient than others. 

Charles Guiteau was an unsuccessful author, theologian, and lawyer, but turned out to be a whiz at shooting a president.  

Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, on the other hand, was a rank amateur in the assassin pursuit, failing to properly load her gun before she tried to shoot Gerald Ford. 

And just consider the case of John Schrank. In 1912, he shot Theodore Roosevelt, but the bullet was deflected by Roosevelt's glasses and a copy of the speech the president was to deliver. To Schrank's frustration, Roosevelt spoke for 90 minutes after being shot and carried the bullet in his chest for the rest of his life. 

Yes, some assassins just can't catch a break, but it's a risky business they choose to undertake -- and we can't say we feel too sorry for them.

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