In my lifetime I can recall nine U.S. Presidents, back to JFK. After years of political mice, it is so great to feel what it is like to be under a great president again. Up until yesterday, I feared for America's decline. As someone who has studied history a lifetime, I wondered if I would live to see America's final fall.

Now I feel hopeful and proud. I am proud of everyone who voted. I am proud that the land of my birth, the North East U.S. put Barack on the road to victory, and my second home on the West Coast gave him the victory.

I am especially proud of all the young people who rejected old arguments and prejudices. Pundits said the young would rather text than bother to vote. They made the difference. I know the next few years will be tough on a national level. President Obama is being left a mess almost as vast as that which faced Franklin Roosevelt. But like FDR, I think we at last have a leader.

Doris Kearns Goodwin said that she was jealous of all the young people, to be living in such exciting times. Congratulations!

Question: Why is strict discipline sometimes called Prussian?

Yesterday’s Question answered below: Was any U.S. president ever elected unanimously?
History for 11/5/2008
Birthdays: Eugene V. Debs, Art Garfunkel, Roy Rogers, Tatum O'Neill, Elke Sommer, Ike Turner, Vivien Leigh, Will Durant, Joel McCrea, Sam Shepard is 65, Bill Walton, John Berger, Sean Puffy- Combs, Tilda Swinton

In Jolly Old England it is
HAPPY GUY FAWKES DAY! in -1605 Sir Guy Fawkes, a Catholic nobleman, was caught digging a tunnel under the English Parliament and filling it with gunpowder. His goal was no less than blowing up the King and the entire blinkin' government! Sir Roger Catesby was actually the mastermind of the plot, but Sir Guy gets the fame.
Modern day Brits commemorate this as a kind of April Fools Day with bonfires and merrymaking. Children go from door to door asking : "A penny for Sir Guy, please." But in olden times it was also a let's have a good laugh on the Roman Catholics day.
This is why George Washington was against transplanting the holiday in America. Pope Day was celebrated in some American colonies but it died out after the Revolution. In 1775 Washington called it : A ridiculous and childish festival, burning effigies of the Pope." Many English folks I know told me they celebrate the day they tried to blow up the government because wouldn't things have been lovely if he had succeeded!

1805- The Royal Spanish Governor of New Mexico, Joaquin del Real Alencaster, dispatches a cavalry troop under Don Pedro Vial on a secret mission. On this day Vial's force is attacked by hostile Indians on the Arkansas River. Vial drives off the Indians but his command is too battered by the fight to continue and has to return, their mission aborted. What was their mission? To kill or capture the American explorers Lewis and Clark. The Spanish government in Madrid knew full well the object in the American President Jefferson’s mind in sending this "scientific" expedition to find a land route to the Pacific, over territory Spain still claimed, despite the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis and Clark, at this point in the Columbia River Gorge, were unaware of the drama around them.

1830- The day after leading a protest march in Rochester Woman’s Rights advocate Susan B. Anthony defied the law by casting a vote in a New York election.

1940- President Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected to an unprecedented 3rd term. His defeated Republican opponent- Wendell Wilkie, became the butt of jokes in many Looney Tunes.

1946- Two punk kids fresh out of the Navy were elected to the US House of Representatives- John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

1954- THE WRONG DOOR RAID- Baseball great Joe DiMaggio was stewing over the collapse of his marriage to sexy movie star Marilyn Monroe. He was especially sensitive to the rumors that she was seeing other men. This night Joltin Joe was having dinner with Frank Sinatra and a few friends when a detective brought him a report that Monroe’s car was spotted parked in front of an apartment complex on Kilkea Dr.. Enraged, he drove out to the building and kicked in the back door hoping to catch her en-flagrante. But Marilyn was staying in a girlfriend’s apartment upstairs. This was the home of a terrified old lady named Mrs Florence Klotz. We don’t know what she thought about her door suddenly kicked in by Joe DiMaggio, Frank Sinatra and the RatPack but the tabloids had a field day.

1975- Logger Travis Walton was abducted by aliens and experimented on for five days, then returned to his Snowflake Arizona home. Walsh published a bestseller Fire in the Sky.

1977- George W. Bush married Laura Welsh. Laura was once a Democrat who campaigned for lefty George McGovern in 1972.

1979- National Public Radio’s news show Morning Edition started.

1990- In New York City the founder of the Jewish Defense League, Rabbi Meir Kahane, was assassinated by a Moslem fundamentalist. The JDL was an extremist organization that advocated tough responses to Arab extremism. Even though he was elected to the Israeli Knesset Meir Kahane was refused a seat because of his racist views. So no one was too surprised that he was a target. But what was surprising was that the assassin, El Sayyid Nossair, was a member of a terrorist cell operating in the US. His apartment was a "treasure-trove of information" according to NYPD detectives. They found terrorist manuals written in Afghanistan, bomb making instructions and plans to NY city landmarks. The NYPD turned over all this intelligence to the FBI, who filed it and promptly forgot about it.

1994- Retired President Ronald Reagan gave his last public speech. He confirmed he had Alzheimers Disease.

1995- YTSCHAK RABIN ASSASSINATED- At a peace rally after making a speech where he declared "Violence will undermine Israeli Democracy" Israeli Prime Minister Ytschak Rabin was shot and killed by a young Yeshiva student Ygail Amir. Amir was mad at Rabin for daring to make peace with the Palestinians. The night before Amir attended a Likud political rally where people waved pictures of Ytschak Rabin dressed in a Nazi uniform. Ironically Rabin as chief of staff of the Israeli army was one of the strategists of the conquest of the West Bank. President Clinton was shocked by the act and said goodbye in Hebrew "Shalom, Haver" –Peace Brother. Despite this slogan becoming a popular bumper sticker, in the next election Likud won anyway.

1999- A man was arrested in Minneapolis for stealing and keeping 150 shopping carts in his apartment.
Yesterday’s Question: Was any U.S. president ever elected unanimously?

Answer: George Washington in his second term. In 1818 the election was so boring, President James Monroe ran for his second term unopposed. Yet he voted against himself. “So no one could claim to have been elected unanimously, except George Washington.” He declared.

Exercizing the Franchise
November 4th, 2008

I am proud and happy to see a number of friends of ours who were originally from other countries, who have gotten their U.S. citizenship so they could vote today.

click to enlarge

This image came from animator Raul Garcia, who worked at Disney, Roger Rabitt, Bluth, in Berlin, Paris, Spain and Seoul, that he has voted for the first time today. It is of his big dog Mellon. Hooray, Vivat, Slava to him!

Question: Has any U.S. President ever been elected unanimously?

Yesterday’s Question answered below: Was George Washington a Republican or a Democrat?
History for 11/4/2008
Birthdays: Will Rogers, Art Carney, Loretta Swit, Martin Balsam, Gig Young, Darla Hood, Joe Neikro, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ralph Maccio, Andrea McArdle, Matthew McConnaughy, Walter Cronkite is 92, Laura Bush is 62

Happy U.S. Election Day! You survived the longest &*% election in World History!
Now take it from me, cuz I’m a historian, we are making history today! You will remember this election day when you are old and wrinkly.

1530- Cardinal Wolsey had been the chief minister of King Henry VIII and dominated English politics for a decade. He was a European power broker and fancied himself a future Pope. But he lost favor with the King over his inability to get him a divorce from his first wife and his alliances on the continent lost them Calais, the last English stronghold on the continent. This day the King’s men arrested Cardinal Wolsey for treason. But being old and infirm he died on the way to the Tower.

1640- THE LONG PARLIAMENT- British King Charles Ist didn’t like parliaments. He found them pushy, always demanding rights for the common man and such. It had been 11 years since is last parliament and he had dismissed that one after three weeks. It was called "the Short Parliament”. But he needed money to put down rebels in Scotland. So Charles I reluctantly convened the Long Parliament. This one stayed in session for the rest of Charles' life and defeated and beheaded him in the English Civil War. The Long Parliament was finally disbanded by Cromwell and his army in 1652 and after Charles II ‘s restoration, the English parliament stayed more or less in regular sessions.

1646- The Massachusetts Bay Colony started to feel threatened by all the Quakers, Shakers, Anabaptists and other weirdoes coming in by the boatload from Europe. So they announced that the crime of Heresy was punishable by death. And of course heresy was anything the Massachusetts Bay Colony didn’t care to believe in. After hanging two Quaker preachers and driving other like Anne Hutchinson outside the walls to death at the hand of hostile Indians, the heresy statutes were revoked by King Charles II.

1677- William III and Mary of Orange are married at St. James Palace.

1791- ST. CLAIRS DEFEAT- When President Washington sent General Arthur St. Clair to put down the Indian raids on the Ohio Frontier he advised him” Trust not the Indians, beware of surprise”. St. Clair, who had a rather lackluster military career in the Revolution, must have forgotten Washington’s advice because this day near what would be Celina Ohio St. Clair’s camp was surprise-attacked at dawn by thousands of Shawnee, Creek and Miami warriors. 900 American casualties including General Richard Butler. The spectacular defeat and massacre was led by Chief Little Turtle, who although he killed more US soldiers than died at Custers Last Stand, is barely remembered today. After the peace treaty in 1795 St. Clair finished life running a tavern and Little Turtle became a guest of George Washington. His grandson graduated from West Point.

1804- LEWIS & CLARK MET SACAJEWEA- The American explorers were spending the winter in a friendly Mandan village when a French Canadian trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau offered his services as a guide. He had two wives who were Shoshone (Snake) women. Sacajewea was then 15 and pregnant. Charbonneau won his wives in a bet with some Hidatsa warriors. Lewis and Clark hired Charbonneau not because he would be useful as much as Sacajewea, because she spoke the languages of the western tribes beyond the Rocky Mountians. Sacajewea would speak to Shoshone and Nez Perce in their language, then translate into Hidatsa to Charbonneau. He would translate it into French to another trapper named Driar who would speak English to Lewis and Clark.
Despite the clumsiness this system worked. Sacajewea with her baby on her back braved every hardship the expedition faced to the Pacific and back. One scholar said the European conquest of the America’s could not have been done without the help of three women: Pocahontas, Malinche’ the Aztec Princess and Sacajewea.

1842- Abe Lincoln, 33, and Mary Todd, 23, marry. Mary Lincoln came from a pro Southern Kentucky family and was always at odds with Washington society. At one point Congress even held a hearing on whether the First Lady was a Confederate spy.
Mary was as volatile as Abe was laid back and they would have marital fights right in front of officers and dignitaries causing everyone to hang their heads in embarrassment. Most of her children had died by the time Lincoln was shot All this grief broke her sanity, causing her surviving son Robert Lincoln to lock her up for her remaining years.

1854- THE LADY WITH THE LAMP- English nurse Florence Nightingale arrived at Scutari Turkey to care for English wounded from the Crimean War. The English Army medical system then was a disaster of outmoded bureaucracy. Hundreds of sick and dying men were piled up bed to bed in a hospital 4 miles square without basic sanitary conditions- no blankets, fresh clothes or fresh food. Rich English aristocrat Florence Nightingale brought her own finances to clothe, feed and care for the sick. Even just doing laundry saved lives because men had clean linens to sleep on. She told her volunteers “The strongest women must stand with me at the washtub!” She had no official status or commission from the government, but she revolutionized the military hospital system and the nursing profession, often fighting stodgy old generals who saw her as a troublemaker. Chief surgeon Sir John Hall growled:” The woman insists on grotesque excess and luxury- after all, what does a soldier want with a toothbrush?”

1861- University of Washington founded in Seattle.

1862- Richard J. Gatling patented the machine gun. “It is to the pistol as the sewing machine is to the simple sewing needle.” Gatling’s idea was to invent machines to make war too terrible to be waged any longer. What he succeeded in doing was to indeed make war more terrible.

1879- James Ritty of Dayton Ohio patented the cash register, invented as a way to keep employees from pocketing receipts.

1913- William Mulholland's great aqueduct starts bringing water 200 miles from Northern California to L.A. by the force of gravity alone. Without the extra water L.A. would never have grown any larger than 140,000 L.A. Times estimate.

1918- Wilfred Owen, one of the greatest English poets of the age, died in combat in World War One only days from the final armistice cease fire.

1927- HOWARD CARTER OPENED THE TOMB OF KING TUT-ANKH-AMON ( King Tut ). Other royal tombs had been opened before but they had always been cleaned out centuries ago by grave robbers. King Tut’s was the first unspoiled Pharoah’s tomb to be discovered in modern times. The site was discovered under a house built for workers excavating the tomb of King Ramses IV. There was King Tut's Curse guarding the door, and a few folks like Lord Carnaervon did go to an early grave: allegedly from scratching a zit and getting blood poisoning, legend has it the same zit was found on King Tut’s mummy. But Howard Carter, the man who broke the seal, rifled the tomb and did everything but stick his fingers in Tut’s ears, lived to a merry old age and even pocketed a few artifacts he didn't feel like sharing with the British Museum. They were recently returned by an embarrassed family descendant.

1928- Arnold Rothstein, top New York gangster who got vaudeville dancer Jimmy Walker elected mayor and rigged the 1919 World Series, is shot in the groin during a poker game. It took him hours to die. When asked by the police who shot him Rothstein replied before losing consciousness: "If I live, I'll take care of it..."

1931-One of the pioneering trumpet innovators of the new music called Jazz was Buddy Bollen. He was one of the first soloists to improvise within the body of a song and so doing paved the way for the greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. But by 1931 Bollen was forgotten and died broke in the Louisiana Home for the Insane. His family couldn’t even afford a Dixieland Band to play at his funeral.

1939- President Roosevelt signs the Neutrality Act, declaring the U.S. would not get involved in the growing war between Hitler and Britain and France.

1939- Packard introduced the first air-conditioned automobile.

1952- UNIVAC, the first electronic business computer, accurately predicted Dwight Eisenhower would win in a landslide. The first computer projected results for an election.

1955- In Arizona Willie Bioff, former IATSE union official, who tried to hijack the Hollywood unions (Including the Disney cartoonists) for Frank Nitti's gang, turns the key in his Ford pickup and explodes. He had turned informer and was in the Witness Protection plan. He had changed his name to Bill Nelson and was a friend of Republican Senator Barry Goldwater. When police arrived they found Bioff’s wife up in a tree. At first they feared it was from the explosion but she explained Willie wore a ring with a fat diamond on it. She thought his dismembered hand had gotten stuck up into that tree and she wanted that ring back.

1956- The Soviets crush the Hungarian Revolt led by Inver Nagy.

1958- Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope John XXIII. John 23rd was one of the best loved popes of the twentieth century. He liberalized the Church through his council Vatican II, changed the Latin Mass into common language, encouraged folk masses and other reforms. Pope John Paul II has made more saints than any other Pope but withheld final sainthood for John XXIII because he was too liberal for his tastes.

1963- The Beatles are part of the Queens Royal Command performance in London. John Lennon tells the audience: “ Will the people in the cheap seats clap their hands?, and if the rest of you would just rattle your jewelry..”

1968- the first issue of Screw Magazine. Former reporter Jim Buckley and former industrial spy for the Bendix Corporation Al Goldstein named their magazine Screw after trying Hump, Love and being told they couldn't name it F**k.

1979- THE IRAN HOSTAGE CRISIS- Iranian militants with the approval of the Iranian revolutionary government and the Ayatollah Khomeni attack the U.S. embassy in Teheran and take most of the 90 staff hostage for 444 days. The event infuriated US opinion and there were loud calls to nuke the Mad Mullahs. Truth be told, without condoning such an outrage the US public remained blissfully ignorant of how our CIA helped the overthrow of the democratic regime of Mossadegh in 1953 that established the Shah’s autocratic regime and that the coup was directed from within the US embassy, but hey, that’s just details. The crisis seemed to paralyze the Jimmy Carter administration and probably helped elect Ronald Reagan. The incident also proved that the Cold War East-West way of judging world politics was now outdated since the Ayatollah declared both America and Russia “Great Satans”!

1980- Yomiuri Giants baseball great Saduharu Oh retired after hitting 868 homeruns in his 22 year career. Apologists for American home run records like Aaron and Ruth claim it is not the same since Japanese baseball fields are smaller than American. (?)

1993- The Topanga-Malibu fires., Huge brush fries burn expensive homes in Malibu. The fires reached from the Santa Monica Mountains down to the ocean. Eyewitnesses said the 200 foot flames were reflected in the sky and water turning everything orange and the landscape looked more like Mars than Malibu.
Yesterday’s Question: Was George Washington a Republican or a Democrat?

Answer: He was neither. When he was president there were no political parties yet. When he left office one could say he was of the Federalist Party.

November 3rd, 2008 mon
November 3rd, 2008


My Seattle friend and old USC alumn Chris Liles sent me this image of Dick Williams doing his thing and pushing his DVDs at the DigiPen event up in Starbucks land. Chris is in the front row.


“A waiter approaches: ‘Can I interest you in the chicken, or would you prefer the platter of sh*t with bits of broken glass in it?’ To be undecided in this election is to ask how the chicken is cooked.” ~ David Sedaris

Question: Was George Washington a Republican or a Democrat?

Yesterday’s Question answered below: Is it true Fanta sodapop was invented by the Nazis?
History for 11/3/2008
Birthdays: The Roman writer Lucan 39AD, John Montague the Earl of Sandwich and inventor of the same, Walker Evans, William Cullen Bryant, Stephen Austin, Bronco Nagurski, Andre' Malraux, Vincenzo Bellini, Bob Feller, Karl Baedeker author of the Baedeker guidebooks, Ken Berry, Michael Dukakis, Tom Schales, Lulu, Roseanne Barr is 56, Senator Russell Long, Osamu Tezuka,

361AD- JULIAN THE APOSTATE BECAME EMPEROR OF ROME, upon the death of is uncle Constantius II. Julian's life was much like Claudius 300 years earlier, except the Imperial Family's official religion was now Christianity. The children of Constantine the Great fought, intrigued, seduced and poisoned each other with great gusto, then went to Church. This had a funny effect on bookish young Julian, and he decided Christianity was the mistake and everyone was a lot better off worshiping Jupiter, Hercules, bulls and such like the good old days. He just couldn't command it so, because Rome had been Christian for 50 years and would just kill him rather than switch. So he had to move cautiously. He was slain in battle with the Persians after only a five year reign, before he could affect any real change, but if he had reigned as long as Constantine did ( 30 years) the world might've looked different. When he went on campaign against Persia he sacrificed 5,000 bulls to Mars. One Christian joked: " If it was 5,000 bulls just to start, if Caesar Julian wins any battles I fear for the market price of beef!"

1503- MONA LISA- Leonardo Da Vinci was hired by a Florentine senator Francesco del Giocondo to paint a portrait of his third wife Madonna Elizabetha or Lisa.

He fussed over the painting for four years and never gave it to Francesco, he said it was still unfinished and kept it for himself. Eventually he needed money so he sold it to the King of France, so today it hangs in the Louvre in Paris. Was her enigmatic smile because she had lost a child earlier that year and Leonardo was trying to cheer her up? He used to have musicians playing in the room when she posed. Or is she emblematic of Woman smiling at all the foibles of Men? One historian called Mona Lisa “ the Face that Launched a Thousand Reams Upon a Sea of Ink.”

1755- The Massachusetts Colony offered a bounty of 20 English pounds each for scalps of Indian children under the age of 12. Warrior scalps fetched a higher bounty, about 30 pounds.

1836- California ranchero Juan de Alvarado rallies local ranchers to overthrow Governor Juan de Michaltorena sent from Mexico City. This story may have been an early inspiration for Zorro.

1888- Jack the Ripper killed his last victim, a prostitute named Mary Kelly.

1930- Amadeo Gianini changed the name of his San Francisco based Bank of Italy to the Bank of America.

1948 -The Chicago Daily Tribune prints the famous premature headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” based on early poll returns. Truman himself was so sure he’d lost the election he went to bed early. When he awoke he discovered he had won and he had a ball mocking the newspapers and doing nasal imitations of hostile correspondent H.B. Kaltenborn.

1957- the first living thing sent into orbit, a Russian dog named Laika. He never came back down, but he probably was satisfied knowing he made history- woof.

1963- THE FIRST ALL COSMONAUT WEDDING- Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in Space, marries cosmonaut Andrisyan Nikolayev.

1966- President Lyndon Johnson signed the Truth in Packaging Act, which required all packaged foods to print their ingredients on the label.

1969- In a speech President Richard Nixon announced his opposition to young anti- Vietnam War protestors by appealing to what he called the Silent Majority. He had run in 1968 as a peace candidate.

1971- The first UNIX manual released.

1971- Carly Simon married James Taylor.

1977- Disney's Pete's Dragon starring Helen Reddy and Red Buttons.

1979- T.V. sitcom Different Strokes premiered, featuring 2003 gubernatorial candidate Gary Coleman..

1990- GM's car line the Saturn announced.

1981- WALLY WOOD was one of the most influential cartoonists of the 1950’s and 60’s. His amazing versatility enabled him to draw everything from superhero comics to very cartoony to playfully naughty girls like Sally Forth. He drew EC Comics, the Mars Attacks series, Mad Magazine, Weird Science, THUNDER Agents and much more. He had done a famous drawing of the Disney characters having sex that brought down upon him the wrath of the Disney legal dept. But hard living and deadlines took their toll. Suffering from a stroke, failing kidneys and on dialysis, this day Wally Wood put a 44 cal pistol to his right temple and pulled the trigger. Police found the bullet had passed right through his head into the pillow.

1986- A Lebanese newspaper Al Schirra revealed the details of the Reagan Presidency’s illegal sales of weapons to Iran- the Iran Contra Scandal.
Yesterday’s Question: Is it true Fanta sodapop was invented by the Nazis?

Answer: When it was obvious that America would enter the war on the side of Britain, Nazi minister Josef Goebbels worried about the average German’s taste for Coca Cola. In 1941 he ordered Max Keith, Coke’s distributor in the Reich, to come up with something else. Keeping the same staff, Keith came up with another formula they named Fantasy- Fantasie- or Fanta. After the fall of Hitler’s empire, they resumed being part of the Coca-Cola Empire

On Changing the Clocks
November 2nd, 2008

This Sunday morning after waking up, Pat and I walked around the house moving all the clocks and watches back one hour.

This is the day when it really strikes you just how artificial our concept of time is. All the year we are dictated to by the clock. We stress and agonize and live out our daily drama, all to the little hands merciless march around the dial.

Yet today, after just a simple reminder on the local news that Daylight Savings Time is over, the whole community agrees that we are living one hour in the past. Oh, it's not 9:00AM, it's now 8:00AM.

Silly. If there is a God, he must be smiling.

The only real clock is the one inside you. It is ticking off the time you have left in this current reality, and someday it will stop. So use that time wisely!