For those of you who have faithfully read your print edition of The Symzonia Review, this next item should have the distinct ring of familiarity to it. In May I discussed the Second Defenestration of Prague (May 23, 1618). I was rather inspired by the events’ promotion of people taking an active interest in the political life of their country. Not enough for me to actually take more than a passing interest in politics, but, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote, so it goes. In 1419, on the 30th of July, the bustling metropolis of Prague was witness to the First Defenestration of Prague. Apparently at one time, the Czech people were overly fond of resolving political disputes by simply tossing people out of windows. Of the instances of defenestration in Czechoslovakia, for some reason, only two of them have been named. Defenestration is effective It is however quite messy and I am by no means suggesting that anyone adopt this as a means of protest. If the desire to toss a politician out a window cannot be resisted however, you might look to the Second Defenestration of Prague for your inspiration. In the First, on the 30th of July in 1419, the leaders were tossed out the windows and they landed on the raised spears of the malcontents gathered below. That strikes me as being horribly messy and it certainly causes more problems than it resolves. In the Second Defenestration, in 1618, the leaders landed on a huge pile of horse poop. Nobody died and that is overwhelmingly preferable, if only from the stand point of its public relations value.
On this date, in 2005, Astronomers Michael Brown, Chad Trujillo, and David Rabinowitz made a joint announcement that that they had determined that 2003 UB313 was not merely a large trans-Neptunian object but was actually the 10th planet in our Solar System. The astronomers have been bandying around the names Xena and Lila for their find. The matter has been submitted to the International Astronomical Union (What a very cool name!) for consideration of the official name for this planet, if it is indeed a planet, it could be just a piece of space rubbish. If it is just rubbish, it’s a heck of a lot of rubbish because the darn thing is bigger than Pluto, not that that is saying a great deal. The IAU has yet to make a determination on a couple of details: 1) the name and, and perhaps more importantly 2) whether or not the darn thing is even a planet. Personally, I’m rooting for the astronomers’ choice of Xena, because Lucy Lawless was so good in that show. I’m not terribly concerned about the IAU declaring that it isn’t a planet. After all, once you give something a name, you’re more or less stuck with it, sort of like a wayward kitten that suddenly appears on your porch and you start calling it Pickles after feeding it for a while. The next thing you know, you’re running down to Petland Discounts and picking up catnip mice and a soft brush.
I was very surprised to discover that Henry VIII was an actual King. I had always thought that he was the guy who wrote that rather innocuous song by Herman’s Hermits. Surprise, surprise, he was a real-life English monarch, amazing. Henry had the annoying habit of marrying and then killing his brides. Were you or I habituated to that sort of thing I think finding dates would become problematic. Henry, however, was never actually troubled by not having a date on Saturday nights. Being King of the British Empire apparently makes you a real babe magnet. It is however a full time job, so Henry had to remember to constantly review his day-planner. On the 28th in 1540 Henry was confronted with a scheduling conflict which posed both social and political problems for him. In what must have been a stroke of pure genius Henry marshaled all of on his multi-tasking skills and managed to put a check next to everything on his to-do list for the day. Hank started off by having Thomas Cromwell, the man largely responsible for Henry’s achieving the awesome power that he did, executed by beheading. With that bit of nastiness out of the way, Henry proceeded to marry Catherine Howard, the fifth of his six wives. Henry must have really liked Catherine a lot because it wasn’t until February 13, 1542 that he got around to executing her.
After languishing in obscurity since 1938, primarily as a bit player in rival Porky Pig’s features, on the 27th in 1940, Bugs Bunny finally made it to the big time, appearing as a star for the first time in Tex Avery’s A Wild Hare, a vehicle written especially for him and his unique approach to acting. The rest, as they say, is history. Today Mr. Bunny is not as active in films as he was at one time, but he has adamantly refused to lower his standards merely to maintain a screen presence. I feel certain that were he to receive a script which met with his approval, and was an oeuvre that matched his inimitable style, he would return; certainly he would do so if the money was right.And to think that some people say that it is senseless to hold on to hope.
also on July 26
George Bernard Shaw was born on this date in 1856. He went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925 and an Academy Award, for Pygmalion, in 1938. Not too shabby for a simple country boy from a poor Irish family. Shaw only died on November 2, 1950. His work is still widely known, still borrowed from, and still in print. I was really rather surprised to discover that he had been born so terribly long ago. Then again, to some people, 1950 seems unimaginably long ago, so who’s to say?
As if he didn’t have enough on his plate, on the 26th in 1775, the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin the first Postmaster-General of what was destined to become the United States. He only lasted slightly less than a year and a half in the position and was replaced by Richard Bache in November of 1776. It seems as if Franklin couldn’t really hold a job. He kept jumping all over the map: inventor, statesman, writer, diplomat, publisher, philanderer, scientist, gourmand (he weighed over 300 pounds when he died), musician, artist, he was all over the place. He just couldn’t stick to one thing for very long. He did have nice hair however, and every morning when I look in the bathroom mirror I like it more and more.
also on July 25
Joaquin Murietta was a bandit who was part of a 19th century gang of outlaws that came to be known as The Five Jaoquins. Not a terribly imaginative name for the conglomerate since the principal members were Joaquin Murietta, Joaquin Carrillo, Joaquin Ocomorenia and Joaquin Valenzuela. While it wasn’t such a great nickname it did get across the idea that people should be on the lookout for a bunch of people named Joaquin. 'The Five Joaquins' rolls easily off the tongue but it’s not as much fun as saying “Hey watch out for Thierry “The Beast of Montmarte” Paulin, Anna “Arsenic Anna” Hahn, Benny “Dopey” Fein, and Jack “Crooked Nose Jack” McCall.” The Five Joaquins fit nicely on posters without causing too much trouble for the typesetters.
On the 25th in 1853, Murietta and colleague Manuel “Three Fingered Jack” Garcia were killed by members of the California Rangers, a group that had been set up by the governor of California for the sole purpose of getting the Five Joaquins to seriously consider going into retirement. Well, they got someone named Joaquin, who they assumed was Murietta, and they got Three Fingered Jack and the Rangers went the extra mile to help with California’s budget problems and put Murrieta’s head and Garcia’s hand on display and charged admission. Now that’s an innovative approach to fiscal responsibility.
In 1909 The Daily Mail, a prominent English newspaper, offered a prize of ₤1000 to the first successful flight to cross the English Channel using a heavier than air craft. On the 25th in 1909 Jacques Bleriot, a French aircraft designer, took the Mail up on its offer and, in a monoplane of his own design, the Bleriot XI, he flew from Calais to Dover in 37 minutes. The French were understandably elated at Bleriot’s success while the British were distressed to a very considerable degree because now they realized that not only were they vulnerable to attack from the sea, but from the air as well.
also on July 24
After of long series of disputes which, while unpleasant, never quite reached the level where they could be viewed as internecine battles, on this date in 1567, Mary, Queen of Scots, was forced to abdicate the throne of the Kingdom of Scotland. Not the sort to waste time finding a replacement, the Scots chose her son, James, as her succesor and he was crowned King when he was one year old. James was a bit of a slacker however. His Mom had become Queen when she was nine months old.
July in 1974 was a very busy month for the Republicans in the White House and for those in the neighborhood, or in da hood, in current parlance, as well. On the 27th, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted 27 to 11 to recommend the first Article of Impeachment against Richard Nixon: Obstruction of justice. On the 29th, they voted to recommend the second: Abuse of power; on the 30th the third and final Article was recommended: Contempt of Congress. Whoever said it was going to be a long, hot summer gets credit for being a master of understatement. While the summer of 1964 is generally considered the first of the Long Hot Summers, the summer of 1974 wasn’t exactly chilly.
Also on July 23
Telstar, an early communications satellite, was launched on this date in 1962. While Telstar became operational upon its successful launch on July 10 and did indeed broadcast a television signal on that day, the first significant broadcast occurred on July 23, when Telstar was first used to relay a live trans-Atlantic television signal, the first of its kind anywhere. The plan for this inaugural telecast was to broadcast live comments to be made by President Kennedy. The President wasn’t ready when the network was, however, and rather than fill the gap with either dead air or infomercials, a bit of the Phillies - Cubs game at Wrigley Field was used to fill the time until Kennedy was ready. Apparently serious consideration was never given to showing the Olympic Curling Trials which had to have been being held somewhere, perhaps Falmouth, Massachusetts.