History Trivia & Comment: The Fun, The Serious, The Useless (12/14/2007)
On this day in …
– 1902, “The Commercial Pacific Cable Company lays the first Pacific telegraph cable, from Ocean Beach, San Francisco to Honolulu, Hawaii.” … Doesn’t this entry make it sound like the whole thing, however many thousands of miles of cable, was accomplished in a day?
– 1919, “Writer Shirley Jackson, best known for her 1948 short story ‘The Lottery,’ was born in San Francisco.” … This came from the Tribune. Why do we need to know this? Why is “The Lottery” famous? At least one more sentence is needed. I mean, look at this cover [left]? Look at the subtitle? There is a delicious piece of trivia trapped here in a meaningless almanac entry. Here’s an informative piece on Jackson’s writing career.
– 1947, “The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is founded in Daytona Beach, Florida.” … This is in the running for the most useless information of the day.
– 1959, “The Motown record label is founded in Detroit, Michigan by Berry Gordy.” … And here’s where it all began—meaning “Hitsville,” second from right:
– 1997, “Cuban President Fidel Castro declared Christmas 1997 an official holiday to ensure the success of Pope John Paul II’s upcoming visit to the communist country.” … Schmuck—meaning Castro. … But is “success” the most appropriate word here? This entry, from the NYT, should have said: “…to ensure that Pope John Paul II would visit the communist country.
– 1999, “Charles M. Schulz announced he was retiring the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip.” … Did you know that I worked for a competing journalism syndicate when this happened? That meant I had to be on the phone, the say day, calling the managing editors of newspapers in my sales area offering replacements. The sad thing was that, up to that point, I loved Peanuts! It’s one thing to watch the vultures circling and be sad, and another to be one of them.
– 2000, “The Federal Trade Commission unanimously approved the $111 billion merger of America Online and Time Warner.” … Now this, to me, is useless information of the day. At the time, however, I agreed with Norman Solomon and others that this was a sign of the loss of independent media and objective journalism. …Journalism seems like the theme of day.
– 2001, “George O’Leary resigned as Notre Dame football coach five days after being hired, admitting he had lied about his academic and athletic background.” … This came from the Tribune. As I’ve noted before, they love remembering sports bits. And this was a bit of big news in the Chicago area at the time.