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History Trivia & Comment: The Fun, The Serious, The Useless (12/14/2007)

December 14, 2007

On this day in …

1861, “Prince Albert [right], husband of Britain’s Queen Victoria, died in London.” … Is this when they put him in the can? … Hah! … Dashing, isn’t he?

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.

[Sources: Chicago Tribune, NYT, Wikipedia]

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