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Twisted History
9 April 2000

If there is a pattern today it would have to be freedom. Blacks have long struggled for freedom in the US, even those of incredible talent like contralto Marian Anderson. Denied the use of Constitution Hall for an Easter Sunday concert, she sang from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with Abe Lincoln looking over her shoulder. A year before, Tunisians' two-decade struggle for independence broke out in violence. Five years later, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged for his part in a conspiracy to smuggle Jews to freedom in Germany.

In a somewhat less noble cause, the sexual revolution of the second half of the twentieth century, we mark the birthdates of Hugh Hefner and the man who developed the first oral contraceptive.

Finally, the man probably most responsible for my twisted sense of humor, Tom Lehrer, was born. I'll be listening to "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" as this mailing goes out!

  On this day in history:

1682 - After traveling down the Mississippi River from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, claims the entire Mississippi River watershed in the name of Louis XIV, King of France and names it Louisiana (Louis' Land) in honor of the king.

1939 - After the Daughters of the American Revolution denied Marian Anderson the use of Constitution Hall because she was black, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for the Philadelphia-born contralto's concert to be presented from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was Easter and a landmark day in the US civil-rights movement. Constitution Hall was restricted to white artists only until 1952.

1945 - Just days before Allied forces liberated the Flossenburg concentration camp, Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged on Hitler's orders for his role in smuggling Jews out of Nazi Germany. To prevent Bonhoeffer from speaking out after the likely German defeat he had been held in two Gestapo jails and three concentration camps in the six months prior to his martyrdom.

  Holidays around the world today include :

National Day, Bolivia - Anniversary of the reestablishment of the National Revolutionary Movement in 1952.

Journée des Martyrs, Tunisia - Martyrs Day, commemorates death of nationalist in violent demonstrations against French rule this day in 1938.

  Birthdays on this day include :

1830 - Eadweard Muybridge, British born US photographer, christened Edward James Muggeridge but liked the fancy spelling better, best known for capturing motion. Used multiple still cameras in sequence to determine whether or not a running horse ever had all four hooves off the ground at once. (They do.) Created the Zoopraxiscope to play these sequences as motion pictures. Died 8 May 1904.

1903 - Dr Gregory Pincus, US physician, researcher. Led development of the first oral contraceptive, comprising the artificial steroid hormones estrogen and progestin. Died 22 August 1967.

1926 - Hugh Hefner, US publisher. Born in Chicago, graduated Chicago Art Institute and University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana. Wrote ad copy for Esquire until the magazine moved to New York and denied request for $5/week raise. Laid out first Playboy on kitchen table, no date on cover because "Hef" didn't know when he could afford to print another. Sold 50,000 copies, spawned enviable publishing empire. Currently lives well in Beverly Hills.

1928 - Thomas Andrew Lehrer, US mathematician, musical parodist. Best known for biting satirical looks at contemporary themes, most of which are no longer current. His best-known album, That Was the Year That Was, sold over 500,000 copies, but took more than 30 years to do so. He is currently listed as "Lecturer" in the UC Santa Cruz directory, where he has been teaching maths since 1972.

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  Quotes that may (or may not) relate to the events above:

In America sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it is a fact.
     - Marlene Dietrich

Women are never disarmed by compliments. Men always are. That is the difference between the two sexes.
     - Oscar Wilde

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.
     - William Faulkner

The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the human race.
     - Don Marquis

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Copyright 2000 G. Armour Van Horn, all rights reserved. This document may be distributed freely. Please forward the complete message including this copyright notice.

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