Friday, May 18, 2012

Today in Huh?story - May 18

May 18, 322 - Constantine the Great announces free distributions of food to the citizens in Constantinople

The first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine was still high on his victory over the Visigoths (bunch of black-eye-shadow-wearing mopes) when he announced free food for everyone in Constantinople. This was a mighty white gesture for the emperor in his self-named city, and would set the tone for condescending, smug, rich Christians for the next 1700 years.
Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
Note: I’m not sure if this is still a valid offer. Pretty sure most of the coupons expired by June 30, 322. However, since the coupons were brass, you may be able to hammer-&-tong the date to read June 30, 2322. But you should probably call ahead before you drive all the way out there.

May 18, 1152 - Henry II of England marries Eleanor of Accutane

Eleanor of Accutane was originally married to Louis VII of France when she was fifteen, but he eventually agreed to an annulment on the grounds of consanguinity (a fancy word for cousin-fuckery) within the fourth degree, and also on the grounds of “ewww, zits”. However, King Henry II (aka Henry Curtmantle, aka Henry FitzEmpress, aka Henry Plantagenet), a collector of awesome last names, had no qualms about tapping his pimply third cousin. (The English were the hillbillies of the Middle Ages.) Eleanor would crank out five sons and three daughters for Henry. With the support of Eleanor, three of those sons would eventually revolt against their father, due to his inability to provide them with lands of their own or to find a cure for their chronic acne.

Zits are difficult to convey with stained glass.

May 18, 1896 - Plessy v. Ferguson ruling

The United States Supreme Court ruling in this case (7 to 1) legitimized existing segregation practices (the bogus doctrine of "separate but equal"), which would largely stay intact in the South until the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. The case itself was brought when Homer Plessy boarded a "whites only" railroad car in New Orleans. Plessy was considered an "octoroon", which meant that he was six-eighths Caucasian descent, one-eighth African descent and one-eighth meringue. They may seem pretty white by today’s standards, but Louisiana laws of the time required a ratio of no less than three parts meringue to one part Africa. In justifying the decision, the Court claimed there was no difference in quality between the whites-only and blacks-only railway cars, most of which were flatbed cars featuring four mostly-functioning wheels and separate pup tents for sleeping and dining. 
You must be this white to ride. 
In 2009, descendants of the players on both sides of the Supreme Court case created the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation for Education, Preservation and Outreach to teach the history of Civil Rights and promote disdain for travel by rail.

May 18, 1920 - Birth of Pope John Paul II (born Karol Józef Wojtyła)

The popiest pope in all of popestery. Really, all I want in a pope is a kind face. Take a look at the last four popes, and decide for yourself which guy you want to put a bland wafer into your mouth.

“Gang Sign” Pope Paul VI? NO
“Poindexter” Pope John Paul I? NO 
“Kindly Polack” Pope John Paul II? MAYBE
“Emperor Palpatine” Pope Benedict XVI? GOOD GOD, NO 

May 18, 1933 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs an act creating the Tennessee Valley Authority

The TVA’s system of dams were intended to provide flood control, electricity generation, and exponentially more bass-boat launch spots for residents of Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky. The subsequent proliferation of bait shops pulled the U.S. out of the Great Depression and helped us defeat the Nazis.

Kentucky, Damn
Note: My grandfather, for a time, managed a state recreation area on Kentucky Lake, as political kickback for being Governor Happy Chandler’s campaign manager in western Kentucky. During that time, my father and his five siblings lived a Lord of the Flies existence in which no laceration or burn was great enough to merit a trip into town for medical care. Amazingly, all these Shroats are still alive.

May 18, 1969 - Launch of Apollo 10

A dress rehearsal for the moon landing, Apollo 10’s crew got to see how close we could get men to the moon without actually touching it. As long as I can remember, I’ve had pity for the Apollo 10 crew. That pity also reminds me of this Deep Thought from Jack Handey:
One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. “Oh, no,” I said, “Disneyland burned down.” He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.
Lunar Blue Balls. We were going to let them land on the moon, but it was getting pretty late. 

May 18, 1980 - Eruption of Mount St. Helens

After a massive build up of baking soda and vinegar (I have a Ph.D. in Volcanology, University of Gilligan’s Island, Urbana-Champaign campus), an earthquake triggered one of the largest landslides in recorded history, destroying the entire north slope of Mount St. Helens and resulting in the most awesome science fair demonstration EVER.

Some mountains are assholes.
The magnitude and violence of the eruption surprised everyone and seriously harshed the Pacific Northwest’s mellow. Mount St. Helens seemed like such a quiet mountain. Neighboring peaks reported that it was never any trouble, mostly keeping to itself.

Before and Oh-Shit-After
The National Geographic’s January 1981 issue covered the eruption in detail, and had a profound effect on 10-year-old me. I have a distinct memory of borrowing the issue from my grandfather and pouring over it for days. So normal looking mountains can suddenly explode and kill everyone for miles around? Is someone looking into this?
Great, one more anxiety to throw on the pile. 

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