Tuesday, April 12, 2011


On April 12 in 1638, the Roman Catholic legal body known as the Inquisition begins its trial of Galileo Galilei. The famed scientist and astronomer was charged on suspicion of heresy, and was ultimately found “vehemently suspect” of holding the opinion that -- contrary to Holy Scripture -- the Sun, and not the Earth, is at the center of the Universe. By the end of his trial, Galileo was sentenced to imprisonment “at the pleasure of the Inquisition”… and a great deal of pleasure did the religious authorities of the day derive from their victory over that arrogant upstart, the scientific method, you can be sure. Galileo’s works were gathered up and destroyed, and further publications were forbidden. He was held under house arrest for the rest of his natural life, during which time he wrote one of his most important works: Two New Sciences. Fortunately, Galileo was allowed a certain degree of freedom during this time, and was allowed to have visitors. Two of these visitors were the world-historic philosophers Thomas “Leviathan” Hobbes and Rene “Cogito Ergo Sum” Descartes.

On this day in 1861, the first shot of the American Civil War is fired by a Confederate soldier in the general direction of Fort Sumter, in the harbour of Charleston, South Carolina. By the time the last shot of the war is fired, more Americans will have died in that conflict than in World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam… COMBINED. It was a goddamn bloodbath.

On this day in 1945, at 3:35 in the afternoon, during the fourth month of his fourth term in office, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dies of a massive cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 63. His vice president, Harry Truman, assumes the Presidency later that same day.

On this day in 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human being to travel into outer space and perform the first manned orbital flight. From agrarian peasant feudalism to the loftiest heights of scientific achievement in a mere three generations? Way to go, you communist Rooskie bastards!

On this day in 1968, the Skull Valley Sheep Kill takes place. A rancher came upon a startling scene when he went to check on his herds of sheep. Six thousand of the fluffy white creatures, which had been grazing peaceably on a piece of property in Utah, all mysteriously and simultaneously dropped dead for some reason. That reason most likely had something to do with their neighbors, the military’s Dugway Proving Ground, where locals had always suspected chemical weapons were tested, despite the government’s absolute and implacable silence on the issue. In fact, government silence on the topic was so complete and so long-lasting that it wasn’t until three DECADES after the incident that a Defense Department report was made public, revealing that OF COURSE the animals were killed by a leak of deadly VX nerve gas, and OF COURSE the military knew all about it, for fuck’s sake. 

On this day in 1994, the first massive commercial Usenet SPAM message is posted by the husband-and-wife lawyer team of Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel. The couple splash their “Green Card Lottery” SPAM across a grand total of 5,500 Usenet discussion groups, pissing off everyone from Trekkies to Furries to the 7 dedicated members of the alt.binaries.images.sex.fetish.erotica.Gillian-Anderson-head-on-other-womens-bodies newsgroup. And yet… it worked! In a 1994 interview, Canter & Siegel claim to have gained a thousand new clients and earned over a hundred thousand dollars with an ad that cost pennies. Insert your own Christian Bale "Good for you” sound effect, here.

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