July 29th

“Professor” Irwin Corey, The World’s Foremost Authority, is 100 today.

Ken Burns is 61.

William Powell was born on this date in 1892. He was nominated for three best actor Academy Awards — The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936) and Life with Father (1947). Powell was Nick Charles and Myrna Loy was Nora Charles in the six Thin Man films.

250px Clara Bow 1927

The “It Girl” Clara Bow was born on this date in 1905. A huge star when movies didn’t talk, her career wound down quickly and unhappily after sound. As with many other silent film stars, it was a new medium that necessitated less physical acting, the reason they had become big stars to begin with. The clip is from It (1927).

Charlie Christian was born on this date in 1916. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 (the fifth group).

Charlie Christian elevated the guitar as a lead instrument on par with the saxophone and trumpet in jazz and popular music. His single-string technique established a solo style that was carried on by such contemporaries as T-Bone Walker and emulated by later disciples like B. B. King and Chuck Berry. Born in Bonham, Texas, on July 29th, 1919, and raised in Oklahoma City, Christian was influenced by country music and jazz, an odd hybrid of influences that can be heard in his recorded works, such as “Seven Come Eleven,” with the Benny Goodman Sextet. Unfortunately, his recording career lasted less than two years, as he was brought down in his prime by tuberculosis, dying on March 2, 1942, in New York. Though his life was short, his hornlike, single-note style, which capitalized on innovations in amplification technology, revolutionized and redefined the role of the electric guitar in popular music. The reverberations from Christian’s pioneering efforts have echoed down the decades, through Western swing, rockabilly and rock and roll to the present day.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer were married 33 years ago today.


If You Read This Story We Will Have to Kill You

First posted here nine years ago today. All true.


A CIA manager once told me about life under cover. He went by his regular name, lived in a regular neighborhood, etc., but as far as anyone knew he worked for the Navy. In fact, he told me, one time his car broke down and his neighbor insisted on giving him a ride to work at the Washington Navy Yard (in southeast Washington, D.C.). The neighbor kept insisting and he finally had to accept.

After being left off at the Navy Yard the CIA employee had to figure how to get back across the Potomac to Virginia to his “real” office. He was further away than when he started.

In other instances we were often amused when we held a meeting that included CIA or other “under cover” agency personnel. The sign-in sheet consisted of names like Cindy D., Bob L., Frank C., etc.

Lastly, my particular favorite under cover story. After visiting a “secret” location for business and being well treated, I composed a short thank you note to the man in charge. I addressed it to him by name. I ran the draft past my staff member who was liaison with that agency. The staff member came back, saying the note was great except that the man’s name was classified because he worked undercover. So we sent the thank you without the name.

His actual name was John Smith.


The 12th of July

Today is the birthday

… of Bill Cosby. He’s 77.

… of Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. She’s 71.

… of Gaius Julius Caesar, born on July 12th around 100 BCE (some say July 13th). Caesar was named for his father, Gaius Julius Caesar III, and he had two sisters, both named Julia. If Caesar was named for a caesarean section, it was an ancestor’s birth, not his. The explanation for the name that Julius Caesar himself seemed to favor was that it came from the Moorish word caesai for elephant.

Caesar, of course, died on March 15, 44 BCE. Caesar never said “Et tu, Brute?” That’s Shakespeare (though not original with him). Some contemporaries said Caesar did say “καὶ σύ, τέκνον,” Greek for “You too, child.” If he said it, it may have been intended as a curse (this will happen to you) as much as a feeling of abandonment by Brutus.

It was Julius Caesar who fixed the calendar at 365 days with a leap day every fourth year. His formula had to be tweaked in 1582 with three less leap years every 400 years, but it stands pretty much as Caesar established it, the Julian Calendar, in 46 BCE.

Henry David Thoreau was born on this date in 1817; George Eastman, the inventor of roll film, in 1854; George Washington Carver in 1864; Jean Hersholt in 1886 and Buckminster Fuller in 1895. Hersholt was in 140 films, most famously as Heidi’s grandfather with Shirley Temple. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named its service award for Hersholt, who was president of the Academy and longtime president of the Motion Picture Relief Fund.

Oscar Hammerstein II was born on July 12th, 1895. Hammerstein won eight Tonys and two Oscars — for “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” and “It Might as Well Be Spring.”


In Search of America’s Best Burrito

Nate Silver: “… We’re launching a national, 64-restaurant Burrito Bracket. We’ve convened a Burrito Selection Committee. We’ve hired an award-winning journalist, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, to be our burrito correspondent. She’s already out traveling the country and sampling burritos from every establishment that made the bracket.

It’s a little crazy, but we think it needs to be done. …”

Reports so far [UPDATED Monday, June 9]

In Search of America’s Best Burrito

The Search For America’s Best Burrito Starts in California

Western States Are a New Frontier in the Search For America’s Best Burrito

The Search For America’s Best Burrito Turns to the Northeast

The Search For America’s Best Burrito Heads to the Land of Sweet Tea


Our Mexican-Food Expert Says: ‘The Diversity of Burritos Is Mind-Blowing’

Our Cultural Historian Explains Why Arizona Is ‘Ground Zero of Burritoness’

Chef David Chang Explains Why Yelp Probably Won’t Lead You to Your Favorite Burrito

Our Food Writer Says the South Has Burrito Variety, But Perhaps Not Burrito Greatness


Free and Independent States

It was on June 7 in 1776 that the idea of independence was first officially proposed in the Continental Congress. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced and John Adams seconded the following:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

The vote on the resolution was set aside until July 1st — it actually occurred on July 2nd. On June 11th Congress appointed the Committee of Five to draft a formal declaration of independence — John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut.

June 7: Resolution introduced
July 2: Resolution approved (12 colonies for; New York abstained, later voted for)
July 4: Declaration of Independence approved

On the Fourth of July we celebrate the birth announcement, not the birth.

Lee Resolution