Thursday, December 31

Our Old Acquaintance, Bob

By Grant Davies

On this night in 1787, people in Scotland got together, lifted a glass, and sang a song. "Big deal" you say! They do that in Ireland every darn night. Come to think of it, if the joint is open long enough, they do that everywhere a glass of intoxicating beverage is to be lifted. So what makes this night special enough to make note of it?

Well, that was the year the above referenced song was first published. The guy who is credited with writing it, Rab Mossgiel, was rather famous among his fellow Scotsmen for writing other poetry. Rab was just his pseudonym. I guess he liked it better than his real name, Bob. More on that in a moment.

Anyway, the guy actually admitted that he didn't compose it himself, but merely wrote it down after hearing it from "an old man." It's pretty certain that the old man didn't write it either.

The poet's actual name was Robert Burns. And it seems the song was initially sung on January 25th - also known as "Burns Night"-  to celebrate his life and works. But it's normally sung to wave goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new, hopefully better, year.

The song has a rather weird title that is translated from old Scottish English into modern English as "Old Long Since." I guess it made more sense back then. The rest of the words are almost as difficult to piece together too. But most people over a certain age (my age) recognize them well enough.

The song asks the question, should we just forget about our old friends? Well, I guess not. So then, shall we raise a glass and toast them and all the good times we have had with them? Hell, yes!

By now you have probably guessed that the song is the well known New Year's Eve standard, Auld Lang Syne. And the "cup of kindness" is some sort of booze that is being used to toast good fellowship and not forgetting our friends no matter what happens in the new year.

To celebrate the song, go down to the "Auld Neighborhood Inn" with some friends and order "a cup of kindness" from the bartender. Just make sure "it comes to mind" to tip him well. After all, a bartender is a man's best friend and definitely should not be forgot.

  Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wandered mony a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Most of the information for this post was gleaned from

Monday, December 21

A Visit From Clem

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1823, a New York publisher issued a poem by a professor of Oriental and Greek literature.

Now, if that wasn't enough to scare most people off, the guy was also a clergyman. Several people who knew poetry told the publisher it was a terrible waste of paper and ink. Such a little trifle as Clem's poem wouldn't be remembered days later let alone years later.

But this flimsy verse which began "Twas the Night Before Christmas...." tended to hang on. And, after its author, Clement Clark Moore, died it was illustrated with drawings by Thomas Nast. Now it really took off. Not only did we know the legend of Santa, now we knew what he looked like.

To celebrate the birth of a classic, have an eggnog or two. Tell the red-faced guy, with a beard, on the next stool he can make extra Christmas money betting people they don't know the real name of the poem. ("A visit from St. Nicholas".)

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Friday, November 20

The Problem With the President's Popularity

President John Tyler
By Art Cashin

On this day (-2) in 1843, a President learned that messages from the public at half term can sometimes be unfriendly. His name was John Tyler. As you recall from fourth grade, Tyler - the back half of "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" - had ascended to the presidency when the front half (William H. Harrison) caught the attention of the Guinness people by dying after only thirty days in office.

Anyway, Tyler stepped in and seemed never to capture the popularity of his predecessors almost from the day he took office. Even his wife was somewhat controversial. Some thought she was a bit too pushy or up-front.

Frustrated by newly sagging polls and some Congressional election reversals, Tyler decided to take a small vacation - a little trip. He sent his son down to the railroad station to arrange a special train for the trip. The station master and his staff told the young man something like - "We don't provide special trains for politicians." Young Tyler responded by noting that the B&O had made a special train available for the corpse of the late President Harrison. The station master reportedly said - "Bring me your father in the same shape as President Harrison and we'll be glad to get him a train."

To mark how far we've come since those hostile old days go visit some affable office holders. But don’t mention anything to the folks running for President.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Editor's Note: Here is another article about Tyler that I wrote in the past. You might enjoy re-visiting it.   Grant Davies

Tuesday, October 13

Everything You Thought You Knew About Chris

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1492, Christopher Columbus landed at the Bahamas, believing that he had landed in the islands off Japan. And so history is indebted to a man with a flawed theory who set out on a venture where he didn't know  where he was going, suffered sharp losses on the way and didn't know
where he was when he got there. And he did it all on borrowed money. But if Columbus had things confused, folklore has really muddled what happened.

Back in August of 1492 Columbus had set sail from the port of "Palos de Frontera" on the west coast of Spain with a squadron of three ships to seek the riches of the East.

Error #1 - Columbus headed for a new land. (Actually, he thought he was sailing to China or Japan.)

Error #2 - he was a mighty sailor. (In two earlier launches some of the ships he selected leaked so badly they had to rush back to port and were replaced.)

Anyway, as we all know, the advisors to Ferdinand and Isabella warned their collective royalness that Columbus would sail off the edge of the earth. That's error #3 - actually, they thought Columbus had underestimated the size of the globe and thus would run out of fresh water before he could reach China. Perversely, today's computers indicate the negative advisors were very accurate while Columbus was off by many thousands of miles. Luckily, the unexpected "New World" and its fresh water stood in the way.

So! You say - "So what! Mr. Smarty Pants!" Even if he was not who he seemed to be, nor was much of a sailor, landed in the wrong place and miscalculated much of the way - the great drama was that he did it - and on borrowed money at that. (Op. Cit. Queen's necklace fable.)

Well, despite what your version of Sister Herman Joseph told you that's error #4 - the Queen never hit the hock shop with the jewels. What had really delayed the trip for nine month's was greed - Columbus'. In his employment contract he demanded: 10% of whatever he found, a Knighthood, an
Admiral's title and a Viceroy's title (both to be hereditary) and 10% of the profits on all naval imports thereafter.

When F and I turned him down, he had tried for the same deal at various palaces around Europe. Finally, an advisor convinced Isabella that actuarially Columbus had a good shot of dying on this or some subsequent voyages, so the Queen signed the deal.

To celebrate make note of some valuable discovery you've recently made. Then drop a hefty employment contract on the boss's desk - but don't insist on an Admiralcy - you'll probably look greedy.

Monday, September 28

Sixth Grade History You Probably Forgot

Pompey Magnus
By Art Cashin

On this day (+2) in 48 B.C., one of ancient Rome's most brilliant generals, a certain Pompey the Great landed on the shores of Egypt.

(Mr. Cashin! Yes Sister? Please try to remember the general's name is pronounced Pom-pea; Pom-pay was the name of the city buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. If you don't pay more attention, you'll never remember enough history to get out of the 6th grade, let alone enough to ever help you in business! Do you understand?? Yes Sister!!)

Anyway, flashbacks aside, Pompey landed in Egypt - kind of "on the run." As you may recall from earlier episodes (or from the 6th grade), Rome was going through a parliamentary crisis. A popular reformer named Julius Caesar was busy dividing Gaul into three parts and sending reform suggestions to Rome. The Roman Parliament (pronounced "Senate") sent a nasty note (on parchment) to said Caesar - saying he had a lot of Gaul and ordering him to come home for a spanking and to please leave his army behind. Said Caesar headed home and took the army with him (across the Rubicon don't-cha know!).

Since that was considered bad form (pronounced formus stunkus), the Roman Senate called upon a former war hero for protection. The guy picked was Pompey the Great (page 6 in your program) - victor over Spanish Rebels (76 B.C.), over a certain "Spartacus" (72 B.C.) and over that early Hitler, King Mithridates (63 B.C.).

Despite this veteran's record, said Caesar made salad out of Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus (beating him badly with an army half the size of Pompey's). This led Pompey to flee to his last known ally, Ptolemy XIII (pronounced Friday the 13th), King of Egypt and the Nile Delta. Ptolemy XIII (age XV) was at war with his pudgy sister. So, with Ptolemy XIII needing no new enemies (i.e. said Caesar), Ptolemy had his old ally assassinated (i.e. Pompey, who was stabbed as he got off the boat).

Said Caesar sensed that such habits did not make Ptolemy XIII (age XV) a great candidate for new best friend. So, said Caesar threw in with the pudgy sister named Cleopatra.

What happened next...I forget! (Sorry Sister!!)

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Friday, May 22

Dropping the Hamer

By Art Cashin

On this day (+1) in 1934, a young couple laughed as they drove in the early morning daylight near Arcadia, Louisiana. They had just picked up something to eat and were munching and laughing as they sped through the brightening sunrise. As they pulled around a curve, they were met by a surprise.

The surprise was delivered by a Texas Ranger named Frank Hamer and a group of Louisiana troopers and local cops. Their method of delivery was 10 shotguns, 5 Thompson sub machine guns, and 2 Browning Automatic rifles. A bit much for some post-prom sportsters you might think.

Well it wasn't "post-prom" and the "sportsters" in the car were a couple named Bonnie and Clyde. And, fearing that there might be a video-cam van behind the fugitives….Ranger Hamer ordered his boys to open fire rather than stop, debate or beat the occupants of the car. So they proceeded to pump over 160 bullets into said car. Many apparently struck the car's occupants….Bonnie's corpse was said to have half an uneaten sandwich in its mouth.

When word that Hamer and his crew had killed the famous "Bonnie & Clyde" began to filter out, crowds from the area rushed to the scene. Of course, they were better behaved than today's ruffians. These folks simply began by tearing off the bumper, headlights and fenders of the bullet-riddled car. As the car was stripped, the souvenir seekers got more aggressive....some began to cut off locks of Bonnie's hair....finally someone tried to amputate Clyde's "trigger finger" as a trophy. That was a bit too much even for these cops and they closed off the area.

But if Bonnie and Clyde lacked of sympathy at the site of their death; they also lacked sympathy even among their supposed peers. John Dillinger, rather famous in his own right, hearing of the ambush of Bonnie and Clyde was reported to say --- "Hell, they were just kill-crazy punks and clodhoppers. They gave us decent bank robbers a bad name!"

What a shame Dillinger never lived to see what a well lobbied Congress would do to the Bailouts of 2008/2009. By them - Dillinger was a dilettante!!

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Saturday, May 16

Lucille and the Blues Boy

image = picshark
By Grant Davies

On this day (-2) one of the most iconic figures of our time passed into history.

This story is about his love affairs. He had many, and they gave him the blues. In fact, he had a love affair with the blues. If none of this makes sense, just stick with me, I'll do my best to further confuse you.

His name was Riley B. King (nickname - The Blues Boy) and the longest affair he had was with his beloved Lucille. He fell in love with her even before she had a name. He actually named her himself. He did so right after he ran into a burning building to save her from the flames. At least that's the legend, and like much of the stuff on this site, it's probably true.

Lucille was named after a girl who, one evening in a dance hall, was the object of admiration of several suitors. So enamored of her were these two men that they took to fighting over her. Such rash behavior rarely ends well and this time was no exception. During the melee a barrel of fuel was knocked over and the resulting conflagration set the stage for Riley's courageous rescue.

He ran into the building, grabbed his guitar, and successfully retreated. Guitar? What about the girl and the combatants? Um,,I don't know. It's said that she made it out, but the two men didn't.

Anyway, he said he named the guitar Lucille to remind himself not to fight over women or run into any burning buildings. Lucille (the guitar, not the girl) became famous when he became famous. And he called every guitar he ever owned by the same name after that.

By now you have figured out that the Blues Boy's nickname was shortened to B.B. and he is known to music fans everywhere as B.B. King. Seems like he did pretty well for a guy who started out working in a cotton field in Mississippi.

Other than his love of Lucille and the blues genre, he loved performing. He averaged about 200 concerts per year well into his 70s and was performing regularly until last October when his health finally caught up to him. He also loved Frank Sinatra who he said opened the Vegas entertainment doors for black musicians. He claimed that he went to sleep every night to Sinatra's song, "The Wee Small Hours of the Morning."

To celebrate his life and music, stop down at the "Dance Hall Blues Club" and stay until the wee hours. And be sure to buy a drink for any girl named Lucille. But if she asks how you are doing, tell her that ever since B.B. died, the thrill is gone.

Much of the information for this story was gleaned from an article by Spencer Kornhaber in the Atlantic Magazine. The rest was gathered from a Wikipedia entry.  The inspiration for writing it was provided by a sometime reader of Cheeky History, Veronica Then.

Thursday, April 30

A Hedy Invention

Editors note:
On this day in history (yes, this very day) we have a story from guest writer James Hinton, a history buff who knows some cool things about various subjects. He has previously been published on "Hankering for History" as well as his own site. We are happy to publish his submission about a largely unknown aspect of the life of one of most beautiful movie stars in history. Instead of frequently hopping from bed to bed as many sex symbols do, she invented "frequency hopping." Brains and beauty, what a concept.
Grant Davies

By James Hinton

Cheeky Austrian Hedy Lamarr was a hit when MGM imported her iconic good looks and put them up on the silver screen. She starred as a seductive femme fatale alongside of actors like Clark Gable, James Stewart, and Spencer Tracy. Despite being tasked to sell war bonds, she made fourteen movies during WWII alone. What many people don’t realize is that movies aren't the only things Lamarr made during WWII.

Originally married to a fascist munitions manufacturer, the Jewish born, Catholic raised Lamarr had accompanied her husband to many meetings, learning the ins and outs of weapons manufacturing. Infuriated by German submarine attacks on passenger liners, she put her brilliant mind to work coming up with a solution.

Working alongside of composer George Antheil, Lamarr focused on inventing a means by which torpedoes could be controlled by radio. Such control had been attempted before, but always ran afoul of the same problem time and time again. Any signals controlling the torpedo could be jammed by the enemy. Lamarr’s solution was to rapidly cycle through multiple frequencies in a pattern stored aboard both the torpedo and the ship.

“Frequency hopping” was patented in August of 1942, with plenty of time for it to be adopted and put to use hunting German and Japanese ships. Unfortunately, the U.S. Navy, notoriously sensitive about the poor performance of its current torpedoes, refused to adopt the technology until the 1960s.
The technology did not languish, however. Starting with walkie-talkies, frequency hopping began to see use in radios, simultaneously securing communications against eavesdropping and against multiple conversations talking over one another using the same frequency. These techniques would eventually be adapted for computer communication, resulting in the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies that are key to today’s digital revolution.

Hedy Lamarr passed away in 2000 at the age of 85. She was memorialized as a world-famous actress and sex symbol. As important as her contribution was to film, it is today's cell phones and wireless networks, however, that are her strongest legacy.

Monday, April 20

What Happens When Your Balloon is Too Lowe

Image =
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1861, in the cold pre-dawn air near Cincinnati, Thaddeus Lowe climbed into the basket of his large hot-air balloon, the Enterprise. Lowe was already famous in the aeronautic and scientific community as an expert on hot-air (ballooning that is).

But while he was an expert as an aeronaut, as a weatherman he was a schnook. About 20 minutes into the flight, he got picked up by gale force winds that ran nearly 80 mph. On this particular day, the jet stream had developed a sense of humor and swept Lowe (and balloon) all the way to South Carolina. What he thought was a military honor guard out to greet him was in fact a rebel patrol out to arrest him. (Lowe was unaware that the Civil War had started a few days earlier.)

Released when local scientists vouched for his credentials (and his eccentricity), Lowe headed north. But he was smitten by the image of spies in a balloon - peering down on rebel defenses.
He helped found and direct the "Aeronautic Corps. of the Army of the Potomac".

Assuming the wind was right, he or his associates would fly high over enemy lines in a tethered balloon and telegraph directions back down to the Union artillery. The corps made over 3000 such flights and were sometimes shot down. (Lowe was so valuable he was rescued by commandos when that happened to him.) While he survived the war intact, he is believed to have been shot at more often than anybody else in the whole war. Luckily, there were no ground to air missiles at the time.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Thursday, April 9

How Johnny Chapman Made a Fortune From His Apple Investment

image = American Orchard
By Grant Davies

Once upon a time.. oh wait, I think someone used that opening line for a story already. Let's try this one, I'm sure no one has used it before.

On this day, minus about a month, in 1845 (It was March 11th for you annoying people who insist on actual facts for history stories), John Chapman passed away and into history. Who?

Okay, don't bother Googling his name yet, I'll tell you who he was if you humor me a bit by letting me attempt to build some goofy anticipation first.

John was a hard working, forward thinking young man when he set off across the Midwest in the early 1800's building a real estate empire by exploiting a loophole in a law. No, he wasn't "The Donald's" great grandpappy.

The best way to acquire land back then, or now, is to get it without paying for it. And the best way was to plant something on land you happened across and claim it as your own as soon as the stuff grew into a profitable crop. It was quaintly described as "homesteading." John chose apple trees.  

All right, you clever folks have figured out who he was, Johnny Appleseed. He would plant groves of about thirty trees and sell the land to "settlers" when they showed up later. It was an instant cash crop and we can guess business was brisk, in a 19th century kind of way. 

The apples were brisk too. They were called "spitters." So named because if you bit into one you would immediately spit it out. Terrible for eating, great for making hooch. And back then it was way safer to drink alcoholic hard apple cider than soft microbe infested water. More profitable too.

John was an early animal rights activist and a committed vegetarian. So one of the earliest known liberals, right? Um, no, he held his views because of his devotion to Christianity. He also didn't believe in sex outside of marriage and since he never married...well, he planted apple seeds instead of the human variety. And he kept walking a lot. I guess I would, too.

What a great story! What could go wrong? Well, enter the much beloved IRS in the 1920's who chopped down huge numbers of apple trees across the country to make sure no one could have any fun drinking the medicinal brew. It didn't work, of course. But it helped people find safer alternatives, like booze made in old car radiators.

To celebrate his legacy, order a Redd's Apple Ale next time you go to the Appletree Inn or Johnny's Tap, but don't let on that you know about the evil influence of the profit motive in historical stories on the Disney Channel.

Most of the information in this story was gleaned from an article by Kristy Puchko on Mental

The most recent winner of the 15 seconds of fame award goes to Mike Dixon, history lover and liberty advocate extraordinaire!

Good going Mike, keep 'em coming!

Wednesday, April 8

Kahn You Hear the Mongols Coming?

image =
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1241 A.D., two great armies met to help decide the fate of western civilization. Okay, so you looked it up, there were three great armies. And, so you know it was in Middle Europe. And, the guys from the East (a chalk bet) were called the Mongols. The cheerleaders for the other guys called them the Mongol Horde. They were not a crowd favorite.

About 25 years before, their leader, a guy named Genghis Khan used their inherent horsemanship and ferocity to conquer most of China. Having quickly run out of rice and opponents they headed west - overrunning Samarkand and 14 other poetic principalities until they engulfed Southern Russia.

Here they heard about grain and riches further west and saddled up. Genghis Khan excused himself without a golden parachute and died. That left the team to his son, Ogotai. The kid saw himself as an administrator and thus hired a grandson of his father (and you thought “Days of Our Lives” was confusing). Anyway the kid's name (he was 32) was Batu Khan and he was the General Petraeus of his day.

So, having ravaged a thousand miles of enemies, Batu Khan found himself, this day, facing the cream of Middle European Knighthood in the Middle Ages. He stood on a small hilltop and looked out on the mass of the Polish and German armies carefully set to repel him. The town was called Liegnitz. The towns' folk, checking the form charts, thought a trip in the countryside was in order.

Thus on this day, Batu Khan's forces swept toward the cream of western chivalry. But before they engaged, the Mongols split and swept to the left and the right. The cream of Europa - probably muttering "What the hell is this!" turned to watch the Mongols speeding away on either side. The joy and laughter was short-lived. A third flank of Mongols now attacked the coalition which was facing the wrong way. The first two forces of Mongols turned to attack them leaving no secure front. The result was a massacre. And the cream of Europa soon became the curds and whey of Europa.

To mark the day, try not to get distracted when you think victory is at hand.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Thursday, March 12

Now That Winter is Over...

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1888, America was moving through what looked like just another day. There was a lot of talk about trading partners and religion. The partisanship in Washington looked like it could turn very ugly. And the stock market was confused by the whole thing and rather nervous. But that was years ago.

Anyway, spring was in the air in New York City and the pundits said the economic problems probably were months off. But on this day the temperature began to drop sharply on the East Coast where most folks lived. And in a matter of hours, the winds whipped up and winter weather was back. The cold snap collided with a coastal rainstorm.

It started as flurries. Then in growing, biting winds the snow began to fall. The meteorological oddity became a blizzard. Over 40 inches of snow swirled into 9-foot drifts as phone lines fell. More than 400 people died in the streets. The city ground to a halt. All contact beyond 5 miles was lost.

But it was the age of American ingenuity. So police, hospitals, (and brokers) sent messages by the new under ocean cable to London. From there they were retransmitted by another underwater cable to Boston. Thus, help was sent to a New York - - paralyzed by The Blizzard of `88.

Here's a typical paragraph from The New York Times the day after the storm: "Before the day had well advanced, every horse-car and elevated railroad train in the city had stopped running; the streets were almost impassable to men or horses by reason of the huge masses of drifting snow; the electric wires- telegraph and telephone --connecting spots in the city or opening communication with places
outside were nearly all broken; hardly a train was out from the city or came into it during the entire day; the mails were stopped, and every variety of business dependent on motion or locomotion was

Later the reporter would note that nearly 50,000 people had been stranded in stalled elevated trains.
Imagine snow and low temperatures and ultimately a great blizzard near the Ides of March. We're sure that never happened again, did it Grasshopper?

Actually it did, and does with rather annoying frequency. There have been scores of great (and usually unexpected) storms in New York and on the East Coast around the Ides of March. One of the worst within my memory was the blizzard of 1993. It ranged across the entire East Coast, from
Georgia to Maine. Airports in some locations were closed by up to four days, roofs collapsed under the weight of snow and hundreds of people died. Even with the wonder of weather satellites, it's nature that calls the tune.

This weekend, in Manhattan, we are due for a very pesky rainstorm. If the temperature were 10 or 15 degrees lower, we might be having 15 to 20 inches of snow. It apparently was not just Julius Caesar who should "beware of the Ides of March."  Pass the rock salt, please!

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Tuesday, February 17


image =
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1405 A.D., one of history's most effective, vicious and unlikely conquerors died of overwork. He was one of a succession of Mongol warriors (and claimed to be a descendant of Genghis Khan). He began by conquering his native land, the Russian Republic we now call Uzbekistan (if you don't have a map handy it used to be called Transoxiana or more recently Soviet
Turkmenistan....there, now that its location is clear in your head let's go on).

Once he got control of the old neighborhood, he set up a capital (Samarkand....maybe you heard). He then set about overrunning and plundering all the neighboring areas. In the next 30 years, he conquered over 1/4 of the earth.

But then like most successful folks he had a system. His system was to show up at the gates of your town (with da boys) and announce - "Surrender and you may live…..Oppose me and all will die…..for each moment you take to decide I will behead ten villagers at random".....It was a remarkably effective system. And....if some folks seemed indecisive, he would build a pyramid of their skulls along the nearest trade route. Even without electronic super-highways, the message seemed to get around.

On this day in 1405 A.D., as he was planning to overrun China, exhausted, he fell ill and died. In a terrified Europe, this Mongol Hero Solider was "Tamerlane." Some think this was just a bad translation of his name among his own people....he was "Timur the Lame." He was handicapped from birth and often had to be carried on a platform into battle. In an age when the strongest, ablest and most powerful ruled....this barely educated genius used his mind not his body to rise to the top. We assume that's the last time something like that happened.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Tuesday, January 20

Carl Switzer, The Sad End to a Wonderful Life

By Art Cashin

On this day (+1) in 1959, a man was killed by a gunshot during a drunken brawl outside a saloon in California. Even in 1959 this was not a totally remarkable event in California. Unless, of course, the victim was a celebrity, someone that the American public might see as part of its history.

But the police report simply listed the deceased only as one Carl Switzer, a former movie actor. At the time, only grade "B" movie buffs would recognize the name. Not until a few years later, when TV tried to fill time by rerunning old Hal Roach movies, would hotshots be able to say "Hey, that's Alfalfa!" The strident singing star of a series called either "Our Gang" comedies or "The
Little Rascals." His only other notable role was as the teenager who turned the switch that opened the gym floor above the pool in Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life."

Police records don't say if Carl went down singing (in screeching falsetto) "Happy Birthday Mr. Hood - Happy Birthday to Ya."

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Friday, January 16

A Toast to Temperance

image = women of the 1920s

By Grant Davies

On this day in 1920, the US government enacted a law that sought to regulate human behavior on a scale not seen before in the country. The results were, of course, disastrous. The law was destined to fail because none of the people whose behavior it was designed to alter had any intention whatsoever of complying. And there were a lot of them.

The law in question was the National Prohibition Act, more popularly known as the Volstead Act. It gave teeth to the newly passed constitutional amendment banning the use of alcohol for recreational purposes.

But the new law didn't fail at everything. It succeeded fantastically in many ways. For instance, it worked great at turning law abiding citizens into scofflaws and common criminals. It turned run of the mill ruffians into multimillionaire booze barons. Imbecile thugs like Al Capone became business titans. It spurred employment changes as former bartenders became black market delivery men. It expanded government hiring by turning former productive citizens into enforcement officers and bribe takers.

And let's face it, it made drinking so much more fun! Getting bombed at home and falling asleep in the rocking chair was replaced by sneaking out to speakeasies where knowing secret passwords and escape routes was all the rage. Instead of snoring in that chair, men could go meet naughty girls who liked to smoke cigarettes and dance. Many didn't wear bras either, oh the possibilities.

No other government program caused so much fun to be had by such formerly boring people. Other bad laws  in the future (fill in the blank) never gave such joy. The government finally realized everyone was having too much fun and called the whole thing off in 1933. But don't worry, the government wouldn't make the same mistake twice with other intoxicating substances. They are way too wise for that.

To celebrate "Volstead Day", invite some friends over for a glass (or two) of wine on a Friday evening and propose a toast to temperance. That's what we are going to do tonight. I'd invite you to join us if I was certain you wouldn't show up.

Wednesday, January 7

Zog, King of the Bums

King Zog
image = wikipedia
By Art Cashin

On this day (+3) in 1946, the unemployment rate in the nation of Albania went up by one. No, not one percent, just one. But it was an important one.

The day before, the unemployed person had been the King of Albania. But on that day the nation became a republic, putting the king out of work. Naturally the king was disappointed. Naturally the monarchists were disappointed. And naturally the crossword puzzle editors were disappointed.

Wait! You say, the crossword puzzle editors? Yes, Virginia, the crossword puzzle editors! For the deposed King was none other than the Grand and Imperial Zog.

King Zog was a hit with the social columns even if his people thought him three pickles short of a barrel. And the cruci-verbalists just couldn't get enough of him even after he shortened his surname from Zogu to just plain Zog in 1928 (at his coronation). In fact, Zog and the Zogettes (he had several daughters) might have hung on to become the kind of Royal don'tcha knows that Charles & the late Princess Di had once seemed but in the Balkans, unfortunately, Zog had made a bad bet.

He bet that the leader of a nearby nation would be a friend and defender - but Mussolini used the friendship to conquer Albania. So when World War II ended, the people had stopped calling their king...."Zog the Wise" or "Zog the Competent" or even "Zog the Okay." They called him
"Zog the Bum" and threw him out. That meant the crossword guys would be reduced to using "ex-Balkan" leader for the three-letter clue in the corner.

That was not as much fun and thus, Zog zigged out of the papers completely.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.
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