Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beware The Ides of March...

...They just might make you laugh yourself silly!

I've posted Wayne and Shuster's classic sketch Rinse the Blood Off My Toga before, but never more aptly than this - the day it's supposedly taking place, the dreaded Ides of March. It was on that date in 44 BCE Julius Caesar was killed by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus at the head of a conspiracy numbering at least 40 (and as many as 60) noble Romans. The event is most famously depicted in William Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, which was written circa 1599.

The sketch manages to parody Shakespeare, police procedural dramas like Dragnet, and even the gladiator movies which were so popular when it was first written, in 1958. This 1970s version, however, is truncated by at least two minutes; alas, the original version - which the Canadian comedy duo performed on their own show as well as on The Ed Sullivan Show, does not seem to exist on YouTube.

It lives on today thanks at least as much to the vocal skills and comedy timing of Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster as it does to those of one Sylvia Lennick, who as Caesar's widow Calpurnia Pisonis utters a line almost as timeless at that of Caesar's own* - Et tu, Brute? - in 'I told him, Julie! Don't go!'
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POPnews - March 15th

[Considered a detached object but too far out to be considered a scattered disk object, the planetoid Sedna is the largest body so far detected in the Oort cloud, almost a quarter of the way to the next star, Proxima Centauri.]

44 BCE - Roman dictator perpetuo (or 'dictator in perpetuity') Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus and several others on this, the Ides of March. Even though the assassins popularized the world's rockingest reason for murder - tyrannicide! - for some reason their actions have cast a pall on the day ever since...

351 CE - Constantius II elevated his cousin Gallus to the rank of Caesar, putting him in charge of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire.

933 CE - After a ten-year truce, German King Henry I defeated a Hungarian army at the Battle of Riade, near the Unstrut river.

1311 - At the Battle of Halmyros the Catalan Company defeated Walter V of Brienne to take control of the Duchy of Athens, a Crusader state in Greece.

1493 - Christopher Columbus returned to Spain at the end of his First Voyage of Discovery to the Americas.

1672 - England's Charles II issued the Royal Declaration of Indulgence, which many Protestants in Parliament construed as being proof of his own latent Roman Catholicism.

1781 - During the American Revolutionary War, at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse - near present-day Greensboro, North Carolina - 1,900 British troops under General Charles Cornwallis defeated an American force numbering 4,400.

1783 - In an emotional speech in Newburgh, New York, George Washington asked his officers not to support the Newburgh Conspiracy; the plea was successful and the threatened coup d'etat never took place.

1820 - Maine became the 23rd US state.

1827 - The University of Toronto was established by a royal charter from George IV, mainly due to the efforts of John Strachan, who became the school's first president.

1909 - London's Selfridges department store opened.

1917 - Nicholas II abdicated the Russian throne, initially in favour of his son the Tsarevich Alexei, and later still his brother the Grand Duke Mikhail, although a republic was declared before he could become Tsar.

1931 - The SS Viking exploded off the coast of Newfoundland (near the Horse Islands) killing 27 of the 147 on board including Varick Frissel, who had chartered the vessel in order to make a film of that year's seal hunt. Alas, in amongst the cameras and lights, the erstwhile producer had also brought along a considerable quantity of dynamite in order to sex-up his footage... The bodies of Frissel and his dog Cabot have never been found.

1952 - In Cilaos, a city on the Indian Ocean island of RĂ©union, 1,870 mm (73 inches) of rain fell in a single day, setting a new world record.

1956 - My Fair Lady opened on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre and ran for 2,717 performances, setting a record for the time.

1961 - South Africa was kicked out of the Commonwealth due to its adherence to a policy of apartheid.

1972 - Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, based on the novel by Mario Puzo, premiered.

Farzad Bazoft1990 - The government of Saddam Hussein hanged Iranian-born UK-based journalist Farzad Bazoft as an Israeli spy, having arrested him during his investigation of a mysterious August 1989 explosion at the al-Iskandaria military complex, 48 km (30 miles) south of Baghdad, which may have killed as many as 7000 people while badly damaging the Al Qaqaa munitions plant; Bazoft had been tried and convicted by a kangaroo court five days earlier, on March 10th, despite assurances to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by the Iraqi president himself that Bazoft would get a fair trial. Mere months later the West undertook the first Gulf War against the rogue regime - not due to their judicial murder of a member of the press doing yeoman service by exposing a dangerous tyrant's nuclear capabilities (a feat intelligence agents around the world hadn't even thought to do, let alone done, for themselves) or for any such righteous reason - but because its tin-pot dictator had jeopardized their precious oil supply by ordering an invasion of Kuwait.

2004 - The discovery of Sedna was announced; whether categorized as a dwarf planet or merely a trans-Neptunian object, it is the farthest thing from Earth ever discovered. Named for the Inuit goddess of the sea, Sedna is (in technical terms) a bloody great long way away. One year on Sedna lasts 12,000 Earth years, giving it something in common with where I grew up.

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