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On This Date In History...
© 2007 George Waters

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It is always educational to look back on history, so that we may learn from the past, and also so that we may fill this space with 600 words really easily.

In that spirit, here are some notable things which happened in the last few hundred years or so on this date, June 24:

In 1509, Henry VIII is crowned king of England, causing a labor shortage as thousands of men, sensing the impending windfall, leave their trades to enter the guillotine business.

In 1542, St. John of the Cross, renowned Catholic reformer, is born (as "Baby John of the Cross").

In 1604, Edward de Vere ("Edward the Vere"), 17th Earl of Oxford, dies. He is perhaps best known for almost becoming the 16th Earl of Oxford. It was a photo finish.

In 1664, the colony of New Jersey is founded, and, not long after, the following exchange is heard on a street corner:

"Wilt thou launder this currency?"

"I prithee, fuhgeddaboudit."

In 1717, the first Freemasonic Lodge is founded in London, replacing the Tollmasonic Lodge, to the relief of Masonic commuters everywhere.

In 1794, Bowdoin College is founded in Maine, named for the sound a cow makes when dropped by college freshmen onto a trampoline from a three story building.

In 1901, Pablo Picasso has his first exhibition of artwork in Paris, and goes on to invent cubism. It is easy today to forget that before Picasso, we had to make do with art solely of the granulated kind.

In 1947, Mick Fleetwood is born, he of the musical group "Fleetwood Mac" (motto: "Our music doesn't run on Windows, but you'll certainly want to throw it out one"). Best known for writing the song "You Make Loving Fun," his follow-up, "You Make Shopping Almost Bearable," was not as successful.

In 1957, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment, clearing the way, in 1960, for Richard Nixon to run for president.

Today Canada is enjoying the Fete nationale du Quebec ("National party for Canadians' feet"), which is timed to coincide with the one day a year on which Canadians' feet thaw out.

In China it is Macau Day, a celebration of the Chinese defeat of invading Dutch forces in 1622. Yeah, like routing the Dutch is so hard. You set their clogs on fire. Done. Macau Day. Gimme a break.

In Italy, today begins the "Calcio Fiorentino" ("Italian words"), a five-day tournament of a 16th Century ball game played in sand in medieval costume, with 27 players on each side. The goal: no one remembers, but there is wine.

Finally, today is the birthday of New York governor George Pataki, the only former U.S. governor who is named after spitting.

So you see, history has much to teach us.

Only when humans gain the wisdom to learn from history will we truly be able to meet our destiny, which is to crank out a column in about a half an hour so we can go see a summer movie.

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