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Archive for March, 2011

31 March

Book Review: Churchill: A Life


I don’t read a lot of biographies like Winston Churchill: A Life, mostly because I find them a little dry even if the person themselves was interesting. As a historical figure Churchill is very interesting. The man did have one of the most famous quotes about history:

Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it. – Winston Churchill

On with the review though. Churchill was raised mainly by his nanny not his parents. That was the way it was for his generation and class. His mom had lots of affairs throughout her life. His dad was just as ruthless in politics as he was. He must have received his political ambition from him. He had poor grades, but Keegan attributes this to Churchill not being a good test taker. The one thing at school that he was good at was fencing. One of the places he did the worst in his studies was in languages, he just couldn’t get them. He did however (yea!) like history. He got around a lot when he was younger and even dated Ethel Barrymore of the famous Barrymore’s. Ethel would have John, whom had John Jr. who had the famous Drew Barrymore that we are all familiar with.

I liked this biography and thought it did a very good job covering the life of Churchill. I could tell that Keegan had a genuine interest in in Churchill. The came across in his writing. If you want to learn about Churchill this is a good book to start with.

Thanks to youtube here is a whole movie on Churchill. There are at least 6 parts, so you will have to follow the links on youtube if you want to watch the whole thing.

30 March

Reagan Assassination Attempt


Assassination Attempt on President Reagan

29 years ago today, John Hinckley, Jr. fired six shots at Reagan. Fortunately for Regan he was a terrible shot. I had known about an assassination attempt on Reagan before, but since it happened when I was 2 years old, I never really learned the details about it. So I was shocked when I learned the Hinckley was infatuated with Jodi Foster. Apparently, he was obsessed and had followed (stalked) her for a long time. He watched Taxi Driver 15 times in a row. Foster played a child prostitute in the movie. Robert De Niro’s character in the movie plots to assassinate the president. So, Hinckley thought that would be a good way to get Foster’s attention and affections.

Three people were wounded when Hinckley fired his shots, but no one died. An insanity defense kept him out of the electric chair. He is currently 55 years old and still locked up in a psychiatric ward. He is expected back in court in the Spring of 2011, to see if he will be released on his own at that time. In 1985 Hinckley’s parents wrote a book about their son’s mental condition called, Breaking Points.

Further Learning:
Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan
In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect
The Reagan Diaries
The Day Reagan Was Shot

29 March

Vladimir Komarov & Yuri Gagarin



Here is a new category on the blog. Movie reviews! So, Christian (a long time supporter of the website and podcast) sent me a link to an article about the astronaut Vladimir Komarov. So I was reading this and thought really? I guess I wasn’t the only one because quickly after the original post the put up another post addressing all the questions the first one created in the comments section.

So, now we don’t know what happened at all. But one of the comments on another site, I think digg, but I’m not sure said that the whole thing was debunked in the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. So I rented this from Netflix and they didn’t mention a single thing about Vladimir Komarov. Totally bummed, but on the bright side it was a really good documentary that featured interviews with American astronauts. So, it wasn’t a total loss.

And as mentioned in the NPR articles there is a book coming soon that may unveil some of the questions that we are seeing pop up. I myself, would really like to know what happened. Hopefully, Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin will provide some answers, or at least give us some interesting history. In the mean time I think I will break out some blu-rays that I have had for a while but have not had the chance to watch, When We Left Earth – The NASA Missions [Blu-ray]. Anybody see this yet?

Oh, and one more thing, on April 12, there is supposed to be a film coming out on youtube that will tell us more. See the link here.

28 March

Meltdown at Three Mile Island


Three Mile Island

Today marks the 32 year since the accident in the very early hours of March 28th at Three Mile Island. I have in the past done a podcast on the subject.

There are a bunch of books on the subject, here is just a few:
Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective
The Warning: Accident at Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Omen for the Age of Terror
TMI 25 Years Later: The Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant Accident and Its Impact
Meltdown: A Race Against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island: A Reporter’s Story

A cool youtube video series on Three Mile Island:

Read more…

25 March

Happy Birthday Danica Patrick


Milka Duno6

Today we continue the theme of beautiful women on Yesterday we mourned the loss of the beautiful and talented Elizabeth Taylor. Today we celebrate the birth of Danica Patrick who today is 29. Why am I writing a post about her? Have you seen her? No, but really she is a very talented woman. She has broken through many barriers to get to where she is.

In 2005, which was her debut season, she won the award for IndyCar Rookie of the Year. From 2005 to 2007 and again in 2009 she won IndyCar Most Popular Driver.

2010 Danica Patrick 2

Today she will turn 29. She was born in Beloit, Wisconsin. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with …her husband, sorry guys. She started racing professionally in IndyCar, but in February 2010, she had her first professional nascar race. Patrick has hosted several TV shows on SpikeTV. She was featured on Sports Illustrated on June 6, 2005 (image below). That was the first time that a Indianapolis 500 driver on the cover since Al Unser in 1987.

Danica Patrick Sports Illustrated NCvrt

She was (of course) a cheerleader in high school, but later dropped out. She did later get her GED. Interesting side notes: Patrick owns a Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG, and a Lamborghini Gallardo. She has received two speeding tickets in her hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. The first, in 2007, was for driving 57 mph in a 40 mph zone, for which she was ordered to attend traffic school; the second, in 2008, was for going 54 mph in a 35 mph zone, and she paid a $196 fine.

Further Learning:

Danica–Crossing the Line

FAME: Danica Patrick

Ah, the benefits of having your own blog and choosing the history you want to cover! This was a fun one to cover for a Friday. Happy Birthday Danica and thanks for making my Friday a bit brighter! 🙂

24 March

Planned Website Maintenance


My website hosting company has informed me that they will physically be moving the server that resides on. This will happen between 9 PM, March 23rd and 5 AM March 24th (MDT). The website will be down for this entire period. I apologize for any inconvenience.

24 March

Elizabeth Taylor Biography


Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor passed away yesterday, Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at the age of 79. The two-time Oscar winner was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in February for symptoms of heart failure. Taylor is one of the most recognized film stars of recent history. She has been in around 50 films and also appeared numerous times in television programs. She is widely known for her 8 marriages and work with AIDS research fundraising.

Elizabeth was born with a mutation that caused double rows of eyelashes, which enhanced her appearance on camera.

Taylor was born in London, England on February 27, 1932 to her American parents Francis and Sara Taylor. Her father was an art dealer with a business in London. Her mother was an actress. Two years before her birth, her brother Howard was born. In 1939 the family moved back to the states, were Taylor began her career as a child actress. She would appear in her first movie, There’s One Born Every Minute at the age of 9.

She is most well known for her roles in:

Taylor helped raise tens of millions of dollars for AIDS research during her life. She created the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation. Elizabeth had four children with three of her husband’s. She won Oscars for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and BUtterfield 8. She was nominated for three other Oscars. She won the Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1993.

“Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world. Her remarkable body of work in film, her ongoing success as a businesswoman, and her brave and relentless advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS, all make us all incredibly proud of what she accomplished,” says her son, Michael Wilding.

Further Learning:

Books Taylor wrote herself:

Text sources:,,,

23 March

Anti-Chinese Massacre of 1871


The lynching of John Heith at Tombstone

On October 24, 1871 a police officer responding to shots fired entered a notoriously bad area of Los Angeles to find a Chinese man shot in the neck. He saw men fleeing the scene and followed them into a building. He was then shot in the shoulder. Hearing his cries a local business owner also rushed into the same building, after firing several shots into it. He too was shot his injury much worse, he died an hour later.

Soon a mob developed and started to lay siege to the building the fleeing men were held up in. 17 Chinese were hung from the local wagon shop roof.

This was the largest mass lynching in American history and I bet, like me, you have never heard of it. Thank you to Christian P. who brought this to my attention. The whole article can be found on

This story is not over yet. It was later revealed that the officer that went to investigate the shots may have actually been going to rob from a rich Chinese business man. The officer turns out to be not such a great guy, many court cases were filed against him. For example some accused him of stealing valuable roosters to fight in his cockfighting side business. The officer was also a gambler and believed to be manipulating the voting. This thing is so screwed up! Eventually, several people are brought to court for the charges, but the case gets thrown out. Unbelievable.

The story gets better, and it is amazing that there has not been a book published about this incident yet. There is a chapter on it in A Companion to Los Angeles (Blackwell Companions to American History). You can read some of the chapter in this book by googling The Anti-Chinese Massacre of 1871 Victor Jew the 5th link down is a link to the google book preview.

According to Wikipedia it is also briefly covered in The Brick People.

Image credit: Marion Doss unrelated image of lynching.

22 March

Book Review: Unsolved Mysteries of History


I picked up Unsolved Mysteries of History: An Eye-Opening Investigation into the Most Baffling Events of All Time (n avery long title!) off the discounted shelves at Barnes & Noble on a whim. It sat for probably a year before I got to it. I was interested in it because I was hoping it would have some obscure historical mysteries in it. The book is divided up like this, each chapter covers a topic. Each one is presented as a question. For example, the first chapter is called “Were the Neanderthals our Ancestors?” It does cover some interesting topics, but each one is covered very quickly. Not enough attention is paid to each topic. Like the first chapter, you could write a whole book about this topic, but the author only covers this topic as a chapter. The book as a whole is very short making it impossible for the author to give the right amount of attention to each topic. The book is only 225 pages.

This books is one of those quick reads that you pick up for a short plane ride or something. Not something you are really going to get engrossed in. A quick history fix, if you will. I can’t recommend you to pick this one up, spend your time on something better that goes into the depth of a subject not something that briefly covers a large range. It has 3 stars out of 13 reviews at and 3.21 stars out of 28 ratings at Not a lot of people are reading this and they don’t really like or dislike the book.

18 March

Remembering Brittanie Cecil


Today I’m going to share a very sad story with you. Brittanie Cecil’s story is the heart-wrenching story of the only fan to have ever been killed by an errant puck. On March 16, 2002 Brittanie Cecil went to the Blue Jackets vs. Calgary Flames game. During the game Espen Knutsen, a player on the Blue Jackets hit a slap shot toward the goal, but before it got there it was deflected by another player and it shot up into the stands.

It went right for Brittanie and hit her just above her nose. She was a 13 year old hockey fan at her first game. She was excited to be there. She was bleeding from the hit but it didn’t seem that bad, she was able to talk to everyone around her and with a jacket over her nose she was led out of the stadium and was taken to the hospital just to make sure everything was okay.

Once at the hospital they did some xrays, but Brittanie seemed fine. Even joking with her grandfather that she had a cool souvenir from the game, she had kept the puck. But two days later she complained of a headache and things went down hill from there. It was later discovered that she had a torn artery in the back of her neck. It did not show in the xrays that the hospital had taken. A blood clot developed and eventually cut off the blood circulation to the other two arteries to her brain.

The doctors found the problem and repaired it, but it was too late and Brittanie died 2 days after she was hit by the puck and two days before her 14th birthday. The player who hit the puck, Espen Knutsen blamed himself and was never the same. He tired playing for a few more years, but it didn’t really work out for him and after he ran into the boards a little too hard in 2005, he never came back to the game of hockey.

One good thing that came of all this was that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman ruled that before games could start for the 2002 season all arenas must install protective netting behind the nets.


Sorry to be a downer today, but I thought this brave little hockey fan should be remembered.

text sources:,,