President’s Day, sort of

It’s Presidents’ Day, or as I noted last year, Washington’s Birthday. Don’t know why, but I know all of the Presidents, their political parties, and their years in office; very useful in Trivial Pursuit or on certain game shows.

Among the useless pieces of info in my mind:

Washington’s first secretary of State was Jefferson.
Jefferson’s only Secretary of State was Madison.
One of Madison’s secretaries of State was Monroe.
Monroe picked JQ Adams for his Secretary of State.
Jackson picked Van Buren as his first Secretary of State.
So, all of the early Presidents, save for the Adamses, picked as the head of the State Department someone who would succeed them as President. Oddly, except for Polk’s pick of Buchanan, no other Secretary ascended to the White House after that.

Many of you know that the President elected in the years ending in zero from 1840 to 1960 died in office. I always wondered what it was like for the country to have its leaders assassinated so close together in the latter stages of the 20th Century (Lincoln-1865, Garfield-1881, McKinley-1901 – OK, not the 19th Century, but close enough.) The 1881 assassination created a unique situation: three Presidents in one year: Hayes, finishing his term; Garfield; and his successor, Arthur; that had happened only 40 years earlier, with Van Buren, WH Harrison, and Tyler.
But can you name the only President who died in office that WASN’T elected in a year ending in zero? Here’s a clue: he was a Whig, one of four Whig Presidents we had, who served only a total of eight years.

That would be Zach Taylor, who was elected in 1848 and died in 1850, succeeded by Millard Fillmore. When I was memorizing the Presidents, I had the greatest difficulty with the late 1840s and early 1850s, mostly because I somehow morphed Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce into Mildred Pierce.

My question to you: what is your favorite mundane piece of trivial President information that you use to impress your friends and stun your enemies?
This recent Harris poll of top Presidents left me shaking my head, with the current occupant coming in at number 10. Then I saw the AOL poll that asked where W fit in the pantheon of Presidents. As of 9 pm EST last night:
Among the bottom third 62% 269,198
Among the top third 25% 108,585
Among the middle third 13% 57,379
Well, all righty, then.
Democrats Target Kucinich for Defeat.
McCain wrong on the one issue I’d previously given him credit for.


Myths, Hoaxes, and Misinformation

So what IS that holiday we just celebrated on the third Monday in February? Presidents Day? Presidents’ Day? President’s Day? The answer, technically, is none of the above.
From an-e-mail, which cites Tom Joyner’s Morning Show as the source of information about NUD (Non Urban Dictate), “the acronym for a very subtle and little-known marketing term specifically directed toward people of color. ‘Non Urban Dictate’ – These three words essentially mean that a company is not interested in the Black consumer. A NUD label means that a company does not want their marketing and advertising materials placed in media that claim an urban audience (black folks) as their main target.

My reply: I doubt it. I could find no mention on Tom Joyner’s website and this company has to waste its time refuting its involvement with the claim. This group,, busts the myth:
“BreakTheChain.or recommends against participating in boycott campaigns organized via e-mail chain letters. As you can see, this letter has failed to keep up with developments in the issue, has acquired incorrect information (and caused a great deal of hardship for the Urban Institute) and is even recommended against by former supporters. Break this chain.”
From friend Dan:

The “Pharisee Jew Big-Bang Conspiracy”. The last line is the best:
“I am convinced that rather than risk teaching a lie, why teach anything?”
From friend Don:

Masterpieces Or Fakes? The Joyce Hatto Scandal February 15 2007

“It was already one of the strangest stories the classical music world had witnessed. But the discovery of the late English pianist Joyce Hatto as the greatest instrumentalist almost nobody had heard of, appears to have taken a bizarre, even potentially sinister turn.

It was around a year ago that Gramophone’s critics began to champion this little-known lady, whose discs – miraculous performances, released by her husband William Barrington-Coupe on the tiny label Concert Artist – were notoriously difficult to get hold of. Such was the brilliance of this pianist across Liszt, Schubert, Rachmaninov, Dukas and more in a dizzying range – that it was worth making the effort to seek out Concert Artist to get these discs, and they became much sought-after. By the time she died in June 2006, Joyce Hatto was not only a sudden widespread success, she was a cause célèbre. To love Hatto recordings was to be in the know, a true piano aficionado who didn’t need the hype of a major label’s marketing spend to recognise a good, a great, thing when they heard it.

See and hear for yourself the incontrovertible evidence of an audacious recording hoax. Here we examine a track from [a CD], released under the name of ‘Joyce Hatto’, but containing 10 tracks originally released in 1987 and played by Simon Laszlo on a BIS CD.

The fourth Hatto track has been quite subtlely doctored: digitally shrunk in time by 0.02% – just enough to alter overall timings, and with no shift in pitch; re-equalised to alter the piano tone slightly; panned slightly to the left, where the original piano was central.
In response to an e-mail I received:

There is no deadline to register cell phones to the Do Not Call List, despite what you might have heard. Here’s some info.

You can also register by phone (1-888-382-1222) or online.

Read more about this.
Mark Evanier disputes whether Wile E. Coyote’s middle name is Ethelbert, even though it was the Final JEOPARDY! question last month.
Even the Wall Street Journal needs to comment on Anna Nicole Smith (by Tunku Varadarajan. Feb 13, 2007. pg. A.24)

“Anna Nicole Smith was also a lowbrow (or really, a narcissistic) version of the American dream — the American dream of only bravado and guile, bereft of character or principles or talent. She was proof that the dream applies even to people with nothing to offer but themselves. If she is a tragic and cautionary tale to Americans, evidence that the American Dream requires substance and character, she may be evidence of the opposite to outsiders who see only the magic of wealth and fame won through the mere presentation of self. She inflates the reputation of American possibility abroad, making it seem like anything is possible in America — even reward without merit.”

Finally, this bugs me, too.

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