The Moron's Daily Briefing

Oct. 22 - Once upon a time in the eighteenth century, a man named J.P. Blanchard threw a dog wearing a rudimentary parachute out of a hot-air balloon. History does not divulge the outcome of this experiment. Mr. Blanchard may simply have been a disgruntled cat person.

There lived at that time a swindler by the name of Andre-Jacques Garnerin, who travelled around France offering (for a fee from his spectators) to ascend into the sky in a hot-air balloon and leap to the earth in a parachute. Strangely enough, his balloon never managed to get off the ground. Refunds were never offered.

One day an angry spectator brought Garnerin's con to the attention of the local authorities, who promptly arrested him. He was given a choice: he could either get his balloon to fly and make the promised jump or he could go directly to jail.

And so, one early evening 205 years ago today, Garnerin's balloon rose 2200 feet into the evening air above Paris. Then it exploded.

Fortunately, Garnerin was already in his parachute and survived the landing. The suddenly successful showman didn't die his inevitable horrible aviation-related death for a full quarter-century.

* * *

It was on this day in 1836 that Sam Houston was sworn in as the first president of the Republic of Texas. Texas had become an independent nation after winning its independence from Mexico, and would not be incorporated into the United States as a state until 1845. There are some who insist to this day that Texas was never properly admitted into the Union because, like everything else, its admission had been Unconstitutional. (There are also people who insist that extraterrestrial poodles have been fixing the Super Bowl.)

Readers interested in the very curious question of Texan sovereignty are referred to TexasRepublic.org, which is either brilliant satire or terrifying sincerity. (Readers interested in the curious question of sports-fixing extraterrestrial poodles are referred to a competent behavioral healthcare provider.)

Today is the birthday of Zac Hanson (1985), Jeff Goldblum (1952), Catherine Deneuve (1943), Annette Funicello (1942), Tony Roberts (1939), Christopher Lloyd (1938), Timothy Leary (1920), Doris Lessing (1919), Joan Fontaine (1917), Curly Howard (1903), John Reed (1887), N.C. Wyeth (1882), Sarah Bernhardt (1844), and Franz Liszt (1811).

It's the Pope's Installation Anniversary at the Vatican. The Pope will celebrate by drawing a series of consecutive breaths.

2002, The Moron's Almanac™

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