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March 16th

Another day another Roman, but this one is up there with the crème de la crème of psycho nutters, so no apologies for revisiting the same place two days in a row!

On this day in 37A.D. Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus became the Emperor of Rome. If the name doesn’t ring any bells with you, worry not. Gaius was far more commonly known as Caligula. Yes, the one they made that porno film about!

 

Bust of Caligula that looks a bit like Malcolm McDowell who played him in that porno

Before we get down to the nutjobbery, I have to get a few things out of the way and be scrupulously fair to Mr Caligula. There is a possibility that he wasn’t as much of a headcase as we’ve been led to believe. We don’t have much in the way of primary source material and it’s highly possible that the secondary sources got their information from now defunct sources that had an axe to grind. That said, he was almost certainly at least a bit of a nutter and as the “he did what now?!” stories are too interesting to ignore and we don’t actually have any evidence of him being a decent misunderstood little emperor,we’ll go with the loco in the coco angle.

 

We’ll be a little more fair to Caligula now. Given his early life, which was all pretty much conspiracies, his family being exiled or murdered and being sent hither and thither to this elderly relative and another, it’s not surprising that he grew up with strange ideas. Also  his adopted granddad – for future reference, Roman emperors, especially the early bunch, were great ones for “adopting” nephews and the like and making them their heirs. A sort of extended nepotism for when their own kids were either dead or a bit rubbish – Tiberius was hardly a great role model. He’d started out as a pretty good emperor, although he was a miserable bugger all his life, but for the last fifteen years of his life he was paranoid, killy and basically not in Rome much at all. He had Caligula come and live with him on Capri for the last six years of his long and miserable life. Consider what it was like for young Gaius. You’re there with your pretend grandfather , you’re 19, you know he orders the death of anyone he thinks is looking at him funny and you have to be well clever to be that close to him, that much of a perceived threat to him and to stay alive.

The fact that Caligula did stay alive says a lot for his ability to dissemble. There were rumours that he murdered Tiberius, but it’s unlikely as Tiberius was 77 when he shuffled off this mortal coil and pretty much desiccated by disease and grouchiness. In his will he left everything to Caligula and his actual grandson Tiberius Gemellus. Caligula did what anyone would have done in the same situation, had TG executed and claimed the lot for himself. Thus began his four years as Roman Emperor.

At first he was very popular. The populous had hated Tiberius, were glad to see the back of him and welcomed young-blood to the

Invictus reacts to the news that he's now a senator

throne. He made a few good decisions, like stopping all the treason trials Tiberius had been so keen on and commissioning a couple of aqueducts. Everyone thought they were in for a nice golden age, but they were wrong. Within two years Caligula decided the treason trials were  very good idea, mostly because he got to make lots of money from them by confiscating the estates of dead traitors and Caligula loved to spend money. He had bankrupted the state treasury within two years. He was also probably doing sex with his sister Julia Drusilla (as an aside, I used to have a cat called Drusilla), although to be fair to them, they were pretty much emulating the whole Ptolemaic thing where it was customary for brothers and sisters to get married. Anyway, when Drusilla died of a fever he was pretty much in bits and went even more batshit. Anyway, enough of that, we all know that he did it with his sister and that he made  his horse Invictus a senator, had his stable furnished with gold and stuff and also made him a priest. This is for finding out new things about Caligula to further cement our idea of him as the biggest insaniac ever to wear the laurel crown!

 

Okay, here goes. He killed an awful lot of people; he shagged other men’s wives and then mocked the men with that information; he let his people starve while he spent money on fripperies. So far so dull? You’re right. He also proclaimed himself a living god, demanded that people worship him and went about dressed up like a different god every day. More? Okay, the pièce de résistance. Once, when he was at the games, he got bored because there weren’t enough criminals to be prosecuted and killed during the interval, so he got his guards to throw a section of the audience into the arena where they were killed and eaten by animals.

He got away with this behaviour for nearly four years, but eventually enough was enough. No one knows exactly which straw broke the imperial camel’s back, but like Julius Caesar before him, he was attacked and stabbed to death by a group of men who couldn’t take any more of his lunacy. These men also hoped to bring the Republic back, but that ship had long sailed. Romans were delighted to see the back of Caligula, but happy enough to give his successor, his Uncle Claudius, a good crack of the whip. Claudius was one of Caligula’s only surviving relatives and he only got to live because of his stutter which Caligula liked to rip the piss out of. If I was Alanis Morrisette, I’d probably say that that was ironic, but it wasn’t so I won’t.

One last thing, for anyone who’s wondering. Caligula was a pet name meaning little boots. He got it when he was a wee lad who’d on campaigns with his father the general and wear a little replica of Roman army garb with his “little boots”. Alas even sweet little children can grow up to be tyrannical bastards. cf. Adolf Hitler.

 

Today is the birthday of a policeman called Eric Estrada. He used to be in a documentary about the California Highway Patrol, called CHiPs, but when that finished he found fame in reality  programmes and starring in stuff like The Bold and The Beautiful.

The documentary about the police was odd because although his name is Erica Estrada (One of the lecturers at my university was

Fake policeman bastard

called Erica Strata. She did not look like Eric Estrada) in the programme he pretended it was Frank Poncherello. My only guess on this is that he was undercover the whole time.

 

Eric Estrada has also turned himself into a cartoon to appear in things like King of the Hill and Family Guy where once again he gets to be a policeman like he is in real life and … hang on.

I’ve just done some more research and apparently CHiPs wasn’t a documentary and Eric Estrada is an actor. This is a shame because as an actor he makes a very good policeman. So, now I realise that he has spent his whole career  feeding off his fifteen minutes of fame in the early eighties and he’s not just an undercover police officer who made good. How tragic.

Anyway, I’ve nothing more to say about this faker  other than it’s his birthday today and he should be utterly ashamed  of himself!

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March 7th

On this day in 1876 yer man Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent (in Boston) for the telephone. Controversy surrounded his “ownership” of the invention and another man, Elisha Gray, claimed he  had beaten Bell to the patent office and that Bell was copying his design.

 

Mustachioed Man: Did he just tell the queen that she has a great arse? Bearded Man: Good grief, I believe he did!

So, was he? Was Alexander Graham Bell a great big cheat and a liar? Surely not! As it turns out, he mostly and almost certainly wasn’t. Here’s what happened.

 

Sandy, as we’ll call him, had been working on his device for a couple of years. He’d got into experimenting with sound as a direct result of his work with the deaf as a speech therapist. He’d studied acoustics from a young age and experimented over the years. from 1872 onward he was backed in his sound experiments and in 1874 he came up with the idea of sending voices through telegraphy. Unfortunately he had a good idea but he was a bit shit with the old electronics so he needed to find someone to work with. Luckily he got together with a chap called Thomas Watson and together they managed to come up with a device that sort of did what they wanted it to. It did transmit a voice, but it was a bit like listening to a drunk underwater, which was ironic given what was coming next.

Well, not quite next. Next was the race to the patent office. Before applying for the US patent, Sandy wanted to get the British patent sorted. He wasn’t being all patriotic or anything, it was just that the British got snotty about giving a patent to anything that had first been patented elsewhere. He was also canny. He’d have to share his US profits with his backers, but the UK profits would be all his! He knew that Gray was also working on a similar invention and as it happened they both filed their application for patents on the same day, 14th February 1876. There were slight differences in their devices. Bell’s worked with a reed and other stuff like that (what? I’m not Thomas Bleedin’ Edison you know!) and Gray’s worked using a water transmitter. I know, the mind sort of boggles really. Sandy’s patent no. 174,465 was issued on 7th March and he immediately got back to work. It was then that Elisha got a bit cross with him. To be fair he had a bit of a point. Sandy’s new drawings looked a lot like Elisha’s and in his first successful test of the telephone – as he was now calling it, which was handy given it’s what we all decided to go with as well – he used a water transmitter. He spoke the words “Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you.” and Watson (in another room, because being in the same room would have been cheating) heard him clear as A BELL (ha!) and came in.

While all that sounds a little cheaty, rest assured that after giving the liquid transmitter a go, Sandy went back to his own design and as our phones today are not all watery when we shake them, we can tell that the liquid transmitter thing didn’t become the way of things. That said, Bell did admit that a drunk at the Patent Office had shown him Gray’s caveat, so while he wasn’t a big old cheater he was  a bit of a naughty boy.

The telephone took on pretty quickly and within 10 years there were over 150,000 telephones in the US. One person who refused to have a phone on his desk because they were nothing but a bloody nuisance was, you’ve guessed it, Sandy Bell  himself!

Today was the birthday of Tammy Faye “Tammy” Bakker Messner who was famous for being married to fraudulent money grabber and faux religious nutjob Jim Bakker, who to add to all his sins couldn’t even spell his surname properly. She was also famous for wearing every piece of make-up she owned in one go, which generally made her face so heavy that it was hard for her to hold her head up in public and sometimes she had to have invisible string attached to the top of her head to keep it in place and stop her from collapsing.

Some claimed that she looked a little like Dolly Parton without the tits, but they also forget that, more importantly, she also lacked

Tammy Faye cries because she forgot to put on her sixth layer of make-up that morning

the charm. To be fair to the hideous old baggage, she did show a slightly more humane attitude to homosexuals and AIDS than most of her evangelical brethren, but then she was also all about the Benjamins, so it’s hard to see her in too charitable a light.

 

Her marriage to Bakker ended when he went to prison for being a thief and a liar and she divorced him. Showing a remarkable aptitude for choosing husbands who were destined for jail, she next married Roe Messner who was also a thief and a liar who ended up in prison in 1996. She didn’t divorce him, probably because he was slightly less cuntish than Bakker.

And to be fair to the big old fright-wig on legs, she was considerably less cuntish than either of them. In later years she appeared on The Surreal Life with among others Ron Jeremy (porn star, large penis), Vanilla Ice (shit rapper) and Eric Estrada (former policeman in the California Highway Patrol) and wrote a book entitled I survived … and you will too. Unfortunately she didn’t (she died of colon cancer in 2007), so the outlook for the rest of us is probably bleak.

Happy birthday you crazy evangelical hoochy mama!

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