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Preview: It Was 20 Years Ago Today

It Was 20 Years Ago Today

Published: Thu, 28 Jan 2016 07:39:02 +0000

Last Build Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2018 15:16:45 +0000

Copyright: Jamie Lawson

Episode #186: Challenger Disaster

Thu, 28 Jan 2016 07:39:02 +0000

Thursday, January 28, 2016.  Thirty years ago today, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch, killing the seven astronauts aboard.  I talk about my own memory of that day, the impressions the relentless news coverage left on me, and discuss the lessons of the accident.  Whether those lessons were lasting, I fear is open to question.

For a very thoughtful commentary about the Challenger disaster and the effect it has had on NASA (along with the Apollo 1 disaster before and the Columbia disaster after it), I highly recommend the following from NBC News space analyst James Oberg: NASA has to fight the forgetting

The music for today's show is "Space Frontier," by Morwic, used with most kind permission.  You can find Morwic on his channel almost every night, composing ambient music in real time with feedback from his audience.  Check it out!

Media Files:

Episode #185 -- Windows 95

Mon, 24 Aug 2015 16:00:00 +0000

Monday, August 25, 2015. Twenty years ago today, Windows 95 was released to the general public.  I look at the operating system which gave Microsoft a virtual monopoly in the personal computing world, a monopoly which is still largely in place today.

Media Files:

Episode #184 -- The Greenpeace Album

Sun, 23 Aug 2015 22:29:20 +0000

For Saturday, August 22, 2015.  Thirty years ago this month, A&M Records released a benefit album for Greenpeace. The album cover featured a picture of Greenpeace's flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, which had been sunk in New Zealand a month before.  I talk about the sinking of the ship, some of my own history of environmental activism (it goes back a long ways!) and my attachment to this particular album.

Media Files:

Episode #183 -- Coca-cola Classic

Mon, 17 Aug 2015 13:00:00 +0000

Tuesday, August 18, 2015.  Thirty years ago this month, the original (well, almost the original) formula of Coca-cola came back to store shelves as Coca-cola Classic.  I take a look at the real reason behind one of the greatest marketing failures of the 20th century, as well as noting how the company's choice in branding the return of "Old Coke" has had a surprising influence on our language.


Media Files:

Episode #182 -- Oklahoma City Bombing

Sun, 19 Apr 2015 17:41:32 +0000

Sunday, April 19, 2015.  Twenty years ago today, a truck bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, taking over 160 lives in the worst domestic terrorism incident in United States history.  I share my own memory of that day, discuss the immediate reactions of the news media, and offer a caution about our perceptions of terrorism in this country.

Special thanks to Joe Medina for his memories of watching CNN that day, and to Gordon Skene of the website Past Daily, for copies of radio newscasts covering the first hours after the bombing.  


Media Files:

Episode #181 -- Tokyo Subway Gas Attack

Fri, 20 Mar 2015 16:00:00 +0000

Friday, March 20, 2015.  Twenty years ago today, a group of religious cultists carried out an attack using sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subway system.  This attack killed at least a dozen people and injured thousands.  The leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, along with many of his followers, are on Japan's death row and could be executed as soon as next month.

I talk about my reactions to the gas attack twenty years ago, and consider why those reactions haven't changed much in the twenty years that have passed.  I also consider why we need to remember events like this, as much as our human nature might drive us to forget.


Media Files:

Episode #180 -- Chickenpox Vaccine

Tue, 17 Mar 2015 16:00:00 +0000

Tuesday, March 17, 2015.  Twenty years ago today, the Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine for varicella (pictured here), the virus which causes chickenpox and shingles.  I talk about the vaccine and a bit about my own experiences with it -- I've had the vaccine, because I never had chickenpox as a kid.  


Media Files:

Episode #179 -- Mikhail Gorbachev

Wed, 11 Mar 2015 16:00:00 +0000

Wednesday, March 11, 2015.  Thirty years ago today, Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union -- and, as it turns out, the last.  Today, I'm taking a step back thirty years to look at what turned out to be one of the most pivotal events of our lifetimes.  There is an entire generation of young adults alive today who have no memory of the Cold War!


I also have a shout-out for the website.

Media Files:

Episode #178 -- Top Quark Discovered

Mon, 02 Mar 2015 17:00:00 +0000

Monday, March 2, 2015.  Twenty years ago today, scientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory announced the discovery of the top quark, the last of the six quarks predicted by current atomic theory.  I talk a little about the top quark, about my own love of science through my life, and how I ended up, quite unexpectedly, with a career in science and technology.

If you would like your very own plushie top quark like the one shown here, you can get them from The Particle Zoo.

I also have one more shout out for the Past Daily website.  They're in the last hours of a fundraiser on which the very existence of the site depends. Please check it out and support the site if you can.

Media Files:

Episode #177 -- Yahoo!

Sun, 01 Mar 2015 22:55:45 +0000

Sunday, March 1, 2015.  20 years ago today, one of the first big Internet companies, Yahoo! was incorporated.  Yahoo! began as a directory of websites, and back in the day was a useful tool for gathering information from the Web.  I talk about the experience of searching the Web for information when Yahoo! was young, and how the site changed as the Web exploded during the later 1990s.  The image at the right is the Yahoo! logo from 1995.

I also have a shout-out for the website Past Daily, who needs our help to keep doing what they do -- sharing audio from the beginning of the 20th Century to the present day with the world.  Go check them out!


Media Files:

Episode #176 -- Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act

Sat, 25 Oct 2014 19:43:04 +0000

Saturday, October 25, 2014.  Twenty years ago today, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 became law, and we've been up to our ears in pills for everything ever since.  I look at the intent of the Act, and how because of what it actually allows, its effect has been far different.

Extra special thanks to Marc Rose of FUSE Audio Design for the famous disclaimer, which is straight out of the Act.


Media Files:

Episode #175 -- Northridge Earthquake

Fri, 17 Jan 2014 07:24:05 +0000

Friday, January 17, 2014.  Twenty years ago today, an earthquake struck in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.  It killed 57 people and injured nearly 9000.  I talk about the Northridge Earthquake and consider the question of whether it was "the Big One."

The picture is of a partially collapsed apartment building damaged in the earthquake, of a type which is no longer legal to build in California because of the Northridge quake.

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Episode #174 -- 1993 Recap, Memorials

Thu, 16 Jan 2014 05:15:52 +0000

In today's episode I remember just a few of the notable people who died in 1993.  They may have been gone for 20 years, but their achievements -- or infamy -- remain.

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Episode #173 -- 1993 Recap, Part Two

Tue, 14 Jan 2014 06:18:37 +0000

My recap of 1993 continues today with a recollection of some events from the second half of 1993.  I think my space geek is showing just a little -- of the four events I cover here, two are related to NASA and space exploration (the loss of the Mars Observer and the first repair mission for the Hubble Space Telescope).  I also discuss the Battle of Mogadishu (remembered mostly today through the book and film Black Hawk Down) and the Maastricht Treaty, which provided the framework for today's European Union.  The picture at the left is an artist's rendering of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Media Files:

Episode #172 -- 1993 Recap, Part One

Mon, 13 Jan 2014 06:05:00 +0000

Welcome back to "It Was 20 Years Ago Today."  There will be new episodes every day this week!

Before we begin looking back at the events of 1994, I'm offering a recap of a few notable events of 1993.  On today's show I discuss the release of the first Pentium Processor, the hantavirus outbreak in the Four Corners region, and the beginning of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  The image here is of hantavirus particles.

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Episode #171 -- Trojan Nuclear Plant

Fri, 10 Jan 2014 06:32:12 +0000

[This episode was produced for November 3, 2012 and appeared originally on the Society of the Inner Ear program, but had not been posted to the 20 Years Ago feed previously.]

The Trojan Nuclear Power Plant (pictured in its heyday in the 1970s) was shut down on November 3, 1992 after a steam tube leak, and was never restarted.  The plant, which had been in operation for a scant 20 years, was decommissioned and demolished; the only thing that remains on the plant site today is the spent nuclear fuel, stored in casks and waiting for some sort of long term storage.  In this show I talk about the plant, what happened to it, and what are the prospects for nuclear power today in the global warming, post-Fukushima world.

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Episode #170 -- English Premier League

Mon, 06 Jan 2014 05:00:00 +0000

[This episode was produced for the week of August 5, 2012, but not posted previously.]


Welcome back to the "It Was 20 Years Ago Today" podcast!  I'm beginning to create and post new shows, but first I wanted to post several shows from 2012 which didn't make it to the feed.  We begin with this episode, about the creation of the English Premier League, the top division of the English football (soccer) system.  It is now arguably the most popular professional football league in the world, with fans around the globe.

Media Files:

First World Trade Center Bombing

Tue, 26 Feb 2013 21:01:54 +0000

Twenty years ago today, a truck bomb exploded in the underground garage of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.  It destroyed several levels of the garage, killed six people, and injured over a thousand.  The bombing attack was planned and carried out by a group of conspirators led by Ramzi Yousef, a Kuwaiti-born terrorist who trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.On that Friday morning (the bomb exploded at 12:17 pm local time, which was 9:17 am on the West Coast), I was at work.  I had just completed my probationary period as an employee of Intel, and was still settling into my new office on the fifth floor of the recently-completed Robert Noyce Building in Santa Clara, California, Intel's headquarters.I liked to listen to FM radio on headphones while I was working -- the structure of the building was such that AM broadcasts were almost impossible to hear.  Portable CD players were still expensive and skipped if you so much as sneezed on them, the algorithms that would give rise to MP3 sound files were just being defined, and streaming audio on the Internet was, at best, somebody's pipe dream.Immediately after I learned of the bombing, I became painfully aware that I was working on the fifth floor of the five-story building, I became painfully aware that I was working on the fifth floor of the five-story building, by far the tallest I had ever worked in.  Having visited taller buildings only a few times, it was challenging -- and quite frightening -- to imagine what it must be like to be in one of the upper floors of the World Trade Center buildings.  I tried to get as much news as I could that day.On the wider scale, I think it was that first World Trade Center bombing that really crystallized the image of the Middle Eastern terrorist as a figure to be feared more than any other in the culture of the United States.  It was not, of course, the first time a Middle Eastern terrorist had struck at Americans.  But it very quickly gained the title of worst terrorist incident on United States soil, and in so doing, gave the American people something to be afraid of, which we had largely lost in the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of global Communism.Indeed, when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was blown up two years and two months after the World Trade Center bombing, everyone's assumption was that a Middle Eastern terrorist had done it.  There are people who believe to this day that some Middle Eastern group -- most often Iraqi -- was responsible and that Timothy McVeigh was just a patsy.  The fact that McVeigh became known as a "domestic" or "homegrown" terrorist just underscores how pervasive the image of the Middle Eastern terrorist had become.  It is a strange distinction to draw; a distinction akin to “racism” and “reverse racism,” a distinction that should not need to be made.  But we make it anyway.[...]

Episode #169 -- Women's World Cup Final

Wed, 30 Nov 2011 07:05:50 +0000

Wednesday, November 30, 2011.  Twenty years ago today, the USA Women's National Team won the inagural FIFA Women's World Cup tournament.  They have been a dominant force in the women's game ever since.  I talk about the status of women's soccer in the United States since that first big win, why I think the women's game is even better than the men's, and my experience seeing Team USA play right here in Portland a few weeks ago.

The picture is of one of the stars of the present team, Abby Wambach.

Media Files:

My 1st Anniversary and the Oakland Hills Firestorm

Thu, 20 Oct 2011 23:37:12 +0000

20 years ago today, Joe and I were celebrating our first anniversary.  It had been a challenging year, but we'd made it through, and we decided to celebrate by visiting one of our favorite restaurants at the time, the Cardinal diner, for an early supper.  It wasn't far from home, just down the street at the corner of Meridian and Hillsdale Avenues.  (In 1991 it was quite new -- it had a look that nowadays is called "retro" with a lot of brass and red glittery vinyl seating.  It apparently closed sometime last year, more's the pity.)  Just before we left a news report came on the television about a fire in the Oakland hills.

When we returned, no more than two hours later, we turned on the television and the local stations were all broadcasting images that looked like a classical version of Hell -- flames lighting the night sky in blazing ribbons and clouds of luminous smoke; tall trees ablaze from root to crown, and sometimes exploding.  We were watching the Oakland Hills firestorm, an incredible disaster that, before it was finally controlled some 72 hours after it began, destroyed over 3700 homes, killed 25 people and injured some 150.

Many of the awesome (in the original sense of the word) images of that night are still very accessible in my mind's eye, but for those who never saw (or don't remember) the firestorm, the SFGate has put up a small slideshow which captures it and its aftermath.  They also have an article which focuses on one family, their tragedy and recovery.

Over the years since we have occasionally joked about what sort of karma we had, that on our first anniversary the Oakland hills burned up.  There are a fair share of notorious events that have taken place on October 20 in years past: the Saturday Night Massacre, the opening of the HUAC hearings, the Johnny Bright incident.  But a few pretty cool ones too:  The Police played their first US show in 1978; Jacqueline Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis in 1968.  As I say in the show close, every day has a multitude of stories.  October 20, more than maybe any other day in the year, is the day that I go looking for them.

Episode #168 -- Bill Clinton Declares

Mon, 03 Oct 2011 06:15:46 +0000

Monday, October 3, 2011.  Twenty years ago today, Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas announced he was running for President.  This was only a few months before the primaries and caucuses began -- impossibly late, by comparison today.  I take a look at what's different now and offer my opinion about the near-constant state of Presidential campaigns today.

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Episode #167 -- The World Wide Web

Sat, 06 Aug 2011 20:13:00 +0000

Saturday, August 6, 2011.  Twenty years ago today, the very first Web site went online.  Hard to believe, maybe, but true!  Here are a few links to some of the things I talked about in the episode.

Tim Berners-Lee's posting to alt.hypertext announcing the existence of the World Wide Web

Some Internet usage statistics from the Huffington Post and the UK Office for National Statistics

An early version of that very first web page (from the World Wide Web Consortium)

The image is an early version of the World Wide Web logo designed by Robert Caillieau.

Media Files:

Why the 20 Years Ago Podcast Is Coming Back

Thu, 04 Aug 2011 07:29:00 +0000

I bring a lot of my own memory and experience to the history in “It Was 20 Years Ago Today.”  It’s fascinating because I can look back at events which I knew at the time were world-changing.  But, even more interesting, I can also look at events which were, on the day, not a big deal at all -- yet over the course of time prove to be the heralds of transformation in our lives.  More than perhaps anyone could have imagined.

In August of 1991, there were examples of both kinds of events.  An attempt to overthrow the government of the Soviet Union failed. A physicist at a research lab in Switzerland told a group of computer scientists about a new networking protocol he’d worked out, and a Finnish student told fellow computer nerds about a new operating system he was developing.  

We all knew, I think, that the USSR was on the way out.   A scant four months later, it ceased to exist entirely.  But did anyone even dream of the transformation those two technologies would work on the world?  For one thing, without the World Wide Web and Linux, you wouldn’t be reading these words.

Join me for all of this and more in new editions of “It Was 20 Years Ago Today,” coming this weekend.

June 10, 1991 -- Jaycee Dugard Disappears

Fri, 10 Jun 2011 23:03:00 +0000

(This is the first of what may become a series of short text postings, on events for which I wasn't able to write and record a complete podcast, for whatever reason. --jamie) Today is Friday, June 10, 2011.Twenty years ago today, an 11-year-old girl named Jaycee Dugard was snatched off the street as she was waiting for a school bus, shoved into a car and driven away.  Despite the fact that her abduction was witnessed -- by her stepfather -- and a good description of both the car and the kidnapper was given to the police almost immediately, it wasn't enough.But unlike so many cases of child abduction, when the victim is found dead -- or never found at all -- Dugard was found.  It took 18 years to do it; for all that time, she had been held prisoner by the couple who abducted her, Phillip and Nancy Garrido.  I do have some memory about Jaycee Dugard’s disappearance in 1991; it was pretty big news in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time.  As with Michaela Garecht and many others before her, the memory of Jaycee Dugard slowly faded from the awareness of all but a few -- family, friends, perhaps the police.  Theirs was the struggle to come to terms with the idea that she was gone forever, or to keep the hope alive that she would be found some day.And if this particular posting has a theme, it would be that hope -- hope beyond reason, beyond sense if you like.  Hope that sometimes is lost, sometimes set aside just to cope with the never-ending press of day-to-day life.  Hope that, against all the odds, is rewarded now and then, as it was with Jaycee Dugard.Just a few weeks ago, the trial of the Garridos ended abruptly when both of them changed their pleas to guilty. Twenty years from now, they will both be still in prison -- and we can hope we will all have forgotten them.[...]

Episode #166 -- NC-17 Movie Rating

Tue, 23 Nov 2010 07:03:15 +0000

For November 22, 2010.  Twenty years ago today, the city of Kissimmee, Florida put a new proposed ordinance to a vote.  If passed, theaters could not sell tickets for movies with the new NC-17 rating to minors.  I talk about the fate of that proposal, and offer a history of the MPAA's rating system for movies as well as two other ratings systems -- for video games and TV shows -- which have been instituted in the last twenty years.

For a look at the politics behind the MPAA's system as well as its unwritten rules, I highly recommend This Film Is Not Yet Rated (which was itself originally rated NC-17 but surrendered that rating in favor of being released unrated).

Media Files:

Episode #165 -- German Reunification

Sun, 03 Oct 2010 21:06:00 +0000

Sunday, October 3, 2010. Twenty years ago today, the nations of East Germany and West Germany, separated for 45 years, reunited as one nation.  I take a look at this event, which was the biggest step toward the end of the Cold War to that time, and reflect on how Germany -- and the world -- has changed since then.


Media Files:

And We Are Coming Back!

Sat, 02 Oct 2010 19:50:00 +0000

It was four years ago tomorrow -- on October 3, 2006 -- that the first episode of "It Was 20 Years Ago Today" hit the podcast feed. Tomorrow -- October 3, 2010 -- the show returns with our first new episode since November 2009.

In the coming weeks I'll be looking at an unexpected winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the origin of one of the Internet's most famous institutions, the end of political eras in the UK and Haiti, the birth of the World Wide Web, and many more.

Join me tomorrow for a look at German reunification, 20 years on.


Hiatus Notice

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 22:24:00 +0000

The "It Was 20 Years Ago Today" podcast is going on an indefinite hiatus.  The show will come back -- right now, though, I can't say exactly when.

I'm making this official, as I am trying to reorganize myself, set my priorities, and admit that there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do -- let alone do it well.  For a little more about that, and what my big priorities for the new year are, please check out my personal blog, Sailbourne.

I do plan to continue work on the "It Was 20 Years Ago Today" book, compiling the scripts of the first 164 episodes (plus additional episodes that didn't make it to the feed).  When the podcast returns, we'll have a new blog and website.

Watch this space for news and updates, and please be sure to check out my Sailbourne blog and the Ollin Productions website for more on what I'm doing during the hiatus.

Best wishes to all of you for a happy and healthy 2010, and thank you all for your support!

Episode #164 -- "Shot Heard 'Round the World"

Thu, 19 Nov 2009 05:55:00 +0000

Thursday, November 19, 2009. Twenty years ago today, the US national soccer team qualified for the World Cup tournament, for the first time in forty years. Paul Caligiuri's goal, which won the match for Team USA, quickly became known as "the shot heard 'round the world," and it changed the way Americans looked at soccer.

Click here for a YouTube clip which shows the ESPN SportsCenter coverage of the match, including Caligiuri's goal.

Media Files:

Episode #163 -- "Out of Order"

Sun, 18 Oct 2009 09:00:00 +0000

Sunday, October 18, 2009.  Anyone in the San Francisco Bay Area who owned a Far Side page-a-day calendar would have found the cartoon for twenty years ago today prescient -- and downright creepy.  I describe that cartoon, and talk about some of the big changes that happened to San Francisco and Oakland's transportation infrastructure as a result of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Media Files:

Episode #162 -- Loma Prieta Earthquake

Sun, 18 Oct 2009 00:04:00 +0000

Saturday, October 17, 2009.  5:04 pm.  Twenty years ago today, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck northern California, changing lives and landscapes forever.  I share my memory of the moment the quake struck, and what happened a few minutes later that taught me a very important lesson -- being in the midst of history as it's happening isn't always an adventure.

The SFGate website, online home of the San Francisco Chronicle, has a special section devoted to those fifteen seconds that changed everything.

Media Files:

Episode #161 -- Scott O'Dell

Fri, 16 Oct 2009 03:50:00 +0000

Thursday, October 15, 2009. Twenty years ago today, author Scott O'Dell died at the age of 91.  I talk about O'Dell, his most famous book, and how his writing (and that of my other favorite books as a kid) influenced my reading interests -- and, by extension, helped inspire this podcast.

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Episode #160 -- "One baby's scream"

Sun, 11 Oct 2009 22:41:00 +0000

Sunday, October 11, 2009.  "It Was 20 Years Ago Today" returns with a recollection of the story that Times Herald-Record columnist Mike Levine published twenty years ago today.  The story, and the problem it illuminates, could have easily been written today.

Mike Levine went on to become the executive editor of the Times Herald-Record before dying far too young in January 2007.  His family and colleagues established a journalism education scholarship in his name, and the first Mike Levine Workshop was held this past spring.

Media Files:

Episode #159 -- Batman

Tue, 23 Jun 2009 06:36:00 +0000

Tuesday, June 23, 2009. Twenty years ago today, the movie Batman was released, bringing the famous comic book hero to a whole new generation of fans.  I talk about the movie and my own experiences and impressions of Batman, from the Superfriends to "The Killing Joke."

One of the earliest episodes of this show was about this same Batman movie, commemorating the date when the first draft script was written.  Fellow Bat-fanatics who haven't been following this show since day one might enjoy checking it out!

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Episode #158 -- Star Trek V

Tue, 09 Jun 2009 05:28:00 +0000

Tuesday, June 9, 2009. Twenty years ago today, the movie Star Trek V: the Final Frontier was released.  I share a few facts about the fifth of the Trek movies, and relate my experience of watching it for the first (and almost last) time.  I don't remember seeing the poster design depicted here back in the day, but I couldn't resist showing it now, because my answer to the question it poses would most likely be, "To keep the audience from getting up and walking out."

I also refer to a version of the movie given the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" treatment.  This isn't the RiffTrax commentary, but rather a fan film with a Joel, robots and everything, including one unforgettable song, by Seattle filmmaker Ryan K. Johnson.  More information can be found on Ryan's website.

Media Files:

Episode #157 -- Tienanmen Square Crackdown

Thu, 04 Jun 2009 06:27:00 +0000

Thursday, June 4, 2009. Twenty years ago today, the Chinese government moved to crack down on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tienanmen Square.  I talk about the crackdown on that day, and the efforts of the Chinese government to prevent its people from even knowing about what really happened in Tienanmen Square twenty years ago.

Media Files:

Episode #156 -- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Tue, 26 May 2009 05:17:00 +0000

Tuesday, May 26, 2009.  "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" was released twenty years ago today. (Technically, it was released on the Wednesday before, May 24 -- my mistake!)  I talk about the third film in the "Indiana Jones" series, why I think it worked so well, and why the fourth film, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls," which we'd waited almost twenty years to see, just didn't work.

Media Files:

Episode #155 -- Gilda Radner

Wed, 20 May 2009 06:06:00 +0000

Wednesday, May 20, 2009.  Gilda Radner died twenty years ago today.  I share a few memories of the actress and comedienne, who was one of the original (and still the best, to my mind) Not Ready For Prime Time Players.

I apologize for the less-than-stellar vocal quality of this episode.  I'm a bit under the weather, but I didn't want to miss out on this event.  To recall another of Gilda's famous phrases, it's always something, isn't it?

Media Files:

Episode #154 -- New York Subways

Tue, 12 May 2009 07:13:00 +0000

Tuesday, May 12, 2009.  Twenty years ago today, the last graffiti-covered subway car on the New York City system was retired from service.  I talk about the efforts to clean up graffiti on the NYC subways in the late 1980s, and how that changed the image of the subways (and the city itself) for people like me who knew about "The Big Apple" from nothing but TV shows.

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Episode #153 -- Sergio Leone

Fri, 01 May 2009 05:41:00 +0000

Thursday, April 30, 2009. Twenty years ago today, film director Sergio Leone died at the age of 60.  I talk about the achievements of the man who defined the "spaghetti Western," and how I first came to see his movies.

Media Files:

Episode #152 -- Hillsborough Disaster

Wed, 15 Apr 2009 07:04:00 +0000

Wednesday, April 15, 2009.  Twenty years ago today, 96 people lost their lives in a human crush at Hillsborough, a football (soccer) stadium in Sheffield, England.  I talk a little about the worst disaster in the history of English sport, and about the part we all have to play in keeping the memory alive -- even people like me who didn't learn about the disaster until many years after it happened.

The picture at the left is of the memorial to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster at Anfield, the home stadium of Liverpool Football Club.  LFC has never forgotten the tragedy that took the lives of 96 of their supporters, and their website is a great place to begin learning more about the human cost of the Hillsborough disaster.

Media Files:

Episode #151 -- Sugar Ray Robinson

Mon, 13 Apr 2009 06:14:00 +0000

Sunday, April 12, 2009. Sugar Ray Robinson, considered by many to be the greatest boxer of all time, died twenty years ago today.  I talk a little about this remarkable fighter, as well as sharing my own thoughts about being a boxing fan.

Media Files:

Episode #150 -- Polish Round Table Agreement

Tue, 07 Apr 2009 04:52:00 +0000

Monday, April 6, 2009.  Twenty years ago, the Polish Round Table Agreement was signed, setting the stage for the end of Communist government in the nation of Poland.  I give a brief description of the agreement, as well as a glimpse of some of the events yet to come in 1989, which together spelled the end of the Iron Curtain in Europe.

This is the 150th episode of "It Was 20 Years Ago Today."  It's a little hard for me to believe that there have been 150 shows over the last two and a half years.  I want to thank all of my listeners and supporters.  Whether you've just started listening recently, or have been here since the beginning, your downloads and support mean a lot.  Many thanks.

Media Files:

Episode #149 -- The Satanic Verses

Sat, 04 Apr 2009 06:27:00 +0000

Saturday, April 4, 2009. Twenty years ago today, Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses was in the top spot on the New York Times fiction bestseller list.  I take a look at the controversy surrounding the book, and talk about all the things I didn't understand about that controversy -- from twenty years ago to this day.

Media Files:

Episode #148 -- Soviet Union Elections

Thu, 26 Mar 2009 06:36:00 +0000

Thursday, March 26, 2009.  Twenty years ago today, citizens of the Soviet Union went to the polls in the first multi-party elections in that nation in over seventy years.  I take a look at that election, some of its results, and ponder the changes in the world, where for many of us, the Soviet Union has never even existed.

I've also included a promo for the Forgotten Classics podcast, a show where you can find out more about famous books of an even older vintage than I might talk about here.

Media Files:

Episode #147 -- Balancing Eggs on the Equinox

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 06:31:00 +0000

Thursday, March 19, 2009. Twenty years ago today, the New York Times printed an article about the practice of balancing eggs on their ends on the occasion of the spring equinox.  I look at the idea that you can only balance an egg on its end on the equinox -- which is a folktale -- as well as the idea of urban legends in general.

This episode was inspired in large part by a well known article on the Bad Astronomy website.  My favorite reference site for rumors and urban legends is

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Episode #146 -- Ashley Bond-Peters

Mon, 09 Mar 2009 04:36:00 +0000

Sunday, March 8, 2009. Twenty years ago today, Ashley Michelle Bond-Peters was born.  I never knew Ashley -- I learned about her from a website created by her mother as a memorial.  I talk about Ashley and about the way the Internet has changed the ways we relate to one another, in communities and memorials online.

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Episode #145 -- Pay Per View TV

Sat, 07 Mar 2009 07:07:00 +0000

Friday, March 6, 2009.  The issue of Time magazine dated twenty years ago today featured an article about the exapansion of Pay Per View television.  I talk about that article and about PPV-TV, then and today.  Remarkably, it's one technology that really hasn't changed much in twenty years.

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Episode #144 -- Berne Convention

Mon, 02 Mar 2009 05:31:00 +0000

Sunday, March 1, 2009. Twenty years ago today, the provisions of the Berne Convention came into effect in the United States.  I talk about the Berne Convention, copyright law (from the point of view of an interested layperson, not a lawyer) and share a story about how Joe and I got caught up in the complexities of copyright, about a decade ago.

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Episode #143 -- Emperor Showa Funeral

Fri, 27 Feb 2009 05:36:00 +0000

For Tuesday, February 24, 2009. (Apologies for the delay in posting!)  Twenty years ago today, the state funeral for Emperor Showa was held.  I talk about the man who was known as Hirohito during his lifetime, and about the nation he had led for over sixty years.  Japan was a dominant force in the world during the 1980s, for more reasons than one.

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Episode #142 -- Washington's Farewell Address

Mon, 23 Feb 2009 06:51:00 +0000

Sunday, February 22, 2009. Twenty years ago today, Senator Mark Warner read George Washington's Farewell Address on the floor of the Senate, in keeping with a Senate tradition going back to the 19th century.  I talk about the traditions of the Senate, both present and past, and my own fascination with those traditions.

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Episode #141 -- Total Lunar Eclipse

Fri, 20 Feb 2009 05:30:00 +0000

Friday, February 20, 2009.  Twenty years ago today, a total lunar eclipse visible through much of North America occurred.  I share some memories of eclipses and other celestial phenomena I've been fortunate enough to witness.

The picture at the right is of the last total lunar eclipse that was visible in North America, which took place just over a year ago.  I found it on Maryland Weather, a fascinating blog about all sorts of weather and sky phenomena, written by Baltimore Sun reporter Frank Royce.

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Episode #140 -- Soviets Leave Afghanistan

Mon, 16 Feb 2009 05:47:00 +0000

Sunday, February 15, 2009. Twenty years ago today, the last Soviet troops left Afghanistan.  It was the end of the occupation, but not of the war.  I look at the fighting in Afghanistan, and consider the effects of the Cold War on a country which has been in conflict and turmoil for three decades or more.
The historical analysis offered here is strictly my own opinion, based on the sort of material any average American of my age would have access to: newspapers, TV documentaries, and perhaps a few books.  I make no claim to expertise in this (or any other subject I talk about in this podcast), and I have no ideological ax to grind.  Take it for whatever it's worth to you.

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Episode #139 -- Barbara Clementine Harris

Wed, 11 Feb 2009 08:00:00 +0000

Wednesday, February 11, 2009.  Twenty years ago today, Barbara Harris became the first woman to be ordained bishop in the Episcopal Church.  I talk about the Rt. Rev. Harris, and my own perspectives on Christianity -- I belong to the Episcopal Church also.

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Episode #138 -- Osamu Tezuka

Tue, 10 Feb 2009 23:45:00 +0000

For Monday, February 9, 2009.  Twenty years ago today, Dr. Osamu Tezuka died at the age of 60.  I talk about the man who is known as one of the greatest comic artists of all time, and about my connections to Japanese comics and animation.

The official Osamu Tezuka website can be found here.  At the time of posting, the English language portion of the site is listed as still under construction -- for an excellent English language companion, check out Tezuka In English.

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Episode #137 -- The Cat Came Back

Mon, 02 Feb 2009 08:37:00 +0000

Monday, February 2, 2009.  "It Was 20 Years Ago Today" returns with new episodes, beginning with the final day of the third Los Angeles International Animation Festival, at which "The Cat Came Back" won two awards.  I talk about this, one of my favorite cartoons, and about my fondness for animation going back to childhood.

It is frequently possible to see "The Cat Came Back" via YouTube; I suggest going to the site and searching the title.

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Episode #136 -- Pan Am 103

Sun, 21 Dec 2008 20:59:00 +0000

Sunday, December 21, 2008. Twenty years ago today, Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland.  I discuss the story of the most deadly terrorist attack against Americans prior to September 11, 2001, a story that is far from over twenty years later.

The podcast will be taking a short hiatus to recharge and get a jump on preparing new episodes.  When I return on February 2, I'll be talking about one of the best cartoons ever made.

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Episode #135 -- Spitak Earthquake

Sun, 07 Dec 2008 20:06:00 +0000

Sunday, December 7, 2008.  Twenty years ago today, a major earthquake struck the city of Spitak, in what was then Soviet Armenia.  At least 25,000 people were killed in this disaster.  I look at why so many people were killed in this earthquake, and my thoughts about the prospect of being in a natural disaster myself.

People from nations all over the world stepped in to help rebuild after the Spitak earthquake.  The picture here is a statue that the people of Armenia gave to the United States as a token of gratitude.  It stands near the Red Cross Building in Washington D.C.

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Episode #134 -- The Steel Cloud

Fri, 05 Dec 2008 16:26:00 +0000

Friday, December 5, 2008. Twenty years ago today, plans for a unique monument called the Steel Cloud were unveiled in Los Angeles.  I tell a little of the story of this oddity in steel and glass that was never built, and muse about visions of the future and how they stack up to reality.

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Episode #133 -- Computer Security Day

Sun, 30 Nov 2008 20:52:00 +0000

Sunday, November 30, 2008. Twenty years ago today was the first Computer Security Day, an event held annually to raise awareness of computer security issues.  I talk about the observation of Computer Security Day, and about the problem of computer malware such as viruses, which were beginning to become a serious problem in 1988.

The image at the right was the first Computer Security Day poster, created for the second CSD in 1989.  It, and all the CSD posters from the past 20 years, can be found at the Computer Security Day website.

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Episode #132 -- Mystery Science Theater 3000

Mon, 24 Nov 2008 07:53:00 +0000

Monday, November 24, 2008. One of my favorite TV shows ever, Mystery Science Theater 3000, made its debut on this day twenty years ago.  It first ran on a small independent station, KTMA, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I share a little about the background of the show, as well as how it resonated for me from the moment I first saw it on the Comedy Channel a few years later.

If you are curious, a number of the KTMA episodes of MST3K are available on YouTube -- a search on "MST3K KTMA" will turn them up.  For more information about MST3K than you could imagine existed, try the official fan site, Satellite News.


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Episode #131 -- Michaela Garecht

Wed, 19 Nov 2008 06:00:00 +0000

Wednesday, November 19, 2008. Twenty years ago today, Michaela Garecht was abducted near her home in Hayward, California.  She has not been seen since.  The picture at the right is an age progression of Michaela to about age 24; she would be 29 now.  I speak about Michaela's disappearance, my memories of the case (I lived in the Bay Area, about forty miles from Hayward, in 1988), and about Michaela's mother, who has never forgotten her missing daughter.

The MySpace page devoted to Michaela and maintained by her mother, Sharon Murch, can be found here:  Still Missing: Michaela Joy Garecht.

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Episode #130 -- Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988

Tue, 18 Nov 2008 06:59:00 +0000

Tuesday, November 18, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.  I talk about a few of the provisions of this big drug and crime bill, as well as tell the story of how one of those provisions -- regarding pre-employment drug testing -- almost got me into big trouble.

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Episode #129 -- Dorothea Puente

Sun, 16 Nov 2008 18:23:00 +0000

Sunday, November 16, 2008.  Twenty years ago today, serial murderer Dorothea Puente was arrested in Los Angeles.  I talk about the case of this woman, who killed people in her care for their money, and how she gained enduring hatred, among one community in particular.

I'd like to specially thank my husband, Joe Medina, for his insights into how the case of Dorothea Puente resonated in the Hispanic community and his own family.

The TruTV (formerly CourtTV) Crime Library is an excellent resource for information about many historical (and current) criminal cases.  Their entry on Dorothea Puente was quite useful in preparing this show.

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Episode #128 -- The Queen of the Damned

Thu, 13 Nov 2008 16:54:00 +0000

Thursday, November 13, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the number one book on the New York Times fiction best seller list was Anne Rice's The Queen of the Damned.  I had been looking forward to reading this book a lot, but when I did, I couldn't finish it.  I talk about why I was looking forward to the third book in the Chronicles of the Vampires, and why I put it down after less than fifty pages.

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Episode #127 -- Election Day 1988

Sat, 08 Nov 2008 19:52:00 +0000

Saturday, November 8, 2008. Twenty years ago today, George H.W. Bush was elected the 41st president of the United States. I share some facts about that election.  1988 was the first election in which I was able to vote; I share some stories about my history as a voter, and the connections between the 1988 election and the 2008 election.

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Episode #126 -- Indian Gaming Regulatory Act

Fri, 17 Oct 2008 16:56:00 +0000

Friday, October 17, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was signed into law.  This law provided the framework for Native American tribes to run casinos on tribal land, and thus transformed the American landscape.  I talk a little about the Act, its impact, and share some of my own perspectives about gambling.

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Episode #125 -- First National Coming Out Day

Sat, 11 Oct 2008 18:37:00 +0000

Saturday, October 11, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the first National Coming Out Day was observed.  I talk about this holiday which promotes awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights and equality.  I also talk about how my belief in the eqality of LGBT folks was first put to the test, just a little over twenty years ago.

The image at the right is a "Safe Space" logo, used in corporate environments to demonstrate a commitment to tolerance and equality for GLBT people.  I'm proud to have had one on my cubicle wall at work for nearly a decade.

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Episode #124 -- WNBC Signs Off

Tue, 07 Oct 2008 07:24:00 +0000

Tuesday, October 7, 2008. Twenty years ago today, station WNBC in New York signed off for the last time.  I talk about the station which was a pioneer in the world of broadcasting, as well as my own memories of listening to the radio -- particularly AM radio -- when I was growing up.

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Episode #123 -- Pinochet Concedes Defeat

Mon, 06 Oct 2008 07:24:00 +0000

Monday, October 6, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the president of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, went on television to concede defeat in a plebiscite which was intended to confirm him in power.  The picture here was taken about a month before the plebiscite took place.  I share my thoughts about what happened in Chile 20 years ago, as well as my own efforts in the cause of human rights.

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Episode #122 -- Bentsen/Quayle Debate

Sun, 05 Oct 2008 21:42:00 +0000

Sunday, October 5, 2008.  Twenty years ago today, Senators Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle met for their vice-presidential debate.  Out of that debate came one of the finest political zingers of all time.  I recall that moment, and my own opinions of it.

In addition to his famous put-down, Bentsen also coined another political term, "astroturfing," to describe what appears to be a grass-roots activism effort that really isn't.

An extra special thanks to Joe Medina, who got the sound clip for me by extracting it from a video file.  It seems that there are plenty of video copies of this moment out on the net, but no standalone audio!

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Episode #121 -- STS-26 Returns to Earth

Fri, 03 Oct 2008 05:39:00 +0000

Friday, October 3, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the space shuttle Discovery landed, marking the successful conclusion of mission STS-26. I talk about that mission, which marked the return to flight after the loss of shuttle Columbia over two years before, and share my love for and memories of the space program.

This show also marks the second anniversary of "It Was 20 Years Ago Today."  I want to thank everyone who has made this show possible, especially Joe Medina, who has always been there with research, technical help and motivation.  Marc Rose composed and performs the theme music, and has also given technical help, as has Sam A. Mowry of the Willamette Radio Workshop.  Thank you all so much!

I also want to thank all of you who take the time to download and listen to the show, whether it be every episode or just a few.  Two years is nearly forever in the world of podcasting, but I hope to keep this show going for a long time still.  The best is yet to come!

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Episode #120 -- Charles Addams

Mon, 29 Sep 2008 04:45:00 +0000

Monday, September 29, 2008. Twenty years ago today, Charles Addams died at the age of 76.  I take a look at the life and career of the celebrated cartoonist of the creepy and the influence he had on my life.

If by some chance you have not seen the Addams Family commercial for M&Ms Dark Chocolate, you can find it on the M&Ms website.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #119 -- Japanese Canadian Redress

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 05:40:00 +0000

Monday, September 22, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the Canadian Government announced an act of redress toward Japanese Canadians who had been interned during World War II.  I talk about the Canadian act, as well as the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, its United States counterpart, which had been signed into law just six weeks earlier.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #118 -- A Fish Called Wanda

Thu, 18 Sep 2008 07:38:00 +0000

Thursday, September 18, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the number one movie at the USA box office was "A Fish Called Wanda."  I talk about why this is one of my favorite movies of all time, as well as offering a few observations about the difference between the box office charts then and now.  For both the number one and two movies to have been in release for two months is something just about impossible today.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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2008 People's Choice Podcast Awards -- Please Nominate Us!

Mon, 15 Sep 2008 02:55:00 +0000

Nominations are opening shortly for the 2008 People's Choice Podcast Awards, presented by the fine folks at Podcast Connect, home to Geek News Central.  Please take a few minutes and nominate "It Was 20 Years Ago Today" by clicking on the Podcast Awards banner at the right, or by visiting the PodCastAwards website.

Thanks for the support!

Episode #117 -- Hurricane Gilbert

Sat, 13 Sep 2008 05:11:00 +0000

Saturday, September 13, 2008. Twenty years ago today, Hurricane Gilbert became the most intense hurricane ever measured in the western hemisphere.  I talk about Gilbert, its intensity, path, and effects.  I also add some thoughts of my own about the people who live and work in the paths of tropical cyclones.

As this podcast goes out, Hurricane Ike is wreaking havoc on the coast of Texas and Louisiana.  If you can spare a few dollars to help the many thousands of people gravely affected by this storm, I'd encourage you to take a few minutes and make a donation to the American Red Cross or other disaster relief agency of your choice.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #116 -- Aline Chat Service

Sun, 07 Sep 2008 19:54:00 +0000

Sunday, September 7, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the New York Times featured an article about a new computer chat service called Aline. I talk about that long-gone service and also about another computer chat protocol invented twenty years ago and still going strong, IRC.  I also discuss how the revolution in online communications has affected the world of science fiction fandom.

If you happen to be a Doctor Who fan and would be interested in seeing that last fanzine, I have it available as a PDF.  Just email me.  For more fan fiction online, you can check out the site, a clearinghouse of creative efforts from fans of more TV shows and movies than you can possibly imagine.  I do have one story there myself, in the Babylon 5 section, and a fragment in the Crusade section.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #115 -- Channel Tunnel

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 05:01:00 +0000

For December 15, 2007. Twenty years ago on this day, digging began on the tunnel beneath the English Channel.  I describe a little about the Channel Tunnel (also known as Eurotunnel or the Chunnel), a concept drawing of which is seen here.  I also talk about why I find large engineering and construction projects like the Chunnel so fascinating.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #114 -- Ramstein Air Show Disaster

Thu, 28 Aug 2008 19:46:00 +0000

Thursday, August 28, 2008. Twenty years ago today, a mid-air collision during an airshow at Ramstein Air Base in West Germany killed three pilots and 67 people on the ground.  I talk about how this event, possibly the worst airshow disaster in history, took place, and about the emotional reaction I had to it.

Witnesses and survivors of the Ramstein airshow disaster can be found in a number of places on the Internet -- a principal one is at the site  The translation of lyrics for the song 'Ramstein,' along with many other Rammstein songs, can be found at the fan site  Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #113 -- Wayne Gretzky trade

Fri, 22 Aug 2008 07:06:00 +0000

Friday, August 22, 2008. The feature article in Sports Illustrated twenty years ago today (the cover of the magazine is pictured here) was all about a history-making trade of a history-making player, Wayne Gretzky.  I talk about the trade, Gretzky's career, and how his being traded to the Los Angeles Kings influenced the development of the National Hockey League in the years after.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #112 -- Cesar Chavez Ends Fast

Thu, 21 Aug 2008 04:47:00 +0000

Thursday, August 21, 2008.  Twenty years ago today, farm labor leader Cesar Chavez ended a water-only fast after 36 days.  I take a look at Chavez, his fast, and his legacy, as well as several issues that were part of his life's work -- the plight of farm workers and the ongoing controversy over immigration.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #111 -- Iran-Iraq War Ends

Wed, 20 Aug 2008 07:18:00 +0000

Wednesday, August 20, 2008. Twenty years ago today, a cease-fire began which ended the Iran-Iraq War.  I take a look at some of the effects of a war that lasted nearly eight years, but is still having a direct effect on us, twenty years after it ended.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #110 -- Minoxidil Approved by FDA

Mon, 18 Aug 2008 05:01:00 +0000

Monday, August 18, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the drug minoxidil was approved by the FDA as a treatment for male pattern baldness.  It is still sold today, most often under the brand name Rogaine.  I talk about minoxidil and male pattern baldness -- an issue which is every bit as important to those who have to deal with it today as it was twenty years ago.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #109 -- Rhyme Pays

Sat, 12 Jul 2008 23:56:00 +0000

For November 11, 2007.  It was twenty years ago that the major label debut of rap artist Ice-T, 'Rhyme Pays,' was released.  There's no explicit lyrics in this podcast, but I do talk about the record and its influence on the genre.  I also offer some thoughts on the nature of soul, art, and pop culture.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #108 -- Robert Bork

Mon, 09 Jun 2008 16:01:00 +0000

For October 23, 2007. Twenty years ago on this day, the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court was rejected by the U.S. Senate. I talk about the Bork nomination, how I listened to the hearings, and offer my interpretation of some of the catchphrases that fly around whenever there's a Supreme Court nomination on the table.

This is the first of a number of "backlog" episodes which I'll be posting along with current date ones. 

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #107 -- James Frey's First DUI

Mon, 09 Jun 2008 02:30:00 +0000

Sunday, June 8, 2008. Twenty years ago today, a young man named James Frey was arrested for drunk driving.  This would have been an event of little import except for the fact that Frey wrote about it fifteen years later, in a book that purported to be a memoir but turned out to have little to do with reality.  I take a look at the story of 'A Million Little Pieces,' and also compare the sort of memoirs which were on the bestseller list twenty years ago and today.

The full version of James Frey's June 8, 1998 mugshot, and much of the information about the lies in 'A Million Little Pieces,' can be found at The Smoking Gun website.  Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #106 -- Poe's Tamerlane

Sat, 07 Jun 2008 22:49:00 +0000

Saturday, June 7, 2008. Twenty years ago today, a copy of Edgar Allan Poe's 'Tamerlane and Other Poems' sold at auction for $198,000.  I talk about the book and the circumstances of its sale, my own fondness for books, and why I probably won't become a rare book collector, as much as I would like to!

The image of the 'Tamerlane' cover pictured here, as well as much of the information about the 1988 sale, comes from the website of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.  Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #105 -- Robert A. Heinlein

Thu, 08 May 2008 04:52:00 +0000

Thursday, May 8, 2008. Twenty years ago today, Robert A. Heinlein died at the age of eighty.  I share my thoughts on the work of the man who even today is considered the dean of science fiction.  I also offer my excuses for why I haven't read more of his work, and why I now intend to change that.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #104 -- Winning Colors

Wed, 07 May 2008 03:42:00 +0000

Wednesday, May 7, 2008. Twenty years ago today, Winning Colors became the third filly to win the Kentucky Derby, and the last filly to date.  I talk a little bit about her, as well as the story of Eight Belles, who very nearly became the next filly to win the Derby this year -- but sadly, did not leave the track alive.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #103 -- Superfoods

Fri, 04 Apr 2008 05:40:00 +0000

Friday, April 4, 2008. Twenty years ago this week, the magazine Science News reported on ellagic acid, a substance found in berries and nuts, and how it might help prevent cancer. I talk about the article, and about the wide variety of 'superfoods' which have come and gone over the years. Wolfberries, or goji berries, are one of the latest superfoods, pictured here.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #102 -- E Stamps

Thu, 03 Apr 2008 04:41:00 +0000

Thursday, April 3, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the postage rate for a first class letter in the United States went from 22 to 25 cents. The special stamp used at the time of that increase is pictured at the right. I talk about letters and the fast-fading art of letter writing, along with an invitation to become a pen pal!

I found a website that chronicles the history of first class postage rates from the nineteenth century to the present day, by Andrew K Dart very helpful in researching this show. Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #101 -- Halabja Gas Attack

Mon, 17 Mar 2008 02:42:00 +0000

Sunday, March 16, 2008. Twenty years ago today, a poison gas attack was launched over the town of Halabja, in northern Iraq. I take a look at the conflicting versions of events on that dreadful day, and how the truth has been twisted to serve political purposes.

The picture at the right is from March 16, 2006, when a group of angry Halabja citizens destroyed a museum memorializing the event.  They too believe the tragedy of their city is being used to score political points.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #100 -- 386 Chip

Sat, 15 Mar 2008 17:38:00 +0000

Saturday, March 15, 2008. For the 100th episode of 'It Was 20 Years Ago Today,' I take a look at one of the areas where our lives have changed most dramatically over the past twenty years -- computer technology. An article in Software Magazine dated twenty years ago today chronicled the difficulties users were having in taking advantage of the full power and capabilities of the Intel386 microprocessor.

Today's episode music is from 'Newtecky,' by Father Rock.  Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

I want to thank all of you for your feedback and support during the first eighteen months and 100 episodes of the show.  On to the next 100!

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Episode #99 -- Drinking Age

Tue, 11 Mar 2008 06:35:00 +0000

Tuesday, March 11, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the state of Wyoming became the last of the 50 United States to raise the legal drinking age to 21. I talk about the Wyoming law, drinking age laws in general, and some of my own personal experiences with alcohol.

After the show, there is a promo for Yog Radio, the Cthulhu gaming podcast from the fine folks at

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #98 -- Minis Aren't Back After All

Sun, 09 Mar 2008 17:30:00 +0000

Sunday, March 9, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the New York Times ran a front-page story about a new trend in women's fashion that fizzled.  I talk about that story, and about my own experiences with clothes and fashion.

Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #97 -- George HW Bush

Sat, 08 Mar 2008 07:05:00 +0000

Written and recorded for October 13, 2007. Twenty years ago today, George HW Bush (pictured at the right with Margaret Thatcher) declared his candidacy for President of the United States.  I look back at that election, and compare it with the present run for the White House.

Just a reminder: I wrote and recorded this show late in 2007.  The situation with the election has developed since then, in ways many of us never expected.  A good reminder that history in the making is dynamic indeed!

Today's episode music is from 'Confusion,' by Commander Yo.  Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

After the show there's a promo for the Icebox Radio Theater, a podcast spotlighting new and original audio drama from International Falls, Minnesota.  Well worth a listen!

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Episode #96 -- South Africa & Northern Ireland

Fri, 07 Mar 2008 06:59:00 +0000

March 7, 2008. The issue of Time Magazine dated 20 years ago today (the cover can be seen at the right) carried stories on increasing tensions in two strife-torn areas of the world: South Africa and Northern Ireland. I look at those stories, and take note of how different the situation is in both those places today.

Today's episode music is from 'Voyage,' by Victor Stellar.  Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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Episode #95 -- Calgary Olympics

Thu, 28 Feb 2008 06:18:00 +0000

February 28, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the Winter Olympics in Calgary (you can see the logo here) came to an end.  I talk about the Games, and recall one of the most memorable stories to come out of those sixteen days in Calgary.

Today's episode music is from 'Duel Key Dreamer,' by Father Rock. Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

After the show is a promo for Decoder Ring Theatre, one of my favorite audio drama podcasts.  Go check 'em out.

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Episode #94 -- Hustler Magazine v. Jerry Falwell

Sun, 24 Feb 2008 22:21:00 +0000

February 24, 2008. Twenty years ago today, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Hustler Magazine v. Jerry Falwell.  I talk about the case which strengthened the First Amendment's protections in matters of parody and caricature, and offer a few thoughts on why caricature, parody and satire are so important.

Today's episode music is from 'Weapons of Mass SIDduction,' by DJ Topshelf.  Our theme music is composed and performed by Marc Rose.

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