The Thing About Today – February 22

February 22, 2020
Day 53 of 366

 

February 22nd is the fifty-third day of the year. It marks Independence Day in Saint Lucia after separating from the United Kingdom in 1979.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National California Day, National Cook a Sweet Potato Day, and National Margarita Day. Get all three by cooking a sweet potato while drinking a margarita in California.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1632, Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, received the first printed copy of Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The Grand Duke was the dedicatee of the book that compared the Copernican system (the orbital model that shows the Sun as the center of the solar system) with the more traditional Ptolemaic system (the orbital model in which everything revolves around the Earth).
  • In 1732, George Washington was born. He was a general in the American Revolution and the first President of the United States.
  • In 1819, Spain sold Florida to the United States for five million U.S. dollars under the Adams–Onís Treaty.
  • In 1862, Jefferson Davis was officially inaugurated for a six-year term as the President of the Confederate States of America in Richmond, Virginia. He was previously inaugurated as a provisional president on February 18, 1861.
  • In 1878, Frank Woolworth opens the first of many of five-and-dime Woolworth stores. The first store was located in Utica, New York.
  • In 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill admitting North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington as U.S. states.
  • In 1909, the sixteen battleships of the Great White Fleet, led by USS Connecticut, returned to the United States after a voyage around the world.
  • In 1915, the Imperial German Navy instituted unrestricted submarine warfare.
  • In 1924, United States President Calvin Coolidge becomes the first President to deliver a radio address from the White House.
  • In 1950, basketball star and sportscaster Julius “Dr. J” Erving was born.
  • In 1959, Kyle MacLachlan was born.
  • In 1962, zoologist and television host Steve Irwin was born.
  • In 1968, actress Jeri Ryan was born.
  • In 1975, Drew Barrymore was born.
  • In 1980, the “Miracle on Ice” occurred at the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York when the United States hockey team defeated the Soviet Union hockey team by a 4-3 score.

 

In 1857, Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, was born. In 1889, Lady Olave Baden-Powell, GBE was born. Together, along with Robert’s sister Agnes, they founded the Scouting and Guiding movements.

Robert Baden-Powell was a British Army officer who wrote several military books. Using them as a guide, he wrote Scouting for Boys in 1908 and formed The Boy Scouts Association in 1910 after retiring from the army as a lieutenant general. In 1909, Baden-Powell attended a rally of Scouts, many of whom had joined and spontaneously formed troops, at Crystal Palace in London. There he met with some of the first Girl Scouts, and his sister Agnes Baden-Powell formed the Girl Guides soon after.

The movement soon became an international phenomenon, leading the formation of the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA.

In 1912, Robert Baden-Powell met Olave St Clair Soames while en route to New York on a Scouting World Tour. They were married later that same year, and she became the first Chief Guide for Britain and World Chief Guide in 1930 for her major contributions to the development of the movement.

Robert Baden-Powell died on January 8, 1941, and was buried at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Nyeri, Kenya. Olave Baden-Powell, who was 32 years younger than her husband, died on June 25, 1977. Her ashes were taken to the same gravesite, which has now become a national monument.

The legacy of the Baden-Powell family is honored on February 22nd with Founder’s Day (for the World Organization of the Scout Movement) and World Thinking Day (for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts).

Despite all of the turmoil within the Boy Scouts of America, the Baden-Powells still hold a special place in my heart for the years of my childhood that I spent in the Scouting program. I earned my Eagle Scout award at the age of 15 and look back fondly on the experiences and friendships developed on that path.

 

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

 

 

Culture on My Mind – The Tiger Returns

Culture on My Mind
February 21, 2020

This week’s “can’t let it go” is a slice of my childhood.

 

On February 19, Hasbro announced that they have plans to tap that nostalgia well one more time with the Tiger LCD handheld games.

In an attempt to break into the portable gaming market, Tiger sold very basic versions of existing video games in a liquid crystal display format powered by two AA batteries. Housing one game per unit, they had basic four-direction controls, limited actions, and simple sounds, but they were still engaging. I spent countless hours playing Double Dragon (hence the vintage commercial above) to master the proper timing to beat all four levels and rescue Marian.

Hasbro intends to launch these retro devices this autumn. The launch titles include The Little MermaidTransformers: Generation 2X-Men Project X, and Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Each game will retail for $14.99, and they’re up for pre-order now at GameStop.

 

Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The Thing About Today – February 21

February 21, 2020
Day 52 of 366

 

February 21st is the fifty-second day of the year. It marks the ancient Roman festival of Ferālia, a celebration of the Manes (Roman spirits of the dead, particularly the souls of deceased individuals), which fell on 21 February as recorded by Ovid in Book II of his Fasti. It’s the end of Parentalia, a nine-day festival honoring the dead ancestors.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Grain-Free Day, National Sticky Bun Day, and National Caregivers Day. That last one is typically observed on the third Friday in February.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1804, the first self-propelling steam locomotive debuted at the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Wales.
  • In 1808, Russian troops crossed the border to Sweden at Abborfors in eastern Finland, without a previous declaration of war, thus beginning the Finnish War. In the end, Sweden lost the eastern half of the country to Russia.
  • In 1828, the initial issue of the Cherokee Phoenix was published. It was the first periodical to use the Cherokee syllabary invented by Sequoyah.
  • In 1842, John Greenough was granted the first U.S. patent for the sewing machine.
  • In 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto.
  • In 1866, Lucy Hobbs Taylor became the first American woman to graduate from dental school.
  • In 1885, the newly completed Washington Monument was dedicated.
  • In 1916, the Battle of Verdun began. The longest confrontation of World War I, the battle was fought from February to mid-December on the Western Front in France. It was the most costly battle in human history, totaling over 714,000 casualties in 302 days.
  • In 1925, The New Yorker published its first issue.
  • In 1927, American journalist and author Erma Bombeck was born.
  • In 1933, singer-songwriter and pianist Nina Simone was born.
  • In 1937, actor Gary Lockwood was born.
  • In 1946, actor and producer Anthony Daniels was born. He portrayed C-3PO in loads of Star Wars media.
  • Also in 1946, actor and director Alan Rickman was born.
  • Also in 1946, actress Tyne Daly was born.
  • In 1947, Edwin Land demonstrated the first “instant camera”, the Polaroid Land Camera, to a meeting of the Optical Society of America in New York City.
  • In 1955, Kelsey Grammer was born.
  • In 1972, President Richard Nixon went to the People’s Republic of China to normalize relations between the two countries.
  • In 1987, actress Ellen Page was born.
  • In 1996, actress Sophie Turner was born.

 

In 1964, Mark and Scott Kelly were born. The twin brother shared similar career trajectories: They were both United States Navy captains, pilots, and astronauts.

Sons of two retired police officers, the brothers were both inspired to join the military. Mark graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy with a bachelor of science degree in marine engineering and nautical science. Scott attended the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) at State University of New York Maritime College (SUNY Maritime) and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering.

Both brothers became naval aviators – Mark flew with Attack Squadron 115 (VA-115) in Atsugi, Japan while Scott was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 143 (VFA-143) in NAS Oceana, Virginia – before reuniting at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Their classmates included future astronauts Alvin Drew, Lisa Nowak, and Stephen Frick.

After being selected for the NASA Astronaut Corps, both brothers worked on the Space Shuttle program. Mark started with STS-108 (Endeavour) and Scott with STS-103 (Discovery).

Mark Kelly’s final mission was STS-134 (Endeavour), after which he retired from NASA and the Navy. His wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, survived an assassination attempt and he retired in order to help with her recovery. In February 2019, he launched his campaign for election to the Senate.

Scott Kelly’s final mission was a year-long study on the International Space Station to better understand the effects of spaceflight on the human body. His brother was used as an Earth-bound control. He retired from NASA after returning home, having retired from the Navy four years earlier.

The Kelly brothers are the only known siblings to have both traveled in space.

 

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

 

 

The Thing About Today – February 20

February 20, 2020
Day 51 of 366

 

February 20th is the fifty-first day of the year. It is the World Day of Social Justice, also known as Social Justice Equality Day, which recognizes the need to promote social justice. That includes efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion, gender equality, unemployment, human rights, and social protections.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Cherry Pie Day and National Love Your Pet Day. Not that we need a special day for that in our household…

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1792, the Postal Service Act was signed by President George Washington, thus establishing the United States Post Office Department.
  • In 1816, Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville premiered at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.
  • In 1872, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in New York City.
  • In 1877, Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
  • In 1925, director and screenwriter Robert Altman was born.
  • In 1927, actor Sidney Poitier was born. He was the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.
  • In 1931, the United States Congress approved the construction of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge by the state of California.
  • In 1933, the United States Congress approved the Blaine Act to repeal federal Prohibition in the United States. This sent the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution (which would repeal the Eighteenth Amendment) to state ratifying conventions for approval.
  • In 1935, Caroline Mikkelsen became the first woman to set foot in Antarctica.
  • In 1944, the Batman & Robin comic strip premiered in newspapers.
  • In 1954, actor and musician Anthony Stewart Head was born.
  • In 1956, the United States Merchant Marine Academy became a permanent Service Academy.
  • In 1962, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, making three orbits in four hours, 55 minutes while aboard Friendship 7.
  • In 1984, comedian and actor Trevor Noah was born.
  • In 1986, the Soviet Union launched the Mir spacecraft. It remained in orbit for fifteen years and was occupied for ten.

 

In 1962, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, making three orbits in four hours, 55 minutes while aboard Friendship 7.

Formally known as the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6), it was the fifth human spaceflight after Vostoks 1 and 2 (both orbital flights by the Soviets) and Mercury-Redstones 3 and 4 (both sub-orbital flights by the Americans). After Mercury-Atlas 5 successfully took Enos the Chimp to orbit and back, Marine Corps aviator John Glenn was chosen to pilot Friendship 7. Glenn was a distinguished fighter pilot in World War II, China, and Korea. He shot down three MiG-15s and was awarded six Distinguished Flying Crosses and eighteen Air Medals. In 1957, he made the first supersonic transcontinental flight across the United States, during which the first continuous, panoramic photograph of the country was taken.

The mission was first announced for a January 16 launch but was postponed for over a month due to various issues. Once the capsule was launched, Glenn witnessed dust storms on the planet below, twilight and sunset over the Indian Ocean, and the “fireflies” of ice crystals venting from spacecraft systems.

Friendship 7 splashed down in the North Atlantic and was retrieved by the destroyer USS Noa. The spacecraft was preserved and is currently displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The mission is portrayed from different points of view in the films The Right Stuff and Hidden Figures.

John Glenn went on to receive the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1962, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990. After leaving NASA in January 1964, he served in the United States Senate from 1974 to 1999, returning to space in 1998 on the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95). At the age of 77, he was the oldest person to fly into space.

John Glenn was the oldest and last surviving member of the Mercury Seven. He died in 2016 at the age of 95.

 

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #TW25: Fragments

Torchwood: Fragments
(1 episode, s02e12, 2008)

 

Torchwood Three: This Is Your Life!

The Torchwood Three team is investigating a derelict building. Ianto pages Gwen to join them as soon as possible, then teams with Owen while Jack and Tosh take a different direction. As they explore, they each find an explosive device that ticks to zero.

Snap.

Boom.

Gwen wakes up to Ianto’s message and rushes to the scene while we tuck into a series of flashback stories.

 

Captain Jack Harkness – 1,392 deaths earlier

Jack resurrects with a wine bottle in his gut. It’s 1899, thirty years since he accidentally landed in the era while searching for the Doctor. He finds himself face-to-face with two women in Victorian garb – agents Alice Guppy and Emily Holroyd – who kidnap and interrogate him. They try different methods of killing him, intrigued by his 14 deaths in the last six months, and ask him about the Doctor.

Eventually, they identify themselves as the Torchwood Institute – at this point, they’re still dedicated to fighting the Doctor – and decide to take him on as an agent. His first mission is apprehending a Blowfish, but he’s angry when Torchwood agents kill the alien in cold blood. He also finds out that his employment is mandatory.

When he turns down his next assignment, he encounters a tarot card reader who prophesizes the Doctor’s return in a century. With nothing better to do, he returns to Torchwood and passes the years with his work.

Decades later, on New Year’s Eve 1999, he’s working for Alex Hopkins. Unfortunately, Hopkins is fearful of the new millennium and kills the entire team in the Hub. He leaves Jack the entire operation as he puts a bullet in his brain.

 

In the modern time, Jack wakes up to find Rhys and Gwen standing over him. He directs them to find Tosh, who is trapped under a fallen support beam.

 

Toshiko Sato – 5 years earlier

Tosh, working for the Ministry of Defence, steals information for a vicious gang that is holding her mother for ransom. Using the blueprints, she assembles the sonic modulator device and arrives at the exchange site, but she’s caught during a UNIT raid.

Locked away in a top-secret black site for an undisclosed period of time, she’s eventually visited by Jack. Her mother has been Retconned and taken to safety. Tosh, who successfully built the device from faulty plans, is offered a pardon in exchange for her service to Torchwood.

 

Back in the modern time, Rhys and Gwen attempt to free Tosh, but they’re not able to do so alone. Gwen rushes off as Jack comes across Ianto, who is trapped under a pile of rubble.

 

Ianto Jones – 21 months earlier

Jack is wrestling with a Weevil when Ianto comes to his aid. Ianto is looking for a job after his former workplace, Torchwood One, was destroyed. Ianto’s persistence (and constant praise of Jack’s coat) eventually pay off after he helps capture Myfanwy the pterodactyl. Jack claims that it wasn’t his first experience wrangling dinosaurs since he was present when they perished after an impact from space.

 

In the ruined building, Jack and Gwen pull Ianto free and put his shoulder back in place. Jack takes Ianto to help with Tosh while Gwen looks for Owen.

 

Owen Harper – 4 years earlier

Owen and his fiancée Katie are planning their wedding when she starts having memory problems. They consult with a brain surgeon who suggests early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. When Owen presses the issue, they discover that Katie has a tumor in her brain. In reality, the tumor is an alien and when it is threatened, it releases toxic gas and kills everyone in the operating room.

Jack arrives moments too late and expresses his condolences as he explains the situation to Owen. Owen protests and Jack knocks him out. When Owen wakes up, he discovers a massive cover-up and is given time to sort his affairs.

He meets Jack again at Katie’s grave, and after a fight, Owen agrees to join Torchwood as the team’s medical officer.

 

In the present, Gwen finds Owen precariously perched beneath a guillotine-like window. After a tense moment, Gwen pulls him free.

The team assembles outside to find that the SUV has been taken. They receive a holographic message from Captain John Hart. Hart claims credit for the bombs and reveals that he has taken Jack’s brother Gray hostage.

 

The synopsis may be brief, but there is a lot to unpack in this story as it puts our heroes on a collision course with the finale. Specifically, we get the backstories for most of the Torchwood team. Suzie Costello is the only original member not to be put under the microscope at this point, but we still know quite a bit about her from previous appearances. Being the rogue agent/black sheep of the family, it makes sense that she’s not explored any further.

Of course, we don’t need a backstory for Gwen. Everything since the pilot episode has been her story with Torchwood Three.

This marks a couple of firsts for Torchwood: First, the Doctor is explicitly name-checked here instead of just being nodded to. Second, this is the first appearance of UNIT in the series, and they are far more malevolent than we’ve seen them in the past. Jack’s probably right that this is due to the political climate of the era since Tosh’s flashbacks take place circa 2003, right in the fervent upswing of the Global War on Terrorism.

That’s science fiction doing what science fiction does best: Acting as a lens on the human condition.

We also get quite a few brushes with Doctor Who mythology, from Earthshock to the television movie and all of the elements of Torchwood established in the revival era.

A cynic from the Joss Whedon School of Screenwriting might think that all of these revelations mean bad omens for our team. Sadly, they would be right, which we’ll find out next week when the John Hart/Gray arc finds its resolution.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Exit Wounds

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

The Thing About Today – February 19

February 19, 2020
Day 50 of 366

 

February 19th is the fiftieth day of the year. It is Armed Forces Day in Mexico.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Chocolate Mint Day, National Lash Day, and National Vet Girls RISE Day.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1473, Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish mathematician and astronomer, was born.
  • In 1674, England and the Netherlands ended the Third Anglo-Dutch War by signing the Treaty of Westminster. One provision of that agreement transferred the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam to England. The British renamed it New York.
  • In 1878, Thomas Edison patented the phonograph.
  • In 1940, singer-songwriter and producer Smokey Robinson was born.
  • In 1953, the State of Georgia became the first to approve a literature censorship board in the United States.
  • In 1960, Bill Keane’s Family Circus premiered.
  • In 1963, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published. It reawakened the feminist movement in the United States.
  • In 1967, Benicio del Toro was born.
  • In 2004, Millie Bobbie Brown was born.

 

In 1946, Karen Silkwood was born.

Karen Silkwood was a chemical technician and labor union activist who worked at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site in Oklahoma. After being hired at the site, she joined the local Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union and took part in a strike at the plant. Afterward, she was elected to the union’s bargaining committee, becoming the first woman to achieve that position at the plant.

During her assignment to investigate health and safety issues, she discovered what appeared to be numerous violations of health regulations, including exposure of workers to contamination, faulty respiratory equipment and improper storage of samples. Additionally, she believed that the lack of sufficient shower facilities could increase the risk of employee contamination. She eventually testified to the Atomic Energy Commission about her concerns.

Months after her testimony, she performed a routine self-check and found that her body contained nearly 400 times the legal limit for plutonium contamination. She was decontaminated on-site and sent home with a kit to collect bodily samples for later analysis. The odd part was that plutonium was discovered inside her gloves, but the gloves were intact, suggesting that the contamination had come from somewhere else.

The next morning, she tested positive again despite having only done administrative paperwork in the interim and was more vigorously decontaminated in what has become colloquially known as the “Silkwood shower”. The next day, she was tested positive again, and a health physics team followed her home and found plutonium on several surfaces. Her home was intensively decontaminated and Silkwood, her boyfriend, and her roommate were sent to Los Alamos National Laboratory for in-depth testing.

Questions arose about the incident and Silkwood eventually decided to go public with her claims against the site, including extensive documentation. While driving to meet with New York Times journalist David Burnham, she died in a car crash under unclear circumstances. The documents were missing from her car and the police report stated that she fell asleep at the wheel. Rumors suggested that drugs were involved, though forensic evidence at the scene pointed toward foul play.

Her family sued Kerr-McGee for the plutonium contamination, and the company settled out of court for $1.38 million while not admitting liability.

Karen Silkwood’s story was told in the Academy Award-nominated film Silkwood from 1983, in which she was portrayed by Meryl Streep.

 

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

 

 

The Thing About Today – February 18

February 18, 2020
Day 49 of 366

 

February 18th is the forty-ninth day of the year. It is Wife’s Day (Konudagur) in Iceland, which traditionally falls on the first day of Góa according to the old Icelandic calendar.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Battery Day (honoring the storage device, not beating on someone), National Crab Stuffed Flounder Day, and National Drink Wine Day.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1791, Congress passed a law admitting the state of Vermont to the Union, effective on March 4th. Of course, the state had already existed for fourteen years as a de facto independent largely unrecognized state.
  • In 1861, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the provisional President of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Alabama.
  • In 1878, the Lincoln County War began in Lincoln County, New Mexico after John Tunstall was murdered by the outlaw Jesse Evans.
  • In 1885, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was published.
  • In 1930, Elm Farm Ollie became both the first cow to fly in a fixed-wing aircraft and the first cow to be milked in an aircraft.
  • In 1931, Toni Morrison was born. She was an American novelist, editor, and Nobel Prize laureate.
  • In 1950, Cybill Shepherd was born.
  • In 1954, John Travolta was born.
  • In 1968, Molly Ringwald was born.
  • In 1977, the Space Shuttle Enterprise test vehicle was ferried on its maiden “flight” on top of a Boeing 747.

 

In 1950, filmmaker John Hughes was born.

John Hughes began his career by selling jokes to performers like Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. After several copywriting jobs, he landed as an author of satirical essays for National Lampoon magazine. His first story was “Vacation ’58”, which was inspired by his family trips as a child and became the basis for the film National Lampoon’s Vacation.

His first credited screenplay, National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, was written while he was at the magazine, and it became the second major flop that tried to duplicate the success of National Lampoon’s Animal House. Undaunted, Hughes wrote Vacation and Mr. Mom, earning him a three-film deal with Universal Pictures.

His directorial debut was Sixteen Candles in 1984 and was considered a refreshing look at adolescence and high school life in comparison to raunchier Porky’s-inspired films. He continued his “teen movie” style with The Breakfast ClubPretty in PinkWeird ScienceFerris Bueller’s Day Off, and Some Kind of Wonderful. All of these films became iconic of the early to mid-1980s.

He branched out in 1987 with a wider style, including Planes, Trains, and AutomobilesUncle BuckNational Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Curly Sue. That last film was his final directorial effort, capping an era of filmmaking that wasn’t nearly as popular as his teen films. I’m in the minority in that regard.

He also served as writer and/or producer on a long list of films, including The Great Outdoors, the first three Home Alone films, Career Opportunities, the first two Beethoven films, Miracle on 34th Street, Maid in Manhattan101 Dalmatians, and Flubber.

John Hughes retired in 1994. He died of a heart attack on August 5, 2009, at the age of 59.

 

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.