The Thing About Today – January 4

January 4, 2020
Day 4 of 366


January 4th is the fourth day of the year. It is the eleventh of the Twelve Days of Christmas and the celebration of World Braille Day.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Missouri Day, National Spaghetti Day, and National Trivia Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1643, English mathematician and physicist Isaac Newton was born.
  • In 1762, Great Britain declared war on Spain and entered the Seven Years’ War.
  • In 1785, Jacob Grimm was born. He was the eldest of the Brothers Grimm.
  • In 1809, Louis Braille was born. He invented the Braille language.
  • In 1853, Solomon Northrup regained his freedom after having been kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South. His memoir, Twelve Years a Slave, became a national bestseller.
  • In 1896, Utah was admitted as the 45th U.S. state.
  • In 1903, Topsy the Elephant was killed by electrocution at Coney Island, New York. The gruesome spectacle was filmed by the Edison Manufacturing movie company and released later as the first animal death filmed in history.
  • In 1959, Luna 1 reached the vicinity of the Moon.
  • In 1963, Canadian comedian, actor, director, and producer Dave Foley was born.
  • In 1984, Night Court premiered on NBC.
  • In 2004, NASA rover Spirit landed on Mars.
  • In 2010, the Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai. It was the world’s tallest building upon opening and retains the record as of this writing.


In 1916, Lionel Newman was born. He was an American conductor, pianist, and film and television composer. A member of the famous musical Newman family – he was the brother of Alfred and Emil Newman, grandfather of Joey Newman, and uncle of Randy Newman, David Newman, Thomas Newman, and Maria Newman – his eleven Oscar nominations contributed to the family’s record as the most nominated Academy Award extended family (with 92 nominations in total). He won the Academy Award for Best Score of a Musical Picture for 1969’s Hello Dolly!

Newman was the youngest of seven boys in a family of ten children, born in New Haven, Connecticut to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. He joined 20th Century Fox as a rehearsal pianist under his brother Alfred’s guidance, eventually moving to Musical Director for Television, vice president in charge of music for both television and feature films, and senior vice president of all music at Twentieth Century Fox Films.

His tenure with Fox spanned 46 years and over 200 films. He was the musical director for all of Marilyn Monroe’s films and the musical supervisor for the original Star Wars trilogy. He died in 1989, but his legacy continues on at the Twentieth Century Fox Music Department, which was dedicated as “The Lionel Newman Music Building” in 2013.


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.




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