May 25, 2020
Day 146 of 366
May 25th is the 146th day of the year. It is Memorial Day in the United States, a day for honoring and mourning the military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The day is typically observed on the last Monday in May.
Historical items of note:
- In 240 BC, the first perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet was recorded.
- In 1787, after a delay of 11 days, the United States Constitutional Convention formally convened in Philadelphia after a quorum of seven states was secured.
- In 1803, poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson was born.
- In 1878, Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore opened at the Opera Comique in London.
- In 1889, Russian-American aircraft designer, and founder of Sikorsky Aircraft, Igor Sikorsky was born.
- In 1895, playwright, poet, novelist, and aesthete Oscar Wilde was convicted of “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons” and sentenced to serve two years in prison.
- In 1925, John T. Scopes was indicted for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in Tennessee. This led to the famous Scopes Trial.
- In 1927, soldier and author Robert Ludlum was born. One of his best-known characters is Jason Bourne.
- In 1931, director and producer Irwin Winkler was born.
- In 1939, actor Ian McKellen was born.
- Also in 1939, actress Dixie Carter was born.
- In 1944, puppeteer, filmmaker, and actor Frank Oz was born.
- In 1951. director, producer, and screenwriter Bob Gale was born.
- In 1953, the United States conducted its first and only nuclear artillery test. The test was conducted at the Nevada Test Site.
- In 1961, United States President John F. Kennedy announced, before a special joint session of Congress, his goal to initiate a project to put a “man on the Moon” before the end of the decade. The Apollo project would succeed at his vision eight years later.
- In 1969, actress Anne Heche was born.
- In 1972, actress and author Octavia Spencer was born.
- In 1976, actor Cillian Murphy was born.
- In 1977, Star Wars was released to theaters, changing the science fiction landscape forever. It would later be renamed as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope as the franchise grew and thrived.
- In 1979, Alien was released.
- In 1983, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi was released.
- In 2008, NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft landed in the Green Valley region of Mars to search for environments suitable for water and microbial life.
- In 2011, Oprah Winfrey aired her last show, ending her twenty-five-year run of The Oprah Winfrey Show.
- In 2012, the SpaceX Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully rendezvous with the International Space Station.
- In 2017, Wonder Woman premiered, becoming the first superhero film directed by a woman.
May 25th is Geek Pride Day and Towel Day.
Towel Day is a tribute to author Douglas Adams, created by his fans. To celebrate, fans openly carry a towel with them, as described in Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to demonstrate their appreciation for the books and the author.
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)
The commemoration was first held on May 25, 2001, two weeks after Adams’ death on May 11th.
Geek Pride Day is designed to promote geek culture. Similar events have been celebrated since 1998, but the first official celebration was in 2008, and was heralded by numerous bloggers and the launch of the official website.
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.