August 15, 2020
Day 228 of 366
August 15th is the 228th day of the year. It is Independence Day in several countries today: South Korea celebrates Gwangbokjeol (“Independence Day”) and North Korea celebrates Jogukhaebangui nal (“Fatherland Liberation Day”) as they both commemorate their 1945 separation from Japan; India celebrates their 1947 independence from the United Kingdom; the Republic of the Congo celebrates their 1960 separation from France; Bahrain celebrates their 1971 independence from the United Kingdom.
Victory over Japan Day anniversaries also continue, commemorating the day in 1945 when Japan accepted the Allied terms of surrender in World War II and the Emperor recorded the Imperial Rescript on Surrender. The United Kingdom observes the anniversary today, while Japan commemorates End-of-war Memorial Day (Shūsen-kinenbi, 終戦記念日) with the National Memorial Service for War Dead.
Honeybees are vitally important in keeping our world alive. Treat them with respect.
Historical items of note:
- In 1483, Pope Sixtus IV consecrated the Sistine Chapel.
- In 1771, Scottish novelist, playwright, and poet Sir Walter Scott was born.
- In 1843, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, Hawaii was dedicated. Now the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu, it is the oldest Roman Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the United States.
- Also in 1843, Tivoli Gardens opened in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is one of the oldest still intact amusement parks in the world.
- In 1914, the Panama Canal opened to traffic with the transit of the cargo ship SS Ancon.
- In 1939, The Wizard of Oz premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, California. Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, and the most commercially successful adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the film itself was a remake of two previous adaptation attempts in 1925 and 1910.
- In 1941, Corporal Josef Jakobs was executed by firing squad at the Tower of London at 7:12 am, making him the last person to be executed at the Tower for espionage.
- In 1948, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) was established south of the 38th parallel north.
- In 1964, businesswoman and philanthropist Melinda Gates was born.
- In 1965, The Beatles played to nearly 60,000 fans at Shea Stadium in New York City, an event later regarded as the birth of stadium rock.
- In 1968, actress Debra Messing was born.
- In 1969, the legendary Woodstock Music & Art Fair opened in upstate New York, featuring some of the top rock musicians of the era. The festival has become widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history as well as a defining event for the counterculture generation.
- In 1970, Patricia Palinkas became the first woman to play professionally in an American football game.
- In 1971, President Richard Nixon completed the break from the gold standard by ending the convertibility of the United States dollar into gold by foreign investors.
- In 1972, actor and sound editor Matthew Wood was born.
- In 1974, Canadian model and actress Natasha Henstridge was born.
- In 1977, The Big Ear, a radio telescope operated by Ohio State University as part of the SETI project, received a radio signal from deep space. The event was named the “Wow! signal” from the notation made by a volunteer on the project.
- In 1979, Apocalypse Now was released.
- In 1990, actress Jennifer Lawrence was born.
- In 1995, Shannon Faulkner (no relation) became the first female cadet matriculated at The Citadel in South Carolina. In the years leading to the event, she attended day classes but was not allowed to live on campus or wear the school uniform, and she suffered constant harassment, taunts, and death threats. In 1995, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that she must be admitted to the school, however suffered heat stress, physical exhaustion, emotional and psychological abuse, and death threats against her family before leaving after one week. After her departure, the male cadets openly celebrated on the campus.
August 15th begins an annual Egyptian holiday named Wafaa El-Nil, a two-week celebration commemorating the annual flooding of the Nile.
The flooding of the Nile has been an important natural cycle in Egypt since ancient times. It is also celebrated in the Coptic Church by ceremonially throwing a martyr’s relic into the river, thus giving it the name The Martyr’s Finger.
Ancient Egyptians believed that the Nile flooded every year because of Isis’s tears of sorrow for her dead husband, Osiris. The flooding is the result of the yearly monsoon between May and August that delivers enormous precipitations on the Ethiopian Highlands at summits of nearly 15,000 feet. Most of this rainwater is taken by the Blue Nile and by the Atbarah River into the Nile, while a less important amount flows through the Sobat and the White Nile into the Nile.
During this short period, those rivers contribute up to ninety percent of the water of the Nile, and most of the sedimentation carried by it, but after the rainy season, dwindle to minor rivers.
The Egyptian year was divided into the three seasons of Akhet (Inundation), Peret (Growth), and Shemu (Harvest). Akhet covered the Egyptian flood cycle, and this cycle was so consistent that the Egyptians timed its onset using the heliacal rising of Sirius, the key event used to set their calendar.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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