The Thing About Today – October 31

October 31, 2020
Day 305 of 366

October 31st is the 305th day of the year. It is the Día de la Canción Criolla, and a Peruvian celebration of the criollo culture.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Trick or Treat Day (for obvious reasons), National Doorbell Day, National Caramel Apple Day, National Knock-Knock Jokes Day, National Magic Day, and Girl Scout Founder’s Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.
  • In 1587, Leiden University Library opened its doors after its founding in 1575.
  • In 1614, the first performance of Ben Jonson’s comedy Bartholomew Fair by the Lady Elizabeth’s Men company occurred at the Hope Theatre in London.
  • In 1860, Juliette Gordon Low was born. She was the founded the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
  • In 1913, the Lincoln Highway was dedicated. It was the first automobile highway across United States.
  • In 1923, the first of 160 consecutive days of 100° Fahrenheit began at Marble Bar, Western Australia.
  • In 1930, astronaut Michael Collins was born.
  • In 1931, journalist Dan Rather was born.
  • In 1939, actor Ron Rifkin was born.
  • In 1940, the Battle of Britain came to an end. The result was the United Kingdom preventing a possible German invasion during World War II.
  • In 1941, the destroyer USS Reuben James (DD-245) was torpedoed by a German U-boat near Iceland, killing more than 100 sailors. It was the first United States Navy vessel sunk by enemy action in World War II.
  • In 1942, actor David Ogden Stiers was born.
  • In 1950, Canadian actor, producer, and screenwriter John Candy was born.
  • In 1961, New Zealand actor, director, producer, and screenwriter Peter Jackson was born.
  • In 1976, actress and producer Piper Perabo was born.
  • In 1993, actress Letitia Wright was born.
  • In 1999, yachtsman Jesse Martin returned to Melbourne, Australia after 11 months of circumnavigating the world, solo, non-stop, and unassisted.
  • In 2000, Soyuz TM-31 launched, carrying the first resident crew to the International Space Station. The ISS has been crewed continuously since then.
  • In 2002, a federal grand jury in Houston, Texas indicted former Enron chief financial officer Andrew Fastow on 78 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice related to the collapse of his former employer.
  • In 2011, the global population of humans reached seven billion. This day is now recognized by the United Nations as the Day of Seven Billion.
  • In 2014, the VSS Enterprise, a Virgin Galactic experimental spaceflight test vehicle, suffered a catastrophic in-flight breakup during a test flight and crashed in the Mojave Desert, California.

October 31st is Halloween, including all of its related celebrations.

Halloween (or Hallowe’en, the contraction of Hallows’ Even or Hallows’ Evening), is also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve. It is a celebration on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

One theory suggests that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, which may have had pagan roots and that Samhain itself was Christianized as Halloween by the early Church.

Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related guising and souling), attending costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.

The holiday also includes Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.

In Cornwall, it coincides with Allantide, also known was Saint Allan’s Day, the Feast of Saint Allan, Kalan Gwav (first day of winter in Cornish), Nos Kalan Gwav (eve of the first day of winter), and Dy’ Halan Gwav (day of the first day of winter).

In the Isle of Man, it includes Hop-tu-Naa, the Celtic festival celebrating the traditional Celtic festival of Samhain, the start of winter (Oie Houney). It is thought to be the oldest unbroken tradition in the Isle of Man.

Samhain occurs at this point in the year in the Northern Hemisphere, while Beltane is the related celebration in the Southern Hemisphere. Both begin at sunset on October 31st.

Finally, it is the first day of the Day of the Dead in Mexico, a multi-day holiday associated to the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day that involves family and friends gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.

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 – October 30

October 30, 2020
Day 304 of 366

October 30th is the 304th day of the year. Today is Thevar Jayanthi in India, the annual commemoration of the birthday of Pasumpon Muthuramalingam Thevar, a significant political figure in the state of Tamil Nadu.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Speak Up For Service Day, National Publicist Day, National Candy Corn Day, National Pharmacy Buyer Day (typically observed on the Friday of the last full week in October), National Frankenstein Friday (typically observed on the last Friday in October), and National Breadstick Day (typically observed on the last Friday in October).

Historical items of note:

  • In 1485, King Henry VII of England was crowned, beginning the Tudor reign.
  • In 1831, Nat Turner was arrested for leading the bloodiest slave rebellion in United States history.
  • In 1864, the Treaty of Vienna was signed, by which Denmark relinquished one province each to Prussia and Austria, thus ending the Second War of Schleswig.
  • In 1925, John Logie Baird creates Britain’s first television transmitter.
  • In 1938, Orson Welles broadcasted his radio play of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, causing anxiety in some of the audience in the United States. You can find a discussion about it in this article by the Smithsonian.
  • In 1945, Jackie Robinson of the Kansas City Monarchs signed a contract for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the major league baseball color line.
  • Also in 1945, actor, comedian, director, and producer Henry Winkler was born.
  • In 1946, astronaut Robert L. Gibson was born.
  • In 1953, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the top-secret document NSC 162/2 concerning the maintenance of a strong nuclear deterrent force against the Soviet Union.
  • In 1961, the Soviet Union detonated the Tsar Bomba, the most powerful explosive device ever detonated.
  • In 1970, television personality and Mythbuster Tory Belleci was born.
  • In 1973, the Bosphorus Bridge in Turkey was completed, connecting the continents of Europe and Asia over the Bosphorus for the second time.
  • In 1985, Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off for mission STS-61-A, its final successful mission.
  • In 2003, Wicked premiered on Broadway at the Gershwin Theatre starring Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth.
  • In 2012, The Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm Ltd and its rights for Star Wars and Indiana Jones for $4.05 billion.

October 30th is the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions (День памяти жертв политических репрессий), an annual day of remembrance for victims of political repression in the Soviet Union.

The commemoration is held on the date of the Day of the Political Prisoner in the USSR, an initiative from 1974 by imprisoned Soviet dissidents, led by Kronid Lyubarsky for the recognition of inmates’ status as political prisoners.

The official date was introduced in April 1991 and gradually been adopted all over Russia as a Day of Remembrance for those “repressed” (arrested, exiled, sent to the camps, or shot) during the collectivization of agriculture, in the forced-labor camps of the Gulag, and shot in their tens of thousands during the Great Terror of 1937 to 1938.

As new political prisoners appear in Putin’s Russia, there have been objections to the appropriation by the State of an unofficial day of protest, that started among dissidents in camps for “political” offenders. Even a separation between the two, with the emergence of the unofficial “Restoring the Names” ceremony, has not satisfied all critics.

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 – October 29

October 29, 2020
Day 303 of 366

October 29th is the 303rd day of the year. It is Coronation Day in Cambodia, celebrating the anniversary of King Sihamoni’s coronation in 2004.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Cat Day, National Oatmeal Day, National Hermit Day, and World Stroke Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1390, the first trial for witchcraft in Paris led to the death of three people.
  • In 1618, English adventurer, writer, and courtier Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded for allegedly conspiring against James I of England.
  • In 1675, Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz, a prominent German polymath and one of the most important logicians, mathematicians and natural philosophers of the Enlightenment, made the first use of the long s (∫) as a symbol of the integral in calculus.
  • In 1787, Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni receives its first performance in Prague.
  • In 1863, eighteen countries met in Geneva and agreed to form the International Red Cross.
  • In 1888, the Convention of Constantinople was signed, guaranteeing free maritime passage through the Suez Canal during war and peace.
  • In 1929, the New York Stock Exchange crashed in what became known as “Black Tuesday”, ending the Great Bull Market of the 1920s and beginning the Great Depression.
  • In 1938, director, producer, and screenwriter Ralph Bakshi was born.
  • In 1942, artist and television host Bob Ross was born. I really love his philosophies on life.
  • In 1947, actor and activist Richard Dreyfuss was born.
  • In 1948, actress, director, and producer Kate Jackson was born.
  • In 1957, actor, voice artist, comedian, singer and producer Dan Castellaneta was born.
  • In 1960, Cassius Clay (who later took the name Muhammad Ali) won his first professional fight in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • In 1964, a collection of irreplaceable gems, including the 565 carat Star of India, was stolen by a group of thieves from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
  • In 1967, English actor Rufus Sewell was born.
  • In 1969, the first-ever computer-to-computer link was established on ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet.
  • In 1971, actress and producer Winona Ryder was born.
  • In 1972, actress and producer Gabrielle Union was born.
  • In 1991, the Galileo spacecraft made its closest approach to 951 Gaspra, becoming the first probe to visit an asteroid.
  • In 1998, Space Shuttle Discovery blasted off on mission STS-95 with 77-year-old John Glenn on board, making him the oldest person to go into space. During this mission, ATSC HDTV broadcasting in the United States was inaugurated in conjunction with the launch.
  • In 2008, Delta Air Lines merged with Northwest Airlines, creating the world’s largest airline and reducing the number of United States legacy carriers to five.
  • Also in 2008, Quantum of Solace premiered. It was the twenty-second James Bond film, and was widely criticized in many aspects, one of which was its title. It followed the events of Casino Royale, which ended with Bond suffering a very traumatic loss, this one ended with him finding a measure of resolution. One might say, while armed with a thesaurus, a quantum of solace?
  • In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the United States, killing 148 directly and 138 indirectly, while leaving nearly $70 billion in damages and causing major power outages.
  • In 2015, China announces the end of One-child policy after 35 years.

In 1923, Turkey became a republic following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk made the declaration, but Turkey had de facto been a republic since April 23, 1920, upon the establishment of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, but the official confirmation came three-and-a-half years later. The status of the nation as a republic was declared and its official name was proclaimed to be Türkiye Cumhuriyeti (“the Republic of Turkey”).

After that, a vote was held in the Grand National Assembly, and Atatürk was elected as the first President of the Republic of Turkey

The anniversary is marked by the celebration of Republic Day (Cumhuriyet Bayramı), a public holiday lasting 35 hours and starting at 1:00 pm.

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 #207: The Waters of Mars

Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars
(Autumn Special, 2009)

Is there any way to slake your thirst in the dust of the Red Planet?

Adelaide Brooke, the commander of Bowie Base One on Mars, tries to call home but loses contact. While her scientific teams have some fun on the planet’s surface, the Doctor arrives in the TARDIS.

He’s soon found and held at gunpoint by a flimsy robot named Gadget as a trespasser.

Once inside, Brooke demands to know his name, rank, and intention. He replies “The Doctor, doctor, fun,” before asking that she lower her gun and trust him. Brooks wonders if he’s a spy from a rival space agency, but the Doctor realizes that this mission is the one fated to end in a mysterious explosion with all hands lost. Unwilling to break the laws of time and subvert a fixed point in history, he apologizes with all of his hearts and tries to leave.

In the hydroponic farm, Andy Stone and Maggie Cain encounter a problem. Stone is infected by a mysterious life form and turns into a zombie-like creature that gushes water and attacks Cain.

As the crew investigates the mystery, the Doctor is forced to help Brooke when she locks up his spacesuit. As the crew walks to the hydroponic dome, the Doctor muses about robots – Gadget is controlled by Junior Technician Roman Groome – and asks Brooke if the mission is worth it. She says yes, with what the Doctor calls “starlight in her soul.”

They discover Cain and call for medical help. She is alive and taken to isolation while Brooke, physician Tarak Ital, and the Doctor look for Stone. Cain has no idea what happened to her, but she’s required to be isolated for twenty-four hours. Meanwhile, Ital finds Stone and is infected. Cain turns soon afterward.

Cain, controlled by the mysterious lifeform, discovers that Earth is mostly water. They should like that world.

Brooke and the Doctor find Stone and Ital. Talking to them fails, so they run for the airlock. Stone shoots a stream of water at the airlock door but none enters the chamber. Instead, both infected crewmen start probing the airlock door with water. They break through and continue the chase through the tunnels, hijacking Gadget along the way to act as a supercharged go-kart. The three of them return to the central base, but the Doctor warns her that water is patient and always wins.

Back in the base, they check in with Cain in the infirmary. The Doctor tries speaking in ancient North Martian, to which Cain reacts positively. He surmises that the ice fields, the source of the colony’s water, is contaminated. El Gold convinces Brooke to evacuate the base and the remaining crew start preparations. The Doctor reminds her that, since they’ve all been drinking from the same supply, they may all be infected already.

Swayed by his argument, Brooke leaves to investigate the ice fields. The Doctor debates leaving again, but joins her. Cain is left alone in the medical dome and immediately starts breaking out. With a scream, she sends a message to her infected comrades.

At the ice fields, the Doctor muses about the Ice Warriors and hypothesizes that they may have frozen the virus as a means of defeating it. Brooke asks why the Doctor is so keen to leave and he explains what a fixed point in time is. Brooke tells him about her inspiration: When she was ten years old, the Earth was stolen and moved across the universe, and she saw the Daleks from her window. She knew that she would follow them to the stars.

The Doctor tells her that, in doing so, she has created history. Brooke’s granddaughter, Susie Fontana Brooke, will be inspired by her story to pilot the first lightspeed craft, paving the way for generations of her descendants to explore the galaxy, with one even falling in love with an alien prince and creating a whole new species.

But the tale is only a consolation.

The moment is broken by a log entry from Stone. A filter was broken earlier in the day, allowing the virus to enter the water supply. Since the water isn’t available yet for the crew, the survivors are able to leave for Earth. While they continue preparations, the Doctor debates whether or not he should leave.

The crew discovers that Stone and Ital have scaled the base, surviving the elements, and are burrowing into the ceiling. It’s now a raise against time, and the Doctor knows that the fixed point has not changed.

He considers leaving. After he’s suited up and standing in the airlock, Brooke locks the system until he explains what happens next. He asks her to imagine Pompeii and how any action she took would only precipitate the event. He tells her about her destiny, how she destroys the base for reasons unknown but her sacrifice saves Earth, but Brooke refuses to die. She asks for help to change the future, but the Doctor refuses. He wonders if the Dalek knew when it saw her so many years ago.

Brooke releases him with a whispered “Damn you” and rushes away as the water enters the base. The Doctor listens as the crew tries to fight it… as Steffi Ehrlich plays a message from her daughters as she succumbs to the virus… as the shuttle is prepped for departure but fails as Cain breaks through… as Roman falls from one drop on his face… as Ed destroys the shuttle to prevent an incursion on Earth…

It’s the tragedy of a Time Lord. Of knowing everything and being powerless to change it.

But the Time Lords no longer exist. Their rules are gone forever. Nothing remains to restrain the Doctor. He can make his own rules.

So he decides to change it.

Knowing that the end of his song will be heralded by four knocks, he returns to save the crew, proclaiming that the laws of time are his and that they will obey him.

The environmental controls are destroyed. The spacesuits are damaged. The infected are breaking the ice. But the Doctor has a funny robot.

Using Gadget, the Doctor tries to bring the TARDIS to the crew as Brooke starts the self-destruct countdown. Gadget enters the TARDIS and sets the controls, piloting the time capsule to the base as the nuclear device explodes.

The TARDIS materializes on a snow-covered street. Brooke, Bennett, and Kerenski, and Gadget have survived, but the robot shuts down as it loses its control signal. Bennett can’t handle the stress and runs off. Kerenski follows while Brooke confronts the Doctor with the consequences of his actions. The future the Doctor told her about will be broken, but she tells him that no one should have that much power.

The Time Lord Victorious is wrong.

Brooke enters her house, but as the Doctor walks away, she commits suicide with her laser pistol. Bennett and Kerenski will still tell the tale of how she bravely saved Earth. The future is saved.

The Doctor realizes that he’s gone too far, witnessing a vision of Ood Sigma as he wonders if his time has come.

The Cloister Bell sounds. His time is near. But with a defiant “No”, the Doctor sets the TARDIS in motion once again in an effort to outrun his destiny.

What we see here are the depths of the Doctor when unrestrained by neither the conservatism of the Time Lords nor the humanity of the companions. We’ve seen the darkness of the Doctor before – the Tenth Doctor’s rage manifested in The Runaway Bride, the Sixth Doctor let it slip through in post-regeneration psychosis, and the Fourth Doctor displayed how easily he’d wield absolute power in the absence of companions – and we know just how important it is that the Doctor be tempered.

The maxim is true: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

That is one of the Doctor’s weaknesses. Another is love and compassion, which is played in concert with the temptation of power, resulting in this excellent character study of someone who wants to do so much.

It certainly earned that 2010 Hugo Award. The story was competing against its own, of course, but I’d side with this one.

Taking a look at the franchise’s history, this is the second time that the TARDIS has heralded the Doctor’s regeneration through the Cloister Bell. It did this in Logopolis, but in that instance, the Fourth Doctor was willing to wait for the inevitability whereas the Tenth Doctor pretty much fears the coming milestone.

The nod to K9 was amusing, owing to the Doctor’s long-standing love for his canine companion.

We also have quite the focal point in the mythology here. By live action standards in 2009, the next story is Tennant’s finale, The End of Time. Come 2013, The Day of the Doctor would get wedged in between the two, and if we expand to the animated specials (which we do on the Timestamps Project), Dreamland is also on the table.

This story’s placement gets even more complicated this year with the Time Lord Victorious multimedia event, which (naturally) incorporates this story into its narrative.

Finally, there’s an important companion note related to this story and actress Lindsay Duncan. As of this story, she became both the oldest actress and oldest individual to travel in the TARDIS. She’ll forfeit the latter title to Bernard Cribbins in The End of Time.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Gift


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 – October 28

October 28, 2020
Day 302 of 366

October 28th is the 302nd day of the year. It is the Day of the Establishment of an Independent Czecho-Slovak State, which celebrates the independence of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic) from Austria-Hungary in 1918.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Internal Medicine Day, National Chocolate Day, and National First Responders Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony voted to establish a theological college, which would later become Harvard University.
  • In 1664, the Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot, later to be known as the Royal Marines, were established.
  • In 1726, the novel Gulliver’s Travels – also known as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships – by the Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift was published.
  • In 1893, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Pathétique received its première performance only nine days before the composer’s death.
  • In 1919, the United States Congress passed the Volstead Act over President Wilson’s veto, paving the way for Prohibition to begin the following January.
  • In 1941, English actor and writer Ian Marter was born. He portrayed Harry Sullivan on Doctor Who.
  • In 1942, the Alaska Highway first connected Alaska to the North American railway network at Dawson Creek in Canada.
  • In 1948, Paul Müller was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the insecticidal properties of DDT.
  • In 1952, actress Annie Potts was born.
  • In 1955, businessman, philanthropist, and co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates was born.
  • In 1956, Elvis Presley received a polio vaccination on national television.
  • In 1962, actress Daphne Zuniga was born.
  • In 1963, actress Lauren Holly was born.
  • In 1967, actress and producer Julia Roberts was born.
  • In 1971, Prospero became the only British satellite to be launched by a British rocket.
  • In 1978, English actress Gwendoline Christie was born.
  • In 1982, actor and Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith was born.
  • In 2009, NASA successfully launched the Ares I-X mission, the only rocket launch for the short-lived Constellation program.
  • In 2014, a rocket carrying NASA’s Cygnus CRS Orb-3 resupply mission to the International Space Station exploded seconds after taking off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.

October 28th is International Animation Day, an international observance proclaimed in 2002 by the International Animated Film Association (Association Internationale du Film d’Animation, also known as ASIFA) as the main global event to celebrate the art of animation.

It commemorates the first public performance in 1892 of Charles-Émile Reynaud’s Théâtre Optique at the Grevin Museum in Paris. In 1895, the Cinematograph of the Lumière brothers outshone Reynaud’s invention, driving him to bankruptcy, but his public performance of animation still predates the camera-made movies in cinematic history.

In recent years, the event has been observed in more than 50 countries with more than 1000 events, on every continent, all over the world. During International Animation Day, cultural institutions are also invited to by screening animated films, organizing workshops, exhibiting artwork and stills, providing technical demonstrations, and organizing other events helping to promote the art of animation. Such a celebration is an outstanding opportunity of putting animated films in the limelight, making this art more accessible to the public.

ASIFA also commissions an artist to create an original art poster announcing the event each year. It is then adapted for each country in order to guarantee a worldwide view of the event. Previous editions involved the work of animators such as Iouri Tcherenkov, Paul Driessen, Abi Feijo, Eric Ledune, Noureddin Zarrinkelk, Michel Ocelot, Nina Paley, Raoul Servais, Ihab Shaker, and Gianluigi Toccafondo.

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 – October 27

October 27, 2020
Day 301 of 366

October 27th is the 301st day of the year. It is Independence Day in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, commemorating their separation from the United Kingdom in 1979.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National American Beer Day, Navy Day, and National Black Cat Day.

Navy Day, you say? Wasn’t the birthday of the Navy on October 13th? More on that in a minute.

Historical items of note:

  • This day in 1275 marks the traditional founding date of the city of Amsterdam.
  • In 1682, Philadelphia was founded in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  • In 1795, the United States and Spain signed the Treaty of Madrid, which established the boundaries between Spanish colonies and the United States.
  • In 1838, Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs issued the Extermination Order, which decreed that all Mormons were to leave the state or be killed.
  • In 1858, American colonel and politician Theodore Roosevelt was born. He was a Nobel Prize laureate and the twenty-sixth President of the United States.
  • In 1904, the first underground New York City Subway line opened. It was later designated as the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line.
  • In 1922, actress and poet Ruby Dee was born.
  • In 1936, Mrs Wallis Simpson obtained her divorce, which would eventually allow her to marry King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom and force his abdication from the throne.
  • In 1939, actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer John Cleese was born.
  • In 1946, Slovak-Canadian actor, director, and producer Ivan Reitman was born.
  • In 1947, You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx premiered on ABC radio.
  • In 1953, actor, director, and screenwriter Robert Picardo was born.
  • In 1954, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. became the first African-American general in the United States Air Force.
  • Also in 1954, illustrator Jan Duursema was born.
  • In 1961, NASA tested the first Saturn I rocket in Mission Saturn-Apollo 1.
  • In 1971, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was renamed Zaire.
  • In 1992, United States Navy radioman Allen R. Schindler, Jr. was murdered by shipmate Terry M. Helvey for being gay. This precipitated debate about gays in the military that resulted in the United States’ “Don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy.
  • In 1994, Gliese 229B became the first Substellar Mass Object to be unquestionably identified.

So, Navy Day.

In the United States, the Navy League of the United States organized the first Navy Day in 1922, holding it on October 27 because it was the birthday of President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a naval enthusiast, promoter of sea power, and former assistant Secretary of the Navy just before the Spanish–American War of 1898.

The event met with mixed reviews in the first year, but the next year brought over 50 major cities participating. The United States Navy sent a number of its ships to various port cities for the occasion. In 1949, Louis A. Johnson, the second Secretary of the newly merged and created Department of Defense, directed that the Navy’s participation occur on the newly established Armed Forces Day for the unified and coordinated uniformed services in May. As a private civilian organization, the Navy League was not affected by this directive, so they continued to organize separate Navy Day celebrations.

In the 1970s, historical research found that the “birthday” of the earlier Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War was determined as October 13, 1775. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt worked with the Navy League to define October 13th as the new date of Navy Day, but it is still largely recognized as October 27th.

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 – October 26

October 26, 2020
Day 300 of 366

October 26th is the 300th day of the year. It is National Day in Austria, celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Neutrality in 1955.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Financial Crime Fighter Day, National Tennessee Day, National Day of the Deployed, National Mule Day, National Pumpkin Day, and National Mincemeat Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1689, General Piccolomini of Austria burned down Skopje to prevent the spread of cholera. He died of the disease himself soon after.
  • In 1774, the first Continental Congress adjourned in Philadelphia.
  • In 1825, the Erie Canal opened, allowing direct passage from the Hudson River to Lake Erie.
  • In 1854, businessman C. W. Post was born. He founded Post Foods.
  • In 1914, actor Jackie Coogan was born.
  • In 1920, astronomer and academic Sarah Lee Lippincott was born.
  • In 1921, the Chicago Theatre opened.
  • In 1934, basketball player and sportscaster “Hot Rod” Hundley was born.
  • In 1935, mathematician and academic Gloria Conyers Hewitt was born. She was the fourth African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics.
  • In 1936, the first electric generator at Hoover Dam went into full operation.
  • In 1942, English actor, singer, and director Bob Hoskins was born.
  • In 1945, actress and producer Jaclyn Smith was born.
  • In 1946, journalist, actor, and game show host Pat Sajak was born.
  • In 1956, actress and producer Rita Wilson was born.
  • In 1958, Pan American Airways made the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707 from New York City to Paris.
  • In 1961, actor Dylan McDermott was born.
  • In 1962, English actor and producer Cary Elwes was born.
  • In 1963, singer-songwriter and pianist Natalie Merchant was born.
  • In 1964, Canadian actor and producer Tom Cavanagh was born.
  • In 1968, Soviet cosmonaut Georgy Beregovoy piloted Soyuz 3 into space for a four-day mission.
  • In 1971, actor and singer Anthony Rapp was born.
  • In 1984, The Terminator premiered.
  • In 1985, the Australian government returned ownership of Uluru to the local Pitjantjatjara Aboriginals.
  • In 1999, Britain’s House of Lords voted to end the right of hereditary peers to vote in Britain’s upper chamber of Parliament.
  • In 2000, the Sony PlayStation 2 was launched in North American markets with 27 launch titles.
  • In 2001, the United States passed the USA PATRIOT Act into law. The negative impacts on Constitutional rights and freedoms continue to this day.
  • In 2015, Spectre, the twenty-fourth James Bond film, premiered.

October 26th is Intersex Awareness Day.

An internationally observed day designed to highlight human rights issues faced by intersex people, it marks the first public demonstration by intersex people in North America, on October 26, 1996, outside the venue in Boston where the American Academy of Pediatrics was holding its annual conference. Activists Morgan Holmes and Max Beck participated for the now-defunct Intersex Society of North America, alongside allies from Transsexual Menace including Riki Wilchins.

Not intended as a demonstration, the intent was to deliver an address to challenge the opinion that cosmetic surgery to “fix” intersexed genitals was the best course of action. They were met with hostility and escorted out.

Intersex people are individuals born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies”. Intersex typically constitutes the I in LBGTQIA+.

The commemoration day itself began in 2003 with the establishment of a central awareness raising site. Intersex Awareness Day is an international day of grassroots action to end shame, secrecy and unwanted genital cosmetic surgeries on intersex children The day also provides an opportunity for reflection and political action.

Between October 26th and November 8th, intersex organizations bring attention to the challenges intersex individuals face, culminating in the Intersex Day of Remembrance on November 8th, the birthday of Herculine Barbin, also sometimes known as Intersex Solidarity Day.

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 – October 25

October 25, 2020
Day 299 of 366

October 25th is the 299th day of the year. It is Thanksgiving Day in Grenada.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Greasy Food Day, Sourest Day, National Mother-in-Law Day (typically observed on the fourth Sunday in October), and Chucky, The Notorious Killer Doll Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1854, the Battle of Balaclava took place during the Crimean War. It was soon memorialized in verse as The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
  • In 1881, Spanish painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso was born.
  • In 1917, the October Revolution began in Russia (by Old Style dating).
  • In 1940, Benjamin O. Davis Sr. was named the first African American general in the United States Army.
  • In 1955, producer Gale Anne Hurd was born.
  • In 1957, voice actress Nancy Cartwright was born. She’s probably best known as the voice of Bart Simpson.
  • In 1962, actress Darlene Vogel was born.
  • In 1964, voice actor and singer Kevin Michael Richardson was born.
  • In 1971, the People’s Republic of China replaced the Republic of China at the United Nations.
  • In 1978, Halloween premiered.

In 1979, the autonomous community of Basque Country was granted the status of nationality within Spain.

Part of a larger cultural region of the same name, the area is home to the Basque people. They have a common culture and shared genetic ancestry to the ancient Vascones and Aquitanians, each part of pre-Roman cultures. The region is located around the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north-central Spain and south-western France.

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 – October 24

October 24, 2020
Day 298 of 366

October 24th is the 298th day of the year. It is United Nations Day, commemorating the date in 1945 when the United Nations officially came into existence.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Food Day, National Bologna Day, and National Make A Difference Day (typically observed on the fourth Saturday in October).

Historical items of note:

  • In 1851, William Lassell discovered the moons Umbriel and Ariel orbiting Uranus.
  • In 1861, the first transcontinental telegraph line across the United States was completed.
  • In 1901, Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
  • In 1915, author and illustrator Bob Kane was born. With Bill Finger, he co-created the character of Batman.
  • In 1926, Harry Houdini’s last performance took place at the Garrick Theatre in Detroit.
  • In 1929, “Black Thursday” occurred on the New York Stock Exchange. The market lost 11 percent of its value at the opening bell on very heavy trading. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 ended shortly thereafter, signaling the beginning of the Great Depression.
  • In 1931, the George Washington Bridge opened to public traffic over the Hudson River.
  • In 1939, actor F. Murray Abraham was born.
  • In 1946, a camera on board the V-2 No. 13 rocket took the first photograph of earth from outer space.
  • In 1949, the cornerstone of the United Nations Headquarters was laid.
  • In 1960, actor B.D. Wong was born.
  • In 1962, The Manchurian Candidate premiered.
  • In 1989, actress Eliza Taylor was born.
  • In 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays became the first Major League Baseball team based outside the United States to win the World Series.
  • In 1998, Deep Space 1 was launched to explore the asteroid belt and test new spacecraft technologies.
  • In 2003, Concorde made its last commercial flight.
  • In 2007, Chang’e 1, the first satellite in the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

In 1914, Jonas Salk was born. He was the virologist and medical researcher who developed one of the first successful polio vaccines.

In 1947, Salk accepted a professorship in the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. While there, he undertook a project to determine the number of different types of poliovirus, starting in 1948 with funding from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. He saw an opportunity to extend this project towards developing a vaccine against polio, and he gathered a research team and devoted himself to this work for the next seven years.

The field trials were called the the most elaborate program of its kind in history. They included 20,000 physicians and public health officers, 64,000 school personnel, and 220,000 volunteers. Over 1.8 million schoolchildren took part in the trials.

Before the Salk vaccine was introduced in 1955, polio was considered one of the most serious public health problems in the world, and epidemics were increasingly devastating in the post-war United States. The 1952 epidemic in the United States killed 3,145 people and left 21,269 with some form of paralysis. Known as the worst polio outbreak in the nation’s history, most of its victims were children.

After news of the vaccine’s success was first made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was immediately hailed as a “miracle worker”, but he chose to not patent the vaccine or seek any profit from it in order to maximize its global distribution. Less than 25 years later, domestic transmission of polio had been completely eliminated in the United States.

October 24th is known as World Polio Day to commemorate Salk’s birth and his work in defeating the polio virus.

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 – Quarantine Con, Episodes XX-XXI

Culture on My Mind
October 23, 2020

The folks at the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics have started up the quarantine panels once again, and I have two to offer you this week.

The twentieth panel in this series comes ready to discuss favorite Frankensteins (or monsters thereof).

Panel #21, in typical track tradition, kept it strange by comparing famous cereal mascots to actual serial killers.

Gary and Joe have a lot more fun discussions planned in the Dragon Con off-season, if anything because these are so much fun to do. Stay tuned to the YouTube channel and the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook.


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.