The Thing About Today – December 31

December 31, 2020
Day 366 of 366

December 31st is the 366th day of the year. It is New Year’s Eve, celebrated alongside other events like First Night in the United States, Last Day of the Year (Bisperás ng Bagong Taón) in the Philippines, Novy God Eve in Russia, Ōmisoka in Japan, and the first day of Hogmanay or “Auld Year’s Night” in Scotland.

This is the final day of 2020.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Champagne Day, No Interruptions Day (typically observed on the last work day of the year), Make Up Your Mind Day, and the Universal Hour of Peace.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and started brewing Guinness.
  • In 1790, Efimeris, the oldest Greek newspaper of which issues have survived to this day, was published for the first time.
  • In 1831, Gramercy Park was deeded to New York City.
  • In 1857, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa, then a small logging town, as the capital of the Province of Canada.
  • In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed an act that admitted West Virginia to the Union, thus dividing Virginia in two.
  • In 1879, Thomas Edison demonstrated incandescent lighting to the public for the first time in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
  • In 1907, the first New Year’s Eve celebration was held in Times Square (then known as Longacre Square) in Manhattan.
  • In 1937, Welsh actor, director, and composer Anthony Hopkins was born.
  • In 1943, singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor John Denver was born.
  • Also in 1943, English actor Ben Kingsley was born.
  • In 1958, actress and dancer Bebe Neuwirth was born.
  • In 1959, actor Val Kilmer was born.
  • In 1983, the AT&T Bell System was broken up by the United States Government.
  • In 1991, all official Soviet Union institutions were to have ceased operations by this date, five days after the Soviet Union was officially dissolved.
  • In 1994, this date was skipped altogether in Kiribati as the Phoenix Islands and Line Islands changed time zones from UTC−11:00 to UTC+13:00 and UTC−10:00 to UTC+14:00, respectively.
  • In 2009, a blue moon and a lunar eclipse occurred simultaneously.
  • In 2011, NASA succeeded in putting the first of two Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory satellites in orbit around the Moon.

December 31st marks the last day of 2020, and thus the last day of The Thing About Today on this blog.

When I conceived the feature last December, it was a challenge to write one post per day on this site, as well as an opportunity to look at each day of both a leap year and a personal milestone year with respect to historical context. Who could have known what this year would bring with the COVID-19 pandemic and such significant changes to each of our lives and the world at large?

My hope for this feature is that it brought both knowledge and entertainment to you this year. I’m grateful and thankful for your attention and endurance over the last 366 days.

I hope that we all have a prosperous, safe, and healthy year ahead of us.

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 #213: The Time of Angels & Flesh and Stone

Doctor Who: The Time of Angels
Doctor Who: Flesh and Stone
(2 episodes, s05e04-05, 2010)

Timestamp 213 Time of Angels Flesh and Stone

Not blinking just got a lot more complicated.

The Time of Angels

A uniformed man spins blindly in a field, his face graced by a lipstick kiss. When a man in an evening suit wipes the lipstick smear, he realizes that the man is hallucinating and River Song is on the starship. Sure enough, she’s fired up a torch and is burning a black box with it.

Twelve thousand years in the future, the Doctor and Amy are exploring the Delirium Archive, final resting place of the Headless Monks. He finds the message engraved on the box in Old High Gallifreyan – “Hello, Sweetie.” – and steals the box. Using the box, he tunes into where River is running from the guards just in time to head a set of coordinates. River blasts herself into space and the Doctor materializes the TARDIS in time to catch her.

She tells him to follow the Byzantium, the ship she just departed.

As the TARDIS gives chase, River suggests using the “blue stablizers”. The capsule stops shaking, the wheezing sound disappears (apparently, the Doctor leave the brakes on all the time), and the landing is soft. After a haphazard environment check, River steps outside to find that the target ship has crashed.

Amy wants to know what’s going on and pressures the Doctor to show her the planet. Reluctantly, he agrees, and Amy Pond meets Professor River Song. There’s also a thing in the crashed ship. A thing that can never die.

River glances through her diary to figure out where she and the Doctor are in their respective timelines as her associates, a group of four soldiers, materialize on the surface. As they enter the ship and nearby temple, she reveals that they’re facing the Weeping Angels.

The Doctor and River explain the Angels to Amy and Father Octavian, the leader of the soldiers. It turns out that he’s the bishop, his troops are clerics, and by the 51st century, the church has moved on. They spot one of the Angels on a security feed. The catacombs are flooded with radiation, a banquet to the Angels, and plans are made without Amy.

River offers the Doctor a book about the Angels, which he reads and declares to be wrong. Meanwhile, Amy keeps watching the clip of the Angel and notices that it keeps shifting positions. She tries to turn off the monitor, but it keeps turning back on again. As this happens, the Doctor reads the part about how an image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel, and he races to save Amy. Unfortunately, the room and monitor have deadlocked. She tries to disable the monitor again as the Doctor reads another part of the book: The eyes are the doorways to the soul. Amy spots a glitch in the clip and turns off the monitor in that moment, thus avoiding the image. The room is opened again, and while everything seems fine, Amy has a problem with her eye.

The deacons blow an entrance into the temple, revealing a vast area full of crumbling statues. It’s the perfect place to hide for an Angel. As the Doctor moves on, Octavian warns River to not let him figure out where they are in his timeline and why she’s imprisoned. Meanwhile, Clerics Christian and Angelo investigate a nearby exit from the chamber.

Amy keeps rubbing her eye, releasing a stream of gray dust. River catches up to her and they muse about the Doctor and his relationship with her. Amy is convinced that they are married.

Oh, and Clerics Christian and Angelo? They are soon killed by the Angel.

The Doctor, River, and Amy run to the sound of gunfire. They find a young cleric named Bob (a sacred name) and, even with Father Octavian berating the youth, the Doctor insists that his fear will keep him alert. They team moves into the maze, and the Doctor remembers the Aplans who built the crypt. He remembers dinner with the chief architect, then asks River about the last line in the book: It’s an ominous prophecy: “What happens when ideas have thoughts of their own? What happens when dreams no longer need dreamers? When these things have come to pass, the time will be upon us. The Time of Angels.”

River notes that something is wrong and the Doctor realizes that he’s made a terrible mistake. The Aplans have two heads, yet all of these statues have only one. The Doctor runs a quick experiment and reveals that every statue in the maze is a Weeping Angel. They’re slow due to a lack of energy to feed on, but they’re all coming for the team, and the radiation from the Byzantium is powering them up.

Cleric Bob, on the other hand, is already dead, having been called to his doom by the voices of his former squadmates. He tells the tale to Father Octavian over the radio, a puppet of the Angels who have reanimated a copy of his consciousness to communicate.

The team continues on to the Byzantium, but Amy is turning to stone. The Doctor tells her that it’s the Angels playing with her mind, which has been infiltrated by the Angel in the monitor, and when she won’t move he bites her hand. When the team reaches the crash site, their lights start failing and the Angels approach.

River reminds the Doctor that this kind of crunch time is when the Doctor works his best, and as Bob tries to anger the Doctor, he remarks that there’s one thing that they’ve failed to realize. There’s one thing that you never put in a trap.

The Doctor.

He borrows a gun from Octavian, warning them all to jump at his signal. He shoots the gravity globe above them, plunging everything into darkness.

Flesh and Stone

The Doctor tells everyone to look up as the lights come back up. When they jumped, they fell into the Byzantium‘s artificial gravity and landed on the ship’s hull. The Doctor opens an airlock and the team enters the ship. As the Doctor works on a solution further into the ship, the Angels pursue.

The Doctor tells them that he needs to turn off the lights for a moment, and Octavian asks River if she trusts the Time Lord. She does.

The lights go out and Octavian’s men light up the corridor with gunfire, keeping the Angels at bay as the doors slide open and give the team access to the rest of the ship. The Angels continue their pursuit, much to Octavian’s dismay, and the Doctor continues to work. He realizes that the ship’s mission required a sustainable oxygen supply, and he reveals a cybernetic forest onboard.

He’s also intrigued at the reason why Amy continues to count down from ten.

As the Clerics probe the forest, the Doctor has another conversation with Angel Bob. Bob reveals that the Angels are feasting and that they’ve inhabited Amy through her eyes. They’re making her count to scare the survivors. The Angels are laughing because the “Doctor in the TARDIS hasn’t noticed” the overarching threat. He turns to see the crack from Amy’s wall, now in the hull of the Byzantium. The Doctor scans the crack as the Angels infiltrate the room and everyone else leaves. Unfortunately, the Angels snag the Doctor by his jacket.

The Angels are distracted by the crack, which is pure time energy, allowing the Doctor time to escape. As he runs to catch up with the group, Amy counts to four and collapses. The Doctor runs through everything as Amy counts to three, realizing that there’s an Angel in her mind. The Quantum Lock that they use – freezing when spotted – is not only a defense mechanism but a means of reproduction. At zero, it will pop out of Amy’s head and kill her.

The Doctor has Amy close her eyes, which stops the countdown and stabilizes her. Amy can’t open her eyes, so the Doctor sets a course to help cure her. The Doctor, River, and Octavian leave Amy with the Clerics, and the Doctor asks her to trust him and remember what he told her when she was a little girl.

His appearance is slightly different here. There’s a significant jump in time for that one moment.

En route to the flight deck, the Doctor learns that River is in Octavian’s custody and that she’s a prison in the Stormcage Containment Facility. If this mission succeeds, she’ll earn credit toward a pardon. While River tries to open the door to the primary flight deck, the Doctor considers the anomalies he has recently noticed, from the duckless duck pond in Leadworth and Amy’s inability to remember the Dalek invasion of Earth to the lack of any mention of the CyberKing in Victorian London in the history books. River’s scanner reveals that a temporal explosion will occur on June 26, 2010 and cause the cracks. It will happen in Amy’s time.

Back at Amy’s location, the Angels start disrupting the lights by breaking the cybernetic trees, but a bright burst of light apparently scares the Angels away. Amy glances at the light and notes that it is the same shape as the crack in her wall. As the Clerics investigate the light, all memory of them is erased, and Amy notes this with Marco, the last remaining Cleric.

River opens the door, but Octavian waits for the Doctor to go through. Unfortunately, he’s immediately trapped by an Angel. Realizing that there’s no way out for him, Octavian reveals that River is in prison for murder and that the Doctor cannot trust her. The Doctor reluctantly leaves Father Octavian, hearing his neck snap as he ducks into the flight deck where River is working on a teleport.

Marco leaves Amy to scout the light and disappears from time. The Doctor makes contact with her and turns her communicator into a homing beacon tied to his sonic screwdriver. She has to move before the time energy in the crack catches up with her and erases her from existence. Step by step, she makes her way toward the Doctor, but she trips over a root and falls. The Angels, running from the crack, find Amy but do not attack because they think that she can see them. They realize that she’s effectively blind and converge on her, but River saves her in the nick of time with the teleport.

As the ships runs low on power, the door to the forest opens to reveal all of the Angels snarling at the survivors. The Angel Bob demands that that the Doctor throw himself into the crack in order to save them, but the Doctor has other plans. As the artificial gravity fails, the Angels fall backward into the crack, erasing the lot of them. The crack seals behind them.

Pretty much just like Doomsday.

Later on, the Doctor and Amy sit on a beach and muse about the crack and her newfound status as a time traveler. The Doctor discusses River’s prison sentence with her, but she won’t reveal who she killed. She promises, however, that he’ll see her again when the Pandorica opens. The Doctor dismisses it as a fairy tale, and as Amy bids her farewell, River is transported to the prison ship that has just arrived.

Once they’re back on the TARDIS, Amy requests that the Doctor take her home. Not to stop traveling, of course, but to show him what she’s running from. In her bedroom, five minutes after they first left, she tells the Doctor about her engagement to Rory. She also makes advances on the Doctor, but he vehemently refuses. He also realizes that everything wrong with the universe is tied to her.

The date of the temporal explosion is Amy’s wedding day.

The Doctor pushes Amy back into the TARDIS and takes off.

The last time that we saw River Song was at her death. All we knew was that the Doctor would come to trust her enough to tell her his true name. So, the Doctor’s adversarial attitude toward River is understandable, especially considering how she flaunts her knowledge of him, placing him at a severe disadvantage.

The development of the River/Doctor relationship and mythology is fun to watch, as is the interplay between Amy and River. Those two are peas in a pod. We also get some hints of the future with River being incarcerated for killing the best man that she knew and his future/her past meeting at the Pandorica.

Steven Moffat loves his foreshadowing.

One of the biggest mistakes in this story comes with the Weeping Angels. I love the creeping horror they bring to this story, and I do like the expansion of their powers from an image being an extension of their selves to being able to possess someone through the quantum lock defense.

The mistake comes from allowing them to move on camera. One of Blink‘s biggest selling points was using the camera’s point-of-view as an observer, and it held true here until that single moment in the forest with Amy. In that moment, the Angels lost their power with me. They became just another Doctor Who monster.

The second big mistake in this story is the treatment of Amy. From The Beast Below until now, she’s been a competent and intelligent companion. In the last few minutes of this story, however, her integrity plummeted as she pushed for sex with the Doctor. With her wedding dress hanging mere feet from her bed, she actually contemplated cheating on her fiancé.

It’s an unfortunate and anger-inducing development for her. Steven Moffat later walked it back, but the scene was a terrible idea from the start.

Now, there is some nice consistency across the franchise with this story, from the Doctor being miffed that someone else can drive the TARDIS better than him (The Ribos Operation) to the Doctor showing affection to his companions before leaving them for a few moments (The War Games/Colony in Space).

Overall, this is a really good suspense thriller that covers a lot of ground in the ongoing universe building. The thing that really knocks this from being fantastic is the downturn for Amy’s character.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Vampires of Venice


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 – December 30

December 30, 2020
Day 365 of 366

December 30th is the 365th day of the year. It is the anniversary of the Day of the Declaration of Slovakia as an Independent Ecclesiastic Province.

There are two days remaining in the year.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, Falling Needles Family Fest Day, and Bacon Day.

Mmmm… bacon…

Historical items of note:

  • In 1851, businessman and politician Asa Griggs Candler was born. In 1888, he purchased the Coca-Cola recipe for $1,750 from chemist John Stith Pemberton in Atlanta, Georgia. He founded The Coca-Cola Company in 1892 and developed it as a major company. He served as the 41st Mayor of Atlanta from 1916 to 1919.
  • In 1865, Indian-English author and poet Rudyard Kipling was born. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.
  • In 1896, Canadian ice hockey player Ernie McLea scored the first hat-trick in Stanley Cup play, and the Cup-winning goal, as the Montreal Victorias defeated the Winnipeg Victorias by a score of 6-5. The hat-trick is accomplished when a single player scores three goals in a single game.
  • Also in 1896, Filipino patriot and reform advocate José Rizal was executed by a Spanish firing squad in Manila.
  • In 1916, the last coronation in Hungary was performed for King Charles IV and Queen Zita.
  • In 1920, actor Jack Lord was born.
  • In 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed.
  • In 1924, Canadian-American propulsion engineer Yvonne Brill was born.
  • In 1927, the Ginza Line, the first subway line in Asia, opened in Tokyo, Japan.
  • In 1945, English singer-songwriter and actor Davy Jones was born. He was a member of The Monkees.
  • In 1947, author, screenwriter, and producer James Kahn was born.
  • In 1953, journalist and game show host Meredith Vieira was born.
  • Also in 1953, the first-ever NTSC color television sets went on sale. They were sold for about $1,175 each by RCA.
  • In 1963, Let’s Make a Deal debuted on NBC.
  • In 1972, actress Maureen Flannigan was born. I was introduced to her on Out of this World, a little low-budget family sitcom that I still would love to see on TV again someday.
  • In 1980, actress and producer Eliza Dushku was born.
  • In 1982, Canadian actress Kristin Kreuk was born.
  • In 1986, actress Caity Lotz was born.
  • In 2006, former President of Iraq Saddam Hussein was executed.

December 30th is Falling Needles Family Fest Day.

What is that? Well, it’s a day to remind everyone to clean up and recycle that rapidly decaying live Christmas tree. Instead of putting it in the garbage, the tree can be reused in many ways. It can be mulched down for use in your garden or donated to mulching programs. According to Purdue University, it can be anchored in your yard to serve as a temporary winter home for birds. It can also be donated to programs that place trees in waterways to act as homes for fish. It can also be used as a soil erosion block for hills, lakes, rivers, and dunes.

It can also be cut and dried for later use in fire pits. Of course, you should never burn it indoors due to the oils found in firs and evergreens.

Check with your local municipality to see what options are available to recycle your used tree.

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 – December 29

December 29, 2020
Day 364 of 366

December 29th is the 364th day of the year. It is Independence Day in Mongolia (Монгол Улсын тусгаар тогтнол) as they commemorate their separation from the Qing Dynasty in 1911.

There are three days remaining in the year.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Hero Day, National Pepper Pot Day, and Tick Tock Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1800, self-taught chemist and engineer Charles Goodyear was born. He developed vulcanized rubber, a process for which he received the patent. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company is named after him.
  • In 1860, the launch of the ironclad HMS Warrior, with her combination of screw propeller, iron hull, and iron armor, rendered all previous warships obsolete.
  • In 1916, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the first novel by James Joyce, was first published as a book after it had been serialized in The Egoist.
  • In 1928, British actor Bernard Cribbins was born.
  • In 1936, actress and producer Mary Tyler Moore was born.
  • In 1947, actor and producer Ted Danson was born.
  • In 1965, the fourth James Bond film, Thunderball, premiered.
  • In 1967, director, screenwriter and producer Lilly Wachowski was born.
  • In 1972, actor Jude Law was born.
  • In 1979, Mexican actor, director and producer Diego Luna was born.
  • In 1987, Scottish actor Iain De Caestecker was born.
  • In 1998, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge apologized for the 1970s genocide in Cambodia that claimed over one million lives.

December 29th is Constitution Day in Ireland.

The Constitution of Ireland, Bunreacht na hÉireann, asserts the national sovereignty of the Irish people in the tradition of liberal and representative democracy. It guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected non-executive president, a bicameral parliament, a separation of powers, and judicial review.

It is the second constitution of the Irish state since independence, replacing the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State. It came into force on December 29, 1937 following a statewide plebiscite. It is the republican constitution that has been the longest continuously in operation within the European Union.

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 – December 28

December 28, 2020
Day 363 of 366

December 28th is the 363rd day of the year. It is King Taksin Memorial Day (วันที่ระลึกสมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช) in Thailand.

There are three days remaining in the year.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Short Film Day, National Chocolate Candy Day, National Card Playing Day, Holy Innocents Day, and Pledge of Allegiance Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1832, John C. Calhoun became the first Vice President of the United States to resign.
  • In 1895, the Lumière brothers performed for their first paying audience at the Grand Café in Boulevard des Capucines.
  • Also in 1895, Wilhelm Röntgen published a paper detailing his discovery of a new type of radiation. It would later be known as x-rays.
  • In 1912, the first municipally owned streetcars began operation in San Francisco.
  • In 1918, Constance Markievicz, while detained in Holloway prison, became the first woman to be elected MP to the British House of Commons.
  • In 1932, actress Nichelle Nichols was born.
  • In 1934, English actress Maggie Smith was born.
  • In 1954, actor, director, and producer Denzel Washington was born.
  • In 1973, the United States Endangered Species Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
  • In 1979, Swedish actress Noomi Rapace was born.
  • In 1981, British actress and fashion designer Sienna Miller was born.
  • In 1987, actor Thomas Dekker was born.

December 28th is Proclamation Day in South Australia.

Proclamation Day celebrates the establishment of government in South Australia as a British province. The province itself was officially created and proclaimed in 1834 when the British Parliament passed the South Australia Act, which empowered King William IV to create South Australia as a British province and to provide for its colonization and government. It was ratified on February 19, 1836 when King William issued Letters Patent establishing the province, and the proclamation announcing the establishment of Government was made by Captain John Hindmarsh beside The Old Gum Tree at the present-day suburb of Glenelg North on December 28, 1836.

The proclamation specified the same protection under the law for the local native population as for the settlers. It was drafted aboard HMS Buffalo by Captain Hindmarsh’s private secretary, George Stevenson, and printed by Robert Thomas.

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 – December 27

December 27, 2020
Day 362 of 366

December 27th is the 362nd day of the year. It is Emergency Rescuer’s Day in Russia.

There are four days remaining in the year.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Fruitcake Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1571, German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer Johannes Kepler was born.
  • In 1657, the Flushing Remonstrance articulated for the first time in North American history that freedom of religion is a fundamental right.
  • In 1822, French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur was born.
  • In 1831, Charles Darwin embarked on his journey aboard HMS Beagle, during which he would begin to formulate his theory of evolution.
  • In 1901, actress and humanitarian Marlene Dietrich was born.
  • In 1922, the Japanese aircraft carrier Hōshō became the first purpose built aircraft carrier to be commissioned in the world.
  • In 1927, Kern and Hammerstein’s musical play Show Boat, considered to be the first true American musical play, opened at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Broadway.
  • In 1932, Radio City Music Hall, the “Showplace of the Nation”, opened in New York City.
  • In 1943, journalist and author Cokie Roberts was born.
  • In 1945, the International Monetary Fund was created with the signing of an agreement by 29 nations.
  • In 1960, English actress Maryam d’Abo was born.
  • In 1973, actor Wilson Cruz was born.
  • In 1974, Japanese-American actor and visual effects designer Masi Oka was born.
  • In 1981, Australian actress Emilie de Ravin was born.
  • In 1993, English actress Olivia Cooke was born.
  • In 2004, radiation from an explosion on the magnetar SGR 1806-20 reached Earth. It is the brightest extrasolar event known to have been witnessed on the planet.
  • In 2016, we lost Carrie Fisher. An award-winning actress, screenwriter, author, producer, speaker, comedian, and mental health advocate, she died at the age of 60. She wanted it reported that she “drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”

December 27th is Saint Stephen’s Day in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is also a public holiday in Romania.

Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr, or protomartyr. According to the Acts of the Apostles, he was a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. He was a Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jew and one of seven deacons appointed by the Apostles to distribute food and charitable aid to poorer members and widows of the community, and he was the eldest deacon (called “archdeacon”).

He was accused of blasphemy and put on trial, during which he made a speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgment on him. He was subsequently stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus, also known as Paul, a Pharisee and Roman citizen who would later become a Christian apostle.

The only source for information about Stephen is the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles.

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 – December 26

December 26, 2020
Day 361 of 366

December 26th is the 361st day of the year. It is Boxing Day in the Commonwealth nations and the first day of Kwanzaa, a celebration of African-American culture that runs until January 1st.

There are five days remaining in the year.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Candy Cane Day, National Thank-you Note Day, and National Whiner’s Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1791, English mathematician and engineer Charles Babbage was born. He invented the Difference Engine.
  • In 1862, four nuns serving as volunteer nurses on board USS Red Rover were the first female nurses on a United States Navy hospital ship. The Red Rover was a 650-ton Confederate States of America steamer was captured and repurposed by the United States Navy during the American Civil War.
  • In 1871, Thespis, the first Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration, debuted. It did modestly well, but the two would not collaborate again for four years and the score has been subsequently lost.
  • In 1898, Marie and Pierre Curie announced the isolation of radium.
  • In 1921, comedian Steve Allen was born.
  • In 1922, British actor Richard Mayes was born.
  • In 1924, Judy Garland, billed at Baby Frances, made her show business debut at 2½ years old.
  • In 1930, British actor Donald Moffat was born.
  • In 1933, puppeteer and voice actor Caroll Spinney was born.
  • In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day in the United States.
  • In 1960, New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison was born. He has played Jango Fett, Boba Fett, and the clone army in the Star Wars franchise.
  • In 1963, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There” by The Beatles were released in the United States, marking the beginning of Beatlemania on an international level.
  • In 1966, the first Kwanzaa was celebrated by Maulana Karenga, the chair of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach.
  • In 1973, The Exorcist, based on the book by and written by William Peter Blatty, premiered. It was the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture.
  • In 1975, Tu-144, the world’s first commercial supersonic aircraft surpassing Mach 2, went into service.
  • In 1986, English actor Kit Harington was born.
  • In 1991, the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union met and formally dissolved the Soviet Union, thereby ending the Cold War.

December 26th is the first day of Junkanoo, a street parade in The Bahamas.

The event contains music, dance, and costumes of mixed African origin in many islands across the English speaking Caribbean, and takes place on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. They are predominantly showcased in the Bahamas, but also in Miami in June and Key West in October among the local black populations have their roots in the Caribbean.

The festival may have origins among slaves on plantations in the Bahamas who celebrated the holidays around Christmas with dance, music, and costumes centuries ago. After emancipation, the tradition continued and junkanoo evolved from simple origins to a formal, organized parade with intricate costumes, themed music and official prizes within various categories.

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 2020 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Culture on My Mind
The 2020 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar
December 25, 2020

Promotional image via The LEGO Group

One of the holiday season traditions in my household is the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar. These annual boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. We’ve seen a winter Chewbacca, a rebel pilot snowman, a Santa Porg, a “gonk” power droid decorated like a present, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers.

It’s whimsical and it’s fun. It makes us laugh.

This year’s box was tied to the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, which was so much fun to watch (but was definitely not canon). This year’s box also included The Rise of Skywalker in the mix of Star Wars favorites. A couple of my favorite builds this year were Vader’s Castle (for the ingenuity) and D-O (for the cute factor).

As you can see, the day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition. I compiled last year’s photos into a single blog post.

I hope this holiday season finds you and yours well. Stay warm, stay safe, and I’ll see you next year.

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 – December 25

December 25, 2020
Day 360 of 366

December 25th is the 360th day of the year. It is Christmas Day in the Christian faith, a holiday that is celebrated around the world.

There are six days remaining in the year.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Pumpkin Pie Day and A’Phabet Day or No “L” Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 274, a temple to Sol Invictus was dedicated in Rome by Emperor Aurelian.
  • In 336, the first recorded Christmas celebration occurred. It was held in Rome.
  • In 1642 (on the old calendar), English physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton was born.
  • In 1758, Halley’s Comet was sighted by Johann Georg Palitzsch, confirming Edmund Halley’s prediction of its passage. This was the first passage of a comet predicted ahead of time.
  • In 1809, Dr. Ephraim McDowell performed the first ovariotomy, removing a 22-pound tumor.
  • In 1815, the Handel and Haydn Society, the oldest continually performing arts organization in the United States, gave its first performance.
  • In 1821, nurse and humanitarian Clara Barton was born. She founded the American Red Cross.
  • In 1831, the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt began. Up to twenty percent of Jamaica’s slaves mobilized in an ultimately unsuccessful fight for freedom.
  • In 1899, actor Humphrey Bogart was born.
  • In 1914, a series of unofficial truces occurred across the Western Front to celebrate Christmas.
  • In 1924, screenwriter and producer Rod Serling was born. He created The Twilight Zone.
  • In 1946, the first European self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was initiated within the Soviet Union’s F-1 nuclear reactor.
  • In 1949, actress Sissy Spacek was born.
  • In 1950, the Stone of Scone, the traditional coronation stone of British monarchs, was taken from Westminster Abbey by Scottish nationalist students. It later turned up in Scotland on April 11, 1951.
  • In 1952, Guyanese-American actress CCH Pounder was born.
  • In 1954, Scottish singer-songwriter and pianist Annie Lennox was born.
  • In 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird, the film adaptation of the novel by Harper Lee, was released.
  • In 1963, Disney’s The Sword in the Stone was released.
  • In 1984, British actress Georgia Tennant was born.
  • In 1985, British actress Perdita Weeks was born.
  • In 2003, the ill-fated Beagle 2 probe, released from the Mars Express spacecraft on December 19, stops transmitting shortly before its scheduled landing.
  • In 2004, the Cassini orbiter released the Huygens probe which successfully landed on Saturn’s moon Titan on January 14, 2005.

December 25th is also the date of several non-Christmas related holidays.

In Pakistan, it is Quaid-e-Azam Day (یوم ولادت قائداعظم), commemorating the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

Among the Nakh peoples of Chechnya and Ingushetia, it is Malkh-Festival, a festival dedicated to the Deela-Malkh in Vainakh mythology. Today marks the birthday and the festival of the Sun, and during the ceremonies suppliants turned to the east, matching their temples and house façades. The Nakh believed that the Sun went to visit her mother, Aza, at the summer and winter solstices. That journey took her six months to complete.

In India, it is Tulsi Pujan Diwas. The plant tulsi (also known as Holy Basil) is planted and worshipped on the occasion. In Hinduism, tulsi is used for medicinal and spiritual purposes.

Finally, in the Chumbivilcas Province of Peru, Takanakuy is observed today. From the Quechua for “to hit each other”, it is an annual established practice of fighting fellow community members. The festival consists of dancing and of individuals fighting each other to settle old conflicts.

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 – December 24

December 24, 2020
Day 359 of 366

December 24th is the 359th day of the year. It is Christmas Eve in the Christian faith, along with related observances. Iceland celebrates Aðfangadagskvöld, the day when the 13th and the last Yule Lad arrives to towns. Italian Americans celebrate today as the Feast of the Seven Fishes while Nordic countries observe Juleaften in Denmark, Julaften in Norway, and Julafton in Sweden.

It is Nittel Nacht in certain Orthodox Jewish denominations, Nochebuena in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries, the Declaration of Christmas Peace in the Old Great Square of Turku (Finland’s official Christmas City), and Wigilia in Poland.

It is also Quviasukvik, the Inuit new year in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Russia.

There are seven days remaining in the year.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Eggnog Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1777, Kiritimati, also called Christmas Island, was discovered by James Cook.
  • In 1814, representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States signed the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.
  • In 1818, the first performance of “Silent Night” took place in the church of St. Nikolaus in Oberndorf, Austria.
  • In 1826, the Eggnog Riot at the United States Military Academy took place. It was caused by a drunken Christmas Day party in the North Barracks of the academy. Two days prior to the incident, a large quantity of whiskey was smuggled into the academy to make eggnog for the party, giving the riot its name.
  • In 1865, Jonathan Shank and Barry Ownby formed The Ku Klux Klan.
  • In 1871, the opera Aida premiered in Cairo, Egypt.
  • In 1905, reclusive billionaire, filmmaker, and aviator Howard Hughes was born.
  • In 1906, Reginald Fessenden transmitted the first radio broadcast. It consisted of a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.
  • In 1914, the World War I “Christmas Truce” began.
  • In 1922, the BBC broadcast the first British radio play “The Truth about Father Christmas”.
  • In 1927, author Mary Higgins Clark was born.
  • In 1940, physician Anthony Fauci was born.
  • In 1941, British actor John Levene was born.
  • In 1945, writer and director Nicholas Meyer was born.
  • In 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 entered orbit around the Moon, becoming the first humans to do so. They performed ten lunar orbits and broadcast live TV pictures.
  • In 1970, Disney’s The Aristocats debuted.
  • In 1973, the District of Columbia Home Rule Act was passed, allowing residents of Washington, D.C. to elect their own local government.
  • In 1980, witnesses reported the first of several sightings of unexplained lights near RAF Woodbridge, in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom. The incident became known as “Britain’s Roswell”.

December 24th is National Eggnog Day in the United States.

Also known as milk punch or egg milk punch when alcohol is added, eggnog is a rich, chilled, sweetened, dairy-based beverage. It is traditionally made with milk, cream, sugar, whipped egg whites, and egg yolks (which gives it a frothy texture and its name). In some contexts, distilled spirits such as brandy, rum, whisky, or bourbon are added.

Throughout Canada and the United States, eggnog is traditionally consumed over the Christmas holiday season, starting in late October. A variety called Ponche Crema has been made and consumed in Venezuela and Trinidad since the 1900s, also as part of the Christmas season. During that time, commercially prepared eggnog is sold in grocery stores in these countries.

Eggnog can be homemade using milk, eggs, sugar, and flavorings, and served with cinnamon or nutmeg. While eggnog is often served chilled, in some cases it is warmed, particularly on cold days similar to mulled wine. Eggnog or eggnog flavoring may also be used in other drinks, such as coffee and tea, or to dessert foods such as egg-custard puddings.

The origins are debated, with potential roots as a strong beer brewed in East Anglia to an English beverage known as Egg Flip.

In Britain, the drink was popular among the aristocracy, particularly among those who could afford luxuries like eggs and milk. The drink crossed the Atlantic with British colonists, and rum was substituted for the heavily taxed brandy and wine courtesy of the Triangular Trade with the Caribbean. When rum became more rare during the American Revolution, whisky and bourbon became a popular additive. Moonshine was also used when nothing else was available.

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.