The Thing About Today – March 29

March 29, 2020
Day 89 of 366


March 29th is the eighty-ninth day of the year. It is National Vietnam War Veterans Day in the United States.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day, National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day, and National Nevada Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1806, construction was authorized of the Great National Pike, better known as the Cumberland Road and the National Road, which became the first United States federal highway.  Built between 1811 and 1837, the 620-mile road connected the Potomac and Ohio Rivers – Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Ilinois – and was a main transport path to the West for thousands of settlers.
  • In 1871, the Royal Albert Hall was opened by Queen Victoria.
  • In 1886, John Pemberton brewed the first batch of Coca-Cola in a backyard in Atlanta.
  • In 1943, Greek keyboard player and songwriter Vangelis was born.
  • In 1945, Jimmy Stewart was promoted to full colonel, making him one of the few Americans to rise from private to colonel in four years.
  • In 1955, actor Brendan Gleeson was born.
  • Also in 1955, actress Marina Sirtis was born.
  • In 1957, actor Christopher Lambert was born.
  • In 1961, the Twenty-Third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, thus allowing residents of Washington, D.C., to vote in presidential elections.
  • In 1968, actress Lucy Lawless was born.
  • In 1973, the last United States combat soldiers left South Vietnam.
  • In 1974, NASA’s Mariner 10 became the first space probe to fly by Mercury.
  • Also in 1974, the Terracotta Army was discovered in Shaanxi province, China.
  • In 1999, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above the 10,000 mark at 10,006.78. This was the first time for the DJIA, happening during the height of the dot-com bubble.
  • In 2014, the first same-sex marriages in England and Wales were performed.


In 1951, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union.

The couple were accused of providing top-secret information about radar and sonar systems, jet propulsion engines, and valuable nuclear weapon designs. At the time, the United States was the only country in the world with nuclear weapons, making the underlying technology a valuable commodity.

Other convicted co-conspirators were sentenced to prison, including Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass (who had made a plea agreement), Harry Gold, and Morton Sobell. Klaus Fuchs, a German scientist working in Los Alamos, was convicted in the United Kingdom.

The Rosenbergs’ sons, Michael and Robert Meeropol and many other defenders maintained that Julius and Ethel were innocent of their crimes, victims of rampant Cold War paranoia. This idea was shattered after the fall of the Soviet Union when information concerning them was declassified. This included a trove of decoded Soviet cables, codenamed VENONA, which detailed Julius’s role as a courier and recruiter for the Soviets and Ethel’s role as an accessory.

In 2008 the National Archives of the United States published most of the grand jury testimony related to the prosecution. It revealed that Ethel had not been directly involved in activities, contrary to the charges levied by the government.

Convicted of espionage in 1951, the couple was executed by the federal government of the United States in 1953 at the Sing Sing correctional facility in Ossining, New York.


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 – March 28

March 28, 2020
Day 88 of 366


March 28th is the eighty-eighth day of the year. It is Serfs Emancipation Day in Tibet.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Black Forest Cake Day, National Something on a Stick Day, National Triglycerides Day, and National Weed Appreciation Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza found the site for the Presidio of San Francisco.
  • In 1802, Heinrich Wilhelm Matthäus Olbers discovered 2 Pallas, the second asteroid ever to be found.
  • In 1910, Henri Fabre became the first person to fly a seaplane, the Fabre Hydravion, after taking off from a water runway near Martigues, France.
  • In 1948, actress Dianne Wiest was born.
  • In 1955, singer-songwriter and producer Reba McEntire was born.
  • In 1960, actor Chris Barrie was born.
  • In 1979, a coolant leak at Three Mile Island’s Unit 2 nuclear reactor outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania led to the core overheating and a partial meltdown.
  • In 1981, actress Julia Stiles was born.
  • Also in 1981, actor Gareth-David Lloyd was born.


In 1842, Otto Nicolai conducted the first concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Until the 1830s, orchestral performances in Vienna was on an ad hoc basis. In 1833, Franz Lachner formed the forerunner of the Vienna Philharmonic, an orchestra called the Künstlerverein. That orchestra consisted of professional musicians from the Vienna Court Opera, which is now the Vienna State Opera. They performed four concerts, each including a Beethoven symphony.

The Vienna Philharmonic itself came to be nine years later, developed by a group that regularly met at a local inn, including the poet Nikolaus Lenau, newspaper editor August Schmidt, critic Alfred Becker, violinist Karlz Holz, Count Laurecin, and composer Otto Nicolai.

The Vienna Philharmonic is now considered to be one of the finest in the world, selecting its members from the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera. The selection process is lengthy, with each musician demonstrating his or her capability for a minimum of three years’ performance for the opera and ballet. After the probationary period, the candidate musician may request an application for a position in the orchestra from the Vienna Philharmonic’s board.


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 – March 27

March 27, 2020
Day 87 of 366


March 27th is the eighty-seventh day of the year.

First, it is International Whisk(e)y Day, a day to recognize Scottish, Canadian, and Japanese whiskies (no e) as well as Irish and American whiskeys (with an e), as well as supporting Parkinson’s Disease research. This celebration is not to be confused with World Whisky Day (in May) or National Bourbon Day (in June).

Second, it is World Theatre Day, an observance that was started in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute to recognize the international theatre community.

Third, it is International Medical Science Liaison Day, a day to honor the scientific experts who help to ensure that drugs and/or products they support are utilized effectively by physicians, and serve as scientific peers and resources within the medical community.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Joe Day, National Scribble Day, and National Spanish Paella Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1863, Henry Royce was born. An English engineer and businessman, he founded Rolls-Royce Limited.
  • In 1886, Apache warrior Geronimo surrendered to the United States Army, ending the main phase of the Apache Wars.
  • In 1915, Mary Mallon was put into quarantine for the second time. Known as Typhoid Mary, she was the first healthy carrier of disease ever identified in the United States. Since she was asymptomatic, she continued to work as a cook, exposed others to the disease, and caused multiple large outbreaks. She would remain forcibly quarantined for the rest of her life.
  • In 1935, actor Julian Glover was born.
  • In 1942, actor Michael York was born.
  • In 1952, Singin’ in the Rain premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
  • In 1967, actress Talisa Soto was born.
  • In 1970, actress Elizabeth Mitchell was born.
  • In 1971, actor Nathan Fillion was born.
  • In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration approved Viagra for use as a treatment for male impotence. It was the first pill to be approved for this condition in the United States.
  • In 2004, HMS Scylla, a decommissioned Leander-class frigate, was sunk as an artificial reef off Cornwall. This was the first event of its kind in Europe.


In 1794, the United States Government established a permanent navy and authorized the building of six frigates: Chesapeake, Constitution, President, United States, Congress, and Constellation.

Before this point, the naval forces were under the Continental Navy, which was established on October 13, 1775. Of the original six frigates, only the USS Constitution – “Old Ironsides”, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world – remains, berthed in Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts as a free-to-tour educational museum.


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 – March 26

March 26, 2020
Day 86 of 366


March 26th is the eighty-sixth day of the year. It is Purple Day, a day of awareness regarding epilepsy.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Nougat Day and National Spinach Day. I have never tried mixing the two, so it could be a total peanut butter and chocolate situation.

Or not.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1484, William Caxton printed his translation of Aesop’s Fables.
  • In 1773, Nathaniel Bowditch was born. A mathematician and navigator, he is often credited as the founder of modern maritime navigation. His book, The New American Practical Navigator, was first published in 1802 and is still carried on board every commissioned U.S. Naval vessel.
  • In 1812, a political cartoon in the Boston Gazette coined the term “gerrymander” to describe oddly shaped electoral districts designed to help incumbents win reelection. The term was named after Elbridge Gerry, who, as Governor of Massachusetts, signed a bill that created a partisan district in the Boston area that was compared to the shape of a mythological salamander.
  • In 1830, the Book of Mormon was published for the first time in Palmyra, New York.
  • In 1904, author and mythologist Joseph Campbell was born.
  • In 1911, playwright and poet Tennessee Williams was born.
  • In 1930, Sandra Day O’Connor was born. She was the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • In 1931, the legendary Leonard Nimoy was born.
  • In 1944, Diana Ross was born. A singer-songwriter, producer, and actress, she was the lead singer for The Supremes.
  • In 1948, Steven Tyler was born. He is the lead singer for Aerosmith.
  • In 1950, composer Alan Silvestri was born.
  • In 1958, the United States Army successfully launched the Explorer 3 satellite.
  • In 1960, actress Jennifer Grey was born.
  • In 1972, actress Leslie Mann was born.
  • In 1985, actress Keira Knightley was born.
  • In 2005, Doctor Who returned to television after a 16-year hiatus with the episode “Rose“. Christopher Eccleston starred as the Ninth Doctor alongside Billie Piper as Rose Tyler.
  • In 2018, Black Panther became the highest-grossing superhero film in the United States with earnings of $630.9 million.


In 1871, Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, prince of the House of Kalākaua, and later a territorial delegate to the United States Congress, was born.

He was a prince of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi until Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown in a coup d’état by a coalition of American and European businessmen in 1893. He later went on to become a representative in the Territory of Hawaii as a delegate to the United States Congress, and as such is the only person ever elected to that body who had been born into royalty. As a delegate, he authored the first Hawaii Statehood bill in 1919. He also won passage of the Hawaiian Homes Act, creating the Hawaiian Homes Commission and setting aside 200,000 acres of land for Hawaiian homesteaders.

He died on January 7, 1922, and his life was honored by the legislature of the Territory of Hawaii with the establishment of Prince Kūhiō Day in 1949.

Prince Kūhiō Day is one of only two holidays in the United States dedicated to royalty, the other being Hawaiʻi’s King Kamehameha Day on June 11.


In 1874, poet and playwright Robert Frost was born.

Of his works, two of my favorites are Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and The Road Not Taken.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


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 #196: The Fires of Pompeii

Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii
(1 episode, s04e02, 2008)


Just one act of kindness can make all the difference.

The TARDIS door opens on what the Doctor calls ancient Rome. Donna is enamored, particularly by the translation capabilities of the time capsule. She tries a bit of Latin, but it comes out as Celtic with a Welsh flair. He also mentions that he had nothing to do with a certain great fire in Rome, but we all know that to be a lie.

They round a corner, muse about the missing landmarks, and glance to the horizon as the ground starts to shake. There’s a volcano ahead of them. It is Mount Vesuvius, which means that they are in Pompeii, and it is eruption day.

While the travelers run for the TARDIS, a red-hooded woman reports back to her fellow sisters and the High Priestess of the Sibylline Sisterhood that the “blue box” has arrived as written in prophecy. Speaking of the TARDIS, it has been sold by a local shopkeeper to a marble merchant named Caecilius. The merchant considers the box to be a lovely piece of modern art, and his family is very superstitious. His daughter, for instance, is training to be a seer in the Sisterhood, and spots an irregular being in the vent leading the magma below.

Donna wants to save everyone in Pompeii, but the Doctor tells her that it is an impossibility. The event is a fixed point in time and cannot be altered. The Doctor and Donna find Caecilius and pose as both Spartacus and marble inspectors. Donna tries to tell them about the volcano, but the locals don’t even have a word for it.

Lucius Petrus Dextrus, the chief augur of the town, arrives and gives the Doctor praise during a verbal sparring match. Caecilius has developed a piece of art for the augur, which looks just like a circuit board, and Caecilius’s daughter Evelina arrives to shed light on the travelers. Both Evelina and Lucius see though the travelers, prophesy her return, and speak of Donna’s future.

Later on, Donna visits with Metella as she cares for Evelina. The girl is sickly and her arm is turning to stone. Meanwhile, the Doctor consults with Caecilius about the creature in the vent and how the vapors from the geothermal exhaust have enabled the soothsayers to predict the future with uncanny accuracy.

The Doctor and Quintus make a midnight trek to Lucius’s home where they find a wall of the circuit engravings. Lucius declares that the gods are using them to gift him the future, but the Doctor decrypts them as an energy converter with an unknown purpose. Lucius declares that the Doctor should die, and the Doctor escapes with Quintus after revealing the augur’s stone arm.

Lucius responds by sending the creature underground in pursuit of the time lord.

Donna continues her visit with Evelina, revealing the future of Vesuvius, which is transmitted to the Sisterhood as a new prophecy. The High Priestess declares that Donna must die for her foresight.

As the Doctor and Quintus return to Caecilius’s home, the creature erupts from the vent. The family treats the being like a god, but turn on it when it kills a man by dousing it with water. In the commotion, the Sisterhood kidnaps Donna.

He tracks Donna to the Temple of Sibyl and rescues her just before she’s murdered. He tells the Sisterhood about Sibyl, noting that she would be ashamed of them. The High Priestess demands to speak to the Doctor and reveals herself as nearly changed to stone. The Doctor recognizes that the people are being seeded by an alien species and demands that they reveal themselves. The being declares itself as a Pyrovile, a species that arrived a millennia ago and were awakened by the 62 earthquakes. The Pyroviles are a psychic race that can see through time. The Doctor holds the High Priestess back with a water gun as Donna opens the hypocaust and they escape into the volcano.

As they walk on, Donna asks about the fixed points. The Doctor replies that he can see them because that’s how he views the universe as a Time Lord. She’s still aghast that he will not save the people of Pompeii, but he cannot break a fixed point.

They reach the heart of Vesuvius, which is inhabited by the Pyrovile in their adult form. They spot the circuitry of an escape pod and recognize it as the same pattern that the augur has been coveting. Speaking of, Lucius reveals their presence. During the standoff, Lucius reveals that the Pyrovile homeworld is missing, and the creatures want to take Earth for their own. Donna and the Doctor dive into the pod and figure out that the Pyrovile are using the energy of Vesuvius to advance their plan. To save the world, the Doctor must allow Pompeii to be destroyed. It’s a question of 20,000 people versus the entirety of Earth, and Donna helps the Doctor choose.

They choose to save Earth.

Pompeii erupts around the pod, destroying the Pyrovile and ejecting the pod into Pompeii. The travelers rush to the TARDIS as the villagers panic and the Sisterhood is lost. Donna tries to help the people, but it is no use. With a heavy heart, she begs the Doctor to save Caecilius and his family, but he starts the TARDIS dematerialization sequence.

As they take off, she levels her fury at the Time Lord. Her frustration gives way to sorrow, and the Doctor tells her that he cannot save the people of Pompeii anymore than he can save his own people. Donna reasons that he can save just one family.

So he does.

In a burst of light, the TARDIS rematerializes and the Doctor extends a hand of salvation.

They all watch from a nearby hilltop as the town is destroyed. Caecilius takes solace in the thought that Pompeii will be remembered, giving the name “volcano” to the carnage. Evelina has lost her power of sight, but the family is united in strength through sorrow.

Donna and the Doctor sneak away. She thanks him and he tells her that she was right: Sometimes he needs someone, and she’s welcome to be that companion.

Six months later in Rome, Caecilius’s family is happy and healthy. Quintus is studying to be a doctor, and before he leaves for the day, he gives thanks to the household gods. The relief reveals them to be the Doctor, Donna, and the TARDIS.


This story hits the mark on every level. The dialogue is quick and witty, but also serves to propel the plot forward instead of simply being clever. The setting is well crafted and makes Pompeii feel large even though it’s obviously the same street set redressed a few times over. Donna’s pleas and the Doctor’s internal battle tug at my emotions every time I see it.

The franchise mythology is on full display here, from the past (mentions of Gallifrey, identifying the Doctor as a Lord of Time, citing the Shadow Proclamation, nodding to the classic era while exploring the mysteries of the revival era’s Last Great Time War) to the future (the Doctor Who debuts of Peter Capaldi and Karen Gillan, laying some groundwork for the rest of this series as well as the future of the franchise, and beginning the lore of fixed points in time).

That “fixed point” business? It’s always been there, all the way back to The Aztecs when the First Doctor told Barbara that she could not change a single thing (“not one line”) in history without suffering dire consequences. The trick is making a difference in history without changing history. Thus, the blessing and curse of the Time Lord.

Some of the more obscure trivia about the episode includes the TARDIS as modern art, which is a nod to City of Death – one of writer James Moran’s favorite classic stories – when the Fourth Doctor parked the time machine in an art museum. The humor Mary Poppins gets a bit of screentime here with the “positions!” scramble to save breakables from the rumbling. We also get a nod back to Barcelona, which is where the Ninth and Tenth Doctors wanted to take Rose.

The Fires of Pompeii is a masterful episode of television.


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Planet of the Ood



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 – March 25

March 25, 2020
Day 85 of 366


March 25th is the eighty-fifth day of the year. It is International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The United Nations international observance was established in 2007 and it honors and remembers those who suffered and died as a consequence of the transatlantic slave trade. Called “the worst violation of human rights in history”, over 400 years more than 15 million men, women and children were victims of the slave trade.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Lobster Newburg Day, National Tolkien Reading Day, National Little Red Wagon Day, Manatee Appreciation Day, and National Ag Day. National Little Red Wagon Day and Manatee Appreciation Day are both typically observed on the last Wednesday in March. National Ag Day’s observance changes annually.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1306, Robert the Bruce became the King of Scots.
  • In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh was granted a patent to colonize Virginia.
  • In 1655, Titan (Saturn’s largest moon) was discovered by Christiaan Huygens.
  • In 1745, John Barry was born. He was an American naval officer and is credited as the father of the American navy.
  • In 1807, the Slave Trade Act became law, abolishing the slave trade in the British Empire.
  • In 1920, Patrick Troughton was born. He was the Second Doctor on Doctor Who.
  • In 1928, astronaut Jim Lovell was born.
  • In 1934, feminist and activist Gloria Steinem was born.
  • In 1939, screenwriter and producer Dorothy “D.C” Fontana was born. She was a major architect of Star Trek.
  • In 1942, singer-songwriter and pianist Aretha Franklin was born.
  • In 1947, Elton John was born.
  • In 1948, actress Bonnie Bedelia was born.
  • In 1965, civil rights activists led by Martin Luther King Jr. successfully completed their four-day 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
  • In 1979, the first fully functional Space Shuttle orbiter was delivered to the John F. Kennedy Space Center to be prepared for its first launch. It was named Columbia after three namesakes: The American sloop Columbia Rediviva which, from 1787 to 1793, under the command of Captain Robert Gray, explored the US Pacific Northwest and became the first American vessel to circumnavigate the globe; the command module of Apollo 11, the first crewed landing on another celestial body; and the female symbol of the United States.
  • In 1982, race car driver Danica Patrick was born.


In 1863, William Bensinger, Robert Buffum, Elihu H. Mason, Jacob Parrott, William Pittenger, and William H. H. Reddick were awarded the first six Medals of Honor in American history. They were awarded this distinction for their participation in the Great Locomotive Chase (also known as Andrews’ Raid) during the American Civil War. Nineteen of Andrews Raiders, named after plan architect and leader James Andrews, were awarded the Medal of Honor. Two participants did not receive the commendation since they were civilians.

The Great Locomotive Chase was a military raid that occurred April 12, 1862, in northern Georgia. Union Army volunteers commandeered a train called The General and took it north toward Chattanooga, Tennessee. During their mission, they did as much damage as possible to the vital Western and Atlantic Railroad (W&A) line from Atlanta to Chattanooga and were pursued by Confederate forces on foot by rail for 87 miles. One of the more famous pursuing Confederate trains was The Texas.

The Union forces cut the telegraph wires along the way, meaning that the Confederates could not send warnings ahead. Nevertheless, the Confederates eventually captured the raiders and quickly executed some as spies, including Andrews.

The Walt Disney Company dramatized the events in their 1956 film called The Great Locomotive Chase.

The Medal of Honor is the highest military award in the United States, presented to service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor. It is presented in the name of Congress – a fact that has led to the popular misnomer “Congressional Medal of Honor” – by the President of the United States. The President typically presents the Medal at a formal ceremony intended to represent the gratitude of the U.S. people, with posthumous presentations made to the primary next of kin.

There are three versions of the medal, one each for the Army, Navy and Air Force. Marine Corps and Coast Guard awardees receive the Navy version, and members of the Space Force will receive the Air Force version. The Navy’s version of the Medal of Honor was introduced in 1861. The Army’s medal followed in 1862, while the Air Force’s medal was introduced in 1965.

Since 1944, the Medal of Honor has been attached to a light blue colored moiré silk neck ribbon, the center of which displays thirteen white stars in honor of the original colonies and states. The Medal of Honor is one of only two United States military awards suspended from a neck ribbon, the other being the Commander’s Degree of the Legion of Merit, which is usually awarded to individuals serving foreign governments.

Congress also authorized a service ribbon, which is light blue with five white stars and worn first in the order of precedence. There is also an authorized lapel button in the shape of a six-sided light blue bowknot rosette with thirteen white stars to be worn on appropriate civilian clothing on the left lapel.

Since 1948, the Medal of Honor and all service decorations awarded to members of the armed forces by any of the armed services have been afforded special protection under United States law against any unauthorized adornment, sale, or manufacture. That law includes any associated ribbon or badge.

The Medal of Honor has been awarded 3,525 times to 3,506 individuals, forty percent of which were for actions during the American Civil War. Although not required by law or military regulation, service members are encouraged to render salutes to recipients of the Medal of Honor as a matter of respect and courtesy regardless of rank or status, whether or not they are in uniform. This is one of the few instances where a living member of the military will receive salutes from members of a higher rank.

Medal of Honor recipients are also entitled to a long list of special privileges, which are established by law.

On November 15, 1990, President George H. W. Bush and the United States Congress established National Medal of Honor Day to honor the heroism and sacrifice of the Medal’s recipients.


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 – March 24

March 24, 2020
Day 84 of 366


March 24th is the eighty-fourth day of the year. It is National Tree Planting Day in Uganda. It is also World Tuberculosis Day and American Diabetes Association Alert Day.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day and National Cheesesteak Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1199, King Richard I of England was wounded by a crossbow bolt while fighting in France. He died from his wound on April 6th.
  • In 1721, Johann Sebastian Bach dedicated six concertos to Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt, now commonly called the Brandenburg Concertos, BWV 1046–1051.
  • In 1765, Great Britain passed the Quartering Act, which requires the Thirteen Colonies to house British troops.
  • In 1820, French physicist Edmond Becquerel was born.
  • In 1829, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, allowing Catholics to serve in Parliament.
  • In 1874, Hungarian-Jewish American magician and actor Harry Houdini was born.
  • In 1882, Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis.
  • In 1896, A. S. Popov made the first radio signal transmission in history.
  • In 1930, Steve McQueen was born.
  • In 1944, 76 Allied prisoners of war began breaking out of the German camp Stalag Luft III. The event was later dramatized in the movie The Great Escape.
  • In 1970, actress Lara Flynn Boyle was born.
  • In 1973, actor Jim Parsons was born.
  • In 1974, actress Alyson Hannigan was born.
  • In 1977, actress Jessica Chastain was born.
  • In 1989, the Exxon Valdez spilled 240,000 barrels of crude oil after running aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
  • In 1999, The Matrix premiered.


In 1911, animator, director, and producer Joseph Barbera was born. Together with William Hanna, he co-founded Hanna-Barbera.

Joseph Barbera was born in the Little Italy area of Manhattan, New York, and lived in the city until after high school. He displayed a talent for drawing from childhood. He married his high school sweetheart and had four children together before they separated in 1963. He married his second wife and stayed with her until his death.

His work was published in RedbookSaturday Evening Post, and Collier’s before joining Fleischer Studios. He moved to Van Beuren Studios and then Terrytoons before finally landing at MGM’s cartoon unit in 1937. There, he met William Hanna and developed a partnership that lasted for over sixty years.

By 1940, they started development on Tom and Jerry, their famous series about a cat chasing a mouse, after their success with Puss Gets the Boot. Over the next 17 years, Barbera and Hanna worked exclusively on Tom and Jerry, directing more than 114 popular cartoon shorts.

MGM closed their cartoon division in 1957, so Hanna and Barbera ventured out on their own. Together, they developed The Huckleberry Hound ShowThe Yogi Bear ShowThe Flintstones, and The Jetsons. By the late 1960s, Hanna-Barbera Productions was the most successful television animation studio in the business, producing over 3000 animated half-hour television shows.

Among the more than 100 cartoon series they produced were The Quick Draw McGraw ShowTop CatJonny QuestThe Magilla Gorilla ShowThe Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel ShowScooby-DooSuper Friends, and The Smurfs. The company also produced animated specials based on Alice in WonderlandJack and the Beanstalk, and Cyrano de Bergerac, as well as the feature-length films Charlotte’s Web and Heidi’s Song.

By December 1966, the company was sold to Taft Broadcasting (renamed Great American Communications in 1987), and the pair remained at the head of the company until 1991. The company was sold to Turner Broadcasting System, giving rise to Cartoon Network in 1992 and shows like Dexter’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls.

In 1996, Turner merged with Time Warner and Hanna-Barbera was absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation.

Joseph Barbera died in Los Angeles, California on December 18, 2006, at the age of 95.


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.