The Thing About Today – April 4

April 4, 2020
Day 95 of 366


April 4th is the ninety-fifth day of the year. It is Independence Day in Senegal, commemorating their freedom from French rule.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Chicken Cordon Bleu Day, National Hug a Newsperson Day, Jeep 4×4 Day, National School Librarian Day, National Vitamin C Day, National Walk Around Things Day, National Love Our Children Day, and National Handmade Day. The last two are typically observed on the first Saturday in April.

Today is also National Education and Sharing Day, which is typically observed on the 11th of Nissan in the Israel Calendar and therefore shifts annually on the Gregorian calendar.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1147, Moscow was mentioned for the first time in the historical record when it was named as a meeting place for two princes.
  • In 1581, Sir Francis Drake was knighted for completing a circumnavigation of the world.
  • In 1818, The United States Congress, affirming the Second Continental Congress, adopted the flag of the United States with 13 red and white stripes and one star for each state. At that time, there were twenty states.
  • In 1850, Los Angeles was incorporated as a city.
  • In 1887, Argonia, Kansas elected Susanna M. Salter as the first female mayor in the United States.
  • In 1922, composer and conductor Elmer Bernstein was born.
  • In 1923, actor, director, producer and screenwriter Gene Reynolds was born.
  • In 1928, poet and memoirist Maya Angelou was born.
  • Also in 1928, singer-songwriter Monty Norman was born. He is best known for composing the James Bond theme.
  • In 1944, actor, director, and producer Craig T. Nelson was born.
  • In 1956, screenwriter and producer David E. Kelley was born.
  • In 1960, actor and producer Hugo Weaving was born.
  • In 1964, The Beatles occupied the top five positions on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.
  • In 1965, actor, producer, and screenwriter Robert Downey Jr. was born.
  • In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Also in 1968, NASA launched Apollo 6, the final uncrewed Apollo test mission.
  • In 1969, Dr. Denton Cooley implanted the first temporary artificial heart.
  • In 1973, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City were officially dedicated.
  • In 1975, Microsoft was founded as a partnership between Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • In 1979, actor Heath Ledger was born.
  • In 1983, the Space Shuttle Challenger made its maiden voyage into space on Mission STS-6.
  • In 2012, Tardar Sauce was born. The feline was better known as Grumpy Cat, a popular internet meme.


In 1841, William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia, becoming the first President of the United States to die in office.

Harrison was the last president born as a British subject in the Thirteen Colonies before the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775. He served in the military, participating in the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, an American military victory that effectively ended the Northwest Indian War. Later, he led a military force against Tecumseh’s Confederacy at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, was promoted to major general in the War of 1812, and in led American infantry and cavalry at the Battle of the Thames in Upper Canada in 1813.

Harrison began his political career in 1798 when he was appointed Secretary of the Northwest Territory. In 1799, he was elected as the territory’s delegate in the House of Representatives. Two years later, President John Adams named him governor of the newly established Indiana Territory, in which he served until 1812. After the War of 1812, he moved to Ohio and was elected to represent the state’s 1st district in the House in 1816. In 1824, the state legislature elected him to the United States Senate, but his term was cut short by his appointment as Minister Plenipotentiary to Gran Colombia in May 1828.

He returned to private life in North Bend, Ohio until he was nominated as the Whig Party candidate for president in the 1836 election, during which he was defeated by Democratic vice president Martin Van Buren. He tried again four years later with John Tyler as his running mate, touting the campaign slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”. They defeated Van Buren, making Harrison the first Whig to win the presidency.

Harrison was the oldest person elected to the office, a record he held until President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated in 1981. Harrison served as the Ninth President of the United States for 31 days until he died of typhoid, pneumonia or paratyphoid fever, setting the record for the briefest administration in American history.

His death ignited a brief constitutional crisis regarding succession to the presidency because the Constitution was unclear as to whether the vice president should assume the office or merely execute the duties of the vacant office. John Tyler claimed a constitutional mandate to become the new president and took the oath of office, setting the precedent for an orderly transfer of power when the previous president fails to complete the elected term.

The first vice president to succeed to the presidency without election, John Tyler served longer than any president in U.S. history not elected to the office. He served the remainder of Harrison’s four-year term before being succeeded by James K. Polk in 1845.


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 – Slipped Discs and Squid Ink

Culture on My Mind
April 3, 2020


My apologies for skipping last week’s post. It’s been a bit crazy around here.

This week’s “can’t let it go” is a quick plug for new home media releases if you’re looking for a distraction from the plague-ridden world.

Gary Mitchel – longtime friend of Creative Criticality, raconteur, and gamemaster extraordinaire – hosts his own blog called Squid Ink on RevolutionSF. One of his regular features is Slipped Discs, a heads-up on what nerdy film fare is available to arrive on your doorstep each week.

His most recent edition covered the releases for March 31st, including the plethora of Star Wars material that dropped on store shelves and doorsteps alike.

If you’re on the lookout for new releases on physical media to keep you moving, consider sparing a few minutes each week with Gary and RevolutionSF.


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 – April 3

April 3, 2020
Day 94 of 366


April 3rd is the ninety-fourth day of the year. It is World Party Day, a day of global celebration and joy. Under the circumstances, we should all party with our friends and families virtually, maybe over Skype or Zoom, or even through an online gaming platform. I wish you a bright celebration of life today.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Chocolate Mousse Day, National Film Score Day, National Find a Rainbow Day, and National Tweed Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1783, Washington Irving was born. He was the American short story writer, essayist, biographer, historian who wrote Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and encouraged other American authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe through his successes in Europe.
  • In 1860, the first successful United States Pony Express run from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, began.
  • In 1865, Union forces captured Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederate States of America. The American Civil War would end just over a month later.
  • In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler was granted a German patent for his engine design.
  • In 1888, the first of eleven unsolved brutal murders of women committed in or near the impoverished Whitechapel district in the East End of London occurred. These murders were attributed to the mysterious Jack the Ripper.
  • In 1895, the trial in the libel case brought by Oscar Wilde begins. The trial would eventually result in his imprisonment on charges of homosexuality.
  • In 1922, singer and actress Doris Day was born.
  • In 1926, astronaut Gus Grissom was born.
  • In 1934, English primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall was born.
  • In 1946, Japanese Lt. General Masaharu Homma was executed in the Philippines for leading the Bataan Death March.
  • In 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed the Marshall Plan, authorizing $5 billion in aid for 16 countries.
  • In 1955, the American Civil Liberties Union announced that it would defend Allen Ginsberg’s book Howl against obscenity charges. Howl denounced what Ginsberg saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States, as well as reflecting his own sexual orientation while describing heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every state.
  • In 1958, actor, comedian, and producer Alec Baldwin was born.
  • In 1959, actor and activist David Hyde Pierce was born.
  • In 1961, actor and comedian Eddie Murphy was born.
  • In 1969, actor Ben Mendelsohn was born.
  • In 1973, Martin Cooper of Motorola made the first handheld mobile phone call to Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs.
  • Also in 1973, actor Jamie Bamber was born.
  • In 1975, Bobby Fischer refused to play in a chess match against Anatoly Karpov, giving Karpov the title of World Champion by default.
  • In 1980, the United States Congress restored a federal trust relationship with the 501 members of the Shvwits, Kanosh, Koosharem, and the Indian Peaks and Cedar City bands of the Paiute people of Utah.
  • In 1982, actress Cobie Smulders was born.
  • In 1989, the United States Supreme Court upheld the jurisdictional rights of tribal courts under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 in Mississippi Choctaw Band v. Holyfield.
  • In 1996, the “Unabomber”, Theodore Kaczynski, was captured at his Montana cabin. Between 1978 and 1995, he killed three people and injured 23 others in an attempt to start a revolution by conducting a nationwide bombing campaign targeting people involved with modern technology. In 1998, a plea bargain was reached under which he pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to eight consecutive life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole.
  • In 2010, Apple Inc. released their first iPad tablet computer.


In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis, Tennessee.

The speech primarily concerned the Memphis Sanitation Strike, calling for unity, economic actions, boycotts, and nonviolent protest, while challenging the United States to live up to its ideals. At the end of the speech, he discussed the possibility of an untimely death. He would be assassinated the very next day.


Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.


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 – April 2

April 2, 2020
Day 93 of 366


April 2nd is the ninety-third day of the year. It is World Autism Awareness Day, an official health-specific United Nations day designed to bring attention to autism, research about it, and acceptance of those affected by it.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Ferret Day, National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, National Reconciliation Day, and National Burrito Day. That last one is typically observed on the first Thursday in April.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León first sighted land in what is now the United States state of Florida. Somehow, we later got a natural spring and a street named after him in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • In 1792, the Coinage Act was passed, thus establishing the United States Mint.
  • In 1800, Ludwig van Beethoven led the premiere of his First Symphony in Vienna.
  • In 1805, Danish novelist, short story writer, and poet Hans Christian Andersen was born.
  • In 1875, Walter Chrysler was born. He was the businessman who founded the Chrysler car company.
  • In 1900, the United States Congress passed the Foraker Act, which granted Puerto Rico limited self-rule.
  • In 1902, the “Electric Theatre” opened in Los Angeles, California. It was the first full-time movie theater in the United States.
  • In 1911, the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted the country’s first national census.
  • In 1912, the RMS Titanic began sea trials.
  • In 1914, actor Alec Guinness was born. Among other great roles, he portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first three Star Wars films.
  • In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked the United States Congress for a declaration of war on Germany.
  • In 1920, Jack Webb was born. The actor, director, producer, and screenwriter was well-known for his role as Sgt. Joe Friday in Dragnet.
  • In 1939, singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye was born.
  • In 1947, singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris was born.
  • In 1956, As the World Turns and The Edge of Night premiered on CBS. The two soap operas became the first daytime dramas to debut in the 30-minute format.
  • In 1962, actor Clark Gregg was born.
  • In 1968, 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C.
  • In 1972, actor Charlie Chaplin returned to the United States for the first time since being labeled a communist during the Red Scare in the early 1950s.
  • In 1973, the LexisNexis computerized legal research service was launched.
  • In 1977, actor Michael Fassbender was born.
  • In 1991, Rita Johnston became the first female Premier of a Canadian province. She succeeded William Vander Zalm after his resignation as Premier of British Columbia.


Fitting for the day after April Fools’ Day: In 1941, radio host and satirist Dr. Demento was born.

Barry Hansen gained his Demento persona in 1970 while working at Los Angeles station KPPC-FM. He played “Transfusion” by Nervous Norvus on the radio, and station DJ “The Obscene” Steven Clean said that Hansen had to be “demented” to play it.

The name stuck.

His weekly show went into syndication in 1974 and was syndicated by the Westwood One Radio Network from 1978 to 1992, and continued in various markets until June 6, 2010. It has since entered the online market and continues weekly production.

The son of an amateur pianist, he started his vast record collection at age 12, a collection that now exceeds 85,000 units. He worked as Program Director and General Manager of KRRC radio in college, eventually earning a master’s degree in folklore and ethnomusicology.

Known for his love of novelty and parody music, he is credited with introducing new generations of listeners to artists such as Harry McClintock, Spike Jones, Benny Bell, Yogi Yorgesson, Stan Freberg, and Tom Lehrer. He also brought “Weird Al” Yankovic to national attention. In 1976, the good doctor spoke at Yankovic’s school, and Yankovic gave a self-recorded tape of comedy songs and parodies to him. The first song, “Belvedere Cruisin'”, about the family station wagon, was featured on the show. Positive listener response encouraged Yankovic to keep recording, leading Dr. Demento to fund Yankovic’s first EP, Another One Rides the Bus. Events led to a record deal and pop chart success in the 1980s and beyond, and Demento has appeared in a number of Weird Al’s music videos and his movie UHF as a result.

Dr. Demento has been inducted into both the Comedy Music Hall of Fame and the National Radio Hall of Fame.


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 #197: Planet of the Ood

Doctor Who: Planet of the Ood
(1 episode, s04e03, 2008)


The revolution is at hand.

Mr. Bartle, the executive of an organization that is selling Ood, reviews a commercial for his operation and is then electrocuted by his personal Ood servant Delta Fifty. The Ood’s eyes glow red as he takes joy in the act.

The TARDIS dances as the Doctor randomizes their destination. When they touch down, Donna goes from excited to chilled as she opens the door into an arctic landscape and blowing snow. The Doctor is pleased to finally see snow (as opposed to the last three snow events), but his joy is interrupted as Donna steps back inside the time capsule and retrieves a parka.

An incoming ship, which Donna compares to a Ferrari against the Doctor’s “box”, contains Klineman Halpen. The arrogant man is set to replace Bartle, and his briefing includes a discussion on “red eye” syndrome from Dr. Ryder and a PR rep named Solana. They also discuss Delta Fifty, who has since gone to the snowy plains and died after being shot. The Doctor and Donna are there when he dies, having followed the Ood’s telepathic song. Delta Fifty’s last words were “The circle must be broken,” which accompanied the red eyes and his last breath.

The Doctor tells Donna about his first encounter with the Ood before they crest a hill and spot the facility in the distance. They join a buyers tour, using the psychic paper as their credentials, as another Ood succumbs to red eye and is nearly executed before displaying new symptoms. Halpen orders Commander Kess to take the Ood to Dr. Ryder.

As the Doctor takes stock of where they are – even mentioning the close relationship between the Ood and the Sensorites – Donna muses about being in the year 4126 and how humanity has survived global warming and the disappearance of the bees. Donna interviews one of the Ood and it mentions the circle before being taken away. The Doctor and Donna decide to abandon the tour and venture on their own.

Halpen examines the renegade Ood and orders an autopsy. The troops comply by shooting it.

The Doctor and Donna watch as the Ood are driven like cattle. They note Halpen’s trek across the compound to Warehouse 15. Inside the warehouse are an awful stench and a red glow emanating from an unknown source. Solana reports that the Doctor and Donna do not belong at the compound and Halpen heads back to his office.

The Doctor and Donna enter a different warehouse and find containers packed with Ood. They ask about the circle and the Ood reply in unison that it must be broken so that they can sing. Donna asks about the Ood being treated as slaves and the Doctor muses that they still exist in Donna’s time. After all, who made her clothes?

The guards find Donna and lock her in a container with three Ood. Meanwhile, Commander Kess plays the crane game with the Doctor before Solana intercedes. When Donna is released, the three Ood attack. As the Doctor, Donna, and Solana run, the rest of the Ood join in. The Doctor demands that Solana help them stop the red eye, but she betrays their position instead.

Kess reports to Halpen – who has been going bald and drinking “hair tonic” this entire time – and the boss orders them gassed.

The Doctor and Donna find the Ood conversion facility, the place where the natural-born Ood are converted into servants. They find a cage with a small group of these Ood, and the Doctor’s mind is flooded with the Ood’s Song of Captivity. He uses his telepathy to share it with Donna, opening her eyes to their plight, before opening the cage and joining them. One Ood shows the Doctor and Donna a brain in his hands, and they discover that conversion means cutting out their brains and replacing it with the translation ball.

The Doctor and Donna are apprehended soon after and taken before Halpen. The Doctor is furious to find out that the entire lot has been ordered to die. While the execution countdown begins, every Ood in the facility shares the song and attacks the assembled buyers. The Ood swarm the facility as the humans fight back. Commander Kess is trapped in the gas chamber as the countdown ticks to zero.

Halpen and Ryder try to escape, followed by Halpen’s Ood, Sigma, who hasn’t turned. They leave the Doctor and Donna to the rampaging Ood, but they are saved as the natural-born Ood telepathically tell the revolutionaries that Doctor-Donna-friend. The travelers run through the battlefield and find Ood Sigma as Ryder and Halpen enter Warehouse 15.

Halpen intends to destroy the mysterious red light with explosives, knowing that if it dies, all the Ood die. The Doctor and Donna arrive and discover that the red light is emanating from a giant brain, surrounded by a circular telepathic dampening field. When the Ood hindbrain is removed, the external brain assists with its continuous song.

The reason that the Ood have turned is due to Ryder’s association with a pro-Ood activist group. Ryder turned the circle down as low as possible. Halpen executes Ryder by tossing his over the side. Halpen turns a gun on the Doctor and Donna, but Sigma reveals that he has been poisoning Halpen over time with an Ood graft suspension. In short, it has transformed Halpen into an Ood, and Sigma says that he will now take care of the Halpen-Ood.

The Doctor disables the telepathic dampener and unleashes the song. The Ood end their rampage and join into the song that resonates across the galaxy. All of the Ood are returning to the Ood Sphere to be led by Ood Sigma.

As Sigma sees the travelers off, he remarks that Doctor-Donna will never be forgotten in the songs of the Ood, even though the Doctor’s song is soon to end.


This is a solid story about the revolution and the emancipation of slaves. The common thread of the song is a beautiful addition, linking the proliferation of song to the absolute freedom of the Ood. It’s also a nice bit of social commentary about modern-day slavery in sweatshops and poor working conditions.

Besides the nod to The Sensorites, we also get ties to Time and the Rani (use of a giant brain by the antagonists), Torchwood‘s Meat and Reset (exploitation of alien life for human benefit), and the potential mass extermination of a group of alien beings (Doctor Who and the Silurians).

The downside is the plethora of gunplay and violence, but we do get more threads laid for the future in a story that develops Donna, the Doctor, and their evolving relationship as they careen through time and space.



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



UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Sontaran Stratagem and Doctor Who: The Poison Sky



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 – April 1

April 1, 2020
Day 92 of 366


April 1st is the ninety-second day of the year. It is traditionally observed as April Fools’ Day, but we don’t do that here.

It is Edible Book Day, an annual international event where “edible books” are created, displayed, photographed, and then consumed.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National One Cent Day, National Sourdough Bread Day, Childhelp National Day of Hope, and National Walking Day. The last two are typically observed on the first Wednesday in April.


Historical items of note:

  • In 33 AD, according to one historian’s account, Jesus Christ’s Last Supper was held.
  • In 1789, the United States House of Representatives achieved its first quorum at Federal Hall in New York City. Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania was elected as the first Speaker.
  • In 1826, Samuel Morey received a patent for a compressionless “Gas or Vapor Engine”.
  • In 1873, the White Star Line steamer RMS Atlantic sank off Nova Scotia. 547 deaths were reported in one of the worst marine disasters of the 19th century.
  • In 1883, actor, director, and screenwriter Lon Chaney was born.
  • In 1891, the Wrigley Company was founded in Chicago, Illinois.
  • In 1893, the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy was established. It is still uncertain how soon after this point that they started carrying coffee cups everywhere and refusing to wash them.
  • In 1917, Sydney Newman was born. He was a Canadian screenwriter and producer, and he was the co-creator of Doctor Who.
  • In 1918, the Royal Air Force was created by the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.
  • In 1920, actor and writer Toshiro Mifune was born.
  • In 1924, the Royal Canadian Air Force was formed.
  • In 1926, writer Anne McCaffrey was born.
  • In 1930, actress and singer Grace Lee Whitney was born. She portrayed Janice Rand on Star Trek.
  • In 1932, actress and singer Debbie Reynolds was born.
  • In 1937, the Royal New Zealand Air Force was formed as an independent service.
  • In 1947, the only mutiny in the history of the Royal New Zealand Navy began.
  • In 1952, actress Annette O’Toole was born. She was Lana Lang in Superman III and Martha Kent in Smallville.
  • In 1954, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized the creation of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado.
  • In 1960, the TIROS-1 satellite transmitted the first television picture from space.
  • In 1969, the Hawker Siddeley Harrier entered service with the Royal Air Force. It was the first operational fighter aircraft with Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing capabilities.
  • In 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law, requiring the Surgeon General’s warnings on tobacco products and banning cigarette advertising on television and radio in the United States. It went into effect on January 1, 1971.
  • In 1976, Apple Inc. was formed by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in Cupertino, California.
  • Also in 1976, actor David Oyelowo was born.
  • In 1979, Iran became an Islamic republic by a 99% vote, officially overthrowing the Shah.
  • In 1983, actor Matt Lanter was born.
  • In 2001, same-sex marriage became legal in the Netherlands, which became the first contemporary country to allow it.
  • In 2004, Google announced Gmail to the world.


April 1st is well-known as April Fools’ Day, a day of practical jokes, tomfoolery, and (in general) not believing a thing you read on the internet.

Origins of the holiday are disputed and various. One such origin is in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales from 1392. In the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale”, a vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox on Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. While some readers apparently interpreted this as the 32nd of March, or rather April 1st, the text of the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” also states that the story takes place on the day when the sun is in the signe of Taurus had y-runne Twenty degrees and one, which does not align with April 1st. Modern scholars attribute this to a copying error in the manuscripts over time, believing that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon. That would point to a date 32 days after March, which would be May 2nd. That’s also the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381.

In 1508, French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (an April fool, literally “fish of April”), which is possibly the first reference to the celebration in France. Similarly, in 1561, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1st.

There are also suggestions that April Fools’ originated due to calendar changes. In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25 in most European towns, with a holiday that in some areas of France ended on April 1. Those who celebrated New Year’s Eve on January 1 made fun of those who celebrated on other dates by the invention of April Fools’ Day. Observance of January 1st as New Year’s Day became common in France only in the mid-16th century, and the date was not adopted officially until 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

In the Netherlands, the origin of April Fools’ Day is often attributed to the Dutch victory in 1572 at Brielle, where the Spanish Duke Álvarez de Toledo was defeated. The Dutch proverb Op 1 april verloor Alva zijn bril can be translated as: “On the first of April, Alva lost his glasses.” In this case, “bril” (which is “glasses” in Dutch) serves as a homonym for Brielle. But, this theory provides no explanation for the international celebration of April Fools’ Day.

Finally, in 1686, John Aubrey referred to the celebration as “Fooles holy day”, which marks the first British reference. On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.

Following with these potential origin stories across Europe, it’s understandable why the tradition is held so strongly in the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Belgium, Ireland, Poland, the Nordic regions, Ukraine, Lebanon, most of the Spanish-speaking world, and Canada.

In the internet age, practical jokes have taken on a whole new dimension. The Nordic countries traditionally publish one false news story, typically on the front page but not above the fold, as an annual gag, but the internet expands the reach to the entire world. While some pranks are harmless – ThinkGeek, for example, generates advertisements for absurd collectibles that can actually become real if enough customers vote for them – others carry the joke too far by generating false news stories that gullible people defend as real. Which can be dangerous in an era of fraudulent news stories, identity theft, and cyberwarfare.

The internet age has taken April Fools’ Day to a new level, challenging us all to define the difference between innovative creativity and manipulative deception.

I have made it a point in my creative channels to either not participate or to make the joke blatantly obvious to the most casual observer. I like a good laugh as much as the next person, but not at the expense of deceiving people in the long run. There’s enough of that in the world as it is.


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 31

March 31, 2020
Day 91 of 366


March 31st is the ninety-first day of the year. It is the International Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual event celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination against them worldwide.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Bunsen Burner Day, National Clams on the Half Shell Day, National Crayon Day, National Prom Day, National Tater Day, and National Equal Pay Day. The last one is observed on a Tuesday in March or April and changes annually.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1492, Queen Isabella of Castile issued the Alhambra Decree. Also known as the Edict of Expulsion, it ordered her 150,000 Jewish and Muslim subjects to either convert to Christianity or face expulsion from her lands.
  • In 1596, René Descartes was born. A French mathematician and philosopher, he was the one who thought and therefore was.
  • In 1685, German composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
  • In 1889, the Eiffel Tower was officially opened.
  • In 1917, the United States took possession of the Danish West Indies after paying $25 million to Denmark. They renamed the territory as the United States Virgin Islands.
  • In 1918, Daylight saving time went into effect in the United States for the first time.
  • In 1927, actor William Daniels was born. He was Mr. Sweeny in Boy Meets World and the voice of KITT in Knight Rider and its spinoff TV movie.
  • In 1930, the Motion Picture Production Code was instituted in the United States. It imposed strict guidelines on the treatment of sex, crime, religion, and violence in film for the next thirty-eight years.
  • In 1939, The Hound of the Baskervilles was released. It was the first of fourteen films starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson.
  • In… 19… 43… Christopher Walken… was… born.
  • In 1945, a defecting German pilot delivered a Messerschmitt Me 262A-1, the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft, to the Americans. It was the first to fall into Allied hands.
  • In 1948, actress Rhea Perlman was born.
  • In 1966, the Soviet Union launched Luna 10. It later becomes the first space probe to enter orbit around the Moon.
  • In 1971, actor Ewan McGregor was born. He portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel films.
  • In 1985, the first WrestleMania takes place in Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was the biggest wrestling event from the WWE (then called the WWF).


In 1992, USS Missouri, the last active United States Navy battleship, was decommissioned in Long Beach, California.

USS Missouri (BB-63) was an Iowa-class battleship. Nicknamed the “Mighty Mo” or the “Big Mo”, she was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named after the State of Missouri and was the last battleship commissioned by the United States.

Missouri was ordered in 1940 and commissioned in June 1944. In the Pacific Theater of World War II, she fought in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and shelled the Japanese home islands. She fought in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 and was decommissioned in 1955 into the United States Navy reserve fleets. She was reactivated and modernized in 1984 as part of the 600-ship Navy plan, eventually providing fire support during Operation Desert Storm in January and February 1991.

Missouri received a total of eleven battle stars for service in World War II, Korea, and the Persian Gulf, and was finally decommissioned on March 31, 1992, after serving a total of seventeen years of active service. She was finally struck from the Naval Vessel Register until her name was struck in January 1995.

In 1998, she was donated to the USS Missouri Memorial Association and became a museum ship at Pearl Harbor. She is best remembered as the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan, which ended World War II.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

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