The Thing About Today – January 18

January 18, 2020
Day 18 of 366


January 18th is the eighteenth day of the year. It is Royal Thai Armed Forces Day in Thailand.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Michigan Day, National Peking Duck Day, National Thesaurus Day, and National Use Your Gift Card Day. The last one is typically observed on the third Saturday in January.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1788, the first elements of the First Fleet arrive in Botany Bay. They carried 736 convicts from Great Britain to Australia.
  • In 1886, modern field hockey was born with the formation of The Hockey Association in England.
  • In 1911, Eugene B. Ely became the first pilot to land on a ship when he set down on the USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4/CA-4) in San Francisco Bay.
  • In 1904, actor Cary Grant was born.
  • In 1915, Japan issued the “Twenty-One Demands” to the Republic of China.
  • In 1933, engineer and businessman Ray Dolby was born. He would establish Dolby Laboratories, a groundbreaking audio company.
  • In 1943, the first uprising of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto occurred.
  • In 1958, Willie O’Ree, the first Black Canadian National Hockey League player, makes his debut with the Boston Bruins.
  • In 1969, actor and singer Jesse L. Martin was born.
  • In 1973, the final episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus premiered on BBC.
  • In 1974, The Six Million Dollar Man premiered on ABC.
  • In 1976, the Karantina Massacre occurred in Beiruit during the Lebanese Civil War. Approximately 1,500 people, mostly Muslims, were murdered by Lebanese Christian militias.
  • In 1977, scientists identified a previously unknown bacterium as the cause of Legionnaires’ disease.
  • In 1993, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed for the first time in all fifty U.S. states.


In 1882, A. A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, was born. He served in both World Wars, specifically in the British Army for World War I and as a captain in the British Home Guard during World War II. He was a noted writer and playwright before creating the classic children’s icon, but Winnie the Pooh overshadowed all of his previous work.

Pooh Bear was inspired by a black bear named Winnie (after Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) who lived at the London Zoo during World War I. Milne’s son Christopher Robin Milne would often visit the bear and grew enamored by it. Milne wrote Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926 with illustrations by E. H. Shepard, followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928.

A. A. Milne experienced a stroke and brain surgery in 1952 which left him as an invalid. He retired to his farm in East Sussex and died in 1956 at the age of 74.

The Walt Disney Company licensed certain rights for the property in the 1960s, finally buying all of the rights from The Royal Literary Fund in 2001 for $350 million. They have control until the copyright expires in 2026. Two other official books were written with backing from the Milne estate: Return to the Hundred Acre Wood and The Best Bear in All the World.

A live-action film was released in 2018 named Christopher Robin that focused on the imaginative boy from the books after he grows to adulthood. A British biographical drama about Milne’s life, Goodbye Christopher Robin, was released in 2017.

National Winnie the Pooh Day unofficially commemorates A. A. Milne’s birthday every year in celebration of the iconic character and stories he created.


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 – My Two Cents

Culture on My Mind
January 17, 2020


This week, the thing that I can’t let go of is a little lesson from RetroBlasting’s recent donation drive to combat the Australian wildfires. The RetroBlasting community did a good thing here. Michael mentioned that, while their effort is literally pennies in comparison to celebrity donations – Chris Hemsworth donated $1 million, Kylie Minogue donated $500k, and several others are chipping in – he referenced the lesson of the Widow’s Offering.

We have an idiom here in the United States: “My two cents.” Derived from the English version, it boils down to the speaker offering a personal opinion. The aim is to depreciate the opinion – it’s only worth two pennies, after all – in order to display politeness and humility while lessening any impacts.

In this day and age, there is often no politeness or humility involved. It’s on the same playing field as “southern hospitality.”

What I didn’t know if how this idiom had evolved from the writings of the Bible, specifically from the Synoptic Gospels.

The tellings from both Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4 are similar: In 20-30 AD, around the time that Jesus was teaching in Judea, the smallest and least valuable coin in circulation was the lepton, worth about six minutes of an average daily wage. Crowds were donating money to the offering box, and while the rich were doling out large sums of cash, a poor widow walked up and donated two lepta. The observation was that the poor widow put in more than all of the other contributors since she donated her entire livelihood rather than remaining comfortable in her charity.

In the era of the King James translation, a small coin was called a mite, thus leading to the colloquial update to the “Lesson of the Widow’s Mite.”

Historically, the temple that was the setting of this parable was destroyed in 70 AD. This has led to the cynical view that the gift was for nothing, but I believe that charity is the most important part. Donations of time and money – whether they be a single meal, a pouch for a displaced joey, or a grand million-dollar statement – all make an impact on those who receive them. Donations that come from the figurative widows, such as those from RetroBlasting’s community or the recent #TeamTrees campaign, mean a lot because of the sacrifice involved.

Never underestimate the power of grassroots organizing. Never underestimate your impact on the world. Even two pence means something to someone.


If you want to help Australia in this time of need, there are several ways to do so. PBS NewsHour has a list of places to start, and a Google search revealed several other links. There’s also the Rescue Craft Co on Facebook which has been making soft goods for displaced wildlife, although monetary donations are probably more versatile.

As always, be cautious and do your research when sending money to unknown entities.

My gratitude goes out to Michael French and the RetroBlasting community, not only for their contribution to our friends down under, but also for inadvertently teaching me something new in the process.


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 – January 17

January 17, 2020
Day 17 of 366


January 17th is the seventeenth day of the year. It is National Day on the Spanish island of Menorca.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Bootlegger’s Day and National Hot Buttered Rum Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1706, American publisher, inventor, and politician Benjamin Franklin was born.
  • In 1773, Captain James Cook commanded the first expedition to sail south of the Antarctic Circle.
  • In 1860, Douglas Hyde was born. An Irish academic and politician, he was the first President of Ireland.
  • In 1899, famous mob boss Al Capone was born.
  • In 1912, British polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole. This happened one month after Roald Amundsen did the same.
  • In 1922, actress and personality Betty White was born.
  • In 1927, actress, singer, and activist Eartha Kitt was born.
  • In 1929, Popeye the Sailor Man first appeared in the Thimble Theater comic strip. The character was created by E. C. Segar.
  • In 1931, actor James Earl Jones was born. To say that his voice became iconic is an understatement.
  • In 1933, actress and puppeteer/ventriloquist Shari Lewis was born.
  • In 1942, boxer and activist Muhammad Ali was born.
  • In 1964, Michelle Obama was born.
  • In 1970, Russian-American animator, director, and producer Genndy Tartakovsky was born.
  • In 1977, capital punishment resumed in the United States after a ten-year hiatus. Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in Utah.
  • In 1989, Trần Loan, better known as actress Kelly Marie Tran, was born.
  • In 1991, Operation Desert Storm began. It marked the first major combat sortie for the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter.


In 1961, three days before leaving office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his televised farewell address to the nation. Issued three days before leaving office, this is the speech in which he warned against the accumulation of power by the “military-industrial complex.” He also emphasized the dangers of massive spending and deficit spending, touched on the prospect of the domination of science through Federal funding and, conversely, the domination of science-based public policy by what he called a “scientific-technological elite.”

Eisenhower served as the 34th President of the United States for two full terms from January 1953 through January 1961. He was the first U.S. president to be term-limited from seeking re-election, a rule put in place after the 1951 ratification of the Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution. His tenure saw a period of considerable economic expansion, even in the face of the deepening Cold War. He oversaw three balanced national budgets, but spending pressures continued to build in a country that faced exchanging the oldest American president in a century with the youngest elected to date in John F. Kennedy.

The concept of the military-industrial complex has been the most recognized and discussed portion of his speech, which was particularly relevant given Eisenhower’s decorated service in World War II.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

The phrase gained acceptance in the Vietnam conflict (1955-1975) and has seen significant focus in the 21st century with respect to the Global War on Terrorism and ensuing operations.


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 – January 16

January 16, 2020
Day 16 of 366


January 16th is the sixteenth day of the year. It is Teachers’ Day in Myanmar and Thailand.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Fig Newton Day, National Nothing Day, National Without a Scalpel Day, and Get to Know Your Customers Day. That last one is typically celebrated on the third Thursday of each quarter.


Historical items of note:

  • In 27 BCE, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus was granted the title Augustus by the Roman Senate. This marked the beginning of the Roman Empire which would last in different forms until 1453 AD.
  • In 1707, the Scottish Parliament ratified the Act of Union. This set the way for the creation of the United Kingdom.
  • In 1920, the League of Nations held its first council meeting in Paris, France.
  • In 1948, director, producer, screenwriter, and composer John Carpenter was born. If you’re not familiar with his catalog of work, go check it out.
  • In 1964, Hello, Dolly! opened on Broadway. This began a run of 2,844 performances.
  • In 1969, Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 performed several historical firsts: The first-ever docking of manned spacecraft in orbit; the first-ever transfer of crew from one space vehicle to another; and the only time such a transfer was accomplished with a spacewalk.
  • In 1973, the 440th and final episode of Bonanza first aired.
  • In 1980, actor, playwright, and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda was born.
  • In 1995, Star Trek: Voyager premiered on the United Paramount Network (UPN).
  • In 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off for STS-107, the final mission for the spacecraft. It would disintegrate on re-entry sixteen days later.


January 16th is recognized as National Religious Freedom Day in the United States. In 1786, the Virginia General Assembly enacted the Statute for Religious Freedom. The statute became the basis for the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in the United States Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Establishment Clause is a limitation upon the United States Congress that prevents the government from promoting theocracy or favoring one religion over another. It also prohibits the government from preventing the free exercise of religion. Court rulings have determined that non-religion, such as atheism and secular practices, are also protected.

The government is still allowed to enter the religious domain to make accommodations for religious observances and practices in order to maintain free exercise. It is also allowed to place religious symbols on government premises.

All of it stems back to the author of the original statute: Thomas Jefferson.


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 #TW20: Dead Man Walking

Torchwood: Dead Man Walking
(1 episode, s02e07, 2008)


It’s a dead man’s party.

Picking up immediately after Owen died on the asphalt, Martha Jones prepares to conduct his autopsy as the team observes. Jack bursts in and puts a stop to the procedure until he gets back from seeing a young tarot card reader. Her ominous prophecy leads Jack to the abandoned St. Mary’s Church, home to a clan of Weevils. He navigates the creatures and locates a safebox. When he returns to the Hub, he opens the box to reveal a resurrection gauntlet. A different one than they used before.

Jack plans to bring Owen back.

Gwen warns him away from the plan, but Jack will have none of it. He dons the gauntlet and pulls Owen back from the clutches of death. Jack makes the rounds, asking the team to say farewell. When his two minutes are up, Owen slips away again, presumably for the last time.

And then he wakes up again.

As they tend to Owen, the team fails to notice the gauntlet twitching on the floor. Owen has no vital signs except for brain activity. Jack quarantines Owen until the team can analyze the gauntlet and figure out what’s going on. While they work, Gwen calls Rhys to talk about her really hard day.

Owen starts to have visions of whispers in the absolute darkness of the Void. Whatever it was, Owen says it was waiting for him. Martha determines that his body is changing into something but the team can’t determine what it means. Later on, he has another vision, during which his eyes turn black and he speaks in tongues. Despite the quarantine, he decides to leave the Hub and go to the local bar.

Which is a fruitless exercise since his bodily functions are shut down. He has no need to eat or drink, and since his blood isn’t pumping, he can’t have sex either. Jack finds him, leading to a confrontation on the dance floor. The pair get arrested and tossed in jail as two Weevils look on. Amusingly, they bond over Owen’s post-mortem bodily functions and their shared experiences with death. Jack says that he brought Owen back because he wanted a miracle.

Jack uses his Torchwood authorization to free them from jail. Once outside, they are pursued by a pack of Weevils, but once the humans are cornered they find a surprise: The Weevils bow down to them. Owen, eyes black, replies in a strange language.

Tosh and the team review the CCTV footage of Owen’s episode, correlating it with another incident during the time of the Black Death. A little girl died and the town priest resurrected her with the gauntlet. Death itself came back in her place, seeking to take thirteen souls and walk the Earth permanently. Death was stopped, apparently by faith, at twelve deaths.

Owen’s words translate to “I shall walk the Earth and my hunger will know no bounds.” He fears that he will become Death, so he asks to be embalmed and frozen to stop his neurological functions. Before Martha can start the procedure, the gauntlet twitches and attacks her. In the scramble, Martha’s life force is drained, transforming her into an elderly woman. Owen destroys the glove and then transforms, pouring black smoke from his face until everything goes dark.

When Jack awakens, the team has taken Martha and Owen to the hospital. Owen feels better, no longer possessed by the entity, and the team starts looking for Death there when they spot Weevils swarming outside. Sure enough, Death makes the rounds and takes twelve souls. Torchwood evacuates the hospital, but they miss a young leukemia patient named Jamie.

Death notices the straggler.

Owen saves Jamie from Death, but they get stopped by the locked outer doors. Tosh tries to pick the lock while Ianto reviews the historical records. Owen figures out that “faith” was the girl, Faith, who was already dead. Tosh breaks the lock, but once she and Jamie are outside, Owen locks himself inside and confronts the dark beast.

The altercation is violent, but as the team watches in protest, Owen pulls the life force out of the entity and sends it back to the darkness. The day is saved, and Martha is fully restored.

Back in the Hub, Martha reveals that the energy the Owen absorbed is bleeding away, but they don’t know how long it will take. Owen asks Jack if he can go back to work as a doctor to make restitution for the twelve lives that were lost.

Jack looks unsure as he muses that Death can never truly be beaten.


There is a delicate balance in this episode between the character drama and the humor that lightens the mood. Bodily gags, such as passing gas and vomiting, are usually cheap and easy. Here, they work because of the immense weight of the conflict with Death and our team.

The gauntlet is a great misdirection since previous attempts only granted the recently deceased a matter of minutes to pass a few nuggets of information. The rapid aging of Martha to place another of our heroes in mortal danger was also a great piece of drama.

Overall, it was a great story to play with the idea of teammates in peril and the complexities of death in the Doctor Who universe.



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



UP NEXT – Torchwood: A Day in the Death



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 – January 15

January 15, 2020
Day 15 of 366


January 15th is the fifteenth day of the year. It is Arbor Day in Egypt, Armed Forces Day in Nigeria, and Army Day in India.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Bagel Day, National Booch Day, National Hat Day, and National Strawberry Ice Cream Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1559, Elizabeth I was crowned as the Queen of England.
  • In 1870, Harper’s Weekly published “A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion” by Thomas Nast. This political cartoon was the first time that the Democratic Party in the United States was symbolized with a donkey.
  • In 1889, The Coca-Cola Company, then known as the Pemberton Medicine Company, was incorporated in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • In 1892, James Naismith published the rules of basketball.
  • In 1913, actor Lloyd Bridges was born.
  • In 1927, Phyllis Coates was born. She portrayed Lois Lane in the live-action Superman productions from 1951 to 1953, and Lois Lane’s mother in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
  • In 1943, The Pentagon was dedicated in Arlington, Virginia.
  • In 1948, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre premiered. The film starred Humphrey Bogart, was directed by John Huston, and was based on the novel by B. Traven.
  • In 1967, the first Super Bowl was played. Hosted in Los Angeles, California, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.
  • In 1975, Space Mountain opened in Disneyland.
  • In 1981, Hill Street Blues premiered on NBC.
  • In 2001, Wikipedia was brought online.


In 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He was an American Christian minister, leader in the Civil Rights Movement, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

He graduated from Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology, then attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania where he graduated with a Master of Divinity in 1951. He earned a Ph.D. from Boston University in 1955, the same year that the Montgomery bus boycotts started thanks to the courage of Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks. The boycotts lasted for 385 days, during which Dr. King’s house was bombed and he was arrested, but the campaign ended with a district court ruling that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses. This elevated King as a national figure and spokesman for the civil rights movement.

From there, Dr. King was part of the founding team for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which harnessed the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct non-violent protests. Dr. King believed that organized, non-violent protest against the systems of oppression would lead to extensive media coverage of their cause. This led to several well-known movements in the 1960s, including marches and sit-ins. In particular, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 highlighted one of Dr. King’s most recognized speeches: “I Have a Dream“.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

The legacy and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is far too extensive to cover in this post alone. One of the most solemn and eye-opening places I have ever visited is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park in Atlanta, Georgia. In a day, it tells his story in detail and challenges you to live his legacy in your everyday life. I have been there three times, and it shapes me a little bit more each visit.

Dr. King visited Memphis, Tennessee in late March, 1968. He delivered the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address on April 3rd. On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated by a lone gunman at the Lorraine Motel. He was only 39 years old.

His death sparked a nationwide wave of race riots but within days of his death, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Starting in 1971, cities took up the charge of celebrating Dr. King’s legacy. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan established a national holiday in his honor. President George H.W. Bush made a proclamation in 1992 that it would be on the third Monday of January every year, near the time of Dr. King’s birthday. On January 17, 2000, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed in all fifty states.

The earliest day on which it can fall is January 15th, and the latest is January 21st. In 2020, it will be on January 20th.

I challenge you to take a few moments in the following days to read about this inspirational man and his legacy.


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 – January 14

January 14, 2020
Day 14 of 366


January 14th is the fourteenth day of the year. It is National Forest Conservation Day in Thailand.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Dress Up Your Pet Day, National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day, Ratification Day, and Shop for Travel Day. The last one is typically celebrated on the second Tuesday in January.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1539, Spain annexed Cuba.
  • In 1639, The Fundamental Orders were adopted in Connecticut. It was the first written constitution that created a government, thus leading to the state’s nickname.
  • In 1911, Roald Amundsen’s expedition made landfall on the eastern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
  • In 1919, Andy Rooney was born. He was an American soldier, journalist, critic, and television personality well-known for his “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” segment on 60 Minutes from 1978 to 2011.
  • In 1943, Franklin Roosevelt became the first President of the United States to travel by airplane while in office. He flew from Miami to Morocco to meet with Winston Churchill in the Casablanca Conference during World War II.
  • In 1944, journalist Nina Totenberg was born.
  • In 1952, Today premiered on NBC. The morning show would later be known as The Today Show.
  • Also in 1952, journalist Maureen Dowd was born.
  • In 1960, the Reserve Bank of Australia was established. It is the country’s central bank and banknote issuing authority.
  • In 1973, Elvis Presley’s Aloha from Hawaii concert was broadcast live via satellite. It set and record as the most-watched broadcast by an individual entertainer in television history.
  • In 1976, The Bionic Woman premiered on ABC. It later moved to NBC.
  • In 1977, Fantasy Island premiered on ABC.
  • In 1990, Grant Gustin was born. He portrayed Barry Allen on The Flash.


January 14th marks the Feast of the Ass, a medieval Christian observation of the Flight into Egypt.

As told in the Gospel of Matthew and New Testament apocrypha, an angel appeared to Joseph (the father of Jesus) in a dream. The angel warned Joseph to flee into Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus because King Herod sought to kill the child. According to the story, King Herod initiated the Massacre of the Innocents – the execution of all male children two years of age and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem – but failed to kill the child since Egypt was outside of his dominion and part of the Roman Empire.

The Feast of the Ass was celebrated primarily in France and honored the donkey that ferried the family to Egypt. Historians consider it an adaptation of Cervula, the pagan feast celebrated on the kalends (first day) of January. The Christian version was celebrated as early as the 11th century but disappeared in the latter half of the 15th century along with the Feast of Fools.


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.