The Thing About Today – February 20

February 20, 2020
Day 51 of 366

 

February 20th is the fifty-first day of the year. It is the World Day of Social Justice, also known as Social Justice Equality Day, which recognizes the need to promote social justice. That includes efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion, gender equality, unemployment, human rights, and social protections.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Cherry Pie Day and National Love Your Pet Day. Not that we need a special day for that in our household…

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1792, the Postal Service Act was signed by President George Washington, thus establishing the United States Post Office Department.
  • In 1816, Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville premiered at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.
  • In 1872, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in New York City.
  • In 1877, Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
  • In 1925, director and screenwriter Robert Altman was born.
  • In 1927, actor Sidney Poitier was born. He was the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.
  • In 1931, the United States Congress approved the construction of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge by the state of California.
  • In 1933, the United States Congress approved the Blaine Act to repeal federal Prohibition in the United States. This sent the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution (which would repeal the Eighteenth Amendment) to state ratifying conventions for approval.
  • In 1935, Caroline Mikkelsen became the first woman to set foot in Antarctica.
  • In 1944, the Batman & Robin comic strip premiered in newspapers.
  • In 1954, actor and musician Anthony Stewart Head was born.
  • In 1956, the United States Merchant Marine Academy became a permanent Service Academy.
  • In 1962, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, making three orbits in four hours, 55 minutes while aboard Friendship 7.
  • In 1984, comedian and actor Trevor Noah was born.
  • In 1986, the Soviet Union launched the Mir spacecraft. It remained in orbit for fifteen years and was occupied for ten.

 

In 1962, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, making three orbits in four hours, 55 minutes while aboard Friendship 7.

Formally known as the Mercury-Atlas 6 (MA-6), it was the fifth human spaceflight after Vostoks 1 and 2 (both orbital flights by the Soviets) and Mercury-Redstones 3 and 4 (both sub-orbital flights by the Americans). After Mercury-Atlas 5 successfully took Enos the Chimp to orbit and back, Marine Corps aviator John Glenn was chosen to pilot Friendship 7. Glenn was a distinguished fighter pilot in World War II, China, and Korea. He shot down three MiG-15s and was awarded six Distinguished Flying Crosses and eighteen Air Medals. In 1957, he made the first supersonic transcontinental flight across the United States, during which the first continuous, panoramic photograph of the country was taken.

The mission was first announced for a January 16 launch but was postponed for over a month due to various issues. Once the capsule was launched, Glenn witnessed dust storms on the planet below, twilight and sunset over the Indian Ocean, and the “fireflies” of ice crystals venting from spacecraft systems.

Friendship 7 splashed down in the North Atlantic and was retrieved by the destroyer USS Noa. The spacecraft was preserved and is currently displayed at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The mission is portrayed from different points of view in the films The Right Stuff and Hidden Figures.

John Glenn went on to receive the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1962, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990. After leaving NASA in January 1964, he served in the United States Senate from 1974 to 1999, returning to space in 1998 on the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95). At the age of 77, he was the oldest person to fly into space.

John Glenn was the oldest and last surviving member of the Mercury Seven. He died in 2016 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.

 

 

The Thing About Today – February 19

February 19, 2020
Day 50 of 366

 

February 19th is the fiftieth day of the year. It is Armed Forces Day in Mexico.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Chocolate Mint Day, National Lash Day, and National Vet Girls RISE Day.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1473, Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish mathematician and astronomer, was born.
  • In 1674, England and the Netherlands ended the Third Anglo-Dutch War by signing the Treaty of Westminster. One provision of that agreement transferred the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam to England. The British renamed it New York.
  • In 1878, Thomas Edison patented the phonograph.
  • In 1940, singer-songwriter and producer Smokey Robinson was born.
  • In 1953, the State of Georgia became the first to approve a literature censorship board in the United States.
  • In 1960, Bill Keane’s Family Circus premiered.
  • In 1963, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published. It reawakened the feminist movement in the United States.
  • In 1967, Benicio del Toro was born.
  • In 2004, Millie Bobbie Brown was born.

 

In 1946, Karen Silkwood was born.

Karen Silkwood was a chemical technician and labor union activist who worked at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site in Oklahoma. After being hired at the site, she joined the local Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union and took part in a strike at the plant. Afterward, she was elected to the union’s bargaining committee, becoming the first woman to achieve that position at the plant.

During her assignment to investigate health and safety issues, she discovered what appeared to be numerous violations of health regulations, including exposure of workers to contamination, faulty respiratory equipment and improper storage of samples. Additionally, she believed that the lack of sufficient shower facilities could increase the risk of employee contamination. She eventually testified to the Atomic Energy Commission about her concerns.

Months after her testimony, she performed a routine self-check and found that her body contained nearly 400 times the legal limit for plutonium contamination. She was decontaminated on-site and sent home with a kit to collect bodily samples for later analysis. The odd part was that plutonium was discovered inside her gloves, but the gloves were intact, suggesting that the contamination had come from somewhere else.

The next morning, she tested positive again despite having only done administrative paperwork in the interim and was more vigorously decontaminated in what has become colloquially known as the “Silkwood shower”. The next day, she was tested positive again, and a health physics team followed her home and found plutonium on several surfaces. Her home was intensively decontaminated and Silkwood, her boyfriend, and her roommate were sent to Los Alamos National Laboratory for in-depth testing.

Questions arose about the incident and Silkwood eventually decided to go public with her claims against the site, including extensive documentation. While driving to meet with New York Times journalist David Burnham, she died in a car crash under unclear circumstances. The documents were missing from her car and the police report stated that she fell asleep at the wheel. Rumors suggested that drugs were involved, though forensic evidence at the scene pointed toward foul play.

Her family sued Kerr-McGee for the plutonium contamination, and the company settled out of court for $1.38 million while not admitting liability.

Karen Silkwood’s story was told in the Academy Award-nominated film Silkwood from 1983, in which she was portrayed by Meryl Streep.

 

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 – February 18

February 18, 2020
Day 49 of 366

 

February 18th is the forty-ninth day of the year. It is Wife’s Day (Konudagur) in Iceland, which traditionally falls on the first day of Góa according to the old Icelandic calendar.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Battery Day (honoring the storage device, not beating on someone), National Crab Stuffed Flounder Day, and National Drink Wine Day.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1791, Congress passed a law admitting the state of Vermont to the Union, effective on March 4th. Of course, the state had already existed for fourteen years as a de facto independent largely unrecognized state.
  • In 1861, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the provisional President of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Alabama.
  • In 1878, the Lincoln County War began in Lincoln County, New Mexico after John Tunstall was murdered by the outlaw Jesse Evans.
  • In 1885, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was published.
  • In 1930, Elm Farm Ollie became both the first cow to fly in a fixed-wing aircraft and the first cow to be milked in an aircraft.
  • In 1931, Toni Morrison was born. She was an American novelist, editor, and Nobel Prize laureate.
  • In 1950, Cybill Shepherd was born.
  • In 1954, John Travolta was born.
  • In 1968, Molly Ringwald was born.
  • In 1977, the Space Shuttle Enterprise test vehicle was ferried on its maiden “flight” on top of a Boeing 747.

 

In 1950, filmmaker John Hughes was born.

John Hughes began his career by selling jokes to performers like Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. After several copywriting jobs, he landed as an author of satirical essays for National Lampoon magazine. His first story was “Vacation ’58”, which was inspired by his family trips as a child and became the basis for the film National Lampoon’s Vacation.

His first credited screenplay, National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, was written while he was at the magazine, and it became the second major flop that tried to duplicate the success of National Lampoon’s Animal House. Undaunted, Hughes wrote Vacation and Mr. Mom, earning him a three-film deal with Universal Pictures.

His directorial debut was Sixteen Candles in 1984 and was considered a refreshing look at adolescence and high school life in comparison to raunchier Porky’s-inspired films. He continued his “teen movie” style with The Breakfast ClubPretty in PinkWeird ScienceFerris Bueller’s Day Off, and Some Kind of Wonderful. All of these films became iconic of the early to mid-1980s.

He branched out in 1987 with a wider style, including Planes, Trains, and AutomobilesUncle BuckNational Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Curly Sue. That last film was his final directorial effort, capping an era of filmmaking that wasn’t nearly as popular as his teen films. I’m in the minority in that regard.

He also served as writer and/or producer on a long list of films, including The Great Outdoors, the first three Home Alone films, Career Opportunities, the first two Beethoven films, Miracle on 34th Street, Maid in Manhattan101 Dalmatians, and Flubber.

John Hughes retired in 1994. He died of a heart attack on August 5, 2009, at the age of 59.

 

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 – February 17

February 17, 2020
Day 48 of 366

 

February 17th is the forty-eighth day of the year. It is Presidents Day in the United States.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Random Acts of Kindness and National Cabbage Day.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1753, February 17th was followed by March 1st in Sweden when the country moved from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar.
  • In 1801, an electoral tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr was resolved when Jefferson was elected President of the United States by the House of Representatives. Burr became Vice President due to the convention of the time.
  • In 1819, the United States House of Representatives passed the Missouri Compromise for the first time. The Missouri Compromise provided for the admission of Maine to the Union as a free state and Missouri as a slave state, thus maintaining the balance of power between North and South in the United States Senate.
  • In 1864, during the American Civil War, the Confederate H. L. Hunley became the first submarine to engage and sink a warship. Its target was the Union’s USS Housatonic.
  • In 1881, Mary Carson Breckinridge was born. An American nurse-midwife, she founded the Frontier Nursing Service.
  • In 1904, Madama Butterfly premiered at La Scala in Milan.
  • In 1925, actor Hal Holbrook was born.
  • In 1936, the world’s first superhero made his first appearance in comics as Lee Falk’s The Phantom debuted.
  • In 1963, American basketball legend Michael Jordan was born.
  • In 1964, a decision in Wesberry v. Sanders by the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that congressional districts have to be approximately equal in population.
  • In 1965, The Ranger 8 probe launched on its mission to photograph the Mare Tranquillitatis region of the Moon. The Sea of Tranquility would later be chosen as the site for the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
  • In 1991, actress, director, and screenwriter Bonnie Wright was born.

 

It is Presidents Day in the United States.

The federal holiday was originally called Washington’s Birthday, observed on the third Monday of February in honor of George Washington. Washington was the first President of the United States and was born on February 22, 1732 by the Gregorian Calendar. When he was born, his Virginia home was still under British rule, and thus under the Julian calendar, so his “old style” birthdate was February 11, 1731. In 1752, the British Empire converted to the Gregorian Calendar and subjects born before then had their birthdates converted to the “new style” dates.

The holiday coincides with state holidays across the country that celebrate George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other United States Presidents. The observation as it stands today honors all who have served as President of the United States.

The federal holiday honoring Washington was originally implemented by an Act of Congress in 1879 for government offices and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices. It was originally celebrated Washington’s birthday, but was shifted to the third Monday in February in 1971.

The first attempt to create a Presidents Day occurred in 1951. Harold Stonebridge Fischer founded the “President’s Day National Committee” with the purpose of honoring the office of the presidency. It was first thought that March 4, the original inauguration day, should be deemed Presidents Day, but the bill recognizing March 4 stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. While the Senate stalled out, a majority of state governors issued proclamations declaring the March date as Presidents’ Day in their respective jurisdictions.

While an early draft of the 1971 Uniform Monday Holiday Act contained the name “Presidents’ Day” for the February celebration, it didn’t stick when the bill was signed into law. The term finally surfaced in the mid-1980s with a push from advertisers.

The traditional food of the holiday is cherry pie, based around the legend surrounding Washington and the cherry tree. The holiday is also a tribute to the first military badge of merit for the common soldier, the Purple Heart, which bears Washington’s image and is awarded to soldiers wounded in battle.

 

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 – February 16

February 16, 2020
Day 47 of 366

 

February 16th is the forty-seventh day of the year. It is Restoration of Lithuania’s Statehood Day, celebrating the independence of Lithuania from Russia and Germany in 1918.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Almond Day and National Do A Grouch a Favor Day.

 

Historical items of note:

  • In 1646, the Battle of Torrington occurred in Devon. It was the last major battle of the first English Civil War.
  • In 1881, the Canadian Pacific Railway was incorporated by an Act of Parliament at Ottawa.
  • In 1937, Wallace H. Carothers received a United States patent for nylon.
  • In 1948, the first newsreel telecast was shown on NBC.
  • In 1952, William Katt was born. He was The Greatest American Hero.
  • In 1957, actor, director, producer, and educator LeVar Burton was born.
  • In 1964, Christopher Eccleston was born. He was the Ninth Doctor and a Marvel Cinematic Universe villain.
  • In 1974, actor Mahershala Ali was born.
  • In 1978, the first computer bulletin board system was created. It was called CBBS.
  • In 1989, actress Elizabeth Olson was born.
  • In 2006, the last Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) was decommissioned by the United States Army.

 

In 1960, the U.S. Navy submarine USS Triton (SSRN/SSN-586) began Operation Sandblast.

The Triton was a United States Navy radar picket submarine, designed to increase the radar detection range around a force to protect it from a surprise attack. Triton was the only ship of its class and was commissioned on November 10, 1959. It was the second submarine and the fourth ship in the U.S. Navy to be named for that particular Greek god, which was unique for an era when submarines were named for types of fish.

Under the command of Captain Edward L. Beach Jr., a World War II veteran submariner, the Triton completed the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe during Operation Sandblast. Spanning 60 days and 21 hours, a 26,723 nautical mile route was followed that began and ended at the St. Peter and Paul Rocks in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean near the Equator. The track was similar to the route followed by Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world from 1519 to 1522.

The intent was to increase American technological and scientific prestige before the 1960 Paris Summit between President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, as well as demonstrating the longevity of the nuclear submarine platform. Triton earned the Presidential Unit Citation for the operation, and Captain Beach was awarded the Legion of Merit.

The radar picket mission was made obsolete when the carrier-based WF-2 Tracer early warning aircraft was introduced, at which time the Triton was converted to standard attack submarine service (changing the ship from an SSRN to an SSN) in 1962. She was decommissioned in 1969, becoming the first United States nuclear submarine to be taken out of service.

 

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 – February 15

February 15, 2020
Day 46 of 366

February 15th is the forty-sixth day of the year. It is National Flag of Canada Day, commemorating the inauguration of the national flag in 1965.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Gumdrop Day, Singles Awareness Day, and National Wisconsin Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1564, astronomer, physicist, and mathematician Galileo Galilei was born.
  • In 1835, the first constitutional law in modern Serbia was adopted.
  • In 1870, Stevens Institute of Technology was founded in New Jersey. The school offered the first Bachelor of Engineering degree in Mechanical Engineering.
  • In 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a bill allowing female attorneys to argue cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • In 1898, the battleship USS Maine exploded and sank in Havana, Cuba. The event, during which 274 people were killed, prompted the United States to declare war on Spain.
  • In 1907, Cesar Romero was born. He played the Joker in the 1966 Batman series.
  • In 1927, Harvey Korman was born.
  • In 1935, American astronaut Roger B. Chaffee was born.
  • In 1946, ENIAC, the first electronic general-purpose computer, was formally dedicated at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
  • In 1950, Disney’s Cinderella premiered in Boston.
  • In 1951, actress Jane Seymour was born.
  • In 1954, Canada and the United States agreed to construct the Distant Early Warning Line, a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic regions of Canada and Alaska.
  • Also in 1954, Matt Groening was born. He was the creator of The Simpsons.
  • In 1971, British coinage completed the decimalization process, thus inspiring Decimal Day.
  • In 1972, sound recordings were granted U.S. federal copyright protection for the first time.
  • In 1992, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced to life in prison.
  • In 2001, the first draft of the complete human genome was published in Nature.

In 1820, American suffragist and activist Susan B. Anthony was born.

Susan B. Anthony was an American social reformer and women’s rights activist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement. Her family was committed to social equality, and even as a teenager she was dedicated to fighting for social justice. At the age of 17, she collected anti-slavery petitions, and by 1856 she was the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her lifelong friend and co-worker in social reform, Anthony fought for women’s rights. Together, the women found the New York Women’s Temperance Society after Anthony was prevented from speaking at a conference because of her gender. They worked together on several other projects and organizations over the following twenty years, fighting for both women’s rights and racial equality.

In 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York. After being convicted in a very public trial, she refused to pay the fine and the government refused to escalate matters any further. This prompted Anthony and Stanton to present an amendment before Congress to grant women the right to vote. This amendment was ratified as the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

When she first began campaigning for women’s rights, Susan B. Anthony was harshly ridiculed. In fact, she was accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage.

Doesn’t that sound familiar nearly two hundred years later?

Public perception of her changed radically during her lifetime. Her 80th birthday was celebrated at the White House with President William McKinley, and she became the first female citizen depicted on coinage in the United States when her portrait was added to the dollar coin in 1979.

Susan B. Anthony died on March 13, 1906, at the age of 86.

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 – Every Storm Runs Out Of Rain

Culture on My Mind
February 14, 2020

This week’s “can’t let it go” is a simple tweet that I recently stumbled across.

As part of Alex Banayan’s book, The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers, he interviewed the late Dr. Maya Angelou and received a great deal of good advice. Among it was this standout that she wished that she had penned:

I asked what someone should do when they’re searching for rainbows, but all they see are clouds.

“What I know is that it’s going to be better,” she said. “If it’s bad, it might get worse, but I know that it’s going to be better. And you have to know that. There’s a country song out now, which I wish I’d written, that says, ‘Every storm runs out of rain.’ I’d make a sign of that if I were you. Put that on your writing pad. No matter how dull and seemingly unpromising life is right now, it’s going to change. It’s going to be better. But you have to keep working.”

(Source: Maya Angelou’s Most Empowering Lessons)

It’s nothing elaborate, but it’s advice that has special meaning for me of late.

Tangentially, the song that she mentioned is Gary Allan’s “Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)” from 2012.

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.