The Thing About Today – January 25

January 25, 2020
Day 25 of 366


January 25th is the twenty-fifth day of the year. It is Burns Night in Scotland, which is a celebration of poet Robert Burns.

It is also the Lunar New Year based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar. Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Rat.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Florida Day, National Opposite Day, National Irish Coffee Day, and National Seed Swap Day. The last one is typically celebrated on the last Saturday of January.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1759, Scottish poet and songwriter Robert Burns was born. He brought “Auld Lang Syne” to the world.
  • In 1783, William Colgate, founder of Colgate-Palmolive, was born.
  • In 1858, a long-standing tradition was started at the wedding of Victoria (daughter of Queen Victoria) and Friedrich of Prussia: Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March was played and became immensely popular as a wedding processional.
  • In 1881, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell formed the Oriental Telephone Company.
  • In 1882, English novelist Virginia Woolf was born.
  • In 1909, Richard Strauss’s opera Elektra debuted at the Dresden State Opera.
  • In 1915, Alexander Graham Bell inaugurated the United States transcontinental telephone service by speaking from New York to Thomas Watson in San Francisco.
  • In 1931, actor Dean Jones was born.
  • In 1937, The Guiding Light debuted on NBC radio from Chicago. In 1952, it moved to CBS television and ran until September 18, 2009.
  • In 1943, director and filmmaker Tobe Hooper was born.
  • In 1945, the Battle of the Bulge ended in the Ardennes. The conflict ran for forty days, was the largest and bloodiest single battle fought by the United States in World War II, and was the third deadliest campaign in American history.
  • In 1947, Thomas Goldsmith Jr. filed a patent for the “Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device”. It was the first-ever electronic game.
  • In 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered the first live presidential television news conference.
  • In 1971, Charles Manson and three female members of the “Family” were found guilty of the 1969 Tate–LaBianca murders.
  • In 1981, singer-songwriter Alicia Keys was born.


In 1970, the film version of M*A*S*H premiered. Directed by Robert Altman and written by Ring Lardner Jr., it was based on MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors.

The dark comedy depicts the antics of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, though the subtext was really about the ongoing Vietnam War. The film starred Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt, and Elliott Gould, with Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, René Auberjonois, Gary Burghoff, Roger Bowen, Michael Murphy, and professional football player Fred Williamson in his film debut.

The film received five Academy Award nominations and won for Best Adapted Screenplay. It also inspired the landmark television series M*A*S*H, which ran from 1972 to 1983. While many of the characters made the leap from film to television, the only actor from the movie to make the transition was Gary Burghoff in his role of Walter “Radar” O’Reilly.

The original novel was written by H. Richard Hornberger (a former military surgeon) and W. C. Heinz (a former World War II war correspondent), under the pseudonym Richard Hooker. Hornberger, writing as Hooker, continued with M*A*S*H Goes to Maine, a novel focused on the post-war lives of the surgical team.

As the television series became increasingly popular, twelve novels were written by William E. Butterworth that took the M*A*S*H team around the world in the comical but unrealistic “M*A*S*H Goes to ______” series. In 1977, a third and final Hooker novel was published (M*A*S*H Mania) that ignored everything published after M*A*S*H Goes to Maine.

The television series ended after eleven seasons, wrapping up with the most-watched final episode in television history. Actors Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, and William Christopher carried the torch for two seasons in AfterMASH, a series that followed Colonel Potter, Max Klinger, and Father Mulcahy after the war ended. A pilot for W*A*L*T*E*R, a series centered on Radar O’Reilly, was aired but not picked up for a series option.

The most successful spinoff of the franchise was Trapper John, MD, a medical drama centered on the character of Trapper John McIntyre. Even though the pilot episode shows a photograph of Wayne Rogers and Alan Alda, the series is more of a sequel to the film rather than the television series.

The franchise itself maintains immense popularity through continuous reruns and great success in home media sales.


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 24

January 24, 2020
Day 24 of 366


January 24th is the twenty-fourth day of the year. It is Unification Day in Romania.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as Beer Can Appreciation Day, National Compliment Day, and National Peanut Butter Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 41 AD, Claudius was proclaimed Roman Emperor by the Praetorian Guard. This was after they assassinated the previous emperor, his nephew Caligula, thus ending the male line of Julii Caesares.
  • In 1848, James W. Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill near Sacramento, California. This marked the beginning of the California Gold Rush.
  • In 1862, Bucharest was declared as the capital of Romania.
  • Also in 1862, novelist Edith Wharton was born. In 1921, she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.
  • In 1908, the first Boy Scout troop was organized in England by Robert Baden-Powell.
  • In 1916, the Supreme Court of the United States decided in the case of Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad Co. that federal income tax was constitutional.
  • In 1917, actor Ernest Borgnine was born.
  • In 1927, Alfred Hitchcock made his directorial debut with The Pleasure Garden.
  • In 1933, the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. It changed the beginning and end of terms for all elected federal offices.
  • In 1940, John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath was released. It was based on the classic novel of the same name.
  • In 1946, The United Nations General Assembly passed its first resolution, establishing the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission.
  • In 1947, American physicist and academic Michio Kaku was born.
  • In 1948, actor and singer Michael Des Barres was born.
  • In 1949, comedian John Belushi was born.
  • In 1967, actor, singer, and screenwriter Phil LaMarr was born.
  • In 1968, gymnast Mary Lou Retton was born.
  • In 1984, the Macintosh personal computer hit store shelves for the first time.
  • In 1989, serial killer Ted Bundy was executed by electric chair at Florida State Prison. He had over 30 known victims.


In 1944, science fiction screenwriter and author David Gerrold was born. Within days of seeing the premiere of the original Star Trek, he wrote a sixty-page outline for a two-part episode. The story was rejected, but producer Gene Coon recognized Gerrold’s talent and asked for more story premises. Among those submissions was “The Fuzzies”, which later became “A Fuzzy Thing Happened to Me…” before evolving into the iconic “The Trouble with Tribbles”. The “fuzzies” became tribbles due to the novels by H. Beam Piper that featured a creature of the same name.

“The Trouble with Tribbles” was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation at the 1968 Hugo Awards. All of the nominees that year were Star Trek episodes, and the winner was “The City on the Edge of Forever”.

During his time with the original Star Trek, he also provided the story for “The Cloud Minders” (alongside Oliver Crawford) and provided an uncredited rewrite on “I, Mudd”. For Star Trek: The Animated Series, he penned “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and “Bem”. The latter was notable for featuring the first use of Captain Kirk’s middle name Tiberius.

In October 1986, Gerrold was brought onboard to help pre-production of Star Trek: The Next Generation with Robert Justman, Edward K. Milkis, and D.C. Fontana. Many of the changes that he had advocated for in his behind-the-scenes book The World of Star Trek were incorporated into the new show. He left the show near the end of the first season, partly because of the dispute over his script “Blood and Fire”, which was an allegory for the AIDS epidemic. After it was shelved by the Next Gen production team, Gerrold reworked the script into his original novel series Star Wolf as well as a two-part episode in the fan production Star Trek: New Voyages, which he also directed.

Gerrold wrote the novelization for “Encounter at Farpoint” and the original Star Trek novel The Galactic Whirlpool, which was based on his story outline for “Tomorrow Was Yesterday”. He also wrote several other works, including the War Against the Chtorr and Star Wolf series.


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 23

January 23, 2020
Day 23 of 366

January 23rd is the twenty-third day of the year. It is Bounty Day on the Pitcairn Islands, the destination of the HMS Bounty mutineers.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Handwriting Day and National Pie Day, not to be confused with National Pi Day which happens on March 14.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang was coronated as the Hongwu Emperor, thus starting the Ming dynasty rule over China for the next three centuries.
  • In 1570, James Stewart, the 1st Earl of Moray and regent for the infant King James VI of Scotland, was assassinated by firearm. This was the first recorded instance of such an event.
  • In 1571, the Royal Exchange opened in London.
  • In 1737, John Hancock was born. He was an American general, politician, first Governor of Massachusetts, and owner of the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence.
  • In 1846, slavery was abolished in Tunisia.
  • In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell was awarded her M.D. by the Geneva Medical College in Geneva, New York. She was the first female doctor in the United States.
  • In 1909, the RMS Republic became the first ship to use the CQD distress signal after colliding with the SS Florida off the coast of Massachusetts. The Republic was a White Star Line passenger ship and it sank the next day. Six people died in the event.
  • In 1941, Charles Lindbergh testified before the United States Congress in support of a neutrality pact with Adolf Hitler. As an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve and a Medal of Honor recipient, he was publicly rebuked by President Franklin Roosevelt for his actions, prompting Lindbergh to resign his commission. He later supported the war as a civilian flight consultant after the attack on Pearl Harbor but did not take up arms.
  • In 1943, actor Gil Gerard was born. He portrayed Buck Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
  • In 1944, actor Rutger Hauer was born.
  • In 1950, Richard Dean Anderson was born. His best-known roles are in MacGyver and the Stargate franchise.
  • In 1957, Walter Frederick Morrison sold the rights to his flying disc to the Wham-O toy company. It was later marketed as the Frisbee.
  • In 1975, Barney Miller premiered on ABC.
  • In 1960, the bathyscape USS Trieste broke depth records by descending to 35,797 feet (10,911 meters) in the Pacific Ocean.
  • In 1962, English composer David Arnold was born.
  • In 1964, the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified. It prohibited the use of poll taxes in national elections.
  • Also in 1964, actress Mariska Hargitay was born.
  • In 1973, President Richard Nixon announced a peace accord with Vietnam.
  • In 1974, actress Tiffani Thiessen was born.
  • In 1977, Roots premiered on ABC.
  • In 1983, The A-Team premiered on NBC.
  • In 1986, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted its first members: Little Richard, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley.
  • In 1997, Madeline Albright became the first woman to serve as United States Secretary of State.
  • In 2002, American journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan. He was later murdered by his captors.
  • In 2003, a very weak signal was detected from Pioneer 10. No usable data could be extracted from this final message.

In 1961, the United States Supreme Court ruled that cities and states had the right to censor films.

Wait… what?

To explain this, we need to go back to the 1950s when a Chicago ordinance required that, before being permitted to screen any film in the city, exhibitors submit the film to the police commissioner’s office and pay a license fee. If the film did not meet certain standards, the permit would be denied. A single appeal could be made to the Office of the Mayor, but the mayor’s decision was final.

On May 6, 1955, an exhibitor requested permission to screen Le blé en herbe (The Game of Love), a French film directed by Claude Autant-Lara (based on a novel by Collete) that depicted a sexual relationship between an adult woman and a teenage boy. Unsurprisingly, the police commissioner denied the permit due to indecent content, and the subsequent appeal to Mayor Richard Daley failed. So, the petitioner sued the city in federal court while alleging infringement of First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The case eventually reached the Supreme Court as Times Film Corporation v. City of Chicago, 355 U.S. 35 (1957), and the Court sided with Chicago by citing Alberts v. California from 1957 where Justice William J. Brennan Jr. stated that obscenity was “not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press” and that the First Amendment was not intended to protect materials that were “utterly without redeeming social importance.”

The Times Film Corporation returned to the scene when they tried to screen Don Juan but refused to submit the film for examination. When the permit was denied, the corporation went back to court on terms of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The Supreme Court eventually took up the case in Times Film Corporation v. City of Chicago, 365 U.S. 43 (1961), and ruled in a similar fashion as the previous case by a 5-4 decision.

Cities and states maintained their ability to censor films.

By 1973, the Court shifted toward a broader interpretation of the First Amendment. Marvin Miller, the owner/operator of a California-based adult film and book company, was arrested in 1971 for sending out brochures to advertise his wares. His case was eventually decided in Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973), where the Supreme Court redefined its definition of obscenity from that of “utterly without socially redeeming value” to that which lacks “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”

As a result, while finding that the sale and distribution of obscene material was not protected under the First Amendment, the three-prong standard (the “Miller test”) was developed to determine if a work should be legitimately subject to state regulation:

  1. whether the average person, applying contemporary “community standards”, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
  2. whether the work depicts or describes, in an offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions, as specifically defined by applicable state law; and
  3. whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

The Miller case provided states greater freedom in prosecuting obscenity cases and has spurred decades of discussion and litigation on the topic, but it also forced the Supreme Court to legally define the term, making it a landmark case on the topic.

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 22

January 22, 2020
Day 22 of 366


January 22nd is the twenty-second day of the year. It is Grandfather’s Day in Poland.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Blonde Brownie Day and Library Shelfie Day. The latter is typically observed on the fourth Wednesday of January.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1506, the first contingent of 150 Swiss Guards arrived at the Vatican.
  • In 1552, Sir Walter Raleigh was born. He was an English poet, soldier, courtier, and explorer.
  • In 1905, Bloody Sunday occurred in Saint Petersburg, thus beginning the 1905 Russian revolution.
  • In 1932, actress Piper Laurie was born.
  • In 1940, actor Sir John Hurt was born.
  • In 1946, the Central Intelligence Group was created. It was the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency.
  • In 1947, KTLA began operations in Hollywood. It was the first commercial television station west of the Mississippi River.
  • In 1959, actress Linda Blair was born.
  • In 1965, actress Diane Lane was born.
  • In 1968, Apollo 5 lifted off carrying the first Lunar module into space.
  • In 1969, actress and singer-songwriter Olivia d’Abo was born.
  • In 1973, The Supreme Court of the United States delivered its decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, legalizing elective abortion in all fifty states.
  • In 1984, Airwolf premiered on CBS.
  • In 1992, Dr. Roberta Bondar became the first Canadian woman and the first neurologist in space. She flew on the STS-42 Discovery mission.
  • In 2002, Kmart became the largest retailer in United States history to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.


January 22nd is a big day for classic comic book actors.

In 1934, actor and director Bill Bixby was born. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry because he portrayed Dr. David Banner on The Incredible Hulk for 80 episodes and five television movies from 1977 to 1990.

He was born in San Francisco and honed his love of performance from a young age. He was kicked out of the choir in seventh grade, took ballroom dance lessons, and perfected his drama and oratory skills in high school. Against his parents’ wishes, he majored in drama at City College of San Francisco.

He was drafted during the Korean War and joined the Marine Corps, reaching private first class before being discharged in 1956. He eventually reached Hollywood and debuted on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. As a highly-regarded character actor, he guest-starred on many television series including My Favorite Martian, Ben CaseyThe Twilight ZoneThe Andy Griffith ShowDr. KildareStraightaway, and Hennesey. In the 1970s, he expanded to IronsideInsightBarbary CoastThe Love BoatMedical Center, Love, American StyleFantasy Island, The Streets of San Francisco and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.

Bixby was the only choice for The Incredible Hulk series creator Kenneth Johnson. The success of the pilot movie convinced CBS to expand into a regular series which started in the spring of 1978. The show ran for five seasons, and Bixby reprised his role in the three follow-on TV movies (which he executive produced). He also directed parts of the first one and both of the later films.

His directing career included one episode of The Incredible Hulk as well as several other projects across his 34 years in Hollywood. He finished his career by directing 30 episodes of the NBC sitcom Blossom. He died six days after his final episode of Blossom, on November 21, 1993, of complications from prostate cancer.


In 1955, actor John Wesley Shipp was born in Norfolk, Virginia. After graduating from Indiana University, he began his career with a regular role on the daytime soap opera Guiding Light from 1980 to 1984. He bounced around the daytime soap landscape including As the World Turns, Santa Barbara, One Life to Live, and All My Children, winning two Daytime Emmys along the way.

He won the title role of Barry Allen/The Flash on the 1990-1991 CBS series The Flash, which is where I was introduced to him. He was also cast as Mitch Leery, the father of the lead character in Dawson’s Creek, as well as various film and television roles through the years.

Shipp returned to the Flash mythos in the 2010s. He was the voice of Professor Eobard “Zoom” Thawne, also known as the Reverse-Flash, on an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. His big win with the franchise was in 2014’s The Flash where he was cast as Henry Allen, the father of Barry Allen/The Flash. He expanded his presence with the second season finale where he took the role of Jay Garrick, a parallel Earth version of The Flash. He added a third role on the show during recent crossover events as The Flash from Earth-90, which is effectively the continuation of his role from the 1990s.

John Wesley Shipp is still acting today and travels the convention circuit. He’s a regular at Dragon Con where I hope to one day shake his hand and get his autograph on my 90s The Flash DVD boxset.


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 21

January 21, 2020
Day 21 of 366


January 21st is the twenty-first day of the year. It is Grandmother’s Day in Poland.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Granola Bar Day, National Hugging Day, and Squirrel Appreciation Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1789, the first American novel was printed in Boston, Massachusetts. It was The Power of Sympathy or the Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth by William Hill Brown.
  • In 1793, Louis XVI of France was executed by guillotine after being found guilty of treason by the French National Convention.
  • In 1908, New York City passed the Sullivan Ordinance, which made it illegal for women to smoke in public. Only one woman, Katie Mulcahey, was cited for breaking the ordinance. She was fined $5 and arrested for refusing to pay the fine. The measure was vetoed by Mayor George B. McClellan Jr. two weeks later.
  • In 1919, the Dáil Éireann, a revolutionary Irish parliament, was founded. They declared Irish independence by ratifying the Proclamation of the Irish Republic that had been issued in the 1916 Easter Rising and adopted a provisional constitution. The Soloheadbeg ambush, one of the first engagements of the Irish War of Independence, took place on the same day.
  • In 1922, actor Telly Savalas was born.
  • In 1934, actress Ann Wedgeworth was born.
  • In 1938, Robert Weston Smith was born. He was better known as radio host Wolfman Jack.
  • In 1948, The Flag of Quebec was adopted and flown for the first time over the National Assembly of Quebec. The day is commemorated annually as Québec Flag Day.
  • In 1956, actress, producer, and activist Geena Davis was born.
  • In 1976, the commercial service of Concorde began with two routes: London-Bahrain and Paris-Rio.
  • In 1981, production of the DeLorean sports car began in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland.


In 1954, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), the first nuclear-powered submarine was launched.

The United States Congress authorized the construction of a nuclear-powered submarine in July 1951. The project was planned and personally supervised by Captain Hyman G. Rickover, known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy” and famous being the longest-serving naval officer and the longest-serving member of the U.S. armed forces. Admiral Rickover’s 63 years of active duty service exceeded that of Admirals Leahy, King, Nimitz, and Halsey, the Navy’s five-star fleet admirals who served on active duty for life after their appointments.

On December 12, 1951, the submarine received her name, Nautilus, the fourth ship to carry the name. She was named for the Narwhal-class submarine that served with distinction in World War II and shared the name with Captain Nemo’s fictional submarine from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The keel was laid at the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics at Groton, Connecticut by President Harry S. Truman on June 14, 1952.

The power plant was a Submarine Thermal Reactor (STR), a pressurized water reactor later redesignated as the S2W – a submarine-based platform with the second generation core designed by Westinghouse – developed by Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory. The advantage of using nuclear power over the typical diesel engines of submarine history was that it was zero-emission and allowed for longer submerged operating periods.

The ship’s patch was designed by The Walt Disney Company. The ship was christened and launched by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, and it was commissioned eight months later under the command of Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson. After further dockside construction and testing, Commander Wilkinson took Nautilus to sea on January 17, 1955, with the historic message, “Underway on nuclear power.”

On May 10th, she headed south for a shakedown cruise, traveling 1,100 nautical miles from New London, Connecticut to San Juan, Puerto Rico and covering 1,200 nautical miles in less than 90 hours. That set records for the longest submerged cruise by a submarine and the highest sustained speed (for at least one hour) ever. From 1955 to 1957, the ship was used to test the limits of submerged travel, rendering the progress made in anti-submarine warfare during World War II virtually obsolete. The use of radar and anti-submarine aircraft was ineffective against a vessel that could move rapidly, change depth quickly, and stay submerged for long periods.

Nautilus logged 60,000 nautical miles on February 4, 1957. In August, she went north to experiment with polar ice cap operations before getting underway for Operation Sunshine in April 1958. Since the launch of Sputnik, the United States had been wary of nuclear ICBM threats from the Soviet Union. President Eisenhower ordered a submarine transit of the North Pole to gain credibility for a forthcoming SLBM weapons system. Under the command of Commander William R. Anderson, Nautilus successfully transited under the ice cap. Commander Anderson received the Legion of Merit and the Nautilus was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, the first-ever issued in peacetime. The citation came with a special gold N clasp to commemorate the event, making the crew who made the voyage instantly recognizable in uniform.

For outstanding achievement in completing the first voyage in history across the top of the world, by cruising under the Arctic ice cap from the Bering Strait to the Greenland Sea.

During the period 22 July 1958 to 5 August 1958, USS Nautilus, the world’s first atomic powered ship, added to her list of historic achievements by crossing the Arctic Ocean from the Bering Sea to the Greenland Sea, passing submerged beneath the geographic North Pole. This voyage opens the possibility of a new commercial seaway, a Northwest Passage, between the major oceans of the world. Nuclear-powered cargo submarines may, in the future, use this route to the advantage of world trade.

The skill, professional competency and courage of the officers and crew of Nautilus were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces of the United States and the pioneering spirit which has always characterized our country.

The Nautilus continued to operate until May 26, 1979, logging over 300,000 nautical miles over her lifetime. She was decommissioned on March 3, 1980, designated as a National Historic Landmark on May 20, 1982, and named as the official state ship of Connecticut in 1983. She was converted and opened to the public as part of the Submarine Force Library and Museum on April 11, 1986. Visitors to the site near Naval Submarine Base New London can tour the forward two compartments and learn all about the history of the submarine force.

As a former submariner who operated out of Naval Submarine Base New London for three years, the Nautilus serves as a reminder of our legacy and an inspiration to uphold the reputation of the Silent Service. She’s also a welcome sight from the bridge and control room when you’re returning home.


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 20

January 20, 2020
Day 20 of 366


January 20th is the twentieth day of the year. It is Heroes’ Day in Cape Verde and Martyrs’ Day in Azerbaijan. It is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, which is celebrated on the third Monday in January.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Buttercrunch Day, National Cheese Lover’s Day, and National Disc Jockey Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1649, Charles I of England went on trial for treason and other “high crimes”.
  • In 1841, Hong Kong Island was occupied by the British.
  • In 1887, the United States Senate allowed the Navy to lease Pearl Harbor as a naval base.
  • In 1920, actor DeForest Kelley was born. He was best known as Dr. Leonard McCoy in the Star Trek franchise.
  • In 1923, American country and western singer-songwriter and musician Slim Whitman was born.
  • In 1929, In Old Arizona was released. It was the first full-length talking motion picture filmed outdoors.
  • In 1930, astronaut, pilot, and colonel Buzz Aldrin was born. He was the second human to walk on the surface of the moon.
  • In 1934, actor Tom Baker was born. He portrayed the Fourth Doctor on Doctor Who.
  • In 1936, King George V of the United Kingdom died. His eldest son succeeded to the throne, becoming Edward VIII.
  • In 1958, KUED TV began broadcasting. It is the PBS affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah, found on channel 7, and is the repository of so many hours of my childhood and teenage years.
  • In 1959, author R. A. Salvatore was born.
  • In 1986, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was celebrated as a federal holiday in the United States for the first time.
  • In 2008, Breaking Bad premiered on AMC.


“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
—Article II, Section One, Clause 8, of the United States Constitution.

In the United States, the presidential inauguration takes place on January 20th at noon, Eastern Standard Time. It occurs every four years, in odd-numbered years, immediately following years divisible by four. The exception for the public ceremony is when January 20th falls on a Sunday, forcing the ceremony to occur on the following day. In that case, the official swearing-in occurs in a separate ceremony and the term of office still begins on the 20th.

Inauguration Day is not a federal holiday, but it is recognized as such for government employees working in the Capitol region.

Since 1937, the ceremony has taken place on January 20th at noon Eastern Standard Time. The inauguration of George Washington, the first President of the United States, took place on April 30, 1789. Afterward, every regular inauguration between 1793 and 1933 was held on March 4th to commemorate the day of the year on which the federal government began operations under the Constitution in 1789.

Following the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution in 1933, Inauguration Day was moved to January 20th. Since 1801, the inauguration has typically taken place at the United States Capitol Building.

Of course, there are exceptions with both historical models. March 4th fell on a Sunday in 1821 (James Monroe’s second term), 1849 (Zachary Taylor), 1877 (Rutherford B. Hayes), and 1917 (Woodrow Wilson’s second term), so the public ceremony was held on March 5th. Since moving the event to January, the Sunday exception was used in 1957 (Dwight D. Eisenhower’s second term), 1985 (Ronald Reagan’s second term), and 2013 (Barack Obama’s second term).

In extraordinary circumstances, a special inauguration was held.

  • John Tyler, the tenth President of the United States, was sworn into office on April 6, 1841, following the death of President William Henry Harrison. President Harrison died from pneumonia after only 31 days in office.
  • Millard Fillmore, the thirteenth President, was sworn into office on July 10, 1850, following the death of President Zachary Taylor. President Taylor died from a digestive ailment after serving 16 months in the office.
  • Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth President, was sworn into office on April 15, 1865, following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
  • Chester A. Arthur, the twenty-first President, was sworn into office on September 20, 1881, following the assassination of President James A. Garfield. President Garfield was shot in the back 79 days before his death, but the assassin had implicated Vice President Arthur in the shooting. Garfield remained in a weakened state for the duration, effectively leaving the country without a leader until his death.
  • Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth President, was sworn into office on September 14, 1901, following the assassination of President William McKinley six months into his second term.
  • Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth President, was sworn into office on August 3, 1923, following the death of President Warren G. Harding. President Harding suffered a heart attack while on a western tour in San Francisco.
  • Harry S. Truman, the thirty-third President, was sworn into office on April 12, 1945, following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson, the thirty-sixth President, was sworn into office on November 22, 1963, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
  • Gerald Ford, the thirty-eighth President, was sworn into office on August 9, 1974, following the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Gerald Ford became Vice President after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, appointed under the terms of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. President Ford is the only person (so far) to hold the offices of Vice President and President without being elected to either.

The oath of office is typically taken by raising of the right hand and placing fo the left hand on a Bible or other book. In 1789, George Washington took the oath of office with an altar Bible borrowed from the St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons lodge in New York. He kissed the Bible afterward, establishing a tradition that lasted through Harry Truman’s inauguration. Dwight Eisenhower broke that tradition in 1953 when he said a prayer instead of kissing the Bible.

Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible when taking the oath in 1901. John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce both used a book of law, symbolizing swearing their oaths on Constitution. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on a Roman Catholic missal on Air Force One while Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump each swore the oath on two Bibles.

The inauguration includes plenty of pomp and circumstance outside of the required oath of office, including speeches, songs, poems, parades, and more. As a national ceremony, it also serves as a milestone for advances in communication, with improvements to mass media technologies allowing for greater and greater access. Andrew Jackson spoke to approximately 10,000 people at his 1829 inauguration while Barack Obama’s 2009 ceremony reached nearly two million live attendees and tens of millions via television and internet streaming.

  • 1801 (Thomas Jefferson): The first newspaper extra of an inaugural address, printed by the National Intelligencer
  • 1845 (James K. Polk): The first inauguration to be covered by telegraph, and first known newspaper illustration of a presidential inauguration (via The Illustrated London News)
  • 1857 (James Buchanan): The first inauguration known to have been photographed
  • 1897 (William McKinley): The first inauguration to be recorded on film
  • 1905 (Theodore Roosevelt): The first time that telephones were installed on the Capitol Grounds for an inauguration
  • 1925 (Calvin Coolidge): The first inauguration to be broadcast nationally by radio
  • 1929 (Herbert Hoover): The first inauguration to be recorded by a talking newsreel
  • 1949 (Harry S. Truman): The first inauguration to be televised
  • 1961 (John F. Kennedy): The first inauguration to be televised in color
  • 1981 (Ronald Reagan): The first closed-captioning of television broadcast for the hearing impaired
  • 1997 (Bill Clinton): The first time that the ceremony was broadcast live on the Internet

The next regular presidential inauguration is scheduled for Wednesday, January 20, 2021, following the November 2020 general elections.


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 19

January 19, 2020
Day 19 of 366


January 19th is the nineteenth day of the year. It is Husband’s Day in Iceland.

In the United States, it is “celebrated” as World Quark Day and National Popcorn Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1607, San Agustin Church in Manila was officially completed. It is the oldest church still standing in the Philippines.
  • In 1829, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy received its premiere performance.
  • In 1839, French painter Paul Cézanne was born.
  • In 1853, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Il trovatore received its premiere performance in Rome.
  • In 1883, the first electric lighting system employing overhead wires began service at Roselle, New Jersey. It was built by Thomas Edison.
  • In 1915, the neon discharge tube was patented for use in advertising by Georges Claude.
  • In 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was formed.
  • In 1930, Nathalie Kay “Tippi” Hedren was born. She was an American actress and animal rights activist.
  • In 1937, Howard Hughes set a new air record by flying from Los Angeles to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds.
  • In 1946, singer, songwriter, and actress Dolly Parton was born.
  • In 1953, nearly 72% of televisions in the United States were tuned to I Love Lucy. The episode was “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” and was remarkable for the main character giving birth.
  • Coincidentally, Desi Arnaz, Jr. was born on the same day. He is the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the stars of I Love Lucy.
  • In 1954, actress and singer Katey Sagal was born.
  • In 1977, President Gerald Ford pardoned Iva Toguri D’Aquino, better known as “Tokyo Rose”.
  • In 1982, actress Jodie Sweetin was born.


In 1809, Edgar Allan Poe was born. An American writer, editor, and literary critic, Poe was best known for his poetry and short stories rooted in mystery and the macabre. In general, he’s considered as the inventor of the detective fiction genre and as a contributor to the emergence of the science fiction genre. He’s also the first well-known American writer to earn a living through writing alone.

Shortly after his birth in Boston, Massachusetts, his father abandoned the family and his mother died. He was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia and stayed with them into young adulthood even though he was never formally adopted. He often clashed with John Allan over finances, especially gambling and education debts. He joined the Army under an assumed name but failed out of West Point and parted ways with John.

Shifting over to his blossoming writing career, Poe moved between multiple cities before marrying his 13-year old cousin, Virginia Clemm, in 1836. He published “The Raven” in 1845 to instant success. Virginia Clemm died two years later from tuberculosis, an event that influenced much of his later work.

Some of his more famous tales include “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, and “The Tell-Tale Heart”.

Poe’s legacy and influence are undeniable in world literature, as well as specialized fields such as cosmology and cryptography. His life and work continue to influence popular culture in literature, music, films, and television to this day, and the Mystery Writers of America celebrate his legacy with the annual Edgar Award for distinguished work in the mystery genre.

Edgar Allan Poe died in Baltimore, Maryland on October 7, 1849. He was 40 years old, and the cause of death was unknown, though it is often attributed to alcohol, cholera, drug abuse, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and several other causes.


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.