March 21, 2020
Day 81 of 366
March 21st is the eighty-first day of the year. It is a big day on the international stage, including World Down Syndrome Day, World Puppetry Day, and World Poetry Day.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National California Strawberry Day, National Common Courtesy Day, National Countdown Day, National Fragrance Day, National French Bread Day, National Single Parent Day, National Corn Dog Day, and National Quilting Day. National Quilting Day is typically observed on the third Saturday in March, and National Corn Dog Day is typically observed on the first Saturday of March Madness.
As a trivial aside, the NCAA has six annual basketball tournaments in March – one for each division, divided into men’s and women’s competitions – but only one is officially known as March Madness: The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. The term was popularized by CBS sportscaster Brent Musberger in the 1980s, and Bob Walsh of the Seattle Organizing Committee started the official March Madness celebration in 1984. Of course, the NCAA loves cold hard cash, so they trademarked the term in the 1990s.
Unfortunately for corn dog fans, March Madness has been canceled due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but you can still enjoy them at home if you can find them in stores. It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world right now, so good luck.
Historical items of note:
- In 1685, German Baroque composer and musician Johann Sebastian Bach was born.
- In 1768, French mathematician and physicist Joseph Fourier was born.
- In 1800, Pius VII was crowned as Pope in Venice, Italy. The church’s leadership had been driven out of Rome during armed conflict, and the ceremony was conducted with a temporary papal tiara made of papier-mâché.
- In 1844, the Bahá’í calendar began, making this the first day of the calendar and an annual celebrated by members of the Bahá’í Faith as the Bahá’í New Year or Náw-Rúz.
- In 1925, the Butler Act was made law, prohibiting the teaching of human evolution in Tennessee. It was challenged later that year in the famous Scopes Trial and was finally repealed in 1967.
- In 1928, Charles Lindbergh was presented with the Medal of Honor for the first solo trans-Atlantic flight.
- In 1935, Shah of Iran Reza Shah Pahlavi formally asked the international community to call Persia by its native name: Iran.
- In 1946, actor Timothy Dalton was born. He was one of my favorite James Bonds.
- In 1952, Alan Freed presented the Moondog Coronation Ball in Cleveland, Ohio. It was the first rock and roll concert.
- In 1958, actor, filmmaker, musician, and author Gary Oldman was born.
- In 1962, Matthew Broderick was born.
- In 1963, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, located in San Francisco, California, closed.
- In 1965, NASA launched Ranger 9, the last in a series of unmanned lunar space probes.
- Also in 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led 3,200 people on the start of the third and finally successful civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
- In 1970, the first Earth Day proclamation was issued by Joseph Alioto, Mayor of San Francisco.
- Also in 1970, the first San Diego Comic-Con International opened at the U.S. Grant Hotel.
- In 1980, United States President Jimmy Carter announced a United States boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet-Afghan War.
In 2006, Twitter was founded with a missive from Jack Dorsey: “just setting up my twttr”.
Twitter is a microblogging and social networking service designed to mimic the Short Message Service (SMS) format. Each post is known as a tweet, following from the definitions of the word twitter as “a short burst of inconsequential information” and “chirps from birds”, and they were initially limited to 140 characters in length. The developers considered the platform to be more of an information network than a social one.
Twitter experienced explosive growth, credited to a presentation at 2007’s South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) conference, eventually reaching into the hundreds of millions of active users.
Users are known by their handles (usernames) and can mention one another by tweeting those names preceded by an @ sign. Twitter also gave birth to the idea of hashtags, which group discussions by user-defined topics that are flagged by using the # sign. A user’s tweets can be liked, replied to in threads (basically, a collected discussion), and retweeted (basically, shared or automatically copied and credited) to someone else’s audience.
Twitter users can also see trending discussions in local regions and across the globe. Certain users can be granted “verified” status, shown by a special blue checkmark next to their name, in order to limit impersonators.
In 2009, San Antonio-based market-research firm Pear Analytics analyzed 2,000 tweets for content over two weeks and determined that roughly 80% of content on the site was divided nearly equally into conversations and pointless babble. The rest of the tweets were spread across news, self-promotion, pass-along value, and spam.
In 2017, Twitter expanded the character limit to 280 and removed Twitter handles from the overall character count.
Twitter is pretty much the wild west of social media with few sheriffs to keep the peace. I often call it a larger hive of scum and villainy than the Mos Eisley Spaceport.
You can find me there, for better or worse, as @womprat99.
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.