Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Decoration Day

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War.

After World War I, it expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. One of the longest standing traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911 (no one has been able to successfully explain the connection between honoring the nation's war dead and people driving around a race track).

It Manhattanhenge time again

Because of the work of the The Commissioners' Plan of 1811, the orderly plan of the grid like layout of most of Manhattan occurred, we were able to see the spectacular setting of the sun which aligns with the east-west streets, fully illuminating every single cross-street for the last fifteen minutes of daylight (best bet according to Neil deGrasse Tyson is 8:17 P.M. EDT.)

Today in History:
Breasts are an important feature among mammals. They allow mothers to nurture their young through protracted infancies. No infancy is longer than that of the human species, especially that of the American male, which often lasts until death.

Breasts are more than just moving diner for the young, however. On humans at least, they also have valuable recreational value. Nothing else has the nutrition, entertainment, and sheer jiggle value of the human breast (although Jell-O™ does come close).

Naturally, men couldn't leave anything with the power, appeal, and nutritive value of breasts in the hands of women, literally or metaphorically. From the very dawn of human history, therefore, breasts have been in men's hands.

In 2500 BC, the Minoan women of Crete are believed to have worn a special garment that lifted their breasts entirely out of their clothing. (Like another popular story of ancient Minos, this is believed to be half bull.) By the rise of the Hellenic (Greek) and Roman (Roman) civilizations, however, women were wearing tightly bound breast bands to reduce their busts. This style persisted until 476 AD, rightly referred to by historians as the Fall of Rome.

As history progressed, the popularity of breasts rose and fell, heaved and plunged, lifted and separated. Each new culture found a new way of exalting or obscuring the breast, according to their inclinations. By the nineteenth century in Europe, breasts were being pressed together and thrust upward by means of whalebone-fortified corsets.

The strain was unbearable. Something had to give.

On May 30, 1889, the world’s first bra was invented. To tell you the truth, I’ve lost all track of where I found that date but I do know, however, that corset maker Herminie Cadolle invented the Bien-ĂȘtre in 1889, and that this “health aid” was the first garment to support breasts from the shoulder down instead of squeezing them up from below.

Marie Tucek patented the first “breast supporter” in 1893 (separate pockets for the breasts, with straps that went over the shoulder and were fastened by hook-and-eye closures). Yes, the first documented over the over the shoulder boulder holder.

New York socialite Mary Jacob Phelps invented a modern bra in 1913 (with two handkerchiefs, some ribbon, and a bit of cord) to accommodate a sheer evening gown. Ms. Phelps sold her invention, which she called the brassiere, to the Warner Brothers Corset Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for $1500 in 1914.

The US War Industries Board encouraged the assimilation of the bra in 1917 by encouraging women to stop buying corsets, thereby freeing up nearly sixty million pounds of the metal used in them.

During the 1920s, a Russian immigrant by the name of Ida Rosenthal founded Maidenform with her husband William. The Rosenthals grouped breasts into cup sizes and developed bras for women of every age.

So it doesn’t really matter what happened on May 30, 1889. It only matters that I’ve gotten you to read the word breast about twenty times in the last several paragraphs.

May 30, 1431 -
Convicted of heresy by the English (see May 23), 19-year-old Joan of Arc got an extreme hot foot as her punishment in Rouen, France, on this date.

Pope Benedict XV canonized her in 1920.

May 30, 1593 -
Noted English dramatist, spy and buggerer, Christopher Marlowe was either

a: murdered in a tavern brawl on this date, or,
b: faked his death and assumed a new identity as William Shakespeare, noted English dramatist, spy and buggerer.

May 30, 1908 -
Melvin Jerome Blanc, the prolific American voice actor, performing on radio, in television commercials, and most famously, in hundreds of cartoon shorts for Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera during the Golden Age of American animation was born on this date. He is often regarded as one of the most gifted and influential persons in his field, providing the definitive voices for iconic characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Barney Rubble among hundreds of others. His talents earned him the nickname, The Man of a Thousand Voices.

On January 24, 1961, Blanc was involved in a near-fatal auto accident on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Hit head-on, Blanc suffered a triple skull fracture that left him in a coma for three weeks, along with fractures of both legs and the pelvis.

The accident prompted over 15,000 get-well cards from anxious fans, including some addressed only to "Bugs Bunny, Hollywood, USA", according to Blanc's autobiography. One newspaper falsely reported that he had died. After his recovery, Blanc reported in TV interviews, and later in his autobiography, that a clever doctor had helped him to come out of his coma by talking to Bugs Bunny, after futile efforts to talk directly to Blanc. Although he had no actual recollection of this, Blanc learned that when the doctor was inspired to ask him, "How are you today, Bugs Bunny?", Blanc answered in Bugs' voice. Blanc thus credited Bugs with saving his life.

And so it goes.

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