Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011 Word of the Year

According to the American Dialect Society the WORD OF THE YEAR is:
occupy – verb, noun, and combining form referring to the Occupy protest movement.

humblebrag – expression of false humility, especially by celebrities on Twitter.

Mellencamp – a woman who has aged out of being a “cougar” (after John Cougar Mellencamp).

bi-winning – term used by Charlie Sheen to describe himself pridefully, dismissing accusations of being bipolar.

assholocracy – rule by obnoxious multi-millionaires.

job creator – a member of the top one-percent of moneymakers.

cloud – online space for the large-scale processing and storage of data.

brony – adult male fan of the “My Little Pony” cartoon franchise.

January 12, 1934 -
George Cukor's star-studded extravaganza Dinner at Eight, went into general release in the US on this date.

The character played by Marie Dressler is reportedly based on actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, for whom George Bernard Shaw wrote the role of Eliza Doolittle in the play Pygmalion.

Today in History -
If you were ever an alter boy or ever took Latin, I don't need to tell you what jacta alea est means. But if you're like most Americans, to whom Latin is about as familiar as Urdu, let me translate: it means the die is cast. At least that's how it's usually translated. Back in the early days of English, when the phrase was first translated, that's how they would have said "the dice are thrown."

This Latin snippet is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly because it demonstrates the popularity of gambling with dice in the ancient world, which is an important bit of trivia for keeping wayward adolescents interested in the classics; secondly because it's a short little Latin phrase you can drop into conversation to impress snobs; thirdly because the event of its utterance changed the course of western civilization for ever.

The line was uttered by Julius Caesar on this very date in 49 BC. Caesar and his army had just crossed the Rubicon, a little stream in northern Italy. The Roman Senate had long ago established a rule that Roman citizens should be forbidden from crossing the the Rubicon with their armies, since they figured anyone coming south toward Rome with an entire army probably wasn't up to any good.

(If the Roman Senate had really wanted to play it safe, maybe they should have designed the infrastructure of their empire so that all roads didn't lead to Rome - but that's beside the point.)

You may be wondering why Caesar would set out to break the law this way. He had, after all, been a popular and successful general and had been governor of Gaul for some time. But that's exactly why he decided to cross the Rubicon: he had become so popular and so powerful that the Roman Senate ordered him to disband his army and give up Gaul. Which has always made me wonder why the Roman Senate didn't say jacta alea est after issuing their demands. Maybe they were just too eager to get back to their dice.

Anyway, by crossing the Rubicon, Caesar had officially committed treason and launched the Roman Civil War. I've also saved you several hours of watching DVD's of the series Rome. Except for the naked parts.

The rest is history.

January 12, 1865 -
General William T. Sherman issues Special Field Order No. 15, entitling the household of each freed slave "a plot of no more than forty acres of tillable ground" along the Carolina coastline between Charleston and Jacksonville.

After the Confederate surrender, the Johnson administration makes a halfhearted attempt to follow through on the acreage, but all efforts to parcel out the land in question are abandoned just a few months later.

January 12, 1928 -
Ruth Snyder became the first woman to die in the electric chair. She was electrocuted by “state electrician” Robert G. Elliott at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, along with Judd Gray, her lover and co-conspirator, for the murder of her husband, Albert on March 20, 1927. This was billed in the press as “The Dumb-Bell Murder.”

The case was the inspiration for the novel Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, which was later adapted for the screen by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. Cain also mentioned that his book The Postman Always Rings Twice took inspiration from the crime.

January 12, 1944 -
Probably Alfred Hitchcock's most underrated film, Lifeboat, opened in NYC on this date.

Tallulah Bankhead was cast in the film because Alfred Hitchcock wanted to use "the most oblique, incongruous person imaginable in such a situation".

January 12, 1966 -
Holy homoeroticism!!!

ABC premiered the brightly colored underwear wearing, perfectly genitally arranged comedy Batman on this date.

I'm not sure if it's still on the same bat channel though.

January 12, 1971 -
Oh Geez, stifle yourself. The first episode of All In The Family made television history by broadcasting the sound of a toilet flushing.

This is not, however, the first time a toilet tank is seen on television. That honor goes to Leave It to Beaver premiere episode, Captain Jack back in 1957.

January 12, 2010 -
A powerful 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti and crushed thousands of structures, from schools and shacks to the National Palace. Thousands of people were believed dead and untold numbers were trapped. An estimated 3 million people were in need of emergency aid.

The quake left over 200,000 people dead. Some 4,500 prison inmates escaped during the earthquake. By April they were terrorizing neighborhoods and fighting turf battles.

And so it goes.

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