It's August again, which means it's Children's Eye Health and Safety Month. It's also National Peach Month; Admit You're Happy Month; National Psoriasis Awareness Month; International Left-handed Month; National Goat Cheese Month and Get Ready for Kindergarten Month.
How did a single month become so important? Like almost everything else that's difficult to understand, the history of August begins in Ancient Rome.
The Roman calendar was a hot mess. Not just because there were VII days in a week and XXVIII days in a month, but also because the calendar was being managed by a high priest. In 46 BC, for example, autumn began in January. This irritated Julius Caesar, who demanded that the calendar be reformed to make sense - and that the priests assigned to manage it stop getting high.
Caesar's new calendar went into effect on January 1, 45 BC. The fifth month of the year, Quintilis, which had actually been the seventh month of the year, was renamed July - short for Julius - in honor of his work on the calendar. (Calendar professionals still refer to July as the "Caesarian section.")
Years later, after Caesar's grand-nephew defeated Mark Anthony and Cleopatra and became emperor of Rome, the Senate decided to name a month after him. They chose the month of Sextillus, the sixth month (and therefore eighth), and renamed it Gaius Octavianus. Fortunately the Emperor renamed himself Augustus before any calendars had been printed.
The Emperor was not entirely pleased. His month had only 30 days, whereas his grand-uncle's had 31. The Senate immediately added another day to August, removing it from February in the hope of losing one day of winter to gain one of summer.
August 1, 1952 -
Jo Stafford, pop star singer during the 1940s and 1950s, entered the Billboard charts with the song You Belong To Me on this date.
In the '30s, she performed with her sisters as The Stafford Sisters and later sang with Tommy Dorsey. She was one of the first artists to record parody versions of hit songs, and was known for her work with the USO where she entertained the troops. She died on July 16, 2008 at age 90.
August 1, 1971 -
George Harrison presented his two Concerts For Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden in New York City, on this date.
Among the featured artists were Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr and Leon Russell. The concert raised $243,418.51 for Bangladesh relief, which was administered by UNICEF. Sales of the album and DVD continue to benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.
August 1, 1973 -
Universal premiered George Lucas ode to early 1960s, American Graffiti, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark and Mackenzie Phillips, on this date.
Two cameras were used simultaneously in scenes involving conversations between actors in different cars. This resulted in significant production time savings. The entire film was shot in 29 days, mostly at night.
Today in History:
August 1, 30 BC -
Marc Antony, (not the not so handsome ex-husband of J-Lo but) lover of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII and claimant to the Roman throne, was the most interesting man of his age (think the Dos X man and the Old Spice guy - Isaiah Mustafa and not Fabio.) Marc Antony came from a very well to do family but ran with the very fast crowd of Rome. By the time he was 20, Antony had to flee Rome (for Greece) to escape his creditors (he had run up $5 million in debt) and the scandal involving a long-term homosexual relationship with the son of the Consul of Rome.
Marc Antony joined the army and joined the staff of his distant relative Julius Caesar. His fortunes, literally changed and Antony expected to be named the heir to Rome after the assassination of Julius Caesar, but had not counted on Caesar naming his adopted son and grand-nephew Octavian as his successor.
Shaken by his loss at Actium, abandoned by his allies and faced with certain defeat at the hands of his rival Octavian, Mark Antony committed suicide by falling upon his own sword on this date. Cleopatra followed him in death shortly afterward when she allowed herself to be bitten by a venomous asp. An interesting fact you can drop at the next cocktail party you attend, through his youngest daughters, Mark Antony became the ancestor of most of the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Octavian's (Augustus') family.
August 1, 1589 -
King Henri III of France was assassinated by a crazy Jacobin monk, Jacques Clement, who plunged a knife into the lower part of his body, on this date.
Among his crimes are opposing the Catholic League, and his love of...vigorous sodomy (or so it is rumored.)
August 1, 1769 -
Spain sent an exploratory expedition from San Diego to Monterey to survey the area and identify places worth sending more people to become Catholic. The expedition was led by Gaspar de Portola, nephew of the celebrated Spanish comedian Uncle Porky, and included a number of religious missionaries assigned to imposing afternoon naps upon the heathens.
Camping on some fertile ground beside a river on August 2, Father Juan Crespi suggested they name the river El Rio de Padre Juan Crespi. As the laughter subsided, he suggested El Rio de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula, "The River of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Uncle Porky." It was agreed, and the merry band continued on their way.
Twelve years later Mexico's Spanish Governor, Felipe de Neve, began dispatching settlers to establish pueblos in the name of the Spanish King. These settlers were called "Los Pobladores" on account of their penchant for Poblas. One such group, led by Captain Rivera y Moncada, settled in the area by the previously mentioned river. They named their new community "Our Pueblo by the River of Our Lady of the Angels of Uncle Porky."
The settlement grew, and came to be known as "The City by the Pueblo by the River of Our Lady of the Angels of Uncle Porky."
In 1822, Mexico took California from Spain. In 1846, following two years of hostilities, the United States took it from Mexico. Many Americans were injured attempting to pronounce the name of El Ciudad del Pueblo del Rio de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula, which they therefore renamed Los Angeles in 1850.
California was admitted to the Union later that year.
Los Angeles retained that name until the middle of the last century, when even that became too difficult for most American tongues, at which point it finally became L.A.
In Wiltshire, England, on August 1, 1774 Joseph Priestley focused sunlight through a lens in order to heat a sample of mercuric oxide (red calx). The resulting gas supported the burning of a candle with a vigorous flame, was essentially insoluble in water, and accommodated a mouse under glass for some time. And that's how oxygen was born.
Priestley called his new gas "dephlogisticated air.” His discovery came at a very good time, people were getting very tired from holding their breathe all these years.
August 1, 1793 -
The kilogram first appeared in France. Developed by priests and scientists, the kilogram flourished as soon as it was released into the wild and can now be found thriving throughout the world.
The kilogram can be found in parts of the United States, but has encountered too many indigineous predators to establish dominance.
August 1, 1931 -
F.W. Murnau's last film (he died in a car accident a few days after starting work on the music for the film), Tabu, was released on this date.
Originally conceived as a co-venture with documentarian Robert J. Flaherty. As work on the project progressed, it became increasingly clear to Flaherty that F.W. Murnau did not adapt well to co-directing and that he was being squeezed off the film. A factor helping Murnau in this was that he was one of the chief financiers.
August 1, 1936 -
Adolf Hitler presides over the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The Chancellor of Germany announces: "I proclaim the games of Berlin, celebrating the eleventh Olympiad of the modern era, to be open."
The whole thing makes for a great film by Leni Riefenstahl and the torch relay was introduced by Joseph Geobbel’s Propaganda Ministry.
August 1, 1944 -
I keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would like to be, and what I could be, if...there weren't any other people living in the world
Anne Frank penned her last entry into her diary on this date.
Three days later, Anne and her family were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps. Anne died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 at age 15.
August 1, 1971 -
The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour debuts on CBS television as a summer replacement show.
And I'm not going to say this caused Chaz Bono's gender confusion.
August 1, 1981 -
MTV launched 31 years ago today, starting with the video, Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles followed by Pat Benatar's You Better Run. Western civilization has been on a rapid decline ever since.
Who the hell care what MTV plays anymore - I took my money out of that 401(k) death trap.
And so it goes.