Monday, May 29, 2017

Just pause a moment between the beers and burgers to reflect.

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. - Joseph Campbell

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).

Today and tomorrow, it's Manhattanhenge time again. For all of you Illuminati conspiratorialists, ponder the fact that many of Hip Hops multi-millionaire performers are New Yorkers .

Manhattan's grid was originally proposed in 1811, by Gouverneur Morris, surveyor John Rutherfurd, and New York State Surveyor General Simeon De Witt, four years after the city council appointed them "Commissioners of Streets and Roads," charged with master-planning the city's expansion from its dense base on Manhattan's southern tip.

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 actually tomorrow at 8:12 P.M. EDT.)

May 29, 1936 -
Fritz Lang's
crime thriller, Fury, starring Sylvia Sidney and Spencer Tracy, opened on this date.

Script was based upon the 1933 kidnapping and murder of Brooke Hart, the son of the owner of Hart's Department Store in San Jose, California. The two kidnapping suspects were pulled from jail by a group of vigilantes, who dragged them across the street to St. James Park and lynched both of them.

May 29, 1942 -

The movie Yankee Doodle Dandy, starring James Cagney, premiered at a war-bonds benefit in New York on this date.

Despite failing health, the real George M. Cohan acted briefly as a consultant on the film. He lived long enough to see the finished result and approved wholeheartedly of James Cagney's depiction of himself.

May 29, 1954 -
During the first 3-D crazy of the 50's, Alfred Hitchcock releases his masterpiece, Dial 'M' for Murder, on this date.

Warner Brothers insisted on shooting the movie in 3-D although the craze was fading and Alfred Hitchcock was sure the movie would be released flat. The director wanted the first shot to be that of a close-up of a finger dialing the letter M on a rotary dial telephone, but the 3-D camera would not be able to focus such a close-up correctly. Hitchcock ordered a giant finger made from wood with a proportionally large dial built in order to achieve the effect.

May 29, 1957
Try to follow along - On November 3, 1954, Japan released Gojira (Godzilla), the greatest fever dream and anti nuclear proliferation film. On April 26, 1956,  an American version of the film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters, was released. It had 40 minutes of the original excised (mostly the content dealing with World War II or the anti-nuclear message,) and had 20 minutes of the masterful deadpan stylings of Raymond Burr.

The American version did so well that Kaiju Ō Gojira (Godzilla, King of the Monsters) was released in Japan with Japanese subtitles on this date and did very well.  

The more you know

Today in History:
May 29, 1453
Constantinople was taken by Ottoman Turks on this date, after a fifty day siege led by Sultan Mehmet II. The city defense of 10,000 men was no match for a force of 100,000 armed with heavy artillery.

It is the final gasp of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.

Why is this important, you may well ask - it really isn't (this event is considered the end of the Middle Ages) but then again, neither is most of history.

Patrick Henry was born on May 29, 1736. Mr Henry was an American patriot best known for never having been able to make up his mind. Asked the simplest question, Mr Henry found himself befuddled for days. It therefore came as no surprise to anyone who knew him when, given the choice between liberty and death, he famously pronounced that either would be welcome.

History records his vow at St. John's Church in March of 1775 as "Give me liberty or give me death!" Eyewitnesses and other contemporaries claim he actually said, "Liberty, death, whatever, let's just wrap this puppy up."

May 29, 1913 -
Imagine, if you will, you live in Paris and that after a hard day of not working and drinking heavily (it's what most of the idle rich did in Paris at the time, in between bouts of sodomy, while they waited around for Marcel Proust to finish writing that damn book he was working on - but that's another story), you were dragged to the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Tonight, the Ballets Russes was going to perform a new ballet, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) with the international star, Nijinsky, the choreographer. You might have been expecting a brief snooze but what you got was a full out boxing match (not unlike an evening at the Boston Pops).

The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd, and there were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance, and Igor Stravinsky (the composer) himself was so upset on account of its reception that he fled the theater in mid-scene, reportedly crying. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the première, (though Stravinsky latter said "I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out of, the premiere.") allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet's opening bars.

I hate when they misuse the bassoon.

Stravinsky ran backstage, where Sergei Diaghliev, was turning the lights on and off in an attempt to try to calm the audience. Nijinsky stood on a chair, leaned out (far enough that Stravinsky had to grab his coat-tail), and shouted numbers to the dancers, who couldn't hear the orchestra (this was challenging because Russian numbers are polysyllabic above ten, such as eighteen: vosemnadsat).

Although Nijinsky and Stravinsky were despondent, Diaghilev (the ballet's impresario) commented that the scandal was "just what I wanted". The music and choreography were considered barbaric and sexual and are also often noted as being the primary factors for the cause of the riot, but many political and social tensions surrounding the premiere contributed to the backlash as well.

It was quite an evening.

In the early morning hours of May 29, 1914, the Canadian Pacific ocean liner Empress of Ireland was cruising the St. Lawrence, headed for Liverpool. Traveling the opposite way was the Norwegian collier Storstad, weighed down by a full load of coal.

The British passenger ship collided with a Norwegian freighter and sank, taking 1012 passengers and crewmen with her, within fourteen minutes. At the time, it was considered one of the worst disasters in maritime history.

John F. Kennedy was born one hundred years ago today in 1917, and is best remembered for telling Berliners "I am a jelly-filled donut" speech, delivered in Berlin (either that or "I am a small brimmed hat, usually worn in early spring" or "I like cheese"), an axiom that many Americans found problematic in the face of increasing cold war tensions, imminent nuclear war, an escalating presence in Vietnam, the troubled state of race relations, and the ubiquitous threat of poisonous snakes.

Mr. Kennedy should not be faulted for his mangling of the phrase, he was a pill-popping, philanderer (banging Hollywood starlets, two and three at a time) in constant pain from Addison's disease and shouldn't have been expected to stay on point in a foreign language with so many other things on his mind.

Born on the same day but several centuries earlier (in 1630), England's King Charles II was best known for the saying, "Give me back my throne."

May 29, 1953
Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay were the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on Tenzing Norgay's (adopted) 39th birthday.

Following his ascent of Everest, Sir Hillary devoted much of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he founded. Through his efforts many schools and hospitals were built in this remote region of Nepal.

And so it goes

Before you go - I saw this heartfelt tribute (on Nag on the Lake) to Chris Cornell by Norah Jones at the Detroit Fox Theatre, five days after his death.

You may dab your eyes now.


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