Archive for holidays

Paperback Book Day

Ditch that e-reader today and grab yourself a handful of dead trees! Today commemorates the launch of Penguin Books in 1935, the first time notable authors like Ernest Hemingway and Agatha Christie were published in an affordable, accessible format.

The physical attributes of paperbacks were already around, but were only used for pulp novels designed to titillate rather than inspire; before this day, you needed a sugar daddy or a library card to read the good stuff.

To keep the books affordable, art was stripped down to just a color-coded cover, title and author, along with the now-famous Penguin logo.  Science fiction and fantasy has long been a staple of Penguin Books, and “Erewhon” by Samuel Butler was published in that first seminal year. Other titles in those first years included several H.G. Wells titles, from “The Invisible Man” to “The Time Machine,” John Wyndham’s “The Day of the Triffids” and “1984” by George Orwell. The easy-to-carry books not only enabled secret sci-fi nerds, they also were slipped in the pockets of countless WWII soldiers looking for a few minutes of diversion. Paperbacks went from a trend to a book lover’s necessity. Even though digital reading is the new thing, admit it: you have a stash of beloved paperbacks you pick up time and time again.

Celebrate today by grabbing your favorite paperback book and stretching out under a beach umbrella. Or, if you’re not on vacation, curl up under your desk with a flashlight.



Photo credit: Flickr/Tim Green aka atoach

Amazing Women Day

Today would be Amelia Earhart’s 115th birthday, but since Dr. Sally Ride just passed away, we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate them both.

Earhart and Ride were incredibly smart women who made history. Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1928, and she conquered the Pacific Ocean in 1935. She disappeared in 1937 trying to break another record by flying around the world, and her legend grows stronger every year as investigators attempt to piece together what happened.

Sally Ride came back from her history-making flight as the first American woman in space in 1983, and it was so good she did it again the next year. Her astronaut days were cut short by the Challenger tragedy, so after assisting NASA in finding answers, she went the extra mile here on Earth and founded a company that produces educational materials for kids (girls and boys) to get them stoked about science. She was a physicist, an astronaut and an inspiration to generations of little girls who watched her soar into the sky.

Appropriately enough, a third woman from the world of pop culture and TV has a birthday today: Lynda Carter, the Wonder Woman who thrilled us in the 1970s. She also inspired us with a sweet shot of Girl Power back in the day.

Celebrate our three Wonder Women by going out into the world and doing something amazing. Who knows? We could be singing your praises soon.

Typewriter Day

That QWERTY keyboard's looking pretty good now, right?

Today in 1829, a device called the “Typographer” was patented by William Austin Burt, an inventor and surveyor. His typing machine was an ancestor of the typewriter as we know it today.

Touch-typing was a long way off from Burt’s machine, which involved turning a crank attached to a wheel inside a large wooden box until the desired letter lined up, then pulling levers to imprint the letter on the paper. No worries about carpal tunnel with this machine; in fact, it would have been better than Tae-Bo for building those muscles after cranking and yanking all day. (Yes, we hear your snickering.)

Printing with the typographer was apparently slower than writing by hand, but since when has complicated processes ever stopped a geek when the end product was so cool? Still, Burt’s typing device was never commercially reproduced, but it was a vital first step in the evolution of typewriters and keyboards. If the typographer had been a runaway success, we would all likely be Tweeting on something resembling a Salad Shooter.


Image: Wikipedia

Flitch Day

If any family-minded organizations truly want to combat the 50 percent divorce rate, maybe they should fund this holiday!

Flitch Day started centuries ago in England as a reward for happily married couples. If you honestly said you both had been faithful and happy in your marriage, the monks would give you a side (or a flitch) of bacon. Yes, that’s right, FREE BACON! The harmonious (or ham-onious, if you like) duo would totter off to enjoy their well-earned year’s supply of meat. It’s like Santa became real, only he’s a marriage counselor who gives away food.

Celebrate today by serving up some bacon-y goodness to your sweetie and celebrate a year of happiness with a BLT, bacon cupcakes or even a bacon sundae. Mmm, the salty, delicious taste of togetherness.

Captain Video Day

Love Star Trek, Firefly, Fringe, Twilight Zone, Battlestar Galactica, The Outer Limits or Quantum Leap? Doff your metaphorical chapeau to the program that started it all: Captain Video. Today in 1949 marked the premiere of American television’s first foray into science-fiction, and it became a phenomenal hit. It was the first televised science fiction program to be turned into a movie, and the writers’ list of the TV show is a who’s who of science fiction literature, including Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Sheckley, Isaac Asimov, James Blish and many more.

Captain Video and his Video Rangers protected all that was right and good on the DuMont Network daily for six years. Watching early episodes now can make even the creators of Lost do their best RCA dog impersonations, because padding each episode was footage from old cowboy movies in between the live segments. The Old West clips gave the crew time to quickly set up or move sets, and the cowboys were supposedly “undercover agents” for Captain Video.

The switch between interstellar adventure and a posse on the trail didn’t faze kids of the 1950s, though; it became daily Must-see TV for kids and adults alike. Celebrate by watching an episode below complete with 1950s-era commercials, or head to the Internet Archive and download a few to watch later. It’s trippy, historic fun.

Color TV Day

An early color TV, circa 1951. No widescreen, but if your reception was bad, you received an extra ghost of the televised image with every show!

Today in 1951, the CBS network broadcast the first color television show. The variety show included Arthur Godfrey, Ed Sullivan, Garry Moore and Robert Alda with several others, and featured appearances by the chairman of the FCC and the chairman and president of CBS. Only special color-ready TVs could pick up the broadcast, which was sent out to Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore from the network’s New York studio; black-and-white sets couldn’t see the telecast at all.

While this was the first commercial broadcast with 16 sponsors, color television had been in development for a decade. CBS first demonstrated a color system in August 1940, and NBC was secretly developing their own color broadcasts. In fact, NBC supposedly set up a color broadcast from 30 Rockefeller Plaza in 1943 to Princeton, New Jersey. The show featured a young Jerry Lewis, famed dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Arlene Woods. The telecast went out to a single viewer, but he held more scientific clout than anyone else: Albert Einstein. After the show, the cast was driven to New Jersey to meet their lone audience member. Forget Twitter: this was the first immediate feedback for a television program.

While we don’t know what his reaction was, we do know that he and Lewis discussed the theory of relativity. That moment should have been the first color broadcast!



Photo credit: Flickr/jimloter

Hilda Terry Day

Born today in 1914, Hilda Terry spent her life doing things her own way. She was the first famous syndicated female cartoonist, and the first woman to be admitted to the National Cartoonists Society in 1950. That sounds like a mild achievement, but in truth, it wasn’t. It took a year for her to get in, and she cajoled and shamed them into admission. Once in, she planted a foot firmly in the doorway and brought in other women artists.

Best known for her comic “Teena,” which ran in newspapers from 1941 to 1964, she also had a lifelong interest in sports, and became a pioneer of computer animation by designing sports cartoons for scoreboards in the 1970s. Success is the best revenge, because the very society that didn’t want her in its ranks awarded her with the honor of Best Animation Cartoonist in 1979. Thanks to her headstart in computers, she stayed busy well into retirement by designing websites and teaching art. The Internet also became her medium for expressing opinions on everything from history to reincarnation. She passed away in 2006, after living a full life of making sure her voice was heard.

Celebrate today by encouraging a young artist, or by enjoying the work of female artists today wherever you find them.

Helicopter Bus Day

Still whining about those flying cars you don’t have? Don’t blame technology, blame your Grandpa. The Greyhound Bus company came up with the idea of bus choppers back in 1943 as an alternative to public transportation on the ground. Plans included converting some Greyhound stations into helipads and building special 14-seat helicopter buses. While those were never built, Greyhound was so excited about the project they started Greyhound Skyways with a couple of Sikorsky S-51 helicopters that could seat four people. While it was an ingenious way to avoid traffic, Greyhound discovered that the project wasn’t “economically feasible,” which basically means office workers weren’t willing to pay the costs required to fly to work every day.

Celebrate today by thinking about any bus trip you’ve taken and watching the above video. Also, everything old is new again: check out this article on Jalopnik about the re-emergence of the airbus.

Malcolm McDowell Day

Happy birthday to Malcolm McDowell, born today in 1943. He’s best known for playing a host of villains, from his original very bad boy, Alex, in “A Clockwork Orange” to a very trippy role as a water hoarding psychopath in “Tank Girl.” His claim to geek fame is that he killed Captain Kirk in 1994’s “Generations,” but we don’t hold that against him. Kirk has his own forum of the Nexus, and he pops right back, time after time.

Celebrate today by watching your favorite McDowell movie, or just indulge in a bit of juicy Malcolm-ness with the scene above.

Superman Day

The Man of Steel was introduced to the world in the June 1938 (first) issue of Action Comics, and our love affair with Supes has been torrid ever since.

Technically the issue dropped in April, but we’re celebrating it today because this weekend is Superman Weekend, the 34th annual celebration of the big guy in blue tights held in Metropolis, Illinois. The event draws thousands of kids of all ages every year; special guests this year include Smallville’s own John Glover and Cassidy Freeman, Gerard Christopher from The Adventures of Superboy, original Superboy John Rockwell, legendary artist George Perez, writer Terry Beatty, and artist extraordinaire Lin Workman, who designed the awesome logo for this year’s festival.

If you don’t know that Superman was created by Siegel and Shuster and has appeared in countless comic strips, cartoons, TV shows, movies, comic books, radio plays, advertising, websites and more, then obviously you’ve just landed on our planet so we ask: are you from Krypton? Because Superman has become a part of the American myth, from clean-cut Clark Kent on TV to that sexy logo tattoo on Jon Bon Jovi. Honestly, if you don’t know who Superman is, you need more help than we can provide. Each generation has their own version of Krypton’s homeboy, whether it’s the legendary Christopher Reeve, George Reeves, Dean Cain, Tom Welling or Brandon Routh, or one of a bajillion comic book storylines Supes has been in through the decades, from marrying Lois Lane to his 1992 death and re-emergence to a complete reboot of the series (along with all other DC titles) this year.

Celebrate today by enjoying the Superman Weekend in Metropolis. If you can’t make that, just pick up the latest comic or dig out your fave adventure from the past. Superman has always had the ability to leap tall generation gaps with a single bound.