Also written as "8 February" if you're anywhere outside the United States. The 39th day of the year - every year - according to the Gregorian calendar. People who are born on this day have the astrological star sign of Aquarius. It's usually a cold winter's day for most folks who inhabit the northern hemisphere, and a sweltering summer day for those in the southern hemisphere. Lots of interesting things have happened on this day throughout history, but only a few of them have any significance to you or me. Some notable events include:
- 1587: Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded in Fotheringhay Castle after she was accused of plotting the murder of Queen Elizabeth I. A tough break for Mary Stuart, indeed. England used the Julian calendar at the time, so her death is often cited as falling on February 1.
- 1692: William Griggs, a medical doctor in Salem Village (now Danvers, Massachusetts), declares that three teenaged girls are under the control of Satan. This leads to the infamous Salem Witch Trials, a dark period of history from which we get the modern term "witch hunt". Puritanical fear and morals at the height of their stupidity. Even 300 years later, America is still struggling with this type of Calvinistic bullshit. When will it all end?
- 1725: Russian emperor Peter the Great dies, according to the Gregorian calendar (January 28 by the Julian calendar, which Peter had switched Russia to in 1700). Namesake of St. Petersburg, he transformed Russia into a major European power. Succeeded to the throne by his wife Catherine.
- 1861: The Confederate States of America are officially formed, leading up to the American Civil War. Jefferson Davis is selected as first president. Had the South won, I suspect this would have been considered their "Independence Day." Alas, Abraham Lincoln had other ideas. It all ended in tears.
- 1887: President Grover Cleveland signs the Dawes Severalty Act into law, ending tribal control of Native American reservations and dividing their land into individual holdings. Yet another greedy land grab by stupid white men. The policy was repudiated in 1934 by the Wheeler-Howard Act, but the damage was done.
- 1904: Russo-Japanese War begins. Imperial Japanese Army kicks some Russian ass. Ended via a peace treaty mediated by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (for which he won a Nobel Peace Prize). Resulted in Japan becoming the first non-Western world power, and is cited as an immediate cause for the Russian Revolution in 1905. Let this be a lesson to you: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."
- 1910: The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated as a private organization in Washington, D.C. The movement that Sir Robert Baden-Powell (an alleged homosexual) began in the UK in 1907 finally found its way to the states, and was formally recognized by Congress in 1917. It was probably just as homophobic then as it is today. Still, there sure are a lot of gay Eagle Scouts out there. Boys will be boys. Go figure.
- 1915: Film director D.W. Griffith's cinematic masterpiece The Birth of a Nation premiered at the Coune Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. With a cast of 18,000 people and 3,000 horses, it was the first movie ever shown at The White House. Eighteen actors were killed during the filming of this violent epic. Griffith would release Intolerance the following year, which most consider to be the finest achievement of the silent-film era.
- 1924: The first ever gas chamber execution occurred in Carson City, at Nevada State Prison. The poor bastard in the chair was Jon Gee, a 29-year-old Chinese-American convicted of murder in Mineral County. It took six minutes for him to die. It's been nearly 80 years since then, and I'm still not really sure that his execution made the world a better place to live in. Also on this date: The first coast-to-coast radio broadcast took place. Bell Telephone's vice president and chief of research gave a speech at a meeting of the Bond Men's Club in Chicago. It was broadcast in Providence, New York City, Washington, D.C., Oakland and San Francisco. An estimated 50 million people listened to the program.
- 1934: The U.S. Export-Import Bank is established by the federal government to help boost international trade during the Great Depression. Part of FDR's New Deal legislative package, the Ex-Im Bank's mission was to loan money and extend credit to foreign powers so that they could spend it trading goods with U.S. merchants. It's still around today, practicing the voodoo of international finance: http://www.exim.gov/
- 1942: The United States Congress decided that, in light of the attack on Pearl Harbor two months earlier, all Japanese-Americans should be locked up in "detainment camps" so that they couldn't oppose the war effort. Within a few months, over a hundred thousand U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were rounded up and placed in prison camps, where some of them remained behind barbed wire for four years. A very dark day in American History. The same thing is happening today with Americans of Arab descent, in light of the events of 9/11, but you don't read about it in the news. Your children will, however, read about it in the history books... provided that history books survive The War on Terror.
- 1960: Congressional hearings on Payola in the broadcasting industry opened in Washington. Those accused of accepting payment for playing records were disc jockeys Dick Clark and Alan Freed. Due to his reputation and influence, Clark managed to get off squeaky clean, but Freed was chosen as an example. He ended up pleading guilty to two counts of commerical bribery and never worked in radio again. He died a broken man in January of 1965. Today, due to twenty years of Congressionally-sanctioned deregulation by the FCC that began in the Reagan Administration, the sort of behavior that ruined Alan Freed is considered "business as usual".
- 1964: U.S. Congressional representative Martha Griffiths gave a speech on sex discrimination which was instrumental in establishing civil rights protections for women. These protections were codified in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Johnson on July 2. A great day for America and freedom. Also on this date: The Iraqi National Oil Company was incorporated in Baghdad. I guess we all know how that turned out.
- 1969: The rock band Blind Faith was formed by musician Steve Winwood, formerly of Traffic. The group included guitarist Eric Clapton, drummer Ginger Baker, and bassist/violinist Rich Grech of Family. A milestone for classic rock.
- 1971: A new stock-market index called the NASDAQ debuts.
- 1974: Three American astronauts returned to Earth after 84 days aboard Skylab, the first orbiting space station.
- 1990: CBS television commentator Andy Rooney was suspended for racial remarks attributed to him by a gay magazine. Rooney, a "60 Minutes" regular, was quoted as saying that blacks had watered down their genes. Bowing to public pressure and dissent, CBS News lifted its suspension with an essay on Rooney's predicament that aired on March 4, 1990.
- 1993: General Motors filed a lawsuit against NBC, alleging that producers of their "Dateline" program had rigged vehicle crashes to show that 1973-87 GM pickups were prone to gas tank fires. After initial denials, NBC caved and admitted to faking the crash footage. Ever since then, sensationalist TV "journalism" has focused more on celebrities and fluff than on exposing corporate malfeasance or dangerous products.
- 1996: U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law, perhaps the second worst piece of legislation to emerge from the 1990s after NAFTA. Basically a coup of corporate media over the public interest. The first major overhaul of telecommunications law in almost 62 years, it included a "decency" provision that was quickly overturned by the Supreme Court as being unconstitutional. A legal nightmare that will haunt us for decades.
Some Notable Birthdays
- American Civil War Union General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891). Born in Lancaster, Ohio, his devastating march through Georgia and subsequent burning of Atlanta assured his place in infamy for all eternity. Untold thousands died as a result of his march to the sea in 1864. Famous for his quote, "War is hell." Motherfucker made sure it was. Justly hated by American Southerners to this day.
- French novelist Jules Verne (1828-1905). Renown as the "father of Science Fiction." Author of "Around the World in Eighty Days" and "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea." Our lives wouldn't be the same without him.
- American poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979). Won the Pulitzer Prize in 1956 for her collection of poems entitled North and South. She often suffered from writer's block. Fell in love with Brazil while on vacation there, and lived there twenty years before returning stateside to teach at Harvard.
- Bandleader Buddy Morrow (1919- ). Born in New Haven, Connecticut. A successful trombone player and conductor during the big band era, had a big hit in 1952 covering Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train". Currently leader of "The One and Only Tommy Dorsey Orchestra" in Winter Park, Florida.
- Silver screen legend Lana Turner (1921-1995). While some of you may remember her for a few guest appearances on the 1980s TV series "Falcon Crest," she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar® for her role in the 1957 film Peyton Place. Born in Wallace, Idaho and married seven times, she died in Century City of throat cancer.
- Oscar-winning actor Jack Lemmon (1925-2001). Born in an elevator in Boston (his dad missed getting his mother to the hospital by a couple of minutes), he died in Los Angeles from cancer. His Best Supporting Actor Academy Award® came for his role as Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts (1955). A Hollywood legend, and a classy guy.
- Beatnik Neal Cassady (1926-1968). Considered the founder of the Beat Generation, inspired authors Jack Kerouac and Tom Wolfe. Joined Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. "Travel changes your brain."
- Actress Audrey Meadows (1926-1996). Born in China, she achieved fame playing the role of Jackie Gleason's wife Alice Kramden on the 1950s TV sitcom, "The Honeymooners". She died of lung cancer in Los Angeles.
- Legendary actor James Dean (1931-1955). Born in Marion, Indiana, the brooding and sultry young man received great acclaim for his roles in Rebel Without a Cause, Giant and East of Eden. He died in a car accident at age 24, and still has a massive worldwide cult following... possibly due to the fact that he was a closet homosexual. Only the good die young.
- Musical composer and former Boston Pops conductor John Williams (1932- ). Retired from the Pops in 1993, he is best known for his scores to the Star Wars films, as well as an impressive list of other box office blockbusters over the past twenty-five years. Check out his bio and credited works on IMDb - it will astonish you. He's still working to this day, at the age of 71. Amazing!
- Actor Jack Larson (1933- ). Played the role of Jimmy Olson in the old black-and-white TV series Adventures of Superman (1952-54). Bet you didn't know that he was a Producer on the film Bright Lights, Big City (1988). It's true! Yeah, I didn't care either.
- ABC News anchorman Ted Koppel (1940- ). Born in Lancashire, England, he rose to fame as host of the television program Nightline during the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979. He managed to parlay a momentary political crisis into an institution of broadcast journalism, winning 37 Emmy awards and a host of other accolades. His toupee remains one of America's favorite jokes to this day.
- Actor Nick Nolte (1941- ). Born in Omaha, Nebraska, his breakthrough role was in the 1976 TV miniseries "Rich Man, Poor Man." Often confused with actor Gary Busey. Starred in North Dallas Forty, 48 Hours, Cape Fear, The Prince of Tides and a host of other films. Has a scratchy voice.
- Comedian Robert Klein (1942- ). A really funny guy with a long career in movies and television. He was born in New York City, and first came to fame via Broadway in Neil Simon's "They're Playing Our Song" in 1979, along side Luci Arnaz.
- Writer John Grisham (1955- ). A former attorney and member of the Mississippi state legislature, Grisham's numerous novels include A Time To Kill, The Firm, The Client, The Chamber, and The Pelican Brief.
- Singer Vince Neil Wharton (1961- ). Born in L.A., he was the lead singer for the 1980s heavy metal hair band Motley Crue.
- Actor Gary Coleman (1968- ). Born in Zion, Illinois with a kidney problem that affected his growth, his fame came as a child actor in the 1980s NBC sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes". As of this writing, he is a candidate for the Governor of California along side Arnold Schwarzenegger and hundreds of others.
- Actor Seth Green (1974- ). Best known for his supporting role in the Austin Powers film series, and serial TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Family Guy. Born in Philly.
- E2 noders panamaus and martin, according to Who to send presents to, and when.
For a long list of movie-related anniversaries on this day, check out:
Thanks to eliserh and kthejoker for their kind assistance.