June represents the halfway point of the year, being the sixth of the twelve months of both the Gregorian calendar which we use currently in the West… and also the earlier Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar, the namesake of July. Where do we get the name for June?
What’s In A Name?
Ovid, author of that bi-millennial best-selling magnum opus “Metamorphoses” — where he takes the stories of the Greek myths and gives them Roman names — suggests two possible etymologies. The first and more likely origin is the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter, who was referred to as Hera by the Greeks. She is the patroness of marriages, and most marriages happen during June. It was considered good luck to get married during June, though the good weather and school vacation could have something to do with it now.
The second possibility Ovid suggested is that that the month was named for Iuniores which is Latin for “young people” in the same way that May is named for “elders” or Maiores. And as we all recall from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” there was no J in Latin in the 1st century.
HISTORY OF THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
This week we celebrate the 82nd anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. On May 27, 1937, the bridge opened to traffic after taking over five years to build. I remember asking my father when I was young:
“Why isn’t the Golden Gate Bridge golden?”
He didn’t have an answer, other than his observation that it was expensive to paint.
What he didn’t know is that the steel for the bridge, which came from Bethlehem Steel foundries in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, originally came coated with a red led primer. Color studies by consulting architect Irving Morrow arrived upon what’s now become known as Golden Gate Bridge International Orange, a unique “red terra cotta” version of the International Orange standard. But there were other competitors, as pictured above. “Warm grey” was a distant second choice. If you like the color, you can obtain it from Sherwin Williams, the supplier as “Firewood” (color code SW 6328). (more…)
MEMORIAL DAY: WHY WE FIGHT
The world is different than it was almost two decades ago as we celebrate Memorial Day. Presently we have troops in countries that we didn’t have then, and after 9/11 we now remember why we fight. The History Channel often re-runs the HBO series Band of Brothers, the TV adaptation of the Stephen Ambrose book about a company of soldiers from the landing at Normandy through the end of the World War II in Europe.
Band of Brothers
During WWII my father crossed paths with the Company E mentioned in “Band of Brothers” while liberating the Dachau Concentration Camp.
My father’s story was originally told in part on HBO’s website during the 2001 premiere (via Internet Archive,) regarding the episode entitled “Why We Fight” on the liberation of Dachau and its many subcamps.
HISTORY OF TOWEL DAY
May 25 celebrates Towel Day as a day to honor Douglas Adams, the author of the five (or six) book trilogy Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Originally created in May of 2001 to mark the passing of English science fiction humor author Douglas Adams, the day is set aside for fans of his writings to carry a towel throughout the day in honor of the author. Why a towel? I’ll explain below.
I had the honor of meeting Douglas Adams almost two decades ago when he was speaking at a special Sun Microsystems event. I recall at the time noting that he talked at 2400 baud, meaning he spoke the English language faster than any other person I had heard before. Erudite, clever, and mind-stretching — his talk was much like his writings, at times laugh-out-loud funny. He has appeared on Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV show and wrote a skit for the album to the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He had also written for the TV show Doctor Who.
The original Star Wars movie premiered on May 25, 1977.
In 1976 I picked up a new science fiction novel called Star Wars by George Lucas. I did not know at the time that it was ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster, a popular sci-fi writer. The following May, the movie debuted in only 40 theaters around the country, with little of the advanced fanfare we’re used to today. But word of mouth spread fast, and when I heard it was showing at the Coronet Theater in San Francisco, I went with my buddies. The line to get in stretched around the block, even during the first week. When I saw the Imperial Star Destroyer come across the screen after the title scroll, I yelled out, “I’m impressed!”
On my way out of the theater, a reporter stopped me for a radio interview. “Did you think it was fun?” I replied, “Yes” but it was so much more. I would return several times to see it again. Star Wars ran there at the Coronet for 29 weeks. The new Star Wars movies open in over 10,000 theaters in the US. How times have changed.
HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY: WHICH WAR?
Memorial Day was not universally recognized as a shared American Holiday until after World War I. But that’s not how it started in the United States. When did it begin?
Following the American Civil War or the “War Between the States,” as it was known in the South, various locations began decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and flags, as I’ve written previously. This began in the mid to late 1860s across the country, as almost every community had been touched by loss from the country-wide conflagration. Over 600,000 men and women had died, more than any war that Americans were involved in, including the combined losses suffered in WWI and WWII — because we were both sides of that war.
HISTORY OF THE WHO’s TOMMY
Fifty years ago today on May 23, 1969, the British rock group The Who released the double-album rock opera, Tommy. Commercially the record went Gold in the UK and Double Platinum in the US. Several of the songs were released as singles that charted in the Top 20 in both the UK and US. Its success signified a breakthrough for the band and elevated The Who to a world-class touring and studio band. The album has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, representing about a fifth of their total records sold.
The rock opera tells the disturbing story about an apparently “deaf, dumb, and blind boy” who following childhood trauma becomes the pinball wizard and despite several attempts to cure him, he has a spiritual awakening and becomes a sensational religious leader. “Tommy” is a common English name as well as a nickname for British soldiers during World War I.
The late 1960s was a time of enlightenment and revival. In addition to the counterculture rock and hippie scene at that time — especially in New York’s Greenwich Village, San Francisco’s Haight-Asbury, and Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue — we saw the Jesus Movement with its attendant Jesus Music, as well as the secular rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
Peter Townsend, the lead guitarist and writer of Tommy, claims that the rock opera came out of his exposure in 1968 to Indian spiritual leader Meher Baba. The 1971 song “Baba O’Riley” was named in part after the leader. Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was also inspired by a popular quote from Baba. (more…)
The person most active initially in opposing the celebration of Mother’s Day is the very person who started this holiday in the US. How did that happen?
Anna Jarvis’ mother died in 1905 and in her honor, Anna held a memorial in 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia. She continued to campaign for national recognition of this day for all mothers through the assistance of John Wanamaker and the efforts of Bethany Temple Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. The first state to recognize Mother’s Day was her own West Virginia in 1910. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the “second Sunday in May” as Mother’s Day in 1914. The spelling was significant: Anna Jarvis did not spell it “Mothers’ Day” because she intended, as she said it should “be singular possessive, for each family to honor its mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers of the world.” Nevertheless, in more modern times both “Mothers’ Day” and “Mother’s Day” appear as names for this holiday.
Cinco de Mayo is frequently regarded as the Mexican equivalent of the United States 4th of July. This is incorrect: it is the equivalent of the “5th of May” in the Spanish language. Another misconception is that this has something to do with Mayonnaise. That too is a bum spread, as the condiment had its origin with the French, who will come into our story later. Nor does it have to do with County Mayo in Ireland, though we’ll make sure the Irish get into this story at some point. Rather, the “Battle of Cinco de Mayo” or specifically the Battle of Puebla, occurred on May 5, 1862.
President Benito Juarez, who had been Zapotec Indian Minister of Justice in Juan Alvarez‘ cabinet in the 1850’s, entered Mexico City on January 11, 1861, and promptly expelled the Spanish minister, the papal legate, and members of the episcopate. Additionally, he took steps to enforce the decrees of 1859, dis-endowing and disestablishing the church. He could not have known then that almost a century later, “antidisestablishmentarianism” would become the longest word in the English dictionary. Although Juarez was recognized by the United States and had received both moral and military aid from the US, there were over $80,000,000 in debts at that time to Europe alone. The Mexican Congress on July 17, 1861, decreed the suspension for two years of interest payments on the external national debt, and three months later a convention occurred between Great Britain, France, and Spain calling for joint intervention in Mexico.