HISTORY OF WOODSTOCK
August 15 marks the anniversary of the “3 Days of Peace & Music” held in 1969 at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in the rural town of Bethel, New York, southwest of the village of Woodstock. This outdoor music event, despite thundershowers, gave voice to the counterculture youth generation of its time. A documentary film followed it in 1970 and a top-selling soundtrack album.
I’d like to share with you what it was like to be at the Woodstock Rock Festival — the music, the crowds “half a million strong,” the rain, the muddy roads, the traffic jams, the counterculture vibe, the media coverage, the movie film crew, the atmosphere, the awareness of its own importance, the sense of history in the making:
HISTORY OF THE IBM PC: 41 YEARS AGO
Forty-one years ago, the IBM PC was released.
On August 12, 1981, IBM announced its first “personal computer,” though it had previously been famous for its IBM System/370 mainframe computer. I operated one of these mainframes in a raised-floor data center in the early ’80s.
HISTORY OF INFINITY DAY: AUGUST 8
Infinity Day is also known as Universal & International Infinity Day. It is a commemoration held on the 8th day of the 8th month of each year to celebrate and promote Philosophy and Philosophizing for the ordinary person.
Why 8 is significant, apart from Infinity Day
- 8 planets in the Solar System — since Pluto got demoted.
- 8 is the atomic number of Oxygen.
- 8 is the maximum number of electrons that can occupy a valence shell in atomic physics.
- 8 people were saved in the Flood at the time of Noah.
- 8th day: Jesus was circumcised, as the brit mila is held for Jewish boys.
- 8 is the number of legs a spider or octopus has.
- 8 is 2 cubed.
- 8 follows 7 but stops before 9 making it the only non-zero perfect power that is one less than another perfect power.
- 8 is the basis of the octal system, each digit representing 3 bits. A byte is 8 bits.
- 8 displayed horizontally is the symbol of infinity
ITALY TOUR: PISA IN A DAY
Can you visit Pisa on an Italy Tour in a single day? Yes, a day trip will do it quite easily. Cruise ships regularly dock at the nearby Port of Livorno.
Pisa is a Tuscan city passed through by the Arno River, which also passes through Florence further south. Historically it was a maritime republic before the days of the unification of Italy in the late 1800s. The city boasts twenty churches, over half a dozen museums, and several palaces.
ITALY TOUR: NAPLES IN A DAY
Can you visit Naples on an Italy Tour in a single day? Yes, but you are required by law to eat pizza while there.
I went to Naples by mistake (see my funny story here), but while there, I had some pizza; it was invented there.
Very popular there is the Pizza Margherita, named after Queen Margherita of Savoy (France) during her visit to Naples. According to a popular tradition, Margherita, wife of King Umberto I, came to Naples in 1889, some twenty-eight years after the unification of Italy, and met Chef Raffaele Esposito and his wife. They created it at the restaurant Pizzeria Brandi, which is still there. They named the pizza dish in honor of Queen Margherita.
ITALY TOUR: FLORENCE IN A DAY (OR TWO)
Can you visit the major Florence sites on an Italy Tour in a single day? If you’re fast or have a bit more than a day.
Think of Florence as “Renaissance with a capital R.” Thanks in part to the patronage of the Medici family, the city is fairly littered with some of the most fabulous Renaissance art in the world. It’s a very walkable city, but don’t drive there. Really. You’ll thank me for it. Please read my article on Driving in Italy.
ITALY TOUR: ROME IN A DAY (OR TWO)
A friend of mine is going on an Italy cruise and asked me to suggest some places for the cities where he has a day or two. I was going to put together a spreadsheet, but I didn’t have enough time, so I wrote this Italy Tour travel guide instead.
There is a famous Italian saying:
A lifetime is not enough to see Rome (“Non basta una vita”)
While “the eternal city,” imperium sine fine (“empire without end” — Virgil’s Aeneid) is that deep historically, there is still a lot you can see in a day (or two.) History is everywhere.
HISTORY OF AUGUST
What’s in a name?
The name of this month wasn’t always August; previously, the Romans called it Sextilis. This was back in 753 B.C., in the days of the founding of Rome by its first king Romulus in 753 BC, when there were originally ten months (… Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec.) The Roman Senate, in 8 B.C., decided to honor their first Emperor, Augustus Caesar, by changing the name of the month to Augustus.
HISTORY OF REEK SUNDAY: The Legend of St Patrick Driving the Snakes from Ireland
Several years ago, at this time of the Summer, on one of my teaching trips to Ireland, I found myself on the west coast, where they have a saying,
“Ahh… west o’ here, the next parish over is Boston.“
This Sunday, the last one in July every year, marks Reek Sunday or Garland Sunday in Ireland. During this event, 25,000 to 40,000 people will walk the 3-hour round trip up the Reek Mountain, or Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland. It’s the sacred mountain of St. Patrick and a popular pilgrimage in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, commemorating his driving the snakes from Ireland. Over 100,000 people visit Croagh Patrick throughout the year.
One hundred eighty-nine years ago today, on July 26, 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act passed its third reading in the House of Commons, ensuring the end of slavery in the British Empire. William Wilberforce authored it.
August 24 marks the birthday of British statesman and England’s greatest abolitionist William Wilberforce. He was a man well known to the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution. He became not just a politician, philanthropist, and abolitionist but also a writer of such popularity (in his own day) as C.S. Lewis was in the 20th century. As I mentioned in my first article on the History of Amazing Grace, Wilberforce’s mentor was the song’s author John Newton. The popular film “Amazing Grace” tells, in brief, the life of Wilberforce.
William Wilberforce was born in 1759 to privilege and wealth in 18th century England and though physically challenged, worked for nearly 20 years to push through Parliament bills for both the abolition of the slave trade as well as the emancipation of enslaved people in the British Empire, almost 200 years ago.
HISTORY OF ST JAMES DAY: AND THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO
July 25 is the Feast Day of St James, and St James Day is accordingly celebrated by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and some Protestants. For Orthodox churches that follow the Julian calendar, it’s April 30.
Each summer, pilgrims walk the Camino de Santiago or the Way of St James that finds its way to the grave of Saint James in Spain.
Who was St James, and what is his relation to this pilgrimage?