November 29, 1877: Thomas Alva Edison demonstrates the phonograph for the first time. Record players and gramophones (Gramophone in the US was a trade name) refer to the same invention. As the technology progressed, they were also called turntables, record changers, or hi-fis. The term phonograph is from the Greek for “sound writer” and early machines did, in fact, both record and play back the sounds. F. B. Fenby coined the term in 1863 and received a patent for something called the Electro-Magnetic Phonograph. No workable model was ever made of the device which was to record musical notes on paper. It was the forerunner of the player piano.
Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville patented a machine that transcribed words to paper in 1857. This device could not play the sounds back. Charles Cros of France produced a theoretical phonograph bur no actual machine in 1877. Edison saw the invention as more of a “talking machine” than a music machine. From May to July 1877, he tried to record and play back sounds in order to record telegraph messages. He announced his first workable machine on November 21 and gave a public demonstration on this date. The machine was patented on February 19, 1878, US Patent #200,521.
Edison’s early recordings were made on tinfoil cylinders. Various types of cylinders with varying playback capabilities were tried over the years. Emile Berliner introduced a flat disc as the medium of choice where a single groove carried a needle ever inward. The ease of stamping or pressing the discs was a point in their favor. Discs have a higher linear velocity at the outer rim whereas cylinders have a constant velocity, a point in their favor. Both types of recording media were used until the 1920s when discs became the preferred method.
Berliner’s original discs were five inches in diameter and used only one side. The discs grew first in size to seven and then ten inches. By 1908, two sided recordings were on the market. This was the deciding factor for the move away from cylinders. Different types of records played at different speeds. The turntable was set for 78, 45, or 33 revolutions per minutes. Records were pressed either as singles with one song per side or as albums with several songs on each side. Vinyl was first used in the 1940s. The sound quality was improved in the 1970s with high fidelity records and precision playback equipment. By the late 1970s, a new recording option was developed – the compact disc.
“I was experimenting on an automatic method of recording telegraph messages on a disk of paper laid on a revolving platen, exactly the same as the disk talking-machine of to-day.” – Thomas Alva Edison
“Mr. Thomas A. Edison recently came into this office, placed a little machine on our desk, turned a crank, and the machine enquired as to our health, asked how we liked the phonograph, informed us that it was well, and bid us a cordial good night. These remarks were not only perfectly audible to ourselves, but to a dozen or more persons gathered around.” – Alfred Beach
“PHONOGRAPH, n. An irritating toy that restores life to dead noises.” – Ambrose Bierce
“The greatest Electrical Pioneer of them all was Thomas Edison… Edison’s first major invention, in 1877, was the phonograph, which could soon be found in thousands of American homes, where it basically sat until 1923, when the record was invented.” – Dave Barry
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: Thomas Alva Edison was born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio. He is the fourth most prolific inventor in history with 1,093 US patents in his name. (Kia Silverbrook of Australia has 4,629, Shunpei Yamazaki of Japan has 3,193, and Paul Lapstun also of Australia has 1,266.) Edison contributed greatly to several different areas of communication. He is responsible for a motion picture camera and the stock ticker. He was interested in electric power and invented a long lasting light bulb. He was a proponent of Direct Current in the war of currents with Nikola Tesla. He is sometimes called “The Wizard of Menlo Park” as he applied principles of mass production to the discovery of new idea. His idea of teamwork to gain patents was credited as being the first industrial research laboratory. His first bride was 16 years old and they married only months after meeting. They had three children and she died at age 29 of unknown causes. He married again when he was 39 and his new bride was 20. They had three more children. Edison died in 1931 at the age of 84, with his second wife surviving him.
Also on this day: Warren Commission formed – In 1963 the Warren Commission was formed to investigate President Kennedy’s assassination.
Zong – In 1781, the Zong Massacre took place.
Going South – In 1929, the first fly-over of the South Pole occurred.
November 28, 1942: An overcrowded nightclub in Boston burns. The Cocoanut Grove had recently been remodeled and now had a new lounge opening off the main floor. The club had the capacity to entertain 460 patrons. There were about 1,000 people there on this cold November night. The restaurants, bars, and lounges in both the basement and on the main floor were decorated in the style of Casablanca, a Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman film released only two days earlier in New York City.
The Cocoanut Grove was decorated with paper palm trees and cloth draperies, some hiding the exits. There were other highly flammable objects, including furniture and other decorations. The Melody Lounge was an intimate spot in the basement. Goody Goodelle was performing on the revolving stage. It seems a young man unscrewed a light bulb in an effort to make it bit more intimate. Stanley Tomaszewski, a 16-year-old busboy, was told to fix the light. When the bulb slipped from his hand, he lit a match to find the socket and get it replaced. He blew out the match, but patrons recall seeing something ignite in the canopy over the table.
Waiters tried to extinguish the blaze that started at 10:15 PM. It quickly spread as the flames roared up the stairway and a fireball burst across the central dance floor. The fire continued to rapidly spread to an adjacent bar and into the new lounge. Within five minutes, the main clubroom was an inferno as well. Panicked patrons tried to escape. The main exit was a single revolving door which was soon jammed by bodies on both sides. Other doors opened inwards and as the crush of bodies surged toward them, they were unable to be opened.
The fire left 492 people dead. Fire officials stated that at least 300 lives could have been saved had the exits been clearly marked and if the doors had opened outward. The disaster changed the way burn victims were treated. Antibiotics, then relatively new, were employed with remarkable success. Vaseline covered gauze was used and other advances in burn care were made. While studying the fire in 1997, it was found that a faulty refrigerator was leaking methyl chloride and was responsible for the flash fire acceleration.
“Everybody panicked. I knew there was a door across the dining room, but about 150 people were headed for it, and everybody was pressed together, arms jammed to our sides.” – John Rizzo, fire survivor
“At the foot of the stairs, I was lucky enough to get on my feet. Everybody was scrambling, trying to break doors to the stock room. I said forget it, they don’t go outside. I saw a heavy lady, Mrs. (Katherine) Swett, the cashier. I said, ‘Take the money, let’s go,’ but she said, ‘I can’t leave the money.’ Later, I saw a big person burned to death, and it was her.” – John Rizzo, fire survivor
“At the Cocoanut Grove, people did not respond intelligently. Some watched flames cross the ceiling, and it was not until one person started upstairs that others did. Even then, a hat-check girl wanted people to pay for coats. The way to overcome this is to teach people how to react to fear.” – Dr. Anne Phillips
“I wish I’d died with the others in the fire.” – Barney Welansky, club owner
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: The Cocoanut Grove was the place to go in Boston after Prohibition was repealed. The club, during the dark times of Prohibition was a speakeasy and located at 17 Piedmont Street. The building was converted from a garage and warehouse complex into a one and a half story complex containing dining rooms, bars, and lounges. Early on, it was known as a criminal hangout lending it an air of mystique. The first owner was gunned down, gangster style and the new owner made claims of ties to the Mafia. Barnet Welansky was a tough businessman and hired teens at low wages and street thugs as waiters and bouncers. He hid exits and even bricked one exit up to keep patrons from leaving without paying. He was recovering from a heart attack at Massachusetts General Hospital on the night of a fire, the very place where many of the burn victims were brought for treatment.
Also on this day: The Pitch Experiment – In 2000, the eighth drop in the 73 year old Pitch Experiment drops.
Hot Off the Presses – In 1814, The London Times was printed using a steam operated press.
Attack – In 2002, the Mombasa attacks took place in Kenya.
November 27, 1978: Two San Francisco politicians are assassinated at City Hall. George Moscone was the 37th Mayor of San Francisco. He was a lawyer and a Democrat who had served in the California State Senate from 1967-1976 when he became mayor. Before sitting in the Senate, Moscone was a Member of the San Francisco board of Supervisors where he was known for his defense of minorities, the poor, and small business owners. The three way race for mayor was close with Moscone beating John Barbagelata and Dianne Feinstein. Moscone and other progressive candidates were now in several powerful positions in San Francisco.
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to a public office in California. The New York native finally settled in San Francisco after several interim moves. He was elected as Member of the Board of Supervisors and began his term on January 8, 1978. His short time in office was marked by the passage of gay rights ordinances for the city. Peter Novak of the University of San Francisco has called Milk “a martyr for gay rights.” Miami had passed an ordinance making discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal. The law was repealed and gay rights took a step backwards. Milk fought to make sexual orientation a protected issue.
Dan White was elected at the same time as Milk. The San Francisco native was also on the Board of Supervisors. The Vietnam veteran worked as a police officer and firefighter before being elected to the Board. He quit on November 10, 1978. He said he could not raise a family on the low pay ($9,600) and was disgusted by the corruption of the inner circle of San Francisco politics. On November 14 he wanted to “un-quit” and Moscone was initially willing to allow him back. White snuck into City Hall with a loaded gun and begged the mayor for his job back. When denied, he killed Moscone and then went to Milk’s office and shot him five times.
White went to his old police station and turned himself in. He was brought to trial on first degree murder charges. He was eligible for the death penalty. The media alluded to his habit of eating junk food and thus the “Twinkie defense” was born. This is inaccurate. The defense based their case on White’s depression which led to diminished capacity. They claimed he could not have premeditated his crime, so he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. He was paroled from prison in 1984. He confessed to the premeditation of his original crime and volunteered he had planned to kill two more people besides. He committed suicide on October 21, 1985.
“All over the country, they’re reading about me, and the story doesn’t center on me being gay. It’s just about a gay person who is doing his job.”
“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”
“It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.”
“All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.” – all from Harvey Milk
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: Harvey Milk was born in Woodmere, New York in 1930. He was not politically motivated until he reached his 40s. He joined the gay men’s migration to San Francisco in 1972 and settled in the Castro District. He entered into the political arena by using both the economic and political power of his neighborhood. He ran unsuccessfully for office three times. He was able to build coalitions and helped unite the voters. As the political climate of San Francisco changed over the years, his bid for office became viable and he was finally able to be elected in 1977. Although he only served for eleven months, he became an icon for the San Francisco political machine and a martyr for the gay rights movement. He was said to be a visionary and worked diligently for a bias free society. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
Also on this day: First Crusade – In 1095, Pope Urban II calls for European princes to rescue the Holy Lands from desecration by the infidels.
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics – In 1839, the American Statistical Association was formed.
Hung – In 1835, the last executions for homosexuality in England took place at Newgate Prison.
November 26, 1917: The National Hockey League (NHL) is founded. The Montreal Canadians, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, and Toronto Arenas began play on December 19, 1917 with both Montreal teams winning their first games. The Canadians beat Ottawa 7-4 and the Wanderers edged out Toronto 10-9. Hockey, both field and ice, have been around for millennia. The modern form of ice hockey comes from Montreal. The first recorded organized indoor game was played there on March 3, 1875.
It became a college sport when McGill University Hockey Club was founded in 1877. The college teams aged and next the Amateur Hockey Association (AHA) of Canada was formed in 1886. The National Hockey Association (NHA) was founded in 1909 for Professionals. There were business disputes, owner and player disagreements and the NHA was abandoned and the NHL created at a meeting at the Windsor Hotel. The teams struggled financially at first but on the ice, they were supreme. They lost the Stanley Cup once, in 1925.
The NHL began expansion efforts for the 1924-25 season and looked across the border to Boston, admitting the Bruins as the first US team. The teams expanded to ten by the 1925-26 season. The Great Depression and WWII decimated the League and by 1942 they were once again reduced to six teams: Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers. These teams are called the Original Six and were the only teams in the NHL for a quarter century. Today there are 30 teams in the NHL, 24 from the US and six from Canada.
The players’ equipment has changed over the years. Gear originally was rudimentary and consisted of skates and a hockey stick with team members wearing matching shirts. Early skates were shoes with a blade attached and sticks were tree branches. Eventually shin guards were donned but added little protection so players stuffed newspapers or magazines behind them. Goalies began wearing masks in 1959 with Jacques Plante taking heat for the sissy move. The last maskless goalie played in 1973. Players began wearing helmets, usually while recovering from head injuries, in the early 1970s. The last helmetless player was Craig MacTavish who retired in 1997.
“Hockey captures the essence of Canadian experience in the New World. In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive.” – Stephen Leacock
“Ice hockey is a form of disorderly conduct in which the score is kept.” – Doug Larson
“By the age of 18, the average American has witnessed 200,000 acts of violence on television, most of them occurring during Game 1 of the NHL playoff series.” – Steve Rushin
“How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo?” – Jacques Plante
“My other car is a Zamboni.” – Hockey Saying
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: In both Canada and the US, the game is called simply hockey, however in countries that also play field hockey, to distinguish the two games, it is called ice hockey. As played today, the teams usually consists of four lines which are made up of two forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie. The five members (forwards and defense) skate up and down the rink while the goalie protects the net from a score as the hockey puck passes inside. The goaltender has more specific padding than those skating around the rink. Hockey is Canada’s national winter sport. The game is mainly played in North America and Europe. There have been 177 medals awards by the IIHF World Championships and of those, 163 have been won by seven nations. Those countries are Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, and the US. In the Olympics, 66 medal have been awarded and only six did not go to the above seven countries. All 12 and 36 INHF World Women’s Championships have gone to the seven countires with every gold medal in both competitions going to either Canada or the US.
Also on this day: Instant Camera – In 1948, Polaroid produced an instant picture camera, first sold on this day.
KV62 – In 1922, Howard Carter opened King Tut’s tomb.
Water – In 1805, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct opened.
November 25, 1984: Do They Know It’s Christmas is recorded. There were 36 famous musicians who gathered together to form Band Aid. The mostly British and Irish superstars came together for Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s project – Famine Relief in Ethiopia. A BBC report by Michael Buerk in late 1984 highlighted an ongoing famine decimating the Ethiopians. Previous famines had already hampered agricultural production. Civil wars destroyed farmland and upset basic trade. Drought exacerbated diminished crop returns. While the serious crop failures occurred in the north, 5.8 million people were affected by the combined factors by early 1984. Famine relief predates Band Aid’s song, however they were not particularly well managed.
The Ethiopian government proved either unable or unwilling to deal with the escalating problems. Food was withheld from rebel areas. The nation’s economy, based on agriculture, was in near total collapse. As the drought continued ≈ 8 million people were affected by the famine and over 1 million died. The BBC report inspired the RAF to initiate air drops of food to the starving people. Soon other nations also began bringing food in and delivering it directly to the starving millions.
Bob Geldof was given the use of Sarm West, Trevor Horn’s studio. Horn was unable to produce the song but donated the venue for 24 hours free of charge. Midge Ure produced the song he and Geldof co-wrote. They arrived at 6 AM and were able to prepare the Sarm system. The media and the artists began to arrive by 9 AM. It was decided to record the crescendo/chorus first. The media were given a photo opportunity and the group learned to work together. Next, individual lines were recorded. Boy George flew in from the US and arrived at 6 PM. Ure and Geldof worked through the night, completing the mix. They finished at 8 AM Monday morning.
The song went to the pressing plants and the press was ready by Tuesday. The record went on sale Thursday, November 29 and went immediately to the number one spot on the charts. The only record to outsell the group’s effort has been Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana. Do They Know It’s Christmas sold 3.51 million copies and together with Live Aid, a concert put on by Geldof in July 1985, raised £110 million for famine relief. The song was recorded again in 1989 and 2004.
“I don’t think anyone sets out to malign poor people but certainly that’s what we do through organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.”
“It’s really very simple, Governor. When people are hungry they die. So spare me your politics and tell me what you need and how you’re going to get it to these people.”
“Everything that’s rock n roll is ever meant to be is happening now. I need to get over the shock that that thing is actually happening and that thousands of millions of people around the world are watching.”
“Mankind at its most desperate is often at its best.” – all from Bob Geldof
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: Bob Geldof was born in 1951 in County Dublin, Ireland. He rose to fame as the lead singer for the Boomtown Rats, an Irish rock band of the 1970s and 80s. He is also a songwriter, having cowritten the above song which was one of the best selling singles of all time. He did some occasional acting as well as being a political activist. He and Midge Ure founded the charity, Band Aid, to help raise money as well as awareness for famine relief and then organized both Live Aid and the Live 8 concerts in 2005. He is currently an adviser to the ONE Campaign, another charity founded by fellow Irishman, Bono. He is a father’s rights activist having suffered the plight of single fatherhood. He has twice been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He has also received the Man of Peace title which honors, as the name suggests, work for peace and justice in an often unjust and chaotic world.
Also on this day: Trapped – In 1952, Agatha Christie’s play, The Mousetrap, is first produced – and it continues live performances to this day.
Perfect Storm – In 1703, England was ravaged by its worst storm when a hurricane made landfall.
Thankful – In 1926, this Thanksgiving Day spawned several tornadoes.
November 24, 1971: Dan or D.B. Cooper makes a parachute jump and is never seen again. Cooper boarded Northwest Orient (now part of Delta) Flight 305 in Portland, Oregon. He was described as mid-40s, 5 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet tall and was dressed in a black suit with a white shirt. He sat in seat 18C and soon after takeoff handed a note to Florence Schaffner, a stewardess. She slipped the note in her pocket and the man told her to read it. It said, “I have a bomb in my briefcase. I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked.” The note also demanded $200,000 and four parachutes and listed instructions for landing at Seattle, Washington.
The pilot was told about the problem and called radio control. The FBI and airline president Donald Nyrop told pilot William Scott to make sure the bomb was real. Cooper showed Florence the contents of his briefcase. The plane was in a holding pattern over Puget Sound while the money, all in twenties, was gathered. The FBI ran all the bills through a Recordak device, taking pictures of all the serial numbers. The exact parachutes Cooper requested could not be found immediately. A skydiving school provided the chutes and at 5:24 PM Scott was radioed and told to land.
With dimmed cabin lights, the plane taxied to a remote spot. An employee drove out with the ransom and parachutes and all 36 passengers were immediately released. Only the pilot, the first officer, the flight engineer, and one stewardess remained on board. The plane was refueled and the route for escape was discussed. Cooper wanted to fly to Mexico City, but only at a low speed and altitude. When told it was not aerodynamically feasible, the new destination was Reno, Nevada.
The cabin was to remain unpressurized. They took off around 7:40 PM and the stewardess was directed to go to the cockpit. Lights flashed indicating a door was being opened. Cooper stepped into the night amidst a thunderstorm and was never seen again. Because of the storm, the F-106 jet fighters trailing the plane did not see Cooper exit. Intense searches of the area proved fruitless. Cooper, the parachutes, and the money were gone. The FBI does not believe he survived the jump. On February 10, 1980, 8-year-old Brian Ingram found $5,880 in banded bills on the banks of the Columbia River, northwest of Vancouver, Washington. The serial numbers matched the ransom money.
“Either he’s hung up in the branches of a tree somewhere and we won’t find him until next deer season, or he’s home watching us on television, laughing his fool bead off.” – Woodland Police Chief Joe May
“We’re either looking for a parachute or a hole in the ground,” – Clark County Undersheriff Tom McDowell.
“I was scared to death and pretty nervous, but I do remember seeing a red cylinder in the suitcase.” – Florence Schaffner
“All he knew was he was being taken to Reno (for refueling) on the first leg of a flight to Mexico.” – William Scott
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: The FBI continues to study the case and has amassed evidence filling 60 volumes. They have processed over a thousand “serious suspects” and most of those have been definitively ruled out. Some of the best suspects are as follows: Kenneth Christiansen who died with a hint that he might be DB Cooper, but no actual proof. William Gossett who confessed to three of his sons before he died is also a candidate. Richard Floyd McCoy, Jr. staged a copycat hijacking in 1972. He was killed by the FBI and there are some who believe the two men are the same. Duane Weber was in and out of prison for burglary and forgery. On his deathbed, he confessed to being Dan Cooper. His fingerprints did not match any found on the plane. John List murdered his family 15 days before the hijacking and his name has been linked to the latter. When captured, he admitted killing his family but denied being Cooper. Barbara Dayton, nee Bobby Dayton, claimed to be Cooper two years after sex reassignment surgery in order to “get back” at the airlines. Ted Mayfield and Jack Coffelt were both ex-convicts but neither were found to be able to substantiate claims to Cooper. Lynn Doyle Cooper’s niece thought her uncle might have been Dan, but this has not been proven.
Also on this day: Little Jamie – in 1993, James Bulger’s murderers are found guilty.
Wilt the Stilt – In 1960, the basketball player garnered another record.
Alone? – In 1963 Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald.
November 23, 1644: John Milton publishes a pamphlet called Areopagitica. Milton (1608-1674) was a poet, author, polemicist, and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England. He is best remembered for his epic poem, Paradise Lost, and this work. Polemics are formal argumentative dissertations on religious, philosophical, political, or scientific issues. The documents usually provide a view antithetical to those publicly held and seen as beyond reproach. Areopagitica was one of these writings. The title is a reference to a speech written by Isocrates in the fifth century BC.
The pamphlet was written to oppose the Licensing Order of 1643. The Star Chamber was abolished in July 1641. This was a British court of law at the Palace of Westminster. The system was set up to ensure equality under the law and was where prominent people were tried. Over time, the system was corrupted and became a political weapon wielded by the monarchy and the courts. The rulings were secretly arrived at and there was no oversight or accountability. It was a way to enforce censorship, protecting those who could purchase the court’s decisions. When Parliament disbanded the Star Chamber, they were not advocating for freedom from censors.
Parliament, simply stated, wanted to be the body to decide what to censor. Even so, with lessened strictures there was an impressive rise in new publications with 300 new books on the market between 1640 and 1660. The Licensing Order of 1643 reintroduced nearly all of the Star Chamber strictures only with Parliament holding the power. Books still needed pre-approved licenses; registration of publishers and authors remained; destruction of offensive books was still enacted; and the offending publishers, printers, and authors could still be imprisoned.
Areopagitica: A speech of Mr. John Milton for the liberty of unlicensed printing to the Parliament of England is Milton’s prose attack against censorship. It is a frequently cited work advocating for freedom of expression. The English Civil War was in full swing and ideas were being repressed by an authoritarian body. By publishing his polemic, Milton was daring the very censorship he decried to prove the merit of his argument. Milton admired the free expression of thought of the ancient Greeks and Romans. He was not exactly so revolutionary as to advocate for a total lack of censoring. If blasphemous or libelous works were published, it would be advantageous to destroy them. Milton used God’s Will as justification for freedom of the press. While not exactly aligned with today’s thoughts on freedom, it was a great start.
“For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.”
“As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye.”
“And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”
“I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.” – all from Areopagitica by John Milton
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: John Milton is mostly known for this epic poem, Paradise Lost. It was written in blank verse and first published in 1667. It is divided into ten books and has over 10,000 individual lines. It is based on the Biblical story of the Fall of Man. The cast of characters are Satan, Adam, Eve, the Son of God, God the Father, Raphael, and Michael. The story tells of the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel, Satan, and their subsequent expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The themes taken up in the work include both marriage and idolatry. The marriage of Adam and Eve is based on mutual dependence and is not hierarchical. It is not, however, without some misogyny as Adam is smarter than Eve and closer to God than she is. Idolatry is criticized and even the building of churches or altars is unnecessary, according to the book. God can be experienced without the physical objects used by mankind to theoretically bring God closer to man.
Also on this day: Healthy Hearts – In 1964, the first coronary bypass graft surgery was performed by Dr. Michael DeBakey.
Hijacked – In 1985, EgyptAir Flight 648 was hijacked.
Why Thespians? – In 534 BC, Thespis won an entertainment contest in Athens.
November 22, 1928: Boléro by Maurice Ravel is first performed. Dancer Ida Rubinstein asked Ravel to orchestrate some music for her using Iberia by Isaac Albéniz. There were some copyright issues so Ravel quit working on Iberia and began to rework one of his own pieces. He abandoned that and wrote an entirely new piece. The musical form was based on a Spanish dance – the bolero. The work was called Fandango, but the name soon changed to Boléro.
Boléro is a one-movement orchestral work with choreography for the premiere by Bronislava Nijinska. The Paris Opéra hosted the event with Walther Straram conducting. Ravel composed the piece with background percussion remaining unchanged while the top rhythm’s single theme played over it. The eighteen-bar sections were repeated twice as each different instrument in the large orchestra joined in. The key changed for some instruments half way through. Ravel said it took seventeen minutes to perform at the “correct” tempo.
Ravel was born in France in 1875. His mother was of Basque descent and his father was a Swiss inventor and industrialist. The family moved from Ciboure to Paris while Maurice was still an infant. He began piano lessons at age seven. His first piano recital was given in 1889 when he was fourteen. He was obviously an accomplished pianist but he preferred composing to playing. He was sent to the Conservatoire de Paris where he was awarded first prize in the piano competition in 1891. He was not so interested in the academic side of his schooling.
In the 1890s Ravel met Claude Debussy who was twelve years older. The older man both influenced and helped younger musicians. Ravel composed piano pieces which were often compared and contrasted to Debussy’s work. Ravel was a small, frail man and unable to enlist for World War I. He became a truck driver to help the war effort. He composed music as well. His most famous piece, Boléro, was written after an American tour showcasing his work. In 1932 he was involved in a taxi accident. He suffered a head injury and never fully recovered. He underwent experimental brain surgery in 1937. He survived the surgery, woke briefly, then lapsed into a coma and died. He was 62.
“As a child, I was sensitive to music – to every kind of music.” – Maurice Ravel
“Don’t you think this theme has an insistent quality? I’m going to try and repeat it a number of times without any development, gradually increasing the orchestra as best I can.” – Maurice Ravel
“We are not made for marriage, we artists. We are seldom normal, and our life still less so.” – Maurice Ravel
“Inside a tavern in Spain, people dance beneath the brass lamp hung from the ceiling. [In response] to the cheers to join in, the female dancer has leapt onto the long table and her steps become more and more animated.” – The Scenario, as listed in the premiere program
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: Ida Rubenstein was a Russian ballerina, actress, patron, and Belle Époque figure. The last item means Beautiful Era and was part of French and Belgian history dating from 1871 until the beginning of World War I. It was characterized by a feeling of optimism and goodwill both in France and abroad. Rubenstein was born to a wealthy Jewish family in the Ukraine in 1885 and orphaned at an early age. She made her ballet debut in 1908 when she danced as Salomé in Oscar Wilde’s work of the same name and stripped nude while performing the Dance of the Seven Veils. She was not considered a top tier ballerina as her training began too late. However, she was noted for her stage presence and work outside of dance. She was a beloved model for many of the era’s distinguished painters. She continued to dance until the beginning of World War II, often giving free concerts. She died in 1960 shortly before her 75th birthday.
Also on this day: Blackbeard – In 1718, Blackbeard the Pirate (alias for Edward Teach) was tracked down and killed.
China Clipper – In 1935, airmail service began.
The Ship – In 1869, Cutty Sark was launched.
November 21, 1942: The Alaska Highway’s completion is celebrated at Soldier’s Summit. On February 6, 1942, the threat of invasion of the US was a real and present danger so construction of a highway connecting Alaska to the US mainland was finally approved. Proposals for a highway connecting the territory to the Lower 48 were first proposed in the 1920s. Since most of the roadway was through Canada, their approval was paramount. However, the only Canadians likely to benefit were a few thousand residents of the sparsely populated Yukon Territory. Canada did not immediately give approval.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, priorities for both the US and Canada changed. Actual construction on the highway began on March 8, 1942. The 95th Engineer Regiment, comprised of 10,607 men built the 1,522 mile road in only 8 months. The road was completed on October 28 and the celebration on this date was broadcast via radio – although the temperature was bleeped out due to security issues. The road was rugged and impassible for most civilian cars until 1943. Even then, steep grades and uneven surfaces especially on tight switchbacks made the drive treacherous. Pontoon bridges were replaced with log bridges and eventually steel bridges were built.
The 95th Engineer Regiment was understaffed, like many during this harried time. General Simon Bolivar Buckner, son of a Confederate general, was faced with this shortage and the unique way it was filled. He needed troops and so was sent 3,695 men to swell the ranks to build the road. Black men. The general’s dislike of these troops was legendary. They were ill-clothed and lived in tents while the temperatures were -40º F and a record low of -79º F was established. These men, mostly from the South, did a remarkable job and many were decorated for their efforts. As a result of the work by these men, integrated troops became the standard.
The Alaska Highway is also called the Alaskan-Canadian Highway or ALCAN Highway. It runs from Dawson Creek, British Columbia through Whitehorse, Yukon and stops at Delta Junction, Alaska. The historic end of the highway is around milepost 1,422 where it meets Richardson Highway. Mileposts on Richardson are numbered from Valdez, Alaska. ALCAN is not officially part of the Pan-American Highway, but the road is commonly considered part of the vast network reaching all the way to Argentina.
“Strike while the iron is hot.” – James Howell
“That policy that can strike only while the iron is hot will be overcome by that perseverance, which like Cromwell’s, can make the iron hot by striking: and he that can only rule the storm must yield to him who can both raise and rule it.” – C.C. Colton
“We cannot afford to miss an advantage. Never was any man too strong for his proper work.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“When war begins, then hell openeth.” – George Herbert
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: Although built by the US, the agreement between the US and Canada stated that the Canadian portion of the road would be turned over to Canada six months after the end of the war. This took place on April 1, 1946 when the US Army gave control over to the Canadian Army, Northwest Highway System. The Alaskan portion of the road was completely paved in the 1960s. As late as 1981, most of the Canadian portion was still gravel. Today, the entire roadway is paved. British Columbia’s government owns the first 82.6 miles of the road and this portion was the only part paved during the late 1960s and early 1970s. From mile marker 82.6 to Historic Mile 630 is owned and operated by Public Works Canada. From Historic Mile 630 to Historic Mile 1016 is owned by the Yukon government and they also oversee the road up to the US border at Historic Mile 1221. At this point, jurisdiction moves back to the US and from there to Mile 1422 it is owned by the State of Alaska.
Also on this day: Missing Link – In 1953, the Piltdown Man was declared a hoax.
Senator Rebecca – In 1922, the first female US Senator took her seat.
Revolting – In 1910, the Revolt of the Lash took place.