240 years ago today, the world’s first untethered hot-air balloon flight took off at around 2 pm from the garden of the Château de la Muette in the Bois de Boulogne. In the presence of the King of France, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and Marquis François Laurent d’Arlandes, enjoyed a 25-minute flight which traveled slowly about 5½ miles (some 9 km) to the southeast, attaining an altitude of 3,000 feet, before returning to the ground at the Butte-aux-Cailles on the outskirts of Paris. READ more… (1783)
King Louis XVI decided that the first manned flight would contain two condemned criminals, but de Rozier enlisted the help of the Duchess de Polignac to support his view that the honor of becoming the first balloonists should belong to people of higher status. After the flight, the pilots drank champagne to celebrate, a tradition carried on by balloonists to this day.
These flights were not like anything we imagine today. The top of the balloon was made of sheep or buckskin. The air was heated by wood from an onboard iron stove lit by straw soaked in brandy, while in other tests, charcoal or potatoes were used. Indeed, just two years later De Rozier was killed when one such balloon caught fire and crashed.
MORE Good News on this Date:
- Judas Maccabaeus restored the Temple in Jerusalem – The first Hanukkah (164 BC)
- Rebecca Felton became the first woman US Senator (1922)
- Ella Fitzgerald, at age 16, debuted as a singer at the Apollo Theater (1934)
- Toy Story, the first computer-generated feature film, was released (1995)
- Florida’s Supreme Court affirmed that votes in the presidential recount should continue to be tallied (2000)
49 years ago today, Congress voted in a two-thirds majority to override President Gerald Ford’s attempted veto of the Freedom of Information Act, after he was influenced to try the veto by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. That decision gave the country the FOIA which it still maintains today, out of which have come dozens of the most high-profile news stories and political scandals in modern American history.
Any U.S. citizen or private entity can make an application under FOIA. Agencies and departments under only the executive branch then must turn over all the requested information in a timely manner. If the petitioner has cause to believe the agency is delaying, impeding, or even tampering with the material, they can seek recourse to a Special Council.
FOIA requests can be fairly expensive, and today, only a limited number of publications and individuals can afford to petition for all the records they might need for a story.
FOIA requests have revealed shocking stories. Most prominently in the last few years, a huge FOIA push by the Washington Post gathered tens of thousands of documents from the Office of the Inspector General for the War in Afghanistan, revealing a depth of corruption, political and military nihilism, incompetence, and wastefulness that few Americans knew about.
Other famous cases involve the receiving of documents that show America almost blew up a hydrogen bomb over North Carolina in 1961, and that the FBI had been secretly surveilling African-American writers for decades starting in 1919.
Also recently discovered were years of email correspondences between Dr. Anthony Fauci, the NIH, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology which showed the NIH was funding gain of function research on coronaviruses there. (1974)
82 years ago, Tweety Bird, the yellow canary, first appeared in a Looney Tunes cartoon entitled The Cagey Canary. In the next 20 years, he appeared in 46 cartoon films playing in darkened movie theaters during the ‘Golden Age’.
Voiced by the genius Mel Blanc for decades, Tweety is one of Blanc’s many characters known for their speech impediments. ‘Pussy cat’ becomes ‘putty tat’, and ‘sweetie pie’ becomes ‘tweetie pie’.
Tweety’s large blue eyes bely this bird’s conniving instincts. Competing against a large black and white cat named Sylvester is almost a non-contest. One of Tweety’s famous catchphrases is: “I tawt I taw a puddy tat!” Sylvester spends the entire film using progressively more elaborate schemes to catch Tweety, but never succeeds (or Granny makes him spit out her beloved bird).
The first animated short that featured the famous pair, Tweetie Pie, won Warner Bros its first Academy Award for Best Short, mostly thanks to animator Friz Freleng. WATCH a few of their best moments… (1941)
On this day in 1877, Thomas Edison unveiled what became his favorite invention—a machine that could record sound—and called it the phonograph.
At his New Jersey lab he wrapped a piece of tin-foil around a cylinder and shouted into one side while turning a crank. A needle vibrated against the foil with his voice and carved a line into the foil, which could be played back by a needle moving over the grooves a second time. Cylinder recordings on wax were the first records and Edison eventually switched to disks on platters. He improved his “talking machine” continually over the next 50 years.
82 years ago today, the first broadcast of the live radio blues program King Biscuit Time aired, the longest-running daily radio show in history, which inspired blues musicians like B.B. King, Robert Nighthawk, and James Cotton.
Originating each weekday from KFFA in Helena, Arkansas, the 30-minute lunchtime show was the only station that would play music by African Americans, and it reached a wide audience in the Mississippi Delta region. Sponsored by the local brand of flour, King Biscuit Flour, the show’s debut featured Sonny Boy Williamson II playing live in studio—its 17,000th broadcast aired in 2014. Unrelated, a weekly rock radio concert show debuted in the 1970s, calling itself The King Biscuit Flower Hour. (1941)
Also, on this day in 1983, Michael Jackson’s Thriller video premiered in Los Angeles.
He wanted John Landis as his director (Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places) after seeing An American Werewolf in London. The video, filmed around Los Angeles, contains a spoken word performance by horror film star Vincent Price. The resulting 14-minute production revolutionized the music video industry forever. On the set watching at various times were Marlon Brando, Fred Astaire, Rock Hudson, and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
And, Happy Birthday to Goldie Hawn, who turns 78 today. The actor, director, and producer is known for her roles in TV’s Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and films like Shampoo, The First Wives Club, Bird on a Wire, and Cactus Flower, for which she won the 1969 Academy Award for best supporting actress.
But, it was her role as producer and star of Private Benjamin that broke the glass ceiling in Hollywood—proving films produced by women and solely starring women can be total blockbusters.
For the last decade, instead of acting, Hawn has focused on family and her nonprofit Foundation’s MindUP program that provides school programs to improve student performance for millions of kids in 11 countries through mindfulness training—with a lesson plan that Goldie released for free online to families during lockdown. Check out her 2012 book, 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children–and Ourselves–the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happy Lives. SEE what Goldie is doing during the 2020 lockdown to stay sane, including giggling… (1945)
And, 328 years ago today, Voltaire, the French Enlightenment writer who advocated freedom of religion and separation of church and state, and whose words inspired the leaders of the American Revolution, was born.
His pointed criticism satirizing French nobility landed him in the Bastille prison for speaking out against political and religious repression. However, he used the opportunity to begin writing his first script, and after his release seven months later, he started producing successful plays, like Candide, which made him one of the most popular writers in Europe.
His bold stance demanding freedom for all made him a forerunner to both the American and French Revolutions.
In all, the prolific writer penned more than 20,000 sharp-witted letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets, including non-fiction scientific works, having been heavily influenced by Sir Isaac Newton while living in exile in London. 13 years after his death at age 83, when he was denied a Christian burial in his beloved Paris for his lifelong criticism of Church authorities, his remains were brought back to that capital city. He was enshrined in the Panthéon by the National Assembly of France, which regarded him as a forefather for the newly successful French Revolution. It is estimated that a million people attended the funeral procession, which stretched throughout the streets of Paris. (1694)
His famous quotes include:
“I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”
“Judge a man by his questions, rather than by his answers.”
“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”
“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.”
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
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