Archive | February, 2014

National Tooth Fairy Day

tooth-fairyFebruary 28 is National Tooth Fairy Day! The tooth fairy is a mythical winged being who visits sleeping children in the night who have lost their baby teeth. The children place their lost teeth under their pillows and in exchange, the tooth fairy will leave the child a small gift.

The legend of the tooth fairy stemmed from traditions surrounding the loss of baby teeth that have existed for hundreds of years. In early European times, parents buried their children’s lost baby teeth so they could not be used by witches or evil spirits for their spells. They believed that if a witch possessed your tooth, she could potentially take control over you. Some even burned their baby teeth to avoid the possibility of a witch getting hold of their teeth, and to save children from hardship in the afterlife. Northern Europeans believed in the tann-fé or tooth fee, which was paid to children after the loss of their first tooth. The Norse believed that items belonging to children, including their baby teeth, were good luck in battle, and they would often pay their children for their lost teeth and make jewelry out of them to wear on the battlefield.

Modern versions of the tooth fairy we know today, who flies into children’s rooms and leaves small gifts or money under their pillows in exchange for their teeth first appeared in a children’s play in 1927. The tradition has become as widespread and popular with children as Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, though debates as to the tooth fairy’s appearance have sprung up over the years. While studies show that 74% of people think the tooth fairy is female, some believe the mythical being to be male or neither.

Many parents use the myth as a way to soothe or put at ease children who experience fear or pain over losing a tooth. Some even use it as a way to improve their children’s dental hygiene by telling them that the tooth fairy pays more for healthy teeth than teeth that are decayed.

Though we’re not sure who created this day, you’ve got two days to celebrate with your little ones – National Tooth Fairy Day is also celebrated on August 22!

Sources: Punchbowl, National Day Calendar, Examiner.com, Wikipedia

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Polar Bear Day

PrintFebruary 27 is Polar Bear Day! This day celebrates these large majestic carnivores who inhabit both of Earth’s polar areas.

Polar bears are the world’s largest carnivorous creatures and are a popular attraction at zoos around the globe. They can grow up to 10 feet tall when standing on their hind legs and can weigh up to 1,500 pounds. They mostly survive on marine animals, as they are not usually fast enough to catch prey on land. Polar bears have adapted to the cold weather climates they live in and usually can’t survive well in temperatures that are above 50 degrees.

Because of this climate adaptation, the polar bear population is heavily affected by human carbon emissions. Carbon emissions lead to climate change, and as climates raise, the polar ice caps, also known as the polar bear’s home, starts to disappear. Polar bears need the icy climates to survive, and without these colder conditions in the polar regions of Earth, the polar bear may cease to exist.

polarbears2Polar Bears International has taken it upon themselves to help spread awareness concerning these issues. Every February 27th, they use Polar Bear Day as a way to call people to action, and help reduce their carbon emissions. They ask people to reduce their footprint by taking the Thermostat Challenge. This challenge requires that you either turn your thermostat up or down (depending on where you live and what the weather is like) to decrease the amount of harmful greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. The Thermostat Challenge is part of PBI’s SOS! (Save Our Sea Ice) campaign. PBI encourages us to make the Thermostat Challenge part of our normal routine by keeping our thermostats properly adjusted and making other energy saving efforts like insulating your home. They also ask that we speak with our representatives about reducing the price of carbon. If we can slow or reverse the global warming, we can keep sea ice from melting and keep polar bears alive and well.

Celebrate today by brushing up on polar bear facts and participating in environmentally friendly activities like SOS! Happy Polar Bear Day!

Sources: Polar Bears International, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Holiday Insights, Wildlife Promise

 

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Thriller Album Hits #1

MichaeljacksonthrilleralbumOn February 26, 1983, Michael Jackson‘s  sixth album Thriller made it to the number one spot on the Billboard 200 chart. Including well-known songs “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and of course, “Thriller,” the album changed this history of rock and roll and is still the best-selling album of all time.

Thriller was recorded from April 14 to November 8, 1982 at Westlake Recording Studios in Hollywood. The album was given a $750,000 budget and producer Quincy Jones began working on the album with Jackson, going through over 700 demos looking for material to record. Of the songs that were picked, four of them were songs Jackson wrote himself – “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “The Girl is Mine,” “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” All these songs were based on personal or social issues Jackson had dealt with over the years. “Billie Jean” was about a fan who claimed Jackson was the father of her baby while “Beat It” was an anti-gang violence anthem.

For an entire year Thriller remained in the top 10 on the Billboard charts, and spent 37 of those weeks at number one – more than any other album had. To date, the album has sold over 65 million copies worldwide, and in 1984, it won eight Grammy awards, eight American Music Awards, and three MTV Music Video Awards.

michaeljacksoncalendarThe iconic video for the title track of the album was thought up in 1983 after sales of the album were beginning a downfall. Frank DiLeo, Jackson’s manager, came up with the idea as a way to boost sales saying, “It’s simple – all you’ve got to do is dance, sing and make it scary.” Famed ’80s director, John Landis, who directed popular films Animal House and The Blues Brothers, helped Jackson write the screenplay for the 14-minute video. It centered around a date that goes wrong when Jackson turns into a zombie. The video and “Thriller” dance became one of the most influential pieces of music history, with people all over the world still recreating the dance. Even a group of over 1,500 inmates in a Philippine prison learned the moves in what is one of the most well-known viral videos on the internet.

The amount of airplay Jackson’s videos got on MTV led to an increase in videos by African-American artists in general, breaking down former racial barriers. The album has stood the test of time with Rolling Stone naming it #20 on the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003, and a reissue of the album called Thriller 25 was released in 2008 featuring re-mixes of songs. The album has also been put in the  Library of Congress‘ National Recording Registry and the video for “Thriller” was included in the  National Film Preservation Board‘s National Film Registry for their cultural significance. Though it has been over 20 years since its release, Thriller remains one of the most significant album releases of all time.

Sources: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Wikipedia, Dave’s Music Database 

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Mark Rothko Dies

rothko1On February 25, 1970, Mark Rothko, Abstract Expressionist painter, died. As one of the most influential and definitive painters in this movement, he was known for his massive paintings featuring large rectangles of color which are meant to evoke emotion.

Born in Russia in 1903, Rothko immigrated to Portland, Oregon with his parents at the age of 10. A bright student who excelled in school, Rothko attended Yale University on scholarship after graduating early from high school, but thought the school to be too bourgeois and dropped out after his sophomore year. Little did he know he would receive an honorary degree from the school 46 years later.

Rothko moved his life to New York City in the early 1920s, and was inspired to take on artistic endeavors after viewing students sketching a model at the Art Students League of New York. He studied art briefly at both the New York School of Design and the Art Students League before he started teaching children at the Center Academy of the Brooklyn Jewish Center.

For his first public exhibit, Rothko returned to the West Coast, and had a one-man show featuring his work which he lined with the work of his students from Center Academy. Surrounded by other great modern artists of the time, he formed a group with some of them called, “The Ten,” and showed with them in New York City in the 1930s. His style up to this point had been more realistic, painting scenes urban life, but after being inspired by surrealists like Joan Miro, it began to evolve into something biomorphic and otherworldly.

rothko2“Art is an adventure into an unknown world,” Rothko and fellow artist Adolph Gottlieb wrote in their artistic manifesto in 1943. “We favor the simple expression of the complex thought.” Rothko, Gottlieb, and other artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Koonig became known as the Abstract Expressionists. Along with this manifesto came the work Rothko is now known for. He began producing his large color field paintings at this time. He soak-stained canvases to create abstract colorful cloud-like rectangles. These highly expressive and emotional pieces with no reference to the material world are what defined Abstract Expressionist paintings.

His work became so abstract that Rothko stopped giving his pieces descriptive names and chose to simply number each of his pieces. By the 1960s, his art took a dark turn. He used less bright expressive colors and began painting in mostly maroon, black, and brown. Rothko was commissioned to do several large pieces at this time, but left some unfinished. By the late ’60s, he was diagnosed with heart problems and it seemed that the emotion he expressed in his dark paintings was something that he was feeling on the inside as well. After battling with depression for some time, Rothko took his own life in his studio on February 25, 1970.

He produced over 800 works in his lifetime, most of which were subject to legal battles over ownership after his death. His unpublished manuscript was edited by his son after his death and was published in 2006. As one of the leading forces in modern and abstract art, his approach and technique has effected the development of modern art for decades.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, The Phillips Collection, MarkRothko.org

 

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National Tortilla Chip Day

tortilla-chips-and-tostadas_456X342February 24 is National Tortilla Chip Day! Tortilla chips are a popular snack item, typically made from cutting tortillas into a wedge shape and frying them. They are often a counterpart to salsa, queso, guacamole, and other delicious dips.

Though tortilla chips have long been a Mexican snack more well-known there as tostados, the snack was first mass produced and brought into the public eye in Los Angeles in the late 1940s. Rebecca Webb Carranza was the owner of El Zarape Tortilla Factory in the ’40s, and she first made the chips from tortillas that were misshaped and rejected from the automatic tortilla-making machines in her factory. She began cutting the misshapen pieces into triangles, frying them, and selling bags for a dime. The fried snack slowly began to catch on and by the 1970s, it became a major competitor for corn chips, which had previously been the most popular dipping chip.

Not only are tortilla chips often used for dipping, but they are also used to make more elaborate dishes like nachos. Nachos were first created by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya in 1943. Today tortilla chips are a quintessential item in Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants, and the United States remain their largest producer.

Check out this recipe to make your own tortilla chips at home. If you’d rather eat tortilla chips without an accompanying dip, you can spice them up by seasoning them with various herbs and spices.

Happy National Tortilla Chip Day!

Sources: Punchbowl, Food.com, Wikipedia

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International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day

February 23 is International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day! Although we humans cannot appreciate dog treats, we can spend today appreciating how happy our canine friends become after consuming a tasty biscuit!

Some form of dog treat has been around since Roman times. Back then, they were called “dog’s bread,” and were made from bran, moldy bread, and rotting leftovers. In the nineteenth century, the English began to add various vegetables, but the consistency was still  rock hard. After taking a trip to England in the mid-1800s, James Spratt saw stray dogs scavenging for food and created a cake-like bone that contained vegetables and meat. He claimed it gave dogs enough endurance that they no longer needed to eat other dog food.  He called them “Meat Fibrine Cakes.”

Spratt dominated the market on dog treats until 1907. F.H. Bennett created a bone-shaped treat that contained minerals, milk, and meat products. Calling his new product “Milk-Bone,” Bennett took over the market, and in 1931 his company was bought by Nabisco.

You can help your pups celebrate today by buying them some of their favorite treats, or by making some of your own. Check out the dog biscuit recipes we found below!

Sources: Holiday Insights, Examiner.com, Wikipedia

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Andy Warhol Dies

warholcalendarOn February 22, 1987, American artist and ’60s cultural icon Andy Warhol died. Warhol became widely known beginning in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s for being an influential leader in the pop art movement, which utilized recognizable mass-produced commercial items and cultural figures in art.

Warhol was born in Pittsburgh in 1928 to Slovakian parents. His roots in his artistic passions can be traced back to the age of 8 when he contracted a nearly fatal condition called Chorea and was given drawing lessons by his artistic mother while he was bedridden. After recovering, he received a camera as a gift and began experimenting with photography, developing his photos in a makeshift darkroom in the basement of his childhood home.

When Warhol was only 14, his father died due to a jaundiced liver, but left his artistic son all of his life’s fortune to pay for his college education. After studying pictorial design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), Warhol moved to New York City in 1949 to pursue a career as a commercial artist. His talent did not go unnoticed for long, and by the 1950s, Warhol was one of the most highly successful commercial artists in New York City, being assigned to do work for the likes of Vogue, Columbia Records, NBC, Tiffany & Co. and many more. His unique style included a blotted-line technique and the use of rubber stamps he made himself. His blotting technique often created welcomed imperfections in his work of which he said, ”When you do something exactly wrong, you always turn up something.”

Recognizing his own popularity, Warhol began to explore the world of fine art and started showing his fine art creations in galleries in the late ’50s and early ’60s. His introduction of pop art works began in 1962. At the Stable Gallery in New York City, he exhibited his iconic Marilyn Diptych and 100 Soup Cans which featured 100 Campbell’s Soup cans. The use of this mass-produced item as art challenged traditional views of what “fine art” was and caused controversy that skyrocketed Warhol to national and international fame. He said of the new pop art movement, “Once you ‘got’ pop, you could never see a sign the same way again. And once you thought pop, you could never see America the same way again.”

His portraits of celebrities garnered him a large amount of attention, and he was commissioned to produce portraits for several high-profile clients, including royalty from other countries. Some of his celebrity portraits have sold for millions of dollars, and two of them (Eight Elvises and Turquoise Marilyn) are on the list of most expensive paintings ever sold.

warholbookIn 1964, Warhol opened his famous silver-painted, and foil-draped studio nicknamed “The Factory” which was trafficked by a number of wealthy socialites and celebrities who Warhol had befriended using his natural social networking skills. Musician Lou Reed wrote his song “Walk on the Wild Side” about The Factory and its high profile guests and prominent fixtures, most of whom were known as Warhols “Superstars.” The “Superstars” were stars of the hundreds of long and short form films Warhol produced in The Factory. In addition to adding film to his repertoire, Warhol also sculpted, took pictures, painted, and did screenprinting.

Fully aware of his celebrity status and coiner of the phrase “15 minutes of fame,” he took full advantage of it by appearing at high society parties and became a fixture at famous nightclubs like Studio 54. Some have even stated that you knew you were at a good party in New York City if Andy Warhol was there.

In 1968, Warhol was shot and almost killed by a marginal Factory figure and radical feminist, Valerie Solanas. The attack deeply affected him and he said of his life that “it’s like watching television – you don’t feel anything.” After this, Warhol stopped filming movies of his own, and most of the Warhol films were made by other Factory fixtures.

Warhol’s death came unexpectedly in the early hours of the morning on February 22, 1987. He was recovering from a routine gallbladder surgery when he suddenly suffered a fatal heart attack and died in his sleep. His body was buried back in his home of Pittsburgh, and he left his fortune to the development of a foundation dedicated to the “advancement of visual arts.” Thus, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was born.

It has been said that Warhol’s life often mirrored the materialism and celebrity satirized in his works. Some say it dictated his views on how the world is obsessed with money, objects, and fame, while others claim his life was an amalgamation of all these things. Despite the meaning, his works are still some of the most well-known pieces in the world and his 15 minutes of fame are eternal.

Sources: Biography.com, Warhol Foundation, Wikipedia

 

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The New Yorker Debuts

Eustace-TilleyOn February 21, 1925, The New Yorker debuted with its first issue. The New Yorker is an American magazine which includes serious reportage, social commentary, essays, satire, fiction works, poetry, and essays. Though mostly centered around the life of New Yorkers, the magazine has a broad international fanbase and because it is produced weekly, it is known for its highly topical covers and commentary on American popular culture.

The magazine was founded by Harold Ross and his wife, New York Times reporter Jane Grant. Tired of the “corny” content which filled other humorous publications at the time, Ross strove to create something sophisticated, yet entertaining. The magazine started out as a glorified society column centering around life in New York featuring a now famous dandy gentleman staring at a butterfly through a monocle on the cover. The dandy man on the cover, later given the name ‘Eustace Tilley,’ was drawn by The New Yorker‘s first art director, Rea Irvin.

NY168 - Seaside Cafe.graffleTilley’s appearance on the first cover was meant to be a joke, but confused readers did not know what to make of it or the magazine at first. Was it supposed to be an accurate portrayal of The New Yorker readers? And if so, what did it mean? Are readers cosmopolitan individuals closely studying life’s small beauties? Or are they haughty beings only concerned with their own existence? The perplexing first cover image seemed to mirror the likewise befuddling content inside. Filled with gossip and writing targeted at in-the-know Manhattanites, those involved in the beginning soon decided a broader scope should be the natural evolution of the new publication.

Still holding on to its humorous roots, The New Yorker gradually established a base for serious fiction writers and journalists to publish their work. After World War II came to an end, the magazine began to print short stories, poems, essays, and other contemplative and stimulating writing by some of the 20th and 21st centuries’ most renowned writers. Such famed names as Haruki MurakamiVladimir NabokovJohn O’HaraPhilip RothJ. D. SalingerIrwin ShawJames ThurberJohn Updike, and E. B. White have appeared with bylines in the publication.

The New Yorker’s circulation is now well over one million, and its audience is made up mostly well-educated and liberal-minded individuals who seek the detailed coverage and commentary of Americana the magazine provides. Its combination of journalism and creative pieces as well as reviews and art has made The New Yorker one of the most revered magazines in the world.

Sources: The New YorkerBritannica.com, Wikipedia

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Ansel Adams’ Birthday

ansel adamsAmerican landscape photographer and environmentalist, Ansel Adams, was born on February 20, 1902. He became well-known for his large detailed monochrome images of nature, especially photographs from Yosemite National Park in California.

Born in San Francisco, Adams was mostly home schooled as a child after being kicked out of several schools due to his bad behavior. Adams’ first creative passion was the piano, and at age 14, he began to discover his love for photography after a trip to Yosemite National Park. His love turned to obsession and a discovery of his life’s work. He attended camera clubs, poured over photography magazines, and studied darkroom techniques. In the 1920s, he began developing and selling his snapshots in the Yosemite Valley at Best Studio. He married the owner’s daughter, Virginia Best, who inherited the studio when her father died. Adams helped run the studio until 1971, and it was renamed Ansel Adams Gallery.

After publishing Parmelian Prints of the High Sierrashis first portfolio, Adams began to gain considerable fame. The portfolio contained one of his most famous images, “Monolith, the Face of Half Dome,” and he was hired for many commercial assignments following his portfolio’s publication. He became the first person to produce a commissioned photographic portrait of a photographer when he was hired to take President Jimmy Carter‘s portrait. Adams dabbled in many different photography techniques ranging from soft-focus images to etching, but over time his style developed into detailed close-ups and large-format photographs, recognized for their stark contrast and intense exposure.

ansel adams2The photographer had close relationships with other artists including Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe and Paul Strand. As a member of the environmental preservation organization, the Sierra Club, since age 17, Adams was known for his environmentalism and worked with photographers Dorthea Lange and Walker Evans on creating social and political change through art. He produced photo essays to advocate wilderness protection, especially in Yosemite, and wartime injustice through his photographs of WWII Japanese internment camps. In 1946, he photographed every national park in the United States as part of his Guggenheim Fellowship. He also helped to found what is one of the most popular photography magazines, Aperture.

As photography transformed into a more greatly appreciated art form, Adams began showing his work in galleries more often, and presented a photographic retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1974. His photographs were in such high demand, that he spent most of his time in the late ’70s printing negatives of his previous work.

In 1984, Adams suffered a heart attack and died in Monterey, California at the age of 82.

Adams has inspired many modern-day photographers with the visualization techniques he used in producing images. He would imagine the image he wanted to create in his “mind’s eye,” and use this meditative state to create his photographs. One of Adams’ favorite Gaelic quotes and words he lived by were, “I know that I am one with beauty and that my comrades are one. Let our souls be mountains, let our spirits be stars, let our hearts be worlds.”

Sources: Biography.com, Huffington Post, Wikipedia

 

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International Tug-o-War Day

CompetitionFebruary 19 is International Tug-o-War Day! Tug-o-war is a competitive sport played between two people or two teams in which each team tugs on both sides of a rope to test who is stronger.

The competition of strength has roots in many ancient civilizations, but its precise origin in unknown. Reference to this and similar physical tests have been seen in old carvings and artwork made by many including ancient Egyptians and vikings. It started out as a way to settle disputes between individuals and groups over things like food and clothing before evolving into the competitive sport it is today. Legend also surrounds the game likening it to the constant battle that took place between the Sun and the Moon, fighting daily over whether the world should be shrouded in light or darkness.

When tall ships were a common form of transport and travel on the high seas, sailors who needed to stay fit for their rigging duties began to play the game as a form of practice and an entertaining rivalry. The name “Tug-o-War” may have originated from crews who practiced and played the game on Man-o-War ships. Tug-o-war became an organized sport in the late 19th century when clubs began to form around competing. It became a featured sport at the 1900 Olympics in Paris, and remained a part of the Olympic games until 1920. Countries began forming associations for tug-o-war after the sport was trimmed from the Olympic program, with the first popping up in Sweden in 1933. Other countries across the world soon followed suit.

In 1960, the Tug-of-War International Federation (TWIF) was formed and as of 2008, 53 countries were a part of the federation. Each year the federation holds a world championship game.

To celebrate today, grab a rope, some buddies, and compete in a good old-fashioned game! If you want to have an official by-the-book game, check out the rules here.

Happy Tug-o-War Day!

Sources: Days of the Year, USATOWA, Wikipedia

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