Elizabeth Taylor Dies

oTTo_WatsonOn March 23, 2011, actress Elizabeth Taylor died. Taylor was best known for her role in the Golden Era of Hollywood, starring in popular movies such as A Place in the Sun, Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, BUtterfield 8 and Cleopatra. Later in her life, she became an advocate for HIV and AIDS awareness and research.

Taylor was born to two American parents in London, England in 1932. They soon returned to the United States and settled in Los Angeles where people began to encourage Taylor’s mother, who was a former actress, to screen test her daughter because of her incredible beauty. The idea of a child star was something very foreign to Taylor’s mother, and she refused to allow her daughter to be a part of the industry until both Universal Pictures and MGM were offering Taylor contracts. After starring in a Lassie film, she was offered a long-term contract with MGM starting in 1943. Her breakout role came the next year when the 12-year-old starred in National Velvet.

As she grew older, instead of fading out of the spotlight like most child actors of the time, her star only began to shine brighter. Because of her incredible beauty, she became known as a sex symbol and a quintessential part of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She starred in many films during this time starting most notably with Father of the Bride alongside Spencer Tracy, and moving on to other big hits like Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Cleopatra (which cost around $37 million to make). She later starred in two movies which she received Academy Awards for – BUtterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 

Taylor’s acting career was not the only thing that kept her in the spotlight. Ever since the age of 18, Taylor’s personal life had been a roller coaster, and in her lifetime she was married a total of eight times, with most of these marriages being short-lived. Her most well-known love affair was with Richard Burton, whom she first met on the set of Cleopatra and subsequently married and divorced twice. Their relationship was passionate and volatile, and Burton once said of it, ”You can’t keep clapping a couple of sticks [of dynamite] together without expecting them to blow up.”

Also known for her love of jewelry, Taylor’s jewelry collection was estimated to be worth $150 million at the time of her death. She owned some of the most famous jewelry pieces in the world, including the Krupp Diamond, and the Taylor-Burton Diamond – both bought for her by Richard Burton. She also possessed the La Peregrina Pearl, which has a history spanning 500 years.

In her later years, she took on acting roles less and instead focused more on her philanthropic efforts. When her lifelong friend, Rock Hudson, died in 1985 after battling HIV/AIDS, she started to bring the disease to national attention by helping to found the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. She also started her own jewelry and perfume lines as part of her own entrepreneurial efforts.

In the 1990s, she had mostly retired from the world of acting and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1993. In 2000, she was honored again, but this time by the country she was born in when she became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). By this time her health had begun to decline and she suffered from diabetes, congestive heart failure, had both hips replaced, and had a brain tumor removed. It is reported that she went through over 30 surgeries. She was admitted into Cedars-Sinai Hospital for congestive heart failure in February 2011, and died on March 23, 2011.

Years earlier, in an interview with Barbara Walters, the reporter asked Taylor how she would like to be remembered after she was gone. She said she would like her tombstone to read, “‘Here lies Liz. She lived,’” before admitting, “No, I don’t like ‘Liz.’ I hate that name. ‘Here lies Elizabeth. She hated being called Liz. But she lived.’”

Sources: Wikipedia, ABC News, Biography.com

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National Goof Off Day

GoofsNSpoofsFILMMarch 22 is National Goof Off Day! Today should be a day of no work, and all play! Let go of your responsibilities and embrace a life of carefree silliness.

We’re not sure who created this brilliant holiday, but we love them regardless. Have you been hard at work with your eyes burning from being glued to a computer screen or has your nose buried in a textbook? Have you spent hours doing demanding physical labor? Have you been sitting in an office, a classroom, or a library for just a tad too long? Whatever stress your job or life entails, it’s time to let go of it all and do something completely irresponsible, but 100% fun! You deserve a day to unwind and act silly, irrational, and do something that will amuse your tired self.

What can you do on this, the goofiest of days? We’ve come up with a little list for you!

  • If you’re at work or school, goof off by playing a practical joke or prank on one of your classmates or co-workers! Just make sure they know it’s all in good fun.
  • Instead of straining your eyes doing work on your computer, why not take some time out to play a computer game? You can find TONS here!
  • Is that textbook you’re studying a total snooze fest? While you’re at the library, why not pick up something to read for pleasure instead? There’s nothing better than diving into a great new book!
  • Sitting inside all the time can be stuffy and confining – venture outside today! Go to your favorite park, take a walk, or even a bike ride around your favorite parts of the city you live in.
  • If you’re getting a little too tired of the town or city you live in, talk some of your best friends to going on a day trip to another nearby town or city with you, or take a nice relaxing drive to somewhere new on your own.
  • Don’t just limit yourself to the car either – take a train, plane, or even boat to somewhere new!

These are just a few suggestions, and we’re sure there’s plenty more you’ve been wanting to do today stored up in your brain. Sift through those stored away fun times, and let loose! There is no better day than today to let your inner wild child loose!

Sources: Holiday Insights, Examiner.com, Yahoo News

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Fragrance Day

perfume-bottle-Sarah-BarthMarch 21 is Fragrance Day! Today is a celebration of all good-smelling things that our noses know they love! Perfumes, colognes, potpourri, soaps, scented candles, incense, fragrant food dishes, and anything else that you can’t stop smelling should all be a part of your life today!

Smell is said to be the most powerful of the senses. Animals and humans alike rely on their sense of smell for survival. It is used in the selection of mates, to smell our predators and other dangers, and to find food. Smell has a direct connection with certain memories and associations because when we smell something, it travels directly to our memory cortexes in our brains. Other senses must first travel through multiple other layers of the brain. It becomes our strongest sense because it was probably the first to develop, and is a direct reaction to chemicals in the outside environment. It is no wonder that certain smells can bring back a rush of memories – good and bad.

Much like fingerprints, every human being (with the exception of identical twins) has their own particular fragrance or “smellprint.” Romantically involved partners are thought to be able to smell each other’s happiness, fear, and arousal. Your sense of smell is also known to be stronger during the warmer months of spring and summer and after exercising, and a study done by Yale showed that coffee was the most recognizable scent.

Women have keener sense of smell than men which is evidence as to why the female perfume industry is much larger and more successful than the men’s cologne industry. Specific fragrances can become part of who we are and we have a tendency to wear different scents to fit our personalities and moods. The art of perfumery and personal fragrances started as early as ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt when people bathed less often, and thus needed a way to disguise their odor. It was then refined by the Romans and Persians. Perfumery as we know it today did not start, however, until the late 19th century when chemists began to commercially synthesize aroma compounds. One of the most well-known and best-selling perfumes of all time is Chanel No. 5, released by Coco Chanel in 1921. It is estimated that around $25 million is spent per year to market Chanel No. 5.

Fragrances play a vital role in our quality of life and sense of well-being. Celebrate today by trying some (or all!) of the following:

  • When you wake up, make yourself a delicious pot of coffee and take in one of the most recognizable and comforting smells!
  • Buy yourself a new perfume, scented candle, incense, or anything to make yourself or where you live smell wonderful.
  • Bake or cook yourself your favorite treat or meal and fill your home with delicious food aromas.
  • Learn how to make your favorite perfume or cologne last all day by reading these helpful tips.
  • Visit a garden, nursery, or florist and surround yourself with amazing floral smells.

However you decide to celebrate, just make sure those good ol’ olfactory glands are part of the celebration!

Sources: Gone-ta-Pott, Examiner.com, Yahoo News, Wikipedia

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Bock Beer Day

shiner bockMarch 20 is Bock Beer Day! A bock is a type of strong lager that originated in Germany. There now are many different types of bocks of different strengths in existence including maibocks or heller bocks, doppelbocks, and eisbocks.

Though we couldn’t find out why Bock Beer Day is celebrated on this day, we did find out that bock beers were first brewed by Germans in the town of Einbeck in the 14th century. Upon its first brews, bocks were dark, malty, and lightly hopped. It wasn’t until the 17th century when brewers in Munich adopted this style and changed the bock to be brewed in a lager style. There are a few varying stories as to why the name “bock” was adopted for the beer. Some say because the people of Munich had heavy Bavarian accents, they pronounced the town Einbeck like “ein Bock,” which literally translates to “a billy goat.” Soon it was shortened to just “bock.” As a visual pun, most bock manufacturers put pictures of goats on the labels. Others say that the beer was only brewed during the sign of the Capricorn goat and thus goats were always associated with the beer. The beer became a symbol of the end of winter and the beginning of better times. Doppelbocks were first created to sustain German monks during Lent’s 46 days of fasting, and it soon became known as “liquid bread.” The hearty beer had enough carbohydrates and calories to keep the monks alive, and drunk!

beer calendarBock beers have become popular around the world. Bock beers are stronger than other modern-day lagers, and are known for their dark amber brown hue. Bocks are bottom fermenting lagers, and their strong brew is usually smoothed out by being lagered (kept in cold storage) for a few extra months. They are usually lightly hopped so as not to mask the malty flavor. Several different subcategories of bocks also exist today. The first of these are known as maibocks or heller bocks and are paler and more hopped than normal bocks. Doppelbocks, like those similar to what monks used to drink, are stronger and maltier. The last kind is known as an eisbock, and it is made by partially freezing the beer and then removing the frozen water, making the beer stronger.

Wherever you are in the world, you can celebrate today by tossing back a cold bock beer! Click here to find all the different variations of bocks found in the world.

Sources: Wikipedia, Beer Advocate, Bayou City Sipping

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Bob Dylan Releases Debut Album

bob dylanOn March 19, 1962, American folk singer Bob Dylan released his first album titled Bob Dylan. Dylan’s now famous first album was very different than any pop music at the time. Little did critics at the time know that Dylan would help to popularize and define folk music of the time.

In the early 1960s, “The Twist” was at the height of its popularity, with many charted songs at the time honing in on this dance craze and using it as the focal point of their songs. The Beach Boys had also started to peak in popularity with their charged surfer rock tunes. The Kingston Trio was the most well known folk group at this time, and Dylan sounded nothing like them. He had been performing in coffee shops in New York City for the past year, singing traditional folk songs in his nasal voice, which most didn’t believe would be plausible for radio.

Legendary talent scout John Hammond saw great potential in the young singer after he met Dylan at a recording session for Carolyn Hester in which Dylan was playing harmonica. Shortly afterward, Dylan received a rave review from music writer Robert Shelton in the New York Times. Upon seeing this, Hammond signed Dylan to a five-year contract and a month later, they were in the studio recording. Dylan’s whole album only took six hours to cut and cost $402.

The album contained a variation of old traditional folk songs which were standard in Dylan’s live sets at the time. The only two songs on the album that were original songs written by Dylan were “Talkin’ New York” and “Song to Woody,” which was a tribute to one of Dylan’s biggest inspirations and favorite folk singers, Woody Guthrie. Dylan later reported that he wrote the song a few weeks after moving to New York. Dylan made the trip to New York in part to meet his musical hero (Guthrie), who was living at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey.

Dylan’s first album was the only not to make it on to the Billboard charts, and some in the record industry began referring to Dylan as “Hammond’s Folly.” Though the album only sold 5,000 copies in the first year, Hammond was not discouraged and soon brought Dylan back into the studio to begin recording his second album. At this point, Dylan had more original songs under his belt and had shifted to writing about political topics. His songs spoke of the social unrest of the world, and Dylan became a cultural figurehead of the 1960s, chronicling the historical and political happenings of the time in his lyrics.

Sources: Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, The Guardian

 

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Oatmeal Cookie Day

oatmeal cookiesMarch 18 is Oatmeal Cookie Day! Exactly what they sound like – oatmeal cookies are cookies made of ground oats, usually with the addition of nuts, raisins, or chocolate chips.

The origin of this day is unknown, but oatmeal cookies have existed as a tasty sweet snack since the 1800s. Oats themselves were first cultivated in 7,000 BC in ancient China, making them one of the earliest cereals known to man. The predecessor to oatmeal cookies – oatcakes – were carried and consumed by soldiers in the Middle Ages when they needed something to boost their energy before battle. Over the years, the recipe for oatcakes was tweaked and updated and made into the sweeter oatmeal cookies we know today.

Oatmeal cookies are considered healthier than most other cookies because oats are exchanged for most of the flour used in normal cookies, and only one egg is typically needed to bind ingredients together. The addition of other ingredients depends on your specific taste. Sometime honey or molasses is used in place of sugar to sweeten the treats. Other popular additions include nuts, raisins, and chocolate chips. Though oatcakes do differ from the modern-day oatmeal cookie, many of the same spices are still used. These cookies are also known for being a great source of iron and fiber.

To celebrate today, try some of these delicious oatmeal cookie recipes we’ve dug up:

Sources: Punchbowl, CNN’s Eatocracy, Foodimentary

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Alexander McQueen’s Birthday

scan02.tifOn March 17, 1969, British fashion designer Alexander McQueen was born.

McQueen was the youngest of six children born to taxi driver Ronald McQueen and social science teacher Joyce McQueen in Lewisham, London. While in primary school, McQueen began making dresses for his three sisters and announced his intentions to eventually become a fashion designer. At age 16, he dropped out of school and began working on Savile Row, a famous area of London well-known for offering shoppers made-to-order men’s suits. After working for a few different tailors, McQueen finally moved to Savile Row to further develop his career in fashion. He eventually began working for costume designers Angels and Bermans and developed the theatrical and extravagant style he later became known for.

The blossoming designer moved to Milan for a short period of time and worked for designer Romeo Gigli. In 1994, he returned to London and enrolled in Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design, from which he received a masters degree in fashion design. His final school collection was inspired by Jack the Ripper and bought in its entirety by eccentric London stylist Isabella Blow. She has been credited with “discovering” McQueen and bringing him into the public eye.

His women’s designs became popular, with his pieces like “bumster” pants (pants with an extremely low-cut waistline) receiving considerable recognition. Shortly after graduating, he was appointed the Chief Designer for Louis Vuitton-owned haute couture house, Givenchy. McQueen worked for the house from 1996-2001, often pushing the limits of what people expected of the house and of the world of high fashion in general. His rebellious nature led to controversy. One famous incident was when McQueen used an amputee model in a Givenchy runway show, who walked down the catwalk with intricately carved wooden legs. Although he felt as though his talents were being held back, McQueen won British Designer of the Year in 1996, 1997, and 2001 – all during his time at Givenchy.

Pieces from McQueen's Fall/Winter 2006 collection.

Pieces from McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2006 collection.

With his full potential yet to be untapped, McQueen was able to strike out on his own when Gucci bought a 51 percent stake in McQueen’s private company in 2000. He left Givenchy the next year when his contract with the house ended. McQueen was honored with British Designer of the Year once more and was named International Designer of the Year in 2003 by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. He opened stores in New York, Milan, Las Vegas, London, and Los Angeles, and his success skyrocketed even more with production of his fantastical and spectacular runway shows. One of his most famous shows was for his 2006 Fall/Winter line which included an ethereal floating hologram of model Kate Moss.

Although he celebrated incredible success and achievement in the fashion industry, McQueen began to suffer from depression after his long-time friend Isabella Blow committed suicide and his mother died of cancer two years later. Haunted by the deaths of these two important figures in his life, McQueen was found dead in his apartment after an apparent suicide.

McQueen’s story is one admired by many, as he came from a lower-class family and skyrocketed himself into international fame. His remarkable designs and runway shows have inspired designers all over the world, and his fashions are worn by many celebrity patrons to this day including the likes of Lady Gaga, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rihanna and more.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, The Biography Channel

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Everything You Do Is Right Day

March 16 is Everything You Do is Right Day! Could there be a more perfect day than one where everything decision you make is the right one? We think not.

We’re not sure who came up with this holiday, but who cares? We all know that there are certain moments that are terrible and you wish never happened, and other times when everything seems wonderful and perfect. There’s no doubt about it – I think we’d all pick the latter. Life has it’s ups and downs, and today is one where we celebrate all the good because everything will go our way!

It actually happens that yesterday, March 15, was Everything You Do Is Wrong Day, so now that you got all your blunders out of the way, it’s time to pick up the pieces and do everything the correct way.

We hope you got out of bed on the right side of the bed this morning! Now go have an amazing breakfast with someone you love, do everything right at work (or play), and enjoy the day.

Sources: Holiday Insights, Yahoo News, Examiner.com

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Julius Caesar Dies

On March 15, 44 BC, Julius Caesar, Roman Consul, statesman, general, and Latin prose author was assassinated. He played a crucial role in the events leading up to the fall of the Roman Republic and the subsequent rise of the Roman Empire.

During Caesar’s time, Romans were reluctant to give praise to a king. Caesar was a powerful member of the Roman senate, and although he turned down the idea of kingship when it was presented to him, he held steady in the position of “dictator for life.” This action is what turned many against Caesar and plots for his assassination began to take hold. More disdainful feelings started to brew in the minds of many when Caesar’s face appeared on Roman coinage. This angered many because that honor was usually only given to deities.

The conspirators behind the attack on Caesar were called “the liberators.” At the head of this group was Marcus Brutus, who was somewhat torn with his relationship with Caesar. Caesar had spared the life of Brutus and promoted him in office even though Brutus had fought against Caesar in the Roman civil war. Brutus’s family, however, was known for defying those who were power hungry, and thus Brutus’s animosity towards Caesar grew.

Cassius Longinus was also a main conspirator and worked to get Brutus to join him in plotting against the “dictator for life.” Caesar was scheduled to leave Rome on March 18 to begin help fighting a battle, so the conspirators knew they had to work fast. Upon entering a Senate meeting, Caesar was apparently handed a note, warning him of his fate, but he failed to read it. He was soon surrounded by senators holding daggers, and was stabbed 23 times. In all, there were 60 conspirators involved in the attack.

The “Ides of March” has been marked in history as the famous day when Caesar met his demise.

Sources: Wikipedia, History.com, National Geographic

 

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Albert Einstein’s Birthday

einstein tongueOn March 14, 1879, Albert Einstein was born at at Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany. Einstein is a theoretical physicist best known for developing the general theory of relativity which is known as one of the two pillars of modern physics.

Einstein was born into a non-practicing Jewish family. His father was a salesman and engineer who founded a company which manufactured electrical equipment and his mother was a housewife. The future physicist attended elementary school in Munich, where he excelled in his studies. He took up violin, and although he was very bright, he had a hard time dealing with the incredibly strict Prussian education he received at school. He also struggled with speech problems. His slow cadence caused him to pause often while speaking to think about what he was going to say next. When he was older, Einstein made note of two events in his childhood that were of significant importance. The first was at age five when he was shown a compass for the first time and was intrigued by the invisible forces that moved the needle. The second was at age 12 when he found a geometry booked and studied it thoroughly.

In the following years, Einstein fell under the tutelage of a family friend and Polish medical student, Max Talmud. Talmud introduced Einstein to more advanced philosophy and mathematics, and Einstein based his first scientific paper, “The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields,” on his findings in a book about light beams and electricity given to him by Talmud.

When his family’s business began to fail in Munich, they moved to Italy, but Einstein was left behind to finish school. Because of his age he was likely to be drafted soon, so he used a doctor’s note to excuse himself from school and followed his family to Italy. His parents became deeply concerned that he would have no employable skills without a formal education, and would possibly face problems for also dodging the draft. Luckily, he was able to enroll in the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zürich, Switzerland as long as he finished his high school education in Switzerland, which he did at age 17.

Einstein liked to study alone while he was in school, and this preference caused him to skip classes and gain unfavorable recognition from some of his professors. One professor he asked for a letter of recommendation wrote such terrible things about Einstein that he was turned down from every academic job he applied for. Because of this and because of his parent’s disapproval of her, Einstein was not able to marry the woman he was in love with, Mileva Maric, for fear that he would not be able to take care of their family life. Luckily, he was able to find a job as a clerk in a patent office, and his father gave Einstein his approval to marry Maric before he died. The two married in 1903, and they had two children together.

While working in the patent office, he had a revelation. One of his jobs was to evaluate patent applications for electromagnetic devices. He began to think deeply on the transmission of electrical signals and electrical-mechanical synchronization. Einstein had studied physicist James Maxwell’s electromagnetic theories on the nature of light, and discovered something even Maxwell hadn’t – that the speed of light remained constant. This thought violated Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and led to Einstein to form the principle of relativity.

einstein backgammon1905 is known as Einstein’s “miracle year.” This is the year when he submitted his doctorate paper and had four papers published in a well-known physics journal. These papers’ subjects were the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and the equivalence of matter and energy. These papers dramatically shaped the course of modern physics and brought Einstein into light in the academic world. “The world’s most famous equation” was first brought up in Einstein’s paper on matter and energy. It foreshadowed the development of nuclear power by suggesting that tiny particles of matter could be converted into huge amounts of energy.

His papers were mostly ignored until he was commended by influential physicist of his generation and founder of quantum theory, Max Planck. He then began receiving invitations to give lectures and was offered positions at many prestigious schools. He accepted a position as the director of the Institute for Physics at the University of Berlin, a position which he held from 1913-1933. His busy schedule took a toll on his marriage and he began having an affair with his cousin, Elsa Löwenthal, who he eventually married. He promised Maric the money he would receive from winning the Nobel Prize, if he ever achieved that honor.

In 1915, Einstein completed his masterpiece – the general theory of relativity. In 1921, he received word that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize, but because relativity was still a controversial topic, he received the award for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.

His world travels became even more extensive and he traveled to countries like Sri Lanka and Japan. Everywhere he lectured, he was greeted like a rock star, with massive crowds gathering to hear him speak. As World War II began and Nazism was prevalent, he moved to the United States to spread pacifism, but also to urge President Roosevelt to begin nuclear bomb construction to beat the Germans to the task. This decision was something he later regretted because of nuclear weapons’ great capacity for destruction.

Einstein became a United States citizen in 1940 and began teaching at Princeton University. He was known during the time for his staunch criticism of racism, stating that it was America’s “worst disease.”

His legacy was so great that even after his death in 1955 at the age of 76, Einstein’s brain was removed by the pathologist to try to understand what made him so intelligent.

Sources: The Telegraph, Biography.com, Wikipedia

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