Believe it or not, yesterday was a rather important day, and not just because of the big announcement (or the other big announcement). Aside from the hype and the craziness, January 27th is a surprisingly historic day for geeks. Personally, I got a little tired of reading about iPads—and increasingly amused by the bad name jokes—so I decided to give myself some historical perspective and thought I’d share.
So here’s look at January 27th in geek: surprisingly Apple-free.
1786 – In Salzburg, a little boy is born to a couple named Leopold and Anna Maria. They give him the name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, but later he is known as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and he changes the world of music forever. Though he died at the remarkably young age of 35, he left behind a mark on music that is still felt today. And while many people believe that upon his death he was tossed in a grave and forgotten, this is now considered a myth. The reason for his sparse funeral is more due to Viennese customs than anything. Regardless, in the last few decades, theories about Mozart’s music have run rampant, including the speculation that listening to his music can actually make you—or even your unborn children—smarter. Regardless, Mozart’s indelible mark on worldwide culture and music can’t be refuted. Not to mention, if you’re looking for one a truly remarkable film, Amadeus is a must-see.
1832 – Charles Lutwidge Dodson is born; later he’ll be known as Lewis Carroll. While there remains some controversy over his personal character, his contribution to literature is widespread. While many consider him strictly a writer of children’s literature, he’s also influenced surrealism, weird fiction, speculative fiction, and even poetry. Though his most widely read work is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, his “Jabberwocky” poem has proved most inspiring over the decades, appearing in works by the likes of Jon Ringo and Terry Gilliam. As the the curious pronunciations the aforementioned poem, Carroll wrote:
[Let] me take this opportunity of answering a question that has often been asked me, how to pronounce “slithy toves.” The “i” in “slithy” is long, as in “writhe”; and “toves” is pronounced so as to rhyme with “groves.” Again, the first “o” in “borogoves” is pronounced like the “o” in “borrow.” I have heard people try to give it the sound of the “o” in “worry.” Such is Human Perversity.
1888 - The National Geographic Society is founded. I can trace a good deal of my geeky leanings to my early years, rifling through the my mom’s National Geographic magazines. In those pages, my love of science and archaeology bloomed. According to Wikipedia, the mission of the National Geographic Society is “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world’s cultural, historical, and natural resources.” From the history of the Titanic to monumental dinosaur finds, from the Pyramids to the far reaches of space, National Geographic has been a staple of learning and exploration for over 100 years. Here’s to another century.
1954 – Peter Laird is born in North Adams, Massachusetts. I belong to a group of geeks a certain age for whom Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made a huge impact during childhood. And I don’t mean the cartoon. TMNT was the first comic book I ever picked up and Laird’s stark black and white illustrations really reflected the early grittiness of the turtles, which years later has become, shall we say, a bit diluted. Laird has struggled a bit with the fame that came from TMNT’s success, and has had a much lower profile than his co-creator Kevin Eastman. Of the struggle to create in the wake of such success, however, he waxes rather philosophic:
It’s kind of like, “Why bother doing anything? …And the only conclusion I ended up coming to is… the only reason to continue, the only reason to draw any more is for my own pleasure. And if it benefits anybody else, great. But I should first do it for myself.
1957 – Another big name in comics was born: Frank Miller. Miller is one of the writers responsible for transforming comics, for adding grit and reality into the superhero genre and, as he says, writing “crime comics with a superhero in them.” After working on both Batman and Daredevil, Miller began Sin City, a vision of in noir, which inspired the film he co-directed with Roger Rodriguez. Miller also produced the ultra-violent and highly entertaining film 300. While not everyone has celebrated his often violent, sometimes gruesome storytelling, his influence can’t be ignored.