July 31 – Upswing of the Revolution in the Republic of the Congo

Posted on July 31, 2016

Once upon a time, France ruled a chunk right in the center of Africa. During World War II, when France was being ruled by Nazi invaders, the city of Brazzaville, in what was then called Middle Congo, became the symbolic capital of Free France. After the war, Middle Congo benefitted from its central location in the France's African territories, and it slowly gained more and more self-rule. In 1960 it became an independent nation with the name the Republic of the Congo.

Since then, there have been uprisings and coups, the nation has had elected governments and military-established governments, and there was a period of time when the nation was a communist one-party state. In all of that, I'm not sure WHEN the upswing in today's holiday, Upswing of the Revolution, occurred.

Note: Do not get the Republic of the Congo mixed up with its larger neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The former is way more stable and prosperous than the latter!

The Republic of the Congo (sometimes called just Congo
or Congo - Brazzaville) is in dark blue in the map above.

Below, the Republic of the Congo appears in coral, to the
west of the much larger Democratic Republic of the
Congo, in yellow.

Here are some of the things that make the Republic of Congo special:

Many Congolese are loyal soccer fans; its the nation's most popular sport.

Of course the gorillas are special – and especially humanlike, don't you think?

The mighty Congo River is one of the largest in the world – and it has some very nice waterfalls!

And of course, natural beauty abounds in the Republic of Congo as much as anywhere else!

Also on this date:

Author J. K. Rowling's birthday

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July 30 – First Disney Foray into Technicolor

Posted on July 30, 2016

Before there were color motion pictures (animated or live-action), there were black-and-white motion pictures. Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse made his debut in the B&W film Steamboat Willie, in 1928.

Even after color was inserted into the movie biz, it was what is known as a “two-color additive color process.” The company was Kinemacolor. Color was achieved by photographing and projecting a black-and-white film behind alternating red and green filters.

As usual with “motion pictures,” which of course are a whole bunch of still pictures rapidly shown, our brain does the work of mixing rapidly alternating colors as well as seeing action rather than rapidly changing stills.

Still, it seems to me that a B&W film shown behind red and green filters would result in not-very brightly colored scenes. Rather muddy, in fact.

And I'd be right:

A sample scene of Kinemacolor

And then there was technicolor!

Starting in 1916 and being improved by leaps and bounds over the next few decades, Technicolor offered much brighter, more saturated colors. The later, more advanced 3-strip process required a special camera that used three separate rolls of black and white film. A beam splitter inside the camera caused the light coming through the lens to be split into two parts, and before the light hit the film, it passed through one of two filters. One B&W film strip collected light that had come through a green filter; the rest of the light passed through a magenta filter. Behind the magenta filter were the other two strips of film. The front film was a red-blind film – it recorded only blue light – and there was a coating on that film that prevented the blue light from continuing on to the last strip of film. The only light that hit that strip was the red-dominated light.

Super complicated, right?

The fact is, though, that this sort of “subtractive synthesis” resulted in brighter, more saturated colors than the additive process. And the because there were three colors (green, blue, and red) rather than just two (red and green), the full range of colors became available.

Just because this new process had been invented, it didn't mean that Hollywood would adopt it. But Walt Disney was one of the first (maybe THE first?). And on this date in 1932, Walt Disney's Silly Symphony called Flowers and Trees was released in full-color Technicolor.

Flowers and Trees was a success! People loved it, critics loved it, and Disney won his first competitive Academy Award, for Animated Short Subject. (That same year, 1932, he won an honorary Academy Award for the creation of Mickey Mouse.

Check out Flowers and Trees

Also on this date:

International Day of Friendship

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July 29 – Ólavsøka / National Day in the Faroe Islands

Posted on July 29, 2016

I wrote about Ólavsøka Eve in the Faroe Islands in an earlier post, but since Ólavsøka is considered by many Faroese people to be their national day, I figured I had to go on record about today's events.

The biggest part of Ólavsøka, for the Faroese, is the reopening of Parliament after their summer break. Before that happens, there is a procession and a Cantata—classical music and choir music sung by 160 choir singers from all over the Faroe Islands.

Where are the Faroe Islands?

These North Atlantic islands lie about halfway between Norway and Iceland. They are an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark. That means that the Faroese govern themselves but depend on Denmark for military defense, police force, justice system, and currency.

What makes the Faroe Islands special?

Like most places, there are some natural-beauty sites on the islands.

Mulafossur Waterfall

Parts of the islands feature straight-sided cliffs that plunge down into the North Atlantic:

And other parts are weird and pointy and rugged:

There are some teeny-tiny villages, like Saksun:

But even the largest town in the Faroes, like its capital, Torshavn, is not a proper city:

(Torshavn has only about 13,000 people –
only about three times as large as my high school!)

Bird watchers enjoy the diverse birds who live on or visit the islands. Check out these puffins:

Best of all, perhaps, the Faroe Islands are far enough north that you can sometimes see the Northern Lights there:

Also on this date:

(another post here)

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July 28 – Happy Birthday, Lucy Burns

Posted on July 28, 2016

Remember, women couldn't vote everywhere in the United States until after the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1920.

1920! Not even 100 years ago!

We can thank Lucy Burns and lots of other brave and active women for the fact that women finally were given the right to vote.

Remember the conundrum of a disenfranchised minority or other group: you cannot vote to give yourself the right to vote...because you cannot vote!

So you have to beg the powers-that-be to give you the right to vote!

Please, sir, mightn't I have the opportunity to cast a vote?”

So what did women do to obtain suffrage?

They made speeches on street corners, organized groups to work on the issue, organized parades, talked to lawmakers, wrote opinion pieces to newspapers...

Lucy Burns started her fight in the United Kingdom, even though she was American (she was born in Brooklyn, NY, on this date in 1879). She'd been going to graduate school in Germany, and visiting the U.K., she ran into Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters. She was so impressed with their struggle to earn the right to vote, she quit school and joined their efforts.

Burns met another famed American suffragist, Alice Paul, in England. You'll never guess where....at a police station! Both women had been arrested for taking part in demonstrations, and Paul noticed an American flag pin in Burns's lapel. They soon were good friends, and when they returned to the U.S., the two women joined the national women's suffrage organization. Later they worked together to form a Congressional Union and the National Woman's Party.

They created banners, held rallies, lobbied Congress, published articles, taught women, and supplied reporters with news bulletins. They picketed the White House.

And they were sometimes arrested.

When Paul and Burns were in jail, they organized protests with the other prisoners, and they held hunger strikes while stating that they were political prisoners, in an effort to draw attention to their cause.

Of all the well-known American suffragists, I read, Burns spent the most time in jail.

Finally, after a decade of work and suffering-for-suffrage, Burns saw the 19th Amendment pass and become ratified. Women could finally vote everywhere in the United States.

If you imagine Burns being overjoyed, you'd apparently be wrong. Apparently she was pretty bitter towards the great majority of women, who hadn't done anything to win the right to vote, and she was sick and tired of fighting. She said, “I don’t want to do anything more. I think we have done all this for women, and we have sacrificed everything we possessed for them, and let them fight for it now. I am not going to fight anymore.”

And she quit politics, raised her orphaned niece, devoted herself to the Catholic Church, and lived to be an old lady. She died in 1966.

I hope that she became happy when she saw so many women, not just voting, but holding office. 

I hope that she would be even happier if she could see women achieving in politics today – including, I hope, a woman becoming a president less than a century after she and other suffragists won for all American women the right to vote!

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