Archive for Then & Now
Early this morning the American Space Shuttle program ended. When the Atlantis shuttle landed at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, it brought to a close 30 years of American innovation and leadership in space exploration. When I look back on the Space program, one particular initiative comes to mind -- the Apollo program. Apollo is known for its many success and failures, particularly Apollo 1 and Apollo 13 but it was Apollo 8 that instilled faith that the United States might actually reach the moon.
Heavy snow and rain this past winter and spring have led to massive flooding of the Mississippi River Valley in 2011, devastating populated areas along the river's path and causing millions of dollars in damage. Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee are just a few states that have been affected by the flooding, displacing thousands of people across the South and Midwest. Over the past several weeks, the Army Corps of Engineers has destroyed levees along the Mississippi River to direct excess water away from more densely populated areas and into flood lands.
Over the past 42 years annual gay pride parades have become tradition in dozens of cities worldwide. They have evolved from radical marches into festive parades with elaborate floats and notable participants including politicians and well-known entertainers. In most cities, the parades are part of a larger celebration known as Pride week, typically filled with events celebrating the diversity of LGBT communities such as Pride Idol, film festivals, dance parties, and "best dressed in drag" contests. The annual celebrations have become a pivotal way of celebrating LGBT history and diversity. This year on June 26th, New York City will be celebrating its 42nd gay pride march with an estimated 500,000 participants.
Dorothy Young, the last surviving stage assistant to famed illusionist Harry Houdini and accomplished dancer, passed away Sunday at her retirement home in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. The entertainer was 103.
The news of Young's passing strangely coincides with the 137th birthday of her employer, Harry Houdini.
Born Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, Harry Houdini, a legendary name in magic, became an international sensation after accomplishing incredible feats as an illusionist and escape artist extraordinaire. In the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE documentary Houdini, old photographs, film clips and a breadth of interviews give an in depth look into the life of the master magician. Houdini died in 1926 from a widespread infection from an appendix burst. He was 52 years old.
Author Hampton Sides, a frequent AMERICAN EXPERIENCE consultant and author of Hellhound on his Trail, on which our 2010 film Roads to Memphis was based, draws a parallel between the Arizona shooter Jared Loughner and the infamous MLK assassin James Earl Ray in a recent Newsweek article. "Though he spent his criminal career striving for anonymity, he desperately wanted the world to know he existed," wrote Sides. "Like a certain deranged young man in Tucson last week, Ray imagined the best way to leave his mark was the gun down someone young, eloquent, and charismatic."
At his 1961 inauguration to the presidency, John F. Kennedy issued a challenge to the American people that, fifty years later, leaders are trying to revive. "My fellow Americans," Kennedy proclaimed into the frozen January air, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." The speech was in part an exhortation to the American people to change their attitudes toward government and become active participants in civic life. On the 50th anniversary of his famous inaugural speech, we can't help but wonder: are Americans taking his words to heart?