Some 2,000 miles west of California in the Pacific Ocean lies the land of surfing, hula dancers, lūʻaus and poke bowls. We are, of course, talking about Hawaii, and on this day in 1959, this group of breathtaking volcanic islands became the 50th US state, now affectionately known as the 'Aloha State'.
Hawaii, first inhabited by Polynesian voyagers who used only the stars for navigation and outrigger canoes to make their journey, was later discovered by British explorer Captain James Cook when he landed at Waimea Bay on the island of Kauai on January 20th 1778. In the years that followed Cook's discovery, Hawaii would see the fall of its monarchy, annexation of the islands as US territory and finally, US statehood some 60 years later.
Hawaii's path to statehood was fraught and prolonged; we won't dwell on that here. Instead, we'd rather entertain with some fun facts about, in the words of Mark Twain, "the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean".
So today, we're celebrating this jewel of the Pacific and particularly thinking of those who recently suffered from the wildfires in Maui.
For all her famous smile and all of Da Vinci's talents, it is intriguing that the Mona Lisa has become the world's most famous artwork.
On this day in 1911, her status became assured when Vincenzo Peruggia crept out of a broom closet in Paris's Louvre museum, unhooked the painting and carried it out under his clothes. The ensuing furore made the artwork globally famous, and by the time a Florence art dealer reported Peruggia, the Mona Lisa was an icon. A splendid excuse, we think, to enjoy a long and fruity Mona Lisa.
If you've listened to big band jazz, or swing, you've likely listened to Count Basie, and his orchestra or one of the myriad groups that Count Basie influenced.
One of jazz music's all-time greats, Basie brought the sound of the Jazz Age and Harlem to generations of listeners, played with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Sinatra, and left a legacy of tens upon tens of recordings.
He was born this day in 1904, to a handyman father and a laundry-lady mother in Red Bank, a small town in New Jersey. We're celebrating his anniversary with The Harlem, quite possibly created at Harlem's Cotton Club, where Basie, like other jazz greats, played. Cheers!
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