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Good News in History, October 10

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15 years ago, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al Masrie became the first-ever Malay to enter outer space when he rode up to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz TMA-11 with the Expedition 16 crew. An astronaut and orthopedic surgeon, Alma Matter of Manipal University, Shukor Al Masrie performed experiments on live cancer cells to catalogue the effects of things like leukemia in space. He is the only Malaysian, representing the 20th nation to visit the space station. READ more… 

Since Sheikh Muszaphar is a Muslim, and as his time in space coincided with the last part of Ramadan, the Islamic National Fatwa Council drew up the first comprehensive guidebook for Muslims in space.

The 18-page guidebook is titled “Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites (Ibadah) at the International Space Station”, and details issues such as how to pray in a low-gravity environment, how to locate Mecca from the ISS, how to determine prayer times, and issues surrounding fasting. The orbit of the ISS results in one day/night cycle every 90 minutes, so the issues of fasting during Ramadan are also addressed.

More Good News on this Date:

  • Simon and Garfunkel released their third LP, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, which reached triple platinum and included the songs Scarborough Fair and Homeward Bound (1966)
  • King Crimson released their debut studio masterpiece, In the Court of the Crimson King, one of the most influential progressive rock albums (1969)
  • Fiji became independent after nearly a century of British rule (1970)
  • President Jimmy Carter authorized the minting of a Susan B. Anthony dollar (1978)
  • Pac-Man went on the market in North America (1980)
  • Angela Merkel became Germany’s first female chancellor and the first from the former Communist east (2005)
  • Jessica Cox, 25, became the first armless person to earn an Airman’s Certificate as a certified pilot, thanks to an Arizona non-profit group, Wright Flight, that uses aviation as a tool to motivate young people (2008)

66 years ago today, the epic Western drama film Giant was released. Focusing on the struggle between wealthy oilmen and cattlemen in Texas in the mid 20th century, the film starred Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Rock Hudson.

Giant was the final of Dean’s three films as a leading actor—and earned him his second Academy Award nomination, before he was killed in a car crash prior to the film’s debut. George Stevens won the Oscar for Best Director.

Martin Scorsese said in the 70s, “I’ve seen this film over forty times. There’s more here than people have seen. It has to do with the depiction of a life style through the passage of so many years. You see people grow.”

A huge box-office success, the film’s earnings of $35 million for Warner Brothers was not surpassed until the 1970s with their release of Superman.

In the story, Dean is given a small plot of land, bequeathed by the rancher’s sister after her death. He toils until one day he strikes oil. He becomes wealthy, but rots inside from the unrequited love he maintains for the rancher’s wife through the decades, even after taking her daughter as a lover. The film also explores racism in the South, with Rock Hudson defending Blacks and Hispanics at the local cafe when they are unwelcome and thrown out. Another subplot centered around Taylor, who was raised on the East Coast, refusing to be deferential to men, as was customary in Texas, just because she was a woman. WATCH the scene where ranch hand James Dean strikes oil and express, in vain, his love for the rancher’s wife, Elizabeth Taylor… (1956)

And, on this day in 1902, the Gibson Guitar company was formed in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It was founded with the intention to make mandolins, by Orville Gibson, a luthier with no formal training. The company ended up building one of the world’s most iconic guitars, the Gibson Les Paul in 1952—a solid-body electric instrument designed by their V.P. Ted McCarty and famed guitarist Les Paul.

Mr. Gibson invented the archtop design for his instruments, which made them louder and more durable, by constructing the same type of carved tops used on violins. The musical innovator never saw the riches that were distributed to the businessmen who took over the company, but only was paid for his hourly labor. By the 1930s, after Orville’s death, the company made one of the first commercially available hollow-body electric guitars, like the ES-150 popularized by Charlie Christian.

42 years ago today, Pac-Man first debuted—and it went on to became the highest grossing video game of all time. The arcade game was deliberately designed to appeal to women as well as men, eschewing the popular war themes of the day, and instead using characters that were cute and colorful.

Its designer, Toru Iwatani, was 24 at the time and for a year led a small team of nine at his company (Namco, of Japan). With so many instant fans eager to gobble up all the dots in its maze, while avoiding the 4 ghosts, Pac-Man within a year had grossed over $1 billion in quarters.

The character named in Japanese after its shape—a hockey puck—generated more than $14 billion for Namco, and is indeed the highest grossing video game of all time. (1980)

And, on this day in 1868, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes issued the Grito de Yara in Cuba (the Cry of Yara), proclaiming Cuban independence, which began the “War of 10 years”.

Photo of the Havana capitol by dibaer, CC license

That morning, after sounding the slave bell (indicating it was time for his plantation slaves to work), they stood before him waiting for orders and Sr. Cespedes announced they were all free men—and invited to join him and his fellow conspirators in battle against colonial Spain. For this, he is called Padre de la Patria, Father of the Homeland. 

Happy 53rd Birthday to Brett Favre, the NFL football legend who became the first quarterback to throw for over 70,000 yards, complete over 6,000 passes, and tally over 500 touchdowns in his career.

By Maitri, CC license on Flickr

At the helm of the Green Bay Packers for 16 years, he became the first player to win the league’s MVP Award three years in a row. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, where he grew up, Favre led the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XXXI and he also was the starting quarterback in an astonishing 297 consecutive games—321, including the playoffs, through 18​1⁄2 seasons—an all-time record, and the one for which he says he is most proud.

He joked around constantly and played the game like a kid, but Brett was the only athlete to become a grandfather while an active NFL player. After retirement, he became the offensive coach for a Mississippi high school that soon after won a state championship. (1969)

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