October 06, 2022

#ThrowbackThursday – 6 October

According to the dictionary, the word “serendipity” is a noun which means “faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries”. It was coined in the 18th century by British politician Horace Walpole, who took inspiration from the Persian fairytale, “The Three Princes of Serendip”.

Per Walpole, the princes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” Many people make discoveries every day, but only a handful find something valuable or interesting by chance or pure luck. Perhaps you will be next!

With that said, take a look at these three events that went down in history on 6 October:

1927 – “You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet!”

Up until 1927, silent films dominated the cinema industry. Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Buster Keaton and Greta Garbo were counted as the stars of this film era. But the era practically ended overnight when “The Jazz Singer” was released on this day 95 years ago.

“The Jazz Singer” made its premiere at the Warner Theatre in New York City, New York – directed by Alan Crossland, it tells the story of a man named Jakie Rabinowitz who forsakes his Jewish heritage in order to become a jazz singer. Singer/comedian Al Jolson portrayed Jakie and Warner Oland played Cantor Rabinowitz, Jakie’s father.

What made “The Jazz Singer” different from silent films was the fact that it contained pre-recorded, synchronised dialogue, something which had never been done before in a full-length film. The first moment of notable dialogue occurs when Jakie addresses the audience after a song, proclaiming: “You ain’t heard nothing yet!”

The second moment occurs when Jakie chats with his mother during a performance, telling her: “You like that, Mama? I’m glad of it. I’d rather please you than anybody I know of.”

The rest of the dialogue (which was mostly ad-libbed) continues in such a way, making up the total two minutes of spoken dialogue heard in the film. Jolson is also heard singing, thanks to the innovative Vitaphone recording process in which the songs were dubbed over the scenes. Warner Bros., on the verge of bankruptcy, took their chances by investing in the Vitaphone, and it paid off!

Although “The Jazz Singer” relied on the usual silent film technique of using caption cards – which delivered the rest of the dialogue or explained what was happening (or was going to happen) – the audience were enthralled by hearing Jolson actually speak.

Indeed, per the words of movie historian David Cook, “its impact was sensational.”

“Suddenly, here was Jolson not only singing and dancing but speaking informally and spontaneously to other persons in the film as someone might do in reality,” Cook said. “We say that the ‘talkies’ were born with ‘The Jazz Singer’ not because it was the first feature-length film to employ synchronised dialogue, but because it was the first to employ it in a realistic and seemingly undeliberate way.”

Although historians regard 1928 as the true end of the Silent-Film era, 1927 was the year in which “talkies” first took form and shattered the silence forever.

1945 – Murphy’s Law (or, The Curse of the Billy Goat)

For fans of the US baseball club, the Chicago Cubs, 6 October marks the beginning of a 71-year-old curse, one which thwarted the Cubs’ bid to win the Major League Baseball World Series for decades.

It all began when William “Billy” Sianis, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, attended a game between the Cubs and the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Stadium. However, he got thrown out of the game because he brought his pet goat, Murphy, along with him. At some point during this ejection, someone must have insulted Murphy (whose odour repulsed other fans in the bleachers), because an annoyed Sianis allegedly cursed Cubs owner Philip Wrigley (by way of telegram) due to this fact.

“You are going to lose this World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again,” read Sianis’ telegram. “You are never going to win a World Series again because you insulted my goat.”

Gruff ol’ Billy was not one to kid: the Cubs lost the World Series on multiple occasions and finished as one of the worst baseball teams on an almost annual basis. Even if they were lucky enough to progress further into the World Series, they would inevitably be knocked out by a series of misfortunes, such as when a Cubs fan deflected an easy catch for Cubs outfielder Moises Alou during a game in 2003.

Multiple efforts were made to break the “curse of the billy goat”, from parading goats on the field to a priest sprinkling holy water at Wrigley Stadium. Even Sianis tried but failed to undo the curse before he passed away in 1970. It seemed like the restless spirit of Murphy, not least his stench, would continue to hover over the Cubs and foul up their chances.

Finally, in 2016, the unthinkable happened: the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians 4-3, allowing them to win the World Series. Not only did they capture their first World Series championship since 1908, but they also broke the curse of the billy goat!

Granted, they have yet to win the World Series again, but at least Murphy is giving them a fighting chance this time around.

1995 – On Its Own Flight Path

It took many years for the idea that our planet, along with the others in our solar system, orbits around the Sun to be accepted. Yet 50 light-years away in the constellation of Pegasus, an exoplanet (a planet that’s located outside our solar system) was discovered to be orbiting a sun-like star all of its own.

In 1995, Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz announced the discovery of 51 Pegasi b, an exoplanet 50% larger than Jupiter. They located it using the radial velocity method at a French observatory.

But what made 51 Pegasi b special was the fact that it orbited its own “Sun”: per Mayor and Queloz’s findings, 51 Pegasi is 11% more massive and 23% larger than the Sun. It takes the exoplanet approximately four days to revolve around its parent star; it also functions as a sort of “moon” for the star, much like the Moon does for Earth!

Although no other exoplanets orbit 51 Pegasi, many other exoplanets do exist beyond our solar system – to date, more than 5 100 exoplanets have been discovered.

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