Archivos de la categoría ‘February’

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King wins 11 Oscars

Perhaps the most attention-grabbing, trailblazing performer in film in 2003 did not receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor–but he was honored nonetheless. The eerily lifelike quality of Gollum, the computer-generated (CG) creature who simpered and schemed his way through The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, remained one of the most awe-inspiring aspects of the trilogy’s final installment, The Return of the King. At the 76th Academy Awards ceremony, held on this day in 2004, the film won a record-tying 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Peter Jackson) and Best Visual Effects.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoKFtf4A_mc

In the complicated world of the writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Gollum is a formerly human-like hobbit who has developed an all-consuming obsession with the titular ring after he lost it decades earlier to Bilbo Baggins (events chronicled in Tolkien’s earlier book, The Hobbit). Gollum makes a brief appearance in the first installment of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), and becomes a central character in the second two films, The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King. His single-minded pursuit of the ring brings him into cooperation and conflict with the film’s hobbit heroes, including Frodo Baggins (Bilbo’s nephew, played by Elijah Wood) and Sam Gangee (Sean Astin), in their quest to reach the dark kingdom of Mordor and destroy the all-powerful ring in order to bring peace to Middle Earth.

Jackson wanted Gollum to be based on the movements of a real human, the actor Andy Serkis, who also provided the voice of the character (with the help of digital sound mixing). Using a technique known as motion-capture photography, a computer captured Serkis’ movements as he acted out scenes while wearing a special bodysuit. Animators used this information to create an enormously complex computer-generated image with 300 muscles and 250 face shapes. CG imagery (known as CGI) had previously been used to great effect in films such as Jurassic Park (1993) and Toy Story (1995), as well in the later Star Wars movies and the Harry Potter franchise, but Gollum was by far the most life-like example of CGI to date.

In mid-2003, Gollum won in two categories at the MTV Movie Awards: Best Virtual Performance, and co-winner of Best On-Screen Team (with Wood and Astin). Fans even lobbied for the character to receive an Academy Award nomination. Though the efforts failed, The Return of the King reigned triumphant at the 2004 Oscar ceremony, sweeping all of the categories in which it was nominated (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Song, Visual Effects, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Sound Mixing and Editing) and tying Ben-Hur (1960) and Titanic (1997) for most Academy Awards won by a single film.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-lord-of-the-rings-the-return-of-the-king-wins-11-oscars

Watson and Crick discover chemical structure of DNA

On this day in 1953, Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick announce that they have determined the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule containing human genes.

Though DNA–short for deoxyribonucleic acid–was discovered in 1869, its crucial role in determining genetic inheritance wasn’t demonstrated until 1943. In the early 1950s, Watson and Crick were only two of many scientists working on figuring out the structure of DNA. California chemist Linus Pauling suggested an incorrect model at the beginning of 1953, prompting Watson and Crick to try and beat Pauling at his own game. On the morning of February 28, they determined that the structure of DNA was a double-helix polymer, or a spiral of two DNA strands, each containing a long chain of monomer nucleotides, wound around each other. According to their findings, DNA replicated itself by separating into individual strands, each of which became the template for a new double helix.    In his best-selling book, The Double Helix (1968), Watson later claimed that Crick announced the discovery by walking into the nearby Eagle Pub and blurting out that “we had found the secret of life.” The truth wasn’t that far off, as Watson and Crick had solved a fundamental mystery of science–how it was possible for genetic instructions to be held inside organisms and passed from generation to generation.

Watson and Crick’s solution was formally announced on April 25, 1953, following its publication in that month’s issue of Nature magazine. The article revolutionized the study of biology and medicine. Among the developments that followed directly from it were pre-natal screening for disease genes; genetically engineered foods; the ability to identify human remains; the rational design of treatments for diseases such as AIDS; and the accurate testing of physical evidence in order to convict or exonerate criminals.

Crick and Watson later had a falling-out over Watson’s book, which Crick felt misrepresented their collaboration and betrayed their friendship. A larger controversy arose over the use Watson and Crick made of research done by another DNA researcher, Rosalind Franklin, whose colleague Maurice Wilkins showed her X-ray photographic work to Watson just before he and Crick made their famous discovery. When Crick and Watson won the Nobel Prize in 1962, they shared it with Wilkins. Franklin, who died in 1958 of ovarian cancer and was thus ineligible for the award, never learned of the role her photos played in the historic scientific breakthrough.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/watson-and-crick-discover-chemical-structure-of-dna

Hitler organizes Luftwaffe

On February 26, 1935, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler signs a secret decree authorizing the founding of the Reich Luftwaffe as a third German military service to join the Reich army and navy. In the same decree, Hitler appointed Hermann Goering, a German air hero from World War I and high-ranking Nazi, as commander in chief of the new German air force.

The Versailles Treaty that ended World War I prohibited military aviation in Germany, but a German civilian airline–Lufthansa–was founded in 1926 and provided flight training for the men who would later become Luftwaffe pilots. After coming to power in 1933, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler began to secretly develop a state-of-the-art military air force and appointed Goering as German air minister. (During World War I, Goering commanded the celebrated air squadron in which the great German ace Manfred von Richthofen–“The Red Baron”–served.) In February 1935, Hitler formally organized the Luftwaffe as a major step in his program of German rearmament.

The Luftwaffe was to be uncamouflaged step-by-step so as not to alarm foreign governments, and the size and composition of Luftwaffe units were to remain secret as before. However, in March 1935, Britain announced it was strengthening its Royal Air Force (RAF), and Hitler, not to be outdone, revealed his Luftwaffe, which was rapidly growing into a formidable air force.

As German rearmament moved forward at an alarming rate, Britain and France protested but failed to keep up with German war production. The German air fleet grew dramatically, and the new German fighter–the Me-109–was far more sophisticated than its counterparts in Britain, France, or Russia. The Me-109 was bloodied during the Spanish Civil War; Luftwaffe pilots received combat training as they tried out new aerial attack formations on Spanish towns such as Guernica, which suffered more than 1,000 killed during a brutal bombing by the Luftwaffe in April 1937.

The Luftwaffe was configured to serve as a crucial part of the German blitzkrieg, or “lightning war”–the deadly military strategy developed by General Heinz Guderian. As German panzer divisions burst deep into enemy territory, lethal Luftwaffe dive-bombers would decimate the enemy’s supply and communication lines and cause panic. By the outbreak of  World War II in September 1939, the Luftwaffe had an operational force of 1,000 fighters and 1,050 bombers.

First Poland and then Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France fell to the blitzkrieg. After the surrender of France, Germany turned the Luftwaffe against Britain, hoping to destroy the RAF in preparation for a proposed German landing. However, in the epic air battle known as the Battle of Britain, the outnumbered RAF fliers successfully resisted the Luftwaffe, relying on radar technology, their new, highly maneuverable Spitfire aircraft, bravery, and luck. For every British plane shot down, two German warplanes were destroyed. In the face of British resistance, Hitler changed strategy in the Battle of Britain, abandoning his invasion plans and attempting to bomb London into submission. However, in this campaign, the Luftwaffe was hampered by its lack of strategic, long-range bombers, and in early 1941 the Battle of Britain ended in failure.

Britain had handed the Luftwaffe its first defeat. Later that year, Hitler ordered an invasion of the USSR, which after initial triumphs turned into an unqualified disaster. As Hitler stubbornly fought to overcome Russia’s bitter resistance, the depleted Luftwaffe steadily lost air superiority over Europe in the face of increasing British and American air attacks. By the time of the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the Luftwaffe air fleet was a skeleton of its former self.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/hitler-organizes-luftwaffe

Communists take power in Czechoslovakia

Under pressure from the Czechoslovakian Communist Party, President Eduard Benes allows a communist-dominated government to be organized. Although the Soviet Union did not physically intervene (as it would in 1968), Western observers decried the virtually bloodless communist coup as an example of Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe.

The political scene in Czechoslovakia following  World War II was complex, to say the least. Eduard Benes was head of the London-based Czech government-in-exile during the war, and returned to his native land in 1945 to take control of a new national government following the Soviet withdrawal in July of that year. National elections in 1946 resulted in significant representation for leftist and communist parties in the new constituent assembly. Benes formed a coalition with these parties in his administration.

Although Czechoslovakia was not formally within the Soviet orbit, American officials were concerned with the Soviet communist influence in the nation. They were particularly upset when Benes’ government strongly opposed any plans for the political rehabilitation and possible rearmament of Germany (the U.S. was beginning to view a rearmed Germany as a good line of defense against Soviet incursions into western Europe). In response, the United States terminated a large loan to Czechoslovakia. Moderate and conservative parties in Czechoslovakia were outraged, and declared that the U.S. action was driving their nation into the clutches of the communists. Indeed, the communists made huge electoral gains in the nation, particularly as the national economy spiraled out of control.

When moderate elements in the Czech government raised the possibility of the nation’s participation in the U.S. Marshall Plan (a massive economic recovery program designed to help war torn European countries rebuild), the communists organized strikes and protests, and began clamping down on opposition parties. Benes tried desperately to hold his nation together, but by February 1948 the communists had forced the other coalition parties out of the government. On February 25, Benes gave in to communist demands and handed his cabinet over to the party. Rigged elections were held in May to validate the communist victory. Benes then resigned and his former foreign minister Jan Masaryk died under very suspicious circumstances. Czechoslovakia became a single-party state.

The response from the West was quick but hardly decisive. Both the United and Great Britain denounced the communist seizure of power in Czechoslovakia, but neither took any direct action. Perhaps having put too much faith in Czechoslovakia’s democratic traditions, or possibly fearful of a Soviet reaction, neither nation offered anything beyond verbal support to the Benes government. The Communist Party, with support and aid from the Soviet Union, dominated Czechoslovakian politics until the so-called “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 brought a non-communist government to power.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/communists-take-power-in-czechoslovakia

Zimmermann Note presented to U.S. ambassador

During  World War I, British authorities give Walter H. Page, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, a copy of the “Zimmermann Note,” a coded message from Arthur Zimmermann, the German foreign secretary, to Count Johann von Bernstorff, the German ambassador to Mexico. In the telegram, intercepted and deciphered by British intelligence in late January, Zimmermann stated that in the event of war with the United States, Mexico should be asked to enter the conflict as a German ally. In return, Germany promised to restore to Mexico the lost territories of  Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.After receiving the telegram, Page promptly sent a copy to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who in early March allowed the U.S. State Department to publish the note. The press initially treated the telegram as a hoax, but Arthur Zimmermann himself confirmed its authenticity. The Zimmermann Note helped turn U.S. public opinion, already severely strained by repeated German attacks on U.S. ships, firmly against Germany. On April 2, President Wilson, who had initially sought a peaceful resolution to end World War I, urged the immediate U.S. entrance into the war. Four days later, Congress formally declared war against Germany.

 

 

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/zimmermann-note-presented-to-us-ambassador

Spanish rebels storm Parliament

In Spain, Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero and 200 members of the civil guard burst into the Cortes, Spain’s legislature building, in Madrid, firing shots into the air as they take the democratic government of Spain hostage. The right-wing conspirators, resentful of the rapid pace of democratic reform since the death of dictator Francisco Franco, called for an all-out military revolt.

The future of Spain was held in suspense into the night as citizens watched the tense events unfold on live television. The coup was only foiled when King Juan Carlos, who succeeded Franco in 1975 and then gave up power to Parliament, successfully appealed to the Spanish military to remain loyal to the constitution and join him in condemnation of the rebels. At noon on February 24, the coup was called off after 18 hours, and Spain’s fragile new democracy was preserved.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/spanish-rebels-storm-parliament

The U.S. acquires Spanish Florida

 Spanish minister Don Luis de Onis and U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams sign the Florida Purchase Treaty, in which Spain agrees to cede the remainder of its old province of Florida to the United States.

Spanish colonization of the Florida peninsula began at St. Augustine in 1565. The Spanish colonists enjoyed a brief period of relative stability before Florida came under attack from resentful Native Americans and ambitious English colonists to the north in the 17th century. Spain’s last-minute entry into the French and Indian War on the side of France cost it Florida, which the British acquired through the first Treaty of Paris in 1763. After 20 years of British rule, however, Florida was returned to Spain as part of the second Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution in 1783.

Spain’s hold on Florida was tenuous in the years after American independence, and numerous boundary disputes developed with the United States. In 1819, after years of negotiations, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams achieved a diplomatic coup with the signing of the Florida Purchase Treaty, which officially put Florida into U.S. hands at no cost beyond the U.S. assumption of some $5 million of claims by U.S. citizens against Spain. Formal U.S. occupation began in 1821, and General Andrew Jackson, the hero of the War of 1812, was appointed military governor. Florida was organized as a U.S. territory in 1822 and was admitted into the Union as a slave state in 1845.

From http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-us-acquires-spanish-florida