May 12, 2016 By Lily Rothman Watch out: this year's only Friday the 13th is upon us tomorrow. Or, rather, watch out if you feel like it. We took a look back at the history of why this particular day-and-date combination is considered such a bad omen, and found that theories abound but answers are few. One of the most common suggestions has to do with the combination of Good Friday and the number of guests at the Last Supper. If that answer is unsatisfying, here's a historical Friday the 13th oddity that should keep you well stocked with factoids for tomorrow: the existence of Friday the 13th clubs. Largely a phenomenon of the mid-20th century, these are groups that get together on that unlucky day to do any number of things that bring bad luck (for example, walking under ladders) to make a point that it's all silly. For the story, Olivia B. Waxman tracked down the grandson of a founder of one of the most famous such clubs, and also traced the idea's origins to the 1880s. There's still time to plan your own anti-superstition party for tomorrow — or to hunker down, just in case. Here's more of the history that made news this week:
"[Adam Smith's] book rapidly became a capitalist declaration of independence from the remaining shackles of feudalism and helped launch an economic revolution that has produced far more wealth than man had amassed in all previous history. Yet today the heirs of that revolution cannot celebrate in triumph. As capitalism approaches its bicentennial, it is beset by crisis. Increasingly, its supporters as well as its critics ask: Can capitalism survive?" (July 14, 1975) Read the full story
55 Years Ago: Shepard in Space
"For an endless, heart-stopping moment, the tall, slim rocket hung motionless—incredibly balanced above its incandescent tail. Slowly it climbed the sky, outracing the racket of its engine as it screamed toward space. In the returning silence, the amplified thump of an electronic timer beat like a pulse across the sands of Florida's Cape Canaveral. The pulse of the nation beat with it. For this was no routine rocket shoot. Riding that long, white missile as it soared aloft last week was Navy Commander Alan B. Shepard Jr., first U.S. astronaut ever fired into space. And riding with him was his country's pride, the prestige of his country's science, the promise of his country's future on the expanding frontiers of the universe. " (May 12, 1961) Read the full story
Today in 2003: The Matrix Reloaded
"Reloaded, which opens around the world next week, is the expansion of what Keanu Reeves, who plays the central character Neo, calls a modern myth: 'The first film was the birth of a hero; the second and third are the life of that hero.' With a sequelmaker's ambition that dates back to Homer (don't most readers prefer The Odyssey to its predecessor, The Iliad?), the Wachowskis worked for four years with the aim of outdoing their 1999 cyberepic The Matrix, as well as every adventure film since that devoutly imitated its computer wizardry and dense action scenes." (May 12, 2003) Read the full story
HIGHLIGHTS FROM AROUND THE WEB
Dressed Up At Racked, Jennifer Culp dives into the history of cosplay—the phenomenon of fans dressing up as their favorite characters—and locates Myrtle R. Douglas as the woman who started it all, way back in 1939.
Mom Round-Up For a belated Mother's Day gift, here's a Washington Post round-up of must-reads about the history of motherhood.
"Real-Time Historical Fiction"ESPN's latest project is a doozy: with tweets, essays and historical documents, they're tracing the 1927 Yankees season in real time.
Singing the Past The BBC covers a surprising twist in this year's Eurovision contest: Ukraine's entry is a song about Stalin called "1944."
From Different Sides In light of President Obama's announcement that he will visit Hiroshima, Slate's Isaac Chotiner interviews Japanese history expert Carol Gluck about how the atomic bombing is perceived differently in the U.S. versus in Japan.