“Gangnam Style” becomes the first YouTube video to reach one billion views


Publish date:
Year
2012
Month Day
December 21

On December 21, 2012, the music video for “Gangnam Style,” a song by the Korean rapper Psy, becomes the first YouTube video to garner one billion views. The video’s global popularity is a case study in the power and unpredictability of viral internet content.

Psy had been well-known in Korea for a decade, earning awards and acclaim as well as a reputation for controversy. Though Korean pop music, or K-pop, was increasingly popular outside of South Korea, Psy was not an international star until “Gangnam Style.” Released on July 15, 2012 as the lead single to his album Psy 6 (Six Rules), Part 1, the video would make him a global sensation.

“Gangnam Style” is a send-up of “posers and wannabes” Psy observed in Seoul’s fashionable Gangnam District. Though the lyrics are humorous, it was the video that made the song a sensation beyond Korea. Psy and others perform the “invisible horse” dance, in which the singer pretends to ride a horse and occasionally toss a lasso, in a variety of locations including a stable, a bus, a tennis court and other locales around Seoul. The iconic dance, the memorable chorus of “Hey sexy lady!” and the general over-the-top nature of the video caught the attention of a global audience.

The likes of T-Pain, Britney Spears and Katy Perry noticed the video and drew attention to it on social media. By the end of August, it was garnering over 3 million YouTube views a day, and in December it reached its unprecedented 1 billionth view.

Like other viral videos, “Gangnam Style” inspired countless parodies, reaction videos, and flash mobs. Athletes, television personalities and even politicians—U.S. Representative John Lewis recorded a video of himself doing the dance, and then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron reportedly performed it along with future PM Boris Johnson at a conference—joined in the viral craze. Though no longer the most-watched video on YouTube, “Gangnam Style” was an inescapable cultural phenomenon, serving as an introduction to K-pop for millions around the world and as a lasting example of internet virality.

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The United Arab Emirates is formed


Updated:
Original:
Year
1972
Month Day
December 21

On December 21, 1972, the United Arab Emirates is formed. The union of six small Gulf kingdoms—to which a seventh was soon added—created a small state with an outsized role in the global economy.

A number of kingdoms on the norther coast of the Arabian Peninsula came under British protection through a series of treaties beginning in 1820. Concerned with protecting trade routes and their prized colony of India, the British navy protected what became known as the Trucial States in exchange for their cooperation with British interests. During this period of British protection, the region’s vast oil reserves were discovered. As the Trucial States and nearby kingdoms like Bahrain and Qatar became major suppliers of oil, the British Empire’s influence receded due to a number of factors, the two World Wars chief among them. In 1968, the British government declared that it would end the protectorate, withdrawing its military and leaving the people of the region to their own devices.

Dwarfed by their neighbors in terms of size, population and military capabilities, the small kingdoms of the region attempted to organize themselves into a single political unit. The negotiations proved difficult, and Bahrain and Qatar elected to declare independence unilaterally. With the British treaty due to expire and both Iran and Saudi Arabia eyeing their territory and resources, the kingdoms of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai and Umm al-Quwain became the independent United Arab Emirates on this day in 1972. Ras al-Khaimah joined two months later.

Since then, the UAE has been a sovereign nation, enjoying the profits of its natural resources—its reserves of oil and natural gas are the seventh-largest in the world, and it has the seventh-highest GDP per capita. This wealth has turned the Emirates into a major hub of trade, travel, tourism and finance. Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world, is emblematic of the Emirates’ dramatic construction boom and rise to global prominence. Though its cities are some of the most modern in the world, the nation remains a monarchy governed by religious law—its president and prime minister are the absolute monarchs of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, respectively, and apostasy, homosexuality and even kissing in public are punishable by law.

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“Curious George” co-creator Margret Rey dies


Updated:
Original:
Year
1996
Month Day
December 21

On December 21, 1996, Margret Rey, who with her husband Hans created the popular “Curious George” children’s books about a mischievous monkey, dies at age 90 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Reys, both German Jews, escaped wartime Europe in 1940 and fled to America. The following year, the first “Curious George” book was published in the United States.

Margret Rey was born Margarete Waldstein in Hamburg, Germany, in May 1906. She studied art in her homeland then later moved to Rio de Janeiro and worked as a photographer. In Brazil, she became re-acquainted with Hans Rey (born Hans Reyersbach), a fellow Hamburg native who she had met as a child. The couple married in 1935 then relocated to Paris, France, where Hans was a newspaper cartoonist and Margret wrote advertising copy. In 1939, “Raffy and the Nine Monkeys,” a children’s book written and illustrated by Hans, was published in France (an English-language version of the book was titled “Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys”). One of the monkeys in the book, who was always getting in trouble, served as the model for Curious George.

As the Reys worked on the manuscript for what would become the first Curious George book, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party continued their rise to power in Europe. In June 1940, shortly before the Nazis entered Paris, Hans and Margret escaped the city on homemade bicycles, taking with them little more than a collection of their manuscripts. After traveling to Spain, Portugal and Brazil, the Reys sailed to New York late that same year. “Curious George” was published in 1941, and the Reys collaborated on six sequels, including “Curious George Takes a Job” (1947), “Curious George Flies a Kite” (1958) and “Curious George Goes to the Hospital” (1966). Hans illustrated the books while Margret did the writing. (Despite their partnership, Hans initially received sole credit on covers, as H.A. Rey, because the couple’s publisher thought it would distinguish their books from the glut of female children’s book authors at the time.) According to The Los Angeles Times: “Barely 5 feet tall and red-haired, Rey said she occasionally served as her artist husband’s human model for their impish little monkey. She would scrunch up her face, move her limbs about or even leap from one piece of furniture to another.”

After Hans died in 1977, Margret went on to collaborate with Alan Shalleck on more than two dozen Curious George books as well as an animated TV show. When Margret died in December 1996, following complications from a heart attack, a new team continued to produce additional books in the series. Today, the Reys’ creation remains a beloved character in children’s literature. Curious George books have been translated into multiple languages, sold millions of copies and spawned a variety of merchandising deals.

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“The Graduate” opens in New York


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Original:
Year
1967
Month Day
December 21

The film The Graduate opens at two theaters in New York: the Coronet on Third Avenue and the Lincoln Art Theater on Broadway. The film, based on a 1963 novel by Charles Webb, had a simple premise: As its screenwriter explained it, “this kid graduates college, has an affair with his parents’ best friend, and then falls in love with the friend’s daughter.” (It was, he added, “the best pitch I ever heard.”) In other words, The Graduate was an uneasy exploration of what it meant to be young and adrift at a time of extraordinary confusion and upheaval. Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman starred. 

The film was a hit: The New Yorker called it “the biggest success in the history of movies,” while The Saturday Review said it was “not merely a success; it has become a phenomenon.” It earned $35 million in the first six months it was onscreen (by contrast, it cost just $3 million to make) and became the highest-grossing movie of 1968.

The movie also made a star out of Benjamin Braddock’s graduation present: a bright-red Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider. Alfa Romeo had been making racecars for decades—even Enzo Ferrari drove an Alfa before he began building his own racers—but had never sold very many in the United States. (American customers preferred larger cars, and when they did buy smaller sports cars they tended to buy them from British manufacturers like MG and Triumph.) But the 1967 Duetto Spider, a two-seat convertible roadster, was a real beauty: It had a sharp nose and a rounded, tapered rear end, glass-covered headlights, and what designers called a “classic scallop” running down the side. 

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Charles de Gaulle elected president of France


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Original:
Year
1958
Month Day
December 21

Three months after a new French constitution was approved, Charles de Gaulle is elected the first president of the Fifth Republic by a sweeping majority of French voters. The previous June, France’s World War II hero was called out of retirement to lead the country when a military and civilian revolt in Algeria threatened France’s stability.

A veteran of World War I, de Gaulle unsuccessfully petitioned his country to modernize its armed forces in the years before the outbreak of World War II. After French Premier Henri Pétain signed an armistice with Nazi Germany in June 1940, de Gaulle fled to London, where he organized the Free French forces and rallied French colonies to the Allied cause. His forces fought successfully in North Africa, and in June 1944 he was named head of the French government in exile.

On August 26, following the Allied invasion of France, de Gaulle entered Paris in triumph. In November, he was unanimously elected provisional president of France. He resigned two years later, however, claiming he lacked sufficient governing power. In 1947, he formed a new political party that had only moderate electoral success, and in 1953 he left politics.

In 1958, however, a revolt by French colonists in Algeria led to a severe political crisis in France, and de Gaulle agreed to head a new emergency government. Considered the only leader of sufficient strength and stature to deal with the perilous situation, he was made the virtual dictator of France, with power to rule by decree for six months. A new constitution of his design was approved in a national referendum in September, and on December 21 he was elected president of the Fifth Republic.

During the next decade, President de Gaulle granted independence to Algeria and attempted to restore France to its former international stature by withdrawing from the U.S.-dominated NATO alliance and promoting the development of French atomic weapons. Student demonstrations and workers’ strikes in 1968 eroded his popular support, and in 1969 his proposals for constitutional reform were defeated in a national vote. On April 28, 1969, Charles de Gaulle, at 79 years old, retired permanently. He died the following year.

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Apollo 8 departs for moon’s orbit


Updated:
Original:
Year
1968
Month Day
December 21

Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, is successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, Jr., and William Anders aboard.

On Christmas Eve, the astronauts entered into orbit around the moon, the first manned spacecraft ever to do so. During Apollo 8‘s 10 lunar orbits, television images were sent back home, and spectacular photos were taken of Earth and the moon from the spacecraft. In addition to being the first human beings to view firsthand their home world in its entirety, the three astronauts were also the first to see the dark side of the moon.

On Christmas morning, Apollo 8 left its lunar orbit and began its journey back to Earth, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean on December 27. On July 20 of the next year, Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission, became the first men to walk on the moon.

READ MORE: 8 Little-Known Facts About the Moon Landing

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Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Scotland


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Original:
Year
1988
Month Day
December 21

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York explodes in midair over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members aboard, as well as 11 Lockerbie residents on the ground. A bomb hidden inside an audio cassette player detonated in the cargo area when the plane was at an altitude of 31,000 feet. The disaster, which became the subject of Britain’s largest criminal investigation, was believed to be an attack against the United States. One hundred eighty nine of the victims were American.

Islamic terrorists were accused of planting the bomb on the plane while it was at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. Authorities suspected the attack was in retaliation for either the 1986 U.S. air strikes against Libya, in which leader Muammar al-Qaddafi’s young daughter was killed along with dozens of other people, or a 1988 incident, in which the U.S. mistakenly shot down an Iran Air commercial flight over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people.

Sixteen days before the explosion over Lockerbie, the U.S. embassy in Helsinki, Finland, received a call warning that a bomb would be placed on a Pan Am flight out of Frankfurt. There is controversy over how seriously the U.S. took the threat and whether travelers should have been alerted, but officials later said that the connection between the call and the bomb was coincidental.

In 1991, following a joint investigation by the British authorities and the F.B.I., Libyan intelligence agents Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah were indicted for murder; however, Libya refused to hand over the suspects to the U.S. Finally, in 1999, in an effort to ease United Nations sanctions against his country, Qaddafi agreed to turn over the two men to Scotland for trial in the Netherlands using Scottish law and prosecutors. In early 2001, al-Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison and Fhimah was acquitted. Over the U.S. government’s objections, Al-Megrahi was freed and returned to Libya in August 2009 after doctors determined that he had only months to live.

In 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing, but didn’t express remorse. The U.N. and U.S. lifted sanctions against Libya and Libya agreed to pay each victim’s family approximately $8 million in restitution. In 2004, Libya’s prime minister said that the deal was the “price for peace,” implying that his country only took responsibility to get the sanctions lifted, a statement that infuriated the victims’ families. Pan Am Airlines, which went bankrupt three years after the bombing, sued Libya and later received a $30 million settlement.

READ MORE: Remembering the 1988 Lockerbie Bombing

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General George S. Patton dies


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Year
1945
Month Day
December 21

General George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. 3rd Army, dies from injuries suffered not in battle but in a freak car accident. He was 60 years old.

Descended from a long line of military men, Patton graduated from the West Point Military Academy in 1909. He represented the United States in the 1912 Olympics-as the first American participant in the pentathlon. He did not win a medal. He went on to serve in the Tank Corps during World War I, an experience that made Patton a dedicated proponent of tank warfare.

During World War II, as commander of the U.S. 7th Army, he captured Palermo, Sicily, in 1943 by just such means. Patton’s audacity became evident in 1944, when, during the Battle of the Bulge, he employed an unorthodox strategy that involved a 90-degree pivoting move of his 3rd Army forces, enabling him to speedily relieve the besieged Allied defenders of Bastogne, Belgium.

Along the way, Patton’s mouth proved as dangerous to his career as the Germans. When he berated and slapped a hospitalized soldier diagnosed with “shell shock,” but whom Patton accused of “malingering,” the press turned on him, and pressure was applied to cut him down to size. He might have found himself enjoying early retirement had not General Dwight Eisenhower and General George Marshall intervened on his behalf. After several months of inactivity, he was put back to work.

And work he did-at the Battle of the Bulge, during which Patton once again succeeded in employing a complex and quick-witted strategy, turning the German thrust into Bastogne into an Allied counterthrust, driving the Germans east across the Rhine. In March 1945, Patton’s army swept through southern Germany into Czechoslovakia—which he was stopped from capturing by the Allies, out of respect for the Soviets’ postwar political plans for Eastern Europe.

Patton had many gifts, but diplomacy was not one of them. After the war, while stationed in Germany, he criticized the process of denazification, the removal of former Nazi Party members from positions of political, administrative, and governmental power. His impolitic press statements questioning the policy caused Eisenhower to remove him as U.S. commander in Bavaria. He was transferred to the 15th Army Group, but in December of 1945 he suffered a broken neck in a car accident and died less than two weeks later.

George S. Patton – His Life and Legacy

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President Nixon meets Elvis Presley


Updated:
Original:
Year
1970
Month Day
December 21

On December 21, 1970, rock star Elvis Presley is greeted at the White House by President Richard M. Nixon. Presley’s visit was not just a social call: He wanted to meet Nixon in order to offer his services in the government’s war on drugs.

Three weeks earlier, Presley, who wanted to distance himself from rock-and-roll’s unseemly association with drug use and the counterculture, had met Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew, in Palm Springs, California and offered to use his celebrity status to help promote the administration’s anti-drug campaign. Presley then flew to Washington, checking into a hotel under an alias on December 20. The next day, he and two of his bodyguards proceeded to the White House gates, where Presley handed the guard a handwritten letter. In the letter, Presley told Nixon he did not associate or agree with the “Drug Culture, hippie elements,” student protesters and “Black Panthers,” whom he believed hated America. He declared that he wanted nothing but to “help the country out” and asked to be designated a “federal agent-at-large.”

The guard immediately recognized Presley, but followed protocol and asked for permission to send him on to the White House. He apparently was not searched before being granted admission: Upon meeting Nixon he presented the president with a gift–a World War II-era Colt .45 pistol. The two were photographed shaking hands, Nixon in a conservative suit and tie and Elvis wearing tight purple velvet pants and an open-collared shirt with jeweled chains, a purple velvet cape slung over his shoulders and an enormous belt buckle. Nixon and “The King” exchanged pleasantries and agreed that “those who use drugs are in the vanguard of American protest.” Presley again reiterated his desire to do whatever he could to help influence young people and fellow musicians to reject drugs and anti-Americanism. At the conclusion of the brief meeting, Presley surprised Nixon with a hug.

On December 31, Nixon wrote a thank-you note to Presley for the gift of the pistol and for visiting him at the White House. He said nothing about enlisting Presley’s aid in the war on drugs, however. The administration’s ambivalence about the idea was illustrated in his aides’ correspondence at the time. In an inter-office White House memo dashed off the morning of December 21, the day of Presley’s impromptu White House visit, Nixon’s aide Dwight Chapin suggested that Elvis not be “pushed off on the vice president,” but be introduced directly to Nixon. He further noted that if Nixon wanted to meet “bright young people outside the Government, Presley might be the one to start with.” Aide H.R. Haldeman responded: “you must be kidding.” In the end, Nixon never offered Elvis an official position in his administration’s war on drugs.

Presley died from heart failure in 1977, which the coroner’s report said was due to “undetermined causes.” Speculation abounded, however, that his death was caused by a lethal mix of a variety of prescription drugs and obesity.

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Native Americans massacre 81 soldiers


Updated:
Original:
Year
1866
Month Day
December 21

Determined to challenge the growing American military presence in their territory, Native Americans in northern Wyoming lure Lieutenant Colonel William Fetterman and his soldiers into a deadly ambush on this day in 1866.

Tensions in the region started rising in 1863, when John Bozeman blazed the Bozeman Trail, a new route for emigrants traveling to the Montana gold fields. Bozeman’s trail was of questionable legality since it passed directly through hunting grounds that the government had promised to the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. Thus when Colorado militiamen murdered more than two hundred peaceful Cheyenne during the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, the Native Americans began to take revenge by attacking whites all across the Plains, including the emigrants traveling the Bozeman Trail. The U.S. government responded by building a series of protective forts along the trail; the largest and most important of these was Fort Phil Kearney, erected in 1866 in north-central Wyoming.

Native Americans under the leadership of Red Cloud and Crazy Horse began to focus their attacks on Fort Phil Kearney, constantly harassing the soldiers and raiding their wood and supply parties. On December 6, 1866, Crazy Horse discovered to his surprise that he could lead a small detachment of soldiers into a fatal ambush by dismounting from his horse and fleeing as if he were defenseless. Struck by the foolish impulsiveness of the soldiers, Crazy Horse and Red Cloud reasoned that perhaps a much larger force could be lured into a similar deadly trap.

On the bitterly cold morning of December 21, about 2,000 Natives concealed themselves along the road just north of Fort Phil Kearney. A small band made a diversionary attack on a party of woodcutters from the fort, and commandant Colonel Henry Carrington quickly ordered Colonel Fetterman to go to their aid with a company of 80 troopers. Crazy Horse and 10 decoy warriors then rode into view of the fort. When Carrington fired an artillery round at them, the decoys ran away as if frightened. The party of woodcutters made it safely back to the fort, but Colonel Fetterman and his men chased after the fleeing Crazy Horse and his decoys, just as planned. The soldiers rode straight into the ambush and were wiped out in a massive attack during which some 40,000 arrows rained down on the hapless troopers. None of them survived.

With 81 fatalities, the Fetterman Massacre was the army’s worst defeat in the West until the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Further attacks eventually forced the army to reconsider its commitment to protecting the Bozeman Trail, and in 1868 the military abandoned the forts and pulled out. It was one of only a handful of clear Native American victories in the Plains Indian Wars.

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