Thursday, 23 June 2022

scheduled territories

Also known as the above legal entity the sterling area came into being in 1931 when the pound was unpegged from the gold standard and a number of countries, mostly Commonwealth nations, either employed the £ or had a fixed rate of exchange with it, effectively came to an end on this day in 1972 when the British government unilaterally applied exchange controls to all its participants—with the exception of the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands—with the departure of forty-five members from the economic bloc in protest of UK monetary policies. Once the most robust and coherent currency areas, the realisation trade with the continent was more important that historical preferential trading with former parts of the empire prompted the UK to seek closer ties with the European Communities—the Common Market—and devalued, floated the pound ostensibly to halt outflow and flight to the US dollar but many saw it at the time as a concession to France’s objection to UK membership in the organisation that would go on to become the European Union, which repealed its veto the following year. Coincidentally, this day also marks the 2016 anniversary of the Brexit referendum.

Monday, 20 June 2022

glastonbury fayre

The free four-day concert hosted in Pilton—the second Glastonbury festival, opened on this day in 1971 with the venue of a special Pyramid Stage, a one-tenth scale model of the one at Giza constructed of sheet metal and positioned over a water source discovered with dousing and was documented by filmmakers Nicolas Roeg and David Puttnam—released the following May. Performances included numbers by Melanie, David Bowie, Traffic, Fairport Convention, Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, Mighty Baby and Hawkwind.

Thursday, 16 June 2022

the rise and fall of ziggy stardust and the spiders from mars

Released in the UK on this day in 1972, the loosely connected concept album presented as a rock opera relates the arc of narrative in eleven tracks of David Bowie’s titular alter ego sent to Earth to avert an impending apocalyptic event who himself falls short after succumbing to his own inflated ego. Members of the backing band include Trevor Bolder, Mick Ronson and Mick Woodmansey. Ziggy introduces himself in the third song below, Moonage Daydream, as “an exotic hybrid of rock’s past and mankind’s future” among other colourful epithets after the first two numbers present the coming doomsday and characters reacting to unavoidable disaster.

Monday, 13 June 2022

mccartney ii

Paired on the double single release with “Check My Machine” and first in record shops on this day in 1980, “Waterfalls” is a minimalist ballad from Paul McCartney’s eponymous second solo album. Failing to match the success of the lead single “Coming Up” and first song that failed to chart, McCartney was questioned in 2009 whether he regretted that it were not more memorable, responding that, “There are quite a few, actually—Watersfalls, and I think that’s nice,” referring to the 1995 TLC signature tune that was a resounding international hit which incorporates the opening lyric and stylistic elements. The following single put out in September, “Temporary Secretary,” was again a musical departure and an outlier, futuristic and complex, about a disposable, cyborg administrative assistant, sampled and re-sampled with sort of an experimental mania with cult appeal. Don’t go chasing polar bears into the great unknown. Some big friendly polar bear might want to take you home.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

ash heap of history

In town for the Queen’s thirtieth jubilee celebrations (plus on a grand tour of the continent) and having already expressed his characterisation of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” Ronald Reagan delivered his Westminster Speech before the House of Commons on this day in 1982, declaiming that, “I believe we are now at a turning point…the march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history.” Though coined at the end of the nineteenth century by essayist and politician Augustine Birell, the last notable evocation of the phrase before Reagan’s was by Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky, referring to the Menshevik faction that staged a walk-out in protest of the All-Russian Congress of the Soviets in 1917. A full transcript of the speech can be found at the link.

help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure

Peaking at the top of US charts on this day in 1985, the lead single from the new wave pop duo from Bath, Tears for Fears’, second studio album, Songs from the Big Chair, originally had the refrain “everybody wants to go to war” and the rather jaunty tune addresses the anxieties of every age with the struggle for dominance and corruption and the misery it brings. The music video features bassist and lead vocalist Curt Smith driving an antique Austin-Healey roadster through southern California. One headline, why believe it?

Monday, 6 June 2022

i said young man, pick yourself off the ground

Founded on this day in 1844 by businessman (in cloth wholesale), philanthropist and great-great-grandfather of current (at the time of publishing) Prime Minister Boris Johnson Sir George Williams, in response to the appalling working conditions in London, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA, CVJM, Christlicher Verein Junger Mรคnner jetzt Menschen auf Deutsch, now a pseudo-acronym or orphan-initialism with the letters standing for nothing) was based on the beliefs of Congregationalism including the Muscular Christianity movement that promoted the notion that the body is a temple and that the physical beauty of athleticism and self-discipline were a compliment to godly behaviour and deportment. Drawn to the cities by the Industrial Revolution, there was a considerable dearth of activities for the new recruits to occupy themselves with—other than taverns and brothels—and Williams, with the support of a consortium of fellow drapers, wanted to offer his workforce better accommodations and more wholesome activities and encourage better citizenship. Basketball, volleyball, racquetball and water polo are among the sports invented and formalised at YMCA facilities. Though still considered a para-ecclesiastical organisation espousing Protestant values, its mission and outreach has expanded and become more inclusive. You can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal, you can do whatever you feel.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

but the kettle’s on the boil and we’re so easily called away

Starting a two-week run at the top of the UK charts on this day on 1971, the album Ram, the second by the duo of Paul and Linda McCartney, featured the leading single “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey,” that song itself reaching number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the McCartneys’ first certified Gold post-Beatles. A medley of sound-effects and harmonies, the montage style is reminiscent of Abbey Road and is described by the artists as a musical apology from the younger generation to the older for being impatient and dismissive. I had another look and I had a cup of tea and butter pie.

Thursday, 2 June 2022

hrh

On the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of her coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, aged twenty-six and already proclaimed as monarch upon the death of her father in February the year prior, and one of the first major televised events in history, we quite enjoyed reviewing these facts and figures about Elizabeth II. As a corollary, we also quite liked this photo album spanning her life from the BBC. Just a sampling of the trivia included (41) That in order to avoid a wardrobe mishap, the hem of the Queen’s skirts are weighted, followed on by (42) that at Balmoral atop a piano, there is a Big Mouth Billy Bass (a novelty animatronic singing fish that held a degree of popularity around the turn of the century), (57) her admirable drinking regimen and (69) how she takes her scones. More from the Guardian at the link above celebrating this jubilee.

Monday, 30 May 2022

dear sir or madam will you read my book?

The eleventh single credited to the Lennon-McCartney collaborative partnership, Paperback Writer was released on this day in 1966 (the B Side was “Rain”). It climbed to the top of the charts in the US for two non-consective weeks, interrupted by Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night.” A promotional film for the song, later aired on The Ed Sullivan Show, was shot at Chiswick House in West London and was among the first music videos.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

8x8

scotch tapes: commercials, idents and continuity from British television from 1984 salavaged from VHS casettes  

boldly go!: a medley of songs from and about the Star Trek franchise—see also  

apiculture: a survey of bee hives throughout the ages  

latex: Goodyear and the US Department of Defence are partnering to manufacture tyres from dandelions—see previously  

kleksographien: revisiting the blotograms (previously) of Justinus Kerner plus other inspired symmetries  

red wine and ginger ale: Vulture correspondent Rebecca Alter samples all the food combinations referenced in Harry’s House  

diagrammatic map: another look at how Massimo Vignelli presented mass transit to the masses—see previously here and here—via Things magazine  

the fantastic journey: an obscure 1977 time-travel series starring Joan Collins and John Saxon

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

fixed penalty notice

The newly published report on the inquiry overseen by Second Permanent Secretary on the Cabinet Office Sue Gray investigating social gatherings held during the COVID-19 pandemic during times when social distancing and public health restrictions would have prohibited such behaviour includes a series of redacted photographs that illustrate the disdain and clubby atmosphere of the Johnson administration, detailing partying until 04:00, vomiting and guests booted with the discretion of making their drunken egress from Downing Street and Whitehall by the back exit. Whilst lockdown measures were in effect which prevented the general public from getting together in general and particularly during pivotal and solemn moments of birth and death, members of the government that put these measures in place and on the pains of enforcement were flagrantly ignoring them. The cost so far of the inquiry is estimated at £460 000.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

section 28

With echoes of Florida’s current controversial Don’t Say Gay Bill and in effect until 2003 (Scotland dropped the series of laws in 2000 as one of Holyrood’s first items of business as a newly devolved parliament), the government of Margaret Thatcher introduced and enacted legislative measures that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities on this day in 1988, causing many support groups to fold or severely curtail their activities. Named after the amendment to the Local Government Act of 1986, the language stated that municipal authorities shall not “intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality or promote the teaching in any maintained [public] school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

Saturday, 21 May 2022

lady lindy

After piloting a Lockheed Vega 5B for seventeen hours from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, on this day in 1932 Amelia Earhart lands her airplane near Londonderry. The aviatrix then became the second individual to successfully complete a solo transatlantic flight, touching down five years to the day after Charles Lindbergh had landed in Paris, the press sometimes giving her the above sobriquet, one she probably did not care for.

heads or tails

In anticipation of the fiftieth anniversary of the first pride rally in London, 1 July 1972—chosen for the nearest available date to the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots of 1969—the Royal Mint is releasing a commemorative rainbow LGBTQIA+ fifty pence coin designed by artist and activist Dominique Holmes. The obverse of course like all monies features her Majesty. More at It’s Nice That at the link above.

Monday, 2 May 2022

the sinking of the general belgrano

Originally built as a Brooklyn-class cruiser for the US Navy and surviving Pearl Habour and sold to the regime of Juan Perรณn in 1951 and named after Argentine naval instructor and founding figure and with a loss of life totalling almost a third of the casualties of the entire campaign, a UK submarine torpedoed and sunk the warship, with a three-hundred and twenty-three members of its full compliment of eleven hundred perishing at sea, on this day in 1982. Following the April invasion of the Falkland Islands in response to occupation by the Junta, the UK declared a Maritime Exclusion Zone around the Malvinas and any armed vessel entering those waters would be subject to attack. Though outside the zone of exclusion, signals interception and a change in bearing suggested that the Belgrano was a threat and a legitimate target, though the fateful decision in this senseless war is still debated and whether the act was a war crime or the target was a lawful one is a matter of controversy, although most in the Argentinian navy concede the ship had taken an offensive tack. Whilst most media outlets maintained a neutral stance, the British tabloid The Sun reported on the story with the incredibly tasteless headline “Gotcha!” in early editions, arguably toning it down a bit with the front-page re-titled to “Did 1 200 Argies drown?” Tensions escalated and two days afterwards, the HMS Sheffield was sunk by a missile strike with a truce called after seventy-four days of fighting.

Sunday, 24 April 2022

the snake in the tunnel

Following a referendum in France the day before that admitted the UK, Ireland and Denmark into the Common Market, on this day in 1972 at a summit in Basel the members of the European Economic Community agreed to install an exchange system to limit fluctuations in rates in order that the basket of European currencies would be consistent with the US dollar. With the titular nickname (Schlange im Tunnel, le Serpent monรฉtaire europรฉen), the arrangement was the first attempt to peg the Mark, the Franc and the Pound Sterling to one another that ultimately led to the creation of the euro and was precipitated by the Nixon Shock of the previous year with the repeal of the Bretton Woods system. This coordination, cartel was a method to control appreciation and depreciation and retain relative stability until the following year when the dollar began to float freely and member nations diverged in their response.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

chunnel

Though later inaugurated by the respective heads of state over a century later, on this day in 1867 Queen Victoria and Napoleon III jointly reject a proposal from surveyors and engineers Aimรฉ Thomรฉ de Gamond and Henry Marc Brunel for a mined railway tunnel from Dover to Calais, an idea that was revisited several times before its eventual completion.

Saturday, 16 April 2022

a moveable feast

Prompted by a League of Nations body called the “Advisory and Technical Committee for Commun-ications and Transit” that sought among other coordinating efforts to synchronise the date of Easter—which can wander between 22 March and 25 April due to lunar calculations—with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury among other calendar reformists passed two years prior, the UK parliament introduced the Easter Act of 1928. Reigning in the holiday but still with concession to the sabbath with Easter Sunday falling on that day of the week after the second Saturday in April (see above). Though the act had the royal assent of George V, it has yet to be passed by both houses—and not without re-legistlation, still being inactive statute, attempted last in 1999.

Friday, 1 April 2022

w1a

We quite enjoyed learning about the somewhat inscrutable (to an outsider) rationale and reason behind the postcodes of London in this special exhibition on the Victorian origins of the assignments, how a WWII-era code-breaking computer facilitated sorting technology and what one’s address means in terms of signifiers internally and externally. To promote the adoption and accurate use of postcodes from the late 1950s onwards, the Royal Mail had a mascot, like Mister Zip across the Pond.