Thursday, 21 May 2020

it is a dark time for the rebellion

Sharing its anniversary with many other things great and good, as our faithful chronicler records, the sequel (now Part the Fifth) to the highly successful space opera Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, had its general release in cinemas in the United States (Memorial Day Weekend) and the UK on this day in 1980 (as it had an earlier debut at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center on 17 May, it also had a special showing the day prior at London’s Odeon Theatre, for Commonwealth Day, formerly known as Empire Day)—story by-line George Lucas and directed by Irvin Kershner.  Busy with other projects including Raiders of the Lost Ark and handling the finances of the franchise, Lucas relinquished control on this instalment of the saga, critically parsed and well-received, winning numerous industry and fan accolades and consistently rated by audiences among the best films ever made.

Monday, 18 May 2020

channelized blast zone

Here pictured just a day before the eruption four decades ago that left the peak without its northern face and scarred by a massive crater, one can appreciate how it had earned the title of Fuji-san of North America, Mount Saint Helens (known to aboriginal populations as Lawetlat’la or Loowit) began its crescendo of seismic activity back in late March venting steam before dramatically exploding with ash and pyroclastic columns and flows. According to most sources, fifty-seven people lost their lives, debris from the resulting landslide buried sixty square kilometres of the surrounding area, two hundred homes were destroyed as well as vast tracts of forested land and rivers clogged with ash and pumice.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

flash jump!

Via Boing Boing, we are treated to an unreleased promotional video that was to be put out by Queen to herald their soundtrack to the cinematic, operatic adaptation of the Flash Gordon comics. The rock band having also furnished the score for Highlander in theatres and television and provided the soundtrack in its entirety including incidental music and character motifs, only singing for two tracks but letting movie dialogue be the libretto of other songs of the album.

Friday, 8 May 2020

smrt in pogreb josipa broza tita

Four days after his death in Ljubljana due to complications during surgery to correct circulation problems in his legs, the government of Yugoslavia held the largest state funeral in history for president Josip Broz Tito (*1892), drawing guests—kings, princes, presidents and ministers—from nearly every polity in the world on this day in the streets of Belgrade in 1980.
Tens of thousands filed past his casket and paid their solemn, earnest respect for two and a half days prior to arrival of the foreign dignitaries to the only leader the citizens of the independent communist county had known. Leaders and delegates in attendance were from both aligned and non-aligned countries and both sides geographically and ideologically of the Iron Curtain. Amid the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and facing re-election, the US president opted not to attend, instead sending his mother Lilian Carter with vice-president Walter Mondale. A ceremony of pomp and fanfare to celebrate the progress the Tito’s leadership had brought for the worker, the occasion was also an opportunity for building networks, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany met with his East German counterpart and Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Margaret Thatcher met with the leadership of Zambia, Italy and Romania, trying to rally international condemnation over said invasion. The leader was interned in a mausoleum in Belgrade that became known as the House of Flowers (Hiลกa cvetja, Kuฤ‡a cvijeฤ‡a, ะšัƒั›ะฐ ั†ะฒะตั›ะฐ, ะšัƒัœะฐ ะฝะฐ ั†ะฒะตัœะตั‚ะพ)—the space that was a covered garden outside of Tito’s auxiliary office internally referred to as the “flower shop.”

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

penthouse playset

With some ninety-six hours of unused footage to draw from, a group of editors and archivists under the direction of E. Elias Merhiga are planning to produce a restored version of the critically panned, arguably unfilmable 1980 erotic historical drama Caligula that is truer to the original vision of author Gore Vidal, director Tinto Brass and producer adult magazine mogul Bob Guccione.
Though overlapping in some regards and quite distinct in other, this film—mostly rumours thereof rather, I think—occupies the same sort of place in my mind as another soap opera about Roman society that I’ve been enjoying recently. Among the scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor were these incredulous and wildly inappropriate cross-promotional line of action figures—riding off the marketing success of Star Wars, a film with half the budget of Caligula, pitched to Guccione by a company called Cinco Toys—from Adult Swim fame. More to explore at the links above.

Sunday, 22 March 2020


First unveiled on this day in 1980, the ensemble of granite monoliths outside of the city of Elberton in the US state of Georgia, astronomically aligned and shrouded in a rather mysterious, secretive commission have the Guidestones are sometimes regarded as America’s Stonehenge.

Made and placed to exacting specifications (the pillars track the sun and the moon) by a group of anonymous donors fronted by a go-between—also under an assumed identity, the local granite finishing company was approached and told that the monument would act as a compass and calendar that could withstand coming, eminent catastrophe and serve as a set of instructions, exhortations for those survivors tasked with rebuilding civilisation. The alternative commandments, inscribed in eight modern languages with transcriptions in Babylonian cuneiform, Ancient Greek, Sanskirt and Egyptian appearing boustrophedonically around the edges of the slabs. Once the money for the project materialised, the granite company executed the job gladly, dismissing the representative as an eccentric. The land and the Guidestones were given to the county afterwards and the regulations, practicable and sage as they may be, have attracted no end of speculation and conspiracy theories and advocate for population control and all manner of social engineering.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

ishe komborera zimbabwe

In national leadership roles until 2017, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was elected Prime Minister of Rhodesia on this day in 1980, his predecessor and first head of state after independence, Canaan Banana (*1936 - †2003), mainly a caretaker figurehead.
Sworn in and taking his oath office a few weeks later in mid-April, Mugabe proclaimed that the country would be renamed Zimbabwe and across the land statues of Cecil Rhodes, the former namesake, were taken down as the nation progressed from apartheid towards racial reconciliation. After a reign of nearly four decades, Mugabe’s legacy is a fraught and mixed one, controversial and depending on who one asks, either the world’s greatest revolutionary freedom fighter or one of its most ruthless tyrants.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

8! x 3^7 x (12!/2) x 2^11

On this day in 1980 at the British Toy and Hobby Fair, the mechanical puzzle (see previously) by Hungarian architect and professor Ernล‘ Rubik had its international debut.
Demonstrating a prototype to his students around 1974 and seeing the positive reception, Rubik sought out a manufacturer, originally calling it his Magic Cube (Bลฑvรถskocka), and licensed the design to Ideal Toys—formerly known for their line of dolls that included Betsy Wetsy and Rub-a-Dub Doggie, in 1979 for wider distribution under the name Rubik’s Cube. Among his influences, the polymath and educator lists MC Escher for grappling with impossible configurations and contemplating the nature of infinity within the permissible. Discounting the strictures of the mechanics of the cube (only seven of the eight corners can be independently articulated and there are only twelve possible orbits for each square, there are forty three quintillion permutations—that is, if a cube were to represent each possible state a stack of them would tower over two-hundred and sixty light-years high, scraping the sky beyond of our Stellar Neighbourhood.