Tuesday, 21 June 2022

texas v johnson

The landmark decision announced on this day in 1989, a split US Supreme Court invalidated prohibitions against the desecration of the American flag, which at the time of issuance were on the books of forty eight of fifty state jurisdictions, ruling first that the category of protected speech as defined by the US constitution as amended extends to symbolic acts and that counter arguments against the plaintiff’s right of expression of a compelling interest to protect a venerated symbol and to prevent a “breach of peace” that allowing the above might incite failed to reach the threshold for its continued abridgment. The defendant, activist Gregory “Joey” Johnson, then an associate of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, had engaged in a political demonstration during the 1984 Republican National Convention, held in Dallas, which re-nominated the Reagan administration, culminating in dousing a flag in kerosene and burning it, chanting “America, the red, white and blue—we spit on you! You stand for plunder, you will go under!” The protest was peaceful but some spectators were profoundly offended by the act, prompting one onlooker to collect the ashes and inter them in their backyard. Johnson’s conviction was initial not upheld by the state judges under the same logic and appeals elevated the matter to the high court, represented by civil rights attorney William Kunstler. There have been numerous attempts by congress to subvert the ruling by introducing an amendment to the constitution excluding the national flag from first amendment protections, which have been generally introduced around the anniversary of this ruling and have all failed to pass the senate. On 20 June 2016 while protesting the RNC in Cleveland, Johnson was arrested after burning a US flag on unclear charges, with the state of Ohio paying him nearly a quarter of a million dollars in restitution three years later, admitting his arrest was unwarranted and a violation of his free speech

skydiver

Pioneering parachutist and inventor of the rip-cord, Georgia Ann “Tiny” Broadwick became the first woman to jump from an airplane on this day in 1913 when she performed the stunt over Los Angeles’ Griffith Park with the assistance of aviator Glenn L Martin (of Lockheed Martin) as pilot, having begun her career as an aeronaut jumping from hot air balloons in a travelling troupe. Demonstrating her technique to the US Army the following year, Broadwick’s skill and daring-do convinced the military that the deployment of paratroopers might be executed in a less hazardous manner by untethering the jumpers (the static line) from the aircraft and allow for a few seconds of free-fall. Also in 1914, Broadwick became the first individual to parachute from a seaplane, landing in Lake Michigan. Retiring from her act in 1922 due to problems developed in her ankles, Broadwick had over eleven hundred safe landings.

Friday, 17 June 2022

oppo research

A few hours past midnight on this day in 1972, Watergate Complex (previously) security guard Frank Wills on patrol noticed tape on the hinges of some doors coming from the parking garage to office doors—preventing them from locking when closed. Removing the tape, Wills dismissed it as something innocent—perhaps janitorial staff propping the exit open—but returning upon returning to the same corridor a short time later, Wills saw the tape had been reapplied, so he called for back-up. Three officers showed up, dressed as hippies and on an undercover shift looking to arrest drug-dealers, and the look-out for the operation, staying at the Howard Johnson’s across the street failed to alert his co-conspirators, distracted by Attack of the Puppet People on the television, failing to spot the police car outside. The police apprehended five individuals who had broken into the Democratic National Committee headquarters housed in the complex, photographing documents and attempting to plant bugging devices. The Washington Post broke the story the next day, though the “White House plumbers,” charged with stopping security leaks, downplayed the failed attempt as a “third-rate and amateurish” burglary, categorically denying any involvement by the Nixon administration.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

you dare ask the proconsul of rome to kneel—i asked it of julius caesar. i demand it of you

Among the most successful sword-and-sandal epics filmed in Cinecittร  and lavished with well-deserved critical acclaim—though not a commercial success and nearly bankrupting the studio, the Joseph L. Mankiewicz adaptation of the 1957 historical novel The Life and Times of Cleopatra by Carlo Maria Franzero (with additional material from Plutarch and Shakespeare) featuring the acting talents of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison and Roddy McDowall opened in US theatres on this day in 1963. After decisively suppressing rebellion in Greece and earning the title of dictator for life, Julius Caesar travels to Egypt as the executor of the late pharaoh’s estate, where Cleopatra successfully petitions Caesar to restore her to the throne and banish her younger brother the usurper. Both with imperial ambitions, they marry and have a child, Caesarion, publicly proclaimed as Caesar’s heir—disquieting for the Senate as the idea of returning Rome to a heredity monarchy is an anathema for democracy. Stemming from this fear, a conspiracy of senators assassinate Caesar, precipitating a revolt, put down by an alliance formed by Octavian (Caesar’s adopted son and to Cleopatra’s betrayal named in the will as opposed to their child), General Mark Antony and Marcus Ameilius Lepidus. Mark Antony, short on funds after the civil war, turns again to Egypt and forges his own personal allegiance with Cleopatra.

Friday, 10 June 2022

meditate in my direction

Reaching number one on UK and US singles charts on this day in 1978, the John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John duet from Grease (released as the second single, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was the lead, from the original movie soundtrack) was written specifically for Sandy Olsson and was not in the stage version and not universally admired among the production team as not fitting with the rest of the score. The number from the Warren Casey lyric was to be “All Choked Up,” an Elvis pastiche with Sandy being a bit more forward with T-Bird leader Danny Zuko.

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.

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

camp du drap d’or

Held at Balinghem between Ardres and English Calais, the summit between Henry VIII and Francis I known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold, beginning on this day in 1520 and lasting until 24 June, was an ostentatious display of wealth of both kings and meant to reinforce the bonds of amity forged following the Anglo-France Treaty of 1514. The sumptuous meeting was planned and executed by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to promote a pact of non-aggression among all of Christendom powers and focus their might on rebuffing Ottoman incursions in southern Europe and recalled the encounter of 1396 between Richard II and Charles VI at the truce that concluded the Hundred Years’ War at the same site. The temporary festival featured feasting, jousting and other tournaments and dazzling pavilions and costumes of fabric woven with silk and gold threads as each sovereign tried to outdo the other. Whilst impressive for the numerous participants, political effect was limited and soon took a turn for the worse the following year when Cardinal Wolsey formed an alliance with the Hapsburgs who declared war on France over Italy and attempts to contain the influence of Martin Luther.

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

aqua vitรฆ

The first known documented mention of a batch of Scotch Whisky occurred on this day in 1495 as a Latin ledger entry in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland (Rotuli scaccarii regum scotorum, a collection of records from the twelfth to the eighteenth century of accounts, receipts and vouchers of the office of the comptroller) with Brother John Cor, a friar of the Court of James IV and likely apothecary, directed to make the libation from eight bolls of malt—about five hundred kilograms and enough to distill some four hundred bottles, a multitude of drams. The Latin for ‘water of life’ translates as uisage beatha in Scots Gaelic and over the centuries became the word whisky.

Monday, 30 May 2022

let us discard all these things and unite as one people

Dedicated on this day (the then fixed date for the Memorial Day federal holiday, also known as Decoration Day) in 1922 at the western terminus of the National Mall in Washington, DC, the Beaux-Arts neoclassical temple by architect Henry Bacon and featuring colossal marble statue of the United States sixteenth president by Daniel Chester French and executed by the Piccirilli family, the Lincoln Memorial has always been a draw to visitors and since its early days throughout the past century has been a symbolic focus for race relations and social justice in America. Planning begun in 1910 to erect a suitable monument to the individual whose administration and sacrifice helped preserve the union and ended chattel slavery as a government sanctioned institution and many felt that the Doric temple was too ostentatious for an individual of humble character and championed a log cabin shrine though Paris’ proposal ultimately passed. Chief Justice William Howard Taft (who had been appointed president of the memorial’s planning commission during his term as president of the United States), president Warren G Harding and Robert Todd Lincoln, the statesman’s eldest son, officially opened the venue with a delegation of prominent Black politicians of the day, including Mississippi congressional representative Perry Howard, journalist and editor Emmett Jay Scott and real estate businessman Whitefield McKinlay, invited—only to discover that they were cordoned off in a segregated section guarded by a contingent of marines. Its reputation as a sacred and aspirational place has since been established, with one of the first instances being Eleanor Roosevelt offering the venue in 1939 to contralto Marian Anderson when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused her to perform to an integrated audience at Constitution Hall.

in god’s name—let us go on bravely

Compelled by visions of Saints Michael, Margaret and Catherine to seek audience with the nominal heir to the throne of France, an unlikely ask for a sixteen-year-old girl from a peasant family yet she persisted, our Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) laid out her plan to end English domination over France, a state of affairs dragged out over the Hundred Years’ War, who was then field-promoted and sent as part of a relief battalion for the besieged city of Orlรฉans. Victory there was followed by several other successful campaigns under Joan’s leadership in the Loire Valley and and decisive defeats for the English in Patay and Reims—where Charles VII was re-crowned as king of France. Captured in Compiรจgne by the enemy allies the Burgundians while advancing to Paris, Joan was put on trial not as an enemy combatant nor as traitor but rather in an ecclesiastic court sympathetic to its occupiers for the heresy of presenting herself as a man and not being deemed sufficiently repentant about it. Over and above all other considerations about what a female suit of armour or other soldier’s uniform might have even been, it was surely more practical for Joan to carry herself this way and it was added protective measure against abduction and assault by other soldiers. Suffering these fools and sham proceedings, Joan maintained a brave bearing and was executed, burnt at the stake, on this day in Rouen, Normandy (then part of England) in 1431, aged nineteen—canonised finally in 1920 and venerated as the protector and patroness of martyrs, military personnel and political prisoners.

Friday, 27 May 2022

memorandum of understanding

Signed in Paris on this day in 1997, the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation was a declaration that included confidence-building measures and a framework for cooperation and disarmament that attempted to strike a balance between security and policy interests of both sides. Agreed upon principles included the renunciation of threat or use of force against any other state, respect of territorial integrity and political independence as well as inviolability of borders, the right self-determination and the right to choose the best means of ensuring their own security to be overseen by a joint council. Russia violated the agreement in 2008 with its war in Georgia, in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and with the current war in Ukraine. In response to aforementioned incursions, NATO for its part has violated its pledge not to permanently station troops in new member states.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

susan superstar

Plagued with budget problems and a rather unreliable cast of actors, the project of Andy Warhol’s Factory regulars (previously), the semi-autobiographical film starring Edie Sedgwick was finally completed on this day in 1972 after five years of production. Debuting in July in Amsterdam to critical acclaim, the counter-cultural icon portrays the lure of fame and addiction through the deterioration and downfall of her on screen alter-ego. Written and directed by John Palmer and David Weisman (Kiss of the Spider Woman), Ciao! Manhattan also featured Paul America, Baby Jane Holzer, Viva and Roger Vadim.

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.

Thursday, 19 May 2022

long island lolita

Prompting three separate made-for-television dramatisations of the incident starring in chronological order of release date (all within a year afterwards) Noelle Parker, Alyssa Milano and Drew Barrymore, seventeen-year-old high school student Amy Fisher, increasingly jealous of the wife of the thirty-five year old auto mechanic she was hoping to sustain a relationship with that had been going on since two years, shot Mary Jo Buttafuoco in the face on this day in 1992. Fisher confronted Buttafuoco when she answered the door of their house in Long Island and informed her that her husband was having an affair with Fisher’s imaginary younger sister—offering a tee-shirt from her husband’s auto body shop as proof. The situation escalated quickly when Buttafuoco demanded that Fisher leave the premises and fired at her with a pistol. Buttafuoco survived, divorced her husband (albeit a decade later, coming to the realisation through writing her memoir that this man who had committed statutory rape against a fifteen year old girl is a manipulative sociopath) and became a motivational speaker.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

salon des refusรฉs

A counter-exhibition with the official sanction of Napoleon III despite his traditional tastes in the arts opened on this day in the Palace of Industry in 1863 with a gallery of the rejected submissions received by the Paris Salon of the Acadรฉmie des Beaux-Arts, relenting to pressure by spurned painters and the public alike, who were finding the acceptance process increasingly fraught and favouring conservatism. Those showing the alternate exposition included many now-famous works by ร‰douard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Johan Jongkind and James McNeill Whistler.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

mise of lewes

Reviewing the chronicle of historic events that happened on this day, I was reminded of something spotted on our 2016 trip across England and this marker in the town of Lewes that commemorated the settlement (a rare English term from legal French, the past participle of mettre—to put) struck on this day during the
Second Barons’ War in 1264 between embattled Henry III and the rebellious gentry under the leadership of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. On the brink of civil war, displeased with high taxation and tribute and foreign influence in the royal court, landholders and king negotiated a series of reforms that placed policy decisions in a council of magnates but was soon diluted and returned to status quo ante bellum, particularly after arbitration by Louis IX, a champion of royal prerogative and who certainly didn’t want a revolt on his hands, fighting broke out again at the fields of Lewes. Though with his victory,
Simon de Montfort was effectively made ruler of England, he was not able to hold power or maintain a stable government was was himself killed one year later during the Battle of Evesham. The monument to the battle and peace treaty was erected in 1964, the seven hundredth anniversary.  It was a nice occasion also to revisit some impressions (which I think we’ve not shared before) of this ancient town in Sussex with castle ruins and venerable brewery.

Monday, 9 May 2022

orbital resonance

Though the Octave of Easter refers to a specific eight-day celebration in connect to the Paschaltide, our

word week itself (via the German Woche) derives from the same root as octave and that one out-of-cycle unit of time—that is, seemingly the sequence repeated for countless generations not determined by the motion of the Heavens or our perception of them but nonetheless in most Western and Eastern traditions named for the astronomical objects visible to the unaided eye. The ordering does not accord with the classical model of the Cosmos—the “Chaldean order” that describes the apparent overtaking and retrograde motion relative to the Earth—nor hierarchy of the pantheon, however, but rather the seven strings of the Mesopotamian lyre with which the celestial spheres were thought to harmonise: (4) Sunday ☉, (1) Monday ☽, (5) Tuesday ♂ (Mardi in French), (2) Wednesday ☿ (Mercoledรฌ), (6) Thursday ♃ (Donnerstag), (3) Friday ♀ (Venres) and (7) Saturday ♄. Vexed somewhat by the onerous and complicated Roman subdivision of the days and the planetary officer appointed to each hours, the order of the weekdays seemingly recapitulates musical theory and progression through the major scale. More at the links above and in this video adaptation below from Sara de Rose.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

gรฉodรฉsie

Celebrated astronomer and geologist Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre on this day in 1792 undertook his commission to precisely define the metre, a universal measure defined as one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the equator, organising an expedition to measure the length of the meridian arc (distance—the two cities being on the same line of longitude) between Dunkirk and Rodez, by Toulouse in the south of France, mathematically extrapolating from that value, and then from Rodez to Barcelona’s Fortress of Montjuรฏc. The survey mission took six years beset by technical set-backs, bouts of yellow fever and the French Revolution, including several unfortunate incarcerations by Royalist elements. Precise measurements were taken with a device called a repeating circle ( cercle rรฉpรฉtiteur ), invented by machinist Etienne Lenoir originally for Jean-Charles de Borda and improved for Delambre and team. Finally in 1799, the metre was formally defined as 0.514074 Parisien toise (from the Latin tender—that is the span of the outstretched arms, six feet) or three feet and eleven lignes—a historical unit that was approximately one twelfth of an inch and still used by watchmakers to size casings and in button-manufacturing.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

family federation for world peace and unification

Founded on this day in Seoul in 1954 by controversial entrepreneur and messianic claimant Reverend Sun Myung Moon (†1920 - *2012 and hence the colloquial name “Moonies”), the Unification Church has its origins with the family of ์ƒ์‚ฌ๋ฆฌ converting to Presbyterianism whilst under Japanese occupation around 1930 and mostly abandoning traditional Confucianist beliefs (though there is a degree of syncretism with the departure from Nicene teachings) and took up Sunday school education and later instruction. Then visited by Jesus Christ, according to church lore, on Easter 1936, Moon was personally tasked with finishing the work left undone by the crucifixion—a commission Moon accepted after a period of prayer and contemplation, evangelising after the war ended in 1945. Venturing north of the DMZ with his gospel got Moon arrested as a spy for South Korea in 1946 but was released as fighting between the northern and southern factions started in earnest and authored the movement’s scripture and theological basis, Divine Principle, which limned the church’s core beliefs of remission of debts and indemnities to restore balance with God. Though some see its publications, activism, subordinate businesses as a sort of prosperity gospel, the Unification Church’s network and holdings are minuscule in comparison with the Catholic Church or the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

red baron or what do you want on your tombstone?

Vaunted as the ace-of-aces of the Great War, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen was shot down and killed on this day in 1918 after scoring his seventy-ninth and eightieth air combat victories the day prior. Previously we had poked about Wiesbaden’s Sรผdfriedhof in search of the Red Baron’s resting place and thought it appropriate to visit today. Already elevated to legendary stature in life and subject to hero-worship that Richthofen was wont to indulge as well as respected by his enemies, the circumstances surrounding his death are a matter of controversy and speculation, coming to the aid of his cousin, another member of the elite Flying Circus (see above), Lieutenant Wolfram von Richthofen, who was taking enemy fire. The source of the fatal bullet is uncertain with several vectors entertained. As was
customary, the commanding officer of the Royal Airforce combatant squandron accorded the Baron a military funeral with full-honours, near the spot where the fighter pilot fell in Bertangles in the Somme—and had a more active than usual career in death, disinterred and reburied in the German Military Cemetery at Fricourt in Picardie, brought to Berlin by his brother Lothar (a site that was later relegated to a no man’s land on the boundary of the Soviet zone of occupation and often pelted with stray bullets in attempts to stop people from fleeing for the West—his brother’s gravesite in their hometown of ลšwidnica too was levelled once Silesia was restored to Poland after World War II) and finally in 1975 transferred to the family plot in Wiesbaden.