Sunday, 23 January 2022

i am in sympathy with the people on both sides

In a prepared testimony to the US Congress delivered on this day in 1941, celebrity and noted anti-Semite Charles A Lindbergh leveraged his fame from a 1927 transatlantic crossing to present the case to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that there was no possibility for an American air invasion to have any meaningful impact on the war in Europe and it would be better for the world to let the war draw to its natural conclusion as a pyrrhic victory.  Laying the blame for fighting as much with Britain as Nazi Germany, the aviator argued, speaking to popular sentiment, that negotiated peace and a non-aggression pact was the best path for America to pursue. The media frenzy from a decade before of the kidnap and subsequent death of the Lindbergh’s infant son and driven him and his wife to Europe to escape the press and became fascinated with German engineering prowess and as an personality of international stature was courted and lavished with accolades by fighting ace and Nazi Air Minister Hermann Gรถring. By the time the Lindberghs returned in 1939, many recognised his openly pro-Nazi sympathies. The appearance before Congress occurred five months before Germany invaded the Soviet Union and came on the heels of Churchill’s grim assessment that sixty-thousand individuals, nearly half civilians, in the first year and a half of hostilities.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

sequence of events

Via Waxy, we’re invited to play a fun game sourced from Wikipedia by Tom Watson to order historical occurrences, personages and places in chronological order with some happenings far more distant or contemporary (see also) than one might at first believe. Give it a try and let us know what’s your longest winning-streak.

Sunday, 16 January 2022

so, jetzt reicht’s aber, frรคulein

Though since 1951 in East Germany, women could use the designation “Frau,” missus without applying for permission from the state, this is—proof of marriage, acknowledging that the classification of entire female sex in terms of its declared relationship to a man and while the fact that martial status was a private matter for males but a salutation of public interest for woman was highly problematic and inegalitarian, it was not until this day in 1972 in West Germany that the term Frรคulein (the predicate a relatively new one, introduced in 1869 whereas in previous eras it was a binary Herr or Mann/Frau) was stricken from official use by the Ministry of the Interior under the Hans-Dietrich Genscher and ought to be avoided (along with comparable honourifics in other languages, like Miss and Mademoiselle) as a sexist and demeaning distinction.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

truss arch and causeway

On this day in 1933, construction of the Golden Gate Bridge (see previously here and here) began under the initial direction and design of Irving Morrow, Leon Moisseiff, Charles Alton Ellis and Joseph Strauss in order to connect San Francisco to Marin County, named for the strait it crosses, the largest city in America at the time serviced primarily by ferry boats. Delayed by the Great Depression, once under way, however, the span was completed ahead of time and under budget.

election by bean and pea

For those traditions that began counting on Christmas Day, it is Twelfth Night or Epiphany Eve, concluding Christmas season and marked by customs including caroling, blessing one’s threshold and eating King Cake, whose recipe and form varies but always contains a fรจve (for trinket, literally a fava bean), with the recipient being named king for the evening. English kitchens adopted the convention of baking a bean in one side and a pea in the other, with the lucky woman finding the pea crowned queen—the pair also known as the Lord and Lady of Misrule. The riotous celebration pictured is from novelist and dramatist William Harrison Ainsworth’s Mervyn Clitheroe and merry-making in Farmer Shakeshaft’s Barn as illustrated by the sketch artist professionally known as Phiz, Hablot Knight Brown, who embellished many books by Ainsworth, whom we have to thank for documenting (and in some cases reviving) quaint and old-fashioned customs in detail to include King Cake and the practise of awarding a flitch of bacon to married couples who’ve made it to their first anniversary without regrets, and Charles Dickens, choosing that particular pen-name to better harmonise with the latter’s pseudonym of Boz.

Friday, 31 December 2021

pneumonia of unknown etiology

On this day in 2019, the World Health Organisation’s China Country Office received a report of approximately four dozen cases, with a fourth of the patients presenting as severely ill, detected in Wuhan in Hubei province. Original disease vector that introduced the contagion were never identified but the virus SARS-CoV-2 and variants eventually came to be classified as COVID-19. One year later to the day—shortly after the roll-out had already begun in the UK, the WHO’s stringent regulatory authority approved its first eight emergency-use validations for vaccinations undergoing clinical trials, hedging various strategies to stimulate immune responses in the human body to this novel coronavirus we had not been exposed to before, including messenger RNA, fragmented and inactivated virus approaches.

Sunday, 26 December 2021

✝ j.m.j. ✝

Venerated on the Sunday between Christmas Day and New Year’s (or traditionally, before 1969, on the first Sunday after Epiphany), the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated to honour as a familial unit Jesus, His mother Mary and His step-father Joseph—presenting their relationship as a model for good Christian families, though relatively little is mentioned canonically about the upbringing of Christ after the Nativity. A popular art subject from the late fifteenth century onward, sometimes the depictions went beyond the nuclear family with Anne, Mary’s cousin, and John the Baptist included—though never later portrait studio editions with his four brothers, James, Joses, Jude and Simon and unnamed sisters.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

kennel club

Vicar of Swimbridge in North Devon and avid fox-hunter, Right Reverend John “Jack” Russell was born this day in 1795 (†1883) who would go on to develop his namesake breed. Anecdotally, whilst studying a Exeter College in Dartmouth, Russell came across a dappled white terrier belonging to a local milkman and offered to buy her on the spot. Calling her Trump, she became the matrilineal founder of the variety endowing her offspring with traits suited to Russell's preferred sporting.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

preserved fish iii

Via Super Punch, we learn about the titular whaler (see more about the phenomenon of nominative determinism), New York shipping merchant, director of Bank of America, founding broker of the New York Stock and Exchange board (*1766 - †1846, his blacksmith father and grandfather bearing the same name) and involved in the political machine of Tammany Hall. In the sense of “saints preserve us,” like many in nineteenth century puritanical America, Fish was given an excruciatingly pious name.  Humble Brag.

Saturday, 11 December 2021

most efficacious in every case

Reaching number one on the UK single charts on this day in 1968and made that year’s signature Christmas novelty song, the Liverpudlian folk ensemble The Scaffold, led by Mike McGear—the stage name of Peter McCartney, Paul’s younger brother—along with comedian John Gorman and poet Roger

McGough, their rendition of “Lily the Pink” was based on a traditional ballad about American Lydia Estes Pinkham who marketed a patent medicine, a tonic which most dismissed as quackery (though this lending her name to a product should not detract from her contributions in the abolitionist and civil rights) for women to treat hysteria and other feminine maladies. Memorialised in a rather bawdy series of drinking songs (see also)—as Pinkham’s forty-proof elixir was still available with prescription during Prohibition—during Canadian soldiers in World War I with a version made the unsanctioned regiment tune of the Royal Tank Corps during World War II, the Scaffold’s version was sanitised, also on the top playlists in Austria, West Germany and Ireland. Later McGear would work with the McCartneys on Wings.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

from the depths of wikipedia

Via Waxy, we very much enjoyed this interview with Wikimedian and influencer—kindred spelunker and caretaker—Annie Rauwerda who shares her adventures lured down strange rabbitholes, daisy-chains and cul-de-sacs across several platforms. Perhaps the lone social media mogul whose project the public can intuit, Rauwerda regales, entraps us with delightful and seductive trivia, like Dolbear’s Law for instance, which describes the relationship between ambient air temperature and the frequency of cricket chirping (the number of chirps in eight seconds plus five is pretty close to the thermometer-reading in Celsius).

Friday, 3 December 2021


In the moments before beginning his informal gathering of searchers for extraterrestrial intelligence in late November 1961, host astronomer Frank Drake, who had convened the conference to promote his programme Project Ozma that monitored a pair of nearby, sun-like stars for radio signals, dashed off his probabilistic conjecture, the eponymous equation proposed to estimate the number of communicative civilisations in the galaxy.  While subject to criticism for the speculative and unknowable nature of many of the factors, it is nonetheless a useful heuristic from the individual whom would go on to champion the conversion of the Arecibo site to a radio telescope and entrench SETI in the popular imagination: Whereas N is the number of alien civilisations within our current light cone derived from the rate of stellar formation multipled by the fraction hosting exoplanets, by the average in the Goldie Locks Zone, times the fraction that develop and sustain life long enough to develop a technology detectable by other distant civilisations and finally the length of time such civilisations stick around.  Through research and observation, the incidence of some factors can be arrived at, but other parameters are very much androcentric and do not account for colonization and the rise and fall of successive dominant life forms

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

balmis expedition

The operation officially named Real Expediciรณn Filantrรณpica de la Vacuna, the Spanish healthcare mission under the leadership of Doctor Francisco Javier de Balmis set sail on the Marรญa Pita from a port in Galicia on this day in 1803 and would vaccinate, using the technique developed by Edward Jenner, untold millions against smallpox, calling in the Canary Islands, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, China and the Philippines, even offering surplus to the colony at Saint Helena on the return route, despite animosities between Spain and Britain at the time. Undertaken to make amends for the Old World diseases that ravaged North and South America and to attempt to wipe out the contagion that proved fatal for nearly half a million individuals annually in Europe only, the complement and crew included twenty-two orphaned boys designated as successive carriers of the cowpox virus (there being no refrigeration or other means to isolate and transport the vaccine), which would help recipients acquire immunity to the deadlier version.

Sunday, 28 November 2021


From the Latin for arrival, the fourth Sunday from Christmas Day marks the start of the liturgical year and is accorded certain themes and readings: the first Advent mass has celebrants anticipating the “End Times,” the “Messianic Age” and the second coming, whereas the next two focus on the preachings of John the Baptist that made ready the way for Jesus with the last being the traditional time for nativity pageants—plus it marks the start of lighting wreaths or Christingles, setting up trees and the ceremonial, welcoming hanging of the greens, putting out the garlands.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

his grooms and companions, the autobiography of a horse

Though considered the foundational work of pony fiction--that genre of juvenile novels involving teens and learning equestrian skills—Anna Sewell’s final work published on this day in 1877 by Jarrold & Sons, Black Beauty, the first non-human memoir was not necessarily targeted to an audience of children. Instilling sympathy and respect for animals as well as people, the enduring best-seller recounts the stages of the narrator's life--first as a foal, a colt, then a working-horse pulling cabs whose hardships and experiences reflect those of his drivers and passengers in London before being put out to pasture for retirement.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

1. e4 e5

Via ibฤซdem, we are directed towards an exquisite narrative told through a game of guided-chess based on a famous round played between New Orleans native Paul Charles Morphy (*1837 - †1884, a prodigy and called the pride and sorrow of the game for having announced his retirement while still in his prime) and simultaneous exhibition, blindfolded against Karl II, Duke of Brunswick and Comte Isouard de Vauvenarguesat the Italian Opera House of Paris, a parallel playbill as it were for the night’s performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma.

Friday, 29 October 2021

season of the witch

Coincidentally on this day in 1390 the first tribunal within the jurisdiction of the court of Paris was held also saw across the centuries and continents the dissolution of the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692—a standing commission (charged to “hear and determine”) with a judge of assize first convened in May of the same year to adjudicate cases in the Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts, authorities displeased with their conduct and proceedings. During that later five month period, two hundred were accused and nineteen condemned to capital punishment, hanged by the neck until dead. The former, after fourteen months of deliberation and sentencing led to the execution of soothsayer Jeanne de Brigue, whom was allegedly able to summon the demon Haussibut and with his aid find lost objects and catch thieves—which sounds like more of a public service than a crime.

ฯ„ฮฟฯฯ„แฟณ ฮฝฮฏฮบฮฑ

Staging a grand, triumphant adventus (from the Greek แผ€ฯ€ฮฌฮฝฯ„ฮทฯƒฮนฯ‚ for escort to celebrate the return of the emperor or other dignitary with parades and decoration), Constantine the Great enters Rome following his

victory at Milvian Bridge (previously), at a strategically important crossing of the Tiber with the supporters of unrecognised emperor Maxentius whose defeat Constantine supposedly attributes to his marching under the sign of the Cross (), on this day in 312. While divine intervention was an accepted cause for winning or loosing in a struggle, contemporary accounts have little no no references to credit Christianity and no overly Christian iconography. Amid the fanfare Constantine over the body of his drowned enemy fished out of the river and beheaded. Despite the veracity of the miracle supposedly witnessed by Constantine and his entire army, the above letter form, Chi Rho—the first two letters of Jesus Christ and the commandment that came to him in a dream, “In this sign you will conquer,” Christianity was later decreed to be the state religion of the empire.

Tuesday, 26 October 2021


Chiefly to champion world peace but also motivated to avoid the state of affairs in its neighbour, divided and occupied Germany (see previously here and here) and its own decade-long hosting of foreign forces, the parliament of Austria declared on this day in 1955 its neutrality, pledging to abstain from entering into any future military alliances or permit the establishment of any permanent international army bases on Austrian territory. France, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States had agreed to leave Vienna in the summer of that year contingent upon the republic's resolution to commit to being geopolitically neutral, sandwiched as it was between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, nonalignment remaining an element of national identity since and celebrated as the country’s national holiday.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

bennelong point

Occupying the titular headland, known as Tubowgule by the indigenous Gadigal people, the Sydney Opera House on the harbor, originally designed by Jรธrn Utzon, and considered one of the more distinguishing structures and venues of the past century, had its official grand opening on this day in 1973. Under construction since 1959, the formal ceremony was conducted by Queen Elizabeth II before a large crowd with the inaugural orchestral performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy. Of note, the first actual musical number took place in 1960 when baritone Paul Robeson regaled the construction crew from the stage during their lunch break with one of his signature tunes, “Old Man River.”