Tuesday, 10 May 2022

瓦尔特保卫萨拉热窝

A cinematic masterwork in its own right, the film by director Hajrudin Krvavac, premiering just over a half century ago in mid-April, Walter Defends Sarajevo, stands on its own merits with intrigues, betrayals, complex characters, action sequences and an overarching message of triumph and defiance aligned with the Yugoslav ideal of harmony and inclusion in a multi-ethnic state, the film tells the story of heroic resistance to occupation in a plot to foil the Nazi forces 1945 attempt to withdraw from the Balkans and regroup, based loosely on the sacrifice of partisan leader Vladimir Peric who fought under the code name and whose real identity was unknown to the enemy, and has the distinction of being a real contender for the most viewed production of all time. Its release coinciding with the gradual introduction of foreign films and during a time of tensions between the Soviet Union and China, the censors began admitting select works—mostly documentaries from Romania, Hungary and the Yugoslav Republics—but Walter Defends Sarajevo was unique among this class and unlike what most in China had experienced beforehand. Previewed as a radio-play a generation committed the dialogue to heart before the screenings began, playing to a billion individuals over the course of a year in theatres, schools, factories and village squares. Spoiler alert: the operative of the Sicherheitsdienst deployed to capture and kill ‘Walter’ muses during the film’s iconic ending why he was never able to find his nemesis and comes to the realisation—“Sehen Sie dieses Stadt? Das ist Walter!” Still shown to the this day, its influence can be seen in the Chinese film industry.

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 Perón 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.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

flagging interest

Most posts here can be filed under miscellany but we have spent some curating labels and last year starting transitioning to using emoji but am feeling more than a little bit equivocal about having chosen to use national and constituent flags as tags, and via Shady Characters (previously) we learn that the governing body of Unicode will no longer be entertaining proposals for new flags—as those states with region codes are added automatically according to the canonical authority ISO 3166. Already fraught with politics and foreign relations, sub-divisions (exceptions not withstanding) will not be granted an officially sanctioned emoji—with the same restrictions applied to historic flags and movements, since it is impossible to please all sides and it’s not always obvious if the least worst choice was made. Some platforms (see also) and operating systems have always eschewed this controversy by using a pair of letters or a featureless flag (🏴).

Friday, 8 April 2022

imperial ambitions

On this day in 1783, Czarina Catherine the Great announced the annexation, following a favourable outcome in the Russo-Turkic Wars against the Ottoman Empire, of Crimea, the right-bank of the Kuban region and the Taman peninsula that separates the Azov from the Black Sea. Other territorial expansion during long reign included parts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Novorossiya (roughly corresponding to the Bessarabia region of Moldova and coastal areas of Ukraine) as well as Russian America. Also on this day in 1812, Czar Alexander I (grandson of the former) issued a decree to make Helsinki the capital of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland—having seceded from Sweden and part of the Russian Empire from 1809 until 1917

Saturday, 2 April 2022

unalaska

Discounting the fact that the territory was home to untold thousands of aboriginal peoples long before the imperial aspirations of either faded superpower or exhausted petrostate, we missed the apparent threats made by Russia that it would reclaim in recompense for illegal sanctions not only its former holdings just across the Bering Straits (only a day—due to the International Date Line—and three and a half kilometers apart) but also the whole of Antartica plus small outposts in Hawaiʻi and California (again, already people living there) including Fort Ross (Крѣпость Россъ) in present-day Sonoma County which was sold to John Sutter, renaming the settlement Sutter’s Mill and going on to start the Gold Rush in short order. As for the latter, the parliamentarian and Putin-loyalist claimed the sale was invalid and that Sutter never paid but as with the former case and present casus belli it’s all specious ackamarackus.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

alþing considered

On this day in 1949, a peaceful march and rally in the Austurvöllur public square before the national parliament building in Reykjavík to protest against the country’s accession to NATO, the Western alliance and re-militarising of Iceland (see previously) unwelcome by many, turned violent after prominent members of the Socialist Party (Sameiningarflokkur alþýðu) claimed they were being held hostage, pulled with the rest of the country unwillingly into the Cold War. Protests continued after police dispersed the main crowd with tear gas—the first time such methods were used in Iceland—and the police never again had to resort to such measures until the 2009 Pots and Pans Revolution stemming from the financial crisis, and the people of Iceland have had an ambivalent relationship with sending forces since.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

vilnius group

Constituted in May 2000, member countries Slovenia, Slovakia (having already undergone its Velvet Divorce in 1993, the date falls on the anniversary of the 1990 compromise that ended the so called Hyphen War, Pomlčková vojna, started in 1989 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union on what to call themselves and how to share a territory with two identities) Romania, North Macedonia, Lithuania (it’s capital the namesake), Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Albania to lobby as a group for NATO inclusion, all aspirants acceded to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on this day in 2004 with the exception of Albania, Croatia and North Macedonia (under the Adriatic Charter) joining in 2009 and 2020. The former association closely maps with the composition of the Visegrád Group, another former pooled campaign for European Union membership and presently a regional economic cooperative.

Friday, 18 March 2022

you have the true heart of russia

Arnold Schwarzenegger (previously) delivered a heart-felt and emotional appeal to the people of Russia to stop the violence and press for peace. Extremely popular in Russia and universally admired, during the Obama administration foreign policy advisor Fiona Hill lobbied for the actor and politician to be installed as US ambassador to Russia.

Saturday, 5 March 2022

spheres of influence

Though not coined by the British statesman and by then former Prime Minister, the use of term Iron Curtain metaphorically to describe the demarcation of Western and Eastern Europe saw its popularity and parlance cemented in an address given by Winston Churchill on this day in 1946 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. Originally used in the literal sense as fire break—Eisener Vorhang—installed in theatres to prevent flames from spreading from the stage to audience or vice-versa but used figuratively several times to denote the end of a geopolitical arrangement in time or space (now whose tract and trace is repurposed as something verdant—see also here, here and here), Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace” speech, delivered soon after the end of World War II was a lecture on tensions and strained relationships that led to the Cold War, that term itself promulgated five days later in a newspaper article by The Observer correspondent George Orwell.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

pridnestrain

Coinciding with the intensified fighting of the Transnistrian conflict that marked the beginning of the Moldo-Russian war between Russian supported separatists and pro-union Moldovan military and police forces, that country along with San Marino and fellow former Soviet republics Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan join the United Nations on this day in 1992 during the forty-sixth session of the General Assembly.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

freden i stolbova

Concluding the Ingrian War that began nearly seven years earlier on this day in 1617, the Treaty of Stolbovo was negotiated and agreed upon between Czar Michael I of the Russian Empire and the Swedish military leader Jakob De La Gardie. Establishing the Empire of Sweden’s influence in the Baltic, the leaders met on the shores of Lake Ladoga outside Saint Petersburg, King Gustavus Adolphus—still chuffed with their victory in Novgorod and in the push for unity under the Peace of Kalmar—eventually relented during the two months of talks for their demands to make all Russian trade with Western Europe pass through Swedish-controlled territory, demands reaching far north as the port of Arkhangelsk in part due to the intervention of a team of Dutch and English mediators who didn’t want to see a Swedish monopoly on commerce and to install as Swedish duke as czar, but final terms did include Russian terroritorial concessions in Ingria and Karelia plus indemnities, and in exchange for renouncing claims to Estonia and Livonia, effective locked out of the Baltic Sea, Sweden returned Novgorod to Russia. Michael of the House Romanov was recognised by all parties as the rightful ruler and tariffs were normalised so as not to further cripple the Empire’s economy.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

8x8

squirrel monkey: imagining Wordle vintage 1985—see also  

мистецтво: Ukrainian art community despairs as invasion advances

rumble: the overlooked musical virtuosity of Link Wray  

snake island: Ukrainian soldiers stand their ground and face off a battleship defending a military outpost on Zmiinyi, the rocky islet where Achilles was entombed 

regression to the mean: a spate of controversial laws passed in the US to curtail discussions in classroom that would make straight, white cis people uncomfortable (previously)

existential crisis: dread creeps into the everyday and makes it difficult to focus on what’s vital and the ultimately inconsequential  

архітектурної: Ukrainian designers and architects fight back against Russian incursion  

acrophobia: sociable early internet word game that solicited wrong answers only plus several contemporaries

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

we come not as enemies but as allies

Following the announcement from their respective presidents that Russia will stop targeting the United States and her allies with nuclear weapons and the US responded with the same pledge plus a concerted effort on both sides to reduce the stockpile of warheads down to no more than twenty-five hundred, Boris Yeltsin meets with his American counterpart, George H. W. Bush, on this day in 1992 at the country retreat of Camp David to make the formal declaration that the Cold War was over—expanding on an announcement first made during the Malta Summit in 1989 between Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev just weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Saturday, 29 January 2022

coalition of the drilling

In the first State of the Union Address to the American people since the 9/11 terror attacks some five months hence, delivered on this day in 2002, George W Bush minted the coinage “axis of evil”—a portmanteau of Ronald Reagan’s characterisation of the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire and the Axis powers of World War II, Germany, Italy and Japan. Originally levied against Iran, the Baath party of Iraq and North Korea as sponsors of terrorism, net exporters and actively seeking weapons of mass destruction to define a common enemy and threat to US and its allies, other politicians and commentators expanded the term to include Syria, Cuba, Libya, Belarus, Zimbabwe and Myanmar.

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 Göring. 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.

Saturday, 22 January 2022

the new normal

On this day in 2003, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fielded questions during a press conference, including Charles Groenhuijsen a Dutch reporter from Nederlandse Publieke Omroep, who spoke to the mood of reservation and doubt in the coalition of the willing: “But now the European allies. If you look at—for example—France, Germany also a lot of people in my own country … [I]t seems that a lot of Europeans rather give the benefit of the doubt to Saddam Hussein than Geroge Bush. These are US allies. What do you make of that?” After some prevarication, Rumsfeld replied, “Now you’re thinking of Europe as German and France. I don’t—I think that’s old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the centre of gravity is shifting to the East.” Heralded later as the German Worte des Jahres—altes Europa—it was embraced by many politicians as a badge of integrity for their well-founded skepticism and reluctance in contrast to what some regarded as opportunistic realignment for New Europe.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

7x7

tomm¥ €a$h: rapper presents a sofa in the shape of bread  

banana republic: an exhibit that takes a critical look at the fruit trade—see also  

field manual: the predecessor agency to the US CIA issued a guide to simple sabotage which speaks to America’s present state 

bio-rovers: Marimo moss balls (previously) could become ambulatory—see also here and here  

spinthatiscope: an actual 1940s toy harnessing radioactive decay fragments of life: a suite of animated emoji from Andreas Samuelsson 

 middle c: a space-saving piano designed to fit in a corner—see also

Monday, 17 January 2022

iron triangle

In a farewell address to the people of the United States of America, on this day in 1961, outgoing US president Dwight D Eisenhower (see previously) issued a stark warning about the detriment that vested interest between military contractors, corporations and their lobbyists and the Legislative and the Executive could have for public policy. Admonishing the people that that they must not fail to comprehend the “grave implications” of recursive network and rotating-door politics, Eisenhower went on: “Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved—so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military-Industrial Complex… Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Saturday, 15 January 2022

unwort des jahres

Critical of unreflective and dehumanising, casual use in the press, the independent jury have selected Pushback as their “un-word” of the last year for Germany—previously. The often illegal practise of forcing migrants back from the borders of destination or transit countries was illustrated by the tragic stand-off at the EU frontier in Poland on the boundary with Belarus, weaponising asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq and Syria by granting them (at great personal costs—see previously) visas to Minsk and then pushing them out for West to care in reprisal for sanctions levied.

Friday, 31 December 2021

3 sutton place

The Burmese diplomat appointed as United Nations Secretary-General after the unexpected death of Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961 declining overtures for a third-term, U Thant (သန့်, U being an honorific title and not a first or family name) stepped down on this day in 1971, having facilitated negotiations between Khrushchev and Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, intervened to avoid a chaotic break-up of Congo, overseeing the end of colonial rule for many states in Asia and Africa and was a vocal critic of America’s actions in Vietnam. His successor taking office on 1 January 1972, Kurt Waldheim—in 1986 during some opposition research whilst running for the Austrian presidency (which he won) was revealed to have been a Nazi intelligence officer during World War II—secured the seat accidentally after several rounds of the Security Council conclave failed to produce a winning candidate and three of the four member states with veto power (the USSR backed Waldheim) failed to coordinate their override and abstained instead. After Waldheim left office, incumbency was limited to two terms.