Sunday, 2 October 2022

casus foederis (10. 190)

Foundational to the treaty and only invoked once, thankfully, on this day—confirmed by the body two days later—in 2001 by member the United States after the September 11 Terror Attacks. Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation pledge to consider an attack against one to be affront to all. Operations Eagle Assist and Active Endeavour, air and shipping lane patrols, commenced once NATO determined that attacks met the threshold. Articles 7 and 8, concerned with international trade and commitments have been invoked several times, including in the Cod Wars, but have never risen to the point of a militarised dispute.

Friday, 30 September 2022

accession treaties (10. 182)

In a wide-ranging address that included the annexation of the regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donestsk and Luhansk (newly-appointed governors pictured) in addition to Crimea as well as the concession that his partial mobilisation was an unpopular imposition for many, Vladimir Putin delivered one of his most combative speeches yet, threatening to use all forces at his disposal to ensure the protection of his ill-begotten new territory. In response, the West, which Putin characterises as ‘satanic’ and determined to undermine Russia with Kleinstaaterei, responded with condemnation and more targeted sanctions and Zelenskiy announced his formal application for NATO membership.

Saturday, 17 September 2022

s1:e1 (10. 140)

On this day in 1972, the CBS television network first aired its dark-comedy series—based on the 1970 feature film—about a team of doctors and ancillary staff stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu during the Korean War. The first episodes, set in 1950, were broadcast while the US was still mired in the Vietnam War and were presented as the most careful kind of allegory, detached yet openly questioning the proxy wars of the Cold War and the value of offensive ideology. The ensemble cast included (by rank) Henry Blake McLean Stevenson (thanks, Dad), Loretta Swit, Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Gary Burghoff and Jamie Farr and the show became less political and more character-driven after 1975 and the withdrawal of US troops—also removing the controversial laugh-track of earlier seasons.

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

peace, little girl (10. 113)

Although airing only once--on this day in 1964 (Labour Day and shown at a time when children would not be watching) as part of the US presidential campaign for incumbent Lyndon B Johnson—“Daisy” played an outsized role in his victory over the Republican party’s candidate Barry Goldwater as well as signaling a point of departure in political messaging. Aimed to emphasise Goldwater’s inclination to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam and stance against disarmament and re-enforce Johnson’s pacifist approach, the advertisement depicts child model and actor Monique Corzililus picking flowers in a meadow and counting, out of order, from one to nine, triggering a booming narrator to start a countdown, cutting to footage of a mushroom count and ending “The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” Corzililus, who also appeared in commercials for Velveeta, Kool-Aid and Prudential Life Insurance, was recruited in 2016 by Hilary Clinton for an advertisement against Donald Trump. Johnson’s voiceover that precedes the final exhortation “These are the stakes—to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die” echoes the line of the W H Auden poem “September 1, 1939”—Hunger allows no choice / To the citizen or the police; / We must love one another or die.

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

gefahren warten nur auf jene, die nicht auf das leben reagieren (10. 099)

Hailed as a visionary abroad but with a bit more complicated legacy domestically, the former Soviet leader whose political quiver included perestroika and glasnost has passed away, aged 91 after a protracted bout of sickness, effectively ending the Cold War by trying to salvage what was beyond saving. His decisions not to use force to hold power or prevent the toppling of the Berlin Wall or against waves of declarations of independence ushered in a peaceful revolution, though Gorbachev survived long enough to see those reforms undermined and undone by the invasion of Ukraine and attempts to reestablish Russia’s former sphere of influence. Thank you Mister Gorbachev–we hope your outlook for the world ultimately holds and we regain our senses.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

tube alloys (10. 097)

Commencing before the Manhattan Project (which ultimately subsumed their efforts) and with the intentionally misleading codename, the joint United Kingdom and Canadian programme to develop nuclear weapons was approved in secret by Winston Churchill on this day in 1941—the first national leader to do so—the scientific consensus acknowledging the potential explosiveness of nuclear fission and the “atom bomb” was firmly ensconced in the popular imagination thanks to the 1913 novel by H G Wells, The World Set Free. Researchers working on Tube Alloys made the crucial discovery that just a few kilogrammes (rather than a quantity of several tonnes) of uranium isotope was sufficient to sustain the chain-reaction and propelled the race for armaments. The preceding working group, the MAUD committee, formed to study the feasibility of making a nuclear weapon and nuclear-generated power, was named after a strange last line in a telegram from Niels Bohr to Otto Robert Frisch (credited with discovery of fission along with Lise Meitner) then working at the University of Birmingham just after the Nazi invasion of Denmark, “Tell Cockcroft and Maud Ray Kent.” The recipient believed it might have been a coded message regarding the imminent development of atomic weapons—an anagram for “radyum taken.” Although it turned out that the physicist was wanting to get in touch with his housekeeper, Maud Ray from Kent, the enigmatic name stuck. Subsequent transatlantic cooperation and pooling of resources forged the Special Relationship (often tested and contentious) between the UK and the US.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

6x6 (10. 068)

two trees of valinor: an assortment of keyboards in the languages of Middle Earth 

i have, may it please the court, a few words to say: the final address from abolitionist John Brown  

flexi disc: a profile on the mass-market vinyl alternative that bypassed sanctions (see also)  

wimps, pbh: primordial black holes may account for the missing mass of dark matter in the Cosmos 

tribal sovereignty: Irish customs accepts Native American, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) passports—rejected elsewhere  

misty mountains: LOTR: The Rings of Power prequel to preview

Saturday, 6 August 2022

sacrum romanum imperium (10. 042)

Neither holy, Roman nor an empire in the cohesive sense yet in existence for more than a thousand years, the Heiliges Rรถmisches Reiches was defacto dissolved on this day in 1806 as an outcome of the Napoleonic Wars and the abdication of Francis II (dispatch to the royal ambassadors pictured) the House of Hapsburg who repaired to Austria and released all tenets and subjects from their oath and obligation. Regarded as the successor state to Rome because its emperors were also legitimised through the papacy, the decentralised empire without a coherent monetary system and unusual government of elected monarchs rather than hereditary rulers was on the decline for centuries and experienced its finally death knells after interfering in Revolutionary France, fearful that republicanism might spread, and the success of Napoleon in recruiting more client states into the sphere of influence of the Empire of France. The Peace of Pressburg (Bratislava) geographically cordoned extraterritorial claims and allowed some pocket principalities and city-states to be absorbed, effectively dividing the old Holy Roman Empire into Germany and Austro-Hungary.

Tuesday, 19 July 2022

xxii olympiad (10. 003)

Beginning on this day and running through 1980 Summer Games hosted by the Soviet capital was the first such event held in a communist country until 2008 Beijing Games, with quite low participation—the US leading a boycott by sixty-six countries over the Russo-Afghan War. A few countries took part but competed under the Olympic banner rather than as a national team, and Philadelphia hosted an alternate Liberty Bell Classic for those not participating in the other venue. The Soviet and Eastern Bloc athletes reciprocated by staying out of the 1984 games hosted in Los Angeles with the closing ceremony absent conspicuous elements of the handover.

Friday, 15 July 2022

hanoi jane

On this day in 1972, American activist and actor Jane Fonda was visiting Hanoi to survey the damage that bombing campaigns were having on civilian infrastructure—specifically the dams used to mitigate flooding by the Red River—and was photographed afterwards seated on a North Vietnamese Army anti-aircraft battery. The pictures were first published by a Polish newspaper before circulating widely and effectively ostracising Fonda from the entertainment industry and whilst pride for speaking out against the war was regretful over the bad optics of a momentary lapse of judgment that was both galvanising for those predisposed to hostility and jingoism and propaganda for the other side.

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

nansen-pass

First issued on this day in 1922 under sanction of the League of Nations—and officially designated as passports for stateless persons but quickly became popularly known for their chief champion, polar explorer, polymath and statesman Fridtjof Nansen (previously)—these travel documents were a way of mitigating the turmoil in Europe after World War I which lead to a crisis of displaced persons, refugees resulting from the overthrow of governments, redrawn national boundaries, and advanced ultimately by the announcement by the newly constituted Soviet Union that it would be revoking the citizenship of Russians residing abroad—applying also to the nearly one-million individuals who fled during the civil war. Two years later, Nansen in his role at the League of Nations as High Commissioner for Refugees (earning him a Nobel Peace Prize), expanded the arrangement tto include former areas of the Ottoman Empire and help Armenian and Turkish migrants. While issuance halted in 1938, under the auspices of the United Nations certificates of identity and refugee travel documents continue to be a necessity. Notable bearers of Nansen passports include Igor Stravinsky, Elvis Presley’s agent Colonel Tom Parker, shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, Marc Chagall and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

dear mister andropov

For what would have been her fiftieth birthday had not her life been tragically cut short by a plane crash at the age of thirteen, Deutsche Welle has a retrospective appreciation on the ten-year old Cold War peace ambassador and avid letter-writer Samantha Reed Smith of Holton, Maine who at a very tense point in Soviet-US relations—the nuclear superpowers having abandoned their recent policy of dรฉtente, a race on to militarise space, widespread peace protests, the Afghan conflict and The Day After all had people whipped into a frenzy—reached out to the new Russian leader late in 1982, the successor to the post of Leonid Brezhnev characterised in the press as the architect of the suppression of the Prague Spring and for suppression of dissidents, congratulating him and expressing her fears about nuclear escalation and asked him to write in return. Failing to get a timely reply (despite its publication in Pravda), Smith also reached out to the embassy in Washington, DC before in April of 1983 the General Secretary responded himself, with a personal invitation to visit the Soviet Union. More on Smith’s tour and brief but impactful legacy at the link up top.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

ไธŠใ‚’ๅ‘ใ„ใฆๆญฉใ“ใ†

Starting a three-week run at the top of US singles charts on this day in 1963—as well as attaining an impressive standing in the UK and Australia, Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki” (ๅ‚ๆœฌ ไน with “Ue o Muite Arukล”) was his breakout hit after leaving a pop-group called the Drifters for a solo career. Translated as “I look up when I walk” (so that the tears in his eyes don’t fall—ostensibly a forlorn lovers’ song but originally inspired out of songwriter Ei Rokusuke’s feelings of dejection over the US-Japan Security Treaty and permanent American presence), it was the first Japanese language song to excel in this way in Western markets and became overall one of the best-selling singles in history. The alternative title is a more familiar menu item to Anglophone ears and does not occur in the actual lyrics and has been compared with re-titling “Moon River” as “Beef Stew.” The Taste of Honey’s 1980 version has the same rhythm and cadence but completely different lyrics which attempt to preserve the spirit of the song.

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.

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.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

็“ฆๅฐ”็‰นไฟๅซ่จๆ‹‰็ƒญ็ช

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 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.

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 (๐Ÿด).

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 Hawaiสปi and California (again, already people living there) including Fort Ross (ะšั€ัฃะฟะพัั‚ัŒ ะ ะพัััŠ) 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.