Thursday, 23 February 2023

thread and throughline (10. 567)

Premiering on BBC2 on this day in 1969, the mini-series with the very self-aware subtitle (see previously) conceived by David Attenborough whilst overseeing the transition to colour broadcasting and thought programming about great paintings would be a good showcase and presented by art historian Kenneth Clark was the first documentary of its kind and was regarded as edifying and enlightening for general audiences, if not admittedly from a limited perspective and subject to Western chauvinism. Disclaiming comprehensiveness, the series—through the lens of Western European artists—outlined the course of history from the end of the Dark Ages through the Renaissance to early modernity. A nine part sequel, Civilisations with presenters David Olusoga, Mary Beard and Simon Schama, was produced and streamed on Netflix in March of 2018. The first five installments of the original are below.

Sunday, 9 October 2022

world postal day (10.207)

The Universal Postal Union (see previously here and here) has designated this day for the annualcelebration on the anniversary of the establishment of the UPU in 1874 in Bern—the first commemorative congress called in 1969 in Tokyo. Since then, themed campaigns have been held under the auspices of this UN agency to underscore the civic importance of a reliable and accessible mail system and recognises the best postal services in a global competition.

Saturday, 1 October 2022

the new people (10. 183)

Produced for a single season and clocking in at forty-five minutes per episode (a rarity for regularly-scheduled programming), the 1969 Aaron Spelling and Larry Gordon collaboration for the ABC network was developed by Rod Serling (under the pseudonym John Phillips—see previously) and centres around the struggle for survival of a group of American college freshman returning from a trip in Southeast Asia (to present as goodwill ambassadors during Vietnam) whose plane crashes on a deserted island in the Pacific, which had been slated and provisioned for a nuclear-test that never took place. Foreshadowing the later ABC series Lost, it explores rather melodramatically the premise of Lord of the Flies, killing off all of the adults and letting the young fend for themselves—plus the counterculture adage of the time not to trust anyone over thirty—and is echoed in Logan’s Run and the Star Trek episode “Miri.” Here is the pilot with the full series available online:

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

7x7 (10. 112)

all the news that’s fit to print: a curated collection of kiosks from around the world from Trevor Traynor—via Present /&/ Correct  

tomato cain: an anthology of the short fiction of Nigel Kneale—perhaps better known for his screenplays, like The Stone Tape Theory  

national defensive design strategy revisited: another look at the style book (see also) of the US government  

finding out that you accidentally wrote five pages in cursive: our AI wrangler Janelle Shane (previously) charges a neural network to explain human behaviour quirks  

flareup: a 1969 Raquel Welch vehicle  

wild palms: a 1993 cyberpunk soap opera that aired on US network television  

movable-type: the Ruckwanderer innovation and how the Chinese incorporated the keyboard—see previously

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

the moonwalk (10. 005)

To commemorate the lunar landing on this day in 1969, head barman at the Hotel Savoy’s American Bar Joe Gilmore created a champagne cocktail that ought to be revived, equal parts Grand Marnier and grapefruit juice with a dash of rosewater and topped with champagne. During Gilmore’s long tenure, spanning from when he came in as a trainee at the swanky London establishment in 1940 until his retirement in 1976, he invented many more cocktails for royalty, politicians and other celebrities—including the My Fair Lady to celebrate Julie Andrews’ opening night in the musical (equal parts gin, lemon juice, orange juice and sirop de fraise with a dash of egg white, shaken and strained) and the Link Up for the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975 (Southern Comfort and vodka, tempered with lime juice). More to explore at the links above.

Sunday, 6 March 2022

helter skelter

Recorded and released on this day in 1970 in extremely poor taste by Manson himself and members of the Family in support of the cult leader’s legal defence fund by the infamous record producer Phil Kaufman (notorious for stealing the body of singer Gram Parsons and—ostensibly in accordance with Parsons’ wishes, burned his moral remains in Joshua Tree nature reserve), the cover was designed to parody the LIFE magazine cover of December 1969 with an expose of the series of murders cult members perpetrated. Though thankfully not a commercial success, several tracks were covered or sampled by several groups including The Beach Boys, Guns ‘N Roses and The Lemonheads. A second album was produced a quarter of a century later in the 1997 Family Jams. One theory proposed by the prosecution offered that along with the Book of Revelations, Manson believed he was attuned to messages revealed in the tracks and lyrics of the Beatles’ White Album. Subsequent re-releases of the recordings have raised funds to benefit crime victims.

Saturday, 12 February 2022

amen corner

Hailing from Cardiff, this rock group, which was quite more than a one-hit wonder with their hits “Bend Me, Shape Me” and popular cover of “Gin House Blues” if not a bit overshadowed by contemporary bands, had their first and only chart-topping success beginning on this day in 1969, holding the number one spot for weeks with “(If Paradise Is) Half as Nice.” The song was a translated version of a popular Italio-Pop standard “Il paradiso della vita.”

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

fife and snare

Via the always brilliant Things Magazine, we are directed towards a digitisation of the complete—short but impactful—run of Avant Garde magazine, a project by Ralph Ginzburg and Herb Lubalin (previously here and here) that lived up to its title with articles on radical, pacifist politics and erotica.

The monogram included the nude lithographs of John Lennon and Yoko Ono plus a phantasmagorical version of Marilyn Monroe’s last photo session. The March 1969 cover featured here is the photographic composition of the award-winning professor and director Carl T. Fischer called The Spirit of 1976, the artist also known for his iconic celebrity portraits including Andy Warhol, Barbara Streisand, attorney F. Lee Bailey and boxer Muhammad Ali as Saint Sebastian.

Monday, 12 July 2021

exordium and terminus

Charting first at the number one spot in the US and UK on this day in 1969 for a run of several weeks, Zager and Evans’ song with the above parenthetical title was the duo’s only hit. The single was recorded in a single take at a studio in Odessa, Texas in a cattle pasture with members of the city’s symphony orchestra providing backup accompaniment. As the lyrical narrative advances over each successive millennia, the time and key steps up as well. Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth—tell no lies—everything you think, do and say is in the pill you took today.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

what do you do with the mad that you feel

On this day in 1969, just a year into his PBS children’s programme, Fred Rogers testified before the US Senate Subcommittee on Communication (previously) to advocate that public and educational television receive the full funding earmarked by the LBJ administration but halved by Nixon due to the demands on the ongoing Vietnam war. The legislative body was chaired by Rhode Island senator John Pastore, whom nearly lost his subsequent race for reelection to Catholic priest John McLaughlin whom in turn abandoned his political aspirations and retired from the Church and went on to host the panel show The McLaughlin Group—aired for decades on PBS affiliate stations—and whom was unfamiliar with Rogers’ work and grew a little impatient with Rogers’ communication style, yet admitted that his argument was compelling and inspired prompting the television show host to recite the above song. Pastore replied, “I think it’s wonderful—looks like you just earned the twenty-million,” the full funding.

Saturday, 2 January 2021


3 a.m. eternal: the musical stylings of the KLF are finally available for streaming services—via Things Magazine  

paleofutures: the lunar Western Moon Zero Two takes place in 2021  

no show: Trump fails to appear at his Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve bash—guests entertained by Rudy Giuliani and Vanilla Ice 

not disappoint: a recommendation for a good polyglotinous language lover to follow, whose byline does rather suggest a crash blossom  

star wars—give me those star wars, nothing but star wars: the saga continues  

alla breve or cut for time: big, brute data analysis may finally resolve the controversy over Beethoven’s metronome and how the composer intended his works to be heard—via Strange Company

klanglandschaft: Swiss artist Zimoun engineers ambient soundscapes with everyday materials

Monday, 28 December 2020

house music

Carroll Righter (*1900 – †1988), celebrity astrologer and horoscope columnist from the early 1940s onward and advisor to Ronald and Nancy Reagan, released a series of albums in 1969 with each record dedicated to a different zodiacal sign (see also), promising that the instrumental arrangements were especially attuned to one’s personality and constitution and will help alleviate everyday problems and help one to overcome challenges. More to explore at Weird Universe at the link up top.

Monday, 14 December 2020

location scout oder deckname topas

Hearing that someone might be making a weekend of visiting nearby sites where films had been shot sounded like a fun activity and piqued my curiosity as to whether any might be in reach for me. I was surprised to come across this image from 1968 in the Stars and Stripes photographic archive of the filming of the 1969 release of the Cold War spy-thriller Topaz, the cinematic adaptation of Leon Uris’ novelisation of a real defection, the Sapphire Affair, that took place in 1962 directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Here is the same building from last summer from a slightly different angle and perspective.
The story follows a French intelligence agent who becomes entangled in a spy ring and the geopolitical situation on the eve of the Cuba Missile Crisis. A high-ranking Soviet officer reveals that nuclear warheads will be placed in Cuba (mirroring the US installation in Turkey) and he and his family are evacuated to Wiesbaden. Filming also takes place in Copenhagen, Washington, DC, Paris, New York with Havana scenes filmed on a studio lot.

Monday, 5 October 2020

by the skin of our teeth

As successor to the National Educational Television (NET) network, PBS began broadcasting to American audiences on this day in 1970.

No longer burdened with the responsibility of promoting domestic programming only (suggested under the former station identification), it was able to supplement its heirloom line-up of Sesame Street and The French Chef with foreign produced pieces (see also) and premiered with the airing over the next several weeks of the thirteen part BBC documentary Civilisation, developed by David Attenborough and presented by Sir Kenneth Clark. The show-makers fully cognizant of their biases and limited perspective that recast history from the Dark Ages through to the early twentieth from an exclusively western European angle, the series’ subtitle was A Personal View by Kenneth Clark—perhaps a disclaimer too subtle for many. 


Tuesday, 9 June 2020

look for the helpers—you will always find people who are helping

Our peripatetic ally Messy Nessy Chic brings us a nice vignette remembering Patrol Officer Franรงois Scarborough Clemmons, who was a part of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood for over a quarter of a century, becoming one of the first reoccurring African-American characters on US television.
The two were acquaintances from church (a choir member who would go on to become a Grammy-winning singer) and the show’s creator approached him in 1968 about having a role as a policeman, which Clemmons initially rejected because of his bad experiences with cops growing up but eventually embraced the idea.  Fred Rogers, in a 1969 episode, had invited Clemmons to cool his feet and take a break from his regular beat and the two reprised the scene for their last appearance together in 1993.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

le projet ozma

Among the first official accolades that the crew of the Apollo 11 Mission were awarded outside of the ticker-tape parades and immediate fame was the astronomical portion of the Prix Guzman—on this day in 1969, an honorarium provided for by the estate of Marc Guzman and established in the will of his widow Anne Emilie Clara Goget in 1891. Arguably the astronauts won by dint of a technicality—the one-thousand-franc prize to be given to a person or group that succeeded in communicating with another celestial body, which the Eagle did with Mission Control in Houston.
Interest accumulated in the meantime and that premium was awarded every five years or so to an individual who had made significant contributions to space exploration, as adjudged by the Acadรฉmie des sciences of the Institut de France. As many people believed at the time of Madame Guzman’s death that Mars was inhabited by intelligent beings, communications with that planet were specifically exempted as not worthy of the challenge and would be established in the immediate future (see also). The title and related paradox refer to the precursor programme to SETI started by Cornell astronomer Frank Drake, named after Princess Ozma whom L Frank Baum channelled by radio to learn of events in the Land of Oz after his first-hand accounts ended. The problem that arises from such a two-way communication with extra-terrestrials is the lack of a frame of reference and thus no means of conveying basic ideas of orientation, right and left, and parity. The other honorarium, to be awarded for the development of a treatment for the most common forms of heart disease, has yet to be given out. Regardless of Madame Guzman’s intent, the accomplishments of Apollo were certainly no mean feat.

Friday, 29 November 2019

history is written by the victors

As a demonstration project to illustrate how potentially fraught our near-future and future historians might interpret our contemporary period and how self-assured we can be ourselves, a team under the auspices of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology present In Event of Moon Disaster, Richard Nixon delivering his counter-factual contingency address prepared had something gone awry with the Apollo 11 lunar mission and the crew were irretrievably stranded on the Moon. Through technology might get better at debunking deepfakes and insulating us from the sound-bite struggle, human brains don’t have the bandwidth often to delve further into a story and uncover a true accounting.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

indians of all tribes

Under the terms of surrender in the 1868 Treat of Fort Laramie negotiated between the United States and the Arapaho Nation and the Lakota peoples all federal holdings declared surplus were to revert to Native Americans (see also) and the prison island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay closed since 1963 should have qualified for repatriation.
And while there was significant advocacy and agitation in the interim, issues of social justice and representation came to a crescendo when on this day in 1969, a group of eighty-nine protestors embarked for what would become a nineteen-month, peaceful occupation of the island—spurred to action in part due to the loss of a community centre to a fire a month earlier. Activists hoped to establish a residential institute of Native American studies, a museum, an ecology centre and a spiritual retreat. Despite the tenacity of leaders like Mark Martinez, Garfield Spotted Elk, Adam Fortunate Eagle and Kay Many Horse and celebrity support from Jane Fonda, Marlon Brando and Credence Clearwater Revival, the occupiers were ultimately removed, power-cuts and the blockade by the coast guard ultimately making their situation untenable. Bureau of Indian Affairs employee and amateur film-maker Doris Purdy captured some of the scenes early during the event. The island and its historical buildings subsequently were designated as part of the Golden Gate Recreational Area and managed by the National Park Service, though groups of protesters return annually to commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Unthanksgiving.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

when the stars allign or flights of fancy

This day of all days back in 1981 would have been an especially auspicious one for space exploration, had public and political captivation been sustained and transformed into something enduring, because the alignment of both Mars and Venus relative to Earth and Moon was optimal for a crewed mission to each planet launching simultaneously.
I can imagine this sling-shot trajectory of the tandem space-flights returned to Earth with gravity-assists, which was presented by NASA administrator Thomas Otten Paine expansively and in exacting detail to a crowd gathered in San Francisco in August of 1969.  With continued advances on nuclear-propelled rockets and fiscal commitments (estimated to be around twenty four billion dollars), Paine promised the audience that such an achievement would indeed be possible by the early eighties.  Though it was after the blast-off deadline had passed, Paine designed a flag for Mars in 1983.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

children's television workshop

On this day half a century ago, Sesame Street (see previously) made its debut on the US public television network to a rather high viewership (considering less than seventy percent of households at the time owned a television) and generally positive reception.
It represented the first educational programming aimed for young audiences based on laboratory trials and with a curriculum informed by the input and feedback of teachers and social-workers.  By its second year, it had been nominated for over twenty accolades and has earned more awards than any other programme for children and by the tenth anniversary, over nine million under-six year olds were watching it daily, generations growing up with the characters of this cultural touchstone now having gone international.  The pilot episode as it was originally broadcast can be viewed below.