Saturday, 5 August 2023

the smoking gun (10. 927)

Released to the prosecution on this day responding to a subpoena decided by SCOTUS a few weeks prior that ruled executive privilege did not confer immunity from cooperating with the courts, one recording among the cache of tapes documented the preliminary stages of the Watergate coverup, with Nixon and H R Haldeman, Chief of Staff, overheard in a meeting in the Oval Office discussing how to thwart the ongoing investigation by the FBI of the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters. Acknowledging both the risk involved if the plan came to light and giving the approach his approval, this revelation ran counter to the narrative presented that Nixon was not involved in the scandal nor had interfered with the FBI’s work—assigning the jurisdiction to the CIA. Political and public support evaporated immediately and the ten Republican senators on the impeachment jury who had initially voted to acquit the president changed their position, prompting Nixon’s almost immediate resignation in lieu of conviction and removal.

Saturday, 27 May 2023

platonic solids (10. 769)

Via tmn, we are directed to a 1974 installation by collector, curator and conceptual artist Sol LeWitt’s serial exploration of negative and positive space, both flat and realised in three-dimensions, in his one hundred-twenty-two permutations of how a cube could be not closed space. This matrix of deconstruction invites one to reexamine the fundamentals of geometry and perspective that we otherwise might take for granted. More at the links above including a tour of the gallery space hosting these open cubes.

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

innerspace (10. 307)

Designed by astrophysicist Frank Drake (see previously) with input from Carl Sagan and others as a proof-of-concept demonstration rather than an attempt to enter into to dialogue with extra-terrestrials and criticised as being too low-resolution to be recognisable to future recipients, the Arecibo Message (see also here and here) was beamed from the radio observatory in Puerto Rico on this date in 1974, aimed in the direction of the globular star cluster M13, some twenty-five thousand light-years from Earth. When encoded graphically, the some sixteen hundred bits of data produce the pictured image with seven elements, from top to bottom: the decimal system, the valance of the elements that make up DNA, the chemical formula for the constituent nucleotides, the approximate number of said organic molecules in the human genome with representation of the double-helix structure, the average dimensions of a human male plus the Earth’s population (four billion, compared to eight billion presently), a representation of the Solar System and finally in purple, the Arecibo telescope. The precise number of bits, 1 679, is a semiprime—that is, the product of two prime numbers, seventy-three and twenty-three, to prompt one toward the right orientation, the alternate arrangement producing static. An answer came in 2001 in the form of a crop circle near the Chilbolton radio telescope in Hampshire—rather intricately replacing the carbon-based DNA with silicon and the pictogram of the human figure looks alien—though this reply was unfortunately an elaborate hoax.

Monday, 8 August 2022

we now return to regular programming (10. 045)

Interrupting regularly scheduled, prime-time programming on this day in 1974—ironically as he regularly attacked the medium as an instrument of liberal bias and never stopped blaming TV for wrecking his first US presidential bid against JFK having not fared well on screen during televised debates—to address the nation and announce his imminent resignation in the face of the so called “smoking gun” recording that revealed what the president knew about the botched burglary in the Democratic National Committee headquarters and told he would face certain impeachment— Richard M Nixon offered, “I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the nation would require.” Adding that he was contrite errors in judgment, Nixon failed to mention, however, any talk of congress leveling articles of impeachment against him. Tendering his resignation the following day, Nixon submitted a letter to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and left office, effective noon 9 August.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

j/ฯˆ meson

The subatomic particle also known as a psion—comprised itself of a charm quark and a charm antiquark bound in a state referred to as “charmonium” (see previously) was discovered independently by two laboratories in Stanford and Brookhaven who made their joint announcement on this day in 1974. Sharing the Nobel Prize in physics two years later for their “November Revolution” for setting of a new era in the study of high-energy physics, the research leaders were able to validate the heretofore theoretical quark model, considered a mathematical fiction—particles with fractional charges and flavours (“spin”)—as a way of classifying and ordering the newly discovered menagerie of constituent, subatomic units.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

proclamation 4311

Issued on this day in 1974 by American president Gerald Ford, the directive granted a full and unconditional pardon to his immediate predecessor for any crimes he may have committed against the United States as its leader. In response to public outcry Ford defended his decision to exercise his prerogative in excusing Nixon, particularly over the Watergate Scandal (previously), saying it was for the good of the country to close this tragic chapter. Privately, after leaving office, Ford justified his actions by keeping on his person—in his wallet—a copy of a 1915 US Supreme Court decision that affirmed the notion that accepting a pardon implies a confession of guilt. I’m sure that assuaged his conscience.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

zagato zele

Courtesy of the always interesting Things Magazine, we discover this delightful electric microcar (see also)—sold in US markets as the Elcar with Wagonette models available—from 1974 to 1976. Manufactured in Milan with a run totalling about five hundred, the cubic vehicles came in seven bold, harvest colours.

Monday, 21 June 2021

stonehenge free festival

Though possible precursors began a couple of years prior—and down through ancient times too of course, the first well-documented modern music fair to be held at the prehistoric monolith (previously) was held on this day, the Summer Solstice, in 1974—after disbanding the Winsor Free Fest and itself suppressed after a decade’s run of gathering at the stones, a victim of its own popularity. Participating bands included Thompson Twins, Dexys Midnight Runners, The Raincoats, Killing Joke and several counter-culture representatives like Circus Normal, the Peace Convoy and New Age Travellers. A wealth of pictures, first-person accounts and ephemera from those years through 1984 and related events are at the resource at the link up top.

Friday, 26 June 2020


On this day in 1974 after nearly a decade in development and first conceived as a method for tracking railcars and shipping containers, the first bar coded, marked with a universal product code (redundantly, UPC code) instead of a price tag item (see previously) was sold at a supermarket in Troy, Ohio.
Cashier Sharon Buchanan scanned (we are dismissive of such acts now as routine but Ms. Buchanan was very much from that moment on an engineer wielding the beam of a powerful helium-neon laser that bounced off a rotating mirror and onto the glass-plated register surface so a central computer could match the label against the shop’s programmed inventory—no mean feat that) a value pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum for customer Clyde Dawson (not his only purchase during that visit—just the first one rang up).  Deconstructed, the encoding tables do look a bit like the I Ching, and afterwards the artefact, the (presumably a stand-in unless the purchaser indulged the museum this memento) was acquired by the Smithsonian. I wonder if this first barcode is some sort of talisman, a charm imbued with power over all the scanning to follow.