Thursday 21 December 2023

reply-all (11. 202)

On this day in 1989, US vice-president James Danforth Quayle dispatched some thirty-thousand auto-pen (a machines usually reserved for authorising signatures or autographs and not without controversy) Christmas missives to family, friends and backers with the word “beacon” misspelt as “beakon.” Quite notably, Quayle’s team did not apparently use this as a learning opportunity to prevent later grammatical gaffes.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

cloudland (11. 166)

Via Kottke guest-blogger Edith Zimmerman, we are treated a random cool old song with a performance of Pere Ubu 1989 song “Breathe” on Sunday Night, a Michelob Presents Music Hour sadly only running for two season and hosted by Jools Holland and David Sanborn showcasing jazz and eclectic artists, from their seventh studio album—the title record named after (see also) a resort village in northwestern Georgia that became a getaway destination for vacationing Florida residents to escape some of the summer heat. More recommendations worth checking out at the link above.


one year ago: a Vogue issue featuring Darth Vader plus assorted links to revisit 

two years ago: Flash Gordon (1980) plus the art of Matt Semke

three years ago: Krampus Night, World Soil Day, a boatswain pipe plus more Yuletide customs

four years ago: Pantone’s colour for the coming year plus icy atmospheric phenomena

five years ago: the Bermuda Triangle plus some local Christmas Markets

Thursday 29 June 2023

captain planet, arab spring, la riots, rodney king (10. 844)

Quite a meaningful reflection at the time though the artist—vis-a-vis “57 Channels and Nothing’s Ondidn’t think much of its composition at the time other than a realisation of turning forty, Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” which covered a litany of events of note and circumstance from 1949 to 1989 has been remade to highlight anachronistically (to preserve the rhyme scheme) moments from 1989 on. What else do I have to say? While perhaps speaking to later generations who have also lived through a lot, this version from Fall Out Boy is a bit infuriating. What do you think? Oklahoma City bomb, Kurt Cobain, Pokรฉmon, Crimean Peninsula, Cambridge Anaylica, Kim Jong Un.

Friday 30 December 2022

mcmlxxxix (10. 370)

By dint of the limited permutations of the Gregorian, civil calendar, we discover that we can helpfully recycle (see previously) our calendars from 2017 or 1989 for the upcoming 2023. Not to be dismissive of the events bookended six years ago, the political turning points of the latter with the fall of the Berlin Wall, Perestroika, the Velvet Revolution, the uprisings in Romania and China, as well as the gradual dismantling of the apartheid government in South Africa, the return of democratic norms to Brazil and Poland and the first internet service providers seem to bode as auspicious points of correspondence. Having lived through it, may we may live in exciting times. 

Thursday 1 December 2022

dwa (10. 349)

Organised by VisualAIDS in New York City in 1988 and first observed the following year, Day Without Art (corresponding with World Aids Day), now a global event observed by art institutions, is a day of action and mourning for those who have died of the disease. Museums close their doors and send staff to volunteer at AIDS services centres or sponsor special exhibitions that confront the visitor with the chilling prospect for a future without art or artists, one of the most arresting displays hosted in 1991 by the Museum of Modern Art that featured a gallery of empty frames and pedestal.

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 23 August 2022

black ribbon day (10.081)

Officially the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Stalinism and Nazism and broadly for all who suffered under authoritarian regimes, this day was chosen for its observance as the anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, a treaty of non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, which contained a secret protocol that partitioned Europe into spheres of influence. To counter historic revisionism and Russia’s categorical denial of the deal which held until 1941 as well as grave crimes, twenty one Western cities, organised chiefly by Central and Eastern European refugees living in Canada, staged the first memorial in 1986, spreading to the Baltics three years later with the Cold War-era protests eventually leading to revolution. In 2019, the European Parliament adopted the resolution to enshrine (reaffirming the formal designation of 2008) the annual observance to broadly condemn the propaganda and disinformation that would deny or glorify totalitarianism and undermines liberal democracies.

Tuesday 21 June 2022

texas v johnson

The landmark decision announced on this day in 1989, a split US Supreme Court invalidated prohibitions against the desecration of the American flag, which at the time of issuance were on the books of forty eight of fifty state jurisdictions, ruling first that the category of protected speech as defined by the US constitution as amended extends to symbolic acts and that counter arguments against the plaintiff’s right of expression of a compelling interest to protect a venerated symbol and to prevent a “breach of peace” that allowing the above might incite failed to reach the threshold for its continued abridgment. The defendant, activist Gregory “Joey” Johnson, then an associate of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, had engaged in a political demonstration during the 1984 Republican National Convention, held in Dallas, which re-nominated the Reagan administration, culminating in dousing a flag in kerosene and burning it, chanting “America, the red, white and blue—we spit on you! You stand for plunder, you will go under!” The protest was peaceful but some spectators were profoundly offended by the act, prompting one onlooker to collect the ashes and inter them in their backyard. Johnson’s conviction was initial not upheld by the state judges under the same logic and appeals elevated the matter to the high court, represented by civil rights attorney William Kunstler. There have been numerous attempts by congress to subvert the ruling by introducing an amendment to the constitution excluding the national flag from first amendment protections, which have been generally introduced around the anniversary of this ruling and have all failed to pass the senate. On 20 June 2016 while protesting the RNC in Cleveland, Johnson was arrested after burning a US flag on unclear charges, with the state of Ohio paying him nearly a quarter of a million dollars in restitution three years later, admitting his arrest was unwarranted and a violation of his free speech

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, Pomlฤkovรก 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 (its 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 Visegrรกd Group, another former pooled campaign for European Union membership and presently a regional economic cooperative.

Tuesday 14 December 2021

bull market

The iconic Charging Bull bronze—which has become a universally recognised and enduring symbol of capitalism and Wall Street was not a commission of the city of New York or the Parks Service but rather a gift from sculptor Arturo di Modica, inspired to create this work just after the stock market crash of 1987 at significant personal expense, for the city and its residents. Late in the evening on this day in 1989, the statue was illegally trucked in and installed in front of the Stock Exchange. Authorities removed the creature, only to be set up again in Bowling Green a few blocks away and allowed temporary permission to remain due to public outcry over its threatened demolition. Though the status of the grant remains unchanged, it seems to have become a permanent fixture. This tolerance is of course in stark contrast to the reception of the guerrilla public artist Kristen Visbal who created Fearless Girl (previously, ahead of International Women’s Day in 2017), originally facing down the Charging Bull. She was moved next to the Stock Exchange after complaints the she was upstaging, provoking the bull in 2018, though a plaque with her footprints is still in the original spot.

Tuesday 12 October 2021

prove to me that you’re divine, change my water into wine—that’s all you need do, then i’ll know it’s all true

Formerly only previewed as a cast recording in limited release over a year prior, the rock opera by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber Jesus Christ Superstar was for the first time staged and performed before a live audience in the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway—the famous venue for My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Man of La Mancha which would eventually be consecrated in 1989 as the interdenominational Times Square Church—on this day in 1971. The anachronistic version of the Holy Week narrative, loosely following the books of the gospel and giving an accounting of Jesus and his disciples leading up to his arrest and crucifixion was the longest-running West End musical before being displaced by Cats in 1989. Below is “Superstar,” the penultimate number, with Judas, Soul Sisters and Angels from the 1973 adaptation, filmed on location.

Saturday 21 August 2021

dziesmotฤ revolลซcija

Beginning in 1987 after the introduction of the policies of glasnost and perestroika that rolled back certain limitations on political expression heretofore imposed on Soviet constituent member states outside of the core of Russia, the Baltic satellites staged a peaceful Singing Revolution that culminated for Latvia on this day in 1991 declaring its independence in the midst of an attempted coup to unseat Mikhail Gorbachev from his leadership position. One of the more popular songs of the freedom movement was the trilingual (also with verses in Estonian and Lithuanian) The Baltics are Waking Up!, composed by Boriss Rezniks for a protest two years prior commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, which defined German and Soviet spheres of influence in the region, with defiant ralliers’ joining hands and forming a human chain stretching across the three countries.

Monday 28 June 2021


Established by the United Nations Security Council in 1993 with special jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity incurred in the territories of the former Yugoslav Republic since its dissolution in 1991, on this day in 2001, Serbian president Slobodan Miloลกeviฤ‡ was extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague to stand trial for genocide. The date coincides with Miloลกeviฤ‡’s 1989 presiding over the sixth-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, commemorating the rather pyric victory of the Serbian army against Ottoman invaders and enflaming an already tense situation between different ethnic groups that shared the constituent republics. The date also coincides with assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a conspiracy of the Black Hand secret society, the Bosniak and Serb group hoping to foment unrest and outrage and secede from the Austro-Hungarian empire with the provinces reconstituted as an independent Yugoslavia.

Friday 26 March 2021


The 1989 animated short (Trickfilm) by twin brothers Wolfgang and Christoph Lauenstein Balance won an Academy Award in that category for the following spring’s Oscars, on this day in 1990. Five individuals confined to a floating platform must cooperate lest their world tips over, complicated by the introduction of a mysterious, heavy chest. The Lauensteins have gone on to work on feature length animation and commercial works including station idents for MTV.

Thursday 25 March 2021


Charting at number one this week in 1989 and holding that top position for both UK and US singles, Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” from her eponymous studio album, a collaboration with Patrick Leonard and Prince, was described as an introspective song, one track on a record of confessionals. Use of religious imagery was controversial at the time and Pope John Paul II urged the faithful to boycott the artist as well as Pepsi who sponsored her concert tour.

Friday 5 March 2021

i feel like singing a plot shanty

Originally lampooned by Mystery Science Theater 3000 on this day in 1989—later reprised in season three, a high-tech crime-fighting unit is called the titular Mighty Jack is formed to fight an evil criminal syndicate called Q, which retaliates by kidnapping one of the R&D professionals called Mister Atari to learn the secrets of their hybrid vehicles that keep foiling Q’s plots for world domination. Not an actual feature film but rather a couple of episodes of a 1968 tokusatsu action television series strung together and unlike Voltron and Ultraman, received the most exposure on MST3K.

Thursday 12 November 2020

set me free

Three days after the Wall unexpectedly opened, an impromptu, eleven-hour long Konzert fรผr Berlin was held for an estimated fifty thousand visitors in a West Berlin concert hall on this day in 1989.  The line-up included Melissa Etheridge, Joe Cocker & Band, Udo Lindenberg, Nina Hagen, BAP, Nena, die Puhdys and many more. Residents were asked to position their radios in their windowsills so the audio would be available to all, with the Governing Mayor of West Berlin acknowledging the historical significance of this first all-German rock concert and opening the show, especially emotionally charged at that pivotal moment. Both mayors jointly opened more crossing points to accommodate the crowds now crossing freely.  Not broadcasting counter-programming but most radio stations and television networks carried a benefit concert from the city’s philharmonic that had been scheduled well in advance, so not much actual footage from the event is available but performers reprised their numbers for a studio album.

Saturday 7 November 2020

business as usual

On this day of convention breaking-firsts for US governance—historic departures that were long overdue but nonetheless whose time had arrived—first with Jeanette Rankin in 1916 becoming the first woman elected to federal public office, representing Montana in the House of Congress, then in 1989 with Douglas Wilder and David Dinkins as the first African Americans elected respectively as a state governor (Virginia) and as mayor of a major city (New York), next in 2000 with Hilary Clinton elected senator representing the state of New York—the first former First Lady to have an independent political career, Kamala Devi Harris is announced as the vice president-elect of the United States, highest office held by a female (and daughter of Jamaican and South Asian immigrants as well), deputy to former vice-president and forty-sixth president Joseph Robinette Biden, Junior, unseating the incumbent, impeached Donald John Trump.

Tuesday 25 August 2020

the stars align

On this day in 2012, the space probe Voyager I became the first manmade object to leave the Solar System and enter interstellar space. Twenty-three years earlier—to the day—its companion Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Neptune—then, because of Pluto’s eccentric, elongated orbit, the outer most planet.
On the same day in 1981, it had its closest brush with Saturn.  All these events coincided with the first demonstration of the telescope in Venice in 1609, pitched as a terrestrial telescope or spyglass, having later realised their potential for use in astronomy, publishing his initial observations in a brief called Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger) on 13 March of 1610, including an account of the Medicean or Cosmica’s Stars that appeared to orbit Jupiter.

Sunday 24 May 2020

core values

Eventually reaching a depth of over twelve kilometres in 1989 when further drilling was suspended due to higher than expected temperatures, Soviet scientists commenced operations on the Kola Superdeep Borehole (ะšะพะปัŒัะบะฐั ัะฒะตั€ั…ะณะปัƒะฑะพะบะฐั ัะบะฒะฐะถะธะฝะฐ) on the far northwestern peninsula on the Barents Sea on this day in 1970. Despite the impressive depth just barely surpassed by petroleum prospectors, the borehole only penetrated a third of the Earth’s crust—the thickness of the continental shelf ranging between thirty and seventy kilometers. Research continued until 1995 when the borewell was sealed and yielded surprising findings through this keyhole spelunking into the underground including the presence of water and fossil plankton some four miles down.