Thursday 2 May 2024

national day of reason (11. 530)

In response to the statutory observance of the National Day of Prayer—codified into law at the urging of conservative evangelical preacher Billy Graham in 1952 during the Korean War with US president Harry S Truman signing a bill proclaiming that each subsequent administration was to declare this annual holiday on the date of his choosing—this secular counter-convocation has been held on the first Thursday since 2003 by humanists and freethinkers to assert freedom from religion after unsuccessfully petitioning the federal government from endorsing the former, supported by public monies and time for Christian-dominated religious ceremonies. The latter having gained in popularity in recent years as a demonstration that nonbelievers can contribute to their communities in positive and life-affirming ways and be good without god, activities include organised food drives, blood donations and giving to other charities.

Wednesday 13 December 2023

operation red dawn (11. 187)

Codenamed after the 1984 World War III invasion scenario of the US by a coalition of the Warsaw Pact and Latin American countries—starring Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze as resistance-fighters—a task force of American soldiers apprehended deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein on this day in 2003, having disappeared and gone into hiding shortly after the US invasion, discovered in his hometown of ad-Dawr near Tikrik, holed up in a foxhole or spider-whole with guns and three-quarters of a million dollars in cash. The site where Hussein was captured, Wolverine 2, is also a reference to the teenaged band of guerrilla fighters of the movie. Put before a special tribunal called by the provisional authority and interim government (which many characterised as a creature of American jurisdiction and a show trial not representative of an independent Iraq) six months later and found guilty of crimes against humanity for genocidal campaigns against the Kurdish and Shiite populations during the war with Iran and subsequently executed at the trial’s conclusion and having exhausted appeals in November of 2006.

Saturday 2 September 2023

team badger (10. 979)

Launched on this day in 2003 on and looping indefinitely ever since, the flash animation meme by Jonti Picking (also known as Mr Weebl) was a benchmark of the on-line cognoscenti before virality could be otherwise gauged and consists of badgers performing calisthenics (with a snake and a mushroom) to a beat inspired by Whigfield’s Saturday Night with the placeholder lyrics making the final cut. Several different versions were produced over the years, including a zombie and an Advent special—as well as a tenth anniversary appeal to stop badger culling referencing Flash Gordon with the help of Brian May and Brian Blessed and a twentieth anniversary retrospective. More to explore from Miss Cellania at the link above.

Sunday 30 July 2023

molson canadian rocks for toronto (10. 916)

The benefit concert—also called SARStock—held on this day in 2003 in order to prove that the city was a safe venue and rehabilitate its reputation and economy following a zoonotic Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak earlier in the year, and attended by an estimated half-a-million ticketed audience members, was the largest show in Canada and one of the largest in North America. Headlined by the Rolling Stones, who announced the concert while the area was still under lockdown from the World Health Organisation, acts included sets from Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi, The Flaming Lips, The Isley Brothers, AC/DC, Rush, The Guess Who and Justin Timberlake.

Sunday 18 June 2023

fortune cookie (10. 818)

Originally launched under the title “Content Targeted Advertising” a few months earlier with the name AdSense used by competing service Applied Semantics, Google’s acquisition rolled out its programme to within network website publishers and content creators on this day in 2003, eventually replacing GoogleAds and DoubleClick. It is the company’s biggest revenue generator and serves advertisements on over thirty-eight million websites in addition to its own search engine.

Sunday 19 March 2023

casus belli (10. 624)

In a late night address from the Oval Office on this day in 2003, US president George W Bush, without mentioning the pretext of “weapons of mass destruction” whose rhetoric had already been established in the weeks leading up to this announcement after issuing a forty-eight hour ultimatum, committed America and allied partners to a decade of bloody and violent conflict, dearly bought with the lives of over a quarter-million Iraqi civilians, over five thousand allied combatants at a cost exceeding two-trillion dollars, causing permanent economic and credibility losses with only the military-industrial complex profiting from the violence. The preoccupation and extension of the “War on Terror” moreover significantly contributed to the loss of the fragile uni-polar world order and led to the ascendance of China as a world power and the undelivered democratic reforms of the Russian Federation due to the years of focus spared for this crusade. After the “shock and awe” and following his cabinet’s over-confidence that this adventure would be decisive and over in “five days or five weeks or five months” as defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush would appear in military fatigues (very much the image of his nemesis, Saddam Hussein) less than a scant two months later on the deck of an aircraft carrier to deliver his “Mission Accomplished” speech. The allied Iraqi army was disbanded, fuelling a counter-insurgency that made the ultimate US withdrawal a protracted one, resulting in civil war and a would-be caliphate unleashing more terror and displacement regionally and globally.

Saturday 4 March 2023

junior senior (10. 586)

Released on this day in 2002 on their debut studio album D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat, the titular Danish duo’s biggest hit was a world success, climbing to number four on the UK singles charts in 2003. The digital-first collaboration by Jesper “Jr” Mortensen and Jeppe “Sr” Laursen gained special prominence with numerous pop culture references including featuring on the soundtrack to the make-over television show ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ and the video game Dance Dance Revolution as well as incidental music for several other contemporary films including the mixed live-action, animated Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The pixelated, low-resolution accompanying video was made using Deluxe Paint.

Wednesday 6 July 2022

cosmic call

The latter of two sets of interstellar radio missives were beamed out to the Cosmos on this day in 2003 from the RT-70 (Radio Telescope with an aerial antenna with a seventy metre diameter and former Soviet Centre for Deep Space Communications) located in Yevpatoria, Crimea. This iteration and the first message sent in 1999 follow the same bitmap structure and include the Dutil-Dumas primer about mathematics, universal constants, chemical elements and physics plus the Arecibo Messages, the Braastad Message (to illustrate concepts of family and procreation, similar to the plaque on Pioneer) and contributions from the staff and public. Transmitted at four hundred bits per second, the message was beamed out over the span of eleven hours and targeted five diverse stars with known exoplanets, with the first arrival date of April 2036 at Gliese 49 ฮฒ, a superearth orbiting a red dwarf star.

Tuesday 24 May 2022

section 28

With echoes of Florida’s current controversial Don’t Say Gay Bill and in effect until 2003 (Scotland dropped the series of laws in 2000 as one of Holyrood’s first items of business as a newly devolved parliament), the government of Margaret Thatcher introduced and enacted legislative measures that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities on this day in 1988, causing many support groups to fold or severely curtail their activities. Named after the amendment to the Local Government Act of 1986, the language stated that municipal authorities shall not “intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality or promote the teaching in any maintained [public] school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

ancient aliens

Opened to the public on this day in 2003 (bankrupt and shuttered three years later and three years after that rehabilitated as a children’s theme park—named Jungfrau after the alpine mountain it is framed by), Mystery Park in Interlaken was designed by Chariots of the Gods? author Erich von Dรคniken and included several pavilions featuring what the pseudoscience proponent described as the great unsolved mysteries that could only be explained by the theories he espoused on paleo-contact and ancient astronauts, including the Mayan calendar, the pyramids of Egypt and monoliths like Stonehenge explaining how the achievements of the primitive past must be linked to extraterrestrial encounters, his showmanship being chiefly responsible for the popularity of this rather narrow and dim view of a world just beyond record.

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.

Sunday 14 November 2021

inner oort cloud

Co-discovered on this day in 2003 by astronomical teams in Caltech, Yale and the Gemini Observatory, the planetoid, trans-Neptunian object (previously) provisionally nicknamed the Flying Dutchman because of its slow (eleven-thousand plus years) and solitary journey around the Sun that made researchers almost miss it for a fixed star, it was welcomely given the official designation 90377 Sedna in honour of the Inuit sea goddess who dwells at the bottom of the frigid Arctic Ocean, and establishing that future objects found in the same orbital region should be named after polar mythologies.
The astronomical monogram, which matches the ones of ancient astrology quite well, is a combination of the Eastern Canadian Inuktitut characters แ“ดแ“แ“‡, Sanna—the modern version of the name and suggests a leaping seal. Because of the extreme eccentricity of its perihelion—too great to have been caused by the gravitational influence of the known worlds, Sedna’s existence lends credence to either interstellar interlopers or a so called Planet Nine, ten-times the size of Earth but hidden as a cosmic counter-balance.

Sunday 7 March 2021

seven nation army

Released as a single from their album Elephant on this day in 2003, the song from musical duo the White Stripes with its simple yet catchy riff and drumbeat marked a moment of revival for the garage band and has been adopted by numerous sports clubs as a game anthem, chanting favourites, athletes, personalities and even Labour leader Jeremy Corbin. Originally the guitarist Jack White wanted to save his riff in chance the group was ever approached regarding composing a James Bond theme but ultimately decided to include it on their fourth studio record—thinking it unlikely that they’d ever get the chance to do so—although five years later, singly White did write and perform “Another Way to Die” for Quantum of Solace. Though most teams wail the chant with “oh,” as the unofficial theme song of the Italian national football league, the audience refers to it as the “po po po po po” tune.