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January 18 2012


December 20 2011


Suicide Pact Ended Turbulent Life of Writer, Spy, Editor Kleist

December 20, 2011, 9:52 AM EST

By Catherine Hickley
Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- On a mild November day in 1811, the author Heinrich von Kleist shot his terminally ill friend Henriette Vogel by Berlin’s Wannsee lake. A minute later, he turned the gun on himself. She was 31, he was 34.

They had written their farewell letters during a long last night, fueled by wine and coffee laced with rum. The staff at the inn they stayed at told police the pair was high-spirited, even exuberant as they made their way along the shore, ordering more coffee before carrying out their suicide pact.

For the bicentenary of his death, Kleist’s lakeside grave, shared with Vogel, has been renovated with funds from the private Cornelsen Culture Foundation. Paths have been cleared and plaques erected in memory of the duo.

Exhibitions, books and performances honor the hot-headed, subversive author of such classic plays as “The Broken Jug,” “The Prince of Homburg” and “Penthesilea.” He also wrote disaster-packed short stories and novellas, among them “Michael Kohlhaas,” “The Marquise of O” and “Earthquake in Chile.”

Now considered among the greatest German writers, Kleist alienated contemporaries. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who staged “The Broken Jug” for an appalled Weimar audience, said he felt “horror and revulsion at something in his works.”

It took 100 years before Kleist was understood and valued. Thomas Mann called him one of the “greatest, boldest, most ambitious poets in the German language,” radical and eccentric to “the point of madness.”

Cruel World

Kleist pushed himself to extremes, suffering breakdowns, sickness and debt. The universe he portrayed dishes fates out randomly; society is cruel.

“Earthquake in Chile” is the tale of a last-minute escape from death thanks to nature’s intervention. It turns into a tragedy of mistaken identity and gruesome mob lynching -- a child is smashed to death against the pillar of a cathedral.

In “Michael Kohlhaas,” a horse dealer loses everything -- including his wife -- in his fanatical crusade for justice after his horses are illegally confiscated.

Yet Kleist’s work is not without humor, mostly dark. “The Broken Jug” (Der Zerbrochene Krug) is a farcical satire about a corrupt judge forced to hear a case in which he is the unacknowledged criminal. His absurd efforts to avoid exposure become increasingly hilarious and implausible.

Bad Denim

Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater staged all Kleist’s plays for the bicentenary. They remain in the repertoire into next year, including a fast and fun “Broken Jug,” directed by Jan Bosse, showing on Jan. 8 and Jan. 29, 2012. It’s an energetic, contemporary adaptation, complete with bad denim and plenty of tricks at the audience’s expense.

Kleist was born in Frankfurt an der Oder and joined the Prussian army at age 15, extricating himself after what he described as “seven wasted, irretrievable years.” He was keen to study and registered at the Viadrina University in his home town.

Two years later, he quit his studies abruptly in what has become known as his “Kant crisis,” brought on by acute existential doubt about the value of learning if truth cannot be absolute. He traveled instead, breaking off a two-year engagement when his fiancee refused to leave Frankfurt an der Oder to run a farm with him in Switzerland. There, in Thun, he began writing.

More wanderlust and another breakdown followed in 1803. In 1805 Kleist joined the Prussian civil service, quitting before France’s conquest of Prussia in 1806. Fiercely anti-Napoleon, he was imprisoned in France on spying charges in 1807.

After spells running a literary magazine in Dresden and hanging out in Prague, he finally moved to Berlin in 1810, where he started his paper.

Gossip, Crime

The “Berliner Abendblaetter” was a daily, four-page mix of theater criticism, gossip, lurid crime stories, lengthy essays and poetry. Kleist used it to pour vitriol on a theater director who refused to stage one of his plays.

After falling afoul of the Prussian censors, he was forced to close it. A futile search for a new source of income followed. Then came his decision to die.

Vogel, suffering from uterine cancer, was not the first woman Kleist asked to die with him, but she was the first to say yes. In his suicide letter to his long-suffering half-sister Ulrike, who had finally lost patience with his pleas for money, Kleist wrote “the truth is that there was no help left for me on earth.”

A double exhibition addressing Kleist’s life and work runs through Jan. 29 at the Kleist Museum in Frankfurt an der Oder and at the reconstructed rococo Ephraim Palais in Berlin.

For more information: www.heinrich-von-kleist.org/en

--Editors: Mark Beech, Jim Ruane.

To contact the writer on the story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin at chickley@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

SOURCE: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-12-20/suicide-pact-ended-turbulent-life-of-writer-spy-editor-kleist.html

November 29 2011


A 1915 murder-suicide is revisited

((X-posted to [info]or_not_to_be.))

A 1915 murder-suicide is revisited
Volunteers sorting old court records come across a note.

By Tom Stafford, Staff Writer
9:33 PM Sunday, November 27, 2011

Removing old paperclips and straight pins, discarding the wormlike remains of ancient rubber bands, then straightening folded papers for insertion in acid-free folders can be as tedious as a too long sentence.

So when volunteers sorting and filing old probate cases at the Clark County Historical Society come across something unusual — say a hand-written note — they often entertain one another by reading it.

Thus did Amber Lopez come to read aloud the lightly pencilled, mostly legible note in the 1915 probate case of Evelyn and Catharine Anjean Welsheimer. As it turned out, only the lettering was light.

For from the start, the note’s tone seemed straight from the inky nib of Edgar Allan Poe.
“It seems that I am a misery to my wife and that she no longer is satisfied with me,” it began, “for she said she no longer loved me, and I can’t help but fuss with Hattie for I am called at the shop about her not doing right. I am told to watch her.”

Worried watchman

The shop Seth K. Welsheimer walked about was the International Harvester works on Lagonda Avenue. He was a night watchman there, a watchman who in fall of 1915 had little but time and worry on his mind.

“While I believe that she is perfectly innocent (of infidelity),” he continued, “the thought of walking around here studying, being told such stuff makes me nervous, weak and broken-hearted.”

And trapped.

“I love Hattie,” he wrote. “(But) I don’t care to live with her after what I have been told. (And) I can’t see her leave with someone else.”

This far into the reciting, the impending danger had become apparent to Lopez and the other volunteers seated nearby.

“Everybody just stopped dead,” Marguerite Brinkman said. “It was a suicide note.”
And more.

“I am driven mad at such thoughts,” the note continued, “so I am going to purchase a gun and kill her and myself.”

Although, by his own suggestion in a “mad” state, Welsheimer seems to have been clear-minded enough address his estate.

“Call Jesse Walsheimer at Urbana. See if he won’t take Evelyn,” the note said. “Tell Eva in Wichita, Kan., to take Anjean.”

Having dispatched with the living, he turned to burial arrangements for the soon-to-be dead.

“Bury us beside Kenneth (the couple’s deceased son) — or me, any way — and know (that) Hattie wanted to be.”

“I have $1,000 Woodman Insurance for the kids and $800 at the shop,” he wrote, finishing up with practical matters.

“Oh, it is a long lonesome night, walking around here ... studying about this. (If) only (I) could control my mind.”

If only.

Heritage Center volunteers occasionally have felt uneasy about poring over the intimate details of people’s lives in probate cases. But in this case, the cat has been out of the bag for 96 years.

Curatorial Assistant Natalie Fritz found front page newspaper coverage of the murder suicide that filled out the story.

The Sun, Springfield’s morning paper, said that “15 minutes before the shooting, Welsheimer was seen standing in the door at Charles. R. Rummel’s pool room and cigar store.”

“Earlier in the afternoon,” the Springfield Daily News said, “Mrs. Welsheimer had left her 3-year-old daughter, Anjean, with a neighbor before going downtown.

The couple had stopped at the home a few minutes before the shooting and were asked if they wanted to take the child with them.

“Let her sleep. I will come after in a little while,” Mr. Welsheimer is reported to have said.
“Welsheimer and his wife were (then) seen crossing the street to their home (at 624 Linden Ave.). Several persons ... said Tuesday that they judged from the attitude of the couple that some trouble was occurring, but they thought nothing of it.”

Blood on the street

Initial reports said Welsheimer shot his wife twice with steel jacketed bullets from a .32-caliber revolver, leaving an apparent defensive wound in her right wrist, then the fatal shot in her right breast.

Coroner Howard Austin later reported a second chest wound.

Mr. Welsheimer then administered a single gunshot to his own forehead.
Neither died instantly.

Motorcycle Officer Robert Marmion, a neighbor, was first on the scene and “found the woman lying in the street in front of her home still breathing,” The Sun said. “She was carried into the front room of the house, in which Welsheimer lay on the floor with a ghastly bullet wound in the forehead, but still alive.”

There both expired there, he at 33, she at 29.

The Sun gave its readers one thing to be thankful for in the report: “F.H. Rolfes, who has a grocery store at Linden Avenue and Clifton Street, heard the shots and notified the police. He then ran out and stopped Evelyn, the 10-year-old daughter, as she was coming from school, and took her to her grandmother’s home.”

At least the girl did not see her parents’ slaughter.

The next day’s paper brought what turned out to be good news and bad news.

Following the announcement that the double-funeral of that evening would private and the couple taken to Greenfield, Ohio, for burial beside their son came this news: “The two little daughters will undoubtedly be well cared for, as relatives were in the city yesterday and two or three asked for the care of the children.”

Another note

The care of surviving young children can be a contentious matter in the best of circumstances. Welsheimer’s killing of his wife likely caused nearly unendurable tensions between the two sides of the family.

Whether there were any other gross instances of misbehavior between them isn’t clear. The one that survives in the court file seems sufficient.

It is a letter sent to the elder girl, Evelyn, from an uncle in Chicago, presumably on the maternal side of the family.

Telling her he is “very sorry to hear you did not think you could come and live with me,” he asks the 10-year-old to raise the issue with the judge.

The letter mentions the lovely times she, her sister and their uncle and aunt could have going to the movies, getting the nice clothes and shoes and visiting Lake Michigan and the Lincoln Park Zoo.

It conveys promises of the nice presents at Christmas and registers a complaint about the relatives who were caring for the girls.

“I don’t see why the deuce the Welsheimers want you,” he adds. “They can’t take of you and clothe you and give you the education you need. So come home with Aunt Lulu, you and Anjean, and I will be your best friend.”

Laying down
 the law

The court was not amused.

Awarding permanent custody to Jesse E. Welsheimer of Urbana, the judge made it clear that relatives from both sides of the family would have reasonable access to the children.

The judge also made it clear there was an expectation of civil behavior from all.

“Neither side of the family, maternal or paternal, (is) to do anything to said children that will tend — in any manner whatever —to prejudice either of said children against any of their relatives or families.”

The children, the judge ruled, had been through enough.

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0368.

SOURCE: http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/a-1915-murder-suicide-is-revisited-1290585.html

October 21 2011


Today Is the 44th anniversary of the the exorcism of The Pentagon

Next Friday, October 21, will be the 44th anniversary of the march on
Washington, D.C. when 70,000 peaceful and very enthusiastic
demonstrators gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the D.C. Mall
to protest the war in Vietnam. Later that day, 50,000 marched across
Memorial Bridge to the Pentagon. Among the demonstrators were Abbie
Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg and The Fugs. In addition to protesting the war,
the poets, pranksters and musicians had come to the Pentagon to
levitate it. Fug member, wordslinger and alchemist Ed Sanders had
prepared a magical incantation that would exorcise (exorgasm) the
Pentagon and then lift it high into the air.

In the name of the amulets of touching, seeing, groping,
hearing and loving, we call upon the powers of the cosmos to protect our
ceremonies in the name of Zeus, in the name of Anubis, god of the dead,
in the name of all those killed because they do not comprehend, in the
name of the lives of the soldiers in Vietnam who were killed because of a
bad karma, in the name of sea-born Aphrodite, in the name of Magna
Mater, in the name of Dionysus, Zagreus, Jesus, Yahweh, the unnamable,
the quintessent finality of the Zoroastrian fire, in the name of Hermes,
in the name of the Beak of Sok, in the name of scarab, in the name, in
the name, in the name of the Tyrone Power Pound Cake Society in the Sky,
in the name of Rah, Osiris, Horus, Nepta, Isis, in the name of the
flowing living universe, in the name of the mouth of the river, we call
upon the spirit to raise the Pentagon from its destiny and preserve it.

Norman Mailer who attended the march summarized the exorcism ritual thusly:

Now, here, after several years of the blandest reports from the
religious explorers of LSD, vague Tibetan lama goody-goodness auras of
religiosity being the only publicly announced or even rumored fruit from
all trips back from the buried Atlantis of LSD, now suddenly an entire
generation of acid-heads seemed to have said goodbye to easy visions of
heaven, no, now the witches were here, and rites of exorcism, and black
terrors of the night – hippies being murdered. Yes, the hippies had gone
from Tibet to Christ to the Middle Ages, now they were Revolutionary

The Pentagon did not levitate, though some of us who were there may have
seen it shudder a bit. As to whether the exorcism worked or not, I
think it may have for the 50,000 ecstatic people in attendance - the
vibes around the Pentagon would never ever be as sublime as on that

In this rarely seen footage, Edward Folger shot some 16mm film during
the march and created what he describes as an “impressionistic
immersion in the experience of the march.”

Source: http://www.dangerousminds.net/comments/44th_anniversary_of_the_the_exorcism_of_the_pentagon/

October 19 2011


Yale library acquires long-lost Eugene O’Neill play by that details his suicide attempt

By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, October 19, 1:22 PM

HARTFORD, Conn. — A recently discovered manuscript by Eugene O’Neill that’s based on a suicide attempt by the playwright has been acquired by a library at Yale University.

All copies of the one-act play, “Exorcism,” were assumed to be lost until a researcher sifting through another writer’s papers discovered the manuscript earlier this year.

O’Neill, who died in 1953, is the only American playwright to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.

The Beinecke (BYE’-nik-ee) Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale purchased the script for an undisclosed amount. Curator Louise Bernard says the play set in 1912 intimates the overwhelming role that suicide would take in O’Neill’s personal life.

The play appears in the Oct. 17 issue of The New Yorker magazine and will be published next year by the Yale University Press.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

SOURCE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/yale-library-acquires-long-lost-eugene-oneill-play-by-that-details-his-suicide-attempt/2011/10/19/gIQADM8uxL_story.html

Van Gogh

So.... do you think he committed suicide or was murdered?

Shot by bullies? Biographers question Van Gogh 'suicide'

By Robert MacPherson (AFP) – 21 minutes ago

WASHINGTON — The authors of a new life of Vincent Van Gogh knew they'd stir controversy by disputing the widely-held belief that the artist killed himself with a pistol while painting in an French wheat field.

In "Van Gogh: The Life," a 976-page doorstopper published this week, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith say it's more likely that the celebrated Dutch post-Impressionist painter was the victim of an accidental shooting.

The suspected perpetrators: a couple of teenage bullies obsessed with American cowboys and playing with a gun, and protected on his deathbed by Van Gogh claiming an act of suicide.

"I must say, we feel we are in the middle of a whirlwind that we didn't quite anticipate," Naifeh told AFP by telephone from Aiken, South Carolina where he and Smith live and work.

"We anticipated this would generate, not quite this level of furor -- but certainly some level of furor."

One of most recognized artists of all time, Van Gogh suffered prolonged bouts of mental illness and depression. He famously sliced off part of his ear, and only sold one painting before his death in July 1890 at the age of 37.

"To us he's part of our visual DNA," said Naifeh, but in his time Van Gogh's fluid, vibrant style "looked garish and almost absurdly intensely colored" -- and it was inevitable that the artist was a troubled loner.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which collaborated with the authors, calls the shooting theory "interesting" and "spectacular," but adds it is too soon to jettison the long-held suicide version of events.

"The two authors have not found new facts; they have just interpreted them differently," said its curator Leo Jansen, a friend of the biographers who has endorsed "Van Gogh" as "the definitive biography for decades to come."

The idea of death by suicide was planted in popular imagination by the 1956 movie "Lust for Life," based on an Irving Stone novel, with Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh melodramatically shooting himself at his easel.

Wounded in the abdomen and bleeding profusely, Van Gogh supposedly dragged himself about one mile (two kilometers) back to the inn in Auvers-sur-Oise where he was staying, dying in his attic room.

"The sadness will last forever" were reputedly his last words.

But with the tenacity of homicide detectives, Naifeh and Smith uncovered nuggets of evidence that point -- inconclusively, they acknowledge -- in the direction of manslaughter.

Exhibit one: rumors heard by late art historian John Rewald in the 1930s from townspeople in Auvers old enough to remember that Van Gogh had been accidentally shot by young boys.

Exhibit two: an "incredibly self-incriminating interview" given in 1956 by a respectable Parisian banker, Rene Secretan, who recalled in detail how he and his brother Gaston delighted in tormenting Van Gogh as teenagers in Auvers.

"They were bullying him unbelievably," Naifeh told AFP.

"They put a snake in his paint box. They put salt in his coffee and red pepper on his brushes," which he habitually chewed while painting, and made out with girls by the river just to make him feel more miserable.

But as the target of bullying for much of his life, the authors say the red-headed Van Gogh -- who suffered from frontal lobe epilepsy -- was happy to put up with it as the price for having some companionship.

Exhibit three: a Van Gogh drawing of a boy in a cowboy hat. The authors suspect the lad is Rene Secretan, who in 1890 attended the Paris world fair where Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show from America was a big hit.

Duly infatuated with cowboys and guns, the young Secretans -- in adulthood Gaston became a cabaret and film star -- borrowed a pistol from innkeeper Arthur Ravoux to shoot birds and small animals.

Secretan said nothing, however, about shooting Van Gogh.

"It's what the legal profession calls an equivocal death -- a death where you really don't have enough facts to be certain," Naifeh said. "The most we would assume is accidental homicide."

Frustratingly, no police report seems to exist, even though two gendarmes questioned the wounded artist. "Believe me, we tried desperately to find a police report," Naifeh said. "Either none was filed or it was destroyed."

But Adeline Ravoux, the innkeeper's daughter who appears in one of his portraits, recounted in 1957 what Van Gogh told the police -- and the biographers say his words betray an attempt to protect the shooters.

"'Is it you who wanted to commit suicide?'," one police officer asked, according to Ravoux. "'Yes, I believe so'," the artist replied, before adding: "Do not accuse anyone. It is I who wanted to kill myself."

"We would argue he was lying," Naifeh said. "He was certainly capable of it. He lied frequently in his letters, always for a purpose -- and in this case we would argue for an incredibly generous purpose."

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iQUc_3r3mOOF4B4Y1S9fRtac8KPw?docId=CNG.339e36e1d75721f93c1ca8cb6b037173.231

October 16 2011


So-called sexy spy meets a distinctly unsexy end

Yesterday on October 15, 1917, "Mata Hari", the originator of the seductive female spy archetype, is executed for espionage by a French firing squad at Vincennes outside of Paris.

She first came to Paris in 1905 and found fame as a performer of exotic Asian-inspired dances. She soon began touring all over Europe, telling the story of how she was born in a sacred Indian temple and taught ancient dances by a priestess who gave her the name Mata Hari, meaning "eye of the day" in Malay. In reality, Mata Hari was born in a small town in northern Holland in 1876, and her real name was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. She acquired her superficial knowledge of Indian and Javanese dances when she lived for several years in Malaysia with her former husband, who was a Scot in the Dutch colonial army. Regardless of her authenticity, she packed dance halls and opera houses from Russia to France, mostly because her show consisted of her slowly stripping nude.

She became a famous courtesan, and with the outbreak of World War I her catalog of lovers began to include high-ranking military officers of various nationalities. In February 1917, French authorities arrested her for espionage and imprisoned her at St. Lazare Prison in Paris. In a military trial conducted in July, she was accused of revealing details of the Allies' new weapon, the tank, resulting in the deaths of thousands of soldiers. She was convicted and sentenced to death, and on October 15 she refused a blindfold and was shot to death by a firing squad at Vincennes.

There is some evidence that Mata Hari acted as a German spy, and for a time as a double agent for the French, but the Germans had written her off as an ineffective agent whose pillow talk had produced little intelligence of value. Her military trial was riddled with bias and circumstantial evidence, and it is probable that French authorities trumped her up as "the greatest woman spy of the century" as a distraction for the huge losses the French army was suffering on the western front. Her only real crimes may have been an elaborate stage fallacy and a weakness for men in uniform.

Source: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mata-hari-executed

October 15 2011


New Biography Says van Gogh Did Not Kill Himself


A new biography of Vincent van Gogh and a “60 Minutes” report on it scheduled for Sunday night call into question the long-accepted notion — central to the myth of the troubled artist — that he committed suicide.

In the book, “Van Gogh: The Life,” due out next week, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith present evidence that raises doubts about the source of the gunshot wound van Gogh sustained in or near the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, France, in July 1890.

“No physical evidence of the shooting was ever produced,” they write. “No gun was ever found.” Van Gogh, who “knew nothing about guns,” left no suicide note, and the bullet entered his upper abdomen “from an unusual, oblique angle — not straight on as one would expect in a suicide.” The authors hypothesize that he was shot by a friend’s teenage brother, who carried a gun and “had a history of teasing Vincent in a way intended to provoke him to anger.” (The artist, for his part, “had a history of violent outbursts.”)

As for why van Gogh did not accuse the boy before he died, but instead offered “hesitant, halfhearted, and oddly hedged” confessions of a suicide attempt, the authors speculate that he welcomed his own death and saw no reason to punish anyone for bringing it about.

SOURCE: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/14/new-biography-argues-van-gogh-did-not-kill-himself/

October 13 2011


At St. Patrick’s, a Cornerstone That Has Long Eluded Searchers

Published: October 12, 2011

Much is known about the cornerstone of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. As the Archdiocese of New York embarks on a five-year, $175 million renovation of what has been described as the nation’s largest Roman Catholic Gothic sanctuary, architects and historians have meticulously reviewed every detail of James Renwick Jr.’s original blueprints.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
St. Patrick's Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan.

They have learned that the cornerstone was hand-cut by Cormack McCall, a 22-year-old Irish immigrant. It was laid on Sunday, Aug. 15, 1858, the Feast of the Assumption, by John Hughes, New York’s first archbishop. Two hundred priests and 100 choirboys marched in the formal procession. The throng of onlookers was so thick — 100,000 strong, by one estimate — that all the city’s streetcars were diverted north to accommodate the crowd. Downtown Manhattan was described as “depleted.”

The stone was left open for offerings from the public. It was sealed exactly two years later, on Aug. 15, 1860.

Much has been learned about the cornerstone, except for two salient details: Where it is and when it went missing.

“It’s the great mystery of the cathedral,” said Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie, St. Patrick’s rector.

The cathedral was conceived by Archbishop Hughes, who presciently anticipated the development of Midtown Manhattan, as more than merely a replacement for the old St. Patrick’s downtown on Mott Street. In “The History of the Archdiocese of New York,” Msgr. Thomas J. Shelley wrote that the new cathedral was “meant to be a statement in stone of the Catholic presence in a city that was then the capital of Protestant America.”

Many cornerstones are prominently marked with the date construction began. Some identify the builder or architect. Most are in plain sight, appropriately enough, at a corner of the building. Not so at St. Patrick’s.

“I have no idea where it is,” Msgr. Ritchie said.

Actually, there is a vague idea.

“We know it was at 50th Street and Fifth Avenue, but exactly where nobody knows,” said Thomas G. Young, the author of several books about the cathedral.

“It was in none of the plans we found,” he said. “I once found a photograph when the building was 8 or 12 feet high and there was a block missing. I often wondered if that was an opening that led to the cornerstone below it, but it was probably too high.”

Scaffolding has already been erected around the cathedral, though whether the cornerstone will be rediscovered during the renovations is uncertain. “We’re still in the early stages of planning the restoration, and it’s very early to determine exactly how the time frame and other particulars will look,” said Kate Monaghan, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

The cornerstone-laying ceremony on a glorious August day in 1858 was an affirmation of the city’s evolving demography. “No religious pageant of equal pomp could have been experienced on this continent before,” Mr. Young wrote, “and the effect on the people was stunning.”

A wooden canopy covered the spot where the cornerstone was to be laid. Archbishop Hughes spoke from a flag-bedecked platform nearby. Those among the largely Irish-immigrant crowd who were close enough to hear his lengthy remarks were delighted to learn that the new cathedral would be named for St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland.

After ritually blessing the cornerstone, Archbishop Hughes placed it in the foundation. It contained a parchment litany in Latin of ecclesiastical and government officialdom and a celebratory news report on the recent laying of the first Atlantic cable, heralding instantaneous communication with the continent from which so many of New York’s immigrant Catholics hailed.

The cavity in the cornerstone was left unsealed temporarily to accommodate offerings from ordinary citizens, but it is unclear whether they constituted financial contributions or sentimental relics.

The cathedral’s foundation was built with Maine granite. The marble walls were quarried in Westchester County. While the original plans called for steps at Fifth Avenue (there are seven now at the East 50th Street corner), it is also unclear whether any alteration of the street elevation after 1858 might have obscured the cornerstone. The cathedral was finally consecrated in 1879.

According to one account, the cornerstone was not marked and the walls were built above it, perhaps suggesting it is below grade. Other versions of that theory abound.

One theory is that the cornerstone might have been dislodged or moved later during construction of the Lady Chapel at the cathedral’s eastern exposure. A detailed historical guide published in 1931 suggests the craggy foundation cornerstone was “not the kind of granite that yields easily, if at all, to the sculptor’s chisel.” There must have been some temporary reason for omitting the inscription, since it is claimed the surface could be smoothed.

“Either at that time, or afterward,” the guidebook’s author continued, “an almost invisible square was clipped off the lower east end of the stone above and that one is sometimes taken for the foundation stone. Wonders me: who made this cut, and why?”

The day after the 1858 ceremony, The New York Times reported that “the archbishop sprinkled the stone with holy water, and with a knife marked on each side of it the sign of the cross.”

In 1860, Archbishop Hughes announced that construction would be delayed because donations had been depleted, and the delays continued because of the Civil War.

He wrote that the names of 73 donors in addition to 103 original donors would be deposited in the cornerstone “and the wall built over it to the average height of the other portions of the structure,” which was then about 10 feet.

Then he added mysteriously: “Of course, on the list of subscribers that is to remain outside of the cornerstone, the names only of those who shall have paid can be inscribed.”

As for the other donors’ names, Archbishop Hughes said, “though unseen by men, they will ever be under the eyes and inspection of God, and may turn up for honor and mercy on the Day of Judgment.”

For whatever motivation, he envisioned that unlike traditional time capsules, this one would never be discovered. For 151 years, he has been correct.

“The noble impulse that actuated the primary patrons of the new cathedral,” he wrote, “are entitled to the respect of being incorporated and recorded in the cornerstone, which, in all probability, will never be disturbed by human agency.”

SOURCE: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/nyregion/nobody-can-find-cornerstone-of-st-patricks-cathedral.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&nl=nyregion&adxnnl=1&emc=ura1&adxnnlx=1318518728-6YOxq2y0CY6oY8nMuM4Png

September 24 2011


Books I have read 2011

1. Queens Consort: England's Medieval Queens from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Elizabeth of York By Lisa Hilton.
2. Royal Bastards: Illegitimate Children of the British Royal Family by Roger Powell and Peter Beauclerk-Dewar.
3. When We Were Orphans: A Novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.
4. The White Tiger: A Novel by Aravind Adiga (I highly recommend it!)
5. American Gods: A Novel by Neil Gaiman
6. Slow Learner: Early Stories by Thomas Pynchon
7. Saints Preserve Us!: Everything You Need to Know About Every Saint You'll Ever Need by Sean Kelly and Rosemary Rogers
8. The Big Book of Women Saints by Sarah Gallick
9. The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell (I really enjoyed it)
10. Here Kitty Kitty: A Novel by Jardine Libaire
11. The End of Empire: Attila the Hun & the Fall of Rome by Christopher Kelly (An enjoyable, enlightening and quick read)
12. Lost to Time: Unforgettable Stories That History Forgot by Martin W. Sandler
13. The Good, the Bad, and the Undead (The Hollows, Book 2) by Kim Harrison (This book was fun, though I pretty much hated every single part the main character's boyfriend, Nick, was in. I think I read one sentence of their sex scene. Gag. Do not want. I don't know why I find him so irritating and icky. I'll be reading the third book. Definitely fun bath reading stuff.)
14. The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power by Sean McMeekin. This was a really great book. Even though I don't know all that much about WWI, this book wasn't too confusing or academic. It was really fascinating and makes me want to read more about WWI, specifically the Eastern front.
15. George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter
16. Every Which Way But Dead (The Hollows, Book 3) by Kim Harrison
17. The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia by James Palmer. This book was great. I learned a LOT from it. I highly recommend it.
18.The Crimean War: A History by Orlando Figes. I highly recommend this book to those who don't know much about the Crimean War. It definitely opened my eyes and makes me want to read more about that tragic war. I posted some excerpts from the book in my community [info]rememberthepast. Check it out if you're interested.


Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: the History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians
by Richard Sugg.


'Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires charts in vivid detail the largely neglected and often disturbing history of European corpse medicine: when kings, ladies, gentlemen, priests and scientists used and consumed human body parts to treat a broad variety of common ailments of the time.

Conventional accounts of the Stuart kings of England omit the fact that James I refused corpse medicine, Charles II made his own corpse medicine and Charles I was himself made into corpse medicine.....'

Five Best: Religious Cults In Antiquity

The Greeks and the Irrational

By E.R. Dodds (1951)

For me, this was a life-changing book. It starts with an encounter in the British Museum in front of the sculptures from the Parthenon. E.R. Dodds bumps into a young man who is unimpressed—he can't bear the ancient Greeks, he explains, because they were all so "terribly rational." Dodds wonders: "Were they really?" And to counter the young man's complaint, he sets out to explore the wild side of Greek culture and religion: shamans, prophets and the decidedly irrational cult of Dionysus. First published 60 decades ago, "The Greeks and the Irrational" is still one of the best accounts there is of ancient Greek religion—and it has convinced generations of readers, like me, that the Greeks were not simply a bunch of calm, staid and possibly slightly dull intellectuals.
A World Full of Gods

By Keith Hopkins (1999)

The religious world of the Roman Empire, with its melting pot of cults, from Cybele (an import from the East that came complete with a retinue of self-castrated priests) to Christianity, is very distant. What did it feel like to offer sacrifice, to watch the wild dances or to join in religious ecstasy? After a lifetime of work on the politics and economy of the Roman world, Keith Hopkins in "A World Full of Gods" shares his puzzlement at the sheer strangeness of ancient religions. The book is written in an intentionally subversive style, with the first chapter following a pair of modern time-travelers to ancient Pompeii as they try (not very successfully) to make some sense of the religious world they find there. The next chapter features a group of filmmakers trying to recapture religious debates between pagans, Jews and early Christians. The whole book is interspersed with spoof letters from imaginary colleagues objecting to Hopkins's approach. Not a book for those who like their history "straight"; but a brilliant postmodern experiment.

Enlarge Image

A second-century Roman portrait of the Greek god Dionysus.
The Gnostic Gospels

By Elaine Pagels (1979)

The early-Christian "Jesus cult" was very different from the organized Christianity of our own age, as Elaine Pagels showed in this classic study of the so-called "heretical" traditions of Christianity in the first few centuries after Jesus' death—that is to say, all those diverse traditions that the church establishment later took care to brand as wrong. Some of the most vivid evidence for these alternative Christianities comes from the Nag Hammadi library, an extraordinary cache of religious texts written in Coptic in the third or fourth centuries and unearthed near Luxor, Egypt, in 1945. Placed center-stage in Pagels's account, they offer an unsettling version of Christianity—one in which Jesus is the lover of Mary Magdalene and ideas such as the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are treated as naïve fantasies.
The Cheese and the Worms

By Carlo Ginzburg (1976)

How can we conjure the rich and varied thinking in ancient religions when so little of the views of the ordinary believer—as distinct from the philosophers and poets—has survived? Modern scholars have turned for inspiration to the writing of later periods, where the evidence is much richer. One particularly influential (and engaging) account is Carlo Ginzburg's "The Cheese and the Worms," which draws on an extraordinary 16th-century deposit of Inquisition papers to reveal the thought world of an eccentric miller from the Italian town of Friuli. This man had imagined a whole story of the origin of the world as if it were made in a process of putrefaction, like cheese from rotting milk; he was burned at the stake for his ideas. How many imaginative, iconoclastic millers were there in the ancient world . . . now entirely lost to us?
Alexander the False Prophet

By Lucian (second century)

Greeks and Romans could laugh as much as we do at the excesses and lies of religious tricksters. One of the funniest ancient satires is by Lucian of Samosata, a second-century essayist who in one clever piece of writing sends up a Greek mystic known as Alexander of Abonoteichus. "I feel ashamed for both of us, you and me," Lucian writes. "You for wanting an utter scoundrel to be commemorated in memory and writing, and me for exerting myself to record the activities of a man who doesn't deserve to have cultivated people read about him, but to have some huge and crowded amphitheater watch him being torn apart by apes and foxes." As Lucian goes on to relate, the fraudster set himself up in Asia Minor as an oracle—issuing auguries through a hand puppet—and apparently took in everyone from the emperor on down. You can find a translation of "Alexander the False Prophet" in the Loeb Classical Library's edition of the complete works of Lucian or in C.D.N. Costa's "Lucian: Selected Dialogues." It's as funny a skewering of religious gullibility as you could hope for.
—Ms. Beard is a classics professor at the University of Cambridge and author of "The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found" (Harvard).

SOURCE: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904106704576580971074369248.html

September 19 2011


More from 'The Crimean War' by Orlando Figes: 'Trench Madness'

“Trench fatigue was the big enemy of the summer months. By the tenth month of the siege soldiers had become such nervous wrecks from living under bombardment, so exhausted from the lack of sleep, that many of them could no longer cope. In their memoirs, many soldiers wrote of ‘trench madness’ – a mixed bag of mental illnesses, as far as one can tell, from claustrophobia to what later would be known as ‘shell shock’ or ‘combat stress’. Louis Noir, for instance, recalled many cases when ‘entire companies’ of battle-hardened Zouaves would ‘suddenly get up in the middle of the night, seize their guns, and call to others hysterically for help to fight imaginary enemies. These incidents of nervous over-excitation became a contagion affecting many men; remarkably, it affected first of all those who were the strongest physically and morally.’ Jean Cler, a colonel in the Zouaves, also recalled seasoned fighters who ‘suddenly went mad’ and shot themselves. Suicides were noted by many memoirists. One wrote of a Zouave, ‘a veteran of our African wars’, who appeared all right until, one day, sitting by his tent and drinking coffee with his comrades, he said that he had had enough; taking up his gun, he walked away and put a bullet through his head.” The Crimean War: A History by Orlando Figes, Pgs. 374 - 375.

September 12 2011


This Day in History: 9/12

1940: Lascaux Cave paintings discovered
1953: Khrushchev elected Soviet leader
1974: Violence in Boston over racial busing
1977: Steve Biko dies in custody
1990: German occupation rights are relinquished
1997: Scots say 'yes' to home rule
2001: US declares war on terror

If you'd like me to add anything, please let me know! Thank you.


Near Montignac, France, a collection of prehistoric cave paintings are discovered by four teenagers who stumbled upon the ancient artwork after following their dog down a narrow entrance into a cavern. The 15,000- to 17,000-year-old paintings, consisting mostly of animal representations, are among the finest examples of art from the Upper Paleolithic period.

First studied by the French archaeologist Henri-Édouard-Prosper Breuil, the Lascaux grotto consists of a main cavern 66 feet wide and 16 feet high. The walls of the cavern are decorated with some 600 painted and drawn animals and symbols and nearly 1,500 engravings. The pictures depict in excellent detail numerous types of animals, including horses, red deer, stags, bovines, felines, and what appear to be mythical creatures. There is only one human figure depicted in the cave: a bird-headed man with an erect phallus. Archaeologists believe that the cave was used over a long period of time as a center for hunting and religious rites.

The Lascaux grotto was opened to the public in 1948 but was closed in 1963 because artificial lights had faded the vivid colors of the paintings and caused algae to grow over some of them. A replica of the Lascaux cave was opened nearby in 1983 and receives tens of thousands of visitors annually.

SOURCE: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/lascaux-cave-paintings-discovered


Six months after the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev succeeds him with his election as first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Born into a Ukrainian peasant family in 1894, Khrushchev worked as a mine mechanic before joining the Soviet Communist Party in 1918. In 1929, he went to Moscow and steadily rose in the party ranks and in 1938 was made first secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party. He became a close associate of Joseph Stalin, the authoritative leader of the Soviet Union since 1924. In 1953, Stalin died, and Khrushchev grappled with Stalin's chosen successor, Georgy Malenkov, for the position of first secretary of the Communist Party. Khrushchev won the power struggle, and Malenkov was made premier, a more ceremonial post. In 1955, Malenkov was replaced by Bulganin, Khrushchev's hand-picked nominee.

In 1956, Khrushchev denounced Stalin and his totalitarian policies at the 20th Party Congress, leading to a "thaw" in the USSR that saw the release of millions of political prisoners. Almost immediately, the new atmosphere of freedom led to anti-Soviet uprisings in Poland and Hungary. Khrushchev flew to Poland and negotiated a diplomatic solution, but the Hungarian rebellion was crushed by Warsaw Pact troops and tanks.

Khrushchev's policies were opposed by some hard-liners in the Communist Party, and in June 1957 he was nearly ousted from his position as first secretary. After a brief struggle, he secured the removal of top party members who opposed him, and in 1958 Khrushchev prepared to take on the post of premier. On March 27, 1958, the Supreme Soviet--the Soviet legislature--voted unanimously to make First Secretary Khrushchev also Soviet premier, thus formally recognizing him as the undisputed leader of the USSR.

In foreign affairs, Premier Khrushchev's stated policy was one of "peaceful coexistence" with the West. He said, "We offer the capitalist countries peaceful competition" and gave the Soviet Union an early lead in the space race by launching the first Soviet satellites and cosmonauts. A visit to the United States by Khrushchev in 1959 was hailed as a new high in U.S.-Soviet relations, but superpower relations would hit dangerous new lows in the early 1960s.

In 1960, Khrushchev walked out of a long-awaited four-powers summit in protest of U.S. spy plane activity over Russia, and in 1961 he authorized construction of the Berlin Wall as a drastic solution to the East German question. Then, in October 1962, the United States and the USSR came close to nuclear war over the USSR's placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba. After 13 tense days, the Cuban Missile Crisis came to an end when Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the offensive weapons in exchange for a secret U.S. pledge not to invade Cuba.

The humiliating resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an agricultural crisis at home, and the deterioration of Soviet-Chinese relations due to Khrushchev's moderate policies all led to growing opposition to Khrushchev in the party ranks. On October 14, 1964, Leonid Brezhnev, Khrushchev's protégé and deputy, organized a successful coup against him, and Khrushchev abruptly stepped down as first secretary and premier. He retired to obscurity outside Moscow and lived there until his death in 1971.

SOURCE: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/khrushchev-elected-soviet-leader


n Boston, Massachusetts, opposition to court-ordered school "busing" turns violent on the opening day of classes. School buses carrying African American children were pelted with eggs, bricks, and bottles, and police in combat gear fought to control angry white protesters besieging the schools.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Garrity ordered the busing of African American students to predominantly white schools and white students to black schools in an effort to integrate Boston's geographically segregated public schools. In his June 1974 ruling in Morgan v. Hennigan, Garrity stated that Boston's de facto school segregation discriminated against black children. The beginning of forced busing on September 12 was met with massive protests, particularly in South Boston, the city's main Irish-Catholic neighborhood. Protests continued unabated for months, and many parents, white and black, kept their children at home. In October, the National Guard was mobilized to enforce the federal desegregation order.

SOURCE: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/violence-in-boston-over-racial-busing


The leader of the black consciousness movement in South Africa, Steve Biko, has died in police custody.

The 30-year-old's death was confirmed by the commissioner of police, General Gert Prinsloo, today.

It is understood Mr Biko died in hospital in Pretoria. The government minister of Justice and Police, James Kruger, stated that Mr Biko had been transferred 740 miles (1,191 km) from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria for medical attention following a seven-day hunger strike.

Mr Biko had been in custody since 18 August when he was arrested and detained under the Terrorism Act. He is the 20th person to die in custody during the past 18 months.

Medical student

Steve Biko was born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in 1946.

He became active in the anti-apartheid movement in 1960s when he was studying medicine at the University of Natal.

He initially joined the National Union of South African Students' (NUSAS) but resigned in 1969 because he felt it did not represent the needs of black students.

He set up the South African Students' Organisation (SASO) in 1968 and was elected its first president the following year.

In 1972 Biko was expelled from medical school and began working full-time for the Black Community Programmes (BCP). He also started writing regularly for the SASO newsletter under the pen-name of Frank Talk.

By 1973 his work had come to the attention of the government who, in an attempt to curtail his activities, imposed a banning order on him restricting him to his home town.

But he continued his work with the BCP which succeeded in building a clinic and a crèche in King William's Town.

He was also instrumental in setting up several community groups including the Zimele Trust Fund in 1975, which helped political prisoners and their families, and the Ginsberg Educational Trust, to assist black students.

In January of this year he was made honorary president of the BCP.

An inquest into his death is not to be held for several months, according to the authorities.

Mr Biko leaves a wife and two children.

SOURCE: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/12/newsid_3573000/3573054.stm


Representatives from the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union sign an agreement giving up all occupation rights in Germany. The largely symbolic action cleared the way for East and West Germany to reunite.

In 1945, the Allied Powers--America, England, France, and the Soviet Union--agreed that defeated Nazi Germany would be divided into four zones of occupation, one for each nation. Berlin would be likewise divided. The separation was intended to be temporary, but Cold War animosities quickly developed after World War II and the division between the Russian zone and those controlled by the other three nations became permanent. In the late 1940s, the American, French, and English zones were consolidated into West Germany and the Soviet zone became East Germany. The division came to symbolize the Cold War, and the divided Germany was the scene of many Cold War dramas, like the Berlin Airlift. In 1961, East German authorities began construction of the Berlin Wall, physically dividing East and West Berlin.

By 1989, however, the communist grip on East Germany was rapidly slipping away. The Soviet Union, facing its own severe economic and political problems, could do little to prop up the East German communist regime. In November 1989, the East German government announced that the Berlin Wall would be torn down. The next year, representatives from East and West Germany began negotiations to finally reunite their country. Among the many obstacles to overcome was the historical legacy of occupation by the Allied forces. Although the four Allies had long since removed their occupation forces and given up most of their occupation rights, some treaty rights still technically remained--for instance, the four countries still had the right to "oversee" Berlin. On September 12, 1990, representatives from the four nations met in Moscow and formally gave up all remaining occupation rights in Germany. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze declared, "We are going through emotional and historic events...We have drawn a line under World War II and we have started keeping the time of a new age." In October 1990, East and West Germany formally reunited under a democratic government.

SOURCE: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/german-occupation-rights-are-relinquished


Scotland has voted decisively for home rule in a referendum on how they want the country to be governed.

Voters also backed plans for a Scottish Parliament to have tax-varying powers.

The result and turn-out exceeded the expectations of pro-devolution supporters, who feared they had lost momentum during a suspension of campaigning following the death of the Princess of Wales.

Almost two-thirds of the electorate voted, amounting to a total of 45% of the country who opted to be governed from Edinburgh.

All 32 local authority areas in the country voted 'Yes' to a Scottish Parliament and only two - Orkney and Dumfries and Galloway - decided against tax-varying powers.

The strongest backing came from the Labour strongholds of Glasgow and West Dumbartonshire.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair came to Edinburgh to meet his supporters after the result was confirmed.

He told Labour Party workers the era of "big, centralised government" was at an end.

Raymond Robertson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives who campaigned against devolution, said he would use the elections to the new parliament as a springboard for a fresh campaign.

The people have spoken

Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar
The mood in Scotland was muted rather than triumphant, but Scottish Nationalists' leader Alex Salmond said it was a "great victory" for the country.

Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar was presented with the final figures at a ceremony in Edinburgh.

"The people have spoken - John Smith's belief in the settled will of the Scottish people was truly justified last night," he said.

SOURCE: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/12/newsid_2515000/2515695.stm


The President of the United States has described the destruction caused in New York and Washington as an act of war against all freedom-loving people.

In a statement broadcast at 1053 local time (1553 BST), George Bush vowed the US would use all its resources to avenge the worst-ever attacks on American soil.

But he warned an angry and wounded nation they would have to be patient and said any action could be a monumental struggle.

The president has also been seeking the backing of world leaders for an international campaign against terrorism.

As the estimated number of dead rose into the thousands the day after the tragedy, members of the US government began talking openly of war.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "It isn't going to be solved with a single counter-attack against one individual, it's going to be a long term conflict."

A lesson for all tyrants and oppressors

Iraqi Government on the attacks
Expressions of support have come quickly from American allies, and also from countries not known for their sympathy with the US - the leaders of Libya and Palestine both condemned the attacks in the strongest terms.

Only Iraq has endorsed the atrocity, saying the attacks were a "lesson for all tyrants and oppressors" and the fruit of American crimes.

Tony Blair offered the unequivocal backing of the UK, echoing President Bush's words in his press conference announcing the recall of Parliament.

"I don't think there is any doubt at all that this threat is aimed at the whole democratic world," the prime minister told reporters.

"The US has been singled out... But these terrorists will regard us all as targets."

SOURCE: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/september/12/newsid_2515000/2515239.stm

September 11 2011


Tadeusz Kościuszko

Which American Revolutionary war figure do you find the most interesting? Currently for me it's Kościuszko.

This Day in History: 9/10

1608: Smith to lead Jamestown
1897: First drunk driving arrest
1977: The guillotine falls silent
1981: Guernica returned to Spain
1989: Hungary allows East Germans refugees to leave


English adventurer John Smith is elected council president of Jamestown, Virginia--the first permanent English settlement in North America. Smith, a colorful figure, had won popularity in the colony because of his organizational abilities and effectiveness in dealing with local Native American groups.
In May 1607, about 100 English colonists settled along the James River in Virginia to found Jamestown. The settlers fared badly because of famine, disease, and Indian attacks, but were aided by the 27-year-old John Smith, who directed survival efforts and mapped the area. While exploring the Chickahominy River in December 1607, Smith and two colonists were captured by Powhatan warriors. At the time, the Powhatan Indian confederacy consisted of around 30 Tidewater-area tribes led by Chief Wahunsonacock, known as Chief Powhatan to the English. Smith's companions were killed, but he was spared and released (according to a 1624 account by Smith) because of the dramatic intercession of Pocahontas, Chief Powhatan's 13-year-old daughter.

In 1608, Smith became president of the Jamestown colony, but the settlement continued to suffer. An accidental fire destroyed much of the town, and hunger, disease, and Indian attacks continued. During this time, Pocahontas often came to Jamestown as an emissary of her father, sometimes bearing gifts of food to help the hard-pressed settlers. She befriended the settlers and became acquainted with English ways. In 1609, Smith was injured from a fire in his gunpowder bag and was forced to return to England.
John Smith returned to the New World in 1614 to explore the New England coast, carefully mapping the coast from Penobscot Bay to Cape Cod. That April, Pocahontas married the English planter John Rolfe in Jamestown. On another voyage of exploration, in 1615, Smith was captured by pirates but escaped after three months of captivity. He then returned to England, where he died in 1631.

SOURCE: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/smith-to-lead-jamestown


On this day in 1897, a 25-year-old London taxi driver named George Smith becomes the first person ever arrested for drunk driving after slamming his cab into a building. Smith later pled guilty and was fined 25 shillings.

In the United States, the first laws against operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol went into effect in New York in 1910. In 1936, Dr. Rolla Harger, a professor of biochemistry and toxicology, patented the Drunkometer, a balloon-like device into which people would breathe to determine whether they were inebriated. In 1953, Robert Borkenstein, a former Indiana state police captain and university professor who had collaborated with Harger on the Drunkometer, invented the Breathalyzer. Easier-to-use and more accurate than the Drunkometer, the Breathalyzer was the first practical device and scientific test available to police officers to establish whether someone had too much to drink. A person would blow into the Breathalyzer and it would gauge the proportion of alcohol vapors in the exhaled breath, which reflected the level of alcohol in the blood.

Despite the invention of the Breathalyzer and other developments, it was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s that public awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving increased and lawmakers and police officers began to get tougher on offenders. In 1980, a Californian named Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, after her 13-year-old daughter Cari was killed by a drunk driver while walking home from a school carnival. The driver had three previous drunk-driving convictions and was out on bail from a hit-and-run arrest two days earlier. Lightner and MADD were instrumental in helping to change attitudes about drunk driving and pushed for legislation that increased the penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. MADD also helped get the minimum drinking age raised in many states. Today, the legal drinking age is 21 everywhere in the United States and convicted drunk drivers face everything from jail time and fines to the loss of their driver's licenses and increased car insurance rates. Some drunk drivers are ordered to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles. These devices require a driver to breath into a sensor attached to the dashboard; the car won't start if the driver's blood alcohol concentration is above a certain limit.
Despite the stiff penalties and public awareness campaigns, drunk driving remains a serious problem in the United States. In 2005, 16,885 people died in alcohol-related crashes and almost 1.4 million people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

SOURCE: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-drunk-driving-arrest


At Baumetes Prison in Marseille, France, Hamida Djandoubi, a Tunisian immigrant convicted of murder, becomes the last person executed by guillotine.

The guillotine first gained fame during the French Revolution when physician and revolutionary Joseph-Ignace Guillotin won passage of a law requiring all death sentences to be carried out by "means of a machine." Decapitating machines had been used earlier in Ireland and England, and Guillotin and his supporters viewed these devices as more humane than other execution techniques, such as hanging or firing squad. A French decapitating machine was built and tested on cadavers, and on April 25, 1792, a highwayman became the first person in Revolutionary France to be executed by this method.

The device soon became known as the "guillotine" after its advocate, and more than 10,000 people lost their heads by guillotine during the Revolution, including Louis XVI and Mary Antoinette, the former king and queen of France.

Use of the guillotine continued in France in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the last execution by guillotine occurred in 1977. In September 1981, France outlawed capital punishment altogether, thus abandoning the guillotine forever. There is a museum dedicated to the guillotine in Liden, Sweden.

SOURCE: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-guillotine-falls-silent


On September 10, 1981, Spanish artist Pablo Picasso's monumental anti-war mural Guernica is received by Spain after four decades of refugee existence. One of Picasso's most important works, the painting was inspired by the destruction of the Basque town of Guernica by the Nazi air force during the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, Picasso gave the painting to New York's Museum of Modern Art on an extended loan and decreed that it not be returned to Spain until democratic liberties were restored in the country. Its eventual return to Spain in 1981--eight years after Picasso's death--was celebrated as a moral endorsement of Spain's young democracy.

Early in the Spanish civil war, Spain's leftist Republican government commissioned Picasso to paint a mural for the 1937 Paris International Exposition. Working in Paris, Picasso read in horror of the April 1937 German bombing of Guernica, a Basque town that had sided with the Republicans against General Francisco Franco's right-wing Nationalist forces. Guernica was well behind the battle lines, but Franco authorized the attack as a means of intimidating his foes in the region. The attack was later admitted to be an experiment by the German Luftwaffe in carpet bombing--air raids that targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure. More than 1,000 residents of Guernica were killed in the three-hour attack.
Outraged by the brutality of the act, Picasso seized on the bombing as the subject of his mural, which he completed in just three weeks. The enormous painting, which measures 11.5 feet by 25.5 feet, is a savage indictment of man's inhumanity to man. Painted in desolate tones of black, white, and gray, the painting shows a gored horse, a screaming mother holding a dead child, a bewildered bull, and other nightmarish images that effectively evoke the horror of war.

Guernica was exhibited in the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exposition and in 1939 was sent to New York on a tour for the benefit of the Spanish Refugee Committee. When World War II broke out later that year, Picasso requested that Guernica and a number of his other works be held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on extended loan. After the war, most of these works were returned to Europe, but Picasso asked that Guernica and its preliminary studies be kept by MoMA until the "reestablishment of public liberties" in Spain. The painting was occasionally lent to European museums at the request of Picasso.

Francisco Franco ruled over Spain as dictator for the rest of Picasso's life, and the artist never returned to his native country. In 1967, Franco restored some liberties, and in 1968 his government made an effort to recover Guernica. Picasso refused, clarifying that the painting would not be returned until democracy was reestablished. In 1973, Picasso died in France at the age of 91. Two years later, Franco died and was succeeded as Spanish leader by King Juan Carlos I, who immediately began a transfer to democracy. Spain then called for the return of Guernica, but opposition by Picasso heirs who questioned Spain's democratic credentials delayed its transfer until 1981. Finally, Picasso's former lawyer gave his ascent to the transfer.

On September 10, 1981, Guernica arrived in Madrid under heavy guard. The painting was to be housed in a new annex of the Prado Museum, only two blocks from the Spanish parliament, which had been the scene of an abortive military coup in February 1981. King Juan Carlos defused the revolt by convincing military commanders to remain loyal to Spain's democratic constitution.

On October 25--the 100th anniversary of Picasso's birth--Guernica went on exhibit to the public behind a thick layer of bullet-proof glass. Picasso's preparatory sketches for the painting, likewise protected behind thick glass, were housed in adjacent rooms. The threat of terrorism against the highly politicized work required high security, and visitors passed through a metal detector to view the paintings. Because the painting had been damaged in its years of travel, curators at the Prado said it was unlikely that Guernica would ever go on tour again.

A number of groups in Spain, particularly Basque nationalists, objected strongly to Guernica's permanent exhibition in Madrid. Complaints escalated after the painting was relocated to the new Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid in 1992. Since the 1997 opening of the Guggenheim Bilbao Museo, Basque nationalists have been calling for its transfer there.

SOURCE: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/guernica-returned-to-spain


In a dramatic break with the eastern European communist bloc, Hungary gives permission for thousands of East German refugees to leave Hungary for West Germany. It was the first time one of the Warsaw Pact nations-who were joined in the defensive alliance between Russia and its eastern Europe satellites-- broke from the practice of blocking citizens of the communist nations from going to the West.

By 1989, the Soviet Union was entering a period of accelerating collapse. Economic problems were foremost in the factors causing this collapse, but political turmoil in the Soviet Union, the various Soviet Socialist Republics, and the satellite nations in eastern Europe were also responsible for the decay of what President Ronald Reagan once termed the "evil empire." In Hungary, a movement for greater democracy and economic freedom was gaining strength. Such forces were also alive in East Germany, but the communist government of that nation proved inflexible in dealing with the demands for change. In response, thousands of East Germans--traveling as "tourists"--began pouring into Hungary. As soon as they arrived, they declared that they would not return home.

The East German refugees hoped to cross from Hungary into Austria and then into West Germany where, by law, they would be granted nearly instant citizenship. In the past, Hungary had refused to allow East Germans to proceed to Austria. Hungarian leaders now saw a danger, however. As Hungary moved toward a more democratic political system and free market economics, more and more refugees from other communist nations--not just East Germany--might pour into the country seeking refuge. Foreign Minister Gyula Horn declared, "We cannot become a country of refugee camps." He announced that Hungary would allow the nearly 8,000 East Germans in Hungary to leave for West Germany.

The East German government responded angrily, but there was little it could do to stop the flow of its people into neighboring communist nations and hence into Hungary en route to West Germany. Tens of thousands of East Germans raced across their nation's borders into Poland and Czechoslovakia, seeking asylum and permission to travel to West Germany. Pro-democracy forces in East Germany took heart from these actions, and the communist government began to crumble. In November 1989, the East German government announced that the Berlin Wall separating East and West Berlin would be torn down and the country would soon be united under a democratic government.

SOURCE: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/hungary-allows-east-germans-refugees-to-leave

September 10 2011


The Crimean War: Last Quick Bit for a Bit! (Daria Mikhailova)

“The Russians were unable to collect their wounded from the battlefield.*…

*A lone Russian woman, Daria Mikhailova , cared for the wounded with a cart and supplies purchased at her own expense. Daria was the 18-year-old daughter of a Sevastopol sailor killed at the battle of Sinope. At the time of the invasion, she was working as a laundress in the Sevastopol naval garrison. According to popular legend, she sold everything she had inherited from her father, bought a horse and cart from a Jewish trader, cut her hair and dressed up as a sailor, and went with the army to the Alma, where she distributed water, food and wine to the wounded soldiers, even tearing her own clothes to make dressings for their wounds, which she cleaned with vinegar. The soldiers saw through Daria’s disguise, but she was allowed to carry on with her heroic work in the dressing station at Kacha and then as a nurse in the hospitals of Sevastopol during the siege. Legends spread about the ‘heroine of Sevastopol’. She came to symbolize the patriotic spirit of the common people as well as the Russian female ‘spirit of sacrifice’ that poets such as Alexander Pushkin had romanticized. Not knowing her family name, the soldiers in the hospitals of Sevastopol called her Dasha Sevastopolskia, and that is how she has gone down in history. In December 1854 she was awarded the Gold Medal for Zeal by the Tsar, becoming the only Russian woman of non-noble origin ever to receive that honor; the Empress gave her a silver cross with the inscription ‘Sevastopol’. In 1855 Daria married a retired wounded soldier and opened a tavern in Sevastopol, where she lived until her death in 1892 (H. Rappaport, NO PLACE FOR THE LADIES: THE UNTOLD STORY OF WOMEN IN THE CRIMEAN WAR (London, 2007), pg. 77).” - The Crimean War: A History by Orlando Figes, Pg.220.

The Crimean War: Quick Bit Number Kazillion

“By half past four the battle was over. Most of the Russians had retreated towards the River Kacha in small groups, without leaders or any clear idea of what to do or where to go… At the top of Telegraph Hill the French captured the abandoned carriage of Prince Menshikov… In the carriage they found a field kitchen, letters from the Tsar, 50,000 francs, pornographic French novels, the general’s boots, and some ladies’ underwear. On the hill were abandoned picnics, parasols and field glasses left behind by the parties of the spectators.

On the battlefield itself the ground was covered with the wounded and the dead – 2,000 British, 1,600 French and perhaps 5,000 Russians, though the exact numbers are impossible to calculate… “ - The Crimean War: A History by Orlando Figes, pg. 218

The Crimean War: Another Quick Bit (The Polka)

“The Russian position was more or less hopeless. By the time their artillery arrived, the whole of Bosquet’s division and many of the Turks had reached the plateau. The Russians had more guns – 28 to the French 12 – but the French guns were of larger calibre and longer range, and Bosquet’s riflemen kept the Russian gunners at a distance where only the heavier French guns could take effect. Sensing their advantage, some of the Zouaves, exalted by the fighting, danced a polka on the battlefield to taunt the enemy, knowing that the Russian guns could not reach them.” - The Crimean War: A History by Orlando Figes, Pg. 210.

September 09 2011


The Crimean War: Another Quick Bit (British Soldiers' Wives)

"On the quaysides there were disturbing scenes when it was announced that not all the soldiers' wives who had travelled out from Britain could be taken to the Crimea.* The grief-stricken women who were to be separated from their men fought to get on board the ships. Some were smuggled on. At the final moment, the commanders took pity on the women, having been informed that no provision had been made for them at Varna, and let many of them board the ships....

* The British army had allowed four wives per company to go with their men to Gallipoli. Provided for the army ('on the strength') the women performed cooking and laundry services." - The Crimean War: A History by Orlando Figes, pg. 199.
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