Showing posts with label actual history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label actual history. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April 15th, 1865 - 150 years since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln

April 15th, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington DC.

Lincoln in April, 1865


On the evening of April 14th, Lincoln was shot point blank while sitting in the Presidential box while watching a play.  On April 9th, General Lee of the Confederate States of America had surrendered to General Grant at Appomatox, and the war between the states was effectively concluded.

Were it fiction, the assassination might be considered a weirdly indulgent bit of storytelling in a sprawling tale of the original sin of the birth of the United States.  As a very real event, Lincoln's death stands as a moment of personal tragedy that somehow echoes as harshly as the four years of war and hundreds of thousands lost.  The timing of the assassination meant that we never saw a coda to the 16th presidency, would never question Lincoln's handling of Reconstruction or witness Lincoln watching Washington DC come back together as the capital of a single nation.  We would never see Lincoln as a private citizen no longer with the weight of the nation resting upon his shoulders.

There's plenty of information out there about Lincoln's assassin, and I won't belabor any of the details of Lincoln's murder or the story of his murderer.

Instead, I'll remember that Lincoln was a man of his times, but a remarkable one at that.  In the midst of the war (and historians will never tire of debating the motives of the action) Lincoln produced the Emancipation Proclamation.

While the nation fought a miserable war against itself, Lincoln took the final step that the states that had fled for the confederacy feared he would upon his election, and forever changed the course of the nation.  

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

This act, which Lincoln would ultimately perform as a proclamation rather than by way of political maneuvering or clout.  And, as the war drew to a close, the 13th Amendment was proposed, but Lincoln would not live to see its ratification.

And, on that night in Ford's Theater, a believer in abstract causes that would always trump the dignity of his fellow man, sought revenge for the shame he felt had been bestowed upon his state and the hardships he felt the South would continue to endure.  Failing to see the irony in his own battle cry of "Sic semper tyrannis!", he fled the stage, hobbled, to die badly in barn, disowned by the very people he thought would hail him as a hero and protect him.

I don't need to tell you much else about Lincoln.  He's all but a folk hero to us here in the States, and probably beyond.  His funeral train was met by endless masses, and he continues to inspire generation after generation of Americans.  The Lincoln Monument in Washington DC stands as a stark reminder of not just the man, but of his times and of the great penance paid by the United States for our moral failings, his death a closing note to the cost of all that had preceded it.




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Billie Holiday hits the Century Mark

It's tough to top Billie Holiday.  She's undoubtedly one of the most important vocal performers of the 20th Century, and certainly one of the most recognizable voices since recorded and broadcast music sprung into existence.

Today marks the birthday of Ms. Eleanora Fagan, born April 7th, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Holiday's biography also reads like the blueprint for a terribly depressing biopic, but it's also a remarkable American story.



This weekend I tried to watch Annie Lennox, who I have admired since I was a kid, perform her new concert, Nostalgia, on PBS, recorded in front of an upper-crust audience at LA's Orpheum Theater.  And, while I understand that many performers sooner or later hit a point where they explore The Great American Songbook - Lennox performed a few of Holiday's standards, and I found the thing puzzling enough I turned it off.  But, taking apart what was happening and for what audience could take a few hundred pages and a deconstruction of cultural appropriation that would leave nobody happy.

Strange Fruit and God Bless the Child aren't owned by Billie Holiday, but they're certainly part of her catalog, and I don't blame Lennox for wanting to emulate Lady Day, but...  context.   Billie Holiday's voice, song choice and expression were formed by what amounts to an extremely troubled youth (broken home - to put it mildly - and as a kid, she ran errands in a brothel) and young womanhood (prostitute by age 15).  Holiday was part of the colorful jazz scene of Harlem from the early 1930's and onward (she was performing by age 17), and was playing with Count Basie and Artie Shaw within a few years.  Even after some very public problems, she did manage to play shows at Carnegie Hall that were very well received.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

SW Reads: The Bully Pulpit - Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and The Golden Age of Journalism

I think Picky Girl recommended this one.  I dunno.  She'll have to chime in.

He's talking about Roosevelt and Taft again.  Safe to close the post and move on,

At some point in college on a lark I picked up the Henry Pringle biography of Theodore Roosevelt, and - like a lot of folks who happened to read something about TR - ever since I've found no end to the interest in reading not just about the man, but about his times.  His political career is astounding, complete with stumbling backward into the presidency, where his reputation grew to such proportions that the US included his face on Mt. Rushmore with Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington.

I read a few reviews before putting finger to keyboard for this post, because I knew a Doris Kearns Goodwin book would have already generated plenty of bits in the press.  As evidence of the vitality of the material covered, I almost laughed when I saw what a big percentage of both reviews was dedicated not to discussing the book, but to discussing what the book covers, like a little mini-historical synopsis.

So, I'll keep it brief.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

SW Watches: The Right Stuff (1983)

I was lucky to be born into an era when the job everyone aspired to was "astronaut".  As you got older, if you were me, you realized you were going to be too tall, wear too many glasses, be just amazingly awful at pre-Calc, and maybe develop a crippling fear of heights.  I was just never going to be astronaut material.



But, yeah, like a lot of people my age and older, I was pretty space-crazy growing up.  We were living on the edge of the world of Buck Rogers and Star Trek.  And, to be a part of that seemed like being a part of the future more than anything you could do (we can quiz Matt A. on the veracity of this childhood fantasy later, but it seemed right at the time).

On my 6th birthday, the Space Shuttle Colombia took off from Kennedy (STS-1). I was well aware it was a coincidence, but it still felt like a pretty good birthday present.  Watching it with the fam is still one of those indelible childhood memories.




Two years later, the Philip Kaufman directed movie The Right Stuff (1983) was released to theaters.  Based on a Thomas Wolfe novel, it's certainly not a movie aimed at kids, but The Admiral was also not one to let the two little miscreants he'd sired run around ignorant of one of the greatest periods (if not THE greatest period) of technical achievement in human history.  Nor would he let it pass that we would not know of the flawed, insanely brave men who sat atop those rockets and came back safely.  Let alone, we might not know the name of Chuck Yeager.

I remember seeing many movies in the theater from my childhood, and certainly the memory of seeing The Right Stuff is still vivid.  While the movie was not the sort of thing I was running around play-acting afterward, I knew I'd seen something quite different and kind of astonishing.

In the years that have passed, I have no idea how many times I'd seen it, but I caught it again while Jamie and I were dating, and I remember really realizing for the first time how damn good the movie really is.  I'm always shocked not just by the mixed reactions you can get at the mention of the film, but that it's not mentioned in the same breath with other films that routinely make great movie lists.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Today is Texas Independence Day

On March 2nd, 1836 in the town of Washington on the Brazos (no, really), a group of Texans cooked up a Declaration of Independence, breaking with Mexico and establishing Texas as a Republic.

look, you have your Independence Hall, we have ours

Now, people do this all the time, but history will tell you that it only really counts if you're successful.  Otherwise, you're usually a footnote and a shallow grave.  Weirdly, the scrappy refugees from polite American society who had migrated into Texas wound up winning their brief war for independence after getting essentially massacred at The Alamo but doing pretty well at Gonzalez and Goliad, thank you very much.

On April 21, 1836, the Texian army, under the command of Sam Houston, caught up with the Mexican army, who seemed to believe that if they were behind enemy lines, so long as they were sleeping, it was a "time out".  The Texians stormed in, and in about 30 minutes soundly defeated the Mexican Army and General Antonio de Santa Ana, taking him prisoner.

I don't believe it either, and I live here.

Sam Houston instructs the captured Santa Ana to kiss his rosey red ass

Texas expected to become a state, but the balance of power in the US made this a challenge - as admitting a new slave state would make things awkward - and the concern over sparking a real war with Mexico meant that Texas would remain an independent Republic for 9 long, extremely poor years.

So, take that, Ohio.  You were never your own country and you never fought your own war with generals and cannons and everything.

Texans would go on to become obnoxious, but everyone would move here and keep letting our crackpot politicians drive the national political conversation.  

  

Monday, February 16, 2015

President's Day! Look Out, 'cause Here Comes Garfield

President Garfield is putting your beard game on notice, hipsters

A while back I read the book Destiny of the Republic (I think at Picky Girl's recommendation), by the really terrific Candice Millard.  The book traces the destinies of three people - our 20th President. James A. Garfield, his assassin Charles Guiteau (spoiler), and Alexander Graham Bell - our representative of the wild innovation occurring during the industrial age.

James A. Garfield was a proud son of Ohio, serving as an officer in the Civil War, including early leadership at Shiloh and enough success across campaigns that he was promoted to Major General.   However, mid-war, Garfield was asked to run for congress.  He was already a staunch abolitionist, and while that horse was already out of the barn, what with the Civil War, he immediately became a popular and successful representative due to his ability to build bridges and mend fences during such a volatile period of reintegration of the Reconstruction-era Southern states.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Anniversary of the Death of Buddy Holly




February 3rd marked the anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, who, in 1959, died in a plane crash in Iowa alongside Ritchie Valens, JP Richardson (aka: The Big Bopper) and the pilot of the small aircraft.  Holly was only 22 years old when he died, but he left behind an amazing catalog of music that remains relevant and powerful nearly 60 years after his death.   His legacy is evident in the many generations of rock musicians who followed in his footsteps who picked up on his mix of country and blues riffs, and no less than The Beatles were obviously influenced by Holly and The Crickets work.

I don't want to dismiss the contributions of either Valens or Richardson, but I've been a Buddy Holly man since I was 13 years old, and while I may put Buddy away for a while, every year I put him back on in heavy rotation.

Monday, January 19, 2015

MLK Day



This fall, Jamie and I took a trip to Washington DC.  Not too far from the FDR and other memorials is the MLK memorial, facing the Jefferson Memorial across the water.

This depiction of MLK above is only part of the complex.


This is how you approach the memorial.

The entire complex is very large and impressive with relief sculpture along the walls.  I very much recommend making time for it when you're doing your DC tour.  It's really very close to the Lincoln Memorial.  And speaking of...







Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Je suis Charlie


There's nothing much to add to the discussion.  Freedom of expression is a hard earned right, and on the long curve of human history - a new one from a species that tends to silence the ones asking questions.

I am sorry for the tragedy, and heartened by the collective response of the free world to such a cowardly, uncivilized affront to our principles.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Operation Overlord Anniversary

Nicole reminds me that today is the anniversary of the execution of Operation Overlord, ie: Normandy.


June the 6th, 1944.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Amazing color footage of Superman Day at 1939 World's Fair!

This is really remarkable. All those kids in Superman shirts! It's hard to imagine, this was just about 1 year after Superman debuted in the comics and already the character was a hit with the masses.

You can see DC publisher Harry Donenfeld riding an elephant, Jack Liebowitz and MC Gaines, and Jerry Siegel. I half think the woman at the end might be Siegel's first wife, but I'm not sure.



I've read about so many of these people over the years, it's wild to see them in living color.

This is all before DC really settled on the looks of Superman "S" shiefd, as evidenced by the costume and the kids' shirts.

I'm always amazed to see footage like this, candid shots of folks on the street, to see what people actually looked like and how they dressed, rather than relying on the soft filter of the Hollywood lens.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Whatever Happened to The Girl in the Stop Sign Shorts?



On Wednesday night I posted a comment to facebook about how we don't spend enough time celebrating the dancer in the trademark "Stop Sign" shorts from the Young MC video for "Bust a Move".  I was about 14 when this song was big, and I knew enough then to know that the bassist in the video was Flea from the California-based Red Hot Chili Peppers (who might be a thing one day).

The video is below. You can find the dancer in question around the 1:05 mark.



Well, in 1989-ish, you couldn't not hear this song, and from 1989 until the end of time, you couldn't not like the song.  It's a staple of Gen X music consumption that was sort of universally beloved, kind of like the work of Tone Loc (also written by Young MC) and "The Humpty Dance" by Digital Underground.

It was a different time.

Lets just say that the performer left an impression, enough so that in 2013, if you say "Stop Sign Shorts", I know exactly what you're talking about.

But who was the woman behind the shorts?  (so to speak)

Turns out her name is Cindyana Santangelo.  This is some minor league Google search wizardry, and you can thank me later.

What I didn't know is that she's also the voice from the beginning of the 1990 Jane's Addiction album, Ritual de lo Habitual.  And if you were a sulky kid in 1990, chances are, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Just watch the first part of the video and it'll come back to you here 23 years on.




Well, I assure you that video seemed relevant at the time.

LA must have been a bit smaller of a town than I realized back then, what with all the Jane's Addiction/ Chili Peppers/ Young MC cross-pollination going on.  Oddly, I feel less awkward watching a Young MC video today than I do remembering being really, really into Jane's Addiction from about 1989-1993.

I'm shocked to learn that the two were so close together as, in my mind, they seem incredibly separated, but I'd moved and made the passage to being a bit older and more sullen by the time I was anticipating new Jane's Addiction albums, I guess.  But, dang, we all still loved Young MC!  Everyone find a way to send Young MC a dollar on paypal.

Anyway, point is:  After imprinting herself heavily upon my malleable 14 year old psyche, I now know who this person is (Cindyana Santangelo!) and a wee bit about her. Because she's got a website.  She's an actress!

Look here.

She's apparently been on CSI and appeared on a reality show as a client on Million Dollar Listing and was on a show that didn't get picked up about Housewives of Malibu.

She also appears to run something called "Mermaid Cove Sober Living" in Malibu.

So, wherever you are Cindyana, we salute you.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Your Questions Answered: Why do you hate Rutherford B. Hayes?

Anonymous asks:

Why do you hate Rutherford B. Hayes?

I actually tried to find a reason to hate Rutherford B. Hayes, but reading his bio, it's kind of hard to find much fault with the guy.  He inherited a tough spot in the wake of the panic of 1873 and managed to forge a new path for currency, worked to amicably end Reconstruction and restore full independence to the South, did good deeds in Latin America, took no BS from Mexican bandits and handled the railroad worker's strike with more humility than Reagan and the mess with the air traffic controllers.

The 1870's are a somewhat unsexy period in American history, so I had to look up quite a bit on Hayes, but in my estimation, aside from the extremely dicey way in which he took office, he seems all right.

So, the answer is: I DO NOT HATE RUTHERFORD B. HAYES


In fact, I find quite a bit to admire in his biography.

I'm not sure I'm ready to get on the Rutherford B. Hayes bandwagon, like you people, but as a man of his time, he seems pretty remarkable.  Unfortunately, he falls between Lincoln and Roosevelt, in that era of American history that just doesn't get much press.  I think that's all on me to better understand, and maybe that's worth doing sometime.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

For Pope Benedict as he departs office

Apparently, in 2005, I welcomed Pope Benedict XVI to the job with this post...

So, so much has changed since 2005.

We lost Jackson, YouTube became a thing you could embed....

As Pope Ben leaves office, let's hear it one more time...



That's right, I've been blogging longer than a Pope's tenure in office.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Texas Independence Day!

On March 2nd, 1836 Texas declared it's independence from Mexico, but we were already begun in the Texas War for Independence.

one of the original Texas battle flags


Yes, there was such a thing as a War for Texas Independence, non-Texans.  That's what you're talking about when you discuss "The Alamo".  

Basically, Texas was largely unsettled by Anglos and the entire swath of Tejas y Cohauila was sort of Mexican no-man's land with a few remote outposts like San Antonio.  Circa 1821, a bunch of rowdies and reprobates made a deal with Mexico to settle in what's sort of Central Texas, but they had to become Mexican citizens and Catholic.

By 1835, the Mexican Government had changed and become more centrist.  The local militias were now frowned upon and those shifty Anglos in North Mexico weren't playing ball with Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana's desire to disarm regional militias lest they decide they wanted to rabble rouse.  If the past informs the present, you'd have to imagine if Obama suddenly said folks couldn't have guns, and people started acting kookie about how the government might take away their arms.

Wait a minute...

There were other issues, such as the forced Catholicism of the Mexican Government, that Texans really, really wanted to own slaves, and Mexico city just sort of sucked at paying attention to what was going on in Texas aside from the occasional decree that made no sense in context of living on a frontier.

President and General of Mexico, Santa Ana, had absolutely had it with the Texians (we used to have an "i" in our name) and marched an army up to, of all places, Gonzalez, where the Texians insisted on hanging onto a cannon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

President's Day! Late Edition. William Howard Taft, #27

Dammit, just look at that magnificent bastard.

Howard Taft, sometimes known as "The Pimpest of Presidents"

It's my opinion that of all the presidents, William Howard Taft gets the shaft most routinely and most undeservedly.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The League Plans on Attending a sort of Mini-High School Reunion

Apparently in Mid-March, the life of a young The League will come headlong with his shady, useless present.

Yes, my 20th high school reunion IS occurring this year.  No, I am not going.  I moved to the greater Houston area a couple of weeks prior to the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, and while I made some great life-long friends, it was not necessarily in a capacity strictly as a member of the Class of '93.  I'm just not that invested in seeing people I don't remember.

The winter of my sophomore year I quit the basketball team, auditioned for a play and wound up understudying several roles for our school's version of A Midsummer Night's Dream.*   So, for the next two years I stuck around the auditorium of dear old Klein Oak High.

I would eventually play parts in The Crucible, The Rimers of Eldritch, You Can't Take it With You, All My Sons, Rumors, and probably one or two things I'm forgetting.  I was, at best, unmemorable on stage.  And I don't think I want to know what people do remember.  Sadly, my requests to stage Frankenstein, so I could do something a 6'4" high school kid was suited for, went unheeded.