Tuesday, May 04, 2010

What's The Occasion? Star Wars Day


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Now Showing: "Spitting Image"

Here we see Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher conferring with her neighbour 'Herr von Wilcox' who is often found tending the roof garden at Number 9 Downing Street - offering us something of a glimpse into the formation of her policies.

The clip is from 1984, and references the strike by coal miners in 1984-5 which did irreparable damage to the trades union movement in Britain.
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Pop History Moment: Thatcher Sweeps To Power

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOn this day in 1979 Margaret Thatcher became the first woman elected Prime Minister of Great Britain. Her twelve years in power were marked by the callousness of her policies - this is a woman who once labelled compassion as 'patronising', after all - and the usual social activism which ought, in a healthy society, to accompany the rise of a tyrant.

Yet, as much as it pains me to say it, it seems to have taken such a scold and a harridan to reunite the Great with Britain after years of slide into recession and apathy brought on by the loss of the British Empire. Thanks to shows like Spitting Image, the Prime Minister and her cabinet not only rapidly became the most recognized in modern times but were held to a degree of accountability which her predecessors would have found unconscionable.

Which counts for something, I guess...
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POPnews - May 4th

[It's always interested me how, from the vast number of pictures taken, some of them - like John Filo's Pulitzer Prize-winner of 14 year-old runaway Mary Ann Vecchio keening over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller moments after he was shot and killed while protesting the US invasion of Cambodia - end up becoming iconic. Certainly the award helps, since it guarantees a wider distribution, but three other students - Allison Beth Krause, Sandra Lee Scheuer, and William Knox Schroeder - were also killed that terrible day in 1970 at Kent State, and it seems no similar photos exist of their tragic deaths under such ugly circumstances.]

1415 - Religious reformers John Wycliffe and Jan Hus were condemned as heretics at the Council of Constance; initially called by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund to try and solve the Western Schism (caused by there being three popes simultaneously, which is almost too many to fit in a Volkswagen, or its 15th Century equivalent anyway) the Council also ruled on issues of national sovereignty versus papal authority, the rights of pagans, and what constituted a just war. The chief result of the Council, though, was a book entitled Ars moriendi, or The Art of Dying.

1471 - During the Wars of the Roses, Edward IV defeated a Lancastrian army at the Battle of Tewkesbury and killed Edward of Westminster - son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou - making him the only Prince of Wales to ever die in battle. His widow, Anne Neville, later married the man who became Richard III.

1493 - Pope Alexander VI divided the New World between Spain and Portugal along the Demarcation Line in the papal bull Inter Caetera.

1626 - Dutch explorer Peter Minuit arrived in New Netherland (now better known as Manhattan) aboard the See Meeuw to take up his post as third director-general of the Dutch West India Company.

1814 - The former French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte came ashore at Portoferraio on the island of Elba to begin his exile, having arrived in the middle of the night before.

1859 - The Cornwall Railway was opened by Albert, Prince Consort, linking Plymouth in Devon with Falmouth in Cornwall across the Royal Albert Bridge (which he'd also opened, two days earlier) .

1869 - The Naval Battle of Hakodate took place off the coast of Hokkaidō, between whatever boats the crumbling Tokugawa shogunate could muster and the Imperial Japanese Navy; an imperial victory hastened the demise of the already waning Boshin War and greatly strengthened the position and prestige of Emperor Meiji.

1886 - At the Haymarket Square Riot a bomb was thrown at policemen trying to break up a labor rally in Chicago, killing constable Mathias J. Degan; in retaliation the police fired into the crowd, themselves killing ten and wounding as many as 60, although many of the injured may have succumbed to friendly fire.

1904 - The United States began construction on the Panama Canal; the canal was an initiative of President Theodore Roosevelt, who later appointed John Frank Stevens as Chief Engineer on the project.

1910 - The Royal Canadian Navy was created under the leadership of Rear-Admiral Charles Kingsmill.

1924 - The 1924 Summer Olympics opened in Paris; it would be the last Olympiad organized by Pierre de Coubertin.

1932 - Mobster Al Capone began serving an eleven-year prison sentence for tax evasion at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta; while there he played the bigshot, which resulted in his transfer to Alcatraz in August 1934.

1949 - The entire Torino F. C. (except for one player who did not take the trip due to an injury) were killed in a plane crash near the Basilica of Superga on the outskirts of Torino, in Italy.

1953 - Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Old Man and the Sea.

1961 - During the American Civil Rights Movement the Freedom Riders began a series of bus trips through the South - from Washington, DC, to New Orleans - in order to test a Supreme Court decision known as Boynton v. Virginia. Along the way the riders were harassed, attacked, and arrested. By September more than 450 riders had participated in at least one of 60 rides, and succeeded in embarrassing the Kennedy Administration, which had previously been lax in its attempts to end racial segregation.

1970 - The Ohio National Guard - sent to Kent State University after the ROTC building there was burnt down by protesters opposed to the Vietnam War - specifically the US invasion of Cambodia - opened fire on unarmed students, killing four and wounding nine others.

1980 - President-for-Life Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia forfeited his title at the age of 87.

1982 - The British destroyer HMS Sheffield was hit by an Argentinian Exocet missile during the Falklands War, killing 20; after the ship was struck the surviving crew, waiting to be rescued, sang Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from Monty Python's Life of Brian to keep their spirits up. While not destroyed in the attack, the ship foundered six days later in high seas while being towed back to England by HMS Yarmouth for repairs.

2000 - Ken Livingstone became the first Mayor of London; re-elected once, he was denied a third term by Boris Johnson in 2008.
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