Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Last Words of Harvey Milk

Prior to his assassination, Harvey Milk recorded these final words; fears that he would be a target for killing were dismissed as paranoid, right up until they came true...
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In Memoriam: Harvey Milk

If a bullet should go through my head let that bullet go through every closet door...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketLong before he'd ever been successfully elected to anything, Harvey Milk proclaimed himself 'Mayor of Castro Street'; the mostly gay male community that had emerged in San Francisco in the 1970s ensured he held that title uncontested, and there's no telling what other titles he might have earned had Fate and hate not intervened. From the storefront of Castro Camera, a business he'd begun with Scott Smith in 1972 shortly after moving to the city, he built a grassroots movement whose effects are still being felt today - only now they're being felt around the world, and not just in one small part of San Francisco either!

Milk was finally elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on his third attempt, in 1977 - the first openly gay man elected to any office in the United States (following lesbians Kathy Kozachenko of Michigan and Elaine Noble of Massachusetts by 3 and 2 years respectively).

In November 1978, Milk and San Francisco mayor George Moscone were murdered in their offices at San Francisco City Hall by former supervisor Dan White, a former police officer whose lawyers later defended him by blaming depression and a junk food diet. White was eventually convicted of 'voluntary manslaughter' and sentenced to serve seven years and eight months for the premeditated killing of two people.

Following the verdict - on the eve of what would have been Milk's 49th birthday - the city erupted in violence, which later came to be known as the White Night Riots. In terms of scale it's debatable if they outshone the Stonewall Riots, out of which the gay liberation movement had been forged, but in terms of impact they were at least equal, and they pointed to the gay male community's utter refusal to put up with any further bigotry.

In February 2007 a statue of Harvey Milk was erected in his adopted city as a tribute to the man and his legacy, which barely touches the civic and cultural tributes paid to the slain civil rights leader, which also includes San Francisco's Harvey Milk Plaza where Market and Castro Streets intersect as well as Harvey Milk High School in New York City, whose opening in 1985 as part of the Hetrick Martin Institute raised nearly as many hackles amongst the bullyocracy as it did when its operation was taken over by the city's Department of Education in 2002*.

The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts was one of not only the first books devoted to Milk's life and legacy, it was also one of the first books of gay history I ever read, and remains one of the finest ever written on any subject; it comes most highly recommended by the Pop Culture Institute.  Likewise the 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, narrated by Harvey Fierstein, which won the Academy Award. Gus Van Sant's 2008 film Milk earned Sean Penn a Best Actor Oscar; Bryan Singer has also been rumoured to be at work on a film about the life and death of Harvey Milk.

*In typical fashion, the bigots' complaining only served to underline the need for the school in the first place!

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Pop History Moment: A Royal Wedding Captivates Spain

On this day in 2004 Felipe, Prince of Asturias and heir to the throne of Spain, wed Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, a television journalist formerly employed by CNN.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketTheir marriage was solemnised at the Catedral Santa María la Real de la Almudena in Madrid, the first royal wedding ever held there and the first royal wedding in the Spanish capital for nearly a century. The guest list included the Kings of Sweden, Norway, and Belgium, Queens of Jordan, Denmark and Holland, crown princes of the UK and Japan, as well as Spanish celebrities and politicians.

Her Royal Highness will be the first commoner ever to become Queen of Spain; she is also a divorcee, having been previously married to Alonso Guerrero (from whom she was divorced in 2002). Her popularity, especially amongst the young, seems to derive from her modernity; that or the fact that, at the time her engagement was announced, she was host of Telediario, the most watched newscast in Spain.

Their Royal Highnesses have since had two children: Infanta Leonor (born in 31 October 2005), and Infanta Sofía (born 29 April 2007). While Spain has in the past had Queens regnant, the country does not currently recognize female primogeniture; given the tenor of the times, though, all of that may change...
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POPnews - May 22nd

[Conrad Martens' lyrical depiction of the HMS BeagleBeagle was actually made during its second voyage as opposed to its first, and depicts an encounter between the European crew and the natives of Tierra del Fuego... But from what I've been able to ascertain there was no artist on that first voyage, or if there was his work hasn't survived, or if it has it isn't on the Internet, or if it is I sure a Hell can't find it. So there; this'll have to do. As my Grandmother used to say, 'it's as close a damnit is to swearing...']

1176 - The second of two assassination attempts made against Saladin by the Hashshashin - during the Siege of Azaz, north of Aleppo, in Syria - was foiled; well-armoured, Saladin received only superficial wounds.

1377 - Pope Gregory XI issued five papal bulls to denounce the doctrines of English theologian John Wycliffe, one of which was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon of Sudbury; the British refused to enforce them, or did so fitfully at best, setting the stage for the English Reformation.

1455 - During the Wars of the Roses, Yorkists Richard, Duke of York, and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, defeated and captured England's Lancastrian King Henry VI at the First Battle of St Albans, killing his commander Edmund, Duke of Somerset, in the process.

1762 - Peace broke out after Sweden and Prussia signed the Treaty of Hamburg.

1809 - During the second and final day of the Battle of Aspern-Essling, near Vienna, Napoleon was repelled by an enemy army for the first time in a decade; after having easily conquered much of Europe, his loss at the hands of Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen, rendered the seemingly undefeatable French emperor vulnerable, at least temporarily.

1819 - The SS Savannah left port at Savannah, Georgia - captained by Moses Rogers - in an attempt to become the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean; the ship arrived at Liverpool on June 20th.

1826 - The HMS Beagle departed Plymouth under the command of Captain Pringle Stokes with naturalist Charles Darwin aboard; during this, his first voyage, the crew surveyed much of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego while over the course of the five-year expedition Darwin began to formulate his theory of natural selection.

1842 - Farmers Lester Howe and Henry Wetsel discovered the Howe Caverns, in upstate New York's Schoharie County, when they stumbled upon a large gaping hole in the ground.

1856 - Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina savagely beat Senator Charles Sumner about the head with a wooden Gutta-percha cane in the nearly deserted hall of the US Senate for a speech Sumner had made three days earlier attacking Southerners - specifically Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler (Brooks' uncle) - who sympathized with pro-slavery violence along the Kansas-Missouri border during the so-called Bleeding Kansas Crisis in the run-up to the American Civil War; those attempting to aid Sumner were held off by Brooks' fellow Congressional thugs, Laurence M. Keitt, also of South Carolina, and Henry A. Edmundson of Virginia.

1915 - Lassen Peak erupted, making it the only volcanic eruption other than Mount St. Helens in the Lower 48 during the 20th century.

1936 - Aer Lingus (Aer Loingeas) was registered as an airline by the Irish government, making it the national airline of the Republic of Ireland.

1939 - Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Axis powers Germany and Italy signed the Pact of Steel.

1960 - An earthquake measuring 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale, hit southern Chile; now known as the Great Chilean Earthquake, it's the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. Although centered at Cañete, the city of Valdivia was hardest hit.

1964 - US President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the goals of his Great Society social reforms at a speech in Ann Arbor, Michigan; aimed at bringing 'an end to poverty and racial injustice' in America, they were largely successful - and would continue to be - except most of them were set aside by one of his successors, Ronald Reagan, at the behest of such noted neo-conservatives as Irving Kristol.

1967 - A fire at Brussels' L'Innovation department store became the most devastating fire in Belgian history, resulting in 323 dead and missing and 150 injured when the 1897 wooden structure became engulfed in flames in under 10 minutes.

1972 - Ceylon adopted a new constitution which made it a republic, changed its name to Sri Lanka, and joined the Commonwealth of Nations.

1990 - North and South Yemen were unified to create the Republic of Yemen.

2002 - The remains of missing intern Chandra Levy were found in DC's Rock Creek Park; the situation around her disappearance have never been adequately explained, especially by her lover Gary Condit, who at the time was a Congressman for California's 18th District.

2004 - The town of Hallam, Nebraska, was wiped out by a powerful F4 tornado that was later estimated to be an astounding 2.5 miles wide, killing one local resident.
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