Eighty-seven years ago, today, Robert Smith drank his last drink, the date marked by AA for its anniversaries.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international mutual aid fellowship dedicated to abstinence based recovery from alcoholism through its spiritually inclined Twelve Step program. Following its Twelve Traditions, AA and autonomous AA groups are self-supporting through the strictly voluntary contributions from members only. The Traditions also establish AA as non-professional, non-denominational and apolitical, with an avowed desire to stop drinking as its sole requirement for membership. Though AA has not endorsed the disease model of alcoholism, to which its program is nonetheless sympathetic, its wider acceptance is partly due to many members independently promulgating it. A recent scientific review shows that by many measures AA does as well or better than other clinical interventions or no treatment. In particular, AA produces better abstinence rates with lower medical costs. As of 2020, having spread to diverse cultures, including geopolitical areas normally resistant to grassroots movements, AA has estimated its worldwide membership to be over two million with 75% of those in the U.S. and Canada.
AA marks 1935 for its founding when Wall Street analyst and newly recovering alcoholic Bill Wilson, then reeling from a failed proxy fight, sought to stay sober by commiserating with detoxing surgeon Bob Smith. After leaving the Oxford Group to form a fellowship of alcoholics only, Wilson and Smith, along with other early members, wrote Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism, from which AA acquired its name. Published in 1939 and commonly called “the Big Book”, it contains AA’s Twelve Step recovery program. Later editions included the Twelve Traditions, first adopted in 1946 to formalize and unify the fellowship as a “benign anarchy”.
Attila was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in March 453. He was also the leader of a tribal empire consisting of Ostrogoths, Alans and Bulgars, among others, in Central and Eastern Europe. He is also considered one of the most powerful rulers in world history.
Attila [invaded] and [ravaged] Italy on June 8, 452, one-thousand, five hundred and seventy years, ago, today. Communities became established in what would later become Venice as a result of these attacks when the residents fled to small islands in the Venetian Lagoon. His army sacked numerous cities and razed Aquileia so completely that it was afterwards hard to recognize its original site. Aëtius lacked the strength to offer battle, but managed to harass and slow Attila’s advance with only a shadow force. Attila finally halted at the River Po. By this point, disease and starvation may have taken hold in Attila’s camp, thus hindering his war efforts and potentially contributing to the cessation of invasion.
Attila, by-name Flagellum Dei (Latin: “Scourge of God”) [ruled] jointly with his elder brother Bleda until 445. In legend, he appears under the name Etzel in the Nibelungenlied and under the name Atli in Icelandic sagas. The empire that Attila and his elder brother Bleda inherited seems to have stretched from the Alps and the Baltic in the west to somewhere near the Caspian Sea in the east.
In 452, the Huns invaded Italy and sacked several cities, including Aquileia, Patavium (Padua), Verona, Brixia (Brescia), Bergomum (Bergamo), and Mediolanum (Milan). Aetius could do nothing to halt them but, the famine and pestilence raging in Italy in that year compelled the Huns to leave without crossing the Apennines.
Attila, King of the Huns
Attila invaded northern Italy in 452 but, spared the city of Rome due to the diplomacy of Pope Leo I and the rough shape of his own troops. Legend has it that St. Peter and St. Paul appeared to Attila, threatening to strike him dead if he did not settle with Pope Leo I. Attila died the following year, in 453, before he could try once again to take Italy.
Attlia the Hun
One thousand, five hundred and sixty-seven years ago, today…
In the 440s, the Vandal king Genseric and the Roman Emperor Valentinian III had betrothed their children, Huneric and Eudocia, to strengthen their alliance, reached in 442 with a peace treaty (the marriage was delayed as Eudocia was too young). In 455 Valentinian was killed and Petronius Maximus rose to the throne. Petronius married Valentinian’s widow, Licinia Eudoxia and had his son Palladius marry Eudocia. [In] this way, Petronius was to strengthen his bond with the Theodosian Dynasty. Unhappy, however, with her husband’s murder and the usurpation of Maximus, Eudoxia turned to aid from the Vandals to remove Maximus from his undeserved throne. The overture was favorably met because Maximus’ revolution was damaging to Genseric’s ambitions. The king of the Vandals claimed that the broken betrothal between Huneric and Eudocia invalidated his peace treaty with Valentinian and set sail to attack Rome, landing at Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber.
On this day in 455, the Vandals sacked Rome. It wasn’t too awful, as sackings go, because the Vandal king Genseric agreed to refrain from slaughtering all the inhabitants and burning down the entire city if the Romans didn’t put up any military resistance…which, they didn’t. They just threw the gates right open. So, for the next two weeks, the Vandals merely drank all the wine, stole all the treasure, enslaved an unlucky few thousand locals and generally vandalized the place. A few hundred of the impromptu wine-tastings, as it were, got out of hand and some buildings, or some people, ended up on fire but, hey…relatively speaking, the Romans got off pretty easy.
The St. Matthew Passion (Matthäus-Passion in German ~ BWV 244) is a Passion, a sacred oratorio written by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1727 for solo voices, double choir and double orchestra, with libretto by Picander. It sets the 26th and 27th chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, in the Luther Bible, to music, with interspersed chorales and arias. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces of Baroque sacred music.
The St. Matthew Passion is the second of two Passion settings by Bach that have survived in their entirety, the first being the St. John Passion, first performed in 1724. Little is known with certainty about the creation process of the St. Matthew Passion. The available information derives from extant early manuscripts, contemporary publications of the libretto, and circumstantial data, for instance in documents archived by the Town Council of Leipzig.
In the early 1820s, the director of the Berlin Singakademie, Carl Zelter, got hold of a copy of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and rehearsed some of the choral movements in private. By great good fortune, two of his singers were Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn. In April 1829, despite strong opposition from some quarters, the twenty-year-old Mendelssohn, with the help of Zelter and his friend the actor Eduard Devrient, mounted the work’s first modern performance, albeit in an abbreviated form, given to mark what was then thought to be the centenary of its first performance. This Easter-time Berlin presentation was a stunning success and was followed by others. These led directly to a complete reassessment and revival of interest in all of Bach’s music for, baffling as it seems nowadays, Johann Sebastian Bach had fallen into near obscurity since his death nearly 80 years earlier.
Bach’s St. Matthew Passion: A Guide To The Sacred Masterpiece
April 8, 2020
Beautiful music with beautiful voices. One tenor sounds just like a woman. ~Vic
A Guide To Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (Classical Music/BBC Music Magazine/05-26-2021)
Music History Monday: St. Matthew Passion (Robert Greenberg Music/04-11-2022)
Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 (Bach Cantatas Website/2000-2022)
Netherlands Bach Society
Two Hours, 44 Minutes & 31 Seconds
Four hundred, nineteen years ago, today, James Charles Stuart was crowned James I, King of England and Ireland, after the death of Elizabeth I. Though England and Scotland were sovereign, individual states, he ruled them in personal union.
He was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots and the great-great grandson of Henry VII. He was thirteen months old when his mother abdicated and he succeeded to the Scottish throne, though he had regents governing due to his minority status. He took full control of the government in 1583 and succeeded Elizabeth I, whom was childless, the last monarch from the House of Tudor, in 1603.
He ruled over all three kingdoms for 22 years during the Jacobean Era until his death in 1625 (also in March, on the 27th). During his reign, the Plantation of Ulster and the Colonisation of the Americas began.
He was the longest reigning Scottish monarch, ruling nearly 58 years, surpassed only by crazy King George III (59 years), Queen Victoria (nearly 64 years) and current Queen Elizabeth II at 70 years. He was on the throne during the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (see my post on Guy Fawkes) and, during the Elizabethan literature Golden Age, with writers such as William Shakespeare and Sir Francis Bacon. He sponsored the English translation of the Bible, the most widely read version and was a poet, himself. He preferred peace to war, steering clear of the Thirty Years’ War that involved most of Europe. There are indications that he was bi-sexual.
He died young at the age of 58 and was succeeded by his second son, King Charles I, a poor ruler that was executed in 1649.
Who Was King James VI & I
King James I
Jeannette Rankin was an American politician and women’s rights advocate and, the first woman to hold federal office in the United States. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Montana in 1916 and, again, in 1940. As of 2022, Rankin is still the only woman ever elected to Congress from Montana.
Each of Rankin’s Congressional terms coincided with initiation of U.S. military intervention in the two World Wars. A lifelong pacifist, she was one of 50 House members who opposed the declaration of war on Germany in 1917. In 1941, she was the only member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
A suffragist during the Progressive Era, Rankin organized and lobbied for legislation enfranchising women in several states including Montana, New York and North Dakota. While in Congress, she introduced legislation that eventually became the 19th Constitutional Amendment, granting unrestricted voting rights to women nationwide. She championed a multitude of diverse women’s rights and civil rights causes throughout a career that spanned more than six decades.
Rankin was born on June 11, 1880, to John and Olive Rankin at Grant Creek Ranch near Missoula, in what was then the Montana Territory. She was the first of seven children […] in a prosperous family. Her father […] was a rancher and builder who had come to Montana from Canada. Her mother […] had moved from New Hampshire to teach before marrying John Rankin and becoming a housewife. Jeannette attended Montana State University in Missoula (now the University of Montana) and graduated in 1902 with a degree in biology. [Her] career in politics began as a student volunteer with a local women’s suffrage campaign in Washington State, preparing for a referendum on voting rights. [In] February 1911, she became the first woman to address the Montana legislature when she testified in support of women’s suffrage.
History, Art & Archives
United States House of Representatives
Rankin held office in her first term from March 4, 1917, one-hundred and five years, ago, today, to March 3, 1919. Her second term was from January 3, 1941 to January 3, 1943. Powerful enemies made sure she could not get re-elected. Twenty-four years later, she reclaimed her seat. She never married and passed away May 18, 1973 at the age of 92. ~Vic
Jeannette Rankin (Biography/February 27, 2018)
Montana’s Women Candidates Are Out To Set Another Record (Billings Gazette/Web Archive/October 25, 2016)
Seven Things About Jeannette Rankin (History Channel/Jesse Greenspan/September 1, 2018)
The 1903 World Series was the first modern World Series to be played in Major League Baseball. It matched the American League champion Boston [Americans] against the National League champion [Pittsburg Pirates] (spelled without an “H” from 1891 to 1911) in a best-of-nine series, with Boston prevailing five games to three, winning the last four. The first three games were played in Boston, the next four in Allegheny (home of the Pirates), and the eighth (last) game in Boston.
Pittsburgh pitcher Sam Leever injured his shoulder while trap-shooting, so his teammate Deacon Phillippe pitched five complete games. Phillippe won three of his games but, it was not enough to overcome the club from the new American League. Boston pitchers Bill Dinneen and Cy Young led Boston to victory. In Game #1, Phillippe struck out ten Boston batters. The next day, Dinneen bettered that mark, striking out 11 Pittsburgh batters in Game #2.
Honus Wagner [was] bothered by injuries […] and committed six errors. The shortstop was deeply distraught by his performance. The following spring, Wagner […] refused to send his portrait to a “Hall of Fame” for batting champion:
“I was too bum last year. I was a joke in that Boston-Pittsburgh Series. What does it profit a man to hammer along and make a few hits, when they are not needed, only to fall down when it comes to a pinch? I would be ashamed to have my picture up now.”
Due to overflow crowds at the Exposition Park games in Allegheny City, if a batted ball rolled under a rope in the outfield that held spectators back, a “ground-rule triple” would be scored. [Seventeen] ground-rule triples were hit in the four games played at the stadium.
In the series, Boston came back from a three-games-to-one deficit, winning the final four games (on October 13) to capture the title…(118 years ago). Such a large comeback would not happen again until the Pirates came back to defeat the Washington Senators in the 1925 World Series […]. […] Much was made of the influence of Boston’s Royal Rooters, who traveled to Exposition Park and sang their theme song Tessie to distract the opposing players […]. Boston wound up winning three out of four games in Allegheny City.
Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss added his share of the gate receipts to the players’ share, so the losing team’s players actually finished with a larger individual share than the winning team’s.
The Series brought the new American League prestige and proved its best could beat the best of the National League, thus strengthening the demand for future World Series competitions.
Baffling Baseball Trivia (Dom Forker/Wayne Stewart/Michael J. Pellowski/2004/Sterling Publishing Company/Web Archive)
Baseball Almanac (World Series History/The Official Baseball History Site)
Honus Wagner: A Biography (Dennis DeValeria/Jeanne Burke DeValeria/1996/1998/GoodReads)
Retro Sheet (Pre-1984 Baseball Analysis)
The First World Series and the Baseball Fanatics of 1903 (Roger L. Abrams/2003/Northeastern University Press/Web Archive)
Hanspostcard has a movie draft challenge. This is my Round Eleven pick.
Film: Love Actually
All I have to say is, this is a great movie. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. ~Vic
Written and directed by Richard Curtis (with six producers in tow), this is a Christmas romance romp with an all-star ensemble cast, mostly comprised of Brits. There are ten separate stories, that become interwoven in places…with one exception. This was Curtis’s Directorial Debut.
The movie opens with Prime Minister David talking about the state of the world.
 Rock and Roll legend Billy Mack records a Christmas version of the song Love Is All Around (by The Troggs). He thinks it’s crap but, he promotes it, anyway. He spends Christmas with his manager Joe and, you can see him on various TV sets throughout the movie.
 Best man Mark (a very young Andrew Lincoln sans Colt Python) is in love with Peter’s soon-to-be wife, Juliet, though they both believe that Mark dislikes her. He declares his love with cue cards on Christmas Eve.
 Jamie discovers his girlfriend is having an affair with his brother. He meets Aurélia but, she doesn’t speak any English. He learns Portuguese to communicate his love for her.
 Harry & Karen are happily married and raising their children. Mia is Harry’s new secretary. He is drawn to her and nearly destroys his marriage over her.
 Karen’s brother is David, the Prime Minister. He finds himself attracted to staffer Natalie and having to deal with the U.S. President.
 Daniel, Karen’s friend, is still mourning the loss of his wife, Joanna. His step-son Sam is interested in an American classmate, also named Joanna. Sam shows his affection for Joanna at the airport (before she returns to the US). Daniel crosses paths with Carol and is interested.
 Sarah works for Harry and is in love with Karl. Karl is interested but, Sarah’s mentally ill brother Michael is an issue.
 Colin tells his friend Tony that he is traveling to America to try to woo some women there. He meets Stacey, Jeannie and Carol-Anne in Milwaukee and they invite him to stay with them. Roommate Harriet shows up, later.
 John (a young Martin Freeman…Arthur Dent/Bilbo Baggins) and Judy meet as nude stand-ins for a film that Tony is a production assistant for. Comfortable with each other simulating sex, they are shy with clothes on, later.
 Rufus is a jewelry salesman, wrapping Harry’s gift for Mia and, he assists Sam at the airport in getting to Joanna before her flight. He was, originally, to be a Christmas angel but, a script re-write removed that part of the story.
♦ Knowing about Billy Bob Thornton’s quite unusual fear of antique furniture, Hugh Grant would sometimes flash a piece of antique [furniture] (which is abundant in England) in front of Thornton just before the cameras rolled and watch him freak out in amusement (an issue that is part of the dialogue in Sling Blade).
♦ Simon Pegg was considered for the role of Rufus.
♦ For the role of her lovelorn character Karen, Emma Thompson has said that she drew on the immense heartbreak she experienced over former husband Kenneth Branagh’s affair with Helena Bonham Carter with whom he had co-starred, and directed, in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994). This extramarital affair ultimately led to their divorce in 1995.
♦ The airport greeting footage at the beginning and end of this movie is real. Writer/director Curtis had a team of cameramen film at Heathrow airport for a week and, whenever they saw something that would fit in, they asked the people involved for permission to use the footage.
♦ For her one-minute cameo, Claudia Schiffer received a reported £200,000 (roughly $300,000 U.S.).
Three hundred, twenty years ago, yesterday, Scottish Sea Captain William Kidd was hanged at Execution Dock in London at low tide:
[P]roceedings against [Kidd] had been long and notorious. The actions for which he was tried had been still more notorious, one involving murder and five [involving] piracy. His career had been brief, brilliant in the beginning [but], catastrophic at the end. The general excitement at the time of his execution and, all during his imprisonment in London, had been at [a] fever pitch. Gossip went to work and, the wildest of tales of Kidd’s wickedness and wealth were believed. […] Upon his death, numerous accounts, both factual and fictitious, appeared.
William Hallam Bonner
University of Buffalo
American Literature, Vol. 15, No. 4, Jan. 1944
Kidd was commissioned by King William III (William of Orange) as a Privateer and carried a license to hunt pirates, reserving 10% of any bounty acquired for the Crown. His murder charge was the result of the killing of crew member William Moore, his gunner, during a near mutiny.
Of all the things written and expressed, the ballad Captain Kid’s Farewel to the Seas (or the Famous Pirate’s Lament) was the only thing to survive. It was quite popular in the Colonies where the Captain had a home and may be considered America’s first folk legend. There is a British version and an American version, which changed the Captain’s first name to Robert for some strange reason and, several contemporary covers. The last website, below, has his name as John. He had to be hanged, twice, as the rope broke the first time. ~Vic
Captain Kidd Lyrics (David Kidd Website/Wayback Machine)
Captain Kidd Song (Wikipedia)
The Ballad of Captain Kidd (Chivalry Website Archive)
Wizard of the Seas (Ex-Classics Website)
Sixty-five years ago, today, the war film To Hell and Back was released, originally in San Antonio. Directed by Jesse Hibbs and based on the book of the same name, it starred Audie Murphy, Marshall Thompson, Charles Drake, Jack Kelly, Gregg Palmer, Paul Picerni, David Janssen, Denver Pyle, Brett Halsey (Admiral’s great-nephew) and Gordon Gebert as a young Audie.
Biopic of the wartime exploits of Audie Murphy (played by himself), the most decorated US soldier in World War II. Starting with his boyhood in Texas, where he became the head of his family at a young age, the story follows his enrollment in [the] Army where he was assigned to the 3rd Division. He fought in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, before landing in southern France and, eventually, fighting in Germany. A Medal of Honor recipient, he also received battle honors from the French and Belgian government.
The highly variable Audie Murphy delivers his best screen performance as “himself” in Universal‘s To Hell and Back. Based on the star’s autobiography, this is the story of how Murphy became America’s most-decorated soldier during WW II. After dwelling a bit on Murphy’s hard-scrabble Texas upbringing, the story moves ahead to 1942, when, as a teenager, Audie joined the army. Within a year, he was a member of the 7th Army, serving in North Africa, Italy, France and, ultimately, Germany and Austria. One by one, the members of Murphy’s Company B are killed in the war, until only three men from the original company are left. [The] others appear at the finale as ghostly images […]. The bulk of the film is given over to Murphy’s conspicuous acts of combat bravery and his killing of 240 enemy soldiers. Highlighted by excellent battle sequences, To Hell and Back is a serviceable tribute to a most complex individual.
♦ Filmed at Fort Lewis, WA, Yakima River, WA, Oak Creek Wildlife Area, WA and Universal Studios.
♦ Audie Murphy originally declined the opportunity to portray himself in the movie, not wanting people to think that he was attempting to cash in on his role as a war hero. Murphy initially suggested his friend Tony Curtis to play him.
♦ Audie Murphy’s war buddy Onclo Airheart was slated to play himself, but he declined due to the fact that the movie was to be shot during planting season.
♦ [Author] David Morell [sic] cites Audie Murphy as the inspiration for the character of John Rambo.
♦ In the movie, […] Murphy does his one-man standoff on top of a medium M-4 Sherman tank. [In] real life it happened on top of an M10 Wolverine tank destroyer.
♦ Audie Murphy’s feats of heroism and his much decorated status have been compared to those of his counterpart during World War I, Sgt. Alvin C. York […].
Murphy […] wrote poetry and songs, and, himself a sufferer, was among the first advocates for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He died on May 28, 1971, when the private airplane in which he was riding crashed.
This was going to be a post on the highest recorded heat level, listed in the Guinness (Book) of World Records. Supposedly, one-hundred and seven years ago, today, Death Valley got up to 134.4℉. I read Wikipedia, I read Guinness and I read History & Headlines. If it made it into Guinness, someone must have thought it was legitimate. Well, after taking a dive into Weather Underground‘s investigation of this record (this is a very long read), posted by weather historian Christopher Burt on October 24, 2016, I’m not so sure this event ever happened.
I have contacted Guinness for a challenge. We shall see how this plays out. ~Vic