By all reasonable metrics Shek Yeung, who raided the South China Sea in the early 1800s, is one of the most successful pirates of all time. In her new novel Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea author Rita Chang-Eppig tells a fictionalized version of the pirate queen’s life, her rise to power, and her relationship with powers both temporal and spiritual.
In 1907 French waiters went on strike, and won the right to wear facial hair.
The Mexican-American War was not fought for good reasons. The war was one of imperial and expansionist ambition and territorial expansion, and even in the 1840s many Americans at the time knew they were on the wrong side of history. Among the Americans who knew that the U.S. probably shouldn’t wage a war of aggression on its neighbor were a battalion of mostly Irish immigrants who became known as Saint Patrick’s Battalion. They defected from the American to Mexican side of the conflict, battled against the American invaders, and are now remembered as heroes in both Mexico and Ireland.
From 1964 until 2011 comic books were nominally approved by a content regime called the Comics Code Authority. The Authority grew out of anti-comic book sentiment in the early part of the twentieth century. Anti-comics advocates like Fredric Wertham portrayed comic books as filled with crime, sex, and corrupting ideas. In 1954 a senate subcommittee headed by Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver all but put comic books on trial, with Kefauver grilling EC Comics publisher Bill Gaines about the content of then-popular horror comics. The exchange would change comic book publishing forever.
Hacking predated personal computers. From the 1960s until the 1990s early hackers known as “phreaks” learned how to hack into phone lines, make long-distance calls for free, set up secret conference calls, and explore the global telephone network.
In February of 1943 the Nazi regime arrested between 1500-2000 Jewish men in Berlin, and imprisoned them in a former Jewish community center with the address of Rosenstrasse 2-4. These men had, up until this point, avoided deportation to death camps because they were married to non-Jewish women, and instead had been forced to work in German factories up until that point. Their wives, though, showed up in force outside the building where they were imprisoned, and soon a group of hundreds of women were able to mount an effective street protest against the Reich. It was the only effective popular protest in Germany mounted against Hitler’s regime.
Wonder Woman’s origin story is a fascinating one. Diana of Themyscira was created in 1940 by William Moulton Marston, a psychologist who helped invent the lie detector, worked for Universal Studios, and who lived in a menage-a-trois with his wife, Elizabeth, and another woman Olive Byrne. Marston believed that women were inherently superior to men, and in Wonder Woman created a character whom he believed embodied the qualities the world most needed. That, and there was a lot of bondage. So much bondage.
Last week Asano, Lord of Ako was ordered to commit seppuku, and his newly unemployed samurai were plotting revenge on Kira, the noble whom they blamed for their lord’s death. This week, the 47 ronin extract their revenge on Kira, and the incident becomes one of the most retold narratives in Japanese history.
The image below illustrates a scene from Kanadehon Chushingura, the most famous fictionalized version of the 47 ronin story. The characters in Kanadehon Chushingura have different names than the actual historical figures whom they purport to represent, audiences in 1748 and onward would have recognized the fiction as being roughly analogous to actual events. Anymore, Chushingura refers to the entire body of media either directly about or touching on the 47 ronin incident.
The Irish crown jewels were stolen in 1907. To this day, no one knows who absconded with the regalia. While known as the “Irish crown jewels” today, they were not referred to as such until after their theft. In fact, they were the regalia of the Order of St. Patrick, a British Knightly Order associated with Ireland (England and Scotland had the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle, respectively) and were worn by either the British monarch or their stand-in during investiture ceremonies or other state events.
When they were stolen in 1907 from a safe in Dublin Castle, there was no sign of a break in, no forced locks, an no other damage of any kind. Since 1907 theories about the theft of the crown jewels have ranged from an operation carried out either by Irish Unionists or British Republicans to humiliate the monarchy, blackmail and bacchanals at Dublin Castle, jewel stealing femme fatales, and simple drunken incompetence. To this day, the fate of the jewels remains an enduring mystery.
It’s very likely that Hillary Clinton will become the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. When/if she does, some talking head will likely call her “the first women to run for president.” That talking head will be wrong. Women have been running for president for decades. The first woman to do so was Victoria Woodhull, a former Wall Street trader, traveling clairvoyant, spiritualist, newspaper publisher, and advocate for women’s suffrage. Woodhull advocated strongly for free love, i.e., the ability for women to marry whomever they chose, and for the disentangling of marriage as a social institution from the law.
Woodhull obviously lost the 1872 election (Ulysses S. Grant won it) but many of her ideas about gender, women’s rights, free love, and marriage, have been integrated into what is now considered “normal.” Woodhull was a firebrand and a revolutionary at the time and, even though she lost that electoral contest, we now very much live in her world.
victoriacwoodhull.org is a site devoted to, obviously, Victoria Woodhull.
An 1871 report of one of Woodhull’s campaign speeches. (Requires login)
Woodhull was demonized for her support of free love. As in, cartoonists drew her as a demon. A famous caricature of her declared her to be “Mrs. Satan.”
The foreboding form of Alcatraz Island looms just beyond San Francisco, an obvious symbol of isolation and punishment. Alcatraz was never the biggest, or worst, or longest-lived prison in American history, but it’s definitely the most iconic. The island fortress seems to invite resistance and escape attempts, a setting like Alcatraz demands a narrative just as striking. In 1946 a handful of convicts attempted to violently escape from the island, giving that dramatic setting a dramatic narrative to match it. The resulting conflict, known today as the Battle of Alcatraz, claimed the lives of five people and wounded just over a dozen others. Ordinary San Franciscans were able to watch from their city as guns, explosives, and conflict raged just beyond the bounds of civilization.
The image below shows the exterior of Alcatraz as U.S. Marines pelt the prison with mortars in an attempt to kill and suppress the rebels inside.
Read more about the battle and other Alcatraz history here.
In 1904 a Greek-American playboy, Ion Perdicaris was, along with his stepson Cromwell, kidnapped in Morocco by a man who would later be called “The last of the Barbary pirates.” The incident sparked a degree of outrage in the US, and was a talking point for Theodore Roosevelt in the 1904 presidential election. But… Perdicaris himself didn’t mind being kidnapped. In fact, he had a great time being held hostage by a roving band of desert brigands.
The 1904 cartoon below from the Review of Reviews shows the US boldly telling the Sultan of Morocco to… pretty much give in to a kidnappers demands.
Hostages to Momus by O. Henry, based on the Perdicaris Incident
The Wind and the Lion on IMDB
Defining what is and is not a country, state, or nation can sometimes be sort of difficult. China, obviously, is a country. So are Brazil and Morocco. Some states, like Kosovo, East Timor, and Vatican City, are independent and sovereign on paper, yet don’t seem to have the ephemeral legitimacy of an established state, the kind of undefinable real-ness that Frank Zappa alluded to when he said that “you can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”
And then there are some states which just declare independence and call it good. Like Sealand, for example, an ostensible principality off the coast of Britain that has endured as one of the world’s most successful micronations.
Sealand’s official website, where you can become a lord, lady, baron, or baroness, depending on your preferences.
Sealand The Mystery Solved is a four-part YouTube series about the micronation. It was made in cooperation with the principality, so, in a way, it is official Sealand government propaganda. Of a sort.
Fettes Brot, a German hip-hop group, shot the music video for their song Echo at (on? in? what is the proper preposition for a fort/micronation?) Sealand.