1979: Westside Dreams

Daniel Salazar - Westside Dreams (1979)

Daniel Salazar: Westside Dreams (1979)

The photo shows the National Chicano Dance Theater posing in front of the Denver skyline, I think probably as part of a promotional shoot for Daniel Valdez’s play Zoot Suit, which debuted that year. The play is based on the Zoot Suit Riots and the Sleepy Lagoon trial of the early 1940’s. Valdez also directed a film version of the play. I’ve found one alternative version of the photo:

Daniel Salazar - Westside Dreams (1979) - 2

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1816: The World Was about to Come to an End

Paul Sandby, Jr. - The Marketplace, Montréal [The old Notre Dame Church in Place d'Armes, Montreal] (ca. 1790)

In 1881, Jedediah Hubbell Dorwin published some recollections of living in Montreal based on his extensive journals and scrapbooks. The following was reprinted in many newspapers at the time:

On the morning of Sunday, November 8, 1819, the sun rose upon a cloudy sky, which assumed, as the light grew upon it, a strange greenish tint, varying in places to an inky blackness. After a short time the whole sky became terribly dark, dense black clouds filling the atmosphere, and there followed a heavy shower of rain, which appeared to be something of the nature of soapsuds, and was found to have deposited after settling a substance is all its qualities resembling soot. Late in the afternoon the sky cleared to its natural aspect, and the day was fine and frosty. On the morning of Tuesday, the 10th, heavy clouds again covered the sky, and changed rapidly from a deep green to a pitchy black, and the sun, when occasionally seen through them, was sometimes of a dark brown or an unearthly yellow color, and again bright orange, and even blood red. The clouds constantly deepened in color and density, and later on a heavy vapor seemed to descend to the earth, and the day became almost as dark as night, the gloom increasing and diminishing most fitfully. At noon lights had to be burned in the court-house, the banks, and public offices of the city. Everybody was more or less alarmed, and many were the conjectures as to the cause of the remarkable occurrence. The more sensible thought that immense woods or prairies were on fire somewhere to the west; others said that a great volcano must have broken out in the Province; still others asserted that our mountain was an extinct crater about to resume operations and to make of the city a second Pompeii; the superstitious quoted an old Indian prophecy that one day the Island of Montreal was to be destroyed by an earthquake, and some even cried that the world was about to come to an end.

About the middle of the afternoon a great body of clouds seemed to rush suddenly over the city, and the darkness became that of night. A pause and hush for a moment or two succeded, and then one of the most glaring flashes of lightning ever beheld flamed over the country, accompanied by a clap of thunder which seemed to shake the city to its foundations. Another pause followed, and then came a light shower of rain of the same soapy and sooty nature as that of two days before. After that it appeared to grow brighter, but an hour later it was as dark as ever. Another rush of clouds came, and another vivid flash of lightning, which was seen to strike the spire of the old French parish church and to play curiously about the large iron cross at its summit before descending to the ground. A moment later came the climax of the day. Every bell in the city suddenly rang out the alarm of fire, and the affrighted citizens rushed out from their houses into the streets and made their way in the gloom toward the church, until Place d’Armes was crowded with people, their nerves all unstrung by the events of the day, gazing at, but scarcely daring to approach the strange sight before them. The sky above and around was as black as ink, but right in one spot in mid-air above them was the summit of the spire, with the lightning playing about it shining like a sun. Directly the great iron cross, together with the ball at its foot, fell to the ground with a crash, and was shivered to pieces. But the darkest hour is just before dawn. The glow above gradually subsided and died out, and people grew less fearful and returned to their homes, the real night came on, and when next morning dawned everything was bright and clear, and the world was as natural as before. The phenomenon was noticed in a greater or less degree from Quebec to Kingston, and far into the States, but Montreal seemed its center. It has never yet been explained.

A contemporary account appeared in the Newbern, North Carolina Sentinel on December 11, 1819. See also The Dark Day.

Paul Sandby, Jr.:  The old Notre Dame Church in Place d’Armes, Montreal (ca. 1790)

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1867: Distant View

Frederick Leighton - Distant View of Mountains in the Aegean Sea (1867)

Frederick Leighton: Distant View of Mountains in the Aegean Sea (1867)

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1808: Squares Eight Times Eight

Peter Pratt - The Theory of Chess (1799)

It was a fancy of the eccentric Mr. Pratt…to propose a game of Chess to a friend after dinner without Chessboard and men, and stipulate that instead of describing the moves with the usual prosaic abbreviations, a sort of poetical paraphrasis in the shape of rhyming couplets should be adopted. A good deal of amusement was sometimes created by the difficulty the second player would have, not in answering his opponent’s move, but in finding an appropriate rhyme to describe his own. (source)

Peter Pratt was the author of The Theory of Chess (1799) and Studies of Chess (1808); the latter contains “Caïssa,” a poem by William Jones that describes the chessboard in a game played between two fairies:

Squares eight times eight in equal order lie;
These bright as snow, those dark with sable dye;
Like the broad target by the tortoise born,
Or like the hide by spotted panthers worn.
Then from a chest, with harmless heroes stor’d,
O’er the smooth plain two well-wrought hosts he pour’d;
The champions burn’d their rivals to assail,
Twice eight in black, twice eight in milkwhite mail;
In shape and station different, as in name,
Their motions various, nor their power the same.

Say, muse! (for Jove has nought from thee conceal’d)
Who form’d the legions on the level field ?

High in the midst the reverend kings appear,
And o’er the rest their pearly sceptres rear:
One solemn step, majestically slow,
They gravely move, and shun the dangerous foe;
If e’er they call, the watchful subjects spring,
And die with rapture if they save their king;
On him the glory of the day depends,
He once imprison’d, all the conflict ends.

The queens exulting near their consorts stand;
Each bears a deadly falchion in her hand;
Now here, now there, they bound with furious pride,
And thin the trembling ranks from side to side;
Swift as Camilla flying o’er the main,
Or lightly skimming o’er the dewy plain:
Fierce as they seem, some bold Plebeian spear
May pierce their shield, or stop their full career.

The valiant guards, their minds on havock bent,
Fill the next squares, and watch the royal tent;
Tho’ weak their spears, tho’ dwarfish be their height,
Compact they move, the bulwark of the fight.

To right and left the martial wings display
Their shining arms, and stand in close array.
Behold, four archers, eager to advance,
Send the light reed, and rush with sidelong glance;
Through angles ever they assault the foes,
True to the colour, which at first they chose.
Then four bold knights for courage fam’d and speed,
Each knight exalted on a prancing steed:
Their arching course no vulgar limit knows,
Transverse they leap, and aim insidious blows:

Nor friends, nor foes, their rapid force restrain,
By one quick bound two changing squares they gain;
From varying hues renew the fierce attack,
And rush from black to white, from white to black.
Four solemn elephants the sides defend;
Beneath the load of ponderous towers they bend:
In one unalter’d line they tempt the fight;
Now crush the left, anti now o’erwhelm the right.
Bright in the front the dauntless soldiers raise
Their polish’d spears; their steely helmets blaze:
Prepar’d they stand the daring foe to strike,
Direct their progress, but their wounds oblique.

Jones had written the poem in 1763 at the age of 17. In the poem the nymph Caïssa is pursued in love by Mars, the god of war. Initially spurned by Caïssa, Mars asks for help from Euphron, the god of sport, who then creates chess as a gift for Mars to win Caissa’s heart. Caïssa has since been known as the goddess of chess.

Jones would later coin the term Indo-European to name the common ancestor language of many Indian and European languages.

Facts, strengthened by analogy, may lead us to suppose the existence of a primeval language in Upper India, which may be called Hindi, and that the Sanscrit was introduced into it by conquerors from other kingdoms in some very remote age.The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanscrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family. (source)

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1250 BC: The Gurob Ship-Cart

Gurob Ship-Cart Model (Egypt, New Kingdom, c 1250-1150 BC)

This wooden model of a ship on a wheeled cart was found in Gurob, Egypt in 1920and dates from the thirteenth or twelfth century BC. Although carts like this were used simply to transport ships from one place to another, the shape and decorations of this particular model indicate that the ship it represents was designed to travel only on land as part of a religious ritual in Mycenaean Greece.

Shelley Wachsmann’s book about the ship-cart has a “digital supplement” with 3D reconstructions of the object here.

A modern Islamic festival in Luxor, the Moulid of Abu El Haggag, features boats on wheels, and likely descends from a pharaonic ritual of ancient Egypt:

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1926: The Black Pirate

The Hochi-Shimbun, 15 October 1926

Advertisements in The Hochi-Shimbun, October 15, 1926.

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1939: Revolt

Hale Woodruff’s murals commemorating the revolt on the Spanish slave ship Amistad were installed in Talladega College’s Savery Library in 1939, the centennial of the uprising.

The first mural depicts the moment when, on or about July 1, 1839, kidnapped captives aboard the Amistad rebelled against their captors, killing the captain and some crew members before finally gaining control of the ship.

Through deception by the navigator, whose life the rebels  had spared, the ship arrived not back in their home country of Mendiland (in modern-day Sierra Leone), but in the USA—setting off the first civil rights court case in the country (shown in the second mural). The Mende faced possible execution if convicted of mutiny, but ultimately, the US Supreme Court ruled that they had rebelled in self-defense and ordered them freed.  Thirty-five survivors made their way back to Africa a year later—the scene of the third mural.

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1933: Dreams of the Third Reich

The Third Reich - No (1920-1940)

A selection from Charlotte Beradt’s Dreams of the Third Reich.

Beradt was a journalist in Germany when Hitler took power and, inspired by the first dream below “set out to collect the dreams the Nazi regime had generated”—which she did until she left the country in 1939.  She published a few of them in 1943, in an article called “Dreams under Dictatorship,” but the book was not published until 1966. She notes that she “deliberately omitted all dreams involving violence or any physical expression of fear” and provides one short example: I awoke bathed in sweat. As had happened many nights before, I had been shot at, martyred, and scalped—had run for my life with blood streaming and teeth knocked out, Storm Troopers constantly on my heels.

I have included the date where Beradt provides it and her description of the dreamer.

(1933), “a man of about sixty and the owner of a middle-sized factory”:

Goebbels was visiting my factory. He had all the workers line up in two rows facing each other. I had to stand in the middle and raise my arm in the Nazi salute. It took me half an hour to get my arm up, inch by inch. Goebbels showed neither approval nor disapproval as he watched my struggle, as if it were a play. When I finally managed to get my arm up, he said just five words—”I don’t want your salute”—then turned and went to the door. There I stood in my own factory, arm raised, pilloried right in the midst of my own people. I was only able to keep from collapsing by staring at his clubfoot as he limped out. And so I stood until I woke up.

(1934), “a forty-five-year-old doctor”:

It was about nine o’clock in the evening. My consultations were over, and I was just stretching out on the couch to relax with a book on Matthias Grünewald, when suddenly the walls of my room and then my apartment disappeared. I looked around and discovered to my horror that as far as the eye could see no apartment had walls any more. Then I heard a loudspeaker boom, “According to the decree of the 17th of this month on the Abolition of Walls…”

(1933), “a cultivated, pampered, liberal-minded woman of some thirty years, with no profession”:

First dream: In place of the street signs which had been abolished, posters had been set up on every corner, proclaiming in white letters on a black background the twenty words people were not allowed to say. The first was “Lord”—to be on the safe side I must have dreamt it in English. I don’t recall the following words and possibly didn’t even dream them, but the last one was “I.”

Second dream: I was sitting in a box at the opera, dressed in a new gown, and with my hair beautifully done. It was a huge opera house with many, many tiers, and I was enjoying considerable admiration. They were presenting my favorite opera, The Magic Flute. When it came to the line, “That is the devil certainly,” a squad of policemen came stomping in and marched directly up to me. A machine had registered the fact that I had thought of Hitler on hearing the word “devil.” I imploringly searched the festive crowd for some sign of help, but they all just sat there staring straight ahead, silent and expressionless, not one showing even pity. The old gentleman in an adjoining box looked kind and distinguished, but when I tried to catch his eye he spat at me.

Third dream: I knew that all books were being collected and burned. Not wanting to part with the old pencil- marked copy of Don Carlos I had had ever since schooldays, I hid it under the maid’s bed. But when the Storm Troopers came to take away the books, they marched, feet stomping, straight to the maid’s room…They pulled the book out from under the bed and threw it on the truck that was to take it to the bonfire.

At that point I discovered that I had only hidden an atlas and not my Don Carlos —and still I stood by with a guilty feeling and let them take it away.

(1933), “an elderly woman mathematics teacher”:

It was forbidden under penalty of death to write down anything concerned with mathematics. I took refuge in a night club (never in my life have I set foot in such a place). Drunks staggered around, the waitresses were half naked, and the music was deafening. I took a piece of tissue paper out of my pocketbook and proceeded to write down a couple of equations in invisible ink, and was frightened to death.

Continue reading

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1639: Thoughts

John Constable - Clouds (1822)

From a letter written by James Howell, 17 March 1639:

Having got into a close field, I cast my face upward, and…began to contemplate as I was in this posture the vast magnitude of the universe and what proportion this poor globe of earth might bear with it, for if those numberless bodies which stick in the vast roof of heaven, though they appear to us but as spangles, be some of them thousands of times bigger than the earth—take the sea with it to boot, for they both make but one sphere, surely the astronomers had reason to term this sphere an indivisible point and a thing of no dimension at all being compared to the whole world. I fell then to think that at the second general destruction, it is no more for God Almighty to fire this earth than for us to blow up a small squib or rather one small grain of gunpowder.

As I was musing thus, I spied a swarm of gnats waving up and down the air about me which I knew to be part of the universe as well as I; and methought it was a strange opinion of our Aristotle to hold that the least of those small insected ephemerans should be more noble than the sun, because it had a sensitive soul in it. I fell to think that the same proportion which those animalillios bore with me in point of bigness, the same I held with those glorious spirits which are near the Throne of the Almighty, what then should we think of the magnitude of the Creator Himself: doubtless it is beyond the reach of any human imagination to conceive it. In my private devotions I presume to compare Him to a great mountain of light, and my soul seems to discern some glorious form therein, but suddenly as she would fix her eyes upon the object, her sight is presently dazzled and disgregated with the refulgency and coruscations thereof.

Walking a little farther I espied a young boisterous bull breaking over hedge and ditch to a herd of kine in the next pasture, which made me think that if that fierce strong animal with others of that kind knew their own strength, they would never suffer man to be their master. Then looking upon them quietly grazing up and down, I fell to consider that the flesh which is daily dished upon our tables is but concocted grass, which is recarnified in our stomachs and transmuted to another flesh. I fell also to think what advantage those innocent animals had of man, which, as soon as nature cast them into the world, find their meat dressed, the cloth laid, and the table covered; they find their drink brewed and the buttery open, their beds made and their clothes ready; and though man hath the faculty of reason to make him a compensation for the want of those advantages, yet this reason brings with it a thousand perturbations of mind and perplexities of spirit, griping cares and anguishes of thought, which those harmless silly creatures were exempted from.

Going on, I came to repose myself upon the trunk of a tree, and I fell to consider further what advantage that dull vegetable had of those feeding animals, as not to be so troublesome and beholding to nature, nor to be so subject to starving, to diseases, to the inclemency of the weather, and to be far longer lived. I then espied a great stone, and sitting a while upon it, I fell to weigh in my thoughts that that stone was in a happier condition in some respects than either those sensitive creatures or vegetables I saw be- fore, in regard that that stone, which propagates by assimilation, as the philosophers say, needed neither grass nor hay, or any aliment for restoration of nature, nor water to refresh its roots or the heat of the sun to attract the moisture upwards to increase growth as the other did. As I directed my pace homeward, I espied a kite soaring high in the air, and gently gliding up and down the clear region so far above my head, that I fell to envy the bird extremely and repine at his happiness that he should have a privilege to make a nearer approach to heaven than I.

John Constable: Cloud Study (1822)

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1918: Munitions Girls

Stanhope Forbes - The Munitions Girls (1918)

Stanhope Forbes: The Munitions Girls (1918)

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