Today is Back to the Future Day! Where on October 21, 2015 at 4:29 PM PST Marty McFly and Doc Brown went back to the future! But are we living in the future? No. Because I don’t have a hoverboard. Its all about the hoverboards!
The internet, social media, regular media, Time lords and companions, movie studios (Universal Pictures put out a ‘Jaws 19’ movie preview), various world leaders & politicians (Prime Minister David Cameron mentioned it in his Parliament speech and Bernie Sanders had a great photo), NASA, entrepreneurs, and even the OED Word of the Day (it was ‘hoverboard’) got into the Back to the Future (#BTTF) spirit!
(Sources: Twitter images found on Twitter and OED World of the Day found on http://www.oed.com/)
The Magna Carta turns a young 800 years old today! That’s one hell of a long life for a rather interesting document. Originally planned as a peace treaty between the barons of England vs. evil King John (yes, he really was a psycho) and involving the Church (everyone was Catholic at this time) who deliberately squirreled away the document in various church archives in England and Ireland. No one person wrote it, but its suspected that the Archbishop of Canterbury had a hand in writing it and is mentioned at the beginning of it (the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, of Robin Hood fame, is also mentioned). So despite being a document that was suppose to lead to peace, in reality it led to war. A year later evil King John got the Church in Rome to nullified the document. However it was the first documented that attempt to limit the power of the sovereign (it was not a radical document, so these ideas must have been floating around for years). So on this day (June 15, 1215) in a field in Runnymede, England a document of historical significance was signed (maybe), but most likely stamped with the royal seal. Out of the 60+ clauses in the original 1215 version only about 2 or 3 are still in use today and while it was not for the common man/woman (lets be clear, it was to protect the rights and property of the barons and the Church of England), the idea or myth that it granted and guaranteed the rights of everyone remains to this day.
The National Achieves writes:
“Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. It is concerned with many practical matters and specific grievances relevant to the feudal system under which they lived. The interests of the common man were hardly apparent in the minds of the men who brokered the agreement. But there are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day:
“No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”
“To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice” (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/).
Melvyn Bragg writes in The New Statesman:
“The charter spoke through the king to God and to the liberties of the Church. It enhanced the liberties of London, which the earls and barons had just captured. It bundled together a package of laws, most of which are of their time and have fallen off the page. Sadly for some, it said nothing about the rights of women, the welfare state, the trade unions or the euro.
Nor did it say anything about the right to parliamentary democracy, trial by jury or habeas corpus. But it can be argued that all these flowed from and were triggered by this document. And not only in this country, but as time went on, most powerfully in America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and as a foundation stone in the constitution of India and elsewhere. After the Second World War, the UN set up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Eleanor Roosevelt called a “Magna Carta for all mankind”.
Magna Carta has 63 clauses in abbreviated Latin. Two of them that are still on the statute book, numbers 39 and 40, could be said to have changed the way in which the free world has grown. “No free man shall be taken, or imprisoned, or disseised [his lands taken away], or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way ruined; nor will we go against him nor sin against him except by the lawful judgment of his peers, his equals and by the law of the land.” And, “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay right or justice.” These two clauses have so far proved to be indestructible, though often defied. They came to apply to all men and then all women, and have elasticated their earliest purpose to become universal with a legendary, even mythical aura to them….
Magna Carta has become totemic. It is in the comedy of Tony Hancock, in the poetry of Kipling, never far from the front pages in a constitutional crisis. It was copied out by hand. Four copies are remaining and although one is badly damaged, there is not a blot on any of them. Those two clauses hit a nerve in societies all over the world. They have become sacred tablets” (http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/06/it-made-us-free-melvyn-bragg-magna-carta).
And Tom Holland writes in The New Statesman:
“Not that its significance was evident at first. John was hardly the man to be bound by any agreement, no matter how solemnly sworn. It did not take him long to denounce Magna Carta. One year later, though, he was dead and in November 1216 the charter was reissued for the very first time in a desperate but ultimately successful attempt to rally support for John’s son, the nine-year-old Henry III. From then on it would repeatedly be confirmed by a succession of kings – 33 times in all. That its provisions grew steadily more obscure and incomprehensible to those who could be bothered to read them did not prevent Magna Carta from blazing in the imaginations of the English as an assurance that everyone, even the monarch, was under the law.
Since the 17th century, it has repeatedly been reinterpreted and reinvented by a whole succession of ideologues. Whether on opponents of Stuart absolutism or on the Founding Fathers of the United States, on the Chartists or on the lawyers who drew up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its influence has been immense. Even today, in our cynical and sceptical age, its potency remains undimmed. That Magna Carta never once mentioned democracy, equality or mutual respect did not prevent David Cameron, only last year, from declaring that it did. The inaccuracies scarcely matter. Every country needs its myths. That is why, 800 years on from the meeting at Runnymede, the uselessness of King John and all that resulted from it richly merits celebration” (http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/06/tom-holland-magna-carta-was-forged-royal-failure).
Today marks the 150th Anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination. The internet and social media had been posting items all day and tonight there was a special at Fords Theatre “Now He Belongs to the Ages: A Lincoln Commemoration” which you could stream live on the internet. Here is the blurb: “PBS NewsHour will livestream Ford’s Theatre’s tribute event that will include Civil War-era music, readings of Lincoln’s words and stories and excerpts from his favorite theater and operas. The event will feature operatic soprano Alyson Cambridge, singer-songwriter Judy Collins, actor David Selby, political satirist Mark Russell, civil rights leader Julian Bond, historians and others, at 9 p.m. EDT April 14” (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/lincolneventslivestreaming/). It was a very nice tribute and after there was a candlelight vigil that you could see live on C-SPAN. One interesting note, Colin Powell (he would have made an interesting President) was there and C-SPAN showed him at the candlelight vigil and talking to the reenactors.
After the social ended there was time to look around the National Air and Space Museum and it was amazing! I didn’t know where to look as there were airplanes and space items everywhere. Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega was my favorite item and its really the most beautiful airplane. Did I mention the gift shop had three levels? Three!
Elmer L. Andersen Library Atrium Gallery at the UMN currently has a little exhibit (there was also a symposium which I did not attend) on Finnish immigration to Minnesota and being Finnish, it was nice to see something on Finnish Minnesota history (there was even a blurb on ‘the sauna’!). Overall it was a bit small, but at least they did something on Finnish-Minnesotans.
The exhibit is called: Juhla!: Celebrating 150 years of Finnish immigration to Minnesota
Here is the blurb from the Andersen Library:
“In 1864, a small group of Finns disembarked from a riverboat in Red Wing, Minnesota, beginning the immigration of Finns into our state. Join us as we commemorate and explore their settlement experiences. The exhibit features photographs, publications, and other materials from the rich Finnish American collections of the Immigration History Research Center Archives.
Over the past century and a half, Finland has gone from a country of emigration to a country of immigration. While Finns in the nineteenth century were migrating to North America, today, Finland is receiving sizable numbers of newcomers, including refugees from Somalia and other countries.
Timed to recognize the 150th anniversary of Finnish immigration to the Minnesota, “From Emigration to Immigration” is an interdisciplinary and international symposium at the University of Minnesota. It will explore historical and contemporary immigration in Europe, Somali immigration to Finland in comparative perspective, and drawing from our significant research collections in the Immigration History Research Center Archives, the history of Finnish immigration to the US” (http://www.continuum.umn.edu/event/exhibit-opening-for-juhla-celebrating-150-years-of-finnish-immigration-to-minnesota/#.VGb5nIeJlXc and http://www.continuum.umn.edu/2014/10/juhla-celebrating-150-years-of-finnish-immigration-to-minnesota/#.VGb7NYeJlXc)
The Center for Medieval Studies at the U of MN has a weekly newsletter and trivia contest (they also have some great weekly lectures). Every week I try and find the answer to the trivia contest. Some weeks I answer it and some I do not, as sometimes they ask really obscure questions. So when I do figure it out, I occasionally email in the answer to try and win the prize. Well, a few weeks ago I won!!! I was very excited as you can imagine. I had already hiked down to their offices a few weeks ago to claim my prize, but they were not open. So today I made the trek down to the offices (after calling earlier in the day to make sure they would be open) and got my prize…a coffee cup!
In case you were wondering what the question was, here it is: Since 1996, over 60 newly discovered gravestones, shaped from granite into oblong cylinders and containing Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions, are the first known physical evidence of a 13th century Jewish community in what region of the world?
The answer was Armenia, specifically Eghegis, a small village in the southeastern Siwniq region.
This afternoon I attended a lecture by Dr. Giancarlo Casale on “World Map of Tunuslu Hajji Ahmed Lecture” aka “Visions of Europe and Empire in a 16th Century Ottoman World Map” (as the lecture was publicized) and it was much more interesting than the various names let on.
Apparently back in 1569 Hajji Ahmed created (or did he) a world map in Venice with Arabic Turkish writings. The map is unique in that it is the first of its kind to mix Western printing technology with Turkish Arabic script and its the oldest map in Ottoman Turkish. Besides showing a map of the world, it tells about various kingdoms of the world including France, German, Italy and even mentions Peru and Mexico as belonging to Spain. It also lists rulers, continents, etc. It does not apparently mention religion or anything having to do with the humanities. The big controversy over the map is did Hajji Ahmed create it or not?
Maps are incredible interesting items, however they are created by people that have agendas and sadly they do not always tell us what we want to know. But still, maps are wickedly cool!
Cece (my friend and fellow survivor of the St. Tom Art History program and who is getting her PhD in something to do with pharmacology), humorously pointed out that you could tell the audience at the lecture was filled with more humanities people rather than the scientists she usually sees on the East side of campus. People from different academic fields tend to dress differently. I know, strange, but true!
Yesterday I went to the Ramsey County Historical Society in St. Paul, to try and finish up a little research I have been doing on Minnesota synagogues (yes, first mosques and now synagogues. Minnesota is a culturally diverse place!). The RCHS is located in the Landmark Center (a beautiful old building and its on the National Register of Historic Places) and “is a non-circulating collection documenting the history of Ramsey County and St. Paul. The library archives contain books, periodicals, city directories, maps, photographs, personal papers, business and organization records, architectural information and materials on clubs, schools, and churches” http://www.rchs.com/RCHSinfo.htm. I just saw a few items from their collection, but they are pretty cool and the people were really nice and helpful.