martes, 31 de mayo de 2011

Big Ben goes into operation in London

The famous tower clock known as Big Ben, located at the top of the 320-foot-high St. Stephen's Tower, rings out over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, for the first time on this day in 1859.

After a fire destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster – the headquarters of the British Parliament – in October 1834, a standout feature of the design for the new palace was a large clock atop a tower. The royal astronomer, Sir George Airy, wanted the clock to have pinpoint accuracy, including twice-a-day checks with the Royal Greenwich Observatory. While many clockmakers dismissed this goal as impossible, Airy counted on the help of Edmund Beckett Denison, a formidable barrister known for his expertise in horology, or the science of measuring time.

Denison's design, built by the company E.J. Dent & Co., was completed in 1854; five years later, St. Stephen's Tower itself was finished. Weighing more than 13 tonnes, its massive bell was dragged to the tower through the streets of London by a team of 16 horses, to the cheers of onlookers. Once it was installed, Big Ben struck its first chimes on 31 May 1859. Just two months later, however, the heavy striker designed by Denison cracked the bell. Three more years passed before a lighter hammer was added and the clock went into service again. The bell was rotated so that the hammer would strike another surface, but the crack was never repaired.

The name "Big Ben" originally just applied to the bell but later came to refer to the clock itself. Two main stories exist about how Big Ben got its name. Many claim it was named after the famously long-winded Sir Benjamin Hall, the London Commissioner of Works at the time it was built. Another famous story argues that the bell was named for the popular heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt, because it was the largest of its kind.

Even after an incendiary bomb destroyed the chamber of the House of Commons during the Second World War, St. Stephen's Tower survived, and Big Ben continued to function. Its famously accurate timekeeping is regulated by a stack of coins placed on the clock's huge pendulum, ensuring a steady movement of the clock hands at all times. At night, all four of the clock’s faces, each one 23 feet across, are illuminated. A light above Big Ben is also lit to let the public know when Parliament is in session.

Big Ben es el nombre con que se conoce a la Gran campana de Westminster, la mayor de las campanas que se encuentran en la Torre del Reloj que forman parte del Gran Reloj de Westminster del Palacio de Westminster, ubicado en la ciudad Londres. Aunque este nombre le corresponde a la gran campana, popularmente también se le aplica a la Torre del Reloj en su conjunto. La torre se encuentra en la esquina noroeste del edificio que alberga la sede de las dos Cámaras del Parlamento Británico. El Big Ben fue construido en el año 1858. Se cree que recibe su nombre en honor al primer encargado de la construcción, Benjamin Hall, o quizás para homenajear al boxeador Ben Caunt, muy popular en 1858, año en el que la campana fue fundida.

El nombre "Big Ben" es universalmente usado para referirse a la torre en general. Sin embargo, oficialmente se refiere específicamente a la campana principal dentro de la torre. Esta campana se encarga de contar las horas, su peso aproximado es de 13 toneladas. Se cree que recibe su nombre en honor al primer encargado de la construcción, Benjamin Hall, o quizás para homenajear al boxeador Ben Caunt, muy popular en 1858, año en el que la campana fue fundida. Aunque no abierta al público, los residentes en el Reino Unido pueden visitar la torre a través de sus representantes parlamentarios (Members of Parliament). Este reloj es uno de los símbolos representativos de Londres.

La Torre de San Esteban (St. Stephen's Tower) o la Torre del Reloj de Westminster, popularmente conocida como "Big Ben", fue levantada como parte del nuevo edificio diseñado por Charles Barry, después de que el viejo palacio de Westminster fuera destruido por el fuego la noche del 16 de octubre de 1834. La torre está diseñada al estilo gótico victoriano, y tiene 96,3 m de altura. El estilo gótico fue elegido finalmente por la necesidad del imperio británico de diferenciarse del resto de naciones en aquellos días, que ellos consideraban menos fuertes, donde sus parlamentos se regían principalmente por el estilo clásico.
El cuerpo de la torre (61 m de altura) consiste en un enladrillado con revestimiento de piedra; los 35 metros restantes los forman la aguja de hierro fundido con que se corona la torre. La torre está asentada sobre una base de 15 metros de lado y tiene un peso estimado en 8.667 toneladas. Los cuatro relojes están situados a 55 metros de altura.
Debido a las condiciones de tierra donde se asienta la construcción, la torre se inclina levemente al noroeste, unos 220 mm. También oscila anualmente algunos milímetros al este y al oeste, debido a los efectos térmicos.

El reloj de la torre fue el más grande del mundo en su tiempo, capaz de dar cada hora con la precisión de un segundo. El mecanismo del reloj fue completado en el año 1854, pero la torre no fue completamente construida hasta cuatro años más tarde.
Los cuatro laterales del reloj y sus esferas fueron diseñados por Augustus Pugin. Cada lateral tiene una estructura esférica de hierro de 23 pies de diámetro que contiene 312 piezas de cristal opaco. Algunas de estas piezas pueden ser quitadas para revisar las manecillas del reloj. En la base de cada cara del reloj hay una inscripción en latín: 'DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM' ('Dios guarde a nuestra reina Victoria I'). La manecilla que marca las horas mide 2,7 metros de largo, mientras que la que marca los minutos mide 4,3 metros.
El nombre "Big Ben" fue puesto a la campana original de 16 toneladas de la torre, fundida en 1856. Dado que la torre no estaba aún finalizada, la campana fue instalada en el "New Palace Yard", pero la campana se rompió, y finalmente se rehizo en una campana de 13,8 toneladas, la cual se usa hoy. La nueva campana fue montada en la torre en 1858 junto a cuatro campanas más, que se encargan de dar los cuartos.
El 7 de septiembre de 1859 el reloj entró en funcionamiento.

lunes, 30 de mayo de 2011

Joan of Arc is burned at the stake

At Rouen in English-controlled Normandy, Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who became the saviour of France, is burned at the stake for heresy.

Joan was born in 1412, the daughter of a tenant farmer at Domremy, on the borders of the duchies of Bar and Lorraine. In 1415, the Hundred Years War between England and France entered a crucial phase when the young King Henry V of England invaded France and won a series of decisive victories against the forces of King Charles VI. By the time of Henry's death in August 1422, the English and their French-Burgundian allies controlled Aquitaine and most of northern France, including Paris. Charles VI, long incapacitated, died one month later, and his son, Charles, regent from 1418, prepared to take the throne. However, Reims, the traditional city of French coronation, was held by the Anglo-Burgundians, and the Dauphin (heir apparent to the French throne) remained uncrowned. Meanwhile, King Henry VI of England, the infant son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois, the daughter of Charles VI, was proclaimed king of France by the English.

Joan's village of Domremy lay on the frontier between the France of the Dauphin and that of the Anglo-Burgundians. In the midst of this unstable environment, Joan began hearing "voices" of three Christian saints – St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. When she was about 16, these voices exhorted her to aid the Dauphin in capturing Reims and therefore the French throne. In May 1428, she travelled to Vaucouleurs, a stronghold of the Dauphin, and told the captain of the garrison of her visions. Disbelieving the young peasant girl, he sent her home. In January 1429, she returned, and the captain, impressed by her piety and determination, agreed to allow her passage to the Dauphin at Chinon.

Dressed in men's clothes and accompanied by six soldiers, she reached the Dauphin's castle at Chinon in February 1429 and was granted an audience. Charles hid himself among his courtiers, but Joan immediately picked him out and informed him of her divine mission. For several weeks, Charles had Joan questioned by theologians at Poitiers, who concluded that, given his desperate straits, the Dauphin would be well-advised to make use of this strange and charismatic girl.

Charles furnished her with a small army, and on 27 April 1429, she set out for Orleans, besieged by the English since October 1428. On 29 April, as a French sortie distracted the English troops on the west side of Orleans, Joan entered unopposed by its eastern gate. She brought greatly needed supplies and reinforcements and inspired the French to a passionate resistance. She personally led the charge in several battles and on 7 May was struck by an arrow. After quickly dressing her wound, she returned to the fight, and the French won the day. On 8 May, the English retreated from Orleans.

During the next five weeks, Joan and the French commanders led the French into a string of stunning victories over the English. On 16 July, the royal army reached Reims, which opened its gates to Joan and the Dauphin. The next day, Charles VII was crowned king of France, with Joan standing nearby holding up her standard: an image of Christ in judgment. After the ceremony, she knelt before Charles, joyously calling him king for the first time.

On 8 September, the king and Joan attacked Paris. During the battle, Joan carried her standard up to the earthworks and called on the Parisians to surrender the city to the king of France. She was wounded but continued to rally the king's troops until Charles ordered an end to the unsuccessful siege. That year, she led several more small campaigns, capturing the town of Saint-Pierre-le-Moitier. In December, Charles ennobled Joan, her parents, and her brothers.

In May 1430, the Burgundians laid siege to Compiegne, and Joan stole into the town under the cover of darkness to aid in its defence. On 23 May, while leading a sortie against the Burgundians, she was captured. The Burgundians sold her to the English, and in March 1431 she went on trial before ecclesiastical authorities in Rouen on charges of heresy. Her most serious crime, according to the tribunal, was her rejection of church authority in favour of direct inspiration from God. After refusing to submit to the church, her sentence was read on 24 May: she was to be turned over to secular authorities and executed. Reacting with horror to the pronouncement, Joan agreed to recant and was condemned instead to perpetual imprisonment.

Ordered to put on women's clothes, she obeyed, but a few days later the judges went to her cell and found her dressed again in male attire. Questioned, she told them that St. Catherine and St. Margaret had reproached her for giving in to the church against their will. She was found to be a relapsed heretic and on 29 May was ordered to be handed over to secular officials. On 30 May, Joan, 19 years old, was burned at the stake at the Place du Vieux-Marche in Rouen. Before the pyre was lit, she instructed a priest to hold high a crucifix for her to see and to shout out prayers loud enough to be heard above the roar of the flames.

As a source of military inspiration, Joan of Arc helped turn the Hundred Years War firmly in France's favour. By 1453, Charles VII had reconquered all of France except for Calais, which the English relinquished in 1558. In 1920, Joan of Arc, one of the great heroes of French history, was recognised as a Christian saint by the Roman Catholic Church. Her feast day is 30 May.

(Domrémy, Francia, 1412 - Ruán, id., 1431) Santa y heroína francesa. Nacida en el seno de una familia campesina acomodada, la infancia de Juana de Arco transcurrió durante el sangriento conflicto enmarcado en la guerra de los Cien Años que enfrentó al delfín Carlos, primogénito de Carlos VI de Francia, con Enrique VI de Inglaterra por el trono francés, y que provocó la ocupación de buena parte del norte de Francia por las tropas inglesas y borgoñonas.
A los trece años, Juana de Arco confesó haber visto a san Miguel, a santa Catalina y a santa Margarita y declaró que sus voces la exhortaban a llevar una vida devota y piadosa. Unos años más tarde, se sintió llamada por Dios a una misión que no parecía al alcance de una campesina analfabeta: dirigir el ejército francés, coronar como rey al delfín en Reims y expulsar a los ingleses del país.
En 1428 viajó hasta Vaucouleurs con la intención de unirse a las tropas del príncipe Carlos, pero fue rechazada. A los pocos meses, el asedio de Orleans por los ingleses agravó la delicada situación francesa y obligó al delfín a refugiarse en Chinon, localidad a la que acudió Juana, con una escolta facilitada por Roberto de Baudricourt, para informar a Carlos acerca del carácter de su misión.

Éste, no sin haberla hecho examinar por varios teólogos, accedió al fin a confiarle el mando de un ejército de cinco mil hombres, con el que Juana de Arco consiguió derrotar a los ingleses y levantar el cerco de Orleans, el 8 de mayo de 1429. A continuación, realizó una serie de campañas victoriosas que franquearon al delfín el camino hacia Reims y permitieron su coronación como Carlos VII de Francia (17 de julio de 1429).
Acabado su cometido, Juana de Arco dejó de oír sus voces interiores y pidió permiso para volver a casa, pero ante la insistencia de quienes le pedían que se quedara, continuó combatiendo, primero en el infructuoso ataque contra París de septiembre de 1429, y luego en el asedio de Compiègne, donde fue capturada por los borgoñones el 24 de mayo de 1430. 

Entregada a los ingleses, Juana de Arco fue trasladada a Ruán y juzgada por un tribunal eclesiástico acusada de brujería, con el argumento de que las voces que le hablaban procedían del diablo, con lo cual se pretendía presentar a Carlos VII como seguidor de una bruja para desprestigiarlo. Tras un proceso inquisitorial de tres meses, fue declarada culpable de herejía y hechicería; pese a que ella había defendido siempre su inocencia, acabó por retractarse de sus afirmaciones, y ello permitió conmutar la sentencia de muerte inicial por la de cadena perpetua.
Días más tarde, sin embargo, recusó la abjuración y reafirmó el origen divino de las voces que oía, por lo que, condenada a la hoguera, fue ejecutada el 30 de mayo de 1431 en la plaza del mercado viejo de Ruán. Durante unos años, corrió el rumor de que no había muerto quemada en la hoguera, ya que habría sido sustituida por otra muchacha, para casarse posteriormente con Roberto des Armoises. En 1456, Juana de Arco fue rehabilitada solemnemente por el papa Calixto III, a instancias de Carlos VII, quien promovió la revisión del proceso. Considerada una mártir y convertida en el símbolo de la unidad francesa, fue beatificada en 1909 y canonizada en 1920, año en que Francia la proclamó su patrona.

domingo, 29 de mayo de 2011

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

(born May 29, 1917, Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.—died November 22, 1963, Dallas, Texas) 35th president of the United States (1961–63), who faced a number of foreign crises, especially in Cuba and Berlin, but managed to secure such achievements as the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and the Alliance for Progress. He was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas. (For a discussion of the history and nature of the presidency, see presidency of the United States of America.)

The second of nine children, Kennedy was reared in a family that demanded intense physical and intellectual competition among the siblings—the family's touch football games at their Hyannis Port retreat later became legendary—and was schooled in the religious teachings of the Roman Catholic church and the political precepts of the Democratic Party. His father, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, had acquired a multimillion-dollar fortune in banking, bootlegging, shipbuilding, and the film industry, and as a skilled player of the stock market. His mother, Rose, was the daughter of John F. (“Honey Fitz”) Fitzgerald, onetime mayor of Boston. They established trust funds for their children that guaranteed lifelong financial independence. After serving as the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Joseph Kennedy became the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, and for six months in 1938 John served as his secretary, drawing on that experience to write his senior thesis at Harvard University (B.S., 1940) on Great Britain's military unpreparedness. He then expanded that thesis into a best-selling book, Why England Slept (1940).
In the fall of 1941 Kennedy joined the U.S. Navy and two years later was sent to the South Pacific. By the time he was discharged in 1945, his older brother, Joe, who their father had expected would be the first Kennedy to run for office, had been killed in the war, and the family's political standard passed to John, who had planned to pursue an academic or journalistic career.
John Kennedy himself had barely escaped death in battle. Commanding a patrol torpedo (PT) boat, he was gravely injured when a Japanese destroyer sank it in the Solomon Islands. Marooned far behind enemy lines, he led his men back to safety and was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism. He also returned to active command at his own request. (These events were later depicted in a Hollywood film, PT 109 [1963], that contributed to the Kennedy mystique.) However, the further injury to his back, which had bothered him since his teens, never really healed. Despite operations in 1944, 1954, and 1955, he was in pain for much of the rest of his life. He also suffered from Addison's disease, though this affliction was publicly concealed. “At least one-half of the days he spent on this earth,” wrote his brother Robert, “were days of intense physical pain.” (After he became president, Kennedy combated the pain with injections of amphetamines—then thought to be harmless and used by more than a few celebrities for their energizing effect. According to some reports, both Kennedy and the first lady became heavily dependent on these injections through weekly use.) None of this prevented Kennedy from undertaking a strenuous life in politics. His family expected him to run for public office and to win.
Kennedy did not disappoint his family; in fact, he never lost an election. His first opportunity came in 1946, when he ran for Congress. Although still physically weak from his war injuries, he campaigned aggressively, bypassing the Democratic organization in the Massachusetts 11th congressional district and depending instead upon his family, college friends, and fellow navy officers. In the Democratic primary he received nearly double the vote of his nearest opponent; in the November election he overwhelmed the Republican candidate. He was only 29.

Kennedy served three terms in the House of Representatives (1947–53) as a bread-and-butter liberal. He advocated better working conditions, more public housing, higher wages, lower prices, cheaper rents, and more Social Security for the aged. In foreign policy he was an early supporter of Cold War policies. He backed the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan but was sharply critical of the Truman administration's record in Asia. He accused the State Department of trying to force Chiang Kai-shek into a coalition with Mao Zedong. “What our young men had saved,” he told the House on January 25, 1949, “our diplomats and our President have frittered away.”
His congressional district in Boston was a safe seat, but Kennedy was too ambitious to remain long in the House of Representatives. In 1952 he ran for the U.S. Senate against the popular incumbent, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. His mother and sisters Eunice, Patricia, and Jean held “Kennedy teas” across the state. Thousands of volunteers flocked to help, including his 27-year-old brother Robert, who managed the campaign. That fall the Republican presidential candidate, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, carried Massachusetts by 208,000 votes; but Kennedy defeated Lodge by 70,000 votes. Less than a year later, on September 12, 1953, Kennedy enhanced his electoral appeal by marrying Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis). Twelve years younger than Kennedy and from a socially prominent family, the beautiful “Jackie” was the perfect complement to the handsome politician; they made a glamorous couple.
As a senator, Kennedy quickly won a reputation for responsiveness to requests from constituents, except on certain occasions when the national interest was at stake. In 1954 he was the only New England senator to approve an extension of President Eisenhower's reciprocal-trade powers, and he vigorously backed the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, despite the fact that over a period of 20 years no Massachusetts senator or congressman had ever voted for it.
To the disappointment of liberal Democrats, Kennedy soft-pedaled the demagogic excesses of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, who in the early 1950s conducted witch-hunting campaigns against government workers accused of being communists. Kennedy's father liked McCarthy, contributed to his campaign, and even entertained him in the family's compound at Hyannis Port on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Kennedy himself disapproved of McCarthy, but, as he once observed, “Half my people in Massachusetts look on McCarthy as a hero.” Yet, on the Senate vote over condemnation of McCarthy's conduct (1954), Kennedy expected to vote against him. He prepared a speech explaining why, but he was absent on the day of the vote. Later, at a National Press Club Gridiron dinner, costumed reporters sang, “Where were you, John, where were you, John, when the Senate censured Joe?” Actually, John had been in a hospital, in critical condition after back surgery. For six months afterward he lay strapped to a board in his father's house in Palm Beach, Florida. It was during this period that he worked on Profiles in Courage (1956), an account of eight great American political leaders who had defied popular opinion in matters of conscience, which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1957. Although Kennedy was credited as the book's author, it was later revealed that his assistant Theodore Sorensen had done much of the research and writing.
Back in the Senate, Kennedy led a fight against a proposal to abolish the electoral college, crusaded for labour reform, and became increasingly committed to civil rights legislation. As a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in the late 1950s, he advocated extensive foreign aid to the emerging nations in Africa and Asia, and he surprised his colleagues by calling upon France to grant Algerian independence.
During these years his political outlook was moving leftward. Possibly because of their father's dynamic personality, the sons of Joseph Kennedy matured slowly. Gradually John's stature among Democrats grew, until he had inherited the legions that had once followed Governor Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois, the two-time presidential candidate who by appealing to idealism had transformed the Democratic Party and made Kennedy's rise possible.
Kennedy had nearly become Stevenson's vice presidential running mate in 1956. The charismatic young New Englander's near victory and his televised speech of concession (Estes Kefauver won the vice presidential nomination) brought him into some 40 million American homes. Overnight he had become one of the best-known political figures in the country. Already his campaign for the 1960 nomination had begun. One newspaperman called him a “young man in a hurry.” Kennedy felt that he had to redouble his efforts because of the widespread conviction that no Roman Catholic candidate could be elected president. He made his 1958 race for reelection to the Senate a test of his popularity in Massachusetts. His margin of victory was 874,608 votes—the largest ever in Massachusetts politics and the greatest of any senatorial candidate that year.
A steady stream of speeches and periodical profiles followed, with photographs of him and his wife appearing on many a magazine cover. Kennedy's carefully calculated pursuit of the presidency years before the first primary established a practice that became the norm for candidates seeking the nation's highest office. To transport him and his staff around the country, his father bought a 40-passenger Convair aircraft. His brothers Robert (“Bobby,” or “Bob”) and Edward (“Teddy,” or “Ted”) pitched in. After having graduated from Harvard University (1948) and from the University of Virginia Law School (1951), Bobby had embarked on a career as a Justice Department attorney and counsellor for congressional committees. Ted likewise had graduated from Harvard (1956) and from Virginia Law School (1959). Both men were astute campaigners.
In January 1960 John F. Kennedy formally announced his presidential candidacy. His chief rivals were the senators Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota and Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. Kennedy knocked Humphrey out of the campaign and dealt the religious taboo against Roman Catholics a blow by winning the primary in Protestant West Virginia. He tackled the Catholic issue again, by avowing his belief in the separation of church and state in a televised speech before a group of Protestant ministers in Houston, Texas. Nominated on the first ballot, he balanced the Democratic ticket by choosing Johnson as his running mate. In his acceptance speech Kennedy declared, “We stand on the edge of a New Frontier.” Thereafter the phrase “New Frontier” was associated with his presidential programs.
Another phrase—“the Kennedy style”—encapsulated the candidate's emerging identity. It was glamorous and elitist, an amalgam of his father's wealth, John Kennedy's charisma and easy wit, Jacqueline Kennedy's beauty and fashion sense (the suits and pillbox hats she wore became widely popular), the charm of their children and relatives, and the erudition of the Harvard advisers who surrounded him (called the “best and brightest” by author David Halberstam).

Kennedy won the general election, narrowly defeating the Republican candidate, Vice President Richard M. Nixon, by a margin of less than 120,000 out of some 70,000,000 votes cast. Many observers, then and since, believed vote fraud contributed to Kennedy's victory, especially in the critical state of Illinois, where Joe Kennedy enlisted the help of the ever-powerful Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago. Nixon had defended the Eisenhower record; Kennedy, whose slogan had been “Let's get this country moving again,” had deplored unemployment, the sluggish economy, the so-called missile gap (a presumed Soviet superiority over the United States in the number of nuclear-armed missiles), and the new communist government in Havana. A major factor in the campaign was a unique series of four televised debates between the two men; an estimated 85–120 million Americans watched one or more of the debates. Both men showed a firm grasp of the issues, but Kennedy's poise in front of the camera, his tony Harvard accent, and his good looks (in contrast to Nixon's “five o'clock shadow”) convinced many viewers that he had won the debate. As president, Kennedy continued to exploit the new medium, sparkling in precedent-setting televised weekly press conferences.

 He was the youngest man and the first Roman Catholic ever elected to the presidency of the United States. His administration lasted 1,037 days. From the onset he was concerned with foreign affairs. In his memorable inaugural address (see original text), he called upon Americans “to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle…against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.” (See also primary source document: A Long Twilight Struggle.) He declared:
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it.…The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
The administration's first brush with foreign affairs was a disaster. In the last year of the Eisenhower presidency, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had equipped and trained a brigade of anticommunist Cuban exiles for an invasion of their homeland. The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously advised the new president that this force, once ashore, would spark a general uprising against the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro. But the Bay of Pigs invasion was a fiasco; every man on the beachhead was either killed or captured. Kennedy assumed “sole responsibility” for the setback. Privately he told his father that he would never again accept a Joint Chiefs recommendation without first challenging it.

 The Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, thought he had taken the young president's measure when the two leaders met in Vienna in June 1961. Khrushchev ordered a wall built between East and West Berlin and threatened to sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany. The president activated National Guard and reserve units, and Khrushchev backed down on his separate peace threat. Kennedy then made a dramatic visit to West Berlin, where he told a cheering crowd, “Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein [I am a] Berliner.' ” In October 1962 a buildup of Soviet short- and intermediate-range nuclear missiles was discovered in Cuba. Kennedy demanded that the missiles be dismantled; he ordered a “quarantine” of Cuba (see original text)—in effect, a blockade that would stop Soviet ships from reaching that island. For 13 days nuclear war seemed near; then the Soviet premier announced that the offensive weapons would be withdrawn. (See Cuban missile crisis.) Ten months later Kennedy scored his greatest foreign triumph when Khrushchev and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan of Great Britain joined him in signing the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. Yet Kennedy's commitment to combat the spread of communism led him to escalate American involvement in the conflict in Vietnam, where he sent not just supplies and financial assistance, as President Eisenhower had, but 15,000 military advisers as well.
Because of his slender victory in 1960, Kennedy approached Congress warily, and with good reason; Congress was largely indifferent to his legislative program. It approved his Alliance for Progress (Alianza) in Latin America and his Peace Corps, which won the enthusiastic endorsement of thousands of college students. But his two most cherished projects, massive income tax cuts and a sweeping civil rights measure, were not passed until after his death. (See primary source document: The American Promise to African Americans.) In May 1961 Kennedy committed the United States to land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade, and, while he would not live to see this achievement either, his advocacy of the space program contributed to the successful launch of the first American manned spaceflights.

 He was an immensely popular president, at home and abroad. At times he seemed to be everywhere at once, encouraging better physical fitness, improving the morale of government workers, bringing brilliant advisers to the White House, and beautifying Washington, D.C. His wife joined him as an advocate for American culture. Their two young children, Caroline Bouvier and John F., Jr., were familiar throughout the country. The charm and optimism of the Kennedy family seemed contagious, sparking the idealism of a generation for whom the Kennedy White House became, in journalist Theodore White's famous analogy, Camelot—the magical court of Arthurian legend, which was celebrated in a popular Broadway musical of the early 1960s.
Joseph Kennedy, meanwhile, had been incapacitated in Hyannis Port by a stroke, but the other Kennedys were in and out of Washington. Robert Kennedy, as John's attorney general, was the second most powerful man in the country. He advised the president on all matters of foreign and domestic policy, national security, and political affairs.
In 1962 Edward Kennedy was elected to the president's former Senate seat in Massachusetts. Their sister Eunice's husband, Sargent Shriver, became director of the Peace Corps. Their sister Jean's husband, Stephen Smith, was preparing to manage the Democratic Party's 1964 presidential campaign. Another sister, Patricia, had married Peter Lawford, an English-born actor who served the family as an unofficial envoy to the entertainment world. All Americans knew who Rose, Jackie, Bobby, and Teddy were, and most could identify Bobby's wife as Ethel and Teddy's wife as Joan. But if the first family had become American royalty, its image of perfection would be tainted years later by allegations of marital infidelity by the president (most notably, an affair with motion-picture icon Marilyn Monroe) and of his association with members of organized crime.

 President Kennedy believed that his Republican opponent in 1964 would be Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. He was convinced that he could bury Goldwater under an avalanche of votes, thus receiving a mandate for major legislative reforms. One obstacle to his plan was a feud in Vice President Johnson's home state of Texas between Governor John B. Connally, Jr., and Senator Ralph Yarborough, both Democrats. To present a show of unity, the president decided to tour the state with both men. On Friday, November 22, 1963, he and Jacqueline Kennedy were in an open limousine riding slowly in a motorcade through downtown Dallas. At 12:30 PM the president was struck by two rifle bullets, one at the base of his neck and one in the head. He was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Governor Connally, though also gravely wounded, recovered. Vice President Johnson took the oath as president at 2:38 PM. Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24-year-old Dallas citizen, was accused of the slaying. Two days later Oswald was shot to death by Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner with connections to the criminal underworld, in the basement of a Dallas police station. A presidential commission headed by the chief justice of the United States, Earl Warren, later found that neither the sniper nor his killer “was part of any conspiracy, domestic or foreign, to assassinate President Kennedy,” but that Oswald had acted alone. The Warren Commission, however, was not able to convincingly explain all the particular circumstances of Kennedy's murder. In 1979 a special committee of the U.S. House of Representatives declared that although the president had undoubtedly been slain by Oswald, acoustic analysis suggested the presence of a second gunman who had missed. But this declaration did little to squelch the theories that Oswald was part of a conspiracy involving either CIA agents angered over Kennedy's handling of the Bay of Pigs fiasco or members of organized crime seeking revenge for Attorney General Bobby Kennedy's relentless criminal investigations. Kennedy's assassination, the most notorious political murder of the 20th century, remains a source of bafflement, controversy, and speculation.
John Kennedy was dead, but the Kennedy mystique was still alive. Both Robert and Ted ran for president (in 1968 and 1980, respectively). Yet tragedy would become nearly synonymous with the Kennedys when Bobby, too, was assassinated on the campaign trail in 1968.
Jacqueline Kennedy and her two children moved from the White House to a home in the Georgetown section of Washington. Continuing crowds of the worshipful and curious made peace there impossible, however, and in the summer of 1964 she moved to New York City. Pursuit continued until October 20, 1968, when she married Aristotle Onassis, a wealthy Greek shipping magnate. The Associated Press said that the marriage “broke the spell of almost complete adulation of a woman who had become virtually a legend in her own time.” Widowed by Onassis, the former first lady returned to the public eye in the mid-1970s as a high-profile book editor, and she remained among the most admired women in the United States until her death in 1994. As an adult, daughter Caroline was jealous of her own privacy, but John Jr.—a lawyer like his sister and debonair and handsome like his father—was much more of a public figure. Long remembered as “John-John,” the three-year-old who stoically saluted his father's casket during live television coverage of the funeral procession, John Jr. became the founder and editor-in-chief of the political magazine George in the mid-1990s. In 1999, when John Jr., his wife, and his sister-in-law died in the crash of the private plane he was piloting, the event was the focus of an international media watch that further proved the immortality of the Kennedy mystique. It was yet another chapter in the family's “curse” of tragedy.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (Brookline, Massachusetts, 29 de mayo de 1917 – † Dallas, Texas, 22 de noviembre de 1963) fue el trigésimo quinto presidente de los Estados Unidos. Fue conocido como John F. Kennedy, Jack Kennedy por sus amigos y popularmente como JFK.
Elegido en 1960, Kennedy se convirtió en el segundo presidente más joven de su país, después de Theodore Roosevelt. Ejerció como Presidente desde 1961 hasta su asesinato en 1963. Durante su gobierno tuvo lugar la invasión de Bahía de Cochinos, la crisis de los misiles de Cuba, la construcción del Muro de Berlín, el inicio de la carrera espacial, la consolidación del Movimiento por los Derechos Civiles en Estados Unidos, así como los primeros eventos de la Guerra de Vietnam.
Durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, destacó por su liderazgo como comandante de la lancha torpedera PT-109 en el área del Pacífico Sur. Realizando un reconocimiento, la PT-109 fue impactada por un destructor japonés, que partió la lancha en dos y ocasionó una explosión. La tripulación a su cargo logró nadar hasta una isla y sobrevivir hasta ser rescatada. Esta hazaña le dio popularidad y con ella comenzó su carrera política. Kennedy representó al estado de Massachusetts como miembro de la Cámara de Representantes desde 1947 hasta 1953 y luego como senador desde 1953 hasta que asumió la presidencia en 1961. Con 43 años de edad, fue el candidato presidencial del Partido Demócrata en las elecciones de 1960, derrotando a Richard Nixon en una de las votaciones más ajustadas de la historia presidencial del país. Kennedy había sido la última persona en ser elegida ejerciendo como senador hasta la elección de Barack Obama en 2008. También ha sido el único católico romano en ser elegido presidente de EE. UU., único nacido durante la Primera Guerra Mundial y fue el primero nacido en el siglo XX.
El presidente Kennedy murió asesinado el 22 de noviembre de 1963 en Dallas, Texas, Estados Unidos. A Lee Harvey Oswald lo detuvieron y acusaron del homicidio, pero fue asesinado dos días después por Jack Ruby por lo que no pudieron someterlo a juicio. La Comisión Warren concluyó que Oswald había actuado solo en el asesinato. Sin embargo, el Comité Selecto de la Cámara sobre Asesinatos estimó en 1979 que podría existir una conspiración en torno a su asesinato. El tema ha sido muy debatido y existen múltiples teorías sobre el magnicidio. El crimen fue un momento importante en la historia de los Estados Unidos debido a su traumático impacto en la psique de la nación.
Muchos han considerado a Kennedy como un icono de las aspiraciones y esperanzas estadounidenses; en algunas encuestas realizadas en su país continúa siendo estimado como uno de los mejores presidentes de los Estados Unidos.

En la primavera de 1941 se ofreció como voluntario para el Ejército de los Estados Unidos pero fue rechazado principalmente por sus problemas de columna. Sin embargo, en septiembre de ese año la Armada de los Estados Unidos lo aceptó, por la influencia del director de la Oficina de Inteligencia Naval (ONI), un antiguo ayudante naval de su padre en su etapa como embajador en Gran Bretaña. Con el rango de alférez, trabajó en una oficina encargada de los boletines y de los informes que se presentaban al Secretario de la Marina. Fue en este periodo cuando ocurrió el ataque a Pearl Harbor. Estuvo estudiando en la Escuela de Entrenamiento de Oficiales de la Reserva Naval (Naval Reserve Officers Training School) y en el Centro de Entrenamiento de Escuadrones de Lanchas Torpederas (Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center) antes de ser destinado a Panamá y finalmente a las operaciones del Pacífico. Participó en varias misiones y fue ascendido a teniente, comandando una lancha "patrulla torpedera" (PT boat, lanchas pequeñas y rápidas destinadas a atacar por sorpresa grandes buques, cuyo efecto fue comparado con el de los mosquitos).
El 2 de agosto de 1943, la lancha de Kennedy, la PT-109, fue abordada por el destructor japonés Amagiri mientras participaba en una misión nocturna cerca de Nueva Georgia en las Islas Salomón. John cayó de la lancha, hiriéndose nuevamente su columna. A pesar de su lesión, ayudó a sus otros 10 compañeros sobrevivientes, y en especial a uno al que cargó por estar muy malherido, a llegar a una isla donde fueron rescatados. Por esta acción, recibió la Medalla de la Marina y del Cuerpo de Marines ("Navy and Marine Corps Medal") y el siguiente reconocimiento:
"Por una conducta extremadamente heroica como Oficial Comandante de la Lancha Torpedera 109 luego de la colisión y hundimiento del navío en la Guerra del Pacífico el 1-2 de agosto de 1943. Sin importar el daño personal, el Teniente (entonces Teniente de menor grado) Kennedy luchó sin vacilar contra las adversidades en las tinieblas para dirigir las operaciones de rescate, nadando muchas horas para rescatar y proveer de ayuda y comida a sus compañeros una vez que estos se encontraban a salvo en la costa. Su valor sobresaliente, entereza y liderazgo contribuyeron a salvar la vida de muchas personas y a mantener las mejores tradiciones de la Armada estadounidense".
Otras condecoraciones de Kennedy en la Segunda Guerra Mundial fueron el Corazón Púrpura, la Medalla de la Campaña Asia-Pacífico (Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal) y la Medalla de la Victoria de la Segunda Guerra Mundial (World War II Victory Medal). Fue dado honorablemente de baja a principios de 1945, unos pocos meses antes de la rendición japonesa. Sus actos en la guerra fueron popularizados cuando se convirtió en Presidente, siendo objeto de varios artículos de revistas, libros, historietas, especiales de televisión y películas. Contribuyó a hacer de la PT-109 una de las naves más famosas de la Armada de los Estados Unidos durante la Guerra: modelos a escala e incluso figuras de G.I. Joe sobre el incidente siguen produciéndose en el siglo XXI.
Durante su presidencia, Kennedy admitió privadamente a sus amigos que no se sentía merecedor de las medallas recibidas, pues el incidente de la PT-109 fue resultado de una operación militar que costó la vida a dos miembros de su tripulación. Cuando un reportero le preguntó cómo se convirtió en un héroe, Kennedy bromeo: "Fue involuntario. Ellos hundieron mi barco".
En agosto de 1963, un mes antes de su asesinato, Kennedy escribió: "A cualquier hombre que se le pregunte en este siglo qué hizo para que su vida valiera la pena, creo que puede responder con harto orgullo y satisfacción: serví en la Marina de los Estados Unidos"
En mayo de 2002, una expedición de la National Geographic encontró lo que se supone son los restos de la PT-109 en las Islas Salomón. Un miembro de la familia Kennedy viajó a las islas para entregar un regalo a quienes rescataron a John y que todavía permanecían con vida, pero problemas de comunicación les impidieron participar en la ceremonia. Los guardacostas australianos a los que avisaron los nativos fueron invitados a la Casa Blanca.

sábado, 28 de mayo de 2011

Ian Lancaster Fleming

Ian Lancaster Fleming (28 May 1908 – 12 August 1964) was a British author, creator of James Bond, was much like his fictional character. Fleming was a spy, a notorious womaniser and he liked his martinis shaken, not stirred.
Part of the British aristocracy, he was a journalist, a banker and a military man, who finally wrote his first novel at age 43.
Over the next 11 years, he wrote 13 Bond novels and the children's book 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'. Once translated to the silver screen, James Bond launched the world's longest running series of movies.
Fleming was born in Mayfair, London, to Valentine Fleming, an MP, and his wife Evelyn Ste Croix Fleming. Ian was the younger brother of travel writer Peter Fleming and the older brother of Michael and Richard Fleming. He also had an illegitimate half-sister, the cellist Amaryllis Fleming.
He was educated at Eton before going on to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. After an early departure from the prestigious officer training school, he opted to study languages at a private school in Austria.
Following an unsuccessful application to join the Foreign Office, Fleming worked as a sub-editor and journalist for the Reuters news agency, and then as a stockbroker in the City of London.
On the eve of World War II, Fleming was recruited into naval intelligence. Owing in part to his facility with languages, he was a personal assistant to Admiral John H. Godfrey, who served as the model for James Bond's commanding officer, "M".
Fleming was put in charge of a special commando unit (from behind his desk in Whitehall) and was involved in the plot to wash up a dead body on occupied Europe containing false intelligence about Allied landings.
During the last year of the war, Fleming visited Jamaica on military business and decided that he would work to make this tropical paradise his home. He set about making this goal happen and did it with style. He designed and built a home in Jamaica he called Goldeneye.
He left naval intelligence after the war, having attained the rank of Commander, and kept up his rank with the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve for some years, having to undergo two weeks training a year. There is little evidence that Fleming carried out any of the exploits that he later attributed to James Bond - however, what is clear is that Bond would have been unlikely to come about had Fleming not spent the time he did in the intelligence services.
Indeed, Fleming's intelligence work provided the background for his spy novels. In 1953, he published his first novel, 'Casino Royale'. In it, he introduced secret agent James Bond, also famously known by his code number, 007 - which gave him a “licence to kill”. It is believed that, in this initial story, he based the female character "Vesper Lynd" on real life SOE agent, Christine Granville.
Besides the 12 novels and nine short stories he wrote featuring James Bond, Fleming is also known for the children's story, 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'.
In 1961, he sold the film rights to his already published as well as future James Bond novels and short stories to Harry Saltzman, who, with Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli, co-produced the film version of 'Dr. No' (1962). For the cast, Fleming suggested friend and neighbour Noël Coward as the villain Dr. Julius No, and David Niven or, later, Roger Moore as James Bond. Both were rejected in favour of Sean Connery, who was both Broccoli and Saltzman's choice.
'Dr. No' proved to be an instant sensation and sparked a spy craze through the rest of the 1960s. It was followed by 'From Russia with Love' (1963), the second and last James Bond movie Ian Fleming saw.
Fleming died of a heart attack in Kent in August, 1964. He was only 56. His widow, Ann Geraldine Mary Fleming (1913-1981), and son Caspar Robert Fleming (1952–1975), are buried next to him.

Ian Lancaster Fleming Nacido el 28 de mayo de 1908 de Valentine Fleming, y nieto del acomodado banquero escocés Robert Fleming, Ian Lancaster Fleming creció en el seno de una extraña clase de ingleses para quienes todas las opiniones tienen cabida. El privilegio de clase y respeto no vinieron simplemente del dinero de su abuelo, ya que la riqueza en Inglaterra no garantiza las puertas abiertas. La familia Fleming se ganó el respeto social con servicio y sangre. El padre de Ian fue un terrateniente en Oxfordshire y miembro del Parlamento. Cuando Valentine Fleming murió en la Gran Guerra, a Ian le quedaban 8 días para su noveno aniversario. Winston Churchill escribió el obituario para The Times.

La madre de Fleming, Evelyn St. Croix Rose Fleming, heredó los bienes de Valentine convirtiéndose en una mujer muy adinerada. La herencia, no obstante, le impedía que se casara de nuevo, lo que virtualmente garantizaba que permaneciera como la viuda de Valentine para siempre, a pesar de otros amores o circunstancias. Estas cadenas financieras de Valentine Fleming prepararán el escenario para las presiones financieras que perseguirán a Ian Fleming durante su vida.
El fantasma de Valentine permanecerá sobre Ian de muchas otras formas. Su padre era una persona muy estricta. En las oraciones, los jóvenes Fleming rezaban para ser tan buenos como sus padres. Para Ian, esta carga fue como una orden demasiado difícil de cumplir.
Fleming no sólo tuvo que vivir con el fantasma de su padre, sino que tuvo que hacerlo a la sombra de su hermano Peter, quien tras la muerte de su padre ocupó el papel de patriarca de la familia. Peter se distinguió tanto en Eton como más tarde en Oxford.
El conocimiento de la fortuna de su padre, y la imposibilidad de acceder a ella hicieron sentir al joven Fleming desheredado. La fortuna de Fleming junto a los importantes logros de Valentine y Peter parecen haber puesto una pesada losa en el hombro de Ian. Como Ian no consigue ponerse a su nivel, parece determinado a construir su propio imperio, crear su propia identiidad dentro de la familia y ser aclamado por su propio éxito. 

Mientras Fleming buscaba su propia identidad en Kitzbuhel, parecía no encontrar lo que quería ser en la vida. Escribió algunas historias cortas y algunos poemas, pero sin pretensiones, parece, de ser un autor. Con el tiempo, Fleming se preparó para el examen de servicios extranjeros, pero para su desgracia no alcanzó la nota. Sin embargo, Fleming había realizado el curso para él mismo y alcanzado metas propias. Tras un intento de entrar en el servicio extranjero, Fleming se dirigió a la profesión de su hermano. Siguiendo los pasos de Peter, Fleming se convirtió en periodista, entrando en Reuters.  
La fortuna familiar era inalcanzable para Ian hasta que su madre muriera o se casara de nuevo, y ambas opciones eran poco probables. Fleming tomó su decisión, dejando el periodismo. En uno de sus pocos compromisos, Fleming, capitalizando el nombre de la familia, se unió a una firma bancaria de Londres de la que esperaba le hiciese rico.    En 1939, parece que a Fleming le aburre la rutinaria existencia del día a día de un banquero. Las subidas y bajadas del mercado de valores aparentemente no le dan suficiente intriga. Durante sus días en Reuters, Fleming había hecho amistades en la oficina de exteriores, y las mantenía incluso siendo banquero. En 1939, Fleming curiosamente cogió una misión para el The Times en la que precisaba volver a Rusia en una misión de comercio. Parece que Fleming, de hecho, estuvo todo el tiempo espiando para la oficina de exteriores. 

En mayo de 1939, Fleming empezó un acercamiento más formal al servicio de inteligencia, trabajando para la inteligencia naval. Pronto fue el asistente del director con el rango de Lugarteniente, y más tarde Comandante. Fleming fue la mano derecha de uno de los mejores espías británicos, el Almirante John Godfrey.

La guerra fue buena para Fleming, incentivando su imaginación, forzándose a trabajar de forma disciplinaria. Fleming programó, elaboró, y llevó a cabo peligrosas misiones. Desde la famosa Habitación 39 en el edificio del Almirantazgo enWhitehall, Londres, Fleming esgrimió multitud de ideas excéntricas sobre como confundir, vigilar, y enfurecer a los Alemanes.   
Entrada la guerra, Fleming fue puesto al mando de la Unidad de Asalto 30, un grupo de comandos especialmente entrenados que eran enviados a específicas misiones de inteligencia. Dichas misiones a menudo implicaban trabajar tras las líneas enemigas asegurándose que los Alemanes no tuvieran oportunidad de destruir sus valiosos archivos. La Unidad de Asalto 30 tuvo un gran éxito. Fleming los enviaba a misiones mientras él permanecía detrás de su escritorio en Londres. Sin embargo, era su grupo, y sus éxitos le fueron atribuidos igualmente. 
Al terminar la guerra se fue a vivir a Jamaica donde empezó a escribir y creo al espía mas famoso de todos los tiempo James Bond.

viernes, 27 de mayo de 2011

British Navy sinks the Bismarck

On 27 May 1941, the British navy sinks the German battleship Bismarck in the North Atlantic near France. The German death toll was more than 2,000.

On 14 February 1939, the 823-foot Bismarck was launched at Hamburg. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler hoped that the state-of-the-art battleship would herald the rebirth of the German surface battle fleet. However, after the outbreak of war, Britain closely guarded ocean routes from Germany to the Atlantic Ocean, and only U-boats moved freely through the war zone.

In May 1941, the order was given for the Bismarck to break out into the Atlantic. Once in the safety of the open ocean, the battleship would be almost impossible to track down, all the while wreaking havoc on Allied convoys to Britain. Learning of its movement, Britain sent almost the entire British Home Fleet in pursuit. On 24 May, the British battle cruiser Hood and battleship Prince of Wales intercepted it near Iceland. In a ferocious battle, the Hood exploded and sank, and all but three of the 1,421 crewmen were killed. The Bismarck escaped, but because it was leaking fuel it fled for occupied France. On 26 May, it was sighted and crippled by British aircraft, and on 27 May three British warships descended on the Bismarck and finished it off.

El 27 de mayo de 1941, la marina británica hundio el acorazado alemán Bismarck en el Atlántico Norte, cerca de Francia. El número de muertos alemanes fue más de 2.000.
El 14 de febrero de 1939, los 823 pies de Bismarck se puso en marcha en Hamburgo. El líder nazi Adolf Hitler esperaba que el barco de guerra fuese el renacimiento de la flota de batalla alemana. Sin embargo, después del estallido de la guerra, Gran Bretaña guardaba celosamente las rutas oceánicas de Alemania hasta el Océano Atlántico, y sólo los submarinos almenaes se movían libremente por la zona de guerra.
En mayo de 1941, se dio la orden para el Bismarck de patrullar el Atlántico. Una vez en la seguridad de los mares, el acorazado sería casi imposible de rastrear, Fue la mayor amenaza para los barcos aliados de Gran Bretaña. 

Gran Bretaña envió casi la totalidad de su flota de Interior en su persecución. El 24 de mayo, el crucero de batalla británico Hood y el acorazado Príncipe de Gales lo interceptaron cerca de Islandia. En una batalla feroz, la capilla explotó y se hundió, y todos menos tres de los 1.421 miembros de la tripulación murieron. El Bismarck se escapó, pero con grandes daños en su deposito de combustible que le hicieron resguardase a la Francia ocupada. El 26 de mayo, fue avistado y paralizado por aviones británicos y el 27 de mayo tres buques de guerra británicos atacaron el Bismarck y lo hundieron.

jueves, 26 de mayo de 2011

Dracula goes on sale

The first copies of the classic vampire novel ‘Dracula’, by Irish writer Bram Stoker, appear in London bookshops on this day in 1897.

An invalid as a child, Stoker grew up to become a football star at Trinity College, Dublin. After graduation, he got a job in the civil service at Dublin Castle, where he worked for the next 10 years while writing drama reviews for the Dublin Mail on the side. In this way, Stoker met the well-respected actor Sir Henry Irving, who hired him as his manager. Stoker stayed in the post for most of the next three decades, writing Irving's voluminous correspondence for him and accompanying him on tours in the United States. Over the years, Stoker began writing a number of horror stories for magazines, and in 1890 he published his first novel, ‘The Snake's Pass’.

Stoker would go on to publish 17 novels in all, but it was his 1897 novel ‘Dracula’ that eventually earned him literary fame and became known as a masterpiece of Victorian-era Gothic literature. Written in the form of diaries and journals of its main characters, Dracula is the story of a vampire who makes his way from Transylvania – a region of Eastern Europe now in Romania – to Yorkshire, England, and preys on innocents there to get the blood he needs to live. Stoker had originally named the vampire "Count Wampyr." He found the name Dracula in a book on Wallachia and Moldavia written by retired diplomat William Wilkinson, which he borrowed from a Yorkshire public library during his family's vacations there.

Vampires – who left their burial places at night to drink the blood of humans – were popular figures in folk tales from ancient times, but Stoker's novel catapulted them into the mainstream of 20th-century literature. Upon its release, ‘Dracula’ enjoyed moderate success, though when Stoker died in 1912 none of his obituaries even mentioned Dracula by name.
Sales began to take off in the 1920s, when the novel was adapted for Broadway. Dracula mania kicked into even higher gear with Universal's blockbuster 1931 film, directed by Tod Browning and starring the Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi. Dozens of vampire-themed movies, television shows and literature followed, though Lugosi, with his exotic accent, remains the quintessential Count Dracula. Late 20th-century examples of the vampire craze include the bestselling novels of American writer Anne Rice and the cult hit TV series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.

Los primeros ejemplares de la novela clásica de vampiros 'Drácula', del escritor irlandés Bram Stoker, aparecerá en las librerías de Londres en este día del 1897.

Stoker que siempre fue un niño muy enfermizo, creció hasta convertirse en una de las  estrellas del fútbol en el Trinity College de Dublín. Después de graduarse, consiguió un trabajo en el Castillo de Dublín, donde trabajó durante 10 años mientras escribía reseñas de teatro. El actor Sir Henry Irving después de leer algunas de las obras de Stoker se reunió con él y lo contrató como manager. Stoker trabajó para Irving durante treinta años.  

Con los años, Stoker empezó a escribir una serie de historias de terror para revistas, y en 1890 publicó su primera novela, 'La serpiente de paso'.
Stoker llegaría a publicar 17 novelas en total, pero fue 'Drácula' escrita en 1897 la que  finalmente le valió la fama literaria y reconocimiento como una obra maestra de la era victoriana, la literatura gótica.  

Drácula esta escrita en forma de diarios y entrevistas de los personajes principales,  es la historia de un vampiro que viaja de Transilvania (una región de Europa del Este ahora en Rumanía ) a Yorkshire, Inglaterra, y se alimenta bebiendo las sangres de las personas que va encontrando en su camino. 

Stoker llamó al vampiro "conde Wampyr", lo cambio al   Encontrar el nombre de Drácula en un libro sobre Valaquia y Moldavia  escrito por el ex diplomático William Wilkinson, que tomó prestado de una biblioteca pública de Yorkshire durante unas vacaciones allí.
Los Vampiros siempre fueron personajes mitológicos de las mas antiguas tradiciones europeas, pero la novela de Stoker les catapultó a la corriente principal de la literatura del siglo 20. Tras su publicación, disfrutó de un éxito moderado.
Las ventas comenzaron a despegar en la década de 1920, cuando la novela fue adaptada para Broadway. La Draculamanía comenzó con el éxito de la película de 1931, dirigida por Tod Browning y protagonizada por el actor húngaro Bela Lugosi. Luego se hicieron decenas de películas mas con la misma temática, aunque Lugosi, con su acento exótico, sigue siendo la quintaesencia del Conde Drácula.  

Ejemplo final del siglo 20 de la fiebre de los vampiros son las novelas superventas de la escritora norteamericana Anne Rice.

miércoles, 25 de mayo de 2011

Towel Day and Geek Pride Day!!

Towel Day 

is celebrated every 25 May as a tribute by fans of the late author Douglas Adams. On this day, fans carry a towel with them to demonstrate their love for the books and the author, as referenced in Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The commemoration was first held in 2001, two weeks after Adams's death on 11 May 2001.

The original quotation that referenced the importance of towels is found in Chapter 3 of Adams's work The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough. More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in "Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There's a frood who really knows where his towel is." (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)

Geek Pride Day 

is an initiative which claims the right of every person to be a nerd or a geek. It has been celebrated on May 25 since 2006, celebrating the premiere of the first Star Wars film in 1977.

It shares the same day as three other science-fiction fan 'holidays' - Towel Day, for fans of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy by Douglas Adams, Star Wars Day, and the Glorious 25 May, for fans of Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

In 2006, this day was celebrated for the first time all over Spain and on the Internet, thanks to the publicity given by some media.
In 2008, Geek Pride Day crossed the Atlantic, and was officially celebrated in America, where it was heralded by numerous bloggers, coalescing around the launch of the GeekPrideDay website. Math author, Euler Book Prize winner, and geek blogger John Derbyshire not only did a shout out, but announced that he would be appearing in the Fifth Avenue parade, dressed as number 57, on the prime number float - prompting some bloggers to say they'd be looking for him.
By 2009, acknowledgment of the day had reached the Science Channel, with special programming on May 25 to celebrate.

A manifesto was created to celebrate the first Geek Pride Day which included the following list of basic rights and responsibilities of geeks.

  1. The right to be even geekier.
  2. The right to not leave your house.
  3. The right to not like football or any other sport.
  4. The right to associate with other nerds.
  5. The right to have few friends (or none at all).
  6. The right to have as many geeky friends as you want.
  7. The right to be out of style.
  8. The right to be overweight and near-sighted.
  9. The right to show off your geekiness.
  10. The right to take over the world.
  1. Be a geek, no matter what.
  2. Try to be nerdier than anyone else.
  3. If there is a discussion about something geeky, you must give your opinion.
  4. To save and protect all geeky material.
  5. Do everything you can to show off geeky stuff as a "museum of geekiness."
  6. Don't be a generalized geek. You must specialize in something.
  7. Attend every nerdy movie on opening night and buy every geeky book before anyone else.
  8. Wait in line on every opening night. If you can go in costume or at least with a related T-shirt, all the better.
  9. Don’t waste your time on anything not related to geekdom.
  10. Try to take over the world!

Día de la Toalla

El día de la Toalla se celebra cada 25 de Mayo como  homenaje de los fans al fallecido autor Douglas Adams.  En este día, los fans llevan una toalla con ellos para demostrar su amor por los libros y el autor, como se indica en el libro de Adams "Guía del autoestopista galáctico".  

La conmemoración se celebró por primera vez en 2001, dos semanas después de la muerte de Adams, el 11 de mayo de 2001.

La mencion de la toalla aparece en el capitulo tres con estas palabras:
«Dice que una toalla es el objeto de mayor utilidad que puede poseer un autoestopista interestelar. En parte, tiene un gran valor práctico: uno puede envolverse en ella para calentarse mientras viaja por las lunas frías de jaglan Beta; se puede tumbar uno en ella en las refulgentes playas de arena marmórea de Santraginus V, mientras aspira los vapores del mar embriagador; se puede uno tapar con ella mientras duerme bajo las estrellas que arrojan un brillo tan purpúreo sobre el desierto de Kakrafun; se puede usar como vela en una balsa diminuta para navegar por el profundo y lento río Moth; mojada, se puede emplear en la lucha cuerpo a cuerpo; envuelta alrededor de la cabeza, sirve para protegerse de las emanaciones nocivas o para evitar la mirada de la Voraz Bestia Bugblatter de Traal (animal sorprendentemente estúpido, supone que si uno no puede verlo, él tampoco lo ve a uno; es tonto como un cepillo, pero voraz, muy voraz); se puede agitar la toalla en situaciones de peligro como señal de emergencia, y, por supuesto, se puede secar uno con ella si es que aún está lo suficientemente limpia.
Y lo que es más importante: una toalla tiene un enorme valor psicológico. Por alguna razón, si un estraj (estraj: no autoestopista) descubre que un autoestopista lleva su toalla consigo, automáticamente supondrá que también está en posesión de cepillo de dientes, toallita para lavarse la cara, jabón, lata de galletas, frasca, brújula, mapa, rollo de cordel, rociador contra los mosquitos, ropa de lluvia, traje espacial, etc. Además, el estraj prestará con mucho gusto al autoestopista cualquiera de dichos artículos o una docena más que el autoestopista haya "perdido" por accidente. Lo que el estraj pensará, es que cualquier hombre que haga autoestop a todo lo largo y ancho de la galaxia, pasando calamidades, divirtiéndose en los barrios bajos, luchando contra adversidades tremendas, saliendo sano y salvo de todo ello, y sabiendo todavía dónde está su toalla, es sin duda un hombre a tener en cuenta.»

Día del orgullo Friki

El día del orgullo friki es una iniciativa popular que intenta reivindicar el derecho a ser friki de cualquier persona que lo desee. Este día se celebró por primera vez el 25 de mayo de 2006 en conmemoración del estreno oficial de Star Wars: A New Hope en 1977. Desde entonces, se celebra cada año. Además, esta fecha coincide con el Día de la toalla.

Todo surgió cuando, en un foro de Internet dedicado a Marvel, un usuario que se hacía llamar "El Señor Buebo" discutió el hecho de que cualquier friki pudiera o no denominarse así; y el deseo y derecho de los frikis y las "actividades" consideradas frikis, como leer cómics o jugar a rol, fueran reconocidas por la sociedad y no despreciadas. Así, con la creación de este día, los frikis desean demostrar que no son un grupo minoritario.
Igualmente, un grupo de frikis creó un manifiesto friki, con el fin de celebrar este día. Sin embargo el manifiesto friki, aunque no la celebración, fue criticado por muchas personas que se consideran frikis; ya que algunos puntos creados en este manifiesto, hicieron que el día no fuese tomado muy en serio principalmente por algunos medios de comunicación, y porque consideraban que no representaba completamente a todas las personas que se consideran frikis. Para corregir esos errores, posteriormente se hicieron algunas modificaciones al manifiesto; pero aun así no todos los frikis aceptan este manifiesto como algo representativos de este grupo. Esto ya que aun indican que es autoofensivo y/o que aporta a la discriminación más que al respeto de quienes se consideran dentro de este grupo, y no ayuda a terminar con el estereotipo equivocado de los frikis.

 El primer día de conmemoración se celebró en toda España y en Internet, después de que varios medios de comunicación, como los diarios El País y El Mundo dieran a conocer la iniciativa, aunque el apogeo fue en la madrileña Plaza del Callao (lugar donde se grabó una de las escenas más importantes de la película "El Día de la Bestia" de Álex de la Iglesia) donde un grupo de cosplayers se concentraron para celebrar su día, entre cánticos y un Pac-Man humano. El ambiente friki en la capital siguió en aumento hasta la fiesta conmemorativa que esa misma noche se celebró en un céntrico local, impulsada por un portal de ocio. Acudieron participantes del Pac-Man, frikis de nueva incorporación y multitud de curiosos. Informativos Telecinco cubrió el evento con una conexión en directo para su segunda edición.
Al año siguiente, en 2007, la celebración contó con más apoyos por parte de instituciones oficiales tales como el Circo Price en Madrid, y se expandió por más puntos de España. Se celebraron actos oficiales en Pilar de la Horadada, Cádiz, Huesca, Calaf, Huelva y Valencia. Entre otras actividades, se presentó la película "Gritos en el pasillo".
En 2008, la celebración llegó hasta los Estados Unidos y México, y en 2009 a Canadá.

Derechos y deberes del friki:


01.- Derecho a ser el más friki.
02.- Derecho a quedarse en casa.
03.- Derecho a no tener pareja y/o, a ser virgen hasta la edad que sea.
-3.1- Derecho a, si tiene pareja, intentar convertirla en friki.
04.- Derecho a no disfrutar con el futbol ni con el deporte en general.
05.- Derecho a asociaciarse con otros frikis.
06.- Derecho a tener pocos amigos (o ninguno).
-6.1-Derecho a tener todos los amigos frikis que se quiera.
07.- Derecho a ir a la moda (ir con una camiseta de Homer siempre es ir a la moda).
08.- Derecho al sobrepeso y a la miopía.
09.- Derecho a exhibir el propio frikismo en cualquier circunstancia.
10.- Derecho a dominar el Mundo.

(De obligado cumplimiento)

01.- Ser friki, por encima de todo.
02.- Intentar siempre, ser más friki que cualquier otro friki presente o pasado.
03.- Si hay alguna discusión sobre algún tema friki, entrar a terciar con vehemencia e intentar sentar cátedra.
04.- Salvaguardar todo el material friki de ‘ personas poco aconsejables’ (niños, personas con el síndrome de la limpieza compulsiva, hermanos con problemas económicos, etc...).
05.- Hacer todo lo posible para exponer todo el material friki disponible, como si fuera el ‘ Tesoro Nacional del Frikismo’ .
06.- El friki, teniendo derecho a ser friki de cuanto quiera, esta obligado a especializarse en un tema en particular.
07.-Ir siempre a la primera sesión del día de estreno de cualquier película friki y comprar antes que nadie los libros o DVDs frikis.
08.- Esperar cola ante un estreno friki, aunque haya posibilidad de telecompra de entradas. Y si es disfrazado o con camiseta friki, mejor.
09.- No desprenderse nunca de ningún objeto relativo o perteneciente al mundo friki, aunque sea un envoltorio arrugado, o una captura de pantalla borrosa.
10.- Intentar dominar todo el planeta.