Maybe you missed it, or perhaps you weren’t yet born. But imagine for just a moment that you’d made the trip from Seattle, Washington, to Max Yasgur’s Bethel, New York, farm in the late summer of 1969. You were one of the half-million people attending the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. One of your traveling companions embarked on the trip to protest the war in Vietnam. Another tagged along for the three-day party. You however came for the music. And moreover, you’d endured three hungry days of rain, long Porta-John lines, and National Guard rations for this singular moment. The opening riff to Jimi Hendrix’s “Message to Love” brings you out of your tent, and onto your feet. He’s your hometown hero. His white Fender Stratocaster, manufactured for a right-handed player, is strung upside-down for his deft left-handed manipulation. He’s working the fret-board furiously with long, spindly fingers. And just then, you flash back.
In his highly regarded 2006 Yale Book of Quotations, Yale law librarian Fred Shapiro gives on page 649 the following source for the phrase “lunatic fringe”:
The lunatic fringe was fully in evidence, especially in the rooms devoted to the Cubists and Futurists, or Near-Impressionists. (Outlook, 29 Mar. 1913)
This, along with a usage in Roosevelt’s Autobiography (1913), represents the earliest known use of the phrase lunatic fringe.
Shapiro therein follows the entries for “lunatic fringe” found in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 17th edition (2002), the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations, 2nd edition (2002), and the Dictionary of Quotations by Bergen Evans (1968), and perhaps other of the numerous quotation dictionaries.
[This article by the late Clifford J. Doerksen—who presented "bad news from the past" in his dark and witty blog, The Hope Chest—appeared in the November 2010 issue of The Readex Report. A brilliant historian and critic, Cliff died unexpectedly last month at the age of 47. Remembrances from his many fans and friends can be found at the Chicago Reader. ]
Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851) by American painter Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art)
No Christmas celebration would be complete without Santa Claus, carols and George Washington. Wait, George Washington? What does he have to do with Christmas, you might ask? Well, quite a bit if you live near the site where General George Washington and his soldiers crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776. Each year at Pennsylvania’s Washington Crossing Historic Park, a group of dedicated Revolutionary War re-enactors and history enthusiasts gather to recreate Washington’s famous Christmas-night river crossing. The participants brave the cold dressed in authentic reproduction clothing and use replicas of the same kind of boats Washington and his men would have used. This year will mark the 234th anniversary of their daring crossing and pivotal victory the next day at the Battle of Trenton.
The 1988 return to flight launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery (Source: NASA Images)
The highly anticipated launch of space shuttle Discovery later this month will mark the beginning of an end. The United States’ era of launching manned space vehicles is almost over, or, at least, nearing a lengthy pause.
Following the final Discovery launch, only one remaining shuttle mission is planned. After that, government funding looks likely—but not definite—for one more launch.
Once the space shuttles are retired, the U.S. will relinquish its position as one of three countries with manned flight capability; only China and Russia will continue to have the capability to launch manned space vehicles.
The shuttle program kicked off a novel concept in space flight: reusable space vehicles. No longer would single-use rockets carry man and machinery into the final frontier. Instead, a craft capable of take off (albeit propelled by external fuel tanks), maneuverability in space, and re-entry and landing would revolutionize the industry.
In this issue: how digitized newspapers shine a brilliant light on past lives; the profound impact of religion on African-American identity; the Boston Tea Party as perceived by both Colonialists and those loyal to the Crown; and the humor, hype and horror behind the mysterious minced pie.