Saturday, 27 September 2014

History of Sport Riots or I Hate Your Team So You Must Die!

I was flipping through some old articles I've written, and I found one I did asking why in June of 2011 did the Stanley Cup hockey riot in Vancouver occur. I wanted to write it off as a bunch of drunk a-holes, but the reality was more sinister.
Vancouver Canucks fans pose in front of a burning police cruiser during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver on June 15.
Exhibit A - A is for Asshole. Ironic he's wearing a superman shirt.
The riot began after the Vancouver Canucks' lost the Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins. Cars were burned, shop fronts were destroyed, and people very beaten. Over 100 people have been charged to date. The cost to the city is about 1.3 million dollars in damages. The city called for a enquiry into the riot and why it began, with the verdict being that people weren't bussed out of the area properly, drunkenness, police action and crowd mentality.

This incident is part of a long history of sport related riots. All share some similar patterns: lots of people, too much partying, and the bizarre personal ownership that people take on of their teams. It's nuts in my opinion, but crazy stuff makes interesting history!
A charioteer, the football stars of the 500s. Hot with that helmet!
In the ancient world, chariot races were popular spectacles with thousands attending the events. Fans would become personally invested in one team and would form gangs to attack the rival team’s supporters. The most well known riot was the Nika Riot in Constantinople in 532 CE.  It started with crazy chariot racing fans. There were four different factions who all hated each other, but the Green and the Blue teams were the most politically active and tried to influence the Byzantium government. A couple were captured and charged with murdering some of their opposition. Pissed at their attempts, the Emperor Justinian ordered their death, but the two gangs demanded full pardons for these men. When their demands were not met, they set the city ablaze.

At the same time a chariot race was going on at the Hippodrome, organised by the green and blues to raise support for overthrowing the emperor. People began to shout ‘Nika’ meaning victory or conquer in Greek. But Justinian ordered the army to stop the riots. The rioters were trapped inside the Hippodrome and it is estimated between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed. And that's why sports and politics shouldn't mix.

Saskatchewan Rough Riders fan at a Canadian Football League game. Do you want these guys in politics?
Despite the Nika Riots, violence at sporting events was very rare for centuries. Occasional incidents would occur but without the political goals and level of extreme violence. The Cricket Riot of 1879 occurred when a team of English cricketers played a series of matches against the home team in New South Wales, Australia. The English referee called out a local hero, which incensed the 2,000 fans who ran out onto the pitch and began attacking the English team and the refs. The game was cancelled but resumed the next day. No one died, but it was still pretty crazy. I think a little bit of this was due to Australians being seen as less-than, and anti-colonial behaviours.
One of the few pictures of a cricket riot in the 1920s, cause you know it's cricket!
In the Twentieth century, the fan violence increased with countless deaths as a result. One of the worst riots in modern history was the 24 May 1964 soccer riot in Lima, Peru. Peru and Argentina played an Olympic qualifying match at the National Stadium. A great deal of rivalry existed between the two teams and the Peruvians were desperate for a win. The referee disallowed a Peruvian goal in the final two minutes of the game and they lost. The crowd went wild with people panicking to get away from the violence. It caused a stampede which killed 318 people and injured 500.

Which brings me back to my original question: why do people riot at sporting events? It varies but the psychology of it is interesting. When we're less accountable and anonymous, we tend to behave in ways we wouldn't. Also that fan identification with sports teams is psychologically important for many people, particularly in our increasingly transient and insular society. While alcohol is also often cited for its role in such incidents, these two reasons above are deemed much more important.
Remember that next time you riot, cricket fans!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

History of Women in Science: Annie Cannon and her love of the stars

Physics lab of Sarah Whiting, ca. 1896
Wellesley College Science Lab 1895: Attitude Created Here.
I just finished watching an episode of Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson titled "Sisters of the Sun" on three pioneers in astrophysics: Cecilia Payne, Annie Jump Cannon and Henrietta Leavitt. Comments from the web were positive as the series needed to profile some important women scientist. While the episode gave a great overview, let's look a bit more at these three kick ass women.

Today's blog is all on Annie Cannon. (1863-1941)


 Picture of Annie Jump CannonWhat was her education like?

A rough go at the start. She had hearing damage from fever as a young girl, but in no way did she let it stop her. Annie's interest in astronomy was first sparked as a young girl, when her mother taught her the constellations. She also realized her daughter was super brilliant and told her to go to college and major in science.

At the all women Wellesley College she pursued these interests, learning physics, astronomy, and how to make spectroscopic measurements: the colours of the stars. She then graduated from Wellesley with a degree in physics (1884), became a “special student” of astronomy at Radcliffe College (1894), M.A. from Wellesley College (1907), and was the first woman to receive a doctor of astronomy degree from Groningen University (1921). What really blew everyone away was that she was the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Oxford (1925).

Why is she so kick ass? 

Because she was on the team of women who mapped and defined every star in the sky they could photograph. And she appears in a Wonder Woman Comic.

Seen in Wonder Woman #44, because she was that awesome.

Doctor Cannon became the world's expert in stellar classification, as well as developing and fine-tuning the Harvard system of classification that is studied by astronomy students today. She started by examining the bright southern hemisphere stars. To these stars she applied her system, a division of stars into the spectral classes O, B, A, F, G, K, M. Her scheme was based on the strength of the absorption lines were understood in terms of stellar temperatures, her initial classification system was rearranged to avoid having to update star catalogues.Cannon published her first catalogue of stellar spectra in 1901.

What was she like? 


Cause her nature meant business.
A serious scholar, very neat and tidy, and the brains of a giant. According to her own journals she was passionate about science, a serious worker, and wanted to accomplish great things with her life. She really hated living at home after she graduated the first time, so she found work at Radcliffe, then Wellesley, and then in 1896 was hired by Professor Edward Charles Pickering, director of the Harvard College Observatory where she spent the rest of her career until she retired in 1940.

She travelled extensively, entertained many guests, wrote letters avidly and was an accomplished pianist. She was also an advocate for women's suffrage and a member of the National Women's party.  Late in life Cannon said, “In our troubled days it is good to have something outside our planet, something fine and distant for comfort.”
FYI - On Active History this week is a great interview about women in engineering sciences. A must listen!

When you want to know more - head on over to this great bibliography of women in astronomy.

Monday, 8 September 2014

She's Got It: Pin Ups Before World War Two

My question today comes from the twitters online: "Were pin up girls invented during the Second World War in the1940s or did they have them in World War I?"

French Postcards
What your great-grandad went to war for.
As long as there has been eyes, there have been pin up girls, in art and photography. Pin ups implies the type of girl pictures up somewhere so you could look at her all the time, hence the name. That term did not come into use until the 1940s. There are many girl pictures pre-1940s however that would have caught the notice of the men in the first World War.

The concept of mass produced pictures of ladies in various states of undress were popular advertisements among burlesque performers in the 19th century. An example of this are Boudoir Cards, almost exclusively from France, that the young men in the trenches could look at. The French were not so worried about the naked female form as other countries, but they still had to be sold under the table. One very popular model was Fernade Barrey, who we know very little about. Postcards from the 1910s state that she was a courtesan who used the cards to advertise.

Another kind of pin up was Bathing Beauties, pictures and films that were focused on pretty girls who wore bathing suits. Mack Sennett, a Canadian filmmaker and founder of Keystone studios, was a major player in early comedies, giving us the pie in the face jokes and those Keystone cops running around like mad. He also in 1915 gave the world girls showing their knees:

These bathing beauties and their pictures were very popular until their end in 1928. These were mild compared to the new genre of nudist publications that surfaced. The idea of linking sex and humour, a component of pin-ups, and using drawings to illustrate their stories and jokes evolves during the early 1930's. As well, a much more graphic female body was now being drawn, compared to earlier "oh my god I saw her ankle" photos that the general population was seeing. Major artists including George Petty and Alberto Vargas created calendar girls that very soon adorned the walls of garages and workshops everywhere. 

Earl MaPherson's work late 1930s, because you really need a calendar that small...

 For some amazing pre-war pin ups, check out pinterest, oddly enough.

Monday, 1 September 2014

William Haines: A Brave Gay Man in Hollywood

This week was Pride Week in my hometown, and I volunteered as I always do for the Calgary's Queer History Project booth. I was speaking to a friend about the current acceptance of gay and lesbian actors in Hollywood and she asked me if I knew who the first one that was 'out'.

I do, but only because I recently read a really good book Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star. William (Billy) Haines (1900-1973) was a silent-screen movie idol. Good looks, decent acting, and a sharp tongue won him a host of fans.
William "Billy" Haines (1900-1973), silent film actor-turned-decorator to the stars - photo by Edward Steichen
I can't see why they thought he was hot in the 1920s, no not at all.
He started out in 1922, by sending his photograph to a "New Faces" contest sponsored by movie producer Samuel Goldwyn. Haines won and started his film career under contract with Goldwyn's MGM but was loaned out to other studios. His break out came with Brown of Harvard (1926) with Joan Crawford, who became a life long friend. Haines was named a top-five box office star from 1928 to 1932. He was known for being seriously hot, funny, and a smart-ass.

Then he fell in love. On a trip to New York in 1926, Haines met James "Jimmie" Shields. He convinced him to move to Los Angeles with him, where he could get him work as an extra. Shields agreed. They became a couple and stayed together for the next 40 years, until Haines death. Joan Crawford once remarked that they were the happiest married couple in Hollywood.

From left: Shields, Haines, Joan Crawford, and unknown dude in the 1940s. I love men in black tie.
While his friends had no problem with him being gay, the rest of the country had issues. In the 1920s, homosexuality and sexuality for many in big urban areas was to be celebrated. The puritanical-ism of the depression in the 1930s things changed. In 1933, Haines was arrested with a sailor he had picked up. The MGM studio head Louie B Mayer informed him that either he agree to a sham marriage or a lavender marriage, end his relationship with Shields, or his career was over.

Haines was awesome. He refused to deny his homosexuality.

He rejected Hollywood hetro-normative demands and decided to leave acting. Using his connections, Haines became an interior designer, creating furniture and designing beautiful homes for the rich and famous in Hollywood. But don't let that fool you into thinking they just gave him work. Haines was one of the best ever and became a legend in the design world. His furniture is still in demand, with two chairs having been sold recently for $43,000.

Don't think his life was easy. He and his partner were beat up at least on one occasion in 1936 by an angry mob of reportedly white supremacists from their home. No charges were laid, of course. The couple settled in Brentwood, California. Haines died of lung cancer at the age of 72. A sad ending note, however. His life partner Shields could not live without him, and committed suicide soon after.

Rest in peace, you magnificent man.