nutcracker

This Day In History – December 18 – Hijinx, Humor and Insight

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NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY… DECEMBER 18

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1271 – Kublai Khan renames his empire “Yuan” marking the start of the Yuan Dynasty.

kublai-khan

According to Biography.com: Khan, grandson of Genghis, “introduced a new social structure that divided the population into four classes: The Mongolian aristocracy and a foreign merchant class were both exempt from taxation and enjoyed special privileges, while the northern and southern Chinese bore most of the empire’s economic burden and were compelled to do much of the manual labor.”

The first ruler to espouse the “trickle down” theory.

Khan’s dynasty began to unravel as the discriminatory nature of his imposed social structure led to deep resentment among the lower Chinese classes, who were constantly overtaxed to pay for a series of unsuccessful military campaigns.

What a surprise.

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1892 – The Nutcracker was first performed at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 18 December 1892.

nutcracker-1

The Nutcracker has become a holiday classic and one of the most popular ballets in the world. But the road from its Saint Petersburg premiere in 1892 to a staple for ballet companies everywhere was not easy. It was panned by critics after its premiere and Tchaikovsky himself, who was commissioned to compose the music, didn’t have high hopes for its success. In 1954 George Ballanchine of the New York City Ballet revived it but it wasn’t really considered a Christmas tradition until the late 1960s.

 So hang in there , artists.

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1987 – Ivan Boesky sentenced to three years in prison. Boesky pleaded guilty to insider trading on Wall Street and agreed to pay a $100 million fine and cooperate with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation.

businessman

He was crucial in exposing a nationwide scandal at the heart of the ’80s Wall Street boom. Boesky testified that he had gained his $200 million fortune using illegal inside information about impending mergers to trade stock in the companies involved. As a result of Boesky’s confession, subpoenas were issued to some of the world’s most famous financiers.

His defense should have been “That just proves I’m smart.”

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BIRTHDAYS

1886 – Ty Cobb – The “Georgia Peach,” one of the greatest Major League Baseball players of all time (1905-1928), is also known as perhaps its most fierce competitor.

He still holds the major league record for career batting average at .366. Cobb’s reputation includes sharpening his spikes before a game and then sliding into bases with them aimed at his opponent’s legs. He had a surly temperament and was known to have fought opponents, spectators, and even teammates. Cobb also has long had the reputation of being an avowed racist.

That’s what I’ve always read and had a low opinion of him as a result. Then I found this information, from a sportswriter named Charles Leersham.

Ty Cobb descended from a long line of abolitionists. His great-grandfather was a minister who preached against slavery and was run out of town for it. His grandfather refused to fight in the Confederate army because of the slavery issue. And his father was an educator and state senator who spoke up for his black constituents and is known to have once broken up a lynch mob.

Cobb himself was never asked about segregation until 1952, when the Texas League was integrating, and Sporting News asked him what he thought. “The Negro should be accepted wholeheartedly, and not grudgingly,” he said. “The Negro has the right to play professional baseball and whose [sic] to say he has not?” By that time he had attended many Negro league games, sometimes throwing out the first ball and often sitting in the dugout with the players. He is quoted as saying that Willie Mays was the only modern-day player he’d pay to see.

The prevailing wisdom being wrong, how can that be?

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1910 – Abe Burrows – Burrows was a director, author and comic who wrote a score of shows for Broadway, including “Guys and Dolls.”

One of his lines on radio was: “I guess I could tell you exactly what I look like, but I think that’s a lousy thing to say about a guy.”

Have to like somebody like that.

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1912 – Benjamin Davis – Air Force general and commander of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Despite facing incredible racial barriers, Davis rose through the ranks and was the first African-American general in the Air Force. Here is an account of his time at West Point.

Davis was racially isolated by his white classmates, few of whom spoke to him outside the line of duty. He never had a roommate. He ate by himself. His classmates hoped that this would drive him out of the Academy. The “silent treatment” had the opposite effect. It made Davis more determined to graduate.

The military eventually became the first truly integrated institution in America. By the time I served, racism still existed but there was a more level playing field than the rest of society. While there was a paucity of commissioned officers, we had many African-American petty officers.

I was stationed at Holiday Beach Communication Center on Kodiak Island, Alaska. An isolated barracks and radio station, our complement was about forty men. Only one of our number was black. He was a serious young man named Powell who kept to himself. I decided to try get to know him better and while discovering we had absolutely nothing in common, I also received my first lesson in white privilege.

By this time I had come to hate being in the Navy. I hated the isolation of Alaska, I hated the Mickey Mouse discipline, and I hated the lack of freedom. I was surprised to find that Powell did not share my sentiments. He told me the Navy was a lot better than where he had come from in Mississippi, and that if he worked hard, did his duty, he had a chance for advancement in rank and to make a life for himself. The Navy was fair and he would be judged on achievement, not color.

The fact that the life we were living, a life of restriction and unhappiness for me, was better than anything he could expect in the civilian world was a more personal window to racial inequality.

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ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

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CREDITS

The above information was sourced from the following websites:

* Kublai Khan – wikipedia.orgbiography.com

* Nutcracker – wikipedia.org

* Ivan Boesky –  businessinsider.com; history.com

* Ty Cobb – The Official Web Site of Ty CobbTy Cobb Stats; baseball-reference.com

* Abe Burrows  – wikipedia.org  www.nytimes.com/1985/05

* Benjamin Davis – wikipedia.org

We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image –  Hugh K Telleria / Shutterstock.com

Kublai Khan – beibaoke / Shutterstock.com

Nutcracker – ME714 / Shutterstock.com

* Businessman Cartoon –  studiostoks / Shutterstock.com

Ty Cobb – Brad Davis / Youtube.com

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 2

* December 5

* December 9

December 11

December 12

* December 15

* December 16

* December 22

December 28

January 3

* January 4

January 7

January 11

* January 14

* January 15

January 19

January 22

January 24

January 29

February 1

February 3

February 5

February 9

* February 10

* February 14

February 15

February 20

February 21

February 25

February 28

March 2

March 6

March 9

March 12

March 14

March 17

March 19

March 21

March 23

March 27

March 29

April 2

April 3

April 6

April 11

* April 13

April 18

April 22

April 23

April 28

April 29

May 2

May 3

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 13

May 17

* May 24

May 26

May 29

June 1

June 3

June 8

June 10

June 13

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 24

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

* July 9

July 13

July 15

July 19

July 23

July 25

July 30

July 31

* August 3

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 16

August 17

August 21

August 24

August 25

* August 28

August 31

September 2

September 5

September 6

September 8

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16 

September 17

September 21

September 23

September 24

September 25

September 28

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 7

October 10

October 12

October 14

* October 16

October 18

October 24

October 25

October 27

October 28

October 30

November 3

* November 4

November 5

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 13

November 14

November 16

* November 17

November 19

November 20

November 23

November 28

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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