history

The Millennium Dome redux

I posted these photos of the infamous Millennium Dome back in June, but since then I’ve found more photographs of the place! Turns out my family visited it twice… I kinda suspect it was because the first visit turned out to be disappointing and my parents thought the second time would be better.

I….can’t remember if it was or not.

Here’s me being part of the “net generation.”

This pic here, where I look incredibly sulky and pissed off, gives a good idea of the scale of the Dome. (Absolutely no reblogging this photo please.)

Now I’m curious as to what that wall of screens was.

Turns out it was the Self-Portrait Zone:

And I actually remember those sculptures! My 12-year-old self found them VERY unsettling (especially The Couch Potato, which was a guy melting into his sofa) but sadly I guess we didn’t take any pics of them.

This globe and spaceship marked the entrance to Home Planet, a sort of educational dark ride.

Y’know what? The Dome sold Dome-branded merchandise! And while going through old boxes I found what I myself purchased from the gift shop!

That’s it! Just a notebook with a holographic sticker on it! I wonder how much it cost to produce.

This brochure I found is quite interesting. It says “For one year only” so… Was that always the plan, to only have it open for one year? Or had things deteriorated so quickly by October they’d already decided to close it? Either way, how incredibly wasteful.

I DO remember the Blackadder film! I think it was the first Blackadder I ever saw.

CUl8tr, Dome! Though before I sign off – I ran across this photo from the same era in my boxes and boxes of photos. It’s a little LEGO dome at Legoland in 2001!

…The real thing would’ve closed by then.

The Descendants of Dido Elizabeth Belle — All Things Georgian

A question that is frequently asked is, ‘are any of Dido Elizabeth Belle’s descendants still alive?’ The answer in short is no. Today, I thought it worth providing a somewhat lengthy, but nevertheless potted genealogy, to explain how her family line died out. Be prepared, it’s not always an easy read in parts. At the […]

The Descendants of Dido Elizabeth Belle — All Things Georgian

Belle is one of my favourite movies, and here’s a fascinating post what happened after the credits rolled (so to speak.)

“What bombers?”

The above article is a work of satire, but it got me thinking about the Blitz. I’m lucky enough to have relatives still alive who were in it. Over the years I’ve learned a few stories about what it was like… and it was awful. It was extremely likely that you would wake up one morning and find your neighbours the next street over were all gone, bombed in the night. I believe my grandmother’s place of work at the time (I think it was a shoe shop?) ended up a pile of rubble and there was obviously nothing anyone could do.

One story my grandmother told me which stuck in my mind – she said a girl she knew just got sick and tired of going to the shelter every time there was an air raid alert. This kid just flat-out refused to leave her bed, so her mother dragged her out of there, I imagine with considerable frustration, and forced her into the shelter. When the family got out of it the next morning, the bed that the girl had been adamant to remain in was ripped to shreds by bombs.

……..And now these days I feel like, that story may be a good illustration of why you should keep wearing a mask.

The Millennium Dome

Recently I stumbled across some photos from when my family went to the Millennium Dome in 2000! OMG!

If you’re not British (or are British but very young) you might not know the history of the Millenium Dome. I didn’t until quite recently. This twitter thread sums it all up perfectly:

Essentially the Millennium Dome was an expensive, extravagant, incredibly entertaining disaster right from the get-go and there’s a part of me that kinda wishes it was still there. Just me? Probably, yeah. Sadly I can’t really remember all the details of it very well either, because I was only about 12 I think and there was a lot to take in.

This picture, featuring as it does both an inexplicable sculpture of a squatting child and a McDonalds, pretty much sums up the essence of it.

This was Timekeepers of the Millennium, pretty much the only thing in the Dome that children would be remotely interested in. It was, if I remember rightly, basically a massive ball pit/play area where you could fire balls at each other with air cannons and generally cause chaos. It was of no educational merit whatsoever, which was probably for the best.

It at one point had a television show to go with it! It had the same name as the ride and aired on CITV. Most of it is lost apparently but I have some old VHS tapes to go through and I’m really hoping I might find some of it on one of them.

Here’s one of the Disney-like Timekeeper mascots. (If you’re viewing this post looking for pictures to illustrate something you’re writing about the Dome, please don’t use this one okay? You can use one or two of the others if you message me in the comments first.)

This here was a seaside-themed area. I think it was the first section completed on the Dome, I remember Newsround telling me so back in 1999. It had, IIRC… pretty much the same charm as your average British seaside.

Wonder if kids were allowed to play in the sand, like on a normal beach? I’m guessing probably not.

Now THIS! This is the Body Zone!

The weirdest and daftest section of the Dome. I clearly remember this beating heart (for it did indeed beat) hovering omniously above guests in this area.

WHAT? The WHAT NOW?

Outside in the slightly more fresh air there were some pretty, rainbow-coloured tents which I believe formed a “rest zone.” Probably for the parents who’d left their kids with the ball cannons.

In the very middle of the dome there was a show on every so often! And I remember it was actually really good?

Or at least, it had music and fire and lights, and that was more than enough for my 12-year-old self.

While going through the photos I also found this leaflet:

There’s a little map in there which gives you some idea of the scale of the thing. Might be safe to say the crowds of people drawn on there aren’t completely accurate, though. In many of the pics I have there’s… Pretty much no people in the background at all.

These photos were taken in May 2000 and by December it had closed. During its brief time on Earth it racked up no end of controversy, ended or at least severely stunted a few political careers, and had a gang of diamond robbers crash in with a JCB digger. We will never see its like again. The Sunday Times, which was I think marginally less crap back in those days, predicted the downfall before it even opened:

At worst it is a millennial metaphor for the twentieth century. An age in which all things, like the Dome itself, became disposable. A century in which forest and cities, marriages, animal species, races, religions and even the Earth itself, became ephemeral. What more cynical monument can there be for this totalitarian cocksure fragile age than a vast temporary plastic bowl, erected from the aggregate contribution of the poor through the National Lottery. Despite the spin, it remains a massive pantheon to the human ego, the Ozymandias of its time.

Look On My Wall Of Giant Animatronic Pubic Lice, Ye Mighty, And Despair.

Toppled Statues

I found this incredibly striking image on Reddit yesterday. (Today the whole site is down, incidentally.) I think the photo belongs to the Toronto Star. I can’t stop looking at it, it’s stunning.

Not so long ago British folks also toppled one statue of a terrible man, whose name I shall not bother to mention. At the moment it’s in a Bristol museum, in much the same condition as it was when knocked off its pedestal:

And I love that. I think it’s the perfect way to display these statues: no longer towering over citizens and also covered in statements about what kind of person the subject was. Perfect! After all if a statue can be preserved for the sake of history, why shouldn’t the same apply to protests against that statue?

Harry Osborn’s Comic Appearances: Amazing Spider-Man #44 – 46 (1967)

[You can read this post here or on harryosborn.net!]

Now at the end of the last one of these I said, since Vietnam is coming into the story now let’s find out what Stan Lee actually thought about the Vietnam War. And that’s the thing, that information is kinda hard to find. There’s an extent to which Lee has sort of I guess been a bit lionized over the years and plenty people think he was labelled more of a progressive than he really was. But I think he was progressive for his era, it’s just that that doesn’t always mean, “was good.” It means… well, it means they were progressive in the original sense of the word and that’s that. So that Washington Post article linked to there, here’s the cached version which isn’t behind a paywall, it says,

In the midst of the antiestablishment riots of 1968, he convened a panel for a failed talk-show pilot in which he repeatedly denounced radicalism; asserted that Black people needed to respect the law; and said the Vietnam War may have been immoral, but had to continue for the greater good.

But we don’t have any direct quotes from this so it’s still hard to pin down his exact opinion. Now on this Marvel site I found this quote from Lee:

Now it’s important that you bear in mind that this yarn [Iron Man] was written in 1963, at a time when most of us genuinely felt that the conflict in that tortured land really was a simple matter of good versus evil and that the American military action against the Viet Cong was tantamount to St. George’s battle against the dragons. Since that time, of course, we’ve all grown up a bit, we’ve realized that life isn’t quite so simple, and we’ve been trying to extricate ourselves from the tragic entanglement in Indochina.

And these comics we’re talking about here were written in 1967. Enough time for Lee to have grown up, I guess. And in the Stan’s Soapbox columns he apparently expressed hopes the troops would come home. Do any of the characters in these issues serve as his mouthpiece re Vietnam then? Does Harry? Well, let’s find out.

Here’s issue #44, where Harry and MJ meet for the first time. This one little scene and everything within it is going to have massive ripples throughout the Spidermanverse, many of which continue to this day, for better or worse. (Usually worse, let’s be honest.)

Harry is friendly here and Flash is…Flash, as has been the case for the past 4 or so issues. But the spectre of Vietnam is hanging over all this.

On to #45. Awww, all the boys have colour-coordinated their outfits, that’s nice.

Here we begin a long, nice tradition of Harry being super generous dude frequently prone to giving out jobs and, as we’ll see in a minute, apartments. Yes this lasted into the ’00s comics which I was always glad about, it’s a very intrinsic part of his character.

Now Harry appears to be dating MJ, or at least getting close to her. The first days of the Harry/MJ romance are actually something I don’t think ever got delved into that much in later comics, despite all the potential for great character moments there. The 1963 audience didn’t know it at this point and possibly neither did Stan Lee, but both are abused and damaged children frantically putting on masks.

This one little panel here sows the seeds for so much stuff that happens later. But more on that (and more on how even to this day MJ and her percieved shallowness is blamed for Harry’s downward spiral) in the future.

Now we’re in #46 and Harry has now secured Peter a job offer and a free apartment. Nice. Their friendship is cemented by this point, as you can tell, and it took under 15 issues! God I miss the much, much faster pace of Old Comics.

The gang exchange some wonderful 60s slang and plan a going-away party for Flash. “He’s the first one of the crowd to be drafted,” Harry says. But that makes me wonder, and bearing in mind that this is an era I know very little about except what I got via cultural osmosis… Did Harry and Peter expect to get draft notices too?

So, time to cram my brain with information about the draft system. The draft lottery didn’t start til 1969, so going back from that… If you were in full-time education, as Harry and Flash and Peter all are here, you didn’t neccessarily have to serve… if you were a good enough student.

These thousands weren’t selected at random. Instead, the Selective Service System (SSS) instituted a system of academic evaluation under which local draft boards would defer students based on intellectual ability. This ability was determined by two factors: class rank, and score on a national aptitude test known as the Selective Service Qualification Test. Undergraduates with a high class rank, or a test score above a certain cutoff, were draft-exempt. Everyone else could be sent to the front.

From here

So I suppose the implication in these Spider-Man comics is that Flash wasn’t a good enough student to avoid military service. Peter as a science genius I guess probably would have been. (Remember this panel from a couple issues back?)

But Harry… was Harry a fortunate son?

“It ain’t me, I ain’t me, I ain’t no millionaires’ son…”

But Harry probably was. Norman’s exact wealth wasn’t actually stated in the early days I think, but it’s safe to assume he’s pretty dang rich. And, says the New York Times (surprisingly one of the sources of Vietnam War draft info not outright blocked or paywalled in the UK, christ I hate the modern-day Internet)-

It was no coincidence that those men who already fit the middle-class mold of domestic masculinity — those men who were college students or teachers or scientists — received deferments.

It was a very classist, racist system. I feel like writing anything more along the lines of “So how did Spider-Man and his best friend avoid the draft?” trivalizes that in a way, so we’ll be back to business in a minute.

Now comics-wise Spider-Man: Life Story tackled Vietnam quite a bit, but due to the Marvel sliding timeline Vietnam just doesn’t factor into the Spider-Man story anymore. Flash didn’t fight, Iron Man wasn’t there. And I sort of think that’s a shame, and one of the reasons I have very conflicting feelings about ongoing comics as a medium. If you’re going to tackle very real, very bad things that happened in real life you should commit to them, you know?

So back to Harry. For whatever reason you want to have in your head – his status as a student, his father’s wealth, something else (it actually feels pretty in character, at least eventually, for him to be an objector?) – he’s not going to Vietnam and neither is Peter.

But of course, even that one specific part of the story is far from done.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. For several years now I’ve been following the Auschwitz Memorial on Twitter and, if you can, I would recommend you do as well. They show photographs and bios of all the people killed in that camp.

But I say “if you can” because obviously there’s a terrible, almost unimaginable amount of human suffering on display there.

Historial Figures Who Should Get Movies: Friedrich Kellner

Recently I was made aware of the existence of Friedrich Kellner. He was a man living in Nazi Germany who wrote an opposition to Mein Kampf, in secret for obvious reasons, and detailed the Nazi crimes he witnessed so that people would know about them in the future.

According the The Guardian,

What Kellner did was to take extracts from the press, stick them in his book and comment on them at length from his own point of view.

Which is what the whole world does now on Twitter and on blogs. I guess Kellner was ahead of his time in more than one way.

There’s surprisingly little written about him considering how remarkable his story is. He very much put himself in the firing line.

In 1925, according to a biographical essay written by his grandson, Kellner received a copy of Adolf Hitler’s newly published Mein Kampf, along with the encouragement to “take a stand against its author.” Speaking at rallies, Kellner would hold up the copy of Hitler’s book and declare, “Gutenberg, your printing press has been violated by this evil book!” His public criticism of Nazism earned him unfriendly attention from the SA, but having lived through the trenches, he was accustomed to violence and not easily intimidated. – source

Eventually he was told he and his wife Paulina (who completely stood by him) would be sent to a concentration camp if they continued to criticize the Nazi regime. That didn’t stop Kellner though, he just continued to do it in secret. He wrote in his book,

“I could not fight the Nazis in the present, as they had the power to still my voice, so I decided to fight them in the future. I would give the coming generations a weapon against any resurgence of such evil.”

My list of Historical Figures Who Should Get Movies is incredibly long, but Kellner is very close to the top because his story has a LOT of reasonance today. And not just because he was basically a blogger.

I wish I could have met Friedrich Kellner. I think we would have gotten along.

Boats for Women

One of my on-again off-again obsessions is Titanic history. At some point during my life I gained possession of a book called The Titanic: End of a Dream by Wynn Craig Jones. Where’d I get it? I have no idea. But it was one of the things (along with the 1997 movie) which unlocked my fascination with all things Titanic.

The thing I found most interesting about it was that it dealt with the impact the disaster had on American/British society. These were things I’d never thought much about before…this huge knock-on effect.

And one of the ripple effects of the Titanic sinking, if you’ll excuse the actually completely accidental pun, concerned women’s suffrage.

Women didn’t have the vote yet. That wouldn’t happen until 1918 for Britain and 1920 for America. And even then it wasn’t all women. To put it bluntly, it was a terrible time to be female…

…unless you were in one very specific scenario: on board an ocean liner about to sink with limited space on the lifeboats.

And this was a scenario no-one expected to suddenly have SO MUCH relevance. Shortly after the Titanic reached its last resting place, it became increasingly clear that “who gets lifeboats and why” was a question the suffragettes were gonna have to face head-on.

Obviously we in the modern day find this all a no-brainer in the realm of “Every adult gets a vote AND a lifeboat, dummies.” Not so in 1912. Suddenly, the male-run media had the perfect stick to beat those – what words would they have used given the chance? – those virtue-signalling woke vote-wanting libs with. According to End of a Dream, one Clark McAdams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch penned this jaunty taunt:

“Votes for women!”
Was the cry
Reaching upwards
To the sky
Crashing glass
And flashing eye-
“Votes for women!”
Was the cry.

“Boats for women!”
Was the cry.
When the brave
Were come to die.
When the end
Was drawing nigh
“Boats for women!”
Was the cry.

I would like to venture the opinion that Mr McAdams was not a very good poet.

And a man called Reverend Dr Leighton Parks, described on his Wikipedia page as a liberal but I guess one in name only, said-

…the men on the Titanic sacrificed themselves for the women and children. The women did not ask for the sacrifice but it was made. Those women who go about shrieking for their “rights” want something very different.

Ah, those pesky “rights.”

But as one could probably guess by looking at, well, any anti-woman movement over the past few decades, many women themselves were also thoroughly of the notion that the suffragettes should shut up and show some respect to the dead men at the bottom of the sea, even though it was the poor policies of other men rather than women that put them there. I suppose there was a smattering of “Don’t you make this tragedy political!” an utter failure of a concept since all tragedy is political.

A woman called Mrs John Martin – her actual name, as opposed to that of her husband, appears to be lost to history – of the League for the Civic Education of Women wrote that “we are willing to let men die for us, but not to vote for us.” Other women went further. The anti-suffragettes and First Lady Nellie Taft crowdfunded (one dollar each!) a statue to be erected to “male chivalry,” and it’s still around today as far as I know –

Suddenly attendence at suffragette rallies was down and equal voting rights were seemingly even further away. A suffragette named Lida Stokes Adams threw a little more fuel on the fire by suggesting that women aboard the Titanic “lost one of the greatest chances ever presented to aid the cause of suffrage when they didn’t assert themselves and prove they are as courageous as the men.”

Lida Stokes Adams probably wouldn’t have cared much that a century into the future some woman in her pyjamas was criticizing her via a magic box, (though she might have liked that I’m allowed to vote) but – jeez, Adams, victim-blaming much? Because there were many women who proved just that, take Ida Straus for the most famous example. Or Molly Brown, who helped row a lifeboat and urged the men to go back for more survivors. (Historians aren’t sure if she succeeded or not. She gets points for trying though.) But also there were undoubtably countless other women who were extremely courageous and their stories simply never got told. Because they were poor, third-class, and an afterthought.

Every so often there are arguments suggesting we should bring back the kind of chivalry found on the Titanic. Here’s one, for a start. (That’s the Atlantic, so it’s probably behind a paywall now, sorry.) But during 1912 there were of course many suffragettes who said simply, we would have preferred to stay with our husbands on the ship rather than get into a lifeboat and leave them. I do wonder how many of those statements were about honour rather than love.

But I also wonder about “women and children first.” The cutoff age for a “child” back then was much younger than it is now. It wasn’t eighteen, it was more around twelve or thirteen. Many boys of that age, despite being still children, were considered men and they were barred from the boats and died. Part of the anti-suffrage movement was all about promoting women as mothers above all. Yet they believed, apparently, that those mothers ought to be okay with having their sons ripped from them and left to die. What else could the endpoint of that rhetoric be?

Obviously, we know what happened, we know who won. I suppose the last word goes to famous suffragette Harriot Stanton Blatch, who upon being asked what women would have done had the positions been reversed, answered, “We should have laws requiring plenty of lifeboats.”