The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

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Today in History: The Sinking of the Maine

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 15, 2019 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 15) in 1898, the U.S. Battleship, Maine, sank in Havana Harbor killing nearly three-quarters of her cruise. The Maine had been sent to Cuba as a show of American strength and to protect American interests there during the Cuban revolution against Spain. The cause of the explosion was initially unclear, but yellow-journalist publishers, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, exaggerated and sensationalized the investigatory report as well as the conflict between revolutionaries and the Spanish to sell papers. (It’s ironic that Pulitzer today is a name synonymous with quality journalism.) Their efforts inflamed popular support for their agenda of U.S. territorial expansion at the expense of the Spanish Empire. As popular pressure to punish Spain rose (“Remember the Maine and to Hell with Spain!” ), McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war.


The Spanish American War helped bring Theodore Roosevelt to public prominence. It also resulted in the acquisition by the U.S. of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, as well as short term control over Cuba. While one of the justifications for the war was supporting the Cuban revolutionaries, they were not permitted to participate in the peace ceremonies and they were not permitted full control over their country after the U.S. withdrew.


It is still uncertain today what caused the Maine to sink. The major theories remain an underwater mine, an undetected fire in the coal bunkers, and a boiler explosion. Spain was anxious to keep the U.S. from becoming involved in its Cuba problems, so the mine theory has never made a lot of sense to me.


Today in History: Valentine's Day

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 14, 2019 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy Valentine’s Day to the love of my life, my wonderful wife, Michelle. For those of you who do not have the pleasure of knowing her, she is a wonderful mixture of beauty, compassion, intelligence and humor. Her insights into the people around her make her both an incredible parent and an awesome teacher. I’m very blessed to have her as my partner in life.


On this day (February 14) in 496, the martyred priest, Valentine of Rome, was given a feast day to celebrate his martyrdom in the third century. Valentine is one of three Christian martyrs of similar name who became wrapped up in the Valentine’s Day legend. Valentine of Rome was arrested for performing marriage ceremonies for soldiers (who were not allowed to marry while in service) and ministering to Christians. Legend has it that while in prison he miraculously healed the blindness of his jailer’s daughter, Julia. Her entire family converted to Christianity. Centuries later the legend was embellished to include a last letter from Valentine to Julia on the eve of the martyr’s execution. He supposedly signed the letter “From your Valentine.”


The first record of the feast day of St. Valentine being associated with romantic love came in 1382 in Geoffrey Chaucer’s, Parliament of Foules. (“For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” ) This poem was written in honor of the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia.


In the Charter of Court Love in 1400, a day of festivities, including amorous poetry, is described to celebrate the day. The earliest surviving Valentine is a poem written in the fifteenth century by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured during the Battle of Agincourt. In England, the Paston Letters record a Valentine in 1477 written by Margery Brewes to her future husband. Shakespeare mentions the day in Hamlet. By the eighteenth century, commercial cards were being produced for those not able to write their own poetry. By the second half of the twentieth century, the gift of cards was expanded to include gifts such as candy and flowers and eventually diamonds thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign by the diamond industry begun in the 1980s.


Valentine’s Day is now celebrated world-wide by lovers everywhere. Disdained by some as being too commercial it is at its roots an occasion to express the true love a person feels for his or her partner.


Today in History: The Coso Artifact

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 13, 2019 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 13) in 1961 the Coso Artifact was found. The artifact purports to be spark plug encased in 500,000 year old rock. If the spark plug could in fact be shown to be 500,000 years old, this would be one of the most important discoveries of all time. Critics argue that the evidence does not support the ancient date and that the spark plug is not actually in the geode but in the concretion (hard mass formed by the local accumulation of matter) attached to it. Others postulate that the spark plug (which appears to have been manufactured in the1920s) is proof of the existence of time travel. The current whereabouts of the Coso Artifact are unknown.

Today in History: Ely Cathedral Collapsed

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 12, 2019 at 8:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this night (February 12-13) in 1322 the central tower of Ely Cathedral collapsed. The Gothic cathedrals are the great architectural achievements of the Middle Ages. Some are so large that a sixteen story building could be set inside the central space. But building that high was often an experience of trial and error with vaults, arches and flying buttresses and this time the architect guessed wrong. They were very fortunate that the tower came down during the night and not during services.

Today in History: The Robot

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 11, 2019 at 4:55 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 11) in 1938 the first science fiction television program was produced by the BBC. It was adapted from the play R.U.R. which coined the term “robot”. Robots would go on to become a staple in science fiction from Isaac Asimov’s “I Robot” to the Terminator.

Today in History: The St. Scholastica Day Riot

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 10, 2019 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 10) in 1355 the St. Scholastica Day Riot broke out when rude words were exchanged between a tavern owner and two students of Oxford University over the weak drinks he was selling. The students threw the drinks in his face and then assaulted him. The Mayor of Oxford demanded the University arrest the students and was driven off by 200 students. This led to large numbers of people coming in from the countryside to attack the students. 63 scholars and 30 locals were dead before the university supporters were routed. Eventually the king decided that the town, and not the university, was at fault. Each year thereafter on St. Scholastica Day the mayor and town counselors had to march bare-headed through town, attend Mass, and pay a fine to Oxford of one pence per scholar killed. This practice continued until 1825 (470 years) when the Mayor of Oxford flat out refused to participate anymore.

Today in History: The Battle of Port Arthur

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 9, 2019 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 9) in 1904, the Battle of Port Arthur was fought between Japan and Russia. The first blows of the battle were actually fought the night before when the Japanese launched a surprise attack. Two of the Japanese vessels collided with each other forcing them to drop behind the rest of the fleet, but the rest were able to launch 16 torpedoes damaging two of Russia’s best battleships.


The next day, Japanese surveillance vessels reached an observation point within 7500 yards of the harbor and incorrectly analyzed the chaos they witnessed. Believing the Russian fleet to be paralyzed by the surprise attack, Admiral Togo risked a second assault. The remaining Russian battleships rallied and bolstered by their shore batteries convinced Togo to retreat. Technically, Port Arthur is counted as a minor victory for the Russians, but because the Japanese ability to repair their vessels was superior to those of the fleet at Port Arthur, it was a strategic victory for Japan. The next day (February 10) Japan and Russia declared war on each other.


Today in History: Mary Queen of Scots Was Executed

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 8, 2019 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February Eight in 1587, Mary Queen of Scots was executed for treason. She was accused of having conspired to murder her cousin, Elizabeth I of England. Mary denied the charges and denied that the court had the right to charge her, a foreign queen, with treason against England. She also argued that the trial was further invalidated due to the facts that she was denied legal counsel, not permitted to review the evidence presented against her, and not even permitted access to her own papers to prepare her defense. Historians find it likely that she was involved in the conspiracy, even though the trial was clearly rigged against her.


Her execution was badly bungled. The first blow of the headsman’s axe struck the back of her skull, not her neck. The second blow also failed to sever her head from her body so that the headsman had to saw the last sinews of her flesh apart with his axe. He then picked up her head to display it to the gathered spectators only to discover that the queen wore a wig when her head slipped free of his grasp revealing short gray hair beneath her long brown locks. To make the disastrous execution complete, it was discovered that Mary had smuggled her small dog to the execution site by hiding him in her skirts. The faithful animal refused to be parted from Mary and had to be wrestled, blood covered, away from her corpse.


Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland did not go to war with England to avenge his mother’s death. He did not really know his mother as they had been separated since he was one year old when his mother was accused and convicted in Scotland of being involved in his father’s murder, although historians are not convinced that the evidence against her was genuine. James VI would go on to inherit the throne of England from Elizabeth I and rule there as James I. Jamestown, in the colony of Virginia, is named after him.


Winterhaven is Available Today!

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 7, 2019 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Winterhaven is available for purchase!

In the far off Duchy of Winterhaven at the edge of human civilization, a young knight investigates a most unusual murder while the Great Lords of the land scheme to expand their borders and take control of the duchy. A decade of relative peace is about to collapse and only young Dhrugal of Edgefield and his brothers and sister stand between Winterhaven and dark-spun chaos.


Today in History: The 11th Amendment

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 7, 2019 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 7) in 1795 the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The 11th Amendment deals with sovereign immunity—the power of the state to not be sued for monetary damages without its own consent. Specifically the 11th Amendment clarifies that the individual states possess sovereign immunity from the citizens of other states. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 margin that sovereign immunity also protects the states from suits for monetary damages from their own citizens.


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