Here is your open thread for March 28, 2020.
Lady Gaga turns 34 today. And Cheryl James — Salt from Salt-n-Pepa — turns 54. They’re both terrific, but for the video here I’m going to have to go with another fabulous musical star. Reba McEntire turns 65 today. She’s recorded some great music, but this is my all-time favorite thing she’s ever done:
That’s from Tremors — a cult-classic B-movie. Reba and Michael Gross are hilarious in this scene, while also showing us why Burt and Heather Gummer are so happily married. But the scene also addresses a formal requirement of the creature feature, wherein it must be established that Bullets Won’t Stop ‘Em. That point gets hammered home here by demonstrating that, OK, yes, technically, Bullets Will Stop ‘Em, but you’re going to need an awful lot of bullets.
On March 28, 1854, Britain declared war on Russia. France had declared war on Russia the previous day. This was part of the Crimean War. Raise your hand if you understand the Crimean War. (Notice me not raising my hand.) Pretty much the only thing I ever learned about the Crimean War, and the only reason it was ever mentioned in any of my schooling, was because of “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
Like the soldiers in that poem, ours was not to reason why a dozen or so countries (and empires) had gotten themselves embroiled in a war that lasted two and a half years, leaving something like 700,000 combatants dead. The reasons why, it turns out, are blasphemously depressing:
A major point in dispute was whether the Greek Orthodox should continue in exclusive possession of the keys to the main door of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, on the spot where the baby Jesus was born and cradled in the manger. The Latins had their own keys, but they were to a side door and not to the main door. There was also a row about a silver star with Latin inscriptions in the sanctuary, which had mysteriously disappeared in 1847, as well as disputes over the Latin claim to the right to repair the principal cupola of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and over the right to officiate at the Tomb of the Virgin Mary at Gethsemane. Feelings ran so high that Greek and Latin monks came to blows with crosses and candlesticks in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
This is yet another one of those cases, I think, where it’s impossible to distinguish between the ways religion served as a pretext for political power and the ways political power served as a pretext for religious conflict. In any case, the Ottomans got in a fight with the Orthodox and then the Catholics and the Anglicans jumped in on the side of the Ottomans. Empires gonna empire.On March 28, 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Stump v. Sparkman that a woman who had been sterilized by a judge’s order — without her consent or knowledge — was not permitted to sue the judge. Basically, this was judges protecting judges by judging that it should be extremely difficult and rare for people harmed by judges to sue them. But there are other elements of the case that make it disturbingly timely.
Raphael was born 537 years ago today. It’s also the birthday (but not the feast day) of St. Teresa of Avila, who was born 505 years ago. I find the work of both of them beautiful in deeply strange ways.
Raise a glass (or a can) to Frederick Pabst, who was born 184 years ago today.
Worldwatch Institute founder Lester R. Brown turns 86 today. He has, alas, been mostly right for most of those 86 years.
Southern Gospel legend Bill Gaither turns 84.
“Southern Gospel” music is not to be confused with Gospel Gospel music — and certainly no one who hears it would confuse to the two. I’m not generally a fan of this whitest-of-all musical genres, but I’m fond of Gaither and his collaborators, who’ve recorded hundreds of songs over the years, some of which are real toe-tappers. (This is partly due to nostalgia, as Gaither’s music was inescapable during my fundamentalist childhood.)
Academy Award-winner Dianne Wiest turns 75. She won that Oscar for Bullets Over Broadway, which is less problematic if you think of it as a Dianne Wiest movie (or a John Cusack/Chazz Palminteri movie). Or you can think of it as the movie in which screenwriter Douglas McGrath conclusively wins an argument with his co-writer about the moral responsibility of the artist.
Vince Vaughn turns 50 today. He was really good in Return to Paradise. Novelist Jennifer Weiner also turns 50. (She’s from Philly and she’s always been supportive of, and delightful to, area bookstores.) Julia Stiles turns 39.
March 28 is the feast day of St. Guntram (or Gontrand, or Gontran, Gontram, Gunthram, Gunthchramn, or Guntramnus). St. Guntrum was a Frankish king in the sixth century who got into a civil war with his own brother and crushed a rebellion led by his niece. He apparently also, at some point, must have done something or other that was saintly, but whatever that might have been has long since been forgotten. Saint Guntrum, pray for us.
Talk amongst yourselves.