On this day in 1922 the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, also known as the Soviet Union, was announced in Moscow, Russia. Representatives from the Ukraine, Belorussia, Russia and the Transcaucasian Federation agreed, in theory, to a treaty that established a proletariat state based on the principles of Marxism. That treaty was announced to the Soviet congress by Joseph Stalin, the Commissar of Nationality Affairs, on December 30, 1922. However, the treaty needed the full vote of the Soviet congress. Stalin asked the delegates to approve the treaty “immediately and unanimously as it is usually done by the communists.” The delegates agreed to vote on a final version of the treaty at the next meeting and it was never discussed again. The treaty that never reached a vote (or passed) lasted until the demise of the Soviet Union on December 8, 1991.
Today marks the birthday of Robert C. Baker, the inventor of the chicken nugget. Baker was born in Newark, New York in 1921. He grew up on a small chicken farm where his mother made chicken and biscuits just about every Sunday, according to a 2006 article in the New York Times. Baker grew up to revolutionize the poultry industry. He developed the process for removing all the meat from a chicken carcass and reshaping it. He not only invented the chicken nugget but he also led development on chicken baloney, chicken steak, chicken salami, chicken chili, chicken hash, chicken pastrami and chicken ham. In the late 1970's a well known fast food restaurant used the method invented by Baker to mass produce chicken nuggets. Baker made little money from his invention. In 2004 Baker was inducted into the American Poultry Hall of Fame. He died in 2006. Click the YouTube link below to hear a musical tribute to Robert C. Baker by the band Paul and Storm.
On the morning of December 28, 1814 General Andrew Jackson watched as columns of smartly dressed British soldiers advanced with determination toward his fortified position at the Chalmette Plantation nine miles south of New Orleans. The British were on a reconnaissance mission to test the backwoods Tennessee general and his army’s metal. The British had had no problem turning the Americans and burning the White House and Capitol in Washington the previous summer. This should be as easy too, they assumed.
Jackson watched from the top floor of his improvised headquarters at the Macarty plantation house. From there, looking south, he had a complete view of the plain that spread out before him. Two hundred yards in front of the McCarty house, Line Jackson stretched a mile from left to right. Jackson had spent the previous four days directing his men as they shoveled dirt to create the fortified position from a muddy, watery ditch known as the Rodriguez Canal. The canal separated the Chalmette Plantation from the Macarty Plantation and Jackson found in it the perfect spot to defend the city of New Orleans from a full scale British invasion. From the left, Line Jackson began at a cypress swamp and stretched all the way to the Mississippi River to the right. All along this line Black and White men from Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Choctaws from the Mississippi Territory stood behind the earthworks and cannons with rifles in hand, ready to accept the British challenge. Gulf of Mexico pirates manned the cannons. In order to take the Crescent City the British would have to penetrate Line Jackson and split the American forces. If they could do that, they had an open road to New Orleans. However, troops from the most dominate army on the planet soon learned what Jackson’s mish-mash army could do with long rifles and cannons. “Scarce a ball passed over, or fell short of it’s mark, but all striking full into the midst of our ranks, occasioned terrible havoc,” wrote Lieutenant George Robert Gleig of the British 85th Regiment, a regiment that had taken part in the attack on the American capitol.
As the Americans fired round after round into the advancing British, His Majesty The King’s Army ducked and dived into any hole they could find. There they lay among the dead and waited for night to fall. That day the British lost 152 men killed, wounded and taken prisoner. One by one, the British survivors rose and sneaked back to their camp as darkness fell on the Chalmette battlefield on December 28, 1814.
On this date 200 years ago the city of New Orleans was alive like it had never been in years. Word had reached the city that the British were about to make landfall. A full scale British invasion was about to take place. General Andrew Jackson was busy making the city's defenses ready and it was a race against time. He was taking every able-bodied male that would take up arms against the British and fight in defense of the city. This meant he would take any of the French, Spanish, Creoles, free Blacks, and pirates that made up the city's disparate population. In the previous days he had sent word for his armies to rush to the city. On December 20th General John Coffee had arrived with 2,000 troops after a forced march from Baton Rouge. On December 21st Major General William Carroll and 3,000 Tennessee and Kentucky militia arrived. Carroll brought his three regiments to New Orleans from Nashville on river barges via the Cumberland, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. On the way he prepared his men for battle by having them drill and perform calisthenics aboard the troop barges. Meanwhile, in a lake just east of New Orleans about 8,000 British soldiers were about to disembark from the troop transports and attempt to take New Orleans.
Welcome to the first full day of winter on the North American continent. Yesterday was the Winter Solstice- the day of the year with the least amount of daylight. Today marks the slow lengthening of daylight hours as the earth’s Northern Hemisphere tilts back towards the sun. It’s not always apparent when these things are happening unless you are marking shadows on rocks like the ancient people of North America did. Growing up I didn’t mark shadows on rocks but I could always tell winter was just around the corner when I stepped outside on a certain morning and the yard was full of red-winged blackbirds. The birds used the fields and pastures around the house as a stopover on their annual migration from Canada to Central America for the winter. Thousands of them covered the yard and fields around the house. They would spend the morning swooping from the trees down to the ground and back up to the trees again. They brought a full appearance back to the trees that had lost their leaves weeks earlier. The birds sounded if they were squawking and bickering at one another as they walked across the ground pecking at seeds. And then by some unseen and unheard single they would all take flight, a mass of black bird moving through the air as one big bird-bubble. One morning last week I walked out and found the old birds filling the yard. I noticed they didn’t number in the thousands as I remember from years ago but there were enough that I wanted to lift my camera and make a photo. Perhaps I'll have a chance to make another photo of the old birds in March when they head back north on the Spring migration.
On this date in 1892 the first performance of Tchaikovsky’s the The Nutcracker was held in the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. Tchaikovsky was commissioned by Ivan Vsevolozhsky, the director of the theatre, to compose a ballet and opera. Tchaikovsky teamed up with Marius Petipa to compose the ballet. Petipa adapted material from Alexander Dumas’s The Tale of the Nutcracker, which was a revision of E.T.A Hoffmann's story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The first performance of that December 18th 1892 production was panned by critics who thought there were too many children featured prominently in the production.
The Nutcracker was first performed in its entirety in the United States by the San Francisco Ballet on Dec 24, 1944. Today the Nutcracker is a mainstay of many ballet companies and dance schools especially during the Christmas season. Please enjoy a slideshow of photos below of The Nutcracker presented by the Northwest Alabama Arts Council at the Bevill Business Center on the Bevill State Community College campus in Hamilton, Ala., on December 14, 2014.
On this date in 1811 a great earthquake struck the east-central United States sending shock waves and fear across the land.
On Dec. 16, 1811 the magnitude 7.0 New Madrid earthquake, with its epicenter in present-day Arkansas, was felt as far away as Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Pensacola, Fla.
The quake struck fear into the hearts of many people, including a Tennessean named Joseph Burleson, who had moved into the Louisiana Territory (later becoming the Missouri Territory) from Tennessee to be close to family.
In an interview with Anne Newport Royall, who is considered to be America's first female journalist and newspaper editor, Burleson revealed his earthquake experience. Royall interviewed Burleson in Moulton, Ala., in 1819. The interview is published in the book, 'Letters From Alabama, 1817-1822‘ published by the University of Alabama Press.
As a note, it’s tough to tell from the text just how much Royall colored Burleson’s experience with her own anti-religious views.
Burleson and his family were asleep when the rumbling began at about 2 a.m. Royall said Burleson sprang out of bed half asleep. 'He never thought of an earthquake; but concluded that… the end of the world was at hand,' Royall wrote. Another earthquake hit at 8 a.m. and Burleson became afraid, he told Royall.
'[I] was wicked and [my] children were very wicked and the neighborhood was very wicked.' Burleson concluded they were about to receive the wrath of God. On that day he decided to get right with God.
Burleson had heard of a nearby neighborhood where the people were professors of religion. He packed up his wife and nine children and moved there. 'I thought if I could live to get there, they would teach me how to prepare for my death,' Burleson said.
He told Royall, 'All I wanted, or cared for, was to be around godly people.' Burleson said that in his fear, he lost all desire for worldly objects. 'But such was not the case with my religious friends. Some admired my fine wagon; some admired my horses; and others admired my fine new saddles and bridles; and some one thing and some another, and they must have this and they must have that.'
After a while, Burleson became used to the rumblings and aftershocks that continued into 1812.
'But in the meantime these religious people had cheated me out of all my property,' he said, 'and I thought it high time to quit the country; and from that day to this, I put no faith in religious people.'
Burleson tallied his losses. 'My fine wagon and team; all my horses and all my money, 1,500 dollars in silver, and a fine drove of cattle, gone.'
Destitute, Burleson returned to Tennessee with his wife and children and began life anew. He joined the military under an upstart Tennessee militia colonel named Andrew Jackson who was preparing a campaign against the Creeks. Burleson was at Horseshoe Bend where he helped Jackson win the final battle of the Creek War.
After the war, Burleson and his family moved into what would become the White House community on the Buttahatchee River in Marion County located in northwest Alabama. His descendants still live there around the Burleson Church of Christ, where, by all accounts, they are good, upstanding God-fearing people.
Ask anyone who takes photos of the night sky and they can tell you street lights are the bane of night-time photography. In order to get nice shots of the stars or moon a clear nighttime sky free of light pollution is needed. Light pollution is the stray light from factories, buildings and street lights that block our view of the universe. The light reflects off particles in the atmosphere marring the night sky with a dim haze, a phenomenon known as skyglow. According to a National Geographic article light pollution can disrupt the biological rhythms of humans and animals that evolved in a world without light pollution.
Recently, I have been attempting some night time-lapse photography and it's quite fun. But it would be a lot more enjoyable if I didn't have to hike a half mile to a spot free of street lights. The ideal situation would be to photograph the night-time sky from the backyard, but unfortunately I can't do that- five street lights surround the house. But this may not be as bad as it sounds. You see, I noticed the street light closest to the house has been flickering on and off for the past few weeks. It goes out for about twenty minutes then pops back on for about ten or fifteen. I suppose the bulb must be burning out. One night as I watched the street light flicker off, a light bulb illuminated inside my mind. I decided to incorporate the street light into my astrophotography. Below is a time lapse video I made last night of the stars with the flickering street light. I shot for about eight hours. Toward the end of the video the moon rises off camera but illuminates frost-covered hay bales. Airplanes and a few shooting stars can be seen also. The video is 12 seconds long. Enjoy.
Video copyright Michael E. Palmer/Palmer's Almanac
Tonight Dan Penn of Vernon, Ala., will appear on The Late Show with David Letterman. Penn left Vernon in 1959 to make music. Penn returned to his old high school for the first time since leaving back on October 16th and Palmer's Almanac was there to document the occasion. Penn will appear on the Late Show with keyboardist Bobby Emmons. To view a slideshow of the two performing in Vernon click here. The show airs at 10:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time on your local CBS affiliate.
The photography world was abuzz this week with the announcement that photographer Peter Lik sold a photograph for a record $6.5 million. The black and white photo titled "Phantom" was made in the Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona. The Antelope Canyon is a popular destination for nature lovers and photographers alike. I visited the Antelope Canyon in 2011. I remember walking through the canyon at the exact spot where Lik made his photo. However, at the time that spot was filled with tourists snapping photos and tour guides throwing sand into the air exclaiming "take a picture of this!" The guides would pitch the sand into the sun's rays and duck behind the canyon wall to conceal themselves. I suspect that's how Lik made his photo. It's a beautiful photo. But to escape this type of Disney Land nature tourism I walked deeper into the canyon to get away from the crowd at that prime spot. I found a few serene spots and made what are, I hope, some photos unlike any others. If you would like to see them check them out here. And they don't cost $6.5 million.
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
He can be reached at email@example.com