I’m a fact junkie. As I mentioned here at least once, I spent many of my childhood hours reading our old edition of Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia. In that same post, I talked about the pleasure I find in paging through the various volumes in my library about record charts. I like reference books.
I used to get a new edition of the World Almanac every few years and browse in it regularly, noting things like the population of Gabon and the winner of the Academy Award for best supporting actor for 1937. But with the advent of Wikipedia and similar sites at my fingertips, it’s been nine years since I bought a new almanac. (The 2003 edition of the World Almanac, as it turns out, places Gabon’s population at 1.2 million in 2001; Wikipedia says it’s currently 1.5 million. The winner of the Academy Award for best supporting actor for 1937 has stayed the same: It was Joseph Schildkraut, for his portrayal of Captain Alfred Dreyfus in the 1936 film The Life of Emile Zola.)
Even with the availability of multiple reference sources on the ’Net, though, I still page through reference books for pleasure. There’s something about holding a book that I will always like. The Texas Gal recently acquired a Nook Tablet and uses it for everything from reading – she’s currently working her way through the fourth volume of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin – as well as for email, game-playing and ’Net surfing. She’s very pleased with it. I imagine I’ll eventually get one, too, but I think that as I read, I’ll miss an indefinable something that I get when I hold an actual book in my hands.
Still, even though I enjoy the many books I have, I do a lot of my research online, and Wikipedia is one of my favorite stops. It’s not perfect. But with the exception of the occasional sniping about topics currently in the news, it’s generally accurate. So, bereft of a topic for this space when I got up this morning, I stopped by there to see what historical events had occurred on March 3 over the years.
Well, in 1863, Tsar Alexander of Russia liberated the serfs, and in 1905, Tsar Nicholas II agreed to the creation of the Duma, an elected parliamentary body. In 1776, during the American Revolution, the first amphibious landing of the U.S. Marine Corps began the Battle of Nassau.
Time magazine was published for the first time in 1923, and nineteen years earlier, in 1904, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany had become the first person to ever make a sound recording of a political document, using Thomas Edison’s phonography cylinder to do so.
Also in recording history, on March 3, 1951, Ike Turner and his Rhythm Kings recorded “Rocket 88” in Memphis and then credited the record to Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats. (I once wrote at length about “Rocket 88,” debating – and agreeing with – its occasional heralding as the first rock ’n’ roll record as opposed to Fats Domino’s “The Fat Man,” which I’d also seen frequently mentioned for that slot over the years. My readers supplied so many possible alternatives to those two records – all of them legitimate – that I’ve not touched the topic again.)
So what else took place on March 3?
In 1991, by overwhelming majorities, Latvian and Estonians voted for independence from the collapsing Soviet Union. (That collapse is neatly examined in a very good book I finished only recently: Moscow, December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union by Conor O’Clery. Using as his frame the day when the red flag with the hammer and sickle was replaced over the Kremlin by the Russian tricolor, O’Clery tells the stories of Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin and the last years of the U.S.S.R. I recommend it.)
And in 1836, Texans celebrated the signing of their own Declaration of Independence, breaking away from Mexico and creating the Republic of Texas. On occasion, the Texas Gal will remind me that Texas was a nation on its own once, not just some random territory waiting to be made into a state. I nod, acknowledging that Texas is unique (and that holds true in many arenas, not just its political existence).
So, because today is Texas Independence Day, and because my Texas Gal loves it, the Doobie Brothers’ “Texas Lullaby” – from their 1975 album Stampede – is today’s Saturday single.