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Some of what 2016 has planned for us

January 3, 2016

No one can say what the future will bring but that doesn’t stop people from trying. Even though the year 2016 is only a few days old, the entire year has already been carved up in advance (on paper at least) into an orderly sequence of anniversaries, memorials, get-togethers, spectacles and other prearranged events.

At any moment our carefully-laid scheduling can (and will) be dashed by real-world events — like waves against sand castles — but in the meantime it divides and helps pass our time like the blocks of a city divide (and seem to shorten) the distance.

Here’s just some of what the calendar has in store for us in 2016.

Who knew that legumes had pulses?


It pea-ves bureaucrats that the importance of legumes have bean overlooked. — United Nations

The year 2016 has been designated as the International Year of Pulses by the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Pulses — if you didn’t know — are dried legumes, such as kidney beans, pinto beans, lentils and chick peas — one of the most important staple foods in the human diet.

By the way, if you look at them, you may agree that all U.N. International Years seem to be remarkably interchangeable. 2016’s Year of Pulses would’ve been no less timely 57 years ago, when the United Nations declared the first International Year, which was World Refugee Year — which likewise would’ve have perfectly fit 2016.

The calender itself is a defining conceit of human civilization. both as an historical touchstone — in that it’s almost always founded on some crucial date in a culture’s history — and as a framework for day-to-day life and culture. Calendars say a lot about people and their governments.

According to the Juche calendar system used in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 2016 is referred to as 106. That is to say, this year, it will be 106 years since the birth of the Communist regime’s founder Kim Il-sung.

In the Republic of China (aka Taiwan), 2016 will be  the 105th year of the Republic, according to the Minguo calendar, which begins counting from the founding of the original ROC, in mainland China, in 1912.

The year 2016 is the year 6766, according to the modern Assyrian calendar, which is observed by ethnic Assyrians in Iraq, Syria, Israel, Armenia, Jordan, Lebanon, parts of Turkey and Iran (not to mention the rest of the world). The Assyrian calendar has excellent month names by the way. The last month of winter is the “Month of Evil Spirits”, while the first month of spring is the “Month of Happiness” (so true).

Computer operating systems borrow many modes and forms from human culture, including custom calendars for system time.

In Unix time, 2016 is: 1451606400–1483228799. Like the rest of the operating system, this form of annular notation is superior because it involves more typing and is harder to remember.

The sun never sets on 2016

This year will be especially full of momentous British anniversaries:

Expect these anniversaries to be celebrated to the hilt by the Cameron government as the U.K. readies for an in-out referendum on its membership in the European Union (scheduled to take place before the end of 2017).

Meanwhile, in the former colonies…


The current New Zealand flag and the Silver Fern Flag. — New Zealand

From March 3 to the 24, a vote of some interest to the UK will be taking place in New Zealand where a binding referendum will choose a national flag. The choice will be between the current flag, incorporating the British Union Jack, which has been in use since 1902 (and is easily confused with nearby Australia’s flag), and a new Silver Fern Flag, which was chosen from five alternatives by a majority of New Zealanders who voted in an earlier referendum from November 20 to December 11 2015.

The noise from south of the border

Clifford Berryman's contemporary cartoon about the expedition against Villa.

Clifford Berryman’s March 10, 1916, cartoon about the expedition against Villa.

January 17 will be 50 anniversary of what Time magazine called one of the world’s “worst nuclear disasters”, when the United States Air Force accidentally dropped three hydrogen bombs near the Spanish  fishing village of Palomares in 1966. Only the conventional explosives in two of the bombs went off but this Cold War “oops” moment led to about two square kilometres of land being deeply contaminated by plutonium — even 49 years later.

Who wants to bet that two months from now Donald Trump — that friend of the Mexican people — likely still running to be the Republican candidate for President, will have something to say on March 12 — the 100th anniversary of Pancho Villa’s 1916 Raid on Camp Furlong and the U.S. 13th Cavalry Regiment in Columbus, New Mexico?

This raid famously sparked a retaliatory 11-month “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico by some 6,600 U.S. soldiers, in an unsuccessful attempt to capture the Mexican revolutionary.

Americans, as we all know, will be going to the polls on November 8, to vote in the 58th quadrennial U.S. presidential election. The voting will take place nearly two months after the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on September 11, 2001, and one month before the 75th anniversary of the attack, by the Imperial Japanese navy, against the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941.

Otherwise, the U.S. calendar is remarkable for still being dominated by the American Civil War, fought between the North and the South between 1861 and 1865. There are no less than 51 declared State holidays and local observances marking, commemorating and celebrating the personalities and events of that national upheaval.

Curiously, the United States as a whole didn’t make much of the fact that 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the ultimate victory of the Union over the Confederacy.

Here on the home front and the battlefront

This year will mark several notable 100th anniversaries in the fight for human rights in Canada.

It was sometime in 1916 when Emily Murphy became the first woman magistrate in both Canada and the British Empire.

Murphy would go on to be one of the “Famous Five” Albertan women’s rights activists — including Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby — that together launched the “Persons Case” in 1927 that ultimately resulted in women being deemed “qualified persons” eligible to sit in the Canadian Senate.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the three Prairie provinces: January 28, 1916, in Manitoba (the culmination of an effort spearhearded by Nellie McClung), March 14, in Saskatchewan and April 19 in Alberta.

March will also see a string of 100th anniversaries relating to Canada’s military effort in the First World War — 14 major battles in all — beginning with the Battle of St Eloi Craters, fought from March 27 to April 16, 1916 and arguably culminating with the brutal Battle of the Somme, fought between July 1 and November 18, 1916.

Canadian forces were apparently mostly involved in the final months of the massive offensive but on the first day — July 1 — the 801-man 1st Newfoundland Regiment was all but wiped out, with 324 killed and 386 wounded. However, that day will forever be remembered as the worst in the history of the British army, with over 60,000 casualties.

On a lighter note…

Frontispiece to 1831 edition of Frankenstein, engraving by W. Chevalier after Th. von Holst.

Frontispiece to 1831 edition of Frankenstein, by W. Chevalier after Th. von Holst.

January marks the 150th Anniversary of publication of the first of twelve monthly installments of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in the Russian literary journal Russian Messenger.

Summer will be the 200th anniversary of a famed night of ghost-stories in a Lake Geneva villa — out of which came the creation of the literary characters Frankenstein and The Vampyre, by Mary Shelley and John Polidori respectively, though each story had to wait to be published in turn, in 1818 and 1819.

Mary Shelley is buried in St Peter’s Church, in Bournemouth town centre and the seaside resort in Dorset, U.K. is planning two years of events, beginning in November, celebrating the life of the author and culminating in the 200th anniversary of the 1818 publication of Frankenstein.

This year will be the 500th anniversary of the death of the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, known for fantastical and fantastically-detailed imagery. The city of ’s-Hertogenbosch, where Boch lived, will mark the occasion with a festival of over 100 events, including a major retrospective of the artist’s work.

Moving pictures 100 years later


Collage of title card and still from the 1916 silent classic Intolerance.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of a lot of great films that still exist, including the September 5, 1916 release of the very remarkable Hollywood film  Intolerance, by director D. W. Griffith. This overblown spectacle wove four stories and 4,000 years of inhumanity together and was meant as something of an apology for Griffith’s 1915 Civil War film Birth of a Nation, which portrayed the Klu Klux Klan rather heroically.

Unfortunately, where Birth was a huge box office success, making about US$48 million (about $680 million in 2016 terms), Intolerance was a big fat flop, in large part because it had to recoup the largest production cost in Hollywood’s history up to that point. Best estimates are that the film cost close to US$2.5 million (about $47 million in 2016 dollars).

The massive life-size Babylonian set from Intolerance’s fourth story sat abandoned at the corner of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards for four years after the making of the film (like a warning to other filmmakers) until the Los Angeles fire department ordered it torn down.

Intolerance is now rightly regarded as a masterpiece and one of the the most influential films in history but for decades it was a by-word for the hubris and excess of the silent film era.

Notable get-togethers on the world stage

May 26–27, the 42nd G7 summit will be held  at the Shima Kanko Hotel in Kashiko Island, Shima, Mie Prefecture, Japan. Russia — the 8th G — apparently doesn’t play well with others and hasn’t been invited.

August 5–21, the 2016 Summer Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The 2008 Summer Olympics in China certainly raised the bar where pollution is concerned but the Rio games could smash all records for most polluted Olympic venues ever.

While the political season in the United States will dominate North American news coverage, there are well over 50 important national votes around the world this year.

Oh, and the world ends in February!

February 14 is when a psychic named Elaine says the world will end. Admittedly, she was told this by an alien in a bar and she’s just a character in the upcoming Ghostbusters II film but I thought I’d pass it along, just in case. Click the images to enlarge them.


One Comment
  1. Nelson Giles permalink

    Excellent preview of the coming year, Stanley.


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