" Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others. "
Ambrose Bierce

Back in the day


The Altmark Incident

While passing through neutral Norwegian waters during WWII, the German supply vessel Altmark was boarded by Norwegian inspectors. They were told the craft was merely a commercial ship, but it was in fact being used to transport 299 British prisoners of war. The captives tried to make their presence known by banging on the hull, but winches were run to drown them out. The Royal Navy, however, pursued the ship and mounted a rescue. What now-famous phrase alerted the men to their liberation?



The Flying Trapeze

The aerial performance art known as the flying trapeze was invented in France in 1859 by Jules Léotard, whose name became synonymous with the skintight costume in which he performed. During a performance, a "flyer" typically jumps from a high platform, using gravity to swing on the trapeze, or "fly bar." He or she may perform tricks in mid-air before being caught by a partner. Today, the popular circus act is performed above safety nets, but Léotard originally practiced above what?

Born on a day like today


Vera Menchik

A Russian-born British international chess master, Menchik won seven consecutive Women's World Chess Championships, beginning with the first one ever held and ending in 1939, when World War II halted the tournament. She and her family were killed in an air raid on London in 1944. When Menchik entered a men's tournament in 1929, Viennese master Albert Becker ridiculed her by saying that anyone who lost to her should become a part of the "Vera Menchik Club." Who was the first of its many members?

Last updated on Saturday, 16th February 2013

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