Bits and bobs: 36 British phenoms that make Americans utterly gobsmacked

Americans are as rightly possessive of Magna Carta as are the Brits — along with other transatlantic sensations. 

But you don’t have to be an Anglophile to admit you can’t get enough of these faves from jolly ol’ England. What should we add to this list?

British — and American — Sensations
(in no particular order)

  1. Magna Carta
  2. Downton Abbey
  3. Princess Diana
  4. Fish and “chips” (aka French fries)
  5. James Bond
  6. Burberry plaid
  7. The Royal Wave
  8. Pints (as in, “Mind your pints and quarts” / Ps & Qs)
  9. The British accent (per Madonna, et. al.)
  10. Tabloids
  11. Wimbledon
  12. Pubs
  13. Monty Python
  14. Twiggy
  15. British humor
  16. Princess Kate
  17. William & Harry
  18. Stonehenge
  19. “Football” (a.k.a. soccer)
  20. Harry Potter
  21. Love Actually
  22. Gwyneth Paltrow/Chris Martin (and their recent conscious uncoupling)
  23. The Titanic
  24. One Direction
  25. Kate Moss
  26. Topshop
  27. Benny Hill
  28. Bridget Jones
  29. The Beatles
  30. The Rolling Stones
  31. Shakespeare
  32. Afternoon tea
  33. Fawlty Towers
  34. Doctor Who
  35. Punk culture
  36. Royal weddings

But why do these strike a chord in folks on both sides of the pond?

Paul Smith, the director of the British Council U.S.A. in Washington D.C. will examine some of the reasons why. As part of our Distinguished Lecture Series, he’ll explore icons in British cultural history that have captivated the U.S. and contributed to the special relationship between the two nations.

What might be in store for us Yanks during the next British invasion?

HMNS Distinguished Lecture
British and American Sensations
Wednesday, May 14, 6:30 p.m.                                            
Click here for advance tickets

Paul Smith joined the British Council in 1983 and has also been director of the British Council in Egypt and Afghanistan. He was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham and Queens College Cambridge. His interests include history, international cultural relations and all the arts, especially drama. He has directed plays, particularly Shakespeare, in various countries.

Magna Carta programs are generously supported by the British Council.

Looking to move? Try Mars! Robert Zubrin on the fast track to colonizing Mars

In July 1989, on the 20th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, President George H.W. Bush called for America to renew its pioneering push into space with the establishment of a permanent lunar base and a series of human missions to Mars. Almost 25 years later, these goals still seem like pipe dreams to many Americans. However, as the nation debates how to proceed with human space exploration, a human mission to Mars must still be on the table.

While many have said that such an endeavor would be excessively costly and take decades to complete, a small team at Martin Marietta drew up a daring plan that could sharply cut costs and send a group of American astronauts to the Red Planet within ten years.

The plan, known as Mars Direct, has attracted both international attention and broad controversy.

Mars Direct is a sustained humans-to-Mars plan, advocating a minimalist, live-off-the-land approach to exploring the planet Mars. It allows for maximum results with minimum investment. Using existing launch technology and making use of the Martian atmosphere to generate rocket fuel, extracting water from the Martian soil and eventually using the abundant mineral resources of the Red Planet for construction purposes, the plan drastically lowers the amount of material which must be launched from Earth to Mars. Thus, it sidesteps the primary stumbling block to space exploration, and rapidly accelerates the timetable for human exploration of the solar system.

The principal author of Mars Direct, Robert Zubrin, has presented the plan to such fora as the blue ribbon Synthesis Group, headed by former Apollo astronaut General Thomas Stafford, the Augustine Committee, as well as to various government officials, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator John McCain, and NASA Administrators Dan Goldin, Mike Griffin, and Charles Bolden.

He will present at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on May 7 at 7 p.m. in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre. Click here for advance tickets.

Principal author of Mars Direct, Robert Zubrin

HMNS DISTINGUISHED LECTURE
“Mars Direct: Humans to the Red Planet within a Decade,” with Robert Zubrin, Ph.D.
Wednesday, May 7, 7 p.m.
HMNS Wortham Giant Screen Theatre
Tickets $18, HMNS Members $12

Can Americans reach the Red Planet in our time? Principal author of Mars Direct, Robert Zubrin, addresses this question. Zubrin is an aerospace engineer and founder of the Mars Society. Following the lecture, he will sign copies of his popular books The Case for Mars, How to Live on Mars, and Merchants of Despair. Click here for advance tickets.

SPECIAL EVENING SCREENING
The Great Planet Adventures
Wednesday, May 7, 6 p.m.
HMNS Burke Baker Planetarium
Tickets $8, HMNS Members $4

Discover what it would be like to live, dress, and work on each planet and what you would need to survive in each planetary environment — particularly the local weather and gravity fields. Click here for advance tickets.

Understand the legacy of Magna Carta at an HMNS Distinguished Lecture

Nearly 800 years ago, on a summer day on the banks of the river Thames, 25 barons gathered waiting for King John. The document they sealed, under fluttering pendants, would come to underpin our modern conceptions of liberty, freedom and justice. But why — let alone how?

We would come to call this document Magna Carta – the “Great Charter.” But how did it come about?

There were many, many medieval charters. Yet, this is the one that became embedded in the consciousness of England and then the world. What relevance could this document possibly still hold for us as Americans, an ocean away and 800 years later?

Tonight we’ll answer these questions at “A Universal Charter? The Legacy of the Magna Carta” as part of our Distinguished Lecture series. Featuring Sir Robert Rogers, Clerk of the British House of Commons – an office that dates back to 1363 – we will delve into the history and influence of Magna Carta.

Join HMNS in giving our distinguished speaker a big Texas welcome at his lecture tonight in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre!

 

Robert - full regaliaA Universal Charter? The Legacy of the Magna Carta
Sir Robert Rogers, Clerk of the British House of Commons
Wednesday, February 19, 6:30 p.m.
Click here for tickets.

About the Speaker:
Sir Robert is well accustomed to the ways in which the old lives with the new. One of his tasks is to endorse Parliamentary bills in Norman French — but they are prepared using some of the most advanced text-handling software in the world.

Also an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple Inn of Court (the Temple Church plays a part in the story of Magna Carta), Sir Robert Rogers is author of two miscellanies about the British Parliament: “Order! Order!” and “Who Goes Home?” He’s the joint author of “How Parliament Works,” now going into its seventh edition.

UPCOMING MAGNA CARTA LECTURES:
Tickets $18, HMNS members $12
www.hmns.org/lectures

13th Century Sword & Buckler: Origins of the Knightly Fighting Arts
John Clements, Association for Renaissance Martial Arts
Wednesday, February 26, 6:30 p.m.
Click here for tickets.

The liberal arts in medieval times were those subjects studied by a free man — who was free precisely because he was armed and trained in the fighting arts. Much of what is known of 13th century sword and buckler training is documented in the only surviving fencing manual of the period. John Clements, martial arts historian, will describe the science of defense developed in this period, as well as the arms, armor and chivalric work of knights. This lecture will be followed by a live demonstration of medieval martial arts.

Conquest, Wars and Liberties of the Realm: the Long Run-Up to Magna Carta
Bruce O’Brien, Ph.D., International Early English Laws Project.
Wednesday, March 12, 6:30 p.m.
Click here for tickets.

To understand Magna Carta, one has to understand England’s past. Much has to do with the obligations of kings and their subjects, which was a point of negotiation. This process is writ large in pre-conquest Anglo-Saxon laws, in the monuments of the Norman kings such as Domesday Book and the coronation charter of Henry I, and in the legal reforms instituted by Henry II, which formed the basis for what came to be known as the Common Law.

Medieval Genealogy
Lynna Kay Shuffield, Genealogist
Wednesday, April 16, 6 p.m.
Click here for tickets.

Do you have royal lineage? Are you a descendant of a rebellious baron? Genealogy researcher Lynna Kay Shuffield will review tips to help you trace your family to medieval Europe. For those with English roots there is a fair chance you may find a Magna Carta link. Over 3,000 Texans are currently registered as descendants of the Magna Carta Dames and Barons from Runnymede. You do not need to be an avid genealogy researcher to enjoy this program.

ADDITIONAL MAGNA CARTA PROGRAMS

ADULT CLASS: Introduction to the Sword
Thursday, February 27, 6 p.m.
Click here for tickets.

The sword is an important symbol of power — from the gladius of gladiators to the light saber of the Jedi. It has been used to change history. Whether leading a conquest of the Normans or to helping to secure the seed of democracy, the sword is an important symbol of martial skill. Thought of as a “lost art,” swordsmanship is still taught using the writing and illustrations passed down from Renaissance sword masters. Learn the basics of this martial art in this class lead by John Clements, director Association of Renaissance Martial Arts. This program is for participants age 15 and up.

ADULT CLASS: Calligraphy, From Quill to Pen
Thursday, May 15, 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m
Click here for tickets

Saturday, June 21, 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Click here for tickets

Calligraphy — from ancient Greek kallos for “beauty” and graphe for “writing” — is a visual art dating back to at least 5,000 BC, although our western letter forms were standardized during in the 8th century. In this beginner-level class, Cindy Haller, Houston Calligraphy Guild instructor, will teach you to use a dip pen (our modern answer to the quill) and ink to create the Italic script, and introduce you to the history of English script writing. All supplies are provided and are yours to keep. Participants must be 15 years of age or older.

Distinguished Lecture Series: Gain new perspective on a local Civil War hero April 24

Many Houstonians are familiar with the story of the Battle of Sabine Pass. On September 8, 1863—against long odds—the Confederate Davis Guards and Lt. Dick Dowling defeated a U.S. Navy fleet that entered Sabine Pass from the Gulf of Mexico, foiling a Union plan to capture Houston and the state of Texas.

dick dowling guest blog

For a century and a half, the Irish Houstonian Richard W. “Dick” Dowling has been remembered as a Confederate hero who saved Texas from invasion by federal troops with his victory at the Battle of Sabine Pass. His statue still stands in Hermann Park near the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Yet the stories Houstonians have told about Dowling have also changed over time, and some stories have not yet been fully told. Legends about the Battle of Sabine Pass have also overshadowed the fact that Dowling’s victory delayed emancipation in Texas and obscured the heroism of several fugitive slaves who fought in the battle for the Union.

Historical researcher Dr. W. Caleb McDaniel has uncovered a fresh view of Dowling’s famous battle from the perspective of another Houston landmark, Emancipation Park, by placing Dowling and Sabine Pass in the context of slavery and emancipation both before and during the Civil War.

In the final lecture of the Discovering the Civil War Distinguished Lecture Series on Tuesday, April 24, Dr. Caleb McDaniel will present “Dick Dowling and the Battle of Sabine Pass: The View from Houston’s Emancipation Park.”

“My lecture will use recent research about the Battle of Sabine Pass to show how the battle impacted enslaved people in Texas and Louisiana and will also discuss the role of African American sailors in the battle on the Union side,” Dr. Caleb McDaniel explains.

Audience members will also be introduced to a new online archive of historical documents and materials related to Dowling, enabling them to study Dowling on their own and trace the changes in his image over time in Houston and beyond.

dick dowling guest blog

What: HMNS Distinguished Lecture, “Dick Dowling and the Battle of Sabine Pass: The View from Houston’s Emancipation Park”

When: Tuesday, April 24, 6:30 p.m.

Where: The Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Dr., 77030

Click here for advanced tickets.

W. Caleb McDaniel

Dr. W. Caleb McDaniel is assistant professor of history at Rice University. Since receiving his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University in 2006, he has published articles on the Civil War era in several scholarly journals and currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the Civil War at Rice. More information about his work is available on his homepage.

Emancipation Park

In 1872, Rev. Jack Yates and his congregation at Houston’s oldest African American Church, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, along with the help of  the members of Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church and other community leaders, purchased the land the park stands on to celebrate Juneteenth. This community park was later donated to the City of Houston in 1916.  Located near downtown at the intersection of Dowling and Elgin Streets, Houston’s Emancipation Park  is now designated with a State Historical Marker. The Park is cared for by the City of Houston with support from Friends of Emancipation Park.