This is an actual news story: It ran in the L.A. Times (on the front page, in fact) on Jan. 13, 1914.
The previous month, the New York Times had reported on the Vatican’s efforts “to suppress the tango dancing mania in Italy” but noted that those efforts had “proved a failure.” In the last days of 1913, Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III banned the dance at a state ball.
But by Jan. 14, 1914, a story was being told in the salons of Rome, memorably related in this L.A. Times article:
Two representatives of one of the old patrician families of Rome were admitted to private audience, and, humming softly well-known music, initiated His Holiness into the mysteries of the tango steps. As they danced, the Pope’s brow furrowed with a look of stupefaction. Finally he ejaculated:
"Is that the tango?"
"Yes, Your Holiness," was the reply.
"Well, my dear children," commented Pius X, "you cannot find it very amusing."
There and then the Pope raised the interdict, for, as he pointed out with an ironical smile, if the tango were made a penance, it would be looked upon as sheer cruelty.
A century later, the tango has a well-placed fan at the Vatican: In an interview featured in the book “Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio: His Life in his Own Words,” the current pope described himself as a fan of tango and said that he had “danced it as a young man, although I preferred the milonga.”
For the dancers out there: We’ve been chronicling the relationship between the Vatican and tango since 1914.
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Clouds are weird yo.
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The lighter side of life in Los Angeles
Photographer Mel Melcon has long been attracted to some of the stranger sites L.A. offers, and as you can see, the city offers plenty of opportunities for bizarre scenes.
As for the spectacular arrest of the amazing Spider-Man above, Melcon recounts the scene:
As they were about to put the handcuffs on the man, one of the officers grabbed my arm and stopped me from taking photos. I guess he thought it would be bad public relations if I caught them in the act of arresting a superhero.
Look through some more photographic oddities over at Framework.
Photos: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times
The great Los Angeles pinball ban
In 1939, L.A. voters were faced with a decision on whether to ban a terrible scourge from the city: The dangerous, illicit game of pinball.
Proposition 3, as ridiculous as it sounds, passed on Dec. 10, 1939 by a vote of 161,000 to 113,000. The photo above shows Urban F. Emme, chief clerk of city marshal’s office, destroying pinball machines the following year.
From the Times’ coverage after the election:
Pin-ball games, marble boards, scoop claws and similar devices, under the ordinance approved yesterday by the people, will be declared nuisances in public places, and therefore subject to seizure by the police. The ordinance had a substantial majority…
Mayor Bowron and his Police Commission urged the adoption of the anti pin-ball law on the grounds that the machines are used for petty gambling, so widespread that the police are totally insufficient in number to enforce the law.
The California Supreme Court later eliminated the ban.
Photo: Los Angeles Times
World War II, chemical weapons and…bunny rabbits?
The pretty little island of Okunoshima is known for two things: It was there that the Japanese military once cooked up chemical weapons, a mission so guarded that the spot did not exist on official World War II-era maps. And it is totally overrun by fluffy bunny rabbits.
Read more on the dual identity of Okunoshima, which during WWII hosted extensive Japanese chemical weapons projects, and is now also known by tourists for its extensive rabbit population.
Photo: Emily Alpert / Los Angeles Times
Could you imagine staying in the woods alone for a month?
How about six months? A few years? Now try to imagine living alone in the wilderness for 27 years. Christopher Knight, pictured above, did just that, calling the Maine wilderness his home since 1986, surviving largely off of stolen goods from nearby camps.
Knight, 47, was arrested last week for stealing countless amounts of food and supplies over the years, had amazingly never been caught until then.
From Doug Rafferty, spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, on Knight’s sole contact with another individual during the 90’s:
"The only words that he’d spoken to another person in 27 years was when he said ‘Hi, how are you’ to a guy on another trail that he was walking."
Read more about Knight’s solitary life on Nation Now.
Photo: Maine Department of Public Safety
Why do roosters crow in the morning?
They’ve been doing it as long as anyone can remember - the silhouette of a rooster crowing against the rising morning sun seems to be ingrained in popular consciousness. But no one knows why.
But two researchers in Japan are trying their darnedest to figure it out:
When the roosters were subjected to cycles of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dim light, the birds crowed about two hours before the lights came on. In conditions kept constantly dim, the roosters also continued to vocalize early in the “morning,” suggesting that their internal body clocks, or circadian rhythms, were involved in timing their crows at dawn.
For more details on the (unfinished) research, mosey on over to Science Now.
Photo: Barbara Davidson /The Los Angeles Times
The brave new world of…2013
You may not have a robot dog, techno-comforts or kids listening to “futura-rock.” But some of the predictions in this recently-rediscovered issue of the Los Angeles Times Magazine largely hold true.
Predictions about the increased prevalence of telecommunication, smarter cars (though ours don’t look as funky as the ones seen above) and globalization all seem to be rather spot-on, considering they were made in 1988!
That said, there’s no way your morning starts out like this:
With a barely perceptible click, the Morrow house turns itself on, as it has every morning since the family had it retrofitted with the Smart House system of wiring five years ago…in the study, the family’s personalized home newspaper, featuring articles on the subjects that interest them…is being printed by laser-jet printer off the home computer – all while the family sleeps.
Photos: Los Angeles Times
It’s still hard to believe this happened: But Dennis Rodman visited North Korea this week, vowing his eternal friendship with the country’s dictator Kim Jong-Un.
In case you missed it, Rodman was brought along as party of a VICE documentary on basketball diplomacy, and spoke at length with Jong-Un, who is reportedly a massive basketball fan.
Photos: AFP / KCNA, Associated Press /Kyodo News
A crazy tale from former Times reporter Mack Reed, who discovered a drug-stuffed duffel stowed in a vault under a backyard hot tub.
I am standing chest-deep in a dank, muddy concrete-lined hole in Silver Lake, staring eye-level into a duffel bag full of high-grade drugs.
It smells strongly of marijuana - despite the fact that someone sealed it tightly into jars, Ziplocs and professionally vacuum-sealed pouches before…
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