J.M. Barrie’s Literary All-Star Cricket Team

 Sotheby's via Getty Images
Sotheby's via Getty Images

For whatever reason—perhaps because writing can be a rather solitary venture—literary types have long gathered together in search of other pursuits. A modern example is Stephen King’s band, The Rock Bottom Remainders. Members of the band have ebbed and flowed over the years, but the lineup has at various times included Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Matt Groening, James McBride, and Scott Turow.

But in the late 1880s, writers couldn’t exactly pick up an electric guitar to blow off some steam. Instead, J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan—who was born on this day in 1860—decided to form an amateur cricket team, and recruited many of his famous friends to join him.

Just like The Rock Bottom Remainders, the lineup was constantly revolving. A few of the writers that participated included:

  • A.A. Milne, author of the Winnie the Pooh series
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes series
  • P.G. Wodehouse, author of the Jeeves and Wooster series
  • H.G. Wells, author of The Time Machine and other science fiction works
  • Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book
  • E.W. Hornung, author of the A.J. Raffles series
  • G.K. Chesterton, author of the Father Brown detective novels

Intending to poke fun at their own abilities, the group called themselves the “Allahakbarries.” They were under the impression that “Allah akbar” meant “Heaven help us” in Arabic. (It actually means “God is great.”)

As you might expect, the athletic performance of such an eclectic group of creatives was a bit of a mixed bag. While some members of the team, including Arthur Conan Doyle, were quite proficient at cricket, others were not so athletically inclined. One showed up in pajamas, and Barrie discovered that another didn’t know which side of the bat to hit with.

Though he was a good player, Conan Doyle had his share of mishaps, too—like the time he accidentally set himself on fire while playing a non-Allahakbarries match. He was up to bat, and the pitch hit him in the thigh, striking a box of matches he had in his pocket. In his own words:

“A little occasional pain is one of the chances of cricket, and one takes it as cheerfully as one can, but on this occasion it suddenly became sharp to an unbearable degree. I clapped my hand to the spot, and found to my amazement that I was on fire. The ball had landed straight on a small tin vesta box in my trousers pocket, had splintered the box, and set the matches ablaze.”

Occasionally, the Allahakbarries were even the more experienced team. When they played a team called the Artists, one of their players was overheard talking about how he wasn’t about to sacrifice his painter’s hands for “a dirty leather ball.”

But from their debut in 1887 until their final match in 1913, the team was never overly concerned about winning. “We played in the old style, caring little about the game and a good deal about a jolly time and pleasant scenery,” Conan Doyle later wrote. “There were many whimsical happenings, which were good fun if they were not good cricket.”

CBS Is Live-Streaming Its 1969 Coverage of the Apollo 11 Launch Right Now on YouTube

The Saturn V rocket lifts off with the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969.
The Saturn V rocket lifts off with the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969.
NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Today is the 50th anniversary of the July 16, 1969 launch of the Apollo 11 mission, which resulted in the first Moon landing in history. CBS News is commemorating the momentous event with a YouTube live stream of its special coverage from that day, which you can watch below.

CBS anchor Walter Cronkite brought all the thrill and wonder of the takeoff into the homes of countless Americans, and he also introduced them to three soon-to-be-famous astronauts: former Navy pilot Neil Armstrong, Air Force colonel Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and former Air Force fighter pilot (and experimental test pilot) Michael Collins.

Cronkite chronicled the astronauts’ journey from their 4:15 a.m. breakfast at the command space center to Kennedy Space Center’s launch station 39A, where they boarded the Saturn V rocket. CBS sports commentator Heywood Hale Broun reported from the Florida beach itself, interviewing spectators who were hoping to witness history happen in real time. “I just hope they make it successfully and have no problem," said a visitor from California.

In the final seconds before liftoff, Cronkite counted down, not knowing what the future of the mission would hold.

Tune into the live stream below, or check out the highlights from CBS News here.

[h/t CBS News]

Alan Turing, WWII Codebreaker Who Was Persecuted for Being Gay, Is the New Face of England's £50 Note

Bank of England
Bank of England

The Bank of England has chosen a new person to grace one of its pound sterling notes, the BBC reports. Alan Turing, the computer scientist who lent his code-breaking expertise to the Allied powers in World War II, will soon be the new face of the £50 banknote.

Alan Turing's life story has been the subject of a play, an opera, and the 2014 Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Turing's biggest claim to fame was cracking the Enigma code used by the Nazis to send secret messages. By decrypting the system and interpreting Nazi plans, Turing helped cut World War II short by up to two years, according to one estimate.

Despite his enormous contributions to the war and the field of computer science, Turing received little recognition during his lifetime because his work was classified, and because he was gay: Homosexual activity was illegal in the UK and decriminalized in 1967. He was arrested in 1952 after authorities learned he was in a relationship with another man, and he opted for chemical castration over serving jail time. He died of cyanide poisoning from an apparent suicide in 1954.

Now, decades after punishing him for his sexuality, England is celebrating Turing and his accomplishments by giving him a prominent place on its currency. The £50 note is the least commonly used bill in the country, and it will be the last to transition from paper to polymer. When the new banknote enters circulation by the end of 2021, it will feature a 1951 photograph of Alan Turing along with his quote, "This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only the shadow of what is going to be."

Turing beat out a handful of other British scientists for his spot on the £50 note. Other influential figures in the running included Rosalind Franklin, Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, Stephen Hawking, and William Herschel.

[h/t BBC]

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