Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Me and Orson Welles

I managed to catch this film in Sacramento while I was visiting. It’s really fantastic. It walks a fine line between depicting Orson Welles as an asshole and a genius. That’s not easy. I also thought Zac Efron was adorable. I can see why all the tweens love him.

The best performance hands down is Christian McKay’s fantastic non-impression of Welles. It’s as accurate as an impression but it’s so full of life and sincerity. There’s no hint of caricature here. James Tupper’s Joseph Cotton wasn’t bad either.

Probably my only disappointment came during the closing credits when I found out it was based on a novel. It seemed so real, I was hoping it was an autobiographical piece.

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One of my favorite English classes at college was 18th-Century English literature. I found I really liked Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope and other satirists. I guess I just really appreciated a time when people talked about serious things but in no way took themselves seriously. Jeni, if you’re reading this, what was the name of that class? It was something witty like “Sense and Sensuality.” Maybe that’s it.

Seattle has been unbearably rainy for the past 2 weeks. Here’s Jonathan Swift’s “A Description of  City Shower.”

Careful Observers may fortel the Hour
(By sure Prognosticks) when to dread a Show’r:
While Rain depends, the pensive Cat gives o’er
Her Frolicks, and pursues her Tail no more.
Returning Home at Night, you’ll find the Sink
Strike your offended Sense with double Stink.
If you be wise, then go not far to Dine,
You spend in Coach-hire more than save in Wine.
A coming Show’r your shooting Corns presage,
Old Aches throb, your hollow Tooth will rage.
Sauntring in Coffee-house is Dulman seen;
He damns the Climate, and complains of Spleen.

Mean while the South rising with dabbled Wings,
A Sable Cloud a-thwart the Welkin flings,
That swill’d more Liquor than it could contain,
And like a Drunkard gives it up again.
Brisk Susan whips her Linen from the Rope,
While the first drizzling Show’r is born aslope,
Such is that Sprinkling which some careless Quean
Flirts on you from her Mop, but not so clean.
You fly, invoke the Gods; then turning, stop
To rail; she singing, still whirls on her Mop.
Not yet, the Dust had shun’d th’unequal Strife,
But aided by the Wind, fought still for Life;
And wafted with its Foe by violent Gust,
‘Twas doubtful which was Rain, and which was Dust.
Ah! where must needy Poet seek for Aid,
When Dust and Rain at once his Coat invade;
Sole Coat, where Dust cemented by the Rain,
Erects the Nap, and leaves a cloudy Stain.

Now in contiguous Drops the Flood comes down,
Threat’ning with Deloge this Devoted Town.
To Shops in Crouds the dagled Females fly,
Pretend to cheapen Goods, but nothing buy.
The Templer spruce, while ev’ry Spout’s a-broach,
Stays till ’tis fair, yet seems to call a Coach.
The tuck’d-up Sempstress walks with hasty Strides,
While Streams run down her oil’d Umbrella’s Sides.
Here various Kinds by various Fortunes led,
Commence Acquaintance underneath a Shed.
Triumphant Tories, and desponding Whigs,
Forget their Fewds, and join to save their Wigs.
Box’d in a Chair the Beau impatient sits,
While Spouts run clatt’ring o’er the Roof by Fits;
And ever and anon with frightful Din
The Leather sounds, he trembles from within.
So when Troy Chair-men bore the Wooden Steed,
Pregnant with Greeks, impatient to be freed,
(Those Bully Greeks, who, as the Moderns do,
Instead of paying Chair-men, run them thro’.)
Laoco’n struck the Outside with his Spear,
And each imprison’d Hero quak’d for Fear.

Now from all Parts the swelling Kennels flow,
And bear their Trophies with them as they go:
Filth of all Hues and Odours seem to tell
What Streets they sail’d from, by the Sight and Smell.
They, as each Torrent drives, with rapid Force
From Smithfield, or St.Pulchre’s shape their Course,
And in huge Confluent join at Snow-Hill Ridge,
Fall from the Conduit prone to Holborn-Bridge.
Sweepings from Butchers Stalls, Dung, Guts, and Blood,
Drown’d Puppies, stinking Sprats, all drench’d in Mud,
Dead Cats and Turnips-Tops come tumbling down the Flood.

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The Great Wall

With Obama’s trip to the Great Wall of China, I thought this would be an appropriate time to recycle and old post about Nixon’s visit to the wall.

From my sister:

I had to send you this quotation, which I got from the book I am teaching tomorrow, a book of poems by Yunte Huang called _Cribs_. It appears in a footnote to the poem. “Note–When Richard Nixon went to China in 1972, his Chinese hosts took him to see the Great Wall. The first thing Nixon said upon arrival was: ‘What a great wall.”

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Remember the Maine

Remember how two newspapers spurred the country to war by reporting wild speculation just so they could sell some papers. I wish I could say we have progressed as a nation since then.

The explosion of the American battleship Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, ensured that the U.S. would not be content to watch the Cuban spectacle from the bleacher seats any more. Two hundred and sixty crew members died in the blast, and a Navy board of inquiry examined the cause of the explosion. Many New York newspapers, including the Times, Tribune, Herald and Evening Post, counseled patience and peace for the time being. However, both the World and the Journal jumped on the jingo bandwagon, concurrently publishing a “suppressed cable” that said the explosion was not an accident. 26 The cable was later discovered to have been manufactured. 27

The effect of the rabble rousing by the two largest newspapers in New York cannot be underestimated. The World claimed to have sold five million copies the week after the Maine disaster. 28 The public clamor for President McKinley to declare war was enormous as a result of the tainted reports in the papers. And though the Spanish-American War proved “splendid” from a military standpoint, it did not hold up to contemporary moral scrutiny.

Unfortunately, the World would be linked forever in history with Hearst’s Journal under the banner of “yellow journalism” for the role it played in exacerbating the conflict. However, the conscious disregard for the facts was an aberration for Pulitzer, and his later correspondence revealed that the episode haunted him for the rest of his life. (See appendix for Hearst photo and example of sensational World front page.)

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There’s the popular adage that those who never learn from history are destined to repeat it. But that’s really all it is. An adage. Something to put on a t-shirt, but certainly not something to practice apparantly.

I was listening to NPR yesterday and I heard Bob Edwards Robert Siegel interview Errol Morris the filmmaker of The Fog of War featuring Robert McNamara. As you may know McNamara, considered the architect of the Vietnam War, died yesterday. At two points in this interview Morris brings up what an interesting time it was making a film about learning lessons from war with Robert McNamara and have the Iraq War happen simultaneously. Twice, Bob Edwards Robert Siegel ignored Morris’ comments and moved on to perhaps more comfortable topics safely residing in far away history. Like the Cuban Missile Crisis. God forbid we compare what happened in Vietnam to a current event. Here’s the transcript:

Morris: To him it was an ongoing investigation trying to figure out what had gone wrong, what he had been thinking and moreover how we could learn lessons from history and perhaps prevent the same things from happening all over again. Very very sad because the same things were happening all over again.

Siegel: In Iraq, your saying?

Errol Morris: Yes.

Siegel: I want to play something that McNamara told you in the documentary about working in World War II…

Opportunity lost. Then at the end of the interview, this bombshell happens.

Morris: Another fantastically interesting story that I heard from this man. Why didn’t he speak out? Here’s another question for you, why didn’t he speak out against the Iraq war when he expressed to me on so many occasions his opposition to what was happening.

Siegel: Errol Morris, filmmaker. Thank you very much for talking to us.

I don’t know about you, but I too find that extremely fascinating. What, you say? Robert McNamara was making a film about learning lessons from his experience in the Vietnam War, found correlation with the Iraq war and never said anything either while making the film or elsewhere on record about his opinion. What, you say Errol? Tell me more about that! I want to hear more about his opinion on that.

Sadly we get nothing from Siegel. Like I said, learning from history is something you put on a t-shirt. Something you tell a classroom full of children. Just like those signs outside the holocaust museum: “Never again.” But genocide does happen again and again and again and we do nothing. And we willfully ignore history. I swear I heard a chuckle from Morris at the end of the interview at the ridiculousness of it all.

Update: I may have confused Bob Edwards with Robert Siegel. While I listened to the interview last night on the radio, the segment posted online did not have an introduction of the interviewer. After looking at the hosts for All Things Considered, I’m willing to make the change to my post without confirmation of the speaker to Robert Siegel because I’m thinking that the interviewer is most likely Robert Siegel.

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Today we hear another case of random yet targeted violence in the shooting at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. Random, because the perpetrator didn’t know the museum security guard who he killed. But targeted, because the perpetrator, a white supremacist, chose to kill someone at a museum which documents the genocide of millions of Jews during World War II.

And once again I am reminded of the poem “The Hangman” by Maurice Ogden. In the poem the hangman comes to town and at first he hangs a man from outside the town. The town breathes a sigh of relief. But the next day the hangman hangs someone from the town. Then another and another. Sometimes the hangman comes up with justifications like calling one of his victims an infidel. At the end there is no one left to save the narrator of the poem when he too is chosen by the hangman for death.

Should you worry about these crazy right-wing radicals who if not directly responsible for the violence are at least lending moral and financial support to the ones who are. If Operation Rescue were a Muslim charity, their accounts would have been seized a while ago.

Should you worry?

I’m not an abortion provider you might say. I’m not a Jew. I’m not gay. I’m not a black man running for president of the United States. I’m not a Latina woman nominated for the Supreme Court. I don’t need to worry.

Well you should.

Who was killed? A security guard who was just doing his job. Think of Naveed Haq who permanently wounded a 23-year old receptionist at the Jewish Federation in Seattle. Layla Bush was not Jewish. She too just needed a job. John Lotter and Marvin Thomas Nissen, in order to enact revenge on transsexual Brandon Teena, also killed 24-year-old Lisa Lambert and 19-year-old Phillip DeVine. Gay city supervisor Harvey Milk was shot along with mayor George Moscone.

You should care. You should really care.


By Maurice Ogden

Into our town the hangman came,
smelling of gold and blood and flame.
He paced our bricks with a different air,
and built his frame on the courthouse square.


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Although historical reenactments are by no means exclusive to the United States (for example, the Earl of Eglinton in Scotland sponsored a large tournament as early as 1839)[4], the Renaissance Fair is, arguably, a uniquely American variation on the theme, having as much the flavor of an amusement park combined with a shopping mall as of a historical reenactment. European historical fairs, on the other hand, seem more on the living history museum model, where an actual historic site is peopled by re-enactors whose job it is to explain historical life to modern visitors.[5] American Renaissance fair patrons may be as interested in drinking, eating, shopping, and watching farce as they are in an educational experience. Since the mid-1990s, American-style Renaissance fairs have been spreading into Canada.

The first American fair, The Renaissance Pleasure Faire (Agoura, CA) was originally designed by the Living History Center to resemble an actual spring market fair of the period.[6] Many of the original booths were no-charge reenactments of historical activities such as printing presses, and blacksmiths. The first commercial vendors were mostly artisans and food merchants and were required to demonstrate historical accuracy or plausibility for their wares. Whole groups of volunteers were organized into “guilds” to focus on specific reenactment duties (musicians, military, celtic clans, peasants, etc). Both actors and vendors were required to successfully complete workshops in period language/accents, costuming and culture and to stay “in character” while working. Fairs that copied the original frequently did not attempt such historical accuracy and in 1995 new management and economic pressures negatively altered the original fair’s historical quality as well.

More at Wikipedia.

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…showing the decreasing size of the Grande Armée as it marches to Moscow and back with the size of the army equal to the width of the line. Temperature is plotted on the lower graph for the return journey (Multiply Réaumur temperatures by 1¼ to get Celsius, e.g. −30°R = −37.5 °C)

I thought Jake might like this. Click on the link for the larger image. Information on the march at Wikipedia.

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It’s interesting how photographs create history. We’ve all seen the Ken Burns’ affect in countless documentaries, but what if the photographs are deliberately misleading? Will anyone remember and revise the historical record?

My sister brought this story to my attention. A Japanese-American battalion liberated the concentration camp of Dachau during World War II but no photographic evidence exists. How do you explain to the American people that the liberators of a concentration camp look just like the enemy you are fighting in the East? You don’t. You instead pretend it never happened.

A new book entitled “Dachau, Holocaust and US Samurais – Nisei Soldiers first in Dachau” by Pierre Moulin tells the story of “the role played by very special liberators coming from 10 Concentration camps in USA: The US Samurais of the 522nd Field Artillery BN who were the first to reach the camp of Dachau.” However, the U.S. Army does not recognize any Japanese-American soldiers as the liberators of Dachau.

The photo above, which purportedly shows the liberation of Dachau by the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 100th Division, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, is from this web site: http://www.hirasaki.home.att.net. This photo was obviously not taken at the main Dachau camp, and it was not taken on April 29, 1945 when Dachau was liberated, judging by the amount of snow on the ground. The photo appears to have been taken after May 1, 1945 when it snowed in the Dachau area. One prisoner is holding a bed roll which indicates that these prisoners were on a march out of the main camp when they were discovered by Japanese troops, probably on May 2, 1945.

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Danton the cat

On Monday we brought Danton home for the Seattle Animal Shelter clinic where he was neutered. Since then he’s had an amazing recovery. On day one and two he primarily hid under the bed, but by day three he was coming out to be pet. On day 4 he found our bedroom upstairs to visit. On day 5 he was running the house. There are a few peculiarities to Danton. He licks me a lot. He loves it. For several minutes. If I move away he swats at my hand to bring it back. I’ll post pictures as they come.

For those not brushed up on the French Revolution, you can read about the first Danton here.

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Trivia for the day

I was trying out another trivia place last night (Lockspot Cafe Mondays at 8 o’clock) when I came across what I thought was a very good question. Enjoy.

Name all of the twelve Gods of Olympus (Greek names only). Answers after the jump.


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We often get this at trivia and it’s always confusing. Habitable building or tallest structure? I found this entry in Wikipedia both informative and complex.

While determining the world’s tallest structure has generally been straightforward, the definition of the world’s tallest building or the world’s tallest tower is less clear. The disputes generally centre on what should be counted as a building or a tower, and what is being measured.

In terms of absolute height, the tallest structure is currently the Burj Dubai, although it does not currently hold the official title of “Tallest Building in the World” until the building is officially opened. The current official holder of the “Tallest Building in the World” is held by Taipei 101. In addition, there are dozens of radio and television broadcasting towers which measure over 600 metres (about 2,000 feet) in height. There is, however, some debate about:

  • whether structures under construction should be included in the list
  • whether structures rising out of water should have their below-water height included.

For towers, there is debate over:

  • whether guy-wire-supported structures should be counted

For buildings, there is debate over:

  • whether communication towers with observation galleries should be considered habitable buildings.
  • whether only habitable height is considered.
  • whether roof-top antennas should be considered towards height of buildings; with particular interest in whether components that look like spires can be either classified as antennas or architectural detail.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the organization that determines the title of the “World’s Tallest Building,” recognizes a building only if at least fifty percent of its height is made up of floor plates containing habitable floor area.[1] Structures that do not meet this criterion, such as the CN Tower, are defined as “towers.”

More here.

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Regarding the “personal triumphs” of Kate Winslet’s character in the Oscar nominated The Reader:

What, exactly, was the Kate Winslet character’s “personal triumph”? While in prison for participation in an act of mass murder that was particularly gruesome and personal, given the generally impersonal extermination process—as a death camp guard, she helped ensure 300 Jewish women locked in a burning church would die in the fire—she taught herself to read! What a heartwarming fable about the wonders of literacy and its ability to improve the life of an Auschwitz mass murderer!

I have to admit I’m a big fan of Ron Rosenbaum’s Slate columns — especially when the subtitle includes “The worst [fill in the blank] ever.” This is an engaging analysis about the Hollywood trend to make implausible happy-end Holocaus stories. I recommend it highly.

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christmasnaziAn odd headline, for an interesting article:

‘Tis the season to gather, be grateful for what we have and share what we can. But for cinephiles, it’s awards season, and that means dreary fare – particularly with a World War II or Holocaust focus. No fewer than six are set for release this holiday season.

So why, during what’s supposed to be the cheeriest time of year, this abundance of stories from one of humanity’s darkest hours?

“Much of it is awards-driven,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers, which tracks box-office totals. “Downer movies come out this time of year as a reflection of the fact that people are vying for Oscars.”

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According to Rep. Paul Broun (R) from Georgia that’s what Obama is. It’s quite brilliant to get that two-in-one combination to work out logically.

A Republican congressman from Georgia said Monday he fears that President-elect Obama will establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship.”It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he’s the one who proposed this national security force,” Rep. Paul Broun said of Obama in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. “I’m just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may—may not, I hope not—but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism.”

Broun cited a July speech by Obama that has circulated on the Internet in which the then-Democratic presidential candidate called for a civilian force to take some of the national security burden off the military.

“That’s exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did,” Broun said. “When he’s proposing to have a national security force that’s answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he’s showing me signs of being Marxist.”

Thanks Paul, but I’m afraid your first statement was right. It does sound a little bit crazy and off base. Just a little.

Are there any Republicans left who actually know what Marxism is?

Photo via superbastards.com.

Update: In case you were confused as to how one could be both fascist and communist, here’s another mindbender from Broun for you.

“The point I tried to make is that he is extremely liberal, he has promoted a lot of socialistic ideas, and it just makes me concerned,” Broun said Tuesday.

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Whitewashing Stalin

I was telling a friend a rather embarrassing story of me telling a Georgian diplomat that of course I knew that Georgia was a country: “I know, Stalin’s home,” I said. To my surprise my friend launched into a speech that Stalin wasn’t really that bad. My friend is Chinese leading me to believe his communist upbringing influences his rather unorthodox opinion, at least for a westerner.

Then I read this article which describes how Stalin does not share the monstrous reputation of Hitler among many groups despite the fact that he too was responsible for millions of deaths. The article also mentions how Orwell’s Animal Farm had difficulty getting published due to Communist sympathies — sympathies that included the man of steel himself.

He had the blood of millions on his hands, yet Joseph Stalin has escaped Hitler-style demonisation, and even become a trendy pin-up. Why has history been so kind to this murderous leader, asks Laurence Rees.

A few months ago, when I was visiting one of our leading universities, I happened to see a poster prominently displayed in one of the students’ halls of residence. It was of Joseph Stalin.

Perhaps it was meant as a kind of ironic reference to something. Perhaps it was simply covering a damp patch on the wall. But, in any event, no one seemed to take much notice of it.

But imagine if instead of a picture of Stalin, there had been a picture of that other horrendous tyrant of the 20th Century, Adolf Hitler, hanging there? Think of the outcry.

Nor do most people in this country seem concerned that Stalin is currently on the shortlist to be named “Greatest Russian in History” in a Russian TV version of the BBC’s Great Britons. The final vote takes place in December. But once again, imagine if in Germany Adolf Hitler was in with a chance of winning the equivalent competition? The British press would be full of outrage.

It’s all symptomatic of a broader point. Which is that Stalin appears to have got off more lightly from the judgement of history – or at least the judgement of the British man or woman in the street – than he deserves. Stalin, after all, was responsible for the destruction of millions of people. His suspicion and paranoia condemned many wholly innocent individuals to torture and death.

Of Animal Farm, the article says:

One publisher during the war, who had initially accepted Animal Farm, subsequently turned it down after an official at the British Ministry of Information warned him off. The publisher then wrote to Orwell, saying: “If the fable were addressed generally to dictators and dictatorships at large then publication would be all right, but the fable does follow, as I see now, so completely the progress of the Russian Soviets and their two dictators [Lenin and Stalin], that it can apply only to Russia, to the exclusion of the other dictatorships.

“Another thing: it would be less offensive if the predominant caste in the fable were not pigs. I think the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offence to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are.”

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Giving further proof that right-wing Republicans haven’t a clue what socialism is, we find this statement from Rush Limbaugh:

We’re going to get some rank and file, average American Democrats that are going to vote for McCain.  But these hoity-toity bourgeoisie…

Well, they’re not the bourgeoisie, but… Well, they are in a sense. They’re following their own self-interests, so I say fine. They have just admitted that Republican Party “big tent” philosophy didn’t work. It was their philosophy; it was their idea. These are the people, once they steered the party to where it is, they are the ones that abandoned it.

Gee Rush, you toss out words like socialism, communism and marxism and yet here you are whining about the bourgeoisie. Do you know who popularized the term bourgeoisie in his Communist Manifesto when he vilified the middle class? That would be Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. By your own standards you’re as commie as they come.

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The Explainer on Slate tells you how to do it. I’m not sure when this will come in handy though.

At a Seattle fundraiser on Sunday, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden warned supporters that, if elected, Barack Obama will be tested by “an international crisis” early on in his first term. He also advised the crowd to “gird your loins,” since the tasks ahead for the next president will be “like cleaning the Augean stables, man.” What’s the best way to follow Biden’s advice?

With a belt. To gird means to bind or encircle, and loins refers to the area between your hips and ribs. (Note: In this case, loins does not refer to the genitals, as with Nabokov’s “light of my life, fire of my loins.”) So, “to gird your loins” means, literally, to wrap a belt around your waist so that your clothes don’t flop around. The phrase stems from the Bible and is scattered throughout both the Old and New Testaments—composed during notoriously floppy sartorial eras. When Elijah “girded up his loins” (1 Kings 18:46), he was probably wearing a knee-length robe. It’s likely that he fastened a cord tightly around his waist, then shortened his garment by pulling it up and letting it flounce over the belt. Or he might have taken the hem of his robe and tucked it into his belt, creating a makeshift pouch or pocket.

Romans prepping for a fight also needed to gird their loins. Especially if he needed to ride a horse, a Roman might have gathered up the skirtlike portion of his outfit, passed it through his legs, and fastened the whole mess with a girdle (a leather belt, basically, also used to hold tools or weapons).

Biden, of course, was advising his supporters to gird their loins in the figurative sense—that is, to brace themselves for a test of mental or emotional endurance. He was perhaps unintentionally echoing the apostle Peter, who recommended “girding up the loins of your mind … and [setting] your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). Also, Paul, who in the Epistle to the Ephesians, mentions “having your loins girt about with truth” (Ephesians 6:14).

Picture via LurgenFreePresbyerian.

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I thought I’d start a series on items and notions of that past that have received new vitality in the current day. While we appear to be modernizing as a species and value those things that are new, we inevitably find that the things of the past still have value and may in fact be better than the “latest and greatest.”

Bicycles as a form of transportation.

Invented in the Nineteenth Century, the bicycle is a fabulous tool for human transport taking the place of several household items. Here are some of the features of the bicycle you won’t find anywhere else. (This will be more fun if you read this as the Oxy Clean Guy.)

  1. Costs a fraction of the cost of other forms of transport. Less than 1/20th of the average price of a car. Sometimes even less!
  2. Maintenance costs are also a fraction of the cost of other transportation devices. Ever get a scratch on your car and pay hundreds of dollars? You won’t have that problem with a bicycle.
  3. You’ll never have to pay for parking again. Bicycles can be locked and stored at convenient racks located on the sidewalk of your destination. That means you’re closer to your transport and there’s less walking.
  4. Zero fuel costs. You’ll never have to start an unnecessary Middle Eastern war, drill off-shore, or take away habitat from the caribou again. Aren’t caribou cute?
  5. You can go to places that no car can go to. On sidewalks, through parks. Even box up it and take it on a plane with you to faraway places. Now that’s versatility.
  6. Gridlock traffic will be a thing of the past. On your bicycle you can whiz past cars that are waiting bumper to bumper. That’s why couriers use bicycles instead of cars. When it needs to be there fast it needs to be transported by bicycle.
  7. Lose weight and look great. Because the energy used to move the bicycle is located in your own body (known as fat) you can get rid of that stored body fuel and look fabulous. The more you ride, the more you lose. The more you lose, the faster the bicycle will travel.

Look out for the next “Rediscovering the old” on the Implied Observer.

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Today, I heard this great story on NPR about the origin of Rice-A-Roni. I haven’t made Rice-A-Roni in years, but I remember liking it. Of the woman who created the inspirational recipe, the story goes:

“Mrs. Captanian, I had a liking for her right away. So we moved in. Tommy would work until about 7 o’clock at the pasta factory and I was alone a lot,” Lois said. “I was only 18 and I was pregnant. And I had kitchen privileges. Well, I really wasn’t much of a cook. And here was this Armenian lady, probably about 70 years [old], making yogurt on the back of the stove, all day, every day. I didn’t even know what the word ‘yogurt’ meant.”

Mrs. Captanian taught Lois how to make paklava (baklava), soups and her specialty, Armenian pilaf.

“We would bring her Golden Grain vermicelli from the factory,” Lois said. “She wanted us to break it as small as rice if we could.”

During those long kitchen afternoons, Lois listened as Mrs. Captanian told her life story — about the Armenian genocide, her husband’s death, the separation from her two young boys and her trek from Turkey to Syria in 1915, along with thousands of other women and children who had been deported. Mrs. Captanian chronicled these events in her 1919 book, Memoires D’une Deportee.

There’s much more to the story if you click on the link.

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The BBC has an audio slide show of the past 50 years of NASA. Check it out.

Photo via HowStuffWorks.

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I have this story of the time I went to Paris and I tried to find the Bastille only I was actually expecting to find the Bastille itself. I felt very stupid, but I have a friend who did the same thing so clearly it’s not that unusual. The confusion comes from the fact that the Bastille is a location on the map and that there is a monument. But there isn’t a Bastille.

July 14th is Bastille Day. Here’s a video describing the historical events.

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This story has been well reported, so I don’t expect anyone reading this will be surprised, but I thought it might bring about a good topic for discussion and that is “is this guy psychotic or what?”

Bush has said many times that history will vindicate him as a president. I just have to wonder how can he possibly think that when he behaves so contemptibly. There is no doubt that humans are responsible for climate change which will have devastating consequences. History tells us this. So why blacken your name for the next century as the man who was such an idiot that he made a joke out of being the worst polluter at an environmental summit. It’s beyond belief and truly pathological.

I’ve only worked at country club, not been a member of one, and I think I can safely say this is the guy in the corner with the martini glass laughing at everyone. This is the guy at the country club who pisses on the cars. This is the guy who staunchly believes in wars and people dying in wars so long as it’s not him. What can you say about America, knowing that either this man was either elected president or stole the presidency and no one did anything about it. The country is just not worth verbally defending. When it comes to November, this country will truly get the leader it deserves.

The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: “Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter.”

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

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A man has been arrested after tearing the head off a wax figure of Adolf Hitler at a newly opened branch of Madame Tussauds in Berlin.

Police spokesman Bernhard Schodrowski said a security guard had been shoved aside by the attacker.

“He tried to prevent the man from acting but failed. The suspect, from the Kreuzberg district, pushed the man aside and lunged at the Adolf Hitler figure and ripped the head off.”

Another visitor, who was not named, said the man went straight to the Hitler figure and stepped behind the desk.

“I heard a rumbling and then he tore the figure down off the chair. The security was immediately there and tried to control him but it wasn’t easy, he defended himself. Additional security staff took him away then and I had to leave the place,” he said.

The attacker was only the second visitor to enter the exhibition, according to one report.

Can you blame him?

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The Arctic Building is associated with one of the lesser-known facets of the Klondike gold rush–the formation of social institutions for the men who returned from the Yukon gold rush after “striking it rich.” Though most who headed north found no gold, a small percentage did return to Seattle with more than just memories. The Arctic Club, originally located in the Morrison Hotel, provided an exclusive social community for those Seattlites who had returned from the Alaska Gold Rush with money in their pockets and a repertoire of stories to tell about their adventures in the Yukon. In 1916, they commissioned A. Warren Gould, one of the city’s most prominent architects, to design the building that would become their institution’s new home.

This building will soon be used as a hotel/condo.

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