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Showing posts from 2014

Historical Pep Talk

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     So lets face facts, at some time most of us think we are not good enough. We hold ourselves up to the standards set by others. We wish we were like this person....or that. We wish we were smarter, more creative, or more successful. It is human nature that we strive to improve ourselves. It is what has raised our species to an exceptional level in the history of life on this planet. But it is a double edged sword. Those benchmarks we set based on others often makes us feel inadequate. But do not feel bad people...you are not alone. Many of the heroes we keep in our pantheon of history have had that same human experience...and here are a few. Albert Einstein This is the man that fundamentally changed the way we look at physics. His work on relativity changed the paradigm of how we fundamentally understand the universe. Before Einstein we lived in a Newtonian universe. Now we live in an Einsteinian one. That man with the iconic unkempt hair and mustache made us look at everythi

Royally Frustrated....the sex life of Louis XVI

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       So it is New Years...and there are no doubt quite a few of us that feel lonely or frustrated with our romantic lives. Well, this is a tale of a royally epic and no doubt frustrating dry spell to make you feel better about the lack of romance in your lives. This is the tale of Louis XVI's bizarre first years of marriage to Marie Antoinette.       So when Louis and Marie were married they were in their mid teens. This of course is when we are all bursting at the seems with hormones and you would think the royal couple would have done what teenagers tend to to, and by all means, what they were expected to do...procreate. Well that is by no means what happened on the first night...or the first week...or the first month...or the first year of their marriage. In fact the marriage was not consummated with a royal shagging for about 7 years. Now you might wonder why a young couple would go so long without doing the deed, well here is why.      It was not that Louis found Marie u

Silent Night: The Centennial of a Christmas Miracle

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     The year was 1914 and the world had gone mad. Since 1815 the long balance of power between the the nations of Europe had been eroding. The deal struck by dusty old monarchists and aristocrats in the halls of Vienna at the end of the Napoleonic wars was on it's last legs. Many of the old giants of continental Europe were rotting. The Ottomans, the Hapsburgs, and the Romanovs were overseeing empires in decline. New nations had arisen in the Balkans, and a new giant, the German Empire came into being in 1870 upsetting the order of things. Between the 1890 and the 1913 all out war nearly nearly came a handful of times as old and new powers positioned and postured to gain or maintain their places in the sun. When a teenager shot the heir apparent to the once great Hapsburg throne in the summer of 1914, the war that so many were eager for came. But it was not the easy and quick war many anticipated. The eagerness of a war that would be over by Christmas was quickly stamped out as bo

The Darker Side of Christmas

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     Across this land, many of us are getting ready for the impending Christmas holiday. In America we have some interesting Christmas traditions. We have that creepy little elf on the shelf, marathons of movies such as A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol,  Its a Wonderful Life, etc. We have cute Coca Cola polar bears and shopping mall Santas. Essentially we have a very Norman Rockwell sort of Christmas in the United States. It is nice for the kids and for the whole family. However, Christmas traditions in certain parts of the Old World are just down right dark and/or wrong in comparison. Here are a couple. Zwarte Piet  In the Netherlands, they have a dynamic duo for the Christmas holiday. There is the usual Saint Nicholas that we know today. The Dutch call him Sinterklaas . And then there is the servant...named Black Pete ( Zwarte Piet). Over time the image and background has changed for this character. In earlier medieval times Zwarte Piet was some sort of chained black devil or

The Belgian Connection

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      Many of you out there that know your Second World War history know that the name of the first atomic bomb dropped on Japan at Hiroshima was "Little Boy". This was one of two designs the famous Manhattan Project worked on.It was called the gun type which made it long but skinny.  The other designs detonated where of the implosion-explosian type called Trinity and Fat Man. They were more complicated but more efficient. What you may not know is just where we got all the uranium for those early bombs from. The story is interesting.      When war broke out in 1939 with the German invasion of Poland, the world watched the failure of appeasement as Hitler swallowed up Poland. The invasion of that sovereign state by the Germans brought declarations of war from Britain and France. It was only a matter of time before the war came to the western front. Along the French-German frontier lay the Maginot Line. A series of heavily armed defensive forts that in the French mind would d

Artificial sweeteners will kill you...pre 1878.

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     You see an awful lot about the dangers of sweet things in the media today. Whether you are chugging down a cola laden with high calorie high fructose corn syrup or its diet version loaded with an artificial sweetener like aspartame...you will find all sorts of information telling you how horrible it is for you. One will give you diabetes and obesity related issues, the other has claims to cause all sorts of ailments. But...feel fortunate that we live in a society where sweeteners are so plentiful and safe in comparison to what they once were.     You see in the old days sweeteners were not plentiful or cheap . Sugar and honey were the natural options of the day in ye olden times. And well neither was produced in significant quantity to make them affordable to the unwashed masses. But there was indeed a sugar substitute out there that was easy to get/make and did make terrible tasting things more pleasant on the palate. And as much as you hate aspartame, I am sure you would prefe

The Prophet of the Frozen Pizza- Ralph Kramden

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     In 1955 America was introduced to the show The Honeymooners on CBS starring Jackie Gleason as the grouchy bus driver Ralph Kramden. Ralph was never happy with his limited success as a driver for the fictional Gotham Bus Company, and was always looking for a way to lift him and his wife Alice out of mediocrity. He searched for a get rich scheme to skyrocket him to wealth. One of the episodes he comes up with the "crazy" idea that you could take an uncooked pizza, freeze it, and then sell it to people who could bake it at home. At the time this seemed like a far out hair brained scheme and earned many laughs from the in studio audience as well as viewers across the country.    Of course now America eats the living hell out of frozen pizzas. This is really a case of life imitating art. When the episode first aired in the mid 1950s, America was going through a revolution of sorts. Name brand packaged foods had been around since the roaring 20's, and in the economic eng

Let's Never Fight Again!

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     Sometimes we say things and make promises we know that we cannot possibly keep. Usually it is a New Years resolution to cut carbs, write a book, or be nicer. Sometimes it is after a weekend bender when we promise we will never drink again. And sometimes it is while making up with a significant other that we promise to never fight again. Well...governments are just as dumb and naive as the people they are composed of and represent. And perhaps nothing better exemplifies this fact than the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact.       The First World War was bad...really bad. The world had never seen warfare on such a wide and destructive scale. It was truly the first fully industrialized total war where the flower of a generation was taken on both sides. Indeed the Germans often refer to the war as "Der Kindermord" which literally translates to the murder of the children or more figuratively as the slaughter of the innocents. Such a horrific conflict is perhaps why they called it not

Victorian Demolition Derby

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     I think it is safe to say that in comparison to the modern world, the choices for entertainment in Victorian times were rather limited. No radio, no television, and only in the latter part were things like the first audio devices first offered thanks to Thomas Edison. But those were new and expensive and the quality was lackluster. So people had to find entertainment where they could find it. In some more rural areas a good old fashioned hanging seemed to draw a crowd. Indeed in some places it was a whole family affair. Bring out the kids and have a picnic and watch someone swing in the breeze at the end of a rope. Sounds like a bully time. We were a very morbid people. And this extended to a fad that lasted for several decades...train crashes.      The rail road had transformed America and the industrialized world in the 19th century. And for some reason nothing sold papers and piqued peoples' interest like when those things crashed. Trains went off the rails, collided, and

The Horrible President That Invented a Horrible Sport

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      Not many presidents of the United States can claim to have invented a sport. Well actually as far as I know none of them except one can. You would think that someone who can run for and win the highest office in the land would come up with a pretty cool sport that would likely catch on. And I bet the law of averages would have played out that way had it been a popular Prez like Theodore Roosevelt. But no...it had to be a president that more often than not had his name used in derision, Iowa's one and only native born White House occupant, Herbert Hoover.       Yes the man who had many a towns named after him all across the United States...shanty towns that is...invented his own sport with the help of his physician to keep him in shape. That sport became known as Hooverball. Perhaps that right there was enough to kill its chances of ever catching on as America's next pastime given the man's popularity by 1932. It did somehow survive and is actually still played today

Remembering and Honoring Soldiers- Me Promoting a Personal Passion of Mine

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     I was going to write another story but I just did not feel like it today. With all this ice bucket challenge going on I felt I would do my part to plug what I deem a worthy cause. And while it does not heal any disease of the human body, I think it does help heal the hearts and collective spirits of a group of people that this country largely forgot, the Vietnam veterans.     Vietnam vets served their country in a war that was ugly, long, and unpopular. But it did not stop hundreds of thousands of young men from answering the call of duty by accepting their draft or in many cases volunteering to serve in the armed forces. While the specter of defeat hung over the nation and low morale claimed the zeitgeist of the home front from 1968 onward, soldiers from all races, creeds, and socio economic backgrounds continued to serve...and many died. Most tragically the unpopular nature of the war made their home towns cold or hostile when they returned if they were lucky enough to do so.

Historical Failures in Advertisement

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    This is a short post, but one I think you will all laugh at and enjoy. It is on a somewhat adult subject, but from my stats on this blog you seem to all enjoy that. You cheeky and degenerate lovelies you!    In 1883, a young German Jewish immigrant named Julius Schmidt founded Schmidt Laboratories in New York. He later named it Julius Schmidt Company. His company soon threw its hat into the prophylactic business.  Condoms were nothing new, indeed they had been around since the late 15th century in western society and even longer in Asian society. However, they were made from a range of materials that were full of drawbacks. Leather, linen, and intestinal membranes were all used in Europe until the late 19th century. But the invention of vulcanized rubber in the 1840's made them cheaper and more widely available. By the 20's they were made of latex rubber. They were popular especially in military circles as well as in the upper classes. Manufacturers at the time sought to

Presidential Backfire- The Election of 1900

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     Before I speak of the election of 1900 I need to go back four years to the election of 1896. The country was not in a good place. There was essentially a depression from 1893 onwards(finally ending in 1897) caused by railroad failures the European investment withdrawal in certain U.S. markets. This lead to a fall in stocks across the board and a run on the banks. This in turn caused many more banks to become insolvent. There was a shortage of gold to back up the currency at the time and the U.S. government needed to issue bonds to satisfy the demand...albeit at a slow pace. As with most troubling economic times, there was large political instability. By the time the next election came along the Democratic party saw a HUGE populist uprising backed by those most affected by the economy of the time(unskilled laborers, family farmers, poor immigrants). They demanded the use of silver in addition to gold to back up the paper money as well as more regulation of big business.     The P

By a Nose- The Bizzare Astronomer Tycho Brahe

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     Many people would recognize the names Galileo and Copernicus, but many people would struggle to place the name Tycho Brahe if mentioned. Indeed while obscure now, during his life, Tycho Brahe was a superstar in the world of astronomy. From the 16th through the early 18th century there was a hot debate on the cosmological makeup of the known universe. Since the time of Alexander the Great the universe was firmly believed to be based on the geocentric model. Indeed via observation it did appear the earth was fixed and all the heavenly celestial bodies revolved around it. Some four centuries later, a Greek mathematician named Ptolemy built a functioning model of this system to account for the retrograde movement of planets. This system was embraced by the Christian church as there were multiple passages in the bible that seemed to back up the geocentric model(Joshua 10:13 especially). Over the next 1,300 years the Ptolemaic/Aristotelian system became dogma.      Copernicus was famo

Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah bat bomb...Bat bomb...BAT BOMB!

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     They say that necessity is the mother of all invention. Certainly no other event causes necessity like a war time environment. And while it certainly gave us many things we now count on for modern life, necessity has also given birth to many odd and often stupid ideas. One of the most utterly out of the box and weird idea came out of World War Two. The Bat Bomb.      The Second World War saw air power rise to the forefront of modern combat. Fighter planes, torpedo and dive bombers, and regular bombers did more to win/lose that war than just about any other technology. It was also the first war that saw civilian populations being targeted by mass carpet bombing air raids on both sides. It was this new found war on cities that inspired Lytle Adams, a dentist and close friend of the Roosevelts, to conceive of the bat bomb as a way to decimate Japanese cities. In his 1942 proposal to the president, the dentist remarked that Japanese cities, still largely constructed of wood and pape

You Had Just One Job- John Swift, the Worst Executioner in British History

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     Being an executioner in ye olde Britain was by no means a pleasant position to hold. And often, especially in the 18th century there were no shortage of people that needed executing. The passage of the Waltham Black Acts in 1723 added 50 crimes to the roster of offenses punishable by death. Along with rebellions and a century of war rife with deserters and traitors, many British found themselves at the gallows or their necks on the chopping block. Great Britain was in need of more executioners, and this is where the saga of John Swift begins.     We know very little of John Swift. As a commoner in 18th century Great Britain, his life is relatively undocumented and of little note. But around 1745 he committed and was found guilty of one of the many many new crimes punishable by death. However, due to the lack of executioners he was offered a reprieve if he donned the black hood and worked as an axeman for the state. Obviously, the man chose to become the newest recruit at the Tower