Larry Kramer’s The American People: Volume 1: Search for My Heart: A Novel (previously) is now on the shelves. [more inside]
Janine Harper and Marc Bushelle's photo series of their daughter Lily dressed up as different African-American heroines started as a Black History Month project. All photos are on Bushelle's Facebook page. NPR's Code Switch blog has the first six photos here and two more here.
Unsung Heroines provides bite-sized biographies of Black women who changed the world, and is a great way to learn history you were deliberately not taught in school. Women profiled include Fannie Lou Hamer, the civil rights hero who first said "I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired;" Mary Church Terrell, an early advocate for civil rights and the suffrage movement; Melba Roy Mouton, a NASA mathmatician; as well as: [more inside]
There have been only two known photos of legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson. Now there's a third. [more inside]
Today if you ask someone to name a woman scientist, the first and only name they'll offer is Marie Curie. When Silvia Tomášková, director of the Women in Science program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, brings up famous female scientists with her students—and this has been happening since she started teaching 20 years ago—she gets the same reaction: “Marie Curie.” Tomášková always tries to move them on. “Let's not even start there. Who else?” [more inside]
Lizardpoint [PREVIOUSLY] used to host a decent amount of geography quizzes. If you haven't visited in a while, though, they've vastly expanded. So yeah, you can still
kick yourself for not knowing where "Asia" is improve your knowledge of our great planet — but now you can also: quiz yourself on how to distinguish a stick figure from a the Vitruvian Man about the world of Art; learn to tell one crook from another identify world leaders and historical figures; become an expert in ugly dress patterns vexillologist. There's also weekly Geography trivia, study guides and timelines, and games for those of us who've had enough of being made to feel dumb kids. So prepare to boast about how smart you are in the comments section expand your worldly horizons!
In a monumental upset, the Wisconsin Badgers have won the NCAA men's basketball championship. Here's more information and photos from the UW squad's magical season.
The Curious Evolution Of The Americano
The current approved written history of the Negroni goes like this: Count Camilo Negroni, a supposedly flamboyant Italian gentleman who was obsessed with American culture, walked into a bar in Florence one day and ordered an Americano with gin in place of the soda water.… Now that’s a great story. But it’s a little suspect. Normally, when people substitute something in a drink, it’s a one-to-one substitution. We normally swap vodka for gin. Or lime for lemon. Nobody in their right mind would swap gin for soda water. It’s just not natural. But supposedly that’s what Count Negroni came up with, and he inadvertently spawned an entire category of drinks. The Bijou. The Louisiane. The Tipperary.… But then the story gets even stranger.
Do you know how to sew or would you like to learn? Have you ever fantasized about dressing like a sans-culotte or a dowager countess? Do you enjoy historical research and like hunting for or improvising archaic materials and accessories? Are you entranced by the costumes on Outlander or, alternatively, are you horrified by the anachronistic use of chunky yarn and clan tartans? If so, historical costuming may be the hobby for you! Historical costumers amuse themselves by creating authentic (to varying degrees) outfits from a variety of historical periods. Bloggers share pictures of their creations, as well as information and ideas about patterns, techniques, and materials. Here are ten historical and costume sewing blogs to follow for inspiration! [more inside]
Literacy education is not a de facto instrument of personal and economic liberation. The dark side of literacy is social control. Reading can only promote genuine inclusion when people are allowed to engage freely with text on their own terms, and that is not a given. The goodness of literacy ... “depends in part on whether it is used as an instrument of conformity or of creativity.”Martha Poon and Helaine Olen use the history of traditional literacy to look critically at the notion of financial literacy [PDF, 13 pages], and how hard it is to “teach our way out of population-wide financial failure.” [more inside]
"Never before had electronic equipment been so exposed to the elements. [T]hey could easily jam or run out of product. They could erroneously dispense several bank notes instead of just one—all without the owner's knowledge. They were activated by plastic or paper tokens that would only activate for the operating bank and, in some cases, only that particular bank location. Some banks would keep the token in the machine and return it to the customer (by post) once the account had been debited. As a result, early ATMs were standalone, clunky, unfriendly, and inflexible."
10 Badass Sikh Women in History
Oftentimes, women’s contributions are overlooked because, for the most part, it is men who write history. In India, women of the Sikh faith have fought, ruled, taught and served for centuries. They have managed organizations, guided communities and led revolts. These accomplishments are admirable in their own right, and they are even more impressive when viewed in the context of the intense patriarchy and cultural misogyny against which these women were working.
Paul Slade tackles the story behind the American blues/folk song Frankie and Johnny, tracing the lyrics back to an 1899 St. Louis murder, and exploring the history of the song, its subjects, and its variations. [more inside]
A Historic List of Historical Lists. Particularly amusing (or distressing, depending on how you feel about the marital travails of long dead, anonymous people) is list #12, 100 types of marriage, which Slate wrote about.
The biting cold of a March morning did little to dissuade fans of Amelia Edwards, founder of the Egypt Exploration Society, from turning out in force to watch the unveiling of her blue plaque at 19 Wharton Street in London this week. Edwards joins a small list of women writers including Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Shelley and Agatha Christie, chosen to be celebrated by the scheme as its first female Egyptologist.As one dives deeper into Amelia Edwards' contributions to Egyptology, one begins to wonder*, was it she who was the real Amelia Peabody, so well known to us through the words of Elizabeth Peters? [more inside]
In recent years, many women will have noticed new articles insisting that most of us wear bras that don't fit and that women should measure themselves in a new way. But the sizes that are easily and cheaply available to women are nowhere near the sizes that these experts insist women should be wearing. How did this state of affairs come to be? It turns out the answer lies in the history of bra manufacture. [more inside]
The two sides in the Cold War, finding each other irresistible, ended up in a contrapuntal relationship where, as George Urban put it, ‘they marched in negative step, but in step all the same.’ They had their spies, we had ours. They had their files, we had ours. True, we didn’t have gulags. But what kind of democracy is it that congratulates itself on not having gulags? Never mind the dragnet surveillance, the burglaries, the smearing of reputations, the bugging of public telephone boxes, cafés, hotels, banks, trade unions, private homes, all this legitimised by the thesis that everyone is a potential subversive until proven otherwise – the problem is that the defenders of the realm took on the symptoms of the disease they were meant to cure.– In the essay Stuck on the Flypaper historian and journalist Frances Stonor Saunders goes through the recently released MI5 file on Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm [previously] to explain how the British secret service surveilled and interfered with the lives of British citizens during World War II and the early part of the Cold War.
As the term borscht implies, the people who worked and stayed in the hotels and bungalow colonies were almost all Jews. The “fall” in the title of Davis’s film refers to the tourist industry collapsing after Jews became wealthier and more assimilated. After moving from the garment industry cutting rooms to accounting firms, they could now afford vacations in Puerto Rico and no longer felt the need to be in a hotel that served kosher food.The Rise and Fall of the Borscht Belt, a 1986 documentary by Peter Davis on the famous Jewish-American holiday resorts of the Catskills, has been put online by Louis Proyect.
The researchers focused their attention on allegations of wrongdoing at the prison, looking at previously discredited testimonies of prisoners who claimed to have been physically abused and at the activities of a prison doctor who had some very Victorian ideas about women and sex. They began to unravel a long-standing mystery: Why didn’t the prison incarcerate any prostitutes in its early years? They presented their findings at academic conferences and published papers in journals. And they did all of it without access to the Internet.They had to do it without access to the internet, as the researchers investigating the hidden history of the Indiana Reformatory Institute for Women and Girls, America's oldest women only prison are themselves prisoners at the same prison and what they found shines a new light on its origins.
Hitch the cart to a dog, of course. Dogs (and sometimes goats) were used to pull small carts in much of Europe, usually by people who could not afford to keep horses. The heyday of these small dog-drawn carts was in the 19th century, when dog carts were commonly used in places like England, the Netherlands, and Belgium to deliver milk and sometimes other groceries. In fact, the Belgian Army even experimented with dog-drawn carts toting machine guns during WWI. Previously. [more inside]
A handy single-page explanation of horse-drawn carriage varieties, with pithy descriptions and occasional photographs of the barouche, the brougham, the cabriolet, the calash, the char-a-banc, the char-de-cote, the curricle, the dog-cart, the gig, the governess cart, the jaunting car, the landau, the Ralli car, the sociable, the sulky, the waggonette, and others. [more inside]
"Parlors, “dining chambers,” and other spaces amenable to dining began appearing in architecture plans. Each nation seemed to have its own idea as to what constituted a proper dining room. The great Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti wrote that it “should be entered off the bosom of the house,” advising further that, “[a]s use demands, there should be [a dining room] for summer, one for winter, and one for middling seasons.” Some two centuries later Englishman William Sanderson would recommend that a “Dyning-Roome” be hung with pictures of kings and queens." The Austerity Kitchen presents A Short History Of The Dining Room Part 1 / Part 2.
Kernelmag's Jeff Keacher documents connecting his old Macintosh Plus to the World Wibe Web, courtesy of a Raspberry Pi and a bunch of software to remove all those pesky <div>s and such. [more inside]
Richard III of England was interred today at Leicester Cathedral (official site for the burial). A New York woman was responsible for creating the traditional altar linens used in today's service. Richard III previously.
In the asylums, the garrison hospitals, the rogues’ hovels, and so on back through time, it is possible to see medicine moving toward this moment, when the malingerer ceases to be a monster and becomes a mirror to ourselves.
This short, stop-motion film shows how Trajan's Column might have been constructed. The behind-the-scenes of the stop motion is also pretty neat. [more inside]
I'm Al Lowe and I created a series of games called Leisure Suit Larry for Sierra back in the '80s and '90s along with another 20 games and titles back in that period. I was with Sierra from 1982 until 1998 when it -- well, it was the poor victim of a hostile takeover by criminals. How about that for an opening?The creator of Leisure Suit Larry interviewed.
In Cut.com's new video series, a model runs through iconic makeup and hairstyle looks of her country for each decade from 1910 to 2010. This is an ongoing series, but there are now four videos up: one each for Anglo-American and African-American women, one for Iranian women, and one for Korean women. [more inside]
Irish-American Dining. A history of and guide to food that is expressly Irish-American, by Mefi's own Max Sparber. Irish Egg Rolls! Early onion-based pub food! The hidden history of the Shamrock Shake! [via mefi projects]
Science once communicated in a polyglot of tongues, but now English rules alone. How did this happen – and at what cost?
The connection between education and occupation is now so firmly ingrained as to seem almost a fact of nature. To get a good job, you get a diploma: at once time a high school diploma stuffed, and then a B.A., but now you're better off with a J.D. or an M.B.A...Yet this familiar system, far from evolving “naturally” or “unconsciously,” is the product of distinct cultural changes in American history. The process that left it in our landscape is less like the slow raising of a mountain range or the growth of oxbows on the Mississippi, and more like the construction of a dam. Three changes, which took place in the past hundred years, produced the system that is now producing M.B.A.s. They were the conversion of jobs into “professions,” the scientific measurement of intelligence, and the use of government power to “channel” people toward certain occupations. James Fallows explains in a 1985 article in The Atlantic. (See also William James 80 years prior on The Ph.D. Octopus).
"Don Draper lived on hard drives for half a decade before anybody paid him any notice. In 1999, Matthew Weiner, then an unfulfilled writer on CBS' Ted Danson sitcom Becker, spent his every off-hour doing research on the 1960s: what people wore, how they decorated their offices, what they ate and drank -" The story of how Mad Men went from a risky pitch to an unknown network to one of the most popular and celebrated dramas of the decade. (Hollywood Reporter) Bonus: Ten Mad Men Characters we need to see again. (Vulture)
Douglas Starr, in Blood, quotes the British Secretary of War, asked in 1937 what the nation proposed to do about a mass blood supply. The secretary was dismissive. Blood could not be stored for long or in great quantities, he said. On the hoof was better. “It was more satisfactory to store our blood in our people.” Janet Vaughan did not agree, and Janet Vaughan did something about it. Her medical director gave her £100, and she sent off her assistants in taxis to find all the tubing that London shops could provide.Longreads profiles Janet Vaughan, a British scientist who found better treatments for anemia than arsenic using herself as a test subject, was a major force in creating London's first blood banks using cheap tubing and ice cream trucks, studied emergency nutrition in a post-liberation concentration Nazi death camp, and continued active research into blood and radiation into her eighties, while occasionally serving as a model for Virginia Woolf characters.
Then I thought, hrm, a lot of what I know out of the Little Red Songbook is quite possibly more recent: what portion of it would Steve know? Long story short (you should all know how I roll by now), this has led to a week of researching the shit out of things to date particular songs, then listening carefully to as many versions of them as I could find to find the version that would be closest to the version Steve would've known it as. And the next thing I knew, I had a mix.
Over the past few years, some researchers have been arguing using mathematical tree-building and dating techniques, that the Indo-Europeans originated in Anatolia. In an article [.pdf] in the latest issue of Language, a group of historical and computational linguists using similar techniques say otherwise . [more inside]
In case you haven't had your fill of pre-industrial craftsmanship in a while, watch some videos of folks at Colonial Williamsburg & Jamestown doing their things: A gunsmith, a silversmith, a cabinet maker, and a glass blower. [more inside]
Nzinga Mbande (1581-1663) was a powerful queen and guerrilla commander in what is now modern day Angola. She is best remembered for a story about her first meeting with Portuguese leaders, who slighted her by providing her no chair upon which to sit. Famously, she ordered one of her maids to kneel on all fours and sat upon the maid's back while she conducted negotiations. However, the focus on this story belies Nzinga's accomplishments as a canny politician who successfully consolidated an effective power base despite starting from a very unstable position. [more inside]
For a little perspective on the 50th anniversary, consider this: we’re now as distant from the 1960s as the young Bob Dylan was from Teddy Roosevelt. For today’s typical college students, the Age of Aquarius is ancient history. Most of their parents weren’t even alive in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson launched a massive escalation of the Vietnam War, initiating the daily bombing of the entire country, North and South, and an enormous buildup of more than half a million troops.
It's a discussion that flared up recently at the house of Jane Addams. "Let’s start with an art history mystery. In 2006, a lifetime after Jane Addams passed away, Lisa Yun Lee took up the position of Director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. One day she came across a fetching painting of a brunette in the museum's back offices. But, Lee says, “As soon as I started asking ‘Who is that person in the painting,’ there were hushed tones and confusion. And people said, ‘Well, some people say that it’s Jane Addams’ partner.’ Other people say it’s her biggest business supporter. Other people said, ‘Well, of course. It’s her lesbian lover.’” "
Never Give Up, Never Surrender: Cosplay After 40
My name is Phaedra Cook, I am 46 years old and I’m a cosplayer. That sounds like some kind of intro to a confession at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, doesn’t it? There are certain types of people who would like me to have a sense of shame about my hobby, but that’s not going to happen.[more inside]
The Unknown War: WWII And The Epic Battles Of The Russian Front, the 20-episode documentary of the Nazi-Germany/Soviet Union conflict, first aired in the United States in 1978 but was subsequently pulled after the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. "The footage was edited from over 3.5 million feet of film taken by Soviet camera crews from the first day of the war, 22 June 1941, to the Soviet entry into Berlin in May 1945. Most of these films have never been seen outside this documentary series." It is available in full (1040 minutes). [more inside]
Beginning in 1808, a young man begins keeping a secret, ciphered journal of his life with terse detail of his days. Astronomical observations, interpersonal relationships (to put it mildly), weather notes, and the minutiae of a planter's life in 19th Century North Carolina were collected into these volumes that were nearly lost, decoded in 1979 and mostly forgotten again. The Coded Life of William Thomas Prestwood.
For much of the tenth century, the Qarmatians enjoyed supreme power in northeastern Arabia, exacting tribute even from the caliphs in Baghdad and Cairo. They were an esoteric Isma'ili Shi'ite sect from the oases of the desert fringe and the islands of the Persian Gulf, where they built themselves an egalitarian utopia—"probably the only communist society to control a large territory, and to endure for more than a generation, before the twentieth century." Utopia, however, depended on the agricultural labor of thirty thousand Ethiopian slaves and the proceeds from constant raiding and pillaging. In 930, the Qarmatians stormed Mecca, killed thousands of pilgrims at the foot of the Kaaba, and removed the Black Stone to Bahrayn. A year later, they identified the Mahdi, their prophesied redeemer, in the form of a young Persian prisoner. They believed that once he assumed control of the Qarmatian state, he would lead them to even greater triumphs... [more inside]
Historians of war and society would like to believe that military conflicts have fixed beginnings and ends. Conventional depictions of the Lebanese civil war are no exception and typically confine that conflict within the notional temporal parameters of 1975–90. But the key aggravating features generally identified with the events of the Lebanese civil war—class resentments, echoes of the Arab-Israeli conflict on a regional scale, domestic geographical inequalities, sectarian rancor, and political infighting across the Lebanese scene—had been accumulating since 1948, and even earlier. [more inside]
119 years ago, today, the unthinkable happened, as far as the Europeans were concerned. The Ethiopian army trounced the Italians in the Battle of Adwa. Headlines such as ‘Abyssinia (Ethiopia) Defeats Invading Italians’; ’80,000 Ethiopians Destroy 20,000 Italians at the Battle of Adwa’; ‘Italian Premier Crispi Resigns’; and ‘Abyssinia and Italy Sign Peace Treaty.’ peppered the European press. Adwa was placed on the world map and remained a historic story because of Ethiopia’s decisive victory against the Italian army on March 1st 1896 (Yekatit 23, 1888 according to the Ethiopian calendar).
'I am a woman. I do not like war. But I would rather die than accepting your deal."attributed to Empress Taitu Bitul*, Wife of Menelik II [more inside]
"I somehow or somewhere got the idea," wrote Lucy Larcom in the 18th century, "when I was a small child, that the chief end of woman was to make clothing for mankind."