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Quid Novi? and A Refill, Please

London’s coffee craze began in 1652 when Pasqua Rosée, the Greek servant of a coffee-loving British Levant merchant, opened London’s first coffeehouse (or rather, coffee shack) against the stone wall of St Michael’s churchyard in a labyrinth of alleys off Cornhill. Coffee was a smash hit; within a couple of years, Pasqua was selling over 600 dishes of coffee a day to the horror of the local tavern keepers. For anyone who’s ever tried seventeenth-century style coffee, this can come as something of a shock — unless, that is, you like your brew “black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love”, as an old Turkish proverb recommends, and shot through with grit.
posted by barnacles on Sep 10, 2013 - 66 comments

The Kommandant's Daughter

"Brigitte Höss lives quietly on a leafy side street in Northern Virginia. She is retired now, having worked in a Washington fashion salon for more than 30 years. She recently was diagnosed with cancer and spends much of her days dealing with the medical consequences. Brigitte also has a secret that not even her grandchildren know. Her father was Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz." [more inside]
posted by zarq on Sep 10, 2013 - 81 comments

Sex on a moving subway train

Kenneth Leedom and Peter Cott have been together for 58 years. In a NYTimes article, they discuss their lives, from encounters with other men during World War II, gay bath houses in the 1970s, the AIDS epidemic, and their 2011 wedding, at the ages of 86 and 87.
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Sep 8, 2013 - 17 comments

Heavenly Bodies

A relic hunter dubbed 'Indiana Bones' has lifted the lid on a macabre collection of 400-year-old jewel-encrusted skeletons unearthed in churches across Europe.
posted by empath on Sep 7, 2013 - 64 comments

"Come on Clock, talk to me boy!" . . . "It hurts"

Many years ago, I found a quarter inch audio reel in a rotting cardboard box, covered in dust, while helping my dear friend and mentor, Lighting Cameraman John B. Peters, clean up his garage. He told me it had been recorded in Vietnam during his coverage of that war. On the box, still legible, was handwritten: “Firefight, no name village, near Chu Lai, September 10, 1966, Nagra 3, 3,75 I.P.S.” John recalled that he was out with a patrol that day, and when the Vietcong ambushed them, they all had to duck for cover, but his soundman kept the audio recorder rolling throughout the duration of the fierce firefight that followed.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Sep 6, 2013 - 43 comments

First Nations peoples are on the cusp of change

First Nations and the Future of Canadian Citizenship (CBC Ideas) Part history lesson, part memoir, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations takes to the stage to share stories of the people he represents and his own past. In his lecture titled It Feels Like We're On the Cusp, National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo sets out why he believes First Nations peoples are on the cusp of change. via CBC Ideas [more inside]
posted by KokuRyu on Sep 5, 2013 - 7 comments

How would you have died in 1769?

Spin the wheel to see what manner of highly unpleasant death might have befallen you in the past. The "tool serves up causes of death in proportion to how many lives they claimed in the chosen year." Consumption? Childbed? Plague? Putrid fever? Test your fate; you may decide time travel doesn't sound like such a cool idea after all.
posted by Annie Savoy on Sep 5, 2013 - 75 comments

We are simply passing through history....

"It’s not often that one finds buried treasure, but that’s exactly what happened in Wayland High School’s History Building as we prepared to move to a new campus. Amidst the dusty collection of maps featuring the defunct USSR, decades-old textbooks describing how Negroes are seeking equality, and film strips pieced together with brittle scotch tape, was a gray plastic Samsonite briefcase, circa 1975."
posted by Kid Charlemagne on Sep 4, 2013 - 40 comments

The Story of Film

The Story of Film: An Odyssey is a documentary in 15 parts which documents the evolution of the medium from first steps of silent film to the present day multi-national blockbuster (trailer). This amazing work is currently available on Netflix, but will also be playing on TCM starting this month (full schedule available at the bottom of this link).
posted by codacorolla on Sep 3, 2013 - 23 comments

Visionary pioneer of holistic veterinary medicine and animal rights

Juliette of the Herbs is a beautifully filmed lyrical portrait of the life and work of Juliette de Bairacli Levy: world renowned herbalist, author, breeder of Afghan hounds, friend of the Gypsies, traveller in search of herbal wisdom and the pioneer of holistic veterinary medicine. A list of Juliette de Baïracli Levy's books. Cythera Island
posted by nickyskye on Sep 3, 2013 - 15 comments

Don't talk about anything and don't not talk about nothing

"Avoid flattery. A delicate compliment is permissible in conversation, but flattery is broad, coarse, and to sensible people, disgusting. If you flatter your superiors, they will distrust you, thinking you have some selfish end; if you flatter ladies, they will despise you, thinking you have no other conversation." - 37 Conversation Rules for Gentlemen from 1875
posted by The Whelk on Sep 2, 2013 - 53 comments

Remarkable 19th century photographs by Timothy O'Sullivan

How the Wild West really looked: Gorgeous pictures show the landscape as it was charted for the very first time 150 years ago. Previously. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Sep 1, 2013 - 13 comments

I'll take "What is Syria" for $100, Alex

9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask
posted by desjardins on Sep 1, 2013 - 425 comments

Weilue: The Peoples Of The West

This country (the Roman Empire) has more than four hundred smaller cities and towns. It extends several thousand li in all directions. The king has his capital (that is, the city of Rome) close to the mouth of a river (the Tiber). The outer walls of the city are made of stone. - A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE, Quoted in zhuan 30 of the Sanguozhi. Published in 429 CE. Draft English translation
posted by The Whelk on Sep 1, 2013 - 28 comments

The Lycurgus Cup

This 1,600-Year-Old Goblet Shows that the Romans Were Nanotechnology Pioneers. The Lycurgus Cup appears opaque green under normal light, but the ancient dichroic glass vessel transforms to a translucent red color when lit from behind. Roman artisans achieved this by impregnating the glass with particles of silver and gold as small as 50 nanometers in diameter. Inspired by the cup, modern researchers have created the world's most sensitive plasmon resonance sensor. [Via]
posted by homunculus on Aug 31, 2013 - 28 comments

when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die in infancy

Crusader Kings II is a computer game in which you play as any one of hundreds of feudal lords in Europe in the High to Late Middle Ages. Hoping for your family to become just that little bit more powerful, you scheme against your liege, your vassals, and occasionally even your enemies. Meanwhile, at least half of the game's cast of thousands schemes against you. The game's potential for Shakespearean intrigue has made it ripe for post-game write-ups called after-action reports. With the recent release of The Old Gods, an expansion allowing for play as a pagan ruler, PC Gamer published its own series of after-action reports: Lords of the North. The game's thematic similarities to A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones have not gone unnoticed, either. [more inside]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Aug 31, 2013 - 244 comments

"The Wonder of the West"

New Harmony, Indiana is a small town whose history is rooted in not one but two attempted utopian communities. [more inside]
posted by jbickers on Aug 30, 2013 - 19 comments

Twitter circa 1990

wwwtxt.org: "In 1995, commercialization, a swelling population, and the multimedia revolution began to shape Web 1.0 and the modern Internet. 1988–94 represent the final years of a much smaller, non-commercial, and text-dominated Internet. / The users of this era were not only programmers, physicists, and university residents—they were also tinkerers, early-adopters, whiz kids, and nerds. Their conversations and documents—valiantly preserved by digital archivists—are fractured across numerous services, increasingly offline-only, and incredibly voluminous (100GB+). / wwwtxt digs deep and resurrects the voices of these digital pioneers as unedited, compelling, and insightful 140-character excerpts." [more inside]
posted by codacorolla on Aug 28, 2013 - 20 comments

London to Brighton in four minutes across sixty years.

London to Brighton, side by side. "In 1953 the BBC made a point-of-view film from a London to Brighton train. 30 years later it did the same again. And after another 30 years it did so once more." [more inside]
posted by feelinglistless on Aug 28, 2013 - 21 comments

"[This blog] does not endorse the use of lizard hair conditioner"

Would you like to learn how to make pink-colored pancakes? Or practice 13th-century dental care? Or garden with lobster claws? Or perhaps 12th-century hair care or choosing the right cravat is more your speed? Fortunately, Ask the Past has answers to all those questions--and more!
posted by Cash4Lead on Aug 26, 2013 - 29 comments

God save us nelly queens!

Jose Julio Sarria, Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, Jose I, The Widow Norton, passed away on August 19th, at the age of 91. [more inside]
posted by gingerbeer on Aug 24, 2013 - 36 comments

Mind of a Lunatic

Interestingly enough, Bushwick Bill was set to do missionary work in India before coming to Houston and joining the Geto Boys
posted by Renoroc on Aug 24, 2013 - 6 comments

Powstanie Warszawskie

Powstanie Warszawskie/Warsaw Rising is a new Polish movie about the 1944 Warsaw Uprising that makes use of contemporary footage, colourised and dubbed.
posted by MartinWisse on Aug 24, 2013 - 14 comments

The Misremembering of ‘I Have a Dream’

Fifty years after the March on Washington, Dr. King’s most famous speech, like his own political legacy, is widely misunderstood.
posted by brundlefly on Aug 23, 2013 - 51 comments

20 Historic Black and White Photos Colorized

When we see old photos in black and white, we sometimes forget that life back then was experienced in the same vibrant colours that surround us today. This gallery of talented artists helps us remember that. Via r/ColorizedHistory.
posted by cthuljew on Aug 23, 2013 - 72 comments

The past and the present are one

Ghosts of the past revisit little-changed streets and avenues of New York City in Famous Daily News photos brought back to life.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Aug 22, 2013 - 19 comments

Standardized testing through the ages

1912 Eighth Grade Examination for Bullitt County Schools.
posted by latkes on Aug 21, 2013 - 81 comments

Ex Urbe

"But Freud had a second fear: a fear of Rome's layers. In formal treatises, he compared the psyche to an ancient city, with many layers of architecture built one on top of another, each replacing the last, but with the old structures still present underneath. In private writings he phrased this more personally, that he was terrified of ever visiting Rome because he was terrified of the idea of all the layers and layers and layers of destroyed structures hidden under the surface, at the same time present and absent, visible and invisible. He was, in a very deep way, absolutely right." [more inside]
posted by Paragon on Aug 20, 2013 - 31 comments

The circuitous histories of hamburgers and ketchup

The history of the hamburger could be a relatively short story, or one spanning centuries and continents, depending on how far you disassemble the modern hamburger. If you look for the origins of ground meat between two pieces of bread, that's something American, but where and when exactly is the question. But how did we get the ground meat patty? You can thank the Mongols and Kublai Khan, who brought their ground meat to Russia. Oh, and don't forget the fish sauce! [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Aug 19, 2013 - 35 comments

New York Before and After a Century or So

NYC Grid is hosting a neat photo-series which lets you slide back and forth between images of New York today and a similar shot from the early 20th century. [via]
posted by quin on Aug 19, 2013 - 10 comments

TP-AJAX

In 2011, the CIA declassified documents admitting its involvement in the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran's elected government and installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, details of which were first first disclosed by the New York Times in 2000. Timeline. However, they refused to release them to the public. Today, the National Security Archive research institute has (after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit) obtained and made the 21 documents public. "Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States' role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq's ouster has long been public knowledge, but today's posting includes what is believed to be the CIA's first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Aug 19, 2013 - 33 comments

Interactive timelines of slang for genitalia

Two timelines with slang for the male and female genitalia, simply titled The Penis and The Vagina. The timelines are made by Jonathon Green, a slang lexicographer (previously on MeFi). [more inside]
posted by bjrn on Aug 16, 2013 - 77 comments

Confucius say "Good things come to those who wait"

As part of the preparation for a special exhibition on the history of Chinese food in America, the Smithsonian opens the world's oldest can of fortune cookies. More posts on the exhibit research under the Sweet & Sour tag. [previously]
posted by Horace Rumpole on Aug 16, 2013 - 29 comments

Relative Power of Contemporary States, Nations and Empires

The Histomap: Four Thousand Years of World History
posted by brundlefly on Aug 13, 2013 - 65 comments

Marvelous photographs of 19th Century London street life

The street photographer I share with you this week was a man born in Great Britain an entire century before Winogrand and Friedlander. His name was John Thomson (1837-1921) and it is known that he traveled the Far East taking photographs during much of the period between 1860-1879. When he returned to London, he began taking documentary photographs of everyday people on the streets of London. Via madamjujujive
posted by nickyskye on Aug 13, 2013 - 18 comments

If I Could Just Teach This to You

"Women in hip hop are more important than men in hip hop". KRS-1 recently gave a lecture at Fresno State detailing the very beginnings of hip hop in the early 1970's. Even if you've been following hip hop your whole life, you will likely still learn something incredible about the history of this art form.
posted by cashman on Aug 12, 2013 - 12 comments

Achilles sat on the shore and looked out to the wine-dark sea

That Homer used the epithet "wine-dark" to describe the sea in the Iliad and Odyssey so puzzled 19th Century English Prime Minister William Gladstone that he thought the Ancient Greeks must have been colorblind. Since then many other solutions have been proposed. Scientists have argued that Ancient Greek wine was blue and some scholars have put forward the case that Homer was describing the sea at sunset. Radiolab devoted a segment to the exploration of this issue, saying that Gladstone was partly right. Another interpretation is that the Ancient Greeks focused on different aspects of color from us. Classicist William Harris' short essay about purple in Homer and Iliad translator Caroline Alexander's longer essay The Wine-like Sea make the case for this interpretation.
posted by Kattullus on Aug 12, 2013 - 108 comments

LET’S LEARN ABOUT CATS

CATS? WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW THEY GOT DOMESTICATED (MAYBE??) A TUMBLR ESSAY
posted by The Whelk on Aug 10, 2013 - 52 comments

"MI5 trained a specially bred group of gerbils to detect spies"

It doesn't matter whether you hate the spies and believe they are corroding democracy, or if you think they are the noble guardians of the state. In both cases the assumption is that the secret agents know more than we do. But the strange fact is that often when you look into the history of spies what you discover is something very different. It is not the story of men and women who have a better and deeper understanding of the world than we do. In fact in many cases it is the story of weirdos who have created a completely mad version of the world that they then impose on the rest of us.
Bugger: Maybe the Real State Secret Is that Spies Aren't Very Good at Their Jobs and Don't Know Very Much About the World by Adam Curtis. It's about the checkered history of the MI5.
posted by Kattullus on Aug 9, 2013 - 63 comments

The view from here

This is my window. Or my windows—the view from my living room, where I sit and write. Might not seem very inspiring. I wish I could offer green mossy lava, roaring waves, a glacier mountain top. I do have other spaces—in an abandoned powerstation, a favorite fisherman’s cafe by the harbor, a summer house on the arctic circle—but this is my honest view, what I really see most of the days. This house was built in the 1960s when people were fed up with lava and mountains; they were migrating to the growing suburbs to create a new view for themselves. The young couple who dug the foundation with their own hands dreamed of a proper garden on this barren, rocky strip of land. They dreamed of trees, flowers, shelter from the cold northern breeze. What is special depends on where you are, and here, the trees are actually special. They were planted fifty years ago like summer flowers, not expected to live or grow more than a meter. The rhododendron was considered a miracle, not something that could survive a winter. It looks tropical, with Hawaiian-looking pink flowers; Skúli, the man who built the house and sold it to me half a century later, took special pride in it. I am not a great gardener. We are thinking of buying an apple tree, though they don’t really thrive in this climate. I would plant it like a flower, not really expect it to grow, and hope for a miracle. —Andri Snær Magnason [more inside]
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Aug 9, 2013 - 3 comments

The Rise and Fall of Katharine Hepburn's Fake Accent

When Hollywood turned to talkies, it created a not-quite-British, not-quite-American style of speaking that has all but disappeared.
posted by brundlefly on Aug 8, 2013 - 93 comments

David Bradley, IBM engineer, and father of the three-finger salute

David Bradley is an engineer, one of the 12 strategists who worked around the clock to hammer out a plan for hardware, software, manufacturing setup and sales strategy for the first IBM PC from 1980-1981. At that time, Bradley and others were tired of wasting time rebooting the system without powering it down. So, one day he had something like "write keyboard shortcut to reboot system" on list of things to do, and Control-Alt-Delete was created. Years later, he said "I may have invented it, but I think Bill made it famous." (YouTube) [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Aug 8, 2013 - 21 comments

Coulrophobia

People have been frightened by clowns for centuries.
posted by Obscure Reference on Aug 8, 2013 - 76 comments

Hedwig? Hedy? Hedly?

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Ecstasy of Hedy Lamarr - Science! Fascists! Orgasms! Libel! Escapes From Literal Castles! (SoCH previously and Anne Helen Petersen previously)
posted by The Whelk on Aug 8, 2013 - 18 comments

Capturing America

In 1971, the newly-created US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired a bunch of freelance photographers to collectively document environmental issues around the country. They were given free rein to shoot whatever they wanted, and the project, named Documerica, lasted through 1977. After 40 years, the EPA is now encouraging photographers to take current versions of the original Documerica photos and are showcasing them on flickr at State of the Environment. There are location challenges, and a set has been created with some of the submissions, making side-by-side comparisons. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Aug 8, 2013 - 16 comments

"Let your sources surprise you."

Enter some text about your interests or research topic into the Serendip-O-Matic, and get an intriguing array of related images and primary sources from the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Europeana, and Flickr Commons. A One Week | One Tool project.
posted by Miko on Aug 7, 2013 - 4 comments

Richard Prendergast Rode on the Prisoner Train with Kurt Vonnegutt.

"Just to describe you: You're a large man, a big boned man." ..The most fascinating oral history you'll hear this week. Prendergast endured a German labor camp after being captured during the battle of the bulge, and witnessed the fire bombing of Dresden from 15 miles away. Interviews were recorded as source material for Studs Terkel's book: The Good War.
posted by thisisdrew on Aug 6, 2013 - 4 comments

Sometimes it's lovely to be read a bedtime story, even as an adult.

A wonderful, generous and free selection of authors, collections and books online at Lit2Go for awake times or drowsy ones. The Count of Monte Cristo from the Adventure collection | or perhaps a Just So Story from the Fantasy collection | Beowolf from the Here Be Dragons! collection | Aladdin from Andrew Lang's Fairy Books of Many Colors or The Heart of Happy Hollow from the African American collection. Also practical for children. Previously. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Aug 5, 2013 - 9 comments

...the firm resolve of a determined soul.

Thurman Munson In Sun And Shade [more inside]
posted by zarq on Aug 3, 2013 - 9 comments

Lucy Kellaway's 'History of Office Life'

A series of BBC News Magazine articles on the office as workplace: (i) How the office was invented; (ii) The ancient Chinese exam that inspired modern job recruitment (previously); (iii) The invention of the career ladder; (iv) The arrival of women in the office; (v) Do we still need the telephone?; (vi) Are there too many managers?; (vii) The era of the sexually charged office; (viii) The decline of privacy in open-plan offices; (ix) How the computer changed the office forever and (x) Why did offices become like the home?—by columnist Lucy Kellaway. [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Aug 2, 2013 - 22 comments

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