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Little slice of U.S. history: 19th century divorce

Before "no-fault" divorce laws were enacted in the U.S., married persons seeking divorce had to prove grounds for divorce under extremely narrow circumstances. In the late 19th century, divorce laws were more permissive in some parts of the country than others, leading to a form of "divorce tourism". [more inside]
posted by cynical pinnacle on Dec 12, 2015 - 23 comments

Iron Age poetry in motion

Animation of the warrior plate of the Gundestrup Cauldron, the largest surviving example of European Iron Age silver work.
posted by immlass on Dec 12, 2015 - 8 comments

Your Right Of Passage

Neil Kaplan is fascinated by the stories told by old passports, especially those relating to the Holocaust, and the resonance they have for today's immigrants and refugees. "It seems strange to admit that in 2015, the right to exist in certain physical spaces on Earth—spaces bound by imaginary lines drawn on maps by our governments—can be prevented by a pocket-sized paper travel document."
posted by ChuraChura on Dec 10, 2015 - 15 comments

גם זו לטובה

Judaism's core texts grew out of millennia-long conversations and arguments across generations, with interconnected dialogues, source citing and (re)interpretation. Now, it's all going digital: Sefaria is creating a massive public domain, interactive "living library of Jewish texts and their interconnections, in Hebrew and translations." Their goal is to build a reference resource and community that "gives a better learning experience than anything that comes before it," from ancient to modern texts and "all the volumes of commentary in between." Read texts, browse submitted public source sheets on dozens of topics or visualize associations between texts.
posted by zarq on Dec 7, 2015 - 22 comments

Ark and flood in one package

The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was established in 1961 and has grown into one of the US government’s largest intelligence organizations. It employs 17,000 people, including thousands stationed overseas, and its 2013 fiscal year budget request was for $3.15 billion. Yet, the DIA is also one of the more secretive agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, regularly denying access to basic information about its structure, functions and activities. On November 20, the National Security Archive posted a new sourcebook of over 50 declassified documents that help to illuminate the DIA’s five-decades-long history. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Dec 4, 2015 - 20 comments

Walking on Tigers' Tails

“The distance between the station and the train was accurately measured ... I was not nervous as it approached and I leaped without hesitation,” she recalled. She landed safely, but the rocking motion of the train rolled her straight toward the end of the car. Just before being pitched off, “I caught hold of an air vent and hung on.” Then, with a sense of the dramatic, silent film actress Helen Gibson let her body “dangle over the edge to increase the effect on the screen.” [more inside]
posted by ChuraChura on Dec 4, 2015 - 5 comments


Surf The Old Web! [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 4, 2015 - 19 comments

"Had we ten Hands . . ."

In 1739, an English washer-woman named Mary Collier published a long poem called "The Woman's Labour" about the difficulties faced by working women. Her poem was a response to The Thresher's Labour by Stephen Duck, which mocked the poetic conceit that agricultural workers spend a pleasant time in nature, and took a few pot shots at women along the way: "Ah! were their Hands so active as their Tongues/ How nimbly then would move the Rakes and Prongs?" Collier refutes Duck's criticisms and describes women's added labour: [more inside]
posted by yarntheory on Dec 2, 2015 - 11 comments


Modernist gingerbread houses | More | Ginger Bauhaus | Architectural 3-D ginger cookie | The history of using gingerbread at Christmas with recipes.
posted by nickyskye on Dec 1, 2015 - 16 comments

Say Hello To My Little House

The four-bedroom/nine-bath house at 631 Parra Grande Lane in Montecito has been sold. Built on ten acres in 1906, El Fureidis--originally called Gillespie Estate or Gillespie Palace--is one of five homes designed by American architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. If you're not familiar with El Fureidis and its long and dignified history, here's a tour, and a video of an infamous owner's wedding.
posted by mattdidthat on Nov 29, 2015 - 31 comments

Lives of Solitude

Ever long to get away from it all? The Hermitary is a web directory for all things hermit-related. Look up local hermits or hermits from lore, literature and history, or discover present-day hermits on the web. [more inside]
posted by Miko on Nov 27, 2015 - 5 comments


Whether you know the basic story or not, you may enjoy Mark Steel's lecture on Beethoven's life for its entertaining (and decidedly informal) presentation.
posted by Wolfdog on Nov 26, 2015 - 7 comments

Links in the Chain

Voices of the Food Chain Farmers are the iconic symbols of the food system, but food production, processing, and distribution make up nearly 15% of the American workforce. Today, StoryCorps and the Food Chain Worker Alliance are sharing videos of conversations from workers in different industrial sectors of the food system, showing how food labor crosses boundaries of culture, language, and experience. [more inside]
posted by Miko on Nov 25, 2015 - 3 comments

The Secret History of the Mongols, updated in musical form and annotated

The Secret History of the Mongols is the oldest surviving Mongolian-language literary work, and is regarded as the single most significant native Mongolian account of Genghis Khan. Linguistically, it provides the richest source of pre-classical Mongolian and Middle Mongolian, and while you can read it in various translations, it can be quite a slog. That's why Mongolian rappers Gee of/with Click Click Boom team up with Jonon to present a musical version of Mongolian History, in Mongolian. Luckily, there are English subtitles to this video, but there's still a gap between knowing the words and knowing what they mean. With that, you can find a collections of links as annotations below. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Nov 23, 2015 - 11 comments

"Does Floyd always have to die?? You're heartless, Steve."

Steve Meretzky has released a treasure trove of (minimally redacted) Infocom working documents. Written from 1981 to 1987, these internal documents were instrumental to Jason Scott when producing his documentary GET LAMP and have now been released on the Internet Archive. They include business memos, playtester notes, design documents, mockups by their packaging designer, and a tantalizing look into the elements of games that got cut or never fully developed. Stanford University has the originals.
posted by jackbishop on Nov 23, 2015 - 23 comments

Can we get some of these remade in full size for Jennifer Lawrence?

Le Petit Théâtre Dior: An exhibit of miniature Dior creations was mounted in China earlier this year. [more inside]
posted by jacquilynne on Nov 20, 2015 - 4 comments

Prayer Nuts

Sixteenth century European Catholics with sufficiently heavy purses could upgrade their rosary beads with Prayer Nuts, virtuoso boxwood carvings of astonishing detail. You can get lost in these things, and probably the more so back in the day when, some believe, they were infused with scent, mixing the visual with the olfactory. They've been known to hit the market, latterly in the low six figures. [more inside]
posted by BWA on Nov 18, 2015 - 26 comments

DeMille's Lost City

“You have lost your mind,” telegraphed Adolph Zukor, founder of Paramount Pictures. “Stop filming and return to Los Angeles at once.” DeMille refused. “I cannot and will not make pictures with a yardstick,” he wired back to the studio. “What do they want me to do?” he was rumored to have said, according to Higashi. “Stop now and release it as The Five Commandments?” Excavating the "City of the Pharoah," the biggest set ever built for a Hollywood film in the 1920s. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Nov 18, 2015 - 10 comments

Revealing the invisible library

Ever since the the Villa dei Papiri and its cache of at least 800 papyrus scrolls was discovered in Herculaneum in 1752, this potential treasure trove of information and insight into the classical world has fascinated scholars with what it could possibly contain. The difficulty has been in how to read them without destroying them. As John Seabrook describes for The New Yorker: "One scroll was peeled apart into many fragments; the other dried up and then, like a disaster in slow motion, split apart into more than three hundred pieces." Now, thanks to new imaging techniques, the contents of the scrolls could—slowly—be revealed.
posted by Athanassiel on Nov 17, 2015 - 20 comments

Don't Worry, It's Just a Name

According to ancient texts, Athenians and Spartans clashed at the isle of Kane in 406 BC, one of the last battles of the Great Peloponnesian War. Some 100 ships were sent to the bottom of the Aegean Sea as a result of the prolonged, hard-fought naval battle. Archaeologists have long debated the location of Kane, but none of the islands in the Aegean seemed to fit the descriptions. At long last, thanks to artifacts and core samples, the location of Kane has been identified, as has the reason it took so long to find it: It isn't an island anymore.
posted by Hot Pastrami! on Nov 17, 2015 - 6 comments

Football is a country

The Stade de France–A History in Fragments
Or did he, and the other players, make the same decision that many are now saying we should: that in the face of horror the only thing to do is to keep playing, moving, living? Watching it now – knowing all that we do about what happened Friday night in Paris – we can perhaps count it as one of the most surreal things to ever take place in this storied stadium, a place built nearly two decades ago specifically to house history.
posted by infini on Nov 16, 2015 - 4 comments

Then he handed me a bag full of money

"The Memphis Grizzlies will be honoring the old Memphis Sounds for their Hardwood Classic games this NBA season by wearing the Sounds’ red-and-white jerseys. Given that the Sounds were around in the early 1970s and were of the ABA, the jerseys are pretty slick and sweet. ...To understand the Sounds you need to understand the music. And to understand the music you need to understand race and cotton." - Curtis Harris on Stax Records and the context of the Memphis Sounds.
posted by Potomac Avenue on Nov 16, 2015 - 18 comments

"a deeper analytical language for transsexual theory"

The 'Empire' Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto Trans media theorist Sandy Stone's 1987 essay on transsexual women and radical feminism, written in response to TERF works of the time, was a foundational text for transgender studies, located within a particular cultural moment but calling for a new discourse of transsexual and transgender womanhood beyond the gender binary. [more inside]
posted by thetortoise on Nov 15, 2015 - 4 comments

“What a pity it isn’t illegal.”

" Chinese emperors of the Tang Dynasty liked their ice cream a special way: Fermented buffalo or goat milk was heated, then thickened with flour and seasoned with camphor, which made it flake like snow. For good measure fragments of reptile brain were added, along with an eyeball or two." - "It Ought To Be Called Vice Cream" - Austerity Kitchen on the social and technological history of Ice Cream.
posted by The Whelk on Nov 14, 2015 - 17 comments

A Concert of Empires and a Sandwich

Extra History: The Seminal Tragedy (2, 3, 4), wherein Extra Credits' history subseries (previously) takes us into the series of coincidences, missed saves, miscommunications and bad decisions that led the world improbably into The Great War. (Bonus: Corrections, Retractions, and Lies!)
posted by Navelgazer on Nov 11, 2015 - 4 comments

Is your "Best Boy" wearing Khaki? If not don’t YOU THINK he should be?

When Britain entered the war in Europe in 1914, it wasn't a sufficiently existential threat for Parliament to authorize a draft, so enlistment in the armed services was still voluntary. To "encourage" enlistment, Vice-Admiral Charles Penrose-Fitzgerald organized a group of women known as the Order of the White Feather. Their task -- to hand a white feather to any military-aged man they saw out of uniform. [more inside]
posted by Etrigan on Nov 11, 2015 - 47 comments

Chinese Americans in the time of Jim Crow

Shortly after the dust of the Civil War had settled, plantation owners in the Deep South tried to replace the labor of black ex-slaves with Chinese immigrants--most of whom left rather than put up with bad working conditions. Some, however, stayed in the Mississippi Delta through the end of Jim Crow, often carving out a role for themselves in the South's harsh racial climate as grocers serving primarily black communities. In fact, a historic Supreme Court case extending the reach of segregation to all non-white people took place when a Chinese family sued a local white school board. Now these grocers are dying out as their children leave the South, but groups like Southern Foodways are collecting their stories so that their contribution to Southern history can be remembered.
posted by sciatrix on Nov 11, 2015 - 14 comments

Navy Releases Definitive History of Naval Aviation Online

United States Naval Aviation 1910–2010 by Mark L. Evans and Roy A. Grossnick is the Naval History and Heritage Command’s fourth update to the original history which was initiated in 1960. That first issue celebrated the first 50 years of United States naval aviation and this two-volume set commemorates the centenary. [more inside]
posted by Confess, Fletch on Nov 11, 2015 - 1 comment

Victorian Nipple Rings

A longtime legend in the piercing community has it that during the Victorian Era, young women from England were briefly caught up in the fad of having their nipples pierced. It was all the rage, and then it went out of style. It’s one of those stories, like Julius Caesar’s own pierced nipples, or King Tut’s stretched lobes, that seems made up, or at least padded with potential exaggeration. It’s the sort of thing that raises eyebrows, challenges how we think about Victorian Culture (The same people who supposedly covered their table’s legs because they too closely resembled female ankles were getting their nipples done?) and just plain seems impossible. Except it’s all true and then some.
posted by sciatrix on Nov 10, 2015 - 60 comments

Regency Dances

Let's learn some Regency-era dances! [more inside]
posted by jedicus on Nov 9, 2015 - 7 comments

Who do you mean by we?

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - "The book delivers on its madly ambitious subtitle by in fact managing to cover key moments in the developmental history of humankind from the emergence of Homo Sapiens to today's developments in genetic engineering." Also btw, check out Harari on the myths we need to survive, re: fact/value distinctions and their interrelationships.
posted by kliuless on Nov 8, 2015 - 7 comments

The word algorithm derives from his name.

The word algebra stems from the Arabic word al-jabr, which has its roots in the title of a 9th century manuscript written by the mathematician Al-Khwarizmi. The Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wal-muqabala (The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing) was a pioneering piece of work - offering practical answers for land distribution, rules on inheritance and distributing salaries. This treatise also underpins the science of flight and the engineering behind the fastest car in the world. via
posted by infini on Nov 7, 2015 - 15 comments

"When cabbage and peas were often our best meal"

In late October 1716 Jacob Arend, a journeyman cabinetmaker, was 28 years old and at a crossroads. He and his fellow journeyman, Johannes Witthalm, had recently finished work on a writing cabinet.... The writing cabinet was a masterpiece but Jacob felt the need to write a letter and conceal it in the cabinet. He made sure it would not be easily found and he was very successful in this endeavor. The letter was not found until December 1967 and it wasn’t until 2014 that the letter was translated and studied.
posted by bonobothegreat on Nov 5, 2015 - 45 comments

Treasure chest

Scholars are beginning to examine an unprecedented collection of European correspondence from the late 17th and early 18th centuries--a chest belonging to a Dutch postmaster which contains some 2600 undelivered letters, 600 of which have never been opened.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Nov 5, 2015 - 21 comments

a corporation's influence can persist long after the corporation itself

Empire tells of the legacy of the Dutch East India Company, and its cultural legacy, through online experience blending image, text, video, and audio.
posted by Miko on Nov 5, 2015 - 6 comments

Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World

René Girard, literary theorist and religious historian, has died at the age of 91. The French-born academic and Immortel of the Académie Française first became famous for developing the idea of mimetic rivalry as a predominant theme in modern literature. Later, and more controversially, he argued for the centrality of violence and scapegoating in ancient religions, by which the sacrifice of a chosen victim restores peace in society. Most controversially of all, he argued that the Judeo-Christian tradition is unique in exposing and refuting this scapegoating mechanism. (Previously, previously)
posted by Cash4Lead on Nov 5, 2015 - 8 comments

Tool of the Trade

By definition, any computing platform invented in the first half of the 1980s that has survived until 2015—and is an enormous business—has accomplished something remarkable. There's the Windows PC, which traces its heritage back to the original IBM PC announced in August 1981. There's the Mac, which famously debuted in January 1984.
And then there's the Bloomberg Terminal, which hit the market in December 1982. [more inside]
posted by ChurchHatesTucker on Nov 5, 2015 - 51 comments

They want to murder you in a well

In late December of 1895, the writer Stephen Crane—nervous, shabby, and all of twenty-three—attended the first annual dinner of the Society of the Philistines as its guest of honor. He little dreamed he was walking into one of history's first celebrity roasts.
posted by Iridic on Nov 4, 2015 - 8 comments

Discover something new

"It isn’t easy to discover new podcasts. There are just SO many out there. Sometimes the best approach is to simply turn to a friend and say, 'Hey, what are you listening to these days?'" So, NPR has created earbud.fm, a "friendly guide to great podcasts."
posted by zarq on Nov 3, 2015 - 82 comments

Hell—Nothing Less—And Without End

“The uprising,” we told each other immediately, like everyone else in Warsaw. [more inside]
posted by hat_eater on Nov 3, 2015 - 3 comments

Aw, shucks

The New Rules of Oyster Eating, from Rowan Jacobsen of The Oyster Guide and Oysterater, home of the Oyster Map. Pearls of wisdom within.
posted by Miko on Nov 2, 2015 - 55 comments

The Chanel of Africa

As the main supplier of fashion prints to nearly half a continent, the textile company has continued to dominate that fashion scene there for almost 170 years. How’d that happen? Rooted in European colonialism and a testament to African ingenuity, creativity, and cultural pride; it’s a surprising story
posted by infini on Oct 30, 2015 - 28 comments

This marvellous day

The Radical Life of Rosa Luxemburg
– A graphic novelization of the revolutionary life and legacy of “Red Rosa.” (previously) [more inside]
posted by Joe in Australia on Oct 28, 2015 - 7 comments

“Not for the first time, it fell to a fiction to restore the history.”

First, Kill the Witches. Then, Celebrate Them. by Stacy Schiff [The New York Times]
Among the oldest settlements in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and for years among the wealthiest cities in America, Salem had many claims to fame. It preferred not to count the witchcraft delusion among them; no one cared to record even where the town had hanged 19 innocents. It addressed the unpleasantness the New England way: silently. When George Washington passed through Salem in October 1789, he witnessed neither any trace of a witch panic nor of Halloween. Sometimes it seems as if the trauma of an event can be measured by how long it takes us to commemorate it, and by how thoroughly we mangle it in the process.
posted by Fizz on Oct 28, 2015 - 50 comments

Suspense, X Minus One, Lights Out! Mercury Theatre and more...

The AV Club provides 13 Old Time Radio dramas to scare the pants off you this Halloween
posted by The Whelk on Oct 26, 2015 - 15 comments

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The deadly legacy of HIV truthers [more inside]
posted by zarq on Oct 26, 2015 - 72 comments

Anthropodermic Bibliopegy

The Macabre Practice of Binding Books in Human Skin: Whether a reminder of mortality, a strange souvenir, or a punishment for a crime, the impetuses behind anthropodermic bibliopegy are as varied as the lives of their skin donors.
posted by frumiousb on Oct 26, 2015 - 21 comments

How do a bunch of wonky generated tones translate to memorable sounds?

A Beginner's Guide to the Synth is a nice long write-up to the history of the synthesizers, from their origins up to the present, with embedded sound samples. For a deeper dive into the history of the hardware, learn the secrets of the synths from Sound on Sound.
posted by filthy light thief on Oct 25, 2015 - 13 comments

This day is called the Feast of Crispian

The battle of Agincourt was fought on a muddy field in northern France 600 years ago on Sunday – St Crispin’s Day, October 25th 1415. Legend says Agincourt was won by arrows. It was not. It was won by men using lead-weighted hammers, poleaxes, mauls and falcon-beaks, the ghastly paraphernalia of medieval hand-to-hand fighting. It was fought on a field knee-deep in mud, and it was more of a massacre than a battle. [more inside]
posted by PlusDistance on Oct 25, 2015 - 63 comments

One of the greatest nautical painters in history

Ivan Aivazovsky (18171900) - "In 1840, Aivazovsky traveled to Rome, where he became friendly with Nikolai Gogol. He also received high praise from the Roman critics, newspapers, and even Pope Gregory XVI. The pope purchased Aivazovsky's 'Chaos' and hung it in the Vatican... [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Oct 24, 2015 - 10 comments

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