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Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday links

October 21 is Trafalgar Day: history, videos of reenactments and background explanations, and re-fighting with BBC's interactive Battlefield Academy.

The Biggest Guns in Human History.


Faust, Mephistopheles, Napoleon, Oliver Cromwell or a Hugenot: Halloween Ideas From an 1884 Costume Guide, with bonus 1880-era Batgirl costumes.


A Deep Dive Into Uranus Jokes, because they never get old.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include teaching yourself to echolocate, where to poop in King Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace, jet engines on trucks, Rita Hayworth's birthday (and an excellent compilation of her dancing), and patching crumbling walls with LEGOs. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

October 21 is Trafalgar Day: history, videos, art and links

May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my country and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature of the British Fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may His blessing light upon my endeavors for serving my Country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Horatio, Lord Nelson (wiki) (his prayer, 20 October 1805, on the eve of the Battle of Trafalgar) 

No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy.

~ Nelson (memorandum, written onboard HMS Victory, off Cadiz, 9 October 1805) 

ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY

~ Nelson's favorite signal* (made "general" to the fleet by him for the last time at 1156 on 21 October 1805) 

October 21 is Trafalgar Day (wiki), the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of England's greatest naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson (wiki) on 21 October 1805. Fought off the southwest coast of Spain, Trafalgar was the greatest naval victory of the Napoleonic wars and essentially destroyed the sea power of France in a single engagement. Nelson and the British fleet had been blockading the French and Spanish fleet under Villeneuve in Cadiz after pursuing it to the Caribbean and back. When Villeneuve finally emerged to give battle, Nelson, depending on the superior seamanship and fighting skill of his "band of brothers" and the British sailor, adopted an unorthodox tactic that split the French/Spanish line into three parts and led to a general melee in which the British took 19 ships without loss.

Larger version here. One of several paintings of the battle
 of Trafalgar by English artist J. M. W. Turner (wiki) (1875-1851) 
At the height of the battle however, Nelson was cut down by a French sharpshooter's bullet, and he died a few hours later. In his History of Modern Europe (1883), Charles Alan Fyfe wrote, 

"Trafalgar was not only the greatest naval victory, it was the greatest and the most momentous victory either by land or by sea during the whole of the Revolutionary War.** No victory, and no series of victories, of Napoleon produced the same effect upon Europe... Nelson's last triumph left England in such a position that no means remained to injure her."

* N.B. However, much more famous was his signal at the start of the battle:

"ENGLAND EXPECTS THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY"

Per the online searchable version of Chambers' Book of Days (1869):
There are three accounts of the matter one by Mr. James, in his Naval History; one by Captain Blackwood, who commanded the Euryalus at the battle of Trafalgar; and one by Captain Pasco, who had been Nelson's flag-lieutenant in the Victory. Sir Harris Nicolas accepts Pasco's version, because that officer had himself to signal the words by means of flags. His account runs thus: 'His lordship came to me on the poop, and after ordering certain signals to be made, about a quarter to noon he said: "Mr. Pasco, I wish to say to the fleet, 'England confides that every man will do his duty;' and he added, "you must be quick, for I have one more to make, which is for close action." I replied: "If your lordship will permit me to substitute 'expects,' for confides! the signal will soon be completed, because the word 'expects' is in the vocabulary, whereas the word 'confides' must be spelled?" His lordship replied in haste, and with scenting satisfaction: "That will do, Pasco; make it directly!"
In signal flags, this appeared as:


** Meaning here, the conflicts that followed the French revolution in 1789.

BBC's Battlefield Academy: Refight Trafalgar! - Refight Nelson's greatest battle against the remorseless Artificial Intelligence engine of the Academy.

Here's a 1955 newsreel of Queen Elizabeth celebrating Trafalgar day:



A short video re-enactment:



And an excellent 8 minute synopsis of the events leading to and following the battle, as well as of the battle itself:



Since this post is largely is about Trafalgar Day the Lady Hamilton affair is left out. BBC History has more on that, if you're interested.

Also, here's their Animated Map: Battle of Trafalgar - A step-by-step guide to the battle.

Larger version of this map, which details
the names of each ship, is available here.
Since this post is largely is about Trafalgar Day the Lady Hamilton affair is left out. BBC History has more on that, if you're interested.

Additional resources:

History.com's page on the battle.

British Battles Trafalgar page.

The Battle of Trafalgar by Andrew Lambert




The Art of War Gallery by Professor Daniel Moran


Women in Nelson's Navy by Nick Slope
Parts of the text above are adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Nine Drawn and Quartered at Renaissance Fair

This is from The Onion, written in 1995. Since it's getting difficult to find, I thought I'd copy it here:

RICHMOND, VA—Nine people were torn limb-from-limb and skewered through the anus with wooden stakes this weekend at the city’s annual Renaissance Fair. Organizers boast that the “Drawn and Quartered” show made this year’s fair one of the most authentic ever.



The early-Renaissance torture demonstration was one of many improvisations that peppered the fair ground, performed by actors from the local theatre community dressed in period costumes. These performances have been a fixture of past years’ fairs.

“The skits where we publicly tortured and humiliated ‘condemned heretics’ gave us by far the most response we’ve ever gotten,” actor Paul Mealen said. “Who would have thought that violence would appeal to people?”

In the skit, victims were randomly selected from the crowd, strung up on posts, and read official “charges.” A dirt-encrusted dagger was then used to saw off vital parts of the condemned. One man’s scrotum was cut off, causing his testicles to fall to the ground. According to witnesses, children at the festival then tossed the testicles back and forth as the victim watched.

Source
Vital organs such as the liver were cut out of further victims, then cooked and force-fed to them. The pale and barely conscious victims were then taken down from the posts and prepared for the next stage of their torture amid taunts and bellows from the crowd.

“We loved it,” said Both University of Virginia student Steve Limeneg, who, along with his friend Alicia Ponfret, was attending the fair for the first time. “It was like we were transported back to the real Renaissance. We got turkey drumsticks at the Ye Olde Grille, threw stones at the Drench a Wench booth—I won a stuffed jester doll—then we got to see this heretic forced to eat his own kidney.”

Added Richmond middle-school teacher Linda Rougfas: “It was a lot of fun. They picked my husband out of the crowd and he thought it was a kick. When they eviscerated him and he started screaming and begging for his life and crying out to me, the kids and I did our part, yelling ‘heretic!’ and so on.”

Next, four horses were tied to the arms and legs of each victim, and each horse was made to pull in opposing directions, summarily causing limbs to tear off and go skipping in every direction. Finally, the disembodied and helpless torsos were fed to packs of ravenous dogs. The victims’ horrific, wheezing screams caught the attention of the entire fair.

“I thought it was very impressive,” said Her-man Kline-mest, an executive at a nearby bank who partook of the fair with his wife and three children. “I en-joyed taunting the condemned, and my children enjoyed playing with the testicles.”

One volunteer was tied up and laid on his back spread-eagled, his legs held apart by a short beam roped to a horse. A long wooden stake was braced against a rock and inserted just a few inches into the participant’s anus. When the horse was given a snap from the whip, it bolted, causing the participant to be driven onto the stake until it thrust out of his mouth.

Festival organizer Liz Fendamn has been under pressure to compete with nearby Colonial Williamsburg for tourist dollars, and she said the event was popular enough to guarantee a return next year.

“We try to give people a merry ol’ time, m’Lord,” she said with a smile. “Ye can bet yer knickers we’ll be doing it again.”

She hinted they may even have the performing troupe dress like Spanish soldiers and wantonly slaughter masses of heretical fair visitors.

Though most everyone thought the fair was the most successful ever, several family members of the killed were not so enthusiastic.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wednesday links

Interesting bit of history: the readers who entertained cigar factory workers in the early 20th century.

Teach Yourself to Echolocate - a beginner’s guide to navigating with sound.


Happy Birthday, Rita Hayworth: here's an excellent compilation of her dancing, set to Stayin' Alive.



ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include the anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, how police will solve murders on Mars, an instructional video from 1960 on how to build your own fallout shelter, and a timeline of Bigfoot searches.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday links

October 14, 1066 is the anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings. After Harold surrendered, William the Conqueror seized all of the lands and divided them among his supporters - most of Britain still remains in the hands of the descendants of those early Norman conquerors.

4 Unofficial Rules Native English Speakers Don't Realize They Know.

How Will Police Solve Murders on Mars?

From 1960, here's how to build your own fallout shelter.

A Sasquatch timeline: The Story of the Search for Bigfoot

Retrofuture: How We Envisioned the Classroom of the Future.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include the centenary of the Spanish Flu epidemic (it killed more Americans than all the wars of the 20th century combined), the anniversary of the October 10th, 732 clash of civilizations at the Battle of Tours, how to get started with knife-throwing, and the ever-increasing hippopotamus herd of the late drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wednesday links

October 10th, 732 is the anniversary of the clash of civilizations at the Battle of Tours.

Throwing Knives Is Growing More Popular. Here’s How to Get Started

When drug lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead in 1993, his four hippopotamuses were left to fend for themselves in a pond. Now, there are dozens of them.

100 years ago - Why October 1918 Was America's Deadliest Month Ever: "By the time it abated in 1920, the Spanish flu had killed 675,000 Americans and left hundreds of thousands of children orphaned. Not only did more Americans die of the Spanish flu than in World War I, more died than in all the wars of the 20th century combined. Globally, the pandemic infected a third of the planet’s population and killed an estimated 50 million people."

The Century-Long Scientific Journey of the Affordable Grocery Store Orchid.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include DIY colonoscopies (plus a roundup of funny colonoscopy videos), the vegetable peeler that changed the world, the 2018 World Snail Racing Championship, and, from the late 1800s, a list of reasons for admission to an insane asylum.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Monday links

In honor of Columbus Day, here’s a list of the top 10 accidental discoveries. Related: Columbus cleared of importing syphilis from the Americas to Europe. Plus, that time Columbus tricked Jamaicans out of supplies using knowledge of an upcoming eclipse.

DIY colonoscopies. And here's a roundup of funny colonoscopy videos.

The untold story of the vegetable peeler that changed the world.

From the late 1800s, here's a list of reasons for admission to an insane asylum.


Why 95.8% of Female Newscasters Have the Same Hair.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include Dimitri Shostakovich's birthday, Georgian era stand-up comedy routines, hypnotic breast enlargement, and a short history of sleepwalking.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tuesday links

Composer Dimitri Shostakovich was born September 25, 1906: some quotes, history, and music.




This Is Your Octopus On Drugs.
 
A short history of Sleepwalking

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the physics of swirling your wine, Firefly's Unification Day, the 17th century Russian beard tax, seamless underwater-to-air communication, and the Great British Hedgehog Census. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

The 2016 Election as a Football Play

If the election had been a football play rather than a presidential election, and Hillary Clinton had been handed her position in it by Make-A-Wish rather than the Democrat establishment, the 2016 election would have looked something like this:


Composer Dimitri Shostakovich was born September 25, 1906: some quotes, history, and music

I always try to make myself as widely understood as possible; and if I don't succeed, I consider it my own fault.

Dmitri Shostakovich (quoted in Machlis, Introduction to Contemporary Music)

The composer apparently does not set himself the task of listening to the desires and expectations of the Soviet public. He scrambles sounds to make them interesting to formalist elements who have lost all taste... The power of good music to affect the masses has been sacrificed to a petty-bourgeois, "formalist" attempt to create originality through cheap clowning. It is a game of clever ingenuity that may end very badly.*

~ Pravda (on the Shostakovich opera Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk, "Muddle Instead of Music," January 1936)

Shostakovich told me: "I finished the Fifth Symphony in the major and fortissimo... It would be interesting to know what would have been said if I finished it pianissimo and in the minor." Only later did I understand the full significance of these words, when I heard the Fourth Symphony, which does finish in the minor and pianissimo. But in 1937, nobody knew the Fourth Symphony.**

~ Boris Khaikin (1904-1978) (Discourses on Conducting)

The cover of a 1942 issue of Time Magazine with the
caption "Fireman Shostakovich: 'Amid bombs burning
 in Leningrad, he heard the chords of victory.' Refers to
the Battle of Leningrad in which he served
 as a volunteer in the anti-fire brigades
There may be few notes, but there's lots of music.

~ Shostakovich (on his film music for King Lear; quoted in Wilson, Shostakovich, A Life Remembered)

Particularly during the Cold War, Shostakovich was anathema to many Western critics:

The Fifth Symphony of Shostakovich always has been singularly irritating to this chronicler... Whenever I hear one of his marches, my imagination fastens upon a picture of the parades in Red Square and the banners of Uncle Joe, and my irritation becomes powerful.

~ Cyrus Durgin (? - 1962) (Boston Globe, 25 October 1952)

To anyone who knew his music, a first encounter with Dmitri Shostakovich could not fail to be startling. In contrast to the elemental force, bombast, grandeur of his works, he was a chétif*** figure, the perennial student, unassertive and shy, who looked as though all the music could be wrung out of him in a couple of song cycles.

~ Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) (Unfinished Journey)

September 25 is the anniversary of the birth of Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich (wiki) (1906-1975), considered by some as the greatest symphonist of the 20th century. Born in St. Petersburg, Shostakovich was an early piano prodigy and studied composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory during the early Soviet era.

At first recognized internationally as an exemplar of the best of Soviet musicianship, he ran afoul of the regime with his modernistic opera, Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk, which so outraged Stalin that he is said to have had a personal hand in writing the infamous Pravda editorial, "Muddle Instead of Music" that literally put the composer's life in jeopardy during the "Great Purge" of the late 1930s. 

Shostakovich somehow survived, even though he was recurrently criticized by the regime for his “modernist” tendencies. During his subsequent tumultuous career, he produced an enormous oeuvre: 15 symphonies, concertos, a great quantity of chamber music, song cycles, piano music, and several operas. Generally considered a serious - almost tragic - composer, Shostakovich nonetheless wrote a large amount of “light” music, including even a stage work – Moscow Cheryomushki (1959) – that might be described as a Russian musical comedy.

Harry Potter looks exactly like
 a young Shostakovich
For newcomers to the music of Shostakovich, I would recommend his 4th, 5th, and 10th symphonies, the two piano concertos, the "autobiographical" 8th strinq quartet, his several "jazz" and "ballet" suites compiled from light works of the 1930s, and his film score for The Gadfly, whose "Romance" was used to great effect as the principal theme of the TV series, "Riley, Ace of Spies."

During the last two decades, there has been a raging musicological debate about whether the music of Shostakovich reveals him as a loyal Soviet citizen or a closet dissident whose works portray a tormented man. No one really knows. He was clearly a quirky guy. In contradiction to the opening quotation above, he noted late in life,
"I've said what I said. Either you have it in you to understand, or if not, then it would be fruitless to try to explain anyway."
* N.B. In the first year of the Great Purge, this last sentence was a terrifying threat.

** After the uproar caused by Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk, Shostakovich "redeemed" himself with his Fifth Symphony (1937), designated "A Soviet Artist's Response to Just Criticism," still one of his most successful and popular works. However, his iconoclastic Fourth Symphony, which had been in rehearsal at the time of the debacle, was withdrawn and did not emerge again until 1961. It is now considered one of the master's most original works and a fascinating indicator of "the road not taken." By the way, Boris Khaikin was a Soviet-Jewish conductor.

*** Chétif - a French word meaning "puny."

Here is the romance from The Gadfly:



More typical of Shostakovich is the opening of his 4th symphony:


Parts of the text above are adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.