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Monday, May 20, 2019

In 2014 SCOTUS ruled that an Illinois law forcing home health-care workers—paid with Medicaid funds—to pay union dues was unconstitutional. In 2017, unions were still collecting $150M




Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday links

Smoking Psychedelic Toad Milk May Help Depression.

How to Turn 12 Everyday Items Into Improvised Weapons

The Hughes H-4 Hercules, The World’s Largest Flying Boat That Flew for Only 26 Seconds.

Science: Why is the sky blue? How do bees and butterflies see? How does an igloo keep you warm?


Car Keys Mysteriously Stopped Working in This Small Ohio Town, And We Now Know Why.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include ancient Chinese buildings held together with sticky rice, why cats (and other animals) look as if they're wearing socks, and medieval toothpaste recipes (plus more medieval dental advice).

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday links

May 12 was the birthday of Victorian poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti - here's a brief bio, some art and poetry, and a bit on his obsession with wombats.

Ancient Chinese Buildings Are Held Together With Sticky Rice.

This Plane Accidentally Flew Around the World - After Pearl Harbor, the crew of Pan Am flight 18602 was forced to do the impossible.

Five medieval toothpaste recipes, plus more medieval dental advice.

Why Do Cats—and So Many Other Animals—Look Like They’re Wearing Socks?


ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include a roundup of Mother's Day links, the 1970s flying Winnebago, an explanation of why we forget what we're doing when we enter a room, and, for Fred Astaire's birthday, clips of some of his best dancing.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

May 12 is the birthday of Victorian poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti

One of many self-portraits
The blessed damozel leaned out
From the gold bar of Heaven;
Her eyes were deeper than the depth
Of waters stilled at even;
She had three lilies in her hand,
And the stars in her hair were seven.
 
~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti ("The Blessed Damozel," st. 1) 
 
If you paint as well as you write you may be a rich man, or at all events, if you do not wish to be rich, may get leisure enough to cultivate your writing.  But I need hardly tell you that poetry, even the best... is not a thing for a man to live upon while he is in the flesh, however immortal it may render him in spirit. 
 
~ Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) (letter to Rossetti, March 1848) 

He produced several versions of Proserpine (wiki) (sometimes Proserpina), the Roman goddess who lives in the underworld during Winter, using Jane Morris* (wife of his friend and fellow pre-Raphaelite William Morris) as model. On the top right his sonnet, in Italian, is inscribed by the artist - the same sonnet in English is inscribed on the frame (see below).
 
The final of several iterations of Proserpine, the Roman
 goddess who lives in the underworld during Winter,
with Jane Morris as model.
Per Rossetti, on Perserpine: 

"She is represented in a gloomy corridor of her palace, with the fatal fruit in her hand. As she passes, a gleam strikes on the wall behind her from some inlet suddenly opened, and admitting for a moment the sight of the upper world; and she glances furtively towards it, immersed in thought."

The sonnet:

Afar away the light that brings cold cheer
Unto this wall, – one instant and no more
Admitted at my distant palace-door
Afar the flowers of Enna from this drear
Dire fruit, which, tasted once, must thrall me here.

Afar those skies from this Tartarean grey
That chills me: and afar how far away,
The nights that shall become the days that were.
Afar from mine own self I seem, and wing
Strange ways in thought, and listen for a sign:
And still some heart unto some soul doth pine,
(Whose sounds mine inner sense in fain to bring,
Continually together murmuring) —
'Woe me for thee, unhappy Proserpine'.

~ D. G. Rossetti

* Rossetti stayed with his lover Jane Morris, wife of William Morris, at Kelmscott Manor during the summer months each year - in winter she returned to stay with William Morris, thus paralleling, at least from Rosetti's point of view, Proserpine's freedom during summer.
  
Blue Gazebo - larger version here. Note the medieval millefleur
("thousand flowers") style background - characteristic of the pre-
Raphaelites in general, although less so of Rossetti in particular.
May 12 is the anniversary of the birth of English poet and pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (wiki) (1828-1882).  Born in London, Rossetti founded the "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" (wiki) in 1848 with Holman Hunt, John Millais, and others to protest low standards in British art - the Pre-Raphaelite movement sought to revitalize British art by returning to the spiritual qualities of medieval painting, with an emphasis on detailed observation of the natural world and the use of pictorial narrative to convey "truth". Some of his best paintings were done under the patronage of John Ruskin and the influence of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, all of whom Rossetti befriended early in his life.  

In both his paintings and his poetry (such as "The Blessed Damozel"), Rossetti presented idealized portrayals of womanhood. He was also a prolific translator of early Italian verse from Dante's circle - leading Ruskin to describe him as "a great Italian lost in the inferno of London."

Here's an archive of his art works and one of his poetry.

I'm a huge fan of pre-Raphaelite art, and, back in the 70s when I was into fantasy, I read everything William Morris ever wrote. About them as a group, though, and their weird interactions - I've run into a little bit as part of other articles, but every time I run into more I realize, once again, how weird they were. Here's a bit on insight into that:

On Dante Gabriel Rossetti and wombats. (London Review of Books) (There is a book on this, by the way: Rossetti's Wombat: Pre-Raphaelites and Australian Animals in Victorian Londonin case you're interested. I'm not that interested.): an excerpt from the article is is below, but read the whole thing.
He had two, one named Top after William Morris, whose nickname ‘Topsy’ came from his head of tight curls. In September 1869, Rossetti wrote in a letter that the wombat had successfully interrupted a seemingly uninterruptable monologue by John Ruskin by burrowing its nose between the critic’s waistcoat and jacket. Rossetti drew the wombats repeatedly; he sketched his mistress – William Morris’s wife, Jane – walking one on a leash. In the image, both Jane and the wombat look irate. Both wear halos.

Rossetti's sister, Christina Rossetti (wiki) (1830-1894), who lived much of her life as a virtual recluse, is also remembered as a major Victorian lyric poet. Here's one of the illustrations he did for her poem "The Goblin Market" (wiki) (full poem online) - note all of the wombats:


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.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Friday links


The Flying Winnebago: For some reason the heli-camper never really caught on.

How Leonardo da Vinci Drew an Accurate Satellite Map of an Italian City in 1502.

It's Fred Astaire's birthday - here are clips of some of his best dancing.


What Is Going On With UFOs And The Department Of Defense?

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include the anniversary of V.E. Day (when World War 2 ended in Europe), how the 1969 “Paul McCartney is Dead” hoax came about, a 1911 trans-Saharan ostrich heist, and the 1973 Turkish Captain America movie in which he teams up with a Mexican wrestler to fight evil Spiderman (who murders people with, among other things, shower nozzles and guinea pigs).

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Five medieval toothpaste recipes, plus more medieval dental advice


In general, being a grandma, I tend to think that old ways are always the best. Medicine (including dentistry) is a definite exception. Medieval dentistry is something that most of us probably don't want to think about in any depth, but apparently there are those who do so. Some of the toothpaste recipes below are from a 2004 article in Nature by Trevor Anderson -  the full article (PDF) is here, Here's an excerpt:
John of Gaddesden wrote the Rosa Anglica in Latin around 1314AD... John’s section on toothache includes many prayers and charms. He mentions that anyone who prays to St Apollonia (wiki) on her feast day (February 9th) will be cured of toothache. St Apollonia (d.c.249AD) was an elderly deaconess of Alexandria who was martyred by having all her teeth extracted and was then burnt alive.
One charm involved repeatedly drawing three vertical lines on parchment (to represent running water) while touching the painful tooth with one’s finger. He also mentions that, ‘some say that the beak of a magpie hung from the neck cures pain in the teeth’. Apparently, he is not convinced by this particular charm. He also states that you should prick a ‘many footed worm which rolls up in a ball when you touch it’, with a needle. You then touch the aching tooth with the same needle and, ‘the pain will be eased’. Obviously, a reference to pain transference from tooth worm to the worm-like centipede.
Other recipes are from The Trotula (wiki), a set of medieval texts on women's medicine.

Medievalists.net:

1. According to Gilbertus Anglicus’ Compendium of Medicine, it is important to rub your teeth and gums with a cloth after eating, because it is important to ensure that “no corrupte mater abyde amonge þe teeþ” (“no corrupt matter abides among the teeth,”) Anderson, p.421). 

You can also munch on a paste of pepper and salt for that lovely scratchy feeling, and old-fashioned taste. Gilbertus advises, “chewe þid poudir a good while in [your] mooþ, and then swolle it down” (“chew this powder a good while in [your] mouth and then swallow it down”, Anderson, p.421). As a side benefit, you’re likely to clear your sinuses while you’re at it.

2. From one part of The Trotula, one of the most famous books of medieval remedies and beauty tips for women, comes a recipe “For Black Teeth”:

… take walnut shells well cleaned of the interior rind, which is green, and … rub the teeth three times a day, and when they have been well rubbed … wash the mouth with warm wine, and with salt mixed in if desired. (p.102)

I’m not sure how much anyone would desire mixing salt with the wine, but there you have it: black teeth whitened.

3. This second tooth-whitening recipe from The Trotula may work even better, since it requires wiping the teeth after swishing the wine, preventing unsightly wine stains on the teeth. This recipe requires a bit more effort:
Take burnt white marble and burnt date pits, and white natron, a red tile, salt, and pumice. From all of these make a powder in which damp wool has been wrapped in a fine linen cloth. Rub the teeth inside and out. (p.122)
After that, be sure to do the wine rinse again, “with very good wine” (p.122), then “dry” and “wipe” the teeth “with a new white cloth” (p.122). Perhaps the white cloth helps you find all the wine stains. Finally, finish by chewing on “fennel or lovage or parsley” (p.122) for good oral health and fresh breath.

4. Need to take your toothpaste on the road? No problem. The Physicians of Myddfai have got your back. You can either scrub “briskly” with just one herb – “elecampane” (Anderson, p.420) – or you can make handy powder balls to bring with you:

Take the leaves of sage (Salvia officinalis), powder with as much again of salt, and make it into balls. Bake them till they are burnt and powder. Let your teeth be rubbed frequently therewith. It will render the teeth clean, white, and sweet. (Anderson, p.420)

Who could ask for anything more?

5. This last recipe from The Trotula is for people who are rich and want their teeth to show it. The writer does say this one “works the best”, so, naturally, I’ve saved it for last.

Take some each of cinnamon, clove, spikenard, mastic, frankincense, grain, wormwood, crab foot, date pits, and olives. Grind all of these and reduce them to a powder, then rub the affected places. (p.112)

Your breath, with its mix of frankincense and crab foot, will let everyone know just how wealthy you are. (You’re welcome.)

More on medieval tooth-whitening in particular and medieval dentistry in particular:


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday links

Today is V.E. Day: on May 8, 1945, World War 2 ended in Europe.

How the 1969 “Paul McCartney is Dead” Hoax Started at an American College Newspaper and Went Viral.


The recent release of Avenger's: Engame brings to mind another Captain America movie - the 1973 Turkish version in which he teams up with a Mexican wrestler and fights evil Spiderman (who murders people with, among other things, shower nozzles and guinea pigs).

Why The Concorde Is Such a Badass Plane.

The Strange Tale of the Great 1911 Trans-Saharan Ostrich Heist.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the dark origins of Snow White, plastic surgeons sculpting belly fat into chiseled six-packs, the history and invention of Jell-O, and, for Oliver Cromwell's birthday, his excellent (and evergreen) speech throwing out the corrupt Parliament (plus the posthumous travels of his head).

Monday, May 6, 2019

V.E. Day: on May 8, 1945, World War 2 ended in Europe

May 8th is the anniversary of V.E. Day (for "Victory in Europe") (wikiBBC) in 1945, which saw the German surrender and the end of World War II in the European theater
The beaten foe emerged.
Winston Churchill waves to crowds London on V-E Day.
All over the broad Atlantic, wherever they had been working or lying hid, the U-boats surfaced, confessing the war's end. A few of them, prompted by determination or struck by guilt, scuttled or destroyed themselves, or ran for shelter, not knowing that there was none; but mostly they did what they had been told to do, mostly they hoisted their black surrender flags, and stayed where they were, and waited for orders. 
They rose, dripping and silent, in the Irish Sea, and at the mouth of the Clyde, and off the Lizard in the English Channel, at the top of the Minches where the tides raced; they rose near Iceland, where Compass Rose was sunk and off the north-west tip of Ireland, and close to the Faeroes, and on the Gibraltar run where the sunk ships lay so thick, and near St. Johns and Halifax and in the deep of the Atlantic, with three thousand fathoms of water beneath their keel. 
They surfaced in secret places, betraying themselves and their frustrated plans: they rose within sight of land, they rose far away in mortal waters, where on the map of the battle, the crosses that were the sunken ships were etched so many and so close that the ink ran together. They surfaced above their handiwork, in hatred or in fear, sometimes snarling their continued rage, sometimes accepting thankfully a truce they had never offered to other ships, other sailors.
They rose, and lay wherever they were on the battlefield, waiting for the victors to claim their victory. 
~ Nicolas Monsarrat ("V.E. Day," from The Cruel Sea)

May 8th is the anniversary of V.E. Day (for "Victory in Europe") (wiki, BBC) in 1945, and commemorates the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allied forces, ending World War II in Europe.*

With Adolf Hitler dead by his own hand, German military leaders signed surrender documents at several locations in Europe on May 7, capitulating to each of their victorious foes. Germany’s partner in fascism, Italy, had switched sides in 1943, though many Italians continued to fight alongside their German comrades in Italy.

Upon entering the war in December 1941, the United States had agreed on a “Europe first” strategy: concentrate on defeating Germany, Italy and their satellites rather than focusing the bulk of men and resources on the war in the Pacific. V-E Day, therefore, marked a major milestone for the Allies but did not end the war, as Allied governments pointedly reminded their citizens. Attention turned to finishing the war against Imperial Japan. More on that here:
It's V-J Day, the anniversary of the date of Japan's surrender in 1945 and the end of WWII.
* N.B. It's referred to as "Victory Day" in Russia and is celebrated on May 9th.

People dance in the streets of London on
VE Day, 8 May 1945
English novelist Nicolas Monsarrat (1910-1979) was born in Liverpool and earned a law degree at Cambridge. With the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and served on the North Atlantic convoys for several years. This experience led to his crafting perhaps the most highly regarded novel about modern naval warfare yet written - The Cruel Sea - which appeared in 1951 while its author was serving as a British diplomat in South Africa. An equally esteemed motion picture, starring Jack Hawkins, was made of the book two years later, and it remains a classic today. Several other Monsarrat novels followed, but none ever gained the stature of The Cruel Sea.

Below is a generous theatrical trailer for The Cruel Sea, which actually shows some of the best bits.

Here's the Youtube description:
The novel The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monserrat was an unflinching portrayal of life at sea during WWII on a boat tasked with protecting convoys and seeking and destroying U-boats. A runaway success, the novel had already sold over 4 million copies in just 2 years when Ealing decided to make the film version. Filmed aboard an actual Royal Navy corvette, The Cruel Sea tells the story of the sailors aboard the HMS Compass Rose: the bonds that form between them, the daily pressures they face and their epic struggle to overcome the enemy. Nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film, The Cruel Sea stars Jack Hawkins, Sir Donald Sinden and Stanley Clarke, and is a gripping insight into the lives of unsung heroes at sea during the war, and the agonizing decisions and incredible peril they faced on a daily basis.


And a brief documentary:



Related posts:

It's V-J Day, the anniversary of the date of Japan's surrender in 1945 and the end of WWII.

Churchill's "We shall fight on the beaches...we shall never surrender" speech: the evacuation of Dunkirk by a flotilla of small boats.

June 6 is D-Day: quotes, videos (footage, FDR's and Reagan's speeches), lots of links.

March 5 is the anniversary of Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain speech.


Before there was Laffer: Churchill on the fiscal cliff.

Parts of the text above are based on 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.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Why We Get Dizzy (…and Astronauts Don’t)

From BrainCraft:



More at Popular Mechanics:
When an astronaut first gets onboard the ISS, they feel constantly dizzy because the fluid in their inner ear is floating around in zero-g instead of staying put like on Earth. After the first couple of days, their brain adapts by essentially ignoring signals from the inner ear in favor of inputs from the eyes. Once that happens, it becomes very difficult to force the brain to start paying attention to the inner ear again.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Thursday links

April 25 is ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli: here's some history, restored footage, a documentary, and a Lego re-enactment.


Without the Great Calculator Race of the 1970s, there would be no iPhone.

It's Oliver Cromwell's birthday - his excellent speech throwing out the corrupt Parliament is evergreen, plus the posthumous travels of his head, and bonus Monty Python.

The Dark Origins of the Tale of Snow White


ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include coverage of the annual Sasquatch Calling Festival, the McDonalds Monopoly Fraud (from 1995 to 2001, there was only one real winner - Uncle Jerry), photos of the live-action models for Disney's 1959 "Sleeping Beauty", and film of the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed that 80% of San Francisco.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

April 25th is ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli

Ship after ship, crammed with soldiers, moved slowly out of the harbour, in the lovely day, and felt again the heave of the sea. No such gathering of fine ships has ever been seen upon the earth, and the beauty and the exaltation of the youth upon them made them like sacred things as they moved away... 

These men had come from all parts of the British world... They had said good-bye to home that they might offer their lives in the cause we stand for. In a few hours at most, as they well knew, perhaps a tenth of them would have looked their last upon the sun, and be a part of the foreign earth or the dumb things that tides push. Many of them would have disappeared forever from the knowledge of man, blotted from the book of life none would ever know how, by a fall, a chance shot in the darkness, or alone, like a hurt beast, in some scrub or gulley, far from comrades and the English speech and the English singing.

John Masefield (wiki) (Gallipoli)*

Damn the Dardanelles. They will be our grave.

~ Admiral Sir John Fisher (to the Dardanelles Committee, 1915)

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours... you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.

~Mustafa Kemal - Atatürk (wiki) (tribute to the ANZAC dead, 1934)

Map of the battle - larger version here
April 25th is celebrated in Australia and New Zealand as ANZAC Day, commemorating the key participation of the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in the ill-fated Allied assault on the Turkish-held Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 during World War I. This was one of the first large-scale amphibious invasion of modern times and the first major military operation in which Australia and New Zealand participated on behalf of the British Empire. As a result, the Gallipoli campaign was perhaps the key  defining event for Australia's nationhood, as it was in a sense for Turkey's also. Turkish Lieutenant-Colonel Mustafa Kemal, the hero of Gallipoli's successful defense, later became the founder of modern Turkey, adopting the name "Atatürk" - father of the Turks.

source
Today much of the Gallipoli Peninsula is a Turkish national park with over 20 cemeteries lovingly tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. We visited there several years ago on ANZAC Day, taking a bus with a dozen or so others, mostly Aussies, from the nearby town of Canakkale to tour the cemeteries and battlefields. The tour guide read the Ataturk quotation above, along with, as is typical, the fourth stanza of Lawrence Binyon's For The Fallen:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Followed, as is also typical, by "Lest we forget..."

The Making of a Legend, The Landing at Anzac Cove by Lambert
The visitor can not help but be struck by the stark, natural beauty of its steep, scrubby, deeply-gullied terrain and sadly moved by the remembrance of the tens of thousands of men on both sides who lost their lives there in a futile clash of empires - only a few miles across the "wine-dark sea" from the ruins of ancient Troy. Of that earlier struggle, Homer wrote in book XIII of the Iliad,

"It is not possible to fight beyond your strength, even if you strive."

* N.B. John Masefield was the Poet Laureate of England from 1930 until his death in 1967. He served as a medical orderly on the Western Front in World War I and later wrote Gallipoli to counter German propaganda seeking to exploit the British defeat there.

The most readable account of the Gallipoli campaign remains Alan Moorehead's venerable history, Gallipoli, from the late 1950s. Also, the 1981 Australian movie of that same name, starring the young Mel Gibson, is an excellent evocation of both the horror and exhilaration of those times. There's a more recent movie, apparently, but I'm not familiar with it, and... Mel Gibson.

Several years ago, Peter Jackson restored and aggregated quite a bit of contemporaneous Gallipoli film:



Here's a 9 minute documentary:



And, as seems inevitable these days, there's a Lego reenactment of the events:



There's a good article on the 2015 centennial at The Guardian, and much more at the Australian government's site.

Parts of the text above are based on 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.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thursday links

T'was the eighteenth of April in seventy-five: The midnight ride of William Dawes and Samuel Prescott (and Paul Revere)

Coverage of the annual Sasquatch Calling Festival.


On April 18, 1906, an earthquake and fire destroyed 80% of San Francisco: here's a documentary, Library of Congress footage of the destruction, and side by side film of Market Street four days before the earthquake compared to afterward.

The Village Where They Pelt a Man in a Monster Costume With 30 Tons of Turnips.

The McDonalds Monopoly Fraud: from 1995 to 2001, there was only one real winner - Uncle Jerry.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include beer can history, how to dismantle a nuclear missile, Leonardo DaVinci's resume, tax-related links, and the anniversary of Lincoln's assassination (with a televised eyewitness report from 1956).

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

T'was the eighteenth of April in seventy-five: The midnight ride of William Dawes and Samuel Prescott (and Paul Revere)

Listen my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
'Twas the eighteenth of April in seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (wikiPaul Revere's Ride, stanza 1)

The entire poem is at the bottom of this post.

Paul Revere (wiki) gets all of the credit, but he never actually finished that famous ride, and in fact warned the British that the Americans were coming. William Dawes and Samuel Prescott were left out of the poem and subsequently most elementary history books: it was actually Samuel Prescott who completed the midnight ride. 

Revere would be surprised that he ended up receiving sole credit for the midnight ride. In addition to Dawes and Prescott, dozens of other men helped spread the word that night. Revere started other express riders on their way before leaving Boston, and he also alerted others along his journey. They too began riding, or shot guns and rang church bells to alert the community.

Revere covered 13 miles in less than two hours, but he was not working alone. British patrols were posted along the roads, which is why more than one messenger was used for the mission.

In addition to omitting the efforts of Dawes, Prescott and dozens of nameless midnight riders, Longfellow's poem contains other errors as well; most notably, the signal of two lanterns hanging in the Old North Church was a signal from Revere, not a signal to Revere. In his defense, Longfellow didn't intend for the work to be an historical account - the 1860 poem was meant to inspire his countrymen on the eve of the Civil War.

Click to embiggen.


Here's William Dawes' story:

I am a wandering, bitter shade,
Never of me was a hero made;
Poets have never sung my praise,
Nobody crowned my brow with bays;
And if you ask me the fatal cause,
I answer only, "My name was Dawes."

William Dawes
'Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear --
My name was Dawes and his Revere.

When the lights from the old North Church flashed out,
Paul Revere was waiting about,
But I was already on my way.
The shadows of night fell cold and gray
As I rode, with never a break or a pause;
But what was the use, when my name was Dawes!

History rings with his silvery name;
Closed to me are the portals of fame.
Had he been Dawes and I Revere,
No one had heard of him, I fear.
No one has heard of me because

He was Revere, and I was Dawes.

~ Helen F. Moore (1851-1929) ("The Midnight Ride of William Dawes," Century Magazine, 1896)

On the evening of April 18, 1775, General Thomas Gage, the British commander in Boston, dispatched a contingent of troops to seize a supply of arms and powder that the colonial insurgents had stored at Lexington and Concord, as well as to arrest two leading patriots, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were also hidden in the area. 

As every schoolchild knows, Paul Revere's ensuing midnight ride called the local militia to arms, and the battles of Lexington and Concord followed the next day. Largely obscured by the great renown of Longfellow's poem, "Paul Revere's Ride" (included in his Tales of a Wayside Inn of 1863), is the fact that two other men - William Dawes (1745-1799) and Dr. Samuel Prescott (1751-1777) - also rode that night to spread the alarm. Moreover, it can be argued that Revere was the least successful of the three, because although he and Dawes were both captured by the British, Dawes escaped to arouse Lexington, and then Prescott carried the word to Concord. 

For some, the midnight ride conjures images of Paul Revere riding through the night, shouting out, "The British are coming! The British are coming!" But this phrase would have made no sense to the colonists; everyone at that time thought of themselves as British. Instead, Revere spread his message subtly by saying something along the lines of, "The Regulars are coming." The troops were known as Regulars, Redcoats or The King's Men. The troops called the colonists country people, provincials, Yankees, peasants or rebels.

Here's Longfellow's entire poem:

Paul Revere
Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Old North Church
Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

The Revolutionary War began the next day - April 19, 1775. Here's Emerson:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled; 
Here once the embattled farmers stood; 
And fired the shot heard round the world. 

Ralph Waldo EmersonConcord Hymn (stanza 1)

Remember the kerfuffle when Sarah Palin mentioned that Revere actually told the British that the Americans were coming and the "intellectuals" on the left, who got their history from the poem, made much of what an idiot she was?

Revere captured by Regulars (source)
During Paul Revere’s ride he was stopped by British soldiers, which Revere recounts in a 1789 letter maintained by the Massachusetts Historical Society, in his original language:
observed a Wood at a Small distance, & made for that. When I got there, out Started Six officers, on Horse back, and orderd me to dismount;-one of them, who appeared to have the command, examined me, where I came from, & what my Name Was? I told him. it was Revere, he asked if it was Paul? I told him yes He asked me if I was an express? I answered in the afirmative. He demanded what time I left Boston? I told him; and aded, that their troops had catched aground in passing the River, and that There would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up. He imediately rode towards those who stoppd us, when all five of them came down upon a full gallop; one of them, whom I afterwards found to be Major Mitchel, of the 5th Regiment, Clapped his pistol to my head, called me by name, & told me he was going to ask me some questions, & if I did not give him true answers, he would blow my brains out. He then asked me similar questions to those above. He then orderd me to mount my Horse, after searching me for arms. He then orderd them to advance, & to lead me in front. When we got to the Road, they turned down towards Lexington. When we had got about one Mile, the Major Rode up to the officer that was leading me, & told him to give me to the Sergeant. As soon as he took me, the Major orderd him, if I attempted to run, or any body insulted them, to blow my brains out. We rode till we got near Lexington Meeting-house, when the Militia fired a Voley of Guns, which appeared to alarm them very much.
Further reading: 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Monday links

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” 


Tax day quotes, cartoons, links, Dave Barry, and the 1967 cartoon version of The Beatles "Taxman".


Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865 - quotes, a brief synopsis of events, and a televised eyewitness report from 1956. Also, For Sale: The Telegram That Announced Abraham Lincoln’s Death.


For Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday, check out his handwritten resume from 1482


ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the science of dog farts, the Florida town where people cut off their appendages for insurance money, photos of Italy in the mid-1800s, and that Time the US military made flying saucers.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Leonardo da Vinci’s Handwritten Resume (1482)

Leonardo da Vinci (wiki) was born on April 15, 1452 and died on May 2, 1519. He was an Italian polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of paleontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, his genius epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.

Before he was famous, before he painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, before he invented the helicopter, before he drew the most famous image of man, before he was all of these things, Leonardo was an artificer, an armorer, a maker of things that go ‘boom,’” writes Marc Cendella on his blog about job-searching and recruitment advice. “Like you, he had to put together a resume to get his next gig. So in 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote out a letter and a list of his capabilities and sent it off to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.” Having yet to establish his reputation as perhaps the Italian Renaissance’s most respected polymath, Leonardo spelled himself out, in translation, as follows:
Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.
1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.
2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.
3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.
4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.
Giant crossbow (more here)
5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.
6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.
7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.
8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.
9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.
Water lifting devices (larger version)
10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.
11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.
Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.
And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency – to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc.
Even the densest fifteenth-century Duke, I wager, could see the use in a man able to make portable bridges, get water out of trenches, destroy rock built upon rock, fling a storm of stones, fortify vessels, pass under rivers, and make everything from “big guns,” catapults, mangonels, and trabocchi to unattackable covered chariots. Though Leonardo understandably concentrates on his wartime engineering skills, he also touches on the range of other disciplines — Renaissance man, remember — he has mastered, like architecture, sculpture, and painting. Perhaps most impressively of all, he rattles off all these points without seeming particularly boastful, a feat seemingly out of the reach of many college graduates today. “You’ll notice he doesn’t recite past achievements,” Cendella adds, “because those are about his achievements, and not about the Duke’s needs.” 

NPR has translated Leonardo's To-Do List.