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Friday, October 27, 2017

Video: Halloween pumpkin carving tricks

Here's an excellent pumpkin carving kit.

More videos from the same guy:

How to Make a Flaming Pumpkin
How to Make a Smoking Pumpkin.

Friday links

Excellent site for DIY intelligent women's costumes.

This 1935 Car of the Future Had Huge Spheres Instead of Wheels.

The Strange Real-Life Origins of the Fiendish Werewolf.

We've come a long way... from 2013: Obama Mask for Halloween? That'll get you and your 750 fellow employees sent to re-education camp.

Scientists Are Just Starting to Understand Earth's Eighth Continent, Zealandia.

The Bloodiest Day in American History: 31 Rare and Haunting Photos From the 1862 Battle of Antietam.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include Napoleon-era travel tips, the anniversary of the day the earth was created (October 26 in 4004 B.C. at 9AM), instructions for dog costumes, 1930s giant frog farms, and a gallery of Art Nouveau architecture. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thursday links

10 Travel Tips From the Age of Napoleon.

The Giant Frog Farms of the 1930s Were a Giant Failure.

gallery of  gorgeous Art Nouveau architecture.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include a noise-canceling ramen fork, the anniversary of three major battles (Agincourt, the charge of the Light Brigade, and Leyte Gulf), why "won't" is the contraction for "will not", and videos of various ways to explode pumpkins.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Excellent site for DIY intelligent women's costumes

The site is Take Back Halloween, intended to provide more options than this:

Here's the idea:
We’re not selling any of this stuff. We’re a resource guide: we come up with the costume designs, explain what you’ll need to pull off the look, and provide links to where you can buy the various components.
As an example, here are parts of their Athena page:

Athena is easily the best-known and most popular Greek goddess. Yet none of the so-called “Athena” costumes for sale out there look remotely like her. Come on, people! She’s Athena! Helmet! Shield! Spear!

There were two very important statues of Athena on the acropolis in ancient Athens. The colossal statue inside the Parthenon was 38 feet tall, with the clothing made entirely of gold. The smaller wooden cult statue was life-sized, and dressed in a special gown made every year by the women of Athens. This dress was actually a tapestry, with scenes of mythological battles woven in purple and saffron. We can’t lay our hands on anything like that for our costume, but we are including a purple himation (wrapped cloak) with gold threads. The pieces we suggest, from left to right:

1. Gold satin flat sheet. This is for your tunic. The Greeks wore simple draped tunics of dyed wool, a look which is easily replicated with sheets and safety pins. We give you instructions below on how to pin it together. A full size sheet will work for most people.

2. Purple veil with gold and silver threads. Also available at Moondance and Artemis Imports. This is your purple himation. Loop it under one arm and knot it on your opposite shoulder.

3. Greek helmet. This is from the movie 300, which is as close as we’ll get to a Greek helmet without paying a fortune. We suggest cutting off the nose piece. This is a very flimsy latex helmet, so don’t expect a lot. Another option is this helmet, which seems to have real bristles in the crest (not molded plastic). The helmet itself is definitely made out of fabric, so you can cut and trim it to suit.

4. Greek shield. Another 300 movie prop.

5. Greek spear. Same deal.

6. Plush 9″ barn owl. Adorableness is not a trait usually associated with Athena, but this stuffed owl is adorable. Use safety pins to attach it to your shoulder at the place where your cloak is knotted. The owl is Athena’s totem animal; in fact, when you get right down to it, Athena is an owl. She’s the Neolithic bird goddess: owl-eyed Athena.

Optional snake armband: The snake is the other animal associated with Athena. Her statue in the Parthenon was accompanied by a humongous rearing snake, worked in gold like the rest of the sculpture. If you want to incorporate some snake references in your costume, you might consider a fat snaky armband like this. Athena doesn’t wear jewelry, so this would be your only ornament.

Shoes: Gold gladiators would be ideal. If you don’t have those, just basic flat leather sandals will work.

How to make the tunic: The simplest ancient tunic for costuming purposes is the Doric chiton, which consists of a single rectangle of fabric folded around the body. All you need is a flat sheet, some safety pins, and a belt or cord. You can get a rope belt here, or just buy some rope, cut off an appropriately-sized piece and tie off the ends. Here are your chiton instructions:

See the rest of the Athena page here.

An easier option, sticking with mythology, is Medusa - you get a snakey headpiece and cover it with a black turban or just a black scarf - here are instructions for wrapping your scarf into a turban. Add a pair of black sunglasses so you don't accidentally turn anyone into stone, a Matrix-esque black duster, and/or and wear your own black clothes.

Instructions for dozens of other costumes at the website.

From 2013: Obama Mask for Halloween? That'll get you and the other 750 employees sent to re-education camp

Acceptable use of presidential masks in 2017
Remember when making fun of the president was big time doubleplus bad think? The article below is from 2013.

Hillary and Trump masks are probably safe. Obama masks are available, but wear at your own risk.

I've posted the entire article below, because the original is no longer available (I copied it from a cached version):


A picture of a Jennie Stuart Medical Center employee wearing a President Barack Obama mask and a straitjacket was taken Friday at the hospital’s annual costume party.

The man wearing the mask is accompanied by two African-Americans dressed as security guards. The three hospital workers in the photo are identified as David Jones, DeWayne Oliver and Mike Hobson, and the group won third place in Jennie Stuart’s costume contest for their skit titled, “VIP Special Delivery.”

Jeff Taylor is a Hopkinsville resident who has worked with a number of focus groups dealing with race relations over the last 20 years. He said the photo is offensive because of the imagery it invokes. The trio wasn’t simply making fun of the president, explained Taylor, who is black, they were doing it in a racially offensive way.

“I have no problem making fun of a president if you come out in a suit and tie and a mask of a president,” he said. “But the difference is you have an African-American president in bondage. That’s just, to us, it’s iconic of slavery. It’s demeaning and degrading to us, and it’s certainly disrespectful to the president and his family.”

Taylor, who works with TVA on economic development issues in the area, said his wife is an employee at Jennie Stuart and several of her friends at the hospital were also offended by the skit. However, Taylor said they would not file a complaint for fear of retaliation.

Austin Moss, vice president of human resources at Jennie Stuart, issued a statement to the hospital employees after the photo surfaced. In the statement, he said the annual Halloween costume contest is always a highly anticipated event at the hospital, and it has been the hospital’s intention to keep events such as that one light and fun.

“He takes full responsibility for the presentation of the skit and apologizes to anyone who was offended,” Jennie Stuart spokesman Jim Goss said Monday on Moss’ behalf.

Moss continued in the statement by saying that, regardless of who the president is, it is a position that deserves respect and honor, and he will require hospital employees to refrain from political, religious, cultural or otherwise offensive costumes and representations at future employee functions.

Additionally, Goss said the hospital will be requiring diversity training with its annual mandatory education requirement for its employees.

Goss would not say if the hospital took any disciplinary action against the employees who participated in the skit because personnel matters are confidential.

John Banks, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, was enraged when he first saw the photo. He said he could tell immediately from the background that it was taken at the hospital, which to him added another layer of distaste because of the controversy surrounding the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature health care law.

“I don’t know why they’re making a mockery of him and putting him in that kind of costume as if he was out of his mind in these critical times,” Banks said.

Banks said this depiction of Obama was a mockery unlike any other because no president in history has been dehumanized as much as Obama has. Banks called for a public apology and for the hospital to take action against the employees who participated in the skit.

“There’s a policy that deals with something like this,” he said. “I’m asking that hospital policy apply to that kind of action. It’s a suspension, a warning or removal.”

While the skit featuring Obama in a straitjacket won third place, a costume of a surgeon in full makeup won first, and a group of four employees dressed up as the people from the television show “Duck Dynasty” won second.

Reach Carla Jimenez at 270-887-3262 or

via Mark Steyn, who says, "Is none of these 750 thought-criminals man enough to tell the Diversity Commissar to take a hike?"

Exploding pumpkins: C4 and Det Cord, 50 cals, cannons, and muskets

Watch full screen:

And here's Pumpkins, Cannons and Muskets... BOOM!:

How many pumpkins will a 50 cal shoot through?:

If you want more, there are lots of exploding pumpkins videos at youtube.

By the same guy as the video at the top, from an earlier holiday: How many Peeps can a 50 cal go through?

Wednesday links

October 25 is the anniversary of 3 major battles: Agincourt, the charge of the Light Brigade and Leyte Gulf.

Things you didn't know you needed - Nissin Introduces a Noise-Canceling Ramen Fork.

In 1901 Ladies Home Journal predicted the world would look like this in 2001.

Exploding pumpkins: C4 and Det Cord, 50 cals, cannons, and muskets.

How Charlie Chaplin’s Wife Saved His Backyard Fortune. He was banned from the U.S., and had buried a lifetime of Hollywood earnings.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include a short 1901 film with some rather impressive special effects, fashion tips from the Middle Ages, the Krakatoa volcanic eruption in 1883 (it was so loud it ruptured eardrums of people 40 miles away), and how The Princess Bride built that sword-fighting scene.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

October 25 is the anniversary of 3 major battles: Agincourt, the charge of the Light Brigade and Leyte Gulf

A day for battles: 

Battle of Agincourt
He which hath no stomach for this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispin:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see his old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors,
And say "Tomorrow is Saint Crispin":
Then he will strip his sleeve and show his scars
And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."

Henry at Agincourt
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names
Familiar in his mouth as household words:
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us on Saint Crispin's day.* 

~ William Shakespeare (1564-1616)  (King Henry V, Act 4, Sc. 3) 

Light Brigade battle map: Click here to embiggen
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward the Light Brigade!"
"Charge for the gund!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

"Forward the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Light Brigade at Balaclava
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder;d.
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson (wiki) (1809-1892) ("The Charge of the Light Brigade," stanzas 1, 2, 3, and 6) **

Our ships have been salvaged and are retiring at high speed toward the Japanese fleet. 

~ Admiral William Halsey (1882-1959) (remark, 26 October 1944, in response to an enemy report that his 3rd Fleet had been sunk or was fleeing Leyte Gulf.) 

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt (wiki) in 1415, when the English under King Henry V defeated the French on St. Crispin's Day (25 October) of that year. Henry (1387-1422) followed his father King Henry IV to the throne in 1413 and two years later announced his claim to the French throne and rekindled the Hundred Years War by invading Normandy. 

In a post-battle compromise, Henry later married Catherine of Valois and was named by France's Charles VI as his successor, but Henry's untimely death to illness in 1422 prevented him from assuming the French kingship. In Shakespeare's famous passage above, Henry rouses his troops for the conflict the night before Agincourt. 

Light Brigade
This is also the anniversary of the "the charge of the Light Brigade" (wiki) at the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854. Although of relatively little importance in the larger context of the Crimean War, Balaclava has emerged as its most famous encounter because of Tennyson's poem, which immortalizes the brave, but foolhardy, British light cavalry assault on massed Russian guns and infantry at the end of a shallow valley near Sevastapol. Of the 673 men who started out, 118 were killed outright, and only 195 remained on horseback at the end of the encounter. French Marshall Pierre Bosquet, who observed the action, famously remarked, 

"C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas le guerre." 
(It is magnificent, but it is not war.)
Map of the Leyte Gulf battle (source) - click here to embiggen.
And finally, today is the anniversary of the largest naval encounter of World War II in the Pacific, the Battle of Leyte Gulf (wiki) (which actually lasted from 23 to 26 October 1944), in which the U.S. Third and Seventh Fleets decisively defeated the Japanese Combined Fleet after the latter sortied in an attempt to destroy the forces supporting the ongoing Allied invasion of the Philippine Islands. The U.S. victory at Leyte Gulf essentially destroyed the Japanese Navy as a fighting force, and its remnants posed little threat for the remaining months of the war.

* N.B. Saint Crispin's day honors the memory of two Christian twins - Crispin and Crispinian - who were martyred by the Romans in Britain, ca. A.D. 286.

I'm a HUGE fan of Kenneth Branagh's Henry V - here's the speech quoted above (watch full screen):

The rather fascinating story of Henry V's injury at the age of 16 - he took an arrow to the face in the battle of Shrewsbury - and the surgical treatment that saved his life, are recounted in the video below and in this excellent article: Prince Hal’s Head-Wound: Cause and Effect.

** This Documentary on the Charge of the Light Brigade includes graphic quotes from survivors, and includes the original 1890 recording (made by Thomas Edison) of Alfred Tennyson reading part of his famous poem:

And here's a brief documentary on Leyte Gulf:

The text above is 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.