History Is Sooo Last Month!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

Flying-Calendar-Pages-604x432I’m always trying to think of new ideas for this blog to keep it interesting for all of you and of course for myself.  In the spirit of new ideas I’ve decided to make some changes starting this month.  The first change is that the Saturdays will no longer be dedicated to history.  That’s right guys: history is history!  I’ve found that looking up old events to be more of a chore than something fun.  The pervious history posts will still be available and there may still be a historic post from time to time.

history PAGE3With History being sooo last month I’m sure you’re all wondering what will take its place.  I’ve decided to shift Sunday’s “Check It Out” post category to take over on Saturdays for the foreseeable future after this entry! “But what is going to be happening on Sundays then?” you ask.  Don’t worry Beautiful Thinkers, Sundays haven’t been forgotten.  I’ve got a bunch of new ideas for Sundays that I’m sure you’re all going to love.  For starters, I got a funky new long focal lens for my iPhone camera so I’ll be posting my ties as an amateur photographer while I learn how to use that.

In that same realm of fun with cameras, my darling editor and I have been talking about making the occasional video for you lovely people.  There will probably be a lot of fun for us learning how to edit those.  And hopefully we don’t accidentally destroy something in the process.  Also, be on the look out for art, DIY projects, and other fun stuff as I start digging through old craft drawers in search of new ways to entertain myself.  I’m sure you’re all as excited as I am to see what’s going to happen.  Hopefully I won’t end up super gluing my fingers together.  We’ll find out tomorrow!

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Henry VII: A Model of Modern Celebrity Marriage.

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

The-tudors HenryI’m considering trying to watch The Tudors again.  The last time I tried to make it through the series I ended up stopping about halfway through the second season.  I don’t know why, but something about watching that show makes me physically exhausted.  But now it’s a personal challenge to make it through the whole thing.  To gear myself up and get into the true Tudor mindset, I did a little background about Henry’s many wives in the hopes that it might keep me more involved in the show.  Henry had six of them total, and not many of them got happily-ever-afters with him, as I’m sure you all know.

First up was Catherine of Aragon.  This girl had it rough on her way to becoming queen.  First she married Arthur, the son of Henry VII and brother of Henry VIII.  But before she could rise to queen status through this marriage, poor Arthur died.  But she wasn’t through with English royalty yet, and a little over a year after becoming a widow she was betrothed to Henry VIII.  It wasn’t until 1509, several years later, that they were actually married.  After bearing through several miscarriages and short-lived children, Catherine gained further heartache when Henry divorced her for Anne Boleyn.

Henry-VIII-and-his-wives.Boleyn was Henry’s great hope for a son.  Before he was even officially divorced from Catherine he married Anne in secret.  She gave birth to one child but it wasn’t the son Henry hoped for.  With a daughter from each wife he was still left without a male heir.  Within three years of marrying Anne, Henry grew infatuated with another woman.  Poor Anne was charged with adultery and plotting to murder the king, and she was taken to the Tower of London to be executed. Had Catherine been alive a few more months, she might have been able to laugh at the death of the woman who stole her husband.

Henry’s next wife, Jane Seymour, could arguably have been his favorite wife.  Jane Seymour was the first of his wives to give him a son, and Prince Edward was born in 1537.  This must have been proof enough for Henry that she was his true wife, and though she died shortly after childbirth, she was the only one of his wives to be buried in his tomb at St. George’s Chapel.  Jane practically died to give him the thing he always wanted; how could Henry ask for a better wife?

HenryWivesRegardless of whether Jane was perfect or not, she was still dead, which meant that before long Henry would be sniffing around for a new bride.  To his credit he didn’t marry again for two years, so maybe he did mourn for her a little.  His next marriage wasn’t out of love like the two before, but was an attempt at foreign alliance.  It also backfired horribly as Anne of Cleves only lasted from January to July of 1540 before they were divorced.  Still, that’s better than execution, which was the fate of another of Henry’s wives, Kathryn Howard.  They were only married two years before she was executed.

Katherine Parr was Henry’s last wife.  Ironically she was named for his first wife because her mother was a lady-in-waiting for Queen Catherine.  Katherine Parr was widowed twice before Henry met her.  Around the same time that he requested her hand in marriage she was also being courted by Jane Seymour’s brother.  She married Henry despite her feelings for Thomas Seymour and lived to become a widow for the third time when Henry died in 1547.  She married one last time to Thomas and gave birth to his child before she died a little over a year after Henry VIII.  I wonder, if she had lived longer, would she have gained as many husbands as Henry had wives?  She came pretty close and may have been the luckiest of his wives simply by outliving him.

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(I prefer the sexy Showtime version.)

Feeny Makes Us Appreciate the Printing Press!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

tumblr_mf1edqYE7v1qh5bybo1_250There are a lot of blogs out there, a lot of books, a lot of literary magazines, a lot of writing in general.  With so many places for us to put our writing out into the world it’s easy to forget this ability to reach the masses stems from one very powerful invention: the printing press.  This is another post brought to you by Boy Meets World; I caught an episode of it on TV the other day and it was the one where Cory, Shawn, and Topanga become game show stars.  I love when Mr. Feeny goes off on the whole class about how their generation wastes technology.

germany_east_1167Like Feeny teaches us, Johannes (Johann for short) Gutenberg invented the printing press.  This was all the way back in 1440, we’re talking pre-America here for any of you that are lacking a perception of how long ago it really was.  The concept of cutting the print out of wood and using it like a stamp with ink wasn’t exactly new, but the thing that made Gutenberg’s printing press so revolutionary was the moveable type.  Before this way of printing, all other forms of replicating a book took so long that it wasn’t possible to mass-produce.  It could take up to 20 years for a literary work to me transcribed by a monk.  But by 1452 the Gutenberg Bible was being mass-printed, soon leading to a boom in the production of texts all over Europe.  The book could then be sold for significantly cheaper than any hand written Bible.

gutenbergpressThe invention didn’t make Gutenberg rich though.  His investor, Johann Fust, forced him out of the original press and worked along side Gutenberg’s assistant Peter Schoffer.  Not long after Gutenberg died, there were print-houses established in over 2,500 cities throughout Europe.  The production of new volumes increased exponentially making it easier for people to become more informed.  It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this changed the way the world worked.  Bringing millions of books into print allowed an increase in education, inevitably leading to progress.

As the world continued to change, the industrial revolution further advanced printing technology.  Steam-powered rotary presses could print thousands of pages in a day.  Eventually this evolved to typewriters, copy machines, and laser printers.  And now with the Internet we can send off a tweet, email, or instant message sharing information with complete strangers around the world so easily that we hardly think about how difficult it was to learn something new before all this technology existed.

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PS I don’t have a printing press but my printer is wireless!

The Lincoln/Kennedy Conspiracy!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

Abraham_Lincoln_seated,_Feb_9,_1864There’s this post floating around Facebook that caught my eye the other day so I thought I’d give it a mention: the Abraham Lincoln/John F Kennedy Coincidences post.  With how popular Abraham Lincoln’s been getting in the past couple years, two in-theater movies, one b-movie, and quite a few books featuring Lincoln as the lead role, I’m not really surprised that something usually reserved for conspiracy theory forums has found its way into mainstream social media.  And I want to say this before I go any further: I’m not taking this post too seriously; it’s just facebook guys.

So let’s check these coincidences out shall we?  Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.  Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.  Lincoln was elected President in 1860 and Kennedy in 1960.  Both dates are exactly 100 years apart.  Sounds like an interesting coincidence right?  Some people say that since the first dates line up to 100 years apart it isn’t strange that the second dates line up the same.  But JFK was pretty young as far as a presidency is concerned, couldn’t he just as easily spent a little more time building up his career before running for office after he reached the average age of a presidential candidate?  And 100 years is totally enough time for Lincoln’s soul to be rebooted into a new person with a political pedigree.

220px-JohnFKMoving further down the list, both names Lincoln and Kennedy each contain seven letters, both men were particularly concerned with civil rights, both wives lost children while living in the White House, both men were shot on a Friday, and both were shot in the head.  Let’s break these down.  Seven letters is close to average for a surname, what politician doesn’t have an opinion on civil rights, I’ve got nothing for the dead children thing except some distasteful dead baby jokes, there’s a one in seven-day chance that the day you get shot in the head will be a Friday too, and if you’re planning to assassinate someone shooting them in the head is a pretty good way to guarantee the job gets done. None of these seem like a big deal individually, but that’s the whole point of the list: compiled they make you start to think, right?

AssassinsOkay skipping around a bit and speeding right through: both were assassinated by southerners, both were succeeded by southerners, both successors were named Johnson, Andrew Johnson was born in 1808, and Lyndon Johnson was born in 1908.  So put together in this way I could give you a really crazy conspiracy theory involving evil vice presidents plotting against their presidents, and then throw in a dash of reincarnation, but let’s be honest, you’ve all already reached the same conclusion right?  I mean it’s so obvious that Andrew Johnson got a fellow southerner to kill Lincoln.  Then when Lincoln was reborn as Kennedy, Andrew Johnson came back from the dead, got plastic surgery, took on the name Lyndon (keeping the last name Johnson switching his birth year from18 to 19 so he wouldn’t get too confused.  Plus he’s a zombie now so that probably happens easily), and built a political career so that he could get a new southerner buddy to kill Kennedy/reincarnated Lincoln in the hopes that he’d stay dead this time.  Are you still following me?

So both assassins are known by their three names and both names total fifteen letters each, which pretty *wink wink nudge nudge* of the aliens that put the conspiracy into motion, isn’t it?  I’m glad you noticed it too.  Also, Booth ran from the theater and was caught in a warehouse and Oswald ran from a warehouse and was caught in a theater.  Obviously one of them got the aliens’ message backwards.  Both were assassinated before their trails, of course, because the aliens didn’t want them testifying.  The other coincidences on the original conspiracy list that’s floating around the internet turned out to be inaccurate, especially the last one.  A month before Lincoln was assassinated, he was in Monroe Maryland.  A month before Kennedy was assassinated he was in Marilyn Monroe.  I hope that last part isn’t true because that would make Kennedy a fan of necrophilia; Marilyn sadly died over a year before Kennedy.  But the sexy play on words gave us a laugh which is all we’re really looking for from this post.

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The Liberty Bell! Would You Really Lick It?

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

250432I was re-watching the first season of How I Met Your Mother recently, back when they were still hilarious and I wasn’t just watching to finally find out who’s going to marry Ted. Small rant aside, the episode where Ted and Barney go to Philadelphia made me curious about something. What’s the story of the Liberty Bell? I know what it looks like and where it is but I haven’t given it much thought before now. So I guess this post is brought to you in part by How I Met Your Mother.

liberty_bell_1The first thing I learned was that it wasn’t always called The Liberty Bell. When it was first cast in London in 1751 it was simply called the State House Bell. It was recast twice after coming overseas. The names “Pass and Stow” and words “Philada / MDCCLIII” were added during these recastings by local craftsmen John Pass and John Stow. The new name didn’t come with the recasting though. The first instance of referring to it as the “Liberty Bell” was by a group of abolitionists in the 1830’s. The group took the name from the inscription on the bell “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

page02_message01The message was chosen from the bible, Leviticus 25:10, and held particular significance to both the Pennsylvania Assembly, who ordered the bell, and the abolition groups that adopted the bell as their symbol. The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered it in honor of the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges. The time span of 50 years was relevant because of the preceding line “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year.” The cool thing was that the while the message before the inscription line was relevant to one group, the message following was relevant to the other. “It shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family,” easily interpreted to work for the abolitionists.

All of that information was agreed upon by the National Park Service website, VisitPhilly.com, and ushistory.org, but no matter how many sites I looked at I couldn’t seem to find a straight answer of how exactly the bell was cracked. There is a general consensus that the original bell from London was cracked but this isn’t the iconic crack that we know today because as I mentioned the bell was melted down and recast. Also, none of the sites seem to know a specific date when the current bell was cracked. Maybe the exact cause is in a more detailed account in a book somewhere, or maybe there are some things you just need a time machine to figure out.

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P.S. I saw a lot of pictures of people licking replicas of the Liberty Bell. I wonder if it was a trend before How I Met Your Mother? Either way I hope they had gum to get rid of the taste after.

The Kerouac Project: Scoring Orlando Literary Cool Points!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

6a00d8341c630a53ef01538e64e7d6970b-800wiHere in Orlando there is a thing called The Kerouac Project, a residency program for writers to come and stay in the once home of Jack Kerouac himself.  I thought it was pretty cool to have that type of program run out of what should be a city landmark, so I looked into the history of the project and it proved to be pretty interesting.  For a long while after Kerouac lived there the house remained unnoticed by the city or biographers; it simply became part of the lore of the northwest neighborhood of College Park that the famous author had lived in the area.  Apparently not many people know the exact details and it became one of those “a friend of a friend told me” type situations.

OTR Penguin 90 coverIn 1996 a reporter by the name of Bob Kealing took an interest in the house.  He called John Sampas, Kerouac’s brother-in-law and estate executor, to get confirmation on the rumors of the house.  Sampas knew the exact address of the house where Kerouac actually lived with his mother in 1957.  According to Kealing this house was where Kerouac lived when his classic On the Road was published and where he typed the original manuscript of his sequel Dharma Bums.

After reading Kealing’s article about his discovery of the house in 1997, local bookshop owners Marty and Jan Cummins approached him with the idea of the Kerouac Project.  They proposed buying the house, fixing it up, and turning it into a haven where up-and-coming writers could stay while working on their own poetry or writings.  Fortunately they found benefactors who helped them put a down payment on the house.  After an article about the project was printed in USA Today they gained the last of the money needed to purchase the property from Jeffery Cole, a long time fan of Kerouac.

The project had a very successful kick-off event attended by Kerouac’s friend and musical collaborator David Amram.  Kealing and Cole both did readings of Kerouac’s work. Since it’s founding, the project has been noticed by many media sources including The LA Times, The Boston Globe, CNN, and National Public Radio.


Applications for the Kerouac house are accepted year-round but are only reviewed after the deadline.  The current deadline for the 2013-2014 residencies is fast approaching on March 31, 2013.  The results of which applicants earned their place at the Kerouac house will be announced in May.  The Kerouac Project holds four residencies a year divided into seasons:

Fall: September, October, and November

Winter: December, January, and February

Spring: March, April, and May

Summer: June, July, and August

If you’re an emerging author interested in a residency or just looking to attend an event at this historical house check out the Kerouac Project online.  It’s an interesting piece of Orlando’s literary culture and history.

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PS Kerouac must have been a cat whisperer because I couldn’t get the cat in my picture to pose like the one in his.

The Telephone: Best Gossip Tool of the 19th Century!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

With the return of NBC’s series Revolution just around the corner I started thinking, “what would I do without technology?”  This led to the question of which item I’d miss the most: my cell phone.  What did we do before cell phones?  Actually, what did we do before phones in general?  And that thought process is how my mind came up with the topic for today, the invention of the telephone!

97b/03/vict/0371/50Alexander Graham Bell is a name that many of you already know as inventor of the telephone.  It turns out that around the same time in the 1870s a second inventor, Elisha Gray, was also working on his own version of the telephone.  It’s a fairly popular story that the two of them rushed to the patent office within hours of each other, but Bell made it first and won the claim of inventor of the telephone.

As it turns out though, Bell didn’t originally plan on inventing this machine.  His original intent was to create a means to improve the telegraph, the established form of long distance communication at the time.  The telegraph was only able to send one message at a time, so with the help of Thomas Watson and the funding of Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Bell believed that he could send multiple messages across the same wire if they were notes of different pitch.

BellTelephone1876Bell and Watson discovered that they could send sounds through the wire in 1875 when Bell heard the sound of a clock spring “twang” while working on his “harmonic telegraph.”  Within a year’s time, on March 10 1876, Bell spoke the first words to be sent via telephone “Mr. Watson – come here – I want to see you.”  Within the next twenty years telephones were everywhere.  The original Bell Telephone Company started in 1877 is the ancestor of what we now know as AT&T.  So all you AT&T users can claim bragging rights that your cell phone’s great, great, great grandphone was the first phone ever.  Alright so it’s a little more complicated than that, but if I followed the rabbit hole of company growth and take-overs all the way down to Bell’s original company, I’d probably be begging for a Revolution-style blackout to come so I wouldn’t have to keep typing for days about each step.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

shamrocksHappy St. Patrick’s Day! So in honor of this wonderful holiday and my own Irish roots I decided to look up the history of St. Patrick’s Day.  According to History.com it is the celebration St. Patrick who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.  March 17th marks the anniversary of the Saint’s death in the fifth century.  He is now known as the Patron Saint of Ireland and best remembered for using the shamrock’s three leaves to explain the holy trinity.

031813_weekendroundup_jp15.jpgIt might surprise you to know that Ireland didn’t always celebrate this holiday with the festivals and parades that it has today.  In fact there was a law mandating that all pubs would be closed on March 17th until it was repealed in the 1970s.  It wasn’t until 1995 that there was a national campaign by the Irish government to showcase Ireland and Irish culture with a multiple-day festival surrounding St. Patrick’s Day.  Now the St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin celebrates with parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions, and fireworks shows.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother interesting fact is that the United States held the first parade in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  Irish soldiers serving in the English Military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762.  The celebration of this holiday continued to grow in the states from that time on.  By the late 1840s several of New York’s Irish Aid Societies united to form an official New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Now there are hundreds of interesting ways of celebrating the holiday all over the United States.  My favorite form of celebration is the annual dyeing of the Chicago River green. This first started in 1962 when they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river, enough to make the river green for a week.  Now they only use 40 pounds of dye, enough to turn the river green for several hours.

Back when I was younger my mom came up with an awesome way to combine celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and a Dr. Seuss classic, so we had green eggs and ham as our St. Patrick’s Day breakfast.  I still haven’t had a St. Patrick’s Day that topped that one.  However you’re celebrating today I hope that you’re having an awesome St. Patrick’s Day.

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Pistols at Dawn!

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

s306bI was recently insulted by an acquaintance.  I won’t bore you with the details, to be honest I don’t remember what actually happened, my point is that it made me start thinking.  Whatever happened to dueling the people that insulted us?  Okay so I don’t really want to shoot this person come dawn the next day.  I find a good comeback to be so much more affective than a bullet.  After all, a good verbal lashing shows you’ve got wit and fight in you, and the right retort can haunt a person so much longer than a physical scar.

My thoughts inspired me to look into the history of pistol duels.  I found an article online titled How Duels Work that was bursting with info on the subject.  The author, Ed Grabianowski, gives a lot of great information and manages to inject some of his personality so it doesn’t just feel like you’re reading straight from a textbook.  From this article and a couple others that basically said the same things, I found out that the pistol duel wasn’t just sparked by an insult and then resulted in a fight. There are far more rules than you see in the TV shows and movies.

a_pistol_duel_by_Basia_AlmostTheBraveThe most interesting thing I learned is about the duelist’s “second.”  I had no idea that the “second” was actually supposed to stop the duel from ever happening, or at least do their best.  They were basically the go-between for everything between the two duelists.  A “second” should try to get an apology from the man that did the insulting which apparently would be enough to restore the honor that was damaged by their insult.  This is unless the insult was in the form of a physical attack.  To hit another man was something you couldn’t go back from so easily.  If you didn’t want to go through with the duel after hitting a man, your options were letting him beat you with a cane or being known as a coward.

Nowadays the “second” option might not seem so bad.  I mean, who really puts that much stalk in what’s written on the bathroom walls?  But back in dueling days cowardice wasn’t just shown with words, it was a reputation that would follow you and your family to the grave.  It could follow your children and possibly even your children’s children.  Not exactly the legacy anyone wants to leave behind, especially when dueling was mostly used between those of noble decent.  Better to die with honor than lose the king’s favor for your whole family line.

In the end, dueling died off for a couple of different reasons.  It lost popularity with nobles when dueling weapons became more available to commoners, and like true hipsters, once everyone else is doing it they didn’t want to anymore.  Honestly it was more complicated than that.  For instance, authorities began to disapprove of it too as it started to be needless death in a time when soldiers were needed for wars.  Grabianowski remarked that the spirit of dueling still lives on in some sports like boxing and tennis.  But now I just have the mental image of a verbal duel with all the formality of a classic pistol duel. Again sorry for the lack of pictures today. I’ll be back to a land of stable internet connections soon.

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Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?

Hello Beautiful Thinkers,

angel_202_300I recently re-watched the Angel episode in season 2 titled “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been” and started thinking about that expression.  It’s one of those phrases that are just floating around in my head and I have no idea why they sound so familiar.  So it was time again to fire up the search engines.  Turns out that searching the episode title alone was pretty much useless because it just brought up a bunch of blogs having to do with that episode of Angel. While yes I am a crazy Joss Whedon fan and I could spend all day talking about his television shows, I kept my focus and started a new search. (Let’s have a quick moment of pride for my resistance against getting sucked into the Whedon World.)

Back to the matter at hand, during my search I found that the phrase sounds so familiar because of the five seconds we spent covering that big communist scare from the 40’s and 50’s in my high school history class.  Turns out the full question is, “are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party?”  I also found that a lot of political news articles have rehashed the beginning of that question for their stories.  So it’s more than just that one day of history class; this phrase is referenced quite a bit.

blacklistedThe original story is that the United States government became kind of paranoid about communism in our government around the time of the Cold War.  I guess they were worried that everyone who shared that political perspective could be a spy for the Russians.  The result was a massive witch-hunt for communists and sympathizers. (Think the Crucible but with updated outfits.) It seems like this hunt also had a large impact on the Hollywood movie industry at the time.  Many screenwriters, directors, and actors were blacklisted for not wanting to rat on the people they knew who may have been involved in communist politics.

I really shouldn’t put the blame solely on the government though.  The House Committee on Un-American Activities was the group responsible for the hearings in which that oh so memorable question was asked over and over.  Senator Joseph McCarthy had accusations of his own but focused his search on others in the government and military, instead of those in the entertainment field.  McCarthy capitalized on the fear of the nation that only grew as more reports of atomic bomb threats and other overseas trouble were featured in the newspapers.


Television became the downfall for these attacks on the accused US citizens.   As McCarthy’s interrogations gained momentum, the media began televising the hearings.  Once the general public was able to witness the cruelty of the campaign against the Army’s men first hand, McCarthy’s popularity plummeted.  The senator ended up being censured for dishonoring his position of power.

My question now is how much of this history will make its way into that new FX series The Americans?  I know that it’s set in a different time period but it seems like a similar subject and something they could pull a lot of references from throughout the show.  So Beautiful Thinkers, are you or have you ever been?

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