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Posts Tagged ‘history’

One realization I had after studying a bit of history is how little say most people have in it. Traditionally, a limited number of people have been in charge of most things, usually to the detriment of the rest. (We remember the pyramids, for example, but what about those conscripted to build them?)

There’s a reason democracies attract people. 

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” 

― Winston S. Churchill (often quoted, still true)

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Today is voting day in the United States. Not sure where you need to go or what to bring with you? These sites can help.

Get to the Polls

How to Vote

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Yes, there are a lot of forces trying to pull us apart, and there are many aspects of our economic and social lives that could be improved. 

There are also many elements we agree on. Consider health, safety, education, holding doors for the elderly, giving up a seat for the pregnant, and of course, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The devil’s in the details, of course, and as anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the news or social media can tell you, we are flooded with examples of what’s broken on a daily basis. But that’s not all that’s happening, or all that is possible.*

There are a lot of ways to live and I happen to think that democracy is one of the best. (Just ask those pyramid builders.) That doesn’t mean the system can’t improve.

How can we make our voices heard? Vote.

How do we build a world that works? Together.

* For a break from doom and gloom, I recommend a visit to David Byrne’s Reasons to be Cheerful.

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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Years ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the Pyramids in Egypt. What I remember most is the sense of age, and of awe. Heat and dust, crumbling stone and the awareness that I was just the latest in a long, long line of visitors.

What I don’t clearly remember are the pyramids themselves. 

That’s fine, because we live in the future. Interested in seeing the interior of the Great Pyramid of Giza? Now you can see the full (known) extent of this world wonder. (And thanks to SFCanada’s Geoff Hart for finding this link.)

Inside the Great Pyramid | Giza Project

Have fun exploring!

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Photo by Isabella Jusková on Unsplash

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A young family member tried her first root beer float this past week. She preferred straight ice cream, in the end, but it got me thinking about the complex history of what appears to be a fairly simple treat.

From a societal standpoint, the road to such a dessert requires an understanding of the science of crystallization as well as carbonation, plus the ability to package and distribute the ingredients while maintaining temperature and freshness. 

From an entrepreneurial perspective, who came up with the idea of merging frozen dessert with thirst-quenching beverage in the first place?

A lot of folks, it seems.

Meet the people who claim to have invented (some version of) this classic dish:

  • Robert McCay Green, 1874, Philadelphia

The Delicious History of the Root Beer Float

As he was serving soda to his costumers, he ran out of ice to put in their drinks, so he decided to put ice cream in them to make them cold.

The Root Beer Float Was Invented In 1893 By A Gold Miner In Colorado – South Florida Reporter

The full moon that night shined on the snow-capped Cow Mountain and reminded him of a scoop of vanilla ice cream. He hurried back to his bar and scooped a spoonful of ice cream into the children’s favorite flavor of soda, Myers Avenue Red Root Beer. After trying, he liked it and served it the very next day. It was an immediate hit.

Whether these somewhat fanciful stories reflect the full truth we can’t know. What we do know is that by the end of the nineteenth century, the U.S. was awash with ice cream floats.

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Why so many instances of similar inventions, all around the same time? That takes us back to the bit about this particular creation being part of a complex system of social, technical and economic factors. Simultaneous invention happens all the time, with ideas big and small. 

In the Air | The New Yorker (Malcolm Gladwell)

The history of science is full of ideas that several people had at the same time.

So don’t worry that your idea for a vampire story or cake recipe or video game or mousetrap has already been done. The world needs new creations, and new versions of old inventions, all the time. Learn from what’s gone before, of course, but if a project captures your attention, pursue it.

It hasn’t been done your way. And your way may be exactly what the world needs right now.

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The purple cow (with grape juice and vanilla ice cream) has always been my favorite. Photo by Ryan Song on Unsplash

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As a bonus Father’s Day gift, today I’m featuring a podcast I know he’ll like.

A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs 

In it, Andrew Hickey discusses the history and culture of rock & roll as seen through 500 songs. He’s up to episode 150.

If you prefer to consume your media via the written word, each episode includes a transcript. I also found myself somewhat at a loss as to which, what and where, so (being me) I made an episode list with links. (If an index already exists, I didn’t see it.)

Note: I built the list by translating episode titles into URLs in Excel and haven’t tested every link, but hopefully they’ll get you to where you’re going.

Enjoy!

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A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs 
Episode 1: “Flying Home” by the Benny Goodman Sextet
Episode 2: “Roll ‘Em Pete” by Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson
Episode 3: “Ida Red” by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys
Episode 4: “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” by Louis Jordan
Episode 5: ‘Rosetta Tharpe and “This Train”
Episode 6: ‘The Ink Spots — “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”
Episode 7: ‘Wynonie Harris and “Good Rockin’ Tonight”
Episode 8: “The Fat Man” by Fats Domino
Episode 9: “How High The Moon” by Les Paul and Mary Ford
Episode 10: “Double Crossin’ Blues”, by Johnny Otis, Little Esther, and the Robins
Episode 11: “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats
Episode 12: “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” by Lloyd Price
Episode 13: “Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean” by Ruth Brown
Episode 14: ″Jambalaya” by Hank Williams
Episode 15: “Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton
Episode 16: “Crazy Man Crazy” by Bill Haley and the Comets
Episode 17: “Money Honey” by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters
Episode 18: “Sh-Boom” by the Chords
Episode 19: “That’s All Right, Mama” by Elvis Presley
Episode 20: “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets
Episode 21: “Rock Island Line” by Lonnie Donegan
Episode 22: “The Wallflower” by Etta James
Episode 23: “Pledging My Love” by Johnny Ace
Episode 24: “Ko Ko Mo” by Gene and Eunice
Episode 25: “Earth Angel” by the Penguins
Episode 26: “Ain’t That A Shame” by Fats Domino
Episode 27: “Tweedle Dee” by LaVern Baker
Episode 28: “Sincerely” by the Moonglows
Episode 29: “Maybellene” by Chuck Berry
Episode 30: “Bo Diddley” by Bo Diddley
Episode 31: “Only You” by the Platters
Episode 32: “I Got A Woman” by Ray Charles
Episode 33: “Mystery Train”, by Elvis Presley
Episode 34: “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard
Episode 35: “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers
Episode 36: “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins
Episode 37: “I Walk The Line” by Johnny Cash
Episode 38: “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley
Episode 39: “Please Please Please” by James Brown and the Famous Flames
Episode 40: “Drugstore Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Janis Martin
Episode 41: “Be-Bop-A-Lula” by Gene Vincent and the Bluecaps
Episode 42: “Ooby Dooby” by Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings
Episode 43: “I Gotta Know” by Wanda Jackson
Episode 44: “Train Kept A-Rollin’”, by Johnny Burnette and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio
Episode 45: “Blueberry Hill”, by Fats Domino
Episode 46: “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” by Chuck Berry
Episode 47: “Goodnight My Love” by Jesse Belvin
Episode 48: “Rock With the Caveman” by Tommy Steele
Episode 49: “Love is Strange” by Mickey and Sylvia
Episode 50: “Honky Tonk” by Bill Doggett
Episode 51: “Matchbox” by Carl Perkins
Episode 52: “Twenty Flight Rock”, by Eddie Cochran
Episode 53: “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Episode 54: “Keep A Knockin’” by Little Richard
Episode 55: “Searchin’” by the Coasters
Episode 56: “Bye Bye Love” by the Everly Brothers
Episode 57: “Flying Saucers Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Billy Lee Riley and the Little Green Men
Episode 58: “Mr. Lee” by the Bobbettes
Episode 59: “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis
Episode 60: “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke
Episode 61: “That’ll Be the Day” by The Crickets
Episode 62: “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley
Episode 63: “Susie Q” by Dale Hawkins
Episode 64: “Reet Petite” by Jackie Wilson
Episode 65: “Maybe” by the Chantels
Episode 66: “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis
Episode 67: “Johnny B. Goode”, by Chuck Berry
Episode 68: “Yakety Yak” by the Coasters
Episode 69: “Fujiyama Mama” by Wanda Jackson
Episode 70: “Move It” by Cliff Richard and the Drifters
Episode 71: “Willie and the Hand Jive” by Johnny Otis
Episode 72: “Trouble” by Elvis Presley
Episode 73: “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens
Episode 74: “It Doesn’t Matter Any More” by Buddy Holly
Episode 75: “There Goes My Baby” by the Drifters
Episode 76: “Stagger Lee” by Lloyd Price
Episode 77: “Brand New Cadillac” by Vince Taylor and the Playboys
Episode 78: “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles
Episode 79: “Sweet Nothin’s” by Brenda Lee
Episode 80: “Money” by Barrett Strong
Episode 81: “Shout” by the Isley Brothers
Episode 82: “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” by Elvis Presley
Episode 83: “Only The Lonely” by Roy Orbison
Episode 84: “Shakin’ All Over” by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates
Episode 85: “Three Steps to Heaven” by Eddie Cochran
Episode 86: “LSD-25” by the Gamblers
Episode 87: “Apache” by the Shadows
Episode 88: “Cathy’s Clown” by the Everly Brothers
Episode 89: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” by the Shirelles
Episode 90: “Runaway” by Del Shannon
Episode 91: “The Twist” by Chubby Checker
Episode 92: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens
Episode 93: “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes
Episode 94: “Stand By Me”, by Ben E. King
Episode 95: “You Better Move On” by Arthur Alexander
Episode 96: “The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva
Episode 97: “Song to Woody” by Bob Dylan
Episode 98: “I’ve Just Fallen For Someone” by Adam Faith
Episode 99: “Surfin’ Safari” by the Beach Boys
Episode 100: “Love Me Do” by the Beatles
Episode 101: “Telstar” by the Tornados
Episode 102: “Twist and Shout” by the Isley Brothers
Episode 103: “Hitch-Hike” by Marvin Gaye
Episode 104: “He’s a Rebel” by “The Crystals”
Episode 105: “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the MGs
Episode 106: “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen
Episode 107: “Surf City” by Jan and Dean
Episode 108: “I Wanna Be Your Man” by the Rolling Stones
Episode 109: “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Peter, Paul, and Mary
Episode 110: “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes
Episode 111: “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas
Episode 112: “She Loves You” by The Beatles
Episode 113: “Needles and Pins” by The Searchers
Episode 114: “My Boy Lollipop” by Millie
Episode 115: “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals
Episode 116: “Where Did Our Love Go?” by The Supremes
Episode 117: “Don’t Worry Baby” by the Beach Boys
Episode 118: “Do-Wah-Diddy-Diddy” by Manfred Mann
Episode 119: “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks
Episode 120: “A Hard Day’s Night” by the Beatles
Episode 121: “The Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las
Episode 122: “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
Episode 123: “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by the Righteous Brothers
Episode 124: “People Get Ready” by the Impressions
Episode 125: “Here Comes the Night” by Them
Episode 126: “For Your Love” by the Yardbirds
Episode 127: “Ticket to Ride” by the Beatles
Episode 128: “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds
Episode 129: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones
Episode 130: “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan
Episode 131: “I Hear a Symphony” by the Supremes
Episode 132: “I Can’t Help Myself” by the Four Tops
Episode 133: “My Girl” by the Temptations
Episode 134: “In the Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett
Episode 135: “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel
Episode 136: “My Generation” by the Who
Episode 137: “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” by James Brown
Episode 138: “I Fought the Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four
Episode 139: “Eight Miles High” by the Byrds
Episode 140: “Trouble Every Day” by the Mothers of Invention
Episode 141: “River Deep, Mountain High” by Ike and Tina Turner
Episode 142: “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys
Episode 143: “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
Episode 144: “Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees
Episode 145: “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles
Episode 146: “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys
Episode 147: “Hey Joe” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Episode 148: “Light My Fire” by the Doors
Episode 149: “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
Episode 150: “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles – A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs

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Photo by Il Vagabiondo on Unsplash

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“They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate.”

— From President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s official address announcing the D-Day invasion

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This interesting article discusses space exploration as an extension of the frontier mentality, how humanity’s complications underly a lot of science fiction, and asks, “Are the stars better off without us?”

Expanding Horizons | Atmos

A few years ago, in an attempt to lose myself in something other than winter lethargy, I became enthralled with The Expanse, a space drama that asks: what if humanity became a multiplanetary species? What would happen next?

“So much of the show is about resources and scarcity and the connection between economics and history”

It’s easy to write off The Expanse as “just” science fiction, but the ideas that the show wrestles with are important. Science fiction both holds a mirror to culture and acts as a source of inspiration. 

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Photo by David Gavi on Unsplash

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Today is (once again) March 14th or Pi Day. For some background, I’ve written about it before:

3.14 a.k.a. Pi Day

No Pie for Pi Day. Books Instead!

Blueberry Orange Pie

Because today is a Monday there will be no pie for me, but it turns out my every waking moment is likely touched by pi. Yours too.

The New York Times has an interesting article on the history of pi and how embedded it’s become in our daily life.*

Pi Day: How One Irrational Number Made Us Modern

In every field of human endeavor, from reconstructive facial surgery to the simulation of air flowing past a jet’s wing, billions of tiny, discrete elements stand in for an inherently smooth and analog reality. It all began with the computation of pi. Pi represents a mathematical limit: an aspiration toward the perfect curve, steady progress toward the unreachable star.

So I will appreciate all the ways the irrational infinite has come to shape our rational, finite experience.

Also maybe later this week, dessert.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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* Here’s a bit more history for those who are interested: Which Came First, The Algorithm or the Pi? – Now I Know.

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Yes, our part of Ontario is expecting freezing rain (thanks climate change!), but there’s still enough snow for that purest of winter joys, a snowball fight!

Snowball fight captured in film for first time 1897 | AccuWeather
The 50-second clip captures a group of people in Lyons, France, playing in snow and the chaos ensuing as a snowball fight between two sides turns into a surprise attack on a bypassing cyclist.

Like in the current day and age, there were many things the Lumière brothers could have filmed as world events brewed and boiled, but instead, they chose to make one of their many short films about people playing in the snow…

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Here it is again in a version has been upscaled and colorized, making it even more relatable.

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“A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.”

― Markus Zusak

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Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

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I love history. Not the memorization of dates and tests and such, but that moment where you realize in a sudden, visceral way that the past isn’t ever really gone. That the present is built on its bones.

I also like the idea of uncovering that past, either via literal bones or the items that people leave behind. Gold is nice and all (not least because it lasts) but I have a soft spot for the ordinary. What was once worthless, like a broken pot, a used envelope, translucent blue glass jar or a single button, becomes a window into the everyday.

A window in time, if you will.

From museums to restored footage to dragon bones (ok, not exactly but still) and virtual reconstructions, there are a lot of ways to see the past.

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I tend to prefer the more tactile alternatives. 

My mother used to take us out to a friend’s cabin in the woods. In winter we helped her gather sap for maple syrup, but in summer my brother and I would head to the stream at the base of the hill. The water had cut a small cliff into the shale, and if we were lucky and good we could find fossils. 

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Here are two examples of hands-on history I think would be fun to experience.

The fossil hunters of the Jurassic Coast

… with the West Dorset cliffs eroding at such a rapid rate, scientists alone could never hope to save even a fraction of the fossils emerging onto the beaches before they’re swept away by the waves. This has left amateur collectors as key partners in the fight to preserve the area’s extraordinary fossil bounty for study and display, and has, over the past two decades, fuelled a huge rise in the number of people visiting the local beaches in search of prehistoric treasures.

How to Mudlark

… the majority of the things salvaged from the mud are more recent—often medieval or later—and are small, humble reminders of what people used, maybe loved, and eventually discarded. Exploring the shore as a mudlark is like conducting a swift, simple, satisfying archaeological dig, with almost no digging at all.

More fun for the future!

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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I’ve always liked coins. 

Maybe it was my love of fantasy tales where every dragon had a horde and every economic transaction involved coinage (paper bills? what are those and why would I accept them when I could have a lovely gold piece?). Or the fact that coins encapsulate a wealth (see what I did there?) of information about a society’s evolving history, economy and culture. Or it might have had a little to do with my not-entirely-transitory pirate fixation (they were often bad, sometimes misrepresented, always fascinating). 

Regardless, I like coins. Back when we still went out and touched other people’s money, I saved the shiniest examples of each new coin I came across. I have a pressed penny collection. And I love new coin designs. When they have one of my favorite female writers on them? Win!

Maya Angelou becomes the first Black woman to appear on the U.S. quarter

Check out the U.S. Mint site for more on the America Women Quarters program.

And next Christmas, shiny new Maya Angelou quarters will be on my list!

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“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

― Maya Angelou

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Photo by Houcine Ncib on Unsplash

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