Tag Archives: history

strange brew. the mix of politics, snowmen and history.

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                                                     The Snowman’s Oddly Political History

Turns out the winter sculpture has served more than just aesthetic purposes.

If there’s a white, fluffy layer of snow on the ground, odds are you’re itching to play in it. And if you’re playing in the snow, what else would you do but roll it into a ball? And then another, slightly smaller one. And then a third. Stick on some arms, a face and maybe some accessories, and voila: You’ve become a part of a millennia-long tradition.

As long as there have been humans in the snow, there have probably been snowmen. Trying to discover where the first one was built is like trying to track down the first person to ever sneeze; almost as soon as it happened, it was gone. But, throughout history, some of our frosty friends have been more notable than others. And their stories have survived long after the protagonists had melted away.
1. The first snowman ever drawn was Jewish. Uncovered by Bob Eckstein for his book, The History of the Snowman, the earliest known depiction of a snowman sits in a manuscript of The Book of Hours from 1380.The oddly anti-Semitic drawing features a Jewish snowman melting near a fire. The accompanying passage describes the crucifixion of Jesus.
2. Your best snowman will probably never live up to the one Michelangelo made. In 1494, a prince known as Piero the Unfortunate commissioned the artist to build a snowman in the Medici courtyard. Though very little is written about the work, one art critic from the time said it was astonishingly beautiful.
3. Snowpeople have been used as acts of political protest. Though today’s snowman has become a reliable holiday character for those wishing to remain secular and apolitical, they weren’t always used for such impartial purposes. In 1511, people in Brussels were miserable. On top of being poor and hungry, they were also dealing with “The Winter of Death,” where freezing temperatures lingered over the city for months. The government decided that a snowman festival would be perfect for raising spirits. And they were right, just probably not in the way they had hoped. Aspiring snow artists covered the city in pornographic snow sculptures, as well as graphic caricatures of prominent citizens. The officials let them have their fun, hoping that as the sculptures vanished in the spring, the people’s angst would melt away too.
4. The snowman was one of the world’s earliest models. The first photograph of a snowman was taken by Mary Dillwyn in 1845, shortly after the camera was first invented. So, the first photo of a snowman is also one of the first photos of anything. Ever.

first-snowman                                              First Snowman – Mary Dillwyn/National Museum of Wales

5. Snowmen may have helped the French fight Prussia. As the king of Prussia sought to expand his territory by invading Paris in 1870, two French soldiers and artists revived spirits with acts of snow sculpting. In the Bicêtre fortress, they constructed “The Resistance,” a snowwoman sitting on a cannon, and “The Republic,” a stoic snow-bust in a cap. The snow-crafts weren’t enough, though, and Prussia ultimately won the war of 1870. Some historians state that the grudge held by the people of France from this defeat helped drive the country’s victory in World War I.

6. The tallest snowperson in history is from Michigan. The home of the world’s tallest snowman is Bethel, Michigan. Bethel first earned the distinction in 1999 with Angus King of the Mountain. But when no other city rose to take the title in the ensuing years, Bethel decided they’d have to beat their own record. In a feat of feminism, they constructed Olympia – the 122-foot-tall snowwoman – in 2008. She had eyelashes made of skis, lips made of car tires, a 100-foot-long scarf, and a six-foot-long snowflake pendant.

Credits: Smithsonian Magazine, Mental Floss Magazine, The History of the Snowman – Bob Eckstein, The Book of Hours, Annie Garou, Mary Dillwyn, Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.

bo knows good company.

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1970s vintage plaid with a few of my favorites:

 Glen Campbell, Johnny Orr, Gerald Ford, Bo Schembechler, Cy Laughter

in honor of the big game tomorrow

this one’s for you, coach bo

go blue.

‘the key is to keep company only with people who uplift you,

whose presence calls forth your best.”

-epictetus

image credit: ann arbor townies, leslie orr

 

two in half a million.

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a woodstock moment – 40+ years later

on a whim, a young duo went to the legendary festival

only to be captured in a memorable image

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two in half a million:

bobbi kelly and nick ercoline greet the dawn

on august 17, 1969.


“this is the way to hear music, i think,

surrounded by rolling hills and farmlands, under a big sky.”

― uwe michael lang, The Road to Woodstock

credits: burk uzzle (photo), life magazine, tim dumas, smithsonian magazine

 

the north.

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our street in cushendall

filled with flowers

and friendly locals

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high tea at culloden estate filled with tradition and treats

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 st. patrick’s cathedral in armargh

filled with flowers and family roots

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glencraig school and community

for developmentally challenged people of all ages

filled with caring and compassion

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titanic exhibit in belfast

filled with history, heroics, love, and loss

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bright stars.

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Astronomy Nuns
Sisters Emilia Ponzoni, Regina Colombo, Concetta Finardi and Luigia Panceri mapped the positions and brightness of 481,215 stars. 

These Little-Known Nuns Helped Map the Stars.

A century later, the identities of women who mapped over 481,000 stars are finally known.

The history of astronomy is riddled with underappreciated women who looked to the stars long before their scientific contributions were recognized. But the constellation of early women astronomers is glowing brighter, writes Carol Glatz for Catholic News Service, with the recognition of four once nameless nuns who helped map and catalog half a million stars in the early 20th century.

Glatz reports that the nuns, Sisters Emilia Ponzoni, Regina Colombo, Concetta Finardi and Luigia Panceri, were recruited by the Vatican to measure and map stars from plate-glass photographs. They cataloged the brightness and locations of a whopping 481,215 stars during their years of diligent work. Photos of the nuns had appeared in books about the history of astronomy, but the identity of the women was not known—and their accomplishments not recognized—until now.

Their years of labor were finally acknowledged when Father Sabino Maffeo, a Jesuit priest who works at the Vatican Observatory, found their names while organizing papers for the archives. Today, the project to which the nuns contributed is as obscure as the nuns themselves, but at the time it was one of the largest scientific undertakings in history.

In April 1887, 56 scientists from 19 countries met in Paris to embrace a new discipline: astrophotography. Their plan was a bold one—use 22,000 photographic plates to map the entire sky. The work was split up among institutions across Europe and the United States, including the Vatican Observatory. Each institution was given a particular zone of the sky to map and categorize.

At the time, male astronomers often relied on women to serve as their “computers.” The men would direct the project, but behind the scenes, women did the labor-intensive processing, cataloging and calculating for low wages. Famously, Harvard Observatory director Edward Charles Pickering hired “Pickering’s Harem,” a group of bright young women, to do his share of the star cataloging. Also known as “the Harvard Computers,” these women, formidable astronomical minds in their own right, were only recently acknowledged for their contribution to science.

And what a contribution—the project resulted in he Astrographic Catalogue, a 254-volume catalog of 4.6 million stars. The star atlas called the Carte du Ciel was only halfway finished by the time astronomers stopped working on it in 1962. Though the atlas project was destined to fail, the catalog became the basis of a system of star references that is still used today.

Though the women didn’t end up counting all of the stars, perhaps one day history will do a better job of counting the women whose diligent work helped map out the starry skies.


credits: smithsonianmag.com, flikr

“the belonging you seek is not behind you. it is ahead.” ― Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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the only remaining incan rope bridge

the Q’eswachaka rope bridge, suspended over the apurímac river in peru, is a piece of living history. it is the last of the rope bridges that once connected the incan road system, and dates back about five centuries. rebuilt from twisted cords of grass by residents each year, it is a piece of history that is not only still in use, but regularly renewed.

the bridge—spanning 118 feet and composed of local grasses—is remarkably sturdy: it can hold thousands of pounds of tension. but perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Q’eswachaka is the local community’s ongoing dedication to keeping it in working order.

 the bridge, though strong, only has a lifespan of one to two years before it begins to weaken. since the structure was first built nearly half a millennium ago, residents of nearby towns have fastidiously rebuilt it hundreds of times. they continue to rebuild it to this day, with each family contributing some 90 feet of rope.

“true belonging is born of relationships not only to one another

but to a place of shared responsibilities and benefits.

we love not so much what we have acquired

as what we have made and whom we have made it with.”

—robert finch

credits: atlas obscura, anna green, mental floss