Tag Archives: history

Watchmen (04/01)

The original title for the Alan Moore’s Watchmen was Who Killed the Peacemaker?

The reason being, before the Comedian was the Comedian – he was the Peacemaker.

Read what I read on Atomic Gadlfy’s blog:


When writer Alan Moore pitched the idea for Watchmen to DC Comics, his working title was “Who Killed the Peacemaker?” By the time Watchmen saw publication, the character whose murder sets the events of the story in motion had been changed to an original creation of Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, the Comedian.

So who was the Peacemaker? He was Christopher Smith, a diplomat and avowed pacifist. However, unlike the pacifists I get into arguments with in bars, Smith understood that diplomacy sometimes fails, leaving you with no choice but to pick up a weapon and start shooting bad guys. And that’s exactly what he did, under the guise of the Peacemaker, “a man who loves peace so much that he is willing to fight for it!”

Read entire blog here.

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Caribbean Pineapples (03/22)

black_jamaican_pineappleFor many years Eleuthra (Bahama) was a major center for pineapple production. It has a number of large pineapple plantations and because the pineapple are allowed to ripen slowly without chemical assistance they’re extremely sweet.

Pineapples have been cultivated in the Caribbean for thousands of years. Scientists have reached that conclusion because the Caribbean pineapple no longer produces seeds, and that the fruit has been farmed by man for so long that it no longer feels responsible for its own reproduction.

Burt Wolf

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The Night Watch by Rembrandt (03/10)

AKA: The Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenhurch

AKA: The Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenhurch

I was reading an article in Film Comment about Peter Greenaway’s film Rembrandt’s J’accuse,  an essayistic documentary in which Greenaway’s fierce criticism of today’s visual illiteracy is argued by means of a forensic search of Rembrandt’s Nightwatch.

I learned a few things about Peter Greenaway in reading the article, but what I also interested in this painting. I have taken a few Art History course and I was surprised when the article listed Nightwatch as the fourth most famous painting (after the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and the Sistine Chaple, of course).

So I did some digging, first in my Gardner’s Art through the Ages (10th edition), and to my surpise it was not mentioned. Naturally, my next step was th internet where I found a site called Remrandtpainting.net from which the following bits are from.

The Night Watch was commissioned by Captain Barining Cocq and 17 members of his civic guards; that this was the total of Rembrandt’s clients for the work is assumed from the fact that 18 names, added by an unknown hand after the painting was completed, appear on a shield on the background wall.

The Night Watch is colossal. In its original dimensions it measured approximately 13 by 16 feet.

The Night Watch lies at the center of the most persistent and annoying of all Rembrandt myths. As recently as the tourist season of 1967, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines featured the painting by their illustrious countryman in an advertisement inviting travelers to visit Holland. “See Night Watch,” said the advertisement, “Rembrandt’s spectacular ‘failure’ (that caused him to be) hooted …down the road to bankruptcy.”

The painting was not poorly received; no critic during Rembrandt’s lifetime wrote a word in dispraise of it. Captain Banning Cocq himself had a watercolor made of it for his personal album, and a contemporary oil copy of it by Gerrit Lundens, now owned by the National Gallery in London, offers further proof of the picture’ s popularity.

The fable of the Night Watch may owe its stubborn survival to the fact that it is a simple and convenient means of disposing of a complex matter. In 1642 Rembrandt was at the height of his popularity, and thereafter he slowly fell out of public favor, though never to the extent that romantic biographers suggest. What were the reasons for his “decline”? One of them, certainly, was a change in Dutch tastes in art.

Well, I know this – if you asked Peter Greenaway about the “fable of the Night Watch“, he would certainly tell you that Rembrandt’s fall out of public favor had nothing to do with “a change in tastes in art”.

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Cermak (03/03)

Many major streets are named after influential people, but it is easy to take who those people are for granted.

For example, I have driven on Cermak road in Chicago numerous times and never thought about who Cermak was. I am positive that natives of the city know the story, but I am not a native of this area. However, I do know the story now.

Anton Cermak

Anton Cermak (May 9, 1873 – March 6, 1933)

Anton Cermak emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1874 from Austria-Hungary (now the Czech Republic).

He began his political career as a precinct captain and in 1902 was elected to the Illinois state legislature. Seven years later, he would take his place as alderman of the 12th Ward . Cermak was elected president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 1922, chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party in 1928, and mayor of Chicago in 1931.

Before Cermak, the Democratic party in Cook County was run by the “Lace Curtain” Irish. They looked down on anyone who wasn’t “Lace Curtain,” even the Irish from the Back of the Yards and Bridgeport neighborhoods (referred to as “Pig Shit” Irish), and also non-Irish ethnics. As Cermak climbed the local political ladder, the resentment of the Lace Curtain group grew. When the bosses rejected his bid to become the mayoral candidate, Cermak swore revenge. He formed his political army from the non-Irish elements, and even persuaded black politician William L. Dawson to switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party. Dawson later became U.S. Representative (from the 1st District) and soon the most powerful black politician in Illinois.

Cermak’s political and organizational skills helped create one of the most powerful political organizations of his day, and Cermak is considered the father of Chicago’s Democratic machine.


On February 15, 1933, while shaking hands with President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt at Bayfront Park in Miami, Florida, Cermak was shot in the lung and seriously wounded by Giuseppe Zangara, who attempted to assassinate Roosevelt. Cermak’s words to FDR en route to the hospital, ” I am glad it was me instead of you.” He died from his wounds on March 6, 1933 in Miami.

Read the Chicago Tribune’s 1933 coverage.

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Peter Pan (03/01)

I have never even considered the possibility that the ‘Pan” in Peter Pan is based on Pan the Greek god of nature.

Pan is a figure who recurs through European culture, especialy after the Romantics. But he became a natural and pervasive Edwardian god: a playful wild outdorr hero that never ages, combining in one image the delights of rural and childhood retreat.

Mabel Lucie Attwell's illustration for "Peter Pan & Wendy" (1911)

Mabel Lucie Attwell's illustration for "Peter Pan & Wendy" (1911)

Peter Pan, whose horned cap, rural attire and pan pipes are the only remnants of his descent from the Greek centaur, is the most eccentric  and the most human of all these creatures. He  could not have come about with out the cultural obsession with Pan, but he belongs as much to the popular archetype of the immortal young man which was developing in the 1880s when Barrie was forming literary ambitions.

From  Inventing Wonderland by Jackie Wullschlager

Maybe we should reconsider or consider some of our own cultural obsessions.

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Willow Trees (02/26)

The Weeping Willow tree has always been one of my favorite trees. I loved standing under them when I was little, it always felt like a secret magical world.

Weeping Willow

Weeping Willow

As it turns out, there is something magical about the Willow tree…

It has medicinal properties and its leaves and bark been mentioned in ancient texts from Assyria, Sumer and Egypt as as a remedy for aches and fever, and the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about its medicinal properties in the 5th century BC. Native Americans across the American continent relied on it as a staple of their medical treatments. This is because they contain salicylic acid, the precursor to aspirin.

(I thank Paul Harvey and Wikipedia for this information.)

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There Will Be Awnings (01/31)

When I was in Rome and visited the Colosseum, I did learn a few things:

1. If you take a picture of a Roman soldier, they expect you to give them some money.

2. If you see a set of toys horses randomly set up on the grounds, don’t get too close (even if you just want to take a picture) because you will be bombarded by the entrepreneur who is selling these fine horse replicas.

3. Gelato is delicious.

But I didn’t know the following:

During the early days of the Colosseum, ancient writers recorded that the building was used for naumachiae (more properly known as navalia proelia) or simulated sea battles. Accounts of the inaugural games held by Titus in AD 80 describe it being filled with water for a display of specially trained swimming horses and bulls. There is also an account of a re-enactment of a famous sea battle between the Corcyrean (Corfiot) Greeks and the Corinthians. This has been the subject of some debate among historians; although providing the water would not have been a problem, it is unclear how the arena could have been waterproofed, nor would there have been enough space in the arena for the warships to move around. It has been suggested that the reports either have the location wrong, or that the Colosseum originally featured a wide floodable channel down its central axis (which would later have been replaced by the hypogeum)

Claridge, Amanda (1998). Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (First ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1998. pp. 276–282


The Colosseum actually had awnings.

Under the summer sun, the windless interior of the Colosseum could reach appalling temperatures. Awnings overhead were essential to provide shade, and here as elsewhere the notice ‘vela erunt’ (‘there will be awnings’) would encourage spectators.

To provide shade over such a vast area was, however, a major challenge. All we can see now are the projecting stone brackets for awnings in the top story, three in each of the eighty bays. These supported 240 wooden masts, from which were suspended the system of ropes and stays from which the canvas awnings were hung. A company of sailors executed this complex operation.

(quoted from BBC’s website)

Illustration of wooden masts and awning.

Illustration of wooden masts and awning.

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What’s Up Doc? (01/27)

Time for a game of true or false…


Bugs Bunny likes carrots.

Bugs Bunny likes carrots.

Answer: TRUE


Carrots are the preferred nose for snowmen world wide.

Carrots are the preferred nose for snowmen world wide.

Answer: TRUE


Carrots are orange.

Carrots have always & only been orange.

Answer: FALSE

Now you are probably confused. Well don’t worry, I just learned this fact myself. Here is how the orange carrot came to be.

(it’s the little carrot that could!)

Carrots date back 5000 years and were originally white, purple, red, yellow/green and black and a little on the bitter side.
The sweet orange carrot that we know and love is a product of selective breeding.

Why was the carrot chosen for selective breeding, you ask?

Well, there were some very patriotic Dutch agricultural scientists and growers and they wanted to create a carrot in the color of the House of Orange, the Dutch Royal Family. In an attempt to “nationalize” the country’s favorite vegetable they began experiments on improving the pale yellow versions by cross breeding them with red varieties. These varieties contain beta carotene to produce orange-colored roots This was developed to become the dominant species across the world – wonderful, sweet orange. (according to the Carrot Museum.)

Now that isn’t to say that other varieties have ceased to exist, I even hear that purple carrots make a great juice.

Looks like they like it!

Looks like they like it!

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Swallowing Gum…(01/23)

Growing up you hear plenty of urban legends/myths.

My favorite from childhood is if you swallow gum it will stick to your ribs…which is just preposterous!

again I say preposterous!

again I say preposterous!

We are always quick to scoff at things that we once believed to be true, even moments after the discovery is made

Well here is another one for the books…

The Great Wall of China, although great, is not visible from outer space. Of course it isn’t! It’s right up there with the gum sticking to your ribs, if you spend a moment thinking about it makes obvious sense. Nevertheless, this myth was busted for me this morning on my car ride to work. How does the Great Wall of China come up during a morning commute, you ask? When listening to the audio book version of the World Without Us, of course.

After further researching this myth, I came across the opinion of Arthur Waldron, author of The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth. He has speculated that the belief might go back to the fascination with the “canals” once believed to exist on Mars. What will we think we see next – a puddy tat?

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