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December 25, 2010

On the history of Xmas trees

"This is America, and further improvement is always possible. " The Tannenbaum Chronicles - NYTimes.com
The American search for the perfect Christmas tree goes back to the 19th century and Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of “Godey’s Lady’s Book,” the first mass-market women’s magazine. In the 1850s, when Hale came into her own, only the Germans celebrated Christmas with a decorated tree. Hale introduced her American readers to the Next Big Thing by taking a picture of Britain’s Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who was German, standing around the tree that Albert had introduced at the castle. Hale performed a 19th-century version of photoshopping, blotting out Victoria’s crown jewels and Alfred’s royal sash until — presto! She had her cover, a typical American family clustered around their traditional — although hitherto unknown — Christmas tree. Hale believed strongly in complicated household rituals that her readers would need extensive instruction to carry out. Many middle-class American women were not far removed from the life of a farm housewife. Now that they had been freed from the drudgery of sausage-making and thread-spinning and chicken-raising, Hale was prepared to redirect their time to wax-fruit making, the baking of elaborate desserts and tree-trimming. In 1860, Hale published a short story, “The Christmas Tree.” The plot involved thwarted young love. The real point, however, was to describe the heroine’s efforts to put together the family tree. There was a great deal of threading of ribbons through the branches to hold up the Christmas presents, which served as decorations. Then cranberries had to be strung and candles attached. By the time the whole thing was ready to go, it’s a wonder she had the energy to notice when her boyfriend arrived for the happy ending.

December 20, 2010

The Civil War was fought over slavery

There is an increasingly loud revisionist refrain echoing around the whiter parts of the internet these days that says the Civil War was not really fought over slavery, but instead was fought over . . . something else. The something else varies considerably from person to person, but all agree that slavery wasn't a big deal. Thankfully we can turn to the primary source, to the written reasons the states gave at the time to see that yes, indeed, slavery was the chief concern. We yield the floor to Edward Ball | Prometheus 6
I’ve heard it from women and from men, from sober people and from people liquored up on anti-Washington talk. The North wouldn’t let us govern ourselves, they say, and Congress laid on tariffs that hurt the South. So we rebelled. Secession and the Civil War, in other words, were about small government, limited federal powers and states’ rights. But a look through the declaration of causes written by South Carolina and four of the 10 states that followed it out of the Union — which, taken together, paint a kind of self-portrait of the Confederacy — reveals a different story. From Georgia to Texas, each state said the reason it was getting out was that the awful Northern states were threatening to do away with slavery. South Carolina: “The non-slaveholding states ... have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery” and “have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes.” Mississippi: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. ... There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union.” Georgia: “A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the Federal Government has been committed will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia.” Several states single out a special culprit, Abraham Lincoln, “an obscure and illiterate man” whose “opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.” Lincoln’s election to the White House meant, for South Carolina, that “the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.” In other words, the only state right the Confederate founders were interested in was the rich man’s “right” to own slaves. It’s peculiar, because “states’ rights” has become a popular refrain in Republican circles lately. Last year Gov. Rick Perry of Texas wondered aloud whether secession was his state’s right in the aftermath of laws out of Congress that he disliked.

December 19, 2010

Prehistoric humans practiced "nutritional cannibalism"

Prehistoric People Ate Each Other, Bones Show : Discovery News
Prehistoric humans, along with Neanderthals and Homo antecessor, made meals of each other, suggests new research on probable human teeth marks found on prehistoric human bones. The findings, which will be published in the January issue of The Journal of Human Evolution, support prior theories that the first humans to re-colonize Britain after the last ice age practiced nutritional cannibalism 12,000 years ago at a site called Gough's Cave in what is now Somerset, England. It was a survival strategy, according to authors Yolanda Fernandez-Jalvo and Peter Andrews.

December 13, 2010

FACT: Corpse Sex Not Illegal In Wisconsin

(DISCLAIMER: That's a fact as of 2007; no idea what...

December 05, 2010

Hold up, is cow-tipping a hoax, or is this article a hoax?

Mind: *blown* Cow tipping - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia According...

November 19, 2010

Jesus, Gentiles; what the HELL?!?

For reals; leave it to Austrio-Hungarians to craft some...

Continue reading "Jesus, Gentiles; what the HELL?!?" »