Archive for April, 2013

Really, BGSU? The school where I earned my B.A. in History is about to needlessly knock down a very cool building that is historically significant.   Their stated purpose is to build a new student health center.  I understand that  universities need to expand, but I also believe there would be several reasonable alternatives to razing […] Read story


The Virgin and Saint Vincent, 16th century tapestry stolen from a church in Roda de Isábena, a tiny town in the high Pyrenees, in 1979 was officially returned to Spain on Wednesday, April 17th, in a ceremony at the Spanish’s ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton and […] Read story

Why the Sea Moans

Posted: April 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

Once upon a time there was a little princess who lived in a magnificent royal palace. All around the palace there was a beautiful garden full of love… Read story

It’s quite deeply weird, when you think about it.  

Baseball — that most wholesome and American of sports — has long been associated with one of the most hazardous and rather disgusting habits known to mankind: chewing tobacco.

How did this come to pass? Why is it that, for more than a century now, so many heroes of America’s Pastime spit toxic waste and look like they have a small mammal stuffed in their cheek?

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A Guest Post by Stephen Cooper.

In research for my book of the Great War told through the experiences of men from one London rugby club, I stumbled across a neglected landmark with a poignant tale. In 2010 I wrote these opening words for a chapter:

“Head south over London Bridge, towards Borough High Street, the old coaching road to Kent. Southwark cathedral crouches to the right and the clumsy bulk of the station’s viaduct looms ahead. Look for a once-splendid, once-white façade: an elaborate blend of arch, balustrade and ornament, with carved swags of hops, grapes and even a stag’s head. Now grey with soot, this, like Miss Havisham’s wedding-cake, is a ghost of a building.

The hands of its clock with black Roman numerals are fixed at 11.47 as they have been since the early 1960s. Ragged shrubs sprout from crevices where no plant should grow, and the faïence frontage offers a tempting canvas to the graffiti artist. This wan face among grimy walls and thrusting plate-glass neighbours like the Shard is a ghostly survivor from another era. It is a corner of the capital where time has indeed stopped.

For over a century, Findlater’s Corner has been a familiar sight to the southbound City worker, ‘passed or seen by more persons every day than any other spot in London’*. The current structure is shrunken from its Victorian original by the encroachments of railway and advertising hoardings. Peter Ackroyd’s London the Biography observes the lingering spirit of place that binds many capital landmarks to their past. Call this instead a ‘place of spirit’, for today it is a branch of an eccentric national wine-seller, evoking its first incarnation in 1856 as headquarters of Findlater, Mackie, Todd & Co. Ltd, Wine & Spirit Merchants.

In the cruellest month of April 1915, a boy brings a curt telegram from the War Office to these same premises, addressed to the Chairman. Its formulaic words, by now dreaded in households across the country, regret a death in the family. A brother, husband and father are all fallen in one man. Since that day another spirit has haunted this corner: the gregarious wine-merchant, soldier and international rugby player, Alec Todd.”

The chapter goes on to tell of Todd’s experience as a British Lion rugby player in South Arica in 1896, of his fighting the Boer War there four years later and of his death near Ypres in 1915. He had nominated his brother, James, as Next of Kin (NOK) so that wife Alice would not hear the fateful knock at her Ascot door. He was shot through the neck at Hill 60 east of Ypres on April 18. The National Archive shows a flurry of telegrams from the War Office to the Norfolk Regiment depot to ascertain the correct NOK. By the time the ‘serious wounding’ telegram arrives at Findlater’s Corner three days later, CaptainTodd is dead in a Casualty Clearing Station near Poperinghe.

clock findlater's corner

Picture: Stephen May.

The stopped clock was much photographed and internet searches revealed a history of graffiti headaches for the Council. The romantic in me speculated whether the telegram had arrived at 11:47 that April morning in 1915. Had the clock stopped perhaps on the 50th anniversary of Alec’s death? No way of knowing, but it made a good story. That is, until October 27, 2012.

This was the afternoon, three months after the book’s publication, when riding over London Bridge on my trusty Vespa, I glanced up to find the hands at 02:30. Aghast, I enquired inside: ‘Ah, that would be Boris’, I was told. Turns out our esteemed Mayor, bicycling to a meeting at his nearby City Hall, had trusted the clock’s time, only to arrive late. In a fit of civic efficiency, he commanded that a Derby clockmaker be summoned to restore the clock and change the ‘hands of time’. Thanks, Boris. The story is too good to lose, but I have relegated the Mayor’s intervention to a footnote – by way of revenge.
Todd maintains his mystique even in death. He is buried in ‘Pop’ but is also named on the Menin Gate, memorial to those with no known grave. Better that he is doubly remembered than he, or any man, be forgotten.

The full story and many other London nuggets can be discovered in ‘The Final Whistle: the Great War in Fifteen Players’ by Stephen Cooper, (Spellmount ) £14.99 from all the usual sources and also this month’s LH Members’ prize draw, don’t forget to enter.

*The Wine Trade Review  9 November 1934.

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the dog: our best friend

Posted: April 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

…It should come as a jolt to our belief in the recentness of things that all the main groups of dogs were created long before Christ had appeared; in fact, they already existed when written history was making its first appearance. The breeding of dogs is ancient, and modern breeders have added little to the work done by the end of the Neolithic period.

There are several points of interest in the story of dog evolution. First, although these animals are still happily able to identify with one of their kind, there has been tremendous adaptive radiation. That is, evolution of characteristics in response to various environments. The hair, the face, the ear and a world of difference in the tail alone. Second, most of this differentiation, including weight, has been deliberately caused by man for his own purposes. Man has curtailed the random mating of dogs and has demonstrated the extraordinary variability inherent in the species; for it is just one species.

---Once this was done, he would stand and be judged; Anubis would weigh his heart against the feather of Ma'at, goddess of justice and balance. If the sins of the heart weighed too heavily, the deceased had failed the test and would be fed to the terrible monster Ammit; if his heart was as light as the feather, Anubis would judge him worthy and permit him to pass on to a new life.---click image for source...

—Once this was done, he would stand and be judged; Anubis would weigh his heart against the feather of Ma’at, goddess of justice and balance. If the sins of the heart weighed too heavily, the deceased had failed the test and would be fed to the terrible monster Ammit; if his heart was as light as the feather, Anubis would judge him worthy and permit him to pass on to a new life.—click image for source…

The dog story is also, to some degree, an accelerated version of mankind’s own history. When men were banding together to form large village communities, they brought their dogs with them. Since then, both have experienced, in similar fashion, cultural and environmental changes- canned food, heated rooms, soft furnishings, urbanization, disease control. But dogs, with their quicker breeding cycle, have passed through , based on evolutionist theory, some four thousand generations while man has experienced a tenth of that number.

Richard Ansdell was an English painter who specialized in oil paintings of animal and sporting subjects. In this 1881 painting “The Lucky Dogs”, he depicts dogs playing cards.

It is these facts, according to researchers such as John L.Fuller, who have studied the relationship between genetics and the behavior of dogs, that suggest a hypothesis: “The genetic consequences of civilized living have been intensified in the dog, and therefore the dog should give us some idea of the genetic future of mankind.”

--- Artist: Jacob Jordaens Completion Date: 1635 Style: Baroque Genre: genre painting Gallery: Musee des Beaux-Arts, Lille, France ---WIKI

— Artist: Jacob Jordaens
Completion Date: 1635
Style: Baroque
Genre: genre painting
Gallery: Musee des Beaux-Arts, Lille, France —WIKI


(see link at end)…For over 70 years Sigmund Freud’s life was devoid of canine companionship, but all this changed when, in the mid-1920s, his 30-year-old daughter Anna, wanting a companion for her long solitary walks, became the owner of Wolf, a magnificent and intelligent German Shepherd.

Exposed to the joy of a dog for the first time, Freud fell wildly in love. So much so that in 1925 Anna, in a fit of jealous insecurity, wrote, “I did not give Papa a present for his birthday because there is no present suitable for the occasion. I brought only a picture of Wolf that I had made as a joke, because I always assert that he transferred his whole interest in me on to Wolf. He was very pleased with it.”

In 1928, Dorothy Burlingham, a close friend of Anna, gave Freud one of her beautiful chows, Lün-Y

nd his conversion to dog devotee was complete. But Freud’s first canine idyll lasted a short 15 months, because, tragically, Lün-Yu was run over by a train. Devastated, he mourned her as he would a human. It was seven months before Freud’s grief had run its course and he felt emotionally able to accept Jofi, Lün-Yu’s sister, into his home.

By 1930, almost all Freud’s old friends and colleagues were either dead, abroad, or at odds with him. For a man renowned for keeping his emotions under control, Freud was beginning to show uncharacteristic irritation with his wife Martha, a symptom, no doubt, of much greater underlying dissatisfaction. Small wonder then, that Jofi was to become his inseparable companion for the seven years of her life.

After only a few weeks together Freud was already comparing Jofi to another inseparable companion. “I miss her now almost as much as my cigar. She is a charming creature, so interesting in her feminine characteristics, too, wild, impulsive, intelligent and yet not so dependent as dogs often are.” Read More:


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But one papyrus is much more intriguing: it’s the diary of Merrer, an Old Kingdom official involved in the building of the Great Pyramid of Cheops.

From four different sheets and many fragments, the researchers were able to follow his daily activity for more that three months.

“He mainly reported about his many trips to the Turah limestone quarry to fetch block for the building of the pyramid,” Tallet said.

“Although we will not learn anything new about the construction of Cheops monument, this diary provides for the first time an insight on this matter,” Tallet said.

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