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Profile: Susan B. Anthony

Posted by jase on November 12, 2009

susanbanthonySusan Brownell Anthony (February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906) was a prominent American civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th century women’s rights movement to introduce women’s suffrage into the United States. She traveled the United States and Europe, and gave 75 to 100 speeches every year on women’s rights for 45 years.

Susan B. Anthony was born and raised in West Grove, near Adams, Massachusetts. She was the second oldest of seven children, Guelma Penn (1818), Susan Brownell (1820), Hannah E. (1821), Daniel Read (1824), Mary Stafford (1827), Eliza Tefft (1832), and Jacob Merritt (1834), born to Daniel Anthony and Lucy Read. One brother, publisher Daniel Read Anthony, would become active in the anti-slavery movement in Kansas, while a sister, Mary Stafford Anthony, became a teacher and a woman’s rights activist. Anthony remained close to her sisters throughout her life.

In 1849, at age 29, Anthony quit teaching and moved to the family farm in Rochester, New York. She began to take part in conventions and gatherings related to the temperance movement. In Rochester, she attended the local Unitarian Church and began to distance herself from the Quakers, in part because she had frequently witnessed instances of hypocritical behavior such as the use of alcohol amongst Quaker preachers. As she got older, Anthony continued to move further away from organized religion in general, and she was later chastised by various Christian religious groups for displaying irreligious tendencies.

In her youth, Anthony was very self-conscious of her looks and speaking abilities. She long resisted public speaking for fear she would not be sufficiently eloquent. Despite these insecurities, she became a renowned public presence, eventually helping to lead the women’s movement.

Early social activism

In the era before the American Civil War, Anthony took a prominent role in the New York anti-slavery and temperance movements. In 1836, at age 16, Susan collected two boxes of petitions opposing slavery, in response to the gag rule prohibiting such petitions in the House of Representatives.  In 1849, at age 29, she became secretary for the Daughters of Temperance, which gave her a forum to speak out against alcohol abuse, and served as the beginning of Anthony’s movement towards the public limelight.

On January 1, 1868, Anthony first published a weekly journal entitled The Revolution. Printed in New York City, its motto was: “The true republic — men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.” Anthony worked as the publisher and business manager, while Elizabeth Cady Stanton acted as editor. The main thrust of The Revolution was to promote women’s and African-Americans’ right to suffrage, but it also discussed issues of equal pay for equal work, more liberal divorce laws and the church’s position on women’s issues. The journal was backed by independently wealthy George Francis Train, who provided $600 in starting funds.

Though she never married, Anthony published her views about sexuality in marriage, holding that a woman should be allowed to refuse sex with her husband; the American woman had no legal recourse at that time against rape by her husband. Anthony spoke very little on the subject of abortion. Of primary importance to Anthony was the granting to woman the right to her own body which she saw as an essential element for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, using abstinence as the method. In The Revolution, Anthony wrote in 1869 about the subject, arguing that instead of merely attempting to pass a law against abortion, the root cause must also be addressed. Simply passing an anti-abortion law would, she wrote, “be only mowing off the top of the noxious weed, while the root remains.” Anthony continued: “Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime.”

American Equal Rights Association

In 1869, long-time friends Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony found themselves, for the first time, on opposing sides of a debate. The American Equal Rights Association (AERA), which had originally fought for both blacks’ and women’s right to suffrage, voted to support the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, granting suffrage to black men, but not women. Anthony questioned why women should support this amendment when black men were not continuing to show support for women’s voting rights. Partially as a result of the decision by the AERA, Anthony soon thereafter devoted herself almost exclusively to the agitation for women’s rights.

On November 18, 1872, Anthony was arrested by a U.S. Deputy Marshal for voting illegally in the 1872 Presidential Election two weeks earlier. She had written to Stanton on the night of the election that she had “positively voted the Republican ticket – straight…”. She was tried and convicted seven months later, despite the stirring and eloquent presentation of her arguments that the recently adopted Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” the privileges of citizenship, and which contained no gender qualification, gave women the constitutional right to vote in federal elections. The sentence was a fine, but not imprisonment; and true to her word in court, she never paid the penalty for the rest of her life. The trial gave Anthony the opportunity to spread her arguments to a wider audience than ever before.

National suffrage organizations

In 1869, Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Women’s Suffrage Association (NWSA), an organization dedicated to gaining women’s suffrage. Anthony was vice-president-at-large of the NWSA from the date of its organization until 1892, when she became president.

In the early years of the NWSA, Anthony made many attempts to unite women in the labor movement with the suffragist cause, but with little success. She and Stanton were delegates at the 1868 convention of the National Labor Union. However, Anthony inadvertently alienated the labor movement not only because suffrage was seen as a concern for middle-class rather than working-class women, but because she openly encouraged women to achieve economic independence by entering the printing trades, where male workers were on strike at the time. Anthony was later expelled from the National Labor Union over this controversy.
Susan B. Anthony, who died 14 years before passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, was honored as the first real (non-allegorical) American woman on circulating U.S. coinage with her appearance on the Susan B. Anthony dollar. The coin, approximately the size of a U.S. quarter, was minted for only four years, 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1999. Anthony dollars were minted for circulation at the Philadelphia and Denver mints for all four years, and at the San Francisco mint for the first three production years.
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Posted in Historic Figures, History, Inspiring Stories, Profiles, Women | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

7 of History’s Most Infamous Curses

Posted by jase on July 25, 2009

1. James Dean and “Little Bastard”

On September 30, 1955, James Dean was killed when the silver Porsche 550 Spyder he called “Little Bastard” was struck by an oncoming vehicle. Within a year or so of Dean’s crash, the car was involved in two more fatal accidents and caused injury to at least six other people. After the accident, the car was purchased by hot-rod designer George Barris.

While getting a tune up, Little Bastard fell on the mechanic’s legs and crushed them. Barris later sold the engine and transmission to two doctors who raced cars. While racing against each other, one driver was killed, the other seriously injured. Someone else had purchased the tires, which blew simultaneously, sending the driver to the hospital.

Little Bastard was set to appear in a car show, but a fire broke out in the building the night before the show, destroying every car except Little Bastard, which survived without so much as a smudge. The car was then loaded onto a truck to go back to Salinas, California. The driver lost control en route, was thrown from the cab, and was crushed by the car when it fell off the trailer. In 1960, after being exhibited by the California Highway Patrol, Little Bastard disappeared and hasn’t been seen since.

2. The Curse of Tutankhamen’s Tomb

In 1922, English explorer Howard Carter, leading an expedition funded by George Herbert, Fifth Earl of Carnarvon, discovered the ancient Egyptian king’s tomb and the riches inside. After opening the tomb, however, strange and unpleasant events began to take place in the lives of those involved in the expedition.

Lord Carnarvon’s story is the most bizarre. The adventurer apparently died from pneumonia and blood poisoning following complications from a mosquito bite. Allegedly, at the exact moment Carnarvon passed away in Cairo, all the lights in the
city mysteriously went out. Carnarvon’s dog dropped dead that morning, too. Some point to the foreboding inscription, “Death comes on wings to he who enters the tomb of a pharaoh” as proof that King Tut put a curse on anyone who disturbed his final resting place.

3. “The Club”

If you’re a rock star and you’re about to turn 27, you might want to consider taking a year off to avoid membership in “The Club.” Robert Johnson, an African-American musician, who Eric Clapton called “the most important blues musician who ever lived,” played the guitar so well that some said he must have made a deal with the devil. So when he died at 27, folks said it must have been time to pay up.

Since Johnson, a host of musical geniuses have gone to an early grave at age 27. Brian Jones, founding member of the Rolling Stones, died at age 27 in 1969. Then it was both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in 1970 and Jim Morrison the following year. Kurt Cobain joined “The Club” in 1994. All 27 years old. Coincidence? Or were these musical geniuses paying debts, too?

4. “Da Billy Goat” Curse

In 1945, William “Billy Goat” Sianis brought his pet goat, Murphy, to Wrigley Field to see the fourth game of the 1945 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Detroit Tigers. Sianis and his goat were later ejected from the game, and Sianis reportedly put a curse on the team that day. Ever since, the Cubs have had legendarily bad luck.

Over the years, Cubs fans have experienced agony in repeated late-season collapses when victory seemed imminent. In 1969, 1984, 1989, and 2003, the Cubs were painfully close to advancing to the World Series but couldn’t hold the lead. Even those who don’t consider themselves Cubs fans blame the hex for the weird and almost comical losses year after year. The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 — no other team in the history of the game has gone as long without a championship.

5. Rasputin and the Romanovs

Rasputin, the self-proclaimed magician and cult leader, wormed his way into the palace of the Romanovs, Russia’s ruling family, around the turn of the last century. After getting a little too big for his britches, a few of the Romanovs allegedly decided to have him killed. But he was exceptionally resilient.

Reportedly it took poison, falling down a staircase, and repeated gunshots before Rasputin was finally dead. It’s said that Rasputin mumbled a curse from his deathbed, assuring Russia’s ruling monarchs that they would all be dead within a year. That did come to pass, as the Romanov family was brutally murdered in a mass execution less than a year later.

6. Tecumseh and the American Presidents

The curse of Tippecanoe, or “Tecumseh’s Curse,” is a widely held explanation of the fact that from 1840 to 1960, every U.S. president elected (or reelected) every twentieth year has died in office. Popular belief is that Tecumseh administered the curse when William Henry Harrison’s troops defeated the Native American leader and his forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Check it out:

  • William Henry Harrison was elected president in 1840. He caught a cold during his inauguration, which quickly turned into pneumonia. He died April 4, 1841, after only one month in office.
  • Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860 and reelected four years later. Lincoln was assassinated and died April 15, 1865.
  • James Garfield was elected president in 1880. Charles Guiteau shot him in July 1881. Garfield died several months later, from complications following the gunshot wound.
  • William McKinley was elected president in 1896 and reelected in 1900. On September 6, 1901, McKinley was shot by Leon F. Czolgosz, who considered the president an “enemy of the people.” McKinley died eight days later.
  • Three years after Warren G. Harding was elected president in 1920, he died suddenly of either a heart attack or stroke while traveling in San Francisco.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 and reelected in 1936, 1940, and 1944. His health wasn’t great, but he died rather suddenly in 1945, of a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke.
  • John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960 and assassinated in Dallas three years later.
  • Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, and though he was shot by an assassin in 1981, he did survive. Some say this broke the curse, which should make George W. Bush happy. At the time of this writing, Bush, who was elected in 2000, is serving his second term in office.

7. The Curse of the Kennedy Family

Okay, so maybe if this family had stayed out of politics and off airplanes, their fate might be different. Regardless, the number of Kennedy family tragedies have led some to believe there must be a curse on the whole bunch. You decide:

  • JFK’s brother Joseph, Jr., and sister Kathleen both died in separate plane crashes in 1944 and 1948, respectively.
  • JFK’s other sister, Rosemary, was institutionalized in a mental hospital for years.
  • John F. Kennedy himself, America’s 35th president, was assassinated in 1963 at age 46.
  • Robert Kennedy, JFK’s younger brother, was assassinated in 1968.
  • Senator Ted Kennedy, JFK’s youngest brother, survived a plane crash in 1964. In 1969, he was driving a car that went off a bridge, causing the death of his companion, Mary Jo Kopechne. His presidential goals were pretty much squashed after that.
  • In 1984, Robert Kennedy’s son David died of a drug overdose. Another son, Michael, died in a skiing accident in 1997.
  • In 1999, JFK, Jr., his wife, and his sister-in-law died when the small plane he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Source: How Stuff Works

Posted in Culture, Curses, Historic Events, Historic Figures, History, Native American, Society | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Profile: Quanah Parker

Posted by jase on July 19, 2009

Quanah Parker (c. late 1840s – February 23, 1911) was a Native American Indian leader, the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and European American woman Cynthia Ann Parker, and the last chief of the Quahadi Comanche Indians.

Quanah Parker’s mother, Cynthia Ann Parker {b.ca 1827}, was a member of the large Parker frontier family that settled in east Texas in the 1830s. She was captured in 1836 by Comanches during the raid of Fort Parker near present-day Groesbeck, Texas. She was given the Indian name Nadua (“Someone Found”), and adopted into the Nocona band of Comanches. Cynthia Ann eventually married the Comanche warrior Noconie, (aka Tah-con-ne-ah-pe-ah) (called Peta Nocona by the whites), who was a Mexican captive. Quanah was her firstborn son. She also had another son, Pecos (“Pecan”) and a daughter, Topsana (“Prairie Flower)” In 1860, Cynthia Ann Parker was recaptured in the battle of Pease River by Texas Rangers under Lawrence Sullivan Ross. Peta Nocona, Quanah, and most of the other men were out hunting when Ross’ men attacked. Returning to find the aftermath, they found it difficult to get any information as only a few people were still alive. Meanwhile, Cynthia Ann was reunited with her white family, but years with the Comanches had made her a different person. She frequently demanded to return to her husband, but was never permitted to do so. After Topsana died of an illness in 1863, Cynthia Ann starved herself to death in 1870.

In October, 1867, Quanah was among the Comanche chiefs at Medicine Lodge. Though he did not give a speech – his place was as an observer – he did make a statement about not signing the Medicine Lodge Treaty. His band remained free while other Comanches signed.

In the early 1870s, the plains Indians were losing the battle for their land. Following the capture of the Kiowa chiefs Satank, Adoeet (Big Tree), and Satanta, the Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne tribes joined forces in several battles. Colonel Ranald Mackenzie was sent to eradicate all remaining Indians who had not settled on reservations.

In 1874, while in the Texas panhandle, a Comanche prophet named Isatai summoned the tribes to Second Battle of Adobe Walls, where several buffalo hunters were active. With Kiowa Chief Big Bow, Quanah was in charge of one group of warriors. The incident was his closest brush with death; he was shot twice.

With their food source depleted, and under constant pressure from the army, the Quahadi Comanches finally surrendered and in 1875 moved to a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma. His home in Cache, Oklahoma was called the Star House. Parker’s was the last tribe of the Staked Plains or Llano Estacado to come to the reservation. Quanah was named chief over all the Comanches on the reservation, and proved to be a forceful, resourceful and able leader. Through wise investments, he became perhaps the wealthiest American Indian of his day in the United States. Quanah embraced much of white culture, and was well respected by the whites. He went on hunting trips with President Theodore Roosevelt. Nevertheless, he rejected both monogamy and traditional Protestant Christianity in favor of the Native American Church Movement. He had five wives and twenty five children and founded the Native American Church. One of his sons, White Parker, later became a Methodist minister.

Author Bill Neeley writes:

“Not only did Quanah pass within the span of a single lifetime from a Stone Age warrior to a statesman in the age of the Industrial Revolution,but he never lost a battle to the white man and he also accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading the whole Comanche tribe on the difficult road toward their new existence.”

Quanah died on February 23, 1911. He is buried at the Fort Sill Cemetery, beside his mother and sister. The inscription on his tombstone reads:

Resting Here Until Day Breaks
And Shadows Fall and Darkness
Disappears is
Quanah Parker Last Chief of the Comanches
Born 1852
Died Feb. 23, 1911 Quanah Parker is credited as one of the first big leaders of the Native American Church Movement. Parker adopted the peyote religion after being gored in southern Texas by a bull. Parker was visiting his mother’s brother, John Parker, in Texas where he was attacked, giving him severe wounds. To fight an onset of blood burning fever, a Mexican curandera was summoned and she prepared a strong peyote tea from fresh peyote to heal him. It was from this incident on that Quanah Parker became involved with peyote . Peyote is reported to contain hordenine and tyramine, phenylethylamine alkaloids which act as potent natural antibiotics when taken in a combined form.

Parker taught that the sacred peyote medicine was the sacrament given to the Indian Peoples , and was to be used with water when taking communion in a traditional Native American Church medicine ceremony. Parker was a proponent of the “half-moon” style of the peyote ceremony. The “cross” ceremony later evolved in Oklahoma due to Caddo influences introduced by John Wilson, a Caddo-Delaware Indian who traveled extensively around the same time as Parker during the early days of the Native American Church movement. The Native American Church was the first truly “American” religion based on Christianity outside of the Latter Day Saints.

Parker’s most famous teaching regarding the Spirituality of the Native American Church:

The White Man goes into his church and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his Tipi and talks with Jesus.

The modern reservation era in Native American History began with the universal adoption of the Native American Church and Christianity by virtually every Native American Tribe and Culture within North American and Canada as a result of Parker and Wilson’s efforts. The Peyote religion and the Native American Church, however, was never the traditional religious practice of North American Indian Cultures. This religion was driven by Parker’s leadership and was driven by influences from Mexico and other Southern Tribes who have used peyote since ancient times. Under Parker’s leadership, peyote became an important item of trade, and this, combined with his Church movement and political and financial contacts, garnered Parker enormous wealth during his lifetime.

Criticism

Although praised by many in his tribe as a preserver of their culture, Quanah had critics within the Comanche community. Many claimed that he “sold out to the white man” with his rancher persona in later life, dressing and living in a more American than Comanche style. Quanah did adopt more white ways than most other Comanche of his time, but he always wore his hair long and in braids. He also refused to follow white American marriage customs, which would have required him to cast aside four of his five wives.

Another point of controversy among the Comanche was that Quanah was never elected chief of the entire tribe by the people themselves. Traditionally, the Comanche had no single chief. The various bands of the Comanche had their own chiefs, with no single figure standing for the entire people. But that, as many other things, changed with the reservation times.

Family

Quanah’s grandfather was the Chief Iron Jacket, famous among the Comanches as a powerful chief who wore a Spanish coat of mail and was said to have the power to blow bullets away with his breath.

Quanah’s first wife was Weakeah, daughter of Comanche chief Yellow Bear. Originally, she was espoused to another warrior. Quanah and Weakeah eloped, and took several other warriors with them. It was from this small group that the large Quahadi band would form. Yellow Bear pursued the band and eventually Quanah made peace with him, and the two bands united, forming the largest force of Comanche Indians.

Over the years, Quanah accumulated four more wives. He had twenty-five children. Many north Texans and south Oklahomans claim descent from Quanah. It had been said that more Comanches are related to Quanah than any other chief. One grandson became Comanche chairman, the modern “Chief” of the tribe.

After moving to the reservation, Quanah first got in touch with his white relatives. He stayed for a few weeks with them, where he studied English and western culture, and learned white farming techniques.

In his later years, Quanah carried on a correspondence by letter with Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight. Though Goodnight was illiterate, he dictated the letters to his wife, who in turn sent them to Quanah.

Posted in Culture, Historic Figures, History, Men, Native American, Profiles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Did You Know: The History of Toilet Paper

Posted by jase on July 7, 2009

The average American uses 57 squares a day and 50 pounds of toilet paper per year.Since the dawn of time, people have found nifty ways to clean up after the bathroom act. The most common solution was simply to grab what was at hand: coconuts, shells, snow, moss, hay, leaves, grass, corncobs, sheep’s wool — and, later, thanks to the printing press — newspapers, magazines, and pages of books.  

The ancient Greeks used clay and stone; the Romans, sponges and salt water. But the idea of a commercial product designed solely to wipe one’s bum? That started about 150 years ago, right here in the U.S.A. In less than a century, Uncle Sam’s marketing genius turned something disposable into something indispensable.

Toilet paper gets on a roll

The first products designed specifically to wipe one’s nethers were aloe-infused sheets of manila hemp dispensed from Kleenex-like boxes. They were invented in 1857 by a New York entrepreneur named Joseph Gayetty, who claimed his sheets prevented hemorrhoids.

Gayetty was so proud of his therapeutic bathroom paper that he had his name printed on each sheet. But his success was limited. Americans soon grew accustomed to wiping with the Sears Roebuck catalog, and they saw no need to spend money on something that came in the mail for free.

Toilet paper took its next leap forward in 1890, when two brothers named Clarence and E. Irvin Scott popularized the concept of toilet paper on a roll. The Scotts’ brand became more successful than Gayetty’s medicated wipes, in part because they built a steady trade selling toilet paper to hotels and drugstores.

But it was still an uphill battle to get the public to openly buy the product, largely because Americans remained embarrassed by bodily functions. In fact, the Scott brothers were so ashamed of the nature of their work that they didn’t take proper credit for their innovation until 1902.

“No one wanted to ask for it by name,” says Dave Praeger, author of “Poop Culture: How America Is Shaped by Its Grossest National Product.”

“It was so taboo that you couldn’t even talk about the product.” By 1930, the German paper company Hakle began using the tag line, “Ask for a roll of Hakle and you won’t have to say toilet paper!”

As time passed, toilet tissues slowly became an American staple. But widespread acceptance of the product didn’t officially occur until a new technology demanded it.

At the end of the 19th century, more and more homes were being built with sit-down flush toilets tied to indoor plumbing systems. And because people required a product that could be flushed away with minimal damage to the pipes, corncobs and moss no longer cut it. In no time, toilet paper ads boasted that the product was recommended by both doctors and plumbers.

Strength of going soft

In the early 1900s, toilet paper was still being marketed as a medicinal item. But in 1928, the Hoberg Paper Company tried a different tack. On the advice of its ad men, the company introduced a brand called Charmin and fitted the product with a feminine logo that depicted a beautiful woman.

The genius of the campaign was that by evincing softness and femininity, the company could avoid talking about toilet paper’s actual purpose. Charmin was enormously successful, and the tactic helped the brand survive the Great Depression. (It also helped that, in 1932, Charmin began marketing economy-size packs of four rolls.) Decades later, the dainty ladies were replaced with babies and bear cubs — advertising vehicles that still stock the aisles today.

By the 1970s, America could no longer conceive of life without toilet paper. Case in point: In December 1973, Tonight Show host Johnny Carson joked about a toilet paper shortage during his opening monologue. But America didn’t laugh. Instead, TV watchers across the country ran out to their local grocery stores and bought up as much of the stuff as they could.

Also telling was that, in 1978, a TV Guide poll named Mr. Whipple –the affable grocer who implored customers, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin” — the third best-known man in America, behind former President Richard Nixon and the Rev. Billy Graham.

Rolling the world

Currently, the United States spends more than $6 billion a year on toilet tissue — more than any other nation in the world. Americans, on average, use 57 squares a day and 50 pounds a year. Even still, the toilet paper market in the United States has largely plateaued.

The real growth in the industry is happening in developing countries. There, it’s booming. Toilet paper revenues in Brazil alone have more than doubled since 2004. The radical upswing in sales is believed to be driven by a combination of changing demographics, social expectations, and disposable income.

“The spread of globalization can kind of be measured by the spread of Western bathroom practices,” says Praeger. When average citizens in a country start buying toilet paper, wealth and consumerism have arrived. It signifies that people not only have extra cash to spend, but they’ve also come under the influence of Western marketing.

America without toilet paper?

Even as the markets boom in developing nations, toilet paper manufacturers find themselves needing to charge more per roll to make a profit. That’s because production costs are rising. During the past few years, pulp has become more expensive, energy costs are rising, and even water is becoming scarce. As the climate continues to change, toilet paper companies may need to keep hiking up their prices. The question is, if toilet paper becomes a luxury item, can Americans live without it?

The truth is that we did live without it, for a very long time. And even now, a lot of people do. In Japan, the Washlet — a toilet that comes equipped with a bidet and an air-blower — is growing increasingly popular. And all over the world, water remains one of the most common methods of self-cleaning. Many places in India, the Middle East, and Asia, for instance, still depend on a bucket and a spigot.

But as our economy continues to circle the drain, will Americans part with their beloved toilet paper in order to adopt more money-saving measures? Or will we keep flushing our cash away? Praeger, for one, believes a toilet-paper apocalypse is hardly likely. After all, the American marketing machine is a powerful thing.

Posted in History, Medical | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Is the Shroud of Turn Really a Self-Portrait of Da Vinci?

Posted by jase on July 5, 2009

He was the ultimate Renaissance man – studying anatomy, designing a rudimentary helicopter and creating some of the most admired paintings of the age. But could Leonardo da Vinci also have perpetrated history’s greatest art forgery? That’s the suggestion of one expert, who claims that Leonardo was responsible for faking the Turin Shroud.

The relic has inspired generations of pilgrims who have flocked to see what they believe is the face of the crucified Jesus.

But it has also provoked bitter controversy after scientists carbon-dated it to the Middle Ages.

Now an American artist has entered the fray, putting forward her own theory about its origin.

Lillian Schwartz, a graphic consultant at the School of Visual Arts in New York, claims that the image is a self-portrait of Leonardo, which was made using a crude photographic technique.

Using computer scans she found that the face on the Turin Shroud and a self portrait of Leonardo da Vinci share the same dimensions.

Leonardo Da Vinci Turin Shroud
Miss Schwartz came to prominence in the 1980s when she made detailed measurements of the Mona Lisa and a Leonardo self-portrait.
To her amazement, the two faces lined up perfectly, leading her to suggest that he used a self portrait as a model for the painting.

Earlier this year she used the same technique to compare another Leonardo self-portrait with the Turin Shroud.

‘It matched. I’m excited about this,’ she said. ‘There is no doubt in my mind that the proportions that Leonardo wrote about were used in creating this Shroud’s face.’

According to a Channel Five documentary to be shown tonight, Leonardo scorched his facial features on to the linen of the Shroud using a sculpture of his face and a photographic device called a ‘camera obscura’.

He would have hung the shroud’s fabric over a frame in a blacked- out room and coated it with a substance to make it light-sensitive, just like photographic film.

When the sun’s rays passed through a lens in one of the walls, Leonardo’s 3D model would have been projected on to the material, creating a permanent image.

Shroud researcher Lynn Picknett said: ‘It is spooky, it is jaw-dropping.

‘The faker of the shroud had to be a heretic. He had to have a grasp of anatomy and he had to have at his fingertips a technology which would completely fool everyone until the 20th century.’

The programme points out that Leonardo was fascinated with optical equipment and his notebooks contain one of the earliest drawings of a camera obscura.

Mrs Picknett added: ‘If Leonardo could have known that 500 years after he died generations of pilgrims are still crossing themselves over the image, I think he would have laughed quite a lot.’

Although the Turin Shroud remains a popular attraction, most people now concede it is a fake.

Radiocarbon dating in 1988 showed the cloth was made between 1260 and 1390. However, the image itself has not been carbon dated.

But Professor John Jackson, director of the Turin Shroud Centre of Colorado, who believes the item dates from the time of Jesus’s crucifixion, dismissed the Leonardo hypothesis. ‘It is based on some very poor scientific and historical scholarship,’ he said.

The earliest known record of the shroud appears on a commemorative medallion struck in the mid-14th century and on display at the Cluny Museum Paris, he added.

‘It clearly shows clerics holding up the shroud and is dated to around 100 years before Leonardo was born. ‘There is no evidence whatsoever that Leonardo was involved in the shroud.’ The professor believes the radiocarbon dating of the shroud was wrong because the sample was contaminated.

Posted in Historic Figures, History, Religion | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

BOOKS: Buzz Aldrin – Magnificent Desolation

Posted by jase on June 24, 2009

“Buzz Aldrin relives the Magnificent Desolation of space, and the soul-sucking depression that awaited back home.” –Vanity Fair

Description
Forty years ago, Buzz Aldrin became the second human, minutes after Neil Armstrong, to set foot on a celestial body other than the Earth. The event remains one of mankind’s greatest achievements and was witnessed by the largest worldwide television audience in history. In the years since, millions more have had their Earth-centric perspective unalterably changed by the iconic photograph of Aldrin standing on the surface of the moon, the blackness of space behind him and his fellow explorer and the Eagle reflected in his visor. Describing the alien world he was walking upon, he uttered the words “magnificent desolation.” And as the astronauts later sat in the Eagle, waiting to begin their journey back home, knowing that they were doomed unless every system and part on board worked flawlessly, it was Aldrin who responded to Mission Control’s clearance to take off with the quip, “Roger. Understand. We’re number one on the runway.”

The flight of Apollo 11 made Aldrin one of the most famous persons on our planet, yet few people know the rest of this true American hero’s story. In Magnificent Desolation, Aldrin not only gives us a harrowing first-person account of the lunar landing that came within seconds of failure and the ultimate insider’s view of life as one of the superstars of America’s space program, he also opens up with remarkable candor about his more personal trials–and eventual triumphs–back on Earth. From the glory of being part of the mission that fulfilled President Kennedy’s challenge to reach the moon before the decade was out, Aldrin returned home to an Air Force career stripped of purpose or direction, other than as a public relations tool that NASA put to relentless use in a seemingly nonstop world tour. The twin demons of depression and alcoholism emerged–the first of which Aldrin confronted early and publicly, and the second of which he met with denial until it nearly killed him. He burned through two marriages, his Air Force career came to an inglorious end, and he found himself selling cars for a living when he wasn’t drunkenly wrecking them. Redemption came when he finally embraced sobriety, gained the love of a woman, Lois, who would become the great joy of his life, and dedicated himself to being a tireless advocate for the future of space exploration–not only as a scientific endeavor but also as a thriving commercial enterprise.

These days Buzz Aldrin is enjoying life with an enthusiasm that reminds us how far it is possible for a person to travel, literally and figuratively. As an adventure story, a searing memoir of self-destruction and self-renewal, and as a visionary rallying cry to once again set our course for Mars and beyond, Magnificent Desolation is the thoroughly human story of a genuine hero.

Out now.

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