Tag: History

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The Lazy Person’s Guide to Early Roman Emperors

Sometimes I cannot explain my fixations with history, nor my devilish need to mock it. I could argue that certain topics, such as Roman Emperors, are discussed with such reverence and so little endeavor at levity, that there is a vacuum of historical entertainment. I am painting these men as mortals, defying the dusty, pretentious misconceptions of their demigod natures. Or I could just confess that my trivia and quizzing skills were a little less than on-point in this arena. (Get it?) And the only way I could bring myself to actually learn about the Emperors was to thoroughly laugh at them. I’ll leave it to you.

“Don’t ‘asp’ me what happened to Cleopatra [snicker, snicker]”

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If You Could Invite People From History to a Dinner Party, Who Would You Choose?

Welcome, friends to a fantastical dinner party of your own making and imagination. Yes, it’s time to play a grand game and intellectual exercise, somewhat akin to the lunchroom game of Stranded On a Deserted Island. However, instead of imagining implements of survival, escape, and spiritual fulfillment, you are being asked to host a grand dinner party with the most intriguing, exciting, or entertaining guests you can cook up. Here is the beautiful scenario: You are to host a dinner party for which you may invite up to FIVE guests–living or dead. Deep in a distant wood is a secluded cabin with comfortable furnishings and a crackling fire that is waiting for your party. The linens and place settings are in place. The food’s piping hot and ready, dessert is chilled, coffee and tea are brewing, and the bar and wine cellars are endlessly stocked. All that’s needed from you is the guest list! Whom shall you invite?

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Percy Shelley and His Insane Love Triangle, Most Scandalous

Percy Shelley. You know him as one of those poetry dudes.

He was a privileged young English poet in the 1810s, who had a progressive, yet romantic voice that attempted to influence religion and politics. But, his very brief life was full of secrets and intrigue that eclipse anything he put down on paper. Percy Shelley was at the heart of one of the most mysterious, scandalous love triangles recorded in history. Many women. Two wives. Pregnancies. Deceit. Money. Extortion. Mysterious Death.

What you are about to read is the account that you won’t find in any classroom textbook. This is the story of Percy Shelley and his insane love triangle, most scandalous.

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Brexit and the Irish Border: Let’s Explain It!

Shout out to my friends and family in America who still think that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are all one country, and part of the UK. America has its own shitshow of problems, so it isn’t surprising that so many Americans have no idea what is going not with Ireland and Brexit. It’s okay. I’ll explain it in terms that can make this accessible to most anyone. Let’s start with the basics:

One Island, Two Countries

Ireland is a single island, but it is comprised of two separate countries: The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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A Tragic Bar Fight, 1884

A terribly true story of my great-great grandfather, Lorenzo, and his brother, Rufus, taken directly from eyewitness
accounts in court records.

On the afternoon of September 16, 1884, Rufus Eldridge and Lorenzo “Ron” Stevens, farmers living on adjoining properties in London, Ontario, drove their horse-drawn wagon to Nilestown, Ontario to purchase “domestic supplies”.

Lorenzo was a 41 year-old bachelor who managed the family farm and cared for his mother. Rufus was his 48 year-old half-brother and close friend who was recently married and had just become a father for the first time. His son Freddie was a little over one year old.

The two journeyed to Nilestown that day, as they had so often in the past, probably to purchase goods like sugar, fabrics, or fencing. As the pleasant afternoon turned to evening, the brothers were apparently in no great rush to get home. They settled in at the Nilestown Hotel with drinks, their wagon and horses stationed nearby. It was there, at the saloon, where they came across strangers John Richards, William Butt, Edward Noulty, and Henry L’Ansette, among others.

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What Happened to the 1890 Census?

Genealogy nerds like me frequently weep and fan themselves to exhaustion over a gaping hole in America’s historical record: The 1890 U.S. Census is gone.

The original was destroyed. No copies exist. No scans. No photos. Therefore nearly all of it has been erased from history.

That, my friends, is no small deal. Every ten years since 1790, we have records of who lived where, with what family members, how old they were…and assorted other nuggets of personal history. Try to research your family history, and you will quickly understand what a treasure chest each census is–“oh look, my great-great grandfather was a ‘gentleman’ by profession in 1910, while in 1900, he was a fruit peddler.” I can tell you when my great grandparents took in my young, distant cousins (after their mother’s dress caught on fire from the stove, and her instincts to run across a field to a neighboring home while aflame were fatal). I can point to the empty, weed-filled lot in Detroit and say with confidence, “Yep, that was my family’s home for over fifty years.” I know all of this because of census records.

But thanks to a deep and bizarre mystery that culminated in the obliteration of the 1890 U.S. Census, I cannot track much of my American ancestors’ history and movement from 1881 to 1899. What happened to it? According to most stories it burned up in 1921. But that isn’t really the truth. Something far stranger happened, and to this day it isn’t clear at all why it happened.

This is the story of the 1890 U.S. Census and how it went from controversial marvel, to disappearing pile of ash. What you are about to read is a tale of greed, incompetence, and mystery.

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American Monster: Get to Know Andrew Jackson

“His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. He was a swashbuckler, but when his wife died you know he visited her grave everyday? I visited her grave actually because I was in Tennessee…And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee…I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”

Donald Trump really idolizes Andrew Jackson. His portrait hung in the Oval Office, and the former POTUS has verbal diarrhea, apparently, just at the mention of our seventh president. So maybe we should get to know him and understand what Donald Trump really sees in the “people’s president”.

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Ronald Reagan Was Awful: A Comic

Over 35 years ago, the young Republican up-and-comers in Washington were called up to serve the new president, Ronald Reagan. Saint Reagan reached down from his “shining hill on the city”, pulled them up from the pits of Carter hell, anointed them, and in turn they pledged their undying fealty. “Forever, Master Reagan.”

Today these same people men are in their 50s and 60s, with a lot more visible nose hair and bad comb-overs, and are now the “swamp things” who  squawk on talk radio, write political speeches, and blather on 24-hour news channels. And it is these vassals whom we can thank for our country’s strange and undue esteem for Saint Reagan as the epitome of successful presidents and brilliant political thinkers. He wasn’t.

You know what? I’ll just let President Reagan explain it himself. I’ve pulled the old resurrect-a-tron out of the closet, dusted it off, and prepared it to bring Reagan back just for this explanation. I just needed to load it with some gold cufflinks, Chesterfield cigarettes, jellybeans, an American flag, and some cowboy boots, and it was fired up and ready to go.

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Game of Thrones: How it Parallels the Wars of the Roses

I’ve been a bit obsessed by the The Wars of the Roses lately. Maybe that’s hard for some people to understand, but I look at it like a really, really old season of Scandal, just with much worse hygiene. But apparently I’m not alone in my fascination, because author George RR Martin has made no secret that his A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) is based loosely on The Wars of the Roses. Cool. GRRM gets it.

Now, while the books/TV show that you and I know by heart is no allegory for the multi-decade conflict, there are a whole lot of parallels we can draw. So here is where I tear into the major characters like I am Henry VIII clawing apart a whole roasted chicken (I know, I know, the Tudors come later, but seriously, that man could really eat!).

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The Wars of the Roses in Pictures

A Totally Trust, Completely Authentic Retelling of History
(to be Enjoyed With a Butt of Malmsey Wine)

For nearly one hundred years in England’s history, a knot of noble families fought over the royal throne in a giant, messy multi-generational screw-you fest that history has dubbed “The Wars of the Roses”.

This title is a misnomer, of course. The murder, deception, and power mongering went far beyond any battlefield. So not simply a war.

And furthermore, though history tries to explain this era as being a battle between two families–each represented by a rose–that ignores a lot of historical context, and a whole lot of players from other families and other countries. So not really strictly about roses either.

Maybe they should have called it The Great English Stink instead. Eh, guess no poets were on hand to think of it. Shakespeare really dropped the ball on this one, eh?

wars-roses-smell-it
“You will smell the white rose! Smell it! Smellllll it!”