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.

Before the Ladies: Little Percy Breaks All the Rules

Percy Shelley was the first-born child of seven, whelped into a prosperous family with grand expectations and the means to make them happen. He came into this world in 1792, the sire of a member of British Parliament. He was a lucky child who had the breeding and coin to toil his life as a poet, and man, did he meet that opportunity.

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He was known to be a delicate flower who was oft bullied at Eton College. He was a vegetarian, liberal, proponent of sexual freedom, and probably a pampered brat who wasn’t like the other boys. Though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While most boys were burning toads and playing grab-ass, Percy had published two gothic novels and two volumes of poetry, all before he had come of age.

By 1810, Percy enrolled at University College, Oxford, where he quickly found a disciple in a classmate named Thomas Hogg. The two wrote together (and if we’re honest, probably explored the notions of sexual freedom quite closely), eventually penning a  pamphlet entitled The Necessity of Atheism, which ultimately got Percy expelled from school. His family was fuming with outrage and demanded he tow the line. Percy would do nothing of the sort, and was cut off from his family and their pocketbooks.

This sets the stage for a life of juggling his passionate, artistic nature along with his more practical needs for income and survival. Never able to reconcile these two sets of needs, Percy would embark on a life where he is pulled around by purse strings, emotion, and pleasure.

Continue reading “Percy Shelley and His Insane Love Triangle, Most Scandalous”

LOST: The Island, Smoke Monster, and Everything Else Explained

Most series finales are awful.

Seinfeld was absurd. M*A*S*H was depressing. The Sopranos didn’t have an ending. And [sigh] Game of Thrones didn–GODS, Bran did not have the best story, and that is not why you make someone a King, especially because he was the villain the whole time and they’re all going to suffer and die now and it’s the WORST!

I’m okay, really. But we need to address LOST.

Its series finale lives in infamy for its vague conclusion and lack of payoff. But if we’re telling truths, the problem is that most viewers just did not understand the finale. Which means they probably didn’t understand the whole show. I get that it was easy to miss big chunks of the plot–the seasons were spread over long hiatuses, and a swaths of viewers thought they could just jump into the show in the last season and fairly judge it. But the confusion has led to a lot of backlash and a thick tarnish on the show’s legacy.

So I’ve decided to put on my dot-connector hat and go through the series in chronological order. I want to lay it all out so that we can demystify the writing and pick at the show’s carcass for all of the answer morsels we crave.

First, I have a story to tell–a story that is the backdrop for every single plot-line and mystery on The Island. It’s an ancient story that begins it all.

[Begin storybook voice.]

Once Upon a Time, About 2,000 Years ago…

A lady, named Allison Janney, watched over a mysterious island with a magical light at its core, protecting the light and the island from outside invaders. Some such invaders brought her twin boys (whose mother she murdered). One of these boys, Mib, was clever but also devious and overly curious about the power of the light. The other boy, Jacob, was much more loyal, but simple-minded.

(For the sake of our tale we will refer to the “Man in Black” as “Mib”.)

Lost allison janney

One day, when Allison Janney discovered that grown-up Mib was digging a well and building a wheel to harness the magic light, she destroyed the project and offered some quick blessings on the twins. First, she used magic to prevent them from ever killing each other. Second, she made Jacob her successor as Island Protector and warned him never to go into the cave of light, for it would mean a fate worse than death.

Shortly after this, an irate Mib murdered Allison Janney. This riled simple Jacob, who flung his brother into the magic light cave, turning him into a shape-shifting smoke monster.

Through the millennia Jacob and Mib lived on (in a sense), hating each other. Various ancient invaders on The Island worshiped the Smoke Monster as a deity and sought to summon him, though it is likely that Mib could not simply be summoned.

The pair also had an ongoing tedious philosophical debate about whether man is inherently good or bad. This prompts Jacob to lure people to The Island to test their character. He has also been looking for his replacement. Mib has vowed to find a way to kill Jacob and any of his replacements.

The entire show is this–two brothers fighting, and killing, and searching. Everything else is a byproduct of these two ancient men.

Why is the show so confusing?

It seems numbing to boil such an intense and mysterious show down to two bickering brothers. Truly, had anyone known this at the outset of the show, no one would have watched it. The suspense was the thing that kept us coming back, and in order to achieve such elaborate layers of mysteries and contradictions, the writers employed two basic strategies:

  1. The show is almost entirely told in reverse chronological order. We had to wait 8 seasons to get all the way back to Jacob and Mib. It took 3 seasons to even start to look at the 1970s & 1980s Dharma era. The whole show’s flow more or less goes: 
    2004 > 1990s-2000s > 1970s-1980s > 100 AD. With a sprinkling of 1950s and 1860s thrown in. So when the plane crashes, we’re actually seeing the end of a story (well, nearly).

  2. Sloppy writing. I’ll admit how disheartened I was to discover that the writers never had a clear plan carved out from the start. They were pretty much winging it and stretching out parts of seasons (or chopping them up) depending on network needs. If the show was done by more thoughtful writers as, say, a Netflix series today might be, there would be a lot less ambiguity. Or that’s what I tell myself.

Let’s Put the Show’s Timeline in the Right Order

Pre-Jacob & Mib: Unknown Eqyptians inhabiting The Island build the Statue of Taweret.

c.100 AD: Jacob and Mib are born on The Island. Allison Janney is the current Island Protector. Within 30 years, Allison Janney is killed, Jacob becomes the new Island Protector, and Mib becomes the Smoke Monster.

smoke monster Locke

Continue reading “LOST: The Island, Smoke Monster, and Everything Else Explained”

The Fake Melania Conspiracy Theory

It’s completely bonkers to even entertain the “Fake Melania” theory. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

First Lady Melania Trump has a fondness for large sun spectacles that hide a third of her face. And if I may offer some fashion commentary for which I am entirely ill qualified, she wears them more often than one might find stately in a First Lady. Hiding one’s eyes can be regarded as a sign of something else to hide, not to mention that I find it rude to greet a new person without showing your face. It’s sort of like not removing a hat when you sit down to eat or enter someone’s home.

Decorum aside, there is one more reason the First Lady may want to reconsider her constant bespectacled state: It has fueled a very odd rumor, that a body double has been occasionally been appearing in her place.

Even if it were true, it would hardly be the craziest scandal. Melania was dragged into her role as international hostess with little warning. When she vowed to honor and cherish Donny Blimpo, she could hardly have imagined what awaited her. Her future was supposed to be a life of quiet splendor from atop Manhattan. The responsibility and scrutiny heaped on her has cast a harsh light on her behavior, grammar, fashion choices, Donny Blimpo’s porn star proclivities, and every other crack and crevice in her life.

So not only would I hardly be surprised if she did explore the option of a body double, I wouldn’t blame her. What is all that money good for if you can’t hire a model to slip on your shoes and hold hands with your beef-wreaking marital partner?

That doesn’t mean it’s true, though, no matter what the interwebs say. Let’s explore how the rumors started and what’s really behind those giant dark glasses.

Origins of the Fake Melania Theory: October, 2017

It was autumn, 2017, and the Trumps were heading out on a trip to visit a Secret Service training facility in Maryland. They paused on the White House lawn to address reporters. Melania is dressed in a trench coat and trademark jumbo shades, which is completely evocative of a spy costume. Between that and her body language, which arguably looks bored and uncomfortable, spectators begin to wonder if it is really her.

melania-body-double-trump

Adding massive fuel to the fire: President Trump actually says during that gaggle, “My wife, Melania, who happens to be right here…”. The interwebs collectively point out that this is exactly what Donny would say if she wasn’t right there.

Continue reading “The Fake Melania Conspiracy Theory”

The “Where is Melania?” Mystery

UPDATE: SOLVED!
It was 24 days that we went without seeing Lady Mel, but on June 5, she reemerged from her hidey hole. No full explanation has been given for the inconsistencies from her office and schedules, but it’s probably safe to assume that she had medical issues to overcome. She may have been sicker than we ever thought, or was working to overcome some kind of addiction. Odds are, we will never know the true details. And I suppose that’s fine. The important thing is that she appears to be okay. Still…something really fishy was going on. The whole thing still stinks.

Where is Melania Trump?

Melania Trump is missing. She has not been seen for 20+ days, during which time the White House has been cagey and misdirecting regarding her whereabouts. We have not seen her–not from a window, not from a balcony. We have not heard her voice. We have not read a Tweet typed by, or even dictated by our FLOTUS. And it all stems from a surprising and mysterious hospital procedure, followed by fake tweets, absences from major events and family trips, and a rattling silence from her office.

Listen, FLOTUS and I are from two completely different planets, and I have no clue how she has rationalized some of her life choices. But, she is our First Lady. This is an odd post, in that I hope it will become irrelevant and silly in a matter of just a few hours or days. But for now, it is exceptionally intriguing, and potentially very sad.

All we want to know is, where are you Lady Mel? Come home to us! Donald hasn’t had his tiny paws slapped away in weeks! I forgot how to BE BEST!
#WheresMelania

Here is a Melanie’s Melania’s timeline:


May 10: The last time Melania was seen in public. She and the President are photographed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland welcoming home the North Korean hostages. In the middle of the night.

May 14: Melania is secretly admitted to Walter Reed Hospital to undergo a “procedure” to treat a “benign kidney condition”. Though such procedures are done typically on an out-patient basis, FLOTUS’s office predicts that she will be kept in the hospital for 4-5 days, causing concern about what additional issues or procedures may be at play.

Her Communications Director and President Trump both note that the procedure was a success and that she is doing well.

May 19: Melania’s office reports that she is returning “home” (presumably the White House) from the hospital. It’s been over a week since we’ve seen her.

May 16-28: Her office continues to tweet on her behalf, on topics including thanks to the doctors at Walter Reed, a brief note about the Santa Fe shooting, and two Memorial Day messages that coincide with the President’s office’s agenda and message.

May 25: Outside of the White House, a reporter asks Pres. Trump how Melania is doing. He replies that she is doing “great” and then points to a window of the White House and says, “Right there. She’s doing great. Just looking at us, right there.” The window appears empty, presumably because the cardboard cutout or pillowcase dummy he set up fell down after a strong breeze.

May 28: Memorial Day. She has supposedly been resting at home after being released from the hospital nine days before (from an outpatient procedure). She does not attend the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington with Donald, as she normally would.

May 30: Melania surprisingly does not appear for the “White House Sports and Fitness Day” event, though it dovetails with her children’ initiatives. Ivanka takes her place.

May 30: While Pres. Trump is at the fitness event with his daughter-wife, the @FLOTUS account tweets the following:

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Anyone not recently hit in the head with a frying pan, realizes immediately that this tweet was not composed by Melania or any member of her staff, as the syntax is completely off, and alarmingly familiar. Oh, Donald, why are you working overtime to dictate your wife’s tweets?

June 1: Melania has now been missing for 3 weeks. The White House announces that she will not be traveling to Camp David with her husband. It is now likely that she will remain missing throughout the coming weekend.

June 2: The President and his children, Don Jr., Ivanka, Tiffany, and Jared Kushner, all head to Camp David together without Melania. Her conspicuous absence from the family gathering fuels theories that she is either preparing to divorce the President, or that she is gravely ill.


The more the timeline unfolds, the more troubling her story becomes. Given the current administration’s predilection for lying–and in Trump’s case, impersonating people who don’t exist (*cough*, John Barron)–their sloppy attempt to Tweet in her voice only makes the situation as suspicious as the sock puppet they tried out for a Fox News live Melania interview. Nothing about this is normal.

So Where IS Melania?

Theory #1: The Official Hermit Theory

The FLOTUS and POTUS offices stand by the story that the famously private First Lady has been staying under the radar while she recuperates at the White House. They note that she has been out of sight for longer stretches (under, arguably, far less peculiar circumstances). She will reappear when she is feeling up to it, and continues to tweet her support and love for her country.

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Problem With This Theory: She hasn’t been tweeting at all. And in light of growing public concerns about her well-being, it is highly strange that she does not at least step out on to a balcony to wave at reporters. She is certainly under no obligation to do so, but wise communications officials might typically press the matter to quell chatter and minimize distractions.

Plus, she doesn’t attend the wreath-laying ceremony? She avoids a family gathering at the serene and private Camp David? Feisty FLOTUS either can’t or won’t participate in White House/husband events, and it has nothing to do with mere privacy. Continue reading “The “Where is Melania?” Mystery”

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.

1890: The Eleventh Census is Taken

It is June, 1890. Across the country, about 86,000 men had recently been hired for temporary work as census enumerators. Now, in the June heat, each man plods door to door within his assigned district to take down a wide range of personal  and confidential family details about births, residences, parents, occupations, race, ethnicity, education, and impairments. For the first time (and what would later turn out to be the only time for many decades to come), there is a separate schedule (sheet of paper) for each family, allowing for unprecedented details to be recorded–and making it a back-breaking job to shuffle all of that paper. (It is said that there is more paper used in this census taking than in all previous ten censuses combined!)

1890 census - suriving page.png

When a family cannot be questioned personally, it is within the power of each enumerator to obtain the needed information from neighbors as proxies. It is important to be efficient in the collection, as the job must be done and reported back to Washington by the July deadline.

The untrained enumerators have sworn an oath to be courteous, confidential, and thorough–the last part being nearly guaranteed, as the men are paid according to what each records. According to the 1890 “Instructions to Enumerators” guide, they are each to be compensated to the tune of 2 cents per death reported, 5 cents per person with a mental or physical defect, or for each prisoner, pauper or homeless child. Each also receives 5 cents for each veteran or veteran’s widow from the “war of the rebellion”, and 2 cents for every other living person.

The data collection is likely grueling, tedious work without long-term prospects, but it is in service of their country and history–or, in some cases, it is a wonderful gesture of patronage by powerful friends and muggity-wumps who want well-placed (and untested) enumerators to advance their political or business agendas. Many deals across the nation hinge on the outcome of this census and what it reveals about changing populations, movements, and resources. In short, a lot of money may be made or lost over the results.

Once the work is complete, each man wraps up his work by following these guidelines as described in the August 30, 1890 issue of Scientific American:

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This is a deviation from the practice of enumerators in past decades, who had previously filed their completed census schedules with County Clerks offices before they were forwarded to Washington. But this year, there is so much data (*sigh*) that the hand-copying burden is an easy excuse for the census records to bypass local offices and head straight to Washington, and only Washington. All eggs in one flammable basket.

Continue reading “What Happened to the 1890 Census?”

Game of Thrones: Bran Stark is the Super Villain No One Saw Coming

(Update: I’ve been cooking this theory since before season 7, so please read the primer in Bran’s villainy below, and then head over to read my Season 7 update and then roll your Branchair over to the Season 8 Bran Finale Discussion!)

Forget Joffrey and his crossbow. Or even Ramsey Bolton and his dogs (and his knife, and his sausage, etc.). It could just be that the biggest, most monstrous villain that Westeros has ever seen is, in fact, Bran Stark of Winterfell. Bran, the climbing boy who was pushed out of a tower window. The boy who dreamed of being a knight. It just might be that he found a lurking inner darkness and heeded the call of his very sinister destiny.

How All Great Villains Begin

bran-climbing

Once upon a time, there was a boy who was shoved from a tower window. Until that very moment that the air whooshed past his flailing body, Bran was a sweet, innocent boy with a loving family and a promising and privileged future ahead of him.

Of course, this is exactly how so many villain stories start.

Then, in keeping with villainous themes, this tragic thing happens to him. He is nearly murdered by a queen and her brother, and is left crippled. Gone are his dreams of being a knight. Gone are his days scaling the rooftops. The bitterness sets in. He cannot remember what has happened to him, so he doesn’t understand why or how. He was cheated.

bran-in-bed

Let this mark the beginning of his darkness. TV Bran wants to hear only dark and morbid stories, and he despises his mother’s absence (another common villain theme). He cares not anymore about learning or caring for his father’s subjugates.

But, what of it? He’s an adolescent who has been crippled. Wouldn’t anyone’s mind be in a dark place? Absolutely. It’s what Bran does next that defines his character.

Bran Murdered Hodor

bran-and-hodor

Continue reading “Game of Thrones: Bran Stark is the Super Villain No One Saw Coming”