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Archive for March, 2011

17 March

Happy St. Patrick’s Day


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope you are wearing green or you might get pinched. But why do we pinch? According to the Christina Science Monitor:

No surprise, it’s an entirely American tradition that probably started in the early 1700s. St. Patrick’s revelers thought wearing green made one invisible to leprechauns, fairy creatures who would pinch anyone they could see (anyone not wearing green). People began pinching those who didn’t wear green as a reminder that leprechauns would sneak up and pinch green-abstainers.

Want to listent ot a podcast about St. Patrick’s Day, you’re in luck, I pulled this one out of the vault. All the way back from 2006. Enjoy!

But wait there’s more. Who was the man behind St. Patrick’s Day? According to National Geographic he was:

For starters, the real St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. He was born in Britain around A.D. 390 to an aristocratic Christian family with a townhouse, a country villa, and plenty of slaves. What’s more, Patrick professed no interest in Christianity as a young boy, Freeman noted. At 16, Patrick’s world turned: He was kidnapped and sent overseas to tend sheep as a slave in the chilly, mountainous countryside of Ireland for seven years. “It was just horrible for him,” Freeman said. “But he got a religious conversion while he was there and became a very deeply believing Christian.”

There is a ton of content to get you St. Patrick’s Day fix on If that is not enough, try this:

Further Learning:
St. Patrick’s Day (Holiday Histories)
The Harp and The Shamrock
The Story of St. Patrick’s Day
Paddy Whacked – The Irish Mob (History Channel)
The History of St. Patrick’s Day

16 March

The Scarlet Letter is Published


One of my favorites from my high school reading list.  One of the few assigned readings I enjoyed at that age and one of the few that I remember.  The Scarlet Letter was published on this day in 1850. One of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s most popular and well-known books, largely considered his “great work”. I would be remise if I didn’t mention The House of the Seven Gables, one of his other famous works.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet letter is a fictional romance tale set in Puritan Boston in the years 1642 to 1649.  There have been several film adaptations of the book:

Further Learning:

Biographies on Nathaniel Hawthorne:

They didn’t have this when I was in school, but nowadays you don’t even have to read the cliff notes, they have videos for free online that go over the whole book, see below.  And if you want more but don’t want to read the WHOLE cliff notes you can read the long description of the story on wikipedia that is basically the whole book.  It is amazing, I guess students now don’t have to read the story at all.

15 March

Podcast Review: The Memory Palace


For this review I listened to episode 37 of The Memory Palace. It is entitled “natural curiosity”. It is about Joice Heth, the African American slave that P.T. Barnum put on display and told everyone she was 161 years old nanny of George Washington. It is a wonderfully told story of a piece of history that is very obscure. The episode itself is just short of 7 minutes, because there just is not much known about Joice Heth. Even her Wikipedia article is very short. There is a book that Nate the author of the podcast mentions on the website, The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum’s America by Benjamin Reiss.

Some nitpicky things, the sound was a little quiet so I had to turn up my ipod quit a bit. No description notes in the lyrics section of the podcast. I always find these useful when listening to a new podcast for the first time. Nate played music in the background of the podcast, but it didn’t bother me at all.

I would recommend this podcast for history lovers. It is currently number 9 in the history podcast category on iTunes [iTunes Link]. It has 5 stars out of 5 stars, with 254 ratings. The podcast also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. There is an interview of Nate located on this website (click on “Extra”).

14 March

Albert Einstein Born


Albert Einstein

On this day in 1879 Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany, which is about 90 miles or 141 km West of Munich. Six weeks after Einstein was born his family travelled that 141 km to Munich. This is where Einstein began his education at Luitpold Gymnasium. His family would again move to Italy, but Einstein would be attending school in Aaru, Switzerland. In 1896 he found himself in Zurich attending the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School. There, he trained to be a teacher of Physics and Mathematics. In 1901 he gained his Swiss citizenship and his diploma. When he was not able to find a teaching position he grabbed a job at the Swiss Patent Office. He married Mileva Maric in 1903 and they had a daughter and two sons, but this didn’t slow down his education.  He wasn’t able to stop his education and in 1905 he obtained his doctor’s degree. Still this wasn’t enough and in 1908 he got his PhD in Berne.

In 1911 he became a professor of theoretical physics in Prague. In 1914 he was appointed Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute and Professor in the University of Berlin.  In 1919 his wife died and he married his cousin, Elsa Löwenthal, who died in 1936.  He must of liked it in Germany because he became a citizen the same year and stayed there until 1933. But that didn’t last because he left for America because of “political reasons”. He quickly got a job as Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton. In 1940 he became an American citizen and in 1945 he retired. But he continued to learn and try to figure out things himself.

Einstein’s work is chronicled in many publications:

His non-scientific works:

Einstein traveled the world giving speeches and presentations.  He was honored with numerous awards and received many honorary degrees from a bunch of universities.  Einstein died on April 18, 1955 at Princeton, New Jersey.

Further Learning:

Einstein: His Life and Universe

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11 March

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Published



On this day in 1818 Frankenstein was published. Another title of the book was The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus was a demigod, one of the Titans, who was worshiped by craftsmen. When Zeus hid fire from man, Prometheus stole it by trickery and returned it to earth. As punishment, Zeus chained him to a rock where an eagle fed each day on his liver, which grew again each night; he was rescued by Hercules.

Shelley started writing the novel when she was only 18 and didn’t finish it until she was 21. When it was first published in 1818 it was anonymously, then in the second edition, published in France Shelley’s name appears.

Frankenstein is commonly thought to be the monster, but in fact, the monster is never referred to as Frankenstein, only as monster, fiend, etc. Victor Frankenstein was the doctor who created the monster.

Further Learning:

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus: The 1818 Text Considered to be the better edition by Mary Shelley historians.

Frankenstein 1931 DVD

Creepy video about real monsters by real Dr. Frankensteins.

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10 March

History is All Around You


I ran into some local history a few weekends ago while out with my family. We were visiting a popular garden shop here in the orange county and we saw a cool gazebo when I approached it I saw that it had a sign stating its local history. I posted those pictures a while ago on our Facebook page, but here they are for you incase you missed them there.

Originally this gazebo/bandstand sat in the middle of Town Square at Disneyland.   Just before the park opened the bandstand was moved just to the left of the castle, because Walt was afraid it would get in the way of people seeing the castle.  It was there on opening day July 17, 1955.  Later the Carnation Garden’s Plaza would be built to permanent house all the musical performances.  It was then that the bandstand was moved to Adventureland, in an area that would become known as Magnolia Park, near the jungle cruise.  In 1962 the Jungle Cruise had an expansion and the Bandstand was donated to the city of Anaheim.  Its last move was to Roger’s Gardens when the City of Anaheim asked them if they would like to have it.

Here is a cool video I found that gives a great overview:

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09 March

Barbie Introduced to the World


The company Mattel was founded in 1945 by Elliot Handler and Harold “Matt” Matson. The company name was a combination of the too names Matt and El from Elliot. Which of course is Mattel. Before Mattel was Mattel, it was a small picture frame shop, that Harold and his wife Ruth Handler owned. They started to create toy furniture in the 1940’s. When the toy furniture became a better seller than the picture frames, they changed the company to a toy company. In the 1950’s after Mattel had already been founded Ruth was in Switerland and happened to purchase a German doll called Lilli. Lillit was the inspiration for Barbie. Why call it Barbie? Ruth’s daughter’s name was Barbra and her son’s? One guess…yep, Kenneth. So, there you have the history of the names at least.

Happy Birthday Barbie!

Barbie (the doll) was first shown at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. This date is also the date of Barbie’s birthday. Making her 52 years old today! And she still looks great. There were 350,000 Barbie dolls sold in that first year. Barbie even has a full fictional biography in case you were wondering her full name is, Barbra Millicent Roberts. Her parent’s names are George and Margret and she lives in Willows, Wisconsin (not a real place).

Barbie and Ken


She has had an on-again-off-again relationship with her boyfriend Ken Carson, who she met in 1961. On Valentine’s Day 2004, the couple broke it off, but recently they got back together. Mattel staged a huge transmedia campaign at

You can follow Barbie on Twitter at @BarbieStyle and Ken at @OfficialKen. They also have Facebook pages (Barbie, Ken), because even at 52 and 50, they are still hip.


Further Learning:

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08 March

The VW Bus Goes Into Production


On this day in 1950 the VW Bus went into production.  The official name of the VW Bus or Camper is actually the Transporter.  I think this is a fun topic and one that is best illustrated with a timeline.  So please see the embedded youtube video from my new youtube channel.

07 March

Book Review: Lost City of Z


I recently finished The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann.  This book is a little hard to describe, because it is not only an adventure book, but it also a kind of biography on Colonel Fawcett aka Percival (Percy) Harrison Fawcett , an adventurer who went deep into the Amazon in search of the lost city of Z.  Fawcett was a prolific explorer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used his exploits as a basis for The Lost World.

The book moved along at a very good clip.  I never got bored or thought there was too much detail.  As the author tells the story of Fawcett he also tells the story of his research and his preparation to go into the Amazon himself.  It is a very interesting adventure/biography story.  I would recommend to any history buff and especially to anyone who enjoys a good adventure story.

Here is an excerpt from a review that John Grisham did of the book:

The great mystery of what happened to Fawcett has never been solved, perhaps until now. In 2004, author David Grann discovered the story while researching another one. Soon, like hundreds before him, he became obsessed with the legend of the colorful adventurer and his baffling disappearance. Grann, a lifelong New Yorker with an admitted aversion to camping and mountain climbing, a lousy sense of direction, and an affinity for take-out food and air conditioning, soon found himself in the jungles of the Amazon. What he found there, some 80 years after Fawcett’s disappearance, is a startling conclusion to this absorbing narrative.

The book has 3 stars out of a possible 4, with of 331 reviews.  I myself would give it a 3.5 to 4 stars.  I always like to use Goodreads to see the reviews, since a lot more people review books on that site.  There this book has 3.8 stars and over 1,578 reviews.

Further reading:

Exploration Fawcett: Journey to the Lost City of Z by Percy Fawcett

The Ecology of Power: Culture, Place and Personhood in the Southern Amazon, AD 1000-2000 (Critical Perspectives in Identity, Memory & the Built Environment) by Michael J. Heckenberger, Grann meets Heckenberger towards the end of his journey.  Heckenberger is an expert on that area of the Amazon where Fawcett is believed to have been last seen.  He is also said to be the current day Fawcett.

Lost trails, Lost Cities by Percy Harrison Fawcett (Author), Brian Fawcett (Editor)

Here is a cool video where David Grann shows pictures from adventures in the Amazon and discusses his book:

04 March

Remembering John Candy


By Reckon from Flickr

On this day in 1994, John Franklin Candy died of a heart attack. At the time, Candy was filming Wagons East! In Durango, Mexico. The movie was finished using a body double for Candy. John Candy was born in Newmarket, Ontario in Canada. Candy grew up with his older brother, playing football and attending an all-boy Catholic high school in Toronto.

Candy started in film in the 1970’s. In 1976 he started working on The Second City which would become Second City Television (SCTV). After NBC picked up the show in 1981 it became hugely popular. In 1980, Candy got a part in Steven Spielberg’s 1941 and another in The Blues Brothers. Then in 1981 he received a part in Stripes. During the following 2 years, he had a cameo in National Lampoon’s Vacation and appeared on Saturday Night Live (SNL) twice.

In 1983 Candy headlined in Going Berserk and then in 1984 scored a role in Splash playing Tom Hank’s brother. This last role is considered to be when he really made it. Through the rest of the 1980’s Candy played in such films as Spaceballs, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Brewster’s Millions, The Great Outdoors, Armed and Dangerous, Uncle Buck and many more.

In the 1990’s you may remember Candy playing roles in The Rescuers Down Under, Cool Runnings, and Home Alone. In an effort to avoid being type cast, Candy appeared in a light romantic film called Only the Lonely and a dramatic role in JFK. In 1991, Candy joined Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky to become a co-owner of a Canadian Football team known as the Toronto Argonauts. This culled a lot of attention in Canada, as they spent a lot of money signing some big players to the team and it paid off, as they won the 1991 Grey Cup.

In the 80’s and 90’s Candy had put on even more weight. He is believed to be at least 100 pounds overweight by 1994. Just before he passed he had made an effort to lose weight. He had stopped smoking. It seems that the physically demanding role in Wagons East! may have been too much for Candy’s body. He passed away on March 4, 1994 in his sleep from a heart attack. He was only 43 years old.

Wagons East! and Canadian Bacon, a movie filmed in 1993 were released after his death.


Laughing on the Outside: The Life of John Candy This biography got 3 out of 5 stars, and has pretty poor reviews, but it seems like the only option if you want a book.  Anyone know of anything else?

John Candy (They Died Too Young) This is the only other thing I could find online but doesn’t seem to be available anywhere.

Here is a cool tribute video from Youtube:

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