The Comics Code & the War on Comics?

In the early 1950s, a wave of hysteria raced through America. Comic books, according to the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, were turning kids into monsters. The media, as reactionary then as it is today, demanded a Congressional investigation to (what else?) protect the children. Faced with government regulation, the comics industry created the Comics Code, which essentially ended horror comics and led to hundreds of people losing their jobs.

Today the War on Comics seems ridiculous. I wonder what future generations will think about the modern wars on obesity, drugs, etc.  Here’s more on the Comics Code and the War on Comics from The Christian Science Monitor:

In his 1953 novel “Fahrenheit 451,” named after the temperature at which paper catches on fire, Ray Bradbury painted a picture of a society beset by book-burning. In his vision, the censors didn’t bother to throw comic books on the pyre because they just weren’t worth worrying about.

Not so in mid-century America. For more than a decade, countless parents and teenagers made bonfires of comic books, reducing everyone from Captain Marvel to Archie to ashes.

It wasn’t so much Superman & Co. that drove the book-burnings, although even the Man of Steel had his critics. Instead, psychiatrists, politicians, and editorial writers feared the most extreme comic books – filled with crooks, monsters, and voluptuous women – would drive innocent children into the clutches of juvenile delinquency.

(See the rest at The Christian Science Monitor)

Nine Men’s Morris – A Game for the Blizzard?

The snow is falling fast in New England and could reach two feet in depth by tomorrow. Power outages are a near certainty. For those of you looking for a way to pass the time, why not try your hand at an old board game, namely Nine Men’s Morris? Nine Men’s Morris is a strategy game that dates back to the Roman Empire. It became popular in England and eventually made its way over to the New World. It remained popular in America through the Civil War.

The Rules for Nine Men’s Morris

You need pencil and paper to draw the board (see image). For playing pieces, use checkers (9 for each side). The goal of Nine Men’s Morris is to leave your opponent with just two pieces or block him from being able to make a legal move. The game has three phases: 1) Place checkers in open positions; 2) Move checkers to adjacent positions; and 3) Move checkers to any vacant position (this is only done when a player is down to just three pieces). Here are some more specific rules from Wikipedia:

Phase one: placing pieces

The game begins with an empty board. The players determine who plays first, then take turns placing their men one per play on empty points. If a player is able to place three of his pieces in a straight line, vertically or horizontally, he has formed a mill and may remove one of his opponent’s pieces from the board and the game. Any piece can be chosen for the removal, but a piece not in an opponent’s mill must be selected, if possible. Once all pieces have been placed, phase two begins.

Phase two: moving pieces

Players continue to alternate moves, this time moving a man to an adjacent point. A piece may not “jump” another piece. Players continue to try and form mills, and remove their opponent’s pieces in the same manner as in phase one. A player may “break” a mill by moving one of his pieces out of an existing mill, then moving the piece back to form the same mill a second time, or any number of times; and each time removing one of his opponent’s men. The act of removing an opponent’s man is sometimes called “pounding” the opponent. When one player has been reduced to three men, phase three begins.

Phase three: “flying”

When a player is reduced to three pieces, there is no longer a limitation of moving to only adjacent points: The player’s men may “fly”, “hop”, or “jump” from any point to any vacant point…

For more on Nine Men’s Morris, check out Wikipedia. Good luck to everyone in the path of the storm!

Blizzard of 1888: The Worst Blizzard of all Time?

Snow is starting to fall in northern New England as the region braces for an epic blizzard. Snowfall is expected to reach 2 to 3 feet when all is said and done. *Yawn* Unless things change dramatically, the Blizzard of 2013 will be nothing compared to the Great Blizzard of 1888. 125 years ago, 40 to 50 inches fell in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut over a four day period. Saratoga Springs received almost 6 feet!

The Blizzard of 1888 snowdrifts were epic. In Keene, New Hampshire, “drifts of hard packed snow from 12-15 feet deep were piled across the roads, and half way to the top of the second story windows.” And that was on the low end. Whopping 30 to 40 foot snowdrifts were common with the highest drift topping out at 52 feet (not the best day for residents of Gravesend, New York). Here’s more on the Great Blizzard of 1888 from Forgotten New England:

During New England‘s Blizzard of 1888, also known as the Great White Hurricane, over four feet of snow fell in Connecticut and Massachusetts.  The storm dumped as much as 40 inches of snow in New York and New Jersey.  In a world before road salt and snowblowers, the Great White Hurricane suspended communication and travel in the U.S. Northeast for nearly a week in March 1888.  History most remembers the particularly horrific conditions in New York City.  There, the New York World reported that almost two feet of snow had fallen amidst biting 50 mph winds and sub-zero temperatures.  However, the storm also wrought havoc in smaller northern cities along the US East Coast…

(See the rest at Forgotten New England)

 

How much is the Oldest Baseball Card Worth?

I’m amazed this only went for $92,000. It’s not a real baseball card, at least in the traditional sense. It’s more like a team photograph. But since it was handed out by the team, its often considered a predecessor to later cards like the Old Judge sets. Here’s more from Daniel Lovering at Yahoo News:

A rare 1865 photograph of the Brooklyn Atlantics baseball team, discovered at a Maine yard sale and considered one of the first baseball cards ever, sold for $92,000 at an auction on Wednesday.

A Massachusetts man offered the winning sum in cash after a brief round of bidding at Saco River Auction Co., said Troy Thibodeau, manager and auctioneer at the company in Biddeford, Maine.Thibodeau declined to name the buyer.

The photograph mounted on a card, known as a carte de viste, is the only one of its kind known to exist, though the Library of Congress has a similar image made from a different negative, Thibodeau said before the auction.

(See the rest at Yahoo News)

Paul Revere vs. Sam Adams?

Here’s another historical meme I created, based on the Paul Revere / Sam Adams controversy. It’s a little known fact that the man featured on bottles of Samuel Adams beer is actually Paul Revere. I’m not certain of the reason for this. Some say Samuel Adams was too ugly. Others say the beer was originally supposed to be called Paul Revere beer and that the portrait was too expensive to redo.

Regardless, Revere was an American patriot who played an important role in the Sons of Liberty and the Boston Tea Party. He also famously warned the British were coming in his famous (and over-hyped) Paul Revere’s Ride.

The painting is called “Portrait of Paul Revere.” It was created by John Singleton Copley in 1768. Enjoy!

War on the Federal Reserve?

The Federal Reserve is no good. Its money monopoly has wrecked havoc for 100 years. So, I welcome currency competition from Virginia, although I’d prefer it came from the free market. That said, the Federal Reserve will continue to dominate as long as legal tender laws are in full effect. Here’s more on the war on the Federal Reserve from Fox News:

Virginia is one step closer to breaking ties with the country’s monetary system.

A proposal to study whether the state should adopt its own currency is gaining traction in the state legislature from a number of lawmakers as well as conservative economists. The state House voted 65-32 earlier this week to approve the measure, and it will now go to the Senate.

While it’s unlikely that Virginia will be printing its own money any time soon, the move sheds light on the growing distrust surrounding the nation’s central bank. Four other states are considering similar proposals. In 2011, Utah passed a law that recognizes gold and silver coins issued by the federal government as tender and requires a study on adopting other forms of legal currency.

Virginia Republican Del. Robert Marshall told FoxNews.com Tuesday that his bill calls for creation of a 10-member commission that would determine the “need, means and schedule for establishing a metallic-based monetary unit.” Essentially, he wants to spend $20,000 on a study that could call for the state to return to a gold standard…

(See the rest at Fox News)

The Turk: History’s First Chess Computer?

Two centuries before Big Blue, there was the Turk, history’s first chess computer. From 1770 to 1854, this mechanical marvel played and defeated all sorts of challengers, including many top-ranked chess players as well as Benjamin Franklin. It wasn’t until 1857 that the Turk’s secret was revealed…it was a giant fake. Here’s more from  Krešimir Josić at the University of Houston:

The Turk was touted as an early robot that could play chess at the highest level. Built in Vienna in 1770 by the inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen, the machine consisted of a large pedestal, housing intricate machinery on top of which stood a chessboard. To this box was attached the upper half of a men dressed in oriental robes and a turban. Each performance began with an elaborate introduction to convince the audience that the Turk is really a machine. The automaton would then face a challenger.

The Turk first dazzled the court of the empress Maria Theresa in Vienna. The machine moved its own pieces, and would instantly recognize illegal moves by its opponent. It offered a surprisingly good game of chess! The automaton soon became a sensation, toured Europe and North America, and was matched against some of the best chess players of the time…

(See the rest at the University of Houston)

 

How well does Congress reflect the People it “serves”?

How well does Congress reflect the people it “serves” (“rules” might be a better word)? Not very well, it turns out. How else could lawyers make up 37% of the U.S. Congress, both now and in 1789? Not to pick on lawyers either…out of the 209 “businesspeople” in Congress, how many do you think are clerks, bakers, entrepreneurs, electricians, etc.? I’m guessing the answer is a big fat zero. So much for James Madison’s dream of the House of Representatives being a lower house for “the people.” Here’s more from Constitution Daily:

With that in mind, the staff of Constitution Daily compiled a comparison between the First U.S. Congress and the current one, looking at the occupational breakdown between their members. The results were, in some ways, predictable, but there were still a few surprises. (Who knew there was a comedian among their ranks?)…

Although the First Congress had a limited variety of professions, the general make up of both are relatively similar. As you can see, from the time the First Congress met, law has been a top profession; in both bodies, about 37 percent of the members are lawyers. It makes sense–the people writing the laws need to have a deep understanding of how the legal system works. But do lawyers make the best politicians?

(See the rest including the breakdown at Constitution Daily)

Did Nazi Monks build a base in the Amazon?

Nazi monks operating in the Amazon? Secret plans for an air attack on the Panama Canal? Sounds like great Nazi fiction…but it’s a true story (well, at least in part).

In a declassified note to the Assistant Secretary of State, J. Edgar Hoover said, “As of possible interest to you, information has been received from a reliable confidential source that there are rumors current in Brazil as to a German air base, reported to exist in the Rio Negro district of the upper Amazon.”

And here’s more from Felipe Fernandes Cruz at The Appendix:

It was October 1941 and J. Edgar Hoover had just received a strange bit of war intelligence. A secret German air base was being built in the Amazon. This was particularly worrisome, since such an airfield could be used to launch a secret Luftwaffe attack on the strategic Panama Canal. This idea did not come out of the blue. Americans were at the time very concerned about German influence in South America. To monitor potential fascist agents, the Federal Bureau of Investigation collaborated with a Brazilian agency, the Departamento de Ordem Política e Social (Department of Social and Political Order, Brazil’s version of a secret police)…

(See more at The Appendix)

 

Bruno Sammartino: History’s Greatest Wrestler?

I love professional wrestling, especially its long and storied connection to American history. Did you know George Washington was once a Collar-and-Elbow wrestling champion? Or that Abraham Lincoln was a renowned Catch-as-Catch-Can wrestler?

Last night, the WWE announced that Bruno Sammartino would be inducted into its Hall of Fame. He joins a stacked class including Mick Foley, Trish Stratus, and Bob Backlund. For years, the WWE Hall of Fame has been a bit of a joke really, thanks to celebrity inductions like Pete Rose and Drew Carey as well as that of thankless jobber Koko B. Ware. Glaring omissions like Sammartino and Backlund only made things worse. With this year’s class, the WWE appears to be shooting for a little legitimacy. Here’s more on Bruno Sammartino’s induction from Donald Wood at Bleacher Report:

Bruno Sammartino is the greatest professional wrestler in the history of the business, and the fact that he is going into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the 2013 class at Madison Square Garden is one of the biggest coups in the long existence of the company.

For those too young to know exactly who this man is or what he did, Sammartino was wrestling’s original face champion. Before there was Hulk Hogan or John Cena, there was Sammartino and his unbelievably long title reigns.

CM Punk has been heralded as a star for holding the WWE title for 434 days, but in the ’60s and ’70s, Sammartino held the title twice for a total of 4040 days (2803 and 1237 respectively.)

That’s over 11 years total as champion…

(See the rest at Bleacher Report)