Cryptozoology Break! The Kraken

Once the most feared creature in the Nordic Seas, the Kraken was often described by bewildered fisherman as a disproportionately large squid, or octopus, or other ferocious tentacled sea monster. The stories were usually scoffed by landlovers until the Kraken was popularized by French science fiction author, Jules Verne, in his classic novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Eventually, in the late 19th century, the not quite so giant, giant squid were being discovered washed up on the shore, some at 40+ feet in length, confirming at least in part the nautical horror stories of the past. The giant squid remains an incredibly elusive creature, having only recently been documented alive, but the tall tales of the Kraken, a gargantuan ship-swallowing sea monster, have gradually been adapted into medium tales of a pretty darn big squid who dukes it out with whales.

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c8/Giant_octopus_attacks_ship.jpg

 

A Name You Should Know: Emma Lazarus

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a0/Emma_Lazarus.jpg

One of the first successful Jewish American authors, Emma Lazarus was a poet and essayist who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, writing numerous powerful works against anti-semitism, supporting immigrants rights, and even arguing for the creation of a Jewish homeland before the Zionist movement came into being. But she is best known for her immortal American poem, “The New Colossus” which appears on a bronze plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty. You know the one, ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’ that one. Unfortunately, many politicians currently wish to have it removed, along with the torch… to be replaced with a stop sign 🙂

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3a/Emma_Lazarus_plaque.jpg

Cryptozoology Break! The Bunyip

Australia’s native Aborigines have plenty of tales involving a ferocious freshwater creature called the Bunyip, who comes out of the water at nightfall to hunt for their children. Descriptions vary greatly, from dog-faced to reptilian to starfish shaped. Since “Bunyip” actually translates to “evil spirit”, shape-shifting is probably not out of the question. But, it is more likely the Aborigines could never accurately describe it because they were busy running for their lives in the other direction. A solid survival technique in this case.

Art by Allen Douglas

Cryptozoology Break! Kongamato

In the Jiundu swamps of western Zambia, a legendary pterodactyl-like creature known as Kongamato (“overwhelmer of boats”) had been terrifying the natives for generations. This elusive creature was known to capsize boats and deliberately pursue and destroy any poor soul who laid eyes on it. A few early 20th century explorers reported seeing and often being attacked by these crazy ugly flying monsters. Similar sightings were reported from as far away as Mount Kilimanjaro. Today, the real truth about the Kongamato remains a mystery…

You say Kongamayto, I say Kongamahto, let’s get the heck outta here!

Tech Magic!

An inspiring demonstration of magic, technology and lies that make truth… Just watch it.

Tales of Tourists Walking Around Aimlessly: Florence, Italy


Ah, beautiful Florence Italy. Nestled in the hills of Tuscany, this one time medieval colossus thrives today as a mecca for tourists, students, and artists. Home to Renaissance superstars such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Giotto, and Botticelli. Does the world’s next great artist walk these streets today, disguised as an unsuspecting tourist? Only posterity can know, next time on TALES OF TOURISTS WALKING AROUND AIMLESSLY!

Hemingway in Paris

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Ernest Hemingway came to Paris in the 1920s on Sherwood Anderson’s advice to go to Paris and meet Gertrude Stein. The advice began one of the most influential careers in the history of literature. Today, we fashioned a Hemingway Literary walk that began with his first apartment on Rue Notre Dame de les Champs and finished on the Left Bank at Shakespeare and Co., the bookstore that took its name from Sylvia Beach’s store of the same name. Here was our itinerary:

Hemingway in Paris Tour

171 boulevard du montparnasse Closerie des Lilias-Cafe featured in “The Sun Also Rises”
113 rue Notre dame des champs-Hemingway’s first apartment in Paris
74 Cardinal Lemoine-2nd apartment, where he lived longest, where Hadley had Bumby
Rue Mouffetard-Market streets which he described as “a cesspool.”
27 Rue des Fleurus-Gertrude Stein’s apartment & salon, featured in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” It was here that young Hemingway met, and began to disdain, the ex-pat American literary society.
Luxembourg Gardens–Park where Hemingway caught a pigeon to eat
Les Deux Magots–Cafe where older Hemingway hung out after WWII
Shakespeare & co (rue odeon)–Original site of Sylvia Beach’s bookstore, now gone. Beach published James Joyces Ulysses which made her ground zero for the Lost Generation literary movement. When they weren’t drunk (and sometimes when they were), ex-pat American writers such as Fitzgerald and Hemingway were often found here. Interestingly, the site also features a plaque to American pamphleteer Thomas Paine, who lived there after the French Revolution.
Shakespeare & Co. (Left Bank)–Across from Notre Dame, bookstore that took its name from the original. Home to backpackers and writer wanna-be’s, the store stamps as books as proof that pilgrims have made the last stop on their Hemingway journey.

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History Schmistory, June 5: Titus fit

70 – Titus & his Roman legions breach the middle wall of Jerusalem.  Some people will do anything to get a famous arch named after them.

The Arch of Titus recounts the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70AD

All The Countries of the World!

Check out our brand-spankin’-new video featuring EVERY COUNTRY on the PLANET!!

Culture Buzz: Savage Easter

In the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary it is an Easter tradition to torment women for the day. This typically includes dousing them with water and/or lightly spanking them. Seriously. Somehow, symbolically the ritual is meant to keep them young and fertile, derived from an old medieval tradition that probably should’ve stayed just that. Though most observe the tradition playfully, there are always a few who ruin it for everyone. So, to be safe, many ladies of Central Europe will justifiably choose to stay in this Sunday.

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