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Posts Tagged ‘Revolutionary War

Memento Mori…

It’s reassuring to know that one is only one-tenth as likely to die of bee/hornet/wasp sting as of air/space accident, but mildly chilling to know that a fatal tumble down stairs is five times more likely than electrocution…

From Daily Infographic, How Will You Die?

click here (and again) for full chart, enlarged

As we remember poor Yorick, we might also recall that it was on this date in 1776 that 21-year-old Connecticut school teacher and Continental Army Captain Nathan Hale was executed by the British for spying.  While Hale is credited with saying “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” the story descends from an eyewitness account by John Montresor, a British soldier who spoke soon after the execution with the American officer William Hull about Hale’s comportment.  Some scholars believe that the now-famous mot is a burnishing of the less-well-measured “I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged that my only regret is that I have not more lives than one to offer in its service.”

In any case, executed for spying:  what are the odds?

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Let’s get cynical…

 

"Cynic: an idealist whose rose-colored glasses have been removed, snapped in two and stomped into the ground, immediately improving his vision" - Rick Bayan

Cynicisn was, like the Doric column and the gyro sandwich, invented by the Greeks.  As Rick Bayan explains…

The first Cynics (we capitalize the name when we’re talking about the ancient ones) were students of a now-obscure philosopher named Antisthenes, who in turn was a student of the illustrious Socrates. Like Socrates, the Cynics believed that virtue was the greatest good. But they took it a step further than the old master, who would merely challenge unsuspecting folks to good-natured debates and let their own foolishness trip them up.

The Cynics were more blunt when it came to exposing foolishness. They’d hang  out in the streets like a pack of dogs (“Cynic” comes from the Greek word for  dog), watch the passing crowd, and ridicule anyone who seemed pompous, pretentious, materialistic or downright wicked. Fiercely proud of their independence, they led disciplined and virtuous lives. The most famous of the ancient Cynics was Diogenes, who reportedly took up residence in a tub to demonstrate his freedom from material wants. This cranky street-philosopher would introduce himself by saying, “I am Diogenes the dog. I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy and bite scoundrels.” He’d use a lantern by daylight, explaining that he was searching for an honest man. Even Alexander the Great didn’t escape unscathed. When the young conqueror found Diogenes sitting in the marketplace and asked how he could help him, the old philosopher replied that “you can step out of my sunlight.”

Bayan, who believes that cynicism is as important today as ever, has created The Cynic’s Sanctuary, one of whose fascinating features is the Cynic’s Hall of Fame; arranged chronologically, by date of birth, it begins with…

Aesop (c. 600 B.C. ) Was he real or legendary? We’re not absolutely sure. Aesop may have been a slave who lived on the Greek isle of Samos; it’s said that he was slain by irate priests at the Oracle of Delphi. (He probably got himself into hot water by mocking their beliefs.) His works weren’t assembled into book form until about eight centuries after his time. No doubt numerous ancient storytellers added to the collection along the way. But the reputed author of the world’s most famous fables — man or legend — has to stand as literature’s great proto-Cynic. His brief moral tales are sharp allegories of human folly — even when the characters are foxes, crows, mice, tortoises and hares. Aesop’s Fables teem with the wisdom and gentle mockery of someone who knows the human animal inside and out (especially our weaknesses). If you think Aesop is just for children, think again — and read him again.

Favorite quote:
“Familiarity breeds contempt.”

The roster continues through the expected (e.g., Rabelais, Voltaire, Mark Twain) and the not-so-expected (Jesus, Shakespeare, Schopenhauer)…

In times like these, it’s comforting to know that one can take refuge in The Cynic’s Sanctuary.

 

As we memorize our Mencken, we might recall that it was on this date in 1780 that General Benedict Arnold betrayed the US when he wrote British General Sir Henry Clinton, agreeing to surrender the fort at West Point to the British army.  Arnold, whose name has become synonymous with “traitor,” fled to England after the plot fell through.  The British gave Arnold a brigadier general’s commission with an annual income of several hundred pounds, but only paid him £6,315 plus an annual pension of £360 because his plot had failed.  After the Revolutionary War, Arnold settled in Canada, and turned his hand to land speculation, West Indies, trade, and privateering– none of them very successfully.  He died in 1801.

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Are you a man or a…

From the BBC, “Sex I.D.: The Brain-Sex Test“– complete a series of exercises, and discover whether your brain functions more like most men’s or most women’s.

As we ponder the mysteries of gender, we might recall that it was on this date in 1776 that South Carolina became the first American colony to declare its independence from Great Britain and set up its own government.

The Palmetto State clearly has an itchy trigger finger:  your correspondent’s ancestral seat was also the first state to declare its secession from the Union. On April 12, 1861, Confederate batteries began shelling Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, and the American Civil War began.

Revolutionaries fighting the forces of the Crown, Charleston, 1776
(U.S. Army Center for Military History)

… Oil that is– black gold, Texas tea…

With thanks to Suzanne Lainson for the tip, The Guardian‘s “From extraction to consumption: Oil, an exhibition by Edward Burtynsky.”

As we consider all things crude, we might recall that that on this date in 1781, Cornwallis, after a loss at Yorktown, surrendered to The Continental Army (and the French who’d joined them), effectively ending the Revolutionary War (as it’s known over here)…

click to enlarge

… then, just 31 years later, on this date in 1812, Napoleon threw in the serviette, and began his retreat from Moscow.

click to enlarge

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Up, Up, and Away…

Czech-born artist Klara Hobza has one foot firmly planted in the past; the other, equally firmly placed in the future.

Hobza has has just published The New Millennium Paper Airplane Book,

…a collection of some of the artist’s favorite paper airplanes and stories by their creators, gathered from The New Millennium Paper Airplane Contest exhibition, held at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York, in 2008. This project was itself an homage to the historic paper airplane contest that took place in 1967 at the same venue–which, in a note of minor irony, was built to display rockets for the 1964 World’s Fair. The competition was open to the public, and participants were invited to fly their planes in a number of judging categories including distance flown, duration aloft, beauty, spectacular failure and children’s designs.

source: Susan Coolen

Each page is designed to be torn out and folded into the flyer that it describes (and– for those, like your correspondent, needing a little extra help– a complete list of step-by-step folding instructions is included).

As we concentrate on the optimal point of release, we might look spare a commemorative second to look down, as it was on this date in 1776 that the first submarine attack occurred.  In anticipation of the Battle of Kips Bay, the Turtle– a hand-powered, egg-shaped submersible designed by David Bushnell– tried and failed to sink the British warship HMS Eagle, flagship of the blockaders in New York harbor; the explosives attached to the Eagle‘s hull weren’t sufficient to tank it.  Still, the mission was a success:  the mysterious blast in the night frightened the British, and they withdrew almost immediately.

source: Wikimedia

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