Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Decade in 7 Minutes

NEWSWEEK rewinds the first 10 years of the new century, reminding you of the best, worst, and unforgettable moments.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

10 Nursery Rhymes and Their Origins

What child doesn’t love nursery rhymes? It is this love which has allowed so many of these tales to survive hundreds of years. While many nursery rhymes are innocent stories, some contain morals and others have sinister or political underlying meanings. This list looks at ten popular nursery rhymes and their origins (or speculated origins).

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty was first printed in 1810. At the time, a humpty dumpty was a clumsy person, so the nursery rhyme was meant as a riddle. It doesn’t actually state that Humpty Dumpty is an egg, so the aim of the reader is to guess what he really is. Of course there is not a person who knows the tale these days that doesn’t know he is an egg. There is speculation that the nursery rhyme had an underlying meaning – in which Humpty Dumpty represents King Richard III of England and the wall his horse. Others have suggested that it refers to the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey at the hand of King Henry VIII.

Sing a Song of Sixpence

Sing a song of sixpence dates back to at least the eighteenth century. In the original, the tale ends with a blackbird pecking off the nose of the maid in the garden; in the mid-nineteenth century this was sanitized with the addition of a final verse in which a doctor sews it back on. While interpretations vary wildly, the four and twenty blackbirds are most likely simply a reference to a common practice in the sixteenth-century in which large pies were baked then filled with live birds which would escape when the pie was cut. This stems from the fact that a meal was meant not just as nourishment, but entertainment.

Rock-a-bye Baby

Originally titled ‘Hushabye Baby’, this nursery rhyme was said to be the first poem written on American soil. Although there is no evidence as to when the lyrics were written, it may date from the seventeenth century and have been written by an English immigrant who observed the way native-American women rocked their babies in birch-bark cradles, which were suspended from the branches of trees, allowing the wind to rock the baby to sleep. An alternative interpretation states that the baby is the son of King James II of England, who was widely believed to be someone else’s child smuggled into the birthing room in order to provide a Catholic heir for James. In this interpretation, the cradle represents the Stuart monarchy.

Little Jack Horner

The first recorded version of Little Jack Horner comes from the eighteenth-century but it is most likely to have be known since the seventeenth. In the nineteenth century the story began to gain currency that the rhyme is actually about Thomas Horner, who steward to Richard Whiting, the last abbot of Glastonbury Abbey before the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII of England. The story is reported that, prior to the abbey’s destruction, the abbot sent Horner to London with a huge Christmas pie which had the deeds to a dozen manors hidden within it and that during the journey Horner opened the pie and extracted the deeds of the manor of Mells in Somerset. It is further suggested that, since the manor properties included lead mines in the Mendip Hills, the plum is a pun on the Latin plumbum, for lead. The current owners of Mells Manor have stated that they doubt this interpretation.

Little Bo Peep

The earliest record of this rhyme is in a manuscript of around 1805, which contains only the first verse. There are references to a children’s game called “Bo-Peep”, from the sixteenth century, including one in Shakespeare’s King Lear (Act I Scene iv), but little evidence that the rhyme existed. The additional verses are first recorded in the earliest printed version in a version of Gammer Gurton’s Garland or The Nursery Parnassus in 1810, making this one of the most modern nursery rhymes on the list.
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary has been seen as having religious and historical significance, but its origins and meaning are disputed as is often the case. The most common interpretation identifies “Mary” with Mary I of England. The “How does your garden grow?” may make mocking reference to her womb and the fact that she gave birth to no heirs, or to the common idea that England had become a Catholic vassal or “branch” of Spain and the Habsburgs, or may even be a punning reference to her chief minister, Stephen Gardiner (”gardener”). “Quite contrary” could be a reference to her attempt to reverse ecclesiastical changes made by her father Henry VIII and her brother Edward VI. The “pretty maids all in a row” could be a reference to miscarriages or her execution of Lady Jane Grey. Capitalizing on the Queen’s portrayal by Whig historians as “Bloody Mary”, the “silver bells and cockle shells” could be colloquialisms for instruments of torture.

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep is an eighteenth century nursery rhyme sung to the same tune as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It is possible that this rhyme is a description of the medieval ‘Great’ or ‘Old Custom’ wool tax of 1275, which survived until the fifteenth century. Contrary to some commentaries, this tax did not involve the collection of one third to the king, and one third to the church, but a less punitive sum of 6s 8d to the Crown per sack, about 5 per cent of the value. In the 1980s the theory was advanced that it made reference to slavery, but most scholars disagree.

Mary Had a Little Lamb

The nursery rhyme was first published as an original poem by Sarah Josepha Hale on May 24, 1830, and was inspired by an actual incident. As a girl, Mary Sawyer (later Mrs. Mary Tyler) kept a pet lamb, which she took to school one day at the suggestion of her brother. A commotion naturally ensued. Mary recalled:

“Visiting school that morning was a young man by the name of John Roulstone, a nephew of the Reverend Lemuel Capen, who was then settled in Sterling. It was the custom then for students to prepare for college with ministers, and for this purpose Mr. Roulstone was studying with his uncle. The young man was very much pleased with the incident of the lamb; and the next day he rode across the fields on horseback to the little old schoolhouse and handed me a slip of paper which had written upon it the three original stanzas of the poem…”

London Bridge is Falling Down

“London Bridge Is Falling Down is a well-known traditional nursery rhyme and singing game, which is found in different versions all over the world. One theory of origin is that the rhyme relates to supposed destruction of London Bridge by Olaf II of Norway in 1014 (or 1009). Another postulates that the rhyme refers to the practice of burying children alive in the foundations of the bridge – though there is no evidence to support this. The fair lady referred to could be Matilda of Scotland who was responsible for the building of a series of London bridges, or Eleanor of Provence who had custody of the bridge income from 1269 to 1281.

Ring a Ring o’ Roses

Ring a Ring o’ Roses first appeared in print in 1881 but it was being sung from at least the 1790s. Most people consider the nursery rhyme to be making reference to the Great Plague of London in 1665 but this view did not appear until after World War II. Furthermore, the symptoms don’t describe the plague particularly well, and the words upon which the plague interpretation is based don’t even exist in the earliest forms of the rhyme. The earliest form recorded is:

Ring around the rosy,
A pocket full of posies;
ashes, ashes
we all fall down!

Despite the fact that it is extremely unlikely to refer to the plague, the concept is so deeply set in the modern English speaker’s psyche that it is unlikely to fade in the future.

Top 10 Worst Military Decisions In History

The effective prosecution of any war requires a load of decisions at all junctures. Many times, commanders will blunder through misinformation, faulty intelligence, or a misreading of the tactical or strategic situation. We, safely ensconced here in the future can play Monday morning quarterback with the decision of the past often without acknowledging the fact that the commanders in question lack our brilliant hindsight; however, some decisions are simple unconscionable. One has to think that someone, somewhere had to look at this choice and say “God, this is stupid!” This list represents, in chronological order, ten of what I consider to be the dumbest decisions anyone ever made. Each of these decisions either resulted in tremendously unnecessary loss of men and materiel or it resulted in the ultimate loss or needless prolonging of the war in which it took place.

Invading Russia
Napoleon Bonaparte (June 1812)
The only motivation I can fathom behind this idiotic blunder by a military genius is sheer boredom. To this point in his military career, Napoleon has known nothing but victory after victory. He’s conquered pretty much all of Europe that refused to ally with him and suddenly he was sitting around with the largest army ever gathered in Europe up until then with nothing to do. So Napoleon looks west, to Mother Russia.

We all know how it turned out but you have to think someone in that huge army knew it was a bad idea. In any event, he didn’t say anything and the rest is history. Napoleon invaded Russia with three quarters of a million men and didn’t fight much of a battle. The Russian retreated into the vastness of their country and burned everything in their wake. Result? Napoleon gets to Moscow only to find smoking ruins. Dejected at not getting to move his toy soldiers around on his big map, he turns the Grand Armee around and begins for home.

But then the real trouble began. Constant harassment by tiny, mobile Russian units. Constant hunger because the supply lines are cut in more places than Danish lace and, worst of all, winter sets in and the soldiers start freezing to death in droves. Three quarters of a million went in, but less than one in three would made it out.

The Alamo
Gen. Santa Anna (February 1836)
Someone has remarked that the Alamo seems to show up on nearly every military list. Well, it’s a great story. Not the least great part about it was it was so totally unnecessary. All the Alamo consisted of was a tiny adobe walled mission in the middle of a prairie. Basically, Santa Anna, aka Napoleon of the West, decided the tiny garrison in the tiny fort had to be taught a lesson about Mexican politics by his great big army.

One just has to think that someone, some hard campaigning Sergeant in the Mexican force had to look around at the wide open prairie on both sides of the Alamo and think to himself, “Why don’t we just go around? We can even shoot at them as we go by, but let’s get to the rebel capital and put down the rebellion.”
Instead, mainly as a result of Santa Anna’s pride, the main Mexican army spends days and days held up attacking this insignificant little outpost. This needless delay gives the Texas government time to get organized, gives people time to flee, and gives the main Texan army time to get reinforced and into better position. The end result was the Battle of San Jacinto where old Santa Anna got caught napping – literally – and the Republic of Texas was born.

Add Lard to Rifles
Some British Bureaucrat (May 1857)
This one will be a little obscure to some, but in the grand scheme of things, it was a world-changing event. The cartridge in question was for the new Pattern 3 Enfield rifle that was to be issued to all the Empire’s troops and replace the older, less efficient models. On the surface this doesn’t seem like a big deal and to us, it probably wouldn’t be. However, in 1857, cartridges weren’t brass, they were paper, and to load them, one had to first BITE the end off the cartridge and pour the contained powder down the barrel of the muzzle loaded weapon. Again, no big deal, until one realizes one singularly important fact. The lubricating lard smeared on the cartridges was made from animal fat. This fat could be obtained from either pigs or cows. In and of itself, that doesn’t present a problem until one realizes that the vast majority of foreign troops in the British Empire were either Muslim or Hindu, especially in India. Now, pigs are unclean to Muslims and cows are sacred to the Hindus so the thought of putting a cartridge with lard into their mouths was anathema to both parties. It didn’t help matters much that the political climate in India was becoming a powder keg, but the lard cartridges proved the final straw – the match that blew the keg, so to speak.

What resulted is known to history as the Sepoy Rebellion or the Sepoy Mutiny. Basically, without going into the very involved, tense and delicate political situation, the Sepoys or Indian soldiers, refused to touch the cartridges which constitutes mutiny. When the first few were seen being punished by the British colonial overlords, the rest rose up and began a bloody rebellion that lasted 13 months and saw tremendous bloodshed and cruelty on both sides. The British severity in putting down the revolt – many leaders were tied to the mouths of cannon and blasted to bloody vapor — remained in the minds of the Indian people through the rest of the 19th century and through two world wars in the 20th. In many ways, the Indian Independence Movement lead by Gandhi can trace its roots to this one monumentally boneheaded decision.

Losing Your Battle Plans
Unknown CSA Officer (September 1862)
During the American Civil War, one of the qualities that made General Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy so effective was the mysteriousness with which he moved and operated. His troops seemed to appear, fight, and melt away with uncanny speed. Now in reality, this was nothing more supernatural than very detailed and well-executed battle plans. Imagine what the Union generals could have done if they had only possessed a copy of one of Lee’s battle plans. In a wildly providential moment, that is exactly what happened on the eve of the Battle of Sharpsburg in September of 1862.

Union General George McClellan’s 90,000-man Army of the Potomac was moving to intercept Lee, and occupied a campsite the Confederates had vacated just a few days before. While setting up their tent, two Union soldiers discovered a copy of Lee’s detailed battle plans wrapped around three cigars. The order indicated that Lee had divided his army and dispersed portions, intending to bring battle near Antietam Creek. Everything was there in writing. It was a colossal blunder by some Confederate officer.

The outcome would have been even more disastrous for the Confederates had not McClellan waited about 18 hours before deciding to take advantage of this intelligence and reposition his forces. As it was, the Battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam) would be the single bloodiest day of combat in American history with 23,000 killed and countless wounded before the sun set.

All that saved Lee was McClellan’s indecision. Still, the battle sapped numbers of soldiers that the Confederacy could ill afford to lose. More importantly, though, was the fact that England had been teetering on the fence of coming into the war to aid their cotton supplying Confederates, but with the outcome of Antietam, they decided to sit back for a little while longer, thus robbing the Confederacy of help it desperately needed. A different choice of wrapping paper could have made all the difference in the world to the history of North America.

Not Following the Enemy
Gen. George Meade (July 1863)
It sometimes looks like Lee did have some sort of guardian angel; either that or the Northern generals before Grant were all monumentally stupid. The former is more romantic, but the latter is easier to prove. In any event, Meade’s decision to let Lee slip back to Virginia is another example of Lee’s luck and an opposing general’s horrendous decision making ability.

The Army of Northern Virginia was done. Three days at Gettysburg had reduced the proud rebels to a shell of their former strength. Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, the Peach Orchard, and, at the last, Pickett’s Charge up Cemetery Ridge had produced the High Water Mark of the Confederacy. With all his reserves spent, Lee was gathering his badly mauled forces and trying mightily to make it back to the relative safety of Ol’ Virginy.

In his way was the rain swollen Potomac River. On his flanks were the persistent if largely ineffectual Union cavalry pickets. The roads were a quagmire of mud. In all, the stage was set for the final crushing blow to be delivered by the Army of the Potomac, which had several reserves that had seen little if any fighting. They would sweep down on the defeated boys in grey like an avenging blue tide. The Army of Northern Virginia would be crushed and the Civil War would be all but over. All that remained was for General Meade to give the order to attack.

Well, the order never came. For reasons that, to this day, are unclear Meade was reluctant to follow Lee. Instead, he gathered his forces in strength and waited. No one is quite sure what he was waiting for, but when President Lincoln found out that Meade had literally allowed the end of the war to slip through his hands, Honest Abe was incensed. It was largely Meade’s indecision that resulted in General Grant being called east from Vicksburg and placed in command of the Army of the Potomac. Had Meade attacked the defeated rebels at that opportune moment, the Civil War probably would not have drug on in a morass of attrition for nearly two more years. Countless lives, Union and Confederate alike, could have been spared and the Reconstruction Period would likely have looked much different.
Ignoring the Gatling
George A. Custer (June 1876)
It is generally held to be a good idea among most military men that, when the latest and greatest weapons are available, they should be used. The newly patented Gatling Gun was the earliest machine gun and had completed its trials. Custer had two to four of the guns and abundant ammunition available when he set out to uproot a “small Indian village” on the bank of the Little Bighorn River. Custer’s reasoning behind not using them was that the Gatling guns would impede his march and hamper his mobility. More importantly, he also is said to have believed that the use of so devastating a weapon would “cause him to lose face with the Indians.” Considering reports of Custer’s vanity, this is not hard to believe.

These problems do not change the fact that the Gatling guns would have been a decided equalizer in the face of what turned out to be overwhelming Indian superiority, and that elsewhere in the Indian wars, the Indians often reacted to new army weapons by breaking off the fight. Instead, Custer led more than 250 doomed men of the famous 7th Cavalry into the Montana hill country. If he had taken the then greatly improved machine guns with him the outcome of the much-discussed Last Stand would surely have been very different.

What could have been going through Custer’s mind as he stood, the breeze whipping his famous golden hair behind him, his loyal men dead all about him, and several hundred Sioux warriors galloping towards him intent on making him a human pincushion? Could it possibly have been, “I really could use those Gatling guns right about now.”

Invade Gallipoli
Winston Churchill (April 1915)
By the start of 1915, the Great War had ground to a halt. The trench lines stretched from Belgium through Italy and neither side was making progress. The war had devolved into mad suicide rushes across no man’s land into the teeth of the new Maxim guns. Predictably, casualties were mounting daily and the war that “will be over by Christmas” seemed to have no end in sight. To make matters worse, Russia was getting their mess kits handed to them all up and down the Eastern Front and the tsardom was beginning to look shaky. The German navy had cut all the usual supply lines to accessible ports and any port safe from the German fleet was either icebound or entirely too far away to be of any practical use. Something had to be done and quickly.

Enter Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. Now Churchill is well know for his personal bravery as well as his usually keen mind. He is also known for being a fan of a good stiff drink and apparently, he’d had several when he thought of this plan. Churchill proposed that a third front be opened up in the western Mediterranean. Specifically, he planned an attack on the Ottoman Empire held Dardanelles. The attack on what he termed the “soft underbelly of the Central Powers” would open up a warm water resupply depot for Russia and effectively turn the flank of the vast trench network. It was a great idea in theory and on paper.

The Gallipoli Campaign took place at Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey from 25 April 1915 to 9 January 1916. The intent was for a joint amphibian attack by British Empire and French forces up the peninsula to capture the Ottoman capital of Istanbul. To put it mildly, the attempt failed miserably with heavy casualties on both sides. The whole operation was botched from the beginning. The planned invasion was tipped off to the Turks who reinforced the peninsula with heavy guns and additional troops. Once the invasion began, it quickly stalled on the beachhead, thwarted by the Turkish occupation of the high ground.

To make a very detailed and long story short, the allied forces, the bulk of which were Australians and New Zealanders (who ultimately had the highest number of dead per capita of all nations in the war), were essentially trapped on the beaches in the open for months. No real progress was ever made inland despite several dogged attempts all around the peninsula. Promised naval artillery support was cut short as soon as the Admiralty found out – by the sinking of two battleships – that German U-boats were in the waters. The whole event was an unmitigated disaster. Conditions were unreal. In the summer, the heat was atrocious, which in conjunction with bad sanitation, led to so many flies that eating became extremely difficult. Corpses, left in the open, became bloated and stank. The precarious Allied bases were poorly situated and caused supply and shelter problems. A dysentery epidemic spread through the Allied trenches. Autumn and winter brought relief from the heat, but also led to gales, flooding and frostbite.

In the end, Churchill was sacked as Lord of the Admiralty, several generals saw their careers ended but most of all; tens of thousands of men on both sides were killed for absolutely no gain whatsoever. To this day, Gallipoli is remembered as ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand in honor of all the brave ANZACs who gave their lives for a stupid decision.

Soviet Invasion
Adolf Hitler, (September 1941)
Honestly? See item 10. Replace “Napoleon” with “Hitler”, “Russia” with “Soviet Union”, and “Le Grand Armee” with “Wermacht” and you have the gist of the story. Operation Barbarossa was, without a doubt, the worst case of someone who failed to learn from history being doomed to repeat it. Adolf Hitler proved that it’s not only teenagers who think, “It can’t happen to me.”

Micromanaging the War
Lyndon B. Johnson (August 1964)
Wars are best run by the professionals. Lyndon B. Johnson was President, but he was not a professional soldier by any means during the Vietnam War. That did not stop him from blowing what was a small insurgency with American “advisors” into an all out “police action” that would claim the lives of nearly 60,000 American soldiers, sailors, and airmen before it ended two Presidents later.

Johnson expanded American involvement on the ground in Vietnam as soon as he took office after JFK’s assassination. Unfortunately for the troops, LBJ watched opinion polls and it is hard to fight a war if you watch opinion polls. Basically, field commanders couldn’t attack certain high value targets without Johnson’s say-so and, given the distances and the time it would take to brief the President on each given situation, the men were fighting one step behind at all times. He also took fire from the press who said he was too cozy with the defense businessmen and the war was justification for increased defense spending to make these businesses rich. That speculation, like Johnson’s supposed involvement in JFK’s assassination, is better left to the conspiracy theorists.

What is a fact, however, is LBJ’s insistence on being a hands-on Commander-in-Chief seriously handicapped American efforts in the jungles of Vietnam. Ultimately, his decision to try running a war based on opinion polls proved his undoing and he dropped out of the 1968 Presidential elections.

Invading Afghanistan
Yuri Andropov (December 1979)
For centuries, countries outside of Afghanistan – from the Indian Mughals, to the British Empire, to the Islamic fundamentalists – have tried to impose their will upon the Afghan people. As a result, the Afghans are a hardy bunch and they can fight like devils. The are experts at guerilla warfare and it is always a safe bet to assume that whoever is invading them has enemies all to willing to supply the natives with effective weaponry. That is over 1200 years of history totally lost on the Soviets in 1979 when they sent in a massive number of troops to prop up the unpopular communist government in Kabul.

What followed was a ten year blood bath of death among the rocks. For years, Soviet Hind helicopters would hunt in the valleys for any of the Afghan fighters. Upon finding them, the guerillas would be mown down by cannon fire from the craft they called “The Crocodile”. Then the CIA saw a chance to return the favor the Soviets had played on the United States during its involvement in Vietnam and began supplying the Afghan fighters with Stinger surface to air missiles. So much for Soviet air superiority. Stingers shot down 333 Soviet helicopters in the course of the ten year war.

The saddest part is the Soviets had just witnessed the USA’s horrific ten year quagmire in Vietnam, but, like other groups in history, they figured it couldn’t happen to them. They were wrong. The Soviets lost 15,000 men and billions of rubles worth of equipment to Afghanistan and they got nothing in return. For the Afghans, the country was left devastated and ripe for a group called the Taliban to take over.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris


“I die for my fatherland. I have a clear conscience. I only did my duty to my country when I tried to oppose the criminal folly of Hitler.” - Admiral Wilhelm Canaris

The man behind the Nazi Abwehr spy network, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, was a shrewd, brilliant spymaster who not only managed to keep control of the Abwehr. He outwitted the slippery Himmler at almost every turn, while joined with other high-ranking German officers in a dangerous plot to eliminate Hitler and make a separate peace with the Allies.

Still, today, Wilhelm Canaris is the number one mystery man of the Nazi regime under Hitler - a man historians hardly can classify. A man who only seldomly came out of his shell, who didn’t talk much but was rather a listener. Almost everybody who knew him didn't really know exactly what his purpose and intentions were.

On the one hand he was the great protector of the German opposition against Hitler - on the other hand he was at the same time the one who prepared all the big expansion plans for the acts and crimes of Hitler in the Third Reich. While he highly protected and motivated the opposition members who were eager to fight against Hitler, he was also hunting them as conspirators - one of the many contradictions he was forced to live with to stay in control of the Abwehr.

Wilhelm Canaris, born January 1, 1887, in Aplerbeck, Germany, was celebrated as a war hero during the First World War for his exploits as a submarine captain, and he later became a top military spy for Germany. Canaris was appointed to head the Abwehr Military Intelligence in 1935.

In 1938, he made efforts to hinder Hitler from attacking Czechoslovakia and later he played an active role as a peace keeper. Canaris personally went to Franco and told him not to allow passage to the Germans for the purpose of capturing Gibraltar. Canaris was directly involved in the 1938 and 1939 coup attempts.

Admiral Canaris was an eye-witness to the killing of civilians in Poland. At Bedzin, SS troops pushed 200 Jews into a synagogue and then set it aflame. They all burned to death. Canaris was shocked. On 10 September, 1939, he had traveled to the front to watch the German Army in action. Wherever he went, his intelligence officers told him of an orgy of massacre. Two days later, he went to Hitler’s headquarters train, the Amerika, in Upper Silesia, to protest. He first saw General Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the Armed Forces High Command. “I have information,” Canaris told Keitel, “that mass executions are being planned in Poland and that members of the Polish nobility and the clergy have been singled out for extermination.”

Canaris told Keitel, “The world will one day hold the Wehrmacht responsible for these methods since these things are taking place under its nose.” But Keitel urged Canaris to take the matter no further.

Soon the Vatican began to receive regular, detailed reports of Nazi atrocities in Poland. The information had been gathered by agents of the Abwehr by order of Canaris, who passed them on to Dr. Josef Muller, a devout Catholic and a leading figure in the Catholic resistance to Hitler. And Muller got the reports safely to Rome.

Canaris sent another of his colleagues, Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on a flight to Sweden to meet secretly with Bishop Bell of Chichester. Bonhoeffer told Bell of the crimes his nation was committing, and assured Bell of growing resistance in Germany to such acts.

In March 1943, Canaris personally flied to Smolensk to plan Hitler’s assassination with conspirators on the staff of Army Group Center.

The Nuremburg Trials reveal Canaris’s strenuous efforts in trying to put a stop to the crimes of war and genocide committed in Russia by Reinhard Heydrich’s Einsatzgruppen forces. It is also revealed that Canaris prevented the killing of captured French officers in Tunisia just as he saved hundreds of Jews during the war.

In one instance he saved seven Jews from being sent to a concentration camp and certain death by going personally to Himmler, complaining that his Gestapo was arresting his agents. The seven were turned over to the Abwehr and taught a few codes, then smuggled out of Germany.

And Admiral Canaris underlined the Swiss will of resistance and Switzerland’s economic strength and geographic advantages. It was due to the views of Canaris that Hitler gave up his plans to incorporate Switzerland into his New Europe. Shortly before Canaris left office, he paid a visit to Bern, where he expressed to the German Ambassador his satisfaction about the success of their reports.

Canaris appointed his friend, the anti-Nazi Hans Oster, to the number two in the Abwehr agency. From his post, Oster contacted enemies of the regime and turned them into Abwehr agents. The most important of these were Hans Von Dohnanyi, the catholic lawyer Joseph Muller and the protestant priest Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Oster created an anti-Nazi hierarchy in the Abwehr, and soon he directed all of the military plans of the resistance. He used the Abwehr to save people from the Gestapo, to cover resistance actions, to help Jews escape from Germany, and to communicate between the different circles of the resistance.

All of his actions were approved by Admiral Canaris. The commander in chief of the Abwehr supported the resistance, although he claimed that he was too old to take an active part.

Admiral Canaris, along with his second-in-command, Hans Oster, actually helped the Allies while supervising all German espionage, counterespionage, and sabotage. Canaris was revealing almost all of the important German strategy and battle plans to the Allies - from Hitler’s impending western offensive against the Low countries and France to Hitler’s plan to invade Britain. He also misled Hitler into believing that the Allies would not land at Anzio in 1943.

In April that same year, Canaris made contact with the former governor of Pennsylvania, Commander George H. Earle, Roosevelt’s personal representative for the Balkans, stationed in Istanbul. One morning there was a knock on Earle’s hotel room door and there stood - in civilian clothes - Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. The head of the German Secret Service told Earle there were many sensible German people feeling that Hitler was leading their nation down a destructive path. Admiral Canaris continued that an honorable surrender from the German army to the American forces could be arranged.

Earle was convinced of the sincerity of Admiral Canaris and immediately sent an urgent message to Washington via diplomatic pouch, requesting a prompt reply. A month later, Canaris phoned, as had been agreed, but Earle could only say “I am waiting for news, but have none today.”

In the summer of 1943 Canaris met secretly with General Stuart Menzies, Chief of British Intelligence, and William J. Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services, at Santander, Spain. Canaris presented Menzies and Donovan with his peace plan: a cease fire in the West, Hitler to be eliminated or handed over, and continuation of the War in the East.

But though Donovan, Menzies and Canaris reached an agreement on the basis of Canaris’ proposal, President Roosevelt flatly declined to negotiate with “these East German Junkers” and called his presumptuous OSS chief to heel. Canaris’ peace offer was rejected .

That he was being misled by Canaris became evident to Hitler only after the conspirators attempted to kill him in July 1944. Canaris and many others were arrested. The principal prisoners were finally confined at Gestapo cellars at Prinz Albrechtstrasse, where Canaris was kept in solitary confinement, and in chains.

In The Canaris Conspiracy, Manvell and Fraenkel tell, how his cell door was permanently open, and the light burned continually, day and night. He was given only one third of the normal prison rations, and as the winter set in his starved body suffered cruelly from the cold. Occasionally he was humiliated by being forced to do menial jobs, such as scrubbing the prison floor, the SS men mocking him.

On February 7, 1945, Canaris was brought to the Flossenburg concentration camp but he was still ill-treated and often endured having his face slapped by the SS guards. But for months Canaris baffled the SS interrogators with one ruse after another, and he denied all personal complicity in the conspiracy. He never betrayed his fellow participants in the Resistance Movement.

During the waning weeks of the Nazi era, SS Obersturmbannführer Walter Huppenkothen and Sturmbannführer Otto Thorbeckwere detailed to Flossenburg to eliminate Canaris and the other resistance figures. The SS men staged a bogus “trial” before their men hung the victims.

In the closing days of World War II, in the gray morning hours of April 9, 1945, gallows were erected hastily in the courtyard. Wilhelm Canaris, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Major General Hans Oster, Judge Advocate General Carl Sack, Captain Ludwig Gehre - all were ordered to remove their clothing and were led down the steps under the trees to the secluded place of execution before hooting SS guards. Naked under the scaffold, they knelt for the last time to pray - they were hanged, their corpses left to rot.

Two weeks later the camp was liberated by American troops - on 23 April 1945.

One of Canaris’ fellow-prisoners, the Danish Colonel Lunding, former Director of Danish Military Intelligence, was imprisoned in the cell next to Canaris. He had contact with Canaris shortly before he watched the naked figure of the Admiral being led to execution. Through tapping on the wall of his cell Canaris told him: “This is the end. Badly mishandled. My nose broken. I have done nothing against Germany. If you survive, please tell my wife ..”

After the war, Huppenkothen and Thorbeck stood trial on three occasions, but the courts were never able to satisfactorily dispose of their case. In 1956, the German High Court ruled that this ceremony had been enough to render the murders “legal.” The high court judges also held that the killings were “legal” because the Nazi regime had possessed the right to execute “traitors.” The court, in effect, reconvicted the victims.

One of Canaris’ friends, Hans Bernd Gisevius, tells about the Admiral in his book from 1947 To the Bitter End:

“Canaris hated not only Hitler and Himmler, but the entire Nazi system as a political phenomenon .. He was everywhere and nowhere at once. Everywhere he traveled, at home and abroad and to the front, he always left a whirl of confusion behind him .. In reality this small, frail, and somewhat timid man was a vibrating bundle of nerves. Extremely well read, oversensitive, Canaris was an outsider in every respect. In bearing and manner of work he was the most unmilitary of persons ..”

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009


Pearl Harbor

On Sunday, December 7th, 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the U.S. Forces stationed at Pearl Harbor , Hawaii By planning his attack on a Sunday, the Japanese commander Admiral Nagumo, hoped to catch the entire fleet in port. As luck would have it, the Aircraft Carriers and one of the Battleships were not in port. (The USS Enterprise was returning from Wake Island , where it had just delivered some aircraft. The USS Lexington was ferrying aircraft to Midway, and the USS Saratoga and USS Colorado were undergoing repairs in the United States .)

In spite of the latest intelligence reports about the missing aircraft carriers (his most important targets), Admiral Nagumo decided to continue the attack with his force of six carriers and 423 aircraft. At a range of 230 miles north of Oahu , he launched the first wave of a two-wave attack. Beginning at 0600 hours his first wave consisted of 183 fighters and torpedo bombers which struck at the fleet in Pearl Harbor and the airfields in Hickam, Kaneohe and Ewa. The second strike, launched at 0715 hours, consisted of 167 aircraft, which again struck at the same targets.

At 075 3 hours the first wave consisting of 40 Nakajima B5N2 'Kate' torpedo bombers, 51 Aichi D3A1 'Val' dive bombers, 50 high altitude bombers and 43 Zeros struck airfields and Pearl Harbor Within the next hour, the second wave arrived and continued the attack.
When it was over, the U.S. Losses were:

US Army: 218 KIA, 364 WIA.
US Navy: 2,008 KIA, 710 WIA.
US MarineCorp: 109 KIA, 69 WIA.
Civilians: 68 KIA, 35 WIA.

TOTAL: 2,403 KIA, 1,178 WIA.

USS Arizona (BB-39) - total loss when a bomb hit her magazine.
USS Oklahoma (BB-37) - Total loss when she capsized and sunk in the harbor.
USS California (BB-4 4) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Sunk at her berth. Later raised and repaired.
USS Nevada - (BB-36) Beached to prevent sinking. Later repaired.
USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) - Light damage.
USS Maryland (BB-46) - Light damage.
USS Tennessee (BB-43) Light damage.
USS Utah (AG-16) - (former battleship used as a target) - Sunk.
USS New Orleans (CA-32) - Light Damage..
USS San Francisco (CA-38) - Light Damage.
USS Detroit (CL-8) - Light Damage.
USS Raleigh (CL-7) - Heavily damaged but repaired.
USS Helena (CL-50) - Light Damage.
USS Honolulu (CL-48) - Light Damage..
-------------------------- -- ---------------------------- ---------------------------------------------------------------
USS Downes (DD-375) - Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Cassin - (DD -3 7 2) Destroyed. Parts salvaged.
USS Shaw (DD-373) - Very heavy damage.
USS Helm (DD-388) - Light Damage.
USS Ogala (CM-4) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
Seaplane Tender
USS Curtiss (AV-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
Repair Ship
USS Vestal (AR-4) - Severely damaged but later repaired.
Harbor Tug
USS Sotoyomo (YT-9) - Sunk but later raised and repaired.
188 Aircraft destroyed (92 USN and 92 U.S. Army Air Corps.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jazz musicians who died young

Bunny Berigan
Died of: a liver hemorrhage in 1942 at the age of 33

Bunny Berigan of Hilbert, Wisconsin, was an influential swing trumpeter, and played with Hal Kemp, Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey. His version of “I Can’t Get Started” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975, and his tone is a blend of Louis Armstrong and cool swing. His severe alcoholism led to pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver, yet he refused doctor’s orders to rest and quit drinking. He suffered a massive liver hemorrhage and died two days later in a hospital in New York City.

Chick Webb

Died of: spinal tuberculosis in 1939 at the age of 34

Chick Webb of Baltimore, Maryland, was an innovative bandleader at the inception of hot swing in the late 30’s. His band was the house band at the famous Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, and he always managed to “beat” other swing bands in head-to-head battles at the Savoy. He discovered vocalist Ella Fitzgerald, and was a major influence of drummer Buddy Rich. He suffered from spinal tuberculosis since childhood, and complications eventually wore him down in 1939.

Fats Navarro
Died of: tuberculosis in 1950 at the age of 26

Theodore “Fats” Navarro of Key West, Florida, was one of the early pioneers of bebop, and the main trumpet influence of Clifford Brown. He played with a few big bands, such as Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton, but he made his true fame from his brilliant small combo work with Charles Mingus, Coleman Hawkins, and Charlie Parker. He was the main rival of Dizzy Gillespie on bebop trumpet, and they both played with the distinctive puffed-out cheeks. He was a heroin addict with tuberculosis, and he died from complications of both in a New York City hospital.

Charlie Christian
Died of: tuberculosis in 1942 at the age of 25

Charlie Christian of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was highly influential in transferring the electric guitar from the staccato rhythm swing style of Freddie Green to the more modern bebop and cool jazz styles. He was the guitarist who paved the way for the guitar to be thought of as a solo instrument in addition to a rhythm instrument, and he basically played the guitar as if it were a saxophone. Although not a drug addict, Christian’s hectic lifestyle took a severe toll on his body, already weakened by tuberculosis. He died after a long stay in a hospital on Staten Island after it initially appeared that he was getting better.

Clifford Brown
Died of: a car crash in 1956 at the age of 25

Clifford Brown of Wilmington, Delaware, was a major turning point in the direction of jazz trumpet, and would undoubtedly have redefined the entire instrument had he lived. He and drummer Max Roach were trailblazers in the hard bop style of the early 50’s, and almost all modern trumpeters owe much of their playing styles to the players who immediately followed Clifford Brown, such as Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, and Wynton Marsalis. In addition to his playing style, Clifford was an avid practitioner of clean, healthy living, and he helped break the heroin cycle that claimed so many young jazz musicians. Sadly, he was a passenger in a car that skidded out of control on a rainy turnpike in Pennsylvania, killing all occupants. One of the most widely recognized jazz ballads is the hauntingly beautiful “I Remember Clifford,” by Benny Golson.

Jaco Pastorius
Died of: a severe beating in 1987 at the age of 35

Jaco Pastorius of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was arguably the most influential bassist in jazz history. He played a rock-fusion style and made the bass into a premier solo instrument. The success of his first solo album in 1976 led to his union with keyboardist Josef Zawinul and Weather Report. He was severely beaten by Luc Havan, a club bouncer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and left comatose on the streets for several hours. His family disconnected his life support after 10 days in the hospital, and Havan eventually pled guilty to manslaughter.

Bix Beiderbecke
Died of: alcohol withdrawal in 1931 at the age of 28

Bix Beiderbecke of Davenport, Iowa, was able to take his Dixieland roots and infuse them with the classical influences of jazz-loving French composers Debussy and Ravel. He helped make jazz more accessible to curious, yet cautious white audiences. He suffered from terrible alcoholism, and finally succumbed to its effects after years of poor health.

Charlie Parker
Alto Saxophone
Died of: pneumonia in 1955 at the age of 34

Charlie Parker of Kansas City, Missouri, also known as Yardbird Parker, or more simply “The Bird,” was one of the most influential jazz artists to have lived to any age. He pioneered the jazz style known as bebop, and was a major influence and contemporary of Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk. He helped redefine the process used by musicians to play improvised solos based on chord extensions and their relationships to similar melodies. Parker was hopelessly addicted to heroin and alcohol, and was in such terrible shape upon his death that the coroner incorrectly guessed he was in his 50’s.

A Brief History of Presidential Vacations

By Ethan Trex on Top Story

We’re in the throes of summer vacation season, but at least one American is still on the job. While it’s rumored that President Obama will follow in the footsteps of President Clinton and vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, he hasn’t had a chance to break out his Bermuda shorts just yet. When Obama does take off, though, he’ll join in the grand tradition of presidential vacations, like these notable ones:
1. Abe Lincoln Doesn’t Go Too Far

lincoln-soldiers-homeFar-flung vacations are nice, but President Lincoln preferred to stay a bit closer to home. When Lincoln needed a getaway from the heat and political turmoil of Civil War-era Washington, D.C., he headed to…a different part of Washington, D.C. From 1862 to 1864 Lincoln spent June through November living in a cottage atop a hill at the Soldiers’ Home a few miles from the White House. Lincoln apparently loved the slight change of scenery, which meant slightly cooler temperatures and a chance to ride his horse each morning. If you’re considering a stay-cation this year, consider this Honest Abe’s endorsement.
2. FDR Heats Up Georgia

FDR-warmspringsSome presidents choose to head to their hometowns or a beachside resort for their vacations, but Franklin Roosevelt preferred to travel to western Georgia. Warm Springs, Georgia, is the home of (you guessed it!) warm springs that supposedly had therapeutic value for polio sufferers. FDR, who had contracted his own paralytic illness in 1921, started visiting Warm Springs in 1924 in the hope that exercising in the springs’ warm waters would cure him.

Although the springs didn’t reverse his illness, FDR felt like his time at the resort alleviated his symptoms somewhat. In 1927 he bought the resort he’d been staying at, and in 1932 he ordered a six-room Georgia pine house to be built on the property. This house was FDR’s retreat throughout his presidency and became known as the Little White House.

FDR was sitting for a portrait at the Little White House when he died of a stroke in April 1945. Today, the house is part of Georgia’s state park system and is open to visitors; it’s been preserved to look almost exactly as it did the day FDR died.
3. Movie Cowboy Does Real Ranching

Reagan_and_Gorbachev_in_western_hats_1992Think George W. Bush was the first president to sneak away from the White House to spend time on his ranch? Not quite. At the end of his second term as Governor of California in 1974, Ronald Reagan paid just over half a million dollars to acquire Rancho del Cielo in California’s Santa Ynez Mountains.

The 688-acre ranch, complete with stables and a 1500-square-foot adobe house, was Reagan’s go-to vacation destination while he was in office, and he entertained some big names there, including Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth II, and Mikhail Gorbachev, who gamely wore a cowboy hat during his visit.
4. LBJ Does Some Ranching, Too

LBJ-ranchGeorge W. Bush drew some criticism for spending so much time clearing brush on his Prairie Chapel Ranch, but by all indications, fellow Texan Lyndon Johnson was even more involved in the everyday operations of his ranch. Johnson, who had gotten into ranching in 1951, grew his LBJ Ranch into a 2700-acre spread populated by 400 head of Hereford cattle.

Johnson was no absentee owner when he was in Washington, either. Johnson frequently headed back on vacations and supposedly drove his foreman crazy by calling every day to talk about the weather on the ranch or how the pastures looked. Today, the National Park Service maintains LBJ’s spread as a working ranch, complete with a herd of cattle descended from the Herefords Johnson bred.
5. Nixon Gets the Right Ice Cubes

nixon-winterWhen Richard Nixon wanted a break from Washington, he headed to a modest ranch home he owned on Key Biscayne off Miami. Nixon’s “Florida White House,” which he visited 50-plus times during his tenure in office, eventually swelled to include three houses and a floating helipad, which the Department of Defense installed at a taxpayer expense of $400,000. (There was plenty of room for taxpayer outrage at the $625,000 total the government spent sprucing up the Florida White House; one itemized expense was $621 for a replacement icemaker because “the President does not like ice with holes in it.”)

Given that this house was Nixon’s retreat, it’s no surprise that some shady dealings transpired on the premises. Nixon allegedly discussed plans for the Watergate break-in at the house, and he holed up there when the coverup came to light. The house fell into disrepair after Nixon sold it, and in 2004 it was razed to make room for a new building.

nixon-westThe Florida White House wasn’t Nixon’s only retreat, though. He bought a mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Clemente, California shortly after taking office in 1969. Nixon dubbed his new digs “La Casa Pacifica,” but the press quickly started referring to the spread as “the Western White House.” This house wasn’t cheap for taxpayers, either; the government dropped over a million dollars improving this home with temporary office quarters for staffers, helipads, and an upgraded heating system.
6. FDR’s Successor Gets His Own Little White House

white-house-key-westHarry Truman may have been from Missouri, but he headed south when he needed some R&R. Truman started suffering from exhaustion in late 1946, and his physicians recommended a warm weather vacation to revitalize the President.

Truman took his vacation in a converted duplex in Key West that already held some history. The house, which was originally built in 1890 for the commandant and paymaster of Key West’s naval base, had already hosted William Howard Taft while he was in office in 1912. When Thomas Edison developed 41 new weapons to aid in the American efforts in World War I, he spent six months living in the house. Once Truman visited the house, though, it quickly became known as Truman’s Little White House. He ended up spending 175 days in Key West over the course of his two terms in office. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy later used the house while they were in office, and it’s now open as a tourist attraction.
7. Teddy Roosevelt Goes Bear Hunting


Lounging on the beach is great, but do you really think Teddy Roosevelt would miss the opportunity to do something manly? Roosevelt’s vacation in 1905 took him to the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, CO, where he spent three weeks bear hunting.
8. Kennedy Retreats to His Compound

Starting in 1926, Joseph P. Kennedy began taking his family to Hyannisport, Massachusetts, on vacation each summer. His son John liked the area so much that in 1956 he bought a cottage of his own near his parents’ digs, and the family soon purchased a third cottage in the area, giving rise to the name “the Kennedy Compound.” JFK used his cottage as a base of operations for his presidential campaign and later vacationed there each summer he was in office.
9. George H.W. Bush Prefers Not to Ranch

kenneNot to be outdone by the Kennedys, the Bush family has an even older compound of their own in Kennebunkport, Maine. In 1903 George H. Walker, the grandfather of George H.W. Bush, built a great mansion on his oceanfront estate in Kennebunkport, and the property has remained in the family ever since.

George H.W. Bush used the Kennebunkport compound as his vacation home during his presidency, and George W. Bush made a few getaways to the house as well. Between father and son, they’ve entertained some pretty big names at their summer house, including Yitzhak Rabin, Vladimir Putin, and Nicolas Sarkozy.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pacifists Caused World WWII

Leftists, pacifists, and anti-war demonstrators think they are doing the world good by keeping their country from engaging in war. In actual fact, American pacifists in the 1930s made possible the appeasement of Hitler which led to World War II. Let me explain.

After World War I, many Americans came to view our intervention in that war and the subsequent peace settlements as a tragic mistake. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on the other hand, had read Mein Kampf and realized that Hitler was a madman and was a threat not only to Europe but to America as well (1). Unfortunately, because of the neutrality acts Roosevelt was prevented from directly helping any country fight against Hitler.

Worse, when Roosevelt tried to persuade Britain to take a strong stand against Hitler, they were persuaded to do otherwise because they realized that because of the pacifists no help would come from America: From the book "No More Killing Fields" by David A. Hamburg:

[Chamberlain:] ... the Americans were not a useful counterweight to Germany: "It is always best and safest to count on nothing from the Americans but words. ...

Fearing Britain would have to face Germany without America, Chamberlain took the path of appeasement, which only encouraged Hitler to go further.

Because of their fear of war, because of their cowardice, American pacifists encouraged war where a more aggressive stance might have stopped Hitler altogether. Tens of millions dead; this is what pacifism wrought.

The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence

What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock, and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words.

Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers.

Who were they? What happened to them?

I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.

Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half -24- were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, 9 were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.

With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property.

All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th century.

Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head.

He signed in enormous letters so "that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward." Ben Franklin wryly noted: "Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately." Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: "With me it will all be over in a minute, but you , you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone.

These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember: a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.

They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics, yammering for an explosion.

They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.

It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

35,000 year old flute found

Archaeologists find oldest ever flute in southern Germany

A Tübingen research team has revealed what is thus far the oldest musical instrument in the world ever discovered. In a cave in the Swabian Mountains, archaeologists uncovered a flute believed to be more than 35,000 years old made from the hollow wing bones of a giant vulture. This is not the first such astonishing discovery of this group of Tübingen researchers.
35,000 year old Bone Flute discovered in the Swabian Mountains, picture-alliance dpa

Prehistoric expert Nicholas Conard from the University of Tübingen is known worldwide for his spectacular Ice Age finds. Only a few weeks ago he landed an archaeological coup with the discovery of the oldest known human artistic representation ever found known as the Venus of Hohle Fels.

On Wednesday, Conard revealed the flute, the oldest evidence for a musical instrument worldwide. And while it’s not the first Ice Age flute found in the Swabian Mountains, its age reveals the importance of music to daily life at that time. It was dated using radiocarbon dating techniques and is 5,000 years older than the instruments discovered so far.

Like the Venus statue, the flute was discovered in the cave known as the Hohle Fels located nearby Schelklingen, around 20 kilometers from the city of Ulm. Although similar flutes were found in southern France and Austria, this is believed to be the oldest such instrument and proof for the evidence of Stone Age musicians on earth.

A precursor to modern flutes

Twelve parts of the musical instrument were found in the lowest levels of the cave believed to date from the time period of the Aurignacian culture that existed in Europe and southwest Asia 40,000 years ago. The Aurignacian peoples were especially well known for their worked bone points and cave art. Assembled, the twelve pieces represent by far the most completely preserved musical instrument thus far found in the Swabian caves.

The flute was discovered in the summer of 2008 and has until now been under assembly. It is made from the bones of a vulture whose wingspan of 2.3 to 2.65 meters made for ideal bones in the construction of instruments. The flute is 22 cm long, has five holes and a notch at the end. The flute can no longer be played, however, because the bottom half is missing. Conard's team had a replica of the old flute made, which when played sounds amazingly similar to a modern flute.

The research team also found individual fragments from three ivory flutes. Additional musical instruments from the Ice Age were discovered years before at other sites in the Swabian Mountains. All in all, the Tübingen researchers have excavated four flutes made of bone and numerous ivory flutes. Conard says this clearly reveals that musical traditions played an important part of life in even the earliest human civilizations.

The Swabian Mountains provide good conditions for archaeologists and the Tübingen team are known for their excavation techniques. Although this is the oldest flute so far found, it's likely that music was played in other parts of the world at that time.

The public will be able to view the flute together with the Venus statue for the first time at an Ice Age exhibit in Stuttgart September 18-January 10.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

10 Ancient Inventions You Think Are Modern

Following on from our previous list Top 10 Ancient Inventions You Think Are Modern, we have put together this list. It includes items that were omitted from the first but are still fascinating. Most of the things found here are considered by most to have come from the modern world (or the medieval world at the earliest) but all pre-date the birth of Christ. Feel free to mention others you might know in the comments.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have played many ball games, some of which involved the use of the feet. The Roman game harpastum is believed to have been adapted from a team game known as episkyros. The Roman politician Cicero (106-43 BC) describes the case of a man who was killed whilst having a shave when a ball was kicked into a barber’s shop. These games appear to have resembled rugby football. Also, documented evidence of an activity resembling football can be found in the Chinese military manual Zhan Guo Ce compiled between the 3rd century and 1st century BC. It describes a practice known as cuju (literally “kick ball”), which originally involved kicking a leather ball through a small hole in a piece of silk cloth which was fixed on bamboo canes.


A variety of oral hygiene measures have been used since before recorded history. This has been verified by various excavations done all over the world, in which chewsticks, tree twigs, bird feathers, animal bones and porcupine quills were recovered. Many people used different forms of toothbrushes. Indian medicine (Ayurveda) has used the neem tree (a.k.a. daatun) and its products to create toothbrushes and similar products for millennia. A person chews one end of the neem twig until it somewhat resembles the bristles of a toothbrush, and then uses it to brush the teeth. In the Muslim world, the miswak, or siwak, made from a twig or root with antiseptic properties has been widely used since the Islamic Golden Age.

Sutures have a long and bizarre history, dating back to ancient Egypt, where everything from tree bark to hair was used to stitch human flesh back together again. Physicians have used suture to close wounds for at least 4,000 years. Archaeological records from ancient Egypt show that Egyptians used linen and animal sinew to close wounds. In ancient India, physicians used the pincers of beetles or ants to staple wounds shut. They then cut the insects’ bodies off, leaving their jaws (staples) in place. Other natural materials used to close wounds include flax, hair, grass, cotton, silk, pig bristles, and animal gut. The fundamental principles of wound closure have changed little over 4,000 years.

A Babylonian clay tablet that has been generally accepted as “the earliest known map” is the artifact unearthed in 1930 at the excavated ruined city of Ga-Sur at Nuzi, 200 miles north of the site of Babylon (present-day Iraq). Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand (7.6 x 6.8 cm), most authorities place the the date of this map-tablet from the dynasty of Sargon of Akkad (2,300-2,500 B.C.) The surface of the tablet is inscribed with a map of a district bounded by two ranges of hills and bisected by a water-course. This particular tablet is drawn with cuneiform characters and stylized symbols impressed, or scratched, on the clay. Inscriptions identify some features and places. [Source]

Papyrus Ebers

The earliest recorded evidence of the production of soap-like materials dates back to around 2800 BC in Ancient Babylon. A formula for soap consisting of water, alkali and cassia oil was written on a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 BC. The Ebers papyrus (Egypt, 1550 BC) indicates that ancient Egyptians bathed regularly and combined animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to create a soap-like substance. Egyptian documents mention that a soap-like substance was used in the preparation of wool for weaving. Galen describes soap-making using lye and prescribes washing to carry away impurities from the body and clothes. The best soap was German, according to Galen; soap from Gaul was second best. This is the first record of true soap as a detergent.


The world’s earliest dockyards were built in the Harappan port city of Lothal circa 2400 BC in Gujarat, India. Lothal’s dockyards connected to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river on the trade route between Harappan cities in Sindh and the peninsula of Saurashtra when the surrounding Kutch desert was a part of the Arabian Sea. Lothal engineers accorded high priority to the creation of a dockyard and a warehouse to serve the purposes of naval trade. The dock was built on the eastern flank of the town, and is regarded by archaeologists as an engineering feat of the highest order. It was located away from the main current of the river to avoid silting, but provided access to ships in high tide as well. The name of the ancient Greek city of Naupactus means “shipyeard”. Naupactus’ repuation in this field extends to the time of legend, where it is depicted as the place where the Heraclidae built a fleet to invade the Peloponnesus.

A speculum (Latin for “mirror”) is a medical tool for investigating body cavities, with a form dependent on the body cavity for which it is designed. Vaginal specula were used by the Romans, and speculum artifacts have been found in Pompeii. The original instruments were excavated from the House of the Surgeon at Pompeii, so named because of the materials that were recovered there. It comprises a priapiscus with 2 (or sometimes 3 or 4) dovetailing valves which are opened and closed by a handle with a screw mechanism, an arrangement that was still to be found in the specula of 18th-century Europe. Soranus is the first author who makes mention of the speculum specially made for the vagina. Graeco-Roman writers on gynecology and obstetrics frequently recommend its use in the diagnosis and treatment of vaginal and uterine disorders, yet it is one of the rarest surviving medical instruments. [Source]
Processed Rubber

Although vulcanization is a 19th century invention, the history of rubber cured by other means goes back to prehistoric times. The name “Olmec” means “rubber people” in the Aztec language. Ancient Mesoamericans, spanning from ancient Olmecs to Aztecs, extracted latex from Castilla elastica, a type of rubber tree in the area. The juice of a local vine, Ipomoea alba, was then mixed with this latex to create an ancient processed rubber as early as 1600 BC. Archaeological evidence indicates that rubber was already in use in Mesoamerica by the Early Formative Period – a dozen balls were found in the Olmec El Manati sacrificial bog. By the time of the Spanish Conquest, 3000 years later, rubber was being exported from the tropical zones to sites all over Mesoamerica. Iconography suggests that although there were many uses for rubber, rubber balls both for offerings and for ritual ballgames were the primary products.

In the sculptures at Nineveh the parasol appears frequently. Austen Henry Layard gives a picture of a bas-relief representing a king in his chariot, with an attendant holding a parasol over his head. It has a curtain hanging down behind, but is otherwise exactly like those in use today. It is reserved exclusively for the monarch (who was bald), and is never carried over any other person. In Egypt, the parasol is found in various shapes. In some instances it is depicted as a flaellum, a fan of palm-leaves or coloured feathers fixed on a long handle, resembling those now carried behind the Pope in processions. In China, the 2nd century commentator Fu Qian added that this collapsible umbrella of Wang Mang’s carriage had bendable joints which enabled them to be extended or retracted.

The earliest known reference to toothpaste is in a manuscript from Egypt in the 4th century A.D., which prescribes a mixture of iris flowers. Many early toothpaste formulations were based on urine. However, toothpastes or powders did not come into general use until the 19th century. The Greeks, and then the Romans, improved the recipes for toothpaste by adding abrasives such as crushed bones and oyster shells. In the 9th century, the Persian musician and fashion designer Ziryab is known to have invented a type of toothpaste, which he popularized throughout Islamic Spain. The exact ingredients of this toothpaste are currently unknown, but it was reported to have been both “functional and pleasant to taste”.

Saturday, June 6, 2009



In books, films, and television, the wing chair has become a shorthand signifier for power, depravity, and corruption.

In Nabokov’s Lolita (1955), rival pedophiles Quilty and Humbert, during their final sleazy face-off, fall into two wing chairs. In Billy Wilder’s film Double Indemnity (1944), Barbara Stanwyck cooks up a plot to kill her husband from one wing chair, then hides a gun beneath the cushion of another. On the reality TV show The Apprentice (2004), real-life tycoon Donald Trump indoctrinates or dispenses with tycoons-in-the-making from his corporatized, boardroom wing chair.

Signs generate meaning, but meaning is not absolute; it changes continually as the relationship between viewer/reader and sign is renegotiated. It is possible, for example, to get a wing chair today without being a real estate tycoon or a corrupt bank CEO. You can purchase your very own Chippendale wing chair for five dollars on eBay or go DIY and make your own with help from the short video How to Make a Cardboard Chair. Regardless of these sweet, democratizing advances, the prevailing meaning of the wing chair in popular culture reflects our need as consumers to have an easy embodiment of our macabre, off-kilter, libidinous, power-mongering drive.

Charles II, crowned king of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1660, could be fingered as the wing chair’s progenitor, insofar as he masterminded the cultural circumstances inspiring the wing chair’s invention and necessity. When Charles II came to power, thereby ushering in the Restoration—a period freed from the Puritans’ censorious moral beliefs toward sex and self-indulgence—his parliament ordered dead Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell’s body exhumed from its resting place in Westminster Abbey, posthumously decapitated, and dumped into a mass grave.[1] With Puritanism symbolically dismembered and reburied, the wealthy British populace was finally free to unwind, and needed an appropriate chair in which to do so.

According to Lucy Wood, a senior curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the wing chair’s direct ancestor was a more obdurate and morose bit of furnishing known as the sleeping chayre, or the reposeing chayre. The two stiff colossal side-pieces of the sleeping chayre cloistered the sitter in a kind of opulent coffin, and were attached to the base by iron ratchets that permitted forward and backward adjustments. (The predecessor to the sleeping chayre was the invalid chair. With its leg supports linked by straps, castors, and rods jutting out from the arms to support a reading desk, the invalid chair looks closer to a medieval stretching rack than to an item designed for convalescing.[2])

The wing chair, first known as the easy chair, had a high back, low seat, sumptuous upholstery, and side-pieces, known as wings, cheeks, or lugs, to protect the sitter from nasty drafts and other distractions. The earliest example of the wing chair—a stiff and sallow descendant of the sleeping chayre—appeared sometime between 1660 and 1680. Around the year 1700, however, a novel shape was introduced: the curve. Since at least the Venus of Willendorf, a figurine dated around 24,000-22,000 BCE, civilization has idealized the female curve.[3] As a symbol of such sensuous stuff, the curve was, unsurprisingly, shunned by the Puritans, people who strove to defeminize what was naturally feminine in women by shrouding them in loose, shape-obscuring smocks. During the Restoration, however, the female form was once again adored and joyfully distorted. Corsetieres were employed to amplify a woman’s breasts and posterior. Whether with a peplum or a pinked-out frill, the backlash against the constraints on sexuality was in full swing, and the wing chair became the libidinous embodiment of the post-Puritan id.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895

What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895.....

Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?

This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina , Kansas , USA . It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina , and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina , KS - 1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of 'lie,''play, ' and 'run.'
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time,1 hou r 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000.. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5.. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft... Long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton , Bell , Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
[Do we even know what this is??]
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2.. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals& nbsp;
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers..
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.

Gives the saying 'he only had an 8th grade education' a whole new meaning, doesn't it?! Also shows you how poor our education system has become and, NO, I don't have the answers!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Battle of Midway (1942)

A color documentary short that portrays the decisive battle of Midway. The naval/air confrontation between the carrier forces of Japan and the U.S. is considered to be the turning point of World War II in the Pacific. Directed by John Ford.«

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A look back: 148 years ago, Civil War emotions boiled here

By Tim O'Neil

ST. LOUIS — In the first weeks of the Civil War, St. Louis was in a turmoil of divided loyalty. Gov. Claiborne Jackson schemed to add Missouri to the Confederacy. Congressman Frank Blair Jr. and Army Capt. Nathaniel Lyon worked to save it for the Union.

Unionists mustered volunteers to guard 36,600 weapons at the St. Louis Arsenal, on the Mississippi River at Arsenal Street. Jackson ordered state militia Gen. Daniel Frost to seize the guns. On May 8, a steamboat arrived with four cannons in boxes stamped "marble." Secessionists hauled them to Lindell Grove, a meadow on the western edge of town (now the site of St. Louis University) where Frost's militia was camped.

While strutting militiamen grandly accepted the compliments of ladies, the intense Lyon was busy. Legend has it that he donned a widow's veiled garb and rode through the militia camp. At noon on May 10 — 148 years ago Sunday — Lyon and his soldiers, many of them German immigrants, left the Arsenal for the two-hour march to Lindell Grove. They easily surrounded the militiamen, whose tents were just east of present-day Grand and Lindell boulevards.

Without a shot fired, Frost's troops surrendered and filed onto Olive Street. Hecklers had other ideas. Southern sympathizers mocked the German soldiers as "Hessians." A few threw rocks. Somebody fired shots. Union troops opened fire.

William Sherman, an area streetcar executive and future Union army hero, dove for a gully with his son, Willie, 7. Within moments, at least 28 civilians and seven soldiers lay dead or dying along Olive between Compton and Garrison avenues.

That night, three Germans were murdered downtown. The next day, another clash between soldiers and rioters at Broadway and Walnut Street cost six more lives. Federal reinforcements calmed the city, which stayed uneasily with the Union.

Frost joined the Confederate army. Lyon was killed while leading a Union army in battle near Springfield, Mo. Willie Sherman accompanied his father on the great campaign to capture Vicksburg, Miss., but contracted yellow fever and died.

On May 10, 1928, a statue of Lyon was installed at Grand and Pine Street. It was moved 32 years later to Lyon Park, next to the old arsenal, after Harriet Frost Fordyce — daughter of Gen. Frost — donated $1 million to St. Louis University. She died in 1960.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died"

"Book: Ted Kennedy could not find the words to confess in meeting with Mary Jo Kopechne's parents

In "Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died" - out today - author Edward Klein reveals that Ted visited with Mary Jo's parents twice following her death, but could never find the words to confess how the 28-year-old died.

"Ted had us come to his house in McLean [Va.], saying he wanted to talk," Mary Jo's now-deceased mother, Gwen, told Klein. "But [the visit] was uncomfortable - for all of us. Ted led us to believe he was going to explain what really happened. But when the time came, after plenty of small talk, he said he just couldn't talk about it. It was very puzzling. Twice we drove all the way down there [from Pennsylvania], and twice he couldn't talk about how our daughter died."

Mary Jo Kopechne was killed on July 18, 1969, when Kennedy accidentally drove his car off a bridge on Martha's Vineyard's Chappaquiddick Island. Although the senator swam to safety, his passenger, Mary Jo, drowned in the car. Kennedy left the scene and didn't contact authorities until the following day. He eventually pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was given a suspended sentence of two months in jail.

Klein writes of the incident, "The burden of guilt sat on Ted's chest like an anvil. He desperately wanted to relieve himself of the guilt, but in the end, he couldn't find the words to express his feelings. And, in fact, he would never find expiation for his guilt.""

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Europe In Worst Recession Since World War II

Here are the awful figures out of Europe:

* Germany's economy shrank by 3.8% in the first three months of the year.
* Austria's economy shrank 2.8%.
* The economy of the Netherlands shrank 2.8%.
* Spain's economy contracted by by 1.8%.
* France's economy shrank 1.2 percent.
* The UK saw a 1.9% contraction.
* Italy's economy shrank by 2.4%.


24. Yellow Pages
This year will be pivotal for the global Yellow Pages industry. Much like newspapers, print Yellow Pages will continue to bleed dollars to their various digital counterparts, from Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs), to local search engines and combination search/listing services like Reach Local and Yodle Factors like an acceleration of the print 'fade rate' and the looming recession will contribute to the onslaught. One research firm predicts the falloff in usage of newspapers and print Yellow Pages could even reach 10% this year -- much higher than the 2%-3% fade rate seen in past years.

23. Classified Ads
The Internet has made so many things obsolete that newspaper classified ads might sound like just another trivial item on a long list. But this is one of those harbingers of the future that could signal the end of civilization as we know it. The argument is that if newspaper classifieds are replaced by free online listings at sites like and Google Base, then newspapers are not far behind them.

22. Movie Rental Stores
While Netflix is looking up at the moment, Blockbuster keeps closing store locations by the hundreds. It still has about 6,000 left across the world, but those keep dwindling and the stock is down considerably in 2008, especially since the company gave up a quest of Circuit City . Movie Gallery, which owned the Hollywood Video brand, closed up shop earlier this year. Countless small video chains and mom-and-pop stores have given up the ghost already.

21. Dial-up Internet Access
Dial-up connections have fallen from 40% in 2001 to 10% in 2008. The combination of an infrastructure to accommodate affordable high speed Internet connections and the disappearing home phone have all but pounded the final nail in the coffin of dial-up Internet access.

20. Phone Landlines
According to a survey from the National Center for Health Statistics, at the end of 2007, nearly one in six homes was cell-only and, of those homes that had landlines, one in eight only received calls on their cells.

19. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs
Maryland 's icon, the blue crab, has been fading away in Chesapeake Bay . Last year Maryland saw the lowest harvest (22 million pounds) since 1945. Just four decades ago the bay produced 96 million pounds. The population is down 70% since 1990, when they first did a formal count. There are only about 120 million crabs in the bay and they think they need 200 million for a sustainable population. Over-fishing, pollution, invasive species and global warming get the blame.

18. VCRs
For the better part of three decades, the VCR was a best-seller and staple in every American household until being completely decimated by the DVD, and now the Digital Video Recorder (DVR). In fact, the only remnants of the VHS age at your local Wal-Mart or Radio Shack are blank VHS tapes these days. Pre-recorded VHS tapes are largely gone and VHS decks are practically nowhere to be found. They served us so well.

17. Ash Trees
In the late 1990s, a pretty, iridescent green species of beetle, now known as the emerald ash borer, hitched a ride to North America with ash wood products imported from eastern Asia. In less than a decade, its larvae have killed millions of trees in the Midwest , and continue to spread. They've killed more than 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone, with tens of millions more lost in Ohio and Indiana . More than 7.5 billion ash trees are currently at risk.

16. Ham Radio
Amateur radio operators enjoy personal (and often worldwide) wireless communications with each other and are able to support their communities with emergency and disaster communications if necessary, while increasing their personal knowledge of electronics and radio theory. However, proliferation of the Internet and its popularity among youth has caused the decline of amateur radio. In the past five years alone, the number of people holding active ham radio licenses has dropped by 50,000, even though Morse Code is no longer a requirement.

15. The Swimming Hole
Thanks to our litigious society, swimming holes are becoming a thing of the past. '20/20' reports that swimming hole owners, like Robert Every in High Falls, NY, are shutting them down out of worry that if someone gets hurt they'll sue. And that's exactly what happened in Seattle . The city of Bellingham was sued by Katie Hofstetter who was paralyzed in a fall at a popular swimming hole in Whatcom Falls Park . As injuries occur and lawsuits follow, expect more swimming holes to post 'Keep out!' signs.

14. Answering Machines
The increasing disappearance of answering machines is directly tied to No 20 our list -- the decline of landlines. According to USA Today, the number of homes that only use cell phones jumped 159% between 2004 and 2007. It has been particularly bad in New York ; since 2000, landline usage has dropped 55%. It's logical that as cell phones rise, many of them replacing traditional landlines, that there will be fewer answering machines.

13. Cameras That Use Film
It doesn't require a statistician to prove the rapid disappearance of the film camera in America . Just look to companies like Nikon, the professional's choice for quality camera equipment. In 2006, it announced that it would stop making film cameras, pointing to the shrinking market -- only 3% of its sales in 2005, compared to 75% of sales from digital cameras and equipment.

12. Incandescent Bulbs
Before a few years ago, the standard 60-watt (or, yikes, 100-watt) bulb was the mainstay of every U.S. home. With the green movement and all-things-sustainable-energy crowd, the Compact Fluorescent Light bulb (CFL) is largely replacing the older, Edison-era incandescent bulb. The EPA reports that 2007 sales for Energy Star CFLs nearly doubled from 2006, and these sales accounted for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. light bulb market. And according to USA Today, a new energy bill plans to phase out incandescent bulbs in the next four to 12 years.

11. Stand-Alone Bowling Alleys
BowlingBalls.US claims there are still 60 million Americans who bowl at least once a year, but many are not bowling in stand-alone bowling alleys. Today most new bowling alleys are part of facilities for all types or recreation including laser tag, go-karts, bumper cars, video game arcades, climbing walls and glow miniature golf. Bowling lanes also have been added to many non-traditional venues such as adult communities, hotels and resorts, and gambling casinos.

10. The Milkman
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 1950, over half of the milk delivered was to the home in quart bottles, by 1963, it was about a third and by 2001, it represented only 0.4% percent. Nowadays most milk is sold through supermarkets in gallon jugs. The steady decline in home-delivered milk is blamed, of course, on the rise of the supermarket, better home refrigeration and longer-lasting milk. Although some milkmen still make the rounds in pockets of the U.S. , they are certainly a dying breed.

9. Hand-Written Letters
In 2006, the Radicati Group estimated that, worldwide, 183 billion e-mails were sent each day. Two million each second. By November of 2007, an estimated 3.3 billion Earthlings owned cell phones, and 80% of the world's population had access to cell phone coverage. In 2004, half-a-trillion text messages were sent, and the number has no doubt increased exponentially since then. So where amongst this gorge of gabble is there room for the elegant, polite hand-written letter?

8. Wild Horses
It is estimated that 100 years ago, as many as two million horses were roaming free within the United States . In 2001, National Geographic News estimated that the wild horse population had decreased to about 50,000 head. Currently, the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory board states that there are 32,000 free roaming horses in ten Western states, with half of them residing in Nevada . The Bureau of Land Management is seeking to reduce the total number of free range horses to 27,000, possibly by selective euthanasia.

7. Personal Checks
According to an American Bankers Assoc. report, a net 23% of consumers plan to decrease their use of checks over the next two years, while a net 14% plan to increase their use of PIN debit. Bill payment remains the last stronghold of paper-based payments -- for the time being. Checks continue to be the most commonly used bill payment method, with 71% of consumers paying at least one recurring bill per month by writing a check. However, on a bill-by-bill basis, checks account for only 49% of consumers' recurring bill payments (down from 72% in 2001 and 60% in 2003).

6. Drive-in Theaters
During the peak in 1958, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters in this country, but in 2007 only 405 drive-ins were still operating. Exactly zero new drive-ins have been built since 2005. Only one reopened in 2005 and five reopened in 2006, so there isn't much of a movement toward reviving the closed ones.

5. Mumps & Measles
Despite what's been in the news lately, the measles and mumps actually, truly are disappearing from the United States . In 1964, 212,000 cases of mumps were reported in the U.S. By 1983, this figure had dropped to 3,000, thanks to a vigorous vaccination program. Prior to the introduction of the measles vaccine, approximately half a million cases of measles were reported in the U.S. annually, resulting in 450 deaths. In 2005, only 66 cases were recorded.

4. Honey Bees
Perhaps nothing on our list of disappearing America is so dire; plummeting so enormously; and so necessary to the survival of our food supply as the honey bee. Very scary. 'Colony Collapse Disorder,' or CCD, has spread throughout the U.S. and Europe over the past few years, wiping out 50% to 90% of the colonies of many beekeepers -- and along with it, their livelihood.

3. News Magazines and TV News
While the TV evening newscasts haven't gone anywhere over the last several decades, their audiences have. In 1984, in a story about the diminishing returns of the evening news, the New York Times reported that all three network evening-news programs combined had only 40.9 million viewers. Fast forward to 2008, and what they have today is half that.

2. Analog TV
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, 85% of homes in the U.S. get their television programming through cable or satellite providers. For the remaining 15% -- or 13 million individuals -- who are using rabbit ears or a large outdoor antenna to get their local stations, change is in the air. If you are one of these people you'll need to get a new TV or a converter box in order to get the new stations which will only be broadcast in digital.

1. The Family Farm
Since the 1930s, the number of family farms has been declining rapidly. According to the USDA, 5.3 million farms dotted the nation in 1950, but this number had declined to 2.1 million by the 2003 farm census (data from the 2007 census hasn't yet been published). Ninety-one percent of the U.S. farms are small family farms.