Greetings Historians! Gather up those chips, pour a few fingers of bourbon, and don a green eyeshade, because today we’re sidling up to the big-boy table for a little game of poker, history style. We’re playing five-card stud, and the ante is knowledge and wisdom is wild. Let’s play cards!

  • The Poker players of yesteryear were colorful characters with variety of nicknames like Jerry “Slim” Watkins, Ricky “Fatso” Dunlap, Mitch “Big Head” Morton, Donny “One Eye” Nelson, Mary “Bearded” Rogers Jeff “Flappy Dick” Johnson.  Many players were former freak show oddities.
  • Unlike the civilized games we play in casinos today, poker games of yesteryear often ended in violence and sometimesgun fights.  Thankfully, gun ownershipwas actually quiete rare due to the steel shortage of 1901.  Unable to procure actual weapons, bellicose players would mime a gun shape with their thumb and index finger and make bullet noises with their mouths.  Yeah, it was as silly as it sounds.
  • Today poker is dominated by math whizzes and former computer programmers who are able to calculate complicated “pot odds” to help them judge how much to wager.  To give you an idea of just how far we’ve come, the second ever winner of the World Series of Poker was a confirmed illiterate with nothing more than a first-grade education. The previous year’s winner: a monkey.
  • Poker’s basic rules are simple enough to fit on a card typically included with a standard deck.  Yet for some reason, when you have a game and your friend’s girlfriend Kristen decides she wants to play and ruin everyone’s fun, it takes her about a half hour to figure out the goddamn difference between a straight and a flush.  Honestly, why does he even fucking date her anyway?  She’s not even that hot and she’s really into Kathy Griffen!  My mom likes Kathy Griffen.  Does he want to date my mom?
  • Many poker fans choose to play online poker, it’s agreat way to gain experience, hone skills, and possibly pay the rent.  Hundreds of players have quit soul-crushing jobs sitting in cramped offices where they sit in front of a computers from nine-to-five everyday in exchange for the thrilling adventure of online poker where they sit in front of a computer for eight hour blocks clicking stuff.  Online poker is also a great way to stave off losing ones virginity for another year.  What do flesh women smell like?
  • Sponsorships help players defray the cost of entering high stakes tournaments.  In exchange for lucrative deals, marquee playerswear garish badges and obnoxious hats that make them look like bigger tool bags than they already are, which is no small feat.
  • While “Texas Hold ‘Em” poker is probably the most popular varient of poker, others, like “Omaha” and “Cincinnati” are offered in casinos.  If you can think of a shitty place to live, there’s probably a poker varient named after it.
Well, that’s just a quick peak at the shadowy and lame world of poker.
Poker:  Fun?  Ehh, sorta, depends who you’re playing with. Profitable?  Depends? History? Definitely!

Hello history-addicts!  I know it’s been a long time, but your overwhelming support in the comment section (okay, you’re not all supporters, but even Shakespeare had critics 8-) ).  Hopefully this week’s post won’t be so controversial.

  • The Bermuda Triangle is a large area that covers parts of the Caribbean Sea, and the Florida Strait. 
  • The first mystery about the triangle is that it isn’t even a triangle at all!  For years scientists were fooled into studying the wrong shape.  Recent developments just found a fourth corner lending the area a more rectangular shape.  Learn your geometry, sillies!
  • The Bermuda Triangle has all sorts of weird effects on magnets.  Compasses have been known to go around in circles forcing travelers to spin in place and get really dizzy and sick.  Then everyone starts vomit, but since they are still spinning around the vomit goes all over the place like one of those spigot sprinkler systems.  Talk about a mess! :-o
  • Advanced electronics are also effected by the mystical forces of the Triangle.  iPhones will lose service for hours and refuse to send out text messages.  Oh wait that’s everywhere!!! Haha, just kidding iPhone readers.
  • Reports reveal several different occasions when those traveling in the Triangle zone developed huge boners that lasted for over fifteen hours.  Talk about a stiff drink!
  • Countless flights and boats have disappeared over the years in the Triangle region resulting in the presumed deaths of hundreds.  Government officials would have us believe an uneducated mass of ocean could just happen to cause this, but if you actually study the footage and trace the money you’ll find that in no other time in history has this happened before.  Government officials have costly been looking for a pretext for war with the Bermuda Triangle.  To date, there has been no formal study looking at the link between the Bermuda Triangle and the events of September 11, 2001. 

Well that’s a quick look into the Bermuda Triangle. 

The Bermuda Triangle:  Triangular? No.  WiFi-equipped? Check later. History?  Definitely!

Greetings, “historyaddicts,” your fearless servant here. It sure has been awhile, but research in the Andes does take a up time, just ask the fossils ;) It’s time we hop back on the “historytrain” and play a “pickup game” of History in Action on the “history court” as we take a look at the early National Basketball Association. Today we know basketball as the wonderful game played by dashing hoopsters like Anthony Mason, Larry JEarly NBAohnson, and Detlef Schremp. But, over sixty years ago the game was quite different. Here is how basketball looked in 1934!!!!!

  • The net is fairly recent basketball innovation. The early game was literally basketball, with a peach basket standing in place of the net. After every score a man with a ladder would have to take the ball out of basket and play would resume. The shot-clock and backboard would also come later. Games would last many hours and scores would sometimes enter the double digits!
  • Early players may not have been able to “dunk” or “hit a shot from more than five feet from the basket,” but they could perform many dazzling moves like “the dribble for ten seconds,” “the bend down without injuring the back,” “the hop,” and the every popular but rarely achieved “bounce pass.”
  • The league featured only three teams: The Celtics, at that time actual located in sickeningly ethnic Brooklyn, NY; The Raptors from the Canadian fur trading post known as “Toronto”; And the Barn Stormers from what was once America’s number one vacation spot, Saratoga Spring New York.
  • Everyone’s favorite game, Horse, finds its origins in the Ol’ NBA. Hershey, the mascot of a team from Pennsylvania would routinely dazzle the crowd with its ability to actually dribble and toss the ball into the basket. Take that Air Bud! :P
  • Although, African Americans were not officially involved with the professional game until the mid 1950s, minorities of all kinds were instrumental to the game. Many varieties of colored peoples contributed to the NBA by wiping floors, cleaning game worn uniforms, and taking beatings from angry players.
  • The early game was far more violent then today’s game, players would punch and kick one another and even attack the fans that shouted things at them. Incidents were so common that chicken wire was setup around the court. Thankfully far more civilized and gentile players and fans exist today.
  • The Laker girls may not have been around, but half time entertainment was usually provided by a a gaggle of chubby burlesque dancers that would provide tasteful stripteases between halves of games. Jealous Kobe? :roll:

The early NBA. Dangerous? Maybe. Fun? Sure. History? Definitely!

Greetings my fellow historians! History in Action has been out of commission for a little while. Things got real nasty at a little get together at the New York Historical Society. Let’s just say yours truly isn’t going to be getting any Christmas cards from Doris Kearns Goodwin! Now, let’s get onto the pudding that fills your pot, today’s entry!

In grade school, many of us learn the history of the famous Native American tribes: the Aztecs, the Mayans, and the Incas. Reality check, not everything you learn in history class is “on the level.” Grab those dusty history mitts, march out to left field, it’s time to catch some “history flies!”

The Aztecs

  • The Aztec empire was located in what is today known as “Mexico.” They were incredibly advanced agriculturally, having developed irrigation methods well before their European counterparts. Though the empire was vast and wealthy, many Aztecs would flee their country for the possibility of employment in the “new world.”
  • Ritualistic sacrifice was known to have taken place in the Aztec empire. Some estimates suggest as many as 84,000 were once killed during a four day period. Puts the Iraq war numbers into perspective, huh? ;)
  • Games were especially important to the Aztecs. They played a sport akin to the Mesoamerican ballgame named tlachtli or ollamaliztli. It was a furious sport combining the athleticism of basketball, the brutality of football, and the strategy of baseball. However scoring was very low so it was really boring.
  • Aztecs used common items like cocoa beans and cotton for currency. When Europeans were handed the cocoa in exchange for goods they ate the cocoa thinking this was the custom. The Aztecs in turn would ingest European coins and paper money. The Europeans would laugh and the Aztecs would stare back embarrassed, sometimes crying out of shame. Eventually the Europeans, led by Hernando Cortés, would slaughter the Aztecs not ravaged by Smallpox.

Mayans

  • The Mayans were incredibly advanced scientifically. They developed many concepts before their European counterparts. Such concepts and advancements included absolute zero, telepathy, “to be continued…” episodes, and post-rock, and irrigation.
  • Mayan art was especially skillful and renown in foreign lands. Of particular note was the attention made to the depiction of female breasts. Large, drooping bosoms were considered a sign of fertility in Maya. Lopsided, turned out breasts were even more attractive, as well as those bespectacled by acne and hair. Take that, Hefner!
  • Like the Aztecs, the Mayans sacrificed humans, including children who they believed to be pure. Too bad they didn’t have Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” on the case!

Incas

  • The Incas dominated a large area of land in what is now modern day Peru. They lacked a written language, but were pioneers in early phonograph recordings, predating Thomas Edison by hundreds of years. Early Inca 45s are prized by music snobs for their raw production value. They can fetch up to twenty bucks on eBay.
  • Francisco Pizarro is believed to have conquered the Incas with 180 men, 1 cannon and only 27 horses. He often needed to talk his way out of potential confrontations that could have easily wiped out his party. Try that against a suicide bomber in Iraq!!! :P
  • Unlike the Mayans and Aztecs, the Incas were quite agriculturally advanced, having developed a system of irrigation to rival their European counterparts.

The Aztecs. The Mayans. The Incas.

Important Societies? Maybe. Advanced? Sure. History? Definitely!

Hi ho, historians!!! Today’s “History in Action” (or HIA for those you in the know) may end up leading to a trip to the dentist, because it sure is sweet! Now you HIA readers living in the “Windy City” are probably quite familiar with the chocolate smell that the Blommer Chocolate Co. factory in the West Loop produces to the delight of many (there has been a legal battle, more on that here). What you may not realize is that Chicago’s love affair with sweets actually produced a chocolate bridge!!! That’s right–a bridge made of chocolate. Grab your history hats and let’s travel back to 1927.

From the Chicago Tribune dated June 15, 1927:

The scene on Deerborn street is one of hysteria as thousands gather for the ribbon cutting of a new bridge that will connect the near north side to downtown. Unlike the growing number bridges criss-crossing the Chicago River, this bridge is unique – it is constructed entirely out of chocolate. Who can Chicago thank for this strange addition to the cityscape? None other than Alphonse Gabriel Capone, better known as Al “Scarface” Capone, hero to many working class residents of Chicago. The bridge is fully funded by Capone, who has gone on record, stating he wanted to, “bestow a gift to the common man.” The bridge is completely functional and edible. Though the project has the approval of the Mayor’s office (though funded by Capone, it is still considered a municipal designate), several officials have condemned the project calling it wasteful, ridiculous, and potentially dangerous. The bridge’s architect, Woodrow Pierce, has defended the bridge against critics. When asked of the inherent problem a bridge that is being eaten presents, Pierce explained that, “gobs of chocolate will be added as chunks are taken out. Mr. Capone wants the best for this bridge as well as the city. That’s what he shall get.” Officially, all persons are limited to one bite so don’t expect to fill up anytime soon…

Though initially a successful attraction, the chocolate bridge fell victim to many unanticipated forces including sugar mavens and ants. It could barely support automobiles and trucks were banned. Ultimately the bridge’s Al Qaeda was mother nature – the bridge melted on June 28, just thirteen days after it was unveiled. The ensuing chocolate flood destroyed several businesses on East Wacker Drive in infamous chocolate flood of 1927.

At a length of 220 feet and a height of 67 feet, the bridge was believed to be the largest chocolate construct ever. That is of course until the unearthing of the Incan Cocoa Spire in Peru, but that’s a story for another day. :-p

The Chocolate Bridge

Practical?  No.  Tasty?  Probably.  History?  Definitely!!!

Greetings Historians!!! Grab your history suitcases because today we are traveling over the Himalayas, past the mighty Amazon (the river not the website, silly!), and through the Gobi Desert to Mongolia as we look back at the mighty Mongol Empire!!! Be sure to pack a fourteen inch assault dagger, Mongols are dangerous, even today!!!

Basic Facts

  • The Mongol Empire came into being around 1206 with the unification of several warring tribes. It finally crumbled in 1988 due to the Glasnost policies of Mikhail Gorbachev.
  • Genghis Khan, the famed leader of the Mongols, died much earlier than the reported date of 1241. Fearing a panic, Mongol elders propped Khan up as a puppet for years with an elaborate systems of pulleys and fishhooks. The populace remained unaware. Many of his greatest military victories were achieved with someone else “pulling the strings.” This story would later be appropriated for the 1980s film, “Weekend at Bernie’s.”
  • The Mongol empire was enormous. At its height it stretched over 12,800,000 square miles. That’s over 500 hundred football fields! Trying catch that pass, Randy Moss!

Military Might

  • The Mongols were renowned for their military strength. They employed such tactics as the Rope-A-Dope, the Suicide Squeeze, and the Give and Go.
  • Experts believe an average Mongol warrior could easily vanquish one hundred US soldiers (armed with machine guns) using only a stick and some sand pebbles. Talk about “weapons of mass destruction!” Maybe some of them are fighting for the Iraqis!
  • Soldiers were known for their extreme discipline. Mongol warriors or Henshia, could literally go weeks without food, drink, or sexual intercourse, though masturbation was frequent and appeared to have been part of certain rituals where one soldier would stand in a circle while others stimulated themselves to he point of completion onto the soldier in the center. This practice was believed to rejuvenate the soldier and bring victory. (Editor’s note. Even if we today find ancient practices to be abhorrent, disgusting, illogical, somewhat homoerotic, or really gross, we must reserve judgment. Who knows if today’s customs will be seen as absurd in the future?! I bet neckties will seem real silly. ;) )

Accomplishments and Legacy

  • An incredible system of mail that extended across the empire. Information was delivered at a speed double that of modern broadband networks. Imagine reading “History in Action” back then!
  • The famed Silk Road was a popular trade route from Asia to Europe. It is in many ways an equivalent to a modern shopping mall featuring a food court, garment posts, and cheap amusements. Traders would amble around the road even when they weren’t interested in trading, just to look around and socialize – a precursor to “Mall Rat” culture. “Like Totally!”
  • Other inventions credited to the Mongols include spaghetti, the concept of “zero,” “the blues,” rack and pinion steering, a progressive tax, and a zero tolerance approach to crime.

Perhaps now you know a little bit more about the Mongol empire. Undoubtedly, the Mongols were the most influential of all the early cultures, except for maybe the Greeks. And the Persians. And maybe the Romans, too. Well, perhaps the Sumerians were as important. Can’t forget the Aztecs now can we? The Japanese probably deserve some credit as well.

The Mongol Empire.

Important? To some extent. Weird? Apparently. History? Oh, Definitely!

Did You Know….?!?!

May 1, 2007

Greetings Historians! Things have been pretty busy here at History In Action (or HIA for those of you in the know!). We’re hard at work on mining the iron-ore of history, but that doesn’t mean your visit here leaves you empty handed – we’ve got a bowl full of quick facts of the “Did You Know” variety (no, this isn’t sports-center!). Put on those history caps, the train is leaving!

Did you Know?!!?

  • …that General Douglas MacArthur was obsessed with midgets? In fact he staged a mock battle of the invasion of the Philippines with over four hundred little people. What a guy!
  • …that Ullysus S. Grant ate only pickles for an entire year straight? Talk about “Fear Factor!”
  • …that the inventor of the phone Alexander Graham Bell was mute and never even used one of his own phones?!! File that under ironic ,Miss Morissette.
  • …that the Parthenon is nearly a half mile long, the size of over ten football fields!? I bet the tour guides get a good workout!
  • …that as recent as 1934, a fencing test was required for US citizenship! A palpable hit!

Hopefully these tapas (tapas are Spanish appetizers…so tasty!) whet your appetite for some HIA entrees! Remember, tip your historian. Tee-hee!

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrreetings Historians!!! Today we have a very special History in Action entry, for today we look at an organization more powerful than NASCAR, the Freemasons.  Some of the information published here has never seen the light of day, let alone the Internet!  Sit back, relax, and put your history cap on – you’re going to want to remember this one!

Notable Freemasons

  • President James A. Garfield
  • Supreme Court Justice John Marshall
  • LA Law Actor Corbin Bernsen
  • Fast Food Mogul Roy Rogers
  • Indie Rock Star Ben Gibbard
  • Singer Burl Ives
  • Statesman Simón Bolívar
  • TV’s Ricky Gervais
  • Picket Fences Star Fyvush Finkle
  • Activist Jesse Jackson
  • Virginia Tech Shooter Seung-Hui Cho
  • MTV’s Matt Pinfield
  • The New York Time’s David Brooks, Paul Krugman, William Saphire, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, Frank Bruni, Bob Herbert, and Nicholas D. Kristof

In addition many famous and influential people are counted amongst the ranks of Freemasons.

Freemason Practices

  • Masons have special associations with symbols like squares, compasses, and certain emoticons like :( and ;( and :-] and :-Q and :-O
  • Far from being a mere social organization, Masons contribute to many worthwhile charities like golf courses, gin mills, and erotic dance schools.
  • During initiation Mason candidates drink wine from skulls, suffer beatings on their buttocks with a paddle, and confess their life secrets while naked.  Masons despise Catholics for their weird cultish behavior.

Masonic Beliefs

  • Masonic ideas have influenced the design of cities like Washington D.C.  Increasing traffic congestion is a cherished Masonic principle. 
  • Masons believe in a supreme being.  They’re not expressly religious.  They’re spiritual, you know what I mean, like organized religion is just so restrictive.  I mean what are beliefs anyway?
  • Masons believe in a highly ordered universe with women and black people at the bottom.

There you have it.  The Masons.

Weird?  Maybe.  Powerful?  For Sure! History? Definitely!

Hello Historians!  Your faithful servant here, digging up the stories from the past and bringing them to life like a zombie priest.  Today comes facts from the Orient – the country is Japan.  The time is 1852, long before Edo was known as its modern day moniker of Tokyo!  Commodore Matthew Perry (not the Studio 60 star!) has been commissioned to sail from Norfolk, Virginia to Japan.   Upon  his arrival Perry meets with representatives of Tokugawa Shogunate.  Perry is fascinated by Japan’s many amusements and writes back to then President Millard Filmore:

Dearest Commander,

Oh what a wondrous land I have come upon it is a place of dazzling wonders that seems well suited to serving as a place of amusement and
thrills.  “Roller coasters” and “bumper cars” are native to this fantastic place, they seemingly rise from the ground, farmed by the local population.  Cotton candy is plentiful and is a component of the natives’ diet.  This country, with its many attractions, could easily compete with New York’s smelly “Coney Island” as a fun family getaway.  I urge you to send more supplies so I may further explore and develop this land.  I hear rumors amongst local bureaucrats that caricature artists are at a surfeit.

Faithfully,

M. Perry 

Japan would become the great destination Perry prophesied for nearly thirty years.  Eventually the natural amusement resources had been over harvested, and Japan was left barren and pretty boring for nearly a century.  Today Japan once again provides entertainment of different kind, but sorry this is a family blog, you naughty historians!

Japan – The World’s First Theme Park

Strange? Maybe.  Fun?  Oh Yeah! History? Definitely!

Greetings fellow historians! I apologize for my absence, a conference in Vienna has stolen me from usual perch, but fear not – History Marches On!!! Today, we look at one of the more heinous secrets of history, the New York City subway tracks.

New York City has always had a rocky relationship with its immigrant groups. Never was this more evident than with the population of New York’s Irish at the end of the 19th century. The Irish were seemingly second class citizens to most New Yorkers, especially Mayor George B. McCellan Jr. A New Yorker from September 1906 regarding the increasing pigeon presence in the city has McCellan at his most hateful declaring, “When comparing the problem of pigeons with that of the filthy Irish, I shall for once look upon feathered friend with good favor. While both are examples of vermin, pigeons have the good sense to fly away when spooked. Further, pigeons have the innate potential to at some point learn direction and serve a useful function in a society carrying missives. I would lastly add that the Irish contribute a greater amount of solid waste to our streets.” These comments, vitriolic as the may be, were merely a precursor to the mayor’s later orders for the new subway system.

In the year of 1906 the construction of the New York subway system was well under way. A line already extended from City Hall to the Bronx. Unfortunately progress soon came to a halt as a tariff would lead to a rising cost in a most necessary component of the rail system – steel. McCellen was furious upon hearing the news from the transportation head on April 7, 1906.  McCellen had been the person to drive the ceremonial first subway ride through New York City. Seeking to clear his thoughts that spring evening, he settled upon an evening stroll towards the downtown area. His walk found him all the way down to New York’s Wall Street where he encountered a sleeping Irish bum (typical for the time). His journal recounts the discovery.

Before me I then spied a most odious site, though sadly a typical one – an Irishman. Overcome with outrage at his lack of work ethic. I set about stomping and kicking the filthy wretch with great might. Delighting in my activity I soon rendered the lout dead. Though pleased with my result, propriety dictated I call a police officer to dispose of the body. Upon his arrival the official laughed at the site before him, for this I could not blame him. A dead Irishman is a punchline that needs no setup! Unfortunately there was lifting for the good officer to do. Upon engaging in his struggle the officer commented, “This worthless animal weighs tons. I would take more pleasured in carrying a sack full of steel beams.” This statement prompted an engine of activity in my mind. The Irish girth surely owed to their less advanced Cro-Magnon bone structure. My return to the my offices brought with it joy as I ran about exclaiming my plan for our beleaguered subway system. Surely Irish bones were as good as steal and cheaper!

Though most bones were salvaged from morgues and cemeteries – men, women, and children of Irish decent could sell their bones for twelve cents a pound before their death. Signs that once read “Irish Need Not Apply” now read “Irish Only Apply.” This grim practice lasted for only a few months as results were poor. Bones made terrible rails, but some are still in use today throughout the Bronx. City records are unclear as to which specific lines the bones service. Just think New York historians, the next time you take the “N Train” to Coney Island you shall be riding on the backs of the O’Hurleys, the MacDougals, and the Mcgees – Literally!!!

Irish Bones as subway rails.

Barbaric? Assuredly. Efficient? Probably not. History? Definitely!

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