President for one day: The David Atchison administration

As of July 11, 2020, there have officially been 45 U.S. presidents. Theories abound regarding the power held by figures such as Dick Cheney or Edith Wilson, but the official tally stands. Should it? The presidential line of succession is an important mechanism to ensure that, at any point in time, someone occupies the office. In 1849, the president pro tempore was third in that … Continue reading President for one day: The David Atchison administration

Welcome to Hell, Biagio da Cesena: Michelangelo’s spiteful addition to ‘The Last Judgment’

As most are aware, Michelangelo’s famous renderings on the Sistine Chapel, “The Last Judgment,” were highly controversial among Italian clergy for their depiction of nudity. Few were more aghast at Michelangelo’s sacrilege than Biagio da Cesena. The conservative Papal Master of Ceremonies expressed his distaste for Michelangelo’s work by stating that, due to the fresco depicting “all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully,” it … Continue reading Welcome to Hell, Biagio da Cesena: Michelangelo’s spiteful addition to ‘The Last Judgment’

What could have been: When the Soviet Union tried to join NATO

As preposterous as the headline sounds, it is in fact true. After Stalin’s death in 1953, his successor, Khrushchev, proposed that the Soviet Union join NATO. At that point, the Warsaw Pact had not been formed and NATO was increasing its membership. Soviet leadership, of course, realized that the proposal would not be warmly received by NATO members. The main purpose of the proposal was … Continue reading What could have been: When the Soviet Union tried to join NATO

A mark of distinction: The earliest gospel revealed (or so we think)

Adherents to Christianity hold the four gospels of Jesus—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—in high esteem for their accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus. While many different compilations concerning Jesus were once in circulation among Christians, the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century narrowed the official canon to the aforementioned four gospels. We have a surprisingly strong basis for determining the chronology of … Continue reading A mark of distinction: The earliest gospel revealed (or so we think)

Heraclitus: Obscure to the death

Heraclitus, one of Ancient Greece’s most famous philosophers, is nothing if not controversial. Critics are sharply divided on the man, with some seeing him as either the embodiment of inscrutable wisdom, and others as a mere contrarian filled with facile aphorisms and little else. Some of Heraclitus’s doctrines were held consistently. This included his view that the universe is in a constant state of flux, … Continue reading Heraclitus: Obscure to the death

The flight of Lawn Chair Larry

Long before the film “Up” graced the silver screens, a man set out to follow his life-long dream of flight with the aid of forty-three weather balloons, and on July 2, 1982, he finally succeeded. Lawrence Walters, better known as “Lawn Chair Larry,” had dreamed of being a pilot in the Air Force, but was unsuccessful due to his poor eyesight. Instead, he became a … Continue reading The flight of Lawn Chair Larry

Don’t touch me! The glass delusion of medieval Europe

Charles VI, French King during a portion of the Hundred Years War, is known to history in large part due to his periodic bouts of mental illness. During one prolonged episode, he became convinced that he was comprised of glass, and refused to allow others to touch him for fear of shattering. He had his clothes fortified with iron rods to further protect his body … Continue reading Don’t touch me! The glass delusion of medieval Europe

Trouble with the Hayes Office: Cartoon edition

Classic film buffs will acknowledge, perhaps with a heavy sigh, the era of the Hayes Office in Hollywood films. The Motion Picture Production Code, in place between 1934 and 1968, was the bane of Hollywood producers hoping to push the limits of acceptability in film productions. It set forth a list of guidelines for acceptable content in films during this period, and led to a … Continue reading Trouble with the Hayes Office: Cartoon edition

The time bananas went extinct

The dominant banana among consumers in the US and Europe, that is. And they did not technically go extinct throughout the world. In the vast tracts of Central American plantations providing bananas to the Western world, however, the Gros Michel banana, once dominant, was wiped out by disease in the 1950s. If you live in the West, therefore, the bananas you eat today are not … Continue reading The time bananas went extinct

The Darien Scheme: Scotland’s disastrous attempt to colonize Central America

Before becoming part of the United Kingdom, Scotland entertained notions of becoming a powerful colonial power equivalent in might to England. In order to achieve this, plans were formed to create a state-sanctioned monopoly similar to the British East India Company, and use this company to colonize the Isthmus of Panama, thereby making the nascent Scottish empire an important trade link between the Atlantic and … Continue reading The Darien Scheme: Scotland’s disastrous attempt to colonize Central America