In March 2006, hard-hitting local news reporter Brian Johnson’s curiosity was piqued after a number of residents of the largely African-American and impoverished Crichton neighborhood in Mobile, Alabama reported that they had seen a leprechaun (wearing his signature hat of course) staring at them from an area tree. Little did he know that his subsequent news story on these mysterious sightings would take the world by storm, thanks to the omnipotent power of viral video. As news of the Crichton leprechaun spread like wildfire across the nation, hundreds of people poured into the town, hoping to catch a glimpse of the little gold hoarder and maybe, just maybe find his hidden stash of gold. The news clip helpfully included an image of a crude amateur sketch, in the hope that it might spark more sightings of the wily fellow.
Pretty soon, there were long traffic jams as out-of-towners brandishing Irish flutes and torches drove into Mobile to catch a peek. Many quickly found that, if they shone a torch up at the tree, the leprechaun would disappear.
“I’ve seen him more than once,” said John Trinidad.
“You just have to keep staring long enough and he’ll show up. I told friends about this and they thought I was nuts but they’ve now seen him too.”
One greedy local area resident who chose to remain anonymous even declared his nefarious intention to uproot the tree.
To date, the original YouTube video of the Crichton Leprechaun has been viewed some 12 million times. Cranky Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly even aired a show about it, to explore the issue of whether the clip was racist. There are now at least two websites dedicated to the Crichton Leprechaun, (WhereTheGoldAt.com and WhereDaGoldAt.com), there is a Facebook fan page and VH1 recognized the video as one of The Greatest Internet Superstars.
Most incredibly, the memorable “amateur sketch” was auctioned on Ebay and sold for more than ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS (which was donated to charity)! Sadly, fans of the artist’s work have been thwarted in their efforts to discover the identity of the artist, who remains as elusive as the Crichton leprechaun himself.
But perhaps we have been barking up the wrong tree….. Is it possible that the leprechaun sketch is actually a self-portrait?
Sacagawea was the young Shoshone Indian woman who acted as a navigator, diplomat and translator for Lewis and Clark on their historic expedition of the western United States. Only a teenager when she assumed this herculean task, she successfully guided the adventurers from the Northern Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean and back. Without a doubt, the famous Lewis and Clark expedition would have perished without her skilled assistance. In 2000, Sacagawea coins began being minted in the United States, in accordance with the “$1 Coin Act” of 1997. The General Accounting Office (GAO) was eager for the successful implementation of the dollar coin, after finding that, “the $1 dollar coin’s advantage would be $522.2 million per year.”
However, the GAO urgently stressed the fact that certain specific conditions were crucial to the successful implementation of the $1 coin:
“In order for the dollar coin to be successful, the $1 note would have to be gradually eliminated; a reasonable transition period would be needed; the $1 coin would have to be well designed and readily distinguished from other coins; an adequate public awareness campaign would be needed; and sustained administrative and congressional support would be necessary to withstand an initial negative public reaction to eliminating the $1 note.”
Pressured by the energetic lobbying efforts of the as-silly-as-it sounds “Save the Greenback” organization, Congress ignored the sage advice of the GAO and added the following provision to the Act,
“Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed to evidence any intention to eliminate or to limit the printing or circulation of United States currency in the $1 denomination.”
This little provision set the stage for the Sacagawea coin’s eventual failure; the continued presence of the $1 bill frustrated all efforts by policy-makers to fully implement the coin into widespread circulation. After a general circulation of only two years (2000-2001), production of the coins for general use was halted due to low demand and the fact that inventories of the coins were crowding Government vaults. Interestingly, the Sacagawea dollar has found a second life in Ecuador, which fortuitously dollarized to the U.S. currency in 2000. Both the dollar note and coin are commonly used there, to the understandable delight and puzzlement of U.S. tourists visiting the country.
In the fateful year of 79 AD, the ‘lost’ city of Pompeii (Italy) was a thriving metropolis of approximately 20,000 inhabitants, located near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania. A cosmopolitan and bustling city at the height of the Roman Empire, Pompeii was a popular vacation destination for wealthy Romans on holiday. Sadly, the city became petrified proof that geography is destiny, after the glittering city was completely destroyed and buried in lava after a catastrophic two day eruption of the nearby volcano Mount Vesuvius. The raging Vesuvius left the once-great city submerged under a whopping 66 ft. of ash and pumice, where it remained ‘lost’ for an astonishing 1,600 years before its accidental rediscovery is 1592. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire.
While excavating an entire neighborhood block in Pompeii in 2007, a group of British archaeologists noticed an unusual dearth of tableware and formal dining or kitchen areas within the residents’ homes. Instead they found only a few isolated plates, many of which were located on the floor of sleeping quarters. These findings indicate that the decadent image of wining and dining that we associate with ancient Romans mostly just applied to the elite (shocking!).
The archaeologists did find some clues about the culinary lives of “ordinary” denizens of the city, including multiple small barbecue type fire boxes that indicate that they enjoyed firing up the grill (just like any self-respecting, red-blooded and salt-of-the-earth American does). Moreover, a number of what appear to be fondue-style pots were also unearthed, providing more evidence that the 1970’s were not a particularly culturally original decade (except for film of course). In addition, they discovered what appeared to be numerous fast food style restaurants in the lost city, described by one of the archeologists as “a cross between Burger King and a British pub or tapas bar.” Thus, it appears that ‘grabbing food on the go,’ better suited the hectic lifestyles of the typical Pompeian.
It is hard to ignore the striking similarities between the culinary proclivities of ancient Pompeii and contemporary America. Thus, I couldn’t shake the inevitable nagging question: “Were the ancient Pompeians overweight too?” After all, they gorged on fast food, ate in bed and loved barbecue and fondue too boot. I am surprised that Girl Scout cookie boycotter Meme Roth, the proudly anorexic and unabashedly psychotic founder of the National Action Against Obesity (NAAO) organization, hasn’t yet capitalized on these findings in her ceaseless crusade to rid the world of all palatable food (disguised of course, behind a mere loathing of fat people). I mean, maybe more of the ill-fated residents of Pompeii could have outrun the lava, if they had only stuck to a low-calorie diet of whole grains and salad…..
Ambidexterity is the state of being equally adept in the use of both the right and left hand. Being born ambidextrous is extremely rare; thus, most people who call themselves ambidextrous have trained themselves to be (called Penwald ambidextrous). Ambidexterity can confer significant advantages with respect to many disciplines involving the use of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, such as playing musical instruments and competing in certain sports (such as baseball). In fact, the ancient Greeks encouraged and actively promoted ambidexterity, hoping to improve the hand eye coordination of their soldiers on the battlefield.
In this day and age, ambidexterity is significantly more common in people who were born left-handed, who became adept at using their non-dominant hand during childhood in an effort to adapt to a largely right-handed world. While schools no longer force left-handed children to write with their non-dominant hand, lefties are still a small minority in our right-hand dominated world. Many everyday appliances- such as can openers, scissor, guitar, golf clubs, desks, etc.-are asymmetrical and designed for the ninety percent of the population that is right-hand dominant. Thus, lefties are essentially forced to become at least partially cross-dominant in order to adapt to an unaccommodating right-handed world.
Ambidexterity has long been associated with intellectual and artistic prowess: Harry Houdini; Leonardo da Vinci; Robert Baden-Powell; ¬Benjamin Franklin; Albert Einstein and Johnny Wilkinson were (or are) all ambidextrous, defined as being able to use both hands with equal ¬facility. However, some recent studies cast a potential pitfall of ambidexterity; namely that “mixed-handed” ¬children are twice as likely to ¬suffer from ¬attention problems at school as right-handers and are also more likely to suffer from autism and dyslexia. Moreover, while many people who are born ambidextrous develop more sophisticated motor skills than their left and right-handed counterparts, it can also have the opposite effect on children, sometimes delaying the development of fine motor skills in early childhood.
That being said, I would do anything to be able to simultaneously write Greek with my left hand and Latin with my right hand (like James Garfield) or painted with both of my hands like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci…..
“This land here cost twenty lives a foot that summer…See that little stream–we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a month to walk it–a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly backward a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rugs. No Europeans will ever do that again in this generation.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night (1933).
Craving a bohemian lifestyle and disillusioned with American materialism, a number of prominent intellectuals, poets, artists and writers flocked to Paris in the years following World War I. Prominent members of this elite clique included such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Sherwood Anderson, Waldo Peirce, John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck, Erich Maria Remarque and Cole Porter. Author and poet Gertrude Stein coined this group of angsty artists “The Lost Generation,” after she supposedly heard her French garage owner speak of his young auto mechanics, and their poor repair skills, as “une génération perdue.”
Ernest Hemingway subsequently popularized in the epigraph to his novel The Sun Also Rises and his memoir A Moveable Feast. In the latter he explained “I tried to balance Miss Stein’s quotation from the garage owner with one from Ecclesiastes.” (A few lines later, recalling the risks and losses of the war, he adds: “I thought of Miss Stein and Sherwood Anderson and egotism and mental laziness versus discipline and I thought ‘who is calling who a lost generation?’”). In France, these expatriates came to be called the “Génération au Feu” or “The Generation in Flames”.
Full of youthful idealism and their fair share of angst, these individuals sought “the meaning of life”, drank excessively, had torrid love affairs and created a body of some of the finest works in American letters. Despite the fact that these writers and artists had abandoned their homeland in favor of chic Paris, their works profoundly changed the face of American Literature. Up until this point, most American writers still wrote in the creaky Victorian styles of the 19th Century. “The Lost Generation” explicitly renounced this outmoded style and introduced Modernist art and literature to the World, which was radically individualistic and expressed a general mistrust of institutions (government, religion) and the disbelief in ‘absolute’ truths.
Most impressively, they managed to accomplish this feat while perpetually under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol and engaging in all forms of debauchery and operatic interpersonal drama. Did these people ever sleep? I am exhausted just writing about them……
In approximately 1162 A.D., a baby boy named Temujin was born to the noble family of Yesugei and Ho’elun, somewhere between the grassy plains north of the Gobi Desert and south of the Siberian forests (modern day Mongolia). Legend has it that baby Temujin was born clutching a blood clot the size of a knucklebone, and that all efforts to pry open his determined little hands were in vain. However, despite his precocious beginnings, not even his fierce and proud warrior father could have anticipated that his son would one day become the founder, ruler (Khan) and Emperor (Khagan) of the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous empire in history. Alexander the Great, Hannibal and Julius Caesar can all step aside, cause they just got served by Genghis Khan!
Genghis Khan rose to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes that peopled northeast Asia. This was no easy task; the Mongol people were illiterate, fragmented and perhaps no more than 700,000 in number. They moved about in small bands headed by a chief or khan, living in portable felt tents that could not have provided much protection against the elements. Moreover, describing the geography of Mongolia as ‘inhospitable’ would be akin to calling Hitler a ‘mean person.’ A landlocked “No Man’s Land,” Mongolia contains almost no arable land and much of its area is covered by steppes (a grassland plain without trees), with jagged mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the South (classified as a cold desert). High, cold and dry, it has an extreme climate with long frigid winters, short summers and almost no rain. As a result, scarcity and deprivation were (and continue to be) an everyday reality for the Mongols, which exacerbated inter-tribal conflict and facilitated ceaseless turf wars.
Genghis Khan was no saint by even the most flexible of standards; terror was his greatest weapon and he was remorseless towards those who were stupid enough to cross him. Resisting the Mongol army was an act of suicide, and entire populations of cities that dared to resist the Khan were slaughtered indiscriminately, with the Mongol armies to buffer counterattacks: human shields nearly eight centuries before Saddam Hussein. Cities that surrendered without a fight were spared, their citizens merely enslaved.
Despite committing his fair share of mortal sins, Genghis Khan’s place in the history books was not won through bloodshed alone. He enacted many progressive laws that improved the status of women, including outlawing the kidnapping of women and the selling of women into marriage. He also declared all children “legitimate” under the law, regardless of the mother’s marital status. However, Genghis Khan’s most important non-military achievement was the introduction of a writing system based on the Uighur script (still used in inner Mongolia today) to his then-illiterate people.
The Hebrew Bible contains a particularly puzzling book commonly referred to as “The Song of Songs.” Considered one of the five megillot (scrolls) of the Hebrew Bible, the book is also known as the “Song of Solomon,” “Solomon’s Song of Songs” and “Canticles.” The book contains frankly erotic and romantic imagery, and the poem suggests movement from courtship to consummation. Although the poem is attributed to King Solomon in the traditional title (Song 1:1), the language and style of the work, among other considerations, point to a time after the end of the Babylonian Exile (538 B.C.). Thus, most scholars believe that an unknown poet composed this masterpiece. The structure of “Songs” is difficult to analyze; here it is regarded as a lyric dialogue, with dramatic movement and interest.
Moreover, despite its placement in the Hebrew Bible, “The Song of Songs” has no overtly religious content. Thus, “Songs” is often interpreted as an allegorical representation of the relationship of God and Israel, or for Christians, God and the Church or Christ and the human soul, as husband and wife. Many Jews believe that the author of “Songs” intended it as an allegory of the ideal Israel, and a parable in which the true meaning of mutual love-whether it exist between husband and wife, or God and “the chosen people”-is explored in its powerful (albeit brief) 117 verses. Ashkenazi Jews often recite “Songs” on the Sabbath during the intermediate days of Passover. It is even more popular with Sephardic Jews, who commonly recite the book every Friday night.