Spidey Bites the Dust

It wasn’t that long ago and the movie, Superman vs. Batman was playing in theaters. I, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which reviews you read) missed it. Guess I’ll just have to catch it on video. But I have to say that the whole idea of Superman vs. Batman strikes me as silly for at least a couple of reasons: 1) everyone knows that Batman is just a guy in a special suit with lots of cool gadgets and that Superman is, well, supernatural and superhuman, meaning he’d kick Batman’s hiney easily; 2) everyone knows that Batman isn’t real, while Superman is!!!! Regardless, battles involving super-heroes do capture our attention and fascination.

Witness today’s photo of the superhero, Spiderman. You may not believe it, but I encountered Spiderman at the Renaissance Faire where he was casually strolling down the path with some mortals.  Then, out of the blue, this girl approached him and put him in a headlock!

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Now there’s a battle that was no contest!  Everyone knows that Spiderman is just some troubled young man in a funky looking suit and that no man, perhaps not even Superman, would stand a chance against a woman!  Today’s photo is proof!  And she’s enjoying choking the life out of him as you can tell!  Women of the world unite!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1949, the body of Leon Besnard was exhumed in Loudun, France, by authorities searching for evidence of poison. For years, local residents had been suspicious of his wife Marie, as they watched nearly her entire family die untimely and mysterious deaths. Law enforcement officials finally began investigating Marie after the death of her mother earlier in the year.

Marie married Leon in August 1929. The couple resented the fact that they lived relatively modestly while their families were so well off. When two of Leon’s great aunts perished unexpectedly, most of their money was left to Leon’s parents. Consequently, the Besnards invited Leon’s parents to live with them.

Shortly after moving in, Leon’s father died, ostensibly from eating a bad mushroom. Three months later, his widow also died and neighbors began chatting about a Besnard family jinx. The inheritance was split between Leon and his sister, Lucie. Not so surprisingly, the newly rich Lucie died shortly thereafter, supposedly taking her own life.

Becoming increasingly greedy, the Besnards began looking outside the family for their next victim. They took in the Rivets as boarders, who, under the Besnards’ care, also died abruptly. No one was too surprised when the Rivets’ will indicated Marie as the sole beneficiary.

Pauline and Virginie Lallerone, cousins of the Besnards, were next in line. When Pauline died, Marie explained that she had mistakenly eaten a bowl of lye. Apparently, her sister Virginie didn’t learn her lesson about carelessness, because when she died a week later, Marie told everyone that she too had inadvertently eaten lye.

When Marie fell in love with another man in 1947, Leon fell victim to her poisoning as well. Traces of arsenic were found in his exhumed body, as well as in the rest of her family’s corpses. But Marie didn’t let a little bit of pesky evidence get in her way. She managed to get a mistrial twice after trace evidence was lost while conducting the tests for poison each time. By her third trial, there wasn’t much physical evidence left. On December 12, 1961, Marie Besnard was acquitted. The “Queen of Poisoners,” as the French called her, ended up getting away with 13 murders. (This Day In History)

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: before the 1500s, couples in Europe were free to marry themselves. It wasn’t until 1564 when the Council of Trent declared marriage was a sacrament that weddings became the province of priests and churches. (Random Facts)

 

Red-Tailed Devil Vulture

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So, here’s another bird that I saw at the Renaissance Faire south of Atlanta.  This bird was laying in wait for me. I’d not seen it at all until I was walking out the door over which it was perched.

My first reaction was that it was a hummingbird, but when I inquired of the bird handler nearby, I told them I thought it could be a red-tailed devil vulture.  The way it was looking at me, I could have believed it…it looked like it was hoping I’d drop dead so it could devour my corpse on the spot! Do you see how it was eye-balling me?!?!?!  And look at those talons!!!!  I suppose that if he discovered I was still breathing he would have punctured my heart and finished me off!!!

Seriously, though…does anyone know what kind of bird this is?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1865, Jefferson Davis, president of the fallen Confederate government, was captured with his wife and entourage near Irwinville, Georgia, by a detachment of Union General James H. Wilson’s cavalry.

On April 2, 1865, with the Confederate defeat at Petersburg, Virginia imminent, General Robert E. Lee informed President Davis that he could no longer protect Richmond and advised the Confederate government to evacuate its capital. Davis and his cabinet fled to Danville, Virginia, and with Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, deep into the South. Lee’s surrender of his massive Army of Northern Virginia effectively ended the Civil War, and during the next few weeks the remaining Confederate armies surrendered one by one. Davis was devastated by the fall of the Confederacy. Refusing to admit defeat, he hoped to flee to a sympathetic foreign nation such as Britain or France, and was weighing the merits of forming a government in exile when he was arrested by a detachment of the 4th Michigan Cavalry.

A certain amount of controversy surrounds his capture, as Davis was wearing his wife’s black shawl when the Union troops cornered him. The Northern press ridiculed him as a coward, alleging that he had disguised himself as a woman in an ill-fated attempt to escape. However, Davis, and especially his wife, Varina, maintained that he was ill and that Varina had lent him her shawl to keep his health up during their difficult journey.

Imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia, Davis was indicted for treason, but was never tried–the federal government feared that Davis would be able prove to a jury that the Southern secession of 1860 to 1861 was legal. Varina worked determinedly to secure his freedom, and in May 1867 Jefferson Davis was released on bail, with several wealthy Northerners helping him pay for his freedom.

After a number of unsuccessful business ventures, he retired to Beauvoir, his home near Biloxi, Mississippi, and began writing his two-volume memoir The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881). He died in 1889 and was buried at New Orleans; four years later, his body was moved to its permanent resting spot in Richmond, Virginia.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Artillery barrage and mines created immense noise. In 1917, explosives blowing up beneath the German lines on Messines Ridge at Ypres in Belgium could be heard in London 140 miles (220 km) away.

Screamin’ Pink Meanies…

You wouldn’t usually expect to see exotic birds at a Renaissance Faire. I certainly didn’t.  But at the Georgia Renaissance Faire two weekends ago, we saw several. An aviary had been created there that was raising money for the care of the birds, I think. There were numerous beautiful birds and I shot several photos that I’ll share in the next few days.

I’m not a “birder”, but my wife is. I must confess, however, that birds can be among the most beautiful of the creatures in nature.

This particular bird (I can’t recall it’s name) was the star of the exhibition. He seemed to delight in hanging by his beak and then screaming at the top of his little birdy lungs!  He even posed for this first picture for me…and I’ll include a second so you can see him hanging by his beak while screaming (I will spare you the noise, which I didn’t record).

Here he is posing and seemingly smiling at the camera:

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…and here he is screamin’ his little pink head off while hanging by his beak…

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This rascal was L.O.U.D.!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in London, in 1671, Thomas Blood, an Irish adventurer better known as “Captain Blood,” was captured attempting to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.

Blood, a Parliamentarian during the English Civil War, was deprived of his estate in Ireland with the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660. In 1663, he put himself at the head of a plot to seize Dublin Castle from supporters of King Charles II, but the plot was discovered and his accomplices executed. He escaped capture. In 1671, he hatched a bizarre plan to steal the new Crown Jewels, which had been refashioned by Charles II because most of the original jewels were melted down after Charles I’s execution in 1649.

On May 9, 1671, Blood, disguised as a priest, managed to convince the Jewel House keeper to hand over his pistols. Blood’s three accomplices then emerged from the shadows, and together they forced their way into the Jewel House. However, they were caught in the act when the keeper’s son showed up unexpectedly, and an alarm went out to the Tower guard. One man shoved the Royal Orb down his breeches while Blood flattened the Crown with a mallet and tried to run off with it. The Tower guards apprehended and arrested all four of the perpetrators, and Blood was brought before the king. Charles was so impressed with Blood’s audacity that, far from punishing him, he restored his estates in Ireland and made him a member of his court with an annual pension.

Captain Blood became a colorful celebrity all across the kingdom, and when he died in 1680 his body had to be exhumed in order to persuade the public that he was actually dead.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The largest item found on any menu is roasted camel which is still served at some Bedouin weddings and was offered by royalty in Morocco several hundred years ago. The camel is cleaned and then stuffed with one whole lamb, 20 chickens, 60 eggs, and 110 gallons of water, among other ingredients.

Keeping Your Balance

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Do you ever struggle to get the balance right in your life?  It could be the balance between work and family or just about any other of the myriad things that clamor for your attention. It’s not easy, is it?  I have long struggled to find the right balance, let alone keep the right balance.  So, I have great admiration for those who seem to do a better job of it than I.

At the Georgia Renaissance Festival which we attended a week ago, ther was a man who seemed to have figured out the balance…or at least, how to balance. He was doing a stage show and was a juggler/balancer. In this shot, he started out with the wash tub and started it spinning on a broomstick.  He then switched from the broom stick to the chair while the wash tub was spinning. He then balanced the chair on his chin with the wash tub above that.  But that wasn’t enough, he got the broomstick again and put the brushy end of the broomstick on the back of the chair and proceeded to balance the spinning washtub on top of a chair leg which was supported by the broomstick which he then balanced on his chin!  I have a hard enough time just balancing when I walk these days!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1988, Stella Nickell was convicted on two counts of murder by a Seattle, Washington, jury, found guilty of violating the Federal Anti-Tampering Act after putting cyanide in Excedrin capsules in an effort to kill her husband.

Stella and Bruce Nickell married in 1976, shortly after seven people were killed in Chicago, Illinois, from poisoned Tylenol pills. According to Stella’s daughter from a previous marriage, Stella had begun planning Bruce’s murder almost from the honeymoon. The Chicago Tylenol incident (which was never solved) had a lasting impact on Stella, who decided that cyanide would be a good method of murder.

In 1985, Stella took out a life insurance policy on Bruce that included a substantial indemnity payment for accidental death. A year later, Stella put cyanide in an Excedrin capsule that Bruce later took for a headache. He died in the hospital, but doctors did not detect the cyanide and ascribed the death to emphysema. Stella, who stood to lose $100,000 if his death wasn’t ruled an accident, decided to alter her plan.

Nickell tampered with five additional bottles of Excedrin and placed them on store shelves in the Seattle area. Six days later, Susan Snow took one of these capsules and died instantly. After her death was reported in the news, Stella called police to tell them that she thought her husband had also been poisoned.

When investigators came toNickell’s home to pick up the Excedrin bottle, she told them that there were two bottles and that she had purchased them on different days at different places. When both turned out to contain contaminated capsules, investigators grew suspicious. FBI detectives knew that it was an unlikely coincidence that Nickell had purchased two of four known contaminated bottles purely by chance. Still, hard evidence against her was hard to come by until January 1988.

Cynthia Hamilton, Stella’s daughter, came forward (possibly in order to obtain reward money) with her account of Stella’s plan to kill her husband. She told authorities that her mother had done extensive research at the library. When detectives investigated, they found that Stella had borrowed, but never returned, a book called Human Poisoning. Her fingerprints were also found all over other books on cyanide.

Nickell was given two 90-year sentences for the murders of her husband and Susan Snow. She will be eligible for parole in 2018. New evidence in the case has led some to believe that Nickell might be innocent.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Hershey’s produces over 80 million chocolate Kisses–every day.

 

Mother’s Day Ideas

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Yeah, I know Mother’s Day is still a good month or so off. But I’m trying to save your life with this blog post. I have far too often forgotten to think about Mother’s Day until the day itself is upon me and then I have to really scramble…if I don’t forget about the day entirely!

So, this weekend, I had promised my wife I’d take her to a flower/plant show. I have a hard time getting excited about plants. I just do. I can get excited about giant sequoias or redwoods, but other plants? Not really. I guess a Venus flytrap might be pretty interesting, but I’ve never had one for a “pet”. 

So, I found myself inside a building filled with people hawking plants and gardening supplies. I’m not sure, though, if there were more plants inside or more people. Not my cup of tea. 

But as we wandered around, I found a few things to photograph. One of them is today’s picture…but don’t ask me what this has to do with gardening. I was wandering rather aimlessly looking for photo opportunities and saw this display of pink tools. Pink toolboxes, pink hammers, pink screwdrivers, pink power tools, pink tool tote bags…and all I could think of was “Huh?”

But, maybe your wife would really love you to buy her a bunch of pink tools. What do you think? Nah, me neither. But at least I reminded you about Mother’s Day in time for you to get her something she’d really like.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: on April 10, 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded in New York City by philanthropist and diplomat Henry Bergh, 54.

In 1863, Bergh had been appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to a diplomatic post at the Russian court of Czar Alexander II. It was there that he was horrified to witness work horses beaten by their peasant drivers. En route back to America, a June 1865 visit to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in London awakened his determination to secure a charter not only to incorporate the ASPCA but to exercise the power to arrest and prosecute violators of the law.

Back in New York, Bergh pleaded on behalf of “these mute servants of mankind” at a February 8, 1866, meeting at Clinton Hall. He argued that protecting animals was an issue that crossed party lines and class boundaries. “This is a matter purely of conscience; it has no perplexing side issues,” he said. “It is a moral question in all its aspects.” The speech prompted a number of dignitaries to sign his “Declaration of the Rights of Animals.”

Bergh’s impassioned accounts of the horrors inflicted on animals convinced the New York State legislature to pass the charter incorporating the ASPCA on April 10, 1866. Nine days later, the first effective anti-cruelty law in the United States was passed, allowing the ASPCA to investigate complaints of animal cruelty and to make arrests.

Bergh was a hands-on reformer, becoming a familiar sight on the streets and in the courtrooms of New York. He regularly inspected slaughter houses, worked with police to close down dog- and rat-fighting pits and lectured in schools and to adult societies. In 1867, the ASPCA established and operated the nation’s first ambulance for horses.

As the pioneer and innovator of the humane movement, the ASPCA quickly became the model for more than 25 other humane organizations in the United States and Canada. And by the time Bergh died in 1888, 37 of the 38 states in the Union had passed anti-cruelty laws.

Bergh’s dramatic street rescues of mistreated horses and livestock served as a model for those trying to protect abused children. After Mary Ellen McCormack, 9, was found tied to a bed and brutally beaten by her foster parents in 1874, activists founded the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Bergh served as one of the group’s first vice presidents.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the English language originally delineated between women in different stages of life with the terms “maiden,” “mother,” and “crone.” A maiden referred to a young girl who was unmarried, a mother referred to a woman in her child-bearing years, and a crone described a post-menopausal woman.

Trying to trick your kids…and creepy trees…

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Isn’t it interesting what we parents do to try to trick our kids?  We tell them that brussel sprouts taste good (that one is in the category of a lie to my way of thinking).  We do all sorts of things to get them to eat stuff that they don’t want to eat.  We bribe them to eat stuff, letting them know that they can stay up an extra half hour if they do, or that they can have a cookie after dinner if they eat all that green colored rabbit food (vegetables).

When our kids were little, they didn’t like broccoli for one thing…so we started calling them “pretty trees” so they’d maybe pretend to be giants and eat them.

Today’s tree isn’t so much “pretty” as rather sinister looking. I’d certainly never try to get my kid to eat it.  This tree was near Multnomah falls in Oregon.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1945, the Japanese battleship Yamato, ostensibly the greatest battleship in the world, was sunk in Japan’s first major counteroffensive in the struggle for Okinawa.

Weighing 72,800 tons and outfitted with nine 18.1-inch guns, the battleship Yamato was Japan’s only hope of destroying the Allied fleet off the coast of Okinawa. But insufficient air cover and fuel cursed the endeavor as a suicide mission. Struck by 19 American aerial torpedoes, it was sunk, drowning 2,498 of its crew.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During the first half of the twentieth century, Shanghai was the only port in the world to accept Jews fleeing the Holocaust without an entry visa.

City by the Bay

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Have you ever been somewhere and said, “It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there”?  Well, that’s how I feel about San Francisco. It is a great place to visit, but I really, truly wouldn’t want to live there. I think, though, that could be said about any big city. I’m not a city person. I grew up for my first 8 years or so on a farm and have loved country life as long as I’ve been alive, so my desire to NOT live in San Francisco isn’t different than any other city, I guess.

I shot this photo a few weeks back from the top of Twin Peaks. I’d never been there before and my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter accompanied me to this place when they learned I’d never seen the view from there before. If memory serves, my daughter said that she and her husband went to the top of Twin Peaks on their first date…so it is a very special place for them.

Anyway, this view is looking somewhat northeast to the heart of the city with the bay and the east bay cities in the distance. It was quite windy and rather cold…but it was a delightful view. I hope to take my wife up there some day so she can see it, too.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1970, Sam Sheppard, a doctor convicted of murdering his pregnant wife in a trial that caused a media frenzy in the 1950s, died of liver failure. After a decade in prison, Sheppard was released following a re-trial. His story is rumored to have loosely inspired the television series and movie “The Fugitive.”

On July 4, 1954, Sheppard’s wife Marilyn was beaten to death in the couple’s Bay Village, Ohio, home. Sheppard, an osteopathic doctor, contended the “bushy-haired” attacker had beaten him as well. The Sheppards’ son slept through the murder in a bedroom down the hall. Sam Sheppard was arrested for murder and stood trial in the fall of 1954. The case generated massive media attention, and some members of the press were accused of supporting the perception that Sheppard was guilty. Prosecutors argued that Sheppard was motivated to kill his wife because he was cheating on her and wanted out of his marriage. In his defense, Sheppard’s attorney said his client had sustained serious injuries that could only have been inflicted by an intruder.

In December 1964, a jury convicted Sheppard of second-degree murder and he was sentenced to life in prison. However, after a decade behind bars, Sheppard’s new criminal defense attorney F. Lee Bailey convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to grant his client a new trial because he had been denied due process. At the second trial, Sheppard was found not guilty in November 1966. The case put Bailey on the map, and he went on to represent many high-profile clients, including the Boston Strangler, Patty Hearst and O.J. Simpson.

After being released from prison, Sheppard briefly returned to his medical career and later embarked on a short stint as a pro wrestler, going by the name “The Killer Sheppard.” No one else was ever charged for Marilyn Sheppard’s murder; in the late 1950s, however, a window washer named Richard Eberling, who had worked at the Sheppard house, came under suspicion when one of Marilyn’s rings was found in his possession. In the 1980s, Eberling was convicted of murdering another woman, and he died in prison. Sam Sheppard, who became a heavy drinker in the last years of his life, died of liver failure on April 6, 1970, at age 46. His son has made multiple attempts to clear Sheppard’s name, including unsuccessfully suing the government for wrongful imprisonment of his father in 2000.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Apple generated approximately $625 of revenue from each of the 40 million iPhones it sold in 2009. It generated $164 of revenue for every iPod sold, $1,279 for every Mac, and $665 for every iPad.

 

It Really Is Everywhere

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There are few things that you can encounter wherever you go. Air tends to be one of them, but air is boring compared to love.

You can go into the darkest hell-holes on earth and you will still find love. A number of  years ago now, I was fortunate to travel to India in a trip with writers and publicists in order to understand more about the human trafficking problem in the world, and in particular India. We were there because a church had made a feature movie, Not Today, about the problem. We didn’t go to the Taj Mahal or the beautiful mountains on the Nepalese border…we went to slums in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai…to see the poverty, oppression and conditions for ourselves. It was an experience that I’ll never forget – nor do I want to forget it – I want it to stick with me for as long as I live. Each morning when I awaken in a comfortable bed with food and a shower awaiting me, I need to be reminded of what life is like in such places.

But you know what you find in those slums? You find love. Love of parent for child, of one spouse for another, for parents, for siblings, for neighbors and friends. You find love of a human for a pet, love of music, love of the sunshine and refreshing breeze. Love, you see, truly is everywhere because love doesn’t need perfect conditions to take root and grow. All it needs is a soft heart.

And so it was that on a recent morning while in Portland, Oregon, I was walking with my oldest son and we came across flowers laid out between the sidewalk and the street in the shape of a heart. Who put them there?  I don’t know. What, or who, were they in love with? I don’t know that, either – perhaps they were just in love with life. It doesn’t really matter, though, because wherever love is people can laugh and smile and hold one another closely. And that makes life – and love – worth it all.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: on this day in 1974, 148 tornadoes hit the United States heartland within 16 hours. By the time the deadly storm ended, 330 people had died. This was the largest grouping of tornadoes recorded in its time, affecting 11 states and Ontario, Canada. At any one moment during the storm, there were as many as 15 separate tornadoes touching the ground.

The storm began over the Ohio River Valley. The first twister hit Lincoln, Illinois, at about 2 p.m. and, within hours, others made landfall over a range of hundreds of miles across several states. The deadly storm did not end until early the next morning. In all, it caused 22 F4 tornadoes, with winds over 207 mph, and six F5 tornadoes, with winds over 261 mph.

The worst-hit location was Xenia, Ohio, where, with little warning of the impending catastrophe, 35 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. It is believed that, had the tornado not hit after school had ended for the day, the casualties would have been far higher. In the aftermath, it took 200 trucks three months to haul away all the rubble in Xenia.

Brandenburg, Kentucky, was also badly hit. The town lost 31 people and 250 were seriously hurt. The entire downtown was demolished, causing many millions of dollars in damages. In Indiana, a school bus was pushed 400 feet off a road, killing the driver. The Tennessee Valley Authority suffered the worst damage to its power operations to that date.

In all, 50,000 people were directly impacted by the tornadoes. Six states were declared federal disaster areas. In response, many towns installed tornado-warning sirens in an effort to minimize future damage from deadly twisters.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In Holland’s embassy in Moscow, Russia, the staff noticed that the two Siamese cats kept meowing and clawing at the walls of the building. Their owners finally investigated, thinking they would find mice. Instead, they discovered microphones hidden by Russian spies. The cats heard the microphones when they turned on.

 

 

Prostrate in Portland

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Most likely, at least if you’re old like me, you remember the movie Sleepless in Seattle, that starred Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. It was a cute movie…they’ve done several movies together and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

Well, this has nothing to do with that movie, but I needed some intro and thought Prostrate in Portland was a nice play on the Sleepless in Seattle format!

Wandering the street one day with my oldest son, not far from his home, we ran across this scene. I don’t know if there was ever any more to this sculpture or not, but I thought it looked like some angel in deep repose. Perhaps she just was wandering the neighborhood, too, and lay down to take a nap among the flowers.

Is it a medusa?  Minerva? Or just some Sally or Jane? I think she should have a name, don’t you?  So, suggestions, anyone?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1940, the German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis set off on a mission to catch and sink Allied merchant ships.

By the time the Atlantis set sail from Germany, the Allies had already lost more than 750,000 tons worth of shipping, the direct result of German submarine attacks. They had also lost another 281,000 tons because of mines, and 36,000 tons as the result of German air raids. The Germans had lost just eighteen submarines.

The Atlantis had been a merchant ship itself, but was converted to a commerce raider with six 5.9-inch guns, 93 mines ready to plant, and two aircraft fit for spying out Allied ships to sink. The Atlantis donned various disguises in order to integrate itself into any shipping milieu inconspicuously.

Commanded by Capt. Bernhard Rogge, the Atlantis roamed the Atlantic and Indian oceans. She sank a total of 22 merchant ships (146,000 tons in all) and proved a terror to the British Royal Navy. The Atlantis‘s career finally came to an end on November 22, 1941, when it was sunk by the British cruiser Devonshire as the German marauder was refueling a U-boat.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The British wear paper crowns while they eat Christmas dinner. The crowns are stored in a tube called a “Christmas cracker.”

Looking the Other Way

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When one goes to Jerusalem, the obligatory photo that everyone takes is usually shot from the Mount of Olives looking westward toward the Old City. Why is that so popular? Because of the spectacular Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine that sits atop the temple mount with the amazing golden dome that seems to dominate the city. I took that shot, too, but often we get so caught up in the obvious that we miss looking around for other images. For example, today’s photo.

I took this photo from near the Dome of the Rock looking eastward, toward the Mount of Olives. What you see is a Jewish cemetery…and I’m told it is the largest one in the world. 

Yesterday, I shared a story about the Biblical Imagination tour we were on and how we were encouraged to imagine how things in the Bible came to be. This image wasn’t shot from the southern steps outside the walls of the old city that lead up to the temple mount, but one like it could have been taken there. Here’s the biblical connection:

The southern steps leading up to the temple mount were a very common place for rabbis to stop and teach their followers. It is almost a certainty that Jesus did that with his disciples. 

On one occasion, he spoke to his disciples and warned them to beware of the religious leaders who were like white washed tombs. It is quite possible that Jesus was looking across the Kidron valley to the Mount of Olives as he was saying those words. You see, to the Jews, passing through a cemetery made a person “unclean” – and if they were “unclean” they couldn’t come into the temple to worship. In order to prevent people from accidentally traveling through the cemetery that was on the Mount of Olives even in Jesus’ day, at times a white barrier was painted around the cemetery to warn pilgrims to avoid the place. 

 

The religious leaders, Jesus said, were hypocrites. The whiteness on the outside looked beautiful, it it held in all sorts of death and decay. I can easily imagine that Jesus was looking across the valley and saw that sort of view – a cemetery boundary painted white surrounding a bunch of graves full of death – when he describes the religious leaders.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1974, John Denver became a household name. Of his many enormous hits in the 1970s, none captured the essence of John Denver better than his first #1 song, “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” which reached the top of the pop charts on this day.

“Sunshine On My Shoulders” was John Denver’s attempt to write a sad song, which is really all one needs to know in order to understand what made Denver so appealing to so many. “I was so down I wanted to write a feeling-blue song,” he told Seventeen magazine in 1974, “[but] this is what came out.” Originally released on his 1971 album Poems, Prayers and Promises, Denver’s lovely ode to the restorative powers of sunlight only became a smash hit when re-released on his John Denvers Greatest Hits album in late 1973—an album that went on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide.

It should come as no surprise that an artist who played such an enormous role in the softening of mainstream pop music in the 1970s would find little support from rock critics. “Television music” marked by “repellent narcissism” was Rolling Stone‘s take on Denver. “I find that sunshine makes me happy, too,” wrote Robert Christgau of The Village Voice, “[but] there’s more originality and spirit in Engelbert Humperdink.”

Such critical response did little to dampen public enthusiasm for Denver’s records during his heyday, however. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, John Denver has sold 32.5 million records—4.5 million more than Michael Bolton, and only 4.5 million fewer than Bob Dylan.

Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. on December 31, 1943, in Roswell, New Mexico, John Denver died in California on October 12, 1997, when the experimental ultra-light aircraft he was piloting crashed into Monterey Bay south of San Francisco.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: researchers believe the word “tabby” comes from Attabiyah, a neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq. Tabbies got their name because their striped coats resembled the famous wavy patterns in the silk produced in this city.

Pictures and Thoughts from a Day in Galen Dalrymple's Life

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