The tiny European country that ran on cocaine and yoga

From Terra Nullius: “On the 12th September 1919, Gabriele D’Annunzio proclaimed that he had annexed the city of Fiume to the Kingdom of Italy as the “Regency of Carnaro” – of which he was the Regent. The Italian government was thoroughly unimpressed and refused to recognise their newest purported land, demanding the plotters give up. Instead, D’Annunzio took matters into his own hands and set up a government. The citizens of Fiume quickly found themselves in the midst of one of the 20th Century’s strangest experiments: D’Annunzio instituted a constitution that saw the country divided into nine corporations to represent key planks of industry like seafarers, lawyers, and farmers. There was a 10th corporation that represented those who D’Annunzio called the “Supermen” and was reserved largely for him and his fellow poets.”

(Editor’s Note: I included the wrong link for a story yesterday about how Jingle Bells was originally a drinking song written by a notorious jerk. If you really wanted to read that one, it is here.)

When a 19-year-old Who fan was pulled from the crowd to fill in for drummer Keith Moon

From The Louder: “In November of 1973, 19-year-old Mike Halpin and a friend travelled from their hometown of Monterey for the Who’s show at the San Francisco Cow Palace. As soon as the concert began, Halpin noticed something was amiss with drummer Keith Moon: A few minutes into Won’t Get Fooled Again he ground to a halt, like a clockwork toy whose battery had just run out. And then he fell backwards, and had to be dragged offstage. When Pete Townshend half-jokingly asked the crowd whether there was a drummer in the house, Halpin’s friend pushed him forward. Halpin claimed the last thing he remembered was swallowing a shot of brandy and being introduced to the crowd by Roger Daltrey. However, video evidence shows Scott acquitted himself well. Halpin went on to get married, manage a rock club, play in several groups and become composer-in-residence at the Headlands Centre For The Arts in Sausalito.”

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How Lizzie Borden managed to get away with murder

From the Smithsonian: “The Lizzie Borden murder case is one of the most famous in American criminal history. New England’s major crime of the Gilded Age, its barbarity captivated the national press. And the suspected killer was immortalized by an eerie rhyme: Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one. The rhyme is not quite correct: the female victim was Borden’s stepmother, and the weapon wasn’t an ax, but rather a hatchet. Also, the killer struck the victims around half as many times as stated in the rhyme—19 blows rained down on 64-year-old Abby Borden, and 10 or 11 rendered the face of Lizzie Borden’s 69-year-old father, Andrew Borden, unrecognizable.” Fall River was rocked not only by the sheer brutality of the crime but also by the identity of its victims.”

Before Harry Potter’s sorting hat there was the Medieval Space Bonnet

Could the University of Edinburgh's Geneva Bonnet have inspired Harry Potter's Sorting Hat?

From Atlas Obscura: “On a grey and drizzly afternoon in the University of Edinburgh’s opulent graduation hall, J.K. Rowling waited to receive an honorary degree. But before the degree could be conferred, she had to take part in a long-standing tradition. University Principal Timothy O’Shea merrily explained that she, along with all graduating students, must step forward and be tapped on the head with an object he calls “the medieval space bonnet.” The University of Edinburgh’s Sorting Hat-style graduation ceremony has been in place for at least 150 years, in which time the bonnet has tapped the heads of over 100,000 graduates. But the round silk and cloth bonnet is rumored to be much older than that. Legend has it that the bonnet was made from a pair of trousers that belonged to 16th-century Scottish Reformation leader John Knox.”

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In 1976 a bus-load of children were kidnapped and buried alive

From the City of Chowchilla: “On July 15, 1976, a busload of children aged 5 to 14 and their school bus driver, Ed Ray were abducted on a country road in Madera County at about 4 p.m. on their way back from a swim outing. The bus was later found empty, covered with bamboo and brush in a drainage ditch west of town. The victims, 19 girls and seven boys, were driven around for 11 hours in two vans before being entombed in a moving van and buried in a Livermore rock quarry. After 16 hours underground in an 8-foot by 16-foot space, two of the older children and Ray were able to escape after digging themselves out with only their hands, cutting themselves along the way. Investigators dug up the van and learned it had been buried in the quarry in November 1975. The son of the quarry’s owner, Fred Newhall Woods IV, 24, was later arrested, along with his two friends, James Schoenfeld, 24, and his brother, Richard Schoenfeld, 22.”

Why are there so many different human blood types? Scientists aren’t quite sure

From The Smithsonian: “When you get a blood transfusion, doctors have to make sure a donor’s blood type is compatible with the recipient’s blood, otherwise the recipient can die. The ABO blood group, as the blood types are collectively known, are ancient. Humans and all other apes share this trait, inheriting these blood types from a common ancestor at least 20 million years ago and maybe even earlier. But why humans and apes have these blood types is still a scientific mystery. The “type” actually refers to the presence of a particular type of antigen sticking up from the surface of a red blood cell. The human body naturally makes antibodies that will attack certain types of red-blood-cell antigens. For example, people with type A blood make antibodies that attack B antigens; people with type B blood make antibodies that attack A antigens. So, type A people can’t donate their blood to type B people and vice versa.”

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Authorities say avoid wrestling armadillos due to leprosy risk

From The Economist: “Hansen’s disease, better known as leprosy, is a tropical malady that is rare in America. In 2020, just 159 cases were reported. Only 5% of people seem to be susceptible to infection. Because it is so rare, Americans seldom think about leprosy, and many clinicians have never seen it outside a textbook. This is starting to change. Nearly 17% of leprosy cases were in Florida in 2020, and over 80% of those were in central Florida, and this year the state has 16 cases. In the past, Americans with leprosy usually caught it while travelling to countries where it is more common, such as Brazil or India, or had been in close contact with people from such places. Armadillo wrestlers are also at risk—the nine-banded armadillo can carry the disease. This latest outbreak is unusual in that the patients are neither travelers nor armadillo wrestlers.”

Letters describe what life was like for a twenty-something in 18th century London


From The Smithsonian: “When Ben Browne was 27, he traded his small English town for the bustling streets of London to work as a law clerk. There, he led the typical life of a 20-something in a big city: His social life flourished, he fell in love and he was constantly stressed about money. The year was 1719. Some 65 letters that Browne sent to his father during this period are the focus of a new display at the historic Browne family home in Cumbria, England. In his letters, Browne described his new job training as a clerk to a lawyer, and complained about working long hours, copying legal documents from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. In one letter, he expressed frustration with his father’s decision to apprentice him to his employer for five years, rather than a shorter training period. Browne wrote that he needed money to pay rent—and to purchase stockings, breeches, wigs and other items he deemed necessary for his life in London.”

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The Black ad executive who wrote Coke’s famous jingle

From Medium: “Songwriter, producer, and McCann Erickson executive Roquel “Billy” Davis, conceived and co-wrote “I’d Like To Buy the World A Coke” for that famous 1971 campaign. Davis’s biography is every inch as remarkable as the fictional Don Draper or any other character from Mad Men. Born in Detroit in 1932, he wrote songs in the 1950s for Jackie Wilson with his partner, Berry Gordy. Early in his career, Davis also worked with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and other blues and rock pioneers on the Chess label. Later, Davis and Gordy started the Detroit R&B label Anna Records and recruited a teenaged Aretha Franklin, along with Mary Wilson, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and what became the Four Tops. As Gordy took more control over the growing company, Davis’s work was increasingly marginalized. He began to look elsewhere.”

If sound could travel through space, the sun would be as loud as a jet airplane

How the Sun Works | HowStuffWorks

From Reddit: “The Sun is immensely loud. The surface generates thousands to tens of thousands of watts of sound power for every square meter. That’s something like 10x to 100x the power flux through the speakers at a rock concert, or out the front of a police siren. Except the “speaker surface” in this case is the entire surface of the Sun, some 10,000 times larger than the surface area of Earth. Most of that sound energy just gets reflected right back down into the Sun, but some of it gets out into the solar chromosphere and corona. None of us (professional solar physicists) can be sure, yet, just how much of that sound energy gets out, but it’s most likely between about 30 and about 300 watts per square meter of surface, on average.”

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The plot to kidnap the Pope and take him to Liechtenstein

From the Swiss National Museum: “In the middle of the First World War, diplomats in Switzerland, Austria and the Vatican were trying to resolve the Roman question. The issue, as the representative of the Holy See in Bern wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Austria in 1916, was “one of the most complicated seen in world politics for a considerable time”. After Italy conquered the Papal States in 1870 and incorporated the Vatican into the nation state of Italy, efforts were made to resolve the situation. The Principality of Liechtenstein came up among the proposals put forward: Rome and Vienna developed a particular interest in a secret plan, whereby the Principality would be offered to the pontiff. The rationale behind the idea was that the Pope would acquire ‘global sovereignty,’ facilitating negotiations with the Italian government.”

American hockey players start to develop a Canadian accent the longer they play

hockey player in yellow jersey front and center, surrounded by players in red jerseys, all on the ice

From Ars Technica: “University of Rochester linguist Andrew Bray started out studying the evolution of the trademark sports jargon used in hockey for his master’s thesis. For instance, a hockey arena is a “barn,” while the puck is a “biscuit.” When he would tell people about the project, however, they kept asking if he was trying to determine why American hockey players sound like “fake Canadians.” Intrigued, Bray decided to shift his research focus to find out if hockey players did indeed have distinctively Canadian speech patterns and, if so, why this might be the case. He discovered that US hockey players borrow certain aspects of the Canadian English accent. But they don’t follow the typical rules of pronunciation. “American hockey players are not trying to shift their speech to sound more Canadian,” Bray said. “They’re trying to sound more like a hockey player. That’s why it’s most evident in hockey-specific terms.”

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Google Maps shares a feature with this ancient video game

From Interconnected: “Thirty years ago, a company called Etak released the first commercially available computerized navigation system for automobiles. Spearheaded by an engineer named Stan Honey and bankrolled by Nolan Bushnell, the cofounder of Atari, the company’s Navigator was ahead of its time. Benj Edwards, a technology historian, discovered that the dart-shaped arrow that Etak used for location is the same arrow that Google Maps uses to show your current location. But Edwards’ research went even further back: He discovered that an engineer who worked in a nearby office had shown the team a vector-based video game called Asteroids, and Etak’s on-screen representation of the car in its naviation system wound up using a vector triangle almost identical to the ship from Asteroids. Google then adopted something very similar for the car in its next-generation car navigation system product.”

Why hearing “The Stars and Stripes Forever” sometimes made people run for the exits

Circus | Definition, History, Acts, & Facts | Britannica

From Now I Know: “Circuses, historically, haven’t been the safest form of entertainment. Wild animals, random pyrotechnics, people on tightropes, etc. A loose animal or a fire can not only put guests in harm’s way, but once customers begin to react, others may panic — and that’s a recipe for disaster. To combat this, circuses had to find a way to let everyone know that something was urgently wrong, without alerting the audience. Music became an easy solution. Circuses back then often had bands that regaled patrons with all sorts of tunes, and everyone could hear the band. At some point, the management of one of the circuses decided to use the band as an alert system — if the band played a previously specified tune, that was a signal to the circus personnel that something bad was happening. And the song they chose? “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” The idea of using “The Stars and Stripes Forever” as the so-called “Disaster March” spread throughout the circus industry.” 

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