Where Are Cambodia's Mass Graves?

As you likely know, from 1975 to 1979, Cambodia was controlled by a genocidal, racist, communist political regime. The Khmer Rouge prized Cambodian "purity." They systematically killed political opponents, imagined "subversive" elements, and a number of Cambodian minority populations. The Khmer Rouge also insisted on total self-sufficiency, with food and even medicine, leading uncounted thousands to die of starvation and treatable diseases, like malaria. The map shows where at least 1 million people -- out of a population of 8 million -- were killed in the Khmer Rouge's four-year reign of terror. The true death count is likely higher.

The Creation of Rotterdam (Part 2)

A month ago (or so) I posted a couple paragraphs on the Dutch city of Rotterdam's history. It was titled "The Creation of Rotterdam." Imagine my surprise when I came across this map, showing the physical expansion of Rotterdam's port. It was truly created, that is to say, built by men.

The Biggest Mushroom Ever

Mt. Pinatubo on the Philippine island of Luzon erupted on June 15, 1991, and created the largest mushroom cloud in history. That we humans know about. Mt. Pinatubo's eruption ejected 10 billion metric tons of magma and 20 million tons of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere.

Scooters Are Actually Old Technology!

Lady Florence Norman, a British suffragette, on her scooter going to her job. Circa 1916

The Boston Socialite Who Helped Shape The American Art World

American socialite Isabella Stewart first visited Europe as a teenager in 1857. While she was there, she was exposed to Italian Renaissance art, and she fell in love. (With the art, in case that wasn't clear.) Shortly after returning to the States, her former classmate Julia Gardner invited Isabella to Boston, where she met Julia's brother John Lowell "Jack" Gardner, 3 years her senior and one of Boston's most eligible bachelors. He was also rather wealthy.

Now named Isabella Steward Gardner, she became a provocative figure in Boston high society, partially owed to her taste in fashion and eccentric behavior. The Boston society pages called her by many names, including "Belle," "Donna Isabella," "Isabella of Boston," and "Mrs. Jack". Isabella and her husband Jack were avid travelers, and from the mid-1870s visited the Middle East, Europe, and Asia for long stretches. It was while in Europe they began amassing a large art collection, though Gardner also purchased work in Egypt and the Far East. They were interested not only in paintings, but also ceramics, silver, stained glass, and architectural elements like doors. By 1896, Isabella and Jack Gardner recognized that their house on Beacon Street in Boston’s Back Bay, although enlarged once, was not sufficient to house their growing collection of art, which by now included works by Botticelli, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. When Jack died in 1898, Isabella set out to build a museum for their vast collection.

She purchased land in what was then a marshy area next to Boston, and hired an architect to build a museum modeled on the Renaissance palaces of Venice that she had loved to stay in with Jack. The museum opened in 1903. And it is still hung to Gardner’s specification. You may know the museum because it was the target of a high-value and never-solved robbery in 1990.

It's a Bird! Its a Plane! Its a Stolen and Copied American Bomber!

The Soviet Tupolev Tu-4 was a strategic bomber used in the 1950s. But it was really a reverse-engineered copy of the American Boeing B-29 Superfortress. You see, Stalin wanted a strategic bomber, and it just so happened that three B-29s were forced to land in Soviet territory in 1944. Stalin jumped on the opportunity -- he ordered clones made, and 20 were ready by 1947. Impressive considering the B-29s were built by non-metric American specifications.

During a Moscow parade in 1947, Stalin revealed his new military machine to the world. When three aircraft flew overhead, Western analysts assumed they were the three captured B-29s. Then a fourth appeared.

Let's Learn About Mexico!

The birthplace of plant domestication in the Americas. The first New World country to gain independence from the Spanish Empire. The eleventh-largest country in the world, by population. Like the United States, Russia, and China, this is a country that any informed citizen should have at least a basic knowledge about.

Flag By Fiat

The flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a little hard to understand. And that may be intentional. The flag was imposed on the country by the NATO armistice that ended the Bosnian War of 1992-1995. Carlos Westendorp, international high representative to the peace talks, came up with the flag when the country's parliaments could not agree on a design which Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs could all support. Westendorp hoped his design would emphasize the country's unity among its three primary groups.

The points of the upside-down triangle supposedly represent a theoretical union of the groups. The yellow, the color of the sun, represents hope. And the blue and stars represent Europe and echo the flag of the European Union.

Art History Lesson: Magic Realism

This art movement, in force from 1920 to 1960, developed after World War I. There was no coherent group of artists associated with Magic Realism. Instead, it was a slow-moving idea which developed first in Europe then crossed to the Americas. It focused on the underlying emotions an artist was trying to convey, and evolved as a representational art style; artists combined what appeared to be ordinary scenes with elements of fantasy that concealed enigmatic or unexpected ideas. Paintings in the Magic Realism style often had bright colors and eerie or mysterious moods. But the focus always remained on exploring an emotion.

The term "Magic Realism" was coined by the writer Franz Roh to describe paintings at an exhibit in Mannheim in 1925. (Or in German, Magischer Realismus.) The art Roh was describing clearly represented the real world, yet was not necessarily lifelike. The new style was all over Europe in the 1920s and early 1930s.

But in the 1930s, the Depression and the rise of Nazi Germany meant the movement ceased developing there. However, it continued strong in other parts of the world, particularly in the Americas. Frida Kahlo is the Magic Realism painter you are probably most familiar with. Other major names include Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, and Colleen Browning.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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