"We were all used to the heat; but whereas the desert was dry, Sicily was humid. … I well remember an incident that occurred one day as I was driving in my open car up to the front. I saw a lorry coming towards me with a soldier apparently completely naked in the driver’s seat, wearing a silk top hat. As the lorry passed me, the driver leant out from his cab and took off his hat to me with a sweeping and gallant gesture. I just roared with laughter. However, while I was not particular about dress so long as the soldiers fought well and we won our battles, I at once decided that there were limits. When I got back to my headquarters I issued the only order I ever issued about dress in the Eighth Army; it read as follows: ‘Top hats will not be worn in the Eighth Army.’ "

Quote is from American Field Marshal Montgomery's recollections of fighting and commanding men during World War II. The Memoirs of Field Marshal Montgomery, published in 1958.

Lovers, Mullaly Park, South Bronx, New York

The title of this post is the title of the photograph. Descriptive, right? You can see the couple leaning against a railing in the already-mentioned Mullaly Park in the South Bronx. Photograph taken in 1980 by Walter Rosenblum.

The Twin Cities

Kinshasa is the largest city and capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the . Located on the Congo River, it sits across from Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo (ROC). Both cities speak French despite being colonized by different countries. France colonized the ROC and Belgium the DRC. With a population of 16 million, Kinshasa is a megacity. It is also the largest French-speaking city in the world! Brazzaville is much smaller at a mere 1.7 million inhabitants.

Interesting side fact: Brazzaville was the capital of Free France from 1940–1943 when France had been conquered by the Nazis.

Did Neanderthals Hibernate?

An international team of researchers suggests that Neanderthals and other early hominins may have had the ability to hibernate. Lesions on 400,000-year-old Neanderthal fossils recovered from Atapuerca’s Sima de los Huesos cave resemble those seen on the remains of hibernating mammals. Such lesions are caused by disruptions in bone development brought on by limited food and reduced metabolic states. The remains of a hibernating cave bear have also been recovered from Sima de los Huesos, meaning that we know hibernation was required for mammals to survive on the limited food supply available during the harsh winters in northern Spain at the time. By contrast, modern Inuit and Sami people are able to make it through the winter by consuming fatty fish and reindeer. But critics point out that there may be other explanations for the bone lesions, and that large-bodied mammals — including bears — cannot lower their core temperatures far enough to reach a state of actual technical hibernation. Large-bodied mammals instead enter "torpor" which has less deep sleep and uses much more energy. So even if the lesions on the bear's bones and the hominins' bones are indeed due to winter conditions, the critics argue, it was more likely from torpor not hibernation.

About 40 miles north of San Francisco, the Altamont Music Festival was held in 1969. Called the “Woodstock of the West” it had a lot of alcohol, a lot of drugs, and a lot of music. Four people died at Altamont. But four babies were also born, meaning overall the music festival was population neutral!

McDonald's corporation is the largest owner of retail property in the world. The majority of its income comes from rents, not food sales.

A Brief Review of the Death of Ali (And Why it Matters)

Ali was cousin and son-in-law to Muhammad twice over, raised by him since he was five, and was according to tradition the second person to accept Islam. This all sounds nice but since Muhammad had no sons it became of vital importance after Muhammad died and people had to figure out who was to succeed him. Ali became the fourth caliph in 656. In a disputed sort of way. It did not help that his biggest supporters were the ones who had assassinated the third caliph, Uthman. Although to give him his due, Ali initially turned down the caliphate when the assassins offered it to him.

Ali did not reign long. He ruled over the first civil war in Islam, when followers of Uthman declared his leadership illegitimate. Though he won the war Ali never had control of all the Muslim world. This will be important later. Ali did not get to enjoy his ascendency for long: he was assassinated by poisoned sword in 661 in Cairo by a man from the losing side of the civil war. His son Hasan was immediately declared caliph. But followers of Uthman were able to weaken Hasan's position, because they had still had lands and armies at their command when Ali died, and they did a good job of bribing Hasan's generals. A few months after Ali's assassination, Hasan realized the impossibility of his position and abdicated. The followers of Uthman then set up the Ummayad Caliphate, the first political system after Muhammad run by men who were in no way descendants of Muhammad.

Unsurprisingly, the Ummayads continued to state Ali’s time as caliph was illegitimate, harassed Ali’s family, and required Ali to be publicly cursed in congregations’ prayers. This was bad handling of a delicate situation. It led many to be more sympathetic to Ali and to remember his rule more fondly. So Ali’s death eventually brought about the biggest split in Islam: between Shi’a who view Ali and descendants of the house of Muhammad as the only true rulers of the Muslim faithful, and Sunni who viewed political legitimacy as separate from family descent.

Today the vast majority of Muslims (87% - 90%) are Sunni. But throughout history, who is Shi’a or Sunni, and what territories they control, have mattered very much.

The Robot Take Over Will Be Corporate

Robert Williams Ford, an American assembly-line worker with Ford auto, was the first person known to be killed by a robot. Williams was killed when he was struck from behind and crushed by an industrial robot arm on January 25, 1979.

The "vajra” is a type of multi-pronged, double-ended scepter, like the example above, and it is one of the most common implements of Tibetan Buddhist ritual. The worn details here attest to its frequent usage. The vajra symbolizes destructibility and clarity. Two qualities of any enlightened mind according to Tibetan Buddhism. Vajras were often paired with bells, and together, the two ritual objects represent complete enlightenment.

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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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