Fun Stuff

November 27, 1095: Pope Urban II orders first Crusade

This Day in History - Sat, 11/26/2016 - 11:00pm

On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II makes perhaps the most influential speech of the Middle Ages, giving rise to the Crusades by calling all Christians in Europe to war against Muslims in order to reclaim the Holy Land, with a cry of “Deus vult!” or “God wills it!”

Born Odo of Lagery in 1042, Urban was a protege of the great reformer Pope Gregory VII. Like Gregory, he made internal reform his main focus, railing against simony (the selling of church offices) and other clerical abuses prevalent during the Middle Ages. Urban showed himself to be an adept and powerful cleric, and when he was elected pope in 1088, he applied his statecraft to weakening support for his rivals, notably Clement III.

By the end of the 11th century, the Holy Land—the area now commonly referred to as the Middle East—had become a point of conflict for European Christians. Since the 6th century, Christians frequently made pilgrimages to the birthplace of their religion, but when the Seljuk Turks took control of Jerusalem, Christians were barred from the Holy City. When the Turks then threatened to invade the Byzantine Empire and take Constantinople, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I made a special appeal to Urban for help. This was not the first appeal of its kind, but it came at an important time for Urban. Wanting to reinforce the power of the papacy, Urban seized the opportunity to unite Christian Europe under him as he fought to take back the Holy Land from the Turks.

At the Council of Clermont, in France, at which several hundred clerics and noblemen gathered, Urban delivered a rousing speech summoning rich and poor alike to stop their in-fighting and embark on a righteous war to help their fellow Christians in the East and take back Jerusalem. Urban denigrated the Muslims, exaggerating stories of their anti-Christian acts, and promised absolution and remission of sins for all who died in the service of Christ.

Urban’s war cry caught fire, mobilizing clerics to drum up support throughout Europe for the crusade against the Muslims. All told, between 60,000 and 100,000 people responded to Urban’s call to march on Jerusalem. Not all who responded did so out of piety: European nobles were tempted by the prospect of increased land holdings and riches to be gained from the conquest. These nobles were responsible for the death of a great many innocents both on the way to and in the Holy Land, absorbing the riches and estates of those they conveniently deemed opponents to their cause. Adding to the death toll was the inexperience and lack of discipline of the Christian peasants against the trained, professional armies of the Muslims. As a result, the Christians were initially beaten back, and only through sheer force of numbers were they eventually able to triumph.

Urban died in 1099, two weeks after the fall of Jerusalem but before news of the Christian victory made it back to Europe. His was the first of seven major military campaigns fought over the next two centuries known as the Crusades, the bloody repercussions of which are still felt today. Urban was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1881.

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Edgar Watson Howe

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 11/26/2016 - 6:00pm
"A poem is no place for an idea."
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Edith Sitwell

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 11/26/2016 - 6:00pm
"I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it."
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Henry Kissinger

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 11/26/2016 - 6:00pm
"The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously."
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Steven Wright

Quotes of the Day - Sat, 11/26/2016 - 6:00pm
"I have an existential map. It has 'You are here' written all over it."
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wistful

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Fri, 11/25/2016 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 26, 2016 is:

wistful • \WIST-ful\  • adjective

1 : full of yearning or desire tinged with melancholy; also : inspiring such yearning

2 : musingly sad : pensive

Examples:

As the car pulled away, Lea cast one last wistful glance at the house where she'd spent so many happy years.

"The book left me in wistful reverie, envisioning that shimmering pond and a rugged, robust old gentleman in his 'herringbone suit' and jaunty wide-brimmed straw hat, sitting on a three-legged wooden chair in front of an easel, his brushes flying." — Elfrieda Abbe, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 11 Sept. 2016

Did you know?

Are you yearning to know the history of wistful? If so, we can ease your melancholy a little by telling you that wistful comes from a combination of wishful and wistly, a now obsolete word meaning "intently." We can't say with certainty where wistly came from, but it may have sprung from whistly, an old term meaning "silently" or "quietly." How did the supposed transition from a word meaning "quietly" to one meaning "intently" come about? That's something to muse about, but the answer isn't known.



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wistful

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Fri, 11/25/2016 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 26, 2016 is:

wistful • \WIST-ful\  • adjective

1 : full of yearning or desire tinged with melancholy; also : inspiring such yearning

2 : musingly sad : pensive

Examples:

As the car pulled away, Lea cast one last wistful glance at the house where she'd spent so many happy years.

"The book left me in wistful reverie, envisioning that shimmering pond and a rugged, robust old gentleman in his 'herringbone suit' and jaunty wide-brimmed straw hat, sitting on a three-legged wooden chair in front of an easel, his brushes flying." — Elfrieda Abbe, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 11 Sept. 2016

Did you know?

Are you yearning to know the history of wistful? If so, we can ease your melancholy a little by telling you that wistful comes from a combination of wishful and wistly, a now obsolete word meaning "intently." We can't say with certainty where wistly came from, but it may have sprung from whistly, an old term meaning "silently" or "quietly." How did the supposed transition from a word meaning "quietly" to one meaning "intently" come about? That's something to muse about, but the answer isn't known.



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November 26, 1941: FDR establishes modern Thanksgiving holiday

This Day in History - Fri, 11/25/2016 - 11:00pm

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a bill officially establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.

The tradition of celebrating the holiday on Thursday dates back to the early history of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, when post-harvest holidays were celebrated on the weekday regularly set aside as “Lecture Day,” a midweek church meeting where topical sermons were presented. A famous Thanksgiving observance occurred in the autumn of 1621, when Plymouth governor William Bradford invited local Indians to join the Pilgrims in a three-day festival held in gratitude for the bounty of the season.

Thanksgiving became an annual custom throughout New England in the 17th century, and in 1777 the Continental Congress declared the first national American Thanksgiving following the Patriot victory at Saratoga. In 1789, President George Washington became the first president to proclaim a Thanksgiving holiday, when, at the request of Congress, he proclaimed November 26, a Tuesday, as a day of national thanksgiving for the U.S. Constitution. However, it was not until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to fall on the last Thursday of November, that the modern holiday was celebrated nationally.

With a few deviations, Lincoln’s precedent was followed annually by every subsequent president–until 1939. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt departed from tradition by declaring November 23, the next to last Thursday that year, as Thanksgiving Day. Considerable controversy surrounded this deviation, and some Americans refused to honor Roosevelt’s declaration. For the next two years, Roosevelt repeated the unpopular proclamation, but on November 26, 1941, he admitted his mistake and signed a bill into law officially making thefourth Thursday in November the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day.

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Stanislaw Lem

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 11/25/2016 - 6:00pm
"Faith is, at one and the same time, absolutely necessary and altogether impossible."
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Ralph Waldo Emerson

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 11/25/2016 - 6:00pm
"The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons."
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Bertrand Russell

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 11/25/2016 - 6:00pm
"There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge."
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Ogden Nash

Quotes of the Day - Fri, 11/25/2016 - 6:00pm
"Parents were invented to make children happy by giving them something to ignore."
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genteel

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 25, 2016 is:

genteel • \jen-TEEL\  • adjective

1 a : of or relating to the gentry or upper class

b : elegant or graceful in manner, appearance, or shape

c : free from vulgarity or rudeness : polite

2 : marked by false delicacy, prudery, or affectation

Examples:

"The Hamptons, once so genteel, with their sepulchral light and estates hidden behind neatly groomed hedges, have managed to become a nexus of social life, … where openings and charity galas and club nights fill the summer calendar." — Marisa Meltzer, Town & Country, 1 Aug. 2016

"At this preternaturally elegant new French restaurant …, the waitstaff keeps things lively with cheeky repartee. On arrival one late-summer evening, a man, having located his party, said to the host, 'I'm with them,' and was met with a genteel retort: 'As you should be.'" — Shauna Lyon, The New Yorker, 26 Sept. 2016

Did you know?

In Roman times, the Latin noun gens was used to refer to a clan, a group of related people. Its plural gentes was used to designate all the people of the world, particularly non-Romans. An adjective form, gentilis, applied to both senses. Over time, the adjective was borrowed and passed through several languages. It came into Old French as gentil, a word that then meant "high-born" (in modern French it means "nice"); that term was carried over into Anglo-French, where English speakers found and borrowed it in the early 17th century.



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genteel

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 25, 2016 is:

genteel • \jen-TEEL\  • adjective

1 a : of or relating to the gentry or upper class

b : elegant or graceful in manner, appearance, or shape

c : free from vulgarity or rudeness : polite

2 : marked by false delicacy, prudery, or affectation

Examples:

"The Hamptons, once so genteel, with their sepulchral light and estates hidden behind neatly groomed hedges, have managed to become a nexus of social life, … where openings and charity galas and club nights fill the summer calendar." — Marisa Meltzer, Town & Country, 1 Aug. 2016

"At this preternaturally elegant new French restaurant …, the waitstaff keeps things lively with cheeky repartee. On arrival one late-summer evening, a man, having located his party, said to the host, 'I'm with them,' and was met with a genteel retort: 'As you should be.'" — Shauna Lyon, The New Yorker, 26 Sept. 2016

Did you know?

In Roman times, the Latin noun gens was used to refer to a clan, a group of related people. Its plural gentes was used to designate all the people of the world, particularly non-Romans. An adjective form, gentilis, applied to both senses. Over time, the adjective was borrowed and passed through several languages. It came into Old French as gentil, a word that then meant "high-born" (in modern French it means "nice"); that term was carried over into Anglo-French, where English speakers found and borrowed it in the early 17th century.



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November 25, 1952: Mousetrap opens in London

This Day in History - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 11:00pm

“The Mousetrap,” a murder-mystery written by the novelist and playwright Agatha Christie, opens at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. The crowd-pleasing whodunit would go on to become the longest continuously running play in history, with more than 10 million people to date attending its more than 20,000 performances in London’s West End.

When “The Mousetrap” premiered in 1952, Winston Churchill was British prime minister, Joseph Stalin was Soviet ruler, and Dwight D. Eisenhower was president-elect. Christie, already a hugely successful English mystery novelist, originally wrote the drama for Queen Mary, wife of the late King George V. Initially called “Three Blind Mice,” it debuted as a 30-minute radio play on the queen’s 80th birthday in 1947. Christie later extended the play and renamed it “The Mousetrap”—a reference to the play-within-a-play performed in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

On November 25, 1952, 453 people took their seats in the Ambassadors Theatre for the London premiere of Christie’s “Mousetrap.” The drama is played out at “Monkswell Manor,” whose hosts and guests are snowed in among radio reports of a murderer on the loose. Soon a detective shows up on skis with the terrifying news that the murderer, and probably the next victim, are likely both among their number. Soon the clues and false leads pile as high as the snow. At every curtain call, the individual who has been revealed as the murderer steps forward and tells the audience that they are “partners in crime” and should “keep the secret of the whodunit locked in their heart.”

Richard Attenborough and his wife, Sheila Sim, were the first stars of “The Mousetrap.” To date, more than 300 actors and actresses have appeared in the roles of the eight characters. David Raven, who played “Major Metcalf” for 4,575 performances, is in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the world’s most durable actor, while Nancy Seabrooke is noted as the world’s most patient understudy for 6,240 performances, or 15 years, as the substitute for “Mrs. Boyle.”

“The Mousetrap” is not considered Christie’s best play, and a prominent stage director once declared that “‘The Mousetrap'” should be abolished by an act of Parliament.” Nevertheless, the show’s popularity has not waned. Asked about its enduring appeal, Christie said, “It is the sort of play you can take anyone to. It is not really frightening. It is not really horrible. It is not really a farce, but it has a little bit of all these things, and perhaps that satisfies a lot of different people.” In 1974, after almost 9,000 shows, the play was moved to St. Martin’s Theatre, where it remains today. Agatha Christie, who wrote scores of best-selling mystery novels, died in 1976.

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Booth Tarkington

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 6:00pm
"There are two things that will be believed of any man whatsoever, and one of them is that he has taken to drink."
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Robert Frost

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 6:00pm
"The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them."
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Samuel Goldwyn

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 6:00pm
"I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their jobs."
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Thomas A. Edison

Quotes of the Day - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 6:00pm
"To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."
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riddle

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day - Wed, 11/23/2016 - 11:00pm

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 24, 2016 is:

riddle • \RID-ul\  • noun

1 : a mystifying, misleading, or puzzling question posed as a problem to be solved or guessed : conundrum, enigma

2 : something or someone difficult to understand

Examples:

Despite Nick's outgoing nature, he doesn't share many details about his background and personal life, so he remains something of a riddle.

"Stewart's books are for children who like mysteries and riddles, and there are many scenes where readers hold their breath in suspense." — Clara Martin, The Clarion-Ledger, 16 Oct. 2016

Did you know?

It is not unusual for words to acquire and lose meanings over time, and riddle is no exception. Old English speakers—who had a variety of spellings for riddle, including hrædels, redelse, and rædelse—used the word as we do today to describe a question posed as a problem to be solved or guessed, but they also used it in the now obsolete senses of "counsel," "consideration," "debate," "conjecture," "interpretation," "imagination," and "example." (Not surprisingly, the Old English source of riddle is a cousin to Old English rǣdan, meaning "to interpret" or "to advise.") By the beginning of the 15th century riddle acquired the sense of "a puzzling or perplexing thing," and in the 17th century it also came to refer to "a puzzling or enigmatic person or being."



Categories: Fun Stuff