Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say

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David Tennant’s Doctor Who, Adrift in Time?

Well, I found the 10th Doctor, adrift in history—specifically the history of whaling in Nantucket.

George Myrick Tennant

George Myrick Tennant

The familiar visage supposedly belongs to a “George Myrick Jr.,” ship owner and merchant, found while wandering the Nantucket Whaling Museum. A better image of the portrait and some of the cover story the good doctor made up to live as a whaling entrepreneur in the 19th century is here. Still looking for evidence of a sonic harpoon.

See also: “Doctor Who Theme for Ukulele


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The Original Photobomb?

Sneaky little bastard...

Hey! Hey you there! What do you think you’re doing?

I was scanning some of my mother’s old photos for her recently and came across this one. My great-grandmother and her brother, both immigrants from one of those countries Americans used to think was all foreign and different but that we’ve all gotten used to now, are standing in the middle looking all old-fashioned, while that unidentified guy seems to have snuck into the corner, all sneaky-like. Judging from the clothing and her apparent age this is probably from the 1920s or early 30s. I’m sure someone has some kind of Civil War photobomb or something, but this isn’t so bad either.

What are you up to sneaky guy?

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Possibly the Best Part of the Middle Ages

And you don't even need an icepick to read it.

We post the articles the Onion won’t.

Starvation, disease, persecution, outdoor toilets. There wasn’t a ton of upside to medieval Europe. Other than absurd names for stuff, of course. I’m just going to put this here, and let you worry about it. And presumably, never forget it.

Via Wikipedia, Source of All Eternal Truth:

Gropecunt Lane was a street name found in English towns and cities during the Middle Ages, believed to be a reference to the prostitution centred on those areas; it was normal practice for a medieval street name to reflect the street’s function or the economic activity taking place within it. Gropecunt, the earliest known use of which is in about 1230, appears to have been derived as a compound of the words grope and cunt. Streets with that name were often in the busiest parts of medieval towns and cities, and at least one appears to have been an important thoroughfare.

Although the name was once common throughout England, changes in attitude resulted in its replacement by more innocuous versions such as Grape Lane. Gropecunt was last recorded as a street name in 1561.

Variations include Gropecunte, Gropecountelane, Gropecontelane, Groppecountelane and Gropekuntelane. There were once many such street names in England, but all have now been bowdlerised.[1] In the city of York, for instance, Grapcunt Lane—grāp is the Old English word for grope[2]—was renamed as the more acceptable Grape Lane. […]

During the Middle Ages the word may often have been considered merely vulgar, having been in common use in its anatomical sense since at least the 13th century.[…] Gradually though the word became used more as the obscenity it is generally considered to be today. In John Garfield’s Wandring Whore II (1660) the word is applied to a woman, specifically a whore—”this is none of your pittiful Sneakesbyes and Raskalls that will offer a sturdy C— but eighteen pence or two shillings, and repent of the business afterwards”.[11][12] Francis Grose‘s A Classical Dictionary of The Vulgar Tongue (1785) lists the word as “C**t. The chonnos of the Greek, and the cunnus of the Latin dictionaries; a nasty name for a nasty thing: un con Miege.”[13]

Although some medieval street names such as Addle Street (stinking urine, or other liquid filth; mire[15]) and Fetter Lane (once Fewterer, meaning “idle and disorderly person”) have survived, others have been changed in deference to contemporary attitudes. Sherborne Lane in London was in 1272–73 known as Shitteborwelane, later Shite-burn lane and Shite-buruelane (possibly due to nearby cesspits).[16][17] Pissing Alley, one of several identically named streets whose names survived the Great Fire of London,[18] was called Little Friday Street in 1848, before being absorbed into Cannon Street in 1853–54.[19] Petticoat Lane, the meaning of which is sometimes misinterpreted as related to prostitution, was in 1830 renamed as Middlesex Street, following complaints about the street being named after an item of underwear.[20]

See also: Tickle Cock Bridge

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Saturnalian Christmas and the Chaotically Violent Christmases of Yesteryear

The Big Blue Bug.

Yes, that’s a giant termite. It’s Christmas in Providence

As we gather around the roaring yule-log, sipping our rum laced with egg-nog, we too often fail to reflect on the true origins of our yearly holiday. And I certainly do not mean the Christ-y ones– I’m talking about the kind of origin that involves drunk rioters and talking farm animals. In times like these, I turn to my 1898 edition of Curiosities of Popular Customs, and of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, and Miscellaneous Antiquities by William S. Walsh for the proper perspective. I bought my copy from the Tabor Academy library for $1, the reference librarian having concluded that it was too racist and outdated for a modern high school. It is an invaluable source of naïvely Anglo-centric information about holidays no one celebrates anymore, or celebrates widely now but which were new then, or stories about where pieces of saint’s bodies ended up. Or of the horrible blood-rites common in heathen lands.

As my X-Mas gift to you, people who read this, I will simply excerpt a large piece of the fascinating entry on Christmas. (It may be read starting on page 226). No where else can you see the history of Christmas explained using words like ‘pagan,’ ‘Govr‘ and ‘Popish’? Or outlandishly racist sentiment from the 1890’s. Or phrases such as “…citizens saluted his charred and mangled corpse, when it was last borne to the grave.” Enjoy!


Christmas. The reputed anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, December 25, and as such one of the greatest festivals of the Protestant, Catholic, and Greek Churches. It is essentially a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing,—a day of good cheer. Though Christians celebrate it as a Christian festival, though to them it is the anniversary of the most solemn event in all history, the meeting of heaven and earth in the birth of the God-Man, the festivities that mark the epoch are part of the universal history of the race. In pagan Rome and Greece, in the days of the Teutonic barbarians, in the remote times of ancient Egyptian civilization, in the infancy of the race East and West and North and South, the period of the winter solstice was ever a period of rejoicing and festivity.

Even the Puritanism of the Anglo-Saxon has not been equal to the task of defending Yule-tide from a triumphant inroad of pagan rites and customs, so that the evangelical churchman who is shocked to see flowers decorating the sanctuaries at Easter would be sorry to miss the scarlet berries that hang there at Christmas, so that even austerest lovers of the plain-song tolerate and even weleome ” quips and cranks and wreathed smiles” in their Christmas carols, so that joviality and merrymaking are the order of the day at Christmas banquets,—a joviality sanctified and made glorious by good will to all men. Yet the holly and the mistletoe are a survival of ancient Druidical worship, the Christmas carol is a new birth, purified and exalted, of the hymns of the Saturnalia, the Christmas banquet itself is a reminiscence of the feasts given in honor of ancient gods and goddesses, when, as Cato said of the analogous feasts in imperial Rome, commemorating the birth of Cybele, the prospect that drew one thither was “not so much the pleasure of eating and of drinking as that of finding one’s self among his friends and of conversing with them.” Nay, the very idea of the Child-God, which gives its meaning to the Feast of the Nativity, was prefigured and foretold not only in the vaticinations of sibyl, seer, and prophet, but in the infant gods of the Greek, the Egyptian, the Hindoo, and the Buddhist, which in different ways showed the rude efforts of the earlier races to grasp the idea of a perfect human child who is also God.

Great as the feast is, however, nobody knows anything definite about its origin, nobody knows who first celebrated it, or when or where or how. And nobody even knows if December 25 be indeed the right anniversary of Christ’s nativity. Continue reading