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Check Out Our Slides: Our Best, Bite-Sized Stories!
Check out our slides: Our best, bite-sized stories!
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A French Ambassador Discusses Pacifism With An American
The French ambassador to Washington, Jean Jules Jusserand, once found himself discussing pacifism with Theodore Roosevelt's wife. "Why don't you learn from the United States and Canada?" she suggested. "We have a three-thousand-mile unfortified peaceful frontier. You people arm yourselves to the teeth." "Ah, madame," Jusserand replied. "Perhaps we could exchange neighbors."
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When Will Smith Asked Jaden How He'd Feel About Moving To Another House
In 2002 Will Smith, planning to move with his family into a new house, sat down with his 4-year-old son Jaden ('the sensitive one') and asked him how he would feel about "maybe not living in this house anymore... maybe living in another house." Jaden's eyes started welling up and he asked: "By myself?" "I calmed him down," Smith later joked, "and packed his stuff for him."
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Santa Cecilia Sao
How An Artist Pummeled Commuter Rage
In June 2003, Brazilian artist Joao Roberto Vieira opened an exhibition of punching bags in Sao Paulo's Santa Cecilia subway station so that commuters could better relieve their frustrations. "The idea," Vieira explained, "is to make people focus on their anger and think about violence." Brazilians who tried the punching bags were soon calling for the government to install them across the city. "I punched one to get relief from the unemployment rate," one commuter, Orisvaldo Pereira, said, "and the lack of beds in hospitals and corruption." "If the city had more of them," another one said, "maybe the violence would drop."
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Arc de Triomphe
James Joyce: How Long Will The Eternal Fire Burn?
"Joyce had no patience with monuments. Valery Larbaud said to him as they drove in a taxi in Paris past the Arc de Triomphe with its eternal fire, 'How long do you think that will burn?' Joyce answered, 'Until the Unknown Soldier gets up in disgust and blows it out.'" [The eternal flame was in fact later (briefly) extinguished, when a drunken American soldier urinated on it; and, on another occasion, in 1958, a Parisian named Claude Figus was charged with the violation of a sepulchre—after trying to fry eggs on it.]
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White House
Donald Trump & President Mozzarella
Speaking about America's relations with Italy in October 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump made a host of errors, which left the White House's Italian translator looking utterly bewildered. Among other gaffes, Trump called Italian head of state Sergio Mattarella "President Mozzarella" and claimed that America and Italy had been allies since Ancient Rome. The look of the White House Italian translator as Trump says President Mozzarella for the Italian President and says U.S. and Italy have been allies since Ancient Rome. pic.twitter.com/4c4kTl1wl3— Teymour (@Teymour_Ashkan) October 17, 2019
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William Blake Paints The Portrait Of An Invisible Man
One day a visitor surprised William Blake while he was working alone on a picture in his studio. His guest was astonished to discover that he was apparently working on a portrait—of an invisible sitter: he looked and drew, and looked and drew, apparently intent on capturing the spirit's likeness. When the visitor attempted to speak, Blake interrupted him. "Do not disturb me," he pleaded. "I have one sitting to me." "But there's no one here," the man replied. "But I see him, sir," Blake insisted. "There he is; his name is Lot—you may read of him in the Scriptures. He is sitting for his portrait." [Throughout his childhood, Blake purported to have frequent visions (a claim which naturally ...
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A Visitor Immortalized In Finnegans Wake
Once or twice James Joyce dictated a bit of Finnegans Wake to Samuel Beckett, though dictation did not work very well for him. In the middle of one session there was a knock at the door which Beckett didn't hear. Joyce said, "Come in," and Beckett naturally wrote it down. Later, reading back what he had written, Joyce said: "What's that? 'Come in'?" "Yes, you said that," Beckett replied. Joyce thought for a moment, then said "Let it stand." Joyce in Zürich, c. 1918
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Auburn Correctional Facility
Thomas Edison's Attempts To "Westinghouse" A New York Felon
Thomas Edison not only invented the light bulb and the phonograph; he also gave us the electric chair. In a desperate attempt to demonstrate that George Westinghouse's alternating current—which could be stepped up to a higher voltage for more efficient transmission over long distances—was dangerous, Edison toured the United States in 1890, using his rival's AC power to electrocute cats, dogs, horses, and elephants (a process which Edison called "Westinghousing"). Ironically, Edison's attempt to "Westinghouse" a New York felon named William Kemmler with "a current of several thousand horsepower" dramatically backfired. After eight minutes, Kemmler started smoking and a stronger burst was needed to finish him off. [A century later, the chair was still rather unpredictable: In July, 1999, ...
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Warren Beatty Teaches Some Extras About Labor Exploitation
One day during the production of Reds, the story of Marxist journalist John Reed and Russia's Bolshevik Revolution, director Warren Beatty, seeking authenticity, lectured the film's extras on Reed's theories of capitalist exploitation of labor. The extras listened attentively, went away to discuss what they had learned, and unanimously decided to go on strike for higher wages. Beatty relented and the extras got a small raise.