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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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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, declared, "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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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 angered ...
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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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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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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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Kyösti Kallio Signs A Monstrous Treaty
Innnn the Winter War of 1939-40, nine divisions of the Finnish army, answering an unprovoked onslaught, held off forty-five Soviet divisions for 105 days. The Finns, ultimately crushed, were obliged to sign a punitive treaty in Moscow in March 1940. As President Kyösti Kallio signed, he exclaimed, "Let the hand wither that signs this monstrous treaty!" Incredibly, within a few months his arm had become paralyzed.
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Tuwaitha Nuclear Research
Why Saddam Hussein Never Got A Nuke
United Nations weapons inspector David Albright once noted that Saddam Hussein's unsuccessful program to build a nuclear weapon in 1990 illustrates how a single bad decision can cause a huge setback. "Iraq," The New York Times explains, "had extracted highly enriched uranium from research-reactor fuel and had, maybe, barely enough for a bomb. But the manager in charge of casting the metal was so afraid the stuff would spill or get contaminated that he decided to melt it in tiny batches. As a result, so much of the uranium was wasted that he ended up with too little for a bomb." [As of the turn of the millennium, the total amount of highly enriched uranium and plutonium involved in alleged smuggling attempts fell ...
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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, when ...
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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