John Farrier's Blog Posts

How the Skull of an African Chief Made Its Way into the 1919 Treaty of Versailles

At nearly 200 pages in length, the Treaty of Versailles that officially ended World War I covers many topics, from territorial changes to how everything is Germany's fault. Articles 245-247 address the return of various prizes of war that had been captured by the Germans. 246 requires the return of a stolen Koran and, most curiously, a human skull:

Within the same period Germany will hand over to His Britannic Majesty's Government the skull of the Sultan Mkwawa which was removed from the Protectorate of German East Africa and taken to Germany.

What's going on here? For the full story, I highly recommend reading the clear and thorough detective work of Dr. Juliette Desplat of the UK's National Archives.

Mkwawa was the chief of the Hehe tribe in German East Africa, which actively resisted the German conquest. German troops killed Mkwawa in battle in 1898 and took his excarnated skull back to Germany as a trophy.

During World War I, the Hehe rose up against the Germans, which impressed British officials in Africa. They decided to try to recover the skull of the fallen Hehe hero from the Germans.

Desplat proceeds through the long history of this particular skull from 1898 until its delivery to the Hehe tribe in Tanzania in 1954. It's a great read because, in part, the issue of the skull is a microcosm of the diplomatic history of so many eras: World War I, the interwar period, World War II, the rearmament of Germany during the Cold War, and the Decolonization of Africa.

-via Futility Closet | Photo: Matt Crypto


Luxury Fashion Brand Offers a $1,790 Trash Bag

Are you hauling your stuff around in an ordinary garbage bag while you couchsurf with a decreasing list of friends? Maybe you'd be more popular if you'd show that you are fashion conscious. Try the luxury trash bag by Balenciaga, the Parisian fashion house that offers the finest in shoes, dresses, and trash delivery mechanisms.

The New York Post tells us that Balenciaga is offering the "Trash Pouch" for its winter 2022 line. The resemblance is no coincidence. We know this because the company states directly that the design is "inspired by a garbage bag". It comes in a variety of colors, but you can't go wrong with basic black.

-via Debby Witt


Check Out This Embroidered Pizza Clock

Japanese Instagram member @inpot is a master of embroidery. Her entire body of work is worth exploring as she breaks the conventions of that artform with three-dimensional images that pop out of the fabric and unusual choices for subject matter.

Inpot is especially fond of pizza and features it often in her work. She includes it in her most recent piece, which is a clock. The pendulum of the timepiece is attached to a piece of pizza. As it swings, it pulls the slice along with its stretchy cheese back and forth.


Milko--The Czech Beer That Looks Like a Glass of Milk

Gastro Obscura introduces us to a particularly Czech way of pouring beer. Mlíko, which means "milk", is usually served as a pilsner, but the type of beer is less important than the way in which it is poured.

Pouring a beer from a tap is more than just flipping the toggle from off to on. It's an art form and the Czechs have mastered it. The mlíko is poured by opening the tap slightly and letting the beer foam into the mug.

When done properly, it tastes like a creamy "cloud of beer" rather than just airy foam. It's essential to drink this cloudy substance quickly before it settles, so it's not for slow, casual drinking while chatting.


Watch This Plane Crash Land Between Two Parked Jetliners

Jalopik shares this terrifying video with us (content warning: foul language). It takes place at Cotswold Airport northwest of Swindon, UK.

That private and general aviation airport is an old RAF facility that can house aircraft much larger than the Piper PA-28 Cherokee seen in the crash. The airport is used for storing and salvaging old jetliners, which is why you see a line of commercial jets parked on the tarmac.

Accident investigators think that the pilot overshot the runway while attempting to land. Although one wing caught on the landing gear of one jet, no one was killed. The pilot and passengers were taken to a local hospital to receive treatment for their injuries.


Who Is the Most Famous Person in Your Town?

Here's Lubbock, Texas, whose favorite son is the late rock star Buddy Holly. The people of Lubbock do, of course, honor him. The other famous names are mostly country and western stars, as well as a few football players, since this is west Texas. They're Waylon Jennings from nearby Littlefield, Texas.

We've previously looked at interactive maps of famous people in the United States. What sets this project apart is that it covers the entire planet by making use of a database of birthplaces of famous people from 3,500 BC to 2018 AD. Here's eastern South Africa. You may recognize some famous names.

Explore the map. Antarctica is especially interesting.

I am, though, a bit skeptical about the accuracy of data. The man that the map says was born at the North Pole was, as far as I can tell, born in central Mexico.

-via Dave Barry


The Delaware Wedge--A Boundary Dispute Caused by Surveyors' Mistakes

This plot of land, which measures just over a square mile, might be called the Pennsylvania Wedge had the boundary dispute between that state and Delaware not ended in Delaware's favor. But the Delaware flag defiantly flies above this strip of land, so we call it the Delaware Wedge.

How did this land dispute arise? In State and National Boundaries of the United States, Gary Alden Smith explains. In 1682, King Charles II separated the land of Penn's colony from that of what would become Delaware by a 12-mile arc extending around New Castle. This is why the northern boundary of Delaware is round. Maryland's eastern boundary was later defined with a right angle, leading to this small plot of land left unaccounted for.

Pennsylvania claimed it, arguing that Mason-Dixon Line surveyed in the 1760s allotted the land, by default, to Pennsylvania. U.S. military engineers surveying the area marked it as Pennsylvanian territory. 

But the people who lived in the area identified as Delawareans, voted in that state, and paid taxes to Dover. In 1921, Congress approved of this de facto border after both state legislatures approved.

This historical marker notes the dispute that, thankfully, never boiled over into open warfare.


The Golden Girls Restaurant Has Opened

The Golden Girls went off the air over thirty years ago, but the old ladies retain enormous cultural traction to this day. The fanbase remains very strong, even among people who were born after it went off the air. That's why the events company Bucket Listers created a pop-up restaurant that, the AP reports, brings the Golden Girls experience to Beverly Hills.

The restaurant is designed to resemble the famous kitchen set from the show. The Golden Girls Kitchen features lasagna--one of Sophia's favorite dishes--and a variety of cheesecakes. So bring a friend and bond over past loves or tales of St. Olaf or Sicily in the old days.

Photo: The Golden Girls Kitchen


Playing "Flight of the Bumblebee" with Only One Finger

Fabricio André Bernard Di Paolo is a Brazilian pianist who goes by the stage name of Lord Vinheteiro. He has a popular YouTube channel in which he performes musical stunts, such as doing a live soundtrack of his wife's daily activities or playing a piano from several feet away using strings attached to the keys.

In this video, Lord Vinheteiro plays the famously challenging "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. It's an athletically demanding task that requires spectacular coordination, but Vinheteiro is able to complete his performance in less than a minute while using only one finger.

Some people allege that there's some video manipulation going on.

-via The Awesomer


Kristy Has a "Urine Aroma" According to a Man Who Can Smell and Taste Words

The British tabloid Daily Mail introduces us to Henry Gray of Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, UK. He has an unusual medical condition called Lexical-Gustatory Synaesthesia. The areas of his brain which interpret sounds and smells are connected in a way that aren't for most people. As a result, when he hears sounds, he experiences smells, tastes, and sometimes textures.

This can sometimes be an unpleasant experience, as some names come with undesirable aromas. Dating can be problematic for Gray. It's not that Kristy herself reeks of urine--just her name. Daisy is rancid butter. Arabella is a smelly sock.

There are undesirable male names, too, on Gray's list. Harrison is an itch he can't scratch and listening to Ian's name is like having a plugged-up ear.

Gray is on the lookout for a Francesca, who smells like a warm, chocolate cappuccino, or an Abby, who tastes like orange bubble gum. Good luck to him as he smells his way to romance!

-via Weird Universe


John Locke's Pancake Recipe

I think that it's fair to say that John Locke (1632-1704) is better known for his contributions to philosophy than to the culinary arts. This English Enlightenment philosopher is famous in modern times for advancing liberal* politics and an empiricist approach to epistemology.

Continue reading

Guard Cat Prevents Burglary

Bandit lives with her human, Fred Everitt, in Tupelo, Mississippi. At about 2:30 AM on July 25, Bandit began loudly meowing in the kitchen. Then she ran to Everitt's bed, pulled the comforter off of him, and clawed at his arms.

Everitt woke up to investigate what was going wrong. That's when he saw two men just outside his back door. One had a handgun and the other had a crowbar. Everitt immediately retrieved his own gun. By the time he returned to the door, the two men had fled.

Bandit, despite her name, demonstrated a deep aversion to thievery and loyalty to her human. Everitt attributes his safety to her quick thinking.


How to Build a Child-Friendly Flamethrower

In my home, we have a whiteboard that we use as a running shopping list. One of my daughters occasionally writes "flamethrower" on it as a joke (I think). I've never gotten her one because they're horrifically expensive, but now I may have an option courtesty of Action Movie Dad.

Daniel Hashimoto is a highly skilled digital effects artist. He uses his abilities to place his own children in tense, action-packed movie scenes. He also adds raptors to movies because raptors are always cool.

For his latest project, Hashimoto attached a tube of light, fire-colored fabric to a leafblower. The result is a flamethrower that the kids will enjoy without causing too much property damage.


The Cheese Zombie -- A Sandwich Invented in a School Cafeteria

Gastro Obscura introduces us to the Cheese Zombie, which is a sandwich native to Yakima, Washington. The origin story, according to a 2013 article in the Yakima Herald-Republic, is that a cook at a local public school cafteria invented it in the late 1950s.

Which cook created the sandwich depends on who you talk to, as there are multiple claimants to the honor. But all of the stories say that a school received a huge excess of government-provided cheese. It was too much cheese to use productively in the normal menu, so the cook invented what would become known as the Cheese Zombie.

To make a batch of Cheese Zombies, lay out slices of cheese between two sheets of dough, then slice into individual squares. Brush the top with melted butter and then bake.

The result was so delicious that schools and restaurants in Yakima continue to make it to this day. It's especially popular to eat Cheese Zombies on Halloween for reasons that remain a mystery to me. Perhaps it's because of the spooky name.


A Train Runs Through This Soccer Stadium

The ─îierny Hron Railway is a historical railway that operated between 1908 and 1982 in Slovakia. It was originally built to support logging operations in the Carpathian Mountains but was later provided passenger service. In 1992, it was reopened for tourists who want to experience a bygone age of rail travel.

Modern passengers get to experience a slow, scenic ride through a forest and, if they time the ride carefully, a quick view of a soccer match. That's because a soccer stadium was built around the original line and the train passes through it.

As you can see, the players don't stop just because there's a train on the field.

-via Art Nouveau Deco


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Profile for John Farrier

  • Member Since 2012/08/04


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