FAS 202 – SNHU


Edmund Blair Leighton, God Speed, 1900, private collection


Frank Bernard Dicksee, Romeo and Juliet, 1884, Southampton City Art Gallery



(for the two above)

Corrado Giaquinto, Religion Protected by Spain, 1750sRoyal Palace of Madrid


Eugène Delacroix, The Massacre at Chios, 1824, Oil on Canvas


Honore Daumer, The Uprising, c. 1848


Winslow Homer, Prisoners From the Front, 1866, oil on canvas, private collection


Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937, oil on canvas, Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain

h5_08-228Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm or The Oxbow, 1836, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Vincent Van Gogh, Olive Trees With Yellow Sky and Sun, 1889, The Minneapolis Institute of Art


Aaron Brumbelow, Border of Howling Fjord, 2013


Alfred Eisenstaedt, Kissing on VJ Day, 1945, Black and White Photograph


Robert Smithson, “Spiral Jetty,” IKONOS satellite image, 11/11/02.




The Scandal of King Tutankhamun

One thing I have mentioned before about being at my mother’s house is that she has cable TV. Hundreds of channels and still rarely anything I actually want to watch. However, there have been a few things of interest on the Smithsonian Channel. For example, last night they ran a show called King Tut’s Final Mystery.

Ever since Howard Carter and his team discovered – and let’s call a spade a spade, pillaged – King Tut’s tomb in 1922, the boy king has captivated the world. So how did the most iconic Egyptian king ever, actually die? And why so young? That is what the scientists featured in this show were out to discover.

We know that the 19-year-old king’s death was sudden and a surprise. How do we know this? Several things: first, his burial chamber was small, cramped, and hardly decorated. Secondly, there was something present in Tut’s tomb that has never been present in any other tomb: mold. The 3,000-year-old mold is indicative of the walls being hurriedly painted on wet plaster and then the chamber sealed. So whatever killed the pharaoh was not something anyone could have foreseen.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Check out the reconstruction of Tutankhamun. I find it interesting the dramatic contract between this image and the beautiful youth of his death mask. Notice the pronounced overbite and it is also believed that he had a cleft palate.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

King Tut’s mummy was first x-rayed in 1968, causing speculation that the boy king had been murdered by a blow to the back of the head. If you look at the x-ray, there are some bone fragments inside the cranial cavity. People believed, and rightly so, that a killing blow to the back of the head would propel bone fragments inward. The problem with this is that the mummification process would have blown them back out again. So the fragments were somehow created post-mummification. The site Two Views mentions that some scientists believe that the bone fragments are not even from the skull, but are actually part of the first vertebra that were broken off during mummification. (I’m not sure if I entirely concur with this – more on this later). Either way, Myth #1 debunked.

Another thing the x-rays revealed is a broken femur. This is not an easy task. The femur is the largest bone in the body and it takes a tremendous amount of force to fracture it. This injury to Tut was pre- or peri-mortem (before or around the time of death). Personally, I believe (based on information that I have) that this injury happened close to the time of death. For one thing, the x-ray shows a very clear break. For another, none of the scientists mentioned the presence of ossification (bone formation) that would have indicated any type of healing process. Primary callus begins to form within two weeks, so it is my educated guess that death ensured within two weeks of this injury.

Ancient-Egyptian-Chariots-2But how he broke his leg led to another theory about his death. Perhaps he died in a chariot accident? The scientists decided to test it. How fast can a chariot even go? And would it be fast enough to cause a fracture? After several passes urging the horses on, the top speed reached was 21 miles per hour. Enough to assure that any bone fracture would be possible – even the femur. It seems likely that accidents with these “sports cars of their day” would not have been few and far between, so it seems we might be on to a valid hypothesis here.

Further examination in the “virtual autopsy”, which included more than 2,000 CT scans, showed that Tutankhamun was actually born with a club foot.  This deformity would have caused the young king to walk with a limp and more than likely use a walking stick. This affliction would make it unlikely that he would be able to use a chariot. But this revelation made understanding some of the artifacts in his tomb a bit easier: it contained 139 ebony, ivory, silver and gold walking sticks.  Myth #2 debunked.



Okay, so we have debunked the two major theories of how Tut died. So what did kill the 19-year-old king? Maybe we should step back and take a look at the larger picture. In order to do that, we need to know, for certain, who Tut’s parents were. It was generally believed that Akhenaten was Tut’s father because it was generally the way it was for a son to take the father’s place on the throne. However, this was not always the case. So a DNA profile was taken and compared to the one taken from Akhenaten, known as KV55. It was a match. And it was a “probability of better than 99.99 percent” certainty that Amenhotep III is Akhenaten. So we have a good paternal lineage for Tut now.

But what about Tut’s mother? After comparing Tut’s DNA sample to that of Queen Tiye, the wife of Akhenaten, there was no match. And there was not a match to any of Akhenaten’s known wives. Okay, our hands are not tied quite yet and we are finally able to find a maternal match with sample KV35YL, the DNA sample taken from a mummy designated “The Younger Lady”, found lying beside Queen Tiye. Here is where the water gets a bit murky. The Younger Lady was the sister of Akhenaten, making Tut the product of incest.

So the information of the incest and the club foot led to a question of: are there any other hereditary problems that could have led to Tut’s early death? If you go back to Tut’s great grandfather, Thutmose IV, all the men have wide hips and accentuated female characteristics. This is due to a condition known as gynecomastia. Also, they died early. It is estimated that Thutmose IV died at an age between 25 and 33 years old; Amenhotep III died at the age of 38 or 39 and Akhenaten died when he was between 28 and 45, although it is commonly believed to be on the younger ends of the scale.

Now let’s take into account the religious visions of Tut’s father and great grandfather. Thutmose IV while taking a rest after hunting had a vision of the Sphinx. It told Thutmose that if he uncovered all the sand that engulfed the feet of the Sphinx, it would make sure he ascended the throne. This vision is chronicled in the Sphinx Stele. Akhenaten had a religious vision that caused him to turn against the polytheistic pantheon, build the city of Amarna to honor the one God, Aten.

What can cause all of this: young death, religious visions and a hereditary problem compounded by a small gene pool? The only really good fit is familial temporal epilepsy. And when you look at all the information and that fact that the epilepsy would not have been treated in King Tut, it seems likely that he had a grand mal seizure, fell (causing the broken femur) and passed away either due to the fall or through sepsis (infection) caused by the damage of the fracture.

wildhuntThere is more damage to the body that just what I have covered.  However, I did not go over it because it was done post-mummification.  In fact, it was done by Carter and his crew when they removed the death mask from the mummy, as it was essentially glued to the body.  That is why I said earlier that I did not concur with the bone fractures done during mummification. I find it far more likely that it was just more damage done by Carter.

I would like to conclude by saying that this was a fascinating documentary and if you get the chance to see it, do.  I think you will find it very informative.

Happy New Year – 2015!

I would like to thank everyone who has dropped by this page over the past year. Hopefully, you have enjoyed reading my posts – maybe I was able to teach you something. Who knows? But I wanted to say “Thanks” and wish you and everyone you love a very happy new year! Be safe out there!!

Personally, I have nothing planned for this New Year’s Eve (unless I get a call from an awesome organization about a job *fingerscrossed* – in which case I will be celebrating). But my dedication to you, dear reader, has been with me to the last! That is why I spent this morning fixing all my dead videos!! WOOT!!

So, enjoy the time with your loved ones; be sure to love yourself in the coming year as well as your pet, neighbor, neighbor’s pet and, hell, even your co-workers!! Spread the love!!


A Confession

I have a confession to make.  I have a hard time talking to Republicans.  They dazzle me with their complete lack of a coherent argument or they twist real words into meaning something else or their staggering ability to just make shit up.  Facts are no obstacle to these people, it seems.

The good news is that I have discovered two things that will help me next time I enter the minefield that is talking politics with Republicans – The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Speaking Republican by Elizabeth Parker and The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm by James Napoli.

The-Complete-Idiots-Guide-To-Speaking-RepublicanThe Complete Idiot’s Guide introduces you to the “lingo” that Republicans use – so I will no longer be confused by any twisted word meanings.  Here are a few examples of some helpful ones:

Communism: A catch-all term for anything that promotes tolerance, fairness, transparency, or social justice. Has no relation to the actual theory and practice of communism.

Elitist: Reads above an 8th grade level.

Entitlements: Stuff you aren’t entitled to, even though you pay for them with your taxes or financial contributions: Like earned benefits, food, housing, education, healthcare, and other ridiculous luxuries taken for granted in all the other modernized and wealthy — and some not-so-wealthy — nations (see Pensions).

Fiscal Cliff: A non-existent precipice over which we’ll tumble if we don’t enact tax cuts for the wealthy and draconian austerity measures for the rest of us.

Hawaii: A foreign country located in Kenya, Africa.

Un-American: Urban, non-white, multicultural, progressive, non-Christian, gay-friendly, educated, and/or tolerant.

Voter Fraud: Voting for Democrats.

And War on Christmas: Publicly acknowledging the existence of other (non-Christian) winter holidays besides Christmas.

And there are many, many more enlightening terms that help you grasp what Republicans are actually saying.  I highly recommend printing it out and using it to translate a Fox News broadcast as a Democrats version of closed captioning.  *Note: you might want to wear a helmet if you try this, as the rate in which your brain cells will self-destruct while under the influence of Fox News could be catastrophic.

Now hop on over to Amazon.com, your favorite bookseller or the National Sarcasm Society website for a dose of sarcasm that can really help you get a leg up in conversations with Republicans.  I should take the time to make another note here.  There is a disclaimer at the bottom of the cover – it is in small print, so some people may not see it.  It reads: “*Not Approved for Use by Stupid People”.  So if you pick up a copy, be sure not to leave it laying around.

7946993A few of the gems from this tome include:

Accent: A way of speaking that reflects the region of the world in which you grew up.  Depending on where that is and where you are when you use it, it could either get you beat up or laid.

Bankrupt: A state of financial destitution.  Also a morally bankrupt person, which, ironically, usually describes someone who never actually experiences being literally bankrupt, because being a greedy, egotistical a-hole usually keeps you well out of the red.

City Official: Someone who routinely puts the needs of his or her constituency after his or her own self-serving desires.  No, that was not a typo.

President: A person appointed by the American people to screw up the country for a period of four years.  Or, if the screwing is really going well, eight years.

Tech Support: People in a foreign country who are getting paid almost nothing to be friendlier and more helpful than people in your own country could ever hope to be.

Thanksgiving: A complete implosion of the family unit, with turkey.

And the Washington Monument: Described in the guidebooks as the world’s tallest obelisk, when it is perfectly clear to anyone that it is a phallic symbol straight out of a Freudian fever dream.  Trying to live up to this impossible male ideal is part of what gets the United States into so much trouble.

I hope this post will come in handy for other Dems who have difficulty holding their own with Republicans.  I know I now have more confidence.  Thanks Elizabeth Parker and James Napoli!


*This post was originally written (by me) and posted on September 7th, 2013 on All Things Democrat.  You can find the direct link to this post here. On a side note, this happens to be one of my favorite blog posts!

The Comic Wisdom of ‘Erik the Viking’

MV5BMTU1OTc4NzQwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTY5NjYzNA@@._V1_SX214_AL_I highly recommend you watch Erik the Viking if you haven’t, or re-watch if you have. I got to watch it again last night and it is still a fun movie – although I was watching it specifically because I wanted to refresh my memory on what I wanted to discuss here.

This little known movie from 1989 was written, directed and even starred (briefly) Terry Jones – of Monty Python fame. There are two aspects of the film I want to concentrate on and how they relate to our world today. However, in order to do that I need to try to give you a brief synopsis.

The main character of Erik the Viking was played by Tim Robbins. However, he is a gentle Viking and does not see why everyone must fight, rape and pillage. Freya, a wise woman (Eartha Kitt), tells Erik that the age of Ragnarök (an ice age of darkness) and the ensuing violence is caused by Fenrir the wolf who had swallowed the sun. The only way to bring Ragnarök to an end is to travel to Asgard and awaken the gods, who will chase her (Fenrir) away.

Erik decides to take Freya’s advice and recruits members of his village to undertake the voyage to Asgard with him. Among those is a Christian missionary named Harald, who opts to go along in hopes of finding people to convert.

This brings me to the first aspect I want to cover. It is philosophical and a unique way of looking at religion and its followers. Harald is a Christian while the Vikings believe in the Norse hierarchy, led by Odin. So, Harald is unable to see anything that the Vikings believe in, like this scene when they reach the doors of Valhalla.

It is a fascinating concept and one I think we need to take to heart. There are a lot of religions out there. Not everyone believes what you do. And therefore not everyone sees the world in the same way.

Prior to reaching Asgard and the Hall of Valhalla, Erik and his ragtag team needed to travel to Hy-Brasil in order to get a horn that is needed to wake the gods. Hy-Brasil is a peaceful island where King Arnulf (Terry Jones) is in charge of some very odd ducks indeed. But that is beside the point. The point is that Hy-Brasil is under a curse that states that should a single drop of blood fall upon the land, the island would sink. Needless to say shit happens and blood is spilt. The island immediately begins to sink.

Now we arrive at my second aspect. King Arnulf and his people are in complete denial and instead of trying to evacuate or do something, anything, they decide to have a sing-song and ignore the rising waters.

This is vitally important because this is what the Republicans are doing in regards to climate change. You can pretty much kiss Norfolk, VA goodbye. The city is now second only to New Orleans in terms of being threatened by rising seas. It regularly floods at high tide. But climate change is a hoax and doesn’t exist.  “It’s alright.  It’s not happening.”

The response to global warming and climate change that has emerged from Crazy Town (aka Texas) pastor Matthew Hagee is that it is not anything environmentalists have spent years researching, but the imminent return of Jesus.  Although we should respect each other’s beliefs, we cannot in good conscience do so at the peril of others.

See, even pretend Vikings are smarter than the right wing.


*This post was originally written (by me) and posted on June 4th, 2014 on All Things Democrat.  You can find the direct link to this post here.

Africa’s (Actually the World’s) Deadliest Animal Shows Compassion

If you were to ask a group of people what they thought Africa’s deadliest animal was – not including insects – you will probably get a diverse group of answers from reptiles like the Puff Adder, Crocodiles and the Black Mamba to mammals like Lions, Elephants and Rhinos.  But not many people know that the actual culprit is the Hippopotamus. According to statistics provided by the African Wildlife Foundation hippos kill nearly 3,000 people every year. hippo-rps-600Hippopotami (Hippopotamus amphibious) are known to be aggressive and unpredictable while exhibiting fear of nothing.  They have been known to attack and kill crocodiles.  One report from 2009 was featured on the Telegraph’s web site.  A 1974 issue of Science Digest featured an article entitled “The Dangerous Hippo” by George and Lory Frame that stated:

            “Nearly all of the famous African explorers and hunters–Livingstone, Stanley, Burton, Selous, Speke, DuChaillu–had boating mishaps with hippos. All considered the hippo to be a wantonly malicious beast. Not long ago Spencer Tyron, a white hunter, was killed while hunting near the shores of Lake Rukwa, Tanzania. A bull hippo turned over the dugout canoe from which Tyron was shooting, and bit off his head and shoulders.”

Now add in the following facts:  they can run faster than you (18 mph) and can weigh up to 3 ½ tons (7,000 pounds or 3,175.15 kilograms). Crocodylus_niloticus_in_Lake_Chamo_02A Nile crocodile on average can reach 13 – 16 feet in length and weight 0.45 ton (900 pounds, 410 kilograms).  However, it is considered “not uncommon” for crocs to reach 20 feet and 1 ton (2,000 pounds, 900 kilograms) but was seen more in the 40s and 50s prior to severe hunting.  The Nile crocodile (Crocodyus porosus) is second only to the Saltwater Croc in size and aggression.  The crocodile is considered to be a more opportunistic animal than the hippo and carry a death toll of up to 200 a year. Wildebeest-Blue-2The gnu, or wildebeest, is an antelope that can weigh between 0.32 ton (639 pounds, 290 kilograms) for males and 0.29 ton (573 pounds, 260 kilograms) for females.  Males reach a height 150 cm (4.9 feet) at the shoulder and females stand about 120 cm (3.9 feet).  The yearly death toll they cause is minimal to nonexistent (mostly stupid people keeping them as pets or freak accidents). So what can happen when you put all three together?  Something amazing. The Daily Mail reported on March 11th about a rarely seen event.  While on safari in the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya in 2011, photographer Vadim Onishchenko was able to capture on film a group of hippos (known as a bloat) rescue and protect a gnu from a crocodile.  One of the largest hippos is even seen nudging the gnu to encourage it to move out of the water.  Onishchenko said:

            “It was an incredible moment, the hippo actually tried to push it out of the water and then guarded the gnu to prevent the crocs getting close. . . . Even our safari guide was stunned by the hippos behaviour, he said he had never seen anything like it before.”

One of Onishchenko's photos.

One of Onishchenko’s photos.

Onishchenko filmed the scene for more than two hours.  And if you watch the video below at about 45 seconds in, you can see one of the hippos stomp on the crocodile in order to get it to let go of the wildebeest. The wildebeest did make it ashore with Onishchenko saying:

            “We saw the gnu escape the water but it stood there for quite a while as I think it was in shock. When we left the animal was still ashore and seemed uninjured but we had to leave as it was getting dark.”

I can guarantee the gnu did not escape unscathed (as I have some first hand experience with an alligator and he was a baby!).  But I hope his injuries heal and have no ill effects except for giving him a little extra wisdom.