24 November 2015

King Saul’s Bride-Price

Queenmaker by India Edghill, 2012, Fictional History, Excerpts

Future King David wants to wed King Saul's daughter, Michal. King Saul sets the bride-price:
My bride-price was to be one hundred foreskins taken from the Philistines. So my father said to David before the priests and judges in the open court. David and Jonathan came to me with the news, to tell me before others could. It was the first time I heard Jonathan call our father mad. “But Jonathan—” I was so shocked that I could think of nothing to say. How could anyone pay such a price? One hundred Philistines! David was a great warrior, but even David could not hope to kill one hundred men before I was too old to care whether I married or not. I would not even think that the Philistines might kill David instead. 

“He means that his youngest daughter is of great worth in his eyes,” David said, and hugged me again. “And I am but a poor man’s son—what else could he ask of me? Gold and spices? I am a simple warrior, so he set a warrior’s price. I mean to do this, and I will come back to pay Saul what he asks and claim his daughter as I have said.” 

Six months later.... 

David stepped back and spread his arms wide. “Look, King Saul—you set a price for your daughter’s marriage of one hundred Philistine foreskins. I have brought two hundred. They were circumcised by the prophet Samuel himself." Now his voice was raised to shout a triumph. “A great victory for Yahweh.” My father grudged nothing for my wedding-day—not the bride-clothes, nor the fatted lambs and calves for the feast, nor the honors for my bridegroom. The wedding festival was to last for seven days and seven nights. A king’s daughter did not wed a hero every day, Saul said.

The Real Thanksgiving

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, 1995, Excerpts

The true history of Thanksgiving reveals embarrassing facts. The Pilgrims did not introduce the tradition; Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. Our modern celebrations date back only to 1863. During the Civil War, when the Union needed all the patriotism that such an observance might muster, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday. The Pilgrims had nothing to do with it; not until the 1890s did they even get included in the tradition.

The First Thanksgiving [1914] by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1850-1936), Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts

30 October 2015

Death Care Series

The aging baby boomers are moving into retirement like a tsunami and have the potential to negatively impact economic growth, straining the economy. Certain sectors will boom, such as pharmaceuticals, caskets, and bingo games, but overall, old folks slow down. Perhaps this will be the boomers' final legacy, sending the economy into a tailspin by merely getting old. Now that's ironic.

And speaking of caskets, the Death Care industry is poised to grow with this tsunami of Baby Boomers; however, the last hurrah of the Baby Boomer generation could be to morph this pretentious and fragile industry by merely getting back to funeral basics.

The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford, 1996, Excerpts
First Publication 1963

A brief look backwards establishes that there is no resemblance between the funeral practices of today and those of even seventy-five to one hundred years ago, and that there is nothing in the “history of Western civilization” to support the thesis of continuity and gradual development of funeral customs. On the contrary, the salient features of the contemporary American funeral [beautification of the corpse, metal casket and vault, banks of store-bought flowers, the ubiquitous offices of the “funeral director”] are all of very recent vintage in this country, and each has been methodically designed and tailored to extract maximum profit for the trade.

Of all the changes in the funeral scene over the last decades, easily the most significant is the emergence of monopolies in what the trade is pleased to call the “death care” industry. Of the three publicly traded major players – Service Corporation International [SCI], the Loewen Group, and Stewart Enterprises – SCI, incorporated in 1984, is the undisputed giant.

10 May 2006, Form 10-Q
Over the long-term, we believe that our industry leadership, along with superior brand, reputation, financial strength and geographic reach, will result in expanded growth opportunities with the aging of the Baby Boom generation.


Famous Preserved Bodies
19 August 2010
So much of travel is about coming face to face with history. And in some cases, that can be more literal than most. Here are six earlier humans who have been preserved – through accident or intent – for us to meet hundreds (and thousands) of years later.

Wal-Mart starts selling coffins
30 Oct 2009
Prices range from a "Mom" or "Dad Remembered" steel coffin for $895 to a bronze model at $2,899. The retailer is allowing customers to plan ahead by paying for the caskets over 12 months for no interest. They can be dispatched within 48 hours. Catering for cradle-to-grave needs, Wal-Mart already sells everything from baby wear to engagement rings.

Artist: Paul Insect – Death by Consumerism

14 October 2015

Gold Rush in the Americas

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, 1995, Excerpts

After 1500, Portugal, France, Holland, and Britain joined in conquering the Americas. Columbus’s gold finds on Haiti were soon dwarfed by discoveries of gold and silver in Mexico and the Andes. European religious and political leaders quickly amassed so much gold that they applied gold leaf to the ceilings of their churches and palaces, erected golden statues in the corners, and strung vines of golden grapes between them.

Gold and silver from America replaced land as the basis for wealth and status, increasing the power of the new merchant class that would soon dominate the world. Where Muslim nations had once rivaled Europe, the new wealth undermined Islamic power. American gold and silver fueled a 400 percent inflation that eroded the economies of most non-European countries and helped Europe to develop a global market system. Africa suffered: the trans-Saharan trade collapsed, because the Americas supplied more gold and silver than the Gold Coast ever could. African traders now had only one commodity that Europe wanted: slaves.

13 October 2015

Columbus and the Slave Trade

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, 1995, Excerpts

To replace the dying Haitians, this led to the massive slave trade from Africa. This trade began in Haiti, initiated by Columbus’s son in 1505. Columbus not only sent the first slaves across the Atlantic, he probably sent more slaves – about five thousand – than any other individual.

A particularly repellent aspect of the slave trade was sexual. As soon as the 1493 expedition got to the Caribbean, before it even reached Haiti, Columbus was rewarding his lieutenants with native women to rape. On Haiti, sex slaves were one more perquisite that the Spanish enjoyed. Columbus wrote a friend in 1500, “There are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”

Haiti became the site of the first large-scale slave revolt, when blacks and Indians banded together in 1519. The uprising lasted more than a decade and was finally brought to an end by the Spanish in the 1530s.

Columbus died well off and left his heirs well endowed, even with the title, “Admiral of the Ocean Sea,” now carried by his eighteenth-generation descendant. Some historians believe he may have been a Genoese Jew, a converse, or convert to Christianity, probably from Spain. Spain was pressuring its Jews to convert to Christianity or leave the country.