Monthly Archives: December 2017

The Vandals Invade Gaul (406 CE)

An ancient Germanic tribe that originated in North Jutland, the Vandals began a decades-long migration in the early 5th century. The violent path they cut through Europe made their name synonymous with senseless destruction. Crossing the Rhine in 406 CE, they invaded their first stop, Gaul. The Roman-allied Franks refused to allow them to settle there, so the Vandals devastated the region and kept moving. By the time they sacked Rome in 455 CE, they had established a kingdom of their own—where? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Omisoka

Widely celebrated on December 31, Omisoka marks the end of the preparations for New Year’s celebrations in Japan. On Omisoka, people wearing kimonos fill the streets as they go to visit shrines. But millions watch the “Red and White Song Contest” on TV. This marathon song festival, first organized in 1950, has become an indispensable ritual of the New Year. The TV show ends shortly before midnight in time for an older tradition: the tolling of the great bells in Buddhist temples at midnight. Priests strike the bells 108 times, a reminder of the 108 human frailties or sins in Buddhist belief. Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Henri Matisse (1869)

One of the premier artists of the modern period, Matisse left his law career after taking up painting during an illness in 1890. He explored Impressionism but instead began to use vivid primary color as a structural element. He became a leader of the short-lived Fauvist movement, and by 1909, he had achieved worldwide fame. After 1939, he became increasingly active as a graphic artist. His contribution to 20th-century art is inestimable. Which of his paintings was burned in effigy in 1913? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

African Art

The legacy of African art spans thousands of years and myriad cultures. Though traditional art forms include masks, figures, and textiles, each culture’s works have a unique visual style. Still, some common artistic themes can be seen in art from across the continent, including an emphasis on the human figure, sculpture, performance art, and visual abstraction. What Western artists were particularly influenced by African art when it became the subject of widespread attention in the 20th century? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Granada Massacre (1066)

When Rabbi Samuel ha-Nagid died around the year 1055, his son Joseph succeeded him as leader of the Jewish community of Granada and vizier to the Berber king. At the time, figures in the Muslim community were unhappy with what they believed to be inordinate Jewish political power. Joseph, who was said to be arrogant and ostentatious, in contrast with his father, was eventually assassinated by a Muslim mob in a siege that also claimed 4,000 Jews of Granada. How was Joseph killed? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Simon Forman (1552)

Forman was arguably the most popular occultist, astrologer, and herbalist in Elizabethan London, despite not possessing a medical degree. He kept detailed records of his unorthodox practice, and his diaries have yielded a wealth of historical information—including contemporary accounts of Shakespeare’s plays. He was posthumously implicated in a murder plot that tarnished his reputation and has been characterized as either evil or a quack. What 1611 event is he said to have accurately predicted? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Porcupines

Among the largest rodents in the world, porcupines are found in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas and are known for their coats of sharp quills that defend them from predators. Though porcupines’ quills take various forms depending on the species, all are modified hairs coated with thick plates of a tough structural protein called keratin that makes them needle-sharp. Contrary to popular belief, porcupines are not capable of shooting their quills. How, then, do they defend themselves? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary