All posts by Ian Grieve

Last Dusky Seaside Sparrow Dies in Captivity (1987)

Thousands of dusky seaside sparrows once inhabited the natural salt marshes around Merritt Island and the area along the St. Johns River in southern Florida. The non-migratory birds lived exclusively in this small area, and this proved to be their undoing. From the 1940s onward, pesticides, pollution, and habitat loss caused the subspecies’ population to decline precipitously. By 1979, just six males remained. Why were the remaining birds eventually relocated to Walt Disney World theme park? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Saigusa Matsuri

For hundreds of years the citizens of Nara, Japan, have searched the surrounding mountains for lilies, gathering them each summer in preparation for the Lily Festival at the Isagawa Shrine. A Shinto priest carries a large bundle of flowers to the altar as an offering. Then the seven women perform a special dance in which they wave lily stalks in a motion designed to ward off the problems brought on by the wet weather typical this time of year. Afterwards, the lilies are mounted on a float and taken out in a procession through the streets of Nara, where it is believed that they will purify the air. Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Edward I of England, AKA Edward Longshanks (1239)

Edward became king upon the death of his father, Henry III, in 1272 but was not crowned until he returned from a crusade two years later. His 35-year reign was characterized by constant warfare, including long and costly campaigns to conquer Wales and Scotland. It was a struggle to fund these endeavors, and he did so, in part, by exploiting the Jews under his rule. Finally, in 1290, he expelled them from England and seized their property. For how long did his Edict of Expulsion remain in effect? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Gila Monster

Named for the Gila River basin where it once abounded, the Gila monster is one of only two known species of venomous lizard. Found in the southwestern US and northwestern Mexico, it averages 18 in (45 cm) in length, feeds on birds, mammals, and eggs, and uses its thick tail as a food reservoir. Though the Gila monster’s neurotoxic venom can be fatal, the lizard moves too slowly to present a serious threat to humans. A synthetic version of one of its salivary proteins may help treat what disease? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Soweto Riots (1976)

In 1974, the South African government passed a decree making it mandatory for black schools to split instruction between English and Afrikaans—a language that many associated with the segregationist apartheid government. Two years later, at least 10,000 people—most of them young students—marched to Orlando Stadium in the city of Soweto to protest the change. Violence erupted when police began firing shots, and the resulting Soweto Riots continued for months. How many died during the riots? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Election of the Mayor of Ock Street

During the 18th century, it was customary for the people of Abingdon to roast a black ox on St. Edmund of Abingdon’s Feast Day (June 19). In 1700 an argument arose during the ox roast over who would get the horns, and a man named Hemmings took possession of the horns. The crowd hailed him as the “Mayor of Ock Street.” Today, only people who live on Ock Street may vote for the mayor. The winner toasts his election by drinking from a special applewood chalice, and he is carried through the streets in a flower-decorated chair by the Abingdon Morris dancers. Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

John Howard Griffin (1920)

Griffin was an American author who darkened his white skin with medication and sunlamps in order to experience the racial segregation of the southern US. He described his experiences in his controversial 1961 book Black Like Me, which details his interactions with others—both white and black—and the problems he encountered while traveling and attempting to meet basic needs. It is often recounted that Griffin died from skin cancer resulting from his efforts to darken his skin. Is it true? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary