Wednesday, July 25

The Trivial Eye: Pictures of War

by Jason Toon

For as long as people have been making pictures, they've been making pictures of war. And no wonder. The grime, the glory, the heroism, the horror: war is human drama at its most intense and primal. The heat of battle makes for powerful images, whether they're in a museum or a newspaper. Can you name these paintings, sculptures, and photos; the people who created them; and the conflicts they depict?

Answers are here. Please post your guesses, speculations, or arguments below! But know this: the Trivial Eye is presented for public amusement and no prizes are offered other than that familiar feeling of aggravation that so much of your mind is occupied by useless trivia.

You want more Trivial Eye, don't you? Yeah, you do.

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Tuesday, July 24

The Debunker: Did Two Lanterns Signal Paul Revere?

by Ken Jennings

July is the season of barbecues and coolers full of watermelon and supermarket-brand soda. In the United States, at least, it all happens in the service of the nation’s birthday. On the 4th day of this month, Americans celebrate 236 years of independence from their British oppressors, who wanted them to pay taxes on stamps or spell the word “color” with an extra ‘u’ or something. But, as leading political figures occasionally remind us, a lot of what we think we know about the nation’s Founding Fathers is actually a load of hooey. Let Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings give you liberty from all the misinformation before you run for office yourself and make one of these red-white-and-bloopers.

Independence Myth #4: Two Lanterns Alerted Paul Revere That The British Were Coming.

It should come as no surprise that much of what we think we know about Paul Revere’s legendary midnight ride isn’t 100 percent accurate. After all, the most popular account of Paul’s exploits comes not from historical documents but from “Paul Revere’s Ride,” a poem—a poem!—written almost a century after the actual event. My favorite part of the story was always the “Two if by sea” lanterns in the tower of Boston’s Old North Church. What kid wouldn’t like the idea of sending battle plans via lantern signal? Secret codes! Espionage! Pre-Industrial Revolution walkie-talkie technology!

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Tuesday, July 17

The Debunker: Was There A Battle On Bunker Hill?

by Ken Jennings

July is the season of barbecues and coolers full of watermelon and supermarket-brand soda. In the United States, at least, it all happens in the service of the nation’s birthday. On the 4th day of this month, Americans celebrate 236 years of independence from their British oppressors, who wanted them to pay taxes on stamps or spell the word “color” with an extra ‘u’ or something. But, as leading political figures occasionally remind us, a lot of what we think we know about the nation’s Founding Fathers is actually a load of hooey. Let Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings give you liberty from all the misinformation before you run for office yourself and make one of these red-white-and-bloopers.

Independence Myth #3: The Colonials Beat the Redcoats in a Fight to Control Bunker Hill.

In the midst of the colonial troops’ 1775 siege of Boston, their generals learned that the British were planning on moving troops to the nearby Charlestown Peninsula. In reply, the Americans moved to occupy two hills north of the city. The plan was to build an earthen emplacement atop Bunker Hill before sunrise on June 17. The resulting battle would be the first large-scale clash of the American Revolution, and still looms large in the nation’s founding myth. But...

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