Design, History

The Gorgeous Typeface That Drove Men Mad and Sparked a 100-Year Mystery

No one seemed to notice him: A dark figure who often came to stand at the edge of London’s Hammersmith Bridge on nights in 1916. No one seemed to notice, either, that during his visits he was dropping something into the River Thames. Something heavy.

Over the course of more than a hundred illicit nightly trips, this man was committing a crime—against his partner, a man who owned half of what was being heaved into the Thames, and against himself, the force that had spurred its creation. This venerable figure, founder of the legendary Doves Press and the mastermind of its typeface, was a man named TJ Cobden Sanderson. And he was taking the metal type that he had painstakingly overseen and dumping thousands of pounds of it into the river.

As a driving force in the Arts & Crafts movement in England, Cobden Sanderson championed traditional craftsmanship against the rising tides of industrialization. He was brilliant and creative, and in some ways, a luddite — because he was concerned that the typeface he had designed would be sold to a mechanized printing press after his death by his business partner, with whom he was feuding.

So, night after night, he was making it his business to bequeath it to the river, in his words, screwing his partner out of his half of their work and destroying a legendarily beautiful typeface forever. Or so it seemed.

Almost exactly a century later, this November, a cadre of ex-military divers who work for the Port of London Authority were gearing up to descend into the Thames to look for the small metal bits—perhaps hundreds of thousands of them — that Cobden Sanderson had thrown overboard so many years ago.

They were doing this at the behest and personal expense of Robert Green, a designer who has spent years researching and recreating the lost typeface, which is available on Typespec. As Green told me over the phone recently, the Port of London Authority had been hesitant about letting him pay its diving team to search for the lost type. They were actually concerned that I was some crazy bloke looking for a needle in a haystack and throwing a couple grand away, he laughs.

It’s not hard to imagine how crazy he must have seemed. A civilian offering to pay the city’s salvage divers to troll the depths of the muddy Thames, possibly for weeks, looking for tiny chunks of metal that were thrown there by a deranged designer more than a century ago? Yeah, that’s pretty crazy.

In the end, it only took them 20 minutes to find some — via

Photo: Sam Armstrong, courtesy of The Sunday Times


What the World Will Speak in 2115

Thankfully, fears that English will become the world’s only language are premature. Few are so pessimistic as to suppose that there will not continue to be a multiplicity of nations and cultures on our planet and, along with them, various languages besides English. It is difficult, after all, to interrupt something as intimate and spontaneous as what language people speak to their children. Who truly imagines a Japan with no Japanese or a Greece with no Greek? The spread of English just means that earthlings will tend to use a local language in their own orbit and English for communication beyond. Advertisement

But the days when English shared the planet with thousands of other languages are numbered. A traveller to the future, a century from now, is likely to notice two things about the language landscape of Earth. One, there will be vastly fewer languages. Two, languages will often be less complicated than they are today—especially in how they are spoken as opposed to how they are written.

Some may protest that it is not English but Mandarin Chinese that will eventually become the world’s language, because of the size of the Chinese population and the increasing economic might of their nation. But that’s unlikely. For one, English happens to have gotten there first. It is now so deeply entrenched in print, education and media that switching to anything else would entail an enormous effort. We retain the QWERTY keyboard and AC current for similar reasons.

Also, the tones of Chinese are extremely difficult to learn beyond childhood, and truly mastering the writing system virtually requires having been born to it. In the past, of course, notoriously challenging languages such as Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Arabic, Russian and even Chinese have been embraced by vast numbers of people. But now that English has settled in, its approachability as compared with Chinese will discourage its replacement. Many a world power has ruled without spreading its language, and just as the Mongols and Manchus once ruled China while leaving Chinese intact, if the Chinese rule the world, they will likely do so in English. A Chinese teacher gives an English lesson to students in the Gansu province of northwest China in July 2013. Some have predicted that Mandarin Chinese will eventually become the world’s language, but its elaborate tones are too difficult to learn beyond childhood.

Yet more to the point, by 2115, it’s possible that only about 600 languages will be left on the planet as opposed to today’s 6,000. Japanese will be fine, but languages spoken by smaller groups will have a hard time of it. Too often, colonisation has led to the disappearance of languages: Native speakers have been exterminated or punished for using their languages. This has rendered extinct or moribund, for example, most of the languages of Native Americans in North America and Aboriginal peoples of Australia. Urbanization has only furthered the destruction, by bringing people away from their homelands to cities where a single lingua franca reigns — via

Design, History

In the past quarter century, recycling has moved from a new concept reserved mostly to hippies to something most people do, but new variations on the themes recycling and upcycling keep popping up. The newest twist in industrial recycling is Boeing’s new addition to their Custom Hangar online gift shop. Starting this holiday season, Boeing is making vintage parts from their airplanes available for sale on the website. You can now buy engine blades from various models for $200 to $400, windows from 747s and 767s for $600, a table made from the core of a jet engine for $9,600, the control stick from a P-51 Mustang fighter for $1,250, a full galley beverage cart for $1,900 and similar pieces of air travel engineering and history — via PSFK

Design, History

This David Henken-designed midcentury property in Pound Ridge, New York, dates from 1956 and looks like little has changed at first glance. But that’s probably done to a magazine quality restoration of this place. Look carefully and you’ll see it’s as much a modern house as a period property. But the overall look and feel of the original is still very much evident. It is pitched as a home or a weekend retreat, but you’ll need to be pretty affluent to consider it as the latter with a price of $1,495,000 — via WowHaus

Design, History

Something of an architectural landmark in the country, this 1920s Pol Abraham-designed modernist property in Paris, France is now no the market after a fairly recent renovation. The house was built between 1926 and 1929 on the outskirts of Paris, the work of noted modernist architect Pol Abraham, who was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Pompidou back in 2008. Of course it doesn’t come cheap. You will need to find €1,995,000 to own this gem — via WowHaus

Design, History

This 19th century Thomas Hartas-designed law library in city centre Manchester dates back to 1885. It is a well-preserved gem in a city centre that seems to be running out of such things. Offers over £975,000 if you want to take this on — via WowHaus

History, Technology

How did the Enigma machine work?

Like all the best cryptography, the Enigma machine is simple to describe, but infuriating to break.

Straddling the border between mechanical and electrical, Enigma looked from the outside like an oversize typewriter. Enter the first letter of your message on the keyboard and a letter lights up showing what it has replaced within the encrypted message. At the other end, the process is the same: type in the ciphertext and the letters which light are the decoded missive.

Inside the box, the system is built around three physical rotors. Each takes in a letter and outputs it as a different one. That letter passes through all three rotors, bounces off a reflector at the end, and passes back through all three rotors in the other direction.

The board lights up to show the encrypted output, and the first of the three rotors clicks round one position — changing the output even if the second letter input is the same as the first one.

When the first rotor has turned through all 26 positions, the second rotor clicks round, and when that’s made it round all the way, the third does the same, leading to more than 17,000 different combinations before the encryption process repeats itself. Adding to the scrambling was a plugboard, sitting between the main rotors and the input and output, which swapped pairs of letters. In the earliest machines, up to six pairs could be swapped in that way; later models pushed it to 10, and added a fourth rotor — via

History, Technology

Joan Clarke, woman who cracked Enigma with Alan Turing

Joan Clarke’s ingenious work as a codebreaker during WW2 saved countless lives, and her talents were formidable enough to command the respect of some of the greatest minds of the 20th Century, despite the sexism of the time.

But while Bletchley Park hero Alan Turing — who was punished by a post-war society where homosexuality was illegal and died at 41 — has been treated more kindly by history, the same cannot yet be said for Clarke.

The only woman to work in the nerve centre of the quest to crack German Enigma ciphers, Clarke rose to deputy head of Hut 8, and would be its longest-serving member.

She was also Turing’s lifelong friend and confidante and, briefly, his fiancee — via

History, Politics, World

East German officer who opened Berlin Wall wept moments later

The East German lieutenant colonel who gave the fateful order to throw open the Berlin Wall 25 years ago said he wept in silence a few moments later as hordes of euphoric East Germans swept past him into West Berlin to get their first taste of freedom.

Harald Jaeger said in an interview with Reuters that he spent hours before his history-changing decision trying in vain to get guidance from superiors on what to do about the 20,000 protesters at his border crossing clamouring to get out.

When he had had enough of being laughed at, ridiculed and told by commanders to sort it out for himself, Jaeger ordered the 46 armed guards under his command to throw open the barrier.

He then stepped back and cried — tears of relief that the stand-off had ended without violence, tears of frustration that his superiors had left him in the lurch and tears of despair from a man who had so long believed in the Communist ideal.

He had joined the border guard unit in 1961. Over 28 years, he saw the barrier grow from an infancy of coiled barbed wire, to a brick wall and then to maturity as a towering 160 Km (100 mile) double white concrete screen that encircled West Berlin, cutting across streets, between families, through graveyards — via

Design, History

Deal Kitchen, 1907 / Charles Rennie Mackintosh

It is enough to make the neighbours green with envy and decline an invitation to tea. The vogue for a designer kitchen is set to be eclipsed with the sale of items unheralded in the competitive world of interior design: a fitted kitchen by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

In what is believed to be a world first, a selection of kitchen units designed by the celebrated architect and designer is set to go up for auction next month with an estimated price for the collection of £20,000. Lyon & Turnbull, the Edinburgh auction house, will be auctioning off three lots which previously made up the kitchen of The Moss, a house designed by the architect and built in Drumgoyne, near Killearn.

The three lots which make up the kitchen include a small pine kitchen dresser valued at £400 to £600, a large pine kitchen dresser valued at £3,000 to £4,000 and a substantial range of kitchen cupboards and work tops whose estimated value is between £3,000 and £5,000. The kitchen collection will be sold on 29 November at Lyon & Turnbull’s Decorative Arts Sale in Edinburgh.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh famously believed no detail was too trivial to be beyond the eye of a true architect and on one occasion even specified what colour of cut flowers was permitted on the living room table so as not to clash with the rest of the decor.

The kitchen he designed for Sir Archibald Campbell Lawrie, who died in 1914, is set to attract bids from all over the world. What makes the set unique is that the kitchen units were removable as opposed to build into the fabric of the home — via

History, Rights
Frank Serpico by Antonino D’Ambrosio

The Police Are Still Out of Control

Forty-odd years on, my story probably seems like ancient history to most people, layered over with Hollywood legend. For me it’s not, since at the age of 78 I’m still deaf in one ear and I walk with a limp and I carry fragments of the bullet near my brain. I am also, all these years later, still persona non grata in the NYPD. Never mind that, thanks to Sidney Lumet’s direction and Al Pacino’s brilliant acting, Serpico ranks No 40 on the American Film Institute’s list of all-time movie heroes, or that as I travel around the country and the world, police officers often tell me they were inspired to join the force after seeing the movie at an early age.

In the NYPD that means little next to my 40-year-old heresy, as they see it. I still get hate mail from active and retired police officers. A couple of years ago after the death of David Durk — the police officer who was one of my few allies inside the department in my efforts to expose graft — the Internet message board NYPD Rant featured some choice messages directed at me. Join your mentor, Rat scum! said one. An ex-con recently related to me that a precinct captain had once said to him, If it wasn’t for that fuckin’ Serpico, I coulda been a millionaire today. My informer went on to say, Frank, you don’t seem to understand, they had a well-oiled money making machine going and you came along and threw a handful of sand in the gears.

In 1971 I was awarded the Medal of Honor, the NYPD’s highest award for bravery in action, but it wasn’t for taking on an army of corrupt cops. It was most likely due to the insistence of Police Chief Sid Cooper, a rare good guy who was well aware of the murky side of the NYPD that I’d try to expose. But they handed the medal to me like an afterthought, like tossing me a pack of cigarettes. After all this time, I’ve never been given a proper certificate with my medal. And although living Medal of Honor winners are typically invited to yearly award ceremonies, I’ve only been invited once — and it was by Bernard Kerick, who ironically was the only NYPD commissioner to later serve time in prison. A few years ago, after the New York Police Museum refused my guns and other memorabilia, I loaned them to the Italian-American museum right down street from police headquarters, and they invited me to their annual dinner. I didn’t know it was planned, but the chief of police from Rome, Italy, was there, and he gave me a plaque. The New York City police officers who were there wouldn’t even look at me — via

Photo credit: Antonino D’Ambrosio


Stolen vintage Jaguar XKE recovered after 46 years to be reunited with 82-year-old owner

A rare Jaguar XKE convertible stolen 46 years ago will be returned to its owner thanks to an eagle-eyed customs agent.

The Californian Highway Patrol are trying to figure out who might have stolen it from outside a New York apartment and why it was in a Californian garage for 40 years.

A man who had recently bought the car submitted paperwork to US Customs and Border Protection in June, and an analyst who checked the vehicle saw it had been reported stolen.

By that time, the 1967 Jaguar was en route to the Netherlands, a hot market for vintage cars, and authorities arranged to have the ship operator bring the car back to California.

According to US Customs, the 82-year-old original owner of the car, retired attorney Ivan Schneider, has called the find a miracle and said he planned to restore it.

It’s a wonderful car, Mr Schneider said — via

Design, History

In the 1960s, the United States Rubber Company (Uniroyal) introduced the world to their discovery of a supple synthetic leather substitute called Naugahyde, primarily for use as an auto seating leatherette material. It made its debut on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Their brilliant Mad Men advertising idea was to create a fictional creature called the NAUGA from which the Nauga hyde was harvested. Needless to say, it was a huge hit — via Arcane Images

Design, History

The Sowden House, built by Lloyd Wright, the son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This beautiful, unique structure, sometimes referred to as the Jaws house for its windows that resemble a shark’s open mouth, was built in 1926. The 5,600 square foot home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles is currently for sale, listed at $4,875,000.

The house also has the dubious distinction of formerly belonging to a suspect in one of the most notorious unsolved murder cases in American history, the Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short) murder. From 1945 to 1951, the Sowden house was owned by Dr George Hodel, who at one time was the prime suspect of the LA District Attorney in the Short murder. Hodel’s son, former LAPD homicide detective Steve Hodel, even wrote a book claiming that his father killed Elizabeth Short somewhere in the Sowden House — via Neatorama

Design, History

Quick, what does the word Vespa bring to mind? If you say cute lil’ scooter, you probably haven’t seen this image above of the Vespa 150 TAP (for Troupes Aéro Portées), a Vespa scooter modified for use with the French paratroopers in 1956. It’s probably safe to say that this is the deadliest Vespa in the world. The military scooter is powered by a single-cylinder 146 cc two-stroke engine. It sports a M20 75 mm recoilless rifle, US-made light anti-armour cannon, and storage for some ammos. The scooter would be parachute-dropped from airplanes, accompanied by a two-man team who’d scoot along in absolutely menacing style — via Neatorama

Photo: C Galliani/Wikimedia


The photo was taken at Blue’s Point, North Sydney 10 August 1972. The car is a 351cu V8 Falcon and the motorcycle is a 4 cylinder 750cc Honda.

Senior Constable Barry Dening is the cyclist. He retired some years later as Chief Inspector in charge of Hornsby Police Station.

The officer in the car is Constable Dennis McKellar.

1960 bike car OH7221, originally uploaded by NSW Police

Art, History

Matthew Simmonds, an art historian and architectural stone carver based in Italy, has created a collection of exceptionally beautiful miniature spaces carved from stone. Having worked on a number of restoration projects in the UK — from Westminster Abbey to Ely Cathedral — his skills have been transferred into work of a much smaller, if not more intricate, scale. Hewn from large stone blocks (some of marble), the level of intricacy Simmonds has achieved in the architectural detailing is almost incredible. Capitals, vaults and surfaces all distort and reflect light in a very beguiling way — via ArchDaily

Design, History

This is the Tower of Hercules near La Coruña, Spain — the northwestern tip of the Iberian peninsula. It may be the only ancient lighthouse still in use. It’s possible that a Phoenician work preceded it, but we can be sure that a Roman structure lies at the core of this tower. The Romans built it sometime during the reign of Emperor Trajan (r. 98-117 AD), who was himself from an area that forms modern Spain. The Romans referred to it in classical writings as Farum Brigantium.

During the Eighteenth Century, the architect Eustaquio Giannini conducted a renovation of the site, building a 49m tower over the original 34m Roman one — via Neatorama

Photo: Bernt Rostad

Design, History

The Stanley R Mickelsen Safeguard Complex in Cavalier County, North Dakota, is the focus of an amazing set of images hosted by the US Library of Congress, showing this squat and evocative megastructure in various states of construction and completion. It’s a huge pyramid in the middle of nowhere tracking the end of the world on radar, an abstract geometric shape beneath the sky without a human being in sight, or it could even be the opening scene of an apocalyptic science fiction film—but it’s just the US military going about its business, building vast and other-worldly architectural structures that the civilian world only rarely sees — via BLDGBLOG

Photo: Benjamin Halpern, courtesy of the US Library of Congress

Design, History

Whisper it quietly, rather than shout it from the rooftops, but Dracula’s Castle, in Transylvania, is on the market.

Not in the conventional fashion, with estate agents staking their For Sale signs in the ground, but in a quiet, offers-are-invited-from-the-right-people sort of way.

If someone comes in with a reasonable offer, we will look at who they are, what they are proposing, and will seriously entertain the idea, says Mark Meyer, of Herzfeld and Rubin. The New York law firm is handling the sale (he’s also the honorary American consul for Moldova)

The property comes with a long list of previous owners: everyone from Saxons to Hungarians to Teutonic knights. And although the facilities may not be exactly state-of-the-art (the plumbing is reported to require some work), there’s no questioning the detachedness of the property. It stands on top of a hill, and is most definitely not overlooked by neighbours — via Telegraph

Design, History

Fire engulfs iconic Glasgow School of Art

One of Scotland’s most cherished cultural icons is partly in smouldering ruins today after fire raged through Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art, writes Tristan Stewart-Robertson.

In what was last night described as a national tragedy, flames consumed around a third of the interior of building, with some reports suggesting the famous Mackintosh library had been lost.

Widespread emotion and dismay was demonstrated on the streets of Glasgow, and echoed around the world as the news spread.

Hundreds of students, lecturers and shoppers gathered in Renfrew Street and Sauchiehall Street as flames were seen bursting out of windows on the upper floors shortly after noon.

Many wept at the sight of fire engulfing the A-listed school, completed in 1909 and recognisable across the globe as an Art Nouveau gem — via

History, World

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams held over Jean McConville murder

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has been arrested by Northern Ireland police in connection with the 1972 murder of Jean McConville.

He presented himself to police on Wednesday evening and was arrested.

Speaking before his arrest, Mr Adams said he was innocent of any part in the murder.

Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old widow and mother of 10, was abducted from her flat in the Divis area of west Belfast and shot by the IRA.

Her body was recovered from a beach in County Louth in 2003 — via

Design, History

Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958) was an industrial designer who focused on aerodynamics. His designs extended to unrealised futuristic concepts: a teardrop-shaped automobile, and an Art Deco House of Tomorrow. By popularising streamlining when only a few engineers were considering its functional use, he made possible the design style of the thirties — via Retronaut

Design, History

On 19 April, Southern Illinois University will begin to restore the world’s first geodesic dome home, built by Buckminster Fuller. Originally assembled in just seven hours from 60 wooden triangle panels, the dome was occupied by Fuller and his wife, Lady Anne, in the 1960s during his residency at SIU. After Fuller’s death, the dome was used as student housing before falling into disrepair. In 2001, the home was donated to a non-profit that had it listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. It will now be restored and preserved as a museum in Carbondale — via ArchDaily

Design, History

Brooklyn-based designer Jake Wright was surrounded by military-related objects from the time he was a child. Born to an Air Force Pilot and a military defence contractor, Wright was naturally drawn toward these materials in his design work. Known collectively as Stockpile Designs, Wright’s line of furniture and home objects is based on obsolete and decommissioned military equipment — via Dornob

Art, Design, History

When American soldiers pulled out of Europe after World War II, they left hundreds of automobiles behind. Many were consigned to a scrapyard in the woods near Bastnas, Sweden. The brothers who ran the scrapyard abandoned it over twenty years ago, and since then moss has grown inside the cars and trees have grown up through them. Cleaning up the scrapyard is proving to be a difficult task, as birds and animals use the classic autos for nests. Photographer Svein Nordrum took a set of gorgeous and haunting pictures of the cars — via Neatorama

Photo: Svein Nordrum/

Craft, History

You can choose whether you want her displayed before or after the decapitation. Her head holds in place with two invisible magnets if you rather see her before this unfortunate ending. She’s made of soft alpaca wool and a high quality acrylic yarn and stuffed with a synthetic non allergenic filling. It’s approximately 14 cm tall — via Etsy

History, Politics, Rights

Burglars Who Took On FBI Abandon Shadows

The perfect crime is far easier to pull off when nobody is watching.

So on a night nearly 43 years ago, while Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier bludgeoned each other over 15 rounds in a televised title bout viewed by millions around the world, burglars took a lock pick and a crowbar and broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in a suburb of Philadelphia, making off with nearly every document inside.

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the FBI against dissident groups.

The burglary in Media, Pennsylvania, on 8 March 1971, is a historical echo today, as disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J Snowden have cast another unflattering light on government spying and opened a national debate about the proper limits of government surveillance. The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

When you talked to people outside the movement about what the FBI was doing, nobody wanted to believe it, said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting — via

Design, History

The Abbey Mills pumping station is a sewage plant designed so elaborately it looks like an authentic Byzantine monastery. It was thus named the Cathedral of Sewage. Located in the Thames estuary, this one-of-a-kind pumping station was built between 1865 and 1868 to siphon London’s sewage from the low level sewers up to the high level plant which processes the waste waters. Designed by architect Charles Driver and engineers Joseph Bazalgette and Edmund Cooper, the Cathedral of Sewage has a cruciform layout with intricate Byzantine architecture, a special touch that earned it a place in the United Kingdom’s Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. Not to mention, the fascinating building got a starring role in Batman Begins (2003) as the Arkham Asylum Laboratory with the Scarecrow and Rachel Dawes — via When On Earth

History, Technology

Royal pardon for codebreaker Alan Turing

Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing has been given a posthumous royal pardon.

It overturns his 1952 conviction for homosexuality for which he was punished by being chemically castrated.

The conviction meant he lost his security clearance and had to stop the code-cracking work that proved critical to the Allies in World War II.

The pardon was granted under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy after a request by Justice Minister Chris Grayling — via


Bay Psalm Book, published in 1640s, sets new world record after selling for more than $15m at auction

The first book printed in what is today the USA has sold for more than $15 million at auction in New York, becoming the world’s most expensive printed book.

A translation of Biblical psalms, The Bay Psalm Book was printed by Puritan settlers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1640.

One of only 11 surviving copies from the original 1,700, it was sold at a one-lot auction in just minutes by Sotheby’s.

Bidding opened at $US6 million and closed swiftly at a hammer price of $US12.5 million, rising to $US14.165 million (around $15.5 million) once the buyer’s premium was incorporated.

The book, with its browning pages and gilt edges, was displayed in a glass case behind the auctioneer to the small crowd who attended the auction.

The bidding lasted less than five minutes, and was won buy David Rubenstein, a billionaire American financier and philanthropist — via


Hundreds mourn forgotten Dambusters veteran

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of a Bomber Command veteran they had never met, following a newspaper and internet appeal to honour him.

Harold Jellicoe Percival died aged 99 at a nursing home on the Lancashire coast with few friends and little family, and staff feared no-one would be there to pay their respects.

He was part of the ground team which supported the legendary Dambusters squadron, whose daring raids in May 1943 smashed three dams serving the industrial heartland of the Ruhr valley.

But after a public appeal for the Second World War veteran, an estimated 300 people attended the service at Lytham St Annes, with traffic blocking roads in the area and space running out in the crematorium. He was laid to rest yesterday at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month — via

History, Wildlife

Future of the monarchy rocked as fox kills Tower of London’s guardian ravens

It was a week in which the future of the monarchy looked even more secure, thanks to the Royal christening.

But unbeknownst to members of the Royal family cooing over Prince George, another event has shaken the foundations of the British monarchy to their very core.

An urban fox attacked and killed two ravens in the Tower of London where, according to superstition, there must be six of the birds or else the monarchy, the kingdom and the Tower itself will fall.

The unfortunate ravens, Jubilee and Grip, were snatched and eaten just before they were due to be locked up in their cages overnight — via

Craft, History

If you fancy making something out of an iconic cloth, you should check out the Underground range byKirkby Design, which offers fabrics used on London Underground carriages in the middle of the 20th century — via Retro To Go

History, Weird

The Man Who Fought in WWII With a Sword and Bow

Running into battle armed with a broadsword, bow, and quiver of arrows was perfectly acceptable if you were fighting in the Hundred Years’ War or fending off some orcs on Middle Earth. But when it comes to World War II, such medieval weaponry looks like child’s play next to the technology of the time. A sword isn’t the most likely of defences against rifles and tanks. However, for John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, nicknamed Mad Jack, there was nothing he’d rather arm himself with than a trusty sword and bow.

Born into an old Oxfordshire family, he graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1926. Before his World War II fame, Mad Jack worked as an editor of a Nairobi newspaper, a model, and a movie extra, appearing in The Thief of Bagdad due to his expertise with a bow. That same talent with archery took him to Oslo, Norway where he shot for Britain during the world championships in 1939.

By this time, of course, Europe was fast approaching World War II. Mad Jack had left the army after ten years of service, but happily returned to it because of the country having gotten into a jam in my absence.

By May 1940, Mad Jack was the second in command of an infantry company. He always marched into battle with a bow and arrows and his trusty basket-hilted claymore by his side. Despite these weapons being wildly outdated, Churchill defended them, saying, In my opinion… any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed — via

History, Politics, World

9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask

The United States and allies are preparing for a possibly imminent series of limited military strikes against Syria, the first direct US intervention in the two-year civil war, in retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians.

If you found the above sentence kind of confusing, or aren’t exactly sure why Syria is fighting a civil war, or even where Syria is located, then this is the article for you. What’s happening in Syria is really important, but it can also be confusing and difficult to follow even for those of us glued to it.

Here, then, are the most basic answers to your most basic questions. First, a disclaimer: Syria and its history are really complicated; this is not an exhaustive or definitive account of that entire story, just some background, written so that anyone can understand it — via

Iconic Case Study Houses Finally Reside on National Register

At long last the Los Angeles Conservancy‘s effort to get a set of homes in the region included on the National Register of Historic Places has paid off, with the announcement that 11 of the Case Study Homes are deemed historically significant.

Ten of the homes have been placed on the list, according to the Conservancy. The 11th home did not get put on the list despite eligibility because of owner objection. All of them will enjoy equal preservation protections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), says the Conservancy.

The Case Study program grew out of a post-WWII discussion of the future of architecture as a new era of building dawned. The idea was to create affordable, well-designed Mid-Century Modern homes for American families (of course, putting many in fancy neighbourhoods ensured the average Angeleno wasn’t likely to ever call one home, alas).

Not all the planned homes were built, and the program didn’t spring forth a gush of mass-produced affordable houses from the prototypes, but it did give architecture wonks and admirers much to love over the years. Most iconic is probably Case Study House #22, the Stahl house, designed by Pierre Koenig, which is oft-photographed — via