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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Photo Phinish I

Taking a well-deserved break, Santa Claus shares a light
 moment with one of his favorite elves, "Handsy."

Saturday, July 27, 2019

No History This Week

    Sorry.

   For the two of you who read this blog, please accept my sincere apologies,  as there will be no "History of the World According To Penwasser" this week.  I had intended to write the column Thursday evening, but I had a social engagement come up all of a sudden (yeah, I know.  People actually want to spend time with me.  Weird.  I must owe them money).

   Friday, I headed down South to land of cotton, good times there are not forgotten.  My son is getting married and would like me to accompany him, his mother, his future mother-in-law, and his fiancee (or is that fiance?  I can't keep these things straight) on a trip to view potential venues.



   Side Note:  The children of me and my siblings are starting the marriage process.  It's going to go like dominos (the game, not the pizza).  Soon, the funerals will end up like dominos (the game, not the pizza).
"No?   Awwwwwwwwwww...eff."
   But, fingers crossed that that won't happen for a very long time.  Because, I'm the oldest and I have this suspicious lump on my forehead.

   Anyway, I won't have time to give you a post which is of the highest quality (or whatever this is).

   Never fear.  Next week, we go to ancient Babylon.

   But, to tide you over, how about a picture of an angry bird and a toilet?

Because he has no hands, stepladder, or penis. 
And really needs to take a whiz. 
I'd be angry, too

Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Penwasser History of the World- Part VIII

NOTE:  I'll continue to post this disclaimer.  The past several posts and who-knows-how-many-to-come are merely what I can remember from the Penguin Academy of Our Lady of Barnum Avenue and History Class at Stratford High School while growing up older in Connecticut.  I will research some specifics, mostly dates and the most obscure of names, and I'll try to place historical events in their proper historical context.  Meaning, I won't have the Aztecs land on the moon.  Or...did they?  Anyway, please don't use any of this nonsense to prepare for the History Advanced Placement Examination.  If you do, the only college you'll get into is Klown Kollege and you'll probably be confused for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  Or Joe Biden.  Especially if you sniff their hair.


Meanwhile, Back in Mesopotamia
  Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians.  Oh, My.
Mostly Sumerians.  Okay, only Sumerians.

"Prom?"
    While the Egyptians were working up the nerve to ask their sisters out on a date, the peoples gathered around of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers regions decided their sisters weren't as hot as those Egyptian babes.  That being the case, they figured they may as well concentrate on inventing language, the wheel, dirty limericks, improved farming techniques, mud, irrigation, knock-knock jokes, and flaying.

NOTE:  Okay, the Mesopotamian Civilizations may have arisen first.  Or not.  I wasn't there.  Were you?  Besides, I wanted to write about the Egyptians last week.  So…shut up.

    Many civilizations arose during this time frame, but it was that
"Cleanliness is next to godliness, you know. 
On an unrelated matter,
I can't wait until pants are invented."
of the Sumerians which first burst onto the scene in 3,000 BC (give or take a hundred years…go ahead…count).  Their culture was very similar to that of the Egyptians.  However, their leaders weren't called "Pharoahs."  Neither were they considered divine, even though they carried out some priestly functions (early budget cuts, don'tcha know?).   And bathed regularly.  

    Each of their cities was the home of a particular Sumerian god:  Innana at Uruk, Nanna at Ur, and PopPop, god of Pepomint Lifesavers, from West Palm Eanna.  In the early dynastic period, circa 2,800 BC (give or tak a hun…oh, you know the drill), the Sumerians began building great stepped temples, called ziggurats, which paid extra homage to these deities.  And gave the Sumerians a nice place to entertain out of town guests.
"Let's see those know-it-all Egyptians top this!"


Sigh....

    These palatial structures gave birth to a sizable bureaucratic structure including specialized administrators, merchants, mimes, lobbyists, and, most importantly, scribes.  As the day to day running of the palace grew more complex, a need to keep written
I dunno.  It's all Greek to me.
records arose.  After all, using the backs of Hittite slaves to keep track of how many goats were sacrificed was considered impractical.  So, Leo Scribe of the Euphrates' Scribes hit upon the idea of scratching wedge-shaped figures into wet blocks of mud.  Thus, cuneiform was invented.  And an immediate shortage of mud tablets.

Colorforms would come much later.

   South of modern Iraq (yeah, that Iraq), the city of Ur dominated the region.  With its strong political organizations, wealth, and monopoly of clay tablets, it was the shining beacon to those rubes who wanted to make something of themselves away from one-goat towns such as West Palm Eanna.  In addition to everything else, Ur boasted the largest ziggurat in the region and a cosmopolitan scene which partied hard.  Well, until the sun went down (they were still having a little trouble figuring out how to keep the lights on.  Setting slaves on fire also proved impractical.  Seriously, what were they good for?). 

    Eventually, despite being united by King Lugalzagesi (of the Umma Lugalzagesis), the Sumerians were conquered by Sargon, King of Akkad in 2,400 BC (sounds pretty specific.  Then again, Leo the Scribe probably wrote the date down in mud) in his quest to found the First Galactic Empire in world history.

Sargon
Conqueror of Sumer
Calgon
Conqueror of Water Spots
    However, the Akkadian Empire began to decline once Sargon passed away from bad clams, a knife in the ribs, or old age (Sources are unclear...Leo never wrote it down).  Apparently, his kids weren't up to the task of taking on the Old Man's gig (ain't that always the way?).  All they
"Oh, yeah?  I would so kick your ass in Call of Duty
If it was invented yet. 
Well, let's eat some Tide Pods, instead. 
They haven't been invented yet, either? 
Shit."
apparently wanted to do was hang out with their friends, smoke rye ziggurats, and ride slaves down the steps of the ziggurat of Ur.


    So, around 2,050 BC (are any of you really going to check the accuracy of these dates?  I didn't think so), Ur once more rose to prominence, after the alien invaders were ousted by the great general, Urk-Trumpuk.  Under the 3rd Dynasty (no, I don't remember what the 1st and 2nd dynasties were.  I don't think it's important.  And neither should you) of Ur-Nammu, Sumerian culture reached its zenith. 

No wonder it eventually died. 
The Japanese made better models.
    Eventually, though, Ur would be absorbed by other powers and the civilization of Sumer would vanish into history as the first real culture studied by Elementary School history students before Summer ended (see what I did there?).

    Before studying the cool ones of the Greeks and Romans.

"At least the Romans became good Catholics.  
Who only tortured Zoroastrians, heretics, and Shriners.
Saints be praised."
    And, even though modern audiences consider the region to be a monolithic asylum of crazy people, it really was nothing of the sort.  It was a diverse asylum of crazy people.

    We'll meet some of those next week.

Next:  I finally get to Babylon and Assyrian.  Sumer took up more time than I thought.  Which is kinda surprising.  Because we were finished with the Sumerian civilization before the second week of the NFL season.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Sign Language XXVIII

"And, if you want to ever see it again, leave $500,000 in unmarked, non-sequential bills in front of the nearest Leslie's by midnight.  Or we'll take a box-cutter to the liner."

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A Penwasser History of the World-Part VII

 NOTE:  I'll continue to post this disclaimer.  I'd like to caution against using any of the nonsense below to study for the History Advanced Placement Examination.  If you do, the only college you'll get into is Klown Kollege and you'll probably be confused for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  Or Joe Biden.  Especially if you sniff their hair.

Egypt I
Mummies and Mayhem
They may have been compensating for something

    As we continue our story, we'll next concentrate on the goings-on in Egypt.  Of course, there was a lot happening in other parts of the world, most notably with the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Akkadians, Hittites, Tighty Whiteys, Phoenicians, Minoans, and Hebrews.  

    There were also the growing civilizations of the Indians,
Wrong Indians
Eskimos, Loyal Order of Water Buffalo, Mesoamericans and the Pacific (for all I know), not to mention those freezing their baguettes off up north.  When they weren't arranging boulders in circles just to confuse the hell out of future archeologists.

   However, the nuns never delved much into the latter group because they weren't proper Catholics (neither were the Assyrians I would have reminded them, were I not concerned for my knuckles).  That being the case, we'll stick with the Near East.  Mostly because that's what I remember.  Plus, I don't feel like doing much research into the others.

Meanwhile, in China...
    Rest assured, we'll get back to the Sumerians, et.al.  For now, though, let's direct our attention to the region centered on the Nile.  Okay, those other civilizations had their own rivers in the Tigris and Euphrates, but, yummy fertile crescent rolls notwithstanding, it was the Nile which really kicked ass.  And not just because it flowed from south to north-how freaky is that?*

    Shortly after being kicked out of Mesopotamia for playing their music too loud ("We don't want to be close to the Iranians, anyway.  Yeah, call them Persians all you want, but they're still nuts.  Have you seen "300?"), the folks who'd become the Egyptians headed down the desert a ways until they fell into a flowing body of water teeming with hippos, crocodiles, and birds with bad attitudes.
  
"No, seriously, come on in.  The water's fine."
    The peoples who would build one of the greatest empires of the ancient world noticed how frikkin' green it was around that whacky river.  Not only was it green, its flowing waters deposited vast amounts of fertile silt all along its banks.  They'd be able to plant all sorts of crops, once they evicted the crocs.   Plus, a vast amount of silt was deposited at the Delta Burke Nile Delta, just as it entered the Mediterranean Sea.  They didn't call it that, of course.  I think they called it the "Mediterranean Ocean." 

    Stupid early Egyptians.

"Okay, this sucks."  
"On the bright side, we'll have a bumper crop
 of asparagus."
 "But, our pee will smell."  
"Well, there is that."
    Anyway, they figured that it would be a great place to settle down, plant crops, and kill anyone who tried to muscle in on that sweet silt action, worship their gods, or criticize their taste in music.  Unfortunately, they learned that the largesse provided by the river came at a cost, since the Nile flooded on a regular basis.  
    
    Good news?  The receding waters left a land rich for agriculture.  Bad news?  Half the Egyptians built their houses too close to the river banks.  And drowned.

    Once they divided up the belongings of their ex-neighbors, after
"Uh....got any Diet Coke, instead?"
filing a claim with Mutual of Sinai for damages, pain, and suffering, they then thought it would be a good idea to form a central government to oversee the burgeoning society.  First, they established a capital at Memphis, a little south of what is now Cairo.  Then, they designated a ruler, which they called a "pharaoh" (Greek-or Latin-for "ruler."  Or "Yul Brynner."  Historical sources are unclear).

 
Wrong hippo.
  The regions of Lower (aka "South") and Upper (aka "Prime Farming Real Estate") were brought together after the lower region's ruler, Sherman I, abdicated in favor of seeking his dream of swimming with hippos farther south.   

    The first pharaoh of the United States of Egypt, Elvis I, tragically died when he choked on a Crocodile and Banana Sandwich whilst on the Royal Throne (aka "crapper") in his palace, Ibn-el Gracelandkhenaten.

    The reign of the next Pharaoh, Seti I, started off well.  He
I mean, come on, who could blame him?  
I'd risk cockroaches.
supervised many public works projects, built an impressive military, and forbade the serving of Crocodile and Banana sandwiches in the imperial cafeteria.  However, he was betrayed by his wife, the pharaohness, Anck-su-Namun, who began doing the wild thing with the high priest, Imhotep.  Apparently, the royal scepter wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

  She killed Seti when he walked in them, then killed herself, hoping that her lover would bring her back to life.  Imhotep, wanting nothing to do with any of that business, runs off to hide in the desert town of Hamunaptra, to possibly find refuge with Sherman and his band of swimming hippos.  

"I suppose a sincere apology and maybe 
some community service is out of the question...?"
    However, he's captured and mummified, along with his drinking buddies, who really should have stayed home instead of lying to their wives that they had to work late.  But, to show how hacked off the former pharaoh's bodyguards were, they cut off his tongue and pour in a bunch of scarabs (big Egyptian cockroaches) before they wrap the crap out of him in rolls of gauze from the Giza Branch of Johnson & Johnson.

    Eventually, Brendan Fraser would wake him after falling into a hole after being chased by Ottoman soldiers.

    But, that's another story. 

And a lot better than this steaming pile of crap.
    After Seti's death, the nascent Egyptian civilization continued on for thousands of years, starting with the Old Kingdom (when the great pyramids were built with extraterrestrial help...until Pharaoh Trumpenefru threw all the aliens off the planet), then the Middle Kingdom, then the New Kingdom, ending with the Cleopatra Kingdom starring Elizabeth Taylor around 40 BC (give or take a few years...go ahead...count) when the Romans got tired of those sister-marrying screwballs and just took over the whole shebang.
"My eyes are up here, Julius."
    In all that time, though, the other civilizations of the Near East were beginning to flourish.  Even though quite a bit happened around the lands of the Nile before the Egyptian sun finally set (and we'll get to it eventually), we'll now direct our attention to these other cultures.

    And, by "now," I mean "next week."

*it really isn't.

Next:  The Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians.  Oh, my.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sign Language XXVII

After 30 minutes, I got bored and left. 
 This wasn't nearly as exciting as I thought.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

A Penwasser History of the World-Part VI

NOTE:  I'll continue to post this disclaimer.  I'd like to caution against using any of the nonsense below to study for the History Advanced Placement Examination.  If you do, the only college you'll get into is Klown Kollege and you'll probably be confused for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  Or Joe Biden.  Especially if you sniff their hair.

Early Societies
Fertile Crescent Rolls 

This grew especially dangerous because 
sometimes their dinner chased them.
    Shortly after the Ice Age drew to a close (except in certain parts of Minnesota and Maine) in 11,000 BC (give or take a hundred years…go ahead, count), people started growing weary of chasing their dinner around the Savannah.  Or  anywhere not in Georgia.

    After all, it took a lot of effort driving mammoths off cliffs.  With that in mind, humans soon shifted away from a hunting-gathering existence to a more agricultural one.

The shift accelerated after the disastrous 
"Cave Bear Roundup" by the now-extinct Zug Clan.
    People had been munching on berries, grasses, vegetables, and things they dug up from the ground for thousands of years, of course.  Fruit was also a staple.  Especially when plucked from the branches of trees they'd been chased up by bears.

    But, I've always wondered what part of the human brain caused
But, not the bulls.  
As Herschel Zug found out to his dismay.
them to think that they could plant seeds in the ground to actually grow food.  Then again, somebody was the first to think that lobsters would make good eating.  Or that they could pull on the dangly bits of what we call cows (and they called Oprahs) to give them milk.  

  
   These initial forays into agriculture around 7,000 BC
"Now all we need is for someone to invent 
chips and football and we're set."
(give or take a hundred years...go ahead, count.) were primarily cereals such as emmer (whatever the frik that was), barley, rye, millet, hops, and bran (for the old people, who pretty much just sat around complaining about the weather).  Hops and barley were wildly popular once they discovered they could make beer out of them.


"Don't even think about it.  
Or do I need to remind you of what happened to the Zugs?"
   Early farmers also began herding certain other animals for their milk, meat, wool, animal products (bits of bone, sinew and intestines for condoms) and companionship for lonely farmers.  The first herd animals were goats, but later sheep, cattle, and pigs (this was before the invention of Jews and Muslims, so BLTs around the campfire were still okay) were added to the mix.  Attempts to herd gorillas were made, but they were shelved after a rash of "Poo-Flinging."  Plus, it was never a good idea to milk a gorilla.  Nothing much would come of it, they didn't find it sexy, and faces were often ripped off.

    Eventually, peoples gathered together into small communities.  Not only were they able to pool their talents and resources together, they gave each other neighbors about whom they could constantly bitch.  I'm sure some folks gathered together in the far north of the world, but these people were stupid.

    Most humans gathered together where it was warm and conducive to the growing of crops, herding of livestock, and not
Mesopotamia
Greek-or Latin-for "Between the Waters"
or "Here There Be Crazy People."
Huh.  Egypt, too?  Whaddya know.
freezing body parts off.  Yes, this included parts of China, Pakistan, and even Mesoamerica.  But, I'm going to concentrate on the Mesopotamian region of the world, also commonly referred to as the "Fertile Crescent."  It is here, in the lands of what are now parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Beheadistan, where the first cities were formed.


 
No phones, no lights, no motorcars, not a single luxury.
Not even dial-up cable.
  Most of their dwellings were constructed of mud wattle, grass sods, or primitive brick.  It was a pity that early man had hunted the Vinyl Sidinglytodon to extinction.  It would be many thousands of years before an artificial form of home construction would be invented in Levittown, Pennsylvania.


   This is also the time when mankind discovered he (or, most likely, she, because all the he's were busy chasing sheep and creating fantasy leagues for kicking skulls), could mash up grains with water, toss the mixture into an oven, and bake wonderful delicacies such as bread, charred bread, and fertile crescent rolls.
    
    However, they continued on with an ancient human tradition. 
Only now, since the Neanderthals were either wiped out or relocated to New Jersey, they raided other villages to pillage, kill, plunder, pull hair, and kidnap slutty sheep.


"Hey, there, Sailor.  Take me to your mud house?"

Next:  Egypt-You Mean I Can Marry My Sister?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy Independence Day

Or, for those who don't live in the United States...
Happy 4th of July!*

"Okay, everyone, listen up!  The order from Feinman's Deli on Market Street has come in.  Let's see, I have a tuna salad on whole wheat for Washington, grilled chicken, dark meat only-heard that's how you like it, Jefferson-on pumpernickel, liverwurst with sauerkraut on sourdough for-figures-Adams, and fish and chips for....for Pete's sake, Franklin, you do know why we're here, right?"


*
"Because every country has a 4th of July.  
Now, get back to work.  Especially you, England."