Falcons’ marketing department takes a short siesta

falcons graphic

It’s long been a running joke that football players are better known for brawn than brains. Apparently, the marketing department of at least one professional football team didn’t pay all that much attention in college, either.

The Atlanta Falcons will be in London this weekend to play the Detroit Lions, part of the National Football League’s effort to broaden its fan base.

To give Falcons fans an inside look at the team’s journey across the Atlantic, the club posted the above infographic detailing the travel schedule.

Someone’s lack of geography knowledge could have proven costly, as the graphic showed the team traveling first to Baltimore and then to somewhere in Spain, rather than London, which would have left them more than 900 miles south of Wembley Stadium.

Fortunately, the Falcons were alerted to the mistake and corrected the error, greatly diminishing chances that a group of extremely large, muscular and no doubt irate men would be left wandering the confines of Barcelona Airport.

(HT: Deadspin)

When mapmaking was equal parts art and utility

train map

Some have the ability to recall precise swathes of knowledge from their schooling. I am not one of those individuals.

While I can recollect misdeeds, mishaps and the occasional bout of corporate punishment, there are very few specific bits of knowledge I can remember being imparted some 40-plus years after I began elementary school.

One nugget that I do clearly recall involved a second-grade social studies lesson detailing why movable objects such as cars and planes didn’t make the cut when cartographers create maps. They are, of course, impermanent and most likely wouldn’t be in the same place the next day, making them useless to individuals attempting to navigate based on landmarks shown on a map.

Apparently, this is a relatively new concept for mapmakers, as evidenced by the blog Trains in Towns, which highlights steam locomotives shown on old-time maps.

Evidently, detailing train tracks, a permanent landscape feature, wasn’t enough for cartographers of the 19th and early 20th century to demonstrate the existence of rail lines.

Many of the so-called “bird’s-eye” or panoramic maps of the era show steam locomotives chugging along, belching out smoke and pulling cars through towns and cities.

These maps often feature other transient objects, as well, including ships at anchor, horse-drawn carriages, people walking down dusty lanes and even animals frolicking in fields.

I’m partial to the bird’s eye map of Columbia, SC, from 1872, which is on display at the local library. It shows not only trains, but, among other transitory features, horses galloping around a local race track.

The mapmakers of the period were, it would seem, creating works which could serve artistic as well as utilitarian purposes.

(Top: 19th century bird’s-eye map of unidentified river town showing steam locomotive, riverboats and horses pulling carriages. Source: Trains in Towns.)

How King, Coca-Cola helped erode segregation in Atlanta

MLK and Jacob Rothschild

Fifty years ago this month Martin Luther King Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence.

King, an Atlanta native who had been actively working against segregation in the South for at least a decade when he was recognized with the honor, initiated a fundamental change in his home city’s business, religious and racial cultures when blacks and whites came together for the first time to share a meal in public to recognize the new Nobel laureate, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Not surprisingly given the climate of the era, the change didn’t come easily.

King was Atlanta’s best-known figure in 1964 and the first Georgian to win the Nobel Peace Prize, but the question of how a segregated city would celebrate the accomplishments of a black man wasn’t an easy one to work out, according to the publication.

“ … the races didn’t mix, and King was still black. The immediate question became, how do you honor the man who was now the city’s most recognizable figure?”

Initially, there was talk in the black community about perhaps having a dinner at Paschal’s, where Civil Rights leaders had often met to discuss strategy. However, it was recognized that King should be received by the entire city, not just a segment.

Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, along with Catholic Archbishop Paul Hallinan, Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays, Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill and Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., formed a core group of organizers who set their sights on having a huge banquet at the Dinkler Plaza Hotel downtown, so that King might be honored by a gamut of Atlanta residents, according to the Journal-Constitution.

However, even after the dinner had been announced and a date set, no one bought tickets. Atlanta’s business community wasn’t buying into the idea.

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Old quarry offers spectacular view of past, present

Abby's photos 10 5 2014 433

There’s something about abandoned quarries that I find utterly alluring. The steep walls, deep pools of dark water, and abundant vegetation and wildlife enable me to imagine myself standing abreast a beautiful Nordic tarn.

This past weekend proved a wonderful opportunity to visit one of the area quarries, so Daughter No. 4 and I drove to Fairfield County, SC, to the old Anderson Quarry, which produced some of the world’s finest blue granite from 1898 through 1946. She is a talented artist and I knew she’d have an opportunity to take some spectacular photographs.

Once populated by an array of workers, skilled and unskilled, with some from as far away as Scotland and Italy, today the quarry is filled with emerald-green water that’s home to largemouth bass and bream. Hawks and buzzards fly overhead, and innumerable other critters – from lizards and turtles to velvet ants and ridiculous amounts of mosquitos – scuttle, scurry and buzz among 40-ton blocks of granite, cut but never delivered.

The quarry was operated by the Winnsboro Granite Co., which provided building materials for many of the nation’s most elaborate structures, including the Flat-Iron Building in New York and the Land Title and Trust Building in Philadelphia.

“The granite is uniform in color and texture, possesses good working qualities, is susceptible of a high polish, and is admirably adapted to monumental purposes. The product is used chiefly for monumental stock, and is reported to have been so used in twenty-four States,” according to a 1910 US Geological Survey titled “Granites of the Southeastern Atlantic States.”

Interestingly, nearly a quarter century after the quarry closed, blue granite was named South Carolina’s state stone, in 1969.

Today, all that remains of the once prosperous operation is decaying machinery, including a crane derrick that rests against a granite wall, 100-plus feet above the water’s surface, abandoned quarry structures, all built of granite, and an array of rusting pipes, likely used decades ago to pump water from the quarry to allow work to continue unabated.

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Amazon.com: Saving us from ourselves, one cartoon at a time

tom and jerryMedia outlets are reporting that Amazon Prime Instant Video is warning subscribers who view old Tom and Jerry cartoons that the venerable series may depict scenes of “racial prejudice.”

The cartoons, produced between 1940 and 1957, are being tagged by Amazon for its depiction of a black maid and for the use of blackface in some episodes.

Tom and Jerry: The Complete Second Volume is accompanied by this warning: “Tom and Jerry shorts may depict some ethnic and racial prejudices that were once commonplace in American society. Such depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.”

Amazon’s warning says such prejudice was once “commonplace” in US society, according to the BBC.

The warning was attacked as “empty-headed” by sociology professor Frank Furedi of the University of Kent, who said it was a form of a “false piousness” and a type of censorship which “seems to be sweeping cultural life.”

“We’re reading history backwards, judging people in the past by our values,” Furedi said.

Tom and Jerry was a longtime mainstay on American and British children’s programming, and can still be seen today.

However, it does seem rather difficult to believe that there’s a need to attach a warning to a children’s cartoon that identifies the stereotyping of blacks as wrong. Blackface is pretty much accepted as verboten in our culture today and has been for several decades.

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Death by football: Remembering a college friend 10 years later

justin Strzelczyk

It is not news to anyone who follows professional sports that the National Football League has some serious problems, including issues with domestic abuse, banned substances and players suffering debilitating and life-shortening injuries with all-too alarming frequency.

While this crisis seems to some a recent phenomenon, it’s not. The light has only been shined on it with greater intensity recently.

I remember when I got my first real inkling that something was wrong – really wrong – with professional football. It was perhaps 18 or 19 years ago, while watching a game involving the Pittsburgh Steelers. I don’t remember who the Steelers were playing, but I do remember a specific play which was run toward the Steelers’ sideline, where Pittsburgh players not in the game were standing.

As one of the opposing players slowed up as he ran out of bounds at the end of the play, a Pittsburgh player standing along the sideline took the opportunity to deliver what in football parlance is known as a “forearm shiver,” clocking his opponent with a forearm to the head. As the opponent, not surprisingly, wasn’t expecting a blow, it had a powerful effect.

I remember the network catching the infraction and showing it again, and highlighting the culprit. It was Justin Strzelczyk, a grizzly bear of an offensive lineman. The incident was shocking not because of what happened – most every NFL game has cheap shots and late hits – but because of who committed the offense.

It stunned me because Strzelczyk, who I’d known in college, had been one of the most easygoing individuals I’d known during my time at the University of Maine. He may have been a 6-foot-6, 250-plus pound football player, but he was a genuinely good-natured guy.

I’d actually met him during his recruiting visit to Maine in 1986, when he was still a senior in high school. My dorm room was across the hall from that of one of the captains of the football team. Recruits are paired up with current team members when they visit campus and Strzelczyk spent the weekend of his recruiting visit across the hall, when he wasn’t out getting his first taste of college life.

That weekend, amid the beer, girls and good times of college, Strzelczyk was in hog heaven. I wasn’t surprised when he opted to attend Maine. We remained friends and would chat whenever we  bumped into each other on campus up until I graduated in 1988.

Strzelczyk continued to improve and was a starter and standout during the latter part of his career at Maine. The last time I saw him, ironically, was in April 1990. I’d gone back to Maine to visit some friends still in school and it happened to be the first day of that year’s NFL draft.

While walking on campus we saw each other and talked briefly; I asked him if he thought he’d be drafted. He replied that he hoped so, but he’d have to wait and see. He still had an easy way about him, despite the fact that he was hours away from learning what the future held for him.

In the end, the Pittsburgh Steelers picked him in the 11th round, No. 293 overall. Normally, 11th round draft choices don’t have much of chance of making it in the NFL, but Strzelczyk, who had size, aptitude and desire going for him, made the team.

Over the next nine seasons, Strzelczyk would play in 173 games for the Steelers, starting 75. He was versatile, starting at every position on the offensive line except center. He even played in Super Bowl XXX.

His career came to a close, as nearly all do in the NFL, because of an injury. He suffered a quadriceps tear during a game in 1998, and then was hurt the following year in bar fight. Finally, he suffered another injury during a celebrity hockey game in 2000 and was shortly afterward released by the Steelers.

Without football, Strzelczyk’s life seemed to come apart at the seams. He and his wife of eight years divorced in 2001; he was arrested for drinking and driving in 2003; and his behavior became increasingly erratic.

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Investigating the rich history of Lowcountry rice farming

rice barge

When one thinks of antebellum agriculture, one typically thinks of cotton. Indeed, by 1860 Southern farms and plantations supplied 75 percent of the world’s cotton, and Gossypium hirsutum was the dominant agricultural crop from the Carolinas to Texas.

Cotton was such an important part of the pre-war South that the Confederacy believed it would be the ultimate instrument of its independence.

Much less well known today is the princely standing held by another Deep South crop during the days before the War Between the States – that of rice.

Rice was introduced to the United States in the 17th century and is reported to have been cultivated in Virginia almost as soon as the first settlers landed at Jamestown, but it was in the marshy, humid regions of Lowcountry South Carolina and Georgia that the crop flourished.

Rice planters couldn’t have succeeded without the forced labor of slaves, particularly those from the Senegambia area of West Africa and coastal Sierra Leone.

At the port of Charleston, slaves with knowledge of rice culture brought the highest price and were put to use on rice plantations around Charleston, Georgetown, S.C., and Savannah, Ga.

A new book by Richard Dwight Porcher Jr. and William Robert Judd detailing the once-great Lowcountry rice industry states that nowhere else was an agricultural crop so intimately tied to status and its associated wealth and influence as rice was to the Lowcountry.

The Market Preparation of Carolina Rice: An Illustrated History of Innovations in the Lowcountry Rice Kingdom is an extensive account of the rice industry in Lowcountry South Carolina and Georgia.

market preparation“… the real strength of this book is the author’s documentation based on extensive field research of fifty rice plantations, mill sites, museum and archival collections and travels to investigate foreign connections to the Lowcountry rice industry,” according to a review by the Charleston Post and Courier.

The work, published by University of South Carolina Press, which contains “meticulously rendered line drawings depicting the mechanical devices of the rice industry, lend a startling clarity to the written explanations of how they actually functioned and what part each played in the crop’s journey from the field to the consumer,” the publication adds.

The Market Preparation of Carolina Rice identifies the inventiveness of Deep South planters, recognizing that the U.S. Patent Office granted substantial numbers of antebellum patents to South Carolinians for inventions or improvement for rice harvesting and milling equipment alone.

It also recognizes the contributions of slaves “whose blood and sweat transformed inland swamps and riverine marshes into the remarkably dynamic hydraulic systems that composed the sweeping rice fields of the Lowcountry,” according to the Post and Courier.

The book doesn’t gloss over the fact that slaves worked in brutal conditions, explaining “that tidal river marshes were an extremely harsh environment just to exist in, let alone to work in. As it proved, an enslaved work force was the essential element in the survival of the Rice Kingdom, for without them the days of glory were over.”

(Top: Image showing the unloading of rice barges on a 19th century South Carolina rice plantation.)