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6 Historical Events People Love to Reenact

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Their fans get up at the crack of dawn and drive, sometimes hundreds of miles, to empty fields where they put on an army uniform, pick up a bayonet, and faithfully reenact battles from the Revolutionary War. Or the Civil War. Or Desert Storm. Historical reenactments, known to their supporters as "living histories," are events where individuals attempt to faithfully portray an event of the past.  But wars aren't the only historical events that lend themselves to enthusiastic and accurate reenactments. Here are six examples that may not be as widely known, but certainly have faithful followings.

1. 1860s Baseball

When Major League Baseball went on strike in 1994, the Old Time Base-Ball League officially formed. Today, Old Time leagues exist all over the country; the largest league, with 11 teams, plays in Long Island, New York.  In period uniforms and language, the players and their fans (called "rooters," among other terms), who also dress in the fashion of the day, are as devoted to accuracy as they are to America's Pastime.  The players use real dinner plates as bases -- standard protocol in the late 1800s -- and the "hurler" pitches underhand. Hand-sewn, leather-bound baseballs are caught with bare hands, and balls caught on a bounce are an "out." Should you ever decide to take up a bat, remember it's four strikes and you're out at the old ball game.

Conan O'Brien caught wind of the league, and decided to check it out.  In his typical fashion, much hilarity ensued.  On his final show, Conan called his 1860s Baseball experience his favorite clip in Late Night history:

2. The Fur Trade


In the early 19th century, the fur trade was one of the biggest moneymakers for settlers in the American West.  The trappers, also called Mountaineers or Mountain Men, trapped and skinned animals and transported the pelts back to St. Louis, Missouri, where they sold the furs or traded them for supplies. After this, the furs were made into fashionable hats and the like for well-off patrons on the East Coast. Around 1825, the trappers realized that they could make even more money by trading the furs in their local mountainous surroundings. These annual summer gatherings, called "Rendezvous," became blowout parties between the trappers and traders. 

The annual Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous is a living history and reenactment that celebrates frontier life and the fur trade enterprise of the American West. True to history, the person in charge is called a "Bushway" (or "Booshway"), a term derived from the French word "Bourgeois."Â  The Bushway was the supervisor of indentured trappers and fur traders who were forced to work for the fur trade.  Participants don't always follow scripts; they simply want to give each other and viewers a taste of what it would have been like to be at a real Rendezvous. [Image courtesy of High Plains Regional Rendezvous.]

3. 19th Century Women's Education

CSA.jpgDo you want to know how to sip tea like a lady? Ballroom dance? Curtsy in a hoop skirt? Every summer, the historical Athenaeum Rectory in Columbia, Tennessee, transforms into an 1861 Girls' School for a week.  "Students" between 14 and 18 years old come from all over the world to learn what a girl would have learned in the 19th century: etiquette, Latin, dancing, hairstyling, mourning customs, and other vital skills. The faculty members are also faithful reenactors as well as devoted educators. To get the full experience, the girls stay in costume (often in gowns they sewed themselves!) and character all week and board with local families, who are also reenactors.  At the end of the week, a grand ball is held along with commencement ceremonies.

4. Old West Train Robberies

No reenactment of the wild, wild West would be complete without a legendary train robbery reminiscent of the heists pulled by Jesse James and Butch Cassidy. Today, modern citizens transform themselves into gun-slinging outlaws and the sheriffs that dutifully take them down. Thankfully, the riders of the train coach expect the bombardment -- complete with weapons and horses -- and enjoy the experience. However, in December 2008, at a staged train robbery in Wisconsin, two people were shot when an actor's gun mistakenly loaded with birdshot went off.  Fortunately, the injuries were not serious.

5. Pirating


This is not Disney-approved-Jack-Sparrow fare. Members of The Pirate Brethren are sticklers for accurate portrayal of the piracy that once ruled the waters. The Pirate Brethren live by their tagline: "Being a gathering place for Pyrates, Buccaneers, their Associates, and Accomplices, in the latter quarter of the 17th and early decades of the 18th centuries."Â  The group boasts an annual meeting of enthusiasts called the Adelphi Mill Pyrate Feast, and they portray pirates as both soldiers and common sailors year round.  They wear appropriate attire that allows them to carry six pistols and a sword. And an axe. Be ye prepared. [Image courtesy of Pirate Brethren.]

6. The Far Side

This has been bouncing around the Internet for a bit, and even though it's not a live reenactment, it sure is hilarious.  As a community on Flickr, fans of Gary Larson's Far Side comic strips stage photo reenactments of their favorite scenes. Some classic reenacting honors go to:

The School of Geniuses

Went to Market

Objects in Mirror"¦

[Image courtesy of Flickr user WayneWho.]

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
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Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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