The Quick 10: 10 Book Burnings

This weekend, sadly, marks the anniversary of the bonfire of the vanities. Not the novel from the "˜80s, but the actual bonfire of the vanities, the event in 1497 when thousands of objects that might tempt people to sin were reduced to nothing but ash. Unfortunately, burnings such as this one weren't that unusual "“ they have happened many times over the course of history and have cost us countless priceless works of art.

SAVONAROLA1. The bonfire of the vanities, 1497. These days the phrase refers to any time a mass burning of literature and the arts takes place, but this is the one that really gave birth to the term. A Dominican priest by the name of Girolamo Savonarola declared a long laundry list of items immoral and sinful: cosmetics, mirrors, games, paintings, pagan books, sculptures, fancy clothing, instruments and much, much more. He and his followers rallied the public to rid themselves of all things, and on February 7, 1497, they burned a massive pile of stuff, sending swirls of smoke across Florence for days. It's been said that we lost many Botticelli paintings to this particular fire, possibly at the hands of Botticelli himself. The tables had turned by 1498, though, and Savonarola was executed in a particularly gruesome but fitting way: he was burned to death on the same spot where his famed bonfire of the vanities had taken place a little more than a year earlier.

2. Roman history, 25 AD. Imagine having a detailed account of Roman history before 25 AD. We have pieces of things now, sure, but Senator Aulus Cremutius Cordus wrote all about the civil war and the reign of Caesar Augustus. In 25 AD, he displeased the wrong people. His persecutors, namely Sejanus, said he was trying to turn Julius Caesar's assassin, Brutus, into a hero; his supporters say that he criticized Sejanus for commissioning a statue of himself and Sejanus wasn't too pleased about that. At any rate, Cordus was forced to kill himself and copies of his works were burned. His daughter managed to save some of his writing, but only bits and pieces of it have made it to the present day.

3. The Royal Library of Alexandria. We think this Egyptian institution was founded sometime around the third century B.C. and contained tons of valuable stuff. Imagine all of the information we might have had if its entire contents hadn't perished in a fire on four separate occasions, including once when Julius Caesar accidentally burned it down in 48 B.C. when he set fire to his own ships. Well, ancient accounts seem to agree that it was an accident "“ modern accounts aren't always so forgiving. The other times the library was torched involved anti-Christian or anti-Pagan movements (whatever was in vogue at the time).

4. The works of Abelard, 1121. Theologian Peter Abelard suffered a couple of devastating blows in pretty short order in the 1100s. First, his now-famous love affair and marriage to Heloise was exposed; Heloise was sent to a nunnery and Abelard was castrated. Then, a few years later, Abelard's interpretations of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit were called heresy. He was locked up in a monastery, but not before he was forced to burn all of his work.

VALLEY5. The Valley of the Squinting Windows, 1918. Not all book burnings are religious in nature. This burning happened because the town in the novel seemed to closely resemble the real-life Irish village of Delvin. The author's depiction of the townspeople was not very kind "“ the whole book was about how the town was gossipy and overly concerned with trying to keep up with other families in terms of possessions and accomplishments. Apparently it hit a little too close to home and the town held a mass burning of the book.

6. Braille books, 1842. Oh, that evil Braille system!! About 20 years after its invention, officials at the school for the blind in Paris started to think that if blind people were able to read on their own, there would be no use for teachers to help them and countless people would be out of jobs. Therefore, in a really sane move, the director of the institute demanded that books written in Braille should be incinerated. As you can see by our widespread use of Braille today, his efforts didn't really work.

7. Comic books, 1948. Thanks to the "findings" of Dr. Fredric Wertham in an article he titled "Horror in the Nursery," parents of the "˜40s decided they were tired of their kids being corrupted by the violence in crime comics. They arranged mass burnings, notably in Binghamton, New York, and Spencer, West Virginia. The craze didn't quite end there, though "“ in 1949, more researchers had jumped on the bandwagon and declared that "comic books train kids like animals, by breaking their spirit." Not only that, but characters such as Superman were completely messing with the ideas kids were forming about the laws of physics "“ after all, people can't really fly.

VERSES8. The Satanic Verses, 1988. The book that still has Salman Rushdie keeping a watchful eye on his surroundings was controversial from the beginning. Some considered it blasphemous, and not only were book burnings held around the world, bookstores that deigned to carry it were actually bombed.

9. Harry Potter. Believing the wildly popular books promote the occult, religious organizations have held book burning parties since the Chosen One was just an orphan under the stairs on Privet Drive. They're not always burned though "“ when one group was denied a permit to hold a public bonfire due to "toxic emissions used by the ink," they held a slashing instead"¦ because the town should be much more comfortable with a mob of people wielding knives, right?

10. The Great Fire of London, 1666. Here's an accidental book burning for you. In 1666, a bunch of the town's most beloved literature was stored in an underground crypt in Old St. Paul's Cathedral. Because it was stone-lined, it was believed that the books would be OK if fire befell the place. And it might have, if falling stones hadn't busted through the top of the crypt. Once that happened, the fire made its way through and the vast collection of books and scrolls only served to make the place burn faster.




10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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