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Life in Missoula, Montana.

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Posted by on in History


vladOne of the most interesting figures in history is Vlad III, later known as Vlad Tepes. He is commonly known as Vlad the Impaler. He was known to sign his name as Vlad Draculea which means "son of the dragon". Because of this fact, he is often thought to have been the inspiration of the book Dracula, by Bram Stoker. He was Prince, or Voivode, of Wallachia two different times, fighting against the invading Ottoman Turks. Vlad's cruelty and his habit of impaling enemies is pretty well known. What's not as well known is that Vlad was considerd by many, especially in his native Romania, to be a hero. He was seen as a great leader who reclaimed control of the country from the corrupt aristocrats of the time (the Boyars). Though he had hundreds of Boyars impaled and made others build his castle by hand, his methods were seen as harsh but necessary for the times. When Vlad was crowned as ruler the second time, one chronicle said "Voivode Vlad sat on the throne and all the country came to pay respect, and brought many gifts and they went back to their houses with great joy. And Voievod Vlad with the help of God grew into much good and honor as long as he kept the reign of those just people". Wow. Really?

In 1459 Pope Pius II proposed a new crusade against the Ottomans. He paid Matthias Corvinus, the son of the King of Hungary, to mount an expedition against the Ottomans. Vlad sided with Matthias Corvinus. When the Ottoman ruler sent messengers to Vlad asking him to submit to Ottoman rule, Vlad resisted in no uncertain terms. You see, the Turkish messengers refused to remove their turbans in Prince Vlad's presence. He had their turbans nailed to their heads so they could keep them on always. The Ottoman ruler got the message. Vlad fought the Ottomans for years, achieving many victories along the way, and killing thousands of Ottoman Turks. His victories were celebrated by the Saxon cities of Transylvania, by the Italian States, and by the Pope himself. Depending on which version you follow, Vlad either turned back the Ottomans and was then betrayed by Matthias Corvinus, or the Ottomans eventually overwhelmed his lesser forces and Vlad was forced to flee to Hungary. In either case, Vlad was imprisoned in Hungary for several years. He converted from Orthodoxy to Roman Catholocism after his release in 1475. In 1476, Vlad was trying to reclaim the throne of Wallachia for a third time (with the support of Hungary) when he was killed.

Poenari CastleVlads' Castle, Poenari Castle, Romania

So, accounts of Vlad's life vary depending on who you talk to. The Turks called him "Kaziglu Bey", which meant "The Impaler Prince". Since Germn merchants were often the targets of his punishments, the German sources often portray him as a sadistic, inhuman monster. Russian princes of the time were facing problems from the aristocratic Boyars, and many of Vlad's most cruel punishments had been meted out to the Boyars in Wallachia. Consequently, Russian sources tend to portray Vlad as a cruel prince, but one who acted in the best interests of the people against a troublesome and corrupt Boyar class. Romanian folklore has been kindest to Vlad's memory. Though his cruelties are not overlooked, he is often known as the man who selflessly defended Wallachia against the invading Turks. Were it not for his cruelty and determination, the country would have been lost. In addition, Romanian tales often focus on Vlad's efforts to eliminate crime and dishonesty under his rule while downplaying the inhuman and gruesome punishments he meted out.

Most poeple who know anything of Vlad the Impaler know him as a heartless and sadistic tyrant. He was known to have impaled, hanged and beheaded hundreds, maybe thousands of people. He was also a man who made generous donations to various churches and monasteries, and fought a war on the side of Christianity. He defended his country against an army of foreign invaders, and helped to keep the Ottoman Empire from taking over parts of Serbia and the Italian States. We'll probably never know the full truth about the man and his life, but if you read a little history, you're bound to find out some things you didn't know.

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Posted by on in History

If you ever think your life is bad, or that your job is difficult, here's a tidbit from history that might make you think again. 

widbyeph Merrick lived in England in the late 1800's. From a very early age his body grew deformed and mis-shapen. His skin was thick and lumpy. His head was huge and oddly shaped, and his lips were enlarged to the point where he had trouble speaking. One hand and both feet were severely enlarged. His appearance was so grotesque that he frightened strangers. His head was so big and heavy that he had to sleep sitting up or risk breaking his neck. Now, I think we can all agree that his was a sad situation, but that's not the worst part. What's worse, what absolutely horrifies me is that widbyeph Merrick, from the ages of roughly thirteen to seventeen, was a door to door salesman! I can't even imagine a worse personal situation. This teenager, who was later exhibited as a sideshow freak known as The Elephant Man, had to go door to door and try to sell things to strangers. I'm just going to let the horror of that sink in ... 

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Posted by on in History

Sometimes the most important events in history are the ones that don't happen.

In September of 1777, General Washington and another officer were scouting an area around Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania. They were looking for the right place to position Washington's troops in order to stop the enemy's army. They were in a wooded area along the creek when they came across a British Army officer, Captain Patrick Ferguson. It just so happened that Ferguson was the inventor of the first breech loading rifle, and he carried one with him that day. For those of you who don't know, a rifle is a lot more accurate than a musket. Ferguson's rifle could shoot much farther, faster, and more accurately than any other gun on the field at the time. Ferguson saw the two enemy officers approaching, though he had no way of knowing that one of them was the American commander, George Washington. He raised his rifle and called to the two men to surrender. The officer with Washington shouted a warning. Washington wheeled his horse and galloped away. Ferguson aimed his high-tech rifle. He had George Washington in his sights, but he lowered his gun. He could not bring himself to shoot a man in the back. America had come that close to losing its greatest general and its first president. A slight twitch of Ferguson's trigger finger would have changed our country forever.

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Posted by on in Drumming


1. Drumming is for everyone
Drumming does not require advanced physical abilities or specialized talents. It does not require participants to read music or understand music theory. Drumming, even a simple pattern, offers benefits to a huge range of people. Drumming is a universal language. It transcends gender, race, age, and nationality. In fact, nearly every culture on earth has some form of drumming tradition.

Furthermore, group drumming and drum therapy is currently being used for people with brain injuries or impairment, physical injuries, arthritis, addictions, and more. Studies are finding numerous health benefits from drumming for people with these conditions.

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Posted by on in The Necropocalypse


Zombies are everywhere these days. Ok, not actual zombies, but shows about zombies, books about zombies, websites about zombies, everything about zombies. Here in Missoula we have a zombie film fest and a company called Zombie Tools that makes actual swords for killing zombies. Zombies are a big part of our pop culture these days, and you might say that a lot of people have an obsession with zombies. The big question is why? What's the attraction? Why all the interest in zombies? I've studied the issue and come up with some answers.

Since the caveman days, humans have been wired for danger, for survival. Zombies strike a primitive chord in us on both counts. Our modern world is orderly and safe. It's well-lit and better organized. We have police and firemen to protect us from dangers, and most urban dwellers don't have to worry about facing a saber-toothed tiger on their way to work. We're wired to look out for danger, though, and zombies satisfy that. Part of our primitive brain is still focused on survival, but a lot of those primitive dangers are gone. Zombies show up, though, and suddenly the primitive survival part of our brains light up. It turns out a little danger, even if its only a movie, sparks something deep inside of us. Look at the popularity of Stephen King books, monster movies, slasher movies. We like to be scared. We might even need it, in controlled doses. Zombies let us focus on danger and survival in a way that our rgular lives don't.


There are a lot of scary creatures out there in the horror genre, and none of them have grabbed our collective consciousness like zombies. Why? Because of the good old zombie apocalypse. Yeah, not only are zombies scary, they come with their own full blown apocalypse. A total break down of society. Suddenly our organized, well-lit lives are plunged into darkness and confusion. All the institutions that protect us are gone. Chaos rules, and we must survive. Suddenly life is primitive and fierce. Our primeval lizard brains are finally in charge. Survival. When we think of zombies, we also get to think about how to prepare, what we need, what we would do. Survival. The primitive part of our brain is happy.

Another advantage of zombies is that they are adaptable. They come about because of a mysterious plague, or vague viruses. No one really knows how zombies are made. Because of this, zombies can show up anywhere. Any country, any climate, any time frame. Zombies show up in adapted Jane Austin novels, in The Civil War, in the Dark Ages. It may be hard to justify space aliens showing up in the Middle Ages, or killer pterodactyls attacking New York City, but a zombie virus could happen anywhere, any time.


The best thing about zombies, though, is that they're approachable. I mean that, as monsters go, a zombie is a creature that you think you might be able to fight. An old-style vampire with inhuman strength and supernatural powers? No. A super-advanced alien with high-tech weapons? No way. How about a thirty foot, irradiated spider? No. Nobody wants to fight any of those things, but a zombie looks like a possibility. First off, they're slow, especially if you're looking at the old George Romero ones like in Night of The Living Dead. They shamble and stumble around, and even an average person might think they have a chance against one. Second, they're not very intelligent. By definition, nearly all of their higher brain functions have ceased. We like to outwit people (and animals) that are dumber than we are. It makes us feel smart and capable. It's another reason we like zombies. Lastly, zombies are unarmed. We don't have to worry about them attacking us with guns, bazookas, or rocket launchers. Most versions of zombies are not even smart enough to wield clubs or sticks. That means that we can fight them with anything from hammers and baseball bats to pitchforks, shovels, and crowbars. No fancy weapons needed. All this combined makes us look at zombies and think that we have a pretty good chance of fighting them. With the right weapons, and strategy, defeating a bunch of them looks possible, even to someone who hasn't spent lots of time in the gym or the dojo. 

So, that's the attraction of zombies. They give us all sorts of opportunities to use the survival and fight instincts we still have ratlling around in the primeval parts of our brains. They seem vulnerable enough that an average person could fight them, and live. Plus they give people a good excuse to go online and look up all sorts of interesting stuff about weapons and tactics and how to prepare for the next necropocalypse. We get to use a little imagination, and best of all, since zombies don't actually exist, we can all pretend it's just a fun diversion.

hate zombies_sticker_400       Sticker from Missoula's Zombie Tools


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