Detail of Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement” (Sistine Chapel). Saint Bartholomew holding the knife of his martyrdom and his flayed skin. The face of the skin is Michelangelo’s.

Bartholomew is one of the more mysterious of the 12 Apostles.

Apart from the mentions of him in four of the Apostle lists (Mark 3:18, Matt. 10:3, Luke 6:14, and Acts 1:13), nothing is known about him from the New Testament (EB).

The mystery is that Bartholomew is mentioned in the Apostle lists, but Nathanael is not, even though Nathanael’s call to be an apostle is described by John (“Jesus said, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!'”). One solution to this mystery is a 9th-century tradition that Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person, whose full name was Nathanael bar Tolmai (“Bartholomew”)(EB).

Legend has it that Bartholomew spread the Gospel to India and Armenia, among other places (EB).

Wikipedia (“Bartholomew the Apostle”) notes the following about his death:

Christian tradition has three stories about Bartholomew’s death: ‘One speaks of his being kidnapped, beaten unconscious, and cast into the sea to drown. Another account states that he was crucified upside down, and another says that he was skinned alive and beheaded in Albac or Albanopolis’, near Başkale, Turkey.

The account of Bartholomew being skinned alive is the most represented in works of art, and consequently Bartholomew is often shown with a large knife, holding his own skin (as in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment), or both.

Thus Bartholomew joins many of the other disciples in tremendous suffering or death (Peter, crucified upside down; Paul, beheaded; Stephen, stoned; John, doused in boiling oil and exiled).

Josh McDowell uses their martyrdom to make an interesting argument in his book A Ready Defense.

If the story of Christ’s resurrection were untrue, why were the disciples so willing to suffer torture and even death?

Being contemporaries of Christ, each disciple was easily in a position to find evidence for the “legend” of Christ’s resurrection being a lie.

The Bible claims that there were over 500 eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ:

I Corinthians 15:6 “After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep [i.e., died].”(NIV)

If being a Christian put my life at risk (as it did in ancient Rome), I would have certainly questioned very carefully some of those eyewitnesses, and these martyrs could have done the same.

These early Christians went to their deaths for the belief that God forgives sinners who turn away from their sins and that He will someday raise them from the dead, as He did Christ, and take them to heaven.

Were they right?






10 Fun Facts about the Statue of Liberty: Bartholdi, Frederic (1834-1904)

1880 : Bartholdi’s The Lion of Belfort, in Belfort, France, a massive sculpture of a lion carved into the side of a mountain, depicting the huge struggle of the French to hold off the Prussian assault at the end of the Franco-Prussian War. Bartholdi was an officer himself during this period, attached to Garibaldi. 
  1. The Statue of Liberty was actually named by its sculptor Frederic Bartholdi Liberty Enlightening the World (EB, “Statue of Liberty“).
  2. The Statue actually has a design patent: U.S. Patent D11,023 (WP, “Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi”).
  3. It was the largest work of its kind that had ever been completed up to that time, but was the tallest structure in New York City for only four years, until the New York World Building surpassed it at 349 feet in 1890 (WP).
  4. It was rumored in France that the face of the Statue of Liberty was modeled after Bartholdi’s mother (WP):


5. The statue, mounted on its pedestal, was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886 (EB).

6. Parts of the Statue have actually been redesigned.  Over the years the torch underwent several modifications, including its conversion to electric power in 1916 and its redesign (with repoussé copper sheathed in gold leaf) in the mid-1980s (EB). (“Repoussé” is “shaped or ornamented with patterns in relief made by hammering or pressing on the reverse side —used especially of metal,” according to Merriam Webster.)

7. The Statue was first administered as a lighthouse, then as part of an Army base.  It wasn’t until 1933 that it was administered by the National Park Service (EB).

8. From 1886 until 1916, you could use a service ladder inside the arm to go up to the torch (EB).

9. The Statue was an early example of crowd funding:  The design patent covered the sale of small copies of the statue. Proceeds from the sale of the statues helped raise modest but insufficient money to build the full statue (WP).

10. You can buy one of the models used to fund the Statue for $2750 on eBay. (It was only $5.00 originally.)(



Sources: WP = Wikipedia; EB = Encyclopedia Britannica

Photo sources: Wikimedia and eBay.







Not just alcohol, but tabasco sauce and balsamic vinegar are aged in wooden barrels!

It takes more than a year to make the barrels, then the aging process for some products may take another 3 years.

These products remind me of cheese (see my post on “Aveyron, France”) because of the surprising number of variables that can be manipulated:

  • the type of wood
  • where the wood came from
  • how the staves were cut and dried
  • the degree of barrel charring
  • whether the barrels have previously been used to age another product
  • how the long the aging process takes

Britannica makes it clear that barrel-making is a highly-skilled craft:

According to the 1st-century-ad Roman historian Pliny the Elder, the ancient craft of barrel making, also called cooperage, was invented by the inhabitants of the Alpine valleys.  Tight barrels, made to hold liquids, must be constructed carefully of high-grade woods, such as white oak, with bungholes for filling and emptying. Wood for barrel staves and headings is usually air-dried for at least a year, then kiln-dried for 10 to 20 days before being cut and planed to the needed size and finish. A crucial operation is jointing of the edges of the staves and giving them the proper bilge (middle bulge) so that the joints will be tight and the circumference uniform. The bulge gives the barrel added resistance to internal pressure.The most complex part of the operation is called raising the barrel. Staves are set vertically into a head truss ring, and a temporary hoop is placed over the other end. In this arrangement, the staves are passed through a steam tunnel to soften them for drawing into final shape and then dried again. Whiskey barrels are charred on the inside at this point, so that they will develop flavour in the whiskey as it ages.

According to Wikipedia (“Barrel”), although barrels look simple, a lot of thought went into their design:

Barrels often have a convex shape, bulging at the middle. This bulge facilitates rolling a well-built wooden barrel on its side and change directions with little friction, compared to a cylinder. It also helps to distribute stress evenly in the material by making the container more curved. Barrels have reinforced edges to enable safe displacement by rolling them at an angle (in addition of rolling on their sides as described).

Here are some of the variables that can create different types of alcohol:

wine French common oak subtler taste
white oak
American white oak stronger aromas
sake Japanese cedar imparts an unusual, minty-piney flavor
pisco earthenware or oak
straight whiskey oak
Scotch oak and sometimes used bourbon barrels
sherry North American oak more porous than French or Spanish oak
brandy oak transfer certain aromas to the spirit
cognac oak casks made from the Tronçais and Limousin forests.
beer sometimes aged in barrels that were previously used for maturing wines or spirits.


So tabasco and vinegar–really?

Since its invention in 1868, the pepper mash used to make tabasco sauce is aged for three years in previously used oak whiskey barrels (Wikipedia, “Barrel”).

Ever wonder see balsamic vinegar on the store shelf and wonder what it is? Traditional balsamic vinegar is aged in a series of wooden barrels. By law, it must be made from the cooked juice, pulps and skins of specific types of grapes harvested in Modena or Reggio Emilia provinces of Italy. The minimum aging time is no less than 12 years.  Other types of balsamic vinegar, which cannot be called “Traditional,” can have caramel or thickeners and can be aged for shorter times (Wikipedia, “Traditional Balsamic Vinegar”).

Photo credit:




10 Things I Didn’t know about P.T. Barnum (1810-1891)

Contemporary cartoon of Barnum as a “humbug”

Sure, we all know him as a great promoter, showman and founder of the Barnum and Bailey Circus (at age 60) but here are some things I didn’t know.

  1. He created America’s first aquarium.
  2. He was a Republican member of the Connecticut legislature and the mayor of Bridgeport.
  3. He started Bridgeport Hospital.
  4. He almost bought the birth home of William Shakespeare.
  5. He created the concept of matinées to encourage families to come to the theater and to lessen the fear of crime.
  6. A self-proclaimed humbug himself, he offered $500 to any medium who could prove power to communicate with the dead in his book Humbugs of the World.
  7. He sponsored a law against contraception that was not overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court until 1965.
  8. He made significant contributions to Tufts University, including Jumbo the circus elephant.
  9. He never actually said “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
  10. He made arrangements to read his own obituary shortly before he died.

Source: Wikipedia, “P.T. Barnum”

Barrault, Jean-Louis (1910-1994)

Typical mime positions inspired by Etienne Decroux’s technique. Decroux was the teacher of Barrault.

If you’re like me, you probably admired mimes as a child, then saw too many parodies, which turned them into a joke.

For French actor, director and mime artist Jean-Louis Barrault, however, pantomiming was no joke.

He adapted William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying as a mime play.

He also created Baptiste, a pantomime ballet.

What’s next, a pantomimed Shakespearean play?

Photo source:

Information from Wikipedia, “Jean-Louis Barrault”

Barnes, William (1801-1886)


What would English sound like if we replaced all foreign words with Anglo-Saxon words?

Barnes, an English writer, poet, Church of England priest, and philologist, had a strong interest in language. He was fluent in Greek, Latin and several modern European languages.

He called for the purification of English by removal of Greek, Latin and foreign influences so that it might be better understood by those without a classical education. For example, the word “photograph” (from Greek light+writing) would become “sun-print” (from Saxon). Other terms include “wortlore” (botany), “welkinfire” (meteor) and “nipperlings” (forceps).

This “Pure English” resembles the “blue-eyed English” later adopted by the composer Percy Grainger, and sometimes the updates of known Old English words given by David Cowley in How We’d Talk if the English had WON in 1066.  Here are some of Cowley’s suggestions:

Among the former some of my favourites include “bonebreach” (bone fracture), “eldfather” (grandfather), “goldhoard” (treasure), “hungerbitten” (famished), “oathbreach” (perjury), and “searim” (shore).  These words have an otherworldly yet familiar feel that takes the reader back immediately to “days gone by” (to borrow another phrases suggested by Cowley).  Amongst the less obvious words, are such treats as “smicker” (which means “elegant” but sounds, to my ear, anything but), “swike” (deceit), “tharfer” (pauper), and “werekin” (the human race… as opposed to, say, werewolves) (

His poetry influenced two major writers, Thomas Hardy and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Looking for Anglo-Saxon neologisms seems like fertile ground for a poet.  (I don’t know if these poets did that, though.)

His efforts to purify the English language remind me of current French laws to purify the French language from English influences.  According to The Daily Beast, “[t]he French Government also attempted to outlaw ‘le weekend,’ ‘les drinks,’ ‘l’aftershave,’ and ‘le babysitter’ on pain of hefty fines, though this proved unworkable.”

Among Barnes’ other writings is a slim volume on “the Advantages of a More Common Adoption of The Mathematics as a Branch of Education, or Subject of Study,” published in 1834.  This surprised me, as I thought that math has always been an important part of education.  Makes me wonder what advantages he had in mind.


  1. Wikipedia, “Willam Barnes”