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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Wine Bloggers Off-Topic #3: Most inspirational historical figures

Galileo Galilei

And we're back with another installment of Wine Bloggers Off-Topic! It became apparent that this would be better served as a bi-monthly thing rather than monthly because, ya know, life is busy and even monthly comes up real quick on us all. ALTHOUGH! Recently I was inspired by seeing my favorite quote of all time pop up when a friend shared it on Facebook, so maybe we could do one next month with just our favorite quote? No need for a write-up or explanation or anything, just the quote. What do you guys think?

The point of this series is for all of us to learn more about those in our online wine community beyond their taste in wine, and today it's all about the historical figure that inspires us the most. As always, they are in order of submission.

Twitter: @JimLockardWine
Instagram: @JimLockard

Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) is my most inspirational historical figure because he helped awaken the world to a greater reality than much of it was ready to accept. He did this at great personal cost, even waffling at one point when he apologized and retracted his statements about the heliocentric nature of the solar system (the sun being at the center, rather than the earth).

He was very human. Although a Catholic, he fathered three daughters out of wedlock and placed them all in convents, since at that time in Italy a girl born out of wedlock was not “marriageable.” A polymath, he was a professor of mathematics and also studied astronomy. According to Wikipedia, he is considered the "father of observational astronomy,” the "father of modern physics", the "father of the scientific method," and the "father of modern science.”

His support of heliocentrism brought him to trial by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, after several years of controversy. He was found "vehemently suspect of heresy" and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest, during which time he wrote two scientific books. The Galileo Museum in Florence, Italy, is worth a visit to learn more about this great scientist and to see one of his fingers, which was removed when his burial place was moved in 1737. Galileo’s work and this trial were precursors of the European Enlightenment in which the Church gave latitude to scientific study and led to the so-called “scientific revolution” which continues to this day.

Twitter: @LoriTwistedCork
Instagram: @LoriTwistedCork

Lemmy Kilmister, Motorhead
I have several people/characters in my life that I consider influential or inspirational. Anywhere from my Mom to Auntie Mame to Lena Horne.

But the most intriguing person to me, is Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister, the bassist of Motorhead. While I do not approve of his lifestyle choices; I have always been fascinated with his integrity…yes…integrity! I never had the chance to meet him, but I know a few people who have. They agreed that he was always appreciative of his fans.

He supported female musicians and didn’t care about anybody’s background or financial status. I liked his wry sense of humor. He wrote: “This may disappoint you all but I am not God. He’s taller, I’ve seen him on acid.”

One of my favorite quotes: “I don’t do regrets. Regrets are pointless. It’s too late for regrets. You’ve already done it, haven’t you? You’ve lived your life. No point wishing you could change it.” This has been a struggle for me and I try every day to remember this and to put it into practice.

He lived life on his own terms and called out bull shit when it crossed his path.

“Born to lose. Live to win.” Thank You Lemmy- Rest In Peace.

Twitter: @FrankStero
Instagram: @FrankStero

Winston Churchill
My choice of Churchill will not be a surprise to many; he is revered by many in the UK and was voted #1 on the BBC’s list of 100 Greatest Britons in 2002 (see Wikipedia entry).  Of course, he was far from perfect – he was an avowed imperialist, which is very much frowned upon nowadays, and received criticism for his role in the Bengal Famine, Dresden Bombings and suppression of independence movements among other things.

He was born into an aristocratic family and like many of his peers he was sent off to boarding school at seven.  He eventually gained entry to the elite Harrow School and afterwards joined the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.  After graduating from Sandhurst, he spent five years in the army before moving into politics.  He held a number of different positions in government, including First Lord of the Admiralty, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary, until ten years of political isolation from 1929 to 1939.  It was then that he was brought back into the fold and became Prime Minister in 1940.

Churchill was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States of America, an honour which only seven other people have subsequently been granted.

Here are some of the reasons why he was so great in my eyes, both obvious and not-so-obvious:

An Inspirational Leader in WW2.

Coming after Neville Chamberlin and appeasement, the country needed a leader with backbone to stand up to Hitler.  British backs were against the wall after mainland Europe fell to the Germans and the British Army was embarrassingly evacuated from Dunkirk.

This is an excerpt from his most famous speech, given to the House of Commons on 4th June 1940:
“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old."

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

Little known is the fact that Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values."  He was also a reasonable artist and even took up bricklaying – was there no end to the talents of this man?

Did not give a f**k

Churchill famously enjoyed baths, and would often dictate to his secretary (just outside the room) while having a soak.  While staying at the White House with Franklin D. Roosevelt, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was surprised in his room by FDR who was working on the creation of the United Nations.  Churchill stepped out of his bath naked and said “The Prime Minister of Great Britain has nothing to hide from the President of the United States.” I cannot imagine any other world leader doing the same!

On another occasion he is reported to have said to the King, when asked if he wanted a drink “When I was younger I made it a rule never to take strong drink before lunch. It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast.”  So say we all!

Baby Face

With his balding pate and several chins, Churchill was often likened to a baby.  Now, almost any chubby baby is said to resemble him!  Here’s an example which I just found on Pinterest:

Baby vs Winston Churchill

Loved Champagne

And finally, bringing this piece back to a wine theme, although he was from an upper-class background, I cannot but admire his fondness for Champagne: “In success you deserve it and in defeat, you need it.”  “Champagne is the wine of civilisation and the oil of government.”  “Remember gentlemen, it's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne.”  Of course, Pol Roger was his favourite, which led to that Marque naming their top wine, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill after him:

Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill Champagne

I rest my case.

Twitter: @RedWineCats
Instagram: @_mistyc_

Thomas Edison
How do I choose just one inspirational historical figure? I’d like to choose them all, please. Some fought for human rights, we have music and art, technology, science... all of their contributions make our lives better today. They’re all important in history, even Hitler. And, since we all know history is something to learn from, I’ll keep this post “light” as I do with my own blog, and choose Thomas Edison. Yes, he’s known for inventing the light bulb, but did you know he had 1,093 patents? He was completely self taught, most of his education came from reading philosophy and science books (and his mom). He created electric power generators, sound recording, motion picture camera, etc. How does one create so much, working late into the night using no electricity? Hard work. Among many of his quotes, here’s a few gems:

"Before I got through," he recalled, "I tested no fewer than 6,000 vegetable growths, and ransacked the world for the most suitable filament material.”

“The electric light has caused me the greatest amount of study and has required the most elaborate experiments," he wrote. "I was never myself discouraged, or inclined to be hopeless of success. I cannot say the same for all my associates."

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."

In 1879 he demonstrated his incandescent light bulb to the public saying, “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.” The first commercial light bulb lasted ~14 hours, which would’ve been luxurious then. Ahh, simpler, more patient times. If our LED bulbs don’t last at least a decade, we’re highly inconvenienced and some may even ask for a free replacement from the manufacturer. So, Thomas Edison, a kid from Ohio, born in 1847, who never went to school (he was even partially deaf at a young age from scarlet fever and untreated ear infections), nicknamed a wizard and genius, contributed so much to our daily lives. I’d like to think he was a wine drinker. And, I’m sure he had a good sense of humor. He must’ve! Otherwise, he would’ve gone mad, don’t you think? Testing over 6,000 vegetable growths? On just one of his inventions?? Now I feel lazy. Cheers.


I have to admit, this topic was a tough one for me. I am not much of a history buff. I know the saying, “if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it,” and I full heartedly agree with that sentiment. However, when it comes to people in history, I kind of have an issue with retention. I mean, come on..they are historical- so I can always just look them up. (I know that is horrible)

Eleanor RooseveltBut when I sit down and truly think about it, what becomes more difficult is choosing a single person. There are so many that have had such a major impact on our world. (hello, Captain Obvious)  I adore sports, and they would not be the same without people like Jackie Robinson, Philip K. Wrigley (started the All American Women’s Baseball League), James Naismith (creator of basketball) just to name a few.  Down to my core, I am a scientist. What would today look like if it weren’t for Louis Pasteur, Carl Linnaeus, or Gregor Mendel? Without George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, or Thomas Jefferson, would we have a United States of America?

Oh, and then there are literary historical figures! Oh my gosh, I’m not sure I could survive if the likes of William Shakespeare, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Molière), Henry David Thoreau or Edgar Allen Poe were not in my life!

However, if I were to be pinned down to a single person. One person who may play the most impact on my daily life, is the woman who was wise enough to say these three quotes that I use on a daily basis.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884. She lost both her parents and a sibling at a very young age, but tragedy did not hold her back. As an adult, she persuaded her husband Franklin to stay in politics even after he was paralyzed. As the First Lady she was known for her outspokenness. She was not afraid to stand tall for her beliefs even when those beliefs went against her husband’s policies. This strong will led her to be the first First Lady to hold her own press conferences. The above three quotes mean so much to me, as an individual and as an educator. They may have been stated quite some time ago, but they have never rung truer than in today’s society.

Twitter: @TheWineStalker
Instagram: @TheWineStalker

Myself being a complete history nerd, it seems weird that I would go so modern. Isaac Newton is a huge inspiration to me. There's Thomas Jefferson, Nikola Tesla, and Harriet "the badass" Tubman at my disposal, and Jim Lockard's pick of Galileo is a great choice; all inspiring people that I admire. Yet throughout the entirety of human history, the historical figure that inspires me the most on a day-to-day basis, was here during my own lifetime and died when I was sixteen.

For me it's Carl Sagan. The great science communicator. Astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, and astrobiologist. His contributions to space exploration, scientific advancement, and science education are legendary. We have never had anybody quite like him and I fear that we never will again. Carl was really something special, and nobody could teach us that we're all made of starstuff like he did.

All of his books are great (I'm sure you've heard of Cosmos) but his final book The Demon-Haunted World is not only the best book I've ever read (and I've read A LOT of books), it also changed my life. I'm not exaggerating even a little bit. It changed how I look at the world we live in and how I handle myself as a person. While reading this book I found myself transforming from a pessimist with a bit of an anger issue into an optimist that appreciates every day and moment that I'm given. And that's not even the purpose of the book; it's about the scientific method, mythologies, why the human mind thinks we see angels and fairies and aliens through hypnogogic hallucinations, and all that stuff.

That doesn't seem like it relates, right? But that's just the kind of guy Carl was, whether you're watching him speak or reading his words. He had this uncanny ability to express meaning through the warmth of love and living while he educated us on the coldness of space and time, and the chilling realities of our situation as fragile primates on Earth. To appreciate every day and moment that you're given. To find the significance of being insignificant.

Carl Sagan loved life, he loved humanity, he loved the Cosmos, and he loved showing us the pure wonders of it all. We need more Carl Sagans, now more than ever.

Image result for pale blue dot quote"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam." - Carl Sagan

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