‘The Simpsons’ Finds Home At New Universal Studios Theme Park

There’s a recurring joke throughout “The Simpsons” about where, exactly, the fictional town of Springfield is located. The exact location is still a mystery, but it looks like the animated series will soon find a real-life home in Orlando, Florida. Universal Studios has plans to bring the cartoon to life at a new section of the theme park opening this summer.

According to a press release from Universal, Springfield will be anchored by The Simpsons Ride, an attraction that opened in 2008. Around the ride, guests will be able to walk the streets of Springfield, complete with a Simpsons-inspired Fast Food Boulevard, where guests can dine on sandwiches at Krusty Burger or throw back a Duff Beer at Moe’s Tavern. Besides the boulevard, a new attraction called Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl will take “foolish humans” on an intergalactic spin.

Although the exact geography of the Simpsons will likely remain a highly debated mystery amongst die-hard fans, this new theme park will likely become a new pilgrimage spot for fans of the animated series.

[via news.com.au]

Frank James and the Civil War Battle of the Hemp Bales

Jesse James must have been jealous of his older brother Frank. Jesse was only 13 when the Civil War started. Frank was 18, the perfect age to go off to war. Coming from a slave-owning farm family Frank naturally joined the Confederate army.

Many Missourians, especially city dwellers and the large German immigrant community, remained loyal to the North, while the majority of rural farmers supported the South. Most people actually wanted peace, but attitudes hardened as events spiraled out of control in the spring and summer of 1861. When Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to quell the rebellion, Missouri’s governor defiantly refused. Then the Unionist General Nathaniel Lyon captured a group of state guardsmen camped near St. Louis, fearing they planned to capture the city’s federal arsenal. The capture went off without a hitch (except for Lyon being kicked in the stomach by his own horse) but when Lyon’s troops marched their prisoners back into town they got attacked by a secessionist mob. A soldier and about twenty civilians died in the ensuing riot.

The secessionist government fled, soon replaced by a loyal state government, and the Missouri State Guard under General Sterling Price declared their loyalty for the South. Lyon led his Union forces from St. Louis west along the Missouri River valley, took the state capital of Jefferson City, and defeated a small State Guard force at the Battle of Boonville, one of the first battles of the Civil War. Price retreated with the State Guard to the southwestern part of the state to organize and train his green troops.

One of his new recruits was Frank James. He arrived with a group of Clay County boys, some armed with shotguns and squirrel rifles, others with nothing. They all itched for a chance to fight the Yankees. They didn’t have to wait long. On August 10, 1861, Lyons’ Union forces attacked Price’s Confederate camp at Wilson’s Creek. The Union soldiers came in from two sides, and as cannonballs flew through the State Guard tents, Frank James and his companions marched off to face the enemy.

%Gallery-108346%He and his unit charged up a hill overlooking their camp on which Lyon had placed the bulk of his force. Almost immediately the position earned the name “Bloody Hill”. Missourians fought each other through thick underbrush, attacking and counterattacking for hours. Meanwhile the second pincer of the Union attack was being wiped out to the south of camp. The battle tipped in the rebels’ favor, Lyon fell dead from a bullet, and the Union army retreated.

The fight left more than 1,200 casualties on each side, but the rebels exulted in their victory and marched into the center of the state towards the Missouri River port of Lexington. If they could take it, they’d control the river and the most populous pro-secession region in Missouri.

Col. James Mulligan, a tough Irish-American, had 3,500 Union soldiers at Lexington. While Price’s Confederates numbered more than 12,000, Mulligan decided to fight anyway. He dug trenches and earthworks atop a hill with a commanding view of the town. A stone building that served as a Masonic College added extra protection. The rebels arrived on September 13 and immediately surrounded the position. For a week they sniped at the Union troops on the hill. Volunteers swarmed in from the countryside to join Price. An account tells of how one local, an old man, arrived every morning with an antiquated flintlock rifle and a packed lunch, spent the day blasting away at the Yankees, and went home every evening.

Inside the fort Mulligan and his men grimly held on. No help came, and after a few days the rebels cut off their water supply. They threw back several determined attacks, and when the rebels heated up their cannonballs in an attempt to set the Masonic College on fire, Mulligan sent a boy with a shovel running around inside the college building, picking up the red-hot iron balls and chucking them out the window.

Frank James must have been getting nervous by this point. It had been a week and the fort still hadn’t fallen. Sooner or later a Union relief force would show up and there’d be real trouble. Then someone hit upon a clever idea. Missouri was one of the nation’s largest hemp regions. The cannabis plant was used for rope, paper, cloth, and many other purposes besides the recreational smoking that eventually got it banned. The harvest had just been brought in and the river port was filled with heavy bales of hemp. The rebels made a wall of these bales, soaked them with water so they wouldn’t be set on fire by hot lead, and started moving this wall up the hill.

Mulligan’s Union soldiers soon discovered these bales were bulletproof. Even cannonballs only rocked them. From behind the wall of hemp Frank James and his friends were able to get better shots at the defenders and the Union casualties began to mount. The noose tightened. Cut off, low on water, and with no help in sight, the defenders finally surrendered. Marijuana had won a victory for the Confederacy.

It wouldn’t last long. General Price realized his position was too exposed and headed back south. Frank fell sick with measles, a potentially fatal illness in those day, and got left behind. He was captured, gave an oath of loyalty to the Union, and returned home. Soon he was back in the saddle, however, joining William Quantrill’s guerrillas. Later he followed one of Quantrill’s lieutenants, Bloody Bill Anderson, and his younger brother Jesse joined him.

Frank and Jesse James’ war years were the beginning of their training as America’s most famous outlaws. They learned to ride, shoot, and hide out in the woods. Fellow members of Bloody Bill’s group formed the core of their bandit gang. With these experienced warriors they’d blaze across half a dozen states and into American folklore.

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield has a museum and tours. The Battle of Lexington State Historic Site also has a museum (with a hemp bale they had to get special permission to import) and is in the center of a fine old town with lots of historic buildings. Check them out for more information about two Civil War battles that aren’t very well known outside of Missouri.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: On the trail of Jesse James.

Coming up next: Jesse James’ greatest escape

[Image of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek courtesy user Americasroof via Wikimedia Commons]

The 20 greatest cities in the world for foodies

Once upon a time, the world’s food capitals were a mere few well-known locales like Paris, New York, and Bangkok. All the action (and the eyes, and the forks) were focused there.

Recently, though, many areas of the world have expanded and improved both their menus and their talents in the kitchen, resulting in far more places staking their claims in the classy world of quality dining. Similarly, other cities have quietly cultivated some of the most amazing farmer’s markets on the globe, and their passion for fresh food has spread throughout their communities. Taken together, the following are the crème de la crème — the Greatest Cities in the World for Foodies.

Sydney, Australia

Australia imports very little of its produce; the great majority is harvested from local fields and farms promising fresh, flavorful dishes with the very best of in-season fruits and vegetables. In addition, the open-air Sydney Fish Market showcases the best and freshest seafoods from both the local area and from around the world. The Fish Market is an excellent place to shop, to grab some of the world’s finest sushi, and even to take some cooking classes in their recently renovated facility. For those soon to visit, here’s a list of prizewinning eateries in the Sydney area.

Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China
China’s south coast is a celebration of amazing foods. If you’ve got a taste for Asian-fusion, or the best dim-sum on earth, this is your city. The amount and variety of dining options is stunning, and whether you’re interested in street-side vendors, feasting in Yung-Kee where as many as five-thousand guests dine on their roasted goose every day (!), or meals carefully prepared by five-star chefs, Hong Kong has it on the menu.San Francisco, California, USA
For many foodophiles, San Francisco is a potentially surprising pick. However, what most don’t know is that San Francisco actually has a strong culinary heritage that began largely as the coincidental landing pad for many immigrants arriving in the United States from Asia. The melting pot of different flavors, traditions, and recipes that cultivated there spawned dozens of powerful contenders in the culinary industry. Combine that with one of the worlds strongest and most vibrant wine cultures and it doesn’t seem surprising at all for San Fransisco to make this list.

Pro tip: The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is held Tuesday and Saturday offering produce from small regional farmers and ranchers, many of whom are certified organic. If you don’t feel like buying fruits and veggies, the market also offers sweets, cheeses, and wines.

Melbourne, Australia
The Botanical, the Koko, the Vue de Monde… some argue that Melbourne is the food capital of Australia, and for good reason. Melbourne is host to some of the most fantastic dining establishments in the world, and might just have more restaurants than any other city on the continent. Its strong fashion sense and sharp clientele demand a classy dining experience and only the tastiest cuisine can last in a city with such competition. Award winners abound in central Melbourne, so any visit here is unlikely to disappoint.

Rome, Italy
It’s been said that it’s hard to eat poorly in Rome (or even perhaps anywhere in Italy). Here, at the birthplace of our modern pastas, you can expect the well known tradition of Italian dining to be at its absolute best, and like San Fransisco: the wine culture is certainly at the top of its class. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a load of money, though. Both five star class and some enticing cheap eats are available on just about every corner of the old city.

Mumbai, India
Any foodie looking for a taste of truly authentic India will be satisfied (and stuffed!) here. No matter what variety you’re looking for, be it coastal cuisine or seafood, a good kebab, or just some hot tandoori, it doesn’t get any better than this. The unique spices and flavors native to India offer a festival for the palate you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Stop in to any one of the “innumerable restaurants” in the area and be prepared for something spicy! You won’t be able to say “naan” to these choices!

Montreal, Canada

Fresh, hot breads, rich and bitey cheeses, smoked meats, and sweet wines… Montreal is a gift to the palette. It has a history rich in perhaps the most renowned culinary culture on earth: of course, we’re talking about the French. The selection of restaurants in Montreal, be they casual or upscale, will have something on the menu capable of teasing even the most fickle of palettes, and the ingredients are fresh, often grown locally and sometimes picked just that day.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina’s capital is awash with cafes and shops, many specializing in just a quick bite to eat and many others capable of bringing the full bodied Argentinian flair to your plate (a new experience for many, a regrettable one for none). What really makes Buenos Aires’ kitchens worthwhile is their infusion of Spanish and Italian influences that form unique nuances derived from both, but brought to full potency only here, in Argentina.

— The above was written by Caleb Roy, Seed contributor.

Chicago, Illinois, USA
Once you bite into a Chicago-style hotdog, you’ll wonder why you’ve ever eaten another type. A typical Chicago hot dog includes a pickle spear, relish, tomatoes, mustard, onion, and even a dash of celery salt. You can find hotdog stands and restaurants throughout Chicago so there is no need for extensive search. However, for a traditional experience, try the South side.

Stann Creek District, Belize
Local foods consist of surprisingly simple ingredients and include fried chicken, tamales, and rice and beans. Flavored with local spices and flavors, food lovers who enjoy the unusual will find common ground with those that love the familiar. There is something here for everyone.

To truly eat like a local, go into town (dubbed the “cultural capital of Belize”) instead of staying on the resorts. For an extra bit of pleasure, pair the food with a Belikin. It’s the national beer of Belize and worth every calorie.

Springfield, Illinois, USA
Not many people know Springfield, Illinois as a great food town, but let me tell you about something called the horseshoe. For those that love cheese and meat, you have found your heaven. It starts with a piece of Texas toast and is followed by any type of meat you want (although buffalo chicken is especially popular). Throw some french fries on top of the meat, and plaster cheese sauce on top of the fries. Restaurants throughout the town offer this staple of Springfield diets, but the West side is especially plentiful in horseshoe restaurants.

Avery Island is home to Tabasco, the greatest thing to happen to food since the plate. Factory tours run 7 days a week and cost $1.

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
If you love gumbo and jambalaya, take a trip to New Orleans for a traditional delight. In addition to the cajun food, make sure you try the fried pastries (beignets) paired with a cup of coffee while you’re in town. If you like to bar-hop and need a bit of liquor to cool your mouth from the jambalaya, try the French Quarter to move between establishments.

Pro tip: Nearby Avery Island is home to Tabasco, the greatest thing to happen to food since the plate. Factory tours run seven days a week, and cost a paltry $1.

Venice, Italy
Venice has been a traditional port city for centuries and chocolate helped make it rich. It’s a tradition that has never left this city on the water. Chocolate shops are located throughout the city. However, to visit the affordable shops, venture away from St. Mark’s and the tourist area; try Santa Croce and the San Polo areas instead.

To top it all off, try a sgroppino. It’s a traditional cocktail with vodka, sorbet, mint, and sparking white wine.

Edinburgh, Scotland
Haggis is only for the truly brave of heart. This traditional dish consists of sheep innards mixed with onion, spices, and even oatmeal. I’ve found that each haggis chef cooks it a bit differently, but all haggis reminds me of salisbury steak. Tourists flock to restaurants on the Royal Mile that offer it just for the experience. However, if you wish to taste a more traditional haggis, step off of the Royal Mile and into a small family run shop. It may be more traditional and not cater to sensitive tourist bellies.

— The above was written by Victoria Ross, Seed contributor.

London, England
As early as the 13th century a food market existed under London Bridge on the south side of the Thames. Today, Borough Market (pronounced Burrah) is one of the largest food markets in the world offering an impressive display of conventional and organic produce, cheese, meats, wild and exotic game, seafood, wine, and baked goods. There are also a number of stalls within the market that offer prepared food. Join the adventure and get into the longest line. Don’t worry about what’s being sold at the other end.

Of course, London has been for some time a major food destination. With tourism and travel booming, the restaurant industry has been able to flourish — producing such gems as triple Michelin Star winner The Fat Duck overseen by Heston Blumenthal and his 12-course menu; or the Tamarind, a classy, casual eatery serving Indian cuisine that often sees celebrities like Madonna popping in for a quick bite.

Barcelona, Spain
La Boqueria market dates back to 1217 and is one of the more charismatic and intimate food markets in the world, located just off La Rambla. In a city known for seductive architectural influences, La Boqueria stands out as a gem. Here you will find a wide variety of diverse and colorful foods (and characters).

Bologna, Italy
Everyone expects to find great food in Italy. If your travels do not include Bologna, you’ll miss out on one of Italy’s greatest masterpieces. Behind the grand arcades of Piazza Maggiore are cobblestone streets where greengrocers, fishmongers, cheese merchants, butchers and bakers have plied their fare since Caesar was in power. Here you will find Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Balsamic vinegar from nearby Modena, Parma ham and bags of tortellini hanging in shop windows. Impatient? There are countless restaurants and cafes worthy of their presence in this area of gastronomic heaven.

St. Petersburg, Russia
Did you know that Russians spend more money on food than any other European nation? It’s no wonder with options as the Yeliseyevsky Gastronom Market, housed in an Art Nouveau mansion built in 1901.

This grand emporium showcases exquisite seafood, meat, cheese, and baked goods. You will be amazed at the impressive quality and quantity of caviar on offer and will be hard pressed to find more opulent surroundings to showcase luxury items from around the world.

Tokyo, Japan
The Tsukiji fish market handles more than 2000 tons of seafood per day. A highlight of any visit to Tokyo is a 5am tour of the market to observe the auction of the most exquisite fish and the transfer of more than $5 billion US in this massive market complex each year. The best catches routinely find themselves prepared as world-class courses at restaurants such as Waketokuyama and Tsujitome.

Not only is Tsukiji the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, but it’s one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind, employing nearly 65,000. Just outside Tsukiji is an outdoor market offering not only exquisite seafood, but also produce and food-related goods, including an impressive selection of kitchen knives.

Toronto, Canada
A farmer’s market has been in existence at Front and Jarvis Street since 1803. Today, the St. Lawrence Market encompasses two buildings: the South Market, open throughout the week with more than 100 food vendors on the upper level, and hard-to-find exotic and international items on the lower level.

Every Saturday the North Market hosts a farmer’s market starting at 5am. Need inspiration? Located on the west mezzanine of the South Market, The Market Kitchen is a 2,400 square foot cooking school with exposed brick, 20 foot-high ceilings, and soaring views of the Toronto skyline.

— The above was written by BriBuenosAires, Seed contributor.

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America’s Wildest Weather Cities

Last Summer, Forbes released their list of America’s “Wildest Weather Cities,” which included nominations in categories like the coldest city, hottest, wettest, windiest, and “most variety.” The city I currently live in, Springfield, Missouri, won honors in that last category, and this winter further reinforced its place in the top spot.

We’ve had a brutal wave of ice for the past two days, but in the last month we’ve seen 70-degree temperatures, snow storms, and two separate, deadly tornado outbreaks — in January! In fact, there was one day last month that it dropped from a comfortable 64 degrees to 16 degrees in less than two hours. No joke. That’s a 48 degree drop!

For more wild weather cities in America, check out this Forbes.com article.

Tornadoes, planes, and grumpy fliers — oh my!

Jerry’s post on weird weather around the world, and my observation and subsequent “whining” (as a few readers put it) about Allegiant Air’s lack of online check-in reminded me of one of the strangest airport experiences I’ve had in recent past.

Some of our U.S. readers might have heard about the nasty stretch of weather that made its way through the Midwest last week. The epicenter of the situation, it seems, was in Springfield, Missouri, where I currently live. More specifically, it happened within a few miles of the Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF) last Monday, January 7th — the evening I was due to fly to Vegas for CES. More than a dozen tornadoes broke out that evening, and the entire airport was forced to evacuate not once, but twice, sending passengers fleeing into vacant hallways in the center of the concourse. (Pictured above; Click to enlarge.) What’s worse, people past the security checkpoint (myself, naturally) were forced to take cover on the other side of security, which meant I had to go through the checkpoint twice that night — regardless of the fact that the supervisors in air traffic control “didn’t see a need for evacuation.” Best to lean on the side of safety, sure, but the most annoying thing (aside from fellow passenger directly blaming the situation on global warming. ZOMG!) happened after the employees corralled the passengers into the hallways: they joined the rest of the staff outside, under the awning, tornado sirens blaring, for a smoke break. That’s annoying. Surprisingly, I still made my flight (though four hours late), and we took to the skies, white-knuckled, with bolts of electricity hugging the sides of the plane.
The entire situation reinforced my argument that Allegiant Air needs to offer online check-in. If they did, I wouldn’t have had to show up two hours early, during one of the most severe tornado outbreaks in recent history, only to take cover twice, and sit around the airport for an extra four hours just so I could make sure the seat I already paid for wouldn’t be given to someone else. Had I been able to check-in online, I would have been able to ride out the storm at home, checking in with the airport on a regular basis to see if it was safe to show up, or if my flight was still scheduled.

I know, whine whine whine — it’s all I do

It’s my only complaint with Allegiant, however. Their planes are clean and updated, the seat pitch was some of the best I’ve experienced, and the staff was helpful and kind. Allow me to check-in online like the rest of the airlines, and I’ve got nothing to whine about.