Sunday, November 29, 2015

Paul Smith: Medal of Honor Recipient

Sergeant First Class Paul Smith of the United States Army was a husband, father and dedicated soldier. He served his country in the Persian Gulf War, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith was killed in Baghdad, Iraq when he decided to man a .50 caliber rifle from the exposed turret of an armored personnel carrier and fire on the enemy to allow his men time to regroup and evacuate the wounded. His actions saved many soldiers that day, and was the deciding factor in their victory. As a veteran and an experienced soldier, he knew exactly what the consequences of his actions would be, but he did not hesitate.

Paul Smith was born on September 24, 1969 in El Paso, Texas. His parents, Donald and Janice Smith moved the family to Tampa Bay, Florida when Paul was nine years old. He had three siblings--Lisa, Cristina and Anthony. Long before he was a combat engineer, Paul Smith was interested in building things. He attended Tampa Bay Vocational Technical High School and graduated in 1988. He enlisted in the Army in October of 1989 and had a long and honorable career. By the time he and his men deployed to Iraq in 2003, Paul Smith was Sergeant First Class Paul Smith.

On April 4, 2003, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith and his men were charged with building a temporary P.O.W. holding area near the Baghdad International Airport. They soon came under attack by an enemy force of an estimated 100 men. Sgt. 1st Class Smith effectively delivered orders to his men while fighting off the enemy with his rifle, grenades and an AT4. During the attack, one of the U.S. Forces armored personnel carriers was damaged by enemy fire and the three men in it were wounded.

Seeing that these men needed to be evacuated and that the armored personnel carrier’s .50 caliber rifle was the largest weapon between his men and the enemy, Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith did what no commanding officer would have ever rightly ordered him to do. He climbed into the exposed turret hatch of the vehicle and manned the weapon with the entire upper half of his body exposed to the enemy. He managed to shoot and kill between 20 and 50 enemy soldiers before being shot and killed himself. Because of his gallantry, his men went on to defeat the enemy that day.

On April 4, 2005, exactly two years after his death in Baghdad, Sgt. First Class Paul Smith was awarded the Medal of Honor “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport.” His eleven-year-old son, David was at the White House to receive his father’s medal.

Sergeant First Class Paul Smith is survived by his wife Birgit, his son, David and his daughter, Jessica. He was cremated and his ashes were spread out in Tampa, save a small amount that his wife keeps in a locket.


Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, retrieved 8/31/09,

Medal of Honor Recipients, Iraq, retrieved 8/31/09,

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Antonio Canova: Sculptor

Antonio Canova Self Portrait
Antonio Canova was a neoclassical artist that lived during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He produced timeless and unforgettable sculptures such as his Venus Victrix and Cupid and Psyche. He was also commissioned to design and sculpt the tombs of Pope Clement XIII and Pope Clement XIV. During his lifetime he became a much sought after artist in many parts of Europe.

Antonio Canova was born on November 1, 1757 in Possagno, Italy. When he was only three years old, his father passed away and his mother remarried. He was raised by his paternal grandparents who afforded him all of the opportunities he needed to become a brilliant artist. His grandfather was a stonecutter and an able artist himself. From the time Antonio was a young boy, he was taught to draw by his grandfather. At around the age of nine, the two started to work together and the boy soon began showing talent as a sculptor.

The young man’s talent eventually piqued the interest of a man named Giuseppe Faliero. Faliero enabled young Antonio Canova to study under a great sculptor by the name of Torretto when he was thirteen years old. Antonio studied with the artist for about two years and was then taken to Venice to study under Torretto’s nephew. After another year of study, Antonio Canova became an independent artist at the age of sixteen.

He was able to work on his own in a monastery where some monks had given him free space. Antonio worked there for four years while honing his skills and discovering his style. By the time he was 24, he had already developed a reputation in Venice and decided to branch out. He went to Rome in 1780 and began studying the Roman treasures of antique art. Soon after, he was working on the tombs of two popes.

Antonio Canova spent nearly 17 years in Rome off and on before returning to Possagno. He stayed in his hometown and painted for about a year before deciding to travel again. This time he went to Germany and then back to Rome. Later he took sojourns in Florence, Paris and London. During one of his trips to Paris, Canova did some statues and busts of Emperor Napoleon. He also did paintings and statues of his family, the most famous being a painting of his sister, Paulina Bonaparte Borghese.

During his life, Antonio Canova met with great success. He became the premier sculptor in many parts of Europe and had a steady flow of commissions nearly all of his long career. He made a great deal of money and it is said that he spent much of his hard earned wealth in assisting aspiring artists. He died in Venice at the age of 64 on October 13, 1822.

Selected Works by Antonio Canova

Daedalus and Icharus (marble) (1777-79) Museo Correr, Venice

Orpheus and Eurydice (stone) (1775-76) Museo Correr, Venice

Theseus Vanquishing Minotaur (marble) (1781-83) Victioria and Albert Museum, London

Parting of Venus and Adonis (marble) (1804-06) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Cupid and Psyche (marble) (1786-93) Musee du Louvre, Paris

Venus Victrix (marble) (1804-08) Galleria Borghese, Rome


Antonio Canova, retrieved 8/9/09

Friday, November 27, 2015

Aleister Crowley: Self-Proclaimed Occultist

Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley may very well be the most famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) occultist of all time. He was a self-proclaimed magician and one time prophet; he supposedly engaged in ritual sex with members of both sexes, tried to communicate with the devil, battled in 'magical' duels and tortured and killed animals. He may have done or been all, some or none of these, but he was certainly a strangely mysterious man. At one point, he was known as the "Wickedest Man in the World." He apparently relished his reputation.

Aleister Crowley was born on October 12, 1875 in Leamington, Warwickshire, England. His given name was Edward Alexander Crowley. His father was a wealthy brewer. Both of his parents were staunch Puritans. They viewed sex as a one of the worst sins. How they had children with this view is anyone's guess.

Aleister rebelled against his parents' beliefs for most of his life. His behavior led to his mother referring to him as 'the Beast.' It appears that she truly believed that her son was the antichrist. It is quite possible that his mother's religious beliefs coupled with her name-calling attributed to Aleister's grandiose and boastful nature. Aleister obviously believed himself to be a powerful dark force as an adult. Furthermore, his rebellion against his parents' views regarding sex led him to be an overtly sexual person, some might say to a fault.

Aleister's father died when he was 11 years old. That same year, Aleister supposedly tortured and killed his own cat. There have been rumors of other, more horrible things regarding Aleister's actions as a child. However, hardly anything can be substantiated, including acts mentioned by Crowley himself in his autobiography. We do know that Edward changed his name to Aleister, so as not to have the same first name as is father. We also know that he lost his virginity at a very young age. Rumor has it that he was 14-years old and that it was with a servant girl.

As a boy, Aleister was forced to attend religious schools. In 1892, Aleister Crowley went away to study in Malvern. He reportedly engaged in some sort of shocking homosexual act at that time. He then went on to Tonbridge, were he supposedly contracted gonorrhea from a prostitute. He went to college at Cambridge. There, instead of a sexually transmitted disease, he picked up a love for mountain climbing and the occult. At the age of 21, he inherited his father's money and was able to start traveling, which he continued to do for most of his life.

In 1898, Aleister Crowley joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. This order was dedicated to 'white magic.' Aleister was thrown out of the order in 1900. He later claimed that he got into a magical battle with some of the other members, during which his coat caught on fire. Other famous authors of the time were supposedly members of the order. However, only one or two of these names has been confirmed as members, one being William Butler Yeats.

After Crowley's altercation with the Golden Dawn, he spent some time abroad. In 1903, he married a woman named Rose Kelly. Together the couple had two children, one of whiom died at the age of two. In 1904, the couple was vacationing in Egypt. While there, Rose claimed to have a vision of sorts, immediately after which Aleister claimed to have a vision of his own. Aleister's lasted for days while he wrote what would become "The Book of Law" (just one of numerous books penned by Crowley). The following year, he went on a mountaineering expedition in the Himalayas, which ended in death for some of his companions. From there, he went to Canada and the United States. His first daughter died of typhus while he was away.

In 1907, Aleister Crowley founded a magical order known as the Argentium Astrum. Two years later, he divorced his first wife. He reportedly began a relationship with Victor Neuberg around the same time. Three years after that, he joined the Order of the Eastern Templars. It was around this time that he supposedly began experimenting with ritual sex magic. He was known to have casual sex frequently. Women and men alike were drawn to him, despite his failing looks. He spent some time in the U.S. between 1915 and 1919 where he spread anti-British propaganda. He later claimed that he was a British supporter during the war.

Aleister Crowley met Leah Hirsig the same year he left the United States. The pair seemed to be smitten with each other and all kinds of nasty rumors (and later, claims made by Aleister) circulated about their sex life. They had one child together, but they split in 1924. Crowley then spent some time traveling and being kicked out of both Sicily and France. In 1929, he married Maria Ferrari de Miramar. This union would result in no children. Aleister died less than 20 years later. He was seventy-two years old.

Aleister spent the last years of his life chained by the drugs he had used for many years. He was a heroin addict and he was nearly broke. There are several stories regarding his death, one is that he died alone. Another story is that his last words were a curse on his doctor for not giving him any heroin. The story goes on to say that the doctor died on December 2, 1947, one day after Crowley. Yet another story says that his last words were "I am perplexed." All that is certain is that he was cremated and his ashes given to his still loyal followers.

Looking back on Aleister Crowley's life, it is important to note some of the more bizarre claims that have been made by him and others regarding it. So, in closing, here is a list of such claims. You may choose to believe them or not. Either way, it is undeniable that he made quite an impression.

  • Aleister Crowley mentioned in his autobiography that he was born with three 'marks of Buddha.' One of these marks was four hairs growing out of the center of his heart in the shape of a swastika.
  • Many people believe that Aleister Crowley was a spy for the British government. This is an interesting claim given the amount of travel Aleister put in and the propaganda he spread.
  • Another claim made by Aleister was that he was the reincarnation of several famous occultists. One of these men was Eliphas Levi, who died the year that Aleister was born.
  • Rumor has it that Aleister convinced his girlfriend Leah to copulate with a goat. Some versions of this story state that the goat was meant to be sacrificed at the moment of climax, but that it didn't cooperate. Its throat was slit anyway.


Deese, Patrick, Aleister Crowley, the Great Beast, retrieved 4/28/10,