Amazon Deals

New at Amazon

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday links

This short 1901 film has some rather impressive special effects: The Fat and the Lean Wrestling Match.

The Mathematics Of Measuring Cups.

The Krakatoa volcanic eruption in 1883 was so loud it ruptured eardrums of people 40 miles away, traveled around the world four times, and was clearly heard 3,000 miles away.

Flowers Have Secret Blue Halos That Bumblebees Can See.

10 Fun Fashion Facts from the Middle Ages.

How The Princess Bride Built Film’s Most Beloved Sword Fight. Here's the fight scene.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include how Martian laws will differ from Earth laws, a set of 1860s photos of the five stages of inebriation, eating the world's spiciest chip, and, for Rita Hayworth's birthday, a compilation of her dancing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday links

Happy Birthday, Rita Hayworth: here's an excellent compilation of her dancing, set to Stayin' Alive.

John Quincy Adams' Obsession with Weights and Measures.

How Will Martian Laws Differ From Earth's Laws?

Here's A Giant Drunk Puppet Roaming The Streets Of An Irish City. Related, an 1860s series of photos illustrating the '5 stages of inebriation'.

Nathan Straus and the Milk Stations That Saved the Lives of New York City Kids.

We ate the world's spiciest chip, cried for 45 minutes, then wrote this article about it.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include the anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, a part-time monarch who's also a full-time auto mechanic, White House leaks from Abe Lincoln's presidency, and a joyful rock version of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy".

Monday, October 16, 2017

Happy Birthday, Rita Hayworth: here's an excellent compilation of her dancing, set to Stayin' Alive

October 17th is the anniversary of the birth of superstar American movie actress and dancer Rita Hayworth (1918-1987) in Brooklyn. Born Margarita Carmen Cansino to two professional dancers, Hayworth started dance lessons at an early age and in 1927 moved with her family to Hollywood, where her father had hoped to land dancing parts in the movies. Finding minimal success, he formed a dance act with his daughter, and since she was too young to appear in night clubs in California, they performed across the border in Tijuana. 

This 1941 photograph of Rita Hayworth
became one of the most popular
pin-ups among U.S. servicemen during
 World War II. Life magazine, however,
 decided it was too risque to put
on their cover
Hayworth's career really took off in the early 1940s, and by 1944, when she appeared with Gene Kelly in Cover Girl, she was one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, and in Charles Vidor's erotic film noir, Gilda (1946), she established herself as a leading femme fatale. 

She was married and divorced five times, and counted among her husbands Orson Welles, Prince Aly Khan* (by whom she had two daughters), and Dick Haymes. Late in life, she suffered from alcoholism and died of Alzheimer's disease in New York City in 1987.

She was quoted in 1977 as saying, 

"Men fell in love with Gilda, but they wake up with me."

Dancing in Tijuana when I was 13 - that was my "summer camp." How else could I keep up with Fred Astaire when I was 19?

~ Rita Hayworth (New York Times, 25 October 1970)

This has been around for a while, and will make you feel like dancing all day.  Watch full screen:

"Down to Earth": 0:00 / 1:03 / 2:46 / 4:20
"You'll Never Get Rich": 0:14 / 0:24 / 0:28 / 0:46 / 2:35 / 3:16 / 3:49
"Tonight and Every Night":  0:20 / 1:11 / 1:22 / 1:36 / 1:54 / 1:55
"Cover Girl": 0:34 / 0:38 / 1:13 / 1:48 / 2:13 / 3:07 / 3:29 / 3:31 / 3:54 / 4:06 / 4:31
"You Were Never Lovelier": 0:50 / 2:20 / 2:42 / 3:00 / 4:10 / 4:38
"Gilda":  1:17 / 2:04
"Miss Sadie Thompson": 1:38 / 1:46 / 4:28
"My Gal Sal": 1:42 / 3:23 / 3:35 
"Pal Joey": 2:00 / 3:20 / 3:41
"Affair in Trinidad": 2:05 / 2:52 / 3:04 
* N.B. A son of Aga Khan III, the head of the Ismaili Muslims, Aly Kahn (1911-1960) was a fabulously wealthy international socialite and playboy, who later served as Pakistan's representative to the United Nations. He was married to Rita Hayworth between 1949 and 1953).


It's Fred Astaire's birthday - here are clips of some of his best dancing

video h/t ‏@GarySinise

Friday, October 13, 2017

Paraskavedekatriaphobia: Why is Friday the 13th Considered Unlucky?

In case you were trying to work it out for yourself, the name of this phobia in Pig Latin is araskavedekatriaphobiapay.

Superstition, bigotry, and prejudice, ghosts though they are, cling tenaciously to life: they are shades armed with tooth and claw. They must be grappled with unceasingly, for it is a fateful part of human destiny that it is condemned to wage perpetual war against ghosts. A shade is not easily taken by the throat and destroyed. 

~Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Today is Friday, the 13th, which superstition holds is a day for bad luck. According to folklorists, there is no written reference to this belief before the 19th century. The earliest known reference in English occurred in an 1869 biography of composer Gioacchino Rossini, which described the irony of his dying on an "unlucky" Friday, the 13th. 

The basis for the superstition may lie in the fact that 13 has long been held to be an unlucky number and Friday an unlucky day - hence the combination. It has been estimated that something like 20 million people are affected by this belief in the United States, many of them changing their normal routines on this day to avoid "the curse." The Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics claims that "fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of a month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home." This seems to be confirmed by Dutch auto accident data.

This Nat Geo article discusses the phobia with Donald Dossey, founder of a Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina (and also a folklore historian and author of Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun): he says that fear of Friday the 13th is rooted in ancient, separate bad-luck associations with the number 13 and the day Friday. The two unlucky entities ultimately combined to make one super unlucky day.

Dossey traces the fear of 13 to a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, their heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.

"Balder died and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day," said Dossey. From that moment on, the number 13 has been considered ominous and foreboding.

There is also a biblical reference to the unlucky number 13. Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper.

Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil.

Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist in the Mathematics and Science Education Resource Center at the University of Delaware in Newark, said the number 13 suffers because of its position after 12.

According to Fernsler, numerologists consider 12 a "complete" number. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 apostles of Jesus.

In exceeding 12 by 1, Fernsler said 13's association with bad luck "has to do with just being a little beyond completeness. The number becomes restless or squirmy."

This fear of 13 is strong in today's world. According to Dossey, more than 80 percent of high-rises lack a 13th floor. Many airports skip the 13th gate. Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.

On streets in Florence, Italy, the house between number 12 and 14 is addressed as 12 and a half. In France socialites known as the quatorziens (fourteeners) once made themselves available as 14th guests to keep a dinner party from an unlucky fate.

As for Friday, it is well known among Christians as the day Jesus was crucified. Some biblical scholars believe Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on Friday. Perhaps most significant is a belief that Abel was slain by Cain on Friday the 13th.

Related: 13 Reasons People Think the Number 13 is Unlucky

Friday links

This rock version of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" will make your day.

Tomorrow, October 14, 1066 is the anniversary of the 1066 Battle of Hastings.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include the man-sized cages hanging from a medieval German Church steeple, the 732 Battle of Tours, beer that helps menopause symptoms, and wi-fi balloons for Puerto Rico.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

October 14, 1066 was the Battle of Hastings: history, quotes, videos, maps, and links

If the Normans are disciplined under a just and firm rule, they are men of great valor, who... fight resolutely to overcome all enemies. But without such rule they tear each other to pieces and destroy themselves, for they hanker after rebellion, cherish sedition, and are ready for any treachery.

William the Conqueror (wiki(deathbed speech, reported in Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History) 

A French bastard landing with an armed banditti and establishing himself King of England against the consent of the natives, is, in plain terms, a very paltry rascally original. 

~ Thomas Paine (1737-1809) (on the Norman Conquest, Common Sense

William next invented a system according to which everybody had to belong to somebody else, and everybody else to the king. This was called the Feutile System, and in order to prove that it was true, he wrote a book called the Doomsday Book (wiki), which contained an inventory of all the Possessions of all his subjects; after reading the book through carefully William agreed with it and signed it, indicating to everybody that the Possessions mentioned in it were now his.

~ W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman (1066 and All That, Ch. XI*)

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings (wiki) in 1066, in which William the Conqueror (wiki) initiated the Norman conquest of England by defeating the forces of the Anglo-Saxon King Harold, who was killed in the conflict (although there's been recent speculation that Harold survived). William, Duke of Normandy, had been promised the English throne by his cousin, Edward the Confessor (reigned 1042-1066), and Harold, earl of Wessex, had sworn agreement to that succession. However, with the death of Edward, Harold crowned himself king, leading William to mount a sea-borne invasion to assert his own right. 

Larger version here.
Landing his army on the south coast of England, he confronted Harold at Hastings, routed the Anglo-Saxon army, declared himself King William I, and ultimately established Norman hegemony over all of England.**

By establishing a network of castles and strong points, including the Tower of London, William brought order to the country and reigned until 1087, when he was succeeded by his son William II. The Norman invasion and the events leading up to it are exquisitely portrayed on the Bayeux Tapestry (actually an embroidery 75 yards long), which was made within a few years of the Conquest, likely in southern England. 
On the ceremonial gateway to the World War II British military cemetery for the dead of Normandy at Bayeux, one finds the apposite Latin inscription,


(We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror's native land.) 

* N.B. Subtitled, "A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates." Still amusing after 80 years. 

** It is not often remembered that just prior to Hastings, Harold and his hard-pressed army had been forced to repel a Norse invasion in the north of England, and it required a forced march to the south for them to meet the Normans. 

For the Last 1,000 Years, the Same Families Have Owned Most of England:
Shortly after the Normans conquered England in 1066, their monarch, William, seized all of the lands, then divvied up control among those soldiers and nobles who helped him defeat the Anglo-Saxons (and keeping a fair bit for himself). However, as dramatic as that was, it is even more shocking that today, most of Britain remains in the hands of the descendants of those early Norman conquerors.
My favorite William bit, though, has to be his body exploding (well, bursting) at his funeral. Here's another account of the events.

Horrible Histories has a "breaking news" program from 1066, in which the news is arriving via (the Bayeaux) tapestry:

This Young Person's Guide to the Battle of Hastings is really quite informative:

This brief BBC Documentary gives all the basics..

This video, also from the BBC, covers a re-enactment which took place on October 15, 2006:

And an animated version of the Bayeaux Tapestry:

This "Eyewitness to History" site has an account of the battle with the events depicted by the individual tapestry scenes.

This rock version of Beethoven's Ode to Joy will make your day

This is from 2011, but I'd never seen it before. 

Croatian cellist Ana Rucner performs the 'Ode To Joy' from the fourth (and final) movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (wiki). It was based on a poem by the same name by German poet, playwright, and historian Friedrich Schiller (wiki). An English translation of the adaptation used by Beethoven is below the video.

If you grew up as a Protestant, you'll probably recognize the music from the hymn "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" (also known as The Hymn To Joy) by Henry van Dyke. The lyrics were written by Van Dyke with the intention of setting them to this particular music. A performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London is at the bottom of this post.

Watch the whole thing as the tempo and joyful nature of the images increase. Watch full screen, and, if at home, with the volume turned up.

Ode to Joy English lyrics:

O friends, no more these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
more full of joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary.

Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.

Whoever has created 
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join in our song of praise;
But any who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.

All creatures drink of joy
At nature's breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.

Even the worm can feel contentment,
And the cherub stands before God!
Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He set on their courses
Through the splendor of the firmament;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
As a hero going to conquest.

You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.

Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your creator?
Seek him in the heavens;
Above the stars must He dwell.

Hymn of Joy lyrics:

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Here's A Giant Drunk Puppet Roaming The Streets Of An Irish City

Because everyone knows that drinking to excess and being Irish go together like chocolate and peanut butter:

Via (warning - autoplay).

In 2011, a giant puppet merrily loitered around the village of Dromore West in Sligo, Ireland, interacting with passers-by in a drunken stupor. Called ‘Arthur’, the character was controlled by a man on stilts, who would have perhaps also been under the influence of alcohol to pull off that convincing drunk walk.

The video was taken at Fleadh Cheoil, an Irish music and arts festival wherein musicians from different counties compete to become All-Ireland champion.

Hitler Learns About Harvey Weinstein

A worthy addition to the genre:

h/t Powerline

Short 1901 film: The Fat and the Lean Wrestling Match

This 2 minute film was directed by French filmmaker Georges Melies (wiki). It starts off with a fat woman and a lean woman wrestling but then they morph into a fat man and a lean man (played by Melies). Obviously the standards of what is considered fat has changed since then.

The special effects are surprisingly good - Melies was a pioneer in the use of stop edits, dissolves, and double exposures in motion pictures. There are a couple of sequences, in which one of the men gets flattened or decapitated/dismembered before being brought back to life, that demonstrate some of these techniques.

Here's one of his most famous films, A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune) from 1902 - it will make more sense if you read Wikipedia's plot summary before watching:

Want more? Here are 193 Georges Melies films in chronological order.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesday links

October 10th, 732 - the clash of civilizations at the Battle of Tours.

What You Actually Got From Those Vintage Back-of-Magazine Ads.

Why 3 Man-Sized Cages Hang From a Medieval German Church Steeple.

Get a Nobel Prize ready: If you’re dealing with menopause symptoms, this beer that might help.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include and include nose hair extensions, body organs you can live without, Columbus Day, the 4.5 million pieces of undelivered mail that piled up in the Washington, D.C. Dead Letter Office during the Civil War. and some remastered and colorized images from the Civil War era (including Lincoln and Mark Twain).

Monday, October 9, 2017

October 10, 732 - the clash of civilizations at the Battle of Tours

A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire. The repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. 

Map source -
Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and the pulpit might demonstrate to circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelations of Mahomet. 

~ Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) (of the battle of Tours, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Ch. LII) 

Modern historians have constructed a myth presenting the victory as having saved Christian Europe from the Muslims. Edward Gibbon, for example, called called Charles Martel the savior of Christendom and the battle near Poitiers an encounter that changed the history of the world... This myth has survived well into our own times... Contemporaries of the battle, however, did not overstate its significance. The continuators of Fredegar's chronicle, who probably wrote in the mid-eighth century, pictured the battle as just one of many military encounters between Christians and Saracens - moreover, as only one in a series of wars fought by Frankish princes for booty and territory. 

~ Tomaz Mastnak (b. 1953) (Crusading Peace: Christendom, the Muslim World, and Modern Europe)

Charles Auguste Steuben, The Battle of Poitiers*
It produced Charles Martel, the soldier who turned the Arabs back at Tours, and the supporter of Saint Boniface the Evangelizer of Germany. This is a considerable double mark to have left on the history of Europe. 

~ J. M. Roberts (1928-2003) (of the early Frankish dynasty, The New History of the World)

October 10 is the anniversary of the battle of Tours* (wiki) in central France in 732 A.D., when a Frankish army under Charles Martel (wiki)** defeated the Muslim Ummayad invasion of Gaul under Abdul Rahman Al Ghafig. Having conquered virtually all of Spain following their initial crossing from North Africa in 711, the Ummayads sought to extend their holdings farther northward and reached what might be called the "high-water mark" of Islam in Europe, only to be turned back at this encounter. Estimates vary, but it is believed that several tens of thousands fought on each side, with perhaps 12,000 Moorish losses, including their leader Abdul Rahman. 

Larger version here.
The battle of Tours has long been considered one of the most influential events in medieval history and is said to have "saved" Western Europe from Islamic conquest. Although many modern historians have minimized the importance of this battle in the final outcome, there's no doubting that it firmly established the descendants of Charles Martel - the Carolingian dynasty (wiki) - as the most powerful rulers in the region. 

* N.B. The battle was fought between modern-day Tours and Poitiers, and thus is also known as the battle of Poitiers.

** Charles Martel (A.D. 686-741) was the Duke and Prince of the Franks and the Mayor of the Palace, which made him the effective ruler of Francia from 718 to his death. As a result of his victory, he was henceforth known as "the Hammer" and was succeeded by his son Pepin. Pepin's son - and hence Martel's grandson, was Charlemagne (wiki), the first Holy Roman Emperor.

From the always interesting blog Today I Found Out (written by the author of one of my favorite books to give as a gift, The Wise Book of Whys):
The Battles of Tours was not a war of nations, but rather a battle of civilizations between Islam and Christian Europe. The Muslims had been conquering the remains of the Roman and Persian empires and were heading toward modern day France to continue their expansion. The Frankish King Charles (“The Hammer”) Martel wasn’t about to let that happen, so he gathered his forces at Tours as Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, Governor-General of Moorish Spain, led his Army northward.
The army that Charles amassed was very different from the Arab fighting forces. It was also unlike the Barbarian horde the Muslims had engaged the last time they attacked the area, and had no doubt had expected to encounter again. Previously, the only thing standing between a Frankish soldier and death was a heavy shield – they were now sporting full body armor. Their army boasted a full infantry unit that was quite a contrast to the lightly armed Arab horsemen who relied upon their speed, mobility and fearsomeness to win the field.
Here's a concise description of the events leading up to the battle, and of the battle itself:

The text above is adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Monday links

In honor of Columbus Day, here’s a list of the top 10 accidental discoveries. Related: Columbus cleared of importing syphilis from the Americas to Europe. Plus, that time Columbus tricked Jamaicans out of supplies using knowledge of an upcoming eclipse.

Nose hair extensions are the next hot beauty trend everyone needs to try. Well, maybe not everybody.

Seven Body Organs You Can Live Without.

Gorgeous remastered and colorized images from the Civil War era, including Lincoln and Mark Twain.

Inflatable dummy tanks were a critical tactic in battlefield deception.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include a UFO detector, a collection of vintage ads you would never see today, Hitler's boxers bought at auction, and how nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper set off bloody conflicts and the discovery of the New World.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Gorgeous remastered and colorized images from the Civil War era, including Lincoln and Mark Twain

This Mark Twain is extraordinary - it looks as if were taken yesterday:

Abraham Lincoln, taken by Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady in 1861, at the beginning of Lincoln's first presidential term:

A colorized image of three Confederate prisoners and its original black and white stenograph, taken by Mathew Brady in 1863 on top of Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg:

And here's Custer:

More at Daily Mail and at the artists' Facebook page Colorized History. This related book gets excellent reviews: The Civil War in Color: A Photographic Reenactment of the War Between the States.

Friday links

Ex-FBI agent opens cold case review into who betrayed Anne Frank.

The Existential Horror Created by the First X-Ray Images.

Need a gift for the person who has everything? Check out the reviews on this UFO Detector.

Someone Bought Hitler’s Boxers for $6,700.

How a bit of nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper set off bloody conflicts and discovery of the New World.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include advice on settling in New York in 1820, a guide for speaking to hormonal women, some wedding dress history, and, from 1803, the Ottoman Empire's first map of the newly minted United States.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Watch these guys disassemble and rebuild a Jeep in under 4 minutes

This is a standard issue WWII type Willys Jeep, designed for simplicity. Here's some history.

Wednesday links

From 1803, the Ottoman Empire's first map of the newly minted United States

A Creepy Crawly Collection of Insects Built Out of LEGO.

Hormone Guide: How to Speak to Women.

A Natural History of the Wedding Dress.

Rodents of Unusual Size: Giant Rat That Fell From Sky Is New Species.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include 1960 directions for building your own fallout shelter, why we yawn, organizing concerts in German prison camps, an octopus city, and what happens when you get beamed down in Star Trek.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

From 1803, the Ottoman Empire's first map of the newly minted United States

Via Slate:

What did the United States look like to observers from the Ottoman Empire (wiki) in 1803? In this map, the newly independent U.S. is labeled “The Country of the English People” (“İngliz Cumhurunun Ülkesi”). The Iroquois Confederacy shows up as well, labeled the “Government of the Six Indian Nations.” Other tribes shown on the map include the Algonquin, Chippewa, Western Sioux (Siyu-yu Garbî), Eastern Sioux (Siyu-yu Şarkî), Black Pawnees (Kara Panis), and White Pawnees (Ak Panis).

Click here for a zoomable version, and/or visit the map's page in the digital collections of the Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine. 

Click here to embiggen

via Geekpress.

Friday links

From 1960, here's how to build your own fallout shelter.

World War II Prison Camp Music.

Is beaming down in Star Trek a death sentence? Is it still you on the other side, or is it a copy?

Scientists have found an octopus city.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include a brief history of hypnotic breast enlargement, the post-mortem journey of Buffalo Bill's corpse, and composer Dimitri Shostakovich's birthday

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

From 1960, here's how to build your own fallout shelter

This video on building your own fallout shelter is from the FEMA archives, via the US National Archives YouTube channel. Per Popular Mechanics:
Released in 1960, "Walt Builds a Family Fallout Shelter," was released by the government's Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization (OCDM), working with the National Concrete Masonry Association. The plot is self-explanatory, and the dialogue is meant to convince people that their shelter could have plenty of uses. Sure, it would be handy in the case of nuclear war, but you could use the shelter as a darkroom for photographs! It could be a place for the grandkids to stay, too.
You're supposed to be able to live in this thing comfortably for at least two weeks, assuming you stock it well. The plan is to build it in the corner of a basement.

To see what materials you’ll need, this detailed Family Fallout Shelter Bulletin was released at the same time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Weird anti-drug PSAs

My personal favorite of these anti-drug PSAs is The Chicken Club - here's the youtube info:
This is a legitimate anti-drug music video (from the 80''s) conceived and created to let youngsters know that if they were confronted with the temptation to do drugs they could say "no" with confidence. Even if the person propositioning the child called them a "chicken" (as a last ditch effort to persuade the kid to change their mind) the youth could fire back with the completely unexpected answer, "That's right, I am a chicken and it's OK because there is this sweet music video that told me that it's cool to be a chicken. So your taunts, jeers and name calling will not make me change my mind, in fact they only strengthen my resolve. I'm not only a chicken...I'm in the Chicken Club!"

I would really like one of these Surfing Monkey Banks, please - story below the video:

Dangerous Minds had a post about the Surfing Monkey PSA in 2012 and heard from the creator, Greg Collins:
I’m one of the creators of that surfing monkey spot you threw up on Dangerous Minds this afternoon. Thanks for doing that.
Apparently you can buy these now.
That spot actually dates back to 1999. A buddy of mine and his wife totally smoked out one night. The next morning, they woke up on the sofa, their ribs and stomach muscles were hurting. They didn’t remember much of anything, other than laughing their asses off.
About a week later, a UPS guy knocked on their door, bearing some boxes from QVC. While they were all gassed out, they bought a Star Trek collector’s plate, a Chi-Wash-Wa home car washing system and a Michael Jordan in-flight pewter statuette. All in all, about $400. That must’ve been some great weed.
When they told me the story, I thought that’d make an awesome commercial, but all of that was too much to put into a :30 spot. We needed to drill it down to one item for simplicity and comedy’s sake. My buddy Greg hit on the idea of something really ridiculous like a surfing monkey coin bank. We shot the spot for like $300 and sold it through to the Partnership For A Drug-Free America. It ran in 1999-2000, and, to this day, remains one of their most beloved and recalled commercials.
And once you've moved on from the madness of reefer, here's LSD, A Case Study (turn down the sound - there's a very loud screaming hot dog):

via Flavorwire, where you can find more.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday links

Composer Dimitri Shostakovich was born September 25, 1906: some quotes, history, and music.

Mind-Altering Cat Parasite Just Got Linked to a Whole Lot of Neurological Disorders.

How the Star Trek Punch Became the Worst Fight Move on TV.

The Long, Strange Journey of Buffalo Bill's Corpse.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include the physics of wiffle ball, some equinox science for the first day of Fall, the use of the ducking stool on common scolds, and a kid showing his dad how to make Leonardo da Vinci’s self-supporting bridge.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Composer Dimitri Shostakovich was born September 25, 1906: some quotes, history, and music

I always try to make myself as widely understood as possible; and if I don't succeed, I consider it my own fault.

Dmitri Shostakovich (quoted in Machlis, Introduction to Contemporary Music)

The composer apparently does not set himself the task of listening to the desires and expectations of the Soviet public. He scrambles sounds to make them interesting to formalist elements who have lost all taste... The power of good music to affect the masses has been sacrificed to a petty-bourgeois, "formalist" attempt to create originality through cheap clowning. It is a game of clever ingenuity that may end very badly.*

~ Pravda (on the Shostakovich opera Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk, "Muddle Instead of Music," January 1936)

Still from a production of
 Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
Shostakovich told me: "I finished the Fifth Symphony in the major and fortissimo... It would be interesting to know what would have been said if I finished it pianissimo and in the minor." Only later did I understand the full significance of these words, when I heard the Fourth Symphony, which does finish in the minor and pianissimo. But in 1937, nobody knew the Fourth Symphony.**

~ Boris Khaikin (1904-1978) (Discourses on Conducting)

There may be few notes, but there's lots of music.

~ Shostakovich (on his film music for King Lear; quoted in Wilson, Shostakovich, A Life Remembered)

Particularly during the Cold War, Shostakovich was anathema to many Western critics:

The Fifth Symphony of Shostakovich always has been singularly irritating to this chronicler... Whenever I hear one of his marches, my imagination fastens upon a picture of the parades in Red Square and the banners of Uncle Joe, and my irritation becomes powerful.

~ Cyrus Durgin (? - 1962) (Boston Globe, 25 October 1952)

To anyone who knew his music, a first encounter with Dmitri Shostakovich could not fail to be startling. In contrast to the elemental force, bombast, grandeur of his works, he was a chétif*** figure, the perennial student, unassertive and shy, who looked as though all the music could be wrung out of him in a couple of song cycles.

~ Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) (Unfinished Journey)

Today is the anniversary of the birth of the greatest of Soviet composers, Dmitri Shostakovich (wiki) (1906-1975), recognized by many as the greatest symphonist of the 20th century. Three decades after his death, his reputation only continues to grow. Born in St. Petersburg, Shostakovich was an early piano prodigy and studied composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory during the early Soviet era.

At first recognized internationally as an exemplar of the best of Soviet musicianship, he ran afoul of the regime with his modernistic opera, Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk, which so outraged Stalin that he is said to have had a personal hand in writing the infamous Pravda editorial, "Muddle Instead of Music" that literally put the composer's life in jeopardy during the "Great Purge" of the late 1930s. 

Shostakovich somehow survived, even though he was recurrently criticized by the regime for his “modernist” tendencies. During his subsequent tumultuous career, he produced an enormous oeuvre: 15 symphonies, concertos, a great quantity of chamber music, song cycles, piano music, and several operas. Generally considered a serious - almost tragic - composer, Shostakovich nonetheless wrote a large amount of “light” music, including even a stage work – Moscow Cheryomushki (1959) – that might be described as a Russian musical comedy.

Harry Potter looks exactly like
 a young Shostakovich
For newcomers to the music of Shostakovich, I would recommend his 4th, 5th, and 10th symphonies, the two piano concertos, the "autobiographical" 8th strinq quartet, his several "jazz" and "ballet" suites compiled from light works of the 1930s, and his film score for The Gadfly, whose "Romance" was used to great effect as the principal theme of the TV series, "Riley, Ace of Spies."

During the last two decades, there has been a raging musicological debate about whether the music of Shostakovich reveals him as a loyal Soviet citizen or a closet dissident whose works portray a tormented man. No one really knows. He was clearly a quirky guy. In contradiction to the opening quotation above, he noted late in life,
"I've said what I said. Either you have it in you to understand, or if not, then it would be fruitless to try to explain anyway."
* N.B. In the first year of the Great Purge, this last sentence was a terrifying threat.

** After the uproar caused by Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk, Shostakovich "redeemed" himself with his Fifth Symphony (1937), designated "A Soviet Artist's Response to Just Criticism," still one of his most successful and popular works. However, his iconoclastic Fourth Symphony, which had been in rehearsal at the time of the debacle, was withdrawn and did not emerge again until 1961. It is now considered one of the master's most original works and a fascinating indicator of "the road not taken." By the way, Boris Khaikin was a Soviet-Jewish conductor.

*** Chétif - a French word meaning "puny."

Here is the romance from The Gadfly:

More typical of Shostakovich is the opening of his 4th symphony:

The text above is adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday links

Watch this kid show his dad how to make Leonardo da Vinci’s self-supporting bridge.

How Nestlé Makes Billions Bottling Water It Pays Almost Nothing For.

It's the first day of Fall - autumnal equinox science, videos, poetry, music.

The book wheel: A rotating reading desk for 16th century, perfect for those "tormented by gout".

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include Alexander Graham Bell’s tetrahedral kites, the 1869 near-war between the United States and Britain, and Joshua Norton, Emperor of the United States.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Watch this kid show his dad how to make Leonardo da Vinci’s self-supporting bridge

Using a series of wooden poles and beams, this kid shows his dad how to build Leonardo da Vinci's (wiki) self-supporting arch bridge, also known as the emergency bridge, without nails, screws, rope, glues, notches, or any other fasteners.

They've made this with 5 sections, but you could make it with many more - each section increases the height as well as the length. I'm sure there's an upper limit to the number of sections that would work, but I don't know what it is.

Here's a set of instructions for a popsicle stick version: Da Vinci Popsicle Stick Bridge, and here's a wooden kit.

In 1482, before he was famous, Da Vinci (April 15, 1452 - May 2, 1519) was looking for work. He sent his resume to the Duke of Milan, listing several useful skills he could provide, including the bridge:
I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.
Related posts/links:

NPR has translated Leonardo's To-Do List.