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Friday, October 30, 2015

From 1873: How to Make a Turnip Jack-o-Lantern, plus The Oracle of the Nuts

"Another common amusement at this season of the year is to make a turnip lantern, and in connection with this, I would warn my young folks that as a first step to do this successfully, they should procure a turnip righteously and honestly... first, procure as large a turnip as possible, and then proceed with your pocket knife to scrape out all the substance of the turnip, leaving only the rind or skin... Having scraped all the substance out of your turnip, and made a hole in the lid to let out the smoke, proceed to cut on the outside a man's face, as you see has been done by the little fellow in our picture. Do not cut the shell of the turnip quite through but cut as thin as possible, so that as much light and as little wind may get through as possible... You must make a hole in the bottom of the lantern to receive the candle. When this is lighted all is complete, and you may now call on some of your friends and show your lantern." 
~ The Dew-Drop

And there's this bit of weirdness from the excellent 1869 Chambers' Book of Days (online version here):
There is a remarkable uniformity in the fireside customs of this night all over the United Kingdom. Nuts and apples are everywhere in requisition, and consumed in immense numbers. Indeed the name of Nutcrack Night, by which Halloween is known in the north of England, indicates the predominance of the former of these articles in making up the entertainments of the evening. They are not only cracked and eaten, but made the means of vaticination in love affairs. And here we quote from Burns's poem of Halloween:
The auld guidwife's well hoordit nits
Are round and round divided,
And mony lads' and lasses' fates
Are there that night decided:
Some kindle, couthie, side by side,
And burn thegither trimly;
Some start awa wi' saucy pride,
And jump out owre the chimly
Fu' high that night.
Jean slips in twa wi' tentie e'e;
Wha 'twas, she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, and this is me,
She says in to hersel':
He bleezed owre her, and she owre him,
As they wad never mair part;
Till, fuff! he started up the lum,
And Jean had e'en a sair heart
To see 't that night.'
 Brand, in his Popular Antiquities, is more explicit:

'It is a custom in Ireland, when the young women would. know if their lovers are faithful, to put three nuts upon the bars of the grate, naming the nuts after the lovers. If a nut cracks or jumps, the lover will prove unfaithful; if it begins to blaze or burn, he has a regard for the person making the trial. If the nuts named after the girl and her lover burn together, they will be married.'
Explicit, indeed. There's a LOT more on the holiday on their October 31 page, here.

Larger image here
Apparently Halloween was also know in some parts of Scotland as Nutcrack Night:
This is an old Scots and Northern English name for Halloween, the night of 31 October, otherwise called The Oracle of the Nuts. As the chill of autumn pervaded their homes, people would sit around their fires, eating newly harvested hazelnuts or chestnuts. Several fortune-telling customs grew up that involved throwing nuts into the fire, hence these names for the night.
Turnip quote via Ask the Past.

Nutscaping (let's call this one NSFW)

Boys will be boys, and men will be boys too.

Metro UK: It’s art, really.
Nutscaping is a photo-taking trend which involves dropping your trousers, whipping out some testicles (yours, if you have them), and gently hovering above the camera so your balls hang down like a majestic moon in the sky. 
How to Nutscape:
1. Find yourself somewhere awesome
2. Turn your back to the awesome scene
3. Drop your pants
4. Bend over and shoot Nutscape through your legs
Lots more at Nutscape.com

Friday links

Dave Barry's Halloween column from 1996: Night Of The Living Chocolate.


How You Could Become A Stunt Driver.

This Is What 7,000 Jack O’Lanterns Look Like, and here's Pumpkin Land.


Why 'Mom' and 'Dad' Sound So Similar in So Many Languages.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include lots of Daylight Saving Time links (Ben Franklin's satirical proposal, the guy who got two DUIs at the same time (an hour apart)), the world's slowest Rube Goldberg machine, and the extremely weird story of the life and death of the actor who played Vigo The Carpathian.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thursday links

Daylight Saving Time ends this weekend: Here's DST history, including Ben Franklin's satirical proposal, the guy who got two DUIs at the same time (an hour apart), rants, stories and video.

All 14 Werewolf Tribes of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Ranked.

Resurrecting a Set of Hundred-Year-Old Embryonic Genitals.

11 Fun Historical Newspaper Clippings About Halloween and lots of other Halloween stuff.

World's Slowest Rube Goldberg Machine.

The Hateful Life And Spiteful Death Of The Man Who Was Vigo The Carpathian.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include the anniversary of Agincourt, the charge of the Light Brigade and Leyte Gulf, the science of Little House on the Prairie, denture history (beginning with the teeth of dead men), pumpkin carving tricks, WWII instructions to soldiers on how to act in various countries overseas, and the remaining pages of Darwin's original manuscript of On the Origin of Species, complete with his kids' drawings. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dave Barry's Halloween column from 1996: Night Of The Living Chocolate

This bit reminds me of various Free Range Kids (here's their archive of Halloween articles) posts on ludicrous Halloween-related parental fears:
The irony, of course, is that there ARE no hordes of trick-or-treaters, not any more. We in the news media make darned sure of that. Every year we publish dozens of helpful consumer-advice articles, cheerfully reminding parents of the dangers posed by traffic, perverts, poisoned candy, and many other Halloween hazards that parents would never think of if we didn't remind them ("Have fun, but remember that this year more than 17,000 Americans will die bobbing for apples").
The result is that many children aren't allowed to go trick-or-treating, and the ones who ARE allowed out come to your house no later than 4:30 p.m., wearing reflective tape on their Power Rangers costumes and trailed at close range by their parents, who watch you suspiciously and regard whatever candy you hand out as though it were unsolicited mail from the Unabomber.
And this bit reminds me of me:
So for most of Halloween, your doorbell is quiet. This means that you pass the long night alone, hour after hour, just you and the miniature candy bars. After a while they start calling seductively to you from their bowl in their squeaky little voices. "Hey, Big Boy!" they call. "We're going to waste over here!"
As the evening wears on they become increasingly brazen. Eventually they crawl across the floor, climb up your body, unwrap themselves and force themselves bodily into your mouth. There's no use hiding in the bathroom, because they'll just crawl under the door and tie you up with dental floss and threaten to squeeze toothpaste in your eye unless you eat them. At least that's what they do to me. By the end of the night my blood has the same sugar content as Yoo-Hoo.
Read the whole thing, and if you're looking for kids' books for Christmas, Mr. Barry's Peter and the Starcatchers series has been a hit with my grandkids - I started buying them a few years ago and get new ones as they come out, and they get passed from kid to kid.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2008/10/31/v-fullstory/1845331/night-of-the-living-chocolate.html#storylink=cpy

Ben Franklin’s satirical proposal of something like daylight saving time

In a comedic letter he wrote, An Economical Project (published in 1784), ”to the authors of the journal of Paris”, Franklin mentions something like daylight saving time; instead of changing clocks, though, he suggested ringing church bells and firing cannons, among other things, as the sun rises to maximize the amount of time people would be awake during times when the sun is providing free light. The letter was meant to be a satire, rather than actually suggesting these changes be made.

Here’s an excerpt of the letter:
You often entertain us with accounts of new discoveries. Permit me to communicate to the public, through your paper, one that has lately been made by myself, and which I conceive may be of great utility.
I was the other evening in a grand company, where the new lamp of Messrs. Quinquet and Lange was introduced, and much admired for its splendor; but a general inquiry was made, whether the oil it consumed was not in proportion to the light it afforded, in which case there would be no savoring in the use of it. No one present could satisfy us in that point, which all agreed ought to be known, it being a very desirable thing to lessen, if possible, the expense of lighting our apartments, when every other article of family expense was so much augmented…
I went home, and to bed, three or four hours after midnight, with my head full of the subject. An accidental sudden noise waked me about six in the morning, when I was surprised to find my room filled with light; and I imagined at first, that a number of those lamps had been brought into it; but, rubbing my eyes, I perceived the light came in at the windows. I got up and looked out to see what might be the occasion of it, when I saw the sun just rising above the horizon, from whence he poured his rays plentifully into my chamber, my domestic having negligently omitted, the preceding evening, to close the shutters.
I looked at my watch, which goes very well, and found that it was but six o’clock; and still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early, I looked into the almanac, where I found it to be the hour given for his rising on that day. I looked forward, too, and found he was to rise still earlier every day till towards the end of June; and that at no time in the year he retarded his rising so long as till eight o’clock. Your readers, who with me have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon, and seldom regard the astronomical part of the almanac, will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his rising so early; and especially when I assure them that he gives light as soon as he rises. I am convinced of this…
Yet it so happens, that when I speak of this discovery to others, I can easily perceive by their countenances, though they forbear expressing it in words, that they do not quite believe me. One, indeed, who is a learned natural philosopher, has assured me that I must certainly be mistaken as to the circumstances of the light coming into my room; for it being well known, as he says, that there could be no light abroad at that hour, it follows that none could enter from without; and that of consequence, my windows being accidentally left open, instead of letting in the light, had only served to let out the darkness…
This event has given rise in my mind to several serious and important reflections. I considered that, if I had not been awakened so early in the morning, I should have slept six hours longer by the light of the sun, and in exchange have lived six hours the following night by candle-light; and, the latter being a much more expensive light than the former, my love of economy induced me to muster up what little arithmetic I was master of, and to make some calculations, which I shall give you, after observing that utility is, in my opinion the test of value in matters of invention, and that a discovery which can be applied to no use, or is not good for something, is good for nothing… [From The Writings of Ben Franklin: An Economic Project]
Much more at the always-interesting Today I Found Out* including this:

Although it’s quite clear he’s joking around in this letter, Franklin was known for putting more subtle jokes in many of his other papers that only the most astute would spot. He was so famous for this that, according to Ormand Seavey, editor of Oxford’s edition of Ben Franklin’s autobiography, when they were deciding who should write the Declaration of Independence, they partially chose Jefferson over the significantly more qualified and respected Franklin, as some feared Franklin would embed subtle humor and satire in it that wouldn’t be recognized until it was too late to change. Knowing this document would likely be examined closely by the nations of the world at that time, they chose to avoid the issue by having the much less gifted writer, Jefferson, write it instead, with Franklin and three others to help Jefferson draft it.

Previous posts:

January 17 is Ben Franklin's birthday - bio, quotes, videos, his 200 synonyms for drunk, the bodies found in his basement, and more.


Much more on Daylight Saving Time

* By the way, of you're starting to think about Christmas presents, I highly recommend Today I Found Out's book - I've given out several and they're consistently a big hit. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday links

Yesterday, October 25, was the anniversary of three major battles: Agincourt, the charge of the Light Brigade and Leyte Gulf: history, maps, Shakespeare, and documentaries, including one that contains Thomas Edison's 1890 recording of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, reading his own poem Charge of the Light Brigade.


Dead Men’s Teeth: A History of Dentures.

Video: Halloween pumpkin carving tricks.

Instructions for servicemen serving overseas: How The Army Handled Cultural Sensitivity Training in WWII.

Once a book was published and galley proofs were in hand, there was no further use for the original manuscript, so Charles Darwin, father of 10, gave his kids the manuscript of On the Origin of Species to draw on. Here are the surviving pages, complete with drawings.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include lots of Halloween-related links, why more firstborn kids need glasses, a gallery of photos from hot-air balloon festivals, a 400 ft long baguette and a pizza nearly a mile long, and recycling penicillin from patients urine.

Per Bishop Ussher, the earth was created on this date in 4004 B.C. at 9AM

I assume that's 9AM Greenwich Mean Time, since Bishop Ussher (wiki) was in Ireland, so that'd be 4AM here on the right coast of the U.S.

In the beginning, God created heaven and earth, which beginning of time, according to this chronology, occurred at the beginning of the night which preceded the 23rd of October in the year 710 of the Julian period.

~ Bishop James Ussher  (The Annals of the World

The greatest blunders, like the thickest ropes, are often composed of multitude of strands. Take the rope apart, separate it into the small threads that compose it, and you can break them one by one. You think, "That is all there is?" But twist them all together and you have something tremendous. 

~ Victor Hugo (1802-1885) (Les Mis√©rables, Pt. 2, Bk. 3, Ch. 10) 

There is no arguing with pretenders to divine knowledge and to a divine mission. They are possessed with the sin of pride; they have yielded to the perennial temptation.

~ Walter Lippman* (1889-1974) (The Public Philosophy, Ch. 7, Sct. 5) 

Allowing for a combination of subsequent calendar adjustments, October 26 is - according to Bishop James Ussher (wiki) (1581-1656) - the anniversary of the creation of the earth at 9 A.M. on 26 October 4004 B.C. (although I've seen other accounts which claim it's October 23). Ussher, the Anglican bishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland after 1625, based his calculation in 1650 on a close reading of Holy Writ - Ussher's calculations are broken down here. Here is another example of his clever theological insight:
"The religion of the papists is superstitious and idolatrous; their faith and doctrine erroneous and heretical; their church in respect of both, apostatical; to give them therefore a toleration, or to consent that they may freely exercise their religion, and profess their faith and doctrine is a grievous sin."
* N.B. Walter Lippman was an American political commentator during the middle years of the 20th century.