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Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday links

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


A brief  history of shaving.


The Delicate Art of Breeding Cheetahs.

Dinosaurs performed dances to woo mates, according to new evidence.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include the Feast of the Ass, an infographic on the most powerful weapon in sci-fi history, a map of power outages caused by squirrels (with bonus squirrel-related links), and that time President George H. W. Bush escaped cannibals.

Prohibition in the United States began on January 16, 1920 and ended on December 3, 1933

The precursor to the "war on drugs":

Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. 

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) (A Book of Burlesques, "Sententiae") 

Abstainer, n. A weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure. A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially inactivity in the affairs of others. 

~ Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) (The Devil's Dictionary

Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded. 

~ Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) (speech, 18 December 1840 to the U.S. House of Representatives) 

The prohibition law, written for weaklings and derelicts, has divided the nation, like Gaul, into three parts - wets, drys, and hypocrites. 

~ Florence Sabin (1871-1953) (speech, 9 December 1931) 

Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.

W. C. Fields (1880-1946) (attributed) 

Prohibition (wiki) began on January 16, 1920, which was the effective date of the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution: it was a national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States. An outgrowth of the temperance movement, which had been gathering momentum during the entire 19th century, Prohibition got a final impetus from World War I, which prompted the Congress to pass the 18th amendment in December 1917.* Ratification (by 36 of the 48 states) came on 16 January 1919, and the Volstead Act implemented the measure a year later.** 

Prohibition - highly unpopular - was only weakly enforced by the federal government, and thousands of "speakeasies" - many controlled by organized crime - quickly appeared to satisfy the nation's thirst. The illegal importation and distribution of booze soon became a major source of income for "the Mob" and led to the infamous gang wars of the late 1920s and early 1930s. 

Several states had banned alcohol prior to the federal ban, and in Illinois there was an organized attempt by a group of women to use telepathy to influence the outcome of local votes: the Temperance Thinkers mobilized some 500,000 women to dress all in white and to direct thought waves at voters. “Women arrayed in white will assemble at the polls,” described one paper, “and by concentrated mental effort endeavor to influence the men."

On December 5th, 1933, prohibition in the United States of America came to an end with the ratification of the 21st Amendment. After 13 years, the country's attempt to ban the booze had ended.

The video below shows a newsreel from the time, documenting the 'happy news for the grain raisers of the United States and for many others throughout the land'. I like this quote: "The problems with legislating morality soon became abundantly clear":


* N.B. To save grain for the war effort, a temporary prohibition measure was enacted just after the Armistice and went into force in July 1919. More over, the discrediting by the war of the large German-American community, strong objectors to Prohibition, diminished the opposition. Similarly, it has also been claimed that the absence of a large proportion of American men - serving in France - had a significant effect. 

** Named for Minnesota representative Andrew Volstead (1860-1947), the act defined the alcoholic products affected, stated enforcement procedures, and set out the penalties for violation. It was passed over President Wilson's veto.

"I do not think the state has any more right to tell me what to put in my mouth than it has to tell me what can come out of my mouth. Those two are essentially the same thing, and they are both essential elements of freedom."

My maternal grandmother was the president of the Poughkeepsie, NY chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) - there were 4 members and they met monthly (or thereabouts). Her four sons tried many times over her life to sneak a few drops of something into her lemonade or iced tea, but as far as I know they never succeeded and she went to her grave never having had alcohol pass her lips.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

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

If you would not be forgotten,
When you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worth the reading,
Or do things worth the writing.

~ Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard's Almanack, May, 1738) 

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.

~ Ibid., December 1743

It would be a hard government that should tax its people one-tenth part of their income.

~ Ibid.

Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.

~ Franklin (letter to M. Leroy, 1789) 

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

~Franklin

Political cartoon by Franklin urged
 the colonies to join together
during the 
French and Indian War
Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.

~ Franklin (Autobiography, Ch. 9) 

I should have no objection to go over the same life from the beginning to the end: requesting only the advantage authors have, of correcting in a second edition the faults of the first.

~ Ibid., Ch. 1 

Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from
 the Sky
 c. 1816 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, by Benjamin West
January 17th is the anniversary of the birth of American statesman, philosopher, and scientist Benjamin Franklin (wiki) (1706-1790) in Boston. After apprenticing with his brother as a printer, Franklin settled in Philadelphia, published The Pennsylvania Gazette, and gained a wide circle of readers with his Poor Richard's Almanack (1732-1757). Entering civic affairs, he was eventually appointed Postmaster General for the colonies (1753-1774) while also dabbling in a variety of scientific pursuits, including his famous experiment with a kite in a thunderstorm. 

Before the Revolution, Franklin spent a total of 14 years representing the Pennsylvania Assembly in England, attempting to achieve reconciliation with the home country. Failing that, he was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775 and signed the Declaration of Independence the next year. Appointed to represent the American colonies in France, he spent the next nine years in Paris and helped negotiate the peace with Britain in 1781. After his return to the United States, Franklin served as a member of the Constitutional Convention and died three years later. On the separation of church and state, he wrote in 1790,
"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself, and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
My favorite bit of Franklin lore remains his 200+ synonyms for “drunk”, alphabetically arranged, first published in the Pennsylvania Gazette on January 6, 1737 (and later in The Drinker's Dictionary) with this introduction:
"The Phrases in this Dictionary are not (like most of our Terms of Art) borrow'd from Foreign Languages, neither are they collected from the Writings of the Learned in our own, but gather'd wholly from the modern Tavern-Conversation of Tiplers. I do not doubt but that there are many more in use; and I was even tempted to add a new one my self under the Letter B, to wit, Brutify'd: But upon Consideration, I fear'd being guilty of Injustice to the Brute Creation, if I represented Drunkenness as a beastly Vice, since, 'tis well-known, that the Brutes are in general a very sober sort of People."
Here's some guy dressed as Franklin reciting the list.

And then there's... That Time They Found Those Bodies in Ben Franklin's Basement:
From 1757 to 1775, Ben Franklin lived in an elegant four-story Georgian house at No. 36 Craven Street in London during his time as an ambassador for the American colonies. In late 1998, a group calling itself Friends of Benjamin Franklin House began to convert the dilapidated building into a museum to honor Franklin, whose other home in Philadelphia had been razed in 1812 to make way for new construction (a "ghost house" frame now sits on the site).
One month into the renovations, a construction worker named Jim Field was working in the basement when he found something odd: a small pit was in a windowless basement room. Inside, sticking out of the dirt floor, was a human thigh bone.
Full map here.
The police were called and supervised excavation continued. More human bones were pulled up. And more. And more, until some 1,200 pieces of bone were recovered. Initial examinations revealed that the bones were the remains of 10 bodies, six of them children, and were a little more than 200 years old. Their age discouraged any interest from Scotland Yard, but piqued the curiosity of historians and the Institute of Archaeology. The bones' age meant they may have been buried in the basement around the same time that Franklin was living in the house.
Read the whole thing here.

Franklin is known to have played the violin, the harp, and the guitar. He also developed the glass harmonica seen in this video:


Here's a brief (two minute) animated bio:



Wikipedia has more on his inventions and scientific studies, including (without limitation), work on electricity, ocean currents, population, the wave theory of light, and meteorology.

Thursday links



Infographic: What's the Most Powerful Weapon in Sci-Fi History?
Map of power outages caused by squirrels, with bonus squirrel-related links.

Stalin's Diminutive Size.

Venison Jello, Mystery Ingredients, and Other Triumphs of Soviet Cuisine.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include Antarctica ownership conflicts, 100 manly skills,  the mysterious dancing epidemic of 1518, and the French power plant that runs on cheese.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Advice from c. 1200: How to Survive the Winter

So, are the old ways always the best? I tend to think so, being a grandma.

"Winter is damp and cold: we should turn to food. Nourishment should be delicious in the winter. Neither purging nor bloodletting is helpful then, and encounters in bed with your lady friend should be moderate."

~ Daniel of Beccles, Urbanus magnus
Related:

How to Keep Your Hands Warm, advice from 1579:
"Whosoever annoynts his feete or hands, with the grease of a Woolfe: he shall not be hurt with any colde of his handes, or feete so annointed."
~ Thomas Lupton, A Thousand Notable Things (1579)
Previous posts:

How to Prevent Pregnancy, c. 1260 (the weasel/scorpion method), plus other dubious medical advice.

Advice from 1380: How to Tell if Someone Is or Is Not Dead, with bonus Monty Python.