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Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday links

Fashion Ads From The 1970s. Warning - once you see these, they can't be unseen.

When Halloween Was All Tricks and No Treats.

Three major battles took place on October 25th - Agincourt, the charge of the Light Brigade and Leyte Gulf.

The Valley of the Cheese of the Dead - in this remote Swiss town, residents spent a lifetime aging a wheel for their own funeral.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the physics of juggling, scientists investigating the secrets of smelly cat butts, a 1918 prostate warmer to restore your manly vigor (or radium suppositories if that doesn't work), and the history of toilet paper. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Fashion Ads From The 1970s

There's approximately a gazillion of these available on the interwebs, and I've probably posted way too many of them - once I started I had a hard time stopping! The vast majority of what I've included here are ads for men's clothing, because they're so many standard deviations from the current norm - the women's versions look (relatively) normal.

I have to say, too, that I lived through the 70's, and although this stuff was, obviously, advertised, I don't remember actually seeing much of it. On the other hand, I don't remember an awful lot about that time period.

The only person who pulled this fashion statement off, sort of, was John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, and I'll bet it's been waaay to long since you watched it  (watch full screen):

This ad seems to be patterned after Travolta:

I don't know what to make of this:

I'm pretty sure I never heard of Flagg Brothers, but I love the pimp style and the women hanging onto their legs:

A couple for the ladies:

And for the whole family:

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Wednesday links

Dubious medical device du jour - the prostate warmer.

Scientists are investigating the secrets of smelly cat butts - apparently anal sacs can tell you a lot about an animal.

The peculiar bathroom habits of Westerners. Related: Toilet Paper History: How America Convinced the World to Wipe. My favorite writing on the subject is the toilet paper advice from Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son.

The Origin of the Bar Foot Rail.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include 1960 instructions for building your own fallout shelter, the anniversary of Trafalgar Day, the 19th century practice of dining and dating in cemeteries, and why sodas in outdoor vending machines don't freeze in the winter.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son - toilet paper advice

My favorite quote from Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son* (wiki) (to his illegitimate son, that is; he (Chesterfield) was trying to raise him (the son) above his (the son's) lowly origins and inferior blood):
"I knew a gentleman, who was so good a manager of his time, that he would not even lose that small portion of it, which the calls of nature obliged him to pass in the necessary-house; but gradually went through all the Latin poets, in those moments. He bought, for example, a common edition of Horace, of which he tore off gradually a couple of pages, carried them with him to that necessary place, read them first, and then sent them down as a sacrifice to Cloacina*: this was so much time fairly gained; and I recommend you to follow his example.

It is better than only doing what you cannot help doing at those moments; and it will made any book, which you shall read in that manner, very present in your mind. Books of science, and of a grave sort, must be read with continuity; but there are very many, and even very useful ones, which may be read with advantage by snatches, and unconnectedly; such are all the good Latin poets, except Virgil in his "Aeneid": and such are most of the modern poets, in which you will find many pieces worth reading, that will not take up above seven or eight minutes."
*Full text available at Gutenburg.

**Cloacina was the Roman goddess of sewers. She is named for cloaca, the Latin for sewer or drain. 

Remains of a shrine to her can still be today seen in the Forum in Rome, where she watched over the Cloaca Maxima or the Great Sewer. 

Pliny (the Elder) refers to the signa Cloacinae, two statues standing on the shrine. It was described and depicted in The Roman Forum: its History and its Monuments, written in 1909.

A short poem asking Cloacina to intercede in one's bathroom business is attributed to Lord Byron:
O Cloacina, Goddess of this place,
Look on thy suppliants with a smiling face.
Soft, yet cohesive let their offerings flow,
Not rashly swift nor insolently slow.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Monday links

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

When Americans Dined (and Dated) in Cemeteries.

A Million People Are Jailed at China's Gulags. I Managed to Escape. Here's What Really Goes on Inside

October 21 is Trafalgar Day: history, videos, art and links. Trafalgar was the greatest British naval victory of the Napoleonic wars and essentially destroyed the sea power of France in a single engagement..

How Do Sodas in Outdoor Vending Machines Not Freeze in Winter?

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the 1814 London Beer Flood that killed 8 people, a detailed account of the Notre Dame restoration process, a map of the entire internet as of 1973 that fit on one sheet of paper, and, from 1865, Mark Twain's proposal for climate control.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

His & Her Diary From the Same Day

From an old Reddit post (2011)

Christopher Hitchens on cancer etiquette

Christopher Hitchens (wiki) in November 2010 in Vanity Fair, shortly before his death - posted here because the url has changed a couple of times:

Ever since I was felled in mid-book tour this summer, I have adored and seized all chances to play catch-up and to keep as many engagements as I can. Debating and lecturing are part of the breath of life to me, and I take deep drafts whenever and wherever possible. I also truly enjoy the face time with you, dear reader, whether or not you bring a receipt for a shiny new copy of my memoirs. But here is what happened while I was waiting to sign copies at an event in Manhattan a few weeks ago. Picture, if you will, me sitting at my table, approached by a motherly-looking woman (a key constituent of my demographic):

She: I was so sorry to hear you had been ill.

Me: Thank you for saying so.

She: A cousin of mine had cancer.

Me: Oh, I am sorry to hear that.

She: [As the line of customers lengthens behind her.] Yes, in his liver.

Me: That’s never good.

She: But it went away, after the doctors had told him it was incurable.

Me: Well, that’s what we all want to hear.

She: [With those farther back in line now showing signs of impatience.] Yes. But then it came back, much worse than before.

Me: Oh, how dreadful.

She: And then he died. It was agonizing. Agonizing. Seemed to take him forever.

Me: [Beginning to search for words.] …

She: Of course, he was a lifelong homosexual.

Me: [Not quite finding the words, and not wishing to sound stupid by echoing “of course.”] …

She: And his whole immediate family disowned him. He died virtually alone.

Me: Well, I hardly know what to …

She: Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I understand exactly what you are going through.

This was a surprisingly exhausting encounter, without which I could easily have done. It made me wonder if perhaps there was room for a short handbook of cancer etiquette. This would apply to sufferers as well as to sympathizers. After all, I have hardly been reticent about my own malady. But nor do I walk around sporting a huge lapel button that reads: ask me about stage four metastasized esophageal cancer, and only about that. In truth, if you can’t bring me news about that and that alone, and about what happens when lymph nodes and lung may be involved, I am not all that interested or all that knowledgeable. One almost develops a kind of elitism about the uniqueness of one’s own personal disorder. So, if your own first- or secondhand tale is about some other organs, you might want to consider telling it sparingly, or at least more selectively. This suggestion applies whether the story is intensely depressing and lowering to the spirit—see above—or whether it is intended to convey uplift and optimism: “My grandmother was diagnosed with terminal melanoma of the G-spot and they just about gave up on her. But she hung in there and took huge doses of chemotherapy and radiation at the same time, and the last postcard we had was from her at the top of Mount Everest.” Once again, your narrative may fail to grip if you haven’t taken any care to find out how well or badly your audience member is faring (or feeling).

It’s normally agreed that the question “How are you?” doesn’t put you on your oath to give a full or honest answer. So when asked these days, I tend to say something cryptic like “A bit early to say.” (If it’s the wonderful staff at my oncology clinic who inquire, I sometimes go so far as to respond, “I seem to have cancer today.”) Nobody wants to be told about the countless minor horrors and humiliations that become facts of “life” when your body turns from being a friend to being a foe: the boring switch from chronic constipation to its sudden dramatic opposite; the equally nasty double cross of feeling acute hunger while fearing even the scent of food; the absolute misery of gut-wringing nausea on an utterly empty stomach; or the pathetic discovery that hair loss extends to the disappearance of the follicles in your nostrils, and thus to the childish and irritating phenomenon of a permanently runny nose. Sorry, but you did ask … It’s no fun to appreciate to the full the truth of the materialist proposition that I don’t have a body, I am a body.

But it’s not really possible to adopt a stance of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” either. Like its original, this is a prescription for hypocrisy and double standards. Friends and relatives, obviously, don’t really have the option of not making kind inquiries. One way of trying to put them at their ease is to be as candid as possible and not to adopt any sort of euphemism or denial. So I get straight to the point and say what the odds are. The swiftest way of doing this is to note that the thing about Stage Four is that there is no such thing as Stage Five. Quite rightly, some people take me up on it. I recently had to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to attend my niece’s wedding, in my old hometown and former university in Oxford. This depressed me for more than one reason, and an especially close friend inquired, “Is it that you’re afraid you’ll never see England again?” As it happens he was exactly right to ask, and it had been precisely that which had been bothering me, but I was unreasonably shocked by his bluntness. I’ll do the facing of hard facts, thanks. Don’t you be doing it, too. And yet I had absolutely invited the question. Telling someone else, with deliberate realism, that once I’d had a few more scans and treatments I might be told by the doctors that things from now on could be mainly a matter of “management,” I again had the wind knocked out of me when she said, “Yes, I suppose a time comes when you have to consider letting go.” How true, and how crisp a summary of what I had just said myself. But again there was the unreasonable urge to have a kind of monopoly on, or a sort of veto over, what was actually sayable. Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic.

So my proposed etiquette handbook would impose duties on me as well as upon those who say too much, or too little, in an attempt to cover the inevitable awkwardness in diplomatic relations between Tumortown and its neighbors. If you want an instance of exactly how not to be an envoy from the former, I would offer you both the book and the video of The Last Lecture. It would be in bad taste to say that this—a pre-recorded farewell by the late professor Randy Pausch—had “gone viral” on the Internet, but so it has. It should bear its own health warning: so sugary that you may need an insulin shot to withstand it. Pausch used to work for Disney and it shows. He includes a whole section in defense of cliché, not omitting: “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” The words “kid” or “childhood” and “dream” are employed as if for the very first time. (“Anyone who uses ‘childhood’ and ‘dream’ in the same sentence usually gets my attention.”) Pausch taught at Carnegie Mellon, but it’s the Dale Carnegie note that he likes to strike. (“Brick walls are there for a reason … to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”) Of course, you don’t have to read Pausch’s book, but many students and colleagues did have to attend the lecture, at which Pausch did push-ups, showed home videos, mugged for the camera, and generally joshed his head off. It ought to be an offense to be excruciating and unfunny in circumstances where your audience is almost morally obliged to enthuse. This was as much an intrusion, in its way, as that of the relentless motherly persecutor with whom I began. As the populations of Tumortown and Wellville continue to swell and to “interact,” there’s a growing need for ground rules that prevent us from inflicting ourselves upon one another.