Pulp Western Book Covers

Sunday, February 26, 2017
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 These are book covers, from the British Library Collection, of old  19th Century western pulp novels. They are cheap and sensational looking, but they none-the-less  must have established a lot of the tropes and cliches used by later western novels and movies.

I've never read one, I think I'll dig around Project Gutenberg and see if they have a few. I'll post about it if I'm successful. Of course there are more covers after the jump.


Nuclear Powered Bomber Engine.

Friday, February 24, 2017


Early in the Cold War, before rocket power and ICBMs, both the US and Russia experimented with nuclear powered bombers. The idea was the aircraft could stay aloft for days or weeks to deliver a counter-strike should airfields be knocked out early in a war.

Above is a video of portions an American nuclear propulsion system, s well as an early breeder reactor, located in rural Idaho.

Mechanical/Biological

Saturday, February 18, 2017

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Regulars will know I appreciate old scientific illustrations (some are here, here, here and here). As reflected in his work, the Paris based artist Steeven Salvat must appreciate their aesthetics as well. Here is some of his work from his series Mechanical/Biological where he combines the style of 19th century naturalist's drawing of crustaceans exteriors with a mechanic's innards of gears and clockwork.

There are more after the page jump, and much more of his work at his link.


The Clayton Disinfector

Wednesday, February 15, 2017
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When I was young they scared us to death with atomic war. Fallout shelters, mutants, duck-and-cover and all that. Now I've noticed they scare people to death with pandemics. AIDS, bird flu, Ebola -- even a cholera outbreak in Haiti.

Neither world-wide devastation fear has come true yet. In the present epidemics have been largely localized,  but in the past epidemics and plagues were a sad part of life. People of my parents' age spoke of the horrors of polio -- the Saulk vaccine was a miracle to them.

By the end of the 19th century they knew rats and fleas carried disease. They also knew fumigation could help clear contaminated buildings and ships.

A machine used on large spaces was the Clayton Disinfector. It burned sulfur to create fumes, cooled them and then pumped them into the space needed fumigation. It was used on hospitals and other large infected buildings. It was also mounted on tugs to fumigate ships entering harbor (shown in the drawing below).


Inside an Abandoned Copper Mine

Friday, February 10, 2017


The YouTube channel Exploring Abandoned Mines is the creation of a group of fellows who explore old, abandoned mines in the west. It features a lot of videos of various mines. The only knowledge I had of mine interiors was from Hollywood movies, and seeing the real thing was quite surprising.  There are more videos at the link.

African Ceremonial Masks

Monday, February 06, 2017
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"Drums were beating, horns blowing, and people were seen all running in one direction;—the cause was a funeral dance, and I joined the crowd, and soon found myself in the midst of the entertainment. The dancers were most grotesquely got up. About a dozen huge ostrich feathers adorned their helmets; either leopard or the black and white monkey skins were suspended from their shoulders, and a leather tied round the waist covered a large iron bell which was strapped upon the loins of each dancer, like a woman's old-fashioned bustle: this they rung to the time of the dance by jerking their posteriors in the most absurd manner. 

A large crowd got up in this style created an indescribable hubbub, heightened by the blowing of horns and the beating of seven nogaras of various notes. Every dancer wore an antelope's horn suspended round the neck, which he blew occasionally in the height of his excitement. These instruments produced a sound partaking of the braying of a donkey and the screech of an owl. Crowds of men rushed round and round in a sort of "galop infernel," brandishing their lances and iron-headed maces, and keeping tolerably in line five or six deep, following the leader who headed them, dancing backwards. 

The women kept outside the line, dancing a slow stupid step, and screaming a wild and most inharmonious chant; while a long string of young girls and small children, their heads and necks rubbed with red ochre and grease, and prettily ornamented with strings of beads around their loins, kept a very good line, beating the time with their feet, and jingling the numerous iron rings which adorned their ankles to keep time with the drums. One woman attended upon the men, running through the crowd with a gourd full of wood-ashes, handfuls of which she showered over their heads, powdering them like millers; the object of the operation I could not understand. 

The "premiere danseuse" was immensely fat; she had passed the bloom of youth, but, "malgre" her unwieldy state, she kept up the pace to the last, quite unconscious of her general appearance, and absorbed with the excitement of the dance.

These festivities were to be continued in honour of the dead; and as many friends had recently been killed, music and dancing would be in fashion for some weeks."

From The Albert N'Yanza, Great Basin of the Nile by Sir Samuel White Baker (paragraph breaks added). More images after the fold.



A Liberty Ship Sets Sail

Sunday, January 29, 2017


In 2012 the U.S. Battleship Iowa set sail for San Pedro to become a museum ship. Accompanying her on departure was the WWII Liberty ship, the SS Jeremiah O'Brien. This is a short feature of the O'Brien getting underway, with a lot of shots taken inside the engine and boilers rooms showing the O'Brien's old triple-expansion steam engine in operation.