Monday, December 30, 2019

Plans for my New Year's Eve party

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Tomorrow is New Year's Eve so I've started planning my New Year's Eve party. Above is my inspiration. Of course, considering my abundant charm and urbane wit, finding a couple of bikini clad cuties to dance around will be no problem. However, the giant martini glass filled with booze is a bit more of a challenge. Wish me luck.

Oh, and I hope your New Year's Eve party plans work out as well.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Drawings of the northern lights

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I live in Florida, so aurora borealis displays are something I am not familiar with. That said, I guess I fit the demographic of the audience these were drawn for in the days before photography.

They are from the Public Domain Review's article “Firelight Flickering on the Ceiling of the World”: The Aurora Borealis in Art. There are more after the jump and at the link.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Walking in Montevideo, Uruguay

Time to work off our excess holiday calories with a little walking. 'Course sitting in a chair and watching a YouTube video of somebody else walking might not count, but let's not quibble over details, and so today we're off to Montevideo, Uruguay for a pleasant stroll.

It starts out in a nice looking shopping district, winds its way through it and on to some side streets, a monument in a park and an indoor market. The architecture of the area is fantastic -- a lot of old Spanish colonial style buildings.

Soooo... sit back and enjoy your virtual calorie burning exercise.

Monday, December 23, 2019

To those at sea

Christmas celebration of a U-boat crew by Felix Schwormstadt, 1915
(click image to enlarge)
In my younger years I spent a few Christmases underway or in distant ports. It is a loneliness that is hard to explain. And so, a wish of fair winds and following seas to my fellow sailors this holiday season.
Christmas at Sea - Robert Louis Stevenson

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
"All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.
"By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate Jackson, cried.
..."It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Different sounds of Christmas

By this time of the year I imagine most of us have heard some of the same Christmas music over and over again. With that in mind I usually look for foreign Christmas music to post. I've done Japan and Brazil in the past, this year I feature the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

Above is a Christmas song and dance. Christmas dances seem to be very popular with Tamil Christians -- there are a lot of YouTube videos of kids dancing in what I imagine must be the Sri Lankan version of Christmas pageants. I must say the notion of dancing to celebrate the holiday is appropriate.

Below are a few more examples of songs and dances.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

'Tis the season of Chistmas parties

Cover for Rex Stout's Christmas Party Murder
(click image to enlarge)
After all, what is your host's purpose in having a party? Surely not for you to enjoy yourself; if that were their sole purpose, they'd have simply sent champagne and women over to your place by taxi. - P. J. O'Rourke

Friday, December 20, 2019

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Defenders of the bibliotheca

Library confusion, by Sam Hood, 1952
(click image to enlarge)
Medieval book curses:

If anyone take away this book, let him die the death; let him be fried in a pan; let the falling sickness and fever size him; let him be broken on the wheel, and hanged. Amen.

For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying out for mercy, and let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let book- worm gnaw his entail [and] let the flames of Hell consume him forever.

Who folds a leafe downe
ye divel toaste browne,
Who makes marke or blotte
ye divel roaste hot,
Who stealeth thisse boke
ye divel shall cooke.

He who entrusts [this book] to [others’] hands, may all the gods who are found in Babylon curse him.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Skating on thin ice

As somebody who won't live in a climate where palm trees can't thrive I'm a bit disturbed at the thought of living somewhere where there is all that ice that escaped the refrigerator. To each his own I guess.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

DIY engine kits

Turbo jet engine
(click any image to enlarge)
These are a few kits from Engine DIY, a company that sells RC and model engine kits. They have wide variety of interesting kits. Of course they're having a Christmas sale so if you have a young, or for that matter an old, engineer that you're looking for a gift for one of their kits might solve your problem.

Inline 4 cylinder engine
Steam powered car
Electrolysis of water hydro generator
16 cylinder Stirling engine
2 cylinder-Stirling engine electricity generator
Galileo pendulum clock

Friday, December 13, 2019

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Climbing Perch Fish Curry

A Bengali couple cooks a meal of Climbing Perch Fish Curry. It is a simple meal. They start by catching the fish in the mud of a rice paddy, then go through an elaborate process of washing and cleaning the fish. They chop the spices and also grind some of them using a brick and what looks like a piece of tile. After they cook the fish over their fire they eat the meal using their hands to scoop up the rice and perch.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

An old-timey carwash

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The Auto Wash Bowl  was an early approach to commercially washing cars. Because so many roads back then were unpaved, dirt and mud would get caked on auto undercarriages. The Auto Wash Bowl was invented to solve that problem; cars would drive in and circle it for a few minutes until their bottom was cleaned. They would then exit to an area where the rest of the car was washed.

They lasted from 1921 to the early 1930s when they were replaced by more modern automatic car washes. From the Vintage Everyday article The Auto Wash Bowl in Chicago, ca. 1920s which has more pictures and information about them.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

The Day of Infamy

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On the morning of December 7, 1941, I had relieved the watch in the port engine room [of the USS Utah]. I had been on watch about 20 minutes when the first torpedo hit the ship on the port side. It was about 5 or 8 minutes before I could hear someone hollering that the Japanese were attacking us.

I ran up the ladder to the third deck. On the port side was our sleeping quarters, and water was already washing over my bunk. I went to the starboard side of the ship, went up to the second deck to our locker room and mess hall. There were several other men there. One asked if he should take his dress blue uniform with him. I told him he wouldn't be needing that for a good while.

I grabbed an extra pair of dungarees, a carton of cigarettes, and went on top side. A friend and I sat down on the side of the ship and slid into the water. We swam to Ford Island where we were picked up by a party. They took us to the USS California to unload ammunition. That evening we were taken to an ammunition ship that was tied up at the docks in the shipyard. We spend the night there. - Cecil Camp (source)

Friday, December 06, 2019

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Greyhound Bus ads

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These are color advertisements for Greyhound Bus from the mid 1940s to the mid 1950s. The early ads focus on soldiers returning home and later they focus on travelling to see different parts of America.

In his Civil War: a Narrative Shelby Foote talked about the long campaigns meant that the primarily rural soldiers traveled far and developed a different sense of the nation. Similarly, in WWII many of the young men had traveled to Europe, Africa or Asia. In the years after, and before the wide spread of the car culture or cheap airfare, these young men and their families wanted to see distant places in the States. Greyhound buses provided them with a means to travel long distances.

These ads, and those after the jump, are from the Ad Access section of Duke University's digital repository. 

Monday, December 02, 2019

Revenge and forgetfulness

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To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it. ― Confucius

Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday stampede

Because it follows the Thanksgiving holiday this Friday isn't really the start of a weekend, so I will forgo my usual Friday video and instead, in honor of Black Friday shopping madness, I'll post a stampede video.

Not sure what would be more intimidating, those elephants or Walmart shoppers at the moment the doors open for the Black Friday sales.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

The Peasant Meal by the Le Nain Brothers
If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got, he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get. - Frank A. Clark

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Vodou flags

 Images from Indigo Arts Gallery
(click any image to enlarge)
In popular culture the word voodoo has came to be indelibly associated with sticking pins into dolls, black magic and creating shambling zombies. To differentiate the actual Haitian religious practice -- which is a mixture of West African beliefs and Catholicism -- the spelling vodou is used these days. Normally such renaming annoys me, but I can see the rationale in this switch.

Vodou flags are a mixture of French battle flags with West African bead work. They feature beads and sequins. Originally they were religious in intent, although with the growth of tourism to Haiti they have also adopted a more secular and commercial purpose. From Haitianna's article Vodou Flags - An Essay on Collecting:
As Vodou flags made their way out of temples and into Port-au-Prince galleries and the hands of foreign buyers, curiosity about their purpose and function grew along with the numbers of people making flags. Some artists like Georges Valris imbue their flags with Christian imagery such as angels. Valris , who denies any belief in voodoo, regards flag-making as a commercial enterprise. Other flag makers, including Jean Baptiste Jean Joseph, are diehard voodooists. He once told me a story about seeing the mermaid figure of La Sirene, who controls the fate of anyone dealing with the ocean, actually walking out of the sea. But Joseph is also practical, using the flag medium in documentary fashion to portray what he sees around him including cats and lizards. This broad range of pictorial representation makes him a welcome anomaly among the current crop of voodoo flag makers, a group whose numbers seem to be swelling in recent years. With his innate color sense and use of luxurious materials such as velvet and satin, Joseph is setting a high standard for the next generation of flag makers to follow.

Each flag maker is known for something special. For Yves Telemaque, it’s the fantastic and optically challenging borders of his flags. By surrounding the central image in triangles and circles, then using faux pearls to accentuate contrasting colors, Telemaque rivals the paintings of Jasper Johns. Then there are traditionalists like Clotaire Bazile, who adheres to voodoo heritage in his portrayal of gods and goddesses and their symbolism. His simple diamond borders recall the careful workmanship on American patchwork quilts. Even newcomers to the field are distinguishing themselves. Lerisson Dubreus uses the trapunto technique of his forebears who made flags half a century and more ago.
These examples, and those after the jump, are from Indigo Arts Gallery's catalog of Haitian Vodou Flags. They sell the flags (as well as artwork from other regions) if you're interested in purchasing one.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

A small and complex machine

A nicely filmed video that shows the design and fabrication of a Patek Philippe wristwatch. The effort and care put into machining, finishing and then assembling the tiny parts of the watch's mechanism is amazing.

In an earlier post The evolution of complexity in watches I did reflect upon how deceptive the apparent complexity of watches could be:
Above are three main types of time pieces: ... a cheap crystal watch, ... a mechanical watch's mechanism, ... a digital alarm clock.

Of the three the mechanical watch visually seems to be the most complex, but there is little doubt that the digital clock is actually more complex by orders of magnitude. While the switches, LEDs, capacitors and resistors are simple enough, hidden within the IC chip, and discernible only by microscope, are circuits of immense complexity.
Indeed, just like extremely large scales escape us, our perception is far too crude to make real sense of something so small. In the end we only see a slice of reality.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Babylonian stew

This video is about three stews that were made from ancient Babylonian tablets that contained the oldest known historical food recipes. From The History Blog's article Babylonian stew which is about the Yale project that recreated these dishes:
The Yale-Harvard team prepared three recipes which were all from one tablet [cuneiform tablets in the Yale Babylonian Collection]: two lamb stews — one with beets and one with milk and cakes of grain — and a vegetarian recipe enriched with beer bread.

The variety of ingredients, complex preparation, and cooking staff required to create these meals suggest that they were intended for the royal palace or temple — the haute cuisine of Mesopotamia, says Lassen. Few cooks were able to read cuneiform script, she adds, hence the recipes were most likely recorded to document the current practices of culinary art.

“Making a stew is a very basic human thing and I think that is one of the reasons that we really went into this project,” says Lassen. “There is something really human about eating and food and tasting things, and that’s what we wanted to explore by recreating these recipes. Maybe not entirely as they as they would have prepared it — maybe our ingredients taste a little bit different — but still approximating something that nobody has tasted for almost 4,000 years.”

Monday, November 18, 2019

Beadle's New Dime Novels

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These are covers from Beadle's New Dime Novels. They were published between 18974 to 1886. The featured a mix of historical, war, adventure ands western fiction. At the time of their publication the settling of the American West was in full bloom. Many of the stories revolve around the Indian wars of the time. As you might imagine considering the conflicts, the Indians are portrayed as dangerous and bloody antagonists. Not surprisingly, it seems that white women were also frequently at peril in these stories.

They are from the Nickels and Dimes website. There are more pictures after the jump as well as many more at the link. Also, if you follow the link the full magazines are archived, so you can read the stories in them.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Conversations with North Korean defectors

This video features interviews with three North Korean defectors who have adjusted to life outside of that country. In the first part they recount their experiences growing up in North Korea, in the second their impressions of the wider world after their defections (two of them even spent time in the States).

Their comments about Trump are interesting. Prior to him they considered Korean diplomacy to be in a sort of equilibrium, with the Kim's saber rattling to get aid. The three obviously considered Trump to be dangerously unpredictable and seemed never to understand that it is a negotiating tactic to reshuffle the diplomatic deck and limit North Korea's options in the process.

The quote that did jump out at me was when one of them discussed their impression of the U.S., "Real freedom means respecting others' freedom as much as you value your own". Sadly, not so much these days.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Roadhouse Blues

Get ready for an early morning beer this weekend
with Daryl Hall, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and others.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Smoking to relieve asthma

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I can't imagine anybody who would really think that smoking anything would help with breathing problems, but I'll be generous and suppose they meant well and just missed the mark by a mile or two. I do love the "they may be safely smoked by ladies and children" line in the above ad. The voice bubble coming out of the guy's nose is also a sight to behold. Then again, who am I to doubt the medical advice of a talking nose?

These samples are from the  Messy Nessy post A Brief Compendium of Medical Quackery. There is much more quackery at the link.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Returning to Earth from the ISS

An interesting video on how the Soyuz capsule is used to return crew from the International Space Station. The actual touchdown of it looks pretty brutal.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day

Moving forward to relieve the front line troops in the trenches
Today we remember our veterans. Walter Hare of the West Yorkshire Regiment recalls when he first went to the front line in December of 1916:
We moved to the right, I remember, got into a church yard – a cemetery – and then dropped down into a trench. And I couldn’t believe it; I was knee deep in mud for a start. I’d never been told about the Somme and the mud on the Somme, it was all new to me. Well we sloshed down this communication trench and we passed a support line and then we went further up and got to what was the front line. And then that was the first we knew about trench warfare – we were told we hadn’t to show our heads above the parapet because there were snipers and they would get us if we did, you see, so we had to be careful. It was a bit of a shock because I could hear shells exploding and rifles and machine guns going, and I thought, ‘Well, I shan’t be here above five minutes.’ It depressed you a bit; just I’d not been warned about it, you see, I’d no idea what it was like. (source

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Japanese craftmanship

These videos are from the YouTube channel Aoyama Square. They show various example of traditional craftmanship and are very nicely filmed. Above is a woodworker making tubs and barrels. Below are examples of copper casting, wood carving and textile dyeing. There are a lot more videos at the link.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Inside the UB 110, a salvaged WWI German submarine

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In 1918 the UB 110 was sunk. It may have been the last submarine sunk in WWI. The English salvaged it, intending to commission it into their navy, but the war soon ended and UB 110 was scrapped. How they could have ever figured out all the controls and valves needed to sail her is beyond me,

These pictures, and those after the jump are photographs that were taken while she was in dry dock being refitted. They are from Rare Historical Photos post Inside the German submarine SM UB-110, 1918. There are more pictures as well as more information about the UB 110 which, including a possible atrocity at the time of her sinking, at the linked article.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Adrift in a void

Wreck of the SS Punta
There is only one home to the life of a river-mussel; there is only one home to the life of a tortoise; there is only one shell to the soul of man: there is only one world to the spirit of our race. If that world leaves its course and smashes on boulders of the great void, whose world will give us shelter? - Wole Soyinka

Saturday, November 02, 2019

A lesson in marital discord

The Adams and the Kings argue and in the process the narrator give us a lesson in marital discord. Often times when looking at old film and photos the small details rather than the central subject is what catches one's eye. In this case, for me at least, the décor of the two homes, especially the Kings', is more interesting than the fights.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween

Oh my, Halloween is so fraught with landmines in these politically correct neo-puritan days that even picking out a card can be a chore. Anyway, and at the risk of being insensitive and offending any Children of the Corn that might visit this blog -- Happy Halloween.

Errr.... also, please try to ignore the unhealthy and oddly cannibalistic connotations of a corncob pipe being smoked by a corncob (insert the Surgeon General's warning here, etc., etc.).

Monday, October 28, 2019

A mainland Chinese reflects on living in the West

The Hong Kong situation is revealing fractures in the Sinosphere (Mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Chinese diaspora) that were previously invisible to us Westerners. This video features a letter written by a mainland Chinese person who discusses the issues facing Chinese living in the West and the isolation the CCP inculcates in many of them. The comments to the video are quite interesting as well.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Real & imagined opium dens

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Opium dens, which started out as an Asian thing, became popular, or at least somewhat trendy, during the 19th century in Europe as well. Some of these pictures are of actual opium dens, others like the one above with all the drugged white women, are staged.

If you want to get titillated by Victorian opium addiction you can always go to Project Gutenberg and read Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey. Just be prepared for a lot of blithering foppery if you do decide to read it.

Finally, as usual, there are more pictures after the jump.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

St Joseph elementary school in Banjul, Gambia

The video labels it as a high school, but in the commentary it is for grades 1 through 9. Vic Stefanu, who filmed it, has a large number of interesting videos at his YouTube site.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Out of reach

A Eunuch’s Dream (1874), Jean Lecomte du Nouÿ
He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven - W. B. Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Bring it on Home to Me

Get ready to ask for a second chance this weekend
with Scary Pockets featuring Joshua Radin and Hunter Elizabeth. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Starting a WWII Soviet T-34-85 tank

The above video shows a 1944 T-34-85 being started after it sat in a barn for a while. It is powered by a 38 litre V-12 diesel. Below is more video of the tank, including shots of the interior of the turret and hull.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Paintings by Naoki Tomita

Click any image to enlarge
Naoki Tomita is a Japanese painter who paints striking urban and suburban landscapes. He applies hiss oil paint thickly and in the process creates a blending of realism and impressionism from his brush strokes.

He also paints portraits, but in these samples, and those after the jump, I've concentrated only on his landscape work.