July 29, 2014

Fletcherism Or An Eating Fad Of The Victorian Era

Before and After
Source: Mary Evans/Grenville Collins Postcard Collection
Back in the olden days, people were just as fond of torturing themselves with diets other nutrition trends as they are now (and yes, I do consider forcing myself to stay away from sugar torture!). But no, it wasn't a paleo diet, or juicing, or going gluten free. What people in the second half of the 1800s were into was Fletcherism.

The progressive dinner
So what did this program entail? Well, according to nutritionist Horace Fletcher 9aka the Great Masticator), one had to chew his/her food at least 30 times before swallowing. This would allow the consumer to (1) increase his/her own strength, while (2) reducing the amount of food consumed.

And, logically speaking, I'm sure it worked. Mainly because chewing longer would allow the time necessary for your stomach to signal its fullness which speed eating doesn't.

For those wondering, Fletcherism didn't prevent his adherents from conversing at dinnertime, though I believe it greatly increased the number of people chewing food while speaking.

However, if this doesn't tempt you, there's always the all-time favorite fat reducer: the TAPEWORM!!!*

*Please don't take this statement seriously!

For more on the Great Masticator's ideas and research:

Initial Source:
Top 10 Words With Bizarre Meanings (go to #5)

July 22, 2014

A Wig's Story

A Hint to the Ladies to take Care of their Heads
The Museum of London
Humans are interesting creatures, don't you think? Particularly when it comes to fashion. I know that some people say that fashion is cyclical and what was old becomes new again. But I wonder, will the same be said of the use of wigs?

Back in the 18th century, they were quite à la mode. Here's a little poem of the time which describes the incident where Lady Laycock--famous for her elaborate hairpieces--ended up getting her hairy montage on fire...

Yet Miss at her rooms
Must beware of her plumes;
For if Vulcan her feather embraces,
Like poor Lady Laycock
She'll burn like a haycock,
And roast all the love and the graces.

Mme des Faveurs à la promenade à Londres

Hair: Fashion and Fantasy

July 15, 2014

Eternal Flame

Revelation, fol. CLXXXVIIIv:
The second angel sounds, causing a huge burning mountain to fall into the sea

Fire Mountain aka Mount Wingen
Approximately 140 miles north of Sydney, Australia, is a hill called Mount Wingen. A very unprepossessing name, if it weren't for the coal fire that's been burning in its entrails for the last 6,000 years.
The fire is following its seam at a rate of about 1 meter per year, due south. So, given its estimated age, it means that the fire's moved about 6 kilometers since it started. At this rate, it should reach the outskirts of Sydney in another 255,000 years.

Legends say that when the people of the north
fomented a plan to raid the Wonnarua to steal their women, the Wonnarua performed the best defense they could think of: go on the offence. So the Wonnarua warriors went off to fight the Kamilaroi of the north, while their wives waited patiently back home. Once the battle was over, all of the men came back. All, save one, and his wife cried in pain at his loss, and prayed for the great sky god Baayami to kill her. Unwilling to do so, Baayami instead turned her into a rock, and her tears of water turned instead into tears of flame, which rolled down the mountainside and set it aflame...

So if you want to get glimpse of hell, I suggest you go down to Australia and dip your toe in the proverbial pool. Or, if that's too far from you, you could try the following locations: Chestnut Ridge Park in Pennsylvania, USA, Mount Chimera in Greece, Jharia Coalfield in India, the Smoking Hills in the far north of Canada, the Water and Fire Cave in Taiwan, and other such fantastic places.

The fires of Chimera
To end this post, I'd like to share with you this classic that I imagine Earth's singing to her beloved one, whoever it may be...

Heritage Australia

July 8, 2014

The Merry Wives Of Weinsberg

Copper engraving by Zacharias Dolendo, 16th c.
During the High Middle-Ages, in 1140 CE to be more precise, wars and battles abounded in Europe. But today I'm bringing you to Germany and its first king of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, Conrad III. And, zooming in a little closer, to his defeat of the Duke of Welf and the king's subsequent siege of Weinsberg.

This siege wasn't anything particular, as sieges go, except for the way its surrender was negotiated. For it was done so by the wives. The king granted them the right to leave with whatever they could carry on their shoulders.

So each woman hoisted her own husband onto her back, and proceeded to carry him out. The king laughed at the sight, and allowed the wives to leave--along with their respective burdens--unharmed. For "[a] king should always stand by his word."
The Carry Me costume
'cause it's a thing now...
(at a carnival)
The Women of Weinsberg and Other Legends of Aarne-Thompson-Uther
Wikipedia - Conrad III
Wikipedia - Weinsberg

July 1, 2014

All Hail The Hero Pigeon

Carrier pigeon

As in any war, being able to transmit messages is crucial--how else is one to transmit orders and organize the troops so that they move according to plan? During World War I, these messages were transmitted in several ways, including via wire (telephone/telegraph lines). But putting up those lines was a very dangerous job, and sometimes impossible. So sometimes a field commander would carry carrier pigeons with him as well. The pigeon, carrying the message in a small capsule on one of its legs, would fly back to its home coop behind the lines. Upon arrival, the wires in the coop would sound a bell, signaling that a new message had arrived.

Cher Ami was one such pigeon during WWI.

On October 3, 1918, Major Whittlesey and more than 500 men from the Liberty Division (since most men were from New York) were trapped on the side of a hill, surrounded by enemy soldiers. The next day, only 200 men were left alive. Major Whittlesey sent out several pigeons for aid. The next day, the American Artillery tried to save them by firing hundreds of big artillery rounds into the ravine where the Liberty Division was stuck...without knowing the American soldiers' exact location and thereby dropping big shells right on top of them.
So Major Whittlesey sent out his last remaining pigeon, Cher Ami, into the fray, with a single note:

We are along the road parallel to 276.4.
Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us.
For heaven's sake, stop it.

Croix de guerre
The little bird flew through the shots (for the Germans saw it take flight and wanted to prevent it from reaching its destination) and made it home, some 25 miles away, in 25 minutes, to deliver his message. The soldier who went to fetch the message found Cher Ami had been shot through his breast leaving a hole the size of a quarter behind, blinded in one eye, and, attached to his almost entirely severed leg, was the message.

Thanks to Cher Ami, 194 men were saved that day. The medics were hard to put him back together, and the French honored him with the Croix de Guerre and, when he was better, he was brought back to the US.