Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spanx: 1893

Elastic ribbed union suits cover the entire body like an additional skin. Fitting like a glove, but softly and without pressure. No buttons down the front. Made for men, women and young people. Most convenient to put on, being entered at the top and drawn on like trousers. With no other kind of underwear can ladies obtain such perfect fit for dresses or wear comfortably so small a corset.
--From The Delineator--

 Being happy with the way your body is, is really kind of unusual.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Exercise: 1902

Soft cooked" cereals are swallowed without the necessary mastication, thus robbing the teeth of their NATURAL exercise, causing weakness and decay. Shredded Whole Wheat Biscuit, being crisp, compels vigorous mastication and causes the NATURAL flow of saliva which is necessary for NATURAL digestion.
--From The Delineator--

From now on, whenever I see the words "nature" or "natural" I will imagine them written in capital letters. They're supposed to be some magic words that make everything okay and good; at least it seems that way with many of the people who use them. (But these mushrooms I picked in the woods are NATURAL, they can't possible be bad for you!)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mind altering substances: 1902

Miss Annie Avery, a student in Lanrk, Ont., writes: "I know I felt my ill health even more than if I had been engaged in any other work, as the confinement of school only increased my sickness and inability to study.

"Last year I was on the way to a general breakdown in health; I suffered from severe headaches, was becoming a confirmed dispeptic, nervous system broken down, and my condition went on from bad to worse until I was unable to study or even go to school.

"My parents were very anxious about me, as medicine did not help, and mother, hearing about Grape-Nuts, obtained some and I commenced to use it at once...

...I have gained 30 lbs. since using Grape-Nuts and am enjoying good physical and mental health."
--From The Delineator--

It bills itself as a diet cereal today, but back in the day Grape-Nuts was happy to advertise a 30 pound weight gain by one of its "users".

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Activewear: 1902

--From The Delineator--

The activity? Walking in a corset and not letting your dress get dirty.

Remember this picture the next time someone talks about modern fashion-designers hating women.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Early to rise

You can see all sorts of interesting things if you go to ordinary places at unusual times.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hand me downs: 1904

Every little girl has a corner in her heart set apart for paper dolls.... ...the plain, ordinary, old-fashioned paper doll which she can cut out for herself from magazines and fashion books.
--From Harper's Bazaar--

Lots of images in old magazines were made with little girls in mind, who would spend hours cutting out pictures of people and furniture, to play with.

I like how the culture flowed, it would be used by parents first, then given to children when cast off.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Project runway: 1915

--From Industrial art text-books: a graded course in art--

Barbie may be a doctor and an astronaut, but does she let your daughter actually create anything?

BONUS: paper doll themed music!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I've always liked low tide, but I wonder what we'd see if we could make the ocean pull back even farther, maybe miles. What landscapes hide beneath those waves? What treasure? What monstrosities!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One with nature: 1793

Every step you travel you meet with heads and carcases of dead buffaloes. When an Indian has a mind to kill many of them, he mounts his horse, with bow and a case containing several scores of arrows: he throws the reins loose about the horse's neck, who knows by constant practice his rider's intention, and gallops with all his speed through the middle of the herd of buffaloes. The Indian shoots as he goes along, until he expends his last arrow, then returns to pick up his prey, and from such as he finds dead he cuts out the tongue and the lump on the back, which he carries away with him; the rest of the carcase he leaves to wolves and other ravenous animals.
--From The Bee, or literary intelligencer--

 There goes another idealized image, right in the garbage can!

Monday, March 22, 2010

"I'll be back": circa 1350

Finally, Lord Guan spoke: "If I fail, my head is yours."

Cao Cao had a draft of wine heated for Lord Guan before he mounted. "Pour it," said the warrior, "and set it aside for me. I'll be back shortly."
--From the Romance of the Three Kingdoms--

Where do Westerns and Action movies come up with their awesome scenes and dialog?

Maybe from "action books", which I never would have thought was a genre. And this book has cliffhangers, too:
What was the outcome of the fight?

Read on.
Every chapter ends in that fashion.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Consumerism: 1661

What sort of toiletries would a person in 1661 be interested in?

A range of hair dyes:
To make your Hair yellow.

To make your Hair red.

To dye Hair black.
pimple cream:
For a red face full of pimples.
tooth whitener:
A powder to keep the teeth white.
Against the ill smell of the arm pits.
skin lighteners:
That the skin may be exceeding white.
and self tanners:
A water to make the face black.
--From Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature--

But I thought it was only advertising that made people want these things!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Full Brazilian: 1661

There are some interesting entries in this book:
That hairs may fall, and none grow again.
A dipilitory whereby a hairy place is made bald.
which leave you wondering exactly what they are talking about, because they only mention hairy places in general. Did people back then want bald heads? However this entry, which seems at first to be about something else, makes what they are talking about perfectly clear:
That Children may never have Beards.

That Boys and Girls may never have hair grow on their secrets [vaginas] or beards, annoint the privities [privates]...
 --From Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature--

Why were they interested in depilatating their genitalia? The asumptions I would make from a modern perspective might include:

1. From being exposed to nude sculptures/paintings depicting people with such attributes.

2. Because they were exposed to many sexual partners and/or found it sexually enticing.

3. Health concerns (lice).

Obviously, these recipes may have been intended for professionals, not the general population, or they may have been oddities meant to provide insight into medicine. But considering how the author talked about breast and vaginal restoration in this book, I'm going with my second assumption.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Breast augmentation: 1661

That Womens Breasts may be made like to Virgins Breasts. is proved by experience, that a scale Fish laid to Womens breasts, will so bind them together, that they will look like Virgins breasts. The same may be done to the Secrets [We know what that word means!]. Let those who are given to pleasure and ornament prick up their ears.
--From Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature--

 Over the past few day's reading I've come to the conclusion that many of the medical technologies we have qualms about today--breast (and vaginal) cosmetic surgery, genetic engineering of offspring, chemical castration--would have been used in the past. They even tried using them, they just didn't have the means to make them work.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Designer babies: 1661

How well coloured and fair Children may be begotten.

Great is the affection of the mind, or force of imagination, but greatest of all when it exceeds: what is it you may not do almost by it? Women when they are with Child, when they desire most eagerly, think of it vehemently, they change the spirits within, and in them are painted forms of the things they thought of; those move the blood, whereupon in the softest matter of the Child they imprint the form...
--From Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature--

Changing the child in the womb so they appeal to the superficial whims of parents: an issue that society never dealt with before the advent genetic engineering!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jägerbomb: 1661

That the Woman shall abhore Copulation and the man shall desire it.

If a red Bull's pisle be poured and a crown weight be given the woman to drink in wine or broth, she will abhore to lye with a man. But the same powder mingled with fit Ingredients will provoke men that are dull and impotent to Vencrous Acts.
--From Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature--

1. Look at the first sentence and consider the marriage problem this recipe was meant to help.

2. I can definitely see how sneaking bull's piss into a woman's drink, and then maybe telling her about it, would make her not want to sleep with a man; especially if "the man" was the one who gave her the drink.

3. Women back then probably wouldn't want to leave their drinks unattended, but for entirely different reasons than those of today.

4. O. Henry could do wonders with this premise, à la The Gift of the Magi.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Snow White: 1661

A sleeping Apple.

An Apple to make one sleep, is made of all these; Opium, Mandrake, juyce of Hemlock, Henbanefeed, Wine lees, to which must be added Musk, that by the scent it may provoke him that smells unto it. Make a Ball as big as a man may grasp in his hand, by often smelling to this it will cause him to shut his eyes and fall asleep: but it is but in vain to try to do this at certain hours; for men's temperaments vary: but he that shall go about it, may try it by such means, and all in vain. To hinder the danger of these things there is help enough: if you anoint their Temples, Nose, and Testicles with distilled Vinegar, or other things dissolved in Vinegar, that may drive away sleep and awaken the parties.
--From Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature--

This is what Disney got wrong:

1. The apple isn't dunked in poison; it's made of poison.

2. The apple isn't supposed to be bitten, but smelled.

3. The antidote isn't "Love's First Kiss", but vinegar sprinkled on the crotch.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Yes We Can: 1601

In a "Battle of the Bands" type competition I think Queen Elisabeth I would win. Of course, she got an entire album out of it, not just one measly song.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Pippin Pie: 1668

This recipe is from The English House-wife, published in 1668.
Take the fairest and the best Pippins,

I used Golden Delicious apples (3 were all I ended up needing).
and pare them; and make a hole in the top of them; then prick in each hole a Clove or two, then put them in the coffin [pie crust], then break in whole sticks of Cinnamon,
It must have been somewhat dangerous to eat pies, with sticks of cinnamon hidden in them. I used two inches of cinnamon sticks and five cloves.

I ground them up, making sure there weren't any hard pieces left.

the slices of Orange-pills [orange peels], and Dates, and on the top of every Pippin, a little piece of sweet Butter; then fill the coffin, and cover the Pippins over with Sugar:
I mixed my ingredients up with some sugar (and a pinch of salt).

Then filled the crust and put some pats of butter on top. The crust was made with butter and eggs. There was another recipe in the book describing how to make the crust (paste) which is what I followed.

then close up the Pye, and bake it, as you bake Pyes of the like nature: and when it is bak'd, anoint the lid over with sweet Butter, and strew Sugar upon it a good thickness, and set into the oven again for a little space, as while the meat is in dishing up, and then serve it.
I didn't add sugar on top. Instead I egged it, so a certain design (anachronistic) would be highlighted.

It tasted surprisingly sophisticated.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Herbal remedies: 1661

To prevent sleep.

There is a Berry brought out of Egypt cald Coffee, which being dried and beaten to pouder, and boyled in fair water, is much used among the Turks to make them lively and prevent sleep, which of late is become of great use in England.
--From Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature--

Herbal remedies, bah! They never work.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A visit to the tattoo parlor: 1661

How Letters that cannot be defaced may be written upon Mens bodies.

If you please at any time to write new Figures upon a Man, you may easily do it in a hot house, dividing the uttermost skin with a Razor, or a Lancet, first marking the Letter with Inke upon the skin; then fill up the cuts with red Lead, or blew, or with some Earth of the same colour which you would have it...
--From Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature--

This wasn't for the benefit of the person getting the tattoo, but for the person making the tattoo. They would write notes on a person's skin and then have them deliver it (in person obviously).

People can be so many things, including a sheet of paper. And I suppose I prefer people without tattoos because I like a blank canvas, or at least the illusion of one.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ayn Rand: 1639

My Brethren all attend,
And list to my relation:
This is the day, mark what I say,
Tends to your renovation;
Stay not among the Wicked,
Lest that with them you perish,
But let us to New-England go,
And the Pagan People cherish;

Then for the truths sake come along, come along,
Leave this place of Superstition :
Were it not for we, that the Brethren be,
You would sink into Perdition.
--From Rump: or An Exact collection of the choycest poems--

They were talking about religion, and going Galt over that; but money is our religion, so it's schools of economics that we fight our wars over.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fire extinguishers: 1668

How to make dainty sport with a Cat.
"Dainty"; this should be nice.
If you will have some sport with a Cat, then get a little Bell, such as the tame Hawkes have at their legs, and tye the Bell something hard...
Uh oh! the end of the Cats taile, and let her go, the feeling, of her tail smart, and hearing of the Bell gingle, she will run up and down as if she were mad, flying against the walls and windows...
Okay, that was pretty awful.
Some have shod a Cat round, with putting melted Pitch into four Walnut-shels, and placing her feet therein, and she will make pretty sport.
Oh My God!
I was told of a merry Fellow that came into an Ale-house in cold weather, and finding but a reasonable Fire, said, He would make the Cat piss it out, and watching his oppertunity, he getteth his Hostesses Cat, putting her head betwixt his thighs, and holding her four feet fast in one hand, and with the other hand held up her taile near the fire, and did piss such aboundance that she quite quenched the same.

--From A Rich Cabinet--

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Edutainment: 1668

A very pretty and ready way to teach Children or others suddenly to learn their ABC in manner of play.

Cause four pieces of Bone or Wood to be cut into six square-like Dice, and upon every side or square let one of the letters of the Alphabet be ingraven or writ, ABCDEF upon one of them, then GHIKLM on the other, and so of the rest in order, as you may see in the Figure.

Now the Child taking delight, and using to play with them (amongst other Children) and being told what Letters are uppermost, will soon learn their Aphabet, as it were by the way of sport and pastime.

--From A Rich Cabinet--

Let's be new and innovative, let's make learning fun!

Like they did in the 17th century.

Also of interest to those teaching reading: this chapter where teaching by highlighting syllables is suggested if using a system based on letters doesn't work. No big fuss was made about it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Encrypted email: 1668

How to write Love-letters secretly, or From one Friend to another, that cannot be discovered.

Take a sheet of white Paper, and double it in the middle, then cut holes through both the half-sheets, let the holes be cut like panes of Glass-windows, or other forms that you best fancy, and then pin prick holes at each end, and cut your paper in two halfs, give one to your Friend... ...the other half keep to your self: Now when you do write, lay your cut paper on a half sheet of writing Paper, and stick two Pins through the two holes that it stir not, then through those holes that you did cut, write your minde to your Friend; when you have done, take off your Paper with the holes again, and then write some other idle words both before and after your lines, but if they were written to make some little sense, it would carry the less suspicion; then seal it up, and send it.
--From A Rich Cabinet--

I take it by "Love-letters" they mean "Plots to overthrow the king" and by "Friends" they mean "Conspirators". Does this mean I have the mind of a jailer or a revolutionary? I suppose when someone in government has these thoughts they are those of a jailer, and when a citizen, they are the thoughts of a revolutionary.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Kitchen gadgets: 1668

An excellent way for baking of Bread, that it shall not be hard crusted, nor yield so many crums.

Goe to the Plate-worker, (such as maketh ordinary Dripping-pans) and cause him to make a Pot... ...according as you mean the bigness of your Loaf shall be... ...when it is done, take a little Butter, and annoint the in-side of the pot there-with, and when your Dow is moulded put it in the same...
--From A Rich Cabinet--

While I like a hard crust, it's funny to learn that all the people who don't are the ones who have traditional taste buds, because having a soft crust on bread was a selling point in 1668.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rocket propulsion: 1668

You may make Figures of what shape your fancy best pleaseth: the body must be made of light wicker rods, and in the midst of the body let there be placed an axel-tree, having two Wheels coming into the water, yet so as they may not be seen: these Wheels must be made hollow, to contain a quantity of sand or water: the use of it is to keep the body of your Figure upright, and able to sink it so far into the water as is needful, and likewise to make it swim more steady: note that these Wheels must be lose, and the axel-tree fast: in the midst of the axel-tree place three or four Rockets one by another, with their mouths all one way: yet so provided that there may be such a distance between each Rocket, that there may come a vent from the tayl of the first to the mouth of the second, and from the second to the third. And to the end that may continue the longer in motion, you may place divers lights about the Body, to make it more beautiful; every of which lights extinguishing shall give a report, and so conclude.
--From A Rich Cabinet--

If you were watching a fireworks display in 1668 you might be sitting on a boat, or on the shore of a river. Rocket-propelled mermaids and whales would float by, covered in lights that made loud noises as they went out. Someone would have built a small castle, from the door of which a dragon would emerge, spitting flames. Then Neptune, riding on a sea-horse would fight him. There would be fountains of fire, and other such wonders, but there also would be a real story and a clear demonstration of art involved.

With our high-flying fireworks displays of today, that's something we hardly ever see. I can only imagine what it must have been like, because I've never seen a fireworks display that sounds half as good as one of theirs. Fireworks just seem kind of boring to me, and compared to what used to be done with them, they are.

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's all in your head: 1668

First then to speak of Feavers or Agues; the House-wife shall know those kinds thereof, which are most familiar and ordinary as the Quotidian or daily Ague, the Tertian or every other days ague, the Quartan or every third days ague, the Pestilent, which keepeth no order in his fits, but is more dangerous and mortal: And lastly, the accidentall Feaver, which proceedeth from the receit or some wound, or other painful Perturbation of the spirits.
--From The English House-wife--

Like the fever that comes every three days, sometimes the patterns we impose on the things we experience keep us from seeing what our real problems are. All we get out of it is an explanation; and for some people that's good enough.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The noblest of pleasures: 1668

Since there is no pleasure more Noble, Delightsome, or void of couzenage [?] and deceit than this pleasure of Cocking is; and since many of the best Wisdomes of our Nation have been pleased to participate with the delights therein; I think it not amiss, as well for the instruction of those which are not unexperienced, as fortifying of them which have some knowledge therein, to declare in a few Lines the Election, Breeding, and Secrets of dyeting the Fighting Cock...
--From Country Contentments--

Cock fighting!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Playing with your dog: 1667

An Account of an Experiment made by M. Hook, of Preserving Animals alive by Blowing through their Lungs with Bellows.

I did heretofore give this Illustrious Society an account of an Experiment I formerly tryed of keeping a Dog alive after his Thorax was all displayed by cutting away the Ribbs and Diaphragme; and after the Pericardium of the Heart also was taken off....

...the Dog being kept alive by the Reciprocal blowing up of his Lungs with Bellowes, and they suffered to subside, for the space of an hour or more...

--From Philosophical transactions--

I bet there weren't a lot of stray dogs around Hook's house.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Playing with your food: 1667

This is a continuation of yesterday's post. The philosophers, having bled a sheep until it was faint and given it a blood transfusion from a calf, have noticed the sheep seems strong again:
Then resolving to bleed the Sheep to death, we bound her the second time, and opened the emittent part of the Vein again; whereupon having bled about 60 ounces, she fell into Convulsions; and after the loss of about 5 ounces more, she died upon the place: and being dressed by the Butcher, there did not, in all the usual places, appear above 3 ounces of blood; and the whole Sheep looked a lovely white; and the meat of it (to the taste of those, that eat of it) was very sweet.

The Sheep being dead, we resolved likewise to see the Calf bleed to death...

...about 25 ounces of blood, of a very lovely and vivid colour...
--From Philosophical transactions--

I find it interesting that they call the sheep a "she" instead of an "it", have no problem slaughtering and eating the sheep after curing it, and then comment on the loveliness of the flesh of the sheep and the blood spewing from the calf.

Someone might say: "If you saw an animal being slaughtered you would have a problem eating it." But if everyone around you acted like nothing gross was going on, and you didn't have the idea that it was gross in your head, it wouldn't bother you at all. Thirty years ago I might have made the statement that no one in America would eat raw fish, but now sushi is sold in supermarkets. Has the idea that eating raw fish is gross stopped people from eating it, or encouraged it?