A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.5 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places...
This wonderful, semi-impossible sulphur-laden pamphlet emerged from the bottom of one of the "Naive Surreal" boxes today in the warehouse:
When God Splits the Atom (1956) offers a not-so-friendly piece of advice: "its later than you think". We are told that God delivered the atom and the atomic bomb and the end of the war and the beginning of the United Nations. None of that will save us from the burning ring of fire, and the U.N. will fail, and so on, down to the firey pit if there is no repentence and acceptance of the higher power. The cover pretty much tells the entire story.
There are a few other God-and-athe-atomic-bomb posts on this blog, like, well, this one:
The idea and imagery of the atomic bomb was instantly re-purposed and used to identify and sell food and comfort, and was employed for hotel names, cakes, dart games, watches, restaurants, patience games, and so on--God was just one of a series in a long line of a-bomb apps.
Darrell Drake was full of advice, not much of which seems to have weathered the wearying bits of time very well. Most of what he has to offer has to do with being coy, reserved, and retiring, and so much so to the point of being insipid acquiescing in the superior qualities of the man, forever in the back seat, quiet and demure, patient and understanding and making the back-step always the job of the woman. Not much of a surprise. But what was very unexpected was the chapter called "Let Smoke Get in Your Eyes", a four-page baiting in which he warns women against the antagonism of correcting the manners and behavior of the man, so much so that she should be well willing to have smoke blown into her eyes rather than suggest that the smoker not do so--you don't see that every day.
Q: What could possibly go wrong with the idea of settling out mostly-imaginary biological issues than spinning?
A: Well, its not so much as getting something wrong than it is getting nothing right.
Such is the case with the spinning hyper-centrifugal anti-aging machine, found at the Modern Mechanix site. Among bad ideas it isn't so much "bad" as it is "hyper-bad", though it is not quite so hyper-bad when compared to the mega-hyper-bad-so-bad-it-isn't-even-bad-but-worse idea for the centrifugal birthing patent that appeared in this blog earlier (here, in the Electro-IronPunk Centrifugal Birth Machine post).
The centrifuge had been around for a long time prior to its estrangement and corruption in the anti-aging scheme. James Watt created one (in 1786) as a regulator in his fabulous 1781 parallelogram steering of his double-acting steam engine, and Oliver Evans employed one in his Philadelphia-based mill at about the same time. (Robert Hooke in 1674 had proposed a universal system of cosmic glue using a balanced approach between centrigical force and gravitation as the stuff that held the universe together, only to be bitterly disappointed by the publication of Newton's Principia nine years later.) Like other bold and advanced ideas corrupted to popular Atomic-Motel misuse, the centrifuge was no exception.
This book review on the use of narcotics in treating the insane appeared in the New York Journal of Medicine for 1846. The book, An Essay on the Use of Narcotics, and other remedial Agents calculated to produce Sleep in the Treatment of Insanity…., was by Joseph Williams, M.D., and was published in London in 1845. The theory behind the sleep treatment was that the basic mechanism of insanity was “cerebral inflammation” or “excessive vascular action” in the brain—inducing deep sleep, evidently, was a good way to combat the over-active/inflammed/blooded-up brain.
The article itself comes at an odd time in the history of the treatment of the insane. It came almost 40 years after the establishment of McLean Hospital (first known as the "Asylum for the Insane," a division of the Massachusetts General Hospital), which opened on Oct. 1, 1818, and was the first hospital dedicated to the treatment of the insane in the U.S. It came 70 years after the great advances of Benjamin Rush, who elevated the “Mental Patient” from chains on the floor to the status of medical or nervous illness or disease. The use of narcotics over this period seems to have surged and waned. In 1879, in an article in the New York Times, the reputation of the Asylum for the Insane on Ward’s Island in NYC was considered—and one of the high points was that it had (largely) discontinued the use of narcotics in treating the patients their. (There were still problems, of course, what with the asylum being overcrowded, housing 1100 in an institution meant to house 700, and where the chores and even nursing positions were staffed by the inmates, who were feed on 32 cents a day.) As late as 1921, though, Jacob Alter Goldberg notes in his Social Aspects of the Treatment of the Insane, that there was a new, sharp increase in “toxic narcotic” treatments of the insane. Of course, I guess one could replace “narcotic” with some sort of other misplaced treatment, like shock therapy, or Freudian mélanges, or something. Each age must necessarily have their entry in the encyclopedia of embarrassments .
In this article we find sleep assaulted by the use of the following: purgatives (“to subdue vascular action when the propriety of bleeding is doubtful’), emetics, opium (to be used “in cases of high nervous excitability and in puerperal mania”), morphia (“the most valuable remedy for calming excitement”), hyosciamus (“to produce sleep, tranquilizing the irritability of the insane”). It is weird to see that the last sentence in the description of hyosciamus reads “some fatal cases have occurred from exhibiting henbane as an enema”. Henbane has been in use since ancient times, and is largely understood to be a dangerous/poisonous drug--to administer the thing as an enema leaves little doubt that it would kill people.
Still to come in the review is conium (“I have used it frequently and in large doses…it is chiefly valuable as a deobstruent and alternative”, followed by camphor, Belladonna, hydrocyanic acid, colchirum, stramonium aconite, and others. “Warm baths’ makes an appearance (“90 degrees may be considered to be the best temperature for a warm bath for the insane”), as do cold baths, and the applications of ice caps.
I’m not so sure about what to make of it all, the sleep treatment of insanity I mean—after all, Joseph Lister only makes his epochal pronouncements on cleanliness in the operating theatre 15 or so years after this paper, which seems today to be the most rudimentary thing that one could do in treatment in the surgical room, so treating extra blood in the brain through drug-induced sleep doesn’t seem all that far away from the realm of possibility back there in early Victorian England.
I don’t think I’ll forget the toxic narcotic enema any time soon, though. Or the word “deobstruent”.
I'm looking for post #2000--this isn't it. It is however Quick Post #450 or so, which means that we're closing in on 2,500 overall posts in this blog since 2008. But there should be something with a little more flavor than baby tanning for #2000.
This is a good/appropriate installment for the Daily Dose from Doctor Odd series. As ideas go, it is not a very good one--but it is not among the Dantean 9th-level-worst. If we classify bad ideas on a six-point Major-Minor scale, from MajorMajor to Major to MinorMajor and then to MajorMinor and then Minor and finally MinorMinor, this one would probably rank at the MinorMajor level. Or maybe even a full Major. It is a bad idea. (An example, by the way, of a full MajorMajor bad idea would be the electropunk centrifugal birthing patent machine, described earlier on this blog, here. Okay, here's another: on draining the Mediterranean Sea, here.)
There are less invasive ways of ensuring that the correct baby is delivered to the correct parent(s) than tanning the baby's name onto their body--which doesn't of course take into account the instances where the baby's skin is too dark or whatever to be tanned. But the idea of subject a brand-new baby to a tanning lamp as its welcome to the world seems a bit--what?--horrible. Exposure to ultraviolet rays that will cause a six-month brand sounds like it might stir up the melanosome pot to cause damage to organs other than the skin, that it could have been a real assault on the DNA. Also, that metal object on the table looks a lot like a clamp--I hope it wasn't.
Attributing human characteristics to extra-terrestrial bodies is an ancient practice. Constellation It is an ancient human practice of giving stuff human attributes, to allow things to have powers of reason,and understanding, in order to make them understandable, intellectuallyconsumable. This applies to (Father) time, many aspects of the possibilities of g_d, constellations, planets, the Man in the Moon, facial appellations of the Sun, winds, rain, and so on. Large chunks of our real and imagined worlds are given faces and mentions--that, plus personifications of elements, where we describe the difficult and the invisible with traits that are in our common human understandable currency: like, for example, sin "lurking" and storms "hiding" and meteors "racing". It makes the complex and uncommon more reasonable.
In all of this, particularly in the personification and anthropomorphization of celestial entities, there are very few examples of vicious and cruel representation of a subject. That is what struck me so about the following cartoon from Puck magazine--I am sure that I have never seen a racist representation of an element in the sky. Until today.
[The heavenly porter: Caption: "Brush yo' off, Suh? Ain't gwine t' be 'round ag'in foh sev'ty-five yeahs!" Illustration in Puck, v. 67, no. 1733 (1910 May 18), cover. Copyright 1910 by Keppler & Schwarzmann. Source: Trevor Owens, via the LOC.]
This is an example of how engrained racist thinking like this was at that time--and it makes a person think about the unthought aspects of racism exists elsewhere, at other times, and today.
This remarkable photograph was published in The Illustrated London News on 15 September 1934 and shows the Fascist demonstration in Hyde Park of 9 September. There was an "anti-Fascist counter-demonstration" at the same time, same park--the two sides were divided by the "No Man's Land" path in the middle, screened by police on each side. The crowd at the left/middle is the fascist group--easily discriminated by their salute and then their visual sameness, so many of them wearing the signature black shirts. At bottom/right/top is the counter-demonstration group, which is far larger--they were orderly but not having any patience for Hitlerism.
Which is a detail from:
[Source: private collection]
I found a handbill for one of the opposing groups at the demonstration: the Young Communist League, which evidently showed up in force. In the caption of the above photo there is no mention of the party affiliation of the anti-fascists, except to quote witness Will Rogers saying "the Blackshirts were holding one meeting. Two hundred yards away the Communists were holding theirs. And in between was all of London lauhing at the both of them". According to a quick search I'm not sure that there were this many communists in all of London in 1934--I assume the anti- crowd was very mixed.
(These Blackshirts should not be confused with Albanian/Indian/Italian blackshirts, or German brownshirts (brown maybe because black was traditionally used for Christian Democrats?), or American silvershirts, though some do bear some resemblence. In the other color-shirt-political-affiliation categories there are, for example, the redshirts of Italy, the blue- and greenshirts of Ireland, the goldshirts of Mexico, the greyshirts of South Africa, the greeshirts of Romania, and the blue shirts of Taiwan).
The "Mosley" here Sir Oswald Mosley (1896-1980), founder of The British Union of Fascists in 1932 which in 1936 changed its name to the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists and then in 1937, slimming it down to the British Union, until it was disappeared by the government in 1940 in a 'defence of the realm action" under Defence Regulation 18B.
Mosley and his wife were arrested in 1940 and spent a few years in relatively high privilege in prison, a situation granted by Winston Churchill. They lived in their own inner-prison cottage, with a garden and servents. They were released in great controversy in 1943 and seem to have spent decades in the far right spectrum publishing and promoting questionable and of course distasteful political viewpoints.
"Sometimes a book is just entirely bad, and sometimes it is entirely nothing. It is impossible for a book to be both very bad and very nothing. Impossible. Except for this book, whose badness is exceeded only by its nothingness, and vice versa". --Oscar Wilde
And so into this black hole of imaged Wildeian description we go, into a very real-ish book.
I found a novel tonight, bought long ago and long ago mostly lost. It was written by a doctor who worked in the District Hospital in Lima, Ohio, and written in 1934. The Lima Hospital was the largest poured concrete structure in the world when it was built in 1915, and stayed so until the Pentagon was completed. The hospital was established for the criminally insane, had 14"-thick walls, and reinforced steel bars laid into the walls that went "right down to bedrock".
It was somewhere in there that this doctor wrote something that was really so toweringly bad that it escapes comprehension. I own the carbon copy of the unpublished work, which is typed on 14x8.5" sheets of paper, front and back, running 94 pages. It is a very crowded affair, with 90 lines of single-space typed lines, making the work about 115,000 words long.
There wasn't enough space evidently for paragraphs, which gives the work a kind of insistent, casket-cramped cruelty. To read it takes your breath away for its dullness--the book moves so weirdly and at the same time so very slowly that it doesn't move at all even while moving.
A few months ago I found the seven-foot-long scroll of the book's plan--a work of crowded magnificence of nothing and confusion, being very orderly at the same time. It went to a friend of mine who created artwork around it, and as it happens made a very noticeable appearance in a very significant yearly show in NYC last week. I was stunned to find that there was actually a text to go with the scroll-outline--it emerged from the warehouse this week, so perhaps this too will find a very celebrated life as art as well. Certainly the book would go nowhere on its own as a book, though it stood a chance at surviving on the grounds of its considerble design weirdness, which is of a complexified beauty.
In the meantime, before all of the letters slide themselves off the page from sheer boredom and before the thing is resurrected as a magnificent artistic effort, I'll share some ianges of the extra-ordinary book of reversed brilliant badness. I've also culled a few imaginary descriptions of the book from writers known and not:
"He couldn't speak. He could barely see. Blinded by the flames ignited inside his eyeballs from the novel in his lap. The words were like molten lead, sucked off the page by his eyes, forming a vacuum in his brain. It was a bad book".
The first-time published novelist's approach:
"He couldn't speak the words of the thoughts in his head, because they and all of his breath were stolen by the magic of the complete badness of the book in his lap".
"The book was bad and bad, and bad was the book. Even the badness of the bad was bad, a whole new insight into being bad. It was the bad book by which bad books are called bad".
"He didn't read the book so much as he looked through it. It was easy--there was nothing there. As bad as it was, it could get no worse. So he shot it, and poured a drink".
Women, weak women, women with iron-poor blood, were sought by the manufacturers of Nuxated Iron, a small-bottled mottled mess that promised to increase vigor and iron levels, mostly through miracle. It turns out that, according to various early studies, there was a very small amount of iron in the concoction, as well as small amounts of strychnine. An E.O. Barker, M.D., reported to JAMA in 1923 that a small boy he attended who had taken 32 of these Nuxated Iron tablets died from strychnine poisoning. There was no benefit from the iron, evidently; I wonder what the long term effects of small dosage ingestion of strychnine led to? ["Weak Women" ad for Nuxated Iron from Illustrated World, November 1920/]
[All images via the lovely and easy to maneuver Google Patents here]
Fortune telling and divination is mostly the subject of the pretty patents (below), a quick penny-ante for the fulfillment of the instant treatment of possibility. reckoning via mechanical means,easing folks out of the necessity to think about What May Come, and also, possibly, relieving some of them of the possibilities of worry should the fortunes agree with their hopes. And desires. Opposite, for the opposite.
This thinking goes back a long way into dark and dusty time, though it becomes interesting (to me, anyway) when it gets wrapped up in Renaissance magic and science.
I'm not sure what it reveals except for what people might have wanted to believe in during different periods of time.
Anyway, the patent drawings are pretty.
The ways of telling fortunes are broad and numerous and may have been dictated by the stuff that was readily available at hand; a veritable alphabet can be quickly summoned to deal with the most common of the sort:
Alectromancy (telling the future by relatively brainless modern dinosaur roosters pecking at the ground for stuff);
(thinking that the motions of stars that are light years away from the
observer in a vast sea of space and their annotation on an
infinitesimally small speck of universe dust called "Earth" can somehow
interact with living organisms that are 1030000 the amount of space that can be affected by the light from the stars that are 1/1,000,000,000 of the age of those stars);
quite exceeds like excess said Mr. Wilde (and others) , and he/they could be no
more correct when looking at this picture of a Movable Maginot Line—it is a
mobile fort, complete with plane launching capacity, two dozen long canons, a
crane, and a host of other stuff.
looks as though it has ample room for all sorts of materiel though leaving
little room for, perhaps, an engine.I
just can’t see where it might be…perhaps it is near the
not-room-enough-for-it-either ammunition compartment.Maybe they were in a smaller armed cart being
pulled by the mothership?I reckon that
this beast was 66 feet high, 100 feet long and 60 feet wide, which is a very
big, heavy near-cube. Good luck with driving the thing in anything that was
less than perfect conditions.A big
profile like this, filled with guns and canons or not, also makes for a big
target profile—a tall, broad target with flat/non-inclined sides. ( I should
also point out that there are two 10’ loudspeakers mounted on the front of the
fort to instill fear in the people that the thing was approaching with loud
noise.The author points out that the
Nazis used noise against the French with their “screaming dive bombers”, and so
the fort would use the same tactics against the Nazis in the moveable fort—not
that the sound of the engines and the attendant noise wouldn’t’ve been enough
of a fear factor in themselves…)
the image of such a monster, sensical or not, was enough for the purposes of
the pamphlet in which it appeared.The Brains to Win was a piece of British
spirit/hope propaganda issued at about the time of the Battle of Britain in
1940, and it listed the sorts of technological breakthroughs that were going to
push the nation over the top to victory.Some of the stuff was real, some not—like the moving fort/Howl’s Castle
above, and the floating fort, below.
not sure where a floating fort would make sense, especially one of that size.
(Iterating the figures on deck into distance, it looks as though the deck on
the floating platform was 150 or 200’ square.It would’ve looked like a big target from above.) Given the time and
expense and materialneeded for such a
thing, it seems that it would’ve been cheaper to make a moveable fortress not
quite so big, with less of a profile, and more mobile—I think that this was
called a “destroyer” or “battleship”.
no matter, I’m just poking fun at some of the future vision that became archaic
the moment it was drawn, punk retro-future.All the pamphlet was trying to point out in its 32 pages was that
overall the Brits were smarter than the Germans and that would be the balance
for victory in the war.“Hitler will get
some very unpleasant surprises before this is over” the author very politely
pointed out, no doubt with one eyebrow raised. The scientists agreed.
This cure-all from G. Anston looks simple, but the hydraulics of his nerve juice pumper is actually a little involved, or more involved than it needed to be given the fact that the machine didn't actually do anything productive. That said, Anston was setting out to "move fluids" and cause all manner of cure-alls for "air stagnation" in the body, without the trouble of losing any time except for sticking those tubes into your nostrils. I do not know why the artist has the subject standing on #44 (the nerve-waste elimination tube) which was basically the tail-pipe of the cure-waste that was supposed to be flushed from a window. It seems as though stopping the exit of the stagnated brain-air and nerve-fluid effluvia might've made the subject's head pop off a little, which would be problematical.
I've posted a number of times in this blog on child labor in the U.S. Today's post is a simple display of images made by the great Lewis Hine (1874-1940) that are housed at the Library of Congress (findable here) showing the state of the child worker in the first quarter of the 20th century. The children are chauffeurs, bootblacks, delivery boys, messengers, food vendors, shuttle runners (and all sorts of mill work activities), miners (coal handlers, underground mule guides, etc.) and many other jobs, including of course the most iconic and visible reminder that children were working--the newsboy. Hine's documentary evidence shows the children working in all manner of weather, at all times of day and night, in all sorts of working conditions--and of course showing how little and frail and open-to-abuse the children were.
Each of the images below is expandable and linked to the original at the Library of Congress site; shown below are two of the ten pages of images.