Monday, January 22, 2018

My Sister

I received a call Saturday afternoon letting me know my sister was in the hospital on her deathbed. I managed to fly down in time to spend time with her before she passed on. I will be back on Monday after the funeral and everything else

Friday, January 19, 2018

The History of Movies

Film, Film Roll, Filmstrip, Analog  If you read my short history of Hollywood, you know the movie industry began on the east coast but what about movie making itself?  When did that happen?

The predecessor to actual films originated in the late 1800's when someone invented motion picture toys which were designed to trick the eyes and brain into seeing these toys move.  They did this by showing a series of still one right after another so you "saw" movement.

In 1872, Edward Muybridge set up 12 cameras at a racetrack, so as the horses ran in front of them, each camera captured a photo.  The sequence of photos showed the horse running and at one point all four legs were off the ground. He wasn't thinking of film, he was trying to answer the question "Does a horse become fully airborne while running."  The answer of course is yes.

In 1885, the first film for motion pictures appeared after being made by George Eastman and William Walker.  Shortly afterwards the Lumiere brothers invented a hand cranked machine which captured and project stills in rapid succession. By 1890, a motor powered camera which could pictures came out of Edison's lab.  Although Dickson, his employee, developed it, Edison changed his business to Edison studios but the camera itself used film 35mm wide and used sprockets and holes in the film to move it thus creating moving pictures.

During this time, Edison and his employees created films, small viewing boxes, and obtained patents for all the equipment.  He also built the first film studio to record films.  His company filmed a man sneezing and then obtained the first copyright ever granted on a film.   About this same time, theaters opened filled with viewing boxes each individual used to watch these shorts but in 1894 the first film was projected on a screen in Indiana.  In addition, the first color film made its appearance of a vaudeville dancer.  Color films at this time were hand tinted rather than using a true color film.

Throughout this decade, improvements and changes occurred in rapid fire including former employees of Edison.  It wasn't long afterwards that people began exploring backdrops, editing, even the flow of a story by creating films but most films were silent with pianists who provided music and the dialog was printed on a still.  

One of the earliest and most well known film "The Great Train Robbery" appeared in 1903, created by Edward S. Porter. Although many theaters had already opened, more popped up.  These theaters build a market and provided funding for films and provided a place to show World War I propaganda films.

By the mid teens, film makers moved out to Los Angeles to film their movies due eternal sunshine which was needed since this was a time before lighting and possible tax breaks along with the distance from the east coast and Edison.  But it was the 1920's when film making exploded and the first "movie stars" emerged along with the first recognized directors.

The 1930's were known as the  Golden Age of Hollywood with major film studios, film stars, the introduction of sound and the creation of different genres such as action, mystery, etc. In addition, audio sound tracks were used regularly.  Although the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 caused the movie industry to slow down, they recovered strongly with new technological advances such as special effects and better sound recording.

Over the next few decades, television entered homes, and Hollywood changed its focus to attract the younger generations so they could stay in business.  In addition, independents sprung up, producing movies. Unfortunately, the increased use of special effects has increased the cost of making films making the cost of attending films more expensive and certain stars are able to command multimillion dollar fees which also drives the cost up.

The film industry is still there, producing films for theaters before going to DVD or direct to DVD which are rented either from a store or more likely being streamed direct to the consumer.  The industry is still changing as technology changes.

I hope you like the brief history of the movies.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Quackery Cures from History

Pill, Gel Capsule, Medicine, Health  The other day, I wrote about a book I was reading devoted to discussing cures which were more likely to kill a person than cure them.  As mentioned earlier, when radium was discovered people jumped on the wagon to market it in everything from water to toothpaste.

It didn't matter what substance we are talking about, as soon as it was discovered, people jumped on the band wagon, adding it to their latest "medicine" to cure anything and everything.

By 1905, there were over 28,000 different medications on the market. These were often referred to as patent medicines made or marketed in the United States.  Most of these were totally worthless but their advertisements  convinced people they offered cures.  Time to look at some of the most famous medicines sold by various perveyors throughout history.

Lets start by looking at the famous "Snake Oil Salesmen".  The most famous was Charles Stanley who marketed himself as the Rattlesnake King.  He killed a rattlesnake every time he made his pitch. He stated it would cure every thing from toothaches to sprained ankles.  He maintained he'd gotten the recipe from an Indian medicine man who taught him how to mix snake oils.  When the government checked his cure in 1917, they discovered it was made of mineral oil with a bit of beef fat and flavored with red pepper, and turpentine.  He was driven out of business by the government but the term Snake Oil salesman continued.

Through history, there were all sorts of child calming medications that proved to be filled with some very unhealthy ingredients such as opium and alcohol which made children sleep and calmed them down when fussy.  The folks who manufactured these syrups made a lot of money because they allowed parents to sleep through the night but the unfortunate side effect was that many children died or became addicted.  By the 1900's the AMA began publishing warnings against the medicine and its use decreased.

In the early 1900's it was discovered that many hot springs had a certain level of radioactivity in the water so it was assumed that radioactive water was good for people.  Even the U.S Surgeon General and reputable medical magazines all supported the use of radium to cure everything from diarrhea to malaria so it opened the door for anyone to add radium to their product.

Someone even came up with a machine that allowed people to create their radioactive water for drinking purposes.  The use of this declined when a famous person of the time ended up dying of radium poisoning from drinking lots of radioactivity water every day.

Then there were various cures for baldness guaranteed to feed the starved roots of the hair and killed the bacterial which caused hair loss.  When people began to check out the ingredients, it was discovered many mixtures contained lead which darkened the hair and poisoned the consumer.  Other cures were quite safe but ineffective because they were filled with coconut oil.

If you look at other medications you'll find they might contain cocaine, silver nitrate, heroine, mercury, lead, arsenic,  even blood mixed with alcohol.  Even Coco-cola and Dr Pepper began as patent medicines which later made their mark as sodas.  The thing all these medicines had in common was they were marketed to cure anything from colds to cancer.

Fortunately, the Food and Drug Administration made an appearance in the early 1900's when it began to regulate patent medicines making it safer for consumers.

Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Soft Pretzel Sandwiches.

Pretzel, Bread, Market, Stall, FoodHard pretzels are something you eat with your beer or snack up if you need a quick snack.  Soft pretzels on the other hand you drown in cheese or mustard and enjoy.  I remember the pretzel place I always passed between flights where you could get the highly salted creation in any of several ways.

 A friend who recently visited Germany told me all about soft pretzel sandwiches he ate there.  Apparently, its one of those things you can get anywhere and is eaten by everyone. 

It turns out that in German, the type of dough used in pretzels is referred to as Laugen.  The bread is dunked in a lye or baking soda solution before being baked to create the harder crust and the soft inside.  The term bretzel or pretzel as we call it refers to the shape the laugen is made into.

So bakeries make the Laugen, shape it into the familiar pretzel or in rolls, or knots, or any other shape.  The bread is often finished off with a sprinkle of large grains of salt, seasme seeds, poppy seeds, and sometimes even pumpkin seeds.  No matter the shape, the outer crust has the traditional dark hard appearance.  When they talk about soft pretzel sandwiches, they often refer to the type of bread rather than the shape.

The Laugen, sometimes in the pretzel shape is cut in half, then smeared with butter or creme cheese to protect the softness of the bread from the filling of salami, or cheese and finished with lettuce.  These sandwiches can be purchased at any bakery in Germany. They make a nice quick lunch and are as popular as the Plowman's lunch in the UK.
Bakery filled with soft pretzel sandwiches in Germany

They do not use mustard on pretzels because mustard is reserved for sausage.  The Germans firmly believe mustard is to be eaten with meat, not bread but a sandwich can be eaten with mustard covered meat.  The cost of a soft pretzel sandwich is cheap and easy on the budget.

The pretzel itself has been around since 600 AD when Italian monks presented students with pieces of bread dough twisted into the shape of crossed arms because  the standard way to pray was with crossed arms.  As the shape spread through Europe, the three holes came to represent the father, son, and holy ghost.

These beauties met the Catholic Church's rules on fasting and avoiding certain foods because they were made of flour, water, and salt. The dough was turned into soft squishy balls much like today's German bread.  By the Middle Ages, the pretzel had become the symbol of good luck, prosperity, and spiritual fulfillment. In 1510, the pretzel made great strides when the Turks tried to invade Vienna by digging tunnels under the walls.  The monks were making pretzels in a basement and heard the digging so they alerted the authorities who drove off the Turks.  As a reward, the emperor granted the pretzel makers their own coat of arms.

One legend says in 1614, royal couples incorporated the pretzel into the wedding ceremony.  It is thought this is where the phrase tying the knot came from.  While in Germany, children in the 17th century wore necklaces made out of pretzels around their necks in the hopes of having good luck and prosperity in the coming year.  No one is sure when the pretzel arrived in America but the first commercial pretzel factory opened up in 1861 in Lititz Pennsylvania. 

It wasn't until 1935 that someone created a machine to automatically make pretzels.  Up till then, they were manufactured by hand.  Even now, Pennsylvania makes 80 percent of the pretzels produced in the country.

I've never seen a pretzel sandwich served in the United States, but I can't wait to try one when I go to Germany next summer.  I'm heading over for a wedding and debating whether I should stay for two weeks just to wander around and check out the country.

Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Blowing Smoke up Your Rear and Other Sayings.

Fire, Smoke, Smoke Fire, Match, Burn  I started reading a book called "Quakery: The History of the worst ways to cure anything.", a fascinating book which I'll review another day.  It talked about "blowing smoke up your ass".  I think everyone has heard it but never knew how it originated. 

Now a days it means someone is saying nice things to you but insincere when doing it.  That is not what it originally meant.  It originated back in the 1700's as a method of resuscitation.

You read that correctly.  At the time, the medical establishment believed one should blow smoke up a person's rear, it could help resuscitated them after being drowned. it was such a common procedure the city placed kits along major waterways such as the Thames for use by the resuscitation crews who regularly patrolled rivers etc.

They used tobacco to provide the smoke because they felt the nicotine would stimulate the heart to beat better causing the lungs to work.  Although they sometimes caused it to go into the body via the nose and mouth, doctors felt it was more effective to force it up the rear using tubing.

Another saying "Turning a blind eye" which currently means to ignore a particular reality.  This came from the British Navel officer Horatio Nelson who when told they should surrender during an the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, put the telescope to his blind eye, stating he saw nothing.  The British went on to win the battle.  Historians believe this is a historical myth but it has stood the test of time.

What about "Shedding crocodile tears" meaning a person cries but is not sincere in their sorrow.  This saying comes from the belief that crocodiles cried tears when they killed and ate their food. This thought comes from a book published in the 14th century which tells of a knight's adventures through Asia.  This book was extremely popular with the myth of crocodile tears making it into one of Shakespeare plays when it became a widely used idiom.

The term "Diehard" actually came from the 1700's to describe those who took longer time to die when hung by the neck to die.  Later in the 1800's it took on new meaning during the Battle of Albuera in 1811when the commanding officer told his soldiers to go forth and die hard.  They earned the title of the "Die Hards."

Have you ever read the "Riot Act" to your kids or your parents did it to you?  This is based on a real document passed by the British back in 1715.  The Riot Act gave the British the ability to label any group of 12 or more people as a threat to the peace. The official would read the riot act to the gathering of people and anyone who had not dispersed within the hour could be arrested and subject to charges.

"Painting the town red" originated from a drunken endeavor by the Marquis of Waterford who lead a group of drunk people through town.  During the trip, they damaged flower pots, doors, windows and to top it all off, they painted several doors and a statue red.  Although the Marquis and his friends paid the city for the damage done, the term remained to mean a wild night out.

Did you ever wonder about the phrase "Running Amok"?  It originated in the 18th and 19th centuries based on The English observing certain Malaysians who would suddenly went crazy and brutally killed people as they went on killing sprees.  Amok describes the Malay and Javanese warriors who carried out indiscriminate violence.  These warriors fascinated the English, even Captain Cook, because it was thought these people were possessed by evil spirits but has since become a diagnoseble  mental condition.

I hope you enjoyed reading about these.  More another time.  Have a great day.  Let me know if you enjoyed it.