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Hawaii, ca. 1924

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By clicking on the image below, you can watch a ~9-minute video of a series of short video clips from the 1920’s of Hawaii, interspersed with silent-film era title cards.  Not only is it an interesting time-capsule glimpse of a simpler time on the islands, but it’s also an insight into what the rest of America knew about the islands, the foods and customs.  Back before you could find certain fruits and vegetables in the grocery stores year round, many people didn’t know what some were, such as papaya.  My Swiss mother-in-law remembers when bananas came to Switzerland, and were exotic and expensive; in her house they were only bought for her brother, who was very sick at the time, as a source of energy; that was during World War 2.  Once, she confessed stealing a bit of money from her brother’s piggy bank to buy herself a banana.

Back then the world in general also knew very little about strange customs such as “surf riding” (surfing), and the footage of surfers is utterly tame compared to the monster wave-riding considered “for surfers” today!  Volcanic activity also seems to have been a fascination; such footage may well have been the first time anyone had seen such a thing outside of volcanic regions; it still had to be described in colours, however, such as “cherry red” for the lava, as the footage was, obviously, black and white.

The image below is of King’s Mansion, in Kealakekua, Hawaii, on the Big Island.  I actually lived here in 1986, as a student (my dorm window was the left bay window at the front).  The mansion originally belonged to Kamehameha dynasty; thus the name.  We had avocado trees in the back garden, and our neighbour’s horses, across a stone wall, would come trotting to the wall when they saw us in the garden, hoping for an avocado; we’d feed them, entertained as they carefully chewed away the flesh around the pit (reminding me of an old man chewing tobacco!), and then skillfully spit the seed aside.  In the bottom of our front garden stood a huge banyan tree [if you were standing on the covered lanai (porch) at the front of the house, it would be to your left]; it was a favourite tree to climb.

King's Mansion

200 Countries Throughout 200 years in Four Minutes

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Hans Rosling, a Swedish statistician, medical doctor, academic and speaker, has taken thousands of statistics and condensed them into a fascinating visual presentation covering the economic and health factors and changes of 200 countries, from 1810 to 2009, in a four-minute video.  Please click on the image below to watch!

Hans Rosling - Health Equals Wealth Statistics

Wild Women of the Old West

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Often unsung heroines, the women who trailblazed (alongside their husbands, or on their own through the loss of said man along the trail, or who headed west to forge a new way of living) were the backbone of settlements.  Without the women, there would have been no way for a man to survive for long.  I grew up in Kansas, and my father’s ancestors were immigrants from Denmark who travelled west to Kansas in covered wagons in the 1880s; the farm which my great-great grandfather built was eventually inherited by my grandfather, and many of my happy childhood memories are associated with that farmstead.  Looking back through family photos, there’s not a photo of a weak woman among them; weak women (or men, for that matter) simply didn’t survive.  They became the strength that built the West.

For a 46-minute documentary on the importance of the pioneer woman, and the legends that grew up around the likes of Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley and Belle Starr, please click on the image below.  It’s well worth the time to watch, when you have a moment!

Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley

Ye Olde Spelling

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runesymbolsHave you ever wondered about the old-fashioned “ye” in shop signs?  It was a lazy printer’s solution to saving space for “th”, and should be pronounced as “the”, not “yee”!  The Old English character “y” was a graphic alteration of the Germanic rune “Þ” (which came over with the Viking raiders and the Danish King Canute and his rabble, but that’s another story).  When English printing typefaces couldn’t supply the right kind of “P” they substituted the “Y” (close enough, right?).  That practice continued into the 18th century, when it dropped out of use.  By the 19th century it was revived as a deliberate antiquarianism – to give a shop a pedigree, so to speak (read “marketing scam”), and soon came to be mocked because of it.  And now we think of it as the quaint way they used to write…

For a short, fun video on the topic, click on Ye Olde Web Link, below.

ye-olde-web-link

The History of Fabergé’s Rise & Fall with the Imperial Romanov Family, & the Natural Beauty of the Hope Diamond

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I was recently doing research into blue diamonds for a novel I’m working on; there is a ton of information out there in Cyberspace, some of it fascinating, some of it fantastical (taking a shred of historical information and running wild with theories, curses, and paranormal gibberish).  But I did find a documentary on Youtube that I thought I’d share with you:  It covers (in what initially seems like an odd mixture of topics) the late history of the Russian Romanov family, their connection with the rise and fall of the House of Fabergé, the extravagant splurges and the curse of wealth and power in the hands of those unable to manage it, and lastly (at 32:00) the history of the Hope Diamond, the largest blue diamond in the world, and the second-largest crowd magnet following the Mona Lisa.  The topics transition from exquisite craftsmanship to natural beauty, and though the video is nearly an hour, it is well worth watching!  To view it, please click on the family portrait below.

Romanov Imperial FamilyFaberge Coronation Egg, 1897Faberge-Egg-1911Hope Diamond

Top 10 Inventors

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Here’s a short, fun video about 10 top inventors; some may be arguable, and I’m sure we could come up with several that should have made it onto the list.  It’s still incredible to think back and see the “Eureka” moments these gentlemen had; and to wonder what they would have thought of some of the modern versions  of their initial devices.  What would Bell think of the cell phone that’s rarely used as a phone (rather as an SMS device, or app- or camera device)?  What would the Wright Brothers think of the Concord, or the ISS?  Click on the photo below to see the video.

Lightbulb

The History of Prosthetic Technology

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The oldest allusion to a prosthesis is found in the Rigveda, a collection of Sanskrit songs that was probably composed sometime between 1700 and 1100 B.C., making it one of the oldest extant texts of any Indo-European language.  The story of Vishpala is told, in which the woman warrior loses a leg during a night-time battle, and she is given a “leg of iron” so that she can continue running.  The Egyptians used them, as did Romans and Greeks; jointed prostheses began to appear surprisingly early, with functional extremities appearing as early as the 1500s, though the definition of “functional” is a loose one… it may simply mean that it enabled them to become mobile again, or at least appear physically “whole”.  Considering the fact that even up into the 18th century the most common way of treating an injury (mangling, or injury from a gunshot wound or ship’s accident) was to saw the limb off (and usually without any anesthetic except a bottle of rum), it’s a good thing they developed a way of compensation, though usually only the more wealthy could afford a limb that would actually do them any good.

I speak from personal experience, having had a rib removed for major surgeries as a child:  a missing limb that was once linked to the brain through the nervous system is missed indeed; phantom pains are unstoppable by conventional medicine because the nerve irritated might by signaled from the bottom of a foot that no longer exists to be massaged, or for medication to reach.  While the examples below are surprisingly complex ones, keep in mind that during periods of upheaval such as war or natural disaster when large numbers of amputees occurred at once, the demand far outstripped the production and cheap solutions (read “wooden peg”) were far more common.

With that in mind, enjoy a few historical images of prostheses.   And attached to each of the images is a video, taking you back in time through the history of prosthetics and the people who have made and worn them.

A shy woman and her full artificial leg (1890-1900)

A shy woman and her full artificial leg (1890-1900)

An antique prosthetic leg

An antique prosthetic leg

Artificial legs, UK, ca. 1890

Artificial legs, UK, ca. 1890

Wooden prosthetic hand (1800)

Wooden prosthetic hand (1800)

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