Last person collecting a civil war pension dies

Irene Triplett's father fought in the civil war as a young man and remarried as an elderly senior. Triplett, born 1930, inherited his veterans' benefits due to her own disabilities. With her death at 90, the U.S. government closes the books on the last outstanding civil war pension.


Pvt. Triplett married Elida Hall in 1924. She was 34 when Irene was born in 1930; he was 83. Such an age difference wasn’t rare, especially later, during the Great Depression, when Civil War veterans found themselves with both a pension and a growing need for care.

Both mother and daughter suffered from mental disabilities. Irene Triplett recalled a tough childhood in the North Carolina mountains, beaten by teachers at school and parents at home.

“I didn’t care for neither one of them, to tell you the truth about it,” she told The Wall Street Journal in 2014. “I wanted to get away from both of them. I wanted to get me a house and crawl in it all by myself.”

Photo: Screenshot from 2016 interview Read the rest

Jayne Mansfield: Viral Warrior

For much of the first half of the 20th century, another mysterious virus was freaking people the hell out, and no one understood what it was or how it spread. Children got hit the worst. It touched the wealthy and the poor. It paralyzed and even killed. Nothing seemed to stop it, and “Polio season” came back with a vengeance every summer. Public swimming pools were the kiss of death—or at least paralysis—and attending a gathering at a birthday party, a bar mitzvah, or even a playground was a recipe for disaster. Speculation about its source ran rampant: the public considered everything from poisonous gasses from Europe, to horses, to radio waves, to cigarette smoke, to parents tickling their kids too much. Children touched by the virus were deemed pariahs and sent off to hospitals and sanitariums for treatment, while their panicked parents “cleaned” their homes by tossing toys, burning bedding, scrubbing floors and ripping down wallpaper, unsure of where the virus lurked or how long it incubated. Then, in 1953, Jonas Salk created a vaccine that stopped polio in its tracks.

And Jayne Mansfield did her part to promote the March of Dimes immunization program.

My friend Bill Franklin, writer, educator, and publisher, was a Southern California grade-schooler at the time. It was announced to his 5th grade class that the movie star Jayne Mansfield (the infamous headline-grabber, pin-up, and star of the films Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, The Girl Can’t Help It, Too Hot to Handle, and Promises! Read the rest

Tony Hawk's first skateboard is now in the Smithsonian

Tony Hawk first learned to ride a skateboard in 1979 when he was 11 years old. The board was the 1975 Bahne pictured above. Now, that board is in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (Below, video of Hawk's last ride on the Bahne.) From Cole Louison's new interview with Hawk in Smithsonian magazine:

The first wave of skateboarding—when decks were wood, wheels were steel and “sidewalk surfing” was banned in 20 U.S. cities by August 1965—had ended by the time Hawk stepped on the board. Yet the sport enjoyed a major resurgence in the 1970s, thanks in part to new technology. The blue Bahne evokes an era when public outcry had driven skaters off sidewalks and into the first skateparks, where they rode plastic boards with polyurethane wheels higher and higher up the walls of in-ground pools that were capped at the top or extended with plywood[...]

“In its early days, skateboarding was considered a sport for misfits and outsiders,” Hawk tells me. “We didn’t mind the label, since we weren’t trying to fit in with mainstream culture anyway.” And even as mainstream culture prepares to embrace skateboarding more enthusiastically than ever before, Hawk says, “I believe our sense of counterculture and individualism will shine through.”

image: RIDE Channel/YouTube Read the rest

Researchers are about to rescue the radio from the sunken wreck of the Titanic

It's been over a hundred years since the Titanic sank, and its wreckage in the North Atlantic Ocean has been protected by an  International Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom. But since 2000, that agreement has specifically forbidden anyone from cutting into the wreckage or detaching any part of it. In other words, the wreckage itself must be preserved, even as researchers explore and salvage around it.

From CNN:

Virginia's eastern district court amended that order "for a unique opportunity to recover an artifact that will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived and those who gave their lives in the sinking," Judge Rebecca Beach Smith wrote.


The Marconi device and the artifacts associated with it face "significant threat of permanent loss," the judge said in her approval of the expedition.

The radio isn't a blackbox, per se — it's not like modern planes that record the final fates of people on board. But it certainly has historical significance. Even though, on the surface, "Rescuing the radio but not the Titanic" sounds like a depressing metaphor for watching the world fall apart all around you.

Radio used by the Titanic to call for help can be salvaged, judge rules [Kay Jones, Sheena Jones and Theresa Waldrop / CNN] Read the rest

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is feeling the financial strain of coronavirus

Shakespeare's Globe — a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre opened by William Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1599 — has issued a plea for donations in the face of its pending insolvency and closure.

We hope to open the doors to our wooden O as soon as possible but in this unprecedented time for theatre, and as a charity that receives no annual government subsidy, we are in desperate need of donations to help us to continue to strive in the future.


We remain one of the most affordable and accessible theatres in the UK, despite many pressures, managing to retain our £5 Groundling ticket and over 50% of tickets in the Globe Theatre at £25 or less. Without your support, we will be unable to continue this work.

The BBC expanded on this, with some more quotes from a representative of the theatre:

In evidence to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, the theatre said: "Without emergency funding and the continuation of the coronavirus job retention scheme, we will spend down our reserves and become insolvent.

"This has been financially devastating and could even be terminal."

The original Globe Theatre also endured a plague, as well as some fires, and financial collapse. But letting such an historical monument — the place where the modern English language was essentially revolutionized — fall apart once again is a depressing indictment on our societal priorities.

Shakespeare's Globe theatre calls for urgent funds to avoid insolvency [BBC]

Image: Yair Haklai / Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0) Read the rest

Watch the Hindenburg disaster unfold

On May 6, 1937, LZ 129 Hindenburg burst into flames. 36 lives were lost as the horrific event was caught on camera. Read the rest

This unlucky fellow was the first person to have been killed by a meteorite in recorded history

On November 30 1954 in Alabama, a nine pound meteorite broke through the ceiling of Anne Hodges' living room, bounced off her stereo system, and hit her in the side while she was asleep on the sofa. Hodges suffered a bad bruise. The National Museum of Natural History has a piece of the rock in their collection and, as Smithsonian magazine reports, it's long been thought that Hodges is the only individual in recorded history confirmed to have been hit by a meteorite. Now though, researchers at Ege University, Trakya University, and the SETI Institute report that a fellow in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq is actually the first documented case of a meteorite striking a human being. It happened on August 22, 1888 and unfortunately the falling meteorite killed the man and left another paralyzed. From the scientific paper in Meteoritics & Planetary Science:

[The evidence comes from] three manuscripts written in Ottoman Turkish that were extracted from the General Directorate of State Archives of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey. This event was also reported to Abdul Hamid II (34th sultan of the Ottoman Empire) by the governor of Sulaymaniyah. These findings suggest other historical records may still exist that describe other events that caused death and injuries by meteorites.

image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell Read the rest

Website all about eating utensils

Eating Utensils reminds me of a site from the early Web, a minimally-designed collection of fascinating information about something we use every day but mostly ignore. The site has pages about the history of cutlery, chopsticks, skewers, toothpicks, and drinking straws, etiquette, and fun facts and statistics. For example:

If we look back in history we can find out that some of the earliest drinking straws were created over 5000 years ago! In the ruins of the Sumerian cities and tombs, archeologist managed to find straws made from gold and the precious stone lapis lazuli. These expensive 3000 BC artifacts can give us the proof that the more simple designs were used far earlier than that, most probably created from carved wood or natural hollow plants. According to scientist, Sumerian used straws to drink their beer which was prepared in very simple fermentation cases that forced the solid byproducts to sink to the bottom, and leave drinkable fluid on top. On the other side of the world, in Argentina, natives used drinking straws for several thousand years. Their simple wooden designs were later on adapted in metallic device called "bombilla" which serves as both straw and sieve for drinking tea.

Eating Utensils (via Metafilter)

image: Hopefulromntic (CC BY-SA 3.0) Read the rest

An American artist illustrates a webcomic love letter to her hometown of Wuhan

Laura Gao was born in Wuhan before moving to the US at the age of 3. An experienced graphic designer who now works for Twitter, Gao has been — understandably — frustrated with the virulant racism that's accompanied the worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus, and Trump's continued insistence on blaming China for the virus.

But Wuhan isn't as well-known as other cities in China, even though it has a larger population than London or New York. So instead of letting her hometown continue to be associated with a pandemic, Gao wrote and illustrated a new webcomic to help people get to know the city where she was born, beyond those gross racist implications.

It's a short read, but it will remind you that Wuhan is indeed a place of humans, culture, and history, all of which deserve appreciation and respect.

The Wuhan I Know [Laura Gao]

Image: Creativity City in Wuhan by Majorantarktis / Wikimedia Commons (CC 4.0) Read the rest

The Dresden Panometer gives visitors an immersive experience on a 1:1 scale of the Allied bombing raids of 1945

The Dresden Panometer is a converted former gasometer that exhibits 360°  panoramas created by the artist Yadegar Asisi.

“The 15 m high visitor’s tower provides you with a 360-degree view from the tower of Dresden’s Town Hall and reveals the extent of the destruction in the panorama by Yadegar Asisi, almost 3,000 m² in size.”

Image: YouTube screengrab Read the rest

"The Fuddy Duddy Walk," is the ‘60s dance craze that never was

Jack Nitzsche was a legend in his own time; an arranger, producer, songwriter, and Academy Award-winning composer. His disparate discography includes collaborations with Phil Spector, the iconic 1966 Batman theme, titles by The Rolling Stones, Doris Day, Ike & Tina Turner, The Monkees, Glen Campbell, and the Ronettes, as well as several film soundtracks, including PerformanceThe Exorcist, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and An Officer and a Gentleman. But one of his earliest known arrangements was for a song so unlistenable it isn’t even named on any of his published discographies.

The title dates from 1963, when a hit song that doubled as a dance craze was the holy grail of the Top 10. But not even the hand of Jack Nitzsche could get this eminently abrasive earworm, "The Fuddy Duddy Walk" by The Entertainers, to join the ranks of "The Twist," "The Mashed Potato," or "The Watusi." "The Fuddy Duddy Walk" is more like proto-punk dance craze anarchy, and it’s not hard to imagine a crowd of pencil-skirted and flat-topped teens covering their ears in buzzkill horror, stampeding from the dance floor and fighting their way to the nearest exit. It’s an aural assault strictly for music masochists, with a nearly unintelligible vocal that codes neither male or female, rock or soul, black or white. Just sweetly painful. Read the rest

If you loved HBO’s "The Deuce," The Rialto Report will leave you spellbound

The Rialto Report is a podcast series and digital library that archives oral histories, images, magazines and books covering the golden age of the adult film industry in New York, from the early-1960s to the mid-1980s. It’s the project of adult film historians Ashley West and April Hall, both of whom served as consultants for HBO’s The Deuce.

Their podcast interviews are in-depth, intimate, and unrivaled, featuring some of the industry’s biggest and most influential names of the era; Seka, George Payne, Candy Samples, Hyapatia Lee, Jerry Butler, Candida Royalle, and Uschi Digard are among other well-and-lesser-known performers and industry stakeholders featured throughout the series.

Certainly, this “golden age” wasn’t exactly golden for all involved. Many performers—both women and men—were exploited, underpaid, mistreated, abused, or worse, and the Rialto Report doesn’t sugarcoat. Their interviews pull no punches and never miss an opportunity, allowing their subjects the space to share their perspectives and tell their own stories—many of them surprising, some of them shocking, all of them intriguing—bringing listeners to the inside of an opaque industry during New York’s epoch of the X-rated.



  Read the rest

Trailer for "Insert Coin," a new documentary about the creators of the biggest videogames of the 1990s

"Insert Coin" is a new documentary about Midway, the Chicago-based videogame developer that transformed the industry with Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and other coin-op classics. Director Joshua Tsui funded the film via this Kickstarter and will premiere at the SXSW Film Festival later this month. From the film description:

Eugene Jarvis, the creator of 80s classic videogames such as Defender and Robotron, returns to the industry in the 90s. In the process, he assembles a team that pioneers the concept of bringing live-action into videogames, kickstarting a new era in the arcades.

The technology mushrooms into massive hits such as Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam and soon the team begins to conquer the world. What began as a small tight-knit group begins to deal with success and eventually the rise of home consumer technology.

Read the rest

More fun mortuary history with Caitlin Doughty

Since my post about dead babies wearing other babies' skulls as hats went over so well, I thought I'd share several more videos from my favorite funeral director and "death enthusiast," Caitlin Doughty.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Play 17th-century London Death Roulette

Matt Round's Death Roulette is a game that randomly selects for you one of the many deaths recorded in 17th-century London.

In the week of July 11th, 1665 you died from Imposthume (swelling or abscess)

The use of scans of the actual records is very effective! Read up on the death searchers. Read the rest

Pop-up book of classic Sega arcade cabinets

Sega Arcade: Pop-Up History [Read Only Memory] is a beautifully-illustrated hardcover book about six classic Sega "body sensation" arcade cabinets – Hang-On, Space Harrier, Out Run, After Burner, Thunder Blade and Power Drift – complete with pop-up cardboard models.

Accompanying this 3D showcase is a written history from Guardian games writer and best-selling novelist, Keith Stuart, punctuated by specially restored production artwork and beautifully reproduced in-game screens. The book features contributions from arcade game innovator Yu Suzuki, who offers first-hand insight into the development of these groundbreaking games and the birth of the Taiken cabinet phenomenon.

The book's £35 and shipping now.

Read the rest

Powerful Iwo Jima WWII footage shot by marines in combat and never seen publicly

Today is the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Iwo Jima, when the US Marines and Navy invaded and captured the island from the Imperial Japan Army. Almost 7,000 Allied troops and 18,000 Japanese soldiers were killed. The University of South Carolina's Moving Image Research Collections is now helping the History Division of the Marine Corps digitize and make public mostly unseen film footage shot by marines in combat during the battle. There are 14,000 cans of film undergoing the digitization and preservation process. The videos above and below are barely a teaser of what's to come. From the University of South Carolina:

From the beginning, Marine Corps leaders knew they wanted a comprehensive visual account of the battle — not only for a historical record but also to assist in planning and training for the invasion of the Japanese main islands. Some Marine cameramen were assigned to the front lines of individual units, and others to specific activities, such as engineering and medical units. Films from these units show the daily toll of the battle such as Marines being treated in the medical units or being evacuated off the island to hospital ships as well as essential behind-the-lines tasks of building command posts or unloading and sorting equipment on beaches....

Another goal of the Marine Corps film project is to identify and label as much of the historical information in the films as possible, such as Marine Corps units and equipment. In addition to manually scanning the films for this information, Moving Images Research Collections has partnered with Research Computing and the university’s Computer Vision Lab, a research group within the College of Engineering and Computing, to use artificial intelligence to recognize text in the films to help identify units as well as individual Marines, airplanes and ships.

Read the rest

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