Thursday, 26 June 2014

Retro-Jurassic Park : Vision of Dinosaurs of The Past

This weekend, my two companions at Heritage Park, Jeff and Dan, found an odd book on dinosaurs for sale. It was in the general store, and despite the fact that the park is about the old Canadian West post 1870s, the dino book was there. They started to jump around their flights of fancy, as both are artist, and asked, "How cool would it be to have the film Jurassic Park re-made with the vision of what the dinosaurs looked like in the past? Retro-Dinos!"

I'm no film maker, but as a historian, I can dig up (he-he pun) some bones to show you.

Just laying around catching rays.
Let's start with one of the first public displays of dinosaurs ever done. The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs were a series of sculptures of extinct animals and dinos in the Crystal Palace Park in London. Built in 1852-54, these are the first dinosaur sculptures in the world. They still exist and can be seen in a part in Bromley. No, these guys are not up to date, but they would have looked cool on screen. Here's a cool short film on them from 1922.

Because it's always cool to scare the crap out of your kid.
Maybe on would be Gertie the Dinosaur - It was made in 1914 by Winsor Makay and is the first time a dinosaur appears in film.


Very adorable, she dances and is very sweet. Completely unlike the fellow below:

Whales with teeth: try and kill this Japanese Whalers!

The painting above is of a Basilosaurus (Zeuglodon) “Whales of the Eocene Seas” by Charles R. Knight (1874-1953). He is famous for his ground-breaking depictions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, and wildlife in general. Millions of people are exposed annually to this artist's works in major institutions around the world including the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Knight is one of the reasons we see dinosaurs as we do.

The next one is very pretty from the late 1800s, where the timeline was pretty vague still on when human and dinosaurs lived. I like this one because the humans are very Greece-roman. The dino fighting for his life is a Plesiosaurus. It was mistakenly believed, and still is, by many that it is a dinosaur but it actually was a marine lizard. It also is a general classification for many of these lizards.
I'll get you, you cloth wearing fleshy things!
We've got some land ones, some in the water, so let's get one for the air. This weird looking thing is a Ramphorynchus, not a partially de-boned chicken. In 1869, french science writer Victor Meunier wrote an overview of extinct animals called L'Animaux d'Autrefois (Animals of the Past). Three years later, William Henry Davenport Adams published a translation of Meunier's text, expanded and revised for his English audience, called Life in the Primeval World. Adams writes that he believes it to be the first paleontology book published in English for a lay audience.The illustration below is from that book.

Turkey or reptile, your guess is as good as mine, but he's at least smiling.
Well, if anyone knows if there's going to be a Jurassic 10, let me know and I can send them this list.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Friday, 6 June 2014

Dark Days: A Mercifully Short History on Mass Shootings

You're going to need to start with some bunnies for this to be ok.
For the past two weeks, the news has been extremely upsetting to me. First, the murder of six people and injuring of thirteen more as a gunman opened fire in Isla Vista, is hard to comprehend. I've been there and it's such a beautiful place, with great memories of beaches and waves. Second, three RCMP officers were murdered and others injured by a gunman here in Canada. The whole city of Moncton, New Brunswick was on lockdown as the police tried and finally arrested the alleged killer. Const. Dave Ross, 32, Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45 and Const. Douglas James Larche, 40 were all killed.

Why and what drove these men to do what they did? That's always my first question. And I wonder how far back this sort of mass murder goes? Gun violence has existed for as long as the first one was invented, but the killing of large numbers of people in a public place appears to be a world-wide 20th century creation which has continued on through the next century.

The first recorded public shooting spree occurred in Germany in 1913. Ernst August Wagner killed his wife and four children, then set fires and shot another 20 people, 9 of which died. He was well educated and a teacher, but had a history of mental illness and depression, including trying to commit suicide multiple times. Wagner was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was placed in an asylum and died there in 1938.

The Uiryeong Massacre in South Korea is one of the most devastating, and is the second largest known incident of a mass public shooting. On the 27 April 1983, Woo Bum-kon, after having a fight with his girlfriend and getting drunk, went to his work as a police officer and assembled an arsenal. He then killed 56 people, injured 35 others in a killing spree. Woo then blew himself up with the last three of his victims. A special committee was created to investigate the shooting and why the police had failed to stop him.

The most deadly has been the 2011 shooting in Norway. A lone political extremist bombed the government centre here on Friday, killing seven people, the police said, before heading to an island summer camp for young members of the governing Labour Party and killing at least 80 people.
For many Canadians, the incident in reminds them of their own tragedy: the ten minute shooting rampage at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal on 6 December 1989. A man shot and killed 14 women and injured 13 others. One reason cited: he was trying to get into the engineering school and was struggling. More pointedly, his suicide note stated that he hated women as feminists ruined his life. While this is cited as the major reason for the Montreal Massacre, he did not have a history of violence.

The only purpose in remembering these mass murders is to honour the dead, and try to prevent such disasters in the future. In the study, “Mass Shootings in America: Moving Beyond Newtown,” James Fox and Monica DeLateur, analyzed research and important statistics to debunk many common myths surrounding mass shootings:

Mass murderers snap and kill randomly - Mass murderers typically plan their assaults days, weeks, or months in advance. Their motives are most typically revenge, power, loyalty, terror, and profit

Mass shootings are on the rise - According to FBI data, over the past few decades there has been an average of 20 mass shootings a year in the U.S. 

There are telltale signs that can help us to identify mass murderers before they act - Murderers tend to be male Caucasians with psychological issues, but these characteristics apply to a very large portion of the population. 

Widening the availability of mental-health services will allow unstable individuals to get the treatment they need and decrease mass murders- Increasing mental health facilities may not reach those on the fringe who would turn to murder as many see the blame residing in others, not themselves.

Some of these ideas, however, are controversial. Here is a long list of links of research papers on the issue that might help you get your head around it.

Or, if you're like me, it's always going to be impossible to understand or comprehend.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Brain Freeze: The History of Ice Cream

What tastes better than knowledge?
It's the first really nice weekend in a while here at home. The sun was shinning and a middle-aged woman's fancy turns to ice cream. My fancy! We walked down to our local - Village Ice Cream -and had some amazingly awesome cones of happy. As usual, my brain started to over-think it and contemplate the myriad of things that came together to produce my Nutella-Caramel-Pralines ice cream.

Everything has a beginning - and that's where historical investigation comes in!

1930s picture of ice cream lovers - yes even your grandma does it!
The genesis of our modern ice creams were ice and snow in a cup sweetened with sugar and berries. It's been rumoured that Alexander the Great and Nero, Emperor of Rome, were said to have enjoyed a good icy desert or two. Some historians believe the Chinese have been freezing cream and eating it since 3000 BCE. We do know that in the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) the emperors enjoyed “a frozen milk-like confection.” It was made with cow, goat or buffalo milk, heated with flour, and camphor was added. Camphor is from pine trees so I'm imagining the first ice creams were very fresh and woody. The mixture was put into metal tubes and lowered into an ice pool until frozen.

Marco Polo meets an oddly white Khubilai Khan in China - ice cream not pictured.
With trade and contact between nations, comes the exchange of food and recipes. Italy seems to have jumped on the ice cream truck in the thirteenth century. The legend-tellers (people who fib a lot) have Marco Polo bring ice cream to Italy, but we know that's false cause the man probably had it before he left town to visit China.(Bet you it was Rocky Road). Again the ice cream was exactly what its name was: sweetened cream, set in a pot nestling in ice to cool it down.

We can still thank the Italian for giving the world ice cream. A steward to the rich and powerful, Antonio Latini (1642–1692), wrote down his recipe for sorbetto, or sorbet, the ice and sugar grandad to ice cream. He made the first milk-based sorbet, which culinary historians consider the first “official” ice cream, and gelato. (For more delicious details, see Jeri Quinzio's book Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making.)

The idea spread to France, and they just had to one-up everyone:

"In 1768 there appeared in Paris what is undoubtedly the most outlandish treatise on the subject ever to be published. Called The Art of Making Frozen Desserts, it is a 240-page offering by one M. Emy, who not only gives formulas for "food fit for the gods," but offers theological and philosophical explanations for such phenomena as the freezing of water...Although frozen desserts were becoming common in regal circles, not until 1670 when the Cafe Procope opened in Paris did "iced creams" and sherbets spread to the masses."
---The Great American Ice Cream Book, Paul Dickson [Atheneum:New York] 1972 (p. 18-19) 

The Victorians liked to put their ice cream in molds - not sure what the one on the bottom is supposed to be: A fish?
And spread it did. Those fantastic people spread to England, then onto North America. In 1790, the first ice cream parlour opened in New York. But it was still hard to make, needing a great deal of ice from places like Canada and Norway, and not available to everyone. That changed in 1851 when Jacob Fussell, opened the first commercial ice cream plant in the world in America.
jacob fussell
Thank you, Mr. Fusell. Bless you.
Here's an early ice cream recipe you might want to try:

"To make ice cream. Take two pewter basons, one larger than the other; the inward one must have a close cover, into which you are to put your cream, and mix it with raspberries, or whatever you like best, to give it a flavour and a colour. Sweeten it to your palate; then cover it close, and set it into the larger bason. Fill it with ice, and a handful of salt: let it stand in this ice three quarters of an hour, then uncover it, and stir the cream well together: cover it close again, and let is stand half an hour longer, after that turn it into your plate. These things are made at the pewterers."

---The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy, Hannah Glasse, facsimile of the first edition, 1747 [Prospect Books:Devon] 1995 (p. 168)

So enjoy your next ice cream scoop with the added sprinkles on top of knowledge. Mmmmm...crunchy knowledge.