Shared posts

18 Nov 05:00

#1077; In which it’s Lonely at the Top

by David Malki

Chompsenberg had a few good turns in that Krandanayev anthology but Krandanayev was never the same post-Trantlydoff.

14 Nov 07:56

Downtowner Motor Inn, Raleigh, N.C.

by Raleigh Boy

Raleigh Downtowner_web

This week’s Flashback Friday postcard is a colorful depiction of Raleigh’s Downtowner Motor Inn, one of the handful of urban motels that once dotted the downtown area in the 1960s.

Raleigh Downtowner_back_web

Downtowner Motor Inn
309 Hillsboro St
Raleigh, North Carolina

Combined advantages of Motel and Hotel facilities in a Downtown location. 82 Spacious Rooms — Free T.V. — Heated Swimming Pool — Free Parking — No Tipping — Candlelight Restaurant — Free TWX Reservation Service. For the finest in accommodations Phone: 833-5771

That ‘free TV’ was color TV, I’m sure — Nonetheless, the description of the Raleigh Downtowner says it all!

This week’s card was postmarked on April 11, 1967.

Hi: Hope all is well with the two of you. I’m fine, & am working here. Head housekeeper, and am living at 410 Elm St. Raleigh. Thought you might like a card & stamp.


Love the way ‘Lillian’ crossed out the motel’s address and wrote over it her own. I wonder how her tenure as head housekeeper at the Downtowner worked out?

The Thing About the Downtowner Motor Inn

The Downtowner Corporation was organized in 1958 in Memphis, TN. The chain targeted downtown business districts in medium-sized cities throughout the South and Midwest as the focus location for its motels.

Downtowner Motor Inns opted to locate near larger established hotels with the aim to accommodate room shortages during conventions, trade shows and other similar big-draw events.

The company embraced a modernist architectural style as their building brand, characteristically using a grid pattern of colorful panels as their signature street facade.

downtowner_Columbia SC_web

These two 1960s chrome postcards depict the Columbia, SC Downtowner Inn, above; below, the Downtowner Motor Inn in Wheeling, WV bears a striking resemblance to the Raleigh Downtowner.

DowntownerInn-1967 Wheeling WV

Before It Was Raleigh’s Downtowner

Raleigh’s Downtowner was erected in 1964 at 309 Hillsboro St., once the site of the grand Jeremiah Stainback residence.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

The Jeremiah Stainback residence at 309 Hillsboro St, ca 1905.

The Victorian era house had been built on Raleigh’s fashionable residential Hillsboro St. in the 1890s. Jeremiah Stainback acquired it around 1903, and lived there with his family until the mid 1920s.

By 1927 a partnership of five local physicians bought the property, and, with one of the partners living in residence, occupied the mansion for nearly 35 years.

The Rise and Fall of Raleigh’s Downtowner Motor Inn

Raleigh City Directories listed the former Stainback lot as ‘vacant’ in 1962, ‘under construction’ in 1963, and finally as the ‘Downtowner Motor Inn and Candlelight Restaurant’ in 1964. Sadly, though, too much, too late.

As Raleigh’s downtown business district declined during the late 1960s and into the 1980s, so did its urban motels, including, among others, the Raleigh Cabana Motel, the Heart of Raleigh Motel, the Raleigh TraveLodge and the Raleigh Downtowner Motor Inn.


The Heart of Raleigh Motel opened about 1960 in the repurposed Faircloth Hall, a onetime dormitory on the former downtown Meredith College campus.

By 1973 the motel had been renamed the Golden Eagle Motor Inn. From 1977 to 1978 the Downtowner name was back. In 1979, following a corporate merger, it was rebranded the Downtowner/Eagle Motor Inn. Then for two years, 1980-82, it operated under the name Downtowner/Capital Motor Inn. As the decline continued, the motel became an EconoLodge Motel, 1983-89; and finally, 1990-92, a Friendship Inn.

By that time the former Downtowner was a lost cause and could no longer maintain any measure of profitability.  The hulking and deteriorating building, which had long lost its bright modernist color scheme, was demolished in 1993. The site of this once vibrant urban motel today is a parking lot.


Our Flashback Friday photochrome postcard this week was printed by the Curt Teich Co. of Chicago under the trade name ‘CurTeichColor.’

Curt Teich Co. (1893-1974)  Chicago, IL

A major publisher and printer. Their U.S. factories turned out more cards in quantity than any other printer. They published a wide range of national view-cards of America and Canada. Many consider them one of the finest producers of White Border Cards. The Linen Type postcard came about through their innovations as they pioneered the use of offset lithography. They were purchased by Regensteiner Publishers in 1974 which continued to print cards at the Chicago plant until 1978.

Curt Teich logo


“Flashback Friday” is a weekly feature of Goodnight, Raleigh! in which we showcase vintage postcards depicting our historic capital city. We hope you enjoy this week end treat!


13 Nov 20:07

Twitter Tuesday: The Dogs Selection

by Ursula Rodriguez

Our #TwitterTuesday theme for this week was #Dogs. Usually it’s tough to make our weekly selection but this time was certainly quite a challenge. You let us see how big is the love for your canines and the work we found in each of your photos was purely amazing! With so many different stages dogs were the super stars. Happy faces, sad faces, thoughtful faces… A wonderful awakening to the animal world.

Here are our favorites, but we highly recommend you to go directly to our Twitter Feeds to see all the original furry submissions.

Loving Spring
Hasta la vista Darla
Myrtle Smiling
Self and dog. Fujicolor Superia 200
27 - Aug - 2013 - Dog Day
#twittertuesday #dogs
Preguiça (Em preto, branco e amarelo)
King Socrates
I got snow on my nose!
365 weekly theme, #46.3, one subject
Sup Dog! - Border Collie
Cone Life.
The dog that thought he was an ostrich.
Lily, Mam Tor, Derbyshire

10 Nov 10:42

The history of tampons – in ancient Greece?

by Helen King

by Helen King

Did ancient Greek women use tampons? It’s clear that women today are curious as to what women in the past did when they were menstruating. As regular readers of Wonders & Marvels know, I did my PhD on ancient Greek menstruation and I also feel I’m on a crusade to clear up some of the ‘creative’ (actually, just plain wrong) statements about Hippocrates that are out there on the WWW. In a previous post here I’ve looked at the ‘using rags’ theory. But recently I’ve come across another claim that seems to originate in the marketing for Tampax but which has been picked up without any critical analysis by a lot of other sites. The original source seems to be the claim on the Tampax site that “The Greek physician Hippocrates, writing in the fifth century B.C., described another type of tampon, which was made of lint wrapped around lightweight wood” .

Leaving aside the ‘did Hippocrates write anything in the Hippocratic corpus?’ question, can we really find anything like that in ancient Greek medicine? Variations on other internet sites that seem to derive from the Tampax claim include “as described in the writings of Hippocrates, a tampon used pieces of wood, wrapped [sic] fiber” and, with a cheerful disregard for the whole Greece/Rome thing, “Apparently Hippocrates documented that Roman women used wooden sticks wrapped with lint.”. I like that ‘apparently’. Someone else has realised that there is an important question about how we are supposed to know this: what’s the evidence?

The wonderful Museum of Menstruation site, which makes a real effort to identify its sources and to engage with historians working on the topic, is much more cautious, talking about ancient usage of “tampons for contraception, which possibly means that women also used material as tampons to control menstruation.” Note that ‘possibly’. Just because you insert things into the vagina for one purpose doesn’t mean you do it for another; although at least, as the founder of the Museum of Menstruation, Harry Finley, pointed out when we had a chat about this, it shows that there is no sort of taboo attached to such insertion.

Tampons up the nose?

So what about the ancient Greek medical texts that came to be known as the ‘Hippocratic corpus’? In the Hippocratic treatises Joints and Instruments of Reduction, when the nose is fractured, the physician is told to roll up lint in a rag or in thin Carthaginian leather (chosen because it is so soft) and insert this into the nose. The ancient Greek word used here is motos. This, as here, can mean lint for dressing wounds, but in its entry for motos the indispensable ancient Greek-English dictionary by Liddell, Scott and Jones (known cheerfully to classicists as ‘LSJ’) also gives ‘tent, tampon’. Is this where the imaginary ‘Hippocratic tampon’ comes from?

Now, in a medical context, a tent is not somewhere you spend the night during an outdoor vacation, but an expansible plug of soft material for opening up an orifice. In medical English, tampons also have a rather different meaning to that which we now assume. Before Tampax came on the scene, there were tampons, but not as we know them. A tampon was simply a plug of some sort, used to stop bleeding, and inserted into a wound or, if menstrual flow seemed excessive, into the vagina. The word comes from the verb ‘to tamp’ meaning to stop up a hole, or to push down – you can ‘tamp’ tobacco into the bowl of a pipe before smoking it. But when Tampax came on the scene as a commercial product, the word was shifted more narrowly towards menstruation, so today’s near-exclusive application of the word to menstrual products is the result of the invention of Tampax.

Does the motos feature in the Hipppocratic treatises on women’s bodies? Yes, but not in the context of a way of absorbing normal menstrual flow. In Diseases of Women 1 (Littré 8.138.12) it means some soothing lint applied to the mouth of the womb and in book 2 of the same treatise (Littré 8.332.18) there are three motoi of increasing size inserted into the mouth of the womb because the neck of the womb is hard and closed so the menstrual blood can’t get out. Similarly, although different words are used, when a remedy needs to be inserted into the vagina – for example, beetles to irritate the womb and bring on a delayed menstrual period – it is wrapped up in wool first. But none of these uses concerns management of normal menstrual flow.

The pig-pen?

There is one other isolated reference worth mentioning. This comes not from the ancient Greek medical texts but from the fifth-century BC comic playwright Aristophanes (Lysistrata 1073) who refers once to men looking like they are wearing a ‘pig-pen’ (choirokomeion) round their thighs. One of the ancient words for the female external genitalia is choiros – piggy – used for the genitals of a young girl, or – if depilated – of an older woman. So is the joke here about wearing something around your piggy that looks quite bulky – such as a home-made menstrual pad? The word choiros itself has an interesting masculine/feminine dimension, in that if it is used in the masculine it means ‘female genitalia’ but in the feminine, it’s ‘pig’! In fact, when the men who look like they are wearing pig-pens open their cloaks, what they are hiding under there are their erect penises.

If anyone would have made a choiros joke like this, it would be Aristophanes. He was well aware of the entertainment value of the word. Another of his plays, Acharnians, has an extended joke about a poor man who is trying to sell his daughters as ‘piggies’.  And in support of my suggestion, I can cite LSJ, not a dictionary to make daring assumptions. It gives as the meaning of choirokomeion – on this occasion only – ‘bandage used by females’. So is this what men called a menstrual pad, or what women called it? In any case, if we follow this line of reasoning, it could be further evidence that menstrual management in ancient Greece was by home-made pads of rags, rather than tampons.


For more on Aristophanes, try James Robson, Aristophanes: an Introduction (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2009) and watch the free online series ‘The Birth of Comedy’ that starts here.


04 Nov 20:40

Hallucinogenic bullets

by vaughanbell

An article in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology discusses the history of ‘modern toxic antipersonnel projectiles’ and it has a short history of ammunition designed to introduce incapacitating hallucinogenic substances into the body.

As you might expect for such an unpleasant idea (chemical weapon hand guns!) they were wielded by some fairly unpleasant people

The Nazi Institute of Criminology then ordered a batch of more powerful 9-mm Parabellum cartridges that could be used with the Walther P38. This time the bullets contained Ditran, a mixture of 2 structural isomers comprising approximately 70% 1-ethyl-2-pyrrolidinylmethyl-alpha-phenylcyclopentylglycolate and 30% 1-ethyl-3-piperidyl-alpha-phenylcyclopentylglycolate (also known as Ditran B). Ditran B is the more active of the 2 isomers, both of which are strong anticholinergic drugs with hallucinogenic properties similar to those of scopolamine. Victims are thrown into such a state of mental confusion that they are incapable of reacting appropriately to the situations they find themselves in…

3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate, also known as QNB and coded BZ by NATO, is a military incapacitating agent. Like Ditran, it is an anticholinergic causing such intense mental confusion as to prevent any effective reaction against an enemy. These bullets were featured in the arsenal of the Serbian forces invading Bosnia-Herzegovina, particularly in Srebrenica in the 1990s.


Link to locked article ‘Modern Toxic Antipersonnel Projectiles’

04 Nov 11:00

Cabin Fever

by Justin Boyd
Scott Akerman

Haha, ha...ha....hmmmmm

Cabin Fever

Sometimes, you just gotta take things into your own hands and wait until someone else makes something happen.


Team Fortress 2 was a lot of fun! Thank you to everyone who made it out for the hangs and plays! I totally forgot how much fun that game is.

I definitely gotta keep planning gaming sessions for all of us. They always end up being a really great time.

bonus panel
03 Nov 06:36

I wanna go where the people aren't

by Jam

Really excited about this show! *puts on pyjamas*

The first time I went to a teambuilding rave I didn't bring earplugs because I thought they would think I was a dork but they all brought earplugs and I suffered like an IDIOT. 

27 Oct 22:58

Davis in the Ice and Cold

Davis in the Ice and Cold

27 Oct 21:32

Davis in the Forest, Teeming with Life

Davis in the Forest, Teeming with Life

22 Oct 17:48

Wildlife Wednesday: Foxes

by Arnold Chao

For this week, we’re highlighting fans of the fox in our photography community with a photo roundup of these sly mammals, from red foxes in Canada to bat-eared foxes in Kenya.

Somethings Missing...

Newfoundland, Canada.

“This small, nocturnal animal was hanging out in the late morning next to an old termite hill that he had taken up as his shelter.” – Richard Rhee

Baby Fox

Ontario, Canada.

A lesser seen member of the family group, a vixen I think.
Full Of Life

“This family and the neighbouring one disappeared completely at the end of the summer, just like the family living here last year, no prizes for guessing what happened to them. Still I have some nice memories, not easy finding new fox families so I’ll probably find myself back here in the new year. I was gonna say hopefully new foxes will move in ( which they probably will ) but then it’s obviously not safe is it, but for a fox where is safe?” – Dan Belton

Fox on the Run

“This season I seem to have seen more foxes than usual, so I’m wondering if maybe their numbers are up. This stretch of road in the Cavendish section of PEI [Prince Edward Island] National Park is known for having a lot of foxes. Many tourists and locals feed them, which was really obvious with this one. It came running to our car looking for food, and moved on when it realized we had none. We stayed and saw it to this a few more times with other cars, and it spent a lot of time on the road. The parks staff are working to get people to stop feeding them, but I don’t think they’re having much success.” – Brianna Scott

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Lingfield, Surrey, U.K.

Bat eared foxes in dew L

Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

Bat-Eared Fox (Kenya, Day 4)

Tsavo, Kenya.

Bat-eared Fox - Otocyon megalotis, Tsavo West NP, Nov 11

Tsavo West, Kenya.

This photo selection is inspired by the The Fox group.

To join this series, tweet @flickr with your favorite wildlife photos, and include the hashtag #WildlifeWednesday. And if you’d rather not tweet, simply include the same hashtag in your Flickr photo title, or tag it with WildlifeWednesday.

We look forward to seeing your contributions and featuring a new selection of your photo submissions and ideas every Wednesday here on our blog.

Previously featured in this series: Wildlife Wednesday: Bears

23 Oct 06:55

Girl Warrior Fantasies, c. 1700

by Holly Tucker
Scott Akerman

Damn SJWs have been perverting classical fiction since the 1600s.

By Christine A. Jones (Regular Contributor)

Anne Bonny

Chic girl pirate Anne Bonny

Fairy tales are how we imagine the unimaginable. Beans can be magic and grow to the heavens. Frightening beasts turn out to be great princes in disguise. And girls are saved from annoying home lives by fairies and talking animals. Crazy things can happen.

Fairy-tale history contains some really juicy stuff, not all of which made it into the Mother Goose canon. For instance, how about a girl who shows up at court dressed as a knight and becomes the queen’s lover? Crazy indeed! Well, during the 1690s three French women authors thought up an ingenious plot for fairy tales where girls did their fighting for themselves. They showed up at court dressed as soldiers and did battle for the king. In each case, in fact, they became the kingdom’s best warriors. They were valiant, but also gentle and kind, and knew how to fold laundry. A rare combination, to be sure. And in the longest and most famous of these stories, by Marie Chatherine d’Aulnoy, the cross-dressed heroine has to fend off the queen’s advances with all her might.

Okay, the girl warrior and the queen never become lovers, but the love triangle among the queen (who loves the knight), the knight (who loves the king), and the king (who loves the knight but cannot figure out why) makes up the entire plot of the story. Historically, there had been woman warriors in France by the seventeenth century, but none of them had had quite this much fun at court. Read d’Aulnoy’s story, “Belle-Belle or the Chevalier Fortunate”, in Jack Zipes, Beauties, Beasts and Enchantments: Classic French Fairy Tales (New York: New American Library, 1989).

Christine A. Jones is co-editing a fairy tale anthology and writing a book on early porcelain experiments in France.  She is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Utah.


This post first appeared at Wonders & Marvels on 12 December 2009.


21 Oct 00:00

For the love of bread

by Arnold Chao

Here on Flickr, we have a whole lot of foodies — heck, who doesn’t like food. We’d like to celebrate all the wonderful photos of what we all eat on our blog, starting with a little something inspired by Your First Loaf of Bread on Yahoo Food.

Enjoy this photo selection of delectable breads and the bakers that make them.

Crocodile bread!
beetroot bread

“This is my most favourite bread in the whole world. It’s beetroot bread, made by a local bakery school… It really does taste of beetroot, and it really is gorgeous. Add a bit of soup or cheese and you are in heaven…” – Caroline

Lavash Bread

“A traditional bread of Armenian origin.” – Dr. Harout Tanielian


Learn how to make challah bread on Yahoo Food.


“These men start very early to prepare flat bread for travellers on their two days’ bus journey from Shrinagar to Leh, high up in the Ladakh mountains [India].” – Rosmarie Wirz

njera texture

Injera, traditional Ethiopian bread.

Bread tradition

“240° C in a stone baker’s oven in the Villarceaux Castle in France.” – Pierre_F

Our Daily Bread

“Preparing to leave it for the first rise — before I set the dough down I like to hold it up and out from my heart like this…it feels like a way to offer gratitude as well as a way to receive a blessing on our food.” – Jillian

Home-made bread

Zaire, Angola.

See, and share, more photography in the Bread lovers gallery.

02 Oct 01:58

India’s new World Heritage Site

by Arnold Chao

At the end of June this year, 26 new inscriptions were added to the World Heritage Site List, UNESCO’s cultural collection of 1,007 properties. The Queen’s Stepwell (aka Rani-ki-Vav) at Patan, Gujarat, was one of them, stunning visitors with its astonishing structure of architectural and technological skill that India possessed over 800 years ago.

Rani Ki Vav well fisheye
DSM888Rani Ki Vav well fisheye
Rani Ki Vav wide
DSM888Rani Ki Vav wide

Rani-ki-Vav, on the banks of the Saraswati River, was initially built as a memorial to a king in the 11th century AD. Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water resource and storage systems on the Indian subcontinent, and have been constructed since the 3rd millennium BC. They evolved over time from what was basically a pit in sandy soil towards elaborate multi-storey works of art and architecture. Rani-ki-Vav was built at the height of craftsmens’ ability in stepwell construction and the Maru-Gurjara architectural style, reflecting mastery of this complex technique and great beauty of detail and proportions. Designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water, it is divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptural panels of high artistic quality; more than 500 principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones combine religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works. The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank 9.5 m by 9.4 m, at a depth of 23 m. The well is located at the westernmost end of the property and consists of a shaft 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep.” – UNESCO

Queen's Step Well_2
mehtasunilQueen's Step Well_2
Queen's Step Well_5
mehtasunilQueen's Step Well_5
Rani ki vav (Patan) detailed embellishments
durgeshnandiniRani ki vav (Patan) detailed embellishments
step symmetry
sunil_shanbagstep symmetry
Queen's Step Well (Rani ki Vav), Patan, Gujarat.
JN SinghQueen's Step Well (Rani ki Vav), Patan, Gujarat.
Voluptuous Apsaras and the male deity
JN SinghVoluptuous Apsaras and the male deity

“Most of the sculptures are in devotion to Vishnu, in the forms of Dus-Avatars Kalki, Rama, Mahisasurmardini, Narsinh, Vaman, Varahi and others representing their return to the world. Nagkanya, Yogini beautiful women – Apsara showcasing 16 different styles of make-up to look more attractive called Solah-shringar.” – Jagadip Singh

patan vav
sapanparikh18patan vav


07 Oct 11:44

Sex vs. God: How America Got Its Name

by April Stevens

Blanding MapBy Michael  Blanding (Guest Contributor)

Everyone knows that Columbus “discovered” the New World in the 15th century. So why is our continent named America instead of Columbia? It might have to do with a universal truth: sex sells better than God.

When Italian explorer Christopher Columbus first arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, he thought that he had landed on the Indie islands off the coast of Cathay, and it was only a matter of time before he’d find the gold mines and pleasure palaces of the Kublai Khan. As he island-hopped for the next few months, however, none of the native inhabitants of the island seemed to know what he was talking about. On subsequent voyages between 1493 and 1504, Columbus became more and more desperate, insisting not only that he had found Asia, but also more grandiosely claiming he’d discovered the mythical Garden of Eden. He even declared himself a harbinger of the Second Coming of Christ and the End of the World, circulating his ideas in a book called the Book of Prophecies.

Sex Sells: Vespucci’s Pamphlet on America

At the same time Columbus’ book was making the rounds of Europe, another very different pamphlet was also circulating. This one, written by Columbus’ fellow Italian Amerigo Vespucci also claimed to have discovered a passage to Asia during voyages between 1497 and 1504. However, it went further to describe new lands in the Southern Hemisphere that had never been described before. Vespucci was particularly explicit about the native inhabitants of these lands—especially the women, whom he said “go naked and are exceedingly lustful,” adding tantalizingly, “I have deemed it best (in the name of decency) to pass over in silence their many arts to gratify their insatiable lust.” Of course, that only led readers to speculate further, causing the pamphlet to be in hot demand across Europe (even though today scholars debate whether Vespucci ever even made the voyages he claimed). Columbus’ increasing delusions of grandeur, meanwhile, alienated him from his peers; he died obscure and impoverished in 1506.

Thus, it makes sense that when German mapmaker Martin Waldseemüller produced the first map to show a separate continent in the Western hemisphere in 1507, he chose to name it after the person given credit for discovering it, feminizing Vespucci’s first name to call it “America.” As more doubts began to emerge about Vespucci’s story, Waldseemüller apparently thought better of the decision, taking the name off later maps, but by then it was too late. The name was adopted by other mapmakers including Gerard Mercator, who popularized it in his new Atlas—and the name America was forever cemented in history. So important was Waldseemüller’s map that centuries later the only remaining copy would become the most expensive map ever sold, bought by the U.S. Government for $10 million in 2003. It is now on permanent display at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., as the “birth certificate of America.”

The Map Thief CoverMichael Blanding is the author of The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps (Gotham, 2014).

29 Sep 11:30

The Golden Spoon

by April Stevens

By Gastropod

Chances are, you’ve spent more time thinking about the specs on your smartphone than about the gadgets that you use to put food in your mouth.

But the shape and material properties of forks, spoons, and knives turn out to matter—a lot. Changes in the design of cutlery have not only affected how and what we eat, but also what our food tastes like. There’s even evidence that the adoption of the table knife transformed the shape of European faces.

To explore the hidden history and emerging science of cutlery for our brand new podcast, Gastropod spoke to Bee Wilson, food historian and author of Consider the Fork, and Zoe Laughlin, co-founder of the Institute of Making at University College London. Below are some of our favorite stories from those conversations.

Fork found at the Globe Theatre

One of the earliest forks in Britain (made between 1587 and 1606), found by archaeologists excavating the site of the Elizabethan-era Rose Theater. Called a sucket fork, it was used for eating sweetmeats, such as dried and candied fruits. Later versions had a spoon at the other end, like a proto-spork.

The Evolution of the Fork

First, some history. Consider the Fork is one of our favorite food books: in it, Bee Wilson takes readers on a fascinating journey through the evolution of kitchen technology and its impact on our lives. It’s packed with astonishing details that gave us a whole new appreciation for humble appliances such as the can opener and the kitchen timer. Wilson ranges across human history, from the sixteenth-century adoption of the enclosed oven (before then, chefs often worked naked or just in underpants, to avoid catching their clothes on the open flames) to the 1994 “invention” of the Microplane grater, which took place when Canadian housewife Lorraine Lee borrowed a carpentry rasp from her husband’s hardware store to zest orange for a cake.

But it was the chapter on cutlery that really caught our attention. Although it’s hard to imagine life without them now, forks are a relatively recent addition to the table—and they weren’t a big hit at first. In the sixteenth century, as aristocratic Italians began to replace their single-pronged ravioli spears with a multi-tined fork, the rest of Europe still saw the fork as “this bizarre, weird, slightly fetishistic device,” Wilson explained. “Why would you want to put metal prongs into your mouth along with the food? It just didn’t seem like a natural way to eat.” Indeed, when a Englishman, Thomas Coryate, adopted the fork habit after traveling to Italy at the start of the seventeenth century, his friends—including the playwright Ben Jonson and the poet John Donne—teasingly called him “furcifer,” which meant “fork-holder” but also “rascal.”

Pages from the 1910 Gorham Buttercup pattern silver catalog (left) and the 1898 Gorham Strasbourg pattern silver catalog (right), which together list more than 100 different items of cutlery, including the relish fork, asparagus fork, tomato serving fork, lemon fork, pickle fork, sardine fork, vegetable fork, and beef forks shown above. The full Buttercup pattern also included the infamous ice cream fork. Via Eden Sterling.

Pages from the 1910 Gorham Buttercup pattern silver catalog (left) and the 1898 Gorham Strasbourg pattern silver catalog (right), which together list more than 100 different items of cutlery, including the relish fork, asparagus fork, tomato serving fork, lemon fork, pickle fork, sardine fork, vegetable fork, and beef forks shown above. The full Buttercup pattern also included the infamous ice cream fork. Via Eden Sterling.

It wasn’t until a century later, in the early 1700s, that eating with a fork was accepted across Europe—in part, Wilson explains in the book, due to the transition from bowls and trenchers, whose curves were better suited to spoons, to flatter china plates. That was followed, another hundred years later, by an explosion in fork shapes and a corresponding wave of “fork anxiety.” As Wilson described it, the transition to serving meals in a succession of courses, each with a fresh set of cutlery, rather than just laying all the dishes on the table for diners to help themselves, led to the development of specialized “forks for olives, forks for ice-cream, forks for sardines, forks for terrapins, forks for salads”—even forks for soup, though that was rapidly condemned as “foolish,” and the soup spoon was restored.

The Search for the Golden Spoon

But, if forks have a complicated history, the future of spoons may well be golden. Literally. Zoe Laughlin, who confessed to being driven, in part, by a childhood obsession with finding the perfect spoon, has been conducting scientific research into the sensory properties of materials. Working out of the Institute of Making, a London-based cross-disciplinary research club, she started exploring the different tactile and aural sensations of metals. Next, she wondered how metals taste. Scientists had researched this question before, by having people swish metal salts around in their mouth. To Laughlin, that methodology made no sense. We put metal in our mouths every day, in the form of cutlery—why not just do a spoon taste test?

Before long, she had volunteers lining up to suck on a set of seven spoons that were identical in shape and size, but plated with different metals. Her results showed that different metals really do taste different—the atomic properties of each metal affects the way the spoon reacts with our saliva, and so, for instance, copper is more bitter than stainless steel.

From left to right: copper-, gold-, silver-, tin-, zinc-, chrome-, and stainless steel-plated spoons. Photograph by Zoe Laughlin.

From left to right: copper-, gold-, silver-, tin-, zinc-, chrome-, and stainless steel-plated spoons. Photograph by Zoe Laughlin.

Her next step was to figure out how the taste of different metals affects the flavor of food. Working with a top chef, she hosted a spoon-and-food pairing dinner party, in which food writers and scientists discovered the curious affinity of tin for lamb and pistachio. One spoon ruled them all, however: as Laughlin put it, “The gold spoon is just sort of divine. It tastes incredibly delicious and it makes everything you eat seem more delicious.” After tasting mango sorbet off a gold spoon, Laughlin told us, with a note of regret in her voice, “I thought, I can’t believe I’m ever going to eat off anything other than gold ever again. Sadly, of course, I do.”

Bee Wilson and Zoe Laughlin are guests on the first episode of Gastropod, the new podcast hosted by award-winning science journalist Cynthia Graber and Edible Geography author Nicola Twilley. Listen to the first episode, The Golden Spoon, for many more shocking cutlery revelations, and tune in every two weeks for a new

28 Sep 06:00

Flickr Weekend Samplr XX/2014

by Kay Kremerskothen

Happy weekend everyone! Below is our latest selection of inspiring photos we added to our favorites during the last couple of days. If you enjoy them, click through to the photographers’ photostreams and discover even more great shots.

Detroit  Morning
Lou PeeplesDetroit Morning
Big Bioy (French Bull Dog) (Explore)
lamachineaveugleBig Bioy (French Bull Dog) (Explore)
from the Family Album 03
TommyOshimafrom the Family Album 03

If you are new to our Weekly Samplr series, we also invite you to check out our previous installments.

23 Sep 14:31

A Softer World: 1155

buy this comic as a print!
Or share on: facebookreddit
If you enjoy the comic, please consider supporting A Softer World on Patreon
17 Sep 23:20

Wildlife Wednesday: Marine mammals

by Arnold Chao

In this week’s photo selection, a brilliant shot of a sunbathing Icelandic seal pup inspired us to corral more pictures of those immensely photogenic mammals of the sea, particularly seals, otters, and sea lions.

Seal Pup Sunbathing
Petur 'Wazhur' JonssonSeal Pup Sunbathing

Earless seal (Phocidae), Kjosarsysla, Iceland.

Slow Clap
robblansdowneSlow Clap

Central Coast, British Columbia.

Antarctic Fur Seal3 Salisbury Plain So. Georgia 11:7:13
Douglas B. KochAntarctic Fur Seal3 Salisbury Plain So. Georgia 11:7:13

Antarctic Fur Seal3 Salisbury Plain So. Georgia.


Ohau Point Seal Colony, Kaikoura, New Zealand.

What you looking at fatty??
green_eyed_gazeWhat you looking at fatty??

Taken on Blakeney Point, Norfolk, U.K.

Giant River Otter #1
Darren P ClarkGiant River Otter #1

Amazon Basin, Sani Lodge, Ecuador.

giant river otters
hemetchickgiant river otters
Wildlife in London
Neilwlkr7Wildlife in London
River Otter by Steve Gifford
Steve Gifford – INRiver Otter by Steve Gifford

“Today I spent the morning at the Dillon Moist Soil Unit of Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge.

While I had initially intended to look for Soras and other marsh birds, my plans quickly changed after spotting a family of river otters shortly after arriving.

In all, there were 7 otters that moved about the marsh as a group, swimming, fishing and playing together. The coolest thing was to see all seven on the same log at one point, licking and grooming one another.

I also had the opportunity to hear one of the youngest pups yipping for it’s mom like a puppy when it fell behind and got momentarily separated from the group, something I had never heard before.” – Steve Gifford

Eurasian Otter
LevanaSietsesEurasian Otter

Eurasian otters at the Auckland Zoo.
Threat Status: Near threatened
Habitat: Asia, Africa, Europe
Diet: Carnivores

Otter 2014
fender1510Otter 2014

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska.

This photo selection is inspired by the Marine Mammals group.

To join this series, tweet @flickr with your favorite wildlife photos, and include the hashtag #WildlifeWednesday. And if you’d rather not tweet, simply include the same hashtag in your Flickr photo title, or tag it with WildlifeWednesday.

We look forward to seeing your contributions and featuring a new selection of your photo submissions every Wednesday here on our blog.

Previously featured for this series: Wildlife Wednesday: Butterfly wings

18 Sep 19:46

Throwback Thursday: Gardens

by Arnold Chao

In this week’s throwback journey, let’s explore gardens seen in the past, led by a Japanese flower garden in the 1890s and more offered in the photographic archives from The Commons.

Title: Peony Garden
Artist: Kusakabe Kimbei
Artist Bio: Japanese, 1841 – 1934
Creation Date: c. 1890s
Process: albumen print

Title: Diversified gardening: “It is estimated that more than $2,500,000 worth of home and truck garden products were raised in Oregon in 1935. Here we see one of the big diversified truck gardens.”
Circa 1905-1910

Fern-filled Conservatory at Bowen Park, Brisbane, ca. 1890
State Library of Queensland, AustraliaFern-filled Conservatory at Bowen Park, Brisbane, ca. 1890

Title: Fern-filled Conservatory at Bowen Park, Brisbane, ca. 1890
Creator: Poulsen, P. C.
Location: Bowen Hills, Brisbane, Queensland
Description: The Conservatory at the Acclimatisation Gardens in Bowen Park, filled with various ferns and plants, big and small.

Title: Garden Aster
From the William Copeland McCalla family fonds… Taken circa 1930, Alberta, Canada.

Title: Manse Gardens
Photo taken at birthplace [Woodrow Wilson] in Staunton, VA, by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Jim Corbett.
Date: unknown

To join this series, tweet @flickr with your favorite photos, and include the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday. And if you’d rather not tweet, simply include the same hashtag in your Flickr photo title, or tag it with ThrowbackThursday. We can’t wait to see what time period and subjects show up next in pictures. From old scans to new photos of throwback memories, we like them all. In the meantime you can also find inspiration in The Commons on Flickr.

Last Thursday: Throwback Thursday: Portraits

18 Sep 11:30

Beauty Secrets of the Ancient Amazons

by AdrienneMayor

522940_241779289283082_631680272_nBy Adrienne Mayor (Regular Contributor)

Galloping for miles on tough ponies, hunting, making war, marauding, and plundering, hot and dry in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter —life on the Scythian steppes was dirty, dusty work for nomad men and the women known to the ancient Greeks as Amazons. How did the saddle-sore Amazons and their male companions relax and tend to their bodies? For Scythians, bathing was a special occasion usually undertaken as a purification before funerals in the spring.

The Greek historian Herodotus (ca 450 BC) describes the Scythian-style toilette. Their unusually refreshing sauna sounds like a New Age spa treatment.

First the Scythians wash their heads with soap and water. But, notes Herodotus, they never wash their bodies this way. In order to cleanse their bodies, they fix in the ground three long sticks inclined towards one another to make a tipi-like booth. Large pieces of woolen felts are stretched over the poles, overlapping to fit as close as possible. Inside the tipi is a large stone bowl of red-hot stones. The men and women enter the felt tipi and toss handfuls of hemp-seeds onto the red-hot stones. (Cannabis grows wild on the steppes.) The smoke produces such a delightful vapor as no Grecian vapor-bath can exceed, remarks Herodotus. The Scythians shout for joy, and this intoxicating steam- bath serves them instead of a water-bath.

Then Herodotus divulges a recipe for an Amazon beauty mask.

The women make a mixture of cypress, cedar, and frankincense. They pound these ingredients into a paste on a rough stone, adding a little water. When this substance takes on a smooth, thick consistency, they cover their faces, and indeed their whole bodies, with the paste and retire for the night. When they remove the plaster on the next morning, comments Herodotus, a sweet odor is imparted to them and their skin is clean and glossy.

Today, all three of these ingredients are used in perfumes,  cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Cedar and cypress trees grow at high altitudes, as easily available to the Scythian nomads as local cannabis plants. Fragrant cedar and cypress oils have antiseptic qualities, helpful in fighting infection. Both are astringents for reducing oily skin, employed today against acne and dermatitis.

Small lumps of frankincense, the aromatic resin of Boswellia trees of the Arabian desert, would have been a precious trade commodity, available from merchants on the Silk Routes across Central Asia. It appears in ancient Egyptian recipes for beauty masks for toning and smoothing scars. Frankincense has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory properties, and is found in modern beauty products reputed to rejuvenate aging skin.

 Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar in Classics and History of Science, Stanford University. She is the author of  The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World (2014) and The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy, a nonfiction finalist for the 2009 National Book Award.

This post first appeared at Wonders & Marvels on 6 September 2012.

15 Sep 05:00

A Roomba With a View

by Adam


28 Aug 19:59

Hark, A Vagrant: Batch of comics 10

buy this print!

Hello my friends!

It's been a while. I'm trying to stretch these comic making muscles again, so here are a load of sketchy sillies. In the past year, I've been doing some work in books and tv, as I've mentioned, some of it working out and some of it not. But I'm very excited to tell you that I just finished this book with Scholastic, which should be out next fall! It's a lot of fun and I hope you will like it!

I'm working on the sequel to the Hark A Vagrant book next with Drawn and Quarterly, so good news, you'll be seeing comics more frequently! And I miss making them.
01 Sep 05:00

Summer Bummer – Part 2

by Adam


So, with a new school year starting, I thought I’d write a comic about how this sort of thing bummed out when I was a kid. Turns out I already kinda did a strip about this. Thankfully, this isn’t as egregious as the “Clean Toilet Fiasco.” At least this strip has different jokes.

Click here to check out the first Summer Bummer.

29 Aug 05:35

To Come Apartment at the Seams

by Adam


02 Sep 15:56

A Softer World: 1148

buy this comic as a print!
Or share on: facebookreddit
If you enjoy the comic, please consider supporting A Softer World on Patreon
26 Aug 13:50


by Grant

25 Aug 15:56

Just us dogs

by Kay Kremerskothen
Homemade Airplanes 2/365
sprinkle happinessHomemade Airplanes 2/365
Beach Dog
YetAnotherLisaBeach Dog
Today's my dog. Taken with Takumar 50/1.4.
lala_turbo_nitroToday's my dog. Taken with Takumar 50/1.4.

Want to explore more? Here are some cool dog photos taken since the beginning of August.

22 Aug 12:49

Wake County Hits 1 Million Residents

by Leo Suarez

Throwing a tweet of mine up here on the blog for posterity.

Downtown living is still an extreme niche. As we hit 1 million in the county, still less than 10,000 in DTR. That's 1%.

— Leo Suarez (@dtraleigh) August 22, 2014

And then let me add a little more statistics. According to a 2014 report from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, we get this nice graphic.
Downtown Raleigh Resident Population Statistics
Click for larger

22 Aug 05:00

Four Score and Seven Tests Ago

by Adam
Scott Akerman

I remember being in a trailer at some school I've never seen since and then going to lunch.


21 Aug 04:00

part one was published in 2004, and carries a 2003 copyright date! apparently while composing the second part I TOOK MY SWEET FRIGGIN' TIME. in other news if you have been reading dinosaur comics since 2003 and are still reading it, thank you so much, i love you, i really do

Scott Akerman


archive - contact - sexy exciting merchandise - search - about
← previous August 21st, 2014 next

August 21st, 2014: Here's Part One! Remember it? If you do you have been reading Dinosaur Comics for over a decade and I LOVE YOU

– Ryan