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6

Great Glass Coffin Scam: When Hucksters Sold the Fantasy of Death Without Decay

The picture above is of a glass casket, believe it or not. It's hard to tell with the leather on the outside and fabric on the inside, but the purpose of a glass coffin wasn't its transparency, in case you were expecting something out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The sales pitch for glass caskets was that the hermetically-sealed glass would protect a loved one's remains from water and air, and even from decay itself. It was the perfect sales pitch for the early 20th century, and the first pitch was to investors in glass coffin companies.

Numerous glass-casket companies popped up around the country in the early 1900s, from the Modern Glass Company in Toledo, Ohio, to the Glass Casket Corporation in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Most of these companies were marketing caskets based on a design by James DeCamp of Blackwell, Oklahoma, who received the first of several glass-casket-related patents in 1915. Sealed with a tube of silicone that joined two glass halves, the casket was promised as an airtight and watertight vessel for the dead.

Of those that were made, few survive, and not only because they were objects meant to be buried. Creating a glass casket large enough to hold an adult corpse was an incredible undertaking, so to speak. The American Glass Casket Company stated in 1921 that their huge casket press, which measured 13 feet tall and 25 feet long, was the biggest such press in the world. The lid and base that formed the casket would be some of the most massive pieces of pressed glass ever produced. The casket would weigh hundreds of pounds (and, being glass, would break if dropped by the burdened pallbearer).

Thus, the few that exist are mostly small. “We have a child’s glass casket as well as a salesman’s sample made by the American Glass Casket Company in the collection of the Museum of American Glass at Wheaton Arts [in Millville, New Jersey],” said Dianne Wood, curatorial assistant at the museum. “One of our young visitors called the salesman’s sample a ‘Barbie Doll casket’ if that gives you a sense of the size.”

The salesman's sample was an important tool for demonstrating the wonders of a glass coffin to investors and to customers, but the fad didn't last long. Read about the rise and fall of glass coffins at Collectors Weekly.


8

All the Presidents’ Meals

The White House's state dinners are a formal tradition for greeting world leaders on official state visits to the United States. While the feasts are bound by tradition and etiquette, the foods that are served vary greatly over time, as culinary trends change, and by the personal tastes of each president and/or their first ladies. There are subtle menu differences that reflect the purpose of the occasion, too, depending on whether the aim was to show off America's prosperity or taste or to make the guest feel at home. When Nixon hosted Leonid Brezhnev, the menu was definitely a Cold War gambit.  

Nixon hosted 40 state dinners before he resigned. Perhaps as a typically Nixonian attempt to convince others of his status, 13 of those dinners were in his first year alone. He was also the first president to host a leader of the Soviet Union—General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev on June 18, 1973—since the 1950s. Brezhnev was served supreme of lobster en bellevue (chilled lobster removed from the shell and decorated with aspic, truffles, and green leaves, according to Ruta, the former executive sous-chef), contre-filet of beef bordelaise, paillettes dorées (a very Gallic way to say “cheese straws”), pommes aux amandes, eggplant and green beans orientale, a bibb lettuce salad with Port Salut cheese, and vacherin glacé aux framboises for dessert.

The dinner was a fitting coda to Nixon’s “kitchen debate” with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow back in July 1959. During a series of discussions over the relative merits of the United States and Soviet Union at the American National Exhibition in Moscow (which Brezhnev also attended), America’s then-vice president stressed to the Soviet premier, “In this day and age to argue who is stronger completely misses the point. With modern weapons it just does not make sense. If war comes we both lose.” Despite the military advantages held by the Soviet Union, Nixon argued, the United States provided a better quality of life for its citizens.

Foreign Policy has collected the menus of 392 state dinners over 14 administrations, and present the data in several interactive graphs you can explore, plus an article about state dinners as a whole, and a section for each president from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Donald J. Trump -all on one page. -via Everlasting Blort 

(Image credit: Alex Fine)


8

Dog Rescued from Icy River Not What It Seemed

A group of men working on the Sindi dam on the Parnu River in Estonia spotted a dog in distress in the icy river. It was obviously cold and unable to negotiate the clumps of ice surrounding it. So the men did what any animal lover would do- they went in, cleared a path through the ice, and pulled the dog out.   

Speaking to the Estonian newspaper Postimees, one of the men, Rando Kartsepp, said: "We had to carry him over the slope. He weighed a fair bit."

"He was calm, slept on my legs. When I wanted to stretch them, he raised his head for a moment," he added.

Veterinarians had some suspicions over the large dog's true nature, but it was a local hunter, familiar with the region's wolves, who finally confirmed it for what it was: a young male wolf, about a year old.

The vets decided the prudent thing to do would be to treat the wolf and quickly put it in a cage before it fully recovered from the cold. They then contacted the Estonian Union for the Protection of Animals (EUPA), which paid for the treatment, fitted the wolf with a GPS, and released it into the wild. See more pictures of the wolf at BBC News. -via Boing Boing

(Image credit: The Estonian Union for the Protection of Animals)


9

When the Highest Paid Hollywood Director Was a Woman

You might never have heard the name of prolific film director Lois Weber. She got in on the ground floor of cinema before the studio system and investors solidified the ground rules, and therefore made her own rules. Weber ran her own film studio that produced 153 films, and by the 1930s, she was making $17,000 a week. She also brought a number of other women into cinema as both actresses and filmmakers.   

Weber’s films are primarily domestic dramas, stories about family ecosystems and the financial and emotional obligations that bind people together. Behind these narratives are the social and political issues that divided Weber’s audience: abortion, drug addiction, capital punishment, prostitution, anti-Semitism and birth control. emboldened by a medium without traditions or conventions, Weber saw no reason why film should aim to merely amuse when it was possible to change the world.

Weber was called a “propagandist,” but she resisted the word. Propaganda, she said, was too simpleminded. A man would shift his thinking on birth control, for instance, not because Weber advised it, but because he came to feel obligated to remedy the distress of a specific young woman who worked as a laundress and wore her hair pinned at the nape of her neck. Weber understood social change to be the sum of tenderness meted out to individuals. Her films were a concerted experiment to coax this tenderness from viewers reluctant to extend it.

Weber's obscurity today lies in the fact that her films were silent, and only 16 of her movies survive today. In addition, while she sold a lot of tickets, her films spoke to women, and film critics and journalists (who were men) didn't understand. For example, her dedication to realistic details and focusing on repeating motifs as analogies was seen as overblown and unnecessary until a couple of decades later when a male filmmaker did the same and was lauded as a genius. Read about Lois Weber's groundbreaking movies at Lithub.  -via Digg

Some of Weber's work is on YouTube, mostly in short clips, but Where Are My Children (about birth control) and The Hypocrites (which is detailed in the article) have been uploaded in their entirety.


8

Chicken and Waffles Pizza and Ice Cream Tacos

Thrillist introduces us to two new Frankenfoods this week. The first is Honey Chicken and Waffles Pizza, the winner of a poll at Papa John's Pizza. This recipe beat three other concept pizzas the chain proposed as a new menu item.

As you already surmised from the headline, none of those three were top of the class. The new pizza will be Hot Honey Chicken and Waffles, which sounds like a passably adventurous pizza to which a large chain might be able to do justice. It took home more than 70% of the total fan vote. It features crispy chicken, waffle crumbles, bacon, cheese, and a drizzle of spicy honey.

Since chicken and waffles was already a Frankenfood, this is just the next step. The Ice Cream Taco is really just an extreme dessert with no savory Tex-Mex ingredients. The shell is made of cotton candy, filled with ice cream and more candy. Sweet, but you'll still have to wash your hands.

(Image credit: Papa John's)


10

Breed Your Own Mutants with Ganbreeder

Ganbreeder is a web toy that will remix photos until they are terrifying. Select a creature (or an inanimate object; they don't care) and crossbreed it with other creatures. You can take a sea slug and "mix in genes" from a dog or a building or a plate of beans. You even control how much of each new addition goes into the finished picture, but nothing will prepare you for the horrifying results. Or you might end up with something completely normal, like when I mixed some mashed potatoes with a lobster and it just looked like dinner. Yeah, you have to sign up for an account in order to use it. -via Boing Boing


10

The Hong Kong Handover

Britain's 99-year lease on Hong Kong was up in 1997, but it's not easy to integrate a British colony into the larger China. You might recall the fireworks at the handover, but there was a lot more involved in the celebrations of the day, and plans for a transition that continues today. Wendover Productions explains what happened during the handover. They don't touch on the most noticeable conundrum: Hong Kong traffic still uses the left side of the road, while cars in China travel on the right. -via Digg


9

Karl Lagerfeld's Cat to Inherit Part of His Fortune


 
Karl Lagerfeld, the creative director of the fashion empire Chanel, passed away Tuesday at age 85. He left behind his beloved companion Choupette, an 8-year-old red point Birman cat. Choupette has a modeling career, her own line of makeup, two personal maids, a chauffeur, a bodyguard, and 243,000 Instagram followers.

Ashley Tschudin, the manager of Choupette’s blog and social media channels, released a statement to People detailing how the cat is coping.

“During this time, Choupette is coping with the loss the best she knows how to, but at such a young age (and being a cat), that is challenging. Karl Lagerfeld is and will always be her ‘Daddy.’ She is choosing to put her best paw forward and hopes that her loyal fans and followers will continue with their outpouring of love to help ease the pain,” the statement reads.

Lagerfeld also left an estate of $237 million, a portion of which will go to Choupette. Read more about the grieving Choupette at Marie Claire. -via Mental Floss


9

True Facts: The Lemur



Ze Frank has another edition of the delicious and ridiculous True Facts series, this one about various species of lemur. These relatively small primates are both amusing and endangered. Warning: contains potty humor and brief glimpses of lemur genitals and mating. -via Laughing Squid


12

Why Flying On The Hindenburg Zeppelin Was So Expensive

The only thing most of us know about the German airship called the Hindenburg is that it caught fire in 1937, a disaster that was recorded on film with the announcer proclaiming "Oh, the humanity!" The Hindenburg had made 36 Atlantic crossings in its short life, for which passengers paid $400, equivalent to more than $7,000 today. It had cabins that could sleep 70 passengers, although they were small. No matter, because there was plenty of room to socialize in the dining room, lounge, writing room, bar, and even a smoking room. Take a peek into the luxury travel offered by the Hindenburg in a gallery of photos at Bored Panda.


12

Explosives Expert Rates Movie Explosions

You know all those movie scenes where the main characters walk away from a huge explosion? How accurate could that possibly be? And how about that time Indiana Jones hid in a refrigerator to survive a nuclear blast? Columbia University explosives engineer Rodger Cornell goes through quite a few of these famous film scenes to rate their accuracy and explain how real explosions work and the damage they can doing in real life. -via Geeks Are Sexy


10

Hot, Small, or Couch, Why Potatoes Make Great Idioms

You've probably never thought of it, but potatoes are a big part of our language. If you're a meat-and-potatoes type of guy who likes to veg out, you might be a couch potato. If you post a poor quality picture on the internet, you might be accused of taking it with a potato instead of a camera. Do you want fries with that? Potato idioms are global, and they go way back.  

The records of the pre-Columbian and immediately post-contact Andes are not particularly good, but we do have some records that suggest that the potato had such a place in the Quechuan languages of the mountain population. According to a 17th-century Jesuit priest who spent time in these communities, the time a potato takes to cook was used as a shorthand division of time, so one might say that it took someone three pots of potatoes to build a roof. That continues to this day. According to the book Food, Power, and Resistance in the Andes: Exploring Quechua Verbal and Visual Narratives, by Alison Krögel, referring to potatoes can be used to cut a local down to size. If someone from the mountain region begins to put on the airs of a coastal resident of big-city Lima, a friend might say that they are “tan Cusqueño como la papa wayru,” meaning that they’re actually no more cosmopolitan than a local mountain potato.

Not all potato idioms are negative. Other languages use the potato to convey everything getting enough to eat to a lumpy shape. What these idiom have in common is their commonality, because everyone understands potatoes. Find out how potatoes have infused language at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Aïda Amer)


10

The Return of Risky Playgrounds



Over time, public playgrounds have become safer: metal apparatuses were replaced by wood and then plastic, concrete or gravel was replaced by grass and then recycled rubber pellets, and anything that could conceivably present a risk was removed. Kids crave thrills, independence, creativity, and a feeling of accomplishment, which is why you take your kid to a playground and find them climbing the fence instead of the plastic ladder. "Adventure playgrounds" are different. They have building materials and tools for children to design their own equipment. They allow children to take risks while still in a controlled environment, which teaches them how to judge danger. And kids have way more fun.


9

New Record Set in Ultramarathon

The Spine is an ultramarathon, a 268-mile footrace up the backbone of England to Scotland. In January. This year, Jasmin Paris became the first woman to win the race ever. She ran for three and a half days with only three hours of sleep, and used part of her precious break time to pump breast milk for her 14-month old daughter.

...Paris, a veterinarian and a Ph.D. student in myeloid leukaemia at the University of Edinburgh, became the first woman to win the Spine Race. And she did it in a record-breaking 83 hours and 12 minutes, beating 135 runners -- and smashing the old course record by more than 12 hours.

Roselló Solé didn't finish the race. He'd pushed himself so much in trying to beat Paris that he had to be taken out of the race with just four miles to go. He was clinically exhausted.

In fact, the next finisher was previous course record-holder Eoin Keith, more than 15 hours after Paris.

Paris was already an accomplished marathon runner, but the edge in such a long race comes in the ratio of time spent running vs. time sleeping. Who better to push the envelope than a new mother who is used to powering through with no sleep? Read about Paris' stunning run at ESPN. -via Metafilter


10

Shiny Crumbs and Wet Salads

Have you ever had a brain cramp and lost a word you really should know? Did you go sideways to describe what you meant, hoping someone could help you out? That's the subject of a great Twitter thread in response to physicist Paul Coxon's "shiny crumb." There were plenty of other examples in the responses.

There are plenty more of these, like "horsling" and "fish museum" and "foot wrist" and "Arctic cabbage" and "plane station." Read a ton of them at Twitter. -via Metafilter, where's there's even more.


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