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Fact of the Day - URBAN LEGENDS

 

Did you know... that Urban legends are popular stories alleged to be true and passed from individual to individual via oral or written (e.g. forwarded email) communication?  Typically, said stories concern outlandish, humiliating, humorous, terrifying, or supernatural events — events which, in the telling, always seem to happen to someone other than the teller.

 

In lieu of evidence, the conveyor of an urban legend relies on narrative flourishes and/or reference to putatively trustworthy sources (e.g., "I heard this from a friend of a friend," or "This really happened to my sister's co-worker's hairdresser") to buttress its credibility.  Sometimes, but not always, there's an implied moral message, like in "The Hook Man", e.g., "Be careful, or the same horrible (or embarrassing, or enraging, or inexplicable, etc.) thing might happen to you!"

 

Urban legends are a type of folklore — defined as the beliefs, stories and traditions of ordinary people ("the folk") — so one way of differentiating between urban legends and other kinds of narrative (popular fiction, for example) is by examining where they come from and how they're disseminated. Legends arise spontaneously and are rarely traceable to a single point of origin.  And again, they're spread primarily through interpersonal communication and only in atypical cases via mass media or other institutional means.

 

Because they end up being repeated by many different people in many different places, the stories tend to change over time. Hence, no two versions of an urban legend are ever exactly alike; there can be as many variants as there are tellers of the tale. "The Exploding Cactus" is one good example of this.

 

Are Urban Legends Set in Cities?

Well, we needn't take the phrase so literally.  While it's true that the phenomena we commonly refer to as urban legends are more accurately characterized as contemporary legends (because the stories don't, in fact, always take place in big cities like the NYC sewer alligator story), the more familiar term picturesquely differentiates between these latter-day folktales and their traditional, mainly rural predecessors. It makes a better catchphrase, too.  You're welcome to call them contemporary legends if you like. Many folklorists do.

 

Are Any Urban Legends True?

Yes, every now and then they do turn out to be true.  "The Body in the Bed" is one example.  Often, legends that are demonstrably false in their particulars turn out to be based on a kernel of fact, however slight. An urban legends truth doesn't make it ineligible for being an urban legend.  Remember, urban legends aren't defined as false stories; they're defined as stories alleged to be true in the absence of actual knowledge or evidence, such as "The Microwaved Pet".  True or not, as long as a story continues to be passed off as factual by folks who don't really know the facts, it's an urban legend.

 

Why Are People so Willing to Believe in Urban Legends?

Surely there are a lot of factors, but, to suggest one possibility, we wonder if we, as human beings, aren't simply storytellers (and story believers) by nature.  Maybe our brains are "hard-wired" in some way to be susceptible to well-told stories.

 

It does seem to be the case that we have a built-in tendency to interpret life in narrative terms, in spite of how rarely events in the real world unfold in a story-like fashion. Maybe it's a psychological survival tactic.  Consider the sometimes horrifying, sometimes absurd, often incomprehensible realities we must reckon with during our short sojourns as mortal human beings on earth.  Perhaps one of the ways we cope is by turning the things that scare us, embarrass us, fill us with longing and make us laugh into tall tales.  We're charmed by them for the same reasons we're charmed by Hollywood movies: good guys win, bad guys get their comeuppance, everything is larger than life and never a loose end is left dangling.

 

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Fact of the Day - SERVICE ANIMALS

 

Did you know... that there are three different kinds of support animals? 

  • Service dogs are task trained to assist handlers with disabilities so the handlers can lead more independent lives.  Only service dogs are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and must be allowed in public places such as restaurants, grocery stores and on public transportation.
  • Emotional Support Dogs or Companion Dogs provide emotional comfort to their owners with disabilities but do not require any extra training.  Emotional support animals are protected under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA). Landlords can request that tenants obtain documentation from their doctor that they have a disability and their well-being benefits from having an emotional support animal. It can be as simple as a note written on a prescription pad that you benefit from the presence of the animal.
  • Therapy dogs provide comfort to many people in a variety of settings such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes and more.  Therapy dogs are not protected under either the ADA or the FHAA and their access is at the discretion of business owners or managers.

There is an ever- growing number of tasks that a dog can do. There are seeing-eye dogs for the blind and visually impaired; seizure alert dogs; hearing alert dogs; psychiatric service dogs that do tasks such as remind their handler to take their medication or assist their owner during a panic attack and guide them from a crowded room; diabetes alert dogs who alert to drops and spikes in blood sugar; dogs that pull wheelchairs, open doors, alert to allergens in food, and so much more!

 

Any size or breed of dog can be a service dog. Some dogs are more appropriate for tasks than others. For example, it is not practical for a Chihuahua to pull a wheelchair but they might be able to serve as an alert dog for allergens in food or a hearing alert dog that lets their hearing-impaired owner know when the doorbell or phone rings. Although we typically see Labs, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds, many other breeds make wonderful service dogs. 

 

As we learn about the incredible things service dogs can do and they become more visible, we also learn about the challenges that face our community in the form of fake service dogs. If you do not have a disability and if your dog is not task trained, it is NOT a service dog. Fake service dogs pose a great threat to the disabled community and to the public. They can distract or attack a real service dog team causing injury or death to the handler or their service dog. They damage public trust in legitimate service dog teams, and they can physically injure other members of the public. Service dog fraud is a federal crime and is punishable by fine. You may be held liable if your dog causes an injury to someone else if you presented your dog as a service animal when it is not. Having a service dog is not a convenience so that people can take their dog with them everywhere they go. A service dog is a tool that a disabled person uses to be independent where they otherwise could not be!

 

When you are trying to work would it be distracting if people were trying to touch you, whistle or blow kisses at you? What if someone’s life depended on your ability to work and someone else did this? That is a reality that many service dog teams face. If you see a service dog, ignore it! No matter how cute the dog is, let the dog do their job.

 

Under the ADA there is no certification required for a service dog. The differences between a service dog and a non-service dog are very apparent. Service dogs may be trained professionally or by their owners to learn how to assist disabled handlers. They must do at least one specifically trained task to assist their owner or disabled handler and be well behaved in public in order to mitigate the impact of that person’s disability. They are essentially medical equipment, such as when a person needs an oxygen tank, a cane, a hearing aid, blood sugar monitor, etc.

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Fact of the Day - SLOGANS

 

Did you know... that a slogan is a phrase, usually only a few words in length, that is highly memorable?  Good slogans are punchy, effective, and powerful snippets that advertisers use to promote a product, brand, company, or certain aspect of a given product.  Slogans often appear with the logo of a brand, and usually their goal is to emulate the mission statement of an organization or the intention behind a product.  Slogans can be highly effective for advertisers; if they can create one that sticks, they can craft a lasting image of the organization that will exist maybe even years after a product has left shelves.  Slogans are sometimes also known as catch lines or taglines.

 

Even with all these tips and insights, it might seem like a difficult task to jump into the creative process of coming up with an advertising slogan that will succeed.  Here are a few slogans that have successfully stuck with brands and products for years.

 

  • Skittles — “Taste the Rainbow”
  • Red Bull — “Red Bull Gives You Wings”
  • Maybelline – “Maybe She’s Born With it, Maybe it’s Maybelline”
  • Disney – “The Happiest Place on Earth”
  • McDonalds – “I’m Lovin’ It”
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken — “Finger-Lickin' Good”
  • Kellogg’s Rice Krispies — “Snap! Crackle! Pop!”
  • The U.S. Marine Corps — "Semper Fi"
  • Bounty — "The Quicker Picker Upper"

 

What makes a great slogan? 

Keep it Short and Sweet

For a slogan to make a statement, it needs to be short. You’re not describing the entire product or organization here; you’re just giving people a taste of what it’s all about.  Generally, keeping a slogan under eight words will ensure you’re using all 8 words as effectively as possible.

 

Don’t Give it an Expiration Date

When it comes to crafting a catchy brand slogan or ad slogan, you want it to transcend time.  Don’t include references to current events or social/political climates.  The world is always changing, evolving, and growing. If your slogan is to current, it won’t be relateable into the future and people will forget about it.

 

Make Sure its Powerful without any Added Effects

Slogans run alongside logos, but make sure they don't need any context or boost from other images and phrases. In other words, the most successful famous advertising slogans can stand alone.  Your product or brand will be known for these words, so make them count.

 

Don’t Get too Fancy with Your Word Choice

When it comes to word choice, keep it simple.  You don't need to assume that consumers are not intelligent, but trying to throw in big, fancy words to make your brand or product seem super smart and sophisticated can turn away a whole audience or come off as pretentious.  In addition, big words are sometimes not as catchy; when every word you’re using has 3 syllables or more, the slogan can become to long-winded and clunky.

 

Be Honest

While marketers and advertisers want to puff up their products, they shouldn't lie.  A slogan shouldn’t dishonestly portray a product or brand. If your slogan says your product does something that it doesn’t, your audience will find out and you will lose all credibility.  Creating famous advertising slogans and taglines is a difficult business, but one that can do your brand or company many favors for years to come.  A catchy slogan doesn’t go away, which is exactly what you want for brand awareness and sales from a marketing campaign. 

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Fact of the Day - COTTON CANDY

 

Did you know... that it was a dentist who introduced cotton candy to the world?  His name is Dr. William Morrison who partnered with a candy maker to invent the worlds first cotton candy machine.  However, his idea of spun sugar was probably a ploy to bring in more kids with cavities.  They called their new found treat Fairy Floss and sold 68,000 boxes in 1904 at St. Louis World's Fair.  Then, dentist number 2 came around and decided that Fairy Floss need a little fine tuning. (probably making it harder to brush the candy out of teeth)  In 1921, Dr. Josef Lascaux improved the machines design and trademarked the name Cotton Candy.

 

When cotton candy is spun, the sugar can create up to a 4 mile long string of sugar! That means cotton candy can literally last you for miles. These miles of sugar are not only long, but are thinner then human hair.  Cotton Candy is known by a different name all around the world! What Americans call cotton candy is called “candyfloss” in the UK and India, “fairy floss” in Australia and Finland, “papa’s beard” (barbe à papa) in France, and “old ladies’ hair” in Greece.

 

The sugar in Cotton Candy can help restore will power! For difficult tasks, some sugar makes people persevere longer and keeps them focused.  Eat some cotton candy while taking on a big project — from yard work to homework — might go a long way.  Cotton candy helps create new blood vessels! According to researchers at Cornell University, cotton candy can be melted down to create artificial blood vessels.  The cotton candy fibers are coated with a thicker, stronger substance made from silicone (a polymer), which is biocompatible but not biodegradable (meaning that it can stay within the body safely and does not break down).  Now we could get deeper into the science of it all or you can take our word for it! Either way its pretty cool!

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Fact of the Day - SOLAR FLARES

 

Did you know... that the definition of a solar flare is a very sudden, intense, and fast change in brightness?  These explosions or ejections happen at different intensities and frequencies, from several per day to one every week.  There are times when the sun gives of very few or low-intensity flares, during its minimum stage of the cycle.  The solar flares will gain in intensity until the height of the cycle.  

 

When magnetic energy builds up in the solar atmosphere and needs to be released, a solar flare occurs. In a typical flare, there are three stages:

 

  1. The release of magnetic energy is activated in the first stage—the precursor stage. In this stage, soft x-ray emission will be detected.
  2. In the impulsive stage, electrons and protons are accelerated to energies well over 1 MeV (1 million electron volts). Hard x-rays, radio waves, and gamma rays are emitted during this stage.
  3. The decay stage is the third and final stage.  During this stage, the slow build up and decay of soft x-rays are detected.

 

The stages of solar flares vary in length and there is no reliable way to predict their intensity or duration. Any of these stages can take as little as a few seconds to as much as an hour in length.  Even though solar flares will typically happen on areas of the sun where the magnetic fields are higher, it’s still not entirely clear what causes the flares to happen.  Scientists are still unsure as to how the magnetic energy is transformed, or what causes the acceleration of the particles.

 

Solar flares cannot be seen by the naked eye and this shouldn’t be attempted. Specialized instruments are used to detect the flares. Optical telescopes can be used to see flares.  There are also radio telescopes which capture the wavelengths of solar flares.  Space telescopes are also used to capture images of flares and transmit the data to earth.  While most solar flares go undetected by most people, the stronger flares have been known to knock out communications and electrical systems.  Solar flares are what cause the aurora borealis and the aurora australis.  These beautiful light shows are the result of energetic particles in the magnetosphere.

 

Because there is no way to predict solar flares, the greatest danger is to astronauts in space.  The radiation from the flares can affect any astronauts outside of their ships much faster and stronger than anyone on earth.  The solar flare with the largest concentration of protons (directly measured to date) happened on January 20, 2005. At the time, astronauts had only 15 minutes to get to shelter.  Other problems caused by solar flares include the orbital decay of low-orbiting satellites, interference with short-wave radio communication, and damage to spacecraft electronics. In general, the solar winds caused by solar flares can affect the earth’s magnetosphere and create radiation hazards for astronauts, cosmonauts, and spacecraft.

 

The first solar flare to be observed was also the most powerful flare ever detected.  On September 1, 1859, a British astronomer, Richard Carrington and an observer, Richard Hodgson reported the mega flare. In this event, the flare was visible to the naked eye and caused borealis to be seen as far as Hawaii and Cuba.  The flare set telegraph wires on fire and left a trace of nitrates and beryllium-10, which can still be measured today in Greenland.

 

As recently as 2003, the largest modern-time flare was detected and measured.  Because it saturated the devices used to detect the intensity of solar flares, it’s possible that the classification of the flare is much higher than recorded.  This solar flare enabled astronomers to set the bar higher, knowing that the flares can get that much stronger.

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Fact of the Day - FERRETS

 

Did you know... that the word “ferret” is from the Latin fur, meaning “little thief.”?  Indeed, one of the ferret’s favorite activities is stealing and hiding things. Ferrets belong to the weasel (Mustelidae) family.  Besides weasels and ferrets, this group of animals also includes minks, otters, and badgers as well as polecats and sables.  An endangered species of ferrets previously thought to extinct, the black-footed ferret, was recently rediscovered in America.  Like cats, pet ferrets use litter boxes to go to the bathroom, though they are not quite as easily trained as cats.  It is illegal to own a ferret in California, Hawaii, New York City, and Washington D.C. as well as in some communities in other states.

 

The ferret was domesticated several thousand years ago to help hunters flush rabbits from their holes (“ferreting out”) and also to catch small animals such as rats and mice.  They that are neutered very young may not grow as big as those neutered after they reach 6 months old.  Ferrets are considered to be geriatric by the time they reach 4 years old.  Baby ferrets are called kits, adult males are called hobs, and adult females are called jills.  A castrated male is called a gib and a spayed female is called a sprite. Hobs and gibs are up to 50% larger than jills and sprites.  

 

There are about 5 to 7 million pet ferrets in the U.S.  Though the ferret has been domesticated for over 2,000 years, it has only been a popular pet in the U.S. for the last 30 years.  A group of ferrets is called a “business.”  Like all members of the weasel family, ferrets are closely related to skunks and, like skunks, they can emit an odorous smell when excited or afraid.  Consequently, many ferret owners decide to have their ferrets de-scented.  “Ferret legging” is a contest in which participants drop 2 live ferrets into their pants (without underwear) that are tied off at the waist and the ankles.  The animals then claw and bite to try to get free.  The winner of the contest is the participant who can keep the ferret in his pants the longest.  While most people can only last a few minutes, in 2010 two men kept the ferrets in their pants for over 5 hours.  Ferrets are prone to several medical conditions, including adrenal diseases and intestinal blockage (from gobbling inedible objects). They also carry the same afflictions as a cat or dog, such as canine distemper, rabies, and heartworm.

 

There are several populations of feral ferrets throughout the world. The most notable and destructive population lives in New Zealand.  They were initially imported from England from 1879 to 1883 to help control the rabbit population.  When that population was under control, the hybrids began eating New Zealand’s native birds which, until that time, had no natural predators.  When ferrets are excited, they perform what is called a “weasel war dance,” which is a series of leaps, sideways hops, and bumping into nearby objects.  Such a display is not a sign of aggression but rather an invitation to play.  Ferrets imprint on their food at about 6 months old, which makes introducing new food to older ferrets difficult.  The ferret is the most popular companion mammal in the U.S. behind the dog and cat.

 

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Fact of the Day - EASTER ISLAND

 

Did you know... that Easter Island is one of the most remote communities in the world?  Its closest inhabited neighbor is Pitcairn, 2,000km (1,200mi) to the west while the nearest continental land lies in Chile at a distance of 3,700km (2,300mi).  Given its position on the globe, the Island is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world but also least visited.  The Chilean government has attempted to reduce the legal constraints of visiting the island to no avail.  For the few that make it to the island, the 2,200 miles off the coast of Chile journey will be more than worth it.  The Island is named after the Dutch explorer who first landed here. He wondered how anybody could survive in such a treeless island. Actually, there were about 2,000 Polynesians on the island when it was first discovered. However, diseases reduced this number to about 200 by late 19th century. One wonders if they really belonged to this planet...a question many folklore stories seek to answer in the countryside of Chile.

 

Although scientists do not know for sure, many claim that human habitation of Easter Island began around 700-1100 C.E.  Almost immediately upon its initial settlement, the population of Easter Island began to grow and the island's inhabitants (Rapanui) began to build houses and moai statues.  The moai are believed to represent status symbols of the different Easter Island tribes.  Because of Easter Island's small size of only 63 square miles (164 sq km), it quickly became overpopulated and its resources were rapidly depleted.  When Europeans arrived on Easter Island between the late 1700s and early 1800s, it was reported that the moai were knocked down and the island seemed to have been a recent war site.

 

Constant warfare between tribes, a lack of supplies and resources, disease, invasive species and the opening of the island to foreign slave trade eventually led to Easter Island's collapse by the 1860s.  In 1888, Easter Island was annexed by Chile.  Use of the island by Chile varied, but during the 1900s it was a sheep farm and was managed by the Chilean Navy.  In 1966, the entire island was opened to the public and the remaining Rapanui people became citizens of Chile.  As of 2009, Easter Island had a population of 4,781. The official languages of the island are Spanish and Rapa Nui, while the main ethnic groups are Rapanui, European and Amerindian.

 

Because of its archaeological remains and its ability to help scientists study early human societies, Easter Island became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.  Although it is still inhabited by humans, Easter Island is one of the world's most isolated islands.  It is approximately 2,180 miles (3,510 km) west of Chile.  Easter Island is also relatively small and has a maximum altitude of only 1,663 feet (507 meters).  Easter Island also has no permanent source of freshwater.

 

Easter Island's climate is considered subtropical maritime. It has mild winters and year-round cool temperatures and abundant precipitation.  The lowest average July temperature on Easter Island is around 64 F (18 C) while its highest temperatures are in February and average about 82 F (28 C).  Like many Pacific Islands, the physical landscape of Easter Island is dominated by volcanic topography and it was formed geologically by three extinct volcanoes.  Easter Island is considered a distinct eco-region by ecologists. At the time of its initial colonization, the island is believed to have been dominated by large broadleaf forests and palm.  Today, however, Easter Island has very few trees and is mainly covered with grasses and shrubs.

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@ani-me  Awesome!  I've missed peeps reacting to my posts!  I thought I was all alone! :victory:

 

Fact of the Day - AUTO RACING

 

Did you know... that the differences between a Hendrick Motorsports superspeedway race car and a short track and intermediate race car are based on speed?  The goal while creating a superspeedway race car is to eliminate drag and downforce, allowing air to pass over the race car to achieve maximum speed.  Aerodynamics play a major role in the construction of a Hendrick Motorsports superspeedway race car. Our aerodynamicists use a special computer dynamics system to view the aerodynamic properties of a wind tunnel in order to understand the areas of the superspeedway cars that need to change.

 

Hendrick Motorsports' Sprint Cup Series engines are redesigned for superspeedway race cars.  The tapered spacer, located under the throttle body of a race car, is adjusted to impact horsepower and limit the speed of the superspeedway race cars.  Superspeedway race cars have various adjustments made to increase power and speed.  Underneath the cars, the fore board, along with other components, are adjusted to be as high away from the track in an effort to increase air flow.

 

The time it takes to build the chassis of a superspeedway car versus a short track and intermediate chassis is completely different.  It takes roughly seven days to build a chassis body on short and intermediate race cars and 10 days for a superspeedway race car.  After a restrictor-plate race, our race cars return to the shops and will be fixed and turned around to be used at another upcoming superspeedway track.  From start to finish, superspeedway race cars take two months to build before they hit the track at Daytona International Speedway or Talladega Superspeedway.

 

And here's a little anecdote:  The first prearranged match race of two self-powered road vehicles over a prescribed route occurred at 4:30 A.M. on August 30, 1867, between Ashton-under-Lyne and Old Trafford, a distance of eight miles.  It was won by the carriage of Isaac Watt Boulton.  

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Fact of the Day - THE LOTTERY

 

Did you know... that the first recorded instance of a lottery are keno slips from ancient China dating to between 201 and 187 BC?  The lotteries most likely helped finance large government projects, such as the Great Wall of China.  During the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, wealthy dinner hosts held a type of lottery.  Each guest received a ticket, and the holder of the winning ticket often received items such as dinnerware.  Roman Augustus Caesar held the first recorded lottery that offered tickets for sale.  He used the funds to repair the city.  In the Middle Ages, various governments held lotteries to help raise funds for all kinds of public usages.  Lotteries were very popular and were considered a painless form of taxation.

 

In Stockholm, Sweden, there is a speed camera lottery.  The speed camera photographs the license plates of drivers doing the speed limit, as well as those who are speeding.  The people who are obeying the law have their license plates pulled (in a lottery) and receive a portion of the money collected from those who are speeding.  

 

Voltaire was an early lottery winner.  The French writer teamed up with a mathematician Charles Marie de La Condamine and identified a loophole in the French national lottery.  As History.com explains: “The government shelled out massive prizes for the contest each month, but an error in calculation meant that the payouts were larger than the value of all the tickets in circulation.  With this in mind, Voltaire, La Condamine, and a syndicate of other gamblers were able to repeatedly corner the market and rake in massive winnings.”  It left him with almost half a million francs and kept him very comfortable so he could focus fully on his writing.  

 

Winnings are often short-lived.  With money comes power - and an interesting kind of power at that. Money can make you want and even feel like you need things you might not have thought about before.  The suddenness of a large lottery win often results in reckless spending sprees.  It's been reported that as many as 44% of winners end up cleaning out their bank accounts within just five years of hitting the jackpot.  That's why jackpot winners are advised to consult financial experts soon after they learn they've won big.  

 

And here's a bonus fact.  Did you know that your chance of winning the EuroMillions is 1 in 13 and the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 139,838,160!  With these odds, there’s no wonder why people from all over the world want to take part.

 

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On 9/30/2019 at 10:44 PM, DarkRavie said:

@ani-me  Awesome!  I've missed peeps reacting to my posts!  I thought I was all alone! :victory:

Don't worry. There are still people here. Probably not as much as there used to be.

And I visit here only every few days, and sometimes I have to skip due to IRL stuff, but I enjoy your stuff, so please continue if you can.

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Fact of the Day - ANTHROPOLOGY

 

Did you know... that though anthropology does look at stones and bones, it also examines the politics, medicine, kinship, art and religion of various peoples and times?  This makes the study of anthropology a complex task, for it requires an understanding of the basics of numerous disciplines such as geology, biology, art and psychology.  Regardless of the specific area being studied, the essence of anthropology is in the observation of different peoples and cultures—studying them as they really are instead of how you think they should or should not behave.  It is only through this detailed study of all people that we gain the full picture of what it really is to be human.  Anthropology tries to bring the world’s peoples into human focus.  Anthropologists don’t come up with a theory and see if people live up to it. They live with people and see what they do.

 

The modern discourse of anthropology crystallized in the 1860s, fired by advances in biology, philology, and prehistoric archaeology.  In The Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin affirmed that all forms of life share a common ancestry.  Fossils began to be reliably associated with particular geologic strata, and fossils of recent human ancestors were discovered, most famously the first Neanderthal specimen, unearthed in 1856.  In 1871 Darwin published The Descent of Man, which argued that human beings shared a recent common ancestor with the great African apes.  He identified the defining characteristic of the human species as their relatively large brain size and deduced that the evolutionary advantage of the human species was intelligence, which yielded language and technology.

 

The pioneering anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor concluded that as intelligence increased, so civilization advanced.  All past and present societies could be arranged in an evolutionary sequence.  Archaeological findings were organized in a single universal series (Stone Age, Iron Age, Bronze Age, etc.) thought to correspond to stages of economic organization from hunting and gathering to pastoralism, agriculture, and industry. Some contemporary peoples (hunter-gatherers, such as the Australian Aboriginals and the Kalahari San, or pastoralists such as the Bedouin) were regarded as “primitive,” laggards in evolutionary terms, representing stages of evolution through which all other societies had passed.  They bore witness to early stages of human development, while the industrial societies of northern Europe and the United States represented the pinnacle of human achievement.

 

Darwin’s arguments were drawn upon to underwrite the universal history of the Enlightenment, according to which the progress of human institutions was inevitable, guaranteed by the development of rationality.  It was assumed that technological progress was constant and that it was matched by developments in the understanding of the world and in social forms.  Tylor advanced the view that all religions had a common origin, in the belief in spirits.  The original religious rite was sacrifice, which was a way of feeding these spirits.  Modern religions retained some of these primitive features, but as human beings became more intelligent, and so more rational, primitive superstitions were gradually refined and would eventually be abandoned.  James George Frazer posited a progressive and universal progress from faith in magic through to belief in religion and, finally, to the understanding of science.

 

John Ferguson McLennan, Lewis Henry Morgan, and other writers argued that there was a parallel development of social institutions.  The first humans were promiscuous (like, it was thought, the African apes), but at some stage blood ties were recognized between mother and children and incest between mother and son was forbidden.  In time more restrictive forms of mating were introduced and paternity was recognized. Blood ties began to be distinguished from territorial relationships, and distinctive political structures developed beyond the family circle.  At last monogamous marriage evolved. Paralleling these developments, technological advances produced increasing wealth, and arrangements guaranteeing property ownership and regulating inheritance became more significant.  Eventually the modern institutions of private property and territorially based political systems developed, together with the nuclear family.

 

An alternative to this Anglo-American “evolutionist” anthropology established itself in the German-speaking countries.  Its scientific roots were in geography and philology, and it was concerned with the study of cultural traditions and with adaptations to local ecological constraints rather than with universal human histories.  This more particularistic and historical approach was spread to the United States at the end of the 19th century by the German-trained scholar Franz Boas.  Skeptical of evolutionist generalizations, Boas advocated instead a “diffusionist” approach.  Rather than graduating through a fixed series of intellectual, moral, and technological stages, societies or cultures changed unpredictably, as a consequence of migration and borrowing.

 

 

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Fact of the Day - BREWERIES AND BEER

 

Did you now... that the first documented beers dated back 5000 years ago, although they would have tasted quite different from the beers we know today?  The process of beer brewing used by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia resulted in what we now call “beer-bread”:  half baked bread was soaked in water to create a fermented brew, which was often flavoured with honey and herbs.  Since it had the same basic ingredients as bread, it was considered to be an equally nutritious food resource.  Some ancient pottery findings suggest the beer brewing process dates back even further, namely 7000 or more years ago.

 

It was not until the process of malting was discovered – presumably by the Mesopotamians in 2000 to 3000 B.C. –  that beers started to contain a significant amount of alcohol. Back then, beer brewing was a noble profession in the hands of elite women or priests. Some types of beers were even reserved for religious ceremonies.  In ancient Egypt, beer was part of the everyday diet.  Tombs sometimes reveal rocks as well as wooden depictions of the brewing process.  Analytics have concluded the Egyptians knew different types of beer using various types of grain.  Also, beer was often employed in medicines and served a religious purpose.

 

The Romans, who favoured wine, brought the beer brewing process further into the North.  The Germans were the one who found a way to put the bread baking process aside and brew beer from germinated and dried grain which they then fermented.  In Medieval Europe, the beer brewing process was pretty much reserved for monks, the most educated part of society.  However, beer was a typical drink, consumed by all social classes for its nutritious value and because it was often far safer than drinking (contaminated) water.

 

During 18th century “Age or Reason” Europe was semi anti-alcohol. With the rise of coffee and tea came a slight downfall for beer.  In America, this destruction was much greater due to the prohibition from 1920-1933 when consuming alcohol beverages was illegal, followed by the Great Depression: American breweries had quite some difficulty recovering from these difficult years.  The Industrial Revolution had a great impact on the production of beer.  With the invention of the steam engine in 1765 came the industrialization of the beer.  The introduction of the thermometer (1760) and hydrometer (1770) made the beer brewing process more and more efficient, making beer a mass product.

 

The first beer bottle was sold in 1850. Before then, people would take their buckets and go to taverns to fill them up.  In some brew bars they still have that old tradition.  In the 20th century, advertising played a significant part in the growing popularity of different types of beers.  On the Catawiki Beer & Brewery Paraphernalia Auction, you find many advertising signs that define this era - from 1930s brewery signs to typical advertising mirrors from the 1980s.

 

The world’s oldest brewery has been making beer for almost 1000 years now.  You can find the Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan on the same Weihenstephan hill in Germany where they started brewing in 1040!

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Fact of the Day - COCA-COLA

 

Did you know... that Coca-Cola was first marketed as a nerve tonic that “relieves exhaustion?”  The very first Coca-Cola products contained cocaine, about 9 milligrams per glass. It was removed from the drink in 1903.  The original Coke was also alcoholic.  John S. Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola, was a pharmacist and a colonel in the Confederate army during the Civil War. After sustaining a war-injury, he became addicted to morphine and believed his tonic would combat his addiction.  

 

Coca-Cola has so many types of drinks that it would take a person drinking one a day over nine years to try them all.  If every drop of Coke ever made were placed in 8-ounce bottles and laid end-to-end, the bottles would reach to the moon and back over 2,000 times.  Coke’s brand is worth over $83.8 billion, which is more than KFC, Subway, and Budweiser combined.  Coca-Cola has traditionally been considered a wonder cure for everything including hiccups, colic, low libido, and relieving jellyfish stings.  

 

Coke sold 25 bottles its first year. Today, it sells 1.8 billion bottles—per day.  Coke invented the six-pack in 1932 to encourage people to drink more Coke.  They initially didn’t use a plastic six-pack ring; they used a printed cardboard carton similar to the 12-pack cardboard tubes used today.  Coca-Cola commissioned American artist Norman Rockwell to illustrate Coca-Cola ads in an idyllic American setting. Of the six illustrations, Coca-Cola has three originals, while the other three are lost.  

 

Coca-Cola was the first commercial sponsor of the Olympic Games in 1928.  In 1931, Coca-Cola created the now ubiquitous image of the modern Santa Claus, with his contrasting red and white clothes, which mirror the colors of the famous soda.  Coca-Cola’s “New Coke” advertising failure in 1985-1986 was so huge that it spawned several conspiracy theories.  Some believe that Coke used the New Coke switch over as a ruse to replace the sugar in the original with cheaper high-fructose corn syrup. Indeed, by 1985, Coke had replaced their original recipe to include HFCS.

 

In 2015, Coca-Cola, along with several other large companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Walmart, added their names to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

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Fact of the Day - FLOWER POWER ERA

 

Did you know... that flower power and the hippie movement at large in the United States reached its zenith on Oct. 21, 1967, with a march on the Pentagon?  More than 100,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. for that peaceful Vietnam War protest, including an 18-year-old aspiring actor named George Harris.  A contingent of 2,500 Army troops wielding M-14 guns surrounded the Pentagon, cordoning off the crowd from the protected building.  Undeterred, the protesters stood their ground, crowding in mere inches away from the weapons.  Embracing the flower power ethos of non-violence, Harris calmly inserted the stem of a carnation into a soldier's gun barrel.

 

Photographer Bernie Boston, working at the time for the Washington Star newspaper, captured Harris' flower power action on film [source: Montgomery].  Although the image didn't receive immediate attention, it has since come to symbolize the counterculture that rallied around non-violent Vietnam protests.  That type of attention-grabbing, yet peaceful, revolt against the government and military was exactly what counterculture leaders had envisioned as the ideal way to deliver their antiwar message to mainstream America.  Granted, the Youth International Party (Yippie) organizers of that October 1967 Pentagon march also tried -- and failed -- to levitate and exorcise the military complex, in an effort to rid it of the evil spirits they believed were fueling the Vietnam War.  But their ultimate goal of ending the combat and sending troops home was straightforward and practical in retrospect.

 

After the Pentagon march, the carnation-clad George Harris hit the road and headed West to the epicenter of the flower power movement. In San Francisco, Harris joined the masses of other youth looking to follow LSD guru Timothy Leary's advice to "tune in, turn off and drop out," (or, in other words, drop out of school and drop acid instead).  There, in the Haight-Ashbury district, a short stroll from Golden Gate Pak, flower power flourished to its fullest during the summer of 1967 and soon withered away.  But while marijuana smoke has clouded its legacy, and psychedelic swirls and outlandish fashion obscured its essence, flower power began as an attempt to provide clarity as the 1960s societal haze brought on by the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War set in.  

 

Find out more about Flower Power here - https://people.howstuffworks.com/flower-power1.htm

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Fact of the Day - PERSIAN EMPIRE

 

Did you know... that the Persians created the world’s first Human Rights Charter?  Although the Greeks were the ones who invented democracy, the world’s first human rights charter came to be in Persia, back in 539 BC.  The charter, shaped like a cylinder, was created under the orders of King Cyrus the Great – the very founder of the Persian Empire.  It contains the concepts that are familiar to anyone who’s ever read a human rights charter today – equality for all races, languages and religion.  After all, the Persian Empire was quite diverse.  The charter is written in the Akkadian language and is known as the Cyrus Cylinder.

 

They were the pioneers of refrigerator technology.  Of course, the Persian Empire didn’t invent the huge white refrigerators produced by LG that we use on a daily basis.  However, their technology known as Yakhchals was quite helpful in preserving food. In essence, their “refrigerators” were large underground chambers built with the help of nature, or more precisely wind. The wind catchers, combined with ice and heat-resistant mud bricks on top, helped with preserving the food during the (very) hot Persian summers.

 

They invented Paradise.  Not in the literal sense, obviously – although the Paradise Gardens could arguably be seen as such.  The term for beautiful, well-groomed gardens was “pairi-daeza”, which is where the English word “Paradise” comes from. Persian extreme climate conditions made it hard to tend to Paradise Gardens, but that just made them all the more impressive.  The gardens, also founded by Cyrus the Great, were considered to be places for taking refuge for people, as well as animals, which makes the term “Paradise Gardens” all the more appropriate.

 

They followed Zoroastrianism.  The world’s first monotheistic religion was rigorously followed by the Persians.  Prophet Zoroaster was a very significant person for the people of the Persian Empire.  However, since it was such a diverse nation, each culture was allowed to follow their own religion.  Nevertheless, Zoroastrianism is considered to be a defining feature of the culture of the Persian Empire.  Unlike the religion of the Ancient Greeks, Zoroastrianism didn’t consider gods to be of the same nature as men.

 

Persian Empire was a model bureaucratic nation.  Indeed, the Empire had a very solid government and societal structure.  The class division in the society was very clear.  While the person ruling over the entire Empire was the King, the nation was divided into provinces, each ruled by a governor known as “The Satrap”.  This was fist done by King Darius in order to prevent each region from gaining too much power and conspiring against him.  The Satraps were very good at enforcing law and order, and worked extensively with the Empire’s military forces.  However, the kings did not usually trust the Satraps, and frequently used spies in order to prevent corruption in all provinces.

 

They ruled over almost a half of the world’s entire population.  In 480 BC, the population of the Persian Empire was 50 million, which at the time was 44% of the world’s entire population.  This figure was, and still remains, the highest for any empire in the history of the world.  For comparison, the population of the United Kingdom today is also about 50 million.

 

Emperors called themselves “The King of Kings”.  The Persian emperors demanded total and complete obedience from their subjects – hence their distrust of the local Satraps.  Each emperor called himself “The King of Kings” in order to establish and enforce their status and make sure that the subjects understood that the King was the most important figure in the Empire.

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Fact of the Day - THE RIALTO THEATRE

Did you know... that after World War I, Tucson’s economy began to transform away from a natural resources and agriculture base and toward the service economy it is today.  The reason? The burgeoning tourism industry. For the first time, the city began to trade on its favorable climate.  And what better era in which to do so than the Roaring Twenties?

 

Like the Hotel Congress, its sister structure across Congress Street, the Rialto was built by the California-based firm William Curlett and Son.  Like all Rialtos (and there are many extant worldwide) the name hearkens to a medieval covered bridge in Venice around which novelty shops were built, providing a de facto “entertainment district” when no such thing existed.  “Rialtos” were plazas where the common man could go for fun, as “Theatres” and “Operas” were reserved for the nobility and the wealthy.

 

It’s worth noting that providing entertainment for the common man has been the ethos of the (Tucson) Rialto since its construction.  The conventional wisdom in 1919 was that the two East Congress Street projects were foolhardy. It was pie-in-the-sky fantasy that Tucsonans would venture that far east, said no less an authority than the editorial board of the Tucson Citizen.  But that assessment was proved incorrect in short order.  Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams sentiment “if you build it, they will come” must have been preminisced by the Curlett firm.

 

In 1920, when the Rialto opened, motion pictures or “photoplays” didn’t predominate the theater business as they would a decade later with the arrival of “talkies” (The Rialto itself sported a lighted mini-marquee in 1930 that read “Our Screen Talks!”).  The fare in most theaters at the time was vaudeville – dance, comedy, and singing – interspersed with newsreels, cartoons, and short-subject silent films, as well as the occasional feature.  The first full-length film to play on the Rialto’s screen was The Toll Gate, on August 29th, 1920.  Written by and starring William Hart, the film was a precursor to the type of Westerns that were frequently filmed in Tucson (although it had been shot in Sonora, California). You could say that Hart was the silent era’s Clint Eastwood, and you wouldn’t be stretching the truth that much.

 

At the time, the Theatre possessed a majestic Kilgen pipe organ that cost $7500 (nearly $80,000 in 2004 dollars) which was later shipped to the Yuma Theater (also a Harry Nace property; see below for more) as part of the Paramount revamp.  The organ’s music would accompany silent films. The lacunae left by the removal of the organ and its pipes are somewhat sad reminders of the Theatre’s earliest era. Further accompaniment and the overture that began every show came from musicians in the smallish orchestra pit that sat in front of the stage.  In the beginning, city father Emanuel Drachman owned the majority interest in the Rialto.  His son Royers (“Roy”) handled management duties at the Theatre for years when his father fell ill, leaving to work at another property in 1933.

 

The Rialto had vaudeville shows every Wednesday that consisted of five different acts for the same price (“One Price House!” proclaimed some early advertisements, although that policy was later altered to put a premium on better seats).  The fourth act on the bill was considered to be the star attraction and thus got the dressing room with the star on the door.  This policy was somewhat altered by none other than Ginger Rogers, who was Charleston-ing her way to fame in 1925.  The immensely popular dance had its roots in African-American styles and is named after the South Carolina city in which it was appropriated by whites.  It was eventually supplanted by a dance called the “Black Bottom.”  It is the dance from which the appellation “flapper” was derived, because practitioners appeared to be flapping their “wings.”  On tour with her mother after winning a national Charleston competition held in Dallas, Rogers was booked at the Rialto but not as the fourth act. She took the dressing room with the star on the door, but when she and her mother momentarily left, the fourth act that evening commandeered it from the preening interloper.  Upon their return and at her mother’s insistence, a star was added to the door of the dressing room to which Rogers had been relegated.

 

To learn more on The Rialto Theater, click the link.

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Fact of the Day - HURRICANES

 

Did you know... that hurricanes are large, spiraling tropical storms that can pack wind speeds of over 160 mph and unleash more than 2.4 trillion gallons of rain a day?  The deadliest U.S. hurricane on record was a Category 4 storm that hit the island city of Galveston, Texas, on Sept. 8, 1900.  Some 8,000 people lost their lives when the island was destroyed by 15-ft waves and 130-mph winds.  

 

Not all hurricanes are picture-perfect.  Some storms can look so disorganized that it takes an expert eye and advanced technology to spot them.  A full-fledged hurricane can be as small as a few dozen miles across or as large as one-half of the United States, as was the case with Typhoon Tip in the western Pacific Ocean in 1979.  The smallest tropical cyclone on record was 2008’s Tropical Storm Marco, a tiny storm in the Gulf of Mexico that almost made it to hurricane strength.  Marco’s strong winds only extended 12 miles from the eye of the storm—a distance smaller than the length of Manhattan.

 

The spiraling bands of wind and rain that radiate from the center of a hurricane are what give these storms their distinctive buzzsaw shape.  These bands can cause damage, flooding, and even tornadoes, but the worst part of a hurricane is the eyewall, or the tight group of thunderstorms that rage around the center of the storm.  The most severe winds in a hurricane usually occupy a small part of the eyewall just to the right of the storm’s forward motion, an area known as the right-front quadrant.  The worst damage is usually found where this part of the storm comes ashore.

 

The core of a hurricane is very warm—they are tropical, after all.  The eye of a hurricane is formed by air rushing down from the upper levels of the atmosphere to fill the void left by the low air pressure at the surface. Air dries out and warms up as it rapidly descends through the eye toward the surface.  This allows temperatures in the eye of a strong hurricane to exceed 80°F thousands of feet above the Earth's surface, where it’s typically much colder.

 

Like humans, you can tell a lot about a hurricane by looking it in the eye.  A ragged, asymmetrical eye means that the storm is struggling to strengthen.  A smooth, round eye means that the storm is both stable and quite strong.  A tiny eye—sometimes called a pinhole or pinpoint eye—is usually indicative of a very intense storm.  An eye doesn’t last forever.  Storms frequently encounter a process known as an “eyewall replacement cycle,” which is where a storm develops a new eyewall to replace the old one.  A storm weakens during one of these cycles, but it can quickly grow even more intense than it originally was once the replacement cycle is completed.  When Hurricane Matthew scraped the Florida coast in October 2016, the storm’s impacts were slightly less severe because the storm underwent an eyewall replacement cycle just as it made its closest approach to land.

 

While strong winds get the most coverage on the news, wind isn’t always the most dangerous part of the storm.  More than half of all deaths that result from a landfalling hurricane are due to the storm surge, or the sea water that gets pushed inland by a storm’s strong winds.  Most storm surges are relatively small and only impact the immediate coast, but in a larger storm like Katrina or Sandy, the wind can push deep water so far inland that it completely submerges homes many miles from the coast.

 

Click the link for more on Hurricanes.

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Fact of the Day - MIRAGES

 

Did you know... that a mirage is an optical illusion that can be sometimes observed on hot days?  When air near ground level is heated strongly by contact with the hot ground, it becomes less dense.  This is because the air near the heated ground becomes considerably hotter than the air above, causing refraction of light rays from the sky, since the refractive index of air depends on its density and therefore on its temperature.  As a result, the relationship between objects and the horizon becomes distorted.  In fact often a patch of sky is mirrored in the hot air giving the shimmering appearance of a pool of water, where there is none.

 

There are two main formes of mirage, classed according to whether the image of a distant object appears lower or higher that would normally expected.  An inferior mirage occurs when the ground surface is strongly heated and the air near the ground is much warmer than the air above.  Everyone might know the this of mirage where pools of water appear to be lying on a hot road.  

 

In a superior mirage, the opposite conditions occur: the air close to the ground surface is much colder than the air above, which is known as temperature inversion. Light is bent downwards from the object towards the viewer so that it appears to be elevated or floating in the air. Superior mirages are less frequent than inferior ones and a more common over larger water bodies, which are sometimes much colder than the air above it, e.g. in spring. Superior mirages are also frequent in high-latitude regions, such as Island and over glaciers.

 

A famous superior mirage is the Fata Morgana , most frequently seen in the Strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily. However, Fata Morgana's are also frequent in deserts, after night time radiation has cooled down the sand to temperatures lower than the air above. Distant objects appear extremely elongated, giving the impression of buildings and towns in the distance. This phenomenon is also known as 'castles in the air'.

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Fact of the Day - AQUARIUMS AND MARINE PARKS

 

Did you know.. that aquariums and marine-mammal theme parks like SeaWorld, the Miami Seaquarium and Canada’s Marineland are part of a billion-dollar industry built on the suffering of intelligent, social beings who are denied everything that is natural and important to them?  Wild orcas and dolphins live in large, complex social groups and swim vast distances every day in the open ocean. In captivity, these animals can only swim in endless circles in tanks that are the equivalent of bathtubs, and they are denied the opportunity to engage in almost any natural behavior.  They are forced to perform meaningless tricks and often torn away from family members when they’re shuffled between parks. Most die far short of their natural life spans.

 

Countless marine animals have been taken from their rightful ocean homes and placed in tanks (even the original Shamu was stolen from the wild).  Tilikum, the orca who lashed out and killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau and two other people, has been in a cramped tank for more than 30 years since he was taken away from his Icelandic family.  Lolita, torn from her family when she was just a baby, has existed in the same tank at the Miami Seaquarium for nearly half a century.  Some countries, including Russia, Cuba, and Japan, continue to capture wild dolphins and whales.

 

Orcas and other dolphins navigate by echolocation, but in pools, the reverberations from their own sonar bounce off the walls, which can drive them insane.  World-renowned oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau compared the keeping of orcas in tanks to “a person being blindfolded in a jail cell.”

 

Captive orcas suffer physically as much as they do psychologically.  Some orcas have destroyed their teeth by chewing on metal cage bars and all captive adult male orcas have collapsed dorsal fins, a condition that rarely occurs in wild orcas.

 

The Toronto Star obtained video footage of Marineland’s lone orca, Kiska, trailing blood from cuts in her tail as she swam. Kiska reportedly spends her days swimming listlessly and scratching parts of her body against the sides and the tanks sharp fibreglass grates.  Nakai, an orca at SeaWorld San Diego, sustained an injury on his lower jaw that was so significant that it was described as “a dinner plate-sized chunk” of ripped-off tissue.  Wild orcas can live for decades (one matriarch named Granny is more than 100 years old).  The median age of orcas in captivity is only 9. At least 44  orcas have died at U.S. SeaWorld facilities from causes ranging from severe trauma to intestinal gangrene; not one has died of old age.  More than 60 bottlenose dolphins died at SeaWorld parks in 10 years alone, including 16 stillborn babies.

 

To read more on this click here.

 

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Fact of the Day - WRITING IMPLEMENTS

 

Did you know... that the history of writing instruments, pencils and pens, is thousands years long?  We us pens, in one form or another, since the First Dynasty of Ancient Egypt while the pencils are much younger but nothing less important. 

 

The very earliest writing known to history is found in the area now known as Mesopotamia, and it was impressed into clay tablets around 3000 B.C. Before that, of course, people decorated their tools, their homes, and (probably) themselves, but writing — a system of expressing meaning through specific marks on a surface — didn't appear until then.  Damp clay required a writing implement that would leave a clear mark, but not crumble the surface, so early scribes used a reed with one squared-off end to press triangular marks and short straight lines into the clay.  Curves were too difficult to execute clearly, so early writing like Sumerian cuneiform was all based on those triangles and lines.

 

Writing developed very early in Asia, too (by 1200 B.C. or earlier), where cheap, readily available writing surfaces were preferred.  The first Chinese writing was painted with a brush or inscribed with a knife on wood, bamboo and even flat animal bone. Inscribed writing was often filled in with ink afterwards, to make it more visible.  In Southeast Asia and India, the most common writing surface was palm leaves, which were in widespread use by the seventh century A.D. or earlier.  To write on these leaves, scribes used a stylus quite similar to the ones by the Romans (see below). It was bronze, with a sharp point on one end for inscribing the letters and a flat blade on the other end for scraping the surface of the leaf smooth.  As with Chinese writing, the inscribed letters would be filled with ink after writing, to make it more legible.

 

For many centuries, Roman scribes used wooden tablets filled with wax for taking temporary notes, and even though writing technology had vastly improved in other ways (see the sections below for some examples), the Romans were faced with the same difficulties with curves as the Sumerians had.  The Roman alphabet, also used extensively for inscriptions in stone, was made entirely of straight lines. To write in the wax, Roman scribes used a stylus that was long and thin like a pen, but had a point on one end for writing, and a broad, flat area on the other end for erasing by smoothing the wax out.

 

The ancient Egyptians invented a writing surface called papyrus sometime in the third millennium B.C. It was made from layers of thin sections of reeds, and made such a practical surface that it was adopted all over the Mediterranean world, including Greece and Rome.  The best tool for writing on papyrus — which is much like a very textured paper (and even gave paper its name) — was a reed pen.  These pens were lengths of reed cut to a point on one end and slit to facilitate the movement of ink.  They had to be repeatedly dipped in ink, but this worked well enough that very similar pens made from different materials were used right up into the 20th century, and are even used by some artists and calligraphers today.

 

Papyrus didn't fold well because it became brittle as it dried, which is why early Western books were in the form of scrolls.  In the East, where paper was available early on, a brush was used for writing. Because these brushes were thick but tapered to a fine point, ancient Chinese writing is composed of sweeping strokes with both thick and thin lines, and the art of calligraphy was highly regarded.

 

Papyrus was used in Europe, too, but there was such a demand for writing materials that the supply of papyrus reeds began to run out, so another material was sought.  Animal skin, prepared in just the right way, was found to be a durable surface that could even be scraped clean of ink and re-used if necessary.  This was called parchment or vellum. It was actually in use, though not popular, as early as the third century B.C., but did not become widely used until much later.  Medieval scribes used a metal-tipped bone stylus or a thin piece of lead called a "plummet" (an ancestor of the pencil) to mark out faint guidelines, then wrote using various types of pens, including reed pens, and pens cut from the flight feathers of large birds, called quill pens.

 

As metalworking became more refined, pen nibs were made of metal.  Early metal nibs were durable and did not have to be sharpened like a quill pen did — though they still had to be dipped in ink every few letters — but they did corrode from the acids in early inks, and they were stiff and sometimes difficult to write with. As metal technology improved, so did pen nibs.  A few pens were even made of blown glass, but were not widely adopted, probably because they broke easily.

 

To read more about Writing Implements, click here.

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