Archive for April, 2010
Chloroform is a colorless, sweet-smelling, dense liquid that was once a popular anesthetic; its vapor depresses the central nervous system of a patient, allowing a doctor to perform various otherwise painful procedures. At normal temperature and pressures, chloroform is a highly volatile, clear, colorless, heavy, highly refractive, non-flammable liquid. It was discovered in July 1831 by American physician Samuel Guthrie (1782-1848); and independently a few months later by Frenchman Eugene Soubeiran (1797-1859) and Justus von Liebig (1803-73) in Germany. Chloroform was named and chemically characterized in 1834 by Jean-Baptiste Dumas (1800-84). Its anaesthetic properties were noted early in 1847 by Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens (1794-1867).
In 1847, the Edinburgh obstetrician James Young Simpson first used chloroform for general anesthesia during childbirth. The use of chloroform during surgery expanded rapidly thereafter in Europe. In the United States, chloroform began to replace ether as an anesthetic at the beginning of the 20th century; however, it was quickly abandoned in favor of ether upon discovery of its toxicity, especially its tendency to cause fatal cardiac arrhythmia analogous to what is now termed “sudden sniffer’s death”. Ether is still the preferred anesthetic in some developing nations due to its high therapeutic index (~1.5-2.2) and low price. Acute poisoning is associated with headache, altered consciousness, convulsions, respiratory paralysis and disturbances of the autonomic nervous system: dizziness, nausea, and vomiting are common. Chloroform may also cause delayed-onset damage to the liver, heart and kidneys. When used in anaesthesia, insensibility was usually preceded by a stage of excitation. This was followed by loss of reflexes, diminished sensation and loss of unitary consciousness.
Suffice it to say, chloroform is now most commonly associated with network prime time television portrayals of psychopaths, hell-bent on subduing their victims before spiriting them away to isolated places for the inevitable torture/murder ritual they just can’t seem to get enough of….
What Do You Think? »
The Oregon Trail is the best-selling educational computer game that was inspired by the real-life Oregon Trail and was designed to teach school children about the realities of 19th century pioneer life on the trail. The player assumes the role of a wagon leader guiding his party of settlers from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon’s Willamette Valley by way of the Oregon Trail via a Conestoga wagon in 1848. The game was originally released in floppy disk format.
The game was popular among North American elementary school students in the mid 1980s to early 1990s, but could occasionally be spotted into the 2000s. Many students in the United States and Canada had access to the game at school. MECC followed up on the success of The Oregon Trail with similar titles such as The Yukon Trail and The Amazon Trail. The original title has been re-released many times, for different platforms and on different media; it is currently up to the fifth edition. The original breathless description of the game is reprinted below for the sentimentalists amongst us:
Try taking a journey by covered wagon across 2000 miles of plains, rivers, and mountains. Try! On the plains, will you slosh your oxen through mud and water-filled ruts or will you plod through dust six inches deep?
How will you cross the rivers? If you have money, you might take a ferry (if there is a ferry). Or, you can ford the river and hope you and your wagon aren’t swallowed alive!
What about supplies? Well, if you’re low on food you can hunt. You might get a buffalo… you might. And there are bear in the mountains.
At the Dalles, you can try navigating the Columbia River, but if running the rapids with a makeshift raft makes you queasy, better take the Barlow Road.
If for some reason you don’t survive — your wagon burns, or thieves steal your oxen, or you run out of provisions, or you die of cholera — don’t give up! Try again… and again… until your name is up with the others on The Oregon Trail Top Ten.
What Do You Think? »
January 7, 1939
Mr. Ed Sullivan
621 North Alta Drive
Beverly Hills, California
Vivian Leigh is by no means cast as Scarlett. There are three other possibilities. But should we decide on Miss Leigh for the role, I think the following answers your question:
1. Scarlett O’Hara’s parents were French and Irish. Identically, Miss Leigh’s parents are French and Irish.
2. A large part of the South prides itself on its English ancestry, and an English girl might presumably, therefore, be as acceptable in the role as a Northern girl.
3. Experts insist that the real Southern accent, as opposed to the Hollywood conception of a Southern accent, is basically English. There is a much closer relationship between the English accent and the Southern accent than there is between the Southern accent and the Northern accent, as students will tell you, and as we have found through experience.
4. I think it would be ungrateful on the part of Americans,particularly Americans in the film and theatrical worlds, to feel bad about such a selection in view of the English public’s warm reception of American actor’s portrayals of the most important and best-loved characters in English history and fiction, ranging all
the way from Wallace Beery in “Treasure Island”, to Fredric March as Browning in “The Barretts”, to Gary Cooper in “Bengal Lancer”.
5. And, finally, let me call your attention to the most successful performances in the American theatre in many, many years — those, respectively, of the American Helen Hayes as “Queen Victoria” and the British Raymond Massey as “Abraham Lincoln”.
I feel that these are the days when we should all do everything within our power to help cement British-American relationships and mutual sympathies, rather than to indulge in thoughtless, half baked and silly criticisms.
As I have said, Miss Leigh is not set for the role, but if she gets it Miss Leigh seems to us to be the best qualified from the standpoints of physical resemblance to Miss Mitchell’s Scarlett, and – more importantly – ability to give the right performance in one of the most trying roles ever written. And this is after a two-year
search. kikkAnd if she gets the role, I like to think that you’ll be in there rooting for her.
Cordially and sincerely yours,
David O. Seltznick
P.S. Incidentally, just where do the carpers think the name “Georgia” came from, but from England? I suppose they’d also object to George Washington being played by an Englishman!
Gone with the Wind is a 1939 American film adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel of the same name. It was produced by David O. Selznick and directed by Victor Fleming from a screenplay by Sidney Howard. The epic film, set in the American South in and around the time of the American Civil War, stars Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, and Hattie McDaniel. It tells a story of the Civil War and its aftermath from a white Southern viewpoint, and it is considered one of the greatest and most popular films of all time and one of the most enduring symbols of the golden age of Hollywood.
Casting the adaptation of such a popular novel was a daunting task. While the studio and the public agreed that the part of Rhett Butler should go to Clark Gable (except for Clark Gable himself), casting for the role of Scarlett was a little harder. The search for an actress to play Scarlett in the film version of the novel famously drew the biggest names in the history of cinema, such as Bette Davis (whose casting as a Southern belle in Jezebel in 1938 took her out of contention), and Katharine Hepburn, who went so far as demanding an appointment with producer David O. Selznick and saying, “I am Scarlett O’Hara! The role is practically written for me.” David replied rather bluntly, “I can’t imagine Rhett Butler chasing you for ten years.”
Jean Arthur and Lucille Ball were also considered, as well as relatively unknown actress Doris Davenport. Susan Hayward was “discovered” when she tested for the part, and the career of Lana Turner developed quickly after her screen test. Tallulah Bankhead and Joan Bennett were widely considered to be the most likely choices until they were supplanted by Paulette Goddard.
The young English actress Vivien Leigh, virtually unknown in America, saw that several English actors, including Ronald Colman and Leslie Howard, were in consideration for the male leads in Gone with the Wind. Her agent happened to be the London representative of the Myron Selznick talent agency, headed by David Selznick’s brother, Myron. Leigh asked Myron to put her name into consideration as Scarlett on the eve of the American release of her picture Fire Over England in February 1938. David Selznick watched both Fire Over England and her most recent picture, A Yank at Oxford, that month, and thought she was excellent but in no way a possible Scarlett, as she was “too British.” But Myron Selznick arranged for David to first meet Leigh on the night in December 1938 when the burning of the Atlanta Depot was being filmed on the Forty Acres backlot that Selznick International and RKO shared. Leigh and Laurence Olivier were visiting as guests of Myron Selznick, who was also Olivier’s agent, and Leigh was in Hollywood hoping for a part in Olivier’s current movie, Wuthering Heights. In a letter to his wife two days later, David Selznick admitted that Leigh was “the Scarlett dark horse,” and after a series of screen tests, her casting was announced on January 13, 1939. Just before the shooting of the film, Selznick informed Ed Sullivan: “Scarlett O’Hara’s parents were French and Irish. Identically, Miss Leigh’s parents are French and Irish.”
In any case, Leigh was cast—despite public protest that the role was too “American” for an English actress—and eventually won an Academy Award for her performance.
What Do You Think? »
Aren't they just adorable?
Valium, also known as Diazepam or colloquially as “Mother’s Little Helper,” “doll”, or simply “V” is a benzodiazepine derivative drug invented by Dr. Leo Sternbach and approved for use in 1963. Valium is most commonly prescribed for treating anxiety, but it is also indicated for a host of other conditions, including insomnia, seizures, muscle spasms, restless legs syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, alcohol withdrawal, benzodiazepine withdrawal, and Ménière’s disease. It may also be used before certain medical procedures (such as endoscopies) to reduce tension and anxiety, and in some surgical procedures to induce amnesia. It possesses anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, hypnotic, sedative, skeletal muscle relaxant, and amnestic properties.
The blockbuster drug soon became a cultural icon in its own right; it was practically the a main character in Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 bestseller Valley of the Dolls, whose female characters popped the pill to deaden the strains of single life in the Big Apple. The Rolling Stones, perhaps unintentionally, fuelled the drug’s popularity with their hit single, “Mother’s Little Helper”, which satirized the suburban housewives who relied on the drug to get through the drudgery and monotony of their lives. Between 1969 and 1982, it was America’s reigning lifestyle drug du jour, with sales peaking in 1978, with a whopping 2.3 billion pills sold.
So what explains Valium’s current absence from America’s teeming medicine cabinets? Alas, it suffered the fate of most popular lifestyle drugs: its soaring popularity came to an end when it became apparent that many Valium users had become addicted. Reports claimed that even doctors had become hooked after trying out free samples. In defense of his drug, Dr. Sternbach raised the rather dubious defense that “Mother’s Little Helper” had almost certainly prevented countless suicides and saved marriages. While perhaps technically true, Americans love their illusions, and elected to embrace a new class of “safer” anti-anxiety medications. These new anti-anxiety medications, such as the current drug of choice Xanax, will undoubtedly suffer the same fate as its predecessor when it finally sinks in that “Surprise!” it is addictive as hell too.
Alas, the desire for quick fixes is eternal, and the emergence, mass consumption and eventual rejection of lifestyle drugs is destined to continue ad infinitum……
What Do You Think? »
Getting a Meningitis infection is even scarier than it sounds: it is the swelling and inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, and can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Meningitis can be life-threatening because of the inflammation’s inconvenient proximity to the brain and spinal cord; therefore the condition is classified as a medical emergency. If a person is suspected of having a meningitis infection, it is crucial for a medical professional to determine whether its origins are viral or bacterial.
Viral meningitis is generally less severe and eventually clears up without specific treatment. On the other hand, bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. For bacterial meningitis, it is also important to know which type of bacteria is causing the meningitis because antibiotics can prevent some types from spreading and infecting other people.
The most common signs and symptoms of a meningitis infection include:
Fever and chills;
Mental status changes;
Nausea and vomiting;
Sensitivity to light (photophobia);
Severe headache; and
Stiff neck (meningismus).
Other symptoms can include:
Other common symptoms that can occur with this disease are:
Poor feeding or irritability in children; and
The (also scary sounding) lumbar puncture is commonly used by doctors to diagnose or exclude meningitis. This involves inserting a needle into the spinal canal to extract a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the fluid that envelops the brain and spinal cord. The CSF is then examined in a medical laboratory to determine if it is meningitis, and whether the infection is viral or bacterial. If it is bacterial, doctors will prescribe the sufferer antibiotics, and the type will vary depending on the bacteria causing the infection. However, antibiotics are obviously useless against viral meningitis, so a person with the illness must simply commit to bed rest and wait it out. Other medications and intravenous fluids will be used to treat symptoms such as brain swelling, shock, and seizures. Some people may need to stay in the hospital, depending on the severity of the illness and the treatment needed.
Luckily, the recent introduction of a meningitis vaccine protecting against the Haemophilus strain of the infection led to a marked fall in overall cases of meningitis. Moreover, in 2002 promising evidence emerged that treatment of meningitis with steroids could improve the prognosis of people with advanced bacterial meningitis.
In sum, set aside your fear of needles and get this vaccine ASAP if you haven’t already.
What Do You Think? »
In 1914, Spanish historian Julián Juderías coined the term “Black Legend” in his book La Leyenda Negra to describe the unfavorable image of Spain and Spaniards as cruel and intolerant that was promulgated by many non-Spanish and especially Protestant historians during the 16th century. Juderías defined this phenomenon and its repercussions thusly:
“[The “Black Legend”] is the environment created by the fantastic stories about our homeland that have seen the light of publicity in all countries, the grotesque descriptions that have always been made of the character of Spaniards as individuals and collectively, the denial or at least the systematic ignorance of all that is favorable and beautiful in the various manifestations of culture and art, the accusations that in every era have been flung against Spain.”
Ironically, the origins of the “Black Legend” drew upon criticisms first voiced by the Spanish themselves. Bartolomé de Las Casas, the former Bishop of Chiapas, sowed the first seeds of the “Black Legend” when in 1552 he published a scathing and enduring indictment of Spanish behavior toward Indian populations in the New World. As admirable as his concern for the beleaguered Indian population was, his proposed solution was significantly worse than the problem he was trying to solve: use slaves from Africa instead!
Casas reasoned that, given the drastic decline of the Indian population and the reluctance of Europeans to perform heavy agricultural labor, that African slaves would be the ideal alternative labor force. Thus, the Spanish could have their cake and eat it too: African slaves would maintain Spanish prosperity, free of charge, thus giving the depleted Indian populations the chance to replenish their strength and numbers. Suffice it to say, his astonishingly tin-eared suggestion helped to kick-start the horrors of the slave trade. To his credit, Las Casas came to regret his role in encouraging the slave trade. Although he rejected the idea that slavery itself was a crime or sin, he did begin to see African slavery as practiced as a source of great evil. Unfortunately, Las Casas’ apology was not published for more than 300 years.
During the sixteenth century, when the House of Habsburg presided over an empire that included Spain, Austria, Italy, Holland, and much of the New World, Spain’s enemies created an enduring set of ideas known as the “Black Legend,” which drew heavily from Las Casas seminal work. What gave the “Black Legend” its strength and resiliency was not Las Casas himself, but the printing press. By the third quarter of the 16th century, Las Casas’ writings had been translated into French, Dutch, and English. Propagandists from England, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands jumped on this opportunity to churn out works which portrayed the Spanish as a corrupt and cruel people who subjugated and exploited the New World Indians, stole their gold and silver, infected them with disease, and killed them in numbers without precedent.
In 1580, William I, Prince of Orange (1533-1584), who led Dutch Protestants in rebellion against Spanish rule, declared that Spain “committed such horrible excesses that all the barbarities, cruelties and tyrannies ever perpetrated before are only games in comparison to what happened to the poor Indians.” Thus, the “Black Legend” provided a powerful ideological justification for English involvement in the New World. By seizing treasure from Spanish ships, staging raids on Spanish ports and cities in the Americas, and enlisting runaway slaves known as Cimarons to prey on the Spanish, Protestant England would strike a blow against Spain’s aggressive Catholicism and rescue the Indians from Spanish slavery. But it is a pointed historical irony that the very English seamen, like Drake and Hawkins, who promised to rescue the Indians from Spanish bondage, also bought and enslaved Africans along the West African coast and transported them to Spanish America, where they sold them to Spanish colonists.
To be clear, the “Black Legend” was not an inaccurate portrayal of Spanish rule in the New World. Rather, it was used as a self-serving cudgel but those who really just wanted to benefit from the spoils of exploiting native populations the exact same way that Spain had. Thus, the “Black Legend” is more notable for the blatant hypocrisy of its proponents than it is for unfairly slandering Spain.
1 Comment »
What non-electrical, no-battery-required, low-tech toy has sold more than 300 million units since its debut in 1945? The Slinky, of course! For those readers that were raised by wolves, the Slinky is a toy consisting of a helical spring that stretches and can bounce up and down. It can perform a number of tricks, including traveling down a flight of steps end-over-end as it stretches and re-forms itself with the aid of gravity and its own momentum.
The Slinky was accidentally invented by naval engineer Richard James in 1943, when he was attempting to develop a meter designed to monitor horsepower on naval battleships. James was working with tension springs, when one of the springs fortuitously fell on the floor. He was fascinated by the fact that the spring kept moving after it hit the ground, and the idea for the Slinky was born. He spent the next two years figuring out the best steel gauge and coil to use for the toy. His wife Betty found the name for the new toy after discovering in the dictionary that the word “Slinky” is a Swedish word meaning traespiral – sleek or sinuous.
The Slinky made its debut at the at the Gimbel’s Department Store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the 1945 Christmas season and then at the 1946 American Toy Fair. The toy was an immediate smash hit, selling its entire inventory of 400 units in an impressive ninety minutes. The James’ were adamant that the Slinky remain inexpensive so that everyone could afford one (it was originally retailed for $1), and true to their word, the toy has remained modestly priced throughout its history.
It would be a mistake to think that the Slinky is merely a tangle-prone diversion that looks really cool undulating down a flight of stairs. It has become an indispensible staple in every High School Physics classroom, as its action demonstrates a variety of physical forces and principles, including the way waves work. (The Slinky, like all objects, tends to resist change in its motion). American troops during Vietnam used them as mobile radio antennas, and NASA has used them in zero-gravity physics experiments in the Space Shuttle. Slinky’s have also been used to make cool ‘laser gun’ sound effects by holding up a slinky in the air and striking one end, resulting in a metallic tone which sharply lowers in pitch. The Slinky has even made inroads in the fashion world, when “crazy eyes” were debuted in the 1980s (surprise, surprise), consisting of a pair of glasses that uses slinkies over the eyeholes attached to bloody-looking plastic eyeballs.
“What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, and makes a slinkity sound?
A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing, everyone knows it’s Slinky…
It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, for fun it’s a wonderful toy
It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, it’s fun for a girl and a boy.
ALL HAIL THE SLINKY!
What Do You Think? »