Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Call of Cthulhu – Driving 1920s style

So you think that driving was no big deal in the early 1920s?  Think again.  The technology was new and the roads were terrible at the best of times. Yet millions of Ford Model Ts were made over the years.  If you get lucky, you have one with electric start and don’t have to fool with hand cranking unless the battery is dead, which happened often.  If you really want to have fun, get a puncture with one of those natural rubber tires and you will find out why they carried so many extra tires and tube with them on a trip.

Check out YouTube for more tips on how to drive vintage cars.  I salute those who rescue, restore and drive antique and vintage cars.  Living in the 1920s is quite different than people imagine.  It may have been the Jazz Age, but not for people outside of large cities.  Every fourth car on the road was a Ford product, whether it was a T or an A or a truck.  They made millions of cars in the US and there were manufactured under license in other countries as well.

Model Ts and the later Model As are tough.  Ralph Alger Bagnold used modified A model Ford and trucks to explore the foreboding North African Desert in the early 30s, traveling into areas even caravans feared to penetrate.  I suggest his book Libyan Sands:  Travels in a Dead World (1935) as an excellent insight into exploring North Africa even in the “modern era”.  Happy exploring.

As ground breaking as the T Model was, when the Model A was introduced, people rejoiced.

Friday, June 24, 2011

From Civil War to Steampunk

Savage and North Revolver tintypeThis original American Civil War ferrotype image, which shows a young sergeant clutching an interesting revolver.  This pistol was made by the Savage and North Fire Arms Company and had a patent mechanism for double action fire that was to circumvent other revolver patents of the period. The Savage & North Navy Model pictured is a descendant of the even more interesting Savage & North Figure Eight revolver.  About 20,000 total were produced from 1861 to about 1865.  The Union purchased just over 12,000 guns, with 1,126 going to the navy and the rest to the army.  I am sure there were a number of private purchases as well from the remaining stock.

Savage and North Revolver

I have handled several of these unusual guns over the years, both as dug relics and as fully functional pieces and found them to be rather clunky to operate and hold.  But I do admit they make a great steampunk gun.  The prices on them are still pretty reasonable given their rarity, and the 150 year age, you can pick up an average functional piece, sans finish for around $1,200 or so with top condition guns  up around $3,500 plus.  The Navy Figure 8 is much rarer and goes for a good deal more.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

PaleoBabble and A Breath of Rational Air

Twinkie HengeJust as James Randi debunks fake paranormal and circus phenomena masquerading as truth, PaleoBabble by Mike Heiser is a great site involved with debunking a smorgasbord of historical, archeological, anthropological, and scientific logical fallacies, some of which are long-standing, some obscure, and a number of “popular” bits of twaddle that inhabit the Nut-O-Sphere.   Primarily, the method of debunking is simply using scientific method, good scholarship, and showing complete context of the object or subject.  I highly recommend PaleoBabble to people interested in history, artifacts and have a bent towards rationality, logic and a belief in scientific method.

For those of you making props for the  Call of Cthulhu RPG and film genre, this site is a great warehouse of information for mining in making objects for movies and games. Nobody making CoC props are attempting to hoax the scientific community or make wild claims about authenticity of these items, but it is nice to view some of the prime fake objects of the past to get a feel for the genre. We all have a lot of fun with CoC and props and I am sure that everybody involved in the gaming community really enjoys a finely crafted and presented gaming or movie props. Dig through PaleoBabble’s blog archives to see some exploded myths and hoaxes with a dash of scintillating repartee in the archaeological and scientific community.

Update May 2014:  Mike Heiser has moved PaleoBabble to new digs at http://drmsh.com/.  The articles are still available at the old location, although comments have ended there.  Lots of luck to his new new site.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lovecraft for Challenged People

Just in case you need the H. P. Lovecraft story, The Call of Cthulhu dumbed down for you, here is a synopsis read by a valley girl in two minutes. We could call it mythos for dummies. Actually, it’s a pretty cute video and the sight gags are funny. I put it on my fun kitsch YouTube videos list along with The Adventures of Lil Cthulhu and the YouTube series, Calls for Cthulhu.

O.K., now roll for sanity check. Roll again if you have seen the other above mentioned videos previously, only once if you have not, but intend to.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Eric Von Daniken, Cthulhu, and Logical Fallacies

I stumbled across an interesting site recently while doing research, called PaleoBabble (more about this site on a later post) and it led me to an other site by Jason Colavito and his tracing the Ancient Astronaut craze back in time to its origins.  One of the more interesting weigh stations on that trip was the influence of the writings of H. P. Lovecraft.  Yes, HPL had quite an influence among the fringe that ran from from enjoyers of fiction to believers in the reality of the Necronomicon
 investigators group photoCthulhu Icon detail
He has a book called The Origins of the Space Gods and the Cthulhu Mythos in Fiction and Fact.   He also has a 30 page mini-book that is downloadable (and free, wheeeee) for the intrepid traveler to the blogisphere on his site.   His well-researched site is a breath of fresh air in a morass of pseudoscience, hoaxes, myths, and just plain ignorance.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

New Mountains of Madness Animated Movie

Chulinos on YouTube presents a new animated film about the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft.  Although rich with architectural detail, the characters are simple animated figures such as out of a graphic novel.  Although it takes a bit of time to get into the swing of things, this video gives you a pretty good view into the enormous panorama of The Mountains of Madness.  One note of caution:  the film is in Italian only but I think you will understand the storyline.  There is a caption function available in English by clicking the CC button.
The real horror movie, starring your favorite shoggoth Tom Cruise, has been put on hold indefinitely.  I suspect the movie moguls have been stopped listening to the demon pipers of Hollywood that lull them, and listened to the fans.  As much as I would like to see a full-length feature of The Mountains of Madness, I prefer nothing to the horror that Hollywood would have dished up.
Lovecraft may well have based the Old Ones on figures from  these 19th century plates by Ernst Haeckel

Saturday, June 11, 2011

War, Turkish Delight, and A Witch

British troops at Mesopotamia 1915A couple of odd coincidences culminated to suddenly make me want to run out and buy a huge box of lokum, e.g., Turkish Delight. A group of friends of mine were dining together with me in a local restaurant and we got talking about the Mesopotamian Campaign of WWI. This led to talking about the Siege of Kut and that led to mentioning Francis Yeats-Brown’s memoir, Lives of a Bengal Lancer* (1930), but more specifically his first book, Caught by the Turks (1919)+ and that he was imprisoned in central Turkey with other Allied prisoners^ in a town called Afyon Kara Hisar, (Afyonkarahisar).  Which by coincidence, produces some of the best locum in Turkey. I have been there a couple of times and always stopped to buy the local locum. History and locum come together and not for the first time, either. Our get-togethers produce some interesting discussion topics.

Turkish Delight also figures in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe with the White Witch subverting Edmund Pevensie with a magic box of locum. For a sugar-starved youngster in rationed, wartime Great Britain, it must have come as a munificent and unlooked for treat.

 The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very center and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. --- At first Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one’s mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat. --- At last the Turkish Delight was all finished and Edmund was looking very hard at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed go on eating till they killed themselves.  The White Queen continues to tempt Edmund with the candy, telling him that "there are whole rooms full of Turkish Delight" at her house.

Britain has had a long-time love affair with Turkish Delight. The Ottoman Empire was a trading partner with Great Britain for centuries and it probably was from Constantinople (Istanbul) that the first sweet-loving Brit bought up boxes of locum and brought them back to Britain. The Crimean War (1853-1856), brought large numbers of allied military personnel to Constantinople on their way to and from the Crimea. Florence Nightingale was also at Constantinople and founded a hospital in the Selimiye Barracks, which still stands. In any case, Victorian shops sold assortments of Turkish Delight and they were loved by generations as an exotic treat from Turkey. It is much less known in the U.S. although it is available here also.

Delight Turkish Delight 300x225 History of Turkish Delight ( Lokum )Be selective in buying Turkish Delight or locum by ensuring that your is fresh and of the best ingredients. Too many people buy stale or poorly stored locum and ruin their experience. Locum comes in many flavors and fillings from rose flavor to walnut and pistachio fillings. I suggest an assortment box for your exploration. This is a authentic pre-Victorian treat, so don’t expect a modern taste.

Although I don’t generally endorse products or businesses (other than mine) but the only U.S. domestic and authentic, commercial volume maker of Turkish Delight is Bayco Confectionary in Bellingham WA. I have gotten a few boxes from them over the years and have been quite happy with their product. I especially like the rose flavored locum.

Locum:   history, war, literature, betrayal, travel, and treats – who could ask for more! P.S. Although I really enjoy a good locum, I might not betray the whole world for some.  Now for a big box of baklava … that’s another story.

Footnotes and links with some updates
*BTW the 1935 movie, Lives of a British Lancer had nearly nothing to do with the book outside of the title.

+Project Gutenberg has a free downloadable digital copy of Francis Yeats-Brown interesting memoir of WWI, Caught by the Turks (1919)   http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/37343

 ^Yeats-Brown and a pilot were destroying telegraph lines on 13 November 1915, prior to an expected Allied relief of Kut and an assault on Baghdad.  Yeats-Brown and his pilot were stranded after their aircraft became damaged on landing and both were captured.  The Siege of Kut was not relieved and the attack on Baghdad was put on hold, not falling until 11 March 1917.  Additionally there were British prisoners from the Mesopotamian Campaign as well as Gallipoli held in an abandoned Armenian Church, in Afyon Karahisar.  There were about 200 British, French, and Russian soldiers and sailors held in the church, including 40 officers, although the officers were later segregated into some smaller billeting in houses in the Armenian quarter.  For more information on the campaign and battles see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesopotamian_campaign  and  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_Baghdad_%281917%29

I found some lovely photos of Afyonkarahisar as it is today:  http://www.flickriver.com/photos/guraydere/tags/afyon/  

1 August 2014 is the 100 anniversary of the start of WWI, I have a blog entry on the subject:  http://coastconfan.blogspot.com/2014/07/centenary-of-wwi-but-not-many-lessons.html