In America, we like our substitutes. We like sugar substitutes, meat substitutes, and in the 1920′s, we apparently liked glass substitutes. In 1927, Time Magazine published a short article promoting the practicality of newfangled glass substitutes: “Children and animals that live in glassed houses are cheated of that ultraviolet part of the sun’s light which helps the bones ossify. The glass blocks the ultraviolet rays; the children and animals become rickety. Therefore glass substitutes have recently appeared for sale.”
One such wundermaterial was Cel-O-Glass. It was produced by a company out of New York City and promised all the qualities of glass with added medicinal value. Cel-O-Glass was marketed as a new glass-like product particularly useful for constructing a kind of closed-in porch. And, bonus: Cel-O-Glass, which was was “approved by the authorities,” let in the “vitalizing ultra-violet rays of the sun. These are the health rays which produce a healthy coat of tan in the summer. In winter, you can get these rays indoors through Cel-O-Glass.”
For the first three decades of the twentiesth century, sun rays were thought to prevent and cure tuberculosis and rickets (which is partially caused by a vitamin D deficiency, so I guess they were on to something there). According to “The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth,” sunlight was also an important element of the eugenics movement, thought to be “nature’s universal disinfectant, as well as a stimulant and tonic.” That sun-kissed look, which used to be associated with field work and peasantry, became the height of fashion and health–a tribute to the sculpted and bronzed bodies of ancient Rome and a marker of one’s abundant leisure time spent soaking up the sun on the beach. But come summer, what was a decoloring sun worshiper to do? Thanks to Cel-O-Glass, winter never had to get between you and those “vitalizing” ultra violet rays again.
Not too long ago on an episode of Iron Chef America, the sweaty contestants were dexterously hacking away at a large animal encased in an impressive layer of fat usually only seen in the parts of Europe where words like “monounsaturated” and “natural supplement” haven’t yet arrived. “This is Iron Chef America Battle of the Mangalitsa!” the announcer proclaimed. At which point I leaped out of my chair, yelling: “It’s Mangalitsa!!” as if I had just seen my best friend on TV. I was first introduced to the Mangalitsa when I was living in Hungary a few years ago. They are a hulking, fatty, woolly hog that taste as unique as they look. So, when the strange beast appeared on my TV, well, I got really excited. Apparently I was not the only one. As I found out, Mangalitsas are finding their way into the hearts of chefs, farmers and foodies right here in New York. Here’s my full story on NPR’s The Salt.
This afternoon I went through an internet wormhole that began at a Slate tirade against flip flops and ended at an article about a chunk of the Berlin Wall that resides in NYC, naturally. I’ve walked by Paley Park, a small midtown POPS (Privately Owned Public Space), many times–enchanted by the urban waterfall but never noticing the mural on the other side. Turns out this slab of concrete is a genuine piece of the Berlin Wall (the nice people at Yelp are not as impressed and give this piece of history three out of five stars).
Of course, the excellent Untapped Cities already knew all about this. They report that this section of the Wall was added to the park in 1990 from its original location on Waldemarstrasse and decorated by German artists Thierry Noir and Kiddy Citny in 1985. Turns out there are three other pieces of the Wall in New York City: one at the entrance of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, one between Gateway Plaza, the North Cove Marina, and the World Financial Center and another in the gardens at the United Nations Headquarters featuring a mural titled “Trophy of Human Rights.”
Not much of the Wall remains in Berlin itself. Of the nearly 100 miles that once surrounded West Berlin, only 240 yards still stand. So, where did other parts of the Berlin Wall end up? Some small pieces found their way into people’s pockets–hawked to tourists or kept as souvenirs by the very people who helped tear it down. But pieces have found their way all over the world.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall in 2009, the BBC crowdsourced photos from around the world where pieces of the Wall now reside. Fragments are in some far flung places–some displayed with more symbolic purpose than others, form The Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando to a Cape Town street.
Put a bird on it, 19th century style. How the craze for big hats and feathers sparked the bird conservation movement. Check it out on Lapham’s Quarterly.
1919 was a bad year for rats. Six years earlier the State of Indiana had declared rats a public enemy and “rat day” had been officially declared to encourage people to kill rats in their spare time. Apart from spreading diseases, destroying property and generally being creepy, vicious buggers (it’s the hairless tail), rats were destroying crops at a rapid rate. By 1919 the US Department of Agriculture estimated that the loss of crops and property caused by rats was $200 million (in 1919!), which was equivalent to the annual gross earnings of 200,000 men at the time.
That same year, the Department of Health issued an official five step plan for managing their numbers:
2) depriving them of a breeding place
3) depriving them of living space
4) “killing him at every opportunity”
5) passing city and state “anti-rat” laws
Over in the UK, the British had a more direct approach: poison gas.
“The mechanism of the gas machine is simple. It is of a light and portable type, consisting simply of a generator, a fan with a handle attached and a reversible tube. In the process of charging ordinary rook sulphur is wrapped in a piece of dry paper, which is Ignited and placed in the generator. Sulfurous fumes of a high strength are produced, and these are driven by means of the fan along the tube, the mouth of which is placed in the rat hole. At the first demonstration held in England the fumes killed most of the rats in the hole, only those which were far away in the run being able to escape, and they were killed by an alert terrier.”
So, fumigating rats worked. No word on what became of the alert terrier.
Bet you didn’t know that Le Parker Méridien’s lobby is actually a public space? Here are some other disguised and not so disguised private-public arcades in Midtown, including Manhattan’s newest avenue. Read more at Untapped Cities.
A Modell’s in Flatbush, a Starbucks in Greenpoint, a Pentecostal church in Times Square…what do they have in common? They were all once movie theaters. Here are some other former theaters that are now chain stores, churches, and a beautiful gym.
Competing ideologies, market shares, oh, and dragons. It’s Chinese New Year in Flushing. The Chinese New Year parade in Flushing was about much more than dragons. Read my full write-up at Untapped Cities.
I have never properly paid homage to Pearl River Mart until this weekend (though I do have a vague memory of wandering in one day and scurrying out upon realizing the sheer scope of the place). Set aside two hours of your life and about $50, and just let the amazing cheap Chinese crap wash over you. Want paper lanterns in every shape, color, size and pattern imaginable? They have them. Looking for ceramic dishes for your tea, rice and even non-Asian food needs? They have tons. Sweater vests? Yes. A jade cabbage paperweight chachke thing? They have that too. Also, swords. They have fabric and beautiful paper, embroidered slippers and a silicone mustache mold for your next ice sculpture party. So yeah, everything you could ever want from a store. I bought a floral mini paper parasol for $4.50 that is making the 5-year-old girl in me very happy.