Monday, 31 January 2011

Sheep To Shawl!

In one week! First, take one sheep.

1885 Margaret Evans and her spinning wheel. Wales

1870-1900 Spinning in Palestine

1860s Spinning in Wales

1913 Spinning in Ireland (it's amazing we don't get dizzy and fall down!)

Spinning in Frisia! (It's a very long stretch of, well, beach along the top bit of Germany. They wear nifty traditional costumes there.)

1890s Spinning in France!

1910s Spinning in Sweden!

1890 More spinning in Ireland! This time in Galway!

QVic! Spinning! That's why she always had that expression on her face! She was dizzy!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Book Review: Amalee

Maybe I'm just not creative, but I could not figure out how to combine Amalee with Review and make it funny. You'll forgive me eventually.

Dar Williams wrote a kids book! EEE! Amalee, a novel about Amalee, her family, her friends, and her family friends. There's also a sequel! (Don't expect a review anytime soon - the only place I have seen her books in physical form is at her concerts. And those are hard to come by sometimes. I'll give Amalee a rating of: Interesting. It is a far cry from the best book I've ever read, but even further from bad. Just...unusual. Which is good I suppose - very fresh!

What makes it unusual? Several things: the most two notable (ok, so the first one isn't really notable, but it caught my attention as things that maybe you see in teen books as an issue, but never really in kids books!) being that they're vegetarians. No big deal. It's just mentioned a few times in passing that John makes vegetarian meat loaf, and we move on. I think that's fantastic! (My not-so-inner-hippie says to say hello!) It's just a tiny aspect of their lives - insignificant really. But it's just not something you see in these kinds of books! Like I said, Fresh!

Secondly, the book really focuses on the idea that it takes a community to raise a child - that people who grow up outside of a mum, a dad, two siblings and a dog can be ok too! Sure, there are plenty of kids books out there with single parents, grandparents parenting, etc. The book opens on a typical Friday night: 11 year old Amalee and her dad (her mom left and then died while Amalee was an infant) heading out to pick up four of her dad's friends for a movie and pizza!

There is Phyllis, her dad's lifelong friend and worked at Amalee's school in the office. Carolyn is a dissatisfied artist. Joyce is a psychologist who cries at everything. And John works at a restaurant while dreaming of opening his own. I really loved the distinctness of each of the characters (well, it was a bit difficult in the beginning to remember who was who.) - and also that EVERYONE grows and changes during the course of the story - not just Amalee! Grown ups can learn lessons too!

I also liked that Amalee's interactions with the kids at school was not all sunshine and roses as well. She is in middle school - something often remembered with a certain degree of horror. She has two 'friends' Ellen and Hally - who are mean girls. While Amalee is not necessarily a mean girl herself, she comes to terms with herself as one because she does not speak out against Hally and Ellens' awful remarks about and to others. There is also Lenore - Amalee's old friend who also wasn't really a friend. Lenore was the kind of bossy friend that dictated when and where and how you would be friends with her, ultimately because she's afraid that you won't like her if she doesn't make you. I really wanted to like the school scenes, but there was an awful lot of 'telling' instead of 'showing'. I would have liked to see more direct interaction with kids at school and a little less stream of consciousness from Amalee. The good bit about the stream of consciousness is that you really get to see the struggle of a girl who knows what is happening is wrong, but is too afraid to do anything about it because she's terrified to be on the other end of the food chain.

So, plot- Amalee's dad falls ill. Really ill. He goes to the hospital for a few days, and when he comes home he is too weak to get out of bed (let alone take care of an eleven year old girl.) In swoop the friends that Amalee has categorized and lives with, but does not really know and appreciate. They take shifts taking care of David (her dad), and getting her to school and making sure there is food in the house (enter John - which was my favorite chapter and included my favorite line: "'This is called quiche,' he explained. "You'll like it when you're fourteen.'") However, no one really knows how to treat Amalee - do they let her in on everything? She seems fine, do they just not fiddle with things? How is school? She doesn't want to talk, should they make her? Does she need to talk? How do they talk to her? How do you solve a problem like Maria? Anyway, things are getting a little better and a little worse all over the place when Lenore says something in the hallway that sends Amalee over the edge, and she pushes Lenore (accidentally) down a flight of stairs.

You'll have to read the book to find out how everyone finally gets a very happy ending. ^_^

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Greatest Show On Earth!

I find this photograph intriguingly beautiful. What do you think?


I have this dear Bearded Lady listed as Madam Josephine Clofullia, the Bearded Lady of Geneva. Unfortunately, I'm uncertain as to the veracity of that, as Josephine died in 1875 and while the costume worn in this photograph could be from the 1870s, I would be inclined to place it at the very end. Thoughts?

George Prise, "The Living Skeleton" Taken in the 1870s. Sadly I could not find any more information about him - even what condition he had. If anyone knows, please share!

Nora Hildenbrant, America's first professional Tattooed Lady! Nora's status is partially due to the fact that her father was one of America's first professional tattoo artists. Nora was the canvas upon which he practiced when he had no customers. Nora first started appearing publicly in 1882, in her 30s. She continued to tour, mostly with Barnum and Bailey through the 1890s.

This is Frieda Pushnik, born in Johnstown, PA in 1923. Billed as the Living Torso, Frieda had no legs and only the stump of one arm and was able to dress herself, apply makeup, crochet, and won several awards for her penmanship! Frieda's first taste of showbusiness came with her debut in Ripley's Odditorium at the Chicago World's Fair in 1934. She also survived the Barnum circus fire of 1949, and went to act in several movies in the 1960s. Her mother supported her (literally) the entire time. Frieda died in 2000.


Barnum Himself!

A trick pony!

And finally, Jean (and Jaques) Libbera. Yes, that is Jean's twin, whom he named Jaques. They are 28 in this photograph from 1912. Jean traveled with several circuses, and was also married and had four children. When out in public, he would wear a cape which he could use to cover up Jaques to stop the public from staring.

Mr. Poppers Reviews!

Well, now, that doesn't alliterate at all. What does alliterate is Newberry Honor book Mr. Popper's Penguins, by Richard Atwater. Hilary handed it to me and told me it would make me happy (I LOOOOOOOOVE penguins!) Though perhaps not quite as much as Mr. Popper.

Mr. Popper was a disheveled man. He painted houses during the day and read all about the Arctic and Antarctic regions in the evening while his wife did the mending and his children were asleep. By Autumn, all of the houses have been painted and all of the kitchens wallpapered and no one in the small town of Stillwater will have anything for Mr. Popper to do until Spring! Luckily Mrs. Popper is confident that they will have just enough money to scrape by through the Winter until Mr. Popper has work again, though "it is a little hard to sweep with a man sitting around reading all day." Then, one evening, after the children have gone to bed, Mr. Popper turns on the radio to listen to Admiral Drake broadcasting all the way from Antarctica! The Poppers can't believe their ears when it sounds as if Admiral Drake is addressing Mr. Popper directly! He thanks Mr. Popper for the wonderful letters he wrote them, and says that a mysterious reply will be arriving shortly!

Of course, it's a Penguin that is delivered to their front door the very next day! But what do you do with a Penguin in the town of Stillwater? And what do you do with TWELVE?

I found this a fantastic book, both for boys and girls (although the main characters are a man and a penguin). On that note it's rather interesting that, though there are children present in the story, they are not the main characters, and do not even really have their own personalities! The main character is, indeed, a grown man - something I don't think is seen very often in juv. books these days. I think it is good though, not just that kids can have adventures, but that grown ups can have adventures and kid level! It is definitely a book for younger boys - below ten, I should think (although for some light reading, I knew plenty of grownups who appreciate it as well!) It was written back in 1938, so there's none of today's recognized technology, and is generally much simpler - only the one plot line, and much less adventure. Compared to today's books it might seem a bit simple and even slow, but it is nonetheless truly entertaining. I laughed out loud quite a bit.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze!

Known in some circles as Jules Leotard (yes, that kind of leotard). (And totally serious about the song.) Jules (1842-1870) developed trapeze acts as we know them today (and the costume - though calling it a leotard did not catch on until the 1880s). He was the son of a gymnastics instructor and was poised to enter Law. However, his love of and awesomeness in acrobatics led him to his first performance, in 1859 in the Cirque Napoleon.
1907 Mae Gordon's Original Insane Moving Pedestal

Francesco Lentini (1889-1966) was born in Italy with three and a half legs (the half was a bit of a foot growing out of his knee on the leg furthest to the left in this photograph). His parents abandoned him to an aunt who eventually put him into a home for disabled children. Francesco allegedly hated his extra limbs until he went to live at the home where he faced children who were deaf and blind. In 1898 he moved to America and joined the Ringling Brothers as a sideshow as The Great Lentini (he also later toured with Barnum). While his three legs were all of different lengths (he is said to have complained that even with three legs, he still did not have a pair), part of his act was to kick a soccer ball around on a stage (touted as The Three Legged Football Player). Francesco married and had four children before dying at the age of 77, the longest living three legged man.

Unknown. Only a torso and still wearing a corset. >_< Admiral Dot!
Leopold Kahn was born in California in 1858 to a Jewish couple; among all of his siblings, he was the only dwarf. He was discovered by Barnum at the age of four and height of two feet (though he would eventually grow to be just over 4 feet tall). Leopold was originally billed as The Eldorado Elf, but, taking a leaf out of General Tom Thumb's book, was assigned a military rank and became Admiral Dot, as well as perfecting a comedy routine. He married Charlotte Naomi "Lottie" Swartwood who he met at the Locke & Davis Royal Liliputian Company in 1891. They had two children. The family settled in upstate New York (as their height increased, their marketability decreased, but they remained beloved characters) where, with their fortune opened the Admiral Dot Hotel. Leopold also became a volunteer firefighter (and was on the scene when his own hotel burnt down) and a deputy sheriff (the smallest man in the country to hold both positions). He and his daughter died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.

Madam Milo, Queen of Hair in the 1880s. Length 6 feet, 2 inches (yes, of course I'm jealous!)

1904 Dreamland at Coney Island. Kitty! >^_^< I wish I had any information to give on this man. Though for the first time since finding him (a few years now), I see that he does, indeed, have two feet!

Schlitzie is one of the sideshow performers whose story is both happy and tragic. His real name and birth date and location are unknown due to being passed from parents to showmen to showmen, though his official tombstone (raised in 2004) puts his birth in 1901. Schlitzie was born with microcephaly, resulting in a very small brain and skull - resulting in severe mental retardation as well as billing as The Last of the Aztecs, a Pinnhead, The Monkey Girl (he was frequently billed as female and often dressed in long, simple dresses), or What Is It? He functioned at about the level of a three year old, but show business appeared to suit him well. His fellow performers described him as exuberant with a love of singing, dancing, and generally being the center of attention. Later, after being hospitalized when his most recent guardian/showman had died, he fell into depression until he was recognized by a sword swallower working part time at the hospital. Schlitzie was released into his care and spent the rest of his life giving occasional performances, even if it was just to a small crowd in the park. His most famous moment is his appearance in the 1932 film Freaks (he also made cameos in a few other films at that time), a horror film in a carnival setting. (You can watch it on Google, it's quite good!)

Rosa and Josefa Blazek were born in 1878 in Bohemia. Unlike many siamese twins who are merely connected by skin or cartilage, the girls spines were fused together. Despite almost being starved to death at birth, the girls were in show business (put their by their parents) by the time they were one year old. Rosa was described as the dominant twin - both physically and emotionally. She was slightly larger and at times it seemed that Josefa carried out Rosa's unspoken thoughts. In 1909 Rosa gave birth to a son, Franz, whose father was never officially named, though the man Rosa eventually married, another Franz who died in WWI is the most likely candidate. The media had a field day, as it is wont to do in such circumstances, despite attempts to keep the pregnancy hushed in order to preserve Rosa and Josefa's reputations. The 1920s saw the twins and Franz move to America to join the vaudeville circuit (Franz was now part of the act). Unfortunately Rosa fell sick in 1922 and recovered, but by then Josefa had fallen ill and died, with Rosa following 12 minutes later. There had been discussion of attempting to separate them in order to give Rosa a chance, but their brother insisted that they wanted to die together (amidst speculation that he was after their money). Autopsies revealed that there was no chance of a successful separation.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tea of the Day!

Green Rooibus Tea (Wellcat): 2/5

According to Teavanna (not that you've seen any of their products here. I'm not quite rich enough for that. But if anyone feels the need to send me samples... ^_^):

Green Rooibus is another take on the (Red) Rooibus teas which come from "an African red bush".
  • High in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
  • May help control allergies and fight colds
  • Good for your skin and complexion
  • Helps improve digestion
  • Naturally caffeine-free
(Back to me) Green and Red Rooibus come from the same plant - it is the processing that makes the difference (the same as with black/green/white teas).

Ok. So, I give it a 2. To be fair, it by no means tastes 'bad', but I don't see myself ever coming home and thinking "I'd like a nice cup of Green Rooibus tea!" (Though who knows?) It is both a little bland for my tastes (I tend to like the fruitier teas, you might have noticed), though also being a little pungent initially (which seems to have worn off as I continue the glass). It also tastes a wee bit grassy, but not awful. I recommend if you're bored of plain green tea, but do not wish to get too adventurous!

Extra: Because tea was so expensive in seventeenth-century England, servants weren't allowed to handle the precious leaves. The lady of the house kept it in Chinese jars in her closet alongside the tea bowls and pots.


(The musings of a recently indoctrinated Dr. Who fan...)

Monday, 17 January 2011

We're Running Away To Join The Circus!

So, High schools have mascots. Sports teams have mascots. Hogwarts houses have mascots. Here at the PCC, we have a mascot too. I'd like you all to meet Priscilla:

1940: We (at the museum) have that photograph in our collection - part of a mad scientist's notebook (seriously, the guy was nuts). Anyway, Percilla (no, that's not a misspell) was born in 1911 in Puerto Rico with hypertrichosis. She was astonishingly hairy and had two rows of teeth. So her parents took her to doctors in NYC. Not having any success, Percilla's father put her on display - Percilla was extremely lucky in that neither her biological nor adoptive fathers exploited. (That may seem odd, when you think that they charged money for people to gawk at her condition, but they were not cruel. It was merely a way to earn a living by working with what they (or rather, she) had) After her father was murdered, Percilla was raised by showman Karl. L. Lauther, whom her father had hired to promote her. Lauther was reportedly violent towards anyone who referred to Percilla as a freak, and tried (in vain) to suppress the title "Monkey Girl". He eventually gave in and her show featured a rude and obnoxious monkey, opposed to Percilla's polite graciousness and impressive singing voice. In the 1930s Percilla met and married Emmitt Bejano, the Alligator-Skinned Man. Their daughter sadly died in infancy. The couple lived happily together until his death in 1995. Percilla died in 2001.

An Unknown group of acrobats

Miss Emma Morris, "White Moon", an Albino

1885 Charles Tripp. A Canadian man born in 1855 without arms. He joined Barnum's sideshow in 1872, billed as the "Armless Wonder" due to his ability to perform everyday tasks, from carpentry to calligraphy with his feet. He left the circus in the 1910s to work traveling carnivals, his wife Mae selling tickets along the way. He died of pneumonia in 1930.

Charlie Keith, a famous 19th century clown and circus owner. He designed a portable circus building (it even had it's own box office attached), out of his early circus experiences with leaky tents and sodden floors.

1950s Contortionist Meribeth Old (I used to be able to bend like that! Not quite so far, but enough that my feet could touch my forehead! (my sister could touch her chin!) But then I started throwing my back out...) Sadly, (and especially for being fairly recent!) I could not find any information on her.

This is Alice Bounder, the Bear Woman. Alice began performing alongside her mum, Johanna Bounder, billed as Mamma Bear and Bear Cub, in 1880 at Dreamland Circus Sideshow at Coney Island. Both women were born in India and later toured in America and possibly Europe. Their hands and feet grew right from their elbows and knees. Alice would don a fur coat on stage to continue the illusion. She performed until the 1920a.

Eugene Berry, about 1890. Suffered from Elephantitis.

Some Texas Giants (if anyone has any actual information on the men in this photograph, please share!)

And you were impressed when your dog rolled over! Meet Ruth, from the Al G. Barnes Circus in 1934!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A Beastly Review

The other day at work, Katie plonked Alex Finn's Beastly down in front of me, claiming it was fantabulous. As usual, she was right.

Beastly is a modern retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story (one of my personal favorite Fairy Tales). It stars Kyle Kingsbury, son of an incredibly rich and famous TV news anchor, who lives in a world where money and looks are everything. At school Kyle may not have the best grades, but he has the hottest girl on his arm, a comical sidekick to make him look good, and daddy's money. How could anything else possibly matter?

Apparently a few things, so says the mysterious girl in the back of the classroom that Kyle doesn't seem to remember (but that's all right- she's ugly and has green hair and weird clothes. Why would he have ever paid enough attention to register her, let alone remember her?) (And yes, she's the witch. Duh.) He thinks he tricks her by asking her to the school dance (where he's being elected 9th grade prince) as a joke. She tricks him by telling him to bring her a rose. (The trick being that his maid actually gets a rose instead of the expensive orchid his 'real' date demanded). Disgusted with the whole evening, he hands it off to the homely red-head selling tickets.

When the witch turns Kyle into the beast, is was this one act that gives her pause, and makes up her mind to give Kyle a two year chance to make a girl fall in love with him before he is "doomed to remain a beast for all time" ((c) Disney - <3)

This is definitely a book for Teens. It hints at a lot of issues that are not for the younger readers (it's implied that Kyle and his girlfriend have sex after the dance - though not in so many words). The kidnapping is also a little disturbing as well. Its not the scene itself, it's more the idea of kidnapping a person and holding them hostage so that they can be the one he'll fall in love with and use to break the spell. His intentions were honorable, and there's really no way to get around the disturbing when this is what the author has to work with, but in the Fairy Tale versions, the beast is a beast, whereas here he is an actual character with feelings and rational thought processes. The book watches Kyle mature over the two years he is a beast (of course the spell is broken!) and at times may seem a little cheesey but a) it IS a Fairy Tale and b) I'm not a boy, so maybe that's how you think.

A DEFINITE recommendation! (Yes, it's a Fairy Tale. Give it a shot!)

Monday, 10 January 2011

Further Excuses

Ok, so this is a totally shameless post all about me! And, you know, more excuses for not having been a better blogger in recent months... I was busy!

Being A Fairy!
(Yes, that is me with Brian Froud!)

Sometimes the Cameraman just will not cooperate. Then you have to put a Fairie Jinx on him.

I also hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year!
This was dessert. And yes, that is a flower in the b-u-n-d-t cake. ^_^

But before that, pumpkins had to be picked!

And, of course, silliness had to ensue!

Time also had to be taken for tea!

As well as fulfilling my dreams of being a Tight-Rope Walker!
(NOT, as I insisted in my childhood, a Type-Rope Walker)

Balls had to be attended. (With homemade dresses!)

And at the end of the night, we all became pumpkins again!