Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gerber Singles

Gerber Singles was a failed product from 1974 by Gerber, a maker of baby food. It was food in glass jars targeted to college students and adults living on their own for the first time.

[Supplement from mental_floss]: At some point in time, almost every adult has tasted baby food and discovered that the stuff isn’t half bad. But that doesn’t mean people want to make a meal out of it. For some reason, Gerber had to learn that lesson the hard way. In 1974, the company released Gerber Singles, small servings of food meant for single adults, packaged in jars that were almost identical to those used for baby food. It didn’t take long for Gerber execs to figure out that most consumers, unless they were less than a year old, couldn’t get used to eating a pureed meal out of a jar—particularly one depressingly labeled “Singles.” Baby food for grown-ups was pulled from the marketplace shortly after.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jack Churchill

Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming "Jack" Churchill, nicknamed "Fighting Jack Churchill" and "Mad Jack", was an English soldier who fought throughout World War II armed with a longbow, arrows, and a claybeg (a mediaeval edged weapon used in Scotland, considered the smaller counterpart of the claymore). He once said "any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed."

Churchill resumed his commission after Poland was invaded, volunteering for the Commandos after fighting at Dunkirk. Churchill was unsure what Commando Duty entailed, but he signed up because “it sounded dangerous”. In May 1940, Churchill and his unit, the Manchester Regiment, ambushed a German patrol near L'Epinette, France. Churchill gave the signal to attack by cutting down the enemy Feldwebel (sergeant) with his barbed arrows, becoming the only known British soldier to have felled an enemy with a longbow in the course of the war.

Churchill was second in command on a raid on the German garrison at Vågsøy, Norway on December 27, 1941. As the ramps fell on the first landing craft, Churchill leapt forward from his position playing The March of the Cameron Men on bagpipes, threw a grenade, and began running towards the bay.

In July 1943, as commanding officer, he led a squad from their landing site at Catania in Sicily with his trademark claybeg slung around his waist and a longbow and arrows around his neck and his bagpipes under his arm. This was again repeated at the landings at Salerno.
In 1944, he led the Commandos in Yugoslavia, where he was ordered to raid the German held island of Brač. He organised a motley army of 1,500 Partisans, 43 Commando troop and 40 Commando troop for the raid. The landing was unopposed, but the Partisans decided to defer the attack until the following day. The following morning, one flanking attack was launched by 43 Commando with Churchill leading the elements from 40 Commando. The Partisans remained at the landing area. Only Churchill and six others managed to reach the objective. A mortar shell killed or wounded everyone but Churchill, who was playing "Will Ye No Come Back Again?" on his pipes as the Germans advanced to capture them. He was knocked unconscious by grenades and captured. He was later flown to Berlin for interrogation and then transferred to Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

In September 1944, he and an RAF officer crawled under the wire through an abandoned drain and set out to walk to the Baltic coast; they were recaptured near the coastal city of Rostock, only a few miles from the sea. In late April 1945 Churchill was transferred to Tyrol together with about 140 other prominent concentration camp inmates, where the SS left the prisoners behind. After the departure of the Germans he walked 150 miles to Verona, Italy where he met the American forces. From there, Churchill was sent to Burma, but by the time he reached India, Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been bombed, and the war abruptly ended. Churchill was said to be unhappy with the abrupt end of the war, saying: "If it wasn't for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another 10 years!"

He finally retired from the army in 1959, with two awards of the Distinguished Service Order. In later years, Churchill served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, where he became a passionate devotee of the surfboard. Back in England, he was the first man to ride the River Severn’s five-foot tidal bore and designed his own board.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wayne Shelford

Wayne Thomas "Buck" Shelford (born 13 December 1957 in Rotorua) is a former rugby union footballer and coach who represented and captained the All Blacks in the late 1980s. He is also credited with bringing about the improved performance of the All Blacks traditional "Ka Mate" haka.

Shelford made his Test debut for the All Blacks later that year against France in a 19–7 victory in Toulouse, and then was a notable victim of the infamous "Battle of Nantes" in the second Test. Roughly 20 minutes into the match, he was caught at the bottom of a rather aggressive ruck, and an errant French boot found its way into Shelford's groin, somehow ripping his scrotum and leaving one testicle hanging free. He also lost four teeth in the process. Incredibly, after discovering the injury to his scrotum, he calmly asked the physio to stitch up the tear and returned to the field before a blow to his head left him concussed. He was substituted and watched the remainder of the game from the grandstand where he witnessed the All Blacks lose 16–3. To this day Shelford has no memory of the game.

In 1987, the first Rugby World Cup was held in New Zealand. Shelford played in five of the six All Blacks games and was a member of the team that won the final against France 29–9.

Shelford took over as All Black captain after the World Cup, first captaining the side during the 1987 tour of Japan. During his captaincy from 1987 to 1990, the All Blacks did not lose a game, only drawing once against Australia in 1988.

Upon becoming captain, Shelford brought his teammates to Te Aute College, a Māori school, to see the students perform a traditional haka. Although the All Blacks had been performing the haka at the start of their matches since the team's inception, it was Shelford who taught them the proper way to perform the "Ka Mate," the haka they still use to this day at the start of their matches.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

L'Inconnue de la Seine

L'Inconnue de la SeineL'Inconnue de la Seine (French for "the unknown woman of the Seine") was an unidentified young woman whose death mask became a popular fixture on the walls of artists' homes after 1900. Her visage was the inspiration for numerous literary works.

According to an often-repeated story, the body of the young woman was pulled out of the Seine River at the Quai du Louvre in Paris around the late 1880s. The body showed no signs of violence, and suicide was suspected. A pathologist at the Paris morgue was so taken by her beauty that he had a moulder make a plaster cast death mask of her face. The identity of the girl was never discovered. The estimated the age of the model was no more than 16, given the firmness of the skin. In the following years, numerous copies were produced. The copies quickly became a fashionable morbid fixture in Parisian Bohemian society.

The face of the unknown woman was used for the head of the first aid mannequin Rescue Annie. It was created by Peter Safar and Asmund Laerdal in 1958 and was used starting in 1960 in numerous CPR courses. Therefore, the face has been called by some "the most kissed face" of all time.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Jeanne Calment

Jeanne Louise Calment had the longest confirmed human life span in history, living 122 years and 164 days. She lived in Arles, France, for her entire life, and outlived both her daughter and grandson. Her life span has been thoroughly documented by scientific study, with more records having been produced to verify her age than for any other case.

In 1965, aged 90 years and with no heirs, Calment signed a deal to sell her former apartment to lawyer André-François Raffray on a contingency contract. Raffray, then aged 47 years, agreed to pay her a monthly sum of 2,500 francs until she died, at which time he would receive ownership of the apartment. He assumed Calment’s passing would be soon considering her age. Raffray ended up paying Calment the equivalent of more than $180,000, which was more than double the apartment's value. After Raffray's death from cancer at the age of 77, in 1995, his widow continued the payments until Calment's death.

Calment's remarkable health presaged her later record. At age 85, she took up fencing, and at 100, she was still riding a bicycle. She was reportedly neither athletic, nor fanatical about her health. Calment lived on her own until shortly before her 110th birthday, when it was decided that she needed to be moved to a nursing home after a cooking accident (she was having complications with sight) started a small fire in her flat. However, Calment was still in good shape, and was able to walk until she fractured her femur during a fall at age 114 years and 11 months, which required surgery. After her operation, Calment needed to use a wheelchair. She weighed 45 kilograms (99 lb) in 1994. She smoked until the age of 117, only five years before her death. She ascribed her longevity and relatively youthful appearance for her age to olive oil, which she said she poured on all her food and rubbed onto her skin, as well as a diet of port wine, and ate nearly one kilo of chocolate every week.

A documentary film about her life, entitled Beyond 120 Years with Jeanne Calment, was released on 17 November 1995. On 19 February 1996, just two days before her 121st birthday,