Monthly Archive: January 2016

The Golden Age Of Cinema Wasn’t When You Probably Think It Was

The Golden Age of Cinema is a blanket term referring to the (supposedly) greatest era in movie-making history. It’s a time when men were real men who invariably wore hats, and when women were femme fatales and glamorous damsels. It was the 1930s to the beginning of the 1950s, but taking a look at the numbers shows that it’s not all it was cracked up to be. It was only when the studios’ stranglehold on the industry broke that we got some of the most creative movies out there, and the so-called Golden Age should be referring to the 1960s and 1970s.

The Rescued Submarine Crew That Inadvertently Killed Its Rescuers

The Sargo-class submarine USS Squalus (SS-192) was in the midst of a test dive on May 23, 1939, when she sank in 70 meters (240 ft) of water off the New Hampshire coast. Her sister ship, the USS Sculpin (SS-191), located the Squalus, contacted her, and found 33 men trapped in the downed sub. Forty hours after she sank, the survivors were ferried to the surface in a rescue chamber. The Squalus itself was also rescued from the sea bottom, repaired, and renamed the Sailfish. The Sailfish and the Sculpin sailed together to the Pacific.

On the night of November 18, 1943, the Sculpin was damaged by depth charges and 42 of its crew were captured. Half of the prisoners were put aboard the Japanese carrier Chuyo and sent to Japan. On December 4, the Chuyo was torpedoed near the island of Hachijojima and sank, taking with her 20 of the Sculpin crew. And the sub that sank her? It was the Sailfish.

When Soviets Claimed A Little Piece Of France After World War I

After World War I, the territory of Alsace-Lorraine was given to the French. At the time, all of Germany was in turmoil following a sailor’s revolt. Communist revolutionaries in France followed the lead of the Russian Revolution and declared Alsace a separate country for two weeks before the French took over.

The Ballerina Who Tried To Overthrow Panama’s Government

When world-renowned ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn married the son of a Panamanian president, she soon found herself wrapped up in a comedy of errors backed by Fidel Castro. The goal was to overthrow the pro-US government, but when authorities in Panama got wind of the coup, it all went downhill, in spite of all the steps they’d taken, like having a New York–based model source green shirts and white armbands for the rebel forces.

Adolf Hitler And The Very Deadly Chocolate

Peters chocolate bars showed up in England in the years during World War II. Dark chocolate bars wrapped in elegant gold-and-black paper, they contained much more than chocolate: They contained enough explosives to kill a room full of people. Secret agents were tasked with getting them into Britain and, most importantly, into the War Cabinet in a plot that was uncovered by MI5. Intelligence then turned to an incredibly talented draftsman named Laurence Fish to create a series of sketches that would be handed out to help people identify the deadly chocolate.

When Asbestos Was Used As Fake Snow

Throughout the 1930s, film companies were taking the advice of a well-meaning firefighter who had been concerned about the safety hazard presented by using flammable cotton for snow. Why not get rid of the fire hazard and use asbestos? Movies like The Wizard of Oz did just that, covering their stars in pure asbestos that was marketed with names like “Pure White.” The popularity of asbestos as snow spread to home use, and it could still be found in heirloom Christmas decorations.

The Short-Lived Independent Republics In California And The Gulf Coast

The most well-known break off from the United States of America is the Confederate States of America. However, Americans have a long and checkered history of trying to leave the United States. In the early and mid-1800s, parts of California and the land along the Gulf Coast tried to form their own nations. They only lasted a few weeks.

The Plant That Only Grows Around Diamonds

Thanks to De Beers, diamonds are in constant high demand all over the world. Finding new diamond-rich locations can be a challenge, but the presence of a single plant, called Pandanus candelabrum, can indicate a likelihood of diamonds below. The palm-like plant only grows around kimberlite pipes, volcanic pipes that are millions of years old. The pressure inside the kimberlite pipes makes them ideal locations for the formation of diamonds, and finding them has just gotten easier.

Berlin’s Two-Week Holiday From Hitler’s Persecution

Few sporting events have generated as much controversy as the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In just its fourth year, Adolph Hitler’s regime was already infamous for its racism and persecution of minorities. A half dozen countries—including the United States—considered boycotting the event. But when Hitler temporarily suspended his pogrom to rid Germany of undesirable non-Aryans, 49 countries sent teams to Berlin, more than any previous Olympiad. While Hitler’s German athletes dominated the games, the stars of the 1936 Summer Olympics were America’s black athletes, led by Jesse Owens, who demonstrated the fallacy of racial and ethnic superiority. But when the pageantry ended, the world (and America) quickly forgot that lesson.

The Extreme Sleep Deprivation Experiment That Was Televised In Britain

The British Channel 4’s reality show Shattered certainly caused a commotion back in 2004. Made by the same malevolent few who spawned Big Brother and following a similar premise, Shattered gathered together 10 volunteers who had to try and stay awake for seven days straight. (The show tried to hide the fact that everyone was actually allowed an hour or two a day.)

The premise was quite simple: If you were the last to fall asleep, you won £100,000. However, during the course of the week, participants underwent hour-long “You Snooze You Lose” challenges which included cuddling a giant teddy bear or counting sheep on a television. The contestants were closely monitored throughout and were given numerous “performance tests” to explore and document the effects of sleep deprivation for science and, of course, the entire thing was broadcast for our entertainment.