Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Apple #534: Shakespeare in China

Apparently the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao recently visited Stratford-upon-Avon. He said he wanted to go there because he has loved Shakespeare since he was a child.

Jiabao and Jeremy Hunt watching a mini performance of Hamlet at Stratford-upon-Avon. This photo is available on lots of sites, but no one identifies any of the women in it.
(Photo from the People's Daily Online)

I found out about this from an article in the Guardian. It explains that the Chinese have been reading Shakespeare for decades, at least since 1904, and even throughout Chairman Mao's oppressive leadership. However,
there are aspects of Shakespeare that have occasionally caused unease in China. For much of the period from 1949 to the late 1970s, Shakespeare was known only through the text and any literary criticism was rooted firmly in Marxism and Leninism. King Lear was described as "a portrayal of the shaken economic foundations of feudal society" and Romeo and Juliet, "the desire of the bourgeoisie to shake off the yoke of the feudal code of ethics".

Reading Shakespeare was acceptable. Performing Shakespeare, however, was banned.

But with Mao's death and regime change in China, the ban on performing was lifted.
In the 1980s and 1990s there were hectic Shakespeare festivals in China. The 1986 festival featured 28 productions of 12 different plays within a fortnight, including the Merchant of Venice performed in English by the Arts Academy of the People's Liberation Army, Midsummer Night's Dream performed by the China Coal Miner's Drama Troupe and Othello by the China Railways Drama Group.

Macbeth performed in China as an Opera called "Blood-Stained Hands" by the Central Academy of Drama in 1980
(Photo from Stanford's Shakespeare in China)

Much Ado About Nothing performed in China by the Anhui Huangmeixi Troupe in 1986. Pictured here are Beatrice (played by Bicui) and Benedick (Bai Lidi).
(Photo from Stanford's Shakespeare in China)

Since then, the Chinese have continued performing Shakespeare with great popular appeal. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., home of the world's largest collection of Shakespeare materials, has an extensive collection of stills and images of Shakespeare being performed in China.

King Lear performed as an opera called "Lear is Here," in Beijing in 2007. Here, Wu Hsing-Kuo plays Lear.
(Photo from the Folger Shakespeare Library)

The world has been Shakespeare's oyster.

Frances Wood, Why does China love Shakespeare? The Guardian, June 28, 2011
Stanford, Shakespeare in China

Monday, June 27, 2011

Apple #533: Giraffes

I am currently overwhelmed with work so I don't have time to do a lengthy entry tonight. I'm also a bit stressed. So I thought I'd choose a gentle topic.

What could be more gentle than giraffes? They seem very calming. Just thinking about them seems soothing.

I wonder how many of them are strolling around out there.

The Wildlife Conservation Society describes giraffes as "peaceful amblers."
(Photo from Tree of Life)

  • There are nearly 100,00 giraffes in the world.
  • Conservation people put this number in negative terms. "There are less than 100,000 left," they say. But that's more than I thought. 100,000 giraffes seems like a lot to me. More comforting than, say, 250.

See? Look at all these giraffes.
(Photo from WallpaperPimper)

  • They live in particular areas across Africa, and people now think there may be 6 different species of them, which are distinct depending on their home region.
  • In some regions, the populations are declining. In others, they're on the rise.

In general, this is where giraffes live. They like the savannahs.
(Map from Animal Fact Guide)
  • People think that giraffe don't vocalize, but they actually do make sounds.
  • Adult giraffes don't vocalize much at all, though the females might call to the calves, and the males sometimes make a coughing sound when courting.
  • Calves are more vocal. They might mew or bleat. This video shows a young giraffe bleating. It takes a while to get to the giraffe noise. But the giraffe in the background while the guy is getting interviewed kept cracking me up.

Giraffe nuzzling calf
(Photo from Giraffes.org)

  • Here's a fact that will surprise you: at 8 feet, the giraffe's tail is the longest of any mammal.
  • Yup, you really can't go wrong with giraffes.

Good night, giraffes.
(Photo from Boost Inspiration)

Giraffe Sanctuary, How many species of giraffes exist?
Wildlife Conservation Society, Giraffe
Animal Fact Guide, Giraffe

Friday, June 24, 2011

Popularity Surge

I just discovered the good ol' Daily Apple is getting lots of visitors at the moment. Check this out:

A site called Apartment Therapy found my entry on Magic Erasers and linked to it. Thanks for the link and the visitors, Apartment Therapy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Apple #532: Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be

Continuing my little forays into the land of Shakespeare, I want to share with you one of my favorite moments in television. I am referring, of course, to the episode of Gilligan's Island when they all performed Hamlet. As a musical.

Phil Silvers plays a producer (the episode is called "The Producer") named Harold Hecuba who has happened upon the island, and they all know that he's a Hollywood big-deal. Naturally they decide to pretend not to know he's skulking in the bushes and put on a lavishly costumed musical performance of Hamlet.

I mean, you're stranded on a desert island, have been there for years, some guy shows up out of nowhere, what else would you do? Naturally, you would perform Hamlet.

For me, the true gem of the episode is when Skipper sings Polonius's farewell speech to Laertes. Polonius has all kinds of fatherly advice,-- actually it's pretty contradictory and useless advice.

Have fun with your friends, but don't spend all your money. Don't get into fights, but if you have to fight, fight hard. Don't get fancy clothes, but clothes tell people what kind of person you are. Back and forth, don't do this, but don't do its opposite either. There's a whole long list of things to do and not do, and then at the end of it he says, Above all, be yourself.

Right. Thanks, Dad.

But there is one part of his speech that sticks with people, which is "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." And the reason, the sole entire reason this line sticks with me personally is because I heard it set to Bizet's Toreador Song on Gilligan's Island.

I would dearly love to embed the video of the song here, but I'm not allowed. A link to the video and a photo is the best I can manage.

Skipper as Polonius, Mary Ann as Laertes.
(Screenshot from Hyperion to a Satyr)

About that song, by the way. Apparently Bizet knew it was a bit simplistic and would therefore be popular. Of it he said, "They want their trash and will get it."

For my money, this episode is pure camp which in its way thus becomes pure gold.

One Shakespeare-loving blogger says that it makes all kinds of thematic sense for the castaways to perform Hamlet.

Gilligan's Island is about delay, just like Hamlet is. Everything in the show conspires to delay the castaways' rescue, even while dangling it in front of their noses almost every episode. Obviously, as soon as they get off the island, the show is over. In the same way, as soon as Hamlet takes his revenge, the play is over. . . . In fact, a LOT of television can be examined through the Hamlet filter because it employs strategies to prevent early resolution.

Pretty cool, eh?

Just further advances my original argument, that Shakespeare is everywhere in our lives, whether we recognize his imprint or not.

For those who need it, here's the full text of Polonius' speech:

Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay'd for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine ownself be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!


Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

I love that reply from Laertes. I can imagine him rolling his eyes and inching toward the exit.

enotes' text and "translation"
Fandango, Gilligan's Island, The Producer synopsis
IMDb, Gilligan's Island, The Producer (1966)

Hyperion to a Satyr, Other Hamlets: Gilligan's Island Revisited

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Apple #531: Pajamas

I've been doing all sorts of jobs around the house today, and I've never changed out of my pajamas.  So let's find out about pajamas.

Pajamas rock.
(Photo from Sodahead)

  • The word "pajama" (in England, "pyjama") is actually a Hindi word, pajama.  That word derives from the Persian (Iran used to be Persia) paejamah or paijama. The word means "leg clothing."
  • The word comes straight from that part of the world because that's where the garment came from.
  • In the 1700s when the British first showed up in India, they thought the loose, baggy trousers that people wore were a pretty good idea.  Muslims, both men and women, wore them, and some Sikh men did too.  "By Jove," thought the British, "cracking good idea, especially in this heat."

Men from India wearing their pajamas.  Not for sleeping or lounging, but actually to go cheetah hunting.  You can't see how they fasten, of course, but you can see how loose and floppy they are at the ankles.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Meanwhile, back in England, here's what the men were wearing in 1844.  Not exactly loose and flowing and floppy.
(Photo, as you can see, from Victoriana.com)

    • So the British brought the pajamas back to England with them. But what with the damp and cold weather and more restrictive clothing styles, they didn't really catch on for everyday wear.  Some British men wore them for lounging around the house, but after a while even that fell out of fashion.
    • In the 1800s as the British were securing more and more of India under their control, they thought, "Dash it, those pajamas are capital garments."  So they brought them back home with them again.  This round of British pajama-lovers wore them at night, for sleeping.
    • This was still rather an exotic idea in England at the time.  While women wore nightdresses, most men slept naked, or they wore long nightshirts and caps.  

    Here's Scrooge wearing his nightshirt and cap when Jacob Marley pays his portentous visit.
    (From A Christmas Carol, from Bygone Books Blog)

    This is a strange hodgepodge of stuff for sale in an antique store, but that white garment is a man's nightshirt. Topping it off is a top hat decorated for Christmas, so you'll have to imagine the nightshirt without the hat.  Looks an awful lot like a nightgown, doesn't it?
    (Photo from Musings of a Sea Witch)

    • I should note that while the idea of wearing pants to bed was all new in England, it was not new to the Portuguese.  Or at least, those who lived on the island of Goa.  A French traveler noted that the Portuguese there had adopted the custom of wearing loose cotton pants to bed as early as 1610. But apparently the French traveler didn't think much of it, nor did many other Europeans because most histories maintain that European men didn't wear pants to bed until the mid-1800s.
    • As my history teacher used to say, quoting Victor Hugo, "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come."  Apparently by the mid-1800s the time for pajamas in England had come because they soon became quite popular as sleeping garments.
    • They only caught on with the men-folk, though.  I don't know if that's because the women already had a sleeping garment, the nightdress, or if it was mainly the men who were soldiering in India who had encountered pajamas in their native habitat so to speak, and so were already comfortable with the idea of wearing them.  Whatever the reason, it was the men who wore pajamas to bed.  
    • Some time not too long after that, the footed pajama was born.  It's thought that someone first sewed feet/socks to the bottom of pajamas to protect the feet from bugs.  Specifically, termites, which were very common in India.

    Footed pajamas are now so pervasive, I bet most of you reading this blog wore them at some point in your early childhood.  They're also apparently all the rage on college campuses these days.
    (Photo from Ur College Fashion)

      • In The Secret Sharer (1910) by Joseph Conrad, the narrator says he was in his "sleeping suit," a phrase I always liked.  I wonder if that was pajamas, or a nightshirt and cap, or what. 
      • It took a little longer, but by 1923 or 1924, American fashion magazines were reporting that the high society men and women both had been seen wearing pajamas at the beach. Well, once it was known that the well-to-do were wearing their pajamas in public, the general public had to have pajamas too, and pajama sales took off.  
      • Clothing retailers reported that, though they were selling lots of pajamas, they were still selling just as many nightgowns as before.  Presumably this mean that women wearing pajamas at that time were mainly wearing them in public but still preferred the good old nightgown for sleeping.

      I'm not sure where or when this ad originally ran, but I'm going to guess in England, some time in the 1930s.  The copy is especially delightful.
      (Photo from Dumbbells, Ear Caps, and Hair Restorers: A Shopper's Guide to Gentleman's Foibles -- 1800s-1930s. From The Steampunk Forum at Brass Goggles)

      Nightshirts didn't entirely go away at first. This McCall's pattern for a man's nightshirt is from 1941.
      (Image from Vintage Patterns Wiki)

      But by 1966, which is when this ad is from, the nightshirt was pretty much gone and it was all pajamas.  And at $3.74, how can you go wrong?
      (Photo from 1966 Spiegel catalog from genibee on Flickr)

      • Since the word "pajama" actually means "clothes you wear on your legs," it's technically redundant to say "pajama pants."  But now, since we buy and sell a set of clothes with a shirt and pants and we call the whole set "pajamas," the phrase "pajama pants" has come into being as a way to specify one item of the set. 

      There's tons of variety in women's pajamas now.  You've got your long pants/long sleeved fleeces, your long pants/T-shirt cottons, your fancy silks, your shorty top and bottoms, and everything else in between.
      (Photo from Diva Village, where you can buy any or all of these)

        I don't know who would do such a thing as this.
        (Image from Leslie Linevsky on E-Marketing)

        This is the proper way to wear footy pajamas.
        (Photo from ParentLife Online)

        Online Etymology Dictionary, Pajamas
        Sir Henry Yule and Arthur Coke-Burnell, Hobson-Jobson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical, and discursive, 1903, page 748, PYJAMMAS.
        Ask Andy About Clothes, Pajamas - History of
        JumpinJammerz.com, History of Pajamas
        Manas: India and its Neighbors, History and Politics, British India

        Saturday, June 18, 2011

        Apple #530: Shakespeare: A Rose by Any Other Name

        I've been thinking about Shakespeare lately. It seems like we as a culture don't talk about him as much as we used to. Maybe that's not actually true, but it seems so to me. References to his works are everywhere in our daily speech, but it seems as though they go unrecognized as belonging to him.

        Yeah, this guy. The one who looks like he's got about fifteen puns up his sleeve and he's not afraid to use them.
        (Image from The Life of Luxury)

        So I thought I'd try a little experiment. I thought I'd dip a toe every once in a while into the vast ocean that is Shakespeare's works, pluck out a line or two, perhaps a quatrain, and mull over it a bit. Nothing extravagant, nothing raging-extensive, just a cogitation or two now and then.

        Since I have roses on the brain these days, I thought I'd start with this one:

        What's in a name? That which we call a rose
        By any other name would smell as sweet.
        (Romeo and Juliet II, ii, 1-2)

        This rose is called Lynn Anderson.
        (Photo by the Apple Lady)

        • Juliet has fallen in love with Romeo, but there's that dang business of how he's a Montague, whose family is in a feud with hers. She's engaging in a bit of rationalization here, telling herself that just as a rose wouldn't smell any different if you called it something else, Romeo as a person wouldn't be any different if his last name were something else.
          • Well, there's a problem with her analogy, but I don't want to get into all that because I'd wind up expounding on the whole play and the meaning of choice and love and identity, and you really don't want to read what would essentially be an undergraduate paper about the entire play.
          • All I want to do here is answer Juliet's question about names and roses.

          This rose is called Marina.
          (Photo by the Apple Lady)

          • The word rose, meaning the flower, is descended from all kinds of European words those words came from Middle Eastern words that name the flower. The spellings get as far afield from rose as gul and wrodon. So, yes, Juliet's statement about the rose is, on the surface, correct: the name has changed over the centuries and across cultures, but it's still the same flower.
          • What I find especially interesting, though, is that the original root word (actually it's a stem, not a complete word) is thought to be wrdho- which means "thorn or bramble." Doesn't refer to the pretty part of the plant at all but to the thorny, dangerous part.
          • I find that very interesting because we like to focus on the love and romance and gushiness of the play (e.g. the blossom of the rose), but there's also a whole lot of murder and suicide in there. Thorns. Dangerous parts.

          Romeo, played by Dicaprio, shoots and kills Tybalt for stabbing and killing his friend Mercutio.
          (Screenshot from Romeo + Juliet from Artist Direct)

          • This little pursuit got me curious about other names in this play. What does Montague mean, since Juliet is asking what's in his last name and all? How about Capulet?
          • Romeo, rather boringly, means "citizen of Rome" or else "pilgrim to Rome." So he's either from there or he's on his way there. What's interesting about this is that the play is set in Verona. So the first name says he's an out-of-towner.
          • Montague is the Anglicized version of Montecchio. That was actually a family name and a place name in Italy in the time period in which the play is set. Montecchio, too, is not Verona, and no family named Montecchi ever apparently lived in Verona. So he's doubly from out of town. But what does the word mean, exactly?
          • It was easier to find out the meaning of the English version of the name. Strictly speaking, though, Montague is not an English name. It's actually French. It means "pointed hill or mountain."

          This is the castle in Montecchio, which is in Tuscany, Italy. A pointy castle on a (somewhat pointy) hill. Is it just me, or is it getting phallic in here?
           (photo from Castello di Montecchio Vesponi)

          • Putting the two names together, Romeo Montague, we get "Out-of-towner Roman on a pointy mountain." While that's specific, it's a bit bland and not that helpful. But if we get a little flexible with the definitions we uncovered, we get "Phallic exotic Roman guy."

          Romeo and Juliet in the balcony scene, as painted by -- I swear I am not making this up -- artist Frank Dicksee.
          (Image from Romeo and Juliet.org)

          • Let's see what happens with Juliet Capulet.
          • Her first name is easy. Juliet means "youthful." Specifically it means you're so youthful, your beard is still downy. Since the bearded thing doesn't apply to girls, we'll just stick with "youthful."
          • Some sources say that it could also be the feminine form of Julius, which doesn't tell us much, or it also means Jupiter's child. Jupiter was the Roman god version of the Greek god Zeus, who was the main dude of all the Greek gods.
          • Just because you're Jupiter's child doesn't always mean you have it easy, but a lot of his children did turn out to be gods or goddesses in their own right. So we could shorten this to "lucky."
          • I don't know if I'd call the Juliet in this play "lucky." Though she does get lucky.... Ahem. This is a family blog.

          Album cover for the soundtrack to Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 movie. Which my high school English teacher showed us in class.
          (Photo from Elysium Sound)

          • Moving along, her last name is more difficult.
          • Capulet is the Anglicized version of the Italian name Capuleti. Like Montecchio, Capuleti was both a region and a political faction in Italy in the time period in which the play is supposed to be set.
          • I couldn't find out anything about the origins of Capuleti, but going in the other direction, not into Italian but deeper into English, it took a while but I discovered that Webster's 1913 dictionary says that capulet is another version of the word capellet.
          • Capellet is a farming term which means a swelling on the knobby part of the elbow, or on a horse, on the hock's heel. The swelling is brought about by the animal knocking its knees or elbows while lying down.
          • My family used to have an English setter who was pretty bony and whenever he'd thwump himself down onto the floor, and it made such a loud noise, I wondered if it ever bonked his elbows or knees. In fact, he could have been doing that right along, giving himself capellets. Or capulets.
          • So to recap, Juliet Capulet means "youthful one who bruises her elbows or knees from the force of lying down." Oh dear. Maybe that "getting lucky" meaning is apt after all.

            No bruises visible on the elbow there. Maybe there are some on the other elbow.
            (Claire Danes and Leonardo Dicaprio in Romeo + Juliet. Screenshot from Favim.com)

            • We could thus rename the play Phallic Exotic Roman Guy and Youthful Girl Who Bruises Her Elbows Getting Lucky. Except that would be awkward. Let's just call it Romeo and Juliet.

            Screenshot from Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 movie of the play with Olivia Hussey and Michael York.
            (photo from fanpop)

            Online Etymology Dictionary, rose
            Wikipedia, Characters in Romeo and Juliet
            Olin H. Moore, The Origins of the Legend of Romeo and Juliet in Italy, Speculum, July 1930
            The Free Dictionary, Capulet and Capellet
            Webster's 1913 Dictionary, capulet and Capellet
            Think Baby Names, Juliet meaning and name origin and Romeo and Montague
            Nickelodeon Parents Connect, Baby Names, Meaning of Juliet and Romeo
            Greek-Gods.Info, Mates and Children of Zeus

            Monday, June 13, 2011

            Apple #529: Ice Cream Trucks

            If my blog looks weird, it's because I had to revert to the old settings in order to get the photos to upload. And I have to upload them one at a time. I also keep having to adjust the width of the right frame in order to be able to update the widgets in the right toolbar. Blogger, you're becoming a bit of a pain. For now, I'm living with the work-arounds.

            OK, first thing is that June is when a lot of roses are at their peak, so this is often known as Roses month or something like that. (Sorry for my unusual lack of specificity. The technical glitches have got me down.) So I updated my entry about roses and added some photos of roses that I took this weekend.

            While I was at the rose garden taking pictures of roses, an ice cream truck drove up.  Ice cream trucks seem like such a throwback, when vendors went around neighborhoods selling stuff to people door-to-door or in their street.  I'm glad they're still around, creepy though they may be sometimes.

            • A lot of sites say that the first ice cream trucks hit the streets in the 1950s.  But the Good Humor people really pioneered the whole ice cream truck idea, way back in 1920.
            • Good Humor bars, by the way, were chocolate-coated ice cream bars.  They were invented by Harry Burt in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1920.  His son suggested putting the treats on a stick to make them easier to eat.  
            • Burt dressed in a white shirt and white pants and took to the streets, selling his ice cream from a truck. That was how Good Humor bars were sold for years.

              I don't have an exact date for this Good Humor truck, but apparently it's from some time in the 1920s.  The truck had a freezer on board and it was bedecked with bells, which came from Harry Burt's son's bobsled.
              (Photo from the Good Humor website)

              Another ice cream truck from 1920. It's called the Walker Electric, which I assume means it's an electric car. Those used to be more widely available back then.
              (Photo by National Photo Company, sourced from Shorpy)

              • From jingling bells, the trucks graduated to playing music.  In 1929, a California ice cream man bolted a music box to the roof of his truck and connected it to an amplifier.  
              • Other ice cream men followed suit, sort of.  But for most of them, they had to crank the music boxes by hand.  It was pretty tricky to drive and crank the music at the same time, so a lot of the time the songs ran out while the trucks were driving, and the drivers waited until they'd stopped to crank up the music again.
              • Then they graduated to a "clockwork-style machine," which I'm guessing was a variant on the amplified music box.  
              • In the 1950s, Nichols Electronics invented a transistorized version of the machine. Amplifiers on those systems ran off the truck's battery.

              This is a Studebaker truck from the 1950s modified to sell ice cream bars.
              (Photo from the Studebaker Drivers Club, which has lots of photos of old ice cream trucks and a beer truck as well.)

                Good Humor got out of the ice cream truck business in 1976.
                (Photo from the Good Humor site)

                • More recently, the chime-like music was burned onto microchips which were connected to amplifiers that played the music through a loudspeaker which looks like a horn. The microchip music could loop and loop and loop without any input from the driver. 
                • One driver estimates that he has listened to the same 40-second song 13,500 times. He hears it in his sleep.

                Most of the ice cream trucks in my experience look about like this, except dingier and more run-down. This one is nice and shiny-white.
                (Photo from Amoeblog)

                    • Now, a lot of the ice cream trucks play digital music, which is still piped through loudspeaker-type horns. 
                      • Though the method of playing the tunes has changed, the tunes themselves have not.  They still retain that same tinkly, plinky music box sound.  Here's one ice cream truck song, name unknown, that exemplifies exactly what I'm talking about.
                      • One ethnomusicologist, David Neely, who wrote a whole article on ice cream truck music (the online version of the article has been lost to the vagaries of the internets), says that the first ice cream truck song was "The Farm Pump," which was a Polish folk song. 
                          • I couldn't find that song online, but probably that's because it's real name is in Polish. If anybody knows what it's called in Polish, let me know and I'll try to find it.
                      • Nichols Electronics, which still makes music systems for ice cream trucks, says the most commonly played ice cream truck song these days is "The Entertainer," which is a ragtime tune made popular in the movie The Sting (1973).
                      • Other favorite ice cream truck songs are "Turkey in the Straw," "Pop Goes the Weasel," even "Popeye the Sailor Man."  One person reported hearing a Mister Softee truck in London playing "Hava Nagila."
                      • Most ice cream trucks also sell a whole lot more stuff besides just ice cream.  Bomb pops, creamsicles, push-ups, popsicles, fudgsicles, ice cream sandwiches. Basically, if it's frozen and on a stick or in a cone, they sell it.

                      The Bomb Pop. First time I ever had one of these was from an ice cream truck.
                      (Photo from Best Celebrity Wallpaper Photo Blog)

                      You can see all the treats available for sale from this ice cream truck in Rockford, Michigan.
                      (Photo by Emily Zoladz from the Grand Rapids Press)

                        • Mister Softee trucks have soft serve machines on board. They pretty much sell only soft-serve ice cream. They also play the Mister Softee jingle.  (Except for when they're playing "Hava Nagila.")

                        Patrons visiting the Mister Softee truck.  I wonder what percentage of an ice cream truck's customers are adults.
                        (Photo from Amoeblog)

                          • As I'm sure you've noticed by the photos I've posted here, the trucks themselves have changed. They're no longer the awkward boxy things they used to be. Now they're vans that have been tweaked to sell frozen treats.

                          Ice cream van, summer 2011. Not that fun-looking, is it? But within a matter of seconds, people had run up to it, ready to buy.
                          (Photo by the Apple Lady)

                          Ah, how could I forget?

                          Twisted Metal's Sweet Tooth and his diabolical ice cream truck.
                          (Photo from mmrepuestos)

                          Here's a little something for your listening pleasure. Except I don't think he's talking about ice cream.


                          Good Humor, Our History
                          Steve Hendrix, For ice cream truck vendors, the mystery music works, Washington Post, May 26, 2011 
                          Ice Cream Wagon, The Origin and History of the Ice Cream Truck and the Good Humor Brand
                          Mister Softee Funzone
                          Music Thing, Why do ice cream vans sound the way they do?
                          WFMU's Beware of the Blog, MP3s of Ice Cream Truck Music
                          The Jewish Daily Forward, Mister Softee's Kosher Kin Gets Warm Welcome 

                          Monday, June 6, 2011

                          Apple #528: Chain Link Fencing

                          (Photo by the Apple Lady)

                          Because what goes better with disco balls than chain link fences?

                          No, the real reason I'm doing an entry on this topic is because I received a request! Regular Daily Apple Reader Dan wanted to know about chain link fences. "It's so ubiquitous now, but when did it start to be that way? When was it invented? I would like to know."

                          Well, Regular Reader Dan, you've come to the right place to find out.

                          Your basic 6-foot high chain link fence. In the US, it's pretty much everywhere.
                          (Photo from Hardy Fence)

                          • Regular Reader Dan is not entirely exaggerating when he says that chain link fences are ubiquitous. According to the US Department of Commerce, half of all fences sold in this country are chain link fences.
                          • The reason for their ubiquity is, first of all, because chain link fencing has been around for a long time, probably longer than you would have guessed.
                          • The first company to manufacture chain link fences in the US is Anchor Fence in 1891. They were called Anchor Post Fence Co. then. They say that the first chain link fence they ever installed is (or was, as of 2005) still standing, somewhere in New Jersey.
                          • Some sources say that chain link fencing was actually first made in Norwich, England, in 1844.
                          • Norwich had for centuries been a weaving town, producing finely woven fabrics. But with the Industrial Revolution, people were making more fabrics for less money. So one company (unnamed) in Norwich altered their machinery to accommodate metal rather than thread. Apparently, they initially wove a lighter gauge metal and thus invented chicken wire. Later they switched to a heavier metal, creating chain link fencing.
                          • Another source agrees that chain link fencing was invented in 1844, but they say it was invented by one guy, Charles Barnard, who based its construction on woven cloth. So maybe Charles Barnard lived in Norwich.
                          • Whether it's Barnard or someone else in Norwich, or Anchor Fence in the US, chain link fencing is at least 120 years old.
                          • Another reason it's everywhere, and probably why that chain link fence in New Jersey is still standing, is because it's very durable.
                          • The metal in chain link is steel coated with zinc or galvanized zinc. The zinc does such a good job of keeping the steel from rusting, the zinc will actually corrode before the steel does. That makes chain link incredibly durable for being so light-weight.

                          This cut-away shows, in Spanish, the parts of vinyl-coated chain link fencing. There's the steel core, the zinc coating, and finally the layer of PVC on the outside.
                          (Photo from some site that seemed to be compromised somehow)

                            Chain link fencing being knit and coming off the machine in bales.
                            (Photo from CLIF Chain Link Fence Factory)

                            Here's a video about how chain link fencing is made. I would have embedded it, but the page didn't give me that option. There's no voice-over, so you'll have to guess what's happening at each stage. But it's pretty cool to see it coming together.

                            • In addition to being durable, chain link fencing is cheap. Depending on the height, how thick you want the metal to be (thicker for commercial uses), and whether you want it coated with vinyl or galvanized, chain link fencing can cost as little as $2.50 per foot. On average, it costs about $5 to $6 per foot.
                            • Other types of fences are much more expensive. Depending on the height and whether you want open slats or closed privacy fencing, wood fences start around $9 to $15 to $30 per foot. Wood won't last as long as chain link and will have to be replaced or repaired much sooner. Vinyl fencing, which is often recommended as a least-maintenance option, starts around $17 per foot and goes up to $40 per foot.
                            • Chain link is also a cheap way to make an area secure. Because of that galvanization, it's difficult to cut through the metal. So that makes chain link a popular choice for schools, parking lots, land around commercial buildings or factories where they don't want people coming too close, and prisons.
                            • In fact, chain link comes in two basic types of security levels. You can choose whether you want the top of your chain link fence to be rounded and climbing-friendly, or barbed and climbing-unfriendly.

                            Barbed chain link fencing at the left is used mainly in commercial environments or places where you really don't want people to get in. Knuckle fencing is used in backyards, schoolyards, places where you don't want people to get hurt.
                            (Image from Discount Fence Supply)

                            If you really want your chain link fence to keep people out, you can have barbed wire or, in this case, razor wire installed in loops along the top of the fence.
                            (Photo from Production Fenceworks)

                            • Even as chain link secures an area, the fact that it's more or less see-through can be another benefit. With chain link, you can put a fence around a building without using some heavy material that's going to cut it off completely from view from the outside or, from the inside, make it seem all closed-in and dark.
                                • In the case of schoolyards and recreation areas, chain link keeps balls and children from bounding out into the street even as it keeps unwelcome people out, but at the same time as it allows adults to see in to monitor their children and for the sun to reach the playing fields.
                                • In the case of commercial buildings or prisons, it forms a barrier between that building and the rest of the world, but it's an unassuming kind, as if to say, "Yes, we're forbidden but it's really not that big a deal, no need to go breaking in or anything, as you can see, this building is not that interesting, so just move along."

                            See what vistas are still available for viewing, even when standing behind a chain link fence?
                            (Photo by the Apple Lady)

                            • For all its benefits, because chain link fencing is everywhere, people are kind of sick of it. As Jeff Turrentine of the Washington Post put it:
                            "Chain link is the Rodney Dangerfield of home fencing." It's cheap, durable, and secure, "yet the product's many virtues have always been dimmed by its basic unloveliness and its undeniable evocations of factories, parking lots and minimum-security prisons."
                            • It sure is dang useful, though.

                              You can keep your dogs inside a chain link fence . . .
                              (Photo from Utah Hunting Dog Training Blog)

                              . . . your tennis courts . . .
                              (Photo from Indiana Wire Products)

                              . . . or your water towers inside chain link fencing.
                              (Photo from Production Fenceworks)

                              • Recently, fencing companies have been offering some improvements in appearance by making chain link fences with vinyl coating. The vinyl coatings allow people to purchase chain link in colors other than metal-gray.
                              • Another alternative is to weave slats of colored polyethylene through the chain links. These tend to be especially popular around swimming pools because they increase privacy and they add color.

                              Chain link fence, but with color!
                              (Photo from Great Lakes Fence Company)

                                • In the end, it's still chain link fencing. Durable, secure, and cheap. Thus, everywhere.
                                • One final note: I wondered why it's sometimes called cyclone or hurricane fencing. Turns out it's because people noticed that after a hurricane, it was the only thing standing. Exactly when this hurricane happened is not known. So maybe it's one of those apocryphal stories. But if there's a fence that's stood in New Jersey for over 100 years, then I think this story is probably true too.

                                By the way, I'm not being slow or obtuse about not updating my Ripe Apples links in the upper right toolbar. It's Blogger. The feature that allows me to edit that box has been broken for several weeks.  I've reported the problem, as have other people, and no one has addressed the issue.  In the meantime, Blogger's photo uploader also stopped working, and I had to find a work-around.

                                It may be time to migrate this enormous blog to some other hosting service. :|

                                Jeff Turrentine, Chain-link fencing holds long-lasting place in time, Washington Post Times Union, June 26, 2005
                                eHow, What Kind of Metal is a Chain Link Fence?
                                Production Fenceworks, Galvanized Chain Link costs per foot
                                Discount Fence Supply, Inc., Galvanized Chain Link Catalog
                                ClevelandatHome Garden Center, Choosing a fence for your yard
                                essortment, What are the Range of Fence Prices?
                                Landscaping Ideas Online, Estimated Cost of a White Picket Fence
                                Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, Hurricane fence