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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Who made the trapeze fly?

September 9, 2013

Recycled Tire Coasters | UncommonGoodsYou may have heard the old song about “the daring young man on the flying trapeze,” but not every trapeze is intended to fly. There’s the static trapeze, where the acrobat does tricks on a swing, but tries to do so with as little rocking movement as possible. There’s the swinging trapeze, where (as the name suggests) the acrobat get the suspended bar to move back and forth, and uses the momentum to do aerial tricks. What makes the flying trapeze different is that the performers don’t begin on the swing itself, but leap out to grab it from an elevated platform. This daredevil display was first performed in France in 1859, and was an immediate sensation. Its inventor was Jules Leotard, and the skintight costume he developed to maximize his flexibility while performing is still worn and bears his name today—the leotard. In fact, Leotard was such a popular phenomenon that that aforementioned song, “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze,” was written specifically about him in 1867, and (thanks in large part to its appearance in some popular cartoons) is still familiar 150 years later.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: When is teatime?

September 3, 2013

Chai Tea Kit | UncommonGoodsIf this were a multiple choice question, the answer would have to be “All of the above,” because there are actually several teatimes throughout the day. Afternoon tea, as we think of it now, is usually credited to Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford. Sometime in the 1840s, she began requesting a tea and refreshments to help stave off that afternoon “sinking feeling”, and invited her friends to enjoy it with her as well—thus giving birth to the tea party. This afternoon tea should not be confused, however, with “high tea.” High tea is a name for a substantial evening meal of hearty fare, traditionally enjoyed by the working class once their day’s labor was complete. And for those who weren’t satisfied with teatime merely in the afternoon and evening, an additional teatime can be enjoyed in the morning. Called “elevenses,” it offers tea and cakes as the perfect way to sustain you through that long gap between breakfast and lunch.

Chai Tea Kit, $35

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Is your martini spying on you?

August 26, 2013

Wooden Martini Glasses | UncommonGoodsIn 1965, when the Soviets were the enemy and the transistor radio was cutting edge equipment, the U.S. Congress began hearings on the topic of electronic surveillance. The star witness was Hal Lipset, private investigator from California who was renowned for his high-tech (and, some would say, “sleazy”) techniques for spying on people. Lipset stunned the politicians and the assembled press with is array of bugs, including one hidden underneath a rose petal in the bouquet displayed before the podium. But the device that seemed to steal the show was a tiny microphone and transmitter disguised as a martini olive, with its toothpick acting as an antenna. Did the CIA snap up that technology, ushering in an era of spies with James Bond sophistication? Nope. The martini mic had one small flaw. It would short circuit as soon as you tried pouring alcohol in the glass.

Wooden Martini Glasses – set of 2, $100

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How can you help a firefly?

August 19, 2013

Mosquito Garden Stake | UncommonGoodsThose flashes of light at twilight might seem like a lasting symbol of summer magic, but the number of lightning bugs continues to diminish each year. What can you do to help keep them aglow? Many species of firefly live on the ground during the day, so avoid using chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and try not to mow your lawn more often than necessary. If possible, you can offer them a welcoming habitat by including areas of longer grass or a water feature into your landscaping. And the easiest way to help? Close your window blinds and turn off exterior lighting at night. Fireflies rely upon their blinking light to attract mates, signal danger and more, and light pollution blocks this ability to communicate. But offer them a delightful oasis of darkness, and they’ll keep shining bright.

Mosquito Garden Stake, $45

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Where is Captain Kidd’s treasure?

August 12, 2013

Custom Map Tote Bag | UncommonGoodsCaptain Kidd was one of the most notorious pirates of the high seas. He was originally hired by the British crown as a privateer and pirate hunter, capturing ships of England’s enemies and splitting the loot with his royal patrons. However, a short temper, a rebellious crew and plenty of ill luck eventually led him to be branded a traitor. He was tried and executed in London in 1701, but no one was able to account for the vast treasure he must surely have collected over the years. At the time of his trial, a small cache of loot was discovered on Gardiners Island, in the Caribbean—possibly revealed by Kidd himself, in hope that it would buy him some clemency. In 2007, one of Kidd’s ships was discovered off the coast of the Dominican Republic. There are plenty of rumors of islands where his wealth might be buried, but the one sure place to find Kidd’s treasure? In fiction. From the year that he died, songs and stories memorializing the dread pirate filled pop culture, each exaggerating his deeds and his wealth more than the last. So, while maybe his treasure will one day be unearthed, there’s a much better chance that it’s simply unreal.

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