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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What was the first Christmas movie?

November 30, 2014

The Lumière brothers, in Paris, patented their Cinématographe in 1895. It was the first practical device for projecting moving images. By 1896, they had already built specialized Cinématographe theaters—known as “cinemas”—in London, New York and Brussels. And with theaters in place, there was an immediate need for material to present in them. The Lumières’ own films tended to simply capture images of the real world: a train entering the station, or workers finishing a shift at a factory. One filmmaker with more imaginative ideas was a British director named George Albert Smith. Smith had already had a career as a stage magician when he attended a presentation by the Lumière brothers and began to conceive of the visual magic he could create in this new medium. He began producing his own films, including his 1898 masterpiece, Santa Claus. More than just the first holiday movie, it used cutting edge special effects, such as jump cuts, split screen and double exposure, which allowed people to experience the wonder of the season in a whole new way.

Smartphone Projector 2.0, $28

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why do puppies and kittens make us scream?

November 28, 2014

Wine Barrel Dog Feeder | UncommonGoods

If you thought you were the only one with an insuppressible urge to squeeze the cute out of a puppy, kitten, or baby, you’re not alone. Dubbed, “cute aggression” by a recent Yale study, the irresistible phenomenon that makes you want to squeeze a bulldog’s face while screaming about his “handsome wrinkle head!!!” is something we all struggle with. To better understand this condition, Yale psychologists gave study participants a roll of bubble wrap and played a slide show of both adorable and run-of-the-mill photos. Needless to say, there were significantly more pops at the sight of a chubby baby trying to roll over or a kitten falling into a basket of yarn. Psychologists think this could be a protective response, or the brain’s way of venting extreme feelings of giddiness and happiness. More studies are needed to see why “squeezing” is the preferred reaction to cute, so we’ll need a shipment of tiny puppies chasing their tails, thanks.

Wine Barrel Dog Feeder, $135 

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can ice cream get you through a cold winter?

November 26, 2014

Ice Cream Rattles | UncommonGoods

Ice cream has long been synonymous with lazy summer afternoons and picnics on the beach. However, studies have shown that folks in the Northeastern states are the largest consumers of ice cream in the U.S. Given the Northeast’s familiarity with bitter cold winters and icy Nor’easters, you would think that roughly six months of coats and boots would render ice cream a mere glimmer of hope on a distant July day. However, the fat content in ice cream actually makes your body warmer. The temperature difference certainly offers a cooling sensation; however once your body starts to digest, your body has to produce a lot more energy to break down the fat. This causes a rise in body temperature. This probably isn’t the sole reason New Yorkers, Bostonians, and Mainers reach for frozen pints while the snow comes down, but it’s certainly a good excuse.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Is your loving pooch a tame wolf at heart?

November 23, 2014

Dog Puppet Making Kit | UncommonGoods


Not as much as you might think. While only 1 percent of DNA distinguishes the Canis lupus familiaris snoozing at your feet from the packs of Canis lupus roaming Yellowstone Park, that’s a pretty important 1 percent. All the domestic dogs in the world today—from the loveable mutt looking for a forever home to the Tibetan Mastiff that recently sold for $2 million in China—are more closely related to one another than they are to their wild, howling ancestors.

Dogs and wolves parted ways about 10,000 years ago, when their common ancestor died out. But what put the familiaris in the canis family? Recent research into dog / human coevolution suggests that it hinges on some of the traits we associate most closely with endearing dog-ness—short snouts, floppy ears, and a wet-tongued, loving disposition. Natural selection steered by ancient breeders favored such traits because humans associated them with the classic cuteness of puppies. The benefit to people was a “wolf” that was loyally protective, adorable, and wouldn’t bite the hand that feeds it; the benefit to proto-dogs was that people would adopt the litter, feed and care for it, and help to perpetuate the species.

Millennia later, we’re housing, grooming, and carrying our beloved canine companions around like four-legged royalty. And they’re still helping us hunt, stay secure, and stave off loneliness. So enjoy the unique co-dependence you have with the dogs in your life. Without them, your feet would be cold and, after all, winter is coming.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Where are all the baby pigeons?

November 18, 2014

Elements of New York Pillows | UncommonGoods

You’ve fed baby ducklings, ogled puppies at the dog run, now where are all the baby pigeons hiding? Considering the hordes of pigeons in city squares and public parks, you’d think you’d see a couple of little ones scampering about. Turns out baby pigeons, or squabs, are kept safely in their nests for quite some time. Known as Rock Doves, pigeons build their nests in crevices that are tough to spot. Once the squabs hatch, they stay in the nest for four to six weeks, until they’re roughly the same size as an adult. After this, they enter their rebellious teen phase where they’re too cool to be seen with their parents and join their own flock. You can spot these angsty teens by the few downy feathers poking out from the back of their necks and their subtle eye roll.

Elements of NYC Pillows, $35-$55

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why did the Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock?

November 16, 2014

Wooden Beer Caddy with Bottle Opener | UncommonGoods

It was a hard trip for the Pilgrims. It wasn’t their plan to arrive in the New World in November, right as winter was coming in and before they could get crops planted. They had a leaky ship and other repairs to thank for that. It also was not their intention to settle in Massachusetts. In fact, they were trying to get to the Colony of Virginia, to the south. The reason they decided to land rather than just heading on south? Beer. On a long sea voyage, it wouldn’t take long for barrels of water to become undrinkable. Beer, however, remained potable for the long haul. And not only was it needed for the new colonists on the trip over, but a reserve of beer was necessary for the crew of the ship as they made their way back to England. So when the beer supply ran low, the captain hit the brake, pulled over at Plymouth Rock, and insisted that the time had come for his passengers to disembark. That is probably not what they were giving thanks for.

Wooden Beer Caddy with Bottle Opener, $45

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why doesn’t Maine like tomatoes?

November 11, 2014

Soup and Crackers Bowl | UncommonGoods

Some might call the debate between creamy New England clam chowder and tomato-based Manhattan clam chowder a bit heated. The creamy (original) clam chowder has been around since at least the 1830s and the recipe has gone relatively unchanged. However, a few decades later, a burgeoning Italian population in New York City began using tomatoes in their chowders, thus thinning it out and giving it a red hue. Following this, chowder was added to the long list of things New Yorkers and Bostonians argued about for quite some time until a group of hardened New Englanders had had enough. In 1939, a bill was introduced in the Maine legislature that made it illegal to add tomatoes to the storied recipe. Whether a Maine restaurant could feasibly get fined today for serving up chowder Manhattan-style is debatable. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find a chowder lover from Portland to Providence who wouldn’t be at least a little irked.

Soup and Crackers Bowl, $25

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Why do you want to eat a baby?

November 9, 2014

Baby Guppy Slippers | UncommonGoods

You know all those times when seeing a newborn makes you say, “Oh, what a sweet baby! I could just eat you right up!” Or that inclination to pop those cute little toes into your mouth, or to blow a raspberry on that roly-poly tummy? Research suggests that you do those things because babies make you subconsciously think about food. It’s the smell that does it. The scent of a newborn baby activates the area of the brain that controls food cravings, and prompts a release of the feel-good chemical dopamine. Fortunately, this hunger doesn’t drive us to literally eat our young. Instead, it gives us a craving to nurture, feed and protect those precious little dumplings.

Baby Guppy Slippers, $34


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