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Hooked on Tonics: Snake Oils, Hangover Cures, and Other Questionable Medicine

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Stick Out Your Tounge
Snakes, you just can't trust "˜em. First they go around getting us humans kicked out of paradise, then they (or, rather, their oil) become synonymous with quacks and patent medicine. Snake fat, you see, was once believed to have curative powers and no snake fat solution was more curative than "Stanley's Snake Oil," the brainchild of cowboy Clark "The Rattlesnake King" Stanley. The King made a name for himself hawking his wares at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, where he dressed in flamboyant western togs and convinced thousands of customers that his oil could cure everything from mosquito bites to rheumatism. Despite the snake oil's miraculous reputation, Stanley was careful to point out that it was for external use only. Good thing. When the U.S. government finally ran some tests on the stuff in 1917, they found it contained a few ingredients you wouldn't want down the hatch, including: mineral oil, used to (roughly) cure constipation; camphor oil, which is used primarily as embalming fluid; and turpentine, a key ingredient in paint stripper and Vap-o-rub. As for the promised oil of rattler, that snake Stanley had used easier-to-acquire beef fat instead.

Turn Your Head and Cough

Hairballs aren't so pretty when they turn up on the rug, but during the Renaissance these frankly gross gastrointestinal phenomena were prized for their powers of healing and protection. While we're familiar with the wet, stringy hairballs kitty leaves behind, the pharmecuetical version, called bezoars, were more like pearls and were formed in the stomachs of goats or other cud-chewing animals. People believed these glassy masses of compressed hair and food could suck poison or even rabies out of the body. Members of the Medici family, who controlled much of Europe at the time, carried them around obsessively, though not without reason, as poisoning members of the Medici family was something of a continental sport. The bezoar lives on in today's medical literature, but mostly in the psychiatry section. Doctors occasionally have to remove them from the stomachs of people who obsessively chew their hair.

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I'm Not A Doctor But I Play One On T.V.
Part of the fun of selling patent medicine was becoming a major celebrity. Or, at least as much of a celebrity as was possible in the pre-mass media 19th century. The seven daughters of former preacher Fletcher Sutherland found their ticket to stardom when they started selling a mixture of vegetable oil and alcohol, marketed under the name Seven Sutherland Sisters Hair Grower. With a collective hair length of 37 feet, the girls were their own best advertisement and they toured the country for 38 years, eventually becoming some of the best-known women in America and earning some $2.75 million. Not even death could stop this public relations steamroller. When the youngest sister, Naomi, died in 1893, the others simply replaced her with a well-maned actress. But, as anyone who's watched "E! True Hollywood Story" knows, fame is a harsh mistress. By the 1920's the sisters were broke. Promise of a film version of their lives brought them to Hollywood, but after the deal fell through and another sister died the others were forced to leave her ashes in California, unable to afford a burial.

Veghospital.jpgTake Two Pigs And Call Me In The Morning
Folk medicine in Ireland relied heavily on the belief that you could magically transfer illness from a person to an animal (usually a pig or a donkey). These "transference cures" were especially popular for curing mumps and whooping cough. When Irish immigrants settled in America, they brought their belief in transference with them. In Appalachia, for instance, people once believed that the surest cure for a crick in the neck was to rub your neck on a tree a hog had just rubbed against.

It's All In Your Head
Folk medicine wasn't just about inventing cures; sometimes practitioners went that extra mile and invented a whole disease. Take "white liver," a disease that supposedly caused white spots to appear on said organ, but who's external symptoms affected organs of a different kind. Sufferers of the white liver, which were primarily women, were said to have insatiable sex drives. In the 19th century American South, women who had survived more than one husband were sometimes known as "white livered widders," the idea being that they had, in effect, pleased their husbands into and early grave. Although Americans have pretty much replaced white liver with nymphomania, the term is still popular in Jamaica. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for victims of white liver, there is no known cure.


Feel better about your HMO yet? There's more info on questionable medical practises where this came from. Check out mental_floss volume 3, issue 5.

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entertainment
10 Surprising Facts About The Babadook
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IFC Films

In 2014, The Babadook came out of nowhere and scared audiences across the globe. Written and directed by Aussie Jennifer Kent, and based on her short film Monster, The Babadook is about a widow named Amelia (played by Kent’s drama schoolmate Essie Davis) who has trouble controlling her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who thinks there’s a monster living in their house. Amelia reads Samuel a pop-up book, Mister Babadook, and Samuel manifests the creature into a real-life monster. The Babadook may be the villain, but the film explores the pitfalls of parenting and grief in an emotional way. 

“I never approached this as a straight horror film,” Kent told Complex. “I always was drawn to the idea of grief, and the suppression of that grief, and the question of, how would that affect a person? ... But at the core of it, it’s about the mother and child, and their relationship.”

Shot on a $2 million budget, the film grossed more than $10.3 million worldwide and gained an even wider audience via streaming networks. Instead of creating Babadook out of CGI, a team generated the images in-camera, inspired by the silent films of Georges Méliès and Lon Chaney. Here are 10 things you might not have known about The Babadook (dook, dook).

1. THE NAME “BABADOOK” WAS EASY FOR A CHILD TO INVENT.

Jennifer Kent told Complex that some people thought the creature’s name sounded “silly,” which she agreed with. “I wanted it to be like something a child could make up, like ‘jabberwocky’ or some other nonsensical name,” she explained. “I wanted to create a new myth that was just solely of this film and didn’t exist anywhere else.”

2. JENNIFER KENT WAS WORRIED PEOPLE WOULD JUDGE THE MOTHER.

Amelia isn’t the best mother in the world—but that’s the point. “I’m not a parent,” Kent told Rolling Stone, “but I’m surrounded by friends and family who are, and I see it from the outside … how parenting seems hard and never-ending.” She thought Amelia would receive “a lot of flak” for her flawed parenting, but the opposite happened. “I think it’s given a lot of women a sense of reassurance to see a real human being up there,” Kent said. “We don’t get to see characters like her that often.”

3. KENT AND ESSIE DAVIS TONED DOWN THE CONTENT FOR THE KID.

Noah Wiseman was six years old when he played Samuel. Kent and Davis made sure he wasn’t present for the more horrific scenes, like when Amelia tells Samuel she wishes he was the one who died, not her husband. “During the reverse shots, where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie yell at an adult stand-in on his knees,” Kent told Film Journal. “I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film—that wouldn’t be fair.”

Kent explained a “kiddie version” of the plot to Wiseman. “I said, ‘Basically, Sam is trying to save his mother and it’s a film about the power of love.’”

4. THE FILM IS ALSO ABOUT “FACING OUR SHADOW SIDE.”

IFC Films

Kent told Film Journal that “The Babadook is a film about a woman waking up from a long, metaphorical sleep and finding that she has the power to protect herself and her son.” She noted that everybody has darkness to face. “Beyond genre and beyond being scary, that’s the most important thing in the film—facing our shadow side.”

5. THE FILM SCARED THE HELL OUT OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE EXORCIST.

In an interview with Uproxx, William Friedkin—director of The Exorcist—said The Babadook was one of the best and scariest horror films he’d ever seen. He especially liked the emotional aspect of the film. “It’s not only the simplicity of the filmmaking and the excellence of the acting not only by the two leads, but it’s the way the film works slowly but inevitably on your emotions,” he said.

6. AN ART DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT SCORED THE ROLE AS THE BABADOOK.

Tim Purcell worked in the film’s art department but then got talked into playing the titular character after he acted as the creature for some camera tests. “They realized they could save some money, and have me just be the Babadook, and hence I became the Babadook,” Purcell told New York Magazine. “In terms of direction, it was ‘be still a lot,’” he said.

7. THE MOVIE BOMBED IN ITS NATIVE AUSTRALIA.

Even though Kent shot the film in Adelaide, Australians didn’t flock to the theaters; it grossed just $258,000 in its native country. “Australians have this [built-in] aversion to seeing Australian films,” Kent told The Cut. “They hardly ever get excited about their own stuff. We only tend to love things once everyone else confirms they’re good … Australian creatives have always had to go overseas to get recognition. I hope one day we can make a film or work of art and Australians can think it’s good regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.”

8. YOU CAN OWN A MISTER BABADOOK BOOK (BUT IT WILL COST YOU). 

IFC Films

In 2015, Insight Editions published 6200 pop-up books of Mister Babadook. Kent worked with the film’s illustrator, Alexander Juhasz, who created the book for the movie. He and paper engineer Simon Arizpe brought the pages to life for the published version. All copies sold out but you can find some Kent-signed ones on eBay, going for as much as $500.

9. THE BABADOOK IS A GAY ICON.

It started at the end of 2016, when a Tumblr user started a jokey thread about how he thought the Babadook was gay. “It started picking up steam within a few weeks,” Ian, the Tumblr user, told New York Magazine, “because individuals who I presume are heterosexual kind of freaked out over the assertion that a horror movie villain would identify as queer—which I think was the actual humor of the post, as opposed to just the outright statement that the Babadook is gay.” In June, the Babadook became a symbol for Gay Pride month. Images of the character appeared everywhere at this year's Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles.

10. DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A SEQUEL.

Kent, who owns the rights to The Babadook, told IGN that, despite the original film's popularity, she's not planning on making any sequels. “The reason for that is I will never allow any sequel to be made, because it’s not that kind of film,” she said. “I don’t care how much I’m offered, it’s just not going to happen.”

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Space
NASA Is Posting Hundreds of Retro Flight Research Videos on YouTube
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Bruce Weaver / Stringer / Getty Images

If you’re interested in taking a tour through NASA history, head over to the YouTube page of the Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base, in southern California. According to Motherboard, the agency is in the middle of posting hundreds of rare aircraft videos dating back to the 1940s.

In an effort to open more of its archives to the public, NASA plans to upload 500 historic films to YouTube over the next few months. More than 300 videos have been published so far, and they range from footage of a D-558 Skystreak jet being assembled in 1947 to a clip of the first test flight of an inflatable-winged plane in 2001. Other highlights include the Space Shuttle Endeavour's final flight over Los Angeles and a controlled crash of a Boeing 720 jet.

The research footage was available to the public prior to the mass upload, but viewers had to go through the Dryden Aircraft Movie Collection on the research center’s website to see them. The current catalogue on YouTube is much easier to browse through, with clear playlist categories like supersonic aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. You can get a taste of what to expect from the page in the sample videos below.

[h/t Motherboard]

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