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November 8, 2010

Dolls used for drug smuggling — 150 years ago during the Civil War


What's old is new again.

The caption for the photo above, which accompanied an art daily story: "A Civil War-era doll dubbed Nina lays on an imaging table at Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia hospital radiological center in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. Nina and another doll, Lucy Ann, thought to have been used to smuggle medicine past Union blockades, were X-rayed Wednesday, disclosing hollowed papier-mache heads that once could have contained quinine or morphine for wounded or malaria-stricken Confederate troops."

Here's the art daily piece.


Two 150-Year-Old Civil War Dolls Get X-Rayed at VCU Medical Center for Signs of Smuggling

Two Civil War-era dolls thought to have been used to smuggle medicine past Union blockades were X-rayed Wednesday, disclosing hollowed papier-mache heads that once could have contained quinine or morphine for wounded or malaria-stricken Confederate troops.

The 150-year-old dolls, dubbed Nina and Lucy Ann, were likely packed with the drugs and shipped from Europe in the hope that Union troops would not inspect toys when looking for contraband, a museum official said.

Nina and Lucy Ann [below]


were taken to VCU Medical Center from their home next door, The Museum of the Confederacy, to see if the contours inside their craniums and upper bodies were roomy enough to carry the medicines.

The conclusion: yes.

The next step could be forensic testing for any traces of the drugs.

The dolls were given to the museum by donors who said they were used to smuggle medicine past Northern blockades to Southern troops.

Nina [below, being prepared for her X-ray]


was donated to the museum in 1923 by the children of Gen. James Patton Anderson, who commanded the Tennessee Army of the Confederacy. She has red felt boots.

Lucy Ann [X-ray below],

Lucy Ann

attired in a salmon-colored cape and dress, was given to the museum in 1976 by an anonymous donor. She is adorned with a coral necklace.

Lucy Ann has an open gash on the rear of her bonneted head, possibly made when its contents were emptied. Nina was likely disassembled then stitched back together.

Museum officials believe the dolls were in fact used for smuggling in the Civil War.

"In all of the research that I have been able to do, these are the only two confirmed smuggling dolls that I've been able to find," said Catherine M. Wright, collections manager at the museum. The X-rays were conducted as part of the museum's continuing research of its vast Confederate holdings, believed to be the largest in the U.S.

"People have been so interested in children's toys and dolls from the Civil War in general," she said. "The smuggling aspect is very captivating."

Wright carried the dolls, each 2 to 3 feet long, in a box [below]


to the radiology department of the hospital.

Registered technologist Lanea Bare gently placed each doll on the X-ray table, taking images of each facing up, then on their sides. Ghostly images were then displayed on a screen in the busy radiology department, drawing stares and wisecracks from passing doctors and technicians as the dolls lay neatly back in their box.

"Looking here, this looks like a cavity in the head and upper chest," said Dr. Ann S. Fulcher, pointing to Nina's image [below]


on the screen. "That's probably where the majority of the goods, the medicine, was put."

The hospital visit was free-of-charge.

The dolls' heads and shoulders are stitched to the bodies, which are stuffed with wool or cotton. Safety pins used to secure their clothing, including undergarments, were visible in the X-rays.

The museum knows little about the dolls' silent service to the Confederacy.

One theory is that they were purchased in Europe, then shipped to a Southern port with the medicines stuffed in their heads to avoid detection by the North's blockade of Southern ports.

"The idea behind the smuggling dolls is that even if a ship was boarded and searched, it was unlikely that they were going to do such a thorough search that they would find this medication hidden inside of dolls," Wright said.

The blockade from 1861 until 1865 was intended to thwart the delivery of arms, soldiers and supplies such as medicine to the South. Rhett Butler, the fictional rogue in Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind," was a blockade runner.

A well-known illustration from the period shows a woman tying bundles of medication under her hoop dress for delivery to Confederate troops, Wright said.

Once the dolls reached a port, the powdered quinine would be pressed into pills for Southern troops, Wright said.

Malaria was widespread among Union and Confederate troops. Some 900,000 Union troops contracted malaria during the war, leaving 4,700 dead, according to the "Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War."

Statistics for Southern troops were not compiled but malaria was probably more widespread, said Robert Krick, park historian at the Richmond National Battlefield Park, which includes the site of the Confederacy's largest hospital.

Wright, the museum collections manager, was elated after the examination.

"This has been really thrilling," she said. "It's not often that you get to research a topic that one else has ever worked with before."

November 8, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Compact Corkscrew


Corkscrew with integrated foil cutter and stainless steel bottle opener.

Aluminium, polycarbonate and stainless steel.

5.5" x 2" x 0.75".


November 8, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pachube — "In a way it is a cross of YouTube and Windows"

From the November 6, 2010 Economist: "What made the video-sharing site [YouTube] so popular was the way it converted all videos to a common format. Pachube is doing the same for data feeds from sensors. And like Microsoft's operating system for applications, it provides basic features for smart services, such as alerts, data storage and visualization tools."

November 8, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Candlestick from another dimension


By Paul Loebach, who calls it the Distortion Candlestick.


Crushed marble and resin; 10"H x 3"Ø.


It's not trivial, squeezing a candlestick through a wormhole: the wonder is not that it's distorted but rather that it made it through at all.



November 8, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

"Talk to the hand" iPhone charger


"Sculpted ceramic hand holds, charges and syncs your iPhone or iPod while plugged into your computer."

From PureWow: It "was originally designed to be purely ornamental by York Street Studio, a high-end interior design firm that crafts everything from leather-trimmed bathtubs to square brass doorknobs at its Connecticut headquarters."

"But thanks to some input from the studio's owner's gadget-loving daughter, what was known as 'The Hand' was reconceived as 'Gimme Power,' a docking station for the iPhone and iPod."

Designed by Linda Zelenko and Ana Piscuskas for York Street Studio.

"While it's charging your gadgets, Gimme Power can perform double duty as something decidedly low tech: an eye-catching paperweight."

5.25" x 3" x 7.75".


Also in silver finish, with a thin aluminium overlay:



[via trendhunter and Pilar Viladas writing in the New York Times T Magazine]

November 8, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Rise of the Cherpumple — "It puts the kitsch in kitchen"

The turducken is so over.

Witness the new new thing in matryoshka-style baking: the cherpumple.

Long November 6, 2010 Wall Street Journal story by Geoffrey A. Fowler short: a cherpumple is "a three-layer cake with an entire pie baked into each layer — a cherry pie baked inside a white cake, a pumpkin pie baked inside a yellow cake and an apple pie baked inside a spice cake."

Watch the video up top, in which 47-year-old Charles Phoenix of Los Angeles, the inventor, demonstrates how he creates his remarkable dessert.

The WSJ article follows.

Slide show accompanying the article here.


Turduckens are now American holiday fixtures, those Frankenstein fowl featuring a turkey stuffed with duck stuffed with chicken. Last Thanksgiving, Charles Phoenix created the turducken of desserts.

Eyeing the remains of his family's meal, Mr. Phoenix noticed everyone took a sliver of each pie—cherry, pumpkin and apple—and some cake. "I was inspired," he says, "to combine all my family's traditional holiday desserts into one."

Days later, the 47-year-old Los Angeles resident created a "cherpumple," a three-layer cake with an entire pie baked into each layer—a cherry pie baked inside a white cake, a pumpkin pie baked inside a yellow cake and an apple pie baked inside a spice cake. He stacked the layers and sealed them with a coat of cream-cheese frosting.

Mr. Phoenix made a YouTube video of his experiment, and a star was born. "It both intrigues and horrifies people," says Mr. Phoenix, who collects photos from bakers who have attempted to make the cake. It "puts the kitsch in kitchen."

Julie Van Rosendaal from Calgary, Alberta, made one [below]


for an October dinner club with friends, where each was to bring a dish. The meal's theme was the seven deadly sins.

Her cherpumple was gluttony. "We had it on the table, and it just looked like a regular cake," says Ms. Van Rosendaal. But when the 40-year-old food writer sliced in to reveal the pies baked into each layer, she got "oohs" and some "eeews" from her friends. "People were not only disgusted by it, but wanted to eat it, too," she says. "I think it could totally catch on."

Diana Schubert of northern Virginia found that diners at a party she catered with a cherpumple [below]


"enjoyed the total spectacle," but few tried to finish a slice. "I think they just wanted to try to taste all of the different layers," says the 41-year-old podcaster and blogger, who uses the pseudonym Vivid Muse. Her husband finished a slice and says he got a bit of a stomachache.

Making a cherpumple properly can take three days, because each component must cool before being baked into another. The baker pries each cooked pie out of its dish and plops it into a cake pan, then smothers it in cake batter and slides it into the oven again. Mr. Phoenix suggests adding green or pink food coloring to the frosting to make it seasonal.

Pies are heavy and have little structural integrity in their mid-sections, so many cherpumples fall apart. "The physics of it provide a kind of 'will or won't it collapse' situation," says Mr. Phoenix [below, with his creation].


"But if your cherpumple does collapse, you can act like it was meant to happen and serve with spoons." When Mr. Phoenix, an author and humorist, made a cherpumple recently in Denver, the "cake collapsed into a big mound, kind of like a volcano with three different lava flows." He blames the altitude.

Getting the center of the top of each cake layer to bake sufficiently can be a challenge, since the inner pie blocks much of the heat. Laura Gudde, who works in sales for an ink company in Columbia, Mo., checked hers in the oven with a toothpick. "Everything looked normal," she says. "But when I went to get the cake out of the pan, it gooped up like it wasn't cooked all the way through.... It made a pretty big mess."

The 24-year-old reassembled the pieces, threw them back in the oven and afterward fused them together with frosting.

There are variations on the theme, such as the cherberryple, which replaces pumpkin with blueberry. The Flying Monkey Patisserie in Philadelphia in October began selling a version without the top (and most unstable) cherry layer, dubbed simply the pumpple cake. Flying Monkey says its pumpple has 1,800 calories in an $8 slice designed to serve four. Owner Elizabeth Halen says she sells out in a few hours most mornings. Still, "numerous people feel the need to tell me how disgusting it is, too," she says. "I don't know why, and I don't care. I am a baker, not a health-food nut."

Other food artists have adapted the theme to their own work. Megan Seling, a 30-year-old Seattle writer, concocted a cupcake last Easter baked around a Cadbury Creme Egg. It landed on ThisIsWhyYoureFat.com, which chronicles high-calorie foods. Then Ms. Seling heard of the cherpumple from a friend. Making a whole cherpumple would be expensive, she figured, so she baked a miniature cherry pie into a chocolate cupcake. It was a hit with friends, so she set up BakeItInaCake.com, where she began posting recipes for cupcakes with baked-in treats such as tiny pumpkin pies [below],


baklava and donuts.

"This is taking the cupcake trend to a ridiculous—but also, hopefully, delicious—level," she says. After inventing dozens of new cupcakes, Ms. Seling and her boyfriend each gained about five pounds, she says.

Many cherpumplers say they're drawn to the challenge of combining foods that don't normally go together. Brian Driscoll of Sandusky, Ohio, made a single-stack pie-cake recently and plans to go for the full cherpumple at a Thanksgiving meal with friends. Themed around layers, the menu also includes a turducken and a layered bean casserole. "Once we set our minds to something like this," he says, "we are going to see it through."




Charles Phoenix's cherpumple recipe.

November 8, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wake Me Up Button


"Exhausted commuters, your worries are over. Simply add your destination to the button, wear, and then proceed to fall asleep in your seat, safe in the knowledge that you will be woken up before you find yourself locked in a bus station for the night."

$7 CAD (Personal Accessories, page 9).

November 8, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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