Thursday, April 22, 2010

People Are Clever Monkeys

We are, aren't we?
We come up with the most amazing little problem-solving gadgets.

Do you recognize this one?

I came across this picture of this common object from my youth and realized my life has entered history.
How would an archaeologist in 300 years know what this object was?

It is a "spider" or a "spacer", a doohickey inserted in the wide center of a 45 record so it will fit on the narrow spindle of a 33 1/3 rpm record player.

Thomas Hutchinson invented it for RCA in the 1960s, and people bought millions of them every year.

It looks space agey, doesn't it?
Without corroborative evidence, a future archaeologist might guess it was a Star Trek insignia.

Or an IUD birth control device.

I went looking for a photo of an IUD to compare and found these IUDs (left), from the early 1900s. (From the Midwifery Fact File.)
The shaft goes into the uterus, with the button outside the cervix.
I had no idea these existed this early, but people aren't dumb. (Well, not about everything.)

These remind me of advice an old Southern woman gave me in 1978 on the neutering of cats.
I worked with this homespun woman in the cafteria of the student union in Madison, and she scoffed when I told her how much I'd paid to get my cats fixed.

Waste of money, she said:
"For a girl cat, just stick a few BB's inside her.
For a boy cat, wrap a rubber band tightly around his balls, and they'll drop off after a while."

I've been thinking a lot about material culture, looking for simple things to illustrate what life was like in colonial times.

Here's a good one:
George Washington's militia in 1754 ate up most of their food. All they had left was parched corn.
I had no idea what parched corn is, so I looked it up.
Basically, it's Corn Nuts--dried corn heated until it puffs a little bit.

Looking for info led me to all sorts of survivalist sites. Some of them are created by jolly, helpful, clever monkey folk.
Some of them by freaky cannibalistic folk.

Anyway, seems that after the Big One, humans will fall back on Corn Nuts. And homemade birth control, no doubt.
iPods are out, of course, but I bet we could hook our record players up to a bicycle-driven generator and listen to our 45s. If we could find a spider.


Orsino said...

Funny, I was just pondering where I would find one of the 45 inserts . . . but I got a fresh new one in the latest John Lennon 45 bag distributed on record store day. My new one is yellow.

I'll pass on the I.U.D.s though.

deanna said...

I'm sure we have one around here...I knew what it was right away. Not so with the IUDs. Happy researching/writing/following your fancy!

(Oh, and my son is well acquainted with survivalist blogs--I think he follows the nicer ones.)

Clowncar said...

I remember those spider things well. Genuinely clever.

They used to have "The Story of Corn Nuts" on the back of the package, but took it off years ago. If memory serves something to do with explorers encountering an Indian tribe who ate freakishly large toasted kernels of corn.

There's a great, great song called Dear Sara by Scott Millar that talks about a civil war soldier who complains "my insides are all torn / by hardtack and parched corn." But his love for Sara keeps him going.

Anonymous said...


Just read this upon waking from a much-needed, but disorienting, after-intensive-gardening nap. Yeah, I first bought some yellow spiders back in the late 60s. But I had very few 45s; thought they were kind of a rip-off and also lived for all those jr & sr high years in the middle of the spiritual--(and, to some extent, the material)--whoop whoop. Listened to Bleeker Street late nights on the combination short and long wave radio that defaulted my way. Now I'm listening to the Blues Lady's Time Machine on KFAI, where it is eternally Record Store Day--Muddy Waters, I do believe is wailin' at the moment. I remember that the history of corn nuts was on the packet, Clowncar; for the life of me, I don't recall the narrative. We still have an un-opened packet of White Earth Reservation Parched corn that one of Jim's students gave him last winter holiday as a gift. J's not a corn fan and I don't eat it anymore cuz it's not okay for my blood-type. But, I might have to cheat a little today, and just try a few kernels, in honor of your research, Fresca. Might also try to find a version of that Civil War Sara song to listen to and mange, mange.
Your IUD riff made me laugh and resound with some deep cultural memory and some thing I thought I remembered reading about women in desert lands, camels and birth control methods. (My main quickie cybersource was History of Female Contraception- Medhunters).Turns out, the ancient Egyptians used crocodile and possibly elephant dung--(I'd thought it was camel dung)--as a vaginal suppository contraceptive. Various other animal and plant materials were smeared or inserted for similar reasons. Apricot pits as IUDs; pebbles inserted by Arabs into their camels' uteri to extend their infertility whilst caravaning; it's believed the Arabs invented the IUD. A somewhat bumbling Greek gynecologist named Soranus--(guessing he couldn't very well market himself as a proctologist!)-- gave a whole lot of bad b. c. advice to women in the 200s CE. Of course, it is a German gynecologist (Grafenberg,1920) who is credited with developing "the first proper IUD for humans, using silkworm gut and silver wire coiled into a ring." Sounds like he mighta taken apart a violin or guitar for his materials....Re-use, recycle, material girls and boys, we're all the body politic.
Veriword is "aprea"
APREA for you, Fresca, dear, on Earth & Record Store Day 2010!


Margaret said...

What an interesting assortment of bits, stories, jewels of facts. Thanks.

Sick Puppies and Clever Monkeys.
We sure are something.

And yes, the Spider looks very much like a Starfleet insignia of a mirror-world.

femminismo said...

I never knew it was called a spider. We just said where's the "thingy" that goes inside the record. Poor country bumpkins! I loved my 45s even though they cost almost an entire $1 bill. Yes, the IUDs, ouch! But yes, clever monkeys we are. Sometimes too much for our own good. I recall the first time I read in a book that lambskin gut (or something like that) made a condom for gentlemen, I was so startled. I forgot they were clever back then too. Thanks for your visits and comments. You're a gem! (vival is veriword) Vival! Live-al.

Fresca said...

ORSINO: Hey, I knew nought of Record Store Day! Now I do.
(Yeah, those IUDs--don't they look like they'd rust?)

DEANNA: If someone had asked me what those IUDs were, I'd have guessed some sort of paper fastener, like those brass doohickeys.

The nice survivalists remind me of Euell Gibbons, the Grapenuts guy (or Wendell Berry).
The others remind me of Reavers.

CLOWN: Yeah, I could have added, the colonists learned about parched corn (and all corn, of course) from the Indians.

Thanks for the "Dear Sara" tip---I listened to the song on youTube. Very affecting, these imagined real-life people from other times, other wars.

STEF: Wow, I knew NONE of that! I never thought much about birth control, since I didn't use it till I was 34...

M'GET: Sick puppies, clever monkeys, and rum ducks, too!

FMNISMO: You're a gem too!
I always called that thing a "thingy" too--I had to search to find its name.

That's the thing with blogging, isn't it?
One can sound so much more informed than one truly is.
And yet, by bothering to look stuff up, one does become truly more informed!