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Did you know that the average US resident consumes more corn than the “Corn People” of Mexico and South America, every day? There are almost no items in a US supermarket today that do not contain corn in any form – processed, perfected, enchanted, et cetera – and scientists have ways to tell what a person’s diet are made up of. By investigating dead skin cells (hair, nails) of US residents, they find that a significant percentage
of the nutrition comes from corn – even through the meat they consume, where most of the cattle have been fed with corn, and the sweets, where corn syrup and the likes have provided the sweetening. I guess it’s safe to say that you pretty much are what you eat, and most US Americans are corn cobs with fat legs.
In Mexico and a large part of South America, where people identify themselves as the Corn People, and eat corn in a non-processed, natural form just about every day, the same studies of dead skin cells have been conducted – and these people are less like their food than the US Americans are. Their cattle are mostly fed on grass. Their peripheral foodstuffs don’t contain much processed corn. They, who’ve lived off the corn for hundreds, or thousands of years, are more varied and diverse in their diets than the US Americans who exploit them. So who are the real corn people, really? Those who revel in it and embrace it… or those who unknowingly resemble it?
The most famous example of the Dancing Plague is the one of 1518 in Strasbourg, France, but it is not the most interesting case to date. No, the more interesting one is one of the earlier outbreaks, i Aachen, Germany, 1374 – not that the illness was much different, but certainly the cure. Continue reading
Indian Yellow is a transparent yellow pigment, used in oil paint and watercolours. Nowadays it’s a pretty boring pigment: a mixture of nickel azo, hansa yellow and the tongue-twister ‘quinacridone burt orange’, but it’s been at the centre of a historical claim of animal cruelty: disputed as early as 1830 (the pigment was introduced to India in the 15th century, and from there to Europe in the 18th), the myth still lingers today and is reprinted in (among other works) the Royal Academy of Arts books on traditional fine arts. It is agreed upon by almost every person who’ve done some kind of independent research that the origin of the pigment is another and that the animals were never hurt. But what is the myth then?
The myth is that the Indian Yellow pigment is produced from the urine of cows fed only mango leaves and only scarsely watered, kept extremely underfed and malnourished, and the urine then dried for the pigment. In 1844, chemist John Stenhouse concluded that the pigment was indeed “the juice of some tree or plant, which, after it has been expressed, has been saturated with magnesia and boiled down to its present consistence.“
The interesting thing here is therefore not the myth itself, but that it has survived merely because it involves tormenting of cows by people seen as less civilised by the British, Dutch and German painters who used the pigment, ant then kept alive by authors throughout the centuries, and taught as fact despite the obvious Urban Legend quality of the myth.