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Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can You Lose Yourself to Dance?

January 11, 2016

First Dance Personalized Art | UncommonGoods
Yes, you can!

In what could have been an excellent prequel to the tiny town in Footloose, around 400 people fell victim to a dancing outbreak in Strasbourg, Alsace (now part of France). It all began sometime in mid-July 1518 with just one woman. She stepped out onto the street and—like Baby once she got out of that corner—she danced. And danced. Aaaaand danced. Within a week, the same force consumed about 100 more people.

In what could have been a plot device for a 1940s movie musical, town officials figured the best way to deal with this madness was to just go with it—and so they set up musicians in reserved guildhalls, pipers and all. By the end of August 1518, almost 400 people had experienced the madness and it didn’t recede until early September. Some even died from weak hearts.

So what happened? Compulsive dancing had been seen before, but nothing quite at this Studio 54-level scope. The most popular theory attributes the dance fever to a trance-like state. Things in Strasbourg weren’t too great at the time—the city’s poor were suffering from severe famine and disease—and they also believed in St. Vitus, a saint who was thought to have the power to take over minds and inflict compulsive dance. This belief, along with an ever-unraveling daily life could have led to a trance-like state that made them act out the part of the accursed.

This is all speculation, of course. We don’t know exactly what caused or ended this nonstop dance party, but we do know that a dance craze of this magnitude hasn’t been seen since—unless, of course, you count the Macarena craze of the 1990s, which can still be observed at your cousin’s wedding, your nephew’s bar mitzvah, and on late, late nights at the karaoke bar.

 

 

First Dance Personalized Art | $300.00 – 500.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Makes Brooklyn Great?

December 18, 2015

Neighborhood Leaf Map | UncommonGoodsNeighborhood Leaf Maps

Brooklyn! How we love your tree-lined streets, your tiny restaurants with expansive backyards, and your many, many, many bicycles! We got our start in Manhattan’s West Village, and though we can see the Chrysler Building and a thousand tiny windows light up every night from our office window, we can’t help but get the warm fuzzies when we think about our home, the borough that brought us Coney Island, Peggy Olson, and Twizzlers.

And so, as you begin to order and receive your goods (many of which are shipped from the very same Sunset Park building where this is being written) enjoy a few Uncommon facts that make our borough so beloved.
Steel Pizza Cutter | UncommonGoods

Steel Pizza Cutter

1. Until 1898, Brooklyn was its own separate city. In order to strengthen resources and economic growth, lawmakers decided to merge with New York City. Double the bagels, double the pizza. We consider it a win.

Coffee Straws | UncommonGoods

Coffee Straws

2. Brooklyn has approximately 2.5 million residents. If it were separated from the rest of New York City, Brooklyn would become the fourth most populous city in the country. This would explain the lines in the coffee shops.

Coney Island Reclaimed Wood Coasters | UncommonGoodsConey Island Reclaimed Wood Coasters

3. The first roller coaster in America opened at Coney Island in 1884. It was known as a switchback railway, it cost a nickel to ride, and it traveled at a blistering six miles per hour. Hold on to your hats!

The Tourist Babysuit | UncommonGoods

The Tourist Babysuit

4. Coney Island also saved the lives of roughly 6,500 premature babies. In 1903, Dr. Martin A. Couney wanted to treat the infants using an incubator he’d developed but no hospital would fund his research until he had proof that it would work. Coney Island funded his study on the one condition that the research be done out in the open…in the amusement park’s sideshow. Visitors paid a dime to look through the makeshift hospital ward’s window, allowing a rare glimpse of the medical marvels. Parents of the infants were never charged for the treatment and by 1943, hospitals were finally convinced to open their own preemie wards.

Tote Along Picnic Blanket | UncommonGoods

Tote Along Picnic Blanket

5. Brooklyn’s Prospect Park makes up the borough’s largest green space, measuring at 585 acres. Frederick Law Olmsted, the same designer behind New York City’s Central Park, designed it. When asked which park he preferred, he said his Brooklyn creation was the nicer of the two. Bring a picnic blanket and a couple croissants on a beautiful fall day and we can’t argue.

Balloons Over Brooklyn Bridge | UncommonGoodsBalloons Over Brooklyn Bridge

6. Some things invented in Brooklyn: the deep-fried Twinkie, teddy bears, the roller coaster, and the first bank credit card—so pretty much, your ideal weekend.Elephant Bookends | UncommonGoodsElephant Family Bookends

7. When it opened to the public on May 24, 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. After a year of use, some pedestrians were still skeptical about the safety of the bridge. In order to prove its stability, P.T. Barnum walked 21 elephants over the bridge in 1884.

She Believed She Could Framed Art Block | UncommonGoods

 She Believed She Could Framed Art Block

8. The Brooklyn Bridge was essentially completed by a woman. Emily Warren Roebling’s husband Washington was the civil engineer tasked with the job, but became bed-ridden after developing caisson disease. Taking over dealings with politicians, engineers, and contractors, Emily stepped in as the first woman field engineer, using her own knowledge along with input from her husband to spend the next fourteen years finishing the bridge. She was the first person to take the journey across the bridge upon completion.

Brooklyn Bridge |UncommonGoodsBrooklyn Bridge

9. The first animal to cross the bridge was a rooster. We could tell you more about why, like how the rooster was seen as a symbol of victory, but we’d much prefer to linger on the image of a street smart rooster making his way to the city.

Brooklyn Map Throw | UncommonGoodsBrooklyn Map Throw

10. In 2006, workers discovered a bomb shelter from the Cuban Missile Crisis in the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was filled with water, 352,000 packets of crackers, and blankets. A label inside said: FOR USE, AFTER ENEMY ATTACK. No one’s sure who exactly was meant to benefit from the high, yet low profile safe place.

DIY Embroidery Poster Brooklyn Bridge | UncommonGoodsDIY Embroidery Poster Brooklyn Bridge

 

11. Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood (setting of Saturday Night Fever and birthplace of fictional Mad Men character Peggy Olson) was originally called Yellow Hook. However, after a yellow fever plague spread throughout the area in the 1840s, residents decided it was time for a name change. Florist James Weir suggested Bay Ridge and it was formally adopted in 1853.

Adventure Filter Water Bottle | UncommonGoods

Adventure Filter Water Bottle

12. The bad news: The 1.8 mile long Gowanus Canal is one of the most heavily contaminated water bodies in the nation. The good news: It’s now a superfund sight and the EPA is going to clean it up. The crazy news: We have absolutely no idea what’s growing/living in there. Even the EPA is clueless and believes the hostile environment could have spawned an entirely new species. See? Even our environmental issues are adventures in science!

Classic Home Portrait | UncommonGoodsClassic Home Portrait

13. Brooklyn loves its brownstones. We love brownstones so much that we build fake ones to house subway maintenance and ventilation sites. At 58 Joralemon Street, you’ll find a stately brownstone with blacked out windows—the only inclination that the building’s façade is…well, a façade. The building also provides emergency exits and electrical conversion for the trains. How’s that for urban camouflage?

Why You're So Awesome | UncommonGoodsWhy You’re So Awesome by Me Book

14. Some awesome people who first became awesome in Brooklyn (in no particular order of awesomeness or relevance): Jean-Michel Basquiat, Scott Baio, Pat Benetar, Mel Brooks, Steve Buscemi, Tony Danza, Richard Dreyfuss, Edie Falco, Lena Horne, Michael Jordan, Jimmy Kimmel, Eddie Murphy, Rosie Perez, Lou Reed, Carl Sagan, Barbara Streisand. Also Mario—the fictional game character that jumps on mushrooms and sometimes sprouts a raccoon tail with which to fly. Who knew?

Men's Military Field Grooming Set | UncommonGoodsMen’s Military Field Grooming Set

15. UncommonGoods is located in Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal—the same place where Elvis Presley shipped out for an eighteen-month tour of duty on September 22, 1958.

Mason Jar Speaker & Amplifier | UncommonGoods

Mason Jar Speaker & Amplifier

Want some unofficial Uncommon Knowledge? Nothing beats the pizza, dog-friendly bars, and free concerts in the park. Also, drinking out of a mason jar while wearing flannel has been proven (no it hasn’t) to increase the enjoyment of said beverage by as much as 90%.

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Are Mermaids Real?

December 18, 2015

Mermaid Lawn Sculpture | UncommonGoods

If you ask Christopher Columbus, yes they sure are.

Let’s just say that 1493 was a confusing time for Chris. He’d just taken three ships across the Atlantic with the goal of finding a western trade route to Asia and ended up finding the Americas instead. He probably wanted to keep this discovery streak going, and when he finally saw the mythical half-female, half-fish creatures off the coast of the Dominican Republic, he was pretty stoked to tell everyone about it.

He complained that the mermaids were “not half as beautiful as they are painted,” which was probably as disappointing for him as it was accurate, as he was actually looking at manatees, slow-moving aquatic mammals with human-like eyes, bulbous faces, and paddle-like tails. Cue manatees everywhere wanting to be part of our world.

 

Mermaid Lawn Sculpture | $180.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Do Blondes Have More Fun When They’re Lions?

December 14, 2015

Lion Booties | UncommonGoods

Unfortunately, no. Blonde lions don’t have much fun at all. For a long time, biologists were stumped about the subtle nuances in a lion’s mane. They knew they could factor in to mating, but other than vanity, what message did they send? Turns out the color and length of a lion’s mane can alter dramatically in a short time, depending on nourishment, habitat, and testosterone levels. When a male lion is going through a rough patch, his mane will be lighter. This sends a message to potential mates that now might not be the best time. To see how this manifested itself, researchers set up lion dummies in a habitat, each outfitted with a different mane—from the healthy and long darker manes to short and light. They then blasted the sounds of hyenas at a kill to act as a dinner bell to the lions. Nine times out of ten, the female lions gathered around the long, dark-maned lion. Yet another win for tall, dark, and handsome.

Lion Booties | $25

Uncommon Knowledge

Do Your Genes Make You Wander?

December 7, 2015

Cork Globe | UncommonGoodsWe all have those friends who update their social media from a different country every month; who come home for the holidays with stories of faraway lands, intoxicating food, and future adventures. So what makes some chase waterfalls while others are more than happy to stick the rivers and the lakes that they’re used to?

Turns out, your genetics can determine whether you’re a nester or a wanderluster. In 1999, a group of four scientists at UC Irvine set out to explore the migration patterns and gene pool distribution of prehistoric human beings. Originally intending to find a link between the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) and Attention Deficit Disorder, they discovered another correlation: people with DRD4 genes tend to be thrill-seeking and migratory.

Almost all of the study participants with this gene had a long history of traveling—and this phenomenon can be traced back to where we came from and whether our ancestors were migratory. Only a small portion of the genetic pool contains this trait. Most of the population prefers to “develop intensive methods for using limited amounts of land.” Possessors of the DRD4 gene, however, are intent on seeking out uninhabited (or in modern times, unfamiliar) lands to find fresh resources. Happy travels!

Cork Globe | $129.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can a Sheep Say They Never Forget a Face?

December 4, 2015

Recycled Glass Sheep Night Light | UncommonGoods

It’s a refrain uttered at many a cocktail party: “Oh, sorry, buddy I’m terrible with names; great at faces, though!” This might make Jim? Bill? Bob? Steve? feel a little unappreciated, but it is technically true. Humans can recognize hundreds, if not thousands of individual faces. Sheep, however? They may not fare as well at a high school reunion.

Studies have shown that sheep can only recognize the individual faces of up to 50 sheep. While their facial recognition skills are rather sophisticated compared to other animals, what if a sheep wants to see the world? Go to college? Start a 51-sheep dance troupe? Could get tricky. A team of British scientists put sheep’s memory to the test by showing them 25 pairs of sheep faces, with one out of each pair being associated with a food reward. After about 30 trials, sheep were about to correctly recognize the food-related faces 80% of the time. In the following weeks, sheep were shown photos of the same sheep, only this time the photos were of their profiles, rather than head-on shots. Sheep were still able to recognize the food-related sheep, even though they’d never seen them from that perspective before. However, these memories eventually began to fade and after 600-800 days, their recognition levels began to decline.

So if you’re going to upset a sheep, maybe wait a solid 800 days to come around again.

 

Recycled Glass Sheep Night Light | $38.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Is There Any Rhyme or Reason to Area Codes?

December 3, 2015

Talk Dock | UncommonGoods
Most people know that ZIP codes are roughly geographic, but area codes seem a bit more random. Why is New York 212 while Los Angeles is 213? Turns out, it can all be traced back to the rotary phone.

Before 1951, all long distance phone calls required an operator’s assistance. Once operators were cut out of the equation, the phone system’s infrastructure was in need of an organized routing system. Since everyone used rotary phones, area codes were given out with dialing speed in mind. The bigger the city, the less time you have to wait for the numbers to loop around. New York’s 212 took only 5 clicks to register while Nova Scotia’s 902 took a whole 21.

Until recently, all area codes had either a 1 or a 0 in the middle number so local calls could still be dialed without the area code. (The central computer was programmed to know that a second digit of 0 or 1 meant an area code, so it would wait to receive all ten digits before making the call.) However, the addition of cell phones and countless new phone numbers made this an impossible standard to keep up.

Talk Dock | $36.00

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What puts the “X” in “X-Ray”?

November 30, 2015

uk_113015Sure, there are rays involved, but why the X? The X-ray came to be almost by accident as professor Wilhelm Roentgen was experimenting with the conduction of electricity through low-pressure gases in 1895—as one does during a quiet evening at home. While using an induction coil and partially evacuated glass tube, he discovered a mysterious ray capable of lighting up a fluorescent screen a few meters away. When he passed his hand between the ray and the screen, he saw a shadow of his own bones. Rather than freaking out and questioning the meaning of life, as we’re sure we would have done, he calmly continued his experiment and found that the screen could be replaced with a photographic plate—thus beginning a revolutionary milestone in modern medicine. So why the x? To math lovers, it would seem obvious: x is used as the unknown quantity. And what could have been more unknown at that time than the inner workings of our own bodies?

Plush Organs | $19

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