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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fun with Fecal Matter

There's a show on the History channel called The Worst Jobs in History. Everyone should be forced to watch this show. Everyone. Especially whining, vapid, celebrity whores like Cameron Diaz and Paris Hilton. Watch one episode and you will never complain about ANYTHING ever again.

The episode I watched the other day was about jobs in Victorian times which included rat catcher, tanner and chimney sweep.

Rat catchers, for instance, would catch rats by HAND. They'd rub sweet oils and syrup on their hands, wait for the rat to sniff around and then nab him, of course that meant risking bites, leading to infection and disease and ultimately death. Tanners were the people who tanned leather. To do so they first have to boil the cow hide in water and lye and then scrape off all the hair and rotting fat, then they'd dump the cleaned hide into a bath of warm water mixed with dog and chicken shit to form a sort of "fecal gravy" and let it sit there for a week or so, then hang it to stretch and dry. Needless to say, it was pretty easy to tell if you were a tanner by the smell alone. And chimney sweeping sucked because if you were one, odds were, you’re about six years old, and thus small enough to get up a chimney. Only the well off sweeps could afford those long brushes. For the most part, it was actually cheaper to simply buy (yes, buy) two or three kids from the local orphanage to chimney sweep. Forget all that Mary Poppins "chim-chim-cheroo" bullshit. Most of the kids would develop breathing problems, similar to black lung in coal miners. And of course, occasionally one would get stuck up there, asphyxiate and have to be yanked out, quite dead.

Of course, the further back in time you go, the worse the jobs get. Have you ever heard of wattle and daub, the primary building material of the middle ages? If not, you're in for a treat! Wattle is a collection of sticks woven in a loose join, like wicker. Daub is a mixture of hay, mud and SHIT. People made their houses out of SHIT and it was like that for centuries, usually because stone was too pricey and wood to valuable as fuel or there simply wasn't anything else to use as building material.

The amount of things humans learned to do with piss and shit... wow. Nowadays, of course, we just put it on TV.



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