Sure, you know all about the birds and bees. But did Dad ever tell you that it wasn't a stork that put that shiny can opener in your kitchen drawer? Or paperclips started out as proud, Nazi-fighting warriors? And did he tell you how cruise control was originally conceived by a blind genius? From mullets to Silly Putty, lie detectors to karaoke, we've got the true stories behind everything you didn't think had stories. Because if you're looking for answers, In the Beginning is the place to start.
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Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur met as first year students at Duke University. Ignoring the lures of law school and investment banking, the pair co-founded mental_floss and have been grinning ever since. Maggie Koerth-Baker is a freelance journalist and a former assistant editor at mental_floss magazine, where she consistently astounded Will and Mangesh with her amazingness.
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Mental Floss presents In the BeginningFrom Big Hair to the Big Bang, mental_floss presents a Mouthwatering Guide to the Origins of Everything
By Caroline Editors of Mental Floss
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Caroline Editors of Mental Floss
All right reserved.
Arts and Literature
Art: Paint Life Grand?
Tracing the history of art is, well, an art, not a science—so all dates are very approximate. Also, they're approximate because otherwise we couldn't fit the entire history of art into two heavily illustrated pages.
Ancient European Cro-Magnons execute some real masterworks using charcoal and dirt: cave paintings of animals that are miraculously still on the walls today. Pictographic writing appears. The avant-garde discovers paint!
Pictographic writing appears. The avant-garde discovers paint!
The Egyptians make papyrus (it'll be another 800 years before the Chinese invent actual paper). Tombs are lavishly decorated with murals, jewelry, and dead bodies, too.
The glory that was Greece—and, of course, its famous urns, not to mention a lot of exquisite sculpture—is on display.
And the grandeur that was Rome: A magnificent winged statue, which will later be discovered on the island of Samothrace, christened Nike, and moved to the Louvre, is born. Wall art is also still trendy, particularly at Pompeii, as the Roman Empire peaks and then begins a 500-year decline.
Say what you will about rampaging barbarian hordes—this is a remarkable era for art. Tapestries, tempera, fresco, and ink all appear around this date, and paper is manufactured in Europe for the first time.
More and more new types of paint are discovered, and gorgeous Gothic buildings, a la Notre Dame, start to rise.
Renaissance begins, and paintings get deep, showing a linear perspective. Oil paint and pastels appear, and some guy named Gutenberg invents a machine that makes books.
Michelangelo! Raphael! Titian! El Greco! Bruegel! It's the High Renaissance, and in addition to a heck of a lot of beautiful paintings, the stuff underthem gets noticed, too—the era is notable for the first use of canvas.
If it ain't Baroque . . . well, actually, it is! Rembrandt and Rubens are busy with self-portraits and paintings of voluptuous naked ladies, respectively. In a completely unrelated development, the pencil has been invented.
In painting, there's Goya, and the introduction of a new technique called "watercolor." In photography . . . wait, there's photography? It's invented in 1826.
Pre-Raphaelite paintings of women with flowing red hair, the invention of the fountain pen, sigh, it's all so romantic.
Van Gogh! Monet! Seurat! Cassatt! Gauguin! Renoir! They all leave a good Impression (groan). Also, the ballpoint pen is invented, giving way to the art of doodling.
Things get weird. Artists spend the first half of the century building up and then tearing down new movements: Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism. Also, at age 20, Picasso literally gets the blues.
Pollock! Warhol! De Kooning! Rothko! Things get even weirder, with Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Op Art.
Oh, Lordy. Nude sculptures of Britney Spears giving birth on a bear skin hit the scene. We don't even know where to start with the weirdness. Can't we just go back to cave-painting?
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