What Do YOU Advocate For?

Save the Children. Save the Planet. Save the Whales. Greenpeace. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Habitat for Humanity. D.A.R.E.

Chances are, you have heard of one – if not all – of the aforementioned advocacy groups. These groups use various forms of advocacy to influence public opinion to hopefully bring about change. Some actions used by advocacy groups to gain support and further their cause are mailings, fundraising, phone calls, and radio/television commercials (who doesn’t remember the infamous 1987 Partnership for a Drug Free American commercial: ” I learned it from watching  you, Dad!”)

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“I learned it from you, all right? I learned if from watching you!”

Yet, what about lesser known advocacy groups? The ones who don’t have the manpower to make annoying phone calls during dinnertime? Who haven’t partnered with large scale grocery stores that ask for a donation after you have recovered from the shock of your grocery bill? These groups are just as devoted and passionate about their cause as say, Doctors without Boarders or the SPCA. But they are just too small a fish in this great sea of thousands of advocacy whales (which, apparently, are being saved).

This is when The Underground Writer steps in to offer these start-up groups some assistance. After much internet perusing, I have decided to shine the spotlight on 5 groups that are lesser known … and for a reason.

1. Americans for Common Cents

Don’t I mean “sense”? No, actually, I don’t and for several reasons. Americans for Common Cents (Click HERE if you don’t believe me) is an advocacy group for the penny. Who knew the penny needed an advocate! Have no fear, you little copper coin, because there is a whole group of penny lovers devoted to your preservation. Consideration has been given to stop producing the penny since it costs more money to produce each penny than they are actually worth (2.4 cents per penny, according to the Citizens to Retire the U.S Penny – a group advocating to STOP penny production). For many, this seems logical. All one has to do is dig deep into their winter coat pockets, couch cushions or car seats to extract errant pennies. Pennies can be found easily most anywhere. But for others? A coalition to stop the killing of the penny’s creation was necessary. Hence, Americans for Common Cents was born.

2. Save the Pigeon: New York City Pigeon Rescue Central

Established in 2004, Save the Pigeon: New York City Pigeon Rescue Central was established to, well, save pigeons. Volunteers (or Pigeon People as they call themselves on their website) care for wounded or sick pigeons. To quote their Facebook page, “New York City pigeons have a very hard time … New York City makes no provision for their care.” For shame, NYC!  With all of that real estate, I would think a pigeon hospital would be a viable option. Complete with little pigeon ambulances. If you, too, wish to be a Pigeon Person, click HERE.

3. Use Plastic Bags, Save Trees

Not only is this group hugging trees, they are hugging plastic as well. Per “Use Plastic Bags, Save Trees,” plastic bags take up less landfill space than paper bags because plastic bags weigh less. (Never mind that paper bags are biodegradable and plastic … isn’t.) To quote this fascinating advocacy group: “Our mission is to let people know how good plastic is for the environment.” Clearly in its beginning stages, “Use Plastic Bags, Save Trees” was established as recently as August 2014. Should you want to help support the cause of furthering the use of plastic and not trees, click HERE.

4. The Flat Earth Society

Ferdinand Magellan schmellan! Who says the earth is round? Not the Flat Earth Society, that’s for sure! After a rocky history that included several presidents and one big house fire, the Flat Earth Society was resurrected in 2004. In October, 2009, the society opened its big flat doors to new members. (Should you want to join, but you MUST think the earth is flat.) Their mission? “To promote and initiate discussion of flat earth theory and to encourage free thinking and debate.” If you have always had an inkling that the Earth is not shaped like a globe but instead, a pancake, and want to advocate for this belief, click HERE.

5. Save Pink Bathrooms

About to swing a sledgehammer to that nightmare of a grungy pink bathroom in your 1960s-era ranch with plans of replacing the stained, cracked tile with something modern? Well, don’t let Pam of Save The Pink Bathroom know! According to this group, fifty year old pink tile is something to be savored. Whether it is considered a part of the home’s history (to quote their website: “Pink bathrooms are a wonderful part of our home design heritage”) or now en vogue, this group encourages you to put that sledgehammer away. Supporters of pink bathrooms can sign a pledge to preserve these bathrooms, and can also purchase a “I Saved a Pink Bathroom” t-shirt that announces their bathroom altruism by clicking on THIS LINK.

Perhaps in a year or two … or twenty, Americans for Common Cents, Save the Pigeons, Use Plastic – Not Trees, The Flat Earth Society and Save Pink Bathrooms will be large scale endeavors that are as prominent as the American Heart Association. Stranger things have happened.

 

**”I learned if from watching you, Dad!” photograph is property of Google Images.*

Nice Try

“To invent,” said Thomas Edison, “you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

Many people took those words to heart when perhaps they shouldn’t have. Below are a few examples.

In 1941, a Mrs. D. M. Ackerman of Hollywood, California designed a Vacuum Beauty Helmet. Also known as the Glamour Bonnet, the Vacuum Beauty Helmet was supposed to improve your complexion by sucking air out of the helmet, resulting in decreased atmospheric pressure and thus glowing skin. (And I assume: fainting ladies.) Shockingly, the Vacuum Beauty Helmet was not a success and was quickly declared a failure. 

"You can't WHAT? I can't hear you with the vacuum running!"

“You can’t WHAT? I can’t hear you with the vacuum running!”

By 1963, people were bone tired of answering their phones. Just think – this was way before caller ID and answering machines. Whoever was on the opposite end of that ringing phone was anybody’s guess. Thus the Phone Answering Robot was invented. How lovely! Or … not really.  Would you want this thing in your home?

No thanks. I'd rather just answer the phone myself.

No thanks. I’d rather answer the phone myself.

Not only was the Phone Answering Robot rather large and downright creepy, it didn’t talk. This left its tasks to nothing more than picking up the phone, and not so much answering the phone. Thus, no one was waiting in lines on Black Friday hoping to purchase the Phone Answering Robot (that really didn’t answer the phone). Everyone had to wait until the 1980s for answering machines to be readily available.

Another dud invention was the Cigarette Umbrella, for all of those cigarette smokers who like their cigarettes dry but didn’t mind getting wet themselves. Because otherwise, wouldn’t they just use a regular umbrella? That way, they would stay dry and so would their cigarette.

I may be soaking wet, but at least my cigarette is nice and dry!

I may be sopping wet, but at least my cigarette is nice and dry.

Perhaps that is the very reason why the Cigarette Umbrella didn’t fly off the shelves and regular umbrellas did.

The last sad invention is on a personal note.  My father had some strange inventions of his own. Or rather, just really bad ideas.

His first invention was a type of chimney cleaner. My parents had recently moved into their home and the only form of heating the house possessed was a wood stove. As my father stood in the living room, surveying the home’s primitive heating system, he realized that cleaning the stovepipe would be wise before its first use. However, that was when common sense stopped. Deep within the recess of my father’s brain a voice told him that hiring a professional chimney cleaning service was unnecessary. The only thing those men would do – he reasoned – would be to clean the stovepipe with a scrub brush. A scrub brush that is similar in shape and form to a … pine tree.

Off my father went, chainsaw in hand, into the patch of woods behind the house and returned with a small pine tree. He proceeded to climb onto the roof and lower the pine tree into the stovepipe. He intended on scrubbing the pipe with the pine tree, but there is a reason professional chimney cleaners don’t use trees to clean chimneys. (Bert in Mary Poppins danced on the London rooftops with a Chimney Brush – not a Blue Spruce.) Tree branches aren’t flexible. Trunks don’t bend.

When my mother returned home from grocery shopping, she found a pine tree suspended from the stovepipe in her ceiling. The tree was stuck. Ash and soot were everywhere. The white curtains she had hung on the living room windows were now a dull gray. My mother put down the grocery bags, summoned me and my brother, and packed us in the car where she proceeded to drive to her sister’s house in Rhode Island. She said it was the only action she could think of to save their marriage.

So I would like to add to Mr. Edison’s famous quote: To invent, you need a good imagination, a pile of junk, and some common sense.

All photographs are property of Google images

Want To Lose Weight? Try Obesity Soap And Eating Cabbage

We’ve all been there: spending too much money for some gadget that promises to tone our thighs, shrink our bellies, or firm our arms. Many of us truly believe that those extra holiday pounds are going to be shed in time for the beach with the help of the newest diet featured in Shape magazine.

Clearly, America has an obsession with weight. There is a menagerie of weight loss pills, innovative exercise machines, different types of weight loss surgeries, and bizarre diets. The media is saturated with scary statistics on obesity, and it seems that you can’t pick up a magazine without there being at least one article on someone who has lost an astounding amount of weight with before and after pictures. Snuggled in-between these articles are advertisements featuring gaunt women who all have that same aloof expression.

It’s easy to assume that America’s love affair with diets and weight loss is a more recent phenomenon – but a relatively brief Internet search proved otherwise. Weight loss gimmicks and fad diets have been around since the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the products people used in the early 1900s to shave off those extra pounds included an Obesity Soap that was supposed to “wash away” excess fat (imagine what that would do to your shower drain), and Bile Beans that were nothing more than laxatives.

The Graybar Stimulator entered the scene in 1920 and would cost you $60. No small change for a machine where you strapped  a leather belt around your hips and it jiggled the pounds away (which it didn’t). It appears most exercise machines at that time involved vibration because in 1930 the Battle Creek Health Builder was a popular choice. With this bizarre contraption, the victim sat in a saddle and the fat was “shaken” off (it wasn’t). Just as so many people today have a room in their house devoted to exercise equipment they rarely use, I am assuming back in the 1930s people had a room specifically for their Graybar Stimulator and Battle Creek Health Builder.

Radical diets are also not new to the weight loss scene. In fact, there have been so many rather alarming weight loss regimes that I was forced to shorten the list. Below are some of the fad diets that are downright weird.

In 1903, a diet called Fletcherizing, or “the chewing diet”, became quite popular. Fletcherizing involved chewing food 32 times – one chew for each tooth. While it created rather quiet dinner parties and tired jaws, Fletcherizing did not provide the weight loss so desired and the diet eventually lost its appeal.

The Cigarette Diet, endorsed by none other than Lucky Strike Cigarettes, became the rage in 1925. With this diet, people were told to reach for a cigarette instead of food when hungry. Not only was a cigarette a substitute for putting food in the mouth when you wanted to eat, the nicotine was also touted as being appetite suppressing. Thus, the Cigarette Diet killed two birds with one stone (while giving the dieter a surprise diagnosis of lung cancer later on in life).

Between the years 1930-1950 the Grapefruit Diet made its debut. With this citrus driven diet, people attempted to shed pounds – and keep them off – by consuming grapefruit with every meal. It was believed that grapefruit had a fat-burning property and by eating them with other foods, the grapefruit would cancel out the caloric intake of whatever else you ingested. Although this theory has been continually debunked, other variations of the Grapefruit Diet still exist today.

Swallowing a tapeworm was also experimented with as a way to control weight. The Tapeworm Diet was rumored as being a popular method in losing weight during the 1950s. For those who weren’t keen on the idea of swallowing a parasite and having it grow up to 25 feet long in their intestines, dieters could also try the Cabbage Soup Diet. Similar to the Grapefruit Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet required dieters to eat Cabbage Soup with every meal.

Jumping ahead to the 1990s, quick weight loss schemes did not lessen in number or oddity. Who remembers the 1996 diet of eating food based on your blood type? Or the low carb craze of the Atkins Diet and South Beach Diet? Around 1998, juicing machines flew off the shelves in droves as people tried the Juice, Fasting and Detoxification Diet. When drinking meals lost its appeal, dieters then tried munching on uncooked foods with the Raw Food Diet of 2000. Dieters attempted liquid diets a second time with the more recently popular Master Cleanse (also known as the Lemonade Diet). With this extreme diet, people drink nothing more than a concoction consisting of hot water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for 10 days.

It is easy to poke fun at the 13th century explorer, Ponce de Leon, who discovered Florida in his quest for the fountain of youth. A fountain that would keep you young! How ridiculous. Now, if you’ll just excuse me. I need to eat my allotted 17 pickles as part of the Pickle Diet. (Fooled you, didn’t I?)

And The Award Goes To…

Thomas Edison, Alexander Fleming, George Washington Carver and Eli Whitney are people who are regularly credited for their inventions. Rarely does an adult say, “Who was that guy who invented electricity?” or “This peanut butter sandwich is so darn good! Who invented this stuff?” It seems that we have always known.

Yet, what about the lesser known people who invented things we use everyday? How often do we use an item without having the faintest idea who thought it up? Of course electricity and penicillin are extraordinary creations and I would hate to think of life without them. I would, however, also hate to think of life without my vacuum cleaner and toilet paper. So, without further ado, I present:

The Underground Writer’s Recognition of Little Cared for Inventors

The Pull Tab – You know, that little thingy on top of soda cans (and more recently – soup cans) that we hook our finger through and pull to open? According to the LA Times obituaries from October,1989, Ermal Cleon Fraze of Muncie, Indiana invented these. Ermal, for all of us who have arthritis or a disdain for the can opener – I thank you.

Spatula – Remember licking the bowl after your mom made brownies? That experience would have been far less productive had it not been for Horace Spatula (per an exhaustive 3 minute google search). According to an unreliable web page, Horace originally developed the spatula for use as a fly swatter. The history of the spatula invention is spotty at best, so I am assuming one day Mrs. Spatula was making a double layer chocolate cake when a fly landed on the counter. As she went to smack the fly with Horace’s invention, she paused, looked at it, and said, “Land’s sake! Why am I killing bugs with this thing?” and she promptly started to scrape cake batter out of her mixing bowl. Horace Spatula (and Mrs. Spatula), we salute you!

Doorknobs – Can you imagine life before doorknobs? How did one open a door? With a hearty kick? Very little is known about the inventor of the current day doorknob – except that his name was Osbourn Dorsey, he patented the doorknob in 1878, and he was an African-American. Locksmiths give you a shout out, Osbourn, as well as the rest of us who use your invention constantly throughout the day without giving you any credit. Well done.

Eraser – As someone who struggled through math class, you would think I would have taken the time to thank the inventor of the eraser before now. Pencil erasers and I were well acquainted with one another throughout high school and the mandated math courses I had to take in college. Per another questionable webpage (again, the whole point of this recognition is that we are acknowledging little known inventors), the eraser was developed in 1770 by a scientist named Joseph Priestly. Mr. Priestly, I thank you! (As do my former math teachers.)

Vacuum Cleaner – Many people were involved with the invention of the vacuum cleaner, so I had to take it upon myself to narrow it down. The Underground Writer’s Recognition of Little Cared for Inventors goes to a James Spangler of 1907. Mr. Spangler was a custodian who realized the carpet sweeper he operated as part of his profession was giving him a nagging cough. Using a pillow case to collect dust and the motor from a sewing machine, Mr. Spangler concocted the first portable vacuum cleaner. A round of applause for Mr. Spangler, please!

Toilet Paper – Prior to Joseph Gayetty, various items were used to, well, you know. I will spare you the details of what these apparatuses and methods were, but let’s just say we should all be grateful for Mr. Gayetty who introduced commercial toilet paper in 1857. As if the invention of toilet paper alone wasn’t wonderful enough, each sheet also beared a watermark of his name. While I am sure there were many before Mr. Gayetty who attempted to replace the weird things that were being used in lieu of toilet paper at that time, I think we should all recognize Mr. Gayetty as being the one who brought us our current day Charmin.

 Toggle Light Switch – While Thomas Edison invented electricity, let us not forget the people who made this electrical phenomenon user friendly. Before William Newton and Morris Goldberg, people were stumbling around in the dark trying to find the cord that they had to yank in order to turn the light on. In 1884, the two aforementioned men created the light switch that now adorns the walls of every home. Because of Mr. Newton and Mr. Goldberg, we can say, “Hey! Would you mind flipping the light on for me?” The next time you enter a room and turn on the light (unless, of course, you own a Clapper; then you should thank Lee Boschen), think of these two men. Mr. Newton and Mr. Morris, thanks!

Granted, The Underground Writer’s Recognition of Little Cared for Inventors cannot be equated to the Academy Awards or the Nobel Prize. But given that so very little is known about these inventors to begin with, this recognition will simply have to do.