Thursday, October 21, 2010

All Hail Comrade Chlorine

The following post originally appeared at Covenant Zone, and I'm placing it here as well to keep things orderly, as it were, part of a collection of posts on Modernity.

Colour my world

I got an email recently about hydrogen peroxide. I felt compelled to respond. I'll pass it one to the general public here:

[X.], you recently sent me a piece on hydrogen peroxide and its benefits compared to chlorine bleach. Well, in defence of chlorine I feel I must respond with at least this:

In the early 1760s in Britain Josiah Wedgewood was having trouble refining enough blue glaze to keep pace with his pottery production, and worse than that, the wool industry had a bottleneck with the rise of production due to increasing use of increasingly sophisticated looms, and then power looms. Usual production techniques were not keeping pace with the new technologies.

"Traditional methods of bleaching wool involved dipping the fabric in water, boiling it in weak lye water, exposing it to sunlight ofr several days or weeks in bleach fields, and finally 'souring' the fabric by soaking it in sour milk." Richard Olson, Science Deified, Science Defied, Vol. 2. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990,) pp. 340-41.

That process is time, space, and resource wasting. The wool industry couldn't afford to wait a few weeks for the sun to process fabric. They needed it NOW. Where there's money involved, yes, we can expect some clever fellow to figure out how to make some.

Francis Home writes in Experiments in Bleaching, (1754) that diluted sulfuric acid is a good substitute for sour milk that also cuts the 'souring' process time by 90 per cent. Still, there was inefficiency. In 1774 Karl Scheel completely transformed the bleaching industry. (Ibid. p. 341.) He produced dephlogisticated marine acid, or chlorine, as we know it today. In March 1788, Joseph Baker took 28 yards of Grey calico, bleached it in the evening, printed it the next day, and sold it to the public on the third day. (Ibid. p. 341.)

Now, as is happened, I was researching something unrelated to chlorine bleach when I got your email on peroxide, and next day read about chlorine. Who on earth would care? Take a man named Walker. Think wool trade, and imagine plump and sexy Italian girls mushing grapes. But not Italian girls, Scots and English wool trade workers. "Walkers" in the wool trade weren't named as such because they traipsed the glens of the bonny Highlands: no, instead, like Italian girls, they trod in vats, these filled with wool and piss. I'm starting to like chlorine much more. It got me curious, so I looked a bit further, and this is some of what I found. I hope it interests you and your friends and makes us all a little more sympathetic to bleach than we might have been otherwise.

Although ancient methods of bleaching remain unknown, historians have evidence that early civilizations must have known how to bleach fabrics. White cloth was produced by the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, and Hebrews, as well as by the Greeks and Romans. After the Crusades of the 1100s and 1200s, the practice of bleaching fabric spread throughout Europe. In the old days, people simply spread wet cloth on the ground outdoors and left it to dry in the sunlight until it turned white, which could take weeks or even months. This process came to be called crofting, after the Scottish word for a small meadow (croft). As early as 1322, crofting was practiced on bleaching grounds in England near Manchester. In Scotland and Ireland, some people still bleach their cloth on the grass in this way. High-quality linen that was dried on plots of grass became known as lawn.

By the 1700s, Dutch weavers had improved the bleaching process and emerged as the leaders of Europe's bleaching industry. They discovered that linen, which was still the most common type of cloth, could be bleached more efficiently by first soaking it in lye (a concentrated alkaline solution of potassium or sodium hydroxide). After the lye was washed out, the linen was spread on the ground as usual. After repeating this step a few times the Dutch soaked the linen in buttermilk, or soured milk, then washed it and dried it outdoors again. Although major bleaching operations were known outside Holland, the Dutch enjoyed a near-monopoly on bleaching linen through the 1700s. Fabric produced by the Dutch process was called holland cloth. However, this process was problematic in that it could take several months, especially in northern countries with limited sunlight. Furthermore, it used up large amounts of valuable space.

In 1756, scientists found that dilute sulfuric acid would work better than buttermilk and the time required for the bleaching process was greatly reduced. An even more dramatic improvement in bleaching technology resulted from the discovery of chlorine in 1774 by Swedish chemist Karl Wilhelm Scheele (1742-1786). French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet (1748-1822) discovered that this gas is a very effective bleaching agent. Berthollet, who was director of a French tapestry factory, developed a method of using chlorine to bleach textiles. In 1785, he introduced a bleaching liquid called lye de Javelle and publicized his technique without patenting it. When James Watt learned of the method, he passed the information on to Scottish chemist and manufacturer Charles Tennant, who began using the bleaching liquid in Glasgow. But the chlorine gas needed for the liquid bleaching process was not readily available, so Tennant invented a more convenient bleaching powder and introduced it in 1799. The solid powder, which was made by combining chlorine with slaked lime (calcium hydroxide), was much easier to handle and ship to other fabric manufacturers. When added to a little dilute acid, the powder released the chlorine gas which bleached the cloth very quickly. By the 1830s, factories were churning out huge quantities of bleaching powder for textile use. This abundant supply of chlorine bleach helped stimulate the cotton industry. [More]

I have nothing against peroxide, to be honest, but I do feel some sympathy for chlorine. I care enough about this area of history to spend some time reading a two volume book on the history of science so I can find out about, among other things, chlorine bleach. Why would a man who spends most of his time writing about Islam and Leftist promotion of Islamic fascism care about bleach and the wool industry? Look at yourself at this moment, assuming you're not nekked. You must be wearing something, and it is coloured. It's coloured because of bleach and dye. Nature doesn't throw up coloured fabric from the ground: we have to manufacture it, i.e. we must use our manos, our hands, to factura, to work it. Industrial hands can do so much more than man alone. It makes me love machines and chemistry and sciences I can't begin to comprehend. It makes me decidedly happy to live in a world of bleached wool, for example, that is dyed. Better still, for me, is cotton. I thought about this a bit and took out my camera and went looking for things that, thanks to the wool industry and the revolution in cotton spinning, also lead to colouring it all. I looked for things yellow, red, and blue, which you might recall.

Primarily Blue


Primarily Yellow

We can take our modern world for granted because we aren't involved in making much of it ourselves, most of us limited to some tiny fragment of making something that makes a part of something else we don't see till maybe it shows up on a shelf somewhere at Walmart. But all of us together make this greatness of Modernity. We all rely on the whole of production to give us things like "yellow." Some would have us "get back to Nature." We'd have to give up a lot of colour in our world if we did so. Colourful peasant costumes? They come from Walmart. Cf. "Contempt and Authenticity."

I love the Modern world, and in part because it's been bleached and dyed to become vibrant and beautiful. So, if you will, take a moment to thank Chlorine for its part in this incredible journey to what I think of as Paradise on Earth.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Belt 'em out

Recently one of the web sites I visit frequently, a "conservative" site, had a link to amazon's sale on "tie up yourself and your best friends for sex" stuff. I thought that would be funny and worth a look at. Live and learn, as they say. Grown men and women actually pay good money to do that kind of shit to themselves and each other. It's not even close to amusing. I thought, 'If they like that so much, maybe they'd like it if I whip off my belt and whack 'em a while.' I shake my head in disgust. Yes, gentle reader, I looked at my belt, a hand-tooled Mexican leather belt that's now over 20 years old, still in shape, but really, in need of replacement. I can't be whackin' pervs with a belt like this. I need a new one, even if only for my own self.

I'm not your dedicated follower of fashion, by any stretch, but I do once in a while dress up for occasions, and I think it's a right thing to do, to look right for others, to show some respect for them, if not for myself. For just walking around, yeah, a man needs a belt to be a man in our world. Any piece of rope would do if one is unconcerned about being part of the world, but I think it's not for me. I'm looking at a man's belt. I mean this: A horsehair belt.

[H]orsehair products begin their process at the harvesting which is beneficial and relaxing to the horse. First, the hair is removed without discomforting the horse. Next, the hair is treated with natural extracts to remove any and all impurities. After this is done, the hair is gathered into Hanks and then sorted and twisted into Pulls. Finally, the hair is ready to be "hitched" into a beautiful horsehair product.

Hitching is a slow methodical process that can create a beautiful woven tube of horsehair which is pressed to obtain a flat belt. After this, leather billets are fabricated and hand tooled which are later attached to the horsehair strip. Each piece is an individual handmade work of art.

Things to Know
Just a note on this subject for anyone considering purchasing a horsehair product for investment purposes and/or it's 'collectible' value.

There a "huge" variations in the quality of these items as well as the authenticity of them. Also as someone else had mentioned there are differences in the type of horsehair products, some are braided while others are hitched (more much time and labor intensive process).

Lesser quality 'horsehair' items, ranging from belts to key fobs to headstalls, have been known to have fishing line in them. Obviously this makes them nearly Zero in value.

Dark horsehair is less expensive than white hair or colored white hair, because white hair is always scarce.

For a bit more information on horsehair as a textile, check this out:

The people I see wearing such freak-show costumes.... Yellow tennis shoes and some other bullshit thing a kid had on. His girl friend? Well, he doesn't have a girl friend. A kid dressed like that likely has no friends at all. But if he had a real belt, if he had cleaned-up stuff from a dumpster and a real belt, then he might at least show that he has some respect for other people. Even if no one else actually noticed, he'd know he had on a man's belt, and he might walk a little taller, walk a little straighter. It matters. And if he is a genuine loser and hanged himself for it, he'd be able to go with a man's belt around his neck. It matters.


September 11, 2007

9/11/01/07: The Hollow Men at Ragnarok.

It comes again this 9/11, and I turn away my usual thoughts from death instead to Hell.

Six years. Then that morning there, they came. They fell upon us. They come at us still.

Who? Yes, some Muslims killed our own on 9/11/01. Yes, some still try, a few succeed; but the creatures who come, not the primitives, they are our own.

Six years ago I woke at 6:00 a.m. under a bank of lights blazing, the intercom blaring, the rush of men to their duties. I lagged behind them, more than a couple of years then past that I’d seen my friends, my reason for the return and my place among the milling, my reason for returning to the land of Peace and Plenty, Order and Good Government, to see my friends. Two years past of struggle and travail and outright war had passed pleasantly, but it had to halt and I had to meet my mates if only for a shortest while. Mulling meeting my friends, I woke. I awoke. I woke up. The radio voice shouted. I heard the shouting of thousands dead at the New York City World Trade Center Tower, a loaded passenger jet having crashed into it. Thousands dead.

I heard it. I heard the voices say it. I heard it and I couldn’t grasp it. I sat in front of the television with a dozen others and watched the tower burn.

Then the other tower. I saw men jump. I saw women fall. I watched. I saw. I saw the fall. I saw both towers fall.

I bought a radio, one with ear phones, and I listened to Canadians call in to the national radio station to say, to express, to express their—delight. Over and over and over Canadians gloated. Not all. Most. The creatures came out into the darkness. I felt….

Canada. It’s such a lovely place, and the people there are all so polite! They’re really nice. They even queue like the English. I sat on the steps of the public library with my earphones in listening to the creatures calling, coming on one after another, calling, saying :The Americans deserved it….” I felt.

“It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

I sat on the steps at the library listening hour after hour to Canadians gloating. I saw Canadians, arms carrying packages and lattes, Canadians going to and fro, Canadians gloating, going, shopping.

“No, no, no, my child: do not pray. If you do, you will throw away the main advantage of this place. Written over the gate here are the words ‘Leave every hope behind, ye who enter.’ Only think what a relief that is! A form of moral responsibility. Here there is no hope, and consequently no duty, no work, nothing to be gained by praying, nothing to be lost by doing what you like. Hell, in short, is a place where you have nothing to do but amuse yourself.” G.B. Shaw, Man and Superman.

I closed my eyes to Canadians and sat on stone steps. Those few I love were away that day and I was alone to sit with mey memories of war and to clutch my plane ticket to far away. I sat rocking on cold stone steps surrounded by Canadians. I closed my eyes, and I saw Our Own falling.

Canada, the land of the merciful, the compassionate. “How have you fallen from Heaven, bright morning star; felled to the Earth, sprawling helpless across the nations! You thought in your own mind, ‘I will scale the Heavens….’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the abyss.” Isaiah, 14:12.

Canadians. They didn’t kill anyone 9/11. I’d left the wars till I went back to war. That day I sat amidst the dead so deep I have never seen so much death before. Canada.

I watched my watch, waiting for the time of my departure. I would fly. Fly far. War waited. I waited. Clock. Ticked. Slow. And Canadians gloating gloated. Our own fell. I sat.

Canadians swarmed around me as I sat: “Root cause, root cause, root cause.” Root, ‘cause they gloat. They fell.

Canada, so righteous, so nice. “Your beauty made you arrogant, you misused your wisdom to increase your dignity. I flung you to the ground, I left you there, a sight for kings to see. So great was your sin in your wickedness that you desecrated your sanctuaries. So I kindled a fire within you. I left you as ashes on the ground for all to see. All among nations who knew you were aghast: you came to a fearful end and shall be no more forever.” Ezekiel, 28:17.

Hollow men of the Hollow Land, hollow be your names. Yea, though you walk through the Shadow of the Valley of Death, you gloat at the pain of others, arrogant and stupid, smug and self-righteous.

I remember.

I remember my friends, those who draw me here. Even the mire crawling with dull-eyed beasts with sticks has its unfathomable pools deep and filled with love and beauty. I know the Wells, I know the Fall.

I flew.

I fled and I returned, returned for the time the Hollow Men at Ragnarok.

I heard the call and I returned.

With every fall I hear the thump. I hear the thump with every fall. I hear the thump of the fall. The thump of falling, the thump of feet, the thump of boots, the thump of spears upon the stones, the thump of hilts on targes. The thump for every jump. For every fall there is a thump: Of boots on boards, of spears on stones, of hilts on sheilds, of the echo, of the coming, the thump of blood-Berzerker beating.

Six. A dozen. A century. Our own.

Today is not for Death. Today for Hell! Come Hell! Come Ragnarok!