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Selling Your Soul for Rock-and-Roll

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (GOO-tah) is born in Frankfurt in the province of Hesse, and he will grow up to be a poet and a natural scientist. He will theorize that plants changed into their present form through the ages... an evolutionary idea. But he will be known best as the author of the poem, Faust, a Tragedy. Faust is a character who sells his soul for worldly knowledge... and then immediately uses his new found power to knock up a teenage girl, proving once again that no matter how big a brain a man has, he still has to watch out for the little brain. The poem and play will be considered Germany's greatest contribution to literature. Every play, movie or TV show thereafter, where the hero sells his soul for power, fame, or glory will be a variation on this theme. The most ridiculous adaptation will be Brian De Palma's film, "The Phantom of the Paradise" (1974) in which a songwriter will sell his soul for rock-and-roll! Finally, Goethe (GOO-tah) will be a founding member of the Strum und Drang literary movement which means: "Storm and Stress". It features characters driven by extreme emotions. Oddly enough, in 1776 a German play of the Strum und Drang movement will use the American Revolution as its subject. The name of the play will be: Strum und Drang, naturally. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I hate poetry but I've read a couple from Goethe (GOO-tah) and they are actually good, even in translation. He also has a string of quotes that are fabulous. Here are a few...
"You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him." [7]
Investigate what is, and not what pleases. [7]
One never goes so far as when one doesn't know where one is going. [7]
There is strong shadow where there is much light. [7]
More light! (His last words.) [7]

It is Hell Pumping Water

Jozef Karol Hell is a mining engineer who needs to pump the water out of existing gold mines in what is modern day Slovakia. The current system of pumping stations cannot handle the load, mostly because it is so labor intensive, employing over a thousand men and horses. It just isn't worth the trouble unless he can find a cheaper way to pump the water out. The current steam-powered pumps are too weak. He'd like to use something like a water wheel to power the pumps but there is no handy stream, so he builds a number of water reservoirs (far away), collects the winter snow runoff and channels the water several miles past a system of water wheels. Then a piston and rod pump pulls the water out of the mine. He will build 8 of these pumps and keep the gold mines open. [8] [9] [10] [11]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
OK. I'll admit that I viewed one barely legible drawing so I can only guess how this pump worked. I can tell you that this effort was amazingly better than what Fredrick the Great of Prussia did IN THE SAME YEAR simply to fill his fountains. He hired a mathematical theorist on hydraulics named Euler and put him to work on a pumping system. Euler was sharp in hydraulic design but his practical experience with pumping water was ZERO! The project failed so Fredrick the Great hired another guy who convinced him to build a reservoir far away and then pipe the water toward the fountain. His theory was that the weight of the water would carry it past the low point and up to the fountains. (I assume he thought it would pick up speed.) All the water did was to fill up the low point of the piping system and sit there. Euler and the fountains stand as an object lesson to all engineers that what happens on paper often is not what happens in real life. [12]

France Is Flipping It's Wig!

The Barber-Wigmaker and Bath Provider Guild takes a very dim view of non-guild members making wigs. Only proper and paid up guild members should cut hair, bathe people and make wigs! It's the law! (Who could argue with that?) The penalty for the unauthorized wig-making is 300 livres (3.24 ounces of gold or roughly $4,000). Yet despite the sensible rules for quality control and onerous penalties, illicit wig-making continues to flourish. (Gentlemen! Have you no shame?) Bakers are also involved since hair is often baked in bread to enhance its moisture. A baker's hair tax has been imposed and rules are discussed regarding separating the hair-baking from normal baking to reduce cross-contamination. (I assume they mean the contamination of the BREAD WE EAT!) Illicit wig making is a crime against the state, so strict police measures can be invoked if requested by guild members. The guild will push for enforcement but only so much. Illicit wig-making actually benefits the guild members in some ways if not the guild as a whole. [13] [14] [15]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
OK. This was a racket. A proper wigmaking license was around $27,000 in 2016 dollars (which was often resold at an even higher price). Licenses were inheritable and a license holder could rent out his license. However, the King would issue licenses based the number needed. If there was a shortage, he would issue more... which would reduce the entry price for new wigmakers, which would cause more wigmakers to seek licenses, which would cause the King to issue more licenses... and so forth. To keep the entry price high and maintain their semi-monopoly, the guild made it appear that there were enough licenses to go around, so they didn't complain too much. Then there was the "double renting" of licenses. If I can rent my license to Joe then why can't I rent to Joe and Bill at the same time? Who would know? Well... the French tax collectors noticed that they were collecting twice the tax on the same license. Hooray! And frankly, the guild members were hiring the illicit wigmakers to do some of the labor-intensive work, so everyone knew! It was a real racket.

FYI: this segment is a summary from a single source, but I felt compelled to point out that guilds have less to do with quality and more to do with monopoly.

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1749, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 344-345. 
  2. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 25 December 2014.
  3. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes (Author of Faust). goodreads.com (2014). Retrieved on 25 December 2014. “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him”
  4. Hesse - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 March 2016. “The Landgrave Frederick II (1720–1785) ruled as a benevolent despot, 1760-1785. He combined Enlightenment ideas with Christian values, cameralist plans for central control of the economy, and a militaristic approach toward diplomacy. He funded the depleted treasury of the poor nation by renting out 19,000 soldiers in complete military formations to Great Britain to fight in North America during the American Revolutionary War, 1776-1783.”
  5. Faust - Part 1. Gutenberg.org (1790). Retrieved on 22 March 2016.
  6. Phantom of the Paradise (1974). IMDb.com (2016). Retrieved on 22 March 2016. “A disfigured composer sells his soul for the woman he loves so that she will perform his music. However, an evil record tycoon betrays him and steals his music to open his rock palace, The Paradise.”
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quotes. Wikiquote (2016). Retrieved on 22 March 2016. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German novelist, dramatist, poet, humanist, scientist, philosopher, and for ten years chief minister of state at Weimar.”
  8. József Károly Hell - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 20 January 2016. “Jozef Karol Hell ... was a Hungarian mining engineer and inventor, who invented the water-pillar (water pump machine) in 1749 (first use 1753).”
  9. Tajchy - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 March 2016. “The region of Banská Štiavnica lacks significant sources of flowing surface water. That is why tajchy were designed to store water derived from precipitation. Channels with the overall length of 72 km diverted water from the rain and melting snow to sixty reservoirs.[3] The whole system could accumulate 7 million m3 of water.[1] The water then flowed through 57 km of channels to water wheels, which powered seven pumps equipped with a pendulum-action system. The pumps removed excess groundwater from mines and the water wheels later also provided energy for mining, processing, metallurgy, and mills.”
  10. József Károly Hell. freebase.com (2016). Retrieved on 22 March 2016. “His first machine was able to pump water up from the depth of 212 meters. Jozef Karol Hell later built the pumping machines in 1749-1768, which belongs to the best technology in this field worldwide.”
  11. Water Pillar Pump,Water Pillar Pump inventors. edubilla.com (2016). Retrieved on 22 March 2016. “Hell's first pump constructed in 1749 at Banska Stiavnica's Leopold mine shaft,was a positive displacement engine,utilizing a system of pistons and valves quite similar to a steam engine.instead of steam,however ,hydraulic pressure,developed by a column of water obtained from a surface reservoir,was used .It comprised a single,vertical cylinder with a control System using simple rods and hammers that directly operted two-way valves.A second pump could be installed beneath the first,so that teh same primary water supply could be used to drive them both and pump water from an even lower level.”
  12. Eckert, Michael (November 2002). "Euler and the Fountains of Sanssouci". Archive for History of Exact Sciences (Springer) 56 (6): 451-468. http://www.austinlibrary.com:2138/stable/41134151. 
  13. Gayne, Mary K. (Fall 2004). "llicit Wigmaking in Eighteenth-Century Paris". Eighteenth-Century Studies (The Johns Hopkins University Press of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS)) 38 (1): 119-137. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30053631. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  14. French livre - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 March 2016. “In 1726, under Louis XV's minister Cardinal Fleury, a system of monetary stability was put in place. Eight ounces (a mark) of gold was worth 740 livres, 9 sols; 8 ounces of silver was worth 51 livres, 2 sols, 3 deniers. This led to a strict conversion rate between gold and silver (14.510 to 1) and established the values of the coins in circulation in France at:”
  15. Alex Shrugged notes: I made a rough calculation on what a French livre was worth. In 1726, 8 ounces of gold was worth 740 and 9 sols. Working on the current gold price as of March 22, 2016, a livre should be worth around $13.56 (rounding up). Therefore 300 livre should be a little over $4,000.

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