Episode 27: Detroit’s Purple Gang and the Northern Lights

Episode 27: Detroit’s Purple Gang and the Northern Lights

Detroit, 1920’s, prohibition is in full swing and a juvenile street gang is started up by the Burnstein brothers. Abe, Joe, Raymond and Izzy call it ‘the Purple Gang.’ Justin details the purple gangs involvement in several turf wars, bootlegging and the laundry industry union. They controlled all of Detroit’s vices and they were number one until the Collingwood Manor Massacre, then, things changed for the Burnsteins. 

North of Detroit, Clarke delves into Aurora or the Northern Lights. The colourful dancing lights in the sky that have led to legends, stories and myths that have lasted centuries. Some say it’s a gateway to heaven others say it’s spirits playing football with a Walrus’s head. But actually, it’s solar particles crashing into the atoms in our atmosphere. Find out how you can run your telegraph system with auroral current instead of batteries in episode 27: Detroit’s Purple Gang and the Northern Lights. 

The Purple Gang, rotten, purple like the colour of bad meat.
The apartment where the Collingwood Manor Massacre occurred.
The Purple Gang at the trial where they were accused and convicted of first-degree murder.

An 1865 painting by Frederic Edwin Church, possibly inspired by the Great Auroral Exhibition
A diagram of how Aurora is formed from solar particles and our atoms crashing together
Steve, an atmospheric phenomenon
Green Aurora caused by oxygen, Estonia 2015
Purple Aurora caused by Nitrogen in Duluth, Minnesota
Rare red Aurora in Yellowknife, Canada
Image credit: Chul Kwon
Episode 26: Waco Siege (Part 2) and the Mary Celeste Disappearance

Episode 26: Waco Siege (Part 2) and the Mary Celeste Disappearance

Federal agents did everything they could to drive the Branch Davidians out of the Mount Carmel Centre in the 1993 Waco Siege. Recordings of rabbits being slaughtered, flash grenades, and finally, tear gas to drive out David Koresh and his followers. In part two of the Waco Siege, Clarke details the events that resulted in the fire on April 19th, 1993 that would end with a total death count of 76 people.

The Waco Siege is surrounded in mystery and unconfirmed conspiracies, as is the disappearance of the crew of the Mary Celeste. In December of 1872, the ship (Mary Celeste) was discovered 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal. Not one soul on board, navigation systems missing but the cargo of denatured alcohol untouched. Justin expands on the mystery and @thesoftbrains explore the story in this weeks episode, episode 26: Waco Siege (Part 2) and the Mary Celeste Disappearance.

The Mount Carmel Center on the first day of the siege, 4 ATF agents and 5 Branch Davidians were killed that day.
David Koresh’s interview with CNN on February 28, 1993
David Koresh’s full negotiated radio sermon from 1993
A combat engineering vehicle breaking through the center wall
Live CNN coverage of the Waco siege and the Mount Carmel Center fires.
The last remnants of the center being burned to the ground.

An 1861 painting of the Amazon which would later be known as the Mary Celeste
A map indicating the discovery position of the empty Mary Celeste
Gibraltar in the 19th Century
Episode 25: Invasive Species and the Waco Siege (Part 1)

Episode 25: Invasive Species and the Waco Siege (Part 1)

‘Unwelcomed pests, invasive three
Save yourselves is natures plea’
Justin shares with us his poetic side in episode 25 of @thesoftbrains, he tells us all about the damage of three invasive species. The zebra mussels, dandelions and the Norwegian rat. They’ve spread all over the world, damaging and infiltrating human environments. And human intervention hasn’t exactly been the most helpful.

Speaking of human intervention, Clarke tells us all about the ways that intervention can go wrong. She gives us a brief history on the Branch Davidians and their previous leader David Koresh who was preparing for the apocalypse by stockpiling weapons. Eventually leading to the ATF’s intervention and the death of 76 people during the Waco Siege in 1993.

The Softbrains podcast is available on all major podcast apps including iTunes, Spotify and Google Play.

An aptly named Zebra Mussel
Zebra Mussels sticking on to another mussel.
A dandelion field in Russia
The rat, the most successful mammal aside from humans

The Mount Carmel Center, the Branch Davidian’s home
Victor Houteff, the founder of the Branch Davidians
The flag of Branch Davidians
David Koresh
Episode 24: The Tiny Water Bear and Sesame Street Controversies

Episode 24: The Tiny Water Bear and Sesame Street Controversies

The water bear, the moss piglet, the tardigrade has had many names in the past. And despite it’s small microscopic stature it’s one of the most resilient creatures on Earth. It has survived Earth’s mass extinctions, extreme temperatures and even, space. Justin tells us all about these tiny little ‘slow steppers’ and how they can survive virtually anything. A big part of it is their ability to curl up into a dehydrated ball and hibernate for up to 120 years! 

Unlike the microscopic tardigrade, Sesame Street is huge! One of the most popular childrens show of all time. But throughout its 49 year history, it hasn’t been without controversy. This week, Clarke explains how Sesame Street has struggled with a possibly racist Muppet, a terrorist Muppet and an HIV positive Muppet. She also breaks down the difference between the Jim Henson characters like Kermit and Miss Piggy and the classic Sesame Street characters like Elmo and Big Bird. W is for weird in this weeks episode of @thesoftbrains. Episode 24: The Tiny Water Bear and Sesame street Controversies

A 3D tardigrade/Water Bear/Moss Piglet.
Tardigrade eggs
Adorable tardigrade cartoons by K. Jaramillo.

Old school Cookie Monster with a pipe.
Roosevelt Franklin, who was later removed from Sesame Street, with his mother.
Osama Bin Laden and Bert, a placard that was all over a Bangladeshi rally.

Check out the website that displays Bert, of Bert and Ernie, as an evil-doer below.

Million Muppet March in DC which was sparked by Mitt Romney’s proposal to cut PBS funding and therefore, Sesame Street.
The newest addition to Sesame Street, Lily. The first Muppet to portray homelessness and food insecurity.
Episode 23: Jackie Chan and Russia’s Toughest Prison

Episode 23: Jackie Chan and Russia’s Toughest Prison

The life of Jackie Chan or Chan Kong-Sang is one full of Kung Fu, organized crime and softcore porn. This week, Clarke tells us all about Jackie Chan and his escapades over the years including working with Bruce Lee, releasing 20 musical albums and owning a Segway dealership. One of the most recognizable stars in the world, Jackie Chan has got to have one of the most interesting histories of Hollywood’s greatest.

Black Dolphin isn’t just a black dolphin, it’s also one of Russia’s toughest prison’s. With an average of 5 murders per inmate, Black Dolphin prison is full of cannibals, serial killers and child molesters. That’s right, Justin didn’t hold back this episode. He tells us all about Russia’s most prolific serial killer and the prison that he’s in. Find out why they call him the ‘werewolf’ killer in episode 23 of @thesoftbrains : Jackie Chan and Russia’s Toughest Prison

The Softbrains podcast is available on all major podcast apps including iTunes, Spotify and Google Play. Link in bio to listen, or copy and paste for a direct link to our latest episode: https://bit.ly/2yw94Us
Little baby Chan Kong-Sang (Jackie Chan).
Young, yolked Jackie in a fight scene.
Bruce Lee beating up young Jackie.
Jackie in 1978’s ‘Drunken Master’
A clip from Drunken Master, the movie that put Jackie on the map.
Rumble in the Bronx poster.
Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in 1998’s Rush Hour.
I’ll Make a Man Out of You from Disney’s Mulan in Cantonese sang by Jackie.

The statue outside of the ‘Black Dolphin’ prison.
A prisoner at Black Dolphin being transported in the stress position.
Caucasian Shepherd Dog or Ovcharkas that guard the prison.
Mikhail Popkov, the police officer, “the Werewolf,” who was charged with 78 murders. Making him Russia’s most prolific serial killer.
Episode 22: The Tragedy of Armero and the Cobra Effect

Episode 22: The Tragedy of Armero and the Cobra Effect

Natural disasters happen, it is an inevitability of living on Earth. What we choose to do when presented with warning signs of impending doom can make the difference between life and death. In 1985, there was a small town named Armero in Columbia. It sat in the shadow of Nevado del Ruiz, also known as La Mesa de Herveo or Kumanday: an enormous albeit quiet stratovolcano. The Earth rumbled and smoke came forth, telltale signs of what was to come. Why did thousands of people die?

In a completely different subject matter, Clarke looks into British rule of colonial India. Delhi had a problem with the number of venomous cobra’s , and the British Government decided to do something about it. Somehow, their plan only caused the snake population to explode, and also gave us The Cobra Effect, a phenomena seen the world over where an attempted solution only makes the problem worse. What happened? Find out this week in @thesoftbrains Episode 22: The Tragedy of Armero and The Cobra Effect.

The Softbrains podcast is available on all major podcast apps including iTunes, Spotify and Google Play, and more. Listen in every week for weird history, awkward anecdotes and current events with your hosts Clarke and Justin! 

Mount Nevado Del Ruiz seen from space.
Nevado Del Ruiz about two weeks after the eruption.
An updated hazard map of the Lahars path.
The town of Armero covered in debris, water and sludge, otherwise known as the Lahar.
Omayra Sanchez, a young victim of the natural disaster.
An Indian cobra
Hanoi, Vietnam under the rule of the French colonial empire.
A map of the sewer pipes that ran throughout Hanoi, filled with rats.
Maurice Duplessis, his era as premier in Quebec was called ‘the great darkness.’
Duplessis Orphans.
Duplessis Orphans.
Episode 21: Star Wars Matte Paintings and the Power of Milk

Episode 21: Star Wars Matte Paintings and the Power of Milk

Everyone remembers that famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The movie is finishing up, the bad guys just got their faces melted off, and the government worker is wheeling the lost ark into the depths of a huge warehouse. Or is it a huge warehouse? It’s actually a painting on glass called a ‘matte painting.’ This week, Clarke dives into how matte paintings have been used in Star Wars, the Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter. She explains the genius of the artist Christopher Evans and how he helped George Lucas bring his universe to life. 

Justin continues with the mysterious connection between the Mongolian army, milk, horses, and the plague.  Surprisingly, milk was a great advantage for Ghenghis Khan and his army, influencing future generations and their ability to process milk. We all know the plague was caused by rats, but what role did Ghenghis Khan and milk have in the spread of the black death? Find out in this weeks episode of @thesoftbrains Episode 21: Star Wars Matte Paintings and the Power of Milk.

The Softbrains podcast is available on all major podcast apps including iTunes, Spotify and Google Play. Listen in every week for weird history, awkward anecdotes and current events with your hosts Clarke and Justin! 

The Government Warehouse from the last shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark. A matte painting by Michael Pangrazio at Industrial Light & Magic,
‘Un Homme de Tetes’ by Georges Melies from 1898. Perhaps the first use of matte paintings in film.
Norman Dawn’s sketch from ‘Missions of California’ that details how he used matte painting to change telephone poles into trees. 
A very famous matte painting from the Planet of the Apes showing the Statue of Liberty destroyed on a beach. 
Christopher Evans working on Darth Vaders Imperial March. Filling in the details on the storm troopers. 
The completed matte painting used in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
One of the last hand painted mattes used in a major motion picture was in the 1997 epic, Titanic.
The 100 foot canvas background matte painting used in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The Power of Milk!
An artists representation of a Mongol warrior.
Homemade Airag:  the fermented milk from a mare
Mongol archer on his itty bitty horse and asymmetrical skeleton.
Human for scale. 
Flea carrying the black plague that was carried on rats that was carried on horses that carried the Mongols. 
Got the plague? See your local plague doctor.