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Walter Isaacson set out to write about a world-changing genius in Elon Musk and found a man addicted to chaos and conspiracy.


I'm thinking it's idiotic to buy Twitter because he doesn't have a fingertips feel for social, emotional networks.


The book launched a thousand hot takes, so I sat down with Isaacson to try to get past.


The noise. I like the fact that people who say I'm not as tough on Musk as I should be are always using anecdotes from my book to show why we should be tough on Musk.


Join me, Evan Ratliff, for On Musk with Walter Isaacson. Listen on the iHeart Radio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.


Hey, and welcome to The Shortstuff. I'm Josh, and there's Chuck, and Dave Sears here in Spirit, Jerry's here in Spirit. Let's go. Let's start talking about a color, a really interesting color.


Yeah. This is the first of a two-part series on color.


An accidental series, really.


That's right. In this one, we're going to be talking about Schielesgreen, S-C-H-E-E-L-E, or Schlasgreen. Schlas is pretty obviously spelled, I think.


Is that just another name for Schiel or something? Or was that Karl Wilhelm Schiel, his hotel name? How did it come to be Schloss as well?


I don't know. I thought.


You knew. I don't know.


I have no idea, actually.


Well, I spilled the beans, Chuck. It is named after Karl Wilhelm Schiel, who was the guy who discovered it. So it's appropriate that it would be named after him.


That's right. He was a German, Swedish chemist, a pharmaceutical chemist. Here's the deal. He created this amazingaccidentally created this amazing shade of green that took the world by storm. But the big problem with it is that it killed people.


Yeah, it is a big problem, and it killed people.


And that's not funny. I laughed because of the way I said it.


Well, it happened a long time ago, so you can laugh now. But it killed a lot of people in some really horrible ways. I was just kidding about laughing at Misfortune that's appropriately old, anyway.


Well, tragedy is, or comedy is tragedy plus time, right?


Oh, man, that's great. You should market that.


Yeah, I just made it up.


So yeah, it was a terribly toxic color. Paris Review wrote a really interesting article on it. In it, they called, Sheil's Green blisteringly toxic. The thing that was toxic about it was arsenic, as we'll see. But Carl Wilhelm Sheil, he came up with it, supposedly almost accidentally, according to Victoria Finney, who's a historian who wrote a book called The Brilliant History of Color and Art. God bless Victoria Finney for not using a colon. That's right. But she said it was almost accidental. I don't know what he was doing, but he heated some sodium carbonate, he added some arcinous oxide.




It a good stir, and then he added some copper sulfate. And when that happened, he found that he had a really brilliant green.


That's right. It was brilliant, but he knew that it was toxic. And about a year before it was released to the public, he, as legend goes, wrote to a friend of his and said, Hey, I'm worried about this stuff being toxic. And apparently, it didn't matter because people went nuts for the stuff. Arsenal had been around for a long time, so people knew it was poisonous because it was a great murder poison for many, many years because it has fairly unspecific symptoms as far as poisoning people goes. So up until 1830, when the Marsh test was invented by James Marsh, which basically roots out arsenic, it was a pretty good way to kill somebody.


Yeah, like you said, you could attribute the symptoms of acute arsenic poisoning to a lot of things. You've got vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea. That's like a hangover. A lot of things can do that. Sure. What are you drinking?




And then later on, you've got numbness and tingling of the extremities. You could have been like, I've been sitting too long, maybe, muscle cramping, and then you die. You go kerplots.


That's right. And that's acute poisoning, the long-term exposure. And we're talking over the order of three to five years thing, it can also be really bad. And you usually find that in the skin, like you might have lesions, the color of your skin might change. Apparently, you can get very patchy, like hard patches on your feet and your palms, like the bottoms of your feet. And it can give you cancer. It's a known carcinogen now. I don't think it was at the time. I think they just thought this is a heck of a good poison.


Yeah, that's the thing. I'm not sure if it's clear that Shiel's spilled the beans himself, but somebody did because it was common knowledge that Shiel's Green was toxic with arsenic. Yet, as we'll see, people used it all the time. It took off like gangbusters, basically, the moment it was available as a pigment. It's not because the people of the age were dumb or didn't care about dying. In their experience, arsenic was hit or miss. Some people it seemed to poison very acutely, other people seemed to be fine as far as acute poisoning goes. There wasn't an awareness yet of long-term exposure of poisoning. Exactly. What's ironic is it turns out it seems to have been Shiels Green that introduced the Victorian public to the idea that you could suffer really horrible consequences from long-term exposure to arsenic, even though along the way, you don't seem like you have acute poisoning.


Exactly. Maybe we should take our break here.




And we've hinted around about how this stuff took off. We'll talk more about that right after this.


Learning stuff with Joshua and Charles, stuff you should do.


Osh County, Oklahoma is getting a lot of attention right now. It's the setting of Martin Scorsese's latest film, Killers of the flower Moon. The movie is based on a book about the 1920s, Osage murders, when white men poured into Osage County and killed Osage people for their oil wealth. I'm Rachel Adams-Hard, the host of Intrust, a podcast from Bloomberg and iHeartMedia. For over a year, I was reporting a different story about other ways white people got Osage land and wealth and how a prominent ranching family in Osage County became one of the biggest landowners here. Their ranching empire was built on land that at the turn of the century was all owned by the Osage nation. So how did they get it? Listen to the award-winning podcast, InTrust, on the iHeart Radio app, Apple Podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.


Professional dancer Cheryl Burk has been part of Dancing With the Stars since the very beginning. Twenty-six seasons of the Samba, the and the Cha-Cha. Twenty-four partners, six finals, and two Mirroball trophies. She knows all the secrets, the behind-the-scene arguments, and the affairs, the flings, the flirting, and the fighting. It's time to tell all on her new podcast, Sex, Lies, and Spray Tans will take you all the way back to season one and up through today for the dance floor drama like you wouldn't believe. Former partners, co-stars, friends, and frenemies will join Cheryl each week. Listen to Sex, Lies, and Spray Tans on the iHeart Radio app, Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.


We promised talk of Sheels Green, really taking the world by storm, and boy, did it. It was in all kinds of clothing, I mean, they went nuts for it because it was like this natural green that they had never seen before. No one had ever been able to replicate this really garden-y, vegetal green. They went nuts for it. It was in soap. It was like and stuff they ate. It was in beauty products. It was on stamps, potion stamps that you licked, like costanza. What else? It was on wallpapers. It was in toys, like children's toys.


On behalf of all the petents out there. I want to point out that she wasn't a costanza yet. She died licking the envelopes that were going out as a wedding invitation. So she wasn't a Castanza yet. Never made it to costanza.


Do you think someone would have emailed that?


Totally. I can name at least a handful of people by name who would have. Right.


You're probably right. So again, it's taking the world by storm. It's in everything, especially in depressing, smoggy, revolution, Victorian London. All of a sudden, they had this brilliant green all around, and they loved the stuff.


Yeah, because like you said, the Industrial Revolution had already happened, and it's full smoggy effects were being felt, and people had moved to the city, but yet they were not so far removed from the country that they had a real affinity and fondness for country, rural life. So all of a sudden, there's this green here that, again, I got to the Paris Review because this article they wrote on it was so great. They said that it was not too yellow, it wasn't too teal. It was a middle green, and it had full saturation. It was very vibrant. Because up till then, the greens that they had come up with, I think, that were based on copper, they were not vibrant. It was green, but it was a dumpy green. This was suddenly like a green and everybody just loved it. Like you said, they used it in every way they possibly could.


Yeah, like when they went to Sherwin-Williams, they're like, What greens you got? They're all dumpy.


Yeah. Don't you have that Schlaws Green? You mean Heales Green?


Yeah. Exactly. So reports, all of a sudden, after this becomes the color of the season, start to roll in a little bit. Children were, quote, wasting away in their green rooms. People, these women that wore these dresses were falling ill. Apparently, they would wear them in these elaborate hats that color green. And there was a doctor, Dr. Aws Hoffman, who was an analytical chemist that did some testing. And he found that the average headpiece with Schlas Green had enough arsenic to poison 20 people.


Yeah. People are starting to become aware like, Okay, this stuff is really bad. We knew it was toxic, but it's really, really bad. There is actually a public push that centered on the death of a 19-year-old artificial flower maker named Matilda Schur. And she- Scher?




Ruralger? Yeah, I said that in my head, Chuck. I'm glad you put it out there. She died in November of 1861, and I don't remember how long she'd worked, but she'd worked for many years in a little tiny cramped workshop dusting artificial flowers with a Sheills green pigment. And so she inhaled it. It was all over her fingers and her nails, so she ate it. And by the time she died and was autopsy, it was in her stomach, it was in her liver, it was in her lungs. Before she died, her eyes had turned green. And she reported to her doctor that everything she looked at had a green tint to it. That's how arsenic-laden this poor girl was.


Yeah, the direct quote is that she vomiting green waters.


Yeah, you don't want to see that.


You don't want to see that. So like you said, the press got behind this finally because there was an actual real human death to point to. Parliament got involved. This is one of the first big regulatory acts for something like this. This thing wasn't that common back then. I think in less than 10 years, Parliament said, All right, we're going to do something. It's called regulating and limiting arsenic in food. Everyone went, What?


All of the wigs stood up and said, Nanny state.


Nanny state. Yeah, exactly. And then the little button on top of this episode is that some people believe that Napoleon died of a stomach cancer that was perhaps brought on by this green poisoning because when he lived in exile in St. Helena on that island, he loved that color and he had that wallpaper in his room, and apparently was breathing this stuff in because of the moisture, right?


Yeah, Open Culture wrote that he loved his baths, and the wallpaper was in his bathroom. They said that any time it was damp from a hot bath or apparently St. Helena itself was pretty damp and moldy as an island, the arsenic dust in that Shields Green would become vaporized and Napoleon would breathe it in. And it's not just some random theory. It's actually fairly widely considered, at least possible, that that's what he died of. We just don't know what he died of. Napoleon thought he was being poisoned by British agents. I think someone else said he probably died of stomach cancer, but it's entirely possible he died from inhaling Shieles Green from his wallpaper in his bathroom.


Well, that could have very well led to the stomach cancer.


For sure. There is a documented case of somebody becoming ill from their Shieles Green wallpaper, right?


Yeah, there was an ambassador in the 1950s to Italy named Clair Booth-Looce, who had arsenic poisoning. And just like Napoleon thought someone was poisoning him, the CIA got involved and thought, Well, the Soviets are poisoning this woman who is an ambassador for us. They went in, did some investigating, and sure enough, her ceiling in her bedroom had arsenic in it. Apparently, the washing machine from the floor above would rattle and shake, and that would release arsenic dust. She would just breathe that stuff in all night when she slept, and it killed her.


Pretty nuts, huh?


Pretty nuts.


Well, big thanks to Open Culture, Paris Review, Artists Network, Jezebel, and my dear wife, Umi, for suggesting this one in the first place.


Oh, was that her idea? Because of her Schloss Green headdress?


Yeah, she's into Schwoss Green antiques.


I love it.


Well, Chuck said he loves it, everybody. You know what that means? Shortstuff is out.


Stuff you.


Should know is a.






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