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02 Air – Part 2

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a dandelion in the breeze

We breathe the air. It’s kinda important. Three items from the Radio Cut

  • The Bee Gees – Have you seen my wife Mr Jones about miners stuck on a coal mine.
  • The first written account of a canary in a coal mine
  • I can’t breathe by H.E.R.

Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson (born June 27, 1997), known professionally as H.E.R. (pronounced “her”, an acronym for Having Everything Revealed), is an American singer and songwriter. After initial music appearances and singles under her real name, Wilson re-emerged in 2016 as H.E.R., releasing her debut EP H.E.R. Volume 1 under RCA, followed by four subsequent EPs. Her first compilation album H.E.R. (2017), consisting of tracks from her first two EPs plus six additional songs, was nominated for five Grammy Awards, winning Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Album.

Her second compilation album, I Used to Know Her, was nominated for five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year for “Hard Place”. In 2021, she was awarded the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for “I Can’t Breathe“, and the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Fight for You” from the film Judas and the Black Messiah (2021).

Canary in the coal mine

The earliest mention of this practice that I have found is from the Yorkshire Telegraph and Star (Sheffield, Yorkshire) of Friday 21st December 1906, which gave an account of the inquest that had been held the previous day at Ouston, near Chester-le-Street, on the four victims of an explosion at Arpeth pit:

Mr. W. C. Blackett, a mining expert, said that along with the Mines Inspector he made an attempt to reach the scene of the explosion, taking with him a canary in a cage, a safety lamp, and an electric hand lamp. They were well equipped to explore the workings with safety. Upon reaching a point beyond which it had hitherto been impossible to penetrate, they got a competent man to test the place with a safety lamp, and finding only a small bluecap, he took a deep breath, and with the electric lamp and the bird he made a rapid advance, left the bird, and retired. Returning with the safety lamp, and finding the bird on its perch, he advanced again and again in the same way, until he and the inspector came to the place where a body was lying. He saw at once that the man had died from after-damp, and was not burned. Still advancing in this way, they presently came to a stentor where another man had been working. Here he saw the bird fall from its perch, and, incautiously taking a breath of the air himself, his knees gave way to a small extent, but he managed to scramble out into the better air, taking the bird with him. The bird recovered within three or four minutes, and again got on to its perch. It was most extraordinary to see the rapid effect which the carbonic monoxide had on the bird, and he was quite satisfied, after the experience with a bird in this way, that a bird was a comparative safe guide, and much to be preferred to using mice, as the fall of the bird from the perch could easily be seen.

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