(Roughly) Daily

“Making money is art”*…

 

Back in the 1890s, there was a conscious effort to turn American money into pocket-sized works of art. It resulted in the creation of what is still regarded as the most beautiful set of bank notes ever issued in the United States: the Educational Series of silver certificates…

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP)—the government agency that controls what designs appear on the nation’s paper currency—was open to the idea of a money makeover. With the United States innovating and industrializing, it seemed an apt time for the nation’s progress to be reflected on the art of its bank notes. And the standard dead-president design was getting a bit tired: a New York Times article from March 3, 1896 acknowledged that “there has been for a long time a desire to make a change in the inartistic and stiff paper currency of the years that have gone.”

In an effort to bring more artistic merit to the silver certificate, the BEP approached Edwin Blashfield, Will H. Low, and Walter Shirlaw, three artists known for their elegant allegorical paintings. As muralists, Blashfield and Low were accustomed to working at a much larger scale than the 3.125-by-7.4218-inch dimensions of a silver certificate. But the painters’ flair for eye-pleasing composition and their ability to translate principles of national character into gorgeous tableaus of women in flowing robes was paramount. They were encouraged to submit large paintings, which a team of skilled engravers could then translate to currency-compatible format. According to the aforementioned Times article, 15 to 20 engravers worked on each note, each one assigned to a particular section of the design.

The resulting three artworks formed the basis for the $1, $2, and $5 silver certificates that came to be known as the 1896 Educational Series…

Flip through them at “Object of Intrigue: the Most Beautiful Banknote in U.S. History.”

* Andy Warhol

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As we consider the corporate logos on our credit cards, we might recall that it was since this date in 1908 that the motto “In God We Trust” has been stamped onto all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins struck by the U.S. Mint.

1908 P Indian Head Gold $2.50 “Quarter Eagle”

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Written by LW

July 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There are 10 kinds of people”…

 

… those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

Turns out that there are many other ways that the world cleaves in two…

From the creator of the afore-featured “Kim Jung-Il looking at things“…

… beaucoup binaries at “2 Kinds of People.”

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As we parse, we might pause to spare a thought for Nancy Mitford; she died on this date in 1973.  Known during most her life as a novelist (e.g., Love in a Cold Climate) and journalist, she is now better remembered as a biographer (Voltaire in LoveMadame de Pompadour, Frederick the Great, and The Sun King).  She and her five sisters– the Mitford Sisters— gave lie to the proposition that there are only two kinds of people in almost any dimension.

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Written by LW

June 30, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak”*…

 

The Boeing airplane factory in Seattle got the “fake neighborhood” treatment. The women shown are walking on a suburban landscape made of chicken wire and planks, positioned over the roof of the factory. Underneath, B-17s were being built for the war effort.

Military forces have used camouflage of one sort or another since antiquity.  But with the advent of the airplane and the rise of aerial warfare, camouflage (to hide targets) and decoys (to draw fire away from real targets or to intimidate the enemy) became bigger and bigger: “Massive Wartime Decoys and Camouflage Operations.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

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As we misdirect, we might send convincingly animated birthday greetings to Raymond Frederick “Ray” Harryhausen; he was born on this date in 1920.  A visual effects pioneer, he became a writer and producer of films featuring the stop-motion model animation technique, “Dynamation,” that he developed.  He is probably best remembered for the animation in Mighty Joe Young (1949, with his mentor, King Kong animator Willis H. O’Brien), which won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects; The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958, his first color film); and Jason and the Argonauts (1963, which featured an amazing sword fight between Jason and seven skeleton warriors).  His last film was Clash of the Titans (1981).

Harryhausen and one of the skeleton warriors from Jason and the Argonauts

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Written by LW

June 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties”*…

 

Ratios of Democrats (blue) vs. Republicans (red). Data source: Campaign contribution data from the FEC.

Just some of the occupations covered in Verdant Labs‘ “Democratic vs. Republican Occupations” (a note on methodology here).

Check ’em out.

* John Adams

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As we choose up sides, we might recall that it was in this date in 1914 that Franz Ferdinand, 51 year old heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo, then the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovnia, where he was visiting to inspect the Empire’s troops.  A member of the Black Hand nationalist group, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed both the Crown Prince and his wife as they were being driven through the city.  The assassination– triggering, as it did, competing accusations and the “calling” of interlocking alliances– ignited World War I, which broke out one month later.

Franz Ferdinand

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Written by LW

June 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Wherever you go, I don’t care where you go, just send me something in the mail from where you are”*…

 

 

Just one of the hundreds of postcards from the J. Smith Archive that one can enjoy on the “virtual road trip” that is Cardboard America.

* Wallace Berman

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As we hit the road, we might sing “Happy Birthday” to Mildred J. Hill; he was born on this date in 1859.  She wrote the music:  In the early 1890s, she composed the tune which (with lyrics by her sister Patty) was called “good Morning to All” and was published in 1893 in Song Stories for the Kindergarten.  In 1912, her music was appropriated (with lyrics by an unknown author) and published as “Happy Birthday”– which has gone on to become (according to the Guinness Book of Records) the most recognized song in the English language.

Famously tied up by copyright (to wit the rarity of its appearance on TV or in movies), Hill’s estate still receives royalties from it performance.

Mildred (left) and her sister Patty

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Written by LW

June 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

“It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar”*…

 

A professor of physiotherapy, Dr. Curran Pope’s practice embraced “diseases of the mind and nervous system”, which he treated with both electro-therapy, and hydrotherapy in his own sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky.  In 1909, he published Practical Hydrotherapy: A Manual for Students and Practitioners.

As the book’s contents list suggests, Pope considered hydrotherapy – treatment in which the temperature or pressure of water is used – as a viable method for curing anything from diabetes and heart disease to paranoia and alcoholism. The treatments are comprised of baths, douches, enemas, steam, and wet sheets, which are applied in various temperatures and orders depending on the ailment. Pope believed the body to heal itself and that water could aid the healing or indeed help to prevent diseases from occurring. He also believed in testing the methods on himself. He writes in the preface:

Much information and a clearer insight than mere description can give, is to note the physiological action of hydrotherapy by “putting yourself in his place.” One application of a cold jet douche to the spine gives more realistic information than pages of description. I therefore make the suggestion of “practice on yourself” first. Many experiments herein mentioned have had the author as principal party in interest.

Get wet at Public Domain Review, where one will find many more illustrations like the one above; then page through Dr. Pope’s book at the Internet Archive.

* Pablo Picasso

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As we dip our toes, we might send temperate birthday greetings to William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin; he was born on this date in 1824.  A physicist, mathematician, and engineer, he has been described as the Newton of his era:  At the University of Glasgow, where he taught for over half a century, he did important work in the mathematical analysis of electricity and formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and did much to unify the emerging discipline of physics in its modern form.  He worked closely with mathematics professor Hugh Blackburn in his work, especially the development and application of trigonometry.  He had a side career as an electric telegraph engineer and inventor, which propelled him into the public eye (and ensured his wealth, fame, and honor– his work on the transatlantic telegraph project earned him a knighthood from Queen Victoria).  And he had extensive maritime interests, among which he was most noted for his work on the mariner’s compass, which had previously been limited in reliability.

Absolute temperatures are stated in units of kelvin in his honor. While the existence of a lower limit to temperature (absolute zero) was known prior to his work, it was Lord Kelvin who determined its correct value as approximately −273.15 degree Celsius, or −459.67 degree Fahrenheit.

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“It isn’t running away they’re afraid of”*…

 

 

On the sad occasion of the passing of Don Featherstone

When animals escape zoos, as when humans escape prisons, they’re usually caught pretty quickly. Whether there’s a mass break out, connected to some more devastating event—as in Tbilisi, Georgia, where a heavy flood recently let loose lions, wolves and a hippopotamus onto city streets—or a lone run-away, like the Smithsonian Zoo’s red panda or the Bronx Zoo Cobra, the animals rarely taste freedom for long.

Unless, that is, they’re flamingos…

Why flamingos succeed at escaping the zoo while all other animals fail.”

* Margaret Atwood, The Handmaiden’s Tale

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As we hop the fence, we might recall that it was on this date in 1994 that the first live specimen of the Saola– AKA Vu Quang ox or Asian biocorn, also, infrequently, Vu Quang bovid (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis)– was captured.  An extremely rare species, its existence was first discovered in 1992 via remains in hunters’ villages, the first discovery of new large mammal species since the Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) in 1910.

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Written by LW

June 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

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