73 156+ things to celebrate about America on the Fourth of July

July 4, 2014

In no particular order, leaving many gaps, on the Fourth of July I celebrate America, and these things about America:

  1. The Apollo Project that put humans on the Moon

    Apollo 11:  Astronaut Buzz Aldrin beside the solar wind experiment. NASA photo

    Apollo 11: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin beside the solar wind experiment. NASA photo

  2. Interstate Highway System
  3. Yellowstone National Park
  4. Edward Abbey
  5. Rainbow Bridge National Monument
  6. The New York Public Library
  7. Jello
  8. Baltimore, home of the Orioles, and playing field for Johnny Unitas
  9. Death Valley, the lowest point in North America, and generally the hottest.
  10. Denali, the highest point in North America, so high it makes its own weather
  11. New Orleans Jazz
  12. Grant Wood’s paintings
  13. Mark Twain
  14. Dred Scott
  15. Thurgood Marshall, and Brown v. Topeka Board of Education
  16. U.S. Highway 101, especially where you can see the Pacific Ocean
  17. Route 66
  18. Hot dogs
  19. Ketchup, or catsup if you prefer
  20. Salsa in a bottle
  21. Miles Davis
  22. Aldo Leopold
  23. French fries, with ketchup, without ketchup, with mayonnaise, with Big H Sauce
  24. Grand Canyon National Park
  25. The Mississippi River
  26. “Ol’ Man River”
  27. Meredith Willson, and “The Music Man!”
  28. Emily Dickinson
  29. Falling Water
  30. Pikes Peak
  31. Bluegrass music
  32. Philly Cheese Steaks
  33. Phyllis Wheatley
  34. Steinway Pianos
  35. Chicken Fried Steak
  36. Amish barn raisings
  37. James Levine
  38. Cheeseburgers
  39. Sojourner Truth
  40. Kansas City Jazz
  41. Onion Rings
  42. Peanut Butter
  43. Leo Fender and the electric guitar
  44. Les Paul and tape loops
  45. Gibson Guitars
  46. Chicago Jazz
  47. Martin Guitars
  48. Mississippi Delta Blues
  49. Chicago Electric Blues
  50. Woody Guthrie
  51. John Philip Sousa
  52. Phillip Glass
  53. Commander Lloyd Bucher and the U.S.S. Pueblo
  54. Frank Lloyd Wright, and Prairie Architecture
  55. Mies van der Rohe
  56. Beale Street in Memphis
  57. Richard Feynman, and his memoirs
  58. Broadway in New York
  59. Bonfires along the Mississippi near Baton Rouge
  60. Indianapolis 500
  61. Daytona Speedway
  62. Fenway Park
  63. Crabcakes from the Chesapeake
  64. Golden Gate; and the Golden Gate Bridge
  65. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
  66. Monticello, Virginia
  67. Cape Hatteras and the lighthouse
  68. Mount Timpanogos in Utah
  69. Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia
  70. Great Houses of Newport, Rhode Island
  71. Bluebirds at the Yorktown Battlefield Monument
  72. Colorado River through Grand Canyon
  73. Bluebell Ice Cream
  74. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream
  75. Mt. Rushmore National Monument
  76. Lake of the Woods
  77. Pete Seeger
  78. Walt Whitman
  79. Robert Service’s poems
  80. Girls Scouts of America
  81. Little League Baseball
  82. Frederick Douglass
  83. College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska
  84. Henry David Thoreau
  85. Niagara Falls
  86. Adirondack Park, New York
  87. Sitting on the porch at Mount Vernon, Virginia, watching bald eagles cross the Potomac River
  88. Condors soaring near Big Sur, California
  89. Irving Berlin, and “God Bless America”
  90. Frank Sinatra
  91. Jonathan Winters
  92. Hollywood Movies
  93. Airplane graveyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona
  94. Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona
  95. The Shiprock, New Mexico
  96. Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building
  97. Blue Ridge Parkway
  98. Susan B. Anthony
  99. Everett Dirksen
  100. Cade’s Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  101. Red touring “buses” in Glacier National Park
  102. Fog rolling over the Marin Headlands, Marin County, California
  103. The Beach Boys
  104. Skiing and snowboarding, at Solitude, Alta, Hunter Mountain, Park City, Sundance
  105. The Alpine Loops — both of them, Utah and Colorado
  106. The Virginian Hotel and Cafe, Medicine Bow, Wyoming
  107. American Bison, in Yellowstone, at Antelope Island, in the Henry Mountains, in the LBJ Grasslands
  108. Osprey at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland
  109. Painted Buntings at Colorado Bend State Park, Texas
  110. Dissident tradition that gives us Edward Snowden
  111. King of France Tavern, and Treaty of Paris Restaurant, Annapolis, Maryland
  112. The Triple Crown: Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes
  113. Jackie Robinson
  114. Sandy Koufax
  115. Jerry West
  116. Secretariat
  117. Lewis and Clark
  118. Sacagawea
  119. U.S. Women’s Soccer Team
  120. Eugene Debs
  121. AAA Baseball, and the other minor leagues
  122. Texas Barbecue
  123. Louis Armstrong
  124. Ella Fitzgerald
  125. Duke Ellington
  126. Ballet West
  127. Second City
  128. The Groundlings
  129. Harriet Tubman
  130. Owl Burgers at the Owl Cafe in Albuquerque, New Mexico
  131. Seattle Opera
  132. Appalachian Trail
  133. Linda Rondstadt; Linda singing canciones
  134. Dolly Parton, Emmy Lou Harris, and Linda Rondstandt singing tight three-part harmonies
  135. Edward Hopper

    “Morning Sun,” Edward Hopper, 1952

  136. The Marfa Lights
  137. Sloop Clearwater, and the Hudson River
  138. Rafting on the Snake River out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  139. Acadia National Park
  140. The Moffatt Tunnel, and the passenger trains that go through it (R.I.P. old Prospector and California Zephyr; long live the new Prospector and Zephyr)
  141. Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
  142. Brooklyn Bridge
  143. Hires Drive-in and the Big H Burger, 4th South in Salt Lake City
  144. Old North Church, Boston
  145. Any country road in Vermont or New Hampshire, when the autumn leaves are turning
  146. Virgin River Narrows, Zion Canyon National Park
  147. Platte River when the big birds are migrating
  148. The oldest European building in America, the church at Fulton, Missouri
  149. Harley-Davidson plant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — across the street from the Miller Brewery
  150. Wisconsin bratwursts
  151. Harry Houdini
  152. Harriett Beecher Stowe
  153. Grits served four ways at a diner in Charleston, South Carolina
  154. Salmon smoked by Native Americans in Puget Sound
  155. Varsity Drive In, in Atlanta
  156. Raspberry milkshakes at Bear Lake, Utah
  157. Maple syrup from Vermont
  158. Sam Weller’s Zion Book Store, Salt Lake City
  159. Old Angler’s Inn, on the C&O Canal
  160. Central Park, New York City
  161. Seabiscuit
  162. Babe Ruth
  163. Lou Gehrig
  164. Renée Fleming
  165. Willie Nelson
  166. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and their friendship
  167. Boeing 707, and the aircraft plants that make them
  168. Howard Zinn
  169. Solid state electronics, and the Chip that Jack Kilby Built
  170. Tennessee Valley Authority
  171. Noam Chomsky
  172. A. Phillip Randolph
  173. Ford, Chrysler and General Motors
  174. Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones)
  175. Gold dome of the Colorado Capitol; the copper domes of the Arizona and Utah Capitols
  176. Things named after John Muir. many in places you would not expect, as well as quite a number of elementary schools
  177. Boy Scouts of America
  178. The United States Marine Corps
  179. Side Street Cafe, Honolulu
  180. Buzz Aldrin
  181. John Glenn
  182. Greensborough Four
  183. Freedom Riders
  184. Freedom Summer
  185. GI Bill
  186. Dennis Banks
  187. Gloria Steinem
  188. Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Farley Mowat and all the other Canadians who come south of the border to make us think
  189. Bob Marshall Wilderness Area
  190. Twin Peaks Wilderness Area
  191. Bonneville Salt Flats
  192. Damon Runyon, and “Guys and Dolls”
  193. Utah Phillips
  194. Et cetera
  195. Et cetera

Okay, Dear Reader: What have I left off the list?

(Maybe we should hold on to this list for Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be grateful for, and a lot of people to give thanks to.)


Glorious images of the Sun, from NASA

July 3, 2014

Who’d have thought of such an image, before we used satellites to look?

NASA SDO images of the Sun

From NASA: Image info: This combination of three wavelengths of light from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows one of the multiple jets that led to a series of slow coronal puffs on January 17, 2013. The light has been colorized in red, green and blue. Credit: NASA SDO

NASA’s press release, from June 27, 2014:

A suite of NASA’s Sun-gazing spacecraft have spotted an unusual series of eruptions in which a series of fast puffs forced the slow ejection of a massive burst of solar material from the Sun’s atmosphere. The eruptions took place over a period of three days, starting on Jan. 17, 2013. Nathalia Alzate, a solar scientist at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales, presented findings on what caused the puffs at the 2014 Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting in Portsmouth, England.

The sun’s outermost atmosphere, the corona, is made of magnetized solar material, called plasma, that has a temperature of millions of degrees and extends millions of miles into space. On January 17, the joint European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, spacecraft observed puffs emanating from the base of the corona and rapidly exploding outwards into interplanetary space. The puffs occurred roughly once every three hours. After about 12 hours, a much larger eruption of material began, apparently eased out by the smaller-scale explosions.

By looking at high-resolution images taken by NASA’s NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (Little SDO), or SDO, and NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, over the same time period and in different wavelengths, Alzate and her colleagues could focus on the cause of the puffs and the interaction between the small and large-scale eruptions.

“Looking at the corona in extreme ultraviolet light we see the source of the puffs is a series of energetic jets and related flares,” said Alzate. “The jets are localized, catastrophic releases of energy that spew material out from the sun into space. These rapid changes in the magnetic field cause flares, which release a huge amount of energy in a very short time in the form of super-heated plasma, high-energy radiation and radio bursts. The big, slow structure is reluctant to erupt, and does not begin to smoothly propagate outwards until several jets have occurred.”

Because the events were observed by multiple spacecraft, each viewing the sun from a different perspective, Alzate and her colleagues were able to resolve the three-dimensional configuration of the eruptions. This allowed them to estimate the forces acting on the slow eruption and discuss possible mechanisms for the interaction between the slow and fast phenomena.

“We still need to understand whether there are shock waves, formed by the jets, passing through and driving the slow eruption,” said Alzate. “Or whether magnetic reconfiguration is driving the jets allowing the larger, slow structure to slowly erupt. Thanks to recent advances in observation and in image processing techniques we can throw light on the way jets can lead to small and fast, or large and slow, eruptions from the Sun.”

Van Gogh painted rather unusual images of the Sun and stars; Turner painted perhaps more life-like images.   There are many interesting views of the Sun in art, by Monet, and many, many others.

Vincent van Gogh,

Vincent van Gogh, “Sower with the Setting Sun”

But who conceived of any image like this one from NASA, above?

What private entity could ever do that?  

J. M. W. Turner,

J. M. W. Turner, “Caernarvon Castle,” 1799

Claude Monet,

Claude Monet, “Impression Sunrise”

British biologist J. B. S. Haldane said:

I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

♦   Possible Worlds and Other Papers (1927), p. 286

Haldane may as well have added, the universe is not only more beautiful that we imagine, but more beautiful than we can imagine.  Reality trumps fiction yet again.


Star-spangled Banner’s 200th – with the Steep Canyon Rangers

June 26, 2014

Published on Jun 19, 2014

Grammy Award winning bluegrass band the Steep Canyon Rangers, well known for their work with Steve Martin, perform a special version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in honor of the song’s 200th anniversary.

The museum will “Raise It Up!” and celebrate the 200th anniversary by uniting the original manuscript with the flag at the Museum from June 14-July 6, 2014 and holding a special event at the museum on Flag Day (Saturday, June 14, 2014). Join the party: http://anthemforamerica.smithsonian.com/

Special thanks to the team at Wool and Tusk for their hard work and creativity: Scott Mele, Roger Pistole, Derek West, Joe Pisapia, David Bartin, Michael Freeman, Alexis Kaback, Daniel Walker, Jeff Rosen, Harvey Moltz, and Greg and Erin Whiteley.

More:

The flag that flew over Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore, 1814. Smithsonian image.

The flag that flew over Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore, 1814. Smithsonian image.


Insta-Millard: The vultures in Detroit’s bankruptcy

May 9, 2014

Maybe there’s a John Waters movie in the story.

From Metrotimes, the alternative weekly paper in Detroit:

Jerry Vile strikes again. The artist (and volunteers) stuck about 100 plastic lawn flamingos painted to look like vultures — one can imagine Vile lovingly glueing on the feathers — on the front lawn of the Detroit Institute of Arts. A banner was also erected, reading “Happy Bankruptcy: You’re Getting Flocked! Vultures by the Scads, LLC.”

It’s Vile’s latest prank that targets Detroit’s bankruptcy and the threat of selling the DIA’s artwork to appease “creditor vultures.” Within the past year the artist has put out an ad for Detroit’s liquidation in Metro Times, rolled out an oversized can of Crisco in front of the Joe Louis fist, and  placed price tags on public art throughout the city.

The only statement the artist has made so far about the vultures is a post on his Facebook page that says, “Sssssshhhhhhhh. Can’t wait to get a look at Beal’s face when he pulls up to work tomorrow.”

Negotiations are ongoing in regard to an $816 million so-called “grand bargain” — funded by numerous foundations, the state, and the DIA itself — that would spin the DIA into a new nonprofit and prevent the sale of any city-owned art. Meanwhile, Lansing is setting up a board that could oversee Detroit’s pensions and finances for 20 years, and also potentially appropriate $194.8 million from the state’s rainy day fund toward Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Plastic vultures on the lawn of the Detroit Institute of Arts - Metrotimes photo

Plastic vultures on the lawn of the Detroit Institute of Arts – Metrotimes photo


Berlin Wall in the U.S., the FDR Library

March 31, 2014

"Freedom from Fear," sculpture made from cutouts of sections of the Berlin Wall, photo by gwenvasil, FDR Home & Presidential Library Hyde Park, NY, October 20, 2013.

“Freedom from Fear,” sculpture made from cutouts of sections of the Berlin Wall, photo by gwenvasil, FDR Home & Presidential Library Hyde Park, NY, October 20, 2013.

Interesting, perhaps somewhat silly sculpture, found on the grounds of the Roosevelt Family estate in Hyde Park, New York, near the FDR Library and Museum.

Unless and until one knows the rest of the story.

  • These rather free form human forms, covered in what looks like graffiti, were cut from sections of the Berlin Wall, after the collapse of East Germany.
  • This is close to the bust of FDR’s ally in war for peace, Winston Churchill.  Appropriate, because,
  • Sculpture was created by Churchill’s granddaughter, Edwina Sandys.
  • Actually, these  sculptures were arranged together in a suite, in an area now known as Freedom Court
    • “In 2007, a new dimension was added to this hallowed ground by the construction of the Freedom Court. In honor of the friendship between the two legendary leaders, Edwina was instrumental in commissioning a bronze bust of Winston Churchill by sculptor Oscar Nemon, to be placed opposite one of FDR already in existence. The two sculptures flank the entrance to the court so that now and forever the two old wartime allies will be able to look at each other in a dynamic ‘outdoor room’ made of trees and shrubs.”Edwina’s ‘BreakFree’ now stands center stage in the Freedom Court, bearing witness to the ideals these great statesmen stood for, and bringing all three sculptures together in a magical web of connectedness.”
  • Segments of the Berlin Wall from which these cutouts came now stand in Fulton, Missouri, at the National Churchill Museum — the cutout figures were christened “BreakFree” by Edwina Sandys; the wall, from which they came, is called “BreakThrough.”

A few parts of the Berlin Wall are displayed across the U.S.  At Fulton, Missouri, are eight segments, made into liberating art by Edwina Sandys; at Hyde Park, New York, the cutouts from those segments form another artwork dedicated to freedom.  Other pieces of the wall and one of the guard towers, can be seen at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Nice touch to borrow the phrase from FDR’s “Four Freedoms” speech for the pedestal.

I found this photo from a Tweet from the FDR Library earlier today, alerting people to the collection of photos at the Flickr site of gwenvasil.  Follow the links, you’ll find other photos worth serious pondering.

More:


π Day tribute from Arches National Park

March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day!

Arches National Park Happy Pi Day! “PsyPhi” by Pete Apicella, 2010 Community Artist in the Parks (kh)

Hey, I wonder when Fibonacci’s birthday falls. π


Beautiful Antarctica: Photos, or painting?

January 27, 2014

This one is cropping up all over the internet.

But just try to get a commitment as to its origins.  Photographic, or artist’s image?

I wagered the latter. Note general lack of thick clouds, angle of sunlight, etc.

Beautiful Antarctica from space. Photographic image, or artist's rendering?  Who deserves credit for the image?

Beautiful Antarctica from space. Photographic image, or artist’s rendering? Who deserves credit for the image?

Then, at Twisted Sifter (shout out to Annette Breedlove; and everyone outside my family will be mystified by that reference) I found this, the full image from NASA.  Notice how some selective editing, changing the perspective, makes the image above more fascinating — while stripping out the identifying credits:

Image via Twisted Sifter; NASA image of Antarctica, available at Flickr Commons

Image via Twisted Sifter; NASA image of Antarctica, available at Flickr Commons

Well, that’s a different thing, then.

Twisted Sifter’s explanation of details, excerpt:

Seen above is a view of the Earth on September 21, 2005 with the full Antarctic region visible. The composite image shows the sea ice on September 21, 2005, the date at which the sea ice was at its minimum extent in the northern hemisphere. The colour of the sea ice is derived from the AMSR-E 89 GHz brightness temperature while the extent of the sea ice was determined by the AMSR-E sea ice concentration. Over the continents, the terrain shows the average land cover for September, 2004. The global cloud cover shown was obtained from the original Blue Marble cloud data distributed in 2002. [Source]

Due to the position of Antarctica in relation to our Sun it would not look like this to the naked eye. This is a composite that shows what Antarctica looks like if the entire continent were illuminated.

Click here for the full resolution 8400×8400 pixel TIFF version (63 mb) and click here for the 8400 x 8400 px JPG version.

NASA’s details, from the Flickr file:

NASA on The Commons

Global View of the Arctic and Antarctic on September 21, 2005

Collection: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio Collection

Title: Global View of the Arctic and Antarctic on September 21, 2005

Instrument: Terra/MODIS

Instrument: Aqua/AMSR-E

Description: This image shows a view of the Earth on September 21, 2005 with the full Antarctic region visible.

Abstract: In support of International Polar Year, this matching pair of images showing a global view of the Arctic and Antarctic were generated in poster-size resolution. Both images show the sea ice on September 21, 2005, the date at which the sea ice was at its minimum extent in the northern hemisphere. The color of the sea ice is derived from the AMSR-E 89 GHz brightness temperature while the extent of the sea ice was determined by the AMSR-E sea ice concentration. Over the continents, the terrain shows the average landcover for September, 2004. (See Blue Marble Next Generation) The global cloud cover shown was obtained from the original Blue Marble cloud data distributed in 2002. (See Blue Marble:Clouds) A matching star background is provided for each view. All images include transparency, allowing them to be composited on a background.

Completed: 2007-02-08

Credit: *Please give credit for this visualization to* NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio The Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).

Studio: SVS

Animator: Cindy Starr (Lead)

Scientist: Ronald Weaver (University of Colorado)

Data Collected: AMSR-E Sea Ice: 2005-09-21; Blue Marble cloud layer 2002; Blue Marble Next Generation Seasonal Landcover 2004-09

UID: SPD-SCIVS-http://svs .gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a 000000/a003400/a0034 02/NSIDCimages__SPcl ouds.2158-IMAGE

Original url: svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a003400/a003402/index.html

SOURCE: nasaimages.org/luna/servlet/detail/NSVS~3~3~7128~107128

Visit www.nasaimages.org for the most comprehensive compilation of NASA stills, film and video, created in partnership with Internet Archive.

The image, and it’s odyssey and story, are reminders that reality is often better than the made up stuff; and it’s wise to properly attribute stuff you borrow.  Is this just a cool image, or an opportunity for teachers to enrich the classroom and an argument for boosting NASA’s budget?

More:


Christmas 2013: Do we know who invented Santa Claus? Who really wrote the “Night Before Christmas?”

December 10, 2013

An encore post and Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub tradition from 2007

Thomas Nast invented Santa Claus? Clement C. Moore didn’t write the famous poem that starts out, “‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house . . . ?”

The murky waters of history from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub soak even our most cherished ideas and traditions.

But isn’t that part of the fun of history?

Santa Claus delivers to Union soldiers, "Santa Claus in Camp" - Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, Jan 3, 1863

In Janaury 1863, Thomas Nast portraye Santa Claus delivered gifts to Union troops in Washington, D.C., wearing a blue, star-spangled coat, just a few days earlier.

Yes, Virginia (and California, too)! Thomas Nast created the image of Santa Claus most of us in the U.S. know today. Perhaps even more significant than his campaign against the graft of Boss Tweed, Nast’s popularization of a fat, jolly elf who delivers good things to people for Christmas makes one of the great stories in commercial illustration. Nast’s cartoons, mostly for the popular news publication Harper’s Weekly, created many of the conventions of modern political cartooning and modeled the way in which an illustrator could campaign for good, with his campaign against the graft of Tammany Hall and Tweed. But Nast’s popular vision of Santa Claus can be said to be the foundation for the modern mercantile flurry around Christmas.

Nast is probably ensconced in a cartoonists’ hall of fame. Perhaps he should be in a business or sales hall of fame, too.  [See also Bill Casselman's page, "The Man Who Designed Santa Claus.]

Nast’s drawings probably drew some inspiration from the poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” traditionally attributed to Clement C. Moore, a New York City lawyer, published in 1822. The poem is among the earliest to describe the elf dressed in fur, and magically coming down a chimney to leave toys for children; the poem invented the reindeer-pulled sleigh.

Modern analysis suggests the poem was not the work of Moore, and many critics and historians now attribute it to Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828) following sleuthing by Vassar College Prof. Don Foster in 2000. Fortunately for us, we do not need to be partisans in such a query to enjoy the poem (a complete copy of which is below the fold).

The Library of Congress still gives Moore the credit. When disputes arise over who wrote about the night before Christmas, is it any wonder more controversial topics produce bigger and louder disputes among historians?

Moore was not known for being a poet. The popular story is that he wrote it on the spur of the moment:

Moore is thought to have composed the tale, now popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas,” on December 24, 1822, while traveling home from Greenwich Village, where he had bought a turkey for his family’s Christmas dinner.

Inspired by the plump, bearded Dutchman who took him by sleigh on his errand through the snow-covered streets of New York City, Moore penned A Visit from St. Nicholas for the amusement of his six children, with whom he shared the poem that evening. His vision of St. Nicholas draws upon Dutch-American and Norwegian traditions of a magical, gift-giving figure who appears at Christmas time, as well as the German legend of a visitor who enters homes through chimneys.

Again from the Library of Congress, we get information that suggests that Moore was a minor celebrity from a well-known family with historical ties that would make a good “connections” exercise in a high school history class, perhaps (”the link from Aaron Burr’s treason to Santa Claus?”): (read more, below the fold)

Clement Moore was born in 1779 into a prominent New York family. His father, Benjamin Moore, president of Columbia University, in his role as Episcopal Bishop of New York participated in the inauguration of George Washington as the nation’s first president. The elder Moore also administered last rites to Alexander Hamilton after he was mortally wounded in a tragic duel with Aaron Burr.

A graduate of Columbia, Clement Moore was a scholar of Hebrew and a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan. [See comment from Pam Bumsted below for more on Moore.] He is said to have been embarrassed by the light-hearted verse, which was made public without his knowledge in December 1823. Moore did not publish it under his name until 1844.

Tonight, American children will be tucked in under their blankets and quilts and read this beloved poem as a last “sugarplum” before slipping into dreamland. Before they drift off, treat them to a message from Santa, recorded by the Thomas Edison Company in 1922.

Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph
By Arthur A. Penn, Performed by Harry E. Humphrey.
Edison, 1922.
Coupling date: 6/20/1922. Cutout date: 10/31/1929.
Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

Listen to this recording (RealAudio Format)

Listen to this recording (wav Format, 8,471 Kb)

But Henry Livingston was no less noble or historic. He hailed from the Livingstons of the Hudson Valley (one of whose farms is now occupied by Camp Rising Sun of the Louis August Jonas Foundation, a place where I spent four amazing summers teaching swimming and lifesaving). Livingston’s biography at the University of Toronto site offers another path for a connections exercise (”What connects the Declaration of Independence, the American invasion of Canada, the famous poem about a visit from St. Nick, and George W. Bush?”):

Henry Livingston Jr. was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on Oct. 13, 1748. The Livingston family was one of the important colonial and revolutionary families of New York. The Poughkeepsie branch, descended from Gilbert, the youngest son of Robert Livingston, 1st Lord of Livingston Manor, was not as well off as the more well-known branches, descended from sons Robert and Philip. Two other descendants of Gilbert Livingston, President George Walker Herbert Bush and his son, President-Elect George W. Bush, though, have done their share to bring attention to this line. Henry’s brother, Rev. John Henry Livingston, entered Yale at the age of 12, and was able to unite the Dutch and American branches of the Dutch Reformed Church. At the time of his death, Rev. Livingston was president of Rutgers University. Henry’s father and brother Gilbert were involved in New York politics, and Henry’s granduncle was New York’s first Lt. Governor. But the law was the natural home for many of Henry’s family. His brother-in-law, Judge Jonas Platt, was an unsuccessful candidate for governor, as was his daughter Elizabeth’s husband, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson. Henry’s grandson, Sidney Breese, was Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Known for his encyclopedic knowledge and his love of literature, Henry Livingston was a farmer, surveyor and Justice of the Peace, a judicial position dealing with financially limited criminal and civil cases. One of the first New Yorkers to enlist in the Revolutionary Army in 1775, Major Henry Livingston accompanied his cousin’s husband, General Montgomery, in his campaign up the Hudson River to invade Canada, leaving behind his new wife, Sarah Welles, and their week-old baby, on his Poughkeepsie property, Locust Grove. Baby Catherine was the subject of the first poem currently known by Major Livingston. Following this campaign, Livingston was involved in the War as a Commissioner of Sequestration, appropriating lands owned by British loyalists and selling them for the revolutionary cause. It was in the period following Sarah’s early death in 1783, that Major Livingston published most of his poems and prose, anonymously or under the pseudonym of R. Ten years after the death of Sarah, Henry married Jane Patterson, the daughter of a Dutchess County politician and sister of his next-door neighbor. Between both wives, Henry fathered twelve children. He published his good-natured, often occasional verse from 1787 in many journals, including Political Barometer, Poughkeepsie Journal, and New-York Magazine. His most famous poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” was until 2000 thought to have been the work of Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), who published it with his collected poems in 1844. Livingston died Feb. 29, 1828.

More on Henry Livingston and his authorship of the Christmas poem here.
Thomas Nast, Merry Old Santa Claus, Harper's Weekly, Jan 1, 1881

Our views of Santa Claus owe a great deal also to the Coca-Cola advertising campaign. Coca-Cola first noted Santa’s use of the drink in a 1922 campaign to suggest Coke was a year-round drink (100 years after the publication of Livingston’s poem). The company’s on-line archives gives details:

In 1930, artist Fred Mizen painted a department store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke. The ad featured the world’s largest soda fountain, which was located in the department store of Famous Barr Co. in St. Louis, Mo. Mizen’s painting was used in print ads that Christmas season, appearing in The Saturday Evening Post in December 1930.

1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

  • 1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

Archie Lee, the D’Arcy Advertising Agency executive working with The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the next campaign to show a wholesome Santa as both realistic and symbolic. In 1931, The Coca-Cola Company commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus — showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa, as Mizen’s work had portrayed him.
1942 original oil painting - 'They Remembered Me'

  • 1942 original oil painting – ‘They Remembered Me’

For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s description of St. Nick led to an image of Santa that was warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human. For the next 33 years, Sundblom painted portraits of Santa that helped to create the modern image of Santa — an interpretation that today lives on in the minds of people of all ages, all over the world.

Santa Claus is a controversial figure. Debates still rage among parents about the wisdom of allowing the elf into the family’s home, and under what conditions. Theologians worry that the celebration of Christmas is diluted by the imagery. Other faiths worry that the secular, cultural impact of Santa Claus damages their own faiths (few other faiths have such a popular figure, and even atheists generally give gifts and participate in Christmas rituals such as putting up a decorated tree).

For over 100 years, Santa Claus has been a popular part of commercial, cultural and religious life in America. Has any other icon endured so long, or so well?

________________________
Below:
From the University of Toronto Library’s Representative Poetry Online

Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828)

Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas

1 ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,

2 Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

3 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

4 In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

5 The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

6 While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,

7 And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

8 Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap –

9 When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

10 I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

11 Away to the window I flew like a flash,

12 Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

13 The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,

14 Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;

15 When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

16 But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,

17 With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

18 I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

19 More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

20 And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:

21 “Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,

22 “On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;

23 “To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

24 “Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

25 As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,

26 When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

27 So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

28 With the sleigh full of Toys — and St. Nicholas too:

29 And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

30 The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

31 As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

32 Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:

33 He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,

34 And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;

35 A bundle of toys was flung on his back,

36 And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:

37 His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,

38 His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

39 His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow.

40 And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

41 The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

42 And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

43 He had a broad face, and a little round belly

44 That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:

45 He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

46 And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;

47 A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

48 Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

49 He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

50 And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,

51 And laying his finger aside of his nose

52 And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

53 He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

54 And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:

55 But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight –

56 Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Online text copyright © 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto. Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries. Be sure to visit this site for more information on this poem, on Maj. Livingston, and on poetry in general.

More:

 


Chess games of the rich and famous: Thomas Eakins’s version

November 19, 2013

“The Chess Players” by Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), 1876; in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Wikipedia image

One must appreciate Eakins’s great skills, even if one does not love his work — but I love it.

In this 1876 painting, he portrays a game of chess.  Was it a real game?  “The players are Bertrand Gardel on the left, and George Holmes on the right. The artist’s father, Benjamin Eakins, stands and watches the match.”  Some critics claim the painting carries allegory to several levels: “Art historian Akela Reason proposes that the painting is a tribute to a number of the artist’s father-figures: Holmes probably was Eakins’s first art teacher; Gardel was his French teacher; Benjamin Eakins was his literal father; and Jean-Léon Gérôme, his master at the École des Beaux-Arts, is represented by a print of Ave Caesar Morituri te Salutant, over the clock.”

It’s a game of chess.

Sadly, the cat is unidentified.

More:


October 9 – St. Denis’s Day, patron saint for those who have lost their head (Tea Party? House GOP?)

October 9, 2013

October 9 is the Feast Day of St. Denis.

Who?  He’s the patron saint of Paris (and France, by some accounts), and possessed people.   Take a look at this statue, from the “left door” of the Cathedral of Notre Dame  in Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche).  He was martyred by beheading, in about 250 C.E.

English: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: porta...

St. Denis greets vistors to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche)

Our trusty friend Wikipedia explains:

According to the Golden Legend, after his head was chopped off, Denis picked it up and walked two miles, preaching a sermon the entire way.[6] The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was made into a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, which became the burial place for the kings of France. Another account has his corpse being thrown in the Seine, but recovered and buried later that night by his converts.[2]

Clearly, he is the guy to pray to about Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, intelligent design, and the Texas State Board of Education, no?  In 2013, you can add Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louis Gohmert, the entire Tea Party, and the entire GOP crew of the House of Representatives.  You catch my drift.

Perhaps you can use this factoid to some advantage, enlightenment, and perhaps humor.  In Catholic lore, St. Denis is one of the “14 Holy Helpers,” and his aid is sought to help people with headaches, or who have been possessed.

Crazy GOP members who I suspect of having been possessed give me and America a headache.  St. Denis seems to be our man.

Who else do you know of in this modern, vexatious time, who keeps talking after losing his/her head?

As Rod Stewart sang, just “let your imagination run wild.”  Maybe St. Denis is listening.

More:

Statue to St. Denis, in Cluny

Another portrayal, in sculpture, of St. Denis. Notice how this one’s face doesn’t really look like the one above? Ouvre du Musée de Cluny, Wikipedia photo by Guillaume Blanchard (Aoineko), June 2001, FinePix 1400Z.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. I had hoped to have to retire this post someday.  I still hope.  Perhaps this will be the last year we’ll have so many wackaloons running loose. Pray to St. Denis.


Imagequilts, with Edward Tufte and Adam Schwartz

September 5, 2013

These are pretty cool.

Can you use them in a classroom?  Some of these Imagequilts pack a lot of information into a small space — such as the one for Cézanne.

Here, “Subatomic Particles“:

Subatomic Particles, by Tufte and Schwartz

Subatomic Particles, by Tufte and Schwartz; click image to see much larger version

Paul Cézanne“:

Paul Cezanne, Imagequilt by Tufte and Schwartz

Paul Cezanne, Imagequilt by Tufte and Schwartz. Useful in art history? European history?

Super Advanced Placement (AP) history teacher John Irish created outstanding PowerPoints showing off art of European eras, or American eras, for use in introducing a unit of history (see a smattering of examples here).  Could these Imagequilts substitute, or do it as well, and — especially — faster?

Here’s another, “Pablo Picasso“:

Imagequilt Pablo Picasso, by Tufte and Schwartz

Imagequilt Pablo Picasso, by Tufte and Schwartz

This one could be particularly useful in a physics course, or a unit on the history of science.  Richard Feynman may be most famous, pedagogically at least, for his invention and use of Feynman Diagrams.  Most discussions simply mention the things, though a few attempt short explanations.  Rare is to find a good example of a Feynman Diagram, to see just what they are and how they work.  Tufte and Schwartz offer a bunch:

Feynman Diagrams, an Imagequilt from Tufte and Schwartz

Feynman Diagrams, an Imagequilt from Tufte and Schwartz (click for a larger image)

Imagequilts is a Chrome App, available for download so you can make your own.  Of course, you’ll need to use Google Chrome to get full effect.

Got any Imagequilts you’d like to share?

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Signs: Cthulu’s return? Don’t kick jelly fish?

August 12, 2013

Don Knuth at Stanford University collects signs.

Actually he collects photos of signs, especially the diamond-shaped informational-warning signs.

What in the world is this one?

A sign photographed in Australia, in the Knuth Collection.

A sign photographed in Australia, in the Knuth Collection.

Your nominations for captions welcomed in comments.

More, sorta — or maybe, “tangentially related” is a better description:  

Donald Knuth at a reception for the Open Conte...

Donald Knuth at a reception for the Open Content Alliance, hosted by the Internet Archive. Taken October 25, 2005 by Jacob Appelbaum in San Francisco. (Wikipedia image)


Signs of life: Tufte’s signs that ought to be

August 7, 2013

From Edward Tufte:

Edward Tufte, Road Never Ends, print on canvas, 29 ½

Edward Tufte, Road Never Ends, print on canvas, 29 ½” x 29 ½”, edition of 3

Philosophy on road signs.  Will it catch on?  Has it caught on already?


Edward Tufte channels Richard Feynman

August 6, 2013

Tufte writes at great length — well, writes and demonstrates — about yellow warning signs.  (Yes, that Edward Tufte.)

In one of his demonstrations, the art comes from the ideas and sayings of Richard Feynman.

Edward Tufte makes art out of Feynman's ideas.

Edward Tufte makes art out of Feynman’s ideas. Sorta. Edward Tufte, Nature Cannot Be Fooled, print on canvas, 78″ x 27 ½”, edition of 3

This guy makes money doing that? What kind of charmed life is that?

More:

Just how fitting is it that Tufte uses the words of Feynman, probably more famous for Feynman diagrams than the work that got him a Nobel?

English: Picture of a Feynman diagram, inscrib...

“Picture of a Feynman diagram, inscribed by Richard P. Feynman to me [who MFB has not identified], in my copy of Volume 3 of his Feynman Lectures on Physics (Quantum Mechanics). Picture taken by self. if you can’t read the symbols, they are \gamma_\mu to \gamma_\mu and 1/q^2 .” Wikipedia image

English: Edward Tufte giving a class and holdi...

Edward Tufte giving a class and holding a scanned copy of a first edition book by Galileo. Wikipedia image


Postage stamp tempest: Why can’t the U.S. have scandals like this?

July 15, 2013

Hey, David Dewhurst:  Do you really think the women who opposed your oppression of them were out of line?  None of them has said you must lick her derriére.

Here’s how they do it in Europe; from The Guardian:

Femen-inspired postage stamp angers French right

Designers say youthful depiction of Marianne for new stamp was partially inspired by Femen founder Inna Shevchenko

You know enough about France from your world history class to know that the nation has, for decades, used an image of a woman as their symbol of liberty (“liberté“).  For obscure reasons, the French have come to call their Liberty, Marianne.  Her image appears on coins, stamps, and wherever else an image can be used.  Most often an artist uses a beautiful French woman — Catherine Deneuve was the model for years — but about as often the name of the model is more obscure.  This is the first time anyone has said a non-French woman might be the model, though the woman named is living in France now, as a refugee from the Ukraine.

Francois Hollande at the unveiling of the new Marianne stamp. Photograph: Francois Mori/AFP/Getty Images

Francois Hollande at the unveiling of the new Marianne stamp. Photograph: Francois Mori/AFP/Getty Images

 

It was supposed to be a straightforward new postage stamp to mark François Hollande’s presidency: a more youthful depiction of Marianne, the feminine symbol of the French Republic, reflecting the Socialist president’s promise to help the younger generation.

Instead, the portrait has sparked a spat on the political right after one of its designers said it was partially inspired by Inna Shevchenko, a leading member of the feminist activist group Femen.

The designers, David Kawena and Olivier Ciappa, had previously said their inspirations ran from the Renaissance to French comic strips and Japanese manga. But after the stamp’s launch on Sunday, Ciappa tweeted: “For all those who are asking who the model was for Marianne, it’s a mix of several women, but above all Inna Shevchenko, founder of Femen.”

Probably the most famous image comes from the painting by Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the Nation:

Eugene Delcroix's paiting, Liberty Leading the Nation,

Eugene Delacroix’s paiting, Liberty Leading the Nation, commemorating the 1830 uprising against the French King. That’s “Marianne” holding the flag.

That painting is in a division of the Louvre; it was defaced just this past February, in an odd September 11 protest, by a wacko who insisted the attacks on the World Trade Center and the United States were government-sponsored.   But I digress.

Christine Boutin, a former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and founder of the Christian Democrat party, tweeted her disgust and her party called for a boycott of “this outrageous stamp”, saying it was an attack “on the dignity of women and the sovereignty of France” and should immediately be withdrawn.

Inna Shevchenko, a member of the women's rights group Femen. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Inna Shevchenko, a member of the women’s rights group Femen. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Femen, which often stages topless street protests, was started in Ukraine but is now based in Paris after Shevchenko was granted political asylum following outrage at her felling of a giant cross in Ukraine in support of the Russian band Pussy Riot.

Femen’s most high-profile protests in France have targeted the street demonstrations against same-sex marriage. It also recently staged an anti-fascist protest in Notre Dame cathedral and attempted to ambush the French president at an airshow.

Ciappa, whose exhibition of photographs of imagined gay couples was vandalised in Paris the anti same-sex marriage protests, wrote on Facebook on Monday that he had received “messages of threats and hatred” against him on Twitter, “some violent and some funny, such as Christine Boutin’s call to boycott my stamp”.

Yeah, but here’s the money line:

Shevchenko tweeted: “Femen is on French stamp. Now all homophobes, extremists, fascists will have to lick my ass when they want to send a letter.”

Several French artists have designed different Mariannes for French stamps, but this is thought to be the first inspired in part by a woman who isn’t French.

I have some bad news, perhaps, for U.S radical right-wing wackoes:  I understand that the model for the French symbol of Liberty, Marianne, was really Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis.   The artist was seeking a model who demonstrated the French ideal of a woman standing up to lead her nation against the supposed juggernaut of Fascist oppression and repression.  President Hollande is fearful of noting that, however, because he doesn’t want Texas Gov. Rick Perry to make a trip to France to poach businesses to move to Texas.

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis reading documents at her Senate desk, in the photo perhaps used as a model for the new Marianne.

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis reading documents at her Senate desk, in the photo perhaps used as a model for the new Marianne.

Hollande doesn’t fear any businesses would actually relocate from France to Paris; he just doesn’t want to waste any good French cheese or wine on a visiting Rick Perry.

In other Austin rumors, according to my sources at the groseille à l’oignon,  the Texas Republic asked France for rights to the image for their own anti-State of Texas postage stamps just to tick off Rick Perry and the FBI, and the Texas Tea Party is considering using Marianne as their image on their stationery, posters and bumper stickers.  If only they knew.

In the end, we have an entirely pointless, postage stamp tempest, with an artist sneaking in as a model a topless protester to play the role of the top-slipping symbol of French liberty, and typical French insouciance in arguments.  You know darn well that Harry Reid would love to use that line Ms. Schevchenko Tweeted — and so would Wendy Davis, and Rick Perry, and Joe Biden, and even Orrin Hatch.

Maybe all they have to do is pose topless, protesting some infringement on freedom.  Would they do that, even for freedom?

More:

Delcroix's painting on display in Lens, France, earlier in 2013.  Foreign Policy image.

Delcroix’s painting on display in Lens, France, earlier in 2013. Foreign Policy image.

The 2008 version of Marianne, under President Sarkozsy.

The 2008 version of Marianne, under President Sarkozsy. This is the immediate predecessor of the 2013 version.

1945 version of Marianne

From Stampboards.com: “Marianne” is a national emblem of France and an allegory of Liberty and Reason. She has been portrayed in various ways on a number of stamps issued by France over the years, often wearing a Phrygian cap, symbolic of Liberty. Here is an image of a stamp featuring my favorite version of her: the “Grande Marianne de Gandon,” designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon, and issued by France on March 12, 1945, Scott No. 556, Y&T No. 733.

Bust of Marianne sculpted by Théodore Doriot, in the French Senate.

Bust of Marianne sculpted by Théodore Doriot, in the French Senate.

 


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