Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The National Debt: 1812

The American finances, however, seem little able to sustain the expenses of these warlike preparations. It appears from Mr. Gallatin's budget, that the national expenditure exceeds the receipts by 2,600,000 dollars; to cover this deficit it is proposed to make an addition of 50 per cent, to the present amount of duties, or to resort to the the funding system, and raise an loan of three millions of dollars.
--From The Gentleman's magazine--

A country with shaky finances isn't hard to defeat in a war. I wonder if many foreign leaders aren't secretly happy with our spending habits.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Feminism: 1822

Is a woman tolerably handsome? She is not allowed to be so quietly. Wherever she goes, she is accosted in the language of adulation: in public places and in private conversation: a gentleman can scarcely address a sentence to her without seasoning it with a little flattery; not in praise of her sense, her knowledge, or the justness of her sentiments, but of her shape, her air, her face, or some hitherto undiscovered charm. In short she is taught by their behavior to believe that there is nothing amiable, or praise worthy in a woman unconnected with beauty. And even men who are esteemed to be uncommonly sensible and discerning, often pay more respect to a pretty face, though its owner be an idiot, than to a lady of an improved and polished understanding, if she does not excel in exterior form. Since this is the case, is it not reasonable to suppose that women will pay most attention to their appearance, and spend much time (which might be better employed,) in decorating their persons, and setting them off to advantage?
--From Masonic miscellany and ladies' literary magazine--

This is why after all the victories of feminism, women still read Cosmo to find out how to please a man.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Torture: 1817

"Magistrates are not, by law, permitted to exercise cruelties at their own discretion.

But of late, district magistrates, actuated by a desire to be rewarded for their activity, have felt an ardent enthusiasm to inflict torture. And though it has been repeatedly prohibited by Imperial Edicts, which they profess openly to conform to; yet they really and secretly violate them.

Whenever they apprehend persons of suspicious appearances, or those charged with great crimes, such as murder or robbery, the magistrates begin by endeavouring to seduce the prisoners to confess, and by forcing them to do so...."
--From Analectic Magazine--

What a barbaric state of affairs. Oh, that's right, we can't look down our nose at people who do that anymore.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Child labor: 1819

The papers in Philadelphia, are crowded with essays in support of the system of encouraging our manufactures at home, and prohibiting by high duties the importation of manufactures from abroad...
It will furnish employment for many idle people in our seaport towns; and for many women and children in our cities who appear to want such a resource.
--From Analectic Magazine--

He's saying we should encourage factories, so children have somewhere to work!

I was always skeptical about claims child labor laws were just a scheme to provide more jobs for adults, but seeing how people thought before they wanted manufacturing jobs for themselves I guess I have to agree.

Friday, September 25, 2009

To make a call: 1898

To "make a call" has an inelegant robustness of tone to one not used to hearing it; but Americans cannot plead that they are not used to hearing it. And the expression is not only general, but universal here. "Paying visits," the neat substitute for the rougher phrase, is not yet in colloquial use.
If you "made a call" you were visiting someone in person; people had telephones, but they would "call someone up" if they decided to do "telephoning".
It is a good rule to stay only fifteen minutes at a formal, at any rate a first call, unless, of course, urged to stay longer for some special reason.
When you did make your call you only got fifteen minutes to leave an impression; the original fifteen minutes of fame.
Above all, don't keep her standing an hour, while you lecture or "orate," or go over somebody's history, while everybody else sits about looking foolish.
Calling was kind of like the acting out a blog. Someone would sit at home and a stream of people would come in leaving comments; some of the comments were weird and went on forever.
Put your card on a convenient place in the hall, or on the tray the servant holds out for you, and mention your name to the manservant, if there is one.
You would leave little cars with your name on them, to let people know you were there.

This also makes me think of blogs. Sometimes I see blogs as establishments I visit. I make the rounds every once in awhile to make sure everyone is still alive.
Leaving other people's cards is a rather precarious business, and done at the caller's risk! It is not pleasant to meet your hostess driving in just as you sail out with the consciousness of having done a good stroke for a friend.
And no sock-puppets!
--From Etiquette for Americans--

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Journlists: 1898

The "interview," try to disguise the fact as one may, is an acknowledged evil. Few persons of taste like it but as there are many who desire to be represented as holders of certain important opinions, and many more who are willing to sacrifice their privacy to something, call it public good; as there are thousands with tastes perverted or vitiated who wish to appear in print on any pretext—the few who hate notoriety, and consider publicity on any pretext poisonous, must submit to their fate.
The world would be improved by less knowledge of harrowing details of private griefs.
--From Etiquette for Americans--

 Reporters weren't exactly considered respectable members of society, and they pretty much aren't anymore either.

I don't see how they'll get it back now that we can can release our own harrowing details via Facebook or Twitter. Reporters, anybody can do that job.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Computing: 1617

Napier's bones were a series of rods which could be used to perform mathematical functions. Here's what a biographer, writing in 1787, had to say about them:
Napier's arithmetical machines and those afterwards invented, a few of which we shall enumerate, although the monuments of genius, must, in general, be regarded as mathematical curiosities of no use.
--From An account of the life, writings, and inventions of John Napier--

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hot food trends: 1911

The appearance of the Hawaiian pineapple in slices on the market, all ready for use, added another base for the preparation of fancy sundaes, which has proved to be exceedingly popular. While pineapple sundaes of this class have been on the market for some time, the trouble of pealing, slicing and preparing the pineapple for use was so great, that but few cared to bother with them.
Here's an advertisement for Dole's pineapple juice:

The ad reads:
Physicians prescribe it in throat, stomach and intestinal trouble. A refreshing drink during fever and convalescence.
So pineapples were also part of a health fad. Instead of curing cancer or Alzheimer's, people thought their food would cure indigestion.

--From The Spatula--

Monday, September 21, 2009

Advertising: 1911

--From The Spatula--

This is actually advertising for advertising. The magazine would invent advertising campaigns for its subscribers and make money selling color prints individuals could add store information to.

And they'd give out freebies:

Readers were instructed to cut out the ad, paste their store information on it, and send it to a local newspaper. There were pages of them and a store owner could pick whichever ones they needed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Life before sex ed: 1861

I have previously stated, that the French condoms will prevent conception, but the objection to them is, they are troublesome, liable to be torn in coition, prevent the full sexual enjoyment, as they do not allow that reciprocal warmth of the male and female genitals which is necessary, as it prevents their coming in contact except through the covering, which often chafes and irritates the female parts, and will if used for any great number of times, cause seminal weakness, debility and Impotency in the male.
Condoms make you impotent! Other means of birth control which wouldn't work (or would also cause impotency) included the rhythm method and withdrawal.

You had to be careful:
Prolonging the venereal act will also cause seminal disease and impotency.
And don't even think about touching yourself or you'd end up like this:

Ways to prevent pregnancy included:
Dancing, and urinating immediately after... ...Riding a trotting horse, or any excreise, that will agitate the ovum before it is securely located... ...strong catharties, all stimulating fluids, victuals that will promote thirst, bathing soon after coition...
Of course if you wanted a method sure to work, you had to send the author 5 dollars.
...those who should be eternally cursed are the unprincipled quacks, who palm off their injurious and nauseating stuff for money...
Yes, watch out for quacks.

--From Medical adviser and marriage guide--

Friday, September 18, 2009

Whole foods: 1915

Those who are at all interested in the progress which has been made in the scientific knowledge and practical handling of our common foodstuffs must be aware to how great an extent to-day both serious and popular attention has become fixed on the subject of the so-called whole or natural foods, and their relation, in the sense of prevention or cure, to certain recognized physical disorders known as "deficiency" diseases.

--From McClure's Magazine--

Yes, whole foods are a subject of serious and popular attention, both today and back when "today" had a hyphen in it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Health reform: 1849

The College of Physicians having sent forth some gratuitous advice, which is well worth its cost, on the subject of Cholera, we hasten to put it into plain language for the benefit of the community.

Every one is to live extremely well, and no one is, on any account, to neglect warm clothing, with good coal fire, or any other arrangement that may be conducive to health and comfort.

All persons crowded together in small ill-ventilated houses are recommended to take at once more commodious apartments, and those individuals who are insufficiently clothed must give orders forthwith to their tailors for taking the necessary measures.

Families not hitherto in the habit of keeping up a good fire in the winter, through their inability to purchase the fuel, will without delay take the necessary steps for laying in a stock of coals from their respective coal merchants; and those who have had meat only once a week, will give orders for a daily supply in future, to their various butchers. It being highly expedient not to overtax the strength, those who feel exhausted by their labour will relinquish their work when they feel themselves too much debilitated to continue with comfort to themselves, and they will of course take care to make up in some way for the deficiency of their wages. These simple suggestions have only to be followed out with due care by the labouring classes of the community, in order to mitigate very materially the severity of the Cholera.
--From Punch, or The London Charivari--

That's almost as silly as requiring people who can't afford health insurance to either buy it or pay a fine.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vegetarianism: 1849

When we noticed, a week or two ago, a banquet of vegetables, we were not aware that a great Vegetarian Movement was going on...

The Vegetarian Advocate has replied to our article on the late vegetarian banquet, and we must confess that, notwithstanding the very cholera-inducing diet on which the members of the sect exist, the answer is by no means of a choleric character. The Vegetarian Advocate has a delicious vegetable leader, with two or three columns of provincial intelligence, showing the spread of vegetarian principles. There are vegetarian missionaries going about the country inculcating the doctrine of peas and potatoes; and there is a talk of a vegetarian dining-room, where there is to be nothing to eat but potatoes, plain and mashed, with puddings and pies in all their tempting variety.

--From Punch, or The London Charivari--

I never would have guessed this, but vegetarianism in the West was part of a reform movement organized during the Victorian Era.

That kind of takes the edge off of it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Not Pornography: 1641

It's Ruth and Naomi.

I think the painter is suggesting, none too subtlety, that it wasn't just her devotion to her mother-in-law that got her remarried.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fair trade sugar: 1849

A Gentleman named Bull being in great trouble and distress of mind, is anxious to be introduced to some Casuist who will undertake to quiet his conscience. Mr. Bull is the proprietor of certain colonial possessions devoted to the cultivation of sugar. In these he, some years ago, abolished Negro slavery, from a conviction that it was barbarous and wicked. In justice to his colonists he entered into an arrangement to place a prohibitive duty on slave-grown sugar. This arrangement Mr, Bull, being fond of sugar, and desirous of obtaining the article cheap, subsequently annulled.

Mr. Bull is persuaded by his economical advisers that he did not, by so doing, break faith with his colonists; but feeling uncomfortably dubious as to this point, he would be glad to have it settled to his satisfaction. He has renounced slave-holding, believing it to be criminal; but while he continues to consume slave- grown sugar, it strikes him forcibly that he is in the same position as a receiver of stolen goods. He will feel deeply grateful to any ingenious person who will convince him that he is mistaken in this view.

Mr. Bull desires to enjoy cheap sugar, unalloyed by the reflection that he is encouraging slavery. He wants to be enabled to congratulate himself on having abolished slavery, without being obliged to reproach himself for admitting the produce of slave labour. He wishes to revel, at the same time, in sugar and self-complacency. He seeks, in fact, to be relieved from the disagreeable suspicion that he is acting the part of a humbug; and any special pleader who will do him this kindness will be handsomely rewarded.
--From Punch, or The London Charivari--

Those Victorians with their silly moral crusades, trying to force their values on other people.

If the Victorians were effective, it's probably because they focused their attention on one specific problem at a time, not the grab-bag of moral standards embodied by today's fair trade movement. Fair trade labels are so prone to abuse that it's probably best to avoid them for moral reasons.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Desperate Housewives: 398

In a word, while many matrons, who had milder husbands, yet bore even in their faces marks of shame, would in familiar talk blame their husbands' lives, she would blame their tongues, giving them, as in jest, earnest advice: "That from the time they heard the marriage writings read to them, they should account them as indentures, whereby they were made servants; and so, remembering their condition, ought not to set themselves up against their lords." And when they, knowing what a choleric husband she endured, marvelled that it had never been heard, nor by any token perceived, that Patricius had beaten his wife, or that there had been any domestic difference between them, even for one day, and confidentially asking the reason, she taught them her practice above mentioned. Those wives who observed it found the good, and returned thanks; those who observed it not, found no relief, and suffered.
--From The Confessions of Saint Augustine--

 That was some interesting marital advice.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Text messaging: 1849


Not content with the wonders the Electric Telegraph performs--not satisfied with its facility in announcing outbreaks--aye, and making them also, now and then--it has been proposed to apply its powers to the operations of every-day life, and to carry on ordinary conversations by means of the Electric Telegraph....

...We should be glad to see speakers in the House of Commons limited to the use of the machine, which would prevent the other Members from being overwhelmed by the drowsiness which the soporific qualities of tone and style will induce...
--From Punch, or The London Charivari--

Can you imagine people sending text messages for everyday conversations? Ridiculous!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sex: 398

I took pleasure, not only in the pleasure of the deed, but in the praise. What is worthy of dispraise but vice? But I made myself worse than I was, that I might not be dispraised; and when in any thing I had not sinned as the abandoned ones, I would say that I had done what I had not done, that I might not seem contemptible in proportion as I was innocent; or of less account, the more chaste.
--From The Confessions of Saint Augustine--

Even saints lie about it! This is the kind of stuff they need to teach in sex-ed classes.

This has me thinking though: people often do bad things because they worry about what other people might think of them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Murder: 398

In quest of the fame of eloquence, a man standing before a human judge, surrounded by a human throng, declaiming against his enemy with fiercest hatred, will take heed most watchfully, lest, by an error of the tongue, he murder the word "human being"; but takes no heed, lest, through the fury of his spirit, he murder the real human being.
--From The Confessions of Saint Augustine--

 Don't mess with grammar!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Physics: 1620

Nor shall we thus be led to the doctrine of atoms, which implies the hypothesis of a vacuum and that of the unchangeableness of matter (both false assumptions); we shall be led only to real particles, such as really exist.
--From The New Organum--

 Now I want to go back in time and chase Francis Bacon around with a vacuum cleaner.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Youth: 1620

I'm not sure what the face is supposed to be emoting, but this close-up adds to the story:

You see the decapitated body bleeding on the ground and the opposing army running away.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Science projects: 1620

For instance, if a man wishes to superinduce upon silver the yellow colour of gold or an increase of weight (observing the laws of matter), or transparency on an opaque stone, or tenacity on glass, or vegetation on some substance that is not vegetable, — we must consider, I say, what kind of rule or guidance he would most desire.
Bacon had the idea that it would be possible to modify one property of a substance at a time, like making something change color or making something denser.
In gold, for example, the following properties meet. It is yellow in colour, heavy up to a certain weight; malleable or ductile to a certain degree of extension; it is not volatile, and loses none of its substance by the action of fire; it turns into a liquid with a certain degree of fluidity; it is separated and dissolved by particular means; and so on for the other natures which meet in gold.
If you were able to modify each quality of a substance you could eventually turn base metals into gold.   This sounds ridiculous now, but by using Bacon's methods we do in fact know how to turn base metals into gold: just put them in a star and wait for it to explode.  Some day we may be able to it more conveniently; you never know.

--From The New Organum--

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Antiquity: 1620

As for antiquity, the opinion touching it which men entertain is quite a negligent one, and scarcely consonant with the word itself. For the old age of the world is to be accounted the true antiquity; and this is the attribute of our own times, not of that earlier age of the world in which the ancients lived; and which, though in respect of us it was the elder, yet in respect of the world it was the younger.
--From The New Organum--

We are the ancients.

Our predecessors didn't have the same concept of history as we do, didn't have all the experiences and information that we do. These are the things which make you old--memories of experiences--and we have a lot of them.

If you want to be a human encyclopedia now you have to settle for a much abridged version. Humans have recorded so many experiences, that no single person can absorb them all. But then, old people often have trouble remembering things.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

Product life cycles: 1620

Whereas in the mechanical arts, which are founded on nature and the light of experience, we see the contrary happen, for these (as long as they are popular) are continually thriving and growing, as having in them a breath of life; at first rude, then convenient, afterwards adorned, and at all times advancing.
--From The New Organum--

Bacon isn't inspired by Greek philosophies, in fact he points out the lack of progress they have achieved over their two thousand years of existence.  Instead he is inspired by the product life cycle of machines, which he is able to notice in 1620.  He wants to let human senses and understanding improve in the same way he sees technology improving around him.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bacon solves a (non-food) problem:1620

Whence it comes to pass that the high and formal discussions of learned men end oftentimes in disputes about words and names; with which (according to the use and wisdom of the mathematicians) it would be more prudent to begin, and so by means of definitions reduce them to order.
--From The New Organum--

Many art classes have a huge discussion regarding the question "What is Art?"  And many buildings are full of things which are supposed to make us question what art is.  It's perfectly clear where this line of thinking is going to end--with lots of stuff people aren't sure if they can throw away.  So I'll take a page from Francis Bacon and make up a definition, which probably isn't even original.

Art: Something made by humans for the purpose of expression.

Whenever someone asks,"What is art?" I'll immediately shoot out that answer.

 I can even use the definition to determine how good a piece of art is (How expressive is it, and do I like what is trying to be expressed?).

Thanks Bacon!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Kaleidoscopes: 1620

...human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolours the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.
--From The New Organon--

Lots of people would have used such an observation to say that knowledge of anything is impossible.  Bacon said if our senses are distorted we should seek to improve them.

In that sense every scientific experiment and every piece of equipment is like a pair of glasses or a hearing aid (and every one of us is like someone who is deaf and blind and can barely think).