Saturday, October 31, 2009

Playgirl: 1913

"I am dying by inches thinking and dreaming about her, she's a playgirl, I never thought I could win her, I only wanted to stop dreaming about her to give my soul some peace."

"That's the way I like to hear a boy talk," said the witch doctor, his clear, limestone-colored eyes twinkling sympathetically.
--From Susquehanna legends--

I feel the same way about the song:

Friday, October 30, 2009


The rich don't know how to be rich anymore. There's no real reason to envy them, except maybe out of habit. I mean, what do they have today, that an ordinary person couldn't purchase a pretty good substitute for? Or make themselves? No one's going to be touring their houses in a hundred years. They're probably not even made out of materials that would last that long.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pirating: 1898

Every reader of The Black Cat and every publisher knows that its stories are copyrighted, and that each number gives due notice of such legal protection. No better evidence of the superior excellence of The Black Cat stories is needed than the fact that the property of no other periodical has been so widely pirated. In their anxiety to publish the cleverest short stories of the day, a number of the foremost papers have repeatedly been led to disregard the Eighth Commandment.
--From The Black Cat--

Is the pirating of intellectual property a major problem of the internet age, or is it only a problem that is easier to see with the use of the internet (because you can google your own copyrighted material)?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Health Claims: 1898

You know things are bad when companies are advertising how nonpoisonous their products are.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lose weight fast!: 1898

--From The Black Cat--

See how women have advanced? In the past something like this would be in the back of a magazine. Now it's on the front cover with an incredibly thin celebrity.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Creepy crawly things: 1862

--From The Intellectual Observer--

They're beautiful! I suppose something like this image is the dream of all insect collections.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Green revolution: 1769

The improvements which have been made in the art of Gardening, within fifty years past, are very great; so that we may without presumption affirm, that every part of this art is in as great perfection at this time in England, as in any part of Europe. Our markets being better supplied with all sorts of esculent plants through the whole year, than those of any other country; and these in their several seasons are afforded at so cheap rates, that they are become a great part of the food of the poor: to which we may in part attribute the abatement of those violent scorbutic disorders, which formerly raged so much in this country.
--From The gardeners kalendar--

It's kind of weird to think of gardening as a major survival skill; it's probably a sign of the decadence of our society that when we hear the word "gardening" we think of flowers. A garden must have been an amazing place when food was hard to come by.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We tend to think of "home" as a fixed place, but I think of it as some sort of emotional excretion. It just kind of collects when we stay in one place; like we shed "home" particles wherever we happen to be.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Politicians: 1789

Mr. Sherman conceived it difficult to modify the clause and make it better. It is well known that those who are religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, are equally scrupulous of getting substitutes or paying an equivalent. Many of them would rather die than do either one or the other; but he did not see an absolute necessity for a clause of this kind. We do not live under an arbitrary Government, said he, and the States, respectively, will have the government of the militia, unless when called into actual service; besides, it would not do to alter it so as to exclude the whole of any sect, because there are men amongst the Quakers who will turn out, notwithstanding the religious principles of the society, and defend the cause of their country. Certainly it will be improper to prevent the exercise of such favorable dispositions, at least whilst it is the practice of nations to determine their contests by the slaughter of their citizens and subjects.
 --From Annals of Congress, House of Representatives, 1st Congress, 1st Session--

The debate revolved around people who refuse to fight because of religious feelings. Should they expressly be allowed to refuse to serve in the military? The amount of wisdom expressed by members of Congress in response was shocking. Almost makes you believe in government.

I know I'd gladly let these people control everything. Of course, they'd be wise enough to refuse the task and probably berate me for bringing it up.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Health advice: 1734

The tender Patients, by bathing in a Tub of cold Water; to which may be added a Pail of boiling Water; a general Method of so much bleeding and purging must be used before the cold bathing, as the Disease requires; and if you dip but twice in a Bathing, 'tis as much as the old Writers required...
--From The Gentleman's magazine--

They were obsessed with bleeding and cold baths, we're obsessed with food. And we clearly think too much about it, otherwise people wouldn't bother to report on it so much in the popular press (with so little information to back their stories up).

I mean, I remember when margarine was health food! Is it health food again? I have no idea.

Unless it's literally poison, I don't want to hear about it. That's my new policy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blighted neighborhoods: 1734

Our Coffee-houses and Theatres supply us with Examples enough of what is not Good Breeding...
--From The Gentleman's magazine--

What base places coffee-houses and the theater must have been.

Will cultured people in the future impress others with their knowledge of hip-hop music and force their children to watch pornography on PBS?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Space aliens: 1698

We know that Mercury is three times nearer that vast body of Light than we are. Whence it follows that they see him three times bigger, and feel him nine times hotter than we do. Such a degree of Heat would be intolerable to us, and set afire all our dry’d Herbs, our Hay and Straw that we use. And yet I warrant the Animals there, are made of such a temper, as to be but moderately warm, and the Plants such as to be able to endure the Heat. The Inhabitants of Mercury, it’s likely, have the same opinion of us that we have of Saturn, that we must be intolerably cold, and have little or no Light, we are so far from the Sun. There’s reason to doubt, whether the Mercurians, tho they live so much nearer the Sun, the Fountain of Life and Vigour, are much more airy and ingenious than we.
--From Cosmotheoros--

This is nothing next to his reasoning that aliens must have hands so they can write down their astronomical observations. But that's metaphysics for you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Universe: 1715

--From Astro-theology--

Forget about the Earth revolving around the sun. The big realization was that stars were like the sun and perhaps even had planets of their own, which is why this diagram shows the distant stars as having planets orbiting around them.

In our solar system the planets were all thought to likely be habitable and the consensus was that the Moon was covered in oceans. But even though there was a consensus, people who claimed the Moon had observable liquid water were still willing to listen to dissenters. Before telling his personal account of seeing lunar oceans, the author of this book quotes Huygens:
In the Moon I find no likeness of Seas although Kepler and most others are of a different opinion. For those vast plane regions, which are much darker than the Mountainous parts, and are commonly taken for Seas, and bear the names of Oceans; in those very places viewed with a long Telescope, I find little round Cavities, with shadows falling within them; which cannot agree with the Surface of the Sea...
If your theories are strong, they can withstand the criticism of others.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Perspective: 1715

The prodigious and inconceivable Rapidity assigned by the Ptolemaicks to the Heavens, is by the Copernican Scheme taken off, and a far more easy and tolerable Motion substituted in its room. For is it not a far more easy Motion for the Earth to revolve round its own Axis in 24 hours, than for so great a number of far more massy, and far distant Globes, to revolve round the Earth in the same space of time? If the Maintainers of the Ptolemaick Systeme do object against the Motion of the Earth, that it would make us dizzy and shatter our Globe to pieces, what a precipitant, how terrible a Rapidity must that of the Heavens be? What a Velocity must the Sun have to run its course, at the distance 21 or 22 Semidiameters of the Earth? What a Velocity must that of the Fixt Stars...
--From Astro-theology--

Does the Earth spin in the universe or is the Earth fixed and the universe spin around us?

If we were fixed then the star Betelgeuse, which is about 640 light years away, would travel 3.80 X 10^16 km every day at a speed of 1468757.4 times that of light. Since nothing can travel faster than the speed of light (other than a rumor) the planet Earth must rotate.

So, if you think the universe revolves around you, hopefully this demonstration of math and physics will convince you of the error of you ways.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spin Doctor: 1776

When Columbus, upon his return from his first voyage, was introduced with a sort of triumphal honours to the sovereigns of Castile and Arragon, the principal productions of the countries which he had discovered were carried in solemn procession before him. The only valuable part of them consisted in some little fillets, bracelets, and other ornaments of gold, and in some bales of cotton. The rest were mere objects of vulgar wonder and curiosity in some reeds of an extraordinary size, some birds of a very beautiful plumage, and some stuffed skins of the huge alligator and manati ; all of which were preceded by six or seven of the wretched natives, whose singular colour and appearance added greatly to the novelty of the show.

In consequence of the representations of Columbus, the council of Castile determined to take possession of the countries of which the inhabitants were plainly incapable of defending themselves. The pious purpose of converting them to Christianity sanctified the injustice of the project. But the hope of finding treasures of gold there was the sole motive which prompted to undertake it; and to give this motive the greater weight, it was proposed by Columbus, that the half of all the gold and silver that should be found there, should belong to the crown. This proposal was approved of by the council.
--From An Inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations--

I love Adam Smith, he's not swooning in hero worship over Columbus like some people. Instead, he spends a couple of pages pointing out Columbus's failings with dry British humor. But who was the spin doctor, Columbus or Smith? Maybe they both were. Maybe everyone is who tries to interpret things.

Make me laugh and I wont complain.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Peaceniks: 1787

It has long been the opinion of the Author, that such a state of peace and happiness as is foretold in scripture and commonly called the millennial period, may be rationally expected to be introduced without a miracle....

The spirit of commerce is happily calculated by the Author of wisdom to open an amicable intercourse between all countries, to soften the horrors of war, to enlarge the field of science and speculation, and to assimilate the manners, feelings and languages of all nations. This leading principle, in its remoter consequences, will produce a thousand advantages in favour of government and legislation, give Patriotism the air of Philanthropy, induce all men to regard each other as brethren and friends, eradicate all kinds of literary, religious and political superstition, prepare the minds of all mankind for the rational reception of moral and religious truth...
--From The vision of Columbus: a poem in nine books--

 So if you were into world peace you'd go into business. Think of all the hippies who felt bad about "selling out"!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Executive compensation: 1744

...whatever Inducements Columbus had for his attempting these Discoveries Westward, he proposed the finding out a Way to the East-Indies by the Western Ocean, to King John of Portugal; and gave such substantial Reasons for the Attempt, that the King seemed to think the Thing very probable, though he did not like the Terms this Adventurer proposed. At several times he made Application to the Genoese, and Henry VII. King of England...

...applied himself to Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Castile and Arragon, who, in the Year 1492. provided him with Money, and entrusted him with the equipping and fitting out three small Ships for the Expedition: He also obtained a Grant from their Majesties to be Admiral of the Western Seas, that all Civil Employments, as well as Governments, in the Continent or World to be discovered, should be wholly at his Disposal; and, besides the Revenues of the Posts of Admiral and Viceroy, he should enjoy a tenth of all the Profits arising by future Conquests in those yet unknown Lands.
--From A system of geography--

Ten percent of all future profits; that sounds insane. But you know the British and Portuguese probably kicked themselves for not agreeing to pay it.

We often hear people complaining about how much someone else is paid, but there are people who are worth the price and can deliver; if you don't pay them what they ask, the people who do will eat your lunch.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Contacting aliens: 1696 is reasonable to believe, that the Winds and Currents brought from America those several things towards the Azores and Porto Santo, which are recorded by Fernan Colon, in the Life of his Father Christopher... be some of the Reasons moved the said Christopher Columbus to attempt the Discovery of the W. Indies. The things mentioned by them, are 1. a piece of Wood ingeniously wrought, but not with Iron,... ...2dly, Another piece of Wood like the other... ...3dly, very large Canes, much beyond any growing in those Parts... ...and that on another of those Islands... ...was cast on Shore two Mens Bodies with larger Faces, and different Aspects from Christians; and that at Capo della Verga were once seen two Canoas or Barks with Cabins, which were believed to be forced to Sea, when accidentally they had been going from some one Island to another.
--From Philosophical Transactions--

We know what happened to the people in the Americas after they unintentionally made Europeans aware of their presence. Why do we allow people to purposefully try to send messages to aliens?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus: 1620

And therefore it is fit that I publish and set forth those conjectures of mine which make hope in this matter reasonable ; just as Columbus did, before that wonderful voyage of his across the Atlantic, when he gave the reasons for his conviction that new lands and continents might be discovered besides those which were known before; which reasons, though rejected at first, were afterwards made good by experience, and were the causes and beginnings of great events.
--From The New Organum--

Writing down your theories, conducting an experiment based on those theories, and then learning from your experiences. Sounds like a scientist to me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Homoeroticism: circa 900

His face shone like the moon at its full and he seemed as if he had just come from the bath, with his rosy cheeks and flower-white forehead and mole like a grain of ambergris, even as says the poet:

Within one mansion of the sky the sun and moon combine; With all fair fortune and delight of goodliness they shine. Their beauty stirs all those that see to passion and to love: Good luck to them, for that they move to ravishment divine! In grace and beauty they increase and aye more perfect grow: All souls yearn out to them for love, all hearts to them incline. Blessed be God, whose creatures are so full of wonderment! Whate'er He wills He fashions forth, even as He doth design.

--From The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night--

That was one man describing another man. It sounds homoerotic, but it was just how straight men acted. It's kind of like what Kenneth Anger (my obsession this weekend) was able to capture in Scorpio Rising:

Anger says in the director's commentary that he was surprised at what the guys in the motorcycle club he was filming did and that they made it seem more queer than even he thought it was.

Another similarity, in both the poem above and the movie, God makes an appearance.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Throwing someone under the bus: circa 900

If through a servant misfortune befall thee, Spare not to save thine own
life at his cost. Servants in plenty thou'lt find to replace him, Life for life never, once
it is lost.
--From The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night--

It was what servants were for. In some circles today, this is wisdom.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Women in the media: circa 900

...I am head of my family and mistress over men and slaves and servants. I have here a ship laden with merchandise...
An independent business woman.
"O sister, what wilt thou do with this handsome young man?" "I purpose to make him my husband," answered I; and I turned to the prince and said, "O my lord, I have that to propose to thee, in which I will not have thee cross me: and it is that, when we reach Baghdad, I will give myself to thee as a handmaid in the way of marriage, and thou shalt be my husband and I thy wife."
And not afraid to ask a man to marry her either.

--From The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night--

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A good man: circa 900

After a while, they said to me, "O sister, we desire to marry again, for we can no longer endure to live without husbands." "O my dear ones," answered I, "there is no good in marriage, for now-a-days good men are rare to find; nor do I see the advantage of marrying again, since ye have already made trial of matrimony and it has profited you nothing."
--From The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night--


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Prozac: circa 900

Morn struggles through the dusk; so pour me out, I pray, Of wine,
such wine as makes the saddest-hearted gay!
So pure and bright it is, that whether wine in glass Or glass in
wine be held, i' faith, 'tis hard to say.
--From The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night--

Do people take too many pills? Well the pills aren't the problem and the practice isn't new.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Reflections on Francis Bacon: 2009

Often disagreements about God degenerate into shouting matches because the participants aren't there to discuss, they are there to live out a revenge fantasy against those who have taken away their faith in God, or made them have the faith in the first place.

The deists think the proponents of science are like they themselves used to be, people who have given in to doubt but not yet repented. The hard-core atheists think the deists are like they used to be, proponents of ideas that will lead to shameful self-realizations. Both are worried about backsliding and science gets stuck in the middle.

But what neither of them understand is that some of us have faith in science; we haven't given up our faith as either of them have, we never lost it. And I call it faith because of the enormity of the questions we seek to answer and the inadequacy of the tools with which we seek to answer them: our fragile human reason and our frail human senses.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Female sexuality: circa 900

So for fear of the genie, they lay with her one after the other, and when they had done, she bade them arise, and took out of her bosom a purse containing a necklace made of five hundred and seventy rings, and said to them, "Know ye what these are?" They answered, "No." And she said, "Every one of the owners of these rings has had to do with me in despite of this Afrit. And now give me your rings, both of you." So each of them took off a ring and gave it to her. And she said to them, "Know that this genie carried me off on my wedding night and laid me in a box and shut the box up in a glass chest, on which he clapped seven strong locks and sank it to the bottom of the roaring stormy sea, knowing not that nothing can hinder a woman, when she desires aught...
--From The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night--

We didn't invent it, and in comparison to this, we sound like we're in the closet about it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cats: 1893

The violent lyrics of today's music is without precedent. (I almost can't believe that song is from 1893.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Flying: 1893

If you wanted to do it without a balloon, you needed a hill to jump off of.

The pilot died three years after this, from breaking his spine in a flying accident.

We always say how sad it is when people die in stunts, but people like this weren't in it for just the thrill, they were really doing something!

--From Annual report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution--

Friday, October 2, 2009

America: 1774

That we hold it essential to English liberty, that no man be condemned unheard, or punished for supposed offences, without having an opportunity of making his defence.
--From A Letter from the General Congress, to the People of Great Britain--

I wonder what what the Founding Fathers would say about water-boarding? People ask it about all sorts of other things.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The prevention of wars: 1812

The question of why violence seems to have decreased over the last few centuries was brought up again recently. Here's an example from the past which might be of help:
Allow me to recommend the following means of obviating Scarcity of Corn [wheat] in future, and rendering ourselves truly independent, and no more obliged to bend contemptibly to the Americans, as we have now done; instead of declaring War against them a twelvemonth ago, as our honour imperiously called upon us to do.
The British would have declared war on America, but they were dependent on wheat imports from and couldn't bring themselves to it, even though their honor was at stake.

The proponents of free trade have claim that it would decreases wars by removing the need to fight over resources and increasing interdependence. Here's an example.

Oh, and how badly did the British need wheat? Here are some policies the well-to-do were asked to follow to help keep prices down:
1. They make a distinction between the Bread consumed by the Family and the Servants: that for the Family being baked in tins; as the Servants cannot then lay their own profusion on the Parlour.

2. They never suffer a loaf to be cut until after the second or third day of baking; for, when eaten new, the consumption is greater, and much waste is occasioned.

3. No toast is permitted; for the same portion cut into bread-and-butter goes one-third farther.

4. No rolls, French bread, or muffins; as all these are needless incentives to appetite.

5. No more cut for dinner than absolutely requisite; for which one piece, half an inch thick, of a round cut in four, will be found sufficient for each. By this means all broken pieces are prevented.

6. No flour used in pies and puddings; for which rice, variously prepared, will prove an excellent substitute.
Look at number 2! What is the point of making bread if you can't eat it fresh?

--From The Gentleman's magazine--