Archive for The Way We Were

Give or take a cubit

We’re not saying that they’d all fit, but we’re saying that they’d all float:

[R]esearch by physics students suggests that a structure on the scale of Noah’s ark as described in the ancient text could have been built.

And what’s more, they say it would have been buoyant even with two of every animal on Earth on board.

Okay, you’ve gotten my attention. How does this work?

  • The dimensions for the ark were provided in cubits in the Bible, an archaic measure based on the distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger.
  • Noah was commanded to make the boat out of ‘gopher wood’ and in order to calculate the weight of the empty ark they needed to know the density of the material the boat was constructed out of, but there is no modern-day equivalent of gopher wood.
  • English translations of the Bible refer to cypress wood instead, so this was the material that the students used.
  • In order to calculate the overall downward force of the ark, the students needed to know the mass of the animals on board; previous research has suggested that the average mass of an animal is approximately equal to that of one sheep, 23.47kg, which was the figure used.
  • “Our conclusions were that the ark would support the weight of 2.15 million sheep without sinking and that should be enough to support all of the species that were around at the time.”

Still unexplained: why Noah didn’t swat those frickin’ mosquitoes when he had the chance; and dammit, you expect unicorns to be smarter than that. Or at least I do.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Notice the quilting

It’s a Northern exclusive:

Original or Ultra Northern Bath Tissue

There are, of course, alternative products. Consider, for instance, the recommendations of François Rabelais’ infamous (and hefty) Gargantua:

Once I did wipe me with a gentlewoman’s velvet mask, and found it to be good; for the softness of the silk was very voluptuous and pleasant to my fundament. Another time with one of their hoods, and in like manner that was comfortable; at another time with a lady’s neckerchief, and after that some ear-pieces made of crimson satin; but there was such a number of golden spangles in them that they fetched away all the skin off my tail with a vengeance. This hurt I cured by wiping myself with a page’s cap, garnished with a feather after the Swiss fashion. Afterwards, in dunging behind a bush, I found a March-cat, and with it daubed my breech, but her claws were so sharp that they grievously exulcerated my perineum. Of this I recovered the next morning thereafter, by wiping myself with my mother’s gloves, of a most excellent perfume of Arabia. [He continues in this vein for several pages.] But to conclude, I say and maintain that of all arse-wisps, bum-fodders, tail-napkins, bung-hole-cleansers and wipe-breeches, there is none in this world comparable to the neck of a goose, that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs: and believe me therein upon mine honour; for you will thereby feel in your nockhole a most wonderful pleasure, both in regard of the softness of the said down, and of the temperate heat of the goose; which is easily communicated to the bumgut and the rest of the intestines, insofar as to come even to the regions of the heart and brains. And think not that the felicity of the heroes and demigods, in the Elysian fields, consisteth either in their Ambrosia or Nectar, but in this, that they wipe their tails with the necks of geese.

(Original ad pronounced a “good buy” at Bad Newspaper. No geese were harmed in the preparation of this article, unless François wasn’t kidding.)

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Razor canon

Advice Goddess Amy Alkon draws a plaintive wail from a chap whose girlfriend has forsworn the blade for, um, political reasons, and explains why this is mostly bogus:

As for your girlfriend’s notion that the defurred look traces to “anti-feminist propaganda,” way back before there was Cosmo, there was Ovid, the Roman poet, advising women looking for love: “Let no rude goat find his way beneath your arms” (don’t let your underarms get stanky like a goat), “and let not your legs be rough with bristling hair.” Archeological evidence (including hair-scraping stones and an impressive set of Bronze Age tweezers) suggests that women — and often men — have been shaving, depilating, and yanking out body hair since at least 7,000 B.C. In the early 1500s, Michelangelo sculpted David (who would have been a hairy Middle Eastern dude, looking more Borat than baby’s bottom), making him look like he was too busy spending three weeks at the waxer to slay Goliath. And these days, male bodybuilders also remove their body hair, lest their admirers have to peer through the hair sweater to find the pecs and abs.

For my part, I contributed a verse of this track by The Pursuit of Happiness to the discussion.

And for the record, I have known a few women who were similarly disinclined to defoliate themselves, for whatever reason: there were times when I couldn’t tell without close inspection, and there were times when entering the room was more than sufficient. Since I wasn’t actually dating any of them, I considered it none of my beeswax.

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Madness on display

Ronnie Schreiber has a great piece in TTAC about Earl “Madman” Muntz, entrepreneur, used-car salesman, new-car manufacturer, tape-cartridge magnate, and all-around swell guy. One paragraph, I admit, took me slightly aback:

An inveterate and flamboyant romantic, Muntz married seven times, and in between matrimonial relationships he also had a number of girlfriends, including comedienne Phyllis Diller. That seems somewhat ironic in light of the fact that all of his wives were beauties and Diller famously effected a homely comedic persona.

Which reminded me that it was, indeed, a persona. Here’s Phyllis Diller on the cover of her second comedy album for Verve, Are You Ready for Phyllis Diller?

Cover of Are You Ready for Phyllis Diller, Verve 15031, 1962

Pretty darn cute for a woman in her mid-forties (Diller was born in 1917, this came out circa 1962).

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Let’s talk about a Rocket

No, not a Houston Rocket. Think Lansing, Michigan, home of Oldsmobile since Ransom E. Olds himself starting building cars in 1897.

Nineteen fifty-eight had not been a good year for General Motors: it was a down year for Detroit generally, and one brand — Packard — actually perished. (Nash and Hudson had expired after the 1957 model year; Ford had yet to learn the fate of its shiny new Edsel.) The General’s own ’58 models were mocked for their bloat and for their ridiculously overchromed flanks; the ’58 Olds perhaps got it the worst, with stylist Alex Tremulis, then best known for his work for Preston Tucker, satirizing it by drawing musical notes in that rear-panel staff. Worse yet, the daily driver of a Ford designer in the early 60s was a ’58 Olds with its nameplate letters shuffled: the Ford man tossed an I and rendered the name as “SLOBMODEL.”

By then, of course, Oldsmobile had moved on. At the time, the division’s big dealer promotion each year consisted of a small-scale Broadway-style musical, often based upon a large-scale Broadway musical. For 1959, Good News about Olds debuted with a catchy little number that demonstrates that Bill Hayes and Florence Henderson definitely knew the territory. Turned into a TV commercial, it looked like this (after the jump):

Read the rest of this entry »

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Seventh verse, same as the first

“Art there any more like thee at home?” asked Henry VIII:

Mary Boleyn is a shadowy figure and although she has been the subject of biographies, novels and movies, very little is actually known about her. Although she is often portrayed as Henry VIII’s favourite mistress or the Boleyn woman he really loved, we actually have no details at all about the King’s affair with Mary. We only know that they had a sexual relationship because of the fact that the King applied for a dispensation from the Pope in 1527 to enable him to marry Anne Boleyn and in this dispensation was listed the impediment of “affinity arising from illicit intercourse in whatever degree, even the first”. There was the impediment of affinity in the first degree due to Henry having slept with Anne’s sister.

The relationship, such as it was, is difficult to date:

Most historians date the relationship to the 1520s, beginning in 1522. This is because at the Shrovetide joust of 2nd March 1522 Henry VIII rode out with the motto Elle mon Coeur a navera, or “She has wounded my Heart”, embroidered on the trappings of his horse. A woman had obviously rebuffed his advances, but we cannot be sure that it was Mary, who, by this time, was married to William Carey. Mary could well have been just a one night stand when Elizabeth Blount, the King’s former mistress, was pregnant with the King’s son in 1519, they may not have had a long-lasting affair at all but the King still needed to declare the impediment whether the relationship had been one night, two nights or many nights.

Bill Clinton, unsurprisingly, was not available for comment.

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Move over, darling

No, seriously. Move it on over. Now.

Doris Day rolls on

This has been just one of 28 Cringe-Worthy Vintage Product Endorsements you’ll find at Collectors Weekly.

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Very expensive dust

With developers coming in like a wrecking ball — literally, perhaps — to dispose of Stage Center, Steve Lackmeyer has seen fit to list nine other downtown landmarks, scraped off the face of the earth because demolition was Part of the Plan.

One of the saddest such removals involved the old Biltmore Hotel. What did we lose?

The Oklahoma Biltmore was without a doubt one of the finest hotels in the post-oil boom days of Oklahoma City. There were 619 rooms, each offering free radio, circulating ice water, ceiling fans with up-and-down draft, and later, air conditioning. In 1936 the Biltmore was headquarters for 104 conventions, served 284,604 meals, and had 114,171 guests! H.P. “Johnnie” Johnson, manager, always said in the advertising, “On your next visit to the Oil Capital be sure to register at the Biltmore.”

On October 16, 1977 the Hotel Biltmore was demolished by a team of demolition specialists. Hundreds of low-yield explosives were planted throughout the building so that it would collapse and fall inward into an acceptable area only slightly larger than the hotel’s foundation. The purpose was both to break the materials into smaller pieces that would be easily transported away, and to contain the blast and debris within the area, in order to minimize damage to surrounding structures. The razing was recorded by hundreds of camera buffs.

[Edwards, Jim, and Hal Ottaway. The Vanished Splendor II: Postcard Views of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City: Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co., 1983]

And now, of course, we have to pony up zillions for a hotel more or less adjacent to the New Improved Convention Center. Your guess is as good as mine as to which of these elephants is whiter.

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What’s the name of the game?

If you remember ABBA from the Seventies and Eighties, you probably also remember that while they weren’t the least bit ugly, their mama, or somebody, dressed them funny. Turns out that this was a matter of cold calculation:

Swedish supergroup Abba have revealed they had good reason to wear such garish stage costumes — because it saved a little money, money, money on their tax bill.

The band, whose spangly flares, catsuits and platform heels were considered naff even in the 1970s, exploited a Swedish law which meant clothes were tax deductible if their owners could prove they were not used for daily wear.

Gotta love those capitalist Swedes.

(Via Fark.)

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No higher accolade exists

No more need be said, at least by the likes of me.

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Backhanded truth

Penmanship was never my strong suit until my middle teens, when I assume that the onrush of hormones that screwed up everything else somehow induced me to change my scrawl to a sweet flowing script. (My original Social Security card, issued in the 1960s, contains a signature worthy of Sister Catherine.) Today, well, not so much.

Still, that doesn’t constitute anything like an argument for the abandonment of actual handwriting:

If you can’t read cursive, someone could hand you page 12 of the owner’s manual of a ’94 Toyota Camry and tell you that it’s Article Three of the Constitution, and if you can’t read the original to compare, you’d just need to take their word for it that the Supreme Court has a 3 year/36,000 mile powertrain warranty.

And as we all know, there are entire cities — Washington, D.C. comes quickly to mind — of people who are manifestly incapable of reading the Constitution. I doubt many of them are driving ’94 Camrys, though.

Addendum: Learning it once is hard enough; learning it twice is torturous.

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Beyond triplicate

A good threesome is hard to beat. Think Kukla, Fran and Ollie; Dewey, Cheetham and Howe; Manny, Moe and Jack. It was a shock to the system to discover that there was originally a fourth Pep Boy. But that’s nothing compared to this:

You’re familiar with the elves, Snap! Crackle! and Pop! Their onomatopoetic names match the very cereal they’ve repped since the ’30s — Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. In the years after that, the trio has withstood the influx of cartoon competitors like the Trix Rabbit, Lucky the Leprechaun, the Cookie Crisp thieves, Cap’n Crunch and many more. Lost in the shuffle, however, was a fourth Rice Krispies elf named Pow! His short life is a time-capsule of an era when everyone was dreaming big.

Say, kids, what era was that?

From 1948 through the mid ’50s, the brothers sponsored the popular children’s program The Howdy Doody Show. But in early 1950, Kellogg’s marketers snuck in a fourth friend, Pow. The company said in an email to Smithsonian.com, “[Pow] appeared in two TV commercials. The spaceman character was meant to exude the ‘power of whole grain rice.’ He was never considered an official character.”

And why don’t you hear about that fourth Pep Boy? Perhaps because he cashed out of the company early — or maybe because his name was also Moe.

(Thanks, M. A. Larson!)

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Rewind thirty years

And just imagine what life would be like if it hadn’t happened this way:

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Sony Corp. v. Universal Studios decision, also known as the Betamax case, which paved the way for such innovations as your beloved DVR.

In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that Sony could continue to sell its Betamax videocassette recorder, overruling the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judgement that held Sony liable for consumers’ copyright infringement.

The lawsuit, which began in California District Court in 1976, charged that because Sony manufactured a device that could be used for copyright infringement the company was liable for infringement committed by consumers of Betamax.

Justice John Paul Stevens’ majority opinion in the case deemed home videotaping legal in the United States. The ruling also bore an important principle that has been used time and time again in lawsuits — if a product has a substantial, legitimate use it can be sold, even if some consumers use it illegitimately.

Two things happened within five years of this decision:

  • Sony began building VHS VCRs under license from JVC (1988);
  • Sony became a content provider on its own, taking over Columbia Pictures (1989).

And if that court ruling had gone the other way? Sony might have had to sue itself.

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With six you get ponies

A wondrous artifact over at Pergelator: the instrument panel from a 1929 Hudson Super Six. I got to wondering why a ’29 specifically, and it turned out that this was Hudson’s biggest year ever, third in US sales, behind Ford and Chevy but a smidgen ahead of your choice of Chrysler brands. (Chrysler, in 1928, had introduced Plymouth and DeSoto and bought Dodge; there persists a story that DeSoto was created specifically to use as a club against Dodge, should they refuse Chrysler’s overtures.)

The Super Six was Hudson’s top-selling model back then, and though Hudson, in a fit of corporate apostasy, went to eight-cylinder cars in 1930, the postwar line reintroduced the Super Six, which became their best seller for the next several years, largely because the old straight-eight cost about 10 percent more and delivered only seven more horsepower. By 1951, Hudson was winning races with a 308-cubic-inch six, which in civilian form kicked out 145 hp, more than the old eight, and which the company offered with some serious go-fast parts: the “Twin-H Power package” had dual induction and twin carburetors, offering 160-170 hp, and the factory-racer version (dubbed 7-X) was good for 210. The old eight-holer faded into oblivion. Unfortunately, so did Hudson, which was merged with Nash in 1954 to form American Motors; both brands were killed off after the 1957 model year in favor of Rambler, previously a Nash sub-brand, which was selling better than either.

There is, incredibly, one active Hudson dealer remaining: Miller Motors in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

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Zapruder than ever

The guy I feel bad for is William Henry Harrison, who caught a cold three weeks after his inauguration; he wound up with pneumonia, which killed him on the 31st day of his term. Everyone, of course, explained that it was because he gave the most godawful long inaugural address on a raw March day without benefit of overcoat. But that’s what everyone does: coughs up an opinion.

This week, we’re getting all manner of JFK-related, um, nostalgia, and frankly we should knock it the hell off, or at least back off from the crushing volume of drama:

Once again, we’re told that it was the worst, the most terrible thing that ever happened to a U. S. President, in all of history —

And that, as H. L. Mencken might’ve said, is utter buncombe. While no President — or any other law-abiding citizen — deserves to be shot down, especially as long as there’s an independent press and the process of impeachment available, it’s an amazing coincidence that the only one they’ve got on film and tape is somehow the very worst.

The press isn’t as independent as it used to be, or for that matter as it thinks itself to be, but that’s not what’s at issue:

Consider Lincoln, who was assassinated in the actual (defective) course of an actual conspiracy, for which eight people were eventually convicted and four were hanged. Consider James A. Garfield, suffering though eleven weeks of increasingly dire infection before dying in agony, or William McKinley, lingering for days before succumbing to gangrene. If there’s a scale of terribleness, someone else is going to have to rank these untimely deaths — but not on the basis of which one offers the most compelling video.

Yeah, but this society has declared itself proudly ahistorical: unpleasant details are left out of the textbooks, and we’re awash in wannabe revisionists with political axes to grind. I can think of no better way to honor Mr Kennedy’s memory — or, for that matter, mine, once the time comes — than to hang the lot of them.

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Pavlova and friend

I don’t do exuberance very well anymore, unlike this delightful youngster:

Child dancing in front of painting of Anna Pavlova

And I miss that.

Sir John Lavery did several portraits of Anna Pavlova; this 1910 canvas hangs in the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College in Florida has another.

Pavlova herself once said:

When a small child, I thought that success spelled happiness. I was wrong, happiness is like a butterfly which appears and delights us for one brief moment, but soon flits away.

But oh, for those moments when it’s there!

(Via Boned Jello.)

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Not yet faded away

There are fewer of us every year: the oldest pass on to a different plane of existence entirely, and not so many of the youngest are putting in their time anymore.

I used to wish for the day when we’d no longer be needed. But this wish was in vain: the delusions of our current batch of policy wonks and rank amateurs notwithstanding, it takes ordnance to do what ordinances cannot. So now I wish for the day when we can complete a proper mission and then go home, the way God and General Patton intended. Is that so much to ask?

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Restoration and then some

We’ve talked before about the Ship of Theseus, rebuilt plank by plank by the Athenians, until it eventually contained no original parts; it was Hobbes who asked that if the old planks were gathered together and assembled, would that not be the Ship of Theseus?

I was not, you may be certain, expecting an example of this dilemma in my lifetime. As the phrase goes, imagine my surprise. Dave Kinney, who covers the major auto auctions for Automobile, tells the story of a single — maybe — Jaguar D-type in the December issue:

In the world of classic racing cars, engines, rear ends, transmissions, and other parts often got changed out. After the race cars were done with their careers, no one cared what happened when two or three major components — all claiming the same serial number — were separated. That’s what happened when this D-type’s ice-racing career in Finland ended. Two cars held a claim to the same serial number, which hurt the value of both vehicles because originality was in question.

In other news, they (used to, anyway) race Jaguars on the ice in Finland.

The solution was simple yet fiendishly complex:

“It seems difficult to rectify the situation,” wrote one D-Type collector to another in 1995, “unless some benevolent person should decide to purchase both cars, exchange the front subframes and the legal documents, resulting in only one single car claiming to be XKD 530.”

That’s essentially what happened. In 1998, a collector acquired one of the cars. In 2002, he acquired the other. Then he had both cars meticulously disassembled, and all the various parts and pieces identified and catalogued, and assigned to the correct chassis. In 2003, this amazing reconstruction was completed when the original, fully restored monocoque was lowered onto the original chassis frame; the bolt holes were a precise match.

The newly-rebuilt original brought $3.9 million.

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A true rock and roll heart

The Velvet Underground didn’t sell an enormous number of records; but, as the saying goes, everyone who heard them started a band.

This isn’t quite true — I haven’t quite worn out White Light/White Heat yet, and I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a stage — but I knew, even then, that I was always going to pay attention to Lou Reed, even when I couldn’t tell what the heck he was doing at any given moment; the man was simply Out There, and “There” sometimes wasn’t even on the map.

Still, Reed live on stage was something to behold, sometimes a man on fire, sometimes a man on Quaaludes, but always interesting. For an example of the former, see his 1974 (actually recorded the week before Christmas 1973) live set at the Academy of Music (on the Rock N Roll Animal LP), in which “Sweet Jane” turns into an outright anthem.

And what amazed me is that no matter what he did — Metal Machine Music, directing a video for a Susan Boyle (!) cover of “Perfect Day,” singing backup on a Metric single — he never managed to make himself appear irrelevant.

Reed walked to the quiet side yesterday at seventy-one; you may be sure that rock and roll heaven has no idea what to make of him, but they’ll adjust. We always did.

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A fitting tribute

Yesterday morning Norm Geras died, and I struggled to say something appropriate about the man, a fixture in the blogosphere for a decade, and one of the last of a dying breed: the Thoughtful Partisan.

An example of that thoughtfulness: his legendary normblog profile, which he sent to select members of blogdom at all points on the political continuum. The instructions contained the following:

Please NB that you should not answer all 50 questions, but (as requested on the document itself) just 30 of them — enabling you to select those questions most congenial to you and leave out any that aren’t.

The wisdom of this practice really didn’t dawn on me until I’d submitted my answers, when I realized that this was how Norm knew what you really valued above all else.

I mention this here (1) to correct my previous article, which claimed that there were 48 items in the questionnaire, and (2) to point you to normfest, a celebration of normblogging and a tribute to the man who made it a word of its own.

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A difference made

We’ve all seen these before: a list of 100 books. But this one is different:

Now, in all my experience of such book lists, this one has a unique feature. Which is that I’ve read all the books on it. Yup, every single one — 100%. That’s because I compiled the list from … the books I’ve read (choosing titles, as well, that I liked enough that I’m happy to recommend them). Why should I let other people make lists to browbeat me with? If I make the list myself, I get to have read everything on it. Enough bullying is what I say. You, too, can make your own list and rebel against the tyranny of the book-dictators. I suggest you do it.

That paragraph speaks volumes about blogospheric mainstay Norm Geras, who passed away this morning at 70. A recognized expert on Marx, he’d written a dozen books on political theory and practice, and was a signatory to the 2006 Euston Manifesto.

In the online community, however, he may be best remembered for the normblog profile, in which he sent four dozen or so questions to leading bloggers and asked them to answer any thirty of their choice. (The definition of “leading” is occasionally flexible.)

James Joyner remembers this aspect of Norm Geras:

The vagaries of life have lately decreased both my blogging and my reading of blogs, and so I missed Norm’s announcement this past May that the prostate cancer that he’d first been diagnosed with in 2003 was spreading and taking a toll. He was characteristically stoic about the matter, which he posted about only by way of apology for an anticipated decline in posting.

The book list quoted above, incidentally, was his last post, which came out on the 9th of October.

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Both sides of the news

I get enough traffic on this page to persuade me that there is lingering interest in that brief period (1964-1980) when there were competing newspapers in this town.

And to prove it:

OKCTalk has been working with the Atkinson Heritage Center and Rose State College to publish their entire library of old Oklahoma Journal newspapers. The center and college are the repository of these archives.

So far, they’ve digitized six days a week (no Sundays yet) starting with the first of October ’64, which was Volume 1, Number 41. The PDFs are not, of course, as clean as the Oklahoman’s current Print Replica, which is a model for the way these things should be done, but then nobody in 1964 was thinking that far ahead.

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Neither shalt thou haze

Leipzig University issued this rule just in time for the fall semester, 1495:

Statute Forbidding Any One to Annoy or Unduly Injure the Freshmen. Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, any, who are called freshmen, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving after matriculation.

Senator John Blutarsky was not available for comment.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

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What would I do with this?

Big Dick toy machine gun

Little Folks was published from 1897 to 1923 by Samuel Edson Cassino; it was edited by his daughter Marguerite Cassino Osborne. This ad is from the December 1918 issue — not that anyone had any reason to be thinking about guns in December 1918, of course.

(See also Arnold Zwicky’s commentary.)

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Meanwhile at the Student Union

Robert Stacy McCain picks up this year’s numbers from the Princeton Review:

Auburn University has the most conservative student body of any college in the nation, according to the Princeton Review’s annual rankings, released [Aug. 5]. In contrast, Bennington College in Vermont is the nation’s most liberal school, according to the study.

Rounding out the top ten most conservative schools for 2013 is Texas A&M, Grove City College, Hillsdale College, College of the Ozarks, University of Dallas, Thomas Aquinas College, the United States Military Academy (West Point), Hampden-Sydney College, and the United States Naval Academy (Annapolis).

The most liberal student bodies, according to Princeton Review, are Sarah Lawrence College (NY), Warren Wilson College, Bard College, Marlboro College, New College of Florida, Macalester College, College of the Atlantic, Vassar College, and Skidmore College.

Interestingly — at least to me (your mileage may vary) — two of those schools, one from each list, tried to recruit me while I was a high-school student in South Carolina. (Hint: Sarah Lawrence wasn’t one of them.)

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Commemorating evil

Tulsa, says Michael Bates, is planning to rename Brady Street and the associated Brady District to something else starting with a B — why not “Bates”? — because of Tate Brady’s involvement with, among other things, the Ku Klux Klan. Certainly no one wants to honor those dumb Klux, but Bates says that the measure doesn’t go far enough to clean up the city map:

Rather than handle these renamings piecemeal, with the potential of a new renaming (and a four-hour long public hearing) at every week’s City Council meeting, the City Council should appoint a diverse commission of historically minded citizens to research the histories of all names under the control of the City of Tulsa and its boards and commissions.

This commission — perhaps to be called the Commission for the Sanitation of Politically Incorrect Names (C-SPIN) — would report back with a comprehensive recommendation to rename certain streets, an estimate of the cost to rename, and a revenue proposal (sales tax or general obligation bond issue) for funding the recommended renamings, including city expenses like street signage and grants to affected businesses and residents to cover signage, business cards, letterhead, and other street renaming expenses.

The commission would have to consider whether a person’s misdeeds rises to the level of deserving the removal of his or her name from a public place. They might wish to set criteria that would be applied consistently to decide thumbs up or down.

A commission like this would strike fear into the hearts of Oklahoma City historians, who have for years been sitting on stories like that one time Harvey Everest kicked a cat, or that Delos Walker actually sat on the school board, and we all know about school boards, don’t we?

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Columbidae trip

Something else I didn’t know about this town:

In 1973, the American Pigeon Museum and Library was established. Twenty years later, they purchased 10 acres in Oklahoma City and just last month moved into a brand new building that will open to the public early next year.

It’s located just south of NE 63rd Street and west of Bryant Avenue, and it has an extensive collection of pigeon equipment clocks, bands, trophies and paintings. It also has a lot great military photographs and Army pigeon corps equipment from both world wars including message holders like the one Cher Ami carried through whizzing bullets and battlefields of lore.

Despite her name, Cher Ami was a hen, and this is the message she was bearing:

October, 1918: Trapped behind enemy lines in Charlevaux, France, and surrounded by hundreds of German troops, the few hundred surviving members of the Lost Battalion soon had another problem to deal with in the form of friendly fire. His men rapidly succumbing to the onslaught and with two birds already shot down, Major Charles Whittlesay dispatched a frantic message by way of their last surviving homing pigeon, ‘Cher Ami’:

WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALELL 276.4. OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT.

When the pigeon miraculously arrived at the division headquarters 25 miles away he had been shot in the leg, breast and eye, and thanks to his efforts 194 members of the battalion were subsequently rescued. Cher Ami died from his injuries six months later, but not before being awarded the croix de guerre for heroic service.

This is, in other words, not the bird that crapped on your car ninety seconds after you washed it.

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A modicum of restraint

Suzette bought a discontinued food processor — a Cuisinart from last decade — because it had large, pushable buttons, which she trusts, instead of some slippery touch pad, which she most certainly does not.

The illustration she provided shows the stark contrast between the two machines, and also includes a piece of earlier equipment: a GE food processor with “little ass buttons.” It reminded me of my thirty-year-old Osterizer, in the beigest possible beige, which also has little-ass buttons, as distinguished from little ass-buttons. And in fact, I left her a comment to that effect, which WordPress.com refused to accept; evidently it pushed their ass buttons.

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Bling around the collar

The unrelenting bad news from Detroit is enough to make you, or at least me, look for happier stories, and when I finally found one, it was a press release from General Motors. Still, it’s something on the positive side of the ledger: the 100th anniversary of the Chevrolet “Bowtie” logo, which has been traced back at least as far as the fall of 1913.

Washington Post ad for Chevrolet, October 1913

What hasn’t been traced, exactly, is where the design came from in the first place. Billy Durant and his wife told different stories about its origin, and in 1990 the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America started their own search. Still, the Bowtie has just about everything you’d want in a logo: the shape is distinctive and doesn’t require either special coloration or even actual type. (Take that, Ford!) Only the Mercedes three-pointed star — the Benz wreath seems to have been purged lately — comes close.

Tangential addendum: While checking out the Mercedes reference, I landed on Wikipedia’s page for “Mercedes Benz,” the song in which Janis Joplin begs the Lord to buy her one, inasmuch as her friends all drive Porsches. The article is illustrated with a picture of a car driven by Joplin: a Porsche.

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Purely theoretical

That’s the answer. One possible question: “How’s your love life?”

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