Welcome to Sweat Louis!


HOT-HOT-HOT

HOT-HOT-HOT

100 ºF was the temperature when I left work today and it wasn’t a dry heat. This is Saint Louis after all. You don’t even want to know what the heat index was. Enough though about life in Misery, I mean Missouri. Checkout the sunspots in today’s photo. I just noticed them. Let’s switch to the good news. Dave passed his preliminary examination to officially become a doctoral candidate at Purdue today. More commonly called prelims or quals, the passage of this oral exam is a major milestone in Dave’s studies at West Lafayette. I know that he has been sweating this exam for months, even when it wasn’t hot out then yet. He left school for only three days over the 4th of July holiday weekend, to join the rest of the Regan family at the cabin this summer. Maybe now he can take a breath or two. He still has to finish his dissertation and then defend it, but the end is now in sight for the coming to you soon, Doctor Dave! 

A Walk in 1875 Saint Louis


Compton & Dry's Pictorial Saint Louis, 1875

Compton & Dry’s Pictorial Saint Louis, 1875

Saturday was a history day for me, because in addition to stumbling upon a historical baseball game being played in Forest Park, I also went to the Missouri History Museum. There were two new exhibits at the museum. One was a traveling show that dealt with the power of Nazi propaganda and was created by the US Holocaust Museum. This show had plenty of colorful and bold imagery, but its content is so hate filled that I am reluctant to republish any of it here, we’ll see though. The other show was relatively uncontroversial and will be a source of great blog fodder. Not so much in the imagery department, even though the content of this show was almost all graphics, but more as a source for interesting factoids. It will be a source for plenty of good stories to come. The whole feel of this show was somewhat reminiscent of a local Sunday comic strip that used to run in the Post-Dispatch, at least until 1990, “Our Own Oddities”. This strip was similar to the syndicated “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” strip, but with a distinctly local emphasis. This other show at the history museum was like a collection of “Our Own Oddities” strips, but set in the year 1875, hence the show’s name, “A Walk in 1875 Saint Louis”.

The genesis for this show and its backbone too was a map folio, called “Compton & Dry’s Pictorial Saint Louis” that was created around 1875 and featured every single home, building, street and even tree in Saint Louis at the time, in beautiful black and white perspective. Think of it as sort of a 19th-century Google Maps. This folio divided the city into individual 11” X 18” plates and if assembled as a whole would create a gigantic map of 10’ X 30’. In this exhibit, many of these individual plates are enlarged to about that size and cover whole walls. While this folio by itself is interesting enough, it is only half the show. The other half is a collection of colorful illustrations by Saint Louis graphic artist Dan Zettwoch. Dan worked on his part of the show’s illustrations for four months and his drawings cover over 4,000 square feet of wall space. Checkout his blog, Zettwoch’s Suitcase.

I selected as the illustration for this post, just a portion of one plate from the folio. It features the Eads Bridge, which is one of the few features that still exist today. Saint Louis is a dynamic city that is constantly churning and renewing itself. Today, on the left side of the Eads Bridge stands the Arch and not too differently from back then, on the right-hand side of the bridge is Laclede’s landing. The levee is still there. Back then it was bustling with riverboat traffic. There are fewer boats now. Inland everything has changed since then. The photo is full-size, so that you can see every bit of detail. Checkout the statues on the Eads Bridge. They were at onetime planned, but were never installed. Compton and Dry like many of their competitors in the pictorial map business tended to embellish upon their subject matter. Their folios were sold by subscription and also acted as civic advertisement, so everyone wanted to put on their best face.

Each one of Zettwoch’s graphic murals covered some aspect of life in 1875 Saint Louis. To serve as an example here, since yesterday I wrote about 1860s baseball, let’s update the game by fifteen years. The game had evolved, but would still seem rather strange to today’s spectators. Back then, like today games between Saint Louis and Chicago still drew huge crowds. None of the players had yet to don gloves. There was only one umpire, who started the game with a coin flip. There was also only one ball that was used for the entire game, even if it had to be retrieved from the stands. (Sorry Carl, no batting practice balls.) The pitcher stood in a six-foot square box and got a running start from one corner. Pitchers likely threw underhanded or sidearm. A walk only came after nine balls and batters were sometimes given four strikes.

Civil War Baseball


Civil War Baseball

Civil War Baseball

You see the darndest things while bicycling in Forest Park. From knights jousting with Nerf, to juggling joggers, to nuns on bikes and many other unusual sights. Today’s oddity was 1860s baseball. A tournament of ten teams were playing for the Saint Louis Cup. The Greater Saint Louis Base Ball Historical Society (GSLBBHS) was sponsoring the games that were being played on fields near the Missouri History Museum. Familiar team names like the Saint Louis Brown Stockings and the Saint Louis Perfectos were represented along with some unheard of team names, the Vermilion Voles and the Rock Springs Ground Squirrels. There were even visiting teams from as far away as Indianapolis and Milwaukee, the Hoosiers and the Juneau Base Ball Clubs respectively. The players and fans or “cranks” as they were then known, the term fan hadn’t been coined yet, were all very friendly and eager to explain the rule difference between their game and what is played today. First off, my bike gloves were the only pair of gloves on the field. Baseball gloves weren’t developed until later in the 1880s. There were no called balls or strikes, the opposing pitcher had to serve up a pitch good enough that the batter or rather the “striker” would be willing to swing at. The ball could be caught after the first bounce for an out. The first bounce also determined if a ball was fair or foul. I’m not sure what is up with stars on the American flag, maybe it was one of those Civil War battle flags?

We Shall Over Comb


Hibiscus Close-up

Hibiscus Close-up

Yes dear friends this post is yet another treatise on the Donald, but before I launch into it and probably turn you all off, let me give you my news. I went to a concert last night at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. As part of its annual summer time Whitaker Festival, this concert was free to attend. I went to the gardens in response to a Team Kaldi’s invite, from Stew and Nancy. I was sitting on the fence about going and when I finally did decide to go, I had let too much time slip away. The event was billed as a potluck, so I decided to bring the only thing that I had in the house, beer. I figured that beer would be a big hit with a bunch of thirsty bikers. As it turned out Stew, Nancy and their friend Linda were the only other people there and they were all drinking wine. Still, as Nancy pointed out it was a rare, at least in Saint Louis, beautiful summer’s evening. I had a good time speaking with them. The music was somewhat forgettable, in part because we continued to talk over it throughout the concert.

Trump 2016! Lisa Simpson 2020!!

I don’t know when exactly the Donald’s presidential campaign story first exploded upon the news cycle, because it was already going great guns, when I first emerged from my vacation inspired, self-enforced news blackout. I guess that the story hit a crescendo when Trump captured the #1 spot in presidential polls among GOP hopefuls, making him truly the face of the Republican Party and its hair too. If the Donald is a viable candidate then the movie, “Idiocracy”, is now a documentary. Now God forbid that the Donald ever gets elected, but in a show of its prescient power, the long running TV cartoon show “The Simpsons” once aired an episode entitled “Bart to the Future” that had Lisa become the first female president. She became president after Trump had bankrupted the country. Brother Bart became her secretary of Keeping It Real.

Now the candidacy of Lisa Simpson is not without a few constitutional hurdles. On first inspection, she is only an eight-year-old girl and the minimum age for the US Presidency is 35, but she has been eight since the show’s inception in 1989, making her actually old enough to be president in time for the 2016 election. I’m sure that she would make a great president and I might even support her over Hillary, but there is just one minor problem, Lisa is a fictional character. I don’t know of any particular clause in the constitution that specifically forbids fictional characters from holding elective office. Plenty have made it on the ballots before. Some of our best presidents have been fictional characters. There is Michael Douglas’ role in “American President” and Harrison Ford’s “Air Force One”, for example. We here in Missouri have proudly elected a dead man and Lisa is way more animated than he was, but I’m sure that Scalia would have no trouble garnering five votes to disqualify her. So, what we need is the passage of the 28th Amendment, allowing fictional characters to hold public office, which would have no trouble passing amidst the convulsions of a Trump Presidency. That would then make Matt Groening the Master of the Universe, a job that he is already way overqualified for and the country could begin to heal…