“Bye-bye radioactive jockstrap”

Taylor Orci on the rise and fall of radium:

Numerous are the ads of this time for wares like “radium silk lingerie” and decks of cards with the word “radium” emblazoned on them. In one ad, a pastoral landscape dotted with grazing cows near a pristine stream are bathed in the warm glow of a rising sun. Above the sun are the words, “Radium Brand Creamery Butter.”

More at The Atlantic.

‘The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t’

Does digital reproduction drive down the cost of all cultural content to zero? Are artists doomed to penury in the 21st century? Steven Johnson in the New York Times Magazine suggests not:

Writers, performers, directors and even musicians report their economic fortunes to be similar to those of their counterparts 15 years ago, and in many cases they have improved. Against all odds, the voices of the artists seem to be louder than ever.

More here.


“Which side of the door do you want to be on?”

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Pauper ubique jacet

How to ensure enough men become soldiers? Daniel Defoe, 1704:

’tis as plain our people have no particular aversion to the war, but they are not poor enough to go abroad; ’tis poverty makes men soldiers, and drives crowds into the armies, and the difficulties to get English-men to list is, because they live in plenty and ease, and he that can earn 20s. per week at an easie, steady employment, must be drunk or mad when he lists for a soldier, to be knock’d o’th’head for 3s. 6d. per week; but if there was no work to be had, if the poor wanted employment, if they had not bread to eat, nor knew not how to earn it, thousands of young lusty fellows would fly to the pike and musket, and choose to dye like men in the face of the enemy, rather than lye at home, starve, perish in poverty and distress.

More thoughts on the nature of poverty in ‘Giving Alms no Charity, and Employing the Poor A Grievance to the Nation’.

A vessel for your inner life?

Are creatives replacing artists? Does it matter? Bill Deresiewicz says:

When works of art become commodities and nothing else, when every endeavor becomes “creative” and everybody “a creative,” then art sinks back to craft and artists back to artisans—a word that, in its adjectival form, at least, is newly popular again. Artisanal pickles, artisanal poems: what’s the difference, after all? So “art” itself may disappear: art as Art, that old high thing.

More at The Atlantic.