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Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Edison’

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Justice is the only worship.
Love is the only priest.
Ignorance is the only slavery.
Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here,
The way to be happy is to make others so.
Wisdom is the science of happiness.

–Robert Green Ingersoll

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After writing yesterday about a person* with no honor whatsoever I thought I would write just a few words about a man with honor in abundance.

Most likely you don’t know his name, Robert G. Ingersoll. I know he was unknown to me. But while looking up a quote I kept coming across quotes from well known men who spoke of this man in what can only be described as glowing terms. Thomas Edison described him as being perhaps the closest thing to a perfect man on this earth. And Clarence Darrow eulogized him with these words: 

“Robert G. Ingersoll was a great man. a wonderful intellect, a great soul of matchless courage, one of the great men of the earth — and yet we have no right to bow down to his memory simply because he was great. Great orators, great soldiers, great lawyers, often use their gifts for a most unholy cause. We meet to pay a tribute of love and respect to Robert G. Ingersoll because he used his matchless power for the good of man.

And Walt Whitman said this of the living Ingersoll:

“It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is ‘Leaves of Grass’ … He lives, embodies, the individuality, I preach. I see in Bob [Ingersoll] the noblest specimen—- American-flavored—- pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light.”

I found myself asking who the heck was this guy?

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) was perhaps the most famous American of his day. He was a lawyer who was recognized as the preeminent orator of his time. As an enlightened freethinker and pioneer of humane, rational, and agnostic views, Ingersoll was a tireless advocate of rational thought, battling superstition and hypocrisy wherever he found it. Ingersoll would regularly address huge audiences, opening their minds to ideas that often provoked guarded whispers in private. He was a man far ahead of his time, advocating such progressive causes as agnosticism, birth control, voting rights for women, the advancement of science, civil rights, and freedom of speech. He had a wide influence in his day but somehow has been overlooked in the century or so that has passed since his death in 1899.

Ingersoll was born in 1833 not too far from here, up in Dresden, near the west shore of Seneca Lake. I just discovered that there is actually a small museum there dedicated to his life and work. I look forward to visiting it at some point. He only lived there as an infant because his father, an abolitionist preacher, was often on the move. However, a collection of his works published just after his death is called the Dresden Editions, published by the Dresden Publishing Company which was formed to publish this 12 volume set and was named specifically  after his birthplace.

I am still discovering more on this interesting fellow so I am going to urge you to do so as well on your own. I would think that someone who garnered so much openly warm praise from the great men of his time deserves a few moments and has something to offer us now.

Note:

I thought his words at the top were an appropriate response to the ignorance and abhorrent behavior we have been exposed to on a daily basis for the past four years. Also, Ingersoll was a Colonel in the Union army during the Civil War and is buried at Arlington National Cememtery, not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns.

He was captured during the war which I guess, by current standards, makes him a sucker for enlisting and a loser for being captured.

However, even though Ingersoll might be considered a sucker and a loser, I sincerely doubt that the current occupant of our white house will have any of the greats of this age, save Kid Rock and Scott Baio, trumpeting his good works, his love for humanity or his good heart once he is stone cold and forever dead.

 

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I woke up early this morning, even by my standards, and the first thing in my mind as I laid there in the dark was the thought that there was baseball today.  The first day of the baseball playoffs.  Baseball’s always been a link to childhood for me (and many, many others) but this morning there was the reawakened feelings of childish anticipation on Christmas morning at the prospect of watching baseball in the studio. 

My appreciation of baseball has regrown over the years back to the thrill it provided as a kid.  I had lost interest in it in the 1980’s as I was busy trying to make a living and find my own niche in the world.  But as I began to find who and what I was, I rediscovered the game.  Oh, there’s a lot to be cynical about in the game– ludicrous salaries that make greedy corporate types look like pikers, performance enhancing drugs and such.  Things that have driven away some longtime fans such as my father. 

 But, for me, I look past those  trappings and see only the game and its pace and geometry.  Nuance and history.  The way it raises emotion with a game both simple and complex.  A game where a player is not judged by sheer size or strength or pure physical ability but by skill level and intangibles such as grittiness, hustle and gamesmanship.  A game where losing and failing are built into the game and those who aren’t afraid to fail succeed.  A game that is celebrated with poetry and romance.

So, today is a day for baseball.  A day of childish wonder.  A day of joy here in Mudville.

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The image at the top is a little experiment from when I was first starting to paint.  I call it Casey at the Bat.  It’s hard to explain what I was going for and how close I came to reaching it with this little piece.  I know it doesn’t look like much but it is pretty much what I wanted from it.

In honor of the first day of the playoffs, here’s a 1908 Edison recording of Take Me Out to the Ballgame

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There’s an old piece of film that I have often seen in snippets, usually in a montage about the earliest days of film in the late 1890’s.  It’s a short film of a dancer with swathes of fabric twirling, very modern dance-ish in style, and as she spins the fabric changes color.  It’s a pretty mesmerizing piece of fim, even more so given the infancy of the medium of the time.

Doing a little research I found that this was filmed by the French film pioneers, the Lumiere Brothers, in 1896.  Each film cell is handpainted to achieve the color effects.  The dancer in the film is Loie Fuller, an American-born pioneer of modern dance who was the toast of Paris in the 1890’s, starring often at the Folies-Bergere

I find this film quite enchanting which is pretty amazing considering how many different  moving images, how much computer generated animation and other advances in film-making I, like most people, have witnessed in this time, over 110 years in the future.  Can you imagine how mind-blowing this must have seemed to the average person of the day?

This point is well illustrated in the movie, The Magic Box, a 1951 film in which Robert Donat portrayed British inventor, William Friese-Greene, who had invented and patented the motion picture camera a year before Edison but never received any credit and died in virtual anonymity.  In the film, when he finally is able to fully demonstrate the motion picture with his invention he is alone in his lab, late at night.  He is frantic with excitement and runs out into the London streets to let the world know of his triumph.  The only person he encounters is a London police officer, played by Laurence Olivier.  The bobby suspiciously goes along with Friese-Greene thinking he has a psychotic on his hands.  He hesitantly agrees to look at Friese-Greene’s demonstration and when the film rolls and the images of the London citizens strolling in Hyde Park appear, he is frozen with amazement.  It is as though he is looking on a true miracle.  And perhaps he was– the miracle of invention.

Anyway, take a look to see a beginning point and realize how far we have come…

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Edison

 

Let Us Now Praise...

 

Opportunity is missed by most people

because it is dressed in overalls

and looks like work.

      – Thomas Edison

 

 

The painting to the right is from a very early series that I painted in 1995, Exiles.  It was the group of work that I showed as the basis for my first solo exhibition and remains very close to my heart.  I will write more about this series in the future but for now,  enjoy your Sunday.

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