Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Few of the World's Lesser Known Artifacts

Ask any lay person to name some of the greatest objects in Western civilization and you are likely to hear some familiar names: Leonardo's Mona Lisa, the Wright Brothers' Plane, the Sistine Chapel, and the penis on Michaelangelo's David. However, there are many lesser-known artifacts that were pivotal to the evolution of society as we know it. These objects have been relegated to the margins of history but now, in a Writing Rendezvous exclusive, they are poised to take their rightful place in the annals of our collective heritage.

Isaac Newton's Spitoon

Currently on display at the post office in Newcastle-upon Tyne, January 5 to July 12.

Newton's spitoon provides conclusive historical evidence that the theory of gravity was not dependent upon the chance encounter between Newton's forehead and a golden delicious. In fact, the theory was cultivated over years of trial and error with a yellow ceramic spitoon into which Newton attempted spit from various angles with mixed success. The holes at the top indicate that it was once anchored to the ceiling of Newton's country cottage. We can only guess that it took relatively few trials for Newton to discover that anything propelled upwards must eventually come down. Puzzled by this development, we learn from Newton's personal diary that he attempted to place the spitoon on top of the refrigerator, whereupon his unsuccessful attempts to fire loogies into the spitoon only ended up soiling his weekly shopping list. It was only after the housemaid placed the receptacle on the floor, mistaking the spitoon for Newton's chamber pot, that Newton realized the motion and trajectory of saliva and tobacco juice traveled in a predictable arc that could only be caused by gravitational fields. His diary notes a plan to reveal this discovery to the world by "loading up on milk and demonstrating in the public square," only to realize that public use of a spitoon had just been outlawed by Major League Baseball as corrosive to public morals.

Immanuel Kant's Pornography Collection

On display at the O'Farrell Theater in San Francisco from April 31-May 12.

The year 1787 is perhaps best known as the year in which the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Yet it was also the year that Kant published his seminal work, Critique of Pure Reason, in which he argued that since we cannot really know any object outside of our own a priori conceptions, we might as well spend our free time pondering fake breasts. Kant's assiduously compiled collection of skin mags provides unique insights into the evolution of transcendental idealism, and we see that any attempt to define Jenna Jameson's torso in Hume's empirical terms (flesh plus silicone plus airbrushing=an object that wouldn't fit in a duffel bag) is far better defined in ill-defined but universally accepted idealized terms (fake tits). Kant's frequent use of the term "maxim" in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals also becomes far more understandable given the context of the reading material he kept under the mattress.

Brooks Brothers Bindlestiff Suit (for a definition of Bindlestiff, click here)

On display at the County Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, February 12-October 1.

Commonly known as the oldest surviving men's clothier in the U.S., Brooks Brothers was the first clothing retailer to utilize division of labor, and introduced Americans to the polo shirt and (shudder) seersucker suits. Shortly after dropping its original logo, which depicted Lady Liberty dropkicking an Irishman shaped like a giant beer barrel, Brooks Brothers introduced the Bindlestiff Suit to appeal to the rapidly growing market of indigent wanderers, who made money by singing Harold Arlen songs while prancing around on roller skates with wax lips. The suit and jacket were sold as separates. Brown and blue patches came standard, but gingham and pinstripe patches were only available as accessories. The bindlestiff suit was also designed to self-destruct if the wearer ever attempted to play tennis or croquet. Popularized by the artistic photos of Dorothea Lange during the Great Depression, the Bindlestiff Suit went out of fashion once per capita GDP rose past the price of a box of Cracker Jack. The Bindlestiff has made periodic comebacks during various Republican presidencies, but has gradually been displaced by other brands (e.g., Phat Farm) that have greater appeal to the modern lower income classes.

1 comment:

Cedric said...

Artifacts? Aww shit, I did mine on society.