Apr 27

There have always been comparisons between any city that might have even a flake of decadence to that of ancient Rome. And ever since gambling became legalized in Las Vegas, that connection has been on the tongues of observers. Perhaps it is a little justified, and perhaps a little bit overwrought, but it’s always interesting when considering the source. Today’s shows tend toward the family-friendly, and anything that can please a very large and discerning crowd. They’re discerning, that is, without being exacting, so that light entertainment tends to rule the day over anything that might be too complex for a Friday night crowd.

There is usually plenty of spectacle, and there are many viewers who would be sorely disappointed if they weren’t astounded in some significant way. Live animal acts have always been popular, and people who can perform enormous feats of strength and dexterity. These are probably much more in line with the Ancient Roman idea of spectacle, which may have finally entered into the pop culture mindset with recent films about gladiators. At the same time, there are plenty of significant performers who depend on their beautiful voices, or sometimes subtle jokes and story-telling, to bring in their audiences. It’s large enough, and old enough by now, to have a little bit of something for every taste, and a lot of something for those who are new Romans.

Dec 12

Whenever you see an antique stove — a Franklin or a base burner, or a parlor cooker, or a round top oak stove, and so on — you might not see the range of discussion that went into these ancient appliances, largely popular from the 19th Century to the early years of the 20th Century.  You might not guess a great deal of fuss went into these stoves and their various ornamentations, made out of everything from brass, nickel, or 24K gold plating.  In 1881, in the early days of the Old West, in fact the same year as the Shoot-out at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, back in the Michigan, people were arguing over the artistic value inherent in stove construction at the National Association of Stove Manufacturers in Detroit.

In that meeting, an artist, John R. Chapin, argued against ornamenting these stoves based on principles of art.  Here’s some of why he argued that nickel plated ornamentation on a stove was out of place: He gave the example of saying that a person’s eye sees first a stove’s fire pot, that the eye will naturally be drawn to the flames behind the grate or inside the open door.  When the person’s eye tires of looking at the fire, then those eyes will want something different — something quieter and calmer.  If the eye next sees ornamentation on the stove, something that also is glittery and glaring, it will affect the eye badly.  Instead of the rest the eye seeks, the eye will travel away from the ornamentation and back to the fire itself, agitating the eye further, creating, artistically, a bad effect.

The stove manufacturers were interested in this point of view from a couple of angles.  One, they found nickel plating stoves somewhat costly and were looking at a way to eliminate it; two, they felt undereducated in terms of the principles of art and wanted to know more about it.  If they could convince their public that less nickel plating was the way to go, from an aesthetic point of view, then it would save them money and time in manufacturing the antique stove.