Young oyster shuckers. Silver gelatin, b&w, probably before 1940. By photographer Lewis Wickes Hine. 1874-1940
“Young girl picking some kind of herb” also by Hines, “Series of photographic documents of social conditions, 1905-1939. / L. W. Hine. / Unit III, Women at work.”
In a shockingly horrible column, the president of Emory University held up the “Three-Fifths Compromise” — the deal between Northern and Southern states which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person — as a shining example of political compromise at its best.
In his “from the president” column — titled “As American as … Compromise” — in the winter issue of Emory magazine, president James Wagner writes about the fiscal cliff and the importance of keeping one’s mind open to other points of view. All standard president’s letter dullness so far, right?
Then comes this:
One instance of constitutional compromise was the agreement to count three-fifths of the slave population for purposes of state representation in Congress. Southern delegates wanted to count the whole slave population, which would have given the South greater influence over national policy. Northern delegates argued that slaves should not be counted at all, because they had no vote. As the price for achieving the ultimate aim of the Constitution—“to form a more perfect union”—the two sides compromised on this immediate issue of how to count slaves in the new nation. Pragmatic half-victories kept in view the higher aspiration of drawing the country more closely together.
So tomorrow when white educated elite male are made three fifths of a person Wagner will have no problem with that because it represents some kind of blissful step on the road to where we should be as a nation. And of course that would be a perfectly appropriate analogy to the fiscal cliff – that was where Republicans agreed to certain spending cuts and not raising taxes on America’s beleaguered millionaires, and now want to renegotiate. There have definitely been exceptions, and of course I have only been a hand full out of thousands, but education administrators are, as a group, some of the more detached clueless people I have meet.
Swan dive by Mabel W. Jack ( American printmaker, 1899-1975) . This was originally a lithograph, but this image is from a photographic transparency. The lithograph was published in 1899.
Not to imply that the people pictured in this post are things, but rather the art is, Why We Love Beautiful Things
Simple geometry is leading to similar revelations. For more than 2,000 years, philosophers, mathematicians and artists have marveled at the unique properties of the “golden rectangle”: subtract a square from a golden rectangle, and what remains is another golden rectangle, and so on and so on — an infinite spiral. These so-called magical proportions (about 5 by 8) are common in the shapes of books, television sets and credit cards, and they provide the underlying structure for some of the most beloved designs in history: the facades of the Parthenon and Notre Dame, the face of the “Mona Lisa,” the Stradivarius violin and the original iPod.
Experiments going back to the 19th century repeatedly show that people invariably prefer images in these proportions, but no one has known why.
Then, in 2009, a Duke University professor demonstrated that our eyes can scan an image fastest when its shape is a golden rectangle. For instance, it’s the ideal layout of a paragraph of text, the one most conducive to reading and retention. This simple shape speeds up our ability to perceive the world, and without realizing it, we employ it wherever we can.