November 25th, 2004

pants

In case you are ever a contestant on Jeopardy!:

The artist who painted dogs engaged in human activities, such as playing poker, is a man named Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. These paintings were created in the years 1906-1934.

You could have probably found this googling the phrase "dogs playing poker", which will likely lead you to the site www.dogsplayingpoker.org, which is instantly discredited because of an intro gif that tells you you have reached "Dog's Playing Poker" (It burns, It burns! Or should I say, "It burn's"?), But this site may not tell you that Coolidge "once wrote a comic opera about mosquito infestation in New Jersey, and apparently invented the photographic caricature, a carnival staple in which a customer's photo is taken while sticking his of her head through a hole in a large painted scene."

The above factoid comes from a delightful recent book called "Poplorica: a popular history of the fads, mavericks, inventions, and lore that shaped Modern America", which includes the history/significance of such things as air conditioning, pantyhose, the suburban lawn, black velvet paintings, the Les Paul guitar, permanent press clothing, TV dinners, disposable diapers, and Night of the Living Dead. I have greatly enjoyed this book, and discovering the identity of Mr. Coolidge was a nice bonus.

If this appears on Final Jeopardy, I get half.