Product Spotlight: The Histomap

By Curious Ostrich
on June 16, 2017

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The Histomap, originally created by John B. Sparks and published by Rand McNally, has quickly become one of our best selling products.  It's not hard to see why.  Originally published in 1931, The Histomap tackles the ambitious goal of visually portraying the relative power of various civilizations throughout history, or as it is boldly advertised atop the image: "Four thousand years of world history" in one image.  Bold and ambitious as it may have been, Sparks did a fantastic job of summarizing an entire history class into a single, comprehensible infographic. 

If you think of the image as a graph, then the Y-axis represents time.  The unit of measurement is not given for the X-axis; perhaps retroactively quantifying the power of a civilization was beyond even the stellar ambition of the world famous Histomap.  Even without units of measurement, the changing areas associated with each empire offer easily acquired insight into the scope and duration of each civilization. 

Advertised as "clear, vivid, and shorn of elaboration" on the covers which originally came with the Histomap, the astonishing beauty of the image seems to be overlooked.  The way I see it, the great success of the Histomap goes beyond its ability to portray four thousand years of history on a single page, but the real feat achieved by John B. Sparks is that the image equally overwhelms both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously.

Click here to view the product page where you can choose your paper type.

Abraham Lincoln's Assassination

By Curious Ostrich
on April 14, 2017

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If you ask anyone to quickly name 5 U.S. presidents, you can be sure that most will include Abraham Lincoln.  Maybe it's because there was a movie made about him recently, maybe it's because he abolished slavery, maybe it's because he wore an iconic hat, maybe it's because of the Gettysburg Address, or maybe it's because of his dramatic assassination.  Most likely his fame relative to other U.S. presidents is due to a combination of all of the above, but since he was shot on this day 152 years ago, we will be discussing his death.  Everyone knows he was shot in a theater by John Wilkes Booth, but who was John Wilkes Booth, and why did he shoot Lincoln?

John Wilkes Booth was a prominent actor from Maryland.  By the time he shot the president he was quite well known, and his stage performances were spoken of very highly.  He once proclaimed that the role he enjoyed the most was that of Marcus Junius Brutus, who famously played a prominent role in the murder of Julius Caesar.  Johhn Wilkes Booth's father, Junius Brutus Booth, was named after Marcus Junius Brutus, and John Wilkes Booth claimed to have been inspired by Brutus' assassination of Julius Caesar.  If it's beginning to seem like fate that Booth would grow up to assassinate a president, consider that as a child, John Wilkes Booth visited a palm-reading fortune teller who told him that his life would be short but grande, and that he would die young and meet a bad end. 

Booth did not act alone in his plans to kill President Lincoln.  Co-conspirators Lewis Powell and David Herold were assigned to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, while George Atzerodt was supposed to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson. Only Booth was successful though, as William H. Seward was non-fatally wounded, and no attempt was actually made on Andrew Johnson's life.  Booth, Powell, Herold, and Atzerodt were die-hard supporters of the Confederacy.  After the surrender of General Lee on April 9th, 1865, the conspirators decided to take matters into their own hands believing that killing the president, vice president, and secretary of state could turn the tide of the war in favor of the South. 

John Wilkes Booth, with the aid of his celebrity status and the absence of the guard who was supposed to be protecting the entrance to the President's box at Ford's Theater, slipped into the box, barricaded the door, and shot President Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head.  After a dramatic escape from the theater, which involved Booth injuring his foot on an engraving of George Washington, Booth fled with several other conspirators.  The largest manhunt in U.S. history ensued and lasted until April 26th, 1865, when the cabin in which John Wilkes Booth was hiding was discovered.  The cabin was set on fire to draw out Booth, and when he appeared he was shot in the back of the head by Sergeant Boston Corbett.  Having successfully assassinated Lincoln and manifesting the predictions of the fortune teller with whom he met as a youth, Booth died at the age of 26. 

Product Spotlight: Ohio's "Son of Beast" roller coaster

By Curious Ostrich
on April 10, 2017

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Son of Beast

There's nothing quite like the thrill of a roller coaster.  Themes, construction styles, and aesthetic features may have changed over the years, but the shrieks of fear and joy that come from the brave souls who ride roller coasters have remained the same for decades.  As any roller coaster fan will tell you, bigger is always better.  To appease the scream-seeking masses, theme parks have been locked in a never-ending race to develop the biggest and fastest roller coaster since their inception.  Son of Beast was expected to be the biggest, fastest, and most ambitious roller coaster in the word when it was being built in the late 90's.  The goal was a roller coaster that would shatter 7 world records:

1. Tallest wooden roller coaster

2. Longest wooden roller coaster drop

3. Fastest wooden roller coaster

4. Only looping wooden roller coaster

5. Longest looping roller coaster

6. Most wooden coaster track at one park

7. First and only wooden hypercoaster

A hypercoaster, in case you were wondering, is defined as a roller coaster with a height or drop measuring greater than 200 feet.  Once it was operational in the year 2000, Son of Beast did in fact break all of these records, making it a major attraction at Kings Island amusement park in Mason, Ohio.  Of course, with great ambition comes great risk.  While no life-threatening injuries were caused by Son of Beast, there were two incidents that ultimately resulted in the closing of this tremendous creation.  The first was in July of 2006, when a crack in the wood created a bump in the track which caused an afternoon train to stop abruptly.  This resulted in 27 injuries, though only 2 of the injured were admitted to the hospital.  This prompted a thorough inspection of Son of Beast, which reopened a year later but without the loop (which was probably the best part). 

Despite the incident and lack of a loop, Son of Beast remained a major attraction until June of 2009 when a woman claimed to have suffered a burst blood vessel in her brain while riding the coaster a few weeks earlier.  Despite a second, thorough inspection which revealed no problems Son of Beast was shut down indefinitely and was never reopened.  Safety is always the name of the game when it comes to roller coasters, because it doesn't matter how big or fast it is if people don't feel safe riding it.  Son of Beast has since been demolished, and most of its records have been broken by now.  You can watch footage of the coaster in action here, and stick around for the end of the video to see footage of its destruction.  Son of Beast would not have wanted to be forgotten, though, so head over to our product page where you can purchase a poster of the monster, taken by expert photographer Carol Highsmith.  And check it out from another angle here

An Unpopular Defense of Food Porn

By Curious Ostrich
on April 07, 2017

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Rudolf II of Habsburg as Vertumnus by Giuseppe Arcimboldo
by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

According to statista, The average person spent 118 minutes per day on social media in 2016.  That's nearly 2 hours a day.  Social media has become an intrinsic part of many of our daily lives even for those of us who don't spend 2 hours a day on it.  Of course, social media is great for keeping in touch with loved ones (and random ones), keeping up with current events, and personal and professional networking, but most social media users tend to have the same few gripes: fake news, trolls, oversharing, and chief among the common complaints of social media users: "I don't care what you ate for dinner!  Stop posting pictures of your food!"  Social media feeds are replete with what has become known as food porn.  For those who are new to the term, it's not porn with an emphasis on food, although that certainly exists in other corners of the internet.  Rather, food porn applies the artless, crass, and valueless aspects of porn to photos of food.  Like traditional porn, it is hard to define but easy to identify, but unlike traditional porn it is nearly impossible to avoid. 

First off, if you posted a photo of your extravagant honeymoon dinner, yet turn up your nose at a regular Wednesday dinner on your news feed, then you are a hypocrite of the worst variety.  The same hypocrisy applies to those who post photos of their birthday cake yet frown at other food porn.  Everyone has a birthday, jerk.  Yours is only special to you.  OK, hypocrites aside, I'm here to argue that food porn, while generally awful and grossly over-abundant, has a historical precedent that shouldn't be brushed under the rug.  Social media may be relatively new, but adoring pictures of food is as old as art itself. 

You're 15, and it's your first day of art class.  You're teacher is talking about form and perspective, but you're wondering if you're going to have nude models in your class at some point.  You're teacher reveals that yes, there will be nude models, but don't get excited because they won't be attractive.  Nonetheless, you must prepare for drawing the human form by first drawing a bowl of fruit.  Your teacher has procured an apple, a banana, 2 pears and a bunch of grapes.  "Draw the fruit," says your teacher, snapping you out of your concern over whether the model will be male or female.  This scenario has been playing on repeat in art classes for centuries.  Search our site for "still life" and see if you notice a pattern.  These paintings are almost entirely food-based, and there are a lot of them.  Search any art catalog for "still life" and you'll get similar results.  The ability to paint food well is essentially a prerequisite for being able to paint anything else. 

OK, so maybe modern food porn isn't quite as artistic, but let's not forget that bad art is still art (just look at our competitors).  Maybe the serial food porn uploaders on your news feed aren't all budding photographers studying the effects of light and shadow, but that doesn't mean you should look down on them.  Food porn will continue to be overly prevalent just as it always has been.  In fact, let's go back to the beginning.  The earliest known art created by humans consists of cave paintings dating back thousands of years.  And what were those cave-folk drawing?  They were drawing cows, and not because cows are beautiful (to be clear, cows, I'm not saying you're not beautiful, but when was your last National Geographic cover?).  Cave-people were drawing and paintings cows because that's what they ate.  Yep, that's right...food porn was the first thing humans ever painted.  Food porn even predates "regular" porn.  So, next time you're scrolling past someone's uninspiring tuna sandwich and rolling your eyes, take a moment to reflect on the cultural throwback they have crafted as they pay homage to humanity's never-ending obsession with food. Then keep scrolling...you've still got 117 minutes to go today.

Rosie the Riveter

By Curious Ostrich
on April 03, 2017

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Perhaps the most iconic World War Two poster, Rosie the Riveter is an image that is recognized by people who couldn't tell you which countries were fighting in the war.  But who was Rosie the Riveter?  Find out in this article by Madeleine Winer.

Product Spotlight: La Primavera

By Curious Ostrich
on March 31, 2017

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La Primavera

Take some mysterious origins, add in a wide range of poetic references, pepper in some semi-clad women, top it off with an obvious seasonal allegory, have Sandro Botticelli paint it all, and what do you get?  You get what has been called "one of the most popular paintings in Western art."  La Primavera was likely painted around 1482, though much of the painting's history is unknown.  It was most likely commissioned by someone in the famous Medici family and was originally unnamed.  The title La Primavera was given to the painting by Giorgio Vasari in 1550, however it is also commonly called Allegory of Spring.  The most common interpretation of La Primavera is that it is an allegorical representation of the Spring season.  With the supple, divine bodies sandwiched between blossoming flowers below and ripe fruit above, there is little subtlety to the allegory. 

What La Primavera lacks in subtlety it makes up for in depth.  The painting is lush with references.  Depicting an amalgamation of scenes sourced from the poetry of Ovid, Lucretius, and Poliziano, the viewer is confronted with Roman deities who seem to be celebrating the arrival of springtime.  Shown from left to right: Mercury, the Three Graces (Algaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia), Venus with her son Cupid above her, Flora, Chloris, and Zephyrus.  The figures to the right of Venus seem less Jovial (no pun intended) than those on the left and for good reason.  The story being depicted here, a reference to a story transcribed by Ovid, is Zephyrus' rape of the nymph Chloris.  Zephyrus, the god of the West wind, took Chloris, who is depicted here in a transparent garment, by force but later regretted doing so.  To ease his regret he transformed Chloris into Flora, the goddess of flowers.  Perhaps in solidarity with Chloris/Flora, Botticelli crammed hundreds of species of plants into La Primavera. 

Many questions about the painting remain unanswered, yet they are hotly debated by art historians and critics.  Some such questions are: Why is Cupid blindfolded, and where exactly is he aiming that arrow?  What is Mercury doing...some kind of John Travolta-esque disco move?  To which hot jam are the Three Graces grooving?  Is Venus' Virgin-Mary-like appearance some kind of political acquiescence to the church?  I don't have the answers to these questions, but my advice is to purchase this item from VintPrint here, and contemplate the answers yourself as you gaze at the mysterious painting from the comfort of your home. 

Top 5 Reasons to Buy a Poster from VintPrint

By Curious Ostrich
on March 20, 2017

5.  The exceptional quality.  We start with the highest quality paper (both glossy and matte) and feed it through top-of-the-line printers which we stock full of top quality inks.  Our large format printers each use 12 different inks to produce brilliant color quality.  Even the shipping tubes we use are of the sturdiest ones we can find, so your beautiful print arrives safe and sound.

4.  The cost.  If VintPrint uses the highest quality materials and equipment, then why are they able to offer posters at such low prices?  Well, it's the way we run the business.  We rely on technological innovations, automation processes, and keen business sense to keep our overheads low.  We are a small company.  We don't have a dedicated human resources department, a massive marketing department, we don't outsource our customer relations to foreign call centers.  We handle everything ourselves. 

3.  Supporting a small business.  When you buy from VintPrint, you support a small, American business rather than a giant, international corporation.  We print all of our posters ourselves in our Baltimore, MD offices before shipping them out.  When you buy a VintPrint product, you are supporting the US Postal Service as well, since we ship 100% of our products with USPS. 

2.  The selection.  You'll have a hard time finding a collection of images as large as ours anywhere else.  We've got everything from Hubble Space Telescope photos to classic art to breathtaking photography to vintage ads to copious amounts of maps.  Any map you need, we have.  We are constantly adding to our collection, so our selection of posters is always increasing. 

1.  On demand printing.  We do not warehouse our products.  This mean that the poster you want does not physically exist until you order it.  All of our posters are freshly printed when you order them.  This means you won't get a faded, dusty poster that has been laying around waiting for someone to order it like you might from other print retailers.  Instead, you'll get a vibrant, brand new print ready to dazzle visitors to your home, office, or classroom. 

 

So, there you have it.  In addition to an ad-free shopping experience and a hassle-free return policy, VintPrint goes to great lengths to provide exceptional prints at reasonable costs to you.  Enjoy!

5 Things You Touch Every Day That You Had No Idea Are Disgusting

By Curious Ostrich
on March 10, 2017

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You're giving lots of germs lots of breaks

Most of us consider ourselves pretty clean. Most of us shower every day, wash our hands after using the bathroom, brush our teeth before going to bed, and cover our mouths when we sneeze, but there are lots of ways that we are exposed to germs that we overlook. Here is a list of the top 5 things that you touch every day that you had no idea are disgusting:

5. Your Belt. When was the last time you washed your belt? If it's made of leather, or some other material that you can't just throw in the washing machine, then the answer is likely never. Picture this (but not too vividly): you pull your pants down, you sit on the toilet, you do your business, you pull your pants up, and you wash your hands. What all did you touch before washing your hands? If you are wearing a belt, you probably fastened it after pulling up your pants and before you washed your hands. So you've transferred bacteria to the belt that you have never washed. Gross.

4. Your Dishtowel. Many studies have shown that there is more harmful bacteria hiding in kitchens than in bathrooms. If you're like most people, you hang a dish cloth on the handle of your stove or dishwasher (or both), so it's right there when you need it. But every time you open the door, the cloth rubs against the floor. Then you dry your dishes with it, or you dry your hands with it. You may as well rub your dishes and hands on the bottom of your shoes, because that's the kind of nasty surface your floor comes in contact with on a regular basis.

3. Your Phone. Don't lie. You text, surf the web, peruse social media, and/or play games on the toilet. You've probably even sent a work email or two from your "home office." You finish up and wash your hands, but did you clean your phone? Have you ever cleaned your phone? If you keep your phone in a protective case (which is generally a good idea), and it's been in that case for a while, go ahead and take it out of the case. You'll probably notice something right away: it is filthy. There's gunk in every nook and cranny, and that's just what you can see without a microscope. In Japan, more and more public restrooms are starting to carry phone wipes, because phones are devices that often rub against faces. That's right, you nasty gunk-face, your phone is crawling with bacteria, which means your face probably is, too.

2. Door Knobs/Handles. Especially bathroom doors. Let's revisit your bathroom routine. You walk into the bathroom, you drop your pants, you do your business while you rub your fingers on the bacterial melting pot that you call your phone, you pull up your pants, you fasten your never-washed cesspool of a belt, and you wash your hands. Then you grab the knob or handle to the bathroom door to open it, and you walk out. In theory, as long as everyone who uses that bathroom washes their hands before exiting, then you have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, theory and practice are not always the same. It only takes one person who didn't wash their hands to touch that door handle to contaminate it. Then, until the next time it is cleaned every person who touches that handle has just undone all the hand-washing they did moments earlier.

1. Refrigerator Handles. Of all the nasty things on this list, this is the one that is most likely to get you sick. Next time you are cooking, baking, or even just making a sandwich try to count how many times you open the fridge. You'll probably lose track quickly; suffice it to say that you touch it very frequently, and you are touching it with food-covered hands. You crack an egg, cut an onion, place a slice of cheese on bread, and you open the fridge to get something out or put something away. You have just deposited bacteria on the handle of your fridge. Bacteria that lives and grows and thrives until the next time you disinfect. Plus, you're often touching it right before you eat, which means a lot of that bacteria goes directly into your body.

*Bonus* Light Switches. There's nothing inherently nasty about light switches other than the fact that everyone's fingers touch them many times throughout the day, but consider this: have you ever cleaned a light switch? Have you ever even seen someone clean a light switch? For most of us the answer is no, and for those of you hardcore germophobes who make a habit of cleaning light switches, how have you managed to finish the blog post without stopping to scrub down everything you own?

Here's the scariest part: all of these things listed above are found in your own home. We didn't even discuss the nasty things you touch outside of your home. Maybe we will in another post, but first I just want to ask...do you still consider yourself "pretty clean?"

What's in a face?

By Curious Ostrich
on February 27, 2017

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Girl with Red Hat by Johannes Vermeer

Faces are like fingerprints in that each one is different and unique.  Fingerprints can be used to identify individuals, but the only information that can be gleaned from them is that they belong to a specific person.  Looking at photos of fingerprints won't tell you anything about the person they belong to.  Faces, however, can reveal all kinds of things about a person.  The face consists of over 40 muscles working in harmony to create various expressions which can convey huge swaths of information.  Those who study human communication will tell you that more information is communicated non-verbally than is communicated through words.  The exact breakdown of what percent in communicated through words, voice inflection, and body language is a hotly debated subject, but everyone agrees that body language conveys quite a bit of information and that much of that information is conveyed by facial expressions. 

It can be difficult to quantify facial expressions, but you know what they mean when you see them.  You can tell from a quick glance whether someone is angry, happy, sad, in pain, concerned, etc.  You can also tell quite a bit about a person's age, gender, ethnic background, and cultural identity.  But there's more to it than that.  They say the eyes are windows into the soul.  There's something unclassifiable, unquantifiable, even unexplainable about seeing someone's face.  It's almost like you can see who they really are.  There is a reason why portraits are focused on the face, rather than other parts of the body.  So, take a look at our collection of portraits, and peer into all the souls your heart desires. 

Unhinged Valentine's Day Rant

By Curious Ostrich
on February 14, 2017

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What not to get for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is stupid.  You know it is, I know it is, even the people making all the cheap, plastic, red, and non-recyclable Valentine's Day paraphernalia (which will all be trash come February 15th) know it is.  We all just pretend it's not stupid because we don't want to be that cynical jerk throwing shade.  Well, not this Ostrich.  I'm here to tell you that Valentine's Day is, in fact, stupid. 

First of all, it's on the ever-increasing list of "Hallmark Holidays."  Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc. were basically invented by the greeting card industry so there would be a demand for their products outside of the Christmas season.  From a marketing standpoint it was brilliant, but for most of us it means an extra trip to CVS on the way home so someone isn't mad at us when we get there. 

Second of all, the holiday is named after Saint Valentine, about whom almost nothing is known. The historical record shows that a man whose name might have been Valentine lived during the Middle Ages and was buried on February 14th.  That's right, we celebrate Valentine's Day on the day he was buried...romantic, right?  The holiday we know as Valentine's Day came about for two reasons.  The first reason is that because Saint Valentine was alive at some point during the Middle Ages, and because the during the Middle Ages "courtly love" was a thing.  Other things were things during that period, such as horrifying medical procedures and the Black Death, but let's just forget about those for a moment.  The second reason is that the Catholic Church, in its endless quest to destroy any adherence to "Paganism," needed a mid-February holiday to distract potential pagans from the holiday of Lupercalia, so they dug through their record books and noticed that this guy Valentine was buried on that day.  The greeting card industry picked up where the Catholic Church left off, and now we all gorge ourselves on cheap chocolate to celebrate a Medieval burial. 

Third of all, the idea that romantic love is best expressed by purchasing fattening sweets and holiday cards can't possibly have come from the mind of someone in a happy relationship.  There are many ways to express romantic love, and none of them are for sale at Rite-Aid (OK, there are a few things at Rite-Aid in the "Family Health" aisle, but that's not really what I'm getting at).  You know what says "I love you" more than any generic greeting card, is a gift tailored for the recipient.  If you really want to say, "I love you" with a gift, then get a gift that says, "I know you, and that's why I love you."  So, this year get your Valentine a poster that shows that you know what that person's interests are.  They are into maps?  We've got those.  They're into Art?  We've got plenty of that.  Astronomy, vintage ads, old photos, we've got it all.  So get the person in your life something with meaning, not some bogus card written by some bogus "poet" for some bogus holiday based on a funeral.