Archive for September, 2013

UPG Product Mash-up

Friday, September 27th, 2013

One of our most popular mugs is the Shakespeare Insult Mug, which features some of the greatest insults from Shakespeare’s writings.

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And here’s one of our personal favorites – the Presidential Slogan Mug, featuring great campaign slogans from across U.S. History.

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So, it only makes sense: what about a Presidential Insult Mug? It could list famous insults by and against U.S. presidents.

Such as:

“A slur upon the moral government of the world” (John Quincy Adams on Thomas Jefferson)

“Nothing more than a well meaning baboon” (General McCellan on Abraham Lincoln)

“If they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them” (presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson on the Republican party)

“Garfield has shown that he is not possessed of the backbone of an angleworm.” (U. S. Grant on James Garfield)

What are your UPG product mash-up ideas? Send us an email or post a comment below!

American Apotheosis

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

“Apotheosis” is a Greek word meaning to deify or to glorify in a divine way.

It can refer to the theological act of raising an individual to a divine status, and also a glorification of a subject in a work of art.

It’s generally a term seen in relation to the practices of ancient cults, Christianity, and monarchies.

By these standards, apotheosis is un-American. In the early days of the American Republic, the former colonists threw away the trappings of royalty, refusing to see their leaders as divine or god-like. Rule was by the people, not by a glorified, exalted leader, ordained by God.

But then there was George Washington. Washington was the most revered, respected, and admired of the Founding Fathers. Unlike his successors, he was above politics, even above political parties, which would only come into being after his presidency was over. Due to the respect he commanded, Washington was a great uniter and could have ruled indefinitely if he had so chosen. But one of his greatest attributes was his willingness to relinquish power, and American democracy was perhaps only fully made possible by this primal act.

When Washington died in 1799, the country was beside itself with grief. And things got a little strange.

Shortly after his death, artwork appeared representing Washington ascending to heaven.

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And this wasn’t a passing fad. This image of Washington’s ascension was later immortalized in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building by Constantino Brumidi in his mural painted during the Civil War.

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You don’t see this kind of depiction for Jefferson or Adams or Hamilton, but Benjamin Franklin sometimes joined Washington for god-like treatment.

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This kind of thing was pretty un-Republican however, and thankfully it didn’t catch on for future presidents. At least not until Lincoln’s assassination, after which artists directly referenced the images of the 1st president’s divine ascension and applied them to the 16th.

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And, bringing it all back to Washington for a super dose of creepiness:

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With the exception of these two American gods, thankfully you don’t see this kind of thing applied to US politicians. Although when President William McKinley died, someone wrote a book in which his spirit conversed with angels.

Discontinued Product Memory Lane: Heaven or Hell Sticky Notes

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

One of our earliest sticky note ideas was the “Heaven or Hell” set. We tried out a few different designs for this and settled on the one below.

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One note was a sticky note with a check list of the 7 heavenly virtues, and the other had a check list of the seven deadly sins.

Good for lists of all sort. We discontinued it though because it wasn’t a very big seller. We still like it though – the design is pretty and the concept is funny.

Historical Figures You Should Know: Johannes Reuchlin

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Every once in a while, we come across a historical figure who we’re surprised we haven’t heard of before.

The latest one is German scholar and humanist Johannes Reuchlin.

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We read an article about Reuchlin in the German newspaper Die Zeit and were fascinated.

For those of you who don’t read German or don’t feel like conducting your own Google search, here is his story:

Reuchlin was a pre-reformation scholar who became caught up in a major theological debate in the Holy Roman Empire.

It began when Catholic scholar (and convert from Judaism) Johannes Pfefferkorn declared that all Jewish and Hebrew texts should be forbidden and burned since they contained religious falsehoods.

This was based in ignorance, because although he was formerly Jewish, Pfefferkorn had limited knowledge of Hebrew, so it stands to reason that he actually hadn’t read many Jewish texts.

In fact, very few non-Jews were capable of reading and understanding Hebrew at this time. Hebrew studies were not considered necessary for the church, since, after all, Jews had denied the divinity of Jesus.

Pfefferkorn was backed up by the Dominicans and received permission from Emperor Maximilian I to ban and destroy all Jewish books on charges that they contained blasphemous, herteical and libelous material and were dangerous enough to turn readers away from the Christian faith.

Although Pfefferkorn had the authority to carry out his scheme, Emperor Maximilian first appointed Johannes Reuchlin, who was a Hebrew scholar, to an investigatory commission to determine whether or not these books should really be destroyed.

Reuchlin approached the matter from a purely legal point of view. Since the Jews were citizens of the Holy Roman Empire, they and their books were under Imperial protection. He also examined the charges that the Jewish books were evil because they spread falsehoods. Reuchlin drew a distinction between “falsehood” and “error.” He reasoned that the Jews had erred by not accepting Jesus, but they had not written falsehoods in their religious texts, which, after all, were the precursors of Christian texts. By studying these works, Reuchlin said that Christians would better understand the roots of their faith, while also learning from the “errors” of the Jews. As a result, Jewish thought and writing was of great value to the Christian world. Not to mention that many of these writings fell under the categories of literature and science and were not strictly religious at all.

If any Jewish books were to be banned, Reuchlin wrote, this should only occur after judicial proceedings found specific books to be directly against Christianity. These could be rightfully destroyed.

This was a revolutionary standpoint, and the beginning of the formalized concept of Judeo-Christianity.

Although Reuchlin was the only dissenting member of the commission, Emperor Maximilian took his side and rescinded the edict of destruction.

But it didn’t end here. Opposition to Reuchlin’s stance was fervent. Although his report saved Jewish thought from destruction, Reuchlin (who although he was interested in Jewish studies, was in reality no friend of the Jews) was branded as a Jew by the Dominicans and brought up on heresy charges before the Inquisition. The European intellectual world was drawn into the conflict, with humanists lining up behind Reuchlin and the clergy and universities supporting the Dominicans. Reuchlin was found innocent after appealing to Pope Leo X, but the decision was reversed once Martin Luther’s reformation began and the church began to crack down on all forms of dissent.

This is a story of early humanism which isn’t commonly known – at least not to us. And the irony of the non-Jew supporting saving these texts while the former Jew wanting them burned is one of those complexities of history which would sound completely unbelievable in a work of fiction.

Smartass Response to a Philosopher #18

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

“Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination.” – Immanuel Kant

This is a man who’s spent time on line at the post office.

Free Art Images

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Free art images to download, play with, reproduce, do whatever you wish with?

Yes, please!

Take a look at this: you may have heard that the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has made their collection available for download. If you haven’t heard about it, go here now for some great Old Master Wondrousness.

But that’s not all. The Getty also has their own public domain collection of downloadable art. Want some weird medieval drawings? Experimental photographs? Impressionistic paintings? All this and more is out there for your use.

All you readers should take advantage of this and make some incredible collage art! Who’s game?