Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pigs and Politics II: The Pork Barrel

While most of the talk this presidential election cycle has been about "earmarks" (itself a term related to agriculture in that an "earmark" is made to show ownership of cattle, pigs and sheep), what's really being argued over is traditional "pork barrel" politics. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the modern sense of the term--spending used to benefit constituents of a given politician in return for votes or campaign contributions--to the 1870s, when references to "pork" were common in Congress. It cites the Defiance (Ohio) Democrat in 1873 for first referring to the "many previous visits to the public pork-barrel." The term is decidedly American in origin.

Today's photo (found on Flickr) was taken by Bill Barber at Yorktown and depicts soldiers' rations: salt pork, beans, and hard tack. It's amazingly difficult to find a photo of an actual barrel of pork, as that means of preservation which led to so much interesting language ("scraping the bottom of the barrel" and so on) has long disappeared.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pigs & Politics

I was out of town when the whole pointless "lipstick on a pig" controversy (I hate to use a word that actually dignifies what was one of the more banal moments in contemporary American politics) occurred. By means of making up the omission, there is a brief post on Gawker (here) that was sent to me by a number of friends. It addresses some of the recent ways the epithet "pig" has been hurled by and at women...

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

La Piganino

This 1867 lithograph by an unknown artist satirizes amateur musicians and the contemporary vogue for all things Italian, according to David Tatham, who included this image from his personal collection in his wonderful The Lure of the Striped Pig: The Illustration of Popular Music in America, 1820-1870 (Barre, Mass.: Imprint Society, 1973). His book is full of amazing images, many of which would be of great utility for the nineteenth-century cultural historian. In fact, I'm planning on getting a lot of use out of them in my American Cultural History course this semester. But back to La Piganino--what an amazing image! The fine folks at Porkopolis (here) note that this mock instrument is part of a long tradition of animal instruments, including the Cat Piano (image and story here). Note the musical pig in the picture in the background. More on the pig and whistle, and for that matter, the whole Dedham Striped Pig controversy, later...

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Learned Pig's Return

My six week trip to Alaska and the Yukon turned into a longer absence from this blog than I had anticipated. I missed a bunch of pig news in the interim, but, I suppose, most of you heard of the pig in Australia named Bruce (left) who aggressively kept an elderly woman trapped in her house for ten days. When she tried to drive the pig away with a broom, the pig simply "snapped it in half with his mouth." If you missed this "when animals attack" story there is a good version here via MSNBC.