Pictures and Potties

As I was saying.

Two interesting “Dies Propensus” – important days – occur within the next two days. The first is of an historical nature. November 18th is, as those who’ve Googled anything today will already know, the birthday of Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, inventor of the Daguerreotype. Daguerrotypes were perhaps the earliest or at least the most brilliant and accurate  photographic images. It is an amazing process that Daguerre and several others had been working on. Daguerre himself had wrestled with the question for nearly 20 years. He’d been intrigued with the idea of capturing the images created by the Camera Obscura, a device used by painters and draftsmen for drawing images. This device is itself already a more advanced version of the pinhole camera, a device and principle known as far back as Aristotle in the mid-300s B.C.
Yes, Daguerre was brilliant in creating what amounts to modern photography, but his legacy also involves the invention of the Paris Diorama, in its own way just as interesting. The concept of the Diorama was brilliant: large paintings were made on screens more or less opaque, or with sections more or less so. Using a system of pulleys, mirrors, windows, screens, and a rotating platform upon which sat the audience, the Diorama could, for example, produce the effect of watching the progress of a violent storm. This invention of Daguerre amounted to the first “picture shows”! We know of Daguerre through his invention of early photography, but before that he was a fine artist, a painter in the Romantic style who also understood theatre, scenery, and lighting. Unfortunately, his Diorama burnt to the ground in 1839 with the loss of most of his notes about the Daguerreotype as well an many early photos, and all of the scenes from his building. Ah, well.
The other day upon which I wish to discourse is International Toilet Day. Yes, indeed, the toilet has its own day. Worldwide, no less. Now, while it might seem fun (oh, let’s face it, it IS fun) to make jokes about toilets, and upon International Toilet Day, for many it’s no laughing matter. Modern sanitary toilets, sewers and water treatment have done much to improve public health. Curiously, mechanisms  for using hydraulic movement to wash away waste have been known for nearly 3500 years.
And yet, many around the world have no way to dispose of their waste in such a fashion as to isolate it from water used for other purposes. The result is sickness, and yes, death. Often of very young children. So, International Toilet Day, the 19th of November, is a day upon which to marvel at the conveniences many (I count myself among them) enjoy in the Modern World. We take these for granted, they have made our lives better, and not everyone has the luxury of these luxuries. Think upon that tomorrow, if you will. And, thank Thomas Crapper in England for popularizing the flush toilet. Hats off to Thom. Crapper!

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