My dad

I’ve been taking care of my elderly dad—at his home in Syracuse, NY and then here at my house in Pennsylvania. He did a gradual decline in that time and finally departed this old world around lunchtime on Thursday, June 2. My sister Marian was by his side when he closed his eyes. Now he’s reunited with our mom.

I’ll post links to the official obituary later. Pop was a beloved husband & father; scholar; historian; exhaustive researcher; graphic designer; exemplary draftsman and (as you see in this post and this one) a good explainer of things. He loved military history especially and dragging his family around to explore old forts in the northeastern United States. Pop’s research library was massive and rigorously organized. He wrote a book about the Battle of Long Island. He researched and illustrated countless scenes of troops in their correct uniforms for the Company of Military Historians (of which he was a Fellow). He liked old radio shows; cowboys; smoking cigars; railroads; Bob & Ray; military music; bagpipes; and British music hall music. He was a Boy Scout and in the Korean War, Sergeant Manders served in the U.S. Army as a surveyor (a risky job often performed behind enemy lines—he was locating machine gun nests). Pop taught me a moral code and instilled in me mental discipline. His influence on me is profound.

Thanks for everything, Pop. Love you.
Eric Irvine Manders
August 7, 1930 – June 2, 2022

The Chilly Saints

I did a sloppy job of writing this. It’s not that these 3 days are cold, necessarily, but that after they’ve passed there’s no danger of frost.

John Manders' Blog

Happy Mamertus’ Day, everybody!

“Mamertus, Pancras, and Gervais were three early Christian saints. Because their feast days, on May 11, 12, and 13, respectively, are traditionally cold, they have come to be known as the Three Chilly Saints.”

On May 14 it’s okay to plant your tomatoes.

https://www.almanac.com/fact/three-chilly-saints-mamertus-pancras-and-gervais-word-definition

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Resizing the kitchen cabinets

I installed the pantry cabinets. They were the perfect size to fit next to the doorway. I still need a whole lot of storage space. I’m doing this project on a tight budget. The cabinets I took down were too wide. Instead of buying new cabinets, I decided to break down the old ones and rebuild ’em skinnier.

The horizontal pieces—shelves and rails—would need to be shortened. The vertical pieces—walls and stiles—stayed the same height. I wrote down the steps of taking the cabinet apart so I could reverse the order when I put it back together. I’m going to make new doors as soon as I get a router.

More home improvement

Here’s more of my ongoing quest to get my junk organized and stored away. The photos show my kitchen—the wall with a bulkhead and cabinets. You can see the base cabinets jut right into the doorway. The bulkhead is wasted space.

I sent away for a couple of pantry cabinet kits awhile back—they’re only 10 inches deep so they will fit into that awkward spot next to the door. They stack, so I can take advantage of the high ceiling.

First step is to take down the bulkhead. I got my hatchet and my crowbar and went to work—

Early newspapers



First newspaper printed in Europe—1605, Belgium
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/when-and-where-was-the-first-newspaper-published/articleshow/2477418.cms
First newspaper in America
https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2014/today-in-media-history-first-colonial-newspaper-published-in-1690/ (I think there may have been a South American colony with a newspaper earlier than that)
Okay, okay—I’m not sure this counts but it is true that in 59 bc there was a newspaper in Rome. No printing press yet, of course, so every copy of every edition was chiseled in stone.* No, really. I’m not kidding you—check the link. Newspapers were stone slabs, you guys. The cartoons practically draw themselves: Roman newspaper boys riding their bicycles in the early morning and flinging copies onto people’s front stoops, shattering potted plants and braining pets. The Sunday paper weighed about 700 pounds. You had to bust up the Sunday circular with a sledgehammer to clip a coupon (alright, yes, now I’m kidding you).



https://www.psprint.com/resources/history-of-the-printed-newspaper/
*The late President Ronald Reagan (who was famous for his one-liners) beat me to this gag: https://apnews.com/article/838395d21680de45ca7d4657bc3ee3a3

https://www.quintype.com/blog/business/a-brief-history-of-newspapers

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Maybe having one guy in charge who has absolute power wasn’t our brightest idea


As their colony grew, the principles of the Mayflower Compact could be enlarged upon: all people are created equal; God-given rights are something we’re born with; top-down governance is something to be wary of. Although they promised to remain subjects of England, the Pilgrims set up a representative government in Plymouth. They elected their governor. They chose him by voting for him—that was a big deal.

The printing press was useful for explaining these new ideas through pamphlets and soon newspapers. The Plymouth Colony government became a model for the way the United States would be run one day.


The Signing of the Compact painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris in 1899—the painting I lampooned in my sketch above. I thought it would be funny if everybody signing the Compact had to deal with the Mayflower’s cramped conditions.

https://www.history.com/topics/colonial-america/mayflower-compact
https://americanantiquarian.org/earlyamericannewsmedia/exhibits/show/news-in-colonial-america/colonial-print-culture
http://newenglandtravels.blogspot.com/2009/12/pilgrims-and-printing-press.html
https://blog.bookstellyouwhy.com/the-pilgrim-press-from-illegal-printing-to-thanksgiving
https://www.history.com/news/mayflower-compact-colonial-america-plymouth
How about this—a Bible translated into the Wampanoags’ language was the first one printed in the New World: https://www.library.illinois.edu/rbx/2006/04/03/the-first-bible-printed-in-the-western-hemisphere/

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Built-in bookshelves

My driving, unrelenting, over-arching motivation is to get stuff off the floor. I’ve had books sitting in cardboard boxes in the hallway for way too long. My dad uses a walker to get around, so floorspace needs to be opened up!

I had these bookshelf units in my studio for years. They’re even painted. I never had an opportunity to install them until now. These photos show the process of mounting them to the wall and trimming them. I live in an old farmhouse and I like everything I build to look like it’s always been there. I used wood from other parts of the house that I either tore down or renovated. The trim here is a little bit beat-up.

We’ll be right back!

Yup, there’s been a big interruption in blog posts. There’s been a lot going on. We sustained some heavy losses here at Western Civ World Headquarters: my beloved pets Lizzie and Gus passed on in the last few months (Lord help me, I’m still a mess). Also, I moved from Syracuse, NY back to my house in Franklin, PA and my dad lives with me here now. I’ve been busy making the place accessible for him. I apologize for the lapse. Life happens.

For the past year-and-a half I’d been able to take advantage of the almighty worldwide plague to post regularly. Much of the information had already been researched, so it was kind of easy to crank out paragraphs every weekday morning while we were all locked down.

In the end, though, it’s unhealthy to be glued to one’s desk, writing about stuff I already know.

While reorganizing my work-space I unearthed my library of books that had been in cardboard boxes for a long time. One of my interests is plagues. I own a handful of books about rats and lice and bacilli (I’m a nerd. You know this already). I mention it because these books tell me humankind has been through pandemics dozens of times. We always react the same way: like idiots.

Johns Hopkins released a study this past week that says the lockdown was unproductive and caused more harm than good. It shows that there was little discernible curtailing of COVID by keeping everyone in their homes. I’ll go further than that. The lockdown was a giant squashing of creativity.

There’s a big exciting world out there, but you and I were discouraged—prohibited—from experiencing it. That kept us from growing. How? Well, I used to be a graphic design instructor at Pittsburgh Technical Institute. PTI’s president, Jack McCartan, was fond of saying at faculty meetings that ‘the answers aren’t in here.’ He meant that there’s only so much a teacher can bring to the classroom. You need to go outside the school’s walls to find what you’re looking for. I took that message to heart and helped organize field trips to New York City and Chicago where we met some bigshots of the graphic design world (Seymour Chwast, you guys). Listening to successful designers and art directors, those students got more education in an afternoon than I could ever hope to give them in an entire quarter. To learn, to stretch yourself, you need to go outside.

Gang, get out there and live your lives. Wash your hands, keep your fingers away from your faces, don’t lick any doorknobs. We only get this one life and it’s a pretty short run. Make the most of it.

We’re coming up to the grand finale of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing. Posts will resume soon.

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My little fawn

This morning I said so long to my old girl Lizzie, Elizabeta, the fawn, the dowager princess. I held her in my arms and told her I love her. Dr Sandy gave her a shot and Lizzie drifted off without too much fuss. I was a wreck, of course, and still am.

Lizzie was my foster-failure. She came from the wrong side of the tracks; had had an unhappy life of loneliness and neglect, chained to a stump somewhere. I was supposed to rehabilitate her so that someone would adopt her permanently. It never worked out. Lizzie played me like a violin and I couldn’t bear for her to think I didn’t want her to be mine forever.

Lizzie was already an old girl when I met her. Still, she pranced like a Lipizzaner back then. She loved to walk in the woods as much as Roxie & Gus, but at her own pace. She led a pampered life during the time we had—she enjoyed her chow served always with gravy; a third of an omelette to supplement breakfast; prime rib bones gifted by her Aunt Marian; the knowledge that she’d be safe, warm, valued and cherished no matter what. Age eventually claimed her. The past few months she became blind, deaf and demented. Her back legs betrayed her and she could hardly walk, let alone prance. I held onto her longer than I should have.

Lizzie’s at peace now. I know she waits for me and I’ll see her again someday. Until then—sweet dreams, my good old girl. I love you.

Elizabeta
2006 – January 22, 2022

Pilgrims and printing

More fuel-efficient, better mileage

I paid special attention to the Pilgrims and Plymouth colony for a reason. Even though I can’t be certain that William Brewster’s press ever made it to North America, it’s still true that the first North American printing operation (1638) was in Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, not far from Plymouth.

The Pilgrims saw their adventure as providential. They believed God landed them in Plymouth and not Jamestown, Virginia on purpose.

In Jamestown, there was an English colony already established. Things like a colonial government and culture (very different from the stern impassioned Pilgrim culture) were up and humming along nicely. In Plymouth, the Pilgrims had to start from scratch. They needed a system of government. The compact they made with each other (and God) aboard the Mayflower was how they governed themselves on land. Their congregation was a ‘covenant’ congregation—a covenant is a contract with God. They answered to God first, before a king or anybody else. If you’re accountable to God, you understand that your rights come from Him. As a contrast, King James said that his subjects’ rights came from King James himself (because of his divine right to rule). The Pilgrims didn’t like that idea so much.

Stern impassioned Pilgrims, or at least their feet, show up in verse 317 or 318 of America The Beautiful:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.
America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_the_Beautiful
Ray Charles nails it (though he doesn’t get to that particular verse):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRUjr8EVgBg

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