Not A Podcast Episode 8: Sweaty Blues

Potion, By Steve Jurvetson, Via Flickr

“Potion” by Steve Jurvetson, via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

In which we learn how cyanide gives art the blues.

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Show Notes

Yes, Art has Practical Uses: Prussian Blue’s Place in the History of Cyanide

Some quotes from TBH:

“Whether swallowed or inhaled, all members of the cyanide family kill in the same way–they shut down the body’s ability to carry or absorb oxygen”

“…most murderers tended to avoid cyanide–the poison left a too-obvious trail of evidence. The resulting corpse would be a textbook study in violent death, marked by bruising discoloration, twisted by the last convulsions, often eerily scented with cyanide’s characteristic warning perfume, a faint, fruity scent of almonds.”

Deborah Blum, The Blue History of Cyanide

Almonds, peach/apricot pits, blue green algae, lots of plants contain some level of cyanide that can be concentrated down. But cyanides became much more readily available after Heinrich Diesbach, German Painter, chemist, inventor, invented Prussian Blue in 1704.

The original recipe; “dried blood, potash (potassium carbonate), and green vitriol (iron sulfate), [stewed] over an open flame.” He called it Berlin blue, and the English later named it Prussian Blue. This was the first modern synthetic paint. Cheap to make, lightfast, nontoxic, and a very strong color.

In the 1770’s or 80s, a Swedish chemist used Prussian blue in a concoction that yielded a very potent acid (Prussic or hydrocyanic acid). This also resulted in a gas called Hydrogen Cyanide, which could be made into poisonous cyanide salts – all of which turned out to have industrial uses.

More from TPH:

“Hydrogen cyanide (gas), if it was distilled into a liquid, a mere drop, a raindrop-sized dose (about 50 milligrams) could be fatal.”

“pesticides, explosives, engraving, and tempering steel, as a disinfecting agent, in creating colorful dyes, … in mining, as well as in photography, electroplating, metal polishing.” Cyanotypes, blueprints.

And from Wikipedia:

“Pharmaceutical-grade Prussian blue in particular is used for patients who have ingested thallium or radioactive caesium. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, an adult male can eat at least 10g of Prussian blue per day without serious harm.”

“To date, the Entombment of Christ, dated 1709 by Pieter van der Werff (Picture Gallery, Sanssouci, Potsdam) is the oldest known painting where Prussian blue was used. Around 1710, painters at the Prussian court were already using the pigment. At around the same time, Prussian blue arrived in Paris, where Antoine Watteau and later his successors Nicolas Lancret and Jean-Baptiste Pater used it in their paintings.”

More on the history of Prussian Blue

A great site that gives all sorts of interesting info for color nerds

We don’t have any experience with these, so can’t recommend them, but let us know if you do:

Things We Like

Not A Podcast Episode 7: Just A Little Podcast

Banana Extract, By JD Hancock Photos, Via Flickr

“Banana Extract” by JD Hancock Photos, via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

In the second in our (completely unplanned) Curmudgeon Series, Pete beats up on tiny, defenseless works of art.

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  1. Willard Wigan’s TED Talk
  2. Snopes Article
  3. Willard Wigan’s Website
  4. Fernan Federici’s Flickr
  5. Spectacular Microscopic Art Is Also World-Changing Science

Things We Like

Not A Podcast Episode 6: Trading Idiots

Wall Art

Sean tells HGTV to git off his lawn. Or at least to stop trying to recreate a crappy version of Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe on it.

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  1. HGTV – House Hunters
  2. Trading Spaces
  3. British – Changing Rooms
  4. HGTV – The High Low Project
  5. Chuck Close: A Portrait In Progress
  6. Wine And Canvas

Things We Like

Not A Podcast Episode 5: “Because God is Dead.”

Russian art gallery

 Pete and Sean go to the museum. The art is terrible.<br />
 "Why is the art terrible?" says Pete.<br />
 "Because it is a projection of our subconscious. Therefore, we are terrible," says Sean.<br />
 "Oh," says Pete.

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  1. Ladybird Books (Wikipedia)
  2. A Darkly Humorous Children’s Book That Pokes Fun At Modern Art
  3. Artist’s spoof Ladybird book provokes wrath of Penguin (
  4. We Go To The Gallery Kickstarter
  5. Miriam Elia
  6. Building Stories, not by Chip Kidd (nytimes)
  7. Google Art Project
  8. Judy Albright’s pastel paintings – On show all month.
  9. Anne Pasko – beginning in June with reception on June 6th.

Not A Podcast Episode 4 Part 2: Bapbapbapbapbap

Bochum - Klinikstraße - Tierpark 06 ies

We ended up talking too much about talking, so Sean decides to speak as a penguin for the rest of the podcast. Also, you should hang out with artists and give them money.

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  1. New York Times Arts section
  2. The Portland Art Museum – free general admission on the fourth Friday of every month from 5-8 p.m.
  3. First Friday Artswalk at Steven Valenti’s Clothing For Men – Through April – Opening Reception, Friday, April 4th, 2014