Sunday, July 10, 2011

Of Smiley Faces and Courtroom Drama

It's just after 5:00 AM as I start to write this. On a Sunday. When I went to bed last night, I made a special point of turning off the alarm so I could sleep late, and I nevertheless found myself wide awake at 4:40 ... having slept exactly 40 minutes later than I would on a normal working day.

Ergo, I'm cranky.

I had planned to write a lengthy and - hopefully - coherent and detailed post on the subject of fixing the economy, but I'm sitting here looking at my notes and nothing is coming together in my head except the vague notion that I really want to go back to sleep.

Thus, I'm tossing my original idea for today's post in exchange for some more rambling on different topics related to the 10th of July.

Today is the birthday of the man who invented one of the most widely-recognized symbols ever devised. Harvey Ball was a commercial artist working for a public relations firm who was asked in 1963 to devise a program to ease tensions in a pair of insurance companies which had just gone through a difficult and hostile merger. He developed a "friendliness campaign" which featured its own logo ... the now-ubiquitous "smiley face" -

The smiley face has spawned countless variations, including the frowny face ...

And the inventive "Mr Yuck" symbol distributed by poison control centers to warn small children away from things they shouldn't drink ...

Mr Ball was paid $45 for his design, which he never tried to copyright. He later declared the first Friday in October to be World Smile Day (motto: "Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile"), and when he died in 2001 the World Smile Foundation was established in his name to honor Mr Ball's memory and promote good works.

It was also on this date in 1925 that the famous "Scopes Monkey Trial" began in Dayton, Tennessee. It pitted legal giants William Jennings Bryan (for the prosecution) against Clarence Darrow (for the defense) in a case accusing schoolteacher John T. Scopes of violating a Tennessee state law that made it an offense to "teach any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible and to teach instead that man was descended from a lower order of animals." The dramatic trial pitted religious fundamentalists who believed in the literal truth of the Bible against those who believed that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was scientifically correct and consistent with religious beliefs. In the end, Mr Scopes was convicted and fined $100. The court decision was later overturned on a technicality, and the case was never retried. The case was dramatized in the wonderful play Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (no, not the Confederate general), which was turned into the 1960 film starring Spencer Tracy as Henry Drummond (the character based on Clarence Darrow) and Fredric March as Matthew Harrison Brady (representing William Jennings Bryan).

Of course, the Creationism - vs - Evolution controversy continues to this day.

And now it's 6:15, and I'll try to go back to bed.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Mike said...

"..that I really want to go back to sleep."

See, retirement is slowly creeping into your psyche.

Amanda said...

The smiley face is definitely ubiquitous. I even had a friend that had a pair of contact lenses with yellow smiley faces on them.

KathyA said...

Hope you were able to fall back to sleep.

Saw the play, INHERIT THE WIND years ago. Wonderful...

I guess Harvey Ball is the father of emoticons! (I brought my kids up with Mr. Yuck stickers!!)