The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer President Tom Schlafly
January 6, 2012 is the 600th birthday of Joan of Arc, the peasant girl from eastern France who heard mysterious voices that guided her in leading the French army to several important victories over England in the Hundred Years’ War. Shortly after her 19th birthday, an English tribunal put Joan on trial for heresy, two of her more egregious offenses being cutting her hair short and wearing men’s clothing. The court rejected her defense that she did so order to protect her virtue by looking less attractive to men. Because of her heinously heretical behavior of dressing like a man, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen on May 30, 1431.
January 6th is also the 100th anniversary of the grand opening of Central Library in Downtown St. Louis. This library is the jewel of The St. Louis Public Library system, with which I’ve been very involved for 27 years, having been appointed or re-appointed to its board of directors by four different mayors of St. Louis. Central Library is currently closed for renovation and is scheduled to reopen by the end of 2012. The cost of the project is expected to be around $70 million, which is less than one third of the amount Albert Pujols considered inadequate compensation for continuing to play for the Cardinals. The newly renovated library is expected to serve St. Louis for at least another 100 years, ten times longer than the duration of the contract rejected by Prince Albert.
Although Pujols is no longer a Cardinal, Schlafly Beer still has something in common with him. Both he and we have inspired unauthorized, knock-off merchandise all over the world. As evidence of this proliferation I’m including a photograph of an alert reader (AR) named Sarah Ehret that was taken by another AR named Ann Kuttenkuler. What makes the picture significant is that it was taken in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I am not making this up. Although Schlafly Beer isn’t sold within 8,000 miles of Chiang Mai, somehow a T-shirt with a facsimile of our logo ended up for sale in a stall there. While many of us were celebrating the fact that this counterfeit product puts us in a league with Coach, Chanel, Gucci and fake Rolexes, Sarah Frost was indignant. As the designer who created our logo, she was rightly appalled by the many deficiencies in the phony version of her artwork.
Speaking of talented artists, there may be some ARs who were not aware that part of Central Library was designed by Michelangelo. Granted, the renowned Florentine artist never actually came to St. Louis, which was founded 200 years, almost to the day, after he died in 1564. He did, however, design the ceiling of the magnificent reading room in the Laurentian Library in Florence. Cass Gilbert, the architect who designed Central Library, later copied this design for the ceiling in the Periodicals Room in the Library. I would note that Gilbert’s copy of Michelangelo is more faithful to the original masterpiece than the unknown Thai pirate’s copy is to Sarah Frost’s oeuvre.
As most ARs probably know already, the Laurentian Library was commissioned by the Medicis, one of the most powerful families in history. In this colorful clan, few were more manly than Countess Caterina Riario Sforza de’ Medici (1463-1509), who was highly respected, but also feared and reviled. She was a courageous warrior who fought a ferocious battle against Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, both of whom have been discussed in this space in the past. Like Joan of Arc, Caterina donned a suit of armor in order to fight her battles. Unlike Joan, preserving her chastity probably wasn’t her highest priority.
Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796) was another formidable military leader who didn’t place much of a premium on chastity. After enduring 17 years of a marriage that probably wasn’t consummated, she climbed onto a white stallion and led 14,000 soldiers to dethrone her husband Peter, the czar. Having engaged in numerous extra-marital liaisons during her marriage to Peter, she later started hooking up with increasingly younger men on shorter term bases. The rumor that she died as the result of an extra-species affair with a horse has been thoroughly debunked and was probably propagated at the time by French aristocrats with salacious imaginations.
Catherine the Great died a few months after the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who lived on the opposite side of Europe and also had a reputation as a libertine. ARs will already know, without my writing anything further, that we’ll be celebrating Burns’s 253rd birthday at The Tap Room on Wednesday, January 25th. As in the past, the evening will feature poetry, bagpipes, Scotch Ale, haggis and men in kilts. Unlike Joan of Arc, these men won’t need to worry about being burned at the stake for cross-dressing.