Fighting Air Pollution in 1959 (Historical Document Images)

This is an Operating Certificate for the Hercules Cement Company in Stockertown, issued in 1959 by Lehigh Valley Air Pollution Control and signed by one R. Emmet Doherty.  Since 1970, the R. Emmet Doherty Clean Air Award has been presented to a regional air quality leaders in recognition of their service and of Doherty’s considerable legacy.  Maybe you’ve never heard of him, but not everyone has their own award or their own page on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s website.

Keith Williams, the chairperson of the Lehigh Valley Air Quality Partnership, sent me these images.  It’s something special to see documentation from the early era of air quality control, signed by one of the issue’s most respected pioneers.  Click to enlarge.

Religion (Religiosity?) as Rebellion

From 2009.

I am fascinated by the idea, put forward in the lit seminar I’m taking, that in the middle of the 20th century it was fashionable for artists and writers to convert to Catholicism. I’d never heard that before.

I was reading about Robert Lowell’s transformation from Boston-bred Puritan/Congregationalist heir to Catholic, and found a consensus (among half a dozen online sources, anyway) that his conversion was an explicit rejection of the WASPy, industrial mores of his upbringing and native Northeastern context. Max Weber might concur. There’s also at least some religious longing here, though, says A.O. Scott:

The poems are populated by figures from New England’s past, including some of Lowell’s own ancestors. But Lowell, descended on both sides from prominent Yankee families, had undertaken a twofold rebellion against his inheritance, rejecting Harvard for Kenyon College and the bleached-out Puritanism of the Congregational Church for a notably sanguinary, “fire-breathing” Catholicism.

Scott’s full article here.

Because I’m a soft little soul, I know a few things about indie music.  We’ve talked about Sufjan/Flannery before, but the more I think about the number of good, working indie bands out there that also happen to be plaintively  Christian, the more I wonder if their influx since the mid-late 90s has something to do with secular suburban kids rebelling against the norms and expectations of their settings. I won’t bore you with tales of my own Tenth-Grade Nothingness or an uninformed discourse on how the straightedge movement corroborates this idea. More on “Christian” art that’s still…good…in this article on