A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire

happy hands and heart

Valentine’s Day has passed, but many of us are still contending with piles of ribbons, tissue paper, envelopes and confetti in various hues of rose, crimson and scarlet.  We equate these shades with Valentine’s Day, but the symbolism and analogies associated with these colors go beyond that single holiday.  Red epitomizes passion, desire, romance, danger and energy.  Frequently adjectives such as “blood”, “ruby” or “wine” further enhance the description of this color.  We probably don’t give it a second thought, but there was a time when the elusive, brilliant red was worth a king’s fortune.

Amy Butler Greenfield relates the history of the dyer’s quest for this color in A Perfect Red.  The majority of the book recounts Spain’s attempt to monopolize the production of the this vibrant red from the time Cortes invaded Mexico and his men discovered the source – the tiny cochineal insect living on the prickly pear cactus. The female insect produced an acid which not only irritated predators but was also a brilliant dye.  Soon Spain dominated the production of the red dye and guarded the secret of the cochineal. As other countries began to covet the hue, a complex web of espionage developed, including both colonial exploration and exploitation.

Greenfield intersperses her narrative with fascinating anecdotes and facts related to the color red. For example, there were rules regarding wearing the color red.  In some cultures, only royalty had the right (and could afford) to wear red.  Montezuma not only seized this right, but also demanded that his subjects pay a tax in pounds of cochineal.  Mary, Queen of Scots, was clothed in black on the day of her execution. Yet, she used the color to make her statement, removing her dress to reveal a red petticoat.  This was the symbol of Catholic martyrdom!

Eventually, synthetic dyes were perfected and the labor-intensive cultivation of plant and animal dyes subsided.  Historians and chemists may be the target audience for this volume, but this fascinating account has something to interest everyone.

~Susan Catterall~

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Upcoming Event: North Carolina Certified Paralegal (NCCP) Exam Preparation Course

0315CSL-NCCP Exam Prep

This Exam Preparation Course will cover all sections of the NCCP Exam. The exam preparation course includes comprehensive course and
supplemental study material, test-taking tips, access to Charlotte School of Law’s Law Library, study groups, and networking opportunity. This course
is open to paralegal students, recent paralegal graduates, and working paralegals.

Two Day Program
Date: March 13 from 5-10p and March 14 from 8:15a-4p
Location: Charlotte School of Law – Uptown Campus
Parking: The Charlotte Plaza Parking Garage (connects directly to the Charlotte Plaza building)

Included in cost: course material, parking, lunch (Saturday), and additional study material.

Please register in advance. If space is available, fee will increase for onsite registration.


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Introducing the Library User Experience Desk!


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by | February 24, 2015 · 8:00 am

Links We Love Weekly Round-Up — February 23, 2015


 The Mathematics of Love

Finding the right mate is no cakewalk — but is it even mathematically likely? In a charming talk, mathematician Hannah Fry shows patterns in how we look for love, and gives her top three tips (verified by math!) for finding that special someone.

5 Questions You’ll Need to Settle Workplace Disagreements

A message pops up in the company chat channel: A new marketing idea “for discussion” from a colleague. You’re immediately irritated, because you’ve got a hundred other things on your plate and deadlines looming – but you also have strong opinions and want to ensure they’re heard. You compose a terse reply, aware that it’s lacking finesse but intent on getting back to your “real” work.

Pick Up Your Smartphone Less Often. You Might Think Better.

If you’ve ever felt like your smartphone was getting in the way of a breakthrough thought, you may not be off base. Research suggests that our brains need downtime and that people have some of their most creative ideas when they’re bored. The constant distraction of our phones can get in the way of that.

Justice for Victims of Domestic Violence

One thing they really need is lawyers.

The Infinite Hotel Paradox: A Brilliant Animated Thought Experiment to Help You Grasp the Mind-Bending Concept of Infinity

What a hospitable night manager can do for our finite human minds.

Legislation Email Alerts on Congress.gov

Moving from a 20-year-old system to our new, modern Congress.gov platform has many advantages. One of these is that, starting today, email alerts are available on Congress.gov.  There are three different types of alerts in this initial release: Member of Congress, legislation, and the Congressional Record.  Bill and member alerts were an often-requested feature on THOMAS and I’m excited that we are now able to fulfill those requests in the new system.

Five Lessons Law Bloggers Can Take from Jon Stewart

There are five lessons blogging lawyers can take from John Stewart’s success on The Daily Show. Summed up: authenticity and authority are what people want today.

NC Court Reports Digital Collection

The North Carolina State Library has completed its digitization project of official North Carolina Supreme Court reports.

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Congratulations to Consortium School Florida Coastal!

Florida Coastal law students win national moot court competition: Runners up in 22-team competition also from Florida Coastal

A two-person team from the Florida Coastal School of Law on Saturday won the eighth annual Charleston School of Law National Moot Court Competition.  Another two-member team from Florida Coastal came in as runner-up.

Florida Coastal School of Law students Britney Horton and Sterling Spencer were named team champion in the Charleston School of Law’s eighth national Moot Court Competition.  In 2013, a team from Florida Coastal, which is in a consortium of schools owned by The InfiLaw System, won the Charleston school’s annual competition.  Runner-up this year in the 22-team contest was the two-person team of Matthew A. Dukes and Kathryn A. Spurlock, also of Florida Coastal.

This year, one Florida Coastal team bested 21 other teams from the 16 schools that took part in the competition.  Horton also was named the Best Oralist, or contestant with the best oral presentation in the championship round before a group of judges.

“This weekend’s eighth successful national moot court competition in constitutional law again demonstrates that our Charleston School of Law enjoys a national reputation, said Professor and moot court advisor Miller Shealy.  “This year we attracted teams of students from as far away as Kansas and Massachusetts.  Not only is our competition good for the school, but Charleston gets great exposure — and business — too!”

The moot court competition is an appellate advocacy competition in which students argue before a panel of moot court judges drawn from the faculty at the Charleston School of Law, local attorneys and area judges.  The student competitors argue points of law as though they were appearing before the United States Supreme Court.

The teams in the Charleston competition grappled with a constitutional problem specially formulated for the event.  This year’s issue called for competitors to debate the constitutionality of matters related to a comic book artist’s ownership of the rights of characters such as the Hulk, THOR, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and X-Men.  The case in which the problem was based was settled days before it was to be heard by the Supreme Court.

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