(Roughly) Daily

“This is a credulous age, and the burden of knowledge which we now have to carry is partly responsible”*…


 click here, and again,  for larger version

This map, published by South Dakotan Orlando Ferguson in 1893, offers a unique vision of the Earth as a concave field, with a round convex area in the middle. Surrounded by Bible passages arguing against the idea of a spherical Earth and embellished with a small illustration of men grasping desperately onto a spinning globe, the map begs its viewers to order Ferguson’s book on “this Square and Stationary Earth,” which “knocks the globe theory clean out.”

Historian Christine Garwood writes that the idea that people in the medieval period believed in a flat Earth before Columbus roundly disabused the world of that notion is reductive. Some medieval thinkers realized the truth, and people have persisted in believing in a flat Earth far past the time of Columbus. “Flat-earth belief has a chronology far stranger than all the inventions,” she writes. The idea’s resurgence in the 19th century is part of that strangeness.

In the 19th-century United States, pamphleteers and authors of varying levels of credibility debated the flat-Earth theory vigorously. In an issue of the journal Miscellaneous Notes and Queries, published in 1896, the editors included Ferguson’s book in a list of other recent titles questioning the dominant scientific perspective on the nature of the globe. Some of these: Eclectic or Cosmo-Enspheric Astronomy: The firmament a hollow sphere, and we live inside of it (Ulysses G. Morrow, 1894); One Hundred Proofs that the Earth is Not a Globe (William Carpenter, 1885); and Terra Firma. The Earth Does Not Move. Is not a Globe (W.M. Herd, 1890)…

Explore further at “A Bizarrely Complicated Late-19th-Century Flat-Earth Map.”

[Comics, courtesy of Dilbert.com]

* George Orwell, inspired to take up this topic by playwright George Bernard Shaw’s 1924 introduction to Saint Joan


As we contemplate circumnavigation, we might send supersonic birthday greetings to Robert Rowe Gilruth; He was born on this date in 1913.  An aerospace scientist and engineer, Gilruth developed the X-1, the first plane to break the sound barrier, then directed NASA’s Project Mercury– via which he enabled John Glenn to become the first American to orbit the Earth–  and later, the Apollo and Gemini Programs.



Written by LW

October 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In eternity there is no time, only an instant long enough for a joke”*…


Finnish artists Juha van Ingen and Janne Särkelä have developed a monumental GIF called AS Long As Possible, which loops once every 1,000 years. The 12 gigabyte animated image is made of 48,140,288 numbered frames, that change about every 10 minutes [the first and last frames are above].  van Ingen and Särkelä explain:

In the early days of World Wide Web GIF was the most popular tool for artists working on on-line projects. But in mid 90’s the technically more versatile Flash took over as the number one creative tool for presenting art works on-line. Recently with the huge success of photo-sharing services such as Instagram, Flickr and Tumblr GIF has had its second coming and has regained its popularity also as an artistic medium.

The name of ASLAP is homage to John Cage composition “ORGAN2/ASLSP” (1987) which is played with Halberstad organs for the next 625 years. The abbreviation of Cages composition included and instruction to the performer of the piece: As SLow aS Possible. However, if the piece was to be played as slow as possible the first note should be played for ever.

As humans capability to comprehend eternity is limited, it is easier understand the dimensions of a composition lasting hundreds of years than something playing for ever…

They plan to start the loop in 2017, when GIF turns 30 years old (and Finland celebrates its Centennial of independence). “If nurturing a GIF loop even for 100 — let alone 3,000 years — seems an unbelievable task, how much remains of our present digital culture after that time?”, van Ingen said. The artists plan to store a mother file somewhere and create many iterations of the loop in various locations — and if one fails, it may be easily synchronized with, and replaced by, another.


* Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf


As we take it slowly, we might send itty-bitty birthday greetings to Niels Henrik David Bohr; he was born on this date in 1885.  A Danish physicist and philosopher, Bohr was the first to apply quantum theory,to the problem of atomic and molecular structure, creating the Bohr model of the atom, in which he proposed that energy levels of electrons are discrete, and that the electrons revolve in stable orbits around the atomic nucleus but can jump from one energy level (or orbit) to another– a model the underlying principles of which remain valid.  And he developed the principle of complementarity: that items could be separately analyzed in terms of contradictory properties, e.g., particles behaving as a wave or a stream.  His foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory,won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922.


Written by LW

October 7, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Don’t you know what’s goin’ on out there? This is no Sunday School picnic!”*…


zoomable version here

There are 28– 28— follow-up films to Night of the Living Dead… and that’s not counting homages, parodies, or the myriad “of the dead” and “of the living dead” titles that have nothing to do with George A. Romero’s genre-defining original.  Our friends at Den of Geek have the full rundown: “Night of the Living Dead and its 28 Follow-Ups.”


* “Ben,” Night of the Living Dead


As we head for the basement, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988 that Donnie Darko flooded his school… one of the fascinating facts one can glean at The Movie Timeline, a copious compendium that operates on the premise that “everything you see in the movies is true”; real, fictional– if it’s reported to have happened on a given date in a movie, it’s in the list.



Written by LW

October 6, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar”*…


Strunk! White! Get your asses in here!

STRUNK and WHITE enter, shooting sidelong glances at each other. Before they can sit, the COMMISSIONER flings a newspaper at them; WHITE clumsily catches it.

Look at this disaster!

WHITE (reading the headlines)
“Police Not Effective as Campus Stalked by Crossword Killer, Student Body in Terror.” Oh, Christ, what a mess.


You’re damn right it is! I just got off the phone with the mayor, and let me tell you, she is not happy!

I can see why. An evasive denial rather than a definite assertion, the passive voice — haven’t the copy writers even taken basic composition? And that gruesome phrase, “student body”! My god! “Studentry” is a much more elegant term! Or simply “students.”

More at “Scenes From Our Unproduced Screenplay: ‘Strunk & White: Grammar Police’.”

* Michel de Montaigne


As we ponder our parsing, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that the BBC premiered a new comedy sketch show– then improbably, now legendarily– entitled Monty Python’s Flying Circus.



Written by LW

October 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists”*…


U.S. migration patterns changed plenty from 1850 to 2013. A nifty interactive map, created by the Pew Research Center, visualizes these shifts by showing the origin of the dominant immigrant group in each state for every decade during this time period.

The map is a part of a comprehensive report on past and future immigration trends, the main point of which is to highlight the impact of the Immigration Act of 1965. But the map reveals the events, policies, and trends before and after 1965 that shaped the waves of U.S. immigration

More– the history of U.S. immigration and an account Pew’s take on its future– here; play with the interactive map here.

* Franklin D. Roosevelt


As we go with the flow, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957 that television viewers in the U.S. met the quintessential… er, fantastical American family, the Cleavers: Leave It To Beaver premiered (on CBS).

Ward, Wally, June, and Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver


Written by LW

October 4, 2015 at 1:01 am

“TELEPHONE n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance”*…


Christian Marclay’s “Telephones” (1995), a 7 1/2-minute compilation of brief Hollywood film clips that creates a narrative of its own. These linked-together snippets of scenes involve innumerable well-known actors such as Cary Grant, Tippi Hedren, Ray Milland, Humphrey Bogart and Meg Ryan, who dial, pick up the receiver, converse, react, say good-bye and hang up. In doing so, they express a multitude of emotions–surprise, desire, anger, disbelief, excitement, boredom–ultimately leaving the impression that they are all part of one big conversation. The piece moves easily back and forth in time, as well as between color and black-and-white, aided by Marclay’s whimsical notions of continuity…

email readers click here for video

More on “Telephones” here; and on Marclay, here.

And as a bonus, this from burgerfiction.com:

email readers click here for video

* Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary


As we check caller ID, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that Charles F. Jenkins was the first to use city telephone lines to transmit a facsimile photo from 1519 Connecticut Ave in Washington, D.C. to the U.S. Navy Radio Station NOF at Anacostia– a demonstration for representatives of U.S.Navy and the Post Office Dept.  (Earlier in the year, on June 11, a photograph had been sent by radio across the Atlantic from Rome to Bar Harbor, Maine.)

Jenkins is better remembered as a pioneer of early cinema and one of the inventors of television– he racked up over 400 patents, mostly in those fields– and as the recipient of the first commercial television license.



Written by LW

October 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Our inventions mirror our secret wishes”*…


Try your hand at recognizing products from the diagrams, like the one above, submitted with their patent applications: from the collection in the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, “Can You Guess the Invention Based on These Patent Illustrations?

* Lawrence Durrell


As we turn up the tinkering, we might spare a thought for Freelan Oscar Stanley; he died on this date in 1940.  Working with his twin brother Francis, Stanley developed (in 1883) a dry plate photographic process, and started the very successful Stanley Dry Plate Company (sold to Eastman Kodak in 1905).

But Stanley and his brother are bettered remembered for their second enterprise, the Stanley Motor Company. The brothers began working on steam powered cars in 1897, and built thousands of them them until the 1920s.  At racing events, The Stanley Steamer often competed successfully against gasoline powered cars; indeed, in 1906, it set a world record for fastest mile (28.2 seconds, at a speed of 127 mph).

It’s worth observing that Freelan Stanley shares his passing date with Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, who died on this date in 1804.  In 1769, Cugnot, a military engineer, invented the world’s first fuel-propelled vehicle–a gun tractor commissioned by the French government.  The following year he produced the first mechanically-driven “horseless carriage”; his steam tricycle, driven by a steam engine, carried four passengers and was the forerunner of the modern motor car– and more specifically, of the Stanley Brothers’ Steamers.

The Stanley Twins, Freelan back/right



Written by LW

October 2, 2015 at 1:01 am


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,145 other followers

%d bloggers like this: