(Roughly) Daily

“The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places”*…

 

Colon, Michigan (the name comes from a pair of nearby lakes shaped like the punctuation mark), a sleepy, one-streetlight town somewhere between Detroit and Chicago proudly bills itself as “The Magic Capital of the World.”  It’s home to around 1,000 residents and holds at least 30 dead magicians [including native son Harry Blackstone, Sr. --The Great Blackstone] in its single small graveyard. The Colon High School mascot is a giant bunny rabbit. Though it lacks the soaring Gothic cathedrals of Hogwarts, it just might be the most magical place in the United States.

For the past 80 years, Colon has hosted Abbott’s Magic Get Together, an annual gathering of several hundred magicians from all over the world who convene for a week of shows, lectures, and trick-jamming. At night, tipsy magicians mingle in bars and restaurants along Colon’s single block of downtown, practicing their craft on passersby. The Get Together is less a conference and more a “family reunion”…

But like any good family reunion, the Get Together has its share of drama. Infighting over the town’s magical heritage has made it harder for aging magicians to cooperate in attracting new members to their community. And modern, everyday technology — not to mention the proliferation of the internet — has made it harder for magic to seem… well, magical.

Still, when you throw hundreds of born-and-bred entertainers into this mecca of illusions, you’re bound to get a party…

email readers click here for video

Prepare to be amazed by the story at “Welcome to Colon, Magic Capital of the World.”

* “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl, The Minpins

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As we take one card from the deck, remember it, then slip it back in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1791 that Mozart’s last– and arguably most glorious– opera, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte, K. 620), premiered in Vienna.  Mozart conducted the opening, though he’d fallen ill only weeks before in Prague; he died 10 weeks later.

Hear the overture here.

 

Librettist Emanuel Schikaneder, shown performing in the role of Papageno.

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Playbill from opening night

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Written by LW

September 30, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Correlation does not imply causation”*…

 

From stat-enthusiast (and full-time law student) Tyler Vigen, entertaining examples of patterns that map in compelling– but totally-inconsequential– ways…

More (and larger) examples at the sensational Spurious Correlations.

* a maxim widely repeated in science and statistics; also rendered: (P&Q)≠(P→Q)٧(Q→P).  It addresses the post hoc, ergo propter hoc (“affirming the consequent”) logical fallacy

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As we think before we leap, we might send energetic (really energetic) birthday greetings to Enrico Fermi; he was born on this date in 1901.  A physicist who is best remembered for (literally) presiding over the birth of the Atomic Age, he was also remarkable as the last “double-threat” in his field:  a genius at creating both important theories and elegant experiments.  As recently observed, the division of labor between theorists and experimentalists has since been pretty complete.

The novelist and historian of science C. P. Snow wrote that “if Fermi had been born a few years earlier, one could well imagine him discovering Rutherford’s atomic nucleus, and then developing Bohr’s theory of the hydrogen atom. If this sounds like hyperbole, anything about Fermi is likely to sound like hyperbole.”

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Written by LW

September 29, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility”*…

 

Just about everyone on the planet agrees that CEOs earn too much. Except CEOs. But how much is too much? Let’s put it this way: the average American worker would earn almost $2 million a year if he were paid a fair salary based on the compensation of U.S. CEOs.

That’s just one of the many details to emerge from a fascinating post over at the Harvard Business Review, visualizing the pay-gap ratio between chief executives and average workers internationally…

CEOs are making a lot more than what people deem fair. In the United States, the average American CEO makes a whopping 354 times the salary of the average worker. But ask Americans what a fair salary for a CEO is, and the consensus is just 6.7 times the salary of an average worker.

That means that if the average American were paid the “ideal” fraction of the average CEO’s actual salary, he would rake in $1.8 million a year.

In 1984, legendary management guru Peter Drucker argued that paying any CEO more than 20 times the wages of the average American worker was anathema to the well-being of corporations. Pay your CEO more than that, Drucker argued, and all you did was increase employee resentment, decrease morale, and reward greed over responsibility. If Drucker could see the size of the paychecks of today’s CEOs, he’d be spinning in his grave…

Read more at “The Insanity Of CEO Paychecks, Visualized“; read the HBR piece (and see more charts) here; and then read this short piece at the Financial Times that unpacks the mechanics of greed– and its stifling effect on innovation and growth– here.

* Peter Drucker

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As we fume over fatted cats, we might take a moment to celebrate Ask a Stupid Question Day, celebrated by teachers and students on this date (or sometimes, the last school day of September).

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Written by LW

September 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

“I’d rather create a miniature painting than a Taj Mahal of a book”*…

 

South African artist Lorraine Loots agrees…

365 Postcards for Ants is the second phase of a project started on 1 January 2013, which involved me creating a miniature painting every single day for the entire year.

In celebration of our city’s designation as World Design Capital 2014, I’ve decided to do it all over again, and this time all the paintings will be Cape Town themed…

Learn- and see– more at Lustik, at her site, and on Loots’ Tumblr.

Mohsin Hamid

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As we get small, we might send patronizing birthday greetings to Cosimo di Medici; he was born on this date in 1389.  The first of the Medici political dynasty, de facto rulers of Florence during much of the Italian Renaissance;, he was known as “Cosimo ‘the Elder'” (“il Vecchio”) and “Cosimo Pater Patriae” (“father of the nation”).  A fabulously-wealthy banker, he was a powerful patron of learning; he funded Ficino’s Latin translation of the complete works of Plato, and supported the work of scholars like Niccolo Niccoli and Leonardo Bruni.  But he is perhaps best remembered as a patron of the arts: he supported Fra Angelico, Fra Filippo Lippi, and Donatello, whose David and Judith Slaying Holofernes were Medici commissions; he commissioned Michelozzo Michelozzi‘s Palazzo Medici; and he enabled Brunelleschi to complete the magnificent dome of Santa Maria del Fiore (the “Duomo“).

Bronzino’s (posthumous) portrait of Cosimo de’ Medici

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Written by LW

September 27, 2014 at 1:01 am

“If you think this Universe is bad, you should see some of the others”*…

 

In cosmology as in so many branches of the scientists, theorist tend to get most of the attention.  But in the end, it’s experimentalists who covert hypothesis into knowledge.  Current theories suggest that our universe– which could be “the universe” or could be one of many– could be a hologram, a computer program, a black hole or a bubble—and, experimentalists suggest, there are ways to check…

Ponder their proofs at “What Is the Universe? Real Physics Has Some Mind-Bending Answers.”

* Philip K. Dick

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As we practice our pronunciation of “billions and billions,” we might spare a thought for Ron Toomer; he died on this date in 2011.  Toomer began his career as an aeronautical engineer who contributed to the heat shields on NASA’s Apollo spacecraft.  But in 1965, he joined Arrow Development, an amusement park ride design company, where he became a legendary creator of steel roller coasters.  His first assignment was “The Run-Away Mine Train” (at Six Flags Over Texas), the first “mine train” ride, and the second steel roller coaster (after Arrow’s Matterhorn Ride at Disneyland).  Toomer went on to design 93 coasters worldwide, and was especially known for his creation of the first “inversion” coasters (he built the first coasters with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, loops).  In 2000, he was inducted in the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Hall of Fame as a “Living Legend.”

Toomer with his design model for “The Corkscrew,” the first three-inversion coaster

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“The Corkscrew” at Cedar Point Amusement Park, Ohio

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Written by LW

September 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”*…

 

A fair copy draft (c. 1817) of Shelley’s “Ozymandias” in the collection of Oxford’s Bodleian Library

Shelley’s frequently-quoted and widely-influential sonnet “Ozymandius” has a history that’s arguably as interesting as the poem itself…

The banker and political writer Horace Smith spent the Christmas season of 1817–1818 with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley. At this time members of Shelley’s literary circle would sometimes challenge each other to write competing sonnets on a common subject—Shelley, John Keats and Leigh Hunt wrote competing sonnets on the Nile around the same time. Shelley and Smith chose a passage from the Greek Historian Diodorus Siculus, which described a massive Egyptian statue and quoted its inscription: “King of Kings Ozymandias am I. If any want to know how great I am and where I lie, let him outdo me in my work.” In the poem Diodorus becomes “a traveller from an antique land”.

The two poems were later published in Leigh Hunt’s The Examiner, published by Leigh’s brother John Hunt in London. (Hunt was already planning to publish a long excerpt from Shelley’s new epic The Revolt of Islam later the same month.) Shelley’s was published on 11 January 1818 under the pen name Glirastes. It appeared on page 24 in the yearly collection, under Original Poetry. Smith’s was published, along by a note signed with the initials H.S., on 1 February 1818… It was originally published under the same title as Shelley’s verse; but in later collections Smith retitled it “On A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below”.

Comparison of the two poems

Shelley’s “Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Smith’s Ozymandias

In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.

We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

- source

[TotH to @bijanstephen]

* Percy Bysshe Shelley (full text of the poem here)

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As we express our gratitude that the Shelleys participated in contests, we might send comradely birthday greetings to Zhou Shuren; he was born on this date in 1881.  Better known by his pen name Lu Xun (or Lu Hsün), he was one of the foremost writers– novelist, editor, translator, literary critic, essayist, and poet– in the China of his day.  He was a major influence on the May Fourth Movement that began around 1916, and later the head of the League of Left-Wing Writers in Shanghai.  He was a favorite of Mao Zedong; but though Lu was sympathetic to Communist ideas, he was he was primarily a liberal leftist and never joined the Chinese Communist Party.

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Written by LW

September 25, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch”*…

 

Australian photographer T.Q. Lee has thing for food… or at least, for what looks like food…

Waxed Rolled Socks w/ Dirty Hot Shaving Cream  Now with ten times the fibre of regular donuts! It took me a few tries to work out how to get these brown, rolled socks to accept the wax treatment without simply absorbing it. In the end, refrigeration was rather aptly, the key ingredient in my wax frosting.

His series, Inedible, composes a wide– and often revolting– variety of ingredients into appetizing photos of “food.”

Telephone Cord in Papier-mâché Sauce w/ a glass of Betadine  All of my images for Inedible are lit with natural light in contrast to and to highlight the artifical subjects being photographed. At times the distinction between real and fake became indistinguishable, and so I would add a final element that causes the viewer to question what they are seeing. In this instance, I felt the combination of telephone cord, mashed-up serviettes, soap and green cardboard clippings was too convincing alone. I was also coming down with a cold, so I fortunately had access to plenty of sore throat gargle to complete the dish..

Lee explains…

Part visual pun, part social comment on convenience food, Inedible is a still life photographic series of meals made from unconventional ingredients. Every element in these dishes are considered inedible in insolation. Together, do they whet or surpress your appetite?

Kitchen Cupboard Sushi  My first awareness of sushi was from the cult-classic, The Breakfast Club. In the lunch scene, rich-kid Claire (Molly Ringwald) explains that sushi is “raw fish, rice and seaweed” to the disgust of school-criminal, Bender (Judd Nelson) and, supposedly, the audience. How things have changed. Sushi is now a staple lunch for the modern workforce. It was precisely this ordinariness that I wanted to capture in this Inedible work. “Kitchen Cupboard Sushi” is made from ingredients found in a common kitchen cupboard, with just a few additional inedible materials from my craft box. See if you can figure out all of the raw details.

Browse the buffet at Inedible.

* Orson Welles

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As we wonder what he’d do with green eggs and ham, we might spare a thought for Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA “Dr. Seuss”; he died on this date in 1991.  After a fascinating series of early-career explorations, Geisel settled on a style that created what turned out to be the perfect “gateway drug” to book addiction for generations of nascent young readers.

The more that you read,

The more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

The more places you’ll go.

- I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! (1978)

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Written by LW

September 24, 2014 at 1:01 am

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