“The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries”*…
Jonathan Basile, a Brooklyn author and Borgesian Man of the Book, taught himself programming so that he could recreate Borges’ Universal Library [the Library of Babel, which “contained all books”] as a website. The results are confounding. A true site-as-labyrinth, Basile’s creation is an attempt to write and publish every story conceivable (and inconceivable) to man. In the process, Basile encountered new philosophical conundrums, French rappers, and unheard-of porno search strings. The possibilities, after all, are endless…
* Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel” [“La Biblioteca de Babel”]
As we renew our Library cards, we might recall that it was on this date in 1667 that John Milton sold the rights to Paradise Lost to printer/publisher Samuel Simmons for £10. Milton, who’s worked for Cromwell, was on the outs in those early days of the Restoration. (Indeed, Simmons kept his name off the title page [below], naming only his sellers.)
That original edition was structured into 10 sections (“books”). Milton revised his work and reordered it into 12 books, the form we know today; it was published in the year of his death, 1674. While his motive may well have been, as some critics have suggested, to emulate the structure of Virgil’s Aeneid, a second payday probably also figured in.
Las Vegas– and the world– lost two icons of neon sign design on April 19th: Betty Willis, seen above with the iconic “Welcome” sign that she designed, and Brian “Buzz” Leming, creator of many of the Strip’s most memorable marquees, passed away within hours of each other.
Willis and Leming both worked at the Western Sign Company, where they struck up a friendship. Many of their creations are preserved in the Neon Museum’s outdoor “Boneyard,” where it stores its relics.
* Nelson Algren (writing about Chicago, though it’s surely apropos of Las Vegas as well)
As we switch on the lights, we might send forbearing birthday wishes to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; he was born on this date in 121. The last of the Five Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers; his Meditations, written on campaign before he became emperor, is still a central text on the philosophy of service and duty.
The pursuit of lock picking is as old as the lock, which is itself as old as civilization. But in the entire history of the world, there was only one brief moment, lasting about 70 years, where you could put something under lock and key—a chest, a safe, your home—and have complete, unwavering certainty that no intruder could get to it.
This is a feeling that security experts call “perfect security.”
Since we lost perfect security in the 1850s, it has has remained elusive. Despite tremendous leaps forward in security technology, we have never been able to get perfect security back…
From the late 1770s until the mid-19th century, two British locks– the Bramah and the Chubb– offered their users unpickable security. Then, at A. C. Hobbs, an American locksmith, attended The Great Exhibition—the first international exhibition of manufactured products– and destroyed that sense of security forever…
Read the remarkable Roman Mars’ account of security (and the loss thereof) in “In 1851, A Man Picked Two Unpickable Locks and Changed Security Forever“; hear it on his wonderful podcast, 99% Invisible.
* Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
As we reach for our keys, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953 that a different kind of lock was picked: Nature published a one-page article by James Watson and Francis Crick outlining the structure of DNA– te work for which the pair won a Nobel Prize in 1962. (Their paper ran immediately ahead of one co-authored by Maurice Wilkins, who shared the Nobel award, in the same issue.)
The Artspeak Incinerator Project is an interactive video installation created by artist Bill Claps. This video documents the Artspeak Incinerator in action at the MOMA, Guggenheim, Whitney, New Museum, ARTFORUM, Gagosian Gallery, and other locations.
During Armory Arts Week Claps utilized crowdsourcing and a technology interface connected to Twitter to source examples of artspeak from various art fairs, publications, and institutions throughout New York City. The artspeak was translated into Morse code (representing the art world’s distinct coded language) and digitally incinerated while being projecting onto the facades of art institutions throughout the city, releasing it into the atmosphere in a purified state…
See more– and more of Claps’ other wonderful work– at his site.
* “Ms. Patuto,” season 3 of Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven
As we connect with our inner connoisseur, we might send bold birthday greetings to Willem de Kooning; he was born on this date in 1904. After New York School., de Kooning was the most prominent and celebrated of the painters, and with his wife, Elaine, Pollock, Rothko, and Kline, was at the core of what has become known as the
de Kooning has been the subject of reams of artspeak.
At the furthest-most reaches of the observable universe lies one of the most enigmatic mysteries of modern cosmology: the cosmic microwave background (CMB) Cold Spot.
Discovered in 2004, this strange feature etched into the primordial echo of the Big Bang has been the focus of many hypotheses — could it be the presence of another universe? Or is it just instrumental error? Now, astronomers may have acquired strong evidence as to the Cold Spot’s origin and, perhaps unsurprisingly, no multiverse hypothesis is required. But it’s not instrumental error either…
* Theodore Sturgeon
As we boldly go, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that NASA launched the Ranger 4, the first U.S. spacecraft to reach another celestial body. Ranger 4 was designed to transmit pictures to Earth and to test the radar-reflectivity of the lunar surface during a period of 10 minutes of flight prior to crashing upon the Moon, “rough-landing” a seismometer capsule as it did. In the event, an onboard computer glitch caused failure of the solar panels and navigation systems; as a result the spacecraft crashed on the far side of the Moon three days after it’s launch without returning any scientific data. Still, the “landing” was a first.
Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday!
Lewis Watts collaborated with the film maker and writer Pepin Silva to tell the story of the Fillmore music scene in the 1940s and 50s. During this era, one square mile of the Fillmore contained more than two dozen nightclubs and music venues, including well-known spots like Jimbo’s Bop City. Its significant place in African-American musical and cultural history led to the Fillmore district being compared to New York’s Harlem. Few people today know of its rich history, which was thoroughly erased during the district’s redevelopment in the 1960s.
Fundraising is in progress to reprint Lewis Watts and Elizabeth Pepin Silva’s 2006 jazz and blues history, Harlem Of The West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era, in an extended form that includes a multimedia website and a traveling museum.
* Bill Evans, on jazz
As we follow the lead sheet, we might send rhythmic birthday greetings to Charles Mingus; he was born on this date in 1922. Raised in Watts, Mingus came to music in high school, where he picked up the cello, and then the double bass. After a few years of intense study, he became known as a bass prodigy (touring as a very young man with the likes of Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton, then Charlie Parker); at the same time, he had begun composing. In 1952 Mingus co-founded Debut Records with Max Roach so that he could control his own recording career. Over the next decade he released thirty albums on his own label and on several others– a pace unmatched in the field (except perhaps by Ellington). He slowed a bit in the 60s, but was by any objective measure remarkably productive. But in the early 70s he was diagnosed with ALS; his once-formidable bass technique declined, until he could no longer play the instrument. He continued composing, however, and supervised a number of recordings before his death. At the time of his death, Mingus was working on an album named after him with Joni Mitchell, which included lyrics added by Mitchell to Mingus compositions, including “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” The album featured performances by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and another influential bassist and composer, Jaco Pastorius. Mingus died, at 56, in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he had traveled for treatment; his ashes were scattered in the Ganges River.
What if the great painters had filled larger canvases?…
Yarin Gal, at Cambridge University’s Machine Learning Group, has set out to answer the question: “New techniques in machine learning and image processing allow us to extrapolate the scene of a painting to see what the full scenery might have looked like…”
“Enhanced” Monet, Picasso, O’Keefe, (more) van Gogh, and others– with more added regularly– at Extrapolated Art.
* Vincent van Gogh
As we look beyond the frame, we might send broadly gestural birthday greetings to Ludovico Carracci; he was born on this date in 1555. An early Baroque master, his paintings, etchings, prints– but especially his frescos– are credited with reinvigorating Italian art, rescuing it from the formal mannerism that had accrued in the mid-late 16th century.