(Roughly) Daily

“I think it’s cool to wear roadkill”*…

Anna Paquin, modeling a piece from her line of “found fur” clothing and accessories

Approximately 50 million animals are killed every year for their fur; by comparison, 1 million animals a day– 365 million a year– are killed on the roads of America.  As Culture Change puts it, “only meat-eaters take a larger toll than its motorists.”

Where many animal lovers see, simply, tragedy, Anna Paquin sees opportunity as well.  Determined to create a clothing category that might sound oxymoronic– “ethical fur”– Paquin has founded Petit Mort, a company that recycles roadkill into fashionable clothing and accessories.

Wrap yourself in Anna’s story at “One Woman Is Revolutionizing the Fur Industry. By Using Roadkill.”

* Ke$ha

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As we bundle up, we might spare a thought for Hypatia; she was killed on this date in 370 CE.  A mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher, she was the head of the Neoplatonic school at Alexandria.  She was murdered by a mob of Christian anti-pagan fanatics on the steps of an Alexandria church called The Caesarium– as a result of which, she has become a symbol of martyred Reason and of feminism. Stephen Greenblatt suggests that her murder “effectively marked the downfall of Alexandrian intellectual life”; Kathleen Wider proposes that her murder marked the end of Classical antiquity.

Neo-platonism is a progressive philosophy, and does not expect to state final conditions to men whose minds are finite. Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel the more truth we can comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond.

–Hypatia

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Written by LW

March 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I’m so hungry I could eat a sandwich from a gas station”*…

 

Seoul Food D.C. restaurant, located inside an Exxon gas station

 

Gas stations have long been synonymous with cold pizza, dried-out doughnuts and mediocre hot dogs rotating on unappetizing roller grills. But in cities like Miami, Kansas City, and even Saxapahaw, N.C., among others, patrons can fuel up on gourmet grub and top off their tanks in one stop…

Gas stations for a long time have been a low-margin business. Owners typically make their real profits not on fuel sales but on the snacks and other items customers purchase when they come inside the station. These latest gas station eats are just taking that business model up a notch or two…

Fill ‘er up at “The Joys of Good Gas Station Food.”

* “Clark Griwold” (Chevy Chase), National Lampoon’s Vacation

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As we pull in to take out, we might send tasty birthday greetings to the culinary genius behind green eggs and ham, Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA “Dr. Seuss”; he was born on this date in 1904.  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 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

March 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

“God made the integers; all the rest is the work of Man”*…

 

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From Alex Bellos: the results of his global online poll to find the world’s favorite number…

The winner?  Seven–  and it wasn’t even close…

Leopold Kronecker

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As we settle for anything but snake eyes, we might send symbolic birthday greetings to John Pell; he was born on this date in 1611.  An English mathematician of accomplishment, he is perhaps best remembered for having introduced the “division sign”– the “obelus”: a short line with dots above and below– into use in English.  It was first used in German by Johann Rahn in 1659 in Teutsche Algebra; Pell’s translation brought the symbol to English-speaking mathematicians.  But Pell was an important influence on Rahn, and edited his book– so may well have been, many scholars believe, the originator of the symbol for this use.  (In any case the symbol wasn’t new to them:  the obelus [derived from the word for “roasting spit” in Greek] had already been used to mark passages in writings that were considered dubious, corrupt or spurious…. a use that surely seems only too appropriate to legions of second and third grade math students.)

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Written by LW

March 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”*…

 

From Boing Boing.

* Aristotle

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As we revisit vocation, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Michel Eyquem de Montaigne; he was born on this date in 1533.  Best known during his lifetime as a statesman, Montaigne is remembered for popularizing the essay as a literary form.  His effortless merger of serious intellectual exercises with casual anecdotes and autobiography– and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as “Attempts” or “Trials”)– contain what are, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written.  Montaigne had a powerful influence on writers ever after, from Descartes, Pascal, and Rousseau, through Hazlitt, Emerson, and Nietzsche, to Zweig, Hoffer, and Asimov. Indeed, he’s believed to have been an influence on the later works of Shakespeare.

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Written by LW

February 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“You know who’s going to inherit the earth? Arms dealers. Because everyone else is too busy killing each other”*…

 

The United States is at the center of a great colorful pinwheel of death, at least according to the latest infographic from Natalia Bronshtein, a data visualizer who focuses on economic trends and political developments. She has worked to produce an interactive visualization of the world’s top 100 arms-producing companies.

Surprising no one, the United States makes more money on war than any other country. Really, it’s not even close. Using the 2013 arms production database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as her data source, Bronshtein shows that 40 of the top 100 arms-producing companies in the world are based in the United States, with Lockheed Martin and Boeing being the biggest of the bunch. The visualization represents each company as a circle within the larger circle of its nationality — the bigger the radius, the more money the company or country made selling arms…

The invisible elephant in Bronshtein’s chart ends up being China, which is missing from the SIPRI database, but it’s doubtful it would bump America down. According to SIPRI, China spent $188 billion to America’s $640 billion on its military in 2013, making it the world’s second most expensive military. If China’s companies are making as much money on arms as its military is spending on them, China still likely wouldn’t be enough to knock America from the top of the list…

Read more at “Guess Which Country’s Companies Profit Most From War?”  and explore Brohstein’s visualization here.

* “Yuri Orlov” (Nicolas Cage), Lord of Wars

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As we give peace a chance, we might send ingenious birthday greetings to Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson; he was born on this date in 1910.  A storied aeronautical engineer, He contributed to the design of 40 aircraft, from the P-38 Lightning fighter and the Hudson bomber to the U-2 spy plane and the F-104 Starfighter interceptor.

But Johnson is probably best remembered as the founding leader of Lockheed’s Skunk Works, a development group that has become a model in the business, engineering, and technical arenas of an effective approach to innovation– a group with a high degree of autonomy within an organization, unhampered by bureaucracy, tasked with working on advanced or secret projects.

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Written by LW

February 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

“A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes”*…

 

Scene 3: whoops!

 

In an earlier post, I laid out a history of “banana peel” (and orange peel) humor, extending back to the early 1800s. Orange peel-slipping humor dates to at least 1817 and banana peel jokes to 1858.  Banana peel jokes were told on stage in 1890, and Vaudeville performers may have performed banana-slipping gags on stage in the early 1900s.

Peels on Film

When I wrote the earlier post, the earliest banana slipping gag on film that I found was from 1913.  As it turns out, however, the banana slipping gag was already so old and tired by 1912, that advice for aspiring screenwriters cautioned against using it for cheap laughs…

The history of the banana peel gag, at “Peels in Film, Song and Poetry.”

* Ludwig Wittgenstein

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As we watch our steps, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956, at a party in Cambridge, England, that Fulbright Scholar Sylvia Plath met poet Ted Hughes.

…the one man in the room who was as big as his poems, huge… I screamed in myself, thinking, Oh, to give myself crashing, fighting, to you.

Her wish was granted; they were married later that same year.  Plath killed herself, in London, in 1963, several weeks after The Bell Jar came out; in 1981 her Collected Poems (edited by Hughes, who oversaw her posthumous publications) won the Pulitzer Prize.

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Written by LW

February 26, 2015 at 1:01 am

“OPIATE, n. An unlocked door in the prison of Identity. It leads into the jail yard”*…

 

From 1999 to 2010, the sale of prescription painkillers to pharmacies and doctors’ offices quadrupled. In the exact same time span, the number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers also quadrupled, rising to almost 17,000…

How the American opiate epidemic was started by one pharmaceutical company: “Poison Pill.”

* Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

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As we note that “one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small,we might send re-engineered birthday greetings to Sir Thomas Bouch; he was born on this date in 1822.  A railway engineer and executive whose career began at age 17, Bouch was knighted for designing the two-mile-long Tay River Bridge– on which an estimated 75 people died when the bridge collapsed.  An enquiry found Bouch to be liable, by virtue of bad design and construction; he died four months after the verdict.

Bouch is thus also indirectly responsible for the best-known poem, “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” by the gentleman widely-regarded to have been the the worst published poet in British history, William Topaz McGonagall.

Sir Thomas Bouch

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Written by LW

February 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

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