Your correspondent is off for his annual retreat to the family seat, and a chance to compete in “the Talladega 500 of eating contests,” the Pawleys Island Marathon Meat Meet (your correspondent’s category: free-style). Regular (Roughly) Daily service should resume on or around August 11.
Meantime, to keep readers amused, a pair of tools that enable armchair travel– through time as well as space. Y’all be good!
315 Bowery in lower Manhattan: once the omphalos of Punk and New Wave, now a John Varvatos boutique…
From Brian Foo at the New York Public Library Labs…
As a web developer who works on a screen and an illustrator that works on paper, I have always admired those who could paint big—often on impossibly large and inconveniently placed walls—only to be erased in a matter of weeks or days. The ephemeral nature of street art is what makes it simultaneously appealing and frustrating as a viewer. However, Google Maps recently rolled out a feature allowing users to go back in time on its Street View. I immediately thought to check out the well-known wall on Bowery & Houston and found that Google captured the painted wall dating back to 2007. Here’s a sampling from 2007 to present. I added a few images of the wall that I found while perusing the web to fill in some of the gap years that Google didn’t capture.
Foo developed two tools, both available openly on the NYPL site: the first corrects and aligns the perspectives of the different angles in street-view photos over time. The second, the one used on the photo of the late-lamented CBGG at the top of this post, allows one to layer views from different times by “painting” one view onto another. Try them out (and see more of his examples) at “Peeling Off The Painted Layers of NYC Walls: Experiments With The Google Street View Archive.”
As we check the tags, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville, born on this date in 1805. After a trip to the U.S. to study its penal system, de Tocqueville, whose observations had, happily, ranged much more broadly, published De la Démocratie en Amérique (Democracy in America), a pioneering work of (the not-yet-named fields of) sociology and political science– one still powerfully relevant to those concerned to understand the United States.
To Epictetus’ dictum in the title of this post, one might add “disdain”…
“That most deformed concept-cripple of all time.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche on Immanuel Kant
“Hegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense.”
- Arthur Schopenhauer on Georg Hegel
“There’s no ‘theory’ in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find… some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a 12-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying.”
- Noam Chomsky on Slavoj Žižek
“Well, with all deep respect that I do have for Chomsky, my… point is that Chomsky, who always emphasizes how one has to be empirical, accurate… well, I don’t think I know a guy who was so often empirically wrong.”
- Slavoj Žižek on Noam Chomsky
“Russell’s books should be bound in two colors, those dealing with mathematical logic in red – and all students of philosophy should read them; those dealing with ethics and politics in blue – and no one should be allowed to read them.”
- Ludwig Wittgenstein on Bertrand Russell
The hits just keep on coming at “The 30 Harshest Philosopher-on-Philosopher Insults in History” and “Philosophers’ Insults.”
As we live the examined life, we might send porcelain brithday greetings to Marcel Duchamp; he was born on this date in 1887. A painter, sculptor, and conceptual artist, Duchamp was, with Picasso and Matisse, one the defining figures in the revolution that redefined the plastic arts in the early Twentieth Century– in Duchamp’s case, as an early Cubist (the star of the famous 1913 New York Armory Show), as the originator of ready-mades, and as a father of Dada.
In the 1930s, Duchamp turned from the production of art to his other great passion, chess. He became a competitive player; then, as he reached the limits of his ability, a chess writer. Duchamp’s Samuel Beckett, an friend of Duchamp, used Duchamp’s thinking about chess strategy as the narrative device for the 1957 play of the same name, Endgame. In 1968, Duchamp played an on-stage chess match with avant-garde composer, friend, and regular chess opponent John Cage, at a concert entitled Reunion, in which the music was produced by a series of photoelectric cells underneath the chessboard, triggered when pieces were moved in game play.
“I have had UFO experiences, and yet, at the same time, I can easily be convinced that none of it is true”*…
In 1995, as part of the Walt Disney Company Presents series (that was hosted by Michael Eisner, doing his not-very-successful best to channel Walt), Disney aired “Alien Encounters.” A documentary that opens with footage of “an actual spacecraft from another world, piloted by alien intelligence,” and the pronouncement that “intelligent life from distant galaxies is now attempting to make open contact with the human race,” it only aired once.
* Frank Black (AKA Black Francis, of the Pixies)
As we look to the skies, we might spare a thought for Gertrude Stein; she died on this date in 1946. An American ex-pat, Stein was an author, poet, and memoirist (The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas). But she was probably most impactful and is best remembered as a hostess and mentor to a generation of writers (e.g., Hemingway,described her salon in A Moveable Feast) and artists (e.g., Picasso) in Paris, where– “the mother of us all”**– she held court for forty years.
** The Mother of Us All was the title of a Virgil Thomson opera for which Stein wrote the libretto. And while the subject of the opera, Susan B. Anthony, certainly deserves the epithet, so, many have observed, did its author.
The image above is from High Frequency Electric Currents in Medicine and Dentistry (1910) by champion of electro-therapeutics Samuel Howard Monell, a physician who the American X-Ray Journal cite, rather wonderfully, as having “done more for static electricity than any other living man.”
Although the use of electricity to treat physical ailments could be seen to stretch back to the when the ancient Greeks first used live electric fish to numb the body in pain, it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries – through the work of Luigi Galvani and Guillaume Duchenne – that the idea really took hold. Monell claims that his high frequency currents of electricity could treat a variety of ailments, including acne, lesions, insomnia, abnormal blood pressure, depression, and hysteria. Although not explicitly delved into in this volume, the treatment of this latter condition in women was frequently achieved at this time through the use of an early form of the vibrator (to save the physician from the manual effort), through bringing the patient to “hysterical paroxysm” (in other words, an orgasm)…
Today, electrotherapy is widely accepted in the field of physical rehabilitation– e.g. in the knitting of broken bones-- and also made the news recently as a method of keeping soldiers awake (an application–the treatment of fatigue– that Monell also touted).
Read and see more at Public Domain Review‘s “High Frequency Electric Currents in Medicine and Dentistry (1910)“
[TotH to EWW]
* George Carlin
As we sing the body electric, we might send precisely-programmed birthday greetings to Joseph F. Engelberger; he was born on this date in 1925. An engineer and entrepreneur who is widely considered “the father of robotics,” he worked from a patented technology created by George Devol to create the first industrial robot; then, with a partner, created Unimation, the first industrial robotics company. The Robotics Industries Association presents the Joseph F. Engelberger Awards annually to “persons who have contributed outstandingly to the furtherance of the science and practice of robotics.”
The internet runs on an attention economy. Those with the most views, clicks, retweets, likes, and friends win. That’s why Petit Tube is so wonderful: it presents only the least-viewed videos on YouTube. It’s a bare-bones site, streaming video after video (1:30 long tops), with two buttons: “cette vidéo est bien? and “cette vidéo n’est pas bien?” Thumbs up or thumbs down.
To say Petit Tube curates videos is probably an overstatement. Real estate tours with corny music aren’t popular for a reason. But even they have their charm, and you’ll also find the occasional gem of found poetry…
Consider this, for example: a Chinese youth orchestra’s rendition of “Scarborough Fair” (up to over 500 views as of this post, surely as a function of it’s featured place in the rotation on Petit Tube)…
Read more about this celebration of the wonderfully weird at Studio 360‘s “Introducing the least viral videos on the internet,” and then dive into the wonder that is Petit Tube… where “with 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, Petit Tube [is unlikely] run out of material anytime soon.”
As we ponder popularity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1965 that Bob Dylan was booed off stage at the Newport Jazz Festival during his first public performance with electric instruments (and a band that included Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper)… The cat-calling began with his opening number, “Maggie’s Farm,” and continued through three more songs, after which Dylan left the stage. As a peace offering to Pete Seeger and other aggrieved organizers, Dylan returned later to do two acoustic numbers… but the die was cast; thereafter, his career was electrically-powered…
For a sense of just how far things have come, check out Johnny Winter’s version of “Highway 61,” taped at a 1992 tribute to Dylan (on the occasion of 30th anniversary as a recording artist):
Although not anyone can be a designer, everyone who wants to can learn the elements of visual design: contrast, transparency, hierarchy, randomness, and so on. In fact, it doesn’t even take all that long. Just watch this 50-second video.
Animated by Toronto-based art director and motion designer Matt Greenwood, this video walks you through 24 of the most important visual design principles, ranging from rhythm to texture to color. It won’t teach you everything you need to know to be a designer, but it’s a good start…
* Charles Eames
As we seek elegance in all, we might recall that it was on this date in 1847 that Richard M. Hoe patented the rotary printing press. Hoe had invented the press a couple of years earlier and improved it before submission. His creation greatly increased the speed of printing, as it involved rolling a cylinder over stationary plates of inked type, using the cylinder to make an impression on paper– thus eliminating the need to make impressions from pressing type plates, which were heavy and difficult to maneuver. In 1871, Hoe added the ability to print to continuous rolls of paper, creating the “web press” that revolutionized newspaper and magazine printing. His first customer was Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune.
Long before the lights from Pittsburgh’s PNC Park began illuminating the North Shore every summer, a local corporation gave the city an art show every night on the same grounds.
The Westinghouse Electric Supply Company (a subsidiary of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, or Wesco), based in Pittsburgh, moved into a warehouse facing the Allegheny River in 1948. On its roof, a giant orange and blue sign spelled out the the company’s tag line, “You can be sure … if it’s Westinghouse.”
As modernist design trickled down from the Bauhaus to Madison Avenue, most noticeably in the 1960s, corporate giants like Westinghouse began leaning towards minimalist visual identities. In 1960, Paul Rand gave the company a logo that looked like an electrical socket that also spelled out the letter W.
Six years later, Richard Huppertz, head of Westinghouse’s Corporate Design Center, wanted to emphasize the company’s sleek new identity with text-free signage on top of their North Shore warehouse. Huppertz ran the idea by Rand, who then came up with the country’s first computer-controlled sign…
Read the rest of this illuminating story at “Remembering Pittsburgh’s Most Mesmerizing Sign.”
* Walt Whitman
As we celebrate bright ideas, we might turn to the noir side and send hard-boiled birthday greetings to Raymond Chandler, novelist (The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, et al.) and screenwriter (Double Indemnity, with Billy Wilder, e.g.), whose Philip Marlowe was (with Hammett’s Sam Spade) synonymous with “private detective,” whose style (with Hammett’s) defined a genre, and who was (unlike Hammett) born on this date in 1888.
Love interest nearly always weakens a mystery because it introduces a type of suspense that is antagonistic to the detective’s struggle to solve the problem. It stacks the cards, and in nine cases out of ten, it eliminates at least two useful suspects. The only effective love interest is that which creates a personal hazard for the detective – but which, at the same time, you instinctively feel to be a mere episode. A really good detective never gets married.
- Raymond Chandler, “Casual Notes on the Mystery Novel” (essay, 1949)