Ever had that sense of deja vu when reading a news posting online? Well, the Sunlight Foundation has your back: they’ve created Churnalism– a simple search tool that let’s one quickly determine whether what one’s reading is “a product of real journalism or just a spin off of another story posted elsewhere.”
As we root out the sources, we might recall that it was on this date in 1928 that Evelyn Waugh wrote a letter of protest to the Times Literary Supplement. His complaint wasn’t that they’d misjudged his novel (Decline and Fall); their reaction was, like the book’s wider reception, quite warm. Rather, he objected to the fact that throughout the review he was referred to as “Miss Waugh.”
As American readers prepare to head for the multiplex for the premiere of Star Trek- Into the Darkness, they might want to take a brief detour down memory lane: Harvard’s Houghton Library has released excerpts of a 31-page photocopied writers’ guide for the original Star Trek series, written in 1967, that was meant to help writers for the then year-old show—as well as prospective writers working on spec scripts—nail the tone and content of a typical “Trek” episode.
The pages list characters and their attributes (Captain Kirk is “a space-age Horatio Hornblower, constantly on trial with himself, a strong, complex personality”), outline dos and don’ts of costuming (no pockets; no space suits), and suggest places where writers working outside the studio can seek technical advice (ask nearby universities, “your local NASA office,” or anyone in the “aero-space research and development industry”).
Coming at the tail end of a decade and a half of science fiction television of variable quality, “Star Trek” was eager to establish itself as a new breed of more realistic space opera. The third page image below describes a scenario in which Captain Kirk comforts a female crewmember as an alien vessel attacks. The guide asks readers to identify the problem with this “teaser.” The answer: “Concept weak. This whole story opening reeks too much of ‘space pirate’ or similar bad science fiction.” Captain Kirk would never hug a fellow crewman as danger approached; he’d be too busy trying to solve the problem.
It’s clear that the guide’s anonymous author knew that those in charge were asking a lot of their writers. At the end of a list of Frequently Asked Questions appears this one:
Q: Are you people on LSD?
A: We tried, but we couldn’t keep it lit.
Read the full story– and read more Writer’s Guide pages– at Slate’s new history blog, The Vault.
More? Check out the ten most under-rated episodes from the original series.
As we set phasers to stun, we might spare a thought for Frederick Walton; he died on this date in 1928. The scion of a British rubber processing family, Walton was a prolific inventor. While he patented (among many other things), flexible metal tubing, artificial leather, and a process for waterproofing clothing, he is surely best remembered as the inventor of linoleum.
… 9 Film Frames aims to distill that truth even further: ”an attempt to showcase a film by using only 9 of it’s frames.”
Many more reminders of why we want to see all of the movies at 9 Film Frames.
* Jean-Luc Godard
As we head for the nearest rep house, we might send fantastic birthday greetings to L. Frank Baum, born on this date in 1856. After trying his hand at acting and marketing (he was a pioneer in the then-fledgling field of “store displays,” founded the trade magazine The Show Window, and helped start the longest continuously-running trade association in marketing, what’s now known as The Society of Visual Merchandising), he found his true calling, creating Dorothy, Toto, the Wizard, and the “Wonderful World” he ruled. In the end, Baum wrote wrote fourteen Oz novels, and a host of other works: 55 novels in total, plus four “lost” novels, 83 short stories, over 200 poems, and an unknown number of scripts (pursuant to numerous attempts to bring his works to the stage and screen). Something of a futurist, his works anticipated such century-later commonplaces as television, augmented reality, laptop computers (The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high risk, action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), and– in a return to his roots– the ubiquity of advertising on clothing (Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Work).
The research firm Nanex presented the stunning animation below as part of a presentation at Wired‘s Business Conference. It represents one half-second of trading orders for just one stock– Johnson & Johnson– routed through just twelve exchanges.
This kind of high-frequency trading accounted for approximately 50% of all US equity trading volume in 2012. The central point of the presentation is that the rush by traders to speed-at-all-costs has created a system largely populated by “ghost bids” (meant to bait other traders into inadvisable trades) and a resultant degree of confusion that means that, in a bid-and-ask system that’s meant to clear trades both efficiently and effectively, “it is impossible to verify that a trade received the best price.”
The financial industry’s response? It’s turning to lasers for even faster trades…
As we ponder Asimov’s Three Laws, we might send tasty birthday greetings to Nicholas Kurti (nee Miklós Mór Kürti); he was born on this date in 1908. Born in Romania, educated in Paris and Berlin, Kurti fled Hitler’s rise to settle at the Clarendon laboratory at Oxford, where he became was one of the premier low-temperature physicists of his era (he conducted record-breaking nuclear cooling experiments that came within a millionth of a degree of absolute zero).
But Kurti, an enthusiastic advocate of applying scientific knowledge to culinary problems, was also renowned as a chef; with chemist Herve This, he founded the “discipline” of “molecular gastronomy.” In 1969 Kurti gave a talk at the Royal Society (of which he was a member and officer) titled “The Physicist in the Kitchen”, in which he delighted his audience by using the recently-invented microwave oven to make a “reverse Baked Alaska”, aka Frozen Florida (cold outside, hot inside). Nineteen years later, with his wife, he edited the first Royal Society cook book: But the Crackling Is Superb: An Anthology on Food and Drink by Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society.
I think it is a sad reflection on our civilisation that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus, we do not know what goes on inside our souffles.
Brazilian designer Niege Borges is collecting, diagramming, and sharing the most famous (and infamous) dances from film and television. She explains:
In 1518, a bunch of people from a french town called Stransbourg were affected by something called dancing mania. It began with one lady named Frau Troffea dancing in the street and end up with, more or less, 400 people dancing on for days without rest, resulting in some deaths of heart attack, stroke and exhaustion. This project is, in some sort of way, a memorial for Frau Toffea. From the silliest little dance to the most elaborate dance sequence of the history of cinema, there were a lot of dancing in the last decades (not enough to kill anyone, I hope). Here are some of these dances.
From Tom Cruise’s BVD’ed turn in Risky Business, through Monty Python’s “Fish Slapping Dance,” to Monica’s and Ross’ “TV dance” (above), readers will find a growing set of instructive pictographs at “Dancing Plague of 1518” (and more of Borges work, here).
[TotH to CoDesign]
* George Bernard Shaw
As we measure off our rugs for cutting, we might send wondrous birthday greetings to Stevland Hardaway Judkins**; he was born on this date in 1950– prematurely. The incubator into which he was placed had an incorrectly-regulated flow of oxygen; too much flowed in, aggravating the retinopathy that was a function of his early arrival, and leaving him blind. As a young child, he turned to music, picking up the piano, harmonica, drums and bass, and singing in his church choir. At 11 he was discovered by Motown Records, where producer Clarence Paul bestowed what became the youngster’s trademark name after stating “we can’t keep calling him the eighth wonder of the world”: Little Stevie Wonder. Little Stevie released a single in 1961, two albums in 1962, but broke big in 1963 with “Fingertips (Part 2).” In the mid-60s he dropped “Little” from his name, and began to agitate for more creative control over his recordings.
In 1971, as he came of legal age, Wonder got that artistic freedom (and an unprecedented royalty rate) in a new Motown contract… and the hits began to roll. Over the next five years he released five albums– Music of My Mind (1972), Talking Book (1972), Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974), and Songs in the Key of Life (1976)– from which come the vast majority of what most would consider to be his greatest hits, including “Superstition” (1971), “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” (1973), “Higher Ground” (1973), “Livin’ For The City” (1973), “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” (1974), “I Wish” (1977), and “Sir Duke” (1977).
He’s sold over 100 million recordings, won 22 Grammys (plus a Lifetime Achievement Grammy), earned an Oscar, and been inducted into the Songwriters and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame… among many, many other honors.
** Stevie was born in Saganaw, Michigan; his mother moved the family to Detroit when he was four, and changed the family name to Hardaway (her maiden name); later she changed Stevie’s last name to Morris– his legal surname ever since.
Courtesy of The Week, a look at the pecuniary consequences in the U.S. of “Happy Mother’s Day”…
The amount Americans will spend this Mother’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation’s Mother’s Day spending survey
Moms in the U.S., according to the latest stats from the United States Census Bureau
The average amount American consumers will spend on mom for Mother’s Day 2013
The average spending last year. This year’s figure is an 11 percent increase.
Mother’s Day’s ranking, after Christmas and Valentine’s Day, in terms of the amount of money spent by U.S. consumers…
* Mark Twain
As we reassure ourselves that it’s the thought that counts, we might send nonsensical birthday greetings to Edward Lear; he was born on this date in 1812. An accomplished ”ornithological draughtsman,” Lear published his first work– Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots– at age 19, a collection that was favorably compared to the work of Audubon. But Lear is better remembered for his verse (and the illustrations he supplied to accompany it). In 1846 he published A Book of Nonsense, a volume of limericks helped popularise the form. In 1865 The History of the Seven Families of the Lake Pipple-Popple was published; and in 1867 his most famous piece of nonsense, The Owl and the Pussycat (which he wrote for the children of his patron Edward Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby). They were quite successful, and any other works followed.
Lear’s facility– his verbal inventiveness, his knowing liberties with poetic form– led many to suspect (a la Shakespeare) that his poems were actually the work of another, better-educated author: his patron. (Conspiracy theorists noted that “Lear” is an anagram of “Earl”– so that “Edward Lear” might be code for “Edward, Earl”). But Lear was real enough, and earned his place– alongside Lewis Carroll and W.S. Gilbert– as one of the great purveyors of nonsense of the Victorian Age.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
- St.3, The Owl and the Pussycat
Readers will likely have heard of the recent research that has identified a list of two dozen “ultraconserved words” that have survived 150 centuries. It includes some predictable entries: “mother,” “not,” “what,” “to hear” and “man.” It also contains some surprises: “to flow,” “ashes” and “worm.” As the Washington Post observes,
You, hear me! Give this fire to that old man. Pull the black worm off the bark and give it to the mother. And no spitting in the ashes!
It’s an odd little speech. But if you went back 15,000 years and spoke these words to hunter-gatherers in Asia in any one of hundreds of modern languages, there is a chance they would understand at least some of what you were saying.
But then there’s the other end of the spectrum…
The Guardian recounts the tale of the last two remaining speakers of Ayapaneco:
The language of Ayapaneco has been spoken in the land now known as Mexico for centuries. It has survived the Spanish conquest, seen off wars, revolutions, famines and floods. But now, like so many other indigenous languages, it’s at risk of extinction.
There are just two people left who can speak it fluently – but they refuse to talk to each other. Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, live 500 metres apart in the village of Ayapa in the tropical lowlands of the southern state of Tabasco. It is not clear whether there is a long-buried argument behind their mutual avoidance, but people who know them say they have never really enjoyed each other’s company…
Read the whole sad story here… and remember: use it, or lose it.
* Peter Drucker
As we lament languages that have languished, we might send joint birthday greetings to Chang and Eng; they were born on this date in 1811. The original “Siamese Twins,” they were joined at the waist by a band of cartilage, about 8 in. circumference and 4 in. long. In 1828 British merchant Robert Hunter ”discovered” them and paid their family to let them be exhibited as a curiosity during a world tour; at the end of that engagement, the brothers went into business for themselves. In 1839, they visited Wilkesboro, N.C. with P. T. Barnum; they found the town appealing, settled there, took the surname “Bunker,” became United States citizens, and in 1843 married two sisters with whom they raised 10 children. Only after their death was it discovered that the cartilage that connected them could have been easily and safely removed.
Click here for Mark Twain’s short story, “The Siamese Twins,” based on Chang and Eng.