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“I did not attend his funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it”*…

 

Whether it’s getting food, a cup of coffee, or making a cash withdrawal, you can get a lot of things without leaving the comfort of your car.

That now includes paying your final respects in a drive-thru window.

A new service has opened in Saginaw, Michigan called “Drive-thru viewing” at Ivan Phillips’ Funeral Home…

More (including a revealing video) at “Drive-thru open coffin viewing now available in US at funeral home.”

* Mark Twain

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As we muse on mortuary madness, we might recall that it was on this date in 1934 that Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd was killed.  A bank robber who was, simultaneously Public Enemy #1 and a folk hero in Depression-era America, Floyd was cornered and shot to death in an Ohio field by lawmen led by legendary FBI agent Melvin Purvis.  His body was returned to his native Oklahoma, where his funeral was attended by between 20,000 and 40,000 people, and remains the largest funeral in Oklahoma history.

 

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Written by LW

October 22, 2014 at 1:01 am

“I have never met a vampire personally, but I don’t know what might happen tomorrow”*…

 

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Readers will know of the evening in 1816, on the shores of Lake Geneva, when a challenge from her husband-to-be and his friend Lord Byron led Mary Shelley (then, Mary Godwin) to create Frankenstein.  What’s less well known is that this same challenge led another guest to create that other great figure of 19th-century gothic fiction – the vampire.

The first fully realized vampire story in English, John William Polidori’s “The Vampyre”… establishes the vampire as we know it via a reimagining of the feral mud-caked creatures of southeastern European legend as the elegant and magnetic denizens of cosmopolitan assemblies and polite drawing rooms.

“The Vampyre” is a product of 1816, the “year without summer,” in which Lord Byron left England in the wake of a disintegrating marriage and rumours of incest, sodomy and madness, to travel to the banks of Lake Geneva and there loiter with Percy and Mary Shelley (then still Mary Godwin). Polidori served as Byron’s traveling physician, and played an active role in the summer’s tensions and rivalries, as well as participating in the famous night of ghost stories that produced Mary Shelley’s “hideous progeny,” Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

Like Frankenstein, “The Vampyre” draws extensively on the mood at Byron’s Villa Diodati. But whereas Mary Shelley incorporated the orchestral thunderstorms that illuminated the lake and the sublime mountain scenery that served as a backdrop to Victor Frankenstein’s struggles, Polidori’s text is woven from the invisible dynamics of the Byron-Shelley circle, and especially the humiliations he suffered at Byron’s hand…

Find the rest of this twisted tale (if not eternal life) at “The Poet, the Physician and the Birth of the Modern Vampire.”

* Bela Lugosi

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As we make the Sign of the Cross, we might send metrical birthday greetings to Samuel Taylor Coleridge; he was born on this date in 1772.  A poet, literary critic, and philosopher, Coleridge is probably best remembered for two poems, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, and for his prose work Biographia Literaria.  Coleridge and his dear friend (and partner in founding the Romantic Movement) Wordsworth were contemporaries of Byron– who went out of his way to insult them in Canto III of Don Juan.

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Written by LW

October 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

“We must believe in free will; we have no choice”*…

 

As the debate between determinists and defenders of free will rages on (as e.g., here), Jessica Hagy weighs in with an entry in her “Indexed” series:

Busy = Beholden

* Isaac Bashevis Singer

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As we concede that context is critical, we might send shocking birthday greetings to a man who exercised free will whether he had it or not: the enfant terrible of French letters, Arthur Rimbaud; he was born on this date in 1854.  With his buddy, Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud was a leader of the Decadent Movement; fueled by absinthe and hashish, he succeeded in shocking a literary establishment that was nonetheless awed by his visionary verse, which influenced modern literature and arts, inspired various musicians, and prefigured Surrealism.

All known literature is written in the language of common sense—except Rimbaud’s

- Paul Valéry

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Written by LW

October 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available… a new idea, as powerful as any in history, will be let loose”*…

 

10/2/2014  L’Eixample.  Valencia, Spain (39°27′53″N 0°22′12″W)      The urban plan of the L’Eixample district in Valencia, Spain is characterized by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues, and square blocks with chamfered corners.

Plato suggested that “man must rise above the Earth —to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.”  Benjamin Grant and his colleagues at Daily Overview mean to help.

Our project was inspired, and derives its name, from an idea known as the Overview Effect. This term refers to the sensation astronauts have when given the opportunity to look down and view the Earth as a whole. They have the chance to appreciate our home in its entirety, to reflect on its beauty and its fragility all at once. That’s the cognitive shift that we hope to inspire.

From our line of sight on the earth’s surface, it’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things we’ve constructed, the sheer complexity of the systems we’ve developed, or the devastating impact that we’ve had on our planet. We believe that beholding these forces as they shape our Earth is necessary to make progress in understanding who we are as a species, and what is needed to sustain a safe and healthy planet.

As a result, the Overviews (what we call these images) focus on the the places and moments where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape. Each Overview starts with a thought experiment. We consider the places where man has left his mark on the planet and then conduct the necessary research to identify locations (and the corresponding geo-coordinates) to convey that idea.

The mesmerizing flatness seen from this vantage point, the surprising comfort of systematic organization on a massive scale, or the vibrant colors that we capture will hopefully turn your head. However, once we have that attention, we hope you will go beyond the aesthetics, contemplate just exactly what it is that you’re seeing, and consider what that means for our planet…

9/30/2014  Erosion.  Betsiboka River, Madagascar  (15°48′55″S 46°16′13″E)       Dramatic evidence of the catastrophic erosion in northwestern Madagascar is seen at the rapidly expanding Betsiboka River Delta. Deforestation of the country’s central highlands for cultivation and pastureland has resulted in the most significant erosion recorded anywhere in the world (approximately 112 tons/acre), which transforms the river to this vivid orange color.

Tour the Earth from above at Daily Overview.

* astronomer Fred Hoyle

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As we put perspective into purposeful practice, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Lewis Mumford; he was born on this date in 1895.  A historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and cultural critic, Mumford is probably best remembered for his writings on cities, perhaps especially for his award-winning book The City in History.  (See also The City– the extraordinary film that Mumford made with Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke, from an outline by the renowned documentarian Pare Lorentz, with a score by Aaron Copland.) 

Mumford’s approaches to technology, its history, and its roles in society were acknowledged influences on writers like Jacques Ellul, Witold Rybczynski, Amory Lovins, E. F. Schumacher, Herbert Marcuse, Thomas Merton, and Marshall McLuhan.  In a similar way, he was an inspiration for the organicist and environmentalist movements of today.

Unfortunately, once an economy is geared to expansion, the means rapidly turn into an end and “the going becomes the goal.” Even more unfortunately, the industries that are favored by such expansion must, to maintain their output, be devoted to goods that are readily consumable either by their nature, or because they are so shoddily fabricated that they must soon be replaced. By fashion and build-in obsolescence the economies of machine production, instead of producing leisure and durable wealth, are duly cancelled out by the mandatory consumption on an even larger scale.

- Lewis Mumford, The City in History

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Written by LW

October 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The first time you see something that you have never seen before, you almost always know right away if you should eat it or run away from it”*…

 

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Readers have surely encountered the wax models of sushi, tempura, et al. that grace the entrances of Japanese restaurants, advertising the dishes available therein.  Here, the story of that faux food:

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A segment from the documentary Tokyo-Ga by Wim Wenders shows the meticulous process by which Japanese wax food samples are made. Molds are made from pieces of real food, and the wax forms produced from the molds are then worked and painted to closely resemble the original items. Another clip posted by YouTube user macdeetube shows a worker forming a wax sample piece of shrimp tempura and a head of cabbage from raw materials.

email readers click here for video

Via Laughing Squid

* Scott Adams

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As we say arigatou, we might note that this is the prime night– Saturday night– of National Curry Week (established 17 years ago, in the UK, to celebrate 200 years of Indian restaurants there) and the first night of National Eating In/Out Week.  Dinner, anyone?

 

Written by LW

October 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Coming soon!”*…

 

The tag line explains the concept of this 1918 movie, which was an anthology of clips from the films Chaplin made for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company.

(R)D has explored the history of movie trailers.  Now, from the remarkable Rebecca Onion, a look at their pre-history…

In the silent film era, these colorized lantern slides were the equivalent of previews or trailers, alerting the audience to the theater’s upcoming schedule. Blank spaces in the slide’s design allowed for a small degree of customization by hand.

Films tended to be short by modern standards, so audiences would watch them in batches, rather than seeing one at a time as we do today. Film scholar Lisa Kernan writes that these magic lantern slides were “projected between features, much like today’s slides of local restaurant advertising and movie trivia quizzes.”

The famous feline, who starred in multiple short cartoons between 1919 and the early 1930s, had a reusable slide that could be repurposed when new installments came out.

Even at the time the slides were in common use, Kernan writes, some theaters experimented with showing short bits of film to advertise coming attractions. By the 1920s, a company called National Screen Service was making trailers for major studio films using moving footage; by the 1930s, studios began to make their own, much more sophisticated preview trailers.

These lantern images were collected by W. Ward Marsh, a movie critic for theCleveland Plain Dealer from 1919 until his death in 1971. The Cleveland Public Library holds Marsh’s movie memorabilia and has digitized almost 700 examples of these slides…

A 1919 version of the L.M. Montgomery novel, starring prolific child actress Mary Miles Minter, was the first of many such adaptations for the big and small screens.

Read and see more at “The Lantern Slides That Advertised Coming Attractions in the Silent Film Era.”

* ubiquitous line in movie trailers

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As we take our seats and silence our phones, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that “La Bateau,” a 1953 paper cut by Henri Matisse was hung in New York’s Museum of Modern Art…  upside down.  It remained on inverted display for 47 days.  Genevieve Habert, a stockbroker, noticed the mistake (by comparing the hanging to the photo in the catalogue).  As it was a Sunday night and there were no curatorial officials on duty, Habert informed the New York Times, which in turn notified Monroe Wheeler, the Museum’s art director… who had the piece rehung correctly on Monday.

Matisse’s cut-outs are back at MoMA… right-side up, one trusts.

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Written by LW

October 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Adults are only kids grown up”*…

 

Childhood distorts your memories in strange ways — everything seems bigger, more extensive, more dramatic. Take the seminal comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, for example. Much of its 1985 – 1995 run lined up with my own childhood; I eagerly waited for the newspaper (yes, comics in the newspaper!) every day from about 1989 on. When I started reading, I was only a year or two older than Calvin himself, thus making the strip eminently relatable in a way that few other pieces of art have ever been for me. (And make no mistake, Calvin and Hobbes is art.)

Of course, it was an exaggerated version of being a kid — in particular the amount of destruction that Calvin heaped on his poor, unwitting parents. My memories tell me that nary a week went by without some incredible amount of damage caused to Calvin’s home. An article and chart published to the ridiculously-named PNIS (Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science, which claims to be a “part-serious, part-satirical journal publishing science-related articles”) backs up those assumptions, and even puts a dollar figure on it. According to these calculations, Calvin’s destructive tendencies cost his parents approximately $15,955.50 over the course of the strip’s 10 years…

Read more at Nathan Ingraham‘s “Calvin and Hobbes were even more destructive than you think.” (and read the full scientific paper here.)

* Walt Disney

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As we find humor in the hyperbole, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that Margaret Sanger, her sister, Ethel Byrne, both nurses, and an associate, Fania Mindell opened the Brownsville Clinic in Brooklyn– the first family planning and birth control clinic in the United States. (The first such clinic in the world opened in Amsterdam in 1885.)  The police quickly closed the facility; Sanger served 30 days in jail.  But she and her colleagues gamely re-opened; and in 1917, Sanger helped organize the National Birth Control League, which would later become the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Sanger (center) at the Brownsville Clinic

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Written by LW

October 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

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