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“I like good strong words that mean something”*…

 

From Word Journal, “a journal of interesting and infrequently encountered words.”

Many more wonderful words there, and at its frequent source, the remarkable Ragbag.

* Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

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As we luxuriate in language, we might recall that it was on this date in 1984 that noted slinger of mots Prince Charles threw a wrench into plans to build an addition onto England’s National Gallery.  The museum had held a competition for designs, and tentatively settled on plans drawn by Ahrends, Burton and Koralek (with elements from the high-tech scheme of Richard Rogers).  The Prince, on reviewing the drawings, pronounced them a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.”  His pronouncement sparked spirited dialogue, both on the proper role of the Royal Family and on the state of modern architecture.  Indeed, “monstrous carbuncle” has become a common descriptor for a modern building that clashes with its surroundings.

The ABK plans were withdrawn, and the Gallery went back to the drawing board.  In 1991 they opened The Sainsbury Wing, designed by the architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.

The Sainsbury Wing, as built, seen from Trafalgar Square

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Written by LW

May 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Well, I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent”*…

 

Did you ever notice that almost every Mad Men episode ends with Don Draper staring blankly?

On the occasion of tomorrow’s series finale, the exquisite Tumbler, “Don Draper Staring Blankly.”

* Don Draper

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As we get in touch with our motivations, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988, 24 years after the first Surgeon General’s report enumerating the dangers of smoking, that then-SG C. Everett Koop, delivered the second installment: a report that declared nicotine to be addictive in ways similar to heroin and cocaine.

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Written by LW

May 16, 2015 at 1:01 am

“What exactly is postmodernism, except modernism without the anxiety?”*…

 

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Wonderful “vintage” covers of MIA, Radiohead, Coolio, Lady Gaga, Elvis, and more at Scott Bradlee‘s Postmodern Jukebox.

* Jonathan Lethem

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As we shed pump up the PoMo, we might recall that it was on this date in 1928 that Mickey Mouse made his debut.  Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks tested their new character in a silent black-and-white animated short called “Plane Crazy,” loosely based on Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic flight and the furor it occasioned.  On that day, the cartoon was screened for distributors…  all of whom passed.  Later that year, Disney released Mickey’s first sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie– which was, of course, an enormous success.  Following two more Mickey vehicles (The Gallopin’ Gaucho, and The Barn Dance), Plane Crazy was tracked and released as a sound cartoon on March 17, 1929.

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Written by LW

May 15, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts”*…

 

“… Refuted thus”

 

Just because you CAN design your own book cover doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

 

“Actually, without reading the book, I don’t know if this is a bad cover; it might be a perfect representation of what to expect.”

 

More at Lousy Book Covers (and/or at their Tumblr).

* Charles Dickens

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As remind ourselves of Groucho Marx’s insight: “outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend; inside of a dog it’s too dark to read,” we might recall that this is a big date in the annals of English letters…  It was on this date in 1842, that Alfred, Lord Tennyson, published Poems.  While the future Poet Laureate had been writing for a decade, it was this two-volume release (which included “Ulysses” and Morte d’Arthur”) that made his name.

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And on this date in 1925, Virginia Woolf published the story of a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway– one of Time‘s “100 Best Novels since 1923″ (2005).

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Written by LW

May 14, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Confusion now hath made his masterpiece”*…

 

In 2012, 437,000 people were killed worldwide, yielding a global average murder rate of 6.2 per 100,000 inhabitants. A third of those homicides occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, home to just 8% of the world’s population. But data on violent death can be difficult to obtain, since governments are often reluctant to share their homicide statistics. What data is available is sometimes inconsistent and inconclusive.

To make this data clear and to better address the problem of global homicide, a new open-source visualization tool, the Homicide Monitor, tracks the total number of murders and murder rates per country, broken down by gender, age and, where the data is available, the type of weapon used, including firearms, sharp weapons, blunt weapons, poisoning, and others. For the most violent region in the world, the 40 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, you can also see statistics by state and city. That geographic specificity helps to underscore an important point about murders, says Robert Muggah, the research director and program coordinator for Citizen Security at the Rio de Janeiro-based Igarapé Institute, in the above-lined story: “In most cities, the vast majority of violence takes place on just a few street corners, at certain times of the day, and among specific people.”

via Slashdot.  Explore the interactive murder map here.

* William Shakespeare, Macbeth

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As we reach for the kevlar, we might recall that it was on this date in 1637 (or nearabouts, as closely as scholars can say) that Cardinal Richelieu introduced the first table knives (knives with rounded edges)–reputedly to cure dinner guests of the unsavory habit of picking their teeth with the knife-points of the daggers that were, until then, used to cut meat at the table.  Years later, in 1669, King Louis XIV followed suit, forbidding pointed knives at his table; indeed, he extended the prohibition, banning pointed knives in the street in an attempt to reduce violence.

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Written by LW

May 13, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it”*…

 

Cartographer Daniel Huffman has created a series of maps in which American river systems are visualized as subway maps (specifically, in the manner of Harry Beck’s 1930s London Tube maps), with nodes representing connections between streams and tributaries.

Huffman strikes a particular chord in the map-lover’s heart. On an Internet brimming with sleek, sharp geo-visualizations, Huffman’s maps offer a sweetly idiosyncratic view of the world. The signatures of historic figures turn into street vectors. Oregon’s wine country gets the ‘90s computer-game treatment. A simple bike path becomes a work of calligraphy.

“What it really probably comes down to is a desire to do things differently than others,” he says in an email. “I crave variety, and so it often leads me to thinking of weird ideas and saying, ‘I wonder if I can do X[.]’”

Lately, a trend has emerged out of Huffman’s impulses towards novelty—an idea he calls “Modern Naturalism,” in which his maps present natural features in the type of “highly-abstracted, geometrically precise visual language that we often apply to the constructed world on maps,” according to his website

More on Huffman and his marvelous maps at “When Rivers Look Like Subway Systems.”

* Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

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As we hop onto our rafts, we might send healing birthday greetings to Florence Nightingale, born on this date in 1820. Famed for her work as a nurse in the Crimean War, she went on to found training facilities and nursing homes– pioneering both medical training for women and what is now known as Social Entrepreneuring.  Less well-known are Nightingale’s contributions to epidemiology, statistics, and the visual communication of data in the field of public health.  Always good at math, she pioneered the use of the polar area chart (the equivalent to a modern circular histogram or rose diagram) and popularized the pie chart (which had been developed in 1801 by William Playfair).  Nightingale was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society, and later became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.

“Diagram of the causes of mortality in the army in the East” by Florence Nightingale, an example of the the polar area diagram (AKA, the Nightingale rose diagram)

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Written by LW

May 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

“At my age, the radiation will probably do me good”*…

 

The “banana equivalent dose” (BED) is a measure of radiation used to illustrate levels of emissions.  Bananas contain lots of potassium, which contains 0.01% potassium-40– which is radioactive.  The radiation exposure from eating a banana is deemed “1 BED,” roughly equivalent to 0.01 millirem (mrem).  (Happily, one would never be able to eat enough bananas to be dangerous, as our bodies excrete the potassium we’re consuming before it can do exposure damage.)

The existence of a clearly-understandable unit of this sort allows for easily-understood apples-to-apples (or, bananas-to-bananas) comparisons…

This is also roughly the exposure from having a single smoke detector.

 

Due to increased altitude; Mt Everest is more like 800 mrem (80,000 bananas) per year.

 

The granite in the walls is mildly radioactive. By comparison, the Vatican is about 800 mrem (80,000 bananas) per year.

 

More fruity comparisons at Mad Art Lab‘s “Yellow Alert

* Sir Norman Wisdom

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As we peel, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Richard Philips Feynman; he was born on this date in 1918.  A theoretical physicist, Feynman was probably the most brilliant, influential, and iconoclastic figure in his field in the post-WW II era.

Richard Feynman was a once-in-a-generation intellectual. He had no shortage of brains. (In 1965, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on quantum electrodynamics.) He had charisma. (Witness this outtake [below] from his 1964 Cornell physics lectures [available in full here].) He knew how to make science and academic thought available, even entertaining, to a broader public. (We’ve highlighted two public TV programs hosted by Feynman here and here.) And he knew how to have fun. The clip above brings it all together.

– From Open Culture (where one can also find Feynman’s elegant and accessible 1.5 minute explanation of “The Key to Science.”)

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Written by LW

May 11, 2015 at 1:01 am

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