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“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

“In many ways, classic rock became bigger than mainstream rock”*…

 

Led Zeppelin is classic rock. So are Mötley Crüe and Ozzy Osbourne. But what about U2 or Nirvana? As a child of the 1990s, I never doubted that any of these bands were classic rock, even though it may be shocking for many to hear. And then I heard Green Day’s “American Idiot” on a classic rock station a few weeks ago, and I was shocked.

It was my first time hearing a band I grew up with referred to as “classic rock.” Almost anyone who listens to music over a long enough period of time probably experiences this moment — my colleagues related some of their own, like hearing R.E.M. or Guns N’ Roses on a classic rock station — but it made me wonder, what precisely is classic rock?…

Follow FiveThirtyEight’s deep– and diverting– dive into the data at “Why Classic Rock Isn’t What It Used To Be.”

 

* Chuck D

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As we roll around in our roots, we might spare a thought for another variety of classic:  it was on this date in 1930 that Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington recorded his first big hit, “Mood Indigo.”  Ellington was fond of saying, “Well, I wrote that in 15 minutes while I was waiting for my mother to finish cooking dinner.”  With lyrics added by Mitchell Parish in 1931 (but credited to Ellington’s manager Irving Mills), “Mood Indigo” became a vocal as well as an instrumental standard, recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone among many, many others.

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Written by LW

October 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”*…

 

Readers may recall our old friend Michael “The Man of 1,000 Voices” Winslow.  On the heels of yesterday’s visit to the Crypt of Civilization, here is Michael’s tribute to one of the items therein: “The History of the Typewriter.”

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* Ernest Hemingway

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As we capitulate to QWERTY, we might send deeply-thoughtful birthday greetings to a eloquent employer of the typewriter, Hannah Arendt; she was born on this date in 1906.  Though often categorized as a philosopher, she self-identified as a political theorist, arguing that philosophy deals with “man in the singular,” while her work centers on the fact that “men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.”  One of the seminal political thinkers of the twentieth century, the power and originality of her thinking was evident in works such as The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, On Revolution and The Life of the Mind.  Her famous New Yorker essay and later book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil– in which she raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction– was controversial as it was widely misunderstood as defending Eichmann and blaming Jewish leaders for the Holocaust.  That book ended:

Just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations—as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world—we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.

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Written by LW

October 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Only when the clock stops does time come to life”*…

 

Inspired by the Egyptian Pyramid and tomb openings in the first half of the 20th century, Thornwell Jacobs, President of Oglethorpe University (near Atlanta) and “the father of the modern time capsule,” was the first in modern times to conceive the idea of purposely preserving man-made objects for posterity by placing them in a sealed repository.  He began work in 1936; then in 1940, he sealed “The Crypt of Civilization,” a 20′ X10′ X 10′ space built into the foundation of one of the buildings on campus.

Set to be opened in 8113, the time capsule contains microfilm on cellulose acetate film capturing more than 800 classic works of literature, including the Bible, the Koran, Homer’s Iliad, and Dante’s Inferno–approximately 640,000 pages in all– and an original copy of the script of Gone With the Wind; modern techonology, including a typewriter, a cash register, an adding machine, an electric toaster, a sewing machine, and a radio receiver; and a host of other “artifacts of the time,” including: seed samples, dental floss, the contents of a woman’s purse, a collection of Artie Shaw records, a pacifier, a specially sealed bottle of Budweiser beer, a set of Lincoln Logs, and plastic toys of Donald Duck, the Lone Ranger, and a Black doll.  The National Bureau of Standards offered professional and technical advice for the artifacts and construction of the crypt, and recommended methods of storage: many artifacts are stored in stainless steel cylinders lined with glass and filled with an inert gas to prevent aging.

Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, president of Oglethorpe University, shown sealing the last cylinder to be placed in the Crypt of Civilization.

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The 1990 Guinness Book of World Records cited the Crypt as the “first successful attempt to bury a record of this culture for any future inhabitants or visitors to the planet Earth.”

Message to the Generations of 8113

This Crypt contains memorials of the civilization which existed in the United States and the world at large during the first half of the twentieth century. In receptacles of stainless steel, in which the air has been replaced by inert gasses, are encyclopedias, histories, scientific works, special editions of newspapers, travelogues, travel talks, cinema reels, models, phonograph records, and similar materials from which an idea of the state and nature of the civilization which existed from 1900 to 1950 can be ascertained. No jewels or precious metals are included.

We depend upon the laws of the county of DeKalb, the State of Georgia, and the government of the United States and their heirs, assigns, and successors, and upon the sense of sportsmanship of posterity for the continued preservation of this vault until the year 8113, at which time we direct that it shall be opened by authorities representing the above governmental agencies and the administration of Oglethorpe University. Until that time we beg of all persons that this door and the contents of the crypt within may remain inviolate.

- A statement from Jacobs, inscribed on a plaque on the door of the Crypt, which is welded shut.

* William Faulkner

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As we try to wait patiently, we might recall that it was on this date in 1792 that a group of 12 Freemasons laid the cornerstone of The White House.  Eight years later, John and Abigail Adams moved in.

The White House was designed by James Hoban, an Irish immigrant architect living in Charleston, South Carolina, who won a competition for the commission (and a $500 prize) with a design modeled after Leinster House in Dublin, Ireland.  He beat out a future resident, Thomas Jefferson, whose Monticello/UVa-like design was among the many losers.

It’s not known whether there was anything contained within the cornerstone.  In fact, thought the building stills stands (albeit rebuilt and expanded after being burned down during the War of 1812), the whereabouts the stone itself are a bit of a mystery.

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“Data is the new oil? No: Data is the new soil”*…

 

Eleanor Lutz, a designer in Seattle with a Bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Washington (where her research was in teaching mosquitoes to fly through mazes), has turned her talents to scientific visualization.  Her wonderful site, Tabletop Whale, features a weekly animated GIF illustrating both the principles and the beauty of a scientific phenomenon.

Watch them move: more (and larger) animated GIFs at Tabletop Whale.

[via Visual News; TotH to Erik Kuhne]

* David McCandless

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As we wonder at the working of the world around us, we might recall that it was on this date in 1810 that Crown Prince Ludwig (later to become King Ludwig I) invited the citizens of Munich to help celebrate his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen with horse races and a feast lubricated liberally by beer. The festivities were held on the fields in front of the city gates, named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s meadow”) in honor of the Crown Princess, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wiesn.”  The event was such a success that the Crown Prince decided to repeat it the following year– and so the tradition of Ocktoberfest was born.  The current version of celebration begins in late September and runs through the first Sunday in October, and involves the serving of over 1 million gallons of beer.

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Written by LW

October 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

“But when I make a good [taxidermy] mount I feel like I beat God in a small way. As though the Almighty said, Let such critter be dead, and I said, ‘F**k You, he can still play the banjo”*…

 

Afke and Floris met as students at Rietveld Academie. They began collaborating under the name This Work Must Be Designed by Idiots, incorporating dead animals in their work for shock value. Here, a peacock’s plumage turns into a beautiful garment.

This isn’t your gun-toting great-uncle’s taxidermy: there are no hunting trophies mounted on smoking den walls or Teddy Roosevelt-inspired museum dioramas. In Taxidermy Art: A Rogue’s Guide to the Work, the Culture, and How to Do It Yourself, Robert Marbury introduces a world of bionic crocodiles, pigs in Chanel bowties, impalas with human faces, and polar bears climbing on refrigerators (get it?).

In 2004, with two friends, Marbury established the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists (MART). In the decade since, Rogue Taxidermy–a genre of pop-surrealism that fuses traditional taxidermy with mixed-media sculpture–has evolved into a veritable subculture of people obsessed with turning dead animals into art. “Not since the Victorian era has taxidermy been so popular,” Marbury writes in the book’s introduction. (The Victorian era saw a trend of taxidermists like Walter Potter [see also here] making anthropomorphic tableaux of squirrels smoking cigars and kittens having tea parties.)…

See many more examples– and find out why taxidermy has become again as popular as it was in the Victorian Era– at “Inside The Bizarre World Of Rogue Taxidermy.”

Christopher Buehlman, Those Across the River

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As we ponder retrospective reanimation, we might send carefully calculated birthday greetings to Lewis Fry Richardson; he was born on this date in 1881.  A mathematician, physicist, and psychologist, he is best remembered for pioneering the modern mathematical techniques of weather forecasting.  Richardson’s interest in weather led him to propose a scheme for forecasting using differential equations, the method used today, though when he published Weather Prediction by Numerical Process in 1922, suitably fast computing was unavailable.  Indeed, his proof-of-concept– a retrospective “forecast” of the weather on May 20, 1910– took three months to complete by hand. (in fairness, Richardson did the analysis in his free time while serving as an ambulance driver in World War I.)  With the advent of modern computing in the 1950’s, his ideas took hold.  Still the ENIAC (the first real modern computer) took 24 hours to compute a daily forecast.  But as computing got speedier, forecasting became more practical.

Richardson also yoked his forecasting techniques to his pacifist principles, developing a method of “predicting” war.  He is considered (with folks like Quincy Wright and Kenneth Boulding) a father of the scientific analysis of conflict.

And Richardson helped lay the foundations for other fields and innovations:  his work on coastlines and borders was influential on Mandelbrot’s development of fractal geometry; and his method for the detection of icebergs anticipated the development of sonar.

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Written by LW

October 11, 2014 at 1:01 am

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