(Roughly) Daily

“Our greatest stupidities may be very wise”*…

 

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THE CANON OF PHILOSOPHY STUDENT KARAOKE SONGS

By Jarry Lee

“Total Eclipse of Descartes”

“Don’t You (Foucault About Me)”

“U Kant Touch This”

“Hit Me Baby Wittgenstein”

“Camus Feel the Love Tonight?”

“Get the Party Sartred”

“Forever Jung”

“I Kissed Hegel (And I Liked It)”

“Ain’t No Montaigne High Enough”

“Pop, Locke & Drop It”

“Bataille Will Always Love You”

“My Milkshake Brings All the Baudrillard”

“Rousseau Vain (You Probably Think This Song is About You)”

“Love Voltaire Us Apart”

“Psycho Schiller”

- McSweeney’s

* Ludwig “Baby” Wittgenstein

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As we clear our throats, we might might send psychedelic birthday greetings to Terence Kemp McKenna; he was born on this date in 1948.  Often called called the “Timothy Leary of the 90s,” McKenna was a philosopher, psychonaut, ethnobotanist, lecturer, and author.  His writings on the consciousness-expanding capacity of hallucinogenic drugs earned him some enemies.  In 1993 Judy Corman, vice president of Phoenix House of New York, a drug treatment center, said in a letter to The New York Times: “Surely the fact that Terence McKenna says that the psilocybin mushroom ‘is the megaphone used by an alien, intergalactic Other to communicate with mankind’ is enough for us to wonder if taking LSD has done something to his mental faculties.”  But that same year, biologist Richard Evans Schultes, of Harvard University, wrote in American Scientist in a review of McKenna’s book Food of the Gods, that it was; “a masterpiece of research and writing” and that it “should be read by every specialist working in the multifarious fields involved with the use of psychoactive drugs.” Concluding that “it is, without question, destined to play a major role in our future considerations of the role of the ancient use of psychoactive drugs, the historical shaping of our modern concerns about drugs and perhaps about man’s desire for escape from reality with drugs.”

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Written by LW

November 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The slogan of Hell: Eat or be eaten. The slogan of Heaven: Eat and be eaten”*…

 

This three-year-old male Great Dane was observed repeatedly vomiting and retching all day; he was taken to DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland, where abdominal radiographs revealed a severely distended stomach and a large quantity of foreign material:

During exploratory surgery performed by a DoveLewis veterinarian, 43½ socks were removed.

The patient was discharged home one day after surgery, and is doing well.

The peckish pooch finished third in Veterinary Practice News‘ annual “They ate WHAT?” contest.  See the other winners at “2014 X-Ray Contest Winners–Animals will eat just about anything. The proof is in the radiographs.”

* W.H. Auden, A Certain World: A Commonplace Book

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As we are what we eat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that Walt Disney initiated the art classes that grew into the Walt Disney Art School (and later inspired the creation of the California Institute for the Arts).  In preparation for his feature-length cartoon (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which would require the animation of more human figure than the critters theretofore featured), Disney set up the school to train his animators.  The first class was taught by Don Graham of the Chouinard School of Art, lecturing at Disney’s old sound studio on Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles. Classes are held once a week after work on the sound stage, but soon this will be expanded to twice weekly. The selection of Graham was propitious; “The Prof” groomed a team of animators that went on to set (and continually raise) standards for decades.

A true scholar of the art of drawing [who] knew as much about art as anybody I’ve ever come in contact with. Don gave so much and offered so much and not too many people realize that. [Don] was a very inspirational man. -Marc Davis on Don Graham

Don Graham really knew what he was teaching, and he “showed” you how to do something – he didn’t just talk. He taught us things that were very important for animation. How to simplify our drawings – how to cut out all the unnecessary hen scratching amateurs have a habit of using. He showed us how to make a drawing look solid. He taught us about tension points – like a bent knee, and how the pant leg comes down from that knee and how important the wrinkles from it are to describe form. I learned a hell of a lot from him!  —Art BabbittOnce Upon a Time — Walt Disney: The Sources of inspiration for the Disney Studios

Jack Kinney‘s memory of Don Graham’s class

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Written by LW

November 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

“There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life”*…

 

From The Great Train Robbery, 1903

In 1888, Thomas Edison wrote that “I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear, which is the recording and reproduction of things in motion.” The system was comprised of the Kinetograph, a motion picture camera, and a Kinetoscope, a motion picture viewer, and was mostly created by Edison’s assistant, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson. (The system was likely inspired by the zoopraxiscope created by photographer—and murderer!—Eadweard Muybridge to show off his motion photographs.) Early films from the Edison Manufacturing Co. showed off “actualities”: celebrities, news, disasters, and expositions. But later, the company switched to creating narrative films more in line with what we watch at the movies today…

These earliest films, often a minute or two in length,  could be purchased for $6.60 (about $169 in today’s currency).  But readers can see a selection of Edison’s early essays, streamed for free, at “10 Early Films Made by Edison’s Movie Company.”

* Federico Fellini

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As search for the concession stand, we might recall that it was on this date in 1732 that Louis Timothee (sometimes rendered “Lewis Timothy”) became the first salaried librarian in the American Colonies. A printer and protégé of Benjamin Franklin’s, Timothee served as the part-time librarian for the Library Company of Philadelphia, one of Franklin’s first philanthropic projects, from its founding on July 1, 1731.  As the project took hold, Timothee’s position was elevated to a full-time, paid position.

The Library Company of Phildelphia

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Written by LW

November 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Being good is easy, what is difficult is being just”*…

 

Spliddit offers quick, free solutions to everyday fair-division problems, using methods that provide indisputable fairness guarantees and build on decades of research in economics, mathematics, and computer science.  The project of a professor and his research assistant at Carnegie-Mellon University, Spliddit is an attempt to provide easy access to carefully designed fair-division methods, thereby making the world a bit fairer, and at the same time, to communicate to the public the beauty and value of theoretical research in computer science, mathematics, and economics– from an unusual perspective.

And, its creators assert, you can trust it:

When we say that we guarantee a fairness property, we are stating a mathematical fact. In other words, there are formal proofs showing that each of our algorithms provides rigorous fairness guarantees. The surprising possibility of formulating fairness in mathematical terms is the beauty of the scientific field of fair-division, and the force behind Spliddit.

* Victor Hugo

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As we get in touch with our inner Solomon, we might recall that it was on this date that “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was begun as a collaborative effort between Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth while walking through the Valley of Stones near Lynmouth.  Wordsworth brought up a book he’d been reading, A Voyage Round The World by Way of the Great South Sea (1726) by Captain George Shelvocke, in which a melancholy sailor, Simon Hatley, shoots a black albatross.  Coleridge expressed an interest in rhyming on the subject; Wordsworth gave advice {including “suppose you represent him as having killed one of these birds on entering the south sea, and the tutelary spirits of these regions take upon them to avenge the crime”); and by the end of the walk the poem– one of the cornerstones of English Romantic poetry– had largely taken shape.

The mariner up on the mast in a storm. One of Gustave Doré’s wood-engraved illustrations of the poem.

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Written by LW

November 13, 2014 at 1:01 am

“To see a world in a grain of sand”*…

 

A stretch of your correspondent’s childhood “front yard”

John R. Gillis writes in the New York Times that to those of us who visit beaches only in summer, beaches seem as permanent a part of our natural heritage as the Rocky Mountains but shore dwellers know that beaches are the most transitory of landscapes, and sand beaches the most vulnerable of all. Today, 75 to 90 percent of the world’s natural sand beaches are disappearing, due partly to rising sea levels and increased storm action, but also to massive erosion caused by the human development of shores. The extent of this global crisis is obscured because so-called beach nourishment projects attempt to hold sand in place (PDF) and repair the damage by the time summer people return, creating the illusion of an eternal shore. But the market for mined sand in the U.S. has become a billion-dollar annual business, growing at 10 percent a year since 2008. Interior mining operations use huge machines working in open pits to dig down under the earth’s surface to get sand left behind by ancient glaciers.

One might think that desert sand would be a ready substitute, but its grains are finer and smoother; they don’t adhere to rougher sand grains, and tend to blow away. As a result, the desert state of Dubai brings sand for its beaches all the way from Australia. Huge sand mining operations are emerging worldwide, many of them illegal, happening out of sight and out of mind, as far as the developed world is concerned. “We need to stop taking sand for granted and think of it as an endangered natural resource,” concludes Gillis. “Beach replenishment — the mining and trucking and dredging of sand to meet tourist expectations — must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with environmental considerations taking top priority. Only this will ensure that the story of the earth will still have subsequent chapters told in grains of sand.”

- via Hugh Pickens

* Wiliam Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”

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As we wriggle our toes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1926 that the first civilian airplane bombing in the U.S. occurred.  The Shelton Brothers Gang dropped three explosives on “Shady Rest,” the rural Illinois hide-out of Charlie Birger and his gang.  The bombs missed; and the rival bootleggers resorted to “tank warfare,” attacking each other with armored trucks with mounted guns.  The Sheltons succeeded in burning Shady Rest to the ground in January of 1927, effectively winning their war with Birger.  Six months later, Birger was arrested (later, tried and hanged) for ordering the murder of Joe Adams, the mayor of a nearby town, whose garage was used to service the Shelton’s “tanks.”

Birger and his gang at Shady Rest

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Written by LW

November 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

“I have known uncertainty: a state unknown to the Greeks”*…

 

Octadrachm, reverse: jugate portrait Ptolemy I and Berenice I, Alexandria, 260–240 BCE

The Ptolemies who ruled Egypt for nearly three centuries, from about 320 to 31 BCE, had a difficult dual part to play: that of Hellenistic monarchs, in the mold of Alexander the Great, and, simultaneously, Egyptian pharaohs. The founding father of their line, Ptolemy I Soter (“Savior”), a Macedonian general in Alexander’s army of conquest, secured rule over Egypt amid the confusion following his king’s death, crowned himself monarch in 306 BCE. But he bequeathed to his heirs—the fourteen other Ptolemies who would succeed him, not to mention several Cleopatras—a difficult demographic and geopolitical position. The Ptolemies’ palace complex, staffed by a European elite, stood in Alexandria, one of the world’s original Green Zones, a Greek-style city founded on a strongly fortified isthmus facing the Mediterranean. To the south, nearly cut off by the vast marshes of Lake Mareotis, lived most of their Egyptian subjects. Some scholars have reckoned the country’s ratio of Egyptians to Greco-Macedonians at ten to one…

Find out how the Greeks did it at “When the Greeks Ruled Egypt.” (Spoiler alert:  it involved respect for and tolerance of Egyptian religious and social beliefs.  Genghis Khan operated in a similar fashion; more modern empires, not so much…)

* Jorge Luis Borges

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As we go native, we might spare a thought for Aristophanes; he died on this date in 386 BCE (or so many scholars deduce; the exact date has not been documented).  A poet and dramatist, Aristophanes– whose works are the sole surviving examples of what is known as “Old Comedy”– is widely known as as “the Father of Comedy.”  His eleven surviving plays essentially laid the foundation for satire as we know it, and have a significance that goes beyond this artistic value: Aristophanes acute observations of classical Athens are perhaps as important as historical documents as the writings of Thucydides.  They had impact in their own time, as well.  His powers of ridicule were feared and acknowledged by influential contemporaries; Plato singled out Aristophanes’ play The Clouds as slander that contributed to the trial and subsequent condemning to death of Socrates (although other satirical playwrights had also caricatured the philosopher). His second play, The Babylonians (now lost), was sufficiently scathing to be denounced by the demagogue Cleon as a slander against the Athenian polis.  Aristophanes survived The Peloponnesian War, two oligarchic revolutions, and two democratic restorations– evidence that he was not himself actively involved in politics; rather, an objective “commentator.”  In this, he agreed with Socrates (as “reported” by Plato in The Apology): “he who will fight for the right, if he would live even for a brief space, must have a private station and not a public one.”

Illustration from a bust found near Tusculum (likely altogether imaginary, as Aristophanes was reportedly bald)

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Written by LW

November 11, 2014 at 1:01 am

“this body (the miniature universe) may be called the field or creation”*…

 

René Magritte’s “The Son of Man” on a Chinese coin

The Sao Paulo–born, Frankfurt-based artist and designer Andre Levy has earned himself a huge online following and an exhibition at Stew Gallery in Norwich, England with his project Tales You Lose, for which he turns the portraits of monarchs and political heroes adorning coins into images of pop culture icons…

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Leonardo on Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man

More about Levy’s work, and more examples, at Hyperallergic.

* Bhagavad-Gita, Chapter 13

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As we count our change, we might sign birthday greetings to Walter Geikie; he was born on this date in 1795.   The victim at age two of a “nervous fever” that cost him his hearing, Geikie became one of Scotland’s most-loved artists– a chronicler, in black-and-white sketches (examples here), of life in his native Edinburgh.

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Written by LW

November 10, 2014 at 1:01 am

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