What if Michael Bay– the director of the Transformers franchise, Armageddon, and a host of other explosive blockbusters– had directed Up ?
* “Norma Desmond” (Gloria Swanson) in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard
As we shield our eyes from lens flashes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that the iconic sequence of Marilyn Monroe, laughing as her skirt is blown up by the blast from a subway vent, was shot, during the filming of Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch. One can only imagine how Michael Bay might have handled it…
“…theoretical considerations require that what is to-day the object of a phobia must at one time in the past have been the source of a high degree of pleasure”*…
In 1955, in the wake of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency investigation into the corrupting influence of comic books (and the now largely-discredited but then damning testimony of Frederic Wertham), E.C. Comics, which had been singled out as an offender, inaugurated an “educational” series, “New Direction,” with the series Psychoanalysis. Each issue, drawn by Jack Kamen (whose earlier work had included Tales from the Crypt), narrated the clinical experiences of three patients in analysis…
The series– realistically recounting the sessions of patients, each cured by their therapists– bewildered retailers and readers alike. It was cancelled after four issues. Within 5 years EC publisher William Gaines had shifted his attention completely to what was, in 1955, a nascent side project for Harvey Kurtzman: Mad.
Read more about Psychoanalysis– see more covers, find precis of the storylines– at “Curious ‘Psychoanalysis’ comics from the 1950s.”
* Sigmund Freud, The Sexual Enlightenment of Children
As we’re gently informed that our time is up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that neuropsychiatrist Walter Freeman and his friend and colleague, the neurosurgeon, James W. Watts performed the first pre-frontal lobotomy in the U.S. Freeman and Watts had learned of the technique from it’s “inventor,” Egas Moniz, a Portuguese surgeon who’d performed the very first lobotomy (or “leucotomy” as it’s also known) earlier that same year. Now out of favor and largely out of practice, Freeman and Watts developed a method that was the basis for procedures– an estimated 40,000 in the U.S.– conducted until around 1960, when the practice effectively ceased. But in headier days, lobotomies were the rage: Moniz shared the 1949 Nobel Prize for Medicine “for his discovery of the therapeutic value of leucotomy in certain psychoses.”
In fact, some schoolchildren do have to work really hard for their educations…
More perilous paths at “25 Of The Most Dangerous And Unusual Journeys To School In The World.”
Lest we wonder if it’s worth it, we might spare a memorial moment for Michel Eyquem de Montaigne; he died on this date in 1592. Best known during his lifetime as a statesman, Montaigne is remembered for popularizing the essay as a literary form. His effortless merger of serious intellectual exercises with casual anecdotes and autobiography– and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as “Attempts” or “Trials”)– contain what are, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written. Montaigne had a powerful influence on writers ever after, from Descartes, Pascal, and Rousseau, through Hazlitt, Emerson, and Nietzsche, to Zweig, Hoffer, and Asimov. Indeed, he’s believed to have been an influence on the later works of Shakespeare.
In 1898, the American government allowed private postcards to be sent with one cent stamps. Cheaper than the prevailing letter rate, this began the widespread use of postcards by the public– and the equally widespread use of postcards as an advertising tool by civic boosters.
From the 1930s through the 1950s, tourists taking their first road trips in their newfangled automobiles would frequently stop along the way to pick up a few colorful postcards to mail to the folks back home. The most popular form of eat-your-heart-out greeting was the large-letter postcard, which had been around since the first part of the 20th century but whose heyday was during what we know today as the linen-postcard era. Made of textured paper rather than actual cloth, linen postcards were printed by companies such as Curt Teich & Company of Chicago, Tichnor Brothers and Colourpicture of Boston, E.C. Kropp of Milwaukee, Beals Litho & Printing of Des Moines, and Dexter Press of Pearl River, New York, among many others. Their souvenir postcards for states, cities, military bases, and tourist attractions were usually heralded at the top by the words “Greetings From,” below which were large, blocky, dimensional letters filled in with illustrations or photographs of the destination’s most scenic or noteworthy sights.
Since 2009, the primary resource for fans of this popular postcard genre has been “Large Letter Postcards: The Definitive Guide, 1930s to 1950s,” written by Fred Tenney and Kevin Hilbert. Published by Schiffer, “Large Letter Postcards” features more than 2,200 examples, from several dozen versions of Atlantic City cards (Curt Teich’s first linen large-letter) to cards for Coney Island, Niagara Falls, and Death Valley. Also included are several examples of how large-letter postcards were created, from the card’s initial sketch to its final design, courtesy of materials loaned to the authors by the Curt Teich Postcard Archives…
Read more, find more wonderful examples and links to still more at “When Postcards Made Every Town Seem Glamorous, From Asbury Park to Zanesville.”
As we pack our bags, we might recall that it was on this date in 1910 that the first American-born female police officer was sworn in, as Alice Stebbins Wells became a full member of the Los Angeles Police Department. (Marie Owens, born in Canada, was the first female police officer in the United States, hired in 1891 in Chicago.) Prior to this time, women were employed as non-commissioned personnel to oversee the care of female prisoners. Two years after Wells joined the force, two other female officers were sworn in; sixteen other cities and several foreign countries hired female police officers as a direct result of Wells’ activities by 1915, when Wells created the International Policewomen’s Association. The University of California created the first course dedicated to the work of female police officers in 1918, and Wells was made the first president of the Women’s Peace Officers Association of California in 1928.
For centuries, salmon have made their way upstream to spawn, (literally) overcoming extraordinary obstacles to reach their spawning grounds.
But the advent of hydroelectric power, while it has manifest benefits in reducing the greenhouse gases otherwise associated with electricity generation, has wreaked havoc on the salmon’s annual pilgrimage. Dams have eliminated their routes…
“Fish ladders” have been introduced in an attempt to give the salmon an alternative route.
But they don’t work very well: too few fish are strong enough– or lucky enough to get through the other hazards created by dams– to make it.
To the rescue: Whooshh Innovations and their Salmon Cannon.
Originally used for transporting fruit gently (and accurately) over large distances, these pneumatic tubes were recently applied to fish, with astoundingly successful results. As the Vice President of Whooshh Innovations, Todd Deligan, said,
At a talk at the National Hydropower Association, I hit play on the video and the first fish goes flying out, and the audience is dying. I had to say, ‘It’s okay to laugh, this is utterly ridiculous.’ Then people start talking and they say, ‘Holy cow, why hadn’t we thought of something like this before?’”
That was five years ago. Now in September, the first Salmon Cannons (yes, they are actually called Salmon Cannons) were successfully tested this past June at Washington’s Roza Dam, and are poised to rocket salmon onto trucks where they will be taken farther upstream than they’ve naturally been in a long time. If this, too, proves to be successful, the Salmon Cannon could be exactly what’s needed to restore the fish of the Columbia River to their natural, original runs!
* Eramsus, who was probably riffing on Hippocrates, who said (in his Aphorisms), “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.”
As we prepare for takeoff, we might recall that it was on this date in 1999 that killer bees– Africanized honey bees– claimed their first victim in California. Virgil Foster, an 83-year-old bee-keeper, was mowing his lawn in Los Angeles County when he was stung at least 50 times by the highly aggressive bees. Foster’s three hives had been taken over by wild Africanized honey bees. Originally hybridized in Brazil in the 1950s in attempt to increase honey production, the killer bees had migrated north through Mexico.
A collaboration of data scientists at the University of Vermont and the Mitre Corporation, the Hedonometer was created to gauge happiness by assessing word use. It was first applied to Twitter, as readers can see here. More lately, it has been turned on the repository at Project Gutenberg, so that users can test the “happiness” of thousands of classic books… as above. The chart in the top left shows happiness metrics through the whole of the book; the chart on the right shows a comparison of book sections, which one can select in the first chart.
As our friends at Flowing Data observe, “I wish I could say this meant something to me…” Still, it makes one happy to know that they’re on the case.
* Dalai Lama
As we search for word replacements codes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that Hamida Djandoubi became the last person to be legally executed in France by guillotine.
How to get an 11-year-old interested in the works of David Foster Wallace? Crack out your copy of Infinite Jest, and recreate it in Lego. That was the project embarked upon back in April by American English professor Kevin Griffith and his 11-year-old son Sebastian. They’ve just finished, and – running to more than 100 scenes, as I guess any recreation of a 1,000-plus page novel would have to – it’s something of a masterpiece. It certainly puts these Lego scenes of classic literature to shame.
Griffith and his son had the idea to “translate” Infinite Jest into Lego after reading Brendan Powell Smith’s The Brick Bible, which takes on the New Testament. “Wallace’s novel is probably the only contemporary text to offer a similar challenge to artists working in the medium of Lego”…
Read the more at “David Foster Wallace novel translated by an 11-year-old – into Lego,” and see more at at the Griffiths’ web site, Brickjest.
* David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
As we piece it all together, we might send transformational birthday greetings to Paul Goodman; he was born on this date in 1911. A man of many parts, Goodman earned a PhD in literature from the University of Chicago, where he taught until he was fired for insisting on his rights openly to avow his bisexuality and to fall in love with his students. He went on to become a novelist, playwright, lay therapist (he co-founded the Gestalt Therapy movement), social critic, anarchist philosopher, and public intellectual. The author of dozens of books, he’s probably best remembered for Growing Up Absurd and The Community of Scholars. Part of the group known as “the New York intellectuals” (which included Daniel Bell, Norman Mailer, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Norman Podhoretz, Mary McCarthy, Lionel Trilling, and Philip Rahv) he was a regular contributor to Politics, Partisan Review, The New Republic, Commentary, The New Leader, Dissent and The New York Review of Books.
Any page of Paul Goodman will give you not only originality and brilliance but wisdom – that is, something to think about. He is our peculiar, urban, twentieth-century Thoreau, the quintessential American mind of our time.