(Roughly) Daily

“He do the Police in different voices”*…

 

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Police blotters aren’t tasked with remembering criminals or crafting their deeds into a hardboiled narrative. When newspapers can only spare a sentence to describe a raft of offenses, fitting the who, what, where, when and why into a roundup of the cops and courts beat’s leftovers is hard enough.

The magic of police blotters, however, is that a sentence alone can be mightily revealing…

For example:

California

A resident reported a large light in the sky. It was the moon.

– 2002, reported in the San Jose Mercury News

9:53 p.m. When a roommate moved out, he took several unweaned kittens with him. 

– August 13, 2013, reported in the Arcata Eye (which was profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle for its police blotter)

Nevada

8:30 p.m. — A caller in the vicinity of Bloomfield Graniteville Road and Bush Road reported an “illegal wedding,” with a PA system.

12:25 a.m. — A 911 caller on the 14000 block of Meadow Drive stated that “There is electromagnetic radar, and she has no emergency at this time.”

– June 2, 2014, as reported by the Union

Virginia

A resident reported that she and her sister had become involved in an argument that became more heated when the topic of religion arose. The sister decided she would call a friend or a cab and leave the residence.

– June 29, 2012, as reported by the Vienna Police Department

A state-by-state sampling of the poetry of police blotters at “All crimes are local: America’s police blotters, indexed.”

* Betty Higden, of her adopted foundling son Sloppy, in Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend : “You mightn’t think it, but Sloppy is a beautiful reader of a newspaper. He do the Police in different voices.”   “He do the Police in different voices” was T.S. Eliot’s original tile for the poem we know as “The Waste Land.”

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As we tune our scanners, we might bake a laced cake for journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson; he was born in Louisville on this date in 1929.  The author of Hell’s AngelsFear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 is widely credited as the creator of the Gonzo school of journalism (an extreme form of New Journalism in which the reporter isn’t simply present, he/she is central), and widely remembered for his love of inebriates and guns, and for his hate of authoritarianism in general and Richard Nixon in particular.

…the massive, frustrated energies of a mainly young, disillusioned electorate that has long since abandoned the idea that we all have a duty to vote. This is like being told you have a duty to buy a new car, but you have to choose immediately between a Ford and a Chevy.
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72  (1973)

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Written by LW

July 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

“All Cretans are liars”*…

 

A recent psychological study suggests that, while fibbing is a pretty universal phenomenon, a small proportion of the population are responsible for the vast majority of lies told in the U.S. and the U.K.  The British Psychological Society reports on the results– and the epistemological issues they raise…

Epimenides, a Cretan

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As we ask after Diogenes, we might send procedural birthday greetings to Erle Stanley Gardner; he was born on this date in 1889.  An attorney, Gardner applied his legal skill to writing detective fiction; working under his own name and a set of pseudonyms (A.A. Fair, Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Les Tillray, and Robert Parr– and to a self-imposed quota of 1,200,000 words per year– he is best known for his Perry Mason series, which went on to become first a radio, then a television series.  His books have sold over 200 million copies in 30 languages.

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Written by LW

July 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Any color– so long as it is black”*…

 

A British company has produced a “strange, alien” material so black that it absorbs all but 0.035 per cent of visual light, setting a new world record. To stare at the “super black” coating made of carbon nanotubes – each 10,000 times thinner than a human hair – is an odd experience. It is so dark that the human eye cannot understand what it is seeing. Shapes and contours are lost, leaving nothing but an apparent abyss.

If it was used to make one of Chanel’s little black dresses, the wearer’s head and limbs might appear to float incorporeally around a dress-shaped hole.

Actual applications are more serious, enabling astronomical cameras, telescopes and infrared scanning systems to function more effectively. Then there are the military uses that the material’s maker, Surrey NanoSystems, is not allowed to discuss.

The nanotube material, named Vantablack, has been grown on sheets of aluminum foil by the Newhaven-based company. While the sheets may be crumpled into miniature hills and valleys, this landscape disappears on areas covered by it [as seen in the photo above]…

Read more about the new material– “pretty much as black as we can get, almost as close to a black hole as we could imagine”– in “Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can’t see it.”

* Henry Ford, describing the choices in purchasing a Model T

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As we reach for our torches, we might recall that it was on this date in 622 that the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who’d been warned of a pending assassination attempt, and his followers began their migration from Mecca to Medina– an event known as “Hijra” (Arabic: هِجْرَة‎ hijrah, or Hijrat or Hegira).  The Hijra was later declared the beginning of the Muslim calendar, so that any subsequent date is known. a la “AD” or “CE,” as “AH” (Anno Hijra).

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Written by LW

July 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Such is the essential mystery”*…

 

For about a billion years, life on earth was a relatively simple proposition: it was composed entirely of single-celled organisms (prokaryotes) in either the bacteria or archaea families.  Then, about 2.1 billion years ago, one of those single-celled critters crawled inside another; the two merged, and a new kind of life– multi-cellular (eukaryotic) life– was born…

This inner cell—a bacterium—abandoned its free-living existence and eventually transformed into mitochondria. These internal power plants provided the host cell with a bonanza of energy, allowing it to evolve in new directions that other prokaryotes could never reach.

If this story is true, and there are still those who doubt it, then all eukaryotes—every flower and fungus, spider and sparrow, man and woman—descended from a sudden and breathtakingly improbable merger between two microbes. They were our great-great-great-great-…-great-grandparents, and by becoming one, they laid the groundwork for the life forms that seem to make our planet so special. The world as we see it (and the fact that we see it at all; eyes are a eukaryotic invention) was irrevocably changed by that fateful union—a union so unlikely that it very well might not have happened at all, leaving our world forever dominated by microbes, never to welcome sophisticated and amazing life like trees, mushrooms, caterpillars, and us.

Read the extraordinary story of how one freakish event may well account for all sophisticated life on earth in “The unique merger that made You (and Ewe, and Yew).”

* Lao Tzu

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As we fill out our family trees, we might send microscopic birthday greetings to Carl Woese; he was born on this date in 1928.  A microbiologist, Woese recognized and defined (in 1977) the existence of archaea as a third domain of life, distinct from the two previously-recognized domains, bacteria and “life other than bacteria” (eukaryotes).  The discovery revolutionized the understanding of the “family tree” of life.  And the technique he used to make it– phylogenetic taxonomy of 16S ribosomal RNA– revolutionized the practice of microbiology.

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Written by LW

July 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The future of the nations will depend on the manner of how they feed themselves”*…

 

 click here (and again) for larger (and legible) version

This map, compiled and published by meat-packing company Armour in 1922, illustrates the extraordinary range of agricultural activities in America at the time.  The broad message of the map is that America’s strength as a nation was substantially based on its strength as an agricultural power.  The huge expanse of American land and the vast number of climates across the country allowed the U.S. to grow a more diverse set of crops and raise more kinds of animals than other nations.  As Armour concludes, “the United States [was] the most self-sustaining nation in the world”…  but lots has changed in the near-century since then.

How nations feed themselves has gotten a lot more complicated. That’s particularly true in the US, where food insecurity coexists with an obesity crisis, where fast food is everywhere and farmer’s markets are spreading, where foodies have never had more power and McDonald’s has never had more locations, and where the possibility of a barbecue-based civil war is always near…

From Vox40 maps, charts, and graphs that show where our food comes from and how we eat it, with some drinking thrown in for good measure.

* French epicurean Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1826

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As we pick a peck, we might send tuneful birthday wishes to Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie; he was born on this date in 1912.  Guthrie traveled with migrant workers from Oklahoma to California and learned their traditional folk and blues songs. Many of his own songs are about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era of the Great Depression– and earned him the nickname, “Dust Bowl Troubadour.”

‘This Land is Your Land (in D)’By Woody Guthrie

CHORUS: This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island
From the Redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me

CANADIAN CHORUS:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From Bonavista to Vancouver Island
From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lake Waters
This land was made for you and me

SANIBEL CHORUS:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to Sanibel Island
From the Redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me

I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
O’er the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me, a voice was saying
This land was made for you and me

When the sun came shining and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
As the fog was lifting, a voice was chanting
This land was made for you and me

As I went walking, I saw a sign there
On the sign it said NO TRESPASSING
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing
That side was made for you and me!

In the squares of the city, in the shadow of the steeple
In the relief office, I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking that freedom highway
Nobody living can make me turn back
This land was made for you and me

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Written by LW

July 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Makes Ben Hur look like an epic”*…

 

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Book blurbs– the promotional copy and quotes that adorn the jackets of novels and the one-sheets for films– date back to the early 20th century… since which time they’ve become, well, a little over-ripe…

…blurbs have gotten so over-the-top. With fewer eyes to see them, an endorsement must be big to gain any traction.

—Jennifer Weiner, “All Blurbed Out,” The New York Times, May 17

Tom Rachman (author of the best-selling The Imperfectionists and the recent The Rise and Fall of Great Powers) imagines how the blurbs for works of classic literature might have read:

THE DIVINE COMEDY, by Dante Aligheri

“Nowadays, who’s got time for poetry, what with everyone gearing up for the Renaissance? But this laugh-out-loud comedy is a must-read. Perfect for the beach, or when taking a break from your fresco.”

–Petrarch, father of humanism and runner-up for National Book Award

THE PRINCE, by Niccolò Machiavelli

“Unputdownable. If this rip-roaring, gob-smacking, take-me-with-you-to-the-Palazzo-Vecchio gem doesn’t start the field of political science, I seriously don’t know what will.”

–Lorenzo de Medici (during TED talk)

DON QUIXOTE, by Miguel de Cervantes

“Like a cross between Orlando Furioso and Apuleius’s The Golden Ass, this is the picaresque road-trip novel to end begin all picaresque road-trip novels. What’s that noise? Oh, just the 17th century getting off to a bang. Bravo, señor.”

–William Shakespeare, author of Tony Award-winning sensation Hamlet

More preposterous promotion at The Rumpus in “Great Blurbs in History: a Selection.”

* the blurb for Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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As we search for our grains of salt, we might it was on this date in 1792 that William Wordsworth, on a walking tour of the Lake District with his sister Dorothy, visited the ruins of Tintern Abbey.  The visit inspired one of Wordsworth’s earliest poems (“Tintern Abbey”), in which he articulated some of the fundamental themes of Romantic poetry– main among them, the restorative power of nature. The poem appeared in Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems in 1798, on which Wordsworth collaborated with his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge (whose Rime of the Ancient Mariner was also included).  The book sold out quickly, occasioning a second edition that included a preface by Wordsworth widely considered to be a central work of Romantic literary theory.

William Shuter’s portrait of Wordsworth (at age 28), 1798- the year of the publication of Lyrical Ballads

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Written by LW

July 13, 2014 at 1:01 am

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging”*…

 

From Anna Repp, “The Endless Hobbit,” a scrollable continuous illustration of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic– part of the Endless Book Project curated by Natalie Ratkovsky.

Click here for a larger version that you can explore…

* Gandalf, The Hobbit, Chapter 1

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As we fiddle with our rings, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that the U.S. Postal service issued an updated version of it’s Special Delivery stamp– one on which the bicycle that had anchored the previous version was replaced by a motorcycle (a Harley-Davidson 22 J).  The first new stamp of the Harding presidency, the revised design demonstrated a growing post-World War I interest in emerging technologies. (On a geekier philatelic note, it was the first of a series of issues promoted with advance notice by the Postal Service– and is thus considered the root of the practice of collecting First Day Covers.)

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Written by LW

July 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

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