Posts Tagged ‘humor’
[A similarly silly-but-serious bonus: “An Interactive Guide to Ambiguous Grammar.”]
* alternately attributed to St. Augustine and to Francis Bacon
As we send birthday greetings to the father of the field of sociology and the discipline of Positivism, August Comte, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that bearish economist Roger Babson gave a speech in which he warned, “sooner or later, a crash is coming, and it may be terrific.” He had been delivering this message for two years, but for the first time, investors listened. The stock market took a severe dip (now known in economic history as “the Babson Break”). The next day, prices stabilized, but the equity collapse that we know as a trigger event for the Great Depression had begun.
Willis O’Brien, the stop-motion pioneer who originally brought King Kong to life in 1933, hit the skids pretty hard by the late ’40s. He spent the last decade of his life pitching assorted Kong scripts around Hollywood with little success. Finally, in the early ’60s, the script for a movie he was calling King Kong vs. Frankenstein (which seems an awfully unfair fight, if you ask me) ended up on the desk of Toho Studios producer Tomoyuki Tanaka. Tanaka had always wanted to make a Kong film, but he had no use for O’Brien’s slow and pricey stop-motion animation when rubber suits and miniature sets worked just fine. Still, he bought the script, made one small correction and was good to go.
Directed by Ishirô Honda, 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla would go on to become the most successful Godzilla picture Toho ever made, even if its giant gorilla looked more like an orangutan with mange. The film was such a huge financial hit in both Japan and the States that a follow-up was inevitable. O’Brien had since died, but with Kong now an indelible American icon (even after being Japanified into a mangy orangutan named Kingu Kongu), it only made sense for Toho to make the film as a U.S.-Japanese co-production.
Unfortunately, the Americans they teamed up with turned out to be Rankin/Bass, the insidious duo who’d inflicted Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other holiday-themed nightmares on an unsuspecting public…
More of this monstrous story at “That Time They Built a King Kong Robot.”
* “Carl Denham,” King Kong (1933)
As we cling to a Wray of hope, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953 that Astor Pictures released Cat-Women of the Moon.
Variety averred, “This imaginatively conceived and produced science-fiction yarn takes the earth-to-moon premise and embellishes it with a civilization of cat-women on the moon … Cast ably portray their respective roles … Arthur Hilton makes his direction count in catching the spirit of the theme, and art direction is far above average for a film of this calibre. William Whitley’s 3-D photography provides the proper eerie quality.”
The New York Times, on the other hand, wrote, “They [the Cat-women] try to get their hands on the visitors’ rocket ship, hoping to come down here and hypnotize us all. Considering the delegation that went up, it’s hard to imagine why.”
Notably, the score was composed by the celebrated Elmer Bernstein,** though his last name is misspelled as “Bernstien” in the opening credits.
** Elmer was not related to the even-more-celebrated composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein; but the two men were friends, and even shared a certain physical resemblance. Within the world of professional music, they were distinguished from each other by the use of the nicknames Bernstein West (Elmer) and Bernstein East (Leonard)– and by the fact that they pronounced their last names differently: Elmer’s was BERN-steen, and Leonard’s was BERN-stine.
Oh so many more– Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Death Valley, to name a few– at “I Can’t Stop Reading One-Star Yelp Reviews of National Parks.”
[image above: Greg Heartsfield/Flickr
* Franklin D. Roosevelt
As we as we rethink the first “R” in “R and R,” we might spare a thought for Martha; she dies on this date in 1914. As she was the last known passenger pigeon, her death meant the extinction of the species.
… one of hundreds of stills of dark passages available at the Sci-Fi Corridor Archive.
* Ridley Scott (from whose Alien  the above example is taken)
As we watch our steps, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that Kurt Neumann‘s cinematic tale of technologically-enabled metamorphosis, The Fly, premiered. With a screenplay by James Clavell (his first), it spawned two sequels and a remake (by David Cronenberg). The original has a “95% fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Q: I’ve heard people use UI and UX interchangeably. I thought I knew the difference, but now I’m confused. Can you please clarify this once and for all?
Of course I can. And I can do it using the Presto Hot Dogger. Obviously.
When I was a kid, my brothers and I talked my mom into buying us a hot dog cooking machine. Don’t laugh. This was the 70s, when instant coffee was considered a miracle. The way the Hot Dogger worked was simple. There was a tray with two rows of spikes on either side that slid into a heating element. You impaled the hot dog into the corresponding spike on each side, completing the electrical circuit, and this “cooked” the hot dog. Cooking is a strong word here, as the hot dogs were actually being electrocuted. (Hot dogs contain an insane amount of metal, by the way.) We were thrilled to make our hot dogs this way.
So, what I just described — the spikes, the heating element, the electrocuting — that’s the user interface. Or UI, for short. And I’m sure that the good folks at Presto tested that user interface many times over until they had it just right. I’m sure they tested the proper width of the tray to fit the majority of hot dogs and wieners being made in the USA at the time. I’m sure they tested the force needed to close the tray, maybe even with a robot arm! They probably even tested the visibility of the smoky transparent plastic that allowed you to see your hot dogs being electrocuted, and how much of it you’d want to see.
Now here’s the thing. When you give three boys an appliance that electrocutes meat in an era before their boredom could be diffused with video games and cable, it immediately becomes the most interesting thing in the house. And they start wanting to have experiences. The hunger to electrocute things far outlasted the hunger for hot dogs. And it wasn’t long before we started looking for other things that fit in the Hot Dogger™.
Here’s an incomplete list of items we tried:
- bananas (not enough metal)
- chicken drumsticks (worked, albeit slowly)
- Steak-umm (turned to liquid)
- forks (sparks, small fire)
- a condom we found on the street (the smell lasted for weeks)
- aluminum foil (yep. Aluminum bridges solved our Steak-umm problem. )
We were having user experiences…
Learn more (including why trash bins are exactly 25 feet from hot dog stands at Disneyland) from Mike Monteiro, Design Director at Mule Design, in “How 70s appliances can explain the difference between UX and UI.”
As we put our appliances through their paces, we might spare a thought for an inventor and designer of an earlier period, Garrett Morgan; he died on this date in 1963. He was the first person to patent a traffic signal (which he sold to GE for commercial exploitation). He also developed (among many other inventions) the gas mask, which he used to rescue miners who were trapped underground in a noxious mine in 1914– though soon after, he was asked to produce gas masks for the US Army. It was based in part on his 1912 creation, a safety hood and smoke protector for firefighters.
In the late 1880s, cigarette manufacturers began inserting stiffening cards into their paper packs of cigarettes to strengthen the containers. It wasn’t long before they got the idea to put artwork, trivia, famous people, and pretty girls onto those cards, grouped into collectible series. The cards, which continued into the 1940s, are highly valuable now, with the most expensive (bearing the face of stringent anti-smoking baseball player Honus Wagner) selling for $2.8 million in 2007.
In the 1910s, Gallaher Ltd of Belfast & London and Ogden’s Branch of the Imperial Tobacco Co printed “How-To” series, with clever hints for both everyday and emergency situations. From steaming out a splinter to stopping a mad dog, these cigarette cards told you the smart way to handle many of life’s problems.
More enlightenment at “10 Lifehacks from 100 Years Ago.”
* Voltaire, Candide
As we improve ourselves, we might compose birthday bon mot for Dorothy Parker, the writer, critic, satirist, poet, and Algonquin Round Table regular; she was born on this date in 1893. The estimable Ms. Parker once wondered, on hearing that President Calvin Coolidge had died, “How could they tell?”… Of a book she reviewed, she suggested, “this is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown aside with great force”… And perhaps most famously, she opined that “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” (More of her acerbic wit here.)
Hand-wringing over the state of journalism– especially the state of print journalism– is a feature of our times. As Will Mari reminds us, the profession has been here before…
In the late 1950s, TV news was on the rise, as more and more Americans (nearly 90 percent of them, in fact) were buying sets. As broadcasters competed with print journalists for breaking news, writers for newspapers and magazines were rethinking their role as storytellers and interpreters.
Sigma Delta Chi, later known as the Society of Professional Journalists, recognized this. The Quill, its magazine for reporters and editors, confronted the occupation’s many challenges. From embracing discussions of technological change, to discussing journalistic failings (like how to handle the next Sen. Joe McCarthy) and encouraging its members to mentor younger journalists, the organization and others like it played a big part in the professionalization of the field.
Cartoons in The Quill poked fun at newsroom life. Occupational humor, often of the gallows variety, was (and remains) a critical way for journalists to think about their profession. Cartoons also appeared in abundance in other trade publications, such as in the American Newspaper Guild’s Guild Reporter and Editor & Publisher. The former championed labor, and the latter presented publishers’ point of view.
The Quill walked a middle path. Its cartoons, some unsigned and others bylined, depict the inhabitants of the newsroom going about their daily business. The humor had a light, earnestly innocent feel. Sigma Delta Chi’s members also included broadcast journalists, but the cartoons were drawn mostly from the perspective of print reporters…
* Oscar Wilde
As we parse the new(s) paradigms, we might recall that it was on this date in 2005, in Woody Creek, Colorado, that the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson were “blasted into the sky over his farm [there], carried by red, blue and silver fireworks in front of a 153-foot monument that Mr. Thompson, the writer and avatar of “gonzo” journalism, designed himself almost 30 years ago.”