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Posts Tagged ‘humor

“By blood a king, in heart a clown”*…

 

Readers will remember Arthur Drooker, photographer-extraordinaire of conventioneers.  His most recent foray will reassure those who’ve been worried at the prospect of a clown shortage, even as it horrifies those with coulrophobia…  Drooker’s most recent stop in his quest to capture the best and most spirited conventions nationwide for his forthcoming book Conventional Wisdom was the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Northbrook, Illinois, where he dove into the annual gathering of the World Clown Association (WCA).

Read all about it, and see more of Drooker’s photos, at “Conventional Wisdom: World Clown Association.”

* Alfred Lord Tennyson

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As we practice our pratfalls, we might recall that it was on this date in 1910 that President William Howard Taft inaugurated a long-standing tradition: he threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the baseball game that began the major league season.

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Written by LW

April 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The details are not the details. They make the design”*…

 

Katerina Kamprani set out to “re-design useful objects making them uncomfortable but usable and maintain the semiotics of the original item”– that is to say, to demonstrate design gone wrong…

See more of her whimsical riffs on utility at “The Uncomfortable.”

* Charles Eames

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As we struggle to reinsert the “you in “utility,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1914 that George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion opened in London.  An essayist, novelist, and short story writer, Shaw is best remembered as a playwright– and Pygmalion, as his most-loved play.  Having detested a musical adaptation of is play  Arms and the Man (called The Chocolate Soldier), Shaw subsequently forbade musicalization of his work, including a proposed Franz Lehár operetta based on Pygmalion.  But after his death, several of his plays formed the basis of musicals—most famously the musical My Fair Lady. It is officially adapted from the screenplay of the film version of Pygmalion rather than the original stage play (keeping the film’s ending); still, librettist Alan Jay Lerner kept generous chunks of Shaw’s dialogue, and the characters’ names, unchanged.

Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize in Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938, for his work on the film Pygmalion).  Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright out of disdain for public honors, but accepted it at his wife’s behest: she considered it a tribute to their native Ireland. He did reject the monetary award, requesting it be used instead to finance translation of fellow playwright August Strindberg’s works from Swedish to English.

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Written by LW

April 11, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Ideologies do not map the complete living processes of a World”*…

 

We expect maps to tell us the truth. That is their eternal promise. But maps can’t help lying to us. That is their original sin. To be more precise: the map’s lie (or sin) is one of omission. They show us just one version of the truth, carefully edited by the cartographer.

This map does one better: it gives us not one but two versions of reality. Both are contained within the same frame, staged on a single world, denoted by an identical set of shading. All you need to do is tilt the image a quarter turn, and the cartographic form reveals an alternate version of the truth, while remaining entirely commensurate with the first one.

Clever and simple, as most brilliant things are.

The map shows you the world as it is in Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s political parable of a dystopian future (he wrote it in 1948) in which the world is dominated by three totalitarian superstates.

The book is set in Airstrip One, “once called England or Britain”, a province of Oceania. This superstate covers North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and large parts of middle and western Africa.

The second superstate is Eurasia, which covers continental Europe, Russia all the way to the Bering Strait, a small sliver of North Africa and a big chunk of the Middle East and Central Asia. The smallest superpower, at least in area, is Eastasia, essentially China, Japan, Korea and the northern half of the Indian subcontinent.

These three superstates are engaged in a war for global dominance. The battle is fought in two contested zones: the Polar Front, covering the North Pole plus northern Greenland and bits northern Canada and Siberia; and the Equatorial Front, a zone stretching from North Africa via the Arabian peninsula and the southern half of the Indian subcontinent all the way to New Guinea.

No single superstate is strong enough to win a victory on its own. So one superstate allies itself with another against the third. But no single superstate is weak enough to be defeated by the other two. With alliances shifting over time according to perceived strategic advantages, this is an eternal war…

Winston Smith, Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s protagonist, works at the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to eradicate newly inconvenient truths from photos, newspaper archives and encyclopaedia entries. All evidence of what was previously self-evident and true must be destroyed by throwing it in the Memory Hole.

This map, by pointing out the before and after simultaneously, would have been tantamount to blasphemy. But, by pointing out the similarities between two opposites, it hints at the frightening ease with which an audience preconditioned to Doublethink can process cognitive dissonance in accordance with the ruling ideology.

Or, as David Kendall, who found this map here on The Visual Telling of Stories, puts it rather more straightforwardly: “You tell me that isn’t the most clever use of shading, orthography, and legend placement to ever grace the printed page.”

Read the whole story at “Orwellian Cartography 101: How to Tell Two Truths with One Map“… and remember: the map is not the territory.

* William Irwin Thompson

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As we toe the line, we might spare a thought for Orwell’s critical antagonist, Evelyn Waugh; he died on this date in 1966.  A prolific journalist and writer of non-fiction, Waugh is best remembered as a novelist (e.g., Decline and Fall,  A Handful of DustBrideshead Revisited, and his trilogy of Second World War novels, Sword of Honour.  Waugh was a “difficult” man; writer James Lees-Milne judged him “the nastiest-tempered man in England.”  Indeed, when asked by Nancy Mitford how he reconciled his often objectionable conduct with being a Christian, he replied that “were he not a Christian he would be even more horrible.”   On his passing, long-time acquaintance and photographer-to-the-stars Cecil Beaton reckoned that Waugh “died of snobbery,” observing  that “his abiding complex and the source of much of his misery was that he was not a six-foot tall, extremely handsome & rich duke.”

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Written by LW

April 10, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Natural history is not about producing fables”*…

 

Or, then again, maybe it can be…

Lori Nix has created  a series of photos that show the mayhem behind the scenes at an imaginary natural history museum.  Many of the scenes reveal back-room deceit, like the a T. rex skeleton built from a do-it-yourself kit (above), the half-made papier-mâché mastodon (below), and a family of beavers emerging from a crate marked “Product of Mexico.”  There is plenty of dark humor, like a bucket of fried chicken left in an avian storage room, and a pack of tigers and lions prowling around the remains of an unlucky custodian.  Ms. Nix, who assembled the foam-and-cardboard scenes in the living room of her Brooklyn apartment, was inspired by visits to the American Museum of Natural History.  “I come from the Midwest, the land of hunting and fishing, where there is a culture of stuffing your prize game,” she said. As for her favorite exhibits, like the bison and the Alaskan brown bear: “I hope they never update them.”

Read more, and learn where to see her work here.  And then visit the extraordinary Museum of Jurassic Technology… or if L.A. isn’t handy, read Lawrence Weschler’s extraordinary Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder.)

* David Attenborough

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As we look for our own inspiration, we might recall that it was on this date in 1869 that the American Museum of Natural history was incorporated.  Its founding had been urged in a letter, dated December 30, 1868, and sent to Andrew H. Green, Comptroller of Central Park, New York, signed by 19 persons, including Theodore Roosevelt, A.G. Phelps Dodge, and J. Pierpont Morgan.  They wrote: “A number of gentlemen having long desired that a great Museum of Natural History should be established in Central Park, and having now the opportunity of securing a rare and very valuable collection as a nucleus of such Museum, the undersigned wish to enquire if you are disposed to provide for its reception and development.”  Their suggestion was accepted by Park officials; the collections were purchased– and thus the great museum began.  It opened April 27, 1871.

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“He was a wise man who invented beer”*…

 

In the age of Amazon, when much of the world is but a click away from having any product they can imagine shipped to their doorstep in just two days, beer is stubbornly anachronistic, a globalization holdout that’s subject to the physical locations of breweries, along with the regional patterns of alcohol distributors.

It’s a picture painted well by the team from Floating Sheep, who compiled a million tweets, scanning for words like “beer” and “wine” to plot the alcoholic preferences across the U.S. What they uncovered is essentially the United States of Cheap Beer–a map of the generic, though perfectly tasty, lagers and pilsners that we loyally drink region by region…

Read more at “The Cheap Beers People Drink Across The U.S.

Special Spring bonus:  how adding beer to one’s barbeque slashes the risk of cancer

* Plato

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As we pour into a canted a glass, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953 that Man in the Dark was released.  In November, 1952, United Artists had released an independent production, Bwana Devil– the first full length color film released in English in 3-D.  A surprise hit, Bwana Devil spurred the major studios to scramble to field their own 3-D flicks.  Man in the Dark, from Columbia, was for to the screen. A film noir thriller starring Edmund O’Brien and Audrey Trotter, the film sank like a stone…  leaving House of Wax, from Warner Bros., released two days later, a default claim to be “the first feature produced by a major studio in 3-D.”  These three films kicked off the first period of enthusiasm for 3-D films; the second was a year-long period in the 70s.  We are, of course, currently in the third.

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Written by LW

April 8, 2014 at 1:01 am

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