Posts Tagged ‘humor’
Colon, Michigan (the name comes from a pair of nearby lakes shaped like the punctuation mark), a sleepy, one-streetlight town somewhere between Detroit and Chicago proudly bills itself as “The Magic Capital of the World.” It’s home to around 1,000 residents and holds at least 30 dead magicians [including native son Harry Blackstone, Sr. --The Great Blackstone] in its single small graveyard. The Colon High School mascot is a giant bunny rabbit. Though it lacks the soaring Gothic cathedrals of Hogwarts, it just might be the most magical place in the United States.
For the past 80 years, Colon has hosted Abbott’s Magic Get Together, an annual gathering of several hundred magicians from all over the world who convene for a week of shows, lectures, and trick-jamming. At night, tipsy magicians mingle in bars and restaurants along Colon’s single block of downtown, practicing their craft on passersby. The Get Together is less a conference and more a “family reunion”…
But like any good family reunion, the Get Together has its share of drama. Infighting over the town’s magical heritage has made it harder for aging magicians to cooperate in attracting new members to their community. And modern, everyday technology — not to mention the proliferation of the internet — has made it harder for magic to seem… well, magical.
Still, when you throw hundreds of born-and-bred entertainers into this mecca of illusions, you’re bound to get a party…
Prepare to be amazed by the story at “Welcome to Colon, Magic Capital of the World.”
* “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl, The Minpins
As we take one card from the deck, remember it, then slip it back in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1791 that Mozart’s last– and arguably most glorious– opera, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte, K. 620), premiered in Vienna. Mozart conducted the opening, though he’d fallen ill only weeks before in Prague; he died 10 weeks later.
Hear the overture here.
From stat-enthusiast (and full-time law student) Tyler Vigen, entertaining examples of patterns that map in compelling– but totally-inconsequential– ways…
More (and larger) examples at the sensational Spurious Correlations.
* a maxim widely repeated in science and statistics; also rendered: (P&Q)≠(P→Q)٧(Q→P). It addresses the post hoc, ergo propter hoc (“affirming the consequent”) logical fallacy
As we think before we leap, we might send energetic (really energetic) birthday greetings to Enrico Fermi; he was born on this date in 1901. A physicist who is best remembered for (literally) presiding over the birth of the Atomic Age, he was also remarkable as the last “double-threat” in his field: a genius at creating both important theories and elegant experiments. As recently observed, the division of labor between theorists and experimentalists has since been pretty complete.
The novelist and historian of science C. P. Snow wrote that “if Fermi had been born a few years earlier, one could well imagine him discovering Rutherford’s atomic nucleus, and then developing Bohr’s theory of the hydrogen atom. If this sounds like hyperbole, anything about Fermi is likely to sound like hyperbole.”
The banker and political writer Horace Smith spent the Christmas season of 1817–1818 with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley. At this time members of Shelley’s literary circle would sometimes challenge each other to write competing sonnets on a common subject—Shelley, John Keats and Leigh Hunt wrote competing sonnets on the Nile around the same time. Shelley and Smith chose a passage from the Greek Historian Diodorus Siculus, which described a massive Egyptian statue and quoted its inscription: “King of Kings Ozymandias am I. If any want to know how great I am and where I lie, let him outdo me in my work.” In the poem Diodorus becomes “a traveller from an antique land”.
The two poems were later published in Leigh Hunt’s The Examiner, published by Leigh’s brother John Hunt in London. (Hunt was already planning to publish a long excerpt from Shelley’s new epic The Revolt of Islam later the same month.) Shelley’s was published on 11 January 1818 under the pen name Glirastes. It appeared on page 24 in the yearly collection, under Original Poetry. Smith’s was published, along by a note signed with the initials H.S., on 1 February 1818… It was originally published under the same title as Shelley’s verse; but in later collections Smith retitled it “On A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below”.
Comparison of the two poems
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
[TotH to @]
* Percy Bysshe Shelley (full text of the poem here)
As we express our gratitude that the Shelleys participated in contests, we might send comradely birthday greetings to Zhou Shuren; he was born on this date in 1881. Better known by his pen name Lu Xun (or Lu Hsün), he was one of the foremost writers– novelist, editor, translator, literary critic, essayist, and poet– in the China of his day. He was a major influence on the May Fourth Movement that began around 1916, and later the head of the League of Left-Wing Writers in Shanghai. He was a favorite of Mao Zedong; but though Lu was sympathetic to Communist ideas, he was he was primarily a liberal leftist and never joined the Chinese Communist Party.
Australian photographer T.Q. Lee has thing for food… or at least, for what looks like food…
His series, Inedible, composes a wide– and often revolting– variety of ingredients into appetizing photos of “food.”
Part visual pun, part social comment on convenience food, Inedible is a still life photographic series of meals made from unconventional ingredients. Every element in these dishes are considered inedible in insolation. Together, do they whet or surpress your appetite?
Browse the buffet at Inedible.
* Orson Welles
As we wonder what he’d do with green eggs and ham, we might spare a thought for Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA “Dr. Seuss”; he died on this date in 1991. After a fascinating series of early-career explorations, Geisel settled on a style that created what turned out to be the perfect “gateway drug” to book addiction for generations of nascent young readers.
The more that you read,
The more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
The more places you’ll go.
- I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! (1978)
From the annals of the $20 billion phenomenon that is Electronic Dance Music (EDM)…
The latest craze, known as miss-mixing, is proving very popular amongst digital DJs as a way of highlighting that they are actually manually mixing tracks rather than using the sync button.
Michael Briscoe, also know as DJ Whopper, spoke about miss-mixing with Wunderground, “Flawless mixing is now a thing of the past, especially for any up and coming digital DJs. You just can’t afford to mix without mistakes these days or you’ll be labelled as a ‘sync button DJ.’”
“I learned how to mix on vinyl years ago so naturally I’m pretty tight when it comes to matching beats,” continued the resident DJ. “I swapped to digital format a couple of years ago because it’s convenient, now I spend more time practicing making mistakes than I do practicing actual mixing.”
“I like to drop in on the second or third beat, leave it play for a couple of bars and then quickly correct myself,” explained Mr. Briscoe. “It’s subtle yet affective, I call it The Perplexer. People who don’t know what they’re listening to won’t even notice it while other DJs will be thinking ‘that’s a great mistake, who is this DJ Whopper lad anyway?’ d’ya know what I mean?”…
Ponder the price of authenticity at “DJs Now Deliberately Making Mistakes To Prove They Are Real DJs.”
As ask ourselves if it’s real or if it’s Memorex, we might recall that it was on this date in 1985 that the first Farm Aid concert was held, in Champaign, Illinois.
It started with an offhand remark made by Bob Dylan during his performance at Live Aid, the massive fundraising concert held at Wembley Stadium, London, and JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, in the early summer of 1985. As television viewers around the world phoned in donations in support of African famine relief, Dylan said from the stage, “I hope that some of the money…maybe they can just take a little bit of it, maybe…one or two million, maybe…and use it, say, to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the banks.” Dylan would come under harsh criticism from Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof for his remarks (“It was a crass, stupid and nationalistic thing to say,” Geldof would later write), but he planted a seed with several fellow musicians who shared his concern over the state of the American family farm. Less than one month later, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp announced plans for “Farm Aid,” a benefit concert for America’s farmers.
As one might have expected of a concert staged to “raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land,” Farm Aid featured a number of performers from the worlds of country, folk and rootsy rock music. There were the three main organizers and the instigator Bob Dylan, for instance, along with Hoyt Axton, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Joni Mitchell and Charley Pride. But the first Farm Aid, more than any of the annual Farm Aid concerts since, was a bit of a stylistic free-for-all, featuring artists united only by their interest in supporting a good cause.
“As soon as I read in the paper that there was gonna be such a thing,” Sammy Hagar told MTV’s cameras on the day of the show, “I called my manager and said, ‘I wanna do it.’ And he said, ‘It’s all country.’ I said, ‘I don’t care. It’s America. I wanna do it.’ If there was anything more surprising than hearing Hagar perform his hard-rock anthem “I Can’t Drive 55″ on the same stage that had earlier featured the quiet folk of Arlo Guthrie, it was hearing Lou Reed perform “Walk On The Wild Side” on a stage that had featured John Denver.
Over the years since its first charity concert on this day in 1985, the Farm Aid organization has raised upwards of $33 million to support small farmers, promote sustainable farming practices and encourage consumption of “good food from family farms.”
Coincidentally, it was on this date in 1962 that Dylan played his first gig at Carnegie Hall…
A mash-up of fine art and current SMS messages…
From the sacred…
…to the profane…
… readers will find oh so many more at If Paintings Could Text…
[TotH to @mattiekahn]
* Pablo Picasso (whose paintings-with-texts are here)
As we just hit “send,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1545 that François Rabelais received the permission of King François I to publish the Gargantua series– Gargantua and Pantagruel as we know it. In fact, Rabelais’ wild mix of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes, and songs had been circulating pseudonymously for years.
Rabelais wrote at a time of great ferment in the French language, and contributed mightily to it– both in coinage and in usage. But his influence was even broader (Tristram Shandy, e.g., is full of quotes from Rabelais) and continues to this day via writers including Milan Kundera, Robertson Davies, and Kenzaburō Ōe.
It’s tempting to consider information visualization a relatively new field that rose in response to the demands of the Internet generation. “But,” argues Manual Lima in The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge, “as with any domain of knowledge, visualizing is built on a prolonged succession of efforts and events.”
While it’s tempting to look at the recent work, it’s critical we understand the long history. Lima’s stunning book helps, covering the fascinating 800-year history of the seemingly simple tree diagram.
Trees are some of the oldest living things in the world. The sequoias in Northern California, for example, can reach a height of nearly 400 feet, with a trunk diameter of 26 feet and live to more than 3,500 years. “These grandiose, mesmerizing lifeforms are a remarkable example of longevity and stability and, ultimately, are the crowning embodiment of the powerful qualities humans have always associated with trees.”
Such an important part of natural life on earth, tree metaphors have become deeply embedded in the English language, as in the “root” of the problem or “branches” of knowledge. In the Renaissance, the philosophers Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes, for example, used tree diagrams to describe dense classification arrangements. As we shall see, trees really became popular as a method of communicating and changing minds with Charles Darwin…
More on the highly-recommended Farnum Street blog.
* Rodney Dangerfield
As we look to our roots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that Capitol Records released what it claimed to be (and what surely was) the shortest “song” ever recorded. Earlier in the year, Les Paul and Mary Ford has released a single, “Magic Melody,” that concluded with the well-known “shave and a hair cut” musical phrase– sans the traditional “two bits” sting. Disc jockeys around the country complained that the track ended too abruptly, that it left the listener hanging. So Les Paul went back into the studio to record “Magic Melody- Part 2″– which consisted solely of the two “missing” notes. It ran for about one second.