(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘humor

“We must believe in free will; we have no choice”*…

 

As the debate between determinists and defenders of free will rages on (as e.g., here), Jessica Hagy weighs in with an entry in her “Indexed” series:

Busy = Beholden

* Isaac Bashevis Singer

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As we concede that context is critical, we might send shocking birthday greetings to a man who exercised free will whether he had it or not: the enfant terrible of French letters, Arthur Rimbaud; he was born on this date in 1854.  With his buddy, Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud was a leader of the Decadent Movement; fueled by absinthe and hashish, he succeeded in shocking a literary establishment that was nonetheless awed by his visionary verse, which influenced modern literature and arts, inspired various musicians, and prefigured Surrealism.

All known literature is written in the language of common sense—except Rimbaud’s

- Paul Valéry

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Written by LW

October 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The first time you see something that you have never seen before, you almost always know right away if you should eat it or run away from it”*…

 

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Readers have surely encountered the wax models of sushi, tempura, et al. that grace the entrances of Japanese restaurants, advertising the dishes available therein.  Here, the story of that faux food:

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A segment from the documentary Tokyo-Ga by Wim Wenders shows the meticulous process by which Japanese wax food samples are made. Molds are made from pieces of real food, and the wax forms produced from the molds are then worked and painted to closely resemble the original items. Another clip posted by YouTube user macdeetube shows a worker forming a wax sample piece of shrimp tempura and a head of cabbage from raw materials.

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Via Laughing Squid

* Scott Adams

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As we say arigatou, we might note that this is the prime night– Saturday night– of National Curry Week (established 17 years ago, in the UK, to celebrate 200 years of Indian restaurants there) and the first night of National Eating In/Out Week.  Dinner, anyone?

 

Written by LW

October 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Coming soon!”*…

 

The tag line explains the concept of this 1918 movie, which was an anthology of clips from the films Chaplin made for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company.

(R)D has explored the history of movie trailers.  Now, from the remarkable Rebecca Onion, a look at their pre-history…

In the silent film era, these colorized lantern slides were the equivalent of previews or trailers, alerting the audience to the theater’s upcoming schedule. Blank spaces in the slide’s design allowed for a small degree of customization by hand.

Films tended to be short by modern standards, so audiences would watch them in batches, rather than seeing one at a time as we do today. Film scholar Lisa Kernan writes that these magic lantern slides were “projected between features, much like today’s slides of local restaurant advertising and movie trivia quizzes.”

The famous feline, who starred in multiple short cartoons between 1919 and the early 1930s, had a reusable slide that could be repurposed when new installments came out.

Even at the time the slides were in common use, Kernan writes, some theaters experimented with showing short bits of film to advertise coming attractions. By the 1920s, a company called National Screen Service was making trailers for major studio films using moving footage; by the 1930s, studios began to make their own, much more sophisticated preview trailers.

These lantern images were collected by W. Ward Marsh, a movie critic for theCleveland Plain Dealer from 1919 until his death in 1971. The Cleveland Public Library holds Marsh’s movie memorabilia and has digitized almost 700 examples of these slides…

A 1919 version of the L.M. Montgomery novel, starring prolific child actress Mary Miles Minter, was the first of many such adaptations for the big and small screens.

Read and see more at “The Lantern Slides That Advertised Coming Attractions in the Silent Film Era.”

* ubiquitous line in movie trailers

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As we take our seats and silence our phones, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that “La Bateau,” a 1953 paper cut by Henri Matisse was hung in New York’s Museum of Modern Art…  upside down.  It remained on inverted display for 47 days.  Genevieve Habert, a stockbroker, noticed the mistake (by comparing the hanging to the photo in the catalogue).  As it was a Sunday night and there were no curatorial officials on duty, Habert informed the New York Times, which in turn notified Monroe Wheeler, the Museum’s art director… who had the piece rehung correctly on Monday.

Matisse’s cut-outs are back at MoMA… right-side up, one trusts.

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Written by LW

October 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Adults are only kids grown up”*…

 

Childhood distorts your memories in strange ways — everything seems bigger, more extensive, more dramatic. Take the seminal comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, for example. Much of its 1985 – 1995 run lined up with my own childhood; I eagerly waited for the newspaper (yes, comics in the newspaper!) every day from about 1989 on. When I started reading, I was only a year or two older than Calvin himself, thus making the strip eminently relatable in a way that few other pieces of art have ever been for me. (And make no mistake, Calvin and Hobbes is art.)

Of course, it was an exaggerated version of being a kid — in particular the amount of destruction that Calvin heaped on his poor, unwitting parents. My memories tell me that nary a week went by without some incredible amount of damage caused to Calvin’s home. An article and chart published to the ridiculously-named PNIS (Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science, which claims to be a “part-serious, part-satirical journal publishing science-related articles”) backs up those assumptions, and even puts a dollar figure on it. According to these calculations, Calvin’s destructive tendencies cost his parents approximately $15,955.50 over the course of the strip’s 10 years…

Read more at Nathan Ingraham‘s “Calvin and Hobbes were even more destructive than you think.” (and read the full scientific paper here.)

* Walt Disney

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As we find humor in the hyperbole, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that Margaret Sanger, her sister, Ethel Byrne, both nurses, and an associate, Fania Mindell opened the Brownsville Clinic in Brooklyn– the first family planning and birth control clinic in the United States. (The first such clinic in the world opened in Amsterdam in 1885.)  The police quickly closed the facility; Sanger served 30 days in jail.  But she and her colleagues gamely re-opened; and in 1917, Sanger helped organize the National Birth Control League, which would later become the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Sanger (center) at the Brownsville Clinic

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Written by LW

October 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”*…

 

Readers may recall our old friend Michael “The Man of 1,000 Voices” Winslow.  On the heels of yesterday’s visit to the Crypt of Civilization, here is Michael’s tribute to one of the items therein: “The History of the Typewriter.”

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* Ernest Hemingway

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As we capitulate to QWERTY, we might send deeply-thoughtful birthday greetings to a eloquent employer of the typewriter, Hannah Arendt; she was born on this date in 1906.  Though often categorized as a philosopher, she self-identified as a political theorist, arguing that philosophy deals with “man in the singular,” while her work centers on the fact that “men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.”  One of the seminal political thinkers of the twentieth century, the power and originality of her thinking was evident in works such as The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, On Revolution and The Life of the Mind.  Her famous New Yorker essay and later book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil– in which she raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction– was controversial as it was widely misunderstood as defending Eichmann and blaming Jewish leaders for the Holocaust.  That book ended:

Just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations—as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world—we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.

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Written by LW

October 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?”*…

 

Sitting in a Starbucks in Plano, Texas in 1997, “Winter” (who has legally changed his name from Rafael Lozano) decided to visit every one of the coffee chain’s outlets, everywhere they’d popped up around the world.  In 1997, that meant 1,400 stores.  Seventeen years and more than $100,000 later, he’s patronized 11,733 Starbucks across six continents– a majority , but by no means all of the 17,000 in operation today. He documents his visits and charts the ones he’s still missing on his web site.

A freelance programmer, Winter spends his off-time in independent coffee houses:

I respect Starbucks for its business sense, customer service and amenities including clean bathrooms and WiFi. But unless I am checking a new store off my list, I would not go there for the coffee.

More on this hopped-up hobbyist at “Ultimate coffee fan spends 17 years visiting every Starbucks in the world.”

* Albert Camus (or not: while the phrase is attributed to Camus, uncited, in Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice, there’s no documentary evidence…  still, it seems an apposite title for this post)

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As we try to remember which size “Venti” is, we might recall that it was on this date in 1865 that John Wesley Hyatt was awarded a patent on the first celluloid billiard ball.  hyatt had developed the ball in response to a competition sponsored by billiard ball maker Phelan & Collander, who were offering a $10,000 reward for a suitable substitute for ivory, the growing shortage of which was threatening their business.  Hyatt took the prize– and in the process, created and introduced to the world the first industrial plastic.

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Written by LW

October 10, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The street finds its own uses for things”*…

 

“Along with the heroin, cash, weapons and other stuff you would expect, we kept finding these tiny McDonald’s spoons they give out for stirring tea and coffee.” — A Scotland narcotics detective, 1998

In the 1970s, every McDonald’s coffee came with a special stirring spoon. It was a glorious, elegant utensil — long, thin handle, tiny scooper on the end, each pridefully topped with the golden arches. It was a spoon specially designed to stir steaming brews, a spoon with no bad intentions.

It was also a spoon that lived in a dangerous era for spoons. Cocaine use was rampant and crafty dealers were constantly on the prowl for inconspicuous tools with which to measure and ingest the white powder. In the thralls of an anti-drug initiative, the innocent spoon soon found itself at the center of controversy, prompting McDonald’s to  redesign it. In the years since, the irreproachable contraption has tirelessly haunted the fast food chain.

This is the story of how the “Mcspoon” became the unlikely scapegoat of the War on Drugs…

The whole truth and nothing but the truth at “The McDonald’s Cocaine Spoon Fiasco.”

* William Gibson

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As we appreciate unintended consequences, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that the final Mouseketeer chosen for The Mickey Mouse Club (the original series), Annette Funicello, made her first appearance on the show.  She had been discovered by Walt Disney himself as she performed in Swan Lake at a dance recital at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank.  By the end of The Mickey Mouse Club‘s first season, Annette was receiving 6,000 fan letters a month.

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Written by LW

October 7, 2014 at 1:01 am

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