Posts Tagged ‘xkcd’
Something on your mind? Ask the (interactive version of) xkcd’s oracle…
* Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
As we plan accordingly, we might recall, with gratitude, that it was on this date in 1935 that Alan Lane released the first ten titles in the Penguin paperback book series. At the time a junior player at a publisher called Bodley Head, he was frustrated by the lack of affordable contemporary literature. He wanted to offer cheap, quality books through outlets like railway stations and newsagents as well as traditional bookshops– to make good books accessible. So his volumes were priced at 6 pence each, while the typical hardcover book sold for 7 and 8 shillings. The experiment was a huge success: within a year, Penguin had sold 3 million paperbacks; skeptics– there were many (an earlier experiments in paperbacks in Germany had fizzled)– had been proved wrong; and Lane launched Penguin as a standalone publisher.
The original Penguins are an eclectic mix – a biography of Shelley, a Hemingway classic, a novel set in a pub, a novel about an old lady, two mysteries, an autobiography, and three more rather romantic novels– by authors both still widely read (Hemingway, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie) and not so well remembered (e.g., Mary Webb, E.H. Young, Susan Ertz).
Today, 80 years later, more than 600 million paperbacks are sold annually worldwide.
As (R)D readers know, Randall Munroe’s xkcd webcomic has done some weird and wonderful things before (e.g., here and here), but #1190, ‘Time,” is something special. A time-lapse movie of two people building a sandcastle, it’s been updating just once an hour (twice an hour in the beginning) for well over a month (since March 25th)– and after over a thousand frames shows no sign of ending. Any day now, the number of frames will surpass the total number of xkcd comics. Some of its readers have called it the One True Comic; others, a MMONS (Massively Multiplayer Online Nerd Sniping). It’s sparked its own wiki, its own jargon (Timewaiters, newpix, Blitzgirling), and a thread on the xkcd user forum that runs to over 20,000 posts from 1100 distinct posters. So, is ‘Time” a mesmerizing work of art, a penetrating sociological experiment — or the longest-running shaggy-dog joke in history? Randall Munroe’s not saying.
See it here— and leave it open in your browser… for a long time…
[TotH to Slashdot]
As we remember that at least some things come to those who wait, we might also recall that it was on this date in 1914 that President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day– the second Sunday in May– as a day for Americans to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.
The drive to found the holiday came from Anna Jarvis (in honor of her mother, Ann, who had tried to start a “Mother’s Remembrance Day” in the mid-19th century). In 1905, Jarvis enlisted the support of merchant extraordinaire John Wanamaker, who knew a merchandising opportunity when he saw one, and who hosted the first Mother’s Day ceremonies in his Philadelphia emporium’s auditorium. In 1912, Jarvis trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day”*, and created the Mother’s Day International Association. By 1914, Jarvis and Wanamaker had built sufficient support in Congress to a get Congressional Resolution requesting the President’s action. Wilson, who was by current accounts uninterested in the move (distracted as he was by the beginnings of his ultimately unsuccessful effort to keep the U.S. out of the troubles in Europe that became World War I), nonetheless knew better than to take a stand against moms.
So readers should remember that there are only three shopping days (counting today) before this year’s Mother’s Day.
* Though the ad above handles it differently, Jarvis specified that that “Mother’s” should “be a singular possessive, for each family to honor their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.”
As we celebrate simplicity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that Popeye met Olive Oyl (in Elzie Segar’s daily comic strip “Thimble Theater”). Olive had been a regular since the comic premiered a decade before; Popeye had been introduced 7 days before… but became so popular (both via “Thimble Theatre” and thanks to Max and Dave Fleischer’s Popeye cartoons, which began in 1933) that the strip was renamed in his honor.
From Randall Monroe’s exquisite What If?, The Cost of Pennies.
As we search for a larger change jar, we might recall that this was the date, in 1919, on which the world did not end. American meteorologist Albert Porta had made a widely-publicized prediction that a conjunction of six planets on that date would cause a “magnetic current” to “pierce the sun”, causing an explosion of flaming gas which would engulf the Earth. The hysteria that followed incited mob violence and some suicides… before, as the world did not end, it subsided.
* William Gibson
As we Dance to the Music of Time, we might spare a thought for Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. An accomplished writer (her poems and her letters home from Turkey, where her husband was Ambassador, were widely influential), Lady Mary was perhaps as importantly a health-care pioneer: she was instrumental in establishing the practice of vaccination against smallpox.
Her last words, uttered on this date in 1762, were– appropriately enough– “It has all been most interesting.”
Lady Mary, with her son Edward (source)
What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?
– Ellen McManis
The answer turns out to be “a lot of things”, and they all happen very quickly, and it doesn’t end well for the batter (or the pitcher). I sat down with some physics books, a Nolan Ryan action figure, and a bunch of videotapes of nuclear tests and tried to sort it all out. What follows is my best guess at a nanosecond-by-nanosecond portrait…
Read the whole sad tale (and see the other explanatory illustrations) at What If?
As we restrain ourselves on the mound, we might recall that it was on this date in 1990 that White Sox first baseman Steve Lyons slid headfirst to beat out a bunt… a play that became memorable when he dropped his pants to brush away the dirt inside his uniform in front of 14,770 fans at Tiger Stadium.
(…where Randall Munroe observes that “an ‘American Tradition’ is anything that happened to a Boomer twice.”)
As we wax nostalgic, we might might spare a thought for musician, composer, arranger, and bandleader Glenn Miller; he died on this date in 1944. By the early 40s, Miller and his band had become huge stars: In 1939, Time noted: “Of the twelve to 24 discs in each of today’s 300,000 U.S. jukeboxes, from two to six are usually Glenn Miller.” His recording of “Tuxedo Junction” smashed records (pun intended) when it sold 115,000 copies in its first week; in 1942, Miller received the very first Gold Record (for “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”).
When the U.S. entered World War II, Miller was 38, too old to be drafted. But he persuaded the U.S. Army to accept him so that he could, in his own words, “be placed in charge of a modernized Army band.” Miller played a number of musical roles in the service, ultimately forming the 50-piece Army Air Force Band, which he took to England in the summer of 1944, where he gave 800 performances, and recorded (at Abbey Road Studios) material that was broadcast both as a morale boost of far-flung troops and as propaganda. On December 15, 1944, Miller boarded a small plane to fly from Bedford, outside of London, to Paris, to play a Christmas concert for soldiers there. His plane went down over the Channel; he is still officially listed as “missing in action.”