(Roughly) Daily

“Another Roadside Attraction”*…

 

supper club

Big Fish Supper Club, Route 2, Bena, Minnesota; 1980

 

The culture of the American road has been much celebrated — and much criticized. Lawrence Ferlinghetti saw the rise of the automobile and the construction of the interstate system (which began in the 1950s) as a new form of punishment inflicted on the populace. Driving in their cars, “strung-out citizens” were now

plagued by legionnaires
                                false windmills and demented roosters…

      on freeways fifty lanes wide
                                                        on a concrete continent
                                                                spaced with bland billboards
                                            illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness

The architectural critic and photographer John Margolies (1940–2016), on the other hand, saw there could also be home-made beauty in the buildings and signs locals built on the American roadside. For almost forty years, he documented the most remarkable examples he found, publishing some of his discoveries in books and consigning the rest to an archive, which has now been purchased by the Library of Congress who, in a wonderfully gracious move, have lifted all copyright restrictions on the photographs (though art works shown in some photographs may still be under copyright)…

south of the border

Billboard, near Dillon, South Carolina; 1986

More at “John Margolies’ Photographs of Roadside America.”  Browse the entire collection at the Library of Congress.

* a marvelous novel by Tom Robbins

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As we peer through the car window, we might spare a thought for Thomas Clayton Wolfe; he died (at age 38 of miliary tuberculosis) on this date in 1938.  But in his short career he wrote four lengthy novels (including Look Homeward, Angel and You Can’t Go Home Again) as well as many short stories, dramatic works, and novellas– and earned  William Faulkner’s praise as the greatest talent of their generation.

Wolfe’s influence extends to the writings of Beat writer Jack Kerouac, and of authors Ray Bradbury, Betty Smith, Philip Roth, Pat Conroy and many, many others.

250px-Thomas_Wolfe_1937_1_(cropped).jpg source

 

Written by LW

September 15, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Society is unity in diversity”*…

 

Diversity Map

 

In less than one year, the 2020 census will record just how much more racially diverse the nation has become, continuing the “diversity explosion” that punctuated the results of the 2010 census. While less authoritative than the once-a-decade national headcount, recently released U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2018 make plain that racial minority populations—especially Hispanic, Asian and black Americans—continue to expand, leaving fewer parts of the country untouched by diversity…

From Brookings, a pre-2020 census look at the wide dispersal of the nation’s Hispanic, Asian and black populations: Six maps that reveal America’s expanding diversity.

* George Herbert Mead

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As we delight in difference, we might recall that it was on this date in 1814 that then 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key wrote “The Defense of Fort M’Henry,” a poem– which provided the lyrics for the U.S. national anthem–  in which he described the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812.  Key was inspired by the large U.S. flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory.

Indeed, he wrote lyrics beyond those most of us have heard:  a pro-slavery, anti-abolitionist campaigner, Key wrote a (now mostly omitted) third stanza that promises that “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.”

 source

 

Written by LW

September 14, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Artifacts of our oldest cultures give evidence that the human race has always made things in miniature”*…

 

CBGB

1/12th scale model of CBGB, 315 Bowery

 

Drawn to the often-overlooked beauty of aging structures, [artist Randy] Hage began photographing the cast iron facades in the SoHo area of New York.  He has photographed over 450 storefronts over the past 14 years, 60% of which have since closed or been torn down. Hage’s models are not only acts of preservation but a way of calling attention to what has been lost as urban renewal and gentrification displace the storeowners and residents of these communities…

Hage then works from his photos to create exquisitely-detailed miniatures…

Hage15

scale model

See more of Hage’s marvelous work at “NYC Storefronts in Miniature,” and visit his website.

* Dorothy B. Thompson, Miniature Sculpture from the Athenian Agora

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As we get small, we might spare a thought for miniaturist of a different sort, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne; he died on this date in 1592.  Best known during his lifetime as a statesman, Montaigne is remembered for popularizing the essay as a literary form.  His effortless merger of serious intellectual exercises with casual anecdotes and autobiography– and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as “Attempts” or “Trials”)– contain what are, to this day, some of the most widely-influential essays ever written.  Montaigne had a powerful impact on writers ever after, from Descartes, Pascal, and Rousseau, through Hazlitt, Emerson, and Nietzsche, to Zweig, Hoffer, and Asimov.  Indeed, he’s believed to have been an influence on the later works of Shakespeare.

 source

 

Written by LW

September 13, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Matter is energy waiting to happen”*…

 

matter abstractions-a-442

 

Chad Mirkin didn’t set out to discover a new property in matter. But when you’re inventing an alternative to atom-based chemistry, something strange is bound to happen…

While studying materials made from DNA-coated nanoparticles, researchers found a new form of matter– lattices in which smaller particles roam like electrons in metallic bonds: “Strange Metal-like Bonds Discovered in Customized Crystals.”

* Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

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As we muse on matter, we might send irradiated birthday greetings to Irène Joliot-Curie; she was born on this date in 1897.  The daughter of Marie Curie and Pierre Curie and the wife of Frédéric Joliot-Curie, she shared a Nobel Prize with her husband for their joint discovery of artificial radioactivity (making the Curies the family with the most Nobel laureates to date).  Both children of the Joliot-Curies, Hélène and Pierre, are also esteemed scientists.

Like her mother, Irène died of leukemia, likely resulting from radiation exposure during her research.

220px-Irène_Joliot-Curie_Harcourt source

 

Written by LW

September 12, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Turn! Turn! Turn!”*…

 

Woodstock

 

The young people who assembled at the Woodstock music festival in August 1969 epitomized the countercultural movements and changes occurring in U.S. society at the time. One commentator described the three-day event as “an open, classless society of music, sex, drugs, love and peace.”

The “open” display of these activities at Woodstock was a direct challenge to the relatively conservative social views of the time…

Half a century later, Gallup offers a rundown of the major ways U.S. norms have changed: “10 Major Social Changes in the 50 Years Since Woodstock.”

* the title of a song written by Peter Seeger in the late 1950s, but adapted (and made into a hit) by The Byrds in 1965.  The lyrics – except for the title, which is repeated throughout the song, and the final two lines – consist of the first eight verses of the third chapter of the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes.

###

As we ponder progress, we might recall that it was this date in 1995 that Sailor Moon debuted in the United States.  Based on a Japanese series of manga and animated television shows, Sailor Moon recounted the adventures of a young Japanese girl who discovers her destiny as the legendary warrior Sailor Moon and bands together with the other Sailor Scouts to defend the Earth and Galaxy.

The US TV series ran for four seasons.  The manga has sold over 35 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling shōjo manga series. And the franchise has generated $13 billion in worldwide merchandise sales.

sailor moon source

 

Written by LW

September 11, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Chicken wire?”*…

 

Chicken Wire

 

This beast is called a “gabion machine,” which seems to be a slight misnomer.  A “gabion” is a cage filled with sand or stone used in civil or military engineering, e.g. for erosion control. What this machine is actually making, of course, is wire mesh of the type used to make gabions, which a lot of people call “chicken wire.” Twisting all those strands at once requires a lot of power-check out the size of the crank…

 

Via Boing Boing, by way of  Make

* The Blues Brothers

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As we get wired, we might send material birthday greetings to Waldo Lonsbury Semon; he was born on this date in 1898.  A chemist who had worked on improving rubber, he finally created a replacement: he discovered how to convert polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from a hard, unworkable substance to a pliable one– creating vinyl, the second most widely used plastic in the world.

Waldo_Semon source

 

Written by LW

September 10, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Money is the opposite of the weather. Nobody talks about it, but everybody does something about it”*…

 

remittance

 

Every month Joy Kyakwita presses a button on her phone and does something in common with millions of other people across the globe: she sends money home.

Ms Kyakwita, a London-based lawyer, gives a third of her salary to her family back home in Uganda, including paying money for school fees for her brothers and nephews.

“I believe that when you pay for them to go on a good course, then there is a good chance of them becoming employable,” she says. “And if they are employed then they will be able to help their siblings as well.”

Ms Kyakwita is just one of an estimated 270m migrants around the world who will send a combined $689bn back home this year, the World Bank estimates. That figure marks a landmark moment: this year remittances will overtake foreign direct investment as the biggest inflow of foreign capital to developing countries.

Remittances were once viewed by many economists as a secondary issue for developing economies behind FDI and equity investments. Yet because of their sheer volume and  consistent and resilient nature, these flows are now “the most important game in town when it comes to financing development”, says Dilip Ratha, head of the World Bank’s global knowledge partnership on migration and development…

The money sent home by 270 million immigrants around the world now exceeds foreign direct investment. The Financial Times takes deep dive into “Remittances: the hidden engine of globalisation.”

(Remittances are painfully expensive for those making them– ranging around the world from over 5% to over 8% of all money transferred… money that goes to financial institutions as opposed to the intended recipients.  Here’s why.)

* Rebecca Johnson

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As we pass it on, we might note that today, September 9, is the most common birthday in the United States.

birthday source

 

Written by LW

September 9, 2019 at 1:01 am

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