(Roughly) Daily

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“In comics, we’re all weird together”*…

 

Your correspondent is heading out into the middle of the Pacific for about 10 days, so (Roughly) Daily will be on hiatus.  Regular service should resume on or around April 14…

To keep readers occupied in the meantime, via the ever-illuminating Warren Ellis, “this extremely 1998 webcomics index page.”

* G. Willow Wilson

###

As we dig for treasure (of which, there’s plenty), we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that CBS Records UK began distributing the eponymously-titled first album from The Clash.  (It was officially released four days later.)  Featuring such anthems as “White Riot,” “Police & Thieves,” and “London’s Burning,” it is widely regarded as one of the greatest punk recordings of all time, and ranks high on essentially every “best album” list.

Deeming the material “not radio friendly,” CBS in the US refused to release it until 1979 (on their Epic label, but even then dropped some of the more virulent songs).  Meantime, Americans bought over 100,000 imported copies of “The Clash”, making it the best-selling import album of all time in the U.S.

Cover of the UK release

source

 

Written by LW

April 4, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn”*…

 

In February of 1966, Bobbi Gibb received a letter in her mailbox from the organizers of the Boston Marathon. She expected to find her competition number inside the package. Instead she found herself reading a disqualifying letter. It stated that women are “not physiologically able to run a marathon.” The Amateur Athletics Union prohibited women from running farther than 1.5 miles, and the organizers just couldn’t “take the liability” of having her compete.

Refusing to take no for an answer, two months later the 23-year-old hid in a forsythia bush near the marathon start line. Disguising herself in a hoodie and her brother’s Bermuda shorts, she joined the throng once half the men had already started running. Her identity was soon obvious, but she only received encouragement, spectators yelling, “Way to go, girlie!”

Three hours, 21 minutes, and 40 seconds later, Gibb tore through the finish line ahead of two-thirds of the male competitors…

The remarkable tale in toto at “The Woman Who Crashed the Boston Marathon.”

* Gloria Steinem

###

As we cheer her on, we might send similarly admiring birthday greetings to Jane Morris Goodall; she was born on this date in 1934.   A primatologist and anthropologist, her (over 55-year) study of the social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania have made her the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.

Born and raised in Kenya, she reached out to the archaeologist and palaeontologist Louis Leakey, who was coincidentally looking for someone to study primate behavior.  With his support, she became the eighth person to be allowed to study for a PhD at Cambridge University without first having obtained a BA or BSc– after which, she returned to Africa and her life’s work.

She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, and has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues.  She has served on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project since its founding in 1996.  In April 2002, she was named a UN Messenger of Peace.

 source

 

“Wherever there is light, one can photograph”*…

 

Three decades ago, as a graduate student at the San Francisco Art Institute, Mimi Plumb [see here] was wandering around Bernal Heights when she came across the site of a recent house fire. Plumb went inside to explore the building’s charred remains. She paused to photograph a blackened globe and a singed stack of telephone books. In the basement, she found snapshots of an unknown family, and in the bedroom, a burned lamp and dresser. The grim, soot-filled rooms would later remind her of her childhood during the Cuban missile crisis, when duck-and-cover drills occurred every few weeks. “My mother told me there might be a nuclear war,” Plumb says. “I would wake up in the middle of the night.”

The photos of the house were among the first that Plumb would take for her series Dark Days, which will be published this summer by TBW Books in a collection titled Landfall

After seven years of taking photos for the series, Plumb did the unthinkable: She packed the negatives into a box and didn’t look at them again. In some ways, she knew she had nothing more to add to the work, that she had adequately captured that feeling of imbalance. But there was also another reason. Plumb felt pressure as a female photographer to take more “palatable” images.

The series was tucked away until 2015, when Plumb, having retired from teaching black-and-white photography, began going through her archives. She was struck by how much the work — with its themes of nuclear anxiety and environmental decline — “runs eerily parallel to our current situation.”…

More on Plumb’s work at “Unearthed“; see more of the Dark Days series at her site

* Alfred Stieglitz

###

As we ponder the pix, we might recall that it was on this date in 1845 that French physicists Louis Fizeau and Leon Foucault took the first photograph of the sun.  The daguerreotype was just 4.7 inches, but as National Geographic reported, still caught sunspots.

 source

 

Written by LW

April 2, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year”*…

 

25+ Hilarious Pranks For April Fools’ Day

29 Insanely Easy Pranks You Need To Play On April Fools’ Day

* Mark Twain

###

As we ponder the prank, we might note that today is, of course, April Fools’ Day.  A popular occasion for gags and hoaxes since the 19th century, it is considered by some to date from the calendar change of 1750-52— though references to high jinx on the 1st of April date back to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1392).

April Fools’ Day is not a public holiday in any country…  though perhaps it should be.

If every fool wore a crown, we should all be kings.

– Welsh Proverb

An April Fools’ Day hoax marking the construction of the Copenhagen Metro in 2001

source

 

Written by LW

April 1, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Secret codes resound. Doubts and intentions come to light.”*…

 

Music cryptography is a method in which the musical notes A through G are used to spell out words, abbreviations, or codes…

Early 17th- and 18th-century mathematicians and cryptologists such as John Wilkins and Philip Thicknesse argued that music cryptography was one of the most inscrutable ways of transporting secret messages. They claimed that music was perfect camouflage, because spies would never suspect music. When played, the music would sound so much like any other composition that musically trained listeners would be easily fooled, too. Thicknesse wrote in his 1772 book A Treatise on the Art of Deciphering, and of Writing in Cypher: With an Harmonic Alphabet, “for who that examined a suspected messenger would think an old song, without words, in which perhaps the messenger’s tobacco or snuff might be put, contained a secret he was to convey?” Written letters don’t have this advantage…

This music cipher was supposedly proposed by Michael Haydn (brother of Franz Josef Haydn). It appears in an appendix to a biography about Haydn by Werigand Rettensteiner published in 1808.

More musical mischief at “With Musical Cryptography, Composers Can Hide Messages in Their Melodies.”

* Wislawa Szymborska

###

As we bury the lede, we might tip the plumed birthday bonnet to Rene Descartes, the French philosopher and mathematician who thought and therefore was.  He was born on this date in 1596.

Many contemporaries (perhaps most notably, Pascal) rejected his famous conclusion, the dualist separation of mind and body; more (Voltaire, et al.), since.  But Descartes’ emphasis on method and analysis, his disciplined integration of philosophy and physical science, his insistence on the importance of consciousness in epistemology, and perhaps most fundamentally, his the questioning of tradition and authority had a transformative– and lasting– effect on Western thought, and has earned him the “title” of Father of Modern Philosophy.

“In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate.”
– Rene Descartes

Frans Hals’ portrait of Descartes, c. 1649

source

Written by LW

March 31, 2018 at 1:01 am

“All that is solid melts into air”*…

 

As a partner in a corporate advisory firm and a professor of law and finance, we are true believers in free-market capitalism — hardly natural latter-day communists, let alone successors to Marx and Engels. But we do believe the time is ripe for a rewrite of their Manifesto. Like the inhabitants of mid-19th century Europe, we live, according to Oxford University’s Professor Alan Morrison, “in the wake of a calamitous financial crisis and in the midst of whirlwind social change, a popular distaste of financial capitalists, and widespread revolutionary activity”. We have imagined what Marx and Engels would have written in 2018, naming the new, updated version “The Activist Manifesto”…

So how did the two of us come to take on the renovation of the Manifesto? The answer, improbably perhaps, is our interest in a linchpin of modern free-market capitalism: shareholder activism. We have published academic studies on the phenomenon. We have advised many of the largest hedge funds as they take substantial stakes in hundreds of comp­anies, shaking up complacent boards and advocating for changes in corporate strategy and capital structure. And we have advised companies that themselves have pursued change. These activists may not be what Marx and Engels had in mind, but they are revolutionaries of a kind…

In our redrafting, we have had to go far beyond merely substituting “communism” with “activism”. The “Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies” and others in Marx’s and Engels’ sights have gone. We have introduced their modern counterparts: “the corporate Haves, the elites, the billionaires, the establishment politicians of the Republican and Democratic parties, Conservatives and Labour, the talking heads at Davos, the echo chambers of online media and fake news.” But we have kept much of the rhetoric along with Marx’s and Engels’ relentless focus on economic inequality. Two centuries after Marx’s birth, and however much communism has rightly been discredited, a great deal of the argument is as relevant now as it was then. The Manifesto’s theories about the problems of capitalism and the capitalist mode of production continue to be cited in critiques of unfettered markets, and the document’s historical analysis is cited by modern scholars and taught in universities today. Some historians have cited it as the most influential text of the 19th century. Its reverberations are still felt today…

The original Manifesto’s top 10 “pretty generally applicable” proposals wouldn’t get a passing grade today in any setting. Left and right alike reject its arguments on labour and property. Even leaders of so-called communist states embrace markets and decentralisation. Take North Korea, the country that has most resisted capitalism: since 2012, it has started to encourage entrepreneurship and a formal (if reluctant) acceptance of brand-led marketplaces. However, one aspect of the original still resonates: the document was, fundamentally, an attack on inequality. We think it is obvious that Marx and Engels would be appalled by the present-day distribution of wealth. We imagine they would write something like this. “By the start of our 21st century, we are faced with the extraordinary fact that the top one per cent of the world’s population own the same resources as the remaining 99 per cent. Those at the bottom are less upwardly mobile than in previous generations; entrance to wealthy gated communities is blocked, not only by private security forces, but also by the increasingly prohibitive costs of healthcare, technology and education. There is the dominant force of mass incarceration, with millions of poor, minorities and powerless walled off from the rulers they might threaten. The Haves have never in history held so much advantage over the Have-Nots.”…

Two champions of capitalism, Rupert Younger (co-author of The Reputation Game and director of Oxford University’s Centre for Corporate Reputation) and Frank Partnoy (a writer and professor of law and finance who is joining the faculty at UC Berkeley this summer) explain their redrafting: “What would Karl Marx write today?

Read their revised manifesto in full (and use the “rollover” function to compare it to the original) at activistmanifesto.org.

* Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in Chapter One of The Communist Manifesto  (also the title of a wonderful book by Marshall Berman)

###

As we reckon with revolution, we might send Hobbesian birthday greetings to Franz Oppenheimer; he was born on this date in 1864.  An economist and sociologist, we wrote prolifically (40 books and 400 essays) and influentially on political organization and the idea of the nation.   His best-known work is probably Der Staat (The State) which reflected his rejection of the concept of the “social contract” and his “conquest theory of the state.”  Like Marx, Oppenheimer considered capitalism a system of exploitation, and capital revenues the gain of that exploitation; he saw the state as the original creator of inequality.  So not surprisingly, his thinking has been influential among libertarians, communitarians, and anarchists.

 source

 

Written by LW

March 30, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The most beautiful sight in a… theater is to walk down to the front, turn around, and look at the light from the screen reflected on the upturned faces of the members of the audience”*…

 

The magic lantern was basically a seventeenth-century slide projector: a light source (a candle), an image (a piece of painted glass), and a lens. It was an ever-evolving object, and revolutionized the way pictures were seen by an audience. It is often called a precursor to cinema, but it might better be characterized as an enabler that paved the way for film and gave rise to its own powerful visual culture. Many technical devices that explored projected imagery and the persistence of vision are sought, researched, and discussed by lantern aficionados…

The remarkable Ricky Jay [see here and here] remembers two departed friends, and ruminates on the lost art that paved the way for motion pictures even as it created a visual culture all its own: “Farewell to Two Masters of the Magic Lantern.”

* Gene Siskel, quoting Robert Ebert’s report of an observation by François Truffaut

###

As we accede to awe, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon was released by United Artists.  Directed by Billy Wilder [see here], the film is widely considered the funniest comedy ever made (e.g., on the AFI’s list of 100 Greatest Films and the BBC’s poll of film critics around the world).

 source

Oh, and of course, it also featured Marilyn Monroe singing…

 

Written by LW

March 29, 2018 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: