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Posts Tagged ‘Arnold Toynbee

Back to the streets…

Following earlier assays of street signage from all over (e.g., here and here), the rubber finally meets the road itself.  Readers, the Toynbee Tile…

Franklin Square, Washington, DC (source)

Since the 1980s, several hundred tiles– all roughly the size of an American state license plate, and all bearing roughly the message above– have been found embedded in the pavement of roads in streets in two dozen major U.S. cities and four South American capitals.

There’s no consensus among scholars of the tiles as to their reference or meaning.  It’s pretty widely held that the “Toynbee” reference is to historian Arnold Toynbee, perhaps to a passage (in Experiences):

Human nature presents human minds with a puzzle which they have not yet solved and may never succeed in solving, for all that we can tell. The dichotomy of a human being into ‘soul’ and ‘body’ is not a datum of experience. No one has ever been, or ever met, a living human soul without a body… Someone who accepts – as I myself do, taking it on trust – the present-day scientific account of the Universe may find it impossible to believe that a living creature, once dead, can come to life again; but, if he did entertain this belief, he would be thinking more ‘scientifically’ if he thought in the Christian terms of a psychosomatic resurrection than if he thought in the shamanistic terms of a disembodied spirit.

Others suggest that the tiles allude to Ray Bradbury’s story “The Toynbee Convector,” to Arthur C. Clarke’s story “Jupiter V,” or– perhaps, given the direct 2001 reference, most likely– to Stanley Kubrick’s film (in which, readers will recall, hibernating astronauts who had secret training were to be revived upon arrival on Jupiter).

And while there’s no agreement on the identity of the tiler, a majority of enthusiasts believe that “he” is from Philadelphia– both because the City of Brotherly Love hosts the highest concentration of the plaques and because a collection of tiles found there deviate from the norm to ascribe a plot to John S. Knight (of Knight-Ridder, the erst-while newspaper publishers), the Mafia, and others.

See a (nearly) complete list of tiles and their locations here, a set of photos here, and learn how they are implanted here.  Visit this site for a peek at a Sundance award-winning documentary on the Tiles.

UPDATE:  Further to earlier posts on Lorem Ipsum and it’s bastard children, Bacon Ipsum and Hipster Ipsum, more grievous greeking:  Velo Ipsum (for bicycling enthusiasts), and for the reportorially-inclined, Journo Ipsum.

As we watch where we’re walking, we might recall that it was on this date in 1504 that Michelangelo’s 17-foot-tall marble David was unveiled in a public square outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence.

source

All Reith Now!…

Bertrand Russell delivering the first Reith Lecture

The Reith Lectures were inaugurated by the BBC in 1948 to honor the contributions of its first Director General, John Reith (more formally known by the end of his career as “John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st Baron Reith”).

Lord Reith had operated on the principle that broadcasting should be a public service that enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. In that spirit the BBC invites a leading figure to deliver a series of radio lectures each year– the aim being “to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.”

And so, over the last 63 years, British listeners have been treated to Arnold Toynbee on “The World and the West,” Robert Oppenheimer on “Science and Common Understanding,” John Searle on “Minds, Brains, and Science,” John Keegan on “War in Our World,” Marina Warner on “Managing Monsters”… and dozens more extraordinary minds explaining and provoking.

As of a few weeks ago the BBC has made the entire audio library of Reith Lectures available online, from Bertrand Russell’s kick-off through 2010’s Martin Rees on “Scientific Horizons.”

Hallelujah!

[TotH to @brainpicker for the link]

As we listen and learn, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that “SOS” (. . . _ _ _ . . .) became the global standard radio distress signal.  While it was officially replaced in 1999 by the Global Maritime Distress Safety System, SOS is still recognized as a visual distress signal.

SOS has traditionally be “translated” (expanded) to mean “save our ship,” “save our souls,” “send out succor,” or other such pleas.  But while these may be helpful mnemonics, SOS is not an abbreviation or acronym.  Rather, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the letters were chosen simply because they are easily transmitted in Morse code.

click image above, or here

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