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Posts Tagged ‘David

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.

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Catching a breath…

One knows that CO2 emissions are fouling the atmosphere, but to see it in real time is an illuminatng– and chastening– thing…  Now, thanks to David Bleja’s Breathing Earth, one can.

Breathing Earth is a real-time simulation displays the CO2 emissions of every country in the world, as well as their birth and death rates; one simply scrolls over a country to watch it “puff.”  Worryingly, as David observes,

Please remember that this real time simulation is just that: a simulation. Although the CO2 emission, birth rate and death rate data used in Breathing Earth comes from reputable sources, data that measures things on such a massive scale can never be 100% accurate. Please note however that the CO2 emission levels shown here are much more likely to be too low than they are to be too high.

As we recommit to reducing our carbon footprints, we (at least those of us who remember how hard it used to be to get a decent cup of coffee in London until relatively recently) might add a celebratory extra lump of sugar today, in celebration of the opening on the Channel Tunnel on this date in 1994.  The influx of Continental visitors that this occasioned– all of them anxious for an espresso or a latte– has led to a London in which (as it seems to a pedestrian) every third store-front is a Starbucks or a Cafe Nero or a Seattle’s Best…

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Written by LW

May 6, 2009 at 1:01 am

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