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Posts Tagged ‘futurist

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though.”*…

 

The frontispiece of Public and Private Life of Animals, by P. J. Stahl, illustrated by J. J. Grandville, and translated rom the French by J. Thompson; 1877; London, S. Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington.

This collection of acerbic animal fables, originally published in 1842 as Scènes de la vie privée et publique des animaux, boasts among its contributors some of the finest literary minds of mid 19th-century France, including Honoré de Balzac, George Sand, and the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel (under the pseudonym of P. J. Stahl). The book is also home to some of the finest work (some featured below) by the caricaturist J. J. Grandville, drawings in which we can see the satirical genius and inventiveness that would be unleashed in full glory just two years later with the publication of his wonderful Un autre monde.

See more at Public Domain Review; and visit the original at the Internet Archive.

* A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

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As we anthropomorphize, we might send carefully-limned birthday greetings to Joesph Stella; he was born on this date in 1877.  An accomplished illustrator, he is better known as a Futurist painter, perhaps especially for his depictions of industrial America and  his images of the Brooklyn Bridge.

He was one of the many artists to break out as a result of the 1913 Armory Show (he was considered by critics as important and influential as Duchamp and Picabia).  He was later associated with the American Precisionist movement of the 1910s–1940s.

A photo by Man Ray of Stella (foreground) and Marcel Duchamp (background, sitting under a portrait of Man Ray)

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“We got the beat”*…

 

The drum machine is one of the most effective musical inventions of our time. It’s affordable, easy to use, and ruthless in its precision, able to do exactly what it’s been told for as long as required (so long as you’ve got an AC adaptor). Of course, not everybody warms to the drum machine’s big plastic buttons and bright LED screen…

Starting from the Italian Futurists, “A Brief History of the Drum Machine in Rock Music.”

* The Go-Gos

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As we lay in the loop, we might recall that it was on this date in 1990 that NARAS stripped Milli Vanilli of the Grammy that they had won earlier that year.  One of the most popular pop acts in the late 1980s, their album debut album Girl You Know It’s True achieved international success and earned them the Grammy for Best New Artist.  But when it was revealed that neither of the duo (Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus) had actually sung lead vocals on the albums songs, the award was withdrawn.  The group recorded a comeback album, Back and in Attack, in 1998, but Rob Pilatus died before the album was released.

Milli Vanilli at the 1990 Grammys

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Written by LW

November 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

“You got to be worried when they’re agreeing about anything… Prophets. That’s the last bloody thing you want prophets to do”*…

 

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We may define future shock as the distress, both physical and psychological, that arises from an overload of the human organism’s physical adaptive systems and it’s decision-making processes… Put more simply, future shock is the human response to over-stimulation…

– Alvin Toffler

The film above is a documentary based on Future Shock, the book written in 1970 by sociologist and futurist Alvin Toffler…

Released in 1972, with a cigar-chomping Orson Welles as on-screen narrator, this piece of futurism
is darkly dystopian and oozing techno-paranoia… A great opening features a montage of car crashes and civil unrest intercut with two figures walking in a green field (while creepy synthesizers play in the background) who are soon revealed to be automatons with creepy robot faces — a nice metaphor for the fear of the unrecognizable, cold, and chaotic future society that Toffler thought we were all headed for…

More background in the notes accompanying the film.

(After watching the film, take a whack at being a futurist yourself; try the card game, “The Thing From the Future“…)

* China Miéville, Kraken

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As we brace for change, we might recall that it was on this date in 1797 that André-Jacques Garnerin accomplished the first successful parachute jump.  He ascended to 2,230 ft. above the Parc Monceau, Paris, with a balloon, then released it and unfurled a silk parachute.  Lacking any vent in the top of the parachute, Garnerin descended with violent oscillations– as a result of which, he suffered the first case of airsickness.

Garnerin releases the balloon and descends with the help of a parachute, 1797. (Illustration from the late 19th century.)

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Written by LW

October 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Never make predictions, especially about the future”*…

 

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Leonard Richardson likes old books of futurism. In 2008, he borrowed one from a friend, a classic from 1967: The Year 2000: A Framework for Speculation on the Next Thirty-Three Years, by Herman Kahn and A. J. Wiener.  Richardson color-coded the authors’ predictions, summarized in three tables near the front of the book, with his subjective impressions of whether each was a hit, a partial hit, or a miss.  For example…

Table XVIII: One Hundred Technical Innovations Very Likely in the Last Third of the Twentieth Century

  1. Multiple applications of lasers and masers for sensing, measuring, communication, cutting, heating, welding, power transmission, ilumination, destructive (defensive), and other purposes
  2. Extreme high-strength and/or high-temperature structural materials
  3. New or improved superperformance fabrics (papers, fibers, and plastics)
  4. New or improved materials for equipment and appliances (plastic, glasses, alloys, ceramics, intermetallics, and cements)
  5. New airborne vehicles (ground-effect machines, VTOL and STOL, super-helicopters, giant and/or supersonic jets)
  6. Extensive commercial application of shaped-charge explosives
  7. More reliable and longer-range weather forecasting
  8. Intensive and/or extensive expansion of tropical agriculture and forestry
  9. New sources of power for fixed installations (e.g., magnetohydrodynamic, thermionic and thermoelectric, and radioactivity)
  10. New sources of power for ground transportation (storage battery, fuel cell, propulsion [or support] by electro-magnetic fields, jet engine, turbine, and the like)

Out of 135 predictions there are 27 hits and 22 partial hits. Read the three lists in their entirety at “The Year 2000“… then ponder what our lists, looking out to 2045-2050, might contain.

* Casey Stengel

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As raise our eyes to the horizon, we might send mutable birthday greetings to Leonidas FrankLon” Cheney; he was born on this date in 1883.  The son of two deaf parents, Cheney was skilled at pantomime from an early age, a talent he parlayed into a successful vaudeville act.  A scandal (his first wife’s attempted suicide) forced him from the theater into the nascent film industry– where he became a successful character actor. Cheney developed deep skills in make-up to complement his pantomime skills, and created some of the most memorable characters in the golden age of silent film– among them, The Phantom of the Opera and Quasimodo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame).  In an interview reviewing his work in over 100 films, Chaney referred to his gifts in using make-up and contortion to portray his subjects as “extraordinary characterization”; in the industry he was known simply as “the man of 1,000 faces.”

Cheney in The Phantom of the Opera

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Written by LW

April 1, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The future ain’t what it used to be….”*

Just over a hundred years ago, in 1910, the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette in Iowa published a list of advances and innovations that they believed would appear during the century, a fascinating list of things scientific/technical and social/political:

  • Cure for cancer.
  • Discovery south pole.
  • Prevent or cure insanity.
  • Influence sex by parental treatment.
  • Create living organisms by artificial means.
  • Phonograph records substitute for letter.
  • Rationing clothing reform, health, comfort, durability only considerations
  • Settle question of communication with Mars. Wonderful astronomical discoveries.
  • Power of mind over matter a practical science devoid of superstitious elements.
  • United States constitution rewritten, providing improved means for conservation of original democratic principles.
  • Marvelous progress in transportation, largely aerial; airships and dirigible balloons crossing oceans and continents in remarkable time. Racing planes make five miles per minute. Inland waterways carry slow freight by improved methods. Monorail supplants two tracks. Electricity replaces steam. Convenient, economical city traffic system broadens city areas, opening suburban lands to householders. Pneumatic tubes for mails and express. Horses curiosities. Automobiles relegated to short distance burden bearing. Ocean steamers for freight, improvement toward speed rather than size.
  • Produce rainfall at will.
  • Temper gold and copper.
  • Roads of nation paved.
  • Conservation of sun’s heat and power.
  • Cure for and elimination of tuberculosis.
  • Development psychic research with fraud eliminated.
  • Movements for universal language, universal religion, universal money.
  • Non-existence of blindness by eliminating causes except accidents.
  • Construction largely of concrete and metal or newly discovered materials.
  • Electricity will move world’s wheels. Later radio-activity may substitute.
  • Terrors of war so multiplied by death dealing inventions, chances of war minimized.
  • Utilization of all energy, reducing consumption of wood and coal. Many fuel substitutes.
  • Population of United States based on present ratio of increased, 1,317,547,000 at opening of twenty-first century.
  • Rational diet with greatly reduced consumption of matter with increased nourishment from proper mastication and choices of foods.
  • Machinery largely substituting manual energy, will promote pursuit of finer arts and sciences; give ample opportunity for relaxation and amusement; emancipate wage slaves. Three-hour work day predicted.
  • Sea water for irrigation.
  • Photographs in natural colors.
  • Women’s political equality.
  • Government control of corporations.
  • Animated pictures in natural colors, transmitted by wireless.
  • Substitution of heavier metals with aluminum, etc.
  • Natural colors reproduced in newspaper pictures.
  • Reduction of elimination all forms of gambling, including stocks.
  • General acceptance of public ownership or control of public utilities.
  • Government operation banking system, elimination of private banks. Postal savings banks.
  • Moral, intellectual and economical awakening in dark sections of Africa, China a world power.
  • Beautiful and healthful cities, offering with homes and work places all forms of free amusement, culture and recreation.
  • Greater premium on brains with corresponding decreased in respect for position not gained by individual achievement.
  • Revision judicial system, deciding causes on improved scientific plan, insuring equal justice. Pathological and psychological treatment for criminals. Crime reduced.
  • Due to universal education, with special reference to hygiene, doctors and drugs be largely eliminated; average age to be near 60 years; men taller, stronger, higher intelligence and morals.

Some of their predictions were spot on (“Natural colors reproduced in newspaper pictures”); some, sadly as yet unrealized (“Cure for cancer”); and some, ironically backwards (“Government control of corporations”). But overall, it’s consoling to be reminded that things that seem wild, even radical at one moment in time– in this case, things like women’s rights and child labor laws– can, with the passage of time, become so obvious as to become human rights that we take for granted.

[TotH to Paleofuture, from whence the illustration above; via the always-excellent Next Draft]

* Yogi Berra

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As we live in the past, we might send twisted birthday greetings to August Ferdinand Möbius; he was born on this date in 1790.  A mathematician and theoretical astronomer, Möbius was so important to the fields of analytic geometry, topology, and number theory that several mathematical concepts are named after him, including the Möbius configuration, the Möbius transformations, the Möbius transform, the Möbius function μ(n), and the Möbius inversion formula

But he is best remembered, of course, as the creator of the Möbius Strip— a two-dimensional surface with only one side…. more specifically: a non-orientable two-dimensional surface with only one side when embedded in three-dimensional Euclidean space… It can be constructed in three dimensions: Take a rectangular strip of paper and join the two ends of the strip together so that it has a 180 degree twist. It is now possible to start at a point A on the surface and trace out a path that passes through the point which is apparently on the other side of the surface from A.

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Written by LW

November 17, 2013 at 1:01 am

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