(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘humor

“You just don’t get any perspective if you are looking at a map on a small screen… and the batteries on handheld devices run out, especially in very cold environments”*…

 

Stanford Map

 

Home to the world’s largest collection of maps, travel books and globes, its customers include governments and armed forces from around the world… Based in Covent Garden, in the centre of London, family-owned Stanfords is a 166-year-old British institution. Opening its doors in 1853, it harks back to the great expeditions of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Its famous customers from that time included David Livingstone, who explored much of Africa, and Ernest Shackleton, who led expeditions to Antarctica. Even fictional character Sherlock Holmes was a fan.

Vivien Godfrey, 58, has been chief executive and chairman of Stanfords since March 2018, but her connection to the business has been a lifelong one. Her family have been majority owners since 1946, and she is now the third generation to lead the company. She describes Stanfords as having “been part of my entire life”.

However, when she graduated from Oxford University with a degree in geography in 1983, her father wouldn’t let her join the family firm…

Stanford's 2

The story of one of London’s treasures, and the woman who leads it: “The map store boss who took the long route.”

[TotH to friend KE]

* Vivien Godfrey, on the benefits of printed maps

###

As we carefully re-fold, we might spare a thought for a cartographer of a different sort, James Grover Thurber; he died on this date in 1961.  A cartoonist, author, humorist, journalist, playwright, children’s book author, and all-round wit, he was probably best known for his cartoons and short stories published mainly in The New Yorker magazine (like “The Catbird Seat” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”)– though his Broadway comedy The Male Animal (written in collaboration with his college friend Elliott Nugent), was later adapted into a film starring Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland.

Q. No one has been able to tell us what kind of dog we have. I am enclosing a sketch of one of his two postures. He only has two. The other one is the same as this except he faces in the opposite direction. – Mrs EUGENIA BLACK

A. I think that what you have is a cast-iron lawn dog. The expressionless eye and the rigid pose are characteristic of metal lawn animals. And that certainly is a cast-iron ear. You could, however, remove all doubt by means of a simple test with a hammer and a cold chisel, or an acetylene torch. If the animal chips, or melts, my diagnosis is correct.

The Thurber Carnival (1945)

220px-James_Thurber_NYWTS source

 

Written by LW

November 2, 2019 at 1:01 am

“We have always known that heedless self interest was bad morals, we now know that it is bad economics.”*…

 

Economics

The World Clock in Alexanderplatz, Berlin

 

The set of ideas now called ‘Ergodicity Economics’ is overturning a fundamental concept at the heart of economics, with radical implications for the way we approach uncertainty and cooperation…. starting with the axiom that individuals optimise what happens to them over time, not what happens to them on average in a collection of parallel worlds.

Much of this view rests on a careful critique of a model of human decisionmaking known as expected utility theory. Everyone faces uncertainties all the time, in choosing to take one job rather than another, or deciding how to invest money – in education, travel or a house. The view of expected utility theory is that people should handle it by calculating the expected benefit to come from any possible choice, and choosing the largest. Mathematically, the expected ‘return’ from some choices can be calculated by summing up the possible outcomes, and weighting the benefits they give by the probability of their occurrence.

But there is one odd feature in this framework of expectations – it essentially eliminates time. Yet anyone who faces risky situations over time needs to handle those risks well, on average, over time, with one thing happening after the next. The seductive genius of the concept of probability is that it removes this historical aspect by imagining the world splitting with specific probabilities into parallel universes, one thing happening in each. The expected value doesn’t come from an average calculated over time, but from one calculated over the different possible outcomes considered outside of time. In doing so, it simplifies the problem – but actually solves a problem that is fundamentally different from the real problem of acting wisely through time in an uncertain world.

Expected utility theory has become so familiar to experts in economics, finance and risk-management in general that most see it as the obvious method of reasoning. Many see no alternatives. But that’s a mistake. This inspired [the Ergodicity Theory creators’] efforts to rewrite the foundations of economic theory, avoiding the lure of averaging over possible outcomes, and instead averaging over outcomes in time, with one thing happening after another, as in the real world. Many people – including most economists – naively believe that these two ways of thinking should give identical results, but they don’t. And the differences have big consequences, not only for people trying to do their best when facing uncertainty, but for the basic orientation of all of economic theory, and its prescriptions for how economic life might best be organised.

Of particular importance, the approach brings a new perspective to our understanding of cooperation and competition, and the conditions under which beneficial cooperative activity is possible…

Economists and mathematicians at the London Mathematical Laboratory, together with collaborators including two Nobel laureates from the Santa Fe Institute, propose something altogether different: “How ergodicity re-imagines economics for the benefit of us all.”

* Franklin Delano Roosevelt

###

As we consider alternative accounts, we might recall that it was on this date in 2007 that Dodger infielder Chin-Lung Hu, recently acquired by the team, singled in a home game… allowing legendary Dodger announcer Vin Scully remark on-air, “shades of Abbott and Costello, I can finally say, ‘Hu is on first base.'”

HU

Hu, on first

source

 

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”*…

 

MySpace

Artwork excavated from archived GeoCities pages (1994–2009).

A tribute to the lost days of unrefined self-expression on the Internet.

myspace2

myspace three

 

More at Art of Geocities.

* Thomas Szasz

###

As we express ourselves we might recall that it was on this date in 1965 that Bob Dylan was booed off stage at the Newport Jazz Festival during his first public performance with electric instruments (and a band that included Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper)… The cat-calling began with his opening number, “Maggie’s Farm,” and continued through three more songs, after which Dylan left the stage. As a peace offering to Pete Seeger and other aggrieved organizers, Dylan returned later to do two acoustic numbers… but the die was cast; thereafter, his career was electrically-powered…

source

For a sense of just how far things have come, check out Johnny Winter’s version of “Highway 61,” taped at a 1992 tribute to Dylan (on the occasion of his 30th anniversary as a recording artist):

 

Written by LW

July 25, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Today everything exists to end in a photograph”*…

 

Sadly, just not necessarily a good photograph…

uninteresting photographs

D-4L2eiXoAAzeIo

D-3-FkiWkAUqldq

 

A few samples drawn from the stream of images you’ll find at Uninteresting Photographs.

* Susan Sontag

###

As we search for meaning, we might recall that it was on this date in 1870 that John Wesley Hyatt received one of the patents that allowed him to win the $10,000 prize offered for a practical substitute for ivory in the manufacture of billiard balls.  The material he used– celluloid– was the first true plastic… and the basis of photographic film until it was replaced by acetate in the 1950s.

In his long career, Hyatt secured several hundred patents, among them: the first injection molding machine, processes for sugarcane milling and fruit/vegetable juice extraction, roller bearings, and a multiple-stitch sewing machine.  Hyatt founded the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company in 1892 in Harrison, New Jersey; then, in 1895, hired a young Alfred P. Sloan, son of a major investor in the company, as a draftsman.  By 1905, Sloan had become president; in 1916, the company was sold to General Motors… where Sloan went on to become its transformative president, and the architect of the auto industry as we know it.

John_Wesley_Hyatt,_Jr source

 

 

“A very merry Unbirthday to you!”*…

 

Ted bday

 

There’s been a good deal of understandable concern over online platforms and the dangers that they present to our health, both personal and civic.  But occasionally it’s good to remind ourselves that there are services they provide that are genuinely crucial– e.g., Is Today Ted Danson’s Birthday?

* Alice in Wonderland

###

As we go to The Good Place, we might recall that it was on this date in 1965 that the FBI exonerated “Louie Louie,” declaring that the lyrics of the 1963 recording by The Kingsmen– widely rumored to be “dirty”– were in fact simply indecipherable.  After analyzing the disc at its intended 45 rpm and also at 33 1/3 and 78, and interviewing a member of the band, the FBI Laboratory declared the lyrics to be officially “unintelligible at any speed.”

In fact the song’s creator, Richard Berry, had released “Louie Louie” to mild regional success– and no lyrical controversy– a decade earlier.  But the FBI’s verdict notwithstanding, a cloud hovered over the tune: in 2005, the superintendent of the Benton Harbor, Michigan school system refused to let the marching band at one of the schools play the song in a parade; she later relented.

from the FBI’s “Louie Louie” file

source

 

Written by LW

May 17, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious”*…

 

Jan_Havicksz._Steen_-_Het_vrolijke_huisgezin_-_Google_Art_Project

Jan Steen, “The Merry Family,” 1668

 

The governing elites of ancient and medieval Europe were not greatly hospitable to humor. From the earliest times, laughter seems to have been a class affair, with a firm distinction enforced between civilized amusement and vulgar cackling. Aristotle insists on the difference between the humor of well-bred and low-bred types in the Nicomachean Ethics. He assigns an exalted place to wit, ranking it alongside friendship and truthfulness as one of the three social virtues, but the style of wit in question demands refinement and education, as does the deployment of irony. Plato’s Republic sets its face sternly against holding citizens up to ridicule and is content to abandon comedy largely to slaves and aliens. Mockery can be socially disruptive, and abuse dangerously divisive. The cultivation of laughter among the Guardian class is sternly discouraged, along with images of laughing gods or heroes. St. Paul forbids jesting, or what he terms eutrapelia, in his Epistle to the Ephesians. It is likely, however, that Paul has scurrilous buffoonery in mind, rather than the vein of urbane wit of which Aristotle would have approved…

The churlish suspicion of humor sprang from more than a fear of frivolity. More fundamentally, it reflected a terror of the prospect of a loss of control, not least on a collective scale. It is this that in Plato’s view can be the upshot of excessive laughter, a natural bodily function on a level with such equally distasteful discharges as vomiting and excreting. Cicero lays out elaborate rules for jesting and is wary of any spontaneous outburst of the stuff. The plebeian body is perpetually in danger of falling apart, in contrast to the disciplined, suavely groomed, efficiently regulated body of the hygienic patrician. There is also a dangerously democratic quality to laughter, since unlike playing the tuba or performing brain surgery, anybody can do it. One requires no specialized expertise, privileged bloodline, or scrupulously nurtured skill.

Comedy poses a threat to sovereign power not only because of its anarchic bent, but because it makes light of such momentous matters as suffering and death, hence diminishing the force of some of the judicial sanctions that governing classes tend to keep up their sleeve. It can foster a devil-may-care insouciance that loosens the grip of authority. Even Erasmus, author of the celebrated In Praise of Folly, also penned a treatise on the education of schoolchildren that warns of the perils of laughter. The work admonishes pupils to press their buttocks together when farting to avoid excessive noise, or to mask the unseemly sound with a well-timed cough…

Whose laughter? Which comedy?  The formidable Terry Eagleton unpacks “The Politics of Humor.”

* Peter Ustinov

###

As we LOL, we might recall that it was on this date in 1717 that Voltaire (François Marie Arouet), the “Father of the Age of Reason.” was imprisoned for the first time in the Bastille for writing “subversive literature”– satire.  He would subsequently be imprisoned again, and forced in exile.

source

 

 

Written by LW

May 16, 2019 at 1:01 am

“All men know the use of the useful, but nobody knows the use of the useless!”*…

 

daniel-gebhart-de-koekkoek-a-guide-to-being-better-photography-itsnicethat-13

 

Chindōgu is the art of inventing seemingly practical but ultimately useless gadgets to enhance everyday life. Popularised in Japan in the 90s by its creator, Kenji Kawakami, it was originally just a comical section that appeared in his monthly magazine, Mail Order Life. From fans attached to your chopsticks that cool your food before you eat it, to a Pritt Stick of butter that allows for easy application onto your toast, chindōgu is the perfect balance between ingenuity and absurdity.

As such, it instantly grabbed the attention of Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek…

To date, there are over 1000 official chindōgu items in existence. Poetic and political in nature, they are comments on the state of consumerist culture and the materialism of modern life. They poke at fun at our reliance on technology and inability to carry out basic tasks like administering eye drops. Though humorous, chindōgu has a set of rules – a list of ten commandments, in fact – that must be adhered to. They are as follows: Chindōgu must be (almost) completely useless; must exist (they should be real, useable objects); must represent freedom of thought and action; must be understood by all (its function should not be obscure); must not be sold (they are not tradable commodities); must not be made purely for the sake of humour (it should also be an earnest attempt to solve a problem); must not be used as propaganda; must not be taboo (cheap sexual humour etc.); must not be patented; and must not be made with prejudice (they must be useable by everyone, young and old, rich and poor).

A perfect fit with the other tongue-in-cheek projects that make up his portfolio, including his Make Alpaca Great Again series… Daniel knew he had to find a way to shoot this phenomenon…

More at: “Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek recreates the ingenious yet useless inventions of Chindōgu.”

* Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

###

As we investigate intention, we might recall that it was on this date in 1985 that the Coca-Cola Company, concerned that it had been loosing share to the sweeter offerings of competitors like Pepsi, introduced Coke II (or “New Coke, ” as it was widely known).  Consumer reaction was swift– and profoundly negative.  Three months later, Coke caved, reintroducing the original formula (rebranded as Coca-Cola Classic)– and enjoyed a boost in sales… leading some charitably to suggest that New Coke was just a ploy.  But the company maintained that it was absolutely for real…  and the episode has become a cautionary example of the dangers in tampering with an established product/brand.

New_Coke_can source

Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday!

 

 

Written by LW

April 23, 2019 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: