Posts Tagged ‘humor’
“You don’t get explanations in real life. You just get moments that are absolutely, utterly, inexplicably odd”*…
There are over five million articles in the English Wikipedia… These articles are verifiable, valuable contributions to the encyclopedia, but are a bit odd, whimsical, or something you would not expect to find in Encyclopædia Britannica.
* Neil Gaiman
As we wonder at the weird, we might send dissolute birthday greetings to the poster boy for oddity and excess, Caligula; he was born on this date in 12 CE. The third Roman Emperor (from from 37 to 41 CE), Caligula (“Little Boots”) is generally agreed to have been a temperate ruler through the first six months of his reign. His excesses after that– cruelty, extravagance, sexual perversity– are “known” to us via sources increasingly called into question. Still, historians agree that Caligula did work hard to increase the unconstrained personal power of the emperor at the expense of the countervailing Principate; and he oversaw the construction of notoriously luxurious dwellings for himself.
In 41 CE, members of the Roman Senate and of Caligula’s household attempted a coup to restore the Republic. They enlisted the Praetorian Guard, who killed Caligula– the first Roman Emperor to be assassinated (Julius Caesar was assassinated, but was Dictator, not Emperor). In the event, the Praetorians thwarted the Republican dream by appointing (and supporting) Caligula’s uncle Claudius the next Emperor.
“Juggling is sometimes called the art of controlling patterns, controlling patterns in time and space.”*…
Part friendly circus act, part vicious duel: welcome to the world of combat juggling. Unlike the variety show clowns that would entertain you as a child, combat juggling is no joke; this is a competitive contact sport and there can only be one person left standing … er, juggling…
As we keep ’em in the air, we might recall that it was on this date in 1900 that Luther Haden “Dummy” Taylor made his Major League debut. A deaf-mute right-handed pitcher, he was a key feature of the New York Giants’ National League championship teams of 1904 and 1905.
Taylor communicated on-field with his teammates– all of whom learned sign language– with his hands. He is credited with helping to expand and make universal the use of sign language throughout the modern baseball infield, for example, the use of pitching signs. And Taylor contributed to signing’s repertoire of profanities, frequently cussing out umpires with his hands (and largely getting away with it… except when, as with Hank O’Day, he encountered a ref who knew sign language).
Taylor was also a consummate showman, an accomplished juggler who would often put on “a grand juggling act” in front of the Giants’ dugout to amuse the fans.
Replace these “wireless telegraphs” with smartphones, update the dress a little, and this vision from a 1906 issue of Punch magazine could easily be for 110 years in the future. Part of a series of “forecasts” for the year to come, the caption reads: “These two figures are not communicating with one another. The lady receives an amatory message, and the gentleman some racing results.” It’s a reminder that the idea of technology leading to a breakdown in “authentic” human interaction is a worry not solely limited to our age.
Punch seemed to have a knack for uncanny predictions of distant technologies to come. See for example this vision of the Skype-like “Telephonoscope” from 1879…
* Sherry Turkle,
As we pull on the thread, we might recall that it was on this date in 1858 that Queen Victoria sent the first official telegraph message across the Atlantic Ocean from London to the U.S. (Test messages had been exchanged for the prior 10 days). Her message to President Buchanan, in Washington D.C., began transmission at 10:50am and was completed at 4:30am the next day, taking nearly 18-hrs to reach Newfoundland. With 99 words, consisting of 509 letters, it averaged about 2-min per letter. The message was forwarded across Newfoundland by an overhead wire supported on poles; across Cabot Strait by submarine cable to Aspy Bay (Dingwall), Cape Breton; then by an overhead wire across eastern Canada and Maine, via Boston to New York.
This earliest Transatlantic Cable went dead within a month.
One of the most attractive books in history, a colossal best seller, everybody knows this, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Really successful book, believe me. Why F.? I put my initial in the middle, I think it’s more normal that way, but everybody has his own style…
[image above: source]
* Donald J. Trump,
As we rethink the classics, we might send send elegiac birthday greetings to James Arthur Baldwin; he was born on this date in 1924. A novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, he charted the unspoken but palpable intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America, and their inevitable tensions. His essays (e.g., Notes of a Native Son and The Fire Next Time) and his novels (perhaps especially Giovanni’s Room) shaped a generation of writers. Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison eulogized Baldwin in The New York Times:
You knew, didn’t you, how I needed your language and the mind that formed it? How I relied on your fierce courage to tame wildernesses for me? How strengthened I was by the certainty that came from knowing you would never hurt me? You knew, didn’t you, how I loved your love? You knew. This then is no calamity. No. This is jubilee. “Our crown,” you said, “has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do,” you said, “is wear it.”
xkcd (zoomable version here)
As we muse on the ways in which the map is not the territory, we might recall that it was on this date in 1870 that America’s first asphalt pavement was laid in front of City Hall in Newark, N.J. Edmund J. DeSmedt, the Belgian chemist who oversaw the work, had received a U.S. patent for this asphalt paving method two months earlier. Later that year, DeSmedt became the inspector of asphalt and cements for the District of Columbia, and oversaw wide application there.
A list of summer camp names found in movies, television shows and books: “Fictional Camps.”
* Popular slogan on Pinterest and Etsy
As we pack an extra towel, we might send birthday greetings soaked in repellant to Drell Marston Bates; he was born on this date in 1906. One of the world’s leading experts on mosquitoes, his work for the Rockefeller Foundation led to the understanding of the epidemiology of yellow fever.
The modern claw machine typically stands vertically, lit from the inside with eye-searing brightness, and can tempt passersby with everything from cheap plush toys to Beats headphones or iPods. For 20 or 30 seconds, the user is in charge of operating a motorized trolley with the potential for reward; to see the multi-pronged claw scrape the sides of a stuffed panda, its grip strength too weak to snatch it from its Plexiglas prison, is to know true disappointment.
The components may have changed, but that hypnotic interaction between player and claw has been going on for nearly 100 years. Some amusements historians believe the machines existed as early as the 1890s, mechanical dioramas that were built to entice people fascinated by the machinery used in constructing the Panama Canal.
But the first mass-produced unit didn’t arrive until 1926. That’s when the Erie Digger began inhaling the spare change of players.
“It’s a very complex little machine,” says Roller, who worked in carnivals from 1960 to 1977 and now restores antique diggers for collectors. “It took skill that had to be taught and demonstrated”…
Stroll down the midway at “Dime After Dime: A Gripping History of Claw Machines.”
* Victor Hugo
As we hold out for the toy dinosaur, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956, at the Heidelberg Race Track in Pittsbugh, Pennsylvania, that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ended its season early, when President John Ringling North announced that it would no longer exhibit under its own portable tents, but (starting in 1957) would exhibit in permanent venues, sports stadiums and arenas that had the seating already in place.