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Posts Tagged ‘humor

“The difference between the poet and the mathematician is that the poet tries to get his head into the heavens while the mathematician tries to get the heavens into his head”*…

 

74. People once believed that the number of grains of sand is limitless. However, Archimedes argued in The Sand Reckoner that the number of grains of sand is not infinite. He gave a method for calculating the highest number of grains of sand that can fit into the universe– approximately 1063

100 other titillating tidbits at “101 Mathematical Trivia.”

* G.K. Chesterton

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As we count our blessings, we might spare a thought for Sir Christopher Wren; he died on this date in 1723.  A mathematician and astronomer, he became one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history when he was was accorded responsibility for rebuilding 52 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including what is regarded as his masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill.

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Written by LW

February 25, 2017 at 1:01 am

“A lot of it just has to do with luck, serendipity”*…

 

The Found Footage Festival is a one-of-a-kind event that showcases footage from videos that were found at garage sales and thrift stores and in warehouses and dumpsters across the country.

Curators Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher take audiences on a guided tour of their latest and greatest VHS finds, providing live commentary and where-are-they-now updates on the people in these videotaped obscurities. From the curiously-produced industrial training video to the forsaken home movie donated to Goodwill, the Found Footage Festival resurrects these forgotten treasures and serves them up in a lively celebration of all things found…

 

Explore the wonders at the Found Footage Festival.

[TotH to my friends at the always-illuminating Recommendo]

* Emmanuel Ax

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As we watch, wide-eyed, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that David O. Selznick accepted a job offer from his father-in-law, Lewis B. Mayer, and joined MGM as a Vice-President of Production.

Selznick has worked worked briefly at MGM earlier in his career, but had gotten momentum working at RKO (where he oversaw such hits as A Bill of Divorcement and King Kong).  At MGM, he created a second “prestige production” unit, parallel to that of the powerful Irving Thalberg (Fitzgerald’s model for The Last Tycoon), who was in poor health.  Selznick’s unit prodcued Dinner at Eight (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Anna Karenina (1935), and A Tale of Two Cities (1935).

In 1936, Selznick left to create his own production company.  His successes continued with classics such as The Garden of Allah (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), A Star Is Born (1937), Nothing Sacred (1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), The Young in Heart (1938), Made for Each Other (1939), Intermezzo (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939), which remains the highest-grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation). Gone with the Wind won eight Oscars and two special awards– and Selznick won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award that same year.  In 1940 he produced his second Best Picture Oscar winner in a row, Rebecca, the first Hollywood production for British director Alfred Hitchcock.

While the rest of his career contained a number of successes (Spellbound, Since You Went Away, Duel in the Sun), it never again reached the heights he attained in 1939-40.

Selznick was himself an inspiration for an Academy Award-winning film: the “Jonathan Shields” character in The Bad and the Beautiful is partially based on him.

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Written by LW

February 16, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Communism is like one big phone company”*…

 

The Beatles were big enough that even the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had to deal with it, somehow. In 1976 Soviet-controlled TV—the only available televised media in the entire country—played a peculiar Russian version of Paul McCartney’s deathless song “Let It Be” as an oddly baroque and defiantly un-glitzy bit of variety TV. Odd to say about television in the worker’s paradise, but the trappings of the proceedings seem to me somewhat … bourgeois?…

The totalitarian tale in toto: “Bizarre video of the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ from Soviet TV of the 1970s.”

* Lenny Bruce

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As we wonder if imitation is, in fact, the sincerest form of flattery, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that the Beatles, fresh back from Hamburg, played their first date at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The band swiftly became a regular fixture at the Cavern, attracting a loyal audience to over 290 performances until their final appearance on August 3, 1963. For this first show, lasting from 1-2pm, they earned a £5 fee to share among them.

The Beatles (with Pete Best on drums) at the Cavern Club

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Written by LW

February 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I think an interview, properly considered, should be an investigation”*…

 

Kurt Vonnegut wrote novels, of course, but also short stories, essays, and — briefly, suitably late in his career — correspondence from the afterlife. He did that last gig in 1998, composing for broadcast on the formidable WNYC, by undergoing a series of what he called “controlled near-death experiences” orchestrated, so he claimed, by “Dr. Jack Kevorkian and the facilities of a Huntsville, Texas execution chamber.” These made possible “more than one hundred visits to Heaven and my returning to life to tell the tale,” or rather, to tell the tales of the more permanently deceased with whom he’d sat down for a chat.

Vonnegut’s roster of afterlife interviewees included personages he personally admired such as Eugene Debs (listen), Isaac Newton (listen), and Clarence Darrow (listen), as well as historical villains like James Earl Ray (listen) and Adolf Hitler (listen). Other of the dead with whom he spoke, while they may not qualify as household names, nevertheless went to the grave with some sort of achievement under their belts: Olestra inventor Fred H. Mattson, for instance, or John Wesley Joyce, owner of the famed Greenwich Village literary watering hole The Lion’s Head. Only the Slaughterhouse-Five author’s courageous and impossible reportage has saved the names of a few, like that of retired construction worker Salvatore Biagini, from total obscurity…

Hear Kurt Vonnegut Visit the Afterlife & Interview Dead Historical Figures: Isaac Newton, Adolf Hitler, Eugene Debs & More (Audio, 1998)

* Errol Morris

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As we take the guided tour down memory lane, we might recall that it was on this date in 1926 that Buster’s Keaton’s masterpiece, The General, was released (in the U.S.; for reasons lost in the wastes of time, it was released 5 weeks earlier in Japan).  Keaton starred in and co-directed the film, which was a based on a true story from the American Civil War (adapted from the memoir The Great Locomotive Chase by William Pittenger).  A financial disappointment at the time, it’s now widely-considered one of the finest motion pictures ever made.

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Written by LW

February 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

“It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to have to paint it”*…

 

xkcd

* Steven Wright (again)

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As we rethink relationships, we might recall that it was on this date in 362 that the Roman Emperor Julian issued an edict to guaranteeing  freedom of religion– proclaiming that all the religions were equal in the Law.  An attempt to buffer the Roman Empire from growing pressure from Christians to become the state religion, his order was an attempt to restore Rome’s original religious eclecticism, according to which the State did not impose any religion on its provinces.  During his life he was known as “Julian the Philosopher”; subsequent Christian historians refer to him as Julian the Apostate.

In 380 CE, Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the Empire’s sole authorized religion. Still, there was schism, as the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Catholic Church each claimed to be the authentic form of Christianity.

Portrait of Emperor Julian on a bronze coin from Antioch minted 360–363

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Written by LW

February 4, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines”*…

 

… they do, however, run more terrestrial risks.  The weasel above (a stone marten) hopped over a substation fence at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and was electrocuted by an 18,000 volt transformer (an incident that knocked out power at the facility).  Lest its notoriety fade, the once-weasel is about to go on display at the Rotterdam Natural History Museum.

The stone marten is the latest dead animal to go on display at the museum. It joins a sparrow that was shot after it sabotaged a world record attempt by knocking over 23,000 dominoes; a hedgehog that got fatally stuck in a McDonalds McFlurry pot, and a catfish that fell victim to a group of men in the Netherlands who developed a tradition for drinking vast amounts of beer and swallowing fish from their aquarium. The catfish turned out to be armored, and on being swallowed raised its spines. The defense did not save the fish, but it put the 28-year-old man who tried to swallow it in intensive care for a week…

The tale is preserved in full at: “Totally stuffed: Cern’s electrocuted weasel to go on display.”

* Steven Wright

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As we hold the pose, we might spare a thought for David Wilkinson; he died on this date in 1852.  A mechanical engineer and machinist, Wilkinson (no known relation to your correspondent) played a key role in the development of machine tools in the U.S. (initially in the textile industry): he invented the metal lathe and process for cutting screws.

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Written by LW

February 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

“As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary”*…

 

Quality Comics was not lightly named, with a roster of creative talent collaborating on some of the most-satisfying adventure stories inhabiting the Golden Age racks. Particularly of value was Quality’s roster of post-war second-stringers. While Blackhawk, Doll Man, Kid Eternity, Uncle Sam and Plastic Man made up the top of the company’s weird roster, later additions like The Barker and Captain Triumph were of equally great standards to their forebears.

Even the short-lived latecomers had a peculiar charm to them, such as The Whistler, a tune-tootling tough guy whose pursed lips could sink ships…

The story of “The Whistler,” from Jonathan Morris and his wonderful site Gone and Forgotten, where one can find left-behind heroes and villains aplenty.  For more on Jonathan and, more generally, on the topic at hand, see (and hear) the “Superpowers” episode of This American Life.  For more still, check out Jonathan’s Tumblr.

* Ernest Hemingway

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As we realize that it’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, we might send watery birthday greetings to Mera, Queen of Atlantis and wife of Aquaman.  While this is her birthday, she made her first appearance in September, 1963, in Aquaman, Volume 1, Number 11:

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Written by LW

January 31, 2017 at 1:01 am

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