(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘image

“The method preferred by most balding men for making themselves look silly is called the comb over”*…

Balding has been the constant scourge of man since the beginning of time, and for millennia, our best solution was the comb-over. Brian VanHooker tells the story of how its once-ubiquitous popularity thinned, receded, and then got pushed to the side…

For decades now, having a comb-over to cover one’s baldness has been generally seen as unacceptable. There may be exceptions, but men with prominent, noticeable comb-overs are often regarded as desperate — instead of aging gracefully, they’re seen as hopelessly clinging to a time when they had a full head of hair. Worst of all, for people with advanced hair loss, the comb-over is entirely ineffective. Instead of disguising a man’s baldness, it only accentuates it, thus laying bare their lack of hair and, even worse, their insecurity.

This wasn’t always the case. For at least a couple thousand years, comb-overs were perfectly acceptable and worn by the most powerful men in the world. It was only during the latter half of the 20th century that it all came crashing (flopping?) down…

From Julius Caesar to Donald Trump, a tonsorial trip through time: “The Rise, Flop, and Fall of the Comb-Over,” from @TrivialHistory in @WeAreMel.

* Dave Barry


As we resist the urge, we might send scandalous birthday greetings to Giacomo Casanova; he was born on this date in 1725. A Venetian adventurer and author, he is best remembered– as a product both of his memoir and of other contemporary accounts– as a libertine, a womanizer who carried on complicated and elaborate affairs with numerous women.

At the same time, he associated with European royalty, popes, and cardinals, along with intellectual and artistic figures like Voltaire, Goethe, and Mozart. His memoir (written toward the end of his life, while he served as librarian to Count Waldstein) is regarded as one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century.

Casanova preferred a wig to a comb-over.

Potrait by Casanova’s brother Francesco


“We often plough so much energy into the big picture, we forget the pixels”*…

Alvy Ray Smith (see also here) was born before computers, made his first computer graphic in 1964, cofounded Pixar, was the first director of computer graphics at Lucasfilm, and the first graphics fellow at Microsoft. He is the author of the terrific new book A Biography of the Pixel (2021), from which, this excerpt…

I have billions of pixels in my cellphone, and you probably do too. But what is a pixel? Why do so many people think that pixels are little abutting squares? Now that we’re aswim in an ocean of zettapixels (21 zeros), it’s time to understand what they are. The underlying idea – a repackaging of infinity – is subtle and beautiful. Far from being squares or dots that ‘sort of’ approximate a smooth visual scene, pixels are the profound and exact concept at the heart of all the images that surround us – the elementary particles of modern pictures.

This brief history of the pixel begins with Joseph Fourier in the French Revolution and ends in the year 2000 – the recent millennium. I strip away the usual mathematical baggage that hides the pixel from ordinary view, and then present a way of looking at what it has wrought.

The millennium is a suitable endpoint because it marked what’s called the great digital convergence, an immense but uncelebrated event, when all the old analogue media types coalesced into the one digital medium. The era of digital light – all pictures, for whatever purposes, made of pixels – thus quietly began. It’s a vast field: books, movies, television, electronic games, cellphones displays, app interfaces, virtual reality, weather satellite images, Mars rover pictures – to mention a few categories – even parking meters and dashboards. Nearly all pictures in the world today are digital light, including nearly all the printed words. In fact, because of the digital explosion, this includes nearly all the pictures ever made. Art museums and kindergartens are among the few remaining analogue bastions, where pictures fashioned from old media can reliably be found…

An exact mathematical concept, pixels are the elementary particles of pictures, based on a subtle unpacking of infinity: “Pixel: a biography,” from @alvyray.

Dame Silvia Cartwright


As we ruminate on resolution, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that fabled computer scientist Grace Hopper (see here and here), then a programmer at Harvard’s Harvard’s Mark II Aiken Relay computer, found and documented the first computer “bug”– an insect that had lodged in the works.  The incident is recorded in Hopper’s logbook alongside the offending moth, taped to the logbook page: “15:45 Relay #70 Panel F (moth) in relay. First actual case of bug being found.”

This anecdote has led to Hopper being pretty widely credited with coining the term “bug” (and ultimately “de-bug”) in its technological usage… but the term actually dates back at least to Thomas Edison…

Grace Hopper’s log entry (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 9, 2021 at 1:00 am

“Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly possess”*…


Argument over a Card Game by Jan Steen

Before people had an image, they had their honour. For much of history, little was more valuable than individual honour. ‘Better to die 10,000 deaths than wound my honour,’ as a character in Joseph Addison’s Cato, A Tragedy (1712) put it. In his bestselling Of Domesticall Duties (1622), William Gouge declared: “a good name is a most pretious thing.”

Despite the persistence of the word and a loosely related idea, the concept of honour, as earlier eras understood it, is so foreign to moderns that it can be hard to grasp. A stereotyped account holds that in early modern England a man’s honour was associated with a willingness to use violence to defend his name, while for women honour was about the maintenance of a proper sexual reputation.

But this is a very thin and misleading idea of honour in early modern England. Personal letters and diaries of elites indeed reveal a preoccupation with honour, a sense of its almost inestimable value. They also reveal that honour wasn’t just about violence among elite men or sexual propriety among elite women. Honour concerned one’s whole person. Likewise, it was less a static, overarching code of behaviour than a loosely defined concept with an array of meanings that could be variously privileged, one over another, with fluidity depending upon the needs and objectives of an individual in a given situation…

On the complicated business of living an honorable life: “The early moderns had their work cut out curating their honour.”

See also: “Ye of ‘Bad Faith’.”

* Socrates


As we wax nostalgic for a time when honor mattered most, we might send conflicted birthday greetings to a man whose life illustrated the early modern to modern transition from honor to image; Fritz Haber was born on this date in 1868.  The recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his invention of the Haber–Bosch process, a method used in industry to synthesize ammonia from nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas– thus enabling the production of more, more affordable, and more effective fertilizers, which in turn allowed millions to avoid starvation– Haber is equally well known as the Father of Chemical Warfare for his pioneering work developing and weaponizing chlorine and other poisonous gases during World War I, especially his actions during the Second Battle of Ypres.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

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