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“Memory is more indelible than ink”*…

Solomon V. Shereshevsky 1896-1958. This photo is a frame grab from a 2007 documentary film produced for Russian television, Zagadky pamyati (source)

At least for some of us it is– for instance, Solomon Shereshevsky, a Soviet journalist and mnemonist, widely-regarded as the “man with the greatest memory ever” (and the subject of neuropsychologist Alexander Luria‘s 1968 case study The Mind of a Mnemonist). From Wikipedia…

He met Luria after an anecdotal event in which he was scolded for not taking any notes while attending a work meeting in the mid-1920s. To the astonishment of everyone there (and to his own astonishment in realizing that others could apparently not do so), he could recall the speech word for word. Throughout his life, Shereshevsky was tasked with memorizing complex mathematical formulas, huge matrices, and even poems in foreign languages that he had never spoken before, all of which he would memorize with meticulous accuracy in a matter of minutes.

On the basis of his studies, Luria diagnosed in Shereshevsky an extremely strong version of synaesthesia, fivefold synaesthesia, in which the stimulation of one of his senses produced a reaction in every other. For example, if Shereshevsky heard a musical tone played he would immediately see a colour, touch would trigger a taste sensation, and so on for each of the senses…

His memory was so powerful that he could still recall decades-old events and experiences in perfect minute detail. After he discovered his own abilities, he performed as a mnemonist; but this created confusion in his mind. He went as far as writing things down on paper and burning it, so that he could see the words in cinders, in a desperate attempt to forget them. Some later mnemonists have speculated that this could have been a mentalist’s technique for writing things down to later commit to long-term memory…

Unforgettable: “Solomon Shereshevsky,” from @Wikipedia.

* Anita Loos


As we muse on memory, we might recall that it was on this date in 1900 that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published. Written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by  W. W. Denslow, it was an immediate hit, spawning a flow of further editions (soon known simply as The Wizard of Oz), stage adaptations, and of course the classic 1939 live-action film. It had sold three million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956.


“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”*…


Between 1900 and 1920, L. Frank Baum published 14 Oz books.  Astoundingly popular, the books spawned many theatrical adaptations (well before the classic 1939 movie we all know), as well as saga-themed objects like dolls, figurines– all aimed at an enormous fan base, the early century equivalent of Trekkies or Lord of the Rings freaks.  Among the theme merchandise, the 1921 Parker Bros. game pictured above.

The story’s popularity was such that this wasn’t even the first Parker Bros. Oz game. That was the Wogglebug Game of Conundrums, a card game published in 1905 and based on a character from Baum’s second Oz book, the sequel to Wizard. (You can see Wogglebug in the bottom right-hand quadrant of this gameboard.)

Many of the characters and places scattered around the 1921 board will be unfamiliar to people who know the Oz story from the 1939 movie or the original book (by far the most famous of the series). The presence of Woot and Ugu shows how familiar the whole Oz series would have been to the game’s audience…

More (and larger photos) at “The First Wizard of Oz–Themed Board Game, Sold to 1920s Superfans.”

Special Bonus:  Freud, Nietzsche, Carnap, and Marx: who would win at Monopoly?

* Dorothy


As we follow the yellow brick road, we might send mischievous birthday greetings to Beverly Cleary; she was born on this date in 1916.  One of America’s most successful writers of children’s literature, she has sold 91 million copies of her books– including Henry Huggins, and the Ramona series– worldwide.

Cleary won the 1981 National Book Award and the 1984 Newbery Medal; for her lifetime contributions to American literature, she has received the National Medal of Arts, recognition as a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the American Library Association.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 12, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Cinema is truth at 24 frames per second”*…


Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown”

9 Film Frames aims to distill that truth even further:  “an attempt to showcase a film by using only 9 of it’s frames.”

Carol Reed’s “The Third Man”

Luis Buñuel’s “Belle de Jour”

Many more reminders of why we want to see all of the movies at 9 Film Frames.

* Jean-Luc Godard


As we head for the nearest rep house, we might send fantastic birthday greetings to L. Frank Baum, born on this date in 1856. After trying his hand at acting and marketing (he was a pioneer in the then-fledgling field of “store displays,” founded the trade magazine The Show Window, and helped start the longest continuously-running trade association in marketing, what’s now known as The Society of Visual Merchandising), he found his true calling, creating Dorothy, Toto, the Wizard, and the “Wonderful World” he ruled.  In the end, Baum wrote wrote fourteen Oz novels, and a host of other works: 55 novels in total, plus four “lost” novels, 83 short stories, over 200 poems, and an unknown number of scripts (pursuant to numerous attempts to bring his works to the stage and screen).  Something of a futurist, his works anticipated such century-later commonplaces as television, augmented reality, laptop computers (The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high risk, action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), and– in a return to his roots– the ubiquity of advertising on clothing (Aunt Jane’s Nieces at Work).



Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

Crèche or credit card?…

Readers may recall that L. Frank Baum was famous before he wrote The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz— he was a celebrity in the then-emerging world of consumer marketing, one of the first great window dressers.

Baum’s art flourished as retailing grew, finding its apotheosis on the Christmas displays that graced department stores around America.  Now, thanks to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, readers can take a stroll past the Holiday windows and Christmas store displays of yore…

Giant Christmas candle carousels, Marshall Field & Company, main aisle, Chicago, about 1956

Take the (online version of the) trip at “Holidays on Display” (and see William Bird’s book of the same title).

As we channel Ralphie’s Red Ryder lust, we might  raise a cup of testimony tea to Emily Dickinson, who was better known during her life as a gardener and botanist than as a poet; only 7 of her 1775 poems were published in her lifetime– which began on this date in 1830.

The Maid of Amherst

Illustrative examples…

From the end of the 19th Century through the middle of the last, the center rings of commercial art were window dressing (L. Frank Baum was a retail celebrity well before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) and magazine cover and advertising art… as readers can see at Magazine Art— a wonderful online gallery of “magazine cover and advertising art from the Golden Age of American Illustration.”

As we wax nostalgic, we might pull out our manual typewriters to tap out a birthday greeting to “The Sage of Baltimore,” Henry Louis (H.L.) Mencken, born on this date in 1880…  The author of The American Language (and many, many other things) is credited with having coined the term “ecdysiast,” in response to a request from a practitioner who requested a “more dignified” way to refer to her profession.

Often called “the American Nietzsche” (by virtue of his scholarship on the German philosopher), Mencken might better have been considered “the American Wilde”; consider:

Democracy is the theory that holds that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

Nature abhors a moron.

Puritanism – The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.

H. L. Mencken

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 12, 2009 at 12:01 am

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