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Posts Tagged ‘neon

“Food is culture, habit, craving, and identity”*…

 

Brian Fagan is an archaeologist, a profession that we associate with dust and soil and stone, but here he attempts to capture the history of fishing in ancient civilization. It is not just fish that elude the historian: fisherfolk have always lived on the margins — of land and in recorded history (and still do). ‘To a scholar,’ writes Fagan, ‘the illiterate fishing people of the past are elusive, and their trade is a challenging puzzle of clues.’ So assembling a history of fishing means, well, fishing among archaeology, anthropology, history, marine biology and oceanography and paleoclimatology — ‘to mention only a few’.

Fagan has to fish deeply sometimes and into unexpected places. He investigates the ears of several-thousand-year-old men buried in what is now Israel, which show damage consistent with diving in cold, deep water. He uncovers the giant middens of mollusc shells that appear all over the planet, because though molluscs yield a tiny amount of protein — they are ‘small meat packages sealed in heavy inedible shells’ — they are easy to catch. ‘To knock a limpet from a rock,’ wrote Darwin, ‘does not require even cunning, that lowest power of the mind.’ Darwin was wrong: the ability to subsist on shellfish allowed humans to live through the lean seasons. It enabled survival.

Fishing, writes Fagan, “has created the modern world”…

The ways in which fishing– more than agriculture and husbandry– were central to the rise of civilization, from social organization to technology: “Holy mackerel! Civilization begins with fishing.”

* Jonathan Safran Foer

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As we spread our nets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1910 that French chemist, engineer, and inventor Georges Claude switched on the first public display of neon lights– two large (39 foot long), bright red neon tubes– at the Paris Motor Show.  Over the next decade, Claude lit much of Paris.  Neon came to America in 1923 when Earl Anthony purchased signage from Claude, then transported it to Los Angeles, where Anthony installed it at his Packard dealership… and (literally) stopped traffic.

Claude in his lab, 1913

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Written by LW

December 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

“To face the sunlight again, that’s clearly trouble. I like the city better when the neon lights are going”*…

 

Like scenes from a modern noir film, Frank Bohbot’s images of New York City conjure up allure and heartbreak. The Paris-born photographer spent 18 months capturing nighttime scenes across Manhattan and Brooklyn, and has compiled them into a project dubbed Light On.

Bohbot’s work is first and foremost a study in signage, and features many instantly-recognizable storefronts including Katz’s Deli and the Sunshine Cinema, but pay attention to each frame’s shadows and open space. Light On isn’t just focused with dazzling neon—it’s also a study of snowstorms, puddles, fire escapes, and, occasionally, people. It’s as if you gave William Eggleston an unlimited Metrocard and forced him to stay up all night.

There are jazz clubs, delis, porn shops, theaters, and a wide variety of bars featured in his photographs, each captured after the sun has gone down and only moody, unnatural light remains…

More at “Photos Bring NYC’s Neon Nights To Life,” and at Bohbot’s website.

* Charles Bukowski, Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame

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As we refuse to go gentle into that good night, we might recall that it was on this date in 1891 that Carnegie Hall was officially opened.  First know simply as “Music Hall,” it was formally named for it’s funder, Andrew Carnegie, in 1893.

Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

A: Practice, practice practice…

Carnegie Hall in 1895

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Carnegie Hall today

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Written by LW

May 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

“A city that was to forge out of steel and blood-red neon its own peculiar wilderness”*…

 

A woman and her work

 

Las Vegas– and the world– lost two icons of neon sign design on April 19th: Betty Willis, seen above with the iconic “Welcome” sign that she designed, and Brian “Buzz” Leming, creator of many of the Strip’s most memorable marquees, passed away within hours of each other.

Leming’s “Hacienda Horse and Rider”

 

Willis and Leming both worked at the Western Sign Company, where they struck up a friendship.  Many of their creations are preserved in the Neon Museum’s outdoor “Boneyard,” where it stores its relics.

The Neon Museum’s Boneyard

 

More at “Two Designers of Las Vegas’s Iconic Neon Signs Died on the Same Day.”

* Nelson Algren (writing about Chicago, though it’s surely apropos of Las Vegas as well)

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As we switch on the lights, we might send forbearing birthday wishes to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; he was born on this date in 121.  The last of the Five Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers; his Meditations, written on campaign before he became emperor, is still a central text on the philosophy of service and duty.

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Written by LW

April 26, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Her hat is a creation that will never go out of style; it will just look ridiculous year after year”*…

 

An opportunity to get in at the very beginning of a fashion trend…

“Le Grand” is a new hat concept: a hybrid between the baseball cap and the top hat! Help us bring a new fashion icon into reality!

Le Grand

* Fred Allen

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As we cover our crowns, we might recall that it was on this date in 1910 that French chemist, engineer, and inventor Georges Claude switched on the first public display of neon lights– two large (39 foot long), bright red neon tubes– at the Paris Motor Show.  Over the next decade, Claude lit much of Paris.  Neon came to America in 1923 when Earl Anthony purchased signage from Claude, then transported it to Los Angeles, where Anthony installed it at his Packard dealership…  and (literally) stopped traffic.

Claude in his lab, 1913

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Written by LW

December 3, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Every moment of light and dark is a miracle”*…

 

Long before the lights from Pittsburgh’s PNC Park began illuminating the North Shore every summer, a local corporation gave the city an art show every night on the same grounds.

The Westinghouse Electric Supply Company (a subsidiary of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, or Wesco), based in Pittsburgh, moved into a warehouse facing the Allegheny River in 1948. On its roof, a giant orange and blue sign spelled out the the company’s tag line, “You can be sure … if it’s Westinghouse.”

As modernist design trickled down from the Bauhaus to Madison Avenue, most noticeably in the 1960s, corporate giants like Westinghouse began leaning towards minimalist visual identities. In 1960, Paul Rand gave the company a logo that looked like an electrical socket that also spelled out the letter W.

Six years later, Richard Huppertz, head of Westinghouse’s Corporate Design Center, wanted to emphasize the company’s sleek new identity with text-free signage on top of their North Shore warehouse. Huppertz ran the idea by Rand, who then came up with the country’s first computer-controlled sign…

Read the rest of this illuminating story at “Remembering Pittsburgh’s Most Mesmerizing Sign.”

* Walt Whitman

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As we celebrate bright ideas, we might turn to the noir side and send hard-boiled birthday greetings to Raymond Chandler, novelist (The Big SleepFarewell, My Lovely, et al.) and screenwriter (Double Indemnity, with Billy Wilder, e.g.), whose Philip Marlowe was (with Hammett’s Sam Spade) synonymous with “private detective,” whose style (with Hammett’s) defined a genre, and who was (unlike Hammett) born on this date in 1888.

Love interest nearly always weakens a mystery because it introduces a type of suspense that is antagonistic to the detective’s struggle to solve the problem. It stacks the cards, and in nine cases out of ten, it eliminates at least two useful suspects. The only effective love interest is that which creates a personal hazard for the detective – but which, at the same time, you instinctively feel to be a mere episode. A really good detective never gets married.

– Raymond Chandler, “Casual Notes on the Mystery Novel” (essay, 1949)

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Written by LW

July 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Do not go gently into that good night”*…

 

In the 1950s Vancouver was said to be second only to Shanghai in the number of neon signs per capita in the city. Neon Products Ltd, a company established in Vancouver in 1928, and the largest manufacturer of neon signs in Western Canada, estimated that in 1953 there were 19,000 neon signs in Vancouver, one for every 18 residents.

In many ways the grey cityscape and frequently wet sidewalks of Vancouver provided a perfect backdrop for neon– a mid-century ambience wonderfully captured by black-and-white photography.

The Vancouver Public Library has collected a wonderful Flicker set of nighttime photos of mid-century Vancouver, from whence the examples here.  I found them via the invaluable Rebecca Onion, who notes that the set captured the city’s neon at it apex…

In his history of neon, Christoph Ribbat writes that by the 1950s and 1960s, the style was on its way out, “replaced by backlit plastic structures that were becoming considerably easier to use, more flexible and more durable” than the breakable glass tubes of classic neon signage.

In Vancouver, as the curators of the Museum of Vancouver write, many neon signs fell victim to a “visual purity crusade” in the 1960s. Critics thought that the neon cheapened the look of the streets, and obscured Vancouver’s natural beauty. (“We’re being led by the nose into a hideous jungle of signs,” wrote a critic in the Vancouver Sun—a newspaper whose headquarters was prominently bedecked in neon—in 1966. “They’re outsized, outlandish, and outrageous.”)

See Vancouver in its neo-lit heyday.

* Dylan Thomas

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As we bask in the glow, we might recall that it was on this date in 1931 that the Floridian Products Corporation made its first sale of canned rattlesnake.  The company’s founder and chief “wrangler” was George Kenneth End; a Columbia journalism graduate unable to find a job, he and his family moved to Arcadia, Florida (near Tampa) to make a living at farming.  But as End put it, “the rattlesnakes were more prolific than the crops I planted.”  First he tanned them; then he tasted them.  Surprised to find them palatable, he wrote to the The Tampa Tribune about the delicacy– and received a stream of requests.

End made a business of supplying adventurous restaurateurs and gourmets until 1944, when he died of a rattlesnake bite.

George End’s snake pit

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Written by LW

May 22, 2014 at 1:01 am

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