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Posts Tagged ‘The Simpsons

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled”*…

 

Froebel

 

In the late 1700s, a young man named Freidrich Froebel was on track to become an architect when a friend convinced him to pursue a path toward education instead. And in changing course, Froebel arguably ended up having more influence on the world of architecture and design than any single architect — all because Friedrich Froebel created kindergarten. If you’ve ever looked at a piece of abstract art or Modernist architecture and thought “my kindergartener could have made that,” well, that may be more true than you realize…

The word Kindergarten cleverly encompassed two different ideas: kids would play in and learn from nature, but they would also themselves be nurtured and nourished “like plants in a garden.” There were literal gardens and outdoor activities, but the real key to it all was a set of deceptively simple-looking toys that became known as Froebelgaben (in English: Froebel’s Gifts)…

Learn about those educational “toys” and their extraordinary legacy, at “Froebel’s Gifts.”

* Plutarch

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As we appreciate play, we might recall that it was on this date in 1987 that The Simpsons made their debut on television in “Good Night,” the first of 48 shorts that aired on The Tracey Ullman Show, before the characters were given their own eponymously-titled show– now the longest-running scripted series in U.S. television history.

250px-Good_Night_Simpsons

A frame from the final sequence of “Good Night”

 

Written by LW

April 19, 2019 at 1:01 am

Why did 5 eat 6?…

 

For over two decades, The Simpsons has been one of the best written and most entertaining programs on television.  Simon Singh believes that he’s discovered the series’ secret sauce:  it’s written by math geeks who unreservedly lard the show with math gags…

The first proper episode of the series in 1989 contained numerous mathematical references (including a joke about calculus), while the infamous “Treehouse of Horror VI” episode presents the most intense five minutes of mathematics ever broadcast to a mass audience. Moreover, The Simpsons has even offered viewers an obscure joke about Fermat’s last theorem, the most notorious equation in the history of mathematics.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg, because the show’s writing team includes several mathematical heavyweights. Al Jean, who worked on the first series and is now executive producer, went to Harvard University to study mathematics at the age of just 16. Others have similarly impressive degrees in maths, a few can even boast PhDs, and Jeff Westbrook resigned from a senior research post at Yale University to write scripts for Homer, Marge and the other residents of Springfield…

More on the numerical nuttiness here.

And readers can test themselves against The Simpsons writing room in this multiple choice test (wherein one will find, among other amusements, the answer to the riddle in the title above).

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As we wonder how cartoon characters count with only four fingers, we might pause to remember Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, OM, FRS; he died in this date in 1944.  An astrophysicist, mathematician, and philosopher of science known for his work on the motion, distribution, evolution and structure of stars, Eddington is probably best remembered for his relationship to Einstein:  he was, via a series of widely-published articles, the primary “explainer” of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity to the English-speaking world; and he was, in 1919, the leader of the experimental team that used observations of a solar eclipse to confirm the theory.

 source

 

Written by LW

November 22, 2013 at 1:01 am

Tube boobs…

 

There’s a near-embarrassment of good television these days; we are, it seems, in a golden age.  But it’s worth remembering that there has been extraordinary writing and production available right along.  Indeed, the series that’s arguably the consistently best-written show on TV has been running since 1989.

We can be grateful to Adrien Noterdaem for witty reminders to this effect– for his series of drawings depicting the chief characters in today’s best productions in the style of the long-running champ:

John Luther & Alice Morgan from “Luther”

Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson from “Elementary”

See many more at Simpsonized.

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As we program our DVRs, we might send calculatedly campy birthday greetings to Paul Reubens; he was born on this date in 1952.  An actor, writer, film producer, game show host, and comedian, he is of course best known for his character Pee-Wee Herman.

The mind plays tricks on you. You play tricks back! It’s like you’re unraveling a big cable-knit sweater that someone keeps knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting…

– Pee-Wee Herman

 source

 

Written by LW

August 27, 2013 at 1:01 am

“The map is not the territory”…

The Treachery of Images,” René Magritte, 1928-9

Alfred Korzybski reminds one (in the title-line quote, above), as does Surrealist wit like Magritte’s, that representations are not the things they represent.

Still, they fascinate us– precisely because of their power to evoke the thing that they aren’t.  And when the things that maps evoke aren’t real things at all?  Even niftier!

Consider, for example, two kinds of maps of fictional territories…

For nine years, from 1943 to 1952, Dell published 557 mystery novels with “map backs.”  Some charted fictional action on “real” terrain, for instance…

But most located the imagined plot in an imaginary setting, for example…

and…

In a different imaginary arena (not to say “a parallel universe”), the world of comics, comic books, and graphic novels, maps also play an important role…

Sometimes they are used to elaborate on a conceit in a way that adds narrative credibility through detail, e.g…

Nick Fury’s Tunnel, Strange Tales #141

…and sometimes, simply for dramatic effect, e.g…

Superman throws out the first pitch

Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: A hypperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is never the less the map that proceeds the territory – pressesion of simulacra- that engenders the territory.
– Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra & Simulation, 1994

Or, as someone who isn’t a French Post-Structuralist might say, way cool!

Readers can find more Bantam map-backs at Marble River’s Ephemera (from whence, the examples above) and at Mystery Scene.  Readers can get more graphic guidance at Comic Book Cartography (the source of those examples).  Grateful TotH to reader MH-H for the lead to CBC.

As we endeavor (but not too hard) to avoid the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, we might recall that it was on this date in 1987 (44 years to the day after “Bicycle Day,” the day that  Dr. Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, deliberately took the hallucinogen for the first time) that The Simpsons debuted, as a short within The Tracey Ullman Show.

The Simpsons, as they first appeared

D’oh!…

Now in it’s 21st season, The Simpsons has consistently been one of the best-written shows on television.  Among it’s many gleaming facets, as readers will know, is the opening sequence– in which, to the accompaniment of Danny Elfman’s theme, three elements change from episode to episode:  the things that Bart writes on the school chalkboard, the solos that Lisa plays on her saxophone, and the sight gags by which the family enter their living room to end up on the couch.

Now the archival site Bart’s Blackboard allows readers to wander at will back through young master Simpson’s scrawls.

“Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the reference is obvious, sometimes it’s not. After 20 years, the writers of The Simpsons can still surprise and delight viewers with Bart’s punishment, and this site’s purpose is to capture them all for posterity.”

As we blow away the chalk dust, we might celebrate a different but resonant brand of resourcefulness:  the paper boat.  In the mid-Nineteenth Century, a flourishing business grew near Troy, NY, manufacturing boats with hulls of paper.  Founded and run by the appropriately-named Elisha Waters, Waters & Sons (later Waters & Balch) was credited as the “largest boat manufacturer in America” by the New York Daily Graphic.  The firm made a variety of boats, but was best known for their lighter craft– in particular, their canoe and their racing shell, the hulls of which were fashioned from manila paper (which was in those days actually made from manila hemp, often in the form of recycled sails and ropes)– and the patent for the manufacturing process of which was granted on this date in 1843.

source: A Short History of Paper Boats– and More

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