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“Natural history is not about producing fables”*…

 

Or, then again, maybe it can be…

Lori Nix has created  a series of photos that show the mayhem behind the scenes at an imaginary natural history museum.  Many of the scenes reveal back-room deceit, like the a T. rex skeleton built from a do-it-yourself kit (above), the half-made papier-mâché mastodon (below), and a family of beavers emerging from a crate marked “Product of Mexico.”  There is plenty of dark humor, like a bucket of fried chicken left in an avian storage room, and a pack of tigers and lions prowling around the remains of an unlucky custodian.  Ms. Nix, who assembled the foam-and-cardboard scenes in the living room of her Brooklyn apartment, was inspired by visits to the American Museum of Natural History.  “I come from the Midwest, the land of hunting and fishing, where there is a culture of stuffing your prize game,” she said. As for her favorite exhibits, like the bison and the Alaskan brown bear: “I hope they never update them.”

Read more, and learn where to see her work here.  And then visit the extraordinary Museum of Jurassic Technology… or if L.A. isn’t handy, read Lawrence Weschler’s extraordinary Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder.)

* David Attenborough

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As we look for our own inspiration, we might recall that it was on this date in 1869 that the American Museum of Natural history was incorporated.  Its founding had been urged in a letter, dated December 30, 1868, and sent to Andrew H. Green, Comptroller of Central Park, New York, signed by 19 persons, including Theodore Roosevelt, A.G. Phelps Dodge, and J. Pierpont Morgan.  They wrote: “A number of gentlemen having long desired that a great Museum of Natural History should be established in Central Park, and having now the opportunity of securing a rare and very valuable collection as a nucleus of such Museum, the undersigned wish to enquire if you are disposed to provide for its reception and development.”  Their suggestion was accepted by Park officials; the collections were purchased– and thus the great museum began.  It opened April 27, 1871.

 source

The Land of 10,000 Logos…

Designer Nicole Meyer has set herself a heroic– that’s to say, Herculean– task:

Lake logos have a tendency to be, well, fairly ugly. This project was created to rethink what they could be.

One Minnesota Lake. One Logo. Every day.

Should only take a little over 27 years to hit ’em all.

Check in on her progress-to-date at Branding 10,000 Lakes.

 

As we chose our vacation spots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that avid outdoorsman and staunch conservationist President Theodore Roosevelt designated the Grand Canyon a National Monument.  Land and mining claim holders blocked efforts to reclassify the Canyon as a U.S. National Park for 11 more years.  But Grand Canyon National Park was finally established as the 17th U.S. National Park by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson in early 1919.

TR on Jacob’s Ladder, Bright Angel Trail (source)

 

Written by LW

January 11, 2012 at 1:01 am

Putting magic in the Magic Lantern…

In 1896, a young reporter for the New York Evening World was sent to interview Thomas Edison.  Ever on the make, Edison was concerned to impress the young man, Stuart Blackton, who before turning to journalism, had performed as “The Komical Kartoonist” in vaudeville shows, drawing “lightning sketches.”  Blackton accompanied Edison to his cabin studio, “Black Maria,” for a demonstration of Edison’s new motion picture technology.  Edison used the occasion to make a quick film of Blackton sketching.

The inventor did such a good job selling the new technology that he talked Blackton and a partner into buying a print of the new film, along with nine others, plus a Vitascope to show them to paying audiences.  The new act was a smash, so Blackton started making films of his own own– and the American Vitagraph Company (see also here) was born.

As Vitagraph did well, Blackton began to feel adventurous. And thank goodness he did: in the next few years, Blackton developed and instantiated the basic concepts of animation.

“The Enchanted Drawing” (copyrighted in 1900, but probably made at least a year earlier) depicts Blackton doing his lightning artist act, sketching a face, cigars, and a bottle of wine. He appears to remove the drawings as real objects, and the face appears to react.  The animation here is stop-action (the camera is stopped, a single change is made, and the camera is then started again),  first used by Méliès (who had a different kind of run-in with Edison) and others.

“Humorous Phases of Funny Faces,” completed in 1906, was the first “true” animated film– in that an appreciable part of the action was accomplished with single exposures of drawings, simulating motion (though the film also employed live action, stop motion, and stick puppetry).

Having paved the way for Looney Toons, Merrie Melodies, and the rest of the cartoon cavalcade, Blackton and his partner sold Vitagraph to Warner Bros. in 1925.  (See here for a reminder of Vitagraph’s historical importance to live action films as well.)

(Thanks, Brain Pickings, for the prod.)

As we revel in fond memories of Saturday mornings past, we might recall, in anticipation of this weekend’s Final Four action, that it was on this date in 1906, as Blackton released “Faces,” that the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (subsequently known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA) was established.  When then-president Theodore Roosevelt’s own son, Ted, broke his nose playing football at Harvard, Roosevelt became aware of the growing number of serious injuries and deaths occurring in collegiate football (18 deaths in 05 alone).  He brought the presidents of five major institutions, Army (West Point), Navy (Annapolis), Harvard, Princeton, and Yale to several meetings at the White House in October, 1905 to discuss steps to make college athletics safer; the IAA was the result.

source

À la recherche du temps perdu…

From the proprietor of Forgotten Bookmarks— and of a rare and used book store for which he purchases many second-hand books:

These are the personal, funny, heartbreaking and weird things I find in those books.

Share his discoveries here.

As we slip between the sheets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that Congress authorized “In God We Trust” as the U.S. national motto.

The phrase had appeared occasionally (as had variations on the theme) on coinage since Civil War times; regularly– despite Theodore Roosevelt’s conviction that it was sacrilegious– from 1908.   But it didn’t appear on bills until 1957…

source: Louisville Courier-Journal

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Written by LW

July 30, 2009 at 12:01 am

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