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Culture History Tech

2020: Living in the hyper-extended present

2020 feels like living in the hyper-extended present. The year never ends, yet it continually validates the future.

Immersed in the warp speed of home deliveries, zoom meetings, and cryptocurrencies, 2020 expedites technology and cultures.

The virus flattens the world, sucking the rich of hidden powers. The freest fail the quickest, bending toward succeeding last.

Arrogance and denial compel even the brightest to commit an epic historical miscalculation. A proud ignorance fails to conquer the world once again.

All one has to do tap into the inner censor and zoom out, acknowledging that the present doesn’t last forever.

Categories
History Poetry Politics & Society

Back to black

The cement of society amounts to a thin place that refuses to be exploited and homogenized.

The world is flat once again, as nation-states, cities, and towns have gone back to their most nativistic urges.

Globalization was never ruthless enough, spread unevenly amid the digital divide, and invariably vulnerable to the power-hungry few.

The market shifts back to impulse over cooperation, as people gravitate inwards and head onwards into deeper provincialism.

The only penetrating force — Amazon Prime — brings the people to their doorsteps.

Once dormant, the balance of power re-emerges to run the show.

God, the great fashioner designer in the sky, weeps below at the unintelligent design.

Algorithms and artificial intelligence — human products — jam the world of competence and comprehension.

The past is as present as the future, with those ignorant of history daring to repeat it.

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Books History

The word salt ‘was the origin of the world salary’ 💰

salt

“The first of the great Roman roads, the Via Salaria, Salt Road, was built to bring this salt not only to Rome but across the interior of the peninsula. This worked well in the Roman part of the Italian peninsula. But as Rome expanded, transporting salt longer distances by road became too costly. Not only did Rome want salt to be affordable for the people, but, more importantly as the Romans became ambitious empire builders, they needed it to be available for the army. The Roman army required salt for its soldiers and for its horses and livestock. At times soldiers were even paid in salt, which was the origin of the word salary and the expression “worth his salt” or “earning his salt.” In fact, the Latin word sal became the French word solde, meaning pay, which is the origin of the word, soldier.”

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

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History Tech

Typewriter for music

The Keaton Music typewriter was a typewriter specifically for music. Designed by Robert Keaton in San Francisco, California in 1933, it contained two keyboards, one moveable the other stationary, and 14 keys that plotted musical symbols onto blank paper into the carriage underneath. #history #tech #typewriter #typewriterseries #antiques

The Keaton Music typewriter was a typewriter specifically for music. Designed by Robert Keaton in San Francisco, California in 1933, it contained two keyboards, one moveable the other stationary, and 14 keys that plotted musical symbols onto blank paper into the carriage underneath. 

The second iteration of the keyboard debuted in 1955 and sold for $225 or $2,000 in today’s value, roughly the amount it costs for a brand new Macbook Pro. Now an antique, there are no more than 24 Keaton Music typewriters left in the world. 

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Culture History

The origin of “OK”

O.K. or “Oll Korrect” was originally a corny joke amongst Boston intellectuals in 1830s Boston who would intentionally misspell abbreviations.

The Boston Post printed in what is the first known print of the word OK in 1839. Martin Van Buren even adopted the idiom during his 1840 reelection campaign as a nickname. His supporters called him “Old Kinderhook” after the New York town where he was born.

Van Buren lost the election, but OK took off, emerging from slang into practical use thanks to the invention of the telegraph in 1844. It was easier to tap out the word “OK” versus anything else for operators on the railroad to confirm receipt.

Part of the reason OK continued to supplant itself into vernacular in the 20th century was the way in which marketers used the letter “K.” Very few words started with the letter K, so brand strategists modified the C in words like Kraft, Kleenex, Krispy Kreme, and Koolaid to sell products.

Today, OK is universal. Used as an adjective, noun, verb, and adverb, it is most commonly understood as “the ultimate neutral affirmative.” As Alan Metcalf writes in OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, OK does the “affirming without evaluating.” People use the word to convey the acceptance of information and not necessarily its confirmation.

So the word OK started off as awkwardly as it persisted. Yet, there never goes a day where you can avoid the ubiquity of the two-letter word.

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History Travel

Advertising on the Eiffel Tower (1925 – 1934)

The dawn of ubiquitous advertising found itself on a Paris landmark before World War II.

Between 1925 and 1934, the Eiffel Tower served as a huge illuminated advertisement for Citroën.

Darran Anderson
Categories
History People

NASA’s “women computers” 🚀

Katherine Johnson helped launch America’s first orbit around Earth. She also “computed the path” that would eventually get Neil Armstrong to the moon. 

In 1962’s Mercury-Atlas launch, astronaut John Glenn personally requested that she hand-crunch the machine’s calculations around the planet.  She confirmed the math a day and a half later.

The 2016 film Hidden Figures pays tribute to Johnson’s seminal role in one of the most important NASA missions in America’s spaceflight history.

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Culture History Video

Views of Tokyo (1913-1915)

Views of Tokyo (1913-1915)

[bha size=’120×120′ variation=’01’ align=’alignright’]Last week, I blogged about a trip through Golden Gate City: San Francisco (1939). This week’s archival video goes back in time to views of Tokyo, 1913-1915.

Some observations:

  • Notice the clash of those wearing modern (Western) clothing versus the traditional feudal garb
  • A lot these kids (and their kids) probably went on to fight in both World Wars
  • The girl with the bouncing ball (see gif) has impressive football and basketball skills

Another fascinating look at black and white footage augmented with a sound for added ambiance. Be sure to check out the archival footage of New York (1911) as well.

Categories
Arts History

Van Gogh’s fascination with Japan

Van Gogh GIF-downsized_large.gif

Japanese art flooded Western Europe when in 1854, America forced Japan to open its borders to trade.

Some of the prints of Japanese woodcuts made it all the way to Vincent Van Gogh in Paris. He grew obsessed with ukyio-e, or “pictures of the world,” joyful elements he copied into his own art.

‘Seeing with Japanese eye’

Van Gogh amassed a collection of Japanese wood prints in his Paris studio. It was there he started emulating the bright and exotic images of Japanese art, an influence he called Japonaiserie.

“My studio’s quite tolerable, mainly because I’ve pinned a set of Japanese prints on the walls that I find very diverting. You know, those little female figures in gardens or on the shore, horsemen, flowers, gnarled thorn branches.

Vincent Van Gogh

According to the exhibition of Van Gogh & Japan at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, the artist adopted the ‘bold, flat areas of color, bold contour lines, and prominent diagonals.’ He even cropped subjects at the edges of pictures and used the Japanese unique play on foreground/background spatial effects.

Van Gogh’s Japanese obsession permeated his work. “All my work is based to some extent on Japanese art,” he told his brother Theo.

vangoghmuseum-s0116V1962-3840
Courtesan (after Eisen) by Vincent van Gogh (1887)

Find out more about Van Gogh’s love affair with Japan at the Exhibition Van Gogh & Japan.

Categories
Arts Daily Prompts History

‘Water is itself the obstacle to water’

Loop Water GIF by Living Stills-source
gif by Living Stills

Leonardo da Vinci obsessed with water more than any of his multidisciplinary interests: architecture, science, painting, and sculpture.

For Leonardo da Vinci, the current represented that perfect chaos that separated air from water. In his Book on Waters, he wrote:

Nothing shares a surface with something and something shares a surface with nothingness. And the surface of something is not part of that thing, whence it follows that the surface of nothingness is part of nothingness, whence it follows that a single surface is the limit between two things that are in contact. Since the surface of water is not part of the water, and hence is not part of the air or of other bodies placed between them, what is it then that divides the air from the water?

Below is one of Leonardo’s sketches on the movement of water from 1508. It demonstrates the paradox of water in, around, and again itself.

Leonardo da Vinci water #drawing #sketch #art
Leonardo, da Vinci, 1508-09 (Paris MS. F)

Writes art historian Irving Lavin, Professor Emeritus in the School of Historical Studies at the Institue of Advanced Study:

…water in percussion: that is, water is itself the obstacle to water, and in this case the contrast is between the resulting currents on the surface, under the surface, and surging upward carrying bubbles of entrapped air. The relationship between air and water, both in combination and as analogous media, was also a subject that greatly preoccupied Leonardo and played a critical role in the development of his thought that concerns me here.

The structure of a stream lies within its anti-structure. There’s the unpredictable and disruptive movement of its flow. Yet freshwater slithers over rocks, persisting unperturbed all the way into the mouth of the river.

The chaos of running water seems to be why it works.

Read Leonardo’s Watery Chaos