My job involves lots of Googling, and often Googling for very odd things. The wonderful nature of the Internet means that I then tend to find very very odd things in my search results. I’ll be bringing some of them to you as we go along.
Victorian era soldier
Here is the most extensive collection of images and information on
Victorian-era robots to be found in the whole World Wide Web.
More on the history of robots in the Victorian Era, here.
Posted: August 31st, 2009
, Victorian Era
Comments: 3 Comments
Every now and then in my reading of Infinite Jest, there’s a brief mini-profile that beats any lengthy magazine profile – and you can fit a lot of mini profiles into 1000+ pages.
Here’s one, on page 290, of a total hottie:
He’d been smitten before, but never decapitated.
The schoolboy epithet they’d made up to refer to Orin’s twirler was the P.G.O.A.T., for the Prettiest Girl Of All Time. It wasn’t the entire attraction, but she really was almost grotesquely lovely. She made the Moms look like the sort of piece of fruit you think you want to take out of the bin and but then once you’re right there over the bin you put back because from close up you can see a much fresher and less preserved-seeming piece of fruit elsewhere in the bin. The twirler was so pretty that not even the senior B.U. football Terriers could summon the saliva to speak to her at Athletic mixers. In fact she was almost universally shunned. The twirler induced in heterosexual males what U.H.I.D. later told her was termed the Actaeon Complex, which is a kind of deep phylogenic fear of transhuman beauty. About all Orin’s doubles partner – who as a strabismic was something of an expert on female unattainability – felt he could do was warn O. that this was the kind of hideously attractive girl you just knew in advance did not associate with normal collegiate human males, and clearly attended B.U.-Athletic social functions only out of a sort of bland scientific interest while she waited for the cleft-chinned ascapartic male-model-looking wildly-successful-in-business adult male she doubtless was involved with to telephone her from the back seat of his green stretch Infiniti, etc. No major-sport player had ever even orbited in close enough to hear the elisions and apical lapses of a mid-Southern accent in her oddly flat but resonant voice that sounded like someone enunciating very carefully inside a soundproof enclosure. When she danced, at dances, it was with other cheerleaders and twirlers and Pep Squad Terrierettes, because no male had the grit or spit to ask her. Orin himself couldn’t get closer than four meters at parties, because he suddenly couldn’t figure out where to put the stresses in the Charles Tavis-unwittingly-inspired ‘Describe-the-sort-of-man-you-find-attractive-and-I’ll-affect-the-demeanor-of-that-sort-of-man’ strategic opening that had worked so well on other B.U. Subjects. It took three hearings for him to figure out that her name wasn’t Joel. The big hair was red-gold and the skin peachy-tinged pale and arms freckled and zygomatic indescribable and her eyes an extra-natural HD green. He wouldn’t learn till later that the almost pungently clean line-dried-laundry scent that hung about her was a special low-pH dandelion attar decocted special by her chemist Daddy in Shiny Prize, KY.
Confused? An explanation awaits. Send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 25, 2009
B Train, 42nd Street to 96th Street
“Que?” a young father, no older than 24, asks his son, who looks to have popped out of Mom just a few months ago.
“Ehhhhhhh…ahhhh….ehhhhahhhhahhhh…” is all the boy offers in response. Mom pushes the stroller back and forth, rocking. Dad claps his hands to a vaguely salsaic bit, and finaly the baby turns a cry to a laugh – temporarily. Mom looks unmoved.
The baby is in an all-grey onesie that includes a hoodie. He’s got a brown stuffed animal vaguely resembling a reindeer, and an expired sucker with residue that suggests it was cherry or strawberry. Mom picks the stick off his tray and sticks it in her mouth – meaning it’s either hers or she really loves her baby. She’s in a mauve dress, and for whatever reason – the screaming baby, an argument in Spanish with her husband, a shitty job – she doesn’t smile throughout the ride.
When 50th Street hits, Dad navigates the stroller out. Switching to English, he asks, politely ‘Excuse me’.
An On Board to get you ready for your weekend here. Remember to submit yours.
August 26, 7:48 p.m.
R Train – Times Square to Union Street
There are five people together on the train, all around 30. Three are men: one with gelled hair and a white flowery button-down, another in a polo with his hair turned into a water ski ramp, and a third in a black shirt with the sleeves snapped up above his elbow and jeans torn below the knee. The two women are both dressed in black, one short, the other taller than all the men here, and probably with more muscle to boot.
“It’s Kelly O’Leary’s 31st birthday party. It’s the tenth anniversary of her 21st birthday…it’s a pirate theme.”
“I did beer Olympics a few weeks back, somebody was Ireland, another team was France. We had beer pong, flip cup, a case race.”
“Are you gonna dress up? Pirate parties are so fun.”
“I don’t think I have any pirate gear.”
“I’ve got a wedding next weekend. Amy’s got another one.”
“Boy, you signed up for a lot of weddings in this relationship.”
“Yeah…this ones got a lot of activites too.”
“Ah, so you can’t just get in and get out?”
“Nope. It’s gonna be a drunk fest.”
“So, where’s this place you wanna go?”
“There’s a couple of places, we just gotta get down there.”
“There’s this great burger place you gotta try.”
“Have you ever been to Jerome Bettis’s restaurant in Pittsburgh? They’ve got two-way mirrors in the bathroom, so if you’re a guy, you’re standing there and looking out at the dining room.”
“Can they see your face?”
“Nope. It’s awesome.”
At Prince St., they depart.
August 13, 6:59 p.m.
N Train – Times Square to Pacific St.
There is suddenly an orchestra of noise, with voices like none this reporter has heard on a subway train. Three pairs of teens, all girls, all, remarkably, wearing black pants, are talking intimately. The pairs don’t appear to know each other. A 30-year old in a royal blue polo talks to his seated wife, who holds her index and middle fingers angled over her mouth in a look that suggests shock, contemplation, boredom and concern all at once. She moves her hand to her left ear where she mindlessly rotates her diamond earring in what is, now, unmistakably boredom. She has not responded to her husband in the five minutes he has been talking.
An Asian mother talks to her two teenage girls. A woman gives her child instructions in velcroing her shoes, while showing her how. A trio of 25-year old women trade stories, all wearing smiles.
As the train approaches Atlantic the wife appears to offer an indecipherable phrase. She sits, and he stands, in silence.
Radio Lab is the best radio show you aren’t listening too. It’s on NPR. It’s on iTunes. It’s got a Web site. Just find a way to listen to it.
My cousin Pete pointed me to this episode, in which a filmmaker tells the story of life – or life’s moments – in 4:16 seconds. Pete’s favorite moment was the kickball scene a minute in. I love that too, but mine is the girl crying at 3:20.
Posted: August 27th, 2009
, Radio Lab
Comments: No Comments
There are some profiles that are simply too wonderful for me to delay in delivering them to you. This profile of magician Ricky Jay fits the category, and thus cannot wait until next Monday’s edition of “This Week’s Best Profile.”
I don’t want to spoil any of it for you, so thankfully the beginning should be good enough to make you drop everything else:
The playwright David Mamet and the theatre director Gregory Mosher affirm that some years ago, late one night in the bar of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago, this happened:
Ricky Jay, who is perhaps the most gifted sleight-of-hand artist alive, was performing magic with a deck of cards. Also present was a friend of Mamet and Mosher’s named Christ Nogulich, the director of food and beverage at the hotel. After twenty minutes of disbelief-suspending manipulations, Jay spread the deck face up on the bar counter and asked Nogulich to concentrate on a specific card but not to reveal it. Jay then assembled the deck face down, shuffled, cut it into two piles, and asked Nogulich to point to one of the piles and name his card.
“Three of clubs,” Nogulich said, and he was then instructed to turn over the top card.
He turned over the three of clubs.
Mosher, in what could be interpreted as a passive-aggressive act, quietly announced, “Ricky, you know, I also concentrated on a card.”
After an interval of silence, Jay said, “That’s interesting, Gregory, but I only do this for one person at a time.”
Mosher persisted: “Well, Ricky, I really was thinking of a card.”
Jay paused, frowned, stared at Mosher, and said, “This is a distinct change of procedure.” A longer pause. “All right—what was the card?”
“Two of spades.”
Jay nodded, and gestured toward the other pile, and Mosher turned over its top card.
The deuce of spades.
A small riot ensued.
(Completely ripped from Kottke)
Get your On Board submission in, if you haven’t already.
August 10, 7:25 p.m.
D/R Trains – Herald Square to Union St.
Bags. Bags of all shapes and sizes and degrees of reusability are on display, fittingly, in the Fashion District’s hub. There’s a Hollister bag on the smallish end of the spectrum, but it is the most ornately decorated: brownish paper with a green and blue tropical scene. One man wraps a Timbuktu messenger bag around his legs as if it’s the handlebar on a rather tame roller coaster. He’s talking about health care reform with a woman resting a lime green three-gallon purse on her lap. They’re sitting next to the Asian woman with the Hollister bag, which sits on the floor holding a white plastic bag of its own and a Poland Spring water bottle – no clothes to be seen. She has two more bags in her lap, both purses, both different shades of brown. Outsizing them all is a white plastic bag resting at the feet of a Chinese man. It’s reinforced twice, and holds at least three identical bags stuffed inside.
There are others. A woman boards at Broadway-Lafayette with a white, plastic bag from Filene’s Basement. Two people with backpacks sit across from the Hollister bag. One is a skinny black man, the other a skinnier Asian woman, and both rest the bags in their laps. His is bigger, but she has a second bag. There are bags from Dolce, Louis Vuitton, and Coach (all brown), three small plastic bags, all orange, all held by different people, and one petite purse printed with an oversized Playboy bunny (the logo, not a person).
Indeed, as far as the eye can see, there are only three people without a bag. One 25 year old in a t-shirt and gym shorts (his girlfriend has a purse), an elderly Asian man holding a Chinese language newspaper, and one Hasidic Jew who holds just a hat (his friend has a yellow and blue plastic bag with the words “Appetizing Food” written on it).
The man with the large white bag gets off and bends his knees to lift it, suggesting something else inside. A North Face backpack takes his place. There’s a black Puma bag, striped white. A brown leather briefcase. A turquoise flowered purse. There’s another Hollister bag, this one white and cloth. A large purse in tan and brown, with birds in yellow and night sky blue and aqua and crimson. One woman holds four plastic bags, three green, one white with a smilie face. There’s a black and red and white gym bag.
On the platform waiting for the R train there are more. A man in bright blue scrubs has an oversize Duane Reade bag in his right hand and a black backpack over his left shoulder. Another holds a flimsy bag big enough for a needlepoint kit. A white cloth bag holds a 12x12x12 glass box holding something.
Your narrator has, deceptively, been hiding the biggest bag of all as he boards the R train. It’s black, or reusable grocery-store material, with sparse white text, and could fit five of the item he just bought (an 8×10 Meanderings print to the first correct guess of the bag’s origin in the comments). But even on this train, the bag is not alone: a leopard skin purse, a lime green gym bag, an orange and gold and brown backpack. Messenger bags from Brooklyn Industries and Manhattan Portage and a 23-year old light skinned black man – Yankees cap, tan button down, short sleeve, diamond on his right ear – holding a bright pink bag nearly as bulky as his black back pack. It reads, iconically, “Victoria’s Secret.”
Your story in song this week comes from Lupe Fiasco, skateboarder turned Kanye protege turned hip hop star. He tells his life story here:
My man got a li’l older became a better roller (yea)
No helmet, hellbent on killin’ himself is was what his momma said
But he was feelin’ himself,Got a little more swagger in his style
Met his girlfriend, she was clappin’ in the crowd
Love is what, what was happening to him now, uh
He said I would marry you, but I’m engaged to these aerials and varials
Lupe Fiasco – Kick Push
Get the album here
Posted: August 25th, 2009
Tags: Kick Push
, Lupe Fiasco
, Song of the week
Comments: No Comments