March 28, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
The typo of the day, from a story in the Atlanta Business Chronicle—
Just one month after Diet Coke rolled out the first frozen carbonated beverage in the brand’s 31-year history, the product—Diet Coke FROST Cherry Slurpee—has been removed from stores because it did not free properly.
Lesson learned: brain freeze does not bring deliverance, even when it comes from a refreshing Diet Coke.
March 27, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Happy birthday to Joško Marušić, a Croatian animator whose fantastic 1980 short, Fisheye, often swims into my mind when I order seafood. I once came across the film on YouTube, very late at night—which is, as connoisseurs know, the best time to fall down the YouTube mineshaft.
Fisheye is an inspired blend of the macabre and the mundane. Its premise is simple: instead of people going fishing, fish go peopling. At night, these jowly blue creatures of the deep take to the land, a murderous glint in their eyes—they feast on the residents of a sleepy coastal hamlet. While they’re well-bred enough to use forks, they seem to have forgotten that forks are intended for use with food that has already been killed. And they spareth not the rod: children are maimed, old ladies clubbed. If this doesn’t sound like your cuppa, give it sixty seconds; you may find yourself, as I did, transfixed. Is the film best paired with a psychotropic substance? That’s not my place to say. (Yes.)
Marušić belongs to what’s known as the Zagreb School of Animation. In a 2011 interview—informative despite its clunky translation—he says,
The Zagreb School of Animation had its specific technological and “worldview” coordinates. The technological characteristic of the School was the so-called “limited animation,” which, in digest, means a complete commitment to stylization. It is customarily contrasted with the Disney-style “full animation”, where all characters are animated according to the strictly delineated canons of [“realistic”] animation. The School introduced the genre of animated films for adults, films pregnant with cynicism, auto-irony, and the relativization of divisions between people. In all great conflicts, our sympathy is with the “small man” who is most frequently subject to manipulation. This “small person” exists in all classes and all societies, and verily constitutes the most numerous sector of society, but remains powerless because he or she is not “networked.”
March 19, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
On March 19, 1895, 119 years ago, August and Louis Lumière made the inaugural recording with their newly patented cinematograph, a sixteen-pound camera made to compete with Edison’s nascent kinetoscope. The cinematograph was powered by a hand crank, and it improved on the kinetoscope in that it incorporated a projector, which allowed a large audience to take in its spectacles. (Edison’s machine had only a peephole; maybe he thought moving pictures would appeal exclusively to voyeurs. And maybe they do.) The perforated film reel in a cinematograph was easier to hold in place, which meant it produced sharper, stabler images than had ever been seen.
This first film, La Sortie des usines Lumière à Lyon, features, as its title promises, workers leaving the Lumière factory in Lyon. What’s remarkable to me is how purely documentary this footage is: no one breaks the fourth wall. Even the dog isn’t terribly curious. If I were toiling in a factory all day, about to play a part in the debut of a revolutionary new technology, I would be sure to wave at the camera on my way out.
March 17, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
On St. Patrick’s Day, nineteenth-century illustrations of the Irish countryside.
These remarkable illustrations are from Ireland: Picturesque and Romantic, an 1838 travelogue by Leitch Ritchie, Esq. But don’t be fooled: despite his book’s encouraging title and the meticulousness of these drawings, Ritchie was pretty hard on Ireland. His account, stuffy and imperial, presents a portrait of the Irish psyche scarcely more enlightened than a box of Lucky Charms, shot through with a kind of paternalistic shame:
The Irish are not lazy because they are Irish, but because, in the first place, they are only half civilized … their spirit is broken by ages of tyranny. They have crouched so long under the lash that they can hardly stand upright. They are brave from instinct, but cowards from habit; and the peasantry every day of their lives are guilty of as despicable acts of poltroonery, in their intercourse with the quality, as the serfs of the middle ages exhibited in their encounters with the knights.
Not, as you can see, ideal reading for St. Paddy’s Day—better to take the pictures and put someone else’s words with them. Here, then, is a more fittingly romantic tribute to Ireland: Patrick Kavanagh’s “Canal Bank Walk,” a sonnet written in 1958. Read More »
March 5, 2014 | by Merle Johnson
The author and illustrator Howard Pyle was born today in 1853. These illustrations are from Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates, a 1921 compilation of his famous pirate stories; its preface is reprinted below.
Pirates, Buccaneers, Marooners, those cruel but picturesque sea wolves who once infested the Spanish Main, all live in present-day conceptions in great degree as drawn by the pen and pencil of Howard Pyle.
Pyle, artist-author, living in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth, had the fine faculty of transposing himself into any chosen period of history and making its people flesh and blood again—not just historical puppets. His characters were sketched with both words and picture; with both words and picture he ranks as a master, with a rich personality which makes his work individual and attractive in either medium. Read More »
February 27, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Pop Chart Lab, whose laudable ambition is “to render all of human experience in chart form,” is offering a print consisting of twenty-nine first sentences from novels, including one of my favorites, from David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress: “In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.” Of course, a print comprised of nothing but text would be not much of a print at all, so Pop Chart Lab has done us the favor of diagramming every sentence according to the Reed-Kellogg System, color coded and all. Plotting out the beginning of Don Quixote is, as you can see, complicated.
As a pedagogical device, sentence diagrams have fallen out of fashion; I never had to draw them (if that’s even the right verb) in school, nor was I made to study any grammar beyond the rudimentary parts of speech. This makes me feel like a fraud whenever I pretend to be a grammarian, as I often do. In fact, before today, I’d never heard of the Reed-Kellogg System; it sounds to me like a proprietary method for processing and packaging cornflakes.
Actually, it dates back to 1877, when it was invented by two men with great names, Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellogg. Though the Don Quixote sample is intimidating, diagramming sentences turns out to be fairly intuitive. (“And fun!” adds a sad, sorry voice in my head.) You begin with the base, a horizontal line; write the subject on the left and the predicate on the right, separated by a vertical bar. Then separate the verb and its object with another mark—if you have a direct object, use a vertical line, and if you have a predicate noun (had to look that up) or an adjective (that one I knew), use a backslash. Modifiers of the subject, predicate, or object “dangle below the base.” Read More »