Posts Tagged ‘Americana’
June 15, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
April 13, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Every April for years, intrepid editors have searched in vain for a way to fuse National Poetry Month to Mathematics Awareness Month, killing two birds with one stone. It turns out a pair of Italian mathematicians solved the problem centuries ago: “Niccolò Tartaglia (ca. 1500–1557) had discovered a way to solve certain kinds of cubic equations. Another mathematician, Girolamo Cardano (1501–1576), wanted to learn the formula and promised not to publish it. Tartaglia shared the formula with Cardano as a poem, and Cardano ended up publishing it.” Even with its terza-rima rhyme scheme, though, the poem is pretty bad, I’m sorry to report. It begins: “When the cube with the cose beside it / Equates itself to some other whole number, / Find two others, of which it is the difference. // Hereafter you will consider this customarily / That their product always will be equal / To the third of the cube of the cose net.”
- Legend tells of a radical library in Lawrence, Kansas—a library teeming with zines, a countercultural cornucopia, its shelves overflowing with DIY ephemera. And this library … is totally out of business. But the University of Kansas has acquired its holdings and plans to digitize all of them. “You can already explore over 830 digitized examples from the Solidarity archives in the Internet Archive … There are hand-illustrated guides to fertility awareness, freedom for Palestine publications, essays against prisons, Firefly fanzines, and more curious titles like ‘Don’t Leave Me: How to Make Better Coffee at Home and Spend More Time With Your Cat(s).’ ”
- Today in butterfly genitalia and literary luminaries: a new book examines Nabokov’s work as a lepidopterist, especially his “intensely magnified” drawings of butterflies’ reproductive organs. The book argues that Nabokov’s drawings provide a new lens through which to view his fiction—but maybe they’re just butterfly drawings. Laura Marsh writes, “The more we find out about Nabokov’s work as a lepidopterist, the more difficult it is to grasp what he saw in butterflies, and how much his study really found its way into the worlds of his books … As a lepidopterist, he was interested in stories that spanned vast, geological time periods, informed by fine-grained empirical observations. But in his novels and stories, butterflies flit in and out of the narrative, either to adorn a moment of impossible desire or as flickering omens of doom—as in the case of the red admiral that lands on John Shade’s arm before he is assassinated in Pale Fire. They are creatures of the ever-disappearing present, hardly existing for any concrete purpose at all; their wings bear the heavy load of subjectivity.”
- Writers, screenwriters, narrative artists of all stripes: if you’re still laying the foundation for your next project, I suggest throwing a kidnapping into the mix. People love kidnappings, especially when they involve young women. Add a seamy, irrepressibly erotic abduction to your plot and success will be yours for the taking. As Anna Leszkiewicz notes, “British and American pop culture has been gripped by the kidnap narrative. Young women stare desperately out of skylights or at heavy metal doors, before wrenching themselves through. Their kidnapper has methodically planned their captivity for years, making escape particularly difficult. They often exploit the mental weaknesses in their abusers in order to do so. They struggle to find a psychological liberty that matches their newfound physical freedom, and to detach themselves from the events of their captivity … The victim is always a young woman, usually adolescent either at the time of her capture, or during her captivity. She looks a specific way, too: a pretty brunette with big, round eyes; skinny when first captured, gaunt as her captivity develops; and despite the huge number of missing black girls and women, she’s white. She has all the physical attributes Hollywood and our wider society problematically conflate with innocence, purity and victimhood—and enthusiastically sexualize.”
- Jonathan Shaw owns the largest collection of vintage tattoo flashes in the world. Lucky for us, he’s put them in a book called, yes, Vintage Tattoo Flash. Behold the mess of cowboys, sailors, smoking skulls, neon dice, good-luck charms, babes, and babies that have made their way onto American bodies from Long Beach to the Bowery.
March 10, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
Trawling through eBay recently, I came across a folder of sample funeral cards from the early twentieth century. As near as I can tell, salesmen would roam from funeral home to funeral home peddling these to undertakers, who would in turn press them on bereaved families. They were standard thank-you notes, essentially—“The family of _________ will hold in grateful remembrance your Spiritual Bouquet and kind expression of sympathy”—but unattached to any death in particular, their messages were gauche, even funny. That they were framed in advertising copy didn’t help. Imagine: Someone you love dies, and before you can even pick out the announcement cards, you have to read sentences like “Genuine engraving achieves its inherent beauty from a correlation of width and depth which no other process possesses.” As a character in Terry Southern’s The Loved One says: “Death has become a middle-class business. There’s no future in it.” Read More »
December 15, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
As you ramble on through life, brother,
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the doughnut,
And not upon the hole.
This “Optimist’s Creed” could be read from the thirties through the seventies on every box of Mayflower Donuts, and on the walls of its stores. It was, says the New York Times, “the personal motto of the founder, Adolph Levitt.” But its true author has been lost to the mists of time: Levitt’s granddaughter told the Times that he’d seen the doggerel framed in a dime store and made it his personal credo. Presumably someone working at a greeting-card company tossed it off one day; we can only imagine said copywriter’s impotent rage when the Mayflower chain took off and the slogan appeared everywhere. Read More »
December 2, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
There have been many theories advanced about the accents of Alaskan Bush People’s Brown children. These theories often involve chicanery and sometimes speech impediments. Personally, when I first watched an episode of the controversial Discovery reality show, which chronicles the escapades of a family allegedly raised away from civilization, I was struck by the similarity to the accent of Tangier Island.
Tangier Island (as well as Smith Island—they’re both in the Chesapeake Bay) is famous for its local dialect, thought by linguists to be an example of Restoration-era English. While the brogue-ish accent is probably far more diluted than it was when the island was truly isolated in the Chesapeake, to an outsider, it’s still hard to understand—and the residents still have trouble understanding outsiders, too. You can get a sense of it in this video; here, for comparison, are the Browns. Read More »
November 25, 2015 | by Matthew Gavin Frank
Celebrating the old-fashioned way: at an African-themed indoor water park in Wisconsin.
The yellow three-track potato sack slide is encased in ice, and the go-kart tarps are encased in ice, and the Paul Bunyan chain-saw carving has grown a beard of icicles so tentacular one can’t help but imagine him having been recovered from one of Verne’s deeper leagues. The afternoon-shift dancers outside the Wisconsin Dolls Gentlemen’s Club wear parkas with fur-lined collars and smoke their cigarettes, waiting for the gentlemen to arrive. Their lips are chapped and their calves are rosy and their exhales hang in the cold air in front of their faces, nowhere to go. They take turns reading the club’s Yelp reviews from a single cell phone, which they pass between them.
Every dancer working was cute, with the exception of one.
What could be improved? 1. Men’s bathroom.
There were 100% more people wearing head bandanas than I expected-saw like 6 dudes wearing them. Also, the Outlaw motorcycle gang represented with a couple of people rocking their colors!
Pro tip: with so many blacklights inside, remember to wear your white pants.
Housed in a double-wide trailer (for real) and next to a sleazy strip motel (also, for real), disappointing ladies shake and shimmy on a tiny pit-style stage.
This last trip was particularly depressing, mainly due to the preggo dancer who was prancing and spinning topless and bottomless with a modified tube top covering her baby bump.
For some god-awful reason, I've been here twice.