Posts tagged History

Rwanda, 20 Years Later
Twenty years ago this week, the Rwandan genocide began. It’s estimated 800,000 to a million people were killed over 100 days. Most were Tutsi but tens of thousands were moderate Hutu and others caught in the slaughter.
The country today is commemorating by holding a week of mourning alongside a longer 100-day vigil.
The #Rwanda20yrs hashtag on Twitter is an at times sobering, enlightening and inspiring access point to news, resources and personal accounts of the period.
Here’s some of what we’ve been reading through:
BBC, Rwanda genocide: 100 days of slaughter; a backgrounder on the events.
BBC, A good man in Rwanda; the story of Mbaye Diagne, an unarmed, Senegalese peacekeeper with the UN, who’s credited with saving at least 500 Rwandans.
Thomson Reuters Foundation, Genocide and Justice: Rwanda 20 years on; an immersive site with first person accounts from survivors, perpetrators, diplomats and more.
The Guardian, Genocide in Rwanda was a fork in the road not just for Africa but the world; how the genocide has affected international law and world response to events today.
Slate, Unreconciled Rwanda; can survivors really forgive those that murdered family and loved ones, and what policies has the Rwandan government put in place to foster reconciliation attempts.
Image: Via National Geographic, “A man tries to unlock a cell door at a hospital in Kigali, Rwanda in 1994. As the genocide spread across the country, doctors and staff of the main psychological hospital in Kigali fled or were killed leaving the patients to care for themselves.” Photo by David Guttenfelder. Revisiting the Rwandan Genocide: Origin Stories From The Associated Press. Select to embiggen.

Rwanda, 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago this week, the Rwandan genocide began. It’s estimated 800,000 to a million people were killed over 100 days. Most were Tutsi but tens of thousands were moderate Hutu and others caught in the slaughter.

The country today is commemorating by holding a week of mourning alongside a longer 100-day vigil.

The #Rwanda20yrs hashtag on Twitter is an at times sobering, enlightening and inspiring access point to news, resources and personal accounts of the period.

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading through:

Image: Via National Geographic, “A man tries to unlock a cell door at a hospital in Kigali, Rwanda in 1994. As the genocide spread across the country, doctors and staff of the main psychological hospital in Kigali fled or were killed leaving the patients to care for themselves.” Photo by David Guttenfelder. Revisiting the Rwandan Genocide: Origin Stories From The Associated Press. Select to embiggen.

An Oral History of Street Fighter 2
Totally fun long-read from Polygon, which takes you through the entire evolution of creating the game as told in snippets from the people behind it. Full of weird anecdotes, like Brian Duke (of Capcom USA) describing Yoshiki Okamoto (Head of Arcade Development):

He would prank you. He’d send over ideas for video games and want me to give him my input, and it would turn out to be porn. … I just remember putting the CD into my laptop and playing it for [then Vice President of Sales and Marketing Bill Cravens] and some other people who were in my office at the time, because I thought [it showed] new games and I wanted to get their input on it as well. And instead, I treated them to a porn display. 

An Oral History of Street Fighter 2

Totally fun long-read from Polygon, which takes you through the entire evolution of creating the game as told in snippets from the people behind it. Full of weird anecdotes, like Brian Duke (of Capcom USA) describing Yoshiki Okamoto (Head of Arcade Development):

He would prank you. He’d send over ideas for video games and want me to give him my input, and it would turn out to be porn. … I just remember putting the CD into my laptop and playing it for [then Vice President of Sales and Marketing Bill Cravens] and some other people who were in my office at the time, because I thought [it showed] new games and I wanted to get their input on it as well. And instead, I treated them to a porn display. 

Beethoven, Original Punk
Via The Atlantic:

The popular image of [Beethoven] is one of heroism, severity, and backs aching for the lash as musical commandments are delivered from on high. Few works in the history of art are as bracingly intense as a goodly chunk of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, for instance, to say nothing of the late-period string quartets, music that, frankly, the 19th century wasn’t ready for. The opening four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony might as well be a stand-in for the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, such is their uncompromising primacy. Beethoven’s work, as people tend to think of it, is music that just keeps coming at you, an ever-advancing sea that no coast can withstand.
Most of the time, that is. But there was also the occasion when Beethoven, in the midst of a personal—and odd—life crisis, opted to create a work to please madcaps, jesters, and wiseasses alike.
I’m talking about the Eighth Symphony. It’s arguably Beethoven’s most overlooked, coming as it does before the world-beating Ninth, and clocking in at a rapid 26 minutes. It was the last symphony from Beethoven’s middle period, receiving its premiere 200 years ago on February 24, 1814, in Vienna. And it is absolutely bonkers, mad, brave, cheekily pugnacious, punchy, and akin to what Lear’s Fool, Samuel Beckett, and a young Mozart might have come up with if those three ever got together to have a musical bash.

Beethoven’s 8th, 200 years old today.
Read on about his infatuation with a newly created technology called the metronome, deafness and his frustration with his brother’s love affair.

Beethoven, Original Punk

Via The Atlantic:

The popular image of [Beethoven] is one of heroism, severity, and backs aching for the lash as musical commandments are delivered from on high. Few works in the history of art are as bracingly intense as a goodly chunk of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, for instance, to say nothing of the late-period string quartets, music that, frankly, the 19th century wasn’t ready for. The opening four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony might as well be a stand-in for the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, such is their uncompromising primacy. Beethoven’s work, as people tend to think of it, is music that just keeps coming at you, an ever-advancing sea that no coast can withstand.

Most of the time, that is. But there was also the occasion when Beethoven, in the midst of a personal—and odd—life crisis, opted to create a work to please madcaps, jesters, and wiseasses alike.

I’m talking about the Eighth Symphony. It’s arguably Beethoven’s most overlooked, coming as it does before the world-beating Ninth, and clocking in at a rapid 26 minutes. It was the last symphony from Beethoven’s middle period, receiving its premiere 200 years ago on February 24, 1814, in Vienna. And it is absolutely bonkers, mad, brave, cheekily pugnacious, punchy, and akin to what Lear’s Fool, Samuel Beckett, and a young Mozart might have come up with if those three ever got together to have a musical bash.

Beethoven’s 8th, 200 years old today.

Read on about his infatuation with a newly created technology called the metronome, deafness and his frustration with his brother’s love affair.

Whenever these cases surface, they’re accompanied by a discussion about whether or not we can or should appreciate the work of artists and writers who are accused of doing terrible things. It’s a question without any satisfying categorical answer, which I suppose is why it generates so much copy. The nuances are endless: does it matter if the artist in question is alive or not? If he or she is dead, does it matter how long? Is there a difference between music that has words and music that doesn’t? Between loving a movie made by an alleged sex offender and loving a work of theology written by one? How on earth do we weigh all of this?

Stephanie Krehbiel, The Woody Allen Problem, Religion Dispatches Magazine.

For those who have been looking for insight on how to think about Woody Allen in light of Dylan Farrow’s testimony against him and his subsequent letter of rebuttal, here is a useful point made by Roxan Gay in Salon:

Lately, we’ve been referring to to our social-media-saturated era as “the age of outrage.” I think what’s going on is more complex than that. We don’t get to hide from the truth anymore. We don’t get to hide from the possibility of multiple truths. This is the age of knowing, of Pandora’s box blown wide open. This is the age of being unable, or unwilling, or having fewer opportunities to look away. This is the age of being confronted with what we are willing to do in the name of what we believe.

And in that light, it’s useful to think about an analogous case and read Krehbiel’s piece, which is quoted above. It tells the story of respected theologian John Howard Yoder and his own version of the Woody Allen conundrum. And it’s a fascinating explanation of Mennonite pacifism, masculinity, and why people can struggle to condemn sexual violence despite a body evidence.

How to Remember Anything (runtime ~20 minutes)

For those who have never seen it: a totally useful Ted Talk by science journalist Joshua Foer (who is also the founder of the absolutely awesome Atlas Obscura). He talks about covering the U.S. Memory Championships where he learned how humans can train their brains to remember a lot in a little bit of time. But more importantly, he talks about why we ought to strengthen our memory in an age when one can outsource the storage of most information to the web.

Related: Last year, Clive Thompson published a fascinating book about how technology is changing the way we think (mostly for the better). Maria Popova reviewed it on Brain Pickings, covering some of his most important observations, namely: the difference in transparency between traditional public storehouses of information (i.e.: the public library) and modern storehouses (i.e.: the web). And in this context, we wrote a bit about the perils of algorithmic curation.

Illustrating Medicine, In History

Images and descriptions via Hagströmerbiblioteket where you can browse 15th through early-20th century illustrations of anatomy, biology, botany and more.

From top to bottom:

Georg Constantin
This extraordinary tattoo is one of over 100 chromolithographed plates in Hebra’s monumental atlas of skin diseases. It shows the naked Georg Constantin from Albania, whose 388 tattoos of all kinds of animals in red and blue cover his face and entire body. Atlas der Hautkrankheiten, (Vienna, 1856-1876)

Anatomical Plate
Hans von Gersdorff, surnamed ’Schylhans’ or ’Squinting Hans’, from Strasburg, was an army surgeon who took part in numerous campaigns, including the Burgundian War (1476). His widely circulated handbook of wound surgery, first published in 1517) was based on forty years of experience, chiefly in various military campaigns. It is illustrated with 25 full-page woodcuts by Hans Wechtlin including the first image in a book of an amputation. Feldtbuch der Wundartzney, (Augsburg, Heinrich Stayner, 1543)

Artificial Mechanical Hand
Paré was a French barber surgeon and the official Royal Surgeon for four successive French kings. He is considered one of the fathers of modern surgery, and a leader of surgical techniques. His collective works were published in several editions, a book of over 1000 pages richly illustrated with woodcuts and among them his inventions of both artificial hands and legs. Les Oeuvres. Quatrième édition, (Paris, 1585)

Anatomical Plate
One of the most spectacular anatomical atlases ever produced. Antonio Serrantoni was responsible for the drawing, engraving, and hand-colouring of the breathtaking plates, which were first published in natural size, in a volume in large elephant folio (70 x 100 cm), which was evidently impossible to use, but later reduced in a new version with the 75 engraved plates in normal folio size, printed in colours and finished by hand, each plate accompanied by a duplicate in outline. Anatomia Universale , (Florence, 1833)

I am Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. Ask me Anything.

Ellsberg does a Reddit AMA. Questions he answers include: how do you respond to people who apathetically respond to surveillance saying they’ve got “nothing to hide”? What’s the most effective way to force the government to change its ways of surveillance? Does the president even have power to prevent public surveillance? Can an elected official ever have that power? Plus his thoughts on Snowden and what a nonviolent revolution looks like. Read it.

It’s hard to overstate absinthe’s cultural impact – or imagine a contemporary equivalent…Absinthe solidified or destroyed friendships, and created visions and dream-like states that filtered into artistic work. It shaped Symbolism, Surrealism, Modernism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Cubism. Dozens of artists took as their subjects absinthe drinkers and the ritual paraphernalia: a glass, slotted spoon, sugar cubes – sugar softened the bitter bite of cheaper brands – and fountains dripping cold water to dilute the liquor.

How to be a Reverse Racist

All you need is a time machine.

Mapping 400,000 Hours of US TV News
Via the Internet Archive:

We are excited to unveil a couple experimental data-driven visualizations that literally map 400,000 hours of U.S. television news. One of our collaborating scholars, Kalev Leetaru, applied “fulltext geocoding” software to our entire television news research service collection. These algorithms scan the closed captioning of each broadcast looking for any mention of a location anywhere in the world, disambiguate them using the surrounding discussion (Springfield, Illinois vs Springfield, Massachusetts), and ultimately map each location. The resulting CartoDB visualizations provide what we believe is one of the first large-scale glimpses of the geography of American television news, beginning to reveal which areas receive outsized attention and which are neglected….
…What you see here represents our very first experiment with revealing the geography of television news and required bringing together a bunch of cutting-edge technologies that are still very much active areas of research. While there is still lots of work to be done, we think this represents a tremendously exciting prototype for new ways of interacting with the world’s information by organizing it geographically and putting it on a map where it belongs!

There are two ways to explore the visualization: one is to watch news mentions of different places in the world each day, the other is to select a TV station and time window and see what it reported on.
Related: This former librarian single-handedly taped 35 years of TV news. This one’s well worth the read. Marion Stokes recorded Philadelphia news stations from 1977 - 2012, and a batch of the 140,000 VHS tapes she produced is being digitized by The Internet Archive.
Image: Screenshot, TV News Archive, via the Internet Archive. Select to embiggen.

Mapping 400,000 Hours of US TV News

Via the Internet Archive:

We are excited to unveil a couple experimental data-driven visualizations that literally map 400,000 hours of U.S. television news. One of our collaborating scholars, Kalev Leetaru, applied “fulltext geocoding” software to our entire television news research service collection. These algorithms scan the closed captioning of each broadcast looking for any mention of a location anywhere in the world, disambiguate them using the surrounding discussion (Springfield, Illinois vs Springfield, Massachusetts), and ultimately map each location. The resulting CartoDB visualizations provide what we believe is one of the first large-scale glimpses of the geography of American television news, beginning to reveal which areas receive outsized attention and which are neglected….

…What you see here represents our very first experiment with revealing the geography of television news and required bringing together a bunch of cutting-edge technologies that are still very much active areas of research. While there is still lots of work to be done, we think this represents a tremendously exciting prototype for new ways of interacting with the world’s information by organizing it geographically and putting it on a map where it belongs!

There are two ways to explore the visualization: one is to watch news mentions of different places in the world each day, the other is to select a TV station and time window and see what it reported on.

Related: This former librarian single-handedly taped 35 years of TV news. This one’s well worth the read. Marion Stokes recorded Philadelphia news stations from 1977 - 2012, and a batch of the 140,000 VHS tapes she produced is being digitized by The Internet Archive.

Image: Screenshot, TV News Archive, via the Internet Archive. Select to embiggen.

British Library: Go Forth and Remix
Via the British Library:

We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.

So, awesome.
Now check out the British Library’s next steps:

We plan to launch a crowdsourcing application at the beginning of next year, to help describe what the images portray. Our intention is to use this data to train automated classifiers that will run against the whole of the content. The data from this will be as openly licensed as is sensible (given the nature of crowdsourcing) and the code, as always, will be under an open licence.
The manifests of images, with descriptions of the works that they were taken from, are available on github and are also released under a public-domain ‘licence’. This set of metadata being on github should indicate that we fully intend people to work with it, to adapt it, and to push back improvements that should help others work with this release. 
There are very few datasets of this nature free for any use and by putting it online we hope to stimulate and support research concerning printed illustrations, maps and other material not currently studied. Given that the images are derived from just 65,000 volumes and that the library holds many millions of items.

Image: Detail, page 331, “L’Alsace et des Alsaciens à travers les siècles,” via the British Library on Flickr. Select to embiggen.

British Library: Go Forth and Remix

Via the British Library:

We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.

So, awesome.

Now check out the British Library’s next steps:

We plan to launch a crowdsourcing application at the beginning of next year, to help describe what the images portray. Our intention is to use this data to train automated classifiers that will run against the whole of the content. The data from this will be as openly licensed as is sensible (given the nature of crowdsourcing) and the code, as always, will be under an open licence.

The manifests of images, with descriptions of the works that they were taken from, are available on github and are also released under a public-domain ‘licence’. This set of metadata being on github should indicate that we fully intend people to work with it, to adapt it, and to push back improvements that should help others work with this release. 

There are very few datasets of this nature free for any use and by putting it online we hope to stimulate and support research concerning printed illustrations, maps and other material not currently studied. Given that the images are derived from just 65,000 volumes and that the library holds many millions of items.

Image: Detail, page 331, “L’Alsace et des Alsaciens à travers les siècles,” via the British Library on Flickr. Select to embiggen.

A History of Documentary + Technology
If you didn’t check it out last year, MIT’s Open Documentary Lab and IDFA’s DocLab created a fantastically visual history of documentary in Moments of Innovation. It’s an interactive site that covers various histories of innovation in documentary such as location-based documentary, beginning with Sanborn fire insurance maps in 1867 and ending with Arcade Fire’s music video, The Wildnerness Downtown, or participatory documentary, beginning with the brownie camera and ending with #18daysinEgypt. 
They explain:

We are interested in history, in connecting the dots between our latest endeavors and those conceptual pioneers and technological prototypes that came before them. We consider innovation both in the creative application of new technologies and in the creative impulse that lead documentarians to invent new technologies.
We are interested in continuities and disruptions, in tracking down origins and inspirations. Although our theme is evolutionary, we do not assume that recent instances are better than earlier ones – they are different, and our goal is to recall those earlier instances, to learn from and to celebrate them.

FJP: Totally interesting to explore. And feel free make suggestions for innovative moments to be added. And here’s an LA Times review.

A History of Documentary + Technology

If you didn’t check it out last year, MIT’s Open Documentary Lab and IDFA’s DocLab created a fantastically visual history of documentary in Moments of Innovation. It’s an interactive site that covers various histories of innovation in documentary such as location-based documentary, beginning with Sanborn fire insurance maps in 1867 and ending with Arcade Fire’s music video, The Wildnerness Downtown, or participatory documentary, beginning with the brownie camera and ending with #18daysinEgypt. 

They explain:

We are interested in history, in connecting the dots between our latest endeavors and those conceptual pioneers and technological prototypes that came before them. We consider innovation both in the creative application of new technologies and in the creative impulse that lead documentarians to invent new technologies.

We are interested in continuities and disruptions, in tracking down origins and inspirations. Although our theme is evolutionary, we do not assume that recent instances are better than earlier ones – they are different, and our goal is to recall those earlier instances, to learn from and to celebrate them.

FJP: Totally interesting to explore. And feel free make suggestions for innovative moments to be added. And here’s an LA Times review.

Hello, Gutenberg

Via the Associated Press.

Access to the Gutenberg Bible and other ancient manuscripts has just gotten easier.

The Vatican Library and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library put the first of 1.5 million pages of their precious manuscripts online Tuesday, bringing their collections to a global audience for the first time.

The two libraries in 2012 announced a four-year project to digitize some of the most important works in their collections of Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts and early printed books…

…The Vatican Library was founded in 1451 and is one of the most important research libraries in the world. It has 180,000 manuscripts, 1.6 million books and 150,000 prints, drawings and engravings. The Bodleian is the largest university library in Britain, with more than 11 million printed works.

Images: Screenshots of the Gutenberg Bible, via Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. Select to embiggen.

People Dreamed of a Portable Library of Congress in 1936
Via BoingBoing:
In this 1936 Modern Mechanix article, a fantasy about shrinking the Library of Congress to fit “in a few small filing cabinets” on microfiche/film. Once this is done, copies of the great library will be distributed to worthy institutions all over the world.
This is one of the Ur-dreams of librarianship, what Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive calls “universal access to all human knowledge.” Today’s Internet was shaped by people who share the dream. It’s a beautiful one.
Image: ModernMechanix

People Dreamed of a Portable Library of Congress in 1936

Via BoingBoing:

In this 1936 Modern Mechanix article, a fantasy about shrinking the Library of Congress to fit “in a few small filing cabinets” on microfiche/film. Once this is done, copies of the great library will be distributed to worthy institutions all over the world.

This is one of the Ur-dreams of librarianship, what Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive calls “universal access to all human knowledge.” Today’s Internet was shaped by people who share the dream. It’s a beautiful one.

Image: ModernMechanix