Posts tagged with ‘History’

Mapping Perspective
Via Al Jazeera:

Why do maps always show the north as up? For those who don’t just take it for granted, the common answer is that Europeans made the maps and they wanted to be on top. But there’s really no good reason for the north to claim top-notch cartographic real estate over any other bearing, as an examination of old maps from different places and periods can confirm…
…There is nothing inevitable or intrinsically correct — not in geographic, cartographic or even philosophical terms — about the north being represented as up, because up on a map is a human construction, not a natural one. Some of the very earliest Egyptian maps show the south as up, presumably equating the Nile’s northward flow with the force of gravity. And there was a long stretch in the medieval era when most European maps were drawn with the east on the top. If there was any doubt about this move’s religious significance, they eliminated it with their maps’ pious illustrations, whether of Adam and Eve or Christ enthroned. In the same period, Arab map makers often drew maps with the south facing up, possibly because this was how the Chinese did it.
Things changed with the age of exploration. Like the Renaissance, this era didn’t start in Northern Europe. It began in the Mediterranean, somewhere between Europe and the Arab world. In the 14th and 15th centuries, increasingly precise navigational maps of the Mediterranean Sea and its many ports called Portolan charts appeared. They were designed for use by mariners navigating the sea’s trade routes with the help of a recently adopted technology, the compass. These maps had no real up or down — pictures and words faced in all sorts of directions, generally pointing inward from the edge of the map — but they all included a compass rose with north clearly distinguished from the other directions.

Image: A perfectly good map. Select to embiggen.

Mapping Perspective

Via Al Jazeera:

Why do maps always show the north as up? For those who don’t just take it for granted, the common answer is that Europeans made the maps and they wanted to be on top. But there’s really no good reason for the north to claim top-notch cartographic real estate over any other bearing, as an examination of old maps from different places and periods can confirm…

…There is nothing inevitable or intrinsically correct — not in geographic, cartographic or even philosophical terms — about the north being represented as up, because up on a map is a human construction, not a natural one. Some of the very earliest Egyptian maps show the south as up, presumably equating the Nile’s northward flow with the force of gravity. And there was a long stretch in the medieval era when most European maps were drawn with the east on the top. If there was any doubt about this move’s religious significance, they eliminated it with their maps’ pious illustrations, whether of Adam and Eve or Christ enthroned. In the same period, Arab map makers often drew maps with the south facing up, possibly because this was how the Chinese did it.

Things changed with the age of exploration. Like the Renaissance, this era didn’t start in Northern Europe. It began in the Mediterranean, somewhere between Europe and the Arab world. In the 14th and 15th centuries, increasingly precise navigational maps of the Mediterranean Sea and its many ports called Portolan charts appeared. They were designed for use by mariners navigating the sea’s trade routes with the help of a recently adopted technology, the compass. These maps had no real up or down — pictures and words faced in all sorts of directions, generally pointing inward from the edge of the map — but they all included a compass rose with north clearly distinguished from the other directions.

Image: A perfectly good map. Select to embiggen.

Russia Unhappy with Bulgarian Treatment of Soviet Statues
Via The Moscow Times:

Russia is demanding that Bulgaria try harder to prevent vandalism of Soviet monuments, after yet another monument to Soviet troops in Sofia was spray-painted, ITAR-Tass reported.
The Russian Embassy in Bulgaria has issued a note demanding that its former Soviet-era ally clean up the monument in Sofia’s Lozenets district, identify and punish those responsible, and take “exhaustive measures” to prevent similar attacks in the future, the news agency reported Monday.

We needed a little fun after the last few days’ news. — Michael
Image: Monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia, Bulgaria, dressed by unknown artists as comic book characters. Via Wikipedia.

Russia Unhappy with Bulgarian Treatment of Soviet Statues

Via The Moscow Times:

Russia is demanding that Bulgaria try harder to prevent vandalism of Soviet monuments, after yet another monument to Soviet troops in Sofia was spray-painted, ITAR-Tass reported.

The Russian Embassy in Bulgaria has issued a note demanding that its former Soviet-era ally clean up the monument in Sofia’s Lozenets district, identify and punish those responsible, and take “exhaustive measures” to prevent similar attacks in the future, the news agency reported Monday.

We needed a little fun after the last few days’ news. — Michael

Image: Monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia, Bulgaria, dressed by unknown artists as comic book characters. Via Wikipedia.

World War I Technology
Via The Atlantic:

When Europe’s armies first marched to war in 1914, some were still carrying lances on horseback. By the end of the war, rapid-fire guns, aerial bombardment, armored vehicle attacks, and chemical weapon deployments were commonplace. Any romantic notion of warfare was bluntly shoved aside by the advent of chlorine gas, massive explosive shells that could have been fired from more than 20 miles away, and machine guns that spat out bullets like firehoses. Each side did its best to build on existing technology, or invent new methods, hoping to gain any advantage over the enemy. Massive listening devices gave them ears in the sky, armored vehicles made them impervious to small arms fire, tanks could (most of the time) cruise right over barbed wire and trenches, telephones and heliographs let them speak across vast distances, and airplanes gave them new platforms to rain death on each other from above. New scientific work resulted in more lethal explosives, new tactics made old offensive methods obsolete, and mass-produced killing machines made soldiers both more powerful and more vulnerable.

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I. Earlier this year, The Atlantic ran a 10-part series of photo essays on different aspects of the war.
Image: “American troops using a newly-developed acoustic locator, mounted on a wheeled platform. The large horns amplified distant sounds, monitored through headphones worn by a crew member, who could direct the platform to move and pinpoint distant enemy aircraft.” Via The Atlantic. Select to embiggen.

World War I Technology

Via The Atlantic:

When Europe’s armies first marched to war in 1914, some were still carrying lances on horseback. By the end of the war, rapid-fire guns, aerial bombardment, armored vehicle attacks, and chemical weapon deployments were commonplace. Any romantic notion of warfare was bluntly shoved aside by the advent of chlorine gas, massive explosive shells that could have been fired from more than 20 miles away, and machine guns that spat out bullets like firehoses. Each side did its best to build on existing technology, or invent new methods, hoping to gain any advantage over the enemy. Massive listening devices gave them ears in the sky, armored vehicles made them impervious to small arms fire, tanks could (most of the time) cruise right over barbed wire and trenches, telephones and heliographs let them speak across vast distances, and airplanes gave them new platforms to rain death on each other from above. New scientific work resulted in more lethal explosives, new tactics made old offensive methods obsolete, and mass-produced killing machines made soldiers both more powerful and more vulnerable.

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I. Earlier this year, The Atlantic ran a 10-part series of photo essays on different aspects of the war.

Image: “American troops using a newly-developed acoustic locator, mounted on a wheeled platform. The large horns amplified distant sounds, monitored through headphones worn by a crew member, who could direct the platform to move and pinpoint distant enemy aircraft.” Via The Atlantic. Select to embiggen.

My Mom’s Motorcycle 

People’s Choice Prize winner of My Rode Reel, which we file under awesome storytelling:

This is a short film about how my mom became the owner of a motorcycle for the My Rode Reel competition. More deeply it is about how people use objects to connect with times, ideas, and people. 

Related: Radiolab’s Things Episode.

Next: To get your holiday weekend rolling, watch Dance Party, also by Douglas Gautraud.

1:00 P.M.

“Let’s see what’s in the paper today.” He reaches across the table for Tadeo Martínez’s newspaper. “Is there a story we could go out and cover?” he asks. He studies the front page and shakes his head in disapproval. “Incredible,” he says. “This is a local paper and not one story about Cartagena on the front page. Tell your boss, Tadeo, that a local paper should have local front-page news.

“Nothing here,” he mumbles as he turns the pages. “Let’s see, something here. Stove for sale, unused, unassembled stove. Must sell. Call Gloria Bedoya, 660-1127, extension 113. This could be a story. Should we call? I bet there’s something here. Why is this woman selling a stove, why is the stove unassembled? What do we know from this about this woman? Could be interesting.” He pauses, waiting for us to get excited. But no one seems to be interested in finding out why a woman is selling an unassembled stove, especially when we can keep listening to him.

Gabo sees stories everywhere. During the next three days he says “eso es un reportaje” (that’s a story) constantly. I realize that Gabo is full of nostalgia. He misses being a reporter. “Journalism is not a job, it’s a gland, “ he says.

Silvana Paternostro in her 1996 piece for The Paris Review on taking a journalism workshop with Gabriel García Márquez. 

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.