May 31, 2002
Malcolm Gladwell has written a great essay/book review in this week's New Yorker about the eccentric American inventor Philo Farnsworth. Legend has it that, at the age of 14, while he was tilling a potato field, Farnsworth figured out how to break down a picture and transmit it through the air to a receiver; that's right Philo Farnsworth invented television. The story of his invention and his life long battle with RCA is fascinating reading; Gladwell's essay does everything a book review should, it teaches us a great deal about the subject and it makes us want to run right out and buy the two books he reviews. A must read.
There's some very cool Farnsworth and television resources on the web. Our favorite was The Farnovision, a beautifully designed site that has a wealth of Farno material including a video library.
Finally, we've linked it before but, Toronto's MZTV Museum of Television is really cool and has a good website. If you're ever in Toronto, and you have an interest in design, make an appointment and go check out these supercool tvs.
May 30, 2002
There is (almost) nothing we here at Portage like more than a bit of mystery; a sweet, sweet taste of the dark unknown. C'mon, you know you like it too. We love those people who create their own legends, who hide their true private lives and, instead, create a wonderful public persona that they want us to know and love. We don't believe that we have any right to know anything about the private lives of the people we admire; the work is enough for us (and it should be enough for you to, so there). So you can imagine our distress when we learned that some spoilsport goofheads had published Meg and Jack White's marriage license. (Sorry, we're not linking to it, we know how Google works, and we're not helping those guys) Now Meg and Jack, of the phenomenal Motor City power-duo (yes two people make all that glorious noise) White Stripes have made a point of answering interviewers who ask about their personal relationship with a different answer almost everytime they are asked. Sometimes they're sweethearts, sometimes they're married, sometimes they're divorced, sometimes they're brother and sister. It's pretty funny, and would be interpreted by anyone with any sense as "Don't ask again, jerk, it's none of your business. Now let's rock out." So anyways now these slimeballs have published this marriage license like it's the damned Zapruder tape or something and they think they're all great. (It looks really fake to us, and we've looked at a lot of microfiche in our time.) Well we've got somthing to tell you, you dorks... you're really, really uncool. And not only that, if you didn't fake it, Meg and Jack are smart enough to have faked it themselves just to fake you out. Hah! Double SuperFakeOut!! Detroit-Style!!
Whew, the only way to cool down after that little tirade is with some fine Detroit rock n' roll from The Motor City's favorite twosome The White Stripes. (p.s. We hope they're not really married cause we really dig Meg, especially Lego Meg pictured above, and we're planning on working the old Portage magic on her at their upcoming Toronto show.)
We can't understand how Jack White's simple, straight to the point, unmistakably clear lyrics could be misunderstood, but, for you fuckwits who think it's cool to publish other people's private documents we print them here. (Yes we know a marriage license is a public document; you know what we meant.)
My babys got a heart of stone,
Some White Stripes resources on the Net:
Well sign us up. Cluster Ballooning sure looks likes like a lot of fun. This will almost certainly make you think of the infamous Lawn Chair Larry, who won a Darwin Award Honourable Mention in 1982 for his adventure with a bunch of weather balloons, a lawnchair, and a sixpack of brew. Portage was very sad to learn that the great aviator committed suicide in 1993; his Los Angeles time obituary is reprinted here.
It's been just over a year since the great jazz singer Susannah McCorkle jumped out of her NYC apartment building and killed herself. There's a very nice article about her in New York Magazine this month. The wonderful Ms. McCorkle was a favorite of NPR and the network has assembled an excellent audio archive of interviews with, and concerts by, her. Here, for example, is their tribute to her on the day of her death.
At last, a better list: Top 10 Comic Novels
There's been all kinds of hoo-ha and humpldey-bump lately over De Norske Bokklubbene's list of "The 100 Best Books in the History of Literature". Many people took issue with the list, got mad, and hopped around demanding to know why their favorite books weren't on it (Well, because the Norwegians didn't ask you to be in their club. Duh.) Other people we know clipped out the list and stuck it to the refrigerator promising to themselves that they were going to read all the books on the list and become better people. Not us. Nope. We took one look at that list and decided right away that, except for the books we'd already read (we scored 14), there wasn't much there that we were actually going to read . There's just no way we were going to to spend the rest of our reading lives (especially with summer upon us) ploughing through Gogol's Dead Souls or Diderot's Jacques the Fatalist and His Master. We don't doubt they're good books, we just have a sneaking suspicion that they're not all that funny; and, if you're like us, there's (almost) nothing you like better than a really funny book. So that's why we were so happy this morning to see a list by Christine Koning of her picks for Top 10 Comic Novels. We were even happier to note that there were six books on the list that we had not yet read; and that, based on the four we had read (3, 6, 8, 10), we had some mighty fine reading ahead of us this summer. Hooray!
May 29, 2002
Remember that guy in the movie Amélie? The guy who fished around under the photobooth for discarded photographs and put them in big scrapbooks? Well this is kind of like that, but on the Internet. Look At Me is a collection of found photographs. We're not sure why we find it so interesting, but we do.
Ha! We knew it!
Dr. Keith Hampton, an expert in cyber-sociology at MIT who spent two years living in Toronto's Netville, has released a study which shows that "People who spend time online are not sad, lonely individuals with no social life....quite the opposite."
Polar Bears have been in the news quite a bit lately. Rapidly changing climactic conditions and greatly increased development have put a serious stress on the world's largest terrestrial carnivores.
One of the most exciting developments in polar bear research and education is a joint project between the World Wildlife Fund and the Norwegian Polar Institute. They have created the Polar Bear Tracker which allows you, yes you, to monitor the movements of two polar bears, Louise and Gro, as they make their way around the Arctic. The bears are fitted with radio collars, and their position is beamed to the tracker by GPS satellites. Their positon is updated every six days and you can track their movements through time and space in the archives. The archives also contain animations so you can see their movements all at one time.
The scientists at the Norwegian Polar Institute write little blurbs to explain what the bears are doing. It's fascinating. Gro, in particular has been having a tough time lately, she is having to cover vast distances quickly in order to keep up with the rapidly diminishing pack ice. C'mon Gro, you can do it!
May 28, 2002
While doing some research for the post below we came across this magnificent reference collection of Country Studies on the always surprising, and seemingly endlessly deep, Library of Congress Website. We at Portage estimate that the LOC website must grow by over a 1000 webpages a day because we've spent a lot of time there and yet we never fail to find a dozen or so things that completely amaze us.
Some very good news indeed on Reuters this morning. Great Britain's admirable Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has arranged for its inspectors to receive training in camouflage and surveillance techniques from members of the British Army's legendary Gurkhas.
It appears that practitioners of the seemingly genteel, but highly illegal, hobby of egg collecting have been undetered by increased penalties, which include jail terms, in their pursuit of such rare eggs as those of the osprey and the marsh harrier. Several bird species are, in fact, endangered due to, what Portage now recognizes to be, the despicable hobby of egg collecting.
The legendary Gurkhas, who are of Nepalese ancestry and whose motto "Better Dead Than A Coward" is not known to have been questioned by any living person, established their ferocious reputation while serving in India from 1815 until 1947. After India gained independance in 1947 the Gurkhas were redeployed to Hong Kong. They are often refered to in history books as "the finest native troops of the British Army", but several military historians with whom we are acquainted assure us that they are now universally recognized to have been the finest troops in the British Army. Period.
Although the RSPB is claiming that its inspectors will neither use, nor be trained in, the use of the infamous khukuri, the trademark knife of the Gurkha, we here at Portage don't believe it for a moment. The khukuri is an integral part of Gurkha tradition and is deeply woven into all aspects of their military training. Our military historian friends assure us that there is simply no way that RSPB inspectors, once having been trained by Gurkhas, will not be carrying khukuri. The Gurkhas simply will not allow it.
This is a great comfort to us at Portage, who freely admit to having a bit of a soft spot for our feathered friends. We really enjoy the thought of a small, highly trained unit of RSPB inspectors silently rising up out of the underbrush, where they have been lying motionless for up to 36 hours, to surprise some blue-blooded, but morally bankrupt, egg-collector just as he dips his hand into the osprey nest. The best part, of course, is when, with a simple, yet terrifyingly well-practiced motion, they unsheath the 18" blades of their kukhuris and unleash simple, bloody justice for all the unhatched eggs that never had the chance to become birds. Or maybe it won't be so silent at all, maybe it' ll be more of a sudden horrible unstoppable onslaught of kukhuri wielding RSPB inspectors, it would probably be something like this.
Oh yeah, now that's what we call environmental protection.
May 27, 2002
The Best Children's Magazine Ever?
Today is Rachel Carson's birthday. Ms. Carson, as you may know, was one of the prime figures in spearheading the environmental movement; she did this through her watershed book Silent Spring. In Silent Spring Carson demonstrated how the unregulated and widespread spraying of pesticides was having a massive detrimental effect on the entire living world including humans. The 1962 work, written for an intelligent general audience, was massively influential and caused the entire world to question what they were being told by their governments and by the chemical industry. Equally, if not more importantly, her testimony before the United States Congress in 1963, widely covered by the media, forced a reluctant government, who were heavily lobbied by the chemical industry, to move more quickly than they probably would have to take measures to regulate the spraying of DDT. Rachel Carson died in 1964 of breast cancer. (A quick Google Search: Rachel Carson will give you loads of information if you want more).
Though too poor to have indoor plumbing, the Carsons subscribed to the children's magazine, St. Nicholas, whose mission included the "protection of the oppressed, whether human or dumb creatures." Like many other later-famous writers -- William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, E. E. Cummings, Samuel Eliot Morison, Edna St. Vincent Millay, E. B. White, Eudora Welty, Ring Lardner, and more -- Carson published stories in St. Nicholas while still in her pre-teens, and early on became as committed to writing as she was to nature.
Just have a quick scan through that list of authors again...Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Cummings, Welty, and the rest...it's a who's who of American letters. Now we have no way of knowing, but we're pretty sure, that the magazines we see our nephews and nieces reading today aren't getting submissions from pre-teen Faulkners. Well, maybe one or two, but not a whole group like that. Do teenagers even submit stories to magazines these days? Are there magazines that they can submit to?
Portage decided to do a little more research on St. Nicholas Magazine to see what we could find out. As it turned out that research wasn't very difficult at all because we almost immediately discovered Linda Young's very fine "Flying Dreams" The St. Nicholas Tribute Page. Here's what we found out:
In 1872 Scribner's decided to publish "a magazine for children, a magazine of lively, well-written stories, poetry, and articles, a magazine with the same high standards as the monthly (Scribner's Magazine) they published for adults." Mary Mapes Dodge was chosen as the editor and the magazine began publication the following year. Mapes insisted that the magazine should be a "child's playground; where children could be delighted as well as be in charge." Her editorial policy, consistent throughout the magazine's run was as follows.
In addition to that list of child prodigies listed above St. Nicholas included amongst its contributors Robert Louis Stevenson, Lord Tennyson, Mark Twain, Henry "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Stanley, Herbert Hoover,Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, and Emily Dickinson. The illustrations were first rate; illustrators for the magazine included the finest in America: Charles Gibson, of The Gibson Girl fame, Palmer Cox, who invented the Brownies, and Norman Rockwell.
The subject matter of St. Nicholas was, to say the least, far ranging. One can only imagine its loyal readership of young polymaths anxiously awaiting their monthly read which would include articles on, and this list is far from complete, portraits of famous American cities; aviation history;life in the armed services; the workings of government; animals; profiles of famous people such as Charles Lindbergh and Lawerence of Arabia; observations on visits to foreign cities; profiles famous inventors, musicians, and artists; histories of inventions; historic boys and historic girls; and the globe from deepest Africa to the North and down the Amazon.
We here at Portage believe that it is time to begin a campaign to relaunch St. Nicholas.
Most of the information for this post came from the truly wonderful "Flying Dreams" The St. Nicholas Tribute Page by Linda Young. It contains much more information than I have summarzied above, some gorgeous illustrations from the magazine, and a quality selection of links to every facet of the magazine. I've reproduced a few of Linda's many links below.
May 26, 2002
Hashima Island, popularly known as Gunkanjima, is a small unpopulated island off the coast of Kyushu in southern Japan. Although it measures only 160m by 480m the island was once inhabited by over 5 000 people who worked in the coal mines located under the island (the most important mines in Japan for over a century). Due to the islands' dimunitive size and high population, the housing consisted of a number of enormous concrete apartment blocks, which stand to this day. These buildings were the earliest major concrete sturctures in Japan, and, when the first ones were built around 1918 were the tallest buildings in all of Japan.
At it's peak in 1959 the island had a population density of 835 people/hectare for the entire island, and a staggering 1,391/ hectare for the residential district. By comparison the most densely populated area of modern day Tokyo has 141 people/hectare. In 1974, after a century of producing high grade coal, the mine was closed and all the residents (save for a few cats) vacated the island. Now the entire island is a ghost-town. The buildings are all still there, many of the apartments still have furniture in them, just all the people are gone. We here at Portage suspect that Gunkanjima is exactly what it will be like after the Bodysnatchers invade (and have no doubt, they will).The strange urban geography of Gunkkanjima gives the island the appearance, when seen from the water, of being a huge, ghostly ship, in fact Gunkanjima literally means 'ship island'. Amazing.
Thanks to Andrew at gmtPlus9 for drawing our attention to Gunkanjima.
If the idea of a visit to Gunkanjima is appealing to you then you'll really love Henk van Rensbergen's abandoned places website. Henk enjoys "exploring and photographing abandoned factories, hospitals and other interesting places in Belgium". On rainy days, when he can't go exploring, he likes to design "impossible and intriguing buildings". He's combined both his passions on this very interesting webpage.
A quick update to Friday's post on the wedding between the lovely and talented Princess Martha Louise of Norway and notorious slubberdegullion Ari Behn. There are indications from Oslo that Mr. Behn, long known for his insatiable appetite for intoxicants of all kinds, may not be quite as reformed as the media would have us believe. Aftenposten is reporting that in his groom's speech at the wedding banquet Mr. Behn made a special point of taking time to thank The King and Queen of Norway "for taking care of me when I felt like I was stumbling and losing my grip." Given Mr. Behn's noted propensity for Aquavit it may not have just felt like he was stumbling.
Andrew Abb's venerable gmtPlus9, a daily weblog from Osaka, Japan, is three years old. If you've never been to gmtPlus9 you're in for a treat. There is no one, no one, who can ferret out links to unusual beautiful art-related links like Andrew. But don't take it from us, go have a look at his third annual birthday post (scroll down to the entry for Thursday, 2002/05/23) and see some of his favorite links of the year.
We made these scary faces with a very cool little webamajig we found at a virtual art exhibit concerning Charle's LeBrun's Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions we found at Ottawa based artengine. The Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions or, in English, The method for learning how to draw emotions was a book published in 1698 by Charles LeBrun that attempted to codify the visual expression of emotions in painting. Now you may be interested in that, or maybe you're not, but you're still going to like making scary faces with the little machine.
May 24, 2002
O.K, it's Friday afternoon here in Toronto, the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and it's less than an hour 'till cocktail time! Now, we could opt for a Martini, or a Manhattan, or any of the other tried and trued cocktails that people mix up out of habit, or we could highball it over to The CocktailDB Home Page and discover something new altogether. That's not going to be difficult, what with 4733 different drink recipes currently in the (still under development) DB. And these aren't just outrageous combinations of booze concocted, with little or no thought to the subtleties of taste, by some bar looking to increase profits by selling drinks with sexually suggestive names. No, these recipes are the real thing. In fact the people who run CocktailDB are so serious about their job that they don't even include such ubiquitous abominations of the mixologist's art as the Slippery Nipple or the Sex-on-the-Beach. (As a friend of Portage once said after being pressured into trying one such creation, "That's not a drink that's just alcoholic sludge,". Here's a quote from the DB on the source of some of their latest entries.
Now, maybe its just us, but we think we're going to enjoy that A La Donna or Zubrowka (A to Z, get it?) just that much more because we know a little about its history. In addition to the recipes the DB contains loads of information on ingredients, glassware, and bartender's guides. There is also a document library under construction. Although small now it does include a few essays such as Just What Is Vermouth Anyways? and The Origins of the Singapore Sling; Some Facts, Some Fancy. In addition they link to offsite documents, such as the very interesting indeed Oral Applications of Ambergris as an Aromatic Beverage Flavoring, and cocktail-related websites, such as this very large Swizzle Sticks Collection. We couldn't have been more impressed with what they're doing at The CocktailDB Home Page and, when they do get it just they want it, it is going to be spectacular. Santé!!
Speaking of cocktails: There was exciting news today for hard living, unproductive writer-types. Notorious Norwegian partyboy Ari Behn, whose only published novel, Sad as Hell, is a mere 90 pages long (with lots of white space) has wed Norway's Princess Martha Louise. The rougish Mr. Behn was once very publically thrown out of Oslo's famous Theatre Café while drunkenly proclaiming that he and his rambunctious artist friends were "the new wine!!," and that, as such, they were deserving of greater respect. (The New Wine, Ari? What the hell does that mean?) Prior to marrying a princess the profligate Norseman was most famous for openly condoning the use of drugs, which he did on a widely seen documentary on Norwegian television in which the rascally writer cavorted with scantilly clad prostitutes who were hoovering up cocaine like there was no tomorrow.
May 23, 2002
William Grant Still (1895-1978) was the first African-American composer to have a symphony performed by an American orchestra. Among Still's many other firsts; first African-American to conduct a major symphony orchestra; first African-American to have an opera performed by a major opera company; and the first African-American to have an opera performed on national television.
Below is a sample section from the exhibition, it documents Still's selection as the composer for the great 1939 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. While this section celebrates Still's selection it also demonstrates the heartbreaking irony that, even while Still was enjoying uprecedented successes for an African-American, and even as he was writing the theme music for a fair that billed itself "the city of tomorrow", he still had to deal with assinine racial laws.
Do you remember that old electronic game Simon where Simon would beep out a pattern on four brightly colored buttons and then you had to repeat it, ad infinitum? Yeah, it was fun wasn't it? Well now you can play it online! But, seeing that instead of playing the game on a $14 hunk of plastic in your parents basement, you'll be playing it on thousands of dollars of computer equipment, utilizing a world-wide information network designed to withstand nuclear war, and doing it in your office on sombody else's dime, there's of course been a few improvments, namely that instead of playing it with Simon you now get to play it with the mysterious mep! The new game is called mepnomis and it's great.
Now that link we just posted, that's what you call a 'deep link', and those are controversial things these days because it'll take you straight to mepnomis bypassing the sites front page. Now there are two reasons we posted it that way. One is because we know that you're all already loyal readers of odd todd and don't need to be shown how to find his front door. If, for some reason however, you don't know about odd todd you should go there right now. He's got cartoons, and songs, and games, and interesting knowledge and a bunch of other fun stuff to do instead of working. Oh, and if you can spare one, give Todd a dollar (he's currently unemployed). The second reason is because we know that Todd is down with the Internet and he understands that it's all about the links, baby, ( well the love too, it's all about the links and the love). Todd is cool, not like the jerks in this BusinessNews article on deep linking.
The things you learn from your referral logs. In the past few hours Portage has had several visitors who came to us from a Google search for some variant of "Stephen J. Gould Gander September 20 Globe Mail". We understand how they arrived, in the past few days Portage has posted about both Dr. Gould and about the events in Gander, Nfld. after September 11. But we didn't have any idea, until now, that there was a link between the two. Well, there is. It seems that Dr. Gould was one of the 6 595 people aboard 38 airplanes, who were diverted to Gander, and who were cared for by the 10 000 townspeople for up to a week after September 11. On September 20 Gould wrote an article in The Globe & Mail in which he thanked the people of Gander for
“(responding) immediately, unanimously, unstintingly and with all conceivable goodness, when no real danger, but merely fear and substantial inconvenience, dogged your refugees for a few days. Our lives did not depend upon you, but you gave us everything nonetheless. We . . . are forever in your debt, and all humanity glows in the light of your unselfish goodness.”
Now, of course, the dumdums at the Globe and Mail (Canada's National Newspaper) still seem to be completely ignorant of the Web and information retrieval and, well, just about anything to do with the Internet. (A 7 day site search! Oh, gee, thanks a lot! I've got more than seven days worth of the Globe sitting on my coffee table you dingbats!) so there's no way of finding the article on their site (which, by the way, looks and behaves like the editor gave the neighbour kid $50 bucks to build it for them). So that's how come people are coming to Portage and not finding what they were looking for because I can't find the article either. (A Google search for " "stephen j. gould" +gander +globe +mail " which seems to me like the best way to do it actually returns only one hit, Portage. Shouldn't the Globe's website at least admit to Google that such an article did at one time exist?)
May 22, 2002
City Lights: Vancouver's Neon Heritage is devoted to the art, history and science of everybody's favorite inert gas, neon. Don't think that it will just be of interest to Vancouverites; this site features lots and lots of great general information on the gas that glows. We found it interesting, for example, that many neon signs (especially blue and yellow ones) don't have any neon in them at all, it's argon! (Now next time you're out on the town, or even better on a first date, you can point at a blue and yellow sign and say "Wow, cool argon sign!" and your companion(s) will say "You mean neon sign." and then you'll be able to explain all about the difference and they'll think you're really smart and, if you're on a date, you'll probably score.) To make other colors (like tangerine or pink) you have to coat the inside of the glass tubes with different kinds of phosphors, and that's a bit expensive so that's why you don't see too much tangerine colored neon. The cheapest kind of neon light to make is a red one because it's just a clear tube with plain old neon in it. We here at Portage wanted to make our own neon sign, to give our headquarters a disreputable air, so we checked out the How to make a neon sign section but it looked like a lot of work, so we just made ours in Photoshop.
Absolutely stunning collection of over 100 paintings by Gustav Klimt . This very high-quality site is highly searchable, has exceptional image quality, good biographical information on the artist, and great links. If all you know about Klimt is from a ratty reproduction poster of The Kiss then go visit this site right now.
Paul Cezanne, (1839 - 1906) 200 images: If we here at Portage could pick just one for our house it would be this one.
Portage: 0 to 100 rpd (readers per day) in 82 days.
Bwannnnk! Mwaaaankk!!!! Good Lord! What's all that noise? Oh, sorry, it's just us blowing our own horn. Yesterday, for the first time since going live to the public on March 1, 2002, Portage: Stuff Worth Saving passed the 100 visitors per day mark. Look we're not going to deny we had a few brief embarassing dailances with weblog promotion tools such as blogsnob and wanderlust, ultimately we found them to be next to useless for promoting a site like Portage. The visitors from these services almost inevitably came by once, quickly noted that the site (like ourselves) was bookish, a little heavy around the middle, wore corrective glasses, and danced around to crazy tunes about doing The Boogaloo, The Shingaling, and putting the Bomp back in the Bomp-a-lomp-a-na and the Ram back in the Ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong. Not surprisingly most of these visitors never came back ... they never even wrote. (No, not you Graham, we remember how you found us on wanderlust and pointed several now faithful new readers our way. Thanks!) In general, however, we here at Portage have relied on word of mouth to spread the news about this site.
So, getting to the point quickly, as the music wells up offstage like a gigantic vaudeville hook, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank several sites for their support over the last few months, and to wish them all the best for the future. The hyper-prestigious Friends of Portage SuperClub now includes (and, just like on report card day, this is in no particular order) Jim Coudal and Kevin Guilfoile at coudal partners, and their amazing, and destined to be enormously important, Museum of Online Museums; the crew at Waterloo, Ontario' s social-activist super-blog waterloo wide web; Graham Leuschke of the ultra-smart leuschke.org; the mysterious nutcote of plep (there's no way, simply no way, you're just one person); the superfunky dr. menlo for early recognition, inclusion, and patience with my technical incompetence; my countryman Mark Woods for the cultural feast that is wood s lot; and last, but not by a long way least, the wonderful Juanita Benedicto, and the rest of the crew, at the super-influential NewBreed Librarian.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Speech, schmeech. You're the greatest, ya wee webman, nice job honouring yourself, (do you have a real job yet??). Now come on, the free champagne is starting to wear off, our bums are getting sore, it's time to hit the open bar and get this party rolling! In other words, it's time to DANCE! Now, linky-lover, just where are all those superfly librarians you told us about?
May 21, 2002
Lots of different and detailed information in this Harvard Gazette obit for S. J. Gould. Most interesting, to us anyways, is that Gould was a Trustee of the Bibliotecha Alexandrina Project in Egypt and that his wife has asked that, in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to the Alexandria Library Scholars Copyright Fund. That's really cool, and you can bet the Cancer Society is going to be
Duke University, well known for the excellent quality of the digital collections of their awesome Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library presents two great digital collections of early advertising. Ad*Access contains 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955. The second collection, The Emergence of Advertising in America, contains 9,000 images from 1850-1920.
(via Marmite on Toast: Another weblog from what we're quickly discovering is a growing group of supercool, web-savvy librarians.)
An interesting Economist article on how the increasing fear of bomb-ships has finally stirred the U.S. to try and end the disgraceful flags of convenience system which allows shipping companies to register their vessels in countries such as Liberia or Panama which have no regulations of any kind regarding safety, labour practices, or, well, anything. I have, at times, lived on an international waterway and watched ships from around the world everyday. You could always spot a 'flag of convenience' ship coming from a mile away; rusted, falling apart, and with only the most rudimentary 'life boats' strapped to the side. Let's hope that the ending of FOC shipping is one change that takes place quickly.
Gould Update (main entry with more linkshere)
It has become, in my view, a bit too trendy to regard the acceptance of death as something tantamount to intrinsic dignity. Of course I agree with the preacher of Ecclesiastes that there is a time to love and a time to die - and when my skein runs out I hope to face the end calmly and in my own way. For most situations, however, I prefer the more martial view that death is the ultimate enemy - and I find nothing reproachable in those who rage mightily against the dying of the light. - Stephen Jay Gould, "The Median Isn't the Message" Discover 1985.
May 20, 2002
Apparently Dean Wormer has won. The University of Oregon, where Animal House was filmed, has banned alcohol not only on campus but in the fraternity and sorority houses as well. See The Greeks Go Dry for the fully story. Now, of course, this isn't going to present a problem for Greg Marmalard and the rest of the doofuses at Alpha Phi Omega who will gladly sign, and obey, the pledge to abstain, but what's going to happen when they catch Otter and Boon up on the roof with a six-pack? Well double secret probation, of course, haven't you seen the movie? Portage will continue to monitor this story in the hope that Bluto will rally the troops with an inspired speech. "Over?!? It's never over! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No! It ain't over 'till we say it's over!!! There is some hope of this. One 'B. D. Gerhert' is urging his fellow students to 'draw a line in the sand' and to 'Fight For Their Right '. See here.
Stephen Jay Gould, 1941 - 2002
Popular, but controversial, paleontologist, evolutionary theorist, and historian of science Stephen J. Gould has died at the age of 60. Gould was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, and Professor of Geology at Harvard University, and was also curator for Invertebrate Paleontology at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. Gould wrote at least twenty books, many of which were enormously popular with the public such as Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. We here at Portage will remember Gould most for his excellent monthly essay "This View of Life" in Natural History Magazine. You can read the first essay Gould wrote for the magazine here and the final essay in the 300 essay series here.
“I was lucky to wander into evolutionary theory, one of the most exciting and important of all scientific fields. I had never heard of it when I started at a rather tender age; I was simply awed by dinosaurs. I thought paleontologists spent their lives digging in up bones and putting them together, never venturing beyond the momentous issue of what connects to what. Then I discovered evolutionary theory. Ever since then, the duality of natural history — richness in particularities and potential union in underlying explanation — has propelled me. - Stephen J. Gould, The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History , New York: Norton, 1980, pp. 11-12.
May 19, 2002
Oh, come on baby. Downtown Soulville. Take off your mink stole and put on your soul clothes...Baby, put your good dress on, and let's go downtown. Come on baby, do the boogaloo. Do anything you wanna do. Do it baby; do that shingaling, that funky Broadway, everything! Mama put your good dress on, let's go downtown!
That's how Downtown Soulville With Mr. Fine Wine on America's finest freeform radio station WFMU starts every Friday night and it just keeps on groovin' along commercial-free for the whole hour with lots of very rare, tasty soul and r' n b'. As if that isn't sweet enough you can listen to any show from the past couple of years in RealAudio format because they're archived. (Actually the mighty WFMU archives all of their shows) Wow. If you're still not sure it's for you (but come on you're not going to tell us you don't have soul are you?) listen to last Friday night's show.
O.K., so now you've put on your soul clothes and you're grooving along nicely with Mr. Fine Wine and you're tapping your feet, and shaking your hips, and you just want to dance! But the soulsters are telling you to shingaling, and boogaloo, and even to do the Funky Robot and you, well, you just don't know how. Now we know the Library of Congress has an excellent display of Dance Instruction Manuals (link via NBL), but they just aren't going to help you in this situation because they only go up to 1920. Never fear, we here at Portage are here to help. We're going to point you in the direction of two very funky dance instructors so at least you'll know how to do a couple of dances. Ben Zuidwijk, possibly the funkiest man in Holland, will teach you how to Do the Funky Chicken while Funky Funk will teach you how to do her thing. After that you're on your own.
Now, once you've mastered the dance-steps provided by Mr. Zuidwikj, and only after you've mastered them, you might be ready to try doing it to the original song by the late, great Rufus Thomas.
The picture above depicts 34 Mounties. It was painted on a grain of rice with a single horsehair. The pic comes from a great PhotoVoyage called Rice: The World's Food. It is one of many excellent PhotoVoyages that are part of the Washington Post's awesome (in quality and quantity) Camera Works site. We read on someone's weblog (sorry we forget who) last week that they thought that washingtonpost.com was the best newspaper website going. Well, after looking around Camera Works for a while, we couldn't agree more.
Artificial Anatomy: Papier-Mâché Anatomical Models
May 18, 2002
We're experimenting with a new feature tonight, Saturday Night Songs. It's our way of sharing some of our favorite tunes with you, our friends. Grab them while you can, cause they won't be up forever. To kick it off here are the inimitable Martha & The Vandellas (that's them up above, are they the coolest or what?) with Nowhere to Run. After you're finished grooving with Martha you might want to listen to this NPR bit on the Vandellas and how the awesome power of The Motown Sound is greatly underappreciated and underpromoted. Portage couldn't agree more . We suspect that 99% of the people have only heard 1% of the Motown catalog. So we're gonna do our part to remedy the situation, here are the Marvelettes with Danger: Heartbreak Dead Ahead! But it's not just Motown here on Saturday Night Songs! It wouldn't be Saturday night, around here anyways, without this song, and, if you find youself alone on Saturday night (don't worry it even happens to us, why do you think we're sitting around uploading songs to the Internet), you can always rock out with some Squire. This feature was inspired by the bootylicious, and greatly missed, dooce and her fantastic playlists and also by Odd Todd, and his Song For Thursday. Enjoy.
May 17, 2002
Score another one for the good guys. Toronto's Eaton Auditorium, and the adjoining super-fabulous Round Room restaurant, closed since 1977 and the subject of several court battles to decide their fate, have been saved and will reopen in 2003. The art-deco hall was built in 1929 and hosted numerous superstars of the day during its 48 year run. The Eaton Auditorium is most famous, however, for its long association with the eccentric Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. Gould had several firsts there including his first public performance at the age of 12 (1945) and his first public solo recital at the age of 15 (1947). In 1960 Gould discovered Steinway grand piano No. CD318 there and began to rent it from Steinway, eventually buying it in 1971(?), the piano quickly became his favorite, and remained so even after movers dropped it, altering its sound forever. After the closure of the Eaton Auditorium Gould complained to Gramaphone magazine that he could find "no where else on the local scene that suited my needs, though if my arm was twisted - which is not the way one should have it when one is playing the piano - I suppose I would go somewhere else." In 2003 the ghost of Glenn Gould, who haunts Toronto like no other ghostly musician, can finally return home.
We're #1! We here at Portage were
Now, of course, we here at Portage don't need the Sex Tip Archive, but we realize that some of our less experienced readers might like to bone up on the material before the exam. (Oh, O.K.,we learned
A thoughtful Christian Science Monitor story on the X-Files: X-Files: Case Closed
Lufthansa airlines, which until now has always named its planes after German cities, has named one of its airplanes the Gander Halifax. The break with tradition came as the airline's way of thanking the two Canadian cities for aiding over 2000 Lufthansa passengers and crew who were diverted to the cities on September 11 and spent up to a week there. "We were witnesses to how the citizens provided the many thousands of people from the most varied origins, the most varied cultures and with sheer endless worries, with a little consolation and comfort" said a Lufthansa spokesperson, "We want to send the signal all over the world to all the cities Lufthansa is flying to".
In all the City of Gander, which has a population of under 10 000 people, took in 6 595 people who arrived in 38 divereted aircraft. You can read the Lufthansa press release here or a Globe & Mail article here.
Here's a cool aerial photo of Gander Airport on September 12. The photo comes from this excellent site, built by a Gander airtraffic controller, all about the events in Gander.
Update: I've been informed that the above photo of Gander airport doesn't make much sense unless you are aware that Gander normally only gets two or three, at most, large aircraft per day. In the photo it looks more like Chicago O'Hare on Thanksgiving Weekend.
May 16, 2002
Dr. Hugh Hicks, the proprietor of The Mount Vernon Museum of Incandescent Lighting, has died at the age of 79. Dr. Hicks received over 6000 visitors a year to his collection of 60 000 bulbs. The Museum collection, for which Hicks charged no admission but did serve cookies, was third only to the light bulb collections of the Smithsonian and the Henry Ford Museum. You can read Dr. Hicks's NYTimes obit here.
These beautiful stamps are the work of Donald Evans, an American who lived (and died) in a Dutch windmill. Throughout his life Evans painted stamps for countries that existed only in his mind, like the ones above for the imaginary French islands of Amis et Amants or, in the English, Friends and Lovers. Amazing.
We can dig the New Breed. The NewBreed Librarian.
May 15, 2002
Does this look like fun or what? It looks doubly-fun when you realize that these people, who are 'nature sliding' on Mount Rainer, are wearing 'famous tin trousers' and that their bums are covered in paraffin. This photo is from a great collection called Picturing the Century: One Hundred Years of Photography from the National Archives.
May 14, 2002
The Fleetway is the tunnel between Detroit (Rock City!) in the U.S.A. and Windsor, Ontario in Canada. It was completed in 1930 and remains the world's only international underwater automotive border crossing. This site contains some amazing photos and movies of the construction of the tunnel. After Detroit went through something of a downturn in recent times the tunnel lost business to the Ambassador Bridge which connects directly to the highways through, and out of, Detroit. In recent years, however, downtown Detroit, always one of Portage's favorite cities, has undergone a fantastic revitalization which is making the Fleetway important again. Hurrah!
Harriet Klausner, a former acquisitions librarian from Pennsylvania with two dogs and four cats, has written 3211 book reviews for Amazon.com. That makes her their number #1 reviewer. Harriet reads two books a day and tends to favor romance novels, although she has reviewed books from many different genres. Her reviews are a little unusual and contain many what can only be described as 'Harrietisms'; our favorite is from her review of the recent Anchoress of Shere which Harriet classed an "unusual but nonetheless fascinating tale". A recent blurb in Wired quotes a New York publishing house publicist as saying "A single review of hers shows up on hundreds of sites. She's as important as some syndicated newspapers in terms of reaching readers." Way to go, Harriet!
May 13, 2002
Wow. We've been looking around the George Eastman House website for a while since our last post and must say that we're completely astounded by the wealth of gorgeous photography that is available there. We particularly liked this collection of photos of The Moon - For Real & In Fiction and this enormous collection of photos by that great photographer of Paris Eugene Atget.
Good Wired article about Marshall McLuhan and a new documentary film, McLuhan's Wake, that has just been released about him. The above photo of McLuhan was taken by Yousuf Karsh. There's a very nice collection of 59 Karsh portraits, as well as a number of other photography collections, online at the George Eastman House.
May 11, 2002
William Tutte, 1917-2002
University of Waterloo mathematician, and noted codebreaker, William Tutte has died at the age of 84. Dr. Tutte became famous as a codebreaker for his work at Bletchley Park, the British wartime codebreaking operation. At the age of 24 he deciphered a key part of the German military code, the FISH cipher, which was only used by the German High Command. Tutte's achievment has been described "as the greatest intellectual achievement of the Second World War" and is credited with saving thousands upon thousands of lives and contributing enormously to the Allied victory. In 1948 Dr. Tutte moved to Canada and the University of Toronto. In 1962 he joined the newly founded University of Waterloo where he helped build its faculty of mathematics into one of the finest in the world. His colleague at Waterloo, Daniel Younger, has written an excellent obituary which is available on this website along with other information about Dr. Tutte.
Update Graham Leuschke has posted an excellent entry on Tutte which will be of great interest to mathematicians of all stripes even those, like myself, who have trouble with 13 X 13. Mark Woods, of the premiere Canadian weblog wood s lot, has also posted a great entry.
May 10, 2002
This is Jack, our Editor of Canine Affairs, investigating the webcam to see if it is tasty. For more pics of Jack click here.
Vintage Labels - The Lost Art of Travel and the History of the Luggage Label is an excellent site devoted to the fascinating history of, well, luggage labels.
Jim Kakalios, a physicist at the University of Minnesota, teaches a class he calls Everything I Know About Science I Learned From Reading Comic Books in which the class tries to answer questions like "Is Spider-Man's web really strong enough to support him as he swings from building to building?" or "Why did Superman's home planet of Krypton explode?" Sounds like fun. To learn more, and to find out the answers to those vexing questions, read the NYTimes article.
"One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and, if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can't criticize it, because it is criticizing us. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself. You may be worthy: I don't know, But it is you who are on trial."- A. A. Milne
May 09, 2002
Always wanted to be a wildlife artist, but were afraid you didn't know anything about composition? Now you can study with master Carl Rungius. A Brush with Wildlife is an interesting tutorial on the basic techniques of compostion. Don't miss the fantastic Flash demonstration of Art Principles Animated which apply to any kind of painting, not just those of wildlife.
Two British chemists believe they now know the reason why some cannonballs they recovered from a shipwreck spontaneously heated up until they reached temperatures of 400 degrees Celsius, almost setting a wooden desk they were resting on on fire.
May 07, 2002
Amorphophallus titanium Update:I didn't link to it last week because their servers were so jammed I couldn't get through, but now the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew: Titan Arum 2002 website is back up and well worth a look.
This Magical Book is a wonderful collection of pop-up and moving (and mooing and crowing!) books from the Toronto Public Library's magnificent Osborne Collection of Children's Literature. (It's not obvious at first but each picture is a link and each 'more information' tag is a link to a text entry about that image. Make sure you click both links for each book.)
While we're on the subject of the TPL; if you're ever in Toronto and you have even a passing interest in Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes you'll want to visit the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection at the TPL's Metro Reference Library. It is the only library collection in the world devoted to Arthur Conan Doyle and is well worth a visit.
NYT article on how the FBI dogged Einstein for years. You can read Einstein's FBI file (what parts aren't blacked out anyways), as well as Lucille Ball's, William Faulkner's, John Lennon's, Pablo Picasso's and many more here.
May 06, 2002
Insert Silence is a strangely hypnotic webart creation by James Paterson and Amit Pitaru that combines an image that is always changing but never quite resolves itself with an odd combination of chamber music and surf rock.
The Designmuseum in London has an excellent, and very beautiful, online guide to 20th century design. (Enter the site and look for the Design at Designmuseum link. ) The guide covers such notables as Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen, and Charles and Ray Eames as well as many other lesser known designers. The Designmuseum is now featuring a show on the great Italian designer Gio Ponti. There is a good article about the Ponti show here.
May 03, 2002
Eric J. Heller is a physicist at Harvard University who specializes in quantum mechanics, scattering theory, and quantum chaos. He is also an artist who is devoted to exposing the beauty of the atomic world and creating images which convey the mystery of quantum physics. Visit the Eric J. Heller Gallery. Here is a NYT interview with Dr. Heller A Not-So-Quantum Leap
We've visited Toronto's Downsview Subway station several times. On each occasion we admired the beautiful mosaic that graces the station walls and wondered about its amazing pattern but we had no idea, until today, that it is all based upon pi. Cool.
Joachim Verhagen has an online collection of more than 1500 science jokes.
Dean Allen of Textism is organizing a Googlebomb of Verisign to protest their abysmal handling of the Hoopla fiasco. While you're there check out Dean's flash animations What the Hell is the Fibonacci Series? and Deriving the Golden Section from a Square.
May 02, 2002
The Amorphophallus titanium (also known as Titan Arum, Corpseflower, and Bunga Bangkai), the world's largest and stinkiest flower has bloomed at Kew Gardens in London. The huge flower smells "just like a dead carcass of an animal," according to Nigel Taylor, head of horticulture at Kew. The Botany Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has an excellent site about the Titan Arum which includes some spectacular quicktime movies of theirs blooming.
May 01, 2002
As we're sure you're aware the last Sunday in April was Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day . "I know, I know," you say, "I've been wanting to participate, but I just don't know how to build a decent pinhole camera." Well you've run out excuses, the nice people at WWPPD provide this excellent collection of pinhole photography resources. So get busy and you can participate next year.