The Internet of Things is coming – Jay B. Nash, 1932

April 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Jay B. Nash, Spectatoritis, 1932, p. 265:

The machine frees. True. (…) Within our grasp is the leisure of the Greek citizen, made possible by our mechanical slaves, which far outnumber his twelve to fifteen per free man. These mechanical slaves jump to our aid. As we step into a room, at the touch of a button a dozen light our way. Another slave sits twenty-four hours a day at our thermostat, regulating the heat of our home. Another sits night and day at our automatic refrigerator. They start our car; run our motors; shine our shoes, and cult our hair. They practically eliminate time and space by their very fleetness.

(Nash’s book has little however to do with machines, but more with a critique of how modern Americans use their new-found, machine-liberated leisure not in creative ways — but rather by consuming “passively” commercial entertainment, This criticism sounds drearily familiar today. At the time it is part of a whole host of writings that try to look into the notion of a “leisure society“…)

the education of the future…

April 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

…supports, yes,

inquiry-based, student-centered learning, where students are encouraged to find entry points into the mandated curriculum in ways that are meaningful to them

“Knowmadic schooling”, “Design thinking”, “the Maker Movement” (the three key ideas of education reformers Will Richardson) are spot-on, as a shift in emphasis away from learning and more on discovering.

‘There’s not much I need you for when it comes to my child learning something’, Richardson said to teachers.

But beyond these general, and very sound, principles (and, arguably, getting all decision-makers to agree on such sets of principles already represents a challenge), most parents would probably be swayed by a more precise, bread-and-butter discussion on issues such as

  • school curriculum
  • class sizes
  • discipline policy
  • homework policy
  • cost

Speaking from personal experience, most parents remain wide-eyed at the prospect of education reform and speechless when innovative concepts are thrown at them. If they can be persuaded (and they should, there are lots of arguments and examples to use!) that such reform

  • does not “dumb down” the curriculum (the fear of the “splendidly creative ignoramus”), but addresses, in concrete terms, how it needs to evolve in the 21st century;
  • that there is adequate material support for creativity and reflexivity in the classroom (the fear of children playing at computers while the lone teacher, sweating it out, goes the round),
  • that there are clear guidelines on ways of engagement between students and teachers (discipline the wrong word here; but processes of discussion should be laid bare),
  • that workload is explained, that it is real, and that this reform is not guided by rosy-tinted scenarios of a future where work is all galloping around on some sun-kissed hills like gentle lambs;

then education reform has a good shot of making it out of cool conferences and into the real world. There are examples around that some institutions get this balance right.

lost, alas

March 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

A sad reminder of how much film history, and just plain good movies, have been and are still lost: this post by David Cairn, which also makes the point of how utterly illogical the operations of fate have been in regards to the disappearance of silent films…

Magic Lantern Show this Friday

March 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

If you are in London this Friday you could start the evening with a magic lantern show at Goldsmiths, 5:30 pm. This is the announcement :

The Magic Carpet
A rare opportunity to experience the magic lantern in action!

Friday 21st March, 2014
5.30 pm, Screen 1, Media Research Building, Goldsmiths, University of London

No medium transported more people through time and space in the 19th century than the magic lantern, cinema’s ancestor, and for 250 years the world’s premier screen experience.

Lantern impresarios “Professor” Joss Marsh and Mr. David “Limelight” Francis, of the new Kent Museum of the Moving Image, present a panorama of the Imperial itineraries, virtual travels, fantastical geographies, and metaphysical journeys of the Victorian era using an original lantern, authentic texts, and a wide variety of rare glass slides.

David Francis O.B.E. was for 15 years Curator of the British National Film Archive, and subsequently Chief of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress.  His co-authored publications include the ground-breaking Chaplin: Genesis of a Clown (1977), and Museums, Curatorship and the Moving Image Experience (2008).

Until 2013, Joss Marsh was Associate Professor of Victorian Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.  She is the author of Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture, and Literature in 19th-Century England (1998), the forthcoming Starring Charles Dickens, and numerous essays on Dickens, Chaplin, the 19th-century novel and film, Victorian visual culture, celebrity, film stardom, and the magic lantern.

All welcome!

Solving the problem of a Danish Shakespeare film (1921)

March 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Another intriguing tidbit of US silent cinema exploitation in the 1920s. This is the problem: how to exploit a Danish version of Hamlet (there is a version on YouTube…)  that features Asta Nielsen is Hamlet, the girl who was a man who couldn't make up his mindAsta Nielsen in a female version of the title role (to paraphrase Laurence Olivier: “this is the story of [a girl who was] a man who could not make up his mind”). The film clearly has potential (Nielsen is a recognised star; it has literary tradition behind it, even if it does not draw directly from the play…).

The solution: live reciting of the lines during the film is the answer – a multimodal performance that may not have been Shakespeare, but was certainly quite a sensory pleasure:

Asta Films, Inc., in conjunction with National Arts of America, announced this week the presentation at the Lexington Theatre on Nov. 7 of the motion picture production of Hamlet, which is creating a sensation in Europe. This production is based upon the old legend of “Hamlet” from which Shakespeare drew his first conception of the immortal tragedy, and upon the conception of Hamlet in the book, “The Mystery of Hamlet,” by the late Edward P. Vining.

The players who appear in this picture are celebrated European stars, headed by the famous Danish tragedienne Asta Nielsen. This will be the first showing in America of this great artist’s work. She is one of the best known artists in Europe.

The production is said to be an elaborate and artistic one, and is faithful to the time and place. It will be presented with an elaborate musical setting, specially composed and arranged for it, by a large symphony orchestra. Scenes from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” will be given during the progress of the picture by an interpreter of Shakespeare.

From The Exhibitor’s Trade Review vol. 10 n. 23, Nov. 5, 1921, p. 1590 (as always, from the invaluable Media History Digital Library).

The Internet of Things is coming – Philip K. Dick, 1969

February 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Philip K. Dick, Ubik (1969):

Back in the kitchen he fished in his various pockets for a dime, and, with it, started up the coffeepot. Sniffing the — to him — very unusual smell, he again consulted his watch, saw that fifteen minutes had passed; he therefore vigorously strode to the apt door, turned the knob and pulled on the release bolt.

The door refused to open. It said, ‘Five cents, please.’

He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. ‘I’ll pay you tomorrow,’ he told the door. Again he tried the knob. Again it remained locked tight. ‘What I pay you ,’ he informed it, ‘is in the nature of a gratuity; I don’t have to pay you.’

‘I think otherwise,’ the door said. ‘Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this conapt.’

In his desk drawer he found the contract; since signing it he had found it necessary to refer to the document many times. Sure enough; payment to his door for opening and shutting constituted a mandatory fee. Not a tip.

‘You discover I’m right,’ the door said. It sounded smug.

From the drawer beside the sink Joe Chip got a stainless steel knife; with it he began systematically to unscrew the bolt assembly of his apt’s money-gulping door.

‘I’ll sue you,’ the door said as the first screw fell out.

Joe Chip said, ‘I’ve never been sued by a door. But I guess I can live through it.’


At the movies with baby, ca. 1918

February 26, 2014 § 1 Comment

ImageFrom Film Fun, Jan. 1919, p. 14


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