A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.5 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places...
I found this interesting and lovely display of empirical data, and I like it quite a bit, even though it really isn't a good example of a graphical display of information. The chart was intended to show the differences in the profiles of British destroyers, and not much more. The image appeared in The Illustrated London News, April 23, 1949.
And the text:
Then there's this (below) a good graphical representation of the size of fleet strengths, steam and sail, appearing in The Illustrated London News for January 28, 1911, just a few years before the start of WWI:
This is another in a long series of posts on my collection of WWI news service photos--there's 75 or so up already though mostly in the WWI photography part of the blog's bookstore. Mostly the images were very heavily controlled by censers as to what content was allowable or not, and there was also very strict control of access to battlefield actions. Simply put there was a long hearts & minds campaign of positive reinforcement exercised by allied high command in controlling wartime images--with the deaths of tens of millions of people there was simply no room to be let for any chance illustration of the great bleakness of this war to escape a censor's detection. Imaging the war would come in due course, but not necessarily during the fighting; and the coverage wasn't necessarily "imaginative", as it tended to be more exclusive and myopic.
This photo is pretty upbeat, full of positive energy and life, and shows a group of female volunteers in a sea of clothing, having created the articles they are now folding the jerseys for shipment. The faces are fresh, inviting, full, hopeful.
This is an excellent example of appreciating images in context. The photograph seemed line an ordinary image of a soldier peering through a periscope on action ahead of his trench, in some miserable battlefield, somewhere in Europe, 1918. The image is the product of a photographic pool, the photographers working in semi-unison to produce acceptable images to be used in publications illustrating the war. The images could not be too terribly graphic, and must not relate any useful military intelligence--they would pass through the hands of very active censors whose job it was to slightly inform the reading public and to also keep morale high, a difficult balancing act.
And so I thought my thoughts. Until I turned the image over--it was stamped "Photo by Central News Photo Service". It was also accompanied by a typed caption, the bit of text that was to be the standardized caption for this photograph when and if it was used by a magazine or newspaper.
The title is "The Belgian Collector".
The Belgian collector was a sharpshooter. He would scan the field looking for any unfortunate who might have left themselves exposed. Then he would shoot at them. Collect them.
In a sense, "collect" like "John Fowles The Collector, only killing them with a rifle.
But that was his job. And it was war. And if he was on your side, then you'd want him there.
I found "the collector" name to be poetical, and chilling.
So, combining the context with the image in this case was a truly sensational thing.
The original photo may be purchased from this blog's bookstore, here.
"To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death..." Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 51
One way of managing parts of the present and the past is by thinking about the prospects of the future. The universal monochord of prescription, of description, of a possibility of the future, has been an attempt at the hands of a number of people, though it has not been often, and it really is basically a modern invention. And what I mean is more of the science or science fiction development part of looking into the future, and not so much the Platonic development of the ideal state of being, or promises of eternal afterlife in the presence of the creator of the universe tucked away in some ideal somewhere in folded pieces of time.
One of the very earliest of the science fiction adventures into the future belongs to Louis-Sébastien Mercier (6 June 1740 – 25 April 1814, a successful and prolific dramatist) in L'An 2440, rêve s'il en fut jamais (1771, "The Year 2440: A Dream If Ever There Was One"). One aspect of it may or may not have gotten rid of the quote leading this quick post, as different aspects of literature (useless and immoral and whatever) has been eliminated out there in the 25th century. Bad and unwanted lit is gone, along with what used to be the criminal justice system and the idea of "public space", plus taxes, armed forces, slavery, prostitution, beggars (though not necessary the idea of being poor or rich), foreign trade, guilds, individual excesses in dress, and a bunch of other things, plus priests and monks and other religious bits. It was visionary and subversive and published to wild acclaim, one of the best-selling works of the 18th century, which was also banned in France and Spain. IT was the first Utopian work to be set in the future (according to Paul Alken in his Origins of Futuristic Fiction, in a notice in Science Fiction Studies, "Revisiting Mercier...:, volume 30/1, Mach 2003, pp 130-2).
As I assemble the WWI stuff here for a possible anniversary blog of interesting war and homefront images (nothing like planning and foresight for these things) I was putting together the war years for some of the journals, including the magnificent Scientific American. Flipping open the top volume (1918) revealed a big blue/dark print that was entirely unexpected--an Italian bomber carrying out a mission at night using flares to illuminate the target area.
At first I had an irrational serendipitous memory of Santa Claus using a lantern to find his way, but, well, as I said it was an irrational association. (There's another odd memory of a picture of Santa in 1917/18 delivery his presents on a flying tank, but that's another story...)
I had only once before seen a portrayal of an aerial night attack, depicting a futuristic flying machine--a dirigible in this case--using electric lights to target fleeing villagers and warriors of an African town. My memory is not working on this one, so unfortunately I cannot date and reference it, though I do believe it appeared in the Illustrated London News around 1907 or so, just a few years before someone started dropping explosives from planes for real.
But this image (appearing in the February 2 1918 issue) is for something quite real, though its effectiveness (to me, as a non-historian of this field) seems highly suspect. What we see are three airmen in an Italian Caproni1 releasing flares above what they assumed to be a target. The gunner at front watches closely as the co-pilot (there are two men in that cockpit, one being mostly obscured) readies another flare.
By the way, here's one way of loading the payload (from a few issues later):
The general characteristics of the Caproni (3) aircraft, via Wikipedia:
The way of the new world, the spread of commercialism and of consumerism, the increase in the size of a middle class that was actually approaching what we today would think of as a middle class, the wanting rise of places for disposable income to go from millions of new people with spare money to spend, led the sellers of stuff-immemorial to start advertising their bits on the side of out-of-doors everything. The fight for the attention span of the new consumer went from the newspapers and magazines to the side of buildings and then, as the motor car began to proliferate, to thousands and hundreds of thousands of miles of roadway.
Billboards to buildings, and buildings as billboards, and more--as some of the early branders might've seen it, the sky was the limit, or at least so for this caricature of the impending future, as seen in Punch, or the London Chiarivari (‘Picturesque London – or, sky-signs of the times’, 6 September 1890, p. 119.)
That of course was a view to the near-future--the reality of the situation was more like what was portrayed by a watercolor by Orlando Parry, ‘A London street scene’, in 1834, so imaging a step-beyond may not have been too difficult a thing to portray:
A more recent example of the threat of rampant billboardism and the struggle for the pocket and attention of teh consumer is seen in this 1931 illustration that was tucked inside this almost-provocatively-named pamphlet, Billboards ad Aesthetic Legislation, New Applications of Police Power (published by the St. Louis Public Library). It is astonishing to think of the vast changes that took place in the remaining American frontier, taking place so quickly--two generations separated the last of the great cattle drives to billboard legislations along auto routes in the western states.
Fighting for the pennies in the pocket bottoms of the working poor and the middle class is getting to be Old Stuff, an interesting chapter in the History of the Assault on the Attention Span of Human Beings.
"There are no news-cameras clicking where the underground war wages. It is a war of iron nerves against an iron machine, of indomitable men and women defying the Nazi monster, of sudden swift strokes out of the dark, of blows that fall where least expected, hampering, slowing, wrecking the Nazi war machine..."
Underground War in the West has one of he most dyunamic covers I've seen in quite some time--not to say that there are absolute "best" designs, but it is certainly a top-tier design, a fine effort, grabbing the attention of even a casual browser, and suggesting action, even without a read.
This pamphlet really seemed like a tiger in a cage—looking through some of the collection here relating to WWII literature on activities in occupied countries, the startling cover graphic of Underground War in the West (printed at some time in 1943, and not before or after) really rattled its cage. Its contents were non-too tame, either—while being reasonably polite (as was the fashion) it still invoked some very difficult ideas and images.
This was a terrific, mass appeal pamphlet on the underground actions of occupied Europe illustrated with pencil and charcoal drawings by Cuneo, with each page depicting a resistance activity—including the underground press, medical aid, sabotage, and general murderous nuisance-making and in general pamphlet praises and celebrates the heroism in occupied countries such as Czechoslovakia (with a drawing showing the assassination of Heydrich), Holland (showing the Dutch caring for a wounded RAF pilot), Belgium, France, Greece. Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia and Luxembourg.
There are full-page drawings relating to the strength of occupied people in the face of "Mass Deportation (cannot dishearten them, thousands and thousands of families have been torn asunder in mass deportations...") and "Firing Squads…thin the patriot ranks yet ever more step into their places" . The section on "Facts from the Occupied Countries" list activities in 9 occupied countries; under “Poland”, we read that "Germany has drawn a veil of silence around Poland...it is estimated that 2,500,000 Poles have died in concentration camps or by execution up to December 31, 1942. There are 54 concentration camps in Poland...and the average life span in the camps is nine months..." Nowhere in the pamphlet however is there any singular mention of deportation or murder of the Jewish people—there were hundreds of articles printed in American newspapers up until this time on the beginning of the (yet named) Holocaust, though acknowledgment of a fact doesn’t necessarily make it widely known in spite of its incredible and massive significance. This pamphlet, while extraordinary in mentioning the millions of deaths in the concentration camps and “deportations”, was rather ordinary in its coverage of who it was that was being murdered in the camps.
There is also a two-page spread exhibiting examples of underground newspapers:
Only six copies are located in libraries around the world, and those are pretty high-calibre institutions: Hoover Institute on War, Holocaust Library, Harvard University Law Library, London Metropolitan, National Library of Scotland, Oxford University.
I'm not sure that I understand this photograph and what is going on in it. I do know that it was made in 1918, and that the back is stamped "Photo by/Central News Photo Service/26-28 Beaver St., N.Y....", a product of not-very-discrete control of war images. The vast majority of photographic efforts of WWI were very deeply controlled, with little left to chance and uncontrolled. This lively image may be Doughboys inspecting female volunteers for lice--perhaps that was a job performed by these volunteers. Or something else, though I can't see what--the soldiers aren't using clippers, and they seem to be separating the hair.... So the subject matter isn't scrumptious, but the faces are--a break in the not-routine routine business of war.
[Doughboy: The origin of the term "Doughboy" is unclear, or varied, or rich, but it is at least pretty oldm beginning around the time of the Mexican American War in 1846-1848--evidently when the soldiers marched through dry, tough terrain they wound up being covered by earth with the color of dough. Doughboy.]
If you haven't thought of this statement before, if you haven't tried to visualize all of the Earth's sources of water all drawn out and up and somehow gathered into a Superman-controlled sphere of no structure, then this image would be very surprising--it was to me.
The image comes from the United States Geological Survey website1, and shows three spheres on an Earth emptied of its oceans and lakes and rivers and ponds and creeks and everything, all sources of water, and depicts in descending order a sphere containing all of that water, followed by the Earth's liquid fresh water, and lastly in the tiny sphere all of the water in lakes and rivers.
The first and largest sphere is actually enormous, though it doesn't look so when compared to the size of the Earth--it is 860 miles in diameter and holds 332 million cubic miles of water, or about 35x1019 gallons. I do not now if the living beings in the water were figured into these calculations or what that might have looked like. ("The sphere includes all the water in the oceans, ice caps, lakes, and rivers, as well as groundwater, atmospheric water, and even the water in you, your dog, and your tomato plant.")
The next sphere is a deeper wake-up call--it represents all of our liquid fresh water ("groundwater, lakes, swamp water, and rivers"), and forms a magical sphere of about 2.5 million cubic miles, about 170 miles in diameter, or about 1% of the total volume of the great sphere.
The last sphere--the tiny blue dot just south of Sphere Two--is the "one represents fresh water in all the lakes and rivers on the planet, and most of the water people and life of earth need every day comes from these surface-water sources", with a volume of 22,339 cubic miles, and a diameter of about 35 miles, or the distance from D.C. to Baltimore.
I've never seen this image before, and I find it remarkable.
If you follow the link to the USGS website, you can also see a breakdown of all of these numbers, as well as a final sphere with ALL of the water on Earth, though I don't think you can really tell the difference between the first spehere and the super sphere.
Doing work underground has long fascinated me: tunnels, mining, sapper military ops, though almost entirely human-made, not so much for natural formations like caverns and such. Particularly interesting are the big machine brought down/assembled to do some big cutting or drilling or pounding job. Case in point: this sharp-toothed whale:
The beautiful diagram for this beast appeared in Scientific American Supplement No 107, January 19, 1878, and is a cut of the machine looking straight down. This was a monster for its time, weighing in at 3,800 pounds, and could make a clear cut into a vein of coal that was 4' long and 2.5' deep, and could move along a face of coal 60' long in one hour. It no doubt was a tremendous boon for the men who would have been in there working the coal by hand. This was the invention of Horace Brown, and was called the Monitor Coal Cutter, no doubt because it was long and low, looking as though it wasn't 4' high, giving it a silhouette similar to the Civil War ironclad warship (designed by the very busy John Ericsson).
And for all of its weight and force and potential the machine moved along a railtrack that was only 29" wide.