Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘world’

23 MAY, 2011

Egypt in the Early 1900s: Rare Vintage Lantern Slides

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What sunset on the Nile has to do with landmark innovation in photographic imaging.

The lantern slide — a transparent image on glass that was magnified and projected onto a surface using a sciopticon “magic lantern” — came of age shortly after it was first introduced by Philadelphia daguerreotypists William and Frederick Langenheim in 1849. The lantern slide greatly broadened the audience for photography, then still a young art, introducing it into academia and the cultural institutions of the day by allowing teachers and museum curators to illustrate their lectures and presentations with projected images.

We’ve seen an heard a lot about Egypt this year, in light of the recent political turmoil. We’ve even had some remix fun with it. (In a no-laughing-matter kind of way, of course.) But beneath what has turned into a highly politicized media talking point lies a remarkable, dignified country full of beauty and tradition. Much like last week’s rare and fascinating look at vintage Japan aimed to rekindle the respect for and fascination with a culture consumed by the recent tragedy and subsequent media coverage, today’s look at these breathtaking vintage lantern slides from Egypt is very much an invitation to take a look beyond the veil of immediacy and revel in the inherent beauty of this land, courtesy of Brooklyn Museum’s fantastic archival lantern slide collection.

Egypt: Partly submerged palms above Nile dam, Upper Egypt

Copyright, 1908, by Stereo-Travel Co. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Arab water-carrier girls

Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Policeman, Cairo

Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection

Egypt: Camels, desert.

Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Donkey and Cart, Kasr-en-Nil

T. H. McAllister, Manufacturing Optician. 49 Nassau Street, New York. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Arab porters, Alexandria

Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Donkey Boy, Cairo

This slide colored by Joseph Hawkes. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Buffalo Market, Gizeh

T. H. McAllister, Manufacturing Optician. 49 Nassau Street, New York. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Arabian Horse and Sais, Cairo

This slide colored by Joseph Hawkes. Hooper. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Pyramids of Dashur from Sakkara

T. H. McAllister, Manufacturing Optician. 49 Nassau Street. Hooper. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Arabic Window and Native Bazaar, Cair

T. H. McAllister, Manufacturing Optician. 49 Nassau Street. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Pompey's Pillar, Alexandria

T. H. McAllister, Manufacturing Optician. 49 Nassau Street. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Sunset on the Nile

Brooklyn Museum Archives

For another perspective-shift on this fascinating culture, don’t forget last week’s Cultural Connectives — an inspired effort to better understand Arab culture through typography.

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23 MAY, 2011

The Medium Is Not The Message: 3 Handwritten Newspapers

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What Indian calligraphers have to do with disaster relief in Japan and free media in Liberia.

Since their invention in the early 17th century, newspapers have remained one of society’s most important sources of what their name promises — news. Today, we hear various tonal cries of the “print is dying” chorus daily and it’s easy to get caught up in the Marshall McLuhanism that “the medium is the message. Today, let’s consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the medium is not the message, that “print” can mean many different things, and that in the end, the oldest of technologies can be the most innovative. Case in point: Handwritten newspapers.

THE MUSALMAN

Since 1927, The Musalman has been quietly churning out its evening edition of four pages, all of which hand-written by Indian calligraphers in the shadow of the Wallajah Mosque in the city of Chennai. According to Wired, it might just be the last remaining hand-written newspaper in the world. It’s also India’s oldest daily newspaper in Urdu, the Hindustani language typically spoken by Muslims in South Asia. The Musalman: Preservation of a Dream is wonderful short film by Ishani K. Dutta, telling the story of the unusual publication and its writers’ dedication to the ancient art of Urdu calligraphy.

Thanks, GMSV

ISHINOMAKI HIBI SHIMBUN

Last month, I mentioned a fascinating reversal of the-medium-is-the-message as one Japanese newspaper reverted to hand-written editions once the earthquake-and-tsunami disaster destroyed all power in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture. For the next six days, the editors of the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun “printed” the daily newspaper’s disaster coverage the only way possible: By hand, in pen and paper. Using flashlights and marker pens, the reporters wrote the stories on poster-size paper and pinned the dailies to the entrance doors of relief centers around the city. Six staffers collected stories, which another three digested, spending an hour and a half per day composing the newspapers by hand.

This handwritten newspaper joins a running log of historical instances in which journalists have adapted to disaster situations. During the Civil War’s Union siege of 1863, a scarcity of newsprint in Vicksburg, Miss., led editors of The Daily Citizen to print on wallpaper. Its final issue, now part of the News Corporation News History Gallery, declared: “This is the last wall-paper edition. It will be valuable hereafter as a curiosity.”

Japan’s incidental project has since been acquired by Newseum, the museum of journalism in Washington, D.C.

THE DAILY TALK

Minuscule literacy rates and prevailing poverty may not be conditions particularly conducive to publishing entrepreneurship, but they were no hindrance for Monrovia’s The Daily Talk, a clever concept by Alfred Sirleaf that reaches thousands of Liberians every day by printing just once copy. That copy just happens to reside on a large blackboard on the side of one of the capital’s busiest roads. Sirleaf started the project in 2000, at the peak of Liberia’s civil war, but its cultural resonance and open access sustained it long after the war was over. To this day, he runs this remarkable one-man show as the editor, reporter, production manager, designer, fact-checker and publicist of The Daily Talk. For an added layer of thoughtfulness and sophistication, Sirleaf uses symbols to indicate specific topics for those who struggle to read.

The common man in society can’t afford a newspaper, can’t afford to buy a generator to get on the internet — you know, power shortage — and people are caught up in a city where they have no access to information. And all of these things motivated me to come up with a kind of free media system for people to get informed.” ~ Alfred Sirleaf

Thanks, @kirstinbutler

In related news, don’t forget the fantastic Newspaper Map, which I raved about the other day — an amazing tool for exploring and translating over 10,000 of the world’s newspapers.

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19 MAY, 2011

LE GUN 1,2,3: Bleeding-Edge Illustration from Around the Globe

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What flying to Paris has to do with creative entrepreneurship and global provocations.

In 2004, a small group of graduates from London’s Royal College of Art founded art collective LE GUN and quietly started publishing one of the most compelling art and design magazines to come by in decades. Dedicated to celebrating the work of illustrators from around the globe, LE GUN instantly charmed audiences and critics, but its small scale and indie roots made access to it limited and coveted. Now, my friends from Mark Batty Publisher have gathered the first three issues of the magazine in LE GUN 1,2,3 — an impressive, handsome tome that captures LE GUN‘s rich spectrum of creativity and provocative, relentlessly original artwork.

In the book’s introduction, RCA professor Andrzej Klimowski, who advised the founding team, tells the project’s inspired story — a tale of imagination, transformation and creative entrepreneurship.

Many middle-aged people turn to their medicine cabinets for vitamin pills or, more drastically, turn to the knife for cosmetic surgery or the botox injection in a desperate attempt to hold onto their youth. I need only brush shoulders with the artists of LE GUN to be imbued with the elixir of life, which is so vital that it makes my hair stand on end.” ~ Andrzej Klimowski

With 400 pages and weighing in at over 6 pounds, the tome is, without any exaggeration, enormous.

Esoteric and beautiful, LE GUN 1,2,3 is an absolute treat of imagination, artistry and visual eloquence from cover to heavy cover.

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17 MAY, 2011

A Design Ethnography of South African Barbershops & Salons

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What the history of Apartheid has to do with signage design and communal storytelling.

In his fantastic 2009 TED Talk, Steven Johnson explores how the English coffeehouse of the Enlightenment was crucial to the development and spread of one of the great intellectual flowerings of the last 500 years. This tendency for physical places to transcend their mere utilitarian function and serve as hubs of (sub)cultural development is evident throughout history, from the cave fire pit that sparked the dawn of communal storytelling to today’s coworking spaces that offer fertile ground for innovation through collaboration.

In South African Township Barbershops & Salons, photographer Simon Weller explores the peculiar cultural and social hubs of South African townships, salons and barbershop, which too transcend their mere function as places to get your hair cut and serve as pivotal places for the local community to gather, gossip and exchange ideas. Weller contextualizes the rich and vibrant photographs of the shops and portraits of their patrons with fascinating essays that expound on the aesthetics of these hubs and their signage though interviews with the owners, customers and sign designers.

In many was, South African Township Barbershops & Salons is both a parallel and opposite of last month’s Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, the vernacular design of the barbershops’ signage standing in stark contrast to the overdesigned vintage type of New York’s storefronts and yet just as evocative of its community’s spirit, the social norms and function of its physical place, and the cultural traditions of its location.

Out of — of courseMark Batty, my favorite indie publisher.

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17 MAY, 2011

A Rare Look at Japan: Hand-Colored Images from the 1920s

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What Geisha parlors have to do with arranged marriages, Buddhist priests and earthquake recovery.

It’s been an incredibly trying year for Japan. Tragedy has brought a proud nation to its knees, making it difficult — yet all the more essential — to remember this ancient culture’s history of beauty and dignity. These remarkable hand-colored images from the early 20th century, unearthed from Oregon State University’s public domain archive, offer a rare look at Japan’s rich cultural legacy. From Tokyo city life to countryside landscapes to worship to play, the images — with descriptions from the verbosely titled 1923 educational book Japan at First Hand, Her Islands, Their People, the Picturesque, the Real, with Latest Facts and Figures on their War-Time Trade Expansion and Commercial Outreach, in which they originally appeared — emante Japan’s timeless pride and breathtaking beauty sleeping beneath the rubble of the recent devastation, awaiting awakening.

Learning To Write

'No such national furore for education has ever been seen elsewhere as that which has gripped the mind of Japan. Japan proper had a population of 59,138,900 as reported October 1, 1924. At the same time her school enrollment from kindergarten through the university was given as 8,221,615. Over a million and a quarter complete the elementary school work each year. There are sixteen colleges and universities, five being imperial universities. The largest of these -- Tokyo Imperial University-- had a student body of 5,283 and 414 faculty members in the autumn of 1924.'

The Barrel Maker

'This is one of the important trades of Japan. The average wage of coopers is only about fifty cents a day.'

Fujiyama from Omiya Village

Geisha Giving Entertainment

'The geisha houses, rather humble, certainly unpretentious abodes, group themselves in certain quarters, and the hiring of the girls is done methodically through a central office. The hiring should be accomplished by the restaurant keeper or by the housewife as early in the afternoon as possible, but not after six in the evening, unless absolutely unavoidable. For the preparation of the Geisha is an elaborate affair from the wonderful coiling and adorning of her hair to the fit of her white, heelless shoes. They are taken in rickishas (sic) to the house of entertainment and carried home in the same way when all is over.'

Danjuro

'Danjuro the greatest actor, the Irving of Japan, in his famous role of Kangoneho.'

Geisha Girl Playing the Samisen

'The geisha or singing girl to the Western mind fills out the romantic ideal of modern Japan. To the native she is simply a sublimated waitress with dancing and singing trimmings, but she is also a chosen vehicle of Japanese romance. Visions of her dressed in showy silken robes waving a large fan, her black hair marvelously coifed, a fixed smile on her face and moving in rhythmic steps with a special flowing elegance of gesture, rise before those who have seen her at her high functions. Ever to the accompaniment of the tinkling strings of the of the samisen and the full beat of the tsuzumi that picture comes back to the foreigner as the flower of his reminiscence of Japan.'

Tokyo

'Tokyo, the capital of the Empire is one of the foremost cities of the Orient. In spite of the terrible destruction wrought by the earthquake of September 1, 1923, Tokyo will soon be a greater city than before the earthquake. Tokyo city proper under census of August, 1925, had a population of 2,036,136. Including suburbs -- that is, Greater Tokyo -- the people numbered 3,859,674.'

Bridge of Iwakuni

Buddhist Priest

'When the Buddha priest of Japan seats himself among his congregation to preach, he wears the simplest of robes, a white or sober-hued cassock, but when he opens the sutra or recites the litany, his vestments are of brocade that would serve worthily to drape a throne. Buddhist priests live on contributions of their parishioners and on the income of their lands, now greatly reduced.'

Graves of Forty-Seven Ronins

'The 47 Ronins committed suicide to escape death by the executioner and in death have become popular heroes.'

Winter Costume

'The costume of women in winter is mostly of silk, coarse or fine according to the means of the wearer. The shoes are raised on pieces of wood, like stilts, about three inches above the ground.'

A Village Waterwheel

Japanese Woman

'The woman is taught from girlhood to be modest, retiring and obedient as daughter and wife, and as a rule she is almost certain to avoid spinsterhood, so well-planned is the marriage machinery in Japan. Courtship is unknown as we know it. The bringing about of marriages regularly the work of a private go-between, who brings the young people together after the parents on both sides, with additional precautionary inquisitorial go-between, have agreed to a proposed match.'

A Geisha House

'A Geisha House is not generally a large establishment-- six or seven to a dozen Geisha's and half as many musumes make it up. The mother or keeper is generally an old geisha, often a once celebrated dancer and entertainer, as one may guess fro the many middle-aged or aging men who will sit down beside her and swap stories with her about merry old times of other days.'

For more Japan love, don’t forget the lovely 2:46: Aftershocks “quakebook” project — a Twitter-sourced anthology of art and essays by and for Japan, benefiting earthquake and tsunami relief.

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