The Daily Mail was positively apoplectic. “Shocking pictures show people in Crimea taking SELFIES with Russian masked gunmen as Ukraine teeters on the brink of war,” the British tabloid yelped over the weekend. Did you catch that? SELFIES!
Others were equally astonished. “Welcome to the 21st century, where you take Instagram selfies with the guys invading your country,” a Twitter user marveled.
Putting aside one of the explanations for this stream of selfies—a substantial pro-Moscow, ethnic Russian population on the peninsula—it’s actually quite fitting that amateur and professional photographers are experimenting with new technology this week to document Russia’s occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula. A century and a half ago, Crimea served as the breeding ground for modern war photography.
Read more. [Image: Roger Fenton/anna_yurtaeva]
Catholic University’s decision to accept $1 million from the Charles Koch Foundation to support the study of “principled entrepreneurship” is like a modern-day reenactment of 1905’s “tainted money affair.”
Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]
Terrifying weapon, or delightful plaything? You decide!
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The little coins are best understood not as sort of currency but as tchotchkes in the sexualized-collectibles market, much like the penis-shaped candies sold for bachelorette parties.
Read more. [Image: Carly Kocurek]
An angry governor shows no patience for his critics following a confrontation between Berkeley students and the National Guard.
Though the first autopsy proved inconclusive, let’s assume that Philip Seymour Hoffman did in fact die from a lethal heroin overdose. Let’s choose to believe that even the most overwrought of his epitaphs get one thing right: that one of the greatest actors of his generation had demons, and that self-medication shut them up.
It’s a compelling narrative, though not an especially new one. Maybe there’s a quiet edge of schadenfreude to the expectation that our geniuses be haunted: would we view the canons of Joplin, Morrison, and Belushi with the same awe and appreciation if we hadn’t been led to believe that that which killed them—heroin, those three and so many others—was a necessary weapon against the wellspring of inner tragedy or whatnot that had made their art so palatable in the first place?
“Nobody will laugh long who deals much with opium,” Thomas De Quincey writes in his 1821 Confessions of an Opium-Eater, “Its pleasures even are of a grave and solemn complexion.” Confessions is De Quincey’s autobiographical account of his addiction to laudanum, a particularly potent narcotic derived, like the powder found in the bags strewn across Hoffman’s Greenwich Village office-cum-personal-apartment-cum-presumed-escape-den, from the flower of the opium poppy.
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Print media evolved into its present forms.
In, say, 1469, there were no page numbers. This obvious and now necessary part of the book’s user interface simply did not exist.
The earliest extant example of sequential numbering in a book (this time of ‘leaves’ rather than pages, per se) is the document you see at the top of this page, Sermo in festo praesentationis beatissimae Mariae virginis, which was printed in Cologne in 1470. The practice didn’t become standard, the wonderful I Love Typography tells us, for another half century.
The page number is particularly interesting, I think, because it is a pointer, a kind of metadata that breaks apart a work into constituent parts. The existence of page numbers creates a set of miniature sub-publications to which someone can refer.
Read more. [Image: Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf]
"I think it’s been the gravest kind of error," Kennedy said of the Vietnam War.
More than a century before Coca Cola’s controversial Super Bowl commercial celebrating America as a nation of nations, the melting pot overflowed with people of all races and ethnicities—each subject to its share of mass media abuse. Immigration made America what it is, but not without considerable racist barbing and comic hazing by cartoonists, illustrators, and artists. Blacks, Indians, Irish, Jews, and Asians were the main targets. The last was not just savagely portrayed in media as rat-tailed demons but legally restricted for decades from entering the United States. An insightful new anthology of writing on racist stereotyping, Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fears edited by John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats (Verso), describes how demonizing Asian peoples in word and picture was acceptable in America for so long.
With China’s reemergence today, the term “Yellow Peril” is still faintly whispered. Yet the first use of the pejorative “as a modern political tool,” Tchen, an NYU professor and the author of New York Before Chinatown, told me, was Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm. Responding to his cousin the Russian Czar’s defeat to Japan in 1905, Wilhelm commissioned an artist draw a “threatening Buddha in a lotus position riding a dragon thundercloud off in the distance.” This was not an effective piece of propaganda by contemporary standards, Tchen says, “but it did get at some basic dynamics: the threatening, evil man marked by certain exaggerated and racialized physical characteristics. It gets the juices going for men to become protectors.”
Read more. [Image: Public Domain]