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Memento Mori

In 1952, to “indulge a whim of a peculiar nature,” retired funeral director David H. Brown built a house out of 500,000 empty embalming-fluid bottles.

Situated on the shores of Kootenay Lake in British Columbia, the cloverleaf-shaped house occupies 1,200 square feet, including two bedrooms, a fireplace, a kitchen, and a terrace.

The bottles, together, weigh 250 tons.

Unquote

“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” — Leonardo

Field Report

Poet Craig Raine started a new school in 1979 — “Martian poetry,” in which the ordinary is “defamiliarized” by seeing it through alien eyes:

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone’s pain has a different smell.

At night, when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves –
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

“The task of the artist at any time is uncompromisingly simple,” he said. “To discover what has not yet been done, and to do it.”

Standing Out

One of the famous whitewashed towns of Andalusia is blue.

The little village of Júzcar, population 243, was made up with 4,200 liters of blue paint in 2011 to celebrate the release of the movie The Smurfs.

Afterward, Sony offered to paint the town white again, but the villagers declined — in the six months since the film’s premiere, they had received 80,000 tourists.

Ghosts of Mars

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Serpent_Dust_Devil_on_Mars_PIA15116.jpg

Dust devils can grow huge on Mars — judging by its shadow, this one was 800 meters tall, about half a mile, and some have reached 10 times that height.

They’re constantly scrawling striking artwork on the Martian surface (below), picking up red dust to reveal the darker sand beneath.

These creatures may be lonely (spooky animation here), but apparently they’re friendly — both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers have had their solar panels cleaned by encounters with wandering devils.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Martian_Dust_Devil_Trails.jpg

The Speed of Sound

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Erie-canal_1840_map.jpg

When the Erie Canal was opened on Oct. 26, 1825, the fact was known in New York City, 425 miles away, within 81 minutes. This was before the advent of radio or telegraph. How was it done?

Cannons were placed along the length of the canal and the Hudson River, each within earshot of the last. When the crew of each cannon heard the boom of its upstream neighbor, it fired its own gun.

As a result, New Yorkers knew within an hour and half that they had a navigable route to the Great Lakes — the fastest news dispatch, to that date, in world history.

10/07/2013 Wait, that last bit ain’t right — Claude Chappe’s semaphore telegraph covered 120 miles in 9 minutes in 1792. (Thanks, Michael and Lorcan.)

Slow Muse

Uninspired film titles listed by Patrick Robertson in Film Facts (2001):

  • **** (U.S., 1967)
  • (Argentina, 1971)
  • ←→ (Canada, 1969)
  • A 100% Brazilian Film (Brazil, 1987)
  • An Animated Film (Poland, 1984)
  • Dutch Movie (Netherlands, 1984)
  • Film Without Title (West Germany, 1947)
  • Untitled (Italy, 1973)
  • Still Lacking a Good Title (Yugoslavia, 1988)
  • Don’t Worry, We’ll Think of a Title (U.S., 1965)

Greta Garbo said, “If only those who dream about Hollywood knew how difficult it all is.”

Makeover

haas prince street mural

In 1975, artist Richard Haas renewed the building at 112 Prince Street in Manhattan by covering its blank brick side with a five-story mural emulating the cast-iron architecture of its facade. Only two of the windows are real.

Another inspiration by Haas.

Black and White

von holzhausen chess problem

By Walter Freiherr Von Holzhausen. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

Memoria Technica

By reducing each chapter of the Bible to a single line and presenting these lines in rhyming quatrains, the Juvenile Bible of 1804 condenses the Old and New Testaments into 69 memorizable pages. By learning a simple system, one can then cite any chapter of the Bible from memory. Here are the first three stanzas of Genesis:

1 All things created, Moses writes,
2 And Paradise displays;
3 Tells Adam’s fall, which ruin’d all:
4 Cain righteous Abel slays.

5 Before the flood man’s life was long:
6 Noah the ark doth frame:
7 The world is drown’d, eight favour found,
8 Out of the ark they came.

9 Cov’nant of rain-bow; Noah drunk,
10 His offspring is increast;
11 They Babel rear, confounded are.
12 Abram is call’d and blest.

To aid in memorization, the stanzas begin with successive letters of the alphabet, so a stanza that starts with A always marks the first chapter of a book, B the 5th, C the 9th, and so on. Once we’ve memorized the stanzas above, we can always name the chapter in Genesis in which the Tower of Babel is described: It’s the third line of the stanza beginning with C, so it’s chapter 11. Conversely, if we’re asked to name the subject of any given chapter, we can produce the answer using the same system.

“This novel and curious arrangement will, it is presumed, gratify the taste of young readers, and not only give them a relish for the Sacred Volume, but even assist their memories when duly acquainted with it,” writes the anonymous author. To his credit, he adds, “No portion of it should ever be allotted as a Task; the Author of this Work being well convinced, it is owing to the modern and impious mode of Education, compelling Children to learn Collects, chapters in the Bible, Hymns, &c. as occasional Exercises, and frequently by way of Punishment that the Word of God is not heard and read with that satisfaction it always should be.”

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