Hybrid Sports

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schachboxen1.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Chess boxing has evolved from a performance art piece to a serious worldwide professional sport. Two competitors engage in six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing, switching between the two every three minutes. A player can win by knockout, technical knockout, or checkmate, or if his opponent resigns, exceeds the time limit, or is disqualified. If both the contests end in a draw, the player of the black pieces wins.

In football tennis (below), you have to return the ball over the net without using your hands. Up to three players can play on each side, with corresponding rules regarding the number of touches and bounces allowed on each return. This sport is growing too — the first rules were written in 1940, and it held its 11th world championship in 2014. Now we need a way to combine all four of these.

Technically Color

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1945 film Spellbound was shot in black and white, but the conclusion contains two frames of red when a gun is fired (1:54:40 above).

(This involves a big spoiler, so don’t click if you haven’t seen the movie.)

Above It All

https://www.google.com/patents/US915171

Here’s a lost art: “Ceiling walking” was a popular form of American entertainment as early as 1806, when “Sanches, the Wonderful Antipodean” wore iron shoes that were “fitted in grooves in a board fastened to the top of the stage.”

Spectacles such as this were drawing crowds right through the 19th century. In New Orleans in the 1880s a young “human fly” named Mademoiselle Aimee was carried by her teeth to a trapeze 50 feet in the air, from which she affixed her feet to the ceiling by some indistinct means. “Many such exclamations as ‘My God!’ ‘Oh My!’ and so on follow, and as she puts one foot before the other, walking in a forward direction, the situation is most thrilling,” marveled the Daily Picayune. “Often ladies have fainted at the sight of the almost child’s peril, and men have trembled while looking up at her. Many refuse to look up at all and those who do continue to look are in constant apprehension of a terrible accident. There is no question in the world but that the feat is without parallel in the matter of tempting fate.”

How was this done? There seem to be a range of answers. V. Waid’s “Theatrical Device” of 1905 used vacuum cups attached to the fly’s feet, but both E.I. George’s “Electric Aerial Ambulating System” of 1909 (above) and C.H. Newman and W. Berrigan’s “Electrical Device to Enable Showmen to Walk on the Ceiling” of 1885 used electromagnets.

How would this have evolved if it had remained popular? What would we be using today?

(From Jacob Smith, The Thrill Makers, 2012.)

Occupational Hazards

laurence olivier, terence morgan

In his foreword to William Hobbs’ Stage Combat, Laurence Olivier listed the injuries he’d received in his acting career:

1 broken ankle
2 torn cartilages (1 perforce yielding to surgery)
2 broken calf muscles
3 ruptured Achilles tendons
Untold slashes including a full thrust razor-edged sword wound in the breast (thrilling)
Landing from considerable height, scrotum first, upon acrobat’s knee
Hanging by hand to piano wire 40 feet up for some minutes (hours?) on account of unmoored rope
Hurled to the stage from 30 feet due to faultily moored rope ladder
Impalement upon jagged ply cut-outs
Broken foot bone by standing preoccupied in camera track
Broken face by horse galloping into camera while looking through finder
Near broken neck diving into net
Several shrewd throws from horses including one over beast’s head into lake
One arrow shot between shinbones
Water on elbow
Water pretty well everywhere
Hands pretty well mis-shapen now through ‘taking’ falls
Quite a few pretended injuries while it was really gout
Near electrocution through scimitar entering studio dimmer while backing away from unwelcome interview
Etc., etc., etc.

He added, “Not to mention injuries inflicted upon my audiences.”

Two-Way Traffic

http://www.google.com/patents?id=xTBiAAAAEBAJ

In 2009 I mentioned that in 1895 Henry Simmons invented ramp-shaped railroad cars that could pass over one another.

At the time I thought this was alarming, but something like it was actually carried out. On Coney Island’s Leap Frog Railway of 1905, one car full of passengers clambered over another:

The passengers in breathless excitement momentarily anticipating disaster, realizing that their lives are in jeopardy, clinging to one another for safety, closing their eyes to the impending danger. … The cars crash into one another, 32 people are hurled over the heads of 32 others. … They are suddenly awakened to a realization of the fact that they have actually collided with another car and yet they find themselves safe and sound … proceeding in the same direction in which they started.

On the return journey the cars changed positions. At the time this was billed as a prototype “to reduce the mortality rate due to collisions on railways.” Now I wonder whether Simmons’ invention was ever realized.

(From Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York, 1994.)

D’oh!

In a 2005 story about The Simpsons, San Francisco Chronicle writer Steve Rubenstein mentioned that in a dream Homer once “wrote that 1782 to the 12th power plus 1841 to the 12th power equals 1922 to the 12th power.” Rubenstein added, “(It does.)”

Well, it doesn’t — the first factor here must be even, and the second must be odd, so their sum can’t be even. The city desk prepared a correction saying that the equation was wrong, but Deputy Managing Editor Stephen R. Proctor pointed out that unless it gave the right answer, “the correction doesn’t correct.”

So they called in Sonoma State University mathematician Sam Brannen and produced this unusual notice:

A story Nov. 15 about mathematical references on “The Simpsons” TV show mistakenly said that 1,782 to the 12th power plus 1,841 to the 12th power equals 1,922 to the 12th power. Actually, 1,782 to the 12th power plus 1,841 to the 12th power equals 2,541,210,258,614, 589,176,288, 669, 958, 142, 428, 526,657, while 1,922 to the 12th power equals 2,541,210,259,314,801,410, 819, 278,649, 643,651,567,616.

Ombudsman Dick Rogers added, “Obviously.”

Jump Cut

This must have scared the daylights out of people in 1895 — The Execution of Mary Stuart, one of the first films to use editing for special effects.

After the executioner raises his ax, the actress is replaced with a mannequin.

Misc

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Parovoz_FD_Kartina.jpg

  • Dick Gregory gave his twin daughters the middle names Inte and Gration.
  • Trains were invented before bicycles.
  • CONSTRAINT = CANNOT STIR
  • “We must believe in free will — we have no choice.” — Isaac Bashevis Singer

“How Rumors Spread,” a palindrome by Fred Yannantuono:

“Idiot to idiot to idiot to idiot to idiot to idi …”

More Theatrical Codes

https://pixabay.com/p-1982718

Last year I mentioned Sullivan & Considine’s Theatrical Cipher Code of 1905, a telegraphic code for “everyone connected in any way with the theatrical business.” The idea is that performers, managers, and exhibitors could save money on telegrams by replacing common phrases with short code words:

Filacer – An opera company
Filament – Are they willing to appear in tights
Filander – Are you willing to appear in tights
Filiation – Chorus girls who are shapely and good looking
Filibuster – Chorus girls who are shapely, good looking, and can sing

At the time I lamented that I had only one page. Well, a reader just sent me the whole book, and it is glorious:

Abbacom – Carry elaborate scenery and beautiful costumes
Abbalot – Fairly bristles with hits
Abditarum – This attraction will hurt our business
Addice – Why have not reported for rehearsal
Admorsal – If you do not admit at once will have to bring suit of attachment
Behag – Not the fault of play or people
Bordaglia – Do not advance him any money
Boskop – Understand our agent is drinking; if this is true wire at once
Bosom – Understand you are drinking
Bosphorum – Understand you are drinking and not capable to transact business
Bosser – We are up against it here
Bottle – You must sober up
Bouback – Your press notices are poor
Deskwork – A versatile and thoroughly experienced actress
Despair – Absolute sobriety at all times essential
Detour – Actress for emotional leads
Devilry – Actress with child preferred
Dextral – An actor with fine reputation and proven cleverness
Dishful – Comedian, Swedish dialect
Disorb – Do not want drunkards
Dispassion – Do you object to going on road
Distal – Good dresser(s) both on and off stage
Dormillon – Lady for piano
Drastic – Must be shapely and good looking
Druism – Not afraid of work
Eden – Strong heavy man
Election – What are their complexions
Epic – Does he impress you as being reliable and a hustler
Exclaimer – Are they bright, clever and healthy children
Eyestone – Can you recommend him as an experienced and competent electrician
Faro – A B♭ cornetist
Flippant – Must understand calcium lights
Fluid – Is right up-to-date and understands his business from A to Z
Forester – Acts that are not first class and as represented, will be closed after first performance
Foxhunt – Can deliver the goods
Gultab – The people will not stand for such high prices
Hilbert – State the very lowest salary for which she will work, by return wire
Jansenist – Fireproof theatre
Jinglers – How did the weather affect house
Jolly – Temperature is 15° above zero

There’s also an appendix for the vaudeville circuit:

Kajuit – Trick cottage
Kakour – Grotesque acrobats
Kalekut – Sparring and bag punching act
Kernwort – Troupe of dogs, cats and monkeys
Kluefock – Upside down cartoonist
Koegras – Imitator of birds, etc.
Letabor – Act is poorly staged and arranged
Litterat – The asbestos curtain has not arrived yet
Mallius – How many chairs do you need in the balcony
Meleto – Is the opposition putting on stronger shows than we

The single word “Lechuzo” stands for “Make special effort to mail your report on acts Monday night so as to enable us to determine your opinion of the same, as in many instances yours will be the first house that said act has performed in, and again by receiving your report early it enables us to correct in time any error that may be made regarding performer, salary and efficiency.”

(Thanks, Peter.)

Balance

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Neil_Young_2008_Firenze_02.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In a 2013 radio interview, Graham Nash recalled visiting Neil Young in 1972:

The man is totally committed to the muse of music. And he’ll do anything for good music. And sometimes it’s very strange. I was at Neil’s ranch one day just south of San Francisco, and he has a beautiful lake with red-wing blackbirds. And he asked me if I wanted to hear his new album, Harvest. And I said sure, let’s go into the studio and listen.

Oh, no. That’s not what Neil had in mind. He said get into the rowboat.

I said get into the rowboat? He said, yeah, we’re going to go out into the middle of the lake. Now, I think he’s got a little cassette player with him or a little, you know, early digital format player. So I’m thinking I’m going to wear headphones and listen in the relative peace in the middle of Neil’s lake.

Oh, no. He has his entire house as the left speaker and his entire barn as the right speaker. And I heard Harvest coming out of these two incredibly large loud speakers louder than hell. It was unbelievable. Elliot Mazer, who produced Neil, produced Harvest, came down to the shore of the lake and he shouted out to Neil: How was that, Neil?

And I swear to God, Neil Young shouted back: More barn!

Asked in 2016 whether this story was true, Young said, “Yeah, I think it was a little house-heavy.”