Saturday, 7 August 2021

astrophilately

From the start of the Space Age and ensuing Space Race, adjacent stamp collecting became a serious pursuit with commemorative cover depicting every mission and milestone (see previously) with the bubble inflated to bursting with the scandal surrounding Apollo 15, returned to Earth on this day in 1971 with a payload of four hundred postage stamps sent to the Moon and back.

The astronauts had been compensated, bribed for sneaking the unauthorised souvenirs on board by West Germany dealer Hermann Sieger. The story broke the following year and though the money was returned and most of the remaining covers (the postal term for decorated, signed pre-stamped and cancelled envelops) were retained by the agency, museums or given as gifts, the astronauts were reprimanded for ethics violations and never flew on a mission again, reassigned to other departments within NASA. Such mementos were considered contraband for future missions.

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

that weren’t no dj—that was hazy cosmic jive

Performing his new single Starman—his first charting hit since Space Oddity in 1969, David Bowie in the persona of Ziggy Stardust and band, the Spiders from Mars composed of Mick Ronson, Mick Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder, appeared on Top of the Pops on this day in 1972. Let all the children boogie.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

saut de seconde

Introduced for the first time on this day in 1972 and originally delegated to the Bureau International de l’Heure (BIH, the International Time Bureau at the Paris Observatory) to schedule their addition or subtraction, leap seconds (see also) are a way to adjust Universal Coordinated Time and synchronise the invariable atomic clocks that informs most civilian timekeeping with observed solar time, the Earth’s rotation prone to go off-kilter a bit due to geological, climatic changes or meteor impacts. Though implemented as a means to ensure accuracy and uniformity in an increasing interconnected and networked world and announced six months in advance, the irregularity of leap seconds can also reveal flaws in underlying programming, the pictured time-stamp causing Linux-based systems to crash back on that date.

Sunday, 20 June 2021

the rose mary stretch

While later reviewing tape recording of a conversation held on this day in 1972 between White House chief-of-staff H.R. Haldeman and Richard Nixon three days after the Watergate break-in occurred, presidential secretary Ms. Woods admitted to a terrible clerical error during replay when she took a telephone call and held the combination of buttons and pedals that caused a portion of the tape to be re-recorded. Obliging Ms. Woods later demonstrated the pose that would have allowed for this accident to happen to a doubtful press, making her story all the more incredulous once it was revealed that the gap in the transcript was not the five-minute duration of the call but rather eighteen and a half minutes long. Three days after those lost conversations were held, the “smoking gun” reel documented—between the same two interlocutors—the plans to cover-up the bungled burglary and to curtail investigations by directing the Central Intelligence Agency to falsely assert to the FBI and local police that it was a matter of National Security. Once this tape became public, all remaining political support for Nixon, including fifteen Republican senators favouring acquittal, evaporated—though Nixon resigned in lieu of impeachment.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

deep throat

Written and directed by Gerard Damiano and starring Linda Lovelace—though later reframed by the actress as coercion and sexual assault, considered one of the first pornographic films to include a plot and character development and heralded, along with Behind the Green Door, as “porno chic,” seen as a normalising, legitimising force for the subject matter for conservative US audiences, with many prominent celebrities, public figures and journalists admitting to having watched it, including Truman Capote, Spiro Agnew, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson and Barbara Walters, the title piece premiered on this day in New York City’s New World Adult Theatre, the use of the film as a culture reference and touchstone was cemented almost immediately when the managing-editor of the Washington Post chose “Deep Throat” as the code name for the secret Watergate insider (see also) who informed on Nixon—revealed thirty years later as assistant FBI director W. Mark Felt (*1913 - †2008).

Sunday, 11 April 2021

ultra-violence

Via the forever engrossing Everlasting Blรถrt, we are directed towards a screen-test for the haberdashery of Alex DeLarge and his gang of droogs for the 1971 cinematic adaptation of the dystopian, delinquent novel from Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange (previously) trying on different hat styles before settling on the bowler variety. More images and reactions on the thread that are well worth checking out.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

7x7

treasureland adventures: an arcade game made for McDonald’s that’s a lot better than most licensed vehicles—see also  

campfire tales: Haunted Tik-Tok (see also) and the art of the scary narrative in new media  

self-defence for cowards: our social skills have atrophied but we still bid our time before we get back to old, awkward habits  

die frankfurter kรผche: more on the modern kitchen designed by Margarete Schรผtte-Lihotzky—see previously  

cave ร  vins: incredible wine collection hidden beneath a chicken coop 

look at me: heretofore unseen footage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono 

catch it if you can: a McDonald’s employee training video from 1972

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

lph-8

Occupying a liminal space between 2001: A Space Odyssey and the juncture that went with cosmic opera in one direction and dread aliens in the other, the environmental-themed, weakly-endorsing techno-utopia Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull—released on this date in 1972—does resound with our times and the bleak climate catastrophes we are facing, nearly fifty years on. The film follows a resident botanist (Bruce Dern) on board a greenhouse just beyond the orbit of Saturn, maintaining specimens of Earth’s plant life for its eventual reseeding the planet after all native trees and crops went extinct. Disobeying an order from the corporate headquarters that sponsored the space ark project to jettison their living cargo and return to commercial services, the botanist with his three service robots try to save the last biosphere.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

and there’s no one there to raise them—if you did

Released as a single on this day in 1972 from the studio album Honky Chรขteau, the song parenthetically titled I think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, the narrative lyric was inspired by elements of the eponymous short story by Ray Bradbury in his The Illustrated Man collection and David Bowie’s 1969 “Space Oddity,” the pieces all triangulating on the lament that astronauts were no longer heroes and that space travel was becoming routine, mundane.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

1972-012a

While perhaps not as celebrated as its more charismatic follow-on missions of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, Pioneer 10, launched on this day in 1972, was the first space probe travel beyond the asteroid belt and went on to study Jupiter and became the first object to achieve escape velocity to leave the Solar System and wander the interstellar medium. As foundational as the mission was, the Pioneer programme is overshadowed by its successors partly as it went silent in 2003. Designed by Carl Sagan, Linda Salzman Sagan and Frank Drake, Pioneer and its sister probe bear the pictured plaque, should it ever be discovered by intelligent extra-terrestrials. If left undisturbed (canonical Star Trek has Klingons destroying it as target practise), Pioneer is on a trajectory to pass the star system Aldebaran in Taurus in about two million years, which is believed to host a super-Jupiter exoplanet.

Friday, 1 January 2021

muddlemore manor

The seventeenth and final episode airing on this day in 1972 that brought arc of narrative of this last iterative trope of a trio of teens (one, the brainy ginger, portrayed by Micky Dolenz of the Monkees) solving para-paranormal (most had a non-supernatural explanation) mysteries with the help of a sidekick and readily mobile back to its original premise, “Ghost Grabbers,” taking our friendly spirit, the titular Funky Phantom, an colonial rebel from the US Revolutionary War called Johnathan Wellington “Mudsy” Muddlemore and voiced by Daws Butler, repurposing his affectations developed for the character Snagglepuss (which is perfectly acceptable because we didn’t get enough Snagglepuss, also the talent behind Yogi Bear, Cap’t Crunch, Fred Flagstone, Quisp, Chilly Willy, Wally Gator and Huckleberry Hound).
Seeing two British Redcoats infiltrating the premises, Mudsy and his now ghost cat named Boo, hide in the housing of a large grandfather clock but are trapped inside, eventually expiring. The pair are released in the first episode when the teens happen on the estate on a dark and stormy night and reset the hands of the clock to the correct time, thus releasing their spirits. On suspicion that the Redcoats were hiding looted treasure, two recurring schemers disguise themselves as ghosts of the British soldiers to try and scare information out of Mudsy.

Friday, 25 December 2020

the stone tape theory

Adapted for television and first broadcast as a Christmas ghost story back in 1972, the eponymous play directed by Peter Sasdy and written by Thomas Nigel Kneale innovatively tempered horror with elements of scientific plausibility by a research and development team of an electronics firm that have occupied a recently renovated a reportedly haunted Victorian mansion as their new facility and begin collaborating on a new project in computer programming and finding a new format for recording digital media.
Once mysterious events begin happening including the death of one colleague, they conduct some research and interview locals to discover that an unsuccessful exorcism had taken place in the house in 1890. The chief researcher theorises that the apparition that frightened his colleague to death was not a ghost in the traditional sense but that the room, the exposed stone walls somehow psychically recorded that botched casting out spirits and tries to tease out the secret of triggering the playback mechanism and harness it for data storage, only to realise that successive tragedies record over one another. Since the broadcast, the hypothesis of residual hauntings and the “stone tape theory” have been adopted by parapsychological investigators.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

ping-pong

Originally created by programmer Allan Alcorn as a training exercise assignment from Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell (also the businessman responsible for Chuck E. Cheese restaurants—establishing a venue and a franchise for arcade games), Pong—the table tennis themed video game, was released on this day in 1972, having been prototyped at a local bar in Sunnyvale, California since August of that year.

Patrons visited Andy Capp’s tavern just to play the game, at a quarter per play with each unit projected to generate forty dollars a day, quadruple the revenue of other coin operated entertainments like jukeboxes and pinball machines. Among the first commercially successful ventures in the field, Pong was instrumental in establishing the industry of gaming and drove emulation and competition.

Monday, 19 October 2020

font specimen

Boing Boing brings us a nice retrospective appreciation of the life and work of the recently departed typographer Ephram Edward (Ed) Benguiat (*1927), whose expansive family of fonts every one of us has surely encountered and used—Bookman, ITC Avant Garde, Panache, Souvenir—plus his formatting, layout and logotype for periodicals including Esquire, Playboy, Reader’s Digest, the San Diego Tribune newspaper and Sport Illustrated.

Beginning his work in graphic design just after World War II as a so called “cleavage retoucher,” Benguiat was part of a team assigned to airbrush out nudity or otherwise suggestive images in film and magazines to comply with Hays Code impositions, however by the 1970s his signature aesthetic for display typefaces and titles was in the kerning—regarded as “sexy spacing” between letters, flirtatiously not quite touching. Aside from movie posters and corporate campaigns for Super Fly (1972), Planet of the Apes (1968) and Foxy Brown (1974, ITC Caslon, № 224), Benguiat also was responsible for the opening credits sequence for the prestige television series Stranger Things. Learn more at the links above.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

public law 81-831

Also known as the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 or the Concentration Camp Law, the McCarran Internal Security Act, namesake of its principal champion the senator from Nevada, was enacted by congress on this day seventy years ago—overriding a veto by President Truman. In addition to requiring Communist and fascist organisations register with the Attorney General’s office and the already established Subversive Activities Control Board with the broad powers to restrict movement and revoke citizenship of members, it also provided for the emergency detention of dangerous or disloyal persons were there is reasonable cause to believe that such persons will probably engage in—or conspire with others to engage in—espionage or sabotage.

In 1965, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled to invalidate the requirement for political party affiliates to register with the Department of Justice and the ban on card-carrying Communist party members from obtaining a passport and traveling outside the US, with the board abolished in 1972, following Nixon’s Non-Detention Act of the previous year (passed due to overwhelming public pressure, see also), repealing most of aspects of the law. The clauses of the Internal Security Act (its official title) that remain in effect are cited, invoked by the US military as a means of access control for instalations.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

7x7

orgonon torpedoes: Wilhelm Reich (previously) used a battery of surface-to-air cannons beginning in April 1952 to defend the Earth from alien invasion

tuppence a bag: animal charity groups fearful that urban pigeons face starvation over lack of human traffic and are starting relief campaigns

part gum commercial level romance mixed with creepy horror elements with an insane musical score: a thoroughgoing review of the 1972 film Love Me Deadly starring Mary Wilcox and Lyle Waggoner

stay the f*ck home: a truly frightening heat map showing where Americans have been flouting lockdown (some other possible explanations here) and going about business as usual—via TYWKIWDBI

the master would not approve: Manos—The Hands of Felt, a puppet-version of the MST3K classic—via the Art of Darkness (lots of other goodies to see here as well)

may thou withstand the loathsome that yond the land fareth: the nine herb charms to cure infection

hyperlocal micromarkets: design interventions and new business models more conducive to social distancing and better for the environment

Thursday, 12 December 2019

unman, wittering and zigo

Released under the title Compaรฑeros del Crimen to theatre audiences in Uruguay in 1972 the cinematic adaptation of the 1958 radio drama by Giles Cooper portrays a newly arrived substitute teacher hired on to complete the semester at a boys’ finishing school who comes to suspect that his predecessor was murdered by the students—though his fears are dismissed as paranoia initially. Often portrayed as a stage piece in public schools in the UK, it is also part of the curriculum for English standard coursework for one’s GCSEs. The resonant quotation from the venerable headmaster goes, “Authority is a necessary evil and every bit as evil as it is necessary.”

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

cola wars

The always engaging Messy Nessy Chic reminds us of the time that soft drink giant Pepsi held temporarily the distinction of being one of the world’s largest naval powers, taking ownership of seventeen obsolete diesel-powered submarines, a decommissioned crusier, destroyer and frigate and a fleet of oil tankers from the quickly disintegrating Soviet Union in 1990.
The relationship of the rival cola company vying for market dominance and the Eastern Bloc goes back to the cultural, domestic-science exchanges held between Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon back in July of 1959, these kitchen debates netting among other things a photograph of the Soviet Premier enjoying a cold, refreshing beverage. Pepsi executives recognised a monumental opportunity to break into new markets. Straightforward expansion, however, was hindered by US sanctions and a Soviet restriction on the export of rubles abroad but worked out a deal to trade syrup for Stolichnaya vodka. The monopoly was negotiated in 1972 and would expire unless renegotiated in 1989. The USSR was a very different place when the terms of the trade deal were coming to an end and with little else of value to barter with, the Soviets offered part of its navy. Sweden and Norway bought the tankers while the tactical vessels were scrapped and sold as salvage, the president of the company quipping to then US president George HW Bush that they had managed to disarm the USSR at a faster pace than the American administration.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

6x6

the voyage home: studying whale communication for its own sake and as a gateway to talk to alien life

new car smell: the odour that’s a premium for American customers does not enjoy universal appeal 

the midnight parasites: a surreal 1972 animated short by Yลji Kuri set in Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights (previously)

notes on a place: visual artist Kimmo Metsaranta helps us appreciate architecture’s unnoticed corners and angles

casting out demons: US priests find themselves fielding more and more requests for exorcisms

๐Ÿ˜‚: a Swedish word with a quite broad regional variation

Sunday, 14 February 2016

sweded or my angel is a centerfold

Reminding me of the story about how Tom’s Diner by Susanne Vega became the first .mp3, I enjoyed reading this essay in The Atlantic about the unwitting and for quite a long time unknown contribution and legacy of a Miss Lena Sjรถรถblom (all very safe-for-work) of Sweden, the Playmate of the Month for November 1972 toward the .jpeg digital photographic processing and compression format.
Researchers working on the project to create portable images of manageable sizes yet without perceptible loss in visual quality for the agency that would become DARPA, the team grabbed the first clipping handy that might fit on the small surface of their drum-scanner and began trying different techniques on the cropped centerfold. Not to dismiss the objectifying nature of the team’s subject which speaks of the barriers to entry for women in computer-sciences, I suppose having a test-pattern such as this helped them monitor when different mathematical models degraded the image’s quality beyond an acceptable threshold, not wanting it to get too pixilated. Although the standard is usually something taken for granted now, it allows for quick transfer through the รฆther (even telemetry from space) and across devices and the ability to store massive amounts of images—and not only the kind these researchers might have kept under their mattresses.