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.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

sea of serenity or columbiad

Though the first steps and thoughts uttered on the Moon are much celebrated and well-known, the final reflections of the last human to walk on the lunar surface are also profound and poetic. As he was getting ready to return to the lander 13 December, 1972—just over forty two years ago, astronaut Eugene Cernan mused:

‘...I'm on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come—but we believe not too long into the future—I’d like to just say what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. “Godspeed the crew of Apollo XVII.”’

It always strikes me how short of period those missions spanned, in the crippling, unhappy days of the Vietnam War, and the reference-realisations that we thought we needed and had a really good reason for the exploration and the whole retroactive time-travel associated with adventures and imaginations that only seemed to have crept in one direction.
Humans first landed at the Sea of Tranquility (Mares Tranquillitatis) carried aloft by the orbiting command module called the Columbia after the Columbiad, the giant space-canon in Jules Verne’s book From the Earth to the Moon (which bears a lot of other similiarites to the actual missions’ execution), and humans left for the last time from a canyon called Taurus-Littrow in the Mares Serenitatis, the Sea of Serenity. Though never meant to be a party-crasher as the programme held its own and in many ways surpassed the achievements of the Americans—and in the first act of cooperation with the US, Soviet mission-controllers released the flight plan of its latest launch to ensure the safety of astronauts, Luna XV overlapped with Apollo XI and the first manned landing on the Moon. The Soviet module collided with the side of a mountain was it was coming down at the moment when the Apollo astronauts were first emerging from the lander for their walk-about.
Had the Soviet mission—the third attempt aimed to bring back rock samples, been a success, it might have still been overshadowed by humans presence, but the programme might have demonstrated that the same feats could be accomplished without risk to life and limb, being the first space programme reliant on advanced robotics and computers. IX having landed successfully on the Moon some three years earlier, II having rammed into the Moon a decade prior, while the first mission overshot its mark and became the first satellite to orbit the Sun and others—continuing until later summer of 1976—taking photographs and measurements, delivered roving vehicles and did succeed in returning soil samples, the scientific value—for the cost—of Luna XV would have outshone Apollo. If this pace and urgency had been sustainable, and even friendly as it later became, I wonder where we might be now. I hope too that we have the patience and the ambition to realise the vision that the last human to walk the Moon expressed.