Stanley Cubic

Kubrick, Who’d Have Been 90 & the   
Odyssey to a Future That Never Was

A New Yorker who spent most of his life in the U.K., Stanley Kubrick had been an accomplished photojournalist before his movie career as a director took off. His 1946 series for Look magazine, Life and Love on the New York City Subway, displays the same keen eye and compositional style that would mark his filmography later on.
In just a few years, the man who would say at one point that ‘the most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile, but that it is indifferent.’ went on to become anything but, with a string of now classics, such as Path of Glory, Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, to name a few.
Today, when he would’ve become 90, Stanley Kubrick is intrinsically connected with the future that he realized with his movies, more than anything he’s ever envisioned. And that’s no small feat for such an overachiever. Even as he just missed the dawn of the iconographic year that named his sci-fi masterpiece, much of what he and Arthur C. Clarke anticipated is finally rising on the horizon of our times.
Not that we should feel too nostalgic about the future that could’ve been, with its interstellar travel, and dreams of finally understanding our evolutionary connection with the ‘indifferent’ universe surrounding us. We’re actually lucky that another one of his disturbing dystopias of what may lay ahead, A Clockwork Orange, based on an Anthony Burgess book, hasn’t quite materialized. Yet.
Before going back to those pictures of a post-war Manhattan, and to a few interesting audio and visual tchotchkes about Kubrick we’ve found on the Internet, let’s do him some justice. For even at the heart of his enormously challenging techno-futuristic visual parables, there was his deeply humanistic option for a different construct of our own fate.
From his anti-war trilogy of sorts, Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, and Full Metal Jacket, to his portraits of individuals at odds with an all too powerful system, either stoically like Spartacus, or as a crook, like Barry Lyndon, or even one succumbing to his own creeping madness, as in Stephen King’s The Shinning, Kubrick remained faithful to his non-religious but highly moral Jewish working class roots.

RIDING THE UNDERGROUND
The Museum of the City of New York has some 40 thousand negatives that the young photographer took of Manhattan in the 1940s. Some of his pictures are so cleared eye they could’ve been taken now. Subway riders fast asleep, hanging from the overhead bars, or with their faces buried in newspapers. Yes, you could make that iPhones, but the underlying content would be the same.
Calling him Stan Kubrick, the Camera Quiz Kid, Mildred Stagg wrote in 1948 about ‘the boy who said that had turned nineteen a week ago, and has been a staff photographer for Look magazines since age seventeen.’ And registered the kid’s own impressions about (more)
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Read Also
* The Shinning
* Polly & Meow
* Checking In
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Medieval Crafts


Would You Rather Find a Job or
Be a Vagabond 500 Years Ago?

If you’ve been feeling left out of this so-called gig economy, imagine how you’d fare in another time. As in traveling back in time to, say, 500 years ago, just to check one of London’s job listing boards circa 1550. In fact, who hasn’t imagined, from the safety of one’s mind, of course, how Medieval townsfolk went about their business?
You could meet Cornelis Bos, for instance, who enjoyed drawing what looks like taxis driven by satyrs. Have a chat with Willielmus de Lench, a grain thresher, or try a brew with Matild de Grafton, an alewife, all common names and occupations of the time. Or you could find easier pickings as a jarkman, another word for vagrant.
There are plenty of records about that particularly gruesome time to be alive anywhere, but as the saying goes, history is told by the powerful. So while you may be wise to King Arthur and his gallant knights, there’s no word about their ostler, the guy who’d take care of their horses. Which, as most occupations of poor people, would run in families.
Don’t be discouraged though. Even if we may not find a suitable position for a person of your qualifications, you still may learn a thing or two about how people would make a living then, some of the common surnames that have survived to these days, and the surprisingly variety of outlaw types populating the era.
Oh, and throughout this post, check the exquisitely elaborated 1550 art of Cornelis Bos. You may as well pick a few interesting subjects to use in your next job interview, so to give the recruiter a bone to chew, while you think about how to answer that minefield of a question they all love to throw at you: so, what have you been doing all this time?

WORKING FOR THE MAN
As anyone may have already noticed, a lot of traditional surnames have originated from common occupations, geographical locations and even physical characteristics. In English, that’s likely the case if your last name is Baker, Brown, Blacksmith, Coleman, Taylor, White and so on.
But you’d be surprised with the bulk of professions still relevant, five centuries and a whole universe of technological advances later. People still work in government, or for someone, have their own business, or simply own a crooked idea of what it means to make a honest buck.
One could argue, though, that few thieves or professional criminals would’ve dressed up as wealthy people then, while now, heyday of sorts for the lying business, we may have one at the White House. But really? What when they’d pillage and burn to the ground a whole country? That’d assure them graces and riches from aristocracy and royal titles to boot. So, it all always comes down to being humans.
For the government, you could be a catchpole, a ‘chicken catcher,’ a hayward, an officer in charge of fences and hedges, and a liner, who’d set property boundaries. You wouldn’t want to mess with a bailiff, who could arrest and execute you, but you could be friends with reeves, which was how church wardens were called, and wouldn’t hurt you to know a master of the revels, those in charge of court entertainment.

VALUABLE LEARNING SKILLS
At large, there were military and religious occupations, sailors and scholars, flora and fauna laborers, your usual share of artists and entertainers (we heard that a bard, some Shakespeare dude, is quite good), and an infinitude of craftsmen and merchants, a category to which alehouse keeper Matild belonged to, as did olde pal de Lench.
But perhaps it’s under the ‘regular folk’ lists where demand for a variety of skill sets would get you by, as well as some of those names could be found. Did some traveling? you could be a palmer, someone (more)
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* Badass Ladies
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Fools’ Errand

The Cruelest Month & the
Wasteful Land of Hoaxers

April is here again, and that may be one of the few things you may be sure about its first day. Yes, it’s high time for jokesters of all stripes, including the miserable kind old Eliot may have alluded to in his epic. So all we can say is, be mindful out there today.
For in college dorms and at offices across the land, misguided tricksters may be tempting serious injury, and who can trust the sense of humor of digital avatars, these days. Better tread with caution, weary traveler, for no amount of solemnity may mend a catastrophic mishap.
On the other (sleight of) hand, though, we just can’t wait to see what will be the dominant hoax of the day, and, slow as we are, how long we’ll take to realize, hopefully in time, our endless gullibility. Lacking any insights to add, we’re republishing this post as little seems to change on the subject of deceiving and fooling.
May the cleverest and the most benign prevail this Wednesday, even though we doubt it. As it usually goes, someone always gets hurt, and their fall is the undue wage paid to devilish intent. In other words, we wish it were all fun and games, but the flesh is weak and we may find ourselves laughing at somebody’s expense. Damn us.

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Sleight of Minds

In Leap Years, April Fool’s
Comes a Full Hoax Earlier

Who doesn’t know the expression, don’t fool yourself? And yet, we love to do just that. We go to great lengths pretending we don’t know what we should, and we don’t feel how it hurts. Aches, longings and desire, jealousy, hatred and grief, we’re all great at deceiving our own hearts into believing that things can’t be that bad. Yet, they’re usually much worse.
We brag about how far we’ve got, how good we are, how much better is our god. Such predisposition makes the work of hoaxers not just easy, but necessary. So thank your phony stars for another April Fool’s Day, for it may provide respite and restore sanity.
You may fear if it ignites a conspiracy, a collective craze, the hysteric crowd. But those would have happened with or without pranksters. After all, paranoid buffs may believe they’ve uncovered the truth; everybody else is sure there’s no way of knowing it.
Throw your hands to air in gratitude for this April 1 is not nested within a Leap Year, in which case it’d all look as if we were a full day ahead of schedule. Or that, since the 14th century, this date stopped being marked in January, or December, or even March 32nd.
So, either way, it’s a day of ambiguity and humor, even when at first you may feel like dismembering anyone who dares to punk you.

THE SHIP OF FOOLS SAILS ON
For some reason, the 20th century was plagued by all sorts of political conspiracy theories that arose from one too many behind-close-doors machinations. Many believe they’re are surely behind (excuse us if we Continue reading

Undeciphered

Treatise or New Language,
Voynich Enigma Is No Hoax

In the age of massive data collection, of inflated intelligence budgets, and of mastery of secrecy and surveillance, it’s a sobering realization to see how a 15th century manuscript continues to humble ciphers and code experts, as the Voynich has been doing for ages.
Since its rediscovery in 1912, some progress has been made, but overall, all efforts to understand it have been thoroughly defeated. Despite several theories, and a few words deciphered, the content of this exquisite document remains elusive and mysterious.
Named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish-born book antiquarian, who acquired it in Italy, and owned it until his death in New York in 1930, the Voynich Manuscript has been handed by some of the most brilliant minds of what became later known as the global intel community.
Alan Turing, the British computer wiz who later broke the secrets of the German Enigma machine, took a crack at the Voynich, and failed. So did William Frederic Friedman, one half of the so-called America’s First Cryptographic Couple (with wife Elizebeth Smith), who worked for decades for the U.S. military.

WHEN CODE BREAKERS GET BROKEN
Having decoded hundreds of papers (and previously obsessed with a theory, later abandoned, that works by William Shakespeare were actually written by Sir Francis Bacon), he spent decades on the Voynich, but came up with only a well-crafted but ultimately vague anagram, whose key was revealed after his death in 1969.
‘An early attempt to construct an artificial or universal language of the a priori type,’ was all he could gather of the manuscript. Many others tried their hand, or at least worked theories around its origins. Among the most durable, two out of four are still standing and show promise.
An interesting take was advanced by Lawrence and Nancy Gladstone, pointing the book’s authorship to Roger Bacon. But for all its elegance, the theory lost steam after Continue reading

Used Books

City Fined for Destroying
Occupy Wall Street Library

It was an act of truculence from the NYPD, just as the many arrests and illegal surveillance of members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which even at its peak, remained an example of restrain as far as protest rallies go. An act that, even after two years, has no defenders.
A mistake, it’s now agreed, that will cost New York City, or rather, its taxpayers, $230,000, which includes reparations for the destruction of the volunteer-maintained People’s Library, plus the small windfall that lawyers, hired by the movement to litigate the case, have earned.
OWS has gone through many phases since that spring, summer and fall, still the only consistent act of rebellion against the widespread multi-billion malfeasance, perpetrated by Wall Street bankers, that brought most of the world’s finances to an almost standstill. Not quite, though, as it turned out.
Neither the U.S. government has managed to punish a single character in that tragic operetta, which bankrupted entire nations across the world, along with millions of working families. On the contrary, as far as anyone know, those same bosses have since thrived and are, in fact, wealthier than ever nowadays.
That’s why the raid of Zuccotti Park, in Lower Manhattan, was so out of proportion then, and utterly absurd now even as it recedes in time. While the city was wasting its highly trained law enforcement agents, their very own pensions were too being raided by the same chiefs who’d called them to clear the park in the first place. Not even Machiavelli could’ve envisioned such a mascarade.
The movement has found other venues to remain relevant since that fateful year. Whether it’s found its true calling by purchasing and forgiving debt of common citizens, as in the Strike Debt initiative (see on your left), or just being instrumental whenever needed, as it did during the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, it’s a discussion for another post.
In this context, beating the city in a lawsuit is not even its greatest achievement. But it sure helps. Thinking about that, here’s what Colltales published about the raid, and the chilling message it sent to some of us, to whom any time libraries and books are destroyed, burned, or dumped, the hair in the back of our neck stands up. Enjoy it.
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Booking the Future

When Libraries Are Destroyed,
Bad Memories Drive the Protest

When the New York Police Department raided the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park, Lower Manhattan, last Tuesday, destroying its free makeshift library, it unwittingly joined a sad and brutal roll call of fanatics that stretches back many centuries.
The NYPD became just the newest member of an infamous club that includes the Taliban, German Nazis, the Khmer Rouge, Imperial Japanese forces, The British Empire, the Catholic Church, and an assortment of despots and bloody occupation armies across time, religions, cultures and ideologies.
All at one time or another, have been singled out by history for being responsible of the destruction of millions of books. The volumes will never be recovered or even identified, and those who did away with them exist now mainly under the general banner of scourge. But what has been lost to mankind certainly goes way beyond their horrific deeds.
Even before Gutenberg officially invented the modern print, books were perceived as a threat to power. Thus, the way the police confiscated the 5,000-odd volumes covering a wide array of subjects that had been donated to the OWS movement, was but a small, albeit not new, Continue reading

Valentine Way

When the Affair Is Over &
the Blues Hurt Your Heart

It’d seem virtually impossible to add yet another cliche to a day so full of them as Valentine’s. But we think we can still squeeze an extra one in. For a selected group of researchers seems to agree that heartbreak causes physical symptoms in those going through it.
We hate to say it, but we told you so, haven’t we? Doctors in New York, Michigan, and Beverly Hills believe that the body responds to the emotional pain of a breakup just like it would to any other kind of stress, and it may even enlarge your heart.
For Montefiore’s Director of Psychology Simon Rego, the reaction it’s a built-in defense mechanism that ‘keeps us alive.’ It’s ‘more than just a metaphorical feeling of pain,’ says University of Michigan Professor Ethan Kross, in what psychiatrist and author Carole Lieberman characterizes it as a particularly vulnerable time to physical illness.

Even the prestigious Mayo Clinic got into what’s known as ‘broken-heart syndrome,’ a condition in which the person experiences chest pains and firmly believes it’s a heart attack. That’s because research showed that the heart temporarily enlarges in response to the surge of stress hormones caused by the end of the affair.
By now, many of you may be experiencing some kind of heart-racing urge, alright, but just out of the desire to kill us. After all, why would we choose today to (chocolate) rain on everyone’s parade, right? We understand. But think of it as a public service and please don’t think ill of our feeble attempt at bringing you something fresh to such a by-the-numbers day.
Perhaps Dr. Rego can elaborate a bit, specially for those who may feel left out of all the fireworks of roses and rings that makes this a make or break kind of a day. ‘It’s important to remember that life is never constant,’ he says (please don’t cringe just yet). ‘It’s the blessing and the curse of it all,” he told the LATimes.

His pearl of wisdom should appear in small print on the back of all Valentine’s Day cards that millions are exchanging today. ‘We all will experience loss in our lives. It’s what it means to be human. But as low as we feel, it’s important to remember that things get better,’ and we think we may be having some kind of palpitation now.
Maybe that’s because we know we couldn’t possibly put it any better, without starting melting as a pile of white sugar under a heavy downpour of high fructose corn syrup.
We mean no disrespect to the good old doc, of course, or to any research on the emotional response to such an often devastating event in our lives as a breakup, for that matter. As Dr. Kross, who studied the effects of physical and emotional pain, says, ‘social rejection may actually have a bodily component to it.’
Let’s not go any further with the derogatory tinge for now. As many in history, we’ve tried and tried our hands at the stuff, and may have only managed to cross the part that ‘hurts and causes physical pain.’ So what’s a no-expert-at-love is left to do? try it over, of course. We’re foolish that way. The Valentine way.
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The Shinning

A Few Intimate Moments for    
Kubrick, Who’d Have Been 84

A New Yorker who spent most of his life in the U.K., Stanley Kubrick had been an accomplished photojournalist before his movie career as a director took off. His 1946 series for Look magazine, Life and Love on the New York City Subway, displays the same keen eye and compositional style that would mark his filmography later on.
In just a few years, the man who would say at one point that ‘the most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile, but that it is indifferent.’ went on to become anything but, with a string of now classics, such as Path of Glory, Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, to name a few.
Yet, last Thursday when he would’ve become 84, Stanley Kubrick‘s name was hardly mentioned in the media, or even remembered at the opening of the Summer Games, in London, the city he chose to live from 1962 until his passing, in 1999. In fact, he not just missed the dawn of the iconographic year that named his sci-fi masterpiece, but much of what he and Arthur C. Clarke anticipated is yet to come to fruition.
We shouldn’t feel nostalgic about the future that could’ve been, though, with its interstellar travel, and dreams of finally understanding our evolutionary connection with the ‘indifferent’ universe surrounding us. We’re actually lucky that another disturbingly dystopian view of the what may lay ahead, A Clockwork Orange, based on an Anthony Burgess book, hasn’t quite materialized.
Before going back to those pictures of a post-war Manhattan, and to a few interesting audio and visual tchotchkes about Kubrick we’ve found on the Internet, let’s do him some justice. For even at the heart of his enormously challenging techno-futuristic visual parables, there was his deeply humanistic option for a different construct of our own fate.
From his anti-war trilogy of sorts, Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, and Full Metal Jacket, to his portraits of individuals at odds with an all Continue reading