Life, Death, Ego and Eternity

This week on HOME: Stories From L.A.

The original Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in the hills above Glendale, may be best known outside California for inspiring the sledgehammer satire of the 1965 cult comedy "The Loved One." For tourists and curiosity-seekers, it's the gonzo life's work of Hubert Eaton, who memorialized himself as The Builder in the park's every corner. For the families of the people interred there, though, it's something more, and harder to joke away: A place of their own, green and quiet, and eternity-adjacent. 

This is the second episode of Season 5. You can catch up on the whole series at the iTunes Store. While you're there, please take a second to leave the show a rating and review. And you can subscribe right here:  

iTunes | Android | Email | Google Play | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS Read the rest

A brief history of Alice & Bob, cryptography's first couple

Alice and Bob are the hypothetical communicants in every cryptographic example or explainer, two people trying to talk with one another without being thwarted or overheard by Eve, Mallory and their legion of nefarious friends. Read the rest

Here's a beautiful map that helped American women earn voting rights

The Awakening by Henry Mayer is considered one of the finest pieces of political art of the 20th-century and is often mentioned as the most beautiful of the "suffrage maps." American women earned the vote from west to east before the right became federal law. Read the rest

Brief guide to what fruit and vegetables look like prior to domestication

From Business Insider; mostly unappetizing. Pictured here is the 17th century watermelon, as cropped from Giovanni Stanchi's c. 1650s painting.

They look rough, but would have tasted great.

The watermelon originally came from Africa, but after domestication it thrived in hot climates in the Middle East and southern Europe. It probably became common in European gardens and markets around 1600. Old watermelons, like the one in Stanchi's picture, likely tasted pretty good — Nienhuis thinks the sugar content would have been reasonably high, since the melons were eaten fresh and occasionally fermented into wine. But they still looked a lot different.

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The Roman Empire as a modern subway transit map

Sasha Trubetskoy always makes great maps, like this cool imagining of the Roman Empire road system in the style of a public transit system. Read the rest

Nazi cache hidden behind a bookcase

A secret passageway led to an trove of smuggled Nazi artifacts, say investigators in Argentina, and their collector is in trouble with the law.

They were put on display at the Delegation of Argentine Israeli Associations in Buenos Aires on Monday. Many Nazi higher-ups fled to Argentina in the waning days of the war, and investigators believe that officials close to Adolf Hitler brought the artifacts with them. Many items were accompanied by photographs, some with Hitler holding them.

"This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the objects," Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told The Associated Press.

The objects include a device used to measure heads. Nazis believed that one could distinguish a Jew from someone belonging to the supposed Aryan race by head measurements.

[Thanks, Matthew!]

Previously: found a locked safe hidden at the back of a closet in my new house Read the rest

A surprisingly detailed history of choker necklaces

Beauty and fashion expert Safiya Nygaard digs into the long history of choker necklaces, which have been around since at least 2600 BC and have functioned as religious symbols, protective shielding, and, of course, fashion statements. Read the rest

18th century women wore secret, removable pockets

National Museums Liverpool details all the layers 18th century upper class British women were expected to wear each day. The best part? Secret, removable pockets! Read the rest

The Lost Arcade: documentary about Manhattan's last arcade

The Lost Arcade, a documentary about the encroachment of gentrficiation upon the last real video arcade in Manhattan, is now available to watch online.

Directed by Kurt P. Vincent, the story is as much about the Chinatown Fair's community as the games, celebrating the final years of a pop culture phenomenon that moved into our homes so slowly we never realized what we were losing.

"I wanted to create a film that would capture the spirit that hit me the first time I walked through those doors," writes Vincent. "There was a melting pot of a community that congregated there, where all walks of life came together and shared one common interest: video games. It was a microcosm of what New York was all about. Not the overpriced New York we've come to accept, but what this city originally stood for and still does when you look deep enough."

The Lost Arcade sheds a behind-the-scenes light into the demise of arcade culture, as it coincided with the rise of home console and online gaming, and showcases the dichotomy of how gamers connected then vs. now. But more importantly, it highlights the diversity and camaraderie among the competitive gamer community that arcades like Chinatown Fair were so uniquely able to foster.

View links: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, VHX, Vimeo, and Vudu.

Previously: The Lost Arcade: doc about rebirth of legendary NYC arcade Read the rest

English isn't uniquely expressive or fluid, but it is uniquely, dysfunctionally weird

Lots of languages are hybridized from multiple, overlapping waves of conquerers, "but English’s hybridity is high on the scale compared with most European languages," which gives us a realm of weird pronunciations, weirder spellings, inconsistent grammar, and a near-unique situation whereby speakers of languages that are close cousins to English can more-or-less understand English, too.

The amalgam of inconsistently blended Celtic, Norse, French and Latin make English a nightmare to learn, speak and spell -- which makes the language's success in the world something of a miracle.

As long as the invaders got their meaning across, that was fine. But you can do that with a highly approximate rendition of a language – the legibility of the Frisian sentence you just read proves as much. So the Scandinavians did pretty much what we would expect: they spoke bad Old English. Their kids heard as much of that as they did real Old English. Life went on, and pretty soon their bad Old English was real English, and here we are today: the Scandies made English easier.

I should make a qualification here. In linguistics circles it’s risky to call one language ‘easier’ than another one, for there is no single metric by which we can determine objective rankings. But even if there is no bright line between day and night, we’d never pretend there’s no difference between life at 10am and life at 10pm. Likewise, some languages plainly jangle with more bells and whistles than others. If someone were told he had a year to get as good at either Russian or Hebrew as possible, and would lose a fingernail for every mistake he made during a three-minute test of his competence, only the masochist would choose Russian – unless he already happened to speak a language related to it.

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30 years of graffiti layers taken from a wall in The Netherlands

Enjoy Paul De Graaf's gallery depicting the sedimentary layers deposited by 30 years of graffiti on a wall in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

It's a Graffiti Hall of Fame in the city of Nijmegen, the Netherlands. What started as a 70's Hippie cult place, became a center of music and art in the early 80's. One of the first places where it was legal to smoke cannabis. It still a Music studio and Graffiti Hall of fame. The building is surrounded by walls that are all spray painted from top to bottom.

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Hot Cockles and other weird medieval party games

Claire Voon takes a fascinating look at engraver Joseph Strutt's illustrations of strange medieval party games, many of which involve beating the hell out of other guests. Read the rest

Controversy over DNA sequencing of 90 Egyptian mummies

One of the most hotly-contested fields of genetics revolves around the genetic lineage of ancient Egyptians. A new study of 90 Pre-Ptolemaic, Ptolemaic, and Roman mummies raises as many questions as it answers. Read the rest

History buff confirms 1830 legend of Australian pirates in Japan

Nick Russell took a close look at contemporary samurai accounts of a strange ship that landed at Mugi port in 1830, and found it corroborated the celebrated legend of convict pirate William Swallow, who led an escape from Tasmania via a mutiny on the brig ship Cyprus.

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Thinking of the history of life on Earth in terms of "energy epochs"

Olivia P. Judson's paper in Nature, The energy expansions of evolution, presents a novel, beautifully written and presented frame for looking at the history of life on Earth: as a series of five epochs in which energy became more abundant and available to lifeforms, allowing them to scale up in complexity and fecundity: geochemical energy, sunlight, oxygen, flesh and fire. Read the rest

19th century reporters carried clubs and knives to defend themselves against murderous Congressjerks

Hey, who knew? The reporter-beating crazed thug (and now Congressjerk!) Greg Gianforte is part of a long and dishonorable tradition of American Congressional reps who lashed out at the press! Read the rest

Cars parked on the mean streets of mid-1970s New York City

Cars: New York City, 1974–1976 collects over 100 of Langdon Clay's creepy shots of cars parked overnight on the streets of New York at its lowest ebb. The scenes evoke Taxi Driver, The Warriors, even a little Snake Plisken. Read the rest

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