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For sale: Maurice Sendak's Lindbergh kidnapping souvenir ladder


Hiland writes, "The auction website Hakes is featuring a bunch of things from the estate of Maurice Sendak. A particular one of note is the miniature Lindbergh Baby kidnapping trial souvenir wooden ladder."

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Bad-ass Catholic weapons

Robot Mountain Benito Cereno has compiled a partial list of the bad-ass weapons of Catholocism, which include Durendal, "which had in its hilt one of St Peter’s teeth, St Basil’s blood, a hair of St Denis, and a scrap of cloth that belonged to the Virgin Mary."

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Our Comrade the Electron: technology as centralizer

Maciej Cegłowski's Webstock 2014 talk is called OUR COMRADE THE ELECTRON, and it's an inspired rant about the relationship of technology to power and coercion. It asserts that the decentralizing of power attended by the growth of technology in the 1990s was a blip, and that the trend of technology will be to further centralization.

I disagree. I think that Cegłowski has conflated "technology" with "technology under neoliberalism" -- that the concentration of technology since the 1990s coincides with the creation of like the WTO and the abolition of things like the Glass–Steagall Act, and the overall concentration of wealth and power into fewer hands. Technology is related to centralized power, but it is not entirely the cause of it -- rather it is in a feedback loop with it, and the two fuel each other.

For me, the interesting question isn't "does technology centralize or doesn't it?" We've seen technology do both. For me, the interesting question is, "How can we make technology into a force for decentralization?"

There's a long-held view of the world that breaks it into "artsies and techies" -- the two cultures. From where I sit, though, the two cultures are "people who believe in finance" and "people who think finance is a corrupt and corrupting force in the world." All the interesting nerds I know make art, and all the interesting artists I know nerd out on technology. But the one thing that seems to separate us into two camps is whether we think the world of finance is a giant con game or a legit enterprise.

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Where did all that quack-cure radium end up?


Glenn Fleishman writes, "A responsible dealer of the radioactive element radium, a substance once pushed widely as a quack cure, tried to keep the genie in the bottle. Theresa Everline explains that in the first half of the 20th century, Frank Hartman, known as the Radium Hound, kept track of accidents and incompetence in handling radium. His diaries reveal that radium lingers in forgotten places."

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Man, newsies sure could dress


Suddenly I want to buy a newspaper. Everybody crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed urchin.

11:00 A.M. Monday May 9th, 1910. Newsies at Skeeter's Branch, Jefferson near Franklin. They were all smoking. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. [Library of Congress]

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Ye olde history of perpetual motion machines

Mersebergwheel jpg

Cambridge science historian Simon Schaffer researched the history of quack science's most iconic device, the perpetual motion machine. Cabinet magazine's Christopher Turner recently interviewed Schaffer about one famed demonstration from 1721, and the, er, perpetual attraction of such devices to this day.

Spin Doctors: An Interview with Simon Schaffer (Cabinet)

And here's the abstract for Schaffer's scholarly paper (behind a paywall): "The show that never ends: perpetual motion in the early eighteenth century"

Edgar Allan Poe's interior design proscriptions


In The Philosophy of Furniture," an essay in the May 1840 issue of Burton's Gentlemen's Magazine, Edgar Allan Poe decries the interior design sense of the world (the Italians have "have but little sentiment beyond marbles" and the Americans worship an "aristocracy of dollars"). He ultimately describes his ideal room, and sets out the exact characteristics that Poe-compliant designers should hew to in order to make for harmonious interiors:

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Survivors of the Florida School for Boys return to the site of legal kidnapping, torture and murder of children


Mother Jones has published a heartbreaking story about the survivors of the Florida School for Boys; children who were, basically, kidnapped by southern cops and sent to a hellhole where backbreaking labor, torture, and murder were the order of the day. A state court has finally given the go-ahead to exhume the graves of the children who were killed and buried in anonymous, unmarked graves by their jailers. The survivors returned for a press-conference, but found themselves with almost no press to speak to.

Mike Mechanic writes, "Johnny Gaddy, 68, still doesn't understand how he landed at Florida's Dozier reform school. When he was 11, the police showed up at his front door. 'They told me the judge wanted to talk to me,' he recalls. 'I'll never forget it as long as I live. I was watching 'The Lone Ranger' on TV. My mama said, 'The officer going to take you down, the judge going to talk to you.' I said, 'Mama, why's he going to talk to me?' She said, 'Go ahead.' He took me to the police station, told me to get in a cell. I never saw a judge. I wasn't sentenced for anything as far as I know. I was handcuffed all the way to Marianna.'

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Map of The Open Country of Woman's Heart, ca. 1830

Via Public Domain Review: "The Open Country of Woman’s Heart, Exhibiting its internal communications, and the facilities and dangers to Travellers therein” (1830s), by D.W. Kellog.

All your bird poop are belong to us

From the first section of the 1856 Guano Islands Act:

Whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other Government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other Government, and takes peaceable possession thereof, and occupies the same, such island, rock, or key may, at the discretion of the President, be considered as appertaining to the United States.

Or, as my friend Andrew put it: If you find an island with bird poop on it you can claim it for the USA.

Image: Guano Covered Rocks, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from wlscience's photostream

Medieval Unicode


The Medieval Unicode Font Initiative has a collection of glyphs and type elements that they'd like to see added to Unicode to make it simpler to represent medieval writing on the Web. (via O'Reilly Radar)

Social-engineering the FBI in 1971


In The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI, Betty Medsger reveals the long-secret details of the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, an activist group that raided the FBI's offices, retrieving evidence of J Edgar Hoover's criminal program of secret spying. The book is a rollicking history of the confluence of protest, locksport, activism and amateur spycraft. One of its most hilarious moments is the description of the group's social engineering hack on an unpickable lock that they needed to get past in order to get to their target:

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Mozart's ear

I find this comparison of Mozart's ear with that of an "ordinary ear" to be interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it's apparently the work of Mozart, himself. You can see "mein" crossed out and Mozart's name written in by somebody else. Second, I would love to know who got to represent all the other ears in humanity for the purposes of this comparison. That made me smile a little. Finally, is that an earring, Amadeus?

Via Harvard's Houghton Library Autograph File

Podcast: Imagineer Rolly Crump on designing the Haunted Mansion


Jeff sez, "On episode 5 of the DoomBuggies Spook Show podcast (MP3), designer Rolly Crump gives a very candid interview in which he talks about his career working on Disneyland's Haunted Mansion with Walt Disney at WED Imagineering, and tells personal stories including the time he spent working with co-tinkerer Yale Gracey designing special effects for the Haunted Mansion, and how he was drummed out of the Haunted Mansion project after Walt died."

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Globes: art-book traces 400 years' worth of strange and gorgeous globes


Here's a tantalizing preview [PDF] of The Art and History of Globes, a massive, gorgeous art-book tracing the history of globes. Written by Sylvia Sumira, forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press in March. The globes pictured run back 400 years, and come from the collection of the British Library. As Levi from the press says, "they're amazing: beautifully designed and drawn, intricate, strange--just incredible objects."

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