Riis's "How the Other Half Lives": photos of NYC slumlife in the Gilded Age

The full text and images of Jacob Riis's 1890 classic How The Other Half Lives is online (previously), featuring striking photos of the dire state of NYC poverty during the "gilded age," when wealth disparity hit levels that are eerily reminiscent of the modern age. Reading this is probably good prep for our coming future (above, "Police Station lodgers in Elizabeth Street Station").

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The English Method: UK taught modern torture to Brazil's dictators


Brazil's 21-year military dictatorship was a torturing, brutal regime -- among their victims was the current president, Dilma Rousseff. At first, the generals tortured by flogging and shocks, but British officials taught them to torture without leaving marks, helping the regime to rehabilitate its international human rights image. The techniques the UK taught to Brazil's torturers were developed for Malay rebels and perfected on Northern Irish Republicans, and these techniques came to be known as "The English Method."

Other governments -- Germany, France, Panama, and, of course, the USA -- also trained Brazil's torturers, but the UK methods were the best. British agents travelled to Brazil to train the torturers personally. More details of the British "foreign aid" program are coming to light as the UK government finally succumbs to the rule of law and releases files from the National Archives at Kew, a move that has been steadfastly refused for obvious reasons.

One document that's come to light is a letter from then-British Ambassador, David Hunt, called "Torture in Brazil," which praises the Brazilian regime for cleaning up its appearance of brutality by "taking a leaf out of the British book."

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You should try the 1913 Webster's, seriously


James Somers thinks you should switch to the Websters 1913 dictionary, and he cites John McPhee's composition method of looking up synonyms for problematic words as the key to his peerless prose style. Somers makes a great case for the romance of historical dictionaries, but for my money (literally -- I spent a fortune on this one), the hands-down best reference for synonyms and historical language reference is the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, whose magnificence cannot be overstated.

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Trailer for Steven Johnson's new PBS series, "How We Got to Now"

Steven Johnson -- a real favorite around here! -- has a new six-part PBS show coming this October called How We Got to Now, along with companion book. The trailer (above) gives a tantalizing hint of how great this show will be, as does the excerpt from the first episode that's also available. (Thanks, Steven!)

Why did the 9/11 'falling man' image disappear?

fallingman

At Design Observer, a fascinating piece on how photographer Richard Drew's iconic, disturbing image of a man falling to his death from the World Trade Center on 911 has been erased from public view.

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Chinese museum closed for displaying counterfeits

Chinese police closed down Liaoning's private Lucheng Museum after discovering that more than 2,000 of the historical artifacts on display, one-third of the collection, were fakes, reports The Guardian.

Harpo Marx as Sir Isaac Newton

Dooley writes, "In 1957, Irwin Allen (The Towering Inferno) produced The Story Of Mankind featuring a star-studded cast showcasing centuries of history. Who better to play Sir Isaac Newton than Harpo Marx?" Harpo in color!

Met releases 400,000 hi-rez scans for free download, claims copyright over the public domain


Robbo sez, "The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just released almost 400,000 visual works in an online searchable database. The images are high rez (10 megapixels) and free to download. Thank you Met!"

Well, yeah, except the terms and conditions pretend that the Met can tell you how you're allowed to use public domain art (!). Lucky for the Met that such conditions are null and void, otherwise they wouldn't be able to scan and share these images in the first place. Sheesh! Remember, faithful reproductions of works in the public domain do not attract new copyrights, as a matter of well-settled US law.

New footage of FDR walking

A new bit of footage showing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt walking, a rare sight after he was paralyzed by polio, was publicly shown for the first time; the clip was shot in 1937 at Washington, DC's Griffith Stadium by baseball player Jimmie DeShong.

Columbus's Santa Maria discovered?

140513063002 restricted horizontal galleryA sunken ship off Haiti may be Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria. The evidence so far is "very compelling," an Indiana University archaeologist told CNN.

Where the Jungle Cruise queue audio-loop came from

On Passport to Dreams Old and New, the world's greatest Disney themepark critic Foxxfur traces the history of the Jungle Boat Cruise queue-loop, makes some shrewd guesses about where the Imagineers found their material, and (most importantly), what the addition of the music did to the overall design story of an iconic ride.

The WDI-created loop is widely available and runs 47:30. In order to create the loop, WDI had to get very creative in editing the music. Certain songs had slow sections which had to be removed, while others had their vocal sections entirely omitted. The Cole Porter song "I Get A Kick Out Of You" had an entire verse dropped to exclude a reference to cocaine. As a result, the entire AWOL loop as it appears in park, with narration and breaks in the music for announcements every few minutes, has a shorter run time than all of the selected pieces of music played together. Certain songs were compressed, others extended. It's a very elaborate effort.

Since the "final WDI edit" is widely available, here are the songs as they appeared on the original 78 disc releases, unrestored. The "WDI mix" versions of these songs often includes a bit of ambient reverb, which changes the sound of the some of the songs considerably, and made identifying the Dick Powell track particularly challenging.

The Jungle Cruise and AWOL Airwaves

Schrödinger versus the morning

Nobel-winning physicist Erwin Schrödinger had a complicated relationship with mornings. At times, his sorrow over WWI kept him from getting out of bed; other times he was too hungover. He even reorganized the Planck lectures so that he could deliver them later in the day. But by the 1920s, he was also fond of going to the beach in Zurich in the mornings with a blackboard, and he'd sit in the grass in his bathing trunks and work out equations.

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Mary Blair and the World's Fair: Rolly Crump describes the birth of "it's a small world"

Yesterday, I posted about the publication of More Cute Stories, Volume 4: 1964/65 New York World's Fair, an audio memoir of Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump. I've been listening to it today, and enjoying it immensely. I wrote to Bamboo Forest, the publishers, and secured permission to share a couple of MP3s from the collection with you.

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The Oversight: conspiracies, magic, and the end of the world

The clever blendings of history and imagination in Charlie Fletcher’s new novel are satisfying enough to make resolution of its loose ends worth waiting for, writes Cory Doctorow

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Imagineer Rolly Crump on the 1964 NY World's Fair: audio memoir


Jeff writes in with wonderful news: the release of Disney Legend Rolly Crump's More Cute Stories, Volume 4: 1964/65 New York World's Fair. This high-quality recording includes sixty minutes of all new stories about Rolly's involvement with the legendary 'Billion-Dollar Fair'. It is available on CD and as a digital download.

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