Last chance to back the Kickstarter for our interdisciplinary seminar series on censorship today and in the Renaissance

I have been collaborating with science fiction writer, singer, librettist and Renaissance scholar Ada Palmer and science historian and piracy expert Adrian Johns to put on a seminar series at the University of Chicago called Censorship & Information Control In Information Revolutions: every Friday, we gather a panel of interdisciplinary scholars to talk about parallels between censorship regimes during the Renaissance and the dawn of the printing press and the censorship systems that have arisen since in response to other new forms of information technology. Read the rest

An extinct dog breed once labored in our kitchens, running on spit-turning wheels

The Vernepator Cur was once a ubiquitous dog breed in the UK and the American colonies, and it had a job: for six days a week, it ran tirelessly in a wheel in the kitchen that was geared to turn a meat-spit over the fire (on Sundays it went to church with its owners and served as their foot-warmer). Read the rest

Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder, RIP

Paul Allen, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, philanthropist, science fiction fan, and founder of Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the Experience Museum Project), has died from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 65.

"From technology to science to music to art, I’m inspired by those who’ve blurred the boundaries, who’ve looked at the possibilities, and said, “What if...? In my own work, I’ve tried to anticipate what’s coming over the horizon, to hasten its arrival, and to apply it to people’s lives in a meaningful way." -- Paul Allen

Allen's professional timeline is quite something:

1953: Paul Allen is born January 21, 1953 in Seattle, Washington 1968: While at Lakeside School, Paul meets Bill Gates. A friendship that would later produce one of the world’s most innovative companies, Microsoft. 1969: Attends first rock concert, where he sees Jimi Hendrix at Seattle Center Coliseum 1975: Founds Microsoft  1982: In September, Paul is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nearly eight months later, doctors said he had beaten the disease. 1983: Officially resigns from Microsoft in March 1986: Founds Vulcan Inc. in Seattle as an investment and project management firm with his sister, Jody Allen 1988: Establishes The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation 1988: Purchases the Portland Trail Blazers 1988: Rescues Seattle Cinerama from demolition by purchasing and restoring the theater 1990: The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation makes its first grant. 1990: Becomes a billionaire at age 37 1995: Makes his single biggest investment to date by purchasing a 18.5% stake in Dreamworks 1996: Purchases the St. Read the rest

Color footage of Berlin weeks after the end of World War II

Stalin's pose and expression in the propaganda poster makes it look like he's just noticed there's a goose coming toward him and it's dawning on him that he has no idea how to deal with geese. Read the rest

Legendary cultural icon John Law to speak on 'How Everything Started in San Francisco'

This looks great. For the San Francisco History Association, John Law is giving a presentation on "How Everything Started in San Francisco (While We All Thought We Were Just Fooling Around)" at Congregation Sherith Israel on Tuesday, October 30.

Here are the details:

John Law will discuss how the Free University movement and other pivotal former scenes, including the hippies, Beats, Situationists, Dada, adventure and pulp fiction, B-films, and a ton of other stuff prominently influenced San Francisco (and national) scenes. He will also examine related influences on the rise of Silicon Valley and its connection to the SF underground “art” scene.

John Law has been involved in the S.F. underground art and pranks scene since 1977. He co-founded the Billboard Liberation Front and the Burning Man Festival, and has crewed for Survival Research Labs and S.F. Cyclecide. He was an original member of the infamous San Francisco Suicide Club, and helped to establish the Cacophony Society. He is the coauthor of Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society (out in paperback from Last Gasp in 2019), the definitive history of the group that birthed Burning Man and SantaCon (sorry 'bout that one!) and influenced underground culture worldwide. He is owner and steward of the Doggie Diner Dog Heads, the ten-foot-tall, six hundred pounds (each) fiberglass symbols of an iconic post-computer-age San Francisco. He lives in North Beach and has an office atop the signature Oakland Tribune Tower.

Doors open at 7 p.m. with refreshments and a historical book sale; presentation begins at 7:30 p.m.

Read the rest

Tomorrow: come to our University of Chicago seminar on Renaissance censorship and internet censorship

Ada Palmer is a University of Chicago Renaissance historian (and so much more: librettist, science fiction novelist, and all-round polymath); she has convened a series of seminars at the University in collaboration with science and piracy historian Adrian Johns, and me! Read the rest

When Mickey Mouse was sent to a Nazi concentration camp

In 1942, Horst Rosenthal was sent to the Vichy concentration camp Gurs, where he drew a comic-book that survived him: Mickey au Camp de Gurs, it tells the story of Mickey Mouse being snatched from the street and sent to Gurs, and features a tour of Gurs that uses a brave face of humor to cope with enormous suffering. Read the rest

Kickstarting a seminar series with Ada Palmer and me about the history of censorship and information control

Science fiction author, librettist, singer and historian Ada Palmer (previously), science and piracy historian Adrian Johns, and I have teamed up to create a seminar series at the University of Chicago called Censorship and Information Control During Information Revolutions, which compares and contrasts the censorship regimes and moral panics that flourished after the invention of the printing press with modern, computerized efforts to control and suppress information. Read the rest

The Most Perfect album: musical tributes to all 27 US Constitutional amendments

For more than two years, Radiolab has been running a brilliant side-podcast called More Perfect which involves deeply reported, engaging stories about Supreme Court decisions, skilfully mixing in audio from the trials, historic or new interviews with the people involved, and commentary from scholars and activists that serve to illuminate the incredible stories behind the court decisions that have shaped life in America. Read the rest

Gentleman who thinks Confederates were the good guys in the Civil War gets epically self-owned

In this clip from Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, Florida gun store owner and George Zimmerman pal Andy Hallinan explains that the Civil War was not about slavery. He is then asked what it was about. [via Lachlan]

Hallinan: The majority of people believe that it is a symbol of heritage, that it is a symbol of our history, that people think is associated with the South, and the South was fighting for slavery — that’s a common misconception about what actually took place. When you study the history, that was one thing that the war was about. People don’t go to war for one issue.”

Interviewer: Name three other things the war was about.

Hallinan: Uh, I mean, I’m not a historian. I mean, you’re putting me on the spot for something I — you know.

[a few seconds of silence]

Interviewer: So we got one thing the war was about -- slavery. What are two other things that the war was about.

Hallinan: Um, um, the Confederate... the, uh, um... in general, the war was about tyranny.

Interviewer: What is tyranny?

Hallinan: Tyranny is any time a government overreaches, and they control a life too much.”

Interviewer: Like slavery?

Hallinan: [silence, followed open mouthed silence]

Read the rest

History's solutions to runaway inequality: warfare, revolution, state collapse and plague

In Walter Scheidel's new book The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, the Stanford classics prof traces the rise and fall of inequality from humanity's history, showing how over time, the rich get richer and richer, creating an ever-more-unstable situation, until, basically, the world melts down or the people start building guillotines on their doorsteps. Read the rest

Terrific cartoon on the American Revolution, but oversimplified

One of the most wonderful history channels is Oversimplified, which has returned with an entertaining and informative two-part history of the American Revolution. Read the rest

Apple-1 up for auction

Of the 200 original Apple I computers ever made, only 60 or so are thought to have survived. One of them is now on the auction block. Expected to bring in $300,000, it includes an original Apple Cassette Interface and cables, Operation Manual, a period ASCII keyboard, a video monitor, and new power supply. Also, it works. From RR Auction:

This Apple-1 computer was restored to its original, operational state in June 2018 by Apple-1 expert Corey Cohen, and a video of it running and functioning is available upon request. A comprehensive, technical condition report prepared by Cohen is available to qualified bidders; he evaluates the current condition of the unit as 8.5/10. The most remarkable aspect of this Apple-1 computer is that it is documented to be fully operational: the system was operated without fault for approximately eight hours in a comprehensive test.

The later production ‘Byte Shop’-style of this Apple-1 is indicated by discrete component dates which match other known Apple-1 boards of similar vintage, assembled and sold by Apple in the fall of 1976 and early 1977. On the left side, the board is marked: “Apple Computer 1, Palo Alto, Ca. Copyright 1976.” Unlike many of the known Apple-1 boards, this unit has not had any modifications to the physical board, and the prototype area is clean and unused.

Image of the working Apple-1 using an iPod to load a program in lieu of a cassette:

Read the rest

Young man's PhD research focuses on the historical secrets of summoning fairies

New PhD student Samuel Gillis Hogan and colleagues at the University of Exeter are launching a deep study of 15-17th century spell books to understand how people attempted to summon fairies throughout history.

"Fairies were thought of as wondrous and beautiful, but mostly dangerous. But people wanted to summon them and harness that power for their own gain," Hogan told the BBC.

Hogan, a lifelong fan of the supernatural (see photo above) and, yes, Harry Potter, received a fellowship to move to the UK after completing his master's degree at the University of Saskatchewan. His thesis topic? The history of chiromancy, aka palm reading.

From the Canadian Press:

Gillis Hogan said taking a closer look at the magic people believed in gives us an intimate window into how they understood the world.

The way we see the world now, he noted, is just one perspective among many.

“I think that should give us a bit more pause when we have a tendency to look at past cultures, or even other cultures than our own that exist right now, and look down our noses at it as being backwards or strange.”

(via Daily Grail) Read the rest

Windows 95 turned into a native app

Windows 95, that most beautiful of operating systems, has been turned into an application. It's available to download for MacOS, Linux and, indeed, modern editions of Windows. Tom Warren writes:

Slack developer Felix Rieseberg is responsible for this glorious app, based on an existing web project that supports Windows 95, Windows 98, and a whole host of older operating systems. Now nostalgia lovers can play around with Windows 95 in an electron app. Rieseberg has published the source code and app installers for this project on Github, and apps like Wordpad, phone dialer, MS Paint, and Minesweeper all run like you’d expect. Sadly, Internet Explorer isn’t fully functional as it simply refuses to load pages.

Read the rest

The Beach Boys' "Do It Again" with the delay removed from the drums

Do It Again is one of my favorite songs, not least because of the distinctive delay effect applied to the drums by sound engineer Stephen Desper, giving it its weird blend of electronic fuzz and nostalgia ("like something from another planet"). Here it is with the delay effect removed. Being honest with myself, I have to say it's better this way. But then, I wasn't there in '68. Read the rest

42-byte hack adds two-player battles to Karateka

Karateka is not just a classic game, but one of the most well-documented thanks to Jordan Mechner's memoirs and his habit for maintaining archives. 34 years after its release, Charles Mangin studied the game's source code and patched it to allow a second player to control the enemies—effectively adding a vs. battle mode.

I’ve taught myself 6502 assembly after getting back into the Apple II, through the thriving community online. The idea of a two player version of Karateka came back to me while at KansasFest a couple of years ago. I noodled a little on it back then, getting distracted by finding the code that created the unique music in the game. Long story short: I finally found the places in the game code that needed patching to allow a second player to control the enemies in the game, and create a functioning two player version of Karateka. The resulting patch is only 42 bytes long

42, the meaning of life! You can play the two-player Karateka at the Internet Archive.

I'd love to see this done to Great Gurianos (sometimes renamed Gladiator), another 80s' fighter with an interesting combat system whose attract mode suggested vs. battles that were not in the game itself. Read the rest

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