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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Carl's LiveJournal:

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    Friday, January 6th, 2012
    4:29 pm
    Happy New Year! The secret is squibs!

    A lovely, entertaining and safe time was had by all.

    Over the last couple of years, my fireworks party has evolved into a split affair, adjourning before midnight to see the big show around the corner by Joost Ritman, owner of the Biblioteca Hermetica Philosophica on the Bloemstraat, then back to my place.

    Last year, I was still having trouble making a reliable firing system; the flashbulbs weren't always hot enough to light the fireworks. At the same time, Ritman had nearly gone bankrupt and stood to lose his library, the largest collection of alchemical manuscripts in Europe, if not the world. All those years of throwing parties at my place had prevented my getting to see Ritman's pyrotechnics, and I feared last year would be my final chance to see them, so off we went. I'm glad we did. I think the theme was Wedding of the Five Elements, and it was pretty spectacular. It took the burden off making my party a success, too. People had a good time and we had great Tex-Mex, but my fireworks had been unreliable. Also, I was also really nervous about burning debris falling off the little temporary platform outside the window and hitting people below (there was a lot of foot traffic), so I really felt off my game.

    Not this year, though.

    I finally sorted out the ignition. I've got loads of single-shot large-ish firecrackers (Astronaut), and cannibalized them for their powder. Flashbulbs in small sachets of black powder (3-4 crackers' worth) did the trick. They were easy to make and, taped to the fuse of the firework to be lit, it worked almost every time. I also made a bigger platform and added slats on the sides, and that took care of the problem of raining flaming debris passersby. More or less.

    We still went to see Ritman's fireworks this year. He saved the library, at the cost of donating to the Royal Collection some of his choice pieces, and his fireworks theme appeared to be the Phoenix, fittingly enough. For my part, I finally found a winning formula and one that could be set up on short notice and while fighting jet lag (having arrived from the States only the previous day).

    Back in business!

    Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
    5:39 am
    How the Who Stole Halloween
    For posterity...

    "The Who Who Stole Halloween" by Rev. Mike Rho Phone on WREK Atlanta, Suzie the Floozy's Slacktime Funhouse, rebroadcast on the Hour of Slack Halloween show, KNON Dallas Sunday at 9:00 PM, Halloween, 1993.

    (transcribed and reprinted without permission)

    Every Grinch down in Grinchville likes Halloween a lot,
    But the Who who lived just north of Grinchville, did not.

    The Who hated the whole Halloween season;
    No one quite knows the reason.

    It could be that he lost a big bet
    And had an unbelievable gambling debt.
    Or it could be that his underwear was too tight
    And he was desperate to get laid that night

    Whatever the reason, groin itches or wallet pinches,
    He stood there on Halloween hating the Grinches.

    Staring down from his cave with a sour huge frown
    At the warm, lighted pumpkins below in their town.

    For he knew every Grinch down in Grinchville beneath
    Was busy now hanging someone capped with a thorny Halloween wreath

    He snarled with his fundamentalist fingers nervously drumming
    "I must find some way to keep Halloween from coming!"

    The Who had quite a vivid imagination
    But for only one thing--he had a morbid fixation.
    It was a fulltime occupation
    Of hating other peoples' imaginations.

    "All the Grinch girls and boys will be carving their Halloween toys," imagined the Who.
    "Hundreds of grotesque dolls for voodoo
    And fashioning enormous piles of fake dog doodoo

    "And the Grinches young and old will sit down to a feast.
    The young will feast on the old and they'll feast,
    feast, feast, feast, feast

    "Then they'll do something I hate most of all, "said the Who.
    "Every Grinch down in Grinchville, the tall and the small
    Will burn down the local Baptist church, dismember the pastor and sacrifice his liver on an altar to Satan!"

    The Who's self-righteous indignation knew no end
    He made it his whole life, for he had not a friend

    Then the Who got an idea, an awful idea
    The Who got an evangelical awful idea

    "I know just what to do," the Who laughed in his throat,
    "I'll drill a few holes in their hellfire boat!"

    I'll fill their dark passions with something mind-numbing
    This year I'll stop Halloween from coming!"

    Then dressing up as a mass-murdering psychotic clown
    The Who infiltrated the Grinchville Town.

    He stole all their glow-in-the dark skeletons,
    Their Dobbshead pumpkins,
    And old recordings of "Monster Mash."
    He took all their candles, their Ouija boards and cash
    And the last thing the Who took was the last of their 'frop stash.

    But Halloween came just the same
    And it came again and again

    "How could it be so?" mused the Who.

    "It came without plastic pirate hats and cardboard black cats.
    It came without Frankenstein and Dracula's ghost.
    It came without trance channelers flown in from the coast

    "Halloween came.
    It came just the same.
    "It came without devils and witches and hags
    It came without commies, New-Agers, and fags!"

    The Who puzzled and puzzled 'til his puzzler was sore;
    Then the Who thought of something he hadn't before.

    "Maybe, just maybe, Halloween isn't a liberal-inspired, devil-worshipping conspiracy to dupe the youth of our nation into rejecting the ultraconservative fundamentalist Christian agenda.
    "Maybe Halloween perhaps means a little bit more."

    And in Grinchville they say
    The Who's brain grew three sizes that day
    And his penis grew five sizes guaranteed the next day.

    Then the true meaning of Halloween came through
    And the Who found the Slack of ten grinches, plus two.

    "Welcome Halloween, bring your weirdness,
    Weirdness to all Grinches far and near.
    Halloween will ever soar
    As long as M-80s blow down your door.

    "Welcome, children of the night
    With hearts and minds so dark and bright.
    Halloween is in our grasp
    As long as we have blood sacrifices to clasp.
    Halloween will always be
    Just as long as we have perversity.
    Welcome Halloween while we stand
    Hand cut off and heart in hand!"
    Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
    8:23 pm
    What's that, Cerberus? Trouble down at the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica?
    Future of philosophy library uncertain
    by Stefan Vermeulen/FTM

    Published in Dagblad De Pers ("Press Daily"), 2 November 2010, p20
    Freely translated and edited a little by me

    The world-famous book collection of entrepreneur Joost Ritman stands on the brink of collapse. An emergency injunction must rescue his "Bibliotheque" tomorrow. "Nobody saw this coming."

    (Amsterdam) The Bloemstraat, such a typical little street in the Jordaan. Narrow, with looming building facades, located in the shadow of the Westertoren. On the second floor this Monday morning, a woman washes the windows - the flower box she has shoved to the side - below, a middle-aged man washed his Vespa. Just a proper street.

    The three buildings with the golden emblem of the "Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica" on the front at first glance in no sense hints at anything unusual. But what we suspect most passers-by don't realize: behind the dark-green painted doors and blindered windows of numbers 15, 17 and 19 is to be found a world-famous collection of books and manuscripts. Value: 50 million Euros.

    Joost Ritman (1941), grown rich in the meantime from the sale of his business, De Ster ("The Star"), which supplies disposable cutlery to airlines, started building up his library in 1957. It contains more than 20,000 books, among them prized pieces from the late Middle Ages.

    Priceless collection

    Thus is on the Bloemstraat the first illustrated version of Dante's "The Divine Comedy" from 1481, as well as an early edition of the "Corpus Hermeticum" from 1471. Connoisseurs's mouths water upon hearing these names. "It is an absolutely priceless collection" says, for one, Wouter Hanegraaff, professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. "From all over the world come scientists here to Amsterdam for it."

    But the continued existence of the library stands on shaky ground. The building is closed, according to a notice hastily taped to the door, "due to back-cataloguing project." That sounds vague and is not entirely correct, because something else is up. The Friesland Bank, Ritman's mortager, had on 12 November slapped a lien of millions of euros on the collection and changed the locks. Namely, the millionaire Ritman is in great financial distress.

    How did that come to pass? In 2005 the national government bought one-third of the collection for €18.75 million, because Ritman , according to then-Culture Minister Maria van der Hoeven, has put together a "unique and world-famous collection in the area of Christian-hermetic philosophy."

    In the years following, she arranged with Ritman to take over the rest of the collection for millions [of Euros]. But the deal has still not gone through - the crisis and the fall of the cabinet stood in the way. Bad luck for Ritman, for part of the expected millions he had invested in the library.

    Because Ritman, according to insiders, is not filthy rich [translation?] and spends his fortune exuberantly, he had to borrow from Friesland Bank upwards of €20 million. Thereby the precious library served also as collateral.

    Illegal transaction

    In Leeuwarden were they [Friesland Bank] therefore furious when they got word that Ritman - known to be in dire financial straits - planned to sell one of the collection's prizes. On 7 December the medieval King Arthur manuscript "The Rochefoucauld Grail" (Western Manuscripts and Miniatures, Lot 33) goes under the hammer at Sotheby's in London. Expected sale price: €2 million. An illegal transaction, for the piece was also used to secure the loan. The bank then slapped a double lien on the library.

    Through an injunction, that may be granted tomorrow morning in an Amsterdam court, Ritman is trying to prevent the collection going into bonded storage to secure the €20 million loan. And [the bank] may, in case Ritman really can't repay the loan, sell the collection itself. "This is a painful situation, that nobody saw coming," says Professor Hanegraaff. "If the books really must be sold, it will be a mob scene."

    Meanwhile, behind the scenes, feverish negotiations are taking place between all involved: Ritman, the bank, the foundation that manages the library and the Ministry of OCW (Education, Culture and Science). In the meantime all parties are keeping to media silence, Friesland Bank's spokeswoman explained. "The situation tomorrow can be very different from today, therefore we've all agreed not to say anything about it."

    Likely that's the reason a push on the golden doorbell of Joost Ritman's house on the Bloemgracht (the next street over from the library) was initially met with little success. A few attempts later, a properly-dressed young woman opened the heavy green door. "You are looking for Mr. Ritman?" asked the granddaughter of the famous entrepreneur. "He's not giving any comment. We have no comment about it. Me neither. Good-bye." And the door is closed again.


    The Friesland Bank is not the first bank to put a lien on Joost Ritman's library: ING did that also, in 1993. Ritman was then director of De Ster, which just like his current company Helios, made disposable items for air travel.

    According to ING he plowed a great deal of his money into his private collection. That lien garnered Ritman and his library a storm of media attention. It [the lien] was lifted after he sold De Ster.


    The injunction has been cancelled, because all parties have agreed to continue their negotiations. As far as I'm concerned, the bank should let the place reopen but bar Mr. Ritman from the premises for the time being.

    Current Mood: anxious
    Sunday, August 29th, 2010
    7:11 pm
    Life on my street
    Dino Soerel, the Netherlands's biggest gangster, now that Willem Holleeder is behind bars, was nabbed by the national cops RIGHT DOWN MY STREET! Who new?

    In news of stuff that should be criminal but isn't:

    The CDA (Christian Democrats) here got another embarrassment when their new BFF Geert Wilders turned up on Australian TV (6 weeks ago, butg aired today) saying Islam isn't in the same class as Christianity. A CDA Senator said publicly this kind of thing would be bad for business while party boss Verhagen had words withWilders, who said, in effect, "suck it up, I can say what I like about Islam and the horrible Ground Zero mosque; we have a deal [to form a majority government]." Mark Rutte, the boss of the third party, the VVD, hasn't said anything. But the VVD only care about selling off the national infrastructure, so nobody expects them to have any moral qualms.

    The latest Maurice De Hond poll shows the CDA losing more seats, so maybe playing Post Office with a mad dog is costing them respect.

    Current Mood: amused
    Friday, July 23rd, 2010
    8:27 pm
    A rare find from the slush pile
    The artist casts himself into the void

    1960 Yves Klein - Leap Into The Void / Le Saut Dans Le Vide
    Cropped version of famous photo. Source: Dalmas Photo 182 x 130 mm

    Documentary of a performance 19 October 1960, by artist Yves Klein (1928-1962). Photograph by Harry Shunk (Reudnitz 1924 - 2006 New York) and Janos Kender (Pecs 1937-1983 ?).

    Yves Klein, a 4th-degree Black Belt in judo, was convinced he had really leapt into space back in January, and he commissioned his two photographer friends to re-create the event.

    Shunk and Kender photographed the street (5, rue Gentil-Bernard, Fontenay- aux-Roses) with and without the cyclist in the background. Then they snapped Klein diving off a wall onto a stack of cushions and combined the two images.

    The original size of the photo is 259 x 200 mm (Met Museum) or 350 x 270 mm (Albright-Knox Collection, Buffalo NY). The latter seems correct. This is a press copy cropped down to 182 x 130 mm, issued by news photo agency Dalmas (France) a week after the event, so there is no photo credit for Shunk or Kender. The number of press copies is unknown. This one also bears the stamp of the press agency of Peter Hunter (real name Otto Salomon, son of Erich Salomon) in Amsterdam.
    See next photo for details of text on back.

    Interestingly, the date of this photo is a month before Klein's "Dimanche," the fake Sunday newspaper in which the photo famously appeared. The typescript on back includes the famous "painter of space" quote used in "Dimanche."

    NOTE: I am displaying this as a part of my collection of press photos. I actually own this photo. However,
    © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, which bought Harry Shunk's archives after his death.
    Also...© Yves Klein, ADAGP, Paris (covers artist's rights)

    More later...
    Thursday, July 1st, 2010
    3:41 pm
    Japanese schoolgirls
    From my collection of news photos:

    1934 Dec 28, unknown photographer, Keystone, Tokyo: - Princess "Tero" [Shigeko] at Gakushuin Peer's School
    28 December 1934: Princess Shigeko (1925-1961), eldest daughter of Emperor Hirohito, at school for nobility (Keystone).

    It doesn't say, but I think she's the one in the middle. She died relatively young but outlived the system she was born into. She seems to have been pretty much OK and tried to make a go of post-imperial life before succumbing to cancer.

    I've no idea who the other girls were. I think the one on the right is the grandmother of Gogo from "Kill Bill." The one on the left is Sadako from "Ringu." Whoever looks at this has 7 days to show it to someone else, or you know what happens.

    Current Mood: content
    Monday, June 14th, 2010
    9:43 pm
    A grain of Rice
    I've been busier with Facebook and even Twitter, but I'm trying to remember that Livejournal is still the best for long posts, such as this one. It's about the Rice University (Sid Rich, '85!) connection following me even here.

    1917? Cram & Ferguson - Plan for Cleveland Sewall House, Owner's Bath #1

    This is an architectural drawing I found at the Noordermarkt flea market here in Amsterdam for €2,50.

    What's so special about it? Well, the architecture firm, Cram and Ferguson, based in Boston, designed the original buildings of Rice University. I graduated from there in 1985. I recognized the name (a descendant of one of the founders was in my graduating class) and then the color scheme.

    Cleveland Sewall, or William Cleveland Sewall (1881-1942), was the son of a successful Houston wholesale grocer. His wife, Blanche (1889-1973), nee Harding, of Fort Worth, studied art at the Rice Institiute in 1917. She was impressed by the Mediterranean style of the Rice campus, so the Sewalls engaged Cram and Ferguson to build their new house, on 3452 Inwood Drive, in River Oaks. The house is still standing. After Cleveland Sewall died, Blanche donated funds to build Sewall Hall (completed 1971). I took a sociology elective under Dr. Stephen Klineberg there.

    According to campus legend, Sewall's "gay" ghost wanders about, accompanied by his little dog Muffy. This sounds like it was lifted from "Funky Phantom," a Hanna-Barbera cartoon that aired about the time Sewall Hall opened. But it seems to fuel rumors that Sewall was gay (the couple had no children). One blog poster thought Sewall had designed the first gay Confederate flag (!!).

    Er, yeah.

    So how did the drawing wind up in Amsterdam? I found it in a pile of drawings and other papers belonging to Herman Krikhaar (1930-2010), a Dutch gallery owner and artist. Krikhaar's grandfather, it turned out, had worked for Cram and Ferguson, now HDB.

    Google yielded the catalog of Blanche Harding Sewall's papers at Fondren Library, at Rice. The catalog lists 170 architectural drawings for the Sewall House, built in the Spanish Revival style and completed in 1926. The house is still standing, having been put on a list of heritage sites in 1979 (Houston? Heritage? 1979?). This drawing is not listed in the catalog.

    There's a rubber stamp, lower right, saying "Property of E. Stanley Wires Co." with an address in Boylston, Massachusetts. The company specialized in tiles, which is logical enough for a bathroom design. E. Stanley Wires were a subsidiary of a large Illinois-based company that the government busted in 1929 for antitrust violations.

    A problematic detail in the drawing is "1917" written in an unknown hand above right. The drawing is otherwise undated. I gave it an arbitrary of 1926, when the house was completed. 1917 would be years too early for the drawings commissioned for the house (1923-1926). Is it for the Sewalls' previous residence in Houston? They were married in Fort Worth (Blanche's home town) in 1910, and moved to Houston that year.

    Whoever owns the house now or anyone who has seen the master bathroom, asssuming it hasn't been remodeled since, could settle the question easily.


    I contacted someone at Fondren Library and they confirmed this drawing did not belong with the others from Sewall House. Therefore, it had to be for the Sewalls's previous residence.

    Current Mood: awake
    Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
    7:07 pm
    Happy Chinese New Year!
    8121 plunger test8122 success!

    A very belated New Year's post. Why so late? Blame Facebook and (to a small extent) Twitter, both of which make it easier to post when you don't have a lot to say. They make one too lazy to write anything longer.

    Once more unto the breach. For the second time in a row, the fireworks party is in the big building at the top of the Warmoesstraat. Between one thing and another, though, we start at my place. Five years in and I'm still trying to devise a reliable electrical firing system, so my flat is again the testing area. I've finally cracked it, I think. Make a sachet of powder from one of the many utterly useless single crackers I still have lying about, wrap it in red firecracker paper, which burns very well, and enclose a rocket igniter or a flashbulb, preferably the latter; igniters provide too much resistance and the inflammable coating tends to break off easily. A successful test or two then off to the party, a dozen of us in two cabs.

    Speaking of cabs, on new Year's Eve, TCA still charge the standard €7,50 for the first 2 km, then the usual rate afterwards. There are some fake TCA cabs and a few real TCA drivers trying to scam tourists with the €15,- zone charge like the cabbies do at Centraal Station when the cops aren't there. I gather the "zone charge" is a dodge to avoid turning on the meter, so the driver scams you *and* it's off the books.

    There are also some, er, freelance cabs plying the streets on NYE, but they start high and you have to bargain them down. I figured ten was fair in a pinch, maybe twenty if you pile in with friends.

    Thus we arrive at the Warmoesstraat at 11:30. Our host is looking to sell the building but the city is giving him a hard time for his past sins and he's paranoid about giving the neighbors anything to report that could be used against him. So he's been cautioning us against bringing too many friends. Meanwhile, his other tenants, a trio of aggressive Irish drunks, show up and take over the room I used last year for the show. They also intimidate a friend, who leaves in disgust. There's no way I'm setting up a dynamite plunger while these guys are around. Anyway, it's about midnight and everyone's on the roof watching other peoples' fireworks.

    Even so, I still have a couple of tricks up my sleeve, or pants leg in this case. The Christmas Day Underpants Bomber gives me an idea:

    8156 bomb pants 18161 bomb pants 4
    The firecrackers set the crotch on fire!

    As well, another banking scandal, a local one this time, prompts a bank-themed infernal machine. DSB stands for the Dick Schering Bank, which went into receivership because the owner, Dick Schering, known as Dick Tering ("tering" is cholera in Dutch, whose curses involving diseases seem to derive heavily from Yiddish). Now you see it, now you don't. Schering was allegedly milking his bank to finance his fine art collection.

    8165 DSB piggybank before8167 DSB piggybank exploding8170 DSB piggybank afterwards
    Just like that! as the late Tommy Cooper would say.

    I found out too late that the law actually allows setting off of fireworks starting at 10:00 *in the morning*! I thought it was 10 *at night*, and all this time I wouldn't shoot off any fireworks before then, because I didn't want to invite police attention to my highly unorthodox arrangement. The Moar You Know...

    So next year I'll start the festivities a LOT earlier. And I have enough fireworks left over from this year that I don't really need to buy any more, except maybe some rockets.

    If this really is the last time the party will be in the big building, I won't be too sorry. I'd rather have it at my place anyway. I don't have too many people over, so a tiny living room isn't much of a problem. I'll miss this, though:
    8145 fireworks skyburst over crane 2

    Current Mood: amused
    Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009
    7:35 pm
    Froehliche Weihnachten! And NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTY!!

    2. Hannoversches Infanterie-Regiment Nr.77, Christmas 1914

    ew Year's Eve Party!!
    31 December, starting at 10pm
    Warmoesstraat 12 (above Conscious Dreams)

    This is a joint production with the estimable Fifi L'Amour!. Fifi will almost certainly do a few cabaret sets in the main room and we'll most likely have a DJ in the small room.

    Since the place belongs to a friend of a friend, the logistics will be a bit different.

    - It'll be a cooperative party, meaning bring a bottle or a sixpack.

    - We have the 3rd floor, which includes a large living room and a smaller bedroom leading to a terrace (for fireworks) and with access to the roof for the especially brave and not too drunk.


    Things from 2009 to blow up are welcome, as long as they don't create too much shrapnel.

    Pix from last year

    Current Mood: bouncy
    Monday, November 30th, 2009
    4:43 pm
    Thanksgiving dinner!
    Chez spidertangle and thiscorrosion, with coco_keesses, nikkyb and tamisevens & manraypat and MOAR!

    MMmmmmmmmm! Turkey! Delicious stuffing, even the Brussel sprouts. Pie. Lots of pie.

    Then I got my ass kicked in "Lunch Money"...

    I'd say it's been a good year. Me and the missus have been together 6 years and counting. I've got good friends in Amsterdam and Houston. I've still got my job. My flat is almost liveable.

    So I give thanks to the missus and my friends and to social democracy (while it lasts).

    Current Mood: content
    4:06 pm

    Graf Zeppelin over Centraal Station, Amsterdam

    One problem with this extended writer's block is that it causes a person to miss anniveraries.

    For example, on the 11th of the November, I had been here in Amsterdam 11 years. I actually arrived here on the 12th, but it was still the llth (barely) in Texas.

    The 13th of October was the 80th anniversary of the Graf Zeppelin's promotional flight over Amsterdam. It was covered by, among others, De Stad (The City):

    1929 18 Oktober - De Stad Zeppelin 00 - cover

    and Het Leven Geillustreerd (Life Illustrated):

    1929 17 Oktober - Het Leven cover

    And the stock market collapsed 2 weeks later.

    Clicky both piccy's to see other pages from those magazines.

    Current Mood: tired
    Thursday, November 12th, 2009
    5:27 pm
    Trying to figure out when to use LJ and when to use Facebook...
    ...and what to say to either. Facebook is good for quick updates and invitations. Livejournal's best for telling abotu stuff that's going on in my life (which is pretty quiet for now) or posting holiday pics or other photographs or graphics that have a story behind them. The story is usally that i bought them at a flea market. As I did these photographs of the Aachener Dom (left) and the Aachen Rathaus (right).

    1870 anon - Aachen, Kaiserdom from Rathhausturm1870 anon - Aachen, Rathhausturm from Kaiserdom basilica cupola

    The two structures face each other across a marketplace. These two modern photos show how the two buildings are situated with respect to each other.

    Each structure is photographed from the roof of the other. The photos, if taken about the same time, date to about 1880. The Rathaus had Baroque towers from 1847 to 1883, when a fire destroyed them and the roof. They were replaced with the neo-Gothic towers visible today. The Cathedral lacked a spire until 1884. The photos are small, about 2.5" square, but the resolution on them is great.

    Just about everything between them was bombed by the Allies in WWII.

    Current Mood: cheerful
    Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
    12:16 pm
    The Glass Teat, once again.
    Last month S. and I spent two weeks in Sao Paulo, and I remembered something from Harlan Ellison's "The Glass Teat" and "The Other Glass Teat." Briefly, they are collection of newspaper columns Ellison wrote regarding the state of TV, 1968-1970. Ellison had written for TV and movies for many years, so he brought an industry insider's perspective to readers of the "underground" LA Free Press, where the columns appeared.

    Ellison had visited Rio in 1969, five years into the 20-year military dictatorship that ran the place in cahoots with the usual landed elites ("the colonels" refers to them, not the military). Ellison called out a couple of cheesy popular entertainers named Silvio Santos and Chacrinha, who hosted variety shows in Rio and Sao Paulo, respectively, for helping the junta use TV to keep the people stupid. If you think southern European TV is insultingly bad, Brazilian TV in 1969, when Ellison visited there, was worse. The mass media there were slavish even compared to the US networks when they were giving in to Nixon's VP Spiro Agnew's browbeating.

    40 years later, Chacrinha is dead (in 1988), but Santos is very much alive. He's a survivor and was already a multimillionaire in 1969. He's 69 now but looks like a mummified 40. His own media empire isn't as big as Berlusconi's, maybe more like Murdoch's, if Murdoch stayed local to one country. And could sing and dance. According to my hosts in Sao Paulo, Santos is definitely a handmaiden of the established order, and supports politically the "colonels" (the word refers not to the junta, but the landowning elites they fell out with in the 1980s).

    What else?

    The 1960s broadcast media gave us the snake-pit politics of Tom Reddin, Dan Smoot (a John Bircher), George Putnam (see Perversion for Profit) and Joe Pyne. Radio was mostly local. There were three TV networks: ABC, CBS and NBC, and a sort of network, PBS, the Public Broadcasting System, all with local TV and radio affiliates. Programming was news, discussions, cop shows, doctor shows and lawyer shows and sitcoms. And variety shows. Spiro Agnew warned the networks not to criticize the Vietnam War (which they hardly did to begin with). "Relevant" programming addressing race relations, drugs, youth and protest makes for hilarious viewing today.

    The early 21st century has Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. Radio is totally consolidated, but there's satellite and internet to suit individual musical tastes. There are four broadcast (digital) TV networks now (with Fox), and PBS, but loads of specialized cable channels (and YouTube). The networks offer news, discussions, cop shows, doctor shows, lawyer shows and sitcoms. And variety shows have been replaced by sci-fi. Until recently, Bush and Cheney warned the networks to stop criticizing the Great War on Terr (which they hardly did). "Relevant" programming addressing drugs, goths, emos, gamers and protest makes for hilarious viewing today.

    A two-part profile on "The Common Man" in 1969 reveals the ancestors of today's Teabaggers.

    I was just starting to watch TV in the late 1960s, and vaguely remember some of this. On YouTube, I can see some of it once again.

    Current Mood: contemplative
    Friday, September 4th, 2009
    1:27 pm
    Quod caret alterna requie durabile non est,

    1690 Gerard de Lairesse, Claes Visscher and Geremias Valk - nymphs resting - leodiensis pictorum

    Haec reparat vires fessaque membra levat.

    "Whatever doesn't sometimes rest will not last,
    It restores strength and refreshes the spirit."


    In six hours I'm off to São Paulo. Back in 2 weeks!

    Current Mood: cheerful
    Friday, July 24th, 2009
    10:21 pm
    Ready For War

    Pietro Testa, c 1640 - Venus presenting arms and armor to Aeneas


    Right war, wrong epic. My first guess was Minerva and Juno plotting the destruction of Troy, in defiance of Jupiter, from Homer's The Iliad Book VIII, Turns out to be something cooler: Venus presenting armor to Aeneas, by Pietro Testa (1611-1650), based on a scene in Book VIII of Vergil's Aeneid.

    The Aeneid was a bit of Imperial Roman propaganda (9AD) that conferred legendary and semi-divine status on the family of Augustus, the first Roman Emperor. In the Iliad, Aeneas being the son of Venus and a major prince of Troy, survives its sacking by the Greeks. In the Aeneid, he has is own series of adventures and escapes to Italy to found the Julian line of Roman nobles.

    Pietro Testa was a friend of Nicolas Poussin, who produced a painting on the same theme, and they worked for the same patron. Unlike Poussin, Testa would never become famous as a painter, but he did become an accomplished draftsman and etcher. This etching exists in two states, the only difference between the two being the addition on the second of the names of the artist and the etcher midway down a 1-inch margin on the bottom. My etching has the margin, which I didn't scan, but no information, so it's the first state.

    Most other known copies of this and a few similar etchings are missing the lower margin, so it's impossible to tell which state that particular collection has. If the first state, the margin was probably sliced off for a more pleasing display and to recycle the paper to restore other etchings from a similar era. If the second state, the removal could be for the above reason or to intentionally obscure the artist and publisher's names, so the work could be passed off as that of a better-known (and better-selling) artist, like Guido Reni.

    So this makes my etching, beaten up as it is, kind of special. It took a month plus a minute to identify this etching. That's a month of scouring the Rijksmusem print library to no avail, and then a minute's time from the kindly owner of a print antiquariat, who named two probable artists, one being Testa. When I went back the next week, the owner wasn't there, but the woman who worked for him was. She said they had something similar. We looked and it was another copy of this etching! Theirs was in better shape, but without the margin. What are the chances?

    Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
    4:10 pm
    Just passing through


    From a sheaf of contact prints of the Apollo 14 moonwalk that I scored back in my NASA days. Clicky on the piccy to see more such.

    Current Mood: awake
    Monday, July 20th, 2009
    4:33 pm
    Moon Landing: HOAX?? (Operation Green Cheese)
    No, of course not, but I couldn't let the anniversary of one of humankind's coolest achievements go by without also referring to one of humanity's biggest conspiracy tropes.

    Over 10 years ago, back in my NASA (Johnson Space Center, Houston) days, I posted on my website a fake NASA press release purporting to admit that the space race before the first Shuttle launch was faked. A friend who worked in Building 29, which used to hold the centrifuge and then had the big swimming pool used for simulating spacewalks, inadvertently gave me the idea. He said some VIPs (unnamed) touring the building asked where "antigravity room" was, being confused by news footage showing astronaut trainees floating inside a KC-135 airplane (aka the "Vomit Comet"). And thereby hung the tale...

    In all the years since I hung the following on my webpage, nobody ever bit. Nobody except one guy. And he pestered me by email, asking me how I came by the information. When I tried to let him down easy, he asked why I was suppressing the truth. A few times over the years, the guy would send me links to the tribe of single-breasted warror women who also sell books online, with various crackpot listings. haven't heard anything in the last couple of years. Maybe THEY got him...

    Anyway, without further ado:

    At the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, one of the biggest tourist attractions is ironically, the least seen. It is of course the well-known "Antigravity Room," located in Building 29. Officially designated the Variable Gravity Training Facility (VGTF), it is used for training astronauts for upcoming space missions. Film and video footage of these exercises is generally released to the news agencies, through the NASA Public Affairs Office (PAO), just prior to a mission. However, since the technology of gravity control is classified, the room is off-limits to the public.

    NASA Public Affairs Office Press Release

    The Variable Gravity Training Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas, was built in the late 1950s and played a key role in one of the grandest hoaxes in history: the US-USSR "race to the moon." Discovery of the principles behind gravity control can be traced back to atomic energy research conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission. The findings were secretly reported to then President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. However, nothing was done with it until November of the following year.

    The Soviet Union's launch of Sputniks 1 and 2 in rapid succession shocked the American public out of complacency and sparked demand for an American space program. Eisenhower, while not enthusiastic about space exploration, knew he had to act soon or suffer in the polls. He met with AEC officials and with Wernher von Braun's contingent of German rocket scientists. The American rocket program, directed by the U.S. Army, had so far yielded dismal results. Rockets could lift small payloads, weighing up to a ton into orbit, but were unreliable and far too risky for human space exploration. Real progress was decades away. When advisors suggested combining the new technique of gravity control with advances in motion picture technology to fake space travel, Eisenhower jumped at it. The "space race" was on.

    Operation Stardust, irreverently dubbed "Green Cheese," commenced in 1958. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was renamed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a cover for Stardust activity, but continued in its previous role in aeronautics testing. Spurred on by Soviet space successes, Stardust went into high gear, producing its first results in 1962, in the form of the Mercury "flights." Spaceflight footage was produced by the brilliant young director Stanley Kubrick, whose use of stark lighting would later prove ideal in imagining the lunar landscape. He was succeeded in 1966 by George Lucas, then just out of the University of Southern California film school. Lucas's brilliant special effects are responsible for the successes of the Gemini and Apollo "missions." Both Kubrick and Lucas made use of the then brand-new IMAX technology, which enabled them to create breathtakingly realistic views of space, including the famous "oasis in a dark sea of space" photograph of the earth. Complementary footage of crew operations was shot inside the VGTF, using primitive film and video cameras, for a grainy, "jerky" effect. The majestic vistas of "space" combined with grittily realistic footage on the human scale (especially effective for the "moon landings"), yielded a spectacle that dazzled the world for a full decade.

    Kubrick and Lucas reaped huge benefits from the program. They were paid handsomely by a grateful United States government and were allowed free use of the film production technology when it was declassified. Kubrick used expensive government facilities and equipment for many of his later movies (most notably the 1969 classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey). Lucas used the special effects technology to set up his own company, Industrial Light and Magic, which he used when filming his first Star Wars trilogy. Very few knew just how much 2001 and Star Wars really owed to the American "space program." In 1973, as public interest in space exploration waned, Stardust quietly wound down, its purpose fulfilled. The Skylab "missions" were conducted to expend resources for which the government no longer had any use. The 1975 Apollo-Soyuz project was a signal to the Soviet Union that the Americans were bowing out of the "space race." (As early as 1964, the US had known of the Soviet Union's own fake space program (codenamed "PROJECT POTEMKIN"), and was based on similar technology that had arisen from Soviet atomic research. By that time, however, Stardust was well under way.) Most of the famous props used in the space spectaculars were dispersed among science museums, and the book was quietly closed on an unusual chapter in US history.

    The benefits of the US "space program" are many. So-called "space spinoffs," advances in science and technology that touch our lives in so many ways, are actually spinoffs of the enormous technology base required to support the greatest hoax in the history of mankind. The "Space Race" sparked a more science-intensive education for American children. Most importantly, "Operation Green Cheese" bought America the time it needed to build a real space program. The US government realized that it could not continue to "sell the sizzle without the steak" forever, and would eventually have to produce real results. Due to the growth of mass communication and the more ready availability of information, space travel was much harder to fake in the 1980s than in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of the leaders of Project Stardust began to see a real need for an American presence in space. Therefore, NASA was reorganized as a true space agency in 1970, and quickly responded by designing a reusable manned space vehicle capable of carrying relatively large payloads to orbit. (The Soviet Union reached a similar conclusion, and developed their own space program along these lines.) The result is the first true manned spacecraft, the Space Shuttle, which has operated successfully (excepting the Challenger accident) throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

    In July of 1999, America celebrated the 30th anniversary of an event that never happened. Millions of tourists have visited Houston's Johnson Space Center and Florida's Cape Canaveral to relive "history." The VGTF, behind an anonymous door in Building 29, is today used for training atronauts for extravehicular activity ("spacewalks") that they faked nearly thirty years ago.

    Current Mood: amused
    Monday, June 22nd, 2009
    5:39 pm
    I habe a code

    Crypto AG C-446A, Lid up

    I found this on the Waterlooplein flea market a couple of months ago. The guy at the stall thought it was a sort of typewriter or calculator. It's a C-446A cipher machine made in 1945 by AB Cryptoteknik, a Swedish company which was basically one guy, Boris Hagelin. (Now it's Crypto AG.). Once a year I find something cool like this. The rest of the time I buy a lot of crap.

    moarCollapse )

    Current Mood: accomplished
    Sunday, May 24th, 2009
    12:55 pm
    On Monday the 1st I'll be 47, an especially nondescript age. Though I like to think I'm in my prime (maths joke).

    Anyhoo, any of you who are in shouting distance of Amsterdam and are not going to Leipzig next week are invited to my house for caeks and ale on the 31st.

    Sunday, Sunday Sunday!!!

    Rozengracht 143/2
    06 5231 7354 if'n ya get lost

    starts at 6, to accommodate the poor bastards who have to work on Pinkstermaandag, and runs late, for the rest of us who don't.

    Be there aloha!
    Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
    6:01 pm
    You were the best

    Axel, June 2006: w00f! Holland! w00f!

    12 October 1991 - 27 April 2009

    He had a great life and he went easy, after a short illness.

    Current Mood: sad
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