flashback

there shall be no more Kates and Nells

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Coding theorists are concerned with two things. Firstly and most importantly they are concerned with the private lives of two people called Alice and Bob. In theory papers, whenever a coding theorist wants to describe a transaction between two parties he doesn’t call then A and B. No. For some longstanding traditional reason he calls them Alice and Bob.

Now there are hundreds of papers written about Alice and Bob. Over the years Alice and Bob have tried to defraud insurance companies, they’ve played poker for high stakes by mail, and they’ve exchanged secret messages over tapped telephones.

If we put together all the little details from here and there, snippets from lots of papers, we get a fascinating picture of their lives. This may be the first time a definitive biography of Alice and Bob has been give

In papers written by American authors Bob is frequently selling stock to speculators. From the number of stock market deals Bob is involved in we infer that he is probably a stockbroker. However from his concern about eavesdropping he is probably active in some subversive enterprise as well. And from the number of times Alice tries to buy stock from him we infer she is probably a speculator. Alice is also concerned that her financial dealings with Bob are not brought to the attention of her husband. So Bob is a subversive stockbroker and Alice is a two-timing speculator.

But Alice has a number of serious problems. She and Bob only get to talk by telephone or by electronic mail. In the country where they live the telephone service is very expensive. And Alice and Bob are cheapskates. So the first thing Alice must do is MINIMIZE THE COST OF THE PHONE CALL.

{ John Gordon, The Alice and Bob After Dinner Speech, 1984 | Continue reading }

acrylic, fluorescent acrylic, and roll-a-tex on canvas { Peter Halley, Laws of Rock, 2008 }

‘L’orgueil est la même chose que l’humilité, c’est toujours le mensonge.’ —Georges Bataille

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Austrian nobles Princess Pauline von Metternich and Countess Anastasia Kielmansegg agreed to a topless duel in the summer of 1892.

The duel went down in history as the first ‘emancipated duel’ because it involved female participants, female seconds’ and a female medic.

Baroness Lubinska from Warsaw, who had a medical degree, oversaw the duel and advised the women to sword fight topless to avoid infection.

{ Daily Mail | Continue reading }

Princess Pauline was involved in many charitable organizations. It was in her capacity as Honorary President of the Vienna Musical and Theatrical Exhibition that she quarreled with the Countess Kilmannsegg, wife of the Statthalter of Lower Austria and President of the Ladies Committee of the Vienna Musical and Theatrical Exhibition, apparently over the flower arrangements for the exhibition.

Whatever was said about those flowers could not be unsaid, and the Princess, then 56 years old, challenged the Countess to settle their dispute by blood.

The two adversaries and their seconds, Princess Schwarzenberg and Countess Kinsky, traveled to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, and took to the field of honor. Presiding over the encounter was Baroness Lubinska who, unusually for women of the time, was a medical doctor. Her modern understanding of infection proved pivotal. Having seen many superficial battle wounds turn septic and fatal because fragments of dirty clothes were driven into them, the Baroness insisted both parties remove all clothing above the waist.

So the Princess Metternich and Countess Kilmannsegg, both topless, took up their swords to fight until first blood.

After a few exchanges, the Princess received a small cut to the nose and the Countess was cut on the arm practically at the same time. The seconds called the duel and Princess Metternich was declared the winner.

{ Mental Floss | Continue reading }

And it must follow, as the night the day

The paper is called Prolonged apnea and the sudden infant death syndrome: clinical and laboratory observations and it was written in 1972 by Dr Alfred Steinschneider of Syracuse, New York. In this paper, Steinschneider described the case of a woman, “Mrs H”, who had already lost three children, ostensibly to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Dr Steinschneider describes how two additional children from the “H” family were studied in his sleep laboratory in an effort to determine whether sleep apnea was a risk factor for SIDS. Both children did show apnea in the lab, and both died shortly after being discharged from the clinic back home with Mrs H.

Steinschneider concluded that apnea was “part of the final pathway” leading to infant death in SIDS.

But over twenty years later, “Mrs H” – her real name Waneta Hoyt – was convicted of murdering her children by smothering.

A forensic pathologist, Linda Norton, had formed suspicions about “Mrs H” after reading Steinschneider’s paper, and she brought them to the attention of a prosecutor in Syracuse. In 1992, the prosecutor opened a case against Hoyt.

Under police interrogation, Hoyt confessed to killing each of her five children by smothering. She later retracted her confession and denied the charges, pointing to Steinschneider’s paper as evidence of her innocence. It didn’t work: Hoyt was convicted of murder in 1994. She died in jail four years later.

{ Neuroskeptic | Continue reading }

Do I love you? Do I lust for you? Am I a sinner because I do the two?

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Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett (1832 – presumed dead 1894) was a Union Army soldier who shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. Corbett was initially arrested for disobeying orders, but was later released and was largely considered a hero by the media and the public.

Known for his devout religious beliefs and eccentric behavior, Corbett drifted around the United States before disappearing around 1888. Circumstantial evidence suggests that he died in the Great Hinckley Fire in September 1894, although this remains impossible to substantiate. […]

On July 16, 1858, Corbett was propositioned by two prostitutes while walking home from a church meeting. He was deeply disturbed by the encounter. […] In order to avoid sexual temptation and remain holy, he castrated himself with a pair of scissors.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

lithograph { Jim Dine, Rainbow Scissors, 1969 }

‘We are all put to the test, but it never comes in the form we would prefer.’ –David Mamet

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Frank Hayes (1888–1923) was a jockey who, on June 4, 1923, suffered a fatal heart attack in the midst of a steeplechase at Belmont Park in New York State, USA.

The thirty-five-year-old Hayes had never won a race before and in fact by profession was not actually a jockey but a horse trainer and longtime stableman. The horse, a 20-1 outsider called Sweet Kiss, was owned by Miss A.M. Frayling. Hayes apparently died somewhere in the middle of the race, but his body remained in the saddle throughout. Sweet Kiss eventually crossed the finish line, winning by a head with Hayes technically still atop her back, making him the first, and thus far only, jockey known to have won a race after death.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

photo { Elena Dorfman }

‘When you learn to say no, you have made it to the mid-career arrival lounge.’ –Financial Times

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Keeping the dead buried was a matter of grave concern in 19th-century America. As medical schools proliferated after the Civil War, the field grew increasingly tied to the study of anatomy and practice of dissection. Professors needed bodies for young doctors to carve into and the pool of legally available corpses—executed criminals and body donors—was miniscule. Enter freelance body snatchers, dispatched to do the digging. By the late 1800s, the illicit body trade was flourishing. […]

Inventors got to work. Their solution? Explosives.

Philip. K Clover, a Columbus, Ohio artist, patented an early coffin torpedo in 1878. Clover’s instrument functioned like a small shotgun secured inside the coffin lid in order to “prevent the unauthorized resurrection of dead bodies,” as the inventor put it. If someone tried to remove a buried body, the torpedo would fire out a lethal blast of lead balls when the lid was pried open.

{ Atlas Obscura | Continue reading }

art { Roy Lichtenstein, Mirror #2 (Six Panels), 1970 }

Bringing the whiz bang to the world

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Our human family tree used to be a scraggly thing. With relatively few fossils to work from, scientists’ best guess was that they could all be assigned to just two lineages, one of which went extinct and the other of which ultimately gave rise to us. Discoveries made over the past few decades have revealed a far more luxuriant tree, however — one abounding with branches and twigs that eventually petered out. In fact, a new species, called Homo naledi, as yet undated, was announced just last year. This newfound diversity paints a much more interesting picture of our origins but makes sorting our ancestors from the evolutionary dead ends all the more challenging.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading | More: National Geographics }

Your window of opportunity is not a door

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D. B. Cooper is a media epithet popularly used to refer to an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft in the airspace between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, on November 24, 1971, extorted $200,000 in ransom (equivalent to $1,170,000 in 2015), and parachuted to an uncertain fate. Despite an extensive manhunt and protracted FBI investigation, the perpetrator has never been located or identified. […]

He dictated his demands: $200,000 in “negotiable American currency”; four parachutes (two primary and two reserve); and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft upon arrival. […]

The FBI task force believes that Cooper was a careful and shrewd planner. He demanded four parachutes to force the assumption that he might compel one or more hostages to jump with him. […]

Agents theorize that he took his alias from a popular Belgian comic book series of the 1970s featuring the fictional hero Dan Cooper, a Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot who took part in numerous heroic adventures, including parachuting. […]

In February 1980 an eight-year-old boy named Brian Ingram, vacationing with his family on the Columbia River about 9 miles (14 km) downstream from Vancouver, Washington, and 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Ariel, uncovered three packets of the ransom cash, significantly disintegrated but still bundled in rubber bands, as he raked the sandy riverbank to build a campfire. FBI technicians confirmed that the money was indeed a portion of the ransom—two packets of 100 twenty-dollar bills each, and a third packet of 90, all arranged in the same order as when given to Cooper.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

photo { Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (Candy Darling), 1972 | one more }

‘The first principle of all action is leisure.’ —Aristotle

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The publication of Richard Krafft-Ebbing’s masterwork Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886 represented a landmark in thinking about human sexuality and the bizarre forms that it can take. In addition to describing different types of sexual expression that the author regarded as “perverse” (usually any form of sex that didn’t lead to procreation), it quickly became one of the most influential books on human sexuality ever written and introduced numerous new terms into common usage. One of these terms was “masochism,” which Krafft-Ebbing defined as the opposite of sadism (which he also coined). While the later is the desire to cause pain and use force, the former is the wish to suffer pain and be subjected to force.  

one person in particular who was less than pleased with the new term was the Austrian author, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Krafft-Ebbing justified naming this new sexual anomaly after the prominent author whom he described as “the poet of Masochism” due to his erotic writings and because of his own eccentric personal life. […]

Venus in Furs, the short novel for which Sacher-Masoch is best known, was published in 1870, and has become an erotic classic in its own right. In this book, the hero Severin asks to be treated as a slave and to be abused by Wanda (the “Venus in furs” of the story). The fact that Sacher-Masoch often acted out these fantasies in real-life with his wives and mistresses was not well-known. […]

It may be a coincidence that his health went into a decline shortly after Psychopathia Sexualis came out but by March of 1895, he was delusional and violent. After attempting to kill his then-wife Hulda, she arranged for him to be discreetly moved to an asylum in Lindheim, Hesse. Although his official obituary states that he died that year, there are claims that Sacher-Masoch lived on as an anonymous asylum inmate and actually died years later.

{ Providentia | Continue reading }

Un joujou extra qui fait crac boum hu

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Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit — all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.

{ Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendice, 1995 }

Five-by, Eagle. We’re standing by for your burn report. Over.

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The Lunar Flag Assembly (LFA) was a kit containing a flag of the United States designed to be planted by astronauts on the Moon during the Apollo program. Seven such flag assemblies were sent to the Moon, six of which were planted.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Do the Apollo flags remain where they were planted or have they fallen or have they disintegrated after four decades of exposure the lunar environment? […] The (Apollo 11’s) flag is probably gone. Buzz Aldrin saw it knocked over by the rocket blast as he and Neil Armstrong left the moon 39 summers ago. […]

Intuitively, experts mostly think it highly unlikely the Apollo flags (See Platoff’s article  Where No Flag Has Gone Before: Political and Technical Aspects of Placing a Flag on the Moon for details), could have endured the 42 years of exposure to vacuum, about 500 temperature swings from 242 F during the day to -280 F during the night, micrometeorites, radiation and ultraviolet light, some thinking the flags have all but disintegrated under such an assault of the environment. […]

The high-resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera of the Apollo sites enable us to see if any of the flags still cast shadows. […] Combined with knowledge of the Apollo site maps which show where the flag was erected relative to the Lander, long shadows cast by the flags at three sites  - Apollo 12, Apollo 16, and Apollo 17 - show that the these flags are still “flying”, held aloft by the poles.

{ NASA | Continue reading }

NASA has finally answered a long-standing question: all but one of the six American flags on the Moon are still standing up. The only problem is that they aren’t American flags anymore. They are all white.

{ Gizmodo | Continue reading }

Orpheus with his lute made trees

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News of the successful use of ether anesthesia on October 16, 1846, spread rapidly through the world. […] Incredibly, this option was not accepted by all, and opposition to the use of anesthesia persisted among some sections of society decades after its introduction.

We examine the social and medical factors underlying this resistance. […] Complications of anesthesia, including death, were reported in the press, and many avoided anesthesia to minimize the considerable risk associated with surgery. Modesty prevented female patients from seeking unconsciousness during surgery, where many men would be present. Biblical passages stating that women would bear children in pain were used to discourage them from seeking analgesia during labor. […] In certain geographical areas, notably Philadelphia, physicians resisted this Boston-based medical advance, citing unprofessional behavior and profit seeking.

{ Journal of Anesthesia History | Continue reading }

photo { Peter Martin, Greenwich Village Nudes, Figure #1, 1951 }