Marking time

Marking time in October 2003

Tuesday 28 October 2003

iTunes for Windows

‘Hell froze over’ said the image behind Steve Jobs at the launch of iTunes for Windows the other week. It’s a free download from Apple. Kiri Te Kanawa is singing to me now. Rejoice!

iTunes on my screen

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Monday 27 October 2003

Tate Online catalog

Call me a nerd, but I do enjoy a good online catalog design. The Tate catalog has a wonderful way of displaying relevant fragments of its keyword thesaurus along with a search result.

Thomas Woodward (1801-1852): 'The rat-catcher and his dogs' [Tate Britain collection]

In this example, hovering the pointer over the keyword objects/miscellaneous/cage shows that there are 28 works tagged with that term. Clicking the link brings up a list (with thumbnail images) of those works — including Marcel Duchamp’s Why not sneeze Rose SÚlavy?, presently on display at Tate Modern. Too clever!

Part of a screen image, showing the keyword heirarchy

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Thursday 23 October 2003


It’s hard to imagine what 87 Billion US Dollars is. That’s the amount the US government plans to spend to finish a mission of securing peace and eliminating terrorist threats in Iraq and Afghanistan

Here’s a web page that gives scale to this number.

Six dollars

It reminds me of something I pointed out last year.

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Monday 13 October 2003

Talbot’s correspondence

William Henry Fox Talbot was a philosopher, classicist, Egyptologist, mathematician, philologist, transcriber and translator of Syrian and Chaldean cuneiform texts, physicist, and photographer. The work that he did between 1834 and 1850 established in principle and practice the foundation of modern photography; the basis of the process that is used today. [Fox Talbot Museum]. On 1 November 1851 Talbot wrote to the committee organising the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London:

Gentlemen, I am desirous if it meets with your approbation to have an interview with the members of the Executive Committee which more particularly represents Chemical Science in it Dr Playfair — respecting the best means of producing the photographic pictures destined for your Work on the Crystal Palace. I have reason to think that you have chiefly considered hitherto the cost of producing the positive copies by one method or another. But it appears to me that this is a Subordinate consideration. This work is I understand destined to be sent to various Museums and distinguished individuals on the Continent as well as to the fortunate holders of the Council Medals. Now it is of the greatest possible consequence, that the pictures should be so thoroughly fixed, as to remain permanent if possible for centuries to come. It would be a great mortification to all parties concerned if at the expiration of a few years a considerable portion of the work should be found to have faded and perished. The experience of more than fifteen years has shown me how difficult and delicate a thing is the fixation of the positive photograph. If carelessly performed, the evil shows itself in a month or less. If with some, but only a moderate degree of care, the pictures will sometimes last well for a whole year and fade away during the second. The mischief is chiefly owing I believe to a small remnant of sulphur (derived from the hyposulphite of soda) left in combination with the silver which gradually changes it into a pale coloured sulphuret. About two years ago Mr Malone invented a process for remedying this of which I thought so well that I assisted him to take a patent for it, It consists in dipping the picture in boiling caustic potash, to remove the sulphur, which does not at all injure the picture in other respects, although such injury might seem a priori probable. This process of Mr Malone’s if approved of by the Executive Committee they would be very welcome to adopt it. I am informed that Liebig, Mitscherlich and other distinguished Chemists have expressed their approbation of it. What I should recommend is that two Chemists should be appointed, to control and supervise the performance of a work of such magnitude and importance. That no picture should be inserted in the Work that has not been passed by them that is certified as having undergone all the requisite processes — There is unfortunately no means of discovering whether a picture is fixed, except the test of time — This renders it very important that responsible persons should watch over the whole process from first to last.

This is one of nearly 10,000 letters to and from Talbot that have been transcribed and made available on the web through the University of Glasgow. It’s a wonderful tool for scholarship, and a credit to the project director, Dr Larry Schaaf, and his colleagues. Even if you aren’t interested in photographic history you should have a look. Postscript, 14 May 2006: The website is now being hosted by DeMontfort University in Leicester, and new material is being added. I have updated the link above.

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Sunday 12 October 2003

Irish sock glue

The irishsteps.com website sells sock glue for keeping your socks secure while you dance. And I thought sock glueing was only a Japanese thing. What next? Hat glue, for windy weather?

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Saturday 11 October 2003

Stockholm street typography

I enjoyed this photo gallery of type in the streets of Stockholm. The pictures were taken by Stephen Coles, editor of the excellent Typographica weblog.

'School' sign near Ropsten

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Friday 10 October 2003

Paris photographed and rephotographed

As an aside to my special place for this month, here is a link to images of 494 photographs of Paris by Eugène Atget in the George Eastman House collection.

Eugène Atget was born in 1857 near Bordeaux. After working as an actor in regional theaters, he settled in Paris in 1890, taking up photography in 1898. He photographed Paris, working on commissions from various city de­part­ments as well as the Carnavalet Museum. The Surrealists appreciated his work, most notably Man Ray, who ar­ranged for Atget’s work to be published in La Revolutions Surrealiste in 1926. The photographer Berenice Abbott purchased Atget’s collection after his death in 1927.

Atget’s photographs, all contact prints, were made as documents of Paris and its environs for artists, architects, and publishers. He organized his work into various series, most of which are represented in the Museum’s holdings. The collection spans Atget’s career, from 1898 to 1927, though its strength is pre World War I. The years 1901, 1907, and 1908 are especially well represented. Few of Atget’s photographs of tradesmen, prostitutes, and rag pickers exist in this collection.

Atget: 'Cour de Dragon', 1913, albumen print ex Man Ray collection [George Eastman House]

Also of interest is a program run in Paris by the University of South Florida School of Art and Art History​—​the Atget re­pho­to­graph­ic project, in which students attempted to locate [Atget’s] ‘tripod holes’ and to replicate the exact view and framing of his original scene. The result is a comparison which affords us an experience not unlike that of the time traveler in H G Wells’ “The Time Machine” for whom a fixed point in space becomes the focus of one’s historical imagination.

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Thursday 9 October 2003

Mobiles and the appropriation of place

Cultural anthropolist Mizuko Ito has written an article about the way mobile phones are changing the experience of being together for young Japanese people:

Mobile phones are transforming the experience of place and co-presence for a wireless generation of Japanese youth. In the past, physical co-presence generally defined who one was socially and interactionally accountable to at any given time, interrupted occasionally by a telephone call or a beeping pager. Now that mobile phones have become a norm for youths in Japan as elsewhere, distant others are always socially co-present, and place​—​where you locate yourself​—​has become a hybrid relation between physical and wirelessly co-present context.
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Tuesday 7 October 2003

The Kodak Brownies

George Eastman’s Kodak company launched the first Brownie camera in 1900. In 1950 Kodak gave free cameras to 500,000 children, to celebrate 50 years of the Brownie line. (And, perhaps, to ensure continued film sales).

In 2000, to mark 100 years of the Brownie, Kodak gave us all a website celebrating the Brownie. Not as generous as half-a-million free cameras, but still worth a look. Among the cameras on display is the Brownie Starflash (1957-65) — just like my second camera, except that it is red and mine was blue. My first camera was a Brownie 127 — there is one of those in the George Eastman House Brownie Collection.

Brownie Starflash camera [image from kodak.com, reduced and recoloured by me]

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Wednesday 1 October 2003

Acme whistles

Acme whistles have been made by J Hudson and Co (Whistles) Ltd of Birmingham since the 1880s. Their range of police whis­tles, thunderers, sirens, bosun’s whistles, orchestral whistles, silent dog whistles and marine whistles is displayed on their website.

The Acme Police Whistle. This image and sound file are from the acme­whistles.co.uk website.

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On this page
iTunes for Windows
Tate Online catalog
Talbot's correspondence
Irish sock glue
Stockholm street typography
Paris photographed and rephotographed
Mobiles and the appropriation of place
The Kodak Brownies
Acme whistles

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