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Chicago Daily News

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Image of a wounded soldier making a toy tank at Fort Sheridan Hospital in Fort Sheridan, Illinois— 1919

Photographs from the Chicago Daily News 1909-1933 is a way cool site:

This collection comprises over 55,000 images of urban life captured on glass plate negatives between 1902 and 1933 by photographers employed by the Chicago Daily News, then one of Chicago's leading newspapers. The photographs illustrate the enormous variety of topics and events covered in the newspaper, although only about twenty percent of the images in the collection were published in the newspaper. Most of the photographs were taken in Chicago, Illinois, or in nearby towns, parks, or athletic fields. In addition to many Chicagoans, the images include politicians, actors, and other prominent people who stopped in Chicago during their travels and individual athletes and sports teams who came to Chicago. Also included are photographs illustrating the operations of the Chicago Daily News itself and pictures taken on occasional out-of-town trips by the Daily News's photographers to important events, such as the inauguration of presidents in Washington, D.C.

Death of the Magazine

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The Death of the Magazine

Reading the latest moan linked from Arts and Letters Daily, The Curse of Tom Wolfe by Michael Shapiro for CJR triggered some weird thoughts. Shapiro writes of judging a competition for feature writing:

Then there were the solid pieces. Every technique that Wolfe had so feverishly explained in his essay was on display. But the experience of reading them felt like meeting a perfectly attractive person whose features could not later be recalled.

Tom Wolfe was a featured speaker soon after the rhetoric program was instituted on our campus. One of my professors jumped at the chance to pick him up and drive him around town. He told me that what he remembers most was the discomfort of Wolfe, as he sat in my teacher’s old pick-up trying to be careful not to soil the pristine white suit. Most of the authors listed as “new journalists” in the article aren’t so coolly distanced, or so easily forgettable. What was distinctly missing from the article is a discussion of the real reason why those authors were successful— it wasn’t their technique but their personality that was different. That’s what I find fatiguing about reading most articles, and what makes them so forgettable— the lack of distinctive personality to go with their technical good looks.

Still, after going back and reading a lot of articles in Nation written by James Agee in 1943 a few days ago, I wonder if it isn’t the public that has changed, rather than the writers. Even the ads are different. “Have you read Kierkegaard?” one publisher’s ad asked. I don’t see many advertisements for philosophers these days. And the choice of topics also seems to have narrowed to mostly personalities and politics, which, oddly enough, was the focus of Agee’s column on film for Nation. He wrote at great length poetically about US Government training films, for example. He found them to be horribly propagandistic compare to their British counterparts. And he wrote about censorship— the deletion of the words “stallion” and “fascist” from the film version of For Whom The Bell Tolls. The articles were fluid and engaging, around twenty years before the “new” journalism.

Also striking was Archibald MacLeish’s indictment of the newly sanctioned Bureau of Psychological Warfare. He wondered if it was some new form of war created by Freud. He also questioned the US involvement in terrorism, when this was what we were supposed to be fighting against. Funny how things come around. I think I need to read more magazines, especially old ones. They used to employ some very fine writers— writers with personality, not just glossy technique.

Struss'd out

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Advertisement of J. Déiré England’s dry plates, 1884

Struss’d out

Bobbi wondered if I laugh. Yes, actually I laugh all the time. Especially when things get really bad. It has always seemed to me to be a better alternative than crying. Though I sometimes do that too, it usually doesn’t last as long as the laughter. Sometimes people get the wrong idea. My sense of humor is rather dry.

It was downright embarrassing in document design class last week, as a matter of fact. I couldn’t stop laughing when I found a link on splinters to the Museum of Depressionist Art. There was just something about Caravangeo’s David with the Head of Godzilla and the well known Jerry Van Eyk’s portrait that made me explode uncontrollably. Okay, so I’m easily amused. Self portrait of the Artist with his Ex-Wives had a certain aura of truth to it as well. Fun for hours, I’m telling you.

Splinters is on a roll— another one today: Philosophyfootball.com. My favorite shirt is of course, Dada (number 0):

“Every man his own football”

Attacking down the left, a Dadaist was not an easy player to pin down, and allocating a squad number could also prove a problem.

Intrigued by the reference a few days ago to Karl Struss, I really Struss’d out today. Not only was the pictorialist an advertizing photographer, he also turned cinematographer working for Cecil B. DeMille. IMDB lists 139 movies to his credit. What a career! The weird thing is, they are listed in reverse chronological order so top billing is given to The Alligator People. “Her honeymoon turned into a nightmare of horror!” Could this be the same man from the Steiglitz circle? The future cinematographer of Kronos, Destroyer of the Universe? It seems so. Scrolling down, I see that he also filmed Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and the original silent Ben Hur of 1925, and a film billed as one of the best silent films ever made, Sunrise. It just goes to show you that even an artist has to make a living. Or maybe, it shows that I’m unusually inquisitive and easily amused.

But there was another weird connection. After all the time I spent writing about Hart Crane and Walker Evans and The Bridge, it was eerie to stumble on Struss’s photograph of Brooklyn Bridge. It seems like such a long strange trip from the Photo-secession to becoming the director of photography for My Friend Flicka.

News Bites

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News Bites

I know I’m bored when I start reading the news. I’m glad that Toledo is renovating its organ, but amazed to find they’ve discovered a wombat the size of a small car. First the giant squid, and now this. Then it sank in.

I have no idea how big a wombat is supposed to be. I’ve never seen one. Of course, the web was little help. All I found was another graveyard site, World Wide Wombat Web. Nearly all the links are dead. A great idea filling the need for web pages devoted to wombats, but fallen into disrepair. I suppose it had to happen eventually— things turn brown and die.

Romantic?

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Who needs a masters voice when you have your own?

Supernatural, or at Least Romantic


PENSIVE at eve on the hard world I mused,
And my poor heart was sad; so at the MOON
I gazed, and sighed, and sighed; for ah how soon
Eve saddens into night! mine eyes perused
With tearful vacancy the dampy grass
That wept and glitter’d in the paly ray:
And I did pause me on my lonely way
And mused me on the wretched ones that pass
Oe’r the bleak heath of sorrow. But alas!
Most of myself I thought! when it befel,
That the soothe spirit of the breezy wood
Breath'd in mine ear: “All this is very well,
But much of ONE thing, is for NO thing good.”
Oh my poor heart’s INEXPLICABLE SWELL!

— NEHEMIAH HIGGINBOTTOM


Nelson News

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Construction of Nelsons Column by Henry Fox Talbot

Nelson’s Column News

A CACHE of previously unknown letters written by Admiral Nelson’s wife has revealed the full heartache that she suffered over his affair with Emma, Lady Hamilton.

The letters are among a collection of artefacts kept by Alexander Davison, a confidant of the three members of the love triangle.

Fanny Nelson was eclipsed by the glamorous Lady Hamilton after she stole her husband, and historians have struggled to gauge her reaction to Nelson’s cruelty from the few remaining scraps of her writing. Although Lady Hamilton believed that Fanny “never felt in her life”, the tortured letters of the abandoned wife tell a story of “extreme misery” battling with undying loyalty.

Times Online via NASSR-L

Celebrity and Anonymity

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Celebrity Porn and Anonymity

Looking through some mail (I just can’t keep up on listservs anymore) I found some interesting discussion on C-18L. A question was raised by Ellen Moody regarding the dominance of women’s first names being taken as titles for novels, whereas novels named after male characters are usually given as two names— Pamela, Emma, etc., vs. Robinson Crusoe, Joseph Andrews, etc. The rule has many exceptions, such as Moll Flanders, et. al, but it would be easy to argue that for feminine heroines, first names clearly dominate. One idea proposed by Moody is that this was standard because women changed names after marriage, so it was less confusing this way.

However, Olaf Simons countered by asserting that it was not gender specific. Prior to the second decade of the eighteenth century, it was commonplace for heroes and heroines to be named in the “romantik” fashion, with one name only. Simmons argues that the differentiation in names occurred largely because of demands of the marketplace. When authorial identity became a salable commodity, women were as quick as men to establish two names for both themselves, and their characters.

Moody countered with a bit of a challenge, asking that Simons name single-named male characters, but also refined her question to suggest that the use of single names for women reflected their lower status. Elvira Casal provided an interesting twist to the issue, suggesting that single names were more intimate and private, whereas full names were a more public presence. Therefore, the choice of single names reflects the more intimate and private nature of the novels named for female heroines. Interesting stuff— I agree that naming affects the construction of identity.

All this lead to the discovery of Simons’ site, Pierre Marteau’s Publishing House. Named for a fictitious, anonymous Dutch publisher from the eighteenth century, it’s under construction, but full of good stuff. For those interested in anonymity, Margaret Jacobs’ The Clandestine Universe of the Early Eighteenth Century is a great read. I was struck by some interesting parallel behaviors. Remember all the noise about the porn industry as a model for Internet business development a year or so ago? It seems that the porn industry was also instrumental in the early days of the novel:

Pierre Marteau’s earliest French language publications were primarily anti-French and anti-Catholic polemics that could have been written by devout Protestants. Almost simultaneously, the genre of Marteau’s books became experimental, as if the authors were trying to write in the new fictional style we now call the novel. The precise nature of French corruption and decadence required narrative description: young nuns and Jesuits, readers were told, use dildos to give one another pleasure, although their actual intercourse finally occurs on the dunes near The Hague. The Capuchin monks are said to run a “university of cuckcoldry.” Marteau’s books also particularly targeted the French aristocracy. Illicit love among the great and the noble clearly sold books.

. . . According to the clandestine literature no social group could be as debauched as the Catholic clergy. Sometimes a woman was claimed to be the author of a tell-all account of the passions of Catholic nuns, whether in Portugal or France. In these Marteau books monks appeared as especially evil sorts, and their erections and masturbation with one another — “all the diverse emotions are rendered visible by the erection . . . ” — were recounted with relish for the supposedly naive public.
I was reminded as well of the fact that pornography was also important in the development of photography. In the early days, pornographic pictures of prostitutes sold for more money that the prostitutes themselves. Maybe Internet porn isn’t such an outlandish model after all. But more than that, perhaps how we name ourselves has an impact on how we are perceived as public or private personalities on the Internet.