Sunday, July 30, 2023

Robert Mitchum movie posters

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Robert Mitchum is one of my favorite movie actors. He was active during the 1940s to the 1960s. Playing both heroes and heavies, his sleepy-eyed, detached cynicism was the epidemy of 1950s cool. The tagline from the above poster, "the toughest private eye who ever wore a trench coat, slapped a dame and split his knuckles on a jawbone" nicely sum up his early film noir roles. 

His career started taking off in the 1950s, which was a difficult time for the movie industry. The old studio system was starting to come apart, with the studios losing the vertically integrated monopoly over theater chains which impacted their revenue and complicated distribution. Also, television was gaining greatly in popularity and that cut into how people were allocating their discretionary entertainment dollars.

Mitchum started in the stable of RKO, one of minor studios. At the time RKO was ran by the increasingly eccentric Howard Hughs, which led to a fair degree of dysfunction at the studio. Mitchum also had an early scandal when he was arrested, and briefly jailed, for marijuana possession in 1948. However, due to his image as a rebel and an outsider the arrest did not hurt his image. 

These images, and those after the jump, are taken from 100 Years of Movie Posters. There are more at that link.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

From paddy to table

This is a video that shows rice cultivation from planting, harvesting, processing, packaging and eventually cooking. It is a Taiwanese commercial farming operation and equipment they use to plant and harvest the rice is pretty amazing.


Sunday, July 23, 2023

Peking opera costumes

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These images are from a late 19th Century album, One hundred portraits of Peking opera characters, showing the costumes and characters from Peking operas. The collection is housed in the MET. The operas feature mythological, historical and social themes and have elaborate costumes, masks, singing, dancing, acrobatics, and stylized martial arts. To western ears the music is jangling, and the high-pitched timbre of the singing can be off-putting. 

There are more images after the jump, and the full album can be viewed at the above link.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Milking a spider

The Australian funnel-web spider is one of the most venomous of all spiders. In this video their venum is collected to make an antidote for their bite. It is not a job I would want to have.


Sunday, July 16, 2023

Albert Bierstadt's landscapes

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Albert Bierstadt was a 19th century American painter who specialized in landscapes of the American West. He was born in Germany and moved to the U.S. at a young age, although he did return to Germany for a while to study painting. He was part of the Hudson River school and, because of his use of light and color, was part of the luminism painting style.

Albert Bierstadt

Friday, July 14, 2023

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

A Sumo wrestler's morning

This video shows a morning of the Sumo Club at Kinki University. Most of it involves a couple of underclassman cooking breakfast for the club. We are also shown some of the morning training activities.  


Sunday, July 09, 2023

Insane asylums

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Some people are so mentally deficient that they cannot, on their own, function in normal society. This is the result of greatly diminished mental capacity either through natural causes or from significant substance abuse. The question has long been, what to do with these people? How to tend to them?

In old agrarian societies somebody with mental problems would be considered to be extremely stupid and to hold ridiculous ideas. They would be slotted into the role of 'the village idiot'. Still, they were familiar to all. They had a role in that society and would be accepted as part of it and tended to. As we urbanized caring for them became more problematic. Rather than just being the simple-minded and foolish neighbor, they became an unpredictable stranger who may, or may not of, be a danger.

From the 19th through the early 20th centuries they attempted to solve that problem by housing them, and caring for them, in large institutions. While well intentioned, it did not work well. Housing so many delusional and/or mentally deficient people led to too much chaos to be easily controlled, and so the places naturally devolved into rigid and frequently inhumane confinements. It is an issue we still struggle with.

These are a small sample of engravings about those old insane asylums. The cruelty and bedlam (a word derived from these asylums) of the places are depressingly captured by them.

Friday, July 07, 2023

Chahe Maya Gara

Get ready for a slipped through your fingers weekend with Shiva Lamichhane and C-waz.


Thursday, July 06, 2023

Small change to the blog

The widget I used for Followers stopped working properly. I couldn't find a solution or work-around to the problem, so I've removed it for now. Hopefully this won't inconvenience anybody who was following this blog. I'll keep looking for a solution.

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Rambling thoughts on the 4th of July

4th of July fireworks

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. 

The above words are from the Declaration of Independence. They were written by Thomas Jefferson, with an assist from Benjamin Franklin. They are a distillation of John Locke and other Enlightenment philosophers' thoughts. 

It is a tremendously revolutionary statement, one that we often underestimate. In the bulk of human history, and its societies, individuals have been neither autonomous nor equal. There is the King and his underlings, and below them a stratum of ever more insignificant souls. Each in his own place.

This will seem like an odd detour for a 4th of July post, but bear with me. I've read one Chinese novel, the Story of the Stone (a.k.a. Dream of the Red Chamber) by Cáo Xuěqín. It's set in the 18th Century and follows the affairs of two clans of the Jia family that live in mansions next to each other and are at the peak of their power and influence. Aside from some mystical tomfoolery framing the novel, it is actually a very naturalistic look at going-on of the households. It is thought to be autobiographical in a lot of its details.

To get back to 'all men are created equal', that is certainly not the case in this story. There are some 440 characters in the novel, and each has their place in the social order. They range from the Dowager at the top, down through her children and grandchildren, their wives, husbands and children, and eventually to the consorts, maids and servants who are all either slaves or peasants.

The social order is very strict. The second volume takes place during a summer and the dowager is always throwing tea parties (which invariably turn into drinking parties). As each character enters the party, they have to calculate which chair to sit in. This is not a trivial choice; sitting too close to the matriarch is a gaffe because you are assuming a higher status than you deserve, while sitting too far away means you're losing face because you are minimizing your position. And if you're a maid? Screw up and you'll get a beating or, if worse comes to worse, you'll get tossed down a well.

I did that detour into the Story of the Stone because throughout human history, in some way, shape or form, almost all societies have been structured that way. Each person has their place; some will eat gruel while others sit at banquets. That is the way it is, and the way it should be. It is a sobering view. 

That's why on the 4th of July I am always drawn to Jefferson's 'all men are created equal'. It is a truly revolutionary thought. It levels castes. Further it states that all men, no matter what their station in life, are entitled to life, liberty and to pursue whatever path to happiness they desire. That passage, so plain and clearly stated, has planted a seed that resonates so powerfully that even despots feel they need to pay it lip service.

So that first 4th of July in 1776, in spite of the twists and turns that emanated from it, is an inflection point. You and I, and all the rest of us, are equal. While there are many would-be masters who would like me to worry about what chair to sit on, I'll not be bothered to make their desired choice. Happy 4th of July.

Sunday, July 02, 2023

The humble picnic

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Summer and the July 4th weekend is upon us, so we are well into the picnic season. Picnics can be either social, family, or romantic events. These paintings, and those after the jump, are a small sample of art showing picnics. They are from different places and times. Enjoy.