History, Politics

Against Normalisation: The Lesson of the “Munich Post”

The Trump-Hitler comparison. Is there any comparison? Between the way the campaigns of Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler should have been treated by the media and the culture? The way the media should act now? The problem of normalisation?

Because I’d written a book called Explaining Hitler several editors had asked me, during the campaign, to see what could be said on the subject.

Until the morning after the election I had declined them. While Trump’s crusade had at times been malign, as had his vociferous supporters, he and they did not seem bent on genocide. He did not seem bent on anything but hideous, hurtful simple-mindedness — a childishly vindictive buffoon trailing racist followers whose existence he had main-streamed. When I say followers I’m thinking about the perpetrators of violence against women outlined by New York Magazine who punched women in the face and shouted racist slurs at them. Those supporters. These are the people Trump has dragged into the mainstream, and as my friend Michael Hirschorn pointed out, their hatefulness will no longer find the Obama Justice Department standing in their way.

Bad enough, but genocide is almost by definition beyond comparison with normal politics and everyday thuggish behaviour, and to compare Trump’s feckless racism and compulsive lying was inevitably to trivialize Hitler’s crime and the victims of genocide — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History

Updating a classic / Charles Stross

In 1944, the Office of Strategic Services — the predecessor of the post-war CIA — was concerned with sabotage directed against enemies of the US military. Among their ephemera, declassified and published today by the CIA, is a fascinating document called the Simple Sabotage Field Manual (PDF). It’s not just about blowing things up; a lot of its tips are concerned with how sympathizers with the allied cause can impair enemy material production and morale:

  1. Managers and Supervisors: To lower morale and production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.
  2. Employees: Work slowly. Think of ways to increase the number of movements needed to do your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one; try to make a small wrench do instead of a big one.
  3. Organizations and Conferences: When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large and bureaucratic as possible. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
  4. Telephone: At office, hotel and local telephone switchboards, delay putting calls through, give out wrong numbers, cut people off “accidentally,” or forget to disconnect them so that the line cannot be used again.
  5. Transportation: Make train travel as inconvenient as possible for enemy personnel. Issue two tickets for the same seat on a train in order to set up an “interesting” argument.

— via Charlie’s Diary

Design, History

Frank Lloyd Wright on Arrogance / Blank on Blank

Any man who really has faith in himself will be dubbed arrogant by his fellows — Frank Lloyd Wright in 1957, as told to Mike Wallace.

Hear more outtakes and watch the full interview @ Blank on Blank.

If you’ve ever been to Illinois, you’ll know all about the defining features of its landscape – namely, that it’s pretty much flat. But architect Frank Lloyd Wright did something new when he made buildings that somehow became one with the prairie. Long, low lines, and interiors that brought the light and space of the outside in. With the same approach, he built homes in the woods around waterfalls, on high bluffs that take in the stretch and space of the land below. If you’ve ever visited one of his houses, you’ll know how they manage to make you understand more about exactly where you live — via Youtube

History

Obituary: Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown

Captain Eric Winkle Brown, the pilot who flew more types of planes than anyone in history, has died in Britain at the age of 97.

Described as the Scotsman whose real-life adventures made James Bond’s fictional life seem dull, Captain Brown held the world record for flying the greatest number of different types of aircraft — 487.

He landed on aircraft carrier decks more times than any pilot in history, with 2,407 landings over the course of 65 years, and also led an elite British unit charged with testing captured Nazi experimental planes at the end of World War II.

Aviation experts say the records set by the Navy test pilot and war hero are unlikely to ever be broken — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Design, History

This UKWMO (United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation) base offers an intriguing piece of Cold War History, with a wood-burning stove and retains well-preserved relics relating to its history. Accommodation The underground accommodation comprises of a main room, measuring approximately 2.32 metres by 4.61 metres and a small subsidiary chamber, currently utilised for storage, which would be suited to development into a washroom facility — via Rettie & Co

History, Science

200,000 fish bones suggest ancient Scandinavian people were more complex than thought

200,000 fish bones discovered in and around a pit in Sweden suggest that the people living in the area more than 9000 years ago were more settled and cultured than we previously thought. Research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science suggests people were storing large amounts of fermented food much earlier than experts thought.

The new paper reveals the earliest evidence of fermentation in Scandinavia, from the Early Mesolithic time period, about 9,200 years ago. The author of the study, from Lund University in Sweden, say the findings suggest that people who survived by foraging for food were actually more advanced than assumed — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Design, History

A Frank Lloyd Wright influence at work in this 1950s Bernoudy-Mutrux-designed Simms house in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Not that we are taking away anything from the architecture practice behind this house, which is the noted Bernoudy-Mutrux, a firm behind many modernist gems back in the day. But there is a connection. According to Curbed, the co-founder of Bernoudy-Mutrux, William Bernoudy, studied under Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s. They also add that this huge 3,371 sq. ft. property was designed on a parallelogram grid like Wright’s Kraus House (also in St. Louis), with the look and feel of the interior almost certainly tipping its hat to the work of FLW too. $1,139,000 is the asking price if it appeals — via WowHaus

Design, History

A penthouse in Chicago is listed for sale. It was built in 1972. The original owners lovingly decorated it in the style of the time, and never used it. What is left is a time capsule of the hippest 1972 decor. Groovy! Even the bathroom products are vintage. It can be yours for just $158,000, plus monthly building fees — via Neatorama

Design, History

Built in 1828, the first enclosed shopping mall in America now has affordable housing beyond its grand Ionic columns in place of cramped, struggling retail stores, with most of the historic architectural details preserved. Rhode Island’s Providence Arcade is a project of Northeast Collaborative Architects, this project could signal a new phase in adaptive reuse with respect to interior malls both old and new — via Urbanist

History, Rights, World

Britain Prunes Silly Laws on Salmon Handling and Armour Wearing

It is not a great idea to carry a plank of wood down a busy sidewalk. Nor should you ride a horse while drunk, or handle a salmon under suspicious circumstances.

But should such antics be illegal? Still?

Thanks to centuries of legislating by Parliament, which bans the wearing of suits of armor in its chambers, Britain has accumulated many laws that nowadays seem irrelevant, and often absurd.

So voluminous and eccentric is Britain’s collective body of 44,000 pieces of primary legislation that it has a small team of officials whose sole task is to prune it.

Their work is not just a constitutional curiosity, but a bulwark against hundreds of years of lawmaking running out of control.

Over the centuries, rules have piled up to penalize those who fire a cannon within 300 yards of a dwelling and those who beat a carpet in the street — unless the item can be classified as a doormat and it is beaten before 8.00am.

To have a legal situation where there is so much information that you cannot sit down and comprehend it, does seem to me a serious problem, said Andrew Lewis, professor emeritus of comparative legal history at University College London. I think it matters dreadfully that no one can get a handle on the whole of it.

Yet, as Professor Lewis also noted, many old laws have survived because crime and bad behaviour have, too.

One reason is that human nature doesn’t change much, Professor Lewis said, though of course the institutions which we develop to protect, organize, and govern ourselves do change, and then it becomes necessary to adjust the existing law to practice — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Design, History

Moving specialists iMove have created 115 Years of American Homes, a Scrolling Parallax Infographic in which viewers can drive through a neighbourhood of single-family homes that reflect the style of their respective decades. For each home, graphics detail tell-tale architectural features, design trends, average home price, and the historical and cultural context of each decade from the 1900s through the present — via ArchDaily

Design, History

hooray los angeles for having a 50,000 square foot top secret military facility now used to make vegan cooking shows in a cute little neighbourhood surrounded by desert scrub and oak trees — via moby los angeles architecture

History, Science

Alan Turing’s notebook sold for $1m in New York auction

A scientific notebook compiled by World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing has sold for $1m in New York.

It is one of very few manuscripts from the head of the team that cracked the Germans’ Enigma code.

The handwritten notes, dating from 1942 when he worked at Bletchley Park, were entrusted to mathematician Robin Gandy after Turing’s death.

The notebook was sold at Bonhams for $1,025,000 (£700,850) to an unnamed buyer — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Design, History

The Gorgeous Typeface That Drove Men Mad and Sparked a 100-Year Mystery

No one seemed to notice him: A dark figure who often came to stand at the edge of London’s Hammersmith Bridge on nights in 1916. No one seemed to notice, either, that during his visits he was dropping something into the River Thames. Something heavy.

Over the course of more than a hundred illicit nightly trips, this man was committing a crime—against his partner, a man who owned half of what was being heaved into the Thames, and against himself, the force that had spurred its creation. This venerable figure, founder of the legendary Doves Press and the mastermind of its typeface, was a man named TJ Cobden Sanderson. And he was taking the metal type that he had painstakingly overseen and dumping thousands of pounds of it into the river.

As a driving force in the Arts & Crafts movement in England, Cobden Sanderson championed traditional craftsmanship against the rising tides of industrialization. He was brilliant and creative, and in some ways, a luddite — because he was concerned that the typeface he had designed would be sold to a mechanized printing press after his death by his business partner, with whom he was feuding.

So, night after night, he was making it his business to bequeath it to the river, in his words, screwing his partner out of his half of their work and destroying a legendarily beautiful typeface forever. Or so it seemed.

Almost exactly a century later, this November, a cadre of ex-military divers who work for the Port of London Authority were gearing up to descend into the Thames to look for the small metal bits—perhaps hundreds of thousands of them — that Cobden Sanderson had thrown overboard so many years ago.

They were doing this at the behest and personal expense of Robert Green, a designer who has spent years researching and recreating the lost typeface, which is available on Typespec. As Green told me over the phone recently, the Port of London Authority had been hesitant about letting him pay its diving team to search for the lost type. They were actually concerned that I was some crazy bloke looking for a needle in a haystack and throwing a couple grand away, he laughs.

It’s not hard to imagine how crazy he must have seemed. A civilian offering to pay the city’s salvage divers to troll the depths of the muddy Thames, possibly for weeks, looking for tiny chunks of metal that were thrown there by a deranged designer more than a century ago? Yeah, that’s pretty crazy.

In the end, it only took them 20 minutes to find some — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Photo: Sam Armstrong, courtesy of The Sunday Times

History

What the World Will Speak in 2115

Thankfully, fears that English will become the world’s only language are premature. Few are so pessimistic as to suppose that there will not continue to be a multiplicity of nations and cultures on our planet and, along with them, various languages besides English. It is difficult, after all, to interrupt something as intimate and spontaneous as what language people speak to their children. Who truly imagines a Japan with no Japanese or a Greece with no Greek? The spread of English just means that earthlings will tend to use a local language in their own orbit and English for communication beyond. Advertisement

But the days when English shared the planet with thousands of other languages are numbered. A traveller to the future, a century from now, is likely to notice two things about the language landscape of Earth. One, there will be vastly fewer languages. Two, languages will often be less complicated than they are today—especially in how they are spoken as opposed to how they are written.

Some may protest that it is not English but Mandarin Chinese that will eventually become the world’s language, because of the size of the Chinese population and the increasing economic might of their nation. But that’s unlikely. For one, English happens to have gotten there first. It is now so deeply entrenched in print, education and media that switching to anything else would entail an enormous effort. We retain the QWERTY keyboard and AC current for similar reasons.

Also, the tones of Chinese are extremely difficult to learn beyond childhood, and truly mastering the writing system virtually requires having been born to it. In the past, of course, notoriously challenging languages such as Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Arabic, Russian and even Chinese have been embraced by vast numbers of people. But now that English has settled in, its approachability as compared with Chinese will discourage its replacement. Many a world power has ruled without spreading its language, and just as the Mongols and Manchus once ruled China while leaving Chinese intact, if the Chinese rule the world, they will likely do so in English. A Chinese teacher gives an English lesson to students in the Gansu province of northwest China in July 2013. Some have predicted that Mandarin Chinese will eventually become the world’s language, but its elaborate tones are too difficult to learn beyond childhood.

Yet more to the point, by 2115, it’s possible that only about 600 languages will be left on the planet as opposed to today’s 6,000. Japanese will be fine, but languages spoken by smaller groups will have a hard time of it. Too often, colonisation has led to the disappearance of languages: Native speakers have been exterminated or punished for using their languages. This has rendered extinct or moribund, for example, most of the languages of Native Americans in North America and Aboriginal peoples of Australia. Urbanization has only furthered the destruction, by bringing people away from their homelands to cities where a single lingua franca reigns — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Design, History

In the past quarter century, recycling has moved from a new concept reserved mostly to hippies to something most people do, but new variations on the themes recycling and upcycling keep popping up. The newest twist in industrial recycling is Boeing’s new addition to their Custom Hangar online gift shop. Starting this holiday season, Boeing is making vintage parts from their airplanes available for sale on the website. You can now buy engine blades from various models for $200 to $400, windows from 747s and 767s for $600, a table made from the core of a jet engine for $9,600, the control stick from a P-51 Mustang fighter for $1,250, a full galley beverage cart for $1,900 and similar pieces of air travel engineering and history — via PSFK

Design, History

This David Henken-designed midcentury property in Pound Ridge, New York, dates from 1956 and looks like little has changed at first glance. But that’s probably done to a magazine quality restoration of this place. Look carefully and you’ll see it’s as much a modern house as a period property. But the overall look and feel of the original is still very much evident. It is pitched as a home or a weekend retreat, but you’ll need to be pretty affluent to consider it as the latter with a price of $1,495,000 — via WowHaus

Design, History

Something of an architectural landmark in the country, this 1920s Pol Abraham-designed modernist property in Paris, France is now no the market after a fairly recent renovation. The house was built between 1926 and 1929 on the outskirts of Paris, the work of noted modernist architect Pol Abraham, who was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Pompidou back in 2008. Of course it doesn’t come cheap. You will need to find €1,995,000 to own this gem — via WowHaus

Design, History

This 19th century Thomas Hartas-designed law library in city centre Manchester dates back to 1885. It is a well-preserved gem in a city centre that seems to be running out of such things. Offers over £975,000 if you want to take this on — via WowHaus

History, Technology

How did the Enigma machine work?

Like all the best cryptography, the Enigma machine is simple to describe, but infuriating to break.

Straddling the border between mechanical and electrical, Enigma looked from the outside like an oversize typewriter. Enter the first letter of your message on the keyboard and a letter lights up showing what it has replaced within the encrypted message. At the other end, the process is the same: type in the ciphertext and the letters which light are the decoded missive.

Inside the box, the system is built around three physical rotors. Each takes in a letter and outputs it as a different one. That letter passes through all three rotors, bounces off a reflector at the end, and passes back through all three rotors in the other direction.

The board lights up to show the encrypted output, and the first of the three rotors clicks round one position — changing the output even if the second letter input is the same as the first one.

When the first rotor has turned through all 26 positions, the second rotor clicks round, and when that’s made it round all the way, the third does the same, leading to more than 17,000 different combinations before the encryption process repeats itself. Adding to the scrambling was a plugboard, sitting between the main rotors and the input and output, which swapped pairs of letters. In the earliest machines, up to six pairs could be swapped in that way; later models pushed it to 10, and added a fourth rotor — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Technology

Joan Clarke, woman who cracked Enigma with Alan Turing

Joan Clarke’s ingenious work as a codebreaker during WW2 saved countless lives, and her talents were formidable enough to command the respect of some of the greatest minds of the 20th Century, despite the sexism of the time.

But while Bletchley Park hero Alan Turing — who was punished by a post-war society where homosexuality was illegal and died at 41 — has been treated more kindly by history, the same cannot yet be said for Clarke.

The only woman to work in the nerve centre of the quest to crack German Enigma ciphers, Clarke rose to deputy head of Hut 8, and would be its longest-serving member.

She was also Turing’s lifelong friend and confidante and, briefly, his fiancee — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Politics, World

East German officer who opened Berlin Wall wept moments later

The East German lieutenant colonel who gave the fateful order to throw open the Berlin Wall 25 years ago said he wept in silence a few moments later as hordes of euphoric East Germans swept past him into West Berlin to get their first taste of freedom.

Harald Jaeger said in an interview with Reuters that he spent hours before his history-changing decision trying in vain to get guidance from superiors on what to do about the 20,000 protesters at his border crossing clamouring to get out.

When he had had enough of being laughed at, ridiculed and told by commanders to sort it out for himself, Jaeger ordered the 46 armed guards under his command to throw open the barrier.

He then stepped back and cried — tears of relief that the stand-off had ended without violence, tears of frustration that his superiors had left him in the lurch and tears of despair from a man who had so long believed in the Communist ideal.

He had joined the border guard unit in 1961. Over 28 years, he saw the barrier grow from an infancy of coiled barbed wire, to a brick wall and then to maturity as a towering 160 Km (100 mile) double white concrete screen that encircled West Berlin, cutting across streets, between families, through graveyards — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Design, History

Deal Kitchen, 1907 / Charles Rennie Mackintosh

It is enough to make the neighbours green with envy and decline an invitation to tea. The vogue for a designer kitchen is set to be eclipsed with the sale of items unheralded in the competitive world of interior design: a fitted kitchen by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

In what is believed to be a world first, a selection of kitchen units designed by the celebrated architect and designer is set to go up for auction next month with an estimated price for the collection of £20,000. Lyon & Turnbull, the Edinburgh auction house, will be auctioning off three lots which previously made up the kitchen of The Moss, a house designed by the architect and built in Drumgoyne, near Killearn.

The three lots which make up the kitchen include a small pine kitchen dresser valued at £400 to £600, a large pine kitchen dresser valued at £3,000 to £4,000 and a substantial range of kitchen cupboards and work tops whose estimated value is between £3,000 and £5,000. The kitchen collection will be sold on 29 November at Lyon & Turnbull’s Decorative Arts Sale in Edinburgh.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh famously believed no detail was too trivial to be beyond the eye of a true architect and on one occasion even specified what colour of cut flowers was permitted on the living room table so as not to clash with the rest of the decor.

The kitchen he designed for Sir Archibald Campbell Lawrie, who died in 1914, is set to attract bids from all over the world. What makes the set unique is that the kitchen units were removable as opposed to build into the fabric of the home — via redwolf.newsvine.com

History, Rights
Frank Serpico by Antonino D’Ambrosio

The Police Are Still Out of Control

Forty-odd years on, my story probably seems like ancient history to most people, layered over with Hollywood legend. For me it’s not, since at the age of 78 I’m still deaf in one ear and I walk with a limp and I carry fragments of the bullet near my brain. I am also, all these years later, still persona non grata in the NYPD. Never mind that, thanks to Sidney Lumet’s direction and Al Pacino’s brilliant acting, Serpico ranks No 40 on the American Film Institute’s list of all-time movie heroes, or that as I travel around the country and the world, police officers often tell me they were inspired to join the force after seeing the movie at an early age.

In the NYPD that means little next to my 40-year-old heresy, as they see it. I still get hate mail from active and retired police officers. A couple of years ago after the death of David Durk — the police officer who was one of my few allies inside the department in my efforts to expose graft — the Internet message board NYPD Rant featured some choice messages directed at me. Join your mentor, Rat scum! said one. An ex-con recently related to me that a precinct captain had once said to him, If it wasn’t for that fuckin’ Serpico, I coulda been a millionaire today. My informer went on to say, Frank, you don’t seem to understand, they had a well-oiled money making machine going and you came along and threw a handful of sand in the gears.

In 1971 I was awarded the Medal of Honor, the NYPD’s highest award for bravery in action, but it wasn’t for taking on an army of corrupt cops. It was most likely due to the insistence of Police Chief Sid Cooper, a rare good guy who was well aware of the murky side of the NYPD that I’d try to expose. But they handed the medal to me like an afterthought, like tossing me a pack of cigarettes. After all this time, I’ve never been given a proper certificate with my medal. And although living Medal of Honor winners are typically invited to yearly award ceremonies, I’ve only been invited once — and it was by Bernard Kerick, who ironically was the only NYPD commissioner to later serve time in prison. A few years ago, after the New York Police Museum refused my guns and other memorabilia, I loaned them to the Italian-American museum right down street from police headquarters, and they invited me to their annual dinner. I didn’t know it was planned, but the chief of police from Rome, Italy, was there, and he gave me a plaque. The New York City police officers who were there wouldn’t even look at me — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Photo credit: Antonino D’Ambrosio

History

Stolen vintage Jaguar XKE recovered after 46 years to be reunited with 82-year-old owner

A rare Jaguar XKE convertible stolen 46 years ago will be returned to its owner thanks to an eagle-eyed customs agent.

The Californian Highway Patrol are trying to figure out who might have stolen it from outside a New York apartment and why it was in a Californian garage for 40 years.

A man who had recently bought the car submitted paperwork to US Customs and Border Protection in June, and an analyst who checked the vehicle saw it had been reported stolen.

By that time, the 1967 Jaguar was en route to the Netherlands, a hot market for vintage cars, and authorities arranged to have the ship operator bring the car back to California.

According to US Customs, the 82-year-old original owner of the car, retired attorney Ivan Schneider, has called the find a miracle and said he planned to restore it.

It’s a wonderful car, Mr Schneider said — via redwolf.newsvine.com

Design, History

In the 1960s, the United States Rubber Company (Uniroyal) introduced the world to their discovery of a supple synthetic leather substitute called Naugahyde, primarily for use as an auto seating leatherette material. It made its debut on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Their brilliant Mad Men advertising idea was to create a fictional creature called the NAUGA from which the Nauga hyde was harvested. Needless to say, it was a huge hit — via Arcane Images

Design, History

The Sowden House, built by Lloyd Wright, the son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This beautiful, unique structure, sometimes referred to as the Jaws house for its windows that resemble a shark’s open mouth, was built in 1926. The 5,600 square foot home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles is currently for sale, listed at $4,875,000.

The house also has the dubious distinction of formerly belonging to a suspect in one of the most notorious unsolved murder cases in American history, the Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short) murder. From 1945 to 1951, the Sowden house was owned by Dr George Hodel, who at one time was the prime suspect of the LA District Attorney in the Short murder. Hodel’s son, former LAPD homicide detective Steve Hodel, even wrote a book claiming that his father killed Elizabeth Short somewhere in the Sowden House — via Neatorama