05 Jun

The past in photos

Shorpy: The 100-Year-Old Photo Blog is one of those blogs that just makes you say “Wow!” on a regular basis. The photos aren’t all a century old, though some of them are. (Lately a lot of them have been Depression-era.) But they are all quite old, and quite amazing to look at. Many are just plain beautiful. Others are more thought-provoking.

I especially like the 4×5 Kodachrome transparencies like this and this — it’s so strange to see these times so long ago in color that seems so real. We are used to seeing most photos of that era in black and white, or sepia-tone, or hand-colored, or faded old colors. But of course, real life was colorful.

16 Feb

Kurt Cobain vigil photos, April 1994

While I was going through photo albums looking for photos to upload to Flickr, I found a group of photos that I took on April 10, 1994, at the Seattle Center memorial vigil for Kurt Cobain. These are the photos.

I looked online for articles about that day, and surprisingly, found very little. Here’s something I wrote about it myself on Metafilter, a few years ago.

It’s hard to believe that 13 years have already gone by.


15 Feb

Graffiti, Olympia, Washington, 1985

I’m going through old scrapbooks and albums to find photos to put onto Flickr. Lots of my photos are in terrible shape and I don’t want to lose them completely. This one is scanned from a contact sheet that is not in good condition — I don’t have a good full-size print of it any more and I’m not sure if I still have the negative, though it might be in a notebook in one of my boxes o’ junk.

Anyway, I was prowling downtown Olympia on a dark cloudy day in 1985, looking for something I could photograph for Bob Haft’s Experimental Photography class at Evergreen. The due date was the next day and I had procrastinated as usual. I turned a corner into an alley and found this graffiti. When I developed the photo, it didn’t look like Olympia; it seemed like something from a war zone in the 1940s.

I made a hand-colored print (which has since been destroyed), and turned that in for my assignment. This is one of my favorite photographs (though it’s not very cheery, is it?), so I hope I can find the negative and get some real prints made again sometime. Because this is scanned from the contact sheet, it looks even more vintage and unreal than the print did; it’s got a touch of blurriness and noise.

I’ve got some other old photos up at Flickr now and I might post more of them here on the blog soon.

06 Feb

Mystery book

Today I received a book in the mail, the book pictured on the right: Vanishing Seattle by Clark Humphrey. This is a book I’ve had on my wish list for a while; it’s got a ton of great pictures of Seattle landmarks that have sadly disappeared. I’m old enough now to remember a lot of them. Some of them I didn’t realize had gone. So, anyway, I’m thrilled to have this book. But the thing is — I didn’t order it. I was going to order it but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. So it’s a mystery: who sent me the book? Thank you, whomever you are.

And by the way — if you are a Seattleite who has been here for a while, you want this book. Trust me.

27 Apr

Nuke Pop

A professor at WSU has put together Nuke Pop, an exploration of nuclear war themes in popular culture, from comic books to candy wrappers. Very interesting material.

While browsing through his site, I found another fascinating item — Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction, a lengthy exploration of fiction about nuclear apocalypse. It includes a massive bibliography, too. I recommend it for any fans of apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction.

14 Jan

Columbia Law Library Music Plagiarism Project

The Columbia Law Library Music Plagiarism Project is a collection of information about music plagiarism cases. The site includes legal opinions, commentary, and sound clips and scores from the complaining and defending works — going back as far as 1845. The text can be a little thick to wade through if you’re not a lawyer, but it’s still pretty interesting to listen to the sound clips and decide if you agree with the decisions the judges made. I’d love to see the pages expanded somewhat for the non-lawyers, though. (Found via the Seattle P-I.)

06 Dec

The telegram isn’t dead

I am young enough that I have never received a telegram. In fact, I’m not sure if my mother has ever received one either. But I always thought they were kind of neat.

You can still get telegrams through Western Union, but they are kind of boring and bland. Much cooler are Retro-Grams — vintage style telegrams, which can be sent via e-mail for free, or also by first-class mail, or even by retro courier! You can choose from different styles of telegrams depending on which era you want to recreate. This is just darned cool. I would love to send these out as Christmas cards, but they are $3.95 each… maybe just a few, then.

(Don’t miss the History of Telegrams page.)

27 Aug

The superwide mystery

In 2543, at an interplanetary conference of costume historians, a paper was presented. This paper discussed an unusual style of dress from late in the 20th century: the Super-wide jean.

“Given the size of these garments, the main question people have nowadays—of particular import to re-enactors of the Industrial Age—is ‘how did they keep them up?’ Several theories have been proposed. Some believe that the items were fastened to the wearer’s undergarments with snaps, hooks and eyes or lacing.”

18 Aug

Alternate history fun

You know, I thought for sure I had posted here about Today In Alternate History, but it’s not coming up in the search, so I’m going to mention it now. TIAH is a great site that includes daily listings of what happened in various alternative timelines on a particular date. It’s fun to compare the alternate history with real history, but it’s also fun to watch the storylines developing through the tidbits of information we get each day.

If you like this, you should also see The Annotated Today in Alternate History, in which another blogger is posting commentary about the original TIAH posts, comparing them with real history. If you are not familiar with the nuances of the historical events altered on TIAH, this site can help you figure out what was changed.

If you’re wondering “what the heck is this Alternative History thing she’s talking about?”, Uchronia is the site that can explain all — an exhaustive bibliography of alternative histories with an extended introduction to the topic.

31 May

This is my kind of living history

Most people, if they think of historical re-enactors, probably think of Civil War soldiers or maybe SCA members in Renaissance garb. But there are all kinds of re-enactors, including the Vintage Base Ball Association, whose purpose is “to preserve, perpetuate, and promote the game of base ball as it was played during its formative years in the mid-nineteenth century and other historic eras.” That’s base ball, not its modern new-fangled descendant, baseball.

In vintage base ball, players are “ballists,” hitters are “strikers,” and players are declared out if their hits are caught on the first bounce. Ballists play with vintage-style equipment and uniforms. Fans, or “cranks,” cheer on their team with shouts of “Huzza!”

I wish Seattle had some vintage teams. They would be much more enjoyable this year than the Mariners.

If vintage base ball interests you, you should read one of my favorite books, If I Never Get Back, by Darryl Brock. It’s time travel fiction in which a modern man somehow travels back in time to 1869 and ends up traveling with the Cincinnati Red Stockings. A wonderful story with tons of historical detail.

Thanks to Brian at Geohawk for the link to the Riverfront Times article on this topic.

05 May

Shaftments, halakim, and the miner’s inch

A Dictionary of Units of Measurement is a fascinating compendium of information. Yeah, I know, it sounds dry, but if you are a word-lover, this will be right up your alley. How many websites discuss German beer measurements, the measuring of solar flare intensity, tennis racquet gauges, and the definition of “smidgen,” all in one place?

Some examples of what can be found there:

mease: a unit of quantity formerly used by fishermen. The mease equals the number of herring in a basket, roughly 620.

donkey power: a somewhat light-hearted metric unit of power equal to 250 watts or about 0.3353 horsepower.

luster, lustre, lustrum: a traditional unit of time equal to 5 years. In ancient Rome the Lustrum was ceremony of expiation and purification for the whole population of the city, carried out every 5 years after the completion of the census. The use of luster or lustrum as a unit of time in English was fairly common in well-educated circles as long as “well-educated” meant classically educated; the unit has pretty much disappeared today.

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