So new, so new!

On Thursday, December 23, 1920, The New York Times reported on page 9:

Olympic arrival lede

The article was headed “Olympic’s Notables See Gain in Europe,” and among the disembarking notables its reporter interviewed was New York’s Assistant District Attorney Owen W. Bohan, on his way home from having assisted in Italy in a prosecution for murder. A photographer from the Bain News Agency was also on hand.

On the other side of the Atlantic, earlier in 1920, the architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret had caused himself to be made over as a theory apparatus named Le Corbusier. Throughout that year, that apparatus outputted a series of polemics in a journal named L’Esprit nouveau. In 1923, it collected the articles into a book and called the book Vers une architecture. The title implied that architecture was something that lay ahead, something yet to be achieved. Much of the material that supplied the book’s thesis and body of examples was marine architecture — specifically, the architecture of the great four-stacker ocean liners whose creators were now teaching — if architects would only listen! — that steel could be a system of the human body like muscle and bone. “So old, so old!” cried the apparatus as it contemplated the time when pre-metallic humans lived in caves of stone.

img20180811_15223226A
Le Corbusier, Toward an Architecture, trans. John Goodman (Getty Research Institute, 2007), page 154.

And so, on a December day in 1920, another apparatus sailed up the bay into icy New York: a cylindrical construction built of linen and starch. At its apex, the construction displayed a triumphal decoration shaped like a head. The head looked human, but because the apparatus was made of cloth, the construction was only an idol. The cloth could have been woven in a cave, and one of its purposes as an idol was to represent to its cave-bound worshiper that there is a reality beyond representation. It is waiting to be seen. It is in the light, outside.

And yes: outside on December 22, 1920, looming behind the notable, not wrapped like him in cloth but warm from its own source below decks, there stood a cylinder of steel.

Bohan aiM

Perhaps the steel thing was only another idol, a transitional object erecting itself to mark the evolutionary passage from soft cloth to hard metal to a pure idea standing at the end of change. If it was, we probably don’t have to worry about our own soft mortal selves. There will be more idols to come, interposing their comforting representations between us and the moment when our hearts stop beating and desire ends. Le Corbusier himself was famously annoyed when the tenants of his buildings insisted on filling them with comfortable furniture. But for the quarter-century that began in about 1920, many people took Corbusian steel itself to be the idea, and worshiped it with temples and blood sacrifice.

Image source: George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014711873/. Photoshopped.

Dime novel; or, Ancient Pistol of the CIA

Rushington merged

 

Sources:

The Great American Magazine: The Periodical Collection of Steven Lomazow, MD. https://www.americanmagazinecollection.com/. Photoshopped.

“Cables Detail C.I.A. Waterboarding at Secret Prison Run by Gina Haspel.” New York Times 10 August 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/10/us/politics/waterboarding-gina-haspel-cia-prison.html

National Security Archive, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu//dc.html?doc=4704836-Document-16-Thailand-black-site-report-to-CIA

“I have the means to make myself deadly”

Demonstrably, one thing about the life of the electrical engineer Mark Anthony remains in historical memory. His dates of birth and death don’t seem to be accessible online, but during the years of his floruit, 1909-1911, he is known to history to have been experimenting in New York with what we would now call a radio-controlled drone bomber. About that the online record yields two reprinted newspaper articles. Says Anthony in one of them, from 1909,

This airship of mine
(“Airship to Cross Ocean”)

There are also two 1909 portraits in the Library of Congress’s George Grantham Bain Collection, an archive of news agency photographs. One is captioned “Anthony at transformer,” and it shows a standing man, presumably Anthony, looking down at a table upon which rests a transformer. By analogy with “at bat” or “at the wheel,” the phrase “at transformer” is a dramatis persona in a scene of power and mastery.

The other portrait . . .

03113u ai300K small

Dark but with a rubbery sheen, the rope-bound object in the background may be what the newspaper article calls “a balloon 22 feet long, with a capacity of 600 cubic feet of gas.” Anthony’s right hand rests on what looks like a compressed-gas cylinder’s hose connection, and it seems to be holding the inflation tube of another balloon, tied off with string. The system looks ready for arming and flight, and the artist who memorialized the event for history bent his name to the masterful arc of the inventor’s shoulder.

A later article about radio control extinguishes the expectation. From Germany in 1911, it reports: “A somewhat similar invention was recently reported from New York, where Mark Anthony, a well-known electrical engineer, offered his device to the United States Government for $125,000. The offer was declined. . . ” But in what Cavafy might have called the days of 1909, an image inflated itself with curves bulging into more curves and then went tense and still, in a waiting phase, at the brink of a moment when the curves might merge, then soar free enclosed in straining rubber, then explode and cause to explode. The balloon, the hat, the nose, and the double beacon of the eyes behind their collimators: all these awaited the unbuttoning of what a poem written in 1911 was to call “My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, / My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin.”

The unbuttoning didn’t take place in 1909, but the readiness was all. In 1912 Vaslav Nijinsky would fuck the nymph’s veil. Two years after that, the term “blow sky-high” would explode into aeronautical meaning.


Sources:

Title: Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent, chapter 4: “I have the means to make myself deadly, but that by itself, you understand, is absolutely nothing in the way of protection. What is effective is the belief those people have in my will to use the means. That’s their impression. It is absolute. Therefore I am deadly.” “Those people” are the police; “the means” is a bomb in the speaker’s breast pocket, with its detonator button in his hand. I visualize a hand looking like Mark Anthony’s.

The photographs: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014683108/
and http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014683107/. Detail restored with Photoshop, using the Topaz AI Clear plug-in.

The newspaper articles:

Cincinnati Enquirer 4 January 1909, page 6:

The_Cincinnati_Enquirer_Mon__Jan_4__1909 cut 2_

 

Literary Digest, vol. 43 (26 August 1911), pages 313-14:

Literary Digest combined

Language note: ask any sophomore

A Chicago-based restaurant chain has apologized for asking Hawaiians to stop using two Hawaiian words…kind of.

Over the weekend a furore broke out when it came to light that the Aloha Poke Co. had sent cease and desist letters to several small businesses operating as some variation of “Aloha Poke,” which it owns the trademark for. Many of these businesses are run by native Hawaiians. Aloha Poke Co. is not.

[. . .]

In response, the company took to Facebook to share a deep apology that the issue had “been so triggering” and to defend itself against what it called misinformation spread on social media. The post said the company had not tried to own the words “aloha” or “poke” and had not told Hawaiian businesses they could not use the words “aloha” or “poke.” Instead, they’d merely enforced their trademark which protects the use of the phrase “Aloha Poke” in connection with food service.

The Aloha Poke Co. founder, Zach Friedlander, who no longer works at the company, also posted on Facebook, saying he was “deeply saddened by the reaction that some have taken regarding this situation.” He went on to say the reaction was a “witch hunt” based on “false news”.

— Hallie Detrick, “Aloha Poke Co Is Really Sorry It Told Native Hawaiians They Couldn’t Use ‘Aloha Poke.'” http://fortune.com/2018/07/31/aloha-poke-cease-and-desist/

About the red letters:

With his business and political activities under investigation as of August 2018, President Trump is tweeting several times a day about what he calls, with perhaps trademarkable capital initials, “the Witch Hunt” and “Fake News.” The difference between Mr. Trump’s “Fake News” and Mr. Friedlander’s “false news” may seem trivial, but in the classroom it matters. When you ask a sophomore why, the sophomore will explain that when you change “Fake” to “false,” that makes it not really plagiarism.

Sort of the way standing a plastic hula girl in the snow outside your restaurant door fills Chicago with aloha.

Right, Dennis?