Another iconic Austin location bites the dust to make way for a new downtown tower: this time it’s the warehouse between 4th and 5th Streets on Colorado, which in the late 1990s became the upstairs home of the very first Alamo Drafthouse with its tiny single screen. Elijah Wood perfectly described it like being “somewhere between a movie theater, an attic, and a living room.”
Elle Klein: Tim had lined the walls of the theater with hay bales. They were covered with black curtains … There was the wall, then hay bales, then a black curtain. There would constantly be hay coming out on the floor. We would sweep up hay at the end of the night.
Yup. Who needs special acoustic panels for soundproofing when you can just stuff the walls with hay??
There have been serious problems caused by the Drafthouse leadership over the past decade, even as they continue to open dozens of locations around the U.S., but I do miss the spirit of that first little theater and the amazing movies and community experiences that I would never have seen otherwise.
Getting burned out on playing Wordle? Want something that’s more about the letters individually? Want to play around with taxonomies of multicultural letterforms for the sake of science? (who wouldn’t??)
Glyph is a newly-launched game that will help researchers better understand how crowdsourced individuals around the word perceive the shapes, texture, and patterns of letters from 45 different written languages. The video below explains how it works:
Over on Vice, an interesting write-up on a growing movement in the field of linguistics: that the sounds of words or letterforms themselves can have direct relationships to their referent:
The Color Game did more than show how languages form over time, it violated a long-standing rule in linguistics: the rule of arbitrariness. In the subject of semiotics, or the use of signs and symbols to convey meaning, most students are taught about the theories of linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. He wrote that the letters and words in many writing and language systems have no relationship to what they refer to. The word “cat” doesn’t have anything particularly cat-like about it. The reason that “cat” means cat is because English speakers have decided so—it’s a social convention, not anything ingrained in the letters c-a-t. […] But the idea that words, or other signs, do actually relate to what they’re describing has been gaining ground. This is called iconicity: when a spoken or written word, or a gestured sign, is iconic in some way to what it’s referring to.
Aside from familiar English onomatopoeia like bang, chirp, etc., see the takete/maluma effect or bouba/kiki effect, as examples of words that “sound” like something. From the Vice article:
This effect extends beyond made up words. In 2021, researchers wrote about how words in English like ball, globe, balloon and hoop have more round vowels and sounds, compared to angular or spiky objects, such as spike, fork, cactus and shrapnel.
In 1939 there was a Broadway production of a jazz-themed Midsummer Night’s Dream called Swinging the Dream, featuring Butterfly McQueen, Louis Armstrong, Moms Mabley, Dorothy Dandridge, and many others (a cast of 110!), with music performed by Benny Goodman’s sextet joining the pit orchestra. It ran for less than 2 weeks before collapsing as a failure.
“I just want to know what happened, why that lineup crashes, and then why the show seems so entirely to disappear,” said Gregory Doran, the artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
“The critics are telling us that it did not hang together, that the mash-up did not work,” Kwei-Armah [artistic director of the Young Vic] said. “I’m interested in why it didn’t work. Also, just because they said that it didn’t work doesn’t mean that it didn’t work!”
Even if it was a failed concept on Broadway, it’s definitely an interesting inflection point for American theater, music, and race (it’s telling that the famous and celebrated Black performers were still relegated to the “secondary” roles in the play, the fairies and mechanicals, rather than acting in the lead love interest roles…)
Lippmann’s color photography process involved projecting the optical image as usual onto a photographic plate. The projection was done through a glass plate coated with a transparent emulsion of very fine silver halide grains on the other side. There was also a liquid mercury mirror in contact with the emulsion, so the projected light traveled through the emulsion, hit the mirror, and was reflected back into the emulsion.
The resulting plates are pretty cool looking, as seen in the video — very similar to the discovery of holography decades later — and technically they record a wider spectrum of color than our standard modern imaging techniques. He won the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his research, but the method was largely shelved due to the complexity of the process and the inability to make color prints, which also didn’t appear commercially until much later.
Ostensibly a bulleted list of thoughts about Cinema Verité, there are some interesting nuggets in this “declaration” of “truths” that Werner Herzog shared with Roger Ebert back in 1999:
7. Tourism is sin, and travel on foot virtue.
8. Each year at springtime scores of people on snowmobiles crash through the melting ice on the lakes of Minnesota and drown. Pressure is mounting on the new governor to pass a protective law. He, the former wrestler and bodyguard, has the only sage answer to this: “You can´t legislate stupidity.”
9. The gauntlet is hereby thrown down.
12. Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of a hell that during evolution some species – including man – crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.
We all know grief now. We grieve the people we loved, but also the people we were before this pandemic began. If you’re old enough, you add it to the grief you’ve accrued over the years: for the children we were, the hopes we had, the people we longed to be. But if you’re lucky, the art that you need still finds you. It reminds you of who you are when you’ve forgotten, and gives you the power to imagine a life beyond this one. It lets you believe that what you’ve been robbed of will be found, that your home will come alive.
Over on Tedium, a nostalgia bomb roundup of 10 image file formats that time forgot. I wouldn’t say that BMP or even TIFF are exactly forgotten, and VRML seems like the odd one out as a text-based markup language (but definitely in the zeitgeist this month with all of the nouveau metaverse talk), but many of these took me back to the good old days. Also I didn’t know that the Truevision TARGA hardware, remarkable for its time in the mid-1980s with millions of colors and alpha channel support, was an internal creation from AT&T (my dad worked for AT&T corporate back then, but all we got at home was the decidedly not-remarkable 2-color Hercules display on our AT&T 6300 PC). JPEG and GIF continue to dominate 30+ years later, but it’s interesting to see what could have been, if only some of these other systems jumped more heavily into file compression…