Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Postblogging Technology, October 1952, II: Chess, Not Checkers


Dear Father:
So we are now very much in the middle of a genuine school year with class work and also my domestic obligations, and yet somehow these letters still reach you and you should be very grateful because there is nothing more fun than reading about exciting technological developments in the field of cataloguing chemicals and getting rid of vacuum tubes in magnetic amplifiers. Which is to say that I don't see anything too crazy or interesting in the science news this month.

I'm kidding! Obviously the most fun thing we could possibly read about is Richard Nixon crying on television. There is something off about that man, and it is not just because I disagree with his politics. As for the letter, I will admit that I have treated The Engineer lightly, but it is in there. For one thing, for reasons of timing of news stand dates, The Engineer, which is not the paper (as Uncle George would say) that I go to for breaking news, is the first of my magazines to cover the biggest "science and technology" story of the back end of the month at least, "Mr. Churchill's (GRRRR!) bomb." 

So I officially, finally, have all the magazines I had before my diphtheria quarantine, although don't expect me to start hitting myself on the head with Time again on a regular basis. Newsweek might not be a very good news magazine, but it has better pictures.

Your Loving Daughter,


PS: Since I know you don't follow Hollywood gossip, especially gossip printed in Newsweek, which is not where you go for good gossip --if gossip can be good, come on, let me have this one-- but someone, probably  Linda Darnell, is dragging the College Man's boy into her attempts to land a movie. I know he's not our favourite or closest relative, but blood is blood, so maybe someone could have a polite but firm chat with Miss Darnell?

Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XXVI: A Bronze Age/Iron Age Transition in the Maghreb?


So, three things: i) There is no way that I am not posting this ad, especially the week I read Edith Outland on "the Effingham libels." Man, did Horace Greeley know how to stick in the knife! ii) I'm off on a bonus week of vacation to see my Mom, so I'm looking for a blog post that requires more wandering-around-the-Intenet-at-the-kitchen-table than blasting away at the keyboard whilst surrounded by ancient tomes. iii) Lameen has confirmed that "there was no North African Bronze Age" is something people say. 

I have academic confirmation of the commonplace that makes it a bit less bizarre, but there is a deeper problem in that there seems to be a lack of communication between research silos. Something isn' t right in the prehistory of the Maghreb.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Postblogging Technology, October 1952, I: The Public Interest

"Canon," it turns out, is the Japanese form of Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Mercy. Gung Hey Fat Choy!


Dear Father:

I have now had a month to test the idea that third year law school isn't a very serious affair, and so far the conventional wisdom seems about right. Most of my classmates are looking for jobs with firms which they will hold as "articling students" while they prepare to pass the bar so that they can be real lawyers. So many hurdles to jump over! Once again, I am going to fall behind  my classmates for family reasons, but while it is not fair, it is the life that we wives have signed up for. Although I can't remember actually signing up for something? I must have, though. No-one would just impose these rules on you!

Yes, yes, women complaining. And meanwhile I am telling you how to do your business (developing subdivisions departments.) But there really is just the most interesting article about Levittown in the current Fortune and all the men in the family (but especially Uncle Henry) should read it. 

All that said, I do actually have some homework to do, so I should go do it, signing myself,

Your Loving Daughter,


Saturday, January 14, 2023

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, 1943--1952: Uhm, The Electric Typewriter?


I was going through my folder of ads looking for a typewrite ad specifically when I found this. (Truth in advertising: I was going in alphabetical order, so it didn't exactly take very long to be distracted by an "Atlantic Petroleum" ad.)

The point here, and it is my point, is that it is difficult to pinpoint just when female-friendly ads like this faded away. I thought that the new age of Playboy and male supremacy was going to be signalled by a pickup in cheesecake ads; but while this perception may be influenced by the absence of Fortune from my roundup since the beginning of the pandemic, that hasn't obviously happened, and the main harbinger of the new age has been more editorial, with the increasingly strident anti-communism content of news stories and the McGraw-Hill linewide editorials. 

The one place that women remain prominent and in a leading role in editorial content is in the business machine market, which is  just as prominent on the page as I make it out to be in the postblogging posts. 

NCR might not have made typewriters, but it did spring for colour!

 These do include plenty of typewriter ads, but none as female-centric or as eyecatching as the long series of ads for NCR's accounting machines. The semiotics of the ads vary from all female casts showing off the machine's features to bosses overlooking the operator who can be read as either admiring or patronising --me not being smart enough at that whole "deconstruction" thing to tell the difference-- and this one, which has four vignettes for the price of one. The one male is the white-coated technician, either advising or receiving operator feedback; and so this is the one I went with.

All of this raises the question which has been implicit all along, but which I just twigged to the other day: What about the electric typewriter? We've been hearing a great deal from the frontiers of aviation about the adoption of powered controls, but here is a very old frontier in automation and disintermediation. How did the manual operation of a 120wpm typewriter turn into the operation of an electric appliance at 10 discrete, controlled operations a second? What's the story?

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Iron Age Revival of the State, XXV, With Bonus Gathering the Bones Content: Shining New City on a Hill


By Jean-Yves Monchambert

Queen Dido of Carthage has come up in this blog in two very different contexts. First, "an urn said to contain the ashes of Dido" appears in the main room of Temple Hall in the hamlet of Templeton on the shores of Glimmerglass, in James Fenimore Cooper's The Pioneers: Or, the Source of the Susquehanna. It is part of a set of enigmatic images in a place where we would expect to see ancestral portraits, and is such a ludicrously obvious CLUE that we really ought to be taking it as a hint that this is a puzzle we're being invited to unravel. In this case, not to drag it out at any length, Dido committed suicide on her own funeral pyre in the Temple of Venus at the summit of the Byrsa citadel of Carthage. This is more than enough references to "Temples" (there are more!) to read the clue as saying that one of the author's grandfathers is not who the genealogists say he was (Richard Fenimore), but rather Benjamin Franklin's illegitimate son, William Temple Franklin. Whether this is true is another matter. 

Dido (click this link for the ear worm song) has also come up in her own right as the mythical Queen of Tyre who fled the oppression of her brother, Pygmalion, and founded the city of Carthage on the Tunisian shore of North Africa in either shortly after the fall of Troy, or, more plausibly, 814BC. This discussion is going to develop the claim that she staged her voyage of colonisation from Cyprus, from which her alternative name, "Elissa" is derived from the name of the Great Goddess of Cyprus, per Marie-Pierre Noel's theory, giving me an excuse to embed a performance that isn't "White Flag" or Purcell's "Dido's Lament:"

This post is brought to you, indirectly, by the algorithm's helpful habit of recommending that I read articles that I'm obviously interested in because I have already read them. There are not, as it happens, any useful articles on the founding of Carthage at the site, as near as I can tell, but a search turned up the fact that  when I tried to find some I found instead that Saro Wallace published a new monograph in 2029, Travelling Through Time: Imagining Movement in the Ancient Aegean World (Amazon link).

This is absolutely my jam. I'm not going to precisely review it  here because anything I say would just shed an uncomfortable light on my totally-not-creepy Saro Wallace bedroom shrine. What I am going to do is work a discussion of it into the Academia algorithm-inspired brief survey of recent work on the foundation of Carthage, with maybe some brief asides about Fenimore Cooper's explanation of the foundation of America as a creole aristocracy that forgot itself.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Postblogging Technology, September 1952, II: Well, When?

R_. C_.,

Dear Father:

Well, here I am back in Palo Alto the good, having missed the first two weeks of classes, and definitely not on the Dean's good books until I unleashed all  my feminine wiles and broached the unbroachable. We agreed between us that as the blessed event is not until May, I can finish and graduate on time, and after that it is between me and the California Bar. So that is all that done as long as I can just finish third year, which may or may not be the complete formality my classmates think it is!

Reggie says that he is absolutely fine with everyday squadron service as long as  his home port is somewhere as exciting as Morocco, and that he can't wait for me to join him and help him find out about Moroccan cooking. I will be over before Christmas, but if previous experience is any guide, I won't be up for exotic food!   

Your Loving Daughter,


PS: I notice on rereading that I intimated that there are stories about Justice Douglas. No, I am not repeating them. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

The Bishop's Sea: St. Nicholas


St. Nicholas, Washington Irving tells us, was first seen by a Dutch scouting party checking out Manhattan. Shipwrecked on its shores, they had a vision in which good St. Nicholas came riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children." St. Nicholas becomes the founding father of New York, which is why he is the patron of he New-York Historical Society, founded in 1804, and to which Washington Irving belonged when, in 1809, he published this in an extended parody of Samuel L. Mitchell's Picture of New-York, the publishing sensastion that was Irving's History of New-York. The history of Santa Claus being a crowded field, especially at this time of the year, I'll leave the rest to silence except for the confusion of dates for St. Nicholas' advent, whether on the 6th of December, the 24th, 25th, or New Year's Eve, and the indigenous North American parallel that seems relevant  here, Le canoe volant, or, as the Wikipedia entry more primly has it, La Chasse-galerie, which in the story carries voyageurs home to their loved ones on New Years Eve. And, as always, I should acknowledge the brilliant connection that Lauren Golf makes between the legend of the flying canoe and the Sullivan Expedition, or boats floating above the flooded countryside in general. 

But "the first Christmas" in North America was at the second permanent European colony in North America, Port Royal, Nova Scotia. It was celebrated by Samuel de Champlain, Membertou, the sachem of the Micmacs, and Champlain's Order of Good Cheer, more than two centuries before in 1605.