The First True Animation: Celebrating Winsor McCay

July 2, 2011 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

By Maria Popova

A short silent film from 1911, Little Nemo, contains the seeds of one of the 20th century’s defining storytelling techniques 

Cartoonist and artist Winsor McCay (1869-1964) is often considered the father of true animation, pioneering the drawn image in film and influencing iconic creators for generations to come, from Walt Disney to Moebius to Bill Watterson. His celebrated Little Nemo comic strip appeared in the New York Herald and New York American newspapers between 1905 and 1911.

Upon the series end in print, McCay and J. Stuart Blackman, of Enchanted Drawing fame, co-directed a short silent film—though, at 10 minutes, it was practically feature-length by the standards of the early cinema era—about the process of creating comics. Winsor McCay, the Famous Cartoonist of the N.Y. Herald and His Moving Comics, also referred to simply as Little Nemo, is commonly considered one of the first bits of true animation ever created, exploring the frontiers of a then-nascent storytelling medium that we have now grown to take for granted. (For more on McCay’s work and legacy, I can’t recommend Winsor McCay : His Life and Art enough.)

The real action starts at around 8:11—enjoy, and ponder the remarkable technology-driven creative and artistic empowerment we have witnessed in our lifetimes.

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Meanwhile, a wonderful Kickstarter project is out to resurrect McCay’s last film, The Flying House. The film is in terrible condition and animator Bill Plimpton has set out to painstakingly clean each frame, hand-color it using reprints of McCay’s comics as color guides, and record voice actors for the two lead characters—an admirable effort to preserve a true gem of creative history.

Please join me in supporting it.

This post also appears on Brain Pickings.
Image: Winsor McCayThis article available online at:

The Atlantic Magazine


President Shot!!

July 2, 2011 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

While waiting in the oppessive heat at the railroad station that was summer in Washington, D.C., President James Garfield was gunned down by a person who some called a mad man. The date was July 2, 1881.


Garfield, was born in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the last of the “log cabin presidents”, in 1831. He served from Ohio in the House of Representatives beginning in 1862 after a brief stint in the military during the Civil War.

In 1880, he became a dark horse candidate for the office of the president on the 36th ballot. That fall he won a narrow victory over Democrat Winfield Scott Hancock also a veteran of the Civil War by a mere 10,000 votes.

While waiting for a train to take him to New England and away from the summer heat, Charles Guiteau an attorney and a person who sought a political position in the Garfield administration, shot the unguarded president in the back.

Though mortally wounded, Garfield in office only four months at the time of the shooting lingered for two and half months before succumbing to his wounds September 19th, 1881 making his tenue the second shortest term as president in American history.

On Day of Her 50th, Fans Gather to Remember Diana

July 1, 2011 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

By MATT DUNHAM Associated Press

LONDON July 1, 2011 (AP)

ABC Article

Admirers of the late Princess Diana gathered outside Kensington Palace on Friday, a bright sunny day that would have been the troubled royal’s 50th birthday.

Cards, a cake, a collage and other mementoes were among the gifts left at the gates of Kensington Palace, where Diana once lived — an echo of the massive, makeshift memorial set up there following her 1997 death in a Paris car crash.

“She would’ve been so popular still. Everyone would have been here to help celebrate,” said Kathy Martin, a 49-year-old childcare worker from Australia. “We’ll never get to see her grow old.”

Princess Diana
FILE — In this Dec. 11, 1995 file photo,… View Full Caption

Martin was one of several hardcore Diana loyalists at the gates — a testament to the hold the princess still has on many fans. They were joined by passers-by, tourists and other admirers, many of whom left cards.

Although her public image was the “People’s Princess,” Diana died at a time of turmoil in her life. A discreet and lengthy romance with heart surgeon Hasnat Khan had recently ended; her relationship with wealthy playboy Dodi Fayed, who died with her in the accident, was less than two months old.

Martin said it was probably because Diana died young — at only 36 — that she and others were still so drawn to her story.

“Marilyn Monroe was an icon, Grace Kelly was an icon, and Princess Diana was an icon,” she said. “They all died young. They’ll be remembered as princesses — beautiful, radiant, princesses.”

John Loughrey, a 56-year-old who attends just about every Diana-themed event, was the man behind the custom-made cake bearing her name in pink. He said Diana was “just like a magnet.”

“The press followed her everywhere and the people followed her everywhere,” he said. “Diana’s still here in spirit.”


A Monument to Exodusters

July 1, 2011 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 


JUNE 27, 2011 03:50 PM EDT

On a lonely, country road in Dunlap, Kan., a monument soars. An engraved stainless steel plaque stretches between two pillars of limestone and marks the family farm of a freed slave.

Built by Jack Davis, whose family bought the farm more than a century ago, the monument honors the thousands of African Americans who fled the lower Mississippi Valley for Kansas, seeking a better life.

Sometimes called “Exodusters,” a derogatory term coined by newspapers of the time, they’re former slaves who left the South in 1879 after Reconstruction failed to grant them the benefits of citizenry: the freedom to live as they chose, vote freely and own land. Instead, Reconstruction resulted in the Black Codes, new laws that reinforced oppression, exchanging the chains of slavery for the yoke of tenant farming and sharecropping.

But more than abject poverty, Exodusters fled the anarchy and violence that followed the Civil War when marauding ex-Confederate soldiers and angry Southerners forged the Ku Klux Klan. This “tide of disorder” swept through the South with its members stealing livestock, burning barns, terrorizing and killing African Americans.

Most immigrants were spurred by word of mouth, while others followed organizers such as Benjamin “Pap” Singleton of Tennessee and Henry Adams of Louisiana. Entire communities immigrated to Kansas, “the Garden Spot of the World” and home of abolitionist John Brown.

The story of the Exodusters is a difficult one to tell because, as historian Nell Irvin Painter writes in ” Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction,” it was a movement “of poor, rural Southern Blacks not sufficiently Westernized to write their own histories,” largely ignored by scholars.

It’s an important story to Davis, who built his monument to Kansas Exodusters and his family after a life-changing event: doctors diagnosed him with stage IV pancreatic cancer in spring 2010.

“My doctor finally listened to me in March 2010. She said I had spots and lesions on my liver,” Davis said. “I went to the VA (Veteran’s Administration). They said ‘don’t worry about your liver; you have stage IV pancreatic cancer. You have three months to live.’

“I just take life a day, a week at a time,” he said. “I have gone past the doctor’s timeline and am doing good. I could make it years longer. Not likely, but possible.”

So with the time he has left, he built the monument, which consists of donated steel and two massive slabs of limestone, purchased from Higgins Stone Co. of Wamego, Kan. The twin, rough-hewn pillars stand 10 feet out of the ground in the garden of the former family farm, which Davis sold in 2010 to his neighbors and friends Clayton and Patricia Finney, who moved in the area as a young couple and now operate a ranching business, Wright Creek Ltd.

There, Davis recalled, his family raised cattle, horses, hogs, chickens and other livestock, and grew wheat, milo, sorghum as silage for the cattle, corn, alfalfa and prairie hay.

“My grandfather always had a large garden. Everyone who came to our house, if they left hungry, it was their fault. I remember hearing the older folks say they starved, but if they went to the Davis place, they got full,” he said.

The son of a mixed-race couple, Davis didn’t grow up with his mother. “My daddy never married, and I haven’t either. I was the only child my dad had. Because of racial differences, families would not let them marry.”

As a child, he called his aunt Velera Davis “Mommie,” and would listen to her stories. “Since I was a child, I listened to the older folks talk. Unfortunately, my memories of the stories and the people are vague.”

One of his favorite memories of growing up in Kansas was the sense of connectedness.

“The older people were always ‘Cousin’ or ‘Aunt.’ It seemed like a big, extended family. They’ve since moved all over the U.S. and some are quite famous,” he said.

Davis also moved quite a bit, working as a “Jack of all trades, master of none,” he said.

His experience includes stints as a roofer, farmer, painter and a mechanic. He’s driven 18-wheelers in all 48 contiguous states, as well as dump and oil field trucks. A third assistant engineer, he’s served on ships around the world, including tankers, ore carriers, dive boats, supply boats and fish processors and catchers.

“I was going to sea making good money. While at home, I was rebuilding buildings and fences, trying to keep the place up,” he said. “Then, from 1979 to 1986, vandals destroyed the property. No one knew anything. My family tied up the farm. When I got it back, I could not rebuild. There were no others that I could pass it to that could and would successfully farm the place. I sold the family farm that my Dad and his father spent their lives building.”

It was a close friend’s eldest son, Terry Lyon, who helped “Uncle Jack” erect the monument along Road 300, Lyon County, in Americus, Kan.

“He has been an invaluable help, loaning tools, equipment, his help, the use of his place,” Jack said. “This would have been a lot more difficult without him.”

Although it is tucked away in rural Kansas, the monument is important to Davis personally, and should be important to the descendants of all Exodusters, he said.

“Very few people are even aware of the Exodusters. People forget, or deny, their history. Many have never heard of the contributions of their ancestors,” Davis said. “The descendants of the Kansas colonies have moved all over the U.S. and various countries. Some are successful; others are on welfare or in between.”

It is his hope that a local historical society will help preserve the monument. His lifelong friend Ustaine Talley, now in her 70s, is gathering notes and oral histories for the event. She is planning a dedication ceremony in August.

“I have tried to use durable materials so it will last for centuries,” he said. “I hope it lasts as long as the land.”


© 2008 SYS-CON Media Inc.


Chinese Party Marks Nine Decades

July 1, 2011 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

BEIJING—Eager to bolster its legitimacy in the eyes of an increasingly restive and Internet-savvy society, China’s Communist Party is marking its 90th anniversary Friday with a no-holds-barred campaign to reassert its airbrushed version of modern history.

For a Chinese leadership spooked by uprisings in the Arab world, the campaign is designed to hammer home the message that only the party could have engineered China’s emergence as the world’s second-largest economy, and only the party can keep raising living standards, while maintaining social stability.

Communist Party Marks 90 Years


Associated PressChinese paramilitary police took part in a celebration in Nanjing on Thursday before the 90th anniversary of the Communist Party. The party is marking the anniversary with a campaign to reassert its airbrushed version of modern history.

But for its critics its heavy-handed efforts are only highlighting the party’s failure to evolve politically and to come to terms with its own past, especially the 1958-61 Great Leap Forward—when millions starved to death in a push to jump-start industrialization—and the chaos of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

Propaganda czars appear to have spared no expense in their efforts, overseeing production of a star-studded feature film on the party’s founding, a weighty new history book on its first three decades in power, and countless exhibitions, television shows, newspaper editorials and revolutionary singing pageants.

To ensure the success of the film, “Beginning of the Great Revival,” cinemas have been barred from premiering Hollywood blockbusters during its run, many state employees have been ordered to watch it, and at least two entertainment websites appear to have stopped letting users review the film, which has garnered mixed responses since its release three weeks ago.

State media have also provided blanket coverage of leaders attending a string of lavish and rigidly choreographed anniversary events, including a four-hour song and dance extravaganza on Wednesday night that featured 1,500 performers, and was attended by the entire 25-member Politburo.

“History has proved that only the [Communist Party of China] can save China,” declared a commentary from state-run Xinhua news agency that was widely published across state media Thursday.

The domestic security apparatus, meanwhile, has been using increasingly arbitrary and extrajudicial methods to silence the party’s most prominent critics, including China’s most famous contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, even after many of them have been released from custody.

On Wednesday, Beijing police visited the home of Mao Yushi, an 83-year-old liberal economist who isn’t related to Chairman Mao Zedong and has been highly critical of his policies, as well as of an increasingly vocal campaign to rehabilitate his memory in the last few months.

The police told him he had to cancel a planned interview with the Voice of America that evening and was no longer permitted to give interviews about the founder of Communist China, Prof. Mao said.

“I was very surprised—I’ve never experienced anything like this in recent times,” said Prof. Mao, who has also received threatening telephone calls and emails since Maoist revivalist websites launched a campaign to have him prosecuted for criticizing Chairman Mao in a recent book review. “The government’s aim is to emphasize the legitimacy of the party—that is their purpose—so they are avoiding talking about the party’s mistakes.”

Like many Chinese of his generation, he said he personally suffered under Chairman Mao, almost dying of hunger during the Great Leap Forward, when he estimated that 80 or more people in his village of 700 starved to death.

He and other liberal Chinese have long hoped the party will edge toward reassessing its past, especially as a new generation of leaders, many of whom were forced to work in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, prepares to take power next year.

Instead, the party appears to be moving in the opposite direction, growing increasingly reluctant to acknowledge publicly even the mistakes it has admitted in the past.

In an exhibition at the newly opened National Museum in Beijing, only two small photographs make fleeting and oblique references to the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. A recent exhibition of party documents included none from that tumultuous period.

The party’s struggle with its own past was particularly evident in the compilation of “The History of the Chinese Communist Party Volume Two (1949-1978),” which was finally published in January, 16 years after it was begun.


Associated PressA tourist dressed as a Communist Red Army soldier poses for photos in front of a Mao Zedong’s poster at an old Communist Party base in Yan’an, in northwestern China.



The first draft was finished in 1999, but its content was so sensitive that it took the party’s top leaders another 12 years to review and revise it.

Hu Sheng, the director of the party’s History Research Office who conceived the book, died halfway through the process.

Shi Zhongquan, a former deputy director of the History Research Office who took part in the project, said the initial aim had been to reassess the official verdict on the period. Earlier accounts had admitted, for example, that the population dropped 10 million in 1960, but hadn’t given an overall death toll for the Great Leap Forward, which some historians put as high as 30 million-45 million.

In the end, though, the new book reinforced the earlier verdict, and stuck with 10 million, because it was too complicated to forge a consensus among leaders, according to Prof. Shi.

“We Chinese have this tradition of not writing history of our own time,” he said. “We believe it’s better to wait for the history to settle and subside first, so we can see clearer.”

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July 1st, 1892

June 30, 2011 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

Labor unrest hits three states on this day. Steel workers in Pennsylvania strike against Homestead Mill on the Monongahela River. The mill is owned by Andrew Carnegie. Strikes occur in Tennessee and Idaho as well.

The strike at the Homestead Mill will last five months, but no real tangible gains are achieved by labor.

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