Typewriters, Time Travel, Spain, Blue, Horsepower

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The Chinese Typewriter

Jamie Fisher | LRB | 7th March 2018

“Nominally a book that covers the rough century between the invention of the telegraph in the 1840s and that of computing in the 1950s, ‘The Chinese Typewriter’ is secretly a history of translation and empire, written language and modernity, misguided struggle and brutal intellectual defeat. The Chinese typewriter was where empires met. A language incompatible with typewriter keys was incompatible with modernity, and bespoke an equally incompatible country” (3,750 words)

Till Tomorrow

Adam Roberts | New Atlantis | 6th March 2018

Farmers were the first time travellers, at least in their imagination. “Once we humans began to depend on planted crops and domesticated animals, our new mode of life absolutely required us to think ahead: to anticipate setbacks and think through solutions, to plan, to map out the future world — indeed, many potential future worlds. Time travel as mental exercise must have begun at least that early. And that makes this focus on recent modernity look a little parochial” (6,300 words)

The Keys Of This Paradise

Elizabeth Drayson | Conversation | 6th March 2018

Seven centuries of Muslim rule over southern Spain ended with the peaceful surrender of the Alhambra in Granada in January 1492. Christopher Columbus was among the courtiers attending Ferdinand and Isabella when they took the keys to the city from Abdallah Muhammad bin Ali, last sultan of the last stronghold of an empire which had stretched to the Pyrenees. It was the start of a new era — and the end of an old one in which Islam, Christianity and Judaism had coexisted tolerantly (850 words)

Marian Blue

Katy Kelleher | Paris Review | 6th March 2018

A history of the colour blue, from prehistory to Kandinsky. Early humans had no blue from the Earth until they found lapis lazuli, when blue became precious and sacred. “Marian blue became the official color of Jesus’s mother in the early fifth century. It’s a Mediterranean blue, a stony-jewel blue. During the first few centuries after Christ, worshipful painters typically depicted Mary in a red gown or wrapped in a pink mantle. But slowly, blue began to replace red as the color of choice” (1,850 words)

Why “Horsepower”?

Matthew Wills | JSTOR Daily | 6th March 2018

James Watt coined the term “horsepower” as a marketing tool in the 1770s; he wanted the world to measure his steam engines by the number of draft horses they would replace. But horses were still a vital source of energy a century later: in 1880 15,000 dead horses were removed from New York City’s streets. “The waste from the city’s 200,000 living horses presented another disposal problem: An individual horse produces 15-30 pounds of manure and a quart of urine per day” (560 words)

Video of the day Making Manuscripts

What to expect:

The Getty Museum explains the process from animal skin to illuminated manuscript (6’17”)

Thought for the day

Do what you feel in your heart to be right – you’ll be criticized anyway
Eleanor Roosevelt

Podcast of the day Pusher, MD | Capitalisn’t

Kate Waldock and Luigi Zingales of Chicago Booth Business School discuss America’s opioid crisis

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