sovay: (Rotwang)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2015-02-12 05:50 pm

I thought I was the stranger around here

Yesterday was pretty much nothing but proofreading in order to make up for the previous day being pretty much nothing but being behind on work. Today it is snowing again. It is one of my fervent hopes that the infrastructure disaster that is currently the MBTA (closing again over the weekend, I have just learned) will put paid to any notions of Boston being ready for the Olympics.

1. Courtesy of [ profile] derspatchel: the Doves were not all drowned. After a painstaking restoration of the hundred-year-old typeface as a digital font, the designer has recovered a hundred and fifty pieces of the original, spitefully discarded lead type from the Thames. I find that this makes me extraordinarily happy.

2. Courtesy of [ profile] sairaali: Alan Turing's codebreaking notes found weatherstripping a Bletchley hut. And when I say "notes," I mean "top-secret ephemera." Banbury sheets. Workings-out. Scrap papers that should have been destroyed as soon as their writers were done with them, but the huts were jerry-built and drafty and someone needs to stuff something in the cracks before we all come down with pneumonia. How much do I love that some of the notes are indecipherable? "Nobody seems to be able to work out what they are—we've sent things off to GCHQ—and there are a number of items that we've yet to understand properly. We're unveiling a mystery."

3. Apparently it is Darwin Day. So here is my favorite picture of Charles Darwin: a daguerreotype taken in 1842 with his oldest child William. I saw it for the first time in 2006, when all the images I'd ever seen of Darwin were white-bearded and patriarchal, the elder statesman of evolution. I looked at this one and thought of no one so much as Bob Cratchit, with one of the innumerable little Cratchits on his lap. (Larger, black-and-white here.)

4. Mystery Street (1950) is a delightful, solid little film noir with the distinction of being the first Hollywood production filmed in Boston. If you enjoy time capsules, it is a godsend of location shooting, from a perfectly recognizable Harvard Yard and Beacon Hill to the bars of Scollay Square and a showdown in the railyards of Trinity Station. Boston accents are negligible to hilarious, but the degree and technical detail of forensic science onscreen is unmatched by anything I've seen from its decade. There is also the pleasure of Ricardo Montalbán starring as a Latino detective in a plot that acknowledges racism without characterizing its protagonist by his race: it's not about whether a detective named Moralas can crack a murder case in Boston, which in 1950 almost guarantees a well-meaning, clunky message picture; it's about whether Lieutenant Peter Moralas from Barnstable County can crack a six-month cold case with nothing but a skeleton dug out of Hyannis sand to go on, relative inexperience and institutional prejudice not helping any. He's a terrific noir lead, a bright, capable, ambitious outsider who is neither tragically flawed nor infallible; he comes very close to railroading an innocent man because the circumstantial evidence is so tidy and the pressure for an arrest is so high (and the stakes for a marginalized detective with his first murder case are even higher: "Up in the Portuguese district where I'm assigned, it's mostly small stuff"), but the little discrepancies pull him back at the last minute, some scientific, some emotional, because he is in fact very good at his job. He has to be. This is a film that recognizes microaggressions, even if it doesn't have the word for them—a wealthy, WASPy suspect openly sneers at Moralas, reminding the blue-collar, lightly accented detective that "there was a Harkley around these parts long before there was a U.S.A.," but even his coworkers joke, when they see him playing handball in a concrete court by himself, "Still knocking down walls, huh?" Many a noir protagonist is a loner by temperament; Moralas is a loner because everyone else assigned to the "Skeleton Girl" case is a white Boston cop. The film is also strikingly attentive to the position of women in the story, from the blackmailing B-girl murder victim to her waitress housemate who knows how to handle a .45 to the wife of a jailed man packing up their small apartment because she can't pay the rent with her husband awaiting trial instead of working a steady job. We watched it for the city and were delighted by the results. Elsa Lanchester steals a bunch of scenes as the murdered girl's amoral landlady; she would have made a hell of a Mrs. Lovett. I couldn't help thinking that Touch of Evil (1958) would have been so much better with Montalbán instead of Charlton Heston. And it's not like that film's not a classic or anything.

5. The elephant selkie Valentine.
yhlee: icosahedron (d20) (d20 (credit: bag_fu on LJ))

[personal profile] yhlee 2015-02-12 11:37 pm (UTC)(link)
Turing's codebreaking notes! So cool.
skygiants: Clopin from Notre-Dame de Paris throwing his hands up in the air (clopin says wtfever)

[personal profile] skygiants 2015-02-13 01:02 am (UTC)(link)
Hah, soon as I started reading your description of Mystery Street I shrieked "WHY wasn't Montalban cast in Touch of Evil?" in my head.
skygiants: Clopin from Notre-Dame de Paris; text 'sans misere, sans frontiere' (comment faire un monde)

[personal profile] skygiants 2015-02-14 02:57 pm (UTC)(link)
(It's Clopin in the French musical Notre-Dame de Paris, which is ... bizarre in many respects ... but WHICH I LOVE and which does do a really good job of turning things that were quite uncritically racist in the original novel into vivid callouts of racist and exclusionary policies.)
skygiants: Sokka from Avatar: the Last Airbender points fingerguns (sokka says stay cool)

[personal profile] skygiants 2015-02-16 04:12 pm (UTC)(link)
I did in fact! With a lot of enthusiastic if low-quality screencaps.
gwynnega: (lordpeter mswyrr)

[personal profile] gwynnega 2015-02-12 11:04 pm (UTC)(link)
I'd never even heard of Mystery Street! It's surprising it took Hollywood until 1950 to shoot anything in Boston...

[identity profile] 2015-02-12 11:35 pm (UTC)(link)
I thought they hadn't officially decided to close, but Walsh was Strongly Urging them to?

re: #2 -- whoa. Actually, ditto that for Mystery Street.

[identity profile] 2015-02-13 12:37 am (UTC)(link)
1. and 2. are both fabulous news. I love the picture of Darwin: that pride under those beetling brows!(edit: I went to Down House a few years ago. All I can recall of it now is the story about earthworms and a conservatory full of pitcher plants.) And that card wins Valentine.
Edited 2015-02-13 00:41 (UTC)

[identity profile] 2015-02-13 04:58 am (UTC)(link)
He looks like a wonderfully affectionate parent.

He was. His granddaughter Gwen Raverat recounts “the tale of how Uncle Lenny was found jumping up and down on the springs of the new sofa, an exercise which had been forbidden. His father said: 'Oh, Lenny, Lenny!' to which Lenny replied: 'I think you had better go out of the room.'”


[identity profile] 2015-02-13 03:24 pm (UTC)(link)
He kept his kids' (admittedly awesome) drawings (, too. I'm sure he'd have posted them on the refrigerator with magnets, if such had been the custom at the time.

[identity profile] 2015-02-13 04:28 pm (UTC)(link)
Those are fabulous ^_^

[identity profile] 2015-02-13 08:37 pm (UTC)(link)
*What's the story about earthworms?*

Darwin decided to count how many there were in his garden. He worked out an average per acre, then piled thousands of worms on his billiard table, where he then proceeded to blow tobacco smoke at them to test their reactions. His son played a bassoon at them, too. There's probably a reason why "Earthworms" was his last book...
weirdquark: Stack of books (Default)

[personal profile] weirdquark 2015-02-13 02:17 am (UTC)(link)
It looks like just the Red and Orange line are having limited service? It doesn't mention the rest of them. I'm hoping the Silver line will still be running, otherwise getting to the hotel for Boskone will be extra exciting.

ETA: Oh wait, never mind, I found other updates. Looks like I should be okay for tomorrow, though there likely will be delays.
Edited 2015-02-13 02:21 (UTC)

[identity profile] 2015-02-13 03:39 am (UTC)(link)
From what WBZ radio was saying, Sunday's likely to be most likely to be closed.

(I could use likely again?)

[identity profile] 2015-02-13 02:53 am (UTC)(link)
Best miscellany ever!

Love it all.


[identity profile] 2015-02-13 03:41 am (UTC)(link)
That's a great picture of Darwin; I don't think I've seen one of him at that point in his life, though I've seen both older and younger ones. The baby looks pretty fed up with this sitting still for photography thing.


[identity profile] 2015-02-13 04:15 am (UTC)(link)
I'm vaguely recalling a picture of him in a book I had about the voyage of the Beagle when I was a child, but it might have been a sketch, and thus just a product of the artist's imagination.

Having poked around, though, I think it was the George Richmond portrait I was thinking of, though maybe a sketch version rather than a reproduction of the photograph.

Here's a link:


[identity profile] 2015-02-13 05:01 am (UTC)(link)
That might be the youngest adult portrait. There are a couple of him as a child. I find myself sorry that he grew those sideburns.


[identity profile] 2015-02-13 04:54 am (UTC)(link)
Rule of thumb: Richmond drew EVERYBODY. Everybody with a bit of tin, anyway.

[identity profile] 2015-02-13 05:00 am (UTC)(link)
Yes, when I looked Richmond up, the first thing I saw was THE portrait of Charlotte Bronte. Though I am not sure how much tin she had.


[identity profile] 2015-02-13 02:29 pm (UTC)(link)
OMG, that Sule Skerry valentine, I needed it.

[identity profile] 2015-02-13 04:27 pm (UTC)(link)
The valentines! The valentines. And the portrait of Darwin made me wonder if you'd seen the thing of his methodical pros and cons of whether or not to get married (maybe you blogged it? In which case yes, yes you did see it. Or [ profile] teenybuffalo did? It's hilarious.) He does look sweetly paternal there.

And WOW about Alan Turing's notes. That's staggering.

And Mystery Street sounds like a must-see. To Netflix!

PS--and the doves! How could I have neglected them. The theme of this entry is precious finds, I'd say.
Edited 2015-02-13 16:30 (UTC)

[identity profile] 2015-02-18 02:58 am (UTC)(link)
I have purchased a multi-user license for Five. If you email me (I'm elizabethh over at gmail) I will send you the link to download it.

[identity profile] 2015-02-18 03:00 am (UTC)(link)
Dove, not Five. Drat phones.