Chicago Graffiti Among World’s Best

Speaking to U.S.

I have a certain fondness for graffiti, because if it is done well, if it is more than just someone’s scribbled moniker, it becomes Art. In fact, there is quite a lot of graffiti in Chicago that is just simply Art. I call it Street Art to distinguish graffiti I like from what is just juvenilia.1 The lack of permanence is part of the energy of the work, but apparently, Richard Daley contributed to Chicago’s cultural life in this instance without realizing it. I’ve visited a lot of cities, and Chicago has some of the best guerilla artists anywhere.

Remember When Art Asked More than buy me?

For nearly 20 years, Chicago and Cook County have waged war on graffiti.

The city estimates it will spend $5.5 million to remove graffiti this year, and despite a $487 million budget deficit, the Cook County board renewed its commitment to the cleanup by rejecting Sheriff Thomas J. Dart’s proposal to scrap a suburban graffiti-removal unit costing $600,000 a year.

But the anti-graffiti strategy — deploying crews called graffiti blasters to quickly erase or blot out painted surfaces — has imposed a kind of natural-selection process in the graffiti subculture. By discouraging all but the shrewdest and most determined practitioners, the city and county have inadvertently contributed to making Chicago a vibrant hub of graffiti activity, according to experts.

“It made Chicago graffiti an aggressive and competitive sport,” said Sebastian Napoli, 32, who began writing graffiti around the city in the 1990s when writers called Chicago “the chocolate city” after the brown paint used to cover their work. The enforcement efforts “weeded out guys that get up once or twice and tried to call themselves writers,” Mr. Napoli said.

Roger Gastman, co-author of “The History of American Graffiti” (HarperCollins), said Chicago was “the biggest scene in the U.S. that is the most undocumented.” The book, to be published next month, explores graffiti in several cities and devotes two chapters to Chicago. It will be the first look into the city’s elusive subculture since William Upski Wimsatt’s self-published “Bomb the Suburbs” in 1994.

According to Mr. Gastman and his co-author, Caleb Neelon, the rise of Chicago’s new breed of graffiti writers dates to Mayor Richard M. Daley’s campaign to eradicate graffiti as part of preparations for the 1994 World Cup games at Soldier Field and the 1996 Democratic National Convention.

(click here to continue reading Crackdown Feeds a Flourishing World of Graffiti / Chicago News Cooperative.)

Blago Jogging on May Street

I Love You Set One - Goose Island Train

I have a bunch of photos of Chicago street art, if you want to see some examples I’ve encountered. Click here, or here for instance. Or use the Lightbox slideshow (click the triangle to start the show)

She Wandered Alone

  1. What is Street Art? By my loosy-goosey definition, simply art I’ve discovered that isn’t in a gallery. Most of it is graffiti art, and semi-permanent as well, but that isn’t a requirement. []

links for 2011-02-03

“Little Milton – Greatest Hits (Chess 50th Anniversary Collection)” (Little Milton)

  • Italian researchers who specialize in resolving art mysteries said Wednesday they have discovered the disputed identity of the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa — and claimed he was a man. Silvano Vinceti, chairman of the Italian national committee for cultural heritage, said the Florence-born Renaissance artist’s male apprentice and possible lover Salai was the main inspiration for the picture.
    (tags: arts Italy)

Banksy half-assed

Banksy half-assed
Banksy half-assed, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

I think Chicago got less interesting work than other places.…


From an interview with First District Alderman Joe Moreno:

Who’s getting tagged in your ward? The tagging is mostly happening to small and independently owned, women-owned, minority-owned businesses: boutiques, restaurants, and clothing shops. Our community is an artists’ community, but we don’t want to have people putting their own paint on small business owners’ shops.

I moved to Wicker Park 14 years ago because of the artists, and I want to preserve that. But in my mind, tagging isn’t permissible.

What if a super-famous street artist like Banksy, who paid us a visit not long ago, created a piece on one of your constituents’ facades without asking? Would you make an exception for Banksy? Permission has to be granted. I would hope he’d work with a pro-art, progressive alderman like myself, and we could have his art displayed. And he could perhaps even get paid for it.

How would that happen? Well, I’ve been taking on this issue in two ways: the illegal removal side, and also in promoting spaces for street artists to show their work off and get paid for it. I’m working with various parties to make their walls accessible to street art. Brooklyn Industries also has an initiative for artists to use their exterior wall for street-art purposes that would be traditionally seen as graffiti.

How many of these specially designated wall initiatives have you worked on since becoming alderman? There’s two right now, and I’m working on two or three others to get permission. But I’d like to expand it. I’m also working with a gallery to do an art installation on the el platform.

(click to continue reading Even Banksy Has to Follow the Rules in Proco Joe’s Ward | The Blog | Chicago Reader.)

Cartier-Bresson opening

Cartier-Bresson opening
Cartier-Bresson opening, originally uploaded by swanksalot.…

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone
Lens: John S
Flash: Off
Film: Pistil

plan on going to this, maybe not for the opening, but before it leaves

This exhibition of nearly 300 images is the first full retrospective devoted to Cartier-Bresson in three decades. It includes both his formally groundbreaking early images and his historically significant postwar work—in India and Indonesia during struggles for independence, in China during the revolution, in the Soviet Union following Stalin’s death—that redefined the field of photojournalism.

Following an exquisite presentation of the best of the early work, the exhibition is organized as a series of distinct sections. Several of these sections are devoted to his work in countries such as the United States, the Soviet Union, and France. Other sections present the themes that preoccupied Cartier-Bresson throughout his career: portraiture, the persistence of ancient customs and patterns of life, the transformation of these patterns by modern industry and commerce, the poetry of human encounters on the street, and the psychology of the crowd.

The retrospective, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, shows the rich interplay between Cartier-Bresson the artist, gifted at capturing the flux of life, and Cartier-Bresson the photojournalist whose lens shaped our understanding of seismic political and cultural changes across the second half of the 20th century. This retrospective is the first to draw upon the extraordinary resources and cooperation of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris. It will premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in February 2010 and after its Chicago showing, travels to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


“The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name” (Toby Lester)

Since his name came up in a book I’m reading12 called The Fourth Part of the World

Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Jabir ibn Sinan ar-Raqqi al-Harrani as-Sabi al-Batani (Arabic محمد بن جابر بن سنان البتاني `Abū `Abd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Jābir ibn Sinān ar-Raqqī al-Ḥarrānī aṣ-Ṣābi` al-Battānī c. 858, Harran – 929, Qasr al-Jiss, near Samarra) Latinized as Albategnius, Albategni or Albatenius was an Arab astronomer, astrologer, and mathematician, born in Harran near Urfa, which is now in Turkey. His epithet as-Sabi suggests that among his ancestry were members of the Sabian sect; however, his full name affirms that he was Muslim.

One of his best-known achievements in astronomy was the determination of the solar year as being 365 days, 5 hours, 46 minutes and 24 seconds.
His work, the Zij influenced great European astronomers like Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, etc. Nicholas Copernicus repeated what Al-Battani wrote nearly 700 years before him as the Zij was translated into Latin thrice.
The modern world has paid him homage and named a region of the moon Albategnius after him.

Al Battani worked in Syria, at ar-Raqqah and at Damascus, where he died. He was able to correct some of Ptolemy’s results and compiled new tables of the Sun and Moon, long accepted as authoritative, discovered the movement of the Sun’s apogee, treated the division of the celestial sphere, and introduced, probably independently of the 5th century Indian astronomer Aryabhata, the use of sines in calculation, and partially that of tangents, forming the basis of modern trigonometry. He also calculated the values for the precession of the equinoxes (54.5″ per year, or 1° in 66 years) and the inclination of Earth’s axis (23° 35′). He used a uniform rate for precession in his tables, choosing not to adopt the theory of trepidation attributed to his colleague Thabit ibn Qurra.

His most important work is his zij, or set of astronomical tables, known as al-Zīj al-Sābī with 57 chapters, which by way of Latin translation as De Motu Stellarum by Plato Tiburtinus (Plato of Tivoli) in 1116 (printed 1537 by Melanchthon, annotated by Regiomontanus), had great influence on European astronomy. The zij is based on Ptolemy’s theory, showing little Indian influence. A reprint appeared at Bologna in 1645. Plato’s original manuscript is preserved at the Vatican; and the Escorial Library possesses in manuscript a treatise by Al Battani on astronomical chronology.

[Click to continue reading Muhammad ibn Jābir al-Harrānī al-Battānī – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Al-Battani’s book, On the Science of the Stars, apparently discusses

the system proposed by Bartholomeus and confirmed by the ancients, in which the places and regions of the world are noted according to latitude and longitude.

  1. on my iPad, if you are curious []
  2. thanks to a tip by phule []

Alterman on the Retirement of Bill Moyers

On the topic of the imminent retirement of Bill Moyers, Eric Alterman recounts, in part:

Socios TV Service

Nearly twenty years ago, I spoke to Edward R. Murrow’s top producer, Fred Friendly, who told me he thought of Bill Moyers as “the Murrow of our time…the broadcaster who most upholds his mantle.” But while Murrow remains television journalism’s most admired historical figure, it’s all but inarguable that Moyers long ago surpassed his achievements.

This is no knock on Murrow, who, after all, spent most of his career on radio. His See It Now–the program that helped take down Joe McCarthy in 1954–enjoyed just four years of life in a regular prime-time slot before it gradually disappeared as an occasional series, unable to find a sponsor. Defenestrated at CBS, Murrow gave up on network news entirely and accepted John Kennedy’s offer to head up the USIA in 1961. But when Bill Moyers likewise found his brand of journalism unwelcome on network news, he had another option. He was able to return to PBS, where he had begun his career as a broadcaster fifteen years earlier. With his decision to found his own production company, Public Affairs Television (PAT), together with his wife and executive producer, Judith Davidson Moyers, he assured himself complete editorial independence, and in the quarter-century that followed, he fashioned a body of work without parallel in the medium’s brief history.

Who but Bill Moyers could have devoted so much time to the work of Joseph Campbell and Robert Bly; done television’s most hard-hitting reporting on the Iran/Contra scandal; investigated the media’s failure in Iraq; defined the human impact of economic inequality; examined the ability of corporations to manipulate the “public mind”; evaluated the real-world impact on local communities of corporate-driven “free trade” agreements; devoted hours and hours of TV to a poetry festival, to the Book of Genesis, to the sources of addiction and to the relationship between the environment and religion, etc.? The variety of topics, moreover, is only half the story. Moyers’s methods were unique. Where else but on a Bill Moyers program were Nobel laureates and laid-off steelworkers invited to speak at length to America, without interruption or condescension?

Bill and I have been friends–and frequent professional collaborators–for nearly two decades. But we first met in Managua in 1987, where he and his crew were talking to protesters outside the US Embassy for his landmark PBS special on The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis. Not long afterward, I spent months speaking to his co-workers at CBS and elsewhere for a magazine profile of him. All were eager to talk, as we were in the midst of one of many brief “Draft Moyers for President” movements, though a few were conflicted. Some felt abandoned by his decision to leave CBS and quit fighting the good fight for network news; but most remained grateful for the opportunities his work had offered them. Onetime CBS Morning News producer Jon Katz told me, “When you work with Bill, it ruins you for everyone else.” Yes, Moyers would “drive the executives berserk with his agonizing over everything, and getting him on the morning news was like a three-month Kabuki dance every time. But the end result was the most brilliant stuff we ever had.”

[Click to continue reading Bill Moyers Retires]

I Will Miss Bill Moyers

The Bill Moyers Journal was one of the few news shows I watched with regularity1. I will miss him as he retires at the end of this month.

Yellow Line Fever

Thanks to all of you who wrote to express your disappointment and dismay at hearing me say last week that the JOURNAL will be coming to an end with the April 30th broadcast. My team and I were touched by your messages, but I want to disabuse those of you who fear that we are being pushed off the air by higher-ups at PBS pointing to the door and demanding that we go. Not so. PBS doesn’t fund the JOURNAL; our support comes from foundations and our sole corporate funder, Mutual of America. Together they’ve given me an independence rare for broadcast journalists. Our reporting and analysis trigger controversy from many quarters, as any strong journalism will, but not one – not one! – of my funders has ever mentioned to me the complaints directed their way. They would continue their support if I were to stick around.

I’m leaving for one reason alone: It’s time to go. I’ll be 76 in a few weeks, and while I don’t consider myself old (my father lived into his 80s, my mother into her 90s) there are some things left to do that the deadlines and demands of a weekly broadcast don’t permit. At 76, it’s now or never. I actually informed my friends at PBS of my decision over a year ago, and planned to leave at the end of last December. But they asked me to continue another four more months while they prepare a new series for Friday night broadcast. I agreed, but said at the time – April 30 and not a week longer.

It wasn’t easy deciding to close the JOURNAL. I like what I do, I cherish my colleagues, and my viewers remain loyal and engaged. I will miss the virtual community that has grown up around the broadcast – kindred spirits across the country whose unseen but felt presence reminds me of why I have kept at this work so long. But it has indeed been a long time (almost 40 years since I launched the original JOURNAL in 1971), and that’s why I can assure you that my departure is entirely voluntary. “Time brings everything,” an ancient wise man said. Including new beginnings.

[Click to continue reading Bill Moyers Journal: Bill Moyers on Retiring from the JOURNAL]

art drama et al

And I guess it’s too late for Bill Moyers to run for President. Oh well.

  1. probably the only one, if you don’t count Jon Stewart’s Daily Show []

Twenty-first Century Style Architectural Tour

A new way to take a tour of Chicago’s architectural marvels using a 2-D barcode and smart phones. Sounds very cool, I’ll let you know how it works.


A new walking tour will let you download the history of great Chicago buildings on a web-enabled cell phone.

The tour promises to give you a quick and easy way to access loads of information about ten early Chicago skyscrapers, among them Louis Sullivan’s former Carson Pirie Scott & Co. store (now the Sullivan Center) at the corner of State and Madison Streets, Holabird & Roche’s Marquette Building at 141 S. Dearborn St., and D.H. Burnham & Co.’s Railway Exchange Building (now the Santa Fe Building) at 80 E. Jackson Blvd.

The tour has been put together by the Chicago-based Society for Architectural Historians and it’s expected to be up and running by Saturday, April 17.

“We don’t get a penny. It’s a public service,” said Pauline Saliga, executive director of the society, which is holding its annual convention in Chicago from April 21 to 25.

The tour uses a barcode technology called the Microsoft tag. Each tag is a small icon. The SAH is posting tags on signs in the lobbies of ten early Loop skyscrapers. (An example, from the former Carson Pirie Scott store, is above.)

To get the tour info, which is free, you download the free Microsoft application for your web-enabled cell phone (say, an iPhone or a BlackBerry) at: Then, open the application on your phone and, with the application still open, use your phone to photograph the tag on one of the lobby signs. Presto! A photo of the building and its history is supposed to appear.

“The Sky’s the Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers” (Rizzoli International Publications)

The text comes from the authoritative 1990 book, “The Sky’s The Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers.” Saliga was its editor.

[Click to continue reading Cityscapes: Point, shoot and learn–new system lets you download tour information about great Chicago skyscrapers ]

Other than using the proprietary Microsoft tag instead of the open-source QR code, this is an awesome idea, and hope it spreads to more areas, and even other cities

Michigan Central Station

Michigan Central Station ought to be preserved, don’t you think? Maybe like some sort of urban decay museum. Clean it up a little bit, charge a small admission fee, allow photographers and tourists to explore it. I’d pay.

The last train pulled away more than 20 years ago from Michigan Central Station, one of thousands of “see-through” buildings here, empty shells from more auspicious times.

Many of the blighted buildings stay up simply because they are too expensive to tear down. Yet Michigan Central is in a class of its own. Some city officials consider it among the ugliest behemoths to pockmark Detroit and have ordered its demolition, but others see it as the industrial age’s most gracious relic, a Beaux Arts gem turned gothic from neglect but steeped in haunting beauty.

Now Detroit has become embroiled in an urgent debate over how to save what is perhaps its most iconic ruin — and in the process, some insist, give the demoralized city a much needed boost.

“People compare it to Roman ruins,” said Karen Nagher, the executive director of Preservation Wayne, an organization that seeks to protect architecture and neighborhoods around Detroit. “Some people just want it left alone. But I’d love to see that building with windows in and lights on again.”

[Click to continue reading Detroit Journal – Seeking a Future for a Symbol of a Grander Past –]

I found over 800 photos of the Michigan Central Station on Flickr1 but have not taken any myself, unfortunately.

“It’s the quintessential example of urban decay in Detroit,” said John Mohyi, a Wayne State University student and founder of the Michigan Central Station Preservation Society, a nonprofit group formed to save the building. “To see redevelopment of that station would have a major impact on morale.”

Having lost nearly a million people in the last 60 years, Detroit has a backlog of thousands of empty office buildings, theaters, houses and hotels. Downtown alone, more than 200 abandoned buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Most are examples of the Art Deco and neo-Classical styles that were popular before World War II, when Detroit was booming.

But with 500,000 square feet of space on 14 acres of land, Michigan Central Station is “different from your standard vacant building,” said Mickey Blashfield, a government relations official with the station’s owner, CenTra Inc., a trucking and transportation company that acquired it by default through a property transfer in 1995 and has struggled to find a use for it since.

“Architecturally and historically,” Mr. Blashfield said, “it has more of an emotional connection with people than virtually any building in the city.”

  1. limited to Creative Commons licensed items only []

Roger Ebert – an Esquire Profile

“The Great Movies” (Roger Ebert)

An absolutely heart-rendingly poignant profile of Roger Ebert by Chris Jones of Esquire.

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Afred Caldwell Lily Pond, from a few years ago. Apparently, Ebert and his wife, Chaz, live nearby, and frequently walk here. I’ve never seen them when we stroll around, but then what would I say?

Ralph Waldo Emerson
University Club of Chicago, also from a few years ago.

After saying their goodbyes to his colleagues (and to Riccardo’s), Ebert and Chaz go out for dinner, to one of their favorite places, the University Club of Chicago. Hidden inside another skyscraper, there’s a great Gothic room, all stone arches and stained glass. The room is filled mostly with people with white hair — there has been a big push to find younger members to fill in the growing spaces in the membership ranks — and they nod and wave at him and Chaz. They’re given a table in the middle of the room.

Ebert silently declines all entreaties from the fussy waiters. Food arrives only for Chaz and a friend who joins them. Ebert writes them notes, tearing pages from his spiral notepad, tapping his fingers together for his words to be read aloud. Everyone smiles and laughs about old stories. More and more, that’s how Ebert lives these days, through memories, of what things used to feel like and sound like and taste like. When his friend suddenly apologizes for eating in front of him, for talking about the buttered scallops and how the cream and the fish and the wine combine to make a kind of delicate smoke, Ebert shakes his head. He begins to write and tears a note from the spiral.

No, no, it reads. You’re eating for me.

[Click to continue reading Roger Ebert: The Essential Man]

Lumenssomewhere in the University Club, I’ve only been there once, when some aunts came to visit

Memorial Flowers
Another photo taken at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond…

And I’d read of CereProc previously, I hope Ebert is happily re-united with voice. When I used to live alone, I always turned on the Mac Text to Speech option so that the computer would talk to me1

They head home and meet with the people from Comcast, who talk mostly to Chaz. Their Internet will be back soon, but probably not until tomorrow. Disaster. Ebert then takes the elevator upstairs and drops into his chair. As he reclines it slowly, the entire chair jumps somehow, one of its back legs thumping against the floor. It had been sitting on the charger for his iPhone, and now the charger is crushed. Ebert grabs his tray and laptop and taps out a few words before he presses a button and speakers come to life.

“What else can go wrong?” the voice says.

The voice is called Alex, a voice with a generic American accent and a generic tone and no emotion. At first Ebert spoke with a voice called Lawrence, which had an English accent. Ebert liked sounding English, because he is an Anglophile, and his English voice reminded him of those beautiful early summers when he would stop in London with Chaz on their way home after the annual chaos of Cannes. But the voice can be hard to decipher even without an English accent layered on top of it — it is given to eccentric pronunciations, especially of names and places — and so for the time being, Ebert has settled for generic instead.

Ebert is waiting for a Scottish company called CereProc to give him some of his former voice back. He found it on the Internet, where he spends a lot of his time. CereProc tailors text-to-speech software for voiceless customers so that they don’t all have to sound like Stephen Hawking. They have catalog voices — Heather, Katherine, Sarah, and Sue — with regional Scottish accents, but they will also custom-build software for clients who had the foresight to record their voices at length before they lost them. Ebert spent all those years on TV, and he also recorded four or five DVD commentaries in crystal-clear digital audio. The average English-speaking person will use about two thousand different words over the course of a given day. CereProc is mining Ebert’s TV tapes and DVD commentaries for those words, and the words it cannot find, it will piece together syllable by syllable. When CereProc finishes its work, Roger Ebert won’t sound exactly like Roger Ebert again, but he will sound more like him than Alex does. There might be moments, when he calls for Chaz from another room or tells her that he loves her and says goodnight — he’s a night owl; she prefers mornings — when they both might be able to close their eyes and pretend that everything is as it was.

[Click to continue reading Roger Ebert: The Essential Man]

His blog and Twitter feed are worth checking out, by the way.

Thanks to fellow-traveller, Marie Carnes for the link, via Twitter, where else?

update: Roger Ebert follows up

Christy Lemire wrote me: “So, everyone seems pretty moved by the Esquire piece on you, but I’m wondering what you thought about it. It’s so intimate, personal.”

Yeah, it was, wasn’t it? It was also well written, I thought. When I turned to it in the magazine, I got a jolt from the full-page photograph of my jaw drooping. Not a lovely sight. But then I am not a lovely sight, and in a moment I thought, well, what the hell. It’s just as well it’s out there. That’s how I look, after all.

[Click to continue reading Roger Ebert’s Last Words, con’t. – Roger Ebert’s Journal]

  1. for a while, I collected snappy sayings that I input into the Text-To-Speech control panel. These phrases prefaced any error message – the computer would randomly pick sentences to recite in its robotic voice before telling me “printer out of ink”, or whatever. Sometimes better than silence. []

Reebie Storage Warehouse

I’ve long admired the Reebie Storage Warehouse, even purchased some moving supplies from there back in the 1990s, even though I probably didn’t need to. I have taken dozens of photos of the place over the years, a few of which are Flickr-ized

Reebie Building - Stand Like an Egyptian

Reebie Scarab - Kodachrome

I had a vague sense that the building was Egyptian Revival, but didn’t really glom onto the details until I discovered this blog post on the new BluePrint Chicago blog:

Egyptology was all the rage in the early 20th century, particularly after the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922. One effect this had was seen in the popularization of Egyptian Revival architecture across the United States. However, not all of the buildings were equals in terms of being historically accurate. Some buildings fit into the category of Egyptian Revival, and some Academic Egyptian Revival. Egyptian Revival architecture was much more common, and though it had many Egyptian-like elements, it lacked a sensibility to Egypt’s history. Instead they were “picturesque” – which is lovely, but not necessarily accurate. Academic Egyptian Revival architecture was historically accurate. And The Reebie Storage Warehouse is one the country’s finest examples of Academic Egyptian Revival architecture.

The warehouse was based on two ancient Egyptian temples: Dendera and Edfu, both of which date back to the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II (around 200 BCE). The columns on the Reebie building are replicas of columns at the Temple Horus at Edfu. The ornamentation on them is symbolic of the unity of Ancient Egypt through the depiction of the bundled lotus flower which represents Upper Egypt, and the water lily representing Lower Egypt. On either side of the building’s entrance is a statue of Ramses II, representing the two Reebie brothers: William and John. Beneath the two statues are William and John’s names written in the hieroglyphic equivalent of their phonetic spellings. Two other hieroglyphic inscriptions read “I have protection upon your furniture and all sealed things” and “I have guarded all your property every day warding off devouring flames, likewise robbery.” All of the ornamental drawings for the Reebie warehouse were reviewed for accuracy by both the Field Museum and Art Institute prior to their implementation.

[Click to continue reading Reebie Storage Warehouse « BLUEPRINT: Chicago]

[via The Chicago Reader]

Virtual Time Travelling in Assassin’s Creed 2

“Assassin’s Creed II” (UBI Soft)

Video games sure have progressed in sophistication since the days of Pitfall Harry on an Atari 2600

Melik Kaylan writes:

With the release of Assassin’s Creed II in November, a lot changed. Ostensibly the story of a time traveler who journeys back to the Renaissance, becoming a hooded Florentine protagonist tasked with avenging the murder of his parents, the game is set in Florence, Venice and Rome over a number of decades leading up to the year 1499. The game’s producer-authors chose those years as the most eventful of the era and labored lovingly to re-create the environs as exactly as possible. They hired Renaissance scholars to advise on period garb, architecture, urban planning, weaponry and the like. They took tens of thousands of photographs of interiors and streets. They used Google Earth liberally to piece together the ground-up and sky-down perspectives through which the action flows.

The game’s creative director, a Montrealer named Patrice Desilets, lived in Italy for some years, where he acquired a feel for the vivid intrigues of the Renaissance. He grew fascinated, he says, with the notion that “finally people can control time, and relive the past, through games.” The producer, Sebastien Puel, was born in the south of France, in the fortified medieval French town of Carcassonne, and grew up surrounded by history. The head writer, a Harvard graduate from Los Angeles and former screenwriter, Corey May, was driven, he says, by the challenge of “telling a story that feels real and is set among real people who existed.”

The game’s plot, boiled down to its bare essentials, serves up the standard, if glowingly visualized, perquisites of current pop-fiction narratives—regression through genetic memory, Dan Brown-ish secrets of the Templars, and a central fictitious protagonist, Ezio, who traverses venerable Italian cities with great physical agility hunting Renaissance bad guys. In Florence, for example, Ezio leaps and climbs, in a manner that calls to mind the urban gymnastics of Parkour, over and through such familiar monuments as the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio. That’s when he’s not crossing roofs or wading through streets inhabited by courtesans, brotherhoods of thieves and Florentine soldiers, all of whom come with little optional windows where you can learn about their customs. Even the faces of bystanders are based on portraits of the time.

[Click to continue reading Assassin’s Creed II Brings Time Travel Closer to Reality | By Melik Kaylan –]

[non-WSJ subscribers click this link to read full article]

Sounds like a lot of fun, actually. I hope the game is wildly successful and generates many sequels…

Prude News from 1935

Amused by this historic tidbit:

Because the same dances she gave nightly in Chicago without police restraint were “too shocking” for Parisian tea guests at the Bagdad Restaurant, Joan Warner, twenty-two-year-old Pennsylvanian and only American nude dancer in Paris, was forbidden by police Wednesday from further appearances in the nude. Miss Warner came to Paris to do a series of dances with a large feather fan, which, after seeing the Folies-Bergère and a few other shows, she considered superfluous. She has been dancing at various theaters and cabarets. “I never thought that, if the Chicago and Milwaukee police thought my act sufficiently modest to allow it on the boards when all the other fan dancers were prohibited, I should have any trouble in Paris,” she said yesterday [Jan. 10]. Officials at the Prefecture said yesterday that, while nudes are permitted in stage shows, they are not welcome in restaurants.

[Click to continue reading From the International Herald Tribune – 100, 75, 50 Years Ago –]

All Hail

Her Wikipedia entry is sparse, and as far as I can tell in a brief Google search, there are no photos of Ms. Warner online. Pity.

Warner was raised in Washington, D.C., studying there and in New York. She was three years of age when she began dancing. She was slender, quite tall, very blonde, with blue eyes. She danced in Hollywood in 1933 before moving on to Chicago. where she entertained at the Royal Frolics. Warner made appearances in Miami, Florida, Palm Beach, and New Orleans. In the latter city she was persuaded to go abroad by an English producer.

She danced unimpeded in Paris music halls and cabarets beginning in the spring of 1934. She encountered legal difficulties when numerous imitators of her shows began to perform at different venues. Warner mostly appeared nude solely in dim lighted cabarets where she was not especially close to her audience.

She wore a fan and sometimes a pair of iron bracelets during her performances. She appeared at the Bagdad, a tea-dancing restaurant in the Champs Elysees. She was arrested there and the club was forced to close for a day before its license was restored. She soon obtained an engagement at the Alcazar and received top billing at Bal Tabarin

Warner appeared in a French court beginning in July 1935 on a charge of offending public modesty. The suit was brought by the Association for the Increase of the French Population. She was cited for a violation of Article 330 of the French code. It dealt with the extent to which a person could be legally undressed in public. It was also contended that during one dance she came came too close to the floor space designated for spectators.

Warner argued for the art in her dance routine. She said she was covered from head to foot with white makeup and an invisible lavender silk cloth covered me in my absolutely correct positions. Her defense was supported by noted aviators, novelists, a zoology professor, and a painter, Maurice Devlaminck. The latter read a text about artistic nudity and said that he was not shocked by nakedness.

On July 18 the Tenth Correctional Chamber fined Warner fifty francs. The judicial body ruled it is against the law of the French Republic to dance in the nude, however artistically one may dance. The small fine imposed implied that the court was lenient. It mostly took exception to the dances being advertised as nude when actually they gave an impression of complete nudity. Specifically, the court elaborated that it was hard to distinguish between what was art and what was lewdness.

[Click to continue reading Joan Warner – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Wonder if there are any options on her biography? Sounds like a fun film treatment to write. I imagine Ms. Warner being played by whatever hipster tart is popular at the moment, an actress who wants to to spread her artistic wings a bit, but doesn’t mind exposing her body, in the name of art, of course. Someone with more talent than whats-her-face Megan Fox, in other words.