Charles Dana Gibson - Happy B-Day, CDG!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 14, 2010 10:30am | Post a Comment
Charles Dana Gibson

Today is the birthday of American artist Charles Dana Gibson, best known for his creation of The Gibson Girl. By some accounts, he's also responsible for the invention of the Gibson martini. Were he still alive, he’d be 143 years old today.

Roxbury, Massachusetts

Gibson was born September 14th, 1867 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, today the heart of Boston’s population -- back then, probably not. His parents were DeWolf Gibson and Josephine Elizabeth Lovett. The patriarch was a somewhat gifted artist and encouraged his son to draw. Gibson honed his skill at Manhattan’s Art Students League. In 1886, he sold his first sketch to Life magazine (of a dog chained to a post), for which he became a contributor for the next three decades.

Charles Dana Gibson. The First League Game of base-Ball of the Season. April 27, 1889.

As Gibson’s reputation grew, his works appeared in The Century, Colliers, Harper’s Weekly and Scribners. By 1889, he’d acquired enough money to travel to Europe. In England he met illustrator George du Maurier, known for (among other things), his skill at drawing beautiful women. His subsequent illustrations reflect du Maurier's influence, although they are quite distinct.

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Made in Taiwan - Taiwanese Cinema and Television

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 7, 2010 06:30pm | Post a Comment
Shiling Night Market Taipei Taiwan

Taiwan’s official status is complicated. Some view it as a region of China, others as the sole legitimate government of the mainland. Still others believe it to be an island with a unique history stretching back thousands of years and with a distinct culture made up of Austronesian, Han, Japanese and other influences ...and then there are those that think it's the same thing as Thailand, or as the mysterious origin of all our stuff. 

Taiwanese Film Under the Japanese
高松豐次郎 Takamatsu Toyojir
The first films shown in Taiwan were brought by the Japanese, as early as 1901. As with Japanese films, they relied on a narrator (rather than intertitles) by figures known in Taiwan as benzi. The first Taiwanese benzi was also a musician and composer, Wang Yung-feng.

In 1903, Japanese director 高松豐次郎 (Takamatsu Toyojiro) began exhibiting films from Europe and Japan and built eight theaters. In February 1907, he filmed 台灣實況の紹介 (Introducing Taiwan today), a documentary shot in over a hundred villages and meant to showcase Japan’s civilizing influence on Taiwan. The first Taiwanese feature film was Tanaka King's Da fo de tong kong (The eyes of Buddha), a 1922 film that starred Liu Xiyang, the country's first film actor.

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Happy Birthday, Los Angeles!!!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 4, 2010 06:27pm | Post a Comment
Map of Los Angeles County regions
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Los Angeles County

Happy Birthday Los Angeles. The City of Angels turns 229 years young today (sort of). Back in 1781, so the story goes, 44 Spaniards from Mexico established El Pueblo de Los Angeles. Of the Spaniards, 26 were black, sixteen were Native or mestizo, and two were white. The city has grown even more diverse in the past two centuries and now L.A. boasts the greatest ethnic and cultural diversity of any city not only in the known universe, but the known space-time continuum.

Bird's Eye map of Los Angeles County regions minus Channel Islands
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's bird's eye attempt at a Middle Earth style Southland map

Los Angeles also boasts more food trucks, Scientologists, playhouses, Angelenos, lowriders, smog and miles of freeway than any city in the US. A host of surrounding towns put the "great" in "Greater Los Angeles." Any regular readers will know that I like to explore the Southland, in an attempt to entertain and uncover the music, movie, culinary, cultural histories the many and varied communities of the great sprawl -- sort of Los Angeles' extended family.

Out of Africa - Austro-Melanesian History, Culture and Music

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 1, 2010 12:00pm | Post a Comment
Once upon a time, one or two hundred thousand years ago or so, anatomically human beings appeared on the scene in Africa. About 60,000 years ago, there may have been as many as 5,000 people living on the planet. A number, possibly around 150, decided to cross the Red Sea... following the lead of their cousins, Homo erectus, who'd decided to look for new real estate some 2 million years earlier.

Homo Erectus
Homo Erectus couple

The humans traveled along the Arabian coast and, once arriving in South Asia, decided to settle down for a while. Over thousands of years, physical differences would develop in humans that spread from this population; lighter skin allowed for the absorption of Vitamin D3 as people moved into less sunny climes. Nowadays we usually call these descendants Asians and white people. But the people that moved on through Southeast Asia to Australia don't have a name nearly as recognized. To my ears, Australoid sounds so clunky... does the "oid" suffix ever sound good? Some of the more widely used terms in their respective cultures include the vague "black," "negrito" and "aborigine." I'm going to stick with Austro-Melanesian (or Australo-Melanesian) for now... If that catches on, maybe future generations will shorten it to AMs, Ausmels or something catchier. But for now, I'd merely like to focus on both the diversity and solidarity of these various peoples.

Austronesia - Don't Tease Ya

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 28, 2010 11:25pm | Post a Comment

Until recently, Austronesian wasn't a self-designation. The name comes from Latin auster (south wind) plus Greek nêsos (island). Of course, historically, Inuits and Aztecs never referred to themselves, in collective solidarity, as "Indians" or "Native Americans," but that doesn't mean we can't see similarities now. Having just  just returned from Taiwan, I've observed a growing pride by some Taiwanese Austronesians in their culture. In June, the International Austronesian Conference was held in Taiwan.

It's probably happening amongst other Austronesians, too, and if anyone wants to buy me a plane ticket to see first hand, I will be there as soon as possible.

Outrigger canoe

Covering a vast area of the Earth, the Austronesians never established a large, centralized authority. Unlike the Mongols, Turks, English or Russians, the Austronesians didn't conquer and assert their sovereignty. Rather, they explored and spread, intermingling when they encountered natives, trading with neighbors and populating previously uninhabited islands. What they left is a vast cultural and linguistic umbrella, on par with the Bantu, Indo-Europeans, Afroasiatics and Uralics.

Andry Rajoelina
Madagascar's Austronesian President Andry Rajoelina

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