Dec 20

Back in time

Let’s go back in time. Let’s go back 103 years back in time to see what the news was like around here. This is the Bloomington Evening World, which we’ve been reading from time-to-time. We’ve looked back through the contents three times this year — March, May and July — so we’re probably due another examination.

The Bloomington Evening World, went back to 1892 and published under that masthead until 1943. That’s a great run. It merged then with the wonderfully named Bloomington Telephone. A few mergers and name changes later, and what’s left of the current paper, The Herald-Times, will sorta claim the old paper.

This was the front page on December 19, 1917.

One of those stories you saw a lot of back then, and it meant a lot to the readers. These were our boys, after all.

Let’s look at some of those names. The first one listed there, Irvin Alexander, survived the war. He’d teach at West Point. He became an advisor to MacArthur and the Philippine army. In the early fighting in the Pacific he was wounded twice, before being captured and, ultimately, becoming a part of the Bataan Death March. That was a 60+ mile trek that claimed as many as 18,000 lives. He did three years as a Japanese POW, which was a demanding daily existence with little food, minimal fuel and brutal captors. Part of that time was captivity in Korea. That meant time on a boat. The death rates on the Japanese transfer vessels was notoriously high. And there was the risk of simply being on the water. Alexander survived two ship sinkings to even get there. He survived all that. He wrote a memoir a few years later that was published years after his death. It gets great reviews. He died in 1963, on his way to a visit of Mexico, with his wife.

Maurice Parks was a singer before the war, and after he came home he was part of a popular act, the Old Town
Quartette. He died in 1947, and is buried in a cemetery not too far away.

Oscar Dillman came home, and he would be elected commander of the local American Legion. He passed away at 56, in 1946. He’s buried just three miles away.

Leland Highlet was the unlucky lad on the destroyer spotted and sunk by a U-boat between France and Ireland. About 30 of the sailors, on a vessel that had a manifest of 99, survived.

Christmas advertising, front page advertising, it’s all been with us for a while.

There’s a restaurant at that address today.

Charming motorist in the red car. What can I say? Welcome to Bloomington.

This was the first undamaged zeppelin captured in France.

There’s a terrific picture, and more information, here.

It was your decade, so, if you say so …

This is an ad, found on page three. And some ad, huh?

Right next to it was a timeline of the declarations of war from the past three years. And, in no special font or stroke, there was the note reminding you that the US had declared war on Germany eight months earlier, and Austria just three days before.

“So I went down to the drug store and got you this snazzy gift.”

Such was the power of Kodak upon the zeitgeist that simply saying the brand name carried real heft. Wood Wiles bought the place in 1899. He ran it for some 30 years, until he had a heart attack in his store. His son took it over. In 1952 he moved it a block up the street, where it prospered for many years. The company stayed in business until 1985. The original location is today a restaurant, and a nice one. The second location is now a bookstore.

Did you think of the grocery boys? And why have people always been this way? Oh, I know it’s ten below zero, but I want my groceries now!

“We have spared ourselves no pains” … they just don’t write good ad copy these days, do they?

The Harris-Grand was a popular theater for decades. A couple of fires did it in. THere are some small stores and a parking deck there now.

Can you see any of these movies today? Right now? Yes you can.

Dec 20

The week with bad titles, part four

This area is rich in limestone. The campus is full of local stuff. Courthouses around the state feature stone that was ripped from the ground around here. The stone was the necessary ingredient for the move Breaking Away‘s subtext.

We watched Breaking Away when we moved up here. The Yankee had never read it. It’s still a fine film, and I wonder how townies feel about it. It still holds up, even if the locals would tell you there are some geographical problems. And I’m older now. Growing up it was a movie aimed at me, the child. Today I’m much, much closer to the dad’s age than the young kids who really make up the movie. The dad’s big speech, which probably raced right by me each time I saw it as a kid, really sank in differently that last time we watched it.

And it’s popular far and wide. Indiana’s limestone is what you see at the Empire State Building. The U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Archives, the Department of Justice, Wilson Center, the EPA, NOAA, the Department of Commerce and more, they all came from here. Federal courthouses, churches, college campuses across the country, tons of them feature Indiana limestone.

At the height of the industry, the state sent 14.5 million cubic feet of dimension stone to all of those projects, most of it coming from this region. It has certain attributes that make it both aesthetically pleasing and professionally easy to work with. Even today, those cutters quarry 2.7 million cubic feet of Indiana Limestone each year, and it generates about $26 million annually in revenue.

And it all started right here, or, rather just a few miles up the road. The first real digging of limestone in Indiana is the subject of this installment of my old and forgotten, and now remembered and almost completed historical marker project. I’m showing off all those beautiful painted signs in the county. I rode to all of them on my bicycle. This particular one is the second-furthest away from the house, in fact, so enjoy. Click on the image to see this particular entry.

The marker itself, which you can see by clicking over via the image above, is a bit removed from the location it celebrates. You can’t, in fact, see the old quarry (it failed in the 1860s) by road, or even from the bird’s eye view of Google Maps. But there’s some more local history sitting in the center of the park in that sleepy, small town, population 200. (Stinesville was laid out 28 years after the quarry began, which was when the rail line showed up. The post office arrived five years after that.) The bonus photo you’ll find in the post is of a locally important bell. It came from a church established in 1894, just 67 years after that first quarry was dug. The community saved the bell in 1995, and I bet there’s a story behind that which the web isn’t telling us, and it was put in that park in 2005. So it’s been there 15 years now. I wonder where it was for the 10 years it was being saved.

Oh, here it is, in a local historical newsletter, from 2006. It seems the church building has had several lives. First it was a congregation for Lutherans, and then it became known as the First Christian Church. It was badly damaged in a 1964 storm, though, and a few years later the church was sold to a private individual. All the contents were auctioned, including the bell. And then in 1995 the bell was going to go on the market again, but the community preserved it. Later, the church building, not made of limestone, was repaired, renovated and is now a private residence. Happy ending. And, in the summer of 2015, the last time the Google car came through, it needed a fresh coat of paint. I believe it’s had one since then, and now that I know what I’m looking for, I’ll check on it when I’m out that way again. But the lawn was well-kept! So, like all of us, it’s in progress.

If you’d like to see two county’s worth of historical signs and the places they’re highlighting, go to the main page.

Oct 20

Here’s something I’d completely forgotten

I am judging high school and junior high news programs this week. There are some really talented young people out there. But we could always say that. Golly gee, kids these days!

Also, I have about 60 of these to work through, so I could say the same thing for the next few days.

Other kids these days:

After work I stopped in at the library to pick up a book I had on hold. It’s just two blocks from the office. I walked in, strolled through the alphabetized hold shelves until I found the S area, considering the sign that said “Respect other users privacy, no browsing” until I found my name. And, being careful to not notice anyone else’s titles, I picked up my hardcover book. Oh, the joys of reading fiction. I don’t a lot, but I will over the next few days. Well, once I’m satisfied there are no cooties on the dust jacket.

There’s a self checkout. You scan your library card and input your password on the touchscreen three times. Because the first time you mess it up so convincingly you wonder if your password is, in fact, something else. Once you get that right, you just hold the book under the scanner. There’s no barcode, it just knows what book you have based on some RFID tag or a near field communication trick.

So now I’m done. Two minutes, maybe three. I did nod to someone, but didn’t have to speak to a soul. I left via the nearest door. I was on a different floor from the one where I entered. I knew that, because there was a stairwell at the beginning of this adventure. I exited on a different side of the building than where I entered. Spatially, I was aware that I would be facing a different direction from where I went in, because I’d traversed most of the place and turned left to leave. So walked around the building was no surprise, but I was, of course, still on the ground, even after that long staircase when I entered. That amused me.

Architects must delight in confusing people who aren’t paying perfect attention.

Got home, cleaned off the day, and had a nice long chat with my mom. She’s fine. Everyone’s fine. (If the extended family would take this more seriously, that would be better, but I can’t convince people of the obvious.)

We’re talking about how we can do Christmas, because Thanksgiving is basically off. Maybe we’ll Zoom over turkey leftovers. We’re going to concentrate on the small joys. Visiting is a gift, and everyone is fine and healthy.

So much Covid data to report on our campus. The weekly numbers came out today, and they ticked up ever so slightly, but they remain impressively low, especially considering the county, and particularly in comparison to the state, which is surging ahead with no headlights, brakes or seatbelts.

Also, you’ll learn in the A-block there about how IU’s testing labs are now open. They’re going to be doing something like 8,500 tests a week here now. It’s an extensive, impressive undertaking. The university has really pulled out all of the stops to look after its campus communities and help the cities they all live in. Remember, this is 100,000 students in nine campuses across the state. And while, ultimately, this is not the fall or spring semester any student — or anyone else wanted — the lengths the university is going to during a pandemic are commendable.

They did a costume feature on the pop culture show and I can’t get over how awesome minimalist M&Ms are.

If you didn’t watch that, you should. They did blindfolds and had to guess what their reporters were dressed up as. So now you’ve got gloved, masked, blindfolded hosts. It was pretty silly.

Do you ever do that thing where you start a project on your website and work on it for a while and collect all the parts the project will need and continue to work on it and then think you’re finished with it? And then come back three years later and realize you weren’t finished?

Oh, that’s just me, huh?

Well OK, then.

Guess why this building is important:

It is important because it means we must return to the historic markers section of the site. This is where I where my bicycle all over the county to find the historic signs and take pictures of them, and the place they’re highlighting. I did this one years ago, but realized only this evening, while I was cleaning some old photos from my phone, that I’d never published them.

So go check out The Gables, which is a building that now holds a restaurant, and has some important local history in it. Also, the guy that owns it is a joy, and his food is pretty good, too. It’s just up the street from my office.

Hoagy Carmichael, who is the focus of this particular historic marker, has a statue on campus, and if I had a statue project on the site it would be one of the feature attractions, because it’s an amazing statue.

And the really good news is that we can get four or five more days worth of content out of old pictures and places I’d already thought I’d addressed! So look for another historic marker update next week.

More tomorrow. Until then, did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? Phoebe and Poe have an Instagram account. And don’t forget my Instagram. Also, keep up with me on Twitter.

Oct 20

The heights of things

This was the sky on Saturday. We were at the post office and I shot this through the sunroof.

Some days you feel like you can reach the clouds, and some days you feel like you need a great big ladder.

Some days you feel like you can reach the clouds, and some days you feel like you need a great big ladder. After lunch we went for a bike ride. I include this picture because I love this face. It’s her mean face, and it’s so stinking cute. Also, it means she’s going to ride fast; that’s a very aero mean face.

It was hard and windy and would have been fast, except it was hard, and windy. I was grateful for the turnaround spot, because we stopped to take a picture, and I could briefly catch my breath.

On the back half of the ride the air started to feel a bit cooler. No weather monitoring station reported it. All the numbers I could consult stayed at a steady 62 degrees, but I was out in it; I could tell the change. I got to the house and was happy to get inside, which was instantly when the bronchoconstriction began.

It was painful to breathe for a few minutes. The worst of it was “Would getting on the ground be better for this?” and “How can I tell if this is getting worse?” But it did not get worse. It hurt to breathe fully in, but I could get air. My heart rate was fine, considering the bike ride. I did not have any muscular or cognitive problems. I had a shock to the system, which began improving by the time I made it to the shower.

By last night it just hurt a bit to breathe all the way in, your classic this-was-irritated-yesterday feeling.

Watched this, with some interest, today. It’s New York, 1896. And not all of this is gone.

The upload and upscale is using a software treatment called neural networking. Mathematical functions, artificial neurons, are transforming the lower sourced input values into a higher quality output. The parameters can be altered because the networks are trained with high-res images that are down-sampled. Eventually, photo pairs, thousands of them, get analyzed and the process helps restore lost details. The information is filled in from what the network has learned. The network sees a face because it has been taught “that’s a face!” and it can flesh it out. A low-res building can show off individual bricks. Definition and depth comes with experience and exposure, just like the rest of us.

Then you speed it up, add some sound for ambiance and give it a little post-concussion color and you’re suddenly back in time. Sorta. Almost. It’s tantalizingly close to close.

Here’s a digitized version of “the original footage.” That’s Trinity Church in the background. By 1896 it was the second tallest building in New York City. It was built in 1846 and held the top spot for the best part of five decades. It gave up tallest building honors just before this footage was made to the New York World Building. (The World Building would come down in the 1950s for better car access to the Brooklyn Bridge.)

You can’t even see Trinity Church from that location today.

If you back up, down Broadway, you can guesstimate where, apparently, Alexandre Promio himself was standing when he filmed that.

Now, this footage was shot in New York City just five years later, in 1901. I think all of this is gone. But as interesting as the buildings and the signs and the carriages can be, the people — the guy that walks into, and then out of, the shot, the kid who isn’t yet sure if you’re supposed to mug for the camera, and then the couple at the end — they are what you’re here for.

… Someone will dig up some social media company’s servers in 2140 or so and figure out how to hook up real technology with this stuff we’re working with and then pioneer a way to extrapolate holograms from 1080 and 4K phone video. Won’t that be revealing …

Probably we’ll never know for sure, but I’m going to assume this camera was set up just to the left, on the sidewalk here. There’s a subway stop at this intersection, but just to the left are a series of those air grates there.

If the date on YouTube is correct, New Yorkers are between the first and second American car show right about there. The New York baseball Giants were bad. That September, William McKinley was shot in Buffalo, New York, and Theodore Roosevelt would become president. The subways were coming along nicely. Everything was beginning to really surge. This is what Manhattan looked like from out in the Hudson about that time. A few blocks back downtown you’d find the city’s tallest building in 1901, the Park Row Building, a proud 391-feet tall, is still with us.

Today, 391-feet puts you … nowhere near New York’s top 100 buildings, of course. Some days you feel like you can reach up and touch 391-feet, and some days you realize you’d need that ladder. Harry Gardiner, the human fly, needed no such help to climb the Park Row Building in 1918. He did it in a suit, too.

Sep 20

Two campus notes, just before the full moon

Checked my mailbox on campus today and there was a little poster tube there. It was from the Office of the Bicentennial. The university, early this year, celebrated its 200th anniversary and, while it was a bit abbreviated because of the coronavirus shutdown, we’d been marking the event for a few years.

From time to time I had the good fortune to help them with this or that, and someone there was kind enough to send me a little thank you. I got a nice poster and some cool lapel pins:

So my question is, can I wear those in 2021?

Meanwhile, there’s baseball going on. And today I used my awesome powers to put three simultaneous playoff games on the big screen:

No one was there to watch them, because few people come into the building these days under the university’s wise safety precautions. But just as it is weird to consider 16 teams in baseball’s post season, it seemed normal to put sports on the big screen.

I wonder what they showed on that screen 200 years ago.

Ha! That’s a trick question! That building is only 103 years old! Back in 1917 you would have watched the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants in the World Series. The Sox, who won the series, were managed by a man named Pants Rowland. The Giants were managed by John McGraw, he of the bony old fingers.

Did you know there was a real Moonlight Graham? Burt Lancaster put poetry to the thing, but his is a beautiful and common tale, even without the book or the film. (The one inning the real Graham played in was a bit earlier than the film, in 1905. He passed away in 1965.)

There’s a book about him. Let me know if he ever made it down this way.