Nikola Tesla’s Predictions for the 21st Century: The Rise of Smart Phones & Wireless, The Demise of Coffee & More (1926/35)

The fate of the visionary is to be forever outside of his or her time. Such was the life of Nikola Tesla, who dreamed the future while his opportunistic rival Thomas Edison seized the moment. Even now the name Tesla conjures seemingly wildly impractical ventures, too advanced, too expensive, or far too elegant in design for mass production and consumption. No one better than David Bowie, the pop artist of possibility, could embody Tesla’s air of magisterial high seriousness on the screen. And few were better suited than Tesla himself, perhaps, to extrapolate from his time to ours and see the technological future clearly.

Of course, this image of Tesla as a lone, heroic, and even somewhat tragic figure who fell victim to Edison’s designs is a bit of a romantic exaggeration. As even the editor of a 1935 feature interview piece in the now-defunct Liberty magazine wrote, Tesla and Edison may have been rivals in the “battle between alternating and direct current…. Otherwise the two men were merely opposites. Edison had a genius for practical inventions immediately applicable. Tesla, whose inventions were far ahead of the time, aroused antagonisms which delayed the fruition of his ideas for years.” One can in some respects see why Tesla “aroused antagonisms.” He may have been a genius, but he was not a people person, and some of his views, though maybe characteristic of the times, are downright unsettling.

libertymagazine9february1935page5

In the lengthy Liberty essay, “as told to George Sylvester Viereck” (a poet and Nazi sympathizer who also interviewed Hitler), Tesla himself makes the pronouncement, “It seems that I have always been ahead of my time.” He then goes on to enumerate some of the ways he has been proven right, and confidently lists the characteristics of the future as he sees it. No one likes a know-it-all, but Tesla refused to compromise or ingratiate himself, though he suffered for it professionally. And he was, in many cases, right. Many of his 1935 predictions in Liberty are still too far off to measure, and some of them will seem outlandish, or criminal, to us today. But some still seem plausible, and a few advisable if we are to make it another 100 years as a species. Tesla’s predictions include the following, which he introduces with the disclaimer that “forecasting is perilous. No man can look very far into the future.”

  • “Buddhism and Christianity… will be the religion of the human race in the twenty-first century.”
  • “The year 2100 will see eugenics universally established.” Tesla went on to comment, “no one who is not a desirable parent should be permitted to produce progeny. A century from now it will no more occur to a normal person to mate with a person eugenically unfit than to marry a habitual criminal.”
  • “Hygiene, physical culture will be recognized branches of education and government. The Secretary of Hygiene or Physical Culture will be far more important in the cabinet of the President of the United States who holds office in the year 2025 than the Secretary of War.” Along with personal hygiene, Tesla included “pollution” as a social ill in need of regulation.
  • “I am convinced that within a century coffee, tea, and tobacco will be no longer in vogue. Alcohol, however, will still be used. It is not a stimulant but a veritable elixir of life.”
  • “There will be enough wheat and wheat products to feed the entire world, including the teeming millions of China and India.” (Tesla did not foresee the anti-gluten mania of the 21st century.)
  • “Long before the next century dawns, systematic reforestation and the scientific management of natural resources will have made an end of all devastating droughts, forest fires, and floods. The universal utilization of water power and its long-distance transmission will supply every household with cheap power.” Along with this optimistic prediction, Tesla foresaw that “the struggle for existence being lessened, there should be development along ideal rather than material lines.”

Tesla goes on to predict the elimination of war, “by making every nation, weak or strong, able to defend itself,” after which war chests would be diverted to funding education and research. He then describes—in rather fantastical-sounding terms—an apparatus that “projects particles” and transmits energy, enabling not only a revolution in defense technology, but “undreamed of results in television.” Tesla diagnoses his time as one in which “we suffer from the derangement of our civilization because we have not yet completely adjusted ourselves to the machine age.” The solution, he asserts—along with most futurists, then and now—“does not lie in destroying but in mastering the machine.” As an example of such mastery, Tesla describes the future of “automatons” taking over human labor and the creation of “a thinking machine.”

Matt Novak at the Smithsonian has analyzed many of Tesla’s claims, interpreting his predictions about “hygiene and physical culture” as a foreshadowing of the EPA and discussing Tesla’s work in robotics (“Today,” Tesla proclaimed, “the robot is an accepted fact”). The Liberty article was not the first time Tesla had made large-scale, public predictions about the century to come and beyond. In 1926, Tesla gave an interview to Collier’s magazine in which he more or less accurately foresaw smartphones and wireless telephony and computing:

When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is…. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket. 

Telsa also made some odd predictions about fuel-less passenger flying machines “free from any limitations of the present airplanes and dirigibles” and spouted more of the scary stuff about eugenics that had come to obsess him late in life. Additionally, Tesla saw changing gender relations as the precursor of a coming matriarchy. This was not a development he characterized in positive terms. For Tesla, feminism would “end in a new sex order, with the female as superior.” (As Novak notes, Tesla’s misgivings about feminism have made him a hero to the so-called “men’s rights” movement.) While he fully granted that women could and would match and surpass men in every field, he warned that “the acquisition of new fields of endeavor by women, their gradual usurpation of leadership, will dull and finally dissipate feminine sensibilities, will choke the maternal instinct, so that marriage and motherhood may become abhorrent and human civilization draw closer and closer to the perfect civilization of the bee.”

It seems to me that a “bee civilization” would appeal to a eugenicist, except, I suppose, Tesla feared becoming a drone. Although he saw the development as inevitable, he still sounds to me like any number of current politicians who argue that society should continue to suppress and discriminate against women for their own good and the good of “civilization.” Tesla may be an outsider hero for geek culture everywhere, but his social attitudes give me the creeps. While I’ve personally always liked the vision of a world in which robots do most the work and we spend most of our money on education, when it comes to the elimination of war, I’m less sanguine about particle rays and more sympathetic to the words of Ivor Cutler.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

via Smithsonian/Paleofuture

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Lou Reed Turns Rock Critic, Sizing Up Everyone from the “Amazingly Talented” Beatles to the “Two Bit, Pretentious” Frank Zappa

A signal characteristic of powerful criticism is that it keeps people talking years after the death of the critic himself. Think, for example, of Lester Bangs, who despite having been gone for nearly 40 years left behind judgments that still resonate through the halls of rock and roll. The vitality of his work wasn’t hurt by a tendency to get unusually close to some of his subjects, especially Lou Reed. “The things he wrote and sang and played in the Velvet Underground were for me part of the beginning of a real revolution in the whole scheme between men and women, men and men, women and women, humans and humans,” Bangs wrote in 1980.

Five years earlier, Bangs had called Reed “a completely depraved pervert and pathetic death dwarf,” as well as “a liar, a wasted talent, an artist continually in flux, and a huckster selling pounds of his own flesh. A panderer living off the dumbbell nihilism of a seventies generation that doesn’t have the energy to commit suicide.”


All this he meant, of course, in praise. Reed, for his part, displayed such elaborate disdain for Bangs that it could only have been motivated by respect. “What other rock artist would put up with an interview by the author of this article,” Bangs rhetorically asked, “read the resultant vicious vitriol-spew with approval, and then invite me back for a second round because of course he’s such a masochist he loved the hatchet in his back?”

A magazine page now circulating on Twitter collects Reed’s own opinions on a variety of other rock acts and countercultural figures of the 1960s and 70s. The Beatles, who’d just broken up? “The most incredible songwriters ever” (though Reed’s judgment of the Fab Four would change with time). The Rolling Stones? “If I had to pick my top ten, they’ve got at least five songs.” Creedence Clearwater Revival? “I like them a lot.” David Bowie? “The kid’s got everything… everything.” Fellow Velvets Doug Yule (“so cute”), Nico (“the kind of person that you meet, and you’re not quite the same afterwards”), and John Cale (“the next Beethoven or something”) get compliments; as for Andy Warhol, out of whose “factory” the band emerged, “I really love him.” (“Lou learned a lot from Andy,” wrote Bangs, “mainly about becoming a successful public personality by selling your own private quirks to an audience greedy for more and more geeks.”)

But as a connoisseur of the hatchet, Reed also plants a few himself. Of “California bands” like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, he said “they can’t play and they certainly can’t write.” Nor, evidently, could the Who’s Pete Townshend: “as a lyricist he’s so profoundly untalented and, you know, philosophically boring to say the least.” Reed does “get off” on the Kinks, “then I just get bored after a while.” Alice Cooper represents “the worst, most disgusting aspect of rock music”; Roxy Music “don’t know what they’re talking about.” Frank Zappa is “the single most untalented person I’ve heard in my life. He’s two-bit, pretentious, academic, and he can’t play his way out of anything.” Yet at Zappa’s posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, the laudatory speech was delivered by none other than… Lou Reed. In rock, as in the other arts, resentment can become the seed of admiration.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

In 1997, Wired Magazine Predicts 10 Things That Could Go Wrong in the 21st Century: “An Uncontrollable Plague,” Climate Crisis, Russia Becomes a Kleptocracy & More

Hydrogen-powered cars. Biological, then quantum computing. Gene-therapy cancer treatments. An end to the War on Drugs. Reliable automatic translation. The impending end of the nation-state. Man setting foot on Mars. These are just a few of the developments in store for our world by the year 2020 — or so, at any rate, predicts “The Long Boom,” the cover story of a 1997 issue of Wired magazine, the official organ of 1990s techno-optimism. “We’re facing 25 years of prosperity, freedom, and a better environment for the whole world,” declares the cover itself. “You got a problem with that?”

Since the actual year 2020, this image has been smirkingly re-circulated as a prime example of blinkered End-of-History triumphalism. From the vantage of 2021, it’s fair to say that the predictions of the article’s authors Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden (who expanded their thesis into a 2000 book) went wide of the mark.


But their vision of the 21st century hasn’t proven risible in every aspect: a rising China, hybrid cars, video calls, and online grocery-shopping have become familiar enough hardly to merit comment, as has the internet’s status as “the main medium of the 21st century.” And who among us would describe the cost of university as anything but “absurd”?

Schwartz and Leyden do allow for darker possibilities than their things-can-only-get-better rhetoric make it seem. Some of these they enumerate in a sidebar (remember sidebars?) headlined “Ten Scenario Spoilers.” Though not included in the article as archived on Wired‘s web site, it has recently been scanned and posted to social media, with viral results. A “new Cold War” between the U.S. and China; a “global climate change that, among other things, disrupts the food supply”; a “major rise in crime and terrorism forces the world to pull back in fear”; an “uncontrollable plague — a modern-day influenza epidemic or its equivalent”: to one degree or another, every single one of these ten dire developments seems in our time to have come to pass.

“We’re still on the front edge of the great global boom,” we’re reminded in the piece’s conclusion. “A hell of a lot of things could go wrong.” You don’t say. Yet for all of the 21st-century troubles that few riding the wave of first-dot-com-boom utopianism would have credited, we today run the risk of seeing our world as too dystopian. Now as then, “the vast array of problems to solve and the sheer magnitude of the changes that need to take place are enough to make any global organization give up, any nation back down, any reasonable person curl up in a ball.” We could use a fresh infusion of what Schwartz and Leyden frame as the boom’s key ingredient: American optimism. “Americans don’t understand limits. They have boundless confidence in their ability to solve problems. And they have an amazing capacity to think they really can change the world.” In that particular sense, perhaps we all should become Americans after all.

via Reddit

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch 30+ Exceptional Short Films for Free in The New Yorker’s Online Screening Room

For short films, finding an audience is an often uphill battle. Even major award winners struggle to reach viewers outside of the festival circuit.

Thank goodness for The Screening Room, The New Yorker’s online platform for sharing short films.

It’s a magnificent free buffet for those of us who’d like nothing better than to gorge ourselves on these little gems.


If you’re not yet a fan of the form, allow us to suggest that any one of the 30 fictional shorts posted in The Screening Room could function as a superb palate cleanser between binge watches of more regular fare.

Take co-directors Amina Sutton and Maya Tanaka’s hilarious The Price of Cheap Rent, clocking in at 6 1/2 minutes, above.

A community-supported project, starring Sutton and shot in Tanaka’s Brooklyn apartment, it’s a comedy of manners that brings fresh meaning to the semi-controversial phrase “Bed Stuy, Do or Die.”

Sutton plays a young Black artist with a masters from Yale, a gig behind the bar at Applebee’s, and a keen interest in positioning herself as an influencer, an ambition the filmmakers lampoon with glee.

When she discovers that her new apartment is haunted, she is “so freaked the f&ck out,” she spends a week sleeping in the park, before venturing back:

And it’s a studio, so it’s like living in a clown car of hell.

But once she discovers (or possibly just decides) that the majority of the ghosts are Black, she begins planning a podcast and makes her peace with staying put.

Pros: the rent’s a lot less than the 1-bathroom dump she shared with five roommates, there’s laundry in the basement, and the ghosts, whom she now conceives of as ancestors, share many of her interests — history, the arts, and the 1995 live action/CGI adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost. (They give Ghostbusters a thumbs down.)

Cons: the ghost of an 18th-century Dutch Protestant settler whose white fragility manifests in irritating, but manageable ways.

Those with 18 minutes to spare should check out Joy Joy Nails, another very funny film hinging on identity.

Every day a group of salty, young Korean women await the van that will transport them from their cramped quarters in Flushing, Queens, to a nail salon in a ritzier — and, judging by the customers, far whiter — neighborhood.

Writer-director Joey Ally contrasts the salon’s aggressively pink decor and the employees’ chummy deference to their regular customers with the grubbiness of the break room and the transactional nature of the exchange.

“Anyone not fired with enthusiasm… will be!” threatens a yellowed notice taped in the employees only area.

Behind the register, the veil is lifted a bit, narrowing the upstairs/downstairs divide with realistically homemade signs:

“CASH! FOR TIP ONLY”

Like Sutton and Tanaka, Ally is versed in horror tropes, inspiring dread with close ups of pumice stones, emory boards, and cuticle trimmers at work.

When a more objective view is needed, she cuts to the black-and-white security feed under the reception counter.

When one of the customers calls to ask if her missing earring was left in the waxing room, the story takes a tragic turn, though for reasons more complex than one might assume.

Ally’s script punctures the all-too-common perception of nail salon employees as a monolithic immigrant mass to explore themes of dominance and bias between representatives of varied cultures, a point driven home by the subtitles, or absence thereof.

The 2017 film also tapped into its release year zeitgeist with a plot point involving the boss’ son.

On a tight schedule? You can still squeeze in Undiscovered, director Sara Litzenberger’s 3-minute animation from 2014.

Identity factors in here, too, as a Sasquatch-like creature terrifies a string of camera wielding humans in its attempt to get a photograph that will show it as it wishes to be perceived.

It’s an easily digested delight, suitable for all ages.

Explore all 30+ fictional shorts in the Screening Room for free here or on The New Yorker’s YouTube playlist. You can find them all embedded and streamable below.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Life Magazine Predicts in 1914 How People Would Dress in the 1950s

Though still just within living memory, 1950 now seems as if it belongs not just to the past but to a wholly bygone reality. Yet that year once stood for the future: that is to say, a time both distant enough to fire up the imagination and near enough to instill a sense of trepidation. It must have felt that way, at least, to the subscribers of Life magazine in December of 1914, when they opened an issue of that magazine dedicated in part to predicting the state of humanity 36 years hence. Its bold cover depicts a man and woman of the 1950s amusedly regarding pictures of a man and woman in 1914: the latter wear buttoned-up European street clothing, while the former have on almost nothing at all.

As rendered by illustrator Otho Cushing, the thoroughly modern 1950s female wears a kind of slip, something like a garment from ancient Greece updated by abbreviation. Her male counterpart takes his inspiration from an even earlier stage of civilization, his loincloth covering as few as possible of the abstract patterns painted or tattooed all over his body. (About his choice to top it all off with a plumed helmet, an entire PhD thesis could surely be written.)


Any credible vision of the future must draw inspiration from the past, and Cushing’s interests equipped him well for the task: 28 years later, his New York Times obituary would refer to his early specialization in depicting “handsome young men and women in Greek or modern costumes.”

Even though fashions have yet to make a return to antiquity, how many outfits on the street of any major city today would scandalize the average Life reader of 1914? Of course, the cover is essentially a gag, as is much of the ostensible prognostication inside. As circulated again not long ago in a tweet thread by Andy Machals, it foresees monarchs in the unemployment line, boys’ jobs taken by girls, women acquiring harems of men, and the near-extinction of marriage. But some predictions, like 30 miles per hour becoming a slow enough driving speed to be ticketable, have come true. Another piece imagines people of the 1950s hiring musicians to accompany them throughout each phase of the day. Few of us do that even in the 2020s, but living our digitally soundtracked lives, we may still wonder how our early 20th-century ancestors managed: “Between meals they listened to almost absolutely nothing.”

via Messy Nessy

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How West Magazine Created a Southern-California Pop-Culture Aesthetic with the Help of Milton Glaser, Gahan Wilson, and Others (1967-1972)


In the late 1960s, a counterculture-minded media professional could surely have imagined more appealing places to work than the Los Angeles Times. Widely derided as the official organ of the Southern California Babbitt, the paper also put out a bland Sunday supplement called West magazine. But West had the potential to evolve into something more vital — or so seemed to think its editor, Jim Bellows. The creator of “the original New York magazine in the early 1960s,” writes Design Observer’s Steven Heller, Bellows convinced a young adman named Mike Salisbury, “who worked for Carson Roberts Advertising in L.A. (where Ed Ruscha and Terry Gilliam worked), to accept the job as art director.”

Salisbury injected West “with such an abundance of pop culture visual richness that it was more like a miniature museum than weekly gazette.” Its weekly issues “covered a wide range of themes — mostly reflecting Salisbury’s insatiable curiosities — from a feature on basketball that illustrated the tremendous size of center forwards by showing a life-size photograph of Wilt Chamberlin’s Converse sneaker, to a pictorial history of movie star pinups with a bevy of gorgeous silhouettes fanning on the page, to an array of souped-up VW Beetles in all shapes and sizes.”


On any given Sunday, subscribers might find themselves treated to “the history of Mickey Mouse, Coca-Cola art (the first time it was published as ‘art’), the visual history of Levis, Hollywood garden apartments, Raymond Chandler locations, and Kustom Kars.”

“I was the writer on the Coca-Cola ‘art’ piece as well as the first ‘programmatic’ architecture article to see print,” says a commenter under the Design Observer retrospective named Larry Dietz. He also claims to have written the feature on Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles; much later, he adds, Chinatown screenwriter “Robert Towne said that he was inspired to learn about L.A. history from that piece, but that the writing was crappy.” But then, the main impact of Salisbury’s West was never meant to be textual. Heller quotes Salisbury as saying that “design was not my sole objective: cinema-graphic information is a better definition.” Of all the covers he designed, he remembers the one just above, promoting an exposé on heroin, as having been the most controversial: “Don’t give me too much reality over Sunday breakfast,” he heard readers grumbling.

 

Other memorable West covers include the magazine’s tribute to the just-canceled Ed Sullivan show in 1971, as well as contributions by artists and designers like Victor Moscoso, Gahan Wilson, John Van Hamersveld, and Milton Glaser, all figures who did a great deal to craft the American zeitgeist of the 1960s and 70s. The magazine as a whole consolidated the Southern Californian pop-cultural aesthetic of its period, as distinct from what Salisbury calls the “quasi-Victorian” look and feel of San Francisco to the north and the “Rococo or Baroque” New York to the east. Los Angeles, to his mind, was “streamline,” emblematized by the culture and industry of motorcycle customization and its “belief in Futurism.”

West was a product of the Los Angeles Times under Otis Chandler, publisher from 1960 to 1980, who dedicated his career to expanding the scope and ambition of the newspaper his great-grandfather had once run. His labors paid off in retrospect, especially from readers as astute as Joan Didion, who praised Chandler’s Times to the skies. But by 1972, West seemed to have become too much of an extravagance even for him. After the magazine’s cancellation, Salisbury moved on to Rolling Stone, then in the process of converting from a newspaper to a magazine format. No small part of that magazine’s pop-cultural power in the 70s must have owed to his art direction.

Later in the decade, both Salisbury and Glaser would bring their talents to the just-launched New West magazine. It had no direct connection with West or the Los Angeles Times, but was conceived as the sister publication of New York Magazine, which itself had been re-invented by Glaser and publisher Clay Felker in the mid-1960s. Its debut cover, just above, featured Glaser’s artwork; three years later, in 1979, Salisbury designed a cover on California’s water crisis that the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ Steven Brower calls “prescient.” At that same time, he notes, Salisbury “worked with Francis Ford Coppola on the set design for Apocalypse Now; he designed Michael Jackson’s breakthrough album, Off the Wall,” and he even collaborated with George Harrison on his eponymous album.” But when “veteran magazine art directors” get together and “reminisce about the glory years,” writes Heller, it’s West they inevitably talk about.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

A New Yorker Cartoonist Explains How to Draw Literary Cartoons

“I enjoy poking fun at anything educated people do and civilized society perpetuates that is odd, frustrating, wacky, or hypocritical,” cartoonist Amy Kurzweil, above, recently told the New York Public Library’s Margo Moore.

Unsurprisingly, she’s been getting published in The New Yorker a lot of late.

The process for getting cartoons accepted there is the stuff of legend, though reportedly less grueling since Emma Allen, the magazine’s youngest and first-ever female cartoon editor, took over. Allen has made a point of seeking out fresh voices, and working with them to help mold their submissions into something in The New Yorker vein, rather than “this endless game of presenting work and then hearing ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”


Kurzweil has a fondness for literary themes (and the same brand of pencils that John Steinbeck, Truman Capote, and Vladimir Nabokov preferred—Blackwings—whether in her hand or, conversing with Allen on Zoom, above, in her ears.)

Getting the joke of a New Yorker cartoon often depends on getting the reference, and while both women seem tickled at the first example, Kurzweil’s mash-up of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and the picture book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, it may go over many readers’ heads.

The thing that holds it all together?

Madeleines, of course, though outside France, not every Proust lover is able to identify an inked representation of this evocative cookie by shape.

Kurzweil states that she has never actually read the children’s book that supplies half the context.

(It’s okay. Like the idea that memories can be triggered by certain nostalgic scents, its concept is pretty easy to grasp.)

Nor has she read philosopher Derek Parfit’s whopping 1,928-page On What Matters. Her inspiration for using it in a cartoon is her personal connection to the massive, unread three-volume set in her family’s library. Because both the size and the title are part of the joke, she directs the viewer’s eye to the unwieldy tome with a light watercolor wash.

She also has a good tip for anyone drawing a library scene—go figurative, rather than literal, varying sizes and shapes until the eye is tricked into seeing what is merely suggested.

A all-too-true literary experience informs her second example at the 4:30 mark—that of a little known author giving a reading in a bookstore. Despite a preference for drawing “fleshy things like people and animals” she forgoes depicting the author or those in attendance, giving the punchline instead to the event posters in the store’s window.

As she told the NYPL’s Moore:

A cartoon is always an opportunity to showcase a contemporary phenomenon by exaggerating it or placing it in a different context.

Over the last year, a huge number of New Yorker cartoons have concerned themselves with the domestic dullness of the pandemic, but when Allen asked if she has a favorite New Yorker cartoon cliché, Kurzweil went with “the Moby Dick trope, because whales are easy to draw, and I like a good metaphor for the unattainable.”

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The History of American Newspapers Has Been Digitized: Explore 114 Years of Editor & Publisher, “the Bible of the Newspaper Industry”

If you look into the history of the American newspaper, you can’t get too deep before your inevitable encounter with Editor & Publisher. Branded as “the bible of the newspaper industry,” the trade magazine has for 120 years covered its subject from every possible angle. Though newspapers had already been published in the United States for nearly 200 years before the magazine’s founding, its run has been coeval with an especially fascinating, even dramatic period in their history. It was in the 20th century that American newspapers consolidated into the pillars of what looked, for a time, like a mighty “fourth estate”; in this century, they’ve plunged into what Editor & Publisher‘s owner Mike Blinder terms “such a crisis.”

Still, since purchasing the magazine last year, writes Internet Archive Collections Manager Marina Lewis, “Blinder and his wife, Robin, have been able to turn the operation around, doubling its revenues and tripling its audience.” He also gave the Internet Archive permission to upload and make available 114 years of Editor & Publisher issues online for free.


“Going beyond the Internet Archive’s traditional lending system ensures it can be indexed by search engines and made maximally useful to readers and researchers,” writes Lewis. “The ability to research these archived issues has been truly exciting, especially for those looking up historical documents, many with a personal or family connection.”

As the Nieman Journalism Lab’s Joshua Bendon remembers itEditor & Publisher was once “the best (and often only) place to find out about job openings at newspapers.”  With more than a century of its back issues freely available at the Internet Archive, “if you’re at all interested in the 20th-century history of the American newspaper business, you now have access to a robust new resource.” In the archive he finds documentation of “some of the century’s most interesting moments,” at least as far as that business is concerned: The New Yorker‘s 1946 publication of John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” which it subsequently offered to conventional newspapers (“The piece runs about 30,000 words and no cutting or condensing is to be permitted”); the 1965 hiring of Ben Bradlee by The Washington Post; the 1971 debut of Doonesbury in national newspapers.

Not all of these reflect well on the U.S. newspaper industry. Benton highlights the 1981 exposure of “Jimmy’s World,” a Pulitzer-winning Post story about an eight-year-old heroin addict, as a fabrication — or a piece of “fake news,” as we might say today. That article also quotes a Boston Globe editor as saying “the public faith in the press is minimal at the moment,” a sentiment not unheard these 40 years later. The magazine was also quick to observe the emergence of other forms of media (such as a 1925 test of French inventor Édouard Belin’s experimental “television”) that would later force change upon the newspaper industry’s very nature. And if the current crisis is, as some argue, not destroying the fourth estate but returning it to its roots, there could be few better paths back to an understanding of those roots than through the Editor & Publisher archive.

Related Content:

Techie Working at Home Creates Bigger Archive of Historical Newspapers (37 Million Pages) Than the Library of Congress

Enter “The Magazine Rack,” the Internet Archive’s Collection of 34,000 Digitized Magazines

The End of an Era: A Short Film About The Last Day of Hot Metal Typesetting at The New York Times (1978)

A Big Digital Archive of Independent & Alternative Publications: Browse/Download Radical Periodicals Printed from 1951 to 2016

From the Annals of Optimism: The Newspaper Industry in 1981 Imagines its Digital Future

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.