⚡️Mr. Foreman’s Amazing Electric Ephemera⚡️

“Guaranteed to take no longer to be read
than takes a single cup of coffee to be drunk.”


PAMPHLET NUMBER TWO: “LIGHT”

Light is one of those subjects that you can’t stop thinking about, once you let it in your head. Einstein couldn’t stop thinking about it, and thank goodness for that. Another person couldn’t stop thinking about it, either, a person who led a far more interesting life than his mathematical descendent (sorry, Al).


THE EXTEMPORANEUM

a thoughtful exploration of interesting topics enhanced by personal experience and opinion; topics begin at the Theme and, like growing trees, sprout branches into unpredictable areas

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton invented an entirely new branch of mathematics before he was 30 (though Leibniz begged to differ). He came up with those laws of thermodynamic laws we all know and love, too, and a whole bunch of other things that are beyond the scope of this newsletter. Concordant with the theme of Pamphlet 2, Newton was also obsessed with the properties of light.

Newton walked the halls of Trinity College and littered the ground behind him with his optical discoveries: how prisms work, the intrinsic nature of colors, designs for new kinds of telescopes, how to grind better mirrors. Curious about the behavior of light against the human eye, he stuck a large needle between his ocular bone and his eyeball to see if how his vision changed when he squeezed it. No joke. He even diagrammed it:
Oh, and he was 24.

Isaac Newton was also a grade-a jerk with a thin skin. Another scientific luminary in a time when one could throw a stick in a random, filthy, street and hit three luminaries was Robert Hooke (he discovered the cell structure of living creatures and named them such), who made some mild criticisms of some of Newton’s discoveries. Newton’s reaction was to take his ball and go home, withdrawing from public discourse altogether.

Newton didn’t stay away from the public eye forever, and eventually, in his old(er) age, found himself in charge of the Royal Mint, which was plagued by the circulation of false coinage. He is credited with successfully prosecuting dozens of forgers by disguising himself and hanging out in pubs, gathering evidence and conquering counterfeiters like a 17th century Sherlock Holmes. How has this footnote of history never made it to a quirky BBC detective show? Speaking of whom…

Bartitsu

Sherlock Holmes was no mere fighter — he was a practitioner of an obscure “gentleman’s martial art” of the 1800s, a style of combat that utilized the gentleman’s walking stick and was always depicted in practice by a gentleman with a gentleman’s hat, tails and gentleman’s mustache.


Bartitsu (or, as Doyle miswrote it, baritsu) was invented by the extremely English-sounding E.W. Barton-Wright. The name Bartitsu was a combination of his name and “jujitsu” which was, among a large number of extant martial arts, a major source of inspiration. In fact, Barton-Wright is credited with being one of the first westerners to teach Japanese-style combat, a manifestation of the era’s obsession with orientalism.

Barton-Wright did not just make up a martial art using a modern version of a club, he founded a capital-C Club called the Bartitsu Academy of Arms and Physical Culture. He encouraged a well-rounded martial arts education, believing that one should master many forms of combat. Pursuant to this, he imported martial arts masters from all over the world and even hosted a group of historians experimenting with ancient fencing techniques. As if all that weren’t Elizabethan enough, he also employed (and in some cases, invented) a slew of therapies involving electricity, heat and radiation.

Bartitsu was essentially forgotten, but has seen a resurgence in the 21st century as another generation discovers its own incarnation of Holmes.

Jackie Chan

Speaking of bridges between asian and western cultures, Jackie’s nickname as a child was 炮炮, which means “cannonball.” It’s a pretty accurate description of Jackie Chan as an adult, too.

Contrary to popular belief, he never did all of his own stunts. He has the world record for having personally performed the most stunts on film, but he had a team of extremely talented stunt performers who worked on every Jackie Chan movie for most of the 80s, when his most dangerous stunts took place, like the stunt in Armour of God (Jackie fell from a tree and fractured his skull).

Some of Jackie’s greatest assets are his humor — kung fu comedy is a genre he is credited with inventing — and his willingness to embarrass himself, something that his late co-star Bruce Lee didn’t do. Jackie’s producers want him to be more like Bruce (so he could be the next Bruce Lee), but Jackie didn’t find real success until he purposefully went the opposite direction. Where Lee was a stalwart paladin, Jackie was flawed and bumbling.

During my research, I found a video by the folks at Every Frame a Painting that perfectly sums up everything I just wrote, so you should just watch that instead.

This is my earliest recollection of ever even hearing about Jackie Chan, when he won a lifetime achievement award from the MTV movie awards (which they discontinued because the last winner, Clint Howard, seemed to be so legitimately touched by what nobody else took seriously). This award was given to him when he was finally breaking through in Hollywood and preceded his most famous American movies.


THE RECOMMENDATAE

A selection of delights both digital and physical, curated for your enjoyment.

It’s finally feeling like autumn around here, a season that makes me want to listen to music like The Handsome Family, whose song, My Sister’s Tiny Hands, I heard Andrew Bird cover at his most recent Pittsburgh show. I had no idea it was a Handsome Family song, but reading the lyrics (sample: “The sunlight spread like honey/ Through my sister’s tiny hands”), it makes perfect sense. The descriptions of light, shadow and darkness are some great writing.


Not every recommendation in this newsletter will be a music video, which is good because I have another one:

I used IKEA’s “Dioder” LED light strips to make my grandfather’s > aunt’s sword into a lamp. They’re bright and warm and don’t have that weird, bluish LED flicker and you can use command strips to temporarily attach them to something that you treasure. I probably don’t have to worry about this sword’s preservation, considering it lived much of its life as a stake for tomato plants in one of my grandfather’s patient’s gardens.


QUOTUM INTERRUPTE

“Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.” – Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man


THE ANECDOTUS

a memory retrieved from the depths of my mind’s ocean by bathysphere; or, a thing that happened recently

Despite being a modern, medicated American, I still have the occasional bout of depression. It’s not capital-D Depression, which I do have, which is managed by the medication. Its symptoms include an unwillingness to leave one’s safe little spaces, an avoidance of social situations, a sinking sense of malaise. It’s Depression Junior, a sad feeling for a little while. But there are things you can do. In order of importance:

  • drink at least one glass of water, and more than one is better

  • eat a little something with lots of protein in it

  • pick one small task (take the garbage out, wash a few dishes, etc.) and do it

  • call somebody who loves you and talk for a bit

  • turn all the lights on

Light therapy is useful in cases of seasonal affective disorder, but lots of light is just good for you. It chases shadows away, and when you’re sad, you don’t need any damn shadows around.




Thank you for reading, dear reader.

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