Incendie de la biosphère

Archives de la Ville de Montréal, VM94-Ud77-27

The above image is not a computer graphic. The Buckminister Fuller and Cambridge Seven Associates and built for Expo 67 in acrylic and steel, burst into flames while it was being renovated in 1976. The fire was triggered during welding work on the frame and the acrylic shell was consumed by flames in about thirty minutes. No one was killed in the accident, though there may have been some injuries. Not surprisingly, the fire has reportedly [1] made it easier to climb the structure, though I have not verified this myself.

Here’s a presentation by Cambridge Seven Associates. A cool feature of the pavilion was that the Expo monorail train route passed through the sphere. I recall feeling excited by the building but being disappointed by the somewhat vague exhibition inside. For example, you couldn’t walk on the simulated lunar landscape – pretty frustrating for a five year old.

[1] http://spacingmontreal.ca/2009/01/31/photo-du-jour-biosphere-burning/ (see comments)

Post-industrial Montreal

Pictures taken not far from where I used to live (Rue Bernard and Ave du Parc, in Outremont) as an undergraduate at Mcgill. There was already some post-industrial urban decay in those days, but the grafitti wasn’t as good. It feels like I’ve been on top of this building long ago, but surely it can’t have been abandoned for that long – probably déjà vu. Seems a little dangerous: there’s a sink hole where the roof is starting to cave in. And unhealthy: tons of pigeon shit and mold everywhere.

The building may be the location of this video:

or maybe it was shot in the Bovril building on the other side of Parc.

Optical Media – F. Kittler

Here’s another book I enjoyed reading this summer, Friedrich Kittler’s Optical Media. The original German version dates back to 2002, but the English translation did not appear until two or three years ago. I was surprised at just how much the general outlook and some of the content overlaps with my introductory course in digital media. What could I possibly have in common with Kittler, who had a background in German literature? One point of overlap is an interest in Marshall McLuhan’s work. Kittler also seems to have explored information theory to a certain extent though he sometimes understandably shows gaps in his understanding of the scientific basis of media technology. Nonetheless, this work provides valuable perspective on the history of image media technology.

Images of Child Labor

The U.S. Library of Congress has recently provided a set of images showing child labor (American spelling of ‘labour’) practices from the early 20th century. This image by sociologist/photographer Lewis Hine shows a fifteen year old, pipe-smoking bicycle messenger in Waco, Texas. The photograph was published, nearly a century ago, in September 1913. The photograph is from a series entitled ‘Street Trades’ and is accompanied by a note to the effect that the boy is exposed to ‘Red Light Dangers’ – a euphemism that may imply his job takes him into prostitution zones. Hine’s photographs, of course, famously influenced child labour law reform.

Higher resolution scans are available at the LOC site linked to the photograph. I am impressed by the aesthetics and excellent image quality of this photograph. It’s also surprising to see that this 100 year old bicycle looks very similar to fixie bikes, favoured by current bicycle messengers, and recently fashionable with hipsters.