Friday, December 4, 2015

Miscellaneous New York

Today it's time for the other things I saw in New York City, beyond the homes of some of my favorite people. First, some of my usual topics: oddities in bathrooms and the names of the local rent-a-john companies:

A fun figure from the women's room at LaGuardia airport.

This cheerful-looking tampon machine from the Museum of Modern Art fits into my past posts about pareidolia.

The fact that rent-a-johns don't flush doesn't seem to matter.

Then there are a few from the street:

I couldn't resist trying this. It didn't work.

I've titled this one "Segregation." When enlarged, you may be able to see that there's a man standing among the white bags, picking through the bottles and cans. This photo is shot from the south end of the High Line, right next to the Whitney Museum.

This one is called "Proud American."

Finally, there are several photos from the museum of the New York Historical Society, which is right next to the Museum of Natural History. It's my favorite kind of museum: not too big but full of interesting stuff. The major exhibit we saw was about the history of computing in New York, which of course means a lot of information about IBM. Lots of neat models of giant computers, films from the 1964 World's Fair, and this poster:

Yes, a smartphone is as "smart" as a $5 million mainframe from 1965.

Despite the primary focus on computers, I was most obsessed with the Selectric typewriters they had available to use. Boy, I love the feel of that keyboard. It brings back such memories. Spring-loaded!

The exhibit also had a nice array of Selectric "elements" -- that's what these are actually called, though everyone I know calls them golf balls or type balls. It's easy to forget that before the Selectric, you only had one typeface option when you bought a typewriter. If it came with Prestige Elite, that was it for you. The Selectric also used a plastic ribbon, coated in carbon, so the letters struck from the element were much crisper and blacker than those struck through an inked fabric ribbon.

And what tech history exhibit would be complete without a classic sexist ad? This one is probably from the late 1950s, given the way the typewriter looks. It reminds me of the 1970s and '80s ads for phototypesetting equipment, which promised the machines were so easy to use "even your secretary can do it."

The next exhibit, timed for the holidays, was of toy trains and towns, including this German-made painted tin swimming pool.

My last photo from the museum is of this sculpture, titled "The Indian: The Dying Chief Contemplating the Progress of Civilization." This bit of European-American triumphalism is by Thomas Crawford and was completed in 1856. It's a three-dimensional version of a figure he did for a frieze on the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol (!). According to the accompanying text panel, Crawford’s vision for the frieze was “the triumph of civilization over the savage state.” The accompanying text tries to mitigate the obvious triumphalism by saying this figure is an homage to a famous Greek sculpture, the Dying Gaul. I'm not sure why that makes it any better, though, since the dying Gaul was also a defeated enemy of an empire; so that sculpture is a comparable example of Greek (and later Roman) triumphalism.

That's it for my general photos of New York. Unfortunately, I visited just before Michael Leddy's recommendation of the Jacob Riis exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, so I missed that. Drat.


Michael Leddy said...

I would have liked that computing exhibit. (That was my World’s Fair.) Oh well. I didn’t know about it, and we had just one day to spend in the city anyway.

Daughter Number Three said...

My World's Fair, too. I was 4 years old. I ,ostly remember the Sinclair dinosaurs, the scary General Motors (or Ford?) drive-through timeline, and the Tivoli Gardens play area. Oh, and the trash cans.

Unemployed Dragon said...

Ah, those IBM Selectrics! I remember the type balls and being enthralled with the different symbols one could get on different balls.