1969: The Door Said

gray door

The door refused to open. It said, “Five cents, please.”

He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. “I’ll pay you tomorrow,” he told the door. Again he tried the knob. Again it remained locked tight “What I pay you,” he informed it, “is in the nature of a gratuity; I don’t have to pay you.”

“I think otherwise,” the door said. “Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this conapt.”

In his desk drawer he found the contract; since signing it he had found it necessary to refer to the document many times. Sure enough; payment to his door for opening and shutting constituted a mandatory fee. Not a tip.

“You’ll discover I’m right,” the door said. It sounded smug. From the drawer beside the sink Joe Chip got a stainless steel knife; with it he began systematically to unscrew the bolt assembly of his apt’s money-gulping door.

“I’ll sue you,” the door said as the first screw fell out.

Philip K. Dick: Ubik (1969)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1991: Time’s Arrow

Martin Amis - Time's Arrow (1991)In Martin Amis’s 1991 novel, Time’s Arrow, time flows backwards. It’s not simply that the events are narrated in reverse order; rather, it’s as if the characters were in a film being show in reverse. Here’s how eating works, for example:

First I stack the clean plates in the dishwasher, which works okay, I guess, like all my other labor-saving devices…then you select a soiled dish, collect some scraps from the garbage, and settle down for a short wait. Various items get gulped up into my mouth, and after skillful massage with tongue and teeth I transfer them to the plate for additional sculpture with knife and fork and spoon. That bit’s quite therapeutic at least, unless you’re having soup or something, which can be a real sentence. Next you face the laborious business of cooling, of reassembly, of storage, before the return of these foodstuffs to the Superette, where, admittedly, I am promptly and generously reimbursed for my pains. Then you tool down the aisles, with trolley or basket, returning each can and packet to its rightful place.

At the beginning of the novel, the narrator is a retired doctor living quietly in the USA. After moving to New York and then to Portugal, he eventually finds himself in Auschwitz, where he assists a Josef Mengele-like figure in—due to the reverse causality of the novel’s universe—healing the sick and bringing the dead to life.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1973: First Strike in Space

1 February 1974 - Skylab 4 Dispose of Trash

On December 28, 1973, the crew of Skylab 4 went on strike, shutting off radio communications with NASA ground control to protest their grueling working conditions.

The three astronauts—Gerald Carr, William Pogue, and Edward Gibson—left Earth on November 16, 1973, and almost immediately began to fall behind NASA’s demanding schedule of experiments and space walks.

About a month into the mission, they began to voice their complaints. The mission was like “a 33-day fire drill,” Gibson told mission control. “We would never work 16 hours a day for 84 straight days on the ground, and we should not be expected to do it here in space.”

“There is no way we can do a professional job,” Pogue said; “We’re pressed bodily from one point of the spacecraft to another with no time for even mental preparation.”

Officially, the astronauts were allowed a a day off every 10 days, but worked through these days in an effort to complete their tasks. “It was almost to the point where you almost had to schedule a time when you could go to the bathroom, it was that tightly scheduled,” Carr recalled.

They also simply wanted time to experience the awe of spaceflight. Pogue later said that, once in space, he became “much more inclined toward humanistic feeling toward other people, other crewmen…I try to put myself into the human situation, instead of trying to operate like a machine.” In his obituary, the New York Times reported that “he and the others just wanted more time to look out the window and think.”

Once they resumed communications, the crew made their demands to mission control: “I said, ‘We need more time to rest. We need a schedule that’s not quite so packed,'” Car later reported.  “‘We don’t want exercise after a meal anymore. We need to get the pace of things under control.’”

Negotiations resulted in an agreement. For the remainder of the mission, the crew would have mealtimes and evenings free. Instead of being tied to a strict schedule, the astronauts were given a list of jobs to be completed as they saw fit. “It worked beautifully,” Carr later said. “It turns out, when the mission was over, we completed every one of the experiments that we needed to do.”

Image: Pogue (left) and Carr pass trash through an airlock to Skylab’s waste disposal tank (February 1,1974)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1963: Pastoral

Richard Mayhew - Pastoral (c 1963)

Richard Mayhew: Pastoral (c. 1963)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1975: Fred Hampton’s Door

Dana C Chandler - Fred Hampton's Door 2 (1975)

Dana C. Chandler: Fred Hampton’s Door 2 (1975)

Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton was drugged and murdered by the Chicago Police in 1969.  Dana Chandler first memorialized the event in 1970 with a small trompe I’oeil painting of a door riddled with bullet holes. When that work was stolen from a exhibition, he executed this version using an actual door.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1773: An Extraordinary Animal

The Kongouro from New Holland (Kangaroo) 1772 by George Stubbs. ZBA5754

In his Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, James Boswell famously recounts his travels with Samuel Johnson in the highlands and western islands of Scotland. The year was 1773; Johnson was in his mid-sixties. In an 1885 edition of the work, editor Robert Carruthers provides the following note regarding a visit of the pair with Reverend Alexander Grant in Inverness:

Johnson was in high spirits. In the course of conversation he mentioned that Mr. Banks (afterwards Sir Joseph) had, in his travels in New South Wales, discovered an extraordinary animal called the kangaroo. The appearance, conformation, and habits of this quadruped were of the most singular kind; and in order to render his description more vivid and graphic, Johnson rose from his chair and volunteered an imitation of the animal. The company stared; and Mr. Grant said nothing could be more ludicrous than the appearance of a tall, heavy, grave-looking man, like Dr. Johnson, standing up to mimic the shape and motions of a kangaroo. He stood erect, put out his hands like feelers, and, gathering up the tails of his huge brown coat so as to resemble the pouch of the animal, made two or three vigorous bounds across the room!

George Stubbs: The Kongouro from New Holland (1772)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1978: The Far Side of the Moon

D.E. Stuart-Alexander - Geologic map of the central far side of the Moon (1978) [detail]

Desiree E. Stuart-Alexander: Geologic map of the central far side of the Moon (1978) [detail]; full map here. (source)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment