June 19, 2006

Toynbee Tiles

Filed under: philadelphia — ted @ 4:36 pm

This morning I spent over an hour reading about Toynbee Tiles, the strange street markings like the one above (all bearing a variation on the phrase TOYNBEE IDEA IN KUBRICKS 2001 RESURRECT DEAD ON PLANET JUPITER) which are plastered all over Philadelphia. I always assumed there was a interesting story behind them — but little did I know it would be this strange.

From all accounts, the origin and meaning of the tiles is still a mystery, despite the fact that sightings go back twenty years. No one knows who is placing them — although there are some delightful theories — or how to interpret the strange message. Also, they’re all over the world, not just Philadelphia.

Most interpreters operate under the assumption that the Toynbee in the title is Arnold Toynbee, the famous meta-historian, and the reference to Kubrick comes from an episode of the colonization of Jupiter depicted in 2010: Odyssey Two (which was not directed by Kubrick). At this point, it should be clear that whoever is pasting these things onto the ground does not have a terribly firm idea of what he is talking about.

The identity of the artist is the most intriguing aspect of the mystery. First of all, it seems likely that there are two separate artists, since there are “old school” tiles and “new school” ones. The prime suspect is a man named James Morasco, who was featured in an 1983 Phildelphia Inquirer article which mentioned the colonization of Jupiter, Toynbee, and Stanley Kubrick. The article is miserably short, and no one knows much else about James Morasco. We do know, however, that whoever is pasting the tiles holds a grudge against Knight Ridder (who owned the Inquirer) — since he pasted a huge tile into the street at 16th and Chestnut detailing his feelings. (It’s no longer there; Chestnut was repaved not long ago).

Fascinated yet? How about the fact that David Mamet, in 1983, published a short play, Four A.M., which contains the following exchange:

Caller: In the movie 2001, based on the writings of Arnold Toynbee, they speak of the plan…

Int: Excuse me, excuse me, but the movie 2001 was based on the writings…

Caller: …all human life is made of molecules…

Int: …based on the writings of Arthur C. Clarke…

Caller: All human…no, Greg, if you examine…

Int: …it was based on the writings of Arthur C. Clarke…

Caller: Oh, Greg, No. We have the…

Int: Well, go on.

Caller: Greg: In the writings of Arnold Toynbee he discusses a plan whereby all human life could be easily reconstituted on the planet Jupiter.

Could it be David Mamet? Was Mamet reading the Inquirer?

In short, I think you have every reason to read frantically about this for an hour just like I did this morning. Here’s what to read:

  • Out of This World: A 2001 article from the Cincinnati CityBeat.
  • Toynbee the Essay: An article by a huge Toynbee Tile fanatic, which contains the entire text of the 16th and Chestnut tile, an account of an early morning when he discovered a freshly laid tile, a good guess as to how the tiles are sunk, and lots of great theorizing.
  • Resurrect Dead: A wonderful website devoted to the whole phenomenon, which I found most helpful. Be sure to check out the links page.


June 2, 2006

Rigging the Vote

Filed under: humor, philadelphia, politics — ted @ 4:35 pm

As if making up for its lackluster showing yesterday, the Internet is full of glory today.

First and foremost, there's a bombshell of an article in Rolling Stone, written by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Was the 2004 Election Stolen?

After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election.

His answer, as you can see, is more or less yes, and he provides piles of evidence and speculation to support his claim. Focusing on Ohio, Kennedy demonstrates how the actions of Kenneth Blackwell, at once both Ohio's secretary of state and the co-chair of President Bush's re-election committee, and others led to a statistically absurd divergence between exit poll and actual results, thousands of voters in Democratic districts being denied the opportuinity to vote, and even outright tampering and fraud.

Whether or not you will be convinced by the essay or not, you should most certainly read the entire thing — the case builds and gets more impressive as it nears its end. Then, if you still want more, read "None Dare Call It Stolen" from last September's Harper's.

Now onto other matters.

I think this is too funny: Woman Hit By Lightning While Praying. [Boing Boing]

This too:

Here's more great examples of Divine Vinyl. [Purgatorio]

Soon, you might be able to find a parking spot with your cell phone and then pay for it with your credit card online. When I read things like this and think about using the actual technology, I get goosebumps. [Wired]

Two great Philadelphia related rants today:

Some dude, in the Craigslist rants & raves section, put up a post entitled: Why do Women "give it up" to guys (SEX) so easily ? The first sentence reads thusly:

Does anyone tell the truth or "keep it real" on CL ?

It gets worse. Should be fun watching the responses to this one.

Jim Ryan, a local actor, was really upset when Inky reviewer Toby Zinman totally ripped into a show in which he performed, so he started a blog: We Love Toby! The title is ironic:

Dear Toby,

For years, I've heard about your wicked mean streak. It's hard to set foot in any local theater without hearing your name cursed for your bitter, non-constructive reviews. Until today, I had not personally encountered any of this. Believe me when I say that I did not expect great reviews for Closer Than Ever – it's a fluffy little review intended for patrons less theatrically sophisticated than yourself. I was flabbergasted, however at your incredibly harsh, patently false and totally unnecessary blanket remarks about the singers. They reflect your inability to use nuance and good taste in describing a show that you have personal disdain for. I welcome criticism, but you lash out with the sharp tongue of a failed actress gossiping in the rafters.

The whole blog makes for a great read.

May 16, 2006

A New Subway?

Filed under: philadelphia — ted @ 5:27 pm

On PhillyFuture, dovate maps out a plan for a new Philadelphia subway, which would stretch from Broad Street to Strawberry Mansion, and maybe even into Manayunk.

The great thing is that some of the infrastructure is already in place, from an old viaduct line that runs from the Terminal to the Museum. Of course, this is all just freethinking–a great idea, but one which has very little chance of actually happening.

More Slate stuff: they now have a textcast. A lovely way to use your iPod.

Worldmapper does sweet things with maps of the world.

April 12, 2006

Don’t Ride the Ducks, Please

Filed under: philadelphia — ted @ 7:09 pm

Found this on Philebrity:

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