One moves by pushing itself along. “It’s kind of like an accordion,” says Dr. Jordon Pollack of Brandeis University. Another “walks something like a crab,” says his colleague, Dr. Hod Lipson. What are the doctors describing?
(Schedule note: final summer fun question. Back-to-school quizzing resumes Wednesday.)
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Monday’s Question (No. 472)—”Photo Finished”:
“This is a very stupid time to do this,” said Patricia Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, about efforts to block publication of a book of photographs called The Clinton Years. Who objected to what picture?
“The Chinese government wants to block the book, because a photo of President Jiang Zemin ‘makes him look fat.’ “—Deborah Wassertzug
“Gen. Barry McCaffery didn’t get a chance to review the anti-drug message of a picture of P-Funk All-Stars tokin’.”—Anthony Wright
“Al Gore was upset about a picture of Clinton and his staff in uproarious laughter. The caption reads, ‘President Clinton suggests running a policy decision by the veep before going public.’ “—Brooke Saucier
“See! This is why you should never have video cameras in the delivery room!”—Greg Diamond
“Well, it’s a photo of Bill shooting Vince Foster after catching him in bed with Hillary, who can barely find room on the mattress, what with all those Rose Law Firm billing records scattered around them. So, they’re all in on it. As usual.”—Peter Carlin
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According to historian Dr. Robert Leggat, the first successful photograph was taken in 1827 by Niépce using material that hardened on exposure to light. (Coincidentally, that was the date of the first Clinton-Lewinsky joke, told by a prescient Jules Verne a full year before his actual birth.) This picture required an exposure of eight hours, and with rates for fashion models being what they are, Vogue magazine as we know it would have been impossible without some technical innovations.
Fortunately, on Jan. 4, 1829, Niépce went into partnership with Louis Daguerre. Niépce died only four years later, but you can’t blame Daguerre for that. (Or can you?) Soon he had discovered a process that reduced the exposure time to a half-hour. (Daguerre, not Niépce, whose commitment to innovation largely ceased upon his death.) Daguerre also discovered that an image could be made permanent by immersing it in salt. And by adding a little mustard and some garlic, he is said to have created an excellent salad dressing.
Not everyone welcomed this invention. The Leipzig City Advertiser wrote: “The wish to capture evanescent reflections is not only impossible … but the mere desire alone, the will to do so, is blasphemy. God created man in His own image, and no man-made machine may fix the image of God.” And this was nearly two centuries before Hot Thai Nurse Spanking photographs appeared online.
Parisian photography shops spread rapidly, from a mere handful in the mid-1840s, to 66 in 1855, and to 147 two years later. The demand for photographs was such that Charles Baudelaire commented that “our squalid society has rushed, Narcissus to a man, to gloat at its trivial image on a scrap of metal.” But he may have been reacting to a snapshot that “made me look swishy.”
In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer introduced the collodion process, reducing exposure times to two or three seconds, opening up new horizons in photography and a chance to say “collodion.”
In 1884, George Eastman produced flexible celluloid film. Four years later he introduced the box camera, and photography could reach a much greater number of people. Other developments followed in rapid succession, including that gizmo that lets you print a family vacation photograph on a T-shirt. Baudelaire would have disapproved. As would my Aunt Bernice, who hated being photographed in her bathing suit.
The Chinese government objected to hot naked photographs of the Dalai Lama. No, wait, sorry—I’m conflating this with the hot naked Dalai Lama Web site. The Chinese government objected to a fully clothed photograph of the Dalai Lama smiling, chatting, and holding hands with President Clinton.
The book of black-and-white pictures by Robert McNeely, Clinton’s official photographer from 1992 to 1998, was printed in Hong Kong (as are many art books) and sent to Schenzen for binding where Chinese officials seized 16,000 copies. Another 8,000 had already been shipped to Callaway Editions, its publisher, in the United States. China believes that such photographs fuel the Tibetan separatist movement.
“It is the consistent policy of the government to actually control the political content of printed materials,” said Zhang Yuanyuan, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington. “Such books were never allowed to be printed on Chinese soil, and, if in the past they were not intercepted at the border, it was just a coincidence,” he actually did add.
The Lewinsky jokes of yesteryear, they walk again! Ayeeee!