Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sullivant influences Disney



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Sullivant influences Disney
// Deja View

Here are a couple of examples that show the graphic influence T.S. Sullivant had on the design of certain Disney animal characters. 
The first one is the brown cow from the 1950 short film The Brave Engineer. The train had to come to a sudden and abrupt stop because the cow happened to stand on the railroad tracks. With a nonchalant attitude she turns away and moves on. Milt Kahl animated this scene with all the comedy you can get out of a Sullivant design. Oversized muzzle, and hip bones that stick out for days.







This sketch by story artist James Bodrero depicts a young  Gauchito on a horse. The final 1945 short film The Flying Gauchito includes a flying donkey instead.
There is a certain size and shape Sullivant applies to a horse's head, and you can clearly see the influence when compared to Bodrero's beautiful sketch.






Most artists working in the animation industry during its golden age just loved Sullivant's work. 
There really is nobody like him.
Now who is going to publish that coffee table book on his work?!



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The Prisoner Who Painted Dachau's Horrors



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The Prisoner Who Painted Dachau's Horrors
// Atlas Obscura - Latest Articles and Places

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When Dr. Sigmund Rascher of the Schutzstaffel (SS), a paramilitary organization of Nazi Germany, started conducting his merciless medical experiments at the Dachau concentration camp using prisoners as guinea pigs, he sent for a prisoner, an artist, to document his work. His assistant Walter Neff, a former camp inmate himself, approached Georg Tauber, a Bavarian advertising illustrator. Lured by the prospect of a reduced prison term, Tauber took the offer in 1942. However, unable to stomach the barbarity on display, he showed up at these sessions not more than three times.

One day, he told Neff that he had had enough. As Tauber recalled later in a 1946 letter to the Munich Public Prosecution Office, "Neff said to me, 'Don't be so stupid, he can get you released in a few months and you're free.' 'Walter,' I said, 'even if I have to stay here for another ten years, it's alright. I can't watch that again, I just can't.'"

Today, almost 70 years after Tauber's death from tuberculosis in 1950, his heartrending sketches and paintings of the medical experiments and the horrors of the camp have become the subject of an exhibition at the very site where he was held as an "asocial" prisoner between 1940 and 1945.

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Dachau was the first concentration camp ever built by the Nazis, weeks after Adolf Hitler seized power in 1933. There were about 32,000 documented deaths, and thousands more undocumented, at this location. (Numbers here, and in the rest of this article, have been provided by the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site.) It set the template for others that followed.

Apart from the Jews, the Nazi regime also imprisoned those who did not fit its ideal of Volksgemeinschaft (people's community). In the eyes of the Nazis, this included those who repeatedly broke the law as well as members of the LGBTQ community. Another category of persecuted people was the "asocial prisoners." These were mainly the homeless, drug addicts, people with mental illnesses, beggars, sex workers, as well as the Sinti and Roma.

Tauber fell into the latter category, the turbulent arc of his life mirroring the choppy trajectory of the early 20th century. As a 17-year-old, Tauber volunteered for military service in World War I. Two years later, as he lay injured in bed after a street fight in Berlin, he was given morphine as a pain reliever. This was the beginning of his addiction.

Over the following years, his life was interjected with brief stays in psychiatric hospitals, as well as prisons for minor theft charges, fraud, and forgery. In 1929, he joined the Nazi party but left it a year after Hitler got elected. That same year, in 1934, he separated from his wife, the mother of his twins, and began an itinerant lifestyle. Three years later, he was arrested by the Gestapo for a letter he wrote in which he threatened to murder Benito Mussolini. Then, in 1940, because of his morphine addiction, he found himself at Dachau amid 10,000 other asocial prisoners.

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Engaging in any artistic activity was prohibited at Dachau, unless commissioned by the SS. And yet, poetry, music, and painting found their way out of these confines as acts of resistance, self-expression, and documentation. Art also worked as a form of currency in exchange for cigarettes or food.

Tauber initially found an ally in Rudi Felsner, who worked as an employee at an SS porcelain manufacturing company. Starting in 1941, Felsner discreetly provided Tauber with watercolors and other paints in exchange for Tauber's drawings. The barter system was busted by the SS not long after; Felsner got conscripted as a soldier and was sent to the Eastern Front, while Tauber was detained in a bunker in 1944.

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Tauber's paintings vividly capture the brutality and inhumanity of the medical experiments conducted at Dachau. In one image, he depicts a hypothermia experiment, 300-400 of which were conducted at the Dachau concentration camp, killing about 90 people total. Subjects were made to endure freezing cold water until they reached life-threatening body temperatures. Meanwhile, doctors stood by and recorded physical changes.

"As they were then pulled out of the tank, with a pulley, dead or having collapsed, it needs to be kept in mind that the water in the tank was 8-10 degrees [Celsius] below zero. But that didn't stop them from ridiculing the subjects," Tauber wrote in the 1946 letter.

In another of his paintings, American soldiers are seen vaccinating and disinfecting former inmates after the camp was liberated.

Tauber recorded not only his own experiences, but those of his fellow prisoners. Through his renderings, a viewer sees what happens when humans plunge to the very depths of inhumanness: men march to their deaths as skeletons, they are stripped and crushed, corpses are stuffed in ovens when there is no wood.

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For decades after his death, Tauber was forgotten. His art had been in the possession of Anton Hofer, another Dachau prisoner. Employees at Dachau, which is now a memorial site and museum, presume Tauber gave Hofer the artwork himself. It was about six years ago that Hofer's granddaughters chanced upon the drawings in his estate and approached staff at the memorial site with their discovery.

"What was striking about Tauber's work was that not only did it throw a light on asocial prisoners, of which very little is known, but also about life at the camp after the liberation led by American troops," says Andrea Riedle, head of the research department at the Dachau memorial site, who curated the exhibition with her colleague Stefanie Pilzweger.

"After the liberation, Tauber and many other prisoners spent more than a month at the camp," says Riedle. "Due to terrible hygiene conditions and overcrowding, infectious diseases like typhus and spotted fever began to spread. The camp was quarantined. Tauber depicted this period in his work."

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At the end of World War II, the asocial prisoners faced stigma. According to Riedle, they were denied the status of victims of the Nazi regime, and thus received no compensation. A few months after leaving the camp, together with fellow prisoner Karl Jochheim, Tauber cofounded "K.Z.-Arbeitsgemeinschaft 'Die Vergessenen,'" an association that campaigned for these "forgotten" concentration camp victims.

While Tauber was inclined to make postcards of his drawings and sell them, other survivors dismissed the idea as unashamedly mercenary. One of them published an article in a newspaper condemning Tauber. Bringing perspective, Riedle says, "Even though he did want to make money, he also wanted to make the drawings public so the people could know about the Nazi crimes."

During his lifetime, Tauber didn't see his work being recognized or appreciated. What he did see was two of his pieces being used as evidence at the Dachau and Nuremberg trials. Today, Tauber's art serves as yet another reminder of the extraordinary cruelty of the Nazi regime.


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John Bauer



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John Bauer
// Muddy Colors

By Justin Gerard


I was sitting in my Doomsday bunker today, sipping cold coffee and admiring my bear-proof suit when I thought to myself, "It's high time we had a post on John Bauer around here."

Sure, Bauer's name has been mentioned on Muddycolors before, but his art has never had its day in the sun. So today I am dusting off a copy of Swedish Folk Tales and cracking open the fallout doors to share some really wonderful trolls with you.


Looking at Bauer's work, one might reasonably think that it was all pure escapist imagination. Yet much of it was based on the real world study of mankind and of nature grounding his highly imaginative work in reality.

At 22 he journeyed to Lappland, which in 1904 was an exotic wilderness to him. He was commissioned by industrial developers to paint watercolors of the Sami people and their culture to send back to people in Stockholm. While there Bauer took notes, photographs and made sketches, detailing the landscape and the curious people he encountered there. This real-world study would influence his work throughout his career and would impart solid earth beneath the magic in his illustrations.

Few artists have truly captured the magic and mystery of the forest like John Bauer. Who knows what lurks in the darkness beyond those trees? Or beneath that water or under that stone? His art has a wonderful quality that draws you out into the world, instead of encouraging you to retreat from it.



He makes the forest seem a precious and magical place. Which is interesting considering that he was originally commissioned to document these places by people who sought only to exploit it for natural resources.



While Bauer's work feels very classical and a product of the Golden Age of Illustration, it continues to be quite popular, inspiring artists to this day. His paintings have gone for as much as $87,000 at auctions in recent years and his books still being reprinted more than a hundred years later.


Fellow Muddycolors contributor Cory Godbey visited the John Bauer Museum in Jönköping, Sweden  a few years back. He gives a brief video tour of it here.





I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of John Bauer's work. I'm going back to my bunker now where its safe from all the things that come out after dark around here.


Link to higher resolution files on Wikimedia: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/John_Bauer
Link to the collection on Project Runeberg: http://runeberg.org/jbauer/
Link to Swedish Folk Tales on Amazon: http://a.co/7Zxe1R6


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Monday, July 17, 2017

The Subversive World of 'Cinderella Stamps'



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The Subversive World of 'Cinderella Stamps'
// Atlas Obscura - Latest Articles and Places

The stamps issued in the tropical archipelago of Amis and Amants show a series of arcane islands in miniature watercolors. The sea sweeps the empty beaches of Outburst of Tenderness. Palm trees wave beneath stormy skies on the isle of First Love. From the shores of Fair Weather Friend a distant volcanic peak is visible on the horizon. On the island of Hand-in-Hand, mountains slope down to neatly ploughed fields.

These are Cinderella stamps; artifacts that look like stamps but aren't. These islands of love and friendship don't exist. They were painted by the American artist Donald Evans, who made thousands of stamps for 42 imaginary countries over a short, bright career, before his death in a house fire in 1977 at the age of 33.

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Cinderella stamps can be anything from propaganda messages or charity labels to local stamps for obscure islands and tiny towns. You can't send a letter through the official post with a Cinderella because they have no legal value, but that's the attraction. It means anyone can make them, and the only restriction on what you can put on them is the stamp-maker's imagination. Donald Evans was the king of the artistamp, a form of Cinderella made as an artistic work.

Artist Ginny Lloyd has been making artistamps under the pseudonym Gina Lotta since 1975. "An artistamp is a little museum," she says. "You create an exhibit within a sheet of stamps. There's complete freedom in what you want the content to be. They can have a political message, commemorate events from your life, whatever you want. I make sheets of stamps for people I know who've died. Some artists make them to distribute their work outside of the gallery system. Others mimic real stamps as a political commentary; some have had the Secret Service visit them for counterfeiting. Artistamps subvert in a quiet way. You have to look closely to see if they're real or not."

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As a kid Donald Evans built cities from cardboard, complete with houses and highways, churches and traffic. To make his imaginary worlds more real he wrote letters from them and made stamps to put on the envelopes. In the 1950s, between the ages of 10 and 15, he made hundreds of stamps, recording them in detail in his Catalogue of the World. He abandoned his hobby as a teenager, returning to it as an artist only once the cultural landscape had been transformed by Pop Art. (If it was okay to paint soup cans and comic strips, maybe it was okay to paint fake stamps.) Donald Evans dug out his childhood catalogues and began making stamps again.

He created countries to mark elements of his own life. Anything could be transformed into geography: a meal; a game of dominoes; a dance; a dinner party; a surname; a pair of shoes, a friendship, a love affair. His stamp issues minutely explored bird's eggs, Chinese plates, Indonesian vegetables, alphabets, penguins, pasta, mushrooms, windmills, quilts, chairs and shells. To make his stamps look real he carved erasers to make postmarks and mounted his work on envelopes he distressed and addressed.

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He kept the details of the lands he thought up deliberately and tantalizingly vague. He wanted viewers to step through these tiny doorways into worlds of their own imagination. These were vast territories, large enough to encompass all interpretations.

For other artistamp makers the form has been a way of making more political points. Unlike mass-produced official stamps, Cinderellas are hyper-local, often reflecting the personal preoccupations of the artist. Stamps traditionally commemorate the proud moments of a country, but Cinderellas can subvert that, marking the shameful or the perverse.

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Artist Karl Schwesig drew faux stamps while imprisoned in 1940 at the Gurs concentration camp in southern France. He drew what he saw around him; the barbed wire, the guards; the bodies, the coffins heading for the burial ground. In the 1960s the Fluxus experimental art movement started using used stamps and mail art as a form of 'living art', a collaborative, anti-commercial medium that they sent out into the world instead of displaying in a gallery. Canadian conceptual artist Anna Banana, whose work satirises authority by parodying its symbols and concepts using the humble, humorous and nonsensical banana, produced a series of banana-themed stamps. Russian artist Natalie Lamanova has used stamps to explore issues of identity, ownership and control in 1990s post-Soviet Russia. American mail artist Otto David Sherman has been making stamps since the 1970s that highlight the disparity between the way nations represent themselves in official imagery and the actual actions of their rulers, depicting corrupt politicians and despots and showing first-world leaders in farcical poses; Vladimir Putin in a top hat, Donald Trump juxtaposed with a chimpanzee.

The artistamp community today is a DIY culture of makers swapping stamps through the post, mixing up drawing with image-editing software, color printing with pinking shears, internet forums with the traditional mail network. For a new generation it's retaliation against the global with the super-local, against the mass-produced with the slow-made.

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Mail art creator Vittore Baroni has said that "Artistamps rebel against the monopoly of governmental emissions, claiming the right for everyone to self-produce and issue virtual values in any possible shape, number and subject."

The countries Donald Evans created were peaceful, their politics idealized. The Island of the Deaf is a silent paradise with a capital called Hand-Talk. The country of Stein with its capital Gertrude is a literary dictatorship with 100 percent literacy. The imperial kingdom of Caluda emerges from a native takeover as the new independent state of Katibo, the Sudanese dialect word for a black man who sets himself free. He told the Paris Review in 1975 that his stamps were a "vicarious traveling for me to a made-up world that I like better than the one I'm in. No catastrophes occur. There are no generals or battles or warplanes on my stamps. The countries are innocent, peaceful, composed."

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Ginny Lloyd sees in the artistamp an echo of a childhood fascination with unknown worlds. "The excitement I feel when I receive artistamps in the post is the same excitement I used to feel as a child when I would get packages of loose stamps for my collection. I would spend hours looking at all of these beautiful places outside of my very small town, dreaming about travel. I wanted to know more about other worlds and this was one of the ways I learned."

The art of Donald Evans was subject to a raft of self-imposed restrictions. He only painted stamps, always in the same sizes with frequently recurring themes, in washed out colors painted with the same brush. He used this sameness, this deliberate smallness, to explore the infinite. His stamps are pieces of physical evidence sent directly from the limitless landscape of the imagination.


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hideback: René Binet (French, 1866-1911) Esquisses décoratives,...



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hideback: René Binet (French, 1866-1911) Esquisses décoratives,...
// The Curve in the Line













hideback:

René Binet (French, 1866-1911)

Esquisses décoratives, circa 1900

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Links to first FIFTY 50 How to THINK when you DRAW tutorials!



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Links to first FIFTY 50 How to THINK when you DRAW tutorials!
// The Etherington Brothers

Hey guys, I wanted to create a single page linking to all of my first 50 tutorials, so that I don't have to link to them all individually in each new tutorial post, so here it is! Enjoy!

Artwork for EVERY TUTORIAL drawn using pens from THESE GUYS.

How to Draw ROCK FORMATIONS
How to Draw ANGRY EXPRESSIONS 
How to Draw VEHICLES 
How to Draw WATER 
How to Draw FABRIC
How to Draw HORSE HEADS
How to Draw PLANES
How to Draw SMOKE EFFECTS 
How to Draw FEET & SHOES 
How to draw SQUIRRELS
How to draw WOODEN HOUSES
How to draw BIRD HEADS
How to draw FEMALE HANDS PART ONE
How to draw IMPACT DEBRIS
How to draw COMPOSITION
How to draw GIRL'S HAIR
How to draw FEMALE HANDS PART TWO
How to draw IN 3D
How to draw CATERPILLAR TRACKS
How to draw RUNNING FIGURES
How to draw GRASS
How to draw JUNK HOUSES
How to draw NOSES
How to draw MONSTER TENTACLES
How to draw EARS 

PLUS!!! GO HERE to get 4 weeks of tutorials, plus 140 pages of incredible COMIC for £1!

Lorenzo! 


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Selfie Pictogasmic



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Selfie Pictogasmic
// Print Magazine

There are several trillion selfies now in circulation. While apologies to future generations won't help, learning what our selfies mean for posterity might have some social or cultural benefit. The folks at Pictoplasma ask: What do they "really say about our identities?"

Pictoplasma's Lars Denicke proposes a challenge to young, emerging artists between 18 and 24: "to truly express their personality with a self-portrait that lets their real character shine."

 

Bryndon Diaz

"Start with a regular photo, like a headshot, passport or profile picture, of yourself facing the camera," he says. "Next, create your character by overlaying it with an artistic rendition of your identity. How you alter the original image (and which tools or media you use) is absolutely up to you: it could be drawing, collage or digital painting, vector illustration, 3D graphics, masks, costume design or a mixture of them all …"

 

Fabio Tonetto

From the pool of entries five selected winners will be awarded a full Pictoplasma Character Design fellowship. Supported by Project 1324, the fellowship covers fees and travel costs to attend the Pictoplasma Academy Mexico City in October, six months of ongoing, personal online mentorship, and a ticket and travel costs to attend the Pictoplasma Berlin Conference in May 2018—including the opportunity to exhibit in a group show. Deadline for submission: Aug. 15.

 

Fifi Lachimia

Matt Sharp

Shenja Tatschke

Ton Mak


Get the Latest Issue of PRINT, Focused on All Things Typography

  • Jessica Hische and 9 other brilliant women ruling type and lettering today
  • The top 25 American type masters
  • Twelve overlooked typefaces you should be using
  • Inside Monotype and MIT's research lab
  • Tattoo artist as typographer?
  • Debbie Millman pens a love letter to Louise Fili
  • And much, much more.

The post Selfie Pictogasmic appeared first on Print Magazine.


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Friday, July 14, 2017

Tweet by Geoff Robinson on Twitter

Geoff Robinson (@iNcontroLTV)
Unsolicited gaming / streaming professional life from a old curmudgeony drunk man. A series of tweets that may or may not help.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Why It Took Scientists So Long to Figure Out Where Babies Come From



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Why It Took Scientists So Long to Figure Out Where Babies Come From
// Atlas Obscura - Latest Articles and Places

Until 1875, no one in the world knew where babies come from. Ordinary people didn't know, and neither did the scientists who helped shape the modern world. Leonardo da Vinci didn't know. Galileo didn't know. Isaac Newton didn't know.

They knew, that is, that men and women have sex and as a result, sometimes, babies, but they did not know how those babies were created. They did not know that women produce eggs, and when they finally discovered sperm cells, they did not know that those wriggly tadpoles had anything to do with babies and pregnancy. (The leading theory was that they were parasites, perhaps related to the newly discovered mini-creatures that swam in drops of pond water. This was Newton's view.)

Why? Why did it take the greatest minds of the scientific revolution—the same individuals who successfully calculated the weight of the Earth, and traced the paths of comets that cut the sky only once in a lifetime—more than two centuries to resolve a mystery that every fourth-grader today could explain?

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Because everything to do with anatomy was difficult and uncertain, for starters. Studying the human body required buying corpses from grave-robbers, or bribing hangmen to turn over bodies fresh from the gallows. "You might be stopped by your disgust," Leonardo da Vinci wrote, no matter how strong your curiosity, "and if that did not hinder you, then perhaps by the fear of spending the night hours in the company of those dead bodies, quartered and flayed and terrifying to behold."

Da Vinci made the cutaway drawing shown above, of a couple having sex, in about 1492. The drawing has a host of peculiar features. He drew two distinct channels within the penis, though in fact there is only one. In da Vinci's depiction, the lower channel carries urine while the upper carries semen and connects with the spinal column and brain. (The role of the testicles in all this was not quite clear.) The spinal connection reflected a Greek belief that, in the words of one ancient writer, "sperm is a drop of brain."

Da Vinci's transparent woman, pictured below, has design oddities of her own. For a start, she lacks ovaries. As if to make up for that oversight, she has a mysterious tube running from uterus to nipple. That pathway does not exist, except in da Vinci's imagination, but the idea was that mother's milk was made from refined, transformed menstrual blood. (This theory, dreamed up by the Greeks, was an attempt to explain why pregnant women and new mothers do not menstruate.)

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Especially in anatomy's early years, before microscopes, sexual riddles were almost beyond reach. Sperm and egg, even if you had known to look for them, were hidden and elusive. The human egg, though it is the largest cell in the body, is only the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Sperm cells, by contrast, are the smallest, far too little to see with the naked eye. (A human egg outweighs the sperm cell that fertilizes it by a million to one, the difference between a Thanksgiving turkey and a housefly.)

Religious faith made matters all the more perplexing. In the early years of the modern age, science and religion were not rivals but allies. All the titans of the scientific revolution were devout. All of them took for granted that, by studying God's works, they were exalting his creation. But then came trouble.

For God was not simply the Creator who had shaped the stars and planets and made man in his own image. He was the only being with the power to create life. How could it be, then, that an ordinary couple huffing and puffing in the dark could create a new being?

Thus was born the now-bizarre seeming doctrine that eminent scientists espoused for more than a century. The idea was that parents do not create their children. God created every living being, and he had done so in one swoop, at the beginning of time.

That meant He must have stashed away every person who would ever live, all those destined to be born in the year 100, or in the 1200s, or 1500s, or some century still to come. They waited, like a series of ever-smaller Russian nesting dolls, one inside the other, in Adam's testicles or in Eve's ovaries. When the time came, each one would have its turn on stage.

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All through the late 1600s, the 1700s, and well into the 1800s, this strange theory of conception prevailed. The theory's very strangeness, in fact, counted in its favor, much as we today pay homage to the grandeur and reach of the "theory of everything" so beloved of modern physicists. In the 18th century, the scientific debate turned not on whether the theory made sense, but on a battle between spermists, as they were called, and ovists.

The spermists focused on Adam. Within his body, they explained, were testicles; in those testicles were sperm cells; in those sperm cells were miniature proto-humans; in their testicles were micro-miniature proto-humans, who had testicles of their own, within which . . . and so on, forever. The ovists endorsed the same hallucinatory picture, except that they placed the endless sequence of nesting dolls inside Eve's ovaries.


In 1694, a scientist named Nicolaas Hartsoeker drew a picture destined for notoriety. It showed a big-headed person inside a sperm cell, hands clutching knees as if he has been told to brace for a crash. But, contrary to legend, Hartsoeker did not claim he had seen this tiny figure, only that someone might see such a thing when microscopes grew more powerful.

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Microscopes would indeed reveal new worlds, but for more than a century they served only to send scientists racing off down blind alleys. The greatest of all microscopic investigators was a Dutch cloth merchant named Antony van Leeuwenhoek. Beginning in 1674, he had spotted tiny, living creatures in drops of pond water, in blood, in scrapings from his teeth, indeed, everywhere he looked. No one had ever suspected such micro-worlds. The idea made no sense, since it implied that God had lavished endless care on creatures destined never to be seen.

On an autumn night in 1677, Leeuwenhoek and his wife made love. He leapt up "immediately after ejaculation before six beats of the pulse had intervened," and ran to his microscope with a sample of semen. There Leeuwenhoek saw "so great a number of living animalcules that sometimes more than a thousand were moving about in an amount of material the size of a grain of sand." Thrilled, he dashed off a letter to the Royal Society. He did not say whether Mrs. Leeuwenhoek shared his delight.

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But Leeuwenhoek, who had been trying to divine the secret of life, threw away this smokiest-of-all-smoking-gun clues. He decided, on second thought, that he had made a mistake. These tiny swimmers looked as if they were hurrying to some important destination, but in fact they had nothing to do with procreation.

Instead, Leeuwenhoek decided, he had found micro-animals that happened to live in semen. After all, hordes of microscopic creatures seemed to cavort everywhere he looked — in water, in tree sap, on his teeth, between his toes. Why shouldn't semen have creatures of its own?

Until well into the 1800s, this parasite theory remained the conventional view. One picture from a medical text published in 1840 shows various parasites, including a sperm cell, alongside a tapeworm and other unappealing creatures.

Sperm cells had yet another strike against them. Why, if they were important, had God made hundreds of millions of them, when one would have sufficed? Surely the best of all possible designers would not have been so ludicrously wasteful.

But the true danger for the spermist view was not a scientific objection but a moral and medical one. A wave of anti-masturbation hysteria hit Europe in the 1700s and endured well into the next century. One acclaimed physician produced a best-selling tome warning of the ravages of masturbation. He described one of his patients, a 17-year-old watchmaker. His self-indulgence had left him bedridden and almost unable to move: pale, emaciated, "more like a corpse than a human being." The unfortunate young man had lost his memory almost completely, though he retained just enough strength to acknowledge the vile habit believed to have brought him to this pass. "A pale bloody discharge issued from his nose; he foamed at his mouth; was affected with diarrhea and voided his feces involuntarily; there was a constant discharge of seminal fluid." Within a few more weeks, he was dead.

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Every medical authority hammered home the same message: every drop of semen was precious. This should not really have counted as an argument against the spermists—semen and sperm cells were not the same thing—but an epidemic of fear was no time for fine distinctions. The spermist doctrine that waste was part of God's plan had little chance in an era that preached that waste was a physical and moral catastrophe.


It's tempting to look at our intellectual forebears and smile patronizingly at them. How foolish of them to have chosen to live so long ago. But we should resist temptation. They had set out to explain where new life comes from and found themselves ensnared in a related but even harder question: what is life? A straightforward inquiry about sex and anatomy had transformed itself into a slippery philosophical riddle

For us, it would be as if scientists trying to map the brain found themselves trying to explain, where does hope come from? Where do ideas come from? We still don't know. We understand perfectly well that brain gives rise to mind; the problem is that we cannot sort out just what that means. The scientists struggling with the babies mystery understood perfectly well that certain bits of matter were alive and others weren't; the problem was that they couldn't sort out how that could be.

Today, every 10-year-old knows where babies come from. But for millennia, the deepest thinkers on earth could only guess. That's progress, but we shouldn't be too smug. Every generation makes the mistake of thinking that the escalator runs only as high as their floor. Not so. We can be sure that in centuries to come, our descendants will look back at us and quote our earnest beliefs and shake their heads in astonishment.

This piece was adapted from The Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to da Vinci, from Sharks' Teeth to Frogs' Pants, the Long and Strange Quest to Discover Where Babies Come From by Edward Dolnick, available from Basic Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, a division of PBG Publishing, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. 2017.


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CTRL+X: Street Artists “Delete” Graffiti with a Painted Anamorphic Illusion



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CTRL+X: Street Artists "Delete" Graffiti with a Painted Anamorphic Illusion
// Colossal

All photos © Anna Christova

As part of the Stenograffia street art and graffiti festival in Russia, a collaborative of artists worked to create this phenomenal illusion that appears to "erase" a collection of graffiti from a small car and trash dumpster. With the help of a projector, the team painted the familiar grey and white checker grid found in most graphics applications that denotes a deleted or transparent area. The piece is titled "CTRL+X" in reference to the keyboard command in Photoshop for deleting a selection. You can see nearly 100 behind-the-scenes photos of their process here. (via The Awesomer, Mass Appeal)


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