Tuesday, December 13, 2011

various awesome things and spaghetti and Albert Kahn

In my daily Mandarin classes these days I have a classmate who is Romanian but normally studies in England. He's one of the only other "white" people in my class, and for ages I thought he was a bit of a douche who thought he was too cool for me. Turns out he thought the exact same thing about me, but then one day we both rolled our eyes and yawned at how boring the classes were, started discussing the merits of the Western attitude towards education, then started discussing anything and everything that both of us found interesting. 

Turns out this dude is a goldmine of awesomeness. 

He, like so many awesome people I meet, also has a habit of spending hours on the internet looking up random things and learning about strange but interesting stuff. He has read all kinds of cool books and he is full of recommendations for funny comedians and he knows about all kinds of documentaries that are incredible and he once spoke to me for almost two hours about the history of the Romanian monarchy. (And let me tell you, that stuff is seriously riveting!) 

This morning he brought his laptop and I brought my external harddrive and we swapped about 100GB of awesomeness. He grabbed my entire collection of Sailor Moon and I grabbed his entire folder of pirated translation software. I also got these cool pictures which FINALLY tell me what all the different kinds of spaghetti are:  

(These are all high-resolution and you can download them by clicking on them to open them in a new window. Doing so will also open a new window of spaghetti and pasta appreciation and understanding into your life. Do it now.)

What else? Tons of stuff. 

I told him about TED and he told me about this dude called Albert Kahn. I told him about Black Books and he told me about George Carlin. I told him about Freud's Cocaine Papers and he told me all about pre-war Berlin. 

And it got me thinking about how lucky I was to have just met this random guy full of awesome things he was willing to share with me - and I thought to myself "the world needs to see these awesome things" and so from that moment I knew I had to blog about it.

If you want to be awesome, then you just need to follow those links and do some more investigating and listening and watching of your own. But of all our hours of talking and exchanging ideas, the story of Musee Albert Kahn is still my most prized nugget of new information (the spaghetti came in a close second place) - so that's the story I really want you all to look into most of all.

The wikipedia article about him is pretty accurate and really isn't too long, but here's an excerpt from it to give you an idea (with important bits emboldened by me):
In 1909 Kahn travelled with his chauffeur and photographer, Alfred Dutertre to Japan on business and returned with many photographs of the journey. This prompted him to begin a project collecting a photographic record of the entire Earth. He appointed Jean Brunhes as the project director, and sent photographers to every continent to record images of the planet using the first colour photography, autochrome plates, and early cinematography. Between 1909 and 1931 they collected 72,000 colour photographs and 183,000 meters of film. These form a unique historical record of 50 countries, known as "The Archives of the Planet".
This guy was, like, the first ever hardcore photographer/philanthropist. Way ahead of his time. His images are absolutely amazing, and you can see quite a fair few of them on the BBC's website about him and his book which they publish. There is also a documentay called Edwardians in Colour which is easy to download and which I am going to watch tomorrow.

These were the first ever colour photos to be taken, and required exposure times of up to 10 seconds - so the subjects had to stay absolutely still. (Actually that whole 'autochrome' photography method is a remarkable story and article on its own. If you're interested in photography you MUST follow that link and read about it.) The process was extremely expensive and super difficult - it was an absolute art form which now provides us now with images of what almost the whole world was like a whole one hundred years ago.

What a champion. This Kahn guy is made of the right stuff, people. The right stuff. Needless to say, the collection of his most incredible images are bound together in that book and I want it badly.

So I ate my imported spaghetti this evening (finally knowing what to call it), and watching hilarious and intelligent YouTube clips and then thinking about what the beautiful cities of Europe looked like before the war - and would you look at that!?!?!??? - In my part of the world it clicked over to midnight and I just turned 20.

Thank god I'm a little more awesome. 

1 comment:

  1. I can't agree with you more. Albert Kahn's photos are so stunning. My interest to Albert Kahn originates from the photo you posted-A Ching Dynasty male. He looks so vivid, as he lived nowadays, not 100 years ago. I want his collection badly, too.


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