Archive for December 8th, 2010

December 8, 2010

Fresnel Lens

lighthouse fresnel

fresnel lens

A Fresnel [fruh-nel] lens was originally developed by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel for lighthouses. The design enables the construction of lenses of large aperture and short focal length without the mass and volume of material that would be required by a lens of conventional design. Compared to conventional bulky lenses, the Fresnel lens is much thinner, larger, and flatter, and captures more oblique light from a light source, thus allowing lighthouses to be visible over much greater distances. The first Fresnel lens was used in 1823 in the Cordouan lighthouse, north of Bordeaux; its light could be seen from more than 32 km out.

December 8, 2010

Clown Society

Clown society is a term used in anthropology and sociology for an organization of comedic entertainers (or ‘clowns’) who have a formalized role in a culture or society. Sometimes clown societies have a sacred role, to represent a trickster character in religious ceremonies. Other times the purpose served by members of a clown society is only to parody excessive seriousness, or to deflate pomposity. A clown shows what is wrong with the ordinary way of doing things, and a clown shows how to do ordinary things the wrong way.

Members of a clown society always dress in some kind of a special costume reserved for clowns, which is usually an absurdly extreme form of normal dress. While in their costume, clowns have special permission from their society to parody or criticize defective aspects of their own culture. Clown societies usually train new members to become clowns in an apprentice system.  Sometimes the training is improvisational comedy, but usually a clown society trains members in well known forms of costume, pantomime, song, dance, and common visual gags

December 8, 2010


Picasso Bouffon 1905

Bouffon is a modern french theater term that was re-coined in the early 1960s by French acting instructor Jacques Lecoq to describe a specific style of performance work that has a main focus in the art of mockery. Similar to, but distinct from clowning, the bouffon draws from burlesque, commedia dell’arte, farce, gallows humor, parody, satire, and slapstick.

According to Lecoq, ‘the difference between the clown and the bouffon is that while the clown is alone, the bouffon is part of a gang; while we make fun of the clown, the bouffon makes fun of us. At the heart of the bouffon is mockery pushed to the point of parody. Bouffons amuse themselves by reproducing the life of man in their own way, through games and pranks.’

December 8, 2010


lake madison

attend chautauqua

Chautauqua [shuh-taw-kwuh] is an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that still exists in parts of the U.S.. Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying that Chautauqua is, ‘the most American thing in America.’

The first Chautauqua, the New York Chautauqua Assembly, was organized in 1874 by Methodist minister John Heyl Vincent and businessman Lewis Miller at a campsite on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York State.  The educational summer camp format proved to be a popular choice for families and was widely copied. Within a decade, Chautauquas sprang up in various locations across North America. The popularity of the movement can be attributed in part to the social and geographic isolation of American farming and ranching communities. People in such areas would naturally be hungry for education, culture and entertainment, and Chautauqua was a timely response to that need in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The advent of the radio and the automobile diminished its role significantly.

December 8, 2010


ordeal of fire

Bisha’a (‘trial by fire’) is a ritual practiced today by some Bedouin tribes for the purpose of lie detection. It is the best-known of various forms of trial by ordeal which are practiced by the Bedouin, but is increasingly uncommon, with more and more Bedouins preferring standard courts of law for enactment of justice. The basic ritual consists of the accused being asked to lick a hot metal object thrice. He is provided with water for rinsing after the ceremony. He is then inspected by the official who presides over the ceremony, the Mubesha, and by the designated witnesses of the ritual.

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