Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Odds and Sods

A number of the Civil War blogs listed in the lower right column covered the interesting discovery of what appear to be glimpses of Abraham Lincoln amidst the crowd in some 1863 Gettysburg photos. Here's one newspaper report of the story (USA Today) with close-ups of the new views, along with the more familiar head shot sifted out of the crowd in 1952.


Another Lincoln photo caught my eye around the same time while browsing the blogosphere (it wasn't a current news item, and is nothing new to people who study such things). Doctored photos have been around as long as photography has been around, and certainly the Civil War era was fair game for pre-Photoshop photographers looking to spice up or repair a shot.

Apart from staged photos (see William Frassanito's expositions on the movement of corpses at Devil's Den, for example), there is the case of Lincoln's head on Calhoun's body (see here), and some housekeeping with group photos (see here for the complete before and after shots of Sherman's generals, with and without Francis Blair).
To see a parade of digital manipulations from the Civil War era to more modern shenanigans, have a look at this photo essay, "Digital Tampering in the Media, Politics and Law," which includes brief explanations of the two snippets above (click on the images there to see side-by-side comparisons).

All of those pages are from the website of Hany Farid, Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth, who has an big time interest in digital forensics.


Another neat idea, this one made available free from the folks at Civil War Traveler magazine: podcasts of walking tours, recorded on the battlefield, narrated by National Park Service historianswith accompanying pdf maps you can print out. Ahhh, sweet, sweet technology.


First, there was the world premiere of the opera Appomattox in San Francisco (see my review here). Now, as if to poke a finger in the other eye of conservative, California-phobic Civil War buffs, the musical "Atlanta" is opening in Los Angeles.

Playbill offers these particulars: "Grammy Award-winning Nashville songwriter Hummonwho has penned hits for Dixie Chicks, Rascal Flatts, Wynonna, Tim McGraw and moreteams with actor, writer and director Pasdar ('Heroes,' 'Desperate Housewives') on the musical, which mixes select prose by William Shakespeare with original bluegrass music and country tunes. Hummon provides the music and co-wrote the book with Pasdar. Set 'toward the end of the Civil War, in the waning days of the Confederacy,' reads a show description, 'a young Yankee, Paul, assumes the persona of a Confederate soldier in order to keep alive behind enemy lines.'"

Shakespeare. Desperate Housewives. Bluegrass. Sounds pretty damn good to me. In all seriousness, the centrality of American roots music to this production, and the subject matter, cause me to reconsider my (opera review) vow that the only current musical I would consider attending is Spamalot. I'm not expecting something so transcendent as Jack White singing "Wayfaring Stranger" on the Cold Mountain soundtrack, or the haunting renditions of "Man of Constant Sorrow" from Oh Brother Where Art Thou, but maybe something along those lines.

Go to the Geffen Playhouse site, and click on the "Preview Atlanta Here" box for sense of what they're trying to deliver.


Somehow, even with a life-long near-obsession with cemeteries, and as an earlier subscriber to the on-again off-again Grave Matters newsletter, I came to be in my late 40s without ever hearing anything about "gravehouses"in the style of these structures in Eastern Kentucky. Check out the photos at this site. I am utterly fascinated by this. Out of curiosity, I have queried the photographer about the Union soldier he references in the text. Click on the "Project Home Page" link, and have a look at the whole site, entitled, "Sickness and Death in the Old South."

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