From Records of Pleistocene and Early Holocene Large Mammals in the Northeast (v. 1.1; 1/2014). There were a lot of mastodons in New Jersey!
“I am convinced that the future is lost somewhere in the dumps of the non-historical past; it is in yesterday’s newspapers, in the jejune advertisements of science-fiction movies, in the false mirror of our rejected dreams. Time turns metaphors into things and stacks them up in cold rooms, or places them in the celestial playgrounds of the suburbs.”
To ring in the new year, I filed a few oddball Freedom of Information Act requests (more on those later) with the FBI on January 2. Under the law, government agencies are required to respond to a request within 20 working days, and I received a response dated January 10 informing me that the agency was “searching the indices to our Central Records System for the information responsive to this request.”
How long will it take after that? Anybody’s guess. From the FOIA FAQ:
The time it takes to respond to each request varies depending on the complexity of the request itself and the backlog of requests already pending at the agency. In some circumstances the agency will be able to respond to the request within the standard time limit established by the FOIA, which is twenty working days, or approximately one month. In other instances there might be a longer period of time needed before the request can be handled.
The records I requested were related to events in New Jersey’s history and could lead to a story, but they are admittedly pretty weird. I filed them more as an experiment to see how long they’d take the FBI to fulfill, and exactly what I’d get out of it.
In the interest of transparency, I’ve created this little clock to record the time elapsed since the requests were acknowledged.
While looking for something else today, I stumbled across a bunch of video files of films from the Edison Motion Pictures archive. I’d visited Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange last year, so I was aware that they shot a lot of early motion pictures in and around New Jersey. I didn’t realize, though, there was so much material digitized.
So I took a couple of the video files and turned them into GIFs, uploading compressed versions using GFY, which I’d read about recently. Here are beachgoers in Atlantic City at the turn of the 20th century:
And a pond hockey game in Newark, circa 1898:
And, for reasons I cannot comprehend, some dudes harassing circus bears.
There’s a statue of Frank Zappa here, and I’ve seen it before. Story time:
I’ve visited this statue in Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania, which was the first state to declare independence from the Soviet Union. Zappa isn’t Lithuanian — hell, he’s barely even from Baltimore — but here he is, and there he is, a relief in bronze.
I was in Lithuania over the summer, visiting my girlfriend‘s family. We spent a few days exploring Vilnius, the current capital of the European Union, and made a trek out to the statue of Zappa because I’d read a story about it as I did some research before our trip. The Guardian explains:
Nine years ago Lithuania broke away from the Soviet Union, leaving a lot of empty plinths that had previously been occupied by statues of Lenin, Marx and their regional disciples. An obvious question remained: what to do with the empty plinths?
Saulius Paukstys, a civil servant and member of the Vilnius bohemian set, saw the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong ambition. He founded the Frank Zappa Fan Club and commissioned a socialist realist sculptor to create a statue of Zappa on a patch of land in front of a children’s hospital in the centre of the city.
“I think it’s incredibly generous,” a city official said at the time.
And quoting from "Caddyshack," the president spoke of the hope that upon his death, Ramis "received total consciousness."
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) February 25, 2014
Cricket Hill Brewery, Fairfield, NJ.