Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’

Stilt shoes for February days in Quiver magazine

January 28, 2020
Crop of the frontispiece from the February 1914 Quiver-magazine. The William Morris poem is illustrated by EA Overnell

Crop of the frontispiece from the February 1914 Quiver magazine. The William Morris poem is illustrated by EA Overnell

This illustration for the title page of a 1914 issue of Quiver magazine hails February days by citing an 1871 poem by William Morris, leader of the Arts and Crafts movement:

February days and now at last, might you have thought that winter’s woe was past!

The illustration by EA Overnell (the wife or a relative of TJ Overnell?) looks straightforward enough, but take a look at the woman’s shoes – she is wearing tiny stilts!

quiver-magazine-1914-february-shoe-stilts.jpeg

A good idea no doubt, but did such things ever exist?

The Quiver was founded as a weekly in 1861 and only closed in 1926. It was the brainchild of John Cassell, who was an Evangelicalist and proponent of the Temperance movement. The magazine aimed itself at a middle-class audience and took a very religious line, though this softened over the years, particularly after it switched to a monthly format, and again after Cassell’s death in 1865.

No sooner had I written this post …

… than Dr Patricia Thomas of Massey University in New Zealand sent me an email showing that these mini stilt shoes really did exist! She supplied a link from Google Books to All About Shoes: Footwear through the Ages. The book, published by Bata Limited, is linked to the company’s shoe museum in Toronto, with its displays covering 4,500 years ‘ranging from Chinese bound-foot shoes and ancient Egyptian sandals to chestnut-crushing clogs and glamorous platforms’.

There, on page 49, is what looks like one of the shoes on stilts that EA Overnell  snuck on to that Quiver magazine page in 1914! Also, on the opposite page of the double spread entitled ‘High & dry’ about shoes offering protection from elements, is a caption showing that the idea of metal hoop platforms goes back at least to the 1820s in Nova Scotia.

shoes-on-stilts-just-like-in-Quiver-magazine-of-1914.png


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


 

Google’s plan for a future city is terrifying

October 20, 2017
Schmidt, Trudeau and pals set out their plans for a 12-acre site on Toronto's waterfront

Schmidt, Trudeau and pals set out their plans for a 12-acre future city on Toronto’s waterfront

We started thinking about all the things we could do if someone would just give us a city and put us in charge

That has to be one of the scariest sentences I have ever heard. Why? Because it was said by Eric Schmidt, the billionaire chairman of Alphabet, the company set up to own Google.

This is the mega-tech company that sent its camera cars around around our roads – without anyone’s permission – and just happened to identify everyone’s open wifi while it was at it.

Google then ignored its own promise not to track people using the private windows in their browsers, and it has been found guilty of using its massive online power to force out smaller rivals by putting its own products first in search results. In simple words, that’s lying and cheating. No wonder the EU slapped Google with a €2.4bn fine.

Yet no-one except China, the US and the EU is big enough to stand up to the likes of Google/Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Ebay and their pals. The Schmidt quote comes from a report in the FT on Thursday (‘Toronto offers Alphabet waterfront land to practise designs for cities of future’ by Leslie Hook). He was talking at a publicity event with Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister.

The FT piece points out that there is a ‘political backlash against big tech in the US, where politicians are grappling with the growing influence of Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon’. However, these mega-techs just play the global field and look to wield their influence with individual countries such as Canada or the UK for their schemes.

My reaction to the FT story is no doubt influenced by my efforts to do something very simple with Apple this morning. This mega-tech set its stall out with the launch of the first Mac way back in 1984. It forced all software makers to adopt its interface or it would not give them access to developers’ kits – even those that already sold software for Apple’s micros. The result was that many of the thriving small software companies in Britain turned to PC technology, or give up.

The level of control is incredible. I booked an appointment at an Apple dealer in the Strand, London, to see if I could get my Macbook power supply cable repaired (and I note as I type this that WordPress tries to cap up the ‘b’ in Macbook, another example of Apple’s Ratking-like power). I walked in and handed over the broken power supply. (How can they get away with such shoddy products – in almost 40 years of owning computers, I have never had a power cable break.)

‘What’s the serial number of the Mac?’ they asked. I didn’t know, which meant that they couldn’t do anything! They then sent me over to the Apple shop in Covent Garden. It was like walking into a youth club full of ping-pong tables. I eventually found a rack of products and a new power lead was £79! I asked about getting it repaired and was sent to join a dozen-strong queue for the one person in the room who could (perhaps) answer the question.

I gave up. I decided to pay up. And, of course, I had to find someone who has the portable device to pay. And then wait again while they printed the receipt out. I left with a massively overpackaged product, having been frustrated in my attempt to repair ought in an inefficient shop staffed by 90% men. Clearly, Apple is a company at the forefront of the world’s waste problems and at the back of the field in attempts to encourage women into the workforce.

They and their mega-tech ilk want a world in which they can track you and everything you own. Their futuristic city (for a waterfront-living elite) will be very efficient with huge political clout. Alongside it will be a licence to take a cut of – in essence, tax – the world’s media use, of books, film, TV, software. And 3D printing technology will enable them to do the same for many other products too.

If George Orwell hadn’t had Stalin’s Russia to inspire him to come up with 1984 and Big Brother, then Google and Apple wold have done it for someone else today – or perhaps it is the mega-techs that are modelling themselves on that dystopian, fascist world.