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Ass, Backwards
September 29, 2009 8:10 AM   Subscribe

It became necessary, one day, at Willet's Point, to destroy a worthless mule, and the subject was made the occasion of giving instruction to the military class there stationed. The mule was placed in proper position before the camera and duly focused. Upon the animal's forehead a cotton bag was tied containing six ounces of dynamite.....
Instantaneous Photography, 1881 style. From Scientific American, September 24, 1881: (a) Text (b) Engravings: Before the Explosion; After the Explosion. (c) Photographs: The Explosion. images from stereoviews.com; link via things magazine.
posted by Rumple (90 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
.
posted by effugas at 8:12 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Aside from the horrible reaction I had, it really is not a bad way to go.
posted by Xoebe at 8:12 AM on September 29, 2009


Er.
posted by jquinby at 8:15 AM on September 29, 2009


Well, that satisfies the dynamited mule quota for the day.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:18 AM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by fuq at 8:19 AM on September 29, 2009


*head asplodes*
posted by bondcliff at 8:20 AM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


____ of the web.

I just don't know what.
posted by odinsdream at 8:20 AM on September 29, 2009


Well now. That was certainly an exploding mule head.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:23 AM on September 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


And from the group of observers was heard: "Hey, amigo, I install another donkey head for you, 50 bucks cash, primed and painted!"
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:23 AM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is this supposed to be some kind of a metaphor for the New York Mets' 2009 season? If it isn't, then I suggest it be adopted.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:28 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Science!
posted by The Straightener at 8:28 AM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Thumbs up for the vintage photo tech angle...overruled by two thumbs down for animal cruelty. Reminds me of this.
posted by availablelight at 8:29 AM on September 29, 2009


"But Alderaan is a peaceful planet, they have no weapons..."
posted by klarck at 8:31 AM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


When you consider the speed of a shockwave generated by a high explosive and compare it against nerve conduction velocity, I think you would never know what hit you. As a way of dying, not bad at all. As far as I know, dynamite either goes off or it does not go off, whereas getting shot in the noggin is something of a mixed bag.

Having said that, I doubt we'll see its adoption by the Humane Society in its regular euthanasia sessions any time soon.
posted by adipocere at 8:32 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


worthless mule.
posted by monkeyJuice at 8:33 AM on September 29, 2009


Two legs, bad.
posted by steef at 8:36 AM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


christ, what an ass hole.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 8:37 AM on September 29, 2009 [56 favorites]


"Sir, why are we exploding this mule again?"
"It's necessary, Joseph. It's necessary."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:39 AM on September 29, 2009 [13 favorites]


assplosion.
posted by The Whelk at 8:41 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


ROTTEN.COM: PURE EVIL SINCE 1996 1881
posted by applemeat at 8:42 AM on September 29, 2009



Not clicking any of those links.
posted by notreally at 8:45 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


'
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:48 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


"It's necessary, Joseph. It's necessary."

It's even better... "It became necessary."
posted by odinsdream at 8:50 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


It'll be in my act from next Monday. (But where can I get a donkey?)
posted by JtJ at 8:50 AM on September 29, 2009


This is not the donkey blow job video you were looking for.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:51 AM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


Scientific Americans scare me.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:52 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd rather go by exploding brain than waste away from long-term illness.

Just sayin'.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:54 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's some TNT and cameras and some men of science looking
And they're all pointed at a mule's head and it will soon be cooking
They say it an experiment and they say that the got to
And that mule is looking worried soon he'll be resembling a tomato
Get along, mule, get along.

Mule brains, yeah, yeah.
Mule brains: splittery-splotting through the wind and rain.
They'll keep going till they drop.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:57 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, Lt. Colonel Adamius Savagé does a little jig in his grave.

Then his grave explodes.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:59 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Woo! He blowed up good!" "He blowed up real good!
posted by ardgedee at 9:01 AM on September 29, 2009


it's about time we had someone post an fpp explaining the republican side of things
posted by pyramid termite at 9:22 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Didn't I see this in "Scanners"?
posted by DaddyNewt at 9:24 AM on September 29, 2009


Of all the mule headed things to do.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:37 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


.
posted by blixco at 9:39 AM on September 29, 2009


I think the mule's name must have been Pierrot.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:42 AM on September 29, 2009


HEADON! APPLY DIRECTLY TO FOREHEAD!
HEADON! APPLY DIRECTLY TO FOREHEAD!
HEADON! APPLY DIRECTLY TO FOREHEAD!

posted by Xoebe at 9:43 AM on September 29, 2009


*
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:45 AM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Apply directly to the forehead, my lord.
posted by Naberius at 9:49 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


PG, I see what you did there.
posted by oddman at 9:54 AM on September 29, 2009


So, Canvas Prints, are you planning on doing more comments with totally non-sequitur "buy my canvas printing service" links embedded? I wonder, because I've never seen an muleaccount explode before and I'd like to get my camera ready for it. Perhaps we can even hire a before & after engraving.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:55 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


PG, I see what you did there.

You know, I was worried it wouldn't come across, as small as the Helvetica/Arial asterisk is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:57 AM on September 29, 2009


SCANNER HORSE!
posted by brundlefly at 9:57 AM on September 29, 2009


I really, really want this mule to become the MeFi mascot. I'm just not sure if it should be the pre- or post-dynamited mule. Both have their appeal. Maybe a t-shirt with the "before" mule underneath a header of "MetaFilter" on the front, and the "after" mule above a footer saying "community weblog". Yeah.
posted by the painkiller at 9:59 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, that satisfies the dynamited mule quota for the day.
posted by Joe Beese


Speak for yourself. We're not even close to the quota over here. Gotta run to the store for more blasting caps, cheers.
posted by marxchivist at 10:01 AM on September 29, 2009


I really, really want this mule to become the MeFi mascot. I'm just not sure if it should be the pre- or post-dynamited mule.

I like this idea. This wraps up science, photography, titillation, and "Hey y'all, watch this!" in one tidy (!) diptych. Convert that thing to a vector drawing, apply some glossy highlights and we're good to go.
posted by unixrat at 10:06 AM on September 29, 2009


If they had used a donkey, we'd have lots of Democratic party jokes and analogies.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:15 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's fake!

The disclaimer at the bottom, in real small print, states that no animals were injured or killed during the filming of this article.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 10:25 AM on September 29, 2009


Oh my.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:27 AM on September 29, 2009


Ass head splodes.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:33 AM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


First whales, now this..
posted by mrbill at 10:46 AM on September 29, 2009


Colonel Beavis! Lt. Colonel Butthead! What's this I hear about your squad blowing up a...my god, blowing the head off a mule?

Huh huh...
Heh heh...
...uh, Mr. President, is it true your name's, like, Chester?
Heh heh...Chester!
Huh huh...
posted by PlusDistance at 10:54 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Buridan's ass, finally resolved.
posted by zamboni at 11:20 AM on September 29, 2009


"It became necessary, one day, at Willet's Point, to destroy a worthless mule"

Did it now?
posted by dirtdirt at 11:32 AM on September 29, 2009


Well, that's quite an act. What do you call it?
posted by zippy at 11:35 AM on September 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


I couldn't help but thinking this is a primordial glimmer of YouTube theatrics, 125 years before its time.

Overall, as someone who has lived out in the country for years, my brain is really playing a tug of war about the whole thing. My city brain repulsed by the stunt and says "cruelty!". My country brain says that this is a mule who is going to eat up a lot of expensive hay come winter, good vet care is in short supply back then, and this way of going is a lot more humane than a bullet in the head or a slit throat, and maybe the remains are going to feed a lot of other livestock and working animals on that farm.
posted by crapmatic at 11:42 AM on September 29, 2009


This is why I won't let you strap dynamite to my forehead. If you put away the camera, maybe we can talk about it.
posted by chairface at 11:42 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


At least he's releasing his inner ass.
posted by ouke at 12:05 PM on September 29, 2009


Now put a few canvases around it, and you've got Art!
posted by five fresh fish at 12:14 PM on September 29, 2009


Yike.
posted by Forrest Greene at 12:26 PM on September 29, 2009


The only thing that comes to mind is: "AAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE."

I have a feeling the mule is thinking roughly the same thing.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:30 PM on September 29, 2009


OBAMA'S HEALTH PLAN.

THIS IS HOW IT WORKS.

EXPLODING MULES.

BURMA SHAVE.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:33 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sunumbitch they done blowed up that mule.
posted by everichon at 12:35 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


adipocere: ... whereas getting shot in the noggin is something of a mixed bag.

I dunno...I don't see how having a bullet fired even toward, let alone into, my head could be a part of anything other than a clearly bad day.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:43 PM on September 29, 2009


Booo. :-(

Awfully mean thing to do, just because his five-night-a-week comedy-variety show isn't working out.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:50 PM on September 29, 2009


I'm glad we live in such enlightened times now and would never dream of doing something like this to an animal :D
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:36 PM on September 29, 2009


It's a little sad to watch Metafilter degenerate into a lesser site.
posted by belvidere at 2:40 PM on September 29, 2009


It's a little sad to watch Metafilter degenerate into a lesser site.
posted by belvidere at 2:40 PM on September 29


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posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:56 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's a little sad to watch Metafilter degenerate into a lesser site.


How about explain, don't just snipe.
posted by Rumple at 2:59 PM on September 29, 2009


I can't stop thinking "But... it's not a photograph" so I'm just left wondering.
posted by Nauip at 3:27 PM on September 29, 2009


General Abbott: "I'll betcha I can blow this jackass' head clean off and leave it standing on all fours."
Private Costello: "No way, sir."
General Abbott: "How much?"
Private Costello: "20 Bucks. SAIT."
posted by webhund at 4:01 PM on September 29, 2009


Nauip -- it is odd that the Scientific American article converted it to an engraving when their story was about photography, but you will note the last link goes to the actual photograph, which it seems was discovered by the stereoviews.com owner and put up for sale.
posted by Rumple at 5:20 PM on September 29, 2009


Can I say it? Can I?

Thanks.

Weapons of ass destruction.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:34 PM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


It's not odd that they converted it to a wood engraving -- practically speaking, that was the only way to reproduce images in magazines/newspapers in 1881, because they needed to use a relief process alongside the letterpress type.
posted by obliquicity at 6:06 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am mortarfied that I didn't think of the now-obvious "Weapons of Ass Destruction" pun. I had rifled my imagination for a few puns, but nothing sparked; my wit was a dud. I probably should have had a second shot of coffee: I'm more of a slug than a bullet early in the morning. But, no, I cannoned into MeFi to see what others were targeting at that time of day, and all I could come up with was my splatter-canvases response.

Hours later, with caffeine-attenuated sensibilities, I can now scope out the range of available punnery. The whole Mythbusters approach to answering the question "How can we best weaponize a donkey" naturally has an artillary of puns available to one's response! How could I have been so deaf to the opportunity!

Well played, Mister Moofoo. You sunk my battleship.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:21 PM on September 29, 2009


Thanks, Fish. I'm kinda surprised I got to it first.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 6:47 PM on September 29, 2009


"I'd rather go by exploding brain than waste away from long-term illness.

Just sayin'."


I've made note of that vibrotronica.
posted by arse_hat at 8:20 PM on September 29, 2009


Animal cruelty, end of metafilter, and can we make this a shirt issues aside -- it was actually interesting to read the article. Given the date of the photo, I was surprised to see both the synchronization of the exposure with the explosion as well as the detail of the image. So diving in to the actual text links, this photo featured both an innovative gel and a fancy electrical rigging of the camera to the detonator. In college I used to take pictures of basketball games for the paper and was connected via radio transmitter to the strobes in the ceiling -- so this is sort of like seeing the original proof of concept for synchronization.

I am trying to figure out the premise of the shot though. I can't tell from the language if the "applied engineering" aspect of the exercise was the setup and use of explosives, or the demonstration of how the technology could be used to study high speed events in a new way. I would guess the latter.
posted by cgk at 9:25 PM on September 29, 2009


Go figure, after lurking about for a year or so to get the gist of the place, I finally decide to signup, and right off I'm warned that
If you sign up an account to pimp your product, act like an ass, or generally just do things that break the guidelines you will be booted and there will be no refunds

So, provided I don't blow my head off on film it's all good, right?
posted by 5X88 at 10:17 PM on September 29, 2009


It must be said that an Ass and a Mule are different critters, though it takes the former to make the latter.

which is what she said
posted by Rumple at 10:32 PM on September 29, 2009


Once upon a time, I lived in a two-room apartment in Ukraine with three other men, all of us about 20 years old. Naturally, perhaps inevitably, we ended up talking about capital punishment—more exactly, about which usual or conceivable mode of execution we would prefer to undergo. This went back and forth for a bit, until someone said, "C-4 headband." And that was it: Instant consensus. Slip a little circlet around your head, walk out into the middle of a field, somebody pushes a button, and you're a crater before you know anything's happened.

I desperately want to believe that that meme survived in the wild from this event till then.
posted by eritain at 10:52 PM on September 29, 2009


Bullseye, five fresh fish.

Even though it was a donkey, not a bull...
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:01 AM on September 30, 2009


It's a another example of a sad phenomenon.

We develop aircraft in 1903. 66 years later progress builds to Concorde, but since then what advances we've made have been purely in the art of hauling more people more cheaply but no faster.

We develop working large rockets in the 1940s, and 30 years later we're on the moon, and 30 years after that we're struggling to get in and out of low earth orbit.

In 1881 we invent explosive surplus animal disposal. By 1970 we've advanced enough to attempt disposal of entire surplus whales via explosive, but since then... nothin'. At best, we're down to blowing up gophers and the like. Pathetic.

Our grandchildren will be living in caves again if we keep turning our backs on progress. PER EXPLOSIVA AD DISPOSICUM ANIMALIA.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:11 AM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


In 1878, Muybridge did his famous series of photos of horse photographs that settled
a disagreement about the precise mechanics of the gallop. Wikipedia has animated gifs.
They're very beautiful.

I think the text is a little disingenuous. It might have been instructive to shoot the mule,
but seldom do engineers use explosives to do anything with animals. Taking
pictures of equines doing things that had never been seen before might have been in
the zeitgeist, and they had a camera, and a mule, and some explosives. Add cruelty
and ingenuity, and this is what you get.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:10 AM on September 30, 2009


I completely fail to see the "cruelty" that is being claimed. The donkey died instantly — probably sooner than any nerve impulses could be processed as painful or frightening.

If anything, that donkey died in the most humane possible way.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:18 AM on September 30, 2009


It's true, in the photo, its head is gone and yet there is only the very slightest twitch of the tail hears evident.

Considering that mule, deemed worthless by the US Army, had probably spent its life dragging cannon through the mud while being whipped by degenerate and frustrated privates, I don't see this as cruel.

I do see it as unusual, which is why I posted it. it is basically an advertisement for an advance in photography and this is the medium they chose to display it. As someone noted, it really is analogous (though less cruel) to Edison's electrocution of elephants to advertise DC transmission safety.
posted by Rumple at 10:26 AM on September 30, 2009


If anything, that donkey died in the most humane possible way.

No way, man. If we buy your logic, and boy howdy do I ever, it would be even MORE humane to use a bunch more asplosive.

And the most humane possible way to put the animal down would be via nuclear or thermonuclear device, or perhaps cranial bombardment with antimatter*.

Now here's a puzzler.

Say that I'm standing next to a modern nuclear warhead, or perhaps riding on it as falls from the sky. When it goes off, are the conventional explosives in the primary going to kill me before the physics package proper has a chance to? Because if so, that seems unfortunate.

*What? I'm a Rapid Offensive Unit. I get not-paid to think of better, brighter, funner ways to humanely whomp the bejesus out of potential opponents. You never know when you'll find yourself facing an Aggressive Hegemonizing Swarm Object composed primarily of old, tired mules.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:35 AM on September 30, 2009


FFF, I claim the cruelty lies in the impulse that I'll label "Let's kill something. It'll be fun."

I agree that the animal did not suffer, but cruelty does not hinge entirely on the suffering
of the animal. You can be cruel even though the animals are dying very quickly, or nearly
or entirely painlessly.

There's a clue to presence of cruelty in an act. The act has a gratuitous nature. Killing the
mule in that fashion served no purpose whatever, for a school of engineers. The "worthless
mule" almost certainly wasn't worthless, or it would have long ago been glue
or meat. In 1881, horses and mules were utilities, and treated as such. It is possible that
the animal had that very day become useless (irreversibly lame), but from the engraving
it is not standing lame.

The claim that the act demonstrated the sensitivity of the "new" gelatin plate is less
specious than the asserted need to eliminate a worthless animal, but in 1881 it was not
even last year's news. Mass production of the gelatin plate started in 1879, by Eastman.
posted by the Real Dan at 10:37 AM on September 30, 2009


Dude, you don't need to hit enter. My browser does a perfectly fine job of wrapping the lines to the width I prefer to have them.

Anyhoo, sure, there's an offensiveness to the gratuitous violence. I guess that can be hung as "cruel."
posted by five fresh fish at 2:15 PM on September 30, 2009


Is this supposed to be some kind of a metaphor for the New York Mets' 2009 season? If it isn't, then I suggest it be adopted.

I've already decided that the New York Mets' 2009 season is a remake of Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days.


/stop sniffing
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 8:30 PM on September 30, 2009


Poor mule. I'm glad the link was more Gorey than gory.
posted by pracowity at 11:22 PM on October 1, 2009


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