Plaque about the History of Movie Making Offers Evidence that ‘Alternative Facts’ are Nothing New

I walked passed this plaque the other day. In fact, I’ve probably walked passed it many times over the years, but this time I noticed it.  Naturally, I thought “Wow! Really?” To think that the motion picture–one of the most influential forms of art and propaganda, that touches literally billions of people, that not only entertains but educates, that not only spreads truth but also lies, that has generated billions of dollars and driven people to suicide–in other words, something that does just about everything–started right here, right at this spot, at a place that once bore the charming and now ancient-sounding name of Koster and Bial’s Music Hall?

And then I Googled it. I’m not saying Googling is the be-all and end-all when it comes to fact checking; after all, the internet if full of fake news. And yet I found what I read here on a site called untapped cities under the headline “Lost and Incorrect Historical Plaques in NYC” persuasive:

“It may have been Edison’s first, but not where the motion picture began. The showing in 1896 was just the first showing of Edison Kinetoscope films on screen to a paying audience, not the first screening of a projection film which happened in Paris 1895, by the Lumiere Brothers. In fact, Edison only allowed this 1896 screening to happen after there were “wide-spread projections of the Kinestoscope films by unauthorized showmen,” reports Raymond Fielding in A Technological History of Motion Pictures and Television.

So apparently even plaques, which seem inherently honest in their fixity and stolid plainness, can be as slippery as a Sean Spicer press conference.


The Plaza of Three Cultures (and Three Tragedies) in Mexico City

The Plaza of Three Cultures / Plaza de Tres Culturas is remarkable not only for the collision of past and present but the numerous tragedies that have occurred there, starting with Cortes’ massacre of the Aztecs followed hundreds of years later by the Army’s murder of hundreds of student protesters in 1968 and finally the 1985 earthquake.

We visited on Jan 5, a bright quiet day. There were only a few other tourists but the place was crowded with lessons and, no doubt, ghosts. An engraved sign commemorating Cuauhtemoc’s defense of Tlatelolco against Cortes takes a neutral position on the outcome: “Neither triumph nor defeat, it was the painful birth of the Mestizo nation that is the Mexico of today.”