Thursday, 12 July 2012

Aftensposten Lysavis

Lowry arrived at the Oslo Østbanestasjon - Oslo's main station in 1931. Located on Jernbanetorget. He had travelled overnight from Aandalsnes en route to try and meet Nordahl Grieg in the city. Lowry refers to the Aftensposten Lysavis in his first novel Ultramarine when he thinks of meeting Janet Travena; "Under the Aftenpostens Lysavis, standing in the Drammersveien with you." (Pg. 52). It must be noted that if we take Lowry literally he is saying that the Lysavis was located on the Drammersveien which would have been incorrect as the street is some distance from the station.

Aftensposten Lysavis was an electronic news-ticker which was originally operated by the Aftenposten newspaper during the October 1930 Norwegian Stortingsvalget to inform people of the results of the election. The Lysavis was located at the Oslo Østbanestasjon - Oslo's main station in 1930. No details are currently available as to whether Lysavis was used after that date for example in the 1931 Norwegian local elections which Lowry may have seen during his stay in Oslo or the Lysavis was being used for another purpose. Lowry makes an intriguing reference to the Lysavis being used for more than election results"Standing there the news of the whole world flowed above us, an opium dream of electric light." (Pg. 52)

Lowry later recalled the news-ticker in the film script for Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night;

The feeling of unchangingness, or recurrence, in history of the illuminated news travelling way up round the Times Building on Times Square. This news goes on recurringly, in a manner that will be indicated , whenever the time of day or geography permits for the greater part of this short New York sequence. Whether the actual existence of the Times Building News itself at this precise time is historically accurate is thoroughly immaterial- that is, there was such an illuminated news in Oslo for the Aftenbladt and in other European capitals at this time, or within a year or so, perhaps the Times Building did not have one till a little later - more likely it was the other way around: what is of the utmost importance however - merely for the purpose of relating the film imaginatively to history - but as will later be explained, for psychological reasons too- is that it should, in one way or another, be there. (The Cinema of Malcolm Lowry: a scholarly edition of Lowry's "Tender is the Night" Edited by Miguel Mota and Paul Tiessen Pg. 148)

Lowry refers to the Oslo Aftenbladt which ceased printing in 1881. Lowry may have been confused with the Stravanger newspaper with the same name. Lowry creates a range of headlines seen by Dick in the film script (Pgs.148-149) - most seem to be based on real incidents/events except for the death of the character Abe North. There is no clear evidence how Lowry gleaned the headlines. Lowry's explanation in his Tender is the Night film script is an insight into how he used signs in his work.

On November 6th 1928, the New York Times encircled its the Times Building around the fourth floor of the building with its famous "zipper" headliner. This was one of the earliest outdoor incandescent message reader boards that provided the passing public with electronic messages about the breaking news as it happened. The Motograph News Bulletin, or "zipper" as it was known informally, was a technological marvel of its day. It extended 380 feet around the Times Tower and, with a band 5-feet tall, the moving letters were visible from a distance of several city blocks. It was first used to announce the results of the US presidential election of 1928. The sign was originally made of 14,800 lamps.In an interesting note, Times Square is now flooded with various evolved reader boards (Reuters, ABC, Morgan Stanley, etc) all based on the original 1928 Times Tower electric message board. 

A Times column from 2005 described how inventor Frank C. Reilly's remarkable sign worked:

Inside the control room, three cables poured energy into transformers. The hookup to all the bulbs totaled 88,000 soldered connections. Messages from a ticker came to a desk beside a cabinet like the case that contained type used by old-time compositors. The cabinet contained thin slabs called letter elements. An operator composed the message letter-by-letter in a frame.

The frame, when filled with the letters and spaces that spelled out a news item, was inserted in a magazine at one end of a track. A chain conveyor moved the track, and each letter in the frame brushed a number of contacts. Each contact set a light flashing on Broadway.

Reilly, the Times said, calculated that there were 261,925,664 flashes an hour from the zipper's 14,800 bulbs.

It was the first use anywhere of the zipper, which was itself big news on a big news day. A headline in the Nov. 6 edition of the Times declared: Huge Times Sign Will Flash News. It also happened to be election day, and the zipper's first streaming headline announced a new president:


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This sign, as Lowry suggests, must have been the inspiration for the Aftensposten Lysavis.

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