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  • feedwordpress 08:01:53 on 2018/05/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Lucifer, , , , ,   

    “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization”*… 

     

    The phrase confuses me. I was born in California. My mom was born in New York. “Go back where you came from.” Um, okay. I mean, I was headed home anyways. My house is just a few blocks away.

    I grew up in a mostly non-Asian city, so I used to hear the phrase sometimes. Kids like to pick on the one who looks a little different. But these days, when I hear an adult say it to another adult, it catches me off guard. It doesn’t make sense.

    You traverse an American’s family tree, and eventually you find an immigrant. And most of the time, you don’t have to go back that far.

    So … what if everyone went back where they came from?

    Find at at Nathan Yau‘s “If We All Left to ‘Go Back Where We Came From’.”

    * Gandhi (who also observed, “No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.”)

    ###

    As we stir the melting pot, we might recall that today is the Feast Day of  Lucifer– more properly, of St. Lucifer of Caligari.  At least, it’s his feast day in Sardinia, where he’s venerated.  Lucifer, who was a 4th century bishop fierce in his opposition to Arianism, is considered by some elsewhere to have been a stalwart (if minor) defender of the orthodoxy; but by more to have been an obnoxious fanatic.

    “Lucifer” was in use at the time as a translation of the the Hebrew word, transliterated Hêlêl or Heylel (pron. as HAY-lale), which means “shining one, light-bearer.”  It had been rendered in Greek as ἑωσφόρος (heōsphoros), a name, literally “bringer of dawn,” for the morning star.  The name “Lucifer” was introduced in St. Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate, roughly contemporaneously with St. Lucifer.  But the positive spin of Lucifer of Caligari’s name was, even in it’s day, in tension with the received idea of “Lucifer”; the conflation of “Lucifer” with an altogether evil “Satan” had begun centuries earlier.

    Indeed, Satan had undergone a pretty profound transition: “Satan” is from a Hebrew word, “Saithan,” meaning adversary or enemy; in original Jewish usage (see the book of Job); but Satan is the adversary, not of God, but of mankind; i.e., the angel charged by God with the task of proving mankind an unworthy creation.  Thus Satan was originally not in opposition to God, but doing His will.

    Later– during the Second Temple Period, when Jews were living in the Achaemenid Empire, and Judaism was heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism— the concept of an evil power ruling an underground domain of punishment for the wicked became fixed in doctrine (mirroring Angra Mainyu, the Zoroastrian god of evil, darkness, and ignorance).  Over time, elements of the Graeco-Roman god Pluto/Vulcan/Hephaestus, the Underworld, & various aspects of Nordic/Teutonic mythology also made their way into the Jewish, then Christian, understandings of Satan and his realm.

    St. Lucifer of Calgari

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    Satan doing God’s work: The Examination of Job (c. 1821) by William Blake

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:06 on 2018/05/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , Fred Moten, , I'll Say She Is, , , ,   

    “I suffer from everyday life”*… 

     

    Philosopher, essayist, and poet Fred Moten

    “I think mayonnaise has a complex kind of relation to the sublime,” [Moten] said. “And I think emulsion does generally. It’s something about that intermediary—I don’t know—place, between being solid and being a liquid, that has a weird relation to the sublime, in the sense that the sublimity of it is in the indefinable nature of it.”

    “It’s liminal also,” I offered.

    “It’s liminal, and it connects to the body in a certain way.”

    “You have to shake it up,” I said. “You have to put the energy into it to get it into that state.”

    “Anyway,” Moten said, “mostly I just don’t fucking like it.”…

    The New Yorker‘s David Wallace on “Fred Moten’s radical critique of the present.”

    * Italo Calvino

    ###

    As we contemplate the quotidian, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924 that the Marx Brother’s took Broadway by storm.  Already vaudeville stars, they’d wrangled a spot on the Great White Way, a last-minute opening for which they threw together a review based nominally on an unsuccessful musical comedy by Will and Tom Johnstone, originally written for British actress Kitty Gordon as Love For Sale.  The Marx Brothers substituted in some of their most trustworthy material and called it I’ll Say She Is.

    In one of show business’ great strokes of luck, the opening night of a major dramatic play, slated for this same date, was canceled, leading all of New York’s leading critics instead to the premiere of the relatively-unknown Marx Brothers’ show.  Their extraordinary banter and slapstick astounded the critics, and put the Brothers on the road to Broadway, then Hollywood fame.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:30 on 2018/05/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , heresy, , , , , ,   

    “The mob really believed that truth was whatever respectable society had hypocritically passed over, or covered up with corruption”*… 

     

    John Adams didn’t literally call the Philadelphia Aurora (also known as the Aurora General Adviser) “fake news,” but he was not pleased by the way he was often depicted in it

    In the margins of his copy of Condorcet’s treatise Outlines of an Historical View of the Progress of the Human Mind, President John Adams scribbled a cutting note.

    Writing in the section where the French philosopher predicted that a free press would advance knowledge and create a more informed public, Adams scoffed. “There has been more new error propagated by the press in the last ten years than in an hundred years before 1798,” he wrote at the time.

    The charge feels shockingly modern. Were he to have written the sentiment in 2018, and not at the turn of the 19th century, it’s easy to imagine that at just 112 characters, he might have tweeted it, instead.

    While Chinese monks were block printing the Diamond Sutra as early as 868 A.D. and German printer Johannes Gutenberg developed a method of movable metal type in the mid-1400s, it took until the Enlightenment for the free press as we know it today to be born.

    Condorcet’s 1795 text expanded upon the belief that a press free from censorship would circulate an open debate of ideas, with rationality and truth winning out. Adams’ marginal response reminds us that when something like truth is up for debate, the door is open for bad-faith actors (the partisan press in his view) to promulgate falsehoods—something that a reader today might call “fake news.”…

    Harrowing history at: “The Age-Old Problem of ‘Fake News’.”

    * “Totalitarian propaganda perfects the techniques of mass propaganda, but it neither invents them nor originates their themes. These were prepared for them by fifty years of imperialism and disintegration of the nation-state, when the mob entered the scene of European politics. Like the earlier mob leaders, the spokesmen for totalitarian movements possessed an unerring instinct for anything that ordinary party propaganda or public opinion did not care or dare to touch. Everything hidden, everything passed over in silence, became of major significance, regardless of its own intrinsic importance. The mob really believed that truth was whatever respectable society had hypocritically passed over, or covered up with corruption.”
    ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

    ###

    As we ferret out the facts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1593 that Christopher Marlowe, the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day (and a powerful influence on Shakespeare), was indicted by the Privy Council for heresy on the basis of testimony (probably elicited by torture) from Marlowe’s roommate, fellow dramatist Thomas Kyd.  Marlowe (who was in fact an atheist and seems likely to have supplemented his income as a spy) was subsequently arrested, but was able to use his connections to arrange bail.  While out he became involved in a fight– ostensibly over a tavern bill, but believed by many to have been a set-up– and was stabbed to death.

    The 1585 portrait discovered at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1953, believed to be of the 21-year-old Christopher Marlowe.  The inscribed motto is “QVOD ME NVTRIT ME DESTRVIT,” “that which nourishes me destroys me.”  Indeed.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:24 on 2018/05/17 Permalink
    Tags: Chuck E. Cheese, Dorothea Lange, Farm Security Administration, Gordon Parks, , , Nolan Bushnell, , , ,   

    “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”*… 

     

    From his office at the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in Washington, D.C., Roy Stryker saw, time and again, the reality of the Great Depression, and the poverty and desperation gripping America’s rural communities. As head of the Information Division and manager of the FSA’s photo-documentary project, his job was to hire and brief photographers, and then select images they captured for distribution and publication. His eye helped shape the way we view the Great Depression, even today.

    Professionally, Stryker was known for two things: preserving thousands of photographs from being destroyed for political reasons, and for “killing” lots of photos himself. Negatives he liked were selected to be printed. Those he didn’t—ones that didn’t fit the narrative and perspective of the FSA at the time, perhaps—were met with the business end of hole punch, which left gaping black voids in place of hog’s bellysindustrial landscapes, and the faces of farmworkers.

    In 1935, the Resettlement Administration (RA) was established as part of the New Deal to provide relief, recovery, and reform to rural areas. The FSA, created in 1937, was its spiritual successor. The FSA’s duties included, but were not limited to, operating camps for victims of the Dust Bowl, setting up homestead communities, and providing education to more than 400,000 migrant families. Communicating about its efforts was also part of its mandate…

    Stryker sought out photographers, among them Dorothea LangeGordon Parks, and Arthur Rothstein, and made their images readily available to the press. Given the lack of new photography and art being produced during the Great Depression, the photos regularly appeared in magazines such as LIFE and Look. He also had them displayed at the 1936 Democratic National Convention, the 1936 World’s Fair, the Museum of Modern Art, and other prominent venues. The publication of a series of early photographs, including Lange’s Migrant Mother, proved instrumental in pushing the federal government to provide emergency aid to migrant workers in California.

    In the effort to represent the FSA and Roosevelt’s signature domestic achievement in a positive light, the chosen photos captured how the idealistic views of farm life were being tainted by poverty, and how the FSA programs were helping farmers reclaim their dignity. Common elements were decrepit housing conditions, the lack of food and clean water, and harsh work environments.

    It was government propaganda, and there were certainly some within the government (both supporters and detractors) who saw it that way, and more who considered both the FSA and its photography project as communist and un-American. In a 1972 Interview, Stryker admits to having felt political pressure from the Department of Agriculture to portray the effectiveness of the New Deal. “Go to hell,” was his response. His photographers “were warned repeatedly not to manipulate their subjects in order to get more dramatic images, and their pictures were almost always printed without cropping or retouching.”

    But there is a way to manipulate the story being told without altering the images themselves—the process of photo editing, of choosing which images to highlight and which to discard…

    The fascinating story of one man’s (materially successful) effort to galvanize social and political opinion: “How a Hole Punch Shaped Public Perception of the Great Depression.”

    And for an equally-fascinating consideration of how emerging new visual technologies might similarly be used to sway sentiment, read Fred Turner‘s “The Politics of Virtual Reality.”

    * Richard Avedon

    ###

    As we celebrate skepticism, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that Nolan Bushnell (co-founder of video game pioneer Atari) opened the first Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre, ultimately a chain of family destinations that served pizza and other menu items, complemented by arcade games, amusement rides, and animatronic displays as a focus of entertainment (and often, birthday party celebration).  It took its name from its main animatronic character Chuck E. Cheese, a mouse who sang and interacted with guests.  Over 600 outlets are operating today in the U.S. and 17 other countries.

    Chuck E. Cheese and Nolan Bushnell (Bushnell on right)

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:37 on 2018/05/16 Permalink
    Tags: grammer, , Louis XVI, , , spacing, , , wedding   

    “Space: the final frontier”*… 

     

    This is a time of much division. Families and communities are splintered by polarizing narratives. Outrage surrounds geopolitical discourse—so much so that anxiety often becomes a sort of white noise, making it increasingly difficult to trigger intense, acute anger. The effect can be desensitizing, like driving 60 miles per hour and losing hold of the reality that a minor error could result in instant death.

    One thing that apparently still has the power to infuriate people, though, is how many spaces should be used after a period at the end of an English sentence.

    The war is alive again of late because a study that came out this month from Skidmore College. The study is, somehow, the first to look specifically at this question. It is titled: “Are Two Spaces Better Than One? The Effect of Spacing Following Periods and Commas During Reading.”…

    Find out the truth at “The Scientific Case for Two Spaces After a Period.”

    * the words opening each episode of Star Trek

    ###

    As your correspondent basks in confirmation, we might recall that it was in 1770 that Germany and France moved past 30 years of animosity, celebrating their new alliance with the marriage of Archduchess Marie “let them eat cake” Antionette and Dauphin Louis-Auguste de France (soon enough to become King Louis XVI), in a lavish ceremony at Versailles, in front of more than 5000 guests.

    A torrential thunderstorm pre-empted the fireworks planned for that evening; but the celebration continued through May 30th, when fireworks on Place de la Concorde killed 132 people– a grim omen of a reign that would prove tragic.

    Marie Antoinette in her wedding dress, which was adorned with white diamonds

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:12 on 2018/05/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , model trains, , , treadmill, , William Cubitt   

    “Any workout which does not involve a certain minimum of danger or responsibility does not improve the body – it just wears it out”*… 

     

    If you are one of the 51.8 million people in the U.S. who use a treadmill for exercise, you know there’s much pain for your muscle-and-fitness gain. On your next 30-minute jog, as you count down the final seconds, ponder whether the hard work made you a better person. Consider whether the workout would feel different if you had powered something, even a fan to cool yourself off.

    Two hundred years ago, the treadmill was invented in England as a prison rehabilitation device. It was meant to cause the incarcerated to suffer and learn from their sweat. It would mill a bit of corn or pump some water as a bonus…

    How an early-19th century penal innovation became the top selling piece of exercise equipment in the U.S.: “Treadmills were meant to be atonement machines.”

    * (That well-known fitness expert) Norman Mailer

    ###

    As we try to find our rhythm, we might send well-constructed birthday greetings to Frank Hornby; he was born on this date in 1863.  A visionary toy designer, he created the Meccano construction set (in 1901), a toy that used perforated metal strips, wheels, rods, brackets, clips, and assembly nuts and bolts to allow kids to build unlimited numbers of models.  A huge success, it spawned a monthly magazine– and U.S. competition (e.g., the Erector Set).  He introduced Hornby model trains in 1920 (originally clockwork and eventually electrically powered with tracks and scale replicas of associated buildings); the “Dinky” range of miniature cars and other motor vehicles was added in 1933 (spawning such competitors as Corgi, Matchbox, and Mattel’s Hot Wheels).

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:27 on 2018/05/14 Permalink
    Tags: Athanasius Kircher, , , , Lewis and Clark, Meriwether Lewis, Mundus Subterraneus, Northwest Passage, , , William Clark   

    “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom”*… 

     

    Depiction of a Dragon featured in Mundus Subterraneus

    Just before Robert Hooke’s rightly famous microscopic observations of everything from the “Edges of Rasors” to “Vine mites” appeared in Micrographia in 1665, the insatiably curious and incredibly prolific Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher [see here] published what is in many ways a more spectacular work. Mundus Subterraneus  (Underground world), a two-volume tome of atlas-like dimensions, was intended to lay out “before the eyes of the curious reader all that is rare, exotic, and portentous contained in the fecund womb of Nature.” There is an “idea of the earthly sphere that exists in the divine mind,” Kircher proclaimed, and in this book, one of more than thirty on almost as many subjects that he published during his lifetime, he tried to prove that he had grasped it.

    As a French writer put it some years later, “it would take a whole journal to indicate everything remarkable in this work.” There were extended treatments on the spontaneous generation of living animals from non-living matter, the unethical means by which alchemists pretended to change base metals into gold, and the apparent tricks of nature we now recognize as fossils. The book included detailed charts of “secret” oceanic motions, or currents, among the first ever published. The author’s more or less correct explanation of how igneous rock is formed was also arguably the first in print. According to one modern scholar, Kircher “understood erosion,” and his entries “on the quality and use of sand” and his “investigations into the tending of fields” had their practical use.

    Mundus Subterraneus identified the location of the legendary lost island of Atlantis (something that modern science hasn’t been able to accomplish) as well as the source of the Nile: it started in the “Mountains of the Moon,” then ran northward through “Guix,” “Sorgola,” and “Alata” and on into “Bagamidi” before reaching Ethiopia and Egypt. Kircher offered a lengthy discussion of people who lived in caves (their societies and their economy). He reported on the remains of giants (also mainly cave dwellers) found in the ground. And he went into detail on the kinds of lower animals who belong to the lower world (including dragons).

    In short, Mundus Subterraneus covered almost every subject that might relate to the realm of earth, as well as many that wouldn’t seem to, such as the sun and “its special properties, by which it flows into the earthly world” and the “nature of the lunar body and its effects.” These correspondences and influences were nothing new, though perhaps only the always-inclusive Athanasius Kircher would choose to publish a series of moon maps in a book about the world below…

    Portrait of Kircher at age 53 from Mundus Subterraneus

    More on this extraordinary work– inspired in part by a subterranean adventure Kircher himself made into the bowl of Vesuvius– at John Glassie‘s “Athanasius, Underground“; browse the book at the Internet Archive.

    * Socrates

    ###

    As we praise polymathy, we might recall that it was on this date in 1804 that Corps of Discovery– better known today as the Lewis and Clark Expedition– left Camp Dubois, near Wood River, Illinois, commencing what would be a trek over two years on which they became the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States.

    President Thomas Jefferson had commissioned the expedition shortly after the Louisiana Purchase (in 1803) to explore and to map the newly acquired territory, to find a practical route across the western half of the continent– a Northwest Passage– and to establish an American presence in this territory before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it.

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    Meriwether Lewis and William Clark

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:36 on 2018/05/13 Permalink
    Tags: Cardinal Richelieu, daggers, explosions, , Ken Hermann, kitchen knives, knives, , ,   

    “To explode or to implode… that is the question”*… 

     

    From Danish photographer Ken Hermann‘s series, “Explosions“; more mesmerizing mayhem here.

    * “To explode or to implode – said Qfwfq – that is the question: whether ’tis nobler in the mind to expand one’s energies in space without restraint, or to crush them into a dense inner concentration.”
    ― Italo Calvino, The Distance of the Moon

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    As we reflect on eruption, we might recall that it was on this date in 1637 (or nearabouts, as closely as scholars can say) that Cardinal Richelieu introduced the first table knives (knives with rounded edges)–reputedly to cure dinner guests of the unsavory habit of picking their teeth with the knife-points of the daggers that were, until then, used to cut meat at the table.  Years later, in 1669, King Louis XIV followed suit, forbidding pointed knives at his table; indeed, he extended the prohibition, banning pointed knives in the street in an attempt to reduce violence.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:06 on 2018/05/12 Permalink
    Tags: Edward Lear, epigraph, , limerick, , nonsense, , runcible spoon,   

    “An author…may wish to include an epigraph — a quotation that is pertinent but not integral to the text”*… 

     

    Epigraph: To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

     

    Epigraph: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut

    Examples from  Phoebe Pan‘s “ongoing collection of epigraphs.”

    * Chicago Manual of Style

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    As we appreciate appositeness, we might send silly birthday greetings to Edward Lear; he was born on this date in 1812.  An artist, illustrator, musician, author, and poet, he is known now mostly for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose– including his limericks, a form he he did much to popularize.

    They dined on mince, and slices of quince

    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

    And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

    They danced by the light of the moon,

    The moon,
    The moon,

    They danced by the light of the moon.

    -“The Owl and the Pussycat” (probably Lear’s best-known poem)

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:02 on 2018/05/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , puns,   

    “Punning is a talent which no man affects to despise but he that is without it”*… 

     

    The English language is almost nightmarishly expansive, and yet there is no good way to respond when someone drops a bad pun in casual conversation.

    “Stop” seems ideal, but it’s too late—they already did it. If your esophagus cooperates, you can mimic a human chuckle, or you can just steamroll through, ignoring the elephant now parked in your conversational foyer. Either way, having to deal at all with the demand that wordplay be acknowledged is probably the reason so many people think they hate puns.

    Those people are wrong…

    More on this variety of not-merely-meretricious merriment at : “If You Think You Hate Puns, You’re Wrong.”

    * Jonathan Swift

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    As we ponder Alfred Hitchcock’s assertion that “puns are the highest form of literature,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that Monty Python was formed.  Graham Chapman was trained and educated to be a physician, but that career trajectory was never meant to be.  John Cleese was writing for TV personality David Frost and actor/comedian Marty Feldman at the time, when he recruited Chapman as a writing partner and “sounding board”.  BBC offered the pair a show of their own in 1969, when Cleese reached out to former How To Irritate People writing partner Michael Palin, to join the team.  Palin invited his own writing partner Terry Jones and colleague Eric Idle over from rival ITV, who in turn wanted American-born Terry Gilliam for his animations.

    The Pythons considered several names for their new program, including “Owl Stretching Time”, “The Toad Elevating Moment”, “Vaseline Review” and “A Horse, a Spoon and a Bucket.”  “Flying Circus” had come up as well.  The name stuck when BBC revealed that they had already printed flyers, and weren’t about to go back to the printer.

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