Archive for April 2004
From an excellent exhibition at the Musée des Arts et Métiers about the scientific expedition to South America made by Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland at the turn of the 19th century comes this striking observation by von Humboldt:
It is to be supposed that the last family of Atures did not die out until a long time afterwards: since at Maypures – bizarrely – there still survives an old parrot that nobody, say the natives, can understand, because it speaks only the language of the Atures.
UPDATE: this article, from the first issue (Spring and Summer 2002) of the excellent-looking Canadian magazine maisonneuve, refers to this parrot in the course of a discussion of endangered species and endangered languages:
Almost in desperation, linguists have begun to adopt the vocabulary and metaphors of biologists. They too are speaking about the resilience that comes with diversity. They too are asking for niches of equilibrium to remain undisturbed. They too are warning of the dangers inherent in … an “impoverished and homogenized world,” one in which a few dominant lifeforms have overrun and erased the diversity that used to sustain us. (Mark Abley)
Abley’s book, Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages, is going on my to-read list.
A marked confluence of colours, observed yesterday from a restaurant called La Clairette in the 9ème arrondisement. Blues, purples, reds, greys, browns, and black. Every passer-by wearing some combination of those colours, and those colours only. The preferred look being burgundy reds and purples, disciplined by a dark, and dare it be said, Prussian blue, with the more dandyish inhabitants of the quartier affecting lavish, sanguinary displays of the red end of the spectrum – one in particular going so far as to reverse the usual sumptuary order, sporting a crimson jacket over a dark blue shirt. A noticeable absence of greens or, especially, yellows, which can only, I fear, have a sinister explanation.
Somewhere amongst these suave and business-like streets there must lurk a foul-smelling donjon, whither the merciless and ever-vigilant tribunes of the public palette haul off those wretched malfeasants foolish enough to venture forth clad in green or yellow. The law proscribing such abhorrent shades must I think be a relic of some unrepealed edict of the Terror, which other, slacker, districts have since allowed to lapse and be forgotten. I have seen its like only once before, in Ragusa, a town in Sicily, where all the FIAT Cinquecentos had, by fiat, to be painted some colour ranging from that of pale unsalted butter to the darkest gamboge. You would never see such vehicles in the 9ème, of course…
A very full day yesterday, starting with the wonderful flea-market near the Porte de Vanves, along Avenues Marc Sangnier and Georges Lafenestre – dozens and dozens of stalls selling all manner of things, including several selling old photographs and postcards. I picked up a handful, which I’ll post here in due course; I was very taken by one stall which seemed to specialise in photographs of a fetching young actress of the Belle Epoque – there was one of her got up in male Revolutionary drag from some historical drama or other, which I had thoughts of draping a “Vive La France!” post about, but she was, hélas, too expensive…
More early photography, of a somewhat less frothy nature, is on show at the Musée d’Orsay, in an exhibition called Landscapes and Nature – images by Fox Talbot, Le Gray, P. H. Emerson, and others, including rather eerie negative prints by an English photographer called George Shaw, about whom I must find out more. There’s yet another early photography exhibition at the Musée Marmottan, from the collections of the Institut de France, which, among much else, contains some fascinating examples of pioneer scientific use of the medium, for instance images by the Bisson frères from the “Photographie Zoologique” of 1854, similar to those on this page.
The Daguerreian Society, including galleries of mainly American, but some European, and interestingly, some contemporary daguerreotypes, as well as a tour of a manufactory of daguerreian materials, and much else.
The Italian artist Giuseppe Penone, a favourite of mine, at the Pompidou Centre.
To distract you all from the various quirks and gripes and glitches and bugs you may now be finding here, may I present The Theatrophone in Paris, (1891):
A correspondent writes from Paris, under recent date, as follows: “I want to tell you about a machine they use here very much, but that I have not seen anything of in our country. They call it the theatrophone. It is virtually a phonograph that is placed in any hotel and connected with all the theatres. By dropping the familiar coin into the equally familiar slot, the thing is set in working order, and the conversation, music, etc., of whatever theatre it happens to be connected with at the time, is plainly heard by placing two receivers to the ears. They usually connect them with the opera, bouffés-Parisiens, etc., and with all the theatres that have music. When the curtain rises the machine receives its impression for thirty minutes, say, and is then switched off to another theatre. An indicator shows you what is going on at any time and you can choose what you wish. It is very ingenious; certainly more amusing than the weighing machines and pull-testers that so overcrowd our waiting-rooms everywhere.”
I certainly hope my hotel has this facility.
As you can see, Ramage has undergone a bout of design-tweaking, which is also why posts have been a little thin on the ground (well, non-existent, really) this past week. It may not be over yet either – I’m not entirely happy with those buttons over on the right, for example. They’re not aligned how I wanted them, and I also had in mind putting them in a little box on their own, but I haven’t time now to work out how to do it…
Anyhow, constructive comments and suggestions would be most appreciated.
Other news is that I’m off to Paris again from tomorrow until April 30th – this time, though, I’m going to try and post while I’m there.
….otherwise known as white lightning, skull cracker, see seven stars, bush whiskey, or moonshine.
From the Palmer Appalachian Photograph and Artefact Collection at the Virginia Tech Imagebase.
Earl Palmer’s photographs, taken over a fifty-year period, include depictions of the traditional culture of mountain people–their work, economy, daily life, and creative expression.
– see particularly, among many (six hundred forty-two) others, hidin’ th’ likker from th’law, and (not especially moonshine related, though Bobby looks as if he might’ve been partial to a drop now and again), the picture of Bobby and Alice Sutphen.