Archive for February 2006
Came upon this amazing railway velocipede at pasta and vinegar.
According to the description given in Engineering News of February, 1895:
The wheels have rubber bands 3 ins. wide and 3-16 in. thick on the tread, which make the machine run easily without jar, and also without noise, so that the rider can catch the sound of approaching trains.
Something of a key feature, one feels.
And here, from Montreal’s McCord Museum of Canadian History, is another, rather more sturdy-looking, example.
Lawrence Weschler is a curator of resemblance and pattern. His new book, Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences, works, basically, on this formula: take two vastly different yet similarly patterned photographs and contemplate them side by side.
Weschler’s point is nothing so simple as "Rothko was inspired by the moon landings." Rather, he discusses how both images act on the mind in similar ways and considers what that would tell us about art and the impulse to comprehend.
This piece at the Transom Review is also an excellent introduction to the Weschler view of things. Read the whole thing, including the comments. Listen to the MP3s, too, if you can.
McSweeney’s is hosting a Convergences Contest, with notes on the winning entries by LW himself.
As you may well imagine, and as he himself is well aware, he is not an easy author to categorise. This from an interview with Jim Ruland for the now-dormant magazine The God Particle:
A huge problem for me in bookstores is that my work gets put in all kinds of places. I have a hopeless crusade going that if a work is literary, if it’s writerly, if the writing matters, then it should be put in alphabetical order by author in the literature section. Regardless of whether my work does or doesn’t reach that level, Janet Malcolm and so forth should be on the shelf with Marquez as writing. This completely artificial distinction between fiction and nonfiction is weird. In my case what happens is my stuff gets scattered all the hell over the bookstore. My book on the Museum of Jurassic Technology? They have no idea what to do with that.
My advice, as a bookseller? Wherever you find Mr. Weschler’s work, read it.
Manchester blogger Conscious and Verbal gets it about right when s/he says, of Geoffrey Hill’s poetry reading, which Hill gave in Manchester last night, that it was, “serious, funny, heart breaking, daft. All those things.” Hill is a wonderful communicator and the reading, superbly attended (two or three hundred people, I would guess), was nicely structured with Hill reading a couple of poems from each of his collections.
And I’m even sorrier to hear that the American poet Barbara Guest has died.
This motion in her eyes,
going outside, the red brook
flowed into her eyes, winsome eyes,
drawstring of light.
(From “Pathos”, in Miniatures, and other poems, Wesleyan University Press, 2002.)
I am reading the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk’s novel My Name is Red, which is a murder mystery, and a love-story, and much else besides, set in 16th-century Istanbul, amongst the workshops of miniaturists working for the Sultan. At one point, one of the protagonists, who ingeniously step forward one at a time, like the automata of a mechanical clock, and who include a corpse, a tree, and a dog, tells of a miniaturist who climbs a minaret to gain perspective on the human tragedies he is witnessing. Seems to me a bit of perspective, in the current climate, might not go amiss.
"Bonfire of the Pieties", an article by Amir Taheri in the Wall Street Journal Online, cites references to earlier images of the Prophet Mohammed including:
A miniature by Sultan Muhammad-Nur Bokharai, showing Muhammad riding Buraq, a horse with the face of a beautiful woman, on his way to Jerusalem for his M’eraj or nocturnal journey to Heavens (16th century); a painting showing Archangel Gabriel guiding Muhammad into Medina, the prophet’s capital after he fled from Mecca (16th century); a portrait of Muhammad, his face covered with a mask, on a pulpit in Medina (16th century); an Isfahan miniature depicting the prophet with his favorite kitten, Hurairah (17th century); Kamaleddin Behzad’s miniature showing Muhammad contemplating a rose produced by a drop of sweat that fell from his face (19th century); a painting, "Massacre of the Family of the Prophet," showing Muhammad watching as his grandson Hussain is put to death by the Umayyads in Karbala (19th century); a painting showing Muhammad and seven of his first followers (18th century); and Kamal ul-Mulk’s portrait of Muhammad showing the prophet holding the Quran in one hand while with the index finger of the other hand he points to the Oneness of God (19th century).
Islamic ethics is based on "limits and proportions," which means that the answer to an offensive cartoon is a cartoon, not the burning of embassies or the kidnapping of people designated as the enemy. Islam rejects guilt by association. Just as Muslims should not blame all Westerners for the poor taste of a cartoonist who wanted to be offensive, those horrified by the spectacle of rent-a-mob sackings of embassies in the name of Islam should not blame all Muslims for what is an outburst of fascist energy.
Elsewhere, Sandmonkey notes that
while the arab islamic population was going crazy over the outrage created by their government’s media over these cartoons, their governments was benifitting from its people’s distraction.(sic.)
Another sidelight to this came from a blog called chapati mystery, posting back in November on the Royal Mail’s use of an unattributed 17th century Mughal painting of Madonna with Infant Jesus for one of their Christmas stamps for 2005. He quotes from an academic article on the Mughal’s use of Christian imagery:
After inviting the first Jesuit missions to court in 1580, Akbar ordered his artists to paint hundreds of iconic portraits of Jesus, Mary, and a panoply of Christian saints in the styles of the late Renaissance to adorn books, albums, jewelry and even treaties. These images were used in court rituals and major royal festivities such as coronations. The dramatic culmination came when imperial throne rooms, harems, tombs and gardens were prominently adorned with mural paintings of Christian figures. Astounded and delighted, European travelers wrote home declaring that the Muslim regime was on the verge of conversion. They could not have been more wrong. Far from capitulating to Western cultural superiority, the Mughals took European material culture and put it to work for themselves.
And, apparently, according to Taheri, the iconoclastic strain in Islam derives from an encounter, early in its history, with a brand of early Christianity that was vehemently opposed to imagery. So what goes around, comes around.
This page has some background, pertinent to Pamuk’s novel, as well as beautiful images like this one:
H’srev and Shirin, Sheraz school in the beginning of the 15th century, Iran