Archive for April 2006

Cloud studies

Charles Piazzi Smyth, Scottish Astronomer Royal, who, besides being a great astronomer, bequeathed the world the notion that the measurements of the Great Pyramid at Gizeh are in some way significant, and resigned from the Royal Society when they refused to take him seriously, spent his retirement at Ripon in Yorkshire taking photographs of clouds. He is reportedly buried there under a pyramid, with a camera, and so may be supposed to be taking photographs of clouds in the afterlife (a rather hazy, unsettling concept). His father, a naval man, had also been an astronomer, and named his son "Piazzi" after Giuseppe Piazzi, who discovered the first asteroid.

This peculiar and somewhat vertigininous image, found at The Egypt Archive, is from one of Smyth’s books on the Great Pyramid:

figure from book by Piazzi Smyth

There are two paintings of his, showing the Great Comet of 1843, in the collection of the National Maritime Museum.

A greater English painter, and a great studier of clouds, John Constable, possessed a copy of Thomas Forster’s book Researches about Atmospheric Phenomena which, so we are told, "appears to have been immersed in water, or perhaps drenched by a heavy shower" (according to John E. Thorne’s fascinating study John Constable’s Skies).

I own a book called A Book of Clouds, by one William A. Quayle, published in 1925, full of appropriately cloudy purple prose such as:

Ruby, garnet, zircon, carbuncle all melted together would have fused scanter crimson than the flame I saw. But alas the Revelator was not there! Just above the wild catastrophe of lurid cinder recumbent…

I quote out of context, and have broken off mid-sentence, but I can assure you the passage, like most of the rest of Quayle’s writing, makes scarcely any more sense if you know, for example, who or what "the Revelator" might be, or can fight your way through the recumbent redundancies to the end of what is a merely average Quayle sentence. Rearrange the words in any order you like, and it makes scarcely less sense. It’s wonderful stuff.

This, by the way, is the frontispiece to Quayle’s book.

frontispiece to Quayle's book

May I direct blogosphere cognoscenti to the attribution?

detail of frontispiece

Oh boynton, thou Revelator with light’s pencil of the far Antipodean welkin…

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 30, 2006 at 11:08 am

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Monolithic domes!

photo of headquarters of Polish radio station Radio Muzyka Fakty

This is a completed facility! This is NOT a drawing or a scene out of Star Wars.

The headquarters of Polish radio station Radio Muzyka Fakty.

For more of these somewhat sinister monolithic domes, why not visit the Monolithic Dome Institute, your prime web source for all things monolithic, dome-shaped, and institutional.

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 24, 2006 at 8:30 pm

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“Happy Easter!”

detail from 19th cent. French religious tract

This from Le Miroir du Pécheur, a 19th century Image d’Épinal or stencil-colored woodcut, reproduced in a publication called L’Ymagier, edited by Alfred Jarry and Remy de Gourmont, in October 1894, and on the web at Ubu’s Almanac, an online exhibition tracing Jarry’s involvement with the graphic arts.

Lots to see, but watch out for the little six-legged lizards with their tails stuck in the ground. Them’s vicious!

Via Thomas Übelacker.

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 16, 2006 at 10:51 am

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poster from 1968 protests in Paris

1968. Poster by Jacqueline Jong. More posters from Les évènements here.

photograph of 2006 protests in Paris

2006. More photographs by Joël Paubel at tierslivre.

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 10, 2006 at 11:12 pm

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Mission statements

“Golden jar which has been knocked over”“Phoenix and dragon at the Chinese new year celebrations. They move to music. The musicians are sitting nearby.”“A 96-year old woman in Hoschuwan.”

(links to images at the Basel Mission Picture Archive, a rich trove of ethnographic photographs, mostly taken by missionaries to West Africa, India and China between 1850 and 1950.)

‘…ce que ta bouche cruelle
Éparpille en l’air,
Monstre assassin, c’est ma cervelle,
Mon sang et ma chair!’

Charles Baudelaire, born April 9th, 1821, “L’amour et le crâne”, from Les Fleurs du Mal.

That matter can provoke contagion

if touched in its inmost fibers

ripped like a calf from its mother

like a pig from its own heart

screeching at the sight of its yanked organs;

That such a rupture can generate

the same wildfire energy that spreads

when society is torn, holy veil of the temple,

and the king’s head falls, severed from the body of the state

so that the thaumaturge becomes the wound;

That the hearth’s embrace becomes radiation

bonfire of nature decomposing

helpless before the smiles of bystanders

making for only the slightest increase

in room temperature;

That the form of every production

implies effraction, fission, a farewell

and that history is but the act of combustion

and Earth a tender pile of firewood

left out to dry in the sun,

is incredible, isn’t it?

Valerio Magrelli, from The Contagion of Matter, 2000. Translation by Anthony Molino, at Poetry International.

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 9, 2006 at 9:10 pm

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Ghosts and avocados

As naturalist Connie Barlow writes in her book The Ghosts of Evolution (New York: Basic Books, 2000), certain species of plant – such as the humble but delicious avocado – have been discovered to be anachronisms, adapted to thrive in the symbiotic presence of another species that has since vanished from the earth. The avocado, with its rich flesh and gigantic seeds, is haunted by the ghosts of the giant sloth, gomphothere, and toxodon: Pleistocene mega fauna capable of swallowing the fruit whole and dispersing the pits. In the absence of such creatures, the future of the wild avocado is uncertain – it has lost its context, and must either evolve, find new partners, or perish.

Via the valedictory issue 18 (December2004) of HorizonZero, a Canadian newmedia magazine.

Gomphothere  – giant extinct elephants, like Platybelodon and Amebelodon.

Think of them, these extinct creatures, when next you eat an avocado…

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 5, 2006 at 1:31 am

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Ramage de la Ville

No, not my evil twin, but the old street-cries of London, from Addison’s essay:

There is nothing which more astonishes a foreigner, and frights a country squire, than the Cries of London. My good friend Sir Roger often declares that he can not get them out of his head or go to sleep for them, the first week that he is in town. On the contrary, Will Honeycomb calls them the Ramage de la Ville, and prefers them to the sound of larks and nightingales, with all the music of fields and woods.

(Joseph Addison, On the Cries of London.)

The Cryes of the City of London drawne after the life, from “A Nation of Shopkeepers: Trade Ephemera from 1654 to the 1860s”, the 2001 John Johnson Collection Exhibition at the Bodleian Libray of the University of Oxford. Be sure to look at the supplementary material here, too, which includes this fantastic image of a grocer.

“A tormentor for your fleas!” – Andrew Tuer White’s Old London Street Cries; and The Cries of To-day: with heaps of quaint cuts including hand-coloured frontispiece, (Leadenhall Press, 1885), online in the University of Wisconsin’s Historical Primary Sources Collection.

18th century Paris street cries, by the French artist Edmé Bouchardon.

Zelma Gray’s edition of Sir Roger de Coverley Essays from the Spectator, online at xooqi, includes Addison’s essay, as well as many others featuring the amiable figure of Sir Roger de Coverley, the archetypal English country squire.

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Written by Dave Lovely

April 2, 2006 at 1:53 pm

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