Archive for May 2006


In ‘8 thoughts on Super 8’, Momus tells us what we all knew anyway, that human life is, as we say round here, “bobbins”.*

(via blackbeltjones).

* I’ve seen this common Mancunian expression (“That’s bobbins, is that.”) explained as rhyming slang – ‘bobbins of cotton’=rotten=rubbish. Which somehow doesn’t ring true, quite. Anybody know any more?

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Written by Dave Lovely

May 31, 2006 at 11:38 pm

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Gentlemen, start your engines…

2006 marks the 150th anniversary of one of Britain’s oldest professional journals –The Engineer, first published in January, 1856.

Being, naturally, not without a certain Victorian self-confidence, the first issue proclaimed, grandly:

The Engineer, in setting out on its mission, may be permitted a few words of self-explanation. The title is restrictive, but not a narrow one; the breadth it covers is co-extensive with the greater half of the industrial energy which the country at this moment manifests; and eked out as it is the scope is certainly as ample as any publication, however capacious, can hope adequately to represent.

In recognition of its 150th anniversary, The Engineer has recently made available, in PDF format, a selection of pages covering highlights of engineering achievement ranging from Bessemer’s steel process and the “Great Eastern”, to the jet engine and the first microcomputer. The image below shows some rather alarming, gothic-looking traffic lights installed in London’s Westminster in 1868.

illustration from 'The Engineer', Dec 11, 1868, showing an early design of traffic light

The same page makes reference to “Herring’s Warming Apparatus”, which, I must stress, is on no account to be confused with a herring-warming apparatus, a wholly different thing.

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Written by Dave Lovely

May 28, 2006 at 10:30 pm

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Famous last words

Via a marvellously stimulating post I came across at In Parenthesis, about the brief, fragmentary, or gnomic remark in literature, of which "last words" are but one example:

Last words are another source of pointed discourse. In Werner Herzog’s film Aguirre, the Wrath of God, a conquistador on a raft is killed by a spear thrown from the shore. “Long spears are now the fashion” he says before he falls overboard. This is an echo of Grettissaga where, in chapter 45, Þorbjörn holding a spear (spjót) with both hands runs Atli through. Grettir’s brother comes up with a classic “andsvar” before he dies. "Broad spears are in fashion now" (Þau tíðkast nú in breiðu spjótin) are his dying words. The sardonic remark (“svar,” ‘aðugasemd,” or “andsvar”) that a character makes when he receives a death blow or deals one remains understudied in Old Icelandic sagas.

Among my very favourite last words, which may pass under the threshold of the literary, in that they’re an edited (more concise) version of what he really said, are those of Union General John Sedgwick at the Battle of Spotsylvania in 1864:

"Why, boys, they couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…"

This is what really happened – no less affecting, I think.

On a rather less epic level, I feel rather more in sympathy with the French poet Paul Claudel – whom I’d previously thought of as being vaguely pious and orotund – on learning that his last words may have been:

"Doctor, do you think it could have been the sausage?"

This via The Old Foodie, another excellent recent discovery.

The American novelist David Markson, in books like This Is Not A Novel, and Wittgenstein’s Mistress, is surely the inheritor of the "andsvar" tradition in modern literature.

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Written by Dave Lovely

May 27, 2006 at 10:20 pm

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Today’s the anniversary of the capture of Jeanne d’Arc by the perfidious Burgundians in 1430 and of the Defenestration of Prague in 1618. There was the Battle of Ramilies in 1706 and subsequently, bad things happened to Captain Kidd the pirate, and, a bit later, Bonny and Clyde the outlaws, on this day as well. But. More importantly, all things considered being equal, also, minus the number somebody first thought of, etc., it’s my birthday today, too.

And then, there’s: Artists and Poets in Dialogue:

“when laid end to end, the 150 copies of the first edition would equal the height of the Eiffel Tower.”

The heights of my birthday do not extend quite so far, but almost.

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Written by Dave Lovely

May 23, 2006 at 11:09 pm

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Early modern elephants

Thomas Coryate:

engraving of 17th century Englishman Thomas Coryat, sitting on an elephant

Cristoforo Borri:

You can read Borri’s whole chapter about "Eelphants" (sic.) here, along with the rest of his book, and very entertaining it is too – he seems to have been genuinely charmed by them. Thanks to peacay for pointing me towards Southeast Asia Visions, where there are no doubt many other wonders to be found.

For some contexts, see this paper, published in Early Modern Literary Studies, 11.1, May 2005.

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Written by Dave Lovely

May 17, 2006 at 11:03 pm

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Just caught this passionate plea from Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG about what architectural criticism is, or should be, and why it matters.

Architecture is not limited to buildings!

Temporary Air Force bases, oil derricks, secret prisons, multi-story car parks, J.G. Ballard novels, Robocop, installation art, China Miéville, Department of Energy waste entombment sites in the mountains of southwest Nevada, Roden Crater, abandoned subway stations, Manhattan valve chambers, helicopter refueling platforms on artificial islands in the South China Sea, emergency space shuttle landing strips, particle accelerators, lunar bases, Antarctic research stations, Cape Canaveral, day-care centers on the fringes of Poughkeepsie, King of Prussia shopping malls, chippies, Fat Burger stands, Ghostbusters, mega-slums, Taco Bell, Salt Lake City multiplexes, Osakan monorail hubs, weather-research masts on the banks of the Yukon, Hadrian’s Wall, Die Hard, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Akira, Franz Kafka, Gormenghast, San Diego’s exurban archipelago of bad rancho housing, Denver sprawl, James Bond films, even, yes, Home Depot – not every one of those is a building, but they are all related to architecture.

Now imagine that kind of approach extended to other fields…

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Written by Dave Lovely

May 14, 2006 at 8:50 pm

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Now this is the kind of cat you might expect to find in a garage….

Ann Smith’s robot-like animal sculptures, at Burrow Burrow!

via Four Legged Links.

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Written by Dave Lovely

May 13, 2006 at 8:43 am

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