Having just read a notice from Brainpickings on the 181st anniversary of Lewis Carroll's/Charles Dodgson's (1832-1898) birth, I thought a little about the Alice who excited his interest in telling the story that became the 1865 book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice (1852-1934) was born Alice Pleasance Liddell, but the epitaph for her ashes in the graveyard of the church of St. Michael & All Angels, Lyndhurst doesn't bear her name, per se, leaving her last mortal footprint as Mrs. Reginald Hargreaves. I know that this is a production of the times and a long-practiced practice, but for a person who may be one of the most famously-known people by their given names in the West should have had it in their name on their marker, instead of the Cheshire-like one that she wound up with:
A better epitaph at least in the imagination could be something like the acrostic from Through the Looking Glass:
A boat beneath a sunny sky, Lingering onward dreamily In an evening of July--
Children three that nestle near, Eager eye and willing ear, Pleased a simple tale to hear--
Long has paled that sunny sky: Echoes fade and memories die. Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise, Alice moving under skies Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear, Eager eye and willing ear, Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie, Dreaming as the days go by, Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream-- Lingering in the golden gleam-- Life, what is it but a dream?
There are, in my experience, very few antiquarian images
depicting the end of the world in which we see the entire globe exploding or in
pieces or in flames. This sort of image gets more play in the 20th
century, especially after 8 August 1945, but prior to that it is really very
scarce.I own a few images that appear
in the 17th and 19th centuries, and another from 1929 (Das Weltbild which show a “giant ice
ball” colliding into and completely destroying the earth). .Then there is this new find, S.L. Lacy’s The End of the World, (necessarily) self-published
in West Point, Virginia, in 1941.It is a short and stocky, and bound in orange
wrappers—its spine title (The End of the
World) begs the casual reader to pull it from the shelf. It’s a simple
book—studying the Bible prophecies and revelations on the end of all things—and
it annoys and is insulting but doesn’t disappoint.
I started to breeze through the book (back-to-front as always) and opened the
book to Chapter XIII, finding this delicious chapter heading:“The Chronological Order of Final Things”,
this being a full page pre-PowerPoint summation of the time-shrinking fireball
that is rolling inexorably towards us all.To say that one is able to put a period at the end of the world's flow
of time, that someone is able to identify the point in the future where the
future is no more, is "presumptive"--this in the most understated
fashion as to offend even the highest of high-Victorians' sense of restrained
propriety.Wrapped in a comfortable
Christian chrysalis of pre- and post-apocalyptic religious certitude, Mr. Lacy
delivers his interpretation of biblical prophecy for the coming of the end,
hustling it to the front of the religious line of things to come.
It seems that in 1941 the end was beginning, and Lacy saw
all of the images implied by prophecy that were necessary to announce the
glorious final days of broad retribution. This includes the list if the ten
things indicating "the sign of The Times", one of which (Number 5)
was "The Automobile" and another (Number 7) was "Increased
Knowledge and Travel" (announced by Nathum 2: 3,4 and old dependable
Daniel. 12:4, respectively.There's
nothing that doesn't fit into Daniel's visions or revelations, though Mr. Cash
has certainly made a lovely song of them.)When everything fits perfectly into a predictive model with no possibility
of falsification (or of proof or disproof), then the model has no validity
outside of a belief system in itself. Very tidy.
It is an annoying, cloying minor treatise, promising little
more than The Lake of Fire awaiting almost all of us, even the sleeping dead,
who would be scraped from their graves to be spit into this burning
Lacy does a lot of inspired interpretation and
philosophizing, much of which he doesn’t seem to bother separating from
biblical quotations—I don’t think it is intentional, just bad writing.A random
find in Lacy’s thinking dislodges the following nugget:
“Satan is in the atmosphere above the earth, with access to
heaven and earth with a circumscribed power over the atmospheric elements and
the earth including the inhabitants”.
But enough of this nonsense. What brought me to this work is
the folding schematic map at the front of the book.It is a slightly complex jumble of
semi-circles and circular reasoning, and I have no interest in straightening
out this jumbled linguine. What has my interest is the dissolving Earth part of
the diagram, a part of the dead earth that comes between Calvary
and Heaven-on-Earth.What makes this
image different from the others though is that the Earth reappears—different from
its former self having been vanquished and cleansed by all consuming fire, but
the Earth nevertheless.Or something
like it.Or nothing like it.
The name of Flavius Vegetius is not so much popularly known today, though his influence is felt through the hands of other, more famous, writers and thinkers. He was seen as the most adept writer on the Roman mind in warfare, and his De re militari libri quator... was his masterpiece. It was reprinted in 1532 by Christian Wechel from sources reaching back to the original, which was written around 390 ACE, and found a wide readership not only for its authority on all things military/Roman but also for his iconic insights and aphorisms on warfare in general. It was Machiavelli who came under his spell and who adopted some of Vegetius, who became further disseminated through the military followers of Machiavelli, and so on.
I came to this work much more simply than all of this - I liked this image of the underwater warrior, who was somehow able to breathe while submerged. I get the importance of this sort of undercover, guerrilla maneuver, but what I really like was the rarity of seeing a Renaissance illustration of human submarine life, which is pretty uncommon. Also, the use of the lines to represent the underwater quality of the image—giving the woodcut an overall grey tone—is also very scarce in the history of illustration, at least before 1600. And very neat! One of the hallmarks of this printing of Vegetius was the liberal use of white space in many of the (119) woodcut illustrations, though it is clearly not on display in the woodcut that I’m sharing here.
(This beautiful sprocket nest, for a patent for transmitting power (1874), like all of the following patent images, is located at Google Patents, here)
For some odd reason I was thinking about Spacely's Sprockets, George Jetson's (of The Jetsons cartoon in the 1960's) employer. I wondered if this was a high irony--the "sprockets" part-- and if there would be any sprockets in our space-aged future. Even by the end of the 60's, just at the end of this cartoon, I wonder if in the tens of thousands of parts that went into the hardware of the Apollo Project to get us to the Moon if there were any sprockets among them.
The sprocket was just such an excellent idea in the history of the transmission of power...but in the 15 or so books that are on hand here on the history of technology there's nothing in between "spring" and "Sputnik" in their indexes. Patents for sprockets seem to begin in U.S. patent history in the late 1860's. Sprockets show up in Gatling/machine guns (1878, with the Leland gun), chain propellers (1875), turn tables for railroads (1874), chain saws (1883), holler for printing machines (1882), stump extractors (1878), wind engine engines (1880), window shutters (1879), safety pulleys (1880), traction engines (1881), feathered paddling wheels (1882), potato differs (1883, with very great tank potential), harvesters (1880), hay elevators (1881), horse treadmills (1884), corn planters (1881), grain elevators (1883), and of course in veliocepedes (a very cumbersome device by Emmit G. Latta in 1880).
I suspect that there were sprockets in space in 1969, and perhaps they're in a Space X vehicle--I really don't know. Its just interesting to think of the coming of the sprocket and what an enormous influence it exerted in the history of power transmission--and the device's beauty.
My sneaking suspicion is that Rosie the Robot, the maid for the Jetson family--who was 45 years old in the beginning of the 1962 series-- was loaded with 1965 sprockets--whether sprockets would exist in the year 2062 or whatever year George Jetson was alive in (certainly many centuries post-2062) is another story. But Rosie--the outdated-model mid-life maid of the future and most reasonable character in the series--surely had them.
I wrote earlier in this blog about the geology of meat and want, the last in "States of Perfection: Refrigerated Food & the Archaeology of Meat, 1954" (here). ("Like Greek statues, orders of architecture, the golden ratio and Vitruvian man, these ads from LIFE Magazine in 1954 measure a sort of highest-attainable-state, though directed at middle class America....") This is a continuation on that theme, a little, as I found this interesting piece of a refrigerator ad in LIFE magazine for 26 July 1948. Art Linkletter interviews two women and a refrigerator here, introducing the new G.E. Electric Space Maker, which must've used a new motor to make more space available inside the new unit, as it wasn't much bigger on the outside than the old one. But seeing the food displayed on the ground in front of the refrigerators shows us what people wanted to have in their house, to eat--and what more of it they could want. Side-by-side: normal want, and advanced want.
"It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words … what justification is
there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word? A
word contains its opposite in itself. Take “good”, for instance. If you
have a word like “good”, what need is there for a word like “bad”?
“Ungood” will do just as well — better, because it’s an exact opposite,
which the other is not.’"--George Orwell, 1984
"Orwell and Nabokov wrote nothing like one another and did that to perfection."--Not H.L. Mencken
[David Octavius Hill (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (1821-1848), St. Andrews [East Gable End of the Cathedral with Tower of St. Regulus], [1843-1847]. Calotype. Source: Princeton University Library.]
There is nothing that limits action than the control of the stuff that describes it: words. Any dictatorship or totalitarian regime can appreciate this thought--many would try to eliminate even the thinking of this thought, let alone limiting the spoken parameters of discussing it. Removing the capacity to respond to what is happening in the world with other human beings by rephrasing the experience through the introduction of new words and the elimination of old ones is an excruciating form of absolute power that can be blatant as well as subtle, though I suspect that accomplishing this word control sotto voce would be the most effective/insidious method.
[A page of Orwell's corrected Manuscript of 1984; source: GeorgeOrwellsNovels.com here]
George Orwell describes a terrifying society of just this sort in his book 1984 (with the complete text available here), which was an adventure into a Mystopia of the near-future (of about the year 2050). He writes about a society, Oceania, that attempts to makes it members into one conforming biological unit for the sake of control it. One of the methods used to accomplish this is the destruction of words and the creation of other state-controlled words to replace them, a sort of single-channel television for the mind, a device using its own vocabulary which audially impregnates the listener with versions of correct thinking, redefining reality by controlling the ways of interpreting it.
This is a list of some of the words that Orwell's society creates--some of course do not stand well on there own, their deviousness appreciated in the context of the story, like the first example, "artsem", which through constancy has come to numbingly replace the idea of what the word represents. Others, like 'good", are old words with a new meaning, making them new words with a bad (or not-good) meaning. Or "free" of the old (or Oldspeak") meaning, where even the word "free" is used only to describe an absence, as in "this sentence describing the use of the word "free" is "free from the old meaning of free", like you'd want a baby to be free from germs.
See here for an autobiographical note on Orwell; "A Short History of My Life", by Orwell in 1945, here.
Airstrip One: the new word for "England", which has been reduced to nothing but a terminal for the society of 1984, Oceania, is composed of the Americas, part of southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
insemination, which is the enforced and nearly the only method of reproduction allowed in the society, another brick in a structure that controls the expression of intimacy between people. Big Brother needs new people for the society to continue, but he doesn't want there to be any emotional connection between them outside of the prescribed feelings that people are supposed to emulate. Artsem further indoctrinates a no-contact policy between people. There was the possibility of sexual intercourse but only for the production of children when artsem was not applicable--this was called "goodsex", which was the opposite of "badsex", which was sexual relations for the joy of it. The orgasm was a hunted thing, to be tracked down and eradicated.
Brother. The major domo of Oceania, a hitler/g-d, an extreme presence of control. "The story really began in the middle sixties, the period of the
great purges in which the original leaders of the Revolution were wiped
out once and for all. By 1970 none of them was left, except Big Brother
himself. All the rest had by that time been exposed as traitors and
Bellyfeel: an unfeeling and enthusiastic acceptance of an idea, following without knowing or knowledge.
Blackwhite: "… this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an
opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white,
in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it
means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party
discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white,
and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a
continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of
thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in
Newspeak as doublethink."
Can We See More or Less than We Used To Be Able To See?
An early study of attention and perception (or “How Many Items Can it Embrace at Once?”) popped out at me while muscling my way through another year of Nature magazine for 1871. The article was by the polymatic W. Stanley Jevons ("The Power of Numerical Discrimination," in Nature volume III, 18711) who contributes an interesting and very early experimental bit on the success of the brain to correctly formulate an accurate memory when in a flash shown a number of items. (That is to say, when shown a certain group of X-number of items instantaneously and then removed, how often will the mind be able to remember the correct number upon recall--and without committing them to memory per se or counting them?) In this fascinating study Jevons records not only right/wrong answers but how "close" the remembered fit is to the original number, and in effect is a pioneering scientific effort towards understanding our abilities and limits in information processing. And as it turns out the ability to precisely recognize and remember groups of objects with success and without counting stops at about four items for the vast number of people texted. (It is another display of a famous four, including the four faces of Brahma, directions, Gospels, minute mile, playing card suits, seasons, corners of a square, virtues, color problem and of course four- letter words, to name a few.)
[Source: University of Wisconsin Digital Collections, here.]
Its important to distinguish Jevons’ experimental work on apprehension from earlier (and much earlier) philosophical
and semi-scientific work on memory formation and retention. This of course goes back as far or as deep as you want to go—taking a stab at random we’ll use Simonides who while trying to organize poetry and other data in his head came upon the idea of using Mnemonics and using associative processes in art and poetry to establish his own history of memory. (I should point out that one of the early-modern experimenters in the formation of memory was Giordano Bruno (at right) who wound up being tortured and burnt at the stake for other offense against The God while trying to formulate a truthful approach to science; evidently the memories that would be threatened by his scientific approach proved to be too much for the righteous in power, and he was removed before he could threaten corrective memory any further.)
It is interesting that many of the crimes of science punished by the Catholic Church during this period (1450-1650) were as much crimes against memory than they were crimes against the future—changing and challenging collective memory often proved fatal.
Getting back to Jevons—who was a very smart guy and who applied himself to a number of fields, not the least of which was constructing a logic machine: his experiment proved to be a springboard for a host of others, some of which didn’t do Jevons justice, misreporting his finding, misrepresenting the stuffy, and so forth. Perhaps the greatest of these was the greatest of the efforts based on his—Raymond Cattell —who for some reason stated in his very influential textbook of 1907 that humans can remember around 7 things (without counting) when the objects are flashed before their eyes. And for a hundred years this figure stuck, even though the Jevons report issued a more complex summation, and saying, anyway, that the number was around 10.
And what bothered me a bit with the Jevons experiment is what people remembered when shown the objects (beans)—would his results have varied if subjects were asked how many were shiny or odd-colored or deformed or whatever rather than just a simple number, the results could’ve been more interesting. (I don’t doubt that these issues have been taken up in the 20th century but haven’t looked). Sometimes people are just looking in the wrong places—for example operant psychology labs tested rats via visual stimuli until it was discovered that rats were olfactory geniuses and that humans were using them wrong all along.
It would be interesting to know what the history is of human capacity for image formation. Considering the growth of distractions and the enormous amount of true and trash stimuli—visual bombardment from television, outdoor advertisements, the sheer amount of growth of human construction and interaction—have humans enhanced this spatial/memory information processing capacity? Consider the growth of (just) eye movements over the last few hundred years, with the visual sense being subjected (for all classes of people) to enormously and fractally-expanded print sources, television, digital communication and so on—has this expanded this neural capacity? Has "space invaders" aided bean counting?
I don’t know, though I do wonder (literally) what the effect exponentially-growing mass input of (mostly junk) data might be doing to our noggins. Maybe the effects lean more towards dissolving privacy and reflective time—when does a person think if interruptive stuff is coming into your head at all points of the day, with the brain trying to interpret incomplete and ambiguous strings of sensory inputs?
Seems scary to me. Maybe memory is affected, maybe it makes it go away, shriveled because recollection is being eliminated. Or demented like the wonderful Yossarian (his first name is John, btw) from Joe Heller’s beautiful Catch-22 who develops for himself a condition in which he remembers everything twice (whatever that means).
It would be interesting to see a war of societies in which the sides were a culture that remember
nothing versus a culture that remembered everything. The unspeakably lovely Jorge Borges wrote something touching on this in "Fumes the Memorist," in which the humble narrator is capable of forgetting nothing, being able to recall explicitly everything within eyesight, perfectly—the problem is though that it takes a day to remember the events of another day. What would happen in such a culture where everyone forgot nothing?
And I’ve just been dealing here with visual memory, really—and as Proust makes plainly clear (and Borges and other prove), vision isn’t everything.
It is said that the smile of the Mona Lisa says everything to everyone, but in saying all of that so loudly in such a quiet way, is it possible that the smile is saying noting? That in the vast encyclopedia of emotion that this smile is said to contain, is there really no "there" there?
It has been pointed out by many that while the male figures in Leonardo's work have a great diversity, the female figures seem not to, that there is a definite overlapping consistency of charm and image from one figure to the next. The young Leonardo took his time with la Gioconda1, in a way making the painting his own in spite of the person for whom the work was painted. Perhaps he did more than that, perhaps he developed the Mona Lisa within an existing framework, and then continued that practice in his painting over the years.
It is intriguing, in its way, to think of her like this, a simple solution under the great enigma. But I think it is probably wrongheaded, and that at base those other folks writing about the sameness in the female figures are incorrect. Though there is something to be said about a continuing fascination in Leonardo with that smile.
So, I think thinking of Leonardo's women as more-or-less invariant and their smiles tending towards one another, establishing the Mona Lisa's smile as the apotheosis of the symbol of some sort of glorified, unified, aspect of women might make for an interesting sci-fi adventure, but I believe it doesn't exist in the real world--or in mine, anyway. That smile is not nothing.
1. Like many paintings, this one is known by a number of names: La Gioconda or La Joconde, or Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, or Mona Lisa, and so on.
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph
And out of the caverns of rain.. Percy B. Shelley, "The Cloud", 1820
[John Ruskin, Cloud Perspectival, 1860. Source for all Ruskin images: "Cloud Studies: The Visible Invisible",
by Mary Jacobus, here.]
John Ruskin (1819-1900) was still a very young man when he published the start of a series of works in art criticism, Modern Painters, in 18431. To refer to it as a great work in critical theory is painting the work with a narrow brush, though--it had a very sweeping overall effect, and addressed all manner of issues integral to art, and was a developing vision of what art was looking at in the 19th century. Ostensibly it began as a defense of the work of J.M.W. Turner and the way in which that man represented nature in his pre-Impressionist, pre-Expressionist work. Ruskin makes the case that the works that were so grating part of the art world i the 1830's were highly consistent with centuries of representing nature in art--and not only that, but presenting evidence that turner did so like no other artist in history. Ruskin would weave further volumes of Modern Painters through the body of his other work for the next 17 years, publishing the last installment in a fifth volume in 1860.
Turner (1775-1851) was a great Romantic and a lot of that work tends towards a very full and very early expression of Impressionism and Expressionism, something that not everyone was ready for in the first quarter of the 19th century. This is particularly so in his paintings of clouds, and even more so in cloud/ocean interaction. They are sweeping and breath-taking and very emotional works, in some ways like the late string quartets of Beethoven--powerful, provocative, internal dialogs of the deep power of nature. He must stand with John Constable as the Cloud Man of the 19th Century, or perhaps Constable stands with him. They both in a way stand with Luke Howard, the scientist who was really the first classifier of clouds--an undertaking which in some impossible way escaped the recognition of the greatest classifiers it he history of science--and who did so in a paper in 1802, written at a time when Constable and Turner were both young artists.
Turner and Constable both painted clouds like perhaps no others before them; and Ruskin, in his deep appreciation for the importance of the representation of nature int he art, also made a contribution to the understanding of clouds that was of an extraordinary nature. In the fifth volume of his Modern Painters Ruskin attempts a perspective study of clouds, and may have been about the first to do so. The illustrations of this effort I think are incredible, and remind me very much of installing a sort of rigidity to clouds, a cloud geometry, veritable studies of stones and blocks in the sky. The imaging part of this exercise must have been an enormous thing back there in 1860, to think of clouds in a perspectival way, floating very large geometric objects in the sky. The astonishing results are seen (above) and following:
In a way the first image reminds me of Andrea Pozzo's work in his monumental Rules and
examples of perspective proper for painters and architects (1693):
but really more in the way that Pozzo's work seems to be elevated and floating in a heavy perspectivist space, bigger and blockier sky-borne marble than with ruskin. But still, the disembodied floatiness of the Pozzo work is ethereal.
Ruskin does round out his blocky and beautiful geometry, which definitely reminds me of work w=that would appear 90 years later: Ruskin, again:
And Georgia O'Keefe's Clouds III (1963), though her clouds tend towards a more rigid geometry in Clouds IV (1965, following):
O'Keefe, Clouds Above the Sky III, 1963
O'Keefe, Clouds Above the Sky IV, 1965
Ms. Georgia is definitely seeing her clouds with different eyes than Ruskin, and they are entirely different creatures--but still, the two come together in my head as relatives. The clouds, I mean.
I started looking around for early hard-line cloud geometries and thus far I haven't found very much, though there is a tremendous example by Henry Van de Velde's (1863-1957) "Sun at Ocean (Rhythmic Synthesis”) which I found in Werner Hoffman’s Turning Points in Twentieth century Art, 1890-1917 and which was executed in 1888/9, looks to me to be absolutely incredible for its time, a nearly non-representational, proto-abstract something, done three decades before these genres came into being.
I don;t know where the designer Van de Velde fits in the early history of non-representational art, but his effort in the second to last decade of the 19th century certainly seems to be very unusual for its time, and a good example of creative cloud representation.
Non-standard cloud imagery is much easier to finding the 20th century, like those of Georges Braque in his La Ciotat Harbor (1906):
Even this starts to have the look of something earlier, particularly if you turned the clouds-in-art clock way back, say, into the Renaissance. For example Martin Schoengauer's spectacular The Temptation of St. Anthony, which was printed in 1470/5, has
a beautiful, fluid circularity to it, full of an earthy roundness even
as the saint is pursued by demons. But the sky in the background is
populated with nothing but dashes to suggest clouds, and which also starts to look something like the Fauvist and Expressionist works to come, 400/500 years later.
(There are many examples of the sky being simply not represented at all, particularly in woodblock,
like this image from Ovid (Accipe Studiose Lector P. Ouidij Metamorphosin...printed in Venice in 1509:
"You could not see a cloud, because No cloud was in the sky: No birds were flying overhead -- There were no birds to fly".--Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass.
There are many non-sky images like this.
Another interesting modern example is this Paul Klee (though it comes fairly late in that career, in 1940):
And an example from the ubiquitous Picasso, still later, in 1962:
But earlier images are harder to locate. The obvious early-ish source (though still much later in the century) would be Van Gogh (say, with Starry Night) and Monet, though the fractalesque Van Gogh gets much closer to the re-interperative power of the Ruskin images than the reflected impressionist beauty of the Monet.
On a cursory look around the antiquarian painterly sky-world, it is becoming obvious that the cloud geometries of Ruskin are very uncommon.
Tony Soprano may have been a murdering and lecherous crook, but the man was always on hand with a handkerchief if a sobbing woman needed one. They were washed and ironed and folded by the wife he would cheat on, and he'd dab his brow from murderous sweat with it, but, well, he had one when it was needed. Few people carry one around, nowadays, and very few people manufacture them, at least here in the U.S., let alone in NYC, the place opposite Tony's Exit 13.
The Gold Book Directory of Men's Apparel ("published by Men's Apparel reporter") was issued for the World's Fair in 1939--it is a stubby, 320-page, 5-inch-tall and designed booklet, and it is pretty much a mausoleum-y reminder of what once was. New York had been a center of clothing manufacturing for a long time, and this pamphlet reminds us of that--and I'm not getting too rosey and sentimental about a tough trade that had its share of abuse of the unprotected, as there were generations of immigrants who passed through those sweat-box meat grinders choking out pants and shirts for the lower- and middle-class while making pennies-per-piece. The shirt-pocket-sized golden book does remind us of industry that once was, and now moved overseas to perhaps even more vast abusing sweatboxes to produce cheap goods at clothing prices lower than they were (CPI-adjusted) in 1939.
It is striking to see the tabbed division headings: "New York Hat and Cap Manufacturers" (listing 100+ businesses), "New York Handkerchief Makers"(60+!), robes (60), shirts (300), underwear (250), robes (90), evening dress (100), waistcoat (50), cumberbunds (24), label makers (woven (!)75), and of course New York Pajama Manufacturers, weighing in (with a line of pj's called "Mr. Stubb" for "the short man") with more than 120 manufacturers. It is really enough to make the modern reader misty for lost times. Now, these categories were not mutually exclusive, and the Zenith Underwear Company could also produce handkerchiefs, but there is ample evidence here of vastly lost and different times--not only in the loss of domestic manufacturing, but also in the disappearance of the need for evening dresses, cumberbunds, waistcoats and (almost-but-not-quite) handkerchiefs.
Here's a bit that appeared on this blog a little while ago on the grim part of the garment manufacturing industry in NYC (called Ancient Myths Modern: the Other Statue of Liberty, 1911, here):
The following example of Great Obviousness comes from one of the great masters of perspective on the Continent, Jan Vredeman de Vries, (architect, engineer and man with a vision), and appear in his work Variae Architecturae Formae, and published in 1601. (The whole of the book is available at the Internet Archive, here.)
It would be interesting to know the history of this tree and its obvious salvation--it doesn't seem to be older than the street or the buildings, yet, there it is, a tree the diameter of an adult waist in the middle of a very populated street
Below you can see the detail of the man at the middle right--he is absolutely pointing to teh tree, perhaps sharing his amazement with the man and child coming down the street. The pointer had been seated, probably, on the bench behind the bar that was in front of the bar/saloon/draughthouse that he was probably inside of, perhaps enjoying a pint of five, perhaps making the tree even more amusing than it was. (The tilted stein is clearly visible advertising a place for thirsts to stop.) The child is reacting to something, and even so the dogs--the second of which seems to be stopped mid-stride in amazement.
Another exzmple of the unexpected tree comes later in the same book, when we see one tree in th emiddle of a plan garden and the other growing on top of what might be an herbarium. (On closer inspection the figure at lower right is a woman collectig some water in a jug; without magnification the seen looks a little more sinister than it is.)
This post is a part of overlapping categories, including:
Duplicate Earths (including Mondo Bizarro, Science Afflictions and the Dubious Mind—Bad Science, Part 1. NYC in Space (?!) here and Extra-Earth Humano-Alien Souls From Outer Space Repopulate Earth-Hell!!(??)here)
In the five years or so of collecting information and stories for the odd-bits section of this blog I have never encountered so many choice visual examples in one place for strange/weirdly-imagined/impossible/high-SciFi of the Earth than with the comic book, Mystery in Space. The very dedicated keepers of Coverbrowse.com website have reproduced thousands (?) of covers of pulpily-published science fiction and exotic-thinking comics books, including the home base in which all sixteen-plus years of Mystery in Space live.
I've just found another Earth-halved image, this from the comic Strange:
Written from 1951-1966, Mystery in Space very freely uses words like "astounding" and "astonishing" and "amazing" and "strange" to describe itself--on its cover (!)--and then lives up to it in so many astounding/astonishing/amazing/strange ways. Keeping simply to odd representations of the Earth, we find it halved, duplicated,cubed, miniaturized, dragged, tugged, targeted, canaled, and bullseyed; it is also the background to a WWI biplane attacking a spaceship in space, a flying skyscraper, and an alien craft lifting the United States from its geological moorings--in short, a very high and filling feast. And this, again, is just judging this book by its cover, which might actually be the best thing to do as the covers tell enough of the story to let your imagination tell the rest of the adventure. The covers tell fabulous stories of such highly unexpected ideas that they may be the only part of the book that we need to bother with, the cover doing away with the need for the printed narrative; and it may be the case that it saves the reader from the interior eye-splitting out-of-time writing.
The artwork and promise of the story are almost always (issue-after-issue) compelling, and there are a number of superb examples of simple jaw-dropping, belief- suspending, flabbergasting and mostly bad but very unexpected science fiction. But this is so potentially high-bad that the "bad" looks good, a tried-and-true badness the content of which is so surprising that its high degree of creativity and difference transcends everything else. And since we're just looking at pictures/cover art, there is no time-sink involved wading through turgid/florid/bad-bad prose for hours to only discover that the story is only getting simpler and lost and the writing even worse (worser). So Mystery in Space is a great visual luxury, a bookmark for ideas rendered in artwork that is obviously deadline-dependent, swirling in bad color and modest skill seemingly steeped in smoke and alcohol, and which delivers joyful incredulous surprises time after time.
I've made a post here before on the location of the Garden of Eating, um, "Eden", here, which I guess might be the ultimate of all Apple Maps, The Big Eat; but I've found these two (below) that are entertaining and probably not interetsing though they are without the overwhelming consequences of the first map. They're just about apples, and not what apples might represent (which I think was an unwieldy way for a Creator of the Universe to test the future of humankind with).
[Source: "Choice Variety of Apples", in American Agriculturist, New York, 1848, vol VII/no. III, page 79.]
And of course the route of Small Things Internally Eating Apples:
[Source:private collection, Tabula Paradisi Terrestris justa Systema Auctoris incisa a P. Stark-Man was
printed late in the 18th century, probably around 1775, and locates the
GOE far in the north country, near the Dead Sea, deep in old Armenia,
near Mount Ararat (where Noe and his family were supposed to have landed
after the creator flooded the world killing everything, where
everything else, young and old, infant younger, men women children,
beasts and ants, were killed by a wrathful OT maker.).]
The influence of economic strategy seems to be the Old Red Sandstone of the geology of life on this planet, and sometimes it reaches right into cartography, expressing itself in unusual ways. Such may be the case with the creation of the idea of California beign an island.
[A detail of a sample map showing California as an island, by Nicolas de Fer, 1720, and depicting the famous missing land at the north end of the Gulf of California.]
In general, much of the vast expanse of blankness of the continent in the 16th and 17th century was hidden under ornate Baroque cartouches and their encumbrances, which was a tried-and-true method of taking up space on a map where you didn't (a) really know what was their and (b) didn't want to make stuff up to fill in the white space. By necessity most of North America was unknown to cartographers at this time because, well, there was no reliable information to work with. The far reaches of the middle North American western coastline enjoyed a history of
connectivity with the large land mass that exists east of the Gulf of
California, the region known today as "california" being connected to the rest of the continent from the early 16th century.
About 116 years later, though, cartographic thinking on part of the coast changed. Antonio de la Ascensíon is credited with first giving flight to the idea that the California Peninsula was in fact an island--and so, beginning in 1620, California would frequently make guest appearances on maps as an island. (Fray Antonio was born in Salamanca in 1573/4 and studied there and at the College of Pilots in Seville; he was ordained in the Order of Discalced Carmelites, and sent off to Mexico. As a cosmographer he accompanied Sebastian Vizcaino (1548-1624) on his expedition to California to find a good port for Spanish galleons coming from Manila, which is when Antonio produced his diaries with the famous island maps1.) This map was created during a period where there was heavy competition for trade routes and geographical knowledge was actual currency, so there was some amount of cartographic information that was proprietary. When the abbot's map was lost to/and recovered by the Dutch, the changes that were made to California were codified and published--the Spanish thought it not necessary to correct the misinformation. Perhaps. In any event, it seems plausible that the Spanish crown had no interest in involving itself with what may or may not have been the loss of proprietary information, and so let the island business slide. Until1751, when the King of Spain issued a proclamation saying that California was indeed not an island.
This practice continued to about 1747, when there was more than ample evidence to suggest that the island status of California was erroneous--still, it took several decades for the last of the island-maps to make its appearance.
The 1895/1896 issues of Nature magazine are compliantly normal until the first weeks of
1896 when the first of a flood of articles is published about the astonishing discovery of 50-year-old Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. The English-language popular science journal announcement of his December 28, 1895 “Ueber eine neue Art von Strahlen" ("On a New Type of Ray"), appeared on 16 January 1896, and began the introduction of a new state of human experience. Roentgen's experiments—built upon the work of J. Plucker (1801-1868), J. W. Hittorf (1824-1914), C. F. Varley (1828-1883), E. Goldstein (1850-1931), Sir William Crookes (1832-1919), H. Hertz (1857-1894) and the odious Phil Lenard (1862-1947)—revealed as much to humans as did the experiments and inventions of Hooke and Leeuwenhoek on the invisible worlds revealed by the microscope. There are more than 150 articles on the Roentgen (and soon to be “X-“) Ray, all published within 12 months of the original announcement, almost all excitedly, trying to comprehend, elucidate, expand, verify, this new world.
[The news of the discovery is first and most popularly reported in the January 6, 1896 London Standard: “The noise of war's alarm should not distract attention from the marvelous triumph of science which is reported from Vienna. It is announced that Professor Routgen (sic) of the Wurzburg University has discovered a light which for the purpose of photography will penetrate wood, flesh, cloth, and most other organic substances. The Professor has succeeded in photographing metal weights which were in a closed wooden case, also a man's hand which showed only the bones, the flesh being invisible”. By the end of the month the news was completely absorbed, worldwide.]
I looked at the advertising in these issues (my copies of Nature for these decades generally have the original paper wrappers for the weeklies, complete with ad copy), looking for the first time that a Roentgen machine was offered for sale to the general public. As it turns out, they popped up 12 March 1896 (once), 19 March (twice), and then about once a week for the rest of the year. A little surprising, I think, a little light to my Monday-morning quarterback’s eye—I expected more; bigger, more, splashier. But the ads are small and sedate, hardly similar to the discovery they represent.
The rest of the world, the rest of the advertising world, stayed the same--the Roentgen discovery and the enormous possibilities and promises of his “new photography” lived in their own unique sphere, unencumbered by their sassy new brother. This mild response seems dimmer still when you compare it to that which greeted other (relatively) simple but still major advancements in the world of photography. Take for example Etienne Marey, who was a technoid and physician who was able to capture motion of all sorts--he was able to develop a picture so to speak of the movement of blood in the body via his instrument to calculate blood pressure, and he also created a shotgun-style camera that made the
world's first high-speed photographs of movement. And so it cane to pass that in the late 1870's and early 1880's people were instantly able to see what a horse looked like when it galloped or what the body did *exactly* when jumping over a chair. When you couple this with fourth-dimension material one wonders why it took several more decades to bump into these images in the art of 1907+.
And what indeed was normal in these pages? Magic lanterns and magi lantern slides appear
at all levels; the gorgeous Wimshurst machine gets heavily advertised; the redoubtable Negretti & Zambra advertised all manner of excellent scientific instruments (biographs, thermogrphs. Nadeer Bros. advertised a pretty standard cell, and the ancient Crossley displayed their “new” oil engines, “suitable for all classes of agricultural work”. J.H. Stewart was selling their semi-automatic electric arc lamp, while across the page was Newton & Company’s “Newtonian” arc lamps for lanterns (“self feeding and focus keeping”). Microscopes and prepared slides abound, and Thomas Bolton advertises discretely and effectively for their “living specimens for the microscope”.
The Physical Review, the American upstart in the science world advertises that its third volume was available, while its distant cousin, the Psychological Review, advertised its own third volume. Booksellers seem to take the most space, thank goodness.
There are a few medical throwbacks: Epp’s Cocaine takes out occasional tenth-page ads for their “cocoa-nib extract, tea-like” selling its ‘gentile nerve stimulant”. Right underneath is “Holloway’s Pills”, promising to cure biliousness, sick headache, indigestion, and all (?!) internal complaints. These are brilliant simple samples of the skeleton of science in world-dominant Great Britain, in a world dominated at that time by H.A, Lorentz, Ernst Mach , Roentgen, Korteweg, de Vries, Bateson, Jean-Baptiste Perrin, Pierre Curie, Zeeman, Becquerel, Joseph Thomson, Ernest Rutherford, Marconi, Ramsay, Fitzgerald. And so on.
Nothing offered for sale here offered any significant clue to the pregnant world of modernity that was nearly
there—the world would become ‘modern” almost immediately following Roentgen, with revolutionary, epochal changes in art (in non-representational form more so than Impressionism), theater, literature, music. Just about everything changed (except politics). But there is no hint to paradigm shift hidden in the ads, just as they were with the machines selling the promise of Roentgen’s “new photography. There’s something about the fine glass, superb turning of the screw, and a perfectly oiled gear though that makes this sort of perfection seem so lonely in the world of larger change. Bertha, Roentgen’s wife, sat for 15 minutes while her husband passed his rays through her hand; she ran from the room once she saw the results, revealing her very bones and no doubt a strong sense of the
fragility of life, and the strong presence of death. Many had the same reaction to the Kandinsky's
shapes and Malevich’s white circles and red rectangles and Ibsen’s drama and Einstein’s dancing dust and the rogue syncopation of jazz. It is probably a very natural reaction to try and protect established memory—but memory should be more flexible than that, I think, to keep a healthy mind.