A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3 million hits| History of Science, Math & Tech | Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places...
The animated human created by Victor Frankenstein in 20-year-old Mary Shelley's anonymously published Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus was a far more intelligent being than was ever portrayed in the many movies that made the novel famous in the 20th century. “Frankenstein” refers to Dr. Victor, not the creation, who refers to himself as the Adam of his maker's labors (and then later as Victor's Fallen Angel), while elsewhere in the book he is called “it”, as well as “being”, "creature", “daemon”, “Fiend, “monster”, “vile insect” and “wretch”, among other adjectival variants.
“Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous."
Mostly the creation is referred to as a “monster”--the word being used 35 times, mostly in reference to Victor's animated man.
It is difficult to refer to the creation as a “monster” once you get to know him a little—he is exceptionally smart, teaching himself to read, and then reading difficult and complex works with deep understanding, which is hardly something that is expected from what Boris Karloff gave to us.
Earlier this month I wrote two posts on the un-prefix in words occurring in Joyce's Ulysses and in Webster's 1828 dictionary--there were many surprises, including an entire category of new words outside their original intentions. One example that came up today, flushed out while reading in a very erudite but long-nosed and very sniffily dismissive work by F.W. Bussell (Religious Thought and Heresy in the Middle Ages, published in 1918). The author was a man of very deep and long learning who wrote a bit, thick-as-a-brick-or-two book of high physical appeal. It seemed to me though that his understanding of some "foreign" religions did not broaden his own appreciation of difference in cultures, as some of the heretical belief systems included Buddhism and Hinduism.
As much as Bussell seems to put god into various religious equations, he more than occasionally proves judgmental in taking god out of others. Here's a sampel from Mr. Bussell:
It's a difficult go.
And rightly or wrongly it brought up ungod/ungodded/ungoding, the words I bumped into in Webster's, and so their appearance in the OED:
UNGOD. To deprive of the qualities or position of deity; to undeify. (Common c1640–1740.)
When modern art was becoming modern, and artists were reveiling more of nature and life by using less of its components and using more of suggestion and motion and color--leaving out the "detail"--where indeed did that detail, well, go?
It is interesting to imagine a composite world to our's, a place where that missing and removed detail goes. For example, when JMW Turner painted a train passing over a river on a bridge, he was more suggestive of the scene than he was in reality-based descriptors. [Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway, 1844.] The intricacies of realism and reproductional relativity is not there, the action and train and river implied, artistic impressions and whatever else was in the artist's toolbox or mind's eye.
Perhaps the seeping detail from one world to the next is more like the sphere entering the two-dimensional world of Flatland, or better yet the reverse of Charles Bragdon's 1drawings of the footprints of 3-D objects passing through a 2-D plane...the detail of the Turner seeping through the canvas and into the opposing DetailWorld, falling like rain. Maybe it is a world of non-representational images and impressions awaiting the attention and arrival of detail to give it all a solid, easily distinguishable representation of the imagined world around the easel in that Other Place.
Another beautiful image by Bragdon is from “Personalities: Tracings of the Individual (Cube) in a Plane” from Man, the Square2 shows the “shadows” of the three-dimensional figures as they lived in their two-dimensional world. It comes close to the impact of the cubes above, but really only depicts what two-dimensional creatures would see of the three-dimensional beings inhabiting their Bragdonesque world. All of this was put into my mind by seeing this image (The Goldfinch, 16540 by Carel Fabricius. Clearly we can see a bird on a perch, chained to the upper rung, with another rung below, but as much as we can see the detail we don't. So much of this image is suggested and implied, hundreds of yers before Impressionism: the face of the bird is barely there, the second rung dissolves into the wall, the shadows are muted and half-existent, and so on. The details of the painting are as much missing as they are there.
And of course the world of detail would disappear more and more, until by 1911, it existed hardly at all, the representational world drifting off the canvas completely, for those who wanted that to be the case.
Again, as much as say Kasimir Malevich made all of the detail go away in his Suprematist paintings like a white square on a white square (White on White, 1917/18, which I can say is not served well at all with images online or in books, as the artwork is really pretty textured and detailed),
at about the same time ither artists like Marcel Duchamp were both taking away details of one sort while adding new details of another never-yet-done sort, as in his Nude Descending (1912), where we begin to see the representation of the fourth dimension in art:
Perhaps the rain of details into DetailWorld work in reverse for the unexpected details of stuff we can't see in our world?
Well. We know that there is no DetailWorld, but I think it is certainly interesting enough to think of these revolutionary changes in art and trying to imagine the enormous amount of painterly stuff that the innovations/discoveries replaced, if they were to all go to one place. In a way it is analogous to the changes in the mountain that I can see now from my living room window--mostly it is invisible when the patch of woods between our house and the mountain is all leafed out (seeing the forest for the trees), but with autumn and winter here at about the same time, it is easier to appreciate both the trees that I can see when I can't, and the mountain that I can't see sometimes when I can.
1.(Bragdon) A PRIMER OF HIGHER SPACE. (The Fourth Dimension). Rochester: Manas Press, 1913. 8vo, (12), 79pp, including 30 plates.
2. (Bragdon) MAN THE SQUARE. A Higher Space Parable. Rochester: Manas Press, 1912. 12mo, 34pp, 9 illustrations.
In the history of blank, empty, and missing things in maps there can be maps with large expanses of nothingness (as in the case seen here with the Bellman's map from Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark, an Agony in Eight Fits), maps with mostly everything that was to be expected to be expected but intentionally wrong (as with these propaganda maps of the Polish and Czech "threats" to Germany), maps with large expanses of nothing because there was simply so data to be displayed, and so on. And then there are the cases of perfectly good maps that are accurate and secure, but do not display what was thought to be there on the map but wasn't because it really wasn't there.
In the store that I maintained in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, I was often asked about what sort of Civil War action occurred around those parts. It is the sort of question that jumps out from maps showing troop movements during the war that you see on maps--maps without contour lines, or anything else that might show elevation. The answer to that question about Civil War battles here in the southern reaches of the Appalachians is that there was very little official action--and for the most part the reason for that is because there are in fact the Southern Highlands, and in the mid-19th century this very large region was just too bloody difficult to fight in or fight for.
This all becomes cartographically apparent when you look at the region with maps that give you an idea of the terrain.
There is an amazing map that shows you the extent to which this land was inhospitable for combat. The Military map of the marches of the United States forces under command of Maj. Gen. W.T. Sherman, U.S.A. during the years 1863, 1864, 18651...., which was originally published in 1865 but more widely known for its inclusion in the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies2 (full text here) in 1895. As the map graphically shows, there are plenty of blu and gray lines depicting troop movements of the armies, though nearly all swarm around our mountainous region.
Apart from the difficult terrain, the mountains, and general inaccessibilty, there wasn't all that much to fight for up here--and so, aside from some regional skirmishes and a lot of political and social conflict, they didn't.
At least not until the very end of the war, in the Battle of Asheville, April 6, 1865, where about 1500 soldiers met each other about 750 feet away from where we used to live, three days before Appomattox. The action there was indecisive, though Asheville was not taken by Union forces.
In this blog's series on the History of Blank, Empty, and Missing Things there have been I think no contributions to nothingness in the political sphere--which is odd, given how much of the time politics is about just that, staffed by people of that same quality. The experience of seeing nothing portrayed in a political caricature as seen below was such that it struck me how little I have seen any images quite like it. The "zero" appears in J. Grand-Carteret's Les Moeurs et la Caricature en France, a thick book published in 1888 detailing the history of caricature and satiric expression in France. The image appears in chapter eight, on the political situation in France between 1816 and 1848 (Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Louis-Philippe). (Two years after abdication of Napoleon and right up to the revolutions of 1848. I wonder what it was like for Napoleon's mother, outliving her son by 15 years?)
And the full image:
It is a overt play on the missing color of the tricolor--the flag and the colors of the flag that came into existence in France beginning with the revolution of 1789, and became the flag of the new republic. The color of course are red, white and blue (liberty, equality, and fraternity, or perhaps the colors of Paris (red and blue) and the white of the House of Bourbon, or something else. In any event, the "white" as the artist/commentator saw it, the leader filling that space, was not yet present.
The entire book is located at the University of Heidelberg site, here. The book is very highly illustrated, and it also has an appendix with a very useful list of caricature journals (pp 554-620) and biographies of artists (pp 620-675).
This is a detail from an image of great hope lost. Here's the full picture, one of many, of hundreds like it:
This is a letter from a woman named Emma Hauck, a "pateint", a committed person, in an asylum for the "fatally" insane, a schizophrenic, an incurable who simply wanted to go home. She was not insane enough to know where she was, not insane enough to not want to get out, not insane enough to know that she was in desperate straights, not insane enough to try to get some help. Emma Hauck wrote letters to her husband, Mark. Mostly, the letters were composed of single words (like "kommen, kommen", "come/come" and "Herzensschatzi komm" or "sweetheart/come") written concisely and tightly, over and over again, layers of kommen/kommen, so many that there is a geology of letters, though there is no geologist.
The images appear in the book and collection of psychiatrist and art historian Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933), in his Bildnerei der Geisteskranken: ein Beitrag zur Psychologie und Psychopathologie der Gestaltung1, which was published in Berlin in 1922. Prinzhorn was among the first in his profession to study the art of the insane, and to use it in diagnosis. In the meantime, over dozens of years, he accummulated a collection of thousands of works of art (many coming when he was an assistant to Karl Wilmanns at the psychiatric hospital of the University of Heidelberg), most of which are housed today in the Sammlung Prnzhorn (UniversitätsKlinikum Heidelberg, here).
The Emma Hauck images are astounding, and deeply private, communicating hope and despair in an illegible performance. Letters sent in hope to her husband to come and save her; letters which were never sent.
Concevons qu’on ait dressé un million
de singes à frapper au hasard sur les touches d’une machine à écrire …
[translation: Let us imagine a million monkeys typing haphazardly on
[Gasoline Alley, 1931]
There are some ideas that leave me with a powerful sense of nothing.
To me, "nothing" can be very important--especially in writing and speaking and action, doing or saying nothing has been the important and the correct thing to do. "Nothing" isn't necessarily an ending, and, just a period or a coma, can just be a placeholder for something that is developing. There can be long nothings and short one, forever- and micro-nothings, and nothing that is nothing for almost nothing. Nothing can be implied, insinuated, broadcast and defined, though self-defined extended nothingnesses (like John Cage's 4'33") is a tricky thing to make happen with success.
The ideas that leave me with a sense of nothing are interesting things. And there are a lot of them. When I can remember them they are in my nothing file, waiting for nothing--or something--to happen.
This is the sense I had when I was trying to explain randomness to my 10-year-old daughter and her 11-year-old cousin, sitting out in a park, looking at stuff. Somehow I reached into the past and pulled up the infinite monkey theorem, and tried to make that interesting, but just couldn't do it. Maybe it was the difficulty of super-large numbers, or the fascinating but incomprehensible thought-threats of Borges and his infinite library, but I was left with nothing.
It is Borges who writes a lovely piece on the history of producing everything from nothing, appearing in his "The Total Library" in 1939 (and then again in "The Library of Babel" in 19412), reviewing machines and such of spectacular randomization that could produce the whole of what we recognize as what we know.
Emile Borel wrote on it in 1913, finding the possibility of one million monkeys pounding away at one million typewriters. In his wonderful work, The Math Book3, Cliff Pickover looks at 250 big ideas in the history of mathematics and gives each of them one page only for presentation and explanation. He approaches the infinite monkey theorem by looking at one monkey wailing away at one typewriter, striking the keys, and analyzing how long it might take for the one monkey to produce one line from one book. The line is "In the beginning..." at the beginning of one great nothingness, from the Old Testament, a 56-object sentence (including punctuation and spaces) and, Pickover reasons, that if there is a 93-character keyboard,then this monkey will have a 1/9356 possibility times 10100 of getting it right, and that if it worked for 24 hours a day striking one key every second then it will have used all of the time in the present universe--the Big Bang Monkey.
All I got back were big stares, and a big sense of nothing in my gut. It reminded me of the cartoon featured above, a toss-off sub-cartoon in a panel of the Gasoline Alley series. Did he actually look at the coin? Did he just decide to keep it? And why keep a phoney nickel? And who counterfeits nickels, even during the Depression? What is the outcome of the panels--just some guy walking down the street with a nickel in his pocket. Something may have happened, but it was a lot of nothing.
I know that I should have a bigger sense of what Felix Edouard Justin Emile Borel and Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges were writing about and in many ways I do, but in the end I know that I am left with nothing. But I have it in my pocket.
1. Émile Borel (1913). "Mécanique Statistique et Irréversibilité". Statistical mechanics and irreversibility) J. Phys. 5e série3: 189–196.
2. Jorge Borges, "La biblioteca total" (The Total Library), Sur No. 59, August 1939. Translated by Eliot Weinberger, in Selected Non-Fictions (Penguin: 1999)
3. Clifford Pickover, The Math Book, (2009), Sterling, page 328.
The Future of Nuclear Science, Princeton University Bicentennial Series, Series I Conference I (1946), with a forward by the director of the conference, E.P Wigner, is mostly just a short (36-page) introduction to the conference, though it does contain a very nice and not commonly seen photograph of the conference's participants. Of particular interest is the accompanying ghost/outline guide to identifying the group, which seems to take on its own life when viewed out-of-context.
It is a considerably heavyweight group of physicists--among them are Hofstadter, S.K. Alison, Kistiakowsky, Ladenburg, W.J. Eckert, L.A. Turner, R.H. Dicke, E. Amaldi, Urey, Conant, Tolman, Pais, Turkevich, Condon, Wheeler, Smyth, Chandrasekhar, Weisskopf, Seaborg, Wilson, Morrison, Veblen, Bargmann, Feynman, Van Vleck, Rabi, Eisenhart, Compton, Kramers, Dirac, DuBridge, Bridgman, Fermi, Blackett, and others. It is a wonderful photograph:
Here's a relatively-random detail featuring (bottom left -to-right) Compton, Kramers, Dirac, Bohr, plus (middle left-to-right) Margenau, Bargmann, Feynman, Harnwell, Tate, and (third row) Wheeler, Smyth, and Chandrasekhar. This was an extraordinary group.
Q: What is the one sure thing that is very impressive about this publication by Mr. Rex Knight?
A: The 35-ring wire binding on a six-inch tall publication. There's not much to recommend itself to recommendation and memory.
[Perfection had better hurry up and get here given my own fast-short-sleep habits]
Mr. Knight had some ideas about sleep and well-being and achieving various states of normalcy and perfection, most of which had to do with waking up during hte night and staring at one of the many full-page neuro-demands which evidently were in direct confrontation with whatever it was in your head that was keeping you from success and strength and wealth and inspiration and self, combating "enslaving habits" and "lesser habits" by telling the brain what to do with the mind. Or something along those lines.
In any event, Mr. Knight tried something out and used a lot of wire to bind the really rather nice paper his effort was printed on, so Wake Up and Sleep had at least that going for it. Aside from that, his suggestions seem more disruptive and potentially rheumy-eyed more than anything else, waking you through the night to hand deliver messages to your sleeping and semi-enslaved brain to find its own appropriate "wave" to enrich your life. "The prize idea that you seek is in the air all around you", he writes. "Ether waves, mental waves, cosmic or whatever you choose to call them, are everywhere. All you are trying to do is to get tuned in on the right wave".
"Expect more and more of sleep" says Mr. Knight--at least that is one remedy that would sound good to almost everyone.
It is interesting to note that "Rex Knight" is very close to being "Rx Night". And "King of the Night".
Lastly, according to WorldCat, there is only one copy located in libraries worldwide--that at NYPL. My copy was from the copyright office/collection at the Library of Congress when it came to me in a Very Large Grouping (called with little imagination "The Pamphlet Collection") many years ago. It never was a hit for the libraries.
As a part of my semi-developing History of Normalcy, I decided to see if I could find a place in this country that was "normal"--and indeed, I found one. Several--quite a few, actually, Normal and Normals and Normalcies, enough for everyone.
Here's one--Normal, Illinois. (Population, 40,000, 1990), in Normal Township. There's also Normal Township, in North Dakota. And one in Alabama.
And the town of Normal (Kentucky) and Normal (Tennessee), Normal Hill and Normal Landing (Louisiana), Normal Park (Nebraska), Normal Square (Pennsylvania), and Normalville (Pennsylvania).
Normal may or may not be a desirable thing; if it was a model thing, there is also a place called Model (in Colorado). On the other hand although there are a number of "normals", there are no places called Average, or Mean, or Natural, or Regular, or Typcial.
Outside of the normals, perhaps on the more combative end of normal, there are places identified called Troublesome (Colorado), Truthville (New York, Washington County), and Halfway (Georgia, Lumpkin County); there is no place called hell, though there is a Heaven(er) (Kansas).
There is no doubt that the working life of the miner was and is a very dangerous, incredibly demanding job. Written descriptions and engraved and photographed and film images all will very quickly and profoundly depict the very demanding physical, psychological and medical demands that are made on the miner. (Perhaps one of the most demanding accounts of the life of the miner is told by George Orwell in his The Road to Wigan Pier, which I quote from in an earlier post to this blog, here; see also an associated post on Welsh mining boys, also drawing on Mr. Orwell, here.)
Even in a sympathetic publication like Mining People--published by the Miners' Welfare Commission in 1945--the idea of crushing proximity and indomitable closeness is present in almost every image, including those that have nothing to do with actually being underground.
There are a few images of miners at work, like so:
These would hardly have been investigative-style photos as the pamphlet was trying to sell certain ideas of the mining union for self-care and preservation, so I am guessing that the photos would be no more than "average". The odd bits come from the photos of miners out-of-the-mines, because there is no mistaking the extreme closeness of these men to one another in places where that didn't necessarily have to be the case. The locker room, for example, looks compact and tight, and unnecessarily so--I mean, why have men be compressed together in a changing room after having just spent 10 hours underground in tight and bunched quarters?
Since this was basically a trade publication extolling good works with union dues money, perhaps this locker room is an improvement--still, there are two sets of lockers that are about five feet apart, with two benches that seem to be no more than six inches wide.
After sending men down into the mines to work all day it seems that the least that could be done would be to allow a wide enough space to allow for people to sit moderately comfortably. The six-inch bench really bothers me.
Perhaps these showers were luxurious by those provided by other mines--perhaps other mines didn't even have showers for the miners. But again it seems to me another very cramped scene (and this one with the lead figure being a young boy).
AS I said, perhaps these after-work images were scene of comparative luxury. The degrees of cramped closeness though are inescapable.
Timbuktu, "a mass of ill-looking houses built of earth"--Caillie, 1830, volume 2, page 45
Of the many legends of the hypnotizing idea of the city of Timbuktu none illuminated the place as a city of earthen structures. It was long a center of trade, located on the outskirts of the Sahara and just north of the Niger, with settlement in modern times reaching back to the 12th century, though there were settlements pre-dating this period by centuries. In any event, it was an unreachable place for the Western mind even though in Africa it was a hub of activity for trade in salt, gold, ivory, and slaves--and scholarship. There's a reason for people nowadays referring to distant/far-removed/inaccessible places as "Timbuktu"--and that's because before the 19th century, it really was vastly inaccessible. And so the rumors of vast wealth and mystery wove their way into whatever little fabric of truth existed for the place.
Europeans were enormously desirous of real information about Timbuktu--the French government offered 10,000 francs to the first explorer to see the place, and live. That person turned out ot be Rene Caillie, an exploring son of a baker, who made his way there after much adventure in 1828, and published his saga two years later.1 His report was not one of the expected golden mystery, but of a long-established town of antiquity and earthen hurts.
The image above comes from his 1830 work, and is remarkable--it is beautiful, and evidently accurate, if not very dramatic or fulfilling of floating expectations. It was truthful. And unexpected.
Caillié, René (1830), Travels through Central Africa to Timbuctoo; and across the Great Desert, to Morocco, performed in the years 1824-1828 (2 Vols), London: Colburn & Bentley. Google books: Volume 1, Volume 2.
Caillié, René (1830), Journal d'un voyage à
Temboctou et à Jenné, dans l'Afrique centrale ... pendant les années
1824, 1825, 1826, 1827, 1828 ... Avec une carte itinéraire, et des
remarques géographiques, par M. Jomard. (3 Vols), Paris: Imprimerie Royale. Gallica: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3. Google books: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3.
"What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman
in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece
of debris? What's the proper salutation between people as they pass each
other in this flood?" Siddhartha Guatama Buddha (thanks to Patti Digh for the quote).
In a world where mass extinction of human beings by nuclear weapons was hypothesized, theorized, and nearly implemented, there was certainly a lot of room for discussion about what would come after the Big Event. Great and massive and insignificant and small were all on the board for conversation and study; in a new world of hyper-change, anything and everything could be an issue--well, everything and nothing, nothing and everything, because in an exchange of a million megaton, everything starts to look like nothing. But be that as it may, planners needed to plan for eventual changes in what we humans would call "daily life". Sometimes that everything was big, sometimes not, and sometimes the big stuff just looked little.
For example, the pamphlet Mass Casualties, Principles Involved in Management, published as an offprint from the journal Military Medicine (April, 1956), is filled with numbing categories of thought, and doubly-numbing sub-categories, all of which needed a thinking-out, because when you have to make plans for the destruction of all things, there must be some sort of planning for what happens when the fires go out.
There were the cautious introductory overviews, chapters on casualty estimates, initial aid and rescue, effects of fallout, emergency medical care, and the like. The work starts to get a little less oblique when the chapters become a little more detailed, like that one devoted to "Mass Thermal Burns". But what happens in these more-detailed headings is that the treatment of its subject gets less-detailed. ("...the thousandfold increase in power and relative increase in radiant energy considerably enhance the burn hazard with the fusion bomb" "...although the ideal treatment must be somewhat compromised in handling massive numbers of burn patients..." (page 319)).
Ditto the chapter for "Management of Mass Psychiatric Casualties". And "Public Health and Sanitation Problems of Nuclear Warfare". These topics sound a little not-quite-right, and almost like a bad joke, but they are deadly serious.
"Organization for the Sorting of Casualties" is another. Now even in this pamphlet the authors/editors were talking about massive exchange, which means that the "sorting" process would be involving tens of millions of people. And who knows who would be the sorting stuff in such a situation, or if there would be a sorting place or doctors, or hospitals. Nevertheless, this chapter underwhelms the overwhelming, which is a common occurrence in works like this.
"A wide disparity will in all probability exist between the patient and the medical resource".
"All available medical forces will be used to the maximum for the care of the wounded".
And so on.
It wasn't just the care of human survivors that came under auspices of this work--there was also the matter of the social structure, which is what happens in "Welfare Problems in Nuclear Warfare". In four short pages the chapter addresses the need to deal with the care of the survivability of the social network. And money.
"Ordinary jobs as people knew them would be nonexistent. Income from private investments, private insurance, social insurance, public assistance, government employment or any other source will be disrupted. A whole income maintenance system will need to be developed and be ready so that income will either be in cash or in kind and be available when it is needed." (Page 389)
"Any attack will bring in its wake a multitude of personal rehabilitation problems".
The author does get to the crux of the biscuit, finally, saying that after everything was said and done, that "much either medical or social care would have to be self-care in so far as humanly possible..." (Page 388).
So what can one say to as a drowning person to another drowning person in a flood? Best to look for higher ground? There's really not much that can be said, and I am sure that at the end of the day that these well-meaning contributors knew that there would not be much working following the nuclear dumpster fire--but I guess you have to plan for it anyway, just in case.
Nothing quite sells like the smell of fear--or the sound of it. In 1961, about the scariest sound was the air raid siren, which is what opens this record album, If the Bomb Falls. At what was probably the highest height of the Cold War, with schoolchildren taught to "duck and cover" under their wooden school desks to protect themselves from a massive nuclear fireball, and in which thousands of families constructed their own fallout shelters, the Tops record company decided to fan the flames of public fear by producing a this-is-what-it-takes to survive effort.
For the most part, Tops was a low rent label, producing stuff that sounded like ('sound alikes") a current hit, and by indulging in 'exotic" music like its Voodoo hit. If the Bomb Falls answered its own fear-stoked questions with not-very-good responses. That's where the napkins come in--among other things, the album suggests that you keep a two-week supply of napins on hand, in addition to general-purpose paper towels and the like. Also: batteries, just in case the power goes out, and DDT, which went unexplained. And: be aware that in the fallout shelter there will be a period of unusual closeness at hand, testing your privacy.
There is of course a lot of pertinent information survival information on the record, though it comes with very padded edges, and with very little flavor for what radiation is all about, and what it will do. Plus all of that wicked winged death stuff that was waiting for you outside the bunker.
But this is what was done, at the time, to prevent general panic in the though of nuclear attack--stuff like this offered their own bits of religiosity, with the promise of possible islands of heaven here and there, heavens buried in your backyard or scooped out the side of your basement. Like any belief system, it was based in, well belief--and belief doesn't take that much firming-up once somebody believes in it. Things will work out if you believe they will; science and logic take the background in cases of a staggering hope of survival based upon belief (and instructions from micrgoove vinyl).
In the end, what you are left with in the event of nuclear holocaust is what is in the middle of this record:
Other Tops producers included these lovelies (source of which is here):
At the tender age of 21 Henry James was deeply in love with words. Sometimes he may have been in love with them for the sake of their sound and placement rather than their meaning, at least so when he was a young man...as he grew older, James became one of those few people who never wrote a bad sentence (according to Mr. McMurtry). However, in 1865, he wrote some lovely-sounding sentences that were mechanically semi-pure if not accurate in what they were saying, but certainly sounded pretty in their pettiness.
It was in The Nation on 21 December 1865 that James wrote what is a very good example of this beautiful nothingness when he brought out his pen and stabbed Charles Dickens in the heart.
He was reviewing Our Mutual Friend, but he managed at the very beginning to say that it was not simply that this novel was not good, but that everything Dickens had written in the previous ten years--back to when James was 11--was "poor with the poverty not of momentary embarrassment, but of permanent exhaustion". It is true that Dickens at this point was slowing down a bit--at least compared to himself, as he had previously written twenty novels in 18 years--and he had only another five years to live, but the novels of exhaustion of those ten years that James was referring to included Little Dorrit,A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and Our Mutual Friend. Four novels, ten years, three great classics.
James writes that "...the word humanity strikes us as strangely discordant in the midst of these pages, for, let us boldly declare it, there is no humanity here..." This is a very strange thing to say, given that Dickens semi-discovered a majority of London life that really never quite made it into public display in newspapers and novels except for their crimes, giving a face of grace and courage to the poor and middle classes. And for all of that, Henry James tells us that Dickens may be a great humorist, but "he is nothing of a philosopher".
Then there are these two low sentences: "But when he
introduces men and women whose interest is preconceived to lie not in
the poverty, the weakness, the drollery of their natures, but in their
complete and unconscious subjection to ordinary and healthy human
emotions, all his humor, all his fancy, will avail him nothing, if, out
of the fulness of his sympathy, he is unable to prosecute those
generalizations in which alone consists the real greatness of a work of
art. This may sound like very subtle talk about a very simple matter;
it is rather very simple talk about a very subtle matter."
James continues, as he begins to wind up is review, with some very sniffy and long-nosed observations (bolding mine):
"Such scenes as this are useful in fixing the limits of Mr Dickens's
insight. Insight is, perhaps, too strong a word; for we are convinced
that it is one of the chief conditions of his genius not to see beneath
the surface of things. If we might hazard a definition of his literary
character, we should, accordingly, call him the greatest of superficial
novelists. We are aware that this definition confines him to an inferior
rank in the department of letters which he adorns; but we accept this
consequence of our proposition. It were, in our opinion, an offence
against humanity to place Mr Dickens among the greatest novelists. For,
to repeat what we have already intimated, he has created nothing but
figure. He has added nothing to our understanding of human character. He
is master of but two alternatives: he reconciles us to what is
commonplace, and he reconciles us to what is odd."
I really am not sure what was driving Mr. James to the place he drove for, but it certainly seems very weird to me--perhaps he needed to sharpen his young quill on the bones of a popular and legendary older writer. In any event, James seemed to be trying to rush a certain patina of aged reasonableness here, and all he managed was to shine an ugly brass.