A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
"Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes! But we've got our brave Captain to thank" (So the crew would protest) "that he's bought us the best- A perfect and absolute blank!"
So goes the fourth fit of the Bellman's tale in The Hunting of the Snark, featuring a map that I wrote about here, wondering about its absolute beauty of near total blankness.
No doubt this pair of hemispheric maps of the world--printed probably in the 1880's--were intended as instructionals, or primers, or to be used as outline maps to be filled-in and elaborated by students. Still, standing there out of context as Blank Maps, the have a certain appeal. They don't have the vigour and the energetic nothingness of the Lewis Carroll Bellman map, but they will have to do for now.
(This post appeared in the Blog Bookstore in 2010 but evidently not in the blog itself. Here it is, somewhat modified.) This enormous, quiet image appeared in The Illustrated London News on 23 June 1945, just weeks after the termination of WWII in Europe.
It graphically presents every ship lost by Great Britain in the defense of “holding the seas against the Axis Powers...holding open the channels of supply and food and war material” from the outbreak of the war to VE day. The inset narrative states that there were on average nearly 3000 British and Allied ships at sea at any given moment, with the Royal Navy patrolling an aggregate of 80,000 miles of trading routes, day in and day out
It is a symbol of loss, of heroism, of lives not lived, of lives saved, of valor, of greatness, of will, of the cold black sea, of burning oil, of red waves, and above all, of sacrifice. Of splendid behavior.
It is a terrible picture of what victory demanded of bravery.
It is as much an image of a military graveyard as anything else, a Remembrancer, especially for those who were never recovered. It is a grid, a finding aid, a visualizer, for all of those sailors lost in a sea that is indifferent to particular memory.
I can’t imagine how this image was received by the Illustrated London News reader on that day. Did they suck their breath in at the scope of it, of the gigantic reminder of what all of those ships represented? Was it the sort of image-reading that was forced, a white-knuckle, vacant-chested feeling of sweeping loss? Of loss and gratitude? Of gratitude and finding purpose for all of those sacrifices to the island nation? I suspect that all of those words were in the minds of those readers in 1945–and also for emotions that have no words.
Notes: There is also a small inset that shows in comparison the Royal Navy losses for WWI, 1914-1918.
There is also this, an incredible single-page display of British merchant-marine war losses of 2570 ships.
Both images are the work of the incredible G.H. Davis, who provided cut-aways, cross-sections, maps, diagrams an all manner of information to the ILN readers throughout the war. HE was an inexhaustible man of excellent design sense.
Continuing my exploration of the Borgesianly Unchartable Lands of Serendipitonia comes this fine relic from the days of Biblical Geology. That is to say, the Good Old days, the antiquarian days, the pre-Evolutionary days of Diluvial geology, of a geology accommodating the Bible--in this case, the event of the great flood of the Old Testament, Genesis 6-8.
I happened on this by picking up random volume of Thompson's Annals of Philosophy, and opening it to the contents, and see what jumped to attention. The very first article to do so was Charles Wheatstone and a piece he did on sound. This was the volume for 1823, and it seemed really early for Wheatstone--and it was. He wrote it at 21, his first published paper and the first of many to come. But I wanted something different, and so long as I stayed with the selected volume I wouldn't break any rules of serendipity in finding something to write a short post about.
A quick scan down the page, and I found/stumbled onto something to work with--J.S. Henslow's paper on the geology of the Deluge.
Henslow was a big deal and a fine thinker, and organizer, and categorizer, and theoretician. He was also a very effective teacher, and Parson, and was an essential element of his community.
He was also perhaps the most essential person in the development of the scientific interests of Charles Darwin--and Darwin says so.1 Henslow would have Darwin as a student about five years after this publication, and it was Henslow who became Darwin's mentor. Also it was Henslow who secured Darwin a spot on the Beagle. And it was Henslow who received Darwin's notes and samples and who helped create Darwin's reputation on his return from the long voyage. And so on.
But here in 1823 Henslow was trying to make science work with Genesis. He wondered--as had many--where all of this water was coming from in the first place, and reasoned that the water had to come from something other than the Earth (as he reasons that another 5 miles of water would be necessary to drown the Earth) and so quotes scripture to show that God provided for it. (I figure that you'd need about 750,000,000 Niagara Falls running for a month to get the necessary water...) That, and a close swing-by by a comet caused major tidal disruption. And the water had to go somewhere to recede, and since there was already a lot of water on the Earth the divine waters needed to recede unseen inside of the Earth. In any event, my takeaway was that Henslow couldn't find a geological explanation for the Deluge or the evidence of one, which is interesting in itself, and so had to provide scriptural support.
The forever-busy Athanasius Kircher made this post-flood reconsideration of the Earth, Geographia Conjecturalis de Orbis Terrestris Post Diluvium3, published in Amsterdam in 1675. Source: Getty Museum, here.]
1. Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker, May 18, 1861. Source: http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-3152
"My dear Hooker
I was very glad to hear that poor dear Henslow is at rest.I fully believe a better man never walked this earth. What a loss he will be to his parish! I can well believe how you will miss him. I well remember his saying before you married that if he could have picked out anyone for his son-in-law, it would have been you.— How kind he was to me as an undergraduate constantly asking me to his House & taking me long walks. I am thankful to think that at the time I fully enjoyed & appreciated his kindness..."
2. In 1823 Henslow wrote about The Flood, and attempted to direct the science to fit the belief. (In 1823 a major work in this area was published by Buckland on the relics of the Flood, Reliquiae Diluvianae; or, Observations on the Organic Remains Contained in Caves, Fissures, and Diluvial Gravel and on Other Geological Phenomena Attesting the Action of an Universal Deluge.
3. Geographia conjecturalis de orbis terrestris post diluvium [Athanasii Kircheri è Soc. Jesu Arca Noë, in tres libros digesta : quorum I, De rebus quae ante diluvium : II, De iis, quae ipso diluvio ejusque duratione : III, De iis, quae post diluvium a Noëmo gesta sunt : quae omnia novâ methodo, nec non summa argumentorum varietate, explicantur and demonstrantur] , Engraving , 1675 , Kircher, Athanasius, 1602-1680
I can almost see this title as a eggshell-white comic strip in a Sunday Featureette with everything else in color-- it just sounds so, well, wrong, and colorless. Fact is though that at this time Einstein was working on weapons projects for the U.S. Navy, and evidently he needed to account for his work time just like everyone else.
The "part time" was what interested in this. What was he doing not being part time?
It was actually a little more than that, the "part time" part. Because until he was hired by the Navy on 2 May 1943, Einstein worked "no time" on the war effort. Not full time, not part time: no time. The FBI thought him not trustworthy, and he was rejected by Army G2 in July 1940 as not clearable.. Einstein was out--in spite of the fact that he wanted desperately to work on something to help defeat the Nazis, and he would have made a pretty good go-to guy. In May '43 though he was cleared by the Office of Naval Intelligence and he went to work--at $25/day-- on sub warfare and HE projects, much to his high happiness.
Einstein did so without the Navy haircut, as he liked to tell.
I have this post in my Blank, Empty and Missing Things series for the missing/absence/emptiness of trust and judgment extended to Einstein in wartime.
In addition to this there are three other images, all hiosted by the U.S. National Archives, here: http://research.archives.gov/description/597840
Wilhelm Hoegner was SPD and anti-Nazi from the earliest days of Hitler's political party. In a developing chorus of other anti-Nazi Germans, he delivered this screed against the NSDAP while he was a member of the Reichstag in 1930. Der Volksbetrug der Nationalsozialisten also features one of the most effective and tried pieces of social demonstration--artwork, and in this case a biting satire of the "progress" of the Nazi Party. The image features a hideous, rank-and-final brownshirt monster/Unmensch/Unhold, trampling his way across the land, with burning villages in his wake--the path of the Third Reich ("Auf dem Wege ins Dritte Reich"). Hoegner's sympathies are instantly seen here, and there is no chance for mistake in how he depicts Hitler's political party.
This is a very good example of social protest against the rising Verwünschung/plague that was just three years away from the total domination of the German political scene, and only 15 from total destruction. The artwork is anonymous, and it is dark, and gruesome in a very subtle and gritty--and effective--way. It is also good neighbors with other protest art/literature heroic figures like George Grosz, John Hearfield, Hannah Hoch, Kathe Kollwitz, Otto Dix, and many others. There just weren't enough of them. Or their followers.
Hoegner would last in Germany only another three or so years, but survivied--his surrepticiously published account of the Beer All Putsch (published in 1933) was a major inconvenience to the Nazis, though that was settled out once Hitler came to power in 1933 and as many copies of Hoegner's work were found and destroyed. Hoegner himself made it out to Austria and then to Switzerlqand by 1934. He would return to Germany immediately after the war and assume advanced political office in the new Germany.
Full rext here http://library.fes.de/library/netzquelle/rechtsextremismus/pdf/hoegner.pdf
In the History of Seeing Things That Aren't There there are three main staples of disruption of reality: the introduction of the telescope by Galileo and the expansion of the night sky by an order of magnitude and the unsettling of what had been a pretty-much unbroken knowledge of the visible sky for thousands of years; the introduction of investigations with the microscope by van Leeuwenhoek and Hooke and so on, revealing an extraordinary new and unimaginably fine and tiny world, multiple worlds within our world; and the Rontgen discovery of the x-ray, the visualizing agent for stuff that could be seen but not without mess and fuss.
It is hard to overstate the significance of Wilhelm Roentgen's discovery of x-rays, as well as the public reaction to it. (Well, the enthusiasm of the popular response waned dramatically after the first few months, which--given the historic significance of the discovery--was not long at all.)
[Source: Wikicommons. This is Roentgen's wife's hand, the first image ever made via the new X-Ray, and one of the most iconic images in the recent history of science.]
Scientific/technical journals as well as the popular press were flooded with articles published about the astonishing discovery of 50-year-old physics professor from Wurzburg.. The English-language popular science journal Nature's announcement of his December 28, 1895 “Ueber eine neue Art von Strahlen" ("On a New Type of Ray"), appearing 16 January 1896, began the introduction of a new state of human experience. His experiments—built upon the work of J. Pluecker (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 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 world1.
So what brought me to this tonight was an article in the American Journal of Physics for 1945 (volume 13) which has a great article on the history of the discovery (by G.E.M. Jauncey) and which also has a number of samples reporting on the discovery in the popular press, none of which I had seen before. And so I thought I'd share them here:
In the history of defensive warfare it was a revolutionary idea that painting the entirety of large ocean-going ship in sharp geometric shapes and in dazzling colors would make the ship in essence--disappear, a sort of camouflage-without -camouflage (sorry Flannery O'Connor). It wasn't like biological camouflage where all sorts of bits come into play to make an animal blend into its surrounding environment to protect it from predators, or conversely to make it a better predator by allowing the animal to stay completely hidden until their prey could do nothing but become their prize. Nor was it really like thermoregulation, or sexual or warning signals (again drawing from the bio world)--it was simpler than that, though are there many relational examples in the biological world as well. Nor was it similar to the camouflage schemes used by the air corps, with different and usually sky/ground-blended colors used for the top and bottom of SPADS and Nieuports and Albatrosses.
The effect of using the geometrical shapes on the whole of a 600'-long vessel was to make the speed and direction of the ship more difficult for offensive pursuit vessels like submarines to figure out and calculate so that the point-to-target launch of their torpedo would be far more complicated.
[Examples of razzle dazzle camouflage from the GoTouring website, here.] [A very nice selection of images can also be found at iO9.com, here; also, an even larger one, here, from Public Domain Review]
When the prolific maritime painter Norman Wilkinson (1878-1971) came to this realization for disguising the intentions of ships (around 1917) he instantly recognized its applicability in anti-submarine warfare: not only would it be difficult to distinguish bow/stern properties of a ship, but also how long it was, and whether it was coming or going, and how big it was--all major factors in determining the launch of a torpedo. Basically, dazzle camouflage made it difficult to produce a trajectory for the ship.
This must have been an extraordinary experience, seeing these things for the first time by military commanders, who not but a few years earlier were sending troops into combat with white gloves and red pantaloons.
In a "Letter to the Editor" ("Camouflage of Ships at War") in Nature (19 June 1919), Wilkinson explains his dazzle approach, saying that the whole point of this sort of camouflage was not necessarily "obliterative" as in biological camouflage, but rather was intended to "upset a submariner commander's estimate of a vessel's course, when carrying out an attack with torpedo", and stating further that it was not intended for "ships of the line" or to help deceive topside gunnery from another ship, especially at greater distances where the paint would simply not come into play. [An often-used but never-cited quote from a Wilkinson "lecture" runs as follows: "The primary object of this scheme was not so much to cause the enemy to miss his shot when actually in firing position, but to mislead him, when the ship was first sighted, as to the correct position to take up. [Dazzle was a] method to produce an effect by paint in such a way that all accepted forms of a ship are broken up by masses of strongly contrasted colour, consequently making it a matter of difficulty for a submarine to decide on the exact course of the vessel to be attacked.... The colours mostly in use were black, white, blue and green.... When making a design for a vessel, vertical lines were largely avoided. Sloping lines, curves and stripes are by far the best and give greater distortion."]
[ Another example of razzle dazzle at work: RMS Empress of Russia, from the University of British Columbia, here]
Edward Wadsworth (1889-1949) produced razzle dazzle designs during the war and also painted about it afterwards--something one really doesn't see much of--in his fine Painting of Dazzle-ships in Drydock, completed in 1919. (More of Wadsworth's works, as prints, here.) There are well-known stories of great artists--like Villard among many others as well as the questionable Picasso, who claims to have originated the idea, along with Cubism itself--who made contributions in this effort, from making designs to doing the actual painting. But it was the estimable Wilkinson who made the major contribution and invention of dazzle-at-sea.
The concept is still used, with more advanced applications, and appears on one of the world's stealthiest ships, Sweden's Visby Corvette. Apart from having an exceptionally low magnetic signature, it also has geometric low-radar reflective gray dazzle paint. (It also has applications for land warfare use in the camouflage of armored vehicles against RPGs.).
Sometimes the suggestion of color is color enough, though I had never really thought about it in terms of stained glass windows before. They do have an elegance, even in photographs (never having seen anything extensive in person, just bits and pieces). These designs weren't in black and white in real life--they were just printed so, for unknown reasons, even though the portfolio in which they appeared was half-luxurious. (I have a book depicting the windows at Chartres that is also done in black and white.) This makes a good and appropriate entry in a long series on this blog called Blank, Empty, and Missing Things, the "missing" part here being color outside of black and white.
The following images are of modernist stained glass designs collected and curated by Robert Mallet-Stevens (1866-1945)--one of the leading between-the-wars French architects--for the International Exposition of 1937.
"L'Exposition de 1937, qui nous montre la 'généralisation' de l'architecture moderne, nous offre quelques vitraux de tout premier plan... Quand l'architecte voit dans l'espace des volumes bien ordonnés, le peintre verrier trace des lignes et oppose des couleurs heureuses... Je n'oserai dire que l'architecture moderne est en plein progrès, mais je puis affirmer que le vitrail 'va très bien'!" From he introduction, by Mallet-Stevens. (Basically, Mallet-Stevens is saying that the Expo is presenting the newest form of modernist architecture, and that the stained glass work in particular was powering ahead ("'va très bien'!")).
I came upon the following document (ca. 1968-72) in a collection of ASW material--it seems to be a coding form for military ships, both for the United States and for the Soviet Union, and runs about 20 pages, the section titled "Structuring and Colelction of Ship Characteristics Files SCF). It must be a preliminary study for something, because even though there are hundreds of data points, it doesn't seem like, well, enough. The doc is titled "ADP FORMAT, Scientific and Technical Intelligence Center, Naval Intelligence Command" which is the Navy Scientific and Technical Intelligence Center (NAVSTIC), which was "established in 1968 and merged with the Navy Reconnaissance and Technical Support Center (NRTSC) in 1972" (Office of Naval Intelligence).
The document is unclassified now, and I know I'm missing what it must really be, but what struck me was the "Secret (When Filled In)" on one of the pages...
Captives of Capitalism (printed ca. 1925)is a small pamphlet with a big reach. It was published by the Committee for International Workers Aid, a Communist organization created in Berlin in 1921 (as the International Arbeiter-Hilfe) to help raise money for famine and drought victims in Russia. It was evidently expanded to include collecting money to help victims and prisoner of Fascism, which seems to be the major target in this pamphlet.
Although pretty slight the pamphlet looses no time in getting to the heart of the matter, detailing atrocities and unjust imprisonments by fascists and capitalists in Germany, Roumania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Finland, Lithuania, and Italy. Although not mentioning the United States the "Call to Action" states that "Democracy is on the rampage, with proletarians as its victims" with calls for unity of workers and donations to the International Workers Aid as well as to Red Aid--money to help "lighten the burden of the imprisoned" and to "support starving families".
Inside of my copy of the pamphlet was a small handout, a long sheet folded into quarters with the working "title" of "Drop by Drop the Bucket Will Fill", and on opening the sheet the entire reverse is a form to fill in with the names of donors and amounts of the "drops" they send into the bucket. This request series in particular was aimed at "Xmas Relief"
The "Call to Action" ends very strongly: "A united front of the workers of the world so that
of a proletarian fighter against capitalism creates a millionfold echo from the workers of the world."
Unfortunately the Soviet Union would become its own home-made disaster following the turmoil and famine(s) of the early 'twenties. Lenin's death in 1924 led to Stalin, and Stalin went down a terrifically bad path, beginning his Five Year Plans in 1928 which would displace 25 million families to create the collective farm state; smashmouth industrialization lead to great gloom and the development of Stalin's cult-of-state created the Great Famine in '32-'33 and the rest of the hideousness that would cover the Soviet Union through the rest of Stalin's existence.
This is a general report on the origin, development and status of the Hagelin "cryptographers"-a word used here to describe the physical machines used in encoding messages (rather than the people working on codes). It is an internal and "confidential" report, slender and to the point. Its sections include "Models Built at Express Demand of the French Authorities", "Evolution of Hand Cryptographer Type C-362", "Hagelin Cryptographer Models" (BC-38 and C-362), "Methods of Operation", "Superiority of Hagelin Cryptographers over Competing Makes", and others, including "How to Sell Cryptographers". Of particular interest to this post is the mention on page 14 of the "Enigma", which is really just a very lonely statement, limited to mentioning that the machine is not sold outside of Germany. Of course we well know that the Enigma (which is one of a family of related electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines) was being used very heavily inside of Germany--and France, and the Soviet Union, and several other countries, though it was in fact being used by the Nazi military. It just feels odd and uncomfortable to see this ordinary commercial mention of the machine whose working and transmission was known to the Allies, a knowledge that may well have been one of the great turning elements of the war. And there it is, on page 14, in a restrictive distribution announcement.
There is a small collection of WWII propaganda here, mostly Allied-based surrender leaflets and battlefront newspapers. One that I am trying to identify is something simply called "Volksstimme" ("voice of the people") a very home-made-looking production published in 1944 and which has the feel of being Soviet-produced for German soldiers but which is also extremely anti-Semitic. As an offshoot of looking for "Volksstimme-ery" things ("Volksstimme" not being a very small handle for a very wide search) I came across a website for the German National Library's World War I collection, and in one section it displayed this extraordinary postcard:
The German POWs (here based in India) were allowed very limited contact with anyone who had somehow found and written to them. The instructions were explicit and took up almost as much space on the postcard as the allowed response. And the response was limited to the POW being well or in hospital, or the status of letters received or not. It was all attested by an administrative signature, and signed and dated. And that was it.
But, it was at least something.
"Ahmednagar, a city and fort in India, was the site of one of Great Britain's prisoner of war camps during World War I. This camp held both prisoners of war and German and Austrian civilians from 1914 and 1918. In contrast, German officers were first sent to Tabora and later usually conveyed to a transitional camp inEgypt or India. The biggest camp was located in Ahmednagar, India, and could accommodate more than 2,000 German prisoners. According to reports from the Red Cross, there were few reasons for complaint. The food was plentiful and housing was acceptable. There were even tennis courts,soccer fields, and billiard tables for the amusement of officers..."--Source
"Postcard from a British prisoner-of-war camp in India to Gustav Wahl, the Director of the Deutsche Bücherei in Leipzig, 1918"--German National Library, First World War Collection
[Source: here (http://erster-weltkrieg.dnb.de/WKI/Content/EN/Topics/Kriegsalltag/alltag-kriegsgefangenschaft-en.html)]
JF Ptak Science Books Post 802 (from 2009, revised and expanded)
Looking at little things has its rewards, though what rewards those are may be a little oblique.Today’s post is relegated to looking at the sidewalk on a stroll rather than the surroundings, and the sidewalk view is more like Baudelaire’s sidewalk botanist than Proust’s golden Parisian sidewalks. So it goes.
Petrus Ciacconius Toledanus (Pedro Chacon,1525-1581) was a scholar who wrote on many things; this book, De Triclinio sive De modo co nvivandiapud priscos Romanos…(printed in 1664, 63 years after the author’s death) , takes a wide and classically scholarly look at bathing practices…and that includes bathing in water or in wine, and bathing once or six times a day, with dinner in the water or not, what to wear bathside, and all sorts of other bathing entertainments and necessaries.
But that’s not why I’m making this short stop here—it’s the odd bit in this illustration that has my attention.I’m also not sure about the activity in the print—I’m fixed on the little bit of shrubbery that we can see in the background windows.Having looked at thousands and thousands of images like this, I must say that seeing natural nothingness like this outside a window is very unusual.In the unknown, unused and non-existent art appreciation genre of “Boring Things Seen Through Windows”, this print would be standard fare.
But the real issue here for me is that the window is just a window in this print.It doesn’t have any of the heavy significance associated with windows-in-art of the past, the window dripping with symbolic/spiritual significance (illumination, enlightenment, vision, godhead, divinity).The window as a simple source of light or vehicle to relieve crowded interiors seems to be
overwhelmed by the religious/needy windows at least t hrough the first half of the 17th century.(At least that’s my sense of it—I haven’t a single figure to back anything up.) The little windows that creep into the work of Van Eyck--especially in the famous “The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami” of 1434—are interesting examples of the window as a simple source of light. (In the “Marriage” painting the window is much more visible in the iconic reverse double-painting seen in the mirror on the wall in the background.)
Same too for the windows in some Vermeers, where you can virtually feel the breeze coming through them and into the occasionally stuffy rooms.And also for Durer:while his great study of St. Jerome has a presiding possibility of Pure Holy Light coming into his room, it might also just be sunlight; on the other hand there is little doubt that the windows in his famous depi ction of an artist working a perspective study of a model through a dividing screen have nothing to do with the spiritual, and are just simple mundane windows.
By the 17th century there is a new genre of paintings having people looking out of windows (as with the case of Gerrit Dou, where we observe what seems like every one of his subjects looking out through a window),
which means I guess that the observer is the one who might shine in.Enter the 20th century and the window takes on new meanings, as in bent/draped windows in Dali, or floating windows looking into the lonely world of Magritte, or the solitary nothing-but-a-window sculpture of Duchamp.
The unintended nothingness of the 16th century is what I think I like the best.
For some pretty interesting books written on the window in art, see: Carlo Gottlieg, The Window in Art (University of Michigan, 1981, and which is a nice chronological treatment of the window, plus some psychological stuff) and Suzanne Delehenty, The Window in Twentieth-Century Art (1986), among others.These will point the way.
(From the Passion of Former Days site--with many more Very Highly Colorful examples of motel advertising postcard art, here.)
Slate Vault's Rebecca Onion shared a great post from the Passion of Former Days site, a feature of colors-not-found-in-nature color postcards from the 1950's or so. They are all striking, and striking in one form or another above being simply striking, but the most striking for me was the Allendale Motor Court's floating Allendale Eden. It is, in its thrift-store-velvet way, a sublime image, a late Renaissance woodblock image depicting normality and piety and an expression of what could come for the obedient and penitent, the promise of the rewarded afterlife (as seen in so many images published in the first 50 years after Gutenberg), lifted from that dusty sleep and re-imagined on this linen-backed postcard promising a happy sleep removed from a dirt road in deep South Carolina.
Above all else, whatever it is in this floating paradise, it is all air conditioned. And heated with steam. And with a telephone. And a "Room TV" (thanks to Linda Anderson for that clarification!)
The town has seen better days. It is a small place--3 square miles--and has a population of 3,800, down from 4,000 a decade ago. The tough part is that the median income in Allendale is $16,000, and the per capita is just $10,000, making for a very hard go. About 60% of the town's under-18 population lives under the poverty line, as does 41% of the population in general. This makes it a poor city in a poor county of a poor state--S.C. ranks 48th in per capita income in the country ($34,000 against a national average of $42,000).[Source] Another site listing S.C. counties and places shows Allendale at 348th in 368 listed areas in the state, with Allendale county coming in at 43rd out of 46 counties for per capita income.
Nearly a third of the town is single-mother households. That is a hard life. I don't know what the percentage of children in town that figure represents--that is, how many of all of the town's children are being raised in single-parent households...but the number seems big. Bigger than the big number that is the national average, where something approaching 30% of all American children are being raised by single parents.
Somehow this is so even though the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie campus is located there--a public school with an enrollment of 1100 and an academic staff of 57. Evidently it does not draw much income for the town.
Part of this problem surely are the sky-high unemployment figures for the town, which topped out at 22% in the years following the 2008 Disaster. Today unemployment stands at about 10%, far above the national avergae of 6.6 (whatever)% There is no telling what these Allendale numbers mean, not knowing how many people simply fell out of the queue for work. The numbers sound mean and nasty.
The floating Eden I think has not been seen in Allendale for quite some time--or at least since Route 95 skirted the town and made one of the major north-south arteries--Route 301--a thing of the past. Or passed. 301 goes through Allendale and in pre-95 times there was quite a tourist trade. I called the newly-expanded library in Allendale and the librarian I spoke with confirmed this. She did tell me though that for as small a place as Allendale is that they get 150-200 patrons a day, which is about 5% of the town's population, which is pretty high traffic, per capita. She was very enthusiastic about her town, and I commmend her for it. "We're expecting great things to happen in Allendale" she said. And I wish every good thing for her.
I don't mean this post to be snarky or irreverent, really, because we're dealing with one of the most fantastically murderous people in the history of humans. Since the seven book titles that I have been able to find so far are so, well, unusual, that pulling the individual words out and alphabetizing them might prove to be an insight into the mind of grown-up Soso, Joseph Stalin. I found the titles while researching Stalin's report card from when he was a child, and found "Stalin's Library Card", by David Wojahn, a poem in seven parts that treats each of the books borrowed by Stalin in 1926, when he was 47 years old.
Stalin in 1926 had been General Secretary of the CPSU for two years, in spite of several years of bickering and argument with the stroke-ridden Lenin, who for some years before his death (in 1924) grew more stratigraphically dissatisfied with Stalin and warned the resat of the leadership against him. After maneuvering against Zinoview, and Kaneneov, and Trotsky, and Bukharin and all of the people below them, Stalin was by this time solidifying his power. Purges, manufactured famines, internal deportations of millions, executions, imprisonment, and stupid decisions at the beginning of the German invasion of the USSR in WWII, Stalin had his had in causing the death of many millions of people.
What did he have in mind in 1926 with these books1? Well, I think we know. There are 36 words used in the titles, including six repetetives, leaving 30 unique words. There's certainly enough for haiku if you wanted the taint, and a poem like that could be one that would be difficult to unremember, not (in spirit but of course not in equivalence) unlike the unremembered masses who were forced into "non-personhood" by Stalin, who when he finally died was left out of the very next printing of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia as the Vast Un-nameable.
I'm cataloging this entry in the History of Blank, Empty, and Missing Things series because Stalin caused so muuch of that to happen to so many people, to nearly an entire country. And then he became missing, himself.