May 12th: Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots

La Boheme poster by Hohenstein.PNG

On this day in 1473, Marie Theresa became Queen of Bohemia. Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII lost Bavaria, when allied French troops had to retreat to the Rhine River. Bohemia, incidentally, if we were in Geography class, is the westernmost region of what is now the Czech Republic.  Then nomadic Romani people in France were called bohemian, thought to have traveled to Paris from Bohemia.  So how did this word travel from mid-century Europe and end up on the online sales pages of Urban Outfitters you ask?  The starving artist communities in the Latin Quarter of course, solidified to their pages of history by Henry Murger’s novel Scenes de la Vie de Boheme that became Puccini’s 1896 opera La Bohème.Adolfo Hohenstein (1854-1928), Publisher: G. Ricordi & Co.

After the 1890’s, the planks were laid for tortured and impoverished artists and writers to walk for at least some part of their formative years.  Those asshole starving artists. Also delete that  boho vest and vintage concert tee from your cart.  No one looks good in fringe.

Born today

German chemist Justus von Liebig (now that is an excellent, made up name) was born in 1803.  He is considered the founder of organic chemistry. Also, organic only means that a substance has carbon bonds, it doesn’t mean that the baked goods at your local natural food store are any better for you.  It doesn’t mean they aren’t (but it probably means they won’t taste as good).  Incidentally, von Liebig also founded the Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company, after he developed a process of manufacturing beef extract.

Florence Nightingale was born today in 1820. Though she is remembered for her nursing skills, she was also a statistician.  Possibly I listened to too many Disney records on repeat growing up, but whenever I hear her name, I go right to Anastasia and Drizella’s singing lesson Cinderella, in which the tune of Sing Sweet Nightingale is sung very, very badly, and immediately after that, a Mary Poppins “Dreadful!” chimes in behind it.  We were left alone a lot as kids.  Moving on.

Disney Villains wallpaper called villains

English poet, illustrator, and musician Edward Lear was born today in 1812. He published a number of works, including the Book of Nonsense; Illustrated Excursions in Italy; Mount Timohorit, Albania; Journal of a Landscape Painter in Greece and Albania; Nonsense Songs and Stories; Tortoises, Terrapins, and Turtles; and (my favorite) Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots, volume of 42 color illustrations of parrots.

Katherine Hepburn was born today in 1907; painter Frank Stella  in 1936, and George Carlin in 1937. Also, Emilio Estevez was born in 1962, let us not forget him. He’s had it hard enough playing second fiddle to Charlie Sheen his whole goddamned life.  Also did you know he was married to Paula Abdul in the 1990’s?  Maybe I used to know this and forgot, but now I feel like it will be in that good ol’ rolodex for good.

For those that met their tragic and/or wholly anticipating and fitting ends on this day: Eutychius, patriarch of Alexandria in 940; Liutold of Eppenstein, duke of Carinthia, in 1090; and naturalist Abraham Trembley, in 1784. His Wikipedia page says that he was one of the first to develop “experimental zoology.” I don’t know what that is, but it sounds very unhygienic, and I hope you stay out of it.  Or at the very least wear shower shoes.

And with that, I will leave you to nap away this afternoon’s bucatini bender, with a nonsense poem by Edward Lear.  Call your mother.

This post was originally published on theanatomyofmelancholy.com June 12, 2018

May 11th: We Need the Sheets for the Table

Today in 912, Alexander began his 13th month reign as the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire. In 1833, after just over a month at sea, The Lady of the Lake hit an iceberg 250 miles of the coast of Newfoundland and sank. Only fifteen of the estimated 275 people aboard survived.

This is not The Lady of the Lake, but a stock photo of a sinking ship by Norma Cornes. A tiny bit I want to take her name. That’s a great name.

Anne of Bohemia was born today in 1366. Ballerina Fanny Cerrito was born on 1817, as well as Detroit Tigers baseball player Charlie Gehringer, and let us not forget MTV VJ (wow, is that still a thing?) Martha Quinn, who has been keepin it real since 1959. Sort of related, though he has nothing to do with May 11, my friends and I were talking the other day, and did you know Kurt Loder is 73???

Charlie Gehringer circa 1937

Leo VI the Wise, Byzantine Emperor, died today in 912. We’ve already covered his brother taking over if you have been paying attention. John D. Rockerfeller Jr. died today in 1960. As did mob boss Vincenzo Coloisomo, gunned down in Chicago in 1920. Though officially an unsolved murder, it has apparently been suggested that Al Capone fired those fatal bullets. Coincidentally, New York mob boss Joseph Bonanno died today in 2002, at the grand old age of 97.

With this information, plans for the weekend should include:

  1. pasta and/or breadsticks carbo-loading (but please not at the Olive Garden. The Macaroni Grill is similarly blacklisted. Actually, if you must pick between the two, go with Olive Garden. There is something so unappetizing about the other name.
  2. twirling said pasta with a spoon and a fork and rolling your poor meatballs onto the floor, watching sadly as said rueful meatballs roll out the door
  3. watching Married to the Mob, a 1988 classic
  4. and finally listening to Mob Hits, volumes 1 & 2, preferably on cassette. This one is my favorite. Don’t translate it into English though, it’s much more racy than its melody and frequent plays at Italian weddings would suggest.

Originally published at theanatomyofmelancholy.com on May 11, 2018.

May 15th: The Compulsive Wanderers

May 15th

In 1796, in the War of the First Coalition, Napoleon triumphantly entered the city of Milan. In 1851 the first Australian gold rush was officially proclaimed. In 1905, 110 acres in Nevada next to the Union Pacific Railroad was auctioned off, and, alas, Las Vegas was born.

Did you know that Las Vegas shares a birthday with McDonald’s and Mickey Mouse? Mickey Mouse made his debut in 1928 in the animated short Plane Crazy. And on May 15, 1940, McDonald’s opened the doors of its very first restaurant in San Bernardino, California. What an unholy trio of…earnest aims gone awry?

Born today

Queen of France Margaret of Valois was born in 1553; astronomer and Hungarian priest Maximilian Hell in 1720 (isn’t every word of that bio perfect?). The moon crater Hell is named in his honor. He also believed in the healing power of magnets.

Writer Lyman Frank Baum was born in 1856. He wrote The Wizard of Oz. Swiss mountaineer Matthias Zurbriggen was also born on this day in 1856. He had kind of a tragic life. He spent most of his life climbing, both alone and as a guide, through the Alps, the Himalayas, and through mountains in South America, and New Zealand. But he spent the last years of his life as a vagrant in Switzerland, and died by suicide at the age of 61.

Author of The Master and the Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov was born in 1891. That novel, much like Catch 22 and anything by William Faulkner, is one of a collection of books that I have started and stopped many times with the idea that if I could just pursue a little further, I will like them. But still they stand unfinished on my bookshelves, small monuments to both my hubris and laziness. Ah well.

Emily Dickinson died today in 1886. Painter Edward Hopper in 1967. Singer June Carter Cash died in 2003.

May 15th seems kind of dark, no? Maybe it’s the miasma of French fry grease, Napoleon, Las Vegas, with a dash of Disney. Maybe because of the loss of both a poet and a painter who were masterful at capturing loneliness. And then our poor mountaineer. His story reminds me a little bit of the bizarre story about the “compulsive wanderer” on The Futility Closet podcast a few months back. So much struggle to make our way in the world, so much searching in search of nothing.

Which then reminds me of another podcast. If you have twenty minutes, The Slowest Distance Between Two Points is worth a listen. I’ll be over here, stuck on chapter one, page one of The Sound and the Fury.

Originally published at theanatomyofmelancholy.com on May 15, 2018.

May 13th: Communism is Just a Red Herring

The Improbability of Vampires

Communism is Just a Red Herring

The Pajama Game opened on Broadway today in 1953. I am not entirely clear of the plot with my exhaustive 60 second scan, but something about a pajama factory and demands of a seven and a half cent raise. Sounds topical. There are unions involved, so I can say with 100% certainty my father would not like it. Communists. (I can’t believe I have worked in two quotes from the movie Clue in four blog posts. Prodigious).

In 1958, Ben Carlin became the one and only person to travel around the globe in an amphibious vehicle. It took him ten years, 11,000 miles at sea and 39,000 miles by land.

A photograph of w:Ben Carlin and Boye de Mente aboard their craft Half-Safe in Tokyo in late 1956. Unknown photographer.

In Australia, the Great Comet of 1861 was discovered by John Tebbutt, the same day that Pakistan’s first railway opened to the public today in 1861. In Milan in 1909, the first annual Giro d’Italia was underway. And hey, guess what, Lance Armstrong is trying to gum up the works of that one too.

Born today

Russian prince turned saint Alexander Nevsky was born in 1221. Danish physician Ole Worm (I really need to keep a list of perfect names) was born in 1588. According to his Wikipedia biography, he also went by his Latin name Olaus Wormius because of course, he did. The small bones that stitch the larger structures of the skull are named after him. And those would be called the wormian bones. He seems to have been an odd duck, known for his cabinet curiosities, and his pet auk bird. Yet for all his whimsy, he did spend a considerate amount of time in his studies to determine that unicorns are not real, and were likely narwhals. Killjoy.

Only known illustration of a Great Auk drawn from life, Ole Worm’s pet received from the Faroe Islands, which was figured in his book Museum Wormiamum, 1655.

Also born today mathematician, geophysicist Alexis Clairaut in 1713. Also painter Georges Braque in 1882. American treasure Bea Arthur was born in 1922, and author Francine Pascal in 1938. She wrote The Sweet Valley High books. Take my word for it, she created a stunning and urbane teen series. I read all of them when I was twelve and once as an adult, I stayed at someone’s camp and found a whole box full of them that I read over a weekend. They held up.

Actor Robert Pattinson was born in 1986. Speaking of teen book series, researcher Costas Efthimiou mathematically established the impossibility of vampires a few years back, so you should probably put that screenplay away and get back to work.

Wow, we are just crushing dreams left and right. So I’ll just push through the death summary here. Actor Gary Cooper died today in 1961; painter Franz Klein died in 1962; and musician Chet Baker in 1988.

So how should I sum up today? May 13th seems to comprise labor and study; reflection and skepticism. You must own your burdens, put some improbable conclusions to rest, and, for fuck’s sake, can someone tell Lance Armstrong he’s not on the list?

Originally published at theanatomyofmelancholy.com on May 13, 2018.

May 10th: A Guide to the Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar and Dictionary of Phrase and Fable


E. Cobham Brewer from the 1922 book Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

Ebenezer Cobham Brewer — A Guide to the Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar, 38th edition. Photographed by User:GDallimore.

Heat, an Introduction: Ebenezer Cobham Brewer, author of A Guide of Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar, was born in 1810. He also wrote a favorite of mine, the Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, and Sound and Its Phenomena. A true collector and man of my own heart.

Actress Mae Murray ca. 1917

God Save the Queen

Also born on May 10th: German mathematician Wilhelm Killing in 1847; Actress Mae Murray in 1885; Fred Astaire in 1899, and Sid Vicious in 1957.

“That call from J. Edgar Hoover was for me.”

Can anyone else rectite the screenplay from the 1985 movie Clue largely from memory?

In 1924 J. Edgar Hoover was appointed Director of the FBI. Also on this day in 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. And on May 10, 1774, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette ascended the throne in France. So, in short, to celebrate May 10th, you still have few hours to appoint yourself head of something, or promote yourself to inhabit and nap in tucked away office, or perhaps beat someone at checkers, which, let’s face it, is as close as most of us are going to get to a crown? Or at the very least, lie and say you did. To quote Sir Winston Churchill: “Perhaps we have been guilty of some terminological inexactitudes.”

photo credit: Yousuf Karsh

Originally published at theanatomyofmelancholy.com on May 10, 2018.