She’s Been Married Seven Times Before


Second Verse, same as the first:

I can’t believe this was on primetime television, and that people screamed for it.

Henry VIII was born today in 1457. Flemish painter Sir Peter Paul Rubens was born on June 28, 1577. Violinist Stefi Geyer was born in Budapest on June 28, 1888. Heir presumptive Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated today in 1914, igniting factor of World War I. Coincidentally, the Treaty of Versailles was signed exactly five years later, officially calling an end to the war.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Old Woman and Boy with Candles, c. 1616/17

Stefi Geyer

According to The Secret Language of Birthdays, the tarot card associated with June 28th is The Magician. The first card of the Major Arcana in a traditional tarot deck, it signifies all possibilities. Cups, wands, coins, and swords are held or before him; a lemniscate or symbol of infinity crowns him, and he is pointing to the heavens and the earth. It’s a good wish card, so perhaps you could make a Möbius strip and contemplate your dreams the way one might pray with beads? But it is also a what-goes-around-comes-around, be careful what you wish for card. Watch out for fakes and charlatans. I will take the stage direction and make my quiet exit the way my dog does when he finds something he might like to eat (usually from the garbage) but is afraid I might take away from him — backward, slowly, without eye contact, sudden movement, or the slightest acknowledgment that something might be amiss.

Consulting a Figurative System of Human Knowledge and Building a Pillow Fort

Seven sleepers (Menologion of Basil II)

French scientist and contributor to Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, Louis-Guillaume Le Monnier was born on June 27, 1717.

I love encyclopedias. We had a white and green leather set, published circa 1962 (I only know that because of the number of times they made it into the citations of a great many poorly-researched high school papers in the early-to-mid 1990s and that according to these volumes, the moon landing had not happened yet). I am positive encyclopedia diagrams lead directly to my interest in mixed media art. I recall in particular the “F” volume had an intricate series of layered pictures of the anatomy of a frog, using clear sheets and onion skin paper that was just lovely.

Classification chart with the original “figurative system of human knowledge” tree, in French.

Also born on June 27th: musician Elmo Hope, Helen Keller, and physicist and astronaut Joseph P. Allen.

June 27th is also Seven Sleepers Day. Known as Siebenschläfertag, it’s basically German groundhog’s day. Folklore says that today’s weather predicts what the weather will be like in July and August. Though this is a German holiday, the medieval story of the Cave of the Seven Sleepers is found in both Christian and Islamic religious traditions.

You can take a day trip to the Cave of the Seven Sleepers in the Dead Sea for less than $60, excluding travel costs to Amman, the capital city of Jordan. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that, like me, you could not in your wildest dreams afford this right now so how about you build a pillow fort and nap inside it instead? It will feel hot and stuffy, and presumably also predict the weather for the next 8-12 weeks.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

June 26th is the 1819 birthday of Civil War General Abner Doubleday. He has long been rumored to have invented baseball, though he never claimed this, and it is actually not true. I thought he did too until today, though apparently it has been widely debunked for quite some time, but I spent a good deal of time on the doubledayfield.com photo gallery because though I don’t particularly care about baseball, early photographs of baseball players are inexplicably one of my most favorite things.

I was thinking this morning a fatal flaw of mine is that I almost invariably assume people are telling me the truth unless there is some direct evidence to prove otherwise. And even then, it’s not so much that I will believe anything, but I will let us hover in a delusion if it is the easier and/or merciful thing to do.

For example, after we both listened to a co-worker outright lie about the status of a work project, knowing full well she was lying, and knowing full well she knew we knew she was lying, a friend of mine observed that both of us listened to the bold-faced absolute insanity of the explanation without blinking an eye and without a single challenge because we both grew up around addicts, and learned to navigate within a world of denial. I think this is probably true.

I don’t consider myself an especially honest or dishonest person (though I am probably better than most at compartmentalizing). My father has said all of his daughters are masterful at telling half-truths, leaving out the critical and objectionable details when it serves us, but I am of the mind that this is just a crucial survival skill.

I can think critically about books, journalism, marketing, and whatnot, but if someone is speaking to me one-on-one, I will accept almost anything at face value. Given that it’s estimated that we lie about 1/5th of the time every single day, even to ourselves, I wonder about the amount of missing or outright false information each of us is working with every day.*

Anyway, June 26th is also the date of birth of mathematician Leopold Löwenheim; Lebanese painter Daoud Corm (also a mentor to writer Khalil Gibran); Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia; inventor Yoshiro Nakamatsu; astronaut Pavel Ivanovich Belyayev; French poet and activist Aimé Césaire; and British-French secret agent Violette Szabo who was unfortunately captured and executed by Germans in 1945.

The Madonna of Bikfaya, Daoud Corm
Violette Szabo c.1944

June 26th is the Feast Day of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet and Christian martyr Pelagius of Córdoba, patron saint of torture victims, the abandoned, the city of Castro Urdiales, and Spain.

I am feeling kind of blue today, so I don’t have any recommendations or predictions for your day, but here is a link to listen to fiddler Kenny Baker, who was born today in 1926. Maybe listen to this while you journal about what crucial information you have been keeping from yourself and/or others and why that might be.

And here is a link to my favorite astrologist Free Will Astrology if you are looking for a horoscope.

*I did feel the need to at least lookup and confirm that estimate, given the overall subject matter, and found some interesting links.

The Ghost Forest

Photo by Jamie Hagan on Unsplash

Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica was published July 5, 1687.

Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, was born July 5, 1996. Astronomer A.E. Douglas was born July 5, 1867. He studied the connection of sunspot cycles and tree growth rings, founding modern dendrochronology. The study of tree growth rings reminds me of a New Yorker article published a few years ago, called The Really Big One by Kathryn Schulz. It is a fascinating piece about the Cascadia subduction zone, and the probability of earthquakes and tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest. I find tsunamis the most terrifying thing on earth, so I read the entire article with great interest a couple of times. There was an especially frightening part about the ghost forest, a group of dead but still standing trees standing in seawater along the Copalis River. These red cedars are estimated to be about 2,000 years old. In 1987, a couple of scientists analyzed samples of the trees’ growth rings and determined that the final rings were all in 1699, which lead to the confirmation that these remains are the result of a January 1700 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The description of the area, along with that history, makes me think it sounds like the creepiest, loneliest place on earth, and of course, I want to go there.

Moving on. Activist Clara Zetkin was born July 5, 1857. Creator of Calvin & Hobbes Bill Watterson was born July 5, 1958. Artist Chuck Close born was July 5, 1940. I read an interview with him once where he was talking about how he used sensory deprivation to commit things to memory. It sounded like a rather extreme and uncomfortable way to meet an objective, but interesting.

Physicist and inventor Charles Cagniard de la Tour died July 5, 1859. Inventor Nicéphore Niépce died July 5, 1833. He developed the technique of heliography, and created the oldest known photograph. Satirical poet Sasha Chorny died July 5, 1932. Painter Cy Twombly died July 5, 2011. Are you looking for new ways to irritate your friends with your hipster sophistication, yet feeling uninspired by the latest wares at Urban Outfitters? May  I suggest a  Cy Twombly shower curtain?

Methods of recording and understanding moments in time stick out to me as the common thread of July 5th.  Early cameras, sensory deprivation, dendrochronology, copying a genome. What have you recorded about your life in unconventional and unexpected ways? Where is your ghost forest? I think it is time to visit and commit it all to memory.

First published July 5, 2018 at http://www.theanatomyofmelancholy.com

The Middle of Things

Amelia Earhart in 1936, Harris & Ewing.

Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappeared on July 2, 1937, flying over the Pacific Ocean. Her plane took off at 12:00 midnight GMT from Lae Airfield in Papua New Guinea. Her last radio messages were received about 8 and half hours later.

Pluto’s fourth and fifth moons, Kerberos and Styx were named on July 2, 2013. Does anyone else find it eerie when planets and moons are named after things and places from the mythical land of the dead? I don’t believe in hell, but some part of that dark, silent, absolute zero space feels closer to my fear of what it might be if it actually did exist.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964. Civil rights leader Medgar Evers was born July 2, 1925. He was shot and killed by a white supremacist on June 12, 1963.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guglielmo_Marconi#/media/File:Post_Office_Engineers.jpg

On July 2, 1900, the first Zeppelin flew over Lake Constance in Germany. One hundred and two years later, on July 2, 2002, Steve Fossett became the first person to fly a hot air balloon solo around the world. Astrologist and physician Nostradamus died on Saturday, July 2, 1566. Thomas Savery patented the first steam engine July 2, 1698. Writer Hermann Hesse was born July 2, 1877. Engineer Guglielmo Marconi received a patent for the radio July 2, 1897. Tennis player Jean-Rene Lacoste was born July 2, 1904. He created the polo shirt.

Freytag Pyramid

July 2nd is the 183rd day of the year. If 2018 were a play, the inciting incident has happened and approaching the turning point. In Aristotle’s Poetics, the middle of your story is the place “that which follows something as some other thing follows it.” We are working towards the end, the place “that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity or as a rule, but has nothing following it.” Make sense? Yeah, me either. I mean, I understand the words, but they aren’t inspiring me either.

To describe the perfect story arch, and where we might be on that spectrum, I am going to use the 1988 horror movie The Blob:

  • A meteorite crashes, the Blob emerges and slimes its first victim.
  • Brian, Meg, and Paul find this victim and rush him to the hospital, but it is too late. The Blob dissolves him, and then Paul. Brian and Meg escape, while the Blob oozes out of the hospital to engulf a couple of teens drinking and making out in a car.
  • Movie heroes Brian and Meg plead for help from law enforcement, but no one believes them.
  • They meet at the local diner and find that the Blob has made it there first. It pulls a maintenance worker down a drain face-first and then chases Brian and Meg to a walk-in freezer. Surprisingly, it retreats and instead eats the diner owner and the sheriff before entering the sewer.
  • Meg and Brian run back to the police station, the dispatcher tells them the Deputy has left to inspect the meteor landing site. They find out the Blob is a Cold War-era military experiment that had been launched into space. The scientist who created the Blob orders the town quarantined.
  • Brian escapes. Meg saves her brother and his friend from the Blob at the movie theater. Mr. Scientist wants to trap it in there and blow it up, even if that means killing Meg and other Arborville residents.
  • Brian hears this and jumps on his motorcycle to save the day. The Blob eats the scientist and makes attacks more townsfolk. While putting out a fire that has engulfed a preacher who was warning about doomsday, Meg realizes the Blob retreated from the fire extinguisher. She remembers it also backed away from the walk-in freezer.
  • They retreat to the town hall, where it swamps the building and begins its final attack. They fight the Blob with liquid nitrogen, which flash-freezes and shatters.
  • In the end, we the Reverend again warning about a doomsday, and see that he has a tiny piece of Blob in a jar, leaving the world open to future destruction, and destined for a sequel.

So basically, if 2018 was the movie The Blob, admittedly, we’ve had a tough year. We’ve seen some shit, including the handyman getting sucked down the drain. The people in charge aren’t listening. No one is hungry anymore.

2018 has just come out of the walk-in freezer, and it’s time to come up with a plan. Your enemy is in the sewer. You have 183 days left, what are you going to do first? Beware of your fatal flaw.

Originally published at theanatomyofmelancholy.com on July 3, 2018.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.