The End and the Beginning

Following on the theme of last night’s halfmoon, we have reached the exact midpoint of the year (12 noon July 2nd).

Born on July 2nd: organ builder extraordinaire Arp Schnitger (as in musical instruments, not Dr. Frankenstein), French dancer Liane de Pougy; the last Queen of Bavaria Maria Theresa of Austria-Este; Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska; racecar driver Reg Parnell.

Reg Parnell

I’m not a racing expert (I am not really even that great at regular driving), but I am pretty sure you should be facing the other way.

July 2nd also marks the anniversary of the 1560 death of Nostradamus. Also the first Zeppelin flight in 1900 (three years before the first airplane). Also, the Lawrence Welk show debuted today in 1955. Electrical engineer Guglielmo Marconi obtained a patent for the radio in London on July 2, 1897.

So here we are, on the first day of the second half of the year, or in AA-speak the first day of the rest of your life. I think you should pause and read this lovely poem by Wislawa Szymborska. Then you and a group of your friends could play on a classic radio game or perhaps a virtual game of telephone? Or you could build an organ (the Dr. Frankenstein kind).

The End and the Beginning

BY WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA TRANSLATED BY JOANNA TRZECIAK

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

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As the World Turns

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Great Comet of 1819
, C/1819 N1, discovered July 1, 1819 by Johann Georg Tralles.

July 1st is the 202nd anniversary of the discovery of The Great Comet of 1819. In 1770, Lexell’s Comet came closer to the Earth than Considered a lost comet, Lexell’s Comet came in the closest proximity to Earth of any comet ever recorded. It came “super close” (not very close), and then sped off into the emptiness of space, and has never been seen again.

Born on July 1st: Writers George Sand, co-author of Elements of Style William Strunk Jr., and Irna Phillips. Known as “Queen of the Soaps, Phillips created Guiding Light, As the World Turns, and Another World.

Amy Johnson c. 1930

Also born on July 1st: painter and naturalist Willard Metcalf, mountaineer and founder of the Sierra Club David Brower, mathematician Jean Dieudonné, cosmetics entrepreneur Estée Lauder, and English pilot Amy Johnson.

Tonight the waning moon enters the last quarter moon. Half-lit by the sun, the moon has completed 3/4ths of its orbit. Some astrologers suggest we are more accident-prone during this time, or at least a little more clumsy. The moon is in Aires, which could make us fiery and impulsive. 

Overall a wonderful setup for a soap opera script which I would like you to draft using the cast of characters above. Bonus points if you can work in getting ghosted by a comet.

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.

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.

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.