July 10th: In Search of Lost Time


In Search of Lost Time First galley proof of A la recherche du temps perdu: Du côté de chez Swann with handwritten revision notes by Marcel Proust (1871 – 1922).

In Search of Lost Time

Born on July 10th: Painter Camille Pissarro, in 1831; creator of the daguerreotype, Louis Daguerre, in 1851; physicist Nikola Tesla, in 1856; writers Marcel Proust, in 1871 and Alice Munroe (one of my personal favorite writers), in 1931; and musicians Béla Fleck, in 1958 and Jelly Roll Morton, in 1941.

Photo: Laurent Lecat/Electa/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

July 10th is the birthday of Nancy Drew mystery writer Mildred Benson. She was born in 1905 and was the first of several writers who wrote under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene for the young adult mystery series.

On July 10, 1938, Howard Hughes began a 91-hour (3 days, 19 hours, and 17 minutes)  flight around the world that set a new world record.

On July 10, 1925, Meher Baba began his 44 years of silence, which lasted until his death in 1969.  July 10th is known as Silence Day to those that follow his teachings.

On July 10, 1913, the atmospheric temperature in Death Valley, California hit the highest ever recorded on Earth: 134 °F (57 °C), measured at Furnace Creek. According to the 2010 Census, Furnace Creek has a population of 24. In case you are curious, the interests of the residents of Furnace Creek are represented by Republicans for both the state and federal legislature:  Senator Tom Berryhill, guilty of money laundering in 2014;  the clearly engaged Congressman Paul Cook; and state assembly member Devon Mathis, who has allegedly been seen drunk on the job by former staffers, and much more troubling, accused of sexual assault. He seems like a real charmer worthy of holding public office.

Sounds like we have stumbled across the actual hell on earth.

For today: Nothing matters.  Be quiet and eat a madeleine.

a slightly different version of this post was first published July 10, 2018 at theanatomyofmelancholy.com

July 9th:  On Miasma and Contagia

Cholera “Tramples the victors & the vanquished both.”
Seymour, Robert, 1798-1836, artist

Physician and anatomist Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle was born on July 9, 1809. He is credited for discovering the renal tubule that bears his name known as the Loop of Henle. His essay On Miasma and Contagia survives as an early argument for germ theory. Before bacteria and viruses were understood, diseases were thought to be caused by miasma, or “bad air.” The word comes from Greek mythology, where miasma seems to have been a cross between an infectious force and karma. Henle published works on the structure of the lymphatic system, the integumentary system, and their connection to the formation of mucus and pus.

The formation of pus is an immune response, creating a fluid of mostly dead white blood cells called neutrophils. Have you ever seen macrophages engulf bacteria? Or if you really want to shudder, you could watch this video of things magnified under an electron microscope.

The Strange Death of President Zachary Taylor

Speaking of miasma, Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the United States, died July 9, 1850, from cholera morbus, or what those in my house call the squirts. His condition was surely not helped by the treatment of his White House physicians, who treated him with a combination of ipecac, calomel, opium, and quinine. In spite of a 1991 exhumation, no conclusive evidence was found to indicate he was purposely poisoned. Washington D.C. had open sewers at the time, and it is most likely he ate something contaminated at a July 4th celebration, where they were also fundraising for the Washington Monument, under construction at the time

Also speaking of miasma, July 9th is the birthdate of O.J. Simpson, Courtney Love, and Donald Rumsfeld.

Coming back into the light, July 9th is the birthdate of painter David Hockney, photographer Minor White, neurologist Oliver Sacks, and poet June Jordan.  Physicist John Wheeler was born July 9, 1911. His work is too vast to sum up here, but my favorite is his hypothesis of a one-electron universe. Murphy Anderson was born on July 9, 1926. He worked at DC comics for many years, on strips such as Superman, Batgirl, Zatanna, and Buck Rogers. Does anyone else remember the early 1980’s television incarnation of Buck Rogers? What a strange time to be alive.

July 9th is the feast day of Our Lady of Itatí, also known as the Virgin of Itatí. It’s also national sugar cookie day, a waste of an official day if ever I’ve heard one. Since July 9th has been overfilled with all of that bad air and pus, I think it is time that hypochondriacs have their day. It takes stamina to run from that black cloud day in and day out, and they deserve a shout-out. More than the goddamned sugar cookie at least.

There is a new moon tonight. Plan accordingly.

The author looking into the camera with what we can only assume is the 4 -year-old’s version of “WTF?” after unwrapping a metal Buck Rogers lunch box in December 1981.
[To clarify, I have never and will not ever express very much interest in science fiction, especially when asked for gift ideas. Note that I only said I remembered the Buck Rogers television show, not that I liked it].

a slightly different version of this post was published July 9, 2018 at www.theanatomyofmelancholy.com

July 7th: Stranger in a Strange Land

Belgian artist Félicien Rops was born on July 7, 1833. Also Belarusian poet Yanka Kupala, in 1882 and poet Margaret Walker, in 1915. Otto Rohwedder was born on July 7, 1880. He invented the first automatic bread slicing machine. The Chillicothe Baking Company sold the first loaves on July 7, 1928, on Rohwedder’s 48th birthday. Satchel Paige was born on July 7, 1906. Science fiction author Robert Anson Heinlein was born July 7, 1907.

The Human Parody, Félicien Rops circa 1881

Actress Shelly Duvall was born on July 7, 1949. Anyone else see The Shining way too young? That movie, along with the fear of hell’s eternal fire, and this wallpaper gave me many sleepless nights, staring into the abyss.

Yours truly, center, and my childhood version of The Yellow Wallpaper

There are a litany of symbols and superstitions around the number 7. But I am feeling very lazy so I will give you a list of the Seven deadly sins and wrap this up. Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. The deadliest for today: (I took care of sloth for you) Pride.

Today’s meditation: I mean is sliced bread really that great?

For today: Play a game of Chutes and Ladders.

July 5th: Crackers and Chastity

Giovannina is sitting on the windowsill, Pavel Chistyakov (1864)

July 5th Birthdays

1794: Reverend Sylvester Graham, inventor of the cracker, diehard Puritan if ever there was. Let’s just say I don’t think he would approve of s’mores.

Prof. A. E. Douglass and the original Steward Observatory 36-inch Telescope (moved to Kitt Peak in 1963). Public Domain.

1810: Co-founder of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus P.T. Barnum.

1832: Russian painter Pavel Christyakov.

1849: Victorian era journalist William Stead. Considered to have paved the way for tabloid journalism, he died in the sinking of the Titanic.  

1862: Microbiologist George Nuttall, who, along with William Welch, co-discovered Clostridium perfringens, the bacteria that causes gangrene.  

1867: Astronomer A.E. Douglass Founded dendrochronology, the method of calculating the age of a tree by counting its rings.

1889: Poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau.

Movie poster for Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orpheus

1996: Dolly the Cloned Sheep.

Today’s tarot card is the Hierophant, the fifth card in the Major Arcana, signifying tradition, dogma, and authority. However, 5’s in traditional tarot numerology mean change and instability. Also, the moon is in Mercury, bringing swift transmutation.

So should you change your mind or your outfit? Your outfit. The accuracy of my summary as they relate to your evening: call it the Barnum effect.

My tree-ring Venn diagram summarizing the energy of July 5th.

July 3rd: Superstition and the Dog Days of Summer

Canis Major & Lepus Astronomical Chart, Source: History.com

Sirius is part of the Canis Major constellation, lower and to the left of Orion. In mythology, the name Sirius is used in a variety of stories, including the dog of Icarus. If you are a superstitious sort, you can expect bad luck, intense heat, abrupt thunderstorms, fevers, flooding, and a generally more ill-tempered population. Many of them originate from Greek mythology. The hunting dog of Orion, his appearance was generally not a welcome omen. The Farmer’s Almanac entry cites Virgil’s description of Sirius “as a ‘bringer of drought and plague to frail mortals, rises and saddens the sky with sinister light.'”

Wow, I think our luck is about to change. While researching canine symbology and derivatives of the name Sirius, I think I might have stumbled upon something huge. Like New Testament or Star Trek: the Next Generation huge. Like they are blowing the lid off of all of everything and cracking it all wide open. It’s … a lot.

Either way, fortunately there is a wikiHow to save us: How to Get Rid of Bad Luck (with pictures!) I love wikiHow. Full disclosure: I inherited a good many superstitions from a childhood deeply influenced by 1st generation Italian grandparents, and I absolutely throw salt over my shoulder.

I’m off tomorrow, so catch you all on Monday. Be careful with fireworks, for serious.

Lucky number: 101

Affirmation: All dogs go to heaven

Good luck finding your way out there.

a slightly different version of this post was first published on theanatomyofmelancholy.com on July 3, 2018

July 2nd: 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.

.

July 1st: 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.

June 27th: 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.

July 5th: 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

July 2nd: 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.