Keep Your Pants On

Saint  Pantaleon, Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, 13th century

I really dropped the ball on July 27th, but it is the Catholic Feast Day of Saint Pantaleon, Martyr of Nicomedia (modern day Turkey). He is the Patron Saint of physicians, apothecaries, midwives, livestock, the lottery and lottery winners, called on against headaches, consumption, locusts, witchcraft, accidents, and loneliness, and helper for crying children. Possibly, his name is involved in the origin of the word pants.

That is quite a to-do list. Now I really don’t feel like I have the flimsiest excuse for not getting through mine today, although I did help a crying child (though my own of course, so that probably doesn’t count either). Oh well. Hope you bought a lottery ticket!

Pantalone, by Maurice Sand

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.

.

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.

Carry Moonbeams Home in a Jar

Would You Like to Swing on a Star? from the 1976 album Sunday Street by Dave Van Ronk. I would very much prefer it if you listen to this while you read about June 30th.

June 30th is the birthday of singer Lena Horne, musician Stanley Clarke, folk singer Dave Van Ronk; and Lithuanian poet Czesław Miłosz. Also born on June 30th: Engineer and inventor of the modern hot air balloon Ed Yost; magician Harry Blackstone Jr, and sports broadcaster Harry Wismer.

Dave Van Ronk at Newport Folk Festival, 28th July 1963. (Photo by John Byrne Cooke Estate/Getty Images)

Today I will just send my sincerest congratulations along with an anecdote about Wismer as told by sportswriter George Plimpton: “He was an odd man. He used to say ‘Congratulations’ to many people he met, on the grounds that they had probably done something they could be proud of.”[18]

Publicity photo of sportscaster Harry Wismer. Public domain.
One For My Baby (and One More for the Road), Lena Horne, 1957

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 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.

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.