July 16th: Night of the Living

Zombies as portrayed in the movie Night of the Living Dead (1968)

George Romero died July 16, 2017. He made Night of the Living Dead. I guess those zombies are supposed to look scary, but to me, they just look like a horde of stepdads heading for the fridge in the middle of the night. And what’s with the one on the left? Did he just get back from a toga party?

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in the film Roberta (1935)

Born on July 16th: Saint Clare of Assisi, 1194. Her feast day is August 11th and her patronage includes eye disease, goldsmiths, laundry, television, embroiders, gilders, good weather, and needleworkers.

Also poet Susan Wheeler, 1955; actress and dancer Ginger Rogers, 1911; and farmer and popcorn extraordinaire Orville Redenbacher, 1905. Also artist Charles Sheeler, 1883; journalist and civil rights activist Ida Wells, 1862; and elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver, 1925. When she was twenty years old, she worked at the Empire State Building. On July 28, 1945, what was to be her last day of work with her fiance was returning home from the war, she survived an elevator crash that dropped her 1,000 feet. She was working on the 80th floor when a B-25 bomber accidentally crashed into the building on the 79th floor.  The blow caused the elevator car cables to snap and sent her into a 1,000-foot free fall. This plunge is still listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Although she never returned to regular work at the Empire State Building, five months later, she returned to the building and rode the elevator to the top.

The engine and part of the wing of a B-25 bomber are seen protruding from the Empire State Building after it crashed into the 79th floor of the structure in New York, July 28, 1945. (ERNIE SISTO/AP Photo)

For today: Interestingly, the 16th card in the tarot deck is The Tower, which the above AP photo kind of reminds me of. The card shows a tower being hit by lightning, and on fire, sometimes with people falling from it. The card is supposed to symbolize sudden destruction and violent change but like all tarot cards, and sudden change come to think of it, does not have to be an altogether sinister card.

As far as what the 16th tarot card means for you, I predict you could and should soon have in your possession piles of exploding kernels that will truly teach us to not resist the idea that violent change could lead to something so much better, provided you also have butter. Hopefully, this will occur with one or more zombie movies in queue.

July 11th: An Artic Icarus

In an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole by hydrogen balloon, engineer and aeronaut Salmon August Andrée, accompanied by engineer Knut Frænkel, and photographer Nils Strindberg took off from Spitsbergen, Norway on July 11, 1897. They flew for 65 hours, but a series of unfortunate events including flying directionless into heavy storms, they crash-landed onto pack ice in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.

The Eagle sailing north, photographed from Danes Island

They had flown about 495 km, and spent the next three months attempting to head back over frozen terrain, eventually landing on the deserted Arctic island of Kvitøya sometime in October. The three of them died there and their whereabouts were a mystery until 1930 when their bodies (and Strindberg’s photo plates) were found by chance. It is said that Andree ignored many potential flaws in his plan, including that the balloon had come from Paris directly after being made, had never been tested, and was showing serious signs of leaking. He also ignored concerns that his devised method of steering the balloon with a series of weighted ropes might not be as effective as he claimed (which turned out to be true).

Two Horse, One Horse, No Horse 

The Lumière brothers demonstrated their invention of the cinématographe, the all-in-one camera, developer, and projector on July 11, 1895.

Their first film is 46 seconds and is called Sortie de l’Usine Lumière de Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory in Lyon).

This video shows all three versions, released about a year apart, in 1895, 1896, and 1897 respectively. Each version is often referred to by the number of horses seen in the shot.

Magician Harry Kellar was born July 11, 1849.  Apparently, he was known as the “Dean of Magic,” and specialized in illusions that involved the use of apparatuses. Also, he talked Harry Houdini out of attempting to catch a bullet. He wrote in a letter: “Don’t try the damn bullet catching trick, no matter how sure you may feel of its success. There is always the biggest kind of risk that some dog will ‘job’ you.” Also if you click on that link, there is a picture of the two of them that makes Kellar look an awful lot like Houdini’s ventriloquist dummy.

Night Scene, Paris 1913. Boris Grigoriev

Illustrator H.M. Brock was born July 11, 1875; followed by astronomer and author of Astronomy for Young Folks Isabel Martin Lewis in 1881; Russian painter Boris Grigoriev, in 1886; and writer E.B. White, in 1899. I trust you own The Elements of Style, yes?

Writer Alexander Afanasyev was born July 11, 1826. He published eight volumes of Russian fairytales and folktales.

Chester Gilette murdered Grace Brown on July 11, 1906, inspiring Theodore Dreiser‘s An American Tragedy. Also on July 11; Big Ben rang for the first time in 1859, and Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in 1804. Remember back before there was a musical, and we all knew about those two was from the milk commercial?

Affirmation for your morning: It’s a wise dog that scratches its own fleas.

Hair of the dog that bit you: sheepdog

Number of horses in the shot: 1

For today: horse betting?

a slightly different version of this was first published July 12, 2018 at www.theanatomyofmelancholy.com

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 6th: Helkavirsiä & the Wheel of Fortune

Anatomist Albert von Kölliker was born in July 6, 1817 in Switzerland. That’s his hand in Röntgen’s 1896 x-ray. Also artists Frida Kahlo and Marc Chagall were born on July 6th, 1907 and 1887 respectively. Finnish poet Eino Leino was born July 6, 1878.

Eino Leino Helkavirsiä 1903 cover by Pekka Halonen.
X-ray of Kölliker’s hand, made by Röntgen on January 23, 1896.

Also born today:

Ballet dancer Francisco Moncion in 1918, First Lady Nancy Reagan in 1921, Merv Griffin, creator of the Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, in 1925; and actress Janet Leigh in 1927.

Frida Kahlo

Technically the tarot card for today is the 6th Major Arcana card, The Lovers, but in honor of Merv Griffin’s birthday, I am calling it the Wheel of Fortune, the 10th card. It is a card that symbolizes big life questions, turning points, karma, and fate. I will assume you are looking for heads or tails on some of life’s big questions, so

The Wheel of Fortune Tarot Card Meaning in Readings: the Unpredictable

peanut butter & jelly: peanut butter

bread & butter: bread

fish & chips: chips

bricks & mortar: mortar

crime & punishment: crime

salt & pepper: pepper

birds & bees: bees

lost & found: lost

slip & slide: slip

gin & juice: juice

forgive & forget: forgive

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 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

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.