Thursday, 30 June 2011
John Gower shooting an arrow into the "air" compartment of a spherical Earth in a portrait from his Vox Clamantis and Chronica Tripertita, from a revised edition published c. 1400 (before Gower's death): in English, text on above image in Vox Clamantis reads: "I throw my darts and shoot my arrows at the world. But where there is a righteous man, no arrow strikes. But I wound those who live wickedly. Therefore let him who recognizes himself there look to himself": image by Bkwillwm, 30 November 2005 (Glasgow University Library)
Fulofte time a man hath lost
The large cote for the hod [hood].
John Gower, Confessio Amantis, c. 1390 v. 4785
Medieval artistic representation of a spherical Earth, with compartments representing earth, air and water: detail from a portrait of John Gower, c. 1400 (see above): image by Leinadz, 21 January 2006 (Glasgow University Library)
Partial lunar eclipse: photo by Graham.Beverley, 16 August 2008; image by Tomruen, 16 February 2009
Oblate (flattened) spheroid. Because of the combined effects of gravitation and rotation, the earth's shape is roughly that of a spheroid slightly flattened in the direction of its axis. For this reason, in cartography the earth is often represented by an oblate spheroid rather than a sphere: original image by AugPi, using Mathematic, 2004; this image by Anarkman, 3 July 2005
Venn's four ellipse construction: four ellipses with all 15 possible intersections: image by RupertMillard, 24 February 2009
Different types of horseshoes used in World War I, horseshoe on left with frost-nail; from collection of Mémorial de Verdun: photo by historicair, 13 October 2006
Projection of the Lorenz attractor (icon of chaos theory), example of a non-linear dynamical system: plot of the trajectory Lorenz system for values ρ=28, σ = 10, β = 8/3: image by Wikimol/DSchwen, January 2006
Textile Cone Snail (Conus textile), with tesselated shell pattern development showing the generation of complex, seemingly-random patterns from an initial simple structure (an illustration of Rule 30, describing aperiodic, chaotic behaviour of a one-cellular automaton), Great Barrier Reef, Australia: photo by Richard Ling, 2005
Silver crystal growth over a ceramic substrate: JEOL microscope image by Fernando Estel, 29 January 2008
No detail‥.was too small to be passed over. ...‘For want of a nail,’ as the proverb said.
Mary McCarthy: from Missionaries & Cannibals, 1979
A simple torus fading out to a wireframe structure, simulating a cellular automaton with infinite periodic tiling: POV-Ray image by Kieff, 10 October 2006
Sphere-like degenerate torus. A torus is a surface obtained by revolving a circle about a coplanar axis in three dimensional space. As the distance from the circle's center to the axis of revolution approaches zero, the torus becomes a spindle and then degenerates into a sphere: POV-Ray image by Kieff, 19 May 2007
A zafu, pouffe-shaped traditional seat cushion used in zazen (sitting meditation): photo by Dontpanic, 2 March 2008
"...the large coat for the hood": Inuit woman's parka, made from skins of summer caribou, early 1900s: image by Leoboudv, 4 February 2010 (University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology)
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
A curious thing to consider is an author.
This is commonly the writer of a book, & c.; or the originator of an event, policy or state of affairs. The term derives from the Latin augeo, to increase or promote. There is thus a natural inflation built into an author.
From this extends authority, a power, or right, to enforce obedience. The root is auto -- from the Greek autos: self, own, of or by oneself. Related, then, in Greek is authentes: one who does something by himself. Thus our authentic: trustworthy, entitled to acceptance (of a statement); genuine, not forged (of documents, pictures, etc.).
Johnson, in his Dictionary, calls an author "the first beginner of a thing; the writer of a book, opposed to a compiler." And he gives the related terms:
authentick: genuine, original, provable.
authenticate: to establish.
authenticity: authority, genuineness.
authoritative: having authority.
authority: legal power, influence, role.
authorize: to give authority, to justify.
Your author, then, is someone who produces himself as an authority, by puffing himself up, or bigging up, as is sometimes now said.
What he produces would thus naturally be trustworthy, as it is he who has produced it.
There is perhaps something a bit circular in all this, one murmurs. And the author replies firmly: just trust me.
But a very few of the better authors (most of them are dead, of course) say it with a conspiratorial wink that for a moment takes you into the joke.
Johnson was an author and an authority. He was to be trusted. Yet one wonders. Alone, Johnson suffered terribly from strange guilts that seem to have caused him to do physical harm to himself. It may be thought the burden of his own authority was terrible for this great author. He is to be trusted, perhaps, because his example teaches us that the most solid exterior often conceals something that should not be completely trusted.
The poet Horace -- a noted author -- put the problem thus:
Nil fuit unquam
Sic impar sibi
or: Surely such a various creature -- as an author, Horace means -- never was known. That is: There never was known a creature less worth trusting.
The author lies to tell the truth and tells the truth to lie, flatters to deceive and deceives to flatter, yet is widely received as wise and thought good.
Nevertheless those brilliant and intriguing features the public habitually attributes to an author often evaporate upon contact with the atmosphere of planet Earth. Loving an author, one has pressed a ghost to one's bosom, it is too often found.
Still authors run deep. The seas are smooth, the wind fair for the author, like one who, upon land, teaches the art of navigation.
Monday, 27 June 2011
Walter Benjamin: from "Try to Ensure that Everything in Life Has a Consequence", fragment written c. 1932, unpublished in the author's lifetime; translated by Rodney Livingstone in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings: Volume 2 (1927-1934), 1992
Roadside signs, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico: photo by Laura Hertzfeld, 18 March 2009
Older Chinese man, emerging almost invisibly from Saturday evening street crowd, snuck up behind X and, discreetly looking away as he passed as if careful to avoid humiliating the frail dreadlockt mendicant, slipt two rolled up Jacksons into his paper cup, before vanishing back into the busy pedestrian flow.
United States Post Office, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico: photo by Laura Hertzfeld, 18 March 2009
6.422 When an ethical law of the form, 'Thou shalt...' is laid down, one's first thought is, 'And what if I do not do it?' It is clear, however, that ethics has nothing to do with punishment and reward in the usual sense of the terms. So our question about the consequences of an action must be unimportant. -- At least those consequences should not be events. For there must be something right about the question we posed. There must indeed be some kind of ethical reward and ethical punishment, but they must reside in the action itself. (And it is also clear that the reward must be something pleasant and the punishment something unpleasant.)
Ludwig Wittgenstein: from Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921, translated by D. F. Pears and B. F. MGuinness, 1961
Ralph Edwards with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, 1956: photo by NBC Burbank; screen capture by Oaktree b, 18 March 2009
The show was the brainchild of Ralph Edwards, who said he got the idea from the popular parlour-game Forfeits. The first audience-participation gameshow program of its kind, Truth or Consequences became an instant hit with listeners. Later it morphed into an even more successful network TV show.
The show seemed to strike a deep chord in the secret soul of the American citizen, who, it seemed on this evidence, faced with the option, would prefer not to tell the truth -- even if that decision might bring embarrassing, even personally humiliating consequences.
Cover of Action Comics # 127 (December 1948): art by Al Plastino; image by J Greb, 23 May 2007
Approaching the tenth anniversary of the program, in 1950, Ralph Edwards announced that the gala anniversary show, certain to command the rapt attention of a mass audience across the nation, would be hosted in any town in America that would change its name to Truth or Consequences.
MGR-1B Improved Honest John Surface-to-Surface Missile being launched during testing at White Sands Missile Test Range, 30 miles east of Truth or Consquences, New Mexico: US Army photo via White Sands Missile Range Museum (US ARMY)
I visited Truth or Consequences shortly after the town changed its name. I recall very little from that visit, but, were I to be telling the truth here, this post would probably be one of its unintended consequences.
This is all a matter of little consequence in any case. The truth is it was wicked hot, some tainted barbecue had entered the picture somewhere along the way and the wee person in the metaphysical compartment of the brain was still cowering back there in the tremulous transit of White Sands, where the road signs in the Test Range Zone had said, Do not stop, do not under any circumstances get out of your car, Be advised that disregarding this warning may have serious consequences.
Lightning strike over White Sands, east of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico: photo by South Central New Mexico Council of Governments, 2010
"The genuineness of an expression cannot be proved; one has to feel it." -- Very well, -- but what does one go on to do with this recognition of genuineness? If someone says, "Voila ce que peut dire un coeur vraiment épris" -- and if he also brings someone else to the same mind, -- what are the further consequences? Or are there none, and does the game end with one person's relishing what another does not?
There are certainly consequences, but of a diffuse kind. Experience, that is varied observation, can inform us of them, and they too are incapable of general formulation; only in scattered cases can one arrive at a correct and fruitful judgment, establish a fruitful connexion. And the most general remarks yield at best what looks like the fragments of a system.
-- Ludwig Wittgenstein: from Philosophical Investigations, Part II, c. 1949, translated by G E. M. Anscombe, 1953
Runway, Northrup Range, Space Harbor at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico: photo by Sterling Brooks, 1980; image by 4311D, 9 December 2008
Sunset over White Sands National Monument, New Mexico: photo by Franzinho, 22 August 2009
Sparse vegetation in the gypsum dunes of White Sands National Monument: photo by Daniel Schwen, 4 April 2004
Dunes at White Sands National Monument: photo by Jennifer Wilbur, 17 December 2004
White Sands, New Mexico: photo by davebluedevil, 18 May 2003
Military personnel at White Sands National Monument: photo by Daniel Schwen, 4 April 2004
ROAD CLOSED sign on US Route 70 and 82, posted during missile testing at White Sands Range, White Sands National Monument: photo by US National Park Service, 2007 (USNPS)
Trinity Site historical marker along US 380: photo by Df206, 1 November 2008
Scale model of first atomic bomb detonated at Trinity Site: photo by White Sands Missile Range Museum; image by Dickbauch, 26 January 2005
Aerial view showing the Jornada del Muerto Desert region, with dry lake, Tularosa basin, New Mexico: astronaut photo by NASA, 29 December 2003; image by Earth Sciences and Image Analysis, NASA-Johnson Space Center (NASA)
Aerial view showing the Carrizozo Malpais as the long dark steak across the bottom half of the image. The red arrowhead marks the location of Trinity site. Sierra Blanca is visible at lower right, and the low ridge towards the top of the photo is the Oscura Mountains: astronaut photo, taken from an altitude of 198 miles, by NASA, 29 December 2003; image by Earth Sciences and Image Analysis, NASA-Johnson Space Center (NASA)
The route of the Jornada del Muerto [Journey of the Dead Man] Trail, New Mexico: image by Thaddeus P. Bejnar, 4 May 2006, based on US Bureau of Land Management maps of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and the Jornada del Muerto
Carrizozo Malpais lava flow, New Mexico. The lava flow varies in width from 1 kilometre along its slender neck to 5 kilometres at either end. Within its curving borders, the Carrizozo lava flow has a uniform dark colour, thanks to its basalt content. Basalt tends to flow easily, and this lava flow is described as a pahoehoe flow -- advancing through lobes or toes that separate from a cooled crust. The high point on Carrizozo is Little Black Peak. This is a cinder cone -- a simple type of volcano made from congealed droplets and blobs of lava that erupted from a single vent. Near the lava flow’s north-eastern end is the town of Carrizozo. Both south-east and north-west of the lava flow, the landscape appears dark, but this results not from volcanic rocks but from vegetation-lined hills: image by Jesse Allen/NASA Earth Observatory, using data provided by the US Geological survey Landsat-7 satellite, 30 July 2009 (NASA)
View north across Malpais lava field to nested spatter cones of the Jornada del Muerto Volcano: photo by Cory Boehne, 1 August 2010
Saturday, 25 June 2011
Tavern on South Side of Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
Negro swinging his girl on roller skates. Savoy Ballroom, Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
Having fun at roller skating party at the Savoy Ballroom: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
Having fun at rollerskating rink of Savoy Ballroom, Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
Rollerskating on Saturday night at the Savoy Ballroom, Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
Entertainers at Negro tavern, Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
Movie theater, South Side of Chicago: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress
Sign indicating that apartment house is being vacated by whites and will be rented to Negroes, Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
Repairing part of apartment building on South Side of Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
Back of apartment house rented to Negroes, South Side of Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
Front room of apartment rented by Negroes, Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
Detail of room gutted by fire in apartment house formerly rented by Negroes, Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
House on Federal Street in the Negro section of Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)
House in the Negro section of Chicago, Illinois: photo by Russell Lee, April 1941 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)