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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

1510 Again

This essay draws liberally from a prior post entitled 1510, which unfortunately neglected to mention a philosopher of great merit and even greater smallness. His Latin name is Trochilidae and I shall tell him of the correction first thing in the morning when he goes to his feeder.

["La scuola di Atene" by Raphael - File:Sanzio 01.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -]

Over this text is a fresco. Fresco is painting in wet plaster. Not freehand, that would admit too many variables even for Raphael, who did this one between 1509 and 1511. One starts with sketches and incorporates their primary lines into a cartoon. Cartoon is a drawing on stout paper, same size as projected fresco, which one goes at with a pounce wheel --bigger than tailors use on patterns but same principle-- then the image is transferred to the wall by puffing charcoal through the holes. After that, one paints real fast before the plaster dries. Tricky work. Raphael produced the above fresco entitled "School Of Athens". It was intended to decorate the Stanza della Segnatura, or Popehouse, not to be confused with Pumphouse (see below):

The resident philosopher-defender of our Pumphouse is the celebrated Trochilidae, whose followers are required to flap their arms 80 times per second. His efforts to convert me have largely failed.

But the Popehouse was for Julius II and Leo X, whose careers coincided so closely it's pardonable to assume they were roomies. The fresco is in a chamber dedicated to human intellect. That means there were intellectual things in there. Leo kept a pet named Hanno. I don't know if Hanno was an indoor elephant or an outdoor one --or if it was housetrained (lack of housetraining is why I became a gardener), but suspect it was the reason Julius moved out.

The fresco was Raphael's idea of what a college should look like: philosophers of all ages lounging around on the steps of fantastic architecture, learning and teaching, fiddling with stuff like kittens do. He's got everybody on those stairs from Socrates to Sartre --even Zoroaster and himself! When I first saw a slide of this thing in college, I looked down at my hard desk, my unlaundered jeans, sensible shoes and despaired. How much easier it would be each morning to simply roll out of bed in one's sheet and wear that all day, and how'd Raphael know about Sartre?

Togas were a pre-Christian-missionary invention. You didn't have to make outfits to clothe the naked. You just let them spin into yours if they wanted. I remember college and know many of the naked didn't want to be clothed. One made friends among the naked and would not dream of insulting them with demands to cover up. But the composition has other points of interest. It includes Epicurius, Pythagorus, Xenophon, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Plato and Euclid. The central, reclining figure is Diogenes --but in Raphael's original cartoon, which now resides among the treasures of Milan, Diogenes is a talking duck in a sailor suit. They all devoted their lives to a calm inquiry into existence except Trochilidae, whose approach to philosophy was too aerobic for the Stanza della Segnatura Popehouse but secured him permanent welcome at the Pumphouse.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Geo.-Archival Enigma #3, Columbus 1893

I've been traveling, which confuses me, but not enough to launch a new post so I waited and fiddled around a few days and got into the stereoviews again. Got to thinking --especially after a phone confabulation with my sister this morning-- about forgetting, remembering and what makes us do one instead of the other. Let's begin with a view at Washington Park in Chicago from 1893.
We are looking at the world done up as an horticultural effect in a hand-colored view at the 1892 Columbia Exposition in commemoration of Christopher Columbus discovering the American continent. I should mention here that the 1892 Fair in Chicago didn't open until the middle of 1893. This was not due to negligence or indolence; it was because people were simply not so nervous about details as they are now. Colors are pretty but, even though --or perhaps because-- I was a career gardener, there is a feeling of inadequacy and forgetfulness in the photo. However...
...if you go round to a different topiarian hemisphere and arrange a family in front of it and don't charge anything extra, the world assumes a more memorable aspect. Color, then, would appear to be incidental to sentient composition. This group braving summer humidity in Sunday clothes impresses the viewer with convention and seriousness that was expected of people of all ages being photographed in 1893. Time to switch to a crowd shot, Opening Day!
And we do see a surging sea here of derbies and fruit-salad hats, but crowd-shots are not just about hats. They are about HER.

Oh, surely we might forget the demobbed soldier (#1.), the clerk in banking or mercantile (#2), the drover from a cattle-based kakistocracy that ruled west of the Mississippi (#3), a northeastern sheep rancher (#4), the athlete in sculling cap (#5), the farmer loosening his tie in crowded heat (#6), but surely the image that sends this crowd-shot into the future --that conforms to my sister's and my phone conclusion that forgetting bits of who we try to become is part of what we are-- is of one person laughing, delighted, as if suddenly materialized from cooler climes, or an air-conditioned wardrobe room, HER:
Hello Poppy!

Hello Geo.!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Enigmatic Bullet Train

In 2008, I recall voting favorably on a high-speed rail referendum which turned out to be the winning side. Wheee! Then, what with one California crisis and another, it hasn't got started yet. Maybe if I go back 4 or 5 years and reclaim some enthusiasm it will recharge the project. I have even taken a new picture of my 1924 copy of Practical Electrics magazine, which might be where the whole thing did or didn't get started to start with.
The high-speed railroad is to connect San Diego with San Francisco. An ambitious undertaking but is, in the current financial climate, surely on hold now. Maybe we could make the whole unit cheaper by modeling it after the one in old Hugo's magazine. Imagine an open-air rolleycoaster half the length of the state --a coastal coaster, from which we could wave our hats and scream in terror.

I have always hoped it would cure road rage, the anxiety, the madness.

Recently, researchers in psychology discovered anxiety is linked to pining, which is composed of equal parts wanting and liking. Interesting as it is to learn wanting and liking are linked to separate neurotransmitters, I still wonder why anxiety is considered a neurotic response to modern life. We've seen the operation of homeowners' associations, churches, workplaces, local and federal governments often fall into the hands of predators and two-bit tyrants. We hang on for dear life or join street gangs. No wonder our nerves are shot. Nobody sane is sane anymore.

When anxiety becomes our social norm we respond as cornered beasts, clawing and biting our ways to some imagined safety. Nowhere is this more keenly felt or easily observed than on roads. Freeways and surface streets become stages for a special sort of aggression. We find our homes, businesses, obligations and recreational interests connected by a gridwork of war. It involves mindless competition, tension, anger, intimidation and assault conducted with cars, which police rightly classify as deadly weapons.

Police called in consultants, urban planners, traffic engineers, psychologists and psychics, to analyze the problem. Their conclusion was unanimous: bad vibes. As always, "bad vibes", as an analysis, failed to penetrate the problem to any useful depth. Police resorted to a study of literature.

Around 1840, poet Wm. Channing wrote to Thoreau: "I see nothing for you on this earth but that field which I once christened Briars; go out upon that, build yourself a hut, and there begin the grand process of devouring yourself alive. I see no alternative, no other hope for you." Afterwards, Thoreau planned and conducted his effort to "front only the essential facts of life" , to go into the woods and live deliberately.

California law enforcement used to be unclear on what Channing meant by "devouring" one's self, but now see it as having to traverse combat zones that separate all locations --peaceful enterprises divided by rolling artillery. Clearly, one can digest and eliminate those qualities that interfere with happiness, self-worth and a useful place in nature, but the process hasn't progressed beyond individual adjustment. This is not to say mechanized society is not devouring itself at large, but what will remain after it feeds would probably not produce Walden.

Things seemed at an impasse.

But fate and chance intervened. The word, surrealist, was coined by Guillaume Apollinaire and first appeared in the preface to his play Les Mamelles de Tirésias. In 1917 M. Apollinaire was walking home from the premiere performance when he fell through a hole in his shoe into the 21st century. The opportunity was seized and police retained him as the first consulting surrealist in traffic management.

His recommendations were simple: "These cars, with their headlights squinting like wicked little eyes, their grimacing grills, make them angrier! But yes, the huge SUV with its predatory teeth and sedans crouched to dive into underground dens --make them look more than evil. Make them fanged, squat and mad enough to curl up and devour themselves. No car can change the world by looking merely upset!"

Recently, our governor released news of M. Apollinaire's return to 1917. We were told the poet had climbed back into his shoe after a series of brilliant recommendations. Cars will get increasingly cannibalistic and psychotic-looking until they are consumed and even the most adrenaline-addicted, cash-strapped drivers give up in disgust to help lay track along the California coast.

Personally, I'm still pining for a rolleycoaster. Wheeeee!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Brain Waves!

Those kind readers who followed my recent sermon are familiar with the grumpy barncat in its concluding Normaphoto.
Grumpy Barncat has moved on and his post has been assumed by another. I call this one Oblivious Barncat.
Oblivious Barncat never opens its eyes. Its job is to generate Theta Waves with its brain. Theta Waves indicate the state of very deep relaxation of hypnosis and Dream Sleep. Brain waves are slowed to a frequency of 4-7 Hertz (cycles per second). Cat brains are about 1/40th the size of human brains so they might be easier to relax. Conversely, this theory accords each human skull an equivalent of 40 cat-brains, and all they do is fight in there so we'll dismiss that notion and proceed to a graph.

Above is a very accurate recorded signature of a Theta wave. It was accomplished by plotting the path of a cat (from point A to point A') and reducing its directional convolutions to a Hertzian framework of one second. It is also an accurate positional graph of a man my age looking for  his car keys or of a housefly's attention span. I must go lie down now.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Photographic Enigma

I am not new to photography, the science of Daguerre, Eastman, Wheatstone, Fox Talbot, Claudet. I am capable in darkrooms, which is the best that can be said of anybody. But with the advent of digital cameras I am once again an ignorant primitive.

It is the Computer Age. This means one can find out anything and clear things up. Above is a picture taken with a digital camera of my stunt double holding one of our grandchildren. By way of clarification I have called my wife Stunt Double for many years for some reason --perhaps because she steps in when babies need proper holding. I forget her real name. But, point is, with a computer I can find out important stuff about her.

For instance, I can type "My Stunt Double" into this computer and translate it into Russian: 2 времени мое затруднение роста. Then I can translate "2 времени мое затруднение роста" back into English, which is "Twice my growth obstruction." Learning doesn't get more exciting than that. But there are drawbacks.

My 35mm Mamiya/Sekor 1000TL SLR camera is only 50 years old and now collects dust. It and the skills it required are obsolete. My wife could never master its intricacies but bought a computerized digital camera and takes perfect pictures every time she uses it. I, on the other hand, have trouble.

Consider the photo above, which I took because a baby needed holding in its composition. This is not a thing one leaves to chance (me), so my Stunt Double stepped in and I was given the digital camera. As you can see, it would have been a perfect photo had not two things happened: house tilted to 45-degree angle; someone detonated an Atomic Bomb right outside the window.

So, wasn't my fault. 50 years ago my elders used to ask me,"Why are you so serious? You are young and should be making an idiot of yourself!" To which I would answer, there will be time for that when I'm your age. Idiots obsolete? I think not, neither is the old Hollywood adage:"There's no economy in a cheap stunt double."  --I mean, 2 времени мое затруднение роста, or do I?