Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Beer and onions in the afternoon

The Last Day of Pompeii by Karl Bryullov

Nostalgia - Billy Collins

Remember the 1340's? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.

You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.

Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called "Find the Cow."
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today.

Where has the summer of 1572 gone? Brocade and sonnet
marathons were the rage.
We used to dress up in the flags
of rival baronies and conquer one another in cold rooms of stone.

Out on the dance floor we were all doing the Struggle
while your sister practiced the Daphne all alone in her room.

We borrowed the jargon of farriers for our slang.

These days language seems transparent a badly broken code.

The 1790's will never come again.
Childhood was big.

People would take walks to the very tops of hills
and write down what they saw in their journals without speaking.

Our collars were high and our hats were extremely soft.

We would surprise each other with alphabets made of twigs.

It was a wonderful time to be alive, or even dead.

I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821.

Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.

And I would love to return to 1901 if only for a moment,
time enough to wind up a music box and do a few dance steps,
or shoot me back to 1922 or 1941, or at least let me
recapture the serenity of last month when we picked
berries and glided through afternoons in a canoe.

Even this morning would be an improvement over the present.

I was in the garden then, surrounded by the hum of bees
and the Latin names of flowers, watching the early light
flash off the slanted windows of the greenhouse
and silver the limbs on the rows of dark hemlocks.

As usual, I was thinking about the moments of the past,
letting my memory rush over them like water
rushing over the stones on the bottom of a stream.

I was even thinking a little about the future, that place
where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine,
a dance whose name we can only guess.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

When clocks were art as well as timepieces

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Clocks are ubiquitous and understated today. However, when clocks were expensive, complex and somewhat exotic pieces of machinery they were often wrapped in elaborate sculptures and other decorative flourishes.

Here are a few examples, and there are more after the jump.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Machine to set up a row of dominos

Above is a video of a machine to set up rows of dominos so's you can knock them over. The machine is made out of wood and is an amazing example of engineering and woodworking. The article Wooden domino row building machine has, along with the video, a large number of photos detailing the step-by-step process of building the domino row making machine.

The Woodgears site has many other projects as well. Found via SwissMiss.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Hidden Buddha

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The Makomanai Cemetery outside of Sapporo, Japan, wanted to highlight the huge Buddha statue they had on their grounds. They hired Tadao Ando to do just that, and he solved the problem by hiding the statue. From Spoon and Tamago's  article Ando Tadao’s Hill of Buddha:

“Our idea was to cover the Buddha below the head with a hill of lavender plants,” said Ando. Indeed, as you approach “Hill of Buddha” the subject is largely concealed by a hill planted with 150,000 lavenders. Only the top of the statue’s head pokes out from the rotunda, creating a visual connection between the lavender plants and the ringlets of hair on the Buddha statue’s head.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Norwegian Wood

Get ready for an avian weekend with Marike Jager, Bertolf, JB Meijers and Joël Bons covering Norwegian Wood.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Street Fighting Men

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Above is Gustave Doré's The Enigma. It shows a battle field, with dead soldiers scattered in the foreground. Chillingly, mixed with ther soldiers' corpses are also the bodies of a family -- a father, mother, and two children -- embracing each other in death. The battle seems to have moved on, for in the background we see smoke rising from the flames of further conflict.

In the center foreground, as the focus of the painting, are two metaphysical beings: an angel and a sphinx. They stare intently at each other, almost in an embrace. If you look up information on the painting it was done in the aftermath of France losing the Franco-Prussian war and the angel represents France in defeat and the sphinx is posing the unanswerable riddle, "why war?"

Before reading Doré's explanation of the painting, I thought of the two mythical creatures as the prime movers of the conflict. The two forces that were behind the seemingly endless and ever spreading battle. In the middle of that chaos they confront each other, touch each other, as if their arousal by the violence was the purpose of it all.

Well, yeah, I read the painting wrong, but for this post I'll go with the wrong reading. 

I've watched a number of videos of antifa and the hard cases on the alt-right; and by hard cases of the alt-right I don't mean Trump supporters protesting, I mean the type that go to protests intending to punch back at the antifa goons. The videos are ugly, with both sides circling each other like barking dogs working up the courage to lunge in and bite.

Politics and current events aside, at a certain level both groups are just street fighters looking for a brawl. It is what they want to do, and they need each other to do it. They are like the angel and the sphinx in my misreading of Doré's painting, lovingly embracing each other oblivious of the carnage around themselves.

Sadly, we are the carnage. We need to push them all back to the fringe, and not at the focus which they more and more dominate. We will all suffer the longer the thugs run wild. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Alchemical Illustrations

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La Boite Verte's post Des illustrations de manuscrits d’alchimie has a good collection of Alchemist illustrations. These images, and those after the jump, are a sample of some of those images. Their esoteric nature makes them fascinating, with a hint of magic and the dark arts about them.

La Boite Verte is in French, but it is easy to find the links to their sources, which are in English. Also, there are many more -- and larger -- images at La Boite Verte.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ain't No Sunshine

To get you in the mood for the solar eclipse here's Hillary Wallace And The Death's cover of Ain't No Sunshine.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The World's Littlest Skyscraper

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In the early years of the 20th century Witchita County, Texas was experiencing an oil boom. Many people were moving there for jobs and the local infrastructure was stressed, with office space in particular being in short supply.

To solve that problem J.D. McMahon, a Philadelphia developer, proposed building a skyscraper in the town of Witchita Falls and started selling stock in his venture. Investors poured some $200,000 into the venture.

However, when the towering skyscraper was built it was only 40ft tall, rather than the 480 feet the investors expected. Alas for them, the scale on the blueprints was in square inches, not square feet as they thought, and there was no remedy for the swindle.

In its day you could barely fit four desks into one of its floors and it fell into disuse. However, it somehow managed to avoid demolition over the decades, and in 2000 it was renovated and now serves as a tourist attraction and antique shop.

From Oddly Historical's post The World’s Littlest Skyscraper.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Folsom Prison Blues

Get ready for a weekend of doing time with this cover of the Johnny Cash song by Josh Turner and Carson McKee.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Western Saloons

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In the old west, after a hard day of herding doggies, gunning down buffalos and dodging Apache arrows, a man needed a place to wet his whistle. The saloon was just such a place. Here, and after the jump, are some old photos of those iconic drinking holes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


This video is filmed forwards, but made to look like it is being ran backwards. I found it looking for an old Steve Allen Tonight Show clip of the same sort of thing. He used to do a bit where they would act out a scene backwards, and then run it backwards to see how it looked going forwards. I never did find a clip of that gag from his show, so this will have to do.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Crown Shyness

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Crown shyness is an interesting effect among certain species of trees. When the trees grow in proximity their crowns will not touch, leaving a slight gap between them.

The causes of crown shyness are not known. It may be caused by abrasion between the outer twigs and leaves, a strategy to maximize sunlight, a barrier to the spread of parasitic insects, or some other reason altogether.

Found via Colossal Art

Sunday, August 13, 2017

An eagle's view of a flight

Freedom Conservation is a group, operating out of France, that breeds birds of prey and teached them to hunt before releasing them to the wild. They've attached cameras to some of the birds to create amazing videos of the birds in flight.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Stained Glass Windows

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It seems like I would have done a post about stained glass windows already, but I've looked through the archives and can't find one.

At any rate, the enormous mosaics of colored glass are amazing in their detail and artistry. These images show effects of the settings of stained glass windows, as well as details from them. There are more examples after the jump.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Space Oddity

Get ready for a celestial weekend with Gabrielle Aplin's cover of  Space Oddity.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

When you need music for a seduction

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A dapper fellow brings his portable radio to set the mood for a seduction in the woods. The young lady appears to be falling for the cad's suave move.

Picture swiped from Beachcombings' Bizarre History Blog, which is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Landing in Fukuoka Japan at the end of the war

A story about a U.S. cargo plane landing at Fukuoka Japan at the end of the war and being confronted with armed Japanese soldiers and a single low ranking Japanese officer. There is something off kilter about it -- it is hard to believe the civilian Japanese girl knows the war is over, but not the Japanese lieutenant. I would be curious to hear her version of the night. Still, it is a fascinating vignette from the end of WWII.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Landau Roof

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I had forgotten about the Landau roof --  the fake convertible tops that used to be ubiquitous. The style, which was meant to look like the movable tops of horse drawn carriages, started in the 1920s but quickly faded out of favor.

It returned in the 1960s and 70s as a styling touch which was meant to invoke luxury. As explained in Motoring Research's article A brief history of the vinyl roof, covered:
In 1955, Ford had created a so-called ‘Personal Luxury Car’ segment with the Thunderbird – a car majoring on style and luxury, rather than performance and handling. If any car was able to provide a suitable platform for the second coming of the vinyl roof, it was the T-bird.

Step forward the 1962 model, which offered more than 100 improvements compared to the previous Thunderbird, along with the option of a vinyl-covered hardtop coupe. It even re-introduced landau bars as a styling touch – a feature not seen since the 1920s.

Suddenly, the vinyl roof developed ideas above its station (certainly above a car’s roofline). No longer positioned as styling garnish, the vinyl roof was now a must-have option for the style-conscious and drivers of good taste. As least that’s what the manufacturers wanted us to believe.

Ford claims the Thunderbird “reached its pinnacle as a personal luxury car” with the 1975 model, offering features such as concealed windscreen wipers, an opera window, solid-state ignition, electric windows, automatic seat-back release, white-wall tyres and – you’ve guessed it – a dense-grain vinyl roof.

Tick the ‘Silver Luxury Group’ option box and “discriminating owners” could enjoy “exterior accoutrements” such as a padded Silver Odense grain half-vinyl roof, or a full-vinyl roof when combined with an electrically-operated glass moonroof. Opt for the ‘Copper Luxury Group’ and the vinyl roof was finished in a shade of copper. Americans had never had it so good.
However, like most ghastly 1970s styles, they again lost popularity and these days are mainly considered as pointless and faintly ludicrous details. Regardless, there is an aftermarket for Landau roofs if you have a hankering for one.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Back Streets of Delhi

Long-time regulars will know I have a fascination for videos of people just walking down streets. In this video an Australian (I think) fellow films some back streets in Delhi, India. It is interesting how many people say hello to him on his little jaunt.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Official WWI Art of the American Expeditionary Forces

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Upon entering WW1 the U.S. Government selected 8 artists and commissioned them as Captains to record the war for the public. From Picturing World War I: America's First Official War Artists, 1918-1919:
By spring 1918 the artists were in France, busy at work. Both the American and French high commands gave the artists carte blanche to travel where they would in the war zone and to draw whatever they saw. They took full advantage of their freedom to create images of men, machines, and landscapes from the ports of debarkation to the front lines. Ultimately they produced more than 700 sketches, drawings, and paintings. Their work fell into four broad categories: warscapes, which depicted devastated landscapes and damaged buildings, usually with little or no human presence; soldier life and activities, both at work and at rest behind the lines; military technology and engineering, with particular attention to such novelties as tanks, planes, and motor vehicles, as well as the AEF’s logistical underpinnings; and combat.
These images of saome of their work are from the Smithsonian Institution archives collection:  Official Art from the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. There are more pictures after the jump, and of course many more at the link.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

There but for the Grace of God

If you've ever had a hankering to quit your day job and take up the carefree life of a hobo, now's your chance. Hobo Tough Life is a city survival simulation where you can test your mettle on the mean streets. Beg for money, dumpster dive, try not to smell like a pig or freeze to death, and more!

The game is much sillier than the trailer makes it out to be. Below is some gameplay from it.