November 13th, 2012

electronic bookbinding

Elektrobiblioteka / Electrolibrary from waldek wegrzyn on Vimeo.

Terrific project! Thanks Aengus for the heads-up.

October 26th, 2012

Lancelot Hogben

It turns out Lancelot Hogben was as impressive as his name promises.

I started reading about him after I found a copy of his 1938 book “Science for the Citizen”, illustrated by J.F. Horrabin. You can find this book on archive.org, but it doesn’t match the beauty of the printed version, in which text and diagrams melt into yellowed paper. It’s like a holy text. The attention to detail in the writing makes for educational luxury; it’s an educational text that actually has a soul and a sense of purpose.

From the Hogben’s introduction:

In the Victorian age big men of science like Faraday, T. H. Huxley, and Tyndall did not think it beneath their dignity to write about simple truths with the conviction that they could instruct their audiences. There were giants in those days. The new fashion is to select from the periphery of mathematicized hypotheses some half-assimilated speculation as a preface to homilies and apologetics crude enough to induce a cold sweat in a really sophisticated theologian who knows his job. With a few notable exceptions such as Simple Science by Andrade and Huxley and two volumes on British and American men of science by J. G. Crowther, this is a fair description of the state into which the writing of popular science has fallen hi contemporary Britain. The clue to the state of mind which produces these
weak-kneed and clownish apologetics is contempt for the common man. The key to the eloquent literature which the pen of Faraday and Huxley produced is their firm faith in the educability of mankind.

Apart from being a legendary zoologist, a writer, political activist and lecturer, Hogben was also a linguist. He invented Interglossa, an international language (‘a draft of an auxiliary for a democratic world order’).

Inimical to all traditional grammar, Hogben is certainly one of the most radical of all the interlinguists. He begins from the proposition that an international language is primarily of interest to scientists, and especially those from the East, who need an easy means of access to the conquests of Western science. All projects prior to his, which were always based on one or more European languages, were aimed solely at Western scholars. But of course the structure of the “Aryan” languages (that is, the Indo-Germanic and the Finno-Ugric languages) is not at all natural for a Japanese, a Chinese, or an African. In order to benefit these, an international language should be of the isolating, rather than the agglutinative, type, in contrast to all the previous attempts at universal languages.

More of that article here.

June 28th, 2012

would you like to come up and see my etchings?

Steven Pinker explains the phenomenon whereby we speak indirectly at one level of conversation as a means of insurance protecting the status of the relationship in question while we are negotiating on another level.

May 21st, 2012

make good art

Neil Gaiman offers advice to aspiring artists during his commencement address to Philadelphia’s University of the Arts via boingboing.

May 1st, 2012

twelfth night in colour

Graphic designer Konstantinos Mouzakis has created a representation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in coloured liquid. An Arduino processor operates a series of syringes containing coloured, emulsified water representing each character in the play.

Each character has a unique color that is poured in a tank according to the act, scene and time spent on speaking. The relations of the colors in the tanks represent the relations of the characters in the play. The 5 acts are demonstrated simultaneously in order to offer an overview of the play. The spread, the amount and the speed of every color is based on the emotional axis and the whole process can be controlled by the liquids’ chemical composition.

Regarding the technical part of the installation, there is a system of motorized syringes, controlled by a processor, so colors can be released with high precision. The transparent liquid in the tanks is consisted of water, alcohol and emulsifiers. Colors are a combination of acrylics, water and gelatine.

From MyShakespeare

April 22nd, 2012

dispose the day

April 12th, 2012

burton sells hopkins on the sea shore

Richard Burton reading Gerard Manley Hopkins.

The Leaden Echo And The Golden Echo
(Maidens’ song from St. Winefred’s Well)_

THE LEADEN ECHO

How to keep–is there any any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, lace, latch or catch or key to keep
Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, . . . from vanishing away?
O is there no frowning of these wrinkles, ranked wrinkles deep,
Down? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey?
No there’s none, there’s none, O no there’s none,
Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,
Do what you may do, what, do what you may,
And wisdom is early to despair:
Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done
To keep at bay
Age and age’s evils, hoar hair,
Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death’s worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay;
So be beginning, be beginning to despair.
O there’s none; no no no there’s none:
Be beginning to despair, to despair,
Despair, despair, despair, despair.

THE GOLDEN ECHO

Spare!
There is one, yes I have one (Hush there!);
Only not within seeing of the sun,
Not within the singeing of the strong sun,
Tall sun’s tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth’s air.
Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one,
One. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,
Where whatever’s prized and passes of us, everything that’s fresh and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone,
Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet
Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matched face,
The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet,
Never fleets more, fastened with the tenderest truth
To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an ever-lastingness of, O it is an all youth!
Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear, gallantry and gaiety and grace,
Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose locks, long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girlgrace–
Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath,
And with sighs soaring, soaring sighs deliver
Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death
Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.
See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair
Is, hair of the head, numbered.
Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould
Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept,
This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold
What while we, while we slumbered.
O then, weary then why should we tread? O why are we so haggard at the heart, so care-coiled, care-killed, so fagged, so fashed, so cogged, so cumbered,
When the thing we freely forfeit is kept with fonder a care,
Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept
Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder
A care kept. Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where.–
Yonder.–What high as that! We follow, now we follow.–
Yonder, yes yonder, yonder,
Yonder.

April 9th, 2012

the public domain review

I’ve only just acquainted myself with this website and already I am somewhere between impressed and in love… Two titles I’ve discovered via the site so far include Het Eerste Kabinet der Dieren and the Natural History of Shakespeare, and they are available online via archive.org

March 29th, 2012

classroom literature

Here is something I know: I feel better when I read — not just good, but better. Anxieties are assuaged, burdens lightened, relationships enriched. I feel part of something hopeful, a connection to the writer, the characters, other readers. I feel smart, if it is okay to say that. I am moved to act after reading — to write, to talk. I have new questions and fresh answers. And I am hardly alone. Anne Lamott knows that “when writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with the absurdity of life instead of being squashed by it over and over again.” After sharing stories, writer Barry Lopez feels exhilarated: “The mundane tasks which awaited me, I anticipated now with pleasure. The stories had renewed in me a sense of the purpose of my life.”

Here is something else I know: the power of literature to “renew a sense of purpose in our lives” gets killed in literature classrooms — unintentionally, no doubt, but killed nonetheless.

This isn’t an indictment. Writer Richard Ford found himself teaching literature as a graduate assistant in 1969 and realized, “What seemed worthwhile to teach was what I felt about literature . . . [literature] had mystery, denseness, authority, connectedness, closure, resolution, perception, variety, magnitude — value in other words . . . Literature appealed to me. But I had no idea how to teach its appealing qualities, how to find and impart the origins of what I felt.” This is a difficult question.

Jeff Hudson via 3QD. More here.

February 13th, 2012

egglers, alewives, and fruiterers

This webpage lists occupations common in the middle ages… Yielding some amusing and fascinating words.

For example, an eggler is an egg salesman, an alewife is a female public house keeper, and a fruiterer is a seller of fresh fruit.

(via kottke)

February 7th, 2012

drift

The noun ‘drift’ is so much more interesting when understood as anything that is ‘driven’. The drift of conversation, a drift of rain or snow or dust. I never thought about the core of the word before.

something driven, propelled, or urged along or drawn together in a clump by or as if by a natural agency: as
a : wind-driven snow, rain, cloud, dust, or smoke usually at or near the ground surface
b (1) : a mass of matter (as sand) deposited together by or as if by wind or water (2) : a helter-skelter accumulation
c : drove, flock
d : something (as driftwood) washed ashore
e : rock debris deposited by natural agents; specifically : a deposit of clay, sand, gravel, and boulders transported by a glacier or by running water from a glacier

merriam webster

January 28th, 2012

the solid, comfortable ugliness of the nineteenth century

George Orwell wrote a short essay on his favourite pub…

My favourite public-house, the Moon Under Water, is only two minutes from a bus stop, but it is on a side-street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there, even on Saturday nights.

Its clientele, though fairly large, consists mostly of “regulars” who occupy the same chair every evening and go there for conversation as much as for the beer.

If you are asked why you favour a particular public-house, it would seem natural to put the beer first, but the thing that most appeals to me about the Moon Under Water is what people call its “atmosphere.”

To begin with, its whole architecture and fittings are uncompromisingly Victorian. It has no glass-topped tables or other modern miseries, and, on the other hand, no sham roof-beams, ingle-nooks or plastic panels masquerading as oak. The grained woodwork, the ornamental mirrors behind the bar, the cast-iron fireplaces, the florid ceiling stained dark yellow by tobacco-smoke, the stuffed bull’s head over the mantelpiece —everything has the solid, comfortable ugliness of the nineteenth century.

Read further here. There’s an interesting note at the end.

January 8th, 2012

the impracticality of infinite information


I discovered the pictured device — a note-taking machine invented by one Vincentius Placcius — via a nice opinion piece on the BBC website about how we have dealt with information overload up until today.

In 1689 a professor at the University of Hamburg with a passion for new technologies, unveiled a device for managing information overload – a purpose-built mahogany cabinet designed to hold and organise several thousand hand-written notes taken by an individual reader from the books they were reading.

Along the back of the cabinet were narrow vertical posts, each headed by a letter of the alphabet. Running the length of each post was a sequence of brass plates engraved with alphabetised headings designed to capture topics of particular interest to the reader, each heading furnished with a metal hook, to which slips of paper containing information extracted from the owner’s reading were to be attached, ready to be retrieved for re-use at a moment’s notice.

It is not clear whether this rather cumbersome piece of equipment caught on (though apparently the philosopher Leibniz owned one) but the impetus behind it is obvious.

Sounds like a glorious object, no matter how impractical… I want one.

The danger today is rather that we are reluctant to let go of any information garnered from however recondite a source. Every historian knows that no narrative will be intelligible to a reader if it includes all the detail the author amassed in the course of their research. A clear thread has to be teased from the mass of available evidence, to focus, direct and ultimately give meaning to what has been assembled for analysis. Daring to discard is as crucial as safe-guarding, for effective knowledge management and transmission today.

There is all too little danger of the knowledge currently accumulating in floods – multiply-owned, stored and captured – being lost. Rather, if we are going to make sense for posterity of today’s information-saturated present, one of the things we will have to learn to do is decide how to prune the evidence, and ultimately, what to forget.

Beeb

Addendum: Here’s an interesting article about the Belgian intellectual of the early 20th century Paul Otlet, and his approach to the same problem. Thanks Arnaudt!

December 4th, 2011

pintle and gudgeon

There’s a name for this rudder’s type of hinge. Part 2 is a pintle and part 3 is a gudgeon. Gee thanks, wikipedia.

November 23rd, 2011

come off it

From a talk by Alan Watts. Shame about the strings added in the background.

November 13th, 2011

the joy of spigots

I saw a distasteful facebook page and thought “bigot, bigot, bigot”, which evolved into “spigots spigots spigots”. A happy learning opportunity:

Water spigot; also known as a valve, hose hydrant, hose bibb, or sillcock.

A tap (also called spigot and faucet in the U.S.) is a valve controlling release of liquids or gas. In the British Isles and most of the Commonwealth, the word is used for any everyday type of valve, particularly the fittings that control water supply to bathtubs and sinks. In the U.S., the term “tap” is more often used for beer taps, cut-in connections, or wiretapping. “Spigot” or “faucet” are more often used to refer to water valves, although this sense of “tap” is not uncommon, and the term “tap water” is the standard name for water from the faucet.

And the joy of tap mechanics:

Ecstasy courtesy of wikipedia.

November 5th, 2011

the bear’s ethereal grace

My Fancy by Lewis Caroll.

I painted her a gushing thing,
With years about a score;
I little thought to find they were
A least a dozen more;
My fancy gave her eyes of blue,
A curly auburn head:
I came to find the blue a green,
The auburn turned to red.

She boxed my ears this morning,
They tingled very much;
I own that I could wish her
A somewhat lighter touch;
And if you ask me how
Her charms might be improved,
I would not have them added to,
But just a few removed!

She has the bear’s ethereal grace,
The bland hyaena’s laugh,
The footstep of the elephant,
The neck of a giraffe;
I love her still, believe me,
Though my heart its passion hides;
“She’s all my fancy painted her,”
But oh! how much besides.

October 30th, 2011

the most mysterious manuscript in the world

But the white whale of the code-breaking world is the Voynich manuscript. Comprising 240 lavishly illustrated vellum pages, it has defied the world’s best code breakers. Though cryptographers have long wondered if it is a hoax, it was recently dated to the early 1400s.

With a University of Chicago computer scientist, Dr. Knight this year published a detailed analysis of the manuscript that falls short of answering the hoax question, but does find some evidence that it contains patterns that match the structure of natural language.

“It’s been called the most mysterious manuscript in the world,” he said. “It’s super full of patterns, and so for somebody to have created something like that would have been a lot of work. So I feel that it’s probably a code.”

From NYtimes article about the Copiale cypher and its decryption.

From wikipedia:

The illustrations of the manuscript shed little light on the precise nature of its text but imply that the book consists of six “sections”, with different styles and subject matter. Except for the last section, which contains only text, almost every page contains at least one illustration.

The image above is fro the “biological” section of the book (“A dense continuous text interspersed with figures, mostly showing small naked women bathing in pools or tubs connected by an elaborate network of pipes, some of them clearly shaped like body organs. Some of the women wear crowns.”). The other presumed topics are herbal, astronomical, cosmological, pharmaceutical and recipes.

The manuscript has a nice wikipedia page devoted to it.






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