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Posts Tagged ‘literature

“I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts”*…

 

 click here for zoomable version

This crew list for the whaler Acushnet, filed with the collector of customs in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in December 1840, incudes the name and physical description of the 21-year-old Herman Melville. The list marks the beginning of the epic trip that was to provide the author with material he used to write his maritime novels Typee (1846); Omoo (1847); Mardi (1849); Redburn (1849); White-Jacket (1850); and Moby-Dick (1851).

Although he had signed up with the Acushnet’s captain Valentine Pease for a journey of four years, Melville deserted on the Marquesas Islands (now French Polynesia) 18 months into the voyage. Eleven of 26 of the Acushnet‘s crew and officers were to do the same before the trip was over. Desertions like these were not uncommon in the 18th- and 19th-century maritime world. Historian Marcus Rediker writes that desertion was one way for sailors, whose labor was often coerced or abused, to protest poor conditions on ship: extreme punishments, poor rations, voyages that were extended involuntarily.

Before he returned to Massachusetts, Melville was to live with the indigenous Taipi people; ship aboard an Australian whaler (the Lucy-Ann) where tough conditions also prevailed; be jailed for mutiny; sign onto another whaler (the Charles & Henry); spend some time in Hawaii; and return to the mainland via a stint as an enlisted seaman on the USS United States.“

Besides providing content for his future writing,” Carl E. Rollyson, Lisa Olson Paddock, and April Gentry write, “Melville’s Pacific travels also shaped the intellectual and philosophical perspectives that would mark his later work.” His complicated relationship with discipline and hierarchy, his sensitivity to the trials of the working man, and the cosmopolitan perspective that led Melville to make Queequeg one of the most sympathetic and interesting characters in Moby-Dick were all gained on this voyage.

* Herman Melville

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As we go down to the sea in ships, we might note that this is Chaos Never Dies Day- a day of recognition of the turmoil that surrounds us.  Chaos Never Dies Day is an annual occasion to admit that the perfect, quiet moment for which so many of us strive doesn’t – and likely never will – exist… and to celebrate unruly reality.

 source

 

Written by LW

November 9, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”*…

 

The World (or World Islands) is an artificial archipelago of various small islands constructed of dredged sand in the rough shape of a world map, in the Persian Gulf, 2.5 miles off the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  Intended as a retreat for the uber-rich, it was begun in 2003, and was reported at one point to be 70% sold.  But the financial crisis of 2008 threw the project off track.  Frank Jacobs (Strange Maps) checks in…

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams dreams up the planet Magrathea, thriving on the ‘custom-made luxury planet building’ industry. The Magratheans design and manufacture entire planets for the wealthiest people in the universe. One of those planets was Earth, and one of its designers won an award for his work on the fjords of Norway.

There are no fjords (yet) on The World. That would make the resemblance to the HHGttG story even more eerie. For the collection of islands, 2.5 miles off the coast, also is a vanity project aimed at the astronomically rich. Only, it doesn’t look like they’re flocking to The World just yet. One obvious reason: much of it is still under construction…

By 2010 [after the 2008 crash], with local property prices recovering from the worst of the recession – and Dubai pockets being fairly deep – it seemed that work was about to resume. Dubai-based Kleindienst Group announced it would start work on The Heart of Europe, a collection of six islands (including Monaco, Germany, St. Petersburg and Sweden islands; Netherlands island seems to have been renamed Europe island). But financial disputes between Kleindienst and Nakheel kept the development on hold until an out of court settlement was reached. Work resumed in earnest in January 2014.

Despite announcements over the years of island sales and grandiose development schemes throughout the archipelago, by the end of 2013 only two islands had effectively been developed. One being Lebanon island, with a Royal Beach Club rented out for corporate events, private parties  and public functions. The other one is Upernavik island in the Greenland area, which has a show home on it.

So what’s the future going to bring for The World? Amazing, luxurious, captivating things, if you believe the corporate blurb on The Heart of Europe website [here]:

“Each island within The Heart of Europe will be modelled by different European countries, reflecting the very sights, sounds, aromas and tapestry that make these destinations so timeless and unique. The main Island Europe is designed with flavours from Vienna, Rome, Andalusia and Côte d’Azur, while the other islands bring the inspiration from Monaco, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and St. Petersburg”.

And also a few genuinely bizarre things:

* “The first rain and snow-lined streets [in the Gulf Region], made possible through German engineering and technology”.

* [A] number of unique floating villas with underwater rooms offering magnificent views of the spectacular sea world”. Why not add a few U-boats – made possible through German engineering and technology.

* “Some of Europe’s most talented street performers, from playful acrobats and dancers to eclectic artists and musicians”. That explains the disappearance of the guy down my street who will play La Marseillaise on his armpit for a can of beer.

* “Outdoor climate-controlled streets […] A concept that truly will bring European weather to Dubai!” This might actually scare off most European tourists.

The website promises the imminent launch of Phase 2 of The Heart of Europe, on Sweden Island. But exact dates, also of the project’s overall completion, are impossible to find. We’re left wondering when The World will be finished. And whether they’ll find the time and the money to put in some prize-winning fjords.

More at “The World (Under Construction).”

* Leo Tolstoy

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As we wonder at how the other half means to live, we might send natural birthday greetings to Richard Jefferies; he was born on this date in 1848.  A writer noted for his depiction of English rural life in essays, books of natural history, and novels, he is probably best known for Bevis (1882), a classic children’s book (with an Animal Farm-like message that, of course, predates Orwell by decades), The Story of My Heart (an 1883 essay that located Jefferies as the leading nature writer of his time), and After London (1885), an early work of science fiction… to the extent that he is remembered at all.

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Written by LW

November 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

“We must believe in free will; we have no choice”*…

 

As the debate between determinists and defenders of free will rages on (as e.g., here), Jessica Hagy weighs in with an entry in her “Indexed” series:

Busy = Beholden

* Isaac Bashevis Singer

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As we concede that context is critical, we might send shocking birthday greetings to a man who exercised free will whether he had it or not: the enfant terrible of French letters, Arthur Rimbaud; he was born on this date in 1854.  With his buddy, Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud was a leader of the Decadent Movement; fueled by absinthe and hashish, he succeeded in shocking a literary establishment that was nonetheless awed by his visionary verse, which influenced modern literature and arts, inspired various musicians, and prefigured Surrealism.

All known literature is written in the language of common sense—except Rimbaud’s

- Paul Valéry

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Written by LW

October 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once”*…

 

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H.G. Well’s The Time Machine is widely credited with having popularized the prospect of time travel (though Edward Page Mitchell”s short story, “The Clock That Ran Backwards” surely deserves a nod).  In fact, the notion of travel into the future dates back to the Mahabharata; and travel into the past, while more modern, to the 18th century (e.g., Samuel Madden’s 1733 novel Memoirs of the Twentieth Century).  The concept flowered in the 19th century– e.g., Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle”.  And of course, it has flourished in our time, bot in countless novels and in the newer media of radio, film. and television.

At our post-relativity times, scientists have increasingly taken the concept seriously, looking for theories that might suggest that traversing time might be possible (both backwards and forwards) and investigating claims that time travel has already happened.

So it should come as no surprise that scientists are exploring a new frontier, the internet for evidence, of visitors from another era…

Two researchers from the Department of Physics at Michigan Technological University decided to search the Internet for such evidence and have completed the study, “Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers,” submitted on December 26 on ArXiv. Authors Robert Nemiroff, professor of physics, and Teresa Wilson, a PhD candidate, said, “The modern ubiquity” of the Internet lends itself to far-reaching methods to search for time travelers. They said a benefit from their effort, given the great reach of the Internet, is that their search is “the most comprehensive to date”…

Read more at PhysOrg’s “Michigan researchers hunt for Internet remnants from time travelers.”  It’s a fascinating read, though– spoiler alert– none were found.

Still, as Randall Monroe reminds us, we’re all time travelers…

 xkcd

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-01-michigan-internet-remnants.html#jCp

* Albert Einstein

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As we check our watches, we might recall that it was on this date in 1582 that Italy, Spain, Portugal and Poland introduced the Gregorian calendar.  While this was “October 5″ in the rest of the world, those four countries, adopting Pope Gregory XIII’s innovation, skipped ten days– so that there, the date shifted from October 4 the day before to October 15.  With the shift, the calendar was aligned with the equinoxes, and the lunar cycles used to establish the celebration of Easter.  Britain and its colonies resisted this Popish change, and used the Julian calendar for another century and a half, until September 2, 1752.

From a work published in 1582, the year of the calendar reform; days 5 to 14 October are omitted.

source

 

Written by LW

October 5, 2014 at 1:01 am

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”*…

 

A fair copy draft (c. 1817) of Shelley’s “Ozymandias” in the collection of Oxford’s Bodleian Library

Shelley’s frequently-quoted and widely-influential sonnet “Ozymandius” has a history that’s arguably as interesting as the poem itself…

The banker and political writer Horace Smith spent the Christmas season of 1817–1818 with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley. At this time members of Shelley’s literary circle would sometimes challenge each other to write competing sonnets on a common subject—Shelley, John Keats and Leigh Hunt wrote competing sonnets on the Nile around the same time. Shelley and Smith chose a passage from the Greek Historian Diodorus Siculus, which described a massive Egyptian statue and quoted its inscription: “King of Kings Ozymandias am I. If any want to know how great I am and where I lie, let him outdo me in my work.” In the poem Diodorus becomes “a traveller from an antique land”.

The two poems were later published in Leigh Hunt’s The Examiner, published by Leigh’s brother John Hunt in London. (Hunt was already planning to publish a long excerpt from Shelley’s new epic The Revolt of Islam later the same month.) Shelley’s was published on 11 January 1818 under the pen name Glirastes. It appeared on page 24 in the yearly collection, under Original Poetry. Smith’s was published, along by a note signed with the initials H.S., on 1 February 1818… It was originally published under the same title as Shelley’s verse; but in later collections Smith retitled it “On A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below”.

Comparison of the two poems

Shelley’s “Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Smith’s Ozymandias

In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.

We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

- source

[TotH to @bijanstephen]

* Percy Bysshe Shelley (full text of the poem here)

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As we express our gratitude that the Shelleys participated in contests, we might send comradely birthday greetings to Zhou Shuren; he was born on this date in 1881.  Better known by his pen name Lu Xun (or Lu Hsün), he was one of the foremost writers– novelist, editor, translator, literary critic, essayist, and poet– in the China of his day.  He was a major influence on the May Fourth Movement that began around 1916, and later the head of the League of Left-Wing Writers in Shanghai.  He was a favorite of Mao Zedong; but though Lu was sympathetic to Communist ideas, he was he was primarily a liberal leftist and never joined the Chinese Communist Party.

 source

 

Written by LW

September 25, 2014 at 1:01 am

“A copy is a meta-original”*…

 

History tells us that Walter Benjamin, the influential German critic of literature, art, and culture, died more than seventy years ago. So how is it that he’s now out doing lectures and has published a new book?

The fascinating tale in its entirety at “An Investigation Into the Reappearance of Walter Benjamin.”

Conceived by an anthropologist of art and culture as a collection of recent texts by Walter Benjamin written between 1986 and the present, this book includes interviews by Beti Zerovc, Maxine Kopsa and Milo Rau as well as lectures including “Lenin and Coca-Cola,” “The Unmaking of Art” and “The Making of Americans.”

source

[TotH to Tyler Hellard’s Pop Loser]

* Walter Benjamin

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As we celebrate simulacra, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that “Sugar, Sugar” hit the top of the U.S. pop charts.  Written by Jeff Berry and Andy Kim as one of 16 musical segments performed by “The Archies” (a group of studio musicians) in the CBS “The Archie Comedy Hour,” the tune went on to become the number-one single of the year.

email readers click here for video

 

Written by LW

September 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Everything you can imagine is real”*…

 

Gregory Frank Harris, Tea in the Garden, c. 1953

A mash-up of fine art and current SMS messages…

From the sacred…

Diego Velazquez, Christ Crucified, 1632

…to the profane…

Jacques-Louis David, Male Nude Known as Hector, 1778

… readers will find oh so many more at If Paintings Could Text

Rosa Bonheur, Portrait de Col. William F. Cody, 1889

[TotH to @mattiekahn]

* Pablo Picasso (whose paintings-with-texts are here)

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As we just hit “send,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1545 that François Rabelais received the permission of King François I to publish the Gargantua series– Gargantua and Pantagruel as we know it.  In fact, Rabelais’ wild mix of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes, and songs had been circulating pseudonymously for years.

Rabelais wrote at a time of great ferment in the French language, and contributed mightily to it– both in coinage and in usage.  But his influence was even broader (Tristram Shandy, e.g., is full of quotes from Rabelais) and continues to this day via writers including Milan Kundera, Robertson Davies, and Kenzaburō Ōe.

 source

Written by LW

September 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

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