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Posts Tagged ‘beach

“Babies don’t need a vacation, but I still see them at the beach”*…

 

“Beach at Bologne,” Edouard Manet

This summer, millions of Americans will flock to the beach, taking advantage of long days, warm weather and the end of classes. From Coney Island and Venice Beach to the shores of Lake Michigan and the Gulf Coast, bags will be packed, coolers dragged, sunscreen slathered, and sandcastles built. Similar scenes will be repeated around the world. In Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Barcelona, and Beirut, children will be splashing in the waves while sunbathers doze on the sand. A day at the beach is a cultural ritual.

But it hasn’t always been this way. From antiquity up through the 18th century, the beach stirred fear and anxiety in the popular imagination. The coastal landscape was synonymous with dangerous wilderness; it was where shipwrecks and natural disasters occurred. Where a biblical flood engulfed the world. In classical mythology, the wrath of the ocean is a major theme; the beach a bearer of misfortune. Tears flow on Homer’s shores while monsters lurk in the surf: Scylla surrounded by her barking dogs and Charybdis swallowing the sea only to spit it out again in a boiling whirlpool. “With few exceptions,” writes Alain Corbin, professor emeritus of modern history at Paris’s Sorbonne University and author of The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750-1840, “the classical period knew nothing of the attraction of seaside beaches, the emotion of a bather plunging into the waves, or the pleasures of a stay at the seaside.”

The specter of Leviathan or Kraken gave the beach its threatening aura, but so did real hazards that arrived on the shore: pirates and bandits, crusaders and colonizers, the Black Death and smallpox. No wonder Dante’s third circle of hell is lined with sand. On the beach, terror strikes Robinson Crusoe, the first of many castaways to confront destiny on the sand. In Western literature, the shoreline has served as a boundary; the beach the symbolic edge of the unknown.

How was the beach transformed from perilous place to preferred vacation destination — its white sand and rolling waves becoming the ultimate landscape of leisure? The modern embrace of the beach for the purposes of health and hedonism, recreation and retreat, came with the rise of urban, industrial society. The European “discovery” of the beach is a reminder that human ideas about nature have changed over time — with real consequences for the environment and the world…

The story in all it’s white-sand wonder at “Inventing the Beach: The Unnatural History of a Natural Place.”

* Stephen Wright

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As we prepare in plunge in, we might spare a thought for King C. Gillette; he died on this date in 1932.  An American businessman popularly known as the inventor of the safety razor (although several models were in existence prior to his design), Gillette’s true invention was an inexpensive, high margin stamped steel disposable blade– and the business model that later became known as Freebie Marketing: “give away the razor, sell the blades.”

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Written by LW

July 9, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea”*…

 

Back in the 18th and 19th century, recreational swimming kickstarted a service industry of aids for decent beach life etiquette. These tools of maintaining dignity were perhaps unsurprisingly mostly aimed at women. Among innovations of this time was the Bathing Machine, or the Bathing Van, which helped bathers change into to their bathing attire right next to the water.

Bathing machines became a thing around all of Great Britain’s empire starting ca. 1750 and spread to the United States, France, Germany and Mexico to serve the greater goal of common decency at beaches…

The passenger enters a horse or human drawn carriage, which is transported some distance out into the water. The van’s human cargo changes into whatever shapeless sack was deemed suitable at the time. The mechanics of it all are unsurprisingly not that glamorous and worth exploring in further detail

More at “Victorian Beach Life: Photos of 19th Century Bathing Machines in Operation.”

* Isak Dinesen

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As we dive in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1871 that the foundation stone was laid for the Tay Railway Bridge to be built across the Firth of Tay on the east Scottish coast.  It’s designer, Sir Thomas Bouch, a railway engineer and executive, was knighted for engineering and overseeing the building of the two-mile-long bridge— on which an estimated 75 people died when the bridge collapsed.  An enquiry found Bouch to be liable, by virtue of bad design and construction; he died four months after the verdict.

Bouch and his creation are thus also indirectly responsible for the best-known poem, “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” by the gentleman widely-regarded to have been the the worst published poet in British history, William Topaz McGonagall.

Contemporary illustration of the search after the disaster

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Written by LW

July 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is from the top”*…

 

Miami Beach, from above

Last weekend, tens of thousands made their annual end-of-summer pilgrimage to the beach…

On ground level, these crowds look like tidal waves of coconut-oiled flesh, but as seen in the work of Belgian photographer Antoine Rose, the effect is much different: from above, the crowds that gather on the beaches of New York and Miami take on splendid geometries that make each beachgoer’s place in the sand seem almost methodical.

The project that eventually became Rose’s Up In The Air series started back in 2000, when he was head photographer of the Kiteboarding World Cup. Using a helicopter to film kiteboarders as they raced, Rose became fascinated with aerial photography. But it was only after flying over the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana during a kiteboarding final in Rio that Rose turned his lens from athletes to beachcombers, snapping the herd-like patterns of their oiled hides and colorful beach towels and umbrellas from the air…

The photographer insists he doesn’t coordinate his shots, nor does he alter them after the fact with Photoshop, aside from some standard color correction and post-processing. The beaches appear to us just as Rose saw them leaning out of the side of a helicopter with his camera pointed down.

Read more at “Beach Crowds Are Beautiful From 5,000 Feet In The Air,” and see more of Rose’s remarkable photos at his site.

* Arnold Bennett

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As we head for the high ground, we might recall that it was on this date in 1516 that Thomas More sent Libellus vere aureus, nec minus salutaris quam festivus, de optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia (or, as we know it today, Utopia), his fictionalized work of political philosophy, to the printer.  It was edited by Erasmus, and printed later that year.  More, a lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, Renaissance humanist, and councillor to Henry VIII of England, was beheaded by Henry in 1535 for refusing to accept the king as Supreme Head of the newly-established Church of England.  More was acting in accordance with his opposition to Martin Luther,  William Tyndale, and the Protestant Reformation…  for which he was canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.  (He is remembered by the Church of England as a “Reformation martyr.”) Utopia wasn’t translated into English until 16 years after his execution.

An illustration from the 1516/first edition of Utopia

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Thomas More

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Written by LW

September 3, 2014 at 1:01 am

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