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Posts Tagged ‘Conan Doyle

“Man… generally cannot read the handwriting on the wall until his back is up against it”*…

 

Writing with stylus and folding wax tablet. painter, Douris, ca 500 BC

The wax tablet was an important contribution to the written culture of ancient civilizations because it was the first widely used device for casual writing, intended for individuals other than scribes. Before wax tablets, anything that was written down had to be considered of great and enduring importance. But once there is writing, there arises a need for temporary writing — a quick note to jot down and throw away the next day, an aid in calculating a math problem, a rough draft of a docu­ment that would later become permanent. All the other previous writing surfaces had been, for all intents and purposes, permanent. You could not bake a clay tablet to throw away the next day, or jot down something on an expensive scroll of papyrus and throw it away. And once something is literally carved in stone, it is figuratively ‘carved in stone.’ It can’t be unwritten. The wax tablet, therefore, was the original Etch A Sketch for the ancient world…

An excerpt from Paper by Mark Kurlansky, via Delanceyplace.com.

* Adlai E. Stevenson

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As we rock the stylus, we might recall that it ’twas on this date in 1852 (according to the stories) that Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick, Dr. John H. Watson, was born… while Holmes did occasionally say “Elementary!” (e.g., in “The Crooked Man”), he never actually said “Elementary, my dear Watson” to Dr. Watson in any of the stories/novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The phrase was actually a kind of homage, offered by P.G. Wodehouse, who first used it in Psmith Journalist in 1915; it found more common currency as it made it’s way into the scripts of the Sherlock Holmes films, perhaps most notably on the pursed lips of Basil Rathbone…

Ironically, it was on this date in 1930 that Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes’ creator, died.

Watson (left) and Holmes, as drawn by Doyle’s original illustrator, Sidney Padget

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (never actually seen in the room at the same time as Dr. Watson)

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Written by LW

July 7, 2017 at 1:01 am

The March of Progress, Dinosaur Edition…

Among the many chastening revelations that come of aging, surely the most disturbing is the discovery that the dinosaurs whose names and characteristics one so lovingly committed to childhood memory didn’t actually exist…  at least not in forms that even vaguely resemble the ones one knew and loved.

Consider the pterodactyl, that leathery flying lizard, denizen of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World,

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and inspiration for Rodan.

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Turns out that no such beast actually existed.  Rather, the march of science has revealed, there were a family of creatures, Pterosaurs, with rather different– though not necessarily less cinematic– characteristics.  For instance,

Caulkicephalus trimicrodon (illustration: Luis Rey)

Happily, Dave Hone has created Pterosaur.net— a font of remedial information.

As we come to terms with the advance of knowledge, we might give a tip o’ the birthday hat to Susan Sontag, the essayist (“Against Interpretation,” “Illness as Metaphor”), critic (“Notes on Camp,” “On Photography”), novelist (Death Kit, The Volcano Lovers, In America— which won the National Book Award for fiction in 2000), and Berkeley grad; she was born on this date in 1933.

Susan Sontag, by (her partner) Annie Leibovitz

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